Thursday, October 27, 2005


I'm officially on the road to becoming a paid writer! I have a friend here at church who writes for a local publication called WInc [Women Incorporated]--it's a publication put out by the Quad City Times, a local newspaper, and is distributed throughout the Quad City area. She encouraged me to call them because they are always looking for new free-lance writers, and yesterday I was offered the chance to write a feature article for them! It definintely isn't my life's dream or my goal to write for magazines or for newspapers, but I do enjoy writing, and I am excited for the experience, for the chance to grow as a writer, and to make a little cash on the side :). If all goes well, I'll be in the January issue - I'll let you know where to find it online when I know it's printed for sure. Cheers!

PS: Mark and I have been married for 5 months as of today! Crazy!

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Two Sides of the Creation Narrative

This was something that I wrote last winter. It is a "manuscript" of a message that I spoke at the church I was involved in. It's pretty readable [it's written out word-for-word], but at times it is written as if a person is talking. Our senior pastor is currently preaching a series on the Names of God, and some of what he said this past week reminded me a bit of what I wrote here...

Genesis 2:4-25

Last time we met, we talked about Genesis 1. It was with the phrase, “In the beginning, God” that God established Himself as the God—the God who created everything. Genesis 1 gives us this cosmic overview…the “genealogy”, if you will, of the creation of the heavens and the earth. In the Genesis 1 account of creation, we see this tiered system, with human beings at its climax—the culmination of all His work. He even says at the end of Day 6 that what He did was “very good”, not just “good.” It paints a picture of a strong, powerful, creative God.

The name used there is Elohim –it’s this word that means “the plural of Majesty” or “the plural of Intensity.” If intensity isn’t enough, here we see that God is multiple intensities all wrapped up into One. If the only account of creation we had was Genesis 1, I believe our picture of God would be off. But the Bible is not only an account of God’s interaction with man, but also the unfolding story of God revealing Himself—His character—to man. Throughout Scripture, God reveals Himself by His names: I AM, Your Provider, Your Peace, Your Healer…and we enter Genesis 2, and the story zooms in on day 6 of Creation. God has just finished creating the heavens and the earth, and He rested. In Genesis 2, the name used to describe God changes a bit. He begins to give us a little bit more of who He is. The name used here is Yahweh or Jehovah Elohim: LORD God. This name means something more than just “the God of Power”, but comes to mean, “the God of Power and Perfection.” He’s a finishing God…a God who seeks to complete His work, and He does that with the creation of man. Ultimately, I believe that Genesis 1 and 2 are put together in order to show us, not only God’s power and strength, but also reveal to us His tenderness and love.

We’re going to first read Genesis 1:26-30, and then move into Genesis 2:5-25. First, I want to point out that God was having a blast during this work of Creation. I picture Him so full of joy at what He’s doing...“light!” “land!” for the first five days, and then it’s like He had this revelation on day 6: “We should make man in our image, reflecting our nature!” Now, to me, that doesn’t seem quite as spontaneous as the first five days…you can already tell that there’s something special going on here. Gen 2 says that God formed man-he didn’t just speak him into existence as He had the rest of creation. The word in Hebrew is the word Yasar, which means “to mold something to a desired shape.” It is the same word used later in the Bible to describe a Potter at work. Right now, I want everyone to close their eyes. You’re now all in Kindergarten, and you’ve all been given a lump of clay to work with, and you’re told to make something—whatever you want, and at the end of the day it’s going to be put in the Kiln to be fired. Now, as a kindergartener, you’re going to put your heart and soul into that work of art…you are going to form whatever you desired to make with the utmost care, and when you’re done, you are so proud of what you’ve done! You want to show it off, and you even carve your name on the bottom to show that it is your work. It is way more special to you than anything you could have bought because you invested part of yourself into it. This is the same idea here. God formed man—yasar—out of the dust of the earth, and breathed the breath of life, His breath, into man, and then man became a living soul. God has got to be looking at this man that He created, this man that reflects His image and His nature, this man that has His signature, part of Him in him, this man that God took the time to form so carefully, with so much more love than we can ever begin to understand. He is just delighted in Adam!

God is so delighted, in fact, that He goes as far as to create a literal paradise for Adam to live in. The text says that He planted a garden in Eden….He could have just spoken one into existence if He had wanted to, but it says He planted a garden. Have any of you ever planted a garden? It’s a lot of work! You have to invest so much time and loving care into it. If you don’t tend it, it dies. Why do you think that people buy plants before they have kids?! If you can keep the plant alive…you’re ready for kids…it takes a lot of work. So God plants this garden in Eden [which means something like, “pleasantness” or “enjoyment”], and Adam got hooked up. If you really look at what the text says, Adam had it made. Not only was he living in perfect relationship to His Creator, but God planted trees that were beautiful to look at and good to eat, there’s a massive river winding through it. He could have just plopped Adam down anywhere on the earth He had just created, but instead, He took the time to create a little haven for Adam to tend.

I know that most of us initially think of work, and wonder how loving that really is. God takes all that time and care to create this man and this gorgeous garden, and then makes him work? But think about it…it gave Adam purpose. I believe that this is one of the most loving things God could have done for Adam. If we really take an honest look at what it would have been like to live without purpose, I have little doubt that you would agree that you need something to focus on…to invest in…it gives you metal, emotional, physical, and spiritual stability as well as brings balance to all these dynamics. My roommate and I have both had experiences that relate to this in the last few months. We each had about a month, respectively, where we really had no purpose, nothing to invest ourselves in, way too much free time. Coming out of college life, where you have more to do than you sometimes want, this was somewhat shocking, and almost freeing at first. But after a week or so, we were ready for something meaningful. It had us emotionally and mentally wacked out, as well as spiritually off balance. God created us with a need for purpose.

It’s at this point that God does two really crucial things…the first is that He gives Adam some parameters. Normally we tend to focus on the negative….God saying, “Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” But really, the restrictions God gives Adam are very narrow compared with the breadth of His permissiveness. He tells Adam He can eat from any tree…even the Tree of Life…any tree, except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. All of a sudden, Adam is left with a choice. His love is now voluntary. He knows God’s love…He knows he’s adored and cherished and delighted in. He can either choose to listen to this God who is Ultimate Reality…this God that just IS---“In the beginning, God”—or He can do what he knows will bring consequence and death, and risk losing this perfect love relationship He lives in daily. I truly believe that God’s desire to have us love Him and His willingness to risk that love is a beautiful thing. It’s a hard reality because throughout history, humans have struggled to choose God; the Bible speaks time and again of God’s deep ache because His people prostitute themselves, always choosing other gods; but it’s beautiful, because when it happens, when we do choose God, there is a union there that is beyond comprehension for those who refuse His love. He wants us to learn wisdom, but it’s a wisdom that is tied to our relationship with Him.

The second thing is that, for the first time, God isn’t pleased. He looks at Adam tending the garden alone, and says it isn’t good! It’s the first time in all of the creation accounts that God says something isn’t good. He decides to make Adam a helper/companion. Some other translations render the word, “helper meet [suitable, adapted, completing]”, “a companion…a helper suitable to his needs”, “a helper correspondent to himself.” There is a lot of controversy surrounding this word, but ultimately, the meaning is the same. We are always hearing about how, because woman was described as a helper for Adam, that it is a demeaning term…that it gives her less value, when that isn’t the case at all. Really, the only other times the word is used in Scripture, it is used to describe God coming to the aid of His people. It’s a word that signifies strength and love.

It’s interesting, because I think we always think that God creates Eve right at this point, but instead, God does something that is really cool. He makes Adam wait! Instead of bringing Eve to Adam right away…He forms all the animals and birds and brings them to Adam to name. It’s important to note that the animals were formed from the dust of the ground as well, yet the sole difference lies in God’s signature…His breath of life and His image that is stamped on humanity. It is projected that there are between 5 million and 30 million species that exist on the planet. Even if Adam named one of those per minute consistently, it would have taken him a minimum of 9.7 years and a maximum of 57 years! That’s a long time to wait! I believe that brings hope to anyone here who’s single and feels like they’ve been waiting on God for “the one.” Remember that in Gen 1, God says he wants to create “them” in His image…male and female…He knew from the beginning He was going to create both man and woman, but I think that God wanted Adam to be able to see and understand for himself that He was created for someone specific…that the companion God had for him was perfectly matched for him, and that there was nothing else out there quite like Him. I think it might have been a bit discouraging to get to the end of a seemingly huge task like that, hoping that each new species that is brought before you might be “the one”, yet in the end, to still be alone. You know, we sing all these songs about how God is “enough” and “all we need”, and it’s not true! It really isn’t. Even when man was living in perfect relationship with God, he still needed a companion that was on the same mental, emotional, and spiritual level as he was. Think about it…he had just finished naming the animals…and God had given him dominion over them….in the pecking order, they were below him. On the other hand, God is Ultimate Reality….Jehovah Elohim…the Fullness of Deity…and He is beyond even Adam’s full comprehension. He had to have felt alone.

So Adam has named the animals, and God puts him into a deep sleep....He removes a part of Adam…and forms woman out of the rib and the dust of the ground. He puts the same loving, tender, intimate care into forming woman as He did man…there’s a question as to whether or not Adam was conscious of what was going on….wouldn’t it be cool to think that, even though Adam couldn’t feel what God was doing, he could see God form this companion of His? Then God does the same thing He’s been doing…he brings Eve before Adam to name her. Adams reaction is usually translated, “this is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” How boring does that sound? But I think his reaction was more like how the Message paraphrases it: “Finally!” or it might be read, “At last! Someone I can connect with! Someone else formed in God’s image! The part of me that was missing has now been restored!” He recognizes that Eve is a perfect match…He sees a part of himself in her…she is the same, yet different, and he names her woman.

Now, there is so much more that I could say on the topic of marriage…that’s a whole sermon in and of itself. But what I want us to recognize is that this isn’t just a passage about God creating man and instituting marriage. There is something even more critical and deep here to see…and if we miss it, I think we miss the point of the rest of this Story we find ourselves in. Genesis 1 and 2 are two very different accounts of the same story…and I believe that they were written very intentionally that way. God…the God who IS…the Creator God, the Strong God, the All-Powerful God who can speak something into existence, ex nihilio [out of nothing], is the same God who formed you…who loves you, who delights in you and delights in giving you good things within a context of relationship with Him, and we miss it…we refuse it…and we throw it back in His face, time and again. We will not, and cannot, live lives in the fullness of relationship with God unless we are willing to choose Him. And I believe that until we are willing, we will never fully live.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Ahh Yes...Gus's Koffee Break. My friend Kate and I frequent this place on Monday mornings at 7am (when I say frequent, I mean we've been there twice). But apparently, going only twice is enough to make us "regulars." The last time we went, our waiter, Nick, came up to us and said (before we even spoke), "two coffees? Do you take sugar? I can't remember." You have to love dining in places that are pretty much only frequented by old men ;). Especially when they spell coffee with a "k" and when their window says, "we sold a $1,000,000 instand winner!" Probably the biggest plus is that you get a great breakfast for only $2.49. Ahh, gotta love living downtown :).  Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 03, 2005


I was reading Exodus 12 the other day, which is about the first Jewish Passover…when Yahweh sends the final plague in a succession of ten that are in response to Pharaoh’s hardened heart. Moses is continually begging Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt to go and worship Yahweh in the wilderness, but Pharaoh continually refuses, not wanting to lose the Israelites as slave labor. Exodus 12 lays out the commands given by Yahweh to Moses and Aaron in preparation for their coming deliverance from slavery. Yahweh first tells each family to choose a lamb for sacrifice; then, He says, “If a family is too small to eat an entire lamb, let them share the lamb with another family in the neighborhood. Whether or not they share in this way depends on the size of each family and how much they can eat” (v4). I was struck by this simple command—not because of the specificity of it or even because of the communal aspect of it. I was struck by Yahweh’s heart that valued meeting peoples’ needs, but not giving them so much that they became greedy. He gave them just enough, and if there was going to be too much, they had to share with their neighbors. The same idea is modeled in Exodus 16, when Yahweh provides manna and quail for the Israelites when they are wandering in the desert and starving. Vv. 17 and 18 say this: “So the people of Israel went out and gathered this food—some getting more, and some getting less. By gathering two quarts for each person, everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed.” Even more than in Ex 12, we begin to see Yahweh’s provision for His people. They were commanded to pick up twice as much on the 6th day, so that they would have enough to sustain them through the Sabbath. I see a beautiful picture of Yahweh’s desire to see His people depend on Him for provision…Jehovah-Jireh…I am the Lord your Provider…they weren’t allowed to horde food for fear of starvation—although there’s no doubt that it was a huge temptation—and Yahweh’s response to that was clear: “But of course, some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. By then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell” (Ex. 15:20). Greed wasn’t even an option. He wouldn’t allow it. If greed won out and they gathered more than they needed, it became inedible. The only option was to trust and depend that food would be there in the morning when they woke up—that their basic needs for survival would be met anew each morning.
It’s a beautiful message, and a principle that is not as easy to live out in the here and now—in a culture that lives day-in and day-out in abundance. We are a nation whose poor would be filthy rich if picked up and placed in another culture. Yet there’s a constant, underlying cry for “more.” It seems that no matter how much we have, it’s never enough. We confuse our wants with our needs, and because we have the money, we so often choose to appease that inner cry, which only imbeds it deeper in our bones.
How do we, as the people of God, live our lives in such a way that our possessions and our food are held loosely? What if we gave more than we kept? How do we allow our abundance to reach beyond our homes and lives in order to provide for and bless others? How will our lives—as followers of Christ—challenge the lives of those around us as forces of good in the world? Will we be people who are willing to depend on God to provide for our basic needs, while living at a standard that is lower than we can afford, in order to give more?
As I continue to read and study the Old Testament, I am continually challenged by the principles I see beyond the commands. It’s amazing how the Creator God can see to the depth of humanity’s soul, and knows what is good for us, and what is wholly dangerous for us—and He provides accordingly. Jehovah-Jireh—I am the Lord your Provider…