Stop Striving and Start Seeking

Post to Twitter

Every once in a while I miss reading actual books because you cannot highlight and write in audio books. I am a highlighter of books. If you ever borrow one from me, they will have marks and double underlines and “yes” and “Amen” written in them. When I switched to the world of audio books because I have a toddler who refuses to sit still, I find I miss being about to go back and reference lines or quotes from the books. Occasionally, something hits me so hard, I hit pause, reverse, and hit pause again to write down a line. Near the end of one of my most recent “reads”, I did exactly this because the line the author wrote and was now reading hit me square in the face. The entire book, entitled “Breaking Busy” by Ali Worthington, was incredible. If you are an over-scheduler, Type A personality like myself, I highly recommend it.

“You do not have to strive endlessly to be good enough or to find God’s plan for you. When you stay focused on God, you will not miss your destiny. “

Oh sweet friend how those words washed over me like water on the ocean shore! As tears welled up in my eyes, I realized this was exactly where I had been all these years. Striving to be good enough. Striving to be worthy enough. Striving to fit in. Striving to reach a dream which felt so far out of reach. And in all my striving, I lost focus on the One who loves me unconditionally. Who died on the cross and opened His arms to me with no strings attached. Those of us who grew up in the church could probably quote Jeremiah 29:11 forwards, backwards, and in our sleep. It’s one of those verses we just like to call on for all variety of situations. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  But so many times we stop there. We stop with the promise – God has plans for us. And somewhere, we get all caught up in trying to figure out what those plans are and how to accomplish them. We add to our resumes, to our knowledge, to our calendars, all in an effort to pursue this ever elusive plan God has for our lives.

But what if we are completely missing the point? Perhaps the verses we really need to memorize forwards and backwards are the ones following Jeremiah 29:11. The next two verses say, “12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  God promised us a future, but it is not a future we are to strive for on our own. Our future plans come when we seek and find God, when we call on His name, when we spend quiet moments in prayer. He never intended for us to move ahead on our own. The verse doesn’t say I promised you a future and the only way to get there is to have the perfect resume, the perfect network, and the perfect wardrobe.

No, sweet friend, God is calling us to a different path. A path often unknown and perhaps a bit scary. A path which for me has been a struggle to find because it is a path I cannot control. I cannot work hard enough, hustle fast enough, volunteer long enough to get there. I won’t find my way on my own. My dreams will lay in shattered pieces around a broken soul, tired by the striving, until I sit at the feet of Jesus and offer Him it all. Until I seek Him with my whole heart. Only then will the path start to make sense. Only then will my feet begin to walk and skip and run again.

If you, like me, struggle to be quiet in a world calling us to strive harder, I encourage you today to start small. Sit in quiet for one minute. Reflect on Jeremiah 29:12-13. And together, lets stop striving and start seeking.

 

Photo credit

You Are a Missionary

Post to Twitter

Growing up, the term missionary was reserved for a group of people who left the comforts of America to go serve a foreign people group. I believe God calls people to serve in remote parts of the world and missionary is a very accurate term for them. As a church, we should support and pray for them and continue to send people around the world to serve. But this Sunday, the pastor at my church asked us to consider the fact we were indeed all missionaries.

If Jesus is Lord of your life, you are part of the mission of God. You are a missionary.  Over and over in scripture, we see God as a God of mission and purpose. He is on a mission to save the lost. And His mission is not reserved for a specific class of people. Matthew 28:18-20, often referred to as the Great Commission asks us to go and make disciples of all nations. Your community is very much a part of all nations and the charge to go and make disciples is not reserved for the few who go, but it is a charge for all who claim to follow Jesus.

Matthew 28: 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Maybe you are a missionary called to your children’s school. Or to your workplace. Or to your neighbors. Wherever God has called you to live and serve, there is your mission field. This is your “all nations.”  What would our communities look like if we all stepped into the role and calling of missionary?

The tough part of being a missionary is you must carry a message. A message which some find rude and ignorant. The message of Jesus is hope and love. But it is also one of condemnation for those who do not believe. John 3:16-18 paints this picture clearly,

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned,but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

 

Jesus is the answer, but how we communicate the answer matters. 

 

We did not get out of our condemnation on our own. We did not come to salvation based on our own merits. And we cannot carry a message with strings or requirements. I love how my pastor put it, “ Jesus is our ultimate motive, not our ulterior motive. Perhaps loving those around you means they never convert. This does not change our charge as missionaries carrying a message. This does not change the heart we are supposed to have for our communities. And perhaps if we loved people simply because we are loved by Jesus rather than loving them towards conversion, this would change everything.

What does it mean to look at life as a mission field? How can we be people of mission here? Perhaps it starts with the same ways we would propose to be missionaries in foreign lands. We begin to pray for those around us, for our communities, for our leaders. We build relationships with the people in our lives. We survey the areas we live and assess the needs. And then we bring the message to our mission field. We bring it through our lives, our love, our service. We bring it by dropping off a meal to the neighbors or working hard in our jobs or encouraging our children to befriend the lonely kids at school. We see the mom in the drop-off line who needs some extra encouragement today or the neighborhood that needs a voice to help it find its own. Can you imagine how our cities might change if we all viewed them as mission fields? If we stopped complaining about them and started loving them. If we stopped taking from them and started giving to them. I believe it would be revolutionary.

Will you pray with me today and ask the Lord how to live our mission right here? How to step into the role of missionary in our own communities and how to carry His love to those around us? 

 

Photo Credit

Farmhouse Friday Update #1

Post to Twitter

One of my favorite grammatical tools is alliterations. Hence the title of my blog-Amanda’s Annotations and now my Farmhouse Friday Updates.

Currently I have very few super fun and exciting updates, but I did include a few more pictures of the farmhouse and property for your perusing.

The past two weeks have been full of a lot of troubleshooting, fixing problems, and spending money. This has been tough on us because J is a saver and I like to spend money on currently frivolous things like new curtains and paint.  Alas, I have practiced great self-control as I pay for things like fixing the furnaces, mold remediation, appliances, and pumping out the septic.

The positive is we now have a warm, mold-free house with 3 working toilets, a fridge, and washer and dryer.  This is a huge improvement over the text I sent some girlfriends two weeks ago which said “we bought a house today without heat or flushing toilets and full of spiders and mice.” We also spent some time picking through the barn and found an amazing piece of furniture I plan to use as a vanity in one of our bathrooms. Other interesting things in the barn-half a treadmill, the insides of more than a few VHS tapes, a decent set of weights, about 5 Christmas wreaths, and a groundhog. I also found a picture that looks eerily like my dad and I. I seriously had to look at it twice to not be totally freaked out.

Earlier in the week, J and I were sitting on our new porch eating lunch and the beauty of it all hit me. It was peaceful and quiet, so different from my normal mode of operation. I realized not only did we purchase a new house, but perhaps we subconsciously accepted a new way of life. Slower, more thoughtful, full of neighbor boys who invite you over for s’mores after a five-minute conversation, and projects J and I can work on together. This is what we have been longing for and this is a huge reason why we fell in love with this house. Little H has changed our lives in many ways and we adore him dearly. He is bright sunshine on rainy days and sometimes we laugh so hard at him tears spring from our eyes. But H has also required a lot of both of us. In the middle of it all, J and I had to make choices to give up certain things. Don’t get me wrong, neither of us regret those choices, but we both wanted something we could make ours. This dear old farmhouse is ours. Each decision, each paint color, each project is something J and I get to do together.  We sit in the evenings and dream of ways to use this home and our lives to serve the community around us. I cannot wait to see where this adventure leads us and I hope you will enjoy the ride alongside us.

Perhaps today something in your life needs to change. I don’t necessarily recommend buying an old farmhouse, but maybe you need to say no to a commitment or say yes to new adventure. Maybe you need to listen to the nudging to invite someone over or tackle a project you feel unqualified to finish. Whatever it is, know I will be here cheering you on!!

 

 

Dreaded Daycare Drop-Off: 4 Tips for Success

Post to Twitter

For most of the H’s first year of life, my husband handled daycare drop-off. I will admit, I didn’t realize quite how awesome this was until he got a new job and daycare drop-off become my job. Most of the time, I love being a working mom, but man, some days or most days, daycare drop-off is tough. There was something about saying goodbye to H at home while he was eating breakfast with his daddy that made going to work a little easier. Dropping him off in a room full of other sometimes crying children is not easy. But after several months of being solely responsible for drop-off, I have come up with a few tips to make the process so much easier and keep me from driving to work crying and dreading my day.

  1. Plan ahead and leave enough time to say hello to the teacher. I have made it a point to get to know his daycare teacher and ensure I leave at least a few minutes in the morning to check-in, say hi, and catch up. Sometimes we talk about daycare, but oftentimes we just talk about life or the mornings we have had. Our conversations are never long as I know she is responsible for watching the other children in the room, but I make it a point to do more than just drop and run. This has made leaving H there so much easier because I adore his teacher. She is excellent with her kiddos and loves them like her own. It allows me to leave some of the guilt about being a working mom at the door because she is teaching him sign language, Japanese, and all sorts of fine and gross motor skills I know nothing about. There is a long list of reasons why I work in corporate America and not in a classroom. I have major respect for teachers because I tried it one year and found out it was not for me. If your little one often cries when you leave, talk to the teacher about what happens after you leave. Often I bet your little one is perfectly fine by the time you are out of sight and this can be reassuring if you do have to leave them in tears.
  2. Reassure, reassure, reassure. Perhaps this is just as much for me as it is for H, but I make sure I give him a hug and kiss and tell him I will be back to get him. I encourage him to go read books with his buddies or find a toy he really likes. I make sure he is occupied and knows mama will be back. I try not to tell him I will miss him, but instead tell him I love him. According to Today, keeping your goodbyes upbeat (even if you are a little sad too) will help the child feel safe and secure. I want H to know it’s okay for him to be at daycare and that he is safe and taken care of even if I am a little sad to leave him there some days.
  3. Focus on the positives.  This has perhaps been the most helpful for me. You can find bemoaning working moms and stay-at-moms all over the internet. And it’s easier to look at the grass and assume its greener on the other side. But spending all your time focusing on what you wish were true about life won’t make the reality of life any different and will heap a lot of guilt and frustration on you. I remind myself how social H is, how much he is learning, and despite being at daycare, that I am still one of his favorite people. He is thriving and making friends. The other week we were in the middle of the grocery store when he yelled out hello to a friend from his daycare. My heart almost melted. I also feel very called to my work and know I am the best mom I can be when I am operating out of this calling. It is always easy-of course not, but I try to focus on all the good things instead of wishing I was in someone else’s yard.
  4. Create a routine.  I am big on routines. Perhaps because I love them, but also because I believe they really help kids. H and I have both evening and morning routines. We do almost the same thing Monday-Friday so he knows what to expect. I try really hard not to do things different or try new ideas during the week. This may get a little boring, but he doesn’t seem to mind eating the same thing for breakfast everyday and following the same schedule. It also helps me not be so frazzled and allows me an extra few minutes if he wants to read a book or watch the “quack-quacks” outside. Everyday as we leave, we say bye-bye to the dog and I always remind him we are going to see his teacher and friends. The routine also helps me leave enough time to have a few minutes at daycare to touch base with his teacher and say hello before heading to work.

What are your tips for doing daycare drop-off like a pro? How have you made the transition easier? Let me know in the comments!

 

photo credit

The Story of a City Mouse and a Country Mouse

Post to Twitter

Aseop’s Fables were some of my favorites as a child and the story of the city mouse and the country mouse ranked near the top. While I didn’t grow up in a huge city, I am through and through a city mouse. My dream for the longest time was to move to a big city, sell my car, and live in a cute little studio apartment overlooking the busy streets. And then this city loving girl fell in love with a country loving boy.

This turned out to be handy when I moved into a downtown apartment and had mice. One night I perched myself on top of my couch, not on it, but literally on top of it, until my knight in shining armor, or boy from the country, came to rescue me from the tiny mice in my cabinet. Looking back, I am sure it was a comical scene and I feel very thankful he didn’t leave me after this incident.

Fast forward 5 years and the country boy is now married to the city girl and recently bought her a farmhouse in the country. A farmhouse she fell in love with before she quite realized what moving to the country really entailed. Things like wells and septic systems and no internet and spiders and mice. However, I have always been one to love adventure so with full gusto I am embracing this adventure. Our beloved farmhouse needs a lot of TLC and I plan to blog about the transformation of both the farmhouse and of the city girl turned country girl.  Along the way, I hope to share with you the fun (and frustrations) of the giant Do-It-Yourself project house we took on as well as the lessons learned and mistakes made.

Subscribe to stay updated on all the excitement and stay turned for the first update!

 

It Starts with Sacrifice

Post to Twitter

 

In September of last year, my dear husband and I looked at a house. It was a big white farmhouse on three acres and we immediately fell in love. And I mean in love. We started talking and dreaming and pinning ideas on a secret Pinterest board. The house was a foreclosure so in our budget and although we were not looking for a house, this house was perfect. It had almost every detail we wanted in a house.

house2

It also had a lot of details we didn’t want like mold and mice.  But nevertheless, we moved forward.  Did you catch above we looked at it in September? Of last year.  It has taken 6 months to get to this week. Yesterday we signed all the papers to make that white farmhouse our house. It has been a long road. And it really hasn’t even started.  While on paper we own the house, to make it our home is going to take a lot of time and effort.

Life is like this. We may all wish we could wake up tomorrow with beautiful hair, perfect skin, and a beach-ready body. We want our homes to look like magazines and our children to look and act like models. We strive and strive for some societal version of happy and realize at some point, we are exhausted, our house is a mess, and the Instagram filter just isn’t cutting it anymore.  Because the good things in life take work. A lot of work. It takes work no one will ever see. And requires sacrifices no one will ever notice.

The first thing we have to do in our house is remediate the mold so it is safe. This is an expensive process no one will ever notice. No one will walk into our house and say, wow, the mold remediation looks amazing.  But it is necessary.

Sometimes I hate necessary. I want the fun and frilly and pretty. I want the finished product before the initial step. But this is not the life we are called to live. We are called to patience, to sacrifice, to quiet, to love, and to running the race with endurance. To run with endurance means you have to train. It means you can’t just wake up and run 26.2 miles because you think it sounds fun. You may have to start with one mile. or 5 minutes. It means you have to put in the necessary training to reach the goal. Jesus promised us He would be with us each step. He promised His burden was light. But He promised us if we lived like Him, it would be tough. It would take hard work and sacrifice. It would take lots of mold remediation before you get to new paint colors.

But when you do the hard work, the end result is so much better. Sure, we could ignore the mold, slap some paint on the walls, and call it a day. But in a few months, we would all be sick and have a much bigger mess on our hands.  God isn’t asking us to paint over the tough stuff, He is asking us to dig in and work hard to get rid of it. He is asking for the hard work and sacrifice. And He has promised in the end it will be worth it. In the end, we will see Him and we will be complete.

My house here may never be perfect, but I know at some point, I will look around and all the hard work and sacrifice will be worth it. At some point, we will be able to put new paint on the walls and know we aren’t covering up the problems, but we are highlighting the beauty.

Friend, what do you need to remove from your life to get to the beautiful? What sacrifice or costly decision do you need to make to take a step closer to Jesus? It won’t be easy, but I promise you, it will be worth it.

 

Love-Colored Glasses

Post to Twitter

loveglasses

The other day I saw a post on Facebook complaining about how awful the city I live in is and several people agreed with the comment. According to the post, it’s a violent, drug-ridden town and you should be afraid to leave your house. Now, I will give you for instance, that our city has been on several top 10 lists for worst place to live, fattest city, most unhappy etc. While I am not entirely sure where this data comes from and am sure not everyone in my city is the nicest person you will ever meet, these lists and the above Facebook post are poor representations of the town I call home. And honestly, the post broke my heart.

Several years ago, I would have sworn up and down I would never settle in this town. I hated it. I wanted out and I wanted out bad. Then I fell in love with the most amazing guy and I began praying for God to change my heart and help me see my town through His eyes.  I took off my rose-colored glasses and put on love-colored glasses. I also started hanging out with a bunch of people who are working hard to make my city better. These are people fighting for progress, development, growth, and community. They are the people who could list off 100 things to do on any given night while others are complaining there is nothing to do in this town. They are the people in the trenches loving and working in some of the toughest parts of the city. They are people opening their homes to all manner of people, those like them and those completely different. And if you asked them, they would all express a sense of love for this dear town.

It’s a not a love springing from circumstances. Our town didn’t suddenly make some top 10 best places to live list. But they, like me, have committed to cultivating love for the people in this city. They are choosing every day to view our city through the lens of love.  We are praying for restoration and wholeness in our city. We are seeking to build community across religious lines, race lines, and socioeconomic lines. We are spending time in the dark places, the places with violence and drugs, we are moving into the neighborhoods and inviting others into our lives. It’s messy, it’s often tough and scary, but it is opening my eyes to how much Jesus must have loved me. He died for me. He gave up His life when I couldn’t care less for Him. He loved humanity-a humanity which would someday be full of drugs, and violence, and slavery, and all manner of evil. And yet, He still died. In His death, He called us to life and He called us to love.  He called us, those who claim to love Him, to love those around us. And each day, as I get ready for my day, I pray for His love to be part of my life. For love colored glasses to be the lens through which I view my co-workers, my friends, the clerk at the grocery store, the city in which I call home. And each day, it gets easier and easier to say with all sincerity, I truly love this community. I want to see it succeed and grow. I want to see it transformed and restored. And I will keep fighting for this because there are so many in our city who need someone, anyone to fight for them.

Friend, wherever you are, will you join me in praying for love-colored glasses? I believe this is the only way Jesus would want us to view our communities. If you live near me and want a practical way to show some love, check out City Serve Day on March 18th. Join a team to serve our community or add your own service project to the list. Let’s show others how much light can change the dark places around us.

The Best Chocolate Cake

Post to Twitter

A few months ago, after a period of some significant health struggles, I cut gluten and dairy out of my diet. The transition wasn’t terribly awful, but it has been a constant source of lessons in self-control, self-care, and humility. I hate asking other people to accommodate me so much so that I spent a lot of money on a lot of tests to tell me what I already knew. I needed to cut the gluten and dairy. But hey, now I have a doctor to blame my extra fussiness on right?

In all seriousness, it had been a rough season of mothering, working, volunteering, and struggling every day with the heavy weight of anxiety, fatigue, and a stomach which often refused to cooperate with me.  I knew something was wrong. I knew something had to change. I also knew I wanted to try to attack the problem holistically. So while yes I did adjust my diet, I also starting making time for quiet, studying, reading, and slimming down my schedule. Perhaps the last one was the toughest in our society of more. But back to the diet.

A friend of mine asked me yesterday as she was salivating over some donuts (she is on day 21 or something of Whole30) if it ever gets easier. I said yes with the caveat I feel so much better so it’s not worth it. Which is mostly true. It does get easier and I am feeling better. But I think it’s getting easier because I am learning self-control, not because I am any less in love with pizza and donuts.  Case-in-point, several weeks ago I convinced a group of girlfriends to take a detour on our way home from Nashville so I could get a gluten-free, dairy-free donut. It was glorious.  Some days, as I watch co-workers or friends eat foods I used to love, it’s tough. It makes me want to abandon ship and say “ah what’s the point.” I am learning, though, anything great in life takes work. Hard work. And sacrifice. And lots of moments salivating over donuts and then walking away. Not because a donut is bad. But because there is something better.

Isn’t that what Jesus offered us? An abundant life (John 10:10). Not an easy life. Not a life full of sunshine and roses. But an abundant life. A life of less burdens, less anxiety, less striving (Phil 4:6, John 14:27). Note: I did not say an easy life or a life without struggles or heartache or loss.  Jesus said if you follow me, you will have trouble. He said if they persecuted me they will persecuted you. He didn’t offer us an easy life. But he did offer us an abundant life and he promised to never leave us.  He promised us something better.

Slowly, I am learning to live in light of the something better. To say no to the current shiny object in light of what is better. To say no to the food I know will land me in a heap of pain, frustration, and anxiety. To say no to the activity that doesn’t build community or fit on my short list of things important to me. To give up the pursuit of the good for the pursuit of the best. Good isn’t bad. And perfection is not the goal. But leaning into self-control and sacrifice and discomfort can be good gifts in certain seasons. They certainly have been for me. And in case you are bemoaning my diet or convinced everything I eat must taste like cardboard, I present to you one of the best chocolate cakes I have had in my life. Even my husband liked it.  Enjoy:)

CHOCOLATE CAKE LAYER CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE GANACHE
(grain-free, refined-sugar-free and dairy-free)

INGREDIENTS:cake

For the cake:
2 cups blanched almond flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp Himalayan pink salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water
1 Tbsp vanilla

For the vegan chocolate ganache:
4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
4 Tbsp coconut oil
4 Tbsp maple syrup
½ cup almond butter
¼ cup almond milk or coconut milk

DIRECTIONS:

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350. Grease two 6-inch round cake pans with coconut oil. Mix almond flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a medium-sized bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, water and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir to incorporate. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

For the vegan chocolate ganache:
Melt chocolate and coconut oil in thick saucepan or double broiler. Stir and remove from heat when melted. Slowly add maple syrup and stir to incorporate. Allow to cool. Transfer mixture to mixing bowl and beat in almond butter until a thick, whippy frosting is formed. Add almond or coconut milk as needed for consistency.

To assemble the cake:
Allow cakes to cool. Place one cake layer on a plate. Place a dollop of chocolate ganache on top of cake and smooth over the cake. Layer the second cake over the ganache layer and repeat with a layer of ganache. Store the cake in refrigerator until serving time.

 

 

We Have Given Up

Post to Twitter

Give-Up-SM

Dear American Evangelical,

It seems we have given up. A quick perusal of social media makes this point painstakingly obvious to some, but perhaps you are still not convinced.  For a minute, just consider what giving up might look like to others.

We have given up our missional calling for political pursuits.

We have given up being pro-neighbor to be pro-life.

We have given up the calling of the church for the calling of the state.

We have given up Christian first for Republican first.

We have given up the simplicity of the gospel for the complexity of dos and do nots.

We have given up kindness for rightness.

We have given up coffee with a friend for Facebook status updates.

We have given up true community for churches that meet our current wants.

We have given up intimacy with our Savior for intimacy with our screens.

We have given up God bless those who persecute you for God bless America.

We have given up Jesus for a president.

We have given up our humanity for political laws.

We have given up the beauty of following an unsafe Savior for the promise of safe borders.

We have given up the kingdom of God for the kingdom of the world.

 

You see dear friends, it seems we have given up. When the world desperately needs Jesus followers, we have become something else. When those around us desperately need love, community, and safe places, we have become outspoken political billboards. Perhaps this is harsh. And maybe it is. Some of you have not given up. And I am here to cheer you on. Keep going. Keep working in the trenches and on the edges and in the places no one sees. But for much of the “church” it’s time to give up.

 

Give up being right for being kind and listening.

Give up the Facebook status for a conversation over coffee.

Give up the harsh words for love.

Give up the sword for the cross.

Give up comfort for the Comforter.

Give up safety for the One who promised to never leave us.

 

It’s time for the church to pursue the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of this world. It’s time for us to take up our crosses and follow a Savior who modeled a life of sacrifice, risk, and love. A Savior who died for others instead of bringing political revolution. A Savior who came in on a donkey. Who gave seats at the table to the outcast, the woman, the less than, the uneducated, the poor, and who chose an unwed teenager to be the mother of the greatest gift to humanity. You see, dear friend, if you want to change our land, it starts not in the White House, but in the lowly manger.

Scandalous and Scornful

Post to Twitter

graceScandalous. Scornful. Unusual.

 

And no, I am not talking about any current political or celebrity figure.

The book of Matthew and thus the New Testament begins with a genealogy. You know, the ever long passages of scripture going “so-and-so begat so-and-so.” The passages we are tempted to ignore, skim over, or skip past to get to the meaningful text. The verses we can use to support our stance or encourage or admonish. Who cares about a long list of someone’s family tree. The thing is, you can learn a lot about a person by exploring their ancestry. You can find out a lot about someone by knowing where they came from or who was in their family line.  Association via one’s family can make you famous or rich or notable. It can also make you poor or small or forgotten.  So to fully understand Jesus, we need to look at those included in his family tree. Don’t worry, I know He was the son of God and Divine incarnate, but Matthew starts his gospel with Jesus’ earthly family tree and thus we should pay attention.

 

There are two unique things about Jesus’ family tree. His lineage included women, which never happened and included a bunch of rowdy, off-color, far-from-perfect characters. I want to spend some time on the first point. Today we might not think twice about including women in a family tree. Matriarchs throughout history have done incredible things and stepped up to often change the course of history itself. But in Jesus’ day, women were second class citizens. They were rarely included as disciples of great teachers or participants in great works. Not only did Jesus welcome and include women as disciples, he gave them an often equal seat at the table, instructing, including, and admonishing them much as he did to the men who followed him.

 

In Jesus’ family tree- five specific women are named and counted among those who were part of his lineage. These were not your spiritual matriarchs. According to author Stephen Binz, each of these women was considered an outsider and each had a scandalous and scornful marital or sexual history.  The women included in the line of Christ were prostitutes, adulteresses, unwed mothers-women today we may view with scorn and disgust. Women today we may not even welcome in our churches, much less give them an equal seat at the table.

Jesus’ family tree begins the gospel in the most beautiful way. It paints a picture of a kingdom in which the scandalous, the scornful, the corrupt, and the sinner are welcomed in and given value and dignity. Jesus called the invisible and those with no voice. He spent His days with the lowly, the less than, the sinner. And in a society where women were often nameless and worthless, Jesus gave them a voice, courage, and eternal purpose.

Do you see why this matters so much? When we claim to follow Jesus, we must know who we are following and we must understand not only his ministry, but his family tree. There is no room for any of us to feel disqualified or unqualified or to remove a seat from someone else. Jesus didn’t come blasting society or fighting for laws-instead, he quietly invited the lowly and the forgotten into his community. He gave them a seat and a purpose. He gave prostitutes the chance to save His people and an unwed mother the chance to be the mother of the Savior of the world. He started a revolution by including those who had been discounted.

 

Scandalous. Scornful. Unusual.

 

Those are the women in the line of Christ. And my friend, those are still who Jesus is continually calling to himself.