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Archive for the tag “Family Time”

Time is Short

Have you ever woken up feeling out of sorts? That’s the way I woke up this morning. I woke up after having a strange dream. I actually woke up in a sweat. I was so angry in the dream. And hurt – heart ache not physically. Someone had done me wrong and I didn’t know how to fix it. And I thought my friends were laughing at me too. It’s hard to shake off a dream like that. Usually I don’t remember dreams, but this one happened at the point of my waking up. It felt like it took forever to get out of that dream. So I woke up feeling sweaty and perplexed. Not a good way to start the morning.

Because of the way I felt this morning, it was hard sitting down for my quiet time; especially controlling my wayward thoughts. There’s restlessness in my spirit. Although my dream caused some of these unsettled emotions, most of this is coming because of my Dad’s health. He’s not doing well and I don’t think God is going to fix it this time at least on this side of heaven.

The dream may have been a way for me to express anger I didn’t know I was holding within me. Am I angry? I didn’t think so but anger comes out through times of grieving. Am I grieving? Probably, but I have been grieving for the last two plus years. My Dad hasn’t been right since he had an infection a couple of January’s ago. Since that time, we haven’t had a decent conversation nor has he been able to do anything he would normally do.

I know this is part of the process of growing older. Parents get sick and die. We children have to deal with it the best we can. It’s the order of life and death – the way it’s supposed to be. When the order is reversed, it’s harder. When loved ones die that are not meant to die before their time, that is the hardest. Either way, death is hard to deal with – even when it’s expected.

Time is short. Scripture tells us we are like grass that withers and dies. No one but God knows how long we are given to live out this life. Our days are already numbered at the first breath. God knows the beginning and the end of us. He has seen it all. Scripture also tells us to count our days – make the most of the time we have. We are not to withhold forgiveness or anger or even love. We are to forgive everyone who has wronged us. We are not supposed to go to bed angry. And we are told to love everyone – even our enemies. Life is short. Conflict with anyone needs to be resolved now.

Some of my thoughts this morning have been about my time with my Mom in her last month of her life. There were many meaningful moments in that time. We shared healing conversations. We had those moments of expressing love, seeking forgiveness and thoughts of the future. It was a sweet time. I am a bit sad that I won’t have this kind of time with my Dad. We express things differently between us. Mom and I had that girl thing going on.

However, the time I have spent with my Dad over the last few years has been sweet as well. Dad loves me – he has shown this throughout my life. I don’t need his assurance of that fact. I know it within my heart. My time with my Dad over the last couple of years has been just sitting with him; being close and that’s enough for us. Everything has been said that needs to be said. This is the time of just resting in that love.

When I sat down this morning for my quiet time, I didn’t have the words to express in a coherent way. I didn’t have to express my heart to Him. He already knows what I am feeling. I sat with Him and read His Word. My earthly Dad gave me an understanding of a good heavenly Father who loves me beyond my imagination. There was nothing my Dad won’t do for me. Dad has taught me many things throughout the years, but I will always be grateful for showing me the heavenly Father as a loving Dad.

The same way a loving father feels toward his children—
that’s but a sample of your tender feelings toward us,
your beloved children, who live in awe of you.
You know all about us, inside and out.
You are mindful that we’re made from dust.
Our days are so few, and our momentary beauty

so swiftly fades away!
Then all of a sudden we’re gone,
like grass clippings blown away in a gust of wind,
taken away to our appointment with death,
leaving nothing to show that we were here.
But Lord, your endless love stretches
from one eternity to the other,
unbroken and unrelenting toward those who fear you
and those who bow facedown in awe before you.
Your faithfulness to keep every gracious promise you’ve made
passes from parents, to children, to grandchildren, and beyond.
You are faithful to all those who follow your ways
and keep your word.

Psalm 103:13-18 (TPT)

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Happy Father’s Day

A couple of weeks ago, the family had our annual beach trip. I believe this was our twenty-sixth trip. Usually, we all stay in one house. This year, we had to expand to two or at least both sides of a duplex. There were eighteen of us gathered together this year. There could have been more family members but a few couldn’t make it for the full week or at all.

My Dad wasn’t there for the first time. It seemed a bit strange not to have the patriarch of the family there. This will most likely be the norm as my father has become more home bound over this past year. Actually, after last year’s beach trip, I really didn’t think he would have lived another year. This past year has been a bit rough for him. However, he seems to be holding his own right now. He will be turning 91 in a couple of weeks so we have been fortunate to have him with us this long even though he’s home bound.

I mentioned this annual trip for a reason. This annual trip lets me observe my nephews in a different way. My nephews have grown into great fathers. I can see their daily interactions with their children. I can see how much they love them. I mean, I know they love their children. But observing them on a daily basis, I see how they love them. Yes, it’s correcting them when siblings hurt each other. Cousins get involved in mishaps as well. There were injuries from splinters and a smashed finger; sickness is always a concern as well. The Dads always stepped up to help out. They were right there with Mom correcting, comforting and loving on their kids.

My nephews are representing God the Father well. I know this because of my own Dad. He represented God the Father to me as I was growing up. I have a good Dad. I have a loving Dad. Over the last few years when I have called my Dad, he reminds me before he hangs up “to remember my Dad loves me a whole, whole bunch.” He hasn’t voiced that reminder in a few months, but I remember him telling me this for last few years and it still warms my heart. I am loved and I feel it. My nephews are giving that to my grand nieces and nephews. They will know they are loved and they will feel loved.

For the “grands” it will not be a big leap of faith to recognize a loving Father in heaven loves them as well. It wasn’t for me either because of what I experienced through my own Dad. Yes, there were doubts when troubles arose and discipline was hashed out. But actually, that is more loving than letting us run out into the ocean to drown. (Forgive the beach analogies.)

Boundaries are given for our protection. Sometimes we see them as confining instead of liberating. We see a line and we want to cross it because we know what’s on the other side has to be better. But if God put a line in the sand, there is a reason we shouldn’t cross it. God loves us more than we can imagine and wants the best for us. The best is not to cross the line. However, if we cross the line, He doesn’t love us any less. There is nothing we could do that would cause Him to love us less. It’s the same regardless of what we do. But His best is to stay in His boundaries. That’s His protection.

When the line has been crossed, the Father will allow it but there are always consequences to rebellion. However, like the Father in the Prodigal Son story (Luke 15), God is always waiting on our return. His arms are open wide for our return. And He never condemns us – that’s Satan’s job. God the Father loves us unconditionally.

I remember Ruth Graham talking about her Dad (Billy Graham) when she had a failure in life. She rode up to her Dad’s house and her Dad was waiting in the driveway. He didn’t condemn her for her actions, but wrapped her in his arms and said “welcome home.” That’s how our Father in Heaven responds to us when we have stepped outside His boundaries. Remember God the Father is our good, good Father. His love will never change. He will never change.

If you have had a good father here on earth – thank God the Father for blessing you and your family in this way. Your Dad has been a good example of a good and loving Father in Heaven. Remember your Father in Heaven loves you a whole, whole bunch! His arms are open wide. You are loved. Know it and feel it. Happy Father’s Day!

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:20b-24

Ho Ho Home for Christmas

No matter what stage of life I’m in, I always want to be home for Christmas. I love being there with my family gathered together. This year is extra special since my nephew and his family is back from the far country where they have been for the last few years. I am grateful that God has brought them home again safe and sound. But I am also grateful for the time they have had serving the Lord in what He has called them to do. As we all gather, my nephews and families, my sisters and husbands, my Dad and his wife – it will be as it should be – together again.

Home has changed throughout the years. When my parents and I moved when I was twelve, home moved with us. However, the dynamics changed because my sisters didn’t move with us. Christmas became a moving event. We either went to my sisters or my sisters came to us. Sometimes it was just for a day, sometimes it was for two or three days; every year was a bit different. But when my parents settled back in my hometown after their retirement, it once again felt like it should be. It was home in every sense of the word.

When my Mom died, it felt like everything got off kilter and we lost our center – our anchor. The first year was a tough year. But we managed through it. As the years have passed, I have come to realize Mom wasn’t the center of our family. Mom was a representation – a physical presence – but what lives on is love. Love is the core of who we are as a family. It wraps us up in a warm embrace. It feels like home.

This morning, I read about Jacob’s dream (found in Genesis 28:10-17) about seeing God and the angels that went to and fro from the place where he rested. God gave Jacob a promise that night. God said that Jacob’s descendants would possess the land where he rested. That land was going to be home to millions. But at that time, Jacob had no one. He was alone and running from his brother. God promised Jacob “Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 28:14). That’s a big promise.

Eventually, Jacob did make it back to that place and settled in that land. Eventually, there would be millions who would come from his family line. God fulfilled His promise to Jacob. But the bigger promise of everyone being blessed because of Jacob’s family was much more defined by a person than the family itself. The blessing came centuries after the promise through Jesus Christ. A baby would be born in Bethlehem to a virgin; an announcement from the angel under a starlit sky to shepherds watching over those sacrificial lambs; God had done this thing He promised to do. The blessing was born – the promised fulfilled.

The author who wrote the devotional this morning (Tim Gustafson, Our Daily Bread, December 21, 2017) had this take away from the Jacob’s dream scripture: “Home is not so much a place on a map, as it is a place to belong. God gives us that place.” Jesus is our home. He is the love that surrounds us and gives us that belonging. He is the center of our family and He is the one who draws us close.

Sometimes we can run away from home, but love will always bring us back. If we are truly Jesus’ followers, no matter how far away we run, He will always search for us and receive us back. He wants us to be home with Him forever. He went to great lengths to assure us of His promise that we will always have a place with Him. “Home is where the heart is” but it’s Jesus at the center of that heart that makes it true in every sense.

Jesus gave us another big promise at the end of His life. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3) Just as the promise for Jacob was fulfilled through Jesus, we can trust that what Jesus promised will also be fulfilled by His word. We have a home being prepared for that day and it’s going to be glorious.

During this Christmas season as my family gathers, I recognize that this is just a small representation of what heaven will be like one day. The larger family will gather in a glorious place filled with love. There will be a feast beyond imagination and a celebration of Jesus that we cannot fathom at this time. This is the idea that helps me celebrate with more enthusiasm every year that passes. One day, I will be home for Christmas and the best gift of all will be the eternal blessing with Jesus.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4 (ESV)

Traditions

Traditions for this day are varied. Thanksgiving holiday in the US has evolved into certain traditions for each family. Food, more food and family, friends, maybe someone significant meeting the family for the first time; but it’s all about tradition. Turkey or ham or both; cranberry sauce, yes, please; and few sides of casseroles, a green bean or two, corn pudding (not so much for me), then of course, dessert (which is “no thank you” for me this year since I didn’t bring my own – I am gluten-free forever more). The focus has been on the food and the relationships around the table for many of us for years. Of course, we give thanks to God above for all He has provided this year and all the blessings that we enjoy on a daily basis. That’s what we’re supposed to do, right?

After all, this isn’t a “religious” holiday in the traditional sense. It’s a holiday that Abraham Lincoln set aside in the middle of the civil war. It was a time of remembrance to give thanks to God. It began centuries ago when the settlers had a successful harvest for the very first time. Can you imagine the struggles they went through to live in such a land – a land where they actually had to prepare the ground, plant the seeds and harvest the crops? Many of them had no idea how to plant and harvest a crop. But they learned, thanks to the native people who helped them survive.

Our nation is far from the traditions laid down by our forefathers. We have evolved from agriculture, industrial to tech savvy people. No longer do we have to struggle to provide food for our families in the traditional sense. We don’t raise our food in a traditional way. We go to super stores and buy prepared food or plastic-wrapped produce shipped from hundreds of miles away. It’s just not the same as if we actually had to get our hands dirty and dig out those sweet potatoes from the earth.

We don’t have to do the hard labor the season before to get the food on the table today. It’s already done for us. We just go and pick out the best ingredients for a home cooked meal – or maybe head to the nearest Golden Corral for the buffet tradition that someone else prepared and will clean up. We just eat, pay and go. We’ve gotten so far away from the original thought of harvest blessing that the holiday has been lost to food, football and shopping. It’s the kickoff to the real holiday – Christmas and Santa Claus and ho, ho, ho to good girls and boys and lots of little toys.

I’m not saying that what we have today is bad. It’s just different from what it was intended so long ago. It has evolved into our own traditions. But hopefully somewhere along the way, we’ll remember to give thanks to God above for all the blessings of our own harvest season – whatever that hardship we are currently going through or have just come out of. God has seen us through many trials and tribulations through the years, and we have survived another year. God is good all the time! Even when it looks bad, and we don’t think we can survive; look how God has brought us through time and again.

Thanksgiving is about remembering. Remembering the past blessings and knowing God will see us through again. He is faithful. He is good. His love endures for us forever. We can look in the Bible to see how God sees His people through the tough times, but we could also see in our own lives those same things. We can look to the past in this country and see how God has seen this country through the dark times to bring us through. God’s love endures forever. He is faithful, and He is true to His nature.

Let’s remember today the ones who came before us so that we can have this time of food, family and football. We have it good. We have been blessed abundantly. Let’s remember it’s not by our hand that we have done these things. We were created as a people (the church), and as a nation to be a blessing to others because of what the Lord has done for us. It’s because of the forefathers’ forethought to put things in place by the hand of God to give us all that we have today. Let’s remember and give thanks. Celebrate with your traditions and remember to be a blessing to others today. Happy Thanksgiving!

Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. Psalm 100:4-5 (NLT)

Peace in Chaos

This week is the annual family beach trip. As I sit here typing away, children are squealing in delight. The television is blaring with cartoons. But I am in my happy place even if it’s chaotic. I love this place with the family under one roof. The youngest is under one year and the oldest – my Dad – closing in at 90 this month. The baby had a hard time adjusting to my Dad; I guess old just doesn’t come across well to the young. Anyway, family is very special to me. I love being with my nephew and their kids. The kids go strong from sun up to sun down; and I think the adults are a bit jealous to have some of that energy!

God blesses the young with the energy and the old with the dreams – the young can accomplish what the old no longer can manage. We pass the baton to the young and let them run the race. We can give guidance and instruction. But they have to pay attention to what we have to say. Many times, the young resent the boundaries we impose on them. Boundaries are there for protection. As the young grow more mature, the boundaries are adjusted to reflect their new maturity.

I think God gives us boundaries as well. We all need those protective boundaries. The ocean only goes so far. God set those boundaries at the beginning. Climate change is a big topic right now, but I believe God already allowed those boundaries to expand and contract through time. We are the ones who have built where we shouldn’t have built.

The beach where we stay is located on an island. At the point of the island, we can see across to the next island. The other island has houses built to the very tip. However, there is a multitude of sandbags lining the shore to protect the houses that were never meant to be there in the first place. The planners didn’t plan for the shifting sands to shift, but it has occurred just as God allowed from the beginning.

God knows the boundaries will be pushed. Culture resents the boundaries He established from the beginning. Those houses will be long gone in a few years; the sands on the island shifts as the tide flows. But we are to be ones who never shifts as the tide of culture shifts. Our foundation is on the rock of Jesus. Our foundation does not move according to culture change. Right now that is unacceptable. We might experience blow back from our narrow view. God, however, is not pleased when culture shifts away from Him.

As the people of God, we are not to judge but to love. God never gave us the right to judge others. That is His right. His Word tells us our right is to love as Jesus loved. It’s easy to love my family. They are a loving bunch. I think God gave us a picture of a family in order to show us where we stand with Him. He wants all of His children to get along. He wants His family to show love to others outside His family. God is all about adoption and would love to graft all the people of the world into His family.

As my family has grown over the years (with new people being grafted in), we have all had to make adjustments. But we live with the same rules when we come together. We have the same understanding. There may be chaos in our midst, but there is a peace that fills the room. Love is the undercurrent that never shifts from our foundations. Yes, there is discipline when someone breaks the rules. There is crying involved at least once a day. But at the end of the day, we know that love always prevails.

So it should be with God’s family. Our foundation is built on love. Chaos may happen all around us, but peace is always part of our DNA through Jesus; and love always prevails at the end of the day. God has allowed what is taking place today, but it’s never His will to let others dictate how we live. When we live by His rules and His boundaries, we are in a happy place. Our lives work better and the peace fills the room of our hearts. This is God’s way. His foundation never shifts, and we can stand on that promise. The beach is a good place to learn how to be in a loving family.

And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen. 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 (NLT)

Finding My MoJo

Time seems to have sped up. Do you feel it? Things are just moving at breakneck speed. I just had another birthday this past weekend, and it’s made me realize how fast time really is fleeing. We all have this great commodity called time. We get to choose how we spend it. We all have the same amount in a day. We just don’t know how many days we have. As a general rule, I don’t like to waste my time. But I do feel like I waste it at times when I just don’t feel productive. The enemy wants to steal our time. He distracts us from being productive.

One of my favorite things to do is play golf. Some would say that is just a waste of time with nothing gained by it. But I do believe it’s a great way to please God through the relationships that we foster as we play. Through the years, my Dad has been my playing partner. We used to play quite often. It was a great way to bond with my Dad. Nowadays, it’s only three or four times a year. Dad quit playing about three or four years ago; it just got to be too hard on him (he is turning 90 this year!). It makes me a little sad that I can no longer play with my Dad. We can’t go back to the way things were; we have to accept the way things are now and enjoy the time we have together.

Relationships bond over great difficulties, and on a golf course there are many. Most players dread the “water holes” where we all have to make it across a water obstacle. Usually, I have no trouble getting over water. I pick a club that will get me to the other side. This past Saturday, I lost a ball to the dreaded water hazard. I had been playing with that ball for a couple of rounds so I was a little sad that I lost it (and it cost me a penalty stroke, which is not good!). The brand stamped on it was MoJo (by Nike). It’s a fun name, isn’t it? My thought when the ball hit the water was “I want my MoJo back!” A funny thing happened on the next hole; I found another ball with MoJo stamped on it. I did get my MoJo back!

Golf may seem to be a waste of time to some, but to me this is how I enjoy my life. God gave me golfing skills and an enjoyment for the game. I believe He’s enjoying me as I play. I think it pleases Him when we use what He’s given us. Just like my Dad who watched me play over the years and bragged to his friends about my abilities (he taught me how to play), I think God gets a kick out of us doing the things we enjoy. And I get a kick out of seeing miracles on the golf course! God does stay right alongside us!

I had a hole in one a few years back. That day was a beautiful with a slight breeze behind my back. When I hit that ball, I knew it was something special. It felt different from all the other times. That was a miracle that can only be attributed to God. The week before I had done something that God had asked of me, and I believe God blessed me with this special moment because of my obedience. God impressed upon me to go visit a friend who was on her death-bed. I didn’t know why I needed to go, but I did what I believed God wanted me to do. It was scary because I had never done anything like that before. How do you say goodbye to a friend like that? See you soon?

About a year later, I had another occasion to say goodbye to someone else. This time it was my Mom. This time, it was much more difficult. It has taken me years to get to a better place. Celebrating my birthday without my Mom still hurts a little. Since my Mom’s death, my life hasn’t been the same. I lost something with her death. I think I lost my MoJo. MoJo is described as a magic charm. I think of it as our vital force, something within us that motivates us to do better things. We all have to find a new normal after someone’s death. Time moves on and so do we.

Our passed loved ones would not want us living in the past with the way things were. They would want us to have a wonderful life doing the things we love and enjoying every minute we are given. Time is precious and we should be using it wisely. We will never know when God will call us home. This is our time to get ready, to be fruitful and enjoy what God has given us to enjoy. It’s time to find our MoJo and do better things. This is better than finding a golf ball. This is finding our stride on God’s path. He has promised to give us an abundant life. It’s time we all find our MoJo and live life to the full!

A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. John 10:10 (MSG)

There’s a Difference

I have been told that I am different. My tastes are unique. After being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease eleven years ago, I eat differently than most people. The first Easter after my change to a healthier lifestyle was the first time I experienced the reality that I was totally different. My Mom was still alive and well at that point. The family was together as was the tradition for holidays. As usual, Mom fixed everyone’s favorite food, except I couldn’t eat any of it.

Mom forgot that I could no longer eat like the rest of the family. I had to have a different menu. Not because I wanted to be different, but because I had chosen to treat my disease with a food-based approach and not a medical prescription approach. My Mom didn’t get it. My family didn’t get it. And on that Easter Sunday, I had to come to terms with hard reality of being different.

I don’t think many people really like to be different, especially young people. We like our friends to be similar to us. Even our church life has the same mentality. We want to be like our neighbors – nice car, nice house, perfect lifestyle with perfect kids. And sometimes that comes with a hefty price tag. We go into debt to finance our desires. I heard Dave Ramsey say recently on a show that we need to be different. Normal is to be in debt. Different is to have a healthy bank account without the burden of debt. The Bible tells us debt is our master; we are a servant to it (Proverbs 22:7). Possessions possess us.

We all need a hard reality check. Jesus didn’t come to burden us but to free us from our burdens. No matter what we struggle with – health issues, debt, unhealthy habits, etc. – Jesus is the answer. How you say? If we are followers of Jesus, we should have a different mentality. We should have a different focus. Pastor Tony Evans has a teaching series on eternal focus. We should be living in the light of eternity. Possessions shouldn’t possess us – sell it. Move into something that is affordable. Free up the bank account so that it allows for Kingdom purpose – to help those in need at a moment’s notice.

Living a healthy lifestyle has changed me in more ways than just my eating habits. It has freed me from the burden of feeling sick and tired all the time. I have the freedom with a clear mind and satisfied heart. Living well is a choice. It may have a steep learning curve, but it’s worth it to be different. Finding the right people to encourage us along the way is important. We don’t all have to be alike. It’s healthy to have a diverse friendship base. They can teach us many things. However, there always has to be a true foundation of belief in Jesus so that no one can move us from Jesus’ rock of truth.

Jesus promised us the gift of the Holy Spirit when we receive His gift of salvation. The Holy Spirit is our guide to living a different life. The Spirit will give us a check in our spending habits, in our eating habits and in choosing a different path. However, we have to be sensitive to His promptings. If we continue to ignore the promptings, we will no longer feel His leading away from the things that will entangle us in an unhealthy life. There’s a difference in the way we live when the Spirit is in control. It’s not easy living differently, but it’s very rewarding when the Spirit gives us a nudge in the right direction. There’s always a blessing when we do the right thing.

As followers of Jesus, the world cannot give us what we desire. When we look to worldly things, we leave God out of the equation. When God is in the picture, everything is seen in a different light. I had a conversation last week with a fellow at the gym about marriage. He said marriage was overrated. I said, God has to be in the marriage too in order for it to be a good marriage. God has to be in the middle of our lives in order for it to be a good life. We have to live differently. It’s the only way to live a truly joyful, peaceful life. Jesus is the answer. Choose to be different!

For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. 2 Timothy 1:9-10 (NLT)

Squeal of Delight

Well Christmas is over. Memories were made. And sweet memories were shared as we gathered together and remembered ages long past. My brother-in-law captures the family news worthy events from the year in his “Twas the Night before Christmas” poem, which is always one of amusement for all except the one who made it into the poem. He had a lot of material this past year to work with.

At a recent gathering, I observed some children enjoying Christmas festivities. One two-year old squealed with delight as she opened a gift to find a new baby doll. A three-year old opened a little golf club set; although no squealing, an exclamation of complete joy was the reaction. A one-year old actually enjoyed the wrapping paper more than the gifts.

As I continued to observe the children, I noticed the three-year old press the limits of obedience. We all know when we do wrong, but we all test the limits to see what we can get away with. Sometimes the obedience is no big deal. As the child tested obedience with a sip from a forbidden drink, often do we find ourselves in the same circumstances? We know there are things we shouldn’t do, but just a little bit won’t hurt us. The child kept coming back for more until the drink was all gone. No one stopped him, even though he was told not to drink from it; he kept going back for more.

Temptation is just hard to avoid if it’s really something we want. Even as adults, we find ourselves doing the same thing. Just a little won’t hurt – I’m not hurting anyone. But even when we know we’re doing wrong, we still do it. We rationalize our disobedience. I do it quite often. I do the thing I know I shouldn’t do, but I am just drawn to it.

There are consequences to our disobedience. We think we’re getting away with something, but God’s eyes are always on us. He does not watch us to “catch” us in the act of disobedience. His eyes are on us because He delights in us. He loves us and wants the best for us. But He cannot allow us to “get away with” something that will eventually harm us. Boundaries are there for our protection – even when it feels like we are being denied from something we really want. Our desires take us in the wrong direction when our desires are not surrendered to God. I think this can be said of us personally and nationally. As a nation, we have been gaining the things we have desired as a nation; and it’s taking us in the wrong direction.

Over the last few years, I have become a reader of history. It will be interesting to see how 2016 will be recorded in the history books. I don’t think we have had a good year nationally. I must say we have struggled throughout the years from many different directions. Trump talks about “becoming great again” and I don’t know when we were all that great to begin with. Yes, we have had significant blessings, but that was all God. That had nothing to do with our greatness but His. He has blessed us more than we deserve. We deserve His wrath, but He chooses to delight us with His blessings instead.

I would rather squeal in delight than find myself in an awful hurt because of my disobedience. God would much rather give us the delight of our hearts, if we our hearts are properly aligned with His. It’s our choice. As we begin a new year ahead, we have some choices to make. It’s time to acknowledge our behavior; acknowledge our disobedience and come back to God’s delightful ways. The best is yet to come. Only time will tell which we have chosen for ourselves. Let’s make this a great year ahead!

Trust in the Lord and do good.

Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires. Psalm 37:4-5 (NLT)

Sharing Spaces

Last week, my family went on our annual pilgrimage to the beach. We have been doing this for the last twenty-four years. It’s become a special time for me and my family. Each year, the adults considered dropping the trip as my nephews got older, but they would have nothing of it. As we have added members to the family through marriage, the new members have had to learn to adjust to these family dynamics. The transitions have been smooth – since the boys have all chosen well! Now, their children are beginning to experience this annual trip as well. We rent one house with enough beds to accommodate all of us, but the sleeping arrangements can be a bit of a challenge with spouses sharing space with in-laws. As older adults have aged, this too has led to some sleeping arrangement difficulties (especially for those of us who are light sleepers).

We have all had to learn how to live together (even if it’s just for one week) in harmony. During the first years, my Mom had a few difficulties dealing with “boy” issues; like unmade beds with clothes on the floor. Mom was used to having “girl” issues since she raised three girls. I had a few moments too with having stubborn teenagers who wouldn’t listen to my instructions (aka orders) to get out of bed or clean the house before departure. Can you say control issues? But those were just bumps in the road. We have had many memories that are seared into each of our hearts that we will never forget.

One of the last times with my Mom remains priceless to each of us. We used to play games a couple of times during the week. One of those times, my Mom won every hand. And each hand she won, we began to wonder how she was doing it. It seemed we would all get distracted by the conversation or something going on outside; except Mom. After awhile, we began to comment that Mom was cheating. By the time the card game was finished, we were all laughing so hard tears were rolling down our cheeks. One of my nephews spoke about that memory this past week. This family week is now bittersweet since she is no longer with us enjoying these precious memories.

Transitions between events can be quite challenging. Loss, either through divorce, death or even family members moving to another part of the world can be difficult when we want the dynamics to stay the same. It never does. Change is inevitable. Each year is different. The house may stay the same; the family members may stay the same, but we are all growing and changing every year (at least I hope so!). Thankfully we aren’t who we once were and we are still in process of becoming who we’re going to be. Living in close spaces with family members brings constant struggles; each wanting to do things their own way (loading the dishwasher for example – not that there is a right or wrong way). Different isn’t bad – it’s just different. My little nephew learned this phrase when he took his missionary training last year.

Meshing families into a functioning harmonious space is challenging. But those harmonious spaces are always under girded with love. We can forgive slights when we know that love is present. The challenge is to love even when hurt; to walk away and forgive the words that cut deeply; to offer grace even when it would be easier to lash back. Close knit families have their own struggles to deal with. I am always reminded that when actions or words are misinterpreted, God knows our hearts. He knows our actions associated with the overflow of our hearts. We have to give the benefit of the doubt to keep the peace. I cannot judge what someone else is dealing with. When we are sharing space with someone else, we have to give them the space in grace. We are responsible for our own actions and reactions. A few sharp words will not change the harmonious nature of our family because we love one another. If we make the trip next year, I know the dynamics will change again. I cherish the way it was and look forward to the way God will make the transitions for next year.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

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