Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sibling Rivalry

Today, Matt Sanders, our Family pastor at Journey Christian Church, began a series about the family. The series is called "Picture Perfect." Todays sermon was thought provoking. It took us through the family dynamics of Jacob's 12 sons.

When reading or studying scripture I like to find the place where my life intersects with God's word. The story of Joseph has always given me some insight into God, His plan, and lessons for me. Today was no exception. I heard the Holy Spirit whisper truth to me. That is always a blessing, though not always easy!

When we first see Joseph in the Bible, he is a favored child of Jacob. He gets a special coat to wear and has the attention and the love of his father. I could hear the Holy Spirit tell me that I have always wanted to be a favorite as well. I am the second oldest child of a brood of seven. I was not the coddled youngest, nor the relied upon oldest. I was just second and always wanting to be first in line and in the hearts of my parents. O, yes, they loved me, but the love was different than the love of the firstborn and the last! In my eyes they had a special place. So, I was always wanting something I didn't have or be someone I wasn't.

I wondered if there might be another family for which I would be best suited back then, but Matt confirmed that God has determined our families. He has put us in the place that He wants us. Yes, He even placed me as a second child in a group of seven. He has a plan and He gave me a job. As Matt said: "Do what only You can do." Hm, what is it that only I can do in my family? I'll be giving that more thought. But on to the story.

Because Joseph was favored by his Father, he became hated by his brothers. Joseph didn't help matters. He shared his grand dreams of ruling over the family with his already jealous siblings. Again, I could put myself in the place of Joseph. I had dreams. I wanted to be first, didn't I? I may have even spoken out about my dreams to my sisters and brothers. Today I thought about how my arrogance and pride may have caused those rifts between family members that are so hard to mend. Oh my, The Holy Spirit can step on my toes sometimes!

Josephs brothers made a terrible decision to kill Joseph, but ended up selling him into slavery. They had no idea that their plan was also part of God's plan. God would use their ruthless deed against Joseph to set up the preservation of the entire family. I have been in the sandals of the brothers too. I sometimes wanted to kill or at least do something mean to those who seemed to command the better position in the family. Oh my, I am in need of a Savior!

Circumstances can cause families to fall apart or come back together. It took some doing to make that happen for Jacob's children. A severe drought, Joseph forgiving the wrongs against him, and repentant hearts of the brothers all came together to bring a group of related people back into being a family. I want to be the forgiving person, the repentant sinner who offers kindness to others in my family. I sometimes am that person, but sometimes I am not. I need to work on this.

The lesson learned? God put me into the family I belong to and He expects me to do what only I can do in that family! It may not be a perfect family but by God's grace it is the perfect family for me!

Father God, You designed and ordained the family unit. In wisdom You joined each person to others so that Your plan could be fulfilled for each of them and for the world around them. Forgive us, Father, for not trusting You and for taking out our misunderstandings on those who are closest to us. Thank You for each of our family members, in our earthly families and in our church family. Thank You for giving us grace to forgive and giving us all more than enough chances for making it right when we have hurt each other. Bring us to the place where we are united in love and offer forgiveness and grace to all our brothers and sisters. We have received Your forgiveness and grace through our older brother, Jesus. Let us be more like Him!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Full or Empty Life

I have become attentive to the truth that I can fill up my calendar, yet still live an empty life.

What is the full life? Does it have anything to do with our calendars?

I was introduced to the pregnancy calendar when my daughter announced the soon coming arrival of our first Grandlady. I loved reading everyday’s development of the baby. I prayed specifically every day, for baby’s growth and development,for Mom and the new family.

This past Resurrection Sunday I printed out a new calendar for Grandbaby #6. Every day I look for the growth or changes God is making. I pray for the little person that is being made ready to greet us and the world. I thank God for his/her presence in our family. I give thanks for the favor and grace of being a Grandmother. I enjoy the tremendous joy of life and increase.

We all have come through the days of a pregnancy calendar. Each of us has grown within a womb and made our way to a birth day that began another calendar of counting days, weeks, months and years. Our individual pregnancy calendars are written for us by God, not man. Our purpose and our days of growth are marked on our personal calendar by God’s hand and the ink with which we fill our lives.

God’s hand holds us like the pen and He is poised to write on our calendars, but we have a part to play. We are not just an instrument in His hand. He has given us the privilege of maintaining our lives in surrender to His will. We are the pen. The ink is what we allow to be poured into our lives: friendships, information, experiences, God’s Holy Spirit.

This ink is not only all the outside influences that bombard us, but how we perceive those happenings. The ink is mixed together by our responses. We take in the circumstances of our lives and make them into something positive and usable, or negative and resistant to the full life.

We all know what happens when we cloud the ink with negative thoughts. Our day may become sluggish and thick, not moving smoothly. We even tend to look for the next wrong thing that will happen. It clogs up our minutes and makes our days frustrating. Irritations can make us clam up and become stiff necked to God’s will. We all deal with irritations and our joy is affected by how we perceive those irritations, or how we handle them.

When we search for the gifts within each surrounding moment and give thanks, the ink runs smooth. It does not matter if that moment is complicated or simple. We ourselves make the difference. In each situation we must submit our thinking to the Holy Spirit. We must renew our minds for each circumstance.

We must constantly remind ourselves and each "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." I Thessalonians 5:18 ESV It is this that will keep the ink of our lives flowing smoothly. It is with Thanksgiving that we allow God to make our lives full.

Some of us have lived our days wishing for a different beginning, a different past. Some of us live our present thinking only of the future, of what is next, what will come. We prepare for the next hour or day, or week or year, not thinking of the moment that we inhabit now. Like a kid living only for Christmas to arrive, we can miss the fun of each day leading up to the long awaited day. Living life only looking behind or ahead, leaves our days empty. Our calendars may be full, but our moments are choked by some other time.

Life is lived fully in the everyday moments. We must look carefully in order to see the beauty, grace, and love that surrounds us. Discovering grace right now and choosing to enjoy every moment means we must stop….
take time to name the gift that is given…..
write it down…..
draw it…..
paint it……
play it...
and give thanks for it.

We can run fast toward tomorrow, away from life, trying to get things done for our deadline. It is so easy in our fast paced world to blindly fill our days with doing instead of being.

We can ride along on what we did last week, last year or whenever, and easily coast past life. How often do we as Christians retell our salvation story rather than telling with excitement what God has done for us today? But the here and now moments need to be seen. It needs to be filled with our awareness. There is an abundance of grace, thanksgiving and joy to be experienced in the ordinary moments of our day. There is abundant life in the moment if we only look.

Even in the terrible hard places we can find grace and give thanks and experience joy. It is not easy. Loss, fear, pain, make it difficult to see God, but when we discipline ourselves to make it a priority, we can find God writing a growing, revealing, loving event on the calendar of our life.

So what is a full life? I think a full life is one where we are resting surrendered in God’s hand and pouring out the ink of God’s love that fills us from our gratitude (which is our worship.)

Do our calendars play a part in our full lives? I think so. My New Years practice is to set out goals and plans for my year. I do this in prayer with God. This year He revealed His will for me to live with a blank calendar. I am finding Him to fill it with amazing speed and awesome wonder! No, it has not all been good. There have already been losses and pain. But He has been in every event. I have had to look hard at times, but I have found Him. I have lived fully and abundantly with Him, in Him and for Him in these past 4.5 months.

So what is my plan for the upcoming months? One plan is to visit my Mom in Colorado. I am making the plans but I am holding them loosely in my hands. If God postpones my trip, I choose to believe it will be perfect for my calendar.

As writers we can write about the past or future, but we should write for the present. Whatever we choose to write about it still must be done in the here and now. We can only write from what we know, feel and believe at this present time.

Father, we give You thanks for holding all of our minute and days in Your wise Hands. Forgive us when we mistrust Your goodness in everything. You are I AM. You are here in our present and we do not want to miss You. Open our eyes to see, our ears to hear, our hands to feel the gift of Your presence right now. Teach us to live in Your presence every day. Amen.