The Theology of the Chore Chart

At our last house meeting, my fellow housemates and I had a nice chat about that frequent specter of community housing, chores.

For those who don’t know, Daniel and I currently reside in a house with another wonderful married couple from our church. They’re pretty great. =) We have house dinner and meeting night every few weeks, and this time chores was on the docket.

As each person shared their thoughts, feelings, and frustrations, I learned something: it’s nice to have a chore rotation, but it turns out that it’s kind of useful to communicate about whether chores are actually being done. In our shared commitment to keeping our shared space clean, we had thought as far ahead as divvying up tasks, making a chart, and trading off chores every so often. But somehow the communication part just wasn’t working out. This resulted in, for example, no one being sure whether I had wiped the counters yesterday or last month.

This may seem like a rather petty, quotidian worry — but it’s kind of an important question. Knowing that everyone’s doing the chores they said they would do allows me to do my own chores feeling like I’m contributing to the group effort rather than slaving away in isolation. (Not to mention rest safe in the knowledge that the rag in the sink is not the same one that was used to mop up last month’s soup incident.)

The absence of that communication can lead to quite a moral and relational quandary: do I wipe the counter myself? Do I ask Rebekah if she did it? If she didn’t, should I be upset? What if she STILL won’t do it? Even if she did, will she get upset and feel like I’m nagging her?

After a great and open conversation about all of these things (I am in constant admiration of all three of my wonderful housemates for their dogged commitment to honest and loving conversations) we decided together on the following solution: Each Sunday, I will write the date on the whiteboard in our kitchen. And each week when each of us completes our weekly chores, we’ll write our names on the board (under a heading that I’ve dubbed the “Chore Rockstar List”). This achieves the goal of communication about chore completion — but we were clear that it’s about each person choosing to be accountable for their own responsibilities, not about us nagging each other. And when each name is added to the list, we can have a little moment of “yay for you!” to celebrate achieving chore rockstar status that week.

Communication, accountability, celebration. Isn’t that what sharing life together is really about?

Sometimes as Christians, trying to figure out what the heck it means to “be a Christian” or “be a good person” or “follow Jesus” or “be Christlike” or “not be a jerk”, it’s really hard to resist the temptation to define those things as “be awesomer than my neighbor” or “do as many things right as possible” or “point out how my neighbor is a little less awesome and right than I am because I know how they should fix their problems”. Sometimes, we — or at least I, I’ll speak for myself — just want to throw up our hands at our loved ones and say, “Haven’t you figured that out yet? Haven’t you been listening to me tell you why that was a bad idea? Why can’t you just do it like I want you to do it?”

But that’s not the way it works.

That’s not what Jesus did and does.

Can you imagine Jesus responding to Zacchaeus or the woman caught in adultery or the rich young ruler by saying those things? “Geez, Zacchaeus, haven’t you figured out this generosity thing yet? For crying out loud, woman, haven’t you been listening to me tell you why that was a bad idea? Why can’t you just let go of your stuff, young man? — just do it already!”

The only reason I can picture that — and it’s a very strange imagination, compared to what Jesus ACTUALLY does in those scenarios — is because that’s what I would want to do. I would want to lecture Zacchaeus about the injustice of stealing from the poor. I would want to guilt the woman for making poor decisions. I would want to throw up my hands in exasperation at the rich young ruler who still isn’t ready to let go and move on, even though the course of action is CLEARLY right in front of his nose.

But that’s not helpful. That’s not relational. That’s not how the Kingdom of God works.

Just like it’s not helpful for us to focus on whether our housemates have gotten their chores done yet, it’s not helpful for us in the body to focus on whether our sisters and brothers have gotten “saved enough” yet or taken care of that one “incorrect” belief yet or kicked all their harmful habits yet. It’s not my job to ride herd on whether my brother has removed that speck out of his eye yet — it’s my job to work on my own eye-plank. It’s my job to wipe all the crumbs off the counter, put the clean dishes away, wipe the caked-on crud from the microwave, and each week to faithfully write my name on that list (or if I can’t, to write THAT). Yes, I tried to clean up my messes again. See you next week.

But it’s also my job to do this in community — not just writing my name on a list by myself, not just wrestling with God and life in isolation, but doing it next to and with and through my community of neighbors. My fellow chore-doers. We each have our tasks for which we are responsible, but we’re all scrubbing and wiping and vacuuming alongside each other.

This, then, is the beautiful mess of the Kingdom of God — the body of Christ coming together, week after week, to listen, to witness, and to celebrate — even when the mess will come right back, and we’ll have to clean it up again and maybe breathe a sigh of relief when it’s time to rotate to another task. Listening, witnessing, celebrating.

See you next week.

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Why I’m Getting a Tattoo (My Testimony)

I’m getting a tattoo.

You might find that kind of surprising. So here’s the story of why.

I’m kind of a goody-two-shoes. I’ve been that way for a long time. I’ve always liked pleasing people, as far as I can remember. I always got good grades. I always toed the line (outwardly, anyway). I always avoided conflict. I always achieved. I always followed the rules. I liked following the rules. They told me what I had to do to look shiny, and my shininess was my trophy and my shield.

But on the inside, I didn’t follow the spirit of the rules. Often I pleased people or avoided conflict out of fear. I got good grades because I liked getting everything right and feared the shame of making mistakes. I had perfect church attendance, but it wasn’t motivated by devotion, and it became fuel for me to look down on those whose attendance was less spotless. I played with my younger sister the exact number of minutes I was required to, and then I tricked and bullied her until she went away (or got left behind). I didn’t often directly lie to authorities — too confrontational, too risky, too black-and-white — but I deceived. I twisted and finagled my words and my thoughts and my world to protect my secret selfishness. I sneakily read books with flashlights after bedtime, late into the night sometimes. I learned my memory work then, too, having watched TV before my homework was done (despite a house policy to the contrary), because — I told myself — the real deadline was making sure I had it done in time for school in the morning. I hated when my little sister copied me, and especially when we wore matching outfits, so I would come out wearing one outfit, make sure I was seen, and then go quick-change into something else, only to emerge when it was time to go and there wasn’t time for my sister to change. I did what I wanted, which was a combination of what I wanted to do and just enough of what I didn’t want to do to keep everyone else happy and off my back.

I didn’t technically disobey often, but I wasn’t really obedient either. I was an expert at non-disobedience.

I didn’t really start to come to terms with all of this until I heard a sermon preached about the book The Prodigal God, which reframes the parable of the prodigal son (the author renames it the “Parable of Two Lost Sons”) as a tale about two types of lost-ness: the obvious, rebellious lost-ness of the prodigal son, and the subtle, sneaky, self-righteous lost-ness of the elder brother. I recognized myself immediately. I knew I had to read that book.

…But I didn’t. Life happened, my list of books to read was long, and it slipped through the cracks.

Then, as part of a reading group, I read the book Tired of Trying to Measure Up. I didn’t really identify with the title much — after all, I always could measure up to people’s expectations, for the most part — but I heard it was a powerful read, so I dug in.

I was totally blown away. I FINALLY UNDERSTOOD why I felt so anxious about making a misstep, and why I was so deadline-driven, and why I never really felt like I needed God, and why finding myself self-employed (with no one to please or perform for) was so darn difficult. I was stuck in a cycle of trying to justify myself, and it was motivated by trying to avoid shame — trying to prove my worth with my own two hands.

Looking back, I think the truth of this idea softened my shell just a hair. The armor cracked just enough.

I don’t even remember all what I read that struck me — looking through the book again, I can’t really find anything terribly quotable. But I do remember the part where I read the list of God’s names:

During biblical times, a person’s name was really important. People gave their babies names that described the characteristics they wanted them to have when they grew up. A name wasn’t just a label; it was a description of the nature or character of the one to whom it belonged. Look at some of God’s names:

Elohim, the Strong One;
El-roi, the Strong One who sees;
Jehovah-jireh, He is our Provider;
Jehovah-raffa, He is our Healer;
Jehovah-nissi, He is our Banner;
Jehovah-ra’ah, He is our Shepherd;
Jehovah-shalom, He is our Peace;
Jehovah-tsidkenu, He is our Righteousness;
Jehovah-shammah, He is Present.

All of a sudden I got it. I GOT IT. All those years of knowing about the Bible, of being smart, of giving the right answers to avoid pain, of hiding and sneaking and pleasing and deceiving — and only now, at the age of 26, did I get it. All the work I do to be shiny doesn’t matter. My own name doesn’t matter. The name on me is God’s. It doesn’t matter if I’m shiny. In fact, working to be shiny is counter-productive, because the facade of shine distracts me from reality. My “righteous” deeds were really filthy rags. Rather than fixing the hole in the wall, I had spent my whole life trying to cover it up. I was a whitewashed tomb.

I finally just read The Prodigal God last week. It’s a short book, so it didn’t take long. But the whole way through, I just kept thinking, “Yep, that’s me. This is me. This is what I’m fighting.” The transition from that place to my tattoo action step is well-illustrated by this passage:

Why doesn’t the elder brother go in [to the Father’s feast]? He himself gives the reason: ‘Because I’ve never disobeyed you.’ The elder brother is not losing the father’s love in spite of his goodness, but because of it. It is not his sins that create the barrier between him and his father, it’s the pride he has in his moral record; it’s not his wrongdoing but his righteousness that is keeping him from sharing in the feast of the father.

So I’m getting this tattoo to remind me that I’m not shiny. I can’t be perfect. I can’t earn my way into the big feast in the sky by following all the rules. And not only that — but I need to stop whitewashing my tomb.

This tattoo is risky. It’s (somewhat) counter-cultural. It’s visible. To make sure I can please everyone and keep my “future life options” open, I should remain clean and unblemished. Or at least put it somewhere more discreet, where no one will see it. I shouldn’t get this tattoo.

So I am.

My tattoo will read “YHWH shammah” (in my handwriting), which is Hebrew for “The Lord is There” or “The Lord is Present”. (Found in Ezekiel 45. You’ll also notice it’s at the end of the list quoted above.) And when I look at it, it will remind me that it is physically impossible for me to be without blemish. But the Lord is there. Or, to summarize with a secular quote, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” (Leonard Cohen)

This is my reminder that I’m cracked. It reminds me to stop plastering over the hole and just let the Light in.

——————-

UPDATE: It is finished. Here’s a picture of my tattoo!

tattoo YHWH shammah

Books of the Year: 2013 in Review

As some of you *may* know, I am a *bit* of a bookworm. Just a smidge. =)

One of the ways I challenge myself to keep reading (even though now I’m a busy bookworm) is to participate in the yearly book challenge on Goodreads.com. In 2013, my goal was to read 52 books, or about one a week. I exceeded my goal (56 total, woo!) and today I just set my new goal for 2014. But before I get too far into my new book adventures, I wanted to take a look back at some of the books I read in 2013. So without further ado, here are some of my book highlights from 2013.

The Mighty & The Almighty5. The Mighty and the Almighty by Madeleine Albright

I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for a while (bought it while I was teaching and just never had time to start it), but this year I finally took the time to dive in, and I was pleasantly surprised at  how much I loved the experience. Not only is Madeleine Albright a seasoned and sensible veteran of politics and world affairs, but she also has a thoughtful and nuanced way of looking at the ways that religion enters into the mix. I found this to be an extremely thought-provoking (and quotable!) read, and I’d highly recommend it to everyone, but especially folks who are interested in the intersection between politics and religion.

Ender's Shadow4. Ender’s Shadow (and its sequels) by Orson Scott Card

Although I’d read both Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow before, I had never read the rest of the Shadow series. Not only did they sink their delightful, action-packed hooks into my brain and propel me straight through, but I found myself contemplating geopolitics in a whole new way afterwards. (Without giving too much away, the sequels show what happens on Earth after the Battle School students return home, and it is messy, let me tell you!) HIGHLY recommended for anyone who loves a good sci-fi.

3. One Church Many Tribes: Following Jesus the Way God Made You by Richard Twiss

Richard Twiss passed away this year suddenly. This is a devastating loss  not only for his family and friends, but also for the Church family around the world, as we have lost a man of strong faith, a faithful advocate for First Nations peoples, and a lover and devotee of biblical reconciliation. This most recent work of his sets forth the case for why Native Christianity is a vital and missing piece of the Body of Christ. If you have ever wondered whether Native beliefs can be compatible with Christianity, or whether Natives can be Christians without being “whitewashed”, then read this book.

2. America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines by Gail Collins

The reason I loved this book is that it uses loads of primary source documents (like journals from real women during each era) to vividly depict what life was like for women throughout American history. Gail Collins does a good job of looking at women from as many different arenas — social, racial, and otherwise — as possible. For anyone who loves reading about everyday life in other times and places, or for anyone wondering how women have lived and survived in America, this one’s for you!

1. Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Ansary

Okay, this book exploded my brain. The subtitle sums up the premise of the book — the history of the world through Islamic eyes — but it’s so much more than just the “Islamic side of the story.” I felt like I literally got a glimpse of how the Eastern/Islamic historical-cultural mindset has evolved and grown from its geographical roots (aka the Ummah/”Islam-dom” as opposed to “Christendom”) and how the development of Islam in various regions has influenced world history and vice versa. If you have a pulse, go read this book right now. It will change how you view the world and history. Seriously.

Well, that’s my top five reads from 2013. I have quite a list for 2014 — some of which are already sitting on my bookshelf! — but I’m always looking for suggestions. Anything that strikes you as a Rebekah-read? Or do you want to share a great book you read this year? Let me know in the comments!

“Uncertainty is in every true discernment…”

Today I don’t have any particular declarations. I just wanted to share with you what I think is a really profound little nugget from a fascinating and wide-ranging in-depth interview with Pope Francis (hat tip to Nina for the full interview link!). Read and ponder [emphasis added]:

Certitude and Mistakes

I ask, “So if the encounter with God is not an ‘empirical eureka,’ and if it is a journey that sees with the eyes of history, then we can also make mistakes?”

The pope replies: “Yes, in this quest to seek and find God in all things there is still an area of uncertainty. There must be. If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. For me, this is an important key. If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. Uncertainty is in every true discernment that is open to finding confirmation in spiritual consolation.

“The risk in seeking and finding God in all things, then, is the willingness to explain too much, to say with human certainty and arrogance: ‘God is here.’ We will find only a god that fits our measure. The correct attitude is that of St. Augustine: seek God to find him, and find God to keep searching for God forever. Often we seek as if we were blind, as one often reads in the Bible. And this is the experience of the great fathers of the faith, who are our models. We have to re-read the Letter to the Hebrews, Chapter 11. Abraham leaves his home without knowing where he was going, by faith. All of our ancestors in the faith died seeing the good that was promised, but from a distance…. Our life is not given to us like an opera libretto, in which all is written down; but it means going, walking, doing, searching, seeing…. We must enter into the adventure of the quest for meeting God; we must let God search and encounter us.

“Because God is first; God is always first and makes the first move. God is a bit like the almond flower of your Sicily, Antonio, which always blooms first. We read it in the Prophets. God is encountered walking, along the path. At this juncture, someone might say that this is relativism. Is it relativism? Yes, if it is misunderstood as a kind of indistinct pantheism. It is not relativism if it is understood in the biblical sense, that God is always a surprise, so you never know where and how you will find him. You are not setting the time and place of the encounter with him. You must, therefore, discern the encounter. Discernment is essential.

 

In which I brag on my high school girls…

Today when I met with the group of 10th grade girls I mentor we talked about our goals and plans for the year. As a part of planning some of our discussions, I had each of them brainstorm quietly on a piece of paper a few topics they’d like us to address. When I brought them home and started to read them, I was BLOWN AWAY by not only the depth of their thoughts but the breadth! I love to brag on these wonderful ladies, so I thought I’d share my compiled outline of their thoughts. I’ve reworded and done a tad of fleshing out (like on “sin”) to make it be a proper outline, but all the ideas are theirs — there is not a topic here that doesn’t come from what they wrote down!

Suggested Discussion Topics for 2013-2014

1. Who Is God?

  • Character & attributes

2. How do we experience God?

  • Do you have a personal relationship with God?
  • Do you ever think God’s not listening or you don’t see him in your daily life?
  • Talking to God (Prayer)
    • What is prayer?
    • Why should we pray?
    • How should / do we pray?
    • What experiences do we have with prayer? (Is God answering your prayers?)

3. Why does God matter to us?

  • Sin.
    • What is sin?
    • What does God think about sin? / How does sin affect our relationship with God?
  • Salvation.
    • How does God “fix” sin?
    • Repentance, Forgiveness, & Reconciliation.
      • What does it mean to “repent”?
      • What is forgiveness?
  • Predestination vs. Free Will

4. What does it mean to be a Christian? / How do we respond to God?

  • What is a Christian?
  • Church history / denominational family tree
  • What does the Bible say Christians should do / be like?

Love God

  • What is worship?
  • How can we love God (more) ?
  • How do I be more Christ-like / How do I live out my faith?

Love Others

  • What does it mean to love my neighbor? / Who is my neighbor?
  • Loving my enemies
  • The body of Christ: Community, Encouragement, etc.

General

  • What is the Bible? How should / do I read it?
  • How to be an example / mentor
  • Dealing with tough stuff (e.g. death, depression, loneliness, etc.)
  • The female body: body image, modesty, etc.
  • School: Managing time wisely
  • How to be a light at a Christian school (dealing with disagreement / hypocrisy)
  • Revenge
  • Witnessing: Being a light / telling others about Christ
  • What does the Bible say about how to be a righteous woman?
  • Being a Christian even in the midst of “coolness” / Dealing with peer pressure
  • Healthy relationships
    • Family
    • Romantic
    • Friends
    • Dealing with conflict
    • Gossip / accountability

Ok, folks — there is PREDESTINATION on there! I am so impressed. (Not to mention my other mentee / friend, who just started her own blog with the question “What is sin?” I mean really — how do I get to be friends with all these fantabulous humans???)

What to Read Wednesdays — July 3, 2013

Sometimes, when I haven’t read through my RSS reader for a while, it starts to pile up. And then, when I finally DO read it, I have like 237 million articles that I want to share… which is too many for Facebook. So this time I’m just going to start funneling them into one blog post list. That way it’ll be easier to avoid link-spamming my Facebook, *plus* I can give some extra blog-cred to these fantabulous folks.

Ok. Without further ado, here’s this week’s What to Read Wednesday list:

Christena Cleveland: Psychology, Faith, & Reconciliation [the whole blog]

Ok folks, seriously, I don’t understand how I am just discovering this blog. I mean faith + racial reconciliation + psychological research??? Yes, please! Here’s an excerpt from Why our diversity efforts often fail – and what we can do about it:

Research suggests that diversity initiatives are most likely to fail amongst Christian groups that idolize their cultural identities. Due to this idolatry, minority group members are not invited as valuable members of the all-inclusive we.  Rather (and perhaps this is unintentional) they are invited to participate in the organization as them – subordinate ‘Others’ and second class citizens who are bound to be dissatisfied. Until we relativize our cultural identities and adopt an inclusive group identity, our diversity initiatives are doomed to failure because we will never fully appreciate our diverse brothers and sisters and they will not feel appreciated.

Wow. Just so much food for thought! I’m just digging in myself, but here are a couple more posts that have already grabbed my eye:

Sandra Glahn at bible.org: “How to Influence ‘The Liberal Media'”

This is a thorough, well-thought-out piece from a (conservative I think) Christian about the best way to influence and deal with “the liberal media”. A quote:

Are we willing to listen to why without assuming those who disagree must have a low view of the Bible? Some believers think the government has no business deciding what marriage is. Some think commitment is better than serial sexual relationships, thus seeing gay marriage as landing higher in an ethics hierarchy than uncommitted relationships. Some read in Romans 1 that “God gave them over,” and reason, “So why don’t we ‘give them over’ too”? … Proverbs 18:2 serves as a fitting reminder here: “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” How much are we willing to listen without labeling people as “liberal” whenever we disagree with them?

Jamie the Very Worst Missionary: “The Perfect Shade of Greige”

As a current suburbanite struggling to find ways to live out reconciliation, I felt totally convicted by this post about finding God in suburbia. Great read.

It’s a rookie mistake, and I’m kind of embarrassed to admit it, but I think I have managed to translate my cross-cultural experience into something holier and more important than my life in the U.S. I almost convinced myself that God was more present there than he is here. Which is, of course, ridiculous.

Richard Beck at Experimental Theology: “Fridays with Benedict: Chapter 46, The Confession of Public and Private Sins”

While the post title might sound really boring, the direction Dr. Beck takes this is quite the conversation-starter!

It seems that for Benedict public confession and repentance is inherently a communal and relational activity. Public confession is about a rip in the communal fabric and the attempt to mend that tear. Public confession is less about airing your dirty laundry than about being reconciled to your sisters and brothers. … Thus I wonder if our public confessions of private sins isn’t symptomatic of something wrong in how we approach church.

Jerry Park at Patheos: “Hmong, Indian, What’s the Difference?”

This fascinating dissection of national census data is a great reminder of why sweeping generalizations break down. (Because they’re sweeping generalizations.)

As some readers know, Asian Americans tend to be grouped together as if they were a racial equivalent to “white” “black” and sometimes “Hispanic.” When this kind of grouping occurs, scholars and interested citizens look for similarities and differences between racial groups on outcomes like educational attainment, household income, poverty levels, health etc. From this classification approach Asian Americans tend to appear exemplary on a number of outcomes. …while it is the case that Asian Americans as a group appear to have a lot of education, the reality is that only certain groups are showing this level of attainment.

 

What other awesome things have you read recently? Let me know in the comments!

In which God says, “SRSLY???”

Today in Chronological Bible-Reading Land — the epic conclusion to the story of Israel’s great rebellion against Yahweh’s plan to lead them to the Promised Land!

Previously, on “The Book of Numbers”… Israel is racing toward Canaan, prepared to overrun them and inhabit the land promised to them by God. But when they arrive, they are cautious — they send twelve spies to scout the territory and report back. Once they see the giants who live there, ten of the spies are so afraid that they lose their faith and make the people believe the land is awful and they’re all going to die. Only two men — Joshua son of Nun and Caleb, a foreigner — stand between Israel and total rebellion against God. Will they be able to save their people?

Short answer: No. Unfortunately the people cave in to mass panic and basically say, “Wahhhhhhh, things are scary! Now we’re going to die horrible, violent deaths and our children will be carried off as plunder! It would have been better if we had died (horribly and violently…) in Egypt (after which their children would have grown up as slaves…) instead of coming here! Just kill us now — we may as well die in the wilderness instead!!”

Then God says, “SRSLY????”

And I don’t blame Him at all! You’d think after all those miracles that the nation of Israel was privileged to witness that they might have a teensy bit more staying power in the face of adversity. I mean, let’s review the list of miracles these folks have witnessed since being slaves in Egypt:

  • The Ten Plagues. You know — locusts and darkness and boils– oh my! (Oh yeah, and also that all of these plagues ONLY AFFECTED EGYPTIANS. What.) Exodus 7-12
  • The Parting of the Red Sea. Red Sea or Reed Sea debate notwithstanding, God arranged for a large body of water to allow Israel through… and then drown an entire battalion of Egyptian charioteers. Y’know, no big deal. Exodus 14
  • Bread of heaven. Once they made it to the desert, the Israelites were fed by God literally making it rain food. Exodus 16
  • Water from a stone. Then, once the Israelites were a bit thirsty, God made a rock become a water fountain… with enough for all two million Israelites. Exodus 17
  • Epic battle-wins. As long as Moses kept his hands raised to heaven, the Israelites would be winning battles. (Too bad Israel didn’t have a football team…) Exodus 17
  • God comes for a visit. When God and Moses had the first summit meeting (yuk yuk yuk), God set the whole mountain on fire and announced himself with trumpet blasts. (But even that wasn’t enough to stop the Israelites from worshiping a cow made of their melted earrings instead…) Exodus 19-20 God also frequently signified his presence with pillars of cloud and fire over the tabernacle. Exodus 33, Numbers 9, et al.
  • Holy Moses! After speaking with God face-to-face, Moses’ face literally glowed. Exodus 34
  • “…I got better!” When Miriam spoke against her brother, God struck her with leprosy… and then healed her. Numbers 12

So, after all this, after ALLLLLLL these miracles that they’ve witnessed with their own eyes… the Israelites are terrified of a few “giants” that are currently inhabiting the land that God has promised to give to them.

Sigh. Good thing God has more patience than I do! But after all this, even He gets a bit upset. He decrees that for their mind-blowingly stupid disobedience (okay, maybe God didn’t use quite those words…) their consequence is to wander in the desert for 40 years — one year for every day of spying — until all the Doubty Mc Doubtersons have died in the wilderness, like they wanted.

Whoops. Be careful what you wish for has gone to a whooooole new level here.

What really gets me, though, is that even after all this the Israelites persist in their childish whining and ineffective attempts to manipulate God. It goes something like this:

God: You’d rather die in the wilderness? Okay. Request granted.

Israel: …On second thought, all that milk and honey sounds real nice. How about we go to the Promised Land now? We’re just gonna stroll on over…

Moses: Don’t go over there, you dummies! God said you’re gonna die in the wilderness, and so you will. If you climb over that hill you’re gonna get whupped by the locals.

Israel: Oh, come on, it’ll be fun — Ow! Ow! Ow!

Wow. Seriously silly stuff. It gives me a lot more empathy for Moses when he gripes about the rough lot of being the leader and divine intercessor for these knuckleheads.

Anyway, so then presumably the Israelites realize that God means business and get ready for some serious sand dune-age. But then, my chronological Bible plan sends me to this beautiful psalm attributed to Moses. No idea if it actually lines up with this story, but it is certainly a thematic match for what Moses and the Israelites must have been feeling as the reality of “40 years of wilderness and then you die” set in.

In amidst the honest lamentations of God’s wrath and the shortness of life come some beautiful statements of faith and supplication, which are all the more powerful when you think of the probable context. (I think this psalm is very appropriate for Lent, too!) So today, I will leave you with these favorite bits from Psalm 90:

Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us —
yes, establish the work of our hands.