Zoe

While I don’t quite understand Zoe in the syntactical, historical, grammatical sense completely I do like the idea of what I think I know about it. That it’s the God breathed eternal and abundant life that is in us when we are in Christ.

Don’t go all Greek Ninja on me I’m not a Greek scholar but I can still think my simple thoughts about the word zoe.

How does one find it, capture it, hold it in their hand? My sense is it’s in the relationships, those two basic rules of love God, love your neighbor. Super hard because I’m super selfish and I’ve got it planned so I really don’t need help from God or my neighbors so I can love them from a distance and keep on with my plan.

Except when my plan falls apart and I know that I want that zoe, that abundant feeling of friendship, community, and connection with God. A God centered life.

How do you do that without being all religious and dogmatic while driving people away instead of the John 13.35 “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” kind of walk?

1-I’m pretty sure it’s not driving out of your garage in the morning to go to work and retreating back into your garage at night. SO it might look like having your neighbors over? The weird part is we’ve been inviting our neighbors over on the first Friday of the month for a year now and aside from the Christmas party at my mom’s in December with a big turn out, it seems that most of the neighbors, including my good Christian neighbors want to retreat into their own hole all wounded and forlorn. Or they want a special invitation every single time. Really? How am I supposed to do that when I can barely get it together to have my house clean and food ready once a month with all the other stuff I’m doing? Deep breaths, because it’s okay, the people that want to be there come and we have such a great deep conversation about real things and I love it! I’ve learned so much from them every time we’re together.

2-I’m pretty sure it’s not spending all your time at church “helping” those in need and ignoring your own family. In Mark 7.9-13 Christ warns against not caring for your elderly parents and saying it’s all given to God. Samuel and Eli neglected their children and God struck them dead. That doesn’t sound very abundant and zoe like to me. So, taking care of your own family is loving God and your neighbors for that abundant life?

3-So when your neighbor shoots your dog and their dog attacks your other dog . . . urgh! That kind of jabs a stick into the zoe bubble and when the other neighbors opinion of this couple is, “oh it’s just him, she’s really nice.”  I have to say, what kind of nice person lives with someone like that? Someone who’s previous wife had the sheriff come out and rescue her and the kids from his abuse?

4-Working in my garden and growing food, I really feel like that is pleasing to God that it makes him smile. It’s where it all started out. Well, aside from the part about “before the foundations of the world were laid,” but I’m sure you know what I mean. It’s where man started out, tending the garden and caring for the animals. Then if you spend lots of time there you have an abundance to love your neighbors with!

So, I’m at 3 out of 4 turning a problem into a solution to create a zoe life here on the edge of the Zuehl tarmac. The list is longer but the point is we need to start thinking about the first two rules more and how we can apply them right where we are.

I listened in to a group of young men discussing Genesis and it was really interesting because of the various denominations they came from and the assurance that each felt about his piece of information. It reminded me again that it’s really about loving God and loving your neighbor. Not that understanding the historical, grammatical and syntactical Word we’ve been given isn’t important but that it rests on that love.

Well, I’ve got to go to bed so I can love my neighbors tomorrow in the form of a very awesome old fellowship that meets at our house on Sunday mornings. If you’re in the neighborhood come on by, breakfast is great!

Love Hate Relationships

It’s all of us, not just you! Your spouse is super awesome and you’re on a high of happiness then they do something totally selfish or stupid and you have to ask yourself, do I let go of the anger and remember all the good or do I hold on and become a bitter person? I’m kidding we don’t actually stop and think about that do we? We just react!  Let me recommend forgiveness since you’re no rainbow farting unicorn yourself. In case you haven’t figured it out this isn’t just your spouse or your kids, your sibling or your parents. We’re all imperfect with no hope for perfection so get used to it and get used to forgiving people if you want the favor returned.

We all want a magic pill that our spouse, kid or parent can take so we can take them a little easier. Again, ditto

Relationships are hard work everyday. Some days all the hard work seems to be paying off and others you’re floundering in guilt wondering what you’ve done wrong, how can you fix it and the whole time it was just a simple communication issue or a change you need to make yourself.

We were married in 1985 and it’s 2016 so my husband’s story goes like this, we’ve been married 29 wonderful years. Then he waits to see if the listener can do basic math then says, 29 “wonderful” years, there were two that sucked. Really awful almost over, that came down to me sitting on my packed suitcases by the phone (you know when it was plugged into the wall) while my husband said he’d call the pastor and go for counseling and I was saying, “Do it then.”

And he did, but I want you to know that I hated him and contemplated his demise. I have a tendency to over think so I came up with a brilliant option. That he’d get hit by the Budweiser truck and the driver would have been drinking Miller light at the Shell gas station near our house. I know you’re thinking that’s genius!

Today he can still annoy the crap out of me at times mostly because we’re slower, older and loosing our hearing but we’re old enough to know that misunderstandings are normal and we can laugh a whole lot more because we understand the foundation of marriage isn’t about us but about the calling of Christ from Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

If we didn’t understand that we wouldn’t be able to walk through the dark days of adoption or when the doctor told Michael that he didn’t have to have the surgery but he’d be dead in two years if he didn’t and then that he could die during surgery. Not funny, but I’ve got to tell you the hot flashes are hilarious!

On that fateful day when Michael called the pastor for counseling and my sister watched our three little people, we sat on the couch and Michael’s opening line was, “My wife is crazy, I hope you can fix her.” We learned something amazing that night, that it was all Michael’s fault!

Okay, not really, but it sure felt that way to both of us as we drove away. Lucky for me Michael really went to work on being a better husband and father but the crazy thing about his awesome improvement was it started making me look bad. I mean I can’t blame him for everything now can I?

For ten years this pastor and his wife looked after us, encouraged us, listened to us, laughed at us, no seriously, when you’re in your twenties you say some stupid stuff. They taught us great skills that Rick’s written down in a book for you to use too! 5:21

Twenty nine wonderful years later I have that book on my shelf and can pull it out and hear his voice. It’s so simple and not grand or elaborate with seven magic steps but a deep abiding truth that has seen us through many hard times.

Then there was the time, I can’t remember when that we went for counseling at our church for just one annoying thing. Problem solved. Then we went again 9 years ago and the pastor, who’s our age and a friend kind of laughed when we all sat down and said something like what are you doing here? Your the healthy family. BUT we were building our house at the time, like literally hammer and nails, not hiring contractors and we were arguing alot and we just needed a refresher course because we seemed to have forgotten how to be nice. It was awesome to be reminded!

We thought we’d seen it ALL by then, closing in on 25 years of marriage (23 wonderful years) but then we came in close contact with “social services.” Talk about a nightmare! What does a nice family do that’s successfully raised/raising kids  when they’re feeling really blessed? They decide to take in more kids! Michael and I had talked about this  before we got married and here we were doing it! Oh my God we’re awesome!

Pride goes before a fall is an understatement when it comes to my less than awesome moments in this process. We couldn’t have done it if we didn’t have the support of awesome friends who’d done it before us and truly understood the hardship that comes with social services. One friend described “social services” as a group of people who are in charge of the children but usually don’t have their own children, are very young and know how to best raise children even though they don’t want any of their own, but they know exactly what you should do. It took it’s toll.

But we came up fighting on the same side! Even when things look dark and they’re down, you have to let love win, forgive, accept and keep moving forward together.

We’re so blessed right now to have a large group of older couples in our lives each with their own amazing story most over 70 with a lifetime of pain, loss and sadness behind them but still joyful in their journey because they have someone to love. For about half of them it’s a new love because the old one passed away or they were divorced along the way but because they learned how to love they can find a new love. One of the guys in his 80’s jokes that his current wife of 10 years wouldn’t have married him if his first wife hadn’t trained him because he was trouble back then.

Life comes at all of us the same. If we want to be in relationship and have healthy happy families we have to start with and as we walk along the way we have to invite people in to encourage, correct and reprove. When you do that with your spouse and they do that with you and you gather other people willing to do that (I’m not saying it’s easy because most people don’t want to be corrected) and you’re a happier person that can invite more people into your life like your own family, your siblings, parents and children. When you learn to address the hurt and forgive you learn what true love is.