Posts Tagged ‘Life’

“Kelly, can you handle this?
Michelle, can you handle this?
Beyoncé, can you handle this?
I don’t think they can handle this!”  

Bootylicious?!

It’s too bootylicious.

Guilty pleasure.  What can I say?  I’ll tell you something else while I’m revealing secrets- I like Justin Timberlake too.

Who’s next?  Anybody?  Guilty pleasures confession time in the comment box, please.  BTW, save yourself: Don’t do an image search for “bootylicious.”

* * *

This year my wife expanded her repertoire once again by making blueberry jam/fruit preserves.  We’ve enjoyed it, but I have a feeling it won’t last long. I mean- it WOULD last.  But it won’t.

* * *

11The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
12Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses.
13Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,
but a rod is for the back of the one who lacks sense.
14The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of the fool hastens destruction.
I’m going through Proverbs right now with my oldest son.  I really want to instill the value of reading the bible into my children.  Not just running their eyes over the text, and patting them down into the flesh of my heart.  I want them to pound it in, like the old type set keys punch through a ribbon and impressed themselves into the roller through paper.  I feel like I almost killed myself by only sort of reading scripture.  Sort of like a vaccination.  I had just enough “word” in my system to build anti-bodies, but not enough for it to really make me sick.  Sick meaning different, changed.
So we read one verse in proverbs, each day.  And we talk about it.  And then we pray about it.  Like, literally- about the contents of that proverb.  Which can be kind of challenging, because I have to come up with something and do it for myself before I can offer anything to my son.  We read verse 14 today, “The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of the fool hastens destruction.”
So I asked him- how do you “store” something?  You just put it away, right?  Let’s look in the closet pantry.  Ketchup, baked beans, noodles, cereal.  I asked him, what’s in the jelly your mom made the other day?
“Uh…. blueberries?”
“Yeah!”  But how is it that we have to keep the blueberries cold before they’re made into jam, but after they’re made into jam and they’re all in jars, they just sit on a shelf?
Well, the answer is obvious if you’ve ever looked in the back of the fridge before.  It’ll rot.  Even if you keep it cold.
So to make it last, you have to do something to it.  It needs to be cooked, processed, canned- in short, before we can “store” the blueberries to be enjoyed later, it needs to be prepared and worked over a little bit.  You can’t just throw it in a jar and start stocking up.
 So the “wise” stores knowledge, and wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning.  And the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.
What makes one wise?  How does one be found “discerning”?  Or how does my mouth become a “fountain of life”?
Proverbs 2 says that God gives all wisdom, and that from his mouth come understanding and knowledge.  So there’s two kinds of knowledge: the kind that comes from God, and then there’s the “other kind.”  One kind is a “fountain of life.”  Then there’s the “other kind.”  Anything you’ve learned that wasn’t the wisdom of God, that wasn’t from his mouth- has no power to save you.  It has no power to lend life- to give life to others.   And if I read this right, if you aren’t a fountain of life, you’re actually a fount of the “other kind.”  And in an unfortunate twist, that “other kind” happens to be our default setting.
It says the mouth of the wicked conceals violence, and the mouth of the fool hastens destruction.  Dude.  It’s coming.  Destruction, the opposite of life.  I’m not really saying it’s coming.  It’s here.  It’s our present reality.  Order becomes chaotic.  What is born begins to die.  And selfishness reigns in our spirits.
But there’s a gem hidden in all that.
“Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses…”
and
“…but a rod is for the back of one who lacks sense…”
Encouraged?  GOOD!  I thought it would be good to end with some uplifting news.
What’s the good news?  Rod’s aren’t for *killing*.  Rod’s are for correcting.  For re-purposing, re-directing.  They’re for 2nd chances.  Shepherd’s use rods to poke the sheep back onto a safe path.  God says the rod is to make bodily the unbreakable association between sin and death.  If the question is Sin?  Then the inescapable answer is always Death.  Sin = death.  No point in correcting something that is doomed.  It’s only good to correct if the intent is to see the undesired action erased, forgotten, not to be repeated.  That’s the GOOD NEWS!  God’s correction is evidence of his love.  And his intent to repair what is broken.  Even if it’s us.
So I tell him (the boy, not God) that if we desire to experience life- if we desire to have discernment, and wisdom, and knowledge- the source will always be in God’s word.  It may not end there, but it will begin there.  And it’s not enough to trot through.  It’s best to crawl- army style.  It’s only as powerful as we understand it to be.  So I want to teach them as I myself learn to take small bites, and chew till it’s mash.  Just absorb it.  And LIVE!
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Psalm 4

Answer me when I call to You,
    O my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
    be merciful to me and hear my prayer.

How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?
    How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?

Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
    the Lord will hear when I call to him.

In your anger do not sin;
    when you are on your beds,
    search your hearts and be silent.
Offer right sacrifices
    and trust in the Lord.

Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?”
    Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.
You have filled my heart with greater joy
    than when their grain and new wine abound.
I will lie down and sleep in peace,
    for you alone, O Lord,
    make me dwell in safety.

I had the privilege this weekend of spending some intentional time with our senior pastor and worship pastor at a weekend conference with worship songwriter Paul Baloche.  What a bath!  It’s astonishing to me how much I am relieved- just in a sort of cathartic sort of way, when I have the opportunity to leave the familiar environment of my own church, the comfy couch of my usual responsibilities, and just show up.  I suppose the best analogy would be the way a cooking parent might savor a quiet meal, served to him or her, and be able to just eat.  Not cut up your kids’ meals, get up from the table six times to get a glass of milk.  And another glass of milk.  And a different spoon.  And the salt.  And then a roll of paper towels.  Meanwhile, the one hungry kid (who didn’t eat lunch) has finished all their food and is asking for seconds.  Which means more cutting.  And your food is just– sitting there.

Yeah.  Kinda like that.

It should come as no surprise that the Psalms were an item of frequent conversation over the weekend.

I was reinvigorated in my pursuit of the Psalms.  I was impressed with the need to fall back into God’s arms with words of praise, with words of distress, and with words that were in essence, encouraging self-talk based on the promises of God and who He is.
Every Psalm carries value to us.  Sometimes they need contextualizing, because Jesus and His ministry of reconciliation changes everything.

There is difficulty- a sort of cognitive dissonance (I love that term), in the language of the Psalms for the Jesus believer.  Frequently, the Psalmist poses himself against an enemy of some kind.  Or calls on God to crush, kill, trample, or break the teeth of some villian, some enemy.  Or enemies.

Doesn’t seem very Christlike.  Not very turn-the-other-cheekish.

Paul says in the New Testament that we (the believers that make up the Church) do not fight human enemies, physical enemies, but rather, our battle is in the spiritual realm.  I think this is a key to unlocking the dissonances of the Psalms into precious harmony.  We do have an enemy.  God will crush him.  God will break his teeth.  We have a common enemy in Job’s Accuser, in the Deceiver.  He is the target for every shattered shield, every broken tooth, every slain warrior.

And, it is from Job’s Accuser, the Deceiver, from whom we will achieve rest.  Vindication.  Victory.  If there is temptation in your life, if there is stress that vexes and provokes anxiety, if there is worry, pain, disease, or any kind of sin- you have an enemy.  And your enemy is God’s enemy.

Here- in Psalm 4, just as in Psalm 3, I can finally rest- the anxiety does not get the final word.  The judgement of the spirit of the air, of the permissive culture, does not restrain me.  I am able to rest in the midst of trouble.  I can lie down and sleep through the sirens.  And from that I can awaken to my mission refreshed, recharged, and more able than the day before.

One of the gems of Paul’s teaching ministry, I think, is his emphasis on knowing the Psalms.  It’s far from unconventional.  But his insistence comes from a desire to increase our “vocabulary of praise,” or our “vocabulary of worship.”

We all know that person who says “just bless them” in their prayers- and that’s all they really can say.  Not a fault.  Just a very limited vocabulary of prayer.  David, and all of the Psalm writers, offer us, hand down to us, through hundreds of generations, a magnificent array of Godly praise.  A hundred years of prayers for us to praise God with.    We can enrich our minds with a new “language” a new lexicon of God’s praise.  These can be the almost subliminally present words of praise, of supplication when we are in need, and of inspired, encouraging self-talk when faced with a difficult task.
God, I will continually re-point myself to you, looking back to you when I look away.  
I will continue to live walking towards you, leaning into the words of praise and prayer that we share with the generations ahead and behind.  I will learn new phrases of your worship, to enrich and to step closer to you.

And in you I can rest.  In you, I can sleep soundly, though sirens wail, and buildings vibrate with all kinds of life.  Because you are the keeper of my life.

Psalm 1:

Blessed is the man, 
    who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
or stand in the way of sinners,
    or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
     and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
     which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
      Whatever he does prospers. 
Not so the wicked!
     They are like chaff 
     that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
     nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, 
     but the way of the wicked will perish. 

Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of wicked,
or stand in the way of sinners,
or sit in the seat of mockers-

Father, God;  You have established a way that is good.  You have designed and created a way that gives LIFE, and does not rob it.  Your way of life breathes peace, relief and freedom.  Anything else breeds contempt, jealousy, lust, insecurity- in short, not-life.  Death.  Father I desire to LIVE.  Keep me from temptation and deliver me from evil, that I might LIVE, and not be dead.  

***

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

Father, turn my heart to your words.  You are plainly visible to the one who looks in to see you.  Remove my agendas.  Remove my ambitions.  Remove all the veils that keep me from experiencing you in your words.  I desire to know your language.  I desire to lean on you, and know you as ‘papa’, not just “Father.”  

***

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

Almighty God; I desire to be the person you made me to be.  I desire to do what you purposed me to do!  You have planted me near your stream- given me your word.  Now I draw near to drink up your word.  I ask that you use it to nourish me, and grow me.  Make me healthy on the inside.  Make my leaves green on the outside, looking beautiful, and spreading health.  Make my fruit heavy and prolific.  May I produce the fruits that you have planted me to produce.  You have grafted me into your tree- make me a fountain of your fruit. 

Help me, God, to trust in your timing.  I desire fruit now.  I ask you for fruit now.  But I must wait for you to open the buds, to feed the blossoms.  To bring the bees and add to the pollens, that the fruit is perfect and good.  God, feed me, rest me, pollinate me, and harvest the fruit!

***

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

Righteous God- no one who plants desires to see waste among His produce.  God I plead that my life would be one that is fruitful in a satisfying way.  I thank you that you have created a path in Jesus for me to be acceptable in your presence.  May I serve as a light and a path, that those around me can come to stand in the judgement along with Jesus.  

Teach me to see wickedness in my life, and to be happy and satisfied to watch it blow away, separating itself from the good things of my life.  Teach me to hand all things up to you, and allow you to separate the fruit you desire to keep from that which you do not.  

***

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Holy God, you watch over the righteous and the wicked.  Thank you for your wisdom, care and provision.  Thank you God for the promises you have made, and kept to restore the ways of LIFE that you designed in the beginning.  Thank you God that You care for that which You have made and that you are destroying wickedness and death, and each heartbeat brings us closer to the day when the final victory is won.  Amen.

Genesis 48

11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”

15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,
   “May the God before whom my fathers 
  
Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully,

the God who has been my shepherd 
  
all my life to this day,

16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm 
  
   —may he bless these boys.

May they be called by my name 
  
and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, 
and may they increase greatly 
  
on the earth.”

Genesis is a beginning.  Literally.  Genesis opens with the phrase “In the beginning,” or “At first.”  But as is often the case the beginning is … just the first thing in a series of many things.  So Genesis is a beginning, and it’s a journey- a middle.

We’ve met lots of people- Adam and Eve, Cain, Abel, Seth, Noah, Abram, Sarai, Lot, Lot’s daughters, Isaac, Isaac’s servant, Jacob, Esau, Laban, Rachel, Leah, Rueben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, (and Tamar), Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph and Benjamin.  We’ve met Potipher, the Egyptian Royal captain, and his cougar-wife.  We’ve met a royal baker, and a royal cup-bearer.  Pharaoh himself.  But he’s not the first king- we’ve also met the mysterious Malchizekek.

But we’ve also met somebody else.  Creator God, who speaks and creates, and hovers over unformed things.  Creator God who builds and creates and proliferates LIFE.  God, who walks in the garden in the cool of the afternoon relishing what He finds to be very good.  An all-powerful God who creates a community to spend time with, and enjoy.  An all powerful God who makes us free to love Him back, or … not.

The God who sews garments to cover up something He made good, because of the fear that sin created.  The God who, when disobeyed, rather than retaliate and answer in wrath, promises to set things right, and keeps things from getting any worse.  The angel with the sword flashing back and forth between us and the Garden of Eden.

We meet his presence in angels- messengers.  Messengers who come to break through the barriers and communicate God’s promises, over and over.  Despite rebellion.  Despite disbelief.

And we meet God, a shepherd.

As Israel lays in his bed, he places himself in the role of a sheep- and tells Joseph that God has been his shepherd.

After all the things Israel has experienced, after all the different ways He has experienced God, and God’s presence in his life, this is how he describes God.  A shepherd.

The lasting words of God reverberate in that description: I will be with you.

God is introducing himself to you, right now, today.  Not as somebody who will shepherd you.  But as somebody who always has.  God is a shepherd.  He is guiding you to safe places to lie down.  He is choosing ripe, green grass for you.  He finds a place where you can wade in the water and drink without fear of predators, without fear of drowning.  You may wander out of sight, and get lost, get stuck, get tired.  But he is the Good Shepherd and He will come out, leaving the flock to find you.  You will hear his voice, and call to him, and he will pull you from the mud, pull you from the briar- and return you on his shoulders to where you are safe.

This is the God of Genesis.  He’s a fixer.  He’s a lookout.  He’s a shepherd.

Genesis 46

1 So Israel set out with all that was his,  . . .   2 And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
  3 “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. 4 I will go down to Egypt with you . . .”


On the road again!  It seems like all of the really amazing things happen to Jacob around the periods of traveling and transition in his life.  And every time he goes somewhere, there’s a vision.  And the vision is always a reminder and assurance of the only promises God ever seems to really feel compelled to make.

In Genesis 28, Jacob was making a “strategic extraction” after he found himself persona non gratis amongst his brother.  I’m sure he was a little scared at the time, because he left with nothing more than a staff and directions to Taco Bell.
But on the way, he has a dream and God astonishes Jacob, telling him “14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth,” and “15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
In Genesis 31, a few pages and 20 years to the right, Jacob is making another “strategic extraction” after hearing his brothers-in-law making some not-so-neighborly remarks in his general direction.  He has more than he arrived with, and can’t move with his typical ninja like stealth.  But God comes, again, with a vision and an assurance that though the times are different, and the circumstances are (a little bit) different, His promise remains the same.  He says to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
Later, God again tells Jacob to move.  He directs Jacob to leave Shechem (where, by the way, there are a LOT of very angry guys waiting to heal up), and move to Beth’el.  God gives Jacob a new name, Israel, and attaches His ongoing promise to proliferate Jacob’s family to that new identity.  “11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty[f]; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.”

And now, today.  In Genesis 46, Jacob is reveling in his own prodigal son’s return.  A son who was dead is alive.  And an invitation is before him to move again.  God revisits him, repeating the old promise, reassuring Jacob.  3 “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. 4 I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”

God’s promises to Jacob, regardless of Jacob’s life, regardless of Jacob’s destination, have always been the same.  “I will make a great nation of peoples from your family.”  And “I will be with you.”

God’s promise to me, and to you, isn’t really any different.  It isn’t really any less objective either.  Because it’s God’s promise to us, not the other way around.

He may not be planning to “make a nation” out of your family.  But He does have some function, some purpose, some reason for you.  Some point to your existence.  You have some unique place in the universe that nobody else can adequately fulfill or perform.  And it’s a God-level, Jacob-like degree of ultimate importance we’re talking about.

I don’t think that God’s promises are really all that different from one person to the next.  He promises over and over in Jacob’s life to prosper him- but it is so that he can succeed at God’s purpose for him (which is to make a nation of people- so think lots of name-bearing off-spring.  Like boys).  And He promises over and over to “be with you,” to Jacob.  Repeatedly.

And not just when times get tough.  Not just when times are good.  Not just when Jacob is a good boy.  Usually when he’s not.  This guy, though in his old age seems submitted enough- has led a life of fighting, of friction, of trouble-making, and “strategic extractions.”

This is the God I’m meeting not just in Jacob’s life, but throughout the entire book of Genesis.  That promise of prosperity to fulfill God’s purpose, be it to build a boat, build a people, restore the integrity of His creation- it is repeated in every generation of humanity.  And ours is no different.  Because God is no different.

The God I’m meeting in Genesis made something amazingly, very good.  And He liked it.  He made so many special things, but he made one thing in particular, and gave it something particularly wonderful.  Us.  He said, “Now, let us make man, in our image.”  Everything else was according to its kind.  But this- this will be different.  It will be in our kind.

And when things got sideways, God didn’t give up.  He didn’t give up then, and he’s not given up now.  He says, after Eve had disobeyed, that One will come who will smash the serpent’s head.  That’s a promise.  And he makes that promise in every generation.

Genesis 45

1 Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.
3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.

 

5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.[a]
 8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.

Catharsis!

So- finally some good news, here in chapter 45 of Genesis.  Joseph has removed the veil and revealed himself to his brothers.

I didn’t think that reading the bible one chapter at a time would ever be very problematic.  Wrong.  While not a terrible profound observation, it stands to be said every so often just as a reminder: the Bible wasn’t written in chapters and verses.  In fact, what we call the first five books are really just five chapters of one book.  The conventional divisions into 5 distinct books has to do more with the central theme of each section, but they are all dated at about the same time- and have their own name: Pentateuch.  Sort of a subset within the bible.

Well, this is just another lesson in hermeneutics then- sometimes breaking a story up into artificial segments can be detrimental to how we understand the whole story.  And nowhere has that been more evident in Genesis than right here, in Joseph’s story.

Joseph has been gone for at least 9 years.  For a decade, his brothers have been under the mantle of remorse.  Or at least some of them have.  Joseph’s father, the patriarch, Jacob, aka Israel, has been slowly deteriorating under the pain of losing his beautiful Joseph.  Joseph has been a captains right hand, and the focal point of his derision.  He’s lived in relative luxury and in a prison.  He’s known the adrenalin rush of being pursued by a woman- and the fear of standing before the most powerful man in the world, Pharaoh.  He’s been forgotten and he’s been the “father to Pharaoh.”  And now he’s at the end of his considerable emotional rope.

His trials seem to have brought him wisdom.

This is no small victory.  I’m not sure I’d be so fortunate.  Joseph, by today’s standards has every reason to have lost trust in the most sacred things.  He was betrayed and sold into slavery by his own family.  Framed and abandoned by his employer.  Left and forgotten by people he’d been charitable to in prison.  His power would have corrupted a lesser person.  A lesser person might have taken liberty with his power to acquire wealth and security- to prevent the pain and suffering he’d known up to this point from ever happening again.  He might be jaded and permanently untrusting.  He might be inclined to blame God for ten years of being abandoned by family and uncared about, forced to live in a foreign culture with no ties to home.

But no.  In all this time, Joseph’s faith in God’s purpose has caused him to pursue a sort of soterical career.  Even after his own abandonment by family and imprisonment, he is still pursuing other peoples’ peace.

He has spoken truth to the two fellow prisoners.  He gave peace to the Pharaoh about his dreams by clearly giving meaning to the dreams he’d had, and then offers sound wisdom to offset the bad news.  And now, Joseph is giving his brothers peace and forgiveness!  He is telling them that they were doing God’s work by despising him, selling him to a band of strangers, and ultimately into slavery and all that happened to him here in Egypt.  Why?

He’s giving God- this God that we have only heard about in the context of giving meaning to dreams, credit for using Joseph to save a nation’s worth of lives, as well as the lives of his own family.

This, I think, is an almost super-human ability!  Especially when you consider how much time has passed.  I can only speak for myself, but if I get a little down in the mouth for a couple months I start examining my life for places where I’ve let God down.  Maybe that’s not bad, in itself, but when I do that, I start to get blue, and a little mean.  I start thinking naughty thoughts about God- like He’s punishing me (which of course, He’s not, having fully extracted any punishment he must for me from Jesus), or that He’s changed His mind about me (which he doesn’t because nothing can take me from Jesus’ hand).  In short- I get impatient very quickly with God.

Ten years!  Ten years have passed in Joseph’s life.  Have you waited ten years, faithfully, for something?  Anything?  I don’t know that I can honestly say that I have.  At least not in obedience.

There’s plenty here about forgiveness.  There’s plenty here about how family relationships are kinda messy, and sometimes require a frequent and potent bath in the bubble-potion of forgiveness.  But God’s providence is what is on display, and Joseph’s unfailing dependence on it.

God is faithful.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, great comfort can come from the simple proverb: “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is God’s purpose that will prevail.”

This may seem obvious- but God has a purpose!  This may seem less obvious at times: God’s purpose is for good!  Joseph declares his joy in this when he tells his brothers not to be troubled by their evil plans, because God caused good to happen!

This is less obvious:  If Joseph had sucked his thumb and pouted while he was in jail, God would have had a much more difficult time getting everything in order.  Joseph set his pain, anger, betrayal down on the floor of his cell and “saw that they were troubled” and set himself to comforting the two fellow prisoners by interpreting their troubling dreams.  Had he never done that- had he never inserted himself as a healer and a comforter into that situation- he would never have stood before Pharaoh to warn him of the coming prosperity that would buffet that following famine!

A simple act of selflessness, on Joseph’s part was a small key in an extremely large lock.  A single act of selflessness was the spark that lit the tinder, that held the ember, that caused a campfire to turn into a forest fire.  And it happened during a rainstorm.  Heck, a monsoon.

That is God’s character.

Genesis 42:

6 Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. 7 As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked.

 8 Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. 9 Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”
 22 Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” 23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.

  He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.
 25 Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man’s silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. After this was done for them, 26 they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left.

Families are indeed curious creatures.  If you have one, you must agree.  They have these histories- they become genetic.  Part of the DNA of each person.  In this segment of Genesis a strange reunion takes place.  The conceited son who was ambushed, sold off in spite, and left for dead on the highway of their shared memory is reunited with 10 of his 11 brothers.  But rather than leap down from his place, clutching them and exclaiming, he upholds his new identity as an Egyptian governor, keeping safe distance.

In fact, he actually comes down pretty hard on his brothers, yelling at them, and accusing them of mortal crimes.  He throws them in jail for 3 days just to make them sweat.

It says in the scripture that “he remembered his dreams about them [bowing down to him].”  Yet he keeps all of that to himself.

Apparently, though time has passed, and they have collectively agreed that Joseph was killed tragically long ago, the guilt has not passed.  Though they may never talk about it openly, the sounds of their brother weeping and pleading from the bottom of the cistern still echo in the space between them.  And now, at a distance from their father, those memories are not distant.  They are right there, on the surface.  Having another moment of glory, slimy and black on their collective memory.

21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother.

What a horrible moment this must have been.  Full of tension.  Full of angst.  All the way around the stage, everyone tense, everyone eager for resolution.  Nobody knowing how it might happen.

Did Joseph’s conceit return?  Was he gloating in the memory of his dream, with the sheaves of grain bowing down to his sheaf?  Is this the return of the old Joseph?  What in the world is God’s spirit doing right now?

Does God gain glory from this moment?  Brothers in conflict?

In the New Testament epistle called 2 Peter, the author speaks of God not being slow… as some understand slowness.  I don’t know what the Greek words are for all of this- but I have been comforted by the idea of this phrase.  

God is not subject to linear time the way that we are.  The way that Joseph and his brothers were.  God holds time within himself.  Each moment of our history is evident to him.  I believe that every moment of history exists as the present for God.  He is the creator and sustainer of every moment.  Each moment of our lives is utterly rooted in God and in his sustenance.  He is more than sunlight feeding a plant.  He is the sunlight, the soil, the ability to convert the sunlight into energy usable by the plant- he is the time it takes for the plant to convert the sunlight.

My point in saying this is that I see moments like these, where time seems to slow down, and each moment is adrenalin times 100- when each second is like fire and ice mixed together in a torturous pathology, God is still present in these moments.

In that moment when my father was dying, and me and my brothers sat around his bed- where was the glory of God in that?  Each of us experiencing our own private anxiety about losing our father.  Each of us reliving all of the moments of our lives with him, good and bad.  Between each breath.  Each of us secretly fearing the next moment.  Secretly hoping that something miraculous might happen, each knowing that it was impossible.

His glory seemed slow in coming.  But God doesn’t “do” time like we “do” time.  His kind of doing time sees the apple, the manger, the cross, and the last trumpet all at the same time.  Maybe that’s what we’re seeing here.  A sliver of the spectrum.

Joseph conceives of a plan.  He wants to see his littlest brother, Benjamin.  It seems, from the text, that Jacob is protecting Benjamin, desperately, almost as though that might somehow save Joseph from his past.

Joseph uses his power and swag to fill the bags of his brothers not only with grain but with the money they used to purchase it as well.  He must have known it would cause them great terror.  Maybe.  Maybe it didn’t occur to him that they might see it is as an opportunity for Egypt to take them all away for good and for ever.

In either event, he keeps one brother as collateral- a guarantee that they will return, and they will bring the little brother, Benjamin.

But when the brother’s get back to their father and tell them what happened, he is in despair at the loss of another son.  And utterly refuses to let another child go down to Egypt.  He is still mourning the loss of Joseph, and is thrown into mourning for Simeon as lost.  And he will not lose another.

But Rueben, desperate to regain his conscience, and fully lost in remorse over Joseph, offers the lives of his own children as a promise that Benjamin will return unharmed from Egypt.

Are you in mourning over something that is behind you?  Or frightened of something in front of you?  I have been.  I am.  At times like this it’s easy to wonder where the hell God has gone.  But we have for us many examples, in scripture, and even in the collective lives of our families and friends, stories of God’s faithfulness.  The written comfort from 2 Peter is often on my lips, and in my ears.  God is true.  He is faithful to his own character.  It sometimes drags out for us- sparks glowing into embers, into flames into a full-on all consuming fire that seems like it will go forever.  But it won’t.  It can’t.

Only God and his words can go forever.  And his words, his promise, is that He is with us.

“He is not slow in keeping his promise, as some reckon slowness.  Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

2 Peter 3