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Genesis 31: Divine Fellowship

When people are in love, they talk a lot. They have no time to do anything else but talk, talk, and talk some more. Most of the time, when they talk, I am pretty sure they are just chattering away. Nothing of what they say is that serious, except the voice of their beloved. It doesn’t matter how much the other makes sense; it is still beautiful.

Every church I have been to, have a time of fellowship, a coffee hour, a time to catch up with life. Everyone knows each other, and then they want to talk about it what they know. Sharing with another what is going on is vital to building a relationship. Fellowship times do that. 

In the Episcopal church, once I was part of, we had three ‘worship services’ called Rite I, Rite II, and Rite III. The Rite III was the fellowship hour, as important as the Rite I and Rite II. Being with another person through life was as important as the other, if not more. 

As relationships mature, there may not be much talk but a calming presence. A silence envelops relationships. But this silence is not be deafening but restful. It softens emotions and feelings. Silence makes the presence of the other uplifting and encouraging.

One of the churches I pastored has a program called Neighbors Table. It is a program that provided food for the hungry on Saturdays. It did not matter what your financial status is; you are welcome to join at the meals and create a community with those sitting around you. There were many other churches in that community that provided a free meal for anyone who wanted it, but Neighbors Table was known for the fellowship of love. Neighbors’ Table provided an opportunity to share life as it happened rather than spend time praying, talking about God, and being churchy because it was in a church. People came not necessarily for food, but for company, conversation, and compassion. 

We all crave for attention. We all want someone to talk to. Just as much as we want someone to talk to us, we also want someone to listen to. It is a deep longing within that we may not recognize. A beautiful relationship is built up only by this reciprocal activity of talking and listening. Eating together, eating with, and sharing the table with another gives us a sense of security and sacredness. God becomes part of our daily life when we eat together and laugh together. So, fellowship can be any of these. 

Eating with another is fellowship.

Laughing with another is fellowship. 

Praying with another is fellowship. 

Suffering with another is fellowship.

Chilling out with another is fellowship.

Just being you with another is fellowship. 

God longs for these moments, and just as much as God does, we do too. We may not know it. But deep within, we long for God just like the deer that longs for water. The faster we recognize it, the better. The sooner we drink of the water, we won’t be dehydrated of God. 

When Abraham fell on his face when he met God, God promised him a life that was blessed. God and Abraham visited with each other and shared a future that was unknown to Abraham. God spoke, and Abraham listened. God made a covenant, promised a child, provided a nation, and a destiny greater than Abraham could have imagined. Because they came together to talk. (Genesis 17:3)

Moses went up the mountain to speak to God. God was waiting for him on top of the mountain. Then God told Moses the things the people of Israel had forgotten. He tells them how He bore them on eagles wings. God provided a bird’s eye view of his plan for His people. They were His treasure. He had a plan to make them priestly and holy. All of this secret plan of God was revealed to Moses because Moses spent a few days and nights alone with God on the mountain. (Exodus 19:3-6)

Looking at God straight is not a good idea, according to Moses. He did not come up with this line of deep awe for God, but God reportedly shared it with Moses. He didn’t know we would die if we looked at God’s face. (Exodus 19:20) This kind of information is what I am talking about when we talk with one another; we learn. We learn things we didn’t know. That happens with God as much as it happens with a man. So the people stood at a distance. (Exodus 20:21) They gave the privacy needed for two friends to talk, to share, and to warn those who were listening to them. 

We learn about the other by listening to the other. Not by imagining what we want to. We have to engage in conversation: two-way communication. The conversation is not a monologue. It is you and I, God and you, husband and wife, friend and friend, pastor and the flock, the director, and the directed. 

The fellowship is a two-way street

You talk, and I listen.

I talk, and you listen. 

God talks, and I listen. 

I talk, and God listens.

Sometimes in doing so, we have to climb the mountains and sometimes come down to the valley. The fellowship is a two-lane road with a narrow divider. Sometimes the divider is a thick concrete four-foot-wide flower bed, and at other times, it is a dotted yellow line in the middle. When it is well defined, it is hard to cross to the other side, and when it dotted line, we can go in and out of the other lane. Conversations require this kind of clarity and fluidity to make it into a beautiful relationship.

This is what the Lord God does when He tells Moses that people should not look at his face, lest they die; it is a hard and fast rule. That is what happens when he gives the ten commandments. It is a very clear direction without any room for much interpretation and crossing over. When it is with God that we are talking, there is no crossing over to interrupt of give our opinion about it. 

Jonah tried that and didn’t go too far with his interruption. He told the Lord that it is not a good idea not to punish the people of Nineveh. He was upset because the Lord didn’t actually follow through what they talked about, namely punish the sinners. He pouted and kept away from God. But the Lord gave him some shade from the scorching sun. But then the Lord made a little worm to eat the plant and put him out in the hot sun. Jonah was upset about what the Lord was doing to him, putting him out for a heat stroke! But the Lord made his point through it and got Jonah’s attention. Conversation with God helped. Jonah knew why wouldn’t God destroy the people and the animals in the kingdom. He cared for them. His desire was not to destroy them but to change their hearts and wrongful living. (Jonah 4: 5-7)

Conversation with God helps

But between men, we cross the dotted yellow line in the middle all the time. We interrupt, and we interject out ideas and thoughts into others. We argue and fight over things that sometimes are the same. If we listened carefully, maybe we could keep to our lanes and empower the other. 

I sometimes do not listen to what my wife says. After a long back and forth talk, I have, and she has realized that we talked the same thing. But from different viewpoints and many times from the same viewpoints. If we paid attention, to begin with, we wouldn’t have to waste so much of our time proving our point.

Here is something for us to think about. 

When God calls, we go

God invited Moses to the mountain to talk. (Exo: 19:20)

God invited Moses to a tent to talk to. (Lev 1:1)

God invited Aaron and Miriam to talk. (Num 12:8)

God invited Ezekiel into the valley to talk. (Eze: 3:22)

God invited the people near the mountain. (Exo 20:21)

God likes to talk to people face to face. He was not much interested in talking through signs just as much as directly. Meeting and talking was His way of communicating. He didn’t hide from those whom he talked to. 

He talked face to face with Abraham

He talked face to face with Moses. 

He talked face to face with Job in his tent. 

He makes a covenant with those whom he talks. 

He calls them His friends. 

What is beautiful about the relationship with God is it is real, personal, and present all the time. It is promising. God is a friend, and therefore he wants to talk to you. 

Divine fellowship is what we are all looking for in our lives. We long for someone to spend time with us and talk to us. 

When you go into a nursing home, that is what you will find. People are waiting there to talk to someone. 

When you visit an orphanage, you find children waiting to talk to you and be seen. 

When you genuinely love someone, that is what happens. They wait with a longing to see you and be in your space. 

Their voice, their heart, and their energy are in yours. You interact with their emotions, feelings, and experiences. That is what God is longing for. The Lord strolled in the garden of Eden, looking for Adam and Eve. God was looking for a friend to talk to. 

Be a friend to God. Don’t be a stranger.

Divine fellowship is worth pursuing, 

Genesis 30: The Divine Life

The birth of a child is always life-giving. No matter what world you live in or what culture you are part of. The new birth brings about celebrations.

When my two children were born, it was like a new world of possibilities opened up for me. I did not think they would anything in particular for me, but my love and care got a focus that I never realized I could. Until they were born, it was all about caring for the world which did not have a face. The face of the world, until they were born, did not have features. Neither did the focus of my love had a smell, a feeling and an emotion other than the emotions they went through when someone died or when someone got married.

But the birth of my children made everyone’s emotions tangible, real, present and beautiful. It was not others’ emotions and experiences were not beautiful before, but being able to claim without fear the feelings of my own babies made everything else in the world much more real and much more beautiful.

I never realized that is what children do. I did not even believe the birth of a child has such an impact on the lives of people.

It is in this context I realized the power of Genesis chapter 30. When you read this chapter, it is a royal mess. In my mind, because I am still limited by my judgments and prejudices, I don’t see much of spiritual focus when Leah, Rachael, Zilpah, Bilhah, the two servant girls, and Jacob shared their beds with each other. All for what? Simply because they wanted to have children. The whole drama that unfolds here is because they were jealous, fearful and upset with each other.

When we look further we find two poor girls, Zilpah and Bilhah, were just products to be used for this end goal. Was it that simple? Was it just sex and children their motivation? When I reflect more, I have to reflect on it in the context of other children who were conceived through these kinds of situations in the Bible.

The very beginning of the Bible starts with Adam and Eve having their first two children in Cain and Abel. Adam made love, not just sex, to bring about a divine life. It is with the help of the Lord new life is brought about. It is not because we can simply procreate but when God is involved there is new life regardless of goodness or holiness of those involved. It is God who brings about the new birth and new life. When God does that, regardless of who we are, God celebrates it.

After the death of Abel at the hands of Cain, his brother, God blessed Eve and Adam with Seth, another son. His birth inspired the people to call upon the name of the Lord as a daily practice. New life to the new spiritual rhythm of prayer.

Everyone knows the story of Abraham and Sarah. In her old age, she gives birth to a child in Isaac. Isaac made the promise of God come alive. But not just that, it also made the stars of the universe countable. Until Issac was born, the sons of Abraham were more numerous than the stars in heaven. But after he was born, you could start counting the start with him as one. Children make the world tangible.

We have Leah and Rachael fighting with each other to have children. They together with their servant girls give thirteen children to Jacob, including one girl, Dinah. Every time a child was born, God forgot all that happened in bringing about that child. The new started new again. Every time a child was born, the probability of God becoming man increased. God’s promise of redemption was closer and real.

When Rachael got upset with Jacob for not having children, Jacob got angry with her asking, “am I in the place of God?” Affirming it is the Lord who gives children.

One day after a long period of distance from each other, Esau and Jacob met. When they met, Jacob was afraid of Esau, because he remembered how he treated his older brother and stole the birthright and the blessings from him. But Esau was completed lost in the wonder of Jacob’s family and children he forgot all about his anger, unforgiveness, and vengeance. Jacob declares “they are the children God has graciously given your servant.”

I am reminded how parents forget all their disappointments and anger towards their own children the moment they see the face of their grandchildren. The innocent face of a child gives hope and future for all who are wanting to see the face of God.

The probability of God coming down to our world increased with the birth of every child. When Ruth became the mother of Obed, who was the father of two great men, Jesse and David.

Thus the coming of Jesus, the son of God, is now no more a probability, but a certainty.

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3

Now we can settle why Leah and Rachael had been in a fight. Knowingly or unknowingly we are all frantic to see the face of God in a child, which explains for the birth of about two hundred and fifty children every minute. That’s about five hundred people along with their grandparents are actively waiting for life. We are constantly seeking divine life.

Leah and Rachael along with Jacob and the servants were in search of the face of God among them. They were looking for tangible God, not an abstract one. God only became real to them, just as much as to us, when new life emerged. Until new life emerges there is no God.

New life is the absolute attribute of God.

Genesis 29: The Divine Care

In India, parents arrange the marriages of their children. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, parents have the final say. But if you are a woman, not only parents have the final say, they are also obliged to give a dowry for their daughters. Many times that will be in gold and recently it has been in household items, appliances, cars, property, and the list goes on. What was this dowery for in reality? It is to secure the future of their girls in the new home they are going to. It was to give a head-start to the young couple, a gift to begin a new life, by the parents and the family of the girls. 

In the story of Leah and Rachel in the Old Testament, we do not see Laban willingly giving dowery to his prospective son-in-law but rather takes it from him. He makes him work for the love Jacob had towards Rachael. Eventually, Jacob did take more than just Rachael. He worked hard and then he took his share from Laban at the end. He took Leah, Rachael, The servants, the sheep and more. 

If you think there is no justice in how God works, here is one. Jacob stole the birthright of his brother and truth be told, his mother coerced him to do it.  But Jacob went along with the plan and took what was not his to take. Here is Jacob now in the same boat as a victim.  Jacob was enamored of the beauty of Rachel, Laban’s second daughter. He wanted to marry Rachel before Leah, his first daughter. He asked Laban, Rachael’s father, for her hand. He promised to give her in marriage but he had to work seven years for it. At the end of the seventh year, he not only did not give Rachael to Jacob but tricked him into taking Leah, his older daughter, in her place in the middle of the night under the cover of darkness. 

What goes around come around, you have heard. That’s what happens here. Jacob pays for his actions in a way by being cheated by the father of the woman he was in love with. He could not swallow because the whole deal with bitter, but he could also not spit it out because his heart was still with Rachael. In the midst of it all, the one who lost dignity, respect, and love was Leah, the older daughter. No one bothered to look into her feelings or fears. No-one bothered to worry about what her thoughts were. 

But then that doesn’t end there. Jacob had to work for his sweetheart for another seven more years. Rachael does not bear children. But Leah does. 

Leah suffered ridicule in this story. Leah is only an example of several people in the world who suffers such treatment. These experiences are painful and demeaning. They cry out to God and does God hear them? This is where the story takes a different turn. God does hear the cries of the abused and lost. 

Israelites suffered under the rule of Pharaoh. God took pity on them and looked upon them with love, which prompted them to be led out of Egypt. Exodus 2:25

Solomon was a great king and the wisest of all in the world. He had a huge responsibility as a king and a man who is guided by the Lord. In spite of the fact that he was a king and had everything he needed, he felt the need for divine care because of the burdens he was facing as a king. No one is exempt from that desire for God’s care. Regardless of our position in society, the love we experience in this world and our maturity level, we are still looking for divine care like Solomon and Leah was looking for. The people of Israel were looking for. 

Prophets seek such care from God. If not for a deep and personal love towards Elijah, he would not have had anything to eat in the wilderness. “The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the wadi.” 1 Kings 17:6

Jezebel was looking for Elijah. There were people who were against him and wanted him dead. Elijah fled the land because he was being hunted after. He was depressed I am sure and afraid. He ran for his life and sought after God’s help. When he says, “O Lord, it’s enough. Take away my life,” it shows his utter desperation and fear of another human being. He fell asleep in his fear and depression. That’s when the angel wakes him up and says, “Get up and eat.” 1 Kings 19:7. 

We all want somebody to tell us to get up and eat. We are waiting for that moment when someone who loves us for real will tell us to get up, eat, play, pray, enjoy and celebrate. Our prayer is the same prayer as that of the Psalmist, “As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.” Psalm 40: 17

I always think of my children as the apple of my eye. If you have children you will be doing the same thing. After all whom we have given birth to is the flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood. They share our dreams and hopes. We are deeply and intrinsically connected to our offsprings. Their pain and sorrow, their joy and happiness is ours as well. I believe God feels the same way. It is that what prompts God to care for us. We are God’s beloved for all times. There is not a time when that is not true. Through the darkest and the lightest moments of our lives, we are still the children of God. 

Moses felt that. He says, “God sustained me in the desert land, in a howling wilderness waste, he sustained me, cared for me, and guarded me as the apple of his eye.” Deuteronomy 32:10. 

It is from this experience of God Moses was able to invite the people to recognize their experiences of divine care. He did not allow them to forget how God cared for them. He told them, one by one, the journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom with clothes that were not worn out, or sandals that were still fine on their feet. Deuteronomy 29:5

To cast our anxiety on God is not easy. Because God is not present to us physically in the way we want Him to be. Even though Peter is trying to make us understand this principle by saying, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you,” we are unable to believe in such power in and around us. We, as human beings, want to see that God as tangible, present and near us, like those who love us here on earth. 

In the story of Rachel and Leah, we find God working with Leah by opening her womb in the midst of her humiliation. While Rachael could not initially bear children, Leah does. In those days having children were considered a blessing from the Lord and not to have children a curse. Leah prayed with fervor and pleaded with God without ceasing. God blessed her with a tangible presence of Himself in giving her children. 

Divine care is intertwined with human care. When we care for others, we care for ourselves. So caring for others is not meant to secretly secure care for oneself. It is an act of love done without expecting a reward. In Sanscrit there is a word called, Nishkam Karma (sanskrit IAST : niṣkāmakarma), It means a self-less or desireless action. It is an action performed without any other expectation other than the good of the person it is directed to. It is called the yogic path to liberation.

In the stories of the liberation of the people of Israel, this is what we find. When the pharaoh asked the midwives of the Israelite women to kill the boys born to the Jewish men, they secretly refused to do it. Simply because it was unethical, cruel and wrong. It was not for any other reason other than knowing the power of God in the midst of it all. They let the boys live. 

Moses survived the massacre because someone else other than his mother cared for him. The princess of Egypt was his savior. Doing the right thing is true devotion whether we define it that way or not. 

God cares even when humans don’t. We saw that when the ravens took care of Elijah. When Daniel was saved out of the mouth of the Lion. When three young men were saved in the middle of the fire in the book of Daniel. 

We are all in need of someone to help us get through rejection and abuse. Leah was treated poorly by her own father. But at the time that is how the world worked. That is not an excuse for anyone at any time not to respect another person. But God did not remain silent through it all. He showed who is in charge when the blessing was bestowed on her after opening her womb. 

Experiencing God’s love and care is what transforms us in the end. 

© 2019 Fr. Jos Tharakan

Genesis 28: The Domino Effect

My parents used to tell me all the things I need to do to be a good and successful person in the world. At the time, I used to think why they would tell me things as if I don’t know what to do? Being young has its own set of challenges, and being older has it’s. So I just did not understand why my parents would ask me to do the things I thought was not the best or the right thing to do. It’s payback time now as I hear my children say the same thing to me sometimes.

As I read this chapter, I see Isaac is telling his children what to do. He is telling his son Jacob what he is to do with his life. He tells him how to find his wife and be blessed. This gesture of asking your children to do the right thing is called “blessings” for the children. Ephraim and Manasseh, Isaac’s great-grandchildren, get the blessing from their grandfather the same way later on. Asking children to obey and children obeying their parents is a sign of blessings in store in life.

In chapter one, we see God the Father asking his children, our first parents, Adam and Eve, to be fruitful and multiply. It was not a suggestion, but a command and a direction. They were given charge to grow and subdue. They were expected to obey the father, and when did not, we know how that ended up.

Every father and mother, regardless of who they are wishes and hopes for their children to listen to them because life experiences have given them a better perspective on life. Children, on the other hand, just like us when we were young, do not see the wisdom of the age. So, we see here Esau marries against the father’s wishes, and Jacob does what he was asked to do. In a way, Esau seems to have justified without any coercion, why he lost his blessings when he took women as his wives from the Hittites. It was not necessarily that he took a wife from a foreign land, but because he did not listen to his parents’ advise.

Blessings will go a long way if we listen to the wise advice of our elders. Jacob obeyed his parents and was blessed by it. Joseph made ready his chariot and went up to meet his father Israel in Goshen, and was blessed by that encounter. Joshua blessed Caleb with a large inheritance because Caleb wholeheartedly followed the Lord and his commandments. Naomi blessed Ruth with God’s kindness and love, security, and safety. Boaz acted as God’s hand in making this blessing come true. Ruth returns the blessings to Boaz. Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife Hannah, and that blessing is fulfilled in Samuel.

The whole idea of blessing someone has a domino effect. You kick off a blessing, and it keeps going forever. You start with a small blessing to someone else, and it snowballs into a bigger one for you and generations after you. This is the whole story of Jacob. If you follow his trail, you will see blessings after blessings following Jacob, because he listened to his father Isaac first. While Jacob’s beginnings do not reflect his good ending, it shows God can reverse the course on people and bless them abundantly.

Genesis 27: Our Words Have Power

In this chapter and the next, we will hear a lot about blessings that were given or taken away or stolen. We all would like to be blessed by someone we love. Do you know of anyone who doesn’t want to be blessed by those whom they love? Those we love maybe our parents and grandparents or our children and grandchildren. Age does not matter, we would like to be blessed by another.

My mother, even when she was old, sought blessings from people who were older than her. She also sought blessings from her children and grandchildren. She would bless everyone regardless of who you were and believed in the power of blessings she gave.

The ancient world believed that blessings and curses have a kind of magical powers. If they blessed you with positive outcome, they believed that what they pronounced will come true. Similarly negative things.

In a way, we can say, yes, pronounced words have powers. Or else this world wouldn’t exist. In the beginning, was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was God and therefore, in my opinion, every word spoken has power. Because words have power.

Words are doubled-edged swords, as St. Paul would say. They can go both ways. So the use of words to bless or curse can go both ways and affect the pronouncer of the words and the receiver of it. It will be a great thing for us to bless than to curse. If the words are double-edged, then why not give blessings than curses. I am sure blessings given are blessings returned. In this story of Isaac’s children, one is blessed and the other’s blessing is withheld. Through treacherous ways, Jacob received the blessing and for that Jacob is solely responsible to God. God will bless Esau regardless but Esau learned a lesson for being naive. He wanted his blessings back, but what has already gone out could not be withdrawn.

This story is a wonderful lesson for us to reflect and think before we utter words of any kind. Good or bad, blessings or curses, encouraging or discouraging words, once gone out, can not be withdrawn. They are in the universe to dispense the power it was sent out for. So, it will do good for us to remember before we speak, we are blessed with the same gift Jesus was blessed with. That is to create or destroy with our words. To bless another or to curse another is the call of everyone created by God through words that have power.

Jacob not only took the birthright of his naive brother, but he also took the blessings from him. Jacob’s story here is not a justification for doing the wrong thing. Jacob lived in fear for the rest of his life for what he did, even though Esau will deal with him kindly and with love. I would rather live free and happy than live like Jason with fear of his own brother. Our actions have consequences and our words have power.


Genesis 26: God Is Strolling With Us

“I am the God of Abraham your father; don’t fear a thing because I’m with you.” Genesis 26:24

Haven’t you had the experience of someone you love standing near you, but you didn’t know about it.? It’s a strange feeling people get that someone is near them and they turn around and find that person smiling at them. In the early chapters of Genesis, one of the things we see is this very thing that God walks near them as a person who loves them. But they didn’t know. We find it over and over with different characters in the Bible. Like in Genesis 3: 8, you will read that Adam and Eve heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze. God was in their space. God was finding their garden a place to relax and build a friendship.

In one of the stories we find when Hagar, Abraham’s servant girl, was in the wilderness, she was afraid. God was with her, but she did not know it. She was not just scared for herself, but much more for her little boy, Ishmael. But the scripture says, “God was on the boy’s side as he grew up.” He was not left alone for a second. When Israel, Jacob, was dying, this was one of the blessings he gave to Joseph, his son that “may God be with you and give you a safe passage.” Genesis. 48 21. God was with Ishmael just as much as He was with Jacob.

Isaac had every reason to be afraid of the new people in the new land he ended up in. He also knows the stories of his father and his struggle in life. I want to take you to the emotions of Isaac as he meets Abimelech, most likely one of the Egyptian officials. Isaac lies to him just like his father did. While Isaac was afraid of all the antagonism he might experience from the ruler of the land, Abimelech, the ruler, knew that God was on Isaac’s side. That’s why he says, “We’ve realized that God is on your side.” Abimelech was not ready to fight with the one whose friend was God.

Isaac eventually believed in the promise that God will stick with him. Because the Lord had promised that, “I’ll stay with you, I’ll protect you wherever you go, and I’ll bring you back to this very ground. I’ll stick with you until I’ve done everything I promised you.”

This is what happens to all those who are following the promptings of God within them. God walks with them. It’s not just God is watching over them. But God walks with them and makes them part of his evening stroll as it was in the story of Adan and Eve. God is looking for a friend in you.

It is hard for us to fathom the idea that God, the supreme being, will walk with us and make us His friend. Because we do not deserve it, we think, and we do not know for sure if God does walk with people! That’s because we haven’t seen a physical being called God in anyone or anything. We are like Isaac and the rest of the Biblical people with whom God walked without fail, regardless of their fear or lack of faith.

Isaac went through the same. Abraham, his father, Patriarchs and saints, went through the same. It is in the destiny of man to have God with them. But man fear God won’t be.  The Lord continues to promise  Isaac and everyone who believes in him that, “I am the God of Abraham your father; don’t fear a thing because I’m with you.”

Don’t fear a thing, for that’s the biggest folly of humankind, namely, to be afraid of everything that does not make sense or is different. In the book of Leviticus, we find another assurance that God will stroll through your streets. Leviticus 26: 12. Numerous occasions, God promises in the Bible that he doesn’t want anyone to defile the places he lives and strolls, namely, the temples, the churches, the homes, and the hearts of people. “Don’t desecrate the land in which you live. I live here too—I, God, live in the same neighborhood with the People of Israel.” Numbers 35:34

Genesis 26 tells us that God will be with us through thick and thin, over and over. Even though the story may have different themes, the overarching idea of the chapter is that we are walking along with God. God is happy that we are his company. He will do everything to keep us safe. Trust him like Hagar, Isaac, Jacob and even Abimelech.

Member Talks: Gerald Snow – “What Would Jesus Do” Behind the Wheel?

We have all heard of WWJD (What Would Jesus Do), but as a driver of an automobile do we think of this when we get behind the wheel of a car?

So, the answer to the WWJD is simply…Always the right thing. Somehow many of us forget that Jesus travels with us whenever and wherever we go. He is often forgotten when we get angry or frustrated with another driver. Often that anger and frustration turn to road rage, a frequent and dangerous situation.

In 2006 only 80 fatal crashes were related to road rage (Zebra, May 23, 2019). In 2015 that figure had escalated to 467, a 500% increase. In Missouri (Missouri DMV), 2017, there were 583 crashes involving what the MDMV refers to as Aggressive Driving (vs. Road Rage?) with a total of 640 people killed and a total of 37,120 people injured. Non-aggressive driving deaths were 274. Road rage or Aggressive Driving numbers were more than double of those killed in non-aggressive accidents.

Perhaps we all should consider these horrific numbers when we-

  •      Refuse to allow another vehicle to enter a roadway ahead of us
  •      Honk our horns, scream, shake our fists, or flash an unfriendly finger sign
  •      Tailgate someone in front of us who is moving slower than we would like
  •      Weave in and out of traffic in a dangerous manner
  •      Speed up when we see another car is attempting to overtake us
  •      Respond to another driver who is displaying road rage behaviors

Certainly, we cannot alter another driver’s behaviors, but we can our own. There is a saying, “kill them with kindness,” (of course not meant literally).  As stated in Joshua 1:7,” Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.”

If any of us are guilty of aggravating behaviors while behind the wheel of a car, remember “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good,” Proverbs 15:3

Hopefully, reading this and recognizing our own actions on the roadway, we can change our behaviors on the roadways, honoring Jesus and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

I have learned a great deal from this. I wish you all peace.

Genesis 25: The Hunger That Blinds Us

The earthly journey of Abraham comes to an end and he is gathered among his people. But before the story ends, we see the writer rushing through some very important events in his life such as his second marriage, his second wife Keturah, several children born to Abraham, the twelve tribes of Ishmael and then the life of Isaac, his wife, and his children, Esau and Jacob.

As we go deeper we find the parallel stories in this chapter, stories of the good and the bad, stories of success and failure. Even though both are the sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, there is a shadow of one being loved over the other, just like Esau and Jacob. The story repeats. The story of good and evil; the story of darkness and light continues.

Two nations were conceived from two sets of brothers – Ishmael and Isaac, and Esau and Jacob – in the mind of God even before the two nations came into existence on earth. Ishmael, the child from the servant girl, is equally important to the fulfillment of God’s plan just as Esau who was tricked by his brother to trade his birthright for a bowl of soup. Several places in the Scripture we will find references back to this one incident as human beings we fall for things that satisfy us in the moment instead of waiting for the things that will give us happiness forever. We go for the short term happiness instead of waiting for a long term blessing.

What is fascinating here is this hopelessly self-centered behavior of the elect and non-elect, the blessed and the cursed, the so-called chosen and not chosen. Jacob, the clever and conniving person succeeds while the free-spirited, hardworking Esau loses his inheritance and future.

One of the basic human needs is hunger. Survival of the fittest, you have heard, can blind us. When the body craves food, the rational process, spiritual insight, and emotional balance can all be lost. In the story of Esau and Jacob, we find this played out. Esau loses all of the future for a bowl of red soup. Jacob takes advantage of this inner blindness of Esau. Neither one is exempt from the implications of their behavior.

In the same way, we can ask what did Ishmael does wrong to be cast into the wilderness? As an innocent child of an unfortunate slave girl, Ishmael was simply collateral damage.

Where is God’s justice in all of this story, one might wonder? Why did God allow Ishmael to be lost in the wilderness and why did God allow Esau the older brother to lose his future? In each story of these brothers, we find their relentless prayer life. For Ishmael in his abandonment; Isaac in his search for God and in seeking a Godly woman in life; Rebekah for a healthy pregnancy; Esau in his fear and loss; Jacob in his search for truth. The good, the successful along with the unsuccessful in the sight of the world gives us a lesson in prayer. The success we envision may not be the success story that gets us into sacred stories. It is our perseverance in following God’s will that gives us a place in the Scriptures.

Complaints, crying, fear-mongering, anger, disappointments, and frustration are all prayer moments for Jacob, Esau, Isaac, and Ishmael just as much as they were true for Abraham, Sarah, Keturah, and Rebekah. Each person in this story had their share of dark emotions to go through. Each dark night of the soul for these patriarchs and matriarchs are the shining moments of God’s power through the darkest moments of life.

Solution #25: So for us, as we read this chapter of Genesis, it is a lot more than simply the events of birth and death of the patriarchs and matriarchs. It is the interwoven presence of God that gives character and depth to the experience and abiding presence of God in one’s life. Success and failure are sides of the one coin we all have to live with. We all have the potential to become Ishmael and Esau just as much as a chance to become Isaac and Jacob. Regardless of what happens to us, we need to remember calling upon God for help made them stay on course to become the characters of the Scripture for generations to come.

Genesis 24: The Power Of Blessing Another

Abraham’s Sarah died not seeing her son marry and have children. Even though she did not get to see her only son Isaac blossom, she died in peace trusting in God’s promises in getting her through the hard times.

As is in the case of every parent Abraham freaked out when the servant suggested maybe he could take Isaac to the land where he came from. Abraham rejects everything that might separate him from his son. He makes the servant promise never to do what he suggested.

When we look into the story of Abraham what we find is a man who initially doubted what God wanted from him but trusted blindly the promises God made him. That did not happen overnight. In Genesis 15 we find him complaining to God saying, “you have given me no offspring” to Genesis 24 where he assures his servant that the angel of God will go before him and make everything right.

This transformation from doubt to trust was not easy. Over the course of his life, we find him slowly trusting God wholeheartedly. It was not a moment of an extraordinary miracle. It took years of recalling life’s blessings that lead him to trust God at every moment. Likewise, it took years of practicing faith through doubt and complaints before Abraham could let go of his fears.

In this story of Isaac finding his wife Rebekah, we find similar patterns of experiences like that of his father Abraham. Isaac and his wife Rebekah go through similar moments of struggle, doubt, and even danger just like his father. But through it all, they both reach a place of confidence in the ways God works in life.

Many people do not realize in reading this chapter that there is a very simple but powerful pattern of blessings which we see the main characters practice. Even when things were not clear Abraham did not fail to bless the servant. The servant blessed Abraham in return and promises to follow his wishes. The servant praises God for leading him to the right person. Rebekah’s brother and mother blessed Rebekah, the journey and the future. They also blessed the future of the children of Rebekah, Esau and Jacob, and a life that defeats everything negative in their lives.

In the end, we find Isaac blessed by Rebekah’s loving friendship her mothering care and comfort and her overall compassion.

Solution #24: Seldom do we realize there is always grace in blessing one another. No matter what life presents to us, no matter who the other person is, blessing another human being brings about the best in us and we receive the best in return. We are better people for blessing one another. In one shot  is an opportunity to get two birds, except both the birds will be alive, unlike the idiom that says, “killed two birds with one shot.” There is nothing to kill when we bless. There is nothing to die when we bless. There is nothing that is destroyed in blessing. Rather even the gates of our foes could be opened to give us security and love we need. Blessing one another is the key that opens the door to blessings in life. Blessing others is being blessed.

Member Talks: Dotti Kaiser on Plastics and the Environment

I am submitting this because I feel a calling to do so.

In our current BCP on page 384 it is quoted we pray, “For the good earth which God has given us, and for the wisdom and will to conserve it, let us pray to the Lord.”

It is my concern that we, not only in our congregation, but worldwide, are not doing much to preserve our planet for future generations. It has come to my attention that our waters, lakes, ponds, streams, and oceans have become polluted with plastics and much other garbage which cannot dissolve any time soon. It is said that by 2040, at the current rate of this type of disposal, there will be more plastics than fish and other wildlife in the waters. It is my feeling we are not doing much to conserve our planet. Plastics do not deteriorate like paper.

It is easy to say there is nothing I can do about it, but yes, there is. We, as individuals, can do only our little bit as I am trying to by spreading the word to others. We can stop the use of plastic bags where we shop by bringing our own fabric bags. Those who go boating should not dispose of plastic into our lakes, and most of us know that.

I write this because I am deeply concerned about this situation and want to do what I, as one person, can do.

Thank you,

Dotti Kaiser.