Thursday, January 27, 2011

Things That Puzzle Me

Lately I have been journeying through 1st and 2nd Kings, having realized that I have probably not read these books in their entirety since my freshman year of college (but I have read the book of Acts maybe 8 times since then, go figure).

One of the things that ALWAYS puzzles me is the situation of Elijah.  He calls out the prophets of Baal, tells them to meet him up on Mount Carmel and they would find out whose God/god was real.  Or, in his own words, "The God who answers by fire, he is God," (1 Kings 18:24).  Perhaps you have read this story before, so you know how it goes -

The prophets of Baal make their altar, pray before it, weep before it, cut themselves before it, sacrifice onto it, but there is "no voice; No one answered; no one paid attention," (1 Kings 18:29b).

There acceptable time of offering passes, so Elijah goes up to the altar of God.  He douses it with water several times, puts the sacrifice on the altar, and makes the simple prayer that God would "answer" him.  His time of offering comes, and God consumes the offering with fire.  So much fire, in fact, that it "licked up the water that was in the trench," (1 Kings 18:38).

Rain comes, Elijah is victorious over the prophets of Baal, a group of people realize that God is God, and that a god is NOT God.  Fantastic.  What a victory, right?

This is what puzzles me.

1 Kings 19:2, "Then Jezebel (the wife of King Ahab, whose prophets of Baal had just been defeated) sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, 'So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them (the prophets who had just died) by this time tomorrow.'"

So what does our mighty prophet do?  1 Kings 19:3, "Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life."

WHAT?  WHAT?  WHAT?!?!?  Ok, I'll stop.

But seriously.  You just saw your God, who actually is God, lick up even the water that was around the trench of your offering with an all-consuming fire.  He just gave you a HUGE victory over something like 850 false prophets.  And then the woman who is behind it all threatens you with a threat from the gods (lower case "g") who could not even bother to show up, who you mocked, and who ultimately was just proven DON'T EXIST!!!!  You are NOW afraid and you run and flee for your life?

This puzzles me.

It makes me feel hopeless in a way, because if Elijah, a man who was empowered to raise the dead, who was a test-proven prophet, who had great faith to pray to God in front of 850 threatened false prophets, "Answer me," - if he falters, then what hope do I have?

This would probably be the wrong reaction to have to the text.  Which is why I am so very glad that there is a remainder to chapter 19.  Now, I am not saying that if Elijah had not fled that God would not have worked this out in another way.  I find "what if" questions to be kind of silly anyways, because this IS the way it happened, and this IS the course of events.  No alternate version is available.  So, no what ifs.

So, Elijah fled and God went after Him.  He showed him in the still quiet wind (the sound of sheer silence) that he, Elijah, was not alone.  Not only was this God who can come with an all-consuming fire or with the sound of silence with Him, but this God still had 7,000 people back in Israel who loved Him.  Not only that, but Elijah continued his journey, as God instructed him, and found his helper, his replacement, and ultimately someone who would do even more for God, a man named Elisha.

Is it God's plan for Elijah to falter?  For him to run in the face of gods and Jezebel?  I don't know.  What I do know is that even though Elijah falters, his faith wains, he loses focus, God works in his life in spite of this.  He raises up another prophet, one who continues His work on earth; He restores Elijah's faith, and eventually Elijah gets carried off to be with God in a chariot.

This restores my hope.  Because while Elijah's instant lack of faith after an incredible time of victory and evidence of God's reality happened, this story is not about Elijah.  This story is about God working and being faithful when we are faithless.

God will work even when we don't.  God will still be there, even when we forget that He is.  God will still be God, even when we put others and other things before Him.  God never changes who He is, even when we blow like a branch in a hurricane.

Why do we even bother then?  Because Elijah did far greater things when he was faithful to God than when he was not.  A faithful servant will produce much fruit; so much will happen when we actually work with God instead of forgetting about Him and all He can do.

Remain faithful then.  Remain in prayer, remain in the Word, ABIDE in Him.  He will produce fruit, because a part from Him, we can do nothing.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Sun Also...

On my way to work every morning, I have to stop at a corner where the sun has risen to a point that every time I look left to check for traffic I end up with a great amount of brightness flashing into my now squinted eyes.  I have tried leaving a few minutes earlier or later, but alas, to no avail - there is the sun in all of its ball-y, gaseous glory ready to blind me.

So, I have to begin the process of what I call slowly creeping - this is where I slowly, but with hesitant foot on the brake, make my way out into the intersection and hope that no one is coming from the left, or that if they are, they will be one of those wonderfully weird New England drivers who stop for everyone and everything that want to cut them off (I love those New England drivers).

From that point on in the rest of my 4.1 mile journey to work, I never have to worry about the sun's beams pointing directly into my retina.  That is, until I am on my way home from work around lunch time and the sun is high in the sky, being a blazing ball of fire and I can see nothing without the assistance of stylish, Fossil sunglasses.  This journey is made all the worse when the wonderful white stuff that I have been loving all winter is around to reflect said beams right into my eyes.

Even though I carry around this hate relationship with the sun on my drive to and from work, I also have a deep, deep love relationship with the sun.  Most mornings, I do say most, not all, I am an early-ish riser.  Enough that I have my cup of coffee in hand as I sit on my couch with a view of the cove out my window. As I read, the sun slowly peaks his head out and wonderful blues and pinks fill the sky as the sleepy New England town wakes up.  Often I am lost in thought as I stare at the beauty that surrounds me - and I feel for just a few moments that part of this was created for me, for my enjoyment, for my delight, for the fact that there is something inside of me that loves beauty and art and creation, and knowing that even the most beautiful manmade painting falls incredibly short in comparison to this moment.

As the day closes, and the sun leaves this side of the earth the sky is once again filled with all shades of pink and orange, and I am reminded that tomorrow he will return.  It's as if the sunset with all of its wonder and beauty is there to remind me of what I experienced in the morning, and to let me know what will again happen tomorrow.  For the sun is always there, and as long as the moon keeps us spinning on our tilt, we will always rotate around to see it - to have the chance to wake up early and see it, to experience its beauty, part of its very purpose, to delight and have joy in the creation of something so marvelous as the sun rise.

There are plenty of theological illustrations here, but right now, I am just going to leave it and let you explore these thoughts on your own.  For now, I am going to enjoy the view.

Monday, January 3, 2011


I've been traveling for a few days, so this blog entry has been festering in my head for a while now.  Each year we compile a list of things to accomplish or do and set out trying to make our life quality a little better according to standards set by the Food Network Channel, the Biggest Loser, Forbes, Time, and other major entities in our world.  Not that this is a horribly bad thing.  I have lived most of my life by setting goals and accomplishing them.  I even knew of some girls that went to my alma mater for the set goal of finding a husband (one of whom turned out to be one of my best friends).

As we set the goals for the New Year, we often spend time reflecting on the previous year - and usually it brings lots of regrets, tears, and heavy sighs at what we did not accomplish within the year (or even forgot to do).

Last year, I really don't think that I set any particular resolution/goal for the year, and when I sat back and reflected on the year, it kind of made me have a bit of a "Debbie Downer" moment.  I did a lot of things last year, but because I didn't actually set out to accomplish any of those things, there was no sense of swelling pride - the good kind, not the kind that comes before the fall.

So, this year, I may have gone over board a bit - but we will see.  I have set out four new resolutions, with a possibility of adding a fifth (but I really doubt that that one will happen).  What you may ask are these goals?  Well, I'm glad you asked.  There is something to publicly stating your goals that helps with the whole accountability thing.  It adds a bit of pressure also, so that maybe you will actually accomplish one of two of them, and possibly even all of them.

1. Write daily.  This does not mean that you will be seeing a daily blog entry from myself (please, never let it be).  I just need to write more.  And there are journals and a Macbook Pro waiting my musings, my thoughts, my reflections, and possibly something more substantial.

2. Read at least 25 books.  Now, I know, this goal seems to be a little low.  I'm pretty sure that with all the re-reading I did last year, I read over 25 books.  And I know, D.A. Carson read 100+ books a year, plus writes his own, teaches, and manages to be an all-around stud.  But, I am NOT D.A. Carson, as much as I would like to be.  So, at least 25 books this year it is.  I have already started my list of what to read, and it is well over 25, so if you recommend a book to me this year, it will probably be a year before I get to it.  Sorry.

3. Cook at least 4 times a week.  I LOVE to cook.  I LOVE watching Food Network and browsing Williams & Sonoma, but my major problem is that I have a insanely busy lifestyle.  So, most nights stopping at the store or grabbing take-out has been my habit.  Well, it's time to break it.  At least 4 times a week.

4. No sweets this year, except for on our birthdays.  This one was tacked on by my wonderful husband.  I think he did it because he knows that I have a tendency for a sweet tooth, so this doesn't help his diet either.  I did this once when I was a teenager, so I think that this one is definitely do-able.  Here's hoping to a mild summer so I won't want to snack on ice cream in the heat!!

Well, there they are.  You may ask why there isn't anything in there about God, prayer, reading the Word, etc, etc, etc.  My simple answer to that - my relationship with God is not a goal.  The second it is, it is no longer a relationship - it has become a checklist.

Happy New Year, one and all!