Monday, March 31, 2014
I was sitting here this morning wistfully looking at the photo, of a family member, that I had fallen in love with many years ago. Due to the distance between her family and I over the years, I didn’t get to meet her until she was in her twenties. But I had loved the picture so much that her grandmother had it enlarged to 8x10 and framed; then gave it to me for Christmas. I have cherished it ever since and it is the only family picture that I display on the bookcase where it sits. I can see it from my easy chair and I love looking at it. Why do I love it so?
Well, for one reason, because it is nearly the only picture I had of anyone in that family and I love that family. But the stronger reason is that it is, to me, a beautiful story of compromise. That is what holds my heart so tight.
Right now, our country is suffering from failure to compromise because the very idea of compromise is conceived as evil: That is unless the one who does the “compromising” is the other guy. And we are seeing some very serious results of failure to compromise and failure to stand our ground.
But this is not about politics and the national problems, this is about us.
Yesterday our sermon was on Judges 19. We have been going through the book of Judges where “All men did what was right in their own eyes” and over an over again did evil in the eyes of God. But chapter 19 gets down to the nitty-gritty and let’s out all stops. Compromise leads to sin; grievous sin. Right in the middle of this chapter, we find a man comprising with evil: I will not stand for this action, but hey, go ahead with this other evil: that will be fine.
Compromise with evil brings evil. Compromise that avoids direction from the Word of God, leads to evil and the pain of the results of that evil. Compromise can be a very ill-fated idea.
But the picture that I am seeing is of a toddler, who was living with her missionary parents in Thailand, and of a small dog who is her buddy. According to Grandma, this little one has been told that she can not go outside (at least right now) and the dog is not allowed to come in.
Their door is a great wooden French style door. The baby has seated herself on the line of demarcation where inside and outside meet. This, of course, opens the door just a little. The pup has stuck his head in the door just enough for his head, but not his body, to be inside the door. They had found a way to obey, but still be together.
I have no idea what proceeded thereafter, but this is just too cute to resist, so Mom took a picture. How she saw it, I do not know. But how I see it is as a picture of the kind of compromise we need in our relationships with those we love and care about.
Sometimes we have to agree to disagree.
Sometimes we have to work out what keeps us together and what may tears us apart. We need to decide how far to push our own agenda, if at all.
I am not suggesting that any compromise needs to be made with sin. What I am suggesting is that we need to let each other be who we are and find ways that we can keep the door open between us. Closed doors lead to disaster in any relationship. Some doors need to be cracked open at all times in order to allow the relationship to grow closer, rather than become impossibly tangled in strife rather than love.
Sometimes we even need to forgive one another for slights and slurs that may be intended, but also may have been misunderstood. And sometimes we just need to forgive one another for the other not being us. “Why can’t women be more like men” is the pleading lyric about one silly men/women relationship problem.
There are many hard things that come up in relationships, however close or distant they may be. I could make a list, but I won’t because we know what they are in our relationships. We know where the sore spots are. We know what we hold in our hearts about these failures of others to do exactly what we expect of them. We know in our hearts what they are like; and, if they are not trying to make us into sinful people, then we need to find a way to accept them as they are and love them, keeping the door open for communication and trust.
May we all take a look around us and see who we are holding to a standard made up in our own minds, but not by God. May we all seek to keep the doors open to friends and family and even strangers so that they may see, and seek, God’s great love for them.
I know I have a lot of work to do on this. How about you? God bless you.
What do you think?
Saturday, March 22, 2014
This morning while I was reading in a Missions update magazine, I was struck with two delightful thoughts on the same subject – Planning.
The first part of the magazine starts with missionary testimonies and I love reading that part. These are little snippets of life on the field, but they also include the introductory capsule of how they met, how they schooled and how they were set in motion toward the field in which they are now serving. I was delighted to read that two of them in particular wrote of having plans that God changed.
One was a simple, one day affair where two women planned a day of refreshment, going up to town and having some lunch and fellowship together. The writer described the trip as a climb up the mountain over bumpy roads in an old klunker. They arrived in good shape, but as they started toward the eatery, a man approached them with what turned out to be a very serious need.
At first they thought it was a scam, but they realized that this man was very serious and in serious need of help with his diabetes. They were then able to take him to the hospital (rather than just give him money for the insulin) and he was soon stabilized there. Then, when they parted ways, they gave him what they had in money so that he could buy more insulin and food because he was a long way from home and a long way from his destination. He would not make it without those two things. (He had been robbed.)
The writer ends with this:
Each and every day I’ve got my to-do list ready, but sometimes the Lord has something else in mind. Those changes turn out to be the biggest blessings.
What I came away with is that we should plan, yes, but we should also be prepared for God to have something else in mind. If those women did not plan to go for lunch and a time of refreshment together, they would not have been there for that man in his time of need.
It was definitely the right thing to do to plan going to lunch. The fact that they didn’t get to lunch was of no matter. They needed to be in that particular parking lot at that particular time for God to use them to help this man.
How often do we get annoyed for the rest of the day because our plans for the day go skewed somewhere along the way? How often do we bemoan a change of our chosen direction and purpose which seem to be stolen from us by someone or something else? Good questions? I think so.
But - What about an even bigger change of plans? What about planning for a lifetime to reach a certain goal of service or career and being sideswiped or even suddenly inspired to change it all?
We see that happening day after day after day all around us.
But what if we feel called to do a very specific service for God, marry someone who sees the same plan, and train together for several years to get to that position? What if we get there and the plan takes a sharp turn left or right? Can we handle that?
One missionary family I know had a severe turning when they got to the mission field. Now they are seeking to find what is next, after a year of healing from the physical, mental, and spiritual pains of that change. They are still looking to serve God in the field somewhere. They are just not sure yet where or with which Board. But they are ready to find the path again.
In this magazine, there was another story of change:
These missionaries met in school and both felt led to be in aviation ministries. They schooled and trained for that mission work. But during their first term, they saw a greater need for their services and they willingly changed their direction to building a camp ministry where they had been serving.
Their second term, they took that on full time and have prospered in it as a full campsite has been built; and they started and built a new church in the area, which then they expanded into outlying areas with two church plants.
This was not their vision. This was God’s vision! Had they not planned to be in aviation ministry in this place, they would never have seen the need for a camp and a church, plus church planting ministry. They did not in any way choose the wrong ministry. God led them all the way into what happened. He knows each and every purpose for the path He leads us on.
So they closed with this advice:
Go into missions (or any service) with longevity in mind…. Stay as long as the Lord allows, but start with a ‘growing old on the field’ attitude.
This was a delightful experience for me, as I read these testimonies. I just wanted to share these two with you, plus two more ending thoughts:
LET GOD LEAD YOU.
And - While leadership styles differ… God has uniquely prepared us all.
May we all confront our fear of letting God have control of our days; and may we all free up our hearts and minds to accept whatever comes our way, with gratitude to God for His Great Love! In Jesus Name, Amen.
Friday, March 7, 2014
Recently a blogger that I follow, and who is quite blunt in his observations of life, was asked to critique another man’s blog. The man stated that he would be glad for any criticism that might come from that. He definitely was not. The words he hurled back cannot be repeated here. The review was quite negative, to say the least. The following portion of that review struck me boldly. Hmmm… I thought he just might be talking to me. So as I set out to start writing again, I decided to take his advice to heart:
2) The content isn’t very good. I read a few of your posts. For the most part, I agree with your points, but you didn’t communicate them in a way that provoked me, entertained me, enlightened me, or educated me. If you can’t do any of those things, I’m not going to be inclined to return to your blog. It’s not enough to be right – you have to be engaging. And, as they say in the radio industry, never be boring. In terms of driving traffic and earning money, boring is the worst thing you can be. Boring is death. Never be boring. Be provocative, be entertaining, be enlightening, be educational; never boring. Unfortunately, right now, you’re boring.
So be warned: I am going to try to not be boring.
Some people have had conniption fits in the past over my voicing my opinion that Joseph was a brat. “NO!” they say. “Joseph was sweet and wise and wonderful.” And, eventually, he was that. But before he was tossed into that pit, he was a bratty button pusher; one who took full advantage of being the favorite son. That is, the son of Rachel, who was well known to be the favorite wife, but was barren for years. When she finally gave birth to Joseph, they both spoiled him half to death in their thankfulness for his birth. Ah, Joseph was a spoiled brat, not just a common brat.
What brings me to this subject once again is a new Bible Study I am doing on perseverance which begins with the story of Joseph. There is a quote there with which I disagree strongly, though not entirely. The study author says,
In his book, I Really Want to Change, James MacDonald points out that many people today believe they are what they are because of their past. They believe they cannot change until they have dug up the past and spilled their guts about it. MacDonald says that the Biblical message is the reverse, that is, the key to changing is to forget.
MacDonald suggests that if any need(ed) counseling because of (a) painful past, Joseph did.” This guy was coddled by his father, pampered as the youngest and ridiculed and ultimately rejected by his brothers.”
Basically this is based on Philippians 3:13,14 where Paul says that he moves on to the future while forgetting the past. But we have evidence that Paul did not forget his past: He put it in its proper place. He “got over it” and did not dwell in it because he was counseled by God, Himself, about being forgiven and forgiving as He met with God for three years preparing for his ministry. He did not carry it as a burden or baggage; but he did not "forget" it and we think of "forgetting." He used it.
I believe that Joseph was also counseled – by God – in his trip to Egypt. He went into the pit a brat, but he came into Egypt with a whole new attitude and a strong trust in the God who was with him and the God he was with.
I do believe that we must not live in the past. But I also believe that we must deal with it and how it controls us before we can move on. It was three years after entering recovery and spending hours and hours in God’s Word, before I felt that my heart and mind where ready to move forward and leave the past where it belonged: in the past.
But I have not forgotten my past. In fact I use it frequently here in my blog. I just don’t live there anymore. And I have the ability to remember without emotion, while keeping my emotional state in the present. That is, I believe, the key to moving forward..
Let’s admit right up front that Joseph came from a pretty dysfunctional family. One disfavored wife and two concubines gave birth to the first ten sons (and several daughters.)You might say that they were born of sex, not of love. Jacob loved Rachel beyond comprehension and waited and waited for their lovemaking to produce a child. Meanwhile he dutifully had sex with his other wife, Leah, and with the concubines that she and Rachel gave to him to increase their own “ownership” of children. With ten sons and who knows how many daughters, things were not often on an even kneel.
Then, along came Joseph and all bets were off. The brothers (and possibly the sisters?) united in their hatred of this favored son. How dare he take all of their father’s attention? How dare he poke at them over and over again about how much his father loved him more than them? How dare he even move up to claiming that they would all be bowing to him in the end? How dare he?
Ah…. But he did. He did remind them every chance he got. He did push their buttons and show off his favoritism over and over. And then he had the gall to say that someday they would bow down to him! How dare he do that? He dared because he knew he could get away with it. He was born a sinner just like everyone else. And it showed.
But God was at work in Joseph’s life at all times and began to be knowledgeably with Joseph daily during the trip to Egypt and through all that happened there.
May we be bold enough to look at our past, deal with it, and then get moving forward, using it to make us stronger in our faith while not staying in the past. Moving on from our past is absolutely necessary; even if nothing we would call drama ever happened there.
Some people find it difficult to move on because they feel some kind loss that their lives did not have drama. They, too, must move on and make a life beyond their past which includes memories of pleasant things. But, trying to live your life today the same way your family lived it in the past can be just as crippling, if you make that your goal. Use it, don’t lose it, but don’t try to live it over again. That was then, and this is now.
God bless you all. Please let me know if you agree, disagree, want to spit in my face or want to hug me. I would love to have conversations with you. Especially let me know if you find all of this boring - and why. : )