I am blessed

I am Blessed: A Joint Post

Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. – Luke 12:32, HCSB

From Jen:

Ever hear of a comedy of errors? This week—no this month has been a comedy of frustration. Except it wasn’t funny. Our house has sold, and it seems the moment we signed the purchase contract things started falling apart in my formerly perfectly functioning, lovely home. Retaining walls failed. Hail damage—roof needs replaced. Sewage pump failed—water (ew) in the basement. And, most recent, our AC quit. To top it off, on one of my trips to town to get something to ‘fix’ one of these problems, I got pulled over. I haven’t been pulled over in fifteen years!

In the midst of all this, I keep reminding myself how very blessed we are. Great family, beautiful kids, wonderful new home, plenty of food—good food…I’ve got a long list of blessings. But I wondered today when the AC repair guy was here and as I reminded myself yet again that we are blessed, what if all of these things were taken away? Would I still be blessed?

From Susan:

Yes. Why?  Because our Father delights to give us the kingdom.  But it’s a heavenly kingdom he’s bless us with, not an earthly kingdom made up of our possessions.  In fact, the verse right after the one Jen chose make that clear: “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys.” Luke12:33 NAS

Like Jen, I also recently sold a house. While we are hunting for a new one, we live in a lovey rent house.  It boasts a working fridge and AC (sorry Jen), plush carpet and running water – far more luxury than most of my friends in West Africa could ever dream of owning.

But while a middle-class American lifestyle is certainly a blessing, it’s not the true blessing Christ is talking about in these verses. The blessing he’s talking about is built up in heaven, where ACs don’t break and sewage pumps never fail.

So I can, without any hint of guilt, say that my West African brothers and sisters in Christ, who live in mud huts with thatched roofs, are every bit as blessed as I am. Their blessing, like mine, will be found in heaven. Their blessing, like mine, doesn’t depend on their possessions.

Like Jen, I am also blessed with a loving husband and great, healthy kids. But does that mean the Christian woman down the street whose husband left her is not blessed?  Or the believing parents who lose a child to cancer? Are they not blessed?  With great tenderness and compassion, I say that even though they hurt with unimaginable pain, they are blessed.  Their treasure, like mine, is found in heaven.  Their treasure, like mine, is the Kingdom of God.

So yes, even if all these things were taken away, I would still be blessed.

I belong

Belonging to Christ and Each Other

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.  Gal. 3:28-29 NASB

I belong to Christ, and so I am His heir.  That is rather mind-boggling, to think of being an heir to the God of the Universe.  And I’m not the only one.  There’s a whole passel of us, and this verse puts us all in the same family – Abraham’s descendants.  It points out that no matter our nationalities, occupations or genders, we are all siblings.  We belong to Christ – and to each other.

The past few months, this reality has been so vivid to me.  At the end of June, a church in Oklahoma called my husband as pastor.  They didn’t know us, really. Oh, they interviewed us.  The listened to my husband preach.  But basically, we were strangers.

Only they haven’t treated us that way.  They’ve treated us like family.  Over a dozen of them volunteered to drive Texas to help us paint and repair our house so we could put it on the market in top shape.  A couple of deacons surprised me the next weekend by showing up at my door with big machinery they use in their business.  They just up and landscaped my front yard for me – bushes, decorative rocks, the whole nine yards.  When they were done, the place was so cute that the first people to tour it offered us a contract.  We close today.  Why?  Because my new family helped me.

And moving day?  A whole different group of heirs from our new church drove down with borrowed trucks and trailers.  They hefted my boxes and hauled my furniture across the state line.  Once I arrived, still different siblings brought me dinner every night.  They’ve gone out of their way to invite my children to activities and introduce them to other kids their age so they wouldn’t feel lost their first day of school.  That was yesterday.  And I got several texts from heirs telling me they were praying it would go smoothly, and it did.

I feel like I came home, even though I’ve never lived here before.  The reason is tucked in this verse: We are all one in Christ.

Thank you, Jesus, that I belong to you and your other children.

I belong

I Belong: A Joint Post

The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. ~Romans 5:5, NKJV

From Jen

Ever hear the phrase “weird middle kid”? I’m one of those—the middle of five. And, yeah, we’re a little on the different side. I’ve always attributed that to the fact that I never really fit in the line-up of kids. Not one of the big kids (who were both boys, so that didn’t help much). Not one of the little kids (who were and are still very close. Can we say outsider?).

Okay, so I know this sounds like a poor Jen post, but I’ve made peace with my lot in life ;). The point is I’ve lived a large portion of my life feeling like I didn’t belong. However, moving out, going to college, and striking at life as an adult, I’ve discovered something: Most of us feel that way. Oldest, youngest and everyone in between; most of us, at some point or another, feel like we don’t belong.

I have a theory about that. If we thought we belonged, we’d never know we were lost. If we didn’t know we were lost, we’d never search for a home. And home . . . home is the Father’s heart. The place where we actually, really and truly belong.

From Susan

I love the verse Jen chose to illustrate belonging. God’s love has been poured out — the pitcher turned upside down and dumped – into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

I am in the midst of moving. The stress of packing, living out of boxes, registering my kids in a new school, still having to edit (my job doesn’t stop just because my life is hectic), and running almost daily back and forth between two states as we try to finalize all the paperwork to sell our home – well, it had me in tears yesterday. So, I called my Mommy. I cried on her and even yelled a little. I knew she’d accept me despite my bad behavior, because I belong to her. I am rock-solid confident in her love for me. I’m hers. I always will be.

As I hung up the phone, feeling better, the Holy Spirit pricked me. I’m His, too, yet I wasn’t telling him about my woes. Why not? I searched for the answer and came up with this: I’m ashamed that I’m stressed. This is minor stuff, and it all comes as a result of blessings: a new home and a new church that loves us and has called my husband as pastor. Really, I didn’t want to bother the God of the Universe with my petty moving stress when there are people out there struggling with cancer, persecution, and depression.

But God reminded me that I am His daughter, His. And while my current trials may not be big stuff, He wants me to unload on Him so He can help me, change my perspectives, convict me where I am wrong and blanket me in peace. He will accept me just as surely as my mother does, even when I am behaving badly.

I belong to Him. He’s poured out His love into my heart. It is far more overwhelming than my mother’s love. And that’s saying a lot. I have a fiercely loving mother.

Ever so much fiercer is my God’s love for those who belong to Him.

I am called to live with passion

Heart, Soul and Strength

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 HCSB

In the 1990s, a woman walked into a Kansas City Baskin Robbins store to buy an ice cream cone.  She’d just placed her order when another customer walked in behind her.  She turned and found herself face to face with Paul Newman.  His blue eyes made her knees buckle, and her pulse filled her ears.  Wordlessly, she paid for her cone and left.  She stepped outside the store, took a deep breath, and realized she didn’t have her ice cream.  She turned to go back in and get it when she met Paul Newman coming out. 

“Are you looking for your ice cream cone?”  he asked.  She was still too awed to speak, so she just nodded her head.  He smiled.  “You put it in your purse with your change.”

When was the last time you allowed God’s presence to totally fluster you like that?  When was the last time that His face caused you to forget everything else – the to-do list, the tension at work … the ice cream cone?  God wants us to love him like that, with all our heart.

But he wants our soul’s love, too.  In Hebrew, the word “soul” can be translated “appetite.”  He wants us to crave him daily.  It also carries the connotation of “will or choice.”  He want us to decide to follow him, even when our hearts aren’t fluttering.  Because God knows that all of love isn’t a heady emotion.

And that brings us to strength.  He wants us to love Him with my actions, regardless of what I’m feeling.  He wants me to use my soul to choose to sweat for Him, to volunteer with the kids at church, to share Christ with a friend when I’d rather be silent, to give a ride to a needy woman whose car is broken down.  None of those things may cause my heart to sing, but they express my passionate love for my God none the less.

God wants my emotions.  He wants me to be utterly in awe of Him.  But emotions are flighty things, so He wants my will, too, so that I’ll choose to serve him even when I feel depressed.  And he wants my strength, my hands and feet, my time, my actions.  He wants all of me.

I have to confess that everything I’ve written today comes out of a sermon my husband preached last week at a church in Oklahoma.  They subsequently called him to be their new pastor. We are so excited about this move and about all God has for us there.  But this week, I have been overwhelmed with painting and packing and everything it takes to sell this house and transplant our lives there.  I am exhausted and fresh out of creativity, so I snuggled up to him this morning and asked for permission to just put his words here.  He gave it.  He’s a good guy, that man I married.  He loves His God passionately.  May I do so too, even buried under boxes and bubble wrap.