The Odd Couple

Having lunch with a close friend after church yesterday I said,

“I don’t know how to be a Christian anymore.”

It sounds both more shocking and less extreme than I mean, but they are the only words I can find to explain myself.

I love Jesus. Even when I’m twisted into some weird, navel gazing obsession over the point of my existence… even when  I’m catastrophically overwhelmed by the clash of world news and daily personal hostilities I have this unshakable hope that God exists and that He is good.

At the same time I have totally forgotten the why and the how of so many rituals. When I try to pray anything fancy about healing or spiritual warfare, I can’t get out anything beyond, “Help, God.” or  “Please, God.” I say a lot more stuff to Him than that, actually I say all of the things to him, but I no longer understand why we concoct prayers that sound like magical incantations.

Last winter when I got this strong feeling that I needed a sabbatical I also sensed God giving me a heads up that this season (that I’ve just walked through) wouldn’t be any easier than the last season when I was piled under an unmanageable amount of stress. When I say I “walked through” this sabbatical what I really mean is I’ve crawled through, often just laying on my face in the mud pouring out of my heart.

I’m super broken, guys…

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Party Pooper

Taking a sabbatical in my home town is a bit like going to a kids birthday party for some peace and quiet.

Nevertheless coming here and taking a sabbatical were both things I felt like God was leading me to do. It’s much easier to make jokes about than to manage well and I’m taking some time today to lay this situation before God. To be honest, I think this very thing is one of my main reasons I need a sabbatical and a huge part of why God led me to do it here in Washington state.

Like when you pray for patience and discover yourself surrounded by frustrating life you can (wrongly) see it as proof that you shouldn’t have prayed for patience, or you can see it as a divine opportunity to get in plenty of practice. And, let’s face it, life is ever full of such opportunities. It is just a matter of choosing to see each thing as a chance to grow instead of as a God given “trial.”

God is not spiteful, but he is wise and he is loving.

So here I am on the verge of a week in which many “opportunities” are presenting themselves, all piled up, pushing and pulling at me…

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Send Someone Else

Does being awesome have to be such hard work?

I’m coming to believe that as much as I want to live my life on purpose, show as much love as possible and, above all, help people know God better- as much as I want that, I don’t usually want the difficulties that go with those things.

This isn’t where I give you some moral lesson about how I’ve really just learned to buckle down and do the hard work. This is where I admit openly that I don’t want to.

I don’t.

It’s stressful. It’s exhausting, and I’m pretty sure I’m going a little bit crazy…

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Boundless Joy

I‘ve been really into this song lately called Up In Arms.
The lyrics that hit me the hardest are;

So here I am,
Your love has got me up in arms again,
And this hope won’t let me go
My joy is boundless,
My soul knows its worth
In arms stretching wider
Than my heart could ever fall

Joy is something I think about pretty regularly, as I have experienced a lot of sorrow. Some of the sorrow came from circumstances, but much of it came from an inner sense of emptiness or worthlessness. I admit that even after I started following Jesus I experienced that second kind of sorrow. It has taken much, much longer than I would have liked for me to grasp my value as a daughter of The King. There were so many lies to contend with….

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Dating in Antiquity

I‘m in the middle of a study on the book of Exodus for a teaching I hope to give at a kids camp in July. I discovered this fascinating book called The Pentateuch As Narrative. Although my roommate informs me that it’s not a universally intriguing title, I was drawn in by it. Here’s why- I love stories. I love stories of all kinds: true, fiction, short, long, funny, disturbing or serious. I came to discover, last year while doing the School of Biblical Studies, that the Bible is chalked FULL of true and interesting stories.

I see that yawn/eye roll. But don’t give up yet. In studying about Moses, I found a treasure that I want to investigate with you. All throughout the Bible (from cover to cover) are themes and connections. The connections are sometimes too big picture for us to catch and certainly too subtle for a cursory reading.

Here’s what jumped out today: this book about the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible, written by Moses) points out that Moses met his wife by a well (Ex. 2:15-22). Not only that, but she was not a Hebrew (not so shocking for us, but for the original reader, this would have been noteworthy). This is a pattern with many of God’s chosen men preceding Moses. Isaac (Gen. 24), Jacob (Gen. 29) and Judah (Gen. 38) also met the mother of their children (all foreigners) at a well. These are not just men, these men are the ones through whom God promised to get the whole world blessed (ancestors of Jesus).  Although Moses is not an ancestor of Jesus, he is a foreshadow of Jesus in that he delivers God’s people from slavery into the land of promise (The book of Matthew shows the parallels between Moses/Israel and Jesus in detail)….

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For Freedom

I have found an important clue to my life in the first 5 books of the Old Testament.

Let’s just ponder the Israelites. They spend 430 years in slavery in Egypt. They multiply while being oppressed. We’re not talking a little light name calling, we’re talking horrible physical labor with guards who have weapons to keep people in line. Then they are delivered from slavery by God through Moses and Aaron. The Hebrews at this time have all grown up in slavery in Egypt. They had likely heard stories about Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, but they may have been like distant fairy tales that meant nothing in the reality of daily toil.

So here God is through Moses with PLAGUES. Pharaoh finds it easy enough to not believe, but this guy is king and thinks himself to be a god.
The Hebrews, on the other hand are just watching while all this crazy stuff happens. Then they are ejected from Egypt and on the road. THEN God parts the Red Sea in front of them (not a puddle), while simultaneously keeping the Egyptian army (who was chasing them by this time) from reaching them. Then He destroys their enemies by allowing the Sea to fold in on them.

All that, plus a lot more, and what do the people do? They complain….

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Know Mo

We’re on the last book in what is known as the Pentateuch. The five books of Moses.

The main character of all of these books is, of course, God. The second main character would really be the people of Israel, from their beginnings with the pagan Abraham to pious Joseph. At the end of Genesis, 70 Israelites go into Egypt to live and when we see them again in Exodus (430 years later), they are so numerous that they frighten the Egyptians who respond by oppressing them.
I have so many questions for God, just within the last sentence of one book and the first sentence of the next.

What I really want to talk about, though, is Moses. Do you know about this guy? You could probably look him up on Wikepedia and read the facts. Yes. Brought up by Pharaoh’s daughter, educated, maybe in line to be Pharaoh one day. Then at the age of 40 he decides to act upon this feeling that’s been growing inside of him. He sees that his people, the Hebrews, are being treated horribly and maybe he realizes that his position makes him a good candidate for emancipating them. Maybe there are whispers in his heart of the call that God will give through him (“Let my people go!”).

Whatever his motives, his actions are rash and he has to run for his life.  Suddenly the man who would be king is an obscure shepherd in Midian. He marries, has kids, settles in. Maybe he thinks of his days in the palace as a dream that he never deserved. Maybe he’s just grateful to be alive and lives daily with a guilt over killing that Egyptian dude.
At the age of 80 he meets God….

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