Welcome to the New Year - 2010
I am convinced that too many of us spent too many days in 2009 with the wrong view of God. It's so easy when things aren't going "right" to...
- blame God
- say I must have done something wrong and I'm being punished
- say that God's not listening
- say that God doesn't love me
- say there really isn't a God
Job's friends bought into some of the above when they tried to determine what Job had done to deserve all his difficult circumstances. It's called a "transactional" view of God! I've noticed a lot of comments on FB recently where believers were really ticked about certain circumstances in their lives. Their status' seem to indicate a raised fist at God.
Let's look at different challenges that you and I might have that would lead us to believe that God is not all that good. Let's start today by talking about the people that we live and work with.
Why are we all so different? We have differences in interests, preferences, strengths, weaknesses, processing, expressing, and thinking. It gets frustrating when we can't get anyone to be similar to us in some of these areas.
Wouldn't it be odd if all animals in the animal kingdom were mice? It would be kind of strange to go mouseback riding instead of horseback riding or go mouse hunting instead of deer hunting or pet the mouse instead of pet the dog. "The same" can be very boring! I like the popular phrase "Variety is the spice of life!" Differences do provide variety!
The problem with differences is that they can be irritating if not understood or accepted. Couples are often attracted to someone who is opposite from them, but the saying goes like this, "Opposites attract and then attack!"
Two days ago, Steve and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary. Each year is a milestone for people as different as we are. We had friends and family warn us that we were too different to marry. We even had a pre-marital counselor who had some concerns. The two of us were talking recently about our differences which have been accentuated the last several months. As you well know, differences often come to the forefront during times of stress. Throughout the years, we have had a whole lot of intense stress in our marriage, it's just that this time has been a little different. Three people in the house... two sick for an extended period of time... the one who is well (me) tries to spin too many plates... Maybe you get the picture....
On the Smalley/Trent "animal personality" chart, I am a lion and Steve is a golden retriever. We have chosen some different animal names for ourselves. I am an elephant and he is a bear. In fact, when raising our four children, it was apparent to us that we had a zoo in our home. Differences abounded! It was easy to raise a fist to God and say, "How did you get me in this mess?"
So, how can two such animals live together and still be a blessing to each other? How can a family live together and bless one another? I am here to say... only if God is in the mix!
Below, just for fun, I have compiled animal descriptions of the elephant and the bear from some random internet research. While looking through the descriptions, it doesn't take long to wonder how an elephant and a bear could truly live together in love, peace, and harmony. The amazing thing is that below these descriptions you will find parts of a letter that the bear wrote to the elephant two days ago. This bear's letter modeled the goodness of God: love, peace, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, joy...
For both of us, over the years, it's been about coming to an understanding that things are not always the way we think they should be: NOT RIGHT - NOT WRONG, JUST DIFFERENT. It's been about learning to HONOR THE DIFFERENCES!
Patti is an elephant:
- HABITAT AND RANGE: can live on the plains and in the mountains up to 15, 000 feet... many live on parks and reserves
- DIET: eats lots of vegetables; drinks lots of water
- LIFE SPAN 65 to 70 years in the wild; 70 to 80 years when domesticated; their life span depends on their teeth - once their last set of teeth wear out, they can no longer eat and they die
- REPRODUCTION: most give birth during the rainy season
- COMMUNICATION: use several types of sounds to communicate: 1) rumbling - a deep growling sound, most of which is below the range of human hearing; 2) a variety of screams and trumpets used to frighten and intimidate predators as well as communicate alarm...also for greeting
- SENSES: keen senses of hearing and smell; weak eyesight
- SIZE: big and tall
- OTHER PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: use trunk to dig
- SOCIABILITY: families are made up of sisters and their offspring often living in groups of 9-11; a mature adult female dominates family groups; related family groups are part of larger herds that move and feed together
- THINKING: well developed brains and great memories
- ROLE: Often pave the way for others to follow; they can lead a procession of animals stomping down the brush with their feet or removing trees/branches that are in the way with their trunks
Steve is a brown bear:
- HABITAT AND RANGE: prefer to live in cooler climates and will migrate away from the heat; can be found on the plains, in the forests, the tundra, and in sub-alpine mountain areas
- DIET: carnivores who eat berries and vegetation
- LIFE SPAN: 20-25 years
- REPRODUCTION: monogamous
- COMMUNICATION: is complicated, sometimes misunderstood, and primarily through body language: 1) sitting down indicates disinterest or lack of concern for onlookers; 2) standing on hind legs generally an indication of curiosity or interest in whatever it may have noticed, not an act of aggression; 3) when threatened or apprehensive, the typical response would be the popping its jaw, slapping the ground, or expelling air loudly; 4) when afraid, the bear chomps or clacks teeth which is often misunderstood by other animals as getting ready to be aggresive; 5) loud roars are usually a warning that they want to protect their territory, not that they want to be an aggressor; 6) bears often "purr" when comfortable or warm much like a cat
SENSES: great eyesight and keen sense of smell; strong instinct for food -can be easily trapped when humans put out food; a common saying among forest rangers is, "a fed bear is a dead bear"
- SIZE: big and tall
- OTHER PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: long claws for great digging ability; strong teeth and jaws that are almost incapable of breaking large bones; long thick fur; although they usually move slow and leisurely, they are able to run fast and swim well
- SOCIABILITY: shy; mostly solitary; can be easily frightened; small families; may gather in large numbers at food sources; not a full hibernator, the brown bear likes to "den" in a protected spot such as a cave, crevice, or hollow log in the winter
- THINKING: curious and intelligent; "complex and fascinating animal deserving of great respect"
- ROLE: quiet protector; no other animal will be a predator on a brown bear other than a tiger or another bear.
On December 30, 2009, our 36th wedding anniversary, the bear wrote a full page typewritten letter to me, the elephant. A few excerpts from that Holy Spirit led letter are as follows:
- Besides giving my life to Jesus, marrying you is the best thing I’ve ever done.
- You’ve made me a better person. You’ve opened my eyes to what it looks like to give of oneself for the betterment of others.
- You are the kinkeeper of our family. Our children and their spiritual health are at the forefront of your mind and top of your prayer list.
- We’ve faced some pretty tough times together over the last three and ½ decades, but what we have discovered again and again is the solid truth of 1 John 4:4 – “Greater is He in us than he that is in the world.” God created His children to be “overcomers,” and by His grace, we have been – together!
- Our marriage has not been perfect – NO SURPRISE – there are no perfect marriages. However, our marriage has tested and challenged our individual growth to the point that we are better individuals because we are married, first to Christ, then one another.
- You deserve the best husband I can be. Please forgive me when I’m not and praise God when I succeed.
- Next to Jesus, I love you more than anyone and anything!
- Happy 36th anniversary! God is good all the time and all the time God is good..
Father God, thank you for my husband, the Spirit-led, steel and velvet, brown bear. Thank you for blessing me with this man who I so honor and respect. I praise you for Steve Sikes! I honor the differences! God, I have learned that when I do things in Your way and Your timing that I am convinced that GIGATTAATTGIG. Because of Jesus, we are still husband and wife! I choose to raise my hands in praise to You - not my fist!