Jesus redefines family

Then Jesus’ mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’ But he said to them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’ Lu 8:19-21

In this scene Jesus redefines family, admitting you and me into God’s gracious home. But what was it like for Mary to hear his new description of the familial bond? Can you put yourself in her sandals?

Her son, Jesus, had been out and about proclaiming the good news and healing the sick. He had gained quite a following, wherever he went crowds surrounded him. Mary comes to see him, assuming her role as his mother would give her a backstage pass. After all, she’d carried him in her womb, birthed and raised him; she was his mother.

Jesus’ response opened her eyes a bit wider to truth. Her role in his life was important, but not central. Her relationship with him was unique, but not more significant than any one else’s. He said anyone who hears God’s word and acts on it is as central and signifiant to me as my own mother. Jesus adjusts her view of reality. He is not primarily her son, he is Lord. Being intimately connected to him is not about family ties, it is about obedience. What do you think she felt at his response? What would you feel?

We are not told how Mary reacted, but I know what I would have felt: offended, embarrassed and angry. My reaction tells me I expect my relationship with Jesus to afford me some special privileges; my needs should be honored; he should march to my drumbeat. And Jesus gives me ‘tough love.’ “I am Lord, you are not. The universe does not revolve around you and your expectations. You are one of my Father’s deeply loved and valued children. Will you let this be enough for you?”

The scripture, when we let it, tells us our own story, opening our eyes to the truth and adjusting our reality.

Advertisements

Pockets of Paradise

God desires our communities to be safe places where one can live in intimate relationship with God, with self and with others. Genesis 2:25 describes the quality of such a fellowship beautifully and poetically, “And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.”

A gathering of God’s beloved children should be characterized by people who are “naked and not ashamed.” Wow! Of course I am speaking metaphorically and spiritually, but consider with me the definitions and implications of what it means to be naked and not experience any shame in the context of community.

Although Adam and Eve were literally naked, the Hebrew word translated naked also means a person without pretense or uniform. Police officers wear uniforms so they can easily be identified. A police uniform tells you how to relate to the person wearing it and what you can expect from them. The uniform defines the role they’ll play in your life and how you should interact with them. You don’t know the person behind the uniform, you don’t even care about the person behind the uniform, your relationship with them is defined by the role they play.

When physically naked, there is nothing covering your body, your beauty and your flaws are seen by all. To be naked spiritually and relationally is to be yourself, without pretending to be someone you are not, or hiding within the safety of a role you play. It’s “what you see is what you get”, no pretense, no hiding, just guileless authenticity.

And (here’s the kicker) this person, in their absolute nakedness feels no sense of shame. Shame is the feeling that follows disappointment of opinion, hope or expectation. They are purely themselves and have complete confidence that who they are will not disappoint in any way. There is no shadow of doubt cast on their personhood, they live from a place of sufficiency, value and acceptance.

I think of my grandkids when I think about this type of unashamed nakedness. Eliza and Jack both jump out of the bath and run around in naked exuberance, unaware of their bodies, conscious only of joy and life. This is the experience God desires for us in our communities. To live with one another in the freedom that unselfconscious nakedness would allow. Imagine outposts of Eden where God’s kingdom is realized, where brothers and sisters can live together Naked and Not Ashamed. This is paradise!

What are your thoughts about this concept? Do you have any place where you experience the type of community described in Genesis 2:25?

Who you are!

You are made by God and you are called good. You are made in the likeness of God and you reflect God’s image. Although this image has been distorted through sin done by you and to you, God has not forgotten who you are and whom God made you to be. God knew you before you were born, named you before you were even formed in your mother’s womb. In love, God has chosen you and the Holy Spirit works ceaselessly to restore the unique God-image you alone can reflect. – The Mentored Life 

At his baptism, Jesus was named

  • beloved
  • child of God
  • God’s delight

When you follow Jesus into the anointing waters of baptism, you also are named

  • beloved
  • child of God
  • God’s delight

Every person will express his or her God given identity in a way that is unique to them, but these three names form the essential truth about our identity.

Growing into this identity is the “stuff” of our life of discipleship.

“What God’s voice tells us is the true story of God’s incredible love for us. No other storyteller, however gifted, can paint for us the full, living portrait of who we are and have been and who we are becoming. Let us listen attentively, lest we forget and try to remake ourselves according to some other image.” from Magnificat

“God is who He says He is, and I am who God says I am.” Anonymous

Who are you? You are God’s beloved child, in whom God delights. Enough.

The Return of the Lord

1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11

At an unknown time Jesus will return from heaven to gather his saints, living and dead. It will come as a surprise to many, but not to us. Why? We live with our bags packed, ready to depart and join Jesus at any moment. We are alert and watchful, eagerly awaiting this joyous reunion.

So, encourage one another with these words:

You are God’s beloved. This is the beginning and the end of your identity.

You live in God’s bright daylight. The sun has risen on a new day for you. Look around, see the wonder of the world born anew. Let the energy of the new morning wake you to God’s promise of an unfolding adventure. Don’t oversleep!

You are done with the night. Darkness and shadows have no place in your life any longer. They promise you pleasure or the easing of your pain. They lie; they mute God’s love and harm you.

Your heart is guarded by faith in God’s promises. It is protected by God’s love. Wear faith and love as you would a coat. Trust in them as a police officer trusts in a bullet proof vest. They are the best defenses against harm and the best means of living joyfully.

Your mind is at peace because of hope. When doubt assails, remind yourself of God’s good news. Salvation has been realized. You are safe in Jesus now and forever. This is your destiny.

Who do you know that needs encouragement today? Perhaps they may feel as if the dawn will never come; or they have a heart that refuses comfort; or they doubt their value in God’s kingdom. (Maybe that someone is you.) Make a point of encouraging them with these truths from 1 Thessalonians. In so doing, you are building up the Body of Christ.

 

Written for CBC’s weekly devotional

What do you contain?

Others give us pictures of who we are and then we dutifully live into their ideas.

Others give us pictures of who we are and then we dutifully live into their ideas.

Picture yourself as a piece of molten glass, your form determined by the movement and the pressure of your maker. When your maker is done, you are crystal clear and uniquely shaped. Beautiful to behold and created to contain and display what has been placed within you.

Your family values, spoken and unspoken, your God-given temperament and personality determined the shape of your container; but what do you contain? What information have you stored away? What messages have been absorbed into your identity? Who tells you who you are?

The feedback we receive about who we are and whether or not we are valued has a large influence on the contents of our container; maybe I should say it has a large influence on how we feel about the contents of our container. Others give us pictures of who we are and then we dutifully live into their ideas.

One of my favorite illustrations of this is a story told by Guy Doud, teacher of the year in 1986. He says he didn’t know he was fat until he entered kindergarden. Up until that time, he knew only what his family had told him about himself, he was loved, smart and handsome. In school his classmates told him he was fat, called him chubby and constantly teased him about his weight. These messages were more influential in forming his self-identity than the words he received at home and in church. When he felt bad about always being the last person picked for the kickball team, he would comfort himself with a bowl of ice cream. Told he was fat, he became fat.

For those of you who know me personally, you may be surprised to learn that I was a talker when I was in high school, non-stop chatter was my hallmark. (Please forgive what I’m going to say next, remember it was a long time ago in an era much less politically correct than today.) My Sophomore class raised funds for a school trip by having a “slave auction” (I warned you.) When purchased you had to do whatever your “owner” told you to, within reason of course. I was bought by my science teacher, Mr. Greenberg. As his “slave” he put a piece of duct tape over my mouth and made me wear a sandwich board that read “Supermouth is silenced.” This got me a lot of attention. People expected me to talk a lot, when I did I got noticed, so I committed myself to constant blabbering.

This pattern continued into college, when two popular girls from my church college group quoted their version of Proverbs 27:15 “A talkative woman is as annoying as the constant dripping of a leaky faucet.” They were going to “help” me squelch my talkativeness by simply saying “drip, drip” whenever they thought I was talking too much. Boy, did this shut me up. The world wanted me silenced. I grew quiet and afraid.

God’s voice, speaking of our beauty and belovedness, often gets buried by the influx of images, information and expectations coming at us. But God’s love does not abandon us. God’s inextinguishable spark of life burns within us and by God’s grace burns away all the falsehoods that have entered our souls.

This post continue to answer the question Who Am I? which begins here, and is part of a series The New Old which explores six old familiar topics God wants to make new. Join me each Monday for a new installment. I pray our God, the ancient of days, will make a new day for you to enjoy in God’s presence through this series.

Begin with the end in mind

In our series of important questions, we’ve considered “Who is God?” Let’s move on to an equally important question: “Who am I?”

We know ourselves by such things as what we do, the way we look, or the relationships we are in. If I were to name a few essential things that describe who I am, the list would include:

  • I am an introvert (edging on recluse)
  • I am playful (enjoy silliness, games, childlike pursuits)
  • I love God (not perfectly, though)
  • I doubt my value (keeps me quiet and invisible)
  • I’m a woman, married, well-educated (and other external identifiers)

You could make your own list and reading it would help me know you better. But are these qualities, characteristics and interests what define you? I’m not the first to realize there is more to who we are than what we do. Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island says,

We must find our real selves not in the froth stirred up by the impact of our being upon the beings around us, but in our own soul which is the principle of all our acts.

When you ask “Who am I?” you touch the essence of the human experience. The answer to the question reveals the unique you, who was created by God, for God’s delight and God’s intention.

God created you to belong to God, to know yourself as God’s beloved; and from this solid sense of self, to allow your unique personhood to become a means of expressing God’s character and God’s good will toward the entire world.

In Rev. 7 there is a description of the end for which you were made:

‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ These are they who have come out of the great ordeal. 

The ordeal you face is the lifelong struggle of putting off the old, false self with all it’s sin-based, ego-driven needs and habits and putting on the new self, the one God has named “my beloved and pleasing child.” Emerging victorious from this struggle is accomplished by faithfully clinging to Jesus and being deaf to any voice but God’s. The evil one would clothe you in shame and accusations. God clothes you in a white robe, the robe of acceptance and purity. Hold this truth foremost as you fight the good fight. Because:

For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

As it has been said, begin with the end in mind. Today, you are in God’s presence. Can you feel the shelter of God’s love and power? Right now, let God satisfy your hunger, quench your thirst, and keep you safe. In this very moment, Jesus, your good shepherd, cares for you and takes you to the source of life. At this hour, God knows your pain and sorrow, let God comfort and console you.

Let these truths define who you are.

With you on the journey,

Debby

This is part of a series entitled  The New Old, a look at familiar things God wants to make new. It begins here.

Your source, means and end – Ps 89 rewritten for you

my prayer journalDear friend,

God has found you, his servant. With holy oil God has anointed you, his hand shall establish you and his arm shall strengthen you.

The enemy shall not outwit you; the wicked shall not humble you. God will crush your foes before you and strike down those who hate you.

You once were lost, but now are found. Thank God. God searched for you, as one would search for their misplaced phone, fearing for it’s well-being, hoping it hasn’t fallen into hands that will take advantage of something that isn’t theirs. God found you. I remember the panic I felt when my wallet was missing with $300 and my brand new phone; and the relief when it was returned. God feels this over you.

With the holy oil of baptism, God adopted you into his family. You are called by God’s own name. God will always be with you, you will never be alone and God will make you strong so that you may bear the good load given you to carry.

The ones/forces who wish you confusion and shame will be handled by God. God will grant you holy cunning and confidence in facing and defeating those against your health and wholeness. God’s faithfulness and steadfast love shall be with you and in God’s name shall your horn be exalted.

You shall cry, “You are my Father, my God and the Rock of my salvation.”  And God will respond, “You are my honored child.”

God’s steadfast love will keep you forever and God’s covenant will stand firm.

My responsive prayer: 

Lord, my companions today are your loyal trueness and your constant love. We shall walk together and as I live for you, acting according to your good and loving character I shall have your authority and blessing.

You will give me power to handle the strong and vast unknown; wisdom to navigate the rush of the everyday twists and turns this day holds.

I will remember: I am in your family, I am your servant, I have been saved by your solid, unmovable strength. From me will come new followers of you, I shall be the best me thinkable.

You will never quit loving me. You will always keep your promises to me. Amen.

With you on the journey,

Debby