My Core Weakness

“Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.’”
Jeremiah 45:5 (NIV)

One of the things I’ve experienced as an Enneagram coach is that it’s is common for people, upon reviewing their Enneagram Type, to say, “I don’t want that to be my Type!” In fact, there have been people I’ve encountered who insisted on mistyping themselves, whether consciously or unconsciously, because they were uncomfortable with embracing their true selves. This is, I have discovered, sometimes part of the self-discovery journey for people.

Every Enneagram Type has its core fear, core weakness, core desire, and core longing. These may manifest themselves differently in different individuals. As an Enneagram Four, my core desire is to be “special and unique” while my core weakness is the sin of envy. It’s easy for me to feel that others have something special or unique that I lack. Without realizing it, I sometimes feel an intense antagonism toward people I don’t even know that’s rooted in my envy. It’s taken a long time for me to recognize that in myself and address it.

Coming in at only five verses, Jeremiah 45 is one of the shorter chapters in the Great Story, though there are a handful that are even shorter. When the messages of Jeremiah were compiled into what we now know as the book of Jeremiah they were compiled thematically. The final chapters of the book are a kind of appendix. Today’s chapter is a fascinating, personal message that God gave Jeremiah for his friend and faithful scribe Baruch.

I saw shades of myself as I read Baruch’s lament in the quiet this morning. Baruch’s brother occupied an important position in the administration of King Zedekiah. Baruch was Jeremiah’s scribe, writing down the prophets dictated messages and then rewriting them all over again when the king burned the original copies in his anger. Let’s face it, the doom-and-gloom of Jeremiah’s prophetic works are bit repetitive and depressing. Add to that the fact that all of the anger, hatred, and animosity of Jeremiah trickled down to Baruch. When Jeremiah was banned from speaking in public, it was Baruch who got the job of proclaiming the words no one wanted to hear. Baruch sometimes got blamed when an accuser was afraid to confront the prophet himself.

“Why am I stuck doing this my whole life?” I can hear Baruch muttering to himself. “Why didn’t I get a cushy, high-profile job in the King’s administration like my brother?”

Jeremiah hears the muttering of his friend and scribe. God tells Jerry to tell Barry: “Don’t seek great things for yourself. Believe me, your brother’s story is not going to end well, but I will protect you and your life as the scribe of my anointed prophet.”

We don’t know what happened to Baruch’s brother Seraiah, though it was likely either captivity or death. Baruch, on the other hand, was still alive with Jeremiah in Egypt after the fall of Jerusalem.

In the quiet this morning, I confess that it’s always been easy for me to feel a certain level of discontent with my life. I was called specifically to do what I’m doing, and I trust that with all my being. Nevertheless, whenever I go through a tough stretch of the journey, my core desires and core weakness make it hard for me to stay in my lane without some dramatic and pessimistic brooding, and Wendy can tell you that I excel in this.

But that’s where God’s words to Baruch really resonate with me in all my “Fourness.” I can focus on obediently and faithfully fulfilling that to which I’ve been called, or I can waste a lot of time pining away in envy for what others have been called to do. The reality is that I have been and continue to be extremely blessed, and when I focus on that blessing, and the Source of that blessing, then I find contentment is soon to follow.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Slave’s Return

The Slave's Return (CaD Jer 44) Wayfarer

“We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord!”
Jeremiah 44:16 (NIV)

Jeremiah is an old man.

Consider with me all that he has witnessed.

He began his prophetic ministry under the reign of the reformer King Josiah. Josiah heard the Book of Law read, and he followed the God of Abraham and Moses faithfully. He outlawed idolatry and destroyed all of the idols and shrines. He did what was right. Jeremiah was right there in the palace, and in Solomon’s Temple to witness it all for the first twenty years of his ministry.

Then Josiah died.

His successor, Jehoahaz, immediately turned back to idolatry and the people of Judah with him. Over the next thirty years, Jeremiah witnessed a succession of four kings and the people of Judah harden their hearts in idolatry despite Jeremiah’s persistent warnings of judgement at the hand of the King of Babylon.

Jerusalem is destroyed.

The palace is destroyed.

The Who’s Who of Judah are all living in captivity in Babylon.

God’s Temple is in ruins.

The nation of Judah is no more.

The old man Jeremiah wakes up to find himself in Egypt, the nation where it all began for his people. They started as slaves in Egypt. That’s where God came to rescue them from their chains. God freed them from Egypt, made a covenant with them, and led them back to the land promised to them through their ancestor, Abraham. All God asked in return was faithfulness. Worship him alone. Live differently than all the other nations and peoples. Bless others. Show them a different way.

They refused. They broke covenant. They chose to be like everybody else. They refused to listen to Jeremiah. More than that. They mocked him, beat him, imprisoned him, and tried to kill him.

Jeremiah gathers with all the Hebrew expatriates in Egypt. I imagine him looking at this rag tag crowd. In some fifty years he’s witnessed the long, steady decline from a good King on the throne determined that his people will be faithful to the God who delivered them from slavery in Egypt and raised them up there to small remnant, wandering, lost sheep without a shepherd living back in Egypt. How ironic. These Hebrews have come full circle. The former slaves return to the land of their slave master.

These chapters about Jeremiah after the destruction of Jerusalem are striking for a couple of reasons.

First, Jeremiah is still proclaiming God’s Word and the message hasn’t changed.

Next, the leaders of this group of remnants have become increasingly defiant to anything Jeremiah has to say. They started by at least asking the prophet if he had a word from the Lord. Now they are simply telling the crazy old man to shut-up.

Also, the women have decided that the destruction of Jerusalem and all of the troubles were not the result of God’s judgement, but because they stopped worshipping Asherah, the “Queen of Heaven.” It wasn’t their unfaithfulness to the God of Moses who freed them from slavery in Egypt that brought all of the calamity but their unfaithfulness to Asherah. God no longer registers for them at all.

Jeremiah, the crazy old man, stays on message. God proclaims that He will give His people in Egypt one more sign. Pharaoh will die at the hands of his enemies. Indeed, in 570 B.C. (The remnant likely fled to Egypt sometime around 576-575 B.C.) Pharaoh was deposed and killed in a military coup.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself meditating on this big picture irony of the former slaves returning to their slave masters. In His first public message, Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.”

He was speaking of freedom from sin, as Paul so beautifully explains in his letter to the followers of Jesus in Rome:

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.

The lesson of the Hebrew remnant is a lesson for me. Am I spiritually growing in freedom toward a more intimate relationship with God and an increasing measure of love, joy, and peace in my daily life? Or, am I time and again returning to the shackles of pride, fear, shame, and the behaviors they produce in me?

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Choices and Destiny

Choices and Destiny (CaD Jer 43) Wayfarer

[Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon] will come and attack Egypt, bringing death to those destined for death, captivity to those destined for captivity, and the sword to those destined for the sword.
Jeremiah 43:11 (NIV)

One of the grand, never-ending, conflict-inducing debates in theology is that of the dance between free will and predestination. Am I really free to make my own choices, or are my choices and their outcomes predestined by God? This is the stuff about which theologians find themselves getting all worked up about. Like most hotly contested debate topics, along my journey I have observed small groups of individuals staunchly rooted at both extremes and a whole lot of people who occupy the gray area in-between. Like most hotly contested theological debates, I find the debate itself can be a huge waste of time.

Nevertheless, the question does occasionally present itself in the quiet on this chapter-a-day journey, as it did this morning. In yesterday’s chapter, there was a remnant of Hebrews who gathered in Mizpah after the Babylonian army left the area. Many people and soldiers fled elsewhere before and during the Babylonian siege. They avoided captivity the first time, but after the assassination of Governor Gedeliah they’re afraid Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar will send his army back to kill them or take them into captivity as well. Jeremiah gives them a message from God telling them to stay put and trust that God will deliver them from Nebuchadnezzar.

One of the things I found interesting in yesterday’s chapter is that Jeremiah twice addressed this remnant considering a move to Egypt as “determined to go” (vs. 15, 17). Then Jeremiah says at the end of his message that they “made a fatal mistake” when they sent him to seek the word of the Lord and said they would obey whatever the Lord said through Jeremiah. It was a bit of foreshadowing. Jeremiah seemed to know that these men had already made their decision and were looking for a rubber stamp from the Almighty.

Sure enough, in today’s chapter the leaders of the remnant reject God’s word through Jeremiah. They not only fly to exile in Egypt, but they force Jeremiah and his scribe, Baruch, to go with them.

The group settles in an Egyptian border town called Tahpanhes which was an important stop on the major trade route between Egypt and Judah. It would have been like Americans fleeing to Canada in Vancouver or to Mexico in Tijuana. It was just over the border. Tahpanhes would have been a popular destination for Hebrews fleeing to the land of Egypt and there was likely an active Hebrew community already in residence. there.

Upon arrival, God gives Jeremiah a message for those who drug him there again his will. It’s a repeat of the message from yesterday’s chapter that Nebuchadnezzar will indeed attack the city “bringing death to those destined for death, captivity to those destined for captivity, and the sword to those destined for the sword.” I couldn’t help but focus on the word “destined.” Because of my many experiences with the “free will vs. predestination” theological smackdowns, the word “destined” set off some alarms in the back of my brain. So, I dug into the original Hebrew text. Interestingly, there is no Hebrew word that translates into English. Rather, the direct word-for-word translation of the Hebrew is “death whoever death, captivity whoever captivity, sword whoever sword.” The translators have added the English word “destined” by implication.

In the quiet this morning, I found myself mulling over these “arrogant men” (vs. 2) who were determined to go to Egypt. It appears to have been their will to do so even before asking Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord. Once they settle in, God doubles down in pronouncing judgment. Nebuchadnezzar will attack. People will die, be taken captive, and will be struck down by the sword. By the way, there are textual references regarding Nebuchadnezzar attacking Egypt during two different years late in his reign. History records very little about the campaigns. While he didn’t conquer Egypt, Neb certainly would have attacked towns along the border such as Tahpanhes. We will have to wait for archaeologists to excavate any further evidence in order to know more.

So was the remnant free to will themselves to Egypt or were they destined to do so as part of God’s larger plan?

I have found on my spiritual journey that there is a certain humility required of me as a disciple of Jesus. The humility comes from acknowledging that there are certain spiritual mysteries that lie beyond my earthly, human comprehension. The mystery of the “Trinity” (greek word: perichoresis or literally “circle dance”) is a great example, and I love the word picture of a dance. It moves, it turns, it spins, it weaves and flows. I find that we humans love our simple binaries. The more fundamentalist I becomes in my thinking , the more black-and-white my lens will be in how I view both God and the world around me. The further I get in the journey, the more mystery I find in the dance between black-and-white, the more truth I find in the tension between the extremes, and the more humble I become in trying to cognitively understand that which lies further up and further in than my earthly synapses allow.

Today, I make my own choices. My choices have consequences. How God weaves that into the grand design of the Great Story is beyond me, though I am sure that He does.

Today, I make my own choices.

Lord, allow me the grace to choose well

and… May“Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Futility of Flight

The Futility of Flight (CaD Jer 42) Wayfarer

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you are determined to go to Egypt and you do go to settle there, then the sword you fear will overtake you there, and the famine you dread will follow you into Egypt, and there you will die.
Jeremiah 42:15b-16 (NIV)

Wendy and I were once cast in a production that was eery little story about a young couple being stuck in a myriad of ways. We did not play the couple, but were rather part of a dream-like menagerie that revealed the couple’s true relational issues.

In the course of the story, Wendy’s character confronts the young woman, who keeps trying to run away in fear. No matter where she runs, however, the young woman runs right into Wendy.

That show came to mind as I read today’s chapter, in which the small contingent of former soldiers who took vengeance out on the rogue Ishmael and his gang of assassins in yesterday’s chapter, now ask Jeremiah to pray for them as they plan to flee with their families to Egypt in fear of Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon’s wrath.

God’s answer through Jeremiah was not what the contingent wanted to hear.

Jeremiah tells the group that they must do the hard thing. Stay, stand firm, and face the consequences with the Babylonian overlord. Yes, the same King of Babylon who just destroyed Jerusalem, killed countless numbers of their fellow citizen, and took most of the other residents captive. “Trust Me,” God says. “Have faith that the King of Babylon will do the right thing, and I will make sure that every little thing is gonna be alright.”

What I really found fascinating was the next part of God’s word through Jeremiah. He tells the contingent that if they flee to Egypt (and it sounds like God knows they’re going to do it anyway) then all the things that they are running from are the very things they will run into in the land of the pyramids. Their flight would be futile.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself thinking back to the stretches of my journey in which a ran from different things. There have been times when I ran out of fear of a conflict or confrontation. There have been times when I ran away from facing up to my own mistakes or poor choices. Other times I have run away from doing the hard thing and instead sought out an easy alternative. As a follower of Jesus, however, I have found that God’s economy works just like the device in that production. No matter where I run or how far I run, God is there asking me to face the very thing I fear. As David put it in Psalm 139:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

Time and time again in the Great Story God reveals that His purpose is a relationship with me in which I grow into intimacy and spiritual maturity. That growth curve requires growing pains, struggle, trials, and even suffering. This is the exact opposite of culture and the human condition that continue convincing me that things on this life journey should be easy, comfortable, pleasurable, free of pain, full of fun, and always lucrative. The more I’ve learned to trust God in my trials, the more I’ve come to acknowledge the futility of my fleeing whatever it is that I don’t want to face. When I trust God to stand and face whatever it is I’m afraid of the less time and energy I waste fleeing from whatever it is that I’m only going to run into again and again and again.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Good Man, Wrong Job

Good Man, Wrong Job (CaD Jer 41) Wayfarer

Ishmael son of Nethaniah and the ten men who were with him got up and struck down Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, with the sword, killing the one whom the king of Babylon had appointed as governor over the land.
Jeremiah 41:2 (NIV)

The period of time immediately following a major conflict is usually a time of chaos. In the wake of our own Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the period known as the Reconstruction was a time of conflict and corruption. Spotty conflict continued for a time. Corrupt people took advantage of the power vacuums that occur with the transfer of power. Hatred for the north did not lessen in defeat across the south. Ulysses S. Grant, who was perhaps the only Union general with the leadership qualities to defeat the Confederate army, found himself lacking the leadership qualities necessary to navigate the political swamp of Washington D.C. in the period of Reconstruction, despite the fact that he had the purest of desires to get the job done.

I had to remind myself of this period of history as I read today’s chapter. The final chapters of Jeremiah are an amazingly detailed historical record of events that occurred in the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem. The Babylonian army had left the region with all of the exiles in tow. They left newly appointed Governor Gedeliah with a small Babylonian guard for protection. In the later portion of yesterday’s chapter, Gedeliah was warned that one of deposed King Zedekiah’s military commanders, a man named Ishmael, had allied himself with the nearby King of Ammon.

Ammon and Judah were allies in their rebellion against Babylon. Ammon was spared Babylonian revenge, but it didn’t quell the Ammonites hatred for Nebuchadnezzar. Ishmael and some of his men were equally enraged by the defeat and viewed their fellow Jews trying to carve out a peaceful life under Babylonian power to be traitors to the cause. Ishmael and his rogue squadron take out their rage by slaughtering Nebuchadnezzar’s men, the Governor and his administration, and they even slaughter some poor people bringing their offerings toward Jerusalem to try and re-establish some form of religious normalcy during what would have been a time of feasting and offering at the rubble that would have been Solomon’s Temple.

Having just suffered Nebuchadnezzar’s vengeance, another contingent of former soldiers who had given themselves to a new life under Babylonian control, realize that if they don’t kill Ishmael and his men Nebuchadnezzar might return and kill everybody. They take out Ismael and his men, but accept that Nebuchadnezzar might just kill them to simply squelch any unrest.

They flee to Egypt.

I couldn’t help but think of Gedeliah who, like Grant, had all of the desire to do the right thing for his people and help reconstruct their lives. Like Grant, he seemed to lack the wily shrewdness required in politics. The higher you climb on the political food chain the larger target you have on your back. Instead of brushing off the warnings about Ishmael, he should have at the very least taken precautions. The rebel appears to have taken Gedeliah and his Babylonian protectors completely off-guard.

And that’s the reminder I’m taking with me from my time in the quiet this morning. Having the right people with the right gifts in the right positions is perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned along my life journey as it pertains to effectively leading human systems whether I am running a business, directing a theatre production, leading a church, or head of a committee for a civic organization. This only gets more critical in the wake of upheaval or massive transition.

When you have the wrong people in critical positions of any human system, things will only get messier.

Note: I will not be posting tomorrow. Back on Monday!

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Faithful Tenacity

Faithful Tenacity (CaD Jer 40) Wayfarer

However, before Jeremiah turned to go, Nebuzaradan added, “Go back to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has appointed over the towns of Judah, and live with him among the people, or go anywhere else you please.”
Jeremiah 40:5 (NIV)

Jerusalem is in ruins. The walls that kept the Babylonians out for some 30 months have been demolished. Solomon’s Temple, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, is demolished along with the Palace. The Babylonians burned the entire city. It lies uninhabitable.

Having failed to find a puppet King of Judah who didn’t rebel against him, Nebuchadnezzar follows his destruction of Jerusalem with destruction of the monarchy. He proclaims the region a Babylonian province with its capital in Mizpah. He appoints a man named Gedaliah as the new provincial Governor answering to Babylon.

Interesting, that both Gedeliah’s father and grandfather are mentioned when the Babylonian Commander suggests that Jeremiah go to live under the Governor’s protection. Gedeliah was from a family of Scribes. Scribes were held in high esteem in those days as the number of people who could actually write were very few. Even in the days of Jesus some 500 years later, Scribes were the ranking authorities within the powerful religious party of the Pharisees. Jeremiah being a prominent prophet, he would have been well-known by the Scribes for his prophetic work. But, there’s even more of a connection with Gedeliah.

Jeremiah began his prophetic ministry half-way through the reign of the reformer King Josiah. It was during this period of time that Gedeliah’s grandfather, Shaphan, who presented the rediscovered Book of the Law to King Josiah, leading to sweeping religious reforms in 2 Kings 22. Jeremiah would have been politically and religiously in alliance with Shaphan, King Josiah, and the sweeping reforms that temporarily put an end to idolatry and called upon the entire nation to worship the God of Abraham, Moses, and David alone. Back in chapter 26, when Jeremiah’s enemies attempted to have him killed, it was Gedeliah’s father, Ahikam, who protected Jeremiah from the mob. Gedeliah and his family were supporters and allies of Jeremiah.

It’s equally fascinating that the Babylonian Commander, Nebuzaradan, offers Jeremiah protection should he decide to return to Babylon. It was very common in religions of that day to believe that when a prophet spoke, it was his or her words that caused the prophesied events to happen. They would have believed that if Jeremiah had kept his mouth shut, the siege, the famine, the death, the destruction, and the exile would not have happened. The fact that Jeremiah was right would not have gotten Jeremiah off the hook. It would have made him an even bigger target as a scapegoat whom people could blame for their dire circumstances. Nebuzaradan understood that Jeremiah needed protection and was willing to provide it if Jeremiah was going to Babylon. If he was staying, Gedeliah was best person with the political power (backed by Babylonian force) to get the job done.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself thinking about Jeremiah’s life journey and the incredible things God asked of him throughout his entire life. There was never a point at which he was not in danger of insult, mockery, public humiliation, verbal attack, physical attack, or the threat of death. And in the multiple cases in which attacks were made on his life, God always provided a protector whether it was Gedeliah, Ebed-Melek, or an Akikam.

We aren’t sure when and how Jeremiah died, though Jewish tradition from extra-Biblical sources hold that he was taken to Egypt where he continued his prophetic proclamations to the exiles and was finally stoned by his fellow countrymen. Given the historical record we do have, this sounds quite plausible. I have to admire Jeremiah for his faithful tenacity in the face of perpetual threat.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.


"D-Day" (CaD Jer 39) Wayfarer

And on the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year, the city wall was broken through.
Jeremiah 39:2 (NIV)

The term D-Day has become historically synonymous with the Allied Forces’ invasion of Normandy in World War II, but the term was actually a way of generically referring to an operation when the date of the operation was unknown, or secret. The term H-hour was also used to talk about the hour that certain things would take place. When briefing troops regarding their tactical orders they might explain where the unit will be and what they will be doing on D-day minus one (the day before the operation is launched). Likewise, when planning the invasion, it might be explained where the strategists expected a unit to be at “H-hour plus 12,” twelve-hours after the launch of the operation.

For thirty-eight chapters, the ancient prophet Jeremiah has been repeatedly and prophetically claiming that the Babylonian Empire under Nebuchadnezzar would destroy Jerusalem, and that the people of Jerusalem would die or be taken into exile. This anthology of Jeremiah’s messages represent four decades of his prophetic proclamations. When he began his prophetic ministry, the notion that Babylon would even be an Imperial power in the region would have been laughable. Jerry kept proclaiming it, which is why is does get fairly repetitive. But even this fact, the idea of proclaiming the same thing for an entire generation causes me to pause and think.

For forty-years Jerry repeatedly and consistently speaks of an event that no one wants to hear about, and doesn’t even sound plausible from a geopolitical perspective in the early years of his prophesying. How many times was Jeremiah mocked? How many times did people roll their eyes, pull their children aside and tell the kids not to pay any attention to Crazy Jerry and that yoke he carries around all day? How often did Kings, priests, and officials laugh at him, and derisively demand that he reveal D-Day, when this highly unlikely scenario would happen?

Today’s chapter is Jeremiah’s D-Day. It finally happens. In the quiet this morning I noticed a few things:

First, in Jeremiah’s very first message back in chapter one, God tells the prophet:

I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,” declares the Lord.

“Their kings will come and set up their thrones
    in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem;

In today’s chapter, Jeremiah records:

Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came and took seats in the Middle Gate: Nergal-Sharezer of Samgar, Nebo-Sarsekim a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officials of the king of Babylon.

Next, for the past few chapters, King Zedekiah has been having conversations with Jeremiah, asking the prophet what will happen to him. Keep in mind that Nebuchadnezzar put King Z on the throne and expected Z to be a faithful puppet, but Z betrayed Neb and made an alliance with Egypt (which motivated the Babylonian siege). I find it ironic, downright Shakespearean, that Z has watched all of Jerry’s prophecies come true, and he trusts the prophet enough to ask for advice. Jerry tells him that if he surrenders to Neb he will be okay, but Z doesn’t even have the faith to trust the prophet who has successfully predicted everything that is happening for the past forty years. Z makes a run for it, and ends up watching the Babylonians kill his entire family before they pluck his eyes out and drag him back to Babylon. What a tragic character.

I also found it interesting that the Babylonians, who were notorious for their cruelty, acted with surprising deference to Jeremiah. But, Daniel and his friends, along with the prophet Ezekiel, have already been in Babylon for ten years. Nebuchadnezzar made Daniel a top official in his administration, and Jeremiah had written to Daniel and the exiles back in chapter 29. Nebuchadnezzar was likely well aware of Jeremiah’s prophecies. Jeremiah is released from his house arrest in the courtyard of the King’s guard and escorted to his hometown where his family could care for him.

It would also appears that Jerry had enough clout to get the Babylonians to extend the same grace to Ebed-Melek, the African eunuch who risked his own life to rescue Jerry from the bottom of the cistern where his enemies had thrown him and left him to die.

I also found it fascinating that after rounding up all of the citizens they considered worthwhile to take back to Babylon, the invaders give the poorest people left in the area land and vineyards. I can only assume that this act of generosity was intended to ensure that those left owed some debt of gratitude to their Imperial overlords. It would also ensure that those left would be able to continue to eek out a life and also continue paying tribute of some kind back to Babylon.

In the quiet this morning, I think about the events prophetically described by both Jesus and the apostles regarding the end of the Great Story. My entire life I’ve read them, studied them, and heard countless people proclaim that our apocalyptic D-Day is imminent. I’ve thought long and hard about this along my life journey, and here’s where I land.

Do I think it will happen? Yes.

Do I know exactly how it will play out? No. I humbly acknowledge that the greatest religious scholars for hundreds of years predicted and prophesied a Messiah who looked nothing like Jesus. They got it wrong because they interpreted prophesy from a self-centric human lens. God makes it pretty clear that our ways are not His ways and the human condition doesn’t change on this terrestrial ball. I’m betting that there’s a lot that scholars today have wrong in their apocalyptic prognostications.

Do I think it will happen soon? [cue: a shrug] I have mentioned in these posts over the years that I have observed along my life journey that it is common for followers of Jesus in their later years to feel certain that the end is near. And, I think that it is psychologically easy to come to this conclusion when the world is changing more rapidly than any time in human history which means that their personal past is far removed from the current world in which they find themselves. Add to this the knowledge that the end of their earthly journey is certainly near, and I believe it’s very easy to project one’s personal reality onto the entire world.

Jeremiah reminds me to place my faith in God’s D-Day, however it may eventually play out, even if-and-when it seems improbable on any given day.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Book Review: Bullies and Saints

I confess that it’s been a while since I had an actual summer reading list and endeavored to not only get through a few books but also share my thoughts with my subscribers.

Let the fun begin again!

I’m starting with a book, Bullies and Saints by John Dickson, that was recommended to me by a friend because it combines two of my favorite subjects, faith and history. I’ll share up front that I so thoroughly enjoyed it that I attempted to schedule an interview with Mr. Dickson for my Wayfarer Podcast. I’m sorry to say that I was unsuccessful. I would have enjoyed the conversation.

In the post Christian era in which we find ourselves, I have observed that the narratives and views of those outside of the faith can be filled with a cocktail of ignorance and antipathy that leads to both honest misunderstandings and malicious myths about the actual historical record when it comes to both the good and the bad that Christianity has brought to our world. In Bullies and Saints, Australian historian John Dickson does a masterful job of honestly exploring both the good and evil through his bifocal lens as scholar and follower of Christ.

Don’t let the scholar lens intimidate you. Bullies and Saints is an easy read for the average person, and Dickson does not get bogged down in the historical minutiae or academic vocabulary. He moves at a steady pace through his overview of Christian history. That said, he does not shy away from the difficult subjects that critics of religion and Christianity are typically quick to bring up: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Troubles of Ireland, and the religious motivations for war, conquest, and colonization. He also does not shy away from the hot-button issues of racism, anti-semitism, slavery, and the sexual abuse scandals of the Roman Catholic Church that have rocked the world in the past few decades.

Dickson does not get defensive or make excuses in his reporting of the institutional church’s many failings over the years. In fact, I found him to be quite transparent about his own failings, as well as those of the church, personally exemplifying the honest transparency he strives to achieve in examination of the institution. He does, however, attempt to put certain historic facts into needed context. Particularly those I have so often found to have been used out of context by critics. For example, he makes a case that the number of victims of the religiously motivated Inquisition pales in comparison to the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, which had far more secular and humanistic motivations and three times the number of victims in a much shorter period of time.

Some of the more enjoyable tidbits I found in Dickson’s book were the many positive things that the Christian understanding of Imago Dei and the Judeo-Christian belief system have given to the world. Some things we typically take for granted such as a weekend. It was the Christian emperor Constantine who first gave everyone a day off in honor of God’s command for a Sabbath. Charity, abolition, education, and social justice all have their roots in the Jesus Movement of the first three centuries.

In my chapter-a-day posts over the years, I have often made a distinction between the teachings of Jesus and the Jesus Movement He inspired and the human institution of “the Church” that emerged when the Jesus Movement morphed into the Holy Roman Empire. Bullies and Saints does a beautiful job of describing and solidifying this distinction with the historical record.

I highly recommend Bullies and Saints. It’s also a great audiobook read by the author in his enjoyable Australian accent in a wonderfully conversational style.

The Latest: Winter/Spring 2023

I’m finally catching up on “The Latest” with this post. After the holidays, I made a quick trip to San Diego for a short business summit with one of my partners. It was a great way to kick off the new year. Not only did we get in some great strategy sessions, but we also got to enjoy some very good meals and some very fine cigars on the balcony of the local hooka lounge. When you live your entire life in Iowa, the opportunity to get 60 degrees and sun is a godsend. I laughed at all the Californians walking around La Jolla in their parkas.

My mother moved into Memory Care at the Wesley Life Cottages in Pella just before Thanksgiving. It was an emotionally tectonic shift for both my mom and my dad. Dad struggled with the daily conversation they had when he would get ready to leave and she would ask why she couldn’t go with him. The nurses quickly determined that mom showed all of the signs of giving up, and suggested that allow the Hospice team to take over her care, which we did. She slept more and more and ate less and less. Some days she would sleep all the way through my visits, so I would sit by her bed and read the Psalms to her. She would occasionally open her eyes, look at me, and smile.

Wendy and I enjoyed a getaway to Cabo San Lucas in February. We had never been there before and were planning on having Suzanna and her family join us from nearby Mazatlan, but they had to decline just before we left and it turned out to be a wonderful vacation for the the two of us. We had an absolutely gorgeous view from our room and spent most days watching whales, reading, lounging by the pool, and taking naps. It was glorious. We also had some fun with Milo, who left one of his toys, Paul, at our house after the holidays. We took Paul with us on our various travels and sent Milo photos to track his adventures.

We have been so blessed by the Wesley Life family since my parents moved in last fall. My dad has worked with stained-glass for many years, and they helped him convert an old, unused Computer Room into a shop for his stained-glass. Dad even received a commission for a stained-glass piece from dear friends who are building a new house and who also have a loved one in the same Memory Care unit that mom was in. It has been so good for him to have something to keep his hands and mind busy, as well as a sense of purpose. I’m glad to say he’s already getting interest and inquiries for more projects and commissions.

Mom continued to decline as February gave way to March. All of my siblings made trips to Pella as the amazing Hospice nurses communicated each phase that brought mom closer to the end of her earthly journey. In the final days we spent a lot of time by her bed. She had fewer and fewer lucid moments, but I was amazed how peaceful she was, and in her conscious moments she would make little facial gestures just to crack us up along with the nurses. She was joyful and playful to the end.

Mom left her earthly body behind and crossed over into eternity on March 13th about 9:45 a.m. Her final moment was so peaceful. It was me, my sister, and my dad by her side as she left the Alzheimer’s riddled prison of her brain and body. It was a holy moment. Mom wished to be cremated and didn’t really want people staring at the frail remnants of what was physically left after Alzheimer’s had done its thing. A quick visitation and memorial service was planned just a few days later. On St. Patrick’s Day we celebrated her life together in a day filled with joy, just as she would have wanted it.

Spring 2023 also included some quietly joyful moments. Wendy and I always enjoy having friends over to the Vander Well Pub for a bevy and some good conversation. We enjoyed a belated Valentine’s Day feast thanks to our friends Matthew and Sarah. I even had a couple of trips to the lake. One was with my friend Kev and the other with Matthew. Always good to have a few days of retreat and guy time together. Kev even arranged a Saturday afternoon stogie gathering at a local smoke lounge. Our grandkids have been totally immersed in the Star Wars universe this past year. “May the Fourth” is now a thing with our family.

Another interesting wrinkle in life this year has been the fact that Wendy and I have given our home over to the youth group from our local gathering of Jesus’ followers on Wednesday nights so that several small groups can enjoy gathering in our home.

Wendy and I have turned the Wednesday night invasion into an opportunity to have a date night. We eventually started making Liberty Street Kitchen, our favorite restaurant in Pella, our go-to spot. This led to us enjoying table 40 with our dear friends Eric and Amy and we have become big fans of the amazing people who serve there.

Easter this year was a very quiet affair. Wendy and I had her folks, her grandmother, her Uncle Brad and Aunt Barb, along with my dad over after church for a traditional turkey and ham feast followed by a quiet afternoon of visiting together.

I unexpectedly had the blessing of a quick trip to South Carolina. Our company gained a new client based in Columbia, where Madison and G live. It was so much fun to be with the two of them and the pups, as well as the prospect of future, regular business trips there. Even got to go to a Columbia Fireflies game!

My birthday was uneventful. Another trip around the sun: check. Wendy and I once again did our annual community service for Pella’s Tulip Time the first full weekend in May. We dressed as Pella’s founding couple, H.P and Maria Scholte and welcomed people to the Scholte House Museum. We always enjoy getting a ride in a horse-drawn carriage for the afternoon parades. Other than a few sprinkles and a short deluge on Friday night, it was a beautiful Tulip Time weather-wise and the town hosted huge crowds.

Wendy’s mother celebrated a big birthday with a zero on the end. For months, her seven children had been conspiring to surprise her by showing up for Mother’s Day weekend. She knew that Wendy’s sister Becky would be in town with her family, but she expected it to simply be Becky with Wendy and Lucas who both live nearby who would spend Saturday at the folks’ house. About 10 a.m. on Saturday morning the doorbell rang and she opened the door to find her other four children who had flown in from east coast, west coast, and Mexico to be there. It was a great day of love and laughter. It’s so rare that all seven sibs can be together in the same spot.

Under Siege

Under Siege (CaD Jer 38) Wayfarer

So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.
Jeremiah 38:6 (NIV)

Being the victim of a siege exacts a huge toll on a person. Even in modern conflicts like the current war in Ukraine, the devastating effects of long-term isolation, starvation, anxiety, fear, and boredom are well-documented. Janine di Giovanni, author and senior fellow at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs wrote of the siege of Aleppo, “Sieges destroy the body, but… what’s far more damaging is the annihilation of the soul.”

It starts with shock and disorientation, followed by depression and increased rates of suicide. As a siege drags on, apathy and alcoholism are common and eventually give way to breakdown of social structures.

Today’s chapter has all the signs that the Babylonians’ 30 month siege of Jerusalem had exacted the desired toll on the residents inside. Depressed and bored, four young men get tired of Jeremiah’s constant proclamations of death and destruction. They petition King Zedekiah to let them kill Jeremiah. The king apathetically grants their wish. Inside the court of the guard where Jeremiah is confined there is a deep water cistern. Because of the siege, it’s empty. All the water has been consumed leaving nothing but muddy sediment at the bottom. Jeremiah is thrown in and he sinks into the mud.

Fortunately for Jeremiah, he has at least one friend left. A young African eunuch serving the King hears of Jeremiah’s plight and petitions King Z to let him rescue the prophet. The apathetic King Z grants the petition, telling the eunuch to take 30 guards with him (presumably as protection against the men who wanted to kill Jeremiah in the first place).

After Jeremiah is rescued, King Z summons Jeremiah. It would appear that Z realizes that Jeremiah’s prophetic messages were true and he wants to know the truth of what will happen to him. In a private heart-to-heart, Z shares his fears with the prophet. Jeremiah tells the king to surrender. The king, realizing that there are still those who want Jeremiah dead, instructs the prophet what to say if he’s confronted and questioned.

In the quiet this morning, I couldn’t help but think about what it must have been like for Jeremiah to witness all that he had prophesied coming true. He had been proclaiming this fate for decades, and now he is suffering that same fate along with those who refused to listen and railed against him the entire time. He suffered rebuke, rejection, and retribution before the siege, now he is suffering the effects of the siege along with those who never believed him. Sometimes, it sucks to be right.

Once again, I am struck by my human need for a prophet in my life. King Z has never been a friend to Jeremiah, but as events close in on their climactic end, he realizes that the prophet is perhaps the only one he can trust to speak the truth to him. There are moments along life’s road when life feels like I am being besieged on all sides by circumstances I don’t control. It comes with this earthly journey through a fallen world, and it can exact a tremendous toll.

That is the truth. And, it’s in those moments I need a friend who is a prophet.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Just another wayfarer on life's journey, headed for Home. I'm carrying The Message, and I'm definitely waiting for Guffman.

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