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27 July 2009

Tamar- A Woman of Tragedy

The next chapter in the continuing series on Through His Eyes: God's Perspective on Women in the Bible by Jerram Barrs brings us to the study of chapter 12, "Tamar- A Woman of Tragedy," an examination of 2 Samuel 13.

This is a difficult chapter.
Barrs reminds us that Scripture "never glosses over the failures of God's people. Rather, right alongside the stories of faith, righteousness, courage, and faithfulness, we read of episodes of weak faith and impoverished obedience, for Scripture presents these stories with complete openness." (p. 190) Certainly, we are surrounded with similar stories in every day life, stories of brokenness and sin and hopelessness; stories where we are left to wonder, how can we find any good in this? Barrs comments that "Christians should be always ready to acknowledge the failings of God's people, so that the theme of God's grace and faithfulness becomes the central theme in the stories that we tell." (p. 190)

Perhaps the story of 2 Samuel 13 is one of the most clear illustrations of the consequence of sin among God's people in Scripture. But to look at chapter 13, it is necessary to consider the context of the story. Arriving at chapter 13, we have followed David through committing adultery with Bathsheba and watched him carry through a plan to kill Uriah. We have read of the judgement announced by the prophet Nathan on David's household. The events of 2 Samuel 13 are "one sad part of the fulfillment of that prophecy." (p. 191) We see the effects of David's undisciplined personal life, the effects of polygamy, the effects of an indulgent father towards his sons. The culmination results in disastrous consequences. And the one most effected by those consequences in the story of 2 Samuel 13 is Tamar.

Simply, Tamar is raped by her half-brother, Amnon. She is an innocent victim of his sinful lust. His passion is quite clearly self-indulgent. Though at first he makes claims to love Tamar (13:4), Barrs reminds us that "while genuine love can bring deep passion, even passion that makes one faint, it is also true that genuine love desires the good of the other person even more than the satisfaction of sexual desire." (p. 193) That stands out to me as a statement crucial to communicate to those, especially women, involved in abusive relationships. Amnon plots how to lure Tamar; a plot which, unknowingly, David becomes an accomplice to.

Barrs writes, "Tamar reveals herself to be a woman of faith and virtue." (p. 194) She makes several appeals to Amnon not to carry out the act. Nonetheless, he ignores her pleas, her wisdom, her fear and distress, and violently rapes her (p. 195) (13:14). Furthermore, he calls an attendant into the room to be a witness to the aftermath, making the act public and further humiliating Tamar. Tamar is left to "put ashes on her head, and (tear) her long-sleeve garment which was on her; and she put her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went." (13:19) That description paints a vivid picture, one that tears our hearts, especially as we think of those who have been victims of sexual abuse and assault.

The second part of the chapter outlines the consequences of Amnon's act. David "was very angry" (13:21), but as Barrs recounts, "David had himself sinned grievously with Bathsheba so it is hard for him to act now without publicly condemning his own sins." (p. 196) David does nothing to discipline his son. Tamar's brother Absalom seeks revenge, in part motivated by his own desire to gain power for himself. Absalom ultimately has a servant kill Amnon in his own "ambition and self-love." (p. 197) As the prophet Nathan predicted, we are witness to the sins of David "working themselves out in the lives of his children and in his own life." (p. 197)

Does God forgive sin? Absolutely. However, Barrs reminds us that "does not mean that the consequences of our sins will disappear in this life." (p. 197) Barrs writes:
Our histories are significant. Our choices and actions, and our failures to act, have real results in the histories of our lives and in the lives of others. God forgives David completely. God forgives us completely. You and I will meet David one day, and he will be a man totally forgiven, just as you and I will be totally forgiven by Christ. However, David had to live with the shocking and distressing results of his choices- in his own life and in his daughter's life- and it is the same with us.
I confess, it is both a struggle and a comfort to me to know that David, despite his many sins and flaws, was still described as having a heart wholly devoted to the Lord his God.

So I am left asking, how do we resolve the ugly consequence of sin with Tamar, "the only character in this account who comes out of this terrible story with her virtue, her strength of character, and her wisdom intact"? (p. 198) Barrs points out that "this story of a ruined life shows the reality of a broken world." (p. 198) I would argue that although full of pain and hurt, Tamar's suffering is not necessarily futile or without purpose. In the next chapter of the book, chapter 13- "Tamar's Question- A Meditation on Tragedy," Barrs takes us to 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, and I think it is there that we can begin to better see how God can use even the most painful circumstance for His glory. Meanwhile, we rest in the hope of Revelation 21:2-5, as God promises us, "Behold, I am making all things new... Write, for these words are faithful and true."

(art credit to The Desolation of Tamar, James Tissot, 1896-1900. Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis.)

24 July 2009

Friday Five- Scattegories

This week's Friday Five is brought to us by a Friday Five from last week...

This Friday Five is in the spirit of Scattergories, where you come up with an answer beginning with the same letter for all the questions.
(Truth is, really, I just love the idea of a random-letter generator!)

What random letter was generated by the online random-letter generator? (this doesn’t really count as one of your five questions) L

With what famous person, whose name begins with the letter in question #1, would you most like to be stuck on a desert island? C.S. Lewis (I love this quote of the day from the C.S. Lewis website... "Forgiving and being forgiven are two names for the same thing." I can think on that one for a while...) C.S. Lewis was a phenomenal story teller and a world class thinker, and he would insure life on a desert island would never boring.

What food item, whose name begins with the letter in question #1, can always be found in your pantry? Loaf of bread- 100% whole wheat. (ok- always is a bit of a stretch, because we are always running out of bread!)

What song, whose title begins with the letter in question #1, always makes you feel good? Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder is the first one that comes to mind.
(my favorite verse-
Let us wonder grace and justice
Join and point to mercy’s store
When through grace in Christ our trust is
Justice smiles and asks no more...)

What is your least-favorite film whose title begins with the letter in question #1? Land Before Time. Cartoon dinosaurs times 13. Not a good thing.

What unusual animal, whose name begins with the letter in question #1, would be a fun pet? Lemurs. Well, these ones look pretty fun, anyway...

Hasta luego!

22 July 2009

The Whole Gospel

We have an obligation and a responsibility to live a whole gospel before that world out there. The idea that there's a social gospel and a spiritual gospel is an invention of the devil. There is only one gospel, and it is a whole gospel for whole people. It is blasphemous to go out and seek to feed the hungry and not tell them about the bread of life, or to seek to house the homeless and not tell them that in our father's house are many mansions, or to seek to give water to the thirsty and not tell them about the rivers of living water. It is also a denial of the incarnation to go preach the gospel and ignore the fact that people are hungry and thirsty and naked and homeless. We are to do both.

- Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, interviewed in World Magazine, "The Man on the Plus Sign," August 1, 2009

20 July 2009

Toward Jerusalem

O Father, help lest our poor love refuse
For our beloved the life that they would choose,
And in our fear of loss for them, or pain,
Forget eternal gain.

Show us the gain, the golden harvest there
For corn of wheat that they have buried here;
Lest human love defraud them, and betray,
Teach us, O God, to pray.

Teach us to pray remembering Calvary,
For as the Master must the servant be;
We see their face set toward Jerusalem,
Let us not hinder them.

Teach us to pray; O Thou who didst not spare
Thine Own Beloved, lead us on in prayer,
Purge from the earthly, give us love Divine,
Father, like Thine, like Thine.

by Amy Carmichael, from Toward Jerusalem

18 July 2009

'Cause if I were an Oscar Meyer wiener...

Hate it when that happens. When you think you are in reverse, but you really are in forward...

But I do love the Wienermobile. I've toured the Wienermobile. (ok- "tour" might be kind of a big word- it's really just an RV. A wiener-y RV.) We had a Wienermobile Hot Wheel. And a Wienermobile whistle. I always thought that the college students that drove the Wienermobile around, the Hotdoggers, had a great job. Until this...

There's still hope for the Kissmobile...

17 July 2009

"things of the soul"

Friends should be chosen by a higher principle of selection than any worldly one, of pleasure, or usefulness, or by weak submission to the evil influences of our lot. They should be chosen for character, for goodness, for truth and trustworthiness, because they have sympathy with us in our best thoughts and holiest aspirations, because they have community of mind in the things of the soul. All other connections are fleeting and imperfect from the nature of the case.
Hugh Black, Friendship

(credit to Spiritual Friendship at

15 July 2009


"Peace be with you," I said.

"And also with you," he replied. He looked at the bruise on my cheek and then said, "Come in."

I followed him through the courtyard to the guest room. He did not suggest I sleep in the mosque. He put a cushion under me, gathered twigs, fed the fire, and blew on it till it flamed fiercely. Then he asked if I would give him my socks so he could dry them. I did so gratefully. Then he left and returned with a pot of sugared tea and sat cross-legged in silence watching me drink. When I had finished, he brought plates of rice and spinach and said, "We are still the commandants in the valley, but the Taliban killed our flocks, so I am sorry that I can't give you meat. This food has been given by foreigners."

Only when he saw I was warm and had finished eating did he lean forward and ask, "And who are you? And where are you from?"

(from The Places In Between by Rory Stewart)

...stretches to the sky

Your love, oh Lord
Reaches to the heavens;
Your faithfulness stretches to the sky;
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains;
Your justice flows like the ocean's tide.
I will lift my voice
To worship You, my King.
I will find my strength
In the shadow of your wings.

Your Love Oh Lord by Third Day
(lyrics from Psalm 36:5-7)

(photo credit- me. :-) We were driving east last night, at sunset, and this is what was right in front of me. My camera and my limited ability do not show how spectacular it was! I had to stop and pull over. It was magnificent, and the lyrics of the song, of Scripture, immediately filled my mind and my heart with praise.)

14 July 2009

Forward motion

"Straighten it out..., a little gas, a little gas, braaaaake, brake, BRAKE!!"

The road of parenting is a journey of constantly evolving degrees of movement and mobility. We wait eagerly for that first bit of motion, for our infant to roll from back to front to back again. Before our baby can crawl, we perceive that she is moving, imperceptibly, as if by stop motion photography, but moving, nonetheless. Somewhere around a year old, we breathlessly watch those first toddling steps, that quickly turn into independent cruising, and then in a flash, running, out of our grasp in a blink of the eye. And from that point on, the motion milestones fly by like mile markers along the highway, riding a trike and then a bike, somersaults and cartwheels, swimming...

Until they reach 15 years old. And then- driving.
Driving a REAL car.
(Or in our family's case, a Ford F350 12 passenger van. Which is the first-time-behind-the-wheel-preference over the Geo Tracker with standard transmission and no speedometer. We're not exactly offering great choices for the new driver around here...)

And then, as a parent, you give up any semblance of control you might have thought you had. That's when, quite literally, as your child veers precariously close to the next lane, you want to grab the wheel and keep her from careening into the car that's parked along the side of the road. But you know that you can't, that it won't really help, that she has to manage this one herself. And she does. You try to keep from screaming, but just a little squeal slips out. That was close.

Thankfully, there are big parking lots to practice in. We don't have to go on public streets quite yet, and the highway is a little bit down the road.

Truthfully, having another driver will be nice.

Love that leads the way

“Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay,
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire,
Let me not sink to be a clod:
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.”

- Amy Carmichael

(photo credit to silyld at Flickr)

10 July 2009

Friday Five

Catching up on the week... a Friday Five.

1. I saw The Soloist yesterday. The Soloist tells the story of a schizophrenic homeless musician on the streets of Los Angeles and his relationship with the LA Times reporter that befriends him. I know a schizophrenic homeless musician, and as such, so much of this movie rang true for me. It's not a perfect film, but it would be a great platform for discussion around issues of mercy ministry; what is help, how do we help preserve human dignity even in the most base of environments, how do we effectively share the hope of the Gospel with those that can barely reason... It comes out on video in early August.

2. "There are only two chairs in the room—the chair of faith and the chair of unbelief. The double-minded person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord (see James). I made up my mind that henceforth in my perplexity, I will be perplexed from the chair of faith and not the chair of skepticism." Just one gem from this column by Andree Seau over at World magazine.

3. My two-oldest-at-home kids started their summer job today- detasseling corn. Ask any Nebraskan adult who detasseled corn as a teen about the work, and I guarantee they will answer you with passion. So did my teenage daughter when I picked her up this afternoon. They returned home with shoes coated with mud, clothes dusted with pollen, corn scrapes on their necks. "I'd rather hoe every bean field in Nebraska than detassle," said one friend of mine. But they survived, and they're returning tomorrow. The promise of money is a big motivator.
(photo credit to unruly things at Flickr)

4. Have you ever seen M.I.L.K cards? It's probably a good thing I don't know where to buy them, except for this online site in England, and I am admittedly much too chicken to do that!

5. Our Saturday plans? there are none. and that is good. :-)

09 July 2009


"Some people don't take Omaha's ban on fireworks too seriously." Robert Nelson, Omaha World-Herald, July 6, 2009

Words don't really describe how much of an understatement that quote is. You really have to be here, experience it, to believe it. Think of the Star Spangled Banner- "and the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air..." The poppoppop of crackers. The high pitched whistle of bottlerockets. The blue-gray haze of smoke hanging. The rumble of explosives.
That's Omaha on the 4th. (and did I mention, fireworks are officially illegal?)

We made our meager contribution to the mayhem. The girls in our family are partial to fountains. We like to pick our pyrotechnics by the pretty names, like the Friendship Pagoda, the Dancing Butterfly and the Golden Flower. The boys? They tend more towards the grand finale- like the Dragon of Death, the Festival of Fire, and The Home Run.

We waved sparklers, and chased flying and then floating parachute men. We ooohed and aahed. And then we pulled the dog out from under the bed and doused another 4th of July celebration.

why missions?

"...the constant effort to spread the gospel—especially across cultures—is crucial to preserving the gospel."
John Piper, Desiring God blog, July 7, 2009
Read the entire piece.

08 July 2009

at the zoo

Someone told me
its all happening
at the zoo.
I do believe it,
I do believe its true.

Simon and Garfunkle, At the Zoo, 1968

04 July 2009

Independence Day!

May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country! ~Daniel Webster

Happy Independence Day!

(photo credit, in honor of wet and traveling friends...: blog on

03 July 2009

Scott Stantis Cartoon

This cartoon expresses my frustration with the "news" of the last week. (if you click on the cartoon, it gets bigger)

Today I heard on the radio that in Los Angeles, crowds are gathering outside the Staples Theater for tickets for the Michael Jackson "send off event." I told my kids right then and there (my usual modus operandi is to first talk back to the radio and then make my take-note-for-the-future comment to my kids. At this point they know to nod their heads and murmur "yes ma'am" before rolling their eyes towards the ceiling...), my funeral will neither be a send off or an event.

Ahhh... but I digress. Scott Stantis from The Birmingham News consistently does good work. Go check out more here- Share this Cartoon.

01 July 2009

Abigail- A Woman of Noble Character

After a bit of a hiatus (100% my fault and not my faithful blogging buddies, Megan and Belinda!), we’re returning back to Through His Eyes: God’s Perspective on Women in the Bible by Jerram Barrs.

In chapter 11, we turn to 1Samuel 25, and meet Abigail, the wife of Nabal. Nabal, “the fool,” is a wealthy man, but also a man described as “harsh and evil in his dealings.” (v. 3) In dramatic contrast, Abigail is described as “intelligent and beautiful in appearance.” (v. 3) In the events of this chapter of 1Samuel, David, the anointed king of Israel, and his men have been guarding Nabal’s men and flock, and as such, David requests food and drink for his men. (v. 7-8) Nabal acts with disrespect towards David and his request (v. 9-11), and thus earns a response of anger from him (v. 12-13).

Upon learning the situation with her husband and David from a servant (v. 14-17), Abigail quickly works to save her household, and meets David with humble appeal (v. 23). It is at this point, through her words and actions towards David, that we see the depth of Abigail’s character and her faith in the Lord.

Barrs points out that Abigail’s actions went against her husband and his wishes. He writes, “We observe in this story that faithfulness does not always mean obeying those in authority over you… All believers are called to do what’s right in God’s eyes first, regardless of what those over them believe, say or do.” (p. 178) I agree, although I would strongly add that we must be sure of what’s right in God’s eyes! We must be careful not to confuse our own motives and wants with God’s will defined through Scripture. I think of the wisdom of Proverbs 2, in which the Lord exhorts us to “treasure my commandments within you, make (our) ear attentive to wisdom, incline (our) heart to understanding, … cry for discernment.” (v. 1-3) The promise in doing so is that “discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things; from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness…” (v. 11-13)

In this chapter, Barrs lists ten characteristics of Abigail’s wisdom. (p. 179) These are certainly characteristics that we all should seek to cultivate, though few come easily! What an example is Abigail, very practically demonstrating that “a soft answer turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1) in her humility before David. Barrs asks, are Abigail’s words against her husband, words of truth about Nabal’s “folly and wickedness,” “a betrayal, an example of dishonor, or an expression of inappropriate disrespect?” (p. 184) I do not believe that they are; however, I want to be careful to discern between my own emotions and truly acting with wisdom in hard situations.

I so appreciate Abigail’s willingness to appeal, and rest in, God’s sovereignty and perfect justice. She asks David to restrain his wrath, and indeed, David acknowledges, “Blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from blood shed, and from avenging myself by my own hand.” (1Sam 25:33) Abigail is generous. Barrs writes, “We are to give gladly and to give generously to those who need our help and to those who have been kind and faithful in the way they serve us.” (p. 181) Abigail is humble- “she asks for David’s forgiveness and prays for God’s blessing on David.” (p. 181) Abigail is a woman of faith, trusting David as “bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God.” (1Sam 25:29)

And as the story of Nabal and Abigail and David concludes, we witness as God works out His perfect justice, as “about ten days later, it happened that the Lord struck Nabal and he died.” (1Sam 25:38) David is then able to send a proposal of marriage to Abigail, and she becomes his wife.

Barrs writes, “Abigail is a woman of beauty, humility, wisdom, courage, and faith. She saves the lives of her household. She keeps David free from the guilt of shedding innocent blood and becomes the wife of the future king… Abigail’s words show a deep understanding of the Word of God and of his law- they show the wisdom of a heart instructed by faith.” (p. 184) That is my prayer, to show the wisdom of a heart instructed by faith.

Barrs asks good questions at the end of the chapter, causing us to think about issues around authority, vengeance, and justice. Again, I commend this study, and this book!