Friday, February 23, 2018

A Chance Encounter

Today I have a really cool story to tell you about something that happened to me very recently.   And you might even tear up ….. because I did, and I hardly ever do.

Last night we had a dessert gathering for the table captains for our upcoming Patrick Henry Family Services gala in April.  We were at the Neighbors Place, a local restaurant, and we had a side room that was packed with people.  It was my job to describe to them what they could expect at the gala and what their responsibilities were as table captains.  I was gearing everything I said to middle and upper class church people.

I explained that they would be hearing three stories of people who had been helped by our various programs.  I was explaining to them that one of the stories would be from a Safe Family host family and the mom of the baby they had hosted.   I then said something like this:  

“One of our goals at PHFS is to connect the church with people who are marginalized so that they can rid themselves of generalizations.  If you develop a meaningful relationship with a recovering addict, for example, you can no longer say ‘All addicts are bad people’ because you have met one who wasn’t.  Or if a felon becomes your friend, you can’t fear all felons, because now you know one who isn’t frightening at all.  And somehow the people that we have a church work to avoid — the people that Jesus actually hung out with when he was on earth — become a part of our lives and everything changes.”

I continued on with my speech, getting a few laughs and seeing lots of enthusiasm, and Mr. Day closed the night in prayer.  Then I talked to a few people in the room and I started to walk out to the car for my 90 minute drive home.   A young woman approached me and I realized that she was one of the two servers that had been assigned to our room.

She came up to me and said just a few short sentences.   “I just wanted to thank you for all that you guys are doing.   I work three jobs and I didn’t want to come in tonight.  But I am a recovering addict and I am a felon, so I know now that God wanted me here tonight.”  And then she reached up and gave me a big hug.   I hugged her back and thanked her for taking time to share that with me.

I walked away from that experience so grateful that God uses us, used me even, in the most unlikely of situations.  I had no idea this girl was still in the room when I was speaking and obviously knew nothing of her history.  But God used a Gala Table Captain Instruction Speech, of all things, to remind a young tired struggling girl that He loves her.

Yesterday morning a coworker of mine sent out an amazing email that ended, in part, with these words.   "It is not how much we do, but how small we can do, to touch a life and make a difference,”  I had no idea she was being prophetic about my life that very night.

After reading that email, another coworker sent me this song that I never heard that so applies to this story and to all of as we seek do do what God is asking us to do each day.  

Here are the lyrics.

"For The One

Let me be filled
With kindness, and compassion for the One
The One for whom You loved, and gave Your Son
For humanity; increase my love

Help me to love with open arms, like You do
A love that erases all the lines, and sees the truth
Oh, that when they look in my eyes, they would see You
Even in just a smile; they would feel the Father's love

Oh, how He loves us
From the homeless, to the famous, and in between
You formed us, You made us carefully
'Cause in the end; we're all Your children

So help me to love with open arms, like You do
A love that erases all the lines, and sees the truth
Oh, that when they look in my eyes, they would see You
Even in just a smile; they would feel the Father's love

So let all my life, tell of who You are
And the wonder of, Your never-ending love
Oh, let all my life, tell of who You are
That You're wonderful, and such a good Father
Oh, let all my life, tell of who You are
And the wonder of, Your never-ending love
Oh, let all my life, tell of who You are
That You're wonderful, and such a good Father
You're wonderful, and such a good Father

So help me to love with open arms, like You do
A love that erases all the lines, and sees the truth
Oh, that when they look in my eyes, they would see You
Even in just a smile; they would feel the Father's love
Even in just a smile; they would feel the Father's love

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.