Oh the Humanity (Bible Week…Day 5)

Isaiah.  Ezekiel.  Daniel.

Today we read a lot of the prophetic works.

Oh the humanity.

The Bible speaks not only of what will happen, but of what is happening to the Hebrew people at the time the book is written.  And the people who surrounded Israel were e-vil.  Evil.

The Jewish people practically sold themselves to them.  They did the same things they did.  They worshiped their gods.  This is not like going to R rated movies.  This is like…wicked.  Purely wicked things.  Think Nazi.  Think worse.

If you know me at all, you know I know of injustice that would make your blood run cold.  Still, as I’m listening to these things recounted…and as I’m thinking, “This really happened.  It’s not figurative.”…and as I’m realizing how absolutely unjust the injustice was when Isaiah was written…I’m realizing that there really has been change in the world.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. Isaiah 9:2

Like, I’ve always thought the world was going to hell in a handbasket (literally) but God’s grace through the cross, the blessing for the world that is promised to come through the Jewish people, really did work.  The kingdom of God, here and now, in human hearts throughout history, really has made a difference.

And I started to weep.

In my heart I saw the earth, filled with light and life.  So I drew it.

I finished my drawing somewhere around Habakkuk 2:14…

For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea.

For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea.

And some more blurry pictures for ya…

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Wind and Fire (Bible Week…Day 4)

They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.

Jeremiah 8:11

The words caught my ear quickly as they passed.  I have trouble following along in the text, so I had no idea where we actually were in the book.  I only knew that it was Jeremiah.  I scribbled the words in my notebook.  Again at the end, a similar statement caught my ear, and so I scribbled 48:10.

Cursed be the one who does the LORD’S work negligently…

Words like “superficial” and “negligence” carry such a heavy weight as I consider my life’s purpose to come from Isaiah 61: “to heal the brokenhearted.”  Jeremiah’s life exemplifies my desire for this purpose to come from within.  His famous quote…

But if I say, “I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,” Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it. (20:9)

…contrasts starkly against the religious activity of the day, illustrating his continuous cry that God is more concerned with the heart issues.  As we are fond of saying around here, dealing with the root instead of the fruit.

Colors of the Temple: blue, purple, and scarlet

A bit of context for you: Jeremiah is written well after the “glory days” of the Jewish people, after things have been going very badly for hundreds of years, there is a brief season of restoration followed by devastating moral deterioration which lands the people in exile.  Jeremiah has the joyless task of warning the king and the people that the path they have chosen leads to destruction, begging them to choose God.

As we are listening to the books being read, and most of the other students are following along in their Bibles, I have my art supplies spread out on the floor in front of me.  My doodles began with fire and quickly changed to page after page of windblown trees.  I could almost hear wind rushing past my ears.

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Later in the day as we watched the Jeremiah movie, I noticed that they also used images of wind and fire over and over again in the film.  Even as I drew each tree, the lines reflected the story I was hearing.  I started the art to keep my hands busy so I could concentrate, but I the process of creating is helping me to engage the reading on a whole different level.

Reflecting on the experience as a whole, I know it is affecting me on so many different levels.  At one point in the afternoon, I felt this shift in my thinking…nothing specific I could describe…just a growing confidence in God, in His faithfulness and His ways.  It’s been really powerful, and I honestly believe it will change…is changing…my life.

I missed 1 & 2 Chronicles this evening, but hope to rest well and start on Proverbs and Isaiah tomorrow.  Two of my favorites.  I’m excited.

Turn Turn Turn (Bible Week…Day 3)

Go figure.  A week ago I posted about waiting.  And for two days I have heard about people who did…and did not…wait on God.

Israel was impatient for a king, so God concedes and the prophet Samuel anoints Saul as king.  Saul was impatient for battle and went on without God and lost his crown…and his mind.  I think I’m getting the picture.

Then there’s Ecclesiastes and even Song of Solomon. “A wise heart knows the proper time and procedure.”  “I adjure you, oh daughters of Jerusalem, do not awaken love until it pleases.”

And the Byrds, “To everything (turn turn turn) there is a season (turn turn turn) and a time to every purpose under heaven…”

Okay, we didn’t listen to the song.  But wouldn’t it be great if we did?

We do watch at least one movie a day.  It adds to the reading.  Today it was the movie David.  I thought you might like to join in the fun.  About 7 minutes in, you can see a depiction of the rather pithy (and rainy) scene I referenced above.

Samuel:  Saul!  What are you doing?

Saul:  I am making a sacrifice…You were not here to speak on my behalf.

Samuel:  You were told to wait.

Saul:  I had to do something.

That’s all you get.  No more spoilers.  I just had to laugh at how obvious it was…God definitely wants me to learn about His timing.

Know God

Sometimes you get to know what God is doing.

Sometimes you know that God is moving.

Sometimes you know God.  And that is enough.

I’ve heard this message three times today, from three different women in my life.  I like knowing the details, seeing how God brings together pieces and people all over  the world at just the right moment for something incredible to happen.  I like knowing what God is doing in me, how, and why…having a story to tell and being able to explain all that is going on.  But, I have been reminded thrice, that’s not always how it works…and sometimes it’s better that way.

Okay, it’s probably better that way a lot.

(Don’t you need my help with that God?  I could do this over here, wouldn’t that be good?  How about some minor adjustments to the plan…?)

I think of Ester, and how she did not know what she was getting into, what would happen or how it would go.  Dear Miss Ester…the only book of the Bible where God is not mentioned by name, and yet by the end of the book you can see His hand so clearly.  Sometimes, it seems, you don’t need to know the whole plan…even when your life is on the line.  Even then, you can step out because you know God…know His character and know you can trust Him.

I do like knowing, though.

East Wind

Jesus did not come into the world to make bad men good. He came into the world to make dead men live!” ~Leonard Ravenhill

I’ve been battling discouragement the past few weeks.  It has been a good experience.  I think doubts and questions are healthy, and I have been aware of God working even in my discouragement.  One question that has been on my heart is why I am called to full time ministry.  One way Jesus answered this question is through a sermon I listened to on Sunday afternoon: “Turning Back to the Mouth of Freedom.”  Unfortunately Church of the Open Door only lists it’s five most recent sermons, and this one was delivered on June 6, so I can’t link to it for you.  Allow me to explain some of what the pastor discussed and how it has impacted me.

The story Steve Weins was speaking on comes from Exodus 14.  We join the Israelites in the wilderness, having just fled slavery in Egypt.  Their Southern journey has taken a Northward turn, due to the Red Sea in their path, but God tells them “Go back and camp at Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the Red Sea.”  Now I know you are saying, “Pi-hihawhat?” but if you look at a map you will see that He said, “Go back to that peninsula and camp between the mountains and the water on every side.”  aka “Trapped.” 
I know my mom, who has a cat-like affection for water, is really identifying with the Israelites who turned to Moses and said, “Are you CRAZY???  We gonna die out here.” 
Directions have symbolic meaning in Hebrew culture, and the North symbolizes Deception.  Fear and slavery have driven them into the land of deception, and it is here that God tells them to turn back, to go to the mouth of the water and wait for Him.
Steve calls this the Mouth of Freedom. 
He says it is a sign of being on the edge of freedom that you think you are about to die.  The Egyptians didn’t want to kill them.  They wanted to take them captive, take them back to Egypt as free labor to build more pyramids.  The Israelites felt like they were going to die.  They wanted to go back to Egypt.  They wished they had never left.
I identify with the Israelites wanting to go back, feeling trapped between the known and the unknown, and fearing the unknown enough to wish I had never left.  A friend said to me recently that she thinks when we get to Heaven, we will be amazed by the amount of fear we each experienced here on Earth…each and every one of us driven by fear right into the arms of deception.  But God calls us to turn back, like the people of Israel, surrounded on every side, and wait for Him.   
What comes next for the Israelites is one of the most famous scenes of the Old Testament.  Moses raises his staff and a wind from the East, symbolizing New Beginnings, blows across the water all night until two walls of water line a path of dry land to the other side of the sea.  At God’s command, Moses lowers his staff and the water returns to it’s normal course, burying their captors in watery graves. 

http://www.youtube.com/v/R1hvnMm91PU&hl=en_US&fs=1?rel=0
Over a thousand years later a man stands in a river shouting, “Turn back!  The Kingdom of God is at hand.”  John baptises people in the River Jordan as they repent, which literally means to turn back, from slavery to sin, fear, and deception.  But John’s baptism is only half the story.  John is preparing the way for Jesus, who brings with Him the east wind of New Beginnings.  Jesus is baptised by John, then spends three years proclaiming a new way to live.  Through His death and resurrection, He makes that new way available to us who are joined in his death and therefore joined in His resurrection.  The Holy Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead lives in us.  This is the transformation which is called salvation. 

Baptism is an outward sign of this salvation, a way of saying, “I die to my sins, I live by the resurrection power of Jesus.”  Or as Steve put it, “Baptism is a place to stand and say that I am a part of a community of people that is called to…stand at the mouth of freedom for the terrified ones who don’t know what to do. To stand at that mouth of freedom and say there is a way through.” 

Oh.

Yeah.

That is why I do what I do. 

I stand at the mouth of freedom for the terrified ones and say there is a way through. 

Because evil doesn’t get the last word, and the resurrection power of Jesus is at work, right now, making a way for so many people who are trapped by slavery, fear, and deception.    Because there are all kinds of slaves in the world today…slaves to human trafficking, slaves to terror, slaves to selfishness, addiction, and sin, slaves to memories and a history they cannot escape.  Because we are, so many of us, driven by fear. Because there is something in this world that is stronger than fear:

Love.

I think it is fair, also, to say that I am camped at my own Pi-hahiroth (Mouth of Freedom).  I am battling discouragement, but I haven’t given in.  I feel an East Wind coming over the water.  Here’s to New Beginnings…

The Prodigal God

Many weeks ago I was considering the story of the prodigal son.  I identified more with the older brother, and I didn’t really want to be the older brother.  That is because I thought “prodigal” meant “rude, rebellious, selfish, wasteful, and mean”.  Turns out that’s not what it means.  It means… 

prod·i·gal

[prod-i-guhl] 

–adjective

1.     wastefully or recklessly extravagant: prodigal expenditure.
2.     giving or yielding profusely; lavish (usually fol. by of  orwith ): 
              prodigal of smiles; prodigal with money.
3.     lavishly abundant; profuse: nature’s prodigal resources.

This changes everything.

Now, there is a noun definition that probably came from the story of the son in  Luke 15…and Jesus never uses the word prodigal.  He didn’t open by saying, “Let me tell you the story of the Prodigal Son.” The story is not about the son at all.  It is about the Father.  I am not saying anything new.  I stole my post title from Greg Boyd’s sermon of the same name, and he stole it from someone else.  (Now before you start thinking I’m an open theist, it’s a good message.  Just take the message for what it’s worth.)  It is the story of a man who has two sons.  The younger asks for his inheritance early and squanders it on the high life, then ends up feeding pigs for a living.  The older remains.  One day as the younger son is quite literally starving, he decides to come home.  The father sees him, hikes up his garment and comes running to his son.  It’s a good story.  Greg Boyd tells it better (follow the link above).  Jesus tells it better still.

The thing that stood out to me today was Mr. Boyd’s description of the Father’s household.  In verse 17, the son remembers his father’s hired servants…not the household servants, but day hires–homeless fellows who waited around until someone hired them for the day.  The household servants would go into town, find these folks waiting, then hire a few to do the menial tasks in exchange for wages.  Culturally they would provide their own food, be paid in cash at the end of the day, and then be sent on to make the best of what they could.  So the idea that they had food enough seems to imply that the Father provided food for them.  To provide food was to provide a form of acceptance, to say, “You belong here.  You are welcome.”  This would have been scandalous, according to Mr. Boyd.

I got to thinking about the younger son and why he left the farm for the city.  I thought about how embarrassing his father’s generosity might have been to him.  I thought about the kindness that ignores status and how boring that is for someone who longs for a shiny, fast-paced life-style, for recognition and esteem.  I don’t want the same things as the younger son in this story.  That’s why I don’t identify with him.  People always talk about the cultural implications of working with pigs, and how that would have been detestable to him.  I don’t understand that, and I don’t detest the same things my culture detests, so I have a really hard time wrapping my brain around the significance of the pigs.  But what I see is a man who became the thing he hated most.  I am imagining that he hated farming, hated the hired hands–the day workers, and hated that his father treated them with regard.  So I wonder what he must have been thinking as he stood there, smelling like a sewer, with the Father lavishing kisses on him…

“No…you’re not…supposed…to love…me…you’re…supposed…to despise…me…”  I wonder if he was embarrassed for his father’s public display of affection and yet broken by his need for the father’s love.  I wonder if he was embarrassed by his own need, and then in turn embarrassed by his arrogant judgement of all the hired hands, all those years.

His speech…his famous interrupted speech.  He was all ready to say, “I have sinned against you and against God.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Treat me as one of your hired servants,” when the Father interrupts him and throws the most lavish party ever, dresses him in his own robes, puts the signant ring on his finger.  This is where I identify with the younger son.  The God of the Universe seems to be hopelessly, extravagantly in love with me.  I stand here, wanting to studder, “But I don’t…derserve…” as He interrupts with joy and love.  The paradox of God’s love is that, no matter how “underserving” we are of His love, the love itself makes us worthy. 

Blessings and peace,
Beth

Unveiled Faces

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.


2 Corinthians 3:17-18


Today I have finished reading Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis.  This book, unlike any other he has written…unlike any I have read by any other author, may just be his masterpiece.  It is a “Myth Retold”, the ancient myth of Cupid or Psyche, set in Greek times in a barbaric kingdom outside Greece.  Orual, an ugly princess made queen, is making her complaint against the Gods for injustice suffered at their hands during her youth.  She wears a veil to cover her ugliness throughout her entire queenship, and then at the end of her life is given the opportunity to read her complaint.  She appears before a the council without her veil, without any barrier to hide her from them.  When she goes to read, she finds that her long, drawn out story has been replaced by a short, older complaint, which she reads over and over until interrupted by the judge.  After a long silence, the judge speaks again:


“Are you answered?” he said.
“Yes,” said I.


And in the next chapter, she explains:


The Complaint was the answer.  To have heard myself making it was to be answered.  Lightly men talk of saying what they mean.  Often when he was teaching me to write in Greek the Fox would say, “Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that’s the whole art and joy of words.”  A glib saying.  When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about the joy of words.  I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer.  Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean?  How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?


Of course I have done a great injustice to the book by extracting the thesis statement from the end of the book and posting it here.  I am not sure if I have ruined the book for you…you will have to read it and let me know.  The bit, though, brings a certain amount of light to 2 Corinthians, which I have been studying this week.  To be unveiled means honesty, and that can be frightening, especially when we have been keeping one thing hidden for so long that we didn’t even know it was there.  We move in 2 Corinthians from the veil and unveiled faces to the treasure which we have in jars of clay…more about honesty and the juxtaposition between the Glory of God and our incompleteness.  It is not by pretending to be a diamond vial that I will show best His glory, but if I am honest with myself about my clay-ness.  And even, proceeding to chapter 5, we see that all this honesty is not for some sort of emotional burlesque show, but for transformation from glory to glory as was mentioned in chapter 3.


For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 


2 Corinthians 5:4

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