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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I'm back in my office this morning after a great Labor Day weekend. We made our annual pilgrimage to the family reunion for my mother's family. These aren't your typical reunions--at least, not in my mind. First of all, there are a ton of us (this year we were in the vicinity of 100 without everyone in attendance). Needless to say, we take over the little hotel in North Georgia where the event takes place. There are family members of all ages from at least 3 different states. Most of them still live in South Georgia but, with time, the family continues to stretch a little further apart.

I guess another reason it's a little different is that, every year, we rent a room at the local state park and we have a time of worship. I think that speaks volumes about the role that God has played in this family for many generations. My grandfather was a Freewill Baptist pastor in South Georgia. There he would farm all week long and then travel to different churches as their itinerant pastor each weekend. I would say well over 90% of my family continues this tradition of faith with their own families, even as we get larger. There are a few exceptions but not many.

It's quite comical when we get together (for a lot of reasons that I will not list here in order to save my good standing with the rest of the family). In particular, it's been fun watching my mom and her brothers and sisters get older (there are 8 total). It's great sitting around and listening to them talk about old stories for the fifth and sixth time. It's great to see the pride in their faces as they watch, first their children, then their grandchildren, then their great-grandchildren become a part of this tradition. Most of the time, they'll have to call 10 names before they get to the right one. Lots of times, they forget whose grandchild belongs with which niece or nephew (that happens when you don't see each other all year). But, from beginning to end, there is something strong that underlies all of this--it's that bond of family and the expectation that comes with the family name. (Okay, I'm headed somewhere with all of this...are you ready?)

I thought about this all the way home yesterday as we drove through the mountains. Then, this morning, I came to this passage. "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine." Isaiah 43:1 NIV

Isn't that awesome? God calls you by name. God claims ownership over you. If you listen when He calls, you become part of His family. It's a large family, a diverse family. It comes from 50 states and a 1000 nations. It speaks languages like Slavic and Yiddish and Mandarin and, yes, South Georgia English. Every member has its story and every story points to Him and His greatness. And, He calls you by name! The best news of all is that it is a name He'll never forget. Once you enter into the family, you are inscribed on His hand and kept there forever. Makes me proud to be part of the family. Proud to know the heritage we have and the future we've been promised. I look forward to the day we have the greatness reunion ever known. We'll meet brothers and sisters we never knew. We'll be introduced to children and adults who became part of the family because we did our part. And...as one great big family, we will worship. Worship the God who calls us, every single one of us, by name.

2 comments:

Matthew said...

Ridley,

This is good! I love what you have to say here and posted it on my myspace page! I just pray that someone reads it and come to either ask me/anyone questions regarding this or to even come to know Jesus as Saviour. thanks for your words of truth and encouragement!

Matt C.

Diana said...

I have to say this is an amazing post. I am glad you and your family had a great time. I long for family time with relatives sadly, it takes a wedding or a funeral to get us together. Most everyone lives in Florida, We are the ones that have to travel the farthest, except some cousins in GA. It must be wonderful to know that your family has the values that you carry. You don't have to worry that Uncle so and so is gonna say something kids should hear etc. I usually have to pray that cops don't show up the next time.
I loved the passage Isaiah 43:1
How wonderful it is knowing that the wonderful God we serve who has a bazillion people to keep track of wants us to know the we belong to Him. He doesn't want us to be afraid because He has saved us and called us by our names to Him.
How comforting it is to know the God knows this girl from that girl and one boy from another boy. How lucky are we that we get to know Him in a personal relationship to lean on when the road is hard and to be held when we see we can't do it alone anymore.


Here's the thing about that language stuff though. The other languages you listed have books that you can learn them. South Georgia English? Buddy, if you are not born with it, you are out of luck speaking it and trying to interpret it.

Thanks for the great post!