Her Name

I confess, I was more prepared to have a boy. Everyone, even strangers on the street, was saying I carried like I was having a boy. Of course we knew it was still a 50/50 chance either way but we started to believe maybe people were right. So a boy name was pretty much set on. Girl names however was still in the short listing process.

And then we had a girl!

Indecision ensued. For about three weeks.

During those three weeks we would repeat our short list of names aloud over our little girl and see if she responded to any in particular. For one name we got a “wtf” facial expression so that name got crossed off. Another name got no response so that was dropped too. And then we tried to see if the names rhymed with anything off-colored or if it would be easy to make fun of. (We’d want to raise her to be confident and secure in her identity that she wouldn’t care if there was some name calling anyways.) One name Skywalker liked more than I did. Another name I liked more than he. But finally…we decided on Anessa Grace.

Anessa…like Vanessa…but without the V.
We came across the name in a “familiar but unique” list of names online. It had a nice ring….and it matched our criteria. It’s a variant of Agnes which means “pure”. We thought of the verse “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God” (Matt 5:8) and really want our daughter to recognize God and find joy in Him in everything. My sister also shared afterwards that the Hebrew meaning was “favored” or “grace”. This was neat because her middle name is Grace. We pray she will be gracious and graceful in personality…so it’s doubled in her name. And surely we can never be short on receiving or extending grace.

So far, she is living up to the gracious part in how we’re still learning and figuring so many things out as new parents. She’s been a really good baby. God is gracious! PTL!

Enough about Joseph

We just concluded a year’s study on the Book of Genesis in BSF. A great study of human nature as we covered the first families and saw they were as dysfunctional as they are today. During the sharing night many spoke of their admiration for Joseph, whom I admired too the first time I did this study, but this time around…he didn’t stand out so much….

OK yes, Joseph went through a lot. At age 17 he was so hated by his half brothers they plotted to kill him, but they spared his life and sold him as a slave (actually for less than what a slave was worth) to Egypt. Just when things were starting to look up, as he became the General Manager of the Captain of the Guard’s entire estate, the Captain’s wife framed him for rape because he wouldn’t sleep with her. So he was thrown in prison. Then he had an opportunity to have his case brought before Pharoh when he correctly interpretted the dream of a Royal Cup Bearer. But the Cup Bearer forgot about him. Time creeps along and Joseph is now 30 years old. Pharoh has disturbing dreams his magicians and advisors cannot interpret. This triggers the memory of the Cup Bearer who then tells Pharoh about Joseph. Joseph gets released from prison. Interprets the dreams. And suddenly finds himself promoted to Prime Minister of Egypt, second only to Pharoh himself. Acting on the interpretation of the dreams, he saves hundreds of thousands of lives. Including the lives of his brothers…who make peace. And this family goes on to being the line from which Jesus Christ descended, and is also the nation of Israel today. Amazing story. Incredible story. Joseph. Wow.

Let’s look at Judah.
He’s the one who suggested the brothers not kill Joseph but sell him as a slave to Egypt instead. Not sure if that deserves any points for that. He marries a heathen woman and has three sons who are so wicked that God Himself kills two of them. Tradition of the time stipulates that the daughter-in-law be given in marriage to the next living brother in order to preserve the line of the elder brother if he dies. After Judah’s two elder sons die by God’s hand, he blames her as the source of bad luck, and does not give her to his youngest son. Meanwhile, being accustomed to using prostitutes, he impregnates his daughter-in-law, who had dressed as a prostitute to get what is her right: a child in Judah’s family. He almost gets her burned to death for prostituting herself until he realizes she’s carrying his child and that he was wrong to have treated her the way he did by withholding his son from her. That’s Judah. Wow.

(Image not mine)And the shocker, or it was a shocker when I first figured it out, is that JUDAH, not Joseph, is whom Jesus descended from. Joseph SAVED Judah, saved the whole family and provided a place for this rag-tag tribal family to grow into a great nation…but he is not in the lineage of Christ.

What?

To paint a slightly more complete picture, Judah had transformed over the years such that he was willing to take his youngest half-brother’s place as a slave in Egypt. He became a very different man from the guy who willingly sold Joseph into slavery at a bargain price. The Bible doesn’t record what else transformed about Judah, but some thoughts that I have managed to gather is this:

  • God’s grace is truly amazing. His work in someone’s life can literally turn a lost-causes into warriors, heroes and kings. I’m challenged to consider those who I deem as hopeless or a lost cause, and to see instead that God’s specialty is taking the unlikely and using them in mighty ways. I should not be so quick to think their last chapter has been written.
  • Only God can do something like this. Take zeroes to heroes.
  • How successful and amazing you are right now doesn’t guarantee any kind of legacy. Sometimes I wonder if Joseph would’ve found it unfair God didn’t use his lineage, but if his character was as humble and upstanding as he sounds, then I don’t think he would’ve given it a second thought. Question for us is are we willing to be used however greatly or humbly that God intends?
  • Neither a epic past failure (Judah) or an epic success (Joseph) matters in the long run for God. Hold onto neither as it shouldn’t matter to us either.

Brokenness Series

I wrote this series over Lent, a time where we reflect on vices or sins that have a grip in our lives as well as to consider what virtue might take its place instead as we ask God to forgive and remove those vices. It was an interesting experience to recall those memories….memories of situations where I was so hurt yet it pointed to a root problem that was within my own heart.

I remember, also when I was 18 and asking to be broken, that God would also show me what’s so amazing about His grace. Grace was for those who needed what they didn’t deserve and I thought I was pretty good, hence deserving, actually. And well, looking back, I see I DESPARATELY needed His grace and the grace of so many others. I still do. So, I challenge you, if you think your vices are minimal or under control, or if you don’t know why you need God’s grace, consider asking Him to show you. He will. And will also walk/carry you through it.

  1. Did I ask for this?
  2. But I’m smrt!
  3. Friends Forever
  4. I don’t GET fired!
  5. False Starts
  6. Nothing could’ve prepared me for this
  7. Still broken

You can’t forgive what you don’t understand

(Image Not Mine)

There was a question asked in one small group a few weeks back:

Jesus knew Judas would betray Him. And that all His disciples would abandon him. Why did He still wash their feet? Why did He still serve them bread and wine??

It’s as if He forgave them already, for all they were about to do. And actually…that was, and continues to be, the Truth. It took a little bit of time for that to sink in because I certainly haven’t thought about it that way. Additional teaching on Forgiveness from our pastor enlarged my understanding of what forgiveness is about.

  1. The path of forgiveness involves understanding others, why they offend :: You can’t truly forgive what you don’t understand and understanding “why” keeps our emotions in check. To understand why someone offended/hurt you doesn’t mean you condone that behavior. It just sets your frame of mind.
    Jesus had perfect understanding of all our misconceptions, insecurities, fears and unreasonable expectations….so He could hang on the cross and say “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” Yes, they denied, rejected, betrayed, mocked, spat on, abused, neglected, conspired, framed, sold out, abandoned and ultimately killed Him. But He understood why. They were afraid for their lives, they feared loss of power and influence, they sought greater power, they ultimately, misunderstood Jesus.
  2. Forgiveness needs understanding about ourselves :: Understanding ourselves, or having the right expectations of ourselves, also means we must be humble and not think too highly or too lowly of ourselves. The more secure we are in our identity and value in God, the easier to forgive others. Only what God thinks of us matters…but to have that, we must know God loves us on a visceral level. If in our gut we doubt or don’t trust His love, then we hold onto unforgiveness as a way of “controling” the hurtful situation.
  3. When we understand them, we can adjust our expectations of them :: It’s our inappropriate expectations of others that gets us hurt….and we hurt others for the same reasons. This reminds me of the “distorted or definitive” view of anger to help us sort out whether or not we should get angry or hurt by something.
  4. Forgiveness frees us to act :: It frees us from needing to seek revenge or lay blame…whether of others or ourselves. Setting good boundaries is necessary to prevent getting hurt but be gracious too, and compassionate. Try to speak truth without anger, adjust expectations as their informed by understanding and then move forward in love. Fear is actually the opposite of Love…we hate what we fear and that leads to unforgiveness. Fight the fear we have of others, have courage and forgive.

So the questions we were left with were these which I’ll ask you:

Who do you need to forgive?
And who do you need to receive forgiveness from?

It’s Good Friday…for all that’s been forgiven of us, our offenses to each other as well as to God, I need to take a good look at myself and check that unforgiveness doesn’t have a root in my heart lest I remain unforgiven before God.

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.
~Paul Boese

Before You

“But we destroyed that hard drive.”

In recent history, we had a near nuclear blow up in the house. The extremely abridged version of what went down was simply this: a hard drive that wasn’t supposed to be destroyed, was destroyed along with the hard drive that was supposed to be. Abounding amounts of God’s grace and mercy was flowing in all the affected parties and so a nuclear blow up was averted. Much to my immense relief.

I would say the main two sentences of causation boils down to these:

“If you asked which hard drive to pull out before assuming you knew, then this wouldn’t have happened.”
“If you clearly told me which hard drive NOT to pull out instead of assuming I knew, then this wouldn’t have happened.”

This of course boils down to both of us probably thinking, “I wouldn’t have made that grave error before you came along.”

“Yes, probably not, but I wouldn’t have made that grave error before you either,” is the reply that both of us would’ve probably had as well.

Fact is, when you’re the only one receiving information and making decisions with it….there just is less chance of error. When there are two or more parties in the chain of information, it almost becomes like a game of Telephone, or Telephone Charades. How one person conveys the information could be received differently than intended. Inevitably, something gets lost in translation as assumptions will play into all parties.

“Don’t you know when I do or say this, that it means that?”
“No, when I see or hear that, it obviously means this!”

Sigh. Makes one want to operate by themselves doesn’t it? But that defeats the whole purpose of marriage, which is to join two individuals so they would share one heart, spirit and mind. This doesn’t happen once you get married of course. This process of unifying two (usually self-preserving, self-centered) individuals takes a lot of time and work, trial and error, clarifying and re-clarifying, sweat and tears. I’m convinced the end result will be far better than operating by yourself. You become a better person as a result of that journey. A well-made joint decision is a BETTER decision rather than just a non-erroneous decision.

It just, well, it just takes a lot of work.
Then start sooner rather than later. =)