The Kingdom Divided – Jeroboam & Rehoboam

Jeroboam’s background in a nutshell:
He was “a man of standing” and an official in King Solomon’s construction / building phase. Solomon put him in charge “of the whole labor force of the tribes of Joseph”. One day he was told by a prophet, who had heard from God, that the Lord was going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand and give him ten tribes…this would be done because the people had forsaken him and worshipped other Gods and not walked in obedience or done what was right in the of the eyes of the Lord. (King Solomon had allowed sin to remain, eventually corrupting him and his leadership.) Jeroboam was told he would be king over Israel and rule over everything his heart desires if he followed the commands of the Lord, walked in obedience, did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, then the Lord would be with him.

(To me, that sounds overwhelming, humbling, a great responsibility and a great promise.)

This word about Jeroboam being made king made its way back to Solomon who then tried to kill Jeroboam, so Jeroboam fled to Egypt until Solomon’s death.

Enter Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. After his dad’s death, at age 41 he was made king. Jeroboam, feeling safe now that Solomon was dead, returned from Egypt. 2 Chronicles 10 tells that he and all of Israel  (remember, he was a respected leader) went before king Rehoboam and asked him to lighten the load that Solomon had put on them, saying they would serve him if would do this.

(This makes me want to go back and focus more on this – the wisest man put a heavy burden on his people. But also the wisest king failed in many ways, especially at the end, assuring us that none of us are beyond making terrible decisions.)  

Anyway, Rehoboam asked for a few days to consider this. He consulted the elders, who told him if he would be kind to the people, and give them a favorable answer they people would always be his servants. But the king rejected that, and for advice turned to the younger friends he had grown up with (who were currently serving him). Those guys said something along the lines of, Tell the people if they thought the yoke was currently heavy, that he (Rehoboam) would make the yoke even heavier and more painful, that he was even stronger than his father. And so the new king rejected the advice of the elders, answered harshly, and the kingdom divided. U f f f f f…

The ten tribes went home to the northern part of the kingdom, but Judah and Benjamin remained under king Rehoboam. Rehobom then ordered the two tribes to go fight Israel to regain the kingdom, but the word of the Lord came to them to go home, to not fight against their brothers, the Israelites. (Still a good word for us today.) In my notes I wrote that there was continual warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam, so that was a significant consequence as well.

My nugget from this ~ I believe pride, fear and more can keep us from seeking wise counsel. I also believe pride is likely the main ingredient that can keep me from listening and acting on wise counsel. Rehoboam wasn’t a baby king, he was 41, but clearly not mature or wise. When I read this story I see how foolish and arrogant Rehoboam was, and I don’t really relate to him. But then I wonder if that might be foolish and arrogant of me to think. So I commit again to seeking wise counsel with a soft and humble heart, not just listen to contemporaries who might tell me how great and strong I am.

More on Jeroboam to come . . .

(for reference: 1 Kings 11:26 – 14 & 2 Chronicles 10-12)

Once Upon a Time there was a King . . .

well several, and their stories were captivating ~

Recently I’ve been spending mornings with the kings of the Old Testament, specifically the kings of Israel and Judah when after Solomon’s death Israel was split into a northern and southern kingdom. They are some interesting guys to be sure; they intrigue me with their level of love for, and obedience to, the Lord. But also astound me as they exhibit dramatic ways of turning away, violence, fear, pride and more. Then of course there’s the Lord, who reveals Himself in displays of encouragement, reward, protection, anger, also turning away, justice and even much compassion.

I’ve been taking notes on these guys for a long time. Each time I read through Kings and Chronicles I make a list of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah. I record how old each was when they began their reign, how long they reigned, if overall they were good or evil and then notes that stood out to me about them. There are lists and charts available to me, but each time I read through I create my own lists, making the same, and sometimes new, notes about them. As I do this over and over I’m understanding more and about their stories, timelines and how they fit together. (And now I’m getting more interested in the prophets and priests; how and when their lives intersected with the kings – I love how a v e r y old book can continue to be so new!)

Sometimes the kings remind me of me. They are the kings of old but they sometimes do things that I think, “I do that.” It’s a wakeup call to take a look around my own “kingdom” and see what notes I might put next to myself in a notebook.

I thought I’d write a few lines about each king here over the next few days and weeks. I’m not a bible scholar, historian or expert on the kings, so please feel free and invited to add, edit, correct, or comment on any or all of these guys. These are really just my simple observations gathered in notebooks.

stay tuned . . .

Lessons in the Layoff

I remember the day well, October 7, 2019 — I was at my sister’s for a ten day stay with my nephew while she and her husband went on a mission trip to Macedonia. Kevin texted with the news that he had been laid off. We were fourteen hours apart, my sister was about to leave for the airport and I just wanted to go home. Teary and in disbelief I grabbed a notebook and wrote down everything he said; my mind was scattered and I knew when we hung up I would forget all the things he said. Severance, amazing. Benefits continued, blessing. Call our financial advisor, good idea. Hiring coach provided, wonderful. But even in hearing this I still had many tears, a few sobs and a little panic.

Lesson One — Lean in and listen
Feeling a little unsettled, Kevin had been praying about his job for awhile, and he reminded me that the last word he had heard from God was to ‘Stay put. Stay on this path.’ Okay we did that, but now what? Kevin said he planned the next day to be a time of fasting; he would go into a state park with his bible and a notebook, walk and sit in the quiet and seek to hear from God. Of course — lean in and listen for God. I knew at that moment we would be okay because Kevin wasn’t going to go forward in his own strength or wisdom, though he has much of both, he was going to be still and lean not on his own understanding.

Lesson Two — Go visit your Father
I waited the next day for the fast to end and Kevin to call. I tried to not rush him through what he was saying but I was anxious to hear what God had said. What’s next? I was wondering. Where do we put our feet? What do we do now? I couldn’t wait to hear what God said.

And here’s what God spoke to Kevin’s heart, I’m glad you’re here spending the day with me.

Of course. The Lord was happy his son had come to spend time with him, to be near his Father; that Kevin knew who to go to before any decisions or directions were taken.

Though I hoped for a billboard with a map in the woods that day, what we got was far better; the reminder that sometimes God wants us to just come and visit. He wants to know we love him for him, not for what he delivers. Can you imagine if your kids never just snuggled up with you, climbed in your lap, or if they only called when they needed something from you? Once again, I felt a peace wash over me, God is with us, we’ll be okay. The what, when, where, why and how could wait. God had led us to this job six years ago, and now it was gone, but we didn’t feel abandoned. Confused maybe, but trusting still.

Lesson Three — Its okay to not understand
When we moved to Michigan from Indiana for this job, I didn’t really understand it. We had just launched our last one to college, alongside a few close friends. I had planned to enter the empty nest season with walks and wine on the porch with one of my best friends who lived around the corner. But alas it was not to be. Instead I would move 80 miles away to a very small, but adorable and historic, town. And as it turns out our time here has turned into one of the sweetest blessings of our lives.

Six years ago I said I don’t understand this move, it’s not what I imagined at this point of my life, but I trust it. I was sometimes lonely that first year, but I also had peace. And so it goes again — this is not what I expected at this point of our lives either, it’s not what I would choose, but I trust it.

I’m leaning in, listening, visiting my Father, trusting and peaceful as we enter this next unforeseen season. It’s not what I expected, but I do have peace and I still trust what’s next.

Three Lessons in Such a Time as This

“What remains after a storm is what we learn in the middle of the storm”,
this was from a teaching in mid-March from Lee Cummings of Radiant Church and has stuck with me in this COVID-19, quarantine, lock-down time. Back in March we didn’t really have any idea how long, or to what extent this “storm” would affect us. Or what it would reveal about us…about me. But I’m learning a few things…

Worship & prayer fatigue?
In March, beginning each day with a live stream prayer & worship time was exactly what I needed, it was centering and filling; calming to my soul. But on Monday of week 7, I watched my husband slowly climb out of bed and suggested that maybe we just sleep in. To which he responded by starting the coffee and getting the service pulled up. (So much for sleeping in!) That morning’s prayer addressed a fear that had crept in and by having it revealed, I had the opportunity to replace it with faith and trust; I would have missed all that if I had given into the fatigue of the morning rhythm we have established. Is it possible I had become tired of praying and worshiping daily?

I am a jealous God
In another message Pastor Lee said God is “exposing and dismantling the idols of our culture”. Well…and also my own. As our retirement account plunged day after day, after day, I found myself panicking a little. As investments were going down, anxiety went up. So where do you put your hope and trust, Sheri? Where does your peace come from? Ahhhh….an exposed idol. On some level, my peace and hope for our future was reliant on our retirement fund. Now, it’s good to be wise and plan for sure, but if that’s where my peace comes from then I have put my faith in something that can be snatched away quickly. I’m grateful this was revealed within me. As things are stripped away, can I still give thanks for that which remains? The answer is now yes.

Cast off every weight and hindrance
…they began to throw the cargo overboard…On the third day, they threw the ships’s tackle overboard with their own hands. Acts 27:18-19
When the cargo and tackle was loaded on the ship, it was needed and necessary. But there came a point where they had to rethink the load. So the challenge in this teaching was to think about any weight or hindrance, not so much sin, just unnecessary perspectives, mentalities, comforts and such that we don’t need right now. This was valuable for me; we have some big things coming up and I discovered I was clinging to thoughts, ways, and comforts that could make the journey more difficult. In identifying these, I’m able to work on offloading that which has potential to weigh me down unnecessarily.

Still learning and growing over here. Sometimes I take my eyes off the one who commands the waves and calms the storm and put them on too much media. Sometimes I feel the weight of the collateral damage of this time for so many and I feel weary and unsteady. But I am learning in the middle of all this, and when this storm is over I’ll be grateful for the lessons that will remain.

I would LOVE to hear what you’re learning in this time. Consider leaving a comment, maybe we can all learn from each other.

Be wise, see you soon.

Day 37 Quarantine Observations

Keeping a morning schedule and rhythm has helped
Each morning we’ve been streaming a prayer and worship service that has been grounding and good. The pastor likened it to back when the first thing to happen each morning was a fire being lit in the kitchen to warm the house for the day. This practice sets the posture of my heart for the day. And then I need to set that posture again the next day, and the next and the next. Manna for today.

Leggings have become a staple
I’m not saying its a great idea, but its what we’ve got over here. I’m not as interested in maintaining myfitnesspal calorie counts or logging weigh watchers points; I should, but I’m not. It may take a minute to work my way back into jeans, but I’m not beating myself up about it.

Exercise matters
Whilst wearing my leggings, getting on the treadmill, doing a workout, or walking outside is a game changer every time I do it. Obviously good for me physically, but exercise is doing its job in the emotional and mental departments as well. Gold star for this little gem called exercise.

Empathy for all
We’re under similar restrictions yet in different situations. Though time is constant, we seemingly have much of it on our hands, while others surely feel they have less. More obligations exist as working from home, managing the education and supervision of kids, now out of school and/or daycare, is a daily reality. Some are working more shifts, longer hours, are more at risk. Some are suddenly & unexpectedly out of work, some families are looking at low or empty checkbook balances, alongside some who are still getting paid and for moment, experiencing financial peace. Its all of this and more. Some are feeling squeezed by all the togetherness under their roof, some are doing this thing solo and might be feeling isolated. Awareness of others’ positions is good. Empathy for all is important; I believe everyone is just doing the best they can.

Grace upon grace upon grace
There are varying thoughts, manners of precautions, levels of anxieties, frustrations and volumes on voices regarding COVID-19. There are disagreements, varying expectations, disparaging remarks (from every which angle of this), hopes, fears and more. I need to let grace abound, covering my own heart and flowing out. Every. Day.

Connecting in creative ways
We miss our people. One of my besties lives up the street, I walk past her house a lot (in an exercise way, not a creepy way), and not sitting across from her is hard. Family trips have been cancelled, gatherings now happening over the computer instead of homes, parks, churches and restaurants. Like you all, we’re making the best of it — we’ve played games, cleaned out closets, had dinners and happy hours together with our family and friends. Next up – download Catan so I can join my kids and my friend Barb who are playing virtually.

Showers, hair, cooking and more…
Happening in varying degrees and it’s fine.

Few Things are Needed

Bam – we’re suddenly real close to the busy holiday season! We’re on the edge of running here and there, creating  l o n g  to do lists, decorating, gathering, traveling, baking beckoning, cards to send, carols to sing and bathrooms to be cleaned…..

About this time last year, in a gathering of young moms I meet with, there was a challenge to insert our own name into this verse, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed, indeed only one.” (Luke 10:41-42) I’ve found this challenge to be very clarifying over and over, and now might be good time to take a preemptive strike so I don’t end up worried and upset about many things in the next several weeks.

Here’s how this played out for me last year at this time…

As someone who cares a lot about the details, I can get stuck – like the day Erin was coming home from college, actually simply stopping home for a short visit on her way to a weekend with friends; she had two friends from school traveling with her. Though she wouldn’t even be spending the night, I wanted to dust her room and get many other things done before their arrival. As she & her friends edged closer and closer to home, I suddenly  thought, “Oh my gosh, they will be here right at lunch! I should make them a homemade meal, college kids don’t get many home cooked meals! BUT also I have these other things on my list….how can I do it all?”

Feeling the urgency to get many things done (for college students who would be here for a short time and  likely wouldn’t notice), I quietly heard in my head, “Sheri, Sheri, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed.” That caused me to pause and I quickly grasped the clarity needed, “Right, a meal. That’s what is needed.” All the other things became insignificant and I focused on getting a meal ready for Erin & her friends. When they arrived we had a really peaceful and focused time during their visit– in which they enjoyed the soup and likely didn’t notice if I had vacuumed or not!

As we journey through these upcoming holidays, if we find ourselves worried, upset, overwhelmed, maybe cranky and tired, may Luke 10:41-42 run through our minds and clarify our moments. May we find peace in the few things that are needed, and indeed find the only one that really does.

See (and be) a Helper

While driving on a stretch of interstate recently I saw several cars pulled over onto the median on the other side of the highway. As I drove by I saw a car smashed against a bridge support and people running to the vehicle. Running so fast, to someone they didn’t know, to help.

In a time where divisiveness, being rude and mean is easily recorded and splashed before us, it’s easy to believe we’ve lost our good nature. It might seem that a thin veil covers a deep well of a negativity; that an angry outburst, from even the most mild-mannered among us, could happen given the right topic, time or forum.

As we marked 9/11 a few weeks ago I was reminded of Mr. Rogers. Do your remember his mother’s wise and calming words to him when he was a boy? On that sunny September 11th, in the midst of unspeakable evil that unraveled before our eyes, we were encouraged to tell our kids (and maybe even ourselves) to “Look for the helpers.” There were so many helpers in the rubble, in the air, on the ground, in the stairwells, on the street, on the phone…they were everywhere.

I heard those very words in my head as I watched several men running toward the highway accident; there they were, the helpers. My heart lifted and my spirit was reminded that it is our very natural nature to be a helper. We instinctively run to our fellow man in need.

There are many helpers all around, we need to look for them…and we need to be one. When have you last seen a helper? Or have you been a helper? Would you share it in a comment? Your story might just lift someone else’s heart and renew a tired spirit.

A place to land

AirBirdnBird

An odd sight for sure, this bird house hanging off my house. But it makes me smile everyday because it’s evidence of a sweet act of kindness.

Here’s how it got there…

Several weeks ago two birds were hanging out on the corner of that roof for two days singing, singing & singing. On day three I noticed they were tearing into a small spot of rotting wood. By day five they had opened an impressive, though frustrating, gaping hole. I watched as they carried in this and that to build their nest, and I sent a picture to Kevin.

After Kevin got home from work he retrieved the ladder to inspect these squatters, discovering a nest in process but no eggs. With no building permit posted, he cleaned out their construction, temporarily boarded up and sealed the entry to clearly communicate “No Vacancy”.

The next morning the racket over their eviction was on the edge of panic. Though I knew Kevin didn’t remove eggs, you would’ve thought their babies were inside; I sent videos and pictures to him of the ruckus. At some point he texted back, “Do you think there’s a place to mount a bird house for them?” (I thought he meant in the backyard.)

That evening the ladder came back out and this simple “AirBirdnBird” was offered ~ not in the backyard but right where these birds thought they needed a place. The pair moved in within two days and began coming and going, singing and looking in my kitchen window, “You’re welcome” I said to them. The babies soon arrived and for weeks there was much activity and many songs, all becoming a sweet spot in my days.

This saga caused me think about extending kindness and refuge to others. The world is big, and there are so many issues that feel overwhelming, loud, messy and beyond my capacity. But what about the things and people who are within my reach? Am I kind to all? Even the uninvited squawkers? Do I offer a safe spot to land for the person who has a tender heart; who maybe needs to rest on a corner for a minute, an hour or more? Do I listen and care for the person, even if I’m not aligned with something? Do I make concessions for the things that cross my path that weren’t a part of my plan for the day? Am I generous in what I extend? Am I aware of the panicked songs around me? Can I serve in a way that settles the panic of another into a song?

All good questions for me to truthfully ponder.

These pushy, loud, little birds became a sweet part of my days, I miss them now that their babies have flown the nest. My husband is in the process of mending this corner of the roof and will move the bird house to the back yard where we hope they make a return visit next year. But also, he’s decided to add a winter roost to the side of our garage for the ones who might be looking for a spot when it gets cold.

It’s what we can offer, so we will.

Its that time of year once more

Last night I ran so quickly to the grocery store for one little thing but was paused immediately by the sight of the Red Kettle. Oh, the Red Kettle at Christmas. Each and every year it brings gratitude for a lesson learned on giving, but also a heaviness as I feel again the loss of a great man who influenced our lives.

Here’s the story from 2012…

An uncomfortable but true tale: The red kettles used to annoy me. For years I felt guilty if I didn’t have anything to put in them, so sometimes I would just go in a different door. Classy, right? I also felt annoyed because it felt like they were everywhere.  Then when I did have a dollar to give, I used to kind of wish I had a hand stamp that I could wave at the next kettle ringer indicating I already gave.

Oh, how I was filled with the giving spirit of Christmas.

Then one Sunday morning in December of 2008, I heard Stan Buck, (our pastor who passed away November 18, 2012) give us a challenge about the red kettles. He challenged us to give generously; to be prepared to give each and every time we passed a red kettle.

He suggested that if we put a dollar in the kettle each time we passed one it is likely to not total more than $50. He suggested most of us can afford to be that generous. If that’s not your situation consider dropping fifty cents or even a quarter – each and every time. It feels good. Which is usually how giving goes ~ in blessing others we tend to feel the blessing in our own hearts.

Perhaps the truth was I wasn’t actually annoyed at the red kettles, it’s more likely I was annoyed at myself for not being prepared to give. Or possibly I was stingy. I’m not sure, but what I do know is that since that message, each Christmas season I have gone to the bank for my $1 bills and I put one in the kettle each and every time I see one.

And this year, since Stan isn’t here to give his dollar bills, I will put one in for him too.

2009 – The first Red Kettle post (The $1 Difference) can be read here
2010 – The second Red Kettle post (Be Not afraid of the Red Kettles) is here

 

The Day My Son was Married

(The wedding was almost three months ago and I’m just now beginning to record the experience of our son getting married. I have sort of held and treasured that day in my heart. The photographer’s photos recently came in and I sat looking through them for days, refreshing the joy from that day in July. Over these few months I have loved watching my son become a husband, and I love having a daughter-in-law!)

The heart feels intensely what words attempt to capture. My mind sees images of days gone by, but not forgotten. Even now my hand can still feel his once small hand in mine, and my ears, if strained enough can almost hear his little boy voice. The days with my boy were so good; well, and sometimes kinda hard. The days were sometimes  l o n g , yet also they seem swept away in a flash. The time I had to grow him up was not enough, but also, it was enough. Raising him up to let him go was a little bit of everything.

Our fist official mother-son date was when he was 3, our most special mother-son dance was when he was 23.  It’s been a wonderful life being his mom to this point, and a most amazing and beautiful transition in our journey took place 89 days ago. This  summer our boy, who is now a man, took a most lovely, beautiful woman as his wife. To have and to hold, from that day forward til the end of their time on earth. I used to take his hand and walk him around the block, but this day I took his arm and he walked me down the aisle. I took a seat while he stood tall and strong, beaming, watching and waiting for the woman of his dreams to walk down the aisle to be joined to him forever.

Look how he looks at her

It was a holy moment. Watching him watch her, knowing she was now his number one was a moment I will treasure. But it wasn’t bittersweet, it was simply sweet. I wonder if intentionally raising “future adults” was the key; my perspective was always “Don’t raise kids”. I understood there was a limit to the time I had and I worked to steward that well. I wasn’t perfect, in fact, so far from it. I didn’t handle a multitude of things very well in my season. But also I did. I got it right more often than I got it terribly wrong. There were Legos and puppies, kisses and slammed doors, football and wrestling, end of the school year parties with couches on the front lawn. We had trampolines and late homework, sibling squabbles and secrets, car accidents, Sprite-spraying-everywhere spills, and all. summer. long. basement slumber parties with the Fresh Price and Nanny. We had a little bit of everything. And now, on this most special day, the fruit of all those growing up years and experiences was standing tall and independent just a few feet away, and my body could hardly hold my heart.

Love captured here

I don’t believe I’ll ever forget our mother-son dance. I couldn’t tell you if anyone was in the barn watching or not (pictures say there were), what I can tell you is for those few minutes I held this boy once again, looked into his eyes and sang to him once more. It was another holy moment.

When God granted us this boy, it was for a time. The Lord knew Zach would leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.  I kind of believe the wedding prep and many celebrations all along the way were a part of preparing, not just for this incredible summer day where he wed the girl of his dreams, but to offer a season of transition to let him go with arms wide open.

The Happiest Couple

The words here are intended to capture the intensity of my heart in this most amazing season. Trusting that in days gone by I’ll still see images of us playing with cars, reading, walking, dancing and transitioning him from my boy to Claire’s husband at the party of the century!

Such good times

 

Click here to listen to I’ll Let You Go, by Jessica Allossery ~ our Mother-Son dance song.

The photo at the top of this post is from their private”First Look”. Look again…his eyes and heart are for her, and she can hardly hold her love for him. Releasing him to her, and this kind of love, was literally what I had prayed for since he was two years old. What a prayer answered!

He’a always been a note writer