Temples and Palaces

So in 1 Kings 8, there’s this fabulously beautiful speech Solomon makes to dedicate the temple. It definitely makes the most impact when read out loud, because then you can hear the rhythm and repetition: “When your people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, hear in heaven….When heaven is shut up and there is no rain, then hear your people….If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemy besieges them in the land at their gates…whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act.”

He goes on like this for eight paragraphs before he comes to his benediction, imploring the Lord to come and inhabit this house, be shrouded in darkness no longer but to hear his people when they cry, even when they make mistakes, even when all seems lost, if they even stretch out their hands in the direction of his temple–hear, O God.

And this is amazing to me because in the Old Testament they didn’t yet have a new covenant; they had to go through priests and rituals and sacrifices over and over and the priest had to wear a bell in case he be struck dead in the presence of God and yet they were confident in their prayer, God dwell among us, God hear us. And yet even though we do have the new covenant and we don’t have the constraints of the Old Testament, the curtain was torn and the sacrifice completed, sometimes we still feel like God doesn’t hear. That he’s still so far away. That he is distant and unknowable and unreachable and unaffected and unimplorable. Right?

But this is amazing to me, because when I read Solomon’s prayer it gives me chills because God has fulfilled the promise, he has heard his people’s cry. He has been faithful and he has never let us go. He told Isaiah, “I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right. Come, gather together, and draw near, you fugitives of the nations.” In Thessalonians Paul writes, “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.”

This passage is amazing to me, because it shows how the promise has been fulfilled. Look back at your own life–can you see it? Maybe not yet–but you will.

And remember, this is Solomon praying this. I remember growing up in Sunday School, learning about the first three kings of Israel, right? Saul was bad, David was good, Solomon was wise but he had too many wives. Boom, I just summarized I Samuel through the first half of I Kings for you right there, right?

We do this, don’t we? Make these men into legends, epitomizing them as good or evil? But we forget that these aren’t just characters in a story meant to teach us a lesson. They were real people, living real lives and so their choices and actions are just the fleshing out of a complex consciousness as real and full as yours.

There was a study once that found that people tended to describe others in terms of absolutes. “He’s really attractive,” “She’s hilarious,” “He’s a jerk,” as if that characteristic were a constant feature of their personhood. But when they described themselves, they tended to speak in relative terms: “I’m having a bad day today,” or “It’s a good hair day.

I feel like we do this with the Bible, too. Like when we read the story of how Solomon’s brother Adonijah was setting himself up as king (1 Kings 1). A lot of times, this is painted as a deceitful power grab. And yeah, Adonijah was jumping the gun a little. But he was the oldest, and he had good reason to expect the throne. It’s partly on David for not sorting this out until, like, the day he was about to die. But you can see how this would happen, too. It’s not exactly a fun conversation. And Adonijah might’ve suspected, based on who he left off the guest list. But maybe he was just playing his cards wisely.

It’s the same with Solomon. He’s the epitome of following God…some of the time. And we say that so judgmentally, like, of course he should have followed God all the time with his whole heart. But how many of us can say the same?

For instance, look at the time he spent building the temple (7 years) versus his own palace (13 years). In fact, he paused the temple once the construction was completed and didn’t furnish it until he was done building his palace, oh, and one for his Egyptian wife he wasn’t supposed to take. It’s easy to look at that and be like, Solomon! What are you doing, man? Get your priorities straight! But how many of us find it easy to put God on hold, just for a little while? How much time are you spending on your palaces, and how much in the temple?

Once these actions are written down and crystallized into factual Biblical text, it’s easy to not think about the internal thought process behind them. Did Solomon care about the temple? Of course! 1 Kings 8 is full of this incredible passion and humility for God’s house, and an awe of who God is. But sometimes, he let his palaces get in the way of his passion for the temple.

How often do you do the same?

“What is that in your hand?”

in your hand

Is it a pencil? A paintbrush? A computer? A soccer ball? Is it a phone? A schedule? Your wallet? Your keys? Are you holding an instrument? A pair of shoes? A schoolbook?

For this man, it was a staff. He wasn’t sure why he was being asked this. It was pretty obvious, he thought. It wasn’t anything special. Just a roughly hewn, solid piece of wood, knotted with age. It had been with him for many long miles. Under his hand and weight, the grip had been worn smooth and the grain familiar. It wasn’t anything special; just a walking tool to balance him in the arid, rocky desert. He wondered why God wanted to know.

“Throw it on the ground.”

Shrugging,  he let the rod fall from his hands. Maybe it was meant as a symbol for leaving this intermittent time in the desert behind.

He could never have foreseen what would actually happen next.

As the staff began to writhe, he jumped back. For in the eyes of the snake, there was something more–there was the realization of the God to which he was committed. Though he couldn’t yet see it, in the eyes of the snake there was contained locusts and frogs and hail and darkness and blood, and the parting of a great, great sea. In those eyes, there was the coming knowledge of what God will do for his own.

At first, he ran. He’d lived in the desert for four decades; he knew not to mess with vipers. But God told him to pick it up.

Are you sure, God? Are you sure you know what you’re doing?

He picked it up.

God gave him two more signs, the leprosy and the Nile. Then he gave him a charge: “Go tell Pharoah to let my people go.” My people–a people of slaves who would be made free, and then bring freedom to the world.

Moses’ reaction was visceral and immediate. “Send someone else!” I am slow of speech and tongue. I am not ready. I am not enough. I can’t.

And God responds: “Is it not I, the Lord? Is it not I, the Lord, who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind?” Is it not I, the Lord?

I ask again: what is that in your hand? Is it a hoe, a needle, a broom? Is it a calculator or test tube? A pen or a sword?

“Whatever you do, do it with your whole heart as unto the Lord.” (Colossians 2:23)

Jesus himself was a carpenter. Do not make the mistake of the Nazarenes. Someone once said, “That Jesus was a carpenter was to them poor credentials of divinity, but it has been divine credentials to the poor ever since.”

Yes, yes, a carpenter, same trade as mine!
How it warms my heart as I read that line.
I can stand the hard work, I can stand the poor pay,
For I’ll see that Carpenter at no distant day.
–Maltbie D. Babcock

This is the carpenter of whom God said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

So what is that in your hand? Time is in his; he knows your beginning and your end. He was there at the start and he’ll see you through to the end. He knows where you’ll be on your final day, and where you’ll end up; he knows that it will all be okay, and you’ll see his face. He’s put you where you are for an exact and specific purpose. Maybe he wants you to use your staff, and maybe he wants you to pick up your snake.

Whatever may pass and whatever lies before you, may you be singing when they evening comes.

Blessings!
Bre

Adkjhskdjflmagh!

I have to wonder if it’s worth it, this busy life we lead.
If because of it we’re missing out, on what we really need.

I am so sick and tired of all of this, sometimes. Of all the running around, scrambling to get everything done, my mind split into a million pieces all wondering what’s next, losing the now as I stress over the next thing. How do I have time for it all? How do I get it done?

It’s a cultural phenomenon: we’re all becoming busier. I have so many different things pulling at my attention, I don’t know which way to turn. So many demands to be met, so many expectations to be reached, so many responsibilities to carry out, so many options tugging at my mind, so little time to do it all.

The simple thing would be just to say no to some of it, wouldn’t it? But no–I can’t do that. I don’t want to miss out.

Besides, I like it–don’t I?

Yeah! Yeah, I enjoy all the things I’m involved in–but I keep myself from fully enjoying them, because by the time I get there, I’m already stressing about how to fit in the next thing.

Imagine.

Just. Taking. The. Time. To. Breathe.

This craziness might also have to do with a major indecision in my life: namely, what I want to do with it. I am passionate about so many things…

Writing? Oh, yes, I have a passion for writing. I am absolutely and irrevocably in love with words, the beauty, the majesty, the music of them–of the English language–of all language. Oh, yes I have a passion for these written words. But…I also have a passion for the spoken word: for theatre, its lights and its drama. And I have a passion for the visual arts, the swirl of a paintbrush and the footprint it leaves behind. And I have a passion for science, for biology and genetics. For books with crinkled pages and people with smiling eyes and a world full of wonder waiting to be discovered, yes–I have a passion, for all of these, and above all I have a passion for my sweet and powerful Jesus. So really, you can’t blame me, for not knowing which way to go, not when there are so many beautiful options…

It doesn’t help, you know, the pressure from, well, everywhere, to know. I get asked it often: “Where are you going to college? What are you going to study? What career are you going to?” I’ve been being asked since FRESHMAN YEAR. It instates a kind of learned panic in me, now, the uncertainty of it, because the nature of the question implies that other people–they know. And if you don’t you’re behind.

And frankly, it’s hard, not knowing, because you don’t limit yourself. I’m involved in so many things, it’s hard to focus on just one. But really, should I have to?

My whole family is busy. Today alone there have been four different sports games people have had to get to. This week is tech week for my show (For those of you not familiar with theatre: tech week basically = chaos. At least in that it’s a very time-consuming process). So even when one of us has a moment–like me, this afternoon–the rest are out and about.

And there are times. My family, especially my parents, is actually really good at getting in quality time, something I really do appreciate–more than I act like it a lot of times, because I am so stressed. And it’s not fair that life is slipping away from me, and I feel weary already.

Isn’t this supposed to be the time when I’m at my peak, vibrant and full of life? No wonder more and more teenagers are developing anxiety disorders and depression. In fact, I’ve been there too. And if that’s you, right now, can I just take a second to encourage you: don’t give up. The fight’s not over yet. You’d be amazed at what can happen, if you just, keep, going, even when its hard. Especially when its hard. When it hurts. Those are the times, honestly, for me in my life, that I look back to, and that inspire me to keep going now. The times from which I learned the most. It’s a beautiful thing, restoration, redemption–so keep going. I want you to see it.

Because I know–some days, it feels like it will never end.

It would be nice if we could all just take a single day away from it all, all at once, all together. It would be nice, for a moment, to focus on each other, rather than the next thing on our to-do lists. Isn’t that what really matters?

This weekend was my mom’s birthday. Have I mentioned how amazing my mom is? I don’t know how she does it. If I’m half as good at parenting as she is, my kids will be lucky. But you know what? With rehearsals and schoolwork and projects and exams and tech week and commitments–I didn’t even make her a card. It slipped my mind, and I didn’t have time. But hey, I shot her a text, right? That’s something!

I don’t know. I just challenge you–this week, to take a moment to do something for someone else. Just something small. It’ll change their day. But even if it doesn’t–I guarantee it’ll change yours.

Just a thought.

–Bre