Tag Archives: Religion & Spirituality

A New Look at an Old Book: Amos 6-9

Reading through Amos is a difficult venture. There is so much forboding, judgement and most of all SIN. Sin from the people that God has set aside. The very people for whom God had designed the richest of blessings, whom He had saved from destruction repeatedly…these same holders of promise who willingly slaked their bonds with God in favor of idolatry. They chose immorality over righteousness, depravity in favor of the sacred, and essentially spat in the face of the gifts and calling of the Creator. Oh, it’s easy to see how God could be so mad. It’s easy, from our lofty perches, to look down on the Israelites in this story. How could they possibly be so stupid? They deserve to be smote! Right?

Oh, how quick we are to judge. How conveniently we forget our similarities to the gross injustices perpetrated by these smote-worthy individuals. Oh, we NEVER seek to serve ourselves, right? We couldn’t possibly be consumed with immediate gratification, could we? Certainly we don’t put anything ahead of our relationship with God…not our romances, nor our jobs or our leisure time. No! Not us!!!

The more I read, the more I find that I am woefully similar to the poor saps in this story. I willfully choose to behave sinfully. I have become adept at ignoring His voice. I can turn a blind eye to his leading…all in favor of my own wants, my own “needs” and desires.

So God is understandably miffed. I get it. I would be, too. He uses the prophet, Amos, to bring his message that He has had just about enough!! After years and years, no generations – of His people turning their backs on Him, he was putting His foot down.

And even then…

In the midst of reading them the riot act.

Barely a hiccup happens between His promise of retribution and punishment and His overwhelming mercy again. He loves so much, that even when He’s forced to bring us about to justice, He’s offering yet another reprieve to those who will just turn away from wrong – and turn back toward Him. How many times will He soften?

When I read this I am convicted. I’ve made some really poor choices of late. Choices that were self-serving and ultimately detrimental not only to me, but to others I care about. As I immerse myself into the words of Amos, I see all too clearly a mirror held up to my own life…and I don’t like the reflection. But as I peer inside, over my shoulder I see the open arms of my Father, God who loves me so much that He is willing to offer me His embrace and His forgiveness – AGAIN.

And suddenly, I know the depth of His love for me.

A New Look at an Old Book: Genesis 4-8

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.

Genesis 4:3

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.

Genesis 4:14-15

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?

Genesis 4:26ff

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.

Genesis 5:3

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.

Genesis 5:1-32

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!

Genesis 6

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.

Genesis 4:3, Genesis 4:14-15, Genesis 4:26, Genesis 5:1-32, Genesis 6:1-22, Genesis 7:1-24 and Genesis 8:1-22

Fighting with God

Have you ever been angry with God?  I mean spitting nails, fists clenched, foaming at the mouth, screaming at the sky angry with God?  I had heard people talk about being mad at God, but it never really made sense to me.  As far as I was concerned, I could not imagine what could possibly happen in a person’s life to give them reason to be upset with God about anything . . .

until recently.

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling pretty down.  I have been out of work for many months, which means I’m spending even more time than usual alone.  Then to top it off, I couldn’t afford to pay for television service anymore, so I was left with nothing to distract me from being alone.  All this being alone led to feelings of loneliness and then to sadness because I was alone and lonely.  So, as I always do, I started to talk to God about it.

As I was talking to God, I began to feel myself getting irritated.  Then I would check myself and then continue to talk with Him some more.  The more I talked, the more irritated and aggravated I got.  Before too long I found myself downright mad!  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  “Why do I have to be alone, God?”


Me:  “Haven’t I done what you’ve asked me to do?”


Me:  “Haven’t I been patient?”

God:  <insert cricket sounds here>

Me:  “Why can’t I have a romantic relationship?”

Me:  “What is the BIG DEAL???”

By now, I was yelling!  I was literally shaking my fists in the air and pacing all over my house.  I was slamming things around.  I WAS MAD!!!  At this point, I’m glad I live alone, because I think anybody witnessing my behavior may have called the men in the white coats.  At first, I kept apologizing to God because I felt hurt and angry.  At first, I kept thinking I was going to be struck by lightning (not really, but it sounds better than I thought I might be crossing a line).  At first, I thought I was doing something wrong, but a funny thing happened.

As I continued to fume and foam, to cry out and cuss (yes, I did it) to rail and rant I suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of peace.  I felt like God was almost chuckling at me because it had taken me so long to finally feel comfortable with Him.  Like a father comforting a crying child, I felt a “there, there” pat on my back and could almost hear God say to me:

“I never said you couldn’t have those things.”

And just like that, I wasn’t mad anymore.  Just like that I realized, rather sheepishly, that I had been the one imposing restrictions on myself.  It was I who had put myself on this path.  I was the one who suffered in silence and watched man after man fall in love with someone else, and




I understood.  My whole life was laid before me and I saw the makings of my own loneliness.  I heard all the self talk that said I wasn’t allowed to tell a boy that I liked him, because good girls don’t do that.  I saw myself putting on a brave face as I fell in love with a friend, and hoped that he would feel the same thing.  The conversation continued, bobbing and weaving in the boxing ring of my thoughts,

Me:  “I’ll get hurt.”

God:  “You’re hurting already.”

Me:  “But I’m afraid I’ll be rejected.”

God:  “That’s a chance you’ll have to take.”

Me:  <insert cricket sounds here>

God:  “You’ve been unfair to the ones you loved.”

Me:  ???

God:  “Every time you’ve fallen in love with a friend, you’ve been hurt because you haven’t been honest with what you’re experiencing.  You kept your affections a secret, but you expected them to share openly and reciprocate love that you never expressed.  You expected them to arrive at a destination without letting them get on the train.  How is that fair?”

Me:  “You’re right, God!”  (the audacity, I know…but that’s what I said in my head.)

And I was done.

I was done being angry.  I was done being afraid.  I was done being hurt.  I was done being lonely.  I WAS FREE.  I was liberated from the negative self talk.  I was unfettered by the chains of self restriction.  Not only was it OK to tell someone how I feel about them, I have a RESPONSIBILITY to be honest with my emotions.  Yes, I might have to put myself in a position to be hurt, but the hurt will be on the front end of a relationship when feelings are new.  I won’t have to wonder if a man knows I’m attracted to him romantically, he’ll know because I’ve told him.

I realize that most of you dear readers came to this realization back in the third grade with the giving and receiving of the profoundly moving “I like you.  Do you like me?  Check Yes or No” note.  In contrast, the very idea of that was mortifying to me.  The joys and the indignities of love that most people face as children and teens, I painstakingly avoided.  The fine art of romantic relationships, the give and take, the push and pull – I was too afraid to hazard.  As a result, here I am, a grown woman, who is suddenly faced with the realization that I have to go back and start living life in a whole new way.  What have I got to lose?  Nothing ventured is nothing gained!

In fighting with God I learned not one lesson, but two.  Aside from the obvious, I learned that it is not only OK to fight with God, it is necessary.  Lest you think me a heretic, allow me to elaborate.  A needful component in every relationship is the ability to resolve conflict.  A relationship with God is no different.  There will times when you don’t agree, and the way you handle the disagreement is an indicator of the relationship’s health.  When things are new, you hold back because you don’t know what to expect and you don’t want to hurt feelings, so you make excuses.  You say, “Awww, that’s OK.” even when it’s not.  Eventually, as intimacy grows, so does the potential for conflict.  The deeper intimacy gives way to deeper issues and oftentimes, result in differing views.  When the intimacy is deeper, the risks and the rewards are greater.  In my life, I rarely fight or argue with people.  In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been in a verbal altercation with someone, and still have several fingers left over.  Growing up in my house was a different story.   My siblings and I battled over everything.  We held back nothing.  The difference was intimacy.  I knew that disagreements with my family would not result in a permanently broken relationship.  I knew that no matter what, we would still be family.  That’s the way I felt fighting with God.  I felt safe.  I knew that I could be mad with Him, and we would still be family – I wasn’t going to lose Him.

In the scriptures, we see an epic example of this in the life of Jacob.  Jacob had just swindled his brother out of a blessing, and he had literally pulled the wool over the eyes of his father to get it!  He was persona non grata at his house, and he was running scared.  We pick up the story where Jacob has taken his wives, servants and children along with all their worldly possessions, and have escaped under the cover of night.  Jacob goes back to the camp site alone when

“. . . A man came and fought with Jacob until just before daybreak. 25When the man saw that he could not win, he struck Jacob on the hip and threw it out of joint. 26They kept on wrestling until the man said, “Let go of me! It’s almost daylight.”

“You can’t go until you bless me,” Jacob replied.

27Then the man asked, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That’s why your name will be Israel.”  29Jacob said, “Now tell me your name.”

“Don’t you know who I am?” he asked. And he blessed Jacob.

30Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face, and I am still alive.”

Fighting with God has had far-reaching implications in my life and in my relationship with Him.  I find that I love Him even more.  I feel like He loves me even more, if that’s even possible!  It’s like the last barrier to intimacy has come down.  I’m certainly not suggesting that you go out and pick a fight with God, but I do recommend being real with Him.  But be prepared, because just like Jacob, you will not walk away unscathed.  Everyone who wrestles with God walks away a different person!  I know I did.

Love Letter for an Atheist

I have a friend that I love dearly. When we were in school together, he was a dynamic, evangelistic and a committed Christian. Over the course of his life, he changed his views and now he is an evangelistic atheist (how’s that for an oxymoron?) The same fervor he exhibited as a fundamental Christian, he now displays in his copious writings and conversations about Atheism. Considering that we went to a Baptist College, his newfound belief system has garnered him a considerable amount of barbs and arrows lobbed in his direction.

While the idea that he no longer believes in Christ, or that there is a God saddens me, I have remained uncharacteristically quiet on the subject.  I respect his choice to exercise the free will that the God he no longer believes in gave him.  I read his notes, and most the time they make me feel a variety of things, but mostly I feel bewildered.  I find it difficult to wrap my head around his new way of thinking.  One of his recent notes, however really made me think.  He was making the point that a God who needs to be praised smacks of imperfection, insecurity and narcisism.  In the same post, he commented on how much he loved his wife, and how she could never understand just how much he learns to love her more every day.  I found this intrigueing.  The thought that went through my mind was “Does that mean that his wife is imperfect, insecure or narcisitic because she receives (and most assuredly desires) his love?”  I couldn’t see how he was able to love his wife so profoundly, so genuinely, so movingly, and in the same breath begrudge Christians and God for the same show of love.

I’ve been chewing on this for a long time.  I’ve been stewing on it, and wondering how or if I should say something.  I don’t want to say anything to him that could be perceived as an insult, because frankly, the most moving part of his note was his spontaneous ode to his wife.  He obviously loves her very deeply and is not ashamed to express the depth of his love for her.  She is a fortunate woman to know that depth of love and that’s what got me thinking.  This weekend, while attending a Christian retreat, I penned the following love note to the object of my affection, and I am dedicating it to my friend in the hopes that he will read it and receive in the spirit in which it was given. . .

You don’t demand my love.

You don’t require it.

I give it freely because of who You are.

I lavish it openly, as You do for me.

Because that’s what people in love do.

My thoughts are consumed with You,

not because You mandate it. . .

I think about You because I am obsessed as a result of my love for You

and I’m following the example You’ve shown to me.

You tell me over and over how precious are Your thoughts about me.

This obsession goes both ways;

Because that’s what people in love do.

When I’m hurting – it’s Your arms I seek.

When I’m lonely – it’s Your kiss I need.

When I’m sad – You dry my tears.

Why wouldn’t I love You?

Why wouldn’t I worship You?

Why wouldn’t I serve You?

Why wouldn’t I want to be better for You?

Why wouldn’t I give my life for You?

That’s what people in love do.

And I love You, Lord. . .

Deeply, madly, truly.

I love You because You looked at me,

and You saw someone worthy of all You are and have.

I love You because You ARE love –

and that’s what people in love do.

I really do love my friend, too.  Everytime I think of him, I smile at the memories of our time together.  I noticed that he has recently removed me as a “friend” on the social networking site where the original note first appeared.  It is possible that it was a simple mistake, or it could be that my everpresent notes about the greatness and goodness of God have offended him.  Who knows?  I hope that he accepts the new request I have made to renew our “friend” status.  I hope he reads this and hears my heart.  I don’t want to debate with him.  I don’t want to confront his belief system.  I simply want to return a favor.  His note about the narcisism of God made me think – I hope my note about the love that I feel for my God will resonate with him as he remembers the love he feels for his wife, and will prompt him to think, too.

“I’ll have a steaming cup of clarity, please.”

In case you haven’t guessed, I love Sweet Tea.  It is the nectar of the gods – just ask any southerner.  No meal is complete without at least 2 – 3 glasses of the sugary concoction.  But lately, I’ve been craving something a little different.  I haven’t been able to locate a vendor who can help, so I am hoping that maybe someone who reads this might be able to help.

In January, I celebrated another birthday.  Like most people, the occasion prompted me to assess my life up to this point.  What I came to realize is that this particular candle on my cake served to illuminate the fact that I am not where I thought I would be (or should be) at this point in my life.  This year is a little different than my normal birthday regrets, because for several months, I have been feeling the stirrings of the Lord prompting me to “Go!”  The kicker is that He hasn’t bothered to tell me where, yet.  I’ve had many suggestions from well-meaning and loving friends and family, and all of them are tempting. . .but no real clear arrows pointing to a specific location.  I’m thinking something in the neon family, oversized and obvious, but for some reason, God just doesn’t seem to communicate that way – at least not to me.

Many years ago, I realized that I was called to full-time Christian ministry.  What does that mean, you may ask?  Well, I suppose that it means different things to different people.  It’s one of those “Churchianity jargon bytes” that can mean almost anything, but to me it means that I want to be vocationally involved in the ministry of Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately, that’s still kind of nebulous in terms of direction.  I have a few specifics – or ministry areas that really tug on my heart strings:  First is music, specifically worship and praise music.  Secondly is missions in some form or another.  Another area is writing – inspirational and/or informational.  OK, so how does all of that work together?  The great part about being “called” to ministry is that God takes on the responsibility to make the way.  He just wants us to take that first step in faith.

That’s what I’m doing.  I hear the Lord saying, “Go!”  In the book of Genesis, another person heard a similar directive.

“The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.  4 So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. ”  Genesis 12:1, 4-5

I’m getting in my car this summer, with a vague idea of where I’m headed, but trusting that God will show me.  Some may call it foolishness, some may call it faith. . .I only know that I have to “Go!”  I know that I will not celebrate my next birthday looking backward and wondering “Why didn’t I ___________?”  Maybe along the way I’ll come across a hole-in-the-wall café that serves just what I’ve been craving – a large, steaming cup of clarity.