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Book - Walk On Water

Of Mice and Men

TRUE STORY: Of Mice and Men

It’s a great story—Of Mice and Men, published in 1937 by John Steinbeck. The story follows two migrant workers, George and Lennie, as they travel around searching for work during the Great Depression era. The title of the book is taken from the poem “To a Mouse,” published in 1785 by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. It’s the story of a farmer who accidentally plows through a nest of mice displacing them and forcing them to find a new home. The famous line is “The best-laid schemes of mice and men go oft awry.”

I taught both literary pieces when I was an educator and I highly recommend them to everyone. (But make sure you read the English translation of the poem because the original Scots language can be a wee bit tricky. 😬)

My story about mice and men is not as inspiring but it’s mine, so here goes.

A couple of days ago while working in my home office, my sweet cat Wendy darted in the room. She jumped on my desk, walked on the keyboard of my laptop and wrote kjgl dlg algjaj; lk; skakl; lskd ak;akd/////////////, which I promptly deleted, and then she hopped down on the floor and ran under Mark’s desk. I tried to continue writing but Wendy scooted behind the draperies and began pawing at something. It was then I realized we were not alone!

I turned around to see the tail of something scurry behind the trash can. I moved the can and the thing ran behind the desk, as did Wendy. But she was too big to squeeze into the small area where our little friend was hiding. I grabbed a flashlight and crawled underneath the desk and saw a very large dark grey furry mouse-like creature staring at me. We both jumped and he ran the other direction. For thirty minutes Wendy and I played “cat and mouse.” The mouse was winning and I was growing weary of the search so I called Mark for reinforcement.

It was early morning and Mark was still asleep but I walked into the bedroom and said sternly, “MARK! WE HAVE A CREATURE IN THE HOUSE!” Being familiar with my tone, he jumped out of bed and followed me to the office.

“Get a towel,” he told me. “I’ll make it run your direction and you throw the towel on it and grab it.” And then he paused and asked, “Are you okay with this or does it make you skittish?”

“I’m fine. Let’s do it. I can’t get any work done until this thing is out of our house!”  It took about 10 more minutes before Mark scared it my way. The monster mouse revealed himself and Mark screamed, “AAAHHHH!” (It was a big mouse!)  I dropped the towel, grabbed it, and we hurried out the front door and let it go. We stood and watched it scurry away. Mission accomplished.

The next morning, while working in my home office, my sweet cat Wendy darted in the room. She jumped on my desk, walked on the keyboard of my laptop and wrote kjgl dlg algjaj; lk; skakl; lskd ak;akd/////////////, which I promptly deleted, and then she hopped down on the floor and ran under Mark’s desk. I tried to continue writing but Wendy scooted behind the draperies and began pawing at something. It was then I realized we were not alone! Again.

This mouse, however, was tiny, light grey, with little pink ears, and when he peeked his head out and saw me, I think he smiled. For thirty minutes Wendy and I played “cat and mouse.” But this little guy was quicker and smarter. So we both gave up. Wendy left the room and I went back to work.

Later on that evening, Mark and I were relaxing in the living room watching TV. And the little mouse walked in. “Oh,” I said to Mark. “I forgot to tell you. We have another mouse in the house.”  We both jumped up and the game was on! After 20 minutes, we gave up. Mark found a mouse trap, globbed some peanut butter on it, set the trigger, placed it near the fireplace where we last saw the mouse disappear, and we sat back down.

Not too much later, the little mouse peeked his head out of his hiding place, looked both ways, and walked into the room. Wendy the cat and Maggie the dog were asleep on the couch, unaware of our visitor. So I think he felt safe. He walked back and forth a bit and then discovered Maggie’s water dish. He climbed up over the rim of the dish and proceeded to take a long drink.  Then he saw the trap and walked over to it. He pulled on the trap, knocked it around a bit, and then began eating the peanut butter. When he was finished, he walked back into his hiding place. And I guess he went to bed because he never returned.

And now I truly understand Robert Burns’ line: “The best-laid schemes of mice and men go oft awry.”

I think I’ll name my mouse Mickey.

🐁

Give a Little, Get a Little

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (1) What are we sowing exactly? Is it something physical like money, food, labor? Or is it something intangible like love, support, time? The answer? It doesn’t matter. Because the point is this: you get back what you put into something. Give a little; get a little. Give a lot; get a lot. So, I guess the point is if we feel that we are not getting enough out of life (or a church or a Bible study or a class or a relationship, or . . . whatever 🙄), then perhaps it is because we are not fully investing ourselves in it; we are holding back. We are sowing sparingly.

So, the point is this: don’t blame your frustration or your unfulfilled heart on anything but yourself until you have given all you have to it—until you have sown bountifully.

But here’s another point: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2) So, if we are giving bountifully but are doing so with resistance or because it is required of us, don’t expect to get much back. Our attitude is as important as our effort!

It’s a decision we subconsciously make every day—give a little of ourselves or give a lot. I think we hold back because we believe we only have so much we can give. Afterall, we might run out of energy or resources! So, we keep a tight fist . . . on our time, our money, our talent. It’s like we are saving ourselves for future opportunities while the opportune time is staring us in the face! The time is now! All we really have is today.

And the point is this: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (3) The “good work”? God wants us to abound in it, to burst, to overflow, to flourish in the harvest! And guess what? He has already planned out the good work for us. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (4)

And the point is this: We will not run out of energy or time or resources because God will supply us with our every need, giving us all sufficiency in all things at all times.” (3) There is no excuse for holding back. As a matter of fact, when we give generously, “we will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.” (5) The more we give, the more we will be able to give! 😀

So, what are we waiting for? For what reason are we holding back? Why not decide right now to sow bountifully in the opportunities of this day? Because if we don’t do that, then what’s the point? 😉

1) 2 Corinthians 9:6      2) 2 Corinthians 9:7     3) 2 Corinthians 9:8     4) Ephesians 2:10    5) 2 Corinthians 9:11

Safe Prayers

Here’s what I know about prayers: God always answers them. Always. Some of you might disagree with me but here’s what I know about God: He is faithful. What some people call an unanswered prayer, I call a prayer answered in a way people do not want the prayer answered—in other words, God said No. Or Not now. People often mistake God’s No as an unanswered prayer. So they keep praying the same prayer. And then get frustrated with God, believing he has not heard them! Not true! God hears us the first time! We just don’t listen to his answer! 😲

Here’s another thing I know about prayer. Often, we pray for one thing and it seems we get the exact opposite of what we prayed for! As if God were playing a joke on us! 🤪 For example, if we pray for patience, we will likely find ourselves faced with a very annoying person! But what better way to practice patience, right? And if we pray to be more forgiving, it is likely that someone we love may hurt us! But what better way to exercise the very thing we felt we needed work on, right?  And if we pray to be more loving, we might find ourselves face to face with some very unlovable people!  But what better way to learn to love, right? Even if we pray for God’s will to be done aren’t we, in fact, praying that our will not necessarily be done? 🙃 Need I go on? 🤨

Okay. So . . . is there any safe prayer? I mean, one where we won’t be tested?  Hmm. 🤔 Probably not. So maybe we should not pray so much! No! 😮 That can’t be right. Paul tells us to “Pray without ceasing.” (1)

But here are a couple of ideas: 1) Praying is not always about asking for things. As a matter of fact, I believe the primary thing we should be asking for is forgiveness, not to be more patient or to be more forgiving or to be more loving. Trust me, we will have plenty of opportunities to learn about those things!!  (But go ahead and ask for them if you like! 🙄) Jesus instructed his disciples to pray for daily bread, forgiveness, guidance, and protection. I fail to see mention of any other thing.

2) When Paul tells us to pray all the time, he means we should be talking to God all the time about everything—discussing things with him, airing our thoughts, venting our feelings, thanking him for his love and mercy and all his good gifts. And here’s the thing we often forget—listening to God is as important as talking to God!  Then as we listen to God speak, we are given the thing we really need: “having the eyes of our hearts enlightened,” (2)  so we will know what to do and then rely on “the immeasurable greatness of his power” (3) to give us the strength to do it.

Listening to God’s voice is where we need the most help, which brings me back around to my first point. God answers all our prayers. He talks to us all the time—we just don’t hear him . . . for two reasons mainly: 1) We are distracted, which we all need to work on! And 2) We do not recognize God’s voice! 😦 Why would we not recognize God’s voice? Because we do not talk with him nearly enough.

Think about it. When your best friend calls you on the phone, do you ever have to ask who is speaking?

1) 1 Thessalonians 5:17        2) Ephesians 1:18         3) Ephesians 1:19

Keeping Score

Jesus told a parable about vineyard laborers (1) who were mad about getting paid the amount they had agreed to—you heard me right: they were mad about getting paid the amount they had agreed to 😦—and one point to the story is this: 1) Stop comparing what you have with what others have. But there is more.

Let’s face it: we love when God is generous towards us, but when he is generous towards others—especially those who we feel do not deserve it—we are sometimes envious, angry, and a little peeved! As others prosper, as others receive more than we do, as others seem to get all the breaks—we secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) pose the question: What about me?

And according to the parable, God answers our question with a couple of questions of his own:  1) “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” and 2) “Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (2)

Hmm. 🤔  And ouch! 😟 The bottom line is this: God is in charge—and thank God for that! But we often disagree with how God runs things, don’t we? I mean, if the pay is the same for working 1 hour or for working 11 hours, what’s the point of working 11 hours? It’s a good question. After all, shouldn’t we be rewarded for working longer and harder than others?

And here is my answer: What God asks us to do is what we need to do. What God asks others to do is not our concern. We are, in effect, to “mind our own business,” as Paul so eloquently writes in his letter to the Thessalonians (3). Jesus said basically the same thing to Peter. After his resurrection, Jesus had a great reunion with Peter and then told him, “Follow me.” (4) And Peter looked back and saw John . . . and asked Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” (5) And Jesus said to him, “What is that to you?” (6) Which I interpret as mind your own business! So, I call that point #2.

But also, think about this. The laborers in the vineyard believed that doing more work meant more money and probably more recognition. And that’s where we seem to get stuck, because actually God’s question is the same for all of us: “Do you want to work for me?” And according to the parable the reward for working for him is the same for everyone. That’s point #3.

However, a most important point is still looming. Prior to Jesus sharing this parable, the disciples had asked him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (7) To which Jesus replied, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (8) And shortly after that Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive a person.  To which Jesus replied, “seventy-seven times” (9). Which led Jesus into the parable about forgiveness which reveals that God will forgive us in the same way we forgive others. Which was followed by the scene where the rich young man asked what he had to do to have eternal life. To which Jesus answered, “Keep the commandments and sell everything,” which the man could not do—which was Jesus’ point. He was in effect saying, “There is nothing you can do.”

Let’s pause there. 🤔 Do you see the pattern? We humans are obsessed with measuring things:  how to be great, how many times to forgive people, what things we can do to earn God’s love. We love to keep score. God does not keep score. God is generous towards all.  That’s point #4.

And a good place to stop . . .  and consider why I felt compelled to number my points. 🤪

1) Matthew 20:1-16     2) Matthew 20:15      3) 1 Thessalonians 4:11      4) John 21:19      5) John 21:21      6) John 21:22     7) Matthew 18:1      8) Matthew 18:4     9) Matthew 18:22

Fair Treatment

Once upon a time, a man—let’s call him Carl—was building a restaurant but needed some laborers to help with the construction of it. One morning, a little before 7 a.m. he went out looking for people to hire. He found many willing and they all agreed to work (7 to 6) for $200. Everyone was excited! Around 9:00 a.m. Carl noticed some people standing idly in the streets and offered them a job, promising to pay them a fair wage. So, they trusted him to do so and began working.

At 12 p.m. and again at 3 p.m. Carl saw others standing around and offered them the same deal. And they gladly went to work. And about 5 p.m. Carl saw more people just standing around with nothing to do. He asked them, “Why aren’t you working?” And they told him, “No one has offered us a job.” So, Carl said, “You can work for me. Go join the others.” And they gladly did.

Now at 6 p.m. Carl told his foreman to call everyone to be paid, beginning with the last ones hired. And—get this—the guys who began work at 5 p.m. received $200! 😮 And so did the guys who began at 3 p.m. and 12 p.m. and 9 a.m. When it came time for those guys who started at 7 a.m. to receive their wages, they were all expecting to be paid more. Because, after all, they had worked longer than any of the others. But they received $200 as well. 😦

And they were mad! 😠 They complained to Carl saying that they had worked harder and longer and it had been a really hot day! What did Carl say? “Fellows, I did you no wrong. Didn’t you all agree to work for $200? Take your money and go. It is my choice to pay people as I wish. It’s my money. Am I not allowed to do what I want with it? Or do you resent my generosity? Do you feel cheated because I gave so freely?”

Hmm. 🤔 This is my modern-day version of the parable Jesus told as recorded in Matthew 20. And I must say, it makes me a little mad. I sympathize with the guys who worked an eleven-hour day yet received the same wages as those who worked one hour. It just does not seem fair! 😠

So, what was Jesus’ point? Well, on a practical note, we could say that the people who worked all day at least felt good all day. They knew they would be getting a big paycheck at the end of the day. The work gave them purpose and hope. But for those who wanted to work but could not? Their day was worrisome and hopeless until they were offered a job. Contrary to popular belief, work is a good thing! But I don’t think that was Jesus’ point. 🧐

What stands out about this parable is that the first ones hired felt they were treated unfairly. But you see, God is not interested in the fair treatment of people! Wait! What? 😲 Nope. And we should be glad of that! Do you really want God to give you what you deserve? (Think hard before you answer! 🙄) God is interested in mercy.  

The problem is we are forever comparing ourselves to everyone else. And this way of living can only result in envy or pride: either we feel we deserve more than we have or we feel we are better than everyone else. In this parable, Jesus is saying, “Stop comparing yourselves to others! Be grateful for what God gives you. It is more than enough!”

So, I’ll just end with that thought. For now . . . 😏

Resolutions

It’s that time again—where we resolve to be better people. We make our lists. We vow to change. It’s the starter conversation for many. So, I will go ahead and ask the question: What’s your New Year’s Resolution? But before you answer, let me caution . . . we generally do it all wrong. 😦 We believe that if we change our habits, our lives will be transformed. But that’s not how it works. The Apostle Paul wrote, “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” (1)  So . . . what does that mean?

First, transformation occurs as we discern God’s will for our lives. Generally speaking, it is the same for all of us: “what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (1) Specifically speaking, God’s will is revealed to us by discovering the grace “given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (2)  Our lives are transformed as we understand our place in the world. Then, God begins to do his greatest work in us, which is “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (3)—which is directly opposed to our tendency to follow the crowd. Paul warns us about that, too: “Do not be conformed to this world.” (1)

Secondly, transformation occurs when we have a proper understanding of ourselves. Paul instructs us “not to think of [ourselves] more highly than [we] ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (4) We tend to compare and compete, but Paul challenges us that we should only “outdo one another in showing honor.” (5) Our habits are transformed only as we “think with sober judgment.” If we want real change in our lives, we must begin there.

Okay. I know some of you believe I have missed the point here. 🤪  You are thinking: My resolutions are not that grandiose! I just need to lose ten pounds! I want to get organized! I need to finish that project! I just need a new start in general! How does renewing my mind help with those things? 🤔 So glad you asked!

We often make two mistakes when it comes to resolutions: 1) We believe God is not interested in our silly lists. And 2) We believe we are more resolute than we are! 🤨 And so we exclude God in our efforts. After all, what does losing weight have to do with God?  Everything! 😮 All our shortcomings and failures and insecurities and inconsistencies and temptations are connected to how we view ourselves too highly or too lowly and how we discern God’s will for our lives . . . as explained in Romans 12:2-3. 🙄 And, by the way, those resolutions are only attainable through endurance and encouragement, and our God is actually “the God of endurance and encouragement.” (6) So, excluding God from our resolutions is a very bad idea. 🤨

Without God we can do nothing. “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (7) He works in us and he gives us the will to do the work! Transformation—habit changing, resolution attaining—begins with a renewed mind. So, for those of us resolving to make resolutions this year, let’s not forget to include ”the God of endurance and encouragement” in the process.

Oh, and happy new year! 😁

1) Romans 12:2        2) Ephesians 4:7      3) Romans 8:29       4) Romans 12:3       5) Romans 12:10       6) Romans 15:5       7) Philippians 2:13  

Seeking Jesus

Zacchaeus, that short, rich chief tax collector, “was seeking to see who Jesus was.” (1) I like little Zacch for that reason. Few people are doing that, you know—“seeking to see who Jesus [is].” Oh, many celebrate his birth during this season, but few truly seek to know who he is. But here’s the interesting thing: Jesus was seeking Zacch, too. After Jesus went to his house and probably ate a meal with him and his family (which really upset everyone 😠)—after dinner, Jesus told Zacch this: “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” (2)

Jesus came to seek the lost. He was looking for Zacchaeus. He is looking for everyone who is lost. This is the good news of the season. For everyone who is lost—lost in sin, lost in grief, lost in addiction,  lost in loneliness, lost in purpose of life—Jesus is looking for you. And the moment—the second—you look for him, he will find you first.  😯

Jesus told Zacchaeus he wanted to visit with him and Zacch’s response was immediate. “So he hurried and came down (he was crouching in a tree) and received him joyfully.” (3)  So, according to Zacchaeus’ story, there are really two questions we must answer: 1) Are we seeking to know who Jesus is? and 2) Do we want to spend time with Jesus?

Most people are not seeking to know Jesus and they certainly don’t want to be found by Jesus. It’s not that they prefer to be lost, it’s just that they do not know they are lost. They actually deny that they are lost. Their lives are fine without Jesus! They do not need him! Jesus loves those people, too, but he is not looking for them. He will not find anyone who does not want to be found. He came to seek the lost—those who acknowledge that they are lost. And then he will save everyone who wants to be saved! From their lostness. From their hopelessness. From their wandering.

But then what? After we are saved, do we really need to keep seeking who Jesus is? Isn’t our search complete once we find Jesus? Can’t we just get on with our lives?  Well, we can. We can live perfectly fine lives without getting to know Jesus. 😲 Or we can invite him to stay. When Zacch found Jesus—or to put it more accurately—when Jesus found Zacch, he said this: “I must stay at your house.” (4) And so the real question for us is will we let Jesus stay? Stay in our lives.  And really get to know him.

I think Zacchaeus was astounded when he heard Jesus call his name. I think he was shocked when Jesus wanted to go to his house. And after Zacchaeus spent time with Jesus, Zacch’s life was transformed. Absolutely changed forever.

So, the lesson for us is simply this: Jesus knows our name. And he is seeking us.

1) Luke 19:3    2) Luke 19:10    3) Luke 19:6    4) Luke 19:5

Spiritual Blessings

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing . . .” (1) And let’s just pause right there because the root word “bless” is mentioned three times already! The first blessed means “to speak well of,” to praise. Here Paul is praising God for being who he is—the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The second blessed means to “benefit” or “prosper.” God “has blessed us in Christ.” So, we benefit from being in Christ; we actually prosper, are rich—have more than we could ever need—in Christ! The important question, then, is what has our blessed God who has blessed us in Christ blessed us with?  🤪 And here’s the answer: “with every spiritual blessing,” which is defined as a nonmaterial and everlasting good thing. So, the blessings we receive from God are not temporal. Or material. God is much bigger than that.

We long for tangible things that quench our desires and comfort us now. God is interested in giving us things that really count. And note, he gives us every spiritual blessing.” He is generous beyond our imagination. He actually “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (2). Peter explains it further by saying “his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” (3) This is great news! We have everything we need! 😀

Then why do we not feel that we do? 😕 Why do we lack things, long for things, and despair over what we do not have? I think it is because we do not know what we need. We live in the here and now. Our lives are consumed with consumables. Our physical lives are insatiable and our spiritual lives are starved—not because we do not have what we need—but because we disagree with God about what we believe we need! 🙃 In essence, we hunger after the wrong things.

And so. We must come to terms with these facts: God knows what we need and only cares about what is good for us. Paul is very clear about God’s blessings on our lives. They are always given “according to the purpose of his will.” (4) He actually uses this phrase (or a derivative of it) five times in the first seven sentences of Ephesians. (It’s important!) 🙄

So, God’s blessings will always be in line with “the purpose of his will.” The great news is that his will is to bless us “according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us.” His blessings include—but are not limited to—being chosen, redeemed, and forgiven, being in possession of a glorious eternal inheritance, while being “strengthened with power through his spirit.” (5)

And although God’s purpose is unique for each of us, there is one purpose that is for all of us—and that is this: “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (6)

And being “filled with all the fulness of God” surpasses any thing that this world can offer. There is no greater blessing than this.

1) Ephesians 1:3     2) Ephesians 3:20     3) 2 Peter 1:3    4) Ephesians 1:5    5) Ephesians 3:16    6) Ephesians 3:17-19

Blessed: Part Two

Remember the rich young man who asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life? He was a good man who had kept all the commandments since he was a youth. We might say the rich young man had a “blessed” life. Some might even conclude that the one thing preceded the other—that he had everything he wanted because he was a good man. I imagine he thought so, too. He came to Jesus probably thinking that Jesus would simply “bless” him with the one thing he did not have because, after all, he was a very good man.

But Jesus shocked him (and the disciples) by telling him this: “Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (1)

What? 😦 Give away all his “blessings”? Why? Because his “blessings” were actually the thing that was standing in the way of his following Jesus. You might say his “blessings” were really a curse. 😲 Sometimes the things that we love, the things we call “blessings,” are simply things-we-like-about-our-lives. But they may have nothing to do with God’s purpose. And they might actually be standing in the way of God’s purpose!

It feels good and right to say that God has blessed us with things. But where in scripture does Jesus ever bless anyone with “things”? And for those who do not have those things and wish they did, it is painful to hear about how “blessed” others are! 😟 It only makes them wonder why they have not been “blessed”! We should be thankful for all that God gives us but to call things a “blessing” is to ostracize others who have not been “blessed” with that thing. I wonder if what we are really doing is simply bragging about our lives. It seems to me that when we say we are “blessed” by God, we are not focusing on how great God is as much as we are bringing attention to how great we have it. 😕

These are hard words, I know. But when was following Jesus ever easy? 🙄 The point of our lives (once we have given our lives to God) is “to be conformed to the image of his Son.” (2) That’s it. And that has nothing to do with things-we-like-about-our-lives.

So, does God not want us to be happy? Of course, he does!! But God knows that many things-we-like-about-our-lives are not blessings at all. Oh, they may give us pleasure for a while but not for long. And they may actually distract us from his purpose! God longs to give us good things. Jesus is not anti-riches! He actually told the rich young man he would give him treasure! In effect, he said, “Hey! If you want treasure, I’ll show you treasure! Come, follow me!”

But the rich young man wanted his treasure right then. He couldn’t wait. So he walked away “disheartened” and “sorrowful” because his idea of treasure was vastly different than Jesus’. But mostly he walked away because he didn’t want to give away his treasure, his “blessings,” and wait for Jesus’ treasure.

And so. 🤨 Those of us who do not feel “blessed”—who are wishing for things-we-believe-would-make-us-happy—should take heart—not be disheartened. We just need to follow Jesus. True blessings await those who do. “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.” (3)

1) Mark 10:21     2) Romans 8:29     3) Psalm 27:14

Blessed.

Recently, I read the biographies of staff members at a particular church. Every minister included this fact: “God has blessed us with (fill in the blank with a number) children.”  Which gave me pause. I have no children. Would it be proper to write in my bio that Mark and I are blessed with no children? 😉

If having children is a blessing then it could be concluded that not having them is a curse. To say that God blessed me with a good husband is to infer that if someone does not have a good husband or no husband, it is because God did not bless that person with one. So does God like me more? Does he play favorites? 🤨

It seems our feeling “blessed” is in direct proportion to how well things are going for us. We want children; God blesses us with children. We want to be healthy; God blesses us with good health. We want to get married; God blesses us with a spouse. We want a great job; God blesses us with a wonderful career.

It sounds acceptable, even spiritual. We are giving God the credit after all, right? For blessing us. But is this good theology? It works fine until it is examined in the light of those who have none of the things they wish they had—the exact same things others who are “blessed” wish for. Have the unblessed been overlooked by God? If being “blessed” means getting what we want, then many people are not. Blessed. Which makes those who are “blessed” appear to belong to an elite club.

It seems to me that the unblessed people would be quite angry at God for blessing others but not them—especially if they were faithful believers. Would I love God as much if he did not “bless” me with the things I wanted? 🧐

Okay. I know some of you are arguing that what we really mean when we say we are “blessed” is that we are lucky. But that does not sound spiritual. So let’s substitute “thankful” for lucky. What we mean is that we are thankful to God for certain things in our lives. But the question still stands: Would I be thankful to God as much if I were not so lucky (blessed)?

I think we have misunderstood this idea of being blessed. We equate it to things-we-like-about-our-lives. That’s not how Jesus defined it. Look at the Sermon on the Mount. The people Jesus called “blessed” were those who were poor in spirit, in mourning, meek, longing to be satisfied, merciful, pure, those who were peacemakers, and those who were persecuted. Those were the people blessed. There is little in that list that has anything to do with things-we-like-about-our-lives. 😦

So here is the real question: Is God even concerned with us having things-we-like-about-our-lives? Hmm. 🤔 According to Jesus in Matthew 5, God’s blessings are possessing a rich eternal inheritance, comfort, satisfaction, mercy, seeing God, and being God’s children.

The fact is that when we are “blessed”—according to the popular definition of things-we-like-about-our-lives—we do not need God’s blessing! We feel good already. Things are going well. We do not need comfort or mercy or riches. We are, in fact, satisfied! And here’s the real stinger: having things-we-like-about-our-lives may or may not have anything to do with God! Hmm. 🧐

What makes Jesus’ words even more shocking is that according to his definition, we are blessed when we have things-we-do-not-like-about-our-lives. 😧 How can this be? Because it is in this state—when we have things-we-do-not-like-about-our-lives—that we recognize and learn to embrace our desperate need for God, and his great love for us diminishes and sometimes even supersedes the longing in our souls to need things-we-like-about-our-lives. 🙃 Hmm.

And that epiphany of recognizing our desperate need for God generally will not happen when we are surrounded by things-we-like-about-our-lives. 🤔 Hmm.  Kinda’ gives a whole new perspective about being “blessed,” doesn’t it?