Saturday, May 26, 2018

Family Reunion

by Sylvia Gaston

As you read this, my family is in the midst of a family reunion that takes place about every two years. Cousins, aunts, uncles and parents converge on a local park and go about the business of reuniting, playing and eating. There will be laughter and tears and a bunch of little ones running underfoot. We will exclaim how our children have grown (especially mine) and ask for the latest details of each other’s lives.

For some, reunions are events to be dreaded, akin to the even-more-dreadful class reunions. Stereotypes of relatives are sometimes not so stereotypical – the drunk uncle, the gossipy cousin, the grumpy old man or woman, and so on. They are sometimes the actual reality of the crazy quilt that is your family.

 It seems that those of us who are involved in the planning of that year’s reunion often find ourselves in the business of inviting, cajoling and sometimes begging family members to attend. Yes, it can be an inconvenience of time, travel and finances. Not to mention the concerns of what awaits. Will everyone get along? Will I be uncomfortable around some of the people in attendance? Do I want people to see how I’ve aged or how much weight I’ve gained? So why do we put ourselves through this?

Family is important. No matter the crazy make up of your tribe, they are the fabric of who you are – for all of it’s good and even, all of it’s bad. The people you were raised with and grew up around all contributed to who you are. Hopefully, you adopted their best traits and traditions and rejected the things that were not so lovely. Either way, this process made you who you are. That is worth celebrating.

God places great importance on the family. He devoted much space in the Bible to talk about how to live in relationship with others. He specifically talks about husbands and wives (Ephesians 5, Proverbs 31), how parents and children’s roles should look in order to be successful (Deuteronomy 4, Ephesians 6), and how to love others in general (Proverbs 10, John 13, and basically, the rest of the Bible).

Make no mistake, reunions (big or small) with the assortment of personalities we’re related to are not always easy. It’s important to pray up and ramp up all levels of patience, grace, and tact. It’s important to minimize interaction with the relative that knows just what to say to rile you and to maximize your time with the people that feed your soul.

Taken to a greater level of selflessness, reunions and get-togethers can be an opportunity for you to pour generously into those who need it most. Words of encouragement, compliments and kindness can be your contribution. In addition to a great side dish, of course! Everybody wants to feel better about themselves and to feel they are valued.
Relationships are difficult, to state the obvious. However, we were created to live in relationship with our Father in heaven and with one another. Are you doing that the best you can? I know I can always do better.

I recently heard Pope Francis say, “Families quarrel. In the family there are difficulties but those difficulties are overcome with love.”

Coincidentally, our church is in a teaching series about family relationships but any church is a great place to learn what God has to say about living in healthy and loving relationship with others. 

Pray for me! I’m at my family reunion (just kidding).  J I’ll be busy encouraging and loving on the crazies who made me, me!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The 6:1 Ratio

by Tim Howard

My parents instilled in me a healthy work ethic that still lingers in my mind and affects the way I carry out my responsibilities. If you are like me, you may recall hearing similar statements: “No you can’t go out and play until you clean your room! After you pick up your clothes you may have dessert! When you finish your chores you can spend time with your friends!

Those directives were intended to teach me the value and priority of work. Work first – play second! The goal was good and right but something happened in translation. It actually created a faulty view of work in my own mind. I began to see work as a necessary evil – an undesirable obligation to perform and an obstacle to overcome before I could enjoy life. In short: It was something to be avoided rather than embraced.

I fear that attitude may be more prevalent in our society than we care to admit. Maybe the “T.G.I.F.” slogan reveals a philosophical shift of our priorities from valuing work to making play a more desirable focus.

The Bible tells us that God worked 6 days and rested one. That pattern is presented as a healthy way to live and promises more fulfillment if implemented. We were created to work and not merely relax. We were created to be producers and not just consumers. Granted, there can be an imbalance, which is captured in that little proverb, which says: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”

God involves us in His work because He wants us to live with a sense of purpose and worth. Everyone needs something to do, someone to love and something to hope for. When you seek pleasure more than purpose, you alter the way you were created to function and do yourself a disservice.

I recently re-read an interesting verse in Philippians 2:12-13 that caught my attention. It instructs those who follow Jesus Christ to “work out” their salvation. The author instructs people to do more than get informed. He told them to get involved! Don’t wait for God to do everything for you but respond to His leading by obedience and let him do things through you! When you are willing to partner with Him, participate in His plan and share in the work – God’s blessings are unleashed exponentially!

Many people I meet seem to demonstrate an attitude that demands others to do something for them without any participation from them. That’s called entitlement! It’s an aroma that’s very distinctive in today’s culture. It’s seen in our expectations of parents, government agencies, organizations and even God. If we aren’t careful we can fall into the trap of thinking God isn’t at work while failing to realize the problem is our un-willingness to work.

It’s straight forward, not softened or watered down and some would even say it’s harsh, but the Apostle Paul gives this directive in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “…we gave you this rule: Whoever does not work should not eat.”

Whether it’s picking up your clothes, cleaning your room, laboring on the job, working on your marriage or earning a living – the 6:1 ration will provide great dividends if done with the right attitude. 

There is no unemployment in God’s Kingdom. There is plenty of work for everyone. Work is not a necessary evil but the pathway to fulfillment.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Hey Moms, We’re Praying For You!

by Candace Cortez

There is a reference in the Bible, when Paul is writing to one of his favorites, Timothy, and he refers to Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5) as being women of sincere faith, who passed that same passion on to their children. As a mother, I know this is the goal. Yes, my daily goal is simply keeping them alive (some days this is harder than others). My secondary goal is not emotionally damaging them by my own journey of growing up! But ultimately, my goal with parenting is to pass on my love of Jesus in a way that actually grows in the context of their own lives.

This is not easy. Mostly because I feel like the sand is quickly pouring through the hourglass, my kids are growing up, and we are losing the place in their lives as their primary influence. In the meantime, meals must be made, homework must be checked, and we have full-time jobs. We also have family to visit, social lives to maintain and holidays to celebrate.

I will be the first to admit, that I probably have enough time to do all the things I need to do, but I waste time doing things that I want to do or feel obligated to do. There are social pressures put on parents, on moms in particular, as our lives are on display. For generations, a mother’s success has been placed on the fruits of her children’s lives. Did your kid pass the test? Score the goal? Get into the good school? Somehow the pride we feel in our kid's accomplishments, manifests itself into pride in ourselves. Now that it’s possible to display every little win, not just the life-changers, the rush to win at things that aren’t actually winning is absurd. I should not feel like a failure as a mom because I spent 12 hours at work today while my Instagram feed is full of Saturday picnics. I should not feel like a failure as a mom because my kid came home with a not so 100% grade on a test, while my Facebook friend’s kid just got into an Ivy League school. Not every moment is a win. But every moment adds up. Sometimes we cannot appreciate the full picture when we are focused on this very minute.

So this is why we are praying for you moms. We are praying that you can honestly celebrate the wins in someone else’s family and life. We are praying that you can identify more wins, but do self-identify with either the wins or the loses. We are praying for regular and productive rest moments for you. We are praying that you would find confidence that God is involved in raising your kids as well…you’re not alone! We are praying for your marriages so that they will maintain a priority level in your lives. We are praying for those of you whose kids are far away, or not living well, that your relationship would be restored. We are praying for those of you who are a mom at heart but have never been able to have a child. We are praying for you to be able to pass on your love of Jesus to your children. We are praying for you because you probably are not praying for you enough. God sees you! And He loves you even more than you love your own kids. Happy Mother’s Day!