Those Who Watch – Attention

Prayer in the NIght – Chapter 4

The second category of those who pray are those who watch, who give attention to the world around them.

Sometimes life smacks us in the face, resulting in weeping. And sometimes we observe life, the nuances, the dangers, the solutions. We give it our attention.

And we give God our attention. What was his intent? When will the world be reordered according to the perfect will of God? What are the signs?

This all takes time. While weeping is spontaneous in the moment, attention is spread out, enduring, focused.

Tish writes, “Christians believe this cosmic reordering has already begun in the resurrection of Christ. Jesus’ resurrection is the sole evidence that love triumphs over death, that beauty outlives horror, that the meek will inherit the earth, that those who mourn will be comforted. The reason I continue watching and waiting, even as the world is shrouded in darkness, is because the things I long for are not rooted in wishful thinking or religious ritual but are as solid as a stone rolled away.” (page 57)

Don’t you love that? The cosmic reordering has begun. Jesus sacrificed his life so that all could be redeemed. No more weeds, pain in childbirth, sin or death. Why? 

Because a stone was rolled away.

Our task is to watch for the Lord. What is he saying or doing in our midst? How does he want us to give hope to others? How does he want to heal?  How does he want to give us light in the midst of darkness?

Do you see the light?

Are you watching? 

PS – Tish Harrison Warren says it so much better in her book, Prayer in the Night! Read it for yourself!

Those Who Weep – Lament

Prayer in the Night – Chapter 3

Chapter 3 begins the second part of the book entitled: “The Way of the Vulnerable.” We look at those who are praying this prayer. But instead of taking the three categories in the order they are prayed, she switches them up as she explains in the book (see – I’m not going to tell you – you need to get the book!).

Why is it important to be able to weep?

Only when we weep, when we see the inescapable reality of the grief before us. Only then can we move beyond ourselves, our own strengths, and desire salvation. 

That kind of grief is known throughout scripture. Generation after generation have turned to God, wept and torn their clothes. At one point, Tish writes, “The church’s prophetic witness to an outraged culture is to be a people who know how to weep together at the pain and injustice in the world (both past and present) and at the reality of our own sin and brokenness.” (page 44)

But his kind of grief doesn’t fit with man’s expectation of God. We think God should not allow it. As she put it, it’s almost like “we wait for God to convince us that he is a useful accessory in our own project of self-creation. In this way, so very subtly, we approach God not in honest lament but as unhappy customers. God isn’t giving us what we want, he isn’t taking away the pain of this world, and frankly he’s so terribly slow.  We are not pleased with the job God is doing, and the customer is always right.” (49)

“Unhappy customers,” grumbling at management because the world isn’t working the way we want it to. What a mess! We’re still trying to control our circumstances, trying to control God. 

Only when we allow ourselves to weep do we begin to know who we are and who God is. 

It’s all about relationship.

PS – Please buy the book by Tish Harrison Warren, Prayer in the Night! So many gems – I couldn’t include them all!

Keep Watch, Dear Lord – Pain & Presence

Prayer in the Night – Chapter 2

The first line of the Compline reads, “Keep watch, dear Lord…” and highlights not that we want the Lord to see us, although we do, but the importance of who we are praying to…

For many, there is no “dear Lord.” They have turned away from God or embraced the absence of God. It’s not always because of empirical facts, but because they cannot bring together who they feel God is supposed to be with the realities of sin and suffering in this world. 

It’s easier to believe there is no God than to be disappointed with suffering.

But while God doesn’t take away our vulnerability to suffering, he has promised to be with us through it, through the dark hours of the night. 

Tish quoted Spufford and wrote, “we don’t ask for a Creator who can explain himself. We ask for a friend in time of grief, a true judge in times of perplexity, a wider hope than we can imagine in a time of despair.” 

I love this quote. In our hearts, we can’t understand why the world is the way it is. The Creator cannot explain to us in a way our limited minds can be satisfied why we are no longer living in the Garden of Eden. But it is obviously true that we, and this world, are broken.

And even when life is dark and I’m afraid, he gives me hope.

PS – The book by Tish Harrison Warren, Prayer in the Night, available on Amazon.

Finding Compline – Nightfall

Prayer in the Night – Chapter 1

The prayer begins with a time and place. It’s nightfall, but not like the nightfall you and I get excited for when work is over and nightlife begins. This is the nightfall of ages past, when the night was a fearful time, not being able to see dangers, evil stalking where it’s so dark, you can’t even see shadows. No lightbulb to turn on when things get scary…you have to pray through the scary…

We all feel more vulnerable at night. During the day, things are under our control, or at least we try to put them under our control. But at night, it’s harder. Tish makes the point, “each of us begins to feel vulnerable if the darkness is too deep or lasts too long.” (page 14)

She explains, “The term vulnerable comes from the Latin word meaning “to wound.” We are wound-able.” (page 15) During the day, we may have come to blows, but we have had counterblows we landed, or defenses to build, making us feel protected. But in the darkness of night, it’s easy to lose perspective, to not see our strengths but only feel our weakness.

It’s in those moments, the dark ones, we pray this prayer. We don’t need it at daybreak or even in the hot sun of noon. It’s when we are vulnerable, it’s too dark and we don’t know how much longer we will have to go through this that we call on God. 

God is not only the God of the day who leads us through activities.

He’s the God of the night.

PS – Please buy the book by Tish Harrison Warren, Prayer in the Night! There is SO MUCH MORE!

Read with me…Prayer in the Night

Have you ever read a really good book and you want to share it with others?

I was just introduced to Tish Harrison Warren’s book, Prayer in the Night. I bought it almost immediately from Amazon, hoping the momentum would not leave me before receiving it. My shelves are lined with books I once wanted to read, but momentum passed…

Since Amazon delivered it “Prime,” I didn’t have much of an excuse. So, I cracked it open the evening I received it and entered into a whole, new world.

It wasn’t like reading The Hobbit and entering a fantasy world, but it was almost as different. As an evangelical, I haven’t “read” prayers and was guilty of much of the prejudice she talked about in her Prologue (yes, I read prologues…). She’s an Anglican priest. I pray when I feel like it while she prays the prayers of the “Hours.” 

But her story in the Prologue gripped me – we both pray when we are desperate, completely vulnerable to the world and dangers in it.

As she said, “I needed this moment of crisis to find its place in something greater: the prayers of the church, yes, but more, the vast mystery of God, the surety of God’s power, the reassurance of God’s goodness.”

That thought captivated me – having a crisis find its place in “the vast mystery of God, the surety of God’s power, the reassurance of God’s goodness.”

And I couldn’t wait to read more…

PS – Please buy the book by Tish Harrison Warren, Prayer in the Night! I’ll be writing about my impressions, chapter by chapter, but there is SO MUCH MORE!

Whew! Genesis Wrap-Up

Thank you so much for joining me on the adventure of Genesis. It’s been a long journey and I’m glad we are done, yet sad we are done.

I’ve learned so much during the time and hope you have also. I’d love to hear what you have learned if you would like to leave a comment or email me.

What’s next? 

I don’t really know! I’m waiting on the Lord. Exodus feels good, like the next in the “sequel,” but like Jacob, I want to stop in the midst of my feelings, worship God and make sure it’s where he wants to go.

So, stay tuned. While doing Genesis, I got behind in several other things, including revamping our website. It’s so old, it needs to catch up with the rest of our lives. But I’ll let you know when things change so that we can continue to grow together…

Into new beginnings!

The End of an Era – Chapter 49-50

The end of an era, a lifetime, invites reflection.

Genesis 49-50 is the end of Jacob’s life. As he reflects over each son, he thinks about their lives and what would be appropriate to say. Sometimes it’s uplifting and sometimes it’s shocking.

Again, I cannot help but imagine the boys surrounding their father’s bed, eager to hear of wealth and fame. Instead, one was called “unstable,” another a “donkey,” another a “serpent,” another a “wolf” and two were “cursed” rather than blessed. One son never received land in the “promised land while the linage of Jacob to Jesus would go through Judah, the fourth son. And Joseph got a double inheritance since both of his sons were considered Jacob’s sons, despite their Egyptian heritage. The list goes on…

Not at all what the boys were expecting.

And then Jacob died. His family and Egypt mourned him for a length of time fitting a Pharoah. Then there was another grand parade back to Canaan to fulfill Jacob’s request to be buried in Canaan.

Then they all came back to Egypt to their homes, the brothers herding sheep and Joseph ruling. The brothers become nervous. What if Joseph only forgave them because his father was alive? 

So they sent a message to see if Joseph was going to take revenge. It may have also been tempting for Joseph to take revenge as the years went by, but he held firm to his relationship with God and continued to forgive. Then Joseph died, putting a seal on the end of this era.

What do I take away from these chapters?

First, what we do during our lives is remembered by others. Jacob (his earthly name) knew the character of each of his sons. It came out in his final words to them and was fulfilled throughout history of earthly nation of Israel.

Second, God’s forgiveness is eternal, going beyond history. Joseph forgave his brothers, continued to forgive his brothers. and never went back on his word. And even when the nation of Israel turned away from God, he never turned his back on them, giving them opportunity after opportunity to return to his love and blessing.

And it’s true for us – our character is built on the sum of our actions just as our actions come out of our character. That’s how people will remember us.

And it’s true for God – his forgiveness does not dissolve with circumstances. What he forgives, stays forgiven. Even when we sin, he gives us opportunity to confess and enjoy a personal relationship with him…

The relationship is what he desired when he created us, “In the beginning…”     

Peace Genesis 47-48

But God wanted Jacob around a little longer, so he didn’t die after embracing Joseph. Instead, he settled in the land of Goshen. 

Once there, Jacob first experienced God keeping his nation separate from Egyptians. Egyptians despised shepherds, so voluntarily they wouldn’t have anything to do with them.

Second, Jacob experienced meeting Pharaoh himself. Again, can you picture the encounter? Joseph himself brought Jacob to Pharoah, maybe in his fancy chariot or a parade into the city? Can you imagine Jacob’s eyes as he beheld great monuments being built? Huge storehouses of food? The wealth of the Pharaohs?

And Jacob was Joseph’s father. Earlier we heard Pharaoh saw Joseph was a father-figure, so this was like meeting a long-lost grandfather to him, a piece of who Joseph was.

The first question from Pharoah was about how old Jacob was. Jacob humbly responded, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.”

Jacob knew what he was not. He was not a saint and fell sort of his ancestors. And he wasn’t afraid to admit it.

And then Jacob, after all the grandeur or Egypt he had seen, went on to bless Pharaoh. Can you imagine it? The wandering shepherd blessing the Pharaoh? I would think it came out of gratitude for all Pharoah had done for Joseph, and some out of protocol for all Pharoah had given his family, but I also believe God gave him the freedom to bless Pharaoh for believing Joseph about the interpretation of the dream and providing for not only Egypt but surrounding nations. Pharoah had also recognized God’s power in Joseph.

God does bless unbelieving nations, I believe, to bring them to himself. Blessings also reveal sin. It was also part of the “promise” to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that their nation would bless other nations.

Third, by living longer, Jacob was able to bless Joseph and his children. In Chapter 47, we see the precious scene of Joseph with his boys and his ailing father. Thinking Jacob was making a mistake in the placement of hands, he corrected him, but Joseph should have known there are no mistakes in God’s economy.

What God does, God means to do.

So in the midst of famine, Jacob and his family experienced peace. Joseph continued to be successful on Pharaoh’s behalf, bringing the Egyptian people and their land under Pharaoh’s domain. 

But Israel, the first time they are called by their national name, “Settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly.

The Problem – Genesis 46

Jacob was overjoyed with the news of Joseph still being alive, his sons returning not only food but the offer of the “best of Egypt” from the Pharoah.

One problem…

The “promised land” was Canaan, not Egypt. Jacob feared if he moved to Egypt, his family might never inherit the land. Could he take the risk for generations to come, the promise from his grandfather’s, father’s and his God? What if his children adopted Egyptian gods? Would it be his failure as a father?

So, he stopped and talked with God.

First, he worshipped God. I wonder what it was like – Jacob praising God for saving Joseph’s life, protecting him, lifting him up? God had provided food, even wagons for his grandchildren. It was more than he could imagine as he presented himself before God, acknowledging the God of his fathers as his God.

Secondly, God acknowledged Jacob’s sacrifice by calling him by name. Think about it, God knew Jacob’s name. And he didn’t call him Israel, the name given to him years before by God. He knew Jacob’s name when he was a sinner, needing God’s grace.

Thirdly, Jacob responded when he heard his name, “Here I am.” He made himself available to God in that very moment. He had no idea what God was going to ask or say. After all, it had been a while since he had heard from God. Maybe God would say, “Turn around. Forget Joseph. I don’t want you to go.”

But Jacob still said, “Here I am.” And God assured him his fears would not come true. In fact, it would be the opposite.

First, God affirmed who he was, God Almighty, the God who provided and forgave Jacob’s grandfather, and father, as well as Jacob.

Second, he acknowledged Jacob’s fear, “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation.” God knows when we are afraid, especially when making life changing decisions.  We don’t even need to tell him, although it is good to get emotions out in the open. Jacob didn’t have the ability to mess up God’s plan, because God keeps his promises.

Third, God promised his presence, “I myself will go down with you to Egypt.” God goes with us wherever we go. I remind myself of that fact every time we’ve faced a move, surgery, a new challenge, or even when I get up in the morning.

God himself goes with me.  

And fourth, God give us a vision and hope, “And I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” Can you imagine the emotional impact of those words on an old man’s heart? His nation would someday live in Canaan again. His beloved Joseph would close his eyes.

I can’t help but think of my own walk with God. I need to stop…stop going in the direction of my heart, and connect with my God. There are times when I need to simply worship him, to hear him call my name. And I want to present myself with a simple, “Here I am.”  

I want to see him as God Almighty, able and willing. I want to fall to my knees when he acknowledges my fears only he knows. I want to embrace his presence in my life. And I want to be comforted by his vision for my life and let hope surge through my veins.

And then, like Jacob, I can “set out” for whatever God has before me.

Redemption – Genesis 45

So there Joseph and his brothers are, standing there, weeping, repenting, forgiving.

But what God wanted to do wasn’t finished.

God didn’t allow Joseph’s brother to sell him into slavery, serve in Potiphar’s house, be betrayed by Potiphar’s wife, serve in prison, be betrayed again, be remembered and raised to a high position just to forgive his brothers.

No, it was to save a nation, a people God had called to himself. And what a salvation it was! 

Can you imagine the scene? Jacob is sitting in his tent, wondering if his sons would ever return. He’d heard about the Egyptian named Zaphenath-paneah who had talked so harshly to his sons, throwing them into jail, keeping one son even now, while demanding his last son, Benjamin, also come to Egypt. He had lost so much, and if he lost the rest of his sons, the vision from God passed through generations would never come true. Jacob may have regretted giving in to Judah and lettering Benjamin go.

Jacob, who had twelve sons, might die a failure, without any sons.

And then the news…a cloud of dust on the horizon. Egyptian camels and wagons heading towards him. He squints against the sun. Were his sons with them, or was Egypt coming to collect the little food and wealth Jacob had not sent with his boys. Was this the end? Was he a failure?

And then to find out, it was just the beginning…

Eleven sons returned, telling him the twelfth son was still alive – the son he had mourned for years, whom he had no hope to return. Not only was Joseph alive, but he was the dreaded “Zaphenath-paneah,” second only to Pharoah in all of Egypt. Pharoah himself had sent the wagons, to reunite the family.  And in the midst of a famine, Pharoah had promised, “Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.

Take it all in, Jacob…

And no wonder Jacob’s “heart was numb.”  I’m surprised he didn’t die on the stop! As he looked and listened, he started to believe. And then, without hesitation he said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”

There have been times, in my despair, I’ve seen a cloud of dust over the horizon, not knowing if it would be more bad news. And even when it’s good news, like salvation through Jesus, it’s hard to take it all in…  

But if we take it in, the good news of salvation, it opens a whole new world!