Category Archives: Christianity

A Mizpah Mistake?

I remember years ago there were these paired necklaces. The two pairs together made a whole coin, called a Mizpah coin. On the coin were two hearts with beautiful text from the Bible, along the lines of “The LORD keep watch between me and thee while we are absent one from another.” The coin was then cut in two in a jagged way, and each part hung on a chain. It was either a couples thing or a BFF thing depending on how you looked at it.

I was young and naive. I always thought it was such a beautiful expression of care and concern. So much so, that I whispered it in my husband’s ear as they were wheeling him away for a medical procedure. And even as I was doing it, I had this queasy feeling like I was wrong, like it was the wrong thing to say or the wrong situation.

So, while I was eating lunch, I did the Christian equivalent of Bible google. It was not a pleasant situation that I found. The words we as a culture always thought to be so loving and caring were actually part of a threat from a father-in-law to a son-in-law. Let me explain.

The words come from a story in the life of Jacob, later renamed by God to Israel. Jacob’s life spans many years and many chapters in the book of Genesis. Jacob was a right rascal. He’d deceived his father into giving him the inheritance even though the custom was that the firstborn was to receive it; Jacob was second born, a twin who delivered by grabbing Esau’s ankle and following Esau out.

Esau was naturally disturbed, well more like in a murderous rage. So Jacob went on the run and found his way to working for Laban. Laban had two daughters. Jacob did not like the look of Leah, but loved Rachel. Laban agreed to let Jacob marry Rachel.

Jacob was not getting a good and kind father-in-law; instead he was getting a lesson in the wrongness of deception. By the point in our story that the quote is said, Laban has:

  • Tricked Jacob into working seven years to earn Rachel
  • Tricked Jacob into marrying Leah
  • Tricked Jacob into working another seven years for Rachel
  • Changed how much Jacob could earn while he worked for Laban (10 times no less)

So Jacob lied to Laban and took off with all his wives, kids, and earthly goods. Evidently, deception was a family affair because Rachel stole some idols from her father. Laban caught up with everyone and accused Jacob of the idol theft. Jacob, as a follower of God, would have detested idols, so he said Laban could search his caravan, seize the idols if found, and kill the thief. Obviously, Jacob trusted Rachel too much, but Rachel wasn’t done. She sat on the idols and refused to move, deceptively stating it was “that time of the month.” (All of us modern peeps know not to mess with PMS, right?)

With the idols not found, Laban blesses them all, and he and Jacob build a pile of stones as an altar, closing with the following quote before he literally kisses them all goodbye and leaves:

And Laban said, “This pile is a witness between me and you today.” That is why its name is Gal-ed, or Mizpah, for he said, “Let Adonai keep watch between you and me when we are out of one another’s sight. If you mistreat my daughters, and if you take wives besides my daughters, though no one is with us, look! God is the witness between you and me.”

Laban said further to Jacob, “Behold, this pile, and this pillar which I’ve set up between you and me: this pile serves as a witness, that I won’t pass by this pillar to go to you, and that you won’t pass by this pile and this pillar to go to me—with evil intent. May the God of Abraham and the gods of Nahor, the gods of their father, judge between us.”

Jacob also made an oath by the fear of his father Isaac.

–Genesis 31:48-53, Tree of Life Version

So what is the Mizpah Mistake?

First, when you take a Scripture verse out of context, no matter how beautiful, you miss the point of the lesson to be learned and you settle for less than God’s best that the Scripture is designed to give you in life.

Second, it’s the point missed from the entire passage. Sometimes, relationships are so broken, and the people in the relationships are so broken, that we just have to let go. Not only let go, but let go the right way:

  1. Talk it out
  2. Agree to disagree
  3. Set the boundaries
  4. Go your own way.

For My Husband…

Author’s Note: This is based on the song, “Bless the Broken Road,” performed by both Selah and Rascal Flatts. I’m including a link to the Selah version here.

“Bless the Broken Road” in surround sound–
And I believe every word,
Yet the pain in the journey
Sears my heart and floods my eyes.
It wasn’t the North Star
Leading me to your arms.
It was the man
Your broken road shaped in you,
Blessed by Jesus.
But my road still isn’t straight,
And I can’t find the joy and strength
To bless my broken road.
Hold me close and don’t let me go
Until joy in the journey dries my eyes.
Bless me with your love.
Hold me in your arms and on my feet.

Love me
Until I can love you
The way you deserve.

 

Eyes in the Mirror

I would look in the mirror year upon year.
Even as I aged I never saw me.
I saw his eyes,
And I wanted to cringe and look away.
His eyes: steel-blue and grey,
Crinkled from years of age and sun…
They flashed.
Wanted joy always replaced by anger.
Never girl enough, good enough, smart enough, right enough, perfect enough…
Never enough.

A few years back,
I softened and they changed.
They were my eyes: blue and green,
With just a hint of life.
Yet suddenly they’d become Abba’s eyes.
They’d see not good but worth His Son’s life;
Not smart but full of wisdom, understanding, counsel, and knowledge;
Not right but covered in Christ’s righteousness and full of His mercy;
Not perfect but pressing in toward the prize of Christ’s call on my life.
Abba saw me as I was and as He could make me.

It is enough in Him.

Hounding My Mind

I’ve shared before how this is the time of year when I seem to review my life, almost torturing myself with the people who aren’t in it and the places I can’t go any more.

I’m thinking of Miriam again. It was a fall day like this one when she quipped at some odd comment I’d made, “The Lord will win. His Holy Spirit is the hound of heaven you know.”

I was taken aback. It was such an irreverent, sacrilegious thought, comparing the Lord to a dog. I was not yet out of the denominational pew of my birth, so it was even more horrifying.

But maybe it was an attempt to challenge me to become more Biblically literate. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be until years later that I would grow enough to know how to search the Bible, then devolve into chuckling and laughter.

Hound of heaven is nowhere, nowhere in the Bible. Even hound is a hard word to find. I found it in the NIV, twice (or the search engine on my favorite online Bible site found it twice). It was nowhere in the KJV, which was what Miriam quoted all the time.

I was both miffed that she pulled it and even more intrigued. At first, I thought she just created it, but the prideful, educated side of me scoffed. So I googled hound of heaven.

There is actually a poem by a Francis Thomson called “The Hound of Heaven.” I won’t republish it here; its 180+ lines  are far too many for a mobile app generation. You can visit the full text if you’d like.

The point of the poem is so encouraging. Although God is indeed a just God who will allow souls to choose Hell, He is also an infinitely loving God whose graces and mercies are new every morning and never fail.

Like hounds were used to chase foxes tirelessly, relentlessly, passionately, steadfastly, He loves every sinner and will tirelessly, relentlessly, passionately, steadfastly arrange the circumstances of the sinner’s life so that the sinner has every opportunity up until the last breath to choose Christ.

Prayer of an Angry Sinner

I’m weary and frustrated. I’m tired of faux connection via electronics.

I’m bruised and battered in my heart: invisible without 50 social media accounts and 3 devices; unheard whether I curse, swear, and speak vulgarly or bless, hedge my bets, and whisper wholesomely; untouched in a deafening silence devoid of real voices.

I’m tired of indifference masquerading as intolerance and freedom of expression if it pleases the masses.

The fiery red consumes me, and I long to push the button, the great button that releases a cleansing atomic cloud.

Saccharin civility can’t sweeten the bland, dour sourness of a PC chorus.

But I must remember:

  • Vengeance isn’t mine to take
  • My anger won’t bring back the righteousness of generations gone by
  • Blowing away the nation won’t cure silicon stagnation
  • Kicking sorry hides won’t destroy evil masks of false facades

You, oh Lord, hold vengeance and justice. You, oh Lord, give pardon and peace. You, oh Lord, restore mercy and grace. You forgive the inexcusable.

So…

Wash my mind in your True Word. Bathe my heart in the cleansing flow from Your Side. Speed my feet back to paths of righteousness. Burn the angry insults from my lips. Cleanse my hands from hidden sins.

I forgive them. You forgive me. We are never even or equal. Your ways are higher; Your thoughts are higher; Your love is perfect.

Show Me

Jesus, why is Jane Doe in my life?
She doesn’t listen.
She isn’t human.
She doesn’t care.
She isn’t my kind of person.

*silence with a slice of sighs*

Is she a soul My Father created?
Is she someone I died to save?
Is she made in Abba’s image?
Does she have worth simply because she is?
Isn’t that more than enough?

*silence with a side of remorseful sorrow and silent resignation*

Impure in His Presence?

I’ve written in the past about how I love worship and how God inhabits the praises of His people. I also love worship because I always believed that nothing impure could stand in the presence of God and if I could just get over my shame and guilt I’d be a little cleaner because of time with Him.

While it’s true that time with Him in His Word and prayer does improve righteousness, attitude, and wisdom, I was trying to find the Scriptural basis for the notion that nothing impure could stand in the presence of God.

After a few searches, I started feeling queasy. In Job, we see Satan goes right up to the throne of God (Job 1:6, Job 2:1) with the other angels (presumably those still following God).

Satan also approaches Jesus, who never sinned, while Jesus was fasting in the wilderness. Matthew 4:1-11 contains all the details. In effect, Satan was permitted to test Jesus three times over food, power, and proper targets for worship. Jesus of course passed.

Impure spirits were regularly in the presence of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel. In Mark 1:25, an impure spirit challenges Jesus and tries to reveal His identity before the proper time. In Mark 3:11, the impure spirits are constantly bowing and trying to identify Jesus before the proper time.

Mark 5:1-20 describes another time impure spirits were before Jesus. A seriously disturbed man lived in a graveyard. When Jesus was passing by, he began to yell… or the demon began to yell. It tried to identify Jesus and accuse Him of coming too soon to torture him and his evil buddies. They knew His power–they begged Him first not to send them away and then to send them into some pigs. He obliged. They killed the pigs, irritating the farmer and related merchants.

Now Isaiah and Revelation do have some interesting passages. They do talk about the impure not being fit to follow the Lord and be in the presence of the Lord.

Isaiah 35:8 (NIV) — And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it.

Revelation 21:27 (NIV) — Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

As much as it would make life easier if these verses were immediately true in our here and now, both Isaiah and Revelation are prophetic books about a future that has not yet come to pass.

So, what I said is true in the future, but it’s not really true in the here and now. In the here and now, the impure can be in the Presence of Holy God. They are either infinitely rebellious or quivering, shaking, and uncomfortable.

And maybe sometimes they’re a lot like me, or am I a lot like them? The difference is that I can and have chosen Christ and I have His righteousness covering me. At some point, I will not be rebellious, quivering, uncomfortable. I will be perfected and changed in the twinkling of an eye, forever whole and praising the One I love.