This past weekend my relatives (on my mother's side of the family) held their annual family reunion in Michigan. It's always good seeing everyone. Hugs and laughter abound, along with many delicious desserts. So much food, so little room. I came home carrying a few more pounds around my waist than I left with, that's for sure!
Sadly, living hundreds of miles away as we do, the only time the members of my immediate family get to see our relatives is at this single, one-day event. Once each year.
Invariably, as soon as the event draws to a close, someone is bound to say. "I wish we had more time to visit." There is NEVER enough time to talk with everybody. There is simply not . . . enough . . . time.
Some relatives I get to see every year. Others however, I haven't seen since Noah built the ark. Some have moved away and are separated by distance. Others were split off the family tree when personalities clashed. I think those are the ones I miss the most. It's easy to understand not traveling thousands of miles for a single meal and some small talk. It's NOT so easy to comprehend someone refusing to come who lives in the same town.
When there is a split in a family it always hurts the entire tree. That's why is was especially sweet this past weekend to pull into the driveway of my uncles farm and see someone I hadn't seen for years! This years reunion was made especially sweet by the restoration of a family tree that had been split.
I witnessed another split of sorts this weekend. That of my father, who has had his memory split by Alzheimer's. Every time I see my dad I wonder which portion of his mind I will see. It could be the frustrated, short-tempered father I never knew as a child. My dad was always very polite, quick with a terrible pun and always serving others before helping himself.
I saw both sides of my father's mind this past weekend. His memory has been split in two by the ravages of old age and a debilitating disease of the mind. Very sad.
Abraham Lincoln gave a speech when he was running for the U.S. Senate where he spoke out against slavery. The candidate said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." He was quoting another famous person who also spoke out against a form of slavery . . . being a slave to sin. That person was Jesus, the Christ.
"22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?" - Matthew 12:22-26
Just a few years later, President Lincoln would lead a nation divided against itself. It was only by the grace of God that our nation did not split in two. Or did it split?
These days our country has split from many the Judeo-Christian values it was founded on. Although our constitution specifically states that "we the people" are to have freedom OF religion, it seems that we have now created a government that has become fee FROM religion.
The American family is not what it used to be. They have been split apart as well. Through divorce, separation, extra-marital affairs, same-sex marriage. It seems like we can split the atom but we can't split from our sinful ways.
After we returned from our family's 4-day trip to the Michigan, I sat down and talked with my dear friend at work. She was telling me about a sermon she heard about what makes for the best marriages. The pastor said the successful marriages must contain three key elements. In order of importance they are: Spiritual, Intimacy and Physical. First, we should seek a partner based on spiritual compatibility. Then we will grow closer, through Christ, into an intimate relationship - with each other and with our Lord. Only then, after those two steps, will the relationship become physical.
This world in which we live seems to have everything backwards. Relationships these days begin with the physical. Then present-day relationships quickly become intimate, almost immediately. By then it's almost too late to find a spiritual relationship that works. We have already become unfaithful to God through our selfishness.
The only way we can repair the splitting apart of our relationships and of our country is to return to God. He should be our FIRST love. We need to remember the first and greatest commandment.
"These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates." - Deuteronomy 6:1-9
When Jesus was asked by his disciples what the greatest commandment was (Matthew 22), Jesus quoted Deuteronomy . . . the verse you just read. Maybe, if we feel things splitting apart in our lives, maybe we need a little Superglue. Maybe we need a little Jesus. :)