Monday, April 26, 2010


One of my all-time favorite movies is “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” and it boasts one of my all-time favorite lines. “Men may be the head of the house but women are the neck, and the neck can turn the head any way she wants.” Can I hear an AMEN, Sista! Oops, wait a minute. God gets a little cranky with the Israelites in the Old Testament for being “stiff-necked,” so we'd probably better be careful with the neck illustration…. But here's my question for the day: what if you're a do-er in a watch-er's world? What if you‟re a planner, and no one else sees or implements a plan? I'm thinking if the head isn't thinking, the neck had better be turning it – right? Hmmm, that's what Sister Rebekah thought, but I'm not sure her methods were on the up-and-up.

Gen. 27:41-42 – “Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, 'The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.' When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, 'Your brother Esau is consoling himself with the thought of killing you.'”
  • Isn't it fascinating that Esau "said to himself," and yet someone heard his whispered thoughts and immediately reported them to Rebekah? How did Rebekah inspire this kind of loyalty? Was it fear? Reward? Or were people naturally drawn to her strong personality and decisive leadership? We can‟t discern from Scripture, but I've met these Type A people in my world…and they make me nervous. Without proper checks and balances, their strengths can become weaknesses and devastate many.
Gen. 27:43-45 – [Rebekah said to Jacob] “'Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran. Stay with him for a while until your brother's fury subsides. When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I'll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?'
Then Rebekah said to Isaac, 'I'm disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.'”
  • It seems this woman moved into protection mode without so much as a pause. And without allowing Jacob even a syllable of rebuttal, she marched into her husband's tent, voicing her concerns. I don't know if I'm appalled at her audacity or stirred by her resourcefulness. Is she helping God or pushing her own agenda? Wasn't it her duty to protect her family when she anticipated danger? Should she have kept silent and let God handle it or taken matters into her own hands? What would YOU do?
Gen. 28:1-5 – “So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him and commanded him: 'Do not marry a Canaanite woman. Go at once to Paddan Aram, to the house of your mother's father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother's brother. May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien, the land God gave to Abraham.' Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, who was the mother of Jacob and Esau.” (emphasis added)
  • Hmmm. Seems the head finally found its spine. Yes, Isaac did exactly what Rebekah (Mrs. Neck) manipulated him into doing (commanded Jacob to marry someone from Laban's household). However, he also added a blessing to Jacob's departure – a true blessing, meant for this youngest son. Read the richness of the blessing Isaac bestows on Jacob – the inclusion of Abraham's Covenant with Yahweh. Can you imagine the joy Jacob felt at finally receiving his father's attention and approval? Can you imagine the joy Rebekah felt, seeing her husband willingly fulfill the prophecy God had given her when their twin sons jostled in her womb? (Gen. 25:22-26)
Gen. 27:6-9 – “Now Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, 'Do not marry a Canaanite woman,' and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram. Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had.”
  • As if Esau didn't have enough trouble, he went and married another neck! And an Ishmaelite neck at that! These verses further illustrate Esau's lack of integrity and God's righteous choice in stripping away Abraham's Covenant from the firstborn. Though human hands tainted the process, still the right man received God's Promise.
Lord, I'm so thankful You're bigger than my mistakes, my sins and my limited understanding. You're even bigger than my over-zealous nature – when I try to fix things for You. I don't want to be a neck in our relationship. I want to be Your hands and feet, ministering to others in Your Name. I want to be Your heart, caring for others as You love them. I want to be Your eyes, seeing the world around me as You see it.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I felt so sorry for the soloist at a little church, where my husband was guest speaking recently. The ushers came forward for the offertory prayer, and after a hearty “amen” from the congregation, music began filtering through the speakers. One look at the soloist, and everyone knew – it was the wrong music. She stood like a statue – gray and unmoving – with a stricken expression. The sound tech didn't get it. She then began a series of silent nods and furrowed brow communications to the man behind the “play” button (who happened to be her husband – poor brute). When the non-verbals failed, she lifted the microphone to her lips and said defeatedly, “It's the wrong song.” Her cheeks and ears were fire-engine-red by the time the right soundtrack popped and ground out the beginning melody. Her first notes floated on shaky vocals, but she sang it. A sweet offering of faithfulness in the face of those too familiar technical demons.

It was a classic do-over. It's called a “mulligan” in the game of golf – quite a handy little tool in which you can almost turn back the hands of time and pretend the first attempt, the first mistake, didn't happen. Oh, how Isaac and Esau wished life offered mulligans…

Gen. 27:28-29 – [Jacob deceived his father, Isaac, and as a result Isaac blessed Jacob with the blessing he meant to give Esau] “'…May God give you of heaven's dew and of earth's richness – an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.'”
  • It's difficult for our modern Western culture to grasp this idea of the Middle Eastern firstborn's blessing. This pronouncement was a holy mantle of responsibility originally passed from Abraham to Isaac – and one that would need to be maintained for generations to come. For whatever reason, Isaac had determined in his heart to give that blessing to Esau. Five times he tested the son now standing in his tent - making sure it was Esau. This was no small decision and no small “mistake.”
Gen. 27:30-31 – “After Isaac finished blessing him and Jacob had scarcely left his father's presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, 'My father, sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.'” (emphasis added)
  • Don't miss the irony in this. If Esau had arrived just moments earlier, he could have exposed Jacob's deception. But time ticks away in God's capable hands, to be lived once – and only once – in sequence, without do-overs or wasted regrets.
Gen. 27:32-35 – “His father Isaac asked him, 'Who are you?'
'I am your son,' he answered, 'your firstborn, Esau.'
Isaac trembled violently and said, 'Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him – and indeed he will be blessed!'
When Esau heard his father's words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, 'Bless me – me too, my father!'
But he said, 'Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.'”
  • I believe this is the singular moment when Isaac realized how completely he had loved Esau and slighted Jacob. But I'm not sure Isaac regretted his prejudice. I think Isaac realized the totality of blessing he bestowed on the favored son because it left the TRUE Esau without a future – and THAT caused him sorrow. But if Isaac had succeeded in blessing Esau, Jacob would have been left destitute. Would Isaac have cared? Was there now – or would there ever be – any repentance in Isaac's heart for the prejudicial treatment of Jacob?
Gen. 27:36-38 – “Esau said, 'Isn't he rightly named Jacob [figuratively, grasps the heel or he deceives]? He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright, and now he's taken my blessing!' Then he asked, 'Haven't you reserved any blessing for me?'
Isaac answered Esau, 'I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?'
Esau said to his father, 'Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!' Then Esau wept aloud.” (emphasis added)
  • It seems Esau has spent most of his life feeling as if he was Isaac's only son – the manly man, the firstborn, the favored. Suddenly, the idea of Isaac having only ONE isn't so appealing. Esau's worst enemy has taken the ONE treasure. When ONE includes you, ONE seems fine. When ONE excludes you, ONE is pretty awful.
Gen. 27:39-40 – “His father Isaac answered [Esau], 'Your dwelling will be away from the earth's richness, away from the dew of heaven above. You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.'” (emphasis added)
  • No mulligans. No do-overs. No turning back the clock. The ultimate blessing was given to Jacob, and Esau will get the best blessing his father can give him under the circumstances – separation from his brother. Sometimes when we can't do it over, we must do it completely different.
Lord, when no amount of fixing or re-doing will help, please direct those big blunders to innovative endings. Show me when separation becomes the best solution. Let me rest in Your ability to speak louder than my ignorance and work in spite of my mistakes. Remind me at all times that You are all-knowing, all-powerful and perfect in love and wisdom – no matter how big of a mess things have become.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Just got home from a great weekend at the Oregon Coast with my writers' group. These gals KNOW me. I trust them with more than the words of my manuscript. I trust them with the feelings behind the words, the emotions that arise with long hours hovered over a keyboard. These friends are more than partners in ministry, they help balance my life - practically, emotionally and spiritually.

Who knows YOU best – your likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams? Is it your spouse, a parent, or one of your children? Maybe a best friend or sibling? My mom lives 2,200 miles away, but she can tell by a phone call if I've had a good day, how I'm feeling physically, or if my spirit is weighed down. My daughters, too, can read me well. They look into my eyes and see the emotions behind them. My husband knows me best of all. After witnessing my best and worst days for over a quarter century, he can forecast my mood, my reactions and my opinions. And 98.9% of the time he gets it right. In fact, after 26+ years of marriage, it's harder and harder to keep the mystery alive. So I try to surprise him. At the ten year mark, I revealed my ability to make homemade caramels (Since caramels are his favorite sweet, he was furious that I waited ten years before revealing this hidden talent). At the fifteen year mark, I told him I loved to visit the zoo. We'd never in our married life been to a zoo. He was astonished…and then he took me to a zoo. I waited until we'd enjoyed twenty years of wedded bliss to illustrate ways I had “managed” him all these years. He was utterly shocked and bristled at my male management techniques. Why? Because to be utterly known is a two-edged sword. We can feel a wonderful sense of security and peace, or we can feel extremely vulnerable to the knower. In today's Scripture, poor Isaac was more vulnerable than he realized.

Gen. 27:14-17 – “So [Jacob] went and got [the two choice young goats] and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made.”
  • Rebekah calculated and anticipated every proof of identification her husband might require of Jacob. She knew Isaac well and used that knowing to deceive him completely. When God grants the gift of relationship, and with it gives this level of knowing, there comes a level of responsibility to guard that knowledge and respect the people God has placed in our lives.
Gen. 27:18-20 – “[Jacob] went to his father and said, 'My father.'
'Yes, my son,' [Isaac] answered. 'Who is it?'
Jacob said to his father, 'I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game so that you may give me your blessing.'
Isaac asked his son, 'How did you find it so quickly, my son?'
'The LORD your God gave me success,' he replied.
  • Notice Jacob calls Isaac, “My father,” but Isaac replies by asking which son it is. There is no KNOWING of father and son, so Jacob lies easily. On Isaac's second questioning, Jacob includes God in his lie. Was there no quiver in the son's voice? No waiver in his moral bankruptcy? How many years of Jacob's unfulfilled yearning to be known enabled him to stand face-to-face with his blind father and lie in God's presence? A pain so deep is no excuse but perhaps offers an explanation.
Gen. 27:21-27 – “Then Isaac said to Jacob, 'Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.'
Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, 'The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.' He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he blessed him. 'Are you really my son Esau?' he asked.
'I am,' [Jacob] replied.
Then [Isaac] said, 'My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.' Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, 'Come here, my son, and kiss me.'
So he went to him and kissed him.
When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said, 'Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed…” (emphasis known)
  • These verses are incredibly revealing. They tell us Rebekah predicted every detail of Jacob's deception perfectly, precisely. Looking deeper, they reveal that Isaac knew his son, Esau, very well – the feel of his hands, his neck, and even his scent. Focusing deeper still, we see that Isaac knew Jacob, too. He recognized his voice – but he couldn't believe the child he named, “heel grasper” or deceiver, would truly deceive him five times. But Jacob did deceive. And the son Isaac thought he knew…he didn't truly know. Sometimes, the people we think we know, we don't really know. The truth is – only God knows the heart 100% of the time. In our humanness, we must simply go with our best instincts.
Lord, people sometimes disappoint and deceive me. I think I know them, and they break my heart. Mend the broken places, and please keep calluses from forming. When I give my heart to others, I want to give it with abandon – as though I'm giving it to You – even if they may hurt me. Because only in loving as You love can I know and be known at the deepest levels of relationship.

Monday, April 05, 2010


One would never guess that this fine, upstanding college student would devise a plan to make a single pair of underwear last for four days. Well, "necessity is the mother of invention," and "desperate times call for desperate measures." So when this guy was in a Texas college, and his mother was 2000+ miles away in Indiana, and he came down with a bad case of the flu - he made it work. With only 2 pair of clean underwear left in his drawer, he improvised. Day 1 - right side out, tag in back. Day 2 - wrong side out, tag in back. Day 3 - right side out, tag in front. Day 4 - wrong side out, tag in front. Day 5 was rewarded with his last pair of clean drawers in the drawer, and the rotation started fresh: right side out, tag in back.... You get the picture.

Have you ever been desperate enough to wear dirty underwear? How about staring into an empty coffee pot each morning? What about looking at the last empty wrapper of your chocolate stash? These are all the quirky, amusing “Desperate Housewife” type of stressors, but some of us have experienced true desperation born of real-life struggles. An eviction notice. A pink slip. An empty pillow beside us. These are the morally-numbing, heart-stopping, edge of darkness events that can lead to despair – the precursor to desperation. Wouldn't it be nice if an empty coffee pot and dirty underwear were the closest we ever came to distress? But chances are we'll all be tested at some point in life. So what would you do if life got desperate? How would you insure your safety? Protect your children? Here's how Isaac and the original desperate housewife reacted…

Gen. 27:1-4 – “When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him, 'My son.' 'Here I am,' he answered. Isaac said, 'I am now an old man and don't know the day of my death. Now then, get your weapons--your quiver and bow--and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.'” (emphasis added)
  • Isaac made no secret of his preferential love for Esau, though his firstborn sold his birthright to Jacob years earlier for a measly bowl of stew. Now believing death is near, Isaac makes a desperate attempt to control HIS family and God's plan, returning the firstborn's blessing to Esau. Desperation causes us to grasp for illusions of control, but the truth is – Isaac lived for another 20-40 years and didn't even need to make such a declaration at this time.
Gen. 27:5-10 – “Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, 'Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, “Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the LORD before I die.” Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.'” (emphasis added)
  • Rebekah and Isaac had “drawn straws” for their children years ago. Rebekah must have wondered what would become of her and Jacob if Isaac died and Esau gained the inheritance. There were no welfare programs for an elderly woman if Esau cast her aside. And what if her elder son provided for her but killed Jacob for cheating him out of his birthright years ago for the bowl of stew? We can manufacture desperation by the “what if” scenarios we create in our minds. Faith is giving God the “what ifs.”
Gen. 27:11-13 – “Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, 'But my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I'm a man with smooth skin. What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.' His mother said to him, 'My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.'”
  • Notice Jacob didn't object on moral grounds, just on possible tactical and logistical foul-ups. It seems from this reply that he was okay with the plan as long as they didn't get caught. Desperation weakens our moral sense of responsibility and heightens our sense of self-preservation. Anything that heightens SELF weakens the Spirit that is seeking to expand Christ in us.
Lord, I have found nothing good in desperation – unless it drives me to You. It drove Isaac to control, Rebekah to deception and Jacob to moral failure. I see fear at the root of all their choices, driving them toward foolish attempts to save themselves. It's so much easier to look at THEM and see the answers, Lord. Help me to take these lessons and apply them to the desperate situations in my life. Those issues when I rush in to take control. When it seems best for everyone that I speak in shades of gray rather than being completely honest (with myself and/or others). When I gloss over the niggling sense of wrong to achieve a greater good. May the only desperation I EVER feel be the desperation to be ever closer to You, Father.