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Review: “The…Whangdoodles,” Pt. 3, Miracles and Genetics

Just in time for us all to spend a lot more time indoors, we’ve been analyzing Julie Andrew Edwards’ imaginative The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. “Part three: Conquest” contains two main elements. First, let’s take a look at how the story addresses miracles and genetics. Then, we’ll wrap up this series by returning to how faith plays into The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles.

Miracles

Early in part three, the professor and the children discuss the difference in miracles and opportunities. Lindy mentions that their reunion on Halloween night seemed to be a miracle. The professor responds,

“Well, I’d call it more of an opportunity,” said the professor. “Miracles, contrary to popular belief, do not just happen. A miracle is the achievement of the impossible, and it is only when we put aside our greed, anger, pride and prejudice so that our minds are open and ready to accept it, that a miracle can occur.”

*Edwards 166

I love how Edwards defines miracles. As a Christian, I believe that only God can perform miracles. They simply aren’t possible by human constraints. Secondly, I appreciate that she mentions the need to set aside our distracting, selfish concerns for a miracle to occur. Truly, when we focus on ourselves, we don’t recognize miracles when they do occur.

Genetics

As the children meet the Whangdoodle and learn of his loneliness, the issue of genetics and cloning arises. (Again, Edwards really packs a punch with the complex issues she addresses in her book!) Without spoiling the ending, the Whangdoodle tasks the professor with making him a companion Whangdoodle. This challenge reinforces the children’s earlier lesson that the act of creation requires a great deal of ethical thinking because we don’t have the perfect mind that God does. Ben explains this to his father at the end of the book.

“Well, whether we like it or not, I think genetics is here to stay, Dad, and it could be the answer to a lot of things.” He spoke slowly, choosing his words carefully. “We will have a tremendous responsibility on our hands. If we’re going to play God we must try to do it with honor and decency.”

*Edwards 277

Faith

As we finish up this series, I want to return to our discussion of how The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles marries faith, science, and imagination. I think Professor Savant, though human and imperfect, exemplifies the father-ness of God when he reprimands the children. In one instance, Tom and Ben wreaked havoc by getting caught on minibike-like creatures who wouldn’t let them get off. The professor gives the boys a rousing reprimand. Lindy questions the professor as to whether he overreacted. The professor responds,

“Yes, Lindy, I felt exactly that way when I was a boy, and I did many things that were foolish. But occasionally an angry, sensible adult showed me the error of my ways. Tom and Ben were foolish and irresponsible. Their actions put us all in great danger and, as a sensible adult, I think I had a perfect right to get angry and, thereby, teach them an important lesson.”

*Edwards 190-191

The Bible is full of examples of God reprimanding His children to better them. Here, in combining these complex issues of the wrath of God, His wisdom, and the act of creation, Edwards teaches us a great deal about the character of God. She reminds us that He lovingly guides us forward and that He ultimately has power over creation. We may have learned “the secret of life,” but our knowledge and abilities to change it pale in comparison to the giver of life Himself (Edwards 240).

*Edwards, Julie Andrews. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. New York: Harper Trophy, 1974.

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Depression and Disappointment in Ezra

I still have a few more observations to make about Gideon’s story. However, I read Mrs. Brenda’s excellent post on expectation versus reality this afternoon. It reminded me so much of my Bible reading in Ezra yesterday that I wanted to take a quick break from Gideon to discuss depression and disappointment.

The Passage

When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the LORD, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD:

“He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.”

And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.

Ezra 3:10-13 NIV

Some Context

The last four kings of Judah rejected God and refused to listen to any of His prophets. Thus, God allowed King Nebuchadnezzar to take over the Israelites and destroy Jerusalem. The last of the Israelites entered exile in Babylon for 70 years (2 Chronicles 36:21). Then, in God’s grace, He caused King Cyrus to send the Israelites back to Judah to rebuild the temple.

Now, the oldest Israelites mentioned in Ezra 3 remembered the temple designed by David and built by Solomon. That original temple signified the glory days of Israel. The temple glittered with mementos of God-given victories and wealth. Clearly, the temple was a sight to behold even after the Israelites had desecrated it. The Israelites who remembered the original temple felt bittersweet as they laid the new foundation. Sure, King Cyrus allowed them to rebuild God’ temple, but the new temple didn’t display the same power and wealth. The Israelites no longer controlled the building of their own temple to God. They depended entirely on a foreign king’s goodwill.

The Difference in Depression and Disappointment

This article on Psychology Today explains that while disappointments fade with time, depression does not. Perhaps the mournful Israelites merely grieved the loss of the original temple as they built the new one. However, I imagine some of the Israelites did struggle with depression triggered by exile. God did not restore Israel’s political status as they probably hoped. Instead, God started where the Israelites struggled most. He gave them back the temple, the central point of Israel’s existence.

The book of Ezra does not condemn the Israelites who mourned as they laid the temple’s foundations. In fact, Ezra seems to support the idea of feeling all of the emotions involved in the situation. God knew Israel’s hopes for political restoration, yet He also knew that they needed religious restoration first. I imagine God felt compassion for the Israelites who remembered the glory days. He just knew that they needed Him more.

Just as God understood the Israelites, He understands our conflicted emotions during this COVID-19 time. He feels compassion for the disappointed hearts. God does not fear or shy away from the darker sides of ourselves that we are facing. Instead, He knows we need to return to Him. He’s going to start by rebuilding us where we each need it most.

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Gideon’s Son Jotham: Curse and Flee

Last week, we touched on how Gideon’s son Abimelek went rogue. Abimelek killed his seventy brothers, proclaimed himself king over Israel, and generally sat in the middle of conflict until he died three years later. However, one brother escapes. Today, we’re looking at the interesting curse and flee response of Gideon’s son Jotham.

The Passage

[Jotham said,] “Have you acted honorably and in good faith by making Abimelek king? Have you been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family? Have you treated him as he deserves? Remember that my father fought for you and risked his life to rescue you from the hand of Midian. But today you have revolted against my father’s family. You have murdered his seventy sons on a single stone and have made Abimelek, the son of his female slave, king over the citizens of Shechem because he is related to you. So have you acted honorably and in good faith toward Jerub-Baal and his family today? If you have, may Abimelek be your joy, and may you be his, too! But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelek and consume you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelek!”

Then Jotham fled, escaping to Beer, and he lived there because he was afraid of his brother Abimelek.

Judges 9:16-21 NIV

Curse and Flee

I have to admit, Jotham’s curse starts off pretty confusing in verses 6-15 as he recaps Israel’s recent history. So, here’s some context from Judges 8-9. When Gidian defeated the Midianites, Israel asked to crown him king. Gideon refused and said God would rule them. Israel also asked for Gideon’s sons to rule over them. Gideon refused that, too. He even extended the refusal to any ruling by his grandsons. Later, Gideon died. Israel forgot about his family and turned back to idols. So, Abimelek, the son of Gideon’s concubine, decides to claim himself as ruler and gets his mother’s people at Shechem to help. As we know, all the boys die but Jotham. So, here we are as Jotham reminds Israel of their disloyalty to God and Gideon’s family.

Now, I would probably run away to another city if my brother had just murdered seventy other brothers, too. While Jotham remains one of the few Israelites who still honor God, he does not receive the battle command his father did. Instead, Jotham stands safely distant on a mountain, gives his speech, and runs away. Abimelek rules Israel for three more years before Jotham’s prophecy comes true. I imagine Jotham hid in that obscure town terrified that Abimelek would find him and confused about why the whole mess happened.

Gideon’s Son Jotham

Jotham seemed to inherit more of Gideon’s spirit than any of his other brothers. Jotham flees (and with good reason,) but he also stands up for his faith. He carries the memories of his people, just like Gideon did when he recognized God at the altar. Jotham probably wondered at God’s plan like Gideon questioned the Midianite invasion. Yet, just like with Gideon, God uses Jotham to complete His purposes. Jotham’s curse, though it takes years to come true, demonstrates God’s power to His people. The curse even shows God’s justice; Judges 9 repeatedly mentions that “God did this in order that the crime against Jerub-Baal’s seventy sons, the shedding of their blood, might be avenged on their brother Abimelek and on the citizens of Shechem, who had helped him murder his brothers,” (v. 24).

Yet again, God reminds us that He has a plan even when we are afraid and don’t understand. It took Jotham three years to see God’s justice unfold, but God had a plan the whole time. Sometimes it is easier to take comfort in God’s planning than others. For now, we can take comfort in the fact that God’s innate justice will not let evil go unpunished. He has a plan, and it is good.

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Review: “The…Whangdoodles,” Pt. 2: Calm in the Chaos

Last Friday, we reviewed part 1: “Challenge” of The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards. This week, we’re entering Whangdoodleland in part 2: “Capture.” As the children face fantastical dangers, we all learn the importance of staying calm in the chaos.

Beauty and Danger in Whangdoodleland

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles takes full advantage of its fantasy side in part 2, where the children enter Whangdoodleland for the first time. This new fantasy world is magically different than ours. As with part 1, Edwards perfectly describes this new world with rich, sensory words. We smell the flowers, hear the sounds and music, and see the colors painting every inch of the landscape. She rearranges details from reality as we expect it to create a new, immersive, and utterly charming fantasy land.

Of course, as with any good book, danger and conflict taints the beauty of this world. However, Edwards’ “evil” characters really aren’t too evil, at all. They act in threatening and frightening ways, but concern for their friends motivates every challenge they create. Throughout the book, the Prock predominantly drives the “evil” obstacles of the book. In part 2, though, the villain the children and professor face is the High-Behind Splintercat. This fantasy cat maintains most of the eccentricities of normal cats. He loves balls of yarn and fields of catnip. Even though kidnapping would probably terrify anyone, this cat still manages to charm the reader.

Calm in the Chaos

Early in part 2, we learn the driving message of this section, if not of the whole book. The children have faced their first scary obstacle, and the professor comforts them. He says,

“If you remain calm in the midst of great chaos, it is the surest guarantee that it will eventually subside.”

*Edwards 98.

Personally, I love this message. It encourages children to persevere through hard times. The professor’s accompanying speech affirms the value of each individual child and the unique strengths they bring to a challenge. Especially during these COVID-19 times, the concept of staying calm in the midst of chaos seems like a virtue we all can grow.

*Edwards, Julie Andrews. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. New York: Harper Trophy, 1974.

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Mental Illness and Murder: Gideon’s Son, Abimelek

Gideon’s legacy, like most men with an abundance of wives in the Bible, is complicated by his offspring. In fact, Gideon had seventy sons by his wives and an additional son by a concubine according to Judges 8:30-31. Gideon named this other son Abimelek. Gideon died, and everything fell apart per usual. Abimelek’s story made me wonder about the links between mental illness and murder. Let’s look at that today.

The Passage

Abimelek son of Jerub-Baal went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem and said to them and to all his mother’s clan, “Ask all the citizens of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal’s sons rule over you, or just one man?’ Remember, I am your flesh and blood.”

When the brothers repeated all this to the citizens of Shechem, they were inclined to follow Abimelek, for they said, “He is related to us.” They gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and Abimelek used it to hire reckless scoundrels, who became his followers. He went to his father’s home in Ophrah and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham, the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, escaped by hiding. Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth-Millo gathered beside the great tree at the pillar in Shechem to crown Abimelek king.

Judges 9:1-6 NIV

Mental Illness and Murder

I always imagined that people who committed homicide must have struggled with some sort of mental illness. I could not imagine how else someone justified taking another’s life. As with Abimelek, where could that overwhelming need for power come from? So when I searched “murder and mental illness,” the results surprised me. This article by Treatment Advocacy Center showed that while researchers did note a connection between severe mental illness and homicide, these cases did not make up the majority.

Important caveat: I do not mean to imply that those with mental illness will commit homicide. As the Treatment Advocacy Center’s article notes, additional risk factors like “substance abuse and medication noncompliance” significantly impacted the studies’ results. Further, mental illness cases only accounted for a small percentage of all homicides. I still don’t understand the majority of cases, and that’s ok. We live in a broken world. Our selfish, sinful nature leads us to do all sorts of unhelpful things. After all, gossip and gluttony steal joy just like all the other sins.

How Do We Respond?

While statistics can lead to fear, I would rather they lead to compassion. Those struggling with severe mental illness battle a much greater darkness than most of us ever have to face. Medication can be complicated. Everyone reacts differently. While some may quickly find relief through medication, others may have to trial-and-error for months or years to get the dosage right.

I acknowledge that my instinct is to react in fear. I avoid people whose erratic actions make me uncomfortable; sometimes that is the safest option. However, God created each human being. He loves each one far more perfectly and beautifully than we can imagine. With God’s help, let’s grow our compassion for our fellow human beings. Let’s remember that regardless of anything we ever do, Jesus died for each one of us. He wants to see us flourish and create beauty despite our struggles.

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Gideon and the Stumbling Block

We saw last week that God used Gideon’s action in the face of fear to overcome incredible odds. God whittled Gideon’s army down to 300 men. The men made a lot of noise around the invaders’ camp, and the invaders fought each other in fear. Now, in Judges 8, Gideon and his men have defeated the leaders of the Midianites. Israel has reconvened to divide the spoils. Here, we find what will distract the Israelites from God again in the story of Gideon and the stumbling block.

The Passage

The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us – you, your son and your grandson – because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.”

But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you.” And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.)

They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each of them threw a ring from his plunder onto it. The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.

Judges 8:22-27 NIV

Gideon and the Stumbling Block

What is an ephod, and how did it become a stumbling block? This website shows many commentaries’ research and opinions on what Judges 8:27 means. In Exodus 28, we read God’s instructions for the priests’ clothing. The ephod made up part of the High Priest’s garments, and they carried the stones used for divination. Thus, the main ephod was a sacred religious piece designed to worship God. It seems that when Gideon created the ephod from the Midianites’ gold, Israel started worshiping that ephod. In other words, they focused on the Israelites’ victory instead of worshiping God Who gave the victory to them.

Beware Your Stumbling Block

Reading the story of Gideon and the stumbling block reminds me of one of my very dear friends going up. He was so shy that on our first day of Kindergarten, he hid under a table. In seventh grade, my friend started seeing a counselor after school. He trotted into our computer class, dropped his backpack, and told his friends, “What’s the worst they can do to me?” It was his new mantra. Rather than fearing getting in trouble, he said, “What’s the worst they can do to me?” If kids told mean jokes, he said, “What’s the worst they can do to me?” It seemed to me that he went from fearing everything to no longer fearing anything.

Gideon shows us the value of bravery. He also shows us the dangers of taking our new mentality too far. Like my friend whose new mantra overrode even reasonable fear, Gideon’s newfound strength in the Lord caused him to make a religious emblem that distracted Israel from God. When we depend on our own strength and healing, we forget that God gives us the elements we need to heal. As a Christian, I believe that without God, our healing won’t stick. We need His holy power to overcome our struggles, and we need His humility to remember that we don’t repel bullets.

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Review: “The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles,” Pt. 1

Just like Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews is “practically perfect in every way.” 10 years after Mary Poppins released, Julie Andrews Edwards published The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. About 35 years after that, an awkward, lanky girl dared to lift her head from the school hallway’s laminate tile for the first time in two years. This book made such a big impact on my perspective that I’m going to spend the next couple of weeks reviewing the “practically perfect” book, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles.

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, “Part One: Challenge”

As I reread the first page of the book, I tried to find any detail that didn’t meet the standards I learned in college. I literally could not find a single thing wrong. Every sentence packed so much detail in a simple, concise package. And the trend continued on the following pages! Dame Julie Andrews Edwards maintained extreme attention to detail and built her theme of imagination in such a seamless, natural way. She recorded patterns of human behavior that most people don’t notice. This quote from chapter one changed my entire perspective (quite literally) in seventh grade.

“Have you noticed how nobody ever looks up?” The man’s voice was suddenly irritable. “Nobody looks at chimneys, or trees against the sky, or the tops of buildings. Everybody just looks down at the pavement or their shoes. The whole world could pass them by and most people wouldn’t notice.”

*Edwards, 11.

Within ten minutes of reading this book for the first time, I decided to try lifting up my head as I walked. My neck felt strange when it wasn’t craned to the ground. I started to see other students in the hallways and noticed that they avoided confrontation like I did. Their eyes darted to avoid the yellers and the fighters. They tried to move without taking up any space. We all had a lot more in common than I realized when I lived solely inside my brain.

Does the Book Discuss Faith?

Surprisingly, yes! The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles does address faith. What’s more, the book addresses faith’s correlation to science in a really fascinating way.

“It is indeed complicated,” answered the professor. “Actually it’s miraculous. And DNA and RNA are the codes to life itself.”

“I always thought life had to do with G.O.D.,” said Lindy in a clear voice.

“Oh, my dear.” The professor laughed and touched her head gently. “I’m sure it does have a lot to do with G.O.D. Believe me, I think about Him a great deal, too. But, however life began – and some scientists say it was by an incredible accident, and some say it was by God’s design – we do have the unique privilege of being on this earth right now, and that’s something we shouldn’t take lightly.”

*Edwards, 30.

Edwards combines faith and science beautifully. She acknowledges that some of her audience believes in God while others may not. For a book that will later address some pretty complex issues of genetic cloning, Edwards acknowledges with reverence God’s power and authority in the act of creation. I literally can’t think of a better way Edwards could have resolved this tension between faith and science. And she does it within the first four chapters of the book!

What’s to Come

As the book continues, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles addresses imagination, genetic cloning, and the need for relationship. Edwards wrote a fantasy book that feels so real, we all want to go to Whangdoodleland with the children. Next week, we’ll enter the part of the book where fantasy mixes with reality.

*Edwards, Julie Andrews. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles New York: Harper Trophy, 1974.

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How to Take Action in Spite of Fear: Lessons from Gideon

Gideon’s fear shows up clearly during his calling. However, Gideon doesn’t stay wallowing in his fear when God stirs him to battle. Instead, Gideon shows us how to take action in spite of fear with God’s help. Let’s look at Judges 7 to see how God multiplies Gideon’s efforts.

The Passage

Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.'”

Judges 7:1-2 NIV

The LORD said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.

Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. During that night the LORD said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp.

Judges 7:7-11 NIV

Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle of the night watch, just after [the Midianites] had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.

When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the LORD caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath.

Judges 7:19-22 NIV

Miracle in an Impossible Circumstance

My favorite part of Judges 7 occurs during God’s battle instructions to Gideon. God knows Gideon fears attacking the Midianites with only 300 men. He knows that Gideon needs a lot of coaching and affirmation in order to take action. Beautifully, God incorporates Gideon’s needs into His plan. He sends Gideon to the Midianite camp, where Gideon and Purah overhear two friends discussing a dream that prophesies Gideon’s victory. Gideon returns to the Israelites full of fire and faith in the Lord. Gideon and the three hundred drive out a swarm of invaders by making a lot of noise. That’s a pretty amazing attack plan, in my opinion.

How to Take Action in Spite of Fear

When I searched “how to take action in spite of fear,” the entire first page filled with links to Bhuddist monks and business coaches. While most had some great points about just doing the thing that scared you, the Christian approach teaches that God provides His power behind the action. Unlike Gideon, very few of us have the express commands of God spoken in our ears. However, Gideon acted in accordance with his faith in God, and God blessed that. As we saw with Saul, taking action outside of God’s pre-existing commands doesn’t wind up in blessing. We can’t just kind-of throw our action His way as we go. In contrast, Gideon shows us to act out of obedience to God. When we do, God multiplies our efforts as only He can.

Now, I get mad every time preachers and Christian leaders say, “Just trust God and you will be fine!” The physical aspects of anxiety are more complex than just trusting God. Instead, I hope we can look at Gideon and see how God works with us through our anxiety and fear. For some, just seeking professional help may be the action you need to take in spite of your fear. There is no shame in that! Based on this passage, God will honor your willingness to fulfill His plan for your life by seeking treatment. God doesn’t stop at seeking treatment, either. Since He sees our hearts, He knows when we seek to act out of faith. He will give us courage to take that next step even when we feel afraid. Just as God didn’t leave Gideon to be destroyed by the Midianites, God will support you when you take that first action in faith.

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Testing God in the Bible: Gideon’s Example

How my cat keeps doing crazy things in the laundry room right before I write about Gideon is beyond me. Today, I put him in kitty jail. He jumped on the washer and into the dryer one too many times while I folded clothes. Like my cat, Gideon ventures into territory he’s really not supposed to go, but God allows it. Let’s finish up Judges 6 and see what Gideon shows us about testing God in the Bible.

The Passage

Now all the Midianites, Amalekites, and other eastern peoples joined forces and crossed over the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel. Then the Spirit of the LORD came on Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him. He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, so that they too went up to meet them.

Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised – look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew – a bowlful of water.

Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.” That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.

Judges 6:33-40 NIV

Commands about Testing God in the Bible

Because the Israelites didn’t trust God to provide for their needs in Exodus, Moses struck a rock to provide water for them at a place he named Massah. Of course, the Israelites, like us, often forgot God’s provision. So, in Deuteronomy 6:16, the Israelites are commanded, “Do not put the LORD your God to the test as you did at Massah.” Jesus then quotes this verse when Satan tests Him in the wilderness. The devil tells Jesus to jump off the roof of the temple and have the angels save Him. Jesus says no (see Matthew 4:7 and Luke 4:12.)

So, the Bible condemns testing God out of disbelief in His power. This would indicate that Gideon’s tests are wrong. However, the Bible also records instances of casting lots to seek God’s will. The process occurs for things as simple as dividing up land to things as complicated as determining whose sin incurred God’s wrath. It seems to me that Gideon’s tests lean toward the casting lots side. He trusts God to do what He says. Gideon just seeks clarity about which path to take.

Kitty Jail and God’s Kindness

When the cat jumped right where I was folding clothes for the fifth time, I put him in kitty jail. By “kitty jail,” I mean a laundry basket with some of his favorite curling ribbon inside. He quite contentedly chewed on the ribbon and reached for my phone through the holes in the side of the basket. As expected, he didn’t like when I turned the dryer on with him sitting on top of it. So, I let him out of kitty jail. It was not my smartest move. As I refilled my detergent dispenser, he jumped on the washer and dipped his paw in the soap. He did not enjoy me chasing him with a wet paper towel to wipe the soap off his paw.

Thankfully, God knows far more about our attitudes and intentions than I know about my cat’s. He knew that Gideon intended to obey. He also knew that Gideon needed to feel God’s support in order to overcome his anxiety. In His kindness, God responded to Gideon’s tests with signs to show Gideon that he understood God correctly. I really don’t understand why God permitted Gideon to do the second fleece test. After all, God had already answered Gideon once. It just proves to me that God sees us in love. When we seek to follow His will, God responds with kindness, even when we follow imperfectly.

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Review: The “Biscuit” Books by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

I loved the Biscuit books way back when I was just starting to read. After reading Biscuit Finds a Friend a billion times, I named my golden retriever Happy Meal toy Biscuit. I took a picture of the Biscuit sketch I drew on my Magna Doodle so I would have it forever. Now that I’m nannying toddlers during the week, I’m so pleased to say that the Biscuit books have kept on coming!

The Charm of the Biscuit Books

Take one look at the cover, and you’ll see why small children instantly fall in love with Biscuit. He’s a fluffy, cuddly, smiling puppy who gets into the funniest little messes! (Well, they were hilarious at 5 years old. Now they’re just really cute.) Biscuit’s owner, whose name I can’t recall learning, sweetly leads Biscuit through all their adventures. Then we meet the precious secondary characters like the duckling in Biscuit Finds a Friend or the friends at “read to a pet day” in Biscuit Loves the Library.

How Do the Books Meld with Faith?

Before we jump into the perspective of faith, we’ll want to remember that the Biscuit books appeal to emergent readers. This audience includes toddlers and young elementary schoolers who are getting the hang of connecting sounds with words on a page. The goal of learning to read means that the storyline must be simple if the kiddos are to follow along. Therefore, the books don’t contain a lot of faith-directed meaning. However, I believe the books still hold value for several reasons.

The Value of the Biscuit Books

The Biscuit books ignite children’s imaginations by immersing them in beautiful illustrations and relatable events. Like Biscuit, the young readers themselves are experiencing the library, the farm, and building friendships for the first time. Biscuit’s sweet adventures put children at ease in what could be intimidating new experiences. Further, I love that the books promote a brave and adventurous spirit, cooperation with others, and joy for the little things. In fact, it probably wouldn’t hurt us adults to dust off these qualities from time to time.