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

Graduation

I stumbled into a longboard leaning against the garbage can this morning. I had come in through the side door — from my walk in the sun-drenched morning, into the dark, cluttered garage — and my squinting eyes didn’t adjust to the change quickly enough. I winced as the board nicked my shin, then rolled and tumbled to the floor. Memorable.

May 31, 2014 was also a day to remember.

B-speaking gradIt was a “eyes squinting in the brightness of all that God has done” kind of day. Our first born, completing homeschool high school, coming to the other side of his recent health challenges, standing proudly with his peers in his graduation. Tears flowed and laughter spilled out of big smiles etched by years of growth and trial and error.

Here are my words to him that day… my looking back and remembering.

 

So, Benjamin – as “son of the right hand” – steady, loyal, adept at learning – you and I have invested hours and hours of our brief lives into your education. We’ve sat on the couch and wrestled with phonics – and now you can read whatever you set your mind to – from CS Lewis, to The Economist. We’ve walked through the woods – and now you can tell a cardinal’s cheep cheep from a mourning dove’s coo coo. We’ve worked through long division – and now you can recognize patterns and figure complicated equations. And we’ve waited in hospital rooms for doctor’s answers, answers we haven’t liked and didn’t ask for – and now you know something about suffering and unanswered prayer.

And who could have guessed that one week in the Rocky Mountains learning about Austrian Economics would set you heart on fire and give you a passion through which you will change the world? …well God.

God saw all that you were becoming as I fumbled around with how to teach you history and math. The Father saw the man He is calling you to be and never let go. Even when I begged Him to “let me be done homeschooling,” He loved you and had this work to carry to completion. I know you know you’re not done learning and growing and becoming, that this is just a respite in your journey of embracing all that the Father knows. But this is a moment I will cherish, and be forever grateful that I got to stand here with you.

B and us - Grad

So, maybe my sharing this moment of reflection will encourage you to pause, reflect, and acknowledge all the Lord has done on your behalf. The insignificant moments of everyday stack up, and eventually become weeks, and then years. God is working, and building, and shaping, even when it feels like all we are doing is stumbling around in the darkness.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.     Philippians 2:12-13

Transplanted

It’s not the land of my birth, but it is the land of my growth, of my becoming… my forming.

Indiana.

Sunrise

I am formed by rich red kitchen walls tinged with splatters of bacon grease and pancake batter on Saturday mornings. Clinking silverware and stacking clean plates from the dishwasher remind me that early morning chores call as faithfully as the sunrise. And I am transformed by meals at the kitchen table shaping this family into one that loves good food and conversations that always end up about movies.

And I am formed by the Indiana clay under my fingernails as I plant and weed and tend red lillythe roses and lavender in my garden beds. The hostas in the shade and lilies in the sun have taught me about blooming and pruning… necessary ingredients for growth. The redbuds we planted out back with their spindly branches and magenta blooms never fail to enchant. Every spring, they tell me that new life lurks just beneath the surface, merely waiting for a warm sun-kiss.

I am formed by three boys whose ever-bouncing, climbing, running feet found mud puddles to splash and balls to kick. They saw forests and imagined new worlds. They saw boxes full of Legos and built spaceships. They saw me and knew I could be trusted. What a gift. And every once in awhile, I convinced them to slow down and notice the caterpillar creeping along a leaf… which fostered in me a bit more childlike wonder.

I am formed by sure-changing seasons, sometimes subtle, sometimes brash. By soft grass and smiling daisies and sticky humid days passed poolside. By falling leaves, apple daisies and lavendarpicking, and bonfire crackles in the crisp night air. By chilled still bare tree-patterns against stormy skies and the hush of fresh-fallen snow. And by robins digging, creeks trickling, and buds bursting while rain pitter-patters on the window. They’ve taught me to watch, listen, and expect beauty at every turn.

I am formed by family time on the olive green couches. Guitar strumming, scripture reading, hearts singing, quiet praying time — inconsistent, but forming just the same. We’ve sought to listen to each other and to God. Together. Sometimes questions go unanswered, but we ask them anyway. Our belief in the One who knows all is strengthened in the asking.

I am formed by hospital beds and emergency rooms, by disease and unknowing. Struggles not just with tight budgets and traffic jams, but with temptations and tempers and immune systems. I have grabbed hold of Hoosier grit. It tells me that keeping on is better than giving up. And that friends who stand with you in the darkness love to celebrate with you in the light.

And I am formed by my partner in life. Marriage has taught me about giving and receiving Hand Holdingand how to be true. My dear one has loved me well and patiently listened while I railed against the hand of the One who loves us best. He stands beside me, stands up for me, stands to protect me, and stands with me in the place we’ve made home. His strength has softened me, and his softness shows me that loud and quick are not necessarily the only way to get something done.

Oh Indiana, I’ve still yet to mention homeschool co-ops and history clubs and milk runs to Rockville. Dunes camping, summer projects, tour buses, farmer’s markets, and state fairs are all part of life that has become mine. How you’ve changed me. How you’ve taught me. How you’ve welcomed this California transplant and encouraged her to grow.

Thank you.

fall trailside

The Face of a Friend

Hugging the path

My faithful friends are like an autumn breeze,

With gusts of laughter, buoyant on the wind.

Like rusty red and playful yellow leaves,

Our lives entwine entangled one within.

 

When autumn zephyr blows with forceful wail
And maple shakes and shivers in the blast,
The hustling, bustling, ever-changing gale
Sends foliage flying, fleeing – none outlast.

 

In the grass

But friends of mine do bare a softer stream:

With words they mend and tend to broken heart,

With sighs they stir my memories and my dreams,

With prayers they set unspoken needs apart.

 

Theses kindred souls surround me with their grace,
Unchanging, stand beside me face to face.

Mama’s Dreams

It’s happeningboys' backs
my boys becoming men
brandishing desire and direction different than mine.
Their otherness stares at me
unblinking.

But still, my heart holds dreams
first given by God when each still dwelt in womb safety.
Dreams rooted in the naming –

The son-of-the-right hand
steady, faithful, loyal,
holding fast to the Word of life
and nothing else.

The bearer-of-light
creative, transforming, authentic,
bending to the Light that brings life
to this world.

The strong-and-courageous-one
inviting, open, humble,
taking boldly ground he knows God
has secured.

So even though doubts assail me,
my tongue betrays me,
my fears malign me,
I stand assured –
what God started
He will complete.

Yes, this happening,
this inevitable affair
forces us to face places
new
unfamiliar
but known to the One
Who knows us each by name.

Here I rest.empty road

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!

Words

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.  1 Thessalonians 3:5

I love these words.

direct:  engineer, orchestrate, steer, guide, usher, escort, aim, point out the way.

into:  interested in, steeped in, at home with, in tune with, enamored by.

God’s love: His affection, warmth, adoration, delight, tenderness, affinity, goodness, grace.

Christ’s perseverance:  His steadfastness, persistence, continuance, abiding-ness, patience, stamina, courage, grit, hardiness of spirit, stick-to-it-iveness.

………….

Why does this blessing speak to me today?  This is what I need.  Today.  One step closer to knowing God’s direction for our lives, one step closer to hearing and obeying.

I need to know the Lord engineering and escorting us along the way.

I need to know I’m steeped in, at home in, enamored by, and in tune with the Author of my story.

I need to know God’s warm affection and tender delight as I align myself with Him.

I need the stamina, the abiding presence and the hardiness of the spirit of Christ as I face the fears, questions, and answers that lay ahead of us — even today.

Waiting is not for the faint of heart, not for those who would look to the future and turn back in cowardice.  Waiting takes courage and humility.  Like the irresistible pull of a magnet, it takes stick-to-Jesus-iveness.

May I know that today… May you, too.

 

Because all of us are waiting for something.