Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No Greater Joy .... November 3, 2010

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." 3 John 4

I became a follower of Jesus Christ when my youngest child, a son, was 4 months old. One of the very first things I did [and I remember it like yesterday] was to kneel beside him, and give Him back to Jesus. I believed then and to this day that it was God's will that I do so. It was pure and right with no other motive, than that my son would one day serve our King. God gave him to me and I gave him back to God.

Over the years friends had often said that I was like the mother of James and John wanting my son to sit either to the right or left of King Jesus. That is not true. My heart's desire, for Christ planted it there, was that Stephen would serve the King - and not seated to His right or left, but at His feet.

Never in my wildest imagination, as I knelt beside him those thirty years ago, did I ever think my son would not serve God. If anything, I was so very grateful - certain that Christ who opened my eyes to my depravity would do the same for my son. As his mom, I would bring him up [as well as his older sister] in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and one day like Samuel, he too on hearing the voice of God, would say, "Speak, for your servant is listening." My favorite verse -- "There is no greater joy than to hear your child walks in truth!!! " But for many years and to this day, my son does not walk in truth. He does not serve God, but rejects King Jesus.

Over the years, I have not had that joy [yes joy...but not the greater joy of hearing my own child walks with Jesus] but rather great heartache. The "lost" of my son has been the most difficult trial I have ever had to bear as a mom who loves the Lord Jesus. One particular season my dear husband Larry came home each afternoon, just to hold me in his arms as I wept uncontrollably as my heart pain over my lost child was so unbearable. There were days...weeks when I did not even know where he was. Had he been in a car wreck? Was he lying on the side of the road? Where was he sleeping? Did he have food to eat? I was also angry, hurt, bitter, resentful for how could this happen?!! Was it not God's will that my son would live for Him? What did I do wrong? Did I hear God right?

Looking back -- I did plenty wrong as a parent raising children. I usurped the authority of my husband, was oftentimes harsh and I could go on and on...but that is for another blog. Bottom line I was not "all that." But heart for Jesus was and still is that my children would serve Him. 3 John 4 says: "to hear" not see. God began a work in my heart that I don't have to "see." It is enough that I hear that they are His and living for Him -- and so that is my prayer.

I do... I do... I do believe in spite of me and my parenting, God graciously gave me my son and daughter to raise for His glory, for His kingdom purpose. Before the beginning of time sovereign God knew I would mess up and yet He still allowed me to have children to bring them up - for His good pleasure. He is the One who will take my ashes and turn them into beauty. I believe not based on a promise found in the Bible, but a whisper to my heart many years ago that my children, both of them -- would serve the King. I rejoice to see that my daughter walks in truth... and I await to hear that my son does as well.

Last night in our Community Group, we were reading the parable of the prodigal son [Luke 15] and a new friend, a bear of a man... a biker...who came for the very first time tearfully told us that his former wife and daughter had been praying for him for 14 years. Six months ago - he repented and turned to Christ at the age of 51. I was so personally encouraged, that of all the nights, for him to was the night we were talking about the eternal-timeless love of Father God who forgives.

In a separate conversation at the end of the night, my dear friend, Melissa drew me aside as she was under divine compulsion to begin praying everyday for my son. It is my belief that Sovereign God orchestrates everything....places things on our hearts, in our pray about because He is about to move... He is about to do something. So like the father of the prodigal son, I am anticipating my son's return.... but not to me, but to God and say, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

Someone wrote regarding prayer to "expect unexpected things, above all that we ask or think. Each time you intercede, be quiet first and worship God in His glory. Think of what He only can do, of how He delights to hear Christ, of your place in Christ and expect great things."

A popular allegory, many have been blessed by is .."Hinds Feet on High Places" by Hannah Hurnard. "Much Afraid", a young woman journeying to the High Places of the Shepherd is guided by two companions, Sorrow and Suffering. One of my favorite parts in the story is whenever the Shepherd.. the Good Shepherd... talks with Much Afraid they always withdrew a little. Sorrow and Suffering always present but also always withdrawing a little when the Good Shepherd is present talking with Much Afraid alone.

Throughout the years, 15 now, sorrow and suffering have been my constant companions over Stephen, but my Good Shepherd is also ever present. I have come to love sorrow and suffering for like Much Afraid they have brought me into a deeper intimacy with the Good Shepherd. Of late, I think I actually hear them laughing. I feel there is something on the horizon...something that suffering and sorrow knows and believing that very soon I will hear.

November 3, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Orphan Care

Being confronted with another "imperative" a/k/a command from the Lord Jesus ----
The care of widows and orphans [James 1:27].

Some years ago -- we heard about the exciting work of The Rafiki Foundation. [Rafiki aims to help orphans and widows in Africa become godly contributors in their countries. Their mission is to help Africans know God by caring for and educating orphans, providing materials and training in education and Bible study, and giving economic opportunities to widows].

In small ways, we began to support the work of The Rafiki Foundation, believing it was good enough and pleasing to God. But the Lord has been, dare I say, on us of late - about our definition of "good enough."

This past year, the Lord brought a family into our church who had adopted a beautiful little boy from Ethiopia. That family's story and then dozens more of families who have or are in the process of adopting has been creating an angst in my heart. I wondered, if I miss the boat on something that broke the heart of Jesus! Was supporting Rafiki in small ways really "good enough"? I heard myself asking God [more like whining], "Is not our present involvement with widows and orphans 'good enough' Lord? " Somewhere deep inside, and not in a reproachful way but lovingly, His answer: "No... it is not."

If you have read my first blog, you will remember I am learning not to say "I will never, ever," to the Lord Almighty. But startled on realizing the Lord was calling for "more," I worried, "What if He wants us to adopt?" I felt, being a 59 year old grandma with a 64 year old husband, that it was perfectly sane to say to God this time, "I will never, ever adopt."

Though I did not verbalize it... in my heart my prayer was "Please don't say adopt." But I know the Bible...I know the Lord well enough that for anything, anytime He calls a person [even a "senior" person] to something, He will equip, for nothing is too difficult for Him. There is absolutely no excuse for disobedience when the Lord commands.

The Lord for His good pleasure brought about three families in our church to adopt [not us]. They are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia [one being the family I mentioned earlier who had previously adopted] while a fourth family is adopting locally, a special needs child. These families have sold possessions, cut back in spending, cut coupons, fundraised [i.e. garage sales, car washes], prayed [always praying] because they have taken seriously and gladly the command to care for orphans and widows. I read posted on their FB pages ...that they don't see adoption as being about "sacrificing....but it being about prioritizing."

So, though it does not appear God has adoption in His plan for us [no comment here], it is clear there is much we are to do and can do. We continue to support Rafiki and pray how God might involve us further in the future, and are and can get behind the families in our community. We too can sell possessions, cut back in spending, cut coupons, fundraise, pray [always pray]. We can contribute money, time, energy, be grandparents, encourage, be a voice [one reason why I'm blogging], help with child care when they travel to Ethiopia to go to their court and "Gotcha" dates.

Good enough? I don't want to ask that anymore...but only to wait and.... trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding, but in all my ways acknowledge Him and He will make my paths straight.

John Piper said, adoption [being] the heart of the gospel and the clearest picture of what God has done for us, so it seems clear to me that my future blogs will include adoption.

I am looking forward to sharing a wonderful idea that two of our families are going to present on their blogs to raise funds to bring their children home. Perhaps you might like to participate. Stay tune.

In my blog list are the sites of three of our families who are adopting - Melissa [& Jon] Maser, Erica [& Dave] Shubin, and Rachel [& Joe] Walser. Visit their sites if you would like to know more about them and their journeys. You won't be disappointed. Maybe too, like me, you are an empty nester with heart angst regarding widows and orphans, wondering how God plans to use you in the winter of your years. Those years can bear perhaps more fruit than earlier years. Maybe there is a family or two or three in your own church community to whom you can get behind.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cracked Pot for Jesus

Every time I have said "I will never, ever do that" I am sure I cause my Lord in heaven to smile. For every single time I have said the words: "I will never, ever do that" I end up doing the very thing I said I would never, ever do. The most recent never, ever - "I will never, ever blog," and here I am blogging. [I think I caused my Lord to smile!]

And so what am I blogging about? Him, My Lord one better to blog about then Jesus :)

I love Jesus ... and loving Him is even only possible because He first loved me. Jesus is my King, the center of the universe. Everything revolves around Him. He created us all for the very purpose of "blogging" about Him. Revelation 4:11 states "...thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." And so my blogs will be about Him!

My Lord Jesus left the earth after his resurrection, entrusting His glorious Gospel message to those He loves [me being one of them]. He said: "Go...and make disciples." It is as if the Lord Jesus said: "You, you.....[not the angels who are willing, who long to do so], but you, Barbara 'Go.' And to make sure you understand I really mean -- you, I state it in the imperative. Don't say 'I will never, ever do that', for it is my wonderful command to you. I could have commanded the angels, but I chose you." Amazing!

Amazing that He put this great "treasure", the message of salvation and the glorious results, in common pots of clay a/k/a cracked pots [2 Corinthians 4:7]. Mere mortals [by the way called His "ambassadors"] get to obey His command. Just call me a "Cracked Pot" for Jesus!

There is another "never, ever" I did not say, but am tempted to say to my Lord Jesus....but that's my next blog.


My friend Erica told me about this puzzle idea she came upon to raise funds for her and her family's adoption. It's a 500 piece puzzle, and they are inviting people to "sponsor" a piece of the puzzle for $10. Then she showed me her puzzle!

Is this not an absolutely beautiful work of art!!?

Now not just because it is a beautiful work...but I am very excited about this fundraising idea for so many reasons:

  • On the back of each puzzle piece the name of the sponsor will be permanently written.
  • As each piece is sponsored, the Shubin family [6 of them] will put it together - together :)
  • Years from now, the newest Shubin at a time when she might be sorting through some of those existential issues all kiddoes go through [more difficult I think for one who is adopted] -- this puzzle will be a visual reminder to her of those who participated in bringing her home. How wonderful is that?!! She will see over 500 names of individuals, families who gladly did so.
  • I had medical insurance when I delivered my children, but there is no "adoption insurance" and this simply is a beautiful God honoring fundraising idea that anyone can do.
Once the puzzle is completed, it will be displayed in a frame so that both front [art of Julia Cairns] and back [those who help "defend the cause of the weak and fatherless"] can be seen.

Click here to read more about it: Many Pieces Together Complete a Puzzle.

"A father of the fatherless... is God in his holy habitation. God setteth the solitary in families..." Psalm 68:5a, 6a.