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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 119: Mighty Men of Valor

Today's Reading: 1 Chronicles 7-10


boldness or determination in facing great danger, esp. in battle; heroic courage; bravery: a medal for valor.

Growing up, my dad went around the house singing. One of his favorite "belting out" songs was from an operetta called "The New Moon" with music by Sigmund Romberg and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. It is called "Stout-Hearted Men."

You who have dreams, if you act they will come true.
To turn your dreams to a fact, it's up to you.
If you have the soul and the spirit,
Never fear it, you'll see it thru,
Hearts can inspire, other hearts with their fire,
For the strong obey when a strong man shows them the way.

Give me some men who are stout-hearted men,
Who will fight, for the right they adore,
Start me with ten who are stout-hearted men,
And I'll soon give you ten thousand more.
Shoulder to shoulder and bolder and bolder,
They grow as they go to the fore.
Then there's nothing in the world can halt or mar a plan,
When stout-hearted men can stick together man to man.

The men of valor in scripture--I wonder what they were like. Were they only men of war who shot their arrows straight and swung their clubs with might, or did they have a persona that inspired those around them to act boldly and truly for righteousness sake?

Does valor imply war and combat, or could it imply working with all one's might to "fight for the right," to stand up for the widow, the orphan, the weak and the small?

In these days of bullying, manipulation and violence, give me some praying, gentle and fervent men who will stand up against evil and speak the truth.

Then maybe we will truly understand the meaning of the Hebrew word, chayil, translated "valor" in my text today. It means "substance," "ability," "strength," and "power."

Interestingly, its root word, chuwl, means "to twist," "to be pained," "to be grieved."

The divine response to another's pain is compassion. In the Greek, the word for compassion refers to the twisting of the gut.

Perhaps, true men of valor, are those who, when they see an injustice, are pained in the gut and move forward with conviction, ability, efficiency and power to right the wrong.

Give your Church, O LORD, mighty men of valor.

Day 118: Removing the Burden

Today's Reading: Psalm 81, 88, 92-93

I believe in healing.

There. I said it.

And I'm not talking about the kind of healing that comes about when you take antibiotics or have surgery. And I'm not talking about the kind when some tele-evangelist starts screaming and getting everyone worked up and then smacks someone over the head.

I'm talking about full blown healing from God and the touch of the Holy Spirit through the hands of believers in Jesus Christ.

I have brothers and sisters in Christ who have the spiritual gift of healing. I go to them. They lay me down, touch me and pray over me. While they are doing this, I breathe deeply, I submit myself to God and I wait.

Sometimes in the midst of my waiting, I feel that rush of tingling through my body that is visible in the goosebumps on my skin. Sometimes I feel a weight or a release. Sometimes I receive a picture. Sometimes a hymn begins in my mind or a scripture passage.

This kind of healing for me is usually based on setting me free of something I've been carrying--some emotional burden, spiritual hardness of heart or sorrow. Interestingly, these things are not only carried in my soul but come out as pain or tension in my body.

In the biblical days of slavery, slaves were expected to carry burdens which were not their own. In Egypt, the burden of bricks and mortar to build the walls and pyramids of Israel's enemy was carried by yokes around the neck. These yokes of burden were like fetters around the neck, causing great amounts of neck, shoulder and back pain.

In one of today's Psalms, God declares,
"I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket."

Psalm 81: 6

When I feel burdened, I get physical pain in my neck, shoulders and back. What about you? Or sometimes, I have that kind of pain and I don't even know what's going on. I am often unaware of my own stress.

Yesterday, as my friend was praying over me and encouraging me to release whatever was blocking a full relationship with God, a word came to me. It sounded foreign. I had no clue what it meant and wondered if it meant anything at all. But when, in my heart, I named it and gave it to God, I felt a relaxing take place.

Now, I began to wonder about that word. What did it mean? It sounded Aramaic or Hebraic, but I had no clue. I began to try to find it in my Hebrew dictionary.

I found it...

It was actually two words.

Two words that mean "swallowed down" and "grief."

Swallowed down grief.

I had been struggling the week before with a great disappointment, a huge sadness. And there was the Holy Spirit of God, naming it and holding out the hand of God, saying, "Come to me, O Burdened One." Give it up to me.

The hand of God was open to take the pain.

I personally am very glad to give it to Jesus.

Remove the burden from my shoulders, LORD.

Take it off my back.

Heal me.

Set me free.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 117: They ministered with song

Today's Reading: 1 Chronicles 6

O Mother, dearest nurturer,
you held me in your arms,
the lullabies for infants
so crying could be soothed and eyelids droop
to rest in safety.

You ministered to me with song.

O Marion, dearest teacher,
you wrote on poster board,
the words for simple children
so innocent voices could join in singing
the praise of God.

You ministered to me with song.

O Daddy, dearest preacher,
you boomed with passion
the hymns of faith in harmony
so seedling daughter could learn the joy
the faith in God.

You ministered to me with song.

O my sisters and my brothers,
you joined me in the swelling of our heritage
as harmony and beauty surrounded us
in ways only we know but cannot express except by
the heart of God.

You ministered to me with song.

O Lois, Joy and Judy, dearest musician,
you pedaled and fingered with skill
the keys of pianos and organs blowing wind
so pipes could trumpet victoriously
the victory of God.

You ministered to me with song.

O Larry, dearest husband,
you bravely held the master's solos
to declare Messiah's message
so I could see your very soul
the masterpiece of God.

You ministered to me with song.

O daughter, dearest love,
you listened and you mimicked
to match my own voice and timbre
so we could sing together until you became
the instrument of God.

You ministered to me with song.

O Donny, spirit brother,
you sing and play with fervor
while I sit listening to God's word
wafting from the sanctuary
the comfort and power of God.

You ministered to me with song.

O all who raise their voices in praise,
you lift me from the depths
into the heights of heaven
as you proclaim over and over
the story of our God.

You ministered to me with song.

Day 116: My voice rises to God

Today's Reading: Psalm 73, 77, 78

I get up very early in the morning.

There are things you miss if you sleep in.

One of the beautiful morning sights at my home is the mist rising up from the lake as the sun rises.

It is hard to pass such beauty by without pausing in wonder.

Just as the mist rises up off the lake to blend into the air, so, I think, my voice rises to God when I pray.

People talk about prayer a lot in religious circles. They talk as if "prayer" itself is powerful. Phrases like "prayer changes things" kind of drive me crazy. "Prayer" doesn't change things; God's presence, grace, love and power changes things.

As I lift my misty voice to God in prayer, "my spirit ponders," as the Psalmist declares.

As my voice blends with the breath of God all around me, God reminds me of all the mighty acts of God.

In the midst of God, in God's presence, we are always aware of God's love and providence. Just as the mist rising from the lake causes us to pause, so does the awareness of God's presence.





Take it in...

Soak it up...

Rise, O my voice.

Rise and join breath to breath.

Rise, join and pause...

Be taken into the breath of God.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Day 115: Spiritual Genealogy

Today's Reading: 1 Chronicles 3-5

In Germany in the years prior to WW 1 it was a popular practice for families to hire genealogists to trace blood lines. The results of this research were then published in a book given to the family. This book was a cherished possession, not only as an historical documentation chronicling past generations but as a safeguard to prove family blood lines were pure from Jewish or "gypsy" blood. In the years prior to WW II, these books became invaluable for those who could prove their pure Aryan heritage.

These books were much like the book we have before us today--The Book of Chronicles. From Adam to Noah, Noah to Abraham, Abraham to Judah, Judah to David, generations are chronicled. Though the reading may seem dull and we tend to skip over the names, some group of people at some time took great efforts to save the history of this blood line.


Because for the Jewish people, the blood line, the BLOOD line, was an extremely important part of their identity. Purity of blood line increased the value of a person in the caste system. Who your father was determined your place in society.

The blood line was also important because as the 2nd commandment states, blessings and curses followed bloodlines. It was understood that the sins of the father played out in curses for 3 or 4 generations following but the blessings of God played out for thousands who loved the LORD. This biblical principle is called “spiritual genealogy.”

In 1866, an Augustinian friar, Gregor Mendel, after studying pea plants discovered what we now know as the beginning work in genetics. By 1925, it was believed that certain codes called ‘chromosomes’ were carried in the blood. These chromosomes determined the physical characteristics of a person. Experiments in the 1940’s and 50’s pointed to DNA which carried genes. And the rest is history. We now believe not only physical but psychological characteristics are carried by these genes.

So, if your parents and grandparents were gorgeous, smart and athletic, most likely you will be gorgeous, smart and athletic. If your parents and grandparents had a tendency toward addictions, certain diseases and psychological weaknesses, most likely you will be plagued with the same.

Blessings and curses.

Today, let's focus on two family lines, the first one is in chapter 5 of 1st Chronicles. This is the family of Reuben, the first born son of Jacob/Israel, the heir apparent of the blessings of his great grandfather, Abraham. Reuben’s line is not listed first in the genealogy. He is listed below his two younger brothers.
Why? Because “he defiled his father’s bed” (he slept with his father’s concubine) and thus his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel. Reuben’s lust became his idol that he put before the worship of, love of and obedience to God.
He lost the blessing to the thousands that followed him and his children received the cursing for 3 and 4 generations after him.

One chapter earlier, 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, we find these words in the midst of a long line of names:

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, "I gave birth to him in pain." Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." And God granted his request.

So what’s going on here?

A woman had a horrible, long and painful labor. In her agony, she cursed her child, naming him “sorrow,” or in our language, “pain in the rear." Every time this child was called by name, he heard the curse upon him.

Perhaps some of you know the life story of Jabez in your own lives. Perhaps you were called “stupid” or “ugly” or “worthless.” What is amazing about the prayer of Jabez is not the fact that in 2000, Bruce Wilkinson “discovered it” and millions of people were encouraged to “enlarge their territory” by praying this prayer like a mantra.

What is amazing about the prayer of Jabez is that from Jabez, a descendant of Judah and an ancestor of one named Jesus of Nazareth, we learn how to break the cycle of the generation curses. We call upon God and ask for the blessing. Generational curses can be broken!

When Jesus called God, Father, Jesus was referencing at some level his inheritance his identity, his heritage of blessing, his blood line. The reason the blood of Jesus is so important is not just the sacrificial blood which is so often emphasized, but the blessing aspect of the bloodline of Jesus. As we are adopted into the family of God, we become heirs of a new bloodline of blessing. As we claim Jesus as our brother and God as our Father, the curses of our physical state are broken and replaced with the blessings of our new spiritual genealogy.

Thus, as we are plagued with our own generational curses, we can recognize them and give them over to our heavenly Father in the name of Jesus and break the curse and walk into freedom.

So here's the truth.

In all of our our backgrounds each one of us probably has some generational curses and blessings.

Here's more truth.

Nothing is too horrible that the blood of blessing of our brother Jesus and the cup of blessing of our Heavenly Father cannot break. The only horrible thing is the pride that would keep it hidden.

So start today on your spiritual genealogy. Embrace the blessing with gratitude and ask God to break the curses. Let God set you free and clear out the generational curses so that your descendants might live in freedom also.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day 114: Talking to Myself

Today's Readings: Psalms 43-45, 49, 84-85, 87

The older I get, the more I find myself talking to myself.

Just the other day, as I was planting and mulching my herb bed, I spoke out loud to myself, inviting a conversation as to where to plant, how far apart to plant, and how to spread the mulch.

I address myself in the second person, sometimes to scold (You're wrong!), often to chide (now stop that!), and sometimes to compliment (good job, Sistah!)

In one of today's Psalms, the psalmist has a conversation with her/his soul. "Why are you downcast, O my soul?" What's your problem? Why are you feeling depressed? Snap out of it? "Put your hope in God." Quit looking at the circumstances and trust God to work this together for your good.

We talk to ourselves often in various ways. You can nose into these private conversations by reading people refrigerators and walls. You can hear people's "self talk" by checking out their bumper stickers and silently listening to them while they are going about a task.

I've done this. Though the wall and refrigerators usually speak volumes of philosophy, the most common self talking out loud tends to be in two categories: talking things out to work things out, or to say something derogatory, like "You dummy!" or "That was stupid."

I wonder if we can change our self talk from condemnation to phrases of hope.

What message does your soul need to hear from you today?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 113: The Family Tree

Today's Reading: 1 Chronicles 1-2

Today begins with an amazing genealogy, tracing the ancestry of David and the line of Israel all the way back to Adam.

I find this amazing for two reasons.

1. Many evolutionists claim "Adam" to be a symbolic creature depicting all of creation in a mythical story, but the Bible treats him as a real, flesh and blood person from whom real people sprung, and make a very good case for his actuality by naming his descendants.

2. The detailed and comprehensive listing of descendants is incredible, considering the lack of libraries, computers and museums which usually are the guardians of history. Imagine the oral tradition which was able to keep this list in tact.

The book of Chronicles lines out, in detail, an incredible family tree! We discover the generations from Adam to Noah, Noah to Abram, Abram to David. The listing uniquely shares Judah's descendants (the third son of Jacob/Israel) before Reuben's or Simeon's (Jacob's two first sons.) This has historical and theological explanations.

How far back do you know your family tree. On my mother's mother's side I know back to my great grandparents. On my dad's dad's side we have a book that tells us our family heritage back to the 15th century. But for David to have generation after generation listed is amazing.

Some names we recognize. Some name people who lived without another word about them but their name. Countless mothers and sisters go unnamed.

When I read lists like this, I generally want to skip over them and move on to a narrative section. But imagine the lives and the stories behind each name. Though we do not know them, God does.

God holds all of our histories

Day 112: Wet pillowcases

Today's Reading: Psalm 6, 8-10, 14, 16, 19, 21

What is it about the night, when after a horrible day--perhaps a huge disappointment, an argument with someone we love, an overwhelming grief--we find ourselves alone in bed crying silently into our pillows?

I have found myself in this common bed of lamenting several times in my life. It is a place of great despair and hopelessness. It feels as though the sun will never rise again, there will never again be the sound of laughter, that the world is lost and there is no one to rescue.

It is a comfort to me to know others have been in this same bed, drenching pillowcases like mine. David says, "I am worn out with my groaning...my eyes grow weak from crying out all my sorrows." He cries out with us, "Why do the wicked seem to succeed?" "All have turned aside; they are all corrupt!" "Won't they ever learn?"

When David was having one of these sleepless nights, the wet pillowcase must have moved him from his bed of mourning, outside the tent flaps, beyond the camp of despair, into the night. I can see him longing to return to the evenings, when as a shepherd, he rested his head upon a boulder and with his back pressed to the earth, looked up to gaze at the heavens.

There, under the stars, his cries and sorrows were quieted by the cricket's song and the breath of God through the trees. There his sobs were hushed as he laid on the bed of God's creation and looked up. "What am I, that you are even mindful of me?" he asks. "The heavens are declaring your glory."

I am small. You are in control. What do I need fear?

Our wet pillowcases should be our signal to move from sorrow into the night of God's calm. It will be hard, though, to throw off the heavy blanket of despair, to rise from the mattress, to put our walking shoes on our feet and open the door to new possibilities. It will take trust to silently walk into the night of vigil, away from the mourning couch. Our souls will have to quiet long enough to hear the still small voice of God, pouring forth speech without language, in a voice that cannot be heard.

But in our state of paralysis, the Holy One reaches out the Holy Hand and calls, "Rise, pick up your mat and walk."

Day111: Confused Loyalties

Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 1-4

The kingdom is divided. Saul's household is reigning over Israel and David has been named king of the tribe of Judah. As the people try to recover from the death of Saul and Jonathon, political leaders are vying for power. Loyalties are confused. Who is the enemy? Who do we pursue? Who is the comrade in battle? Who can we trust?

While everyone else is confused, David is very clear where he stands. He will not go against the household of Saul, "the LORD's anointed." While everyone else seems to think David would jump at the chance to overpower Saul's descendants in their weak state, David adamantly refuses.

Though Saul pursued David all his life and hoped to kill David, David never raised a hand against Saul or his household. When Saul died, David wept bitterly. When Saul's heir apparent also fell in battle, David did not see this as an opportunity to rejoice but lamented the loss of his dear friend, Jonathan.

During times of strife and transition, loyalties often get confused; when a worker has a new boss, when a new president takes office, when parents are getting a divorce. People connected to the chaotic system feel ill at ease, wondering with whom they should side.

David takes the high road and remains loyal to God and God's appointed leaders. This example is a challenge to most of us. Despite the foolishness of Saul, David never takes Saul's life into his own hands. He continues to do that which God called him to do and does not resort to political games.

I think we can learn something from this example.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 110: Woven to God

Today's Reading: Psalms 121, 123-125, 128-130

The words of these Psalms are so beautiful. The Psalmist's life is totally reliant upon God for all that is good, peaceful and beautiful. These Psalms inspire me to write my own Psalm.

From your beloved Lamb, O Lord,
You have shorn pure wool.
From my back,
you take the spotty and diseased tresses.

With your fingers you card the wool,
With the sharp wire of your discipline,
You have brushed my wool clean
and removed the lice and stench of sin.

Stretch me, O God, and straighten my knots.
Twist me into your beloved Lambs strands
To support and strengthen my weakness
Until I am one with Him.

Spin me closely into the straight and narrow.
Pull and rub me between your fingers.
Dye me with crimson.
Transform my dullness into your beauty.

Now weave me into your plan
Set me into your tapestry.
Allow my praise
to adorn the halls of your eternal home.

Clothe me in the garment of praise
The garment of the wedding feast.
Do not allow me to enter
Until you yourself have dressed me.

Then sit me in my place
That I might dine at your table
And eat of your manna
And drink of the cup of blessing.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 109: The hook...

Today's Reading: 1 Samuel 28-31; Psalm 18

There is an interesting psychological phenomenon. Sometimes the very thing we hope to destroy is the very thing we want to cling to. What we passionately hate is sometimes something that hooks us.

My spiritual director shared a bit of this with me when she was teaching me about people who complain about or judge others. She said, "You spot it, you got it." In other words, if you can spot an issue in someone's life, it is probably in your life too.

This paradoxical way of thinking has been very clear in most wars. The very people men seem to hate are the ones to whom they run for sexual pleasures. Thus, during the time of slavery in the south, plantation owners would have Negresses as mistresses. During Nazi Germany, the commanders of the war would take on Jewish mistresses, the very people they called "scum."

In today's scripture, Saul has abolished witchcraft and has sent mediums packing. And yet, when God refuses to talk with Saul he disguises himself and turns to the very people he hates for counsel and advice.

Saul is superstitious; it is his nature. He needs to be assured of what he is doing. The superstition has more hold on him than his virtue to be pure from witchcraft.

So what hooks you?

Often when people are adamant about alcohol, somewhere in their history, they have a story. The same is true for sexual sins, anger issues, etc. If a person is raging and very upset about something, it is probably connected to a weakness in their historical line. The things we often hope to avoid are the very things to which we are weak...They hook us.

Paul talks about this. He says, The very things I do not want to do are the very things I end up doing.

Saul hated sorcery and witchcraft, condemned mediums and wizards to death, and yet in his weakness, where did he go?

To the witch of Endor.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 108: The written prayer

Today's Reading: Psalm 17, 35, 54, 63

Did you ever wonder how we received all these prayers of David? For sure, there was no one sitting there with a tape recorder and a microphone. I doubt someone sat at his knee as he prayed and took down dictation. I'm wondering if David had a prayer journal, or scroll, that he pulled out during the morning hours or quiet evenings by the fire.

By reading David's prayers, we not only see into his character and his struggle, we receive help with our own prayer life. We can identify with David and his words can become our words.

The Psalms have ministered to people all over the world for many generations. Their value is beyond value. All because someone wrote them down and preserved them for us.

Have you ever thought of the value of your own character, struggle and prayers? Imagine your children or grandchildren or friends having the opportunity to see your struggles and prayers in naked form. Might God use your prayer life to strengthen someon who comes behind you in this life.

Consider a prayer journal. It doesn't need to be anything fancy. You don't have to write in it everyday. But consider writing out your prayers. Who knows how God might use them?

Day 107: A true Helpmate

Today's Reading: 1 Samuel 25-27

In the second creation story of Genesis, God makes a Helpmate for man and thus the role of women is created. A helpmate in scripture is a military term; it literally means "one who guards your back."

In today's reading, we hear of a foolish, hard hearted man named Nabal who is too busy with the affairs of his life to offer the expected hospitality to one who asks for it. By offending David in this way, Nabal opens himself up to a severe conflict. Abigail, Nabal's wife, goes behind his back, brings food to David, pleads on her husband's behalf and saves the entire household.

Many in the past have connected "helpmate" to "obedient doormat." The wedding vows of long ago demanded the wife vow to "obey" her husband, but did not require the same of the husband. Paul speaks of "mutual submission" as the secret to a joyous marriage in Christ.

Imagine what would have happened if Abigail would have "obeyed" her husband. His entire life would have been destroyed. All his property, friends, servants, children.

David commends and blesses Abigail for restraining David and for her "discernment."(5:33)

Sometimes, in order to protect someone you love and to preserve peace, you must restrain someone and use your discernment. Love does not just let people do what they please. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do for another person is to disagree with them and act against their will.

It is important, though, to see the other virtuous qualities Abigail displayed.

1. She acted immediately (25:18)
2. She met the initial need (25: 18)
3. She was humble (25: 23)
4. She was willing to pay the price for another's wrong (25: 24)
5. She named the problem (25: 25-27)
6. She asked for forgiveness even though she had done nothing wrong; she acknowledge the wrong done and asked on behalf of another (25:28)
7. She informed her husband of what she did on his behalf (25:37)

Abigail was a peacemaker and because of her help, she and her household were blessed.

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God."
Matthew 5:9

Day 106: When I am afraid...

Today's Readings: Psalms 56, 120, 140-142

When I was a little girl, I would hide under my bed when I was afraid. Though it was a tight fit, it seemed to be a place where nothing could reach me. It seemed to be a place in another world. Under my bed, the springs were so close, they scratched my nose. I could hear my own breathing.

Despite David's prowess with weapons, he had times when he was afraid. He wrote down his fears in his prayers to God which make up a big chunk of our Psalter. His world has gone topsy turvy.

When I speak peace, they speak war.

My friends turn on me.

My spirit is overwhelmed within me.

Bring my soul out of prison.

When we are afraid, hiding under our emotional beds, our worlds get very small and limited. Life gets so close and in our face. We cannot see a bright future. There seems to be no escape.

David names all the feelings that swirl around fear. And God saved these words for us so that we might know others of faith faced the same emotion.

Amazingly, every Psalm lifts up a faith statement:

In God I put my trust.

I cried to the LORD, and he answered me.

I know the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted.

My eyes are toward you, O God, the LORD.

You are my refuge.

Perhaps it is the faith in God that causes the LORD's arm to reach into our dark spaces under the bed and bring us out again into life.

Day 105: Trust and Refuge

Today's Reading Psalms 7, 27, 31, 34, 52

These Psalms of David reflect his years in the rocks and crevasses of cliffs as he tries so hard to be faithful to a king who hates him and survive in a land that bears very little vegetation.

In you, O Lord, I put my trust.

In you, O Lord, do I seek refuge.

The Hebrew word chacah means both trust and refuge and thus, different translations use the words interchangeably.

Trust and Refuge.

When I trust someone, I know she will follow through on her word. I know he will love me despite my failings. I know they can be counted on through thick and thin.

When I think of refuge, I think of a safe place of protection, a place I can go and be healed or guarded.

David saw God as his trust and refuge. David did not take vengeance or vindication into his own hands, but avoided his enemy, stayed true to his integrity and continued to do right in the eyes of God. David expected God to protect him.

So I have to ask myself, what or whom do I trust and where do I see refuge.

I do trust God and at times, when I feel threatened, I seek refuge in God. But I also put my trust in things that are shaky--things like my own abilities and gumption. And at times, I take refuge in activities that aren't necessarily the healthiest.

What does it take for us to run to God for trust and refuge? Perhaps it is when our lives are threatened in some way, like David's was.

When we run to God, we have to face ourselves. David asks, Did I do anything to cause this? Is there any injustice in me?

This wrestling puts us naked before God. We don't like to be naked, especially when we have something hiding in our pockets. Some secret sin. Some thought that is not true. Some action done in the dark.

It's hard to be naked, but perhaps that is the best place to be.

Naked in the arms of the God whom we can trust to protect and save us.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Day 104: Distracted and defiled

Today's Reading: 1 Samuel 21-24

The story of David and Saul is such a sad one. David comes across as a sort of Robin Hood, hiding in the wilderness with his band of "distressed, those in debt and discontented." (22:2) Instead of Friar Tuck, there is Ahimelech, the priest. David is even able to be a master of disguise as he poses before an enemy king as a madman. Jonathon is still his great ally and friend. Saul, despite the issues of the kingdom, is obsessed with chasing after David.

Saul is facing enemies on two fronts; the physical and the relational. He spends his time poorly, chasing after a shepherd familiar with the hill country and caves and killing priest, when there is a kingdom to be established and a more threatening enemy to curtail.

One of the two main commandments is "love your neighbor as yourself."

Relationships are so important. Keeping them clean and, not only intact but, strong is essential in order to do the tasks God has set out for each of us every day. If our main relationships are broken, we are distracted from the LORD's true work in our lives.

"Don't let the sun go down on your anger."

This is good advice from God's word. Imagine what would have happened for Saul and David had Saul figured out that David was for him, not against him. He could have used their joint energy to clear the land of the Philistines. No matter what everyone else saw, that is, David's faithfulness, Saul would not believe it. His idol had become his own popularity and pride, and the more he tried to defend it, the more it slipped from his hands.

Jealousy distracts and defiles us, just as having relations with women would have weakened and defiled David's men in battle. (21:4-6) When we are focusing on building up our own kingdom instead of God's, we lose out on feasting on the Bread of the Presence.

Most of us are fighting battles that are silly and avoidable, ones of our own making, while the true calling of the LORD is being ignored or given less attention.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Day 103: Jealousy, Anger and Fear

Today's Reading: 1 Samuel 18-20, Psalm 11, 59

Imagine how Saul felt.

First his son thinks so highly of David that he honored him greatly. Then, "the people" make over David; "young women" begin lauding David and comparing him favorably over and against Saul. Finally, Saul's own daughter falls madly in love with this charismatic, handsome young man.

Saul reads the writing on the wall. David is not only more popular than Saul, David's fame is abundant and intoxicating to everyone David meets.

Saul is jealous and angry.

He wants the kudos and the glory. He doesn't want to share his position and popularity with anyone. He has struggled so hard to keep the people on his side, and along comes a young man who seems to have everything going for him.

Saul is mad. Saul is so mad, so angry, he wants to kill--murder--David and anyone who stands up for David.

But at the heart of all this jealousy and anger is fear.

Fear is the root.

Saul no longer has the clout. Saul no longer has God's favor. Saul is scared to death!

But Saul cannot acknowledge his fear, so his fear comes out in jealousy and anger.

One of the things I have learned by observing and counseling people for many, many years is this. The root of anger is fear. The root of jealousy is fear. The root of bullying and manipulation is fear. The root of a person's need to hate or control is fear.

Fear is at the center of sin. It wears many masks but at its heart it presents the same challenges and brokenness.

It is interesting to note what angels and other heavenly being say when they greet created humans.

"Do not fear."

"Fear not."

If fear were out of the equation, imagine how much better we could love one another and God. If we were truly secure in our relationship with God, we would not fear at all.

So here's a suggestion.

The next time someone is angry with you, instead of playing the tit for tat game, ask yourself, "what are they afraid of?"

The next time you feel anger or jealousy, bitterness or hate, step back from the emotion and try to figure out the underlying fear.

It usually is deeply related to how others will view you, or some sort of other threat.

It might open your eyes to your own brokenness in just the very spot God has been wanting to heal for a long time.

Let God, then, be your refuge and your strength, instead of your anger, jealousy, bitterness or hate.

Can you imagine how freeing that might be?

Day 102: Nacah

Today's Reading: 1 Samuel 15-17

Every craftsman, artist and worker--anyone who uses a tool in their labors--has something in common. They all know that a good tool makes all the difference in the ease and outcome of their work.

I am a cook. It is worth my hard earned money to have good knives. My kitchen tools are invaluable to me. They save me time and frustration.

I am a painter. A good brush, despite the cost, is worth its value in gold. It allows my strokes to be accurate and brings great joy.

I am a writer. When my computer is on the fritz, I am out of commission. When I can't locate my good resources, I go bonkers.

I am a nurse. Accurate equipment and pure medicines make a difference in my vocation. Gloves that are weak, needles with burrs, impure medicines are not only annoying, they can be dangerous and life threatening.

Ask any woodworker, farmer, teacher, lawyer, business person and they will tell you tools, reliable co-workers, organized sources and responsible parties make life a joy.

The word for the day is nacah. It means "tested and proved." It appears in 1 Samuel 17:39, but I think it is a theme in today's reading.

Saul tries to give David his armor, but David refuses to use it because, as he says, "I cannot go with this armor for I have not tested--nacah--it."

David knew and trusted his slingshot and stones. They had served him well in the past and he knew they would respond in a way he could trust. His tools were faithful---tested and proved reliable. They were nacah.

But this theme is introduced earlier in our reading.

God was testing Saul to see if he proved reliable--nacah.

God gave Saul a simple command. Go, fight, annihilate, bring nothing back.

But Saul did something we know from the book of Judges is dangerous. He "did not do as the LORD commanded" and instead "did what was right in his own eyes." The Bible calls this meree--rebellion or disobedience. God tested Saul, as a tool in God's hand, and as a tool, Saul failed. Saul could not be trusted. So God went looking for a more trustworthy tool. God basically said about Saul what David said about the strange armor.

I cannot go with this man for he does not pass the test.

I cannot trust him.

The questions of the day are these: When God tells you to do something, how much do you shape the command to your own way of thinking? When God picks you up as a tool in God's hand, how trustworthy are you? When God tests you, do you prove to be faithful?

Most of us who love the LORD want to be used by the LORD. We want to be where the action is. We have great enthusiasm to be laborers in the vineyard. But God doesn't like unreliable and irresponsible tools in God's hand any more than I like a dull knife, a paint brush that splays, a computer that crashes or a pair of surgical gloves that tear and ruin a sterile field. Just as I throw worthless tools aside and grab for ones that will consistently do the job right the first time, "God sees not as [someone who is inexperienced sees], for [that person] looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart;" (1 Samuel 16:7) God looks at the nacah.

If we who are sinful can discern a faithful tool, a faithful co-worker, a faithful friend, a faithful spouse, how much more will God be able to discern those in his creation who are not rebellious but obedient, tested and proved.

May we be nacah as God employs us in the work of the Kingdom.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day 101: Chaos and confusion

Today's Reading: 1 Samuel 13-14

There are many good books written today on effective leadership. The two chapters we have read today are on bad leadership.

Saul leads the people in fear. Emotions rule his heart. He is impatient, brash, and makes radical vows and oaths without considering the consequences. The result? Chaos and confusion!

It is hard to keep track of what is happening in these chapters due to the chaotic battle plans. The people sense this and start to wane in their support. They do not respect Saul's leadership; he cannot muster confidence in them.

Saul is not a good leader. Though his name and his stature hail him as hearty and strong, his leadership proves otherwise. Jonathon, his son, seems to have the better military sense and more common sense. Imagine the frustration of this son having to serve under his father.

Yet serve he does. Jonathon continues at Saul's side despite Saul's erratic nature. Jonathon tries to appease the other soldiers and even yields to his father's bizarre decree to curse whomever eats before battle.

So what do you do when you must serve under a bad leader? How do you keep your cool and avoid adding fuel to the fire, adding chaos and confusion?

I'm going to keep my eye on Jonathon. He seems like the only one in the family who has his act together.

What do you think?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Day 100: Tall, dark and handsome

Today's Reading: 1 Samuel 9-12

The people wanted a king. They got one.

He goes out looking for donkeys (there are those funny donkeys again) and comes home covered with the anointing oil of the king. Yet the young man is so terrified, he hides in the baggage so he doesn't have to face the crowd.

The people wanted to look good in the eyes of their neighbors so God gives them a tall, dark and handsome man who really presents as a buffoon in many ways. They have their "movie star" and we think all will start to maybe iron out a bit, but there are clouds on the horizon.

Saul has ecstatic fits of prophecy. If one steps back from his life, one would almost label him with bi-polar disorder (manic/depressive.) He will also develop some jealousy which presents as paranoia. And if that isn't enough, he gets involved in the occult.

But oops, I'm getting ahead of myself.

God offers a tall handsome specimen and the people buy into it hook, line and sinker! It's as if God says to them, "You want a king? Well, here you go."

And there they go...right back into a slavery position.

I guess freedom is just a little too hard for most people to handle.

Day 99: Isn't God good enough?

Today's Reading: 1 Samuel 4-8

The ark of the covenant gets captured. This holy piece of the tabernacle has been stupidly removed as a good luck charm and is captured by the enemy. It should have never left the tabernacle. It should have never been used as a token symbol. It was used as an idol. It enveloped the presence of God.

So the captured trophy is in enemy territory. But what happens? It seems God is able to defend God's self. The power behind, within and upon the ark starts to wreak havoc in every town. Israel's enemies begin playing "hot potato" with the presence of God, all hoping the "music will not be up" when the ark is in their "lap."

Though the Israelites really messed up by going out on their own and using God, God will not be used. God also does not need defending. God seems to be able to take care of himself! Though the enemies of Israel are superstitious, God is real.

What amazes me is that after all become afraid of the power of God in their midst, Israel has the gall to say, we don't want God as our leader any more; we want a KING@ God has proved God's love, faithfulness, wrath and power over and over again, and yet, Israel basically says, "Being led by God isn't good enough for us."

Despite Samuel's warnings, the Israelites stubbornly go the way their head is pointed. "The people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel."

Why are we so stubborn?

Why don't we listen?

Why do we go our own way?

When will we learn?

I feel like we are headed for disaster.

Here we go again...

When will we understand/comprehend that God is not only good enough, only God can fill the desire of our heart?

Day 98: From Ramathaim-zophim to Shiloh

Today's Reading: 1 Samuel 1-3

If given the choice, which would you choose?

Fame, recognition and the heights of life?

Or a lower place of refuge and peace?

Now before you answer real quickly, consider the pros and cons of each. Most young people would choose the first, hand's down. To have success, to be on top, to be the "big man on campus" is the goal of many people. Accolades, honors, people looking up to you; that's pretty big stuff! Imagine not being the peon but the boss.

Of course with success comes responsibility, pressure, stress, and accountability. When you're on the top, you always have to be on the look out for people who might want your position. You have to "guard your turf."

The latter choice is usually chosen by those who are older. They've seen the challenges of fame and comprehend the simplicity of a nice life of peace, free from conflict and controversy. The energy needed to get to the top and then to stay on the top is exhausting. Peace and tranquility? Now that is a very attractive option.

You might be wondering why I'm blogging about these things instead of talking about Elkanah and Hannah and Baby Samuel, all of whom are involved in a miraculous birth and a wonderful Biblical story of call. So let me explain.

In the very first verse of the very first chapter of 1 Samuel, we read about two places: Ramathaim-zophim and Shiloh. I think the names of these two towns foreshadow the truth to be spoken in 1 and 2 Samuel.

Ramathaim-zophim means "a high place where one must watch out and be alert against the enemy." We start with a conflict between two wives, one who is able to bear children but is not favored and one who is favored but barren. In the world's eye, Peninnah, the fruitful wife is high and lifted up. But she is wary of her rival, Hannah. She is on top but must be on the look out to make sure Hannah doesn't take over. She is blessed with children, but feels very precarious in her high position. Even though she has children, she provokes her rival and bitterly irritates Hannah.

Shiloh means "the place of refuge." Hannah, the lower wife, can only find peace in prayer in the town of Shiloh. Despite her husband's favor, she seeks peace and refuge in the LORD.

Later, Eli, the high priest who lives in the place of authority, power, and status, is usurped by a lowly little boy named Samuel who becomes the great prophet for whom this section of Hebrew history is named. Still later, Saul, the first king of Israel, feels jealous and threatened by a lowly shepherd boy.

Status and being on top of the world are powerful and seductive idols. Having everything go right, being at the top of your game, and receiving rewards, honors and kudos is a rush. Living dependently and humbly is not our usual first choice. Thus it is important to learn from the people of these next readings, so we might comprehend their wisdom and walk the road of Shiloh.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Day 97: Imagine the vulnerability!

Today's Reading: Ruth

The story of Ruth is so familiar, but read in the midst of our chronological readings after yesterday's story, it has a whole new ring to it. Perhaps the better word is a resounding gong of vulnerability.

First of all, I wonder if Elimelech knew the girl from his town whose story we know from the last chapters of Judges. After all, it is during the same time period and Bethlehem could not have been so large that all those battles and the terror of one of their own would have been missed or at least recalled.

As if war wasn't enough, now famine. The people of scripture had hard, hard lives. The trip from Bethlehem to Moab took between 7-10 days. The elevation changed by about 2,000 feet and the Jordan river would need to be traversed. It was a journey of "retreat," not restful retreat, battle weary retreat.

Then, just when life is looking good and prosperous, Elmelech and his two sons die, leaving the women (and we know the vulnerability of women now) all alone. Back they tread, Naomi and her now foreign daughter-in-laws. Seven to ten days without protection, a band of mixed races, headed back to an impoverished land. No wonder Naomi called herself bitter.

I wonder what they faced along the way. I wonder what they faced upon return. I wonder what they planned as they walked along, or if all they could do was to put one foot in front of the next.

Imagine the tenacity of these women!

Nowadays, we get grumpy and complain when our heating or cooling system goes on the blink. We get all out of sorts if we have to wait in traffic while we wait in airconditioned cars with radio or iPod entertaining us. We turn up our noses at bruised fruit in the grocery store. We get all excited if we walk a couple of miles a day. We get afraid at night, lock our doors and carry mace in our purses.

Imagine their vulnerability!

Can we even begin to enter this story?

As an educated, middle class, professional woman, I cannot imagine how I would face what they faced. And yet, there are women in this world who are just as vulnerable.

Thank you, God, for watching over Naomi and Ruth. Thank you for including their story in your Holy Word. Thank you for honoring them with a child who became the distant grandparent of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

And Lord, though this is selfish, thank you for the life you have given me. Forgive and correct me when I am ungrateful. Bring my awareness to those who are truly vulnerable.

Day 96: A horrible story

Today's Reading: Judges 19-21

The story today must be a very ancient story. We hear echoes of a previous story which occurred in Sodom. A man is visiting a city and other men come to rape the visitor. Instead of going out and dealing with the rapers, they send women out as sacrifice. In today's story a woman is gang raped all night and left dead on a door stoop.

She is then cut up into 12 pieces and a piece of her body is sent to the twelve tribes to invoke rage and encourage solidarity in battle. Next, Judah's tribe goes against the tribe of Benjamin who will not give up the perpetrators of the crime. Many lives are lost on both sides. Finally, the tribe of Benjamin is almost annihilated, daughters from neighboring tribes are withheld and so it seems the tribe of Benjamin will die out.

Thus, Benjamin's tribe are given "permission" to raid and kidnap innocent girls from Shiloh to become their wives. Thus ends the book of Judges with the words, "There was no king in Israel in those days, and every man did wahtever was right in his own eyes."

This story shows huge disrespect for women, plain and simple.

Though read in ancient times as a story against familial fighting and a case to do whatever was needed to keep one of the tribes of Israel going, we truly see the inherant violence possible when people are left lawless and thus to their own devices.

How would a 6th and 7th grade Sunday School class hear this story? Since all scripture is applicable for teaching, exhorting and building up, what would be the lesson here in these words which seem so unholy, and yet are a part of our faith text?

Today, I cry for the unnamed girl from Bethlehem and all women who are grabbed solely for the purpose of using their bodies to produce offspring or provide sexual favors. It is very difficult to imagine a plight like this, and yet, there are sisters all around the world who are treated in such a manner, raised knowing this is the expectation of their culture.

Surely, this was not God's intent when in the garden of Eden he took a rib from Adam's side and made a "helpmate," a "defender" for Adam.

Lord, today we pray against all the violence against young girls and women. When will it end, Lord, when will it end? Clear out all evil thoughts, pornography, abuse and raping from our society and minds. Create in us clean hearts, O God.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Day 95: Don't they get it?

Today's Reading: Judges 16-18

There are phrases in the book of Judges we hear over and over again:

There was not king at this time...
People did what was right in their own eyes...
Idols, idols, idols...

We hear about some of these Judges and wonder, "How did he get the job? He seems fairly stupid."

One cannot read the story of Samson and Delilah and not wonder, "what was he thinking?" Not once, not twice, not even three times after being deceived does he learn he cannot trust Delilah. What is going on here? Doesn't he get it? Can he not learn from his experiences?

Perhaps his excuse is an excuse in the newspapers this past week--sexual addiction. This judge of the people of Israel seems like an out of control testosterone bomb. He can't seem to keep a wife, he goes out whoring on a frequent basis and he gives away his most precious secrets to someone known to be untrustworthy. Not a good candidate for leadership.

Speaking of leadership, in the next chapters we read about the household of Micah with all its religious paraphernalia. Ephods from the priests at the tabernacle mixed with idols of the land. How often do they need to be told, "No idols," before they get it? Micah sets up his own priesthood and then hires his own family priest from the Levitical tribe. Haven't they been reading their Bibles? Don't they get it?

It is easy to sit back and judge the people of the Bible whose lives are laid out for us to read. It is as if we are the jury, hearing the condensed story of wrongs all in the period of one or two chapters.

I wonder what it would be like for me if I were in the book of Judges...

What foolishness is apparent in my life? What are my mistake patterns which are obvious to everyone else but not to me? Where are my idols which get mixed up with my faith? Where is my disobedience? Where are my flaws?

Where don't I "get it?"

Each did what was right in her own eyes.

That pretty much describes everyone of us, doesn't it?

Dear Lord, show me the idols of my life and set me on solid ground. Knock down all the false places and kill off what is evil within me. Create in me a clean heart, O God.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Day 94: Teach us, O Lord, how to raise this child

Today's Reading: Judges 13-15

Perhaps the most famous of all judges in scripture is Samson. His birth is prophesied by an angel of the LORD, he is born of a barren woman, and limited in his diet and grooming...sound familiar? Foreshadowing of John the Baptist?

An what is his parents' prayer?

Teach us, O Lord, how to raise this child.

This is the prayer of every parent at one time or another. We find ourselves struggling with parenthood, with the "gift" of the child given to us to raise.

And the Spirit of the Lord was upon him...especially when exposed to the pomp of parades and warfare. Like every young man, when he came of age, he found beauty in women especially tempting. Who does he fall for? A girl from the enemy nation, a Philistine woman. Against his parents urging, he bullheadedly runs forward toward his prize.

Teach us, O Lord, how to raise this child.

Here is a young man of promise who begins using his God given gifts for his own pleasure. A lion is slain, bets are made, jokes are played.

Teach us, O Lord, how to raise this child.

Samson trusts the wrong people, is betrayed by his wife, and has a hay day with foxes and torches, wreaking vengeance.

Teach us, O Lord, how to raise this child.

One begins to wonder if the angel of the LORD prophesied righteously and whether or not God was hearing the parents' prayer.

Teach us, O Lord, how to raise this child.

As our reading comes to a close today, the jury is still out. Samson is ruling, but not effectively. God is listening to this brash young man, but one wonders how long it will last.

And I wonder if the parents are still praying.

Teach us, O Lord, how to raise this child.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Day 93: Donkey riders

Today's Reading: Judges 10-12

Okay, I give up!

What's with all the donkey riding sons?

The passages for today start with thirty donkey riding sons and ends with forty sons and thirty grandsons all riding around on donkeys! It brings to mind a picture of ancient gangs who are riding donkeys instead of Harleys!

Perhaps there was peace during the judgeships of Jair and Abdon because they had their sons serve as itinerant judges, roaming around and keeping every dispute under control.

Whatever is going on, I must say, these kind of verses make me pause; they hook me. They make me wonder what is going on or if I am missing anything important by discounting them as "silly."

And yet, think of this: an entire man's life is summarized in the Bible by the fact that his sons were donkey riders.

It makes me wonder if my whole life was to be summarized into one verse of the Bible, what would God choose for me? or for you?

So far, in Judges, sideline people made the script by requesting a well for an inheritance, being a whore's son, marrying an uncle, standing up against idolatry and making a horrible vow.

So here's an exercise for today: Summarize your life in one sentence.

I guess that's what happens when people carve grave markers. "Wife of so-and-so." "Veteran of the war." "Father and mother." "Beloved daughter."

There's a part of me that would like something said about me which is a bit more unique.

But, perhaps, it would be best if I wasn't mentioned at all.

Donkey riders...I'll have to think more about that one.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A 92nd Day Meditation

Today I pray with Jesus
in garden dark with pain

Today I walk with Jesus
and see him now arraigned

Today I cry for Jesus
all this he did for me

Today I wait for Jesus
while dying on the tree

Today I see my Jesus
his love in full array

Today I hope for Jesus
for resurrection day

Day 92: Thorn King

Today's Reading: Judges 8-9

Hero worship is common when a people are desperate and long for someone to make things right. The people of Israel feel the unrest of trying to possess the promised land. They want a king like the nations around them. They love their heroes and think a king is the solution to all their problems.

Gideon speaks a phrase which will be repeated later in 1 Samuel: "I will not be your king, nor will my son; the LORD is your King!" (8:23)

An interesting parable told by Jotham follows in chapter 9. An olive tree, a fig tree and a grapevine, the three staple products of Israel, refuse leadership for they are busy producing fruit. Only the thorn bush, which is worthless, says yes to kingship, demanding worship and promising death to those who do not obey.

The LORD is your King!

This passage has poignancy today as I read the Passion narrative in John. Pilate and Jesus have a long discussion about kingship and kingdoms. Pilate, a puppet of Caesar's, seems to be uncomfortable with position of judge, especially when dealing with the Truth King---a king whose very nature is to provide the staple needs for his subjects, even to die for them.

Isn't it interesting how they mock Jesus with the crown of thorns, the appropriate crown for a false king, but not for the King of the Universe.

Any in leadership, heed this parable! Power is not given to lord over and demean those under you. Follow in the footsteps of the Servant King, who humbled himself and continued to give the olive oil of gladness, the sweet fig fruit of love and the crushed grapes of the cup of blessing.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Day 91: From farmer to warrior

Today's Reading: Judges 6-7

Once again, Israel is under siege; they are being ravaged.

A local farm boy is trying to secretly take care of his crop, threshing wheat in a wine press.

Life has been made more difficult. Everything is displaced. Normal activities must make a shift. People feel like aliens on their own land. It's time to hide in the bunker and hope the stored food and bottled water doesn't run out.

In the midst of all this confusion, an angel appears and speaks what seems to be "crazy talk."

"The Lord is with you, Mighty Warrior."

Gideon looks around to see if there is someone else in the room to whom this address is made. "Who, me? Sorry, you must have dialed the wrong number. You definitely have the wrong guy."

Sometimes, in the midst of the most chaotic times of our lives, God bursts in to our hiding places and calls us into the center of the battle, the center of the storm raging around us. This is such a shock to us. We can't believe this game plan. We want proof if we are going to risk pulling our heads out of the sand to confront the very thing we fear the most.

For some reason, God is very patient during the transition. Instead of wiping Gideon out for unbelief and a need for proof, God willingly proves God's self and God's call to Gideon. All along the proving period, God woos Gideon with some very loving, strong promises.

The LORD is with you.

I will be with you.

We will do this together.

I will wait for you.

Peace! Do not be afraid.

You are not going to die.

With very few men, I am going to give you victory.

What I love about this story is this. A farmer, who loved the land is called to be a warrior. But what are the weapons in this warrior's arsenal?

Humility before his Creator.

Courage to knock down idols.

Dreams which inspire a people.

A trumpet, a clay pot and a lit torch.

And one more "weapon."

Worshipping the true God...

Day 90: Bring on the gore!

Today's Reading: Judges 3-5

The book of Judges is a favorite of pre-adolescent boys. All the war, all the gore, all the heroic, edgy drama.

In today's reading we can find all the things young teenage boys love:

Violence and war (3:2)
Heroes who make really cool weapons (3:16)
Stealth and intrigue (3:17-20)
Fat villains who get it in the gut (3:21-22)
Bathroom talk (3:24-25)
Great escapes (3:26-27)
Really gory, explicit deaths (4:21)

While mothers and young girls shake their heads at the book of Judges and try to make it more palatable by theologizing, boys (and grown up boys) secretly cheer on the heroes, secretly cry for more blood and gore, secretly say a strong "YES!" as they read these stories.

Why do boys and men have this passion for adventure/action flicks?

The hormone, testosterone, which is 10 times higher in the adult male than in the adult female, is the major reason. Testosterone supports muscle growth, decreases fat and encourages aggression in the human male. It is essential in the reproductive process and maintenance in the function of the male brain.

When testosterone is not under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, all hell can break loose. Violence, anger, rage, extreme aggression, overbearing strength, sexual activity out of control.

All these things are very hard for women to confront with much success.

Under the control of the Holy Spirit, testosterone becomes every woman's dream of the perfect male: strong, brave, confident, protective, nurturing, seeker of justice and truth.

In the book of Judges, God teaches men war. God fills men with the Holy Spirit to battle other men who are not under God's control. Men who back down from the challenge of fighting others who are out of control are mocked. When women have to step up to the plate, men are shamed.

Do I understand all this? No.

Do I see this played out daily in society? Yes.

Do I have any answers about this or a better idea? No.

This one is a mystery to me, a Pandora's box. As a female, I hate gore, I hate violence, I hate war. I always wonder if all the gore is truly necessary.

Why did Cain have to kill Abel?

Why didn't they sit down for tea and talk it out?

Day 89: One Generation

Today's Reading Judges 1-2

"...another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done..."
Judges 2:10

I along with some other wonderful workers have been getting ready for a Seder meal at our church. We have worked very hard to make this a wonderful event for our church, especially our children. We have decorated, worked on an interesting program, are cooking up a storm and have prepared crafts in order to teach our children about Passover and Holy Week.

We want to let our children know who God is and what God has done for us. It is holy work we are doing. It is important work. We cannot make our children have faith in or love for the LORD, but we can tell the stories over and over again.

And so we do.

The effort is worth it. It doesn't matter that we could be doing something else with our time. Teaching our children the faith is our primary concern, because the faith is only one generation away from extinction.

The faith is only one generation away from extinction.

And here's something that makes the passing of our faith even more difficult. Faith is not taught, it is caught. And there are no guarantees that the next generation will come to faith, in fact, the opposite is more likely.

According to the book of Judges, when the next generation does not know the LORD or what God has done, they turn to evil and idolatry. This makes God angry and God turns aside from them. Life goes down the tubes. The next generation faces huge possibilities of distress.

Thankfully, the LORD raises up people who "save them out of the hands of the raiders," those who would pillage our children's souls. "Yet, they (might not) listen."

Ah...good ole free will.

Judges talks a lot about good leadership and what a difference it makes. But it talks more about human nature--our distractability, our fickle nature, our bent toward disobedience.

In many ways, one generation is not much different from the previous or the one to follow.

Lord, help us.

Lord, preserve us.

Lord, keep us.

Thankfully, God's nature does not change. God's focus is sharp, God is faithful and God's bent is toward loving us.

For all God has done, I am trully grateful.

Thanks be to God.