Cautionary Tale

Since the rain bucketed down outside, I worked out inside. I found an online Piyo workout on Youtube.com. I’ve been itching to that workout  It called itself a “demonstration”.  It kicked my tuchus.  My legs still burn.  To round out that 30-minute carnival, I did about 20 minutes of kettlebells circuits.  I started out with 3 sets of two-handed swings/figure 8s, 45 seconds on and 15 seconds off.  Then I added exercises for the next 14 minutes.  Whew!

New topic. I’m up to Genesis 18 in the Bible reading plan. So far, so good.

Genesis 16 caught my eye.  This is a “be careful what you wish for” story. Sarai, Abram’s wife, is unable to conceive.  She becomes desperate.

“Take my servant Hagar,” she pleads with Abram.  “Sleep with her.  Any child she conceives I can consider mine.”

Abram, holding to the “happy wife, happy life” school of theology, complies.  Hagar gets pregnant.  Then the problems start.

So Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt. Then Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The Lord will show who’s wrong—you or me!”

Abram replied, “Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.” Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away. – Genesis 16:4-6

Hagar, resentful and afraid, makes a break for it.  She runs out into the wilderness and rests at a spring. The angel of the Lord finds her there.  Here’s what gets me.  The writer makes it sound like God’s angels just truck around the earth on a regular basis.  Hagar encountering a heavenly being while on the lam sounds commonplace.  “Dude, I was chillin’ at the creek and suddenly this glowing guy starts talking to me.  Whatever.” Insert shrug here.

I find that the only time God sends angels to intervene in human affairs in scripture is when things are about to go terribly wrong.  The angel sends a message of direction, hope, confirmation, some piece of divine wisdom to help hapless humanity stay on the right track.

That’s what the angel does.

The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.”

 And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”

Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?”  So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered. – Genesis 16:9-14

Hagar had a visitation from the Lord. It changed her course.  She returned and submitted to Sarai, perhaps picking up a little kindness along the way. We have no way of knowing if she knew Yahweh at all before this, but she now had her own name for God:  “Living One Who Sees Me.” God showed great compassion to a young girl without a means to save herself. He kept his promise to Abram and Hagar.

This passage encouraged me. Some of us are in powerless places right now.  We can’t change our circumstances, how others treat us, or move things along. We want to walk away and not look back. Don’t lose heart. He still lives, and He sees you, too.  He will meet you at the spring.

East of Eden

Not this movie.

                    Not this movie. Though it’s good.

I started another year-long Bible reading plan today.  Yes! I’ll blog about it at times as I read.  It keeps me meditating on it and maybe we can get a dialogue going.  I certainly don’t have all the answers.  I do have questions, though.

Most people know the Genesis account.  God creates the world, populates it and creates human beings.  He tells them they can eat of any tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17). Inevitably, it seems, the serpent/devil encourages them to taste it anyway.  “Try it, you’ll like it!” Eve nabs a piece.  She takes a bite and passes it to Adam, who does likewise. God knows, calls them on their disobedience, and curses the three individually.  The serpent will crawl on his belly and have hostile relations with all souls. The woman will try to control her husband (!) and have pain in childbirth (boo!). The man will fight thorns and thistles while growing crops and will only succeed through much effort. Also, the concept of mortality enters the picture:  “By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). God banishes His very first image-bearers from Eden. Before they go, he clothes them with animal skins.  Which means, of course, animals died. Welcome to the not-so-glamorous world of sporting furry fashion. Now you’re up to speed.

This is where it gets interesting to me, at least this time.

Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!”  So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. – Genesis 3:22-24

So the bigger threat, it seems, was the tree of life.  They didn’t eat from that tree. In fact, God didn’t tell them they couldn’t eat from the tree of life.  Why is it that we always want what we can’t/shouldn’t have?  I suppose it starts right here.  They could have lived forever, never tasting the bitter gall of death.  But Adam and Eve let the serpent trick them.

After their banishment, God placed cherubim to guard the east entrance to the garden. “None shall pass!” He put a flaming sword in front of the tree of life.  Guess guarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would be pointless now. This shows that Adam and Eve could still see the heavenly cast of characters – God and angels. The cherubim would scare them away, as well as any future descendants.

But it begs the question:  Did Adam and Eve ever try to reenter the Garden of Eden?  Did they miss the sweet companionship of God, walking together in the cool of the day?  Is that why God set up the blockade?  Were there other entrances? The text here is almost wistful.  I can picture the Lord in tears as he sends away his precious children from the paradise he made expressly for them. Did the first family wander so long they completely forgot its location? I wonder.

2014 in Review

Photo courtesy of playbuzz.com

Photo courtesy of playbuzz.com

This is the last day of 2014.  Bring it. I’ve compiled some stats. Not the blog stats, but if you’re interested, you can look here.

In 2014, I read through two Bible devotional plans.  The daily entries had a couple of verses inspiring each lesson. Joyce Meyer did one and Billy Graham did the other. While I enjoyed Ms. Meyer’s practical application, I wish sometimes her examples were more present day.  It was always, “When I first got saved” or “In the early years of our marriage”.  How about last month?  Last year?

Jonathon got a great job with Concordia University working from home.  He’s using his doctorate now. A dream come true!

As for Mr. Graham’s devotional…I liked it.  It primarily focused on the afterlife:  learning to live for Jesus now as we grow into maturity. He emphasized young people a lot.  While I live with young people and I enjoy them, I don’t consider myself one of them.  I would say Mr. Graham’s strength remains in the evangelistic realm.

I ran 466 miles and worked out 290 times. Again, not the best year for me exercise-wise. I *won’t* be running an extra 4 miles to round it up to 470.  Not gonna do it, despite my type A personality. I continued to struggle with pain in my right leg at times, though it’s much improved. I did teach kettlebells class 8 times in 2014. Good deal.

Ruby thrilled to her first sewing lesson yesterday, on her new-used machine. 

This past year, I got back into racing shape.  I ran a 10 k, a 7-miler and a half marathon.  Not too shabby, methinks.

I published a book (see link at upper left of screen).  That, people, took a lot of right-brained activity.  I’m most proud of accomplishing that feat this year. I plan on feeding my weaker creative side more in 2015.

Zac grew his first mustache. Then he promptly shaved it off.

I finished the Mason County Shelter project. True, it took over 2 years, but I got to be on it until the end.  Yeehaw!  Always great to see the finished building and know I had a part in bringing it into existence.

And now, the goals. Drumroll, please.

Somehow, over the last year, probably due to a great influx of bridge mix and other sundry delicious foods, I gained weight.  I’d like to lose 10 lbs. Thank God nobody’s asked me if I’m pregnant.  Yet. I plan on doing a 21-day junk food fast to kick things off, starting tomorrow.  Gulp.  Wish me luck!

I’d like to do a few races.  I’m not as keen on it as I once was, so maybe a couple of halfs and other distances thrown in for variety. I did get a Garmin for Christmas (thanks, Jonathon!) so I know exactly how far I’m going while training on the road…when the satellite can find me.

I want to get back to reading through the Bible in a year. I missed having so much word to digest. I craved it but knew a little break would help me appreciate it more when I waded back into the ocean again.

Thanks so much for reading this year. I’d love to hear from you, how this year went and what your goals are for 2015.  God bless in the coming year!

National Chocolate Day

Photo from eofdreams.com

Photo from eofdreams.com

I hit a real low this weekend, getting a wee cold and a touch of flu.  When your sleep deficit stretches into weeks, you get worn down. It accumulates, like fallen leaves in a gutter. Your immune system can’t function at optimal levels.  You catch whatever is lying in wait to ambush unsuspecting human hosts. I say “a touch”, because by yesterday, I felt better. As in, do-all-the-laundry-and-fold-it  feeling better. Nothing like the flu of 2010-11 where I was down for a month.  Nyquil came to my rescue, facilitating peaceful sleep and amazingly vivid dreams.   Today I even managed a little workout besides taking the stairs.

This illness made me push the reset button.  My thoughts and attitudes have been stinky. I need more Jesus. Again. When you’re down with the ick, you have time to think. I reached the end of my  “goodness”.  I saw some – not all – of what’s wrong with me. Folks, it wasn’t pretty.   I’m digging into the Bible.  I’m not following any set plan, but I find I need the Word like a drowning man needs a lifeboat. I want to gain something tangible this time.  I’ve written before about how I’ve never felt like the Bible was for me.  It’s always seemed like it belonged to other people, namely my parents and other spiritual leaders in my life. Most times, I felt like it spoke at me but not to me.

Serendipitously, this is also National Chocolate Day.  Though if you’re anything like me, you eat chocolate regularly, dare I say religiously.  You don’t need a special day to commemorate this hallowed food. Nay, I say! I would eat it in the rain, and I would eat it on a plane…Yeah.  It’s that good. I plan on eating some today, in fact.

Yet even more than that, I want to taste the sweetness of God’s Word. I’ve functioned for a long time at low levels, picking up whatever bad attitude came into my thoughts or activities. My spiritual immune system has suffered for lack of spending time digesting the Bible and in the presence of Jesus.  It satisfies me more than a hunk of dark chocolate on a wet and wild day. I need its truth to go down into my innermost places and heal what’s broken.

Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! – Psalm 34:8

Dear Christian

I’m a Christian. I believe in Jesus, the only Son of God.  He died on the cross for my sins.  I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit and the gift of prophecy.  I believe in the Bible, the inerrant word of God.  I’m a full gospel, Pentecostal, all-in believer. If that offends you, I’m sorry.  This is who I am, and in the wonderful words of Rich Mullins, “I did not make it/No, it is making me.” Full disclosure:  I don’t swing from chandeliers or bark like a dog when filled with the Spirit.  Just FYI.

That being said, I am mindful of how I share those beliefs.  Recently, an associate of mine recounted an argument in which they discussed scientific advances with an unbeliever. 

“I told him it didn’t matter that his son has a doctorate in physics and is respected in his field, or was wanted at this university and that university.  Who cares? Physics doesn’t solve man’s ills,” my compatriot said with a smug smirk.

I stood there and said nothing. Maybe physics can help, maybe it can’t. I don’t know. One college class doesn’t make me an expert. I simply couldn’t get past the offensive blanket statement.  It floored me.  The condescending, dismissing comment damaged that relationship.This “little Christ” made Christianity offensive to someone whom Jesus longs to embrace.

This, friends, is unacceptable.  We know the One who has answers, but we don’t have them all. We don’t get to pass judgment on every decision someone makes.  Our role is to share the good news, be filled with the fruits of the Spirit, and to serve.  The Bible says as we lift Jesus up, He will draw people to Himself.  We don’t draw people, and we certainly don’t win people to Jesus by hammering them with self-righteousness soliloquies.   We are to exemplify excellence by submitting our lives as we follow Christ .  That’s it. Is it easy?  No. It costs us, sometimes dearly. The Holy Spirit in us gives us the forgiveness and power to live outside of our weaknesses and poor decisions. We won’t measure up completely, but that’s what God’s love does:  it covers. It forgives.  It restores.

Just for a moment, put yourself in the shoes of a non-believer.  Maybe you can remember back to what it was like before you became a Christian.  Probably you considered yourself, as many of us did,  a “good person”. How would you want to be treated? As a complete and utter buffoon, lucky to be walking upright, or as a valued member of the human race, loved and respected as one of God’s precious children? Would a belligerent, belittling conversation with a God-worshiper make you want anything to do with that God? I know I would run away screaming.  Probably silently, but still.

For clarification purposes, this is not about “speaking the truth in love”.  We earn that privilege. The other person must trust us enough to hear our counsel. It’s not a given. Even then, we have to ensure our motivation is love, and not simply to be right. We can be right at the expense of a relationship.  While there are times we have to make tough decisions to sever toxic associations, Jesus’ prime directive has always been redeeming the connection between God and man.  We get to facilitate that.

I know I can grow in this area, too. I consider this an open letter to all my fellow believers, myself included.  Please fully receive God’s love and acceptance for yourself so you can freely give it to others.

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37-40

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. –
I Corinthians 13:4-7

God in a Box

He's not a tame lion.

He’s not a tame lion.

I recently read a thought-provoking blog from someone I went to college with.  You can read it here.  I’ve been turning this concept over and over in my head lately.  What if we have it all wrong?

Now, I don’t think this a midlife crisis, though the older I get, calling myself a “midlifer” shows I expect to live a very long time!  Hear me out.

We are exhorted to get into the Word.  Read the Bible.  Read it through in a year.  Read it in 30 days.  Read it 7 days!  Eek.  Not sure I could do that.  Would I get bathroom breaks?  The point is that everything we will ever need to know about God is in there.  Or is it?

If it is, why live out our lives at all?  Why not cloister ourselves away like monks and nuns?  Why have zippers?  Seriously. I believe in the inerrant nature of scripture.  I read the Bible daily.  But what about the things the Bible doesn’t address?  We must use our best judgment and pray about things.  And, this is important, realize there is room for different opinions.  Nobody has it all locked up.  Not me. Not you.  Not that nut on TV who needs money for a new satellite.

Long ago, Jonathon and I assisted some friends of ours while they were junior high pastors.  Were we good at this?  Sadly, no.  We lasted a year, us newlyweds. We led worship, most of the time acapella, me pitching the songs and the kids standing there like upright corpses.  Arms crossed on their chests, they glared at us like the incredible losers we were.  It was a pretty thankless season.

The highlight of that time was a junior high youth rally at George Fox.  We drove over to Newberg and spent most of the night up.  We did things like relays.  We ate junk and went to a concert.  I think there was even some licking peanut butter off of toes.  Don’t quote me on that.  This will date me, but rap was just gaining popularity. Not in my *so* much older peer group (I was 22), but in the younger, hipper crowd.  And we heard a Christian group called, if memory serves,  JC Crew.  They rapped. My husband and I, newly sprung from college where we majored in music, were squirmy and skeptical.  God can’t minister through this. It’s so ridiculous. Can He?

But He did.  Kids swarmed the altar, crying their eyes out, ready to commit their lives to Christ.  We were flummoxed.  Lives were changed by people talking to a beat.  Young hearts were convicted.  It was attitude poetry with a drum track.  We didn’t have all the answers. Go figure.

Over time, this lesson has been beaten into my head over and over.  I parent one way; others parent another.  I have worked full-time.  Other families don’t cotton to women working outside the home.  Our kids are in public school.  Your kids may be homeschooled.  All of these have a place in the world.  Nobody has it buttoned up and solved.  The minute you think you do, it will come crashing down.  This includes how you think God “works”.

This is a great adventure we’re on.  Let’s get the most out of it, even it means falling forward. Let’s have a bit of grace.   Old dogs can pick up new tricks.  Generally, I don’t like falling.  I bruise easily.  Yet if it moves me forward, maybe I can learn something.  I keep coming back to Romans 8:28.

But if it doesn’t fall apart on you, call me.  I want in.

Weekend Wrap-Up

Stem Cells

Just a few quick things today…

The retreat was great.  I am so glad I went. Lots of healing for lots of folks.  I realized as I went that I was ready to help and I got to do some of that.  So I got to hear great testimonies and teaching and pray for people.  Kind of a nice mix.

I got up and ran the morning we were there.  I saw the sun rise behind the lake.  The air was cool and refreshing.  I was the only person outside that time of day.  It felt like I owned the world.  Oh, and I saw a cat.  But he didn’t own anything.

I finished my 90-day Bible reading plan on Thursday.  Somehow, with the trippy YouVersion settings, I got done early.  Whatever.  I enjoyed it for the most part, but some books I would have liked to savor a little longer, like John.  Not Leviticus.

The sun is out.  It is not warm.  No, not shorts weather by a long shot, despite a pair I saw a gal wearing when the temp was still down in the 30s.  But plants are in bloom and it is dry.

My hands are healed up from my kettlebells debacle. No more stigmata! I have new pink skin growing in.  I can make a fist.  Look out!

Yesterday, right before Ruby and I had to leave for church, Chloe brought a live mouse in the house.  She chased it all over the living room.  Ruby did too, wanting to catch it in a dustpan, her shiny blue taffeta dress swirling about her feet.  She kept asking, “Can I pick it up by the tail?”  I kept telling her no.  The mouse would bite her.  It was running for its life.  Chloe just wanted to play with it.  She cornered it several times and the mouse always eluded her.  Finally, I was able to drag Ruby away, disappointment in her demeanor.  As we were leaving, Rex ran in the house, attuned to the fact he was missing the action.

The mouse remains at large.  We have found no evidence of its body, no smeared blood or leftover mini organs.  The mouse won.

This, combined with the spring, reminds me that life goes on.  Painful experiences come and go.  We can learn.  We can forgive. We can change. We can get away, if need be, and start again.