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 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.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 1 - “Barefoot in the Park” - June 29, 2008

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God
as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day.
Genesis 3:8 NIV

As a child, I rarely wore shoes, unless social expectations required it of me. I had my saddle shoes for school, shiny, black, patent leather church shoes, and well worn, dirty Keds for play, all of which I kicked off whenever I could. “Going barefoot is the gentlest way of walking and can symbolize a way of living—being authentic, vulnerable, sensitive to our surroundings,” states Adele Coombs, author of Barefoot Dreaming

I wonder what our Heavenly Father’s footsteps sounded like to Adam and Eve when they heard him approaching, in the cool of the day. And I wonder what our great-great-greats’ footsteps sounded like to God. I bet God could hear Adam running swiftly, and Eve skipping playfully, toward him, in eager anticipation of a daily hike with their divine Walking Buddy. After they disobeyed God, did Adam and Eve tiptoe around, walking on eggshells, trying to avoid him?

Imagine having actually walked with God on a daily basis, and then losing this privilege. The concept of “walking with God” permeates the Biblical record, threading its way through the Old and New Testaments, like a well worn, familiar trail. In the Garden of Eden, and again when Jesus walked the earth, human beings were blessed with face to face encounters with God. For most of us, though, our walking with God is metaphorical in nature.

As I have mentioned many times, I feel closest to God when I am surrounded by lofty trees, birdsong and the heady fragrance of moist earth. Many of my writer-walking buddies recognize and experience the holiness and healing power of walking:

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits,” said Henry David Thoreau, “ unless I spend four hours a day at least, sauntering through the woods and over the hills and field.”

Raymond Inmon advises, “if you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.”

“In the woods we return to reason and faith,” mused Ralph Waldo Emerson.

And my very favorite quote comes from Joseph Campbell: “God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, ‘Ah!’”

These nature lovers “see” God in nature. While I believe that nature provides sacred space in which to encounter God, I also believe that God willingly walks with us wherever we are. When we’re caught up in the rat race of life, God is there jogging beside us. When we are wearily lugging groceries out to the parking lot, our minds a million miles away, worrying about this and that, God is there, pushing the shopping cart with its squeaky, wobbly wheels. When we’re pacing the halls of the hospital as a loved one undergoes surgery, he is there. Whether you’re hobbling or hoofing it; mucking or gadding about; knock-kneed or pigeon-toed; limping or leaping; barefoot or booted; taking your very first step or have one foot in the grave, God is right there with you.

I think it was God’s intent for us to live a barefooted life—a life of pure authenticity, shameless vulnerability and exquisite sensitivity, like that referred to above by Adele Coombs. We were created to live in God’s presence, naked and unashamed, to walk shoulder to shoulder with none other than God. Wow!

The very first thing we learn about God from the Bible is that he is THE creator. The author of Genesis takes great care in detailing all that God fashioned. He created flora and fauna, rivers and mountains, not air conditioned buildings, with windows from which to view his creation. Perhaps this is why I go to the woods to hang out with my Walking Buddy. While I don’t go barefooted on these treks, I do think my walks with God give me a delicious taste of living a spiritually barefooted life.

Someday, we will know the joy of face to face intimacy with God, known heretofore only in Eden. How heavenly that will be!
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.
1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV