The Starting Place.

Today I am starting a 3 week series called Ponder. Together I want us to look at the Christmas story and this year see ourselves reflected back. Today is the first post in the series and I hope you come back for the next 3 Fridays and take this journey with me. Also, for the Next 3 Fridays at 12 Noon CST I am going LIVE on Facebook to share more about our place in the Christmas Story. I would love to have you join me LIVE or to watch the replay.

Entitlement, it’s a buzz word. As defined by Webster, entitlement is, “a belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges”

By that definition I would say that entitlement characterizes the current state of the human race. Specifically in the western world we are a culture of people that believes strongly in our right to have rights. Our right to do what we want with our bodies, our homes, our families. A right to pleasure, a right to success, a right to money. A right to work hard and play hard. To get the results we feel entitled to because of the effort, work, money that we have put in.

We like to point out entitlement in others when we sense our own entitlement being infringed upon. How dare that person think they deserve what I haven’t received or what I had to work harder for. Entitlement is at its roots, selfish. Selfish is how we all enter the world. We see with children that this is the way we start; selfish and entitled. Babies and toddlers don’t know of a world outside of themselves and their needs and are persistent to get what they want when they want it. It is in the growing up process that children are taught to wait, share, and that the world isn’t all about them. The idea is that as adults we become less selfish and entitled but often this is not the case. Especially in the year 2017 where what we want is at our fingertips and we can come to expect, or be entitled to, all the things.

Entitlement doesn’t end with material things, I believe in some ways we suffer from spiritual entitlement. “I deserve a God who loves me (i.e overlooks whatever I do and gives me a free pass to heaven) no matter what kind of relationship I have with him.” Or, “I have a right to a good life because I haven’t done anything really wrong”.  How about, “ I deserve a better (fill in the blank) than so and so because I worked harder and have sinned less.”

Writing these out I hear a whiny voice saying them in my mind and I feel embarrassed to admit that in my own walk these feelings of entitlement can sneak up and slither in taking root in my mind  and I don’t think I am alone.

Pondering the Christmas story this year I see myself staring back, I see me reflected in the narrative. There is something so incredibly humble about what Christ did for us by coming to earth as a baby, in poverty, and scandal, to be born among animals and worshiped by shepherds. The humility reflected in Christ shines an ugly light on my own entitlement and I wonder if this stark contrast can teach us something this year.

I am willing to bet, because they were human, that the characters of the Christmas story may have struggled with entitlement too.

Mary may have felt entitled to a grand wedding but surrendered to carry God as man in her womb.

I can imagine that Joseph felt entitled to do things the proper way but let go of that dream to care for Mary and lead this new family he had suddenly been given.

Maybe the Wise Men had different ideas about how they would spend the months that it took them to journey, or what they would find when they finally arrived.

Or the Shepherds, what did they risk leaving by leaving their flocks?

Friends, this is where we all begin. Puffed up with big dreams and plans about our rights in life, entitled to have things the way that we have worked for and deserve. Yet I think we find that entitlement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Our dreams pale in comparison to our Creator God’s. The mirror is ready to reflect the true state of our situation as we look at Jesus. He is the only one truly entitled to anything and compared to him we are owed no privilege, yet we have been given the most precious one.

The privilege to worship the King and be a part of his work is worth laying down our entitlement for. Like Mary who said “may it be unto me as you have said”. Like the Shepherds who left their flocks. Like the Wise Men who traveled far. Like Joseph who sacrificed his right to the right way. They all exchanged the ordinary for a chance at being a part of something extraordinary.

What might God have for you and I if we do the same?

Ponder that.  

A Resting Place

“And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks[a] of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day.”

It is Genesis 18 and Abraham and Sarah are old, physically past the point where they can have a child. Here we find Abraham sitting outside his tent in the heat of the day by the oaks of Mamre, resting.

We can imagine the weariness that may have engulfed Abraham. The sweat that may have trickled down his back as he found shade from those oaks. Maybe he closed his eyes for a moment and contemplated his life, a sigh escaped from the soul weariness he fought. Was hope a glimmer? Did he wonder when God would fulfill the promise of a son, and with the age of himself and Sarah was it was even possible anymore?

I wonder if Sarah’s hope was even less than Abraham’s as she watched her body change. Had she resigned herself to never bearing a child, to never being a mother? After all those years hope’s voice might have felt mocking, God’s promise distant and unattainable.

Then 3 men showed up and Abraham sprung into action. When did he realize the company he was a part of? That the Lord was visiting him this hot afternoon? I am not sure, but what we do know is that with these visitors came renewed hope.

“They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” 10 The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.”“

Recently a pastor spoke on Jesus being the bread of life, that he is the satisfier and the sustainer. In John 4:34 Jesus says that his food is to do the will of “he who sent me”. When I think of a resting place I think of a longing for satisfaction and peace. A fullness of the soul.

There are promises that we have been given by God. Maybe you have one hidden deep in your heart and today you find yourself relating to Sarah. For a long time you have had hope, you have dreamed of the ways the promise may come to fruition. As time passes hope and the promise has dimmed, seemingly out of reach.

This is the last piece in the Homeless series. When we began I had an urge to communicate that home isn’t the place we lay our heads as much as a sense of peace, contentment, belonging, satisfaction and purpose. And that these are things that we can bring with us, we are all carriers of this thing called home to those who feel alone, lost, discontent and dissatisfied. To be honest this Homeless series has been a journey for me and this last piece the most difficult to write.

In the last four years I have seen every place that I had considered to be a secure place of belonging and home shaken beneath my feet. Called into new and unfamiliar communities, hurt by those who should love, surprised by the death of a child and held hostage by cancer affecting those closest to me. My security in the venues of community, children, family, health were all shaken and I have felt the loss of them and with their vacancy an ache that I had been trying to fill was so wide and empty.

I have learned that we can have a resting place no matter the circumstances that life brings our way. That true rest has very little to do with our home, community, financial situation, job or even impact on the world. True rest has everything to do with finding contentment in the will of God, allowing his will and his way to be our food and satisfaction. It is letting go and leaning into his faithfulness and allowing him to work freely in our lives. The striving and worrying has got be let go of, our God can be trusted and is at work.

Abraham and Sarah left on a grand adventure following God. They were given an amazing promise, a son who would be made into a great nation. The way was hard, mistakes were made, life happened and the promise still unrealized. Is there truly a resting place in this weary world I ask myself, did they question too?

I believe the answer is yes. True rest can be found and often is only realized when all the other places we tend to go to have turned up empty. True rest is not contingent on physical circumstances of a full bank account, the perfect job or home, the right family or community. True rest comes in the form of leaning in to the plan of a faithful God. It is saying your will, your way God is my satisfaction – whatever it may be.

Sarah and Abraham didn’t stay at the Oaks of Mamre they continued to nomadically move on but I believe that they learned the secret to rest as their hope was renewed and a promised son was born. We have a privilege that they did not have and that is the benefit of their story. We can count on the same God that delivered on his promise to them to be faithful to deliver on his promises to us. And we see that God is faithful to his promise, his plan and his way. Abraham and Sarah were not perfect, they made many misjudgements and mistakes but God still followed through on his word.

As we end our time together I pray that you will find your resting place in the safe space that is the will, plan and promise of a Faithful God. This is where true satisfying rest is found for our souls.

Read the Rest of the Homeless Series and learn how you can live in and bring Home to those around you no matter what circumstances life brings.

Grasp for Hope.

What do you think of when you read the word home? A warm glow from the front window, the smell of dinner cooking on the stove, a friendly greeting from someone who loves you. For some of you, home has been a place of safety and warmth, a place you look forward to returning to.Continue Reading

Preparing For Christmas - A 25 Day Devotional for Families during the Month of December.

Grab Preparing For Christmas as we head into the Holiday Season. Be ready to use this time to focus on the true meaning and impact of Christmas with your family.

I wrote Preparing for Christmas because I wanted something I could do with my family that would turn our hearts towards what Christmas really means for us. Every year we go through Preparing for Christmas and we would love to have your family join us. Love, Steph

Order your copy today.

What is home? 

Things hanging on the walls, thousands of square feet, a fenced in backyard? Or is it more than that; a sense of belonging, safety and warmth.

Maybe home isn’t something we come to but something we bring with us. Join me as we explore the idea of home while looking at the life of Abraham in a 6 part series.

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