Learned Graciousness {gn50:14-21}


At the end
of the genesis
we come to this:

our fears
in the mouths
of the brothers—

will there be a grudge
what if we aren't forgiven
maybe we need to offer
an incentive
in order to be eligible
for grace

and God
in the face
of Joseph—

weeping over the fear
promising provision
assuring that everything
which had been done
for evil has been turned
for good

After all this time
are you still
asked Joseph

asks God

It is not possible
that Joseph was more
than his creator.


The Blessed Curse {gn49:7}


The sobering fact of life is that our
descendants usually bear their share
of our decisions—either good or bad.
Levi couldn't bend his temper to his
will, and his curse was to
be doled out to his children—who would be
scattered, without a land inheritance,
among their relatives. But
the curse turned into a blessing for the entire
nation, as the Levites became the radiated advocates
of God. They inherited the heart-land of
Israel, permanent tillers of her spiritual soil.


Underdogs {gn48}

Photo © Unsplash/Matthew Henry

Photo © Unsplash/Matthew Henry

The last shall be first,
and the first, last.

If Jesus was praised by any
for uttering such
revolutionary ideas,
they unwittingly
their own ignorance
of Scripture.

The dance of the
last and the first
didn't begin in the Gospels.
It began in Genesis with
the subtle passing over
of the older for the younger,
the giving way
of the greater to the lesser.

Isaac and Ishmael.
Jacob and Esau.
Joseph and his older brothers.
Ephraim and Manasseh.

God must love
a good heel turn.
Blessed are the underdogs,
for they shall
have the last bark.


Subtle Slavery {gn47:25}

Photo © Unsplash/R. Martinez

Photo © Unsplash/R. Martinez

Once you’ve traded
it’s nearly impossible
to break out of those
ever-tightening chains.

More and more threats
to your security
are met with
more and more restrictions
on your freedom,
until you’re happy to do
whatever you’re told
whenever you’re told
whatever the cost
as long as
you’re still alive.

That is,
if you can call that
a life.


Fear {gn46:3}


Someday we will understand
just how much
we were ruled by fear
in this world,
how we inhaled
and exhaled
when all the time
we thought we were
breathing oxygen.

Fear is our daily diet.
Fear of dying,
fear of living,
fear of being stuck.
Fear for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
and as many snacks as we can
cram in between.
We are so steeped
in fear
that we think
to be human
is to be afraid.
But this was not
the original

Fear is what we ate
at the tree,
fear the disease
that infected
our first parents
and then their children
and their children
and their children's children.

Fear is malware,
implanted by an enemy,
introduced by an interloper
so long ago,
a virus that will
crash the system
for good
if we don't allow
our manufacturer
to return us to
the factory default.

God is always telling us
to not be afraid.
This is not parental placating.
This is war propaganda.

To choose to be unafraid
is not a rejection of our nature,
but a rejection of the enemy.

To choose to be unafraid
is not a sentimental act,
but a revolutionary one.


Radical Religion {gn45:7-8}

Photo © Unsplash/Joshua Earle

Photo © Unsplash/Joshua Earle

is what I
long for:

a faith so strong in God
that I could
dream the dreams
brave the slave auction
endure the dungeon
and not let the
power and
position and
go to my head

a life so lived for God
that I could
suddenly find him
incarnate in me
when I come face to face
with those who have done me

a joy so complete in God
that I could revel
in my power to save
the very ones
who had wanted me dead

a heart so close to God
that in every evil act
I could see
only his goodness

only his goodness


A Change of Heart {gn44:33-34}

Photo © Unsplash/Fadi Xd

Photo © Unsplash/Fadi Xd

as the years had come and gone
since selling Joseph like a pawn
Judah'd had a lot of time
to contemplate his clever crime

but watching how his father grieved
had been much worse than he'd conceived
it wore him down, right to the bone
he reaped much more than he had sown

until at last, a broken man,
he lived a different master plan:
a willingness to be the slave
to sacrifice, and thus to save

redemption needn't seem so strange
even dirty hearts can change


True Famine {gn43}

Photo © Unsplash/Patrick Hendry

Photo © Unsplash/Patrick Hendry

There was no food to be found
growing in the land
but there was
a bumper crop of fear.

Jacob was afraid
he was going to starve to death
or lose Benjamin
trying not to.

Jacob's sons were afraid
of being overpowered
and forced into slavery
     in other words
     exactly what
     they had done
     to Joseph.

Fear, fear everywhere
as if there was
no God of our fathers
no Yahweh-Elohim
no Jehovah-Jireh.

What would it have mattered
if Israel had no shortage of food
when there was such a
famine of faith?


That Moment {gn42:6}

Photo © Unsplash/Randy Fath

Photo © Unsplash/Randy Fath

I wonder what it's like—
that moment when you realize
the dreams you dreamed
so many years ago
are materializing
in front of you
in broad daylight.

I wonder what it's like—
the very next moment
when you realize
that you're right where
God planned for you to be
so many years before

and that everything
   the dreams
   the slavery
   the allegations
   the imprisonment
   the abandonment
   the lonely nights
   the wondering
all of it
was part of the plan
to bring you to the time and place
where you would save the world.

That moment,
as the ten sheaves
are bowing down,
would it not
drive you to your knees?


Jailbreak {gn41:38-39}

Photo © Unsplash/Carles Rabada

Photo © Unsplash/Carles Rabada

The heathen king of Egypt
was entertained
in the night
by dreams from a divine intruder.


Doesn't God know
you need pastors
and theologians
and a Committee on Missional Vision
to reach the heathen?

We may have God locked up 
in the prison of our ideas
about the most proper way/s
to share the gospel,
but He won’t stay there very long.

For where may we go
to flee from His Spirit?

Not even our dreams.


Perchance to Dream {gn40}

Photo © Unsplash/Johannes Plenio

Photo © Unsplash/Johannes Plenio

If Potiphar
had believed his wife
Joseph would have been put
in the ground

not in the prison
    /which was Potiphar's prison/
    /probably below his house/

which he was then put in charge of
    /because Potiphar wasn't going to let/
    /a false rape allegation/
    /deprive him of his best help/

Potiphar knew Joseph was innocent
but was content to let him languish
    /God knew Potiphar was spineless/
    /but wasn't content to let him starve/

the concessions of weak men
may be all the justice
we can procure
but the God of our fathers
keeps sending dreams


Master Maker {gn39:2}

Photo © Unsplash/Zulmaury Saavedra

Photo © Unsplash/Zulmaury Saavedra

The recurring theme of the Bible is
how the
Lord sticks His divine nose into our
business and turns what
was expected into something
with no prior warning.
Joseph had been sold as a slave,
so he expected to be treated like
one, but
he didn't act like one. Instead he
succeeded in all he did, because he
in his heart to do
everything he did like a boss. He
he would be the very best slave
those Egyptians ever
did see, and
as he committed all
he did as a slave to the Lord, he
served them as God serves all His
creation. And
in serving even his enemies in this
way, Joseph
the slave became a free man, ruling
over the
house of Potiphar and revealing that
the true Master
of his heart is in no way deficient in
his power, even to this day, to turn
Egyptian oppressors into admirers,
as the slave becomes the


On Acceptance {gn38}


Perhaps Jesus said the Kingdom was for children
because children accept their lot in life.
Often, they don't know any different
and even if they did,
what can they do about it?

Children accept
and try to find ways of being content.

Adults, on the other hand,
have learned    better?
and have trouble accepting
what they don't want or can't understand.

Er wouldn't accept a mantle of morality.

Onan wouldn't accept a surrogate's role.

Judah wouldn't accept the position of widower.

Shelah wouldn't accept his brothers' leftovers.

Tamar wouldn't accept childless singlehood.

It's no wonder, then, that
centuries later,
Mary is called "favored of God"
and chosen as the one
to bear the burden of raising the Savior.
For how many people—
even in the very pages of sacred Scripture—
ever responded
to what they didn't want or couldn't understand
by saying
Let it be to me according to your will?

We so idolize those who
won't acquiesce
refuse to bow down
fight back
stick it to the man
get angry

that we are blind
to the holiness that comes with
accepting the lot we wouldn't choose—
if only it were up to us.


Premeditated Dreams {gn37}

Photo ©

Photo ©

Oh, the dreams! The bowing down!
The humbled faces on the ground!
A jealous sibling's lightning rod
(those dreams) but they had come from God!

He knew the visions would be told;
He knew that Joseph would be sold;
He saw a famine on the way
and hatched a plan to save the day.

Egypt thought they'd bought a mule,
but Joseph had been sent to rule.

Joseph's God is your God, too.
He has a future planned for you:
Never doubt it's bright and beaming—
What new dreams have you been dreaming?


Sonnet: A poem consisting of 14 lines with a particular rhyming scheme.

The Blessed Burden {gn36}

Photo © Unsplash/Jenn Evelyn-Ann

Photo © Unsplash/Jenn Evelyn-Ann

Esau is known as the one
who sold his birthright
and forfeited his blessing—
not the one "favored" by God,
not the one destined to be in that family tree,
not one of the "children of promise."

As between him and his brother Jacob,
Esau was not the "blessed" one,
but have you ever read a more blessed genealogy
in the entire Bible?

No barren women,
no tragedies,
no hardships,
no scandals,
no poverty—in fact, the opposite—
so much wealth the family had to move to a larger land.

By contrast, those "blessed" of God
met frequent hardship and troubles—
their genealogies littered with innumerable obstacles:
barrenness, injustice, illness, death.

It was after, after!  Jacob decided to
fulfill his vow to God
commit his life to the Lord and
return to the sacred place of his Creator
that his family was besieged by
sickness and unexpected death—
burying, in rapid succession,
first Deborah, then Rachel, then Isaac.

Is burden a blessing?
Is blessing a burden?

How is it they stroll together so comfortably
hand in hand
like lovers on a Sunday afternoon
in the park?

On Dying in Childbirth {gn35:16-18}


Rachel is a cautionary tale
for every woman
who dreams of having
a baby.

Rachel is a reminder—
just the first in a long, tragic history of reminders—
that choosing to have a child
is dangerous business.

Having a child can kill you.

.                 .                 .

No, having a child will kill you.

The day you give birth
may not be the last day you draw breath,
but you will, at the very least,
wish you were dead
four hundred times
in the first three months alone.

And though you may not realize it immediately,
the woman you were
before that first peculiar cry cleaved the air
is dead and gone—
she will not be seen again.

The woman who emerges in her place
will have a different sort of heart,
one that is permanently divided—
half of it still inside,
half of it rolling, then crawling, then walking around on two legs,
forever on the outside.

She will have a different sort of heart,
one that can be irreparably ruptured by the beautiful moments
     as well as the ugly ones,
one that is no longer impervious to indifference or animus,
one that is no longer her own.

Choosing to have a child is dangerous business.

To make a child in your own image
is to relinquish control of your heart to another being
who may or may not
cherish it.

To make a child in your own image
is to abandon personal rights
for the hope of relationship.

To make a child in your own image
is the genesis of unending sacrifice.

Just ask Rachel.

.                 .                 .

Or God.


when What If comes too late {gn34}

Photo © Unsplash/Claudia Soraya

Photo © Unsplash/Claudia Soraya

"An eye for an eye" doesn't normally smack of grace,
but it would have been exceedingly merciful
compared to the revenge exacted by Dinah's brothers:
an entire community destroyed
because one person was brutally assaulted.

Some wonder
why they didn't choose
a different response—
something non-violent,
something conciliatory.
I wonder why they had to choose at all.

What was Jacob doing in Shechem?

He promised Esau a rendezvous in Seir;
instead, he traveled in the opposite direction.
He promised God an altar and a tithe at Bethel;
instead, he built that altar in a heathen place.

It's so easy to only ask
What If
when the Big Tragedy hits.

What if Jacob had kept his word?
What if he'd taken his family in the opposite direction?
What if he hadn't built his house in a dangerous and foreign land?

What if Genesis 34 tragedies
are always preceded by
Genesis 33 choices?

It's easy to say
Dinah shouldn't have been raped
Dinah's brothers shouldn't have retaliated
but I say
Dinah shouldn't have been there in the first place.


Change of Heart {gn33:4}

Photo © Robert T. Garrett

Photo © Robert T. Garrett

Esau, Esau,
what happened to you?
The last time we heard from you,
you were muttering under your breath
about killing your brother,
having been "cheated"
(so you claimed)
out of your "blessing."

How is it, then,
that you garnered
the very best blessing of all?

When did you surrender to the
Transformer of Hearts?

Esau, Esau,
you may not have received the birthright,
but you did not escape the blessing
of a contented heart
at peace with What Is in the world.


Struggle {gn32:24-32}

Photo © Unsplash/Jason Strull

Photo © Unsplash/Jason Strull

Could I ask for anything more
than to struggle
with You—
to hold tightly
refuse to let go
and demand blessings?

Could I ask for anything more
than to struggle
with You—
to live each day
locked up in Your embrace
engaged so deeply
that it changes my identity?

Could I ask for anything more
than to struggle
with You—
to be breathed on by Your glory
to be blessed by Your presence
and to limp away from Your mighty touch?

O Sovereign God,
may our encounters
forever change the way I walk.


Minimum Wage {gn31:4-9}

Photo © Unsplash/Rod Long

Photo © Unsplash/Rod Long

Now Jacob undoubtedly was a wise guy
who'd certainly crafted a few clever crimes,
yet Laban still planned to leave him high and dry,
proceeding to alter his earnings ten times.

But there was a Witness who saw all these things,
and He had a masterful plan up his sleeve—
to stealthily, secretly pull a few strings
and give Jacob more wealth than he could believe.

Poor Laban was waging an ill-fated war:
Whatever he gained, Jacob always had more.