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.

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.” ūüôā [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”! ūüėČ 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.

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

The Power of Possessions

The Power of Possessions

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. ‚ÄďMatthew 6:21

This is Part Three¬†of the Matthew 6:21 Series. We’ve been contemplating different types of treasure in our lives and how they can be recognized and utilized to help others, especially orphans. Things like personal knowledge instead of distance acquaintance and the value of time. This post is about the power of possessions.

Possessions are a more obvious treasure, similar to the most obvious treasure–money. My first thought when I began this post was of the man who built bigger barns in Luke chapter 12.

And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:¬†And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?¬†And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.¬†And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.¬†But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?¬†So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. —Luke 12:16-21

As with all the treasures God gives us, the purpose of possessions is not to hoard them for ourselves. This can be hard for any of us to remember. We enjoy our comfortable lives. There is nothing wrong with that. When my brother and I went on a missions trip this summer, one of the missionaries encouraged us not to feel guilty when we went home.

God placed you where you are for a purpose.

So, yes, don’t feel guilty about what you have. Whether you have much or very little, God gave it to you for a reason. Your job is to be a wise steward.¬†Look at what you have and determine how you can use those possessions to serve God.

Most of the time when I¬†contemplate that question, my first thought is getting rid of stuff and giving it away. Sometimes that’s an accurate conclusion. If the rich man had given away his grain with a heart of service, his story would have had a much happier ending. When Jesus showed the rich young ruler where he lacked, he asked him to sell all that he had and give to the poor, and by so doing lay up treasure in heaven. However, being a good steward of your possessions does not necessarily mean getting¬†rid of them. Instead of limiting yourself to disposal, challenge yourself to find creative ways to employ your possessions for service.

Recently, I’ve been able to share books from my small-but-growing library of orphan care books with a family beginning the adoption process. Some unused stocking stuffers from last year went into Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. Stationary and stamps can be used to write letters of encouragement.

No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light. —Luke 11:33

Just like the purpose of a candle is to shed light, the purpose of treasure is to be used for service. When it is stored away, hidden for only one person to enjoy, it’s potential is wasted. Don’t let the things you own become a candle under a bushel!

Can you think of and share some creative ways to use what you already have to serve others? What are some other ways we can learn from the man who built bigger barns and the rich young ruler?

 

The Power of Time

The Power of Time (1)

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. ‚ÄďMatthew 6:21

Several weeks ago I posted part one in the Matthew 6:21 series; a group of posts exploring the reasons and ways we form connections and become dedicated to certain causes. Part one was The Power of Knowing and looked at how an intimate acquaintance with people and missions affects how invested we are in them. This post will focus on how important the treasure of time is.

Time is one of our most valuable resources because it’s not replenishable. Once a minute is gone, we can’t get it back. As Job said,

Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? –Job 7:1

The Bible tells us to be good stewards. Time is definitely something that is important to manage well in order to be a good steward. (I’m pretty sure all of us are aware of areas where our time manage could¬†improve!) God puts a high value on time.

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Redeeming the time because the days are evil. –Ephesians 5:16

Redeem the time. Redeem means to rescue from loss. To buy it up. To not let it go to waste.

This week many of my friends are in or preparing for finals week at college. They are very aware of the value of time right now. College students across the country would pay money to get some extra time to prepare. Which leads to the main point of this post.

When you think about college students, how do you separate the serious scholars from the kids who are at school to party? How they spend their time, right? It’s a pretty safe bet that the kids who aren’t studying for their finals don’t place a very high value on their test scores. But guess what? The students spending hours pouring over text books and fighting exhaustion to polish their papers have a very strong interest in the grades they will get.

The same concept applies to the rest of life. You will be invested in the things you choose to dedicate time to. (Side Note: The time investment=dedication thing doesn’t seem to work as consistently with activities you are forced into.) As a very simple example, my mom likes jigsaw puzzles. She has a much stronger sense of achievement when she finishes a 1000 piece puzzle than when she completes a 300 piece puzzle. Why? She invested a lot more time in the bigger puzzle. To give another example, I’m an author. When I write a novel, I care much more about its success than I care about the success of a three page short story I wrote.

You can see how this applies to “serving the least of these.” When you care about orphans, you invest time into learning and serving them. The more time you spend, the more important it is to you.

Many times we view a lack of money as a huge barrier to helping orphans. But really, time is even more valuable than dollar bills. Even if you¬†have an income, you must invest¬†time to¬†earn it.¬†If you don’t have a job, that time is available for you to use in a different way. Just like putting effort into knowing orphans is an important aspect of serving them, consciously dedicating time to service is of great value.

God has given each and every one of us treasure. He’s watching to see what kind of stewards we will be. How will you manage your time? Where does your treasure say your heart is?

The Power of Knowing

The Power of Knowing

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. —Matthew 6:21

Over the past few months, I’ve been contemplating what causes us to become invested in certain people, organizations, and causes. What makes us form emotional attachments or diligently pursue something when there are few positive emotions present? As I’ve been thinking about the subject, Matthew 6:21 has continuously popped into my mind.

Usually when I see that verse, my first thought is “treasure = money.” But that’s not necessarily the case. There are many things that we value. Over the next few posts, I’m hoping to do a series of blog posts examining different “treasures” and how they affect our attitudes towards orphans and ministering to orphans.

This particular post has it’s roots in a video one of my best friends shared with me about a month ago. The Courage Home video introduces viewers to two young American women and the eleven special needs orphans they are fostering in India.

As I told my brother earlier this week, I knew as soon as I saw the video that I was a “goner.” That realization actually confused me a little. As much as I love orphans, the special needs spectrum usually overwhelms me.¬†Because of this, special needs orphans and ministries that reach out to them rarely captivate my attention. The Courage Home grabbed not only my attention but my interest and enthusiasm. Why?

I think it’s because they are known. The children at the Courage Home are not pictures with a brief, descriptive bio. The posts made about them are not put together by representatives living far away. They’re not being explained by aid workers who¬†only spent few days with them. Instead, these children are introduced¬†through the love, concern, and¬†knowing of their foster moms.

That thought¬†reminds me of a poem titled A Woman of no Distinction. It’s about the¬†woman at the well, and the recurring phrase of the poem says,

For to be known is to be loved,
And to be loved is to be known.

I have such respect for people like Tori DiMartile and Nikki Cochrane because they have left their homes, family, culture, and comfort to know and love these children. I am grateful for them (and others like them) because they make it possible for others to know and love as well.

Their work is a beautiful picture of the gospel. Jesus left his place in heaven to come to earth and know, experience, and love humanity. By that process, he became the bridge between heaven and earth; the mediator between mankind and the Heavenly Father.

Jesus understood our need to be known. Instead of being a benevolent but impersonal God, he took the form of a man.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. —Hebrews 4:15¬†

We form connections by knowing. Not just knowing facts and figures, but knowing hopes and dreams, personalities and habits, hurts and joys. We put more effort into getting to know people we like, and the people we become closest to are often the ones we love the most.

If you want to help and understand orphans more effectively, strive to know them and the people working directly with them. Even more importantly, throw yourself into knowing God more fully and allow Him to give you His heart for the fatherless.

Can you think of any ways to know the fatherless? Can you think of other “treasures” that guide our hearts?

P.S. Louise, the current Advocate & Pray child, is from the Courage Home. Consider joining the prayer chain and sharing the post to help her fill her sponsorship needs!

Read more of the Matthew 6:21 Series.

Just Buy Diapers

Just Buy Diapers One of the ladies in our church is a weekly volunteer at a local crisis pregnancy center. She has a huge heart for the ministry accomplished there, and is very invested in the needs of the organization. Last month, she arrived at church with the announcement that the center was in desperate need of diapers. She told us what sizes were needed and asked anyone willing to purchase diapers to bring them to church the following week. Several families did, but she wasn’t able to make it to church that morning, so I volunteered to drop the diapers off.

When I opened the door to the crisis pregnancy center, I was greeted by a very excited and thankful volunteer. She gave me a big hug, and gushed over the diapers. I left feeling warmed and happy about the delivery.

So often when we are faced with huge problems like abortion, starvation, HIV/AIDS, overcrowded orphanages, and all the other painful problems of sin, we become overwhelmed. Standing at the base of such huge mountains, we feel insignificant and unable to make a difference. Delivering those diapers last month reminded me that we often make helping too complicated. Sometimes all it takes is diapers.

When we look at mountainous problems and become overwhelmed, we forget something very important. I’m reminded of the story of David and Goliath. The Israelite army looked at the huge, intimidating, Philistine warrior and quaked in their boots. They knew no man among them had the power to defeat the giant. Then David showed up. He listened to Goliath mocking the people of God and responded with righteous indignation.

And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?

Instead of being intimidated by Goliath, David¬†wanted to be God’s tool to take away the reproach of Israel. He knew that God’s people should stand up to this Giant who mocked them. When Saul told him he wasn’t big enough, old enough, or trained enough to take on Goliath, David was ready with a bold answer.

Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.

David¬†wasn’t intimidated by the size of the problem, because he was focused on the size of his God instead of the overwhelming size of his opponent. He was telling Saul, “This enemy of God has insulted the people of God. The Lord has helped me defeat problems before. This giant isn’t too big for God to conquer.”

A song I enjoy says, “So when you come to face a mountain so high, One glimpse at God brings it down to size. Satan will flee, you’ll gain victory, when you compare it to Him.”

A stone taken from a brook made a big impact (no pun intended), when God’s power was behind it (1 Samuel 17). A boy’s lunch of five loaves and two fish fed thousands when blessed by Jesus (Mark 6). The early church turned the world upside down when fueled by the Holy Spirit (Acts 17:6). Who’s to say that our small contributions to big problems–like diapers for a crisis pregnancy center–can’t make a big difference when guided by the Lord?

So next time you feel overwhelmed by a problem, remember that small things become big in God’s economy. Instead of focusing on the problems, focus on walking in God’s will, and He will accomplish whatever He desires through you.

What problems seem overwhelming to you? Does recognizing the size, power, and wisdom of God make that problem seem more¬†manageable? Are you able to trust God’s will about issues that are important to you?

Father of the Fatherless

Father of the FatherlessLast Friday, my brother and I attended a small Bible study/discussion group that a friend of ours is trying to get started as an outreach. The topic was, “What is our purpose.” It was an interesting discussion. After a brief overview, the guys starting batting around Bible verses and talking about how each of those verses could be applied to determining our purpose in life.

The conversation started with the basics (serving God) and briefly touched on the memorized, Westminster Catechism answer before moving into deeper waters. What verses in the Bible give direction for how to serve God and live our lives? After a while, one of the guys mentioned Isaiah 58:6-8, which says,

Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.

That verse made my brother think of Galatians 2:9-10 and Psalm 68:5.

A father of the fatherless, and a judge of widows, is God in his holy habitation. –Psalm 68:5

A father of the fatherless is a phrase my brother and I have talked about a lot. Several years ago, we heard a lecture¬†by Eric and Leslie Ludy titled,¬†The Power of the Poured out Life.¬†In that lecture, they talked about how God is a father to the fatherless¬†through us. That as the Lord’s representatives here on earth, we are his hands and feet to bring this verse to life.

That’s an important responsibility. It’s also one I’ve wrestled with. Many people use that verse to support adoption. The beginning of verse six goes on to say,

God setteth the solitary in families:

I agree with the people who use this verse as a foundation for pursuing adoption. There are children around the world who desperately want and need families. But it always felt like there was more to it. After all, only 1% of orphans will ever become available for international adoption. Of course, there are Christians in every country who could be the fulfillment of this verse for the children there, but such a purely human interpretation still felt lacking.

As my brother mentioned that verse on Friday, one of the other men nodded and said,

…don’t just be “a” father to the fatherless. Be THE Father to them.

That comment grabbed my attention and held it. I’ve been thinking it over ever since. He’s so right. Adoption gives orphans a physical father, and that’s wonderful. I firmly believe the Bible supports that. But there is, indeed, more to it. We are to represent The Father to those around us. Leslie Ludy addressed the concept of secular humanitarian efforts versus Christ-centered outreach in a blog post titled True Rescue Work.

Some people accuse Christians of adopting simply as a way of proselytizing. They claim we care more checking off a box on our Christian achievements list than we do about helping needy children. But that’s not true. Carrying for orphans as a Christian should be a beautiful combination of both physical and spiritual. Giving orphans a physical father is a wonderful thing, but representing The Father to them is so much more. It goes even¬†deeper.

In Ephesians 5:25, God tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. It’s not a perfect comparison, but I think that’s the idea behind representing the heavenly Father to orphans. It doesn’t erase the need to provide physical parents to children who need them, but it opens the doors even wider. It calls us to a greater level of love and excellence. It calls us to represent The Father even to the children who can’t be adopted. It allows us to be part of the calling even if we’re not in the position to adopt. Isn’t it a beautiful, sobering privileged to represent our Lord here on earth?

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: —2 Corinthians 5:20

What do you think representing The Father to the fatherless looks like? Do you agree that Psalm 68:5-6 is talking about more than physical parenthood? What are your thoughts on this subject?

It’s Not About Emotion

Mouslings_BlogWhen I was little, one of my biggest dreams was to raise a baby animal. Fledgling birds nudged from their nests captivated me. My parents never let me take them in. Most of the ones I found probably had mama birds still looking out for them. My parents also knew that most baby animals don’t survive human efforts to raise them, and they didn’t want me to be heartbroken when they finally died.

Then, a few years ago, it finally happened. As my dad was turning over the garden to prepare it for planting, he accidentally uncovered a nest of baby rabbits. With their home destroyed, he put them in a cardboard box and asked my brother and I if we’d like to try raising them. I was so excited! Until they started dying. One by one the fluffy little bunnies seized up and stopped breathing. It was awful.

That experience was in 2011. Just a few weeks ago, it happened again. My brother was cleaning some wood out of our stairwell (we heat with a wood burning stove), and he flushed out a mouse. The mouse ran outside and all was well. Until he discovered a baby. He took the tiny mousling to me and asked if I wanted to raise it. I didn’t. I learned my lesson with the rabbits. The thought of taking the tiny, squirming pup only to watch it die made my chest tighten. Nope. I didn’t want it. But I didn’t want to leave it to die either. A few minutes later I was online Googling what to feed a day old mouse baby. An hour later, my brother found the mouse’s two siblings. I begrudgingly took them too (those are them in the picture above).

The same change in attitude can happen in orphan care. There is an emotional pull towards helping those weaker than ourselves. You can imagine how sweet it will be. How happy you will be to help. And then you reach out and get your heart stomped on. The person you tried to help rejects you. Your gifts are not appreciated. Suddenly helping the fatherless looses it’s appeal.

Claire Diaz-Ortiz, author of Hope Runs, talked about the change in her attitude towards bringing donations to an orphanage. When she first organized donations, she was excited about it. She felt like she was doing a great thing. And then she witnessed how some kids got left out. How others were disappointed by what they received. How some fought over the gifts. Giving became a lot harder. She started dreading trying to distribute donations or selecting kids for special events.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? –Jeremiah 17:9

This message is the opposite of the one preached by our culture. We’ve all heard people say things like, “How can something that makes me feel so happy (loved/secure/content/etc.) be evil?” Or, “This is the only thing that’s ever made me feel good about myself. It can’t be wrong.” Or, “That makes me miserable. There’s no way God would want me to do it.” Sound familiar?

If we base our actions off how we feel, we’ll quit when the going gets tough. Or we’ll dive into things we know nothing about and end up causing even more problems.

Oh LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. –Jeremiah 10:23

I encourage you not to get sucked in by inspirational stories and cute pictures. Instead, go to God’s word and find out what¬†He¬†says to do. Don’t do something just because it¬†feels¬†right, and don’t quit because your “bunnies die” (aka, the positive emotions disappear). Seek God’s will and guidance instead of trusting your own heart, and walk in His way. If we do that, we’ll become far more effective as servants of God.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. –Psalm 37:23

Just in case you were wondering, the mouse pups all died. But not all stories have sad endings. One of our bunnies from 2011 survived and we were able to release it back into the wild.

Agua, our surviving bunny from 2011

Aqua, our surviving bunny from 2011