"This is the kind of fast I am after…do not turn away from your own flesh and blood."
New International Version
"What does the word "family" mean to me?"
Peace in Our Homes
"May it prevail in our household…
may our words be gentle,
our actions loving,
our intentions honorable…
For a peaceful world can be created only
by those who practice peace,
each moment of each day in their hearts
and in their homes."
Caroline Joy Adams
I bet it is very hard for you to love all of everybody in the whole world.
There are only four people in our family and I can never do it."
Children's Letters to God
Over the past few days, we have taken a close look at the kind of "fast" God has chosen for us - or in plain speaking - the kind of service He asks us to perform. God, in His desire for us to have fulfilling lives, asks us first to break the bonds of injustice. Then He tells us to feed the hungry, shelter the wanderer, and clothe the naked. But He doesn't stop with His "arrow" of service pointing outward. The request in Isaiah 58: 7 ends with turning God's service arrow in a different direction. We are told by God that while it is critical, in His eyes, for us to help others, we must not make service to everyone else first on our list while we neglect the needs of our own family, What a kind and compassionate request from our Heavenly Father. Yes, God loves it when we take care of the "least of these" but He doesn't want this service to be at the expense of our families.
Now we might say, "I take care of my family. There's food on the table, clothes on their backs and a roof over their heads - I've done my job." And so we may have. We've provided the essentials - what's absolutely necessary. But I want to expand on what I believe God intended as the broader meaning to the phrase, "do not turn away from your own flesh and blood."
While physical needs are required and many people are effective at seeing that their families have clothes, shelter, and food, if families are to survive in our fractured world, no matter what the family unit consists of, gentleness, understanding and love are just as essential. This is why a single mom with five children can be ever more equipped to raise happy and healthy children than a wealthy couple who is never home and farms their kids out to the care of a nanny. Now please let me insert, I'm not deriding nannies, but I have heard, even from some "religious" folk, demeaning talk about single moms or divorced women who are raising children. It's as if these moms are second-class citizens. And yet, I have found incredibly devoted love in moms who are alone, carrying unspoken loads each day, giving their children not only essential physical needs but also the essential spiritual and emotional needs as well.
When my husband Jim and I were young, neither of our parents had a great deal of money. Both of us grew up living in homes that were rented for most of our young lives. I can remember my parents telling me, "We must be careful in this house because it belongs to someone else and we don't want to do anything to damage another person's property." I can tell you, it didn't hurt me one bit to learn, at an early age, to care for something that belonged to another person. And while Jim and I came from families that didn't have a lot of "things," we both shared a HUGE essential in common. Our families were filled to overflowing with love.
I'll never forget bringing friends from school to my parent's modest apartment. These friends lived in homes that to me looked like mansions. To my surprise, my friends asked to return to my parent's house over and over again because they not only felt welcome, they felt loved.
Several years ago, I was shopping for Christmas gifts for my nieces and nephews. I take this job very seriously. I'll ask each one for suggestions and I try hard to meet the requests, within reason. I had found a very special catalog and chosen several rather expensive gifts for my young nephews, Jake and Zack.
The day after Christmas, I called their dad and asked how they liked the presents. "Oh, they loved them," he said. But without stopping he continued, "I don't know how to say this," he laughed, "What they really enjoyed were the two huge boxes the gifts came in. I helped them cut holes in the boxes and we made them into tunnels and played together in those boxes all day. It was great."
It is instructive to me that time together, gentle words spoken in kindness, and a continual flow of love are as essential as food, shelter, and clothes when it comes to growing a healthy family. We may provide the monetary essentials and have little time in our crazy, busy world for the emotional essentials only to wake up one day and find our family life is "starving to death." It's on "life support" because we didn't feed it, shelter it, and clothe it in love.
May your thoughts and mine today reflect on the "fast God has chosen." May we remember that the treatment of our families has just as much to do with the essentials of kindness, understanding and love as with potatoes, socks, and bricks and mortar.
"Sometimes I can't find words to tell my loved ones
how much they mean to me. Or what's important.
So I keep still, my hopes, fears, needs, thanks,
Is that why others too keep still?
Lord, we need each other.
Please help us see communication
As an act of faith - faith in You and in each other."
"O God, out of all the world You brought us together,
to find each other and learn together the meaning
of love. Let us never fail to hold love precious.
Let the flame of love never waver or grow dim
but burn in our hearts as unwavering family devotion
and shine in all our eyes in gentleness and understanding
on which no shadow falls…teach us to remember
the little courtesies, to be swift to speak grateful and
happy words, to believe rejoicingly in the best about
our family, and to face all life bravely, together, because
our family faces life with united hearts."
Walter Russell Bowie
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
P.S. My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is now available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian. You can also go to www.whenawomanmeetsjesus.com and purchase the book through Paypal for $8.00. Or by calling Transformation Garden at 1-888-397-4348.
For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.