Week 2: family

I went through all of my pictures looking to see if I had a picture with all of people who would be considered my legal or biological brothers and sisters, but could not find one.  I used to hate it when teachers would ask for us to draw a picture my family tree, because mine looks more like a jungle!  Now that I am an adult, I actually find it rather fun to try to write it all down and to try to explain it to others.  The drawing of those people to whom I’m related by law or by genetics would be nothing other than fascinating and beautiful!

But what about a drawing of my “family?”  Now that would really be something!  My definition of the word family is much different from what it used to be.  I used to understand as something more like “kindred.”  You know, husband, children, mom, dad, siblings, cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles, that group.  Don’t get me wrong, I do consider these fine folks my family!  However, as an unapologetic follower of Jesus and student of  his words and his work, his life, his death, and his resurrection, my definition of family has drastically changed.

Let me share my belief about family that has been discovered by studying the Gospels of Jesus. I believe God’s family is every human God has ever made.  Jesus is God’s beloved Son, and the rest of us are brothers and sisters in Christ.  This is my two sentence theology, it would take me several more pages to break it down farther, but basically, we, the human race, are brothers and sisters, like it or not. This world is God’s household.

In my lifetime I have lived in more than 30 houses.  I have lived in at least a dozen towns in 5 different states. If you research the word “family” in almost any language, including English, you will find one very common word as part of the definition.  That word is ‘household.’ As in, ‘the people in your house.’  In doing this research, I had my “ah-ha” moment about my family. It would be unrealistic and not entirely honest if I said that I see and treat every single human as a brother or sister, though I believe that is God’s dream.

That being said, if you combine the definition of the word ‘family’ with God’s family, when we gather under a roof, in a house, we are in the process of strengthening the human family.  So, if I have been in your home or you in mine, we gathered as family.  Whether it was once or many times, I am grateful to have met you.  I’m grateful for the picture I can draw of my jungle, my wild, complicated, beautiful family.  I look forward to getting to know my family better, and to meeting more brothers and sisters by visiting them in their homes or having them come to mine. I miss the brothers and sisters that I rarely get to see, and I long to see you again.  But for those in my household right now, I cherish.  And for the reality that my family is growing and a new little person will soon get to come to my home, and I will get to go to theirs, I am beyond excited to meet him or her! I love my family!

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Word for Week 1: PRAISE

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Psalm 148 is all about praise.  It goes through a very long list of “things” that are told to praise the Lord.  The list includes the sun and the moon, the heavens, men and women, old people and children, oh and “small creatures.”

So, does that mean kittens?  The little black kitten in this picture belongs to my daughter.  Her name (the kitten’s name) is Beatrice.  I call her “Little B.”  We got this little B, this little sweetie, for my daughter on her birthday.  It was sort of a rough year for her and among the sad things that happened is her cat died a few weeks before her birthday.  We actually got her two kittens and sadly, one of them disappeared about a week after we got her.

What about old dogs?  Are they supposed to praise God as well? The old dog to the left of the flowers and kitten is my son’s dog, Capri.  She is a 16 year old Belgian Malinois who has outlived her breeds life expectancy by 4-5 years.  We believe she has lived so long partially because of her time with Junie, her best friend who was a Large Munsterlander. Junie sadly died just a few days after Grace’s cat Macey died.

Now before you get to sad and stop reading or start wondering how all these sad pet deaths have anything to do with praise, look at the picture again of Capri and Beatrice. These two are very unlikely companions.  They don’t exactly like each other, but they tolerate each other.  Capri doesn’t feel like playing, and that’s all Little B wants to do.  I am no mind reader of animals, and wouldn’t really want to be.  But I do know that Capri was different after Junie, her best friend died.  Beatrice wandered around looking for her sister for days after she disappeared.  Now the two are stuck with each other.

The night I took this picture I watched the two interact.  While B played with the flower Capri just lay quietly and watched her.  They have sort of become friends.  I have even seen B sleeping on the same blanket with Capri a time or two! This is how pets, or “small animals” praise.  They move forward through life’s ups and downs doing what they were created to do.  The little kitten plays and is a cute nuisance and the old dog watches is a grumpy protector.

Also in the picture is a wooden Nativity.  I don’t know how many times the kitten knocked it on the floor and startled the old dog before we finally put it out of her reach.  I’m glad I got the picture of this scene.  We all thought it was funny that Beatrice was in a similar pose to Mary and Capri was watching it all.  We laughed and I said they were both part of the nativity and had come to see the Newborn King along with the cattle and the sheep and the shepherds.  This was our live Nativity, lol!

This is what praise from the small creatures looks like.  The definition above says praise is the expression of approval or admiration.  The kitten plays, the dog watches.  They live their days doing what they were created to do.

How do you praise the Newborn King?  We also are part of the live Nativity.

As we wrap up Christmas and move into the New Year, maybe praise means moving through the ups and downs of life doing what we were created to do. Creation is pretty amazing.  I’m thinking praise means to enjoy being created and this is how we express our admiration and approval of all the blessings of this journey called life.

Word of the week

Happy New Year and welcome to my chaotic world!  I don’t think I have ever been so excited to start a new year than I am this year.  Life is obviously unpredictable so I have no way of knowing if this year will bring fewer challenges than last year.  But I’m determined to face whatever this year has to bring with deeper faith that good things can grow out of even the deepest struggles.  However, I’m also convinced that those good things don’t just  happen on their own, that I have some responsibility to facilitate their growth by giving space for the positive things to take root.  I’m not and never have been a fan of the positive thinking movement that means if one is just positive enough or prays hard enough or does all the right things often enough then bad things will never happen and if they do, you will smile all the way through those bad things.  I have found, however, that one way to get through tough things is to have positive things to hold on to to give me strength.

This year, I have given myself a challenge that I’m going to focus on a word each week that can bring possible inspiration, hope or courage to deepen my appreciation for the good things in life and to get through the tough things with more faith and trust that there is indeed light that has not been overcome by the darkness.  (John 1:5)

If you happen to come to a worship service at one of the churches where I am privileged to lead the services and preach the good news, then it is likely you will get to hear this word mentioned in the sermon.  The list of words that I will be using actually was given to me by my flock!  I picked the first word, which will be the title of the first actual series, and asked them for suggestions.  The list itself is exciting and inspiring!  So, thanks to so many people, I won’t even have to try to come up with a weekly blog title!

Whether one person reads with me or not is not my main purpose for this blog.  My main purpose is to get into the habit of writing in order to manage some of the chaos that goes on in my own mind.  I’m looking for the beauty in the chaos of this life, this life that started with chaos that the Creator of the Universe spoke into creation.  Life is chaotic, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful.  In fact, I believe it’s meant to be chaotic by design and our job is to discover the beauty in the midst of the chaos.