We are all Lost Without Light

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Last weekend our family took a camping trip in the midst of all this selling and buying a house business.  My husband works midnights and had been awake for 38 hours at the time we arrived at the campground well after dark.  It was a campground that was new to us so we had no clue where everything was located.  My husband got quick little instructions from the guy that checked us in and no map was given to us.  Needless to say we drove all around with one wrong turn and dead end after another.  We stopped by the office again where I ran in got further instructions and requested a map of the campground.   Even with that we lost the road we were on and could not really see the markers.   We still ended up on the wrong site, but it all worked out.  Miraculously our tent went up easily even in the tiredness and confusion.  We had a nice no drama time other than the lostness we felt when we first got there.

If it weren’t for instructions from someone that knew the way,  the map, and our headlights we probably would have ended up in the river.

This got me to thinking that this is such a picture of life.  We are thrust into this world completely lost.  When relying on our own strength and knowledge we really make one wrong turn after another.  There is one light  and only one light to guide us to our true home and that is Jesus Christ.  Looking to His road map, the Bible, and getting instruction from others that are wise in His word are the best instructions.  Most important is His light shining on our path in the direction we are to go.

The next morning we awoke to sunlight and could get a true perspective in how the campground was set up.  Looking on with daylight it was no wonder we were confused.  The road did disappear and the site markers were hard to find.  Only with full day light could we truly know where we were.   This reminds me of heaven one day when we get to see God’s Glory and plan in fullness.   Jesus is the light of the world.

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying,” I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 

 

What Would you do if you had a Million Dollars?

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One of our daughters just asked me this question.  She then followed with would you buy a different house?  My first answer was no, I just want to have no debt.  We then discussed college expenses and saving then then conversation topic fizzled.

The conversation fizzled out, but the thought of this question continued to weigh on me.  A million dollars does not actually go far in our world today it could be a start.  My self evaluation question became, “If money were no object what would you do?”   Then cycling back to the house question my answer started to turn to a yes.

For years now God has put this burning compassion for children who have been rejected and beat down by this world on my heart.  For one year now we have been in the trenches of Foster Care.  The more of the true story and true pain I see this compassion just grows stronger.  This is definitely a mission field that leaves you feeling like your heart has been torn from you, stomped on then placed back into your body to keep powering through beat by beat.

So this is my vision as hard and crazy as it sounds.  As I sit here completely emotionally exhausted God will not stop calling on this broken heart of mine.  Yes, I would buy a new house.  I would buy a working farm or ranch.  I would want to buy it where there are amazing hiking places.  I would start a children’s home with the proper support staff.  I would hire people with the same compassion and broken heart for what breaks God’s heart.  It would be an amazing place with jobs for the children to be assigned to based on abilities and personalities.  Nothing builds self esteem like a job well done.  I would want to do therapy during hikes because who wants to just stare eye to eye with a therapist.  Something about God’s creation truly relaxes and can cause true communication and healing to happen.

Truthfully I am worn out from just having one child that is in care at a time.  Truthfully I do not have the resource within my own self nor financially to make this a reality.  This one question has started to develop into a dream that God’s timing and provision can accomplish if it is in His will and plan.   My heart aches for children who are “unwanted”, for children who push away the one’s that truly want to help, for the children who feel unworthy of love…  My heart is to give as many children new Hope and a new beginning through the love of Jesus Christ.  So if I had a million dollars or if money were no obstacle I would buy a new house.  A house of Hope!!!!

“Mercy does not Need Reasons”

For weeks now I have wanted to blog about what I see as far as true love and support from a foster parent’s perspective.  Our situation has been purely a calling of God on our life as a family and as individual followers of Jesus Christ.   It has been very eye opening to see who and where true love and concern has come from.

The only non-judgmental truly supportive concern and understanding has come from our church family our actual church and fellow believers that attend other churches.   Jesus’ church of believers.  It has been people that have had a true encounter with Jesus Christ themselves and have had God’s calling on their own lives that provide the unconditional support our family so desperately needs.

This blog is not to point fingers or to provide direct quotes of questions we have been asked.  In general there is a lack of understanding as to why we keep on with all the sacrifices of time, finances, home, emotions,  and actual abuse against us for someone who may never “get it”?   Why do we keep on with all the inconveniences and scrutiny of “the system”?

This morning while working on the middle school girls Life group lesson God has helped bring this observation to a deeper level of understanding.  The story of the “Good Samaritan” one that I have read in Luke 10:25-37 many times throughout my life provides the best answers to the questions we are asked.

God’s call on the life of those who choose to believe and follow Him is this…  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;  and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

How can a human being whose nature is all about self survival, preservation, pleasure and promotion give completely unconditionally  to a stranger and possibly “the enemy”?    It is all by the power of God’s love.   It is coming to the understanding of how much God loves me even though I personally don’t deserve it.  God has shown me an indescribable amount of mercy and it is only through Him I can show this kind of mercy to others.  God has different plans for His people to show love to neighbors.  His plan for our family for this season is exactly what we are doing right now.

This morning I was having a morning where I was fighting with my own human nature and feeling very tired of the “behaviors”.   God’s word cut right to my core yet again.

I love a quote in the Wiersbe Bible Commentary I just read.  ” The Samaritan identified with the needs of the stranger and had compassion on him.  There was no logical reason why he should rearrange his plans and spend his money just to help an “enemy” in need, but mercy does not need reasons.”

I’m tired, I’m far from perfect, but God keeps speaking to my heart.  He keeps telling me to press on, not to give up, and  to give what ever it takes.

 

 

Just Look How Far You’ve Come

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A couple weeks ago I took all three of my children on a hike in one of our local state parks.  Hiking is one of my most favorite things to do outdoors.  The bucket list of hikes I would love to take is extremely long and gets longer and longer instead of shorter.  This was our foster child’s first real hike ever I am quite sure.  There was severe whining and complaining the entire hike.  This was a very short hike compared to what this momma really loves to do.  All along the way there were little break throughs amongst the complaining and threats from our child.  “I can’t go any further!!!  Oh look there is the same kind of bug you and I saw that one time mom!”   “Oh I hate spider webs!!   Oh my legs are worn out!!!  Oh look at the cool butterfly!!”  All three children missed the beautiful deer that crossed our path right in front of us.  All the way were opportunities to teach about God, His creation, His love, and that in life we need to stop, listen, and look otherwise we miss the greatest blessings from Him.  As the hike grew more intense with inclines so did the complaining.  The story of the Little Engine that Could (one of my favorites)  came in handy that day.  With each step I encouraged “I think I can…I know I can!!”  At one point I turned and looked at our child to keep encouraging and I saw just how far we had come.  I said “Turn and look and see just how far you have already come!!  I know you can do this!!”

We reached the top to see the awesome view and the first response was “wow!”.   Then that hard shell of pride and survival methods from a harsh life went back up.  The guard had been let down just for a moment showing a glimmer of hope that love was winning this child’s heart.  The opportunity presented itself to explain that the reason I love hikes so much is that they are hard.  The girls started telling him how they have even watched me fall down on hikes. It is a goal that requires physical, mental, and sometimes emotional work.  All along the journey God provides little views of His Glory and His Blessings.  Once we have persevered and reached the goal then we get to see something beautiful that we never would have seen had we not made the long journey.   Each hike I have ever taken I have gotten to see more and more of God’s glory, His beautiful handiwork of His creation.

So it is with life and definitely parenting.  Anything truly worth anything takes a lot of physical, mental, and emotional work.  As God directs and leads down new paths it is so hard.  I stumble, hurt, cry, feel like giving up and then He shows little snipits of His glory.  Each new hurdle in life God reveals more and more of His Glory to me that I would have missed had I not listened and taken the path He directed.

Not only was this hike a teachable moment for this young precious child it was one for mom as well.  Just keep looking at how far you have come I can hear my Heavenly Father encourage.  Just keep taking one step and one day at a time and trust me.

It is always good to look back and see what God has brought us through and the prayers that have been answered.  The past is not a place to dwell, but to learn from and press on.

So a message to all parents and especially foster/adoptive parents.  Just look at how far you’ve come!!!

Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

 

 

Life is More than a Vending Machine

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The other day my youngest daughter and I had dashed out of the house without eating any breakfast.  Our place of destination that morning happened to have a vending machine full of junk food that could provide a very short lived satisfaction to hunger pains (with no nutritional value I must add).   My daughter asked if I had change so she could get a snack until we can get some “real food”.  With those big blue eyes softening my heart I of course  caved and told her to go ahead and get some change from my wallet for  a snack.  Her first try to obtain a snack of her choice the tasty treat became entangled in the spiral mechanics of the machine and would not drop below to her reach.    Upon her second try for another choice the snack once again became stuck between the spiral grasp and the glass door of the machine.   After the second try  the only thing being fed was the machine with mom’s change instead of her belly so she decided to call it quits and just count her/our losses.

 

This encounter reminded me so much of the world we live in.  Some give and give yet never seem to get ahead or become successful according to the standards of our world.  There are some who may give a little and get what someone else paid for and lost.  There are some who may just shake life and make demands and the demands are granted without any work or effort.    Sometimes worldly systems work  sufficiently and one can get what they have worked/paid for.  Life can really seem unfair and meaningless.

Life of one who has a relationship with Jesus provides so much more than the give and take of this world we live in.  The things that are so fleeting and superficial, beauty, money, power, fame, attention, etc… start to become just that, superficial, as one’s relationship deepens with Jesus.   A quote caught my attention in Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe’s Bible Commentary of the New Testament.  “God’s love for His own is not a pampering love; it is a perfecting love.”    It seems all anyone wants to hear is what God will give give give.  Our lives are so much more than what we can get.  The world is so focused on “self” and what God and others can do for “me me me”.    God’s plan for us is to perfect us.  Not in a way the world sees perfection.  It is a perfection of faith and love.  The more He perfects our faith the more of His light and love can flow through us.   The stronger our faith the more God can work through us to love others perfectly.  The stronger our faith the less we let ourselves get in God’s way.  Sometimes deepening our faith means we have to go through a lot of pain, suffering, sorrow, and mistakes in this life.  When it comes down to it I would much rather be perfected than to have everything perfect.  When I look back on what may seem a complete mess in my own life I can see God’s perfect plan and how it evolved and refined my faith.

Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– His good, pleasing and perfect will. “

What is There To Look Forward To?

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What a crazy last couple of weeks.  Lots of illnesses, tragedies, accidents, evil acts, etc… so many life hurts moments for so many.  During a conversation with a loved one the statement “this world is going to hell” was made.  As well as “it just seems like there is not anything to look forward to”.  These two sentences have resonated with me all week.

There is a lot of truth in these words.  It is true that the world is going to hell and the only way to avoid eternal death and punishment is through Jesus.  “God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16  No matter how “good” we think we are we have all fallen short of God’s standard, perfect and sinless.  God knew that as soon as his creation became broken by sin.  He planned and offers the remedy to cover all our imperfections, Jesus.

Lack of sleep and continual bad news had me in quite a funk this week.  It is hard not to sin when physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.  My attitude and words have not been what they should.  Why? Because I am human and I fall short.  As a Christian the only difference in me than the rest of the world is that I know I fall short and need saving.  I need God’s forgiveness of my sin through his Son.  By giving my life to Christ he dwells within me (the Holy Spirit) and there is conviction when I am focusing on myself and not on God and others.  By God’s grace I have eternal life to look forward to.  There may come a point where there is such devastation that there literally is nothing on this earth and in life to look forward to other than how magnificent heaven will be.  Other parts of the world and some in our own country can’t even look forward to getting another meal.  When we have given our life to Jesus we do indeed ALWAYS and FOREVER have something to look forward to.

Life is not Meant to be Lived out Alone

Not a lot of time to type out thoughts lately, but this has been heavily on my mind.   Whatever our circumstances married or single, a parent or not a parent, and whatever our age we were not designed to make it through this life on our own.  We need others to survive for even our basic necessities like our food and water.  No one person can truly provide everything needed physically,definitely not emotionally, and most of all spiritually for their own selves.

One thing I have observed in life is that people that completely focus on their own selves and issues are clearly the most miserable.  Then there is the other end of the spectrum of people that are so concerned about bothering others that they don’t want to ask for or accept any help when they truly need it.  We fail to realize how much we are needed by others and that on occasion we really need other people.

God gave us one life to live.  He has surrounded us by other human beings whether or not we shut them out or embrace them is up to us.  There are moments in time that completely change our perspective and priorities.  A clean house, fancy cars, the latest technology, etc…what does it really get us? Stuff leaves us empty, but people make our life full.  God created us to desire a relationship with him as well as others.  He also created us to be the most happy when we are giving our all to him and to loving other people.  Life is so hard and we were never meant to face it and live it on our own.  I love the people God has blessed my life with to share in the happy times, sad times, and scary times.  Most of all I am thankful that God is bigger than everything that we face in this life and he has given us the gift of eternal life through Jesus.

Philippians 2:4 “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

When Christians Treat Your Dad Bad

So those who follow this blog know that my father who was a pastor passed away a year and a half ago.  He was ordained as a pastor when I was three years old and he started right into full time pastoring by the time I was four.  He was a full time pastor for 37 years and still pastoring before he passed.  He ministered to a total of 4 small churches during this time.  For some unknown reason  I had about 2-3 weeks that I have missed him more than I have since he passed recently.  During this time I attended a conference our church had and purchased books from our speaker.  One of his books was “The Coffee Shop that Changed a Church” by Steve Parr.  As I began reading this book the tears started flowing as the story developed and the characters of the narrative evolved.  One of my first thoughts was “my dad could have written this book”  there were so many similar experiences that he and our family had through the years.  Another thought was “I have a deeper understanding of a pastor’s life and heart than I even realized”.  The book left me with an even greater determination to pray for my pastors as well as all TRUE Bible preaching, Jesus following men of God throughout the world.

One sentence tucked away in the middle of this book caught my attention.  I should have had my pen in hand to mark it, but it was a narrative and I am always anxious to see what happens next.  There is no time for pens and no time for sleep when I am reading a good book!!!   In other words this may not be a direct quote because I can not find the tiny hidden sentence.   It referred to the fact that many children of pastors are turned off of the faith because they see Christians treat their dad bad.  This smacked me in the face and had me praying prayers of gratitude that God did not give up on me.   I went through a stage where I was sick of trying to be perfect and please everyone else.  It wasn’t really direct rebellion toward God or my parents.  It was more of the fact that people would actually try to get rid of my dad because of choices his children made or could make.  As a kid my dad and mom tried to keep the drama from me, but I still caught bits and pieces and would even hear comments made directly to my dad.  I would see the strain and stress in his eyes.  I would see him work 60 hours plus a week, come home from vacation to be with people in need, get called out in the middle of the night.  I saw him give and give and I would hear  people say things like “we pay your salary”, “we pay for your house”, “we pay your power bill”.   As I child I could see my father working very very hard for his sparse salary.   I always thought “Isn’t what we give actually God’s to begin with?”  I saw my father and mother give at least ten percent plus right back.

As I look back on my life I have many regrets, but those regrets led to much needed consequences to guide me back into God’s will.  My choices gave me a deeper understanding of sin and a deeper gratitude for the grace Jesus gave to me from that cross.  Being a preacher’s kid gave me the perspective that the church is full of sinners needing God’s grace as well as the whole world.  The temptations of pride and attacks from Satan are very real and a marvelous tool Satan uses to get people focused on how Christians act instead of focusing on Jesus.  I wonder how many millions have been turned off of the faith because of priests, pastors, and parishioners sin?   We compare ourselves to the hypocrisy of others to find excuse to not believe or behave how we “think” we want.  The greatest lesson in life I have learned through growing up as a preacher’s kid is that no one is perfect other than Jesus.  No one is “Holier than thou”.  It is about a personal relationship with Jesus.  The deeper my relationship the more I hunger to read God’s word more, pray more, to worship corporately in church, and hear the Word of God preached.  It is enjoyable to just be a regular church member as an adult, but I still see Satan attack.  There are times my own pride will tempt me and steal what God is trying to do in my own life.  There are times I feel prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak up firmly, but with love when I see pride tempting church members to focus on “self” instead of Christ.

It is all about Jesus.  I am a sinner saved by Grace who happened to be raised by a preacher.  My dad couldn’t save me, my church couldn’t save my soul, only the blood of Jesus saved my soul!!  If all Christians and churches focused on what we should, Jesus, think of how this world would change.

2 Corinthians 5:21″God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

The Things we Hang on to

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The other day I was searching through my closet and stumbled upon this old dress of mine.  I bought this dress in high school and graduated 24 years ago so it is at least that old.  The last time I put it on and thought of wearing it my youngest daughter and self proclaimed fashion expert told me it looked weird.  She said the dress was cute, but that I looked like an old lady trying to be a teenager in it.  Hey it still fits so personally I think that is half of the battle, but alas I followed the little diva’s advice and hung it back in the closet.  The bright pattern of this dress is what I love most and for some reason I simply can not part with it.  I figure if my husband and I ever get to go to Hawaii I will wear it there.  Even if I am NINETY I shall wear it!!

How many of us have things or areas of our lives we just do not want to give up?  That is the hardest obstacle I think there is for a person to come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  Satan puts it in our head that we would have to give up too much.  Looking back on my life what I have given to Jesus was what was weighing my life down.  My sins, grudges against others, etc…   When giving him the best of me he even takes that and makes it better.   Giving Jesus my all, the good, the bad, and the ugly has been the best decision of my life.  He gave everything for me, how can I not fully surrender everything to him?

What are you hanging on to?  What is so much more important than a life of freedom, joy, peace, hope, and that is eternal?

Matthew 16:24-26 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”