Monday, September 13, 2010

The Realness of God

The other day I was reading from Genesis 5. One of the last verses of that chapter reads like this:

He named him Noah and said, "He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed." Genesis 5.29
This is the first time we read about Noah and in one sentence we learn more about him than about most of the characters in this chapter. "He will comfort us."
For those of you who know us, you already know we have a son named Noah. And it is because of this very verse that we chose the name Noah. Before conceiving Noah we had a miscarriage and a couple of months later we were pregnant with him. So he was literally our comfort.
This what I wrote in my journal about this verse: "Noah, great-grandson of Enoch, who walked with God, and my son's namesake. If you ever read this son, remember who you are. Noah sounds like the Hebrew word for comfort. You comforted your Mommy and Daddy after the loss of Alida. I have no idea what God has planned for you, my son, but I know this: You will be a comfort to a great many people. You are the most sensitive of my children and it seems comforting is what you were born to do. Your name was truly God-given."
I am big into names and their meanings. I wrote a post about this very thing a while back. This is why we have such a hard time coming up with names for our children. Names are so significant and it is such an awesome task to have the sole responsibility of giving our kids the names they will be called for the rest of our lives. For that reason, all of our children were painstakingly named and all of our children have names that have some sort of special meaning or significance to us and our family. Noah is obviously no exception and it took us months to settle on his name. I cannot imagine him being named anything else.
Imagine my surprise and delight when Noah walked in after taking the dog out, less than five minutes after I had written that in journal and asked, "Momma, what do you think are God's plans for me?"
Talk about a jaw-dropping question. I mean, what five year old do you know that asks a question like that? It was totally a God moment, a beautiful thing that only He could have orchestrated. And so, I read Noah what I had only moments before finished writing.
Frankly, if I may be truly honest, I don't know how anyone can read or hear a story like that and not believe that God is real. There is NO WAY you could ever convince me that things like that could ever be explained away by merely coincidence. They happen way too often in my own life and in the lives of people I know for me to ever believe that coincidence has anything to do with it. In fact, I wrote a post about what I think of coincidence a while ago too.
Just in the past week, I have had two other circumstances happen that some might want to call coincidence, but are what I call the goodness and faithfulness of a God who loves me and cares about my situations-no matter how seemingly small and insignificant.
The first happened at Aldi's grocery store. I had all my stuff ready to go when I realized I had forgotten my wallet at home which NEVER happens. I was getting ready to walk out of the store because I had no way to pay for what I got. I was by myself with all four kids, mind you, and it was quite the trip to just make it into the store in the first place, let alone get what I needed and get home in one piece. So imagine my dismay when I learned I had no way to pay and it was all going to be for naught.
It was at this moment, the lady in behind me told the cashier that she wanted to buy my groceries. You heard me right. BUY. MY. GROCERIES. Seriously? Who does that? I tried telling her it was okay but she would not be swayed. By the time it was all over I was a bawling, blubbering mess, hugging a complete stranger who had totally been Jesus to me right in the middle of my crazy day. The funny thing is, I had prayed before going in that day that Jesus would use me. Ends up He used a complete and total stranger to minister to ME instead. Try and convince me He's not real. You can't do it.
By the way, the other customers were totally in awe too and the poor cashier was probably crying harder than I was. I was profusely grateful and the lady just said that I would have an opportunity to do it for someone else some day. I cannot wait for that day!!! Add that to the sweet family who when we were walking in gave us their cart and would not take out quarter in return and I am thoroughly overwhelmed by the goodness of God.
The second situation happened just yesterday when we received a flat tire on our way home. Rick's phone was dead, my phone was at home and the jack to change the tire was broken. Here we were, still a few miles from home, four kids who were hungry and tired on a hot day, pretty much stranded on the side of the road. So what could we do? Rick could try to walk home and leave us there. We could try to see if someone would let us borrow their cell phone-but then who could we call since no one memorizes phone numbers anymore-all the numbers were in our phones lol. So we did the only logical thing we could do. We prayed. Rick prayed specifically that God would send someone to help us.
Lo and behold, not 30 seconds after we finished praying, we see a van pull over on the other side of the road. They were travelling the opposite direction so they had to turn around, cross two lanes of traffic and back up to get to us. A man hops out of the van and it turns out he is the pastor of a local church and he said he felt that God had told him that "these people need your help" and that he should stop. He and his wife and their five kids. They had all the necessary tools and were able to get the spare on and send us on our way. Before he left, he leaned in the window, as we were again thanking him profusely, and he told the kids to give their thanks to God because He is the one who made him stop. Coincidence? You decide.
What an awesome lesson that was for my kids to witness the realness of God. As we were driving (slowly lol) home I asked them if they learned anything about that experience and they said "to help others and that Jesus answers our prayers." How awesome is that? I praise God for that flat tire! What seems like a major inconvenience turned out to be an amazing opportunity to witness the hand of God at work in our lives.
Coincidence? I think not.

Friday, September 10, 2010

She Walked with God

This morning I read from Genesis 5. Genesis 5 is not the most exciting part in all of Scripture to read. It is basically a genealogy of Adam and his sons and his son's sons and his...okay, you get the picture.

This chapter traces the descendants of Adam up through Noah. Verse after verse after verse is the same. Here's the pattern: When so and so had lived so many years, he became the father of so and so. After that he lived how ever many years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, so and so lived this many years, then he died. Over and over and over again. I told you-scintillating.

But then you get about 2/3 way through the chapter and the pattern all of a sudden changes with Enoch (Adam's great great great great grandson). Here is what we learn about Enoch.

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. Genesis 5.21-24 (Emphasis mine)
Whoa! When you go to bed late and get up early and read a chapter like I read this morning, I will admit, sometimes it's hard to stay interested. Sometimes it's hard to understand how that part of Scripture can be relevant today. I know I sound super spiritual right now. But this verse stopped me in my tracks and woke me up. No caffeine needed. See, the Bible IS exciting!
Six generations of Adam's family go by and suddenly we see there is something special, something different about Enoch. He walked with God. This is the first person this has been said of thus far in Scripture. We might be able to assume that Adam and Eve had walked with God since He walked in the garden (Gen. 3.8) and surely no one else ever shared the same type of relationship with God as had Adam and Eve when they were still perfect, but the Bible does not expressly say that Adam walked with God.
So, to me, this verse is significant. Enoch walked with God. And how does this verse relate to marriage or parenting you might be wondering? (Remember my project?) Well, I am so glad you asked. For the answer (at least what my tired brain was thinking of this morning-not sure very many pastors would use this verse in a sermon on godly parenting), we have to keep reading. Next we learn about Enoch's son, Methuseleh.
When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. And after he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died. (Genesis 5.25-27)
It's all becoming clear to you now right? Yeah, me either. Well, here's a little trivia fact that I remember from my days of studying theology in college (see Dad, I told you my education would be useful someday!): Methuseleh was the longest living person ever recorded. Don't ask me how that little nugget of information stuck in my head all these years when some days I don't remember the names of my children, but it did. And you can look it up and research it, or you can just trust me that it's true.
Now, I don't really know if this is a significant fact of history or not. Maybe Methuseleh ate healthy and exercised more than others. Maybe Methuseleh stayed away from all sorts of unhealthy habits. Maybe he lived by the adage, "I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't chew. And I don't go out with girls who do." Who really knows?
But maybe, could it be possible, that Methuseleh's longevity had to do with who his father was. That his father walked with God? Maybe not, it could be purely coincidental. But if the writer of Genesis thought it an important enough detail to share then I think it's significant. Or it could just be that in all my bleary-eyed tiredness this morning, I was looking for a way to connect the dots.
Here is my journal entry for this morning: "Saying that Enoch 'walked with God' is a deviation from the pattern of the previous verses (Lord, may the same be said of me.) Enoch's son Methuseleh was the longest living person in recorded history. This is interesting given the obvious faith of his father. I wonder if the two are connected? I don't know for sure, but I do know one thing: my own children will be blessed if it can be said of me that I 'walked with God.'"
She shoots. She scores. And the crowd goes wild. Or not. I don't know, maybe it's a stretch. Maybe I am reading way too much into the text. But I do know the one fact is true. If I walk with God, my children (and probably my children's children, and my children's...okay you get it) will indeed be blessed. The Bible clearly speaks to that fact in a multitude of places, like here and here and here, to name a few.
The truth is, as Christian parents, our children should clearly see us walking with God. One of my favorite passages of Scripture, one I refer to often when the going gets tough with homeschooling and I need a reminder of WHY IN THE WORLD I would want to do such a thing. One that has often brought me to my knees, crying out to God for myself as a mother. One that has the power to make me desperate for Him and reminds me where my focus needs to be in this crazy adventure we call parenting. Here it is-you ready for it?
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6.4-9)
Whoa! Go ahead, read it again. Soak it up. God sets a pretty high standard doesn't He? I could write a blog a day for a year and still not touch the surface of all the implications and meaning of these verses. And if you remember, Jesus Himself said that this was the greatest commandment (verse 4).
How are YOU doing with it? I'll tell ya, most days, I suck at it. I mean, really, really suck at it. I am all about being honest and transparent. I am in no way the perfect parent. I fail at this much more than I succeed. So I hope no one thinks I am trying to hold up some impossible standard. The truth is, without God, it IS impossible. But it MUST somehow be possible because we all know plenty of parents and children who are awesome examples of this.
How do they do it? How do I do it (when I do succeed? and I may be biased but I have a bunch of pretty darn good kids who are much better than me at this whole loving God thing, so I must be doing something right)? How do YOU do it? Well, to quote one of my favorite authors, Beth Moore, "With Christ, you can do the things you can't." She has a great way of putting things so obviously and simply.
The truth is, I CAN'T do it. The truth is, I'm NOT doing it. I have to tell ya, it always makes me feel so good when someone complements the job I am doing with my kids or tells me how great they are. But, as much as I would like to say it is because they have me for a mother, I know deep in my heart of hearts, that couldn't be further from the truth. I know it's not about me at all. And I'm okay with that. In fact, I am more than okay with it. I am happy to give the glory to God for all His goodness and faithfulness to this wandering heart.
We were out to eat with the kids yesterday for lunch. And the kids were awesome! We always get comments wherever we go just because we have more than the "normal" amount of children. Comments like, "are they all yours?" and "you have your hands full" and "how do you do it?" All. The. Time. Yesterday was no exception. There was a couple sitting behind us and as they left they remarked to us about how well-behaved our kiddos were and how hard it must be to take care of all of them and how busy we must be. I, of course, beamed with pride because of course I know my kids are great.
Fast forward to dinner last night, also eaten out. What can I say? It was a hard day! My boys are literally wrestling on the floor in the lobby of the restaurant. They are so loud I want to pretend like I don't know them. They completely forget their manners. Everyone around us assumes we ordered hay for them to eat, since they were, after all, obviously born in a barn. Truth? I wanted to crawl under the table and hide. I would have found plenty to eat under there with the mess they made.
Thank God it isn't about me!!! Thank God for His grace and mercy. Thank God that my children have a perfect heavenly Father, who more than makes up for my own weaknesses and failures. Thank God for His Holy Spirit residing in the hearts of my children that can help them recall the times when I do succeed at this and help them to live more and more like God. Thank God!
Be diligent about pursuing God and let your children see you doing it. You can give them no greater gift. Our children see and hear everything we say and do. How many times have you said something to your kids, totally forgotten about it, and they are the ones to remind you? If you are like me, probably too many times to count. Yesterday was a hard day, like I said, and I was giving Rick a kiss in the van to encourage him, and you should have heard the kids laughing and squealing with delight to catch Mommy and Daddy in a moment of intimacy-it totally made our day. We like to embarass them like that. They see EVERYTHING! Be diligent about making sure what your kids see is your intimacy with God. But don't beat yourself up when you fail. The great thing about our kids is that they are resilient and love us anyway. And the great thing about God is that He gives us as many do-overs as we need. It's never too late to start over.
Can your children say of you, "She (or he) walks with God."?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

This One's for the Fellas

So, I have started this crazy project that has sort of been in the back of my head for a few years now. Who knows how far I will actually get but I am going to give it a valiant effort. The project is this: I am attempting to go through the Bible, front to back, and write a commentary on all the verses that apply to marriage and parenting. Yes, that's right. In the ENTIRE Bible. And in case you weren't aware, God has a lot to say about these topics.

Why would I want to do this, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. My life is all about being a wife and mother. And I love that. I don't feel like my identity has been swallowed up by the fact that I am a wife and mother. That IS who I am. God made me to be Rick's wife, Madison, Noah, Brady and Ethan's (for now) mommy. Not that it's ALL I am or my life is ONLY about my family. But I cannot be separated from who I am as a wife and a mother. These are the most significant relationships in my life (apart from my relationship with Christ) and I know that if I fail here, I may as well not do anything else.

Now, I am not naive enough to think that I will NEVER fail. I know I will. I know I have. Epicly. On more occasions than I ever care to admit. But my heartbeat is to come closer and closer to what God desires of me in these relationships. And what better way than to see what He has to say about them?

So you, dear blog reader, get to read my ramblings. I would love for this to become a discussion. I am not using any commentaries or going back to the original languages or reading other books on these topics. These are just my impressions/thoughts/ideas on what I am reading out of Scripture. I am always open to correction if I say something inaccurate so please hold me accountable and let me know what you think of my analysis.

Today's verse that I want to focus on comes from Genesis 3. This is not the first verse that I have come across that speaks to these relationships, but I just really felt like I had a lot to say about this one. You can find the whole text for Genesis 3 here.

I am sure many of you are familiar with this portion of Scripture, but let me give a little background. Genesis 1 & 2 give the accounting of God's creation. Chapter 1 takes us through the six days of creations and chapter 2 focuses on the creation of man and woman. Chapter 3 tells the story of the fall of man, the entrance of sin into the world and the consequences of that sin. The verse that caught my attention this morning was this:

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Genesis 3.6
Let me preface what I am about to write by saying this is not an attack on the male gender. These are just my observations. And many men I know struggle to understand the depths of a woman's heart. So fellas, this one is especially for you. I am going to let you see a little of my heart and I what I truly believe is the heart of most women (if you are a feminist, you probably won't like this!). I pray that my words/thoughts are tempered with grace and truth.
Here is my free-style, stream-of consciousness style writing copied directly from my journal.
First, here we see the first time a woman is tempted by food. Oh, Eve, could you have known the pain you would cause?
"desirable for gaining wisdom" Knowing evil is the opposite of gaining wisdom.
"who was with her, and he ate it" (emphasis mine) Oh Adam, you were so powerful. You could have stopped it all with a single word. You were there the whole time. You stood by and let it happen and did nothing to stop it. And thus, in that moment, you ceased being Eve's protector and marriages have never been the same since. Marriages from then forward have suffered the same fate. Women NEED men who will stand up for them, be strong for them and most importantly, continually lead them to the heart of God. But Adam, you KNEW what would happen to Eve if she ate that fruit. YOU KNEW!!! And still you stood silent, And the world has never been the same since. If it's this hard for the perfect man and the perfect woman (can you imagine how incredibly beautiful Eve had to have been-she was PERFECT!), what chance do the rest of us have? Thank you God, for your son Jesus Christ, who is our redemption and our restoration.
So there you have it. Those were just my thoughts/impressions as I was reading this morning. This is not a commentary on my own marriage or an attack somehow on men. I have read these verses many times before and somehow I always imagined Adam was somewhere else in the garden, out of earshot, doing his thing, blissfully unaware of what was going down. It never hit me before but this verse makes it very clear that Adam was there all along. He could have stood up for Eve but he didn't.
I am in no way saying that Eve is not responsible for her own sin or that what she did was somehow Adam's fault. It just occured to me that Adam could have done something, anything to stop her. Maybe he wouldn't have been able to, but he did NOTHING to keep it from happening. Nothing to protect Eve. Nothing to stand strong for her. And later in the chapter (verse 12) Adam blames both God and Eve for his failure. "The man said, "The woman YOU put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." (emphasis mine).
Guys, hear this: we need more. We need our men to stand up for us and be strong for us. I know this is not PC at all. But our culture has done both genders a disservice by pretending there are no differences in the sexes. We have masculinized women and feminized men. But God made us differently. You men were made to be strong for us and to be our protectors. Yes, sometimes, we even need protection from ourselves. We most certainly need protection from those things which tempt us, which threaten us, which scare us. Step up, men! Don't be afraid to be strong for us. Seek God first and foremost so that you can lead us to Him. Don't be passive and stand by and watch us fail. Take your rightful place as the protector of our hearts and homes. I promise you your marriages will be better for it.