Monday, June 28, 2010


What is the purpose of a wedding? No – seriously. I'm actually contemplating the underlying motivation of days, weeks, even months of labor, sweat and stress to stand before a room (or in our daughter's case – a lawn) full of people and declare your vows of love and faithfulness. Why do we do that? As mother-of-the-bride, I was off-the-hook when it came to planning the wedding because we live 2,200 miles away. Our daughter and her fiancé planned everything beautifully; however, more than once in the final week leading up to that big day they threatened to elope! Emily's grandparent's (the parents of our hearts) hosted the rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, the ceremony and reception at their beautiful lakefront home. This meant months of preparation for them, and the days leading up to the BIG DAY were full of little chores to make the place shine like a new penny. Now, including our daughter's dog, there were three precious canines on the property during wedding preparations. Grandpa was the official pooper scooper – not glamorous, but essential. Grandma pruned the flower beds after the wind storms and kept the indoor clutter of 11 guests to a minimum. Moms, dads, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and friends pitched in on the day of the wedding to help set up and dry off chairs when the heavens dumped buckets of rain just hours before the ceremony began. And when the cake lady arrived an hour late with the center tier of cake crumbled into bite-sized pieces, we were all thinking eloping might have been a better choice. So, again I ask. What is the purpose of a wedding? I believe the same answer applies to all of life's questions. It's about God. What is HE doing in the midst of it? Leah seemed to understand that principle at first, but then…

Gen. 29:31-35 – “When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, 'It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.' She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, 'Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.' So she named him Simeon. Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, 'Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.' So he was named Levi. She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, 'This time I will praise the LORD .' So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children” (emphasis added).
  • When the Lord saw that Leah was barren, He was quick to intervene on her behalf and comfort her with children – showing His love and favor in that tangible way. However, Leah was so focused on gaining her husband's love that she found it difficult to be thankful for God's love. Finally, after the birth of her fourth son, Leah's eyes shifted to the eternal Prize, and she awarded Judah the name that reflects a level of contentment in her relationship with GOD.
Gen. 30:1-8 – “When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, 'Give me children, or I'll die!' Jacob became angry with her and said, 'Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?' Then she said, 'Here is Bilhah, my maidservant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and that through her I too can build a family.' So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, and she became pregnant and bore him a son. Then Rachel said, 'God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.' Because of this she named him Dan. Rachel's servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, 'I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.' So she named him Naphtali.” (emphasis added)
  • Jealousy is a sure sign that our eyes have wandered to someone else's prize. And if you'll notice, our eyes work in tandem – where one eye goes, both go. So, if we're gazing longingly at someone else's prize, we can't possibly be gazing longingly at Jesus. Notice that Rachel at least made some mention of God when naming her first son through Bilhah, but by the second son, all pretense of holiness was gone. By then, she acknowledged it as a competition, and her eyes were firmly fixed on the wrong finish line.
Gen. 30:9-13 – “When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her maidservant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. Leah's servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. Then Leah said, 'What good fortune!' So she named him Gad. Leah's servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. Then Leah said, 'How happy I am! The women will call me happy.' So she named him Asher.” (emphasis added)
  • What happened to Leah's contentment in the One, True God? And how can she accredit her maidservant's children to mere FORTUNE? And the second son simply makes her “happy” but doesn't cause her to PRAISE the Giver of Life. My guess is that Leah has become angry with God for allowing her sister Rachel to have children. It was the only advantage she'd had over her, and now she was unloved and unable to bear children of her own. Self-pity has become her focus. Happiness her goal. The first is destructive. The second fickle.
Gen. 30:14-16 – “During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, 'Please give me some of your son's mandrakes.' But she said to her, 'Wasn't it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son's mandrakes too?' 'Very well,' Rachel said, 'he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son's mandrakes.' So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. 'You must sleep with me,' she said. 'I have hired you with my son's mandrakes.' So he slept with her that night.”
  • If Leah's son, Reuben, knew his mother would appreciate the fabled aphrodisiac flowers, the rivalry between Jacob's wives had evidently permeated the whole household. As parents (adults), we train our children's eyes on the prizes we value most – intentionally or unintentionally. Kids watch and learn.
Gen. 30:17-24 – “God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. Then Leah said, 'God has rewarded me for giving my maidservant to my husband.' So she named him Issachar. Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. Then Leah said, 'God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.' So she named him Zebulun. Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah. Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, 'God has taken away my disgrace.' She named him Joseph, and said, 'May the LORD add to me another son.'” (emphasis added)
  • Is there any better example of God's amazing grace in the Old Testament? Here are two women acting like spoiled children, and yet God listens to their prayers and answers according to their deepest desires. While these two women were at each other's throats and demonstrating destruction to their children, God intervened. He loved. He blessed…in spite of them. And in the end, they praised Him for it.
Lord, I can look at these two women and say, “Why won't You answer MY prayers if you answered THEIRS?” But the greater question is – Why do You answer the prayers of any of Your silly, sinful children? If You waited until I was perfect before blessing me, I would be the lowliest of human beings! Thank You for Your infinite wisdom and grace that answers when I least deserve it. Teach me to focus more on my eternal Prize and less on earthly distractions. I want to look beyond the proverbial wedding to the Beloved that binds the hearts.

Monday, June 21, 2010


“Reasonable expectations.” It's a tricky phrase, isn't it? I'm sure there are legal cases piled up in courtrooms across the country, debating what a jury deems “reasonable expectations” for contracted services, purchases and even relationships. Our family's reasonable expectation involved a baker, a cake, a wedding and 125 guests. Almost nine months ago, our daughter, Emily, and her fiancé met with the owner of a local bakery to discuss wedding cake options. They were impressed with the man's portfolio and tasted three flavors of cake and several delightful icings. They eagerly signed a contract, leaving the suggested cash deposit. Three months in advance of the wedding, the kids began confirming with the various vendors as was suggested by all the wedding magazines. When they called the bakery, a female voice answered and explained that she had purchased the original baker's business but would honor their deposit and try to do the cake as ordered. Try? Our daughter and her fiancé made a quick trip (4 hours) to the bakery to meet with the new owner and sample her wares. The flavor was adequate, but they were uneasy from the beginning with this new relationship. Fast-forward…to the wedding day. Excitement is mounting. Outdoor wedding. Rain – down-pour – two hours before the ceremony. Cake lady is MIA, AWOL – OMG! An hour late, she shows up. Crying. The middle tier of the 3-tiered cake is completely destroyed. Bumpy Indiana roads in her Jeep Cherokee, she says. Ugh. But here's the key. Two days before, my daughter and I had a “mommy/daughter” breakfast date, and Emily asked me this question: “Mom, are you ready for some BIG emergency on my wedding day?” When I gave her my puzzled stare, she continued. “'Cause you know something will go wrong, and we'll just have to roll with it.” After seeing the cake, I trudged back upstairs, to tell our baby girl that her dream cake was a nightmare. Would she remember her REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS of at least one disaster on this day? She did, and her groom handled it beautifully, too. The skies cleared – no more rain. No more disasters. What are your reasonable expectations?

Gen. 29:14b-20 – “Laban said to [Jacob], 'Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.' Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, 'I'll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.' Laban said, 'It's better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.' So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. (emphasis added)
  • From the sound of Laban's lack-luster response, I'm thinking he wasn't thrilled when Jacob proposed Rachel as wages. Wasn't it more reasonable to pay wages in silver or gold, flocks or herds – even servants? But daughters? Laban may have asked for Jacob's input, but it seems he had a pre-determined idea of what was reasonable and he found it difficult to adjust to someone else's plan. Sound familiar?
Gen. 29:21 – “Then Jacob said to Laban, 'Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her.'”
  • What might have happened during Jacob's seven years of service to Laban that changed Jacob's tone so completely? The demanding words and voice lead us to believe Jacob might have expected Laban to double-cross him...and he was right. But is a tantrum justified when others threaten our expectations?
Gen. 29:22-30 – “So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her. And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpah to his daughter as her maidservant. When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, 'What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn't I? Why have you deceived me?' Laban replied, 'It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter's bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.' And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. Laban gave his servant girl Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maidservant. Jacob lay with Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.”
  • Even though Jacob expected it, Laban found a way to double-cross him. Sometimes people live up to our low expectations, and the pain crashes into our lives and others' – creating dominoes of expectations for generations. How did Leah feel when her new husband railed at being “stuck” with her? How did Rachel feel at being passed over because she was the younger sister? When reasonable expectations are dashed, it's seldom only one person who is hurt.
Lord, when I'm disappointed, teach me to turn to You for comfort first – before I rant and rail. Give me perspective. Show me Your heavenly view of REASONABLE before I allow my self-justification to bully those who might be harmed in the stampede. Help me to mourn my lost expectations, allowing You to comfort me in the true and real grief I feel. Finally, as I regain my sense of Your presence, help me to minister to others – now more effective because I've felt the sting of dashed expectations and the touch of Your comfort.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


My husband and I attended church with my mom last Sunday, and the King's Way congregation has started a fabulous campaign! It's called a 40-day Negativity Fast! For 40 days they're seeking to cut out ALL negativity from their thoughts, words and attitudes. We observed that families are seemingly the most successful at this project - since the children are most ready to tattle on parents who snack on negative attitudes and words. However, everyone in attendance reported the single most positive effect of this fast was the AWARENESS that had been awakened in their everyday lives to the negativity that consumes their thought-diet.

I had to think back on Roy's and my journey from Vancouver, WA to our childhood home in Indiana. We traveled somewhere around 2,500 miles in about 4 days and were exposed to many different terrains and weather phenomenons. We drove through mountains, hills and plains. Saw waterfalls, rivers, streams and deserts. We experienced rain, hail, blistering heat and humidity and even drove through a blizzard in Utah. I must admit - we were not fasting from negativity on our journey eastward. But still our God was faithful, and He brought us safely to our destinations - all of them. We've already visited with some friends and family, but mostly we've spent some very important days with our daughters - one of whom will be married in 3 days.

In these few days, minutes, hours leading up to one of the most important days of our daughter's life, I'm reminded again of the negativity fast. So much tension could derail this special day. So many details could rob us of the joy of this occasion. We are praying, trusting, seeking the high road - one traveled through all kinds of weather and terrain, but one free of negativity. And it will be by God's hand alone that we will arrive at our destination - not minus a daughter, but adding a son-in-love. We covet your prayers as the day approaches, and we'll be posting a picture or two to share our joy.