Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Love...the Law...the Order

Year 4-Day 31: Today, I am grateful for for those in leadership who serve with love...under the law...and keep the order. 

Our world needs leaders with upstanding character and integrity. There are many places to serve. How often do we consider if we are serving where we are called to serve? How often are we placed in positions, by God's design and not our own, and find our sweet spot for service in unlikely places.  Living a life full of gratitude and thanksgiving fills us with a contentment that money and power cannot sustain. Money can provide moments of pleasure...but they cannot sustain peace. "No God, no peace. Know God, know peace."

Jesus, too, was born into turbulent times.  The Romans were in control. Not all were bad people.  Not all were good. 

At least 7 times, Centurions were mentioned in the New Testament. Each reference indicates that they are men of honor. In one recorded miracle, a Roman Centurion is involved.  Many Jews felt they had every reason to hate the Romans...especially the soldiers. They were all gentiles. They had experienced mistreatment and injustice. Still, as in every group of people, there are honorable men and women who want to do the right thing. Some do, even when it appears they might not.  

I love this passage from Matthew 8:5-13. Luke 7 records it, too, but Matthew (the former tax collector) records some details Luke (the physician) did not. Jesus calls to attention the faith of a Roman Centurion...and states that no one in Israel has displayed such faith.  Really?  His disciples are mostly Jews who believe.  Is it true that this Centurion's faith is bigger? 

I had to look a little closer at this passage.  

"When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 

This soldier led men. Commanded men. He carried a sword. He, also, answered to Pilate and other authority figures in government. He understood rank and order...he lived it daily. He understood that his decisions could impact those under his authority.  In fact, while others were pressing in on Jesus with their constant request for His time and His healing hands...this Centurion came humbly to his superior.

But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant,[c] ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 

He recognized the commanding Lordship of Christ. Wow!  Top ranking officers are approached with respect and requests. Persons of lower rank know that the answer might not always be the one they want. One request can impact many. This man understood Christ's authority, not just to heal but his divinity. He believed.  He was sincere in his faith and unusual in his understanding of addressing his Lord. Yes, he saw Jesus as "Lord and King" when others were seeing miracle worker. He had the whole picture others were missing.  

People mattered to this soldier. Action with honor and keeping order meant keeping people safe. Not an easy job. He,  likely,  encountered all kinds of corruption that goes with government. His request for Jesus to heal was noted because a slave no longer able to served due to illness could, under the Roman law, be put to death. This man obviously cared for the human...the relationship...the man...and was courageous enough to put love first. 

This soldier was pleading and appealing for the Lord to save someone that society and law considered disposable. He knew it put Jesus in an awkward position to ask him to the home of a Gentile.  He was not familiar enough with Jesus to know he didn't care about "what people might say". Still, he didn't ask anything of Jesus that would put him in more trouble with the Jews or the Gentiles.  This soldier seemed to grasp that "in Christ there is not East or West" and His power and love were for all who would choose to receive him.  

Perhaps, the ill slave was a believer in Jesus and had introduced him to Jesus.Perhaps the servant was loved but not a believer and the Centurion was desperate to prove Christ was who he believed him to be.  We don't know. I love to wonder at the rest of the story. 

Still...this sick servant mattered to the Centurion, enough to bring his concern to the feet of Jesus.He knew that it would only take a word from the lips of Jesus to breathe health back into the life of this man.  What faith and courage he displayed. Look what Jesus said next:    

" When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment." 

He said "Go"...the same way he would in later chapters...send out his disciples and other believers.  To carry the knowledge of who Christ is to those he encountered.  

Jesus did not instruct him to change careers.  He did not question his service to his country and the land he called home. I believe, he had need for him, right where he was.He could use him...his belief and integrity...where it was desperately needed. Among the leaders, among the gentiles who served under him and to all the places he was sent.  Another centurion at the foot of the cross, another man of character, declared "Truly, this man was the Son of God."  

Today, I am grateful for for those in leadership who serve with love...under the law...and keep the order. 


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Look at the Stars

Year 4-Day 30: Today, am grateful for reminders to step outside and look at the stars. 

Last night, we had dinner with some of our favorite people...our "family". Some blood and others by choice.  It is always good. Rarely is it fancy, but it is easy conversation and honest laughter.  The meal ended in favorite way to end it!

When we arrived at home, I was focused on getting in the house and putting the leftovers in the fridge. We had son number one and his sweetheart with us.  They, too, had left overs, but what do they do?  They stop to look up at the stars and find a few constellations they know in the brilliantly, diamond filled night sky.  I can find the Big Dipper and the North star. They saw so much more. 

We can always learn from our children.  Even when they become young adults.  

My mind was captured by the beauty and the vastness of the night sky. Focused on the beauty, it didn't seem quite as cold.  Perspective changes everything. 

The scriptures tell us that He numbers the stars and knows them by name. Think how much more He loves us. 

Today, am grateful for reminders to step outside and look at the stars...and our kids who still teach us to look at life with wonder.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Written On The Palm of His Hand

Year 4-Day 29: Today, I am grateful for my sharpie marker and things written on the palm of His hand. 

I have a memory technique that rarely to never fails.  I learned it from a nursing friend, Sue Gaitros, during my St. Jude years.  When I really, truly, without fail need to remember something...I write it in Sharpie on my hand. It works every time!

I lose paper.  I fail to hear alarms on my phone if it is not with me (girls clothes don't always have pockets). I forget to read my post-it notes. I have never forgotten a thing written on my hand.  

I love a Sharpie...and they come in a brilliant array of colors. Something bold works best.  I have used this technique on forgetful students, and it works for them, too.  Some who refuse the offer once, rarely refuse it a second time when forgetfulness results in distress. I understand forgetfulness... or "Cloud Issues" as my friend, Diane refers to it.

Then, to make my day complete, this scripture landed in my lap. What an easy gratitude and a celebration.  

"...yet I will not forget you.
16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are continually before me." -Isaiah 49:15-16

It must be okay to write on our hands if God does it. Right?  Now, the word here is "engraved."  That is far more permanent than a Sharpie. Even better for us. He has engraved us into the palm of his hand.  What a promise!

I have always love Michaelangelo's Creation from the Sistine Chapel. Someday, I'd like to see it in person.  I have the portion where God reaches out with His hand and connects with Adam.  It is just the hands. Framed big and bold on my bedroom wall.  The power and the promise captured in the image is simple, yet so powerful. 

What a wonder it is that God desired to create a being that could choose him or refuse him! What a powerful thing that when we return to him with our brokenness...he sees the "beautiful-ugly"...and our potential! He writes our names in the Lamb's book of Life and in the "palm of his hand."  That should give us encouragement and hope for the end of the work week. 

Today, I am grateful for my sharpie marker and things written on the palm of His hand. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

"As You Wish"

Year 4-Day 28: "Today, I am grateful for a lesson in His Sovereignty...from the from "The Princess Bride."

So, two conversations with two different friends...Susan and Darla...brought me to one of those "ah-ha" moments. A recent gratitude for the many...sometimes unusual ways... to say "I love you.", prompted Susan to comment "As you wish...".  

If unfamiliar with the movie "The Princess Bride", it is a classic. For me it wasn't instant love at first viewing, but now, I can't help but pause to watch it when it is on. Plenty of corny humor for the guys and word wit for me. Not to mention "true love". Westley loves the princess, who is at times bossy, demanding and not always grateful. Still, he keeps on loving and simply responds to her requests with "as you wish". What an example of "meek is not weak" but a determined kind of love. 

Now, the Princess Buttercup...she is pretty full of herself at times and likes things her way. Don't we all.  At least, I do.  Still, at some point, Westley, persistent and unfailing love breaks through. Love...real love...always wins.  

Here is a bit of the script.  Grandpa (Peter Falk "Columbo") is the narrator in the movie who is reading the story to his ill Grandson (played by Fred Savage from "The Wonder Years.". 

Grandpa: [voiceover] Nothing gave Buttercup as much pleasure as ordering Westley around.
Buttercup: Farm boy, polish my horse's saddle. I want to see my face shining in it by morning.
Westley: As you wish.
Grandpa: [voiceover] "As you wish" was all he ever said to her.
Buttercup: Farm boy, fill these with water - please.
Westley: As you wish.
Grandpa: [voiceover] That day, she was amazed to discover that when he was saying "As you wish", what he meant was, "I love you." And even more amazing was the day she realized she truly loved him back.

Buttercup is an example of how we sometimes miss love that comes our way, because we are looking for it to arrive in a different package. Westley unfailing love goes to many lengths to let her know she is his and that he loves her with every breath. There is plenty of humor, too. But, in the midst of the funny stuff is a lesson or two. She can't grasp what is in front of her. 

Darla is my other friend who brought me back to the "as you wish".  One of our frequent conversations is on the sovereignty of God.  That part of His character is hard for us to grasp. Royalty is outside the realm of what we have known as Americans. When we consider, our Lord has a universe.  That is so much more to care for than one small country. He counts the star and knows them by name.  His heart aches when we make decisions that put a chasm between us and him. 

Back to "As you wish...". So, I was thinking about God being sovereign and our relationship with him.  Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:9&10 (using the KJV as most of us do for this prayer):

 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
"Thy will be done..." In other words, "As you wish". When we pray that prayer and in that way, as Jesus taught us to do, "thy will" not "my will" be done.  "As you wish." That is recognizing His sovereignty. Unlike Buttercup, he has it all together and He promises to never forsake us. He does no pretend there won't be difficult times, but gives us ways to press on through them.  His teachings are true. 

Next time you see the movie or say the Lord's Prayer, when you get to the "thy will be done"...think "As you wish...".  It is another way to say "I love you."  

Today, I am grateful for a lesson in His Sovereignty...from the from "The Princess Bride."

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Don't Be Alarmed

Year 4-Day 27: Today, I am grateful for the alarms that keep my multi-tasking life running succinctly and for words of hope when life seems alarming. 

What would I do without my iPhone alarms?  I have one set for everything I have to remember. It keeps me on task and on schedule.  I guess when it comes to alarms, we have a choice.  We can see them as friends that help us and keep us safe - or we can let them evoke fear and terror.  

Tornado warning alarms may never be quite the same for our community after the Washington tornado of 11-17-14.  When you grow up in the flat lands of the Midwest, watching funnel clouds is practically a hobby.  If we live in terror, we are crippled.  If we are educated on where to go and what to do, we are empowered.  Our alarms are part of that process.  I admit, I am not quite as easy going about them as I used to be, but God didn't plant a spirit of fear in us. His breath is one of peace, calm and courage when the storm hits. The stories of God's hand of intervention were everywhere. Sometimes the storm is allowed, but never does he abandon His children. 

What does the Bible say about being "alarmed"?  

The Greek word is "throeo" :to cry aloud, make a noise by outcry
  1. in the New Testament, to trouble, frighten
  2. to be troubled in mind, to be frightened, alarmed

Interesting...when I did a search on "alarmed", it is frequently used with reference to prophecy. Daniel and King Belshazzar when Daniel interpreted his dreams. Daniel's interpretations happened as the prophecy was spoken. It is used, again, in the New Testament in reference to the 2nd coming of Christ in several places.  This one has a nearly matching verse in Matthew. Later books, as well.  

And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. -Mark 13:7

The consistent message of the Word is "Fear Not, for I am with you."  Some alarms help us stay on task.  A sense of alarm might steer us onto a safer path. Living in a state of alarm is crippling. 

We can be confident that we have a God who still speaks through his word, his people and his Holy Spirit.  We can live with gratitude for alarms that keep us on schedule and with respect for alarms and warnings that help us stay safe.  

Today, I am grateful for the alarms that keep my multi-tasking life running succinctly and for words of hope when life seems alarming. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Intentional Vision-Cognitive Dissonance

Year 4-Day 26: Today, I am grateful for "intentional vision" when opinions differ.

Ask two people to describe the same event and you may get to entirely different stories. Both are essentially true, but the eyes of the beholder hold the key.  

One of my favorite Christmas songs is "Do You See What I See?". It asks a really powerful question.  It a question that helps us seek out like minded people who see the world with similar view points.  "Do you see what I see?"

How can we grow if we only surround ourselves with people who think like us? Listening to other opinions, with respect, may not change my thinking, but it will help me understand "my neighbor" better. It, also, encourages me to be sure of where I stand. One of the great gifts of maturity is coming to a place of not needing everyone to agree with my opinion. The the idea of "standing alone" does not evoke fear, but a sense of resignation.

One of my favorite communication concepts from my theory class was Leon Festinger's "Theory of Cognitive Dissonance": 

Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress  or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.

It can be an internal conflict when suddenly, that which I hold to be evident and true... shifts. It can be an emotional earthquake. It can be an internal conflict, or it can be differing opinions in a valued relationship. In a nutshell...when someone we really like, respect and admire disagrees with us, it creates discomfort.   

A recent study showed that very thing that breaks down marriages and other relationships is "the need to be right." Human arrogance...and I was born with my fair a destructive force. It is at the source of much of the "ugly" in this world. The "spirit of constructiveness" is not a fruit of the spirit.

It is hard to be in a relationship with someone who beats you down with their conviction and commitment to their own superiority.  

The need to be right is pride. The scriptures speak to this:
"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you." - James 4:10
"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. -Proverbs 16:18

Is the need to be right more important than the relationship?  

It is why I rarely post anything political. I really do enjoy reading the thoughts of others, but find there are few things in the political arena that are truly black and white for me. 20 years in social services will do that to a person. There are many shades of gray in politics. 
Nothing divides friends, family and co-workers faster. I can love my country and disagree with "my neighbor" who loves it just as much, when it comes to managing it's resources and caring for the people of our nation.  

We can respectfully agree to disagree. Intentional vision...looking beyond the opinion... to the value of the person changes the outcome of any disagreement. 

Effective communication requires listening as much as speaking. When we carefully listen to others, we gain insight. Vision sharpens. And, it is okay to end a conversation or an interaction with "agreeing to disagree". This is where I often find myself searching for what the scriptures say with regard to a particular matter. There is so much to explore.  

The little things that I let ruin my day and break down relationships are quite often "worthless things'.  

"Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways."-Psalm 119:37

For me, it has been the discipline of gratitude that helps my vision refocus on what is truly important.  Not being right, but letting disagreements and differing opinions set a fire in my soul  that makes me study what it means to live "life in your ways". 

Today, I am grateful for "intentional vision" when opinions differ.I am grateful for reminders to seek humility over the "spirit of correctiveness". 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Think on these things...

Year 4-Day 25:  Today, I am grateful for instructions to "think on these things", as our thoughts are often in danger of taking us down a road we do not need to go. 

Here is my "Verse of the Day":  
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. -Philippians 4:8

Some days, I am grateful for a push to look for gratitude from a different perspective. Perspective plays an important part in gratitude.  Beyond the things I can hold in my hand or view with my eyes...there much thanksgiving to be offered. In the middle of whatever plans, tasks or time restraints...there is new found freedom making that place a place of praise. 

Whatever is true...from a truly perfect parking spot to the spiritual truth of Christ, the things that are "true" are worthy of a whispered "thanks". 

Whatever is honorable... I am fascinated by cultures that place so much emphasis on honor. Honor before profit. Honor before personal glory. Honor before convenience. Honor before individual desires. Honor combined with love make a powerful force. 

Whatever is just...because justice is a part of the character of our God who does not change!  He is a God who gives us guidelines for behavior so that we may live with freedom. Yes, knowing what is right and wrong helps us choose and protects us. He won't surprise us. He communicates clearly and gives us examples. Jesus paid the price of justice so that we might live pardoned and free, but sin required a sacrifice. Whenever tempted to join the "it's not fair ranks", I am reminded that through love and grace I am pardoned and I don't get what I deserve. God's sense of justice was met and the price on my head removed. I've received a full pardon.  Crazy love!

Whatever is the snow before human or beast defile with foot vehicle. What is pure is beautiful.  Clear Caribbean waters are deceptively deep as they are so clear. The love of a parent for a child...or a sibling. Sibling love melts my heart life few things. The essence of God is pure...and powerful. Something to ponder. 

Whatever is lovely... because lovely is equally pleasing to our Lord and Creator. 
Whatever is commendable... because focusing on what is commendable is better for our souls than living in the critical zone.  Now, constructive criticism can help us grow, but insincere praise can lead to destruction. 

If there is any excellence...because excellence inspires us and drives us to do our best and be our best. Surrounding ourselves with excellence inspires and motivates...and pushes us in the right direction.  We can choose to seek excellence in our work, in our relationships, in our parenting and in our care of others. To think on these things builds up and does not tear down. 

If there is anything worthy of praise... think on these thing! God, of course, is worthy of our praise and he inhabits the praise of His people. As we offer words of praise for one another in our we praise the things that matter.  Not a high grade, but the increase in learning.  Not a nice car, but how that car is used to serve the great commission. Not the beautiful home, but the lovely heart that opens it to fellowship and serves with an open heart. 
Think about these things...and it will protect your thoughts.  Because no matter how often my thoughts jump around, I can still only have one thought at a time. 

Today, I am grateful for instructions to "think on these things", as our thoughts are often in danger of taking us down a road we do not need to go. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

You Are More

Year 4-Day 24:  Today, I am grateful we can be "more than the sum of  our past mistakes", failures and disappointments. 

Tenth Avenue North has a song called "You Are More".  The earworm started singing it the minute I landed on this image. If you know the song, I thought I might start your earworm singing, too. Here is the chorus:

"But don't you know who you are? 
You are more than the choices that you've made, 
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes, 
You are more than the problems you create, 
You've been remade." 

Our Junior High students put on an amazing performance of The Lion King Jr. this weekend.  They nailed it. Anyone fortunate enough to see the show will have to remind themselves that every student on the stage is between the ages of 12 and 14.  They gave their all and it was rocked it!   

The young man cast as Simba, Thomas, is one of "mine". He has been part of our church family and children's ministries for longer than he can remember. I have known him for all of his twelve 1/2 years on the planet. Last night my heart was so full to see all that he has become since the first time I held him in my arms.  

Thomas has grown in knowledge, life experiences, kindness, wisdom and grace. He chooses friends well. I will never forget the season of his birth - as it was a time of great sorrow for his family.  

Weeks before Thomas arrived, his maternal grandfather ended his cancer battle. Every child is a gift, but one that arrives when a family is grieving brings more than the usual joy. A child born to a grieving house brings fresh air and a powerful reminder of the circle of life. Hope is renewed, when we hold new life for the first time.Yes, a baby brings hope.  

Someone once said, "A baby is God's opinion that life should go on." Every child is born with the potential to teach us and lead us.  When we teach them and train them in The Word, they usually end up teaching us. Jesus loves the children. He rebukes those who treat them as unimportant or "second class citizens". A child, fresh from the hand of God, is a priceless gift!

Psalm 127:3-5 "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! "

What about those who are never able to give birth? Society still measures our womanhood...  no matter how modern we think we are... by our ability to bear children. "How many children do you have?" is nearly always asked of a woman in conversation, far more than it is asked a man. When a woman is married and childless, people often jump to conclusions. We ask, knowing nothing of her life journey. How many miscarriages has she endured? How many children has she buried. How many years has infertility stolen her joy? Praise God, he sees us as "more".  

Isaiah 54:1-4 was shared by my friend Joyce just a few years ago.  It speaks to the woman who aches to have children of her own, but for one reason or another, that prayer is not answered.  
“Sing, barren woman,you who never bore a child;burst into song, shout for joy,you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord. 
 “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.

“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. 
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth 
and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.

When I think of some of the childless women who have invested in the lives of our sons... because they have invested in the lives of children...our sons are better men. 

Parents aren't always "cool".  The women who commit to love and teach other people's children... not because they give birth to them...but because God has engraved the value of a child on their hearts through empty wombs..these women have countless children they can call "their own". Their impact is immeasurable into eternity. 

Another lesson from the Lion King comes from Mufasa - "You are more than what you have become." You are more!  

Simba can't see past the sum of his past mistakes to embrace all he was born to be. Mufasa and Raffiki guide him. Simba has all that he needs to lead his pride as the king he was born to be, but he doesn't have the courage to face his past and learn from it. Then, he is given the simple reminder, "You are more than what you have become."

There is nothing more attractive in a leader than sincere humility.  Simba humbly returns to his pride...leaving his pride behind. (I love word play!) He accepts responsibility and steps into leadership. He is more because of what he has learned from his past mistakes. 

The Tenth Avenue North song repeats..."you are more" and "you've been remade". What powerful love messages from our Lord and Savior. He didn't die for our sins that we would remain buried in the guilt of our past.  He didn't die for our sins so that we could go on sinning. He died that we might live fully and without fear of the future. He conquered death so we could live fearlessly.   

Today, we can embrace his grace and be more!

Today, I am grateful we can be "more than the sum of  our past mistakes", failures and disappointments.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

You Are Mine

Year 4-Day 23:  I am grateful to belong. 

Another gratitude inspired by "The Lion King" and the King of Kings. 

There are times in our lives that each of us may feel lost, lonely or unsure of where we belong.  A child entering kindergarten or a new school after a move knows the feeling.  A new relationship that may or may not be long term makes us wonder. A new place to worship, a new neighborhood, a new job, a new town or a "new normal" after a loss...these  are all seasons of questioning, "Who am I? Why am I here?" 

Discovering our role. Finding our fit. These are some of the great pursuits of times... puzzling life. The sum of our questions leads to bigger questions: "Why me?" "Why now?" "Why here?"  

We forget who we are. We sometimes abandon the one who gave us our soul breath and ignore his guidance, his lessons and his leading, as we are determined to find our own way. Does that work out any better for you than it does for me?    

Our God lavishly calls us His children...yet, we are often determined to make our own way. It is easy. We make it hard. At least, I do. 

I am reminded at a thought someone once shared.  The first sin...the real sin...was not eating the forbidden fruit. Oh no. It was not.  The original sin was the pride and arrogance...or maybe lack of faith and trust...that doubted who God was...that was the original sin.  It denied His sovereignty. Not a smart move. 

God said: "I love you and all of this wonderful creation is yours to enjoy, but this one tree is off limits." One tree. One rule. One bad choice would change everything. I hate it when that happens...and it still does. One bad choice can cause echoes of pain and suffering. 

Our prideful desire to be His equal caused the break in the relationship int he garden. The sinful act of disobedience was rooted in Adam and Eve's belief they could get away with it...and in trusting the wrong voice. 

God's design was for us to be His Beloved. Man broke the trust and injured the relationship. It would take generations to make it right again. 

The impact of sin can and does ripple through time and space. Sin ultimately brings each us to a decision at the foot of the cross of Christ. To accept or deny who we are in Him... by his love and his blood.  

Yes, we were designed to love and be loved. He loves us with a crazy love, but He is who he is. He is love, but he is, also, mercy and justice. We can't just choose the parts we like best. He is "I AM". He is not always "fair" by our standards but He is always good. 

When God directed Moses to lead the Israelite people out of slavery in Egypt - he was pretty sure they wouldn't follow. Love this conversation between Moses and God, Exodus 3:13-14:

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”  God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, I am has sent me to you.’” 

Long before Popeye, God said, "I am who I am" . "I AM" and that is enough.  

You won't always like it, but you can trust that I have your best interests in mind. "I AM" and you can be free "to be" because "I AM". 

If you grew up in a house with more than one child, you begin to understand that individual wants and desires do not always play into the greater good of the whole family.  Marriage teaches us a similar lesson. Even the corporate world knows that sometimes sacrifices are made for the betterment of the whole. The family of God is no different. 

We can trust his heart.  We can endure the path because we have been given a glimpse at the end of the story and He wins. There will be adventures...good and scary...but there are rich promises.  

Romans 9:25 reminds us that in Christ and prophesied by Hosea - Jew and Gentile alike have access to His grace.

"As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”  

That is good stuff. Now head over to Ephesians 1:5-

 "he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace," 

The Greek word for " He predestined" is proorizo. It is verb and creates the thought "He called out from eternity". Time and space are his to manage, but we can choose or refuse to answer his call from eternity.  

Can you hear him? "Return to me, my beloved."  Nothing can separate us, except your choice. I AM and I am here. 

Philemon 15-16 reminds me that sometimes we lose a loved one for awhile to gain them for eternity. In this instance,  it was Paul writing to Philemon about Onesimus, who a runaway slave who had stolen something from Philemon, breaking Philemon's trust and his heart. Then Onesimus encounters Paul in prison. Prison did not stop the gospel of Christ and Onesimus finds a relationship with Jesus.  

Philemon had to lose Onesimus as a servant, for awhile, to gain him as a brother for eternity.  What may seem hard or a trial turns out "for good" when it brings us to our knees, into relationship or open our eyes to the scope of eternity. Here is the passage:

"For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord." 

Onesimus went from servant...or maybe even "a fan" of the faith filled...into the family on the day he believed. Paul and Philemon gained a brother.   

We can serve the Lord as fans but not really belong to him. What a tragedy that would be. Far more tragic than the death of a believer or a believer's life-threatening illness. Onesimus, in his service to Philemon and relationship with Paul in prison, found Christ as his Lord and Savior. What a joy to the believers who loved him before he believed. Paul was happy to endure prison to further the cause of Christ. 

Crazy?  No. Crazy love. 

Christ longs for us to find him on our journey here, so He can bring us truly home when the door to our eternity opens. 

"Never forget who you are." - Mufasa

Today, I am grateful to belong to the great "I AM".