Balaam’s Blessing

I was reading today in Numbers and came across the story of Balaam, who evidently was a prophet. It doesn’t specify his profession or qualifications, just that he was the son of Beor and that God spoke directly to him. The king of Moab was terrified of the Israelites and hired Balaam to curse them. But he was unable to do so. 

I have been puzzled by this story; if God told him to go with the king’s officials who had come to fetch him, then why was He angry that he’d gone – and sent an angel to block his way? The wording in the Jewish bible gives some clues:

“I have come out here to bar your way, because you are rushing to oppose me.” – Num 22:32

This leads me to think it wasn’t that he’d gone with them – God had told him to do so. But it was that he’d gone with the wrong idea. Maybe he thought that since God told him to go, he was really supposed to curse Israel like the Moabite king was hiring him to do. Earlier, God had told him not to go with the men, because he was not to curse Israel. When God told him later to go, he might have thought God had changed his mind, so he went planning to give the curse. 

But God doesn’t change his mind about blessings and cursing… When He blesses people, that doesn’t go away. 

I love the donkey’s response to being beaten for stopping in front of the angel, “Have I ever done anything like this before?”  Sometimes, we don’t notice God directing our paths because we get too frustrated things are going as they always have – or as we think they should – and we react emotionally instead of stopping to question what is underneath the surface.
So let’s look at this blessing, because it is so beautiful:

“But how can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom Adonai has not denounced? From the top of the rocks I have seen them, from the hills I behold them – yes, a people that will dwell alone and not think itself one of the nations. Who can count Jacob’s descendants, as numerous as dust? May I die as the righterous die! May my life end like theirs!”  – Num 23:8-10

He pronounces them blessed, as a people visible from far off for all the world to see what being right with God looks like. Set apart by God as righteous – even as the only nation that lives the way God intends men to live; with kindness, love, community, reverence, valuing life, and seeking to know God.

The king tried again… and again, Balaam blessed instead of cursing them:

“God is not a human who lies or a mortal who changes his mind. When he says something, He will do it! When He makes a promise, He will fulfill it! Look, I am ordered to bless; when He blesses, I can’t reverse it. No one has seen guilt in Jacob, or perceived perversity in Israel; Adonai their God is with them and acclaimed as King among them. God, who brought them out of Egypt, gives them the strength of a wild ox, thus one can’t put a spell on Jacob, no magic will work against Israel. It can now be said of Jacob and Israel, ‘What is this that God has done?!’ Here is a people rising up like a lioness; like a lion he rears himself up – he will not lie down till he eats up the prey and drinks the blood of the slain.” – Num 23: 19-24

Things to remember:

  • No curse can stand against those who God blesses
  • God’s people are to live as an example – different from the rest of the world
  • It is better to die righteous than to live like the world
  • God is not a human who changes his mind an a whim. 
  • When God says something or makes a promise, He WILL do it!
  • God is our King – ruler over us, sovereign, and worthy of praise as such.
  • God gives us strength – like a ox – to do what He calls us to do.
  • When God sets us in motion to do something, nothing will stop His will from being accomplished.
  • We are strong in His strength

In the beginning…

Let’s start at the very beginning. There was a garden…

Gen 2:8 – “Adonai, God, planted a garden toward the east, in Eden, and there he put the person whom he had formed. V15 – Adonai, God, took the person and put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and care for it.”

     “The Hebrew word for ‘work’, avodah, is the same word for ‘manual labor’ and ‘worshipping God’. The picture we see here of the human’s work is that it was also a form of worship.” *

When humans were created there was a purpose. The evil one had already fallen from heaven and was causing chaos, but didn’t yet have ruling rights. The job of the humans was to take the order and beauty of heaven and bring it to the chaos of the world. Bring the Kingdom to earth. Rule this kingdom while preparing it for The Kingdom. There’s a job. Work to do.The garden wasn’t all fun and games. God came and walked with his humans “in the cool of the evening”…implying after the day’s work was done. 

When we fell, the work got harder. Ushering in death ushered in exhaustion. Gen 3:19 – “You will eat bread by the sweat of your forehead till you return to the ground…”  

When God chose His people, he gave them guidelines to live by. So very often we see these negatively, but that’s not the intention. We think, “I can’t have any fun!” But in reality, God gave us commandments for our protection; they teach us how to LIVE WELL! There are commandments – non-negotiables, and rules to live by – things that help us avoid ugly consequenses.  One of the commandments: Sabbath. Take a day off!

But how many of us actually do it? And how many of us understand what it’s really about?

Do we see it as punishment? Rabbinic teaching put all kinds of rules around the rules – to ensure that no one would break the vitally important commandments. They dictated how far a person could walk on the sabbath, what you can and can’t eat, and all kinds of extra restrictions. But God LOVES us! He wants us to stop and refill. 

When life is all stress, its much harder for relationships to be happy. If we’re exhausted, we’re easy prey for the enemy who wants to destroy us. If we’re burned out, we stop doing our job – bringing the order and beauty of heaven to the chaos of earth. We don’t make as big a difference to the people around us – we don’t engage in life, we don’t love our neighbor as ourselves, we make unrealistic demands of our spouse, we snap at the kids, we struggle with depression, anxiety, and we don’t eat right. The commandment to take a day off to stop our work and focus on God is to rebalance our lives!

But it’s much more than just stopping for a day…

It’s about refilling our souls

Are you tired? Bone-weary? Soul depleted? Do you want to refill your soul?

Food, Glorious Food

There is something amazing about a glorious plate of something delicious!  A great meal is a taste of the Kingdom!  Occasionally, I will post a recipe I find worthy of sharing. This is one of them:

Shrimp Fajitas

2 pounds large, fresh shrimp – peeled and deveined

1 each: red, yellow, orange bell peppers – sliced very thin

1 small onion -red or yellow – sliced thin

1 1/2 T good olive oil

1 tsp salt

2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp each: cumin, smoked paprika, garlic powder

1 lime

fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 450*. In large bowl, combine everything and toss to coat. Spread out on a baking sheet. Cook 8 minutes. Turn oven to broil and cook 2 minutes more – or til shrimps are done. Squeeze lime juice over all and top with cilantro

Serve with warm tortillas and your fav taco toppings

 

 

 

Villa Sollievo

Sollievo = Relief

Why a House of Relief?

People who serve cross-culturally, and in ministry of any kind, have very high levels of stress for long periods of time. This takes a toll – physically, emotionally, and (even for great saints) spiritually.

Why Italy?

Central location to serve those who serve across Europe, Middle East, and Africa – as well as being a lovely destination from North America. Because the food, the wine, the architecture, the landscapes…. Italy is BEAUTIFUL. And beauty is HEALING.

What do we offer?

  • Counseling
  • Debriefing
  • Intercessory prayer
  • Worship
  • Spa services – massage therapy, pedicures, haircuts
  • Teaching/training in cultivating a Sabbath heart
  • Bible study
  • Time and space to RELAX
  • Permission to lay in a hammock all day reading a book
  • Guided retreats and vacation packages
  • Biking/hiking/recreation
  • Area attractions and tours
  • Language classes
  • Cooking, knitting, sewing, and repurposing classes and workshops

What are my qualifications?

35 years in hospitality, spa, and restaurant industries; business management, administration, and ownership; church ministry in worship and creative arts; missions assignments on 4 continents; 6 years of full-time ministry in Italy; personal physical crash from long-term ministry overwork… 

It is not easy to rest when there is so much to be done. But it is essential! Work is a given, but rest is actually the commandment! I’ll say that again: we are given a job to do, but REST is a COMMANDMENT

Come… take a break. Rest, and find relief for your weary soul…

Engaging the senses…

We are created in the image of God. As humans, we have unique sensory perceptions. Animals can feel, see, taste, smell, and touch…but we interpret and engage our senses in ways no other creature does. 

So why do we so often ignore them? And why do we ignore them in the healing process?

“To be alive is miraculous. To truly appreciate life, we need to perceive, to feel -to sense our world.”…  “It truly is astounding that we can communicate so intimately and accurately with the world by means of our senses. Yet we tend to take our senses for granted.” … “In modern urban life, we suffer from both sensory deprivation and sensory overload. The deprivation comes partly from the narrowing of our physical environment: we ride the same bus or subway every day to work; we sit at a desk, staring into a computer screen. At night, we go home and often stare into more screens. It’s no wonder we crave sensory experiences, seeking out the best coffee, vegetables, or olive oil while we take up gardening, knitting, or cycling, or we head to the gym or the bar after work. On the other hand, we are bombarded by the excessive sensory input that is part of urban life. Construction noise, bad air, traffic jams, crowds everywhere – we’re so busy going nowhere. No surprise that we all dream of a beach vacation with no agenda or drink ourselves into ablivion on the weekend. Politics, money, relationships, parenting, and jobs all create stress, and stress tends to deaden us and dull our perceptions.” – Carolyn Gimian

As humans, we NEED beauty and the rich sensory experience of our wide world.

I am fascinated that the world is talking about this….  We, as believers, have a unique perception in understanding we ARE created, and in engaging creation with our senses we engage with our Creator. 

Have you ever wondered why we send flowers when someone dies? Flowers are beautiful – and there is healing in beauty. My recommendation: don’t wait for a reason – give yourself some flowers. Today. Just because they are beautiful. See what it does for your soul….

What practical ways can we engage our senses in worship and in soul-restoration?

Sight: Color, nature, the beach, trees and flowers…. there is so much to look at – but do we really SEE?  Pick out one thing around you right now and really LOOK at it. What does it show you about God? About the creativity of God? About the LOVE God has for you?

Sound: I have long believed that because sound waves go through bodies instead of bouncing off us like a wall, that maybe worship is a powerful weapon in the spirit realm. Find a private place – maybe even put on headphones, close your eyes, and tune out everything else while really listening to worship music. Let yourself really experience the words and music as your heart sings along.

Taste:  When we get to Jesus – whether through leaving this world or when He returns – we are going to FEAST. There will be wine, amazing food, and incredible conversation when we finally see Jesus face to face.  Don’t wait til then. I’m not advocating overindulgence, but invite your besties over and sit for hours around the table with healthy and DELICIOUS dishes that bring you joy.  Eat a piece of chocolate today – just one – and really TASTE it. What a beautiful gift it is.!

Smell: smell and memory are closely related as they are processed in the same region of the brain; and smell is unique in that it can affect us physically – a whole science surrounds aromatherapy. Lavender relaxes the body, citrus and mints energize; burning a scented candle or diffusing essential oils can affect our mood, concentration, and physical stress levels.  The Bible says we carry the aroma of Jesus… What does that smell like for you?  Light a candle and let the aroma wash over you as you pray.

Touch: without touch we can actually die. It’s called “failure to thrive” and it happens to babies in orphanages who never get touched. It can also happen to adults. Next time you hug a family member, really hug them; you both need it! But touch in worship can be paying attention to how your bible feels, feeling a piece of wood or a stone or a blade of grass and contemplating its texture, wiping away a tear, or the feel of the rug under your knees as you pray….

Be mindful of your senses today. Write your observations in your journal. How did you experience God through your senses today?