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What it’s like to be Under God’s Hand

I just wanted to share my week with you. It has been amazing! I now know what it is like to feel protected under God’s hand. I know I am, I feel it at times, but this was dramatic.

My pastor’s wife wanted to have a tea for the church ladies and asked if I would have it at my house and if I would speak for it. I love doing both, so of course I said yes. That was months ago and we have had great amounts of rain this year and the grass and flowers are beautiful!

But the reason I feel so protected and loved is this: the weather forecast for this week was horrendous for a flower garden! Our valley is normally the first to get wind and heat in our area. When I heard the forecast I gasped, and then I said “God, the dark side is trying to scare me, I’m just going to laugh at them, and trust You.” We were supposed to have hot weather on Sunday and Monday (90), and wind gusting up to 70 mph on Tuesday. Then it was supposed to cool way down and rain on Sunday (today) and only get up to 70.

My friend asked if I’d heard, and I said yes. “I know the dark side hates me, and this proves it. Every time I have an event they mess up the weather! But I’m choosing to laugh at them and trust God.”

The events turn out anyway. The first two neighborhood teas I had  on my patio were cool and cloudy. It poured rain at the end of the first one, which kind of heightened the effect actually. This third year it was planned for the lawn because the grass was green and the flowers surrounding us were beautiful. It was supposed to be 85 but only got up to 80, even then I worried that my guests were all sunburnt. But my neighbor assured me no one was burnt.

This time it was going to be 18 ladies instead of 8. And it was a production! So instead of stressing, I just told God, “I know you love me, and You can do anything if I trust You. I also know Satan has probably asked to test me again over this, so help me pass. I’m not going to get fearful or stressed. I choose not to get angry with my husband if he gets irritable. (My 40 day fast this year is to be more loving to him.) I trust we will have what You want to give us, and I know You are good.” (That is the whole focus of my Bible writing.)

So Sunday it was 85 for a short time. The flowers on the patio needed a little heat to really bloom. Monday was supposed to be 90 here but we had a big cloud during the hottest part and it only reached 85 again. I was so grateful. Tuesday there was no wind all day until I started writing in the gazebo. Then a strong breeze started. About an hour before sundown it raised a little, nothing huge, and went down again after sundown. Again I was so grateful, and thought God had just held it in check. The next day a client told me what it had been like just over the hill–20 minutes away–definitely 70 mph gusts of horrible wind–dust storms until you couldn’t even see! I was in awe and felt so loved and protected!

Wednesday I was going to take some irises to my friend with cancer. She loves them too, and had just gone through another round of chemo. Our schedules didn’t jive, so we decided on the next day. She is a 2o min. drive away, and it was a work day for me, so it was going to be a quick visit. She asked if I could bring smothered burritos (my favorite and hers too), and I couldn’t say no. I always ask what she needs or wants, and she hasn’t asked anything. And I know nothing tastes good to her now.

I was exhausted so I asked God for energy and made the sauce. Then I finished them at her house while we talked. Turned out that it was exactly what I needed at that point in a very busy week of yard work and more.  I had a very peaceful day.  I just trusted God that everything would get done, and  of course it did. Two clients canceled anyway, so I had time to write also. (I’ve managed to keep that up.)

The tea was this morning and what a beautiful day it was–sunny and 75!

The tea was unbelievable–all the attention to detail. Everything presented so beautifully and charmingly. I have never seen anything like it. (It was catered by Jamie who is starting a business doing such things. I highly recommend her.)

My talk was well-received and I wasn’t even nervous. I actually just enjoyed giving it. That is a great feeing, and a  gift.  I posted it here under Why Women are Special to God two weeks ago.

I yet again learned to trust God’s love, and just relax into it; He (They) are truly amazing! I want to live every week like this. But would I need to live under this kind of  pressure? Be stepping into this kind of action? This kind of war? Yep. But how exciting that would be! How fulfilling! How even relaxing! I even slept 7 hours last night.

I’ll share some pictures. They don’t do it justice, but you can get the idea.

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A New View of God

 

I learned that the best way to deal with anxiety is reframing it as excitement, then your mind stops looking for the threat your body is telling it about! Isn’t that great?

Who knew! Since I didn’t know it after 30 years as a family systems therapist, I thought you might not know it either. Mel Robbins, who suffered 20 years from anxiety, managed hers with meds and therapy, but when her children started having anxiety she got serious about understanding it!

Isn’t that a God story! Once God’s children became infected with the disease of sin, God came up with an antidote. But why would one of Them coming as Their human son and dying as a criminal be an antidote? How would that produce oneness again? Why didn’t they just take thousands of years like they did to win Lucifer back?

Because things had changed in God’s family. Lies about God were flying around the universe fast and furiously. Everything was confusion. Fear, that dark cloud, had entered the realm.

God has always had to protect us from Them. (I usually refer to God as Them because I write and think in terms of the Three of Them.) The problem became fear, and I think this was very real in Moses’ life. He had heard the warnings, experienced the preparation to be in God’s presence. He had seen Nadab and Abihu drop dead because they weren’t prepared. For him, the fear of the Lord wasn’t just reverence, but I don’t think he was really afraid. Moses is the one human, that got to spend 80 days in the glory of God. Jesus only got 40! Yet Moses unwittingly spread fear to me, and probably a lot of others, by what he wrote. Maybe he used fear to get these people to listen. It must have been the best way for them. But is it now?

One of my clients said to me recently, “You’ve helped me reconnect with God. I’ve always heard ‘fear God,’ and thought I don’t want that. I have too much fear as it is.” She is winning against anxiety.

In my 30’s I finally decided I had to deal with my fear of God. So my Master’s project looked at the parenting of God in each book of the Bible. That helped, and understanding God’s wrath helped in a huge way, but the only thing that has really made a difference  is knowing God intimately–getting to know Their sweet, tender  love for me personally, experientially. I prioritize time with Them every morning. I look for Their love messages every day. I crave Their intimacy.

Many of you hear intimacy and think sex, but sex is not intimacy. Intimacy is safety. Feeling completely safe with a person. Safety is the foundation of love.  Jesus on the cross showed the universe that God is safe, that God would take responsibility for creating a world where something could go wrong, and rescue us. God (all 3 of Them) in Their unselfishness would go through the unthinkable together to conquer death and evil and sin. Don’t think Abba and Ruach didn’t go through hell in Jesus’ death.

If you are a parent, you’d rather die than watch your child die! I don’t think God sent Jesus. I believe it was Jesus idea to come. I even believe Abba and Ruach had to be convinced. In my first episode of Love’s Playbook, Adonai presents the idea, describing how it would resolve Their problem, showing Them that it is the only way. But They, even seeing the wisdom of it, cannot readily agree to let Him do it. It took Them time, the idea was so awful, so risky.

But they did come around to it as the only way to restore us, bring us back into Their presence, and give us Eden back! What a God! You can see why it takes all three of Them to be One! They help each other do the hard things.

You get the story here. http://amazon.com/author/arlacaraboolad                         Love’s Playbook, episode 1

 

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A Lesson From Flowers

My flowers have taught me something this spring. We’ve had so much rain in Southern California this year, more than in a decade at least. Everything is green, and the flowers are blooming profusely, but I noticed something very interesting.

When I cut them and bring them in the house they aren’t lasting like they normally do–two days tops. I wondered at this. I haven’t noticed it before, but this year it happened over and over. At first I thought it was because it was warmer in the house–but that has been the same years before.

And then suddenly it hit me. It must be the difference in water. We haven’t used municipal water outside at all this spring, and if I have watered flowers here and there, it’s been collected rain water. But when I bring them in the house I put them in faucet water. Could that be the difference?

Of course you know what came to mind–living water. There is such a difference between the results of city water and rain water. It’s like they are saying, “What is this you’re putting me in? We’ve had the real thing!” My neighbor loves gardening too, and we have been talking about it this year. We can keep them alive by watering, but they don’t thrive. When it rains everything changes–it’s like the plants come alive. They know the difference! And this year we’ve had lightning too, which really helps. (Someone told me it gives nitrogen. I haven’t verified it.)

The difference is amazing–like Jesus saying to the woman in Samaria beside the well* “If you knew who was asking you for a drink, you would ask me and I would give you living water. Any one who drinks it will never thirst again.”

She has no idea what he is saying, but she is intrigued, and takes the bait. “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and why are you talking to me? Jewish men don’t speak to Samaritan women,  Are you greater than Jacob who built this well?” She is astute and knows this is no ordinary conversation, no ordinary man. And her spirit is thirsty so she asks for his water.

He tells her to get her husband and they will talk. She says she doesn’t have one. And then he proceeds to show her he knows her whole life. This really gets her attention!

She diverts him to “I see you are a prophet, lets talk about worship–you Jews think we are wrong in our worship.” He gives her a four sentence definition of worship, and she tells him she knows Messiah is coming and will set them all straight. He tells her he is the Messiah! He’s never flat out told anyone that yet! And a woman! 

She forgets what she is doing, leaves her water jug and runs to the men of the city to tell them what just happened!

And she is an outcast of society! She doesn’t even have women friends–why she is at the well at noon. She wouldn’t have a Face book page. But she is open to God’s Spirit, and His impressions, and He blesses her.

It’s makes all the difference. Like the difference in flowers drinking city water or God’s gift of water in rain–recognizing God’s gift in who Jesus is and drinking in His presence, still communicated by the Spirit just as it was then to an outcast woman of Samaria, makes all the difference in if your spirit is thirsty or not. If you thrive or not. If you make time to hear him ask, “Give me an opportunity to give to you. Trust Me.”

*John 4:4-26

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How You Lose You

 

Writing about King Saul has been scary! He started out so well! He seemed so secure and teachable. But as he picked up his title and his power, things changed.

The trouble is he didn’t know it. It was a combination of parental modeling, not feeling good enough, and wanting to be what the people wanted and expected. He became addicted to approval and praise! By the time David comes along and people praise him, he becomes insanely jealous–literally.

Sometimes this happens because you don’t get approval, but more often now it is happening because you grow up on praise and become addicted to it!

Addiction to praise ruined his life. And I am concerned for our children today for this same reason. And yet, all of us somehow get initiated into reality, unless we have a psychotic break. Reality begins to register about seven–we aren’t the center of the universe–or even every relationship. By twelve we realize we aren’t all that we thought, and it continues to grow, unless a personality disorder keeps us stuck.

Life has many “correctors”–little things or big things that jolt self-image. One of Saul’s was God interrupting and stopping a murderous mission. He’d sent three groups of soldiers to kill his rival (only in his mind), and finally went himself because three times God had interfered with his plan. So he was going to do the job himself! Why didn’t he get a clue? David is with Samuel at his school of the prophets.

But guess what! God took over to protect David, AND to give Saul a chance to wake up and course correct. He had previously had his own experience of being taken over into bliss by God’s Spirit after he was anointed. So he remembered, and should have snapped to reality when it happened to his soldiers. But he didn’t. And then it happened to him again!

Wow! He got to see how loved he was! He thought God had rejected him, and God took the opportunity to show him that while he was rejected as king of Israel, he was not rejected as a person. He was still very much loved and valued. Imagine laying in God’s presence for 24 hours! What a trip that would be! Talk about blissed out! That would be over the top!

But not for him. He comes out of it and goes right back. David who was always trusting and forgiving, has come to the realization that he could count on Saul’s jealousy to make him lose his mind. So he takes the opportunity to run.

But what I want to know is how could Saul be that crazy? He had experienced God’s goodness, love and help. Why didn’t he connect the dots?

His mind was stuck in a well-worn track. It would have taken him choosing to think differently. He had done it once when Jonathan (his son) had confronted him over David’s innocence and his unfounded fear. But he didn’t continue to choose and deal with his need for approval or addiction to praise. He needed a good therapist! He had David’s music therapy which worked until Satan started setting up causes for jealousy and fear, then he’d lose his mind in emotion again.

The application for us? When God demotes you (or tests you) don’t take it personally, you are still loved. Lean in and learn what you need to learn. You could go crazy and lose your reason. If you lose a job, a house, or other stuff, you can always get stuff. If you lose God, you lose you, and everything else.

 

 

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Celebrating Women

I believe women were the best part of God’s creation. Think about it—He created us because something was missing, to meet Adam’s need, to be appealing and beautiful, the crowning finale of all creation.
When I say all of creation we need to take a moment to realize what that means. In Genesis 2:1-4 God says four times that he was finished with creation, not just ours but the vast array of the heavens and the earth.
When Hebrew writers wanted to emphasize a thought, they repeated it. God repeated that four times in four verses—suggesting They wanted us to understand we were the last world—the grand finale! We were special. Adam and Eve were a new order of beings who could procreate, we stirred some excitement!
According to Job 48, God says all of creation (the sons of God) rejoiced and cheered when we were created! And if women were the grand finale of the grand finale, I think God gave it everything—the final flourish, the finishing touch. I just feel that God was proud of Adam and Eve, and especially Eve! She must have been the best yet—gorgeous, gracious and grateful.
Wouldn’t we all love to have that said of us! I say that about my daughters (not often enough to them), and we are God’s daughters—and I’m sure when They look at us that is what They see! (Three of Them fill that position.)
What a great thing to be special to God! I believe we will be for eternity. I read that God plans to make us His celebrities—His ambassadors. In our Sabbath School class our “fandom” is often mentioned. The word was new to me, but not the concept. If those hundreds of billions of galaxies are inhabited and watching us, which there is a lot of Biblical evidence for, then I’m sure each of us has a following who tune in and cheer for us when we choose well, and are sad when we blow it. Think of the support that gives each of us! Besides Abba, Jesus, and Ruach, we have maybe billions of fans! All hoping we make the right choice!
And of course since we are the special object of God’s affection, we are the special object of Satan’s hatred. Some people, men especially, think that women were cursed by God. But I don’t think that is scriptural. Sin brought the curse, not God!
God described the results of Eve and Adam’s choice, the fall-out of it, and as They always do up till Jesus came, took full responsibility. But in an easy interpretation of the original language, this is what Adonai describes in Genesis 3:16 as the curse on women.
“Your greatest gift of having children will now be accompanied with pain. And your greatest desire will go to your husband and he will rule over you.”
What exactly is He saying? If we add the words that fit the emotion and context, it would sound like this, “Because you were given the best gift We have ever given anyone, bearing children, that is where the curse will rest heaviest. (That is always the case—it happened to Satan and the serpent—so he demands it for God’s closest friends when they blow it.)
Going on—God describes…”You were created so your first desire would be for Us, but now it will be for your husband, and he will rule over you because he now sees you as inferior to him, and it will be easy to blame you for everything. In brokenness one leader will be easier.”
Have any of you experienced that curse? We see in history the effects of sin on women ever since Eve’s choice. Now in our church—fighting over “Are we equal in God’s eyes?” I say, it is preposterous. God wants to take us back to respect in redemption. In Ruth Adonai became our Goel, our kinsman redeemer just as did Boaz in a beautiful love story.
God wants to take us back to the way it was in the garden before sin. Our first desire was for God, our husband came second. We were our husband’s equal.
I think part of the fall-out from sin is this idea terrifies men! And therefore it forces them to make God their first go-to—their first desire instead of women (sex) and hiding.
The path to healing for all of us is the same thing it has always been. Eve should have run from the serpent’s flattery, or at least said to the serpent, “I need to check this out with God.” (Do you see why Satan started by staging doubt against God!)
And then Adam’s first reaction should have been “We have to talk to God about this!”
The safety or the remedy hasn’t changed.
But our first thought is usually our husbands. Not our God. Maybe, just maybe, if we felt closer to God we would think of Him first, go to Him first.
And maybe if our husbands felt closer to God than anyone, they would protect us by going to God first. But I can tell you pushing them to God doesn’t work! It doesn’t work with kids or husbands.
Attraction is what God uses because it’s the only thing that works. And attraction is strongest in modeling. Attraction is what God made us good at. So let’s use it, make God our first love and be proud of our attraction to Him!

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Flunking Mothergood

If you haven’t read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voscamp, you should just for the beauty of her writing. But be prepared to slow way down and experience her story. I discovered reading her book why I’m writing the Bible. It’s in the slowing down to experience the story that the real ah-ha learning happens.

I was caught in it again this morning. I was experiencing the beauty she was describing when suddenly my heart ripped open, remembering the child face beaming up at me, open and trusting.  At seven it changed–the trust–not the same. She thought she was in the way. Thought I had sent her away.

I didn’t even know it until she was 14? 15? A migraine brought it out one night. And I held her as she cried and told me about seven. How she’d felt all that time. I didn’t know.  It breaks my heart again.

I had known something… My mother said she wasn’t the same child who got off the plane at almost seven. I made it worse three months later when I came and talked her out of coming home for another two months–I would be working overtime. I discovered my part in hurting her right after and shared how sorry I was. How could I not have known her pain? Did I ask then? I asked for forgiveness for me, but not how she felt.

Does she know now how much she was loved? Have I told her? Have I communicated it? I think so.

But does she?

She must know now having her own children–the experience of loving five of them and the last one a girl so much like her.

But she won’t even let any of her older boys get on an airplane alone to stay with Grandpa and Grandma! Maybe she will hold them too tightly?

I am proud of her–so proud. She is amazing and grounded and loved by God. It’s more important now that she knows that–and she does. I think.

Sometimes I feel and hear her anger. I call it, but she says she’s angry we  didn’t move there, didn’t follow like we promised. I get it, but it would have meant getting divorced.

She got divorced instead.  I told her she could move home with her boys. But she didn’t think it was what God wanted. And instead she chose to depend on Him (Them) completely.  And what a marvelous love experience with God it turned into for her!  She knows she is loved by Them–lives in it. I guess you can flunk mothering and still be ok if God is your back up.

I do wonder, though, if all the feeling and beliefs of “seven” are healed. She says they are. I’m sure I can depend on God to bring them up for healing if I ask. That stuff can get in your way. She will lean too far the other way. I’m so glad God is willing to get all mixed up in our details. What a good God! I’m so grateful for a loving faithful Father who doesn’t make mistakes! What relief!

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Community

Do you have a place to be yourself? A place where you feel accepted, like you are known and understood? Community is important to us as humans. Belonging is one of our basic needs right next to survival.

I feel so fortunate to be part of a group of women who are amazing, intelligent, committed and gracious. They share their stories, their struggles, their wins, their hopes, as it flows out of our book study.

There is nothing like people willing to be themselves, raw, tears in eyes, sharing the things that have been hard, the things that have stopped  them cold, knocked them down. They don’t even have to be asked. They feel safe.

It takes time to feel that safe. We’ve been together for a year and that is long enough to grow a bond of trust. Long enough to know people are safe to be known and share. A group has to be willing and safe.

I had another such group, a mixed group this one. The elders at my church agreed to try an experiment. We had been reading Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Scazzero, and he really stresses community. He goes so far as to say you won’t grow and become the person you were meant to be without it. So we met once a month for a year and shared out lives–literally our family trees–emotionally. It was a great experience. We always met at my house and I miss them on Wednesday nights.

Our idea was that leadership should be spiritually healthy.  At a church? Duh!True, the church is a hospital for broken and wounded people, but the leadership ought to be spiritually healthy, and I agree with Scazzero that if you aren’t emotionally healthy it’s impossible to be spiritually healthy. Not that you have to be done, you won’t ever be done growing here. And most of us are behind emotionally. But we have to be willing. That is all God ever asks of us. And you only grow in community.

You may have to start with just you and God. That is a community, and you may be too scared to start with people. If you are willing, Ruach (Holy Spirit) will lead you into a community of people. As long as you are willing to be real and share your own path, your own struggles, community will come. It develops from safety. And safety is intimacy. Trust grows in safety. You don’t have to be perfect, just willing to come out of hiding as your feeling of safety allows. Safety grows in coming and sharing the experience. Honest sharing is holy ground.

You won’t feel worthy; I don’t. That’s ok; you need it, and they need you. Just be that safe person, show up, and let yourself be loved. You don’t have to share until you want to. You will be scared, but take the risk; it’s worth it. You are worth it. God is worth it–He’s safe.

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I Am Who He Says I Am

This is a line from one of my favorite songs: I Am No Victim by Kristene Dimarco. It’s playing and I love the crescendo that builds into “I am who He says I am; He is who he says He is. I’m defined by all his promises, shaped by every word He says…”He is my father, I do not wonder if His plans for me are good, if He’ll come through like He should–He is provision…”

The words are wonderful and powerful. And so was this morning. The Bible study was great, we had a sweet and powerful prayer over my friend with cancer. The service was great, and I was called out to talk on the phone with a suicidal man. It seemed to help him.

Afterwards in a quiet moment God said, “Why do you think you don’t love people?”

I thought for a second and said, “I don’t know.” And I realized I actually don’t know. “I just feel it.”

He said, “Could it be because you don’t think you have it? Have you been listening to lies from the dark side? Maybe because you don’t love yourself enough?”

Whoa! When God says that to you, it stops you cold. How many times have I said that to people!

I just know I can be impatient. I don’t seem to have the softness and sweetness most people naturally have with each other. It put me to wondering and He said “Maybe it is just a couple of people that have been hard to love.”

“Wow, Ruach!” (That’s the one who brings Jesus to us–the Holy Spirit.) He can teach you more in a moment than you can learn in hours and years.

Don’t you just love that God knows you better than you know yourself! Who else could say that to you and you would hear it as truth and healing?

All I can say to you is don’t wait until you are as old as I am to ask God if the things you think about you are true! How crippling! And you may not even think to check them out! But stay close and maybe He’ll catch you in a quiet moment in between and ask you, “Do you really believe that?” He is so good!

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Is God the Destroyer?

When I was writing Love’s Playbook 5 I realized something I had read many times and missed. Exodus12:23. In my New English Bible it reads, “The Lord…will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.” It’s noteworthy because it’s part of this week’s reading in the year-plan to read through the Bible. It was translated differently in the New Living Translation we’re using. It’s the story of the Passover, and instead of “Destroyer” it says “God’s death angel.”   I think that is unfortunate!  It ignores other scriptures that clearly allude to Satan as the destroyer.

Isaiah 33, verse one says, “Ah! you destroyer, yourself undestroyed, betrayer still unbetrayed, when you cease to destroy you will be destroyed…” And it jumps to the Lord’s protection in verse 2, “O Lord, show us thy favor; we hope in thee. Uphold us every morning, save us when troubles come.”

Isaiah 10:20 is even more pointed, “On that day…Israel…shall cease to lean on him that proved their destroyer, but shall loyally lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. Two different beings are depicted! God is not the Destroyer!

If you want a New Testament reference, check Hebrews 2:14 that shows Satan has been given the power over death for now, “The children of a family share the same flesh and blood; and so he too shared ours, so that through death he might break the power of him who had death at his command, that is the devil…” That says that Adonai had to come here, and as Jesus go through death, so he could take back the power of death from Satan who claimed it because he got Eve and Adam to choose his way.

This is why Satan argued with Michael (Adonai in angel form) over Moses body–he claimed Moses because he had sinned in God’s employ and in death belonged to him. God hadn’t yet raised any human from the dead! Satan thought he had Moses locked away; did Michael ever surprise him! He essentially says, “Remember who you are speaking to and step aside Satan!” And then he raises Moses back to life and takes him to heaven!

Is this important? It is to me. I don’t want my loving God to be the Destroyer. It’s hard enough to understand that They have to protect us from Their pure energy, because our unbalanced atoms in broken dying bodies would be consumed in an instant in Their presence. They are good at protecting us, even though it’s hard for them to have to keep Their distance. It’s also hard for us not to be able to see Them.  That is another reason Adonai came as Jesus–so we could see God with skin on Him.

The whole Old Testament is the story of God trying to be close to us without killing us. The Hebrews became scared of God because they knew this. But Abraham wasn’t afraid of Adonai. Guilt, from Jacob through Moses, seems to have mixed it all up that God destroys as the Destroyer. They didn’t know much about Satan except as a serpent. God was letting him stay incognito, pretending to be working for the good of the universe. So since They had created Lucifer and freedom, They took responsibility. This is the short version explaining why so many Old Testament writers didn’t have a clear picture of God themselves, and it affects the way they write. It also affects the way we read, and our picture of God. That is why uncovering the war that was going on when we were created is so important.  I made it the first book in my series of the Bible as the story of an all-good God. Well, actually, God did. It was Their idea.

This morning I learned that my good friend’s cancer has just been upgraded from stage two to stage four. So yes, today it’s very important to know that God is all good and definitely not the destroyer! God sets boundaries for him.

 

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Hooks for Doubt are Important

“Hooks to hang doubt on” was a phrase I wrote in chapter 11 of Love’s Playbook 5. It describes a very important God-decision in the theory of freedom. God could wow us and overwhelm us with the reality of His existence, presence and power, but He doesn’t. “They” don’t because it would actually take away or ruin our freedom. In order for us to be truly free to make our own decision there has to be evidence of both good and evil that is balanced and adequate for us to consider and make a choice. There even have to be questions about God.

Scripture says God is all good. But in some places it looks like God is both good and evil. This increasingly bothered me as I grew up. Maybe I started reading too young without guidance (though there weren’t many Christians questioning then). Years later I wanted to believe God was good, and wanted to understand those passages, I did find some help, but I found that most of the people I read, or talked to, weren’t able to explain them. The collective consciousness hadn’t grown enough to push scholarship to understand. I find it still hasn’t.

Somehow it became very important to me to understand. I can’t even say when or how it started. But it became a burning desire to know and show that God is all good–even in gnarly hard-to-understand scriptures. I really didn’t think about how.

When the idea first came, it was so huge I dismissed it. When I actually began to consider writing a version of the Bible as a story making God look all good, I couldn’t imagine how I would. I questioned writing the flood story before I committed to start. I did think that far ahead, but not further–it’s in the first five chapters, and God said, “Don’t worry. We’ll help you.” And They did!

Now past the first five books, I don’t worry about that–we have gone through some really difficult stories and concepts, and They have always made it plain. I thought today, reading one with my group, I wish I had made it plainer. Some concepts are so big and so new it’s difficult to find words to express them.

I’m grateful my pastor wants our church to read through the Bible this year, and chose what seems to be a really good plan–the You Version that so far has, on average,  two chapters of Genesis and two of Matthew, one in Psalms and a few verses in Proverbs every day. It’s the New Living Translation which is well-done and you can listen to it instead of read it!

My husband and I have been listening, and even though it is well-done and up-dated, there are still places that make me cringe. I realize in a translation you can’t explain the background, emotion, etc., like I get to in telling the story.

For example in the 3rd chapter of Genesis it sounds like God cursed the man, the woman and the ground. If you read very carefully you see that it wasn’t God cursing, it was sin, the choice to know evil; God just described the curse that evil brought. The only curse Adonai may have actually chosen was the serpent’s. Again through careful and extra reading, it seems it was a beautiful creature who lost it’s beauty and wings, and God put hatred between Satan and God’s children. (3:15) What a blessing that was! God made sure, right then, that we would still retain 50% of Their character of good to begin with so we wouldn’t be all evil! From then on it comes from our choices as we see in the next chapter with Cain. But that isn’t easy to see either unless you take the time to unpack it and really get into what God is saying and why, as well as what Cain is saying (and not saying) and why.

I was so glad that Matthew 13 came a few days later where Jesus alludes to the war in the universe and who the enemy is that is responsible for evil. (It was only a few days later for us because we were starting late and doubling up.)

There are other questions, but then there is Genesis 38. And you think Where did this story come from and why in the world is this in the Bible? Obviously, Jethro told Moses, and there is a lot left out. That is exactly why I’m writing–to slow it down and fill in the backstory, the emotion, the family systems thinking. The story could get bogged down, so necessarily explanations have to be brief.

You won’t get through the Bible in a year, but a chapter a night (or morning) would move you through the first five books, plus Job, in six months. And they contain some of the hardest stories to understand just reading fast. And if it takes a year, that’s ok. Understanding who God is and how it all fits together is important.

Reading fast is good for perspective. And when you get bogged down with questions, my books are there now. Freedom demands that there are hooks for doubt so that only sincere seekers find the answers. Only the whole-hearted are safe to have around for eternity.

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