Monday, June 29, 2015

An Evening with the Whip-poor-wills

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Y'know, before this past Saturday, I had never actually heard a whip-poor-will call.

The Princesses' in-laws have a cabin on a lake about an hour and a half away.  After three years of failed attempts, she finally managed to get us and her siblings all there for a weekend.

It's one of the places in the country where there is ABSOLUTELY NO CELL PHONE RECEPTION. 

Which meant no internet, no instagram posts, no facebook conversations...just a weekend of family interaction.

The main attraction is the lake and the kayaks were put to use, along with inflated rings and other flotation devices.  I'm not a water person...a couple of bad experiences with water as a kid have pretty much convinced my autonomic nervous system that water is Not To Be I hiked from the cabin  down the hill  to the lake and back a few times taking pictures.   Played some dominoes with My Sweet Babboo.  Listened to the Actor and a buddy of his who tagged along playing worship music, rotating amongst the available instruments...ukelele, guitar, harmonica and djimbe.  Sat on the porch swing and polished up the song for the month of June (I wrote a Christmas song.  That's when it should be written, right, if it's possibly going to be used at Christmas?).

We had a bit of rain in advance of a cold front that finally went through Saturday afternoon, so Saturday evening was cool and clear; the gibbous moon was bright enough to cast shadows.  My Sweet Babboo, the Princess and I sat outside as the fire we'd used to roast weenies and marshmallows died to embers.  We looked at the brighter stars that were visible in the moonlight and listened to a handful of whip-poor-wills calling in the woods around the cabin.

Those are the moments that make a summer.  They come way too seldom.

Friday, June 26, 2015

All Things New: Abram, the Unknown Road, part 3

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Looking this week at Genesis 14 - 17.   The passage starts with Abram doing something very noble...he raised an army and rescued all the inhabitants of the Jordan Plain, because  his nephew Lot had been among those captured and carried away by foreign kings...then refused any reward, lest the pagan kings of those cities would take any credit for Abram's wealth.

God, however,  declared to Abram in a vision, 'I am your shield, your very great reward.'

What's a paltry pile of gold and silver compared to the favor and blessings of God Almighty?

But Abram basically shrugged...what good is a reward without a son to pass it along to?

So God got a little more specific about His promise.  In Genesis 15,  He told  Abram that he WILL father a child and he WILL have natural offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky.

But God didn't give him much more detail on that.  For one thing, He didn't mention who the baby's mother would be.  And, with Sarai well past menopause,  how could anyone even consider that it might possibly be her?

Abram had God's promise...but he didn't have God's perspective.  I've heard folks say that Abram and Sarai didn't have faith, so they looked for a human solution.  I don't necessarily think that's so...I think their faith was stirred up to believe God could do something so... they gave Him the opportunity.  In the only way that appeared to be possible.  Sarai sent Hagar in to Abram.  We read:

So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne.  Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.  I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.'  (Gen. 16:15 - 17:2)

So far, this really is nothing new, just a repeat of what God has told him before.  But there is new stuff coming...

No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations...This is...the covenant you are to keep:  Every male among you shall be circumcised.  - Gen 17:5, 10

But there's more.

As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.  I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her and will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.  (Gen 17:15-16)

You do realize that, for 13 years, Abraham believed Ishmael was the fulfillment of God's promise.  After so many years,  he had a son.  But... Ishmael's mother was bitter and jealous.  Sarah was bitter and jealous. Ishmael grew up under the influence of his mother. The peace in Abraham's tents was one of tension and suspicion.   None of that mattered much to Abraham...he had a son.  He wasn't looking for God to do anything else for him.  He was satisfied.

But God was not.  He had something better in mind.  A child born out of a complete and total miracle.   One who would honor his father and his mother and the birthright covenant coming to him. In much the same way that Abraham would take nothing from the kings of the plain, so they could claim no part of him, God's plan required nothing from Abraham and Sarah but faith in Him.   So that they could not say that  the fulfillment of God's promise was a product of their own intellect and planning.

Abraham fell face down.  What else could he do?  He laughed to himself at the ludicrous promise...and God did not call him out on it.  Because Abraham's laughter ceased when he thought of Ishmael.  His firstborn.  On the cusp of manhood at age 13, having grown up believing he would inherit Abraham's position and promise.

'Can't you bless Ishmael?' Abraham asked God.

God replied that He would bless Ishmael...but that the covenant and the promise would go to the son who would be born to Sarah within a year's time.

Abraham responded in character...he immediately got up that very day and performed his part of the covenant: every male associated with his household was circumcised.  But, while he seems to have passed along the name changes,  I don't think Abraham said anything about a baby yet to be born.    That would've tipped the truce in the household.  Better to deal with that when...and Abraham may even have been subconsciously thinking if... it happened.  One step at a time.

This is a story that I come back to over and over again.  How many times have I felt compelled to provide God with the opportunity to keep His promise?  To make the vision come to pass?  To bring about His deliverance?  Believing He would do the improbable, but never really considering that He might actually do the impossible?   How many Ishmaels have been engendered by my actions?  How many times have I been content with the results of my own planning instead of waiting for God's plan?

One of the most difficult tests in a time of transition is the trust test...absolutely refusing to do anything to try and manipulate the circumstances to turn out the way I think God needs to work.  The truth is that God has a bigger plan that I don't see, and my little ideas of how things should come to pass really only get in the way and cause problems.  No wonder the enemy works overtime to make those ideas look good...

Friday, June 19, 2015

All Things New: Abram, the Unknown Road, pt 2

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

There were many transitions in Abram's life once he left Haran; his was a nomadic lifestyle for many years.  He went to Egypt and returned, a wealthy man. 

Something like ten years had gone by as he wandered.   I suspect Abram considered Lot his heir and assumed God would fulfill the promise to 'make him a great nation' through Lot and his offspring.  I mean, that's logical, right?  Wouldn't any of us have figured out how a promise from God would manifest?  Based on circumstances and our own understanding?

 But God had other plans.  And Abram still had to be separated from the last remnant of his father's household.  We pick up the narrative in Genesis 13:5 (using the NIV 84 today):

Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents.  But the land could not support them...and quarreling arose between Abram's herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. 

 God blessed both households so much that they could no longer stay together.  Abram recognized the situation, even though it must have grieved him to send Lot away and see his interpretation of God's promise turn to nothing.

So Abram said to Lot, "Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers....Let's part company.  If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right; I'll go to the left." 

Lot's choice of the lush Jordan plain left Abram with  God's promise to give the length and the breadth of the land to him and to his offspring, which would be 'like the dust of the earth.'  Ultimately, Abram settled near Hebron...and he made his servant Eliezer his heir. I don't know that Abram really gave up on God keeping that promise, but his expectation dwindled.  He was somewhere between 80 and 85 years old and still had no children born to him. I wonder what his thoughts were as he designated someone from Damascus...who wasn't even blood kin to the one who would inherit all after he was gone.  Did he HAVE to designate an heir?  Was leaving that position open pending the provision of God even an option?  Or was that just the final acceptance of God's NO regarding Lot, performed as a way to close that door in his heart?  This is one bit of the story that is usually passed over with barely a mention, but I honestly think it was a key moment of transition in Abram's life.

The order he thought was in his life was not God's plan for him.  This is a lesson that Abram had to learn and relearn and relearn...his way of working things was not God's way of working things.  It didn't work regarding protecting himself while living in foreign kingdoms, it didn't work in regard to passing on the legacy of God to the next generation. Abram did get it...finally...but he walked through turmoil and heartache to get there.  And he was the friend of God.

If Abram struggled so with the alignment of life's circumstances with the promises of God, how can I be surprised when I find myself perplexed by the same thing?  If Abram had moments when he fell back on his own logic and his own perspective, how can I chastise myself if I realize that's just exactly what I have done?

Abram was human.  Just like the rest of us.  He didn't have it down...but he did love God.  And God didn't reject him when he messed it up.  He still called Abram His friend.

A transition is not a one-shot deal; it is a process.  Even one mishandled for a season can be set right once God's perspective is manifest.  How can I get out of my perspective into His?   How am I allowing the enemy to accuse because I have transitions that I didn't handle perfectly?  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Any Nehustans hanging around?

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

[Hezekiah] removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.  He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it (it was called Nehustan). -- 2 Kings 18:4 (NIV 84)

Wow.  The actual serpent that Moses had made in the desert...the one that represented Christ, that brought healing to those who looked at it. 

That relic was roughly 677 years old, if my math is right.

In its time, it was a powerful symbol of the grace and goodness of God.

Out of its time, it was an idol and a distraction from the worship of the One God.

I have come face to face with some Nehustans in my life this afternoon.  In their time and place...wonderful.  Now, not so much.  No...incense is not being burned, but they are taking up space physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Do I have the courage to do what Hezekiah did...break them into pieces, get rid of them?  Now that their purpose has been served?

Not gonna lie, it won't be easy and it won't be painless.  But if I'm going is necessary.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

SSMT 2015 - Verse 12: Ps 121:3-4

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

...and I'm a day late AGAIN for the next installment in the Siesta Scripture Memory Team for 2015.  My, goodness, time is flying by so fast I'm losing track...

But I'm moving on to the next two verses of Ps . 121...

He will not let your foot slip -- He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep  -- Ps 121:3-4 NIV 84

I wish, sometimes, that that verse said, 'He will not let your tongue slip'...oh, wouldn't that be wonderful!  Not that I have goofed up there lately...but I have a meeting coming up and I would really like assurance that my tongue will not slip. But He's guarding my's up to me to guard my tongue.

Still.  If He is guarding my feet, then I have to believe that this is the time and place that the meeting should happen.  So if it's the right time and the right place...then I kinda have to trust that whatever He has put in me is the right thought for the moment.

All I have to do is make sure I don't wander off into what *I* think or feel.  Omit opinion and stick to reality.  Because truth is truth.

And He who guards my feet will not let me slip.

Friday, June 12, 2015

All Things New: Abram, The Unknown Road, Pt 1

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

The moment anyone brings up the topic of transitions in the Bible, Abram/Abraham immediately comes to mind.  Like several other Bible characters whose stories are traced over a lifespan, he went through several transitions and I'm going to spend two or three weeks looking at them.

So, today I'll look at Genesis 11:27 - 12:5, which is the foundational transition for Abram and  his family.

We start with a bit of a back story; Abram was born to Terah in Ur; he and his two brothers grew to manhood and married there.  The middle brother, Haran, died.  For reasons that are not explained, Terah then took  his family and left Ur, headed to Canaan.  But along the way they settled down in an area that was, coincidentally, named Haran.  Or perhaps they found a nice place to stop, then decided to stay and named the place Haran after they settled there.  Mr. Scofield, whose notes are included in my NIV 84 text, subtitles Gen. 11:31 - 32 as 'Wasted years at Haran'. I can't really find a compelling reason to assume those years were wasted.  We do not know what prompted Terah to leave Ur, and we do not know what prompted the family to settle in Haran instead of following the initial plan to go to Canaan.  I'm inclined to think this was part of God's plan all along, but as that is not indicated either we have to assume that those things are not essential to the narrative one way or the other.

What we do know is that, after Terah died, Abram received direct instructions to

Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you (Gen 12:1)

Out of the entire entourage that had left Ur, only Abram was instructed to collect his household and continue the journey.  I think it's interesting that the instructions are not 'proceed to Canaan as your father planned' but 'go to the land I will show you'.

I think it's also interesting that, despite the fact that he had been instructed to leave his father's household, Abram took Lot with him.  This kind of makes me wonder, as I have mentioned in other posts,  if Abram had designated Lot as his heir, as he had no children and Lot's father had died.  That would've made Lot a part of Abram's household.  Or, it could be that Lot was tired of Haran and just saw an opportunity to strike out for new territory.  Either way, Abram complicated his life by taking Lot along.  But he couldn't know that as they set out.

However, he had an amazing promise:
I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.   
 (Gen 12:2)

 There are transitions that happen to folks from outside their control; sometimes without even a hint that it was coming.  But there are some transitions that happen because an individual considers and then chooses to step into that transition.  Abram could've shrugged that message off as a product of indigestion or some such thing. He could've convinced himself it was his imagination.  He could even have heard God clearly, but then reasoned that God couldn't have meant him and gone about his life as usual.

But Abram heard.  He believed.  And he left.   And he didn't even know where he was going.

But he knew when he got there.

...they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.  Abram traveled through the land as far as the great tree of Moreh at Shechem...The LORD appeared to Abram and said, 'To your offspring I will give this land.'  So he built an altar there to the LORD.  (Gen 12: 5b - 7a)

How many times did Abram find a nice spring or oasis, where his livestock grazed and the land looked promising...only to hear nothing from God to indicate that this was his destination, so he packed up and kept moving?  How many times do we follow God's instruction until we get weary, or find a place that looks good, and yet know that this is not the place?

Do we have the strength of will to keep going until God says 'stop'?

Because that's the thing about have to end in the right place.

Where am I on the journey God said to start?  Have I heard Him clearly say, 'This is the place'  or do I still need to stay in obedience to His last word...'Go' and keep moving?

Friday, June 5, 2015

All Things New - Noah: The Solitary Road, Part 2

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I've been kinda mulling over Noah and the dramatic New Beginning he and his family had.

They had a year...over a year...of transition.  They were in the ark with all the animals and each other, and they had no real way to know how it was outside.  After 5 months, the ark ran agound on Mount Ararat, but the water still covered everything.

I'm not sure just exactly when Noah opened the window...the narrative says 'after 40 days', but doesn't really indicate when the 40 days began.  I'm just kinda guessing it was 40 days after the ark grounded;  that way he could see when the mountain tops around him became visible two and half months after the ark quit floating.  The release of the raven and the dove are not linked chronologically to the rest of the dates, except possibly by implication. 

In all, they'd spent a year and ten days in the ark.  How wonderful it must've felt to walk in the sunshine and feel the breeze.

But it was not the world they'd last seen 375 days earlier.

All that moisture that had been locked in the firmament beyond the sky (Gen.1: 7 8) had fallen to the earth and evaporated out into the atmosphere.  There were clouds;  they may even have seen the sun more clearly than they had before.  And there was weather..I think God pointed out the rainbow as the sign of the covenant that He would not destroy the world  by flood again so that they wouldn't freak out when it rained.  After all, the only thing rain had been to them up to that time was judgement and disaster.   Now there would be rain and storms and, in some parts, snow and ice.  But all that was still to be discovered.

There was so much to be discovered.

But no people. 

I wonder if the fact that everyone they'd known was gone...lost in the flood...was overwhelming to them as they walked out into the sunshine.  At the very least all their extended family... siblings of Noah and his wife, cousins, aunts, uncles were gone; some of Noah's own children may have been counted among those who rejected God.  It was one thing to sit cooped up in the ark while terror raged around them and wonder if those others really all would be another thing entirely to walk out into a brand new world and see the finality of that judgement.

One of the key elements of transition is coming to grips that what was before cannot be again; it is gone, it is over, it is done.  It may not have been pleasant memories they shared of what had gone before...but the loss and absolute denial of any kind of return had to be bitter, even as they thanked God for delivering them safely.

That bitterness may have played a factor in later bad decisions.  Noah's intoxication, Ham's disrespect of his father and Noah's subsequent curse of  Ham's son, Canaan...all may have had to do with grief, anger, repression of emotion, all those things psychologists and prayer counselors will say can lead to such things.

The plain truth is that it is hard to let go of what was.  But a major transition in life often means we cannot carry old relationships, old thought and behavior patterns,  old familiar issues with us at all.    Or we'll walk out into a new shining world brimming with promise and miss it all as we agonize over what is not.

What things am I hanging on to that need to be remembered with honor and released?  What is before me that I do not recognize and cannot imagine? How can I appropriate God's grace to let go of the past and walk bravely and expectantly into the future?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

SSMT 2015 - Verse 11 Ps. 121:1-2

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Well, I've commented before about how quickly the time is passing, often as I post the bi-weekly verse at the last minute on the due date.  But June 1 blew right by me without even a nudge to remember to post my SSMT verse.

I've been mulling over memorizing a longer passage for a while; and I think I'm going to spend the next two or three months working on Ps. 121.  It's one of my favorite psalms, and  I think I've used one or two of the verses in the past.  But I want to learn it all.

So, I'm going to take it two verses at a time, which means today's...or, really, yesterday's...SSMT verses are

I lift up my eyes to the hills -- where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth  -- Ps. 121: 1-2 NIV 84

I've heard verse 1 rendered as if the psalmist is looking for help to come from the hills, but that's not it.  He looks at the hills, but he knows that all  help comes from God who made those hills.