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