Tuesday, March 16, 2010


The man pictured at right is a garbologist, one who studies the nature and changing trends of garbage, trash, modern refuse. An archeologist, on the other hand, is one who sifts through historical ruins, finding treasures to inform our present and future. Today, I'm hoping to combine the two fields, creating a new vocation in which we sift through the old garbage in life and find (or create) new treasures! Our goal is to become Garb-eologists! In order to inspire you, let's start with my life. The first ugly heap arrived Sunday evening, when an airline rep. called to say our Spring Break flight to Florida had been canceled. Instead of arriving at 4:05pm as planned, the airline re-booked us on a later flight arriving at 11pm – in Tampa – which is still a two-hour drive from our destination. Garbage. This was piled atop my past negative experience with this same airline that ripped off the front pocket of my suitcase last year and refused to compensate me for it. Ancient ruins. Digging through the muck, I asked nicely, “Could you try to find us a flight on another airline that would arrive closer to our originally scheduled time?” The rep. actually found two available flights with another airline but on another day. No problem – I'm a burgeoning Garb-eologist! I'll just call our friends the next morning to confirm before I secure the new tickets. When I called the airline the next day to grab the tickets, you guessed it…no flights available except those stupid 11pm flights. Garbage again. So where's the treasure? Most of you are probably saying, “Well, DUH! You're going to Florida!” But when you're elbow deep in the garbage, sometimes it's tough to see the treasure….

Gen. 26:12-16 – “Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. So all the wells that his father's servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth. Then Abimelech said to Isaac, 'Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.'” (emphasis added)
  • Here's a little exercise that might be good to start. I've highlighted the good things in bold type, and listed the bad things below.
  1. Philistines envied Isaac.
  2. Philistines stopped up the old wells Abraham‟s servants had dug.
  3. Abimelech (King of the Philistines) told Isaac to leave the city of Gerar.
Sometimes our emotions can give us tunnel vision, shading the good, leaving only a view of the bad. When we take the time to write down the good vs. the bad, it can sometimes put things into perspective.

Gen. 26:17-22 – “So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them. Isaac's servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen and said, 'The water is ours!' So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, 'Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.'” (emphasis added)
  • Again, I've highlighted in bold type the treasures in the midst of Isaac's garbage. It was a respectful act that Isaac reopened Abraham's wells; marvelous that God renewed the old wells' flow; a blessing that Isaac's servants found and dug new wells. However, the real treasure came from the next “garbage” heap. When Isaac faced the third confrontation over the well following “Sitnah,” he moved on and finally dug a well that no one quarreled over. It was his PERSISTENCE that became a treasure, which led to the greater treasure – finally involving God in the process! …come to think of it…though Isaac gained a wealth of persistence, what garbage might he have avoided if he called on the LORD first?
Gen. 26:23-25 – “From there he went up to Beersheba. That night the LORD appeared to him and said, 'I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.' Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD . There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.” (emphasis added)
  • Again, the good things are bolded, but I must admit…my heart aches a little bit for Isaac. I know he should be thankful the Lord appeared to him. I know he should be grateful that God has promised to be with him and to bless him and increase his descendants. But I'm still hurting that God says He's Abraham's God, not Isaac's – and that He's doing it all for Abraham, not Isaac. I'm having a little spiritual pity party on Isaac's behalf, and the garbage heap is getting taller by the minute! I've fallen into the too familiar trap of spiritual envy, wishing my relationship with God was like someone else's. Whether it's 2000 B.C. or 2010 A.D., the temptation toward spiritual envy lurks behind every trash pile.
Gen. 26:26-33 – “Meanwhile, Abimelech had come to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his personal adviser and Phicol the commander of his forces. Isaac asked them, 'Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?' They answered, 'We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, “There ought to be a sworn agreement between us” – between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you that you will do us no harm, just as we did not molest you but always treated you well and sent you away in peace. And now you are blessed by the LORD.' Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they left him in peace. That day Isaac's servants came and told him about the well they had dug. They said, 'We've found water!' He called it Shibah, and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba.” (emphasis added)
  • After all the abuse Isaac had taken from the Philistine herdsmen, he probably could have flung garbage all over Abimelech. Instead, he treated the Philistine king with hospitality and respect, gave himself time to sift through the ruins and find the treasure. And the next morning, Isaac made a friend instead of an enemy.
Gen. 26:34-35 – “When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.”
  • It's interesting that Esau's two grievous Canaanite wives are mentioned here like a footnote. A footnote of refuse, I might add. No treasure listed. No children. No joy. Nothing redemptive even later in Scripture. Sometimes there is only garbage; and only grief…and at that point, there is only God.
Lord, teach me to be a skilled Garb-eologist – sifting through both the ancient and modern garbage in my life to find the treasures. In those rare cases, when no treasure can be found, please be my Light and Safe Place in the darkness that threatens.

Monday, March 08, 2010


Have you been feeling a little nauseous lately? Perhaps you've been “eating crow,” or maybe munching on “your own words,” or even eating a little “humble pie.” That kind of diet can sure make the stomach churn. We can all cut down on the beleaguered belly-aches by borrowing some moccasins. Let's take some advice from a Native American proverb: “Never criticize a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins.” We might get a blister or two from living another person's circumstances, but our compassion quotients will soar and our patience points will sky-rocket. Experience builds understanding. I hated watching golf until I tried to hit that stupid white ball into a distant hole. I didn't appreciate great books until I tried to capture a reader's attention for more than one sentence. I never fully understood what incredible parents I had until I tried to raise my own children. Oh, I remember the rebellious vows I thought to myself as a child. I will never make my kids take naps. As a teenager, I stomped in the door at 11pm. My children will never have a curfew. Guess what? My kids took naps and had curfews. But some parent/child issues cut deep and leave gaping wounds in the lifelong relationship. I've often wondered about Isaac's relationship with his father, Abraham. Did that twelve-year-old altar boy grow into an angry adult saying, “I would have never...”

Gen. 26:1-3 – “Now there was a famine in the land--besides the earlier famine of Abraham's time--and Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines in Gerar. The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, 'Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.'”
  • During a famine recorded in Gen. 12:10, Abraham (then called Abram) fled to Egypt for survival. A generation later, Isaac stopped in Gerar, which was in southern Canaan – on the way to Egypt. It‟s unclear if God‟s appearance stopped Isaac‟s flight to Egypt or merely confirmed his decision to linger in the Philistines‟ capital. Regardless, this is God‟s first recorded appearance to Isaac, and Abraham‟s son received personal direction and promise from El-Shaddai! How exciting, how fulfilling! Yet I wonder if the holy encounter was at all tarnished by self-satisfaction that he‟d done it “right” – without leaving the land of Promise as his father had? When we compare ourselves to others, we judge; and when we judge, we lose – because Jesus is the only One, perfect Judge.
Gen. 26:4-6 – [God said to Isaac] “„I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws.‟ So Isaac stayed in Gerar.” (emphasis added)
  • In God's infinite understanding, He emphasized that Isaac's future blessing had been secured by Abraham’s explicit obedience to God's EVERY requirement, command, decree and law. Had Isaac questioned his father's life of obedience? Think about the decisions in Abraham's life and how they would have affected Isaac. Might even Abraham's son held bitterness in his heart against his father? How often does God ask us to release the past into His all-sufficient hands? Granted, not every decision people around us make is based on godly obedience. However, God HAS promised that every circumstance works for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). Are we then so different than Isaac? We, too, have a promise based on grace.
Gen. 26:7 – “When the men of that place asked [Isaac] about his wife, he said, 'She is my sister,' because he was afraid to say, 'She is my wife.' He thought, 'The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.'”
  • If these words sound oddly familiar, it's because Abraham gave the same answer in the same city for the same reason – one year before Isaac's birth (Gen. 18-20). This is one of those nauseous, humble pie experiences, when hopefully Isaac was wearing his father's moccasins instead of strutting around saying, “I would never...” Because he most certainly DID tell the same lie. Actually, Sarah was Abraham's half-sister, which meant his was a half-truth. Isaac's was ALL lie.
Gen. 26:8-10 – “When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelech king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. So Abimelech summoned Isaac and said, 'She is really your wife! Why did you say, “She is my sister”?' Isaac answered him, 'Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.' Then Abimelech said, 'What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.'”
  • It's humiliating to be publicly chastised for our sins, and granted – Isaac should not have lied. But what if my theory is correct, and Isaac had been thinking he was a man above his father's penchant for deception? What if Isaac thought, I would never…and then he did? In such a case, Isaac's first mistake occurred before the lie. His first sin was the spiritual pride of thinking, I would never.
Gen. 26:11 – “So Abimelech gave orders to all the people: 'Anyone who molests this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.'”
  • Abraham lied to a Philistine king named Abimelech (Gen. 20). Isaac faces either the same man (over 75 years later) or perhaps his son or grandson. Regardless, Abimelech is wise enough to recognize two things. 1) The God of Abraham and Isaac is mighty enough to protect them – so Abimelech protects them; and 2) being an astute judge of human nature, Abimelech realizes his Philistine people might be angry about the deceptive foreigners and gives strict orders about their safety. He doesn't fall prey to the assumption that his people would never… It's good to be optimistic but not when safety is at stake.
Lord, I want to have high standards for myself and others, but it can be a sign of pride or presumption to think I would never or others would never…. Give me wisdom to soberly judge myself and others, recognizing Your grace as my only salvation and Your power as the ultimate source of justice for wrongs – past or present.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

THIN PLACES - by Mary DeMuth

Occasionally, I meet a new friend on my publishing adventure. Such is the case with Mary DeMuth, author of Thin Places, a Zondervan, Feb. 2010 release.

Though we've never actually "met," after reading her poignant memoir, I feel as if Mary has guided me through some very thin places of my own.

"Thin places," according to this incredible woman, are: "snatches of time, moments really, when we sense God intersecting our world in tangible, unmistakable ways." Mary bravely shares her "thin places" - painful memories from a traumatic and disturbing childhood in a broken home and unstable environment.

"Folks may wonder why I've spent all this time looking back," says Mary, "...Jesus says truth sets people free. This is my way of doing that - of telling the stark truth on the page so others can be set free." Her desire to see readers set free from their family secrets went a step further than writing her memoir. In February of 2009, Mary launched a blog for readers to anonymously confide their family secrets. The blog was featured on "Christianity Today's" blog, Her.meneutics. For more information, go to: http://blog.myfamilysecrets.org.

Because Mary risks the honest disclosure of her worst heartaches, we as readers are privileged to see God's best healing. Many personal stories get stuck in the dark details without ever moving onto the victory that comes through Jesus Christ. Not so with Thin Places. Mary DeMuth gives us enough glimpses of joy and conquest amid her battles to demonstrate a conquering Savior. When I turned the final page of Thin Places, I had a renewed sense that my God is bigger than the bullies of this life. He's even bigger than the boogey man that lurks in my own mind. Now, that's a big God! And this is a good book!

Monday, March 01, 2010


And he shall be called, "שיניים גדולות." (That's "Big Teeth" for my non-Hebrew speaking friends.) Can you imagine if we named our children according to what they looked like at birth? Did you ever give much thought to the names of your someday-children – you know, when you were still a kid yourself? One of my daughters has had the number of children, their genders and their names mapped out since she was nine years-old. When I asked if perhaps she should find a husband first, she assured me that her someday-husband would be informed of the children's names before they were married. “He can name any extras,” she added. I smiled and nodded. What could I say? She inherited the baby-naming gene from her father. He heard “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” read aloud as a youth and fell madly in love with the name, Katrina Van Tassel – then and there deciding his firstborn daughter's name would be Katrina. I suppose I should be thankful he didn't want to make her middle name “Van Tassel.” Hmmmm. I'm extremely thankful we didn't have a boy named Ichabod. When our second daughter came along, we used a much more scientific method of naming. I stomped my foot and insisted that it was my turn to name her since my husband named the first one. He agreed much too quickly, leaving me full of bluster and empty-headed. I'd always liked the name “Emily” and didn't know anyone by that name, so we went with it. So which is better/worse? Intentional planning or seat-of-the-pants gestures? Read on, and answer after you read about Isaac's and Rebekah's twin boys.

Gen. 25:24-26 – “When the time came for [Rebekah] to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau's heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.”
  • You'd think by age sixty, Isaac would have learned to call on God when so much of this culture's character was built on their names; but God's involvement is not mentioned. Esau means, “hairy.” Jacob means, “he grasps the heel;” figuratively, “he deceives.” Can you hear Rebekah calling the boys for lunch? “Come on, Hairy and Heel-Boy, your lentil stew is getting cold!” Maybe more accurately: “Hairy and my little liar, get in here!” A single decision can affect entire lifetimes – ours and others. The words we choose can build and/or destroy character. Why not stop and consult the Creator before our words create lasting regret?
Gen. 25:27-28 – “The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”
  • Do you think Isaac and Rebekah sat down one night, when the twins were infants, and said, “Okay, you love this one, and I'll love that one?” Isaac's love for Esau grew out of his own selfish appetite, and don't you imagine Rebekah's love for Jacob grew from their extended time together in camp? Life happened to this family. Love grew wild, haphazardly – unattended. When life happens unintentionally, sin enters proportionately. I've heard it said, “We can't choose who we love.” Perhaps. But we can make smart choices about how we spend our time, and we can be intentional about showing love to those the Lord has placed in our lives.
Gen. 25:29-34 – “Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, 'Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I'm famished!' (That is why he was also called Edom.) Jacob replied, 'First sell me your birthright.' 'Look, I am about to die,' Esau said. 'What good is the birthright to me?' But Jacob said, 'Swear to me first.' So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.” (emphasis added)
  • Though it's difficult for our Western culture to fully understand the ancient Middle-Eastern concept of birthright, here are a few of the perks Esau conceded to his brother for a bowl of lentil stew:
  1. A unique “firstborn” standing before God
  2. Second only to his parents in honor among those in camp
  3. A double portion of their father's inheritance
  4. Governing the family upon his father's death
  5. Serving as the priest or God-representative of the family (http://studylight.org/com/acc/view.cgi?book=ge&chapter=25&verse=34#Ge25_34)
  • Jacob hit the jackpot for his bean-soup recipe! Of the four characters in today's devotional, Jacob seems to be the only one showing some intentionality – misguided though it may be. But wait – who taught Jacob the importance of the birthright? Perhaps Ima Rebekah wasn't as “unintentional” as I accused her of being. Hmmm. Did Esau's nonchalant attitude come from Isaac's lack of spiritual emphasis/training, or was it because of an innate character flaw? Esau's underlying reason for the choice is uncertain, but his attitude is clearly stated. Esau DESPISED, DISDAINED, REGARDED WITH CONTEMPT something God considered holy, and his decision would echo through generations and nations.
Lord, open my eyes to see those things in my life, in my world – in me – that are precious in Your sight. Teach me NOT to despise what You count as holy but to treasure it, intentionally tend it and carefully guard it. Help me pause before a decision, enabling me to see the scope and breadth of its reaches.