How ’bout some jelly on that #manna?

The Old Testament records the travel plans of the newly reorganized and very fussy nation of Israel on their way to the place that had been long promised to them as a special homeland.  Sometimes I’m tempted to think, “For crying out loud, people!”  (Which they did, frequently.)  I mean, after all, God had done some pretty amazing things from the beginning of this project, what with plagues and parting the Red Sea, Charlton Heston notwithstanding.  There was plenty of water from a rock to satisfy a couple million people or so, and enough quail to feed an army.

And then there was this thing called manna.  I think the jury is still out as to what this stuff really was, which is kind of a moot point, since it was obviously enough to keep them nutritionally sustained over time.  Kind of like the limbis bread of the wood elves in the Lord of the Rings.  (Yes, I own the trilogy of movies, directors cut and all that,… but I digress.)

I readily claim that I’m not a picky eater, and neither is Bob.  But admittedly we do enjoy some, albeit limited, variety in our palate.  I joke that I could live on pizza, but the reality is that even my homemade pizza would probably get a bit old over time.  So in a somewhat shaky defense of the Hebrew people, my very human side can relate to a diet of everyday manna bread and water, even though it made them very healthy indeed.  (I can only imagine the mothers of the five-year-olds….)

However, it seems that the people never quite learned how to address their grievances judiciously to the God that was so obviously trying to help them.  It wasn’t that they were hungry or thirsty.  They were just bored.  Bored with the desert, bored with constantly moving,….bored with bread, and more bread, and only bread.

Put that thought on hold to check out how their future king, David, managed his frustrations and fears and disappointing circumstances with God.  Here’s just a snipet of one of his many recorded communiques with his Lord:

Be gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me;
Fighting all day long he oppresses me. My foes have trampled upon me all day long,
For they are many who fight proudly against me.
When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.
In God, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid.
What can mere man do to me?
 You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?
 Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call;
This I know, that God is for me.
 In God, whose word I praise,
In the Lord, whose word I praise,
 In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?  (see Psalm 56, NASB)

Now David wasn’t just having a bad day.  This was written in the context of his true enemies (and he had many) capturing him in his own wanderings prior to his providential promise of ascending to the throne.  David had no problem “pouring out his complaint to the Lord”, it’s just that he knew how to do it properly.  It’s not about using the right words; it’s all about having the right heart.  David didn’t mince words with God; he didn’t candy coat the problem or his own emotional response to it.  But even in the muck and the mire of dealing with life, he maintained that God was with him, God was in control, and no matter how long it took, he would continue to trust God for the outcome.

Deep breath.  Back to the Israelites.  They just hadn’t grown up enough to understand and appreciate with Whom they were dealing.  Unfortunately, as it has been said, desperate times call for desperate measures.  God sent in “the snakes” to do a severe work of judgment.  And then, in typical fashion, He also provides a way of healing once bitten.

  • I find it interesting that God uses snakes to do the dirty work, since Satan was described as a snake in the garden after deceiving Mother Eve. The original sin was pride, thinking that we should be allowed to “be like God” (which, really, we already were, being made “in His image”, all that.)  Like Eve, the Hebrews thought they were “entitled” to more than manna, more than what God deemed healthy for them for that point in the journey.  Hmmm….
  • The account goes on to say that the people became impatient (Oh!  That word!!) with the long journey and complained about the manna, i.e., God’s provision.  Not complained in the sense of David’s pouring out his honest frustrations to God “Whom he knew would do what is best, and trusted Him with his life, regardless of current circumstances” kind of complaining.  This was more of a “how dare you invite us out here and feed us nothing but bread” category, and the snakes were happy to accommodate.  There is a very important warning here: when I complain to God with a victimhood mentality, with a feeling that I am entitled to more than I have (instead of a humble “I know what I really deserve” kind of thinking) there are definite “snakes” just waiting for a piece of me.  Their names are Bitterness, Resentment, Jealousy, and Offense, and they have many, many sibling slitherers close behind that are just as poisonous to my soul
  • Interestingly, once the people asked for forgiveness, God didn’t just remove the snakes. They were still lurking around, waiting and watching.  But God gave the people a pole to look upon should they be bitten, and having gazed upon the pole, they would be healed.  Similarly, if, through unresolved heart issues, we allow ourselves to be bitten, we really have only one option for true healing, and that is to gaze upon the One Who was raised up on a cross for us. 

So yeah….shut up and pass the quail.

This ain’t Missouri

IWAA7We are visiting my husband’s family, all of us on the edge of the continent known as the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Only a few rows of houses from the beach, we can hear the roar of the ocean waves and feel the breeze off the Atlantic.  Right now, though, I am on the other side of the house, on the patio (of course) in the morning.  Not much breeze on this side, except for the fan, and the morning dew is so thick that it’s dripping off the roof. 

The view here, on both sides of the house is considerable different from Missouri, definitely “not home”. These are not the same people jogging, walking and riding bikes along the street and sidewalk.  Back home I see Sherry as she strolls up Central Street on her way to work.  Back home I see waving prairie grasses and bison, not cresting waves and beachcombers.  In my county I see bass and catfish and perch jumping out of the lakes, not dolphins arching up from the ocean.  At our local park I see turtles sunning themselves on the logs, instead of jellyfish remains drying up on the white sand.

Then I hear it—the call of the catbird, that unmistakable feline sound, easily identified even by my untrained ear.  And I am reminded that, though I may not be in my familiar territory, God is still here.  And everywhere, His voice is the same, immutable, unmistakable.

We are told that we go through seasons of life, rites of passage, some of which are culturally induced although some are admittedly universal.  Personally, I feel almost that my “seasons” have been more like “spasms”—can anyone relate?  Nevertheless, we move from one set of experiences inexorably into another.  Not only do we have to navigate from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood—emotionally as well as physically—but we also have other times of joy and struggle:

  • School—most of us in the United States have been blessed with the availability of public education, and many of us are still impacted by memories and experiences of those infamous junior high years.
  • Moves—more and more frequently in the past several decades of our society have we seen the increase in the mobility of families. In the past, if you were a military family, that was a given. Now, however, it may seem quite unusual in many places for any child to start kindergarten and graduate from high school in the same place.
  • Relationships—marriage, child-rearing, child-releasing. You just have to “be there” to really understand this one…
  • Collateral damage—it is also becoming somewhat unusual to see family members that all have the same last name. Blended families, whether from death or divorce, bring special challenges all their own.

Certainly there are many, many more examples that could added to this list, times when being resilient and flexible can be most helpful.  While resiliency is an essential quality to cultivate so as to survive and thrive this side of Heaven, true resiliency can only happen when there remains a stable reference point.  Elastic is very resilient, but to retain that characteristic, it must have a place to snap back to.  Flexibility is a good thing, but flexibility cannot even be defined unless there is a starting point from which to measure it.  (At least, that’s what it seems like when my daughters try to teach me some yoga or Palate moves!  Ouch!)

In a world of changes and challenges, of unfamiliar circumstances and scary possibilities, God has said that even though the heavens and the earth pass away, His word would never do so. (1)  He also says that He, as God of the Universe, does not change. (2)  He promises that He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. (3)  Only with God can we find the perfect interconnection with resiliency and immutability, between flexibility and stability. Only in relationship with Him can we properly define our starting point and make it safely to the end.

Another one of these “seasons” is yet upon me, and although its unrelenting hold has become more gentle, I am aware that the hold of the Father has never changed.  He is aware of this time in my life, anticipated it for me, knew the particulars would be unfamiliar, and sometimes unfriendly, to me.

 And He sent me His catbird to remind me of His unchanging and unfailing presence, no matter where I am on earth, or in life.

  • Luke 21:33
  • Malachi 3:6
  • Hebrews 13:8

(Excerpt from God Loves Birds, by Dawn Jones)