Given Everything

Romans 8:32
“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

I just returned from a two week trip to visit my parents and help them move. While I was there, Dad asked me to participate in a phone call with his investment advisor and estate consultant. He and my mom extracted seventeen years worth of memories and not-so-memorable things that my sisters and I had collected in their basement, and then abandoned when we married and moved away. I helped them haul literally hundreds of pounds of “stuff” to the donation center. It was an all-inclusive attempt to take inventory of what they had, who wanted it “someday” and what isn’t worth anything anymore.

In the basement, I sat cross-legged with my mother emptying trunks of baby clothes, hand-made blankets and old Yahtzee games. Carefully, I selected the one dress I remember her sewing for me when I was about two. I chose two baby blankets and a stack of old letters that had been sent to me when I was sick for an extended period of time. Across the room, one of my sisters struggled to contain her tears; her sentimentality offended at the loss of anything sacred—even if that be an old church bulletin with doodles done during a boring sermon.

My parents are almost 60, and a move like this necessarily conjures the conversation of who will inherit what when they pass away. I know I want my mother’s ring with all her children’s birthstones. They have two paintings that I’d like to have. Other things my sisters want for their homes.

Romans 8 explains the full beauty of our relationship to God as Father, and our position as His heirs by virtue of our adoption through Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

Though our point of reference as an heir is our familial relationships, there is an important difference between what we experience on earth and the kind of inheritance we receive from our Heavenly Father.

My sisters and I are making choices, planning to divide my parents’ estate. We will have to take somethings and relinquish others. But the Bible says that in Christ, God gives us all things, and that every good and perfect gift is from above. And in the the Old Testament we are told that “no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” [emphasis added]

As if it were not enough to receive salvation and forgiveness of our sins, God has adopted us—made us His children—and given each one of us full share in His inheritance.

Jesus, I pray that you will open the eyes of our hearts, enlighten us in order that we may know the hope to which you have called us and the riches of our glorious inheritance through Christ.

 First posted on http://www.servantsisters.org.
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4 Holiday Philosophies for Health

When you lay your personal goals along side the holidays, what comes to mind? A lot of the chatter we hear is people bemoaning inevitable weight gain and plotting their New Year’s resolutions to undo all the over-doing.

Or, are you thinking about your personal goals for learning to enjoy the small things, indulge in relationships and overflow with gratitude for delicious food and generous friends and family?

I’ve collected a few links from around the worldwide web, interesting perspectives on the holidays. Enjoy!

“What are you going to do to burn off those Thanksgiving calories?” ‘health-related’ Facebook pages ask.

How about enjoy time with your family and don’t beat yourself up? Don’t see exercise as punishment for or salvation from eating delicious food. Go on with your normal workout routine because it makes you feel good. And eat healthy food next week because it nourishes your body and mind.” Rachel Mac 

Not surprisingly, Kirstie Alley’s holiday perspective is completely centered around how to maintain an enviable figure. Is this really all we want to think about?

1. Move, move, move 2. Relish each mouthful and 3 more…

Obviously, food makes an easy gift. But I still wonder, as one recovering from an eating disorder and a ridiculous obsession with food, is there a way to move away from that? Do you give a lot of food gifts at Christmas? It’s a delicate balance for me, learn to celebrate food and also learn not to focus on it.

Are you tired of giving the same old holiday gifts – candy, cookies, stupid stocking stuffers? Me too! I would like my gifts to be meaningful, not too expensive, but promote health and vitality.

Well, here are a few of my favorite things… (I couldn’t resist!) ~Fresh Food Perspectives

A selfless perspective on the holidays:

Screenshot 2013-11-27 11.59.25

Truth – in the other half of the story

The Prodigal Son has been bugging me lately – because I’m not him. I think most Christians read this story and try to fit themselves into his shoes. They bemoan their wayward habits; then praise the good Father who welcomes them home with forgiveness. Honestly, the more I read this familiar story, I am starting to think the Prodigal had it more “right” than his good-guy big brother.

Years ago, I remember being irritated with my younger sister who seemed to get everything she wanted. Jen got the go-cart she asked for, the kitty, the overnight at a friend’s house, her favorite story at night and on and on. I remember asking her once, “How on earth do you do that? Why do Mom and Dad always say, ‘Yes,’ to you?”

“They don’t,” she insisted, “but they’d tell you, ‘Yes,’ more often too if you just asked.”

At the time, I huffed that I was too mature, I didn’t need to impose upon my parents’ generosity. I wasn’t going to beg for things. I was simply grown-up, dignified, self-sufficient and respectful. It wasn’t polite to ask for things.

Well… Now I think I had my theology wrong. 

Most of the time, when we read the brothers’ parable in Luke 15, we focus on the younger boy, the rebel. He’s the one who barged into his dad’s office and demanded to have what was coming to him. At this point, we don’t know anything about big brother. He’s probably out in the field, working his weary little fingers to the bone, thinking about how disciplined he is, how he must be Daddy’s favorite, how he deserves everything he gets.

You know the rest of the youngest’s story, the philandering, the famine, the pig food, his devastation and finally his return and groveling before Daddy. But do you remember where big brother was when the youngest showed up on the porch? He was out in the field – again, probably working his weary little fingers, thinking about how disciplined he was, how proud Daddy must be of him – especially since that good-for-nothing little brother of his ran off.

And the party started without him.

I don’t think Jesus intended for us to tune out the rest of the story. A full eight more verses round out the parable. Big brother (me) finally came in from the field sweaty and tired. The sound of revelry grated on his nerves, exacerbating his fatigue. When he found out that his little brother had come home safe and sound, he staunchly (on principle I’m sure) refused to join the party.

After a few minutes, Daddy came out to encourage his oldest. He got an earful. “How dare you! I’ve been the good son! I’m the one who has never asked you for anything. I’ve done everything you’ve asked. I’ve followed all the rules – and you never did anything special for me!”

“All that I have is yours.”

What do you think of that? All along, all of Daddy’s store houses, fields and wealth were available to his oldest son. All of Daddy’s riches, servants and companionship was simply there for the ASKING.

I realize that’s how I behaved toward my parents in many respects and certainly how I (and I venture most life-long Christians) behave toward my Heavenly Father. I believe the reason we don’t see more miracles, the reason we don’t enjoy more abundant life and full joy, the reason that we do not have peace, wisdom and contentment – is because we do not ask.

Matthew 7:7, “Ask and you will receive…”.

Luke 11:9-13, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”

I wonder how much God has stored up for our inheritance, that we’ve never even seen, dreamed of or dared to ask for. Do you realize that since Jesus came and died and redeemed us, we are sons of God and heirs of promise (Galatians 3:29), heirs of all that Christ purchased for us – life and joy and peace.

In the story Jesus told just before the story of the Prodigal son, he spoke of a shepherd who was more excited about finding a lost lamb than he was about 99 sheep who stayed obediently within their stall. I don’t think that’s because of simple relief. I don’t think it’s because he loved that stray so much more than the others. I think it’s because suddenly, that little stray sheep realized how rich and privileged he was to belong to a shepherd. After his rebellion, he knew how good his shepherd was and how safe he was in the shepherd’s arms.

Anyone in any relationship knows how good it feels to be appreciated. God finds His greatest joy in us, His children, when we acknowledge, ask for and enjoy all that He is for us. Don’t miss out!

Missing Beauty

Like a child at Christmas

New to a world of unbridled joy

Toys and gifts unshelved and labeled just for me

Scantily wrapped in bows to entice

And to celebrate the more beautiful giver

With an eye to Glory and Grace.

 

But I ran through the piles,

Stepped on a few.

Past love and peace and a new set of eyes.

Past my new heart and a clean mind.

I reached for the lowest branch,

And plucked an eye catching bauble.

As I turned the plastic charm around in my palm

Narcissus, I boasted in my glossy reflection.

Oh the prize of this cheap decor.

 

But a hook skewered my finger

Biting my pink, immature flesh

It held and my blood dripped upon

The beautiful gifts meant for me.

Jesus – Unwrapped

I am absolutely terrible at gift-wrapping, but I do enjoy it – for the first 50 packages.

The corners on my square packages always look wrinkled, the tissue protruding from the top of my bag-wrapped gifts always has a perfectly peek-able gap. Usually, I cut the paper just a little too small and end up having to cull the scraps for a strip just long enough to cover my naked box. The scrap that fits rarely matches.

However, whenever Patrick and I are lucky enough to go home for Christmas, I am inevitably conned into wrapping all the last minute gifts from everyone to everyone that everyone thought would wrap themselves and then everyone realized on Christmas Eve that their presents were still uncloaked. “Abby, do you mind wrapping my gifts for… Dad, Mom, Jennifer, Pete, Kelsey, Patrick, Rachelle….? I ran out of time!” So I break out the Christmas carols, lock myself in a hidden room and snip, clip, curl and tape away.

Why do we wrap our gifts for family and friends? I was pondering this for some reason as I finished my quiet time with Jesus this morning. I was reading Matthew, a few chapters after the Christmas story. “She wrapped him in swaddling clothes…”. Ummm… why?

Why did God wrap Jesus in humanity? Why did he send him disguised in the form of a tiny, Jewish nobody?

The most obvious answer is: because He wanted to. God had foretold the coming of Christ for centuries and it was His good pleasure to do it in an nondescript way in the fullness of His own timing. God does what God does. Period.

But I think there’s a more intriguing answer.  We wrap our Christmas gifts for friends and family because we love the thrill of anticipation. Patrick loves to make me guess what he’s picked out for me. He loves to watch my eyes light up at the sight of green bows and glittery paper and the little sticker with my name on it. He loves to watch me unwrap my special gift. He loves to see the realization of his personal creative investment as the reality of his generosity washes over me.

I think God is like that. He loves to watch us discover the true treasure that Jesus is and the amazing truth that He wants to walk with us, to relate to us, to love us. When the disciples first began to follow Jesus, he was just a good man. Many men of Biblical times followed a particular rabbi and ascribed to his teaching. It was over the days, weeks, months, years that they discovered, unwrapped who Jesus is.

“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Matt. 16:16

“And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. The said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?'” Luke 24:31,32

If God had simply appeared in history, with all His splendor and glory, we would only have known His power, might and righteousness. If Jesus had appeared as the worthy King that He is, all creation would have instantly bowed the knee. But we would never have known the full character of God, we would never have experienced the breadth of all that He is. By coming in the form of a man, a tangible human being, God allowed us to experience His love, His touch, His mercy, His affection. As evidenced in the garden of Eden, before the fall, God enjoyed walking with man in the garden. God created man in His own image for His own glory and for relationship with Him.

Jesus came to explain to us the Father – to show us all that God is for us. By coming wrapped in flesh, hidden from our expectations and sensibilities, we are able to unwrap and discover Jesus, going ever farther and farther into the deepest aspects of our loving God. He loves to watch our eyes light up as we progressively seek Him and He reveals Himself to us.

Before you start preaching…

Yesterday I read 1 Samuel 25-26 in my through-the-Bible-in-a-year program.  Obviously, I’m interested in this story, my namesake is a heroine described as, ” discerning and beautiful.”  Oh to be like her!

But I lit upon something I hadn’t thought about before.  When Abigail hurried to appease David, she didn’t just go with a good argument.  She immediately prepared a gift.  Not just any gift, but exactly what David had asked for and needed most.  David had sent his men to request provision from Nabal.  They had been protecting Nabal’s shepherds as they were preoccupied shearing their sheep.  In exchange for his goodness and friendship, David simply asked Nabal for reasonable generosity.  So when Abigail went out to meet David, she took with her loaves and wine, figs, raisins and sheep and grain.  I can only speculate how David might have responded to her petition if she had not come with her hands extended.

I was wondering about how this might apply to sharing the gospel.  Many of the people I run into have been offended by “Christians.” To be fair, many who claim to be Christians are not, and their hypocritical behavior and judgmental attitudes give Christ a bad name.  Others, who are sincere in their faith, are simply rash and fail to listen to the Holy Spirit in order to speak the truth in love.  After a run in with one of these self-proclaimed preachers, many unbelievers are convinced that they want nothing to do with Jesus.

So, how to mend the bridge and begin again?  How do we defend the name of Jesus and “snatch these souls from the fire.”(Jude 22)?  What about taking a gift?  What are they needing the most – physically?

What about the homeless guy who watches a Christian “good Samaritan” walk right by him 100 times?  What if that Christian took a gift, met the guy’s needs, first?

What about the gift of a listening ear?  Maybe they only wanted to ask questions or think out loud about what they believe?  What if we offered the gift of humble, respectful attentiveness before exploding all over them with what we think?

I could try this in my marriage.  What if instead of giving Patrick a piece of my mind or my oh-so-educated opinion; instead of slathering him with advice when he is about to make a mistake, what if I met his personal needs first?

This concept is repeated in Proverbs, so I’m sure that I’m not making it up, or stretching the story.

Proverbs 18:16  “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.”

Proverbs 21:14 “A gift in secret averts anger, and a concealed bribe, strong wrath.”