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A few days ago, a friend shared a photo on Facebook that I thought represented Psalm 91:4 beautifully. I shared it on the Memos From God Facebook page. I particularly like that verse in the New International Version: He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge. In my Bible a feather marks that page.

Psalm 91 is one of the most reassuring chapters in the Bible. First of all, it tells us that God who is sovereign, almighty and trustworthy will rescue us and protect us. The words are figurative and symbolic, but surely that is their message. It goes on to tell us of all the kinds of dangers from which we will be protected, and assures us that He will be there for us to save us. That all sounds excellent, but is it true? The Bible also tells us that we are guaranteed to face trouble, (John 16:33) and this Psalm doesn’t tell us that we won’t see those dangers, only that they won’t overtake us. But how do you explain the fact that faithful Christians suffer—disease, tragic circumstances, financial ruin—and sometimes die at a very young age? Where is the truth of Psalm 91 then?

Two particular circumstances come to mind—the death of several friends at too young an age, and the fact that Albert Chretien is still missing in the Nevada wilderness after seven months. How can we say that those people are protected from all the dangers in the world? Perhaps the sense of being protected as described in these verses is not the same as avoiding trying circumstances altogether. Perhaps all the trying circumstances we go through have a purpose, something to teach us. Perhaps it means that we will be rescued from them in the life to come. Perhaps we need to dwell in the shelter of the Most High, rather than just visit occasionally, in order to experience this refuge. Perhaps we just can’t imagine how awful life could possibly be without God’s protection, a protection that we actually experience without fully realizing it. John Calvin has said, “When we look back on our life from the perspective of eternity, we are going to see that the power of Satan was so great, that the weakness of our flesh was feeble, and that the hostility of the world was so strong, that every day of our lives—if God had not intervened—we would never have made it through a day.”

What I do know is this: God knows better than I do. Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us that His ways are not like our ways. Just as the sky is higher than the earth, so His deeds and plans are higher than ours. And His grace is sufficient. (II Corinthians 12:9) Whatever trials we have to go through, He will give us the strength to endure them. What we need to do is trust Him, and be devoted and loyal to Him. (Psalm 91:14) He will take care of the rest.

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Update:
Al Chretien has not yet been found, and I would like to ask for extra prayer right now as hunters begin to enter the area for deer hunting season. This is Al's best chance of being found before winter returns.

Rita Chretien has now shared her story publicly. You can see the report here.

Well, here it is Monday morning (at least in my time zone). For many of us that means the end of a relaxing weekend and going back to work—a job that we may or may not enjoy. For many of us, the stress level that was lowered on Friday evening, is back on full. Depending on your situation and where you live, you might not only have to get yourself together, but you might have to get the kids up and ready to go to day care, school, summer school or hockey camp. Any camp for that matter. Clothes packed, lunches packed, schedule jam packed with things to do. Perhaps at some point we should discuss the importance of rest, but I think Psalm 121:1-2 might be apt verses for us today!

In the King James Version, there is no question mark. The psalmist lifted his eyes to the hills because he knew where his help came from. He didn’t mean the hills themselves, as some later thought would be the source of confusion. It was symbolic. Today we might look to the sky when we think of or pray to God. In that time and place, God was considered to dwell in the temple on the holy hill of Zion. Psalm 121 is often thought of as a pilgrim’s Psalm, spoken by travellers as they made their way through the hill country to Jerusalem. After the declaration of where our help comes from, the rest of the Psalm elaborates the kind of help that a traveller would need and that the Lord provides.

Except for poetry’s sake, it doesn’t really matter where we look for God, for He is only a thought away. We don’t have to go to any particular place or kneel in any particular way. God is not only always available to us, but He is always waiting for us, wanting us to look to Him and promising that we will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:12-14) He is just as happy to hear from us on Monday morning, as He was on Sunday morning. Our help still comes from the Lord. Look to Him today.

When I finished my post on Friday, (May 6, 2011) I had intended to share it with the Chretien family on their Facebook page (Missing – Al and Rita Chretien) with the hope that it might bring them some comfort. They had been waiting a long time without answers, and even the notes of encouragement were becoming few and far between. But when I went to their page, I saw that Rita had been found! Alive! What joy I felt, I do not have adequate words to express.

Today’s post is in honour of Rita Chretien, her strength and her faith. My regular readers will know that I’ve been following the story of Al and Rita Chretien since they failed to return home as scheduled from a business trip to Las Vegas. From the evening of the day that they left their home in British Columbia, Canada, March 19, 2011, until the afternoon of May 6, 2011, Rita was stranded on a remote logging road in Northeastern Nevada. For the first three days, until he left on foot to get help, her husband Albert was there with her. Forty-nine days stranded in the wilderness, 46 without any human interaction. There is no cell phone service for miles, and no one used the road. There was no access to food, save what little bit of snack food they had in the van, and little access to water.

Fortunately, Rita was in good health when she started this stationary odyssey. But what would you do, what would you think, how would you feel if you were in this situation? I know that as I prayed for them, not knowing where they were or if they were still alive, I pleaded with God, “How long oh Lord, how long?” as the psalmist David did in Psalm 13 (February, 11, 2011). While I was praying from Psalm 13, Rita was evidently drawing strength from Psalm 86. She could have prayed David’s very words, except that the arrogant men of Psalm 86:14 could have been replaced by the harsh wilderness and the seemingly impossible situation that she was in.

I expect that when she reached Psalm 86:8, Rita too praised God and worshiped Him for His power and majesty. She would have seen evidence of it all around her, and the very fact that she was still alive several weeks into this ordeal was proof of the power and love of God. Rita certainly depended on the promises of God, which according to Ann Thomas, author of the blog, the writing heart, “are realized by those who choose to believe”. The psalms are full of David’s words pleading for help, for protection from his enemies, for deliverance, but they end with David giving praise to God. David always comes back to trusting in God because of who God is, and because he knows that God will be faithful.

Many may ask why, if Rita was such a devoted child of God, why would God allow this to happen to her. I don’t have all the answers, because God is God, and I am not. However, we might gain some clues from two men who endured great suffering in the Bible. Job was a great man of God, who lost everything he owned, including his children and his health, because Satan wanted to prove that Job’s faith was based on his wealth and privilege. God allowed Satan to take everything but his life from him. (Job 2:6) Job had questions, you can be sure, and he in no way pretended that he was happy with his situation, but he never stopped trusting in God. (Job 13:15) The Apostle Paul had plenty of trials of his own (II Corinthians 11:24-27), but from prison he wrote to the people of Philippi that his situation had actually turned out to advance the gospel. (Philippians 1:12) More and more people were finding out about the saving love of God because of Paul, and I believe the same will be said of Rita.

At the time of this posting, Al Chretien is still missing. Please continue to pray for him and for the people who are searching for him. One more lesson we can learn is to never give up. (Philippians 3:12-14) As Rita’s son Raymond Chretien said at a press conference from his mother’s hospital, “Never give up. Never lose your faith. Miracles happen. Never underestimate that.”
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Update:
On September 29, 2012, Albert Chretien's body was found by elk hunters, 11 kilometres from where the van had been stranded. He had been going in the right direction to find help, but the terrain was steep and wooded, and the snow was up to ten feet deep at the time. His body was found intact with identification still in his pocket.

“When the world says you’re not good enough, get a second opinion.” These words were spoken by Nick Vujicic, a man who was born without arms and legs, and who now spends his time travelling around the world speaking to audiences that range from high school students to prisoners. He tells them how much God loves them and how valuable they are in God’s eyes. (Nick’s website is: http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org)

In Psalm 139:17-18, David cannot fathom how much God cares for him. Think about this. The creator of the universe cares for each one of us so much that we could not possibly count the number of thoughts He has about us. You might think that those thoughts were just for David, because after all God chose David to be king, and David was a man after God’s own heart. Perhaps you think that these verses don’t apply to you. They do. So many other verses in the Bible reinforce this point. (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:4-5, I John 4:10, Romans 5:8, II Thessalonians 2:16, Romans 5:5, I John 3:1, Romans 8:38-39)

The psalmist elaborates in Psalm 139:1-16 how well and intricately God knows him. This is how He knows us too. God is aware of everything you do, everywhere you go, every word you say. He is with you each step of the way, and He is there to steady and guide you (verse 10). He knew you before you were born, and He is the one who formed you in your mother’s womb. (Jeremiah 1:5) He knows us this well, better than we know ourselves, and yet He still loves us. Realizing all this prompted David to give thanks to God. (Psalm 139:14) We might not always understand how awesome and amazing God is. We might not be able to get our heads around His power that is so much greater than ours, but even then God is with us every step of the way, and we should remember to thank Him for it.

The question asked in Psalm 119:9 is asked about a young person, but the answer would certainly apply to anyone at any age. The sooner you start the better, but it's never too late.

Psalm 119 is the longest psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible. It is divided into 22 sections, each with eight verses. Each of the sections is represented by a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and each of the verses begins with the letter of that section. Psalm 119:9-16 is the second section and answers the question, “How can a young person maintain a pure life?” The answer is by following God's Word.

God gave us His Word as a gift. In this psalm, as elsewhere in the Bible, God’s word is sometimes also referred to as “law”, “testimonies”, “ways”, “precepts”, “statutes”, “commandments”, “judgements” and “ordinances”, but He did not give it to us to make our lives harder. He gave it to us so that things would go well with us, our days may be prolonged and that we may be blessed. (Deuteronomy 6:1-3)

Its mere existence is not enough however; we must have a part in making it useful in our lives. The psalmist sought the Lord with all his heart, prayed for the Lord’s help to keep His commands (Psalm 119:10), stored up His word (Psalm 119:11), praised the Lord (Psalm 119:12), proclaimed (Psalm 119:13), rejoiced in (Psalm 119:14), meditated on (Psalm 119:15) and delighted in (Psalm 119:16) His word. We need to do more than have a Bible sitting on our bookshelf. We need to read it, meditate on it and apply it to our lives.

Some people get a little confused about meditation because its meaning varies according to context. To meditate on the Word of God is to think about it, mull it over, keep it in our minds. It is a very good practice to memorize it. Then you will have it with you whether you have a Bible with you or not. Jesus didn’t have a scroll with Him when He was tempted in the desert, but He answered the devil by quoting scripture. (Luke 4:1-13) No matter what situation you are in, if you have God’s word in your heart, you will have a source of encouragement, hope and guidance. (Psalm 130:5, Psalm 119:11)

Tips for Memorizing Scripture
(This is my paraphrase of tips given by Robert J. Morgan, author of 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know By Heart.)

Choose your verse, decide how long until you want it memorized--a week, three days, whatever--then memorize one word at a time. The first word will be pretty easy. For example, John 3:16, the first word is "For". It won't take you long to memorize that! Then add the second word, the third, etc. Repeat each for however much time you've allowed yourself depending on your goal for completion and keeping in mind that successive words will need more time. The first word might only need a minute. By the time you get to "For this is the way God loved the world", you might need several hours. Keep repeating each section until you have it; then add the next to what you already know. Anyone can memorize anything if they do it one word at a time.

I’m a bit of an idealist, so I don’t like it when things go wrong, especially when bad things happen to people who don’t deserve it.  It’s one thing to deal with the consequences when you’ve made a mistake, but if you didn’t do anything wrong, it just seems so unfair.  Either way though, it is good to be able to call on God to rescue you.

Do you ever wonder if God really hears you when you pray?  Sometimes we feel like the pain, frustration and struggles will go on forever.  He says that He has a good plan for you (Jeremiah 29:11), but do you ever want to negotiate with Him?  Tell Him your side of the story?  Give Him your ideas for the plan?  I think that the Psalmist David must have felt that way when he wrote Psalm 13.  In the first two verses he asked “How long?” four times.  He felt ignored, anxious and threatened by his enemy.  We don’t know for sure, but he may have been running for his life at this point.  David didn’t end his psalm the same way he started it though.  He moved from complaint (Psalm 13:1-2) to prayer (Psalm 13:3-4) to praise (Psalm 13:5-6).

Philippians 4:6 tells us not to be anxious about anything, but with thankful hearts to present all of our requests to God.  This is what David did.  He asked the Lord to answer him, to revive him, and to save him, not only so that he would be saved, but so would the reputation of God’s name.

What caused David to turn from despair to praise?  Hope in God’s unfailing love and mercy.  David had faith that God was still God and would keep His covenant with him.  We must do the same when we face trials that have gone on so long that we think they will go on forever.  When we have lost our joy and our hope, we must cling to our faith.  We must remember that God is God and more importantly that we are not.  Even when we don’t understand what He is doing, we must believe that He does.  We know that He understands every trial that we go through (Hebrews 4:14-16), that He will not give us more trials than we are able to bear (I Corinthians 10:13) and that He longs to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11).  Think back on how God has brought you through trials before.  He will again.

Sometimes we do things we regret.  That was certainly the case for David before he wrote Psalm 86.  In II Samuel 11 we read about David’s regrets…mistakes…sins—adultery, deception and conspiracy to murder.  That’s a lot to feel bad about.  So, when in Psalm 86:11 David prays that the Lord would teach him how to live, it is an earnest prayer.  He wants to be wholeheartedly committed to God.  The King James Version uses the term “unite my heart”.   In the New International Version, David prays for an “undivided heart”.  He realizes that if his heart isn’t entirely focused on God, he will go down the wrong path, but he also sees that he needs God’s help to do it.  He knows that what is impossible for humans is possible for God.  (Luke 18:27)

His vow, in Psalm 86:12, to praise God forevermore, is also sincere.  His reason is shown in Psalm 86:13.  David knows that what he has done is deserving of death, but God in His great mercy has forgiven him.  God is deserving of our praise simply because He is God, but His love and mercy toward David provided so much more motivation.  David vowed not only to praise God, but to do it with enthusiasm, and to do it forever.

It is likely that most of the people reading this have not sinned to the same degree that David did in the case of Bathsheba and Uriah.  But even the most noble among us are dependent on God’s grace to save us.  We cannot save ourselves.  (Ephesians 2:4-9)

God wants us all to be completely devoted to Him.  He wants us to ask for His help to live the way we should.  He is ready and willing to give it, along with His grace, mercy, love and forgiveness.  He has provided His Word so that we can learn more about His ways, but it takes commitment.  We need to choose each day to put Him first, to praise Him and to give Him the glory.