Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘blessings’

First of all, then, I ask that requests, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving be made for all people. [I Timothy 2:1, CEB]

While preparing for Lent, I did a lot of reading on the Internet and among the many posts and essays I read, I was taken by two questions (in the spirit of thanks):

  1. What are 3 things I can thankful for in my life today? and
  2. Who are 3 people I can be thankful to have in my life and why?

I think these are good questions we should ask ourselves periodically (if not every day). And so I dedicate this post to them today.

Three Things

  1. healthI am thankful for my health. I suppose that’s a natural thing at my age. The last time I went out to dinner with some of my same-age friends, we did find ourselves bemoaning our aches and pains and talking about our regular we were or weren’t. All of us have had at least one if not two of the required colonoscopies. Absurd in its truth. And yet, I am still grateful. I still have energy and even some to burn. My aches are still minor, I am mobile and can exercise. I am not particularly physical or particularly fit, but I’m not a couch potato nor am I a slug. The last time I went for testing, the nurse was surprised that I only have one (now two) prescriptions which I must take every day, the rest are vitamins by choice. Yah. I’m thankful for grace that keeps me well.
  2. librarianI am thankful for my career. As a librarian I am among people who are interesting and challenging intellectually as well as caring and service-oriented. I am an extrovert among introverts, but I have a significant role among them. As a manager, I have learned patience and tolerance and respect. I have learned to let go of some of my “controlling” nature and watched others grow as a result. My work varies from day to day and year to year. I work and live in my community and as a result, I am known. There is a comfort in this work and I feel appreciated. And of course, I thankful for being gainfully employed which, at this juncture in my life, is critical.
  3. I am thankful for our home. For me, this thanks is bittersweet, as the “house” I have called home for the last 17 years will have to be sold since I can no longer afford it on my new widow’s budget. But it has been a place of warmth and joy, a broad space nestled near a wood where small animals wander and birds nest. Our house is the dream house of a little girl who grew up in a white ghetto where boarders shared our one bathSONY DSCroom and neighbors brawled in the alleys. This house, with its many rooms, was big enough for everyone to have a private space and for children to run outside at any time of day or evening to safely play. This house was big enough to embrace visitors and family and even my elderly mother who died in this house. And my husband, too, died in this house. And several pets. The memories are strong here. We shared half of our married life here and adopted and raised our children here. So many blessings.

Three People

  1. mikeI am thankful for Mike, my husband, with whom I lived for half of my life and who I lost to a heart attack just three months ago, today. We knew each other well. We accepted one another “as is.” We gave up trying to fix each other. We lived an honest life. He was often hard to live with, but he felt the same about me. We disagree on many things, but we agreed we never separate. We honored covenant. And for this, we were secure. I was blessed to know him. And I grieve the loss of him still. And will, I know, for a long time.
  2. SONY DSCI am thankful for my children, of course. Now that they are young adults, they bring a new dimension to my life. And they have journeyed the sorrow of these months with me and they have each matured in inexplicable ways. From being more attentive and helpful to including me more in their lives. I am blessed by their laughter as well as their tears. I am loved and they give me plenty of opportunities to love them back. They want “family” to continue. Whether near or far, they are ever present in my mind and heart and prayers. As they begin to move into their own lives, I cover them in blessings, not only my own, but the ones that their father would say over them as well.
  3. SONY DSCI am thankful for my friend, Kathy, who was with me on the day that Mike died, who spoke into my pain and into my heart and held them both without reserve. We have been friends even longer, since college, we are only seven years shy of a “golden” anniversary. Friendship of this kind is irreplaceable. And really, is she any less family? I don’t think so. For she, too, knows me. And I am grateful for a woman-place to share my thoughts, my complaints, my joys. Our time has been full of all things: weddings, funerals, births, and graduations. We have transitioned together from hot chicks to wise women and everything in between.

Thank you God for this day and this time in my life. Thank you for the memories as well as the future. Thank you for the things and thank you for the people.

And now, you. Give thanks.

 

Read Full Post »

urim_thummimIt’s a fascinating idea really, the Urim and Thummim. Apparently, the priests used special stones to cast for a decision or divination. Some scholars translate the words as “revelation” and “truth” but I’m not sure that helps understand how they were actually used. Another interpretation is that the words essentially mean “innocent” or “guilty.” And in this way, groups of people or ideas where honed down by castings, Urim or Thummim, divided and divided until only one remained.

Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord. [Exodus 28:30]

flip-coin_5Ultimately, it sounds a lot like flipping a quarter. The result is random except for one difference, the people who threw the stones as well as the people who asked the questions, wholeheartedly believed that God alone drove the results.

Would that make our lives easier today? Like the picking of daisy petals, “he loves me, he loves me not,” could we abide by the final outcome? Or would we hedge it? Wouldn’t we really just look for confirmation and not decision?

In some cases, the coin toss works very well, when nothing too particular is at risk. I mean, whether Harry or Sally go first in a game or the Ravens kick-off instead of the Colts, these are not a deal-breakers.

But what if it was life or death? What if it was getting married or not? What if it was to move our of state or not move? In today’s culture, could anyone give those decisions completely to God in such a manner?

Bottom line: do I believe in luck or destiny? Does God need the Urim & Thummim to drive my life?

If I gamble or play the lottery, I must still believe in luck. Or do I?

lottery ticketThere’s a joke about a man who prayed every day for months that God would allow him to win the lottery but he never did. Finally, he complained to God, “Why haven’t I won?” and God answered, “You should have bought a ticket.” Does God need the efforts of human?

It’s a complicated question and one I cannot fully unwrap.

So, truthfully, I can’t really say I don’t believe in luck at all, I’m sure God supersedes luck, but perhaps God allows luck too. So, I occasionally buy a lottery ticket, wondering if God would like to bless me this week, you know, when the prize is really, really, really big. But, in my gut, do I believe God would pick me for an undeserved splash of wealth at that magnitude? These purchases are really “just in case.” I’m hinting. I’m directing God: “Hey God, this would be a great way to bless me, if You have a mind do it. What do you say?” (And secretly, I even promise to tithe on it. Oh brother, what a conniver.)

Silliness.

love the lord your godLet me step back still further. God has been pretty clear about the best life for Human and summarized it in two sentences: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” [Luke 10:27] And every action we take, every decision we make, could be in answer to these directives.

Too many of my decisions are about me. Not God and not others. Lottery tickets included. Time to re-focus the heart.

Read Full Post »

ImpossibleIt’s been the word of the season at Restore Church this year: impossible. And it’s a word that all believers must hear, should hear, need to hear and understand. This word is about us today and our faith. This word is about the extent to which God will do something from nothing. Thanks Pastor Jess Bousa for this word, now illuminated.

It sounds impossible, but listen—you know your relative Elizabeth has been unable to bear children and is now far too old to be a mother. Yet she has become pregnant, as God willed it. Yes, in three months, she will have a son. So the impossible is possible with God. [Luke 1:36-37, The Voice]

The concept is a simple one, that the impossible cannot be expected: it is a miracle after all. And yet these miracles are among us every day but we fail to give them their due. Isn’t it a miracle that a man, like Jess, could be transformed from full-blown drug addict to pastor of a thriving church? Or that I, a self-indulgent, pot-smoking, foul-mouthed actress wannabe could become a follower of the Christ? Or that my children, all adopted, would be “the ones” out of a million orphans to come into our family? All of our lives are filled with the miracles of impossible when God takes the raw material of “nothing” and makes something. Whether one sees the Genesis story as word for word real or symbolic, the message is the same: Creator God is a Maker God, who uses building blocks that none of us can really fathom. Something from nothing. Possible from impossible.

In Greek, impossible is adynateō with meanings that bridge the distance between weakness, inability, and powerlessness to the bottom line: it cannot be done. And God asks me, when will I see and understand the adynateō in myself? Not weakness in what I want to do, my dreams and ambitions. No. This is the weakness in the face of what God wants to do. In Corinthians 12:9, God speaks through Paul saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God is talking about the God Plan in Paul’s life and ultimately, in my life too.

God’s power manifests in doing God’s plan. 

impossible triangleOh, silly me. I have missed this obvious all along. I keep trying to get the blessing (and success) for my ideas, my plans, my ambitions, my projects. But there has been little room in my masterminding for the impossible, the unexpected, the miracles of God.

How many sermons and teachings have we heard about knowing God’s will for our lives, as though we might be able to figure out the impossible?

This is the only time I can truly say that the cliche, “whatever,” used by teens for the last decade or so, is truly the correct word in this situation. Our surrender to God is a “whatever.” That is, whatever God wants to do, whatever the Holy Spirit wants to manifest, whatever is possible in God’s cosmos, I choose to embrace today.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am sure this is not a passivity where we simply lie down on a bed and wait for a miracle. If anything, it’s a reckless abandonment of my narrow views in favor of the expansive potentialities of God.

Read Full Post »

hamsterPoor Esau. I mean it, really. Loses his birthright at the hands of his clever brother and then loses his blessing. In the natural order, he was “due” both of these things, and yet, at birth, it was prophesied while still in the womb that one would be stronger than the other and the older would serve the younger. Isaac’s blessing merely hammered that one home.

Genesis 27:34-35
When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!” But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”

So, what is left for Esau? What blessing does he get? Nothing much to write home to Mom about: no fruitfulness from the earth, no dew from heaven, live by the sword and serve your brother.

Like a little hamster on a wheel, much energy with no reward. Esau’s fate was being put through a very narrow opening. He lost so much and did not realize the true seriousness of it until it was too late.

Am I the same? Haven’t there been warnings along the way? Didn’t I know my choices were taking me down the road? Didn’t I sense trouble? I did, but didn’t trust it. I just kept on. Forged ahead. Assumed it was fine. All would be well.

Of course, in some ways, that is true. God showed up and did some circumstantial transformation. But there was a great cost. There were many losses along the way. I didn’t come to the things of God until my late twenties, a failed marriage, a failed career, and an isolation that can be called loneliness in the midst of chaos.

We all make mistakes in those years, don’t we? If only, if only, we had paid attention. Esau didn’t. I didn’t. So, the end has come out better than I deserved. Truly. But I know, in my heart, I know, I missed the blessing originally intended for me. I neglected the opportunity.

But, the grace of God is still greater than my error. I have a life, a family, children, a house, a car, a job. I have a comfort that is beyond anything I expected or deserved. I see that clearly. But I still remember those other days, those days when I lost the blessing intended for me. Not by the deceit of another, but by my own near-sightedness.

Forgive me Father.

Read Full Post »

Art by Jonas Gerard

God blessed Ishmael because he was the son of Abraham. And although it may not seem like a blessing at first blush, those many tribes that descended from Ishmael only to become enemies to the progeny of Isaac: but there was still fruitfulness. And God is honored in fruitfulness.

Genesis 17:18, 20; 21:11-12a,  And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” . . .  “And as for Ishmael, I [God] have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. . . . But God said to him [Abraham], “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. . . .  I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

But the blessing of Ishmael is not simply about childbearing and big families, it is about enlarging the place of one’s tent (e.g. one’s influence).

Enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide,
do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
your descendants will dispossess nations
and settle in their desolate cities.  [Isaiah 54:2-3]

Children are the hope of the future, whether we have them in our immediate family or we serve them through school, church, neighborhood, or work. It is the children who carry the message of our lives into their own. If our lives are loving and giving and caring, then they will respond to the model we provide them. But the opposite is true as well.

They say, if you want to know where a person’s priorities are, look at the list of things in which they invest their money. I say, the same is true for the way money, time, knowledge, and energy are invested in children. They cannot love if they have not been loved. They cannot give grace if they never received it. They will not show compassion if they have not seen compassionate behaviors around them. What we pass to children of all ages is only limited by our own misplaced preferences and choices.

I wish I could say that my children are bearing the fruit of the blessings of God. In some ways, they are: instead of an orphanage, they live in a family and a country of great opportunity. Instead of a proscribed future dealt to them through poor diet, alcoholism, and abandonment, they do know they are loved unconditionally. But in my enthusiasm for having children, I spoiled them too. I wanted them to have some of the things I missed and I created a distorted view of value, of appreciation for the little things, of comfort. Like most Americans, they reflect a world where “need” means another car, not another meal.

So now, I am sorry dear children, what I failed to pass along, you will have to discover on your own. Life will teach you and in that life, God will teach  you. For the blessings of God are still there, the promise of good things still available, but the road may be a little longer.

Read Full Post »

It all started with Noah’s sons, this leaving business. After the ark, they spread out and started creating their own civilizations and communities. They were nomadic at first, searching for a fertile place to settle. Generations passed and eventually, Shem’s great, great, great (who knows) grandson, Terah, also had three significant sons: Abram, Nahor, and Hanan.

Genesis 11:31
Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.

But after Terah lost his one son (and even then, fathers assumed their children would outlive them), he left the land of his development and headed toward Canaan with his other son, Abram (his wife, Sarai), and grandson, Lot. But they didn’t get far, finding some peace in the neighboring community that Haran had built.

So, perhaps Abram had already been primed for leaving, perhaps he was ready to hear the call to travel.

There are many reasons people leave home. As a teenager, I married young predominately to escape my home life. I was fleeing home. Others leave because they have overstayed their welcome. Sometimes people go far to distance themselves from family while others stay close. Some choose job over family or adventure.

Abram left home for a promise. Many times we are reminded that Abram left because God called him to come out and make a new community, a great nation. And that is true. But this was not the only reason. In 12:2-3, is a list of the reasons and although greatness is one of the carrots dangled before him, there is something even more precious: blessings.

There is nothing more powerful than the promise of blessings, both to receive them and to give them. A blessing is a gift, like grace, it does not need to be particularly merited. And one of the key elements of a blessing is that it brings happiness. That is its very nature. It’s a kindness.

And so God promised to bless Abram and even more, to make Abram a blessing to others. Wouldn’t you go too?

Oh Lord, bless me this day but even more, may I bless others because of the presence of the You within me.

I have struggled for years wondering what do I really want! From gurus to motivational speakers to “blab it and grab it” preachers, you have to know what you want before you can go after it.

And today, I see it in sharp relief: to bless others and to be blessed. To live in the cycle of blessings.

Read Full Post »

A good portion of Hebrews 7 is devoted to the mysterious Melchizedek, the priest-king to whom Abraham tithed “10% of everything.” One of the great wonders to the believers of that time was his lack of genealogy. Who was this guy? Many theories, but no one really knows. Nevertheless, he had the authority to bless, even the patriarch, Abraham.

Hebrews 7:2b-3
“. . . First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.”

Questions that can send silent shudders up a librarian’s spine are from the amateur genealogists seeking out their family line. They are an enthusiastic bunch and quick to tell of their latest discoveries. The librarian nods her head and smiles while the genealogist explains the depth of his or her line. There is great pride in sleuthing out names and dates and long lost relatives that go back to the American Revolution or even earlier.

But in Jewish history, the genealogical line was even more important. People were rooted in their community or accepted into a new community by the veracity of their genealogical line. In modern times, this is sometimes mirrored in small communities where being “from” there requires the person to be “born there.” And certainly, in the Mormon church, genealogy is critical to leadership. Most of the best genealogical records of modern times have been stored and digitized by that group.

But here is Melchizedek, apparently quite powerful and respected which is reflected in the 10% of all “booty” that Abraham and his men give to him after defeating the kings of Sodom. We know so little of his story that he has become the subject of much speculation, particularly among various teachers and rabbi’s. Some claim he was divine which explains his lack of lineage while others say he was simply an anointed king of the era.

I am captivated by this story because of its mystery. The Bible has many such characters who appear briefly and then are heard of no more. There is usually significance in their appearances, but I’m not sure what it is.

Today, I am simply struck by the idea that there is always someone higher than us. No matter how much fame or fortune or power we attain, there is always someone who has more. God places each of us in that continuum, in some cases, it is we ourselves who are the “higher one,” perhaps by income or status or position at work. We are inside the sandwich of authority.

Melchizedek blessed Abraham first and then the gift was given willingly. Isn’t it important for me to bless those around me who are in a different part of the sandwich. It’s so important to speak blessings to everyone in our circle of influence, but even moreso to those who have less than we do. A blessing calls on God to fill in where human cannot.

The trick is not to envy or become jealous of the blessings, for some will be called to the higher table at the banquet.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: