2.06.2016

Desert Romance

It's an old, old story. Man meets woman. Sparks fly--not the good kind. Man and woman end up in trouble. Man fights to protect woman, risking his life in the process. Woman sees how much man loves her, falls in love with him.

It's Beauty and the Beast. In the Disney version, when Belle is all alone with the Beast, she begins, after a while, to see his heart; and when she sees him in the magic mirror, fighting for his life because he had granted her wish to walk away, then her heart reaches out, and she loves him back, fully.

It's The Wind and the Lion, where the captive American lady falls in love with the dashing Arab after he fights to save her children and reveals his intention to set her free.

It's Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Marion and Indy are thrown into terrible danger, he rescues her from torture, and through their shared experience they fall in love.

It's The Princess Bride, where Buttercup is saved from assassins and taken captive by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who is really her beloved Westley in disguise. The journey reveals who he is, as he has fought to win her back, and she falls in love with him all over again. In Westley's case, it's even a journey through death and back, to save his beloved.

It's the desert romance.

The desert--be it loneliness, pain, danger, uncertainty, any number of addictions or sexual brokennesses, or even the actual desert--strips away the veneer of things. I remember seeing a movie, years ago, where a group of people got caught up in a sandstorm in the Mongolian desert. All found shelter but one, and, when the storm was over, the only thing left behind was his corpse, almost bare bones. The desert is harsh, unforgiving, and painful. Animals and plants survive there because they've adapted to live with a lack--of water, shelter, safety, and comfort. Desert animals are tough. They have to be. Desert people, too, are tough, shaped by their environment, and a non-desert person will not survive without the help of a desert person.

In the stories above, the desert experience within each narrative strips away false things--pride, anger, and even ugliness, in the case of the Beast--and reveals, underneath, a self-sacrificing love.

When we go into the Exodus story, we encounter a group of people who have been shaped by the experience of slavery. They've lived with harshness, but they're not desert people. The Israelites have lived in Goshen for 430 years, with access to leeks, onions, wheat, barley, spelt, fish, cucumbers, melons, and garlic. That isn't desert food.

In Exodus 12, Israel leaves Egypt and begins to head east, and God begins to do something interesting with their journey. Exodus 13:17-18 says, "When Pharaoh let the Israelites go out, God did not take them by the way that crosses the land of the Philistines, which was the shorter way, for He thought, 'If they meet with battle, they could change their minds and return to Egypt.' Because of that He made them take a detour by way of the desert, in the direction of the Red Sea."

Israel had left Egypt in ranks, as if for battle, but they were in no way prepared for battle. God takes them the long way round, because He knows they can't handle the Philistines. His purpose for them right now is not to fight, but to learn to follow Him in no-man's-land--in the desert. They enter the desert in 13:20, and they begin to see God's pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, leading them along the way. It never leaves them, by day or by night.

In Exodus 14, God tells Moses to turn the people back and have them camp at a certain place near the sea. He tells Moses clearly that Pharaoh will come for Israel again, will think they are trapped, and will follow to kill them, but that God intends to show His glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. God sends His people intentionally back into an insecure place, and when they're completely trapped, they turn on Moses and claim that it would have been better to remain slaves in Egypt. The sentiment: "You've brought us out here to kill us!"

Moses responds, "Don't be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see no more forever. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still" (14:13-14).

God has not led Israel into the desert to die. He has led them into the desert to strip away their dependence on the food and familiarity of Egypt and to place it on Him. He has led them out to strip away their false conceptions of what He is like and to show them who He really is. He's led them out to woo them.

What happens with the Egyptians looks to me very much like when, in the stories, the man picks a fight with someone big and powerful to impress the woman he loves. "Look how strong I am," he is saying, "how clever, how quick, and how able I am to defend you. Look how I can take care of you." A hilarious example of this is in Nacho Libre, when Nacho gets his friend Esqueleto to gather a group of guys together so he can fight them in front of Sister Incarnación. He hopes that she will be impressed with his skills and fall in love with him. Obviously it doesn't turn out that way, but it's a film trope for a reason--it's part of how people see the world.

God draws Israel into the desert as a Lover wooing his Beloved, saying, "Look how I can take care of you here; I am really all you need." He shows her how He can fight for her, provide for her, guide her, and care for her in the desert.

Sadly, the people of Israel never really get it, instead turning on God and Moses time after time, always claiming that God has brought them out into the desert to kill them. The desert reveals their distrust, discouragement, skepticism, and disdain for God. He keeps trying, though; even as He removes from Israel the people who will most lead to faithlessness and idolatry, He stays with them in the desert for 40 years, and their clothes don't fall apart, their sandals don't wear out, and they eat bread and meat from heaven every day. He provides water from rocks and shelter when they need it, and they never have to wonder about where to Go, because He's always there, leading.

It's a desert romance.

Some takeaways from this narrative:
  • Sometimes God leads us the long way around because He knows we can't handle the battles along the shorter road. Our tendency is to get discouraged and assume we're running around in circles. There is a purpose to our winding journey.
  • Sometimes God leads us directly into situations where only He can fight for us, and we must decide whether to distrust in Him or depend on Him.
  • We pretty much always assume we've been brought into the desert to die. When I am lonely, I assume I'll die this way, or I feel like I am dying. When I struggle with sin and feel isolated, I wonder if it wouldn't be better to be dead, or to go back to where I came from. I only see the desert, or I only see my enemies; I don't see the pillar of cloud and fire.
  • God brings people into the desert, over and over again, with the express purpose of feeding them. He draws them away from distraction and ease to woo them.
  • We see the desert as a place of death; with Him, it is only a place of hidden life. 
  • Am I willing to say, "It doesn't matter where I am, or how alone I feel, as long as I'm with you"?

2.01.2016

Spectacularly Unqualified

Lots of ideas float around about the things that God calls His people to. Lately I have heard, rather a lot, that God is like a father who wants his children to be happy and to enjoy what they are doing. I've heard that obedience will bring us joy, and that if we're not enjoying what we're doing, maybe something's wrong.

I think only one of those claims is true--that obedience will bring us joy. It's just that "joy" doesn't necessarily translate into enjoying the process. Joy is the deep assurance that you have pleased God, even if you hurt along the way.

I struggle with my call. Nothing about me enjoys leaving my family. I think only a psychopath would enjoy that. I don't enjoy living in a different culture and being misunderstood for my differences, or being expected to conform to standards of behavior and thinking that I'm not even aware exist. I don't enjoy the pressure to plant churches. I don't enjoy feeling the pressure to meet strangers and share the gospel, especially in a place with so many people who have a really broken concept of what it means. I don't enjoy having to justify or explain why I'm here in Mexico. I don't enjoy being rejected or simply not having people wanting to hang out with me because I don't go clubbing or like to watch certain kinds of movies. I don't enjoy feeling like a failure when I miss an opportunity. I don't enjoy spending a lot of time just figuring out how to get out and do what I'm supposed to do, rather than having a clearly defined job with a decent salary and an understandable career trajectory. But all these things, in their own ways, are part of the call that I experience as I serve God.

That's why Moses has been really comforting to me today. At the end of four hundred years of oppression promised by God in Genesis 15, God calls Moses out to serve Him and deliver the people.  And Moses says no--like five times. Shall we look at what Moses is dealing with, when God calls him?

  • Broken dreams: Moses had been raised with a purpose. In a day when the Pharaoh had ordered the killings of all male Israelite babies, Moses' parents had seen such a beauty in him that they had hid him until it was no longer possible. When they finally gave him up, they received him back from the dead (in a figurative sense), from the very hand of the daughter of their nation's enemy. He was even named for this rescue--"drawn out" from the waters. He was nursed by his Hebrew mother and introduced to their ways, hopes, and dreams; and he was educated in all the style of his adoptive Egyptian mother and given access to Pharaoh's wealth. He had the purpose of a man of the people of God, circumcised into the covenant and inheriting the promises of Abraham; and he had the confidence of one raised with royalty, whose spirit had never been crushed by slavery. As Stephen says in Acts 8:25, he thought of himself as Israel's liberator. But he had lost all that.
  • Rejection: Just when Moses had positioned himself to lead a liberation movement, he was rejected and accused. Just as the people of Sodom had said to Lot, "This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge!" so the Israelites say of Moses, "Who made you ruler and judge over us?" Talk about being misunderstood! At the moment that Moses had crossed the line and allied himself with his people, they rejected him. For someone who had dreamed of delivering his people and probably basking in their loyalty and gratitude, this must have been crushing.
  • Past failures: Moses failed to do what he believed God had called him to do. He killed an Egyptian, without meaning to, hid the body, was found out, and was rejected by Egypt and pursued as a murderer. God had called him as a deliverer, and he had spectacularly failed, gotten himself kicked out of the country, put Israelites in danger, and had to live in hiding for 40 years.
  • Irrelevance and obscurity: Can I sum this up as "out of sight, out of mind?" Anyone who goes into overseas work knows that it takes a miracle for people to remember that you exist after you've been gone for a few years. They have to be your family or your very best friends, and even then there's no guarantee. And this is in the age of email, Skype, FaceTime, and WhatsApp. They drill into us in training that we need to keep reminding our home churches that we exist, with a multitude of letters, blog posts, conversations, or even physically bringing over teams to see what we're doing. That's how powerful the need for relevance is. You don't communicate a lot, you don't exist. You don't exist, sooner or later you don't get support. And Moses is gone for 40 years. He's a footnote for the people that loved him best, a file in the Egyptian criminal court system, and absolutely nothing at all for anyone else. He could be dead, and they wouldn't know.
  • Roots: For better or worse, Moses has made a life in Midian. He has a wife, kids, and a new adoptive family. He's got sheep. They probably have names. In other words he's put down roots. He's no deliverer, but he's learned how to live with that. He's learned the art of treating sheep diseases and helping them to give birth. He's learned how to sleep outside, how to read the desert for signs of life and water. He's learned to be a husband and dad, and for 40 years, that's been what he knows. And God is calling him to leave all that. 
  • Insecurity: Have you ever failed publicly and spectacularly at something and then stepped out to risk it again? When I was a teenager, I totaled my first car. That very evening, my dad made me drive someone to their house in his truck. He knew that if I waited the fear would grow, and that it would be harder for me to get back behind the wheel. Failure and time to dwell on it would make me timid. Was I angry with him? Yes. Was it the best thing for me to do in the moment? Yes. But Moses has been gone for 40 years, with nothing but time on his hands to think about his failure--to think about his people languishing in slavery because he had acted rashly. Additionally, he's been in a different tribal group. However good his Hebrew was before, he's out of practice now. His Egyptian too is probably lacking. He's grown used to different customs and different food, and he has probably forgotten most of what he ever knew before. How in the world is he supposed to handle this?
  • Fear: The last time Moses was in Egypt, he was under murder charges. Now he's being called back to go to the country where he's wanted for murder. It's going to be one man versus a whole country. On top of that, he is supposed to waltz up to Pharaoh, the embodiment of a god, and demand that he free the slaves on whom the entire economy of his kingdom is based. It is an impossible task, and certainly a great risk to Moses' very life. 
  • Unwillingness: Moses just doesn't want to go. He'd rather God send anyone else--anyone at all. At the heart of it, he simply doesn't believe in what God wants him to do, and he puts out several different excuses for not going before saying to God, "Please send someone else."

Basically, Moses is spectacularly unqualified for the position. He's a screwed up bundle of faithlessness and insecurity and fear. Many of us would probably say that he isn't called. My mission agency probably wouldn't send him (I'm being generous with "probably"). He looks like a great example of someone being set up for failure. If past performance is an indication of future success, then Moses is a big fat zero.

What does this say about the call--about serving God? I think part of it is that God does call us to things with which we have no experience, or even things to which our personalities may not be suited. He calls to the impossible, to the pain, to the risks. How then can I test my call? By my suitedness, or my willingness, or my enjoyment of the task?

No. Only this: did God say, "Go!"? And everything flows from there.

12.07.2015

Weird places, weird people

Hi guys,
I am currently updating from the living room, where J and I are watching Nacho Libre, to the tune of cackles (J loves this movie). Today I went to Guanajuato to buy Christmas presents, and I ended up talking for about two hours with this guy in the street. It was interesting. He kept asking questions about the Bible, and then he'd interrupt me to tell me I have beautiful eyes--that he had never seen eyes more beautiful ("My mom's are better, trust me"). He kept poking my knee, then he put his hand over mine and asked, "What do you feel?" 

"Weird." I tried to move my hand, but his moved with mine.

"What do you really feel?"

"Uncomfortable." He backed off at that point.

A couple of minutes later he said, "You were hurt before, by someone who has the same eyes as me."

"No." 

"Don't lie! You were hurt by someone with my eyes, and that's why you were showing fear."

"Really, it's actually sufficient that I'm talking to a strange man in the street, in a city I don't live in."

"Oh. That's right."

Sometimes I just take these situations and run with them for curiosity's sake. I did get to share the gospel with him, and he actually knew a lot of stuff from the Gospels. He asked me to explain the Parable of the Sower, so I got to ask him what kind of soil he was. 

I have basically embraced the idea that my life is going to include an awful lot of weirdness, and  have chosen just to go with it.

Well hello there

Last Wednesday I got my hair dyed grey because I can, and it worked wonderfully for a birthday costume party that I attended on Saturday (forest fairy makeup included above). There were some definite moments of "You're not in America anymore," for example, when I saw the cake, which had roman candles stuck in it, tilted toward the children. Or when we arrived, and the hosts were dressed as cannibals (black body suits, grass skirts, afros, and blackface--legit blackface). I can't make this stuff up. The redeeming thing is that there's not the same history here as in the US, so here it really just was a costume, with no meaning behind it. Nobody thought anything of it. But it was weird. Super weird.

I did get to share with a lady at the party, and she asked for my number, so it would be amazing if something comes of that.

Anyway, yeah, life here is weird. Just felt like sharing that.

7.31.2015

3 things

3 things I am grateful for today:

  • A van that carries me from point A to point B
  • Learning how to get around better and feeling more confident about knowing where I am in new parts of the city
  • Meeting with Mr. C and the group for training, and actually understanding most of the conversation

7.29.2015

3 things

3 things I am grateful for from yesterday:
• The relatively straightforward system of medical testing here
• Goofy team dudes
• My glasses look good on pretty much everyone

7.28.2015

3 things

3 things I'm grateful for today:
• Understanding and insight from J
• long phone call with O
• iMessaging with my mom

7.26.2015

Gospel. Women. Everyone.

Not for nothing is Isaiah referred to as the fifth Gospel. Listen to this (and I do mean listen--read it out loud and hear yourself):

He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. 

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.

And they made His grave with the wicked but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.

When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. 

Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:2b-12)

I don't know about you, but sometimes I have trouble identifying with the crucifixion--an event that occurred not quite two thousand years ago, in a land I've never seen, to a person I've never seen. I do have trouble connecting with that emotionally, feeling its effect on my life.

To be brutally honest, I often have trouble seeing my value as a woman in the kingdom of God, and as an overseas worker I struggle with purpose. When other people get really excited about the nations, and Psalm 2, and Psalm 17, and so many other references to the nations' worshipping God, I have almost no emotional connection to that. I can't carry the burden of the nations--this heart isn't big enough. Heck, I can't bear the burden of the million+ people in my city.

"They" say that "whatever bugs you in the States will hippopotamus you overseas," and in the time I've been here in Mexico, I've definitely seen that. Isolation, frustration, and purposelessness have raised ugly, longstanding doubts out of the murky depths of my heart--questions like:
  • Do you care if I'm happy?
  • Do you actually care about me?
  • Are you just wasting my life away from family and friends? Why?
  • Do you actually want these people to be saved--and if so, what are you doing about it?
  • Do I actually get to make choices in my life, or am I just trapped in this?
  • How can I talk to people about a joy I'm not sure I feel?
  • Why don't you just send someone else--someone male, married, qualified to train leaders and plant churches and talk to people, someone sinless and healthy and not so very broken?
Is that maybe a little too raw? I don't know. Part of me feels like a Christian shouldn't struggle with these questions, much less an overseas worker sent to represent the name of Jesus in another nation. But I do.

That's where I was this morning. I skipped church to spend some time complaining to God and crying and looking for answers. My reading started this morning in the Suffering Servant passage that begins at the end of Isaiah 52. As I said, I have a lately had hard time connecting emotionally with these things, which tends to make me feel like a failure as well. So reading Isaiah 53 and other such passages is often intimidating for me, because I feel like it should be profoundly affecting, and like something's wrong with me if it isn't.

Today I started praying through it as I was reading it, and writing it down with myself as part of the passage:

"Do you actually care about me, God? . . . The Lord's love for me is such that he has borne my griefs, sorrows, and rejection, been wounded for my evildoing and bruised for my rebellion, has been punished that I might have peace, and his welts have brought me healing and sanity. I chose what I wanted, went my own way, and God laid on his son my rebellion. He said, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" so I wouldn't have to.

"He was silent under oppression and affliction, while I complain when I feel purposeless. There was no deceit in his mouth and no violence in his hands, but I plan deceit when I sin, because I don't want people to know. I heap sin over sin.

"His knowledge, our justification; our rebellion, his judgment.

"I walk around, talk to people, often so self-conscious, terrified that they'll guess or suspect how much I struggle with sin, that they'll see the real me, the ugly, leprous me; I feel naked and vulnerable in front of everyone. But I'm not. I'm so not. No one can uncover what God has covered. I am a new creation, but I live like the new creation is just a mask laid over the old, like a bad mask that doesn't actually cover the rot underneath. But I'm not rot underneath. I'm a new creation. I'm a saint in larval form."

Hebrews 7:25, one of my very favorite verses, says, "Wherefore He is also able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to intercede for them." That's what he does in Isaiah 53. He's a man of sorrows so that we don't have to be. He wore ugliness like a cloak, to bring us beauty. He was misunderstood so that we could live in his understanding of us. He carried our sorrows and our griefs to make life lighter on us. He identified with us so that he could trade places. And he still ended in glory and honor and righteousness and pleasure and satisfaction. He legitimately beat all of those other things.

It's good news, isn't it?

Want to see something really crazy? What's Isaiah 54 about? A woman. And what is God's first command to her? "Sing!"

The gospel comes, and who is the first person God talks to? Woman. Why is this important? Would it be audacious to say that maybe the woman is God's first priority in terms of the gospel? Maybe not!

What happens in the garden? Woman is created second, then woman is attacked, and then woman receives the consequences of sin. She's always second, lower, put down. And when we look at the world as it is, women receive less education, are more often the victims of violence and especially sexual violence, are more often the victims of human trafficking, are the victims of sex-selective abortions, are hurt, wounded, regularly put down, stripped naked for the pleasure of others, and are generally considered less-than, even in the church. Would it be odd, then, that the first chapter after the gospel in Isaiah is addressed to a woman?

What are some of the things God addresses when talking to this woman?
  • Lack of children, and a desire to care for others--"Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman, says the Lord" (54:1). The States might not particularly understand this, but most societies on the earth get the importance for a woman of having someone to care for, especially children. Not having children, to most of the world, means that there's something wrong with you. It's weird and maybe a curse. But God says there are children when there aren't any. He makes children for the childless, gives her honor.
  • Descendants--"Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited" (2-3). Generally, the property of the tents has belonged to men, and descendants have been counted after men. God here tells the woman that she will have descendants who will inherit nations and fill whole cities. 
  • Disgrace and shame from her youth--"Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth . . ." (4a). If you chip away at pretty much any woman's facade, you will reach some area of shame--whether it is over appearance, over relationships, over rejection, or over how she's used herself--or been used--in the past. God says to the woman, "I will never shame you. You will forget how it felt to have someone shame you, because I won't ever do it."
  • Widowhood--". . . and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore. For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth" (4b-5). I read an article recently about polygamy in India, where this guy married two extra ladies so that someone would be around to carry the water needed for the house; the first wife couldn't do it alone. These two ladies were delighted to be married, because they were widows, and now they had honor back as married women. As widows, they lived under shame, couldn't even eat with their families because they were unclean. This is what women really deal with in parts of the earth. Yet the God of the whole earth has chosen women as his, to carry his name as their husband.
  • Chosenness and calling--"For the Lord has called you like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a youthful wife when you were refused" (6). I am probably like every woman in that, deep within me, so deep I almost always bury it because it's just too vulnerable, I want someone to choose me over all others and stay with me, over all others, out of love. Any woman who's ever had a guy talk to her about relationships, engagement, marriage, etc., and then choose to actually do those things with another woman understands how this feels. It is a forsaken feeling, a grief of spirit. So God says, "I have called you like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit." This is gospel, is it not?
  • Anger--"For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer. For this is like the waters of Noah to me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, so I have sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you" (7-9). The same way we never wake up worried that the earth is suddenly going to flood and we're all going to die, we never have to worry about God's anger or rebuke. He's not a hitter, and he doesn't give the silent treatment. His love is perfect. He promises everlasting kindness. Gentleness and tenderness without fail.
  • Steadfastness--"For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has mercy on you" (10). God says that the hills will fall away before his kindness does, and that he makes a promise of peace with the woman. Why does someone make a promise? So that the other person will feel secure. 
  • Security--"O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of crystal, and all your walls of precious stones. All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children" (11-13). Every woman instinctively looks for security, beauty, and safety for her children. God promises all three. We move from the image of a tent in the first part of this chapter to a castle made of jewels--impregnable and beautiful. This world isn't secure for women. A 15-year-old girl here was raped and left for dead on her way home from school a few weeks ago. There's a reason we want security. Parents want security and safety for their kids. It's just not here in this world. This is why the gospel is so important. God really does promise it, and He provides it in changed hearts. People who really know Him don't treat other people as objects.
  • Safety from oppression--"In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear, and from terror, for it shall not come near you" (14). Like I've said, this isn't a safe world for women. Rape is a weapon of war, pretty much every time there is war. Look at Somalia. Look at the Yazidi women (and others) kidnapped by ISIS. I don't understand this impulse. Women and children are vulnerable, and God says, "I'm not like that." God offers distance from terror. This is comfort, and this is gospel.
  • The judgment of others--"Indeed they shall surely assemble, but not because of Me. Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake. Behold, I have created the blacksmith who blows the coals in the fire, who brings forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the spoiler to destroy. No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn" (15-17a). Every woman has felt the lash of the tongue. Both men and women talk smack about women, and it hurts. But God gives the promise that the woman will be able to condemn the tongues that rise against her in judgment. People can talk about the woman's appearance or her actions, or they can spread lies, but there is an end to all that.
  • Heritage and legacy--"This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me, says the Lord" (17b). The woman also inherits as a servant of the Lord. The woman also gets righteousness.
Then in Isaiah 55 God opens the blessing up to everyone--and what beautiful promises there are in this passage. It's some of the most beautiful poetry in Scripture.

As I thought about today's reading, from Isaiah 53 and onward, I saw the following progression: gospel (53)--women (54)--everyone (55)-- foreigners and eunuchs (56:1-8). If this looks familiar, see the New Testament: gospel (crucifixion and resurrection)--women (immediately after the resurrection--they were the first people to see Jesus out of the tomb, and the first witnesses to the resurrection; and the main one was Mary Magdalene, a woman who apparently had no husband and who had had seven demons cast out of her--what would Isaiah 54 mean to her?)--everyone (Acts 1-7)--foreigners and eunuchs (Acts 8 and onward). 

Coincidence? I think not.

So where is my place as a woman in the kingdom of God? Somewhere in Isaiah 54. Somewhere in the resurrection. As a gospel-receiver and a gospel-giver, in line with my sisters back in the day, who were the first. Does God care if I'm happy? Yes. Is he wasting my life away? No. Why doesn't he send someone else? I have no idea, but there's a reason I'm here, as I am. Do I always have answers to all of these questions? No. But today I have what I need.

Thank you.