Practical Faith, Miraculous Results

One of the things I’ve been deeply convicted of the past few years is the way I handle people who are suffering around me. Say someone posts on Facebook that they are sick or have a need. How do I respond? I used to just blow past that in the busyness of life, thinking “I’ll pray about that later” or “poor so-and-so, that stinks.” But the Lord sent me some amazing faithful friends who lived differently, who acted on their faith constantly and met needs and ministered to others, and I wanted to live more like them – more like Jesus. It changed me.

Now when I see someone hurting, I try to stop – I try to be the church and meet a need, maybe even get to be Jesus with skin to that person. First off, I’ll say “I’m praying” and I stop at that moment and actually pray – lifting that need to the Father (trying to make myself less of a liar when I inevitably forget the need later). But second, I try to think of a practical thing I can do to lift their burden. Can I bring a meal? Can I pick up a kid or send you a book or note to encourage your heart? If it is a ministry, can I send supplies or give a gift? And I try to do that quickly too. Commit right then to do something, and do it then, before I can forget.

It takes a few minutes, but when I am faithful to do it – I’m telling you I get blessed. And we can’t out-give God – he always provides. This is a completely true story of how God provided for us last year when we were learning to live with open hands. It started when we were given a huge Christmas blessing including quite a bit of cash. After paying bills, we had $300 remaining. We heard of a friend who needed $300 to pay their electric bill, and we gave it to them. We just felt like the money wasn’t ours to begin with, since it had been given to us, so why not share it? A few weeks later, when we were faced with some medical bills, a friend of mine asked me to coffee (someone also going through a difficult financial struggle). Without knowing about our gift to our friend, she slid an envelope over to me across the table with $300 in cash inside the envelope because she and her husband felt the Lord had told them to bless us. A few weeks later, someone dropped an envelope on those friends’ front porch with a little over $300 inside it. That money transferred hands four times meeting needs exactly when it was needed, that we know of. It freaks me out it’s so cool. It taught us a HUGE lesson.

So we give – even when we don’t have much to give. And God provides. We have loved taking meals to friends. We have loved meeting simple basic needs for ministries on the ground around the world. I do the graphics for a ministry in Kenya that houses young pregnant women and helps them with prenatal and postnatal needs so they can keep their babies and not have to give them up for adoption, and that was all because I saw a tweet that they needed help and over a year later, I’m still partnering with them whenever possible.

otoscope

Baby scale

stethoscope

In addition, we have started following several ministries on Facebook and Twitter, especially since the Haiti earthquake, so we can know what they need and pray and maybe help meet those needs. One of the ministries we follow is Real Hope for Haiti – a clinic and outreach center a few hours north of Port-au-Prince Haiti. A few months ago they posted a need for a baby scale for their clinic. I reached out and purchased a scale off Amazon, had it shipped along with a few other basic pieces of medical equipment to Miami, and the ministry sent me pictures this week of the supplies we sent being used to treat the beautiful people of Haiti.

This was a simple thing – I think the whole thing cost us maybe $150 bucks. But look at where it went! That is an investment that pays dividends forever.

I know many of you who read this have a huge heart for the world, and like me, you love meeting practical needs. Real Hope for Haiti is getting ready to ship a massive container of supplies from Indiana to Haiti to help the poor and hurting. They have set up a Walmart Wishlist with things like baby powder and orajel on it (some things cost just a few dollars) and we can partner with them to meet these simple needs. In addition, they are gathering money to ship the container. If you want to be a part of a simple solution to bless someone who needs it, click here.

Let’s be the church. Let’s obey Jesus. And let’s see the miracles pour forth.

The Battle for Adoptive Families

As most of you know, my husband and I want to adopt. As we have waited for our opportunity, we have felt a strong clear calling is to support and encourage families who go before us in adoption and foster care. Our wait has made us “students” of adoption and prayer warriors for adoptive families. There is so much we did not know before we began this journey – and as our eyes have opened, our prayer life has increased.

One of our previous misconceptions was that the adoption struggle and the adoption story was the process to get a child home. We now know there are two main struggles of adoption, and the initial struggle to get a child home is only part of the story. The first struggle includes the sometimes nightmarish bureaucracy that has to be painstakingly navigated, the many thousands of dollars that must be raised, the process of educating and developing a support system to surround your family in the process, the uncertainty inherent to such an emotionally charged decision, the potential for great pain and even disruption of the adoption, and the logistics of travel or legal processes. This struggle can be simply annoying, or it can absolutely break the hearts of the adoptive family. We have seen families survive difficulties and hurts in this struggle that are the worst-case scenario. We’ve watched God redeem and restore even the most broken.

The second struggle is the process of healing and adapting to the new normal within the family once the children come home. This is not talked about very much outside of the adoption community, because frankly it doesn’t often feel “safe” for an adoptive family to share that there are challenges after the new children get home. The common misconception is that once the child gets home into a safe loving home, the work is done. But it is just beginning. These children from hard places are hurt, often deeply. Even if they are adopted at birth, they may have had prenatal exposure that will impact their ability to connect. Trust needs to be established, boundaries established and enforced in love without the child overreacting, and the people in the home need to connect as a family. None of this is simple. Just like we don’t /poof!/ become completely angelic creatures without sin at salvation, but instead we work out our salvation “in fear and trembling” as we gradually grow more like Christ, so a child doesn’t always trust completely and meld perfectly into the family God has chosen for him instantly at adoption. The work of connection after a child comes home is hard for many of our adoptive families. Occasionally it feels “impossible” – to quote a dear friend who has endured the worst. And they don’t feel free to share that struggle because when they do, they are often faced with people who say “I told you so” or who judge the way the family is handling the adjustment or who judge the child as “broken.” Very few people can be trusted to know the deep struggles that come along with adoption, and not judge or criticize. This creates a situation where the family can be isolated, and we all know that the enemy of our souls works in isolation. So this struggle is often longer and more painful than the first struggle, although there are few articles about it on the internet and few discussions about it over the dinner table. But this struggle remains, and this is a major prayer need of an adoptive family.

We have also seen God work huge miracles in this struggle. We have seen Him make all things new, although that journey can be tough. I recently heard someone say that when God calls families to “visit orphans in their distress” (James 1) it is more often us entering into their pain and distress with them and walking with them to healing, rather than plucking them up out of pain and bringing them into our world of wholeness. It is painful for us and them, but God is faithful.

During these years we have waited, we have intentionally reached out to adoptive families on Facebook and in person to get to know them, to let them know it is safe to be honest with us, and to come alongside them in prayer. It has stretched our faith to walk through the valleys of these two struggles with these families (as much as we are able). But as we have done so – there is a really interesting phenomenon we have noted.

In Ephesians 6, Paul talks about difficulty in our world. He says: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” During the two struggles of adoption, it can seem like you are fighting all kinds of things. It feels like you are fighting a bureaucracy that is fundamentally broken, it feels like you are fighting to advocate for a child that has often been forgotten, it feels like you are fighting against the misled and often false assumptions of others, it feels like you are fighting against societal norms, and it even can feel like, after the child is home, you are fighting the walls in your child as you try to get them to trust you. It can feel like you are fighting the world. But this verse makes clear who you are actually fighting. You are fighting the enemy of our souls, which is why the battle is so difficult.

The Bible says God “sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68). The Bible says that adoption is a picture of our salvation (Romans 8, Galatians 4). The Bible says that God gives special care to the orphan  and watches over them as a Father (Exodus 22, Psalms 10, James 1, Psalms 68, Deuteronomy 24). The Bible says that all Christ-followers are called to serve the orphan (James 1, Isaiah 1, Proverbs 31, Matthew 18, Matthew 25). It is clear that the call to adopt, as difficult as it may be, is something we are called to do and God is faithful to provide for and equip the called, because it is important to Him. So of course, if adoption is so important to God, then thwarting it is important to the enemy of God.

One of the things I have noticed as we’ve watched and prayed, is that time and time again, my friends in the adoption world seem to have simultaneous victories and struggles. It is like this fabric across the world is attached to every adoption. And when God breaks through a struggle and works a miracle on someone’s behalf, there is a ripple that goes across the world, and there is a consequence of that breakthrough in many families. It happened again this week. A precious friend’s adoption of a little girl from Haiti finally passed through a certain government office where their adoption had been stalled for months. It was a great victory, and we rejoiced. But on that day, several completely disconnected adoptive families shared with me through different avenues that they had experienced a really difficult day with the healing of their newly adopted child. It was like the fabric was shaken, and it affected everyone. This concept sounds crazy, I know, until you look at the verse from Ephesians 6. If all of these adoptive struggles were separate and not related, then they should not impact each other. But if we are all fighting one enemy, set against adoption, against the lonely finding families, opposed to the healing and connection of a child, then it isn’t so crazy after all.

Not to overdo the imagery, but since I am visual I have also seen this like a dragon who experiences the swipe of a claw against his face. It hurts him, and He swings around in rage, lashing out with his tail at anything surrounding him. He was wounded, so he wounds. That is how I have seen the adoption community this week. It seems connected. God is moving (praise Him) but our enemy is reacting and his goal is to wound. We need to be praying. In a spiritual battle, against an enemy we cannot see but can feel his effects, prayer is our weapon. We know that the Lord has the victory, and we know that He is more powerful, but we also know that for a time, the enemy has some level of authority on the earth. Revelations 12:12 says “Woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” I believe that the wrath and fury of the enemy is focused many places, but certainly adoptive families are included in that list. I don’t believe those families are without hope (thank you Jesus), but I also believe that we who are not in an adoption process have a responsibility to battle these forces of evil with adoptive families in prayer throughout both of the struggles of adoption, the initial struggle to bring a child home and the secondary struggle to get a child healed and connected. We who stand around these adoptive families must fight our human instinct to criticize and correct, and instead act on our spiritual responsibility to humbly enter into community, acting with compassion and grace, praying as we go.

I count myself humbled, and honored, to get to stand with you families fighting these battles. This week has felt heavy and my prayer has felt especially necessary this week, and my heart cries out on your behalf. I am grateful for each of you. My faith grows because of your sacrifice and your faithful obedience to the call of our Father.

Take heart friends. Just as this past week we celebrated Christ’s victory over death and sin, so this week we stand with you and proclaim Christ’s victory over your struggles. Your children will be made whole because of Jesus, and your family’s struggle will be redeemed. And until that day, we stand with you in prayer.

Jesus be near, give grace, be mighty to save, fight for these beloved children, give encouragement and peace to adoptive families. We stand in simple faith and tell you that we trust you, we are grateful for the victory you promise, and we give you the glory.

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The Prayers of Many

I have a friend who is in the middle of a very difficult adoption trial. I want to protect her privacy, so I’ll call her M. She is a kind, wise, godly person who loves children, a school teacher, who adopted a little girl last summer (I’ll call E) out of the foster system. Months after bringing E into her home, M found out that CPS had made serious errors in the removal of E from her previous home. Although there was definite evidence of abuse and neglect, these errors have put the adoption of E into indefinite hold just days before the adoption was to be finalized.

E has been bounced around from home to home most of her young life. She has been neglected, forgotten, and abused. Last year she finally got a mommy who had prayed for her long before she knew her. She was safe and loved. She has made strides this year to trust M and to start to let down the walls that she built around herself in her early life. They have walked through some serious trials together and truthfully they are still walking through difficulty. The wounds in E are deep. She’s afraid, and justifiably so, that M isn’t permanent. The therapist working with E has encouraged M that once E’s adoption is finalized, she can really begin to trust and heal.

So not only does this indefinite hold effect M and E because it seems to have the potential to split them up, it is actually delaying E’s healing and making M’s home feel like just another “holding tank” that E has been placed into, not the home of permanent stability and safety she so desperately needs.

It is a terribly difficult situation. M lives in a rural community, works all day with her students, comes home and focuses intently on E and her healing, and then after E goes to bed grades papers until she finally falls asleep exhausted. She does not have much community around her, outside of her family, who “get” what she is doing. She is not on Facebook, attached to the amazing community of adoptive parents that I have been able to meet, and she isn’t in a church that has other adoptive parents.

So the purpose of this blog is to change that. It occurred to me today that I know an army of people who fight for kids like E and moms like M everyday. So I am going to send this blog to every adoptive mom and adoption advocate I can think of and to members of the church who have stood with us in trials. I want people to come in droves willing to pray for M and E, willing to write them letters of scripture and encouragement, willing to stand with them in intercession before God that He would fight for them, give M peace, and heal this sweet little girl. So if you want to join me in this army of prayer support and encouragement for my friend, would you leave a comment, or send me an email at jenniferlwells@me.com? I will send you updates on the situation, and a way to send encouraging “snail mail” and email to M and E if you feel led to send them encouragement and prayers.

We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

I believe that together we will rejoice (and I pray it is soon) when the Lord has worked a miracle not only in the case, but in M and E’s home, in the love, trust, and permanency of a family. And until then, Jesus please be near my sweet friend.

Family Talk

I have an amazing friend named Jan, and she truly is one of the women I want to emulate in my life. She brilliantly shines Jesus and grace and beauty and love. Many of you reading this have been impacted by her and love her dearly.

She has this expression she uses often, and I love it. She’ll be sharing something, and right before she shares, she’ll say, “This is family talk.” When I hear it, I feel treasured. I know she considers me family. She trusts me. Also when I hear it, my spirit agrees with her. We are family. We share a purpose and a Father. We can rejoice together in the good and pray together in the hard because we give each other grace.

Family talk.

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. Acts 9:31

I was talking with Justin and another friend this week about the family of God. We certainly have our moments of frustration and division. We certainly have been through struggles together and sometimes there are hurts that need to be healed. But still we are family. We rejoice when God uses a member of our family to bring Him glory, wherever that may be. We pray when a member of our family is hurting. When someone from the outside of our family criticizes someone inside of our family, we can get a little defensive.

When I joined the family of God, it was at a large precious church that I still adore. Many many people became my family members at that place. I had father-figures and mother-figures and aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters all over the place. We saw God move there. We were used by God to do big things there. It was an amazing time.

Image courtesy of calvaryinglewood.org

A few years later, that place went through some struggles. There was hurt. Many of us scattered all over the place during that time of transition. We were like baby birds pushed out of the safe warm nest. For a while there was some division and confusion and hurt. There were things we all needed to confess and forgive. We needed to let go of the former things (Isaiah 43:18). But if you look around that family, whether people left or stayed, wherever people landed, God continues to use us. He took us from ministering at one church to ministering at that church plus a dozen more. He was faithful. He did not give up on us. We healed. We grew. We were forgiven for our part in the struggle. We forgave others.

We are family – even across the miles and across the hurts. We don’t have to agree on everything because we agree on the important things. We can still rejoice in the good, we can still ache and pray in the difficulty, because we are family.

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you, brothers,by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:9-10

We serve in an area with many churches. And it’s easy and human to compare and compete a little. It’s easy to focus on our differences and not on what unites us. But we are not called to live easy and human. We are called to be set apart. We are commanded to rejoice with each other and pray for each other. God is moving in many ways across the world, and every move He makes deserves to be celebrated by us all whether we have a part in it or not. Because we aren’t just an organization, we are parts of an organism. We are family, parts of the same body. We are joined together with Christ, and there is no room for division in this body.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6

I am just filled with gratitude today for my family. I want each of you to know I love you and thank my God for you – truly. You have welcomed me into your family, and you have welcomed my brave wonderful husband and my beautiful little girls. You have treated us with grace. You love us, and I am so grateful for you. I love the Lord more because I know you and because you have treated me with love. I am grateful.

Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me

So I have a new person I want to be when I grow up – Dr. Karyn Purvis. She’s a precious, lovely, brilliant child-development guru who wrote The Connected Child and spoke at the Empowered to Connect Conference this weekend that Justin and I attended. She has spent the last 15 years of her life helping adoptive parents and adopted children heal and connect and I just fell in love with her heart for children from hard places.

Sometimes I feel like a bit of a poser when it comes to the adoption thing. I love it, know we are called to it, but also know that our time has not yet come. So we go to these conferences and we’re surrounded by people in the trenches who are giving their lives, time, money, energy, and hearts to adopted and foster kids in the room, and there we sit with our two bio kids and a dream. And sometimes I feel a little foolish, frankly. But I also know that there is purpose in waiting, and that our vision for adoption has shifted even in these 3 years we have waited. I know that I am a better mom now than I was even a year ago (partially because of the amazing parenting strategies taught at conferences like the one I attended today). I know that the Lord is realigning my priorities even this week to focus on my family and He continues to shave the rough edges off the crazy woman that is Jen Wells. I know that this past few years, while we’ve waited, I’ve identified pretty unrealistic expectations in my heart of how this will all turn out, and I’ve watched those expectations die. I’ve learned to trust my Father more this past 3 years. I’ve become more of a person my kids can trust. So I can see that this wait has definitely served a purpose.

But still we wait. And we pray. And we read books and blogs. And we attend conferences. And we try desperately to be a light for our friends who have adopted, and be a safe person they can vent to and turn to when they need to take off their capes and be human and frustrated for a second.

He must become greater, I must become less. John 3:30

Now that verse sounds holy, right? But in recent weeks the life of John the Baptist, who made that beautiful statement of faith, has come up time and time again in my personal studies. This guy had spent his life predicting and proclaiming the coming Messiah. And He comes! John gets to baptize Him and hears the voice of God proclaiming that this is His Son. All of this is a huge mountaintop event – John is rare in humankind in that even while he is touching the shoulders of the flesh-bearing manifestation of the Son, He is seeing the Holy Spirit come down from heaven and hearing the voice of God the Father. So in essence – He experienced, with human senses, the Trinity. And that’s pretty amazing.

But then he’s sent to prison. While in prison, He sends Jesus a question – “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Basically John is suffering, and he wants to make sure he’s got it right. And Jesus sends a message back confirming miracles that have been prophesied about the Messiah – but He leaves one really important part of the prophesy out. He leaves out the part where the Messiah sets the prisoner free. And at the end of His message, He sends a note to John, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

I’m not an expert on the Bible – but basically if I’m reading this right, Jesus’ message to John says something like this: “I am the Messiah. But I’m not going to free you from prison, my plans for you are different from what you expect. But you’ll be blessed if you still love and trust Me even unto death.”

That is some crazy deep stuff. I’ll be honest, that is hard stuff for me to wrap my mind around. But in so many ways – this idea of living unoffended is the message of people I admire and respect, was the message of this conference, and is the message I think the Lord has been trying to teach me during the last 3 years of my discomfort (it’s hard to call what we’ve experienced a trial after being in the room I was in today with people who have experienced real trials and who are parenting kids who have come from unimaginable trauma). We can choose to not be offended by Jesus in those places of pain and suffering, and because of that choice, we will be blessed. It isn’t natural and it isn’t easy to experience suffering and remain unoffended. It kind of makes you an oddball in this comfort-driven world, actually. But by God’s grace, we can choose to live that way. We can find joy, peace, and grace in the absolute middle of impossibly hard places and we can choose to love Jesus with every pitiful ounce of strength we have left in the midst of trial and pain – and when we do, we are blessed.

Today I sat in a room full of people who have counted the cost, and who have joined widows and orphans in their distress. They get this concept. They live unoffended while they live out James 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” That verse took on new meaning to me this weekend. I think in my mind I saw adoption as rescuing orphans from a world of chaos and bringing them into our world of safety and love. But today I was taught that James 1:27 says we’ll visit them in their distress – so more often it is us entering into their pain, their suffering, and their trauma so that we can walk with them to safety and healing. It’s messy and beautiful and holy.

I don’t really know how to wrap this blog up, as I so often like to do. I just know that I want to love and encourage people who are doing their best to be faithful, even in suffering. Jesus said it, and I believe it – “Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” God please help us to live unoffended.

It is not that simple

I am pretty fired up about something, and when I’m fired up, sometimes I come across as harsh. I pray that I would not come across as harsh today, but I do have something I’d love to lay out there for thought and discussion.

I have gotten, in my life, to hate oversimplification. When I do it, it is a pretty good indicator that I am judging based on pride and self-righteousness, instead of truth. It will drive me away from a politician, a preacher, a commentator, a professor, and even a friend. I think oversimplification is a tool to divide and destroy other people, and I am over it.

On the other hand, I have grown to LOVE people who have walked through deep pain and get the complexity of life, and are filled with grace because of their experience. There is a woman named Becky at my church and I’m drawn to her every time I am around her because she doesn’t try to figure out the Lord and His ways. She trusts. She prays. She loves her Bible, despite the confusing parts. She radiates peace and grace because she has come to accept the idea that the things that are important, and the things that are true, are incredibly and deeply complicated.

Like spaghetti tangled in and around our lives.

Instead of striving to untangle it, she takes that spaghetti to the foot of the cross and she lays it before the One who made her, and she leaves it there for HIM to untangle. She walks away in peace.

I love it. That is who I want to be. I want to be like Becky – calm and at rest with a God bigger than our understanding.

Because when we pretend that there is one truth or one idea that we can grasp onto that captures all of that spaghetti and straightens it out, we insult the person going through the challenge, and the complicated God who made us. We are not smart enough to figure out most of the ways of God and the trials people around us are going through, so why do we hurt each other when we try?

Pain isn’t simple. It is incredibly complex. When you talk to someone going through a dark difficult trial and you oversimplify it with cliché words and “memory verse” ideas – you can hurt them. When you give the trial a black-and-white reason or a purpose and don’t acknowledge the incredible pain of their circumstance, you alienate them. Why can’t we as people just say we are sorry, just pray, just draw near to God on their behalf, acknowledging we don’t know what they are going through, don’t know their pain, don’t have any words of wisdom, but are waiting on God to speak through us peace and blessings? Pain is complicated! Look at Job, look at Paul, look at Jesus – the reasons for their pain, and the delayed answers to their prayers, weren’t simple. Would we tell Jesus “God won’t give you more than you can handle” (which by the way – isn’t a Bible verse) as he cried and sweated blood in His pain? As the flesh was torn off His body? No! Because that isn’t helpful. It isn’t holy. It isn’t right. So why do we tell each other that?

Conflict isn’t simple. You give me any conflict between brothers or friends or church members, and there will, every time, be people on both sides insisting on their righteousness and insisting on the other person’s guilt. But it’s not that simple. Conflict is spaghetti in itself – full of hurts and gossip and misunderstandings and reactions and ripple effects and there is rarely just one person in the wrong. But then the “advocates” get on the scene, and they take sides and oversimplify and point fingers and blame and suddenly this complicated reality of two sinful people in disagreement becomes this oversimplified and false “cause” one side against another. It isn’t helpful. It isn’t holy. It isn’t right.

Forgiveness isn’t simple. You can come across a friend processing the hurt and betrayal of conflict, and you see them at different points of their process, and you can judge that they aren’t forgiving, but you’d be wrong. Forgiveness takes time, and you daily fight off the replays that play and the emotion that overwhelms. Some days you fight those replays and emotions off all day long. And sometimes it doesn’t feel like forgiveness, but in the Christian life there is no condemnation and Jesus just wants us to take these hurts to Him, every time, as slowly He stops the replay and gives peace in place of the emotion. But for us to walk in the middle of that process and judge it as unforgiveness is insulting to your friend living out their holiness with fear and trembling and an insult to the God who doesn’t wave a magic wand over our hearts to change us, but instead works often in the quiet as we surrender our hurts and pains and needs to Him each day. It isn’t helpful. It isn’t holy. It isn’t right.

This is a small one – but politics isn’t simple. And to oversimplify and vilify one side, while pretending the other side is full of virtue, isn’t helpful. No party is full of demons or of angels, free of selfish influences or filled with them. Each party has great people who want to make the world a better place, just as each party is filled with entities only out for selfish gain. And when we vilify each other, acting like people are the enemy, we ignore the real enemy of our souls, seeking to destroy. It isn’t helpful, and in my opinion it is why an entire generation is over it. God did not send a party to save our country – and no party will do it. And to give a party, or a politician, the power to destroy us is just as harmful as giving them the power to save us. There is no Savior or Antichrist that will show up in American politics (in fact, there is great reason to doubt America will play any role in the end days). So to oversimplify one party as righteous, while vilifying the other, is a meaningless endeavor. It isn’t helpful. It isn’t holy. It isn’t right.

Here’s the deal. God is complex. The Bible is complex. I doubt in history there has ever been a more confusing and sometimes contradictory thing as the revelation of the God who created everything to a people who aren’t even built to understand Him. And I would rather people be in love with a God we cannot understand, forcing our minds to rest in that lack of knowledge, begging Him for moments of understanding when things are so incredibly complicated, than to oversimplify things to bite-sized nuggets perfect for crocheting on our Bible covers while we miss His heart altogether.

God can not be simplified.

We cannot understand Him.

Why do we even try? Outside of His grace, we miss Him altogether. I am studying the human body in school. Do you know that for every heartbeat, there is a series of about 100 chemical and electrical events that have to happen in perfect harmony? For.every.heart.beat. In our mouths, there are over 100 kinds of bacteria, most of which have not been named or identified, each with a purpose and function (gross, right?). Our bodies are astonishingly complex. We are made in His image, and any scientist worth his salt will tell you that the human body, and in fact the entire universe, is full of mysteries and every time we discover something, we uncover more questions than answers.

We are complicated. We are made in His image. God is complicated. Times about a billion.

Can we all just stop with the prideful oversimplification? Can we all just get to a point where we are at peace with the fact that God is hard to figure out, and His ways are confusing? Can we acknowledge that the things we call simple (the Bible’s condemnation of certain sins, for example) are not simple. That in fact, the Bible talks more harshly in places about my lying and gossip than about the sins we put on t-shirts and bumper stickers as unforgivable.

We are all, but for His grace and His revelation, doomed.

But in His mercy, He swoops down. He made Himself small (infant small) and even today, He reveals Himself in small moments and revelations to our tiny little minds, because He is kind. But it is all Him revealing and not me figuring Him out, and at any point He can do anything to me or allow me to go through any struggle He wants for His glory and my good (not my comfort or profit).

So what do we do with the complexity? Do we chuck it all because we can’t wrap our minds around it? I don’t think so – I think we ask Him for more faith, for eyes to see and ears to hear, we grasp at concepts when they float near and give ourselves grace when they float away. We hug people in pain and we pray because we know that it isn’t simple. We give people (and ourselves) grace in conflict. We take our unforgiveness back to the cross over and over  and over again and allow the Lord to work in our weakness. We acknowledge that we just don’t know much about what is going on around us most of the time. We fight the prideful urge to oversimplify and try instead to be full of grace for all people.

God is complex, and by His grace, we are able to still believe.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, 
   or who has been his counselor?” 
“Or who has given a gift to him 
   that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:33-36

Humility Comes Before Honor

When I was a little kid, I remember joy. One summer, we rode bikes as a family everywhere. The library, our friend Mark and Maryanne’s pool, the store (mom’s bike had a basket the perfect size for a couple of gallons of milk). We rode bikes to the snow cone stand almost every day in the hot summer sun, laughing and racing and enjoying each other.

In my memory it was magical. The summer of bikes – like something out of a Mark Twain novel.  

As an adult, I was surprised to find there was another side to our summer-of-bikes story. The truth was that my parents were in a very difficult financial situation, and they could not afford for mom to have a car. So it was more need than creative parenting that caused my magical summer.

But knowing the truth only makes me admire my parents more. I was an intuitive kid (note the nice way of saying “nosy”) and the fact that I did not pick up on the need behind the story means my mom and dad had an attitude of gratitude despite their financial difficulty. Our home was full of grace, not discontent. My mom could have stayed home, pouting. Or she could have taken every opportunity to complain and grumble about the situation in front of her. But she didn’t. She jumped on her bike and made it an adventure.

You have to understand, this is totally my mom. She turns everything into an adventure. Her faith is precious to witness because she chooses joy, even when things are truly dark. She has no idea the impact that has had on me and on my parenting. This week I read this verse and I thought of my parents.

The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor. Proverbs 15:33

My parents have had many seasons in their life of humility. Many times they have faced (and overcome) trials that could appear, to the outside world, like the most humbling difficult thing in the world. But they have feared the Lord and remained faithful despite the trials, choosing not to grumble but to trust.

And because of that,we honor them.

My brother, sister, and I honor my parents. We admire them, look up to them, respect them, and want to be like them. And this week I realized that the humbling times in their lives, and their handling of those times, is a huge part of why I honor them. Even when their world was shaking, they made sure that ours was not. And that love for us, and sacrifice on our behalf, makes me honor them all the more.

Humility comes before honor.

Thank you God for that truth. It makes humility easier to face, right? Because let’s be honest, times of humbling are not fun. They can really stink, in fact. But to know, to KNOW, that there is purpose in these times, and that honor is coming, doesn’t that make it more palatable? I’m so grateful I have seen this picture lived out in my parents.

Here’s the truth: Justin and I have faced some humbling things this past few years, and even now we are making some decisions that are pretty humbling. But I am standing today on the truth of Scripture and believing that honor will someday follow. That maybe, by God’s grace, in the future when my children hear of the struggles we faced in their childhood, they will be shocked to even learn we faced difficulty, because we faced the challenges with joy and trust that God is bigger, and that His plans are perfect.

Jesus, thank you for this truth and for each situation in our world that humbles us. Please shed light on the times that I grumble, and the times that I let our challenges distract me from being a loving fun mom. Please help me to choose joy and choose faith, knowing that all of this serves a purpose in my life. Thank you for mom and dad and their example. Please bless them, Lord. You are good, Jesus, and I thank you that you don’t waste any moment in our lives, especially the hard ones.