When the Great I AM Says Who He Is

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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

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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

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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.