17 February, 2018

F-A-V-O-R-I-T-E

CROSS-POSTED FROM THE LENT BLOG:
FORTYFAITHFUL.BLOGSPOT.COM

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?

16 December, 2017

Shepherds Go

Cross-post from Adventagain.blogspot.com
First Responders are an amazing group of people. They are those who run toward the danger instead of away from the danger.  They are the ones risking their lives to save or help total strangers.  They are the ones problem-solving as they run into unknown situations.  They are the ones willing to go in and survey the situation, to help start the rescue.  This group is highly trained certainly but most of all, they are first, willing.

And so were the shepherds.  Think about this group of individuals, this occupation.  Luke 2 states that they were, "living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night".  This had to be a most difficult existence as they were away from family, uncomfortable, lonely and each night was oh, so dark.  We all know danger comes at night as does fear.

Then, one night after years and years of predictable darkness, there came a bright light in the sky like never before seen.  They must have been absolutely terrified.  One angel shining in God's glory who also spoke words that they understood.  Then many, many angels with many voices also praising God.  And then...darkness.  Silence.

These men had to be in shock, stunned, amazed, and scared to death.  They were just humans like you and me, going to work and certainly not anticipating this type of night after so many others of darkness and void.
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste...Luke 2:9-16a

Think of how dark it must have become after the light from the angels dissipated.  The darkness had to feel ten-times darker after experiencing such a light.  But unlike me, who would have run to the nearest house and hidden or run to my family where I knew I would be safe, these men ran (with haste) to Bethlehem.  What drove them to go?  They literally walked-off their jobs.  Were they too astounded NOT to go?  It takes willingness and courage to go into a situation where you don't know the outcome.  It takes an ability to recognize our lack of knowledge and our need to know.  It's a 'first responder' type of mentality.

One day, a few years back, we were in a dark, dark place when our young son, Nick, became willing and filled with courage to go toward a new beginning.  He made the choice to seek recovery.  As we drove to Nashville, Nick was on the phone with several different men.  Men of integrity who had tried to intervene and help him.  He held nothing back and told his story of brokenness and over and over his tears would flow.  His spirit was broken but he was willing to find healing.  Nick was admitted and with a quick goodbye, the door closed and he was gone.  We would not see him or speak to him for a while.  Phone privileges and visitation would come in time.  We could write letters, as could he, which to my knowledge he had never done in his life.  We stood there alone with each other and were completely numb.  I’m certain we were in shock.  I absolutely have no memory of our four-hour drive home.  The dark, dark night can freeze us in place but first responders, shepherds, and our brave children often lead us to willingness, to courage, to seek.


We know from the Luke story, that the shepherds were willing to go.  They arrived and they saw Him.  They were willing to hear and learn and believe.  Then, they returned to their normal world and they told people what had happened to them and "what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them".  What a story!  What a real-life challenge!

Run with haste, run and see with your own eyes.  Let's choose to go.  Let's choose to run even though we may be afraid.  Let's choose to see how God will meet us and then turn us around to go tell others.  Isn't that the story of Christmas and the shepherds?

One night, one angel appeared, one message, one decision, one risk to go, one sighting, one telling, one amazed, one belief.  One.  One.  One.



09 December, 2017

Joseph: Flip the Script

Cross-posted from Adventagain.blogspot.com
Ok, let's get honest...yes, the holidays are advertised as wonderful, magical, full of song, laughter and love.  We imagine seeing people singing in the streets, dancing and oh, so joyful...the 'Hallmark' Christmas in our minds.  However, honestly, our holiday season is probably not like that at all!!  We're stressed, the commercialism is overdone, the money is running out, the kids wish lists keep growing and changing, we have to be with family that we really don't even like!  On top of that we are burdened by wildfires out of control, a world in crisis, politics, family loss and grief.  This Christmas season may not be at all what we expected or wanted.  And it's scary.

And so, it was true for Joseph, Mary's fiancé.  The news Mary delivered to him was in no way what he expected, needed or wanted.  Certainly, the news leveled him, how could it not have?  Many of us may have received similar news in our lifetime.  One diagnosis, one accident, one phone call, one moment of news and our world crumbles.  Fear enters.
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”...When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. Matthew 1:18-20, 24 
We learn from the angel that spoke to Joseph, "do not be afraid".  We learned from the shepherds watching flocks in the field, "do not be afraid", the angels exclaimed.  We learn not to fear from Mary's story too: the angel greeted her with, "do not be afraid."

God knows and acknowledges our condition, we are fearful people, clearly.  And in the world today there are many opportunities for us to be afraid.  But in all these stories we learn that God shows up in our weakness.  We learn that we are never alone.  We learn God provides a way and a direction.  But yet...fear persists.  Joseph and Mary still had to face the home folks.  They still had to face family and coworkers.  Life as they knew it had been altered and would never be the same.

Joseph had to keep going.  He had to believe what he dreamed and heard from the angel of the Lord.  And most interesting to me, Joseph had never met Jesus.  He hadn't been born!  He hadn't seen the work of Jesus, he hadn't received a Bible and read the stories of Jesus.  Yet...he believed and chose to live fear-free.

We, on the other hand, have heard of Jesus and have read about his entire life.  We've seen the words in red in our Bibles!  He speaks directly to us.  Yet, we experience fear this Christmas holiday.  We may fear finances, we may fear marriage failure, we may fear joblessness, we may fear situations we cannot even acknowledge.  What are we to do?  How can we experience the JOY of Christmas amidst the fear in the world?

Maybe, we remind ourselves of who Jesus is or we remind ourselves of what we believe about Him.  Who is Jesus to you?  How do you define Him?  In your own definition, can fear stand up to those traits you've thought about?  If He is truly God and we truly believe that He is divine...fear can never, never co-exist with Him.  For surely a God of the universe will always defeat our human fear...that's a God trait!

Do we dare take Jesus at His word?  In John 17, He gives us the answer just like He gave Joseph.
"And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me." John 17:22-23

The Glory God gave Jesus, Jesus then gave to those who believe.  Do you understand that significance?  The Glory of God has been given to us.  Maybe we choose, like Joseph, to believe.  Let us in this day, choose the JOY He alone has provided us.  He provided it by being born. He left heaven to come get us, He left heaven to come meet us, He left heaven to show us how to live and be fulfilled and whole and to not be afraid.  Let's trust in who He is and Who comes for us.

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