Friday, March 30, 2012

Control Issues -- Nah, I've Crossed that Off My List

How many of you like lists? Do you check it twice? You get great pleasure from scratching an item off the list, don’t you? A sense of accomplishment. I started thinking about Noah (in the wee morning hours when my husband woke me with his snoring) and wondered what kind of checklist must Noah or his wife must have had. I went back and reread Genesis 6. God told Noah what His intentions were – “to destroy both them and the earth” (Gen 6:14). I did not see where God told Noah anything about being on the ark for 40 days of rain plus additional days to let the water settle.

Have you ever been on a trip for longer than three days? Did you make a list?

Ever gone grocery shopping for the month or for a couple of weeks without a list?

It isn’t until chapter 7 that God tells Noah, Oh yeah, by the way, in seven days I’m going to send the rain for 40 days and nights. He gives Noah seven days to gather food and provisions for what Noah hears as 40 days. Are you kidding me? I’d be trippin’ and stressin’!

I wonder what their list looked like:

• Bales of hay for _____ animals to use in the stalls

• Grain for _______ animals for the trip

• Water for all the animals

• Containers to hold the water

• Tools to be able to muck the stalls

• Bananas for the monkeys

• Birdseed for the birds

• Mice for the snakes

• Container to hold the mice for the snakes

• Container for the snakes

• Aviary for the birds – maybe we’ll give them half the floor of one level of the ship

• Clothes

• Pots

• Pans

• Fire (How do I cook on a wooden boat?)

• Family heirlooms

• Furniture

• Food for us

• Sheets and fabrics

• Equipment

• Scissors

• Soap

• Canned goods

Do you see how the list could just go on and on? And they had seven days. Seven days are in the story of the Creation too, but Noah and his family didn’t get to rest. Their journey had just begun.

Here’s the thing. We know that no one starved to death. We know the animals survived, so obviously there were enough provisions. Was that by accident? I think not. Noah was walking and talking with God. He was doing everything that God had commanded him to do, and God led Noah.

How often do we fret and worry about things that are coming up over which we have no control? What would happen if you would rest in God, listen for His voice, and do everything He commands you? A big move? A new job? Financial issues? Health issues? We grasp at straws by making lists and checking them twice. We do it so we can feel there is some sort of order or that we have some sort of control. But what if we lived like Noah? Walking with God. Talking with God. Doing everything He commands us. And live in a rudderless life because God is in complete control. I think that, my friend, sounds like peace.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

During a Flight I Hear Someone Screaming, "We're Going to Die!"

On the way back home from a trip, I’m sitting in the airplane waiting for the plane to descend when I hear someone screaming, “We’re going to die! We’re going to die! We’re all going to die!” I nervously giggled because I was pretty sure it wasn’t my time to go, and surely I’d know something like that, right? Apparently there was a passenger who was mentally challenged, and it was her first time to fly, and she was not enjoying the experience. Bless her heart. But she kept yelling it over and over. They settled her down, and she would just whimper it every now and then until we landed. Once we landed, she erupted in joyful applaud. She had survived! As had we all.

At the end of Genesis 7, God wants us to understand emphatically that nothing on the land survived the flood. Words like perished, died, and wiped out are used to make the point. I mean how could anyone expect anyone or anything on land to survive in water for 150 days, 40 of which were raining?

Sometimes I tell my children the same thing over and over again, and of course I open my mouth and I hear my mom say, “I sound like a broken record.” And of course they have no clue what that means, so I clarify – “like a scratched CD.” Sometimes it is because my children didn’t listen that I repeat myself, but other times, I repeat something for effect, and yet other times for emphasis. Sometimes you hear people repeat things with great emotion when they have suffered a tragic loss, and it’s just heartbreaking.

All those who perished in the flood were God’s creations. He had loved them, and yet they were so very wicked. They chose to stand against their Creator, and He regretted making them.

I wonder if perished, died, and wiped out are used so many times because God even in His righteous anger and discipline was suffering for the loss of these rebellious children. I wonder if it is written for affect – to make sure that no one has a doubt that God can and did destroy everything on the land. He has that kind of might, and yet He chooses to utilize self-restraint because He promised not to destroy the earth again by flood.

Wiped out – nothing of the old cultures remained. None of the people prior to the flood remained. When God opens the door of the ark, it doesn’t say that Noah and his family had to step over the corpses of those who were killed. No. They were wiped out. A clean slate. A new beginning. Beauty in a fresh start.

Sometimes there is something in our lives that needs to perish, die, or be wiped out, and God’s going to do that for you if you are His child. It’s isn’t always pleasant. It’s not easy, but God knows some things must die before some things can grow. Some relationships must end before He cultivates beauty and joy in your life. Sometimes things have to be wiped out before we find freedom. Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” We need our sins to be dead to us, so that we can live in freedom in God (Romans 6:10-12). Sin does not have to rule your life (Romans 6:12-14).

Our pride and ego needs to perish. Our gossiping tongues and foul language needs to die. Our hatred and anger must be wiped out. Allowing God to clean us, purify us, search us means allowing Him to get rid of the things that are not of Him. When we allow Him full access to our lives, our hearts, our minds and allow Him to purge us, then we can truly begin walking in His freedom, in a new life.

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh, precious is the flow that makes me white as snow.

No other fount I know. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Construction at Calvary -- A Mystery, A Diary

Out at Calvary right now, we are building the world’s largest watch tower. It will be erected on the south lawn. It will be over 34 stories tall (about 450 feet high), 75 feet wide, and 45 feet deep. We are going to be building it by hand. We’d love to have you come and join us. You may be wondering why we are building this watch tower, so I’ll tell you. The Lord is leading us to build a watch tower and to man it 24 hours a day until His return. It’s going to be so nice. We’ve been given instructions to make it out of teak! There won’t be an escalator or elevator. We’ll just have to climb the steps all the way up and all the way down. There won’t be any electronics allowed either. There will be a minimal of 8 people on watch every hour of everyday.
Now, what if we really did that? Built it by hand. Built a watch tower to watch for God’s return. Wonder what our neighbors would say? The media would have a hay-day, wouldn’t they? You think we would be laughed at. Would you be one of the ones scratching your head, asking questions and then chuckling? I would. Nothing like this had ever been built for this purpose – definitely thinking outside the box. You may even says, “God didn’t tell me that” or “That’s not Scriptural – building a watch tower.” Just for the record, Calvary isn’t building a watch tower, but see how it connects.
So, God speaks to Noah because Noah is an upright man of God and walks with God. The world around him hears nothing…just their wicked thoughts. God tells Noah to build something that has never been built before for something that has never happened before.
For 100 years, people watched Noah and his family build the ark. I wonder if at some point they just started ignoring Noah or making comments like, “Don’t mind Noah. He’s crazy but harmless. He’s a zealot.”
Then there comes a time when something breaks from the norm. Day in and day out for 100 years, they have seen Noah taking lumber to add to his “ark” and putting pitch on it to seal it. But now it looks like it’s finished…at least from the outside. The ark is blocking your view of the mountains. You have to walk or ride all the way around it to get to your friend’s home.
Dear Diary,
It’s just an eye sore is what it is. No one is going to want to buy that thing. And today as I’m fixing supper, a pair of unattended elephants walked by the tent. I didn’t get much sleep last night, so I rubbed my eyes, grabbed my baby, and before I could step outside I saw a pair of Mammoths walk by my tent. What in the world is going on? I run out of my tent to see animals walking unattended in pairs, and they are going to the ark! I’m stupefied. Animals I have never seen before are calmly walking to the ark and not striking at anyone. Well now I’ve seen everything! I couldn’t wait to tell my husband.. I start pointing at the animals and telling my baby what they are. Then there are groups of seven…you know, like the sheep, lambs, etc.
Tonight night at supper, I tell my husband about how the animals entered the ark so orderly and peacefully. I can’t imagine what is going on in that ark. I was talking to the neighbor, and she said that Noah’s wife said that it’s going to start raining any day now. Whatever that is. Isn’t that odd, honey? I’m not sure he believed me.
Dear Diary,
Well, he believes me now. He heard about the animals in the town. I asked my husband if he had heard anything about the animals when he was in town today, but he wasn’t much help. He had heard everything I had heard. Still no rain – hahaha.
Dear Diary,
Noah’s family is coming and going, loading up that silly boat. What a waste of time. Think about all homeless children and widows they could be helping with that stuff. Better yet, I wonder if I can sneak on board and get some for myself. Still no rain – lol.
Dear Diary,
It’s the beginning of day 7 since the animals were put on that silly ark. Not sure what is happening now, but the sky is getting really dark and heavy. Don’t know what that’s about. I’ll have to ask my husband tonight…surely he sees this. I hear something…
There are no other entries in her diary because what she heard was the pitter patter of big, fat, raindrops. She runs out of her tent with her baby on her hip, and the rain is now coming down in buckets. She covers her brow to look at the ark, and the door is now shut. The clouds are getting darker and heavier. As she starts to run to see more clearly, the ground beneath her starts to rumble. The earth splits open as water erupts from the crevices with such magnificent force that loved ones are separated, people are killed instantly, and the water rises at such a rapid rate the men can’t get home from the town square in time to see their families for one last time. Other people are running for the hills trying to get to the highest points possible. Others are clutching on for dear life anything that floats by. As they are clinging on, the body of a loved one floats by. Those who endured the atrocities of Katrina may be able to empathize, but if they survived Katrina, then they outlasted these.
Overcome with water, the woman and her baby drown.
People are drowning around us every day. There is a world dying without the love of Christ. So what if they think you are crazy for asking them about their relationship with Jesus. So what if the reject what you are saying – they aren’t rejecting you. Drowning is a horrible way to die. It’s at the top of my list. The frantic. The panic. You know what’s coming. Death. Who do you love? We are to love our neighbors as ourselves, so then shouldn’t we love them enough to witness to them?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

My Nightmare -- Drowning in the Atchafalaya

When I was driving down to seminary once a quarter or so, I drove the I10 bridges from Lafayette to Baton Rouge over the Atchafalaya Basin. Then there was another long bridge below Baton Rouge to New Orleans. To say I was under a heavy load during this time of my life would be an understatement. I was a wife, mom, full-time employee, women’s ministry leader, and graduate student – and everything that those roles imply. Some of my relationships were stretching thin as well as my nerves.

One night I woke covered in sweat. I had a nightmare. I dreamed I was on the long bridge of the Atchafalaya when a tsunami-type wave came up in front of me destroying the bridge, and as it was coming down on my car, so many things were going through my mind. How do I get out of my car when it’s under water? I have electric windows. I knew I should have bought one of those glass-breaking do-ma-hickeys. And then my truck and I were in the water being pounded by the wave. I woke up gasping for air and frightened out of my mind.

The reason I bring that dream up now is because I’m studying Noah, and as I was reading it, I began to wonder about the people, what they were thinking, what they were going through, and what they experienced. I’d like to take a look from a few different positions in this entry and the next.

Noah – You think you know a man and his story, but you really don’t. He spent 100 years building an ark…by hand. There were no front-loaders, excavators, cranes. He and his sons built this mammoth ship for 100 years. And as he was building it, God provided. He had to provide otherwise how was his family taken care of? In Genesis 6, the Bible says that Noah did EVERYTHING God told him to do. I wish God could say that about me. So, Noah is building an ark for something that has never occurred in nature before. I wonder what the neighbors thought when Noah was building that monstrosity? “He is bringing down the value of our land with that thing!” I can only imagine the ridicule Noah must have endured, and yet He believed God for the unbelievable. He trusted that God was faithful to do what He said He would do, and God said He would destroy the earth. When it’s just you and God against the world, do you trust Him enough to stick it out during those rough times?

Noah’s wife – Jewish tradition says Naamah listed in Genesis 4:22, a descendent of Cain, was Noah’s wife. (1) Let’s just say that Naamah is Noah’s wife. She comes from a long line of evil men…murderers and married to several wives. Now she is married to Noah, a man of God, who only has one wife – her. Her husband comes to her and tells her what God has instructed him to do. Think some of her family was mocking them? I do. But you know what I read? I read that Noah’s wife stuck it out. If you have ever wanted to be a pastor’s wife, a minister’s wife, or wanted your daughter to marry one, think about Noah’s wife. Noah’s wife had to see her husband doing the back-breaking labor of building a ship the likes of which no one had ever seen and enduring ridicule and mockery from family, friends, and neighbors. Put yourself in her shoes. Do you think she cried? Do you think she was heart-broken for her husband? Not only that but she was called to serve along side of him. She entered the ark with Noah. She had to help tend the animals. She had to take care of her family. What strength, courage and endurance she must have had. That’s what pastor wives endure. If you aren’t praying for them, you should be. Get after it.

Sons and daughters-in-law – three sets. All working side-by-side to build the ark, to ensure the necessities of the animals would be met. They were following in obedience just as Noah and his wife were doing. My dad’s a ship builder. For some reason, I don’t think those words would have come out of their mouths because they were probably enduring the same hardships as the parents. And if you had a squabble with your man, who were you going to tell that didn't already know? I would be seriously claustrophobic in every way imaginable.

Reading the Bible and putting yourself in the shoes of those in the Scripture, makes you appreciate more the hardships that were overcome. It should encourage you that no matter what God tells you to do – no matter how unbelievable it is – that He is faithful to do exactly what He has said. Can the same be said of you? Are you trusting and following in obedience? No matter how strenuous your challenge is, He is bigger. He can bring the solution to you like He brought the animals to the ark. Do you trust Him?

(1) Patterson, Dorothy and Kelley, Rhonda. Women’s Evangelical Commentary Old Testament. Holman Reference. Nashville, TN. 2011. Pg 20

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How Do You Steer a Rudderless Ship? Living Life without a Rudder

When I was growing up, we lived in a 12’ by 60’ mobile home. Now they refer to them as manufactured homes. I absolutely LOVED living in the mobile home. I loved how the air conditioning vents were on the floor, so when Lori and I would come into the house dripping with sweat, we could put our tiny hineys down and share a vent to cool off. I’m sure the aroma was quite pleasant – a mixture of wet dog and girly dirt. One of my favorite memories is mom cleaning the house, with the windows open, her Christian record playing, and she would be wearing this brown, feathery cap (of sorts). Funny the things we remember from childhood, isn’t it? I also LOVED it when it rained. I loved hearing the rain hit the metal roof – talk about melodic! Loved it, and I wasn’t a big sleeper either.

I wonder what it was like in the ark during the 40 days and 40 nights of raining. Have you ever thought about what it was like to actually be in the ark with only seven other people and who-knows-how-many animals? I wonder if God helped to keep the animals sedated. If not, what a riot and mess! And after all, if God brought the animals from all over the earth, He can surely control their behavior inside the ark. Right? Sometimes we miss the amazing thing God has just done because we are too busy complaining about something else.

But even then, I think about the boat. It had no ventilation to speak of. No air conditioning. The smell of the animals and everything that goes along with them – if you know what I mean? Mucking their stalls every day. Feeding them every day. Watering them every day. Then there is the constant up and down motion of the waves and being tossed side to side. It’s enough to make the strongest of stomachs hurl. It’s probably a safe guess that none of them had ever been on a boat of that magnitude. Did they wonder, “How’s this big thing going to float?” or “We’re going to sink like a rock”.

Then it rained for 40 days. The pitter patter of raindrops may have sounded pleasant at first, but I bet they were drowned out by the animal sounds. At night, I bet they collapsed with exhaustion. I know I would, and I’m not near 500 years old.

The waters stayed for 150 days. Do you have 7 other people that you like enough to be cooped up with for 150 days? There would be no private conversations because at some point everyone would know what was going on. No privacy. No place to get out and breathe fresh air.

Something that just struck me…the ark didn’t have a rudder. It didn’t have a steering mechanism. Not that they would have known back then how crucial those two things are when navigating a ship of that magnitude. Personally, I’ve never been on a cruise, but I’d like to go on one. It’s on my bucket list. Okay, so I just checked, and Carnival Triumph is supposed to be 893 feet long, and this is one of the smaller vessels. The ark is about ½ the length. The Triumph is also 125’ wide. The ark was 45’. Can you imagine something that large and not having a way to steer it? But in order to steer it, you have to be able to SEE what is going on – whether electronically or visually, and you'd need to know where you were going and the mechanics of steering such a piece of work as the ark. Here’s the aha…Noah had absolutely no control in what happened to him and his family and those animals. That ark was in the palm of God’s hands. That reminded me of a verse in Proverbs 21:1, “In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.”

When it is pouring down in your life and you feel like you are going under for the final time, rest assured you don’t need a rudder or steering mechanism because God. Is. In. Control. God is in control. Life may stink. It may be stressful. You may be tired of being tossed about back and forth. But you can know that God is on His throne. The One who has the hairs numbered on your head (Mt 10:30), the One who has ordained your footsteps, the One who has you hemmed you in from the front and the back (Ps 139:5), the One who created you fearfully and wonderfully (Ps139) – This One God will guard you. Trust Him.

Why Do Dogs Drink Dirty Water?

We have a new puppy, Sunni. Just in the couple of months we’ve had her, she’s grown by leaps and bounds…and trust me, she loves to leap and bound. The kids were so excited. We went and bought a food bowl, a water bowl, leash, and collar with her name, toys, food, and an assortment of stuff we’ll probably never use. One of the best investments was her muzzle. She’s currently going through a biting phase – really it’s teething, and while she is just playing and nibbling, those puppy teeth hurt!

One day I let Sunni out of her indoor kennel and led her to the kitchen where I filled her water bowl up with filtered water and her food bowl with fresh puppy food. She was dancing around and antsy, so she ran to the front door and rang the Christmas bell we have hanging down for her. She rings the bell. I open the door. She runs straight to the muddy water in the front yard. What does she do? She DRINKS it! Why in the Sam hill would she go drink dirty water when she had fresh, clean, pure water in her own personal bowl?! Doesn’t make any sense does it?

I wonder how often God thinks that about us. I wonder if He has ever said, “I have given them Living Water and the Bread of Life to each of them personally, and yet they choose to go into the world, drink what they have to sell them, and eat the waste the world provides.” We have got to be some of the biggest numbskulls – maybe I should just speak for myself. I’m a numbskull.

Instead of believing we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalms 139), we choose to buy magazines and watch shows that says we are to be rail thin, have cosmetic surgeries because you – aren’t – enough. Instead of believing in a God who loves you so much and wants to have a personal relationship with you, you go into the world seeking friendship with men and women who do not encourage you or build you up. Rather they tear you down to make themselves feel better. Instead of believing God will provide all your needs (Philippians 4), you feel the need to live like the status quo, go into major debt and become strapped to a persona that cannot be maintained and is a lie.

In Genesis 6, God says He regretted making man. He regretted! Some versions say it grieved Him and His heart was filled with pain. He’s telling you, His child, I’m giving you the Word. It’s the Bread of Life – eat and be full. He says I’m the Living Water, drink from me, and you’ll never thirst again.

I wonder how many times I’ve grieved God. I wonder how many times He has regretted making me. I wonder how many times I’ve accepted the lies the world feeds us day in and day out over the truths found in God’s Word.

Noah found favor in the eyes of God because he walked with God. He didn’t listen to those who ridiculed him. If he did listen, he didn’t take it to heart because Noah trusted God enough to do the insane, to do the craziest thing he had ever done in all his life.

Lord, may I find favor in your sight. I want to drink from the Living Water and eat of the Bread of Life. I want your truth. I trust You.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Crouching and Prowling – Lack of Self-Control and Temper Tantrums

We have a new puppy at our house. We say she’s a Heelie – a heeler and border collie mix. She’s getting bigger and bigger by the day. My lap isn’t nearly as big as it used to be. My fear is when she gets too big for my lap, she’ll still insist that she is still a lap dog. Sunni loves to play. She will chase her tail in circles till she quite literally cannot stand up. Hilarious! She also loves hiding under the furniture. She has gotten too big to go under some furniture. Our sofa, however, is a different story. She has figured out if she runs and then slides under the sofa flat as a pancake that she can fit. Hysterical! But one of the funniest sights is to watch her leap and jump. She gets too excited sometimes, and she still has her puppy fat, so she will crouch down right before she bounds for your feet, your skirt or off the front porch. When she bounds off the front porch, her hiney goes higher than her head, and it’s just funny how it looks.

This morning as I was getting ready and trying to get my kids ready for school, a verse was put on my mind and heart, and I couldn’t wait to get to the Word to study it. It’s one I had read recently in my study on Eve, but God was sending me back. Apparently, I hadn’t spent adequate amount of time meditating on it.

Genesis 4:7, “…But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it”(HCSB).

I’m sure none of you have this issue at your house, but we often times have the issue of lacking self-control. This could be the reason God wanted me to revisit this issue, so I can teach my children…or maybe it’s for me.

“Sin is crouching at your door.” Here’s the thing about crouching, it’s the preparation of an even greater exertion. Crouching makes one look smaller than it really is, and the energy stored by crouching is exerted when you least expect itkinda like a Jack in the box toy. You know it’s in there. You know if you wind it long enough, sooner or later Jack will jump out at you and make you jump out of your skin.

Sin is crouching at your door. That phrase also brings to mind another verse, 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him and e firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.” Sin is from the Devil – not rocket science there, is it? But the Bible equips us in how to handle the crouching, prowling lion, and we know with Christ we can overcome. As a matter of fact the rest of the verse in Genesis gives us this hope, “Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Does that part sound familiar to you? It should. God told Eve she would desire her husband, but he would rule over her.

You must rule over it. Rule over our fleshly desires – food, lust, ego, pride, lack of self-control. To rule over our fleshly desires, we have to put on the full armor of God every day.

In contrast to crouching, God takes a different position at the door, doesn’t He? Revelations 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock…” No surprise. No “aha, I gotcha.” He simply stands at the door of your life, your heart, your mind, your soul and He knocks. If you open the door and let Him into your life, your heart, your mind, your soul, then He graciously accepts. He comes in filling up every part of you, if you allow Him. He heals the broken places no one sees. He restores. He soothes. He calms. Then He shows you how to overcome.

John 10:10 says, “A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy” (sounds like the crouching, prowling lion). “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.”

Hillsong has written a song, “This is How We Overcome.” These are the words:

Your light broke through my night

Restored exceeding joy

Your grace fell like the rain

And made this desert live

Your hand lifted me up

I stand on higher ground

Your praise rose in my heart

And made this valley sing

This is how we overcome

This is how we overcome.

How do we overcome Satan who is crouching by our door ready and waiting to knock us off balance so we relapse and regress to our sinful condition and habits? We invite the God who stands at the door and knocks. We give Him full range to do His will in our lives, and we submit our wills and follow knowing He has His best in mind for us which is better than anything we could ever dream of. Be an over-comer today. Live victoriously.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Birds and the Bees...And Adam asking God, "What is a headache?"

Mark Twain wrote a story about Adam and Eve, and in one of the dialogues, God tells Adam to go to Eve. Adam comes back to God with a question, “What is a headache?”

Eve’s story doesn’t end with being kicked out of the Garden of Eden. We see in chapter 4 that Eve becomes a mommy. Do you remember when you found out you were going to become a mommy? Before that, do you remember the conversation you had with whomever or the book you read regarding “making babies?”

I remember hearing about the birds and the bees from my mom. Daddy had taken Lori somewhere, and mom sat down with me and went through some audiotapes by Dr. Dobson. I had never been more disgusted or mortified about something in all my life…I must have been around 12. I remember thinking, “Babies are supposed to come out where? I don’t think so.” Does this ring any bells with anyone? Remember those feelings and questions, and put yourself into Eve’s shoes…umm moccasins or sandals. No one had ever given birth before, and God is educating her on her body. When it comes time to deliver, there are no sedatives, no analgesics, no sterile environments. Were you anxious the first time you delivered? The second? The third?

Eve didn’t have women or a book telling her What to Expect When You’re Expecting. She just did it. She just went with it, and she delivered her first son, Cain.

Can you imagine the excitement there must have been? The first ever live birth, and it’s a boy. You know the parents had to be proud. You know they checked all his fingers and toes…Do you know of a parent who hasn’t? “With help of the Lord I have brought forth a man” (Gen 4:1). To God be the glory.

God is present at the consummation of a marriage. He is present when life begins in the womb. He is there when the baby takes his first breath. To be able to become pregnant and carry a baby to term to a healthy delivery is an amazing miracle. There are so many things that can go wrong with the slightest variations, so to witness a birth of a healthy child gives everyone a reason to celebrate. Having never been able to experience that miracle, I was blessed to be present when my daughter was born. Never take this gift from God for granted.

Eve was so proud of that baby. She was the momma of “a man” – sometimes I refer to my son as the boy-child or a man-baby. Boy-child because he is most definitely a boy. As my Mammaw says, “There’s no ruffles on his britches.” And Man-baby because he has always preferred being with men…ALWAYS. When he could sit in a buggy, I’d take him to Wal-Mart or Target and the women would just fall all over him. He just looked at him with those dark, brown eyes piercing a hole right through them. BUT, if you took him to Lowe’s or Home Depot, he was all smiles, trying to shake every old man’s hand that walked by. Eve was proud of her boy.

After Cain was born, then came Abel. Just reading about their births in Genesis 4:1-2, I see a difference in how Eve responded to the birth of Abel. Do you? “Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.” She didn’t mention God. She didn’t mention Abel’s maleness or manhood. Just an observation. Did she play favorites to Cain because he was her first? Did she allow him to get away with things that maybe she didn’t allow the others to get away with? Did Cain have entitlement issues? Just curious.

Eve went on to have other children. She had daughters that aren’t necessarily named, and she could have had other male children. We do know that she had one more son named “Seth.” Seth was seen as being a replacement to Abel according to the Scripture.

While we don’t know exactly what all transpired from Eve’s perspective, we do know that she had heart ache. She grieved the loss of her two sons – one to death and one to God’s punishment.

Oh how Eve’s life was forever altered by making one bad choice. Let’s play the “What If” game.

• What if Eve had chosen to eat from the tree of life, what would have happened to the tree of knowledge of good and evil?

• What if Eve had chosen to eat from the tree of life and had her babies in Eden? What would her legacy be to her children?

• By introducing sin to her husband, she introduced it to the generations to follow. What if she had thought about them before herself?

It’s easy to look back and see a bad decision or bad choice, but it’s often difficult to see one when you are in the middle and being pressed to make a decision. I think the lesson I learned from Eve is that I have to walk with God every day and listen for His voice. He loves me, and I have to trust that. What have you learned from studying Eve? Anything you can apply to your life? I hope so. It’s in the Bible for a reason.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Why Take Man Out of the Garden When He Could Have Removed the Tree?

Sin is the gift that keeps giving and giving and giving. It’s the gift that you wish wouldn’t keep giving, but it does. It’s kind of like dirty laundry at my house. Just when I think I’m done…I’m not. The repercussions of sin have a rippling effect. The first sin affected the serpent, Eve, Adam, the ground, and generations to come.

The icing on the cake is when God has to push them out of the nest, so to speak. This is the world you wanted; this is the world you shall have. Strange how what we want seems to change when we finally get a good dose of what is coming to us.

God said Adam and Eve “has now become like one of us” (Genesis 3:22 NIV). “Us” meaning the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son (who is the Word – John 1:1), and God the Holy Spirit. Notice God didn’t say Adam and Eve were now one of them. Man will never attain the stature of God. Man will never achieve the perfection of God. Man will never be God…even though God became man (Praise the Lord!).

So they banished man from the Garden of Eden because they did not want man eating from the tree of life and live forever. God placed an angel and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way. I believe some would call this “tough love.” After all, God could have simply uprooted the tree and removed it from Eden, but instead, in His wisdom, God chose to remove man. Kicking man out of the garden was like putting the period at the end of the sentence.

I’ve never had to kick one of my kids out of the house, but I can only imagine how heart breaking, painful and stressful that must be on everyone involved. And God knows exactly how that feels. He provided everything for His children, and they blew it. The thing is God still loved them. He still wanted a relationship with them, and He made it work.

Why were there an angel and a flaming sword only at the east entrance? I don’t have a clue. Maybe there were rivers to the North, South and West. Maybe Adam and Eve didn’t know of any other way into the garden? I just don’t know. But to see that angel and to see that flaming sword moving back and forth without the assistance of the angel must have been a disheartening sight for Adam and Eve.

There are times when we as parents have to discipline our children against things of this world, against things that lead to other things, and against principalities. They don’t always understand why we have to discipline or be harsh to make a point, but that is because they don’t see the whole picture. They don’t know about all the evil in the world from which we are protecting them. We have to teach our children to trust us. Trust our judgment. Trust our wisdom.

God is the same way. We don’t always understand God’s ways or why He allows something to happen. Isaiah 55:8-9 are verses I have to remind myself of on more than one occasion, “ ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’ ”(NIV). We only see part of the picture or puzzle where as God was the puzzle-maker or photographer. 1 Corinthians 13:12 puts it likes this, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face…”

Whatever you are going through – if you are walking through a dark time, if you are being disciplined by God, if you are enduring something beyond your control – you must trust that God knows. He knew what was outside of Eden, and He prepared Adam and Eve by covering them and telling them what was going to happen. He knows what is happening with you and He has prepared the way. Believe it or not, He has been preparing you because today you are not where you were three years ago. He has been preparing the people who will be there to support you and encourage you.

Let me say this though, when we screw things up and make mistakes there are consequences. Don’t expect God to make it work out for your good. Adam and Eve loved God, but they still had to deal with the consequences, and so must you.

You know, Eve may have been created to be the ideal wife, but she became like us…flawed, imperfect and in need of redemption. I am so thankful I don’t have to live up to the concept of an “ideal” wife. It’s a relief to know that I’m not the only wife on the face of the planet who struggles and fails and has to get back up again, and you aren’t either.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Necked as a Jaybird -- It's Southern for...

I have to admit there are some verses that I can’t wait to blog about. One was about Eve talking to the serpent because you have to admit that is some pretty creative and funny stuff, but this next one, I’ve been dying to get to for several weeks now because it involves clothes! I love clothes. I have some favorite shops and favorite magazines that I order my clothes from. I like the tailor-fitted, classic style clothes. Fits my personality. I love seeing the outfits that are put together on Pinterest. It puts the top, the bottom, the shoes, the handbag, and the accessories all together. I love watching the red carpet events to see what everyone is wearing, and I’m surprised at what some people call fashion. I haven’t always been this way though.

Growing up, I was a lot like my niece who sheds her clothes when she enters the door to her house. I hated clothes, especially when I was hot. I remember saying on more than one occasion as a child that when I grew up I was going to be a nudist. HAHAHAHA! That’s probably why God gave me such fair skin to prevent that from happening.

When Lori and I were growing up, we were long and stringy and poor. My mom made a lot of our clothes. When we got blue jeans, mom would go to the boys’ section to buy them because the girls’ jeans wouldn’t stay up. My daddy used to tell people that if I would stick out my tongue I’d look like a zipper!

But now, clothes fit, and I enjoy them. When I started working for the Farm, I asked my mom to tailor-make me some dress suits. I love well-fitting clothes. Sometimes I miss dressing up to go to work, but I DO NOT miss wearing pantyhose…at all.

So are you wondering what verse I could possibly be reading and thinking about? Genesis 3:21. Eve got to wear the first, one-of-a-kind, tailor-made, original design made by God. I wonder what it looked like. Was it a one-shoulder dress or more of a tunic?

You know what just hit me? Adam and Even knew they were naked, and instead of immediately covering them, God made them stand there necked as a jaybird (that’s Southern for not having a stitch of clothing on) I mean technically they had on some fig leaves, but how much does that really cover? (One day, I’m going to try my hand at putting some fig leaves together just for grins…should be something because I don’t even sew fabric.)

OH MY WORD! We hide so much behind our clothes…have you ever thought of that? A multitude of sins…gluttony, self-mutilation, self-loathing, insecurities. They had nothing standing between them and their sin. They were standing in their sin quite visibly. Their sin was out there in front of God -- and I was about to say everybody, but they were everybody. You realize you need redeeming the most when you are standing defenseless, caught in your sin.

So, “the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (Gen 3:21 NIV). The first shedding of blood for sin. God killed an animal, shed the blood of an innocent animal, to cover the sin of man. They wore their redemption where they had to see it every day. It was tangible. It was physical.

What would it look like if we physically put on our redemption every day? What if we needed redeeming from the words we said, and we had to wear poster boards with the toxic words we had said the day before? What if we had to wear a billboard with the wicked thoughts we had the hour before? You can’t help come face-to-face with your sin when you have to put it on as part of the sentence for the crime, can you?

But God saw this as an act of love. He was providing for His children. He was preparing them for the world out there…the world outside of Eden…a world without that daily time walking with Him in the garden. He clothed them and wrapped them in His love, in His act of service.

The question today is, “Do you see God’s redemption in your life?” Do you see His redemption as an act of love? Do you see his discipline as an act of love? Or do you see it just as punishment?

Clothe yourself in the armor of God. Clothe yourself in dignity. Wrap yourself up in the arms of your Father.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Some People Have Paid to Have Their Tongues Pierced... Gorilla Glue Anyeone?

“Because you listened to your wife’s voice…”

This is how God started off disciplining Adam.

That’s tough on both ends!

My spiritual gifts are prophecy and discernment. They are strong spiritual gifts…and those who possess these gifts can often be over-bearing, loud-mouthed, know-it-alls with sharp edges only seeing black and white. Now, put those spiritual gifts in a woman who is supposed to follow the leadership of her husband…let’s just say, I’ve had to learn a lot, and I continue to learn on how to keep my mouth shut. I have a LONG WAY to go.

It doesn’t matter if I know in my Spirit, my heart of hearts that a certain way is right or a certain decision is a good one, I have to watch my mouth. Not only do I have to watch my mouth, but then I gotta shut my trap. In other words, I give my opinion in carefully chosen words, and if he doesn’t take it, I keep my mouth shut. I may tell him what is on my heart about another issue, but if he chooses to go in the other direction, then I DON’T SAY ANOTHER WORD. Some people pay to have their tongues pierced. I’ve just bitten the hole in my tongue over the years. And these words, “I told you so” should never, ever come out of my mouth.

The words that we speak show what we are focusing and dwelling on, and the Scripture tells us in Philippians 4:8 to think on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely and are of good report, and if anything is praiseworthy, we should meditate on these things. Does my husband hear these kind of things coming out of my mouth?

• Is the advice I give my husband something that God will punish him for later, or is it sound advice coming from spending time with God Himself?

• If my husband acts on my advice, will he be blessed from it?

• Will my advice cause him extra work and hardship? Eve’s advice added hard labor to the life of Adam. I don’t want that for my husband, do you?

And even after receiving his punishment, Adam still loved Eve. She knew she had screwed up royally. She knew that she had made the mother of all blunders, and instead of cursing her, beating her down, reminding her of her failures over and over again, Adam showed his love for her by naming her Eve, “because she would become the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20).

I find it odd that it is just now in the story that Adam gave Eve her personal name. To me, it shows that Adam took it to heart that God had given her to him as his wife. He took it personally that he was to love her, protect her, and provide for her. He was able to forgive and move on. For having not lived very long that shows great maturity, don’t ya think?

When times get stressful in your marriage, how you behave tells a lot about your relationship with God. Eve and Adam had personal relationships with God. They walked with Him and talked with Him, and they felt His love on an intimate level. If we have that intimate knowledge of God’s love in us, then our behavior should reveal as much. And as often is the case, there will be one spouse who just isn’t there yet. This does not release the other from acting out of God’s love…they should probably act more out of God’s love than anyone (1 Cor 5). Is it easy? NOPE. Is it fun? NOPE.

But when we stand before God and are judged, I don’t want to hear God tell my husband, “Because you listened to your wife…” and then hear something to Patrick’s detriment. I want to hear God bless my husband because of what I said or did was an asset to him. So, where do you stand? Do you need to buy some Gorilla Glue?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

From Ideal Wife to Redeemed Daughter -- A Quick Trip

When Pearce was old enough to sit up, I handed him one of his sister’s baby dolls to see what he would do with it. With his dark brown eyes, he studied it. With his chubby, little hand, he laid the baby on the floor, and with his lips, he made this bubbling sound before he slammed the baby into another object. I realized then that the baby was no longer a baby. In the hands of my son, the baby was a truck. I love watching my kids play. They amaze me. They amuse me. They surprise me at how creative they are. We limit television time and have very little time to be plugged into any other gadgets even though my kids have them. I think technology deprivation sparks creativity in the mind of a child.

Rearing a boy is very different than rearing a girl…not because of favoritism, not because of temperaments, but because God created them completely different. We may all be clothed in skin covering bone, blood and organs, but the intrinsic make-up of the little boy’s mind is very different from a girl. At least they are at my house. Boys are very active. Girls are very verbal. Pearce’s creativity comes from being outside and taking things apart. Erin’s creativity comes from being inside pretending she’s teaching. It takes different things to get their attention for rewards and for punishments. I love it. Having one of each stretches me to be creative in order to most effectively challenge and discipline my kids.

When God created woman, He didn’t see her as just another creature of the field. He didn’t see her as another man. He created her as His daughter. In prior blogs, we’ve seen how God parented Adam and Eve. They were both His children, and He parented them accordingly. Even though God had to discipline Eve, He gave her hope in his disciplining. He let her know He still loved her. Eve was going to be the life giver. Her offspring would populate this Earth God created. God knew when disciplining His daughter that she needed to feel love and to know there is hope.

Eve’s sin did not alter how God created her nor her function in the relationship. He sustained her. He could have started over from scratch – after all it was only two people, but He didn’t. Why? Because He saw the value in redeeming them. He sees value in redeeming you.

Wrong decisions or bad choices don’t affect whose you are – You are the daughter of the King. Wrong decisions and bad choices affects your relationship with the King and the consequences may affect your journey, but your final destination has been set. Eve made a wrong choice. Her choice had consequences. Her consequences meant no more late afternoon chats with serpents, a strained relationship with her spouse who blamed her for the fall, and a divide in her relationship with her creator.

Part of the consequences was more intense pain in child birth. Apparently there was going to be some discomfort or pain with childbirth, but due to her sin, the pain would be greater. I wonder if it was greater because she wasn’t going to have her Daddy there talking her through it, keeping her calm.

I found the next consequence intriguing. Genesis 3:16, “Your desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you” (HCSB). I have to admit, I’ve really mulled this one over, and I’ve researched it, and I still find it perplexing. I’m choosing to trust God on this, but I’ll explain what I’ve uncovered so far.

What woman in her right mind marries a man not wanting his attention and love? Most , if not all, the women I’ve met wants to be loved by their husband, to be treasured, to be adored and doted on…at least every now and then. I don’t care who they are, no man makes a perfect husband. A good man matures into that lover, spouse and mate. They don’t come pre-made. Just like good wives don’t either.

If you desire or crave something, you do whatever is necessary to get it. How many women have emasculated their husbands because of their own, selfish desires? How many wives have torn down their marriages because they failed to acknowledge their husbands role? How many women have complained that their husbands don’t lead, but it’s because the women have failed to follow?

Ladies, love your man. Let him be the man. Put the pants back on his side of the bed, so he can wear them! You want a man you can respect? You want a man you can love? You want a man who will lead? THEN BE THE GODLY WOMAN THAT GOD WANTS YOU TO BE & get yourself where you need to be spiritually. Build your man up! Pray for your man! Get your pride and ego in check. Submit yourself to an Almighty, Holy God. Repent and seek His face.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Daddy's Gotta Do What a Daddy's Gotta Do

This may surprise you, but when I was growing up, I had a temper. I had drastic mood swings, so drastic I’m sure my parents wondered if I had some psychiatric disorder. I could walk into the den with one attitude and pass back through in another one – I’m dreading puberty with my own kids (all prayer is appreciated).

One day when Lori and I were home alone, she and I got into an argument. I’m sure she provoked it. She was a very good instigator despite what she might say. I got mad and in a huff went to my room and slammed the door. Showed her! Put the exclamation point on the end of that spat for sure!

After a little while and I had calmed down and had flipped to a different mood, I decided to come out of my bedroom. I twisted the doorknob and nothing happened. I yelled at Lori to stop holding onto the doorknob, and she said she was in the bathroom. She came and let me out. All I could figure out in my hormonal, pea-brain was that somehow I had jammed the mechanism in the door knob. I nicely asked Lori to get into my room, and I was going to slam it again to see if I could unjam it before mom and daddy got home. Do you see the logic? Lori reluctantly went inside, and I slammed the door. Lori turned the knob from the inside – nothing. I turned the knob to let her out – nothing.

Then I heard some whimpering from inside my room. Lori had just realized she was stuck in my room. She thought she was stuck until mom or daddy got home, but we got her out through the window. The consequences of my choosing not to exercise self-control was a broken doorknob. See, daddy took that broken doorknob off my door and didn’t replace it for A MONTH! That meant every time Lori walked by, she could look in the hole and see what I was doing. Perfect for antagonizing!

Sin has consequences because we serve a just God, a righteous God.

I’d like to look at the consequences of the fall of man. God addresses the serpent first because he was the instigator. I doubt the serpent was always evil. Of all the animals, fowl, reptiles, Satan chose the serpent…no wonder I don’t like snakes. Here’s the thing, Satan used the snake, and the snake gets punished. Satan can use people too – make sure you don’t fall into that same category. The serpent receives the consequences. It happens.

Just because Satan slithers himself or tries to wheazle his way into your life, heart, thought and actions doesn’t mean you have to let him. If you do allow him this privilege, good things will not follow. In Genesis 3:15, we also see where God gives Satan his due. Satan is cast down. In the end, Satan gets what’s coming, and I’ve read the end of the book to know that Satan gets his butt kicked. God is victorious.

It is because God is victorious that we as Christians know we can overcome. We may get knocked down, but we get back up. We have hope. We have a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

Personally, I wonder how the snakes got around before the fall? As a result of the fall, they have to crawl on their belly and eat dirt which means before the fall they must not have been on their belly nor did they eat dirt. Right? I bet they look like walking sticks.

If you notice, God curses the snake, but also the relationship of the snake and the woman and her offspring. God doesn’t want us in relationships with snakes, with evil people. He does whatever is necessary to protect His children just like we don’t want our children hanging around the wrong group of friends, God is the same way. He nipped that relationship in the bud! A Daddy’s gotta do, what a Daddy’s gotta do. God put hostility between the snake and the woman. He made it impossible to maintain communication – taking away a cell phone, blocking a phone number, discontinuing Facebook and e-mail accounts (get the picture?).

Had Eve just realized the talking snake wasn’t a good thing…if we just realized the unhealthy habits and behaviors we have…Had we realized the heart and intention of the person who used us – This is why it is imperative that we walk with our Father at all times. We must be listening for His voice because there are dire consequences when we don’t.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Life of a Legend and WWII Veteran

She didn’t ask for us to be her family. She didn’t invite us into her life. As a matter of fact, she didn’t really do anything to encourage us to interact with her. She did whatever she could to discourage us. Her downfall, her misstep was sitting at the table where my grandmother sat for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the nursing home. She had no way of knowing how much my family likes taking on a challenge, taking on a person.

After my granddaddy died, Ms Susan was assigned to eat at the table with my Grandmother. My Grandmother was the meekest person I had ever met, and Ms Susan, well; she was the most stand-off person I had ever met. Ms Susan and Grandmother became friends over the courses of meals together. Both quiet and mannerly, I’m not really sure what they spoke about, but whatever it was it solidified their relationship for the rest of their lives.

We took Ms Susan from point forward. Her walls were thick. She kept some people at arm’s length. She kept some people at several yard’s length, and some people, she never wanted to deal with – period. She scared a lot of people off, but we didn’t have the good sense to be afraid. We had Grandmother forging the way…we just didn’t realize it.

Grandmother was sitting at the table and invited us to sit and eat with her. She pointed to the chair to sit in, and we did. Pearce was sitting up and Erin was standing beside me talking incessantly. Ms Susan took her place at the table, and Grandmother made the introductions. I don’t recall Ms Susan saying a word, just a pleasant nod. Grandmother passed her crackers for Pearce and Erin to eat while we visited.

Our visits with Grandmother weren’t always at a meal time, but it was the only time we would come face-to-face with Ms Susan. Pearce did not interact much with women. He has and still is very much a man-baby. He has preferred men from a very young age. But on this particular visit, Pearce was particularly engaging, and before I realized it, he had taken some food, like a cracker, from Ms Susan’s plate. I was shocked! Mortified! I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I just knew she was going to lecture me on the proper etiquette and manners for dinner time. Instead, Ms Susan looked at him and grinned. I was in…really, Pearce was in, and I was by association.

We faithfully visited my Grandmother, Mammaw and would see Ms Susan on occasion. On one occasion, Grandmother sent me to Ms Susan’s room. I knocked and when she called me to enter, I walked in and noticed an immediate difference in her room than the other residence. Ms Susan had no television but rather her books filled the shelves on one side of her room. She didn’t have photographs of family…just one or two on the dresser. I made the delivery and moved to the door. Another step closer.

When my Grandmother passed away, my daddy, Lori and I went to tell Ms Susan the news. Ms Susan had checked on my Grandmother on many occasions. Ms Susan had been an anesthesiology nurse, and she was always a nurse. My Grandmother was a good ten years younger than Ms Susan, and yet, Ms Susan would check on her. We walked into Ms Susan’s room to tell her, and she knew immediately. She said, “She died last night didn’t she?” We acknowledged. She told us she had seen my Grandmother in her room early that morning, and Ms Susan just knew that she had died. I remember Ms Susan’s tears. For someone who didn’t make friends easily, she loved deeply.

After Grandmother passed away, we went to Ms Susan and explained she would have to take her place because we were one Grandmother, one Great-Grandmother short. That next Mother’s Day we showered her with gifts and cards and flowers. Ms Susan chuckled because she was 92, and it was her first time to be celebrated on Mother’s Day.

Ms Susan was extremely private. She talked of two friends she had Ms Betty and Gene-Marie. I asked about her birth date, and she flat out refused to tell me. By this time, I knew we were good and in because she had fallen in love with my son and she had connected to my daughter on a personal level, so yes, I dug and found out her birth date. She had her first birthday party at 93, and she loved every minute of it.

I loved going to visit her. I loved visiting her by myself, so we could visit. I loved hearing her stories about serving as a nurse during World War II in Europe, as a nurse at Charity Hospital during Huey P Long’s administration, and about her time in New York and her one day employment in Colorado. I cherish those visits, but I knew that she looked forward to seeing the children. Her whole face would light up as soon as they would walk in and give her a hug.

I can’t imagine what she must have endured to build the walls around her that she had, but I’m so thankful my family took the challenge to get behind those walls.

My children, especially Pearce, miss her greatly as do I.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My Mom Asked the Question that Stumped Me -- It's a Good Parenting Question

Being that my mom was a high school English teacher and my daddy had tried every stupid-human trick a teenage male could try, there really wasn’t any hope that Lori and I would get away with much or anything. Trust me, if you hear my daddy tell about his growing up, you will laugh your head off and begin wondering how he survived to make it to adulthood. But being the black sheep of Lori and me, I recall mom asking me a question one night after I got in from hanging out with some friends. Her question – “So, do you have anything you want to tell me?”

My parents valued honesty and trust, and if we were upfront with them, things would always be much better than if we lied about it…trust me.

When I heard her question, the first thought that flashed through my head was, “What did she hear?” The next was, “Which one should I confess to?” I don’t recall how the rest of the conversation went, but that question has stuck with me. It was a very clever question.

My children really have no hope, since I’ve been trained to ask questions, and I’ve kept that question of mom’s filed away for a much needed time to be determined later…most likely in Pearce’s puberty.

God is the most clever of all though. His ability to parent and to question as a parent is perfection. In Genesis 3, God is walking in the garden in the cool of the day. I wonder if He left footprints. He calls out to the man, and the man answers in a truthful manner. In verse 10, “He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” Notice Adam didn’t say, “WE” heard you in the garden. “WE” were afraid. He was taking ownership of his own actions.

God, being the perfect parent, asked in verse 10, “Who told you that you were naked?” God knows the answer, but He asks the question that goes directly to the heart of the matter, doesn’t He? Then God asks a completely rhetorical question, “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (vs 11). God knew the answer, but He was giving the man a chance to come clean, to be honest.

When I take someone’s statement on the job, I often already know the answer. What I’m doing is throwing out a rope…it is up to the individual to use it as a lifeline, or they can make it into a noose. The wise thing to do is to be honest, but sometimes people are so far in they don’t see a way out, so they continue to make poor decisions.

Here’s another thing…if you are going to ask a question, you need to shut your mouth and listen to the answer. You can’t ask good questions if you haven’t heard the answer to your first question. Sometimes you may need to think about the answer before you ask your next question – There’s wisdom in that. I trained a rep one time that when he took statements he never listened to the answers. He had a list of questions he went by, and he did very little to alter the outline. He missed opportunities to clarify misunderstandings. He missed opportunities to track down leads. He missed opportunities to catch them in their lies. He didn’t stay long in the fraud unit. He wasn’t cut out for it…not everyone is. Just like I’m not cut out to be a kindergarten teacher.

Sometimes people tell you more than they want to tell you if they have to sit in silence after you’ve asked a question. Silence makes liars uncomfortable. They feel the need to fill the void with words.

Fortunately, Adam comes clean even if does bring his wife down with him, and God listens. We see how Adam blames Eve. He tells God also that it’s the woman that God put there for him (Gen 3:12). Notice how God doesn’t acknowledge the personal barb that Adam makes? He chooses not to even address it. Adam is trying to make this personal to God, but what Adam doesn’t realize is that it is already personal to God. God exercises self-control…as parents we have to do that a lot (especially if you have a mouthy or disrespectful child or teen or adult child for that matter). God kept focus on what was important.

His questioning went to Eve, and she blamed the serpent. God didn’t have to give them the opportunity to come clean, but by asking them questions, it did not appear that He accused them. Have you ever noticed how when you accuse someone their defenses automatically come up and the communicate shuts down? Often times, in my job, I ask questions to which I already know the answers. They aren’t rhetorical. They aren’t sarcastic. Asking the right kind of question can provide the foundation for a conversation without raised voices, sarcasm, etc. People think that doing my job as a fraud claim rep that I would get yelled at all the time especially when I’m taking a statement and getting all up in someone’s personal business…very rarely does that happen. I put them on notice up front about my concerns, and then I ask questions giving them the opportunity to clear things up.

Ever play the game 20 questions? Try that approach to a difficult communication situation. Ask the right questions and see where your conversation goes.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Work Story -- A Little Lengthy But an Interesting Read

Several years ago, I investigated a case in which the woman claimed to have a brain tumor. The local media covered her story because they found out the dentist office where she was working was throwing a Christmas party in her honor and donating all kind of toys and goodies to this family with three children. The public was told she was being treated at MD Anderson because she was undergoing some experimental treatment. She was married to a police officer. The police are a band of brothers like no other, and during this terrible ordeal, police officers were working second shifts and donating those funds to this family. One officer took out a personal loan of over $7,000.00, and gave it to this family. The police also hosted a charbroiled chicken dinner with the proceeds going to this family.

During this time, she went to work for my dad. It was during this trial period at his office that they turned in a claim that landed on my desk. It wasn’t their first questionable claim. Their first questionable claim that had to be paid was when they had a grease fire that burned down their rental. This time the fire was contained to a little place in the garage. That’s where I come in.

I investigate insurance fraud for an insurance company. I have worked chop shops, staged accidents, passenger stuffing, thefts, arsons, chiropractors, roofers, and a number of other unsavory characters…but these were the worst. Some of my training is formal. Some of my training is on the job. Some of my skill comes from my gut.

While I still investigate fraud, I don’t investigate these individual cases any longer…sometimes I miss it. Sometimes I don’t.

But back to my story…I made arrangements to take the statements of our insureds. I went to their home and met the Mrs. and observed her with her three children. She moved easily around the kitchen. She bent down to pick up a paper towel and came up with ease. She moved around the house with perfect balance and without hesitation. When she looked at things, her eyes tracked perfectly. She heard everything that went on in that house. Her speech was not slurred nor was it delayed as if she was struggling to find the correct word. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I just knew I needed to observe her behavior. My degree is actually in speech pathology. Who knew that it would help me out in one of my cases! I began taking her statement. She was perfectly poised. She answered each question as if practiced. She didn’t exhibit any tell-tale signs that I would recognize.

When I take someone’s statement, I get all up in their personal business. You don’t EVEN want to know some of the things people have confessed to me. I asked about the fire, the things that happened before and after, and then I asked about financial issues. The Mr. arrived, and I took his statement. Normally, I wouldn’t do a statement at someone’s residence, but my gut told me to get it while I could. When I interview someone with law enforcement background, my goal is different than with someone off the street. I sat down with the officer and took his statement. He told me that nothing happened in his house that he didn’t know about. I went through the facts, and then I went through their finances.

I left their home and sat in my car for a moment, and there was something just gnawing on me. My gut is rarely if ever wrong…mainly because I think it’s a God-thing. As I pulled out of their driveway, I called my boss and told him I wanted to do something outside the box and wanted his permission. First, just the fact that I called him to tell him ahead of time…he knew it was huge! I was summoned to his office.

I told him of my plans for my investigation, and he concurred. I gathered all kinds of intell, and sure enough – let’s just say, I found out she didn’t have a brain tumor. YUP! HUGE!

Police don’t like investigating their own, and this time was no exception. I had to pay the claim, but the information contained inside my claim is what would ultimately bring them down. The National Insurance Crime Bureau agent was brought in and took the case to several different people. No one was interested in looking into it. Then he took it took it to a federal prosecutor who is fierce, and I love that about her. She checked the medical records at the police office and confirmed what I had uncovered.

During the federal trial, the police officer who said he knew everything that happened in his home started back-pedaling. He started saying he didn’t know about the scheme and that it was all his wife’s doing. Fortunately, this prosecutor remembered the statement I took and pulled it out to contradict his testimony.

While I was reading Genesis and reading how Adam started blaming Eve the moment he was caught, I thought about this Mr. and Mrs. In Genesis 3:12, “The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Not only did Adam blame the woman, he had the gall to blame God! He was doing anything to deflect responsibility, causation and punishment…but it didn’t work. Following Adam’s lead, Eve says, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate it”(vs 13). Pass the buck, sista! Pass the buck!

How often have you tried escaping what you deserved by looking for someone else to blame? Sounds juvenile, doesn’t it? My children try it on a regular basis. Sometimes we try it with God. “God, she needs your help. Fix her. She’s not living like she should.” When in reality, she isn’t the issue. She may need help, but God is more interested in you. She isn’t the one who needs fixing…IT’S YOU! YOU are the one with the bad attitude. YOU are the one with the mean spirit. You are the one who needs calluses removed from your heart and who needs to be fixed.

There are consequences for our actions. For Adam and Eve, there were many consequences…consequences that would last till Jesus comes back. There are consequences you have for the choices you have made. For the Mr. and Mrs., they both served jail time and were separated from their children. The sentence given the Mrs. exceeded the guidelines set. You get to choose what you do, and as a result of your choice, you have chosen your punishment, your consequences. Are your choices Christ-like? Are your decisions made after you have sought God’s direction? It matters. It really does.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Where Do 2 Redneck Girls Hide a Frog? You might be surprised.

Today is my husband’s birthday. He is the reason I’ve been on this journey since the beginning of the year. Without him, I would not be a wife or a mother, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be both.

I want to be like the Proverbs 31 woman. I want to follow God’s design for being a godly wife, but like Eve, I fall miserably short sometimes. Sometimes not only do I fall short, but I bring my husband down in the process.

I don’t know about you, but I want to have a happy, peaceful, loving family, and sometimes what I do tears down the things that build up my family. Isn’t that just stupid on my part? I want so desperately for my husband to love me, respect me, honor me, etc., and yet there are times when my behavior and attitude and choices wear away at the fabric of my relationship.

In Genesis 3, Eve did the exact same thing. She fed Adam the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam willingly took and ate. He is the one who received “THE RULE” from God, but his wife encouraged him to go against “THE RULE,” against God. Things started falling apart immediately. They immediately realized they were naked and started looking for covering. I wonder what they used to sew those fig leaves together. It’s not like they could have gone to a fabric store for a needle and thread. I wonder if they tried any other coverings before going to the fig leaf…hopefully they didn’t try poison ivy (just sayin’).

In verse 8 it says, “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking.” When my sister and I were young, we sneaked a tree frog into the house. We ran to my room, shut the door and started giggling. Then we realized we had this frog and no place to put it. We looked around to see where we could keep him…a 6 string guitar. We put the little frog in the guitar just as we heard mom walking toward my room. We quickly slid the guitar under my bed as mom opened the door. Talk about heart-pounding. We were called to supper, and when we came back, we couldn’t get the little frog to come out. We also didn’t know what to feed it, so we think it died in there. We donated it to Good Will…we were charitable that way (a guitar, a frog – all in one). Getting caught or almost getting caught can make your heart race. Ever hear your heart pounding in your ears due to fright?

I wonder what God sounded like. I have a heavy footstep, and when I’m wearing my boots, I walk with purpose.

So Adam and Eve hear God, and what do they do? Like my kids, they hide the incriminating evidence. Yes, Pearce, go ahead and shove those last 3 big marshmallows in your mouth. Instead of food, they hide themselves.

Then God calls out to the man. You know why? Because God told the man the rule, and the man was responsible for following the rules and making sure his wife did as well.

Then God audibly speaks to Adam and Eve. Have you ever wished God would just say something audible to a pray you have poured out? I have. I wonder if He has a low, raspy voice, or does He sound like James Earl Jones. In verse 9, God says, “Where are you?” You and I both know that God knew full good and well where Adam and Eve were and what they had done.

Why do you think God asked a rhetorical question? He was giving them an opportunity to come clean, to confess.

Adam comes clean, and we’ll go over his conversation in the next blog, but what I want to make sure you get here is that Eve had an opportunity to make a good decision. She could have chosen to save her relationship with God. She could have chosen to honor her husband’s authority. But instead, Eve chose to undermine the authority of her husband. She chose to not to submit to God’s protection, and life as she knows it falls apart.

If you’re world feels like it’s falling apart, don’t blame someone else. Psalm 139:23 – 24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Let me tell you, it isn’t pleasant as one who has been there and done that. Are you brave enough to pray that? Are you brave enough to tell God to search you and to try you, to clean your heart? What if it means it would save your marriage, a relationship, would you then? God is in the restoration business, but you have to do your part. You gotta come clean.