Thursday, December 27, 2012

Now That Christmas is Over Again

After Christmas, there are unwrapped gifts on the coffee table and piano bench for about a week. I'm in no hurry to straighten things up. I rather like the disorderly collection, combined with memories of the faces as they opened their presents with joy. We have a simple system on Christmas day: Our children distribute the gifts to the nine of us, and then we all open them at the same time, shouting "thank you" to each family member one on top of the other. Then our children (even as adults) empty their Christmas stockings (shaped like Santa's pants--something that Norman H. found in a gift shop).

Giving and receiving are roots of Christmas. Christ gave, and many of us have received. And every year at Christmas, we celebrate the enormous blessing of Christ's Ultimate Gift of salvation with our tradition of exchanging gifts. But now that Christmas is over, what will you continue to give? Here are some ideas:

1. Give time to important matters. "Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is you life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." (James 4:14) By this time next year, wouldn't you like to look back and have the satisfaction of knowing that you used your numbered days wisely? While the calendar is still fresh, plug in the essentials, and then add the non-essentials rather than the other way around!

2. Give the benefit of the doubt more often. "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." (Matt. 7:12) We know this verse as the "Golden Rule," but like a speed limit sign, it is often ignored! We really appreciate it when people are quick to forgive us, but are we as quick to forgive others? This makes a great gift. Don't wait until next Christmas to give this to someone in need.

3. Give everyone more love. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) Jesus said it right: We haven't even begun to love people like He loved us. "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you." (John 15:12) "Copy me," is what Christ has said to us. When we love people like He loved us, we will put their needs ahead of our own. This is not self-neglect; it is selfless love. There is a difference.

I hope that your Christmas was blessed and meaningful. Before you take down the tree and store all the decorations, consider making the coming year your thank-you note to God.

"Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift." (II Cor. 9:15)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Why Abishag and Not Bathsheba?

When you read Bible stories, do you ever wonder about things? I often wonder, and one story on my "wonder list" is the account of the aged King David and his lovely young caregiver named Abishag. David already had plenty of wives, including one very beautiful stolen wife named Bathsheba. When David was struggling to stay warm (Scripture says "he got no heat"), why didn't he call for Bathsheba? I wonder...and I'm going to hazard a guess that they had grown apart over the years. I can't prove it, but it can't be conclusively denied, either. Here's the Scriptural account, to refresh your memory:

"Now kind David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he got no heat. Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat. So they sought for a fair damsel throughout all the coasts of Israel, and found Abishag a Shunamite, and brought her to the king. And the damsel was very fair, and cherished the king, and ministered to him: but the king knew her not." (I Kings 1:1-4)

There are some underlying lessons for wives to consider within this passage:

1. The servants wanted someone to cherish the king.
As I've noted in previous lessons, there is a common likelihood that the longer we're married, the less we may tend to "cherish" one another. This goes both ways, with husbands also taking their wives for granted, but I'm writing to wives in this article, so we're looking at our side. What does it mean to "cherish" someone?

In the Strong's Concordance, this word means "to be of use or service, profit or benefit." Webster's Dictionary also has this definition: "To treat with tenderness and affection; to give warmth, ease or comfort to." We can see from these definitions that to cherish someone is to provide gentle, attentive loving care. Would your husband say that you treat him with tenderness and affection? If not, why not? "Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth." (Prov. 5:18) When we're not cherishing one another, there are unresolved conflicts lurking somewhere. Counsel may be needed to get to the bottom of the problem. Length of years together should increase our love; not decrease it.

2. This person had to be easy on the eyes and the nerves.
The term "fair damsel" meant that Abishag was young and good looking, but it also meant that she was pleasant and agreeable. Abishag couldn't stay young forever, and we obviously can't, either, but anyone can be pleasant and agreeable. In fact, a pleasant person is often considered to be beautiful. Physical beauty fades like a flower, but being easy to live with is timeless and attractive in its own right. Would you want to live with someone like you? If you have become unpleasant and disagreeable, changes are in order. "Let her be as the loving hind and the pleasant roe..." (Prov. 5:19a) Cheerfully good company is something that never gets old.

3. She had to be willing to make the king her full-time job.
Abishag had no job other than taking care of the the king's needs. Scripture says that she "ministered to him," which means that she served and waited on the king. In fact, Job One was to keep the king warm by lying in his bosom. This doesn't mean that in order to be great wives we must meet our husbands at the door after work with a blankie, ready to tuck them into bed and lie on their chests to keep them warm, but we could borrow a page from Abishag by being a bit more considerate of the needs of our husbands in general. 

Let's face it; we're all busy and very few of us have only one job. Some of us resemble the plate-spinners in the circus (the ones who spin plates on sticks), running back and forth trying to keep things from crashing to the ground! The problem with this system is that over time, our marriages can begin to resemble dorm room situations, with occasional exchanges but no real interaction. "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make an help meet for him." (Gen. 2:18) A "help meet" is "one who helps."

It's interesting to note that the Hebrew word "ezer" (which means "help meet" in Gen. 2:18) is used at other times in Scripture to describe how God helps us. So, we are to help our husbands as the Lord helps us. "But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help (ezer) and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying." (Psa. 70:5) Many men were under the impression that they were marrying a helper as well as a loving companion for life, but this is often not the case. If you are too busy for your husband, reevaluate your schedule to make the necessary adjustments.

The relationship between David and Bathsheba was illegitimate, so we can't use them as a pattern for married couples, but it's worth considering that something was missing that caused the servants to seek out an Abishag. David collected wives like trophies, and wasn't recorded as an attentive husband to any of them for any length of time, but if we only consider the wife's side, we have to wonder: Did Bathsheba become cold and less caring over time? Why did they need an "Abishag" when they already had a "Bathsheba"? In fact, why did they need Abishag when there was a Michal, Ahinoam, Abigail, Maacah, Haggith, Abital, and Eglah?

Regardless of the answer, the bigger goal is to get each of us to carefully consider where we're headed in our own marriages. Too many people have become resistant to genuinely caring for each other. The repetitive song is "What About Me?" rather than a Christ-like focus on others. Selfishness can chill or kill a relationship.

We don't want to grow apart with age. We want to remain "joined together" for life. I don't know about you, but I would prefer to remain the "heat provider" in my husband's life, 'til death do us part.

 "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Mark 10:9)

Do You Know What You Have?

Someone out there may be struggling with this holiday called Valentine's Day, and I can relate.  This is my third Valentine's...