Job 37:5-6: “God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’”

Thunderbolt and lightning very, very frightening! – A quote from the song that wrote Rock History: The Bohemian Rhapsody.

I’m just sitting on the porch listening to the waves crushing on the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean. I love that sound. Since the Almighty created everything around here and out there (looking at the night skies right now), I believe, that’s another sound representing God’s voice. These waves come steady, one after the other. So is the whisper of His voice when He speaks to my heart. It comes in waves. Sometimes I hear Him quite distinctively, sometimes I’m not listening. The sounds of God’s creation never stop, whether we listen or not. God’s creation is not silent, and neither is He!

God speaks. He has a voice. But sometimes, for various reasons, our heart is hard of hearing.

Take Jona for instance who had a job to do and ran away. In the belly of a fish he finally took note and prayed to the Almighty. If thunderbolt and lightning is frightening, how about being caught inside a fish somewhere in the deep sea?! Jonah later said that prior to this frightening experience he had only barely known God – a mere acquaintance, so-to-speak – but inside the fish Jonah had a close encounter with Him.

What about Job who hears the glory of God’s voice in Thunder? Job went down in history as the man who lost everything over a devil’s bet. The devil does not believe in goodness and he bet that Job would renounce His faith after losing everything. To make a long story short: the devil lost his bet. And Job is happy to announce to the world what a glorious encounter He had with God.

Silence can be deafening. Maybe after not hearing from God in a long while and listening to the stupidity coming from his own friends, God’s Thunderbolt was a welcome relief to Job.

God writes it in the skies with lightening, for everyone to see and with roaring Thunderbolts for everyone to notice: God is very much alive, and He cares. He is not deaf, nor dead, nor asleep, nor indifferent. The one who needs to wake up to reality is actually you and me. We need to wake up and face the music! Sometimes that takes a fish belly or sky-splitting lightening with crashing thunder.

What are we afraid of? What do we have to lose? We are all afraid of death. We are born afraid to lose our lives. God knows! And he does not want us dead. He wants us to be alive and well. And the good news is: He is the Only One who can save us. Jonah experienced it. So did Job and many other human beings.

We get closest to God when we see Him in action. Action speaks louder than words and louder than a Thunderbolt. Being saved from death, carried through disaster, seeing the light at the end of a tunnel, that’s when we see God in action, and that’s when we get to know Him in a very personal way. His love is no longer hidden but becomes as clear as day. It’s like Captain Obvious! “Wow! God does love me. I heard of His love, now I’ve experienced it”.
Thunderbolt and lightening very, very frightening? Not so much anymore! Armed with God’s love we can face the devil if we have to.

God is love. To know that is to know everything.

Proverbs 1:8-9: “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”

The breaking down of the family unit has been detrimental to human well-being. A complete set of parents who bring up their children and grow old together is all too often a beautiful dream that does not come true. Instead there is this nightmare of divorce. It’s probably more a nightmare for the children than it is for the parents. While the adults move on from their ex-spouse there is no such thing as an ex-dad or ex-mom for a kid. Technically speaking, kids would be at odds with themselves if they’d move on the same way as their parents just did. They carry both parents’ genes inside of them. It’s admirable how kids navigate through the change in relationship status. They have to somehow reconcile the fact that they love both parents who don’t love each other.

I’m speaking from experience of course – My brothers and I grew up in a single parent household. Our mother married twice and had children with both husbands whom she both divorced. Our mother brought up four beautiful children. That’s quite the task, and she tackled it with passion. So, here is to all single parents – they are war heroes in my book!

In a perfect world, kids benefit from a set of two parents to have the best learning experience growing up. Listening to a father’s advice and benefiting from a mother’s input is a bonus for a child. A father’s point of view will differ from a mother’s, and that difference will pull things into perspective.

For children to have both a father’s and mother’s wisdom at their disposal may not be taken for granted. It’s a blessing. But even if we don’t have both parents growing up, God can provide. Beyond that, we all could use a little wisdom. Even in old age with a lot of experience under our belt we are smart to listen for God’s input.

Never stop learning and we won’t stop growing until the day we die. So stay curious, my friend!

Genesis 27:32 : “His father Isaac asked him, ‘Who are you?’ ‘I am your son,’ he answered, ‘your firstborn, Esau.’

Who are you? Before we blurt out the answer, do we consider first who asked us this question? We are who we are. If we try to be somebody else we are in trouble.

The story of Jacob and Esau in the Old Testament is such a troubling story. Jacob and Esau were twins. Their parents were Rebekah and Isaac, and they each preferred one of the children over the other. Rebekah was fond of Jacob while Isaac was fond of Esau. Esau was born first, and it seems that didn’t sit well with either Esau or Jacob. Jacob wanted to be the firstborn. Esau on the other hand just wanted to be Isaac’s son. Why did it matter so much that Esau was born first? Everything seemed to hinge on that birthright. Esau was tired and sick of this. He despised his birthright while Jacob desired it. On his deathbed their father Isaac asked both of his boys a simple question: Who are you? Turns out, the question is not so simple after all. It took a lifetime for Esau and Jacob to come up with the right answer.

How children turn out has a lot to do with their parents. Through preferential treatment, Rebekah and Isaac unwittingly caused a serious rift in their family. Later in life, Esau and Jacob were able to come to terms and make peace with each other. In order to do that they both had some growing up to do by owning up to their mistakes.

This is no novel revelation; this is as old as mankind. I call it rite of passage the moment a kid owns up to a mistake. A boy becomes a man and a girl becomes a woman that way. We no longer hide behind our parents’ faults or anybody else’s faults for that matter. We believe we are responsible and humbly accept the consequences. We are who we are. Or to put it in God’s words: I am who I am.

We have a lifetime to learn two things: understand who we are and be who we are.

What if you are who you are and you get rejected? It hurts more profoundly when you put your heart out there and people walk all over it. That’s what happens, but still, this is the way to go. Rather have a bleeding heart than living a lie. God is not pretentious. He is who He is. We can learn from Him. We can also hide under His wings, especially when we are bleeding.

It’s a golden moment in time when we first realize that God loves us. Accepting God’s love has a lot to do with accepting ourselves.

God loves you. And by the way: that’s who you are!

1 Timothy 2:1-2: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

Prayer changes the world, and prayer also changes us. That’s the power of prayer in a nutshell.

We have an advocate in heaven who prays for us night and day. His name is Jesus. His prayers move mountains and work in conjunction with the Holy Spirit who is spread out all over the world. The Holy Spirit is on the move globally and challenges us to pray. Our prayers are like a breath of fresh air sweeping across our countries. We’d be suffocating without prayers, I’m sure.

Paul urges Timothy in his letter to pray specifically for kings and authorities. Men and women in authority need a lot of prayer because they affect a lot of people. I think it’s hard to pray for authorities because most of us aren’t related to them. We all probably find it easier to pray for people we know, or at least for people we empathize with. A powerful person quickly becomes an abstract for us. We see the person primarily in their functions, and that’s what they become in our minds – the CEO of a company, the police officer, the king of England, the president of the United States – but this abstract person really only exists on paper. That’s like painting a picture and claiming the painting is reality. Paintings are just two-dimensional. Reality on the other hand contains a third dimension, depth. To pray effectively, we need to take this extra step in our hearts and minds, go past a person’s title and status and see a vulnerable human being.

God knows everybody from the inside out. He can help us relate to a person better. And wouldn’t you know it? All of a sudden we pray with empathy. That’s how prayer changes us.

Prayer changes the world because God listens to prayer, especially selfless prayer. An active prayer life looks as different as our respective DNA codes. I am writing this as a precaution, because some of us are haunted by certain stereotypes triggered by such words as “prayer warrior” or “prayer closet”. Nobody prays the same, and we shouldn’t. That’s as if all love affairs were the same, and they aren’t. Prayer first and foremost is our communication with God. How that looks like depends largely on our personality. So don’t try to be a copycat mimicking what we think a prayer warrior would do. Be yourself. Just don’t give up on God or people. That’s what prayer is all about.

Ephesians 1:9: “He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”

Have you ever noticed that it takes time to get to know yourself? I can only speak for myself of course, and I know that I have gained a better understanding of who I am over the course of a lifetime.

God is mysterious, and so are we – a mysterious people!

God’s will is a mystery. The only thing we know about His will is that it is good. That’s why we pray with Jesus “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. God’s intentions are to bring unity in heaven and on earth. We have a problem just imagining unity. It seems, the world is falling apart due to our inability to reach consensus. Internationally, nations have a hard time getting on the same page. On a smaller level, it’s sometimes even hard to be on the same page within a family unit.

We’ve always known that lack of unity is a weakness. So, we have come up with ways to cope with that issue. Dictatorship is our worst and democracy our best attempt at uniting people. However, whatever it is we have come up with, it’s a far cry from God’s unity. I believe God’s unity is best described as unity in diversity.

In Christ heaven and earth is united. How is that possible? Leave that up to the wisdom of Christ.

Similar to a multi-faceted diamond is our multilayered God. Don’t be afraid to dig into the mystery! And don’t stop short at hearsay – especially when it comes to Christ. There is a laundry list of things said about Jesus, some of them good, some of them bad. Be a gold digger! Find out for yourself who Jesus is. And once you have struck gold, don’t stop there either. Keep on digging. There is more to God’s Son than just meets the eye.

Billy Joel once wrote a song about a mysterious woman, and in some ways this song reminds me of mankind’s relationship with its Maker, puzzled as we are in our attempts to get to know Him. The best approach for us humans is to seek God daily and enjoy the surprises when He shows up. King David’s poetry says it all (Psalm 22:26):

“Those who seek Him will praise the Lord. Let your heart live forever!”

God is love – which is yet another mystery. In many ways the love of God is sort of an open secret. It seems, everybody knows and at the same time nobody knows. Certainly, there is no knowing of God’s love until we find out for ourselves who He is; and once we look for the Lord, I believe, His wondrous love will be hard to miss.

“And she only reveals what she wants you to see
She hides like a child but she’s always a woman to me”
Billy Joel

Proverbs 19:20-21: “Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”

My husband likes to make an informed decision, which is why he typically takes his sweet time investigating. His research of pros and cons (which he calls “vetting”) comes before his buying decision.

Buying a product is simple in comparison to making life changing decisions. Do we get married? Are we going to have kids? Should I have this surgery? In fact, life decisions hardly fit the profile of vetting a product, or are we going to google the pros and cons of having children? Are we going to perform a background check for the person we are considering to marry? It’s not like that at all, but still, we will get all the advice we can if we’re smart. We will interview parents about the aspects of raising children, ask our friends what they think about the person we’re dating and regarding the surgery in question we will look for a second medical opinion.

It is wise to seek advice. However, if everything could be figured out by seeking traditional advice then we didn’t need the Lord to guide us through this maze called “life”. After everything is said and done, there is still this X-factor. Life is famous for its surprises.

We sometimes think we know our purpose, or we haven’t even thought about it just yet because we’re so busy making money and paying bills. Whatever the case, here is a gold nugget of truth: the Lord knows each person’s purpose. Here is another nugget: the Lord will do everything in His power for this purpose to come true.

We are all a diamond in the rough. Since diamonds are made of the hardest material in the world, only a diamond can be used to mechanically cut another diamond. Comparatively speaking, the Lord is the diamond who cuts us into shape. It is the Lord’s desire that we shine. We have a place in His kingdom, but we also have a place in this world. There is a reason why we were born. As long or as short our life may be, each life has purpose; it is the Lord’s purpose to uncover it. The greatest tragedy in human life is not an untimely death. It is dying before our purpose has had a chance to materialize.

Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking we have everything figured out. Life remains a mystery. It’s good to stay humbly curious and seek the Lord as we go about our business. Committing our way to the Lord, He is committed to unveil our purpose.

Psalm 37:5: “Entrust your ways to Yahweh. Trust him, and he will act on your behalf.”

2 Corinthians 3:6: “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

In the story of The Princess Bride the main character Inigo finally confronts his father’s killer with the words he had waited half his life to say: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

Headhunters were pursuing Jesus with increasing intensity as their hatred grew. Even though they had no good reason to hate Him, they were hell-bent to find an excuse to execute Him. According to the Law of Moses, sexual immorality and blasphemy both deserve the death penalty.  So the plan was to trap Jesus into saying something that could be used against Him.

When a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus, the idea was to kill two birds with one stone: Jesus for saying something that could be (falsely) interpreted as blasphemy, and the woman for the obvious reason of being caught in the act of illegal sex.

Prepared to die?

Here was their loaded question: “This woman offended the law of Moses, so she dies. Or doesn’t she, Jesus?”

And how did He respond? Jesus stooped down to write in the dirt.

Technically, that’s how mankind started out. God stooped down, got His hands dirty and formed the first man out of clay (Genesis 2:7):

“Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.”

While it is true that we are made out of clay, dust is not our major component. We come to life through the Spirit of God. That also means that once the Spirit is gone, our life is gone. Only our ashes are left behind as our Spirit returns to God, our Maker (Ecclesiastes 12:7):

“For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.”

What is true for our bodies is also true for the body of law expressed in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. The letter of the law is the mud in God’s hands. Through God’s Spirit the Law of Moses comes alive. However, take the Spirit out of the equation, and the same law kills. We need God’s Spirit to understand what God has to say. Without God’s Spirit everything is futile, just like dust in the wind.

So, Jesus stooped down and wrote in the lifeless dust because no life comes out of accusation and condemnation. The people who brought the adulteress to Jesus were ready to stone her to death. They kept pressuring Jesus saying: “Now what is the verdict?” Jesus finally got up to face all accusers and silenced them once and for all with His famous answer (John 8:7):

“All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone”

We are all made out of dust. We are all frail and finite. We can all be killed through the letter of the law, because we all make mistakes. But – here is Jesus first dispersing all accusers and then asking you and me: “Now where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” And with everyone who ever was accused of anything we answer: No, Lord, no one accuses us of anything.” And here is Jesus’ encouraging word for us: “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

We get to start over. That’s priceless!

“Some people say a man is made out of mud
A poor man’s made out of muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that’s weak and a back that’s strong”
   Tennessee Ernie Ford