Friday, June 12, 2009


My husband and I are in our mid-forties. Now, to some of you, that’s ancient and to others we’re mere babes. In my mind, I think I’m the same high school/college student, young mom, working woman that can read a book, change a diaper and cook a meal from morning ‘til night with one hand tied behind my back. Then I try to get out of bed in the morning or I look in the mirror and – Yikes! – some middle-aged, flawed replica of my mother has taken over my body! I run to the curio to find my baby pictures, and guess what – they’re black and white. Not because it’s a photographic technique, but because it was the kind of film they used back then. Ugh.

Part of our summer vacation has been spent with family and “old” high school, college and seminary friends. The universal theme of each re-acquaintance? “My body is falling apart!” Some good "old" seminary friends took us to the Louisville Slugger factory in Kentucky, where Roy and George were reminded of their age in the batting cage. The guy said the pitches were only coming at 35 mph, but since we all may be candidates for hearing aids soon, maybe he said 135 mph?

Age is one of those great tools God uses to shake us up. Health, finances, children’s behavior – all these, and many more, are also factors beyond our control that God uses to shake everything up and separate the temporary from the enduring elements in our lives. Without the shaking, we’d never understand the lasting quality of the truly important things.

Haggai 2:1-3 – “On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: ‘Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, `Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?’”
  • The older we get, the more loss we endure – relationally, materially, occupationally, and even in our identity. As we get older, we have seen more, done more and know more. It’s harder to be humble, and we feel as if we deserve a little return on our investment in life. Unfortunately, these attitudes can sabotage humble, gracious senior saints. If we keep our focus on temporal, earthly things, comparisons of days gone by will soon bring discouragement and despair. Even twenty-somethings begin to see their wisdom grow and then discarded by those who make seemingly thoughtless decisions built on sand.

Haggai 2:4-5 – “‘But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD. ‘Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear’” (emphasis added).

  • No matter what the outward appearance of the small, replacement Temple, God encouraged the older Jews to be strong and keep working – not in their own strength, but because His Spirit remained among them. The Lord knows we can’t do it by ourselves. He knows our bodies, our will-power, our minds, our commitments will fail. That’s why He left His Spirit among the Jews in Jerusalem, and that’s why He has given us His Spirit to dwell within us to do what our mortal bodies and minds will otherwise be unable to do. And He instructs – and equips – us to do it without FEAR.

Haggai 2:6-9 – “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.’”

  • God’s peace is not cotton clouds and strumming cherubs. God’s peace comes out of the shaking. It is resounding praise born out of chaos. God chose to shake the mediocre and temporal to reveal the glorious and eternal.

Lord, I know that You are all that lasts. You and you alone are my peace. Though You shake the very ground beneath my feet, I will trust in You to bring that glorious, enigmatic peace that comes by trusting You in the midst of the tremor. You are the Island in the vast ocean of uncertainty. You are the Anchor that drops beneath the violent storm. You are my Mighty Fortress, where I hide while the battles rage around me. Let it be so, Father.

Monday, June 01, 2009


I started saying it when my girls were very young. I’d pull their feathery fine hair into a tiny rubber band or barrette, and they’d squawk or even cry, “Mommy, it hurts!” Then the famous phrase: “It hurts to be beautiful, honey.” Their hair got longer, and we graduated to French braids, twisting and pulling between my fingers. I shared with them the exquisite feminine discomforts of plucked eyebrows and armpit razor burn. Then came the day Trina wanted me to highlight her hair. We purchased a kit at the drugstore and fit the tight little cap on her head. Silky, long brown hair hung down twelve inches below the cap, and I stood with what looked like a crochet hook in hand, reading the instructions aloud: “Pull small tufts of hair through holes in cap with the hair hook…” After 45 minutes of torturing my child, we were both in tears. I asked if she wanted me to stop, and this time from her lips came the mantra: “No, Mom. It hurts to be beautiful.” A few years later, our daughter Emily lived in Brazil as an exchange student and adopted the cultural practice of salon waxing. And let me tell you, in Brazil, they wax everything. When Emily returned, with legs and pits as smooth as a baby’s bottom (and no need to shave again for 2 months, ladies!), I asked the obvious question, “Didn’t it hurt like the dickens?” She answered with her mother’s wise words, “Yes, but it hurts to be beautiful.” Now, I joke with my girls about their beauty, but they know the real truth. I may have hurt them in small ways to teach them little womanly arts, but my covenant with them as a parent is to love, protect and provide for them regardless of their outward appearance. To bless them with the “extras” of beauty, they had to become actively involved – submitting to the torturous highlighting and waxing – but my loving covenant to them as a parent doesn’t depend on anything they do or don’t do. It’s a bit of a stretch, but try to follow my logic as I apply it to God’s blessing and covenant with Noah…

Gen. 9:1 – “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.’”
  • The first word of God’s blessing was a directive, a command. Sometimes God’s direction – which requires work on our part – is the best blessing He can give us!

Gen. 9:2-4 – “The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.”

  • If I’m a Debbie-Downer, I’m going to look at this blessing and say, “Bummer! The animals are afraid of me now, and I have to eat their flesh? Ick!” But remember human relationship to Creation was vastly different BEFORE the flood. From these verses, we realize that God was protecting humankind by making animals afraid of us, and even though the act of killing an animal for food was distasteful, it foretold a time when crops would not be sufficient to sustain life. Blessings…with a hard message for the future.

Gen. 9:5-7 – “And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man. As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.”

  • God blesses retribution – which implies Noah’s descendants will fall into the same depravity he’s just seen destroyed on the earth. But God repeats his original command to Noah, reminding him not to get focused on the negative. He is responsible only to be faithful in what God has called him to do.

Gen. 9:8-11 – “Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: ‘I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you--the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you--every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.’”

  • God established His covenant with ALL living creatures, human and animals, and He didn’t ask them to respond or participate. He simply promised them He would never again destroy the earth by flood. For the blessings, He asked for participation. For the covenant, He simply made His promise.

Gen. 9:12-17 – “And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.’ So God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.’”

  • The Lord not only asks us to set special celebrations and occasions to remember His faithfulness. He followed His own advice and set a remembrance for Himself. Think of the rainbow as God’s post-it note to Himself, not because He might forget, but because He wants to recall the tender emotion and relationship born out of the moment Noah and his little family stepped off that ark.

Lord, Your desire to bless and covenant with Your people astounds me. Why? Why do You stretch us with blessings You know we’ll cry and wail about at first and then dash away with happily later – sometimes forgetting to thank You? Thank You for Your covenant promise that requires nothing from me but breath. Sometimes breath seems all I have, but I breathe…amen.