Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Jesus The Rejected King

We are reading The Chronicles of Narnia as part of our school lessons.  I love all the rich meaning that C.S. Lewis has both hidden and highlighted in the pages of his adventure in this great series.  Most striking is the character of Aslan who like no other character I have ever read about, shines a light on the humanity and deity of Christ Jesus himself.  Imagining Jesus as the great lion Aslan helps the reader connect with both the beauty and majesty of our Savior.

Below are portions taken from my Pastor's sermon this last Palm Sunday

I love the scene when some of the children first meet the lion Aslan and they ask, "is he safe?"  And the answer is "no, he is not safe, but he is good."  We see Jesus gentle and humble riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and we are tempted to miss the fact that he is a king. (Matt 21:4-5)  Jesus is the gentle king promised in Zechariah 9:10 which says "Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!  Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!  See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."  But like Aslan reminds us, don't forget his power.  He is righteous and victorious according to Zechariah.  Jesus is gentle because he is the victor.  He comes in peace because he has all authority.  Nothing can be taken from him.  Nothing can threaten him.  While the people that day did not fully understand,  they did see something of his glory.  Psalm 118:25-26 says, "Lord, save us!  Lord, grany us success!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.  From the house of the Lord we bless you."  They didn't get it all, but they did get it right.  Jesus is the King.  He is not safe because he comes to rule and he will change the lives of everyone who receives him.  He is not safe,but he is good.
When the disciples borrowed the donkey--whose donkey was it?  It belonged to the King, not the King of a region or country, but the King of heaven and earth.  He owns it all.  It's His!
Whose is the path on which he rode into the city?  HIS
The palms people waved as they shouted Hosanna?  HIS
The arms that waved the palm branches?  HIS
The city into which he rode that day?  HIS
The temple he cleared to preserve a house of prayer?
It's His, He is the true King.  It's all from Him, its all for Him, nothing can be taken from Him.

The tongues that sang his praise?  HIS
The tongues that shouted against him and condemned him?  HIS
The thorns that pressed on and punctured his sacred head?  HIS
The whips that lashed and tore his royal skin?
The wood that shaped the cross on which he died?
It's all His.  It's all from Him.  It's all for Him.

This King Jesus on the day that seems like his coronation as he enters his city with shouts of praise and palm branches waving does not process to a throne but to a cross.  He comes in peace and he will bring peace.  But the cost of peace will be great.  He will give his life to rescue his people.  He will purchase us with his blood and with his tears.

1Peter 2:9 says, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."  Behold your King.  See him as he is and consider the kingdom he brings. He has a plan and purpose for all things for all things belong to him.

The voices we use today to sing his praise.....HIS
The voices we use tomorrow to speak with friends.....HIS
The hands we use today to wave palm branches......HIS
The hands we use tomorrow to work......HIS
The joys and pleasures of life.....HIS
The pains and sorrows of life.....HIS
The people who help us......HIS
The people who hurt us....HIS
The people who bless us....HIS
The people who persecute us.....HIS
Our finances.....HIS
Our career.....HIS
Our free time.....HIS
Our relationships....HIS
Our future.....HIS
Our bodies.....HIS
Our plans.....HIS
Our destiny......HIS

Do you see it?
 It's all HIS.  It's all from him and it's all for him.

He is not safe.  He's a different kind of King with a different kind of kingdom.  He didn't come to make all things better!  He came to make all things new!  He didn't come to help your life.  He came to claim your life.  He is not safe, but He is good!

To hear this sermon in it's entirety please follow the link to our church website.  The sermon is titled The King Nobody Wanted on March 20, 2016. 
Pastor Alan Hagar

I wanted to take this moment to thank my church and our staff who have been such a very great blessing to me and to my family.  They encourage and challenge me to live a life worthy of the calling Jesus has set before me.  I would challenge you that if you are not firmly committed to a church, find one close to you.  Get plugged in.  Get connected.  Be real.  Be discipled.  Be a part of God's family and the work of the church which is the sharing of the Gospel.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Christmas In Care

This Christmas was not at all what I had prepared for.  Our two new boys have only been with us for 4.5 months and this was their first Christmas away from thier birth family.  Thanksgiving went smoothly, but Christmas is a whole nother animal.  Kids see lots of movies and commercials too that help them create this picture perfect scene of what it should be.  They remember what it was like before whether that was good, bad or somewhere in between.  They remember their family and that can be very painful.

Several of the days surrounding Christmas were tough.  However the Christmas pageant the night before and the day of were just wonderful.  I can't tell you we did anything special.  There was no magic trick or sedation involved; we just kept it simple.
Zoolights trip Dec. 2015

Zoolights 2015
All along we had been emphasizing the truth of Christmas and the many differences in how we celebrate it versus the image they may have built up.  It's a simple time with an amazing story of redemption, our redemption.  The time of waiting for the Messiah was over.  He had come, not as the people had hoped, but he came in His way and His time.

Toby almost 3 years post placement
By God's grace He is working out his plan of salvation and the revelation of His word in the hearts of all my boys.  Each of them is at a different point in their walk of faith.  Some have yet to believe while others know He is true.  Through yet another simple means God gave me encouragement to keep teaching, loving and serving these boys.  On Sunday the kids were up front talking with Pastor during the children's sermon about all the lights around the church and he asked what do all these lights have to do with Jesus?  My foster son pipes up loud and clear, "Because He is the light of the world!"

" The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;  
a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness."  Isaiah 9:2

I am humbled to be a part of God's work.  This season like never before, has deeply moved me because of Jesus sacrifice for me.  Even being a Christian my whole life, I am in awe that God would do anything for me let alone allow me to be a part of sharing the gospel with the world.  I  don't deserve any of this.  I have screwed so many things up.  But Jesus in obedience to His Father came to be the light in my darkness!  

Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year with love,

Friday, November 13, 2015

Foster Parenting: Living in an IF World

Kids say things like "if I'm here when......."  Or if I go home then...."  If I'm here for my birthday can I...."  IF.  IF.  IF.  Our day and our conversations are filled with that little word.  I can only provide so many answers and so many certainties.  I can say things like "well when we have court next time we will know more."  or "there won't be any changes until....."  The truth is this is a very uncertain time in the life of a foster child and the foster family.

We can make plans several months out, but things can change.   A family member may step forward to take custody.  A judge can decide a child is staying in custody.  There is a standard timeline cases usually follow.  There is an initial 5 day hearing, a 30 day hearing, a 60 day and then a 6 month hearing and a 12 month hearing.  So to the child they have their eyes set on each of those dates.  The plans are as follows until that next date then the great big IF reappears.  At each of those markers something could change.   Around 9 months an evaluation of the long term plan is addressed.  Is a return home still the most likely situation?  Is this case moving in the direction of termination of rights?  Does an adoptive family need to be found?  For the sake of the child a huge push has come to shorten the length of time the birth family has to get on their feet and be ready to assume parenting responsibilities again.  This is meant not to totally severe the ties with family or to punish anyone, but to provide more permanence and a lot less IF World living for the child.

With our current set of children we are between the 60 day and the 6month hearing.  We hear a lot less IF talk these days, but it still surfaces almost everyday.  I would encourage you to pray for the children in your community who live in this IF World.  Here are a few ideas to get you going:

*healing from past abuse and neglect
*a sense of self worth
*courage to tell their story
*support at school
*birth families to find stable jobs/housing
*freedom from addiction
*support for foster families
*knowledgeable foster families as they deal with difficult behavior
*healthy attachments
*a belief that they are loved

With love,

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fine Tuning Our Spiritual Perception

Jesus had just fed 4,000 men with 7 loaves of bread.  Many people followed after him in search of a cure for their afflictions and found precisely that.  Demons were called out of people, chains broken both physically and spiritually and countless healed.  Even nature obeyed the commands of Jesus.  The disciples themselves were not only front row witnesses to all of this, but participants being sent out in twos with the power and authority of Jesus.

And yet they still didn't get it.

In Mark Chapter 8 the disciples found themselves on a boat again hungry and tired from the days work.  Imagine with me this scene of grumpy gruff fisherman complaining about not having enough bread for dinner.  Then enters Jesus the scene.

"Aware of this, He said to them, "Why are you discussing that you don't have any bread?  Don't you understand or comprehend?  Is your heart hardened?  Do you have eyes, and not see, and do you have ears, and not hear?  And do you not remember?  When I broke the five loaves for the 5,000, how many baskets full of pieces of bread did you collect?" Mark 8: 17-19a

And yet they still didn't get it.

We can look at them and wonder how on earth did they NOT get it?!  They witnessed miracle after miracle.  

And yet they still didn't get it.
But neither do we.

Just as Jesus questions them, he says to us, "Do you remember?"  Though remembering may not help us if we never understood in the first place.  It is important for us as believers to be aware of the work God is doing in and through us.  We need to fine tune our spiritual perception.  I believe we do this by not just being focused on earthly or bodily concerns.  Especially as parents we can get caught up in the what's for dinner, who is taking Susie to soccer and what are we going to do about little Johnny's grades kind of thought patterns.  I am guilty of this too!  What's for dinner is a huge question around here EVERY SINGLE DAY!  I often fret about what I am teaching my kids.  Am I doing enough as a homeschool mom?  Add foster parenting to my list of earthly concerns and I am drowning in thoughts not set on God or my spiritual life.
Unless we have the discipline of setting our minds on what is above and not on what is on the earth (Col. 3:2) then we are totally going to miss some cool stuff!  What may have seemed like a random thought or occurrence was actually the God of the Universe directing your day.  That promotion at work may not have been your boss finally noticing all your hard work, but  God expanding your sphere of influence for his glory and meeting your financial needs as well.  This list could go on.  God is at work in every area of our lives if we would only perceive it.

The other issue at hand is the remembering of such events.  How often do we  like the disciples see the amazing work of God in our very own lives then so quickly forget the next time a crisis arises or a need surfaces?  Over and over again we forget.  I have been focusing on this discipline with my kids in our study of the Old Testament.  The children of Israel were told to remember.  They had feasts to help them remember.  They set up stones in honor of God to help them remember.  The take away should be for us that remembering the work of God in our lives is vital to our spiritual growth and our faith overall.

"Be careful that your heart doesn't become proud and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery."  Deuteronomy 8:14

When I was a girl my dad would tease me when I was having a moment struggling to trust by saying, "Oh ye of little faith."  I always thought that was something he made up to teach me.  Little did I know that those were not my father's words.  Imagine my surprise when I was reading my Bible one day and saw in bright red letters Jesus saying those words!  Needless to say my dad had a big chuckle when I called him to share my revelation.  Looking back helps us fine tune our spiritual perception.  Though we may not have realized it at the time, we can learn now from what God has done in our past.  Many lessons learned in life come as a process rather than a radical change.  It was said many times in the gospels that the disciples didn't get it, but a time came when they did.

"So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this. 
 And they believed the Scripture and the statement Jesus had made."  John 2:22
 "His disciples did not understand these things at first.  However, when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about Him ."  John 12:16a

And we too can share in that legacy of faith that at one time we didn't get it, but I hope one day it will be said of me, "She believed the Scripture and the statement Jesus had made."  Be patient in this endeavor and remember that it is a process that takes time.

With love,

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Confessions of a Foster Mom

I get really grumpy leading up to visitation and court dates.
I struggle with how to comfort my foster children when they miss their family without feeling offended.
I want them to like me.  I want them to stay.  I want their family to get better, but I want them to stay.
I take it so personal when they don't like the food I cook and only want McDonald's.
I pout like a toddler sometimes because I don't know how to deal with all these emotions going on inside me.
I don't want to get attached. 
I hate not knowing what is going to happen.
I don't know how to protect my other children from the influence that these children bring with them.
I don't have enough time to spend with each child and so I withdraw from all of them.

God is bigger and He is enough.  I know this in my head.  I see the words in my Bible that tell me this is true.  I believe that I am sinful and not enough, but that Jesus really is enough for me.  I sang that in church last week.

In this moment and in the days leading up to things like court feeling and knowing are very different.  Jesus you know what I need right now.  Let me see you!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Conversations With the Living God

Do the prayers of your heart and the words on your lips flow like a calm and peaceful river before the Lord?  Or do they rush out in a torrent of jumbled thoughts, concerns and requests?  Perhaps they look like the waves smacking against the shoreline in a the midst of a violent storm.  Or rather would you paint a picture more of a little girl or boy sitting at the feet of a father in a field of wild flowers?  Now I will have to admit this last one makes me a laugh a bit, because I'm not sure when or if my prayer time has ever looked like that.  It often looks more like good friends hiking along a path.  Steep upgrades, level straightaways, breathtaking views, arduous brush, steady pace and quickened feet; all part of the journey and conversation of life.

There isn't just one moment that can encapsulate my entire prayer life.  Just like the seasons of life, it too has gone through different changes, has taken different forms and has always been true to my heart.  We know from reading scripture that God has made us.  He knows our thoughts.  And knows both our strengths and weaknesses.  We also can read that He wants us to be in communication with him. 

I would urge you to turn your thoughts to Him.  Spend structured time in prayer too, but also be conscious of the fact that we have the Living God dwelling within us in the form of the Holy Spirit.  Our thoughts can be more than ramblings in our own minds, but rather deep conversations with God himself.

Don't let this idea freak you out.  I know.  Some of your thoughts are not so holy.  Some of your thoughts follow a stream of profanities.  Some of your thoughts are full of doubt and questions.  Some thoughts are so puzzling it makes your puzzeler sore.  I know because mine do too.  Remember that God has big shoulders.  He created the entire universe with his breath for crying out loud!  He can handle what is going on inside you!  Talk to him!  Let your words flow however they are going to flow that day.  A river cannot control the speed at which it flows.  Other determining factors play a key role in that, but a river continues to flow never the less onward towards the mouth of a larger body of water.  So we too surrender to Him who is in control, sovereign over us, Living God and faithful friend. 

With love,

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Moment Changes Everything: Foster Parenting

You've heard the saying that a moment can change everything.  When a foster parent gets a call that children are in need it changes everything to include the plans you have for the rest of the day, what's for dinner and maybe even what you do with the rest of your life.  That may sound overly dramatic, but imagine life turned on it's head with one phone call.  Maybe you have experienced something similar, perhaps even more dramatic, tragic or overwhelmingly joyful.

You are about to be a grandparent
Your spouse is retuning from duty
Your son got accepted to  college
The new job requires a move
Test results are back
Diagnosis confirmed
Your company is making cuts
There has been an accident 
Sibling group of 5 is being removed from their home

Their day did not go as they expected either and it changed everything for them too.  Their stuff was loaded up in empty sacks, a backpack and a trash bag.  Their story is not rare, but in that moment it became intertwined with my own.  I will never forget the day they walked through the door of the visitation room and I could put a face to the names of the children Chris and I had just agreed to take custody of; a 16 year old girl, and 8 and 4 year old boys.  You could see the numbness already setting into their faces and hearts.  This painful moment was too much to bear, but step by step they bravely walked to our truck and got in.  How they left there without tears I do not know.  I was overwhelmed by it all.  We had gone from a family of 6 to a family of 9 in a moment.

Those first few days were a blur and only by God's grace did we make it through.  He kept putting the words from Micah 6:8 in my mind.

"Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the LORD requires of you:  to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God." 

Within a week a visitation is usually set up with the parents and though the children are very eager to see them, separating again is very tragic and painful.  Leaving with them that day was so hard and they were hurting so deeply and my heart was broken for them.  I continued to question if I was really equipped to handle this kind of hurt or able to be of any good to these kids, but again God reminded me of his presence.  The license plate in front of me read E5TR 414, a verse I had been praying over for a few months.  The words were to Queen Esther from her uncle Mordecai.

"If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father's house will be destroyed.  Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this."  Esther 4:14

I know that God will provide a way of healing for these kids that come into care with or without my help.  I also know that God can use my past, my marriage, my family and my church to be a channel of his grace and mercy.  It is challenging, it is handwork, it is thankless, it is heartbreaking, but it is the beautiful redemptive, sacrificial work of the gospel too!  Every chance I get I share the hope I have in Christ and the promise that He loves them.  

Exactly a month after they arrived and in similar fashion they were gone.  Another phone call, more hurried packing and a drive back to DSS.  I will never forget the look in my foster daughter's face when I told her she was going home.  It was a look of disbelief and then realization.  She looked up to heaven and with closed eyes she said thank you to God. 

God has rescued my life from the pit (Psalm 40) and nothing I can say or do can repay Him for that.  Foster Parenting is not about earning more of God's love, but of revealing it to those who need it so badly.