Wednesday

on being thankful

Some of you know that Jenny and I are exploring adoption.

We have 3 kids, 6, 4 and 2, and so it's not because we cannot have biological children that we are seeking direction, asking questions, and praying about adoption. A lot.

There is a Biblical model for adoption, of course, a mandate to care for the fatherless and the destitute, to show compassion, meaning that you see suffering and want to alleviate it.

We live in a world with a lot of kids who don't have parents - the Bible calls them fatherless, orphans. Being a kid is hard. Being a kid whose parents are both dead is a lot harder. Being a kid whose parents both died because of war or AIDS or famine is impossible. Those kids mostly die.

Often in international adoptions one of the parents dies, the mother, for example, of Malaria, and the father takes the baby to an orphanage, not because he is dead, but because he cannot feed the baby because he cannot feed his other 5 children because it has not rained or insects ate his corn or evil men have ravaged his country. We can blame the father, say they should stop having kids, get a job, get educated, stop looking for a handout, the list is quite long, really. All of it based in acrid arrogance stemming from ignorance. The destitute child remains, no matter our opinion of the father.

I have been emotionally unattached from the adoption discussion, similar to how a father struggles attaching before he can see his child stretching out his beloved's belly. Just facts. Data. Detail. How. How much. Where. I have been overwhelmed with information, like holding a glass under a waterfall, I felt ripped away, knocked down, washed out. Too many questions. Too much corruption. Too many details.

So I prayed. Because a Good Shepherd leads me. A tender Shepherd. I can talk to Him. He listens. Guides. Comforts. Gives wisdom. As I prayed I thought about my three children. About thousands of other fathers who love their children as I do mine, yet lack the resources to feed them. To feed them, you understand. Their children go to bed hungry. They wake up hungry. They drink foul water. When they are sick, they are just sick. There are no options. No money, medicine, entitlements. Nothing but hunger and despair. And I thought about how desperate a man would have to be to take his own child and give them to another person in an orphanage so that their child could live. So that their child could maybe get adopted by rich white people and taken to a better place. He would have bitter tears, having failed as a father to provide for a child he loves. I tried to imagine how he would feel and I wept. I wept at this cursed planet, at sin and death and Satan who kills and steals and destroys. I am powerless to repair all that sin has broken.

We complain because it costs too much to go to a movie. We gripe about too many political commercials or that our air-conditioning makes the electric bill high. Or that it costs so much to water the grass. Or that gas is expensive or Wal-mart is too big or our show is a re-run and forget that we have movie theaters. We have TV's to watch and air-conditioning to cool us off. We have electricity and a yard to water. We can drink the water! We have a car to put gas in and a store that sells so much food for so cheap that our greatest health concern is that we are too fat. Our poor are too fat. Think about that!

I have so much food in my house that I have to keep the children from eating it so that they will be hungry and eat during one of our three daily meal times. I feed poor people. I give food to street kids. I live in a 3rd world country. And I am desperately haunted because it is not enough when we can do something and must do something to redeem more good out of this fallen wreck of a world.

So today I am thankful. That my children can be picky eaters. For a computer which cost more than most poor families make in 6 months. That I have money to buy medicine and visit doctors and have clean water (even if I have to buy it in a bottle). I am thankful that my children have 10 fingers attached to 2 arms. They have 2 eyes that work. They do not have a hole in their heart or water on their brain or a broken chromosome.  I can hear them laughing and screaming as I type and I am thankful for voices not mute and ears not deaf. That I, in privilege I will never deserve, have the opportunity to do something at great personal cost to demonstrate so minutely the heart of Jesus.  

It is, so very truly, the very least I can do to demonstrate thanks to the God who gave everything for everyone so that we would love Him and love others until He returns and makes all things new - which is yet something else to thank Him for.

Sunday

the art of running away

Been awhile. I have to be honest that I have no good reason for the hiatus so I won't labor the point.

Read Psalm 60 this morning.

60:12 "Through God we shall do valiantly, and it is He who will tread down our adversaries"

I don't think I have ever claimed or even thought I was perfect. I have thought I was better than another person, more righteous, spiritually stronger. It's a subtle poison, the sin of pride. One that I take in sips, or little seasonings - amounts that are hardly noticeable yet deadly. Huge influxes (or demonstrations) of pride set off alarms in those around me. But little nibbles go unnoticed, at least by me, which is another indicator of the depth of my fallen nature and my need for grace.

So often I think we as Christians cloak our tendency to sin in battle terms to the detriment of victory. The only victory I have from sin be it pride or lust or anger or laziness or (fill in the blank from your own experience) is Christ. He is my victory. I did not fight that fight. I did not win that battle. I did not say, "It is finished". He did.

I have no power to "tread down" sin. While I am by no means passive in the fight, I have no power within myself. None. All the power is God's. My job is never to battle or engage sin. What are we commanded in the Bible regarding sexual sin? Flee. Idolatry? Flee. I should do a lot more running and less ranting.

Our neighbors have two aggressive dogs. A chow and a shar pei. The Lord told Cain that sin was crouching at his door, waiting to devour him. The shar pei has actually stood outside our door. I made a 6 foot pole with a nail on the end to poke him away. These dogs have come after the kids, but never hurt them. If one of our three little children were being attacked by these dogs, they lack the power to fight. They are simply too small. But if they ran to me, I am not too small. I posses enough power to not only fend off the dogs, but to kill them, to destroy them, to "tread them down".

Extrapolate that out to me and the Lord. He possesses all power. All knowledge. All good. Sin crouches at my door. The Law of Moses could not take it away, only reveal my weakness and need. No endless line of blood-letted innocent animals could take it away. No system. No book. No method. No hope. None could take away my sin, nothing, as says the hymn, but the blood of Jesus.

My standing and fighting sin is me bellowing and charging at an EF 5 tornado. It would destroy me. Yet God can dissipate a storm. Jesus walked on the raging waves and told the storm, "Hush up, now", and it obeyed. My "good fight" is not about honing my ability, but practicing fleeing and resting in the everlasting arms of Christ. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self control. I have no power to produce these things. I lack power to defeat sin and I lack power to produce holiness. I am utterly powerless, except in one regard: I can run to Jesus. When sin or life or fear or trouble comes charging down the street, I have but one option: run to Jesus. He who calmed the storm still intercedes for me. He who was tempted in that which He suffered is able to come to my aid. He knows my weaknesses, all of them, and sympathizes with me in the struggle. Think about that: Jesus knows our struggles and sympathizes with us in the midst of them. And then calls us to come to the throne of grace where we receive help in our time of need. "Come to me and I will help you", says Jesus. "Just come over here and I'll pick you up and together we'll laugh at that mean old dog, because remember who I AM, and rest in that."

Every failure in my life is a failure to trust in God and run to him in dependence. Through God I shall do valiantly. Man, do I need more practice.