And Also Much Cattle #shesharestruth

And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (emphasis mine)

Did you hear that line, too, when you finished the fourth book of Jonah?

What exactly is our Father in Heaven trying to help Jonah understand about Nineveh? There is much that could be said about Jonah’s story. Much could be said about anger, rights, justice, and mercy. Much could be pointed out about our lack of control and not liking God’s ways (even when they benefit us). Much could be said about whiners and God’s patience. Those topics are certainly worth our time. But what about that last line?

Our Lord asks us questions. He asked Jonah, “And should not I pity Nineveh…?” He asks Jonah to consider his creation, the “great city” where artisans crafted the walls and architects laid foundations. He asks Jonah to consider the people, “more than 120,000 persons,” and they should be considered because they don’t even “know their right hand from their left”! Can we feel the weight of each individual and how helpless they are? Is Jonah, are we, not yet moved to pity? But this isn’t the big finale that God ends on.

God asks Jonah to consider, too, the cattle, “much cattle”.

Though much more could be said, the book ends on “much cattle.” What does that say?

At the very least, God expresses his care for creation as a whole. Jonah cared for the tree. Our Lord considers his people. He clothes the sparrows. He enjoys the foundations of a well-crafted city. He asks us to consider it all, their repentance and all those cows! Aren’t they amazing! Aren’t we glad that Nineveh came around, at least for the sake of the innocent cattle? Since we are told that all of creation praises His name, I think we can bet that the cattle of Nineveh had gratitude for their lives that day.

Though much more profound things could be said about Jonah’s story, I simply was struck by the thought of all those cows. They were probably happy and care-free until Nineveh went into mourning and fasting. I’m willing to bet that they sensed the relief when their city didn’t burn to the ground. We have a Father in Heaven who cares for the details. How much more will our Father care for you?

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Disruption of Harmony #SheSharesTruth

Our sin brings consequences. David makes that very clear in Psalm 38– illness, humiliation, shame, anxiety, weakness, pain, disunity. The result of his one action has brought immeasurable pain upon himself as well as separation from God and those around him. Such is the price of sin; it is a big deal! Cornelius Plantinga Jr. in his book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin shares these biblical images about sin:

“Sin is the missing of a target, a wandering from the path, a straying from the fold. Sin is a hard heart and a stiff neck. Sin is blindness and deafness. It is both the overstepping of a line and the failure to reach it — both transgression and shortcoming. Sin is a beast crouching at the door…Sin is disruption of created harmony and then resistance to divine restoration of that harmony” (pg 5).

However, even in view of sin, we are not hopeless. David has not resolved to let his enemies overtake him and discourage him. His ‘woe is me’ is interlaced with waiting and hope. Does hope not require waiting?

Verse 15 says, “Yet I wait for you, O Lord! You will respond, O Lord, my God!” (NET Bible)

Verses 21-22 say, “Do not abandon me, O Lord! My God, do not remain far away from me! Hurry and help me, O Lord, my deliverer!” (NET Bible)

David knows that the Lord is not absent, that the Lord has delivered him, and that the Lord protects him. Because of these promises and experiences he has hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:5).

Psalm 27:1 “The Lord delivers and vindicates me! I fear no one! The Lord protects my life! I am afraid of no one!”

Note: Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin is a deep look at sin. It is convicting, but it brings you to a place to see how awesome and perfect our God is. It is more on the academic side, so it is certainly not light reading.

Psalm 130 Reflections #shesharestruth

Waiting for morning on the outskirts of Moscow

“Be patient with me,” my husband likes to say, to which I like to reply, “I am being patient–now, hurry up!” I don’t know anyone who likes waiting, but I have met those who are patient. As a teacher, I may be patient with my students; I do even muster up some patience for my husband occasionally. However, I have almost no patience for my Lord. Psalm 130 reveals to me that I am not alone in this battle with impatience.

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice!” Do you notice that the psalmist is in “the depths”? This gives a picture of him having had a long journey downward. I doubt this is the first time on his journey that he is calling out for help, but now he wants the Lord to know “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!” In other words, “Hello, up there? I’m pretty low, down here? Can you hear my voice?!” He’s already been waiting a long time for mercy–desperation is setting in.

I know that feeling. I like to think that I have been patient and that I have waited on my Lord enough already! But, just like the psalmist admits his iniquity in verse 3, I, too, am faced with my impatience. Thankfully, though, “with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” (v. 4) Through Jesus, our Father and Lord has a means to forgive us, a means to give us His lavish mercy. And what is the psalmists response to that gift of forgiveness but an appropriate fear of Him. Who is this Father of ours that has the means and gall to forgive us? What else could we do but, with the psalmist, decide that (impatient or not) all that is left to do is to “wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.”

What are you waiting for in the Lord? To finally overcome that thorn in your flesh? For Him to answer your cry for help? Maybe for him just to show up–Come quickly and renew this mess, O Lord! The posture of the one who hopes in the Lord is one of waiting “more than watchmen for the morning.” (v.6) Let’s wait because “with the Lord there is steadfast love”; let’s wait because “with him is plentiful redemption.” (v. 7) And, you know what? He “will redeem Israel” (which now includes us sinners and gentiles! Romans 3: 28-30) “from all [our] iniquities.”

I praise the Lord for we are waiting on someone we can trust, and let’s face it, whether we can muster up patience or not, we will still be waiting. Let’s remember who we are waiting on. He forgives us for our impatience (and all other shortcomings) and promises that He’ll be working in us to make us more like Himself. Surely He is patient and can make room in our hearts for patience as well. That is my prayer for me and for you! “O Israel, hope in the LORD!”

When You Can’t Beat ‘Em

Just over a year ago, you may have seen me roll my eyes or exclaim, “Why would anyone do that?” when told of yet another friend venturing into the cold Moscow streets for, of all things, a jog.

Outdoor exercise in below freezing temperatures! What!? My first concern for my friends was (I didn’t just think they were crazy and weird; I worried their life was at stake, and friends are hard to come by as a foreigner!. . .)  the invisible black ice. Here, it really is invisible. It’s lurking under that 1/2 inch of freshly fallen snow or that salt-covered patch that turned out to be dirt covered instead.  You learn how to mutter “I’m okay. . . ” as your husband tries to lift you from your hard landing, but then he falls, too. We’re an unidentifiable mess of scarves, down coats, boots, and mud. My friends wanted to run on this ice. I imagined a bundle of spandex, sneakers, and head bands. They must be crazy. . .

And yet, I joined their insanity. What made me forgo all my no-exercise-please convictions? It was the Moscow winter. You know the kind. Moscow winters are like a homeless dog. Sure, its got fleas, but it’s kinda cute. It follows you around. While one eye looks at you and pouts, the other shoots around like a googly. I mean, what am I saying? The Moscow winter, it’s like a dead dog. No, it’s more like a zombie dog. The dead kind that never die. Like I was saying, if follows you around, eating all your chocolate and doing its business in your soul’s corner.  Spend two seasons with this pup and you just might be desperate to take it to the pound, too. You won’t even care if they put it down, not that they could, because it’s a zombie. So, I started jogging. People say it can shake the dog.

A homeless dog, you know, the zombie kind

A homeless dog, you know, the zombie kind

Don’t judge this old jogging hater. I know it can feel good to never worry about athlete’s foot and stinky everything and special get-them-sweaty-outfits, and other weird things like energy gummies (or worse, energy gel packs–Please give me my ridiculous amount of calories in chocolate!)

I have officially experienced all of these things now. And I’m here to say, it’s not that bad. Except for the energy gel packs–Okay, I haven’t had one, but they look really gross. After the first three months, jogging is, well, fun. When people say, “It felt so good to go for a run today” I realized they may not have been kidding themselves. Even I have felt that way! More than once I have even wanted to go for a jog.The key here is after the first three months. Three times a week for the first three months was HORRIBLE. I wanted to die. The phlegm build-up in my throat was enough to make the dog think I was one of his kind. For the first few runs, I coughed and gasped and choked on the phlegm. I tripped. A lot. I cried. A lot. #whyrunningisactuallykillingyourselfslowly

Then, one day, it was a beautiful day in April, I realized I wasn’t choking on my own body’s excretions. In fact, it wasn’t hard to keep moving or breathe. It was kind of nice to be outside and go wherever I wanted to go. The sun beat on my face, cut grass sweetened the air. I ran for something like an hour that day and it was INCREDIBLE. I think I now know what endorphins are. WOW.

Summer running came and went. Fall was delicious. And then the icy winter was back. I tell you what, it feels good to dodge all that bad black ice–It’s really not so hard. It’s kind of like growing up learning how to drive in the snow: you figure it out and then have a good laugh at Florida when they cancel school for a dusting. I’ve joined the insanity. Next up for jogging: dodging the dog poop under all that melting snow. What? That doesn’t sound like fun to you?