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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Knowing God~I Know His Name

We're getting into the Psalms now, my favourite book in the Bible, and the verse I'm looking at today is found in Psalms 9:10. "And those who know Your name put their trust in You, for You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You."

The Psalms are a lot easier to read than some books, so the verses would seem rather straightforward. I'm curious, though, to see the context around the verse. Once I spent some time reading Job and Psalms and found a lot of Passion (crucifixion, resurrection) language in both of those books. Job has some very specific verses that point directly to Jesus' death, and it's interesting because Job is said to be the first book written in the Bible.

We know the Psalms are songs, the majority of which were written by David, and I wonder if this song was written after he had killed Goliath, and had victory in a few more wars, and perhaps was on the run already from King Saul. Psalm 9 starts out with David thanking God for all the things He has done for him, and then spends most of the time talking about David's enemies and how God has defeated them.

Here is just a brief list of how David describes God.

  • He does wonderful deeds
  • He maintains my just cause
  • He gives righteous judgment
  • He rebukes the nations & destroys the wicked
  • He blots out the name of the wicked forever
  • He roots out the cities of the wicked
  • He establishes His throne in judgment
  • He judges the world with righteousness
  • He judges the people with equity
  • He is a stronghold for the oppressed
  • He is a stronghold in times of trouble
  • He never forsakes those who seek Him
  • He avenges blood
  • He does not forget the cry of the afflicted
  • He lifts me up from the gates of death

What does it mean to know God's name? If I know someone's name, it means that I know at least who they are, I recognize them, and I attach significance to that name because it belongs to this person. To call someone by their name humanizes them. We don't call people, "It" or "Thing" because that would make it seem that they are an object instead of a person. When we are first introduced to someone, the very first thing we learn (usually!) is their name. Then we use that name when we are speaking to them or about them to other people.

Have you noticed that when two people are in love, they can't stop talking about the other person? Usually you can tell if a girl is interested in a guy, in that stage before they actually get together, if she won't stop talking about him. She will seemingly casually drop his name into conversation at every single opportune moment, and even though she won't come right out and say she likes him, you can tell by how many times she will say his name.

To know God's name must mean to know Him. And those who know His name trust Him. Is it because they know Him that they trust Him, or is it because they have already trusted Him in the past that they continue to trust Him? I am a very trusting person so, when I first meet someone, if I feel comfortable around them then I tend to trust them until they prove me wrong. Perhaps David is saying, if you know Who God is, you will trust Him because of His character.

But then here's the real reason why we trust Him. "You have not forsaken those who seek You." If I search for God, and get to know Who He is, I will learn to trust Him because He is there. He won't desert me if I am looking for Him.

There are many of us who are looking for someone in our lives. Perhaps we lost a parent to death or divorce, and we're still looking for that father or mother figure to fill that very important role in our lives. Even as adult children we can still look for that. Perhaps we didn't lose a parent, but perhaps they were not able to parent us because they chose to abuse us instead. Perhaps something happened to us when we were children and we were not able to grow and develop into healthy adults, and so we are looking for someone to help us move beyond our child-selves and become our adult-selves. Perhaps we are looking for a spouse, or a healed relationship with our child, or a friend to support us. Whatever situation we find ourselves in, I would venture to say 99% of us are looking for someone to fill a place in our lives that is empty.

When we go searching for those people, sometimes we luck out and we receive what we need. Oftentimes, however, we find ourselves still empty emotionally, still searching. Our vulnerable trust is shattered by the lack of other humans' ability to meet the needs we have. The relationships we are looking for never become a complete reality. We may know people, and trust people, and then they turn around and desert us. We're left sitting on the front steps waiting, looking out the living room window waiting, staying up late waiting, and they never come back.

The Bible is true. This is one thing that I know, even when I'm not sure about so many other things in life. The Bible is true and it cannot lie. This means that God will never leave me. When I look for Him, He will always be there. And finding Him there, time and time again, I will begin to understand that single aspect of His character, His name, that He is faithful. And then I will know that I can trust Him. Because God says, "I am here."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Too Wonderful

Knowing God~His Purpose Prevails

"Then Job answered the LORD: 'I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. . .Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. "Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me." I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:1-6, ESV

We have come to the end of the book of Job, the final three chapters have focused on God's exchange with Job, as He questions & challenges Job. Job humbly steps back and affirms God's sovereignty. God then blesses him twice as much as before with possessions, 10 more children are born, and he lives another 140 years to enjoy all the blessings he has received.

If only real life were like that. I guess it is, I mean, we go through difficult times in this life and if we are faithful to believe and trust in God, then we have the hope of eternal life. I guess I'm just a little wistful for the blessings and ease of life to come on this earth too. After all, one can endure anything for a while if they know there is a reward waiting afterwards. That is one of the reasons why I have set about to do this particular word study on the word "Know." I want to understand Who God is and the mystery of why He stands silent in the shadows at times that seem crucial for His presence to be seen. Job needed God, and yet God seemed to have turned His head away. Then when Job's friends questioned God's reasons for seemingly punishing Job, and when Job proclaimed his innocence and faithfulness even while admitting he was discouraged, God shut down everyone's words and restated His position as Lord of the Universe.

Job says two things that resonate with me. He knew that anything God decided to do would happen. Then when he said, I heard about You but now I see You, it is almost as if he was saying, I believed that You existed because other people told me about You, but now I get it. Now I actually see You, perhaps not in reality because no one could see God and live, but now I see all the things that You do, and understand how they point to You. I see the earth, the sea, the clouds, the dawn, snow, hail, wind, rain, thunderbolts, ice, the stars, lightning, lions hunting, goats & deer giving birth, wild oxen, horses in battle, hawks & eagles soaring, Behemoth and Leviathan. I recognize the strength and the power in all these created things and I see how they point to their Creator.

Job humbled himself after seeing the magnificent display of God's power. He understood that it was not a matter of God being unable to put things right, but that it was something far too mysterious for him. His eyes were opened to see not just God's capacity, but God's all-knowing, and he recognized that he knew nothing. Perhaps that is one of the ways I can reconcile my question of Why doesn't God intervene? Perhaps it is something "too wonderful for me" to understand, though "wonderful" is not the word I'm looking for, because sometimes the things are too ugly and horrible.

I think what Job meant was that it was something far bigger than he could comprehend, sort of like an ant wandering along, picking up its piece of bread, and a compassionate human comes along (not me!) and moves the crumbs to the side of the room so the ant won't get squashed when it comes back for its next morsel. The ant doesn't understand why the bread has moved and why it now has to travel all around the perimeter of the room to get to its food, rather than saunter to the middle of the room. But the human knows that there's a couple of eager baby hands of a just-walking toddler, and those hands are busily scouring the middle of the room for interesting things to put into the mouth. 

Psalm 131 says, "I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore." NIV

Monday, November 12, 2012


Knowing God~He is my Vindicator

When I read a verse about knowing God, I like to take the time to read the chapter around that verse and get an idea of the context. Today I'm looking at Job 19: 25, a very familiar verse, where Job is affirming God's role as redeemer. Interestingly enough, however, is the context and also the definition of the word redeemer.

"For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last He will stand upon the earth, and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another." Job 19: 25-27, ESV

My Bible has a lot of little references at the bottom of the page that gives alternate translations for words, changing the verses to this:

"For I know that my Vindicator lives, and that He the Last shall stand upon the dust, and after my skin has thus been destroyed, then without my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!" has a new marvelous feature where you can compare parallel passages of the Bible side by side. The NIV and the NASB both footnote Redeemer to mean Vindicator, but the NKJV, Darby, and Young's simply use Redeemer. The NASB says, "literally, kinsman". But wait a minute. None of this is making any sense if you don't read the context of the chapter!

A brief background of the book. Job is a good man, he loves God, and he has ten children and a lot of possessions. Satan comes to test his faith and belief in God, and he loses his children, his possessions, and his health. The rest of the book presents Job's three friends, who come daily to test his patience by accusing him of deserving these horrible things that have happened to him, leaving him destitute and sitting in a pile of ashes with a piece of clay pot to scrape his boils with.

I absolutely love the language of verse 1, where Job says to his friends, "How long will you break me in pieces with words?" He then goes on to talk about how God has seemingly made his life as miserable and difficult as possible. Job feels broken down, estranged from his family, forgotten by his guests, repulsive to his wife, loathsome, depised, abhorred, unheard, in darkness, stripped of glory, walled in, uprooted, and considered a stranger and an alien. All the words that could possibly describe the depth of abjectness, Job knows them because he is living them. You could theoretically say he was depressed. I mean, who wouldn't be if they were living in similar circumstances?

Yet in the midst of the depression, which he places the blame squarely on God's shoulders, comes a strange verse. I know that my Vindicator is alive. I know that in the end, He will declare victory. I know that after this disgusting boil-filled body is destroyed by decay, I will see my Vindicator. And I know that I will see Him with my own eyes. How I long for that day!

How can Job switch from clear blame to definite vindication? Why does he list all the ways that God has made his life so horrible, and then turn around and say that he knows that his redeemer lives? Perhaps because, even though he was human and discouraged, Job knew God. We read in the very beginning of the book that he would offer sacrifices for his children every time they would have a party, just in case they sinned against God. Job was characterized as a man who was blameless, upright, a man who turned away from evil and feared God (honored God). Job had spent his lifetime getting to know God, and now, when things had swung drastically from good to bad, he stayed grounded in what he knew.

Job knew that his Vindicator was alive.

Like Job, we all go through tough times when the only person we know to blame is God. Somehow we fail to recognize that God is only good and that Satan justly deserves the blame instead. I know I tend to forget that life is more than just this day, this week, or even this year, but that it all points forward to a day when our tired bodies will be destroyed by decay, and we will be raised with brand new bodies to see our Vindicator proclaiming the final victory over the ugliness of sin. And He has promised that we will see it with our very own eyes.

I know my Redeemer is alive.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Not Such a Good Sport

I stepped into Sports Chalet the other night to see if they had any good deals on hiking shoes. My mom, friend and I go walking every morning for about an hour, and we try to hike the trails if it's good weather, so I've been looking for some sturdy shoes to keep my feet as happy as my heart and circulation system is! Being the gullible person that I am, when a mere acquaintance told me rather excitedly that I should go to a particular shoe store and get fitted for special shoes because my right foot appeared to roll pretty badly when I walked, I decided I had better do so.

Now I know I walk on the inside of my shoes; every pair of shoes I've ever had is worn down on the inside more than the outside, which probably also explains why I have a hard time balancing on pointy thin heels! But somehow it had never bothered me before, after all, I grew up in Africa where you wear flip flops all day long and maybe people walk with rolled feet but nobody makes a big deal about it there! So here I was, suddenly worried that some strange malady would attack me if I didn't address the problem right away (thought I'm not exactly sure what!) and I betook myself off to that store as soon as I had a couple of hours to spare.

I walked in the front door and a guy appeared from behind the fleece jackets and asked if I needed any help. He looked like he was about 15, but he was wearing a logo t-shirt, so I figured he must be an employee and could help me pick out the shoes that were going to save me from a fate worse than death. (still figuring out what it is!) I told him someone had referred me, he had me walk up and down a small mat so he could observe my deadly rolling foot, agreed that I had a slight roll, and then disappeared into the back to bring me some shoes to try on. I looked idly about, then realized the wall was covered with various shades and sizes of shoes, so I wandered over to look at a few. The prices made me gulp. $100 appeared to be the low end, though they didn't seem to go higher than $120. I sat back down and prayed he would bring out the cheaper shoes.

I tried on the first pair and it fit quite nicely. He explained that it wasn't corrective surgery or anything, the shoe would merely provide the support so my foot wouldn't roll as much, sort like holding a newborn's head for support I guess?, and so I stood up to take a stroll. I walked back and forth on that little mat, which I later realized was rather clever of the store to have there, as the mat was probably more comfortable to walk on than my carpet at home. With weary feet comfortably ensconced in snug shoes, strolling up and down on the plush mat, I decided I had found the shoes. I tried on three other pairs just be sure, but none fit quite as right. (Okay, okay, I'll admit it, the first ones were the cutest!) I smiled confidently at the guy and said, "I'll take these, please."

He seemed a little startled, I wasn't sure if it was because I'd made my decision so quickly or because the shoes were so expensive and people don't often buy shoes in that particular store, but nonetheless, we headed to the checkout counter. I handed over my card and headed home, $117 lighter but happy that I had found "my shoes." I got in the car and thought, "What in the world have I done? I've just spent more than a hundred dollars on a pair of shoes!"

After thinking a little more about shoes over the next few weeks, and realizing that I fall all too easily for sales pitches, whether needed or not, I decided to take a look at shoes in other stores. And I realized that I could buy shoes that gave me just as much support but were $50 cheaper! Now I was disgruntled, partially because I felt like I hadn't received the whole truth, and partially because I had allowed myself to be fooled into parting with my money so easily. Two months later, the shoes still brand new and sitting in their box, I was headed back to the store. This time I prayed there would be different people working, people who didn't recognize me and wonder why I waited till the last minute to return a pair of perfectly good shoes. Thankfully a complete stranger looked up at me and smiled as I walked in, and very graciously assisted me with my return.

I think I've learned a well-deserved lesson here; one which I'm grateful to have learned in a situation where I could get my money back and not have to put it on my tab marked "Experience." Oh, and I never did tell you about my experience in Sports Chalet. I guess I'll have to save that for another blog. :-)

Wheels in Motion

So as I was saying, I popped in to Sports Chalet the other night to see if they had any good hiking shoes on sale. I had just returned a pair at another sporting goods shop, picked up another pair at a third sporting goods shop, and was now browsing to see whether their 25-50% off sale had anything good. The slightly bored salesguy wandered over to where I was looking at prices on the bottom of the hiking shoes, and brought me my size almost instantly. I tried the shoes on, walked around a bit, and decided they weren't what I was looking for. The cool thing about Sports Chalet is that they have a floor that simulates regular hiking terrain. It's kind of pocked and bumpy, which is perfect to test out new shoes on, rather than the soft mat I sunk into at the other store (see previous post). I bounced up and down on my toes, then sat down and took the shoes off, handing them back to the guy who now had another customer to busy himself taking care of.

I had some time left, so I browsed the discounted shoes stacked haphazardly on a couple of metal shelves in the back of the building. As I pushed and pulled boxes to get a better look, my fingers brushed against a larger than usual cardboard box. I casually glanced at it, then took a second longer look. Could it be? Did I dare?

Seconds later I was sitting on a bench, pulling my thick crew socks out of my purse and pushing them on my feet as quickly as I could with trembling fingers. Almost reverently, I took the boot out of the large box, carefully slid my left foot inside, laced up the thick laces, and then clicked the safety clip shut. I stood up, but soon realized I had to put the right one on too, otherwise it wouldn't work. I sat down and treated my right foot to the same deferential treatment. Then I stood up, oh so carefully.

And I rolled.

The bumpy all-terrain surface wasn't as easy to maneuver on, so I slid a few inches to the left, gingerly holding on to a sock display for support, and found myself on a firm carpet. I pushed out with my left foot, then with my right, carefully, slowly, like a baby just learning to walk. As I did so, the muscles in my legs remembered, my body leaned slightly forward, and I found myself settling into the rhythm as naturally as breathing.

I was rollerblading.

For those of you who knew me before I hit the turbulent adult-teen years, I was an avid rollerblader in the day. I wasn't anything fancy, I didn't skate in a park (I'm not even sure they had parks in Egypt or Lebanon), I wasn't able to jump steps two at a time like my boyfriend could, I couldn't make sharp turns like my sister did, and I was just learning to blade backwards before we left. But I could rollerblade and I did. I would turn on my dance radio station, lace up my eggplant purple & fuschia pink boots as tight as I could, click the safety clip shut, and then dig into the cement on my way to the top of a small incline at the entrance of the parking lot. Turning around, I would wait for a particularly fast beat, push off with one foot, get a good rush of speed, and then glide the rest of the way. I skated round and round that parking lot till the sun went down and the street lights didn't give enough light to see the tiny pebbles that would catch in my wheels and send me stumbling.

I remember buying those rollerblades. We were in our favourite children's toystore, perhaps Intertoys, and Rachel and I spotted the bright purple and pink rollerblades. We knew immediately that those were what we wanted. In Africa we wore metal wheels attached with a couple of bright red straps that laced over our tennis shoes and were called rollerskates. We finally graduated to shoe rollerskates, in a bold print that prominently featured fluorescent lime as its primary color. I remember being envious of my best friend's white boot skates with laces all up the front that looked just like the kind that iceskaters would wear on TV. Sometimes she let us take turns wearing them.

But now rollerblades were all the rage and I was determined to fit in with the in crowd. We begged my mom for the blades. I could see her standing there, calculating in her head the baggage allowance and mentally packing our 10 suitcases with two years' worth of shoes, Christmas presents, special treats, last minute gifts from our generous relatives, and the clothes we had brought with us. She knew there was no room to add another 20 pounds of bulky unnecessary items, but she could see how very badly we wanted them. "Okay," she said, "you can get them. On one condition. You have to carry them back home."

I still remember that long trek back from Europe to the Middle East, time changes and planes later, safely home, much wearied from hauling two very heavy rollerblades in a sturdy backpack that also housed my jacket, food, and extra things that wouldn't fit into the suitcase. I was happy to be home, but I was happier still to zip open my pack and see those shiny new blades ready to slip onto my eager feet.

As I gingerly rolled back to the bench, continents and lifetimes later, a huge smile crept across my face. I might have left those rollerblades behind years ago, but I had not forgotten how to dance on wheels. And somehow I knew that one day, I would be dancing once again. . .

Monday, November 5, 2012

Not. . .by Sword or Spear

Knowing God~God fights my battles

"You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down. . .so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD's and He will give you into our hand." ~I Samuel 17: 45-47

1 Samuel 17 is a really neat chapter. Actually, anything I read in my little NRSV is fun to read because somehow I really click with the language, and it reads more like a story than old English that is hard to understand, even though the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) is a literal translation. It's the well-known story of David and Goliath, which I've heard a million times since I was knee-high in Sabbath School singing "Only a boy named David" but the fun little details help me to picture what it must actually have been like. 

So the Israelites and the Philistines were busy fighting each other, and they drew up camp across from each other on a mountain, one on either side of the mountain, with a valley between them. Goliath, the champion and super tall big guy, came out and challenged the Israelites to send someone to fight him. He defied the Israelite army and they were pretty scared.

David was out and about one day, taking some bread to his three oldest brothers and some cheese to their captain, when he heard the challenge from Goliath. I wonder if David wanted to fight as well, but couldn't because he was too young. Goliath had been taunting the Israelite army for over a month now, and nobody dared do anything about it. David stood there, curious about what was going on, and asked someone who was standing nearby, "Who is this man? Why is he defying God's army? What kind of reward is there for the person who kills him and restores the glory to Israel?"

While he was talking, his oldest brother heard him and got really angry. I'm guessing David was seen as a little pest to the older brothers, or perhaps Eliab was upset because he didn't have enough courage himself to go out and fight Goliath. Eliab glared at David and said, "Why are you here? What about your responsibilities at home? Who did you leave your few sheep with, to take care of them in the wilderness? I know the real reason why you're here, you just want to see the battle." David said, and this I don't have to paraphrase because it's said so perfectly I can see his face, "What have I done now? It was only a question." 

Fast forward, past David accepting the challenge, Saul outfitting him with his own armour but David refusing to use it because it was too awkward, and David picking up 5 smooth stones from the wadi and approaching Goliath. Goliath mocks him, this young man, but David confidently replies. "You fight with a sword and spear and javelin, but I fight in God's name, whom you have defied by defying the army of Israel. God will deliver you into my hand today, I will kill you and cut off your head and the wild animals and birds will eat the dead bodies of the Philistine army today, to show the whole earth that there is a God in Israel. This will show that God doesn't save with a sword and a spear; this is God's battle and He will deliver you into our hand."

Moments later, Goliath is dead, stuck by a stone in his forehead. David then runs over and uses Goliath's own sword to cut off his head, not to kill him, as the giant is already dead from the mortal blow of that smooth stone, but to prove to the Philistine army that their champion is dead, the victory belongs to the Israelite army, and to bring the head to Saul and then to Jerusalem.

It's kind of a gory story when you think about it, but that isn't the cool part of the story. I think it's pretty amazing that David has such fearlessness in confronting a challenge that scares the entire Israelites army. He has a boldness that isn't seen in anyone else, but he also has a very good reason for his boldness: he is defending God's honor. He has great confidence in approaching the giant with 5 stones, not any kind of equal match whatsoever (spear, sword & javelin vs. stones; helmet, coat of armour, leg coverings vs. a shepherd's bag and a simple robe?). If you're wondering where this confidence and fearlessness comes from, look back a few verses to see David explaining to Saul his qualifications to fight this giant. David said whenever a lion or a bear came and took a lamb, he would go after that animal, hit it to rescue the lamb, and if the animal turned to fight him, he would catch it by the jaw, hit it and kill it. He recognized that God was the one who rescued him from the lion and bear, and believed that God would also save him from Goliath.

Each of us have our own lions and bears to content with in life. We're out there, doing our job, taking care of what has been entrusted to us, whether it be our children, our ministry, our spouse, or any of the other responsibilities in life. There are far too many times that those lions and bears come sneaking up, trying to destroy those things that are precious to us, and we have to fight to get them back. But every now and then, we see the giant of all giants standing in front of us. Lions and bears are scary, yes, but after fighting them for a while we're more confident that God is in control of our lives and our circumstances and we've grown accustomed to the kinds of challenges thrown our way. We've developed strategies to meet those challenges and have a pretty mean arm now.

Then we turn a corner and there's our Goliath. This one seems about impossible to handle, after all, everyone else is turning and running the opposite direction. I don't know what your giant is, perhaps it's cancer, job loss, death, a broken relationship, but whatever it is, no one around you has the slightest bit of confidence that this giant can be slain. It stands there, tall, strong, in an impenetrable fortress of armour, mocking you and mocking your God.

But there's one small place on that giant that is defenseless, one patch of skin that is vulnerable to attack, one place that if you hit it right, that giant will crumple faster than an autumn leaf turns to dust in your hand.

David ran quickly towards the battle line. As Goliath approached him, David did not run away from the giant, but towards him. He did what he had done a thousand times as a shepherd boy, he put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung his slingshot, and hit the Philistine right in the forehead.

Do I have that kind of fearlessness?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All the Good Things

I found one of those little Bible verse card holders in the mailroom the other day and brought it home because it matched my room decor and had pretty scenery verse cards inside it. I put the holder on a dresser, but didn't bother to do much with it except to switch out a new card at random times when I walked past that particular dresser. Yesterday I idly changed cards and read the verse. This time as I read it, I realized that what I was reading made me smile because I believed it. I'm not sure if you're like me, but there are times when I read promises in my Bible or hear them at church or someone shares an encouraging verse with me and I think, "yeah, that's nice, but it's not true." Somehow I seem to think that while God will visit His vengeance upon me, even while I see His miracles happening in my life, I don't trust that His intent towards me is of good. So I was surprised to catch myself thinking, Yes, this is true and I can see it and I can trust that He will continue to fulfill this promise.

The verse comes from Psalm 103:5, and in the New Living Translation it says, "He fills my life with good things."

Today I'm looking at Joshua 23:14. A while back I was looking at Moses' farewell to the Israelites and now we have Joshua's final words before he "goes the way of all the earth" which I think is so poetic. Joshua is around 110, because that is how old he is when he dies, and the Israelites are now in the Promised land and God has given them peace from their enemies. The whole land has not been conquered yet, you can read more in Judges about how they failed to do so following God's guidance after Joshua had died, but for now they were content. In Joshua 13, God tells Joshua, "You are getting old and there is still a lot of land that needs to be possessed," and He lists all the regions remaining. Here is the neatest part: "I will myself drive them out from before the Israelites". God is saying, you're getting old, you're tired, it's time for you to have your final rest, but don't worry about the people you have been leading because I will take care of them. All you have to do is assign and divide the land among the tribes.

Returning to the chapter we're looking at, though, Joshua is now encouraging and exhorting the people in his farewell speech. He reminds them of how God has fought for them in driving out their enemies, and that God will continue to do so. He encourages them to keep the law and not to worship other gods, but to "hold fast to the LORD your God." He warns them that if they intermarry among  the ungodly nations that God will no longer protect them and that their enemies will be able to conquer them instead of the other way around. He speaks about God's justice, that if they disobey God's covenant and worship other gods, then He will destroy them. And he reminds them that God has kept all His good promises.

"you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one thing has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you; all have come to pass for you, not one of them has failed." Joshua 23:14

Knowing God~He keeps His promises of good things

How can I recognize God in my life and what does this verse tell me about God? He is faithful and trustworthy, when He makes a promise to do something good, He will keep that promise. It is true that He also keeps His promise to give us what we deserve if we choose to disobey Him, but that isn't the focus of this verse. Joshua is telling the people, "you know, you know not only in your heart but also in your soul, that every single promise God made has come true, every promise of good things happening to you and for you, and there is not one person here who can contest that." So when I see good things happening in my life, I can see that God is very present and active and is a part of my life even though I can't see Him in a physical form. And when I read a promise, that He will be with me and bless me and protect me, I can believe that promise because He keeps His promises.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

God's Hand is Mighty

So we're still in Joshua, chapter 4, and the Israelites have just crossed the river and set up camp on the other side in Gilgal on the border of Jericho. Each tribe has taken a large stone out of the riverbed, and now Joshua creates a formation with these rocks to serve as a memorial of the miracle that God had just performed.

Knowing God~His Mighty Hand Guides Me

"When your children ask. . ."What do these stones mean?" then you shall let your children know, "Israel crossed over the Jordan here on dry ground." . . .so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, and so that you may fear the LORD your God for ever." Joshua 4: 21-24

God asked them to set up a memorial so that they would be able to tell the story again to their children, and to serve as a notice to everyone on earth that God was a powerful God. I think it's pretty neat that He told them to take stones out of the riverbed. They could have used smaller stones from the side of the river, but using stones from the actual riverbed was like using little pieces of the miracle to make a memorial to remind them of the miracle. The children would look and ask, and then be in awe that those very stones had once been at the bottom of the rushing river. It was a very real picture.

The word "fear" in today's context would imply a stern and vindictive God, but I think it actually means to "revere, worship, honor" God, which would make much more sense. If God had just performed this amazing miracle, why would they be afraid of Him?

As I look at this passage, remembering what I read yesterday about putting my feet in the waters, trusting that God will open up a clear path, I think about the stones and wonder how I can make that a practical reality. As a writer, I am constantly memorializing moments in my life that make an impact on me, whether filled with joy or difficulty. Perhaps as I look at the times when I took that hesitant first step into rushing waters and then saw a dry path miraculously appear, I can symbolically take a stone from the middle of that dry path and create an altar of my own. Perhaps my altar is made up of stones from all the rivers I have crossed so far, and perhaps it is an altar that will continue to be added to. Perhaps my memorial is my testimony, of the miracles that I've seen God do in my life, miracles that leave me in awe and lead me to worship and honor God.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Step in Faith

Knowing God~He is with me

Joshua is getting ready to cross the river, his first major feat after Moses' death. He instructs the people to prepare themselves for God's wonders that will happen the next day, by sanctifying themselves. He instructs the priests to carry the ark of the covenant in front of all the people. Then God speaks to Joshua and encourages him. He says, "This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses." (Joshua 3: 7) He gives Joshua some last minute instructions and then Joshua tells the Israelites to gather around.

It's interesting that here we have a repeat of what happened at the Red Sea. An insurmountable obstacle, a river instead of a sea but still lots of water, dry land to cross over on, this time there is no one chasing the Israelites but it seems like yet another opportunity for them to learn to trust that God will open up a path where there is none. One of my favourite verses in Psalms says, "Your path led through the sea, Your way through the mighty waters, though Your footprints were not seen." The Psalms are actually filled with references to the Israelites and their experiences of wandering in the desert and rebelling against God in the promised land. Psalm 106 and 78 are excellent examples of this.

God tells Joshua that he is the one to tell the priests what to do, and that they must go right up to the edge of the water, put their feet in the water, and as soon as they do so the water will stop flowing and a dry path will appear for the people to cross over on. Joshua then encourages the Israelites, telling them that God's promises (ark of the covenant) will cross in front of them into the river, and this will be a sign to them that God is with them and that He will drive out all their enemies.

When God made the dry land appear in the Red Sea, the Israelites were terrified that they were going to die. Moses told them to stand still and see the deliverance that God was going to perform. The Egyptians would also see God's power that day and recognize that He was God. Now Joshua was encouraging the Israelites to recognize that God will deliver them from the enemies that lie ahead of them, rather than behind, and that once again He will overcome the insurmountable.

As I look at the story and think about how this can apply to my life, I think about how the priests had to actually put their feet in the water before it would stop. They had to act on faith that God would do what He had promised to do. They could have refused to put their feet in the water, they could have compromised and said they would stand at the riverbank and wait till the water dried up before they put their feet down on dry land, rather than getting their feet wet. But God specifically says, "you shall stand still in the Jordan." He didn't say, go forward in faith and then continue on blindly and presumptuously. He said, Go forward, take that first step trusting that I will fulfill My promise, and then stop and wait for Me. Wait to see that I have honored your trust and wait to see My promise fulfilled. Then you can continue on safely and in the assurance that you are in My will.

I've been struggling a lot lately with trying to understand how I can know that I am doing what God wants me to do, particularly when it comes to getting a job. I have had two really difficult experiences in the workplace, both happening in jobs where I was convinced that God was leading me to work there. I have seen family and friends looking for jobs and the conflicting schools of thought have thoroughly confused me: wait until God opens a door you haven't knocked on and take that as a sign that He is blessing you, or knock on doors until one opens and take that as a sign that He wants you to go through that door. I believe God works in providential ways but I also believe that He has gifted us with the ability to reason so that we can make logical conclusions.

Reading this passage and thinking about the priests taking that first step encourages me because perhaps it can be applied to this question that I have. Perhaps God asks us to trust His promises, which say He will provide for us and bless us and has a hopeful future for us. Perhaps we have to take that first step in faith that He will fulfill His promises, even as the water seems to be rushing very quickly in front of us and we are afraid to step forward because we fear we will be swept away by the current of life. Perhaps as we take that step, when we stop and wait for Him, He sees that our act of stepping forward demonstrates our faith, and He then honors His promise to still the waters and we can see a clear path in front of us.

It's not a perfectly lined up example that fits with my whole job-question. I'm not sure what happens if I take that step, I'm waiting, and then life gets messy and those river waters come rushing back and overwhelm me even though I'm still doing what I believe I should be doing. Perhaps, though, that part isn't my fault. Perhaps even in leaving I can still be acting in faith. Perhaps I'm simply taking another first step into unsure waters--in a different direction this time.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Know The Way

At the Women of Faith conference this weekend, I listened to one of the dynamic speakers share how she liked to get into the text when she was reading her Bible, imagining what it felt like, tasted like, and looked like. As an imaginative person myself, I like the idea of recreating the scene in one's mind and pretending to actually be there when the event is occurring. Today I'm looking at Joshua 3, with a particular focus on verse 4.

Knowing God~His Covenant Leads Me

Moses has just died and God now commands Joshua to prepare to cross the Jordan river and conquer the land of Canaan. They have been camping at Shittim for some time now, and Joshua tells the officers to tell everyone to pack their belongings and prepare to leave Shittim to cross the river in three days. At the same time, he sends off the spies and they return just before everyone is ready to leave, or perhaps they meet the Israelites at the river, since the Israelites had to camp out there for three days as well.

It is now time for the momentous occasion. Doing some brief research online, it appears that while the Jordan river was not so wide, reports vary from 20 feet to 100 feet, this event did occur during harvest season when the river had gone past its banks, so it likely was a rushing river, and not still and calm. I imagine that while the spies would have been able to swim across as able-bodied men, it would not have been possible for the old, the women, the children, and the animals to cross over unless they could be ferried across. As there is no mention of boats appearing miraculously, God commands the people to prepare to cross.

As the officers pass through the camp telling everyone to get ready, they give some pretty specific directions. They tell the people that when they see the ark being carried by the priests, that they should follow the ark so they will know which way to go. I guess in a way it was very similar to what the Israelites had already been doing, which was to follow the cloud during the day and the pillar of fire at night, since they had no idea which way to go in the desert. So God continues to lead them with a very specific clear direction and with something that they can see with their own eyes.

"When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God. . .Follow it, so that you may know the way you should go, for you have not passed this way before."

How can I today recognize God's leading in my life? When His presence goes before me. It was clear that the ark of the covenant represented God. It was a tangible symbol of God's presence to the people, and they were following His promises (covenant) into the land of promise. What a neat picture that paints! When I'm feeling a little lost or confused as to the direction of my life, I can look in my Bible for God's promises. God says, "You won't know which way to go, because this path is completely brand new to you. But I'm sending My covenant before you, to clearly show you the way to go." If I take the comparison even further, the covenant is also a symbolic representation of Jesus Who went ahead of me and is ready to show me which way to go.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Set His Heart On Me

One of my personal quests in life is to know Who God is and how He relates to me. I've recently started going through my compact NIV concordance, looking up texts that are found under "Know" and reading the passages around those texts to get an idea from Scripture of Who God is. My order goes something like this: Verse reference, summary of concept, summary of context, and personal application. Sometimes if there is a confusing section in the verse, I will do a cross-reference to see what that confusing word or phrase means, which can be kind of fun and take me off on a number of "rabbit trails" as my Bible teacher in college used to say!

Today I'm looking at Deuteronomy 7: 9.

Knowing God~He is God; He is faithful

Deuteronomy starts out by Moses recalling the history of the Israelites, from the time of their rebellion in the desert when God decreed that they would wander in the wilderness for 40 years until now. It is almost like a farewell speech, a blessing, and an admonition to obey God, remember how He has been faithful and protected them, and a reminder to keep His laws so they will be blessed in the promised land. Moses is preparing them to carry on without him, and to assume the responsibility of transitioning from slaves to God's chosen people. (Deut. 27:9)

Deuteronomy 7: 1-11 are some really neat verses. My favourite are: "For you are a people holy to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be His people, His treasured possession. It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the LORD set His heart on you and chose you-for you were the fewest of all peoples. It was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath that He swore to your ancestors, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God Who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations, and who repays in their own person those who reject Him." ~Deut. 7:6-10, NRSV

Moses reminds the Israelites that they are God's chosen people, and tells them why He has chosen them, because He loves them and because He made a promise to their ancestors that He would redeem them. After listing God's attributes, Moses says, this is how you can know that your God is God, because He is faithful and loyal to His covenant.

Somehow God keeps His covenant even though the Israelites continued to mess up and rebel. Somehow, like David, He looked at His people and realized they were human, trying their best to do the right thing and yet helpless on their own to be holy. Perhaps He honored their faith as of greater significance than their inability to live perfect lives.

What can I take away from this? How can I recognize and know God in my life? When I see God's faithfulness in my life and when I notice that He is keeping His promises. He has said that I am holy to Him, chosen, a treasured possession, loved, redeemed from slavery, and God has set His heart on me. I like that phrase, "set His heart on you," because it sounds like God has not only made up His mind that He cares about me, but that His heart is fully committed as well. When we have our hearts set on something, we won't rest until that particular thing, whether it be a new car, a boyfriend, or a cute pair of shoes has become ours. We devote all our energy to pursuing it. We choose to invest our time to achieving our goal. And we do it because we want to. Kind of a neat picture about how God cares about us, and all because He wants to.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fires & Things

Okay, I seriously haven't disappeared off the map like some bloggers have. I love blogging! Unfortunately, though, our internet became non-existent until just recently, so I despaired of writing regularly. I suppose I could have uploaded something at work, but I'd rather keep my personal life separate and continue to blog anonymously!

It's summertime and the season of wildfires again. I remember one summer when the fires from Mt. Shasta blanketed quite a large part of California for the entire summer. It wasn't fun to breathe smoke every day! Mid-week last week I was sitting in the living room watching So You Think You Can Dance when I began to smell smoke. At first I thought there was something burning on the stove, but quickly realized that the smokey smell was coming from outside. After going into adrenaline mode, checking online and finding out there was a fire in the area, and watching the local news, I began to sort my things for what I would need to save if there was an evacuation.

When you are faced with the possibility of your house burning down, what would you save? The immediate answer usually includes pictures, pets, wallet, important documents, computer, a change of clothes, family heirlooms, mementos, and if there's room, some food and water. Of course family is a given. I found myself walking through the various rooms of my house and dismissing everything I saw as not valuable enough to save if there was a fire. In the end, I had a small corner in my bedroom where I stacked a file box with my diaries, another box with my essays and poems and letters and other papers I wanted to save, my pictures, my small red NIV Bible, and the stuffed aging cloth bunny my mother sewed for me when I was a year and a half. That was all.

As I pulled open drawers and peered in my closet, I saw cute shoes I'd bought and never worn that I was saving for special occasions, beautiful scrapbook pages still waiting to be put into a book, brand new fun outfits I was going to lose 15 pounds before I could wear, and favourite DVD shows I'd put away to watch on a rainy day. It made me sad that perhaps I would not be able to use the things I had spent my hard-earned money on. It also made me think about the fragileness of things and how quickly they can disappear, vanishing in a moment. That evening I decided that I was going to stop hoarding things for special occasions. Life is difficult enough, so why not enjoy those special gifts now, instead of hiding them away?

I also realized that I would be very sad if the little things that held so many memories for me, were to be destroyed in a fire. The stone dolphin my friends brought back from Mexico because I couldn't go with them. The mini clogs that I watched a man carve from wood, at the cheese market in Holland. The figurine of a little boy and girl sitting on a log, that my student from English 1 class in South Korea handed me at the end of the semester. The miniature tea cups on a beautiful wooden platter that I found in the airport in Taiwan. Holding the things of this life loosely will enable us to leave it easier, one day, but I'm thankful for the memories represented in those special things and I realized that I want to continue creating and gathering memories in the future. Starting with wearing those cute new shoes to work, instead of saving them for a special occasion!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Next to the Woolen Socks

Weary and worried, I looked up, eyes not particularly focused on any one thing, as I sat on the hard wooden bench in the middle of REI, waiting. And then I saw her. She was leaning forward expectantly, her little head tipped sideways, as she waited for me to notice her. The pudgy foot-high cherub with white-blonde hair looked as if she were waiting for an old friend, until I, confused, realized her attention was directed at me. I smiled almost automatically and watched a huge grin stretch across her baby cheeks as she kicked her legs in glee. We exchanged silent laughter until moments later her black plastic chariot rolled around the corner of the North Face winter jackets and she disappeared from sight.

I sat very still as a thought came to mind. Is God like that? Does He stand there, in our direct line of vision, waiting excitedly like a little child for us to notice Him? Are we drifting along through life, weary and worried, not quite seeing as we plod along? Perhaps when our eyes clear a little and we notice Him, we will see a huge welcoming smile spread across His face and hesitantly smile in return. Maybe we'll even share a laugh or two.

Friday, March 30, 2012

In The Green Aisle

I'm not even sure what his name was, though he may have told me. He came to me while I was picking through the green bell peppers. They were 58 cents each, a fairly decent price, and I had just put two red and two yellow bell peppers into a thin plastic bag. Those were slightly more expensive, at 68 cents each, but still much cheaper than the usual 98 cents or more per piece. It was my last stop of a very full and rather frustrating day, and I was racing through the grocery store, throwing the usual fruits and vegetables into my cart as quick as I could so I could check out and head for home. As I tried to find a bell pepper that wasn't soft and bruised, I heard his voice.

"Excuse me, could you spare a couple of dollars?" I looked up, surprised to hear such a plea in a grocery store. I was used to seeing signs on the on-ramps or people sitting by a bus stop or on a street corner, but in a grocery store? He caught me off guard.

"I don't have enough money to buy the groceries I need, I'm on food stamps you see, could you spare a couple of dollars?" I looked at his basket; it held a single large yellow onion.

He was a tall guy, probably six foot three, of a heavy build, and wearing a grungy shirt that used to be white, and khaki pants (I think). His hair was a little messy and while he didn't look to be lacking for meals, he did look down and out. I rummaged in my purse, remembering the couple of dollars I had sitting there, and instead my hand pulled out a twenty dollar bill. I handed it to him.

"Are you sure? Can you spare that much? Oh thank you," he said, and then remarked that I must have a boyfriend. Painfully honest, I shook my head, and he immediately began to tell me that he was a college graduate, a Christian, and that he could teach me to play the guitar. I had already turned back to picking over the bell peppers again, and shook my head, embarrassed, as I replied, "No, thank you."

A young mother reached over my shoulder to grab a vegetable and I could feel her disapproving look. A minute later I heard him feeding the same line to another shopper several feet away near the lettuce. I carried on, bagging vegetables as I moved past the kale and cabbage. Suddenly my brain started to process what I had just done and I hurriedly decided that I should get what I needed and get out of there. I glanced back to see him at the meat counter, and as I went through the check out line, I saw him standing there, loud and obvious, purchasing his items.

In the car on the way home I thought about what I'd just done. I remembered Melissa, my best friend who gave generously to anyone to asked. Her mom had taught her to do that, and so she would fearlessly roll down her window at stop signs and hand twenty dollar bills out to scruffy looking strangers. I thought about all the Judge Judy and Joe Brown court cases I'd seen where loser guys expected codependent women to pay for their every whim and support their lazy habits. I remembered the story I'd heard in church about someone who resolved to put the largest bill they had in their wallet in the offering plate when it came around.

I wondered why I hadn't given the guy the two dollars. I had just quit my job and didn't need to be giving away money like it was spare change. Why hadn't I simply said "no" and turned away? Why hadn't I gone to the store manager and told him that someone was bothering the customers and asking for money? Was it because he caught me off guard and I didn't have time to think about it and figure out what to do? Was it because he seemed like a nice guy and I felt sorry for him? I really wasn't sure.

Then a very soft voice seemed to whisper, "If it had been Me, would you have given Me the money?" Yes! my heart exclaimed. "Then you don't need to worry," came the reply.

I'm not sure what I'll do next time I hear a voice in the green vegetables aisle at my local grocery store. Somehow I think I'll be making a more rational decision, a more logical one, than I did that day. After all, a guy really shouldn't be asking a girl for money. I need to learn to exercise sound judgment and not act on a whim, which I am wont to do. Yet somehow, I think it was okay. Maybe because, for that moment, I could act from a generous heart, and give. And that felt right.

Searching for Home

So it's that time again. Friday evening, about 9:30 pm, when I go online, praying the internet works tolerably well enough to let me access church bulletins before the campus gets out of vespers and streams Doug Batchelor sermons till midnight. I search the web, pulling up the usual standbys, throwing out random facts as pages download. "Pastor ______ is going to be here, and the choir is singing there," or "Maybe we should go there instead, they're having an international potluck." We spend the next twenty minutes debating the merits of driving 50 minutes to hear a great sermon or staying closer to home and taking our chances with the unknown speaker.

And then the frustration begins to build. It's very typical of a Friday night for me. It shouldn't be, but that's reality. I don't want to go to church. So I've said it and now you can all fall over in shock, write me off the books, shun me for life. Or maybe, you're silently cheering because you understand.

I remember going to church as a young child, as a teenager, and my memories are much happier ones. I was involved, serving, needed and loved. Church was a looked-forward to part of my week. What went wrong?

Coming to the States, it was a culture shock at first and I quickly realized that integrating into a church wasn't as easy as it was when we were the favored ones, as the children of the foreign administrator, or when we attended church with three other international families, creating instant connections where in another time and setting there may have been none. It wasn't like attending church with our extended family, where we occupied half the church from the littlest cousin to my elderly grandmother. In the States there were cliques, just like in grade school, and if you hadn't grown up in the church, it wasn't going to be easy to "get in."

The first few years were quite dark, emotionally. I found myself empty, unable to give, and searching desperately for some way to be filled spiritually.

I won't say I didn't try, though. I went through the motions, joined small groups and ministries, smiled at strangers, played the piano, and told a children's story. But a few weeks into each attempt, I realized that, yet again, the homeless ministry had enough helpers, the pianists were more accomplished than I, the young adult group was composed of couples and families with small children, and while everyone meant well, nobody understood. I felt alone and unnecessary.

So I returned to sleeping in Sabbath mornings, arriving at church just in time to miss the lengthy uninteresting announcements but in time to put my tithes in the offering plate and listen to the special music. After church, I left as quickly as I could, as I had tired of standing in the lobby, smiling painfully at people as they made small talk and then carried on.

What is missing, then? I think I know, but I'm not sure how to remedy it. I am finding that in the States, you have to keep going regularly to one church to even reach the point that you feel comfortable there, like going to your favorite grocery store. Regular attendance won't guarantee community connection, though. It just means that people know who you are and don't ask you to sign the guestbook when you've been attending six months (albeit sporadically).

Ministry is another important way to feel a part of the church community. Unfortunately, I have said no too many times when a zealous nominating committee member called me up and asked me to help out. Now I find myself wanting to help, but not exactly sure how or where to start. I'm not sure I'm needed, and that is the saddest part of it all.

Connecting with others on a deeper level is also a very necessary part. Finding friends with whom you can share your realistic struggles, knowing someone is praying for you, being able to dialogue about spiritual things, or just sharing a meal together. My peer group has almost disappeared from the church, making it harder to establish those connections with people who are from the same generation.

I do need to add a disclaimer here (in case anyone from the church I attend is reading this!). While I struggle with a feeling of disconnect, I appreciate how the church embraces people who are living through difficult times. I have seen them support, love, and open their hearts to the hurting and for that I am grateful. Perhaps it is easier to recognize the pain when it is death, illness, or a lost job. There are individuals in that church who genuinely care about others and who I feel blessed to know.

Thankfully I've found a church to attend tomorrow, so, for another week I can breathe easy. It doesn't seem right, though.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rush Rush

I realize it's been a while, but the slower-than-dial-up internet has been mostly to blame for my inability to get online and memorialize the words that are going through my head at that particular time.

Life continues, though. In the midst of what we perceive as the world crashing down around us, while we try our best to hold it together with wearying arms, the sun still lights up the sky with painfully-beautiful purples and oranges, the crickets chirp in the too-early-spring, and the daffodils nod vigorously in the cooling breeze.

I've been spending far too much time worrying and rushing. I'm not exactly sure, except that I do know some of the things had deadlines and it was all too easy to fill up my tiny planner with more tasks than deemed necessary. Being a bit of a compulsive organizer, I mapped out all the steps of things that needed to get done, but then found myself staring blankly after it was all accomplished, wondering why I had been so eager to be so efficient. I now have an empty planner, after two very busy weeks, and am waiting. Kind of funny, isn't it?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fear Vs. Faith

I started reading a really neat book this morning, "How to Relate to Impossible People," by Dick Purnell, and it's one of those 31-day experiment books that is combination Bible study and journal type of book. Each day it has a passage that you read, 3 questions about the reading, a place to write your need for the day, a suggestion for putting what you've read into action, and a closing thought with some additional verses. The half-page sized book has two pages for each day, so it's quick and easy, yet quite thought-provoking. I would like to go through it pretty regularly, and have decided I will blog about what I'm learning in order to solidify it in my mind. I will be using the NIV, with comparison with the NASB.

Numbers 13:26 - 14:9

It's the classic story of the twelve spies who went over to Canaan to see the lay of the land. When they returned, everyone got together to hear their report. They started out by saying that Canaan was a pretty neat place, with an abundance of good things, and they even brought back some fruit for everyone to see. Unfortunately, ten out of the twelve said that even though it was a good land, it was overshadowed by the giants who were everywhere. Those ten began to spread discontentment among the Israelites by saying that it wasn't possible to conquer the giants.

Well it didn't take long before the crowd started to mumble and complain, as we are all to wont to do when faced with challenges. They got angry and said that death in the wilderness or even in Egypt would have been preferable to the unknown they now faced. (People who are depressed can also reach a point where they would prefer death to trusting God for the unknown.) The Israelites preferred to return to known slavery than to step out in faith and face the giants.

Amidst the angry crowds' voices, Joshua and Caleb spoke up and commandeered their attention. They said, "The land is good, we should have faith and follow God, and He will give it to us." I think perhaps Joshua and Caleb remembered how God had been leading them, the miracles He had performed, and how He had helped them defeat their enemies so far. These brave men were in Canaan, they saw the giants, but they saw them in the perspective of, "God will give us victory; He is leading." They recognized the challenges, but they put them in their place by recognizing that those challenges were God's responsibility.

An interesting sidenote is that the NASB says in Numbers 14:9 that the people of the land, the giants and those were not following God, had lost their protection. The literal word for protection, however, is "shadow." I thought that was interesting because it reminds me of when the Egyptians came after the Israelites and were about to capture them at the Red Sea but then God's cloud came between them, a shadow of protection. It also reminds of me how God led them, again as a shadow over them during the day.

What am I taking away from this? I want to be like Joshua and Caleb and learn to trust God and have faith in Him instead of allowing my fears to dominate my life. Being a single woman, life has its own unique challenges and I often get terrified of living alone in this world. The internet and TV have scores of horror stories of horrible things that happen to people and it's easy to get caught up in the fear that that could happen to me. It's also easy to worry about where I should live and work and how to figure it all out. I want to take ahold of faith, recognize that God is leading, stop worrying about my future, and go forward and let Him fight my battles.