Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Domestic Break 15/40: Even Solomon

I spent a couple of hours sitting in the waiting room at the mechanic's today and that gave me plenty of time to start getting caught up on my reading! Still three days behind - but now that moving phase one is behind me I should hopefully be able to make that up. :)

Text: 2 Samuel and 1 Kings:

The thoughts from my "We Want What We Want" entry have been on my mind a lot. So, when I came across this verse about King Solomon it struck me:

1 Kings 10:23-24; 11:1-6

King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. Year after year, everyone who came brought a gift . . .
King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter - Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sionians, and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, "you must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods." Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. . . As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.

I just shook my head and said, "Even Solomon."

Solomon has always been one of my biblical heroes. One of the earliest Bible stories I remember hearing was about how Solomon prayed for wisdom - not strength or riches - and God granted him that wisdom. Since then - wisdom is something I too have desired.

There are choices I’ve made that make me extremely angry with myself because I feel like that I wasted that gift of wisdom that God did indeed give me. Like Solomon, I too "held fast to [my choices]."

To see that even the great and wise Solomon fell victim to demanding his own desires over God's best is a bit reassuring to me. I guess somewhere in the back of my brain I assume an arrogance that I'm the first person to make foolish choices who knew better. haha. but - no - nothing new under the sun.

Even Solomon sinned. Even Solomon did things that were expressly forbidden by God. Even Solomon had his devotion turned away.

However- unlike Solomon - I don't want the end of my life to be recorded as "So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord, he did not follow the Lord completely."

Or, to put it another way:

"I don't want to go through life asking, "What if I had given everything instead of going through the motions?" (Matthew West song)

Friday, June 26, 2009

9/40: We Want What We Want

How's that for some alliteration? ;-)

This is yesterday's post.

1 Samuel.

The Kings of Israel were not God's idea. He set up a system of Judges. However, when Samuel's sons were grown they did not walk in the ways of the LORD and the people of Israel asked for a king. they're reasoning: because that's what all the other nations did. (8:5)

The first time I remember learning about the fact that the Israelites asked for a king was in the fall of 2003. I was reading a book by Elisabeth Elliot and she included a letter from a reader that asked her something along the lines of "Is it wrong for a single woman to desire a husband like all of her friends around her? Is that along the lines of Israel demanding a king when they had God?"

God tells Samuel to warn the Israelites what will happen if they have a king:

"This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons . . . He will take your daughters. . . He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves . . . He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage . . .Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day." (8:11-18)

Ok - so - fairly convincing evidence that you don't want a king, right? I mean - we've got a God who shows up in pillars of ire and clouds and talks to his prophets through burning bushes and audible voices - that sounds better than this king. So how do the Israelites respond?

But the people refused to listen to Samuel. "No!" they said. "We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles." (8:19-20)

those two verses are perfect "sermon outline ready" verses. Let's see -

I. Refusal to Listen
II. It's all about what they want.
III. Comparing themselves to those around them.
A. Quick refresher: the other people - are NOT the chosen ones of God
B. They've been repeatedly told to have nothing to do with the majority of the people around them.
IV. They say want a leader.
A. They already have a leader - God.
B. God has also given them prophets and judges.
C. I sense discontentment.
V. To fight their battles
A. God's already said he'd do that
B. He's Proven it.
1. Red Sea anyone?
2. Walls tumbling down?
3. I could go on

But - God give them their king. Saul.

Like the woman who was asking if demanding a husband was similar to this - there are many other things in our lives where we demand of God some thing - - something to fight out battles, to lead and guide us, to make us like the people around us. We've been told of the consequences of these things - the consequences of a life-consuming job, of a unhealthy relationship, of a lifestyle beyond our means. But somehow we manage to not listen to the warnings. And - God gives us over to our desires - he lets us have that think that we are desiring for all the wrong reasons. And in the end - "we cry out for relief from the king we've chosen."

I've been there, done that. Had things I thought I wanted take from me more than I realized they would. I have lived with the consequences of kings I have demanded from God. Hopefully I am learning to be a better listener to the warnings around me and to remember that God has promised to be my leader and to fight my battles and that I don't need to be like anyone around me.

*disclaimer: I am not saying that jobs/relationships/nice things are inherently bad obviously. It's all about the motivation for having them and how you view them :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

8/40: All The Little Pieces


I love looking at life like a puzzle. That there are all these little pieces and you've got to be doing the right thing at the right time to get the right pieces to make it all work.

One thing I love about the Old Testament focusing on one (although one LARGE) family is that I get to see the puzzle coming together.

The Israelites wandered around the desert for a long time. Finally - finally they got to send spies into the promised land - and once they got in there a woman named Rahab hid those spies. Because of her kindness to the people of God her life was spared when the Israelites took the city.

She went on to marry a man named Salmon.

Different story. A woman looses all three of her sons. She sends her daughters-in-law off to live out their lives and she's going to return to her people. One of the daughters doesn't go though. Ruth decides to follow Naomi back to her homeland. She does a little wheat gathering and sleeping at the feet of a man named Boaz and he likes that and marries her as her "kinsman-redeemer" (side note: love that phrase!)

Now - Boaz - is the son of Rahab and Salmon.

Boaz and Ruth - they have a son named Obed. Who has a son named Jesse.

And Jesse - - Jesse has a son named David.

40 years of wandering so that a prostitute would be in the promised land offering a hiding place.

The death of sons so that a woman would follow her mother-in-law to her homeland.

I like the glimpses of the big picture we get :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

6-7/40: We Can Do It!

I do thank you for your continued indulgence in my domestic break here :)

Deut 14-Joshua 24

I'm going to be cliché and pick the last chapter of Joshua as my topic for my reflection. This is where he gives the "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord" speech. (Side note: When I was in 6th grade we made a little plaque with that Bible verse on it at VBS. It was one of my favorite projects ever I do believe :) )

However, I want to focus on a different part of the chapter. Actually - the part right after Joshua says that to the people.

Now these are the Israelites. The "we're tired of manna!", "We're just tired!" , "Hey, let's make a golden cow!", and "The people in the promised land are big and scary!" Israelites. (Granted - I'll cut them some slack because I see so much of myself in those statements.) So - after Joshua's statement they say, "Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great sings before our eyes . . .We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God."

And Joseph says, "Uh..no you won't." (Actual text: "You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God.")

They say, "No! We will serve the Lord!"

Joshua: "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord."

So - the Israelites have renewed faith in themselves that they're going to trust God this time - they're going to serve him. They're going to follow his commands - and they choose to serve the Lord - and to remember the work He has done in their lives and the lives of their parents.

They threw away their foreign Gods and they chose God.

Now - over the next few hundred years they're going to mess up again and there will be prophets that express the weeping sadness of God over His Israel. But I kind of love Israel at this moment. "Yeah. We know we've screwed up. We know we're tempted to wander. But, really, what we want - we want to serve the Lord."

I so get that. The unshakeable faith in yourself that you can do this. That this time it's going to work - that you're really going to ignore all the other idols and you're going to serve God even when you think it was better in Egypt and even when you're tired of the manna and even when the things He's asking of you look scary - somewhere deep in your heart and in your soul you believe enough in the power of God and the gifts he's given you that you're going to serve Him.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Take my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Domestic Break 5/40: Moses is Pretty Cool

Numbers 1 - Deuteronomy 13

Well, I cheated a bit. I downloaded the audio file of Numbers from The Bible Experience on iTunes and listened to Numbers rather than read it. I really like The Bible Experience - they've got background sound effects and different people reading the different characters and emotions in the voices and such.

So now I'm all caught up on yesterday and today's reading.

Anwho - thoughts on Numbers.

I love Moses. Seriously. I've never noticed before how often he "talks back to" God. God will say "I'm going to do this!" and Moses will say, "Uh. What if you did this instead?" It's kind of funny.

A few examples:

Numbers 11

The Israelites are being their whiny selves (oh how I see me in them!) and complaining about the food (manna, manna, everywhere!) and how at least in Egypt they had fish and saying that God just brought them out to the dessert to die!

This makes God rather angry. Moses prayed. God didn't destroy them. They started complaining again. God gets angry again. And here is where I literally laughed out loud at what Moses said to God.

In summary he says: "What did I do to deserve the burden of these people? I'm not their dad! They keep whining to me. If this is what I have to put up with to be their leader then just go ahead and kill me, God!

Moses is so fed up. I love it. He's so human. And - for whatever reason - he gets away with doing a little "whining" to God. God describes Moses as a friend to whom he speaks face-to-face. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that Moses doesn't seem afraid to question God. He is totally ok getting mad at God - but he always waits for an answer - which I think is the key. The Israelites assume they have the answer and that God has forgotten them - Moses waits for God to answer. And - Moses speaks directly to God. The Israelites complain through Moses - they aren't going straight to God.

And God, once again. shows mercy and doesn't destroy the ungrateful Israelites. He gives them meat. An entire month of ravens. They'll have ravens "until it comes out of [their] nostrils and [they] loathe it" (11:19). Looks like Moses isn't the only one fed up! It does show a precedent though for God's allowance for our free will/free desire I think. He gives them meat here - later he'll give them a king that they demand. I wonder how many things in my life I was given simply because I kept demanding it of God - only to have them turn out less-than-perfect.

A bit later in the book Moses sends out spies into what is the Promised Land to get a report. They come back and many report that the land is full of people stronger than they are - that there is no way they can take the land. The Israelites once again begin their complaining. This once again brings on God's anger. He says he's going to strike the Israelites with a plague.

Everyone but Moses. He'll start over with Moses. (14:12) And, Moses, once again petitions God with words that would get him labeled a heretic by many proper Christians: "Then the Egyptians will hear about it! . . .They will tell the inhabitants of the land about it. They have already heard that you, O LORD, are with these people and that you, O LORD, have seen them face to face . . . If you put these people to death all at one time, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, 'The Lord was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath; so he slaughtered them in the desert."

I mean. seriously. I love Moses. I can just kind of picture him going, "Now, Lord. This is not a very good PR move. I mean - people get wind of the fact that you promised these folks a promised land and then killed them all before they got there. . . well - they're gonna say you couldn't do it. I mean - we both know it's because their whining is just non stop - but - well, those other people - they aren't going to think you're powerful." And the best part? God listens. He doesn't destroy them. He sentences them to more time in the desert for their disbelief - but he doesn't destroy them.

If you look at Moses' reasoning with God - it all comes back to that central point: It's about God's glory. It's about His name being made great among all the nations of the Earth. That's the purpose of it all.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Domestic Break 4/40: All Night Long

I'm behind. I should be on Numbers 5 and I'm on Leviticus 8. Catch up later I guess! It's been a busy day! (moving and father's day activities)

I did want to share one of my all-time favorite passages from Leviticus 6 though.

Verses 12 and 13:
The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.

I tend to think in metaphors and allegories. My brain automatically jumps to the command in Romans 12 that we are to be living sacrifices whenever I read this passage. Every morning we should add fuel to our fire. Every morning we should "arrange" our offering (going with the metaphor - to me that means kind of evaluating myself - looking at my life - where there needs to be change). This fire should not go out. Of course - my fire has gone out more times than I can count in my life - which has only served to reiterate the importance of it not going out.

A few days before I started this 40 day journey I also started reading The Gospel According To Moses: What My Jewish Friends Taught Me About Jesus by Athol Dickson. It's been interesting to read what is (so far) a commentary on the Old Testament while also reading the Old Testament. The book is written by a protestant after he was invited to attend a scripture study that met weekly at a Temple by a Jewish friend - it's the things he learned/insights he gained through listening to the very-Jewish practice of questioning the scriptures.

Here are a few quotes I read today that popped out to me in regards to some of my recent comments about how God's choices and actions don't always make sense to me. These are from a chapter titled "God In Chains" which discusses the idea of God limiting himself so that we may have free will. It also addresses the issue of justice/holiness vs. love/compassion/mercy

"Like Pontius Pilate asking, 'What is truth?' I am sometimes tempted to gauge justice on the scale of my self-interest. Anticipating this, the Torah's definition of justice reveals an uncompromising requirement of absolute balance between wrongs and redress, but first it warns me not to confuse justice with emotion." (goes on to quote Deut 19:21)

"Humanity's violence has caused people of all religions to curse God from time to time for refusing to remove evil from the earth. Yet we object to floods."

"Having demonstrated what would happen if he enforced strict justice on the earth, God now takes the next step. He voluntarily enters into a covenant with humanity and seals it with a promise not to impose perfect justice on earth, but to find another path."

"Tragedy is the fertile soil of miracles. I cannot recall a single miracle in the Torah that does not involve affliction. . . It seems the way to deal with the evil of the world is not to pretend to go around it, but to plunge right through."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Domestic Break 3/40: Significant Creativity

Exodus 13-Leviticus 1

The end of Exodus has a LOT of details about the Tabernacle and the wardrobe of the priests.
The most interesting person to me in the last part of Exodus is a guy named Bezalel.
Here's what is said of Bezalel:

"See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability, and knowledge in all kinds of crafts - to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver, and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood an to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled with with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, desingers, embroiders . . . . So Bezalel, Oholiab, and ever skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are do to the work just as the Lord has commanded."

I love that God spends a good portion of scripture emphasizing the importance of art and creativity - that it is not a fruitless skill - and that it has significance. You all know I love interior decorating and cooking and being creative and all that. It's easy to think that those things don't matter - but it's nice when God reminds me that He gave me the interests, skills, and abilities that he did for a reason -and that there is a purpose for them.

Oh - and to top it all off - Bezalel is of the tribe of Judah. Which - is just cool I think :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Domestic Break 2/40: Egypt and God's Name

Genesis 29 - Exodus 12

In Genesis 46 Jacob is travelling to Egypt with 11 of his sons to be with Joseph because of the famine in the land and Joseph has the ability to provide for his family in Egypt. This means Israel is leaving the land of Abraham and Isaac that was given to them by God to go somewhere else. God tells Jacob, "I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again."

If Jacob and his family had stayed in the land of his father’s they would have died from the famine that would last 5 more years. However, as people who know the rest of the story - we know that this journey to Egypt is not going to be a short or pleasant one. The Israelites will remain in Egypt for over 400 years before God brings them out. In that time Joseph will die and the favor he knew from the Pharaoh with him. The Israelites will become an enslaved and oppressed people in Egypt. However, they will also greatly increase in number. They'll become like grains of sand or the stars in the sky if you will.

My question as I read the passage in Genesis 46 was, "Why send them to a place where they sill suffer generations of slavery?" And God answered that question by showing me these verses:
Ex 6:6-7 "I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God!"

Ex 9:16 (In reference to the plagues on Egypt and the Pharaoh) "I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you m y power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."

Ex 10:1-2 "I have hardened [Pharaoh’s] heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my sings among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD."

And then - the plan all along - the final plague was the killing of the firstborn except for the houses which were covered in the blood of a lamb.

It's all about His glory. It's all about making sure that the Israelites know exactly who their God is. They need to understand that He is great and powerful. That He loves them and will protect them. My modern self finds it hard to stop from going, "But, God, surely there was a nicer way you could've done that!" But at times I just need to accept that this powerful God who sends plagues is my God. If they had never went to Egypt - they would never have seen that type of power from God. And of course- the plagues is just God getting started. There's a sea to cross, bread from heaven, pillars of fire, and crumbling walls up ahead. These are stories that will form the foundation of the Jewish faith. Intermingled in these are prophecies of a coming messiah - and illustration for just what that messiah will do. Freedom from an outstretched arm. Safety under the blood of a pure and sacrificial lamb.

The attribute of God that I've been most connected to over the past couple of years is God as a poet. Someone who sees symbolism and metaphor and has the ability to weave a tale with small details that make all the difference. As much I don't understand certain ways and decisions of how God formed and taught the nation of Israel - there's so much I do get about it. About why it had to be that way - about how it all serves a purpose to illustrate the need for and the coming of the Messiah.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Short Break From Things Domestic

I'm attempting to undertake the challenge of reading the Bible through in 40 days. I've got the time and it's been years since I've read it straight through -so it's something I'd like to do. I'm on summer break before my life transitions to a new job and a new state and it just seems like a good time to do such a thing.

So - I thought I'd post some reflections on my daily readings here. No guarantee they'll show up everyday - but hopefully most days.

I do apologize if you'd rather see recipes and such - check back in August for tales of my domesticity. :)

And here is Day One:

Rather than dividing the number of chapters in the Bible by 40 I divided the number of pages in my particular Bible by 40. (Because things like Psalm 119 exist) That puts me at roughly 60 pages a day of reading.

Today: Genesis 1-28

When it's time to find Isaac a wife Abraham sends his servant off to look for the right girl. The servant asks God to show him the right girl by having the "one" offer to water his camels when he asks for a drink. Along comes pretty Rebekah who does just that. They exchange a few rings and things and she's off for a camel ride across the dessert to meet and marry Isaac.

No questions asked. She's nice to camels. She's the one.

Seems like a pretty straight-forward "Thanks for the easy decision, God!" situation.

Fast-forward a few years. Isaac and Rebekah welcomed two sons into the world. Twins. Esau and Jacob. Dad picks E. Rebekah is a fan of J. Esau is the first born though - he's suppose to get all of the blessings and inheritance and all that jazz. This does not make Rebekah happy - so she aids her favorite son in tricking his father into giving him the blessing.

I mean - Jacob is the one that God chose. The one who would become Israel. The one who would have twelve sons that would become the twelve tribes. He's important. But - I don't know. I always get stuck on this story. Perhaps it's my rule-following side. Not getting why Esau, the firstborn, was denied the blessing. I mean - he sold his birthright for a bowl of soup - but Jacob was deceitful. It's not like Jacob was the stellar example of everything a man of God should be. And his camel-watering, chosen-by-God, mother was right there - helping him in the deceit.
It's a choice that seems off to me. I mean - I could come up with a million "answers" - about God being a God that breaks social rules. About God using even things meant for evil. About God filling the lineage of Jesus with people of shady character so we'd all know we'd fit in. About God just being God and we don't have to know the answers - but it just bugs me! And, well, I'm just going to leave it at that for now.

(My writing tends to assume a certain familiarity with the stories discussed. If you're unfamiliar check out Genesis 24-27 for more details.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Roasted Tomatoes

I've been a very neglectful blogger. I do apologize.

Here's a post!

This is a great summer taste. Roasted Tomatoes. I used cherry tomatoes - you could probably do whatever.

First you cut the tomatoes in half and then scoop out the seeds and juice.

Put those on a rimmed baking sheet (I line it with foil first - easy clean-up!) - sprinkle with salt, pepper, and olive oil.

Stick 'em in a really hot oven (about 400-450) and let them cook for about twenty minutes on the center rack- just keep an eye on them - they should start to brown - and they'll smell heavenly!

Yum! Go ahead and pop a couple in your mouth - the flavor is lovely!
Then mix them into whatever. I mixed them into Penna Pasta with grilled chicken and feta cheese.