Friday, November 29, 2013

Slapping God on the back with a "Hey Buddy!"

I saw a quote recently, that looked something like my that. It said that the culture of the world today was such that there was so little reverence of the holiness of God that many today would feel comfortable slapping God on the back and greeting Him with a "hey buddy!"

That, along with a recent discussion on the Sabbath, and how God made it a set apart day that was to be holy, made me wonder about how much reverence I have for God.

I haven't come up with any answers, because the only thing that I can think of was even if I am doing many many things to reverence God - the fact still remains, I'm not doing enough.

And it's not that I'm not doing enough because I don't reverence Him or feel that it's okay to be flippant. Instead, it's that I can do everything I can think of, and still not be doing enough.

He is a Holy, Righteous, God. He's so holy that... here, Revelation 4 describes some of the goings-on of Heaven as this:
And the four beasts had each one of them six wings about him, and they were full of eyes within, and they ceased not day nor night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Which was, and which is, and which is to come.
And when those beasts gave glory, and honor, and thanks to him that sat on the throne, which liveth forever and ever,
The four and twenty Elders fell down before him that sat on the throne, and worshipped him that liveth for evermore, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honor, and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy will’s sake they are, and have been created.
That is something beyond what we'd think is necessary today. But the Angels of the Lord can see Him as He truly is - they can see the Holiness and Glory of God in a way that we can. If we even saw the full glory of the Lord our physical bodies would die, because it was simply too much for them.
I don't even know anyone whose "glory" could make me break out in a sweat. Much less kill me. But the glory of God is so great, so powerful and amazing, our physical bodies can't handle seeing it.
Yet, just like that I said earlier, there are those who feel they can simply go to God with a "hey buddy". He is a friend, just like the Bible says, a great friend that sticks closer than a brother, but in that we should never forget His holiness. God is not like us. He loves us, but He's not like us.And when we come before God, when we talk about holy things, we should always remember that we are talking about a God whose mere sight could kill us.
I think we want to be friends with God. We want to assume He is like us simply because we don't know how to respond to someone who is not like us. And I also see that part of the reason I don't reverence Him with the same reverence of the Angels is because I don't see Him. I don't see that glory. It's not impressed on my heart with the same fire that the Angels can see it.
So my only solution, since I want to reverence God even more than I already do, is that I am praying that God will show me more of His holiness, more of His glory. I want to see as much of God as I can and not die. I always pray for more of God in my life, but very specifically I am going to start praying to see the Holiness of my God. For a revealing that I've never had before.
In my last post about the supernatural God - I think the reason we don't see supernatural things is because we aren't asking for supernatural things and expecting them to happen. And we certainly aren't putting ourselves in a position where we need a supernatural action. 
If you want a supernatural God you need to ask Him for supernatural things.
If you want a Holy God, you need to treat Him as though He is holy, and ask Him to help you see His holiness. 
Only God can show me who He is. I can't sneak around a corner and catch Him by surprise. But I can spend my every day, my every prayer, reminding Him that His child wants to see Him. 
He will not fail me.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Did I dream that? -- The God of the supernatural

This is a piece of a conversation I recently had with my brother in India. It's mid-conversation so my first sentence doesn't make much sense out of context, but keep reading:
Readers guide:
emiti = "What"
yela =  "How"
dhanyavadalu = "Thank you"

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thankful for the anti-blessings

I've watched my facebook blow up this month with so many friends, or I guess I should go ahead and add the quotation marks "friends" (because everyone knows no one can have 231 actual friends :)  ) anyway, all of those friends are posting every day in November what they are thankful for.

Completely unconnected, I saw someone else mention how their daughter had won an award, and they mentioned "we are blessed".

The two things came together in my mind and I'll admit that I'm likely going to write the next paragraphs with tears rolling down my cheeks.

Tonight, I'm thankful that my beautiful/wonderful/priceless Bella (a foster child that I had a great honor to love for a short time) is no longer with me. If she were with me still, there is a good chance I would have made different decisions, rather than following this crazy path God has allowed me to travel. I'm thankful for the week of absolute torture she and I went through together. I learned more about Gods love and mercy during that week than at any other time in  my life I believe.

Tonight, I'm thankful for years, horrific year after year after year of debt. If it weren't for those years, I wouldn't have had the pleasure of witnessing Gods miracle of getting me out. That miracle was part of the confirmation I asked of God so I would know that He really was asking me to adopt Precious.

Tonight, I'm thankful for a courtship that didn't work out. I am completely confident that walking away  was God's will for me.

There are more, oh there were more. Just living life for a few years as an adult would leave no doubt of that. But these three are the top, largest most unique failures in my list.

Some of my best blessings in life are the things that didn't work out. The ones that left me in tears, and aching in ways I sometimes didn't think I could breathe through. But like I quoted recently, "I would choose no other life, than the life I have had." (C.S. Lewis - The Last Battle).

There were many roads, some beautiful and promising and full of hope. But they weren't my road. At least, not the road God has chosen for me. The other roads wouldn't have been bad. They just wouldn't have been God's.

If there is one prayer that I hope God will always answer, it's that He will protect me from myself. From the bad decisions, and even the seemingly good ones. And that even the bad decisions He will use to teach me of His faithfulness.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How failure is my biggest success...

In a lot of things, I love failure. Oh, not in the big things like parenting, or loving others, but in simple things, day to day things, I've learned to love failure.

In my failures I've found God to be strong.
In my failures I've found the joy of figuring out the important from the unimportant.
In my failures I've figured out what God has talented me for, and what He hasn't.
In my failures I've learned to try, even though I might fail.
In my failures I've learned that failing isn't the end of the world.
In my failures I've come to see that God isn't affected by my failures.
In my failures I've come to see how God loves me, period, failures and all.
In my failures I've seen, (hindsight being 20/20), how I stepped into directions God didn't want me in at all.
In my failures I've seen how merciful my God can really be.

If that isn't a measure of success, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I wouldn't let a 2 year old run in the street.

I've never been a good Bible teacher. I'm horrible at remembering verses, or where they are found, and so often I just don't see the amazing connections that other  people find in the Bible.
But here's what I can do - I see, constantly, examples of God in the mundane.
If it's my only talent, it's one I'll keep.

Some of the things I see are so special to me (and possibly only me). Yet, usually, they are utterly simple.

Tonight, I took the girls to the nursing home to visit someone. As I pull 2 yr old Precious out of the car I tell her to "Stay put" then I reach for 1 yr old New Kid. As we start walking towards the nursing home I'm adjusting New Kid in my arms when Michaela reaches out and says "gotta hold my haaaaaaaaaaaaand". She's right. I remind her (though apparently she doesn't need reminders) that anytime we're in the street or a parking lot we need to hold hands so she won't be hurt.

Suddenly, flashing through my mind come all the times I'm willing to let go of her hand, and all the times I require her to hold my hand. If I know it's a safe environment, I let her go and hope that she stays near to me so I don't have to tell her to stay near, or go searching for her.
If we're in a crowded environment, or surrounded by expensive things, or places that are obviously dangerous like the streets/parking lots I guarantee you I'll be holding her hand. I also hold her hand in unusual circumstances that I think she'll be nervous in, so she'll feel more confident.

It was in the middle of those thoughts, I wondered about how often God holds our hands. How we feel so much closer to Him in the middle of trouble (because He's holding our hand), and how we're more likely to stray from Him when things are good (because He's let go of our hand in the safe areas). And how in the safe areas, He too calls us to stay close to Him.

It was poignant to me. Just how clearly it all fit. Precious doesn't want to hold my hand in the safe areas, but those are also the times she's more likely to get into trouble. But trouble/fear is usually what drives her to my side, holding my hand.

If it weren't for valuable troubles, I wonder how fewer Christians there would be in the world.

All these thoughts simply left me wanting to be more childlike, yet as a very obedient child that likes to stay by her Fathers side.
Jesus, Hold my hand.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A month to remember

I drove home tonight, from my brothers house, with my two precious girls. Their smiles, their words, their attempts to do things they're unable to do, their quick words when they're caught doing something they shouldn't - it blows my mind sometimes that I'm a mother. I did nothing typically necessary to become a mother. I simply was a single girl wanting to help children and years later I'm looking into two adorable faces and thinking "wow".

But tonight especially, bringing them home, changing diapers and putting them to bed, I couldn't help but think how things have changed in my home in the last few weeks.

I don't want to freak anyone out now, but I don't believe that you can believe in God without believing also in the devil. I think the Bible is giving a warning when it says in Ephesians 6:12 "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, and against the worldly governors, the princes of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness, which are in the high places."

It's not pleasant to imagine, and we typically don't talk about an "enemy" anymore, but I believe we have one. And very shortly after meeting our brother in India so we knew exactly where we would be going next year, it seemed like life just completely crashed. So many things were wonderfully joyful and exciting: talking to our new brother, gaining so much insight into the culture, learning the language, and simply talking with a brother, a true brother that was serving God... it was wonderful and like a breath of fresh air in a poorly polluted soul.


Man... like I said, life just crashed. One of the things that happened was that my home became a very difficult place. My daughters began screaming, crying, tantrums like I'd never seen before, actual "blood curdling screams" over simple things like "go get your jacket". It was... insane. I can't even begin to tell you the number of times I said "I think they've lost their minds". I knew I was losing mine. All I could know was that I was a horrible mother, what would India think of me when I show up with these two screaming kids? How are we going to survive whatever behavior issues these are? I'm used to 2 yr old tantrums, but this was a horse of a completely different color. I'd never seen either of them, especially not my oldest, behave this way. 

I'd honestly just chalked it all up to "My kids have lost their minds and I don't know what to do!!" until tonight when I realized that just as quickly as my home had gone crazy, it had been put to rights. We were back to our standard crying jags, and random bouts of poutiness (it's not a word, but it should be) and tons of smiles and obedience. And I thought about other struggles I'd faced in that month as well: within 1 months time (all within meeting our brother in India) our family structure (with not just my family but my brothers family also) had been in jeopardy on two separate occasions. We'd no sooner get over one serious issue than another would appear. Each situation was one I'd never have considered happening in my family. And that's when we realized "Hey, this is an actual attack of the devil."

I'm pretty careful with those words - I don't think every negative thing is an attack of the devil. I think being a Christian (a true Christian that teaches Gods words and not the smooth words that the world is willing to listen to without offence) is going to be rife with struggle. It's just simple fact. Or it should be anyway. But in this, I feel completely convinced that those two events were genuine attacks of an enemy.

When I realized tonight how my home was completely back to normal I couldn't help but think that the past month had been an attack as well. It made me so angry to know that my daughters had been through this horrific month of whatever emotional turmoil they'd been having in order to scream and act out like they had. 

That said, I don't know why things have stopped. I don't know why we're one big happy family again with everything and our family all one happy unit. Except for the grace of God working in our lives. The power of God helping us and delivering us from an enemy who could easily crush us - except for the fact that we are children of a living and mighty God.

I believe in an enemy. But I also believe in a friend, a God, a Lord and Savior who is greater than my enemy. If I didn't have that - moving to India would be too scary, too impossible. But no, my God has proved Himself to be the God of the impossible. I'll remember this past month. But I'll remember it and know that the devil tries to stop and hurt and frustrate those that follow God. So surely, as frustrating as this last month has been - I must be on the right path.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Thankful my last opportunity wasn't my last.

"How was your day today?" I asked. Mildred responded, "Well, not very good. I died today." 
"You died today?"
I turn to look at Mildred, a very old, a very tired, a very lovely woman laying in the fetal position in her nursing home bed. "What makes you think you died today Mildred?"
"Well, I think it, because I'm dying."

3 times a week my daughters and I go to the nursing home to visit this woman with such incredible stories. She's been to all 7 continents and after her children were raised she went back to college and got her Masters degree in business and became a college professor at CSU, her stories range from her neighbors giving her a llama as a child to watching her parents dance in the living room to the radio. She also tells a story about narrowly escaping a major Colorado flood while wearing a square dancing dress and climbing up the side of a mountain for safety - but I'm pretty sure her confused mind made that one up.

For the next hour during our visit all she talked about was her death. Her wishes that people wouldn't bring flowers, her hopes that little children would come to the funeral. Most noticeable was her lack of regrets. She had nothing to say to anyone, no fears that I needed to calm. Nothing. Just a general acceptance that she was dying. Possibly she was too tired to care.

When I asked if she was ready, if she knew that her sins were forgiven, she said something I'll never forget, "I just haven't planned that far ahead."

Tonight, I think I'm more anxious than she is. Seeing her so tired, and so focused on death, I can't help but wonder if she'll be there when I go back. Does she have enough clarity, will God give her enough clarity, for that one last decision she needs to take care of. Did she make that decision long ago and she's just not able to articulate it to me now?

So many think they will wait for that last moment, but watching her and her confusion, I can't help but think how many of us outlive our own minds.The time we think we'll have, isn't guaranteed by any means - even if you don't die suddenly.

Looking back at my own life, it's easy for me to think that so many years were wasted. The years I struggled, the years I doubted God and had only the religious experience of being a person who goes to church, the years I just didn't care. I want to wonder at how different my life would be had I served God with all my heart from the very beginning.


But I can't change the past. And I'm not guaranteed one more second, much less one more day. So tonight, tonight is what I have. So if I really want to serve God, to find some way to bring God glory with my life, I guess I need to do it now. And every "now" for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Projects and prayers

There was once a time in my life when I wanted the things that I did to matter, but I didn't know how. I didn't know what to do.
I became a foster parent because I knew God was leading towards that. But it's funny how, even though everyone tells you that you're doing a wonderful thing for God, it can be such a selfish enjoyment of loving the children that it doesn't feel like it's for God at all. It wasn't enough to satisfy my longing to give God my everything, my every moment, my every day.
I adopted my girl. My Precious. Again I was told "It's a wonderful thing you're doing." But it only felt wonderful to me, I kept expecting that giving God my everything, my every day, my every moment, would somehow be more difficult.
Now some 11 years later, I'm on my 10th foster child, working on adopting her too, and about to move to India to help with a Children's home, and assist 13 pastors and their wives as they minister to at least 30 area villages.
And again, it's so exciting a thought, right now, that I can hardly imagine that this could be the challenging, fearful life of giving my Jesus everything of me. I keep waiting for it to be hard.
But each step has been the easiest decision of my life, and in every case so far - they have been the most joyful, most poignant, profound, "truly feel like I'm alive" experiences.

So today, in trying to do things that matter, the list is too long. I know things that need to be done but there is just not enough time or money to accomplish them all in one fell swoop.

Project 1 - Sending 100 Bibles in the Telugu language. I eventually want to have placed 3 separate orders for 100 Bibles, but in the interest of getting the Bibles there quickly I need to make small steps. Currently, when pastors go to a village and preach if a new believer asks for a Bible so they could read the scriptures for themselves - none is available, or sometimes only a New Testament.

Project 2 - 15 Sewing Machines. The pastors do not take a 2nd job. They do this so that they are able to daily minister to congregation(s) - often it is plural because each is usually responsible for more than one villages church since there are more villages than pastors. Their churches are NOT run like ours!!! They sometimes have 3-5 services a week, plus random "memorials" (a prayer meeting with a short sermon) if someone in the congregation wants to hold a memorial for someone on the anniversary of their death. They do many other things as well, including street preaching and hospital visitation. Since the pastors do not take a 2nd job, they live solely off the tithes that come in. In the small villages of poverty stricken India - often that means the pastors could live off as little as $80-$100 a month. The sewing machines will be for their wives to be able to sew clothes and earn a bit of extra money for their family.

Project 3 - Esther. She's a young girl living in the children's home. Loves to sing and has a beautiful heart. She is very nearly blind, with only about 20% of her vision. She needs a surgery (which we think will cost around $500). It won't fix her completely, but it will take her from nearly blind, to about 60% seeing, which, considering the hardships she will already be facing trying to live and support herself (I don't even see how she can??) in India, this is very important. So this surgery is necessary, and the sooner the better, to help her get her education and better herself as much as she can.

There are many other projects that don't have fully formed plans yet. There is land needed to be able to plant crops so that the children's home could be a bit more self-sustaining. There is a need to help the children once they've finished their basic education to hopefully move into higher education so they can move beyond the hunger and poverty they have grown up in. There is a need to provide certain village families with seeds or sheep/goats or a buffalo to help them be able to meet their most basic physical needs with a small business. There is also a need for teachers to teach the children in the children's home so they will receive a good education without trials - currently, since these children are of a low caste considered "untouchable" when they go to school they are made to sit separate from the other children and are not even allowed to drink water from the barrel the other children drink from (sound familiar to anyone out there?).

And I'm only getting started.

There are so many needs that prioritizing has become necessary. Before, I prayed to know how to spend my life, my time, my money, desiring earnestly to give them all to God. Now I have more needs than there is of myself to expend. I would feel overwhelmed, but I can only imagine that this just means God will make more of me than I imagined.

Tonight, as I posted yet another item onto Craigslist, I typed out the poem written on a blanket I was selling. The last stanza reads:

Oh Lord, I ask for guidance
In everything I do,
And pray You'll make my music
An instrument for you.
(R.K. Cecil)

It hit home tonight how God has been answering this prayer for the last several years in ways I never imagined. Events that only time could show the outcomes, leave me looking back in amazement. And while my music has slowly faded, with little opportunity to play anymore, I've changed the words
"my music" out for "my life".

I pray You'll make my life
An instrument for You.

God bless,

Monday, November 04, 2013

The story of how a debt was purchased.

The story came to us on a Sunday night.

My brothers family and I all gathered around Skype and watched as Pastor John showed us the beginning of the construction of bathrooms and a kitchen for the children's home. The children's home had long since been built, but only now was there enough money to build bathrooms and the kitchen. So we watched as the children smiled at us, and some man I don't know, in a country I've never been to, dug in the ground to begin the work.

As the children smiled at us, one child was specifically introduced. His name is Prasad. He is 10 years old, thin, and his already brown hair looked dusty. His arms were hanging straight down, but crossed together in front of him as though he just couldn't help but be shy now that the camera was pointed at him. Exactly as you see him pictured again on your right. He smiled. And ohh what a smile it was. A beautiful smile with white teeth showing, and eyes that will one day melt the heart of his very blessed wife.

And Pastor John explained for him. All the children are about to go to school - except him. A year ago Prasad's mother had died. His last remaining parent. He had only his grandparents who couldn't care for him and so they sent him to live in Pastor John's children's home. They also could not afford the funeral for the mother though. So they went to a rich man in their village and took a loan.

1 year later, the rich man comes to them and they still cannot pay back the loan. So they gave Prasad to him. He lives at the children's home, but for the past 20 days, instead of going to school, he had been working for this rich man. His job? He is a buffalo shepherd.

Through my mind rolls my one time seeing a buffalo. I was in a minivan with 2 other adults and leaving our campground in South Dakota. The buffalo was rolling in the dirt next to the stop sign, giving us a fantastic view. I was well aware he had the power to decide to mess up my van, us, and anything else he got it into his head to mess up. I was awed, and a little afraid.

Yet here was this 10 yr old charming boy... an unwilling, debt-paying, buffalo shepherd.

It helps only slightly that once I googled "Indian buffalo" I found out that theirs are not as intense looking as ours, but I still wouldn't particularly want to make one angry with me.

The saddest part is the debt. This great debt that kept this boy from his education? It was 7000 rupees. Approximately $115 US Dollars.

I talked to Pastor John and ask him to make the child free.

So what does it take to make a child free?

He had to talk to the rich man, who demands an extra 1000 rupees for the loss of his help.
He had to fill out legal papers so he was essentially buying the loan, so that the grandparents are now indebted to him - this protects Prasad from being sent to work off any other debts the grandparents might decide to take on.
Then he takes pictures, beautiful pictures of a smiling face. A charming boy who looks very happy. It's been 25 days, and on Monday, Monday this child will become a child again. Not a buffalo shepherd, not someone paying his family debts, just a child. A child who needed parents to protect him.

It's been so profound thinking about this child. I've been using the word "redeem", and Pastor John used the word "deliver". But whether Prasad was redeemed or delivered, the significance doesn't change. He could do nothing to help himself. His life was not his own to live. But then he was redeemed.

He can only know that someone paid his debt for him. Someone took that debt.
Sounds like another story I've heard...

 For he hath made him to be sin for us, which knew no sin, that we should be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:21

God has redeemed us. He has delivered us. He has set us free.
Prasad says "Thank you." He's the one way in the back, blue shirt, big grin.