Sarah and Her Serious Slip in Sagacity

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(This lesson is from our March lesson in “Save the Drama for Your Mama.”)

I like Sarah. I think we can all relate to her. She does things right (like following her husband even when he had NO idea where they were going), but she also makes mistakes (and some doozies at that!)

In Genesis 12, God promised Abram an heir. At this point Abram was 75 and Sarah 65. Can you imagine? Giving birth to your first child at 65? (I thought 39 was bad.) Well, Sarah didn’t have the child at 65. Even though the promise was made, God was not going to fulfill his promise right then.

Fast forward 11 years. Sarah got tired of waiting. Isn’t that like most of us? We live in a society of instant gratification: TV dinners, microwaves, video on demand, ebooks, shopping online. We don’t like to wait. And neither did Sarah. So she took matters into her own hands. As was the custom of the day (just because it was “popular” doesn’t make it right), a barren wife could offer her servant as a substitute. As a result, the child born of the union between the husband and servant became a legal heir. So Sarah decided to help God along. She sent her servant Hagar unto Abram. By the way, getting ahead of God brings disastrous results. Spiritual ends are never achieved through carnal means.

Well, Hagar conceived and Sarah became despised in her eyes (Genesis 16:4). It’s another situation like Hannah and Peninnah  (I Samuel 1). Now Sarah is feeling the weight of such a decision. So she goes to Abram and apologizes and accepts full responsibility, right? Unfortunately, no. Here is Sarah’s dramatic response to Abram. Genesis 16:5 states, “And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee:” Really?!?!?!?! What did Sarah expect? Sarah came up with the idea and she’s blaming Abraham for the result?  And in my head I picture Sarah all angry, bawling, boohooing, getting all dramatic. Wow. But the verse doesn’t stop there. It goes on to say “I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes.” So now she’s whining. That’s how it plays out in my head. She’s angry she’s yelling, but now she’s resorting to self-pity. “She doesn’t like me anymore. I’m being mistreated. It’s not fair.” Oh my word. Drama at its finest. Abram told Sarah to “do to her as it pleaseth thee” and the Bible says “Sarai dealt hardly with her.” In other words, she was harsh. Maybe she made her work longer hours, maybe she gave her the harder jobs, maybe she was just down right mean.

Fast forward fourteen more years. Wow. 25 years from the time the heir was promised. Twenty five years is a long time to wait, but you’ll never go wrong waiting on the Lord. In Genesis 18, Abraham is promised a son. Sarah overheard this and laughed within herself. I can so relate to this. When I found out I was expecting, for the first time, after 15 years of infertility, and at the ripe old age of 39, all I could do was laugh. I couldn’t even get the words out to my husband because all I could do was laugh. So I can understand Sarah here. She was, as the Bible states, “old and well-stricken in age;” Okay, that’s an understatement. She was 89. 89!!! And she was going to give birth? For the first time? Yep. See, God sometimes uses things in our lives so we can’t claim the credit. He does things so we will point to Him and say, “Only God could do this.” And so Isaac, the promised seed, was born when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90. (Genesis 21) End of story, right? Everyone got what they wanted and lived happily ever after. Not quite. No where in the Bible do I find Sarah dealt with her grievous error or made things right. And that’s going to be evident in the next series of events.

In Genesis 21:8, we see Abraham made a great feast the day Isaac was weaned. I don’t know how old Isaac was at this point, but I can’t imagine him being younger than 2. That would make Ishmael (the son of Abraham and Hagar) about 16. At this feast, Sarah sees Ishmael mocking. Now, I have three girls, 7, 2, and 4 months and I already see the wheels turning in their not-so-innocent little heads. The two older ones are already finding ways to torment each other. It’s what they do. I don’t know just what Ishmael did, but it could have been nothing more than sibling stuff. But Sarah’s reaction is to have Hagar and the boy banished. Does anyone see that Sarah has been holding on to some jealousy and bitterness? I think she overreacted here. But I think holding on to all that anger and bitterness clouded her judgment. She rushed into a decision to banish Hagar and not allow Ishmael to be heir with Isaac and the whole world has been paying for it since. God made nations out of both boys. Isaac the father of the Israelites and Ishmael the father of the Arab race. And the tensions are still very real today.

The consequences to our actions are often long-lasting and far-reaching. Look how Sarah’s decision to “help God out” has had an effect on our world today. Not only did she make some wrong decisions, she had the wrong attitude and held onto anger and bitterness. I’ve wondered many times how relations in the Middle East would be different had Sarah waited on God or had she not reacted out of anger.  Remember, getting ahead of God brings disastrous results. We need to remember to wait on God, and have the right attitude while waiting.

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Orange slices and trophies

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So I guess the spoiled brat from New Jersey has withdrawn her lawsuit against her parents. Maybe because she had a revelation, maybe because she thought she might not win her case, maybe because she was becoming one of the least liked people in the country. She is just one of many today who have a sense of entitlement. They should get X, Y, and Z because of who they are, what their name is, who they know, how much money they have, blah, blah, blah.

Here’s the problem. We as a society are partly to blame. Now don’t get me wrong. Sometimes (just sometimes?) children are selfish. I get it. And as a parent, it is up to me to teach my girls. But society has begun to teach children mediocrity is ok. All you have to do is participate and at a minimal level at that.  No one should be left out, everyone should feel good, and no one should leave crying. That might hurt their psyche. It might make them feel bad about themselves.

I once taught in a school where every member of my class was to get an award at the end of the year. All 33 students (yes, 33 in one class) were to receive a certificate of achievement in some area for the awards assembly. (I guarantee this happens everywhere.) All 33? A certificate of achievement? Some I literally had to make up. I had one that was given the “most creative” award. She was always making up illnesses that she had: some minor, some serious, none real. So, I figured “that’s creative.” She didn’t know why she received that award, and I didn’t elaborate.

Think of all the little league sports teams where everyone wins, at the end of the game everyone gets orange slices and at the end of the year everyone gets a trophy. No matter how hard you played or how much you goofed off. Personally, I think it minimizes hard work. I think it trivializes rewards.  And don’t even think about keeping score. That’s not what sports are about. It’s about having a good time. It’s not even about doing your best. Just go out for the team. Coach John Wooden said, “Don’t mistake activity for achievement.” Unfortunately, that’s what we are teaching thousands of kids.

I’m a music teacher. I taught for 15 years before staying home with my girls. One of my least favorite phrases to hear was, “Why do we have to do this? Music should be fun!” Says who? Music is hard work, or legitimate music is. Music is fun once you put in the hours of practice and hash out problem areas, once you perform a piece to the best of your ability and you walk off the stage with a sense of accomplishment. THAT’S fun. But it comes with a price.

What about academic areas, like science fairs, where there are no awards for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place, but everyone gets a trophy just for participating? Really? Where’s the reward for hard work? Where’s the reward for those who went the extra mile? Children are taught they don’t have to do much and they’ll get a trophy, they’ll get recognition, a pat on the back. If you do work hard, your recognition is the same as the kid who put their project together 30 minutes before the fair. But honestly, in the real world, it doesn’t work that way.

See, I’m a bad parent. When we play games with our kids, like Candyland or Chutes and Ladders, we play for real. (Just wait until they are old enough to play Scrabble. Bwahahaha!) No changing the rules so our kids can win. (Unless, of course, the game is dragging on. Sometimes we have to help it along.) They need to learn to lose. They need to learn to lose with grace. They need to be good sports. See, that’s what is important. Character. Having the right attitude even when things aren’t going their way. They can not grow up thinking everyone is going to just hand them whatever they want. Not everyone can win all of the time. I don’t want to placate to my children. I want them to know that hard work will pay off, and that people appreciate being able to count on them.

Life is not a spectator sport. It’s not just about getting by, it’s about getting in and doing your best. Sometimes you get recognition, sometimes you don’t. Have character. Be a good sport. Stop handing out orange slices and trophies.

Rahab’s Reconciliation

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I think my favorite lesson in the series “Save the Drama for Your Mama” is the lesson on Rahab. Oh my, what a fabulous story.  Some women limit themselves, or maybe I should say, they limit God, because of poor choices in the past. If anyone had a rough past, it would have to be Rahab.

According to Joshua 2, Rahab was a harlot. Now there are those who say that she was nothing more than an innkeeper. But as I studied the word, harlot in Joshua 2 comes from the Hebrew word porne, which is the feminine form of pornos. It’s pretty obvious what English word we get from that: pornography. So I think when the Bible says harlot, it means harlot. John MacArthur, in his book “Twelve Extraordinary Women,” says, “Remove the stigma of sin, and you remove the need for grace.” If Rahab was just an innkeeper, then this story lacks significance.

So here’s the story. Joshua, the leader of the nation of Israel, sent two spies into Jericho to spy out the land. They went and lodged at Rahab’s house. I don’t know why. Maybe it was because in her profession, discretion was key. Maybe it was because people wouldn’t think twice about strange men going to her house. But I do believe this was all in God’s plan. In the mean time, the king found out there were spies and sent soldiers to check it out. Rahab hid the 2 spies and told the soldiers they had left the city, but if they hurried, they could catch up.

Once the soldiers leave, Rahab went to talk to the two Israelite spies. She told them that the reputation of the nation of Israel preceded them “all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you” (Joshua 2:9) and “as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you;” (Joshua 2:11) Then Rahab, the harlot, says something unexpected, “for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord,” (Joshua 2:11b-12a). This was a turning point for Rahab. She acknowledges who God is and puts her trust in Him. She would not have asked the spies to swear by the Lord if she did not believe. (Notice she said the Lord and not your Lord.)

She then made provisions for the safety of her family. (Shouldn’t we also want to see our family members trust Christ?) It was decided that at the time appointed, she must have the scarlet thread in her window (to signify which house was hers) and her family members must be in her house. She let the spies down the wall and gave them instructions for their safety.  In Joshua 6, we read of the Israelites marching around Jericho, blowing the trumpets, and shouting and the walls falling down FLAT! (verse 20) Joshua made sure Rahab and her family were spared and she then dwelt in Israel (Joshua 6:25)

Here’s my favorite part of the story. Rahab is mentioned in the New Testament. In James 2 where he is teaching on faith and works, in Hebrews 11, where Rahab is listed among the “giants” of the faith and in Matthew 1:5. “Salmon begat Booz of Rachab (Boaz of Rahab); Booz begat Obed of Ruth; Obed begat Jesse; and Jesse begat David the king;” Rahab, the harlot, is included in the geneology of King David! BUT, if you continue to read the chapter, she is also in the geneology of Christ! Amazing! A woman who could have used her past as an excuse, a woman who most of society would have cast aside, was used in the lineage of the Saviour of the world.

Too many times we make excuses. Too many times we say God can’t love us or use us because of our past. Rahab could have told the spies, “nice story, but it’s not for me.” “you don’t know what I’ve done.” “God couldn’t love someone like me.” “If you only knew the choices I’ve made.” But it’s not about us. It’s about an amazing, forgiving, loving God.

“It doesn’t matter who you are.

It doesn’t matter where you’ve been.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done.

Jesus is softly calling.

But because of who He is

And because of where He’s been

Because of what He’s done

You can start all over again.”

(“It Doesn’t Matter” by T. D. Jakes)

Time sure flies when you’re having fun

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For years now I’ve wanted a front room without a TV. A front room where, when someone comes to the door, it’s already clean. A room that is free of toys, shoes, and “stuff.” Two years ago we bought a house with the perfect front room. The TV is downstairs in the “man cave.” In the bay window sits my baby grand piano (which is in desperate need of being tuned.) I have a couch and chair and there is a fireplace in the corner of the room. (It hasn’t worked for almost two months, during the coldest part of winter, but that’s another story for another day.)

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As I sat on the couch this morning, I saw the “parking lot” under my piano. The car, the train, the shopping cart, the airplane all sit underneath. My first thought was “Seriously? All I ask for is one room to be kid free and…” As soon as that thought entered my mind, it hit me: one of these days I will have that kid free room. The toys will all be put away, there will be no more shoes to pick up (well, except for my own), no more books to stack, and no more silly girlies chasing each other in circles, squealing like little piggies. Then I will lament the fact that I don’t have all their things all over my front room. I will miss the poor undressed dolls with ratty hair, I will miss the board books, I will miss the blanket forts and pillow pets on the floor.

I told my hubby a couple of months ago, “we only have 10 more Christmases before Lydia graduates from high school.” He didn’t appreciate my thinking. I didn’t have the heart to tell him we only have 18 family vacations before Courtney graduates. So for now, I will be content and not so obsessed with my front room. That time will come, much sooner than I want.

Do I have to do everything?

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One of our lessons was on Mary and Martha in Luke 10. I soooo relate to Martha. I can be busy with the best of them. Clean the church, teach Jr. Church, work in nursery, participate in music ministry, and why isn’t she pulling her weight, doesn’t he see all that I do, etc…

I do believe Martha was blessed with the gift of hospitality. Can you imagine at least 12 people showing up at your door? No advanced warning, no text, no cell phone call to announce their coming? And then you feed them? Without a cake mix, a microwave, or frozen anything? And yet no where does the Bible say Martha griped that these men showed up or that she was burdened with feeding them. She DID, however, complain that Mary was not helping.

Here’s the scenario as it plays in my head: The men come in, everyone is cordial, and Martha sets to work. Mary, however, sits at the feet of Jesus. I think as time goes on Martha probably sighs heavily from time to time, bangs a pot around or slams a door trying to get Mary’s attention. When that doesn’t get her attention, Martha turns to good old-fashioned whining. Why do I see that in my head? Because I’m sure I’ve done that myself, once or twice. (HA!)

The Bible says Martha was “cumbered about much serving.” (Luke 10:40) She was distracted with all that she had to do. Matthew Henry says, “Whatever cares the providence of God casts upon us, we must not be cumbered with them, nor be disquieted and perplexed by them. Care is good and duty; cumber is sin and folly.”  See, service is good. Service is necessary. (Can you imagine coming to church where no one had cleaned the toilets for months? Or maybe trying to put your children in the nursery and no one is there, or the nursery lady is grumpy?) But it should not distract us from the bigger picture-developing a personal relationship with Christ. Then Martha went to Jesus and told him to make Mary work (Luke 10:40). Basically, “YOU tell her to help me, she won’t listen to me! I’m doing this all by myself and all she is doing is sitting there! Don’t you see how hard I’m working?!” (Sound familiar? Have you ever complained about how much YOU are doing? Or asking for recognition for all the work YOU have done?) I love Christ’s response, “Martha, Martha,…” (Luke 10:41) Again, I picture this in my head. Christ looks at her, almost with pity, and shakes his head from side to side. “…thou art careful and troubled about many things.” She was doing too much. She was doing more than was necessary and it was distracting her from the most important thing, the “one thing is needful.” (verse 42) “To give up herself to the guidance of Christ, and receive the law from His mouth.” (Matthew Henry) Jesus called that the “good part.” Mary chose to be with Christ, a better way of honoring or pleasing Him. She chose that personal relationship instead of the busyness of service.

Again, service is needful. The work of the church could not get done without it. The Bible calls it “your work and labour of love.” (Hebrews 6:10) But it is easy to get so wrapped up in our ministries, that we forget to have that personal relationship with Christ. Good works should be a by-product of a Christ-centered life, they do not produce a Christ-centered life. So, are you a Mary or Martha?