Friday, May 27, 2016

Re-Entry

Convenience

A furnished house to rent for 11 months
The gift of a van
 A garage to park it in
Dishwasher
Dryer
Backyard with swing set
A ping pong table in the basement
A king size bed and walk in closet
3 bathrooms!
Hot showers with great water pressure
Trash pickup
Libraries
Parks
Wal-Mart
Iphones. Wifi in the house. GPS
School buses with drivers and paras who really care about our kids
Running trails
Intersections that have a walking signal and cars that actually stop for people to cross

Celebration

Cross country

Clean air and blue skies
The Rocky Mountains
Grandparents. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins.
Reconnecting with family and friends (some we hadn't seen in 15 years!) 

Making new friends
Special education resources
Wonderful teachers
Lots of improvement in English
Doctors and specialists
Family Medicaid plan
Counselors
An older couple who is mentoring us
Adoptive Parent Sunday School class at a great church
A sabbatical team
And time to have a sabbatical
Finding freedom in some areas where I've felt stuck

Confusion

Is it really ok to drink the tap water?
Do we take off our shoes in someone's home?
What do we take as a gift to our hosts (or do we need to)?
How long should we stay? (the fear of overstaying our welcome)
Why is it harder for me to get my driver's license at 46 than it was at 16?
(finally did it on my third try!)
How do I get gas at the gas pump?
Which lane should I be driving in?
How can I stay calm when my child is in the driver's seat?
Can we invite our son's 4th grade teacher for dinner to help in his transition to school?
(unfortunately the answer from the principal was no)
Do I stand around and chat with the man who came to check our heater and thermostat
or let him do his thing and just pay him when he's done?
What's the protocol for attending a 2nd grade birthday party?
Do people still drive when there's a foot of snow on the ground?
We're supposed to shovel the snow on the sidewalk in front of our house?
(We didn't realize this until around February)
 Why is it still snowing in May?
Is this presidential race for real?
How can I keep close relationships with my friends in China?
And how long are we staying?

Thankful for the example of our faith heroes who lived as transients in this world:

Each one of these people of faith died not yet having received what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a city waiting for them.

Hebrews 11:13-16

Our real citizenship is not of this world and our heavenly passport, stamped by Jesus, is going to get us to our Real Home one day...

(Linking up with Velvet Ashes this week on the theme of Re-Entry)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Emptiness and Fullness

I went away full, but the Lord brought me back empty.” 
(Naomi's lament on her return to Bethlehem, Ruth 1:21)

Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Then leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town... 
(from the Samaritan woman's encounter with Jesus, John 4:15, 28)

Starting out full and ending up empty or arriving empty and leaving full.

In the God Sightings One Year Bible Jordan gave me for Christmas, these two passages were on the same day's reading. And have caused me to think about going from full to empty or empty to full.

I can relate to the stories of both of these women.

This time last year I was packing up our apartment in Lanzhou: deciding what to keep, what to throw away, what to give away...And I was tired. I remember a friend asking us in February if I needed someone to fly over to help me with what felt like an overwhelming job, and I seriously contemplated that possibility. I had been running on empty for more than two years. Before David and Daniel joined our family, my fuel indicator had already hit the red burnout zone. 


And adding the stress of adoption definitely did not increase my emotional or physical reserves. I felt like I had nothing to give and was hanging on by a thread. As we made plans to return to the US for an indefinite amount of time, I pictured myself limping home. Like Naomi in the story of Ruth.

Now that we've been back in the US for almost a year, I can see myself in the story of the Samaritan woman as well. Who left her empty water jug by the well and ran back to town to tell everyone that the stranger she had met just might be the Messiah. She left behind her brokenness and shame. And as she ran with an unbelievable message soaring up in her heart, she took on a brand new name. Transformed.

Naomi's transformation was unexpected as well. I think she had resolved, as she limped back home after the death of her husband and two sons, that her life would be bitter until her final breath. But in the midst of her despair there's a thread of hope. She arrived in Bethlehem with her faithful daughter-in-law Ruth “as the barley harvest was beginning.” (Ruth 1:22)

God had a plan for them involving a godly man named Boaz, and a year or so later...

The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given birth.” Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son.” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. (Ruth 4:14-17)

An empty old woman who was sure that her brittle branch would be cut off, found herself in the genealogy of King David. And later Jesus. Unexpectedly filled with the hope of new life. From full to empty. To full again.

And the Samaritan woman's story is forever preserved in the book of John. As the first person to whom Jesus revealed Himself as the Messiah. A woman, who was empty in every way, experienced a fullness as she never thought possible.

And me? My tanks are filling up again. 


(Linking up with Velvet Ashes this week on the theme of Change)


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Thankful for Teachers

This is the story of a boy who was taught how to listen to God's voice.

The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.

One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel.

Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.

Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”


Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

The Lord called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. And Samuel's word came to all Israel.

1 Samuel 3:1-10, 19-21

When we were on a train trip to central western China seven years ago, we had a discussion about this passage and I will never forget my friend Sarah's insights. She said that Samuel had to be taught how to listen to God's voice. It wasn't something that came automatically to him. Eli recognized this need, and taught young Samuel how to invite God to speak to him. And from the time that he learned how to listen to God's voice until the day that he died, he was faithful not to let God's words fall to the ground.

Eli also taught Samuel to be bold in sharing God's words, even when they were difficult for the listener to hear. The very first words God spoke to Samuel were not pleasant ones, but words of judgment against Eli's family. The next morning Eli warned Samuel to hold nothing back, and Samuel didn't. (3:11-17)

I am sure that Eli's response left a deep impression on Samuel, "He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes." (3:18) He taught Samuel to trust that whatever God did was right. Not long after, God's prophetic words came true: the ark of God was captured by the Philistines, Israel lost 30,000 men in battle, Eli's two sons lost their lives, and Eli died upon hearing all this tragic news. (4:1-18)

Samuel's lifelong faithfulness to God's word was a precious gift to the struggling nation of Israel. And since this is Teacher Appreciation Week, I want to recognize Eli as Samuel's teacher who helped him to hear, proclaim, and trust God's word.

Which teacher(s) can you thank God for impacting your life in a significant way?

What do you most desire as a teacher (in the many different ways this role can be expressed) to pass on to those under your influence?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Teach Us How


This is a story of soon-to-be parents who asked God for help.

A certain man of Zorah named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites had a wife who was sterile and remained childless. The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean because you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor may be used on his head because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”

Then the woman went to her husband and told him, “A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God, very awesome...

I think this woman was very perceptive and knew from the rise in her husband's eyebrows that he needed more than “awesome.” He wanted important details like this unusual man's name and where he was from. So she didn't wait for him to interrupt her to ask those questions that she had forgotten to ask. She kept right on going with her description of the encounter.

...I didn't ask him where he came from, and he didn't tell me his name. But he said to me, 'You will conceive and give birth to a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from birth until the day of his death.'"

Then Manoah prayed to the Lord: “Oh Lord, I beg you, let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.”

Don't you love this man's heart? We don't know anything about being parents, Lord. Much less the parents of a Nazirite. A boy dedicated to You for his whole life, who would bring deliverance to the Israelites from the Philistines. (!) Send this man of God back to us to teach us what we need to know...

God heard Manoah and the angel of God came again to the woman while she was out in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. The woman hurried to tell her husband, “He's here! The man who appeared to me the other day!”

She wasn't about to relay a miraculous encounter to her husband again. He needed to hear everything with his own ears. I imagine that she was repeating over and over again with each breath as she ran, “Please still be there when we get back!”

Manoah got up and followed his wife. (Was he running fast enough?) When he came to the man, he said, “Are you the one who talked to my wife?” “I am,” he said.

So Manoah asked him, “When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule for the boy's life and work?

The angel of the Lord answered, “Your wife must do all that I have told her. She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her.”

Maybe there was more commanded that didn't get recorded? This message sounds pretty much the same as the first one. But maybe that's all God wanted to teach them at that point...

Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you.”

The angel of the Lord replied, “Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the Lord.” (Manoah didn't realize that it was the angel of the Lord.)

Charly and I went through a three day Personal Contribution Assessment workshop last week, looking at our personality types, values, spiritual gifts, strengths... so with all of these assessments fresh in my mind, this part of the story makes me think that Manoah didn't have the gift of discernment.

Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?”

He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.” Then Manoah took a young goat together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the Lord. And the Lord did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched. As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord.

“We are doomed to die!” he said to his wife. “We have seen God!”

Don't you love this guy? I probably would have had the same reaction. But his wife kept her cool, as she had realized from the very first encounter that this man looked like the angel of God. And she calmed her husband down, as she had probably done many times in their married life together.

But his wife answered, “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this.”

And I imagine poor panicked Manoah taking a deep breath, wiping the sweat from his brow, and thanking his wise wife for her good judgment.

The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the Lord blessed him, and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him while he was in Mahaneh Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.
(Judges 13:2-25)

I wonder if Manoah and his wife struggled with parenting questions as their fearless, strong-willed son with the gorgeous locks grew up. Their son who did crazy impulsive things like tearing apart a lion with his bare hands. Tying the tails of 300 foxes together and lighting them on fire. And killing a thousand men in his anger with a donkey jawbone. 


I imagine he was quite a handful to parent. Yet that was the special task God had given them. A once childless couple. Visited by an angel of God. Who dedicated their son to the Lord for his whole life. And saw him lead Israel for 20 years, beginning the deliverance of the Israelites from the Philistines (though probably not in the way they would have imagined or hoped it would have turned out.)

We sympathize with them when they tried to talk Samson out of pursuing a Philistine wife. He didn't listen (did he ever?) and they didn't know that what he was doing was actually part of God's plan (Judges 14:4). They did the best they could. But I'm not sure in the end that they would have evaluated themselves as successful parents. I'm sure Samson gave them many sleepless nights and early gray hair.

But what stands out to me in their story is their teachable hearts in their encounter with the angel of God. They humbly asked God to teach them how to parent. And they faced the fears that stood in the way of the task God had assigned to them.

What are you asking God to teach you?
What fears are standing in the way?

(Linking up with Velvet Ashes this week on the theme of Fearless)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Dancing Music

After dinner last night Jordan started playing some of her favorite songs, and we had a little dance party in the kitchen. About halfway through, Charly opened the freezer and brought out the ice cream, to David and Daniel's great delight. And I have to say that dancing while eating ice cream is pretty fun! I also have to say that in addition to being good dancing music, the words of these songs are really powerful. And I still have them running though my mind this morning. So I wanted to share the lyrics of three of the Hawk Nelson songs that we danced to last night and their links to youtube videos.

And I encourage you to turn up the volume and fix yourself a bowl of ice cream while you dance around your kitchen. Cookies and cream is the best.
I want you as you are, not as you ought to be
Won't you lay down your guard and come to me
The shame that grips you now is crippling
It breaks my heart to see you suffering

Cause I am for you
I'm not against you

If you wanna know
How far my love can go
Just how deep, just how wide
If you wanna see
How much you mean to me
Look at my hands, look at my side
If you could count the times I'd say you are forgiven
It's more than the drops in the ocean

Don't think you need to settle for a substitute
When I'm the only love that changes you

And I am for you
I'm not against you
I am for you
I'm not against you

If you wanna know
How far my love can go
Just how deep, just how wide
If you wanna see
How much you mean to me
Look at my hands, look at my side
If you could count the times I'd say you are forgiven
It's more than the drops in the ocean

Open your heart
It's time that we start again
Open your heart
It's time that we start again

If you wanna know
How far my love can go
Just how deep, just how wide
If you wanna see
How much you mean to me
Look at my hands, look at my side
If you could count the times I'd say you are forgiven
It's more than the drops in the ocean
The drops in the ocean

I am for you
I'm not against you
I am for you
I'm not against you



Here and now I'm in the fire,
In above my head
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh
Being held under the pressure,
Don't know what'll be left
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh
But it's here in the ashes
I'm finding treasure

He's making diamonds, diamonds
Making diamonds out of dust
He is refining in his timing
He's making diamonds out of us

I'll surrender to the power
Of being crushed by love
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh
Till the beauty that was hidden
Isn't covered up
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh
Oh it's not what I hoped for
It's something much better

He's making diamonds, diamonds
Making diamonds out of dust
He is refining in his timing
He's making diamonds out of us

Oh the joy of the lord
It will be my strength
When the pressure is on
He's making diamonds

Oh the joy of the lord
It will be my strength
When the pressure is on
He's making diamonds

Oh the joy of the lord
It will be my strength
When the pressure is on
He's making, he's making

He's making diamonds, diamonds
Making us rise up from the dust
He is refining in his timing
He's making diamonds out of dust
Making diamonds out of us

I won't be afraid to shine
I won't be afraid to shine
I won't be afraid to shine
Cause he's making diamonds out of dust
Making diamonds out of us



You're not the only one who feels like this
Feelin' like you lose more than you win
Like life is just an endless hill you climb
You try and try, but never arrive

I'm tellin' you somethin'
This racing, this running
Oh, you're working way too hard!
And this perfection you're chasing
Is just energy wasted
Cause he love's you like you are!

So go ahead and live like you're loved
It's ok to act like you've been set free
His love has made you more than enough
So go ahead and be who he made you to be

And live like you're loved
live like you're loved
live like you're loved
live like you're loved

And live like you're know your value born
Like you know the one that hold your soul
Cause mercy has called you by your name
Don't be afraid to live in that grace

I'm tellin' you somethin'
This God we believe in
Yeah, he changed everything
No more guilt! No more shame!
He took all that away
Gave us a reason to sing

So go ahead and live like you're loved
It's ok to act like you've been set free
His love has made you more than enough
So go ahead and be who he made you to be

And live like you're loved
live like you're loved
live like you're loved
live like you're loved

Live like you're loved, walk like you're free
Stand like you know, who he made you to be
Live like you're loved, like you believe
His love is all, that you ever need

So go ahead and live like you're loved
His love has made you more than enough

So go ahead and live like you're loved
It's ok to act like you've been set free
His love has made you more than enough
So go ahead and be who he made you to be

And live like you're loved
live like you're loved
live like you're loved
live like you're loved

Live like you're loved, walk like you're free
Stand like you know, who he made you to be
Live like you're loved, like you believe
His love is all, that you ever need
Live like you're loved!




Sunday, May 1, 2016

Not One Promise Failed

“So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of the Lord's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” (Joshua 21:43-45)

“I will sing of the Lord's great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself. You said, 'I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, 'I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations.''

The heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies can compare with the Lord? Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you.” (Psalm 89:1-8)


Abram asked God, “O Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” And the Lord said to him, “Know for certain...” (Genesis 15:8, 13)

Joseph told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

Job said, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:5)

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed. a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:9-10)

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.” (Isaiah 42:3-4)


“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.” (Psalm 130:5)

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
(Ephesians 3:20-21)

He meets us at the Edge and takes us farther than we thought we could go.

***********************************************************************
(Linking up this week with Velvet Ashes on the Theme of Edge)

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