August 29, 2010

Ordinary Time Excursion-Eve

During this summer, “ordinary time” we have been looking at women in the Bible to see what they can tell us about how God speaks to us in love. We’ve visited with diverse people. We met childless women like Sarah and Hannah who were blessed with children in their old age. Women like Miriam and Esther showed us how God can use us where we are. A foreign woman, Rahab, helped us look at how faith can change us. Last week Noah’s wife experienced the glory of God’s loving presence in the midst of the storms of life.

The psalmist concludes Psalm 37 (verses 37-40) by exalting, “Mark the blameless, and behold the upright, for there is posterity for the peaceable. But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the posterity of the wicked shall be cut off. The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their refuge in the time of trouble. The LORD helps them and rescues them; he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them, because they take refuge in him.”

Each of the women we met over the summer learned that indeed “the Lord…is their refuge in time of trouble…because they take refuge in him.”

This week, we travel back to the very beginning of life as we know it. We come to Eve, the first woman. She has been blamed for millennia for eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden.” (Genesis 3:3) It cannot be denied that she “took some of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:7) This representation by Domenichino show Adam telling God "she gave it me to eat." I think what is often overlooked is her reason for eating the fruit. “The woman saw that…the tree was to be desired to make one wise.” (Genesis 3:6).

Years ago I wrote a poem about Eve that explores her reasoning.

Eve’s Decision

‘You shall not eat of that tree’
Adam has told that to me.
He believes we will die—
But could that be a lie?
If God made us in love,
What would killing us prove?

I will look upon that tree
Just to see what I will see.
Perhaps the fruit is not good—
Poison, evil, not for food.
But maybe, the fruit is just right
Perfect and needed for new sight.

“Eve, why are you near that tree?
Now what do you want to be?
The tree for you holds knowledge
Between good and evil to judge,
So to become more like God
And the way of truth to trod.”

So now I stand by the tree,
And know that truth sets me free,
What change will come with the bite?
To eat or not, which is right?
Is to grow, to be weaned
What God for me has dreamed?

Looking now on the special tree—
Deciding to stay or to be free;
The garden is lovely and safe
But I know there is more to life.
God’s love wants me to be the best
Spread my wings, be put to the test.

“Eve, come now close to the tree,
You know that life has more to be.
Woman, you indeed are wise
This fruit is the price and the prize.
For you and Adam will still live
Free will is what God does give.”

I will take from the tree.
Accept what is to be.
Surely the gift is worth the price.
Knowledge of good and vice.
The garden life won’t be the same
But living free is the great gain.

Adam, come and share with me
The fruit taken from the tree.
The result makes us free and wise,
For free will gives us fuller lives.
Truth and knowledge we will know
God’s great love wants us to grow

Eve may have been mistaken in her reasoning and the result was that Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden, but note that “the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21) Even though they had failed to obey God, they were not abandoned. Indeed, if you read a little further, God sends them out of Eden “lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.” (Genesis 3:22) God did not want Adam and Eve (or us, their descendents) to live forever in alienation from God, so they were sent out of the Garden as protection against their own sinfulness.

Eve gained wisdom and knowledge of “good and evil” by her decision. We often fail to use that wisdom, though. The wisdom from the tree is incomplete without the love and guidance of God. We don’t see that God is providing for us all the time. The Psalmist notes, “the LORD helps them and rescues them; he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them.” (Psalm 37:40)

Since June, we have seen how God indeed rescued those who trust in God, sometimes even before they know who God is (like Rahab). I know that there have been times I recognized God providing help and I’m sure that there are many other times when God rescued, protected, and provided for me that I was oblivious to. What about you?

See you next week for a new chapter in our journey together this year.

August 22, 2010

Ordinary Time Excursion-Noah's Wife

Noah’s wife is an interesting woman. She has a very minor role, but through her adventures she learns the truth of what the psalmist says: “The wicked watch for the righteous, and seek to kill them. The LORD will not abandon them to their power, or let them be condemned when they are brought to trial. Wait for the LORD, and keep to his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on the destruction of the wicked. I have seen the wicked oppressing, and towering like a cedar of Lebanon. Again I passed by, and they were no more; though I sought them, they could not be found.” (Psalm 37:32-36)

Not much is said about Noah’s wife in Genesis. (Chapters 6-8) She doesn’t even have a name. It is Noah who receives the message from God to build the ark and bring aboard all the animals. Can’t you just imagine his wife’s response, though?

“What are you doing, Noah?”
“God told me to build an ark.”
“God said what?”
“He told me to build an ark to save everyone from the coming flood.”
“What do you mean, ‘flood’?
"The Lord said, ‘I have decided to make an end to all flesh. Make an ark of gopher wood for I will bring a flood on the earth to destroy all flesh, but I will establish my covenant with you.’ I must obey the Lord.”
“Shouldn’t you finish the projects you’ve already started? There’s the chicken coop and the bread box and…”
“Don’t worry, I’ll use them.”
“Noah, I don’t understand you!”

She shrugs her shoulders and lets Noah continue with his project. Sure enough he finishes the ark and starts gathering all the animals.

“Noah, what are you doing with all these animals?”
“God told me to take them on the ark so they won’t drown.”
“How are you going to take care of them?”
“We’ll all help.”
“Noah! What are you thinking?”
“It’s what God said to do.”

His wife shakes her head and watches as the animals scramble aboard the ark, a male and female of each kind. After they are all aboard, Noah calls her again.

“It’s time! Get Ham, Shem, Japheth and their wives!”
“Time for what?”
“God says to get on the ark and we will be safely shut in so we don’t drown.”
“Noah, are you sure?”
“Yes, my dear, I am certain.”
“Very well.”

She sighs with resignation and goes to tell her sons and their wives to get on board. After they are all on the ark, the door is closed and it starts to rain.

“Look! It is raining, just like God said. My sons and my wife, this is a holy time. God is preserving our lives from the flood.”
“It will take more than this sprinkle to cause a flood.”
“There will be lots of rain. God said it will rain for 40 days.”
“Forty days! It never rains that much here.”

Despite her doubts, it does rain for 40 days and 40 nights. The waters cover the land and all living things are drowned. The ark continued to float on the sea for 150 days before landing on Mt. Ararat. After another 40 days, Noah and his wife have another conversation.

“Noah, we have landed. When can we get off this ark?”
“I’ll send out a raven to see if it can find food.”
“The raven won’t come back. He will find the carrion to eat, whether there is dry ground or not.”
“If he doesn’t come back, I’ll send a dove.”
“The dove returned quickly. There must not be dry ground yet.”
“I’ll wait another seven days.”

Sure enough, after 7 days the dove returns with an olive branch. Then Noah lets the dove go again and it doesn’t return so Noah makes the announcement they all want to hear.

“Come, Wife, we will all get off the ark now and offer a sacrifice to God for we are spared. Look in the sky. God’s bow is His promise that he will never destroy all the earth with a flood.”
“The colors are beautiful. Surely you and our sons are blessed.”

Having just returned from a trip to SE New Mexico, and explored two of the wonders created by the sea that covered NM in ages past, I am amazed at the all that God has wrought. From the same sea, two entirely different worlds emerged.

In the depths of that ancient sea a reef grew. After the sea receded, water continued to work and hollowed out the amazing underground formations thousands visit at Carlsbad Caverns. Only about 100 miles, as the sea gull or hawk flies, gypsum sands formed on the same sea floor. The sands compacted into stone and rose into mountains over millennia. Gradually dissolved by water and deposited back into the Tularosa Basin, the prevailing winds formed the nearly 300 square miles of White Sands. Now the Sacramento (NM) Mountains lie between the two, necessitating a journey of 150 miles to get from one to the other. It is well worth the effort. Seeing the expanse of sands from the highway down the mountain from Cloudcroft is almost more breathtaking than being in the midst of the sands themselves.

Sometimes we feel flooded by the trials of our lives. Building an ark and sailing away is rarely an option. But God’s promise remains. The rainbow can be found if we take time to look at the wonders around us. You will see God’s fingerprints. Maybe you haven’t heard a voice saying ‘build an ark’, or recently visited some grand natural wonder, but if you look around, you will see that Barbara Brown Taylor is correct. In An Altar in the World she says, The easiest practice of reverence I know is simply to sit down somewhere outside…and pay attention [even to just] the 3 feet of earth on which you are sitting.” When we are able to see the wonders and not the trials and floods, we can say with the psalmist “Wait for the LORD, and keep to his way, and he will exalt you.” What are some of the wonders God has put in your life?

If you want a rather humorous look at Noah on the ark, check out his purported ‘blog’:

August 15, 2010

Ordinary Time Excursion-Hannah

Hannah is another ordinary woman whose life was changed by her belief in God. She was barren and as we’ve seen with other Biblical women (Sarah, Rachel), this is not always the end of the story. Her story comes at the very beginning of I Samuel.

Hannah is one of the wives of Elkanah, “but Hannah had no children.” (I Samuel 1:2). She prayed for a child every time the family went to Shiloh to worship and “her rival [Peninnah] used to provoke her sorely, to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.” (I Samuel 1:6). Finally, Eli, the old priest of the Lord noticed her. At first he thought her drunk because “only her lips moved.” She told him “I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” When Eli tells her “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition…” she is relieved and “her countenance was no longer sad.” (I Samuel 1:13-18).

Sure enough Hannah does become pregnant and “called his name Samuel.” However, she does not go up to the shrine at Shiloh until “the child is weaned…that he may appear in the presence of the Lord and abide there forever.” (I Samuel 1:22) When the child is weaned, she fulfills her vow and takes him to Eli saying, “the Lord granted me my petition…Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives.” (I Samuel 1:27-28)

How often do we give up when our prayers don’t get answered right away? From Hannah we can learn persistence. “So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the Lord.” (I Samuel 1:7) Hannah did not give up. Like Jesus’s parable of the importunate neighbor, she keeps asking until her request is granted. “Though [the friend] will not get up and give [his neighbor] anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs.”(Luke 11:5-8)

Imagine how much faith it must have taken to leave the child she had so longed for with Eli the priest at Shiloh. She sings a song of praise, though, in celebration. Her song in chapter 2 is similar to Mary’s Magnificat over 1000 years later. She leaves her most desired son with Eli to learn to serve the Lord, “and the Lord visited Hannah and she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.” (I Samuel 2:21)

Despite her desire for a child, she does not quibble at fulfilling her vow and lending Samuel to the Lord. Indeed, she praises God saying, “My heart exults in the Lord…He will guard the feet of his faithful ones…” (I Samuel 2:1-10). With the psalmist she would say, “The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak justice. The law of their God is in their hearts; their steps do not slip.” (Psalm 37:30-31)

No request is trivial to God. We are advised to “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9) Jesus says, “…how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.” (Luke 11:13)

It is true that sometimes God says ‘No’ or ‘Not yet’, but be assured God does hear us. Hannah waited many years for the fulfillment of her prayer, but she did not give up. Neither should we.

Next week, we’ll go back into dim and distant history to meet Noah’s wife.

August 8, 2010

Ordinary Time Excursion-Abigail

I recently read an interesting phrase: “God cannot do anything through us, until he is doing something in us.” This is true and I think God is always working in us, if we give the slightest encouragement. Like the sun bursting from behind these clouds, the Holy Spirit can break in and do great things, even before we are aware of it. Abigail and her husband Nabal offer an interesting contrast in how that can be true.

Abigail’s story is found in I Samuel, chapter 25. She is the young wife of a wealthy man (Nabal). “He had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. He was shearing his sheep in Carmel.” (I Samuel 25:2). David at the time was a fugitive from the court of King Saul and living in the wilderness of Paran, near Carmel. He “sent 10 young men…‘go to Nabal, and greet him in my name…[tell him] your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing…therefore…pray, give whatever you have at hand to your servants and to your son David.” (I Samuel 25:5-8)

Nabal, despite his wealth, is not generous and responds rudely, “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays breaking away from their masters.” When David hears this, he is angry and prepares to attack Nabal. (I Samuel 25:10-13) Nabal’s response is not unexpected, perhaps, since David is an outlaw, and the story might end there with David destroying Nabal and all he owns.

Enter Abigail. “One of the young men told Abigail…‘behold, David sent messengers…and he railed at them. Yet the men were very good to us and we suffered no harm…consider what you should do; for evil is determined against our master…and he is so ill natured that one cannot speak to him.” Abigail knows she must save her husband and family by doing something rather bold.

“Abigail made haste, and took 200 loaves, and 2 skins of wine, and 5 sheep ready dressed, and 5 measures of parched grain, and a hundred clusters of raisins, and 200 cakes of figs, and laid them on asses…But she did not tell her husband Nabal.” (I Samuel 25: 18-19) Abigail believes she can forestall the attack by a generous gift which she takes herself to David. “When Abigail saw David…she fell before David on her face, and bowed to the ground… ‘Let not my lord regard this ill-natured fellow, Nabal; for as his name is, so is he…folly is with him…now let this present which your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord.’” (I Samuel 25:23-31)

David accepts the gift, saying, “For as surely as the Lord the God of Israel lives…unless you had made haste and come to meet me, truly by morning there had not been left to Nabal so much as one male.” (I Samuel 25:34)

Abigail’s actions, while contrary to accepted propriety, were based in a heart that trusted in God. The Spirit had been at work in her so that she was generous and brave enough to act. Her strength was based in the Lord. Nabal’s actions, on the other hand, came from a heart where God was not allowed to work. He concentrated on himself and had no room for God’s love or for an exile from the court, no matter how much David assisted Nabal’s shepherds.

When Nabal learns what Abigail did, “his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. And about 10 days later the Lord smote Nabal; and he died.” (I Samuel 25:38) Later “David sent and wooed Abigail, to make her his wife.” (I Samuel 25:40)

Abigail is with David during his exile and wilderness wanderings. She is taken captive by the Amalekites “David’s two wives also had been taken captive. Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail the widow of Nabal…David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” (I Samuel 30:5-6)

I told Abigail’s reaction to the captivity in My Abigail*.

“I forgot,” in the darkness of my self-imposed covert I gasped in repentance. “When I was a child I knew that I AM was in everything. Then I lost sight of the greatness of the Living Lord. God is the One who created me and the One who gives me all I need.”

With the realization came a lightening of my heart. I breathed a petition, half praise and half awe as I lifted my head. “We are not forgotten. The Almighty knows where we are even if David does not. Even though we are surrounded by enemies we are protected. God you raised David to lead men guide him here to save us.”

I wiped my eyes with my sleeve. It was strange that amid the danger and fear I found faith again. Almost reverently I gathered a fistful of sand from beneath my feet.

“Though as many as the stars of heaven and this very sand, the God of Abraham will never forsake the chosen ones. Living and Holy Lord of the Children of Israel please rescue and bring us back to the land you prepared for those who follow your laws. Almighty One, you were with Joseph in exile and prison, be with us now. Give me courage to do what I must do to preserve the safety of these women.”

Like the Psalmist, Abigail realizes that God is with her, no matter what the circumstances are. Psalm 37 says, “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are ever giving liberally and lending, and their children become a blessing. Depart from evil, and do good; so you shall abide for ever. For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his faithful ones. The righteous shall inherit the land, and live in it for ever.” (Psalm 37:25-29)

As long as we do not close the door on God, God will work. Only when, like Nabal, we close our hearts, is God unable to work. It is all our own choice. What can you do to let the doors of your heart be open so that God can work in you and through you?

Next week, we will meet Hannah. Her prayer was answered in an amazing way.

*My Abigail, ISBN:978-1-58288-269-7, available online through and my website (

August 1, 2010

Ordinary Time Excursion-Miriam

This week we meet Miriam, sister of Moses. She has only 4 citations in the Bible. However, she is a courageous woman who continues to inspire us thousands of years later. She spent a long time in the wilderness, and even at the end didn't get to enter the Promised Land, but she learned to trust that God's way is the best way.

We meet her as a child approaching Pharaoh’s daughter to offer her mother as nursemaid for her brother. “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women…?” (Exodus 2:7) Many years later we hear her song of triumph after the Israelites cross the sea. “Then Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and dancing. And Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.’” (Exodus 15:20-21). Miriam saw God's actions clearly and proclaimed them to all the people.

Of course she is best known for her rebellion against Moses in Numbers 12. “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses…behold, Miriam was leprous….the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again.” Not unlike many of us, she decided that she knew better than God or Moses how things should be done. Lastly, we hear of her death before the people enter the Promised Land. “The people of Israel…came into the wilderness of Zin…and Miriam died there and was buried there.” (Numbers 20:1)

In these few glimpses of her life against the backdrop of the grand story of the Exodus, we see a brave, faithful woman, who is not afraid to speak up. Even as a child, she boldly addresses Pharaoh’s daughter. As an adult, she is known as a prophetess and leads the women in celebration. Although quiet during much of the Exodus, she is not afraid to confront Moses when she thinks he is wrong for his marriage to “a Cushite woman.” (Numbers 12:1) It appears that God is angry with Miriam and Aaron for asking “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” (Numbers 12:2). For their pride, God reminds them that “my servant Moses…is entrusted with all my house…and he beholds the form of the Lord.” (Numbers 12:7-8) Then Miriam is left leprous. Perhaps because he immediately repents Aaron is spared the same fate as Moses intercedes for his sister. She is left outcast for 7 days as “If her father had but spit in her face…let her be shut up outside the camp…” (Numbers 12:14)

In many cultures, to be spat upon is considered a curse. God has symbolically spit upon Miriam and made her unclean through the leprosy because her actions have belittled Moses (as a woman to speak against the leader). However, she is not “cast out” forever, just for a week.

Miriam and the children of Israel are being prepared to enter the Promised Land. Like us, they need to learn that God is the one who will lead them safely. Sadly, the next several chapters of Numbers recite the doubts of the people and the spies. The Lord announces, “No one [of you] shall come into the land…but your little ones…I will bring in.” (Numbers 14:30-31) So, because of their continued doubts and dependence on their own strength, the people do not obtain immediately the promise.

What can we learn from Miriam? Even though she is oppressed with leprosy for her mutiny and “shut outside the camp for seven days,” (Numbers 12:15) God does not abandon her. Despite their doubts and fears, God continues to provide for the people until they do finally enter the Promised Land (but that’s another story).

Even though neither Miriam nor Moses set foot in the Promised Land, they both knew that God would bring the people in. “I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there,” God tells Moses on Mt. Nebo. (Deuteronomy 34:4) Miriam too is close to the Promised Land when she dies at Kadesh. After a life spent following God, she knew that Psalm 37 is correct, “Our steps are made firm by the LORD, when he delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the LORD holds us by the hand.” (Ps. 37:24-25)

In my novel, Miriam’s Healing,* she affirms this belief at the end of the book:

“The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the one who throughout our bondage and our wanderings has been the true deliverer. Even though I hoped to liberate my family, I AM used a shepherd’s staff in the hands of my brother to redeem all the children of Israel. God always has a greater plan than we can see.”

“My sister, your words are true,” the voice of Moses, Deliverer of Israel, was heard.

He joined the group beside his sister.

“It is the Lord who will bring the victory. The people are ready to enter the Promised Land,” Miriam stated with conviction.

“Yes, they have learned the ways of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as they listen to your words,” a smile of affirmation was for the Prophet’s sister. “By the recitation of the manifold acts of the Living God, the people have been healed of their doubt. They are now a faithful nation ready and able to follow the laws set out by I AM. With your help, my sister, the Word of God has been given to these chosen ones.”

When we become too prideful and forget who is really in charge, God does not abandon us, either. The natural consequences of our actions can cause us pain when our plans come crashing down around us, but God is still right there. We may feel that the rug has been pulled out from under us. Only looking back do we see that God was preparing us for something better than we might have expected. Once upon a time I thought I was meant to be a Sunday School teacher for the rest of my life…but God had other plans and led me through a dark time to become an author.

Next week we will meet Abigail, a woman who learned that God’s ways are infinitely more surprising than any plans we can make.

*Miriam’s Healing, ISBN: 978-0-557-00943-5, available online through and my website (