Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Don't Feel Like You Have it In You?

Ever wake up in the middle of the night with something troubling you so you can’t go back to sleep?   Or have you ever been going about your day when suddenly a thought pops in your head and you immediately find yourself anxious or depressed?   

I like to think that I am a very resilient, very strong person.   And most of the time, I can do a pretty good job of keeping my head above water just by strong determination and a lot of will power.  I also have a strong faith and a prevailing sense of hope.

But I still have sleepless hours, moments of self-doubt and anxiety, and times when I wonder if maybe this is the time that I’m not going to make I through.   

It’s in those times that I have to recognize that it all doesn’t come from within me… that my only hope is in Jesus and that He will carry me through … even if … and especially when … I don’t  have it in me to carry on.

Maybe you are finding yourself at that point this week… if so, this song is for you!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Is Jesus Sad?

You probably know it by now, but Bart and I have weird conversations almost every day.  Yesterday on our way to church we saw a lady in a dress walking a dog and we were talking about whether or not she was going to church.   I said, “you know, it doesn’t even seem to matter any more if people go to church.  It doesn’t seem to change their behavior much” (ok, so I confess to having a moment of cynicism and being a bit judgmental.”

“I think Jesus is sad,” I said.   I explained to him that in a recent devotional a coworker had shared that the last prayer Jesus prayed in John 17 before heading of to his death was for us.   He said, “
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
I said to Bart, “That sure hasn’t happened.  How many denominations are there?  He of course knew the number off the top of his head.  “Last time I checked 14,328 in the United States alone.”

We have managed to divide ourselves that many times.  Unbelievable.  We are farther away from unified than ever before.

The Church universal has become a church of disagreement about almost everything.  But…. and this is the point of this rant — can you imagine the power we would have if we were united?  If we were, as Jesus said, one just like the Father and Son are one."? There would truly be no way to stop us.

This song is just as powerful today as it was when it was written in 1983.  (don’t judge the hair).

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Story of One of My Sons (Shared with Permission)

An adorable toddler with blonde hair and blue eyes walked into our lives on October 7, 1996. He turned 23 a couple of weeks ago. He was the first child to be parented by Bart and I, and the first child that changed my title to Mom. 
He came as a foster child and we were told we might be able to adopt him some day. We met his birth-mom and couldn’t help but have compassion for her. She was spunky … raised in foster care herself — but she had all kinds of things to work through. Her list that she needed to complete to get him back was long and hard. She had to visit him — fifteen miles away — and didn’t have reliable transportation. Finding housing was tough. She was battling generations of poverty. She finally gave up and moved out of state.
While he was in foster care with us, I would rock him to sleep and sing him this song that I wrote for him.
Lullaby and goodnight.
have sweet dreams precious tony
oh we love you and we are thankful
that you’re living here with us. 
Close your eyes, little boy,
go to sleep stop your weeping,
Jesus loves you little boy
and he’ll watch you while you’re sleeping.
And I would cry. I would sing “You are my sunshine” and sob at the end as I sang “please don’t take my sunshine away.” And yet, I knew that our role was supposed to be temporary.   (The picture of him below is when he was about three -- while we were still fostering both of these little guys.  This is one of my favorite pictures.   Weren't they the CUTEST EVER?

It turned out that we were allowed to adopt this little boy and raised him and loved him (and still do) through some pretty tough times. It wasn’t easy to watch him struggle with his identity. He sobbed in the counselor’s office in 8th grade trying to decide who he should research as his “ancestors.” He dreamed of what his birth family might be like. He was always trying to figure out where he fit in. He reunited with some of his birth dads family a few years ago and is living with some of his cousins now. 
For my sake, I’m so grateful that I had the privilege of being this kid’s mom. But for his sake, I wonder what life would have been like if his first mom could have had the support of a place called Homes of Hope, a program we are raising money for with this fundraiser. In the home, women who have infants and toddlers in foster care can move in until they are stable enough to get their kids back. Then they can live with them in the home until they are ready to make it on their own. 
I don’t know if his life would have been better or worse, but I do know that he would not have grown up wondering who he was. That struggle would have been removed and he could have focused on other things.
Tonight in Lynchburg four moms are living with their kids who are no longer in foster care. They are getting support and people are loving them and helping them to make good choices. It’s my hope that those families will remain in tact and those babies will not have to experience what our son did.
if you would like to support this program, we welcome your donations. My son Tony asked specifically that I go ahead and tag him in this post, because he has the most tender heart and wants people to hear his story. 
And now my little boy who toddled into my life at age 20 months is now a semi-pro beast of a lineman who wants his story told.   

And this is his favorite picture of himself, that he wanted me to share with you.  I know he would encourage you to donate to the fundraiser.... and would thank those of you who already have.  

You can do so here.  

Friday, February 16, 2018

Wait for it!

Part of the song below says this:

I feel the waves crashin on my feet 
It’s like I know where I need to be
But I can’t figure it out
Just how much air will I need to breathe
when your tide rushes over me
there’s only one way to figure it out…
will you let me drown?

That does not sound good.   Is it really the way it works?

Unfortunately, life is that way.   Things happen to us and the only way we can learn that God is there and won’t let us drown is if we stand in the ocean of adversity.  It’s during those times that we learn truth.  It’s there that we see beautiful things.

Is today a day for you where you are feeling great — on top of the world?  Or is this a day when you are standing in the ocean of adversity wondering if God is going to let you drown?

If so, hang in there.  Wait for it.  Wait for it.   Something beautiful is coming!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Test to see if you are good hearted

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about families in poverty because a great deal of the folks we serve where I work are deeply engrained in a culture of poverty.  

Tucked away in Proverbs 29, is this verse (7):

The good-hearted understand what it’s like to be poor;
    the hardhearted haven’t the faintest idea.

When I first read this verse it almost sounds like the writer of Proverbs is suggesting that only the poor are good-hearted.   But I think it is much different than that.   The good hearted if they are not poor work hard to learn what it means to be poor.  They seek understanding and work towards it.      Having good and open hearts means WANTING to understand how a person could end up homeless without saying “they get what they get” or “why doesn’t he just get a job.”

It seems to me that as Christians we need to take it one step further — we need to be able to get close enough to understand.   Staying as far away from the poor as we can does not lead to understanding them.   Being around them, being with them, talking to them, even entering into relationships with them is what leads to understanding.

Some of you have the opportunity through your work to do this every day.  Others of us have to make the effort.  But it seems that the call to taking risks is a call to get close to those we don’t understand, in order to gain that understanding — the understanding that Proverbs suggests is what the good-hearted have obtained.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Not sure?

Attending a Christian college meant that I heard a lot about “finding God’s will for my life.”   It’s what we were all doing.  Mission, Mate, and Master was one of the talks I remember.  All those decisions that needed to be made and we were all desperate to stay in the “center of God’s perfect will” in order to have the best life possible.

By the time I was a senior I had concluded that God cared much more about WHO we were than all those other specifics…. That It was more about our character than the course we were on… more about the journey than the destination.  In fact, my very first public speaking engagement was at the ripe old age of 21 when I spoke in our college’s chapel service about that very topic.

God gives us a pretty clear idea of His will for us in the example of how Jesus lived and in Scripture.   Love people, love God, no matter what.  If you err, err on the side of grace.  Forgive.   Live at peace with others.  Pray, give, be selfless.   In most of our decisions it’s obvious what the answer is.

But sometimes we just don’t know for sure, when both options would be morally and biblically OK.   I’m sure that some people felt like our move to Virginia was on a whim, but it was far from that.  A lot of prayer and discernment went into the decision (not as much compared to some people, i’m sure, but a lot for my personality!  

Today’s song is about those times when we just aren’t sure.   If you’re facing a decision and needing direction, this song may be for you today.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Seventy Times Seven

Yesterday I prayed the words that I have prayed nearly every Sunday for decades.    “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”   In some churches we have said “debts” and in others “sins” but the concept is still the same.

Either Jesus was teaching us to pray that as God keeps forgiving us we should keep forgiving others as in the same time or a continuous process.  Or maybe He was suggesting that we ask God to forgive us in the same manner that we forgive others.  I hope it’s not the latter.   

Regardless of which of those interpretations you choose to believe Jesus intended, the principle is the same.   We are expected to forgive and Jesus wanted us, whenever we prayed, to remember God’s example of forgiveness.  I don’t think that He was suggesting that God was only going to be as good of a forgiver as we are to others, but he wanted us to tie those two things together.  

In the parable of the two debtors in Luke seven Jesus drives this point home.  After telling Peter that he was to forgive someone 490 times (70 times 7, but really meaning infinity), he told the story of a guy who owed his master millions of dollars.  (for a cute story about one of my kids and a conversation we had in 2012 click here)   The master forgives his debt and he walks away and walked directly to find a dude who owed him a thousand and had him thrown in prison.   When the master found out, he had the servant thrown into prison saying, “Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?”

The implications of the parable are clear.  God forgives us so we forgive our fellow servants.  Period.   God is merciful, we need to be merciful as well.

Who do you need to forgive today?