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Posts tagged ‘Isaac’

No Obstacles for God


On this Monday of the Third Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

Today’s reading focuses on the story of Joseph, Jacob’s son, and God’s faithfulness throughout Joseph’s struggles.  This is the perfect opportunity for a shout-out to my nieces in their recent production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  I wish I could have made it to the performance!

“When it rains, it pours.”

“Bad things happen in threes.”

Just a couple of adages that make the point that when a situation goes sour, it tends to do so in a cascading fashion.

Joseph experienced this phenomenon.  He was the favored son of a powerful man.  But then things went south in a hurry.  His jealous brothers stripped him—of the beautiful garment his father bought especially for him!—and threw him in a cistern.  Then they sold Joseph into slavery.  To make matters worse, when his situation appeared to improve he was falsely accused of attempted rape by his master’s wife and thrown into prison!

But God did not leave Joseph in prison.  He had blessed Joseph with the gift of interpreting dreams, which Joseph used faithfully, recognizing God as the source of his gift.  And because Joseph was faithful with his talents, God blessed him as Pharoah’s right hand man.

Along with the ability to interpret dreams, one of Joseph’s greatest talents was his ability to recognize his blessings throughout his hardships—those blessings he currently enjoyed and those he knew God was yet to provide.

A friend of mine once explained the Jewish song Dayenu, which is sung to celebrate Passover.  I think this song well reflects the attitude of gratitude that helps survive difficulties in life.

Dayenu means “it would have been enough“, or “it suffices.”  The song lists fifteen gifts from God to His people and after each gift, Dayenu.  So for example,

If He had brought us out from Egypt,

and had not carried out judgments against them

— Dayenu, it would have sufficed!

Instead of grieving a perceived slight—“if only God would have . . . “—it focuses on the abundance of blessings God pours out.  “If you had stopped short of the wonderful blessings you’ve given me, Lord, that would have been enough!”

But for me it does more than that—it also reminds me that God has proven, day after day after day, that He can deliver me from my difficulties and that He does, often in wonderful ways!

Day 20-1

The Passover song lists fifteen gifts God gave His people in delivering them from Egypt.  What countless blessings has God given me that I should recognize in a similar way?  I think the ultimate stanza might be:  “If You had only given me Your only begotten Son who suffered, died and rose again for my sins, Dayenu!”  All else means nothing.Day 20-2

God’s Power, Not Ours


On this Third Sunday of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.  This week we focus on the Exodus and today we look at God’s selection of instruments, specifically God’s choice of the younger and weaker Jacob over his masculine brother Esau.

When negotiating a contract, I want to negotiate from a position of strength.  This is often determined by the relative size of the parties.  For example, when I am representing a small vendor negotiating a supply contract with a behemoth company, often the smaller vendor needs the business more than the behemoth and is in a position of relative weakness.  And often the behemoth has a standard contract that it wants to use, and it is usually very favorable to the giant.  The larger company can adopt a take-it-or-leave-it position.

This is why a company like Wal Mart can dictate the terms of its relationship with vendors, including specific packaging requirements, while small mom-and-pop stores often have to take things as they are.

With God—the Almighty—He clearly is in the position of strength vis-à-vis His people.  And yet He seems to prefer to select the weakest to lead His people.  Today’s reading discusses the selection of Jacob—the younger, weaker, less “manly” brother—over his twin Esau.

Perhaps one reason why God chooses a Jacob over an Esau is because He does not want to cram the terms of our relationship down our throats like a large company can do when negotiating contracts.  He wants us to come to Him completely open, full of our own desire for Him, willingly entering into the Covenant.

But there is another reason God chooses weaker instruments.   When a carpenter uses a tool to make a beautiful chest, it is clearly the carpenter’s skills that bring about the results.  And when an artist takes a canvas and a variety of paint colors and makes a masterpiece, it is the artist’s skills that determine the outcome.

But when you throw in a human being as the instrument, the apparatus often confuses itself for the master.  If God chooses the strong to bring His message, we may confuse the messenger with the master.

“Don’t shoot the messenger” is often said to express the notion that a person conveying the bad news is not the creator of the bad situation, not the cause of the bad news.  Likewise, God chooses weak messengers so we don’t perceive the bearer of Good News (Gospel) as the Good News itself.  Only Christ is Word (made flesh).

Paul and Barnabas get caught up in this sort of confusion in Lystra, a city in ancient Turkey.  When Paul cures a crippled man (in the name of Jesus), the people of the city believe that Barnabas is Zeus (Greek god of thunder and sky) and that Paul is Hermes (son of Zeus).  The people want to worship Barnabas and Paul rather than recognizing the true source of their power.

So God often chooses weaker human beings so that His glory can shine through the weakness and not be confused with some perceived strength in the messengers.

Often the person whom God chooses recognizes his own weakness and fails to see that God will make up for it.  For example, when God selects Moses as His mouthpiece to Pharoah, Moses complains:

“If you please, my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and tongue.” Ex. 4:10.

God reminds Moses that God can—and will—provide.

I, too, feel inadequate when faced with challenges of faith.  Can I do this thing You ask of me, Lord?  Who am I?  I forget that He will give me what I need to do His will.

Day 19-1

I am learning that God will never allow me to face a challenge of faith in which He will not make up for my shortcomings.  One of my favorite aphorisms is: “Do your best.  Let God do the rest.”

Day 19-2

God Will Provide


On this Saturday of the Second Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

God asks quite a lot of Abraham.  After God finally blessed Abraham with a son at the ripe old age of 100, He asks Abraham to give up Isaac.  Not just to let Isaac go or to abandon him.  To offer him up as a holocaust to God.  To slaughter Isaac.

WOW!

And yet Abraham unquestioningly obeys.  Or at least he starts to until God stops him.

Could I do that?  Could I obey without doubt or reservation?  When have I been called to sacrifice something dear to me?

Well, I’m still seeking discernment on this related question:  is my reputation—and are my friendships—things that God wants me to place on the chopping block?  To offer up to Him?

I think He might have recently given me an opportunity to offer these things to Him.  Specifically, my 8th grade son’s basketball team has been very successful this year and, entering the postseason today, they have a very good chance at making a run for the championship.

Unfortunately, smack in the middle of the postseason is the Parish Mission.  The Parish invited an awesome speaker, Fr. Larry Richards.  I’ve seen him speak before—he is very energizing and inspirational.  For four days Fr. Larry will pump us up in our shared Faith.  I have been hoping to bring my whole family to each day of the Mission.

The difficulty is that the team’s practices will overlap with the Mission.  Our Pastor had asked us that Parish-related activities not be scheduled during the Mission to allow maximum participation.

So, the issue came up at the team’s parent meeting yesterday.  The coach explained the conflict, told us that no player would be penalized for missing practice because of the Mission.  He even offered to hold practices at 6:30 AM instead of the normal time to allow participation in the Mission.

My heart dropped when not one parent—myself included—spoke up for the Mission.  In fact, when asked who was planning on attending the Mission, the only voices were quick denials.

Should I pipe up?  But we’re new at this Parish and school, still learning personalities, making friendships, getting acquainted.    In fact, one of the parents who seemed most vocal is someone we’ve drawn close to and feel comfortable with.

During the discussion I did not speak up since the coach already knew I had planned on going to the Mission.  I told myself, “it’s not your place to tell these people whether to support the Mission.”  But is it?  Did I hide a lamp under a bushel basket by remaining silent?

Is God asking me to offer my newly forming friendships and reputation as a sacrifice to Him?  Or was I right to remain silent?

My family watched For Greater Glory last night, the story of Mexican Catholics fighting for religious freedom.  What sacrifices am I asked to make in our current war against cultural ambivalence?

Please give me your thoughts.   

Day 18-1

I pray for the Holy Spirit to infuse my heart that I may know His will for me.  And the courage to do so.Day 18-2

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