Featured Post

What Makes a Handful?

"You sure have your hands full!" said the older woman in Target, watching me try to corral four independent-thinking and adventur...

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Attacked by God

Out of the mouths of babes...
Yes, it seems my kids are so often putting it into perspective for me. Or sharpening a perspective. Or making me rethink a long-held, entrenched perspective.

I've been attempting to hold a weekly Bible study with my two elementary-age daughters this fall. We've had some good moments. Most have been trying. I'm far better equipped to teach and explore with older kids and adults than I am with the younger ones, but we keep doing it.

My goal is to touch key points throughout scripture, showing them how God has determined to have a people for himself, and how he makes that possible in Jesus. So far, we've lingered in Genesis longer than I initially planned, but there have been some rich portions to take from it, so it's worth it.

Last week, we talked about Jacob wrestling the Angel of God all night, and clinging to him, saying, "I won't let you go until you bless me." I thought I had communicated the way I envisioned that scene, but you never know what literal-thinking little ones actually come away with.

Last night, we sat down to move on to the sons of Jacob, and I asked if they remembered who Jacob was. Jill's hand shot up, her body wiggling all over like a puppy greeting its master after a separation. "I know! I know!"

"He's the one who got attacked by God!"

What a humbling moment for me. I always think that story is about me, and how I resist God, and how I try to control him for my purposes. It's me-centric in my perception. Or it was, until that innocent and honest and forthright statement. Those of you who know me know it is true: She wrestles with God. Daily. Hourly. I love him and I want him and I do not understand where this is all going and what he wants from me, but I will NOT let him go until he blesses me.

What Jill remembered, though, was that God initiated. God came upon Jacob. God began this altercation with the schemer who was walking his walk as confidently as the Bee Gees approaching a movie camera. He was slithering his way into the life he wanted and he was getting it done. He'd already secured the familial favor of inheritance from his impulsive brother by trickery--no need to wait on parent or labor or even the promise of God for that. Matters well in his own hands. And how did God respond with a "blessing"?

He injured Jacob. He touched his hip so that from that point forward, Jacob walked with a limp. The rest of his life.

No more arrogant strutting for Jacob. No more moving ahead confidently only in his own strength. God hurt him--permanently. To bless him.

From that day forward, every step the supplanter took (that's what the name Jacob means) was a step in remembrance that he was now Israel--he who wrestles with God. And every step would be a reminder of dependence on the one who was guiding those steps already, the one who determines the outcome, which is that he will be our God and we will be his people.

It will be. Whatever it takes.

Oh, how I have prayed, for myself, for my friends, for my children: "Relent, God! Relent! It is too much for us!"

I never would have articulated it this way before: attacked by God. But I've felt it. Haven't you?

Can we look at the patriarch, the hardship of his life, the wandering, the hunger, need, broken families, assault of his daughter, assumption that his most beloved son was dead, uprooting, and then... outrageous, unlikely, lavish, excessive blessing even in this life--the land of the living--with the unthinkable yet to come in the next? Can we claim it too? That it's for a reason, he has a purpose and that I don't get it! I don't get why the injury has to be but will open wounds that are fertile ground for prodigal good--

I don't get it. But I believe it. Can we believe it together? If so, tell me. Tell each other. Tell how he attacked you to bless you and how you're singing as you limp through. As long as it is called today, will you share your wounds to move us all forward? I sincerely want to hear your stories, oh nation of priests. Preach to me of how you were attacked by God and blessed in it.

And if you're not yet sure, keep wrestling. Hold on, and don't let him go until he blesses you. It's what he's about. It's what he does.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Morning After

I woke my daughters differently this morning.

It's usually a palm laid flat on each back, one at a time, and the words, "My little lamb, it's time to get up." And they each complain and ask for more minutes, which they usually get.

This morning, it started the same. The hand, warmth through the blankets. The smell of children sleeping. The gentle stirring, but instead of asking for more minutes, the littlest said, with eyes still closed, "Who won?"

And I told her.

She responded, "Mommy, I don't want to get up. I don't want to go outside ever again."

I know she didn't really mean it, not "ever again," but I also know her heart was honest.

Last spring, a little boy in her class was crying at school. He has brown skin. Black eyes. Black hair. He's small. Another child told him that after the election, he wouldn't be allowed to live here any more. It broke my daughter's heart. I hoped then I was assuring her honestly that it wouldn't be that way. I hope today that's true.

But I know that's still in her memory, and it's likely why she doesn't want to go outside ever again.

But I told her, "We have to, baby. We have to get up. We have to go out. We have to go be the church. We have to love people more than we ever have before. Everybody's hurting. Everybody's afraid. We need to love harder." And she got up. And she went to school. They all did. Life goes on, and our opportunities to be light in it are a little different than they were. We still have a reason to be here.

People with whom I have for decades shared similar ideas and often similar actions held very different views this election season. Discussion didn't bridge the divide for us. "I don't get how you can see this differently than I do" was stated repeatedly. I felt the same way in return.

Many whom I love felt very strongly that one person was their only hope to protect their legal right to hold and express their faith views. That drove their votes.

While I didn't support their candidate or the primary opposition, I feared that supporting the person in whom they put their hope would do far more to damage my faith witness, regardless of its legal status. It isn't so much my legal right to hold my faith that concerns me. It's the actual advancement of the gospel--the good news that there is a God and he loves people and he forgives and reaches into lives and gets people by the heart and never, ever lets them go for all eternity--that I am more concerned about. So even if the law stays favorable, how we get it and how we keep it does matter, because it's on the street with my neighbors and friends, coworkers, shoppers, drivers, parents, coaches, clients--that's where associations are made and connections to the Jesus I know should be realized. Not with a public persona who looks nothing like him.

So we got up this morning. Heavy hearted, but accepting. There's sadness because there's fear and there's hurt among our communities. There's determination, because truth and love are not things anyone can legislate--in or out. And law doesn't lessen obligation or opportunity.

So we got up. And we went out, because we love you. We loved you yesterday and we love you today, and we will love you. We love because HE first loved us. That won't change.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

How Does a Boaz Come To Be?

There's a blogger out there who calls herself A Modern Day Ruth. She is waiting, praying, asking God daily--sometimes hourly--for his provision of a Modern-Day Boaz for her. A kind man. A God-fearing man. A man who will see her, tossed roughly about by life but still faithfully putting one foot in front of the other and being crafted in those moments into a more beautiful person--one who wants to love and is more able to now than before all the crises that shape her. A man who will see that, and despite all the brokenness and history and "not the way he planned it" perspective, choose to love her anyway.

I know a lot of hurt and abandoned women. Many are not so bold as Modern Day Ruth, to put it out there on a public blog--the cries of our hearts. But most have at least wondered: Do they exist? Boaz-es. Today. Are there men like that any longer? And if so, where do they come from? What shapes them into such men who can be strong enough to be bold and stand against convention, and kind and good too, in that strength?

This morning, I heard for the umpteenth time about Rahab.

Rahab the prostitute.

Rahab the lowest of the low.

She wasn't just a woman. She was a Canaanite woman. Ewwww!

She wasn't just a Canaanite woman. She was a Canaanite woman who sold herself to men, and not just to men but to Canaanite men. Over and over.

It would really be hard to find a person who would be considered any more low and unclean to the "holy and upright" men at the time than Rahab. The Canaanite prostitute.

But as we know, she turns out to be the heroine of the story, used by God for the good of his people. The pastor said, "Our markers for shame so often get flipped into signposts for glory."

I have a lot of reason to hope that is true for more than just Rahab. The prostitute.

The pastor had us flip ahead to Matthew 1, to show us how glorious Rahab's story ends up being. You probably know that part of the point of that lineage listed at the beginning of Matthew's gospel is recording for us how Rahab--the unclean--was one of the women in the holy and royal lineage of not only King David but Jesus himself. A Canaanite woman, a prostitute, married into the nation of Israel and credited throughout history in the line that brought God to earth in human form. Glorious, no doubt.

But I knew that. My mind got stuck elsewhere today. Today, the light shone on something else, something much, much more practical and mundane, I suppose, but without it, the Divine embodiment wouldn't have happened so I think it's important even if it wasn't the ultimate.

For the first time today, it actually sank in for me where Rahab's place in that lineage fell. You see, the prostitute, the used and abused and desperately worthless woman--that woman, was the mother of Boaz.

The same Boaz that gets referred to today as the example of what abandoned women long for. The kind, hardworking man who looked outside himself and the business of his daily life and his workers and saw the abandoned and displaced Ruth and cared for her--and felt blessed by her and not embarrassed or awkward or repulsed when she responded to his kindness.

What makes a Boaz?

Boaz was born into a family that seems impossibly unlikely. We don't know much at all about who Boaz's father was. His name was Salmon. Was he one of the spies that Rahab protected? Or just another Israelite who, for some unimaginable reason was willing to take HER as a wife after Jericho fell? We really don't know. But Salmon did the unthinkable and took a Canaanite wife--a woman who had been utterly used by men. A desperate woman. A woman with no hope except to sell her body (and I promise you, her perception of selling her soul with every transaction) to stay alive in a world that saw no other value in her.

And with that union, a son was born, and nurtured into the man that women even today consider the manliest to be desired.

I wonder what the mother-son discussions were like as little Boaz grew into a man. I wonder how he saw his mother, how he loved and respected her, how he learned to dignify other women and to think humbly of himself. (I want to credit his father here too; I can imagine Salmon himself had to be humble and open-hearted and forgiving in an extraordinary way.)

I think we're getting something wrong. I can get pretty anxious about the way that ALL the brokenness is likely shaping my children. I worry about the loss of ideals. I worry about how much they're missing--all that I wanted their perfect childhoods to be. I cannot claim to understand God's economies and how he somehow works something majestic and holy and royal and divine out of the darkest threads in our stories.

But he seems to do so. Because Rahab the prostitute raised a Boaz, and through him nurtured the line of the King of Kings--who binds up the broken hearted and adorns his Bride, who lay in her blood and filth, with purity renewed. The Bridegroom who never abandons. The Kinsman Redeemer who isn't ashamed of his Bride, but glories in calling her his own. The Boaz of Boazes.