Holding On To Two Worlds

Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  Gen. 2:24  ESV

To pledge myself completely in marriage is to forsake former allegiances.  I vow to make my spouse’s welfare my priority after my relationship with God.  Parents of newlyweds will feel the shift.  Mothers will feel a sense of loss over sons who have pledged themselves to a bride.  If the relationship was close, the sense of leaving and replacement will be profound.

Fathers will feel a lump in their throat as they walk their daughter down the aisle to give her to another.  He knows she is on the cusp of leaving – and then cleaving to someone new.  She will dwell under the umbrella and shade of a new man.  Her quest for wisdom, protection and encouragement will all fall on her groom.

I remember the morning after our daughter’s marriage ten years ago.  Her bedroom was strangely empty.  I knew in my gut that she wasn’t away at college or on a weekend trip out of town.  She wouldn’t be back to sleep in her twin bed again.  Our house was no longer her primary home.  I felt the ache and it was magnified by an unfortunate case of pneumonia.  That just intensified my emotions.

When a groom doesn’t leave his parents emotionally, he can’t cleave.  When he’s consumed with bowing to his parent’s wishes and feels the pressure of them breathing down his neck, he will be too intimidated to take a stand when his bride needs to know she comes first.  Feeling threatened, she will ask him to choose in a thousand different ways and if he is not strong enough to know God’s ways in his new marriage, he will cause his wife to feel he can’t be trusted with her heart.

When a wife can’t leave home, she can’t cleave either.  Her security still rests with her father, or mother, and pleasing them takes priority over her husband’s wishes.  Feeling threatened, he feels his leadership has eroded.  He feels disrespected, betrayed, and rejected.  If she cannot cut the apron strings, he will feel he can never earn her respect.  He is not allowed to be a man.  He will feel like a child, her parent’s child.

Leaving and cleaving are found throughout scripture, and it expands beyond the boundaries of marriage.  I am to leave and forsake the kingdom of darkness and cleave to Christ.  I am to dwell under His umbrella and live under the protection of His household.  I bear His name and my identity is forever changed.  I am to let Him lead me no matter how different His ways seem than the ways of my former life.  He loves me enough to lay down His life for me and I love Him enough to respond wholeheartedly with my unwavering allegiance.

Strengthen marriages today.  Teach husbands and wives how to navigate new boundary lines with wisdom.  Amen

Can Imagination Be Trusted?

Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.  Genesis 2:19  ESV

It is far too easy to starve our God-given imaginative gifts, believing that sacred dreaming is reckless.  A few might believe that it even borders on witchcraft.  Does it?  I draw in my breath at the mere suggestion.

God formed the dust of the ground and made cows, cats, dogs, monkeys, and antelope.  Then he nudged each one to go to Adam so they could be named.  I love how Genesis describes this part of history.  “God brought them to the man to see what he would call them.”   God enjoyed watching as Adam tapped into his creativity. “What shall I call something soft, furry, with a tail?” 

I am made in the image of God.  He, the one who imagined the earth before He made it, infused me (and everyone else) with the same desire to dream and create.  How can I know if my imagination is safe to use?  I take Isaiah’s advice.  “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these?”  Isaiah 40:26  If my imagination is brought captive to prayer and scripture, then it is a gift.  A Spirit-filled life is a canvas just waiting for vibrant paint colors.

I believe one of the reasons our prayer meetings and personal prayer times are so dull is that we fail to use our imagination in prayer.  What happens when we take a scriptural principle and develop how it might look in the desert of human need?  The possibilities are endless.

  • Perhaps God would kiss a heart of stone and transform it into a heart of flesh when I pray Ezekiel 36:26 creatively.
  • Perhaps God would turn my speech into sharp arrows of truth as I ask Him to give me words like Jesus, from the prophetic words of Isaiah 49.
  • Perhaps God would stand on the waves of my personal storm and say, “Peace!  Be still!” as I pray from Mark 4:39

Just as God brought the animals to Adam to name, he brings opportunities my way to engage my mind in ways that more resemble play than work.  Adam wasn’t a child when he thought up names yet I picture him having the time of his life as each animal came into view.  He pointed, perhaps laughed, and then exclaimed in amazement over God’s creativity before imagining a name for each one.  I’ve lived long enough to know a sense of his joy because many days, writing in the morning is like playtime.

Because Adam walked with you, his imagination was holy.  Help me use my creative gifts with more confidence.  Amen

When Did Life Change For You?

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.  Genesis 2:16-17  ESV

I remember my first encounter with death as a child.  My grandmother died when I was 13.  One minute she was there, the next minute, she was gone.  The kitchen was quiet, and when we walked in the door, the aromas of her Swedish baking were absent.  Her two Siamese cats no longer greeted us.  The change from her existing to not existing was a physical and emotional ‘thud’ to my gut.

I felt this shift again when my mother died.  I was thirty.  Yes, I knew she was dying; she had terminal cancer.  But even as she grew weaker, the understanding of death could not be fully digested.  I could still bring her flowers, make her coffee, sit on the edge of her bed and talk with her.  But one day while visiting, she breathed her last and I looked death in the face.  The shift was swift and radical.  One moment she was with me.  The next, she was not. She would no longer stand at the kitchen window when I drove in. Her laundry, washed with a detergent made of her favorite soap shavings, wouldn’t be hanging on the line.  One can never quite prepare for death’s finality.

I don’t know if Adam knew what death meant when God warned him and set the only parameter he would have to follow.  He could enjoy everything God made and partake of it but there was one tree that was forbidden.  Should he disobey, there would be instant spiritual death and a progressive physical death.         

Adam and Eve set a disastrous course in motion when they disobeyed.  Initially, the shift they felt was a spiritual one.  There was no more transparency without shame, no longer the anticipation of fellowship with God.  In a moment, the shadows of distrust, fear, embarrassment, and perhaps even anger, visited their souls.  Innocence was history.

Every person born encounters a moment when the spiritual death of Adam makes itself known in a way that is defining.  It is that moment when innocence dies.  You are probably sifting through your memories to remember the exact moment it happened to you, that instant when your view of life changed forever.  For any who grew up in the best of homes, the awareness of spiritual death was more subtle, but over time, just as devastating.  Bullying at school, competition between siblings, angry words spoken by a parent for which there was hopefully an apology; these series of events reveal an imperfect world and bring the gnawing feeling that no one is completely safe and perfectly loved.

The overarching plotline of the Bible is that mankind fell ~ then God sent a redeemer so that mankind could be saved from his sin.  With that rescue, the full restoration of Eden would begin to blossom in his spiritual life.  While we will all endure the gut-wrenching pangs of physical death, we know it’s temporary.  We will live in the Eden of a new Heaven and new Earth where corruption does not exist.  We will know what it is to be Adam and Eve in the land of perfection.  God is, at this moment, preparing it as He once did when His Spirit hovered over the face of a dead planet and kissed it to life. 

Oh, the things You are preparing for me, tailor-made, just right.  Amen

Expecting God To Do What He Told Me To DO

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  Genesis 2:15  ESV

My mother was a gentle soul, understated, but with a great colorful and eccentric side if she was comfortable around you.  She loved gardening and loved good dirt.  When she visited us at our home in the Adirondack Mountains, she’d dig up soil to take home for her garden.  While this may not seem that eccentric, when she and my Dad traveled, she did not buy souvenirs per se but brought home dirt.  If you opened her top dresser drawer, you could see little baggies of dirt and twigs from Germany, England, and Bermuda.

She also loved to collect kindling from the woods outside our home.  It was stacked meticulously like matchsticks in our basement.  On Saturday mornings, she would pop into the kitchen after breakfast, rub her hands together and exclaim, “What shall I get into today?”  That meant she was headed outside to explore but would, inevitably, end up in her gardens.  I can remember overhearing her say to a garden snake, “Well, hello there Mr. Snake.”  (Our daughter Jaime was only four at the time, but this is one of her favorite memories.)I saw early that when a man or woman finds a divine purpose for their life, it is a beautiful thing.

Adam was created to find fulfillment in the labor his Creator gave him.  And he did, for a while.  He was told to do two things; work the garden and keep the garden.  To keep means to guard and protect.  But protect it from what, or whom?  Satan of course.  There were no other predators.  Only him, lurking, waiting for an opportunity to corrupt everything just as he was corrupted.  

My garden, my personal sphere of influence, was given to me by God.  I labor with Him, but I also protect it with Him. To labor without protecting is foolish, allowing the enemy to plunder recklessly.  Guarding it is one aspect of ‘ruling and subduing the earth’. 

At whatever point I abdicate and assume that God will protect it without my direct involvement will end badly. I live in a dangerous world and ruling my part of it is cooperative, just as it was for Jesus. As He was directed by His Father, He confronted the kingdom of darkness.  He informed them of their limits and parameters.  He even revealed that this was part of His mission. “I came to destroy the works of the evil one.” 

I do not want to be lazy; I was given kingdom work to do.  I don’t want to be passive either; I was told to protect what is holy.  Doing both to the glory of God is part of my personal mission statement.

While I work today, I will also be the watchman on the wall as You give me discernment.  Amen

Supernatural Breath

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.  Genesis 2:7  ESV

God breathes and life is birthed.  Adam was made from the dust of the earth and while he had physical qualities, he was not a spiritual being until he came to life through a God-breath.  God breathes, even today, and we may not be aware of it.  Oh, but sometimes we are.

  • Job recognized it.  He said, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”  Job 33:4
  • Ezekiel anticipated it. “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”  Ezekiel 37:9  In a vision, barely revived corpses came to life, stood on their feet, and became a great army.
  • The world at the end of the tribulation will know the power of God’s breath when the two witnesses, the prophets Satan kills, come back to life with a breath.  “But after three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.”  Revelation 11:11
  • The disciples were surprised by it.  Jesus appeared to them after His resurrection, told them to be at peace, and then breathed on them.  “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  John 20:22   They left their places of hiding to burn brightly for the kingdom.
  • And we experienced it at the time of salvation.  God breathed over us and our spiritual blindness was cured.  We looked up and saw a Savior; we looked inward and saw our sin.  “Unless one is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  John 3:5

Our spiritual fathers focused on the breath of God, too.  They made breathing prayer a way of life during times of meditation and prayer.  As they inhaled, they prayed ~ “O Lord Jesus,” and as they exhaled, “Have mercy on me.”  In 2008, I made this breathing prayer a part of my life and I was different.  It is still a part of my life.

I think of the phrase ‘the living dead.’  It refers to a person who is physically alive but soulfully dead.  That should never characterize any child of God.  The Spirit of God, the breath of God, is within each of us.  In Him, we are promised peace and the surpassing power of His greatness.  Many are waiting for heaven to experience abundant life but it’s a breath away.

 Have mercy and breathe over me, I pray.  Amen

I Haven’t Begun To Experience The Sabbath

So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.  Genesis 2:3  ESV

What happens when God blesses something?  The Hebrew concept from the word ‘bless’ is this ~ God ‘praises and gives strength to something and removes it from common use.’    

Could all of this be true about the Sabbath?  I think I’ve always believed that the seventh day of the week (my church day) is a day just like the other six except I choose to do different things.  It’s quieter and more restful.  I’m realizing that true teaching on the power of the original Sabbath is absent.

Since God blessed the Sabbath, made it holy, and infused strength into it, that changes the picture entirely.  When the seventh day begins, I need to take my shoes off at the burning bush.  The ordinary and the mundane promise to melt away if I immerse myself in profound sacredness. 

In the welcomed silence, God will do something physical, emotional, and spiritual to me.  As I rest, He will bless me with measures of strength that are supernatural.  He will engage in a deep impartation of restoration.  To the extent that I engage with Him in return, He will illumine things I thought I previously understood.  

The last element of the Sabbath is resting.  As He rested after creation, there was another time in history where it happened.  It was the moment Jesus said, “It is finished.”  The noise of evil against the Son of God had been on a sharp upward curve, resulting in a horrific crucifixion.  While it might have appeared that God had been murdered, “It is finished!” pierced the silence, and evil trembled.  The worst had happened for the fallen angels.  The curse had been reversed.  Death had been defeated.  Sin had been paid for. 

So, on my next Sabbath, I’m going to look for ‘holy’, opening my heart wide to the pregnant, sacred moments God is waiting to give to those who come expectantly.  No one can stand on holy ground without leaving changed! I can emerge with new vigor, with new spiritual energy and wisdom.

Prepare me.  Amen