Monday, February 23, 2009

TWENTY QUESTIONS

It began as a commitment to improve my social skills. After sitting alone in my house day after day after day, the ability to carry on a meaningful conversation was quickly eluding me. Writing is a wonderful communicative tool, and I’m thrilled and blessed to discover my calling after all these years; however, most writers are weird. (Sorry, to all my writing friends out there. Of course, I don’t mean you.) Now, I believe writers become weird because they’re alone so much and forget – or possibly never learned – how to socialize effectively. I first realized my social skills were slipping, when a woman we’d never met shuttled my husband and I from the Baltimore airport to a retreat we were attending. I’m not a shy person, but I truly had nothing to say to this stranger. My husband, on the other hand, began chatting with the woman, and immediately set us all at ease. He allowed for some silences, and then he asked the woman questions – thoughtful, probing questions. Not overly personal, but not about the weather or her favorite sports team either. I watched and listened in stunned admiration. I had become weird, and my husband had become a master of conversation. Later, I asked how he knew what questions to ask. He said questions should allow a person to open their heart to the degree a person is willing. I married him for his wisdom – what can I say? Well, after a few year’s practice, I’d love to report I’ve become a conversational master like my husband. Nope. At first, I was an inquisitionist. I pummeled everyone with a litany of questions, such that they could hardly breathe between answers. Bad form. Some questions were too personal. Rude. Some questions were contrived and obviously grasping at conversational noise. Annoying. So friends, I’m still fighting weird, but I’m fighting it with questions – better questions, timed wiser, spoken softer. God is the Master Questioner of humankind, giving us every opportunity to open our hearts – as much as we’re willing…

Gen. 3:8-9 – “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” (emphasis added)
  • God doesn’t ask a question because He needs to know the answer. He already knew where Adam and Eve were hiding. He asked the question because Adam and Eve needed to tell Him where they were.

Gen. 3:10 – “He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’”

  • Anytime fear and hiding are involved, expect to find sin at the root of the circumstance. If you have to hide the empty box of Oreo’s at the bottom of the trash can… (of course, that’s just a random example).

Gen. 3:11 – “And he said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?’” (emphasis added)

  • Again, God knew no one had told them they were naked, but through God’s first question Adam and Eve realized the burden of knowledge. Through the next question, God gave Adam the opportunity to take responsibility for his sin.

Gen. 3:12 – “The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’”

  • Ignoring God’s first question, Adam side-stepped the second, using blame as an excuse for his disobedience. First, Adam blamed God (the woman You put here), then Eve, and then he finally took what little responsibility was left upon himself for the sin.

Gen. 3:13 – “Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” (emphasis added)

  • God’s last question is twofold. First, it asks if Eve has any concept of the scope of her sin. Secondly, she has an individual opportunity to accept personal responsibility for her actions, but she follows her husband’s example of blame – just as Adam followed Eve into sin.

Lord, I don’t think I have any idea the extent to which my sin offends You. Open my eyes to see the filth and shame of my sin. Show me the vast stain of sin in relationship to Your immense holiness, and teach me to readily accept the blame in order to fully accept Your forgiveness.

Monday, February 16, 2009

TALKING TO DEATH

Have you ever been duped by a dog, out-witted by a rat, out-smarted by a snake? Just because God gave us thumbs, doesn’t mean we always have the upper hand. Case in point: We moved to Vancouver, WA in early August ‘07, and I was visiting my friend. I noticed colorful, plastic-cling floral decorations on a basement walk-out glass door. Though this may not seem out of the ordinary to you, in the elegantly tasteful d├ęcor of my friend’s home, these $1.99 florals seemed misplaced. Imagine my embarrassment when she noticed my ogling. “A bird,” she said, exasperated. “Every spring it slams into this glass unless I put those clingy things up.” So our first spring in Washington, imagine my surprise when a psycho bird found our house. (The bird in the pic above is NOT our robin, but proves there are other such psycho birds throughout the US, so beware!) A giant robin slammed into my sliding glass door one morning and nearly scarred me and my 80 lb. Rottweiler to pieces! It didn’t just hit the glass and fall or fly away. Oh, no. It hit the glass and clawed at it with its feet, like it was trying to get in! Yikes! I ran to the window and shooed it away. The retched thing sat on the fence ten feet away and eyed me. You know, with that beady little eye on the side of its head. I walked away, and it flew at the glass again. We played that little game all day! I pulled the blinds. Didn’t work. I shuttered the blinds. Helped for a while, but then it attacked the windshield of my father-in-law’s motor home. He put up his reflection shield in the dash, and it attacked my dining room window. I now believe that Alfred Hitchcock must have lived in Vancouver, Washington before he directed, “The Birds,” movie. And if a silly robin can be so crafty, can you imagine how cunning a Satan-embodied serpent could be?

THUMBNAIL SKETCH OF THE FALL
SERPENT: A hint of accusation that twisted the truth.
EVE: A righteous exaggeration that engaged the lie.
SERPENT: A direct contradiction that spawned the doubt.
EVE: A progressive rationalization that killed us all.

Gen. 3:1 – “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’”
  • A hint of accusation that twisted the truth. Do you hear the veiled accusation against God’s character in the serpent’s question? It was true that God created one tree from which He restricted humankind. But all the other trees in the Garden were theirs for food (Gen. 2:9,16). But Satan’s lie held a kernel of truth – as is often the case. It’s what makes him so infuriatingly difficult to ignore, so impossible to overcome with human reasoning.

Gen. 3:2-3 – “The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”’”

  • A righteous exaggeration that engaged the lie. Though Eve sounds as though she’s disagreeing with the serpent, she’s doing exactly the serpent had just done. She’s twisting God’s Words, making Him appear harsher than He is. God never said they couldn’t touch the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2:9,16-17 – see below) – only that they couldn’t eat of its fruit. Sometimes we, as human beings, place harsher rules on ourselves and others than God’s Word intends – much to Satan’s delight. And, by the way, there were two trees in the middle of the Garden. To hear Eve’s version, you’d think she only saw one. Perhaps she only focused on the one she couldn’t have.

Gen. 3:4-5 – “‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”

  • A direct contradiction that spawned the doubt. Before sin is borne, doubt is conceived. Satan’s first direct contradiction of God’s Word – “God is a Liar.” Notice he fuels it immediately, casting more suspicion on God’s character. Notice also the repeated seed of truth – their eyes would indeed be opened, knowing good from evil. Adam and Eve had been created in God’s image, but perhaps they saw this one area of knowledge that He’d held back from them, and they were discontent.

Gen. 3:6-7 – “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

  • A progressive rationalization that killed us all. Using our “best” judgment, especially when it’s been influenced by twisted truth and manipulated motives, is not always “best.” Accountability. Counsel. Community. All crucial when wrestling with temptation. Eve’s community was admittedly small – Adam and God. But who else would she have needed? Eve listened only to her internal rationalizations.

Lord, sometimes I don’t ask for help because I know the advice will tell me what I don’t want to hear – and I want what I want. Sometimes I don’t ask because I’m embarrassed or afraid I’m an imposition. Give me the humility, the courage, the willingness to ask others for godly counsel. Give me wisdom to seek out those who will speak Your wisdom. Give me a heart that cries out to You for help, when I hear the first taunts of a cunning enemy.


Monday, February 09, 2009

SEEING DOUBLE

Okay, my workspace isn't that bad, but if you were to walk in my front door, you would see a messy computer armoire with a laptop snuggled inside it. However, I look at my cozy little space and perceive a place where God meets me each day. I see an electronic blessing that gives me hours of enjoyment that God used to clarify His calling in my life. Now, let me take you a little further into my home, just past and to the left of that messy armoire. There lies a tattered dog’s bed with a clumsy Rottweiler/pit bull mutt curled up on it. You might think, “Yikes! Kujo!” But wait! I see a precious, loving companion that God created just for me. He’s by my side all day – everyday – and he thinks I’m wonderful, even when I don’t wear makeup! One object or circumstance, dual meaning. Okay, let’s try something a little more generic – a remote control for instance. One object, dual perspective – depending on gender. The female representation of our species sees the little device as a tool, a piece of equipment to be used at a single point in time for a specific purpose. Its intended use is to change a channel, and then it should be re-placed on a flat surface until the next time its services are needed. Thus, the divergence in thought. The male species believes the remote should be held at all times and used frequently to change channels without any real purpose or pattern. There seems to be some covert quest to gain surfing speed, and when asked to relinquish control of the device – well, marital bliss is but a memory. To be fair, we should now turn our attention to the dual gender perspective on chocolate… On second thought, let’s move on to what God’s Word teaches about the double messages in God’s first Garden…

Gen. 2:18-20 – “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found” (emphasis added).
  • God had DUAL PURPOSE in bringing the animals to Adam for naming. God had already determined to make a suitable helper for Adam, but Adam needed to realize his need for a helper. Though God brought the animals to Adam in order for Adam to name them, God had a greater purpose to which Adam was oblivious. Adam knew ONLY the immediate purpose.

Gen. 2:21-23 – “So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man’” (emphasis added).

  • The creation of woman was a DUAL PROCESS (Yes, men. We’ve been complicated from the beginning of time). First God created her from man’s side, and then God gave her to Adam as a gift. God presented her to Adam. At that moment, Adam could have resisted, could have refused God’s gift. Instead Adam recognized God’s gift to him. God creates blessings. It’s our job to recognize them.

Gen. 2:24-25 – “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”

  • God made marriage for DUAL PLEASURE. Marriage in the Garden was all about perfect unity and the absence of shame. Can you imagine? Even the healthiest marriages struggle at some points with divergent passions and past baggage. But this verse gives us the bull’s eye, the mark for which we strive. It’s God’s perfect design for marriage – oneness and shamelessness.

Lord, I ache at the loss of Your marvelous Creation. I long to experience such purity and oneness with my husband. Your purpose and design for mankind and this earth were so perfect and good. I can only dream of a world so perfectly balanced and peaceful. Yet this one thing sustains like an anchor on a raging sea. One day – one day – You will restore it all, and I will be with You to see that day. Let it be so, Lord. Let it be so.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

YHWH – MASTER GARDENER


(LORD God. “LORD” (Hebrew YHWH, “Yahweh”) is the personal and covenant name of God, emphasizing his role as Israel’s Redeemer and covenant Lord, while “God” (Hebrew Elohim) is a general term.[1])
[1]Excerpted from Compton's Interactive Bible NIV. Copyright (c) 1994, 1995, 1996 SoftKey Multimedia Inc. All Rights Reserved

Do you enjoy gardening? Do you love the feel of the soil under your fingernails? Love to watch a seed grow from sprout to plant to flower or fruit? Not me. Hate it. Hate the bugs, the dirt, the sweat, the weeds, the waiting, the work. And the plants must sense it because as soon as a green plant enters my care, it turns instantly brown. Well, not instantly, but gradual instantly. Case in point. When we arrived at our lovely new Vancouver home, a whole troop of Multnomah faculty and staff joined us the next day to help unload the trucks (yep, not one, but two moving trucks – ugh). Two unfortunate things happened that day. One, Roy was stricken with a case of either food poisoning, flu or aversion to unloading (just kiddin’ Hon) – relegating him to a twin air mattress in the 6’x10’ master bedroom closet with a bucket, while everyone else unloaded all the furniture and boxes into the other rooms of the house. The second unfortunate event occurred when Multnomah’s Academic Dean’s wife showed up with a housewarming gift – the most beautiful potted hydrangea I’d ever seen. Resolving to turn my black thumb to green, I accepted the kind and thoughtful gift with high hopes of horticulture in my future. Within a week, the poor plant had gone from perky pink to dismal gray. I put it in the sun it drooped. I put it in the shade, it sagged. More water. Less water. Finally, a friend came to the rescue and said the poor little plant’s only hope was to be freed from my clutches and released back into the wild. She helped me transplant the pitiful hydrangea into the front flowerbed in the fertile Northwest soil. “A stick grows in this soil,” she said confidently. Well, she was right. Sort of. The hydrangea made it, but it truly looks like three sticks with a few leaves and a couple of fake little puffed flowers on the ends. My thumb remains black, and we can never invite the dean and his wife for dinner because the plant is right by the front door. It’s times like these that I wish I was a master gardener like my God – YHWH, Elohim, the Master Gardener…

Gen. 2:4-7 – “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When [YHWH Elohim] made the earth and the heavens--and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the [YHWH Elohim] had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground--the [YHWH Elohim] formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”


  • Until God’s breath was breathed into man, there was no one to plant and nurture “shrubs” in the fields – fields seemingly distinguished from ground and earth. God’s breath became mankind’s breath. Breathe in deeply right now. No, really, I mean it. Please. Breathe in deeply. Breathe in God’s breath.

Gen. 2:8-15 – “Now [YHWH Elohim] had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And [YHWH Elohim] made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. [YHWH Elohim] took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”



  • God made a place for mankind to nurture and watch the green plants grow just as God would nurture and watch His Creation grow. God and mankind shared not only the same breath but now also a partnership of purpose in nurturing Creation. Every detail of Creation was to bind mankind to God in relationship.

Gen. 2:16-17 – “And [YHWH Elohim] commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’”



  • What is a garden without roses? And what is a rose without thorns? God created mankind in His image, breathed into them His breath, shared with them His same purpose. Now, God bestows the ultimate transference of His likeness. He offers mankind the ability and opportunity to choose. The Master Gardener released mankind to tend God’s greatest work – mankind itself.

Lord, the beauty of Your Creation astounds me. The complexity of the human body is beyond comprehension. And the truth that You shared Your breath and Your purpose with us touches the deepest parts of my heart. But, Father, sometimes I wish I didn’t have to choose. Sometimes I think it would be easier if You could just make the choice for me. Then everyone could worship forever around Your Throne. But it would be empty, wouldn’t it, Lord? Empty compared to the worship of those who have chosen through pain and adversity and faith to worship a God we do not fully understand and yet we love with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength. I can choose You, Father…and I do.