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Stranger Things Have Happened

All Things Noah…

This kid.

Noah

Saturday was the 10th anniversary of the day we first met him.

And it came and went unnoticed.

But I’m not surprised. In fact, there could not have been another way.

See, this is the story of Noah’s life from the beginning.

His sister came to us with a bang. The only baby in the church we were pastoring. Long awaited, lovingly prayed for and hoped for by an entire congregation, who knew our struggles with infertility. She was the darling of our whole world. She had nine baby-showers and innumerable “aunties” and “uncles.”

Noah came as a surprise. He snuck quietly into our lives amid a busy, chaotic season. His arrival was just another tick in an already eventful September. Within the same week we picked him up from the adoption agency, we moved to a new city, took a new church assignment, and said goodbye to old friends and familiar places.

And if the way a child enters into a family has any effect on a personality, then Noah’s was marked by the way he started in ours.  Continue reading “All Things Noah…”

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On Trusting…Again.

When everything is humming and life is working just as it should trusting God seems like second-nature to me.

He is good! He is wise! He is faithful!

Then comes dissonance, a change in plans I did not choose, a moment that changes the harmony that were my days, and doubt and fear push trust aside.

He is far away, He has turned his face, He has forgotten me.

And I try to fix the problem.

I work, I strive, I stress. I talk to people and search for ways out. I chase after my own solutions and my own wisdom until I come to the end of my rope: this is beyond my hands. Continue reading “On Trusting…Again.”

For When I Am Samuel At The End of My Rope

Confession: I have a friend who drives me crazy.

I love her and I know God has put her in my life so I can walk along side her, mentor her, pray for and with her, disciple her, and point her to Christ.

But she keeps making the same mistakes. She keeps falling flat on her face. She keeps making the same empty promises of change.

And I find myself losing patience with her pattern.

“Lord, will she ever learn?!”

I want to quit her, to drop her, to leave her to her own devices.

I told God recently, and not for the first time, that I’m done and through and plain worn out.

And then He gently directed me to the story of Samuel and the Israelites to find out exactly what God thinks about my desire to quit.

The Israelites of the Old Testament were a mess.

All through the book, they follow this same pattern: Sin against God. Receive the consequences. Confess and repent. Repeat. Sin against God. Receive the consequences. Confess and repent. Repeat.

From Abraham to Joshua, to the judges and the prophets, every leader they had grew frustrated with their fickleness and the need to interfere for them before the Lord. And the prophet Samuel was no exception.

At one point, he finds himself watching the people of God fall into the same old pattern when they stubbornly reject God as their one true king and demand to have a human king like all the nations around them.

Samuel talks to God. God relents and they get their way.

When Samuel explains to the Israelites why their behavior was such an atrocious slap in the face of God and how a king will treat them and abuse them, they fall back into their pattern of repentance and ask Samuel to interfere on their behalf, which he does.

Again.

As Samuel is giving his farewell address to the Israelites he reminds them of their pattern: how time and time again they sinned against God only to repent in the face of their consequences. He points out their latest mistake in asking for a king and the Israelites, again, ask for his help in making things right with the Lord. He tells them not to be afraid and encourages them to, once again, turn to the Lord and follow him for He will be faithful to them.

I imagine Samuel was so tired of giving these people the same speech over and over.

I imagine he wanted to wring their necks and kick them to the curb.

I imagine he felt spent, and done, and through, and unable to give anything else.

I imagine he and I would have that in common.

And yet these words come out of his mouth:

As for me, I will certainly not sin against the Lord by ending my prayers for you. And I will continue to teach you what is good and right.” (1 Samuel 12:23)

Boom.

I’m wrecked.

I’m called out and exposed.

In Samuel’s eyes it would not be just impulsive and unwise but plain ol’ sinful to abandon the Israelites, to give up on them. No matter their pattern. No matter the frustration they caused him. No matter their seeming lack of growth.

He vows to continue to pray for them and to be their teacher and mentor through it all. He has no false hope for his people. He tells them not to sin but then adds: “If you continue to sin…” because he knows they will.

We all have “Israelites” in our lives who drive us crazy. We are Samuels to someone else who seems to not be able to get it together. This story reminds me that they need our prayers and our teaching. They need our faithfulness and for us to remain constant when nothing else in their life seems to be.

As God is faithful and constant with us.

To quit them would be a direct affront to the Lord.

A sin.

Samuel allowed the Israelites to live through the consequences of their pattern, true, but he never stopped walking side by side with them through it all.

So here’s my prayer for today, and tomorrow, and the day after that, and as many days as I need to pray it:

Lord, when I’m at the end of my rope with my “Israelite” and want to throw the relationship out of the window, give me Samuel-size strength, patience, and compassion. Help me to stay put.”

 
 
 

Always For Your Good

Listening to the 90’s Country station this afternoon while I worked, the song “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks came on. I always thought the song was a bit corny. But it’s catchy so I sang along.

Then I got to the chorus: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers…” I looked up from the computer and my eyes fell on my daughter, my beautiful girl. Continue reading “Always For Your Good”

Hope Is a Father’s Love

I love this view.

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Father and son having conversations I know nothing about. A boy and the man he calls his hero.

But if I look a little harder and dig a little deeper I see something else.

Because We Plan…and God Laughs.

When Matt and I first got married, we thought we would like to have two biological children and adopt the third one. But the young don’t yet know that life doesn’t always go according to plan, and a few years into our marriage we found ourselves with adoption as our only option to grow our family.

And I’d be lying if I said we were not disappointed. And broken. And scared. Nobody in our family had adopted before so we had no idea what we were getting into. But we grieved the disillusionment of having to abandon our original plan, dusted ourselves off, prayed fervently for wisdom and courage, and contacted adoption agencies to move forward.

As we processed our new reality, we realized we would be surrendering many of the expected things that come along with biological children: the excitement of the pregnancy announcement, the marvel of watching my body change as our baby grew inside, the creative gender reveal, the birth.  And it was a hard pill to swallow. 

When we decided to say yes to adoption, we also felt led to say yes to any baby who needed a home regardless of race or gender. So we were told from the start that our willingness would most likely result in us adopting a black or bi-racial child because the need was so great.

This meant that we would also be giving up something else we had not anticipated: that our baby would look like usBut after coming to terms with laying down all the other parts of our plan, I was fine with that.  

Or so I thought…until the moment I saw my new daughter for the first time.

Continue reading “Because We Plan…and God Laughs.”

Where Does Your Strength Come From?

It may surprise you to know that many people did not like King David. And often it was nothing he did but rather a product of his circumstances.

King Saul hated David while he was still a poor shepherd because God anointed David to be the next king. David didn’t ask to be king.

The Philistines despised David because he was a powerful warrior. David was only following God’s instructions into battle.

His wife, Michal, felt contempt for him because he danced before the Lord in praise as the Ark of the Lord was returned to its righteous place. David was only responding to the joy he felt.

Nathan chastised David for committing adultery and murder…Ok, that one was on David’s head.

But the Bible tells us that David was envied, mocked, mistreated, and misunderstood plenty. Many of the Psalms he wrote tell of his anguish, his fear, and his frustration with the people and the situations around him. He was hunted by Saul like a dog and there was a price on his head. David lived on the run and in fear for many years.

In 1 Samuel 29-30 we find yet another moment in which David was afraid for his life because of a situation over which he had no control.

Continue reading “Where Does Your Strength Come From?”

On Welcoming The Stranger

Today the sacred touched the mundane and simple obedience was rewarded by a glimpse of the loving care our God places into the most common of our endeavors. Today the kids and I experienced a divine encounter we didn’t expect when we got up this morning.
 
A couple of weeks ago we signed up as volunteers with Lutheran Services of the Carolinas to help refugee families adjust to their new life in the USA. Today we received our first assignment. We met with other volunteers at the offices of LSC downtown and were given instructions to pick up our clients and take them to the Department of Social Services to set them up with temporary food stamps.
 
I confess that I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect.

Continue reading “On Welcoming The Stranger”

On Defining Patriotism

I am what you call a naturalized citizen. I am not US-born but I have been here longer than I have been anywhere and I have a certificate of citizenship and a blue passport. Bone fide American. As such, I have come to love this adopted land as much as I love the place that saw me be born. All this to say that I humbly admit that I may not completely understand the issue I want to tackle here and I hope you will be understanding and, if you choose to comment and share your perspective with me, please be kind and gentle if you disagree.

I’ve been watching the media discuss Gabby Douglas and how horribly she has been bullied. There have been many ugly things said about her on Tweeter but I want to focus on one in particular which has puzzled me and confused me since this whole mess started: the claim that Gabby Douglas is not “patriotic” because she failed to put her hand over her heart during the playing of the national anthem of the USA. Let me put aside for a minute all the concerns about race and gender that have plagued our discussion about the way Gabby Douglas has been treated and deal with this as a general issue.

I’ve been thinking about the word “patriotic.” What does it mean, anyway? It has been defined as “having or expressing devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country.” So, is it measurable? How do you measure devotion and support?

Continue reading “On Defining Patriotism”

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