Monday, September 27, 2010


Okay, this picture (at right) is NOT my house...but it could be if I don't learn to throw things away. I’m getting to that time in life when I open my underwear drawer and think, Holy Smokes! If I die today, I don’t want anyone cleaning out this drawer! I have underwear in there older than my children!

I certainly want to leave a more meaningful legacy than stretched-out, hole-ly (not holy), elastic-less underwear! It occurs to me that men and women think differently about legacies. (Men and women think differently about underwear, too, but that’s for another devotional topic.) In a room of strangers, men usually introduce themselves by reciting their occupation or their associations. Women introduce themselves by establishing their relationships – their children, husband, parents, friends. Women may also share their occupations, but oftentimes they will tell WHO they work with – as opposed to men, who begin comparing the quickest route to said location. In either type of introduction, the individual defines the people, places and things in their lives that have shaped them. A legacy is not only left for those who come after us. It is also shaped by those who have built into us. We see Esau’s legacy described in one chapter of Genesis. No underwear drawer to inspect. Just one chapter to read...

Gen. 36:1-5 – "This is the account of Esau (that is, Edom). Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite—also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth. Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, Basemath bore Reuel, and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the sons of Esau, who were born to him in Canaan." (emphasis added)
  • Esau was defined by his wives. No doubt, a marriage relationship in ancient Middle East 2000 BC looked quite different than a marriage relationship in America 2010 AD. However, I believe this remains constant: the unique intimacy of marriage affects a person’s sense of self more deeply than any other adult relationship. Ultimately, my legacy joins with my spouse’s legacy to become a combined statement of a life lived together.
Gen. 36:6-8 – "Esau took his wives and sons and daughters and all the members of his household, as well as his livestock and all his other animals and all the goods he had acquired in Canaan, and moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob. Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where they were staying could not support them both because of their livestock. So Esau (that is, Edom) settled in the hill country of Seir."
  • Esau was defined by his location. My husband and I have three homes. We hold a mortgage on one house; however, we consider three locations to be HOME: 1) where we grew up, 2) where we enjoyed pastoral ministry during our children’s growing-up years, and 3) where we live now. Each of those places changed us, taught us, shaped us into the people we are today, and in each of those locations, we left and will leave a lasting footprint that others will follow.
Gen. 36:9-14 – "This is the account of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir. These are the names of Esau’s sons: Eliphaz, the son of Esau’s wife Adah, and Reuel, the son of Esau’s wife Basemath. The sons of Eliphaz: Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam and Kenaz. Esau’s son Eliphaz also had a concubine named Timna, who bore him Amalek. These were grandsons of Esau’s wife Adah. The sons of Reuel: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were grandsons of Esau’s wife Basemath. The sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon, whom she bore to Esau: Jeush, Jalam and Korah."
  • Esau was defined by his children and grandchildren. For better or worse, our kids become our calling card to the world, when our voices are long gone. Of course, our children have been ours to mold and shape since their first squalling breath, but have you ever considered the shaping children do in our lives? Whether our own children or those of others, kids teach us things we could never learn from adults. The world through the eyes of a child – or even a teenager – is vastly different than its interpretation by a jaded adult. And if my daughters didn’t keep me updated on pop culture, I’d be even further behind the curve than I already am! God bless my kids (and someday grandkids), who in many ways help define their own legacy.
Gen. 36:15-30 – "These were the chiefs among Esau’s descendants: The sons of Eliphaz the firstborn of Esau: Chiefs Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, Korah, Gatam and Amalek…they were grandsons of Adah. The sons of Esau’s son Reuel: Chiefs Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah…they were grandsons of Esau’s wife Basemath. …Chiefs Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the chiefs descended from Esau’s wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah. These were the sons of Esau (that is, Edom), and these were their chiefs.

These were the sons of Seir the Horite, who were living in the region: Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. These sons of Seir in Edom were Horite chiefs. The sons of Lotan: Hori and Homam. Timna was Lotan’s sister. The sons of Shobal…The sons of Zibeon…The children of Anah: Dishon and Oholibamah daughter of Anah. The sons of Dishon…The sons of Ezer…The sons of Dishan …These were the Horite chiefs, according to their divisions, in the land of Seir." (emphasis added)
  • Esau was defined by his in-laws. When Esau married Canaanite women, he bound himself and his descendants to their pagan culture for all time. Esau married the daughter of a Horite Chief, an important man in the region Esau planned to settle. Esau’s firstborn son, Eliphaz, took a concubine from the royal Horite family (Timna, 36:12,22) and made her son a chief equal among his other sons (Amalek, father of the Amalekites). The family of our spouse brings a kaleidoscope of color to the legacy we will leave – a truth we must recognize and then maximize or minimize as much as possible.
Gen. 36:31-43 – "These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned: Bela son of Beor became king of Edom. His city was named Dinhabah. When Bela died, Jobab son of Zerah from Bozrah succeeded him as king. When Jobab died, Husham…succeeded him…Hadad…succeeded him…Samlah…succeeded him…Shaul…succeeded him…Baal-Hanan…succeeded him…Hadad succeeded him…These were the chiefs descended from Esau, by name, according to their clans and regions: Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, Magdiel and Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom, according to their settlements in the land they occupied. This was Esau the father of the Edomites." (emphasis added)
  • Esau was defined by history. From conception, Esau competed with his brother, Jacob/Israel. Now, recorded for all time, Esau’s ruling descendants are measured first and foremost according to the timeline of Israelite kings. Though 99.9% of us reading this devotional won’t have our lives written in any sort of historical record, still our legacy will live on. As surely as we have been defined by people and circumstances in our lives, so we, too, will leave a defining footprint on this earth. What will it be?
Lord, teach me to live each day as though I’m building my legacy. Show me every individual, every community, every circumstance in my life as a tool that You’re using to shape my legacy for those who will follow. As I am defined by my legacy, let my legacy be a defining gift for my children and children’s children.

Monday, September 20, 2010


When do we begin yearning for MORE? I think it begins when we‘re children – as was evidenced by my own little cherubs. We started the Christmas tradition of advent boxes when our girls were in first grade and pre-school. Each day, from December 1-24, our family: 1) read a selected Scripture, 2) shared a short Christmas story, and 3) opened one 1"x 2"x 3" box containing a small gift. The gifts might be coins or pieces of candy, sometimes even a colored "pill" – the outer shell of which dissolved in warm water to reveal a little foam animal. At first each gift was met with wide-eyed enthusiasm, but as the girls grew older they searched for MORE. By the time they reached fourth grade and first grade, our little angels were scowling at the coins and tossing the pills aside. They wanted MORE. So the next year, we made advent a scavenger hunt, filling the advent boxes with clues as to where bigger gifts were hidden in the house. A few years later, our girls outsmarted us and found the gifts before the advent boxes were opened. So once again, we had to find a way to deliver MORE. We began placing wrapped gifts under the tree and numbering them in correlation with the advent box number. We tucked into the advent boxes snappy little poems that gave clues about the gift in the corresponding wrapped gift. This advent strategy has proven most effective and is still in use today – when our girls are in their mid twenties! (The above photo displaying some of our little silly gifts still in use and the fact that our new son-in-law also finds this tradition fascinating!) However, now that our kids are grown, we've all discovered there's just something missing about Christmas. We remember how special Christmas was when children's laughter rang out when they opened their gifts. Wouldn't it be nice to have some grand-kids around? Hmmm, maybe even grown-ups want MORE….

Gen. 35:1 – "Then God said to Jacob, 'Go up to Bethel and settle there…'"
  • Jacob went to Bethel. He built an altar, Rebekah's nurse (Deborah) died and God reaffirmed both His covenant and new name to Israel. But instead of obeying God's command to settle in Bethel…
Gen. 35:16-20 – "Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, 'Don't be afraid, for you have another son.' As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin. So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel's tomb."
  • Rachel's death was the first of three tragedies that befell Jacob after he left Bethel. I had always imagined Rachel's death as God's punishment for Jacob's sin. But perhaps she died simply because Jacob didn't heed God's practical directive to SETTLE in Bethel because his pregnant wife was on the verge of childbirth. Sometimes God's commands are purely practical in nature. Many Old Testament Laws (Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) were given to establish sanitation and health practices for a nomadic nation. When the Lord lays a command on our hearts, oftentimes His motive is not to squelch our fun or prove His power – but rather to protect us from all sorts of potential harm.
Gen. 35:21-26 – "Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder. While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father's concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it. Jacob had twelve sons: The sons of Leah: Reuben the firstborn of Jacob, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Rachel's maidservant Bilhah: Dan and Naphtali. The sons of Leah's maidservant Zilpah: Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram." (emphasis added)
  • Consider the grief each person felt at Rachel's loss. Jacob had loved Rachel since the moment he saw her, and imagine Bilhah's grief at the death of her lifelong mistress. Rather than making camp at Ephrath (Bethlehem), Jacob pressed on, moving his family during their grief. Consider this. Would Reuben have slept with Bilhah if Jacob's clan had settled in Bethel as God commanded? Of course, we cannot know the exact circumstances that drew Reuben and Bilhah together, and they are responsible before God for their choice to sin; however, did Jacob's disobedience play a part in their liaison? Maybe Bilhah was despondent at Rachel's death and Jacob, because of his own grief, was insensitive to the needs of others. Perhaps Reuben had simply meant to comfort Bilhah, or maybe as Jacob's firstborn, Reuben saw the opportunity to gain MORE than the firstborn's share and take his father's wife. Sometimes one decision sets into motion a series of dire consequences. Notice Scripture records nothing of Jacob's reaction to the news of Reuben's infidelity. Only a recounting of Jacob's children punctuates the scene, affirming that his family remains – hurting and broken as it was.
Gen. 35:27-29 – "Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him."
  • It seems Jacob's search for MORE finally ended when he arrived at his father's side. But his satisfaction was fleeting. Isaac died shortly after Jacob arrived and left him face-to-face with his brother, Esau. Jacob had twelve sons, three wives and the wealth of his household, but at what cost? His father was gone, his beloved Rachel dead, and the brother he had deceived repeatedly stared at him over their father's grave. What MORE could fill Jacob's heart now? Where did he turn to seek new hope for the rest of his days? The desire for MORE must be focused beyond the temporal things of this world.
Lord, I yearn and search for MORE, and then when I reach the goal – it often feels hollow or only satisfies for a short time. Teach me the contentment of obedience, the utter satisfaction of living in perfect harmony with Your desire for me. Teach me to be still when You ask me to settle and to step out when you call me to action.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Touching the Clouds

I first met author Bonnie Leon when she taught a workshop on "Plotting Your Novel" at our Portland chapter of ACFW. I was so impressed with her knowledge and ability to communicate what she knew that I sent a "thank you" to this multi-published author. Within hours she replied in her sweet, humble way; and I discovered a kindred spirit in the woman behind the books.

Bonnie, like myself, was introduced to her writing career by adversity. After an auto accident, she found herself unable to return to her "normal" life and instead entered the writing world as an outlet to glorify God with her gifts and talents.

Bonnie's most recent book, Touching the Clouds is the first in her Alaskan Skies series. I've always been intrigued by Alaska and hoped to explore the beautiful 49th state on a cruise ship. However, Bonnie's vivid description of both the scenery and characters in Alaska's mid-1930's territory gave me a glimpse almost as real as being there.

In the story, Kate Evans is an adventurous and independent young woman with a pioneering spirit. When she leaves her home in Washington State to follow her dream of being an Alaskan bush pilot, she knows it will be an uphill battle. But she never expected it to be quite like this. As the lone woman in a man’s world, she finds that contending with people’s expectations is almost as treacherous as navigating the wild arctic storms. When she crosses paths with a mysterious man living alone in the forbidding wilderness, she faces a new challenge. Can Kate break through the walls he has put up around his heart? And will fear keep her from realizing her dreams?

Touching the Clouds will draw you into the characters' lives amid the stunning backdrop of the Alaskan wilds. If you're looking for an enjoyable historical novel, Bonnie's new offering is a great place to search!

Monday, September 13, 2010


It's sort of like déjà vu – but different. A woven moment occurs when events from your past converge in a single moment, weaving together an indelible new moment. Woven moments often happen during landmark events in our lives: weddings, funerals, reunions of all sorts. In the weeks and months leading up to our daughter's recent wedding, I experienced many woven moments, but one stands apart. One evening when Emily was home from college on Christmas break, we unearthed my twenty-six year-old wedding gown, broke open the sealed package, and she tried it on. Tears instantly sprang to my eyes. It was a woven moment. Memories of her dad's and my wedding bombarded me. And then I saw our little girl on her first day of kindergarten, her golden curls bouncing as she ran down the stairs with her sister. Then came those difficult teen years, rushing back in a cacophony of victory as I watched the love of Jesus now sparkle in her eyes. This new moment, forever etched in my mind, standing in my wedding gown. (A perfect fit, BTW – was I ever really that skinny?) Woven moments are most incredible because they aren't simply a one-time stitch – they're a lifetime tapestry. Less than six months later, I was blessed with another woven moment. My husband walked our daughter down a grassy aisle in her own wedding gown, a new moment added to the events that will weave into the next and next and next tapestry we share. God allows us to experience a little bit of Jacob's tapestry, Jacob‟s woven moments on his way to Bethel…

Gen. 35:1-3 – “Then God said to Jacob, 'Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.' So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, 'Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.'” (emphasis added)
  • Jacob is terrified that his sons' rash attack on Shechem will bring vengeance from the Canaanites – just as he feared Esau‟s vengeance 20+ years ago. Notice that Jacob addressed “his household” and “all who were with him.” He was staring into the faces of the Shechemite women and children that his sons took captive. His deceitful history and his sons‟ sins stared back at him. But he CHOSE to focus on God's promise rather than his own fear or failure. His woven moment is one of purposely, consciously remembering God's faithfulness and moving forward.
Gen. 35:4-8 – “So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. Then they set out, and the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that no one pursued them. Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother. Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak below Bethel. So it was named Allon Bacuth.” (emphasis added)
  • Surely, in this collecting of ALL foreign gods, Rachel surrendered the household gods she had stolen from her father, Laban (Gen. 31:34). Was this the first Jacob knew of Rachel's thievery or idolatry? How would Rachel have felt about giving up the idols? Did it put a wedge between her and Jacob? Soon after arriving in Bethel, Jacob buried the woman who would have been his wet-nurse, Deborah – another strong female relationship in his life…strong enough to mention in the biblical record. Both the idols and Deborah were buried under oak trees. Though a spiritual victory for God at Shechem – overcoming idolatry – the personal turmoil for Jacob may have caused a few knots in this woven moment. Sometimes the best strategy for knot removal is simply to submit to the Master Weaver's hands and wait. Woven moments aren't always free of snags, but they can all be made beautiful by the Master.
Gen. 35:9-10 – “After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. God said to him, 'Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.' So he named him Israel.”
  • God reminds Jacob that he is named, “Struggles with God.” Why? My guess is: Because Jacob was struggling with God. Let's face it, life's been hard. Dinah was raped. His sons just killed and captured an entire city of innocent people. And then Jacob's mother-figure (Deborah) died. Wouldn't you be struggling with God? So in this woven moment, God calls Jacob to recall the wrestling match on the riverbank of the Jabbok. And with the memory of struggle came a renewed assurance of blessing.
Gen. 35:11-15 – “And God said to him, 'I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body. The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.' Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him. Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.”
  • How many times had Jacob heard his Grandfather Abraham tell the story of God's promise and calling? How many times had Isaac told Jacob of the Land promised to his descendants? Now, the same Almighty God speaks into this woven moment, a tapestry of history with a legacy that will stretch into eternity. The newly named Israel is forever woven into the fabric of his forefathers, the Promised Land and God's story. Just as we are woven into our own stories of family, experience and God's plan.
Lord, open my eyes to more woven moments so I can appreciate the Weaver's Hand. I want to hear Your voice and feel the assurance of your direction as Jacob did. Show me the past events that weave together my current moments into the delicate future You have so carefully planned for me. I want to walk in the beauty of Your very best, Father. Only Your best.

Monday, September 06, 2010


Motives are tricky business. Some are quite clear from the beginning. When we were driving our mega-cross-country trip from Washington to Indiana and back again, I would often turn to my husband in near panic and say, “Honey, we need to stop at the next gas station.” He, of course, assumed my morning coffee or afternoon tea needed an escape route. By the third day of this assumption, however, he discovered that coffee and tea weren't always my motivation. Each time I stepped through those convenience store doors with a sleeve of powdered-sugar donuts, he grew more suspicious of my bladder. Once, he even tried to stop at a rest area! Heaven forbid! Their snack machines NEVER have PSD's (powdered-sugar donuts – for those of you non-experts in Dolly Madison snacks). Thus began the challenge of motives. Was my plea to pee pure or a ploy for PSD's? Now, don't poo-poo our perplexing problem. One wrong judgment of my motive, and we could have quite a poo-poo problem. Fortunately, my dear husband is gracious and patient with my tainted motives, but in Jacob's household, motives of the heart were revealed only through tragedy…

Gen. 34:13-17 – “Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob's sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. They said to them, 'We can't do such a thing; we can't give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us. We will give our consent to you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. Then we will give you our daughters and take your daughters for ourselves. We'll settle among you and become one people with you. But if you will not agree to be circumcised, we'll take our sister and go.'” (emphasis added)
  • Jacob, the man whose name meant “deceiver,” allows his sons to bargain deceitfully. The author of Genesis leaves no doubt that their motivation was deceit, and I don't think they ever intended for their wild demand to be accepted by the Shechemites. But what happens when your motivation is trickery – and then it backfires…and puts you in the tight spot instead? Where do you land spiritually after that?
Gen. 34:18-24 – “Their proposal seemed good to Hamor and his son Shechem. The young man, who was the most honored of all his father's household, lost no time in doing what they said, because he was delighted with Jacob's daughter. So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of their city to speak to their fellow townsmen. 'These men are friendly toward us,' they said. 'Let them live in our land and trade in it; the land has plenty of room for them. We can marry their daughters and they can marry ours. But the men will consent to live with us as one people only on the condition that our males be circumcised, as they themselves are. Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours? So let us give our consent to them, and they will settle among us.' All the men who went out of the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male in the city was circumcised.” (emphasis added)
  • From the order of events in these verses, it sounds as if Shechem rushed home from Jacob's tent, was circumcised, and then took his trophy to the city gate and said, “See fellas! It ain't so bad!” Again, the author of Genesis tells us the motivation – Shechem was DELIGHTED with Dinah. But Hamor and Shechem were motivated by something different altogether – GREED – to convince the men of Shechem to submit to circumcision (“Won't their livestock, etc.…become ours”). Don't just skim over this. Circumcision is common in our culture, but in the land of Canaan, it was a strange mutilation of manhood. Jacob must have had considerable wealth in order to persuade a whole city of men to succumb to such a delicate procedure. Greed is a powerful and insidious motivator.
Gen. 34:25-31 – “Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob's sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem's house and left. The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where their sister had been defiled. They seized their flocks and herds and donkeys and everything else of theirs in the city and out in the fields. They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses. Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, 'You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.' But they replied, 'Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?'” (emphasis added)
  • Known for murdering the whole town of unsuspecting Shechemite men, Simeon's and Levi's REVENGE for their full sister, Dinah (from the same mother, Leah) is legendary. But what about the other “sons of Jacob,” who went to Shechem after the killing spree to plunder the town and take captive the women and children? Are they less wicked because their deeds were motivated by GREED or LUST? And what about Jacob? He chastised only Leah's murderous sons, his only motivation seemed to be SELF-PRESERVATION – which isn't a bad thing…except when he shows no concern at all for his daughter or the dead Shechemites. Imagine if Simeon and Levi were the only ones with impure motives – imagine if Jacob's motives and those of his other sons' would have been righteous and repentant. How different could this event have been?
Lord, it is often in the fire of tragedy that all pretense is burned away and true motives come to light. Please, Father, purify my motives BEFORE the tragedy comes. Reveal where I have less than a clean heart, and by Your grace and mercy, help me to make the necessary decisions to change my heart and become a good and godly example for You on this earth.