View from the Ridge
Over the years I have become an advocate for close family ties. My mom and dad grew up just a mile or so apart on the same country road. All the farm ground between them was owned by either a Hoover or a Query. When I was growing up most of my relatives lived in that same five square mile area of Henry County Indiana, but I didn't.
Once married my parents became nomads and we lived in places like San Diego and Hemet, Calif.; Kansas City, Missouri; Fairfax, Virginia; New Castle, Delaware, then back to Woodland Hills, Calif. If it hadn’t been for the many long summers I spent in Indiana I wouldn’t know hardly any of my relatives. I was always envious of my cousins because they were around each other and all the aunts, uncles and grandparents year round. I was the novelty relative at the annual family reunions. “Oh, you must be Bertie Ellen’s boy!” Hug, hug, kiss, kiss. Yep, that’s me!
As Abraham was told by God “and said to him, 'Leave your family and country and go to the land that I will show you” Acts 7:3, in 1968 Jeri and I were directed to move to La Grande from Southern California. Maybe the voice wasn’t God’s but some Fleetwood executive, but I know that God was directing everything. All of our immediate family lived in Southern California as well as most of Jeri’s extended family. We were young and the excitement of a new area and new beginnings was mixed with the fear of moving to a place we had not even heard of, let alone visited or known anyone from there. We stepped out in faith that God knew what He was doing and “Surprise, Surprise,” He did!
Scripture also tells us to “Be grateful for the good things that the LORD your God has given you and your family;” 1Ch 17:16 Over the years He has blessed our family “Better than I deserve” as Dave Ramsey would say. And as King David said “Then King David went into the Tent of the LORD's presence, sat down, and prayed, "I am not worthy of what you have already done for me, LORD God, nor is my family”. Deu. 26:11 We have been richly blessed spiritually with a loving church family, with a pastoral staff that preaches the truth of scripture and refuses to compromise it. We live in a beautiful valley on more acreage than probably 99% of the world. It has not been without trials and tribulations, heartache and tears, good times and bad, but through it all Jesus has walked with us, carried us when we needed to be, as God molded and shaped us into the servants He wanted us to be.
As I write this, it is just after thanksgiving, and that is what prompted me to write about family and being together. Seldom do we have all our family here at thanksgiving, and so over the years we have exercised our gift of hospitality and invited friends and neighbors to join our family and our kids that do make it home.
“If his family is too small to eat a whole animal, he and his next-door neighbor may share an animal, in proportion to the number of people and the amount that each person can eat.” Exodus 12:4. I ran across this scripture by accident but it so fits with this theme of Thanksgiving and hospitality. We normally have 12 to 14 at our table at Thanksgiving, but this year it is was 20. Needed a BIG turkey this year, 24 lbs. Fortunately, God has blessed us with a house that will accommodate a crowd that big. And our daughter, Kris, came a day early and worked so hard in helping with all the cooking and baking. Another one of our blessings. Gal. 6:10 So then, as often as we have the chance, we should do good to everyone, and especially to those who belong to our family in the faith.
If a family divides itself into groups which fight each other, that family will fall apart. Mark 3:25. I have seen so many families split apart by dissention and it grieves me. I vowed years ago that would not happen in our family. I have stressed with our kids that disagreements will happen but we will resolve those issues and not let it separate us. Since 1964 we have only missed 2 Christmas’ where most of us were together, and both of those were due to my health. I am so thankful to the Lord that we have been blessed with kids that still want to be with family at Christmas and will travel great distances to be here.
Eph. 2:19 “So then, you Gentiles are not foreigners or strangers any longer; you are now citizens together with God's people and members of the family of God.” Because of this scripture, Mark 3:25 is also so important in the church family. We cannot be divided and fight among ourselves, for we will surely fall apart and what kind of witness and testimony will that have among the unsaved in our community.
Twelve years ago I wrote about change that was occurring in our church. For two years the church dealt with the arrival of a new pastor and his family, new style of worship, contemporary music with different instruments, various church starting times, no Sunday school and then back to having Sunday school, and we were not done yet. Just about the time we thought we might be settling into a somewhat normal routine, God ups and orders another change. He had a new assignment for his servants, our youth pastor Rick and his wife Jeanne. Through all this we lost some families but the church has continued to grow and prosper.
We are now at another cross roads where the pastor and elders are advocating some change. Some might question the wisdom of a second service off site and name change, and that is good. Sometimes people in the congregation see issues that leadership misses. Our pastors and Elders have an evangelistic vision that encompasses not only La Grande but the whole valley. So I encourage you to be mindful that we are a family of believers and we need to listen and carefully consider what is being proposed.
On top of all this, our Associate Pastor is candidating for a senior pastorate at another church, which will result in a huge change for our church. But change is what life is all about. I see it every day in the mirror. Don’t like it but its there.
As for me, I have one more scripture that I need to work on to fulfill. Mark 5:19 “But Jesus would not let him. Instead, he told him, "Go back home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how kind he has been to you." I have added another trip into my bucket list and that is to journey back to Indiana and visit one more time with what few relatives I have left and share with them what an awesome God we serve and what He has done for our family.
Joshua 24:15 If you are not willing to serve him, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your ancestors worshiped in Mesopotamia or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are now living. As for my family and me, we will serve the LORD."