Borrowing God’s Smile

Borrowing God's SmileLast Saturday, I had the privileged of hearing Joni Eareckson Tada speak as the keynote at a banquet we attended. Everyone agreed that her presentation was powerful, but one part of one story stood out to me. She said that many mornings, if her husband needs to run errands, she wakes up to hear one of her girlfriends making coffee in the kitchen and finds herself unready to face the day. Soon her friend will walk into the bedroom with a cup of coffee, a cheery good morning, and the intent of helping Joni through an arduous morning routine necessitated by her quadriplegia. On those mornings, Joni said she begins to pray, telling God how tired she is, how little energy she has, and that she lacks a smile to give to her friend when the woman walks through the bedroom door. As she reached that part of her illustration, Joni smiled at the audience and said, “I don’t have a smile. But God does.” When her friend comes into the room, Joni has a smile for her. The secret is getting God’s smile instead of relying on her own, non-existent smile.

Hearing Joni’s message was a good reminder to me. I tend to want to do things in my own strength. Far too often when Mom asks me, “Well, have you prayed about that?” I have to admit that I forgot to ask God for help or guidance. Oops! Bad idea.

In one of my personal favorite blog posts, Just Buy Diapers, we considered how David wasn’t intimated by the size of Goliath (his problem) because he knew the size of his God. I think the idea of borrowing God’s smile runs along the same lines. Before we look outside of ourselves for a solution, we have to recognize and acknowledge our own lack. After we realize we need help, we can turn to God for his strength, wisdom, creativity, peace, patience — His smile.

This past week, considering Joni’s smile from God prompted me to go to the Lord and tell Him how hard writing has been for me lately. Progress on the sequel to Counted Worthy has been at a standstill for months because my creative well was dry. So I asked Him for His creativity to mold the story and push it forward. Guess what? He’s been giving it to me. A little every day.

Whether we’re struggling to write, smile, do our school work, reach for excellence at work, reach out to others, or minister to orphans, the answer is recognizing that we lack and God has. He has everything we need, especially when it comes to the resources we need to serve Him.

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The Importance of Asking Questions

Asking Questions“Actually, we really need bigger size diapers,” the lady at the crisis pregnancy center told me. “A lot of people don’t realize this, but hospitals will send new parents home with the small diapers, and babies grow so fast they’re only in the small sizes for a short time. Mom’s come in and want to trade for bigger diapers and a lot of times, we don’t have any.”

“Is there anything else besides diapers?” I asked.

“Brand new car seats. It’s hard to use old ones because we can’t monitor recalls and we don’t know if they’ve been in car accidents. Pack n plays would be good too. We have plenty cute clothes because people like to shop for those, and women from a nearby assisted living place knit all our blankets for us. We have been running out of winter clothes sometimes, though.”

Asking questions is not something that comes naturally to me. If possible, I prefer to prepare ahead of time by doing research and showing up equipped to sound knowledgeable. A lot of times, that’s a good thing. It can also be a pride problem. Asking questions is an essential aspect of communicating, learning, and forming connections with other people.

When we try to assist people in ministry, questions are so important. People on the front line know the needs better than anyone else, and it isn’t helpful to them when the rest of us assume we know how to help. Several ministries I know of struggle with easily collecting the “fun” resources they need while waiting months for someone to provide more mundane items. People would rather buy baby clothes than diapers. It’s more fun to purchase craft supplies than oatmeal. Sometimes we forget that we’re making donations in order to fill a need for someone else, not entertain ourselves. Asking questions can alleviate that tendency.

When I asked questions at the crisis pregnancy center, I learned some stuff I didn’t know before and got good ideas for effectively choosing further donations. If I want to send something to the orphans I support in India, it helps to message their foster mom ahead of time to find out what they need most from their Amazon wish list.

Asking questions also shows the front line works that you care. Most people in ministry don’t enjoy constantly asking people for things. They don’t want to feel like a burden. Asking them what they need tells them that you’re behind them, thinking of them and caring for their needs and the needs of the people they’re ministering to.

But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. —Hebrews 13:16

My dad recently pointed out to me that the word communicate means both talking and sharing resources. The Greek word that translates “communicate” means partnership, participation, benefaction.

Asking questions, learning how to help, and then using your resources to participate in the work combine to equal effective communication.

Goers, Senders, and Bringers – Which Are You?

Goers, Senders, and BringersMissionary mail stacks up quickly at my little church. As a member of the missionary committee, one of my jobs is to sort the missionary mail out from the bills. Sometimes it also falls to me to read the mail. Several months ago as I read through the newsletters and personal notes, I came across a brief comment that stuck with me.

Most Christian ministries currently lack two things: long-term workers and adequate financial support.

Since reading that, I’ve thought a lot about the need for senders (those who provide financial support to missionaries) and goers (the people who actually go on the mission field–whether that be in the US or abroad). In the realm of orphan care, there are also bringers (the people who bring orphans into their homes and families).

Each of these roles are of great importance as we try to serve orphans. As members of the body of Christ, each person has a different role that contributes to the overall purpose.

For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. –Romans 12:4-5

Which of these roles do you fill or can you see yourself filling?

Right now I’m a sender. I’m not currently in the place to be a bringer, and I’ve only been a goer for a very short missions trip. This blog provides a support role to orphan care, and I love financially supporting orphan care ministries whenever possible. In the future, I could see moving into any of the three roles. Each have their own unique importance.

Does one role appeal to you more than the others? What do you see as the pros and cons of the different roles?

ReMoved

A glimpse into the life of a foster child. Younger teens, please ask your parents to preview this clip before watching yourself. It is fictionalized but powerful.

P.S. I just started a new job, so my postings may be more sporadic for a while. Please be patient!

Guest Post: 5 Things Foster Families Want You to Know

5 ThingsI’m very excited to introduce you to Anna, the author of today’s post. She’s a friend of Amanda’s, and Amanda was kind enough to give her my contact information, which got the ball rolling for this post. Anna’s family is a foster family, and she has some great stuff to share. So, without further ado, here’s her post.
~*~
Foster care is like a rollercoaster. It’s exciting, sometimes scary, and always worth the ups and downs of the ride. My family got on this roller coaster about two years ago, and we’ve learned so much along the way. On this journey, we’ve both answered and asked many questions, and I’ve consistently grown in my own knowledge of the foster care system. There is so much more to know about it than most people do.

1. We (foster families) are not saints.

In my experience, I have often seen or heard people referring to foster families as “saints.” It’s often meant to be a compliment, indicating what kind, wonderful, selfless people we must be in order to do this. We’re not saints. We’re flawed, utterly imperfect human beings who make plenty of mistakes. Honestly, foster families are not as incredibly different as we may seem. We’re taking care of kids. Yes, these kids have been through a lot, and yes, they are not “ours,” but what we are doing is being a voice, a familiar face, and a family while their parent’s case runs it’s course. I once read an article that phrased it well:
“The idea of sainthood makes it impossible for ordinary people to do this – and the truth is the world needs more ordinary, human foster parents.”

2. We do get attached.

“I would get too attached.”

I’ve heard that sentence many times throughout my experience as a foster sibling. People say this as if it is a bad thing. Yes, if you had children living with you full time, going through life with you and relying on you as their family, you would absolutely get attached. Getting attached is, in my experience, the most natural thing in the world. What a lot of people do not realize when saying this, is that you are insulting foster families. To say you would get “too attached” implies that we don’t. We absolutely get attached, but it’s worth it. It is worth it to show love to children who need it, regardless of how long they are with you. Memories last forever, and this experience has given me so many treasured ones.

3. There is a false idea that there are enough foster families and volunteers.

There seems to be a false mindset that there are already plenty of people involved in this ministry. There aren’t. It isn’t just foster parents that are needed. Teens willing to go help out a foster mom with young kids, spreading the word to your friends, donating your old things, all are simple ways that make a difference. Prayer is a huge help. It may sound like a silly, last resort kind of option, but we have had so many people praying for us throughout our journey and I can truly say it is so incredibly important. Don’t just pray for the foster families or the foster kids – pray for the case workers, judges, biological family members, licensing coordinators, and the many others involved. I can promise you, it is greatly appreciated.

4. Foster children react differently to certain situations that many would not perceive as stressful.

As a result of trauma, foster children often react to circumstances in ways you might not expect. A “fun” trip to Disney could be incredibly stressful, and family gatherings could result in a meltdown. Trauma changes the way the brain works. Many kids have developed the tendency to “fight, flight, or freeze” as a coping mechanism for stress. New situations are often triggers for this. Not every child is affected this way, but these issues are highly prevalent in the foster care community. Sensitivity and education is key for those coming into contact with children who struggle with this.

5. All of this is worth it.

From the outside looking in, I’m sure we look insane. My parents had two daughters, both of whom were old enough to be fairly independent, yet they willingly took on some very needy toddlers. All of a sudden diapers, nap times, and tantrums were back on their radar. As a family, we were once only four and are now a party of six. Our car has two car seats in it, with only one unoccupied spot. Life is hectic, slightly nuts, and at times, rather unpredictable. Looking beyond that, life is also full of giggles, bedtime stories, and tiny, noisy feet. Our house would feel so empty without the two crazy boys we’ve been blessed with. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.
People know so little about foster care. Society needs to understand what these kids go through and help make a change. Teenagers, you can make a difference. Offer your time, prayers, and knowledge. As I said previously,  teenagers are the next generation. We are the next set of volunteers, advocates, and foster parents. No matter how old, young, or experienced you are, you can affect many. Educate yourself, pray for those involved, and lend a hand for change.
What did you learn from Anna’s post? Share your thoughts, comments, and encouragement in the comments!

What Does Intercession Looks Like

IntercessionThe title of this blog is Teens Interceding for Orphans, but what is intercession?

Over the past month, several posts here on TIO have focused on the concept of prayer. One of the “visions” cast in the post, Renewing the Vision, was a dedication to praying for orphans, particularly those posted biweekly in the Advocate & Pray posts. We looked at how to use the prayer chains and how to use Scripture to pray for those we don’t know well. These posts have been practical, how-to type posts. This post is intended light a flame of enthusiasm for prayer.

Prayer is something each and every one of us can be active in, but we need a vision for it or else it just won’t happen. Prayer is hard, and it can seem boring. We need determination and diligence in prayer. This sermon casts a vision for filling the gap by being willing to stay behind the scenes, on our knees, engaging in battle through prayer. If you don’t have time to sit in front of your computer and watch the message, you can download the mp3 to your mobile device and listen on the go. Will you be the man under the stage for orphans?

Want to hear more of Mr. Ludy’s messages on prayer? There are lots of them!

How to Pray Scripture for Orphans

How to Pray ScriptureTwo weeks ago, in the post How To Use the Prayer Chains, I told you to keep your eyes open for a post on how to pray for children you don’t know much about. This is the post.

The concept of prayer scripture was introduced to me several years ago by a visiting speaker at my church. The speaker, who is also a friend of the family, created both a book and a pamphlet containing scriptures to pray. In the pamphlet he explains,

While spending time in the Scriptures, it is pretty easy to find prayers that have been made on behalf of others. I thought to use those requests and thoughtfully make them my own as I prayed for my brothers, my sisters, and even for those who are still in their sins.

Now, an exhaustive Biblical study of that would require a much bigger “menu.” 🙂 [The pamphlet is titled “The Apostle’s Sandwiches” and is laid out like a restaurant menu.] What you have in your hands is the result of looking through Acts and the Epistles.

Once I began to use this, I found over time that I didn’t need to have the “menu” in front of me as frequently because I had learned the wording, the phrases of the Scriptures, and was able to make the requests by memory. How wonderful to know the language of Scripture and use it in our prayers!*

The concept of praying Scripture stuck with me and has become my favorite way to pray. James 4:3 says,

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

Prayer Scripture is a wonderful way to keep our requests aligned with the heart and will of God. It also makes it much easier to find requests of substance to offer up on behalf of orphans and other individuals we do not know personally and don’t have a prayer requests list for.

Here’s one prayer from “The Apostle’s Sandwiches” that you could pray for an Advocate & Pray child.

The John
Heavenly Father, I pray that _________ may prosper in all things and be in health. I pray that You would give Your mercy, Your peace, and Your grace.

A concordance and/or Bible software will be great tools for praying Scripture for orphans. If you don’t have a Bible program on your computer, I would highly recommend The Word, which is free and has lots of fun study features. You can also get YouVersion if you want an app for your mobile device.

My personal preference for praying Scripture is to spend some time finding appropriate Bible verses, usually four of them, and then writing them out before revising them into a prayer. Here’s a prayer I wrote out in my journal for Aris back in November of 2013.

A father of the fatherless and a judge of windows, is God in his holy habitation. God setteth the solitary in families. (Psalm 68:5-6a)
Lord, please provide a family for Aris. Prick the heart of a member of Your body to be Your hands and feet to her and to love her as You love her.

…he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (Hebrews 13:5)
Lord, please be ever constant in Aris’ life. Never leave or forsake her, but keep Your hand on her life.

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:14)
Lord, please bring Aris unto You. Let her come into Your arms. Place Your hand on her head and pray for her. Make her one of the children of the kingdom of heaven.

And Jesus beheld them and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. (Matthe 19:26)
Lord, with you all things are possible, even the adoption of a twelve year old girl who cannot see or hear. Please work this miracle for Aris.

One of the challenging aspects of prayer is that we often can’t see how it’s working … or if it’s working at all. However, there’s no question that prayer is an essential Biblical principle, and something we can all do to involve ourselves in carrying for orphans. As you can see, the Bible provides plenty of verses you can employ in your prayers for the fatherless. No need to fall victim to “prayer’s block”! 😉 Finding those verses might take some practice, but I encourage you to give it a try! I think you’ll find it well worth the effort.

Can you think of some verses you could pray for orphans? Share them in the comment section below!

*If you would like a copy of “The Apostle’s Sandwiches,” let me know. Our friend has a note in the pamphlet inviting people to contact him to request copies.

How To Use the Prayer Chains

Prayer ChainsThe Advocate & Pray posts on this blog are our most consistent and lasting feature. What kind of orphan care and adoption blog wouldn’t want to raise awareness for individual children in addition to discussing orphan care in more general terms? The very first post was about Aris, a deaf and mute little girl in Ethiopia. Of all the children shared, Aris is the one that rests most consistently on my heart and enters my prayers most frequently.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Prayer. Prayer is a word that gets batted around a lot, but is rarely given the attention, focus, or esteem it should be. Because of that, I’ll be making several posts about prayer this month.

One of the features of the bi-weekly Advocate & Pray posts is a prayer chain. The point of these is to wrap each particular child in daily prayer for the two weeks they are featured on the blog. Praying is an orphan care opportunity wide open to ever age group and demographic, and it’s one of the most important ministries you could apply yourself to.

So how do the prayer chains work? Let me walk you through the process.

This week’s Advocate & Pray child is Felicia. (She’s got an awesome smile in her profile pictures!)

  1. Start the process by reading about her and learning as much as you can from the limited information available. For example, Felicia is learning to stand on her own, is only partially sponsored, and needs a wheelchair. These are all things you can pray for.
  2. Click on the prayer chain link. This will bring you to a spreadsheet divided into time slots. Right now each 24 hour day is divided into 15 minute segments. Starting next week, we plan to reduce it to hour long segments to make the spreadsheet cleaner and less overwhelming.
  3. Sign up! Type your name into a slot to make a commitment to pray for the child for the next two weeks (or whatever remains of the child’s two week focus on TIO). NOTE: You don’t have to pray for the full time. You are simply committing to pray for the child sometime during your slot. Feel free to customize it. If 7pm works for you every day except Thursday because you have orchestra practice on Thursday, type something like “Leah Good, every day except Thursday.”
  4. Pray! Be diligent to pray for that child every day during your time slot for the period of time you signed up for. Keep your eyes open for another post offering ideas on how to pray for someone you know so little about.
  5. BONUS POINTS: Ask your friends and church to pray for the Advocate & Pray children too.

Do you have any questions about how this is supposed to work? Any suggestions for making it better?

P.S. Thank you so much to the 5 people currently signed up to pray for Felicia. This is the best week we’ve had in a while. 🙂

Renewing the Vision

Renewing the Vision_3

Where there is no vision, the people perish: –Proverbs 29:18

The dictionary definition of vision is, “the faculty or state of being able to see.” The Strong’s definition of the word used in the verse above is, a mental sight. Over the past few months, my vision for this blog has floundered. Coming up with post ideas has been a struggle, and too many times I’ve decided to just ignore the fact that it was time for a post. After talking with a friend about my frustration concerning this trend, I realized it might be a good idea to step back and redefine the purpose of TIO.

Sharing Involvement Ideas

When I first started this blog, I wanted to offer teens and young adults a resource to find ideas on how they could become involved in orphan care. This stemmed from my own frustration that most opportunities seemed geared for adults, and I had struggled to find such opportunities myself. This is still a huge goal. Many opportunities are listed on the Ways to Help page. Finding a steady stream of involvement ideas to post about has proved challenging, but I’m hoping to spend a little more time finding and sharing them with you guys.

One great way of finding ideas is to share what other teens are doing. Because of this, I’m hoping to step up the quantity and consistency of Teens in Action posts. My goal is to post one of these projects each month. If you or anyone you know of is working on an orphan care project, PLEASE tell me about it. Two readers have volunteered to help locate these projects in the blogosphere but they often get buried, so don’t hesitate to share. We will be very grateful for your assistance.

Another feature I’m hoping to add to the blog is a monthly letter writing challenge. The positive response to the Compassion Correspondence Sponsor post and the tremendous outpouring of support (largely from teenagers) for the Valentines Day Card Challenge indicates to me that ministering through cards is a great opportunity for young people. PLEASE tell me if this is something you will be interested in participating in. My hope is to feature various missionaries, adopting families, and perhaps even organizations and orphans that we can send notes of encouragement to. If you know of a missionary working with orphans or a family in the adoption process, let me know!

Advocate & Pray

These biweekly posts offer you guys a chance to get involved right from the blog. Prayer and advocacy are two orphan care areas wide open to teens. Unfortunately, the prayer chains haven’t been getting many sign-ups, and that might be because you don’t quite understand how they’re supposed to work. Be on the lookout for a post explaining those a bit better. If you have a Gmail account, you may find some useful tips in this post about Using Google Calendar to Pray. (Don’t despair if you don’t have Gmail! Using the calendar to remind you to pray each day is absolutely not required for participating in the A&P prayer chains.) If there is something you don’t understand about the prayer chains or if you have ideas on how to improve the format of the A&P posts, PLEASE let me know.

Education

Knowing the ins and outs, the pros and cons of the orphan care and adoption worlds are a big part of getting involved in caring for orphans. However, it’s a little tricky determining which topics will be relevant and of interest to this demographic of readers. I am hoping to brainstorm and develop some helpful “learn more about this” posts to share with you guys. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about certain topics, PLEASE tell me. It would be so helpful to have some concrete ideas of what you all are interested in reading about.

Bible and Inspiration

The Bible’s directives to serve the fatherless is the foundation of my passion in this area, and I know it’s the same for many of you. Therefore, I hope write a monthly post that draws it’s inspiration from God’s word. These posts may be specifically about orphan care, or they may be about broader topics that can apply to orphan care, such as the recent post titled, 120 Disciples Turned the World Upside-Down. If you have ideas for a devotional type post or would like to share how the Lord is working in your life in this area, PLEASE let me know and we’ll work on having you write a guest post.

Resource Round-Up or Link-Up

This blog only makes a pin-scratch in the vast resource of information, involvement opportunities, and inspiration shared by like-minded people. I would love to make a way for all of us to share our favorite orphan care related posts with one another each month. One of the blogs I follow is having a link-up party today. It would be awesome if we could share orphan care posts in a similar manner, so I’m doing some research on that potential (WordPress.com can be a pain about allowing stuff like that).

So, that’s the “renewed” vision for TIO. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Are these categories of interest to you? Which category is MOST important to you? Is there something not mentioned here that you would like to see on TIO?

P.S. I did asked for feedback on a bunch of stuff in this post. You can share your feedback by commenting on this post (or any other post) or using the contact form.

 

120 Disciples Turned the World Upside-Down

120 Disciples

And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) –Acts 1:15

Our church just started a study in the book of Acts. We’ve been working our way through chapter one for the past three weeks. Each time we read through the chapter, verse fifteen begs for my attention and contemplation. The very first time we read the chapter in our midweek Bible study, I turned my Bible sideways and penned in the margin,

By 120 disciples, the gospel spread for centuries. What impact could we have if we only tried?

Imagine those 120 people sitting together in the upper room. Most Christians in the United States consider a church with 120 members to be tiny. But, think about that number of people in a different setting. A business with 120 employees is a pretty large company. If it’s run well, those employees can be organized into a formidable workforce that can get a lot accomplished.

Now add God into the mix. Image 120 people working, not to advance a business, but to advance a kingdom, a purpose, a cause. And not working alone, but working with and for an all powerful, all knowing God. Ordinary people with an extraordinary hope and purpose. That’s the group that inhabited the upper room, and they shook the world.

And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; –Acts 17:6

In the face of intense persecution, these first Christians spread the gospel to the corners of the world.

Guess how many followers this blog has? 137. That’s more people reading this post than the number of people responsible for beginning the domino effect that lead to us hearing the gospel, and (hopefully!) becoming followers of Jesus.

(If you haven’t accepted the free gift of salvation and want to learn more, use the contact me form to shoot me a message with your questions. I’ll do my best to answer them!)

Speaking of Jesus, the domino effect didn’t really start with 120 people. It started with one. It started with a baby in a manger. It started with a man who lived a perfect life, spoke the truth, and showed his love and justice to the people he came into contact with every day. It started with a corpse taken from a cross and buried in a grave. It started with a Savior, risen from the dead and extending the gift of life to the people he died for.

It started with One. And that One left behind 120 to carry on His work. And those 120 turned the world upside down with a message and a commission that continues to impact the world today.

Guess what? That One still works in and through people today. You could be one of the 120 of this generation. It might not look the same as it did back then, but God is still the same, and his calls and commands to us remain constant. Go to all nations and preach the gospel. Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, and mind. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Visit the fatherless and widows.

Next time you feel discouraged, whether it’s concern over the enormity and confusion of the orphan crisis, or simply feeling insignificant in the grand scheme of the world, remember the 120 in the upper room and the impact they had on their own generation and all the generations that have followed. It only takes a spark to get a fire burning, and God can set a life on fire.

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. –Joshua 24:15

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. –Philippians 4:13