Jesus

Those Things That Are Right

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Sunday we asked God to grant us the spirit to think and do always those things that are right. Our Old Testament Scripture reading gave us the example of Joseph.

You’ve likely heard Joseph portrayed as a braggart and a tattle tale, perhaps in an effort to explain his brothers’ jealousy.  Perhaps some teach him that way in an effort to justify their own jealous tendencies.

Some say Joseph bragged about his dreams.

But Scripture doesn’t say he bragged about them, it merely states that he reported them. And just because your brothers are jealous doesn’t mean you made them jealous.

Remember Cain? He was so jealous of his brother, Abel, that he entertained murderous thoughts.

God found Cain stewing in his anger and asked, “What’s your problem? If you do what is right, I’ll bless you, too.  Sin is crouching at your door, don’t answer it.”

But he did answer it. When given the choice between yielding his heart, mind and behavior to God and being blessed, or stubbornly holding onto his anger, he took the anger and killed his brother.  Abel wasn’t killed because made Cain jealous.  Abel was killed because Cain wanted to do what he wanted to do and be blessed anyway. And he hated that God doesn’t work that way.

The assumptions we make about how Joseph reported his dreams are shaded by the bits of our personality we project onto him. When I read the account of his dreams, I don’t imagine Joseph bragging at all.

What do you do when you have a really wild, vivid dream? Do you report it to whoever is at the breakfast table?

I think that’s what Joseph was doing, just reporting a couple of weird, amazing dreams and naively believing his family would be amazed by them, too.

What about Joseph as a tattle tale?

There appeared to be just cause right there in our bulletin: “Joseph brought an ill report of them to their father.”

That’s how all the modern translations I’ve consulted tell it. But the Septuagint – the original translation of the OT from Hebrew and Aramaic into Greek – tells a different story.

The Septuagint says it was the brothers who brought a bad report against Joseph. They were the tattlers. The exact wording: “And they brought against Joseph a bad fault to Israel, their father.”

“But,” Scripture continues, [in spite of the bad report] “Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age.” No reason other than he was born in his old age.

I keep hearing from friends who are becoming grandparents that grandkids are so much more enjoyable than kids. Perhaps because you can relax and enjoy children more when you are no longer striving for all the things for which youth strives.

In addition, Joseph as a braggart and snitch isn’t congruent with the character he displayed during the rest of his life.

Joseph was seventeen when his dad sent him to Shechem to check on the health and safety of his brothers. Some 17-year-olds would say, “No way! I’m not going. They hate me!” But not Joseph. He said. “Okay, (Septuagint: I’m ready).”

Being hated by your siblings is a long, lonely road to walk, and Joseph walked it, all the way to Shechem.

When he finally arrived his brothers weren’t there. At that point, some teenagers would shrug their shoulders, return home and say, “They weren’t there.” But not Joseph, he went the extra mile – the extra 20 or 30 miles to be more accurate – to Dothan.

That’s what always doing the right thing looks like – going the extra mile, even when you’re hated. Even when you’re really tired of being hated.

The rest of Joseph’s story reminds me of a book from my childhood. Remember it? The one with the guy in a parachute on the cover?: “Fortunately Ned was invited to a surprise party…” “Unfortunately the party was 1,000 miles away.”

Unfortunately going the extra mile got Joseph sold into slavery.
Fortunately “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered and the Lord gave him success in everything he did.”

That phrase recurs several times throughout Joseph’s story. “The Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in everything he did…” Perhaps that is the key to always doing what’s right. Having the Lord with you, talking you through it.

But what came first, the chicken or the egg? Did Joseph always do what was right because the Lord was with him or was the Lord with him because he always did what was right?

Scripture tells us that God chose David to be the second King of Israel, because, as he said to Samuel, “He will do whatever I tell him to do.” Perhaps God chose Joseph because he was the same sort of man – one who could be counted on to do the right thing – to yield his heart, mind, and attitude to God.

So Joseph found favor in his master’s eyes and became his trusted attendant. But either Joseph was really hot or Mrs. Potiphar was really horny, either way, she pursued him relentlessly and when he wouldn’t acquiesce to her request, she accused him of rape and he wound up in prison.

Some people would be angry and bitter about now. But not Joseph. How do I know he wasn’t bitter and angry? He reached out to others, even in his own need.

The Lord was with Joseph in prison and Joseph was put in charge of all the other prisoners. One morning he noticed a couple of the new guys looking dejected. He sat down and asked them what was wrong. They had both had disturbing dreams the night before. Joseph said, “I’m pretty good with dreams, let’s hear ‘em.” After hearing the dreams he told the first guy that his dream meant he would be restored to his position as cupbearer to the king within three days. The cupbearer was thrilled and relieved. Joseph said, “When you get out of here mention to Pharaoh that I don’t belong here.” The cupbearer said he would.

But, he didn’t and Joseph languished in prison another two years.

Two more years of faithfully performing the duties placed in front of him. Two more years with his dreams on hold.

You can dwell on all the bad things that have happened to you – sold into slavery when you were just trying to help; exercising sexual integrity and being falsely accused anyway; helping someone who doesn’t help you back. You can rehearse all the injustices and conclude that God doesn’t care, or you can look for all the ways He helped you in the midst of it all and be grateful.

You know the rest of the story. Pharaoh had a dream that no one understood, the cupbearer finally remembered Joseph, Joseph interpreted the dream and even offered a brilliant plan to deal with the impending famine. He was made second in command of all of Egypt, was reunited with his dad, wrestled with prospect of reconciling with his brothers and in the end did the right thing.

And, if you know the whole story, Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, were greatly blessed.

What lessons can we glean about always doing right as we watch Joseph’s life unfurl?

  • Go the extra mile, even when people hate you. Be good for goodness’ sake.
  • Do your job well, even when you thought sheaves were going to bow down to you and you’re someone’s slave instead; give it your all even when you thought your life was going to be greater than it’s turning out to be.
  •  Take a compassionate interest in others, help them even in the midst of your own need.
  • Let God be with you, even when you are languishing for two more years. Let Him still be with you. Listen to Him, yield your heart and attitude and thoughts to Him.
  • Consistently do the right thing and your children will be blessed with a great legacy.
  • Trust that what the haters mean for evil God means for good. God always means for our good.

In order to trust you have to think right.

Which brings us to Sunday’s gospel reading (from Matthew 14).

Mark and John gave a slightly different account, but Matthew told us that Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side of the lake.

He made them get into the boat. That’s an important detail.

After He dismissed the crowds, He went up the mountain by Himself to pray.

By the time He finished praying, the boat was quite far from land. The disciples had been battling wind and waves all night and they were probably exhausted by the time Jesus caught up with them. So when they saw Him approach – walking on the sea – they were terrified. Not because the waves were battering their boat – some of them were seasoned fisherman, they knew how to handle wind and waves. They were terrified because they thought they saw a ghost.

How do you think right when you’ve been up all night battling strong winds and now you think you see a ghost?

You look at the facts:
Fact 1: Jesus made us get in the boat. It wasn’t our idea.
Fact 2: Jesus sent us to the other side of the lake. He didn’t, as Beth Moore so brilliantly pointed out, send us to the bottom of the lake.

Conclusion: So what if it’s a ghost? The second Jesus sent us ahead to the other side of the lake our arrival was guaranteed.

Same right thinking applies when you are Peter, endeavoring to do what only God can do.

What God invited you to do.

Peter got out of the boat and started walking toward Him. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened and began to sink.

Peter had complete confidence in Jesus’s invitation until he saw the strong winds.

Reminds me of the first time I water skied: I grabbed the rope, the boat pulled me right up and I was skiing and having a really good time slipping in and out of the wake. And then it occurred to me that I shouldn’t be doing so well on my very first attempt, and with that thought I let go of the rope.

People can’t walk on water.

But when Jesus is the One doing the inviting, we can. So what if the wind is strong? His will is stronger. When He invites you to “Come,” He will get you there.

Or do you think He plays cruel tricks? Invites us and then lets us sink or swim?

When my first husband left me I spent many moons in a battered boat trying desperately to figure out what I had done to deserve abandonment. I rowed hard against a sea of accusations because Job wasn’t the only one who had bad friends. I evaluated my imperfections against the, in some cases, greater imperfections of my non-abandoned friends trying to make sense of it all. I felt like my life was doomed.

And then God climbed into the boat and reminded me of the facts.

He reminded me of that Sunday morning in April when I was getting ready for church, I was being baptized that day. And as I zipped myself into my floral dress, a thought floated through the air, “He’s going to propose today.”

He, I figured, was my boyfriend, who was also being baptized that morning. We had only been dating 4 months and we hadn’t talked at all about marriage so I just let the thought float right on by. I finished dressing and then practiced the Scripture verse I had chosen to recite before the dunking.

And sure enough, sitting on a sofa together in the pastor’s office – dry clothes back on, hair dried – waiting for the rest of the service to end, he did indeed propose.

And there were the facts: God knew that the marriage would end even as He floated that thought to me on that April morning. Perhaps that’s why He whispered it, So I’d remember that He was well aware that I was getting into the boat.

And even though He knew it wasn’t seaworthy, He didn’t try to stop me. He loves me and He didn’t try to stop me.

It’s not like I was rebelliously getting into a lemon of a boat. He was a christian, I was a Christian, his parents were happily married. I did my due diligence.

I hadn’t made a fatal mistake. I hadn’t married outside of His will. I wasn’t doomed. God knew and He allowed. He loved me and He still allowed. And if me getting into what He knew would turn out to be an unreliable boat was okay with Him, then from now on, it would be okay with me. I still couldn’t say the d word but I would trust that God meant it for good.

Praise God for always meaning it for good,
for speaking truth to our battered souls,
for taking the oars from our flailing hands,
for urging us on as we walk the lonely road,
for directing our thoughts as we languish for two more years.

Praise God for giving us the spirit to think right and do always those things that are right, even when life is habitually hard, that we, who cannot exist without Him, may be enabled to live according to His will.

Amen.

#unfurl

 

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Jesus

Amen Jesus.

My pastor posted this video on Facebook recently. I loved it. Looooooved it and cried.

And Sighed.

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The “contending for the faith” crowd raised their eyebrows:

  • His wording is off.
  • He didn’t actually claim Jesus as his Savior.
  • Let’s wait and see if this is real.
  • etc.

Wait and see if this is real and then what? Accept him as a brother? As if our acceptance of him matters.

I get it.  I guess. The disciples were leery of Paul at first.  Accepted him cautiously to make sure his conversion wasn’t a trick.  After all, just days earlier he had been killing Christians.

And you know how Hollywood is…

Sigh. We contenders complain that Hollywood oppresses Christianity and then, when one of “them” gets on board with what Christ is doing, we shoo him away.

And so it went: The contenders raised their eyebrows at Jim Carrey and then the “enlightened” raised their eyebrows at the contenders.

Sigh. We enlightened self-righteously shudder at the self-righteousness of the contenders.

And then someone wrote this:

What I don’t like about these conversations is the us vs them, “We good! Christians vs those “repressive Christians” positions that these set up. It often reads like nothing other than an alternative self-righteous orthodoxy. It is heartbreaking to watch factions of the church bite and devour itself, as if one side is more righteous in their newly found warm and fuzzy Jesus than the “judgmental”, “mean-spirited” side. And it all comes from the flesh. When you can embrace the fact that you are no more right or righteous in your view of God than your more “traditional” brother, who is also doing the best that he or she can, and embrace them and love them instead of sowing division then maybe there is something to say. And even then, humility may dictate to simply keep your mouth shut. If you love, you have no agenda to shove down someone else’s throat. If you love you have no “position” to co-opt from someones comments. If you love, you have no stake in the religious/political/justice causes pronounced by your favorite pastor or famous person in an interview or video. (Rant over). – Matt Mirabile

When you can embrace the fact that you are no more right or righteous in your view of God than your more “traditional” brother, who is also doing the best that he or she can, and embrace them and love them instead of sowing division then maybe there is something to say.

Amen.  (I don’t want to go off on a tangent, but just stop and ponder all that is wrong with assuming your brother or sister’s position is “mean-spirited.”)

The pendulum always swings to the extremes before it rests in the middle.

When I became a Christian in the 80’s, judgment was in. Amy Grant sang Fat Baby and none of us dared be one.

Now that warm and fuzzy is the fad, anyone who is not is bad.

Lord have mercy.

My Christian thinking has been influenced by both camps, but I won’t pitch a tent in either one. I prefer the solitude of the cross to the fellowship of a fad.

The cross with its vertical holiness and its horizontal compassion.

I’ll live in the small lonely space where the two intersect.

“And even then, humility may dictate to simply keep your mouth shut. If you love, you have no agenda to shove down someone else’s throat. If you love you have no “position” to co-opt from someones comments. If you love, you have no stake in the religious/political/justice causes pronounced by your favorite pastor or famous person in an interview or video.”

Let’s not be lemmings.

Let’s just recognize God in the things people – regardless of who they are – do and say and then applaud Him.

With our tears flowing and our mouths shut.

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.”    Mark 9:38-40

Amen Jesus.

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Jesus

Stick with me, honey, I’m a genius.

Conversation on the way home from church:

The Hub:  What was the point of the sermon?
Other than that we shouldn’t sacrifice our children.
Which kind of goes without saying.

Me: Perhaps he was talking to those who might be sitting in front of their computers being radicalized by groups like ISIS.
Because those groups do sacrifice their children.
Strap bombs to them.
Perhaps he was speaking to that.

Still Me: I was thinking, as the Scripture was being read, that had God not stayed Abraham’s hand He would have left a huge and eternal opening for the accuser.

In order to eternally zip the enemy’s lip God would have to be both Abraham and Isaac.

The Hub: You’re right, that’s the only sacrifice that would put Him above reproach.

Me: Can’t accuse a guy of anything who’s willing to make the sacrifice AND be the sacrifice.

I went on: Father Ken mentioned that in Biblical times people thought they were pleasing God by sacrificing their children.

You want an animal sacrifice? The best of my flock? I’ll do you one better…

But God didn’t ask for one better.

And so it still is today, we try to add to what God has done for us, to what He requires of us.

Rather than being simply and humbly grateful.

Perhaps that was the point of the sermon.

I looked out the car window.

“Stick with me, honey, I’m a genius.”

“I know,” he replied, “that’s why I brought it up. I knew you’d have insights.”

***

I watched a Netflix movie on my computer last night while the hub was watching a NASCAR race.

Have you seen it?

That movie, this morning’s Scripture and the video I posted earlier today, all feel somehow tied together.

In my soul.

Perhaps because “God knits man in his mother’s womb slowly and wisely.  [Closure, insight, forgiveness, healing] should be born in a similar way.”

Watch the movie, wouldya’?, so we can discuss.

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Jesus

Delight

 

As I stood in front of the mirror rolling my hair, the early morning sun shining through the window behind me,  I noticed that my blue eyes looked exceptionally blue.  Must be the blue dress I’m wearing.

My mind went to the sixth graders to whom I spoke last week.  They were telling me what they like about their appearance and what they like about their inner qualities.  One of the girls said, “I like how my eyes change color.”

“According to the time of day and what you’re wearing, you mean?,” I asked.

“Yes,” she nodded.

“Your eyes are lovely,” I affirmed.

I affirm each child as they tell me what they like about themselves.

And as I rolled the last section of hair it occurred to me that that is precisely why sixth graders love my talk.

I am God for them.

More precisely I am the part of God who delights in them.

Later in the lesson, as I point out the land mines that are lurking in adolescence, I am God’s voice saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”

And they appreciate knowing what’s what.

Later this morning, the bearers of the cross, the giant gold Bible, and the lanterns processed midway down the aisle and stopped, just as they do every Sunday. The Bible was opened and the deacon read from the gospels. And I love it. I love that the procession into the aisle represents Jesus coming among us.  Jesus telling us His good news – not from afar, but from within our midst.

I jotted in my bulletin, “I want to bring an aspect of God whenever I speak – mercy, compassion, love, grace, guidance, delight.”

Wouldn’t that be something?

To bring God’s delight within a midst?

To leave each person with a sense that God finds him/her delightful?

Mr. Rogers was good at that.

I think I’ll make it my prayer.

For now, I’ll ask you what I always ask them:

What 3 things do you like most about your appearance?

What 3 things do you like most about your character/inner beauty?

 

 

 

 

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faith, the friends

Doxology

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

If you know anything about Dixie, you know that she was diagnosed with colon cancer in February.

If you don’t know anything about her, it’s time to catch up:

There is no remedy for love but to love more.

We’re Not Just Whistling Dixie

One minute you’re getting your face bit off and the next minute you’re living in Hintzville.

Is this my new calling? ‘Cuz I’m gonna’ need superhuman strength.

Big Love & Fruit that Lasts

Stuck in the Kitchen Again…

McDonald’s has its pink slime, I have purple.

When I last wrote about my friend, I was cooking like her life depended on it.

And wondering whether she would be incontinent forever.

But then the blessings began to flow on two creatures here below.

On a little beagle and me.

Dixie is now pooping like a champ – well, almost like a champ. And that is a huge blessing right there.

But there’s more.

Wednesday morning I took her for the 4th of 6 chemo treatments – each 3 weeks apart.  As per the protocol, her oncologist did an ultrasound and some chest x-rays prior to the treatment to make sure the treatments have been working.  If not, he’d switch to something else.

The ultrasound results?

There is no sign of recurrence in her bowels or lymph nodes – lymph nodes are all of normal size.

The doc said a radiologist would look at her chest x-rays to confirm but he saw nothing obvious on them.

So he proceeded with injection number four.

And then yesterday his assistant called with the radiologist’s findings:

Her lungs are completely clear!

Good food, exercise and chemo are keeping the cancer at bay.

And Love. Lots of Love.

Love is healing her.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow…

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Stopping to smell the roses after this morning’s happy walk.

She’ll get the final two injections and then she’ll be monitored from there.

Hopefully for many happy, healthy years to come…

#grateful #hopeful

 

 

 

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Jesus

Smiling at Ugly

I saw God once. He was sitting on a throne and He looked pleased.  Contented. As though there were no terrorism or exploitation or child/animal/spouse abuse or abortion or addiction or disease.

He was smiling as though all is right with the world.

From His perspective, perhaps it is.

Perhaps what makes the world right in His eyes is not our behavior, but His.

He sits with a serene smile because all is right in His world.

We mock Him in our world and He loves us in His.

We exploit and terrorize here, He redeems and forgives there.

His conscience is clear because He has always done the right thing.

So He smiles.

I was a little like that when I was young, smiling at the world with a soft heart.

But somewhere along the way my smile became based on the behavior of others.

I was only as content as my husband was faithful, my child was grateful, my friends were loyal.

As my contentment became based upon things I could not control, I stewed more than I smiled.

I stewed because people aren’t being how they’re supposed to be.

I’ve been wanting to get back to smiling, even at an ugly world, and God has shown me how He does it.

He doesn’t smile because we are being how we’re supposed to be.

He smiles because He is faithful.

He smiles because He is grateful.

He smiles because He is loyal.

And because He has redemption up His sleeve.

“Look at them,” Jesus said as He looked out over the crowds of rich, poor, healthy, lame, righteous, grateful, unrighteous, ungrateful, faithful, adulterous, loyal betrayers at the start of Matthew chapter 5, “Blessed are they.”

“Blessed are they because I am here to do the right thing.”

And He did.

And now He smiles.

And I want to smile with Him.

Blessed are we.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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