Starting Fresh

So how’s those New Year’s resolutions coming along?  Mine are doing great in case you were wondering.  You know why?  Because I didn’t make any.  Ha!  Resolutions are to me just the beginnings of failure mainly because I put these expectations on myself and I likely will not follow through.  It’s like I make this big list of all my flaws and think I can all of a sudden completely change everything I dislike about myself because today is January and yesterday was December.

That’s not to say that I didn’t start anything new.  In fact I did.  A new year is a great time to start a new thing.  So I’m going to read the Bible all the way through this year.  I got a really cool (really on-sale) Bible with my Christmas money that is set up in chronological order and the readings are marked by the day.  It’s definitely different because the prophets are all sprinkled in where they actually happened on the timeline instead of clumped together in the middle and at the end of the Old Testament.  I’m guessing that Paul’s letters are probably inserted here and there in the middle of Acts based on where he was.  Anyhow, I just thought maybe it would all make sense and stay in my brain better if it flowed based on when it happened.  It just seems to tie everything together for me.

Right now I’m about midway through Genesis (with a little Chronicles ancestry inserted in here and there).  Because this is not my first undertaking of reading the Bible, I have read Genesis probably more than any other book.  In fact, Genesis is literally falling out of my Bible.

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So I’m rereading again about Abraham (was originally was called Abram until God changed his name) and the rest of the patriarchs.  But in reading one of the passages the other day, I was struck again by the wording of one particular verse.

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. – Genesis 12:1

At first glance, that might seem a little redundant.  Go from your country, go from your kindred, go from your father’s house.  Okay, we got it.  You want Abram leave where he is and go.  But read back over that again and take note to how each time it’s a little more personal.

Go from your country.  Leave this place that you’ve called home and are comfortable with.

Go from your kindred.  Leave this way of thinking that you been taught and this way of doing things that’s been passed down to you.

Go from your father’s house.  Leave behind who you thought you were…this old identity.

God wasn’t just calling him to leave a place a go to another place.  God was going birth a new nation from his offspring.  God was going to give him a new way of doing things, change the way he thought.  And God was going to give him a new identity.

Abram wasn’t just going away from something…he was going toward something else.

And verse 4 says?  “So Abram went…”

Just like that.  And he didn’t even know where he was going.  All he knew what that he was following God, and in faith he went.  And God didn’t tell Abram to just go and find a new place.  No, God said to leave and go “to the land I will show you.”  So the change that was coming wasn’t with Abram leading, but with God leading.  I wonder if maybe that’s where I always messed up with my resolutions.  Making that list of things I wanted to change and then trying to do it myself instead of asking God where I needed to leave and where I needed to go from there.

Sometimes God calls us to walk away from things.  Maybe it’s something that has become an idol and we have to lay it down and walk away.  Maybe it’s an old way of thinking and God is saying, “It’s time to put that to rest and let Me birth something new in you.”  Or maybe for the very first time, you’re hearing God calling you out of sin and He’s got a new name and a new identity He wants to give you through Jesus.

And look, the things that He asks us to let go of don’t always necessary have to be bad things.  Sometimes they may be things that are consuming too much of our time.  Maybe you’re involved in too many activities and God is saying, “Hey, let’s say no to a few things so you can focus on this one thing.”  It might be that the thing God is calling you to right now is simply a season of rest.

No matter where you find yourself right now, I can promise you with all confidence that whatever God is calling you to is worth leaving behind what he’s calling you from.  And the blessing that is waiting there?  It’s gonna be a good one ya’ll.

 

 

 

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What to say?

I’ve been asked a million times lately how we’re doing.  Considering the circumstances, I am deeply appreciative of the concern expressed by friends and acquaintances.  And I have mostly tried to keep my replies to a minimum as best I can because if I’m not careful, all the hurt and anger comes bursting forth like a flood having been barely held at bay.  It all still feels a bit surreal.  Like it didn’t really happen.  Except for that it did.

And I’ve not been up here to write anything since the last post because honestly, everything that was in my head felt silly.  I mean, I guess when you go through something that’s life changing and overwhelming and devastating all at once, you feel like somehow that thing should completely rule and reign in your mind and over everything you do and to try to write about something lighthearted like joy and cookies and gardens and Legos feels fake somehow because you know what’s happened and everybody else knows what’s happened and well, who can write about growing watermelons at a time like this?

And while I’m still not really over the whole thing, I can surely look around me and see God at work.  And working in some pretty unexpected ways at that.  Healing is a slow process, but now beginning to really see God’s hand in it all is like a soothing balm on a burning wound.

I can’t lie.  For a little while there, it kinda felt like He was missing the whole thing.  Like blow by blow, the hits just kept coming and God was just standing there with His holy hands in His pockets.  In my heart, I know better, but sometimes you forget to operate out of the truth of what you know and you let your eyes drift away from His face.  I’ve talked a great game about faith and trusting in Jesus, but can I just admit here that sometimes it’s just been talk?  Because if I was Peter on the water, I’d have sunk several times already, that’s for sure.

Sometimes I feel like a crazy person.  One minute my faith is strong and intact and I know that I know that I know.  And then the next minute, I feel like a lost sheep on a hill somewhere in the middle of nowhere, bleating like mad, and then running away like an idiot when I see the Shepherd coming.

Tell me I’m not the only one?

And I don’t know how to resolve all that except to say thank you to the Shepherd who keeps coming.

Because this crazy sheep needs Him.

Even when I think I don’t and I’m running away angry and scared.

And even when I know I do and I’m falling into Him.

I need Him.  You need Him.  We need Him.

Help me Lord.

 

So next time, can we just talk about Legos?

Just like that.

Still hanging around in Luke 1.  As I was reading and pondering through Zechariah’s response to the angel Gabriel that I posted yesterday, my eyes couldn’t help but drift across the page to see Mary’s response to Gabriel.

Both Mary and Zechariah were presented with what to them seemed impossible.  Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were both on up in their years, and had yet to conceive a child.  But there was Gabriel standing there telling Zechariah to prepare for a child that was to come.  Told him this kid would be amazing.  Even told him what to name the boy.  And although Zechariah’s heart was probably doing flip-flops, his mind just could not…would not…fathom such a thing.

 Zechariah asked the angel,

“How can I be sure of this?

I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 

Luke 1:18

You can almost feel the pain and the hope all stirred up together in his question.  Tangible bitterness manifesting as doubt…a deep need for certainty.

Mary on the other hand hadn’t experienced an endlessly empty womb.  She hadn’t known the desperation of wanting to hold her tiny infant in her arms and the heartbreak of yet another year that passes without a child of her own.  Mary was really just a child herself at the time.

So Gabriel shows up and paints this amazing picture for Mary of this son that she will bear…that he will be the Son of the Most High, that his kingdom will be great, that he will reign forever.  And Mary’s response is:

“How will this be,”

Mary asked the angel,

“since I am a virgin?” 

Luke 1:34

Now just a side note here, but one thing that cracks me up a little about this exchange between Mary and Gabriel is that when Gabriel arrives and says to her “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you,” the Bible says that Mary was troubled by this and wondered what kind of a greeting this was.

Kind of an uh-oh moment for her, I guess.  I mean, when the Lord sends an angel and tells you that you are highly favored, would the knee-jerk response be to wonder what in the world God was getting ready to ask us to do?

Anyway, I think the difference between Mary’s and Zechariah’s responses has everything to do with heart behind them.  Zechariah’s heart had been saddened by the lack of a child and so he’d probably allowed bitterness to take root there and I can imagine that somewhere deep down inside he may have even begun to doubt God’s promise.

I think Mary’s response was less about doubt and more about an innocent wonder at how God was going to pull this off.  Not so much a lack of belief, but more of a child-like question of “why?” only this was instead “how?”

So she goes from fear and confusion as to how it is that she got to be highly favored, and now that the angel has given her the news, she’s thinking to herself, okay now wait a second.  How is God going to do this since I’ve never been with a man?  And just as simply as she asks, Gabriel simply answers:

The Holy Spirit will come upon you,

and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.

So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Luke 1:35

Just like that.

And just like that Mary says…well, okay.

Not, alright now how exactly is that going to work?  What do you mean by “the Spirit coming upon me?”  Could you give me a little more info there, Gabe?

 Just simply, okay.  May it be to me as you have said.

And as incredible as the angel’s explanation is, Mary had her answer and that was that.  Although she may not have completely understood the answer, she accepted it and was willing to let God handle the particulars.

We won’t always understand everything God asks us to do.   In fact, there will probably be lots of times where He asks us to do something so incredible, so totally out of our norm that at the moment makes little sense to us.  And it’s in the those times that we have to receive our answer in faith and trust that in God’s plan and in His time, everything will fall into place.

Because it will…