Civil War

I slept in last Tuesday and didn’t leave the house until after 8:30 am … how nice it is to sleep in from time to time. If I wait until the traffic thins out, I can make it to work in a little less than an hour (as opposed to 1:40 if I take the train). Still, I miss this time on the train to read my Bible and write.

I have received permission to move to a four-day work week, starting this week (in fact, by the time I have published this, we’ve already had our first ‘field trip day’). I am excited about the change and about the opportunity it will give me to go on field trips with the kids. As the weather starts to warm up and the days get longer, it will be good to be out and about … we’ve huddled indoors much of the winter. One trip I really want to make is to visit Mount Rainier … some days I see it looming majestically to the east as I travel on the train, but it has been many years since I paid my respects, and I have no decent digital pictures of the mountain.

Monday was the first day that it was still light (sort of) when I got off the train, and now I see a glimmering of light to the east as we move through Puyallup. Pretty soon my entire commute will be in daylight (at least on sunny days), which makes a big difference to me. The lack of light really seems to affect me … I get gloomy very easily in the winter here in Washington. It always surprises me how extremely the seasonal difference affects the length of day at this latitude … we’re almost six degrees north of Detroit, and the day gets pretty short in January. Of course, we have no complaints in terms of cold weather … again today I walked out the door in shirt sleeves … and the rain just doesn’t ever seem to materialize in any great amount.

I’ve been reading in II Chronicles lately, reviewing the exploits of the kings who followed Solomon in both Judah and the remainder of Israel. It is interesting to note that a substantial number of people from the tribes of Levi, Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon also joined Judah and Benjamin once they saw that the southern kingdom was really following the Lord. I had always wondered at the disparity in size between Israel and Judah, and now I see that they were more evenly divided than I had suspected.

Under Rehoboam, Judah makes one attempt to re-unite the kingdom, but is instructed by a prophet of the Lord to desist from civil war. Some years later, under Abijah, king of Judah, there is a massive battle between Judah and Israel in which 500,000 soldiers from Israel (more than 60% of their army) are killed. Although this is a major triumph of God over the pagan idols of Israel, I wonder what it must have been like to have such huge casualties in Israel. Perhaps as many as one in five of the men of Israel were killed? It must have been a very bittersweet victory for the people of Judah, to see God’s judgment come upon the northern kingdom in that way.

It is sad to note that king Asa, although he trusts in God in dealing with a foreign invasion from the south, ends his reign badly. Toward the latter part of Asa’s rule in Judah, the king of Israel began to fortify a town near the border to stem the tides of those defecting from his kingdom to Judah. Much like the iron curtain or the Berlin Wall, this pagan king seeks to prevent any of his subjects who loved God from voting with their feet and heading south. Although this seemed to be an opportunity for God to teach the nation of Israel yet another lesson about His sovereignty, Asa chooses not to trust in God, but rather sends tribute to the king of Aram, hiring him to attack Israel to take the pressure off Judah.

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Perhaps Asa lacked the counsel of a good Queen?

Ultimately this choice is shown to be bad, yet the knowledge seems to embitter Asa against the Lord and he ends his life with a painful illness, still refusing to turn to God for healing. It is a sad progression of one bad choice followed by others, each seemingly cementing Asa’s stubborn position and souring his reign. Towards the end of his life, II Chronicles 16 records that this once-godly king began to oppress some of his people brutally, effectively doing the work of the Enemy by discouraging any further southward migration among the people of Israel.

I suspect it was the desire of God to re-unite the kingdoms of Judah and Israel or at least to draw all of those who loved Him south into Judah. If I was a God-fearing person in, say, the tribe of Issachar, I would have thought seriously about relocating to Judah during the early years of Asa. Toward the end of his reign, though, I expect that there was no need for a fortified city to guard the border … Asa’s oppression was enough to keep any remaining god-fearing subjects of Israel at home.

Over the past months I have allowed my heart to become a little cold toward God, perhaps consciously and unconsciously blaming Him for some of the disappointment in my life. This story of Asa rings a warning bell in my mind, and I am convicted of my lack of humility toward God. Asa could have repented of his lack of trust in God, turned away from his stubborn pride, and ended his life as one of the most godly kings of Judah. Instead, he became more and more set against God, imprisoning God’s messenger and ultimately betraying his trust as king over God’s people and bringing shame upon God’s name.

The prophet Micah gives a very succinct summary of our responsibilities:
“He has shown thee, O Man, what is good and what the Lord requires of thee: to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” Micah 6:8

Once more, I need to humble my heart before God and to trust Him. You’d think I would learn this, once and for all!

I’ve been reading the allegory, “Hind’s Feet on High Places” to the kids at night lately … I’m not sure they are really getting it (I wonder I understand it myself, for that matter). One of the things that surprises me every time I read it is the choice of companions that the Shepherd makes for poor little Much-Afraid, as she heads off on her epic journey to the High Places. Sorrow and Suffering are definitely not the companions I would choose for my own journey to the High Places … like Much-Afraid, I would much prefer Joy and Peace, to encourage and strengthen me on the way. Yet God seems to care more about our development along the way than our speed or comfort in arriving at our destination. This is a hard teaching, and it resonates as truth, but I really don’t have a good handle on it yet.

I guess that once we are with the Lord in Heaven, there will be no more resistance or impediment to loving Him, and everyone will be able to fully give themselves to Him in love and adoration. Yet we know that true love is only possible where there is a choice, a choice we must apparently make outside eternity … which is probably why God does not take us immediately home to be with Him. Is it possible that the extent, depth, or quality of our love is also determined by the growth that we experience during our short lives on this planet?

Throughout my marriage with Kathy, one of the things that makes our relationship special is the confidence we have in each other’s love and fidelity. Because we were both still virgins when we married, we knew that we could trust each other. Sometimes, when life is hard and we have disagreements, it is natural to wonder about the depth of each other’s love … it is at times like that when it becomes very important to remember that your spouse chose to marry you over all others.

If everything was always easy, and life was one long honeymoon, I wonder if our love for each other would ever grow? Love is about sacrifice and putting the other person ahead of yourself more than it is about hearts and flowers. Perhaps the preciousness of our love for God is in its depth and completeness … maybe the sweetness of our savor is increased as we demonstrate our willingness to love Him deeply and truly in spite of hardship.

One night after I finished work, Kathy wanted to go to Costco and Target to do a little shopping, but I wanted to stay home. At first I refused to go with her (for some reason she didn’t want to drive to Costco at night) but then I remembered that the scriptures instruct husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, and to lay down their lives for their wives. So I told the kids about this and lay myself down on the floor in the living room, telling Kathy that I would go with her if she wanted me to. Joshua immediately pounced on me, taking advantage of my prone position … I was forced to remind him of the frequent brochures and flyers I receive from the Spitsbergen Military Boarding School and Arctic Exploration Center (SMBSAEC).

West Spitsbergen, controlled by Norway and nestled in the warm and sunny Svarbald archipelago, is the home of one of the finest military boarding schools available. While some complain that the latitude (near the 82nd parallel) makes the winters a bit long and nippy, others maintain that such is the talk of sissies.

We went to Costco to pick up a new mattress for Sarah (we think she is ready to take the big step of moving from her crib to a real bed) and checked the prices for replacement glasses for Daniel. I bought everyone ice cream and we wheeled the mattress out with the four younger kids all sitting on the mattress happily eating their chocolate and vanilla swirls, much to the envy of several bystanders. A good time was had by all until we got to Target, where the lines were long and Kathy was delayed while the rest of us waited in the van. The mattress (which was now resting on the heads of all five children) began to be much less fun, and we were all glad to be on our way home again when Kathy finally emerged.

About a half-mile from home we witnessed an accident between a man in a big SUV and a woman and child in a smaller sedan … fortunately no one was hurt, but there were shards of plastic everywhere, filling the intersection. Both drivers insisted that the other one had run the red light; unfortunately Kathy and I had not seen enough of the collision to reliably testify. The little boy, perhaps five years old, was pretty shaken up and cried and cried while his mom held him and shouted at the other driver. The woman who was hit may have been uninsured … I felt badly for her and prayed with her, but there was little else I could do apart from sweep up the debris. The police never did come to investigate the accident, which I thought was pretty unprofessional.

Today is a rainy day, and the train is pretty full already, and we haven’t even reached Tukwila. I think a lot of people are like me, in that they sometimes take the train, and sometimes drive their cars to work. Personally, I like the variety … there is nothing quite like sitting in traffic to make one appreciate the train, even if it is crowded. I heard yesterday that the Washington State Ferries have finally implemented a wireless network on the ferries and in the terminals … that will be very nice for the commuters, I think, if people can handle e-mail and be connected to their work systems. I wonder if I will ever be a ferry commuter again? In many ways my heart is divided about moving back to the Duckabush.

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Daniel loves gymnastics, especially the foam pit. As far as we know, that other little boy survived this encounter.

Last Friday marked the beginning of our involvement in a local homeschooling cooperative … the kids are very excited about spending the day in classes rather than doing the usual schoolwork at home. They are each enrolled in four classes, two before lunch and two after, from 8:45 in the morning until 3:00 pm. Kathy is required also to work as an assistant in one of the classes, so the whole family (except me) is involved. I’m a little jealous … I do hope that they enjoy their classes and teachers … the co-op seems to be well-run and fairly comprehensive in terms of the classes offered, with what seems to be as many as a hundred children enrolled. This semester covers the next sixteen weeks, ending in May, so it is a big undertaking.

My mind keeps coming back to poor king Asa and his stubborn embitterment toward God … I went back and re-read part of his story. This blog entry has already gone too long, but I think it is worth noting the difference between Asa’s reaction and that of king David, when confronted with his adultery. Instead of having a teachable heart, Asa became angry with the prophet who rebuked him and put him in prison. David, in contrast, accepted the rebuke of Nathan and repented before the Lord. It seems to be less about the severity of the sin and much more about our response to God when corrected. I need to look for the Holy Spirit’s conviction and correction in my life and be humble and responsive to His rebuke. In the words of Paul:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. I Corinthians 9:24-27

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