15 March, 2018

Is My Cup a Sippy Cup?

Cross-posted from Fortyfaithful.blogspot.com
In Genesis 40, we find Joseph in prison.  And as the story evolves,
we meet two new characters, the chief cupbearer and
the chief baker.  Both of whom had offended the king of Egypt and he in turn had put them in prison.  This is when they fell under the care of Joseph.  One night each of them had a dream.  They told their dreams to Joseph and he interpreted the dreams.  Joseph told the cupbearer that he would soon be let out of jail.  "But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of prison"  Joseph said. Genesis 40:14   The chief cupbearer; however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. Genesis 40:23

I don't blame the chief cupbearer, we all forget things and people who have influenced our lives.  He wanted to be restored and was eager to regain his duties.  He was a servant to the king and aspired to serve.  According to this story, his specific role was to "put Pharaoh's cup in his hand," and we certainly all want and need our cups in our hands.  Perhaps this was a specific historical occupation of which we're unfamiliar!  But, I daresay the cup of the king was important.  It was so important that a position was created just for the care of this cup.

Interestingly, hundreds of years later, we find Jesus also wanted to discuss the cup of our lives.  And maybe this is our cup for this week of Lent.
Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons [James and John] and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. 
“What is it you want?” he asked.
She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” 
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” 
“We can,” they answered.  Matthew 20:20-22
What does this mean?  What is the implication of Jesus' question, "can you drink the cup I am going to drink?"  In the disciples zealousness they quickly answered, YES.  But...how easy is it to drink the same cup Jesus drank?

Several years ago, Henri Nouwen wrote a beautiful book entitled, Can you Drink the Cup?   Nouwen wrote that the cup that Jesus speaks about is a symbol of life, filled with sorrows and joys that we can hold, lift, and drink as a blessing and a way to salvation.  "Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?" Jesus asks us.   It is the question that will have a different meaning every day of our lives.  Can we embrace fully the sorrows and joys that come to us day after day?  At one moment it might seem so easy to drink the cup, and we give a quick yes to Jesus' question.  Shortly afterwards everything might look and feel quite different, and our whole being might cry out, "No, never!"  We have to let the yes and the no both speak in us so that we can come to know ever more deeply the enormous challenge of Jesus' question. Henri Nouwen, Can you Drink the Cup?

This question from the mother of James and John was one of hope.  She hoped her sons would achieve success which is the heart of every mom.  She didn't realize the full extent of her request.  But the more James, John and you and me learn about Jesus, we learn about being a servant instead of a master.  We learn to love when we'd like to hate.  We learn to seek last place instead of first place.  We learn that drinking His cup is hard.  We learn that being the cupbearer is not important for our own accomplishments but is only important in service to the King.

Years ago, we gathered in Rockport, Texas for a couples weekend and retreat.  The book we studied that weekend was, Can you Drink the Cup? by Nouwen.  We had fun all weekend and had some good talks about our cups.  The final question that Sunday was, "What type of cup do you hold in your life?"

Is it an old cup filled with old, old ways and memories?  Is a cup of newness as you seek all the new ways of our God?  Is it a chipped cup?  Is your cup cracked?  Is it missing a handle?  Is your cup overflowing to others in your life?  Is your cup faded as your life journey has been oh, so long?  We went around the small circle of ten sharing our answers.  And then it was a father's turn to speak.  He and his wife had the youngest children in the group.  This man of God was quiet and reserved most of his comments.  But on this day his answer rattled me...he said, "my cup is a sippy cup.  I can only dare to take small sips as a really big drink would scare me.  And I'm not sure I'm ready for what that would mean."

I agree, my friend.  Often times, I prefer to not even take a drink or at the very most to use a sippy cup.  It's safe.  But He offers us so much more...do we dare to drink?

What type of cup are you holding in your life?

04 March, 2018

Do you love me too?

Crossposted from forth faithful.blogspot.com
 The morning was sunny.  It was early and time for coffee.  The mom lazily walked to the kitchen to begin the breakfast process for her family and guests.  In just a few minutes, her husband joined her.  They bantered softly as to not wake the house.  Soon thereafter, footfalls were heard and their son joined them in the coffee quest.  This son, this broken, recovered son of addiction.  The mom still found herself amazed at his recovery and early morning risings.  She also held secret questions about how it all happened, how it all went wrong for him, how his childhood could have been better.  She had new questions too, but they were far too painful to ask so she simply chose to love.  But on this day, God had other plans.  In the quiet of the kitchen, as the son was casually conversing he asked the parents, "I've been wondering about something.  Is there any thing you'd like to ask me?  Is there any issue you've wanted to share?"  The mom suddenly felt the pull of tears and a lump in her throat.  She suddenly realized that the deep question must now be asked.  With stumbling words and multiple pauses, she asked, "Through all your life, with your struggles, even as a little boy, did you ever feel we loved your sister the most?  Did you ever feel we loved her more than you?"  Tears streamed down her face and her son looked directly into her eyes.

We find Joseph in a similar scene.  
So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.
“Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”
When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.
So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.
As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood?  Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.
The brother's heart's hurt with the pain of not being loved the most, the best, or equally.  In this reading we watch as the brother's hurt hearts take over their brains and actions.  We experience the plotting, the passive-aggressive natures, the jealousy, their desire to be loved ultimately by their father.  And in this reading, I find myself and I find humankind.  For each us is striving to be seen, be heard, be appreciated, be loved.  Aren't we?  

And, I see Jesus.  For He too had a similar journey.  He was sharing Truth as the Son of God.  People didn't want to hear His message.  It made the Pharisees insecure...for if Jesus was the ultimate authority, who were they?  The people would see through their frailty and therefore, their insecurities began to grow.  And they continued to grow, as did fear.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of not being recognized.  And those emotions festered.  And suddenly, a plot began.  Questions were pondered... how can we trip up this Teacher? How can we prove we're of value?  They decided to lock him up (similar to Joseph's cistern) and teach him a lesson.  They did.  But it was Jesus who taught the final lesson.

Why are we so afraid?  Why are we so fearful?  Why are we jealous of other's success?  Why do we want what others have?  Do we not know that we are loved completely too!  Joseph's brothers were so focused on themselves, as were the Pharisees, that they turned inward and listened to their damaged emotions.  And acted on their damaged, hurt hearts and minds.  

In this Lent season of inward examination, we ask, Lord, do you love me too?  Look directly into His eyes, He's given His ultimate answer.  And it's, yes, yes and yes.  Now, He's asking me...and you, "Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me? (John 21).  Lent is certainly a time for inward exploration but it must always lead to outward action.  Outward action in love for only Him.  Let's stop doubting and questioning His love for us and take what He has given us into our work, schools, coffee shops, our very lives.

"Through all your life, with your struggles, even as a little boy, did you ever feel we loved your sister the most?  Did you ever feel we loved her more than you?"  Tears streamed down her face and her son looked directly into her eyes. "No, mama.  Not one time did I ever feel that, never.  I always knew you loved me completely."

17 February, 2018



Just as we set aside time to prepare for Christmas Day, it makes sense to set aside time to prepare for Easter....hello, Lent.  Think of all the Christmas preparations for the birth of Jesus; during these days we are preparing for the end of His early life and the birth of His eternal life.  These forty days give us time to shop our hearts and minds, ponder our lists with our names at the top, and choose the perfect gift for Him on Easter morning.  That gift is each of us...a more extensive us.  More of our minds and our hearts and our hands and feet.  How do we get there?  How do we explore deeply in order to offer ourselves more fully?  I honestly don't know.  But I believe the Old Testament story of Joseph will help teach us.

Many scholars believe that the life of Joseph closely connects with Jesus' life story.  In fact, it is practically impossible to examine Joseph's life and not see the similarities in the life of Jesus.  So who is Joseph?
     Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.
     Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
     Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”
     His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. Genesis 37:2-8
We learn a few facts pretty quickly:
•Joseph is a member of a very large family
•He is born into a mixed family, step-brothers and step-sisters probably
•His father had a favorite - him!
•He and his brothers did not get along very well - there was jealousy and anger
•Joseph had dreams...I believe big dreams

Ironically, through this story we can immediately recognize Jesus' family life too.  He was a member of a large family, he had brothers and sisters (Mark 6:3).  He was the favorite - the very favorite of his Father.  And the people He came to meet and teach, argued with him, accused Him, and certainly didn't accept Him.  Yet, Jesus had a dream, a vision, a hope.

This life template gives me encouragement.  I see similarities for my own journey.  Do you?  Think about it!  We all began our lives with people who were imperfect, who loved or didn't love on any given day.  Families are complicated, messy, emotional and mark our beginning.  These people loved us as best they knew how.  Some of us received extravagant family love, others received a broken, shallow type family unit.  All of us lived in complicated family units where there were 'favorites' and there was jealousy and anger.  But, there was laughter and love in abundance, too.  There were nicknames and special hugs.  There were some slammed doors and forgotten birthdays as well.  In my house, there was also dreaded silence.  Sometimes it was better than yelling.  It was family.  And it was beautiful.  And dreams were planted and dreams grew.  Because those dreams were planted by a bigger Father.

This Joseph/Jesus story tells me that we all start in the same condition.  We all start with 'F-A-V-O-R-I-T-E' engraved inside us.  And we all face difficult times.  But it's the gift and dream inside that we need to find.  It's that special word planted deeply that whispers and nudges.  This Lent of our lives is the chance to focus on the inside.  And let the dream come alive and breathe and claim us.

14 January, 2018

Repost: Backward Resolutions

This is a post from 2015 that a friend brought to my attention.  Thought you might enjoy.

IS it too late for New Years resolutions? Many of us make our lists Lose ten pounds.  Exercise every day.  Stay within my personal budget and grow my savings account.  Visit my family more consistently.  I 'will do this', I 'will do that'...But do we ever see them through? I don't or I haven't!  We promise ourselves that this is THE year to see them through.

Well, I am rebelling.  I'm much better in controlling what I will NOT do...because I like to be in control...(don't judge me, you do too).  So this year I refuse to make such a list.

Instead I am making a Backward Resolution list, i.e. these are the goals of what I am NOT going to do.
And....I have listed these in reverse order (thank you David Letterman):

10.  I am not going to feel guilty for sleeping late on Saturday mornings.
9.  I am not going to walk 10,000 steps every day (for that put me in a boot for the last six weeks!)
8.  I am not going to overreact when traffic piles up.
7.  I am not going to ignore my own pain or the pain in my family.
6.  I am not going to be afraid of loving extravagantly.
5.  I am not going to waste my earth days by ignoring the needs all around me.
4.  I am not going to ignore the call of God on my life to take His message to those around me.
3.  I am not going to 'go to church because it's Sunday and I have to or what would people think?'
2.  I am not going to rest in my own strength.
1.  I am not going to put my hope and trust in my self, my husband or my children, my friends or ANY earthly gift.
(1. I originally wrote: I am not going to deny my Lord and Savior but knew that before morning dawns I will have denied him three times or more.  But this remains my hearts desire.)

So in this year, I ask myself,
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:35, 37-39

23 December, 2017

Why in the World was Jesus born?

Cross-posted from Adventagain.blogspot.com
For many years, I've had the privilege to work with visiting scholars from other countries.  When these students visit our country, we try to give them a taste of our culture and traditions.  This certainly included Christmas festivities, decorations and gifting.  I've been asked many, many questions about our traditions, here is a sampling:
"Ms. Kathy, why do people hang round circles of tree branches on their walls and doors?"
"Why do most people bring trees into their home?  What does this mean?"
"I have a question, Ms. Kathy.  How does Santa Claus fit into Jesus being born"?

Needless to say, I've had to relearn why we do indeed place wreaths on our doors and decorate Christmas trees!!  Do you know the heritage of those traditions?  And the Santa/Jesus question...imagine a foreigner's confusion as they see both in our advertising and festivals.  Can you explain the commonality or the linkage?

I think these questions are good and really healthy for us.  Why indeed do we 'do' these things? How have I personally combined Santa and Jesus into my family celebration?  But the real question for us today...why in the world was Jesus born?

So, from Chinese Bible study come a few answers:

•Jesus HAD to be born…How else could we meet God face-to-face?
God’s great plan for mankind included the necessity of a savior, a redeemer of mankind.

•To save us from ourselves and a certain end...death.

•To show us God,,,God’s character, His love, His temperament, His goodness

•To come meet you and me…

•To show how much He loves you and me...I mean for goodness sakes, He left heaven for us!!

•To walk on the earth like we do, living a REAL life full of joy, anger, pain, friendship, just life!

•To show us how to reach God….that invisible Force that I sense when I look at a sunrise or see a beach or see the miracle of a newborn baby, or see sparkly eyes when I meet a friend I love.  Jesus is the ONE who is between me and this God force.

•Jesus was born...to teach me that God’s spirit can live in me…

That is why Jesus was born…to show us God.  And Jesus himself explains this to us in John.
My prayer is not for them alone [the disciples]. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.    John 17:20-23
Jesus' words...I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.  Jesus is born to give us His glory.  What a gift this Christmas!  Do we dare unwrap it and make it our own?  Do you dare live in His JOY and Glory today?  Isn't that what His very words say we receive when we believe?

So, how do you answer?  Why was Jesus born?  What do you celebrate this Christmas Eve?

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