Tag Archives: Brothers

Side-Note to the Lowly Scribe

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)

History records the words and lives of those who were “great” in their time. Little is said, however, about those who surrounded these individuals, walked the journey with them, served them, and witnessed the events of that person’s life and times.

In today’s very brief chapter (only five verses!), we have a fascinating historical side note given to Jeremiah’s servant and scribe, Baruch. Baruch was the son of a man named Neriah. Baruch took Jeremiah’s dictation and wrote Jeremiah’s prophetic messages down on scrolls. Jeremiah’s never-ending stream of doomsday prophecies certainly took its toll on Baruch. I’m sure he would have appreciated an open prescription of Zoloft had it been available in the day.

The other interesting thing we learn from the anthology of Jeremiah’s life and work is that Baruch had a brother named Seraiah who was a servant of King Zedekiah and who ultimately accompanied Zed when he was taken captive to Babylon. So in the back story of today’s chapter we have a tale of two brothers.

Seraiah served the King and was afforded all the worldly power, comfort, and privilege of being in the royal entourage. Baruch, on the other hand, was the lowly scribe of the unpopular Jeremiah. Jeremiah was reviled by the king and those in power. He faced continual death threats. He was belittled, insulted, laughed at, and eventually imprisoned. Baruch was right there by Jeremiah’s side, enduring it all right along with him. Seraiah got to serve Cabernet to the King while Baruch followed a naked Jeremiah through the streets of Jerusalem listening to the insults of passersby and wanting to slink under the nearest rock. Baruch felt the weight of Jeremiah’s gloomy predictions, and he seems to have felt fraternal frustration of not measuring up to the success his brother found.

Today’s chapter is a short but very specific prophetic word from God through Jeremiah, to the scribe Baruch. Yes, God tells him, there are bad times coming. Don’t worry about greatness and success (FYI: your successful brother is going to end up a captive in Babylon). There’s a lot of bad stuff coming, but no matter what happens and where you end up, you’ll escape with your life.

This morning I’m thinking about a conversation Wendy and I had just last night on our patio. Our life journeys lead us to places where we walk along side events that are really happening to others. We witness them. We feel for those involved, but the truth is that we are not intimately a part of the event itself. I’ve learned that this is an important distinction to see and to make. My ego likes to make everything about me, so I take on other peoples events and circumstances and make them about me, my feelings, and my life.

I’m reminded by today’s little side-note of a chapter that God not only sees and knows the heart and circumstances of the great prophets, but also the lowly scribe who his quietly playing his own little role in the Great Story. I sometimes feel that I’m in a culture where I’m expected to react to every news story, empathize with every victim, and take on every cause. Silly. Baruch’s journey was not his brother’s journey nor was it really his boss’. His journey was his own.

God knows, I’ve got my own journey to walk. I don’t need to take on another’s.

Hollywood Moments of Decision

Hollywood momentBut when they stopped for the night and one of them opened his sack to get grain for his donkey, he found his money in the top of his sack. “Look!” he exclaimed to his brothers. “My money has been returned; it’s here in my sack!” Then their hearts sank. Trembling, they said to each other, “What has God done to us?” Genesis 42:27-28 (NLT)

What a Hollywood moment when the brothers who beat-up Joseph, plotted to kill him, then sold him into slavery arrive in Egypt hungry and desperate. Joseph had every reason to feel resentful, angry and to get even with his brothers. At that moment he had all the power and could easily have exacted his revenge. His initial reaction to throw them all in prison and send only one brother back home leads me to believe that he was at least struggling with some of those old feelings of resentment. But, after three days of mulling it over, Joseph changes tactics and extends undeserved favor to his brothers at every turn.

Human nature being what it is, most of us have individuals in our lives with whom there are ill-feelings, bad blood, or old resentment built up around ancient wounds. It may not be as grand a Hollywood moment, but from time to time we are all faced with the ironic opportunity to bless or curse those who have wronged us. We all stand in Joseph’s sandals now and then. Joseph chose against his initial instincts and blessed his brothers rather than curse them.

I found the reaction of the brothers fascinating. Rather than feeling as though they got away with something when they discovered their payment returned, their feelings of guilt and shame multiplied. Had Joseph responded with curses and followed through with his initial inklings of retribution, they might have eventually felt justified in their youthful assessment and actions toward their little brother. “You see,” I can hear some of them saying, “I knew that kid was bad news! We should have killed the runt when we had the chance.”

Joseph’s blessing, however, added fuel to the fire of the guilt and shame that God was already stirring in their hearts. King Solomon hit the nail on the proverbial head when he observed the same truth:

If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat.
    If they are thirsty, give them water to drink.
You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads,
    and the Lord will reward you. Proverbs 25:21-22 (NLT)

God, the next time I have a little Hollywood moment and the opportunity to “get even” with someone I don’t like, please remind me what Joseph did when he had his own Hollywood moment of decision. Thanks.

Day 27: Talk About Your Siblings

30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 27: Talk about your siblings.

I imagine they are all scared at this moment. lol.

This is an interesting one because many of the friends I’ve come to know and love over the past 10-20 years have little or no knowledge of my brothers and sister. I was born the youngest of four children. My brothers, Tim & Terry, are twins born seven years before me. My sister, Jody, is two years older than I am. Like many families, life has scattered us to different places. We see one another, and talk to one another, far less that I’m sure we all desire. Nevertheless, there is always plenty of love and laughter when we are able to gather together.

It’s hard not to begin the discussion about Tim & Terry without talking about them as a pair. They are twins, after all, and most people would find it hard to tell them apart. As a kid I idolized my brothers and was the pesky tag-a-long that they put up with more graciously than I think I would have. When they were lifeguards at Birdland pool for the summer they would take me along and let me hang out at the pool all day. They let me jump in the back of their ’66 Chevy Impala hardtop and accompany them to the bowling alley to hustle a game or two of foosball. Because of them I became a swimmer and because of them I have a knowledge of, and an appreciation for, a wide, eclectic range of music.

Terry is my oldest sib as he beat Tim out of the womb by a few minutes. He is one of the most gracious and gentle spirited people I have ever known. Some of the fondest memories I have of Terry go back to my formative adolescent years when Terry was living in Des Moines and going to Grandview College. I always appreciated that he made a point of showing up at my various events and was always open to letting me hang out with him. Of course, I can also remember him dragging me out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to help him deliver the Sunday Register on the multiple paper routes he kept to help pay for school. I’ve always appreciated Terry for a deep loving-kindness that flows from deep within him to everyone he meets, and I greatly respect the exemplary way I’ve observed him love and serve his wife and daughter.

While Terry hung around home during his college years, my brother Tim went off to Iowa State and then moved to Texas for an engineering job right after school. As a result, I didn’t see Tim as much for several years, though he did make a point of letting me hang out with him from time to time. One of my favorite memories is of Tim letting me spend the weekend with him at ISU. He took me to a keg party and when girls would notice the “cute little kid” in the room Tim would introduce me as his genius little brother who was attending ISU as a 12 year-old. One of the things I appreciate most about Tim is his gentle, contemplative spirit. Through the years Tim and I have shared long, life-giving conversations as together we’ve tried to grapple with some of life’s core issues, to understand how our family system has molded us, and what it really means to be a man.

With Tim & Terry being the older pair, my sister Jody and I naturally banded together to become the younger pair. Jody and I were closer in age and we became playmates, confidants, partners, and friends. We worked out secret deals to tell one another what mom and dad were giving us for Christmas, and fought like cats and dogs (until I got bigger than her). Jody and I started our respective faith journeys on the same weekend when we both committed our lives to Christ. We went to college together and hung out all the time. Because we have been so close, I sometimes think that Jody and I have the ability to feel deeper sibling love and more intense sibling anger depending on the moment. Anyone who gets to know Jody comes to love Jody, and I laugh to think that Jody was at one time frustrated at always being known as “Tom’s sister” because most of my adult life I’ve been pegged “Jody’s brother.” I appreciate her unquenchable joy, her contagious laughter, and her sincere faith which I find to be at once simple and infinitely deep. Jody is currently winning a courageous battle with lymphoma which has served to reveal to me even greater depths of her fragility and her strength.

I’m blessed with great siblings .  We share great memories of a really good childhood and I’m fascinated to see how our respective journeys have created strong intersections while remaining very independent.