Saturday, August 31, 2013

Access Denied - Access Granted

Checking into the flights availability for our Thanksgiving visit to my husband’s family, we realized our kids may miss several days of school.  Being a cooperative parent, supportive of educational process of our children, I wanted to quickly bounce this against the kids’ teachers.  Our son is in a new school now, and I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. 

So, yesterday, I stopped by the office to ask.  The polite receptionist said that I would need to set up parent-teacher conference and those are generally not held the first couple of weeks of school. I'll probably have to wait. She suggested I call his grade office and talk to the 6th grade administrator and the assistant principle because I would need to arrange the conference through them.  There are forms to be filled out, and each teacher… and so on and so forth.

I stood there stunned. I just wanted to ask a simple question and my child’s school suddenly felt like an unassailable fortress wrapped up in red tape. 

I understand their precautionary measures.  I understand the need for safety as well as protecting the teachers from frivolous interruptions. But, I couldn’t help feeling frustrated and nostalgic for the days when I could pop into Mr. B’s classroom, always warmly welcomed, always having his full attention for any of my questions and parental concerns.

As I reflected on this, it occurred to me that this is exactly what the Pharisees did to our relationship with God.  They built this intricate system of religious processes and procedures, the plethora of hoops one needs to jump through to get an audience with God. No wonder most people got lost in the maze and just gave up altogether.

When Jesus came, He removed all this red tape, and with His blood unrolled the red carpet to anyone who would come to Him. His blood -a our access. No need for special protocol. No forms to fill out. No waiting in line. No religious bureaucracy. No sacred gymnastics. No red tape. Just you are. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Say 'No' to Vicarious Spirituality

The problem with Moses and Elijah, and any other godly person who loves and obeys God is not in who they are and their unique role and contribution in the unfolding of God’s plan.

The problem is what we make them to be. 

Instead of seeing them as an inspiration to pursue more intimate relationship with the Lord, we settle for vicarious spirituality, accepting that God may work in their lives...back then... over there, but He certainly isn’t going to do anything in mine, here ... and now.

Instead of drawing us closer to Christ, we see them as privileged insiders with special powers and access unattainable to us ‘ordinary’ humans.   Whether it’s saints in traditional churches or popular Christian leaders and personalities among evangelicals, we stop short at the doorstep and never enter in, never taste and see for ourselves that the Lord is good.

Moreover, we often cherry-pick events of their lives or their words and interpret their story through our own limited and warped grid, making them into something God never intended them to become.

This is what the Pharisees did.  They considered themselves 'Moses’ disciples’ but continually corrupted the intent of God's Law by their rules and regulations and eventually used it to condemn and murder His beloved Son.

This is what disciples did.  When confronted with rejection and opposition, James and John, the fiery sons of thunder, wanted to call fire down from heaven on their 'adversaries' and incinerate them (!) – (obviously they made a connection with the account of Elijah’s encounter with the Samaritan king’s soldiers).  But, Jesus strongly rebuked them:

You do not know what kind of spirit you are of;  for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. Luke 9:55-56

We all are prone to be both like the Pharisees and the disciples. Knowing, however, that the privileges of direct access to God in Christ are not reserved for just select few, we have every reason to enter boldly in and listen to the voice of God’s beloved Son. Why settle for less?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

When God Speaks with an Audible Voice...

Not too many times do we hear God speaking with audible voice – either personally or in the recorded history. In fact, such occurrences are quite rare. It's as if He prefers the whisper over a megaphone. 

But, when He chooses to speak audibly, we can be sure that He must be saying something rather important.  Something He wants us to hear.  Really hear.  And, remember. 

In this particular instance, in response to Peter’s well-intentioned yet ignorant clumping of Moses, Elijah and Jesus all together, this is what He says:

This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!

In Peter’s mind, the three stand in the category by themselves. The Israel’s Biggies. Equally worthy of honor and veneration.  He might have even thought that he was doing Jesus a special favor by putting Him in the same rank with the faith giants like Moses and Elijah. The Billy Graham's of their times. 

But, God the Father sees it from a different perspective. His beloved Son is in a rank all by Himself.  That wonderful, perfect, wise, gracious, courageous, truthful, responsive, obedient, long-suffering, kind and humble(!) child none of us are nor we'll ever be on this side of heaven.

Therefore, He wants us to listen to Him, and Him alone. 

As if to emphasize the point, He clouds up their vision (obviously already fogged up) and when the cloud clears, Moses and Elijah are gone. Only Jesus is left.

And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.

Lifting up their eyes…

…they saw no one…



…by Himself…

… alone. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

One of a Kind

We say our good-bye to Elijah centuries later as he stands once again on the top of a mountain… 

Next to Moses.

Next to Jesus.  

The stunned disciples rubbing their disbelieving eyes as they witness this incredible moment of unveiling, the unprecedented convergence of all of human history in one special meeting encompassing it all.

The Beginning. The Fall. The Sacrifice. The Call. The Nation. The Law. The cycles of failure and defeat, repentance and restoration, leading to self-sufficiency and independence leading to more failure and defeat,…

The Voice of the prophets echoing through the ages, calling God’s people again and again and again to stop prostituting themselves with the world that mocks and despises and rejects Him...

...calling God’s people to return not just with their lips but with their whole hearts to the One and Only lover of their starved and battered, used and abused souls…

... calling them to come back to the One who alone can satisfy that deep insatiable longing for…love… and forgiveness and acceptance… and rest and wholeness and peace…

But, what the fiery Law and the fiery Prophets couldn’t accomplish, powerless through the weakness of our flesh, God did. By sending His own Son wrapped in the weak human body just like us.

And yet, nothing like us. 

One of a kind. The only One who was perfectly fitted for the journey which is too great for any one of us, including Moses and Elijah. The only One suited for the impossible job of making me and making you right with God. One perfect sacrifice. Forever satisfying justice. Forever overflowing with mercy for all who come.

This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him! Matthew 17:5

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Eating an Elephant One Forkful At a Time

I find myself in that place a lot. In way over my head.  Biting off more than I can chew. Stuck between the rock – this journey is too great for you – and the hard place – this job is too big for you.  I need to know, I need to understand what is my part, my portion in this journey.

For, every road-trip is comprised of countless small steps, a meter upon meter, a mile upon mile.  And every proverbial elephant is eaten one bite at a time. And sometimes, between the forkfuls we realize that we can’t eat this elephant alone.  We are not meant to do it alone. There are other parts and other players in God’s greater symphony. 

When the time comes for Elijah to exit the stage, there will be Elisha who will pick up and carry his mantle. Who will be anointed with the double portion of Elijah’s spirit to continue where Elijah left off. Who will learn to rely on the God of Elijah the way he saw and heard his master did.

The day Elijah is dramatically taken away from this world in the blazing chariots of fire (I can’t think of a more suitable exit scene for such a personality!) is not the last we see of God’s fiery servant.  In fact, in the closing words of the final book of the Old Testament it is announced that he’ll be back to inaugurate the grand finale and the arrival of the Messiah into human history. 

Can you imagine Elijah learning about this from the Lord?!!! What a shocking surprise to discover that God's purposes for his amazing life reach well beyond his temporary residence in the wilderness of Judah, in the mountains of Israel, long after Baal worshipers are gone, long after Ahab and Jezebel are dead... That his life, just like the life of Moses, and your life and mine, was a preparation, a prelude for the life of the One we all are waiting for. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Discouragement Reframed

It is this incredible humility of the Lord’s soft-spoken unassuming ways that takes us by surprise more than anything else… so unlike anything we see or recognize in or around us.

But His silence proves to be more powerful than all the noise we produce… His uncoerceive patience infuses dignity and value into every daily choice He graciously allows us to make…

Like a broken record player, the discouraged prophet has one message looping inside his head over and over again

I went all in for You LORD.  I’ve been working my heart out for You… and what kind of results I see? Your own people turned their backs on You. They turned their worship of You upside-down. They got rid of all Your true messengers and I am the only one left. And right now my own head is on the chopping block. This doesn’t make sense. It just doesn’t add up to who I've thought I knew You are…

That’s the discouragement impersonated.  But the prophet’s Lord knows and understands the prophet more than he knows and understands himself.

This journey, My dear one, is too great for you… the job is much bigger than you realize, My child. You are a part of a much, much larger story…. You may know where you fit with those who came before you but you have no idea how you fit with those who will come after you.  This story is much, much bigger than you can conceive or comprehend right now.

And  I want you to know that you are not all alone.  There are more people that love Me and serve Me than you realize.  I have plans and purposes hidden in My heart that you know nothing about. 

Do you trust Me, Elijah? Will you trust Me with what you don’t know and don’t understand yet?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Can You Hear Me Now?

But how does one hear this ...

... sound of gentle Stillness… 

...this soft, quiet Whisper… 

...this still small Voice…in the world of thunderous storm, in the age of raging fires, in the era of shaking foundations?

In the times and epochs so rich in noise, so prolific in front page bold-faced half-truths that eventually we all grow calluses not only on our ears but more importantly, on our hearts?

For God doesn’t enter the stage of our lives as a loud competitor outshouting every other contender for our heart, affection and attention. In fact, more of often than not, the louder our world gets the softer He seems to choose to speak... . 

Sometimes I do that to my children. Not to annoy them.  Not to get them frustrated. And certainly not to test their hearing capacity.

Sometimes I do it just to remind them of the simple, self-evident truth that they so often forget in their noise-making ways. 

That I am… here.  

That I am listening to them. 

That I love the sound of their tiny voices.

That I always hear them, even when they don't realize it….

I hear them when they are happy.When they are angry.  When they are sad, and mad, and quiet, and arguing and chatting and laughing and petting the dog and singing to the guinea pig. I hear their sniffles and giggles and the pitter-patter of their fingers on the computer keyboard.

I always hear them... And even though I could (and sometimes I do!), I really don't want to scream my way into their world. I don't want to command their attention by shouting the loudest. Because, above all else, I want them to want to hear me… 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Gentle Art of Letting Go

Elijah didn't grab on and held onto what he knew, what he understood of the God of his past - indisputable and genuine as his knowledge was .  

There are times when we think, when we believe that if we let go of what we have become convinced of, what has become so dear to our hearts that it is almost indistinguishable from our very essence, that if we let go of it, our God will somehow become diminished.

Or, rather, we will be diminished by the act of letting go.  That something of the reality of our experience will forever be lost if we unfurl our clenched fingers and open up.  

Strange as it may feel, nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, if we hold on when it’s time to let go – in that very act of holding on – life begins to unravel. And without letting go, we are unable to embrace the fresh revelation from God - today.

Because, even though God is everlasting, eternal - he is the I AM.




And if we have known Him as the God of Fiery Flames but stay cemented in a religious museum of the past, unyielding and dogmatic we’ll never know Him as the God of the Present...

The God of the Gentle Blowing...

Of the Quiet Soft Whisper...

Of the Still Small Voice...

Of the Sound of Gentle Stillness...

The very Breath of God.  The very Breath of Life.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

God of Contradiction or God of Communion?

The old prophet found himself at an impasse, the confusing dead-end where his impeccable theology has collided with his depressing reality . He has reached the place where all his past experiences, his genuine knowledge of the God he serves appear insufficient to get him over to the other side of hopelessness and fear.

But there is more, much more to this God-of-Blazing-Flames, to this God-of-Raging-Fire than Elijah knows.   
Elijah knows His passion.

Elijah knows His power.

But there is more to God than His fiery power.

And in order to learn more of the heart of this incomprehensible God, Elijah first must unlearn some things.  He must surrender, loosen up the firm grip he has placed on what he knows that he knows that he knows of his God.  

So, one clenched finger at a time, Elijah learns to let go… let go of the hurricane force winds… let go of the mountain-splitting earthquake… and most difficult of all… let go of…the  fire…

But the LORD was not in the fire…

But the LORD… was NOT … in the fire…?

What was going through Elijah’s mind in that moment?

We don’t know.

But, the seasoned prophet doesn’t fanatically insist that the LORD must be in the fire.  He doesn’t insist that God squeezes into his own limited idea of the where’s and the when’s and the how’s of God’s mysterious ways.

If he did, he wouldn’t be serving the LORD but a distorted image of his own making.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Two Plus Two Equals...Eight?

Energized by the heavenly superfood, Elijah crawls out from under the juniper tree and decides he needs a refresher course on all that he knows that he knows that he knows of his God.  Back to the basics.

I do that a lot.  When God’s dealings with me seem to contradict everything that I know that I know of Him, I rewind.  I go back to the beginning.  To the elementary school classroom where I learned the ABCs of God.

For Elijah, that Kindergarten classroom is the same place where God had stepped into the human history and one ordinary Tuesday or Wednesday surprised Moses out of his boots. So, Elijah plugs into his GPS the coordinates of Horeb and heads over to the Mountain of God

The mountain where God reveals Himself to Moses as the God of the Blazing Flames (Exodus 3:1-3)  The same mountain where a bit later He reveals Himself again as the God of the  Raging Fire. (Exodus 24:15-17) And as if that wasn't enough, in Elijah’s own experience, God is the God of conflagration. The God of Mt Horeb is the same God of the Mt Carmel.

Two plus two equals…
But before he is able to do this simple God-math, Elijah is interrupted with a familiar Presence:

So, Elijah, whatcha you doin' here?

Hmmmm...good question, LORD. What the heck AM I doing here? Well, I am trying to figure You out God.  I am trying to do the simple algebra, and put two and two together and understand how what I know that I know is true of You – what Moses (a little name dropping never hurts) knew was true of You - fits with the colossal mess that I am in.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Are We There Yet?

I am not sure if this is exactly what Elijah wanted to hear when he was awakened by the Lord from his nap the second time:

Get up and eat some more, for you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.

A long journey?!!! Still ahead? You gotta be kidding me, Lord! Hasn’t it already been long enough? Three and a half years of drought? From the brook of Cherith to Zarephath of Sidon to Samaria to Mt Carmel? And now in this wilderness?!!!

Haven’t there been enough miracles? The pizza delivery ravens? The unending bowl of flower? The ever-flowing bottle of canola oil? The dead boy brought back to life?!! The amazing fire works display on Mt Carmel? Enough fear? Enough loneliness?

I thought I was done, Lord. It’s enough. I am not sure I am ready for a long journey still ahead…

But the life of faith is not a sprint.  

It’s a marathon. 

Or, in the words of Eugene Peterson - which he surprisingly (or not!) quote from Friedrich Nietzsche - A Long Obedience in the Same Direction . 

This might be one of the hardest truths to grasp for an instant-gratification generation that is used to getting what it wants when it wants it.  The noise and clamor accustomed people who can't stand the solitude and silence. So, in our spiritual life we become conditioned to seek one top-of-the-mountain experience after another.  

We want one top-of-the-mountain experience after another. 

Never truly descending into the valley.  Never truly going away by ourselves a day’s journey into the wilderness, never truly facing the frayed end of ourselves. Never really reaching the place where the word of the Lord is as hard as rock under our head. 

But where we also find that the food He feeds us is sufficient nourishment indeed for the long journey still ahead of us. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ravens? Widow? Angel of the Lord?

Sleep.  Eat. Sleep. Eat some more.

There are days like this in the life of a child of God.  When all our internal resources are depleted.  When all the nourishment has been sucked out of us. And there is nothing more left for us to do, nothing more spiritual for us to do than sleep.  And eat.  And sleep and eat some more.

This is Elijah at the end of three and a half years of drought.  This is Elijah after the showdown at Mt. Carmel and after the thunderstorm that announced the end of the heaven-declared season of dryness.  This is Elijah, the fugitive, the wanted man, Jezabel’s arch-nemesis.

I can’t help but notice the progression in Elijah’s God-appointed food distribution system

First, the ravens.

I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there… I Kings 17:3-4

Then, an impoverished widow.

I have commanded a widow there to provide for you… I Kings 17:9

At last, the angel of the Lord. I Kings 19:5-8

The Lord Himself, the pre-Christmas Christ comes down to the weary servant sleeping under the juniper tree and makes his lunch!

Bread of heaven.

Manna in the wilderness.

Five loaves that fed five thousand.

The Bread of Life.

Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you true bread out of heaven.  For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world…I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.  John 6:31-35

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Relax - God is Still in Charge

Empty. Depleted. Spent. Beyond exhausted.

This is how we find Elijah deep in the Judean wilderness sitting under a juniper tree.

So often we overlook the fact that there is a tremendous energy-cost to serving God.  There is an incalculable price attached to saying ‘yes’ to Christ, because it implies a million ‘no-s’ to every impressive counterfeit that allures us with a promise of satisfaction and fulfillment – minus the vital relationship with the living LORD.

It takes unbelievable strength and courage to stand up to this cultural pressure, to this peer pressure, to this internal-lazy-bum-I-want-shortcut-to-life-and-spirituality-instant-gratification pressure. By the end of the day, we are through. Done. Call it quits.

There is only one thing left for Elijah to do and he does it.

He takes a nap. He falls asleep under the tree. The bone-tired prophet catches some zzzs. He rests. He dozes off like a baby.

Relax. Sleep. Rest. Recharge.

Every day we get an opportunity to be reminded of one unchangeable truth.

God is God and I am not. God is in charge and I am not.

Because of it I can lay my head on the pillow in peace each night and say with a huge sense of relief and heart-felt gratitude,

Good night God.  I am going to sleep now and You just keep doing that God-thing of running the universe because You are waaay more better at it than I am. Love Ya.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

No Plastic Saints

The incredible success of the confrontation on Mt Horeb takes God’s servant to a place where neither he nor we expect him to go. The showdown at Mt Horeb sends Elijah to the top of Jezebel’s wanted list.  The livid  queen  promises revenge, and the terrified man of God know she is fully capable of delivering what she promised.  So, he runs for his life and he hides in the Judean wilderness under a juniper tree.

The same man who only yesterday laughed at and mocked the raving hordes of prophets of Baal, is now running from a woman, and begging God to take his life?!!


God, please, just kill me?!?? I am D-O-N-E?!! Period?!!

Elijah, you gotta be kidding me! This?!!! After ALL that you've seen and accomplished in the name of the Lord?!!!

Ah, how I love the unsanitized reality of the Word of God! This is not a meticulously edited article in the Judaism Today, but the gritty truth of genuine flesh-and-blood saints, the larger-than-life heroes of faith whom we also discover as fellow humans, susceptible to weaknesses and failures just like us. There is none of the carefully guarded marketing and PR gymnastics, no plastic surgery on the reputation of these men and women that makes them look bigger and better, holier and more spiritual than the rest of us.

It is quite clear that if there is anything incredible about their extraordinary lives, it’s not them, but this incredible God whom they love and serve.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Elijah the Thunderbolt

The showdown at Mt Carmel is what gave Elijah the nickname Thunderbolt.  On Mt Carmel he shows not only the impotence, absence and indifference of the prevailing gods of his contemporaries, Ahab and Jezabel, but the power, presence and passion of Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel.  The God of the rain-clouds and ravens. God of widows and orphans. God of the mixing bowl and the bottle of canola oil. And now, the God who answers by fire.

God of fire.

Like Mt. Horeb fire.

Like the pillar of fire that led Israelites through the wilderness after they were delivered out of Egyptian bondage and slavery.

When the line is drawn with such powerful display of God’s omnipotent rule, people respond in… terrified worship.  The LORD IS God! We are stupid, blind idiots not to worship Him!

Soon the much awaited thunderstorms arrive and showers quench the thirst of dried-up landscape.

But, the incredible success of the confrontation on Mt Horeb takes God’s servant to a place where neither he nor we expect him to go.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Elijah the Whistleblower

The rainless days continued for three long years. The severity of famine demanded that the responsible party be brought to light. Ahab adds two and two together and names the obvious culprit:

It’s Elijah’s fault! For, he is the one who came to Ahab three years ago and announced the coming of the drought.

And so God’s servant becomes the troublemaker.  The menace.  The pest. The convenient scapegoat.

The whistle-blower who challenges the dysfunctional status-quo is a pain in the neck. He just doesn’t get it that this is how things are done around here. He just doesn’t speak the familiar language of the insiders.

Sure, there are little compromises now and then.  Sure, there is a turning of the blind eye here and a tiny concession for a little favor there... for a greater good. Everybody does it. Why rock the boat? Why trouble the well-oiled machine? Plus, this living God of the idealistic prophet appears to be silent, while money talks loud and clear. To refuse to fit in is to prove yourself a fool.

Fool or not, Elijah is not confused.  He knows the God before whom he stands. And this God, the LORD, the creator of heaven and all the earth, is not silent. He is not absent. Nor weak. Nor powerless. 

And soon this will be obvious to everyone. 

Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word. I Kings 18:21

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.Matthew 6:24

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Elijah and the God of the Underdogs

When God sent Elijah  to the Sidonite widow and her fatherless orphan, did He do it because of her amazing leadership potential? Because of her mission-critical position in her society? 

One thing we can tell for sure - He didn’t choose her to take care of His servant because of the incredible surplus of her personal resources.

Why did God go out of the way to pass over His own people and send Elijah to an outsider, to a foreigner, to a  marginalized nobody hanging by a thread on the tattered fringes of society?

Was it for Elijah’s sake?

Was it for the widow’s sake?

Was it for our sake?

Was it for His own sake?

For what kind of God steps outside of a religious box – in fact, busts open the old religious box - and makes such an unexpected, even scandalous choice?

What kind of God chooses the underdog, the discard, the misfit…?

What kind of God when He steps into the game of life…

–  where all the moral chips of our universe seem to be stacked in favor of the elite, of the blessed, of the prosperous and successful, of the leaders and the doers, the movers and the shakers –

... what kind of God tips the table over… upturns the table … on behalf of ... a loser?

…but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound  the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may bring to nothing  the things that are,  so that no man may boast before God.              I Corinthians 1:27-29

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Elijah and the Invisible Woman

She didn’t think much of herself because nobody else ever did. She was a woman. Intrinsically inferior, intrinsically worth-less.  So, she resigned herself to a place of insignificance on the social value scale, remaining invisible to most. As she grew up, the perception of her worth became tied to her marital status and her ability to produce a child. When she became a wife and bore a son, she finally validated her existence, justified the space she occupied with her thin body on this dusty planet. Earned the right to breathe its air.

Then, there was a famine in the land. The severe drought emptied the barn and the cellar and the pantry.  The bank account and the stocks. When they thought that things couldn’t get worse, they got worse. The day she buried her husband, clutching her boy’s hand until it hurt, she heard the barely-concealed whispers exchanged behind her back.
In the black-and-white moral universe of her contemporaries the simple scales of justice are always perfectly balanced on this side of heaven. The innocent don’t suffer and the guilty never go free. And the measure of human suffering is in direct proportion to the sin of the person who suffers. The greater the suffering indicates the presence of a greater the sin, now being avenged by a revengeful God, dishing out justice from the cup of His wrath.  

But, one day a strange encounter took place. The  man of God made a ridiculous, impossible request and suddenly something stirred deep inside her... something that has fallen asleep on the day she was born and never awakened... until today.

Why me... why did he come to me ... a foreigner? Why didn't he go to his own people? Ask for a handout from a wealthy Jewish businessman rather than from a starving single mom?

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Elijah - The Ordinary Made Extraordinary

Elijah’s bold appearance before king Ahab introduces us to the incredible life of an ordinary man made extraordinary by the extraordinary God.

This extraordinary God used some unorthodox means to provide for the prophet during the season of drought.

He picks ordinary ravens - not a peacock or a condor or a bold eagle, but a grumpy-looking, plain old raven -  to bring him food twice a day by the brook Cherith - a Cinderella-ish kind of scenario, minus the fairy tale. 

When the brook dries up due to the drought, God sends Elijah to the region of Sidon (homeland of Ahab’s infamous bride Jezabel ?!!!), to an ordinary widow, a single-parent to a young boy, whose ordinary jar of flour and ordinary bottle of oil became containers for extraordinary miracle.

The God of the rainy clouds is the God of the birds and the beasts who is the God of the mixing bowl and the bread basket and the bottle of canola oil.

This makes me pause.

This makes me stop.

This makes me take a second look at all the ordinary stuff my life is immersed in.  At all the taken-for-granted ordinary, all the common-place ordinary, easily-ignored-easily-overlooked ordinary.

And it makes me wonder if I might be… if I could be…passing over a miracle while I reach over this ordinary, while I extend my arm over the common-place towards some miraculous, spectacular manifestation of God’s presence and power… somewhere else… and not here… not now?

Is my soul going hungry, waiting for exquisite manna from heaven, while all along a sparrow is spreading the table before my very eyes?

Is God the God who is far away, and not the God who is near? And if I want to see His miracles, if I want to experience His mighty presence, must I go elsewhere, to a distant country far far away where the rumors of the rumble of His voice are big and powerful?

Monday, August 05, 2013

Elijah the Weatherman

When Elijah the Tishbite  steps onto the scene, he doesn’t step into a vacuum.  The religious and political panorama is already in place – Israel’s history has been marked by steady decline and deflection from following the Lord, the God of Abraham, Moses and David.

This, of course, doesn't indicate that the Lord has changed. He is still as real and as present, as true to His word as He always has been. It’s just that His people choose to ignore Him, stop listening to His voice, busying themselves with micromanaging the gods they can manipulate and control..

When Jeroboam introduced the religion of convenience and gave a full-fledged endorsement to the substitute worship, people ate it up.  

By the time king Ahab came on the scene, the false religion was a booming business. His marriage to Jezebel, the Sidonian king’s daughter, opened the door to a thriving market of imported gods. There are prophets galore announcing messages of peace and prosperity everyone likes to hear.

Until Elijah knocks on the king’s door and brings this arid thunderbolt statement.

The LORD, the God of Israel is alive. 

He is not dead. He is not asleep.  He has not changed. He is alive. He rules. Just because you ignore Him, cranking out idols according to your fancy, doesn't change the fact that He is here.

I stand before Him.

I am His servant. He sent me. I didn't come to you on my own initiative. Even though I stand before you o King, more importantly I stand before the King of Kings and God of Gods.

 And, by the way, there will be no rain until I say so. No. Rain. Not a single drop.

From that day on, for the next three and a half years, when the Israelites tuned into the Weather Channel, it was the replay of the same message.

No rain. No. Rain.  Nope. Not again. Sorry, no rain in the forecast. 

Friday, August 02, 2013

The Day of Elijah

It’s August 2, Saint Elijah’s day.  It’s a big holiday.  You should know about it. You are religious.

I hear the words over the long-distance phone line noise and sense an old religion vs. relationship tension building up like a stormy cloud.

How do I respond? How do I push down the defensiveness rising inside me with grace and dignity, despite feeling misunderstood and labeled. Squeezed into the cracker-box of religious expectations of following the rules I don' understand, adhering to rituals that lost their vitality.  

I want to say something that makes a clean cut between the myth and the truth.

The superstition and the Spirit. 

Human tradition and divine revelation.  Form and substance.

The religious syncretism and simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

Without offending the old saint (not that he cares!).

Without offending the long rich complicated history of the Orthodox Church.

Being true to the God of Elijah, true to myself, and respectful to the person on the other end of the line.

I admit I didn’t know a thing about St. Elijah’s day. I am clueless about much of the dates in church history.  Except, for, maybe, Easter. And I couldn't forget Christmas even if I wanted to. My kids wouldn't let me. But that’s about it.
For a person who sometimes I forgets my mom’s birthday (gasp!) or our wedding anniversary (double-gasp!!) there are worse things in life than observance of holidays or holy days .

But, even though I didn’t know about St. Elijah’s Day, I feel like somehow I do know the old prophet. I know him through the reading of the Scriptures.  And, sometimes,  I feel like I really know him, like I know my neighbor or a friend… or even like I know myself.

And this is the Elijah I know....

Growth - The Sanctuary

There is the gurgle of the mountain creek, and the thunder that splits the rock in his silence… and the deep rumble of the G string as the bow moves slowly against it.

I look away from his sadness. I can’t bear it.  For this sadness of his is towards the mutilated frog and towards the blind fool who mowed over it. Towards the innocent victim as well as the ignorant, arrogant perpetrator.

I look at my yard – all primed and propped – and shudder. With chilling clarity, with heart-melting tenderness, I realize it’s not my yard, and not my property, to do whatever I please, in the manner that most efficiently suits my warped sense of mission and accomplishment, my distorted vision of what ‘real’ gardening is. It’s not a wilderness to be thoughtlessly whipped into submission – regardless of the means, irrespective of ways…

For this tiny piece of land we call our own – now I see – is shared with other creatures – some slow and weak - who have sought shelter and protection in its bushes and branches, in the deep shadows of its trees. The creatures that God placed under our wing, to find their sanctuary there.

And I feel like I want to take the shoes off my feet and throw dirt over my head, both at the same time.

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it. He was afraid and said, How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. Genesis 28:16-17

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Growth - The Return of the Gardener Who is Here All Along

Y –y-you a-a-are b-back…I stutter, too stunned for words.

I never left.  The Gardener from Outer Space speaks softly, but to my ears it’s the sound of the rolling thunder and the crash of lightening that splits the rock.

You… you’ve been here… all along…?

Yes…I’ve been here, with you, all along…

I never saw you…

I always see you.  There is a gurgling of a mountain creek mixed with the rumble of thunder in his voice.  

Hearing his voice makes me realize that life without it is like a creek without water, like a bird without a nest... like trying to dance without hearing any music...

So you saw… everything? The Place Where Miracles Happen Every Day? The fake ficus? The notes and the modules? Mrs. Flowers and Mr. Plank?  The dogs and the pony…? … The power mower and the... frog?

Yes. I saw everything…

Everything…?  I see my heart laid bare, and I shut my eyes wide.

Yes, everything. He replies gently.

And you didn’t stop it? You could have stopped it.  You could have stopped me… before I did… this…

I point at the frog next to the welcome mat too humiliated to look. I continue with my eyes superglued to the ground. 

Why? Why did you let me? Why did you... why DO you... allow... all this... to go on - for so long...?