When God Got His Hands Dirty Devotion

I wrote a book about 3 years ago with the same title as this post. My original intent was to just see if I could write a book. I thought about what would be a good topic for me to write about. I decided that after many years of teaching the Bible and speaking at various Christian gatherings, I wanted to put down in writing some of my favorite thoughts about God. I imagined that maybe my kids or grandkids might someday like to read what I thought about Him. Even if they don’t, it was an exciting challenge.

I try, on this blog, to stay non-controversial staying away from politics and religion, however, there are many of my followers who know me as a Bible teacher and Christian speaker and sometimes I get kind comments and gentle nudges to speak more of what’s in my spirit than what’s in my mind.

So, I thought I’d take a few weeks, each Monday or more often and write a spiritual post based on the chapters of my book When God Got His Hands Dirty, which you can buy on Amazon by clicking the title link. It is also on a lot of other sites that I was surprised to find out one evening while googling my name and the book title while sitting in the car waiting on Husband to come out of Home Depot.

1. When God Got His Hands Dirty

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After I had written the book, I was really nervous about hitting the “publish” button. I don’t consider myself a theologian or scholar. And since I have many friends and family who are, I was worried that they would pick apart my words, find flaws and fault and pat me on the head and say, “Good try, but it’s a bit of a mess.”

I pressed on, however, because I felt there was an audience out there of like-minded people. My kindred spirits who would understand my meaning. I truly believe as the Bible teaches, that the things of God can only be understood by the spirit and not by logic or human effort. Truths of God are revealed to us by the Spirit. That is why, I think children, the poor and broken have an easier time with faith and belief in an invisible God. Those who are arrogant and proud of their own knowledge tend to miss Him.

I think that a redeemed imagination is one of the most underdeveloped facets of our spiritual experience. I think Christians have been so focused on having their beliefs proven and accepted that they have neglected the richest parts of the Christian faith: the mystery, the wonder, the art and beauty, the fear, the trust and awe inherent in the Kingdom of God.

Trust me, I spent many years teaching the marriage of Science and Faith and found that it really can work together, so I’m not dismissing that. It’s just that I enjoy more the thought of God as an artist and musician, stars singing, trees clapping their hands and such. Those ideas fill my soul with joy. And yes, I really believe those things happen – in their own celestial, natural way.

Hearing and understanding God is like listening to music, seeing great art and architecture, witnessing nature in all its beauty, it’s like falling in love. Those experiences bypass your logical brain and stir your heart, your soul, your spirit. It gives you goose-bumps, brings tears to your eyes. It’s a different language that doesn’t use words as we know it.

It is with that idea that I approached some of my favorite moments in the Bible. I imagined myself there. I put myself in the moment and prayerfully imagined what it felt like. I humanized God probably more than I should have, but it was His idea to reveal Himself in Jesus, the Man, full of compassion and love and tears and pain. Sure, my approach runs the risk of being full of error. But I never claimed that my book should be included in the canon of Scripture.

So, the first moment I considered was the creation of man.

“God could have spoken man into existence like He did everything else. But man, this creation, needed special attention. God, like a craftsman, had a vision and nothing would do but that He gathered the dust in His own two hands and did it Himself.” 

“Dust is on the ground. Dust is dirty. God knelt down and got His hands dirty to make man. And then He breathed His own life into the man. The breath of God, imagine that.” ~from When God Got His Hands Dirty

All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Ever Present, Creator of the Universe, kneeling in the dirt to make man. What a picture. If the Bible is one of the ways that God chose to reveal Himself to humans, this picture of the All-Powerful God kneeling in the dirt was how He wanted you to picture Him. It screams volumes about His character, what He’s like, doesn’t it?

He wanted you to know that He did that. He wanted you to know that He would get His hands dirty for you.

Peace,

Jill

 

2. When God Got Blood On His Hands

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The Bible is full of accounts of events and we get very limited information. We are often left asking questions. Some people get all freaked out and scared to read between the lines and fill in the gaps with their imaginations as if their imaginings would write scripture. And we are very strongly commanded “not to add to the prophecy in the book” or God would add plagues to our lives or something like that. I certainly don’t want to bring plagues upon myself and I don’t want to make anyone stumble. So, if imagining what “might have happened” worries you, you should probably skip Chapter 2.

However, I can’t stop thinking about a moment in Genesis 3:21.

Adam and Eve had messed up and God found them hiding in their nakedness, embarrassed and ashamed. After God explained to them the consequences of their choices and they were still trying to wrap their minds around “pain in childbearing” and “painful toil,” and while they were still trembling and tears still flowing,  we read, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” 

Stop right there. How did that look? First, God had to get animal skin and then He “made” clothes for them. Wait, like did He sit down somewhere and sew clothes? As a kid, I thought that everything God did was like magic. “Poof” and there were clothes made of skin. However, after a scholar once made a passing comment about God killing a lamb in the Garden to make clothes for Adam and Eve, it made me stop and think. With the whole Jesus being the Lamb of God and the sacrificial system for the atonement of sin, it makes sense that God probably killed a lamb. And God, being like a Father teaching His child, probably killed the lamb in front of them to show them what had to be done to atone for sin.

So, I imagine that God didn’t just “magically” make the lamb die and make the clothes suddenly appear. I think He actually killed the lamb and sewed the clothes. The mental picture of that moment makes me stop and give pause.

Adam and Eve broke the rules, they messed up, their choice caused them to be naked and ashamed. God, the One Who was sinned against did the work to “clothe them.”

“When they had dressed, God told them to leave. He wasn’t loud or angry. He just told them they had to go. They had to fend for themselves. They had to work the ground and make their own way. Eve broke down. Adam cried, “No! Please don’t make us go! I don’t want to leave you!” Adam hung on to God’s feet. At this, God was moved, with tears in His eyes He shouted, “You have to go!” The tone of His voice, a mixture of disappointment and determination, let Adam know he had no other choice. He gathered Eve in his arms and they left. Eve turned to run back into the garden but with a wave of God’s hand, an angel appeared with a flaming sword. No matter which way Eve tried to get past him, the angel moved in front of her. Beyond the angel and Eve’s desperate dance, Adam could see God. God bowed His head and walked away among the trees. Adam thought he knew where He would go. They had met there every evening. The pain in Adam’s chest made him feel like he had never felt before. He could barely breathe. Is this what death feels like? He wondered.” ~ from When God Got His Hands Dirty

 

3. The Day After

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In chapter 3 of my book, I briefly describe what it must have been like the day after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden. After someone you love dies, after a storm in the night, there’s the bright light of reality that comes with the next day. You get up physically sore from the bracing against the pain and fighting for life. Your eyes are cloudy from the tears. Your brain is fuzzy from the adrenaline and grief. There’s the realization that “life goes on” after the loss, after the destruction. You get up and you find that you’re still breathing, you still have to put one foot in front of the other, you have to press through the pain and sorrow to do, what? Eat? Work?

We feel lost at times like these. The basics of life seem trivial, a waste of our time. We’re lost and don’t know what to do. So, we often go back to what we used to do. The disciples went fishing after Jesus died because that’s what they were doing when He found them. We go visit graves, visit places we shared with lost loved ones. I think Adam did the same.

I don’t have any biblical basis for the following idea, only a short passage in The Works of Josephus that speaks of Adam’s children. It says of Seth (Adam’s son) and Seth’s children, “They also were the inventors of that peculiar sort of wisdom which is concerned with the heavely bodies, and their order.”

Where did Seth get his interest in the heavenly bodies from? Maybe his father?

I’ve always loved to imagine what it was like for Adam and Eve in the Garden. I imagine them moving plants from here to there realizing that one might grow better in the sun than in the shade. We read that God brought all the animals to Adam so he could name them. And one more clue to their activities was when, after they sinned, “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” So, perhaps this was something they did every day: take a stroll around the garden discussing what they did that day, what they saw that day or what they learned about a certain plant or animal that day. Just hanging out.

But…how did God show up in the Garden? Just appeared among the trees? This is where I’m really doing some guessing, but maybe “Adam had never seen where God went during the day. When he had asked God where He lived, God would look up to the sky.” 

After the expulsion from the Garden, Adam found that the hard work and toil of the day kept his memories at bay. However, in the evenings, the painful thoughts and aching pain returned with a vengeance as he remembered the times he would walk and talk with God in the cool of the evening. He found himself staring at the sky searching for a glimpse of God or His home. “Adam would sit under the stars. sometimes he would lay back and stare so long that he thought he saw God out of the corner of his eye. Sometimes he would doze off and in that space between being awake and being asleep Adam thought he felt God lying beside him. I think Adam desperately missed God and longed for life to be like it used to be. I think he stared at the sky hoping and praying that it had all been a bad dream and he would eventually wake up. I think in his soul loneliness and longing he “sometimes thought he heard God’s voice in the sound of the nearby waterfall or the smell of His breath on the breeze.” 

Maybe that’s what Adam’s kids remember about their father the most, him sitting in the evenings staring at the stars with a deep longing and a ragged regret. Maybe they didn’t know what he was looking for or who he was waiting on, but they sat with him because they wanted to comfort him and they just wanted to hang out with him.

Then as they sat with him staring at the sky they started noticing things, the beauty, the wonder, the patterns. They became distracted with the gulf between them and God while Adam was looking and waiting for his Friend to return.

4. Dreaming With God

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“On the other side of the expanse of heaven, I imagine God looking down at Adam longing to come down and walk and talk with him again. But things had changed. 

God watched over Adam. He sent the rains, He sent the harvest, He sent signs in the heavens. He watched proudly as Adam figured out His patterns and discovered His secrets. 

When Adam returned to the dust, God watched over Adam’s children. He watched them use the rains, harvest, and signs for their own gain. They stopped making sacrifices and stopped looking for Him in the heavens. 

Then one evening, as God was making His journey across the heavens pulling the indigo blanket of night across the sky, He noticed a man staring at the sky, looking for Him.

His name was Abram.” 

~from When God Got His Hands Dirty

If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the account of Abraham and his longing for a son. You probably also know that it was from Abraham’s son that God made the nation of Israel.

What caught my heart in this account was this moment that is mentioned in scripture, but I’ve imagined the details…

“One night, alone in his tent, Abram was grieving. His shame and sadness over not having a child were drowning him. God’s heart was moved. God came to him, took him outside and they lay on the hillside staring at the stars together. God said to Abram, “Now look toward the heavens and count the stars if you are able to count them. So shall your descendants be.” Abram was speechless. I imagine God turned toward Abram and smiled because Abram really believed Him. 

There they were, God and Abram, lying on the hillside dreaming together – dreaming of their children. I imagine that Abram began imagining all the kids running around his feet. He chuckled as he thought of Sarai yelling and shooing them out of the tent. He thought of all the piggyback rides and tickle fights. I believe his chest was filled with pride as he imagined them all. In each twinkling star, Abram saw the face of each one of his children. With each flicker of light, he heard their laughter and gave them each a name. 

In my imagination, I see God lying there, too, and in each twinkling star he saw our face, heard our laugh and whispered our name.” 

I don’t think it’s just the celebrities of the Bible who get these kinds of moments. I believe regular people like us can have them, too. I don’t mean just intimate moments of friendship with God, but also moments where He takes our crazy dreams and blows them up to epic proportions. Abram’s desire for one son was expanded by God to the creation of a whole nation of people. Then not just a blood-related nation but a spirit related nation that would include all tribes, tongues, and nations.

When we’re afraid to share our dreams with God, perhaps we don’t realize that maybe He planted those dreams in our hearts. Maybe He’s dreaming with you.

As Jesus would say to those who were seeking His healing touch, “What do you want?”

What do you want?

 

5. When God Went Camping

 

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Listen baby, ain’t no mountain high
Ain’t no valley low, ain’t no river wide enough baby
If you need me call me no matter where you are
No matter how far don’t worry baby
Just call my name I’ll be there in a hurry
You don’t have to worry
‘Cause baby there ain’t no mountain high enough
Ain’t no valley low enough
Ain’t no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you babe
Remember the day I set you free
I told you you could always count on me darling
From that day on, I made a vow
I’ll be there when you want me
Some way, some how
‘Cause baby there ain’t no mountain high enough
Ain’t no valley low enough
Ain’t no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you babe
Oh no darling
No wind, no rain
Or winters cold can stop me baby, na na baby
‘Cause you are my goal
If you’re ever in trouble
I’ll be there on the double
Just send for me, oh baby, ha
My love is alive
Way down in my heart
Although we are miles apart
If you ever need a helping hand
I’ll be there on the double
Just as fast as I can
Don’t you know that there
Ain’t no mountain high enough
Ain’t no valley low enough
Ain’t no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you babe

I think this Marvin Gaye song captures the theme of my book. And the next account that I talk about is no exception.

Sometimes we read Bible accounts and they sort of go in one ear and out the other because we’re so familiar with them.

Also, preachers and teachers – me included – take the accounts and focus on a particular angle of the story to make their point. And often we need to take a step back and look at it differently.

The story of God’s deliverance of the Hebrew people from Egypt, the wandering in the desert, Moses going to the top of the mountain and getting plans for Israel’s sacrificial system and the plans for the Tabernacle are pretty familiar stories if you’ve attended Sunday School.

Most of the time the attention is given to types and symbols, the foreshadowing of Christ’s death. If it’s a history study, then attention is given to the practices that made the Jewish people a unique nation.

However, I don’t think enough attention is given to the perspective that the incredible detail given in the building of the Tabernacle was God’s instructions to the Children of Israel so they build a tent for Him so He could go camping with them.

God of Heaven, The Almighty, The Alpha and Omega, Creator of the Universe wanted to be with His people so much that He decided to live among them when they were wanderers, homeless, lost. It was a really difficult time in their lives and God wasn’t ashamed to be counted among them.

They had been slaves for over 400 years in Egypt. That’s a long time to get settled, even in slavery, have generations of children, have a history in one spot. When God delivered them they were uprooted. The freedom they begged for wasn’t quite what they imagined. Some of them even wanted to go back to Egypt.

Then God, like a Good Father, decided to come down from Heaven – HEAVEN – and camp out with them. To be with them, to comfort them. He was their night light. He was their shade. He was their strong-arm against their enemies, wild beasts, and things that go bump in the night.

“God traveled with the Israelites. He stayed with them through thick and thin. He stayed with them when they rebelled, when they complained, when they messed up. He stayed and loved them. Oh, He got angry, but He stayed. When things got difficult He didn’t pack up His tent and go home. He stuck it out. That’s what family does.” 

When I think of God leaving His home to go “roughing it” with His people, tears well up in my eyes.

There really “ain’t no mountain high enough to keep Him from getting to you.”

6. When God Put On A Play

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I started going to college right out of high school for photography. Then I dropped out, got married and moved and took up my studies again at a different college. I dropped out again when I had kids and helped take care of my terminally ill sister. After my sister died and my kids were in school, I went back to college both online and on-campus for both Biblical Studies and Theatre. (I know, that might not make sense, but I was in community theatre, theatre ministry, I’ve written and published plays and did stand-up comedy. So, it’s not as far off track as it sounds). After a while, I felt God leading me into education and guess what? I changed course and basically went back to college again. After it was all said and done I had a degree in Religious Studies. (As an update, I’m back where I started going back to school for photography to finish what I started.)

Once, for an English essay, I wrote about this idea that I’m going to touch on now. After I turned in the essay, I got an email from the chair of the English department that she wanted to meet with me. I thought since I was attending a state school that they were going to talk to me about writing about a religious topic. To my surprise, she told me she was impressed with my essay and said in her experience she had never heard of anyone writing about the topic I chose and she suggested that I submit my paper to a theatre or educational journal.

Well, I didn’t. But I talk about it a little in my book When God Got His Hands Dirty and I’m going to bring it up again here – but use it to show something else.

In the book of Ezekiel we read that God called Ezekiel to be His prophet in a most amazing way. God then began to prep Ezekiel for the job He called him to by encouraging him to be brave and no matter what, “whether they listen or fail to listen – for they are a rebellious people – they will know that a prophet has been among them. Do not be afraid of them or their words.” God told Ezekiel that the people of Israel are like scorpions, but “don’t be terrified by them.” After all that prep, I bet Ezekiel couldn’t help but be terrified.

I’ve noticed that God calls people who don’t feel like they have the internal resources to do what He asks of them. He calls those who feel they aren’t good speakers, to speak. Think of Moses. He calls timid, shy people to lead in worship or evangelize. But I have noticed that if they will submit, God will give them on the job training. He will open doors for them to get formal education and experience. He calls us “to work alongside Him so that we can be healed and become stronger and braver in the doing. God is glorified in this.”

I’m not sure what Ezekiel thought, but the fact that God had to remind him so many times not to be afraid, I think Ezekiel was really worried about being able to accomplish what God asked of him. I think he was afraid of rejection and ridicule from his own people. However, he cooperated with God.

God introduced Ezekiel to the plan He had to try to get through those hard-hearted people of His. He and Ezekiel are going to write a series of one-man performances. And Ezekiel is going to be that one man to act things out in front of all Israel. These are legitimate theatre performances because it has all the elements of theatre: audience, a performer, a script/message and an element of pretending, meaning that the event was not actually happening at the moment.

These performances were shocking and radical and long – like over a year long! But God and Ezekiel worked on these performances together. It was a creative collaboration. I bet just that, just the working with God was an amazing experience! Forget the audience’s response. Forget whether or not the people got the message. Who cares if we think it was a successful effort or not, Ezekiel got to create art with God!

And in the doing, I think Ezekiel was changed. I bet you he got braver and stronger and just like God said it would happen, Ezekiel became hard enough to resist their criticism. I bet Ezekiel was no longer afraid of confrontation or what people thought of him. He was changed in the doing.

If you talk to people who have been called by God for a specific task, not many of them say they felt they had the inner resources to do what God called them to do. But they kept feeling called or pulled or compelled to do something. And as they took the first step to follow God’s leading, doors opened, opportunities arose, and training happened as they did it. We are all learning as we are doing.

No amount of classes can totally prepare you for marriage or parenthood or old age. Teachers will be the first to tell you that their real education began on their first day of school in their first class and they are still getting an education. To quote Indiana Jones, I think we’re all “making it up as we go along.” It keeps us dependent on God. It keeps us close to Him.

Where do you find yourself? Do you have a job? Are you a called minister? Are you a stay at home Mom? Wherever you are, there you are and God is with you. Talk to God and find out how can you together can make where you are more beautiful, more life-giving instead of life-sucking. God wants to collaborate with you to create a beautiful life, raise amazing kids, create a home that is full of peace and healing, a workplace that is productive and positive and a ministry that is powerful.

Stop where you are and think of your life as art and you and God are in creative collaboration. The possibilities are endless for “nothing is impossible with God.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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