Just Give Me A Sign!!!!

In the past few weeks I’ve been working through a decision. Not a little decision like which socks, but one that felt big and important. Big like…is someone documenting this, because this is going down in the history books…oh…documenting my life and thoughts is my job.

People would talk about feeling peace or gaining clarity, but I never felt out of peace or particularly foggy. Close to the end a friend voiced what I’d been thinking the whole time, that really, either way I went, it really would be ok, that it wasn’t about right or wrong, but A or B. But with the process, there was this wait, and in the wait I found myself wondering, “How will I know when it’s time to decide? Will there be fireworks or what?”

I’ve been there before. It’s a natural human experience, to search for signs and wonders to direct your steps, looking outside of yourself to address your inner monologue. Even in the “follow your heart” crowd, if you watch, they interpret events, moments, conversations, chance encounters and apply them to the craving of their spirit and direct their path, good or bad, and move. It bears this note, that the casual observer can also tell if the outside influence of the action is a good or bad influence.

This isn’t a current trend, that everyone does it because everyone famous is doing it, but something that has been in our nature from the beginning. I listened to in incredible sermon a few weeks ago where Moses’s calling was outlined. It’s a familiar story, Moses is out and about doing the shepard thing and woah! There is a burning bush! And from the bush comes a voice which directs Moses to go back and get His people and free them from Egypt. Well, Moses doesn’t just take the burning bush at its word, for one thing, who even was this talking to him? And why would the bush choose him? And how exactly was this going to work, because he just was not the best guy for the job?

We find that story in Exodus 3, and there in verse 12, God has already anticipated that what Moses is looking for beyond answers to the questions, is something real and tangible that he can look to to drive home that this was real and this was trustworthy. We read, “And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

We know the story that follows, Moses gets on board, goes and talks to Pharoah, Let my people go, plagues, blood, bugs, more bugs and death, freedom, Pharoah say “oh shoot, what’d I do?” chase scene, staff raised and parted sea, Isreal races forward, makes it in the nick of time and the Egyptians drown. These are some pretty impressive things there. But God did not say, “This will be a sign to you, there will be locusts, like, EVERYWHERE, and I mean EVERYWHERE.” He didn’t say a word about the blood, about the frogs, about the walls of water, nothing. It wasn’t any of the powerful or miraculous things God would do through for and through Moses. But those are the things we look for. I wanted fireworks. I wanted sky writing.

What God gives as a sign is that Moses will worship, that Moses will find himself in adoration of Him. What would show him that I am sent him out is that he would find himself facing God in wonder.

So, thinking on this, I decided to stop deciding. Stop pros and cons, stop weighing out the options, stop playing out imaginary what ifs in my head. I was just going to sing, to worship God. When the thoughts about the decision came back into my head, I sang louder. I sang in the car. I sang at home. I sang doing yard work. I sang at my desk. I sang when no one was with me and I sang when others were around.

Soon enough, I could hear another voice, a voice from my childhood singing a sweet old song, “Blessed Assurance,” and there in the chorus rang out, “This is my story. This is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long.” I love a good story and I love a good song, but there in those lyrics I found my answer.

The direction I should go should be the one that creates within me a response
to praise my Savior all the day long. 

When I filled my heart, my mind and my mouth with song it became so simple to see which way lead to more worship, which way pointed me towards singing and story telling the lyrics and lines I want written about me, penned by Him.

If today you are searching for fireworks or parted seas, may I direct you instead to song. Sing, sing loud, sing off key, just sing, until you hear Him singing with you, delighting in your delight of Him.

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Lazy Poor People

Last night in class we walked through Moses’s story, start to finish. We talked about the basket and the river and the princess, the nursemaid and the murder, the desert and the burning bush. It is a familiar story even to those who don’t go to church. Every Easter, flip through the channels and you’ll find Charlton Heston holding a staff aloft in front of parting water.

This time through, however, there was a new story inside the old familiar one. I knew the story. I’ve heard it. I’ve colored in the Sunday School coloring sheets about it in my youth. But it didn’t stick out like it did this time.

When most people retell the story, Moses grabs his belongings, ties it to his staff, grabs Aaron and heads off to Egypt to tell Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” Pharaoh says “Tough tookies, cookies!” to Moses and God sends the plagues one after another, nasty vile diseased attacks until Pharaoh could take no more and sends the Israelites out of Egypt.

We skip right over Exodus 5.

Moses doesn’t first request freedom for God’s people….he requests a festival. He and Aaron go to Pharaoh and ask for the Hebrews to be allowed 3 days to go have a festival to God in the wilderness. Pharaoh replies he doesn’t know the Hebrews God and he isn’t going to give them 3 days vacation from slavery to go have a party. They have work to be done.

Moses and Aaron press the point and Pharaoh becomes irritated. He sends word to the slave drivers and overseers that they are not to give the people straw to make the bricks, they are now to require the Hebrews to gather the straw and make the bricks, but they get no more time allotted to carry out double the work. They can’t meet this goal and so the slave drivers beat them. The Israelite overseers go to Pharaoh and asks why he’s done this and how is this fair. Pharaoh calls them lazy and sends him off with the same demands, now covered in insults in the ears of the people Moses came to try and liberate. This sets Israel against Moses and they tell him off for making trouble for them.

Moses then speaks to God and says, in essence, “What are you doing? Did you really send me here to be an annoyance to Pharaoh and for you NOT to rescue your people?” God says, “Look out. I’m about to blow the lid off this joint.” You know, He essentially said that….just in more holy language.

I know we rush through this part of the story if not skip it all together so we can get faster to the blood and locust and boils and death which is far flashier than not making bricks. But last night I couldn’t rush through it. I read it and then reread it and then read it again. I wondered why Moses didn’t ask for freedom from the first go. I wondered why God doesn’t have a voice before the request is made. I wondered what the purpose was in allowing Israel to become put out with the liberating leader. But none of that is what drew my eyes back over the page again and again. It was this starting at verse 6….

“That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies,”

…and then skipping to verse 15…

“Then the Israelite overseers went and appealed to Pharaoh: “Why have you treated your servants this way? Your servants are given no straw, yet we are told, ‘Make bricks!’ Your servants are being beaten, but the fault is with your own people.” Pharaoh said, “Lazy, that’s what you are—lazy! That is why you keep saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’  Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks.”

Ouch, y’all.

Not ouch because Pharaoh was mean to this faceless mass of slaves, but ouch because I recognize what Pharaoh said from our world today. We have people who have less straw, people we’ve taken straw away from and are holding it back from them, and yet we demand they make the same number of bricks as people who got straw delivered to their door. We are a society built on inequity still using inequity as an operating tool.

This is where I need your grace. Because I don’t have a solution. I’ve read article after article from everyone’s vantage point (except those that promote violence, because I can’t stomach the words that encourage violence as a solution from an ideology). I’ve listened to news anchors and commentators and watched as the stories we tell on Netflixz and Hulu have changed in tone guided by Hollywood’s values (positive or negative).

I read these things, watch these things, and no matter the viewpoint I walk away every time with the same response…”Yeah, but….” “Yeah, but she asks the other to see her point of view but makes no effort to see his.” “Yeah, but poverty extends beyond color lines, and I’ve served kids of every shade and seen kids of all colors overcome and kids of all colors fail.” “Yeah, but ignorance and frustration don’t make those behaviors acceptable.” Yeah, but…yeah, but…

I don’t have the liberty of a “yeah, but” here. I can choose to allow the words of the media, social or otherwise to form my opinions for me, or I can choose to allow the word of God to guide me. This is the word of God.

I feel sort of like Moses, who went to solve a problem and suggested something to Pharaoh and it blew up in his face, so he turned back to God and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” And God replies, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.” He took over and took care of it.

If you want an answer on how to fix America, it isn’t here. But let me speak to the church for a minute….

Church,

Don’t be Pharaoh. If all you can be in America is Moses, turning around and saying to God, I tried, but I don’t get what you’re doing?!?!, then be Moses, and be ready to step aside so God can do his thing. But stop being Pharaoh. We need to figure out where we stand, on race relations, on poverty, on refugees, on immigrants, on oppression, social rights and we need to do that not starting with media, but with the word of God. If you have an abundance of straw, hand it over to someone who doesn’t, don’t complain that there is a perfectly good field out there full of straw and those lazy poor people just need to stop thinking about partying and go get straw.  We don’t need to warp scripture to fit changing worldviews, but we can’t ignore scripture to allow us to stay comfortable.

Me

I read the passage three full times last night and reread it today. I wrote this blog in three drafts. I don’t know how this entry ends. I don’t know how to wrap this up with some neat little, this fixes everything little Kumbaya bow. I still see room to grow and room to see other’s viewpoints in every perspective I’ve read out in the world. But of all the things I’ve read in the past year about the social issues faces our country, this has been the only one that’s left me with no buts.

So I share it here, and maybe you can find something out of this passage that hits home. Or maybe you can share some other scripture that speaks to you with the rest of us. I want to be involved in a conversation that starts in the Word of God and addresses the concerns of our society. I’ve been involved in a conversation for far to long that starts in the concerns of our society and address the Word of God.

Any passages to share?

4 Lessons I Learned From Unemployment and the Isrealites

Today was the official end of a time I thought may never end, my season of, boy, what a tough word, unemployment.

I left my job in January, making a decision to stand by my personal convictions and professional standards of ethics in an extremely difficult situation. I chose, for better or for worse, to become unemployed and face uncertainty while looking for another position. This time was full of stress and chaos, but it was also full of peace and growth. The lessons learned during this time were lessons I could never have gained while working and I wouldn’t trade the new understandings I have for 8 months of human security.

1. The desert is preferable to bondage.

I found myself revisiting the story of the Exodus in those early days. I’d watched a History channel show where they examine archaeological evidence against biblical  stories to see how they stack up. There was the story of walking out of a desperate situation into what looked like another desperate situation, but choosing the path that led to freedom, no matter how difficult it proved to be was worth it.

I would find myself in small panics. Bills. Wants delayed. Bills. Fearful imaginings. Bills. And Kermit would often say to me, “Would you rather be back at that place?” And every time it was the end of the panic. No, no I did not want to be back in that place. Whatever momentary mess I found myself into was a molehill in comparison to the mountain, no, volcano, I’d left.

I could see that time and time again I would chose to stand by my convictions and pinch pennies instead of laying down my sanity by laying down my beliefs and eat steak. I am blessed to be married to a man who supported me in that.

2.  God gives enough manna for the day.

In Exodus 16, we read about God sending manna and quail to the Isrealites. Moses directs them to go out and gather up the food and cook enough for the day, not keeping any more for the following morning. However, some people did just that, hiding more than they needed and not trusting that if God could make manna appear on Monday, He could do it again on Tuesday. When they awoke in the morning they found the food had become rotten and filled with maggots overnight. God did not withhold the manna the following day, He just impressed upon them that He would be meeting their needs, not them.

Through these months, our needs have been met. We’ve stayed afloat during a time we thought we would certainly go under. My mother at one point observed that she was always impressed with how God sustained my family. I am not impressed. I am appreciative, grateful beyond measure, delighted, but never surprised. He met our needs in January and I expect He will met our needs in May and I expect He will meet our needs in August. He is consistent and He is faithful. He provided just enough time and again, and while we may not have been really storing away manna and quail for a lifetime, we were sustained, and walking into this situation, 8 months of sustaining provision was unimaginable. I am deeply grateful for it.

3.  God walks in the desert with us.

God led the Isrealites by night with fire and by day with a cloud. He lit the darkness and shielded them from burning in the sun. When the begged for water or food, He met their needs, not taking them into the camps of other people with other gods to met their needs, but rather using the nature around them. If they followed the pillar that was God’s leading, He would take care of their needs. This is not to say that if you trust and follow God there won’t be lean times or even that there won’t be suffering, but it is to say that when you are starving or dead tired, God is right there with you to hear your cry.

I had a picture I drew in college of a girl sitting in a mud puddle created by her own tears. I think it’s stashed away in a box at my parents house. I’ve tried to draw it again lately but it doesn’t turn out right. But in my head I see that there we sit in a mud puddle of our own making and Jesus sits down in it with us to console us and to raise us up when we allow him to do so. We are not alone.

4. The only way to see the promised land is to trust and obey.


The first move was to step out of Egypt. The second move was to stay faithful to God in the desert. No easy task. Barely something that could be accomplished. But Joshua and Caleb are able to accomplish that task. They exemplify obedience and confidence in their God, encouraging their people to be brave and ready to enter the promised land, while their fellow spies warn against the dangers.

Milk and honey, guys. It’s this picture of sweetness and provision, if only they will trust in what the Lord has already said He’d give them. They see that there is no risk in this because God has gone before them. They are not leading, they are following.

But if you look around today, so few people are even leaving Egypt. We live safe lives with no challenge. We feel as confident in Christ as the stability of our IRAs.

Without hunger, there is no manna.
Without thirst, there is no water from the rock.
Without pursuit, there is no parting of the sea.
Without darkness, there is no pillar of fire.
Without heat, there is no pillar of cloud.

Until I was in a situation where I could barely rely on myself, I was unable to fully rely on him.

I have a job. I started that job today. It is a good job, stable and simple, without the emotional drain of the last phase of my life. I look forward to seeing how what God is going to unwrap in my life during this next season and I hope, I pray, that I will hold fast to the lessons of the wilderness.