When It Feels Like the Whole Free World Is Against You


From Exodus 5-7

Chapter 5 of Exodus begins with tough times for Moses: after his initial request to Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to go out to the desert to worship their God and his blatant refusal, the Israelites are ordered to make bricks without straw and retain their daily quota. The task proves to be impossible.  Fingers are pointed, who’s to blame here?  Moses gets it on every side, the foremen come to him, as do the Israelites, everyone is either discouraged, angry or overworked, some, all three. The chapter closes with Moses asking God, “Why?”  What then, enabled Moses to stand firm and keep going–what fortified him to obey God and charge through these proverbial bricks walls?  Nothing was working out as planned, in fact, things had gotten way worse, so what then, helped Moses to stand firm throughout this process to free God’s chosen people?

1) A Constant Reassurance from God that He Would Do What He Said:

Exodus 6:1 “Then the Lord said to Moses, “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…I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and Jacob as God Almighty…I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.” And here, in the following verses are the words that this thirsty soul, for one, longs to hear. Because it is here that the Great I AM also becomes the great I WILL:

I will bring you out from the yoke of the Egyptians

I will free you from being slaves to them

I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and mighty acts of judgement

I will take you as my own people

I will be your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians

I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob

I will give it to you as a possession

I am the Lord

2) Supportive Friends and Family–You see, Aaron would be a constant companion to Moses throughout his lifetime, this wasn’t just a man who would do the public speaking for Moses. Yes, this public speaking thing was a plus and this was why Moses originally asked for help, but Aaron would become a rock for Moses. We see in 5:20, that the foremen found Moses and Aaron, again, in Chapter 7:1, God compares Moses to himself (imagine!) and Aaron as his prophet, that Aaron would listen and do just as Moses commanded him. Who’s in your corner? Listen to them, love them, respect them and above all else value them as someone God has placed in your life to help you accomplish His purposes.

3) Knowledge that It Doesn’t Take a Perfect Pedigree, Just a Willing Heart: It’s interesting to see that there is a lengthy side note going on in Exodus 6: 13-25, what may seem like a bunch of names and numbers is extremely important. We’ve seen throughout the book of Genesis how significant birth order was in a family, being the firstborn in a family meant being the recipient of so many rights and privileges: a father’s birthright, blessing and inheritance. We’ve also seen the devastating consequences when that order is upset by sin as in the story of Jacob of Esau, however, these verses point out that Moses’ family was no where cut and dry privileged, in fact, not a single person in his close bloodline was a firstborn, and yet here he was, hand-picked by God to save his chosen people.

4) A God that Helped Him Take Baby Steps: What were these baby steps? Notice that when Moses initially went to Pharaoh, he did not immediately ask for his people’s release, he began with a more reasonable request: 5:1b: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness. Of course Pharaoh says “no.” He reasons, “I do not know this God, nor will I let these people go.”   But this wasn’t Moses’ first step of faith…

Leave the life you knew for 40 years, travel with your family to a place where you know you will find trouble and all kinds of heartache, all because God was asking you to? Check.

Prepare for your meeting with a mighty, godless leader by witnessing God turn a staff into a snake, your own hand leprous and then healthy again and watch water turn to blood before your very eyes? Knowing that you will have to perform these same signs in front of said godless leader? Check.

Stand up to the leader of the most powerful nation in the world? Check.

None.Of.These.Steps.Were.Easy. But they were necessary. Friends, God didn’t place us on this earth to do the easy stuff. He didn’t. He placed us here to reflect his glory and to do his work, sometimes it’s as “easy” as living a life of integrity, however, other times it’s going to mean a huge leap of faith. Just know that the Great I WILL will never leave.

When the Great I AM Says Who He Is


I’m grateful to be back in my Bible study, a study that has seen me in my darkest valleys. Week by week we measure out the Word, and this year we take our hearts to the book of Exodus, cracked open to the word oppression, a book that hears the heart-cry of a nation, a nation that continues to suffer to this day, a nation that has seen, heard, felt so much anguish and journeyed so far to this milk-and-honey land, but it had to begin somewhere in the depths of hopelessness–and a seed of freedom had to be planted in the heart of one man who was doubtful.  Because how could this seed be planted in someone who is confident and self-assured, one who thinks, “No, problem.”? No, it begins in the heart of one who says:

Who I am?

Suppose I go, and they ask me, “Who sent you?”

Suppose they (your people, O God) don’t believe me or listen to what I have to say?

I am slow of speech and tongue.

Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.

You know how Paul mentioned that he was the chief of sinners? Well, then I am the chief of doubters–like Moses. And that, is where, I believe the Lord knew exactly what to say to this 80-year-old king-of-doubt. And this, this doubtful heart of mine, when he–when I–ask the question, who should I say sent me?

Did you notice how God took Moses’ first question and turned it into a statement?

This is what the Sovereign Lord said, first: I AM WHO I AM, This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’

 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has sent me to you.’

 This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation. Exodus 3:14-15

 I am reminded that this is who, at least for the Israelites, I AM was:

I AM the God who brought a blessed and chosen nation out of one child, a child born to a woman decades past her child-bearing years, one who never thought she would have a baby of her own, one who laughed when she heard the news of my promise.

I AM the God, who 80 years ago, when your Egyptian oppressor – sent out a decree that all male babies born in Jewish households were to be thrown into a river infested with crocodiles, hippos and poisonous snakes to die a watery death rescued out a leader through the faithfulness of one woman.

Rachel, I AM the God who has fought for you, protected you, provided for you for the last 36 years of your life, I AM the God that you screamed at and cursed and questioned and cried to when you didn’t see a way out. I AM the God who has led you around the world to accomplish your healing. I AM the God who has supplied your every need. I AM the God that you wake up to and the One you say “goodnight” to every night. Why do you question me? Why do you allow yourself to be troubled? Trust in me.

And so began Moses’ journey back to a land he wasn’t sure would accept him– [it didn’t.] So began this man’s journey of faith.

Where is God asking you to go today? To apologize to a co-worker? Say “yes” to a project you’ve been putting off? Being present with our children, spouse, mother-in-law? God may not be asking you to lead a nation out of slavery today, but He is asking you to be obedient and the excuses that Moses used are usually always the same–who knows, you may need help just as Moses needed Aaron, but above all else, remember it’s not “I will” but it’s “I AM.”

For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Psalm 95: 3-7

To My Niece on Her Wedding Day

First time holding baby

I’m not quite sure how to begin this but to say that you are brave and that I love you. Yes, that’s me as a scrawny 10-year-old holding you for the first time. You weren’t a particularly big baby, but you seemed that way to me, propped up on the pillows of your mom and dad’s bed in their first house out in the country with the gravelly driveway.

I didn’t know how to hold babies and certainly not one this precious, you being the first grandkid and all. From the start you stole the show and yes, maybe I was a little bit jealous at first because I was no longer the baby of the family, but here was one who was cuter and smelled better and gurgled in truly the most adorable way.

I’ve watched you through the years transform into a beautiful woman, one who looks out for the interests of others, who is generous and kind with her time, her words and her resources, one who is wise beyond her years.

And now. You will be marrying this spectacular guy and I’ll be meeting him for the first time tomorrow. What if I don’t approve and have to give him the stink eye on his wedding day? I guess I’ll just have to deal because everybody else really, really likes him, and I’d just be the odd-man-out if I snubbed your new husband.

I know, this is my time to be offering wise advice, how to keep the embers burning, how to make love last, but I might just be one of the last people you should ask…instead (and I know you already have) look to your parents’ and grandparents’ example…

There will come a time when he will be frail and sick and need you in every way possible. Show up, care for him in the way that he needs it, not in the way you think he needs it.

There will be a time when you feel overshadowed and maybe a little bit jealous, rejoice in his successes like they were your own because, truly, they are. He has achieved this because of you not in spite of you.

There will be a time when you feel tired or grumpy or just need to be alone for a few hours. First, apologize for whatever you said in your sad/mad/sleepy stage and offer a hug. If said hug is not accepted at that time, know that it will be later. Then, take that time that you need to be alone, because you both will be better for it.

There will be a time when you are at an impasse. Pray. Pray hard because then God will change your heart or his, and maybe both of yours over time. I’m confident that God doesn’t leave us where we are–James 1:5 –“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

There will be misunderstanding, frustration, anger, silence sometimes but there will also be fantastic, amazing things like excitement, adoration, joy, comfort, fulfillment, generosity, surprise, laughter.

And one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard? Treat him better than you would your best friend.

Amanda, I don’t have much to give you but my words. I admire you so much. I don’t say that about a lot of people. I know that you are going to do this with God’s help. I know that Jesus has been shaping you and changing you (as he does with all of us). I’m also excited to see the fulfillment of God giving you the desire of your heart as you have delighted yourself in Him all these years.

Always know that you have someone praying for you, every day, miles away for the family that you are and that you will become, and if you’re smart (and I know you are) you have only to take a look around at your brothers’ broods to see what raising a family is all about. I’m excited for you. Go get this.

with love,

Aunt Rachel

Dear friends, since God loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  I John 4:12

This is How We Should Pray


When nations are torn asunder and the victims of this unrest are the youngest and most tender, I wring my hands when I think of everything that my child has, every opportunity, every gift that she has as a result of a peaceful place to rest her head and my heart is broken.  And I wonder how to talk to God about all this.

I’ve been camped out for weeks in the last chapter of Richard Foster’s book, Prayer, particularly in a chapter titled Radical Prayer, and more specifically how we can embrace the whole world in prayer:

So we throw caution to the wind and pray not just for individuals but also for nations, not just for the renewal of the Church but also for the transformation of the world.  We pray for and work for the kingdom to com on earth–on all the earth–as it is in heaven.

Here is how a wonderfully wise woman of prayer taught me to pray for the nations.  We are to begin, she said, by focusing on one nation and prayerfully discerning what kind of nation it should be.  If it is an aggressor nation, for example, we may sense that it should retreat form its self-aggrandizement and begin “sending out into the world little golden arrows of trade and commerce and financial cooperation.”  At time we may narrow our prayers to those who make decisions that can change he course of a nation toward rightness.  We bless the broken bits of virtue these leaders already display and ask that they, like loaves and the fishes, will be multiplied and used for good.”

I could go on and on, but I will stop here and begin:

Lord, we pray for the nation of Iraq, that the subversive force of ISIS would be defeated by those who seek justice above all else, that men who hearts are fully devoted and committed to you would come to power, that for Syria, in this civil war now for four years in which more that 300,000 have been killed, major cities reduced to rubble and where 4M have fled, we refuse to see this as their end.  We refuse to accept this.  We refuse to accept the forces of darkness and we cling to your kingdom of light.  So we pray, just as the prophet Isaiah did for the nation of Israel,  the year of the Lord’s favor on Iraq, Afghanistan on Syria.  You have sent us to proclaim good news to the poor, you have sent us to bind up the brokenhearted, you have sent us, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.  To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes the oil of joy instead of mourning; and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  That they, those who have turned their hearts toward you, will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.  They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.  Strangers will shepherd their flocks; foreigners will work their fields and vineyards.  And you, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God.  You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.

Instead of shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance.  And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.  “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing.  In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.  Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples.  All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”  I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.  For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.  Amen.

When You Think You’ve Been Forgotten–But You Really Haven’t


The envelope was thicker than usual this time. I took that as a good sign.

Once the dust of bookbag, lunchbox, shoes, purse, key detritus had settled on the living room floor, I ripped the envelope open. On top was a letter from sweet Paul telling me of planting and helping mom in the field, asking for prayer for good health and underneath his letter was a packet, yes, five pages stapled together of responses to each letter that I had written to Martin last year. Thanking me for pictures, and for the encouragement of the verses I had sent. He asked about Allister often, told me how much his family missed me and wished us well.

When I hadn’t heard from him in close to a year, I wasn’t worried that he was in danger, I knew I would hear something from Children’s HopeChest if anything had happened. But I was worried that he was outgrowing me, becoming too cool/too busy/too distracted to respond. Because that is what kids do, right?  I was concerned that he had grown up and away, that he didn’t need my silly words with terrible drawings of the mountains I had climbed or the ocean I had seen, or the race I had run. But, I continued to write and then to pray for him every day knowing, that this, at least, brought us together.

I thought of these letters as our prayers, prayers that stack up, that seem to go unheard, unanswered, until finally you think, “Did I stop praying for that?”– as if they got caught up in the mail for lack of a zip code and unfortunately returned to sender. But there comes a day, when the phone rings, the e-mail slides into your in-box, the car pulls into the driveway…

My mom, on more than one occasion told me that she prayed this prayer when my sister, then 19, had run away from home, left a note explaining why and went to live life the way she saw fit. She returned broken with a little baby, my now 24-year-old niece, in her belly. My mother would pray: “Lord Jesus, let this be the day that she comes back home and if today is not the day, give me the strength to wait until the next.”

Distractions and disappointments abound, we feel as if the prayers are ignored, and so we might protect ourselves with an excuse or push it down.

Richard Foster speaks of radical prayer as a kind of act of spiritual defiance and quotes Walter Wink, “Biblical prayer is impertinent, persistent, shameless, indecorous. It is more like haggling in an outdoor bazaar than the polite monologues of the churches.”* We do not relent. I thought of Elijah this morning, and looked up these words in I Kings 18:24  “Then you will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire–he is god.”

The god who answers by fire–he is god.

 There is a God who answers and consumes us. He consumes our longings, our desires, our strivings because he is good. He consumes our efforts and our posturing because He is good. He consumes our sacrifice because He is good. He consumes everything else so his purposes will be accomplished in our lives: the doors shut–firmly. We cannot push or struggle, oh, maybe we can, but it will be no use. We can slash our wrists and dance and cry out as the false prophets did, but it will be no use. Until the God of fire decides to act, it will be no use.

What was going through his mind as they poured four large jars of water over the bull and the wood underneath, not once but four times? This precious commodity over a land that not seen rain for three years, what was this to accomplish?

And so Elijah prayed he prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac and—do you see that? Israel–the one who struggled, who wrestled so hard with the angel of the Lord that we was renamed from Jacob to Israel:

“Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again. ” I Kings 18:37

And he did, “Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. You will see them, I assure you, big or little you will see the requests answered one by one by one like stacked up letters waiting for a response. When the God of Abrahm, Isaac and Israel, the God of fire responds, there will be no more questions.

*Foster, Richard J. (1992). Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. New York, NY. HarperCollins Publishers