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November 11, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Judges 8

A different time. Gideon made the gold into a sacred ephod and put it on display in his hometown, Ophrah. All Israel prostituted itself there. Gideon and his family, too, were seduced by it. Judges 8:27 (MSG)

I love old family stories and history. However, I have a hard time comprehending some historical events in my contemporary brain. I don't get why my maternal great-grandfather would commit suicide on his son's birthday after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. I can't fathom it. I wonder at my paternal great-grandfather being so upset that he up and left both his family and homeland to emigrate to America by himself. Nor can I understand his mother not wanting him to return to see her when he offered to do so.

It's difficult to get our heads wrapped around the times and realities of family just a few generations back. How can we expect to fully understand the equally flawed humans who lived in the brutal, chaotic time of the Judges three thousand years ago?

And yet, there is a common thread of fallen man that connects us all. Gideon makes an altruistic refusal to be Israel's leader, telling them that God will be their leader. Good for you, Gideon. What spiritual maturity. What humility. What a guy. A few verses later I'm scratching my head as Gideon turned his spoils of war into a "sacred" ephod which becomes the center of idol worship.

I'm perplexed. But, should I be? The same sinful, hypocritical blood flows in my veins. How often do I do and say things that leave people scratching their heads? How often are my actions during the week incongruent with my words on Sunday?

November 10, 2009

Madison's Royal Presentation

Madison Tulip Queen contest 010 LR Last night was the Tulip Queen's announcement party. Madison was one of twelve finalists and the whole family gathered to support her as she made her presentation. She had diligently prepared her three minute talk, in which she was to display her talent and tell about herself. Madison chose photography as her talent. She had three of her photographs blown up to poster size, and explained how each of the photos she'd taken represented an important part of her life: family, music and missions. One of the photos was one she took of Wendy and me at Thanksgiving last year. She was then asked a total of four interview questions which she capably answered.

Madison did a great job, and we couldn't be more proud of her. She carried herself with incredible confidence and poise. Her presentation was outstanding. In the end, she didn't make the final cut to be on this year's Tulip court. Nevertheless, she felt great about the opportunity and had no reason to be disappointed. It was great experience for her.

She may not have been selected Tulip Queen. But, no worries. She's still my princess ;-)

Chapter-a-Day Judges 7

Give thanks. God said to Gideon, "You have too large an army with you. I can't turn Midian over to them like this—they'll take all the credit, saying, 'I did it all myself,' and forget about me." Judges 7:2 (MSG)

As I write this post, plans for Thanksgiving are in full swing. In just over two weeks we will gather with family and friends to share in a feast and to give thanks. I've always loved Thanksgiving. Unlike most holidays, there is something about Thanksgiving that still repels commercialism. Thanksgiving is a humble holiday. It is a simple holiday. It is one of the few holidays we celebrate that still lends itself to introspection.

In a culture steeped in rugged individualism, self-seeking, and the perpetual pursuit of 15 minutes of fame, I find the idea of stopping to give thanks is a welcome moment of sanity. Like Gideon's army, we are at constant risk of taking all the credit for what God has done to bless us.

Several centuries ago, Thomas a' Kempis wrote a wonderful treatise on the difference between nature and grace. "Nature willingly accepts honor and respect," he wrote, "while grace attributes all honor and glory to God."

Today, I'm mindful of the many ways my natural self seeks to hoard respect and glory for myself. I'm reminding myself that God deserves all respect, honor, glory...and thanks.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and soulrider

November 09, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Judges 6

I'm not listening. Gideon said to him, "Me, my master? How and with what could I ever save Israel? Look at me. My clan's the weakest in Manasseh and I'm the runt of the litter." Judges 6:15 (MSG)

Consider, for a moment, some of the "heroes" of God's story:

  • Jacob: the younger son, a deceiver, becomes the father of the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • Joseph: the youngest of Jacob's sons, became the most powerful man in Egypt and saved the nation.
  • Moses: an orphan and a murderer on the lam (with speech impediment to boot) leads Israel out of bondage and delivers God's law.
  • Deborah: a woman leads Israel in a time when women had about as much social standing as livestock.
  • Gideon: the "run of the litter" leads Israel to defeat the Midianites.
  • David: the youngest, smallest son of Jesse becomes the greatest King of Israel, through whom Jesus would be born. All this despite being an adulterer and murder.
  • Solomon: the youngest son of David, born out of a scandalous marriage to Bathsheba, becomes the most powerful king in Israel's history.
  • Mary: a young girl with no social standing, becomes the mother of Jesus.
  • Jesus disciples: an eclectic, rag-tag group of uneducated misfits would turn the world upside down sharing the good news of Jesus.
  • Paul: a murderer and persecutor of Christians becomes the most influential follower and apostle of Jesus.

Anyone see a pattern?

As human beings, I've noticed that we are quick to believe the most negative things about ourselves. "God would never use me. I'm not sure God even loves me. I could never to anything worthwhile for God. I'm too...worthless, sinful, ugly, small, fat, dumb, short, stupid, dirty, weak, sick, poor, young, old, sinful, untalented, unknown, unlucky, unimportant, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera."

Look at the list again. 

Join the club.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Ashley Rose

November 06, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Judges 5

Music is metaphor. "That day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:" Judges 5:1 (MSG)

Metaphor (n.) - something used, or regarded as being used, to represent something else.

God is a God of metaphor. The Creator expresses Himself in His creation. Made in the image of the Creator, we express ourselves in creative ways, like song. Music becomes a significant metaphor. It not only expresses the thoughts, feelings and emotions of the song writer, but we attach meaning to it. Song becomes a metaphor for a specific time, place, person, or event in our lives.

What songs take you back to a specific place or time? Here's a few of mine:

Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy by the Andrews Sisters takes me back to the "way back" of my family's wood paneled station wagon as we drove down I29 south of Sioux City on a return trip from my grandparents house.

Reunited by Peaches & Herb represents making out with my girlfriend at an 8th grade party the night the U.S. Olympic hockey team defeated the Soviet Union on the way to their miracle on ice.

We are the World is my freshman year at Judson College, VHS movies, and Genesis Players spring tour.

The list could go on and on. There is a reason Deborah and Barak created a song to mark Sisera's fall. It helped the nation remember a significant event. It reminded the people of God's provision, the nation's faith, and their victory. The lyrics of that song are still reminding us of the event 3,000 years later.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and epiclectic

November 05, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Judges 4

Wendy @ the McNay 2006 LR She said, "Of course I'll go with you. But understand that with an attitude like that, there'll be no glory in it for you. God will use a woman's hand to take care of Sisera." Judges 4:4-5 (MSG)

My wife is a strong woman, and my love for her is boundless. She constantly gives me a broader understanding from a woman's perspective and a greater appreciation for it. There is an amazing, mystical tension in the story of women that is rooted in the Garden of Eden and plays out through the centuries.

That's why I find it so fascinating reading that Deborah is raised up as a prophet and Judge. She led a nation in a time when women had little or no standing in the cultural, religious and political system of the day. She must have been an incredible woman. She was a prophet, which mean she had spiritual leadership. She was a Judge who decided matters of justice, which means she had wisdom and political authority. She was such a powerful figure that General Barak would only go into battle if she came along.

I must admit to being consistently perplexed by women. I love this quote from Dave Barry:

If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to save the infant's life without even considering if there are men on base.

Nevertheless, I am constantly astonished at the incredible complexity and capability God poured into the complimentary sex (while making them so darn beautiful to boot).

November 04, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Judges 3

But the People of Israel made themselves at home among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. They married their daughters and gave their own daughters to their sons in marriage. And they worshiped their gods. Judges 3:5-6 (MSG)

I love being at home. I'm comfortable here. I relax here. It's a warm, loving, cozy place.

They say, "home is where the heart is." Jesus took it a step further when he said, "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Home says a lot about your heart. Home reflects who you are. Observe me in my home, and you'll get a much clearer picture of who I truly am.

I find it interesting that the people of Israel "made themselves at home." among the people of the land. They got comfortable and cozy. They even adopted their gods. There is archaeological evidence that the Israelites even worshiped the fertility goddess, Asherah, as the wife of Jehovah, who told them coming out of Egypt that they were to have no other gods.

Today, I'm contemplating where my heart is. I've always echoed the sentiment, "this world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through." But do I really believe that? Where have I made myself at home in this world and become too cozy? Where have the eyes of my heart been pulled away from God to become enamored with that which is worthless?

November 03, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Judges 2

Gen X. Eventually that entire generation died and was buried. Then another generation grew up that didn't know anything of God or the work he had done for Israel. Judges 2:10 (MSG)

Yesterday I received a request to write an article for the Journal of Contact Center Management. At the top of the list of topics they asked me to consider was "What are the implications of serving generation Y for contact center managers?"

Generations continue to affect us today. The "baby boomer" generation will soon be retiring and will have a profound affect on long term care and elder care issues in our country. "Gen X" is moving into middle age and coming into positions of corporate and civic leadership. "Gen Y" has filtered into the workforce and is affecting the way companies handle employees and their customers.

The book of Judges could be entitled "Exodus: The Next Generations." After their escape from Egypt and their journey through the wilderness, the Israelites now settle in the land of Canaan. Judges is the story of the succeeding generations over the next 400 years. Today's chapter introduces us to the overarching theme of the book. One generation has a leader who leads everyone to faithfully follow God. When that leader dies, the subsequent generation forgets God and falls into disobedience. Out of the disastrous consequences of their disobedience, the people realize their need and another leader (or Judge) emerges to lead them to turn back to God.

Cycles. Patterns of behavior. Judges reminds me to be mindful of the recurring patterns in my own life. It prompts me to consider my responsibility to my children, grandchildren, and the coming generations. It reminds me that I'm called not only to walk my own journey well, but also to leave a legacy for those who will follow in my footsteps.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and russelldavies

November 02, 2009

Visit from a Little Pumpkin

It was a fairly quiet Halloween weekend for Wendy and me. We drove to Wendy's folks' house on Saturday to pick-up some supplies from the food co-op there. We listened to the Hawkeyes' amazing comeback on the radio as we drove.

Saturday night was beggar's night. We received a visit from the VL boys, which was hilarious. Wendy had fun holding the little pumpkin.

Wendy & aaron vande lune 103109 LR

Sunday night was our monthly Sunday night dinner with the VLs and Parkers. The Parkers will be moving to Des Moines in the coming weeks. We're happy for them, but it's hard watching them move away - even if it's just to Des Moines.

Chapter-a-Day Judges 1

Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes. My-Master-Bezek said, "Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off used to crawl under my table, scavenging. Now God has done to me what I did to them." They brought him to Jerusalem and he died there. Judges 1:7 (MSG)

Last weekend, Wendy and I had a Godfather night. A friend came over, we ate a nice meal and watched the first of the three movies tracing the Corleone family and their mafioso saga. In the original film, there's a classic scene in which a certain member of the mafia family, Luca Brasi, is killed. The family receives a package. In the package is Luca's bullet proof vest, and in the vest are fresh, dead fish.

"It's a Sicilian message," they are told, "that Luca Brasi 'sleeps with the fishes.'"

"What goes around, comes around," the saying goes. In three little verses of the first chapter of Judges, we find a short story of a Canaanite King famous in the region for cutting off the thumbs and big toes of his enemies. It sounds bloody and violent, but cutting off various appendages was common in ancient times. Like Luca Brasi's fishy vest, it was a 'calling card' intended to frighten neighboring towns into submission. It usually worked for a while, but vengeance was always around the corner. What goes around, comes around.

In The Godfather, and in human history, there is no end to the cycle of violence, hatred, and conquest. Isn't it interesting that Judges lists among those ancient conflicts the familiar names of Jerusalem and Gaza. The same conflict rages on over a millennium later.

That's why we need a savior.

Today, I submit myself anew to God, who died that I might be free from the chains of destructive behaviors. I commit myself to keep working to change the toxic cycles in my own life and realms of influence.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and wallyg