Tag Archives: prophet

Landscape of Love 93: Volcano

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No matter how wet the firewood, how damp the kindling, one word from the glowing prophet and water itself will catch alight around your holy altar! The Lord’s lava flowing from the places where the ground opens up under your unsandalled feet, the cracks ‘neath crucifixion’s fulcrum filling to the brim stone with sulphurous spewing holy raging song that cascades up hills and down dales making a mockery of the highs and lows we spend so much time measuring.

All this time we had the power streaming beneath us, and we did not know. And as the bones of Ba’al’s believers rattle in a bleached latticed path before us, we can walk over molten earth and not be burned, the scorched and scarred lands are not our destination, for we head towards waters of love, even as we have, ourselves, become flame.

© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2016

Photo from Pixabay

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Veil of Tears 104: Asked Too Much

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“As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread–only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it–and die.” Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.” 1 Kings 17:12-13 NIV

How would you react to this strange request from a wild prophet? God wants your last meal. Not only that, but to steal the very food from the mouth of your only child. Like Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac, here is another seemingly strange test given to a person of faith, requiring total trust in the providence of the Living God.

In some respects, the widow of Zarephath is asked both less and more than Abraham was. Less, because she and her son, starving in this besieged town, are going to die anyway, so this last meal is symbolic more than anything, it wasn’t going to save them. But it was going to buy them a few last precious hours, and that desperation is not something any of us simply reading this story should underestimate. More, because this command comes, not from the mouth of God, as it did for Abraham, but from a wild and woolly man of God fresh in from the desert, who, frankly, could just have been mad, who made little sense and who probably hadn’t washed in quite a while.

So often in the Bible, women have to receive God’s commands second hand, like Eve in the Garden of Eden, and decide for themselves whether to take it as truth or not. This is what happens when exclusion becomes part of any religion. Well, this amazing widow obeys immediately. Does God give us that special and abiding grace to act, right when we need it? Does he sway our hearts when it is a choice between his life or spiritual death? Perhaps he does. The amount of faith we sometimes need often seems unearthly.

And this act of utter obedience also brings untold blessing. Like the magic porridge pot in the children’s fairy tale, the flour and the oil continue to pour and flow to feed the widow, her son, and Elijah for as long as they need. A miracle has come to save them, and in the strangest form. For sometimes God comes to us odd guises, dishevelled and whiffy, desperate and defiant, but always making some strange unnatural sense in a deep place that cannot help but be fired into action, and warmed to faith. When we hear and obey that voice, the blessings are great and beyond our understanding.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

41: Worrying

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As for your donkeys which were lost three days ago, do not set your mind on them, for they have been found.” 1 Samuel 9:20 (partial) NASB

A man called Kish loses some donkeys. He sends his son Saul and a servant to go and look for them. They search for miles without luck and end up wondering if they should go home in case Kish stops worrying about the donkeys and starts worrying about them. But before they do, they seemingly quite randomly end up first consulting the Prophet Samuel about their journey. Unbeknownst to them, God has told Samuel that this young man is going to be the next King of Israel. The Lord tells him so in quite mighty and prophetic language, as you’d expect. When Samuel sees Saul and speaks to him, you’d think he would be full of that amazing prophecy and curious about the future king and so on.

But Samuel’s first concern is to put Saul’s mind at rest. He tells him that he will be fed, that he will have a place to stay for the night, that he will be told all he needs to know the next day, and that he can stop worrying about the donkeys. Does that blow your mind? It does mine. The man of God understands anxiety and worry. He knows that Saul is full of his task and that it is important to him.

Now, I am a first class worrier. I worry and I fret and I get anxious, I want to fix everything and I have a to do list a mile long in my head, most of which is impossible. Jesus telling me “do not worry” is probably the toughest thing he could ask. Worrying steals so much of my energy and my time, it verges on the ridiculous. Anxiety can actually be a really horrible thing, which is why I’m including it here in the Veil of Tears blog and why I will no doubt come back to it a few times.

Yet here is an Old Testament prophet showing us that God knows about the donkeys. He knows. He understands that they are taking up space in our heads. He wants us to know the score and that they are safe. Samuel doesn’t just say, don’t worry about them, he also says, because they have been found. Worriers need reassurance and facts to calm us down.

This is also reassuring to me because it shows that God cares about the things that distract us, about the things that loom large to us, however insignificant they might seem to others. It also shows us that there are old missions we can let go, that have run their course. I’ve known Christians (including myself) who have become miserable and distraught because of a quest they felt sent on many years ago not seeming to come about or bear fruit. Missing the boat is a feeling that sows guilt and sadness in our lives. But maybe in those cases we are looking at it all wrong. Maybe the Lord has already found those donkeys in our past and we can simply let them go. Maybe they were a way of bringing us to our Samuel.

Saul is a loyal son and he is not going to be able to concentrate on anything Samuel tells him whilst he has this quest on his mind. It shouldn’t really be a surprise to us that the one who made us understands totally how hung up we can get on the to do list, or the current problem, how much it can take over our consciousness. How uncaring we can make God in our minds sometimes! But the Lord loves to find the lost, as so many Bible passages tell us. Doesn’t this show us that he truly has it all in hand, that he can be taking care of it all: the worries, the future, the “chance” meetings, the mission ahead, who will be ruling the kingdom, the number of hairs on our heads and even those pesky donkeys, wandering about who knows where in the wilderness?

 

“All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;” J.R.R. Tolkein

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from morguefile.com

33: Hopeless

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Yes, the day of the LORD will be dark and hopeless, without a ray of joy or hope.” Amos 5:20 NLT

Sounds pretty dire, doesn’t it? And not like the God of love we know – but like any verse grabbed out of context, this description of the day of the Lord is misleading on its own. At this point the Lord is speaking through his prophet Amos, trying (as always) to get the people of Israel to turn back to him and be true, genuine and faithful. They might talk about wanting the Lord to come and be with them, but because of their insincerity and disloyalty this would be hopeless, because he would have to judge them, and so that circumstance is described before our verse above: “In that day you will be like a man who runs from a lion—

only to meet a bear. Escaping from the bear, he leans his hand against a wall in his house—

and he’s bitten by a snake.” Amos 5:19

These would be happenings that Alanis Morissette might have sung about in her song Ironic, where she gleefully (and perhaps ironically) confuses misfortune with irony. Here the Israelites too are in a muddle, but about who God is and what he and they want. They say they want him around, but try to placate him with false praise. The Lord is desperate to save them and give them the hope that they are running from. As well as the refrain “come back to me and live!” in this chapter, the last verse describes what God wants from his people instead of worship and sacrifices that are only for show (partnering the perhaps better known Isaiah 58) “Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living”. Amos 5: 24 NLT

I find it physically hard to type the word “hopeless.” I didn’t used to. I was sure I was hopeless and so it flowed easily, off the fingers and off the tongue. Since I started praying regularly, every time I try to type the word, it comes out as hopeful, unless I am really concentrating. I find this encouraging, because I am not naturally a hopeful person, and hope (!) that it is revealing something of the unquenchable optimism of the Holy Spirit that dwells within me.

But if that is my inner truth, it doesn’t always feel like that. Life is hard and relentlessly so, at least for my family it seems, and holding onto hope in the day to day grind is often too hard an ask. And yet, somehow it remains, like a hidden mystery, deep down, a seed in the dark that refuses to die. It doesn’t float, that’s for sure, and it is not a light, airy ethereal thing, hope. At least not to me. Hope is a heavy thing, an anchor that holds fast in the deep mud underneath everything. It is strong and it is immoveable, unlike my own sometimes feeble faith. Hope keeps me going because it underpins all things. It is the hand I can reach out for in the dark of night and the flame that burns right at the centre of a bright furnace. It can be relied upon, along with love, to hold fast and never give up.

Being hopeless looks a lot less like the weariness and despair that we feel when times are hard than we think. Instead It is clear that we are only really without hope when we go our own way and choose wickedness and falsity over the genuine relationship offered by the Lord of all Hopefulness.

 

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile

7: Toothless

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“He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust.” Lamentations 3:16 NIV

In this chapter of Lamentations, we find some of the most downcast descriptions of human misery the Bible has to offer. A prophet tormented at seeing his words come to pass, taken into exile with his people by the Babylonians, Jeremiah is beyond sorrow. And though he sees under the old covenant, all punishments righteously coming from God’s hand, he is also able to hope in God’s ultimate goodness, like Job, who said, “Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him…” (Job 13:15 partial NIV).

Jeremiah has no way to fight his enemies, he is remembering all the terrible things he has seen, and the afflictions he has partaken of. It must indeed have seemed like his very teeth had been ground away, that all he had left to eat were stones, all he had to fight with were bleeding gums.

It is the toughest lesson in life, to sit face to face with our own powerlessness. But in a turn of faith, it is also the place where all is changed. Because it is not until we can face our true nature as dust, not until we are grounded in humility (humus=earth) and ground into our smallest particles, that we can finally look about us like toothless infants and see that all the control belongs to God. Once the acceptance of that truth comes we become strangely powerful ourselves, because we are his, because we know that we can rely on his words and his teeth to save us.

For it is whilst he is meditating on all this suffering and brokenness that Jeremiah comes to the far more well-known verses from this chapter, the conclusion that,

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 

it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:22-26 NIV

It is also good to remember that without the lament, we do not find the hope. The one lived through becomes the other, and we serve a God who delights in transformation, even turning a vile death on a cross into a universal victory. Yes, the world should beware those ground into the dust, the toothless and the weak. We are people of the living God.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com

146: Cistern

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Here lie the dead, the broken bones of former prophets, those heads so full of passionate words now skulls beneath my feet, where my own skin is crawling and taut, treading as gently, as reverently, as I can in the dark. Here is mud and far worse, knee deep and stinking, the refuse of the city tossed in daily. My cell is by royal command, no-one dares speak to me as they hurry past, hoods pulled tight across mouth and nose.

For this at least I am grateful, to be left alone with my thoughts, nothing impeding my soul-cry to the God who put me here. This is the reward for obeying the fire in your throat, you see. And perhaps my God-servant friend will come and rescue me, or perhaps I will die here and join my kin, sinking down into thirsty delirium: the irony of a parched prophet in a dry watering hole. But wait, here are footsteps of my gentle Ebed-Melech, and God has even remembered the soreness under my arms, and living water will again flow here in this place.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2015