February 26, 2012


So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
Galatians 4:3-7

I think I mentioned a long time ago that I have a birth father and an adopted father.  Several years back, I wrote a tribute to both of them.  So I already  know about being adopted by someone who has no reason whatsoever to love me, other than he loved my mother.  Adoption is both a legal standing and a relational standing.  My dad, who started out as my step-dad, went through legal proceedings to make me his own, but legal proceedings don't equate to love.  I supposed that he could have adopted me because my mom made it a condition of marrying him.  But part of the legal proceedings of adoption involved me telling the judge that I wanted him to be my dad and that he was a good dad.  If I hadn't felt love from him, I probably would not have agreed to the adoption and my wishes would have been considered by the judge.  I remember standing before the judge on my 5th birthday and telling her that I was okay with Bill being my dad.  It was actually more than okay.  It was great, because I had grown to love him.  And from that point on, my last name changed and my personality and character started being shaped by him as well as my mother, grandparents and great-grandparents.  When I married, I essentially became adopted into my husband's rather large family and my family expanded again.  And when my brother married, his wife was adopted into our family.

As the verse at the top indicates, I have also been adopted as God's child when I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.  That decision has meant following His lead outside of my comfort (a.k.a. "safety") zone so many times.   But each time, I have been blessed by the people He has brought in my life and I have known that He has been with me in every situation in which He has placed me.  Currently, God has us attending a church three miles from our home in the middle of the poorest section of Mesa.  It has grown out of a combination of a Young Life group and an initiative started by "the Mothership" church we were attending that offers ESL, computer, parenting and other services to the community.  I love the fact that it is a bilingual service, with worship, prayer and the sermon in English and Spanish and that several different "tribes" are represented by the church, brought together by the power of God.  And while some of my worldly interests don't always align with other people (maybe politics, culture, some musical genres), I feel as if God is bringing us all together to give us a little glimpse of what heaven is going to be like, where every tribe, tongue and nation will be gathered together to worship God.  And joining this church, heck, joining any church is kind of like an adoption because, at its best, it is a group of people joining in a family to encourage each other in the faith, help each other in times of need, and rejoice together on all occasions.  

So I have to thank God for adopting me as His own and giving me so many opportunities to be adopted and to adopt others in His church family, my earthly family and in my husband's family.  I love you all!

February 18, 2012

Is it safe yet?

I originally wrote this during the healthcare debate.  I think the Republicans are also focused on safety in entirely different areas and might also be going a bit overboard in their zeal.  I brought this out of hiding because of a trend called "helicopter parenting" that was the focus on Monday's The Church of No People, which you can read here.  
The philosophy that seems to be driving the Democrats is that of safety—safety from financial failure, safety from medical errors, safety from high medical costs, and safety from anything that might possibly produce unhappiness. And if they have to take away personal liberty to achieve that goal, then that is the price that we all must pay for safety. Some of those things are acceptable in moderation—making sure companies sell us products that won’t kill us under normal use is a good thing, as is making sure that companies do not enslave their workers. However, I see several flaws in the philosophy of safety.

A fatal flaw in the philosophy of unending safety is that Democrats can’t make us truly safe because the sin in each of us will cause us to always want what is truly bad for us. Given a choice most of us would date the bad boy or girl, smoke a pack or two a day, drive our car after knocking back a few drinks, sit in totally inactivity for long periods of time to watch inane programs while our brain turns to oatmeal, eat foods chock full of saturated fat and high fructose corn syrup and always unplug an electrical device by pulling on the cord. These are the choices we make when we have been "freed" from self-control and reason. You can take a person out of danger but you can’t take danger out of the person is a statement that was inspired by reading a “Baby Blues” cartoon.

 An unintended consequence of this safety-driven philosophy is the inability of future generations (and maybe this one to boot) to learn from experience and become truly wise. Knowledge is defined as the acquisition of information. Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge to our lives. Sometimes, failure is the best teacher of wisdom. For example, living within my means became a survival tactic when I ended up racking up credit card debt and I learned to ask the important question of “Do I need this?” whenever I wanted to buy something for myself. Now it benefits my family as well. I also wouldn’t have known how to recogize admirable character qualities in men without dating a few stinkers. I have learned a lot about anger and how to control it by having utter failures in anger management. Whenever my kids or I fail at something, I always ask the question to them or to myself: “What can I/we learn from this?” The benefit of such a question is that I/we don’t usually make the same mistake more than a dozen times (smile).  Would Thomas Edison invented the light bulb if he never tried or gave up after the first failure? The same could be said of Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Antony and most of the people that we consider today to be “remarkable people.” All were utter failures at one time or more in their lives. And yet, through their failures, they learned a lot and became imperfectly great men and women from whom we can learn.

Yet another problem is that living in a perfectly safe environment erodes our compassion. If we are all perfectly safe, then we have no understanding of suffering and cannot offer comfort to those who are suffering because, after all, it must be their fault.   And if I am pursuing total safety, then if something bad happens to me it must be someone else’s fault. Oops, there goes forgiveness out the door also. So we become a nation of finger-pointing blame shifters when trouble comes to us and hard-hearted judges when trouble comes to other people rather than being a nation of people who forgive and are forgiven and who provide comfort and aid to those who are bullied/failures/ incapacitated or facing any other loss.

As a Christian, this safety driven philosophy also flies in the face of the gospel. The gospel is a story of the intense suffering of one man, the Son of God, who didn’t deserve it and could have given it a smack down and walked away unscathed, had he chosen to do so. In John 18:5, Jesus knocked down a contingent of soldiers coming to arrest him with mere words. However, after demonstrating this power, he submitted to their arrest and allowed them to kill him on the cross so that the sins of the mankind could be attributed to him and thus, fufill the law’s requirements that the guilty should receive a death penalty. And he didn’t do it for a bunch of people who were necessarily deserving of his sacrifice. In truth, He sacrificed his life for a bunch of  us sin-festering slobs, so that we could be made right before the God of the Universe who is consistently, completely right in everything He does, thinks and speaks.

And, out of this outpouring of love, which is God’s motivation for saving us, rather than the worth of our deeds, Christians can and should offer our lives in sacrificial obedience to God. Peter writes in 1 Peter 4:12 and 13: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” Jesus himself in Matthew 10:24 said that the student is not above his teacher nor is the servant above his master. That means that if my Lord Jesus allowed himself to suffer, shouldn’t I? Therefore, Christianity is the anti-safety philosophy, calling people to carry their own crosses for God and give their time, talents, money and adoration unreservedly and unabashedly, rejoicing in being fools for Christ rather than someone else’s fool.

And yet, if I were totally honest, I like the idea of safety. I want my children to revel in their differences without the scorn that comes from bullies and the “in crowd” and homeschooling provides that outlet, though it isn’t the main reason that I homeschool. If I had my way, I would have stayed in the same neighborhood with the same friends all my life. However, God, in his wisdom, chose to move me and my family 1800 miles away from good friends and family. I even have trouble with climbing up tall ladders because their unsteadiness gives me visions of falling from heights to my death. And I hate failing. I hate burning meals, ripping out rows of knitting, starting over on a sewing project, having drips of paint on my walls or floors, failing my kids, my husband, my dog, my friends. Fear of failure is the most reliable source of my procrastination. And yet, I read what Paul says in Romans 5:3-5 and take courage: “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” So I must become anti-safety, to be an example for my children, to live as a patriotic American and, most importantly, to be a servant of the Lord Most High.
I would like to add one more thing to this  as an afterward.  God has been making me eat these words and leave my safety/comfort zone in so many ways.  There are times when it has been very hard and frustrating and humbling.  And yet, looking back, I consider myself blessed for the experiences He has given me, the people who I have the privilege to call friends and the awe in how God works so gently and yet so persistently to open my eyes to see His vision of heaven, His vision of me and those around me.  Alleluliah!

February 4, 2012

One of those "You Know" posts

It has been a slightly rough week at Bridgetender School.  The kids teetered on the brink of sickness for a day before completely falling in the pit with sneezing, coughing, congestion and low fevers.  They are recovering and now I am at that point, taking Vitamin C pills and other preventative measures, like going to bed early, to try and avoid that chasm, especially since I have to teach kids at church this week.  It was a freeing week, too, in which I confessed and repented to my kids that I have been once again hit with the "perfection bug" that causes me to stress out when the house/schedule/behavior of the kids isn't "perfect."  The biggest indicators of me being enslaved by perfectionism are experiencing extreme irritability that cannot be mollified by coffee and having a critical spirit.  It is so hard to confess to my kids, but so wonderful to have them run to me with hugs and offers of forgiveness.  But the original intention of this post was to piggy back on a post made earlier by Jottings by Jennifer, whose blog is like a cool cup of water to a thirsty soul.

Last week, she  posted a "You Know You Are A Youth Group Pastor's Wife" on her blog and challenged those who read her blog to come up with the same theme.  My post is going to be "You Know You are Getting Old."   Here are some of the indicators:

1.  Your favorite Big Hair Band that you loved in high-school and saved up to go to stadium-filled concerts  are now playing the county fair circuit, if they are even together.  They also don't sound the same as they did when they are young.
2.  The creaking noises that caused you to take the car in the shop continue as you get out of the car. (My husband's contribution).
3.  You hear the drum solo from "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"  played out in your bones as you get out of bed and walk to take a midnight bathroom break.  Actually, if you know the song, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", you are probably old or"being retro."
4.  You realize that you were one of the first people to watch MTV back when all it played were music videos.
5.  You realize that you are as old as "Sesame Street" and when you watch the current episodes of "Sesame Street", you start longing for the good old days when Jim Henson actually made good puppet shows.
6.  All the heartthrob actors from your youth look like old men.  Yes, I am talking to you, Pierce Brosnan and Harrison Ford.
7.  Those ads in magazines for electric hair pluckers now make sense.
8.  You are telling some elementary-school kids that their parents probably heard the original version of "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King only to find out that their parents were kids during the 80's.
9.  You see a video of Lady Gaga and think that she is just a cheap imitation of Madonna.
10.  You walk in your grocery store and hear the music that played on MTV back when it was getting started.
And in the spirit of "Spinal Tap," (which is also an old movie), I will take my list to 11.
11.  You know that you are old when you stay up really late one night and it takes days to recover from it.

Yes, culture is a great way to make you feel old.  My parents could probably come up with a better list and my grandma could outshine us all with her list as she grew up in the Great Depression.  The nice thing to know is that, however old I will be before I die, whether I lose my mind or my body functions in the process, God will be there to help me through each hurdle of old age, just as He helped me through each hurdle of each stage of life I have encountered so far.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he
I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you; 
I will sustain you and I will rescue you
“To whom will you compare me or count me equal? 
To whom will you liken me that we may be compared?"
Isaiah 46:4-5