Even if your parents don’t know the Bible, odds are they have quoted it in the course of their parenting: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long…” At least that was the case when I was growing up. I had a real problem with that when I was a child. To say I was stubborn would be like saying the Titanic was a boat! I resisted authority…still struggle with that one. I questioned every decision – and I mean EVERY decision…especially those made by my mom. Why is that? Well, because she was the most present parent. She dealt with all the details of raising the four of us. In the course of the every-day, I learned just how far I could push an issue and I determined to push as much as possible. I wasn’t a bad kid. On the contrary, she was often complimented on our excellent behavior and manners, but that didn’t change the fact that I challenged her. Continue reading 3 Things to Do to Honor Your Parents
Then I did it.
I had wanted to know for awhile, but I never felt the time was right to ask. But today, with just the two of us, and she occupied with a task for her hands, I asked her about Chelsea.
Chelsea is her beautiful, perpetually-just-shy-of-sixteen-years-old daughter. During a routine trip to a neighboring city, my friend and two of her three children were involved in a motor vehicle accident, and Chelsea was tragically killed. As I listened to the painful recounting of that fateful day three years ago, I was struck silent. I soaked in the scenery and the emotions as Bev carefully and tearfully walked me through her memories of that day. After sharing, she pondered aloud the question that all of us have asked at one point or another – “Why would God take HER when there are so many bad people in the world?”
In this passage of scripture, Job is asking the same thing. Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? Why is there pain and suffering for believers? Why is it that tragedy strikes? I’ve been contemplative since our meeting this morning. My friend is quite a happy person in light of her unbelievably difficult reality. I’m not sure I could function, much less be productive, positive and pleasant. I am not a parent, but I am a doting aunt and just the thought of losing one of my neices or nephews brings me to a very dark place.
As I thought about today’s reading, I marvelled at the tenacity of Job, but I am also moved by the life of this woman, my friend, who shared her heart with me today. As I sit here, I am listening to the song “Breath of Heaven” and I am reminded of another loss. In the blockbuster movie, The Passion of the Christ, the scene that breaks my heart most, is the point where Mary watches her son walking down the road, heavy with the cross of his crucifixion on his shoulders. As he passes, virtually unrecognizable, he falls and she remembers Jesus as a happy, vibrant toddler running, laughing and falling as a child. She didn’t see the Savior of the human race – she saw her baby, and He was hurting – and she was powerless.
That’s how my friend felt – that’s how Job felt – and that’s how God must have felt when He watched His son suffer and die. When I read these scriptures, I am made sad at the pain that people have to suffer. At the same time, I am selfishly thankful that I have not had to endure that type of pain. I am also aware that we are not the only ones who suffer. God himself suffered.
I don’t know why God lets bad things happen to good people, but I find comfort in the knowledge that He knows what that kind of loss feels like. I find grace in the words of my friend, who while hurting can still bless God and look to Him as her source of strength and hope. I am comforted in knowing that the tears we weep for the losses we endure on this side of the veil are not shed alone. God himself weeps with us. He is our Champion and Friend. He is just as sad about our suffering as we are, maybe moreso.
Our breakfast turned into lunch. We shared and cried together. I was able to see a part of my friend’s heart that was broken and vulnerable, and in sharing about her loss – we gained. We added to our friendship. We increased the memory of a very special girl whose life positively impacted more than 1,000 people. We grew in understanding of the depths of love.
Maybe that’s the real lesson here. Maybe the reason we experience loss is to gain. . .
Thank you for sharing your life with me. I have been blessed.
Or How NOT to be a Friend
The story of Job is a very familiar one. We are all well acquainted with the suffering and misery that Job endured at the hands of Satan. We all know of the incredible losses he sustained, and we know how the story ends. But as I have read these scriptures again over the last several days, I am moved not by the acts of Job, but by those of his three companions.
I suppose it has much to do with where I am in my life right now. A friend just lost her father after a long bout with a sustained illness. Another friend is going through a very difficult break-up and feelings of loneliness that overwhelm him. Yet another friend is going through a difficult situation and I have only compounded things with my own selfish demands. So right now, the thing I needed most was to hear how to be a good friend.
Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar are good guys. They hear about Job’s tragedy, and they do not hesitate to drop everything in their lives to rush to be at his side. They give no thought to personal cost, distance to travel, or time away from their everyday lives. Upon first glance, these three men appear to be great friends to Job. They make their way to him, and are so moved by his emotional plight that they, too are compelled to mourn. They sit with him for seven days, commiserating, consoling and comforting Job – all without saying a word! What great friends! The end.
Nope. Not the end.
They couldn’t leave well enough alone. They HAD to start talking. They just HAD to throw in their two shekel’s worth of advice for poor, suffering Job. They HAD to try to FIX things!
What is it about us that makes us want to fix stuff? Even if we don’t have all the information, we will try to correct things in almost any given situation. I find myself doing it all the time. Something isn’t working right, “Ooh, let me see. I bet I can get it to work.” Doesn’t matter that I have very little mechanical ability! Why should that little tidbit of truth stop me? Someone tells me about some trouble in their life, “Oooh, I know JUST what you should do! First…this, then that and bang – all fixed!” Nevermind I probably have no clue – Why should that stop me?
I can empathize with Job. He’s not thinking clearly at the moment. He’s hurting. He’s mad. He’s clearly, and justifably upset. His response? VENT! He’s been in a pressure cooker for weeks! His emotions, his thoughts, his physical body have been under intense strain, and he needs to let off some steam! It happens to all of us. When we need to spout off, the LAST thing we need is someone trying to rationalize or FIX things! We just want you to listen. Shut up and just listen. You don’t have to agree. You can even think we’re wrong, but for now – Just be quiet. Once the explosion subsides, clarity returns and right thinking follows. Usually followed by the question, “What do you think?” NOW, you can interject. But tread cautiously, the pot’s still HOT!
Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar started out so well. They ARE great friends. But like most of us, they let their own discomfort cloud their judgement. They gave into their own needs instead of being sensitive to the needs of Job. What I learned through this reading is that I am just like them. Sadly. But I don’t want to be. I want to be the friend that thinks of the other person’s feelings first. I want to be the friend who is willing to sacrifice my own comfort for the comfort of another. I want to be a friend who knows when to be quiet. Ouch! That one hurt.
I’m thankful for this lesson. I’m thankful for the opportunity to see outside my own self, if even for a brief moment. And I’m thankful for this example in scripture of how to REALLY be a friend.
As I read through this section of the scripture, I find that rather than answers I am bombarded with questions. Opportunities to know more about the heart of God because of the things I do not understand. I am thankful that after 32 years in relationship with Him, I am still learning and challenged by the Lord.
Time Passed. So much left unsaid here. What happened during that time?
Why did God not like Cain and his offering? What had transpired to result in such a negative reaction?
Also – I’m troubled by verse 7. This seems counterintuitive to what we know about God. These are the scriptures that are difficult to reconcile with a loving Creator.
Obviously, it was important to Cain and Abel to be pleasing to God. It’s clear from this very brief encounter that the brothers had a personal daily knowledge of God and were well acquainted with him in a way that we cannot understand.
Why does it have to be an “either/or” situation here? Why weren’t both offerings pleasing to God? There is so much here that goes unspoken and causes me difficulty.
Is this the precursor to eternal separation from God – or Hell? Cain complains because he will never again face God. Was there any prior knowledge that taking a life would result in this drastic separation? God puts a mark on Cain…what was the mark? How would people know that it was the mark of God?
Cain, even though separated from God and banished from His presence, raises his child to be a lover and worshiper of God. Again – so much that goes unsaid.
Adam has a son who is like him in every way. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Adam was God’s first creation and proclaimed Good – but then he was cast out of the garden and made to toil and suffer. Hmmm. I don’t know what to make of that.
Why does God spend so much time telling us about the geneology of this people? There is nothing remarkable about their lives other than their names, the age they are when they have children and the age they die. Man, I hope that God has more to say about my life than that!
This part of the story has always been a little disturbing and seemingly out of place. What is a son of God? I always have heard that it means an angel or a supernatural being (according to the Contemporary English Version of the Bible), but aren’t we also referred to as sons of God? What is the purpose of this brief, seemingly unrelated tidbit of information? This definitely warrants more research!
I think more than anything else in reading this particular selection of scripture, I am moved by the lack of information rather than the content. There is so much here that is left unsaid! Kind of like the 21 years of Jesus’ life that we know nothing about. Makes me wonder what else there is to know. We go from the imagery of God being loving, protective, creative and physically present to Him being filled with regret at the making of humanity! But there’s little to explain the reason for His desire to erase His creation.
This year I have decided to go through the Bible in a Chronological pattern. I must shamefully admit that I have never succeeded in following through on one of these reading plans. I found this great application on my Blackberry phone, and I was so impressed, I just had to share it. They have a website, too. As always – IF IT’S FREE, IT’S FOR ME! So I wanted to share what I found and encourage you to start the journey, too. There are more than 20 reading plans and several different options for time, and every version of the Bible imaginable to read from! There is a place to journal as you go through the reading and then if you would like to participate in the community aspect, they have a place for that, too! Truly, one of the best websites I have ever come across. I hope to find some of you there!
Usually when I read the Bible, I have a tendency to let my research curiosity take over and I end up cross referencing, back tracking, getting exegetical and otherwise just chasing down red herrings. I enjoy that! I learn so much that way, but I wanted to approach the scriptures a little differently this time. I want to simply stay in the moment. My plan is to simply document the thoughts and questions that occur to me during the course of the reading. Not to look for hidden meanings and answers, but simply to bask in the Word of God and to let it wash over me and envelope me completely. As such, there may or may not be any flow to the thoughts. I love to hear what scripture says to other people, so I am hoping that these entries will spark a dialogue with others.
And so the journey begins. I have decided to use The Message as my version of choice for this trip. I like the artistry of the language and I am looking forward to seeing new things as I travel down this familiar, well-travelled road. Let’s go!
First thing: The language of the Message is so colorful. I love the expression that the Earth was a soup of nothingness! Immediately followed by “God’s Spirit brooded like a bird…” What does that mean? The dictionary says: “4. (of a bird) to warm, protect, or cover (young) with the wings or body.” The imagery there is comforting. I can imagine the Lord looking down over the vastness with love, and covering the yet unformed earth in a protective embrace. He had not yet made us, but His love and attention was already focused and protective. Something really settles into my spirit about the concept of “covering.” The imagery elicited, from a bird protecting it’s nest, to God covering Moses with his hand, to the mother at Pompei who used her body to cover her child. The idea is amazing – protective, nurturing, comforting, peaceful.
Day Six in the creation landscape – God’s work so far has been like a painting. At first, broad strokes to cover great amounts of canvas, setting the stage for the finer work. With each passing creative expression, the work becomes more detailed and fine. The penultimate expression of God’s handiwork is revealed on this day. He created humans. He made us godlike! I wonder why He would do this? The way He created us, we REFLECT His nature. We are like the moon – we have no light source of our own, but we appear to shine because we mirror the light of the sun.
We just had a beautiful natural phenomenon occur over New Years‘ festivities. Our eyes were directed heavenward to behold the wonder that is a Blue Moon, or the second full moon in a month. It’s a fairly rare occurrence, made to seem even more important because it coincided with the beginning of a new year. It was easy to romanticize and marvel at the moon. I took several pictures and had my fair share of Lunar Lookiloo-itude. It was truly a beautiful sight to behold. The way that the glow illuminated the night sky was truly breathtaking. I found myself captivated by the sight of it, marveling at it’s magnificence. But the truth is, the moon has no power of it’s own. The ethereal qualities that we attribute to her are not her own. She is merely a mirror. She is so perfectly suited to reflect the true source of light – the sun, that sometimes we place credit where none is due. That’s what we are supposed to be. A vehicle of reflection – we are mirrors. We shine back the true source of light – the Son. Because the light is so beautiful, even in reflection, sometimes we give credit where none is due. Without the warming beams of the sun’s glow, the moon is just a rock. Without the loving glow of the Son’s touch, we humans are just animals. It is the REFLECTIVE qualities of being created godlike that make us so beautiful to behold.
God’s Ultimate act of creation: a day of rest. I think that just as we are sometimes overly impressed with the majesty of the moon, we are equally enamoured with our own existence. However, if we continue with the analogy of a painting, the final act is knowing when to stop. The best artists know when to step back from their creation and say – It is finished. They put down the paintbrush, then pause for a moment and just soak it in. That is the ultimate act of creation. God, ever the consummate artist, steps back from His creation and says – It’s done. It’s complete. He takes a step back, and breathes a sigh of satisfaction and simply takes in His handiwork. He allows Himself to enjoy what He’s just made. Oh, would that we would reflect that attribute of our Creator! This is the ultimate expression of creation because it allows us to enjoy the created. To revel in the completion of a task. To recuperate and recover from the process of doing. In addition to polishing up my reflective qualities, this is an attitude I long to embrace in the new year!
This season in my life, I have been reawakened to my desire to be partnered with a man. I don’t know what it is about Christians in particular that they feel the need to devalue or debase any desires that we have. As if desiring something is inherently bad. I have fallen into that mindset myself to a degree and often have chastised myself for wanting to be married. However this time through the scriptures, I am seeing that there is cause for the feelings I have experienced and am experiencing. Simply in verse 23. One word. Man says – FINALLY! Oh the implications and power in that one word! Here is a creation, situated in a perfect existence. Newly made, fresh off the line so to speak, all his parts are still shiny and new, but when he is presented with woman as a companion – man says “Finally!!” There is something within us that God created to desire fellowship with each other on an intimate level. So why is it that when we express that same feeling of anticipation, our “well-meaning” brothers and sisters imply (or some come right out and say) that we are being somehow less. That we should be content in our situation. That’s not the way I’m reading this.
Bear with me for the following metaphor – back when I was a child, we had thermometers with mercury in them. Invariably one would break and the silvery substance would spill out and puddle together. Curiosity would always overtake me, and I would collect the spilled contents into my hand. The mercury would bead up, and each little ball was perfect in it’s own right. But once two of the tiny rounds came into proximity of each other, there was an undeniable attraction that drew them into each other to reform into a new, larger, but still perfectly formed ball. There was no distinction between the old droplets and the new drop. They were capable of existing perfectly on their own, but given the opportunity, they were more suited to coalesce. The fact that one property of mercury is to desire to come together does not hinder it’s effectiveness. It doesn’t make it a weaker element. In fact, it is one of the traits of mercury that makes it unique. We are that way. We are made of the same stuff, and our natural inclination – a byproduct of our creation – is to be drawn to each other in an attempt to commingle or to cleave as the KJV calls it. This is not good or bad. It just is.
Obviously – my mind is focused on this subject, because what I feel the Lord revealing to me is primarily about the same subject matter. Chapter 3, verse 16 – the last line in the verse speaks volumes to the classic struggle between male and female. We want to please our husbands, and the the husbands will want to use that to rule over us. No wonder we can’t understand each other. It’s a product of the fall. I wonder if a couple who have been saved by grace can then go back and pray against the consequences of that first sin? Is it possible to reverse that curse? Hmmm. I wonder.