You know better

22 10 2012

You know the persistent song-in-your-head phenomenon?  It’s not always a song you like, but it’s on loop. These two lines have been my loop this week :

“I’ve let go the need to know why,
For you know better than I.”

Are you with me in finding these hard lines to sing truthfully?  I always know better – don’t you?  It started young for me and  I can remember the vibes of frustration from my parents when I doggedly stuck to my point of view and refused to pay attention to theirs.  I knew better then; I know better now.

Then there’s the “why” question.  That starts young too, as anyone who’s ever met a three year old knows. And I have a theory that three year olds don’t really want an answer their “why” questions. And to be honest, we run out of steam and don’t want to give the answer.(Question: why do I need to wear a coat?  Answer: Because it’s cold outside. Q: Why? A: Because it’s winter. Q: Why? A: Because it is. Q: Why?… you know the scene.)

What does the child want with the asking?  It’s a way of maintaining engagement with the adult, drawing them into their world, seeking to build the relationship. But when I ask “why” of God, it’s often just the opposite. It’s a selfish  “why me?” question – sub-text “you don’t care, it’s not fair, I hate you.” It’s that kind of “why” that we need to let go of. And God? He wants to maintain the relationship. He is always good. He knows better than I.

So what about Joseph, King of Dreams?  The Bible narrative doesn’t let us inside his private world. Though the Dreamworks film gives him the song to sing, exploring faith and hope, it’s only a guess about what may have been going through his mind.  It’s not until Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers that we get a hint of his faith – “God sent me here” (Genesis 45:5-7).  That’s a confident faith statement to the family who had exiled him into slavery. It’s a big picture view that must have allowed Joseph hope in the dark times (“But maybe knowing
I don’t know is part of getting through”), and confidence of his being God’s man in Egypt.

Joseph’s faith results in status and prosperity and although there must have been the temptation to taunt his brothers with, “I told you so,” he has grown out of that cocky know it all attitude  into the man who is used by God to provide for his family and, in the broader scheme, to preserve the people of God.

Were the tough times worth it? I think Joseph would have sung a definite “Yes”. I’d like to learn to sing with him.


More blessings

12 10 2012

My Wordlive reading has taken me back to Genesis, to the story of Joseph.  No wonder his brothers are jealous and hate him. (Check out his arrogant dreaming in Genesis 37). And his dad isn’t too clever either. Having a favourite son is never a recipe for happy families.

Jealousy and hatred lead to the brothers’ plot to get rid of the cocky little brother, and Joseph ends up exiled in Egypt. But it’s not all bad…

Joseph becomes a slave to Potiphar, one of the Pharaoh’s officials, and we read this unexpected sentence in the story – “The Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph” (Genesis 39:5). Here’s the arrogant dreamer transformed into a conduit of blessing.

Being God’s ambassador is not plain sailing as chapters 39-40 make clear.  It’s a roller coaster ride of prosperity, false accusations, imprisonment, responsibility, success and abandonment. But the accompanying refrain is, “The Lord was with Joseph”. That made all the difference – to Joseph and to those he lived amongst.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)


31 07 2012

Dysfunctional families – they’re not a new phenomenon.  We see the damage done when Isaac and Rebekah play family favourites with their sons Esau and Jacob (documented in the book of Genesis). How many families have repeated the tragic pattern – Dad favours one child, Mum the other.  What does that do to self-identity, trust and family bonds?

In this case, the jostling for position begins with the twins in utero and there’s trickery, deceit and rivalry. (You can read all about it in Genesis chapters 25-35.) Jacob tricks Esau out of his birthright and the blessing of his father, which should have been afforded to him as the elder son.  Not surprisingly, Esau is not a happy bunny and plans to kill his brother.  However, Mummy’s boy Jacob runs away from home to save his skin.

That’s by way of preamble to set the scene for two later incidents that I’ve been thinking about.  The first comes soon after his exit from the family home.

As Jacob is on the run, he crashes down to sleep one night and dreams his famous “stairway to heaven” dream (Genesis 28:10-22). Make what you will of the dream; the comment that strikes me is this:

“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” (Genesis 28:16)

Some chapters of life later, Jacob is again alone at night.  This time it’s a wrestling match that’s on the programme, a monumental struggle that lasts until Jacob demands a blessing.  His unidentified opponent concedes, blesses Jacob and renames him Israel (which means “he struggles with God”). The deceiver becomes a wrestler. And just in case he should forget the experience, his hip is dislocated and he walks with a limp thereafter.

Jacob’s comment this time:

” I have seen God face to face…” (Genesis 32:30)

This section of Genesis is an important episode in the big picture Old Testament story of God’s dealings with his people but I’m drawn to a more personal reflection.

I’m left wondering about the fact that God may show up when we don’t expect him to. We may not even recognise him, but he comes to touch our lives and change us, whether we give permission or not.  We may struggle with him, as it were – fight our corner, try to get our way – but despite ourselves, he wants to bless us.  How does this sit with seeking him…mmm, that’s for another time.

Thin places

23 04 2012

I’ve been thinking about thin places – nothing to do with calorie counting or wishful-thinking-in-the-mirror. A “thin place” is a Celtic metaphor that describes a physical location in which God is especially present. A retreat centre or a quiet sanctuary would be obvious examples of potential thin places, or maybe somewhere in the “great outdoors”.  If you put yourself in Bible times, try Moses at the burning bush or Paul on the road to Damascus.

But it’s Abraham who has got me thinking.

In Genesis chapter 18 we read about God appearing to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre. Now that sounds like a thin place…maybe some sort of sacred grove.  But on closer reading it is Abraham’s home. He has settled there, but he’s also built an altar to worship God.  The ordinary and the sacred intertwine.

I kinda like the idea of being open to God at home.  It makes the encounter sound safe.  But a thin place isn’t simply a cozy hug from God.  Eric Weiner  writes in the New York Times that in a thin place “we are jolted out of old ways of seeing the world.” 

A jolt is sudden, unxpected, and maybe painful. For Moses and Paul there is a defining moment that changes their lives.  And what of Abraham? We read that he entertains angelic beings in his home.  That was some dinner party!  And he then engages with God in new ways -with boldness in bargaining with God over the fate of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, in obedience in taking Isaac to Mount Moriah, in trusting God to be God in his life.

In The lion the witch and the wardrobe,  one of the children asks if Aslan is safe –

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver.”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Think thin, but don’t think safe.
Read the rest of this entry »

Having a(nother) laugh

12 04 2012

I see it is nearly a year since I had my last laugh – a long time in blog land – so I thought it was about time for another.  This one I’m sharing with Abraham and Sarah, in Genesis.

Quick recap

Genesis is about origins and in the opening chapters we are introduced to the great themes that develop through the rest of the Bible – creation, rebellion, judgement, love, grace, mercy. Then in chapter 12, God makes a promise to Abram.  He will be the father of a great nation and have a name change to remind him – Abram –> Abraham, “father of many”.  This nation will be the means of blessing to the whole world.  The promise is repeated in chapters 15 and 17 and is formalised with a covenant ceremony and the mark of circumcision. (John Ortberg’s quip referring back to Genesis 9:17  – “Noah got a rainbow!”)

Major snag

Found this little guy on pentaxforums

Abraham is old and Sarah is post menopausal.  Not the best conditions for becoming a father of many.  They try to side step with the help of one of Sarah’s servants, Hagar, who has a child by Abraham. (It was acceptable cultural practice for a servant to bear a child for a barren wife and for the wife to adopt the child.) 

What’s so funny?

The promise is.  And both Abraham and Sarah laugh –

“Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. ‘How could I become a father at the age of 100?’ he thought. ‘And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?’……

[Sarah] laughed silently to herself and said, “How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master—my husband—is also so old?'”

I wonder if God didn’t have a smile too – he says the promised son is to be named Isaac, which means “he laughs”!

But there’s more to the bundle than laughs.  There’s the bitterness and jealousy of childlessness; the interplay of faith and doubt (Abraham both bows down and laughs); hearing from God but manipulating circumstances to get the result in human time; grabbing the steering wheel instead of trusting the driver.

Some things don’t change.


14 01 2012

Chapter 11 of Genesis  sums up how far man has travelled from the good creation of chapter 1 – “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.”

Powers of ten

Do you remember what God’s intention was?  His instruction to mankind was to fill the earth and govern it, but man thinks he knows better. (Don’t we always?) He wants fame, control and prestige. It’s a sad wandering from the intended path.

You can read more about this in my previous post – Mind your language.

God doesn’t give up on his rebelious people.  God doesn’t give up on me.  The words of the featured song on Wordlive this week sum it up –

Merciful God, O abounding in love,
Faithful to all who draw near You;
Hearing the cries of the humble in heart,
Showing the cross they may cling to.
Broken I come, helpless in sin,
Found at the feet of Your mercy.
Father, forgive; may my sin be remembered no more.

Merciful God, O abounding in love,
Faithful through times we have failed You;
Selfish in thought and uncaring in deed,
Foolish in word and ungrateful.
Spirit of God, conquer our hearts
With love that flows from forgiveness;
Cause us to yield and return to the mercy of God.

Merciful God, O abounding in love,
Faithful to keep us from falling;
Guiding our ways with Your fatherly heart,
Growing our faith with each testing.
God speed the day struggles will end;
Faultless we’ll gaze on Your glory.
Then we will stand overwhelmed by the mercy of God.

Merciful God”Merciful God”
Words and Music by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, and Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2006 Thankyou Music

Listen here (Scroll down to the audio section)

Mark your calendar

14 01 2012

It’s never been easier to keep track of life.  Sync your phone, your tablet, your computer and bin the diary.  There we are – sorted!

I still find it easy to forget.  Maybe not the appointments, the tasks, the meetings, but the people who matter to me.  It’s easy to be so focused on being organised that I miss the relationships.

Prayer has been a challenge this week. I have tried to be mindful – to focus on God – but I’ve felt as though I have ADHD!  In my wanderings, I’ve jumped to people and situations …but then I had another thought.  Perhaps these were the people and things that God wanted me to talk to him about.  Instead of trying to force them from my mind, I tried the other tack.  My prayers were better for it.

There’s something about remembering people that involves taking action.  It’s no good remembering in my head, praying that God will be with my friend, if I don’t make the phone call, drop an email, pop round.  So I did that too.

Then I read about God remembering.  Now, I’m sure he hadn’t forgotten the way I do, but it is as though Noah comes to the forefront of God’s mind.  Genesis tells us that Noah walked with God and enjoyed a close relationship with him (Genesis 6:9) and that God remembered him (Genesis 8:1).  When God remembered, he took action – he  protected and rescued Noah.

God remembering me – wonderful!  My prayer for this week is an echo of Job’s – “But mark your calendar to think of me again!” (Job 14:13)

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