30 June, 2017


"Shelter" is a prompt from velvetashes.com a group that provides encouragement for women serving overseas. I haven't written on their prompts for a long time. But this one had me thinking: 

Pause for a moment and let the word 'shelter' float around in your mind. What feelings, memories, images, fears or desires do you have?

My first thought was tent vs house. How a house is a much more adequate shelter than a tent. A tent is very convenient. It's flexible and portable. It's small. But it's also fragile and leaky. It's also cold in winter, as we discovered when we camped in the snow last year!

Houses are much more stable and secure. They provide really good protection from the weather, but they aren't portable. Both tents and houses require a lot of upkeep, but houses are more permanent. Houses can provide a lot more space than a tent. But they also isolate you from your environment more. 

I love camping out in nature in a tent because you are much closer to it. You're not tempted to cower inside and, after life in the city, it is wonderfully refreshing to get out in nature for a time. In our camping adventures last year I remember a couple of moments especially that I would have missed if I'd been comfortably ensconced in a house.
1. When camped next to Lake Biwa near Kyoto I got up to go to the toilet just as the sun was rising at about 4.30 one morning. It was incredible. I've never experienced a sunrise like it, probably because I'm almost never out and about in the countryside at that time. The air surrounding me was golden. It was made more special because I had a camera to capture it.

Not quite the photo I originally took with my iPhone, but you get
the idea

2. When we were camping in the snow last November it was hard. But again, coming back from the toilet the first morning I saw the most magnificent sight, with snow clinging to tree branches and the trees on the side of the road framing the sight of a snow-covered mountain glowing in the sun. I only had my iPhone, but I was able to capture that sight for future remembrance also.

Our house is the one with the green-blue roof.
Both these sights I saw only because I'd gotten out of my comfort zone of a house (just two days earlier at Lake Biwa we were up at dawn fighting off a lake forming underneath our tent in the middle of a downpour and the snow was no cakewalk either).

So where am I going with this theme, this post is threatening to "noodle" all over the place! 

Physical shelter
Shelter. It's a necessary thing, physically, and both houses and tents can give it. In fact they each have their place. We see that in the Bible where tents were necessary when the Israelites were moving from Egypt to Israel, there were no houses or hotels in the desert!

Tents are mentioned many times in Scripture, almost 400. There are some interesting tent-house incidents in the Bible.

King David got upset and wanted to build a temple for the Lord because he lived in a house, but the ark of the covenant was still only in a tent.

Uriah also refused to go into his house when David called him back from the war front for a few days. His words to his king: "The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” (2 Samuel 11:11 NIV)

Both passages emphasising that houses are better, more privileged places than tents. Yes, that is true. Our camping is not because we have nowhere else to live, it is comparatively a joy only because we usually live in a convenient house.

Spiritual shelter
But the spiritual shelter that we get from our heavenly Father as Christians is something I value and have come to feel that it is also essential.

Shelter appears only 19 times in the ESV Bible. But a couple of those also have tents in it: 

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. Ps 27:5 
Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Ps 61:4

I love this:
Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,  and princes will rule in justice.  Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,  a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place,   like the shade of a great rock in a weary land. Is 32:1-2

It seems to refer to our future in heaven, I believe, which the following one also does:

Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. Rev 7:15

That's our future to look forward to, but what about now?

This reminds me of when I've had kids sick enough to end up in hospital. I ran into an acquaintance the other day who had their daughter and sick granddaughter with them. She was heading for hospital and I've heard since that she is very sick indeed, they've found a tumour. My heart goes out to them. Having very sick kids is the pits, and mine were not even that sick.

God doesn't promise that we will have no troubles in this world, but he does promise that we can trust in him and shelter metaphorically beneath his wings (Ps. 61:4)

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust." (Psalm 91:1 & 2)

Now this post is a bit all over the place, I haven't had the time today to hone it nicely. It's been an encouraging little word/Bible study for me and I hope that my pondering of the concept of shelter is helpful to someone. 

What do you think about when contemplating the word "shelter"? I'd love to hear your thoughts too. 

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