Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A banquet of grace, part 2

1 Peter 2:9-10 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”

Romans chapter 9 relates very much to what is being encapsulated here in 1 Peter (I recommend you read the whole chapter)...in addition to helping us understand who Israel really is, it is made clear that God is righteous when He shows compassion as well as when He condemns.  If we start with a humanistic vantage point, we cannot swallow that.  It seems unfair to us, and the question gets asked: “How could a loving God condemn anyone?”  If we have ourselves at the center, we tend to overlook the wickedness of our rebellion and begin to reason that though we might not be perfect, we certainly don’t “deserve” to be sent to hell.  We put God on the stand as if we could rightly evaluate these things.  But if we start with the vantage point that God is God, He made the world and everything in it for His glory, and then remember mankind rebelled and stands guilty before a holy God worthy of nothing but condemnation, we can begin to see the glory of His grace and compassion shining brightly, as well as the glory of His holiness in His just judgments.  And instead of putting ourselves in the judge’s seat, we get on our knees before THE Judge and plead for mercy because in light of His holiness and our own sinfulness, we do not “deserve” anything but His wrath.  On our knees, we ask “How can our Holy God look upon a sinner like me without crushing me?”   And as He pours His mercy out on us, we stand up by faith as new creations in Christ...children of God who is Father to the fatherless, rich in mercy, abounding in love.

What does this have to do with our adoption discussion?  Well, I think it is important to see that those of us who have been grafted into the people of God, those of us He adopted, are recipients of mercy.  It helps us see rightly, I believe, that adoption is based in the compassionate heart of God, not upon the merits or rights or “deservedness” of those being adopted...it is a living out of His grace, a display of His mercy, His redemptive love in action.  Grace, by definition, is poured out upon the undeserving or ill-deserving.

A few things happen if we support the idea that every child “deserves” a family, or “deserves” to be able to go to school or to have clean water, etc.  I know that sounds heartless, but hear me out and see if you can grasp the nuance I'm chasing here.
  • They get “visited” in a way that promotes a spirit of entitlement in contrast to the gratitude that should well up in the hearts of every recipient of mercy (including our own).  An indicator that this is happening is that the grace of God is not celebrated as it ought to be in either the giving or receiving.
  • Because God’s mercy isn’t made much of, the glory tends to land on whoever is doing the “visiting.”  We’re fellow sinners on our knees pleading for mercy, remember?    Matt 10:7-8 says: “And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'  Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.  Matt 5:16 tells us to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Our giving is a way of pointing people to Jesus, a means of making much of Him, not of ourselves.
  • The “deserving” idea also tends to keep us from giving cheerfully because we are quick to fall back into thinking about ourselves.  Ask yourself, when you face something hard, are you quick to think “I don’t deserve this?”  And on the flip side, when things are going well do you rejoice in God’s mercy or do you simply think life is going as it should?  When we forget that the mercies of the LORD are new every morning for us, and fall into a “I deserve this or better” frame of mind, we are far more concerned about our own comforts and pleasures and safety and general well-being than we are about being instruments of God’s mercy in the lives of others with the hope that they too might taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
I thought this needed to be brought up and considered because we live in a "rights and entitlement" society that can affect how we go about loving one another in a way that honors our Father.  I would add here that from the vantage point of God's justice, we should not stand by with excess while other image bearers of our God starve, have no option but to drink nasty water, be forced into child-trafficking, etc. If people are meaning "deserve" in this light, I hear you and agree...we ALL belong to God and we will all be called to account for how we live in relationship to others. Just think of the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. The rich man obviously didn't make the right choice! But if you've caught the nuance, the heart of the problem isn't so much that the suffering deserve to not suffer, but those of us who have had our suffering relieved are going to have a pretty tough time explaining to our compassionate Father why we didn't have pity like He did when we saw the depths of suffering around us and kept on feasting without offering them even a crumb when He not only lightened our load but gave us plenty to share. 
Next time, we will look at Psalm 8 because God has made mankind a little lower than the angels, crowned us with glory and honor, made us to steward or have dominion over the rest of His creation...He is mindful of us and has visited us. 

To be continued...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A banquet of grace, part 1

Rom 8:14-17  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out,"Abba, Father."  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
Gal 4:4-7 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Eph 1:3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

When I begin a study, I always like to reflect upon what God has revealed about Himself as it relates to the topic being studied.  So I opted to look up the Scriptures that talk about Him adopting us first.  There are a LOT of things we can note in these verses, and others that are like them, but let me just point out a few that really stuck out to me:

1) God makes us joint heirs with Christ, not second class sons. 

2) There is a price to pay to adopt, and God willingly paid it.

3) He chose us before the foundation of the world...adoption was not plan B for God, and it was a redemptive plan, a plan that pleased Him, and a plan that would make His grace known.

Now here are some thought/implications that come to my mind...ideas for us to think through more as we continue this study. 

1) All my children are adopted (I also like to use the term grafted) into my family, but for those who have a blend of homegrown and grafted children you are raising, it is interesting to note that God assures us that we are joint heirs.  Jesus knows it and we know it...our Father talks with us about it.  If you have adopted, you have most likely encountered questions from people asking if you know who the child’s “real” parents are, or the like (often asked in the presence of your children).  These questions send messages to all your children that can plant seeds of superiority in your homegrown kids and inferiority in your grafted ones.  Honestly, they don't even need the comments and questions...they are prone to think of it on their own.  Let us all be encouraged to communicate clearly on our part to every member that each wears our family name and they are joint heirs, each a gift from God and part of our family by His design, each loved and valued.

2) God paid the ultimate price for adopting us.  This relates to our question of starting point, and some might suggest this indicates that the family adopting should fully fund the adoption.  Maybe.  We’ll keep studying and considering.  Here’s another way of looking at it for our consideration though too.  Our God is triune in nature, and in our adoption the Father so loved the world that He gave His son, His Son came and lived a perfectly righteous life and died in our place, bearing the full wrath of the Father that was due to us, and the Holy Spirit seals us for the day of redemption...the community of God, if you will, worked together in bringing about our adoption as children of God.  As His representatives on the earth, there very well may be a legitimate body-of-Christ-working-together aspect that is appropriate in the funding of adoptions. 

3) Let point 3 simply encourage any who wrestle with the plan B idea of adoption to chew on this as well as point one...you see, we have to get over our own ideas that children we birth are “real” or “children of our own” in contrast to adopted children somehow not being real or our own once they are grafted into our family.  I flopped in this arena for our first adoption.  We were an infertile couple and very much desired to have children, and frankly, we adopted the first time because we were not able to conceive.   I loved God and wanted to raise children for His glory, but that first adoption journey was mostly about me and my dreams, and it was (as far as I was concerned) plan B for achieving them.  That was just where I was at.  But God used the process to open my eyes to the Plan A of it all in His mind, and He began to open my heart up to love the fatherless and to see His heart of compassion and His aim of redemption for the praise and glory of His grace.  Knowing that God is holy and infinitely wise and good and loving, I’m sure in my sinful finiteness I have a LOT more growing to do...I do know this though: I have tasted and seen His goodness and long to become more and more like Him.  Adoption is one of the clearest pictures of gospel grace I know of.  Before I adopted I didn’t pay any attention to it.  Now that God has led me down this road, His grace shines all the brighter to me as I consider His adoptive love, the price He was willing to pay, His compassion towards a sinner like me.  He has made me a co-heir with Christ.  If you're a Christian, you too are a co-heir.  Amazing grace.  Plan A.  

I’m looking forward to studying this out more because I believe God has provided a feast for us here to enjoy, a banquet of His grace.  PLEASE continue to give feedback and interact throughout this study ...I have very much appreciated the different vantage points people have shared so far, and my hope is that the interaction will help every reader's taste buds be enlivened to taste the goodness of God better.  Let’s just remember that we are all in the process of being sanctified, at various places in our walks with the Lord and ALL of us have room to grow...let’s continue to be gracious and patient with each other in our comments as we search out and pray for God’s heart relative to the fatherless and adoption. 

to be continued...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Examining starting points

Sweeter than Candy parts 1 & 2 evoked a bit of helpful discussion, and I'd like to provoke a bit more if I can.  Being a disciple of Jesus, I do not want to hold firm to and spout my own opinions if they are not true to God, but rather I want to be humble and teachable as I search His Word and hear the vantage point of others who love Him and may be wiser than I in an area.  It dawned on me as I have chewed on the interaction of these posts that my present views are based more on impressions from the Scriptures, books I've read, and my own experiences than they are on any serious study of what God has to say about the fatherless and how He calls upon us (His people) to minister to these "least of these."  So I invite you to join me in a bit of a study...and as I begin mine, here are some comments that will give you a clue as to my starting point and the areas I want to explore.

The opinions expressed in Sweeter than Candy (all coming from those who state their love of God) seem to have one of two starting points...either they start with the idea that:
  • adoption is a family decision (a way of growing the family which also helps a fatherless child and is a Christian thing to do) which leads to the conclusion that the family is fully responsible to fund the process.
OR they start with the idea that:
  • caring for the fatherless is a ministry of the body of Christ and adoption is one of the ways of accomplishing this mission, which involves families stepping forward to bring the fatherless into their families who may or may not be able to cover all of the upfront costs of bringing this about.  Since the starting point here is that caring for the fatherless is a ministry of the body of Christ, it follows that the body can and should work together to bring children into Christian families (not because they are entitled or have rights, but because we display His glory as we imitate the One who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many... the world will know that we are His disciples by our love as we live it out together).  
Now keeping those starting points in mind, I want to dive into what I know is even more controversial waters and invite your interaction.  Let's set up a scenario...let's say there is a godly family who faithfully serves in a local church, they have four children already (doesn't matter to me whether they are homegrown or grafted), they home-school, have a good reputation in their community, and the husband/dad makes a sufficient income to add at least one more child to their family and they have the desire to do so by adoption because God has given them a heart for the fatherless.  Looking at their budget and the estimated time line of adoption, they think they would most likely be able to come up with about half of the expenses related to adoption if they were to start the process immediately.  Now:
  • Should they keep waiting and saving til they can cover it all?  After all, in a lot of situations, the lack of funds IS an indicator of whether to proceed with something or not.  Our consumer-hungry society that says we should have whatever we want, whenever we want, money available or not, sickens me in general.  
  • Should they approach their church officers and see if they could offer themselves in the ministry of adoption with the request for others to come alongside them to help?  
  • Should they begin the process and ask God to provide the difference without saying a word to anyone else, trusting that He will provide if He has truly indeed called them to adopt?  
  • Should they jump into a bunch of fund-raising activity that may well put a strain on faithfully fulfilling their other clear responsibilities?
  • Should they ask unbelievers (kind of like plundering the Philistines) to help at all (be it family members or facebookathons, etc)?
  • Are there other options you can think of? 
What does God's Word have to say to these kinds of questions not only to the ones desiring to adopt, but to those who are in the position to come alongside them, pray for them, encourage them, and yes even help financially?  You see, we ALL have a starting point and it affects not only what we will step out and offer to do ourselves, but it also affects how we give aid. 

Here's where it gets more controversial...in the giving department, will we give if we do not get anything but the smile of God in return?  Luke 14:13-14 says: "But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just."  Do we need a tee-shirt or beads or anything else?  Let me say before I go on that I see absolutely NO problem in selling these things as a means of fund-raising, as long as the work involved in it isn't taking you detrimentally away from clear, God-given responsibilities.  In fact, the tee-shirts often promote the message of adoption and provide conversation starters that can be wonderful opportunities. And things like beads are often also supporting the work of poor people in other countries, providing them with income as well as helping to raise funds for adoption. And puzzle pieces when put together provide a beautiful reminder of God's body working together to bring your child home.  These can also provide an opportunity for fund-raising families to work together in a bonding sort of way as they get ready to bring another member into their midst.  I have NO PROBLEM with those who do these things, but I do ask why the need to do these things is there.  MY POINT is that if caring for the fatherless is the ministry of the body of Christ, then the body should be eager to lift burdens, not add them.  If you are married and already raising children, possibly homeschooling, working at maintaining a healthy marriage, serving at church, blessing your neighbors, trying now to adopt which is not only budget tapping but time-consuming, I think it is sad that there's a need to practically run a business on the side to get a few more dollars here and a few more dollars there.  What is our starting point? 

Let's jump to a different scenario for a minute.  I have an extra 23 month old with me, presently snoozing away in my son's room because his mommy (a friend of mine) is recovering from a medical emergency.  What does a friend do?  What does a sister in Christ do?  She lifts burdens.  "What can I do to help?" comes sincerely out of her mouth.  So, yesterday I gladly went and picked up my friend's son to hang out with us for awhile.  Friends don't say "tough it out" except when the person needs a kick in the pants and saying that is the right thing to do.  They offer to help when they can, and they do so cheerfully.  If you are not in a position to help, a kind word may be all you have to offer and that is fine...we can only do what we can do.  Time is a resource and I'm using it right now to help a friend.  Last week I was busy with getting ready for a fund-raising garage sale so when the request for help with meals came, I couldn't offer.  This week my time was free enough to offer childcare.  As we're able, are we cheerfully willing...that is the question?  Money is just another resource.  Why do we cling so tightly to it and micromanage it's use when it comes to giving.  We do not think twice about going out to eat simply because we feel like it and we can, or stopping in at Starbucks or seeing a movie, but heavens forbid we give $10 away without praying about it first and examining closely the worthiness of the recipient.  Is there room for reasonable discernment?  Absolutely.  I only mean for that to be a bit of an ouch if the shoe fits.  So jumping back to the adoption scene, if  friends (or friends of friends) are adopting and you know they are responsible, Jesus loving people...and you're in a position to help lift a burden, what stops you?  Why do we treat this arena of life like charity and want to see them reduced to eating bread and drinking water before we'll give?

Praise God for friends who know and love you enough to tell you when you're out of bounds, but people who are living faithfully (not perfectly, but clearly in process of sanctification) who are asking for the help of brothers/sisters/friends are not needing to have all our critical opinions poured out on them which tear down and do not build up...Kerri mentioned the tension she thinks she would feel if she were ever a fund-raising family..."tension" is a good word.  Erica mentioned that she was chastised for not letting the needs be known when they adopted Silas (no fund-raising that round), and now that she has laid it out there, she is learning the other side of criticism...seems like no matter how you go about adoption, the critics abound.  Why is that?  And why is it launched largely by those who claim to love God, the Father of the fatherless?  Don't get me wrong...I read a number of adoption related blogs and am moved to praise God often for the kind and encouraging words and the generous giving of many that I witness among friends and acquaintances in blog-ville.  There is a lot of good going on for the glory of God!  It thrills me.  My hope and prayer is to seek to grow in accordance with God's Word by the power of His Spirit, and spurn others on to do the same so that love will abound and God's glorious grace would be put on display more and more in the lives of His people.   I think it is safe to say we, as the people of God, still have room to improve in grasping His heart for the fatherless.  Will you join me in searching His Word, and praying for His heart in this area?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why bother?

Yesterday I finished reading the 52 meditations by Paul David Tripp in A Shelter in the Time of Storm.  Each short chapter chews on some aspect of Psalm 27, with a heavy emphasis on waiting upon the Lord and delighting in Him.  There were some gems that shone brightly to me in this small work of his and today, before I pass it along to a friend that just might be encouraged by it too, I wanted to share one more of the poetic meditations with my readers. It starts a little on the depressing side, but press on peeps...

"I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!" - Psalm 27:13

I consider
the brokenness of the world
and I think,
"Why bother?"
I look
at the corruption all around me
and I cry,
"Why bother?"
I face
my war with sin inside and outside,
and I ponder,
"Why bother?"
I look
at the problems of the culture around me
and I lament,
"Why bother?"
I scan
my world, broken by disease and misuse,
and in sadness say,
"Why bother?"
I consider
the statistics of violence and abuse
and I think,
"Why bother?"
I am assaulted
with the reality of endless wars between nations,
and overwhelmed say,
"Why wonder?"
 I am defeated
by temptation's power
and cry,
"Why bother?"
I ponder
how good is called bad and bad good,
and in frustration say,
"Why bother?"
I search
for hope like a parched man for water
but end up thinking,
"Why bother?"
I look
to myself and see weakness and want,
and in grief say,
"Why bother?"
I should live for leisure and comfort
and give into
"Why bother?"
I should exist for the here and now,
and forgetting forever say,
"Why bother?"
I am tempted
to live for power and control,
and for greater things say,
"Why bother?"
personal pleasure in the here and now
is what it's all about;
"Why bother?"
But in
exhaustion I look up and not around
and I say,
"Why bother?"

Why bother?
Because You are and You are good.
Why bother?
Becaue You dispense goodness and grace.
Why bother?
Because You bring life out of death.
Why bother?
Because You have a plan and it will be done.
Why bother?
Because I have been welcomed into Your Kingdom of Life.
Why bother?
Because I am always with You.

It is true
that my eyes don't always see
and my heart isn't always confident.
It is true that darkness overwhelms me
and fear leaves me weak.
But You come near.
You remind me once again
that I can be confident
You were unwilling to say,
"Why bother?"

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sweeter than candy part 2

I love folks like George Mueller and Lillian Trasher who made their requests before God Himself and waited upon Him to move in people's hearts, rather than asking other people directly.

And I hear Alida in her comment to my last post...I'm not in any way condoning or wanting to encourage people taking advantage of the generosity of others while they sit on their own wealth, but I also want to come along side those who are wanting to do what they can to help the fatherless, knowing that together we can make a difference in the lives of these children for the glory of God as they become members of Christian households.

In the Bible, along with Paul being a tent-maker to pay his missionary expenses we also have the widow with only a jar of oil who was instructed by God to ask all her neighbors for empty jars which He then miraculously filled as a means of providing for her and her family...both examples were God-directed.  What I attempt to discern is whether the person presenting the "opportunity" is walking by faith and trusting God to provide as they live out their die-to-self, live for Jesus lives...personally we've walked the "tent maker" road twice relative to adoption and the "empty jars" (by way of very rough analogy) road once and all three adoptions I believe were fully lead by God. And in a great many ways, the "empty jars" road was a sanctifying trek that needed to be walked out by us to open our eyes to a bigger picture. 

Truth be known, we were not in the desperate straights that the widow needing jars was...we still had food to eat and clothes to wear and a house to live in without the threat of any of those things being taken away.  But the reality was she rightly desired to provide for her family and didn't have the means...she needed to fully rely upon the LORD and the generosity of neighbors to be able to accomplish it as she walked by faith and obedience to all the Lord commanded her.  One thing was plain: she was not sitting on a pile of wealth and her neighbors knew it.  Both Paul and the widow were doing all they could in obedience and faith...THAT should be our heart, for the glory of God.  We shouldn't be like the kid in school that has a group project that is happy to let every body else carry the load while he coasts into a good grade...THAT is not glorifying to our Father.

In Jeremiah 5, we are told of the impending judgment of God against His people and one of the few specific sins listed has to do with not caring for the fatherless...it seems like this is a "God's people" thing throughout the Scripture, not simply individuals that decide to grow their families in this way.  It's about compassion and displaying God's love to those who need it.  There are people who can support, love and train up more children and have the heart to do so.  I do not think they lack integrity by offering to do what they can do and asking others to do what they can.  I think they rightly understand that we are part of a body that is to work together for the glory of God.  Now is it glorifying to mooch? No.  Is it glorifying to beg? No. But it is glorifying to say "Here I am, all I have is yours, and I'll follow You anywhere, even if it means walking down the humbling road of asking people to come alongside me in this good work trusting that You have the whole thing orchestrated in every detail."

God is benevolent; a cheerful Giver.  He asks us to be like Him.  Will we be taken advantage of sometimes?  Probably.  On judgment day, whose problem is that going to be (the one who in good faith sought to honor God by giving cheerfully or or the one who took advantage)?  On the flip side, if we link arms and resources with others who are serving God in truth, we get the incredible joy of being parts of each others story and how can it not bring a smile to God's face to see His children loving others together?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sweeter than candy

On Face-book tonight I read a discussion thread that related to the idea of asking for help in raising funds for adoption, and it depicted a spectrum of viewpoints.  One argument ran along the lines that if you can't afford to pay the fees related to adoption, you shouldn't do it.  The line of logic carried on by questioning whether the family would have to fund-raise to pay the expenses associated with raising the child too.  I hear the argument and live by the principle behind it largely in my life...we are a pay as you go, live within our means, practice contentment sort of family.  We are children of the King of all kings, not beggars.  But here is a question for us to consider:  Is presenting an opportunity for the body of Christ to work together, where you're offering to do the lion's share of the work, the same as begging?

I admit that I've seen pleas from Christians who have set their heart on something, be it adoption or a mission trip or some other ministry based thing that come across manipulative and desperate and do not reflect the goodness of God very well at all.  These leave a bad taste in my mouth, frankly.  I wholeheartedly believe that God will provide for what He calls His people to do, in His time, according to His wise and loving plans.  But us kids need to remember He is the One setting the agenda and making provision, and we are to walk with a child-like trust in Him, following His lead.  But when we try to set the agenda and then demand He fork over the needed resources for our plans, a good ole-fashion spanking is perhaps what we need.   We're acting like beggars at that point and making our Father look like He's holding good things back from us.  That just plain isn't true!  Aren't we glad that He's a faithful Father who disciplines those He loves?   

With that said, sometimes we have to spit the bad taste of the beggarly approach out of our mouth to make room for the beautiful fruit of working together as the body of Christ.  We have to step back from our individualistic mindsets to see the bigger picture of Christ at work through His people to preach the gospel, to set captives free, to minister to orphans and widows, and all the other wonderful redemptive works He is doing in this world as He makes His bride ready for His coming.  This is the mission of the body of Christ, not lone maverick adventures.  Adoption is one of those beautiful opportunities to work together to make the glories of Christ known.  Sure some families can figure out how to pay all the expenses...we did it twice, but even then it was by God's grace and provision, not something for us to boast in.  Sometimes God provides through many people coming alongside you in the journey and they're happy to play a part...we traveled that road to our third adoption, only being able to come up with half the expenses ourselves.  We know from being on the receiving end that we were not aiming to mooch off of others, but that truly it was an opportunity we were presenting for others to work with us to make one less orphan in the world.  I don't know of anybody who helped us that has any regret, and I know we don't, and our son Paul seems pretty happy to have a mom and dad who loves him...our prayer was that God would be glorified, not belittled, in the process.  I believe He answered our prayers.

Sometimes people are moochers and if you bite, the taste left in your mouth is less than desirable.  Sometimes people understand God is at work in ways that are bigger than themselves and they're ready to follow Him, roll up their sleeves and do the lion's share of the work, but they understand if the job is going to get done that others are going to have to come alongside and assist... and they pray for God's provision and make the opportunity known and wait upon the Lord to orchestrate it according to His good pleasure, trusting Him.  I'm finding that assisting these folks is sweeter than candy.

Here's a thought:  If you hold really tightly to the principle that people shouldn't do anything they can't afford upfront to do, you might want to step back and ask if God may be up to something big and glorious...and if He is, maybe, just maybe you might want to accept the privilege of being a part of it. 

We were glad, with the help of friends, to have the privilege of hosting another fund-raising garage sale this weekend for the Shubins, Shubins, Masers, and Walsers who are all in various stages of the adoption process.  These are folks who understand God is at work in ways bigger than themselves...sweet  family members in the body of Christ.  Here are a few pics from the event:
This is me, my daughter MJ, and my niece Leah wearing our somewhat matching "Simply Love" shirts...we have Africa and America represented, but since my two other children are from Korea we think we need to figure out how to get one with Asia represented on the front...any of you t-shirt people know how to do that?

Isn't this a cool perambulator?  Doesn't it scream the stories of Babar?  In the background, you see some of the other friends who came over to help...I would have been sunk without them.  We set up 12 tables around the front and side of our house and had OODLES of donated items...thank you to all the cheerful givers who provided items to sell, and to all who came to make purchases.  We prayed for at least $500 and in dollar form we raised $499 along with a wee bit of change to push us over the top.   Thank you Jesus.
I didn't get a picture of the side of the yard that housed the bulk of the items for sale (sorry Erica).  This last pic was towards the end of the day during a customer-less moment...We were nearly pooped by then and happy to sit for a bit.  The very blond gal is affectionately known to my family as Aunt Angie and we're so excited to see her and her husband Steve begin the process of adoption (their blog is highlighted as the first "Shubin" above). 

Our contribution to their adoptions is only a drop in the bucket, but each drop adds up whereas no drops do not.  We're happy to do what we can and thank the Lord for letting us be a part of these amazing stories.  We're not made to be mavericks.  Throughout the creation account, God kept saying how what He had made was good, until He stopped between Adam and Eve to note it was not good for man to be alone.  Our God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit...until Adam was created there had NEVER been aloneness and God made it a point to make sure we knew we were made in His image, which in part means we were made to live in loving community, not as independent mavericks.  There is application to marriage, but broadly we are all made to live connected to one another, married or single, giving and receiving in community as the Spirit leads and empowers for the glory of our great God who made us in His image.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Psalm 27:13

My hubby and I went to a bookstore called Monergism to check it out on Tuesday.  Mike can go into a bookstore to simply look.  Amazing!  Me, on the other hand, think of browsing without being able to buy as somewhat like going to Disneyland without being able to go on any of the rides.  And as anyone who knows us might expect, Mike left with no books and I left with five "deeply discounted" ones.  I jumped right into one by Paul David Tripp titled A SHELTER IN THE TIME OF STORM: MEDITATIONS ON GOD AND TROUBLE, and want to share a piece of it with you.  I hope you enjoy this snippet that I intend to chew on all day.

My one clarifying thought is that I wholeheartedly believe the LORD graciously reveals Himself in His word and we are not free to remake Him according to our imaginations...theology and principles and worldview do matter in the journey of getting to know Him as He really is.  So when I chew on this poem with its beautiful emphasis on the LORD, I'm not aligning myself with the "no creed but Christ" crew that forsakes creed for a Christ of their imagination...I want God as He reveals Himself to be in His holy word....He is and He is Who He is and He is good.

"I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!" - Psalm 27:13

"I have one place of confidence,
one place of rest
and peace
and hope,
I have one place of surety,
where courage
can be found
and strength
waits for the taking.
I have one place of wisdom
where foolishness wanes
and truth grants freedom.
Alone I am not confident,
no pride in strength
or knowledge
or character.
I know who I am,
the duplicity of my heart,
the weakness of resolve,
the covert disloyalty
that makes me susceptible
to temptation's hook.
I have one place of confidence;
it isn't a theology
a book
a set of principles
a well-researched observation
a worldview.
No, my confidence is in YOU.
You are my hope because
You are Good.
I rest in the goodness of Your
in the goodness of Your
in the goodness of Your
in the goodness of Your
in the goodness of Your
in the goodness of Your
in the goodness of Your
I have learned
and am learning
that the physical delights
of the created world
were not designed to be
the source
and hope
of my confidence.
No, all of those things
in their temporary elegance
were meant to be
that point me to the
always available
always holy
goodness that can only be found
in You.
I have learned
and I am learning
that confident living
always rests its foundation
on You.
I a m confident
because of this solitary thing,
You are
and You are good."

Monday, August 2, 2010

borrowed nuggets on modesty and leadership

I was popping around blog-ville this morning and came across some posts by Nancy Wilson that I thought worthy of consideration so I am passing them along.  There are a variety of nuggets within to chew on in these short posts.

Here they are in order:
Beach Treats, posted by Nancy Wilson
More on Beach Wear, posted by Nancy Wilson
Sons and Swimwear, posted by Nancy Wilson in which she also refers to a related article by her husband Doug Wilson titled Shanky Movie III
And lastly, at least so far, a post by her daughter Rebekah called Popping In

I have a sneakin' suspicion that there is a wide array of opinions and practice among my particular readers, but one thing I know about those who I know read this blog is that you are Jesus-lovers and wanting to grow in His likeness.  There may be something for each of us to glean here...I'd like to hear your thoughts on these if you take a few minutes to read them.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

cheerful givers

"But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.  As it is written:

"He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever."

Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness,  while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.  For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men,  and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"
- 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Meet the Walser's and feel invited to rejoice with them (thanks Erica for the pic...I kind of borrowed it from your post this morning which my readers can read HERE).  My heart is just simply giddy and overflowing with praise to God who arises on behalf of the fatherless.

Rachel tells the story so well herself that I'm simply going to send you to her blog for the bigger story, but here is the short of it.  They've been jumping through the many a hoop it takes to adopt and as of July 23rd, they finally made it to the waiting list.  Almost immediately they were matched up with a beautiful 4 year old girl and the race to come up with the referral fee of $8,300 was on.  They had a week to come up with it, and being His good pleasure to do so, God moved upon the hearts of cheerful givers to raise it up in 4 days.  Thank you Jesus...we have just witnessed the Spirit-empowered body of Christ working together to supply the needs of the saints in a way that has moved many to give thanks to God.

Recently I was asked "How much does it cost to adopt?"  My answer was (and is) "not nearly as much as it cost my Father to adopt me."  Yes there are a lot of fees associated with adoption, and everyone who plays a part in the process wants a paycheck so their family can eat too...yes it is expensive and you can sit around making judgments about which fees are reasonable and whine about it (which demotivates people really quickly) OR you can put it in perspective.  God the Father sent His Son to die in our place...He paid the ransom needed for our adoptions and it wasn't paid out in silver and gold, but His very blood.  All of a sudden, the fees don't look like as big of a deal...they're simply an opportunity for God to show Himself mighty over and over again in the here and now.

Matt 10:7-8 "And as you go, preach, saying,'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give." 

Praising God today for the many cheerful givers who have tasted the goodness of the Lord and have given freely to help bring Abigail Lynne Walser home!