FAMILIES

We know what families are – the traditional family was father, mother, children. 

The extended family was father, mother, children, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins, and in the South, you also would add the “kissin’ cousins”.  (Having my roots in the North, I don’t exactly know what they are, but you hear it anyway!)

Go cart with grandpa
Papa and Grandson at a go-kart track.  Not at all certain which of these fine men had more fun, but I believe it was Papa!

Then there are the folks who play a role in the family but who are not blood-line related.  I’m thinking of the Grandma and Grandpa my children had when they were very young children.  My parents were hundreds of miles away and this wonderful couple had no children, but they bridged the generation gap and “adopted” my children as if they were their own grandchildren.

Gramma Ford
The “Grandma” feeding a precious child who she loved as her own..

When we would visit, the children ran to the kitchen and found the drawer where “Grandma” kept “kid friendly” candy at just the right eye level for them to see and grab. 

When we moved from one city to another, the children came under the care of another “Grandpa and Grandma” who lived just a few doors away from us. 

Jim and Virginia Metzger
Grandpa Jim and Grandma Virginia kept the children when I had to travel for work.

In fact, Grandpa Jim taught my daughter not to be afraid of dogs during the time they took care of her when I was a single parent and was out of town for work on an extended case. 

On a whole other note but no less significant to dear friends of ours, we are now taking care of a canine daughter of an elderly couple who have suffered pneumonia and the flu and are now in rehab to regain their strength.  Not being able to have their pup with them was a terrible concern for them, a concern which was alleviated by bringing her into our home.  This picture of her resting comfortably with our girls brought comfort to this “Mom and Dad”. 

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The MinPins with their temporary sibling!

The marvelous wonder of each of these relationships is that they were from our church “family.”  Each of the couples who cared for the children and who are the loving “parents” of our canine guest are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and they worshipped with us every Sunday, and often during the week as well.

Scripture teaches us that believers in Jesus Christ are children of God. 

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Romans 8:16-17

When we are received by the Holy Spirit and indwelt by Him through belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are adopted into God’s family.  We become children of God and each believer becomes our brother or our sister in the Lord.

“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

Ephesians 3:6

The Christians of the first century were Jewish, just as Jesus and each of the Apostles were Jewish.  Saul of Tarsus was a Jewish leader who persecuted the Christians.  He was going to Damascus to continue that persecution when he encountered the risen Lord Jesus Christ.  In Acts 9:15 we read that Saul, later to become Paul, was commissioned to minister to the Gentiles.  In preparation for Saul/Paul’s ministry, the Lord asked a disciple named Ananias to go and care for him.  He was understandably resistant given the fact that he knew Saul was coming to Damascus to round-up and persecute the Christians.   

“But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”

Paul later wrote to the Galatians and said:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Galatians 3:28

So, for the believer, his/her family is far broader than the bloodline would seem to indicate.  The Christian’s spiritual genealogy includes all the men and women and boys and girls who have been adopted into God’s family.  The love of Christ is shed abroad to each of the family members and, when one needs help, the body rushes in to care for the wounded.

When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he included a commendation for their works of brotherly love that extended to other bodies of believers throughout the area.

“Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more,”

1 Thessalonians 4:9-10

So, who is your family?  Certainly, your family is, at least, those who live under your roof, and the Christian has a clear obligation to care for and provide for his/her family. 

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

1 Timothy 5:8

But it is broader than that – for the Christian, the family is all those who worship the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is particularly those that worship with you, and we are charged to take care of the family of God.

So, who is your family?  Are there needs that have gone unmet?  Can you meet those needs?  Can you lend assistance to someone who is in your church family?  Can you bring encouragement to someone who is being attacked because of their faith?  The list of needs and opportunities is endless.

So, who is in your family and what needs might they have that you could alleviate?

Father, I pray that we would take the words of your Word and put them into effect in our hearts and in our actions.  I pray that we would not read your Word without being affected by it, without being transformed by it, without having it take root in our words and actions.  Let us be Your hands and feet to those who are in need, through the power of Your Spirit, I pray.

Canine Friends and Devotion!

Let me preface this post with the note that I am an unabashed dog person.  We had a cat for 18 years and I loved him, but never felt as close to him as I have felt with our canine children.  Therefore, it is from this perspective that I write this post.  I certainly mean no disrespect to those of you who love felines!

As an only child, I had a friend that was a constant in my life for a long time – my dog named Tippy.  She was all black, shaggy and soft, except for the white tip on her chin [hence, her name!].  

tippy-at-the-piano
Tippy showing her proper posture and her white chin!

She was my constant companion, confidant and comfort.  She sat with me at the piano and endured horrible playing with gracious patience.

linda-with-tippy-at-piano
Tippy with me at the piano … long ago but not so long ago that it was a harpsichord!

Doris Day is quoted as having said:

“I have found that when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.”

I agree with her.  Tippy would lay next to me on the sofa when I was ill and just provide comfort without saying a word! 

linda-and-tippy
My canine friend giving comfort when illness would come.

I guess you could say that I have had a canine companion almost my entire life.  Tippy has been gone for decades, but I still smile when I think of her.  Other canine blessings have been Missy and her daughter Winnie.  Here they are with my infant son many years ago.  

jonathan-with-missie-and-winnie
Missie (left) and her daughter Winnie (right) with infant son in between.

Skippy who was the head puppy in charge, at least he thought so.

skippy-close-up
Skippy, the Lhasa Apso/Poodle mix who was love on four paws.

Glitz, Goldie and Sweetie were marvelous retired greyhounds who graced our presence with their stately tranquility and incredible speed.  Goldie loved to travel in the RV:

dog-sweet-goldie
Goldie thought riding on the sofa in the RV was appropriate since she was in her retirement as a racing athlete, after all!

Now we have our MinPins, Cuddles and Snickers, along with our granddog, Haley.

spring-lake-the-three-friends
Three friends, enjoying the sunny day at the campground lake.

Of course Tippy was not my only friend, I did have some playmates who were even called “best friends”.   

Children swinging
Children swinging at the campground playground.

Now it is BFF – Best Friends Forever!  That “Forever” may seem likely at the time we speak it, and some of those persons do remain friends for many years.  Others, however, disappear from our lives but they leave imprints on our heart and spirit just the same.

With Facebook and other social media, we can have friends all over the world and never even meet them or speak to them in person.  To my way of thinking, this takes the meaning of “friend” and stretches it so that it bears little resemblance to its meaning in decades past.  But such is the reality for millions of youth today.

Scripture talks a great deal about friends. 

Probably the best example of a real BFF is the friendship between David and Jonathan in the Old Testament.  In 1 Samuel 17, David defeats Goliath and is brought before Saul as the victor in battle.  The very next chapter introduces us to Saul’s son, Jonathan, and we read in 1 Samuel 18:1 that “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”  Their friendship continued for years, even through the time that Saul was hunting David to kill him, with the two men making a covenant between them that they would care for each other’s families if harm should come to them.  1 Samuel 20:42.

David remembered his covenant with Jonathan even after both Jonathan and Saul, his father, were dead.  King David asked if any of Jonathan’s family were still alive and we read in 2 Samuel 9 of the story of David’s kindness to Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan, who from that day forward sat and ate at the King’s table. 

We may not recognize the significance of this but in those days, all the family members of the preceding king were killed so that there would be nobody who could contest the validity of the kingship.  Mephibosheth escaped this fate when his nurse took him and ran, hiding him far from the king. 

In other words, it would be rare, indeed, for a son of a deceased king to sit at the current king’s table and to be brought under the care and protection of that king.  But this is what happened to Mephibosheth because of the friendship King David had with his father, Jonathan.  That’s a BFF!

While he was loyal to the covenant made with Jonathan, not all of King Davids friends were loyal to him, however.  In 1 Chronicles 27 we read of Ahithophel, the king’s counselor and Hushai the king’s friend.   Ahithophel was definitely not a BFF because he sided with David’s rebellious son in an attempt to take the throne from King David.  Scripture tells of the pain David had when he turned into an adversary:

Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

Psalm 41:9

Sometimes friends betray us, and that is painful.  For this reason, we tell the children that their friends are important.  We tell them that the type of person they befriend can have an influence on them beyond just the immediate friendship.  We tell them to choose their friends carefully because of the strong influence friends can have on them.

In Exodus we read of God’s relationship with Moses:

Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.

Exodus 33:11a 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have this type relationship with God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of the Universe?  

Well, I have some news for you …  the reality is that we can have this type relationship because of the sacrificial death of Jesus for our salvation.  When the Holy Spirit is within us, we can even address the Almighty Creator God as Father.  That is even closer than a mere friend!

Friends – we need them so that we can be socially healthy and so that we can live a full life.  But, we need Jesus Christ so that we can have a relationship with God because in and of ourselves we are sinful and unable to even approach God, let alone please Him. 

Praise God for our salvation; and praise Him too for the gift of Christian friends who encourage, support and love us in our good times and through our difficult times as well. 

Cuddles and Snickers
Cuddles and Snickers, our two MinPins

And praise God for the gift of our canine friends who love us unconditionally and who give of themselves in cheering us up, in grieving with us when we are hurt, in snuggling when we are ill, and in running with glee when we are happy.  Oh that we as Christians would be as kind to others as our canine children are to us!  

 

But we err if we think that is all that is required of us as followers of Christ.  Rather, unconditional love is the initial threshold that Christian love should pass.  Jesus’ love for us, and thus our love for our fellowman/woman, is to be sacrificial, not self-centered. When we love others as Jesus did, we will tell them the good news of the gospel and of the kingdom of God.   And it all is to be to the glory of God, our Father.

 

Father, your kingdom is one of marvelous wonders and goodness.  Thank you for the gift of canine friends, of feline friends, of the friendship of so many of your creatures in this world.  Thank you also for the gift of Christian friends who show us Jesus in their love and service.  May I be Jesus to others as I live through the power of your Holy Spirit.

OUR DOGS AND I WANT THAT! (A repost)

We have two Miniature Pincher (MinPin) canine children, Cuddles and Snickers.  They are shelter dogs so we don’t know their life stories.  Although not related or the same age, they get along famously, even sleeping in the same “bed” as we are working in the office.

Cuddles and Snickers - Two Peas in a Pod
Cuddles and Snickers – Two Peas in a Pod

At times, they do their “Doggie Meerkats” impression as they peer through the window blinds, balancing on the arm of a rocking recliner, no small feat (feet!).

Snickers pretending to be a Meerkat
Snickers pretending to be a Meerkat
“Can you see anything?”

Then there are other times they play outside, running and chasing as if they were greyhounds (the breed of dog we had prior to downsizing!).

MinPins Running in the Snow
MinPins Running in the Snow

However, such is not always the case.

A very long time ago, Aesop created a fable about a dog and its reflection.  The dog is carrying a stolen bone [although other variations say it was a piece of meat or cheese] as he crosses a stream.  He sees his reflection in the water and believes that it is another dog.  He also notices that the “other” dog has a bone and it is bigger and better than the one he has.  So, he opens his mouth to bark at the other dog to get that trophy and, in so doing, the bone in his own mouth falls into the stream. Now, neither the dog nor his reflection has a bone. Aesop fables

I see this fable played out in our own family room.  When one dog is playing with a toy or chewing on a bone, it matters not that there are 3 other toys/bones on the floor; the second MinPin is jealous and wants what the first dog has.  In short, the only toy that is worthwhile is the one that I don’t have! So, often, a tug of war ensues.

I want that!
BUT, I WANT IT …!

How like children to fight over the blue ball when there is a red one right next to it!  How like teenagers to fight and maneuver their way into dating the “in” person when there are others in the peer group who never even merit a glance!  How like adults who want the next electronic toy when they haven’t really figured out how to use the one they already have!

What the dogs, and we, are reflecting by their activity is discontentment.  We laugh when we see our MinPins doing this, and we laugh when we see toddlers doing this; we hurt when we see teens doing this; but seldom do we recognize when we are doing it.

I don’t believe that God sees any humor in this type action.  We can seek to make our lives better or to do more for others, but in all things the watchword should be contentment!

In Philippians 4:11-12, Paul said that he was content in whatever the circumstance that was presented to him — plenty and hunger; abundance and need.

Further, we should be content even when no one is watching. In Ephesians 6:5-6, Paul is talking to slaves about their relationship with their taskmasters:

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.”

In 1 Timothy 6, Paul speaks of contentment and the lure of greed.  In verses 6-9, he says:

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.   But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”

Rather than hustling for gain, it is contentment that honors the Sovereign God who reigns over all and in whom we find our life and salvation through His Son, our Lord.  He knows His plans for us … our salvation is secure, and because that is so, everything else falls into proper focus.

Your current circumstance may not be to your liking, but we are called to be content, even as we seek His face for relief. Look to the Lord — contentment in our heart and soul is possible through the King of Peace.  Watch Him work and be amazed!

Don’t drop the bone as you try to grab for something else … be content.  This is the Lord’s desire for His children.