Less and less asleep

Image courtesy of istockphoto.com

I came across this verse this week:

Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

(Isaiah 54:10)

When I posted that verse to Facebook, a sweet friend posted this song, Shadowfeet by Brooke Fraser.  It seems, lately, that many roads lead back to Brooke Fraser for me.  Her music seems to be written for someone struggling to stand and many of her songs have spoken peace to me in recent months.

So today I wanted to share this song and these lyrics for the rest of you hanging out in the waiting room with me.

This is my prayer.

Walking, stumbling on these shadowfeet
toward home, a land that i’ve never seen
I am changing, less and less asleep
made of different stuff than when i began
and i have sensed it all along
fast approaching is the day
when the world has fallen out from under me
I’ll be found in you, still standing
when the sky rolls up and mountains fall on their knees
when time and space are through
I’ll be found in you
There’s distraction buzzing in my head
saying in the shadows it’s easier to stay
but I’ve heard rumours of true reality
whispers of a well-lit way
when the world has fallen out from under me
I’ll be found in you, still standing
when the sky rolls up and mountains fall on their knees
when time and space are through
I’ll be found in you
You make all things new
You make all things new
You make all things new
You make all things
You make all things
When the world has fallen out from under me
I’ll be found in you, still standing
Every fear and accusation under my feet
when time and space are through
I’ll be found in you
when time and space are through
I’ll be found in you
when time and space are through
I’ll be found in you

I love the line “I am changing, less and less asleep, made of different stuff than when I began.”  I pray that is true in my life. I pray that people who see me will see my fears and the accusations of my enemy under my feet as I stand, found in Jesus.

You make all things new.

Just slightly schizo

For every blog post I write and post, there are usually 2 to 3 that I write and do not post. There may be many reasons – maybe something is too personal, or too raw, or too disjointed. I can get rather passionate about things at times (how’s that for understatement?) and I try to guard against saying too much or going too far. And this act of blogging, although I do write for the girls I want to impact, is also a therapeutic exercise. It is the “working out my faith with fear and trembling.”

Lately, if you were to read my unposted blogs, you would see one that is despairing, and another is hopeful, and another is fully confident that we are living amidst a grand plan and are on the verge of great rescue. You would read about bold hope, deep disappointment, occasional doubt, and stubborn fear. Sometimes when I read my own blogs there is this strange disconnect: “I was really hurting that much that day?” or “I really felt that kind of peace in that moment?” Some blogs flow naturally, where I sit down and suddenly these small strings of information come together in a picture. I usually post those pretty quickly. And some weeks I post little but write a ton as I process difficult challenges.

I would be discouraged by the seeming schizophrenia of my journey if I were not able to read the writings of David in the Psalms. His journey and his writings were all over the map. I relate to that right now. I have moments in the pit and moments on the mountain. I find myself again like the man who approached Jesus with the possessed child, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!”

I am finding that it helps to choose to “count it all joy” and “dwell in gratitude” – because I don’t get the luxury of choosing the despairing moments, they just come. There are days I wake up and almost before I am conscious, I feel the weight of circumstance. But the Lord has been so faithful to not let me live there, in the pit, and instead His Spirit reminds me of His grace.

  • He gives me moments with Bekah and Grace that bring tears to my eyes.
  • He shows me the honor in my husband.
  • He allows me to sing great songs of truth with hope.
  • He draws my sweet dad under the shadow of His wing.
  • He sets aside my sister in a place where she can seek His heart.
  • He gives truth on which we can build our life.
  • He gives me friends with wisdom who love us.
  • He gives me people who make me laugh.
  • He gives Justin and me a heart for the world and a way to help through Compassion.
  • He gave that same heart to my brother and sister-in-law – providing community.
  • He provides for our every need.
  • He gave us Keystone – how would my heart have survived this without them?
  • He gives rest when I am at the end of myself.

These are the things on which I am choosing to focus. I don’t know how much longer this road will be, but I am confident that I will have reasons to rejoice and reasons to sob as we go. So I am grateful most of all for a God who understands me – He gets that although I choose to believe that “when I am weak, I am strong,” the fact is that most of the time when I feel weak, I only feel weak. And I am grateful that He does not hold my feelings against me – but covers me in grace.

Even when I’m weak. And schizophrenic.

Orphan

I am working an event for Christian Retailers in St. Louis this week.  It has been a great show with interesting sessions and no technical difficulties (yay!).  I have worked this show for three years and I found something unique about this year that thrilled my heart.

The Christian world really is awakening to the needs of the orphan.

Finally.

My husband and I have been on that track, we have many friends who are on that track, and we are seeing some churches on that track – but this week confirmed it for me – God is doing something across Christian culture in the name of the orphan.

This show is interesting – there is a sampling of people from every possible denomination and persuasion of Christian life represented.  It isn’t too often that you see conservatives and charismatics, traditionals and radicals, people in bonnets and headscarves and tattooed from head to toe all sharing the same space and interacting and worshipping together.  If they believe in Christ – they are here.  So it is a cross-section of people who you rarely see gathered in one place.

And speaker after speaker, singer after singer, sales rep after sales rep talked about the orphan. Even my crew, mostly people who do not share my faith, a wonderful hard-working motley crew of agnostics and atheists, noticed it.  And strangely, many of them were adoptees themselves or had siblings who were adoptees.  It was great for my crew to see that side of Christianity – to see the hearts of Believers that care for the least of these.

People who have a heart like Christ.

courtesy of adoption.net

I am so glad my crew got to see that – so often they see the dark prideful underbelly of Christian productions/events.  You ever wonder what technical people think about Christians – well, you wouldn’t want to know.  Techs watch every move and know who are divas, who are living double lives, who are one person on stage and another when my guys are putting a microphone on their lapel.  They have seen it all – so I was grateful when they got to see heart after heart touched with a love for those “being led away to death… staggering towards slaughter.

Don’t get me wrong – It still wasn’t a perfect show – there were still egos and issues.  They’ll never see a perfect Christian because there is no such beast in this world.  But this year it was better.

You guys who know me well know my bias – my mind and heart are centered on the orphan.  My desire to adopt is so ever-present that it is almost painful sometimes.  So I know I am hyperaware  – but in one session, 5 of the 6 performers talked directly about the orphan.  And my host was an adoptee.  That is not a coincidence.

God is doing something pretty powerful.  In high school we talked about knowing God’s will and someone once told me “You’ll know God’s will when you see where God is already moving and you join in.”

God is moving in the hearts of people to give the orphan a home and a family.

And we have the chance to get on board.

And I just have to wonder if this movement isn’t going to be how God redeems the reputation of Christianity in the United States to draw some people to Himself.  Let’s face it – we have a crap reputation.  And most of it is well-deserved.  We have not been about love and justice and peace, we have been about behavior modification, capitalism, and judgment for far too long.  But one thing we are beginning to get right is the heart for the orphan.  And the world isn’t necessarily getting it right.  Yes, I know there is Angelina Jolie, Madonna, and Sandra Bullock.  But I just googled the word “Orphan” to try to get a good picture for this post.  Almost every response was a screen grab from the awful movie Orphan that came out last year.  Pages and pages and pages of that awful image.  How sad that when you google “orphan,” you don’t get pictures of the 147 million actual precious human children who are going to sleep tonight on the street or in an institution or in a temporary facility, but instead you get a visually disturbing photograph from a horror movie.  We as Christians are supposed to be salt and light in a dark world.  How much more counter-culture could we be than if we reject the distorted idea presented in that film that the orphan is somehow unfit for a home or dangerous.  What if we sacrificed to show redemption and love to these tiny precious children who the world fears because of some jacked up horror movie.  The verse I quoted earlier  Rescue those being led away to death.  Hold back those staggering towards slaughter is just one of the verses the Lord has given Justin and I as He has called us to adopt.  The reality is that if most of the orphans are not adopted, they will die or be institutionalized for the rest of their childhood.  They are at tremendous risk for attachment disorders.  They often are the victims of trafficking and many enter the sex trade.  They are staggering towards death.  And they have done nothing to deserve that.  They are like my Bekah or my Grace – they deserve safety and love – they deserve to be cuddled and kissed and allowed to sleep in the home of parents who adore them.  If Christians around the world would be known as the force that gave homes to every orphan in the world, if we would just take the cause of the orphan seriously, there is no telling what we could accomplish and the lives that would be literally saved.  If we would stop investing in buildings and start investing in people – we could get somewhere.  Maybe instead of being known as the people who don’t “believe in” homosexuality and dislike liberals and don’t cuss or drink – we could be known as a force for good.  Maybe that could turn our reputation around and people might then be interested in the God we say we believe in.   Now not all – Jesus said we would be hated because of Him, but maybe some.

Maybe people like my guys.

I named this post Orphan because maybe someday Google will pick it up and it can be just one post that presents the cause of the orphan in a positive truthful light.  Maybe it will be clicked and bump at least one site about that terrible movie into the gutter where it belongs.

Being a Consumer… of Ministry and Missions?

We live in a consumer culture (I am sure you are fully aware). The United States is one of the few nations where the service industry is larger than the manufacturing industry. In other words, we don’t so often make things as we provide services. And I believe we have all, in this service-oriented culture, become spoiled and critical. We often judge a restaurant, dealership, or retail store by the service we receive, not necessarily by the object we obtain. And it doesn’t take but one bad experience and we, with our money, walk out the door.

For many years, being on church staffs, we have talked about how people have become consumers of ministries. We shop around and find the right mix of ministries that tickle all of the right spots – we may go on Sunday mornings to this church because the preaching is great, but we go to this church on Sunday nights because the Worship is powerful, then on Tuesdays we go to this church for the Ladies Bible Study, and our teenagers go to camp with this church because that camp rocks. We judge each experience based on “customer service,” if they don’t sing the songs we like, or say the words we like, or have the building with the big slide for junior, we are out the door.

In an article entitled “Confessions of a (Recovering) Church-hopper”, the author, John Fischer, stated, “In our free-market, commodity-rich society, it’s understandable that we would approach church as we would a shopping mall of spiritual products and services. This is the way our culture operates.”

Jesus warned us that in this world we will have trouble and that this world is not our home. In Matthew 10 He said “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” He knew that the deceiver, the great enemy of our souls, would be constantly at work feeding us the lies of our surrounding culture. So Jesus warned us to test everything and to be wise, to not buy into the culture mentality, but to instead have a Kingdom mentality.

I think this consumer culture has corrupted both our expectations of and our commitment to churches. And we often don’t realize that there is a price we are paying for being church shoppers – a great price. This is a culture mentality and not a Kingdom mentality. In all of that running around, true community is lost. It becomes about the show, about the experience. We become critical consumers, instead of joining into the Body of Christ and playing the vital role God intended for us to play. We become spectators instead of members of the Body and we lose sight of the church as a body of Believers that we were intended to join.

And in all of this – essentials of the faith are lost. Where do we serve? Where do we tithe? The unfortunate evidence shows we don’t. According to Barna, only 5% of church goers tithe. (Tithing is the giving back to the Lord the first 10% of what the Lord has given us).

So not only are we consumers, but we are cheap. We are interested in the best free show out there.

It is no wonder that many of us walk away from church, never to return – as do our students who have grown up treating church this way. Recent research by Barna of 2,660 twenty-somethings shows that Americans in their twenties are significantly less likely than any other age group to attend church services, to donate to churches, to be absolutely committed to Christianity, to read the Bible, or to serve as a volunteer or lay leader in churches. Without community, the purpose of the church is lost. Don’t you wonder if we are throwing away an entire generation because we have been fooled into this consumer mindset and they have watched us and this mindset is the only thing they have grown up knowing of church?  I’m sure many things play into these statistics, but I wonder if this mindset is also a part.

We must be very wise when it comes to our church membership. I am not advocating remaining in dead churches (what my husband calls country clubs – a topic I wrote about in detail last year). But I am saying we need commitment and true community, not consumption, both for ourselves and for the children who watch our every move.  We must join into the work of Christ through His church. We must give. We must serve. We must connect. We must change everyday to become more like Him.

The past few months, I have been noticing the trend towards this consumer model not only in churches and ministries, but also in missions. Don’t get me wrong – there are some great things happening in missions around the world these days. It has, and I’m grateful for it, become vogue to care for “the least of these.” Churches and Believers are using terms like “social justice” and are truly becoming interested in sharing our immense wealth with the rest of the world as well as with the single mom down the block. I do love that, and don’t want to ever discourage it.

Another incredibly positive thing that has happened in the past 20 years is an amazing infrastructure has been developed to reach the poor and lost around the world. Compassion International and WorldVision are both amazing 4-star rated charities on the ground all over the world feeding, clothing, schooling, and reaching millions of people with the Gospel of Christ. For about $30 a month you can take care of a child in another country and assure that they will be fed, cared for, and given the chance to hear the Gospel. You can pay for it automatically, write them from your laptop, and make a huge difference. This is a FANTASTIC thing.

In addition, many ministries have sprung up in recent years taking people on trips to experience what God is doing in other countries. You can journey on a short-term mission trip and visit orphanages or villages and care for people directly – sharing the love and light of Christ. This can be another wonderful thing. My husband and I met on a short-term mission trip and I have loved being a part of those in the past.

But I have begun, in recent months, to feel a conviction and a caution in my heart when considering not only going on these short-term mission trips, but also sponsoring other people to go on them. I feel we must be wary of the consumer mindset creeping into our decision making.

My sister has given me permission to share this – and hopefully it will help you see where I am coming from. My sister is about to leave on an 11 month mission trip to 11 countries. When I first heard about the trip a few months ago, truthfully, I was against it. I had a huge sense of caution, not because of the trip, but because of the expense. At the time, my sister was going to begin fundraising for the entire $15,000 that she needed for the trip. I felt like it was a great potential experience for her, but I felt cautious about the fact that she was going to be asking people to donate so much money. I felt there was a huge red flag and I expressed to her my concern. In time, the Lord revealed to her that she needed to sell everything she had to raise money for the trip, and she was obedient to that call. Through the sale of her possessions and her car, she raised over 2/3 of the money needed for the trip. So although she was fundraising, she was also sacrificing. She gave her all first before she asked anyone else to give to the cause. Practically speaking, she felt that if the trip was going to be a great experience for her, the primary weight of financial responsibility needed to fall on her. At that point, my cautious feeling went away and I can now say, after watching her sacrifice this past few months, that I feel this trip is the best possible thing for my sister and I am convinced she is ready to follow this call.

This is where I have come down on this issue, and please keep in mind this is only my opinion and conviction and I understand others may disagree. I think we must be VERY wise and wary when making decisions about missions because I think the enemy can fool us here. We can allow a short-term mission trip to become an expensive safari, an experience for our benefit where we get to observe another world and take pictures and then we leave and return to our life leaving little good effect in our wake. So we spent a ton of money, but outside of us having a life-changing experience, we don’t have much to show for it.

On the other hand, because of the infrastructure in place through worthy ministries like Compassion and WorldVision, we can do a tremendous amount of good for a small amount of cash. For the cost of some of these short-term trips, we could sponsor more than 10 children for over 3 years through Compassion International. And as each of those children are changed, over the long-term, they impact others. So the ripple effect of that sponsorship has huge potential. The money goes into that community directly to make a concrete difference.

I am not saying there is not a place for short-term missions, but I believe we must be wise and we may need to only consider them after we have given our money sacrificially to other places where it possibly can do more good. There is only so much money we can give to causes, and we must be wise. There are missionaries all over the world who are long-term career missionaries giving their lives to invest in people groups. They are making a massive difference in the lives of hundreds of people and they need our support. We MUST support them before we become spectators or consumers of missions ourselves.

And we must be sacrificial. We cannot ask others to give to things when we ourselves have not given our all.

So our giving then looks like this:

1. The tithe – 10% of income to our local church where we are an invested member serving. (Biblically mandated – must be first).

2. The offering – Sacrificial giving over and above the tithe to worthy ministries.

3. The experience – Short term trips where we ourselves also benefit, that we ourselves have sacrificed to attain.

It is, after all, not about us, but about the spreading of the glory and gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not consumers then of missions, but we are contributors to the cause of missions around the world.

What do you think? What do you think are the pitfalls in our consumer culture we need to avoid when it comes to Ministry and Missions?

**Just in case someone may understand, please know I am not advocating these guidelines for the life of every Believer.  I am simply saying, as I have processed this, these are the thoughts and boundaries I have put in place in my mind to test these things and see if I am buying a mindset that is not holy.  So if you have a concern or think I am imposing rules on you, please know first of all that I am not, and please feel free to reach out to me**

Pray for Widline

I got home yesterday and today checked the mail – I received my final letter from my Compassion Child in Haiti, Widline, in the mail while I was gone.  She graduated from the Compassion Program a couple of months ago and I have been thinking of her and praying for her.  Hoping she is alive and that she is not alone.  Wondering if I’d ever hear since she is not officially in the Compassion program anymore.  Here is the letter she sent me.

Dear Jennifer and Justin,

I feel happy to write you this letter and I take advantage of greeting you in Jesus’ name.  I take advantage of thanking you for what you do for me:  to pay my school, to buy books and uniform, special gifts.  Those things let me feel that you represent a close parent for me.  I must let you know that you’ll always stay in my spirit for all the good things that you did for me.  I pray that God always blesses you and always gives you health.  This way you’ll always lift me in your prayers.  Your sponsoring child who will always love even though we will not have the time to talk anymore.  May God bless you.  Widline

Here is the photograph enclosed in the letter.  Please join me in praying for Widline.

Jesus please protect Widline and show her your love.  Please be near to her.   Please comfort her heart and mind. Please provide food and water for her.  If she is hurt or trapped, please send rescue and help.   Jesus she is your child and you love her more than I can imagine.  Please let her know your love.  Please let her know she is not forgotten and she is prayed for.  Surround her with your presence. And if she didn’t make it through the tragedy, I am thankful that I know she is home with you.  Jesus my heart aches for her.  If there is any way I can someday know her fate, please allow me to know that.  I love you Jesus.  I am thankful that Widline is, one way or another, in your loving capable wise hands.

And after you pray with me, please give to Compassion, or select a Compassion child to sponsor. Your life will be forever changed and you can provide help to children around the world.

Haiti Donate Online

Between the Beauty and the Chaos

My mind is stuck in Haiti and I write to process, so be warned this is all over the place.  I think about Haiti as I go to sleep and immediately upon waking up.  And yet I am home now and holding my beautiful Bekah and playing with my beautiful Grace in our wonderful home and the stark comparison of those two things just baffles me.  My friend Aaron Ivey wrote an album entitled “Between the Beauty and the Chaos,” and he and his wife share a similar heart with Justin and me, and that sums up where I am.

Last night as I lay in bed trying to sleep I told Justin that it is hard for me to watch the father he is, to watch him dance with Grace while we watch Cinderella, without thinking that every girl deserves a daddy like him.  Here’s the beauty of the life we live.

Jamie and Aaron Ivey’s son, Amos, is still living in an orphanage in Haiti until his adoption is final and for the past two nights they have had to sleep with all 70 children outside because of the aftershocks and the insecurity of their damaged building.  Here is a photograph they posted.  This is the chaos of these precious children’s lives.

A few months ago one of my Compassion kids, Widline Floreal, graduated from the Compassion Program.  I received word that she had come to Christ during her time at the Project, and I prayed that she would know always that Jesus is with her.  Beautiful girl.  I hope she isn’t alone in the chaos.  I hope she’s alive.  I wonder if I’ll ever know.  I pray she knows Jesus loves her and is with her.

We have given to several organizations that are on the ground in Haiti, but it isn’t enough.  We are praying and reading the blogs and calling out to God, and I know in my mind that is more but it still feels like it isn’t enough.  I just want to bring these babies home.  I just want to gather our friends and get them all adopted – be this beautiful rainbow family of people who love Christ.  I just want to see my husband dancing with my daughters from around the world.   I want to be used by God to bring beauty into chaos.  That is why we give.  That is why we pray.  That is why we will adopt.

There is beauty.  I sincerely hope that everyone is giving something to this cause.  If the people who are tweeting links to give to a cause are actually giving, I am thrilled with the generosity we are seeing.   The tweets and blogs from people on the ground in Haiti are so incredibly moving and powerful (@troylivesay, Livesay Blog, the Real Hope for Haiti blog, the Howerton blog), people are helping in extraordinary ways (Fellowship Church Miami’s plane headed to Haiti with food and water 36 hours after the first shaking), people in Haiti are singing worship songs, reading their bible, praying, helping, coming together.  I love this.  This is what we are supposed to be about.

There is chaos.

I know that some people who are my friends are not Believers in Christ, and yet you still read what I write and I thank you for doing so.  I have hesitated to speak to the Pat Robertson comment because I sometimes feel so unwise to respond to such things, but let me simply say this.  He does not speak for me, for any authentic Believer in Christ, or for the Jesus that I read in the Bible.   Pat’s comments were chaos.  We as believers are called to be light and love to this world (Right before Jesus’ death in John 13 he told the disciples A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Pat’s representation of Christ is not love or light.  I am sorry he claims to speak for us as Believers.

If you care to read it, Donald Miller’s response to Pat’s comments was completely in line with what I feel about Pat Robertson.  I thought his words represented Beauty well.

I thought Keith Olbermann’s response to Pat’s comments were very interesting, and I didn’t know what he was responding to until I looked it up, and I was shocked at the political comments I found.  It is amazing how many people used this horrible tragedy and turned it into political fodder – yet another chance to bash our President.  I am incredibly frustrated with the 24 hour news cycle and with the nonsense it has inflicted on our country and I am frustrated with Fox News and what it has done to Christianity.  We are NOT to be known primarily, or really at all according to my Bible, for our political point of view.   Jesus lived in the time of the Roman Empire, and he never once said to “Rise up and fight, call everyone a fascist and circulate hate through email and picket and be known by your division.”  He said to “render unto Caesar what is Caesars and render unto God what is God’s.”  I’m fine if you vote Republican, so do I. I am fine if you vote for the life of the unborn.  So do I.  But when you politicize everything, including a horrible tragedy such as this situation in Haiti and use it to be hateful, disrespectful, and anything but submissive to the leadership that God has placed over you, you are sinning.  God ordains our leaders.  Look at China.  The church is exploding!  God does not need a Christian in the White House to be glorified.  Read the new Testament, the church was meant to be a subversive force in our culture.  If you are a Believer in Christ and watching Fox News (or MSNBC) and getting all fired up and hateful and divisive, if you are known for that and not for your love for people around you, you are known for the wrong thing.  I am not a sheep.  I am fully aware of what is going on in our country.  But I am not a citizen primarily of this country.  I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God and I will behave as such.  If you are spreading chaos into this world, and not spreading beauty, beware.  You might be about the wrong Kingdom’s business.  Again, I typically don’t speak to this, and you can now see why.  🙂  But this is where I am.  That junk is chaos.  And we are not to be about it.  I’ll now stop spouting my opinions on this, in case you were nervous.

Here’s the truth of where I am today. We live in a horribly fallen world.  It is simply and terribly chaos.  We were meant for another world – for heaven.  A world of beauty.  And in the in between, we are here with a purpose to give God glory and to be a light into darkness.   To bring the beauty of the next life, of peace with God, into the chaos of a fallen world. Jesus please help us to do that.  Jesus please be near to Haiti.  Jesus please hold the fatherless in the palm of your hands, and raise up fathers here with a passion to bring their sons and daughters home.  There are 140 million orphans.  Jesus please call your church to be a forever family to these sweet babies.  Please let no Christian be satisfied to be a citizen of this country.  Please call them to be a citizen of your Kingdom first and foremost.  Jesus help us where we are weak, be great when we are not, and cover over us with your grace when we are decidedly human.   To You and You alone be the glory.

A Case for Life – A Case for Compassion

I am processing something these days and I write to process – so welcome to my inner monologue.  And bear with me – it’ll be long.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about Confession.  It has occurred to me that another side benefit of confession is that from it flows compassion.  It is easy to stand back and judge the sinner until you admit you are the sinner – until you know the pain they are in and the battle they are facing.   God is compassionate and as we become more like Him – our compassion grows.  Lamentations 3:21 – 23 says  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I was taught compassion by my amazing mom. If you know her – you know what I am talking about. This is a part of her testimony and she doesn’t mind me sharing – my mom as a very young teenager found herself pregnant and had an abortion.  There were crazy circumstances surrounding her decision – and in the world’s eyes – her decision was an easy solution to a complicated problem.  But I will tell you that decision hurt my mom deeply.  When she became a Christian she finally began to mourn that decision and heal from the pain.  Although she knows her sins are forgiven, I have seen her pain and it has made her DECIDEDLY pro-life.  She will help any young woman and relate to them because she feels that abortion is, frankly, incredibly difficult on the heart of the young mom (in addition to the obvious life of the child).  The young woman may not deal with it immediately, but it is her belief, from her experience, that they eventually will deal with it and that it is a painful reckoning – a loss of innocence.  She is amazingly brave and honest to share her testimony and I grew up knowing about this from an early age.  And it made me compassionate.  It made the abortion debate not about a hateful sign held up at a rally – it made it about the fear and loneliness of a very young girl in a terrifying situation and what I could do to help that girl.  I can’t tell you how much I love and respect my mom for sharing – for confessing.  What a brave thing for her to do.  For using even her most painful moment to teach me and my siblings the redemptive power of our King.  To illustrate for us true compassion.  So, growing up in her home, the question of whether or not I was pro-life was an easy decision.  I was.  For my mom and all moms.  Women who say that pro-choice is the stance that supports women simply aren’t talking to all women.

But my mom also taught me to back up my political point of view with action.  You can’t SAY you are pro-life and not be willing to lay down your life for the mom and/or the child.  To sacrifice to support her in her choice to give her child life.  If you want her to make that difficult choice – you have to be willing to help her.  You can’t legislate morality and then walk away and not help women navigate the difficult waters of adjusting to an unplanned pregnancy.  I grew up watching my mom do things like this – in part because of her experience.  She has a heart for young women.  She understands them and hurts for them.  She wants to give love to them and rescue them before they ever make the decisions that will lead them to unplanned pregnancy. Her compassion overflows onto the hurting.  Period.  It was great to grow up in her home and witness that firsthand.

Justin and I are in pain for children in our world.  I have come to realize this feeling as compassion – taught to me by my sweet mom. Our hearts hurt – we want children’s lives to be redeemed.  We want them protected, provided for, safe, loved, whole, healed.  We want to adopt.  We sponsor children through Compassion International.  We read blogs about human trafficking, adoption, diseases, and other issues surrounding children around the world.  Bottom line – we want to rescue children from death (and introduce them to Christ).  We want to use our money and our time in the most effective way possible to help as many children as possible.  We also want to be mindful of the children the Lord has already blessed us with.  So along with our considerations for the children out there who we want to rescue – we also have to weigh the affects on our own children.  I don’t mind them paying a material price – they don’t get as many toys and junk but get instead a baby brother either in our home or around the world in a Compassion project.  That’s not even a consideration – we’re willing to make that sacrifice.  But we do want them safe from abuse or harm.  We want all of our children to know a loving, safe, joyful home where they can build a great foundation for life.  So as we make decisions – these are the things we consider.

Lately, the hunger in me to adopt has grown, but also some interesting things have happened that have kind of refined my vision for our future.

As Believers, I believe we are supposed to change the world – to bring heaven to earth.  To provide community and fellowship, sacrificial love and friendship to people around us who need it.  That doesn’t mean that we are all to adopt – but James 1:27 says that “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  Jesus Himself in Matthew 25:33 – 40 talks about who He will let into heaven and He separates the righteous and the unrighteousness based on their service to “the least of these.”   If you take the Bible seriously you see that a fruit of true righteousness is caring for the least of these.  We have been given so much – we have to give back.  Because of the grace, love, provision, protection, life we have been given, we have to give grace, love, provision, protection, and life to others in our world.

Some friends of mine illustrated this for me this past week.  Because of their privacy, I’ll not give the details except to tell you that they lived this principle out when they were introduced to someone making a decision about a potentially very difficult special needs pregnancy.  They met with this mom and offered to help this mom in any way to be able to have this child – first of all to help financially and with support if she decided to keep the child, and second they were ready to adopt the child if the child was indeed born with special needs and if the mom didn’t feel she could cope.  In talking to my friends, their willingness to do WHATEVER this mom needed to support her was incredibly impressive.  They had compassion – they were willing to make her difficulty their shared difficulty.  They brought heaven to earth.  And the mom responded in love.

Around the same time – I read a difficult blog about an adoptive family that was actually having to give up one of their children because of some serious abuse that he had faced before they adopted him.  It was one of the most powerful things I’d ever read.  It was the first time I’d considered the dual goals of strengthening families in a certain country as well as providing adoptive services in a country.  I know that sounds simple – but I’d never thought of it.  It is exactly what my mom always taught us.   Yes – providing adoption is a powerful sacrifice and is incredibly giving to a child.  But if you can heal a home so that a child never faces terrible abuse before they are adopted – how much better is that for the child?  Rescuing them from a terrible circumstance is an incredible gift – but if you can spare them from even needing a rescue so that they only know safety and security in their birth home?  So much better.   Even if it is in a difficult country.

What does redemption look like for children of the world?  What does bringing heaven to earth look like?  I think my goal as a Believer should be first of all healing and strengthening family units worldwide.  Ideally, there would be no broken hurting families giving up children for adoption.  Reducing the overall number of orphans at the source should be an equal goal along with getting all of the 145,000,000 orphans in our world today adopted.  So caring for the orphan, as a Believer, suddenly becomes MUCH broader.  It means we care about poverty, the spread of preventable disease, the sex trade, war, starvation – all of the factors that influence the family and that turn children into orphans.  It becomes big – overwhelming if you don’t take into account the number of Believers that the Lord was speaking to when He gave the command in James.  James 1:27 and Matthew 25 aren’t written to super Christians.  It doesn’t only apply to the clergy.  It applies to ALL BELIEVERS.  So if you spread these challenges among 2.1 billion professing Christians in our world (1/3 of the world population), it becomes much more manageable.  What are 145 million orphans in a community of 2.1 billion people who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior?  Not so overwhelming, right?  But here are some statistics that bring shame on the church and I believe shed light on why this problem seems so big.  According to Barna, If 7% of professing Christians adopted, there would be no orphans.  But adoption is a big sacrifice and a big gift – and unfortunately the church today isn’t so big on giving.  A recent study by Barna showed that only 3% of Christians tithe, down from 8% in 2001.

This is where we need to RISE UP.  We need to change the world.  We need to start giving our 10% to the Lord.  To the church, to organizations worldwide that fight for the family (www.worldvision.org, www.compassion.com).  We need to INSIST that our churches support the widow and orphan,  that they restore and redeem families.  We need to befriend hurting people.  We need to be people of compassion.  We need to support women when they face an unplanned pregnancy.  Not judge her.  Not shun her.  Not call her names or distance ourselves from her.  Love her.  Support her.  Stand with her.  We need to hear and respond to the call of the orphan.  If we have room and resources, we need to consider adopting and giving these sweet children a safe home.

As a part of the church of Jesus Christ we will stand and give an account.  And I think if we have worked hard to “make a nice life for ourselves” while 10 million children die each year from preventable diseases and while 145 million orphans live without hope worldwide, we will have wasted our lives and we are going to have a rude awakening when we face our Creator.  Jesus never promised us a nice life.  He never promised us a safe suburban life for us and our children with a fat retirement account.  He promised us in John 16:33 that “in this world you will face trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”  He has won the battle if we will only show up and fight.

My Pastor and I discussed it recently – and God is raising up an army of students – their heart for the widow, orphan, poor, and hurting in our world is unprecedented.  God is raising up an army that cares and will make a difference and we, as adults, can either be a part of it or we can dismiss it and squash it as the idealism of the young.  I’m convinced it is happening right now.  They are fearless.  Students – Please don’t waste your life.  Please don’t get wrapped up in nonsense “reality” shows and ignore the world around you.  Follow the call.  Heed the instruction.  Be a generation that worships God and obeys His call to change the world.  Parents/Adults – we have the resources to support these students and make their vision for the future a reality.  We need to step up and meet that need.

So this is what I am processing these days as I think about our future and about when we will follow the Lord in obedience and adopt.  One thing I realized – and again this is simple but I’m clueless sometimes, is that our call to adopt isn’t something we came up with and now we need the Lord to provide the way for us to work it out.   It is something He called us to and He will be faithful to bring the resources and requirements into line when He is ready.  He began it, and He will accomplish it, and He will get all of the glory.  And until then, He has called us to Compassion and He will provide the resources for us to continue our support of those sweet kids and those sweet families even during tough times.  He called us, He will accomplish it, and He will get all of the glory.  He holds us in His Hands, and He is always faithful.

Jesus please lead us to be a light to this dark world.  Please allow us to heal hurting families and rescue orphans before they even become orphans, to give lonely hurting girls a safe place to make the decision to protect life.  Please let us bring heaven to earth while we are here and take so many hurting people with us when we go to live with You.   Please RAISE UP an army that not only Believes in You but is ready to LIVE for you and GIVE for You.