Thursday, February 2, 2012

When you wrestle with God, let him win

Jacob or Israel?

While most people would see Jacob's character transformation and name change to Israel after wrestling with the Angel of YHWH as a type or symbol of prevailing with God in prayer ( especially intercession), I think its more than that. I believe its way more than an allegorical story, but that its an example and pattern of transformation by encounter. I think it is a wholesale revelation and understanding, a life change that is completely opposite of the way he conducted himself in relationship to people and God his whole life up until that point. The first part he was in charge and the remaining part of his life he trusted God.

Jacob's encounter with God released him from being a spiritual orphan to being a prince and prevailer with God ( the meaning of Israel). You don't get to become Israel until you learn that God wins and your strength (thigh) has no redeeming value. We don't become Israel until we walk with a limp for the rest of our lives because of our encounter, visibly and noticeably different forever. From the wrestling in the desert and forward he would trust God for establishing him and his tribe and the eventual nation of Israel. Even though that meant going back to his dysfunctional family to try and make things right after the way he left. With his heart in the right place, the Angel of God went before him and softened his brother's heart.

Jacob was born chasing after his brother and grabbing after everything he could get his hands on through deceit and cleverness. His name Jacob meant Heel or heel grabber and that worldly label defined him for most of his life. The Text in Genesis is very clear that he was a momma's boy and his dad Isaac favored his twin brother Esau, who was more of a manly man. That being understood, it accounts for Jacob's orphan/abandonment behavior and the need to take his brother's inheritance as opposed to trusting God for his own.

The way I read the text, Jacob's mother Rebekah held onto the prophetic promise God gave her that the youngest son would be the leader and bearer of the birthright and that is a sign of her incredible faith and trust that she helped Jacob walk into his destiny even if he didn't fully realize what that was yet. God always fully intended on Jacob being the one in the line of Christ and the progenitor of the twelve tribes, but he will have it done his way. The encounter with God released Jacob from the anxiety and stress of having to figure out his own destiny and helped to heal the father wounds of his natural father at the same time. I think that may account partially for the reason God chose him as the father of the twelve tribes and Jacob's tenderness towards his younger sons Joseph and Benjamin.

Jacob is the type of person who tries to make the will of God happen in their own strength, in other words a lot like most of us or at least hopefully how we used to be. Like many of us, he grew up in a household that was dysfunctional and lacked affirmation. He knows there is a call of God on his life (Padan Aram) confirmed by dreams, but still goes and works for the man for 14 years multiplying sheep ( making money), outside of his homeland and birthright. Even in Jacob's rebellion God recounts his great promises to him in a dream knowing he will turn his back on them for a long time. God is patient, he will wait and he will have his way. He always has our best interests in his heart. Its interesting that 14 years seems to be the seasoning time for the cultivation of a prophet, but I digress. Only when the oppression and lack of justice in Jacob's world becomes unbearable does he really consider the call and promise of God in his life.

Jacob ( and you and me) have to face God all alone, that is why he puts his family on the other side of the river. When you face God alone in an honest encounter, before you face those you have wronged then your character is revealed. Surprisingly to those of us who are expecting rebuke and punishment, what God does most of the time is reveal the character and person he has seen in you and me all along, (Israel) princes and princesses before him, because he sees us in Christ. When we accept God's encounter and word to us and receive nothing less than God's best and blessing we get the revelation of who we are. With the revelation of the way God sees us, we can face anything and anyone and its never as bad as we thought it was going to be, people will forgive and accept you when you finally figure out who you are. It comes down to believing that the Father's blessing really was for you in the first place.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I don't like cats

         When I was growing up we always had cats and dogs.  My mom loved cats more than dogs and as the kids moved out she added more cats to replace them I guess.  She got carried away in my opinion so much so, that present day I don't think anyone would argue she can officially be called a cat lady.  I don't remember how many she has, but around a dozen of every color, size, and temperament.   They have taken over her house and the last time I visited I was afraid to go to sleep at night for fear that they might somehow know intuitively that I liked dogs more than them and scratch me in the middle of the night. I love dogs and sorry, I just don't like cats.

         I don't even know how or why we got talked into it, but after my wife and I got married, we ended up getting cats too, even though Lesley is allergic to them.  Even after we adopted a criminally insane cat named Titus (after the Roman general) that terrorized the neighborhood and sent kids screaming at the sight of him.  Titus was pathological and patient waiting underneath my daughter Jill's bed everyday so that as soon as she put her foot down he buried his fangs and claws into her until Lesley or I peeled him off (wearing gloves).  We had other cats who would pee on the stove or what we called "hick" on the carpet their regurgitated food because they had gorged themselves so much and yet, we would always get a new one, after the defective cat was given away.
         From the smell of the cat box, to the cost of litter and food and the hair all over the furniture, I saw no benefit, no pros, only cons. I could never understand why my whole family fought so hard to keep the cats when I suggested we get rid of them (everyday).  After Sydney our last cat barfed three days in a row and Lesley was finally tired of cleaning up after her, she said the words I had been waiting to hear for several years.  " When I get home after these next two days out of town, it won't break my heart if Sydney is not here when I get back".   The funny thing is, that none of the kids who fought so  vehemently so save her even noticed she was gone for several days.  My house smells good again.  I don't have to worry about sitting down and getting hair all over me.  We save money on food, litter, carpet cleaner, and lint rollers too. 

Cats are a lot like demons ( Lol, my blog, I can say it) we put up with them when we don't have to.  We allow them to terrorize us, rob us of our resources, time and energy.  We serve them and clean up after them when we have authority over them.  Eventually when we come to our senses, we cast them out, with their nasty behavior and habits.  We have been cat free for a couple months now, the freedom is exhilerating. 


Saturday, January 7, 2012

My boss died yesterday

Some people might receive it as good news that their boss died. Not me, I cried and I cried with his family, who I work with and I cried all the way home in my car.  It is not that we were super close, though we talked via phone or e-mail almost daily over the last 3 years coordinating purchasing and sales and developing strategy for the multi-million dollar seafood importing company he started out of the back of a truck some 20+  years ago. My tears had nothing to do with my security or future, our company will be fine.  It is not because he was a people person or spiritual guru or charismatic icon who I will be lost without, though I don't know anyone with more friends. It is because Phil loved life and he loved life more than anyone I have ever met.  He loved life and pushed to the edges the way all of us know we are supposed to, but few of us ever do.

He was a Kiwi, ( New Zealander for the rest of you) who sucked the marrow out of the bones of life. He grew his family and business as he migrated from New Zealand to Hawaii to Los Angeles and then back to his beloved New Zealand where he lived a simple, peaceful life in semi-retirement over the last few years, most of his days spent fishing.  Phil was always looking for the next celebration, sporting event, party, rugby match, boat race, auto race etc., not so much for the adrenaline release, but to be with friends and family and celebrate life.   He was relaxed and calm as a company owner, so much so that to many it appeared he was complacent or didn't care, when in fact his company was an allegory or example of his life, expressing his confidence and loyalty to those he surrounded himself with. We would take 2 hour lunches on Friday afternoon when there was work to be done, but Phil was never in a hurry, the task was never as important as the person to him and I grew to respect that about him.   In hindsight, I suspect that his hands off approach actually brought out the best and the most in those who worked for him. At least it did in me.  Any of us who have had to work at a corporate grind, and punch a time clock would realize what a blessing it was for me to work for a man, a company, that believes in you and your potential and gives you the freedom to pursue it unto the ends of the earth. On my suggestion we traveled together to countries in Asia to develop new product lines and suppliers.  He trusted me to go to Central and South America to do the same. On those occasions when I made bad decisions and lost thousands of dollars and felt horrible, Phil would encourage me and express the utmost confidence in my decision making and his  loyalty to me created my loyalty to him and the company.  He was taken advantage of by those who  had selfish ambition more than once, both personally and professionally, but he never hardened his heart or changed his core values of loyalty and generosity and that will always be a memorial to me.

Phil certainly died way too young at age 58, but I am thankful for the way he was allowed to go.  It is prophetic of his life and an inspiration to me that the last thing he did before he died was reeling in a big fish.