Can You See Him?

Can you see Him?

He is in your midst.

He is in the vastness of the ocean.

He is in the details of a raindrop.

graveyard

Gettysburg

He is in the symbols of our past.

children

He is in the symbols of our future.

He is in the warm blanket on your back.

He is in the roof over your head.

He is in a surgeon’s hands.

He is in a teacher’s arms.

decor

He is in the décor on our wall.

flower

He is in the décor in our backyard.

He is in a lover’s kiss.

He is in a friend’s embrace.

He is in the first bite of a Lindt chocolate.

biscotti & coffee

He is in the first sip of coffee.

He is in a good book.

He is in The Good Book.

Can you see Him?

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20

On Ants and Diarrhea

ants

We’ve battled ants for at least a month. They arrived when the first rains hit, dashing about on the kitchen counter. They aren’t horribly invasive and seem to mind their own business.  So I’ve patiently tried several remedies to kill them off—cornmeal, Borax, toothpaste, spearmint, bug spray, etc. I’ve even ignored them. But instead of disappearing, they migrate to a different location within the house, yet never giving up the favored kitchen area.

Two days ago I asked my husband to find something that works. He complied by purchasing ant bait which, as I type, sits on the counter above the dishwasher.

ant bait

Last week the dog threw up. This is not highly unusual, but then he threw up again . . . and again. Whatever ailed him worsened. As with the ants, I tried remedy upon remedy, including a trip to the vet.

This morning, as I awoke, my nose detected something was amiss. I won’t go into details; however the title of this post is a clue. Since my dog doesn’t know how to hit the toilet, I went to the kitchen after a bucket and scrub brush. There, scurrying about as if they owned the place, were the ants, oblivious to the cute ant house and the poison within. The fact that my husband is out of town only added to my frustration. Like Sweet Brown in the viral youtube video, I wanted to declare, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

If I compare my predicaments to those suffering from the destruction created by recent tornadoes—homes destroyed, lives turned upside down—they are minor annoyances. Slight interruptions in life. A break, albeit unwelcome, in the normal flow of things.

Yet this is real life. My day does not always proceed the way I’ve planned it. My list is not always accomplished. I need to be flexible and allow for modifications as I progress. In the midst of a well-thought-out day, cars break down, children melt down, rains pour down.

It’s this reality that reminds me my life is not my own, it’s God’s. It’s not my time, it’s God’s. It’s this reality that reminds me I am not in control, God is. These minor irritants, like sand in my shoe, are what the Lord uses to refine me into a more loving, patient, kind-hearted person. When I succumb to the fact that a normal day is one with interruptions and left turns, when I begin my day with the prayer, “Today is Yours, Lord, I release it to You,” these inconveniences aren’t inconvenient at all. My response is loving and gentle. The task at hand appears more like a hiccup than a nuisance.

I am still a work in progress, especially in this area (can you say control freak); but, today, I am thankful for small hassles because they cause me to rely on God as He accomplishes His work in and through me.

What irritants has God used in your life to refine you?

National Foster Care Month

Heart Gallery of Illinois

We gathered around the portraits. In the midst of a stormy night, seven adults from five different churches and two children stood, heads bowed and hearts poised toward heaven. The smiling children in the pictures sat on the altar ready to be counted, to be relieved of their burdens and trials. One by one we chose a child and prayed—for salvation, for a brave family willing to count the cost and adopt an orphan—this orphan—lost in a sea of orphans. Those seven faces represented the hundreds of thousands of children in foster care in the U.S.

This prayer vigil was one of many held this month in honor of National Foster Care Month, designed to bring awareness to the many children in the foster care system. Some of them await reunification with their parents while others need a forever family. Let me share a few facts from Cry of the Orphan with you.

  • In the U.S., more than 400,000 children are in the foster care system.
  • More than 100,000 children in the U.S. are waiting to be adopted.
  • An estimated 28,000 each year will “age out” of the system at age 18 without an adoptive family.
  • A child waiting to be adopted has been in foster care an average of 37 months.
  • A child can wait five years or more to be adopted.
  • Adoption from foster care is generally less than $500.

See Cry of the Orphan’s Foster Care Quick Facts here for more facts.

Many wonder how to help outside of adopting or becoming a foster care parent. Lawrence Bergeron in Journey to the Fatherless explains:

From my experience, one of the greatest problems that an adoptive or foster care family can face is isolation and the belief that no one in their local church cares for them or their situation. They often face great challenges when a child comes home with needs they have never faced before, when bills mount, things go wrong, and there is no one to turn to. It is paradoxical (although not surprising) that the families who can least afford financially to adopt often times do. The families that can well afford an adoption most often times do not (Christianson 2007). And yet both families can help each other. In doing so, the church is healthier and the Lord is glorified.

Bergeron continues by emphasizing that these families need a support system surrounding the child and family within the framework of the church.

Join us this month as we continue to pray for the workers, the families, the children, and the church. Click here for the prayer guide written by Cry of the Orphan. It gives direction on how to pray. In addition, ask the Lord how you can practically help a fatherless child today.

For more resources and information on foster care children and children in need of adoption, click on CARE’s website here.

God Speaks

A few weeks before my 30th birthday my four-year-old son and I headed to Hawaii on a cruise ship. I was eager to spend some time with him and the Lord on the open water. I had one very pressing question in mind for God . . . Should I marry the man I met only four months earlier?

The Meeting

The first time I saw Don, I was taken aback. I had volunteered to watch his son a few hours each evening for a few weeks. (Those who know me understand this in and of itself is miraculous—I don’t typically babysit.) He stopped by one evening to introduce his son to me. I opened the door to a giant filling my doorframe. Don’s 6’5”. Alarms went off in my head, “Single guy in the house. Single guy in the house.” Without invitation, he let himself in and sat down on my sofa. After I realized his intentions were pure, I relaxed slightly.

Don started attending the singles Bible Study I was a part of. We hung out and got acquainted. Neither of us was looking for a relationship; but over time it became apparent God was drawing us to each other. When Don approached me about dating, he stated, “The only reason I would date you is to see if we are compatible for marriage.” He knew casual relationships were not biblical and didn’t want to mislead me. I admired this.

The Question

By the time I was packing for the 12-day cruise, we were serious. Before I left he told me to spend the time alone reflecting on our relationship because when I came back he was going to ask me to marry him.

The Answer

I looked over the back of the ship and saw water unending. God’s vastness was evident, and His presence was real. I opened my Bible to Psalm 85. This is what I read:

Love (Don) and faithfulness (Barb) meet together;

righteousness (Don) and peace (Barb) kiss each other.

Faithfulness (Barb) springs forth from the earth,

and righteousness (Don) looks down from heaven.

The Lord will indeed give what is good

and our land will yield its harvest.

Righteousness (Don) goes before him

and prepares the way for his steps. Psalm 85:10-13

Yes, I read our names next to the character traits we exhibit. Through this passage, He confirmed we were to marry, that He was indeed giving what was good and our marriage would “yield its harvest.”  Two and a half months later, I walked down the aisle into the arms of my tall, loving, righteous man.

This weekend we celebrated Don’s birthday. I still see his love and righteousness. (And he still looks down at me.) Indeed, God has given what is good, and we have had plentiful harvests. God has been faithful to His promise.

How does God speak to you?

Has He used Scripture to answer one of your questions?

If you haven’t heard Him speak, is it because you aren’t listening?

Don&Barb                   Barb&Don

Understand Your Worth

Understand Your Worth

I thought I was being played with like an easily discarded toy.

Lost in my feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and worthlessness, I begged for love and attention. I wanted someone to validate my existence.

I saw my Casanova as the answer. Even though I assumed he would flee easily, I clung to his flowery expositions on his unfailing love as if they were life-giving oxygen. In my desperation, I worshiped the relationship. In my ignorance, I didn’t see the idolatry.

Ironically, I didn’t honor the relationship; I not only cherished it, I also stepped on it. With fear of rejection driving me, I sought acceptance elsewhere.

I didn’t think it mattered. He could and would easily move on. There weren’t just other fish in the sea; there were much better fish than me.

What I failed to see or understand was how I affected him—that possibly he, too, wanted validation. How could a 15 year old girl grasp the needs of a teenage boy?

Validation

Several years later God saw fit to scoop me up in all of my brokenness and loss. He consoled me (as He still does). He loved and accepted me (as He still does). He validated me and gave me a reason to live (as He still does).

Worth

Last week I cried. After 30 years of no contact, the boy said, “You made me a better person.” Me? I thought I had nothing . . . gave nothing . . . was nothing.

So I cried. Because that teenage girl, once me, hadn’t understood her worth at the time—that the choices she made, the words she spoke, and the actions she took affected others. Her inward-focused self couldn’t see the influence she had. And that saddens me. It brings me to tears.

coins

Tragically, many teenage girls, some hiding in the bodies of older women, are searching for validation, desperate to feel worthy. Like the ladies in the Dove commercial (see below), they only see their flaws. And it brings me to tears.

Because we don’t understand our worth, we don’t understand the impact we have on others. Like the ladies in the Dove commercial, we don’t recognize our positive features. But, as one lady in the commercial remarks, how we see ourselves “impacts everything.”

Yet God desires for us to listen to Him tell us, “You are my creation and I love you unconditionally. Yes, you! In Christ, you are holy, blameless, loved, accepted, worthy, chosen, My child.” (See Eph. 1) “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).

When we accept this truth, we understand our worth and see ourselves as He does. Consequently, that picture affects our choices, words, and actions positively. As His children, His love flows naturally from our hearts and we emulate Him so others will see Him through us.

Have you ever thought you were worthless?

Has there been a time when you heard God tell you how much He loves you?

Are You Awake?

bare feet

The car thermometer read 38 degrees as I pulled into the driveway. Two girls ran out. Neither wore a coat, but what caught my eye was the youngest one’s bare feet and runny nose.

“Where are your shoes?” I asked.

“I couldn’t find them,” she replied.

Several weeks ago I noticed an empty place in a pew two rows behind me. An older couple, out of town for the weekend, typically sits there with their “kids”—children they pick up from various homes every Sunday morning. I didn’t know the little ones; but seeing the empty spot triggered a thought. There is no reason for those children to miss church when Mr. & Mrs. Evans are gone. I can pick them up just as easily.

The next Sunday I told Mrs. Evans I would gladly transport her “kids” the next time she was out of town. I didn’t have to wait long. She called a few days later, “My husband and I will be gone next weekend. Were you serious about getting the kids?”

“Definitely,” I answered.

That’s how I ended up sitting in my van waiting for the girl with no shoes to hop in. She found a seat and I handed her a tissue. By this point my van was full. The three older children I picked up first helped these newer ones get buckled as we got acquainted. I learned the youngest one’s name was Janelle. I wondered why I hadn’t bothered to get to know these children before. Could it be I was so wrapped up in my own world I hadn’t been awake to what was around me?

I dropped the children off at the proper Sunday school classes and proceeded to my own. I smiled. I had poked my head out of my comfortable world and helped others. No, it wasn’t a big deal. It had cost little. But God used this simple act to remind me I was His vessel to reach a lost world, and it felt good.

After Sunday school, I gathered the children and walked to the sanctuary. Janelle sat next to me drawing carrots and pink crosses. When I asked about one sketch, she pointed to the chandelier hanging above her head and said, “It’s that.”  She sang her ABC’s and asked about the angel in a book she was looking through. I don’t know why, but I was surprised by her intelligence. Her questions and drawings indicated a depth I didn’t think was there. I put my arm around her.

The title of the sermon flashed on the screen: Are You Awake? As my husband, the pastor, joked that he was not testing our alertness, Janelle put her fingers in her mouth and leaned into me. A few minutes later, she scooted down, laid her head in my lap, and closed her eyes. As I watched this precious child sleep, I thought about how I would have missed out on this moment had I not been awake – awake to God’s presence and aware of my surroundings.

Are you awake? When was the last time God used your surroundings to nudge you?

*This blog post first appeared on Lisa Cowman’s blogsite Real Life Faith .