Friday, January 30, 2009

Reading Rainbow

During the day, while I'm working around the house, I like to have to TV on for company. But, as you can imagine, there's usually a bunch of junk on. So, around lunch time I usually turn it to Reading Rainbow. I can remember sitting in our library in Elementary School singing the theme song and watching episodes at least once a week. I loved it!

This week, the episode I saw (on PBS) was "Through Moon and Stars and Night Skies" about adoption! It was a great episode. They interviewed adults who have adopted and children who have been adopted. They portrayed adoption as a great way of growing a family, but didn't try to ignore the challenges by painting a perfect picture. One adoptive mom said something to the effect of, "No matter how great their life is now, they will still have to face their past at some point."

These are the books they reviewed. You can find the descriptions of each book by clicking on the episode link.

Through Moon and Stars and Night Skies by Ann Turner

Horace by Holly Keller

Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: A Collection of Family Poems by Mary Ann Hoberman

Free to be...A Family: A Book About All Kinds of Belonging by Marlo Thomas & Friends

In Another's Words

So, I have been going through 31 years worth of pictures that I've been wanting to put into albums for the last 8 years. I figure, if I don't do it now, I'll never do it! Anyway, today I came across this poem that someone gave me. I don't know who or when, and there is no author listed, but I thought it was pretty crazy how much it mirrors my previous post, "Grace". This poem just shows that what I experienced reflects the process of sanctification that many (if not most) believers go through. Even if our initial motives are immature, by God's Grace, He reveals Truth to us anyway.

God's Grace

I did not know His love before,
the way I know it now.
I could not see my need for Him,
my pride would not allow.
I had it all, without a care,
the "Self-sufficient" lie.
My path was smooth, my sea was still,
not a cloud was in my sky.

I thought I knew His love for me,
I thought I'd seen His grace,
I thought I did not need to grow,
I thought I'd found my place.
But then the way grew rough and dark,
the storm clouds quickly rolled;
The waves began to rock my ship,
I found I had no hold.

The ship that I had built myself
was made of foolish pride.
It feel apart and left me bare,
with nowhere else to hide.
I had no strength or faith to face
the trials that lay ahead,
And so I simply spoke His name
and bowed my weary head.

His loving arms enveloped me,
and then He helped me stand.
He said, "You still must face this storm,
but I will hold your hand."
So through the dark and lonely night
He guided me through pain.
I could not see the light of day
or when I'd smile again.

Yet through the pain and endless tears,
my faith began to grow.
I could not see it at the time,
but my light began to glow.
I saw God's love in brand new light,
His grace and mercy, too.
For only when all self was gone could
Jesus' love shine through.

It was not easy in the storm,
I sometimes wondered why.
At times I thought, "I can't go on."
I'd hurt, and doubt, and cry.
But Jesus never left my side
He guided me each day.
Through pain and strife,
through fire and flood,
He helped me all the way.

And now I see as ne'er before
how great His love can be
How in my weakness He is strong,
how Jesus cares for me!
He worked it all out for my good,
although the way was rough.
He only sent what I could bear,
and then He said, "Enough!"

He raised His hand and said, "Be still!"
He made the storm clouds cease.
He opened up the gates of joy
and flooded me with peace.
I saw His face now clearer still,
I felt His presence strong,
I found anew His faithfulness,
He never did me wrong.

And now I know more storms will come,
but only for my good,
For pain and tears have helped me grow
as nothing ever could.
I still have so much more to learn
as Jesus works in me;
If in the storm I'll love Him more,
that's where I want to be!

Author Unknown

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I have written this post a million times in my head. But, lately it’s really been pressing on my heart, so I decided there’s probably a reason and I should put it down on paper and post it a.s.a.p.

At the end of college, as I was beginning my adult life, I realized that I had no foundation on which to base the major decisions I was making for my future. So, God initiated a debate about whether or not I should commit my life to Him, during which I remember telling Him that I didn’t want to be a Christian because I wanted to do what I wanted to do. I was pretty sure I would have to change a lot about myself if I were a Christian, and essentially I wanted to be lord of my own life. God responded to this concern of mine by saying (clearly to my heart, not audibly), “I will make you want what I want.” To which I said, “OK then. As long as I’ll want it, I’m cool with that.” At that moment, sitting on the bed in my apartment, I gave God “permission” to be MY LORD.

Growing up, when things went wrong in my life, I can recall people saying, “You just need to get right with the LORD.” Not knowing exactly how to do that, the message I got was, “If you ‘get right with the LORD’ your life will be better and you will be happy.” In other words, if you try your best not to sin, things will go your way. I grew up in church and it seemed true that those who were “on the straight and narrow” didn’t experience the heartache that others (including me) did. I have to admit, the main reason I wanted to become a Christian was because things weren’t going right in my life and I wanted to be happy. It had nothing to do with being humbled by the realization of what Christ had done for me. It was much more selfish than that. Fortunately, God had mercy on me and took over my heart despite my impure motivations.

Early on, God was gracious enough to answer all of my prayers and I found what I thought to be true happiness. He quickly removed the desire and temptation to sin and replaced it with a hunger to get to know Him better by reading His Word and praying. Admittedly, the fact that I had “gotten right with the Lord” and things had started to go well for me created a sense of pride in me. I could easily look at others and see that their life was in shambles because they hadn’t made the effort to “get their life right.”

After two to three years of God answering nearly all my prayers, one of my prayers was met with silence: my prayer to conceive. Why was God not giving me what I wanted? I had done my part. I tried to read my Bible and pray everyday, serve my church, invest in people, etc. Where’s my reward? Didn’t I deserve it? As a Christian, aren’t I entitled to this? I mean, I wasn’t asking for anything sinful. This is NOT how things were supposed to go!

After that, Sunday morning worship was dead to me. I didn’t feel I had anything to worship Him for. He hadn’t given me what I wanted! Wasn’t worship supposed to be about thanking Him for what He has given us? Not only was worship dead, I was also finding that some scriptures seemed to be untrue as well (e.g. Psalm 37:4, John 14:14, John 16:24). But, I had experienced such a change in my heart in the few years I had been a Christian and so many “mysteries of God” had been revealed to me, that instead of grappling with the verses I couldn’t reconcile, I chose to ignore them.

I began to ask myself: Why? Why is this happening? Is God punishing us for past sins? Hadn’t He forgiven me? At that point I was faced with the realization that I was now on level ground with all the people I had been judging, the ones who were suffering. Could it be that their suffering wasn’t related to their sin? After deeply searching my heart and seeking the LORD, He continually brought the passage about the blind man in John 9:1-3 to my mind. Verse 3 says, “‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’” This had huge implications not only for my own circumstance, but also for my attitude towards others over the past several years. Thus began the process of breaking ME down.

As I was faced with the ugliness of my pride, I prayed that God would remove it, cut it out of my life. I knew it would probably hurt, but I didn’t care. It was UGLY! But, instead of pointing out all of my faults and allowing me to be guilt-ridden, God, in His mercy, began to show me the depth of His love for me. My “spiritual eyes” were opened to an understanding of God (and suffering) that replaced my pride with humility.

I began to listen to the words of the songs during worship, and realized that the writers weren’t praising God for what He had given them; they were praising Him for who He is and what He did for them on the Cross. The songs talked about His love and sacrifice for us. It seemed that the writers had a deep grasp of their depravity without Christ and the significance of their salvation, something I hadn’t fully considered before because I thought my life had gotten better out of my own efforts. But, God showed me that it was Him that made the changes in me (2 Corinthians 5:17). And, now that He had made it clear that I was no better than anyone else, I began to meditate on my salvation.

I remembered who I was before Christ, my selfish motivation for becoming a Christian, and was humbled by the thought that He would have chosen me anyway. Regardless of who I was then, He still loved me enough to save me (Romans 5:8). He opened my eyes to specific instances where He had pursued me. What I deserved was wrath, but He gave me life and love instead. What kind of God would do that? The world began to expand right before my eyes and I realized that I was not at the center of it. God was. I was humbled yet again.

Finally, I understood grace and my worship was transformed. I came alive and began to praise Him for who He is. I realized that even if nothing else goes right in my life, I’ve been SAVED, and that’s enough! He said to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, and my power is made perfect in weakness.” I now knew what the Apostle Paul meant when he said he could find contentment in any circumstance (Philippians 4:11-13). I began to understand James when he said, “consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1:2-7)

My new understanding of God’s grace redefined “true happiness” for me. Previously, my happiness was based on whether or not God gave me what I wanted. But, when he removed the things I wanted, the things that stood between me & Him, I could see that He had already given me the greatest gift possible: life and victory over sin and death. Nothing else on earth could compare to that!

I’ve realized that God does not demonstrate His love for us by giving us what we want. That may be how we operate as humans, but God can see the whole universe from beginning to end; He created it! We are his children (John 1:12-13). Children don’t always understand why their parents withhold things from them, but the parents know what’s best. God, our Father, knows what’s best for us. Sometimes He doesn’t give us what we want to protect us. Sometimes He has something He wants to reveal to us through our suffering. We can’t understand God’s ways, but we can trust that He has our best interest at heart (Jeremiah 29:11-18). He doesn’t demonstrate His love by giving us what we want, He demonstrated His love for us on the cross, once and for all (Romans 5:8). No matter what we face in life, we know that God loves us.

Likewise, our love for Him can’t be based on whether or not He gives us what we want. He knows the desires of our heart; He created us. He placed within us a desire to be loved and feel complete. We may think that can be accomplished by getting the things we want. But, God knows that those things are just a distraction from the one who can truly fulfill those desires—Him. So, when we read Psalm 37:4, John 14:14, and John 16:24, we must remember that He is our Father and His Will is perfect (Romans 12:2). When we’re reading scriptures that we have not experienced to be true, we can still believe them by remembering that He is sovereign and we can trust Him with our lives.

Recently, a friend asked me if I felt “complete” when I got pregnant (when I got what I wanted). I could honestly say, no. I didn’t feel any different about God after I got pregnant than I did before. I didn’t feel like He was finally showing me that He loved me by giving me what I wanted. He gave me that sense of love and completion when He revealed to me the gravity of what He did for me on the cross and showed me what He had saved me from.

Through infertility, I have learned to praise God for my suffering. God has a special message for those who suffer. When you suffer, you can be sure that God wants to go deeper with you. He loves you. Your suffering is not in vain. Had we not suffered, I may have never come to these realizations. This experience has given me the courage to face future suffering with joy, knowing that He has a reason.

Andy preached a message on December 28, 2008 at Eternal titled Suffering and the Comfort of God. It brought to light many of the beautiful reasons we don’t have to be afraid of suffering. You can listen to it by clicking on the link or download it on iTunes.

Ephesians 3:16-21
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 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, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.