Tuesday, December 30, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 25 - Breath of Heaven - December 27, 2008

The Lord himself will give you a sign:
The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son…
Isaiah 7:14

The Guttmacher Institute reports that in 2002 there were 746,820 pregnancies and 425,493 births in the United States—among women aged 15-19. More than 18,000 women in this age group become pregnant every year—in Indiana.

It is a scary proposition to bring a child into the world, no matter what your age. I was twenty-seven when my newborn babe Matthew was placed in my arms. I was ready to be a mom; I was in awe of the miracle taking place; I was head over heals in love with my baby boy—and I was scared silly!

In Breath of Heaven, vocalist Amy Grant captures what may have been Mary’s feelings when carrying the Child of God: “I am waiting in a silent prayer. I am frightened by the load I bear.” The load she refers to here is more than the weight of the growing child or the usual trepidations of an expectant parent. Mary was chosen to bear the spirit-breathed Son of God.

In Grant’s song, Mary prays: “Breath of heaven, hold me together, be forever near me…lighten my darkness, pour over me your holiness, for you are holy.” What was in frightened Mary’s heart as she waited in “silent prayer”?

By becoming pregnant out of wedlock, Mary disgraced her family, her betrothed, and her God, and according to custom, did not deserve to live. With a nod of his head, Joseph could have had Mary stoned to death. Interesting, isn’t it that Jesus, who was destined to die himself, was born to a woman who should have been put to death.

Fortunately, Mary had a good support system: God the Father, who deemed that she would bear his son; the angel Gabriel, who informed her of God’s plan; Joseph, a godly fiancé; her cousin Elizabeth, who also became pregnant under suspicious circumstances; and the Breath of Heaven—the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ parents had to grow up fast, their faith and integrity challenged by his conception, their maturity honed over nine stressful months, culminating in a grueling trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem, just as Mary was due to deliver. This young girl gave birth in a drafty stable, far from home and family.

While Mary’s circumstances occurred in the first century, many young women today find themselves in similar straights, having disappointed family, facing rejection, and dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. The Breath of Heaven gives life to their little ones, each created in the image of God. But life is a struggle, just as it was for Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

As you contemplate the birth of Jesus, pray for the little ones in our community who are God-breathed miracles deserving of love and protection. May we reach out to these little ones and their families as an act of worship—as we “worship Christ, the newborn King.”

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 24 - Believing the Unbelievable - December 20, 2008

How will this be, since I am a virgin?"
Luke 1:34

"Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Say what? Who said that?

“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.”

Um, you have the wrong girl. And you’re creeping me out!

“You will be with child and give birth to a son…”

Hey, I’m still in high school—there’s no way I’m getting prego. Turn off that flashlight—you’re blinding me!

“…and you are to give him the name Jesus.”

If and when I do get pregnant, my boyfriend, Joe, and I will choose a name.

“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”

Just who do you think you are—a prophet? An angel? I’ve caught a few ‘Touched by an Angel” episodes, and, trust me, you’re no more angelic than I am ‘with child,’ as you so delicately put it.

“The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end.”

You’re talking crazy talk, but, just for the fun of it, I’ll play along. So, this small town, blue collar, Jewish son of mine is going to become some sort of bigwig in the Roman Empire—like Joseph was in the Egyptian Empire under Pharaoh?

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

You’re going to have to explain this overshadowing stuff to my Joe—and my folks. I’ll be grounded for life!

“So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

Surely I heard you wrong. Next thing you’ll be telling me this kid is going to be the Messiah…

I have raised a teenage girl and I work with teenagers in my job as a therapist, thus my gut suggests that there was more to the conversation between Mary and the angel Gabriel than what is recorded in the Gospel. After all, both Abraham and Sarah laughed when a visitor foretold that barren Sarah would have a child. (Genesis 17:17 and 18:12) And Zachariah, father of John the Baptist, doubted the angel Gabriel’s announcement that his barren wife Elizabeth would bear a son. (Luke 1:1-23) So wouldn’t a virginal teenage girl be skeptical?

What teen (or adult) today would believe that they were impregnated by the Holy Spirit? (Although I have met a few young women who claim no knowledge of how they got pregnant!) Luke chose, not to focus on skepticism, but to shine a beacon on Mary’s faith—a childlike faith that led her to believe the unbelievable:

“Behold the handmaid of the Lord;
be it unto me according to thy word.”
(Luke 1:38 KJV)

How is God working the unbelievable in your life?

The Holy Spirit overshadows you and your life is pregnant with possibility.

“With God all things are possible.” (Jesus)
Matthew 19:26 NIV

Sunday, December 14, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 23 - Advent Conspiracy - December 13, 2008

The holidays sometimes bring out the worst in me.

As the countdown progresses from Black Friday to Christmas Eve and beyond, I sleep less, triggering the cross and cranky button in my brain.

I fret over the rising credit card balance as I repeatedly swipe my card.

And I quake in the presence of the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future-weight gain—all the while taste-testing the cookie dough, nibbling on mixed nuts, and hoarding all the dark chocolate covered caramels in the Good’s deluxe 2 lb. gift box (the one I bought for my cousin; but then remembered she lives in Arizona and the candy will get all mushy in a hot UPS truck—so what’s a chocoholic to do, but eat it myself…).

Some days I just want to cry, “Bah, HUMBUG!” and hibernate for the holidays. Oh, but then I dream of chocolate and sleepwalk to my carefully guarded chocolate hideaway for a generous dose of serotonin and antioxidants. The mood elevator kicks in and I’m feeling fine, but then my blood sugar plummets from the sucrose overdose, so I head to the sofa for a nap—or back to the candy stash for another fix.

When the kids were young, I made a birthday cake every year and we sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. One year I was so out of control that I almost single-handedly devoured Jesus’ birthday cake. I’m usually indifferent to the cake, but this particular year was different. I intentionally purchased a white cake mix and frosting. I’d have to be in dire straights to eat something so “Blah, Humbug!” as white cake.

Well… I discovered that French white cake is dark chocolate’s European kissing cousin. I made countless trips to the kitchen that Christmas to slice just-a-sliver of cake. I polished it off in just under two days, six hours, and seventeen minutes.

Forever frosted in sticky, vanilla shame, I’ve not baked Jesus a cake since. Until I get to heaven, and am safe from gluttonizing Jesus’ birthday cakes, I might do well to join the Advent Conspiracy—an international movement that inspires us to replace consumption (chocolate or otherwise) with expressions of Christ’s compassion.

Here’s the plan: Give the gift of your time, presence, and relationship to loved ones and friends—and then with the money you save, make a donation to a worthy cause.

The Advent Conspiracy has overhauled my Christmas wish list. The clothes and books I asked for? Don’t need ‘em. What I really want is fresh drinking water, nutritious food, medical care, and barebones schools and school supplies—for those who do not have these simple things that I take for granted.

I especially want a goat (available via the India Gospel League for only $85). I think I’ll name her Grace. “Baa-a- (no humbug needed) a-a-a!”

How do you plan to honor Jesus this Christmas?


Monday, December 8, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 22 - Family Reunion - December 6, 2008

The Lord said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your
fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
Genesis 31:3

Family reunions can be stressful. A pastor once told me that he does far more family counseling in the aftermath of Thanksgiving than at any other time of the year.

In some families, there are personality clashes that set everyone on an anticipatory edge, dreading yet another unfestive family fiasco. The stew of dysfunction is already brewing...

On the other end of the spectrum are the families in which individuals, or even groups of kin, haven’t spoken to each other for years. It may even be taboo to mention the outcast’s name.

After stealing his brother’s birthright and blessing, Jacob fled his family, fearing that his twin brother, Esau, might kill him. He’d not broken bread with his family for over twenty years. The cutoff in this family was cavernous.

And now God was instructing Jacob to return to the scene of his deceit. It was with both fear and longing that Jacob obediently set out with his growing family and flocks for a momentous family reunion.

As Jacob drew near to his homeland, he sent messengers to Esau saying, “Your servant Jacob says, ‘I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now… Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.’” (Genesis 32: 4-5 NIV)

When his messengers returned with the news that Esau was coming to meet Jacob—with 400 men—Jacob was afraid and prepared for the possibility of being attacked. He divided his people and herds into groups which he sent out ahead of himself and his wives and children, each with a generous peace offering for Esau.

The pivot point on which this story turns is prayer. Jacob was in conversation with God, both in listening for God’s voice and in baring his heart to his intimately involved, loving God: "O Lord… I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness… Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau…" (Genesis 32:10-11 NIV)

Despite his long history of deception, God loved Jacob and gave him much more than the desires of his heart: “Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.” (Genesis 33:4 NIV) Gazing at Esau through his tears, Jacob uttered, “…to see your face is like seeing the face of God…” (Genesis 33:10 NIV)

Is there a rift in your heart and family that needs healing this Christmas? If so, may you be encouraged by the reunion of Jacob and Esau.

How have you been a Jacob, robbing your family of God’s blessing?

How have you been an Esau, betrayed and hurt?

Life is too short and too precious to waste even a nanosecond in hardness of heart or paralyzed in pain. Like Jacob, may you be obedient and repentant. And like Esau, may your face be as the face of God.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 21 - Deceived Deceiver - November 27, 2008

Based on
Genesis 29:1-30 NIV

Have you heard the latest on what’s going on with Laban’s girls?”

“No, I guess I missed that episode.”

The two women were gossiping while walking to the community well.

“Well, Lydia, overheard Laban’s servant telling one of my mistress’ maidservants that Laban pulled one over on his nephew, Jacob.”

“That young man who turned up out of nowhere claiming to be Laban’s sister’s son?”

“Yeah, that one—the guy who, rumor has it, was running from his twin brother, Esau, for some suspicious dealings.”

“Well, well, well…I’ve always been a bit leery of that one—too good lookin’ and too smooth-talking, if you get my drift.”

“Anyway, I’m sure you knew that Jacob agreed to work for Laban for seven years for the hand of his daughter, Rachael. The wedding was last Saturday and you’ll never guess what happened!”

“So, tell me, already.”

“Supposedly, the morning after consummating the union, Jacob discovered that he’d married Leah!”

“No! No way!”

“Yes, way! Laban gave him some lame excuse about it being the custom that the eldest daughter has to marry first.”

“Now, wait a minute. That’s not a lame excuse; that IS the custom.”

"Oh, yeah. Jacob was so distraught that when Laban said he could marry Rachel right away, if he promised to work for him for another seven years, Jacob jumped at the offer.”

“That Laban sure is shrewd, marrying off both daughters and getting fourteen years of labor out of Jacob, for free.”

“Well, you know what they always say: what goes around, comes around.”

“Hmmm…Jacob must have been quite a huckster himself to deserve such bad luck!”

“Don’t you know it!”

“So, what else is new?”

“WELL! I just heard so-and-so say such-and-such about you-know-who…”


What goes around, comes around? Or was Jacob simply reaping the consequences of his own poor choices?

I’m guessing that Jacob didn’t learn his lesson completely after deceiving his father and brother and fleeing for his life. I think it’s likely that he continued to be deceptive in his dealings with Laban. And Laban—a con man himself—was on to Jacob. Laban managed to out-deceive the deceiver, no easy task!

Deception continues to fan the flaming tongue of gossip—that’s why newscasts, crime shows, who-done-it novels, soap operas, tabloids and gossip columns are so popular. Honesty may be the best policy, but it’s…well, boring; it’s straight-forward, not intriguing.

While I would never admit this to a soul, I sometimes get a sick sense of satisfaction when a duper gets duped. It fortifies my “holier than thou” persona (when eroded by my own duplicitous omissions and commissions). And focusing on your dishonesty keeps me from attending to my own.

“Love makes the world go round,” but deception lends depth, contours, twist and turns. Imagine watching the in-a-perfect-world version of the soap, “As the World Turns.” No lying, cheating, betrayal, murder = BLAH!

Would you choose a perfect world, if given the chance?

I would, but only if I’m allowed to overindulge in chocolate and pizza—and drive over the speed limit occasionally!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 20 - Jacob's Ladder - November 15, 2008

As a child, I experienced a repetitive dream in which bears escaped from the zoo and were terrorizing the city. People were evacuating and I was left behind to fend for myself. I would run and lock myself in the bathroom, but the bears could eat through the door. Somehow, I always awoke before they ate me. I think the bears symbolized my older brother (Sorry Mike; I couldn’t resist!).

Jacob, who ran from his older brother, Esau, had a doozy of a dream, too, which came on the heels of his father’s blessing (“May God give you of heaven's dew and of earth's richness—an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”)

At the end of a weary day of running, the sun settled on the fugitive. Jacob plumped up a stone and rested his head, drifting into a fitful sleep, his father’s blessing fresh in his mind. He dreamt of a stairway rising to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. And then God spoke to the sleeping Jacob:

"I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Think about it. Jacob had maliciously stolen his brother’s birthright and blessing, and yet, God chose to bless him—unconditionally.

"Surely the Lord is in this place and I was not aware of it,” uttered an awed Jacob. “…This is none other than the house of God…the gate of heaven.” Jacob then took the stone on which he had rested his head, set it up as a pillar, and named the place Bethel (House of God).
Unable to fully comprehend God’s grace, nor fully trust the divine promise, Jacob made his commitment to the God of Grace conditional: "If God will:

· be with me,
· watch over me on this journey,
· give me food to eat and clothes to wear, and
· return [me] safely to my father's house,
then the Lord will be my God.”


How often do I put conditions on my commitments to God? More often than I would like to admit—like, maybe, 99.9% of the time!

“You are a chosen people…a people belonging to God.”
1 Peter 2:9 NIV
Based on Genesis 27:16-28:22 NIV

Sunday, November 9, 2008


It's a bird! It's a plane!
No! It's Evie the Bumble Bee!
There's nothing cooler
than bee-ing the Nana
of a bumble bee.
He has my heart a buzzin'.

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 19 - Walking in Deception - November 8, 2008

Deception can be fun. Take Halloween, for example. What child doesn’t love to dress up and pretend to be Spider Man, Snow White, or something scary like Frankenstein? One year, my nephew Jeff dressed up as the Empire State Building and his toddler daughter, Lauren, dressed up as King Kong, taking first place in their community costume competition. Even as adults we enjoy masquerading and deceiving others, just for the fun of it.

I think it would be great fun for my husband and me to dress up as a duo of dice. Grocery cartons spray painted white with black dots would make an easy, inexpensive and clever costume. Rex dismisses dice as a dorky idea—and this from the man who practices optometry on Halloween wearing a mask with a bloody eyeball falling out of its socket.

Looks may be deceiving, but deception is not limited to the venue of vision. Jacob, the son of Isaac, is known for his deceptive finesse. When his father was dying, Jacob donned a disguise in order to appear to be his twin brother, Esau, with the intent of cheating him out of the blessing traditionally bestowed on the eldest son. His duplicity took advantage of the fact that Isaac was blind, and Jacob was able to fool his father by covering his arms and neck with goat skin to mimic Esau’s hairiness. Because Esau was a herder, the odor of the hide further convinced Isaac that he was blessing his eldest son.

This was the second time Jacob used his wiliness against his brother. When Esau came to him hungry and asked for a bowl of the stew Jacob was cooking, Jacob agreed to his request—under one condition:

“First sell me your birthright.”

Esau replied, “I am about to die. What good is the birthright to me?”

To seal the deal, Jacob added, "Swear to me first.” Esau complied.

A cunning opportunist, Jacob knew his brother’s Achilles’ heel and took advantage of Esau in a moment of weakness. Like Isaac, his father, Jacob usurped the blessings of the firstborn son. In Isaac’s case, his father, Abraham, favored Isaac over Ishmael. In Jacob’s case, however, he defied tradition and adroitly appropriated both Esau’s birthright and blessing.

Fearing Esau’s anger, Jacob fled and did not return for many years. In spite of the major fault line in Jacob’s character, God had his eye on Jacob to become a major player in the lineage of the Messiah. God orchestrated events to sculpt the deceiver into a man of Godly character.

We leave Jacob scurrying away from the repercussions of his deception and will follow his journey over the next few weeks. In the meanwhile, how do you play the deceiver in your life? What consequences of deception are you running from? How is God honing your character?

We are God’s workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10 NIV

Sunday, November 2, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 18 - River Walking - November 1, 2008

Sun speckled water gurgles over rocks in a shallow spot in the stream, a glistening mountain range of ripples erupts, mimicking the jutting rocks and mounded stones swept smooth by rushing water. I clamber precariously along the rock-studded shoreline, my pink t-shirt adorned with burrs. I flounder for firm footing on the rock-strewn, shifting floor beneath my hiking boots. My rusty colored footwear mimics the color and wear-and-tear of the languid leaves lazily parachuting from the towering, splotchy-barked sycamores.

I grapple my way toward a boulder hunkered in the shallows. The mat gray ottoman is creviced on top, the indentation filled with morning’s rain. I sweep out the water and leaves that have collected and situate my denim-clad rump as comfortably as possible as bone on rock can be. Following readjustments of my derrière, I dig into my shiny black knapsack and pull out a book entitled The Tree.

Panda, my walking buddy, wanders off, clad in a bright orange “don’t shoot me—I’m not a deer!” blanket snapped securely under her russet chin and white breast. Her mouth hangs open, a pink tongue lopping out the side embellishing a goofy grin. My golden girl, with white fur peppering her muzzle, is in the height of her golden years. But the sparkle in her umber eyes and her agility as she darts to and fro, belie her years.

“Are you a happy girl, Panda?”

With a wag of her tail, Panda trots down the path and disappears into a dense patch of wizened nettles. I turn to my book, its pages crumbled and stained with splotchy, mud colored paw prints. “The resin from the balsam fir becomes the finest cement for optical instruments.” Hmmm… imagine that.

While I’m immersed in botanic wonderment, Panda slinks gingerly into the flowing water, acutely focused on a man and dog on the far shore. I look up just in time to see Panda traversing the river.

“Panda! Get back here, right now!” I yell, authoritatively. Practicing selective hearing, Panda continues on.

With a sigh of disgust, I rise from my perch and begrudgingly slosh into the chilly water and lumber after my wayward dog. Observing my dilemma, the man and dog disappear out of sight. Panda decides to obey and heads back, glancing my way with a glint in her eyes and a smirk on her upturned lips as she passes me.

“Lord, please keep me from falling,” I blurt. Watching my feet, the sun-glinted ripples in the water dizzy me and I momentarily falter. Fully expecting a splashdown, I regain balance. “Thank you, God!” My landlubber boots squish and squash back to my rock. I tether Panda; she’ll wander no more.

In my walk with God, I am often a Panda: I follow the siren call of curiosity and teeter and totter out of God’s will.

“Linda, get back here right now!”

“Yes, Father.”

…though she stumble, she will not fall,
for the Lord upholds her with his hand.
Psalm 37:24

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 17 - Walking Stick - October 25, 2008

While deep sea diving in the caverns of my mind, I momentarily surface to scan the sky for a word that eludes my grasp. I’m writing about God’s Walking Buddies and balanced on the fence rail, not ten feet from me, is a walking stick. I rarely get a glimpse of these introverted creatures, but this is the second one I’ve seen in a week’s time.

I rise quietly from my chair, not wanting to send her skittering off, but I need not worry. Assuming the classic stance of a walking stick, she is frozen in time, an elongated, low lying statue without stature. I pull up a chair in slow motion and perch beside her, admiring her jointed limbs, delicate feet, sweeping antennae, and twiggy figure.

As I lose myself in her presence, awareness wells up in me and bubbles out in a smile and giggle of recognition. Waiting patiently for me to notice her is God’s “National Geographic” star among walking buddies. I’m energized, excited, and feel all silly inside over this quirky gift. God has given me spiders, mosquitoes, and lightening bugs, but a walking stick—how clever is that?

When Twiggy finally lifts her pencil-lead thin legs, I notice that she is minus her own right “walking stick.” Wonder of wonders, a walking stick can regenerate an appendage. There’s even a rumor afoot that, if beheaded, a “Carausuis” (Twiggy’s swanky scientific name) can reincarnate its head and reconnect it with its body. Alas, the nerve cord cannot reconnect, so I think that means Twiggy would essentially be rendered brainless.

In spite of her handicap, Twiggy motivates quite well and I follow her progress as she struts across the fence rail and scales effortlessly up a brick wall. I position myself in her path and she traverses my pant leg, ascends my torso, and tickles—EEK!—my neck with her “toes”.

Lest she inadvertently take a nose dive under my blouse, I delicately usher her to a nearby bush where she clambers up one stem and down another, teetering on the tips of twigs, the girth of which is similar to her own. Not deterred by dead ends, Twiggy shifts into reverse and inches her way back down the route she came to locate a safer pathway. This unassuming aerialist dangles capriciously while the wind whips the bow at will. Being a klutz from birth and afraid of heights, I really admire this about her.

Do you ever feel “up a stem without a walking stick”? I sure do. While the journey into difficulties is often a breeze, backing out of sticky situations is arduous. When I dangle over danger, the winds of worry whipping me into a frenzy, I need to lean on my Divine Walking Stick for stability and guidance.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Changes at the Herald Bulletin

Well, I knew that the ride couldn't last forever. It's been a really fun ride, too. But, I learned recently that The Herald Bulletin, my hometown newspaper, plans to change its format. In an attempt to attrack more readers, the decision has been made to make changes to my column -- or should I say, the Saturday morning "religious column."

"Readers are wanting shorter articles and more variety," I'm told. So, at a yet to be determined point in the future, I will be sharing my column with three other writers. This means that I will only be writing once a month. And my word count is dropping from 500-700 words (and I always finish at about 699 words) to 500 words.

It feels as if my space is being invaded! This has been MY column and now three other writers will be invited to set up camp in my domain. My Mama always told me to share, but sharing a toy or a pizza is my idea of sharing. Surely she didn't mean that I should have to share my writing space.

Mom had a column for several years in a small Christian newspaper and when the paper closed, her gig was up. I should be grateful that at least my gig isn't completely up. I wish that she were still alive so I could moan to her--she would understand my possessiveness and disappointment. Mom would also tell me that God has other plans for me and she would promise to pray for me.

Thanks, Mom. I'll try to remember that.

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 16 - "How I Met Your Mother"- October 17, 2008

Based on Genesis 24

My junior year in college, a friend insisted on fixing me up with her fiancé’s roommate. I’d given up on blind dates and vowed this would be my last. My Camaro-driving date was really cute. Okay, so I was shallow, but who isn’t at twenty?

I find it hilarious that my eye doctor husband met his wife on a blind date. Move over well intentioned family and friends; match.com is the matchmaker of the 21st Century.

Eons ago, Abraham devised a way to find a wife for his son, Isaac—but there’s someone better suited to tell the story than I am:

“Mommy, tell us again how you met Daddy!”

“Oh, Jacob, I’ve told you this story so many times…”

“Come on Mama! Tell us again! P-L-E-A-S-E!”

“Pipe down Esau... Well, when I was a girl, I had a most interesting encounter with a stranger when I went to the spring to fetch water. He asked me to…”

“Not that part. Skip to the really good part—when you and Daddy met.”

“Yeah, Mom, stop—what’s that word you say to me all the time—stop prograssinating!”

“Well, the man journeyed many days in search of a bride for the son of Abraham, your great-grandfather’s brother. He was adamant that I was the very woman he was looking for. And do you boys know why?”

“Cuz he prayed to God that a girl would come to the spring…”

“…and he would ask for a drink and she’d give ‘em one…”

“…and give all his camels drinks too and she’d be the one…

“…and that was you, Mama...”

“…and we’re STILLwaitin’ for the good part.”

“You do deserve an answer—but you’ll have to wait until next week’s episode to hear the rest of the story.



“Oh, all right… Perhaps I should have been scared to marry someone I didn’t know, and to move so far away from my home and family, but I felt God calling me. After many days journey…

“Oh, look, Mommy--Daddy’s home!

“Isaac, why don’t you tell the twins the rest of the story?”

“Well, boys, I was out in a field one evening, walking and talking with God, and I saw a caravan approaching. As the camels drew near, I saw the most amazing woman sitting atop the lead camel. ‘Could this be the woman my father sent for to be my wife?’ I wondered. And there I was, all dusty and sweaty, about to meet my wife!”

“Your daddy was so handsome and rode a really cool BC-Camel!”

“Your mommy was so hot… er, I mean, so gorgeous!”

“They say that love is blind, but it truly was love at first sight.”

“And that, kids, is how I met your mother.”

“Oh, Isaac!”

“Oh, Rebekah!”




Our Divine Matchmaker longs to match us with the right partner, career, home, etc. Like Rebekah and Isaac, may we be open to God’s leading.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 15 - Walking in Circles - October 4, 2008

Recently I had microfracture surgery on my left knee, which I’m told will buy me a few years until I need a knee replacement. Prosthetics will be the status symbol of the Baby Boomer generation. My gift to myself on retirement will be a trip—to the orthopedic clinic for an upgrade of parts.

It’s not just golden girls and guys sporting state-of-the-art titanium upgrades; people of all ages need limbs and joints. In fact, animals are being fitted with prostheses. Several years ago, Allison, a five-inch Atlantic green sea turtle washed ashore on the coast of Texas. This little gal was missing three flippers and could only swim in circles, counterclockwise.

Against great odds, Sea Turtles Inc., a rescue organization in Texas, nursed Allison back to health on a regimen of TLC, antibiotics, and a force-fed diet of squid (you’d have to force-feed me, too, to get me to eat squid). Dr. Sudarat Kiat-amnuay* is designing a prosthetic flipper that will attach to a bony stump on Allison’s left rear side.

I recently viewed a u-tube video of a hatchling sea turtle making its way from its nest, across a stretch of beach, to the ocean, an arduous, danger-fraught journey for such a little one. Did Allison make this trek with only one fin, or was she injured by a predator in the water? How did she survive in the churning ocean waves?

Doesn’t Allison’s story just make you weep with awe and wonder? Okay, so I’m the only one weeping into my whole-grain cereal (no squid or squid byproducts—I checked the ingredients list). Allison’s incredible journey is truly miraculous.

Sometimes I feel like I’m swimming in circles, getting nowhere. This brings to mind an image of a penned up Shetland sheep dog spinning in circles, yipping and yapping ad infinitum. When I feel helpless, incapable, lost, I’m an Allison. When I’m crazed with fear or frustration, or rebelling against my circumstances, I’m that spinning sheep herder.

Life’s journey—including our spiritual journey—occasionally takes us for a dizzying spin, like getting caught in the traffic circling Monument Circle in Indianapolis, unable to exit the post-game or rush hour rat race. We feel trapped, clueless, our anxiety and frustration mounting. We go around in circles creating ruts in our lives, our relationships, our jobs.

What keeps us stuck in those ruts? Fear of change, rejection, failure; unmovable attitudes and perceptions that we cling to like a ravenous predator clings to its prey; a lack of insight, foresight, and an inability or unwillingness to learn from hindsight; laziness, stubbornness, prejudice, pride; depression, anxiety, unhealed emotional wounds from our past…

We can continue going around in circles, handicapped and disabled by swimming with only one fin, or we can strap on some additional limbs that will enable us to live effectively. Spiritually speaking, I suggest that those limbs are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Author, Paul Young, paints an arresting picture of the Trinity in "The Shack," a very popular, yet controversial book. Paul’s wife encouraged him to write a book for their children to help them understand and learn from their father’s painful past and journey toward wholeness. So he wrote an allegory in which Mac, a depressed and grieving man, has a remarkable and life-changing encounter with the Triune God.

We are all wounded and lost, sometimes swimming in circles or embedded in rigid ruts. Paul and Mac strapped on the limbs of grace available only from Trinity, Inc. Both Paul and Mac were swimming counterclockwise to God’s will, hopelessly lost in shark infested waters. What sharks circle you—a painful past, regrets over poor choices, a belief that God can’t possibly love you, forgive you, walk with you?

The rescue boat is close at hand. The life preserver has been flung your way. Do you continue to flail or relax and float in faith? Stretch out your stubs and allow Father, Son and Holy Spirit to strap themselves on.

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.”
Psalm 55:22 NIV

*Dr. Sudarat Kiat-amnuay is an assistant professor in Restorative Dentistry, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 14 - Walking Sacrifically - September 27, 2008

“Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love,
…and sacrifice him… as a burnt offering…”
Genesis 22:2 NIV

“Lord, I really don’t want to write about sacrifice and I don’t think my readers are eager to visit this topic either. So how about we” …

“No, really Lord, the timing is just awful. Sacrifice is a downer topic—not a good way to start a weekend, so let’s talk about” …

“You’re not going to give up, are you, God. Gee, you’re stubborn.” … “I’m sorry—I meant tenacious, and that’s a very good quality.” …

Oh, all right, I’ll sacrifice my wishes and write about sacrifice.”

There’s something threatening about the word “sacrifice” that causes my heart rate to go up and makes my muscles tighten. God’s walking buddies in Biblical times make big sacrifices for their faith. That’s not a journey I want to take. I want to hide from God when he’s looking for a sacrificial lamb.

One leg of Abraham’s journey involved a call to sacrifice—a test of his faith, really:

GOD: "Abraham!"

ABRAHAM: "Here I am."

GOD: "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."

I don’t know about you, but I find this quite disturbing. What kind of God would ask a loving parent to sacrifice their child? Wasn’t this a pagan practice? Wasn’t Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews—his chosen people—different?

Did Abraham ask such questions? Did he resist God’s instructions? The Biblical account only tells us Abraham’s actions:

“Early the next morning Abraham got up…” and “took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac…” and “set out for the place God had told him about.”

Evidently, if Abraham did question God, he came to a place of obedience overnight. What was Abraham thinking and feeling during the three day journey to Moriah? I would have been an emotional mess. When this little group arrived at the mountain, Abraham and Isaac continued on alone:

ISAAC: “Father?”

ABRAHAM: “Yes, my son?”

ISAAC: “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

ABRAHAM: “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”

Did Abraham lie to his son? Was Abraham protecting his son from the truth as long as he could? Was he simply unable to utter the appalling words? I don’t think I could say, “Son, you’re the sacrifice—you are the lamb.”

When they arrived at the place God had told Abraham about, he built an altar, bound Isaac, placed him on the altar, and raised his knife…

ANGEL OF THE LORD: "Abraham! Abraham!”

ABRAHAM: “Here I am.”

ANGEL: "Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do no do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

ABRAHAM: You mean to tell me that this was a TEST? You never intended for me to slay my son? How cruel! How could you put me and my son—my only son—through such agony?

This last response is what I imagine I would say. Abraham, however, took the ram that God provided and made his burnt offering. And then he named that place, “The Lord Will Provide.” He focused on God’s provision and promise, not on his pain.

What is God calling you to sacrifice? You may be experiencing difficulties with your child (or spouse or friend…) that seem impossible to solve and you are called to practice tough love and let go. Or maybe you’re clinging to a bad attitude, habit, or addiction. Maybe you nurse resentments, bitterness, hurts, the need to be right…

What—or who—is your Isaac? Abraham invites you to the altar where, “The Lord Will Provide,” and encourages you with his example to lay your Isaac down. Scary? You bet. Possible? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely!

FYI: The metaphor of laying down one’s Isaac is inspired by a song written by Bonnie Keen entitled, “Isaac.”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 13 - Walking Expectantly - September 20, 2008

God said, "…your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. Genesis 17:19 NIV

Like many women, when I was in my mid twenties, I longed to have a baby. There is something mysterious that kicks in that makes a woman swoon at the fragrance of baby powder. Forget the perfume counter—head for the baby department and go goo-goo-ga-ga over teeny-tiny booties, Pooh printed receiving blankets, and those marvelous onesies. Ahhhh… I love the fresh, sweet scent of a baby.

In spite of the warnings from our mothers about how, even with protection, a girl can get pregnant, so “don’t have sex until you’re married,” for some of us, getting pregnant is not so easy. And for others, it is impossible. Even with all the new medical magic that helps scads of women with uncooperative uteri get pregnant, still there are those who just cannot conceive a baby of their own.

To want a baby and not be able to conceive causes great agony. And the grieving process—the death of the dream of becoming a mother—can be lengthy and exhausting. Sarai, Abram’s wife, longed year after year for a baby. She wanted to give her husband a son. Long after she was of the age to conceive, God told Abram that Sarai would in fact have a baby of her own. Growing impatient with God’s time delay, Sarai and Abram decided to “adopt.”

There were no adoption agencies in Biblical times, but surrogate adoptions were provided for in ancient times. Here’s how it worked: when a woman was unable to conceive, her husband would have relations with another woman and the barren woman would claim this baby as her own. In Abram’s and Sarai’s case, the surrogate mom was Hagar, Sarai’s Egyptian maidservant.

One source I read said that this was accomplished with the surrogate mom “sitting on the lap of the adoptive mother during both insemination and birth.” No wonder modern medicine has labored so intensively to come up with alternative methods for barren couples to conceive!
Women, can you imagine if you were Hagar at the time of delivery? (Men, you’ll just have to hang out with Abram for awhile, pacing outside the tent…) You’ve gone through many hours of sweaty, painful labor and finally its time to start pushing—but wait! “Where’s Sarai? Somebody get Sarai in here STAT!” You are in no mood to wait, let alone to maneuver your aching body onto Sarai’s lap, and then make sure “your” baby drops between Sarai’s legs so the baby will become “her” baby. Um… I don’t think so!

This entire process was further complicated by the fact that, after she became pregnant, Hagar despised Sarai, and Sarai was jealous of Hagar because she was with child. Sarai mistreated Hagar—with Abram’s blessing— resulting in her maidservant running away. But an angel appeared to Hagar in the desert and encouraged her to return to her mistress, which she did.

In giving us “the rest of the story,” Genesis makes no mention of whether the surrogate process was followed. I’m guessing that it didn’t, but that’s my “Not with my man, you won’t, sister!” cultural, Christian bias. Hagar gave birth to Ishmael, but the enmity between Sarai and Hagar persisted and a split in the family eventually occurred. And we think that families today are dysfunctional!

Miraculously, Sarai (now know as Sarah) gave birth to a son who she and her husband, Abram (now known as Abraham) named Isaac. Just like us, Abraham and Sarah were impatient with God’s plan and took things into their own hands. But their Divine Walking Buddy kept his promise, walking with them through their wavering faith. We may meddle and mess things up, but God is faithful.

“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Sunday, September 14, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 12- Walking in Faith - September 13, 2008

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country…
and go to the land I will show you.”
Genesis 12:1NIV

Last week I introduced you to Nabeel Yasin, “the poet of Baghdad,” whose poetry was loved by the Iraqi people, but blacklisted by Saddam Hussein. Fearing for his life, Nabeel and his family fled Iraq in 1980 and sought refuge in many cities throughout the Mideast and Europe.

Like nomads, they wandered for literally years, longing to find a place to call home. They hunkered down in Budapest for ten years, but in 1992, following the falling of the Iron Curtain, and the rise of Nationalism in the Socialist country, Nabeel and Nada thought it best to move on, finally sinking their family roots in London.

Abram—better know as Abraham—also knew well the wanderer’s life. He grew up in Ur of the Chaldeans with his brothers, Nahor and Haran. Haran died and their father, Terah, decided to move his family to Canaan. Instead, they settled in Haran. Abram was already married to Sarai (his half sister) at the time of the move.

When Abram was seventy-five, God said to him, “Have I got a deal for you! I have some land that I’d like you to have, no strings attached. I know you’re gonna’ love it. So, pack up all your possessions and gather up your immediate family and livestock and be ready to go tomorrow at 7:00 a.m.”

“Just where exactly is it you’re taking me?” Abram asked, with a touch of skepticism in his voice.

“Well, it’s kind of hard to explain, but I’ll get you there safe and sound—promise!”

“So you expect me to pack up, no questions asked, and go heaven knows where? For all I know you may have some swamp land you’re trying to unload.”

“Now, now, it’s not swamp land! It’s prime property, stretching to the horizon in all directions.

“Sounds too good to be true, if you ask me,” countered Abram. What’s the catch?”

“Like I said earlier, no strings, no catch. In fact, I’m going to bless your descendants and they will be more numerous than all the stars in the universe...”

“Let me sleep on…”

…and you’ll be famous and revered for eons and eons for the faith that you put in me.”

“Famous, you say?”

“Come on, you gotta’ get packing!”

“Okay, but you’re gonna’ have to break the news to Sarai.”

Obviously, I’ve taken liberty with the Biblical account of God’s call to Abram—a projection, no doubt, of how I might react if God instructed me to pack up and leave home with no clue as to the itinerary or destination. Moving away from family is no small deal. Its life changing: there’s homesickness, second-guessing of the decision, feeling like an outsider in an unfamiliar community, trying to adjust to a new house, the “you can’t go home again” phenomena—and what if the grocery doesn’t carry my favorite ice cream bars?

What God actually said to Abram was:

"Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12: 1-3 NIV)

Abram set out, obediently, traveling to Shechem, to Bethel and then on to the Negev. Abram veered off course and went to Egypt to sit out a famine, later retracing his steps to the Negev and back to the Bethel area. He packed up camp again and went to live near the trees of Mamre at Hebron.

Wow, that’s a lot of moving—and there was no “Two Guys and a Truck” back then. But most amazing is Abram’s obedience and trust in God. Abram is the Olympic gold medalist of faith.

When you’re wandering through a desert in your life, think of Abram: trust, obey, step out in faith. Your Divine Walking Buddy is before you, behind you, and beside you.

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 11 - Walking in Integrity - September 6, 2008

During a recent trip to San Diego, my daughter and I got pedicures at a salon overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Crazed by the sunshine and salty sea air, I opted to have my toes painted blue. Yes, blue. Bright blue. With raised eyebrows, Beth shook her head at her mother’s bizarre behavior.

“Do you want flowers?” the nail tech inquired.

To which I wholeheartedly replied, “Of course!”

I left the shop quite pleased with my blue-slushy colored nails with white, rhinestone-bedecked flowers. What fun to switch roles with my daughter and be the trendsetter, while Beth played it safe with classic red!

Back a few years, I would not have had bucked fashion rules or peer expectations, and I would have gone to great lengths to spare my daughter embarrassment. Older and wiser now, I’ve become a woman of integrity, from my highlighted hair down to my blue painted toes.

While I am able to say and demonstrate what I believe in small things, am I able to do the same with more important and controversial issues? I know that I am free to speak my mind, but I often censor myself. Occasionally I fear that if I speak up, I will be judged or rejected, laughed at or ignored, as if my opinions are not worth listening to.

However, I do not need to silence myself because I fear punishment or death; but there are many people in this world who do. I am awed by and admire those brave souls who will not bow to tyranny; who speak their truth at great cost to themselves. One such individual is the Iraqi-born poet, Nabeel Yasin.

Now renowned as “the Poet of Baghdad,” Yasin began writing poetry during his childhood. He grew up in the 50’s and 60’s in a close-knit, middleclass, Shiite family, the son of hardworking parents with strong values. He was only eight years old when his brother, Juma’a, was imprisoned and brutally tortured—the first of many imprisonments for three of the Yasin brothers.

“It is your duty to write,” his mother told Nabeel, at age fifteen. “You have been blessed in ways that others have not. And though you should be careful how you do it, you must use your talent.” Saddam Hussein became vice-president of Iraq in 1968, and as he quickly rose in power in the Ba’ath party, Nabeel was penning his own passionate thoughts in his increasingly popular poetry.

Although Yasin did not affiliate himself with any political party, his ideas about freedom and self-expression, fueled by hatred for his brothers’ enemies, resulted in arrests, interrogations, imprisonments and brutal beatings at the hands of the Ba’athist regime. In 1978, his passport stamped with “enemy of the state,” Nabeel went into hiding to avoid certain death. Reluctantly, in 1980, he and his wife, Nada, and infant son fled their beloved homeland.

The Yasins sought refuge in many cities in the Mideast and Europe, finally settling in London. Unbeknownst to Nabeel, though his poetry was banned by the Ba’athist regime, copies of his poems were distributed covertly and memorized by many—a candle of hope burning brightly during over two decades of war and tyranny.

“Two generations of Iraqis, some 60 per cent of the population, have been raised in the shadow of war,” wrote Yasin in 2007, coming of age entrenched in “an ideology of violence” that dates back thousands of years. While Yasin believes that Iraq needs assistance from the west, he believes in the youth of his homeland and fervently encourages Iraqi poets, writers and artists “to “ignite a new set of cultural aspirations among the young.”

Would I stand up for—and stand firm in—my beliefs if my integrity was similarly challenged?

Could I find—and inspire—hope in the face of such destructive ideology?

Every country can point proudly to their poets, preachers and politicians who act courageously and inspire hope.

May I—may we—follow their courageous examples of integrity.

May we set courageous examples of integrity, and ignite hope, aspirations and integrity in others.

“As long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils…
I will not deny my integrity.”
Job 2:3-5 NIV

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 10 - Canine Companions - August 31, 2008

“Ask where the good way is, and walk in it.”
Jeremiah 6:16

I’m a dog lover, to the very marrow of my bones. I can’t imagine life without my four-footed walking buddies. Together, we’ve traipsed through fields, tromped through the woods, meandered along streams, and wandered up and down lakeshores. I bubble over with joy as I watch my buddies explore new territory with wild abandon.

Let me tell you about my walking buddies and what I’ve learned from each of them about walking with God:

· Muffin, a fluffy, blonde Cock-a-poo-Pom-pet-store-pooch: Once while Muffy was secured on a chain in the yard, a little girl stopped by and asked, “Does that puppy belong to anyone?” Yes, she was that cute! Muffin camped, hiked and boated with us all over Indiana and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula She especially loved to romp in the snow. Like Muffin, I love to cavort and play with God.

· Midnight, a silky, cocker spaniel/Scotty: a freebie from a frazzled friend, who—after several sleepless nights—decided she was not up to raising a puppy. Midnight was a complexity of sweetness and stubbornness. A poor excuse for a walking companion, Midnight walked whenever and wherever she pleased (usually on the lam). At times, I’m as stubborn as Midnight is black. I run off, returning to God only when I’m good n’ ready.

· Trixie, a shy, dainty, red head with white tipped paws and chest—A Humane Society Heinz 57: After we adopted Trixie, a friend exclaimed, “Hey, I know that dog! She used to hang around the ball field near 10th St. School. She’d role over and beg to have her belly rubbed.” Yep. That’s Tummy-Rub Trixie, all right. After being a stray, free to roam at will, she adapted quickly to walking on a leash. Sometimes I am open to God’s affection, like Trixie, hanging around the park, eager for a belly rub.

· “A female, 100% housebroken, golden/Labrador retriever”: During high school, our daughter, Beth, wanted a big dog to run with. Dad did not want another dog, so he set stringent specifications, thinking Beth would never find a dog with such qualifications. We name her Panda—located via the Indianapolis Trader by a not-to-be-outwitted teen. I can’t live up to God’s expectations, but He promised to adopt me anyway—just as Rex kept his word to Beth, adopting that 100% housebroken Trader pup.

I’m a lot like a Leader Dog puppy, too:

· Leader Dog puppy #1: Grace, a rambunctious yellow Labrador retriever with a nose for trouble. Like Midnight, Grace had a stubborn streak, but, amazingly, she graduated from her training at Leader Dogs for the Blind and lives and works in Costa Rica. As with Grace, I have a nose for trouble, but I can shape up and walk straight.

· Leader Dog puppy #2: Hope, a sweet, shy and compliant golden retriever. Leader Dogs for the Blind released Hope from the program late in her training for being shy, nervous and more a follower than a leader. We jumped at the opportunity to adopt her as a pet. This fall, Hope and I will work on certification as a therapy dog/handler team so we can visit schools and health care facilities. I’m a lot like Hope, more of a follower than a leader. My primary calling is to stay close to home and love my family.

· Leader Dog puppy #3: Faith, an affectionate and assertive golden retriever. Near the tail end of her formal training, Leader Dogs released Faith from the program due to kennel stress. We adopted Faith with the intention of finding her a home where she can utilize her training. On September 22nd, Faith will fly to Colorado to join Canine Partners of the Rockies where she will be trained to work with a person with mobility challenges. I sometimes fall short of a goal, but like Faith, I am teachable and full of potential to cross-train and serve in other ways.

Is it true that dogs resemble their masters (or is it that masters resemble their dogs)? I certainly aspire to resemble my Master. How ‘bout you?

“Walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 9 - Creeping & Crawling - August 23, 2008

I’m itching to write about my grandbaby. My little guy is not walking quite yet, so how do I work him into this series? Aha! Before we can walk, we first must crawl.

Every person on this planet—except, perhaps, Adam and Eve—crawls on their belly, and hands and knees before walking upright. As I read Genesis, it sounds as if Adam and Eve were created as physically mature adults. Were they intellectually and spiritually mature as well?
Just imagine: no brush burns on your tummy and knees, no boo boos from falling down or stumbling into things, no swats for touching no-nos. They had it easy, but blew their unfair advantage, and made life difficult for everyone.

I take care of my grandson one day a week and so have the opportunity to watch Evan’s progression from helpless infant to soon-to-be toddler. Like most babies, Evan’s curiosity is boundless and fuels his constant motion. I erect barriers with furniture and pillows and when he is unable to circumnavigate or climb over them, he screams in protest.

When set free to explore, Evan scoots across the hardwood floors like a swimmer sprinting across a pool. While he is quite capable of crawling on his hands and knees, Evan prefers to scoot, pulling himself forward with his arms. The main advantage of this mode of travel is the ease of flipping himself around quickly to head off in a different direction. As he swooshes around, he reminds me of a duck on water, turning this way and that, creating nary a ripple.

Evan has his sights set on all things outside his reach. He’ll climb a pile of pillows on the sofa, just to see what’s going on outside or to gain a more advantageous vantage point of his environs. He grunts and groans as he exerts himself, but nothing stops the kid. Up, up, up he goes. If I’m holding him on my lap or in my arms, he is compelled to break loose and creep up my torso. If I didn’t have a firm grasp, he’d plummet headlong over the summit of my shoulder.

Remember those old Popeye cartoons in which Sweet Pea would climb out onto a flagpole, or some other equally perilous place? Popeye would down a can of spinach and dash to the infant’s rescue. Well, Evan is my Sweet Pea. His daddy, Matt, did little crawling and took to his feet at nine months of age. He got himself into some heart-stopping situations in which I assumed the role of Popeye (I relied on adrenalin rather than spinach). Just thinking about Matt’s precocity still makes me shudder and I pray that Evan will not follow in his daddy’s fearless footsteps.

Spiritually, when we were infants, God cradled us in his arms, infusing us with his palpable love. When we were toddlers, God held our hands and provided boundaries and caregivers to keep us safe. Throughout childhood, our spiritual caregivers introduced us to the Bible, schooled us in the Ten Commandments, and, hopefully, taught us about God’s love and grace. During our adolescence, God provided priests and prophets (aka, parents, pastors, Sunday school teachers, etc.) to guide and direct our spiritual growth.

And, throughout our adulthood, God continues to cradle us when we’re confused; hold our hands and provide boundaries when we act immaturely; deepen our understand of his Word; and provide spiritual mentors and walking buddies when we are rebellious, or get in over our heads by acting without thinking. We are never completely spiritually mature, but God meets us where we are.

In many ways, I will always be a crawler, creeping along at a snail’s pace, slow to learn and hesitant to trust in God. Even so, my Heavenly Walking Buddy has eyes in the back of his head, and he has my back. Oh, he let’s me take my spills from time to time, but always—always—he calls me to grow and heal, and survive and thrive spiritually. His arms are wide open, whether I sprint or crawl in his grace.

“I am with you always.”
Matthew 28:20 NIV

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 8 - Divine Do-Over - August 16, 2008

God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them:
“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”
Genesis 9:1 NIV

What would it be like to be the only family remaining on earth following the flood? Everything has changed. You once lived among people in a village. Now you’re displaced to a mountain—just you, your spouse and children. The animals that you lived with peacefully on the ark are now afraid of you. God has caused them to fear you and he has directed you to become a meat-eater. Perhaps this was necessary because the flood submerged all plant life under water for over a year. Reseeding and growing new plants takes time. It will be awhile before you enjoy fresh produce.

How do you start over? As a Red Cross volunteer in Louisiana, following Hurricane Katrina, I worked with people who were starting over from scratch. Many had to find sanctuary in other states with extended family, or via relocation made possible by the invitation of strangers, churches, organizations, and communities.

One couple in the Red Cross shelter in Covington, LA was invited by Dennis and Emily Carroll to move to Anderson and live with them. Roy and Elizabeth Carrere, of New Orleans, came to Anderson with practically nothing. The Carrolls and the community of Anderson reached out and helped the Carreres make a new life for themselves.

But, there were no kin to take Noah and his family in; no Red Cross or FEMA assistance; no Christian Center, New Harvest Food Bank, Operation Love or Habitat for Humanity; no religious community; not even one caring stranger offering sanctuary. You are alone with a family to clothe and feed. Where do you begin?

The only guidance or instruction from God that we know about is, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” You have God’s blessing and his covenant that he will never again destroy the earth by flood, but these are intangible things—you can’t build a shelter or plant and plow a field with them.

Therefore, you get busy procreating, but the pressure of having to be fruitful and multiply kind of takes the fun out of all that begetting. Human nature hasn’t changed and your progeny create all the same problems that existed prior to the flood. There are no wise elders around to advise and encourage you.

Granted, God has provided a food source for you, but you have no idea how to catch, butcher and prepare a zebra or monkey or hippo, especially when the critter is skittish and eludes your novice attempts to catch him. You have no way to start a fire because every tree and twig is waterlogged. Do you eat that bear, or possum or coyote raw, as you see all the animals doing?

I would like to think that if I were in Noah’s shoes, I would be grateful just to be alive—and off that stinky ark. I would hope that I would appreciate the new source of nourishment provided by God, whether I had to eat it raw or cooked.

However, it is more likely that I would quickly become a complainer, balking at my food choices, just as the Israelites turned up their noses at a steady diet of manna. I would feel resentful that I have to rebuild the world, AND the human race. “It’s not fair, God! Why couldn’t you have left a few of those evildoers alive to do all this work? After all, they’re the ones who reaped destruction on the earth and deserve to labor and toil, not me! I will most definitely be ‘too tired’ to procreate tonight, Lord—I feel a headache coming on.”

Judging from my rotten attitude, humanity still hasn’t changed a whole lot since Noah’s day. Thank God, for a gracious God who puts up with a whiner like me—now, that’s a God I can worship and praise!

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and…
sacrificed burnt offerings on it.
The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart:
"Never again will I curse the ground because of man.”
Genesis 8:20-21

Saturday, August 9, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 7 - Noah's Ark II - August 9, 2008

Imagine that you are eleven years old, and you are passionate about animals—all kinds of animals, but especially monkeys. You idolize the Crocodile Hunter and you want to be just like Steve Irwin when you grow up. You devour every book that you can find about animals and become a zoological encyclopedia.

Loving animals as you do, you are eager to become a zoo volunteer. In just a few weeks, you’ll turn twelve and will be old enough to achieve this dream. What might a twelve-year-old volunteer do at the zoo? Well, you will start at the bottom, of course, cleaning up after the animals. You don’t really mind, you’ll do whatever it takes to get yourself around all those fascinating creatures. Working at the zoo is an important step toward achieving your long-term goals.

You study very hard and science is your favorite subject. Once you graduate from high school, you plan to go to college and major in zoology. Then you will become a zoologist, all the while, dreaming your biggest dream: your dream of dreams. Someday you will own your very own zoo, which you will call “Noah’s Ark II.” The original ark housed two of every kind of creature, but since your ark is Noah’s Ark II, you’re going to double the population and have four of every animal. This is a lofty dream, but it is your dream. What a wonderful dream for a child your age!

This is, in fact, the dream of eleven-year-old Logan Greene, of Willington, Tennessee. Logan and I share a similar passion for God’s creatures and the natural world. We both loved the Crocodile Hunter. Logan and I have one more thing in common: we are related…

On July 18th, Logan had an experience that no child should ever have to go through. After work and a late dinner out, Logan’s mom, Lisa Teeple, Logan, and his ten-year-old sister, Lexie, stopped at Wal-Mart on their way home, to pick up milk and dog food. After getting back in their truck with their purchases, Logan and his family witnessed a carjacking. A man with a gun approached the vehicle parked catty-corner to Lisa’s truck. Logan was in the front passenger seat and was the closest to the gunman. As they watched, horrified, the man opened the door of the other vehicle and, at gunpoint, pulled a woman out onto the parking lot. Her son was also in the vehicle. The gunman climbed into the vehicle and drove off.

Logan has been asthmatic for years, but his condition was under control, so much so, that he was quite active in several sports. However, on the evening of July 18th, the stress of witnessing a violent crime triggered an unusually severe attack. So severe, in fact, that Logan—just a few weeks shy of his 12th birthday—did not survive. Before medical help arrived, his throat and bronchial tubes swelled to the point that it was impossible to intubate.

You can imagine the shock and grief that reverberates throughout the Greene and Teeple families, at Logan’s school, among his many friends, within the community and church, and among the many medical personnel who attended to Logan and his family. In response, God’s love has been personified a hundredfold in the caring acts of family and friends, and a multitude of strangers. In their hometown, individuals, businesses, organizations, you name it, have enfolded Logan’s family in God’s comforting arms.

This precious boy, Logan, loved and cared for all of God’s creation. While he will never have the opportunity to realize his dreams for Noah’s Ark II, Logan walks with God, now and forever.


Logan’s death was an unnecessary and avoidable tragedy, an unexpected repercussion of someone’s selfish act. While I don’t set out to hurt people, I know that I am quite capable of acting selfishly, without thought for how my actions impact others, least of all, those who I can’t see or imagine. I pray for peripheral vision of the heart, so I can see and bless the innocent bystanders witnessing me unawares.

In loving memory of Logan, God’s—and Noah’s—
zookeeper walking-buddy.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 6 - God of the Rainbow - August 2, 2008

I have set my rainbow in the clouds…
Genesis 9:13

“So how was the movie?” I inquired. My husband, Rex, and our four-year-old daughter had just spent quality time together at the theater viewing, “Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer.” Bethany—our own little Rainbow Brite—was tired, but thrilled by the experience. Dad, on the other hand, was less enthusiastic. He complained about their crick-in-the-neck, front-section seating. “I missed the last part of the move,” he confessed contritely. He had fallen asleep.

According to the official website of Rainbow Brite, the heroine was a precocious young girl named Wisp who was endowed with special powers and commissioned to rescue Rainbow Land from a spell of total darkness and emptiness. In order to do this, she has to find “the sphere of light.” During her quest, she finds a baby who turns out to be the sphere of light. Rainbow Brite fights the Dark One and restores Rainbow Land to its original beauty.

Hmm… where have I heard this plot before? I recognize some themes: saving a people from darkness; a light to lighten the darkness; a baby, who is, in fact, the Light; fighting the Dark One; restoration. The story of Rainbow Brite contains striking parallels with the Biblical account of God’s grace in Jesus. Rainbow Brite, like other fairy tales, is a story of good versus evil, a story of redemption.

The rainbow is a fascination woven like colorful threads into the fabric of many religions and mythologies. To the early Greeks, the rainbow represented a path connecting earth and heaven. In the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” the rainbow is “the jeweled necklace of the Great Mother Ishtar.” It is impossible to consider the rainbow without pondering the amusing Irish tale of the leprechaun hiding its gold in a pot at the end of the rainbow.

In the Bible, the first rainbow appears following the flood, as a symbol: “Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth. This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds…” (Genesis 9:11-13 NIV)

On a spiritual level, the rainbow is a refreshing symbol of hope and promise, a reminder of God’s love, faithfulness and grace. However, the skepticism and disillusionment of our age clouds the powerful promise of the rainbow. The phrase, “chasing rainbows,” (referring to the pursuit of an illusory or false hope), captures our jaded relationship with the rainbow. There is no pot at the end of the rainbow. Even if there were, it is impossible to reach the rainbow.

I always thought that God gave the rainbow to help us remember his promise. But listen to this: Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant.” (Genesis 9:14-15 NIV) Of course, it is encouraging to us to see a rainbow and remember God’s covenant, but God has tied a rainbow ‘round his finger to remind himself of his promise.

I hope someday to view a rainbow from the window of an airplane. The globe on which we stand blocks our view, but from the sky, it is possible to see that the rainbow is a complete circle. God gave St. John a vision of heaven in which, “a rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.” (Revelation 4:3 NIV) I may never get to see a rainbow from the air, but I sure look forward to seeing the heavenly version.

In the meantime, God’s rainbow promise encircles us with protection and encouragement in the storms of life. God’s golden grace cannot be contained in a pot, at the end of the rainbow, or any place else. God’s abundant grace is at his fingertips. I wonder if it just a coincidence that the first time grace appears in the Bible is in Genesis 6:8: “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (KJV)

Isn’t it just like God to have grace in his eyes?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 5 - Natalie's Journal Continued - July 26, 2008

In my previous column, I began to share with you the thoughts of Natalie (whose husband is Noah), as recorded in her journal of life on the ark. Natalie continues:

Day 68: I don’t think I can go on another day. Even Noah’s faith is waning. It’s hard to feel God’s presence in this God-forsaken place. The worry etched in Noah’s wrinkled brow troubles me. The rain stopped ages ago. The stillness outside is creepy. Inside, we’re all getting irritable, especially the vultures, buzzards, and hyenas, who haven’t eaten in weeks. (Poetic license: people and animals were actually herbivorous prior to the flood - Genesis 9:2-3)

What is God waiting for?

Where are you, God?

Day 91: One thing you can depend on with animals is reproduction. We can no longer contain the birds to the upper deck. It’s hard to walk a few feet without stepping on a rabbit’s foot. And Jenny has been throwing up every morning…

July 17th Landing (Poetic license: Bible states, “seventeenth day of the seventh month”): Land! For the last several weeks, the ark has been bumping against something. Noah thought that it must be mountain peaks. But today, the rocking stopped and we are resting on solid ground. I can’t wait to get out of this stink hole!

August: Still waiting. Critter population growing exponentially.

September: Waiting, still. Eggs hatching everywhere.

October: Mountain tops are finally visible. Now we’re getting somewhere!

October 21st: Celebrated Noah’s 601st birthday. Not really sure what day it is, but we needed to do something to perk up our waning spirits.

January 1st: Water is all dried up. Surely we can get out of this pig sty now!

February: STILL waiting…

February 17th: “Celebrated” one full year on the ark by pigging out on chocolate and sleeping the day away.

February 18th: Could not accomplish anything today, due to chocolate stupor.

February 27th: Hallelujah! God has opened the door. FINALLY! Critters have been making a mad dash for the door all day. I’m keeping a low profile.

March 3rd: It took forever to get all the animals off the ark, but we did it! I’m standing on dry ground. DRY GROUND! No, I’m dancing for joy on dry ground! We gathered up rocks and built an altar today and sacrificed burnt offerings to God.


The author of Genesis takes up the story from here: The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. (Genesis 8:21)

Then God said to Noah and to his [family]: "I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. …Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Genesis 9:8-11)

And God provided a sign of his covenant, visible to us, even now: “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind.” (Genesis 9:12-15)


I can’t imagine how those few survivors felt when they left the ark. I wish that there was a book of Noah—like the book of Job—that fills in the details. Job and his wife lost their family and prosperity; Noah and family lost everyone and everything. How did they feel toward their God, who destroyed all living things? What happened next?

They worshipped their God with burnt offerings.

And this same God who destroyed his creation, responded with a covenant of love marked by the most famous sign in all of history: the rainbow.

Monday, July 21, 2008


“All God’s Creatures Got a Place in the Choir”

Writing about Noah for my Nature of Grace series on God’s Walking Buddies got me thinking about an adorable song my children learned during their elementary years at Liberty Christian School.

I looked up the lyrics on the internet and am sharing them here. I wish I could share the tune as well. But you can view a music video by Maken & Clancey at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcG1JNpazN4. There's an adorable slide show as well.

I will be relearning the verses to sing to my grandson, Evan. He likes to hear Nana sing (he’s my one and only fan).

All God's creatures got a place in the choir,
Some sing low, some sing higher;
Some sing loud on the telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands, their paws or anything they got now!

All God's creatures got a place in the choir,
Some sing low, some sing higher;
Some sing loud on the telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands, their paws or anything they got now!

Listen to the bass it's the one on the bottom,
Where the bullfrog croaks and the hippopotamus
Moans and groans with a big to-toot,
And the old cow just goes moo.

The dogs and cats they take up the middle,
Where the honey bee hums and the crickets fiddle,
The donkey brays and the pony neighs,
And the old gray badger sighs.

All God's creatures got a place in the choir,
Some sing low, some sing higher;
Some sing loud on the telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands, their paws or anything they got now!

Listen to the top where the little birds singing,
All the melodies and the high notes swinging;
And the hoot owl cries over everything,
And the blackbird disagrees.

Singing in the night time singing in the day,
The little duck quacks and he's on his way;
The otter hasn't got much to say,
And the porcupine talks to himself.

All God's creatures got a place in the choir,
Some sing low, some sing higher;
Some sing loud on the telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands, their paws or anything they got now!

It's a simple song of living sung everywhere,
By the ox and the fox and the grizzly bear,
Grumpy alligator and the hog above,
The sly old weasel and the turtle dove.

All God's creatures got a place in the choir,
Some sing low, some sing higher;
Some sing loud on the telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands, their paws or anything they got now!


All God's creatures got a place in the choir,
Some sing low, some sing higher;
Some sing loud on the telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands, their paws or anything they got now!

All God's creatures got a place in the choir,
Some sing low, some sing higher;
Some sing loud on the telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands, their paws or anything they got now!

Hands, their paws or anything they got now!
Hands, their paws or anything they got now!

Lyrics: Bill Staines


Out of the Mouths of Babes

As a Midwesterner, I am well acquainted with rain. One day, an unexpected, thunderstorm let loose as I was driving home from Castleton Mall. I was trapped in the deluge, my wipers whipping wildly at the rampant raindrops. Every muscle in my body was taut as I strained to see through the torrent. As the traffic slowed, both to accommodate the tempest, and the rush hour traffic jam, my heart was revved and racing.

Next to me, my elementary age daughter, Beth, chattered cheerfully, oblivious to the hazardous conditions. Normally when I’m trying to concentrate on something, I find other people quite distracting. During the carpool era of motherhood, I had little respite from the jibber-jabber of children, especially when trapped in a car as a captive audience of one. Thus, it amazed me that I found Bethie’s bird-like chitter comforting, rather than irritating.

It was her precious voice that provided a thread of calm tethering me to the grace-filled presence of God, protecting me from all out panic. In the midst of the tumult of traffic and thunderstorm, I was enveloped in peace. I love the way that God uses children to bless us, raining down his love upon us, “out of the mouths of babes.”

Sunday, July 20, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 4 - Feminine Footfalls - July 19, 2008

And Noah and his [family] entered
the ark to escape the waters of the flood.
Genesis 7:7

I’m enough of a feminist* that it rankles me how females are noticeably absent from the Bible. In the story of the flood, Noah and each of his sons are mentioned by name; Noah’s wife and daughters-in-law are each referred to as “so-and-so’s wife.” Even the female animals get equal billing with their male counterparts (“…bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female.” Genesis 6:19).

“It takes two,” and without Eve, Adam was just a guy with a set of intact ribs. So, as a Christian feminist, it behooves me to give voice to the women who played an equal part in repopulating the earth after the flood. Men weren’t the only ones walkin’ with God inside that stinky ark. Just for fun, I will assign some names: Natalie (husband, Noah), Sheila (husband, Shem), Heidi (husband, Ham), and Jennifer (husband, Japheth).

Natalie, the writer in the family, kept a journal, which was revealed to me while I was meditating in my hammock swing. Nat’s log is quite lengthy, but these few excerpts provide an inside peek at life in ark.

Minus 7 days, and counting: Well, just as Noah said, there’s a steady flow of animals meandering our way. I thought Noah was daft when he told me that God prophesied, “If you build it, they will come.” Call me a skeptic, but I can’t imagine how we’ll squeeze all those critters into this boat. And there’s no way those huge hippo hips will fit through the doorway.

Minus 3 days: Noah is an excellent architect and carpenter, but he’s inept at organizing this menagerie. So I’ve stepped in. I assigned Sheila and Shem to the third deck to manage the aviary. There’s not much head room up there, so the ostriches will have to bunk with the giraffes and camels. Heidi and Ham volunteered for the lower deck, our “sea on the sea” for the sea creatures. And Jenny and Japh will manage the mammals on the main deck. Noah and I don’t sleep too well, so we’re supervising the night owls, critters like owls, bats, tree frogs and those cute little masked creatures with the ringed tails.

Minus 1 day: Frightened by the ominous sky and thunder, our friends, family, and neighbors are pleading with Noah to let them on the ark. We’ve known them all our lives. How can he turn them away? My heart is breaking. The animals still waiting to board are getting restless—frantic, really. The chaos and cacophony are turning me inside out. Lord, help us all!

February 17th* Lockdown: It’s raining cats and dogs! This morning, a jumpy giraffe jostled me aside in its hurry to enter the ark. Slipping on the wet deck, I banged my elbow on the rough hewn door jam. It is dark as pitch in here! I labor to breathe in this heavy air, laced with Eau de Dung (with just a hint of hay, sweat and rain). Oh, Lord! I just discovered I’m claustrophobic. Don’t shut the door! Let me out of h-e-r-e.

Day 3: I just can’t stop thinking about all my family and friends. The sky is so noisy and sounds angry. Is that the voice of God? I hate being cooped up in this, this…dark, dank, disgusting, oversized dingy. Yet, I have a feeling that even this is better than whatever is going on outside. I shudder to think about it.

Day 31: My head is pounding and I just can’t focus with all this lowing, barking, screeching (oh, that awful screeching!), roaring, and growling. And my boys are bickering. Grown men, fighting. Who cares whose turn it is—just DO IT, for Adams’s sake.

Day 40: An eerie sound woke me with a start from a sound sleep. Silence? The drill and drone of rain drops on the roof and deck has stopped. It’s funny, after so many days I no longer noticed the rain—until it stopped.

To be continued…

* Poetic license: Bible states, “seventeenth day of the second month”

Thursday, July 17, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 3 - The Zoo Keeper - July 12, 2008

Noah was a righteous man, blameless
among the people of his time, and he walked with God.
Genesis 6:9 NIV

My daughter, Beth, has an interesting job this summer serving as an educator in the summer camp program hosted by the San Diego Zoo. She is working with second graders, specializing in the area of birds. Her training has involved behind the scene close encounters with zoo residents. One day she called home to tell me that she’d been kissed by a sea lion—not the most pleasant experience, I’m told.

The passion for animals runs deep in my side of the family. My mom grew up with cats and, therefore, so did I, the bulk of whom I lugged home and into the family. Most memorable was golden-eyed Goldie, a “plump” alley cat, who surprisingly graced us with five adorable blue-eyed, wide-eyed kittens (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Creampuff).

My husband, Rex, and I raised our kids with dogs—a good choice as both Beth and Matt developed allergies to cats. Over the years, our zoological menagerie also included gerbils, bunnies, parakeets, zebra finches, box turtles, tropical fish, and a guinea pig. Oops! I almost forgot the ant farm. There was also a close call with lizards when Beth went to the pet store to replace a pair of finches (who had died; may they rest in peace) and returned with two lizards (who were returned to the shop ASAP by a nasty mother).

So, I’d say, it goes without saying, that one of our families’ favorite Bible stories was the ever popular “Noah’s Ark.” Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the most famous zookeeper of all time?

According to the San Diego Zoo website, animal keeper jobs are very popular and the field is highly competitive. So what sets the modern day Noah apart from all the keeper-wanna-bes?

· Education (college degree in a life science field preferable)
· Experience with animals
· Good work ethic
· A positive attitude about self and work
· Good communication skills with both people and animals,
· The ability to be innovative enough to find solutions to keep animals stimulated
· A positive attitude
· The right personality
· A realistic view of the job: “Animals get sick, they bite, they die, they hurt each other, and they can hurt you, too. And the work can be hard, dirty, and tedious.”

So, how many of you are ready to sign on as Noah’s helpers? Can you imagine being Noah and saying, “Yes, Lord,” to a job that involved building an architectural wonder large enough to house an immense floating zoo? Granted, God blessed Noah’s efforts, but think of what a nut-cake Noah must have looked like to his neighbors?

Who in their right mind would be willing to shut themselves up in a boat with two of every kind of creature—with a few family members to boot—and spend forty dreary, muggy, rainy days feeding and cleaning up after (pewee!) cooped up, anxious, irritable critters? A man who walks with God, that’s who.

While we aren’t all called to be animal keepers, we can still follow in Noah’s footsteps. He was obedient, trustworthy, hard working, and a man of strong faith and conviction. He must have been pretty laid back, thick-skinned, and blessed with a remarkable sense of humor, as well.
While our forte may not involve caring for critters, we all play roles in life in which we are “keepers.” We keep each other in our prayers, we keep confidences and vows. When life is hard, we keep on keeping-on. We are peace keepers in our families and at work. We’re taught to keep off the grass, keep out of trouble, and keep our mouths shut (when chewing, or on the off chance of saying something we shouldn’t). We KISS (Keep it simple, stupid!).

Most importantly, many of us are also keepers of children, as parent, grandparents, guardians, Sunday school teachers, scout leaders, advocates, coaches…

And, yes, some of us even keep stray felines.

How will you follow Noah’s example and be a better “keeper” this week?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 2 - Walkin' the Walk- July 6, 2008

In my opinion, genealogy (like that in the Bible) is b-o-r-i-n-g. But, employing my imaginative ear, I discovered a melodic lilt in the Genesis genealogy. Listen to this account of Adam’s son, Seth:

“When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh.
And after he became the father of Enosh.
Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters.
Altogether, Seth lived 912 years, and then he died.”
Genesis 5:6-8 NIV

Sounds a bit like, “Father Abraham,” that catchy tune about Abraham’s many sons, don’t you think? Well, maybe not so much.

For six generations in Adam’s family tree, you can simply fill in the blanks and the reading flows smoothly—until you get to Enoch. Like the other accounts, we learn that Enoch was 65 when his son, Methuselah was born, he lived another 300 years, had other sons and daughters, yadda, yadda, yadda. But the end of his life has an interesting twist:

Enoch walked with God;
then he was no more, because God took him away.”
Genesis 5:21-24 NIV)

I’m glad I had my morning dose of caffeine, otherwise, I might have read right over this intriguing digression from convention. Did Enoch walk with God face to face, like Great-great-great Grandpa Adam did in the Garden of Eden? What does “he was no more” mean? And, from where, and to where, did God take this mysterious man? Enoch didn’t walk the walk of his ancestors, or of his descendants, for that matter—but evidently he did walk with God.

So what happened? Did Enoch set out for work one day and never come home? When the setting sun slipped below the horizon, was Enoch’s wife sick with worry? If I had been her, my mind would have been wild with wondering if my dear husband had been abducted by a caravan from afar and carried off and forced into slavery. So did Enoch’s family report him as missing? Did they send out a search party?

How was it determined that God took Enoch away? Did someone witness his disappearance? Imagine how Enoch’s wife might have felt when she learned that her beloved had, indeed, been taken, not by evil-doers, but by God. Did she buy this story? Was she aggrieved, and yet, relieved? Or did she think the news-bearer was a lunatic?

In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul tells us that, “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.” (Hebrews 5:11 NIV)
In the only other New Testament reference to Enoch, Jude reports that he was a prophet:

“Enoch…prophesied about these men: ‘See, the Lord is coming…to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’” (Jude 1:14-15 NIV)

Sounds like Enoch was a doom and gloom prophet, but, unfortunately, he was right. Enoch’s great-grandson, Noah, and his family, may have witnessed the fulfillment of this very prophecy, from the safety of the ark during the torrential flooding of the earth.

However Enoch disappeared, we at least know that God was in control and that Enoch was in great standing with God.

The English clergyman, Matthew Henry (famous for his Bible commentary from the turn of the18th century), describes Enoch’s walking with God as, “his constant care and work; while others lived to themselves and the world, he lived to God. It was the joy of his life.”

While Enoch remains a mystery to me, I know enough about him that I want to follow in his footsteps. He had an intimate, walking-buddy relationship with God. He courageously confronted ungodliness and proclaimed God’s truth. Enoch obviously set a wonderful example for his progeny, for Noah, his great-grandson was also a man who walked with God. (“Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” Genesis 6:9)

Enoch “walked the walk”—God’s walk.