Friday, November 24, 2017

WHY IS SARAH LAUGHING?

In my intention to try to tell the Biblical story through the eyes and point of view of some of the women and men involved, Sarah came to mind.  It's appropriate actually for it is the beginning of the Christmas story; the first Jewish family and the first boy who was announced by angels (or angelic men).  Like the birth of Jesus, there was opposition and struggle, but the babe was born in spite of unbelief and opposition.  God's purpose to bless His world would prevail.

WHY DID SARAH LAUGH?

My name is Sarah.  You can find my story in the Book of Beginnings.
I was married to Abram; he was a good husband except when he wasn’t. 
I knew that I was barren when the visions and visitations began in Ur. 
The Lord told Abram—I don’t know how—He said to leave our families.
“I will make you a great nation, a blessing,” He said, “But you have to go.”
So we packed our belongings including servants and animals and left.  
Then the Lord appeared to Abram again and said the same thing.
He would come home and tell me about these visitations and I had to listen
there in my barren state.  Would Abram have to take another wife?  It seemed
inevitable.  Next we had to deal with famine.  It appeared that God had
forgotten us.  Abram took us down to Egypt where he lied about me.
Because I was beautiful, he told people that I was his sister so Pharaoh
wouldn’t want to kill him because of me.  Well I was his half-sister
but half a lie is still a lie.  Pharoah did claim me but he found out the truth.
He was furious (they don’t record how I felt) and sent me back to my husband.

Years passed; Abram went to war to rescue our nephew Lot.  Time passed
but still there was no child from my body. A third time Abram had a vision only that
time he tried to bargain with God.  Let a servant boy from our house be my heir! 
God took him outside and showed him the night sky.  “Count them if you can,
Abram. Your descendants – from your own body – will be that many.” 
Abram told me that it was then that he believed.  I was not yet convinced.
I told Abram to sleep with my maid Hagar; she got pregnant right away. 
When she knew, she hated me and I treated her badly until she ran away. 
Wouldn’t you know, the Lord appeared to her and she came back to us and
Ishmael was born.  When the Lord came again He changed our names. His,
Abraham, means “father of a multitude” and mine--“princess.” We were far
from either identity. Then one day a trinity came calling.  First we thought they
were men, then angels. Whoever, they spoke for God.  We prepared a meal for
them and after dinner, they told Abraham that in a year they would return and I

would have born a son. Really?  Now? The angel asked, “Why did Sarah laugh?”  
I came to the door of the tent; terrified, and denied it.  One said, “No, but you did laugh.
We will return in a year, and this will have come to pass.”  At that, Abraham laughed.
Can’t you just use Ishmael?  “I will bless Ishmael,” the Lord said, but the child of the
promise shall be through Sarah your wife.”  So those angelic men left and went
towards Sodom and Gomorrah.  But the Lord was not pleased with the men there.
“Their sin is exceedingly grave,” He said.  Abraham got involved, and so did Lot, and
so did Lot’s wife. There seemed to be a great unleashing of evil in the land at this time.
Looking back, it’s as if this child was sent by God for God’s purpose to bless the
world and all hell knew and resented and resisted his birth.
One more time, we traveled only for Abraham to lie about me again.
One more time, I was taken by a king, but he never touched me.  This child Abram
knew by then would have to be mine and his, not the child of a foreign king. 
Finally, I conceived and our son was born. God does have a sense of humor.
The name the Lord gave the child before he was ever conceived in my womb?

            Isaac. It means laughter.  

Thursday, November 23, 2017

WHAT AM I THANKFUL FOR...REALLY?

This is Thanksgiving morning; I'm not cooking the turkey this year (my son-in-law is) and I'm enjoying the leisure.  Yesterday my daughter and I spent our first day away with the children.  On the way back from the zoo, we talked again about my marriage to her father, just a random conversation that answered some questions for her and brought back memories, some I would rather not entertain.  My mentor in the area of expressive writing and its benefits is Kay Adams, creator of The Center for Journal Therapy.  She wears a lot of hats:  therapist, teacher, blogger, editor of a series of books as well as an author herself.  She would say that my brain will go automatically to those bad memories and bad feelings of regret until I intentionally re-frame things.  That, fortunately, is easy to do.  It goes to the heart of who I am and it answers the question, "What am I thankful for, really?"

While I have memories of bad judgment on my part and logical consequences: eventual divorce, bankruptcy, failure in career and in relationships, this all pales in comparison to the overwhelming joy I have known in being loved by God.  How do I know this, you ask?  I know this because over and over, people have come into my life (our lives) as friends and guides toward a more fruitful and blessed life. Those who know me know that my children and grand-children are obvious joys. But what else is it that makes me recognize another dimension beyond the natural, human one?

My young husband and I had both grown up in church, but of course that is no guarantee that a child will automatically find God for herself, himself.  About a year after we were married, we ended up in Long Beach, California, where my husband enrolled at Long Beach State as a student and I got a job working in an office.  Karen and Butch and Don and Birdie will probably never read this blog, but they were the angels God sent to help Bob and me.  Birdie was a receptionist at that college when I went up to her desk to buy a stamp.  We had driven around the town and picked out a church we'd like to visit.   I said, "It has a funny sign out front (Jesus Saves) but the building is lovely, I want to visit."  Birdie and Don were members there, and it was there on a Wednesday evening Bible study that I "heard" the message that I needed to respond to God's love, to believe on His Son and invite Him into my life.  I did and that was the beginning of my life with Him.  

About that time, a piece of mail blew out of a mailbox near us; when I returned it to our next-door neighbors, they just happened to also love Jesus and they became our second angel couple, loving us and being our friends.  Over and over again, I can look back over my life and see how God's love has been expressed to me through people.  It's not that we always made good decisions or never had to struggle.  Sometimes it was traumatic.  But always either through reading the Scriptures (how God typically speaks to His children) or through people I happen to encounter, God shows up to teach, guide or encourage me.  And that is what I am thankful for, really.