Joseph was royalty.
He had the blood of kings in his veins.
A chosen king.
As improbable David’s anointing
Was Joseph becoming the Father of the King of Kings.
Carpenters and shepherds. Shepherds and carpenters. Blue collar workers with royalty in their veins because the God of the universe knew
Could achieve true Greatness with their own strength
could earn status in God’s kingdom without His secret ways, His blessings, His miracles
No one is wise enough, powerful enough, perfect enough
To end up the King of Israel
Or the unintended Father to the King
moved some impossible
parts and pieces together
And blew divinity into the line of David. Knocked him to His knees
And to Joseph
He Whispered a similar task
To be the shepherd to the king of kings
David fell, Joseph nodded, God smiled
and a King was born.
Most of us know or have heard reference at some point in our lives to Psalm 23. Bits and pieces come to us when we are feeling afraid, alone, or like we are being attacked by alien spaceships in War of the Worlds. Ha–I am not joking that part of my subconscious sees the Priest in the old War of the Worlds movie walking toward the evil-eyed spaceship quoting the 23rd psalm. Then he gets zapped and turns to dust. It scared me to death as a kid. I always wondered why he was not using his brain and kept walking toward the ship instead of away. At that point in the movie, I think the behavior of the aliens pretty consistently proved they were bad guys…so, while all of you are reading through psalm 23 with floating streams and quiet places and vivid images of gentle shepherds leading their sheep through grassy knolls, I’m thinking about the poor priest who got turned to dust.
I’m thinking that alien space ships were not on King David’s radar when he wrote his prayer to God, but maybe something like it. A deeply distressing time that brought him to his knees, seeking the comfort his true Shepherd could bring.
So, however we get to Psalm 23 and whatever makes us think about it, the truth is the same. God, our good, good God, will lead us in quiet places and walk with us in silence while the peace of the streams bring life back into our weary souls. Nowhere in Psalm 23 does it say “Then God shouted at me because I’ve been such an idiot”, or “God threw me into the quiet stream and held my head under until I gurggled” I give up!”
What this Psalm DOES say, all our own vivid imagery and associations with this familiar passage aside, is:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Take a deep breath, breath in the Hope of a loving God who will walk quietly with you wherever you are on your path. Know He’s with you. Breathe and Hope.
I had surgery on my ankle this week to fix the tendon that was 90% torn and 10% hanging on for dear life. Needless to say, it’s been a painful few months in many ways. Rob’s dad passed away two weeks ago…a devastating loss to our family. We will miss Papa so much. Seeing his chair empty at Thanksgiving was so difficult for all of us.
The physical pain I’ve been dealing with as well as the heartache pain of losing one so dear to all of us has been very hard. We’ve also been dealing with the pain of leaving GCC, a church family we have been a part of for twenty-one years.
I’m completely confined to bed for five days, which leaves a lot of time for thinking.
What do all these losses have in common? What are they trying to teach me? I’m not really sure about how they are all connected, but each loss is significant in it’s own respect, varying levels of pain come with each loss. I know I’ll get my foot back eventually. I know Rob will get a new job, that we will find a new church family to be a part of, that our time at GCC for the past few decades has given us the gift of lifelong friends that we will always cherish no matter where we may end up.
We will see Papa again, in Heaven someday. He will be healthy and strong and his eyes will shine with light and life. I am looking forward to seeing him again, we all are. We have hope.
On this side of eternity, there is no guarantee of a pain free life. We all deal with pain and loss and death because all things are being redeemed, and will not be set right until Jesus makes all things new in His time. I’m learning to trust that His ways and His timing are perfect. He never promised that on this side of eternity all things would be perfect. He did promise He would be with us through it all.
In His last words to His diciples before He went back up to Heaven, Jesus promised, ” I am with you always, even to the end of the age.(Matthew 28:20)
He promised He’d be here. God with us. Through death, loss and pain. Through the good times and the bad. He’s given us His presence, to comfort us, to guide us, to never leave us. Sometimes it feels like God is hard to find, in the middle of dealing with so many losses, it’s hard to see God through pain. But He’s there. I know He is. His presence is with me, sometimes I just have to be still to remember.
My friend Nancy sent me this quote this morning, and it fit so well with what I was thinking about, I’ll share it here as a final thought for you to dwell on today:
“There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there too. But more often stones and grit block the well,and God is buried beneath. Then God must be dug up again. I imagine that there are people who pray with their eyes turned heavenward. They seek God outside themselves. And there are those who bow their heads and bury it in their hands. I think that these seek God inside.”
I’ve been having a gradual epiphany of sorts. I know the words ‘gradual’ and ‘epiphany’ are sort of oxy-moron’s but it’s been a thought gathering strength over time. The thought ended with me staring straight into the Beatitudes in the Bible, Matthew 5. The words Jesus said,
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I realize that each of us is on a different spiritual journey. Some live their faith out loud for all to see. Some live their faith quietly, shyly, but very, very strongly. Those who live their lives the loudest with the most notoriety and attention are not always those living the Beatitudes the loudest.
Celebrate yourself, in your little corner of your world. Celebrate that you are living the way Jesus called you, in your own way, with your own voice. Your voice is strength in His ears. Your joy in serving Jesus in whatever way you know how is His joy.
I have a question to ask. How many of you had parents that said to you, while you were riding in the back seat of their station wagon, “Do I need to pull this car over? Because you do not want me to pull this car over.” My parents did! I have used this same technique, much to my own horror, but found it extremely effective about twice.
Well, imagine you are all in the back seat of a station wagon right now, and I am in the drivers seat. I see most of you behaving so nicely, sitting on your hands even, trying your very best to be good and do right. But…there are SOME of you, who are doing other things. We’re pulling over, and I’m calling a time-out.
For starters, I know I have a lot of opinions about stuff. I am always hesitant to share them in a public way for fear of imposing on other people’s opinions, angering them, making them uncomfortable, etc. My biggest fear in expressing my rather strong opinions is that I would come across as high and mighty, or leave the impression that I have arrived at a place of perfection that I can only look down from. The truth is that I struggle daily with a sense of self-worth, hoping that I am doing a good job as a wife, mom, and a friend. I make mistakes all the time, usually pretty selfish ones, putting my own needs and wants above others.
But for today, I cautiously step out and share a few opinions about faith and family that might help someone somewhere. If not, I know it will help me just to get the words on a page so I don’t explode with exclamation points and italics print all over the next person I see…
My Opinion on Parenting Young Children:
You are in charge. Your baby isn’t. Your toddler isn’t. You are. You are the parent for a reason. You have a lifetime of experience behind you that helps you make wise decisions for your family and your precious children. Your feelings are important. Listen to your gut. Your baby and/or toddler will cry and scream to get out of bed, eat waffles with maple syrup for every meal, and hit and bite you and others to get their way. All of these things are primal and instinctual. Your child wants to get their way. It’s natural and it’s normal. Sometimes when they’re little, it’s really cute; However, if you coddle them and tell them they CAN eat waffles and maple syrup for every meal, get out of bed whenever they want, hit and bite whomever they please, they will become exactly what their instinct tells them they need to become–self serving, self-centered, tyranical little people.
When these babies and toddlers get just a little older, some will become bus bullies, shoving smaller kids out of their way to get their own seat. Others will become playground tyrants, bossing their minions around. Some will become cleverly disguised little passive-aggresive girls or boys who look plesant on the outside while secretly plotting to do whatever it takes to keep the world spinning around them. They plot ways to keep you, their parent, catering to their every whim. They say what will please you so they can keep calculating their next move to keep you distracted from their self-centered and increasingly destructive behavior.
Bottom line: “Kids these days” (and yes, I am horrified by my own use of that phrase) get a trophy for just showing up at a sport. They are given a black belt for karate on their second lesson. No one loses, no one is disciplined or corrected. If a child has never earned a “win”, they lose sight of what goals and dreams are like, and everything begins to revolve around them. If a child has rarely been redirected when their sweet little wills began to wander, don’t be surprised when you wake up one morning to find an eye-rolling, door-slamming teenager in your house.
I humbly, and I really mean humbly–advise you to take control now. I’m not talking about spanking or not spanking, grounding or punishing…I’m talking about daily involvement in the little choices your precious child is making. It’s the little things we turn away from because they are too hard to deal with in the moment that slowly progress to real problem issues that quickly get way past our own ability to control.
I know I am not too far off base and I look at Eli, a temple priest in the Bible. He was given the enormous responsibility of raising Samuel, God’s chosen instrument to bring his grace to His people at the time. He poured his life into his ministry and into raising Samuel. BUT, he turned away from what was closest to his home and to his heart–the sin of his own children. The Bible literally says,
” And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible,and he failed to restrain them. 2 Samuel 3:11-13
It’s time to pull the station wagon over friends. Eli kept driving, eyes averted from the rearview mirror. The cost of this was tragic. We don’t know exactly when his sons began to disobey and act shamefully. My guess is that they didn’t start robbing the church or sleeping with prostitutes when they were 3 or 4. It probably started with minor issues, like Eli caving in every time they asked for waffles and maple syrup, or ignoring the fact that they got out of bed for the thousandth time at night when they should have been sleeping…It’s these little things that turn into big things. He didn’t pull the station wagon over. Not once, not ever.
If you cannot control your child’s behavior with simple redirection and discussion, ask for help! Rob and I have spent countless hours with friends just a few steps ahead of us, begging for ideas and tools that would help motivate our children toward better behavior. When it comes to our parenting, my hope and prayer is that we will never be too proud to ask for help.