It’s a Free Gift

“People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” ~ Mark 10:13-16

I was extremely blessed last week by spending time with 9 out of 12 of our great-grandchildren. Dave and I had lunch with two great granddaughters, ages 6 and 2, and their mother on one day. I learned all about swimming lessons and books being read. She loves the series she is reading now, not only for the story, but because there are cupcake recipes in it and she loves to bake. The other brought me many of her Minnie Mouse items to see in addition to her baby dolls. It was wonderful and lunch was good, too.

On Saturday, our great-grandson had a birthday party with seven great-grandchildren in attendance including the youngest whom I had not seen. Their ages were: 2 children-age 8, the birthday boy – age 6, one – 5, one – 3, one almost 1, and the baby – 3 months all well behaved and extremely energetic. Birthday boy was a perfect gentleman, as always, and he opened the gifts he received with big smiles of enjoyment and gratitude.

After spending time with children, I wondered what Jesus might have meant in the scripture passage above. It is recorded in three of the gospels so obviously it made an impression on His disciples. It makes an impression on me. No one will enter the Kingdom of God unless they receive it as a little child does. Well….? What is it about children that we need to be like in order to get into the Kingdom? We raised six children – one of them a grandchild, so I am almost an expert on children, but I’m still not sure what Jesus means.

Some say children are humble. C. S. Lewis said, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself it is thinking of yourself less,” so if true, that hardly fits. Children are constantly thinking about themselves, and none of us give up that right to ourselves easily, if at all. Others say that they are naturally trusting. Yes, until for various reasons, they learn that many people are not trustworthy. Children “stay in the moment”…until they learn about birthdays, Santa, the ice-cream truck, etc. “They are teachable because they don’t have preconceptions” – for a short time, that is. They “are innocent” – have you ever met a two-year old? I don’t imagine that these are the qualities Jesus has in mind.

The Kingdom of God is a free gift that we don’t have to earn because Jesus already paid. We couldn’t earn it if we tried and we do try. We can only accept the Gift – accept Jesus – accept his Kingdom. A child doesn’t turn down gifts–they know they’re free, so, they are excited about gifts, they accept them, reach out and take them, unwrap and use them. They are grateful. Why do we make this gift from Jesus so hard? Be like the children Jesus says.

Lord, Jesus, we want to accept your gifts like children do, with big smiles of joy and gratitude, but we keep trying to earn them. Help us remember that you paid for the Kingdom and offer it to us, no charge. Help us accept your free gift, offer our thanksgiving to you, and take our place in your Kingdom, today. Amen.

~ Donna

Bummer

“Bummer.” As you know, the last while has been difficult for me, but my sister has been planning a family reunion that is to take place this next week.   Joy!!  It has been years since I have seen some of my family and many of the younger people, not at all.  My mother is 92. The place where the reunion is to be held – Grand Mesa, Colorado – is absolutely one of my favorite places on earth.   Many family vacations were spent there.  We were really looking forward to this.  But…the closer it got to the time we were to leave, the more uncomfortable we became about going.  We enjoyed a small trip to Wyoming last weekend, but my husband has not really felt great since we returned.  His legs have been swollen and his blood pressure is bouncing around.  That trip was two hours by car, one way. The Grand Mesa trip would be about seven and the altitude is over 11,000 feet.  There is no doctor or hospital even close if Dave were to have a medical emergency.

We try to pay attention to God’s leading in our lives.  We believe he has told us not to go.  We believe Dave’s condition has something to do with it, but maybe God has another reason and is using this to guide us.  We may never know, but God does use our suffering to transform us if we allow him.  Pain shows me my need of God. This situation, though painful, is not really terrible even though I might not see some family members again.

There is much worse pain and suffering in the world, now, than that of not being able to attend a family reunion. Oswald Chambers said, “When you are joyful, be joyful; when you are sad, be sad. If God has given you a sweet cup, don’t make it bitter; and if He has given you a bitter cup, don’t try and make it sweet; take things as they come.”  But, just because the pain and suffering with which others are dealing is bigger or worse than ours does not mean that ours should be ignored. It still hurts. So, how do we handle it?

How did Jesus respond to pain and suffering?  Philip Yancey writes, “If I ever wondered about the appropriate ‘spiritual’ response to pain and suffering, I can note how Jesus responded to his own: with fear and trembling, with loud cries and tears.” True.  And Henri Nouwen said, Jesus was broken on the cross.  He lived his suffering and death not as an evil to avoid at all costs, but as a mission to embrace.   We too are broken.  We live with broken bodies, broken hearts, broken minds or broken spirits.  We suffer from broken relationships. How can we live our brokenness?  Jesus invites us to embrace our brokenness as he embraced the cross and live it as part of our mission.  He asks us not to reject our brokenness as a curse from God that reminds us of our sinfulness but to accept it and put it under God’s blessing for our purification and sanctification.  Thus our brokenness can become a gateway to new life.”  Yes!

So, I’m very disappointed and sad. Who knows why we need to stay home?  Is it because of a possible medical emergency or is it that I/we need to be home for another reason. Perhaps it is because I am in the middle of a transformational process and Jesus needs to finish this part of it.

This I do know; “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” ~ Job 19:25-26.  I have seen God, already, in so many ways and I know God wins.

Stay Blessed,
Donna

This Tie for God?

“Sometimes I pray, and I think I hear nothing. Yet in the silence that follows, I hear the question: ‘who am I praying for? Am I praying for the will of God, or for my own self-interest? Am I hoping for something to be done for me, or am I listening for instruction as to how to serve the will of Christ?’; and it’s in this question that I begin to discern not just an answer to my prayer, but an idea of what God wishes me to do.”—Unknown

Thomas Green, WEEDS AMONG THE WHEAT, while interpreting Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, writes that there are three presuppositions of discernment. We can make decisions, many of which will turn out well, but they may not in fact, be the best that God really desires for us.

1. A desire to do God’s will. Well, that’s easy. We want to do God’s will. But in fact it is hard to give up our rights to ourselves. We want to be in charge and we want to make our own decisions. Often, we can follow our own informed decision, but in discernment, this desire means that we give God the “blank check” for him to fill in. Thomas says the desire to do God’s will, called a ‘committed faith’ is the first essential prerequisite for genuine discernment.

2. Openness to God. We believe we are open to God, when often we are open to our own idea of God. We are committed to this idea and to our idea of what God’s will is. Kierkegaard said, “All of us—even the best of us—will find that our ideas of God frequently block us from truly experiencing him as he reveals himself.” The Pharisees had this problem. They could not see Jesus because of their own preconceptions of God. Fr. Green tells us that this “openness “is a Pentecost gift for which we must pray and the Spirit must give.

3. A Knowledge of God. Even though we desire to do God’s will and give him the blank check; even when we are able to get ourselves out of the way, we may not know what God wants because we don’t spend enough quality time with him to know what he likes. Green tells a story of going shopping with his mother to buy neckties for his father. At the store, she selected several that she believed he would like. After inspecting them more closely, she chose one or two that would please him most. She knew what he would like because she had shared life with him for 40 years. This is the experiential knowledge of God that we need.

Simply, we have to spend enough time with God that we recognize the sound of his voice from all the other voices in our heads—our own voice and those of the world. We can discover what Jesus likes if we watch what he did in the Gospel accounts while on earth. The more practice we have in following, the more clearly we will hear. We want to allow what Jesus wants to do in us not what we want to do for him. We might not be completely certain we have heard correctly since we are we, and God is other, but if we don’t get it spot on, Jesus has a way of weaving it into his story. The path we are on just might move until we are where he wants us to be. At least, that’s what my experience has been.

“If you but trust in God to guide you and place your confidence in him,
you’ll find him always there beside you to give you hope and strength within;
for those who trust God’s changeless love build on the rock that will not move.”
~ Georg Neumark, 1621-1681 – Modern paraphrase.

Dependence Day?

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.—Galatians 5:13

Today is the called the birthday of the USA. We celebrate our independence from England, declared by 13 American colonies named the United States of America, on July 4, 1776. The Revolutionary War began in 1774 and lasted until 1783. Those who left England left for various reasons, but many to escape religious persecution.

William Penn, an English Quaker, left England in 1682 and founded Pennsylvania with a land grant that was owed to his father, then deceased. His goal was to create a colony that allowed for freedom of religion in order to protect himself and fellow Quakers from persecution. An aside – my sixth great-grandfather, Richard Linville, his wife and two sons left their home in Sussex Co., England in 1682/3 to join this colony. Penn called Pennsylvania the ‘holy experiment’ and wrote a constitution that would limit the power of government. This constitution had many of the rights that would eventually be granted the citizens of the US through its constitution.

I have been meditating on independence/dependence and freedom/oppression for the last day or two. Independence appeals to Americans. We take it so far these days that we have become separated from our fellow citizens in so many ways. We don’t want to be dependent on anyone. Ever. I am blessed to be an American and there is so much I could reflect upon, but I don’t want to focus on this. I want to focus on Jesus.
Jesus turns it all upside down. Jesus calls us to total dependence on him. He says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.”—John 15:5. Someone said, “Far from being self-reliant, we are totally and eternally dependent on the One who died to set us free. Every day is our ‘dependence day.’” I like that. We celebrate it every Sunday.

God’s ‘holy experiment’ calls us to a whole new way of living. He also gave us a ‘constitution’: “You shall have no other God’s…etc.” These 10 commandments tell us how to live in the new society. Jesus summed them up when we told us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This new colony is a new Kingdom, and we have a new King.
The Daughters of the King pray every day for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom. I do that, but I have learned over the years, especially after Jesus told me, that the spread of his Kingdom requires me to actively work in the spreading of it as well. The Holy Spirit will give us the power to do this in the ways that Jesus calls us. I have a friend whose entire Rule of Life is: “Love God; Love my neighbor.” It’s simple. He does what is in front of him as he spreads the Kingdom.

N. T. Wright wrote, “The final kingdom, when it comes, will be the free gift of God, a massive act of grace and new creation. But we are called to build for the kingdom. Like craftsmen working on a great cathedral, we have each been given instructions about the particular stone we are to spend our lives carving, without knowing or being able to guess where it will take its place within the grand design. We are assured, by the words of Paul and by Jesus’s resurrection as the launch of that new creation, that the work we do is not in vain.

“Happy “Dependence” Day
—Donna