A Lesson from Noah’s Wife

On that very day Noah and his sons… together with his wife and the wives of his three sons entered the ark…. Then the Lord shut [them] in.   Gen. 7:13, 15-16

 

He couldn’t have done it alone. We tend to see Noah’s story as his… alone. But that’s not what scripture says. Eight adults took the steps of faith needed to make it on that ark. And let’s face it, from what most of us know about life and trying to manage a household with kids, no one really does it alone.

My husband is on an overseas trip. His first of many. He’s stepping into the role God has called him to and gifted him for and it’s exciting to watch him thrive. It’s also tempting for me to think, “What about me, God? I want to follow your call. I’m willing for you to use me. When do I get to go? I’m left behind with our three sons… where’s the glamour in that?”

This is not the first time I’ve wrestled with thoughts like these. Not the first time I’ve watched others step into new roles, roles I’d love to fill: a spot on a cheerleading squad that went to the one with a popular football-playing older brother; a part in a musical number that went to the one with finer vocal skills; a teaching position that went to the one with flashier stories and a younger face…

I’m not bitter. Not anymore.

No, really I’m not!

Yes, it was hard being passed over, or feeling like I didn’t get my due. But now that I’m 40-something and have been seasoned a bit by marriage and disappointment, I look for the unique ways God has gifted each of us and the roles He wants each of us to play.

When God is calling in the context of family, each of us has a role to play.

I mean, think about it. Noah’s wife had to be “on board” with this ark building project!

She had to pick up the slack when Noah’s other household chores went undone. She had to feed her family with limited resources while living on the ark… no refrigeration!  She had to step inside the smelly ark loaded with wild animals (and snakes!), even when none of her friends would join her. She had to be willing to start again, rebuilding house and homestead in a new place once the waters receded. She stood by her man. She didn’t hold him back. She didn’t squash his dream. Maybe she even dreamed along with him…

She is a model of how to walk beside a man of faith, a man called by God to do the work of God.

Sadly, many of the other wives mentioned in scripture aren’t model partners. Remember Abraham’s wife, Sarah – too impatient to wait on God’s timing for a promised child; or Lot’s wife – too tied the the comforts of Sodom to fix her eyes on the one who came to rescue; or David’s wife, Michal – too concerned with maintaining her royal image to engage in joy-filled worship. And then, Adam’s wife, Eve, who was too curious about what God might have withheld from them to stay the course and obey.

Most likely, God’s purposes in these men’s lives weren’t thwarted by the support they lacked from their wives. God is not limited by our disobedience. But, I do think we miss out on some of the joy He desires for us when we obey.

I want to be as faithful, industrious, resourceful, creative and loyal as Noah’s wife.

Hand HoldingLet me not complain when my husband is distracted by work. Let me pick up the slack and come alongside to cheer on and celebrate steps of faith. Let me support him in struggles and cloudy vision, and lie with him after long, exhausting days. I know that’s a high bar to set. And I know I won’t reach it perfectly. But Noah’s wife has shown me a little bit of what it might look like.

 

You have called us both, my Father. You have equipped and supplied and enabled us both. So even though right now, I’m the one called to stay behind, I thank you for this role. I thank you for the specific ways you’ve equipped me, and I thank you for what you are building in me as I wait on You. Let us both run with endurance this marathon of faith.

 

God’s Favor: Noah’s Story

But Noah found favor with God. Gen 6:8

 

I love that this verse begins with “but”. Noah is the exception – his life is one that stands out to God as different than all the wicked and corrupted individuals God sees on the earth. What brought the favor?

Solo pineVerse 9 says, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.”

So Noah’s character was righteous – right from the inside out, his actions were blameless – free from fault or guile, and his habit was to walk with God – not according to his own design. Noah sounds like the kind of man God would choose.

I wonder, did Noah “find” God’s favor because these things were true of him, or was Noah able to live this way because of God’s favor upon him? Was it merited favor – based on his life and actions toward God – or was it unmerited favor –based on God’s choosing, then resulting in a life that stands apart?

I think the word “found” is interesting, too. Was Noah looking for God’s favor or did he stumble upon it? Was it the direction and attitude of his heart to live in a way that God would see as favorable?

Did he seek out ways to please God, even when he was alone in that seeking? Noah didn’t have a Sunday school class or accountability group to help him stay focused. Truly, Noah was the ultimate “lone-ranger.”

But, it’s the timing that’s really interesting. Noah couldn’t have known about God’s plan to destroy the earth with a flood. He couldn’t have known of the coming catastrophe. It wasn’t like he saw impending doom and “got right with God” so he would be saved. His character, action and habits were already in place, grounded in the way he lived his life everyday. Then when an impossible assignment came from the LORD, he was ready to work. And when the floodwaters rose, he was already safe, already saved. Whether the favor was merited or unmerited, Noah and his family experienced God’s deliverance in a very tangible way: God’s protection and provision, fruits of God’s favor.

Rocking K

I want that kind of steady walk with God… that whenever floodwaters rise, I’m where I need to be – beside my God. Or when the dove returns with a freshly picked olive leaf (Gen. 8:11), I rejoice in his provision. And in all the messy life that happens in between, God’s favor sustains me.

Somehow, when I envision God’s favor, I imagine God’s eyes … scanning, skimming the expanse of humanity, and then pausing over me… peering deep into my character and actions and habits… and smiling. Not because I have no faults, but because He sees Jesus over me; He sees Jesus dying in my place and is pleased.

…but Julie found favor in the eyes of the LORD… let it be, because of Jesus (Col. 1:10-14)

Favor: Abel’s Story

But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor… Gen. 4:4-5

 

Two brothers. Two offerings. One is accepted. One not.

Why?sheep-300x198

I want to know more. I want to understand how God works and what prompts Him to act. I want a relationship with God where His favor rests on me and flows through me. Maybe there are answers in Abel’s story.

 

And “the LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering.”

How did Abel know he had received God’s favor? How did he recognize it? Did God surround Abel with a whirlwind or raucous thunder, like He did when He answered Job? Did God send fire to consume the offering, like He did for Elijah on Mt. Carmel in front of Baal’s prophets? Did God speak with an audible voice, like at Jesus’ baptism? This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.

God must have shown his favor in a noticeable way – in a way that Cain knew he didn’t get it. Receiving God’s favor mattered and they both knew it.

So then, what about Abel’s offering pleased the LORD?

Abel had to kill an animal – the firstborn – to offer the “fat portions”. He sacrificed. He took some of the yield, some of what would be his future flock… the growth part. It cost Abel something to bring his offering to the LORD. Cain’s grain offering cost him, too, though maybe not as dearly.

But, is there something deeper? After the offerings, the story focuses on the rejected one, Cain. Abel never says a word. He follows Cain to the field and  is apparently killed without much of a fight. Did Abel wonder where God’s favor had gone when his brother’s murderous hand stuck him down?

clouds fields skyscapes

Huh. So God’s favor didn’t keep Abel from harm. In fact, it made him a target for his vengeful and spiteful brother.

Still… why was Abel’s offering accepted and Cain’s so patently rejected? Is there something about the death involved in Abel’s offering? Did it echo the death of the animal God used to make sin-covering skins for Adam and Eve? And is there something in Abel’s offering that points to the Once And For All Sacrifice Jesus would offer nearly 4000 years later on a wooden Roman cross?

The passage is vague and unclear… as if knowing WHY God favored Abel’s offering isn’t as important as knowing THAT He favored it. Peering through the haze of this passage, I can see that God’s favor isn’t earned. It’s bestowed. It’s granted.

And, I can see that gaining God’s favor also brought on persecution and death. Abel was murdered for it. God’s favor didn’t keep “bad things” from happening – just the opposite.

 

So do I still want God’s favor? Do I still want that deep, abiding sense, that I have pleased the LORD?

Yes.

And when “bad things” happen, should I assume I’m out of God’s favor?

No.

Maybe it’s a perspective thing. Maybe losing my life because I belong to Jesus isn’t the worst thing that can happen. Abel died knowing that he had received God’s favor. Cain lived the rest of his days a “restless wanderer”, “out from the LORD’s presence” (Gen. 4:14, 16).

 

I know which option sounds better to me.

 

Photo credits: sheep from gracefox.com; clouds and field from wallpaperhi.com

Suffering

suffering w: christ

… that I may know Christ and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:10-11, NKJV)

I’ve loved this verse since my college days… “marching orders” for how my friends and I planned to take our campus for Christ. In the midst of studying at the library and dining at the cafeteria, we would gather for worship and all night prayer vigils. We had the fervor of the gospel burning in our hearts — literally, we saw nothing as more important than telling our friends about the life adventure that awaited them if they chose to follow Christ.

The thing is, in my fervent reading, I think I focused on the “power of his resurrection”. I don’t think I dwelt long enough on “the fellowship of his sufferings.” I mean, what does it mean to be “conformed” to the death of Jesus, anyway?

Christians just finished celebrating the Easter holiday. We reflected on the awesome mystery of redemption and atonement accomplished in the cross of Christ. We tried to imagine the despair of the first disciples as they stood by helpless, watching the Son of God undergo a friend’s betrayal, a sham trial, brutal beatings, and Roman crucifixion. And we tried to identify with their hopelessness after they laid him in the tomb and rolled the stone to seal it shut. We can’t really know what it felt like, though. Or can we?

I’ve known something if helplessness and hopelessness these past few weeks.

Benjamin’s recent battle with ulcerative colitis has worn us, wearied us, beaten us down. And even though this suffering doesn’t directly stem from sin on his part, it is a result of living in a world broken because of the fall. The effects of sin surround us. We’re all affected. Each one.

B sickSo as we wade through the mire of disease and unknowing, as we ask the Lord for healing and wait for His response, we find something in common with Jesus and His followers as they experienced His death. A kind of fellowship.

Mystery. Despair. Helpless. Hopeless… but not for long.

Sunday is coming.

“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” 

(Matthew 28:6 NIV)

Spring

I hear songbirds this morning, heralds of spring. The renewal of the earth is all around me… in budding trees, in chickadees, in green blades of grass pushing through dormant mats of brown.

 

And I’m forced to consider God’s promise to make all things new.

spring butterfly

Maybe God puts us in hard places, impossible places where the future is bleak, disease-ridden, and barren so he can show us what renewal really looks like.

One thing I know, our future depends on God being the incomparable, faithful, rejuvenating God he claims to be. Our hope is rooted in the character of God, who alone has the capacity to do something utterly new.

Lift up your eyes on high and see:

Who created these?

He who bring out their host and numbers them,

calling them all by name;

because he is great in strength,

mighty in power,

not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob,

and speak, O Israel,

“My way is hidden from the Lord,

and my right is disregarded by my God”?

Have you not known, Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary,

and the young will fall exhausted;

but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,

they shall walk and not faint.

Is. 40:26-31

Morning Walk

Often times, it’s the simple, everyday habits that draw me to God. Something as common as walking or breathing can become a wordless prayer.

Exploring poetry has helped me think about the proper economy of words — how sometimes not saying something is more powerful than trying to put all my thoughts to words.

So, here’s a poem… maybe as simple, and profound as… breathing.


footsteps

 

 

foot falls on asphalt.

arms pump in rhythm

to my

heart beat.

 

lips part to murmur

prayers – in and out –

raised

to

God.

 

What’s in a picture?

One of the things I’ve always loved about God is His nearness, that He’s close by, not distant… as if I have an invisible hand pressed against the small of my back prompting me on.

main-street-usaMy memories confirm this… like the time as a 5 year-old little girl, I went with my family to Disneyland.  I was riding on my Daddy’s shoulders, walking down Main Street, heading for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.  The sky was sunny and blue, and I can even remember wearing my Mickey Mouse ears hat with my name written in cursive on the back.  So, there I was, riding on my Dad’s shoulders, and I didn’t have a care in the world.  I felt safe.  Even with the crazy crowds at Disneyland, I felt his strong arms around me and I knew he loved me; I knew he would protect me.

I think this is why I’ve always known God was close.  Because my parents loved me and took care of me, I had no problem believing that Jesus would love me and take care of me.  But of course, little girls grow up.  And I couldn’t live at Disneyland, riding on Daddy’s shoulders.

…   …   …

Fifteen years later I found myself with another man on a metal bridge in London. Typical for London, the weather was cold and raining, but I was crying.  I was with my boyfriend – the man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with.  We had met two years earlier, and our relationship consumed me.  I wanted to share his love, his opinions, his plans for the future – we had talked about changing the world.

metal bridge

But on that gray bridge in London, I couldn’t have felt more alone. I don’t even remember what we were fighting about.  But I do remember that he used his words to hurt me.  They would cut at my heart like a knife.  Throughout our relationship he would drop little comments about my hair or my weight – just enough to let me know that he was dissatisfied with me.

On that bridge I realized that he wasn’t who I thought he was, and I was afraid.  I know now that God was there on that bridge – close by, but I couldn’t see Him, and I didn’t reach out for Him.

…   …   …

Fast-forward 20 years… It seems like just the other day, I was walking through the Walmart parking lot with my youngest son, Andrew. Cars moved in and out of parking spaces, so he slid up close to me and took my hand.  He just grabbed my hand, but it was like he was saying, “I want to be near you, Mommy.  I trust you.”  It felt good to be trusted.  A busy parking lot can be a scary place to a nine-year-old, but Andrew knew that if he was near me, he would be safe.

I think it’s the same lesson I learned all those years ago at Disneyland with my Dad… and on the bridge in London.  I think God is still trying to teach me: “Stay close to me, Julie. I’ll keep you safe. Take my hand, I’ll lead you on”

But as for me, it is good to be near God.  I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.   Ps. 73:25

What snapshots from your life tell you something about God?  Do you see?  Are you listening?

 

photo credits:  Mainstreet, USAMetal Bridge

A Touch

I woke up this morning thinking of the Widow of Nain.

Cemetery Statue

As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.  When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.  Luke 7:12-15

Jesus doesn’t shy away from the wailing and the grieving.  He perceives the hopelessness and breaks in.  Not concerned with propriety, he stops the funeral procession mid-step. He sees what’s  broken and sets it right.

He knows… a mother shouldn’t have to bury her son.

… … …

A little over a week ago, my friend’s son took his own life. Today is his 15th birthday.

And every time I think of my friend, my heart breaks. Somehow the darkness became so dark, her son didn’t see any other options.  For the rest of their lives, my friend, her husband, and their other children will have an indelible blot on their stories… a pain to share that words fail.

So when I think of the widow of Nain and how Jesus touched her, I think, “Sure.  Jesus brought her son back to life.  It’s easy to believe he’s good.  Easy to believe he’s the Son of God.  Easy to follow him after something like that. ”

But my friend’s son… he’s not coming back.  Somehow, the Destroyer got ahold of his mind and convinced him that there are some things that Jesus can’t touch, can’t redeem.  He took the pen and wrote the ending to his story, “There’s no hope. Period.”

Does Jesus still have a touch in the midst this kind of pain?  When questions swarm unanswered, does Jesus still step in and set things right?  Will they ever “be right” again?

I don’t know.  Some things simply lay beyond my understanding — sad things and glorious things.

But, I do know that when questions scream beyond reason, or when I feel like I’m breaking at the seams, the cross stands firm.  The unshakeable act of Jesus Christ dying on a wooden cross to pay for my sin shines true in the darkest night.  He saw this grief.  He saw these tears.  He saw these questions and went to the cross with them in mind.

There are answers at the cross, because there’s love at the cross. Love that reaches beyond the this-is-not-what-we-were-created-for pain of death.  Love for the grieving, and the hopeless, and the lost.

heavens

Have you felt the touch of Jesus at the cross?

 

cemetery statue photo: © Ladykassie | Dreamstime Stock Photos &Stock Free Images

Not the end

Stories to Live ByLazarus was sick. Maybe it was staying out late fishing in the rain that turned his cold to the worst. Maybe the infected cut on his hand from mending the nets had turned to gangrene, or a pounding ache in his head that won’t go away.  But now, his sisters Mary and Martha had exhausted their salves and home remedies.  They sent for Jesus.  They needed the Healer.

But Jesus didn’t show up.  It wasn’t for lack of love for Lazarus, but because he loved him.  He wanted Lazarus to experience God’s glory.

When Jesus finally made his way to Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days.  Mary and Martha’s grief overwhelmed them.  They both came to him with questions…

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (Luke 11:21 and 32).

Lovingly, Jesus met them in their pain. He mourned death. He wept. But Jesus knew something they didn’t know.  Jesus knew about belief so strong that it conquers death. Jesus knew about resurrection and life — real life.

At the tomb, Jesus showed them.

He told them to roll away the stone.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (Luke 11:39-40)

…   …   …

Oh, how many times I have faced a brother’s tomb and come to Jesus with questions?

When a brother betrays his wife with years of a secret addiction; when a brother takes a joy-ride in his father’s sports car and kills his best friend in the accident; when a brother smiles, but in the end sees no option but to end his own life…

I ask, “Where were you, Jesus?  Couldn’t you have seen what was happening and stopped it?  Couldn’t you have stepped in?  You’ve healed others, why not my brother!”

Patiently he tells me roll away the stone of my doubts. Gently, he asks me to believe.  Quietly he whispers.

“I know it hurts. Remember Gethsemane? But I know how the story ends.  It’s for God’s glory. Trust me. The grave is not the end.”

empty_tomb_wide

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Luke 11:25-26).

 

This, friends, is the beauty of Easter.

What a wonderful Savior.

…   …   …

boy walking photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

empty tomb photo credit: icr.org

Check out Institue for Creation Research for an article on the impact of the empty tomb.  It’s a great read!

Encountering Jesus

I pulled this post from the archives.  It seemed appropriate in remembrance of the crucifixion and resurrection.  Where do you take your botched responsibilities?

…   …   …

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders.  “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

Morning Gate

“What is that to us? they replied.  “That is your responsibility.” 

When Pilate saw that he was getting no where, but instead that an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in the front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. ‘It is your responsibility!” Matt. 27:3-4, 24

What an interesting parallel between Judas and Pilate… responsibility.

Judas had followed Jesus closely for three years.  Judas had sat under his teaching, watched him heal blind, and broke bread with him.  Judas got it all wrong… the betrayer.

Pilate had only one brief interview with Jesus.  One cryptic conversation probably left him with more questions than answers.  Pilate ducked out and missed it… the dodger.

 

When the innocence of Christ’s blood rises up before him, Judas only sees his responsibility.  Actually, he sees his culpability, his blame.  It grips him around the throat and pulls him under.  He sees no option other than to take his own life.  He doesn’t see Jesus’ offer for a new one.  Responsibility blinds him to it.

When Christ’s innocence stares Pilate in the face, he lets his desire for peaceful public relations get the better of him.  He abdicates his responsibility and kowtows to the crowd. In washing his hands of the innocent man’s blood, he only implicates himself further.  The irony jumps out and grabs him – for only in washing himself in Jesus’ blood would Pilate find the truth he is seeking.  But Pilate misses Jesus’ offer of new life.  Responsibility disguises it.

twisted

Two men.  Two encounters with responsibility.  One overcome with the weight of it.  One skirting the glory of it.  Both blinded.  Both guilty.  Both forever tied to the story of Christ’s death that brings life.

Some might argue that it’s unfair to hold either Judas or Pilate responsible for Jesus’ death.  After all, it was God’s plan.  Jesus said so.  This is why he came – to die.  Judas and Pilate were simply pawns in God’s chess match with the evil one.  How can they be responsible?

True. God’s intention was to have Jesus Christ die on man’s behalf.  But even truer is the fact that my sin put Jesus on that cross just as much as Judas’ betrayal or Pilate’s poor judgment.  My sin… and your sin… drove Jesus to the cross.  We are all responsible for the innocent man’s blood.

But our confrontation with our guilt doesn’t have to end in despair or disillusion like it did for Judas and Pilate.  Not if we know who to bring it to.

See, Judas sought the religious leaders for absolution.  All he got was his blood money thrown back in his face.  Pilate sought the crowd for answers. All he got was “Crucify him!” slammed in his face.

But you and me?

With all our botched responsibilities, we can come to Jesus and get nail-pierced hands cupping our face, and love-laden eyes washing over our face, and grace-filled words warming our face saying, “My child, your sins are my responsibility.  You are forgiven. Now, come, follow me.”

Sun through tree

What a wonderful Savior.