The God of the one who says “I got this, God”

Who is Jacob’s God?

The God of the one who has taken advantage of others to benefit herself.

Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.(Genesis 25:30,31)

Jacob’s God understands a person’s belief that it is up to her to take care of herself. Surviving and/or thriving is her only goal. By hook or by crook, she’ll do what she can to attempt to accomplish her agenda, keeping herself and her tribe safe and in power.

In this situation we find Jacob doing his thing, boiling a pot of soup. He’s not preferred by his father, he doesn’t know how to hunt and fish, but boy does he know how to cook! And so he does. He was the original “foodie.” I can picture the scene. Jacob’s choosing only the finest, most unique ingredients to make his lentil soup appealing to all the senses. He takes great pride in his ability to produce the perfect meal in both presentation and taste.

His oaf of a brother stumbles in, dirty from the hunt; he’s been so occupied with the stalking of game, that he forgot to eat and now he’s starving. He lives in the moment, he believes that unless he eats NOW he will die. His appetite is so strong that he is willing to sell his birthright for a cup of soup.

I doubt he was really on the edge of death and Jacob did too. I imagine Jacob had witnessed a similar scene many times throughout his life. Esau, the impulsive, hot-headed, now-or-never guy, wanting what he wanted and wanting it now.

This time, though, Jacob has a plan.

The birthright carried the honor of the family, the wealth and authority of the Father was passed on to the firstborn son. With such an inheritance a man was insured respect and possessions. The other children had no such guarantee.

Jacob wanted the birthright and took advantage of his brother’s temperament and hunger to gain it.

Jacob was blatant with his plan to take care of himself. I am usually not that obvious. I don’t cheat anyone out of their inheritance, but I do rush to beat the other shopper to the empty check out line at the grocery store. Me first, I’m important, my needs are paramount, my time is more valuable than yours. You, well, you can get in line. This taking care of self is so subtle and so insidious, it is rarely called out for what it is: a lack of trust.

We live in fear, it is hard to trust that we will be provided for, that we will be valued or accepted, that we will be satisfied or pleased.

We live from a scarcity mentality. Will there be enough to go around? Better make sure I get my share (and then some). We are the Israelites hoarding manna, the rich man building a new barn to store all his excess goods. We guard against tomorrow.

There is some wisdom in such preparation, of course. But the line is fine between wisdom and fear. Are we trusting in the value of our stock portfolio to insure our safe and secure future? Or do we remember there are no guarantees apart from God’s promise to transform us into the image of Jesus. And God will use all situations to bring about this promise. Our lack and our supply are equally capable tools in the hands of God to shape us.

For me, one of the ways the fear-based greed comes into play is in the area of food; it is not just energy to fuel my physical well-being, food must entertain me, occupy me, or comfort me. My day is ordered around trying to guarantee my palate’s satisfaction. I’m planning my lunch as I eat my breakfast. This is a very subtle way a God-given good, gets twisted into a temptation to take care of myself.

Things such as God’s presence, the company of friends, wisely spending my money, caring for my long-term health are sometimes not as important to me as making sure I can eat what I want. It’s up to me to insure my satisfaction. Sorry God.

Maybe you have areas of your life like this? Places where it’s not obvious that you are undermining God’s promise to provide for you, but you are covertly insuring your agenda. Or maybe your fear is more in-your-face, such as a health crises or threatened financial setback. Either way, we need the help of Jacob’s God. The one who stays near, who reminds us that all will be well, whose words tell us we are more important than the sparrow, that we are destined for perfection and union. Let us cling to Jacob’s God in the face of our fear.

Read about the God of the Screw Up

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The God of the unappreciated

Who is Jacob’s God?

The God of the one who isn’t preferred in life by his Father or significant authority.

When the boys grew up, Esau was a skilled hunter, a man of the fields while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. (Genesis 25:28).

Jacob’s God is the one who comes to your aid in situations where you feel overlooked or unappreciated. The places where your skill set doesn’t match the demands of the role or the preference of the one in authority; where you feel invisible or dismissed because your gifts or temperament do not align with the dominant culture.

Jacob’s God is the Rebekah who sees who you are and appreciates your talents even when the world doesn’t; the God who reminds you of your distinct value and promotes the expression of your gifts.

My whole life I have suffered under a a sense of shame, convinced I had nothing of value to offer the world. But at the same time blaming the world for not appreciating who I was. I orchestrated a move to a new high school in the middle of my senior year. I knew if I could start fresh in a different school, I’d be seen by my new friends as the cool, awesome girl I was. My old friends just didn’t recognize the gem they had in me.

It was okay for a few weeks, and then I began to run into the old me, the insecure me, the me I thought I had left behind. There was grace in this discovery though, for it moved me to seek a love that never is disappointed in me, the love of God given in Jesus.

Much later in my life I woke from a sweet dream given to me by the Holy Spirit, I am sure. It was a transformative moment in my life. The Lord spoke to my spirit and told me, “Debby, you are a treasure hidden in a field. Not everyone will appreciate the value that you bring, but some will. There will be those who stumble upon the gifts you offer and will be forever grateful for you. I value you, and have made you and have placed you exactly in the right place and at the right time.”

This word from God’s heart of love has kept me over the years, especially as I have offered my writing to the world. Not everyone gets my voice, but there are those who do so I must remain faithful to God’s call on me.

The world may not appreciate your unique set of skills and temperaments, but there are Rebekahs who do. God sends you love and appreciation in the ones who value your uniqueness. Let their esteem and support be enough. Often times the preferences of authority promotes the individuals who satisfy their selfish or blind partialities.

Listen to Jacob’s God, let the whisper of love and value give you strength to believe your visibility and viability. Be bold and trust that love.

Seriously, who is your Rebekah? To whom are you Rebekah-like? I’d love to hear from you. With you on the journey, Debby

The God of the Screw-up

“Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob.” (Ps 146:5)

Many times God self references as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the patriarchs of the faith. And often in the scriptures, when people describe the God they serve this is the title they use. But there are many times when God is known simply as the God of Jacob. I particularly like this shortcut to connection with God.

Why? Because Jacob was a screw up, sure he became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, but even that accomplishment was more by God’s gracious redemption than Jacob’s faithful obedience. The God of Jacob is my God, the God whose help I need because more often than not, I’ve screwed something up and made a hot mess of things.

Like Jacob I find myself in situations where I need divine intervention. Maybe the situation is the result of my own willful actions, or maybe I allow myself to be talked into something because I’m too insecure to say no, or there are those moments when I am the victim of someone’s else’s screw up. Whatever the source of the trouble, I need God’s help. I need the God of Jacob.

During this series, we’ll look at Jacob and the situations in which he found himself, the ones he orchestrated or was coerced into; and then we’ll consider how God helped him in these very real, very relatable circumstances and/or relationships.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Who is Jacob’s God?

The God of the ones who need help being born (Genesis 25:26).

In the womb, Jacob grabbed his brother’s heel and was pulled into life. He arrived on the coattails of his bigger, stronger sibling.

Jacob’s God is the one who comes to help you when you don’t have the power to engage in life; when you feel you don’t exist or wish you didn’t. This is the God of the depressed; the one who feels defeated before she even begins; the one who fears that he will not be valued unless he is connected to one with more power or influence or charisma.

While in college I applied for a job to be a youth ministries intern at my church. Of all the job interviews I’ve had over the course of my life this is the one interview where I remember the question I was asked and my exact response. I almost cringe at the memory.

“What are your career ambitions? What do you hope to do with your life upon your graduation from college?”

“I want to be a Pastor’s wife.”

Step inside my 20 year old brain and understand why I answered in such a manner.

I knew I had the gift and the ability to open the scriptures in ways that were insightful; my studies made the Bible accessible and applicable to life. But I didn’t believe I had the right to offer these insights to others nor the ability to communicate them effectively. I believed I needed a husband to whom I could feed my ideas and then he could use his power to preach them. I felt I had to be the woman behind the man, the one who he depended upon for inspiration. I had no right to exist as a voice for God.

This wasn’t necessarily about male/female roles, it was more about my sense of self. I remember doing what I could to escape being noticed, while at the same time longing to be seen. Developmentally, I was a toddler, fearfully peeking out from behind my parent’s back, wanting to engage with the world, but without the strength and skills to pull it off.

I needed the God of Jacob.

Jacob’s God is the midwife that catches you as you are birthed, who says, “You do exist, you may need help to emerge but help is available. Be not ashamed that you are weak in body or character. Jacob’s God hasn’t forgotten you. Jacob’s God will nurse you and tenderly strengthen you for the life prepared for you.”

God provided me with “bigger, stronger siblings” to pull me into the life he had planned for me; friends who called out the truth in me, a husband who cheered my voice, a pastor who believed in me and let me practice my gifts.

Call on Jacob’s God, let this holy brother and mother be your power and nurture. You have been born, your life is intended, cling to the God who makes a way for your life to emerge.

***

Some of what’s coming up in future posts: I know you’ll relate to some of these topics.

The God of the one who isn’t preferred in life by his Father or significant authority.

The God of the one who has taken advantage of others to benefit herself.

How to live near the Kingdom of Heaven

Thoughts on Mark 12:28-34

An earnest, seeking scribe, listened to Jesus’ wise words and asked Jesus the question that was on his heart. “Which commandment is the first of all?” Today some religious people’s test of piety is where one stands on certain issues, say abortion, or sexuality or even smoking. It was the same in Jesus’ day. Religious people broke into groups that favored one commandment over the others – us vs them.

On behalf of all earnest seekers throughout history the scribe asked the important question, out of all the commandments which is the primary one that contains and informs the others? 

Notice Jesus’ answer. It begins with “Hear.” If you’re going to ask a question of Jesus, then you better be ready to listen to his answer. This scribe was. He asked not for the sake of argument, or to prove Jesus wrong, but because he truly wanted to hear from Jesus how to order his life.

“‘The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’”

Contained within his answer is the picture of a united divinity, the Lord our God is one; a united fellowship, the Lord our God is one;  and a united person, love God with every part of your being, your heart, soul, mind and strength.

And then Jesus gives a bonus answer, “The second is this, `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

That sums it up. And the earnest scribe got it. He heard Jesus’ answer to his question, he acknowledged that what Jesus said was true and that to keep these two commandments meant more to God than any ritually performed acts of worship or service.

Jesus observed that the scribe answered wisely. This is the only time this phrase is used in the entire NT. The scribe listened well. He received Jesus words as the words of life. He was close to the Kingdom.

In such a manner is the Kingdom approached, by earnestly seeking Jesus to learn how to live, by allowing him to be Lord and his words to determine the way I live. Yes, this is my prayer. Thank you and amen

Why I’ll never be a super blogger

“You need a memorable tag line,” adamantly declared one presenter. Another concurred, “You need to have your elevator pitch ready.”

I naively attended a national Christian writer’s conference expecting instruction on honing my craft. Instead, I learned what I needed to do to become a “super blogger.” I didn’t really want to be a super blogger, but they knew better than me, they were published and recognized authors. The world needed my voice, they preached, and how could it find me unless my blog gained an impressive platform, with thousands of followers. So I diligently set out to write a sentence or two that communicated who I was, what I write, why I write it and to whom I write that was deliverable in the time it would take to ride an elevator to the second floor.

And got nowhere. All my attempts, which were many, felt canned, cramped, inauthentic. I gave up on it and contented myself with my narrow, but deep influence on the 150 or so followers who had found me.

Until one day while trolling through facebook I came across a video someone had posted. (Sorry I cannot give credit to the post-er, or the video itself. I’ve tried to find it since with no luck.) The video was of a business consultant who worked with companies and organizations helping them motivate and increase their employees productivity and morale. “Don’t ask a person what they do, that will give you the flat, specific, boring details of their work situation. Instead ask them why they do what they do. This question engages their cherished dreams, their most valued hopes and most important relationships.”

So I asked myself, Debby, why do you write what you write? The answer descended like the fire at Pentecost. “I wake up every morning eager to hear God’s voice of love and then share it through my life, my writings and my words.” Bingo! I still smile when I repeat that phrase. It’s an answer to all the demands of an elevator pitch and beyond that gives me energy, focus and informs not only my writing but all the actions of life. It is my monk’s rule!

I almost live a monastic life. My husband and I recently moved from a 900 sq foot condominium in the heart of San Francisco, to a two acre farm in the Hudson Valley of New York. I wake each morning and eagerly await God’s voice of love. I encounter it in the quiet of our home before anyone else is awake. The scripture I read and the songs I sing, alternately whisper or shout “God is here, God sees, God cares, God needs you.” My journal pages capture the heartbeat of God’s love and I often share it with the world through my blog. My dogs greet me with great affection, presumptuously finding their way onto the center of my lap. What wonderful reminders of the welcome that awaits me in the lap of my loving God. My husband joins me and we enjoy companionable coffee, share our plans for the day and I recall the companionship of the Trinity.  The constant changing of my garden teaches me almost all of what I need to understand about the spiritual life.

Trained in the Ignatian mode of Spiritual Direction, I am particularly fond of Imaginative prayer, putting myself in the gospel story, becoming one of or interacting with the characters. Such a prayer practice evokes deep and often hidden beauty and wounds within my soul. Once while praying with the gospel account of Jesus preaching to the crowds while standing on Peter and Andrew’s fishing boat, I was prompted to “be the boat.”

I felt such humble gratitude that Jesus would use me as his platform for speaking of God’s love. I basked in the joy of that privilege for quite some time. And when Jesus invited Peter and Andrew to become fishers of men, and they then left their boats and followed him, such an anger erupted within me. “What, you’re going to leave me behind.” I never knew there was such pride hidden within my heart. This prayer shed light upon it and allowed me to welcome my need to be needed into the loving and healing presence of God. I can now more easily rejoice in God’s creative use of all kinds of people and things to communicate his great love for the world. Me included!

My parish may be small, but I am its pastor. And the more I let myself be loved, the more loving I become. It’s my life’s journey.  It is how I am a monk in the world.

With you on the journey,

Debby Bellingham

(This was first published on the website: Abbey of the Arts)

Advent Retreat update

Sadly, I have to report that the Advent retreat, scheduled for December 2nd will not be happening. (sad face). But if you would like to receive the Advent devotional that you would have received at the retreat, please sign up for it below.

OR, if you would like to receive the advent devotional, even if you weren’t able to make the retreat, sign up below.

With you on the journey,

Debby

Advent Retreat Scheduled for my East Coast Friends

Advent Retreat

Christmas is for the world.

Advent is for Christians.

Christmas reminds the world that there is hope.

Advent reminds Christians that we carry the hope within us.

Why should I participate?
Before the holiday season ramps up, join Debby Bellingham at Wind Hill Farm, for a few hours of giving yourself the space to do what you long to/need to do, but your busy schedule may not allow. During our one day retreat we will spend some time with God, asking God to make our lives a dwelling place for the new born hope of the world.

In pondering Advent, we consider that the world is dark and needs light, and that we are dark and need light. We prepare our hearts to be the birthplace of the Child Christ, the one who brings light to our lives and through us light to our world.

Space is limited. Register by Nov. 29, 2017

Contact Debby Bellingham to register at 415 992-1087 or debbybellingham@gmail.com

When: December 2, 2017

Where: Wind Hill Farm 246 Willow Tree Road, Milton, NY

Time: 9am-3pm

Other: Lunch will be provided (let me know if you have any food issues)