Wherever You Pitch Your Tent, Build an Altar

then he set up his tents and built an altar there to honor the God of Israel.

—Genesis 33:20, Contemporary English Version

One of the memorable songs of the Motown era—made famous by the Temptations—was a seventies tune with lyrics written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, “Papa Was A Rolling Stone.”  It has been said that the extended instrumentation on the song is as famous as the vocals. The Temptations’ version is an enduring depiction of classic soul.  And soul music always tells a riveting story.

Remember the lyrics?

 Papa was a rollin’ stone

Wherever he laid his hat was his home

And when he died

All he left us was alone.”

 I have no idea who the writers had in mind as “Papa,” but on this we can agree:  there are better examples of family leadership. Personally, I have only lived in four different cities in my entire life. Three of those major, lifetime moves were guided by my late husband and life partner and were based upon God-given directions about ministry.

As a Biblical example, Jacob was a papa whose transitions were broad. Jacob was undisputedly one of the most unique individuals who ever lived. The Genesis account (chapters 31 to 33) describes one of the great transitions he engineered for himself and his family. Spiritually, he transitioned from being a trickster, swindler and cheat one day to becoming a Prince with God the next.

The King James Version and other translations say that Jacob named that altar in Shechem “El Elohe Israel” or “God, the Great God of Israel.”

I am creating my personal El Elohe Regina, celebrating God, the Great God of my own life. My personal altar is a place that will forever bring praise to God and allow me to celebrate the great work that He has done in my life and in the life of my family.

Whatever your ballad, whatever your story, be like Jacob and decide this:  wherever you pitch your tent, you just oughta build an altar.

The Miracle of Forgiveness

Jason R. Warren

Suddenly, it’s Easter week! A time of triumph and renewal…gently lifting our spirits, ushering us closer to the warmth of summer. These are days of brightness and new beginnings.  We passed thru winter (such as it was); we’re coming out green, vibrant, alive. Easter: a time of hope, healing, restoration, rebirth.

Stores fill with ribboned, bejeweled creations. Sunday bonnets of every style imaginable burst with blossoms. Mothers slap slightly-tilted hats on the heads of recalcitrant little girls and put crisply pressed trousers and bow ties on little boys.

Jesus’ resurrection is central to our songs of praise and worship. At Easter we’re reminded of the certainty of love and the power of forgiveness. Even extreme forgiveness.

My spiritual daughter, Kim, introduced me to a living example of forgiveness on steroids when she met women who forgave those who meticulously, brutally murdered their husbands, sons, fathers and brothers. Battered and bruised—the women of Rwanda were left to pick up the pieces of devastated lives and communities. To bind up ragged remnants of their families and country. Hearing their stories, many ask: “How is this possible?”

Stunningly beautiful, Rwanda is “the land of a thousand hills;” it resembles Switzerland.  What we remember, however, is the 100 days of slaughter in 1994 and the loss of over 800,000 lives.

Kim participated in a conference for women from Rwanda and the Congo. One group lived so far into the bush and were so impoverished they actually lived naked. The ministry provided clothing; the women walked two hours to the nearest road to be picked up and driven to the gathering. Others walked for hours, babies strapped to their backs. After eight or nine hours of teaching, they still hungered for spiritual strength.

One woman, in particular, stood out. In one single day, she had lost seventeen members of her family—her husband, parents, in-laws, brothers, sisters, and all of her children. Three months later, she gave birth to a child who also died. As she spoke, she thanked God for all He had done in her life and for sparing her live.

To live in joy at that level, despite such dire circumstances is remarkable. The first thing many do is blame God.

Kim said: “We went to Rwanda to help.  Instead, we were the ones who were transformed. By their example, the Rwandan women were our teachers.”

Forgiveness is a choice. To do otherwise is to live in bondage to anger and bitterness.  The thrilling discovery of the power of forgiveness sets us free.