Sloughing off

Warning: This post is going to sound vain. I don’t mean it to, but there it is. I’m still a girl at the end of the day.

korean skin care.jpg

I haven’t been happy with my skin for awhile. My face breaks out more than I’d like. I have combination skin, some parts oily, some parts dry. I’ve been on the lookout for products to help calm it. When I worked out more, all that sweating helped it stay clearer and more vibrant. I also used to use Pro Activ products. I said goodbye to those tools a few years back. I find as I age, the gentler the product, the better.

So right now, after months of sun exposure on a near-daily basis (even with sunscreen) I have some sunspots. I also have some acne scars. Seems so unfair this late in life, frankly.

I saw a blog post about Korean skin care items. I’m not one to blow up the budget with expensive lotions and potions. I’d rather buy a pair of cute boots or something else that I can wear/use for a long time. It turns out I haven’t been exfoliating enough. Could it be that simple? Well, if it walks like a duck… I thought I would start there. We have all these layers to our skin. We have 5 layers within the epidermis, which is the top layer. I figure I can shed a few and get to the brighter, non-splotchy skin underneath.

Shedding our “skin” of shame, past disappointments and unrealized expectations is something God wants us to do. We have to leave behind the past.  It takes applying the word to our situation – There is therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), if we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us (1 John 1:9), if anyone is  in Christ, he is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

As I shed dead skin, I think about shedding the old way of living, of thinking, of being. I don’t have to be that person whose thoughts orbit in a negative pattern. I don’t have to beat myself up for failing. I rinse off the gunk and let it flow down the drain. I reveal a new woman, cleansed from her shame. I can believe for a brighter future because my hope isn’t in myself, but in Christ.

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Scapegoat

tree-goats

This morning, our internet was down.  Not the internet in the whole world, mind you, but in our house, it didn’t work.  I found myself doing Bible reading old school:  with my Bible in my lap.  However, my two eyes didn’t focus together. I still have the really great right eye contact lens and the just-shy-of-blindness left eye, lagging behind. I couldn’t read the words.  I picked up the hulking mass and held it out a little father away.  Maybe that would increase clarity.  Nope.

I read today’s selection from Leviticus in the original King James Version.  Oh boy.  As if Leviticus isn’t dry enough.  This was all about how sacrifices are supposed to go down. Then, to me, the most intriguing portion:

Aaron will present his own bull as a sin offering to purify himself and his family, making them right with the Lord. Then he must take the two male goats and present them to the Lord at the entrance of the Tabernacle. He is to cast sacred lots to determine which goat will be reserved as an offering to the Lord and which will carry the sins of the people to the wilderness of Azazel. Aaron will then present as a sin offering the goat chosen by lot for the Lord. The other goat, the scapegoat chosen by lot to be sent away, will be kept alive, standing before the Lord. When it is sent away to Azazel in the wilderness, the people will be purified and made right with the Lord. – Leviticus 16:6-10

The “reserved for the Lord” goat got sacrificed. After some blood-sprinkling from the Lord’s goat, the second goat enters the picture.  Why goats?  All the other sacrifices are cows, sheep, and birds.

“When Aaron has finished purifying the Most Holy Place and the Tabernacle and the altar, he must present the live goat. He will lay both of his hands on the goat’s head and confess over it all the wickedness, rebellion, and sins of the people of Israel. In this way, he will transfer the people’s sins to the head of the goat. Then a man specially chosen for the task will drive the goat into the wilderness. As the goat goes into the wilderness, it will carry all the people’s sins upon itself into a desolate land. – Leviticus 16:20-22

In case you were wondering, God is relaying these instructions to Moses for Aaron. It all feels otherworldly to me.  I don’t live in this time period. Our sacrifices are very personal things, like giving money to a charity or time to mentor a child. No blood flows, as a general rule.

This goat driven into the wilderness will have to survive on its own.  What happens to it, out in the wild? Goats, I’ve read, are known for their lively and frisky behavior. They will nibble on most anything, but have definite preferences for woody shrubs and trees (wikipedia.com).  Their curiosity upon discovering new smells drives them to taste inedible things. They show unusual intelligence, too, with an ability to climb slanting trees or simply up and out of their pens.

Which begs the question, again, why goats? Does something untoward happen to the goat as soon as it’s set free from its leadline? This tells us how God hates sin, of course.  It must be driven out of the camp.  But is there more here?

I think goats personify what often gets us into sin in the first place:  curiosity.  What would it be like to…?  To quote the serpent, “Did God really say…?” (Genesis). The goat literally escapes from the camp, bearing the people’s iniquities. He became sin for the Israelites.

What do you think?

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.

Blame it on the Rain

Photo by ae-review.org

                                                    Photo by ae-review.org

It started raining yesterday.  It fell soft at first, then it picked up.  Overall, we got about an inch of rain.  It continued all night and into this morning.  Then it stopped.  Everything dripped – trees, eaves, power lines.

It got me thinking.

Every year, it seems fall enters with a dramatic flair.  Often a storm blows in, causing a sudden drop in temperature, moving the season from growing to dying. This year, it appeared like a silvery curtain.  I have a poem about rain.  Want to hear it? You know you do.

Music in the Rain

I hear music in the rain,
Loud and soft,
Hitting my window pane.
With trills and spills
It lands and splats,
Dripping and dropping all over the lane.
It warbles.
It burbles.
It dribbles.
It gurgles.
Endless pale river flowing from the sky,
Lulls me to sleep at night,
Like a wet lullaby.

Hey, I didn’t say it was good.

Today I’m considering how fall changed everything. Because of the Fall (get it?) we need Jesus.  Once Adam and Eve ate the apple, humanity couldn’t get back into fellowship with God.  Evicted from the Garden, they had to go their own way.  Sure, God still cared and guided.  But that sweet intimacy between Maker and created, so free and easy, disappeared.

Until Jesus.

Sin coats like rain. I know it sounds strange, but hear me out. It covers everything. Nothing escapes its taint. All of creation fell under the curse due to sin. Earthly life became plagued with strife and disease.  And yet, all can be reclaimed with the sacrifice of Jesus. He brings the new rain of eternal life and a new reign of righteousness. He engulfs us in His fresh rain of restoration.

A Dirty Word

It's in us.

It’s in us.

I’ve been thinking about sin and death today.

Yay!  You say sarcastically.  Way to be upbeat! Light Friday reading.

And you’d be right.  Sin and death aren’t happy topics.  In our culture, sin has become a dirty word.  But they do come up over time.  If you have a conscience at all, you will run into it.  It will flog you.  Sin can be intentional or unintentional, willful or not.  You will let yourself down.  You will hurt people by things you say or do, and vice versa.  People you know and love will die during your stay here. Eventually, you will join them.  Welcome to life. L’chaim!

My friend Brian wrote a thought-provoking blog today. He’s such a good writer anyway, but his written thoughts sort it all in digestible pieces.  You can read it here.  I’d like to use his ideas as a jumping-off point.

He outlines the way to become a Christian with three main points.  I like three points because of the Trinity (three parts of the Godhead), three days for Jesus to experience death and resurrection and three points make a sermon. So there!

The first step to salvation is:

A)  Admit you’re a sinner.  Okay, no sweat.  I have probably committed most of the 7 deadly sins in one way or another, not to mention broken a few commandments.  I don’t say that lightly.  It’s simply part of living with an imperfect nature.   Like the time I made fun of a cross-eyed girl who lived in our neighborhood…and her dad heard me.  Yeah.  My sin found me out right quick that time.  My sins – your sin – separate us from God (Romans 3:23).

B) Believe that Jesus is God. Kind of a strange idea, actually.  I mean, isn’t God the only God?  The Trinity remains a mystery. I don’t fully comprehend it. It’s always been interesting to me – and wonderful – that God would send a perfect replacement to die for me:  His only son.  Animal sacrifices never really got it done anyway; they provided a stopgap measure until Jesus came along (Hebrews 10).  Only a sinless one could take our sin from us.

Right here, you might say, This is a bloody religion. Yes.  But we don’t realize how much our sin keeps us from God.  We reap death from it.  Eternal damnation and division from God. That’s how bad it is.

C) Confess Jesus is Lord.  Stating it aloud with witnesses present is a start.  It’s living under His rule, day by day. It becomes joyful submission as His will for our life unfolds.  He has good plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11).

As I’ve aged, I realized “born again” looks different on each of us.  It’s less about the “don’ts” and more about the “do’s”.  Our unique imago dei means we walk out our salvation (with fear and trembling) down different avenues.  Sure, we may look good on the outside to others, but appearing holy will never wash with God.

Why in the world did God even do this?  Why not leave human beings alone?  They’re certainly messed up.  Look at our world today, plagued by, well, plagues, famine,  and wars.  Why not wash His hands of the entire kit and caboodle?  Deists think He did that long ago.

Relationship.  He wants us to be near Him.  He made us for it.  He loves us.  Giving us free will meant we could choose to love Him.  I know.  Honestly, free will seems like a mixed blessing. I think of it like giving a little boy a gun:  “Here, Timmy. Got ya something special! Please read the instruction manual, or you’ll shoot yer eye out.” Robotic humanity would have been so much easier on us all.

Today, though, I’m grateful I get to choose.

 

The Shame of Slavery

I am reading through the Bible in 8 months this time.  Originally, I resisted, then found myself hungry for more Bible in my life.

I read in Joshua 5 today.  At this point in the narrative, the Israelites crossed over the Jordan.  The Amorite kings west of the Jordan and the Canaanite kings along the Mediterranean heard about it.  They lost heart and became paralyzed with fear (v.1).

The Lord directs Joshua to circumcise this next generation of Israelites.  The entire first generation, the one with Moses, had all passed on.  The text goes on to say that nobody had been circumcised since the Exodus.  So, potentially 40 years of births and nobody had been, um, disfigured.  I guess they couldn’t spare the down time.

Verse 9 struck me:  Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the shame of your slavery in Egypt.” So that place has been called Gilgal to this day.

Huh?  I had no idea what that meant. Other versions say, “I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.”  That didn’t help, either.  Looking up the meaning of Gilgal, I found Strong’s concordance which defines it as “circle of stones”.  Hmm.  Wikipedia says Gilgal is similar to a phrase in Hebrew meaning “I have removed”, which also fits.

Going back further, “reproach” means disapproval or disappointment.  This act of circumcision of all the of-age males cleansed the population from the shame, or disappointment, of slavery.  I question whether God was disappointed or whether the Israelites themselves were disappointed in their lot as slaves.  Probably both, I reckon.  Slavery, it seems, cuts both ways.

How did God’s people even become slaves?  The Israelites, occupying Egypt after the rescue by Joseph during the great famine, multiplied and grew under the pharaohs.  Their great numbers threatened the Egyptians (Exodus 1:8).  The Egyptians forced them into slavery.  Which begs the question:  Why didn’t God do something to prevent it?

Joseph’s last words were, “…God will surely come to help you and lead you out of this land of Egypt.  He will bring you back to the land he solemnly promises to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Genesis 50:24).  Sometimes, God’s timing can lag, at least to our finite human minds.  In this case, it was 400 or 430 years, depending on where you start counting (Gen. 15:13).

Even though God knew His chosen people would live in bondage for a time, He didn’t leave them without hope.  Their slavery was always a temporary condition. I surely don’t have all the answers, but that’s the message I  take away.

As believers,  Jesus took our reproach when He died on the cross.  He became our permanent sacrifice.  We no longer live as slaves to sin. We don’t have to wait 430 years for another Moses to rise up.  He already came.  We can cast off the shame of our former slavery and live as free men and women.

Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.  Romans 6:1-4

Eve of Christmas, Part Deux

Eve

It’s snowing outside, almost two inches since it started 2 hours ago.  Presents and stockings are history.  Candles flicker on the mantel.  The Christmas tree, perpetually lit at our house, glows in the semi-darkness.  Nothing stirs outside.  It’s quiet and we’re all still cozily in our jammies.  I don’t think I’ll be going running today.  Under that snow is ice.  Yikes!

So I had a thought, which is why I’m blogging on Christmas.  It’s because of Eve that we even have Christmas.  Let me explain.

At the dawn of creation, Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden.  They were happily taking care of the garden, watering it and fertilizing it.  They visited with the animals and got to know each other better, too.  We don’t know exactly how much time elapsed between Genesis 1 and Genesis 3 .  It could have been hundreds of years of tranquility.  Enter the snake. The snake reminded them that they could not eat of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil:  “But the Lord God warned him, ‘You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden – except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die’ ” (Gen. 2?16-17).  The serpent questioned that command, twisted it (Gen. 3:1).  His words seduced the woman, possibly coiling around the tree as he hissed:  “You won’t die!…God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil” (Gen 3:4-5). Eve was convinced.  She took the apple first.  She wanted the wisdom the fruit would give her (3:6).  This point has been hammered home in numerous sermons I have heard over the years. “Eve was the gullible one, hence all women are gullible”.  “Men, you need to be the spiritual leaders in your family.”  “Adam should have said no and protected his wife and himself from sin.”  Yeah, yeah.  I don’t necessarily believe women are more impressionable than men are.  I’ve known plenty of trusting men.  What Eve did was wrong; what Adam did was wrong.  The Scripture clearly says “Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too” (3:6).  He was a witness to all that went on, though he said nothing.

If you continue to read through the Bible through the New Testament, you can see that God considered sin to have entered in through Adam, not Eve.  I don’t want to go into a discourse about headship and spiritual authority, but clearly according to God, the blame for the apple ingestion rested on Adam.  See Hosea 6:7:  “But like Adam, you broke my covenant and betrayed my trust”, and Romans 5:12:  “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world.  Adam’s sin brought death..”  There are many other verses saying essentially the same thing.  What is not mentioned is the incredible influence a wife’s opinion can have on her husband’s point of view.  Eve, trusting the serpent’s word over God’s, changed the course of human history.

But because Eve took and ate the apple, we need Jesus.  She started a chain reaction that continues to this day:  original sin.

So I think it’s sort of ironic that we have a day called Christmas Eve.  She started it all. I Timothy 2:14 says:  “And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan.  The woman was deceived, and sin was the result”.  It does not seem to matter as much about the deception as the action, the disobedience itself.

Maybe, just maybe, having a Christmas Eve is God’s way of forgiving Eve.  And Christmas is a beautiful holiday celebrating the birth of the savior of the world.  In the ironic twist that does God justice, Jesus is descended from Adam’s lineage, fully God and fully man.  Eve carried the seed of the Messiah inside her even then, before she ever committed the first sin.  The Lord took something awful and made it amazing, joyful, spectacular.  He redeemed us back to himself, using the very person who first betrayed him.

On this Christmas day, I consider the forgiving God who loves us all.  His salvation and peace remain.  “Don’t be afraid!  I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the City of David! … Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:  12, 14).