Our church is celebrating the advent season this month. With that comes a four-part series each week. Yesterday’s message centered around Waiting for God. (Not the British comedy series.)
There were several points that struck me in this first message. But one stuck out more than the others.
That point is one that shouldn’t really shock me or you. Waiting for God can be frustrating. I don’t think anyone’s ever yelled out “WELL, DUH!!” in church, but it felt really appropriate yesterday, and I was tempted to be the first one.
The key the that fact though is it’s impetus. The waiting is frustrating because we want control. Let’s face it. We’re control freaks. I know I am. If you don’t think I am, ask Jen. (Ask our Scotland leadership team! They’ll tell you. Ha!) It’s not a revelation that I like to be in control, and that’s why I get frustrated or even discouraged while we’re waiting for the Lord to show us the next step in this journey.
I like to control the means and the ends. That’s where the frustration comes in. Because I know what I need. What we need. I live this life. I must know. I know what I can do. What I’m trained for. What jives with my personality. So, of course, I know best.
I only know what I can see. And some of what I can “see” for me and for us is distorted by my fears. Looking through the lens of fear is debilitating. The lens of fear is myopic. Fear says there is only one way forward. Fear says don’t try that because you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. Fear says you can’t do that. Fear lies.
What I want to cling to as we wait is that I can trust the Lord to have our best interests at heart, and that He knows what is best for us and that what is best for us may not be what we think is best for us.
It’s been a good day. We celebrated the day at my parents’ house with a truckload of family! K-Man loved running around all day playing with “the cousins.” He and his cousin, Jonathan, ran around playing with their nerf guns until they were sweaty messes. He should sleep incredibly soundly tonight!
When you have a blog, you are almost obligated to write a post today about the things for which you are thankful. Far be it from me to ignore that responsibility. I am thankful for much. Much more than I will capture here today, but this is a good representation.
My wife — who has walked beside me for a long time encouraging me along the way and occasionally kicking me in the behind when I need it.
My son — who reminds me regularly to see the joy in life. To laugh. To be silly.
My family — that has supported and shaped me.
My in-laws — who raised one heckuva daughter and who are incredible grandparents to K-Man.
My friends — (too many to name individually) who have picked me up when I’m down and with whom I have made some great memories over the last four decades!
My church — that challenges me to grow deeper in my relationship with the Lord and seek opportunities to live a life reflective of that relationship
I’m also thankful for a lot of “lesser” things too:
Tivo — stopping live television to use the lavatory is epic
Mike and Ikes — fruity, chewy morsels … if only you were sugar-free!
Plungers — no details necessary. Just thankful.
Smyrna Soccer Club — really enjoyed getting Keegan involved in that this year. Great organization for the community of kids in the area.
Facebook — when used for good, it really can be a great way to keep up and reconnect with friends and family scattered across the globe.
24-hour gyms — it’s great to have the freedom to go to the gym at 2:00 a.m. if I can’t sleep! (Wouldn’t have to go so often if those dastardly Mike and Ikes weren’t so delicious!)
I cannot think of anything to write about today. Does that mean I’ve had a boring day? Live a boring life? Hardly.
The day started with a good time of prayer and worship. Really needed it. Our pastor challenged us on Sunday to make prayer a part of our daily life. That wasn’t really the impetus for today’s time, but I’m going to make it count for that if he asks me.
I changed the bulbs on my brake lights today. One of them had been out for months. The second one went out recently as well. A nice couple stopped us at a light the other day to tell us. It took me an hour. No lie. I am not mechanically gifted. It took me 10 minutes just to find an allen wrench that would work. I tore up my hands in the process as well. But those who follow me now will know when I’m slamming on my brakes. Lucky them.
I had lunch with a friend. Actually, he bought me lunch in exchange for a little advice on how to respond to a claim for unemployment benefits. Yes, I trade in kind. Legal advice in exchange for a nice burger and fries.
Tonight, we had a family dinner at our church. These quarterly get-togethers are always a nice time. A pot luck, church-wide time to share a meal, meet some others we may not know that well, and get the latest information about all that the church is doing and planning for the immediate and/or long-term future. I noticed tonight as we were waiting in line the large number of kids under 7 in the crowd. That cohort seems to have exploded over the last year. I think that bodes well for the future of the church. It also will require more generational investment on the part of everyone.
So it looks like my day wasn’t that boring. I’m not sure what it’s like for you to read about it. But thanks for indulging me. It’s better than a generic list, isn’t it? I hope so.
See you tomorrow.
We went to a meeting at our church on Sunday afternoon. Some friends of ours have taken the steps to be approved as foster parents and are doing so through a private agency called Faithbridge Foster Care. Faithbridge works with the state and county agencies who have the placement needs. When their foster families are not available, they call private agencies, like Faithbridge, to see if they can fill the gap with one of their Faithbridge families. Faithbridge’s model centers around establishing relationships with churches. The goal is not only to find willing families in the churches but also for the members of those churches to help serve as support for their member families who decide to foster.
Faithbridge has the statistics, but if the Church stepped up, there would be no need for the state agencies who place foster children because there would be none without a family to take them in. The meeting that we attended was an introductory meeting into what it means to be a foster family or a respite care family and how Faithbridge operates. It was also a time for people to ask questions and hopefully, for the Faithbridge representative to dispel some myths about fostering.
When we jumped into the world of adoption, we went to a similar meeting where we heard an adoption consultant dispel many of the movie-of-the-week myths about the adoption process. That was a good exercise for us. (And the reality for us has been nothing like those myths that continue to circulate about adoption.)
But I digress.
I have two psychology degrees, so in meetings like this, I cannot stop myself from monitoring the comments of others (and a little commentary in my head about what is being said or asked). This meeting was no different.
The first question that got me thinking was “how can Faithbridge do this with the whole separation of church and state?” My first thought was that there’s a need that has to be met, and if there is another group that will help with some of the heavy lifting, the county is not going to mind that a faith-based group is helping out. Second, the state isn’t as interested as many think it is in the spiritual lives of the rest of us. Third, this is the Bible belt. There is a lot more openness to faith-based initiatives here than in other parts of the country, I am sure. But I would still think that similar agencies in whatever other “liberal” state would accept the help of a group like Faithbridge even there. Finally, if someone thinks that fostering through Faithbridge is a way to force religion on a child, then perhaps, they are missing the point of serving as a foster parent (and I am not saying that I think the questioner is of that mindset, but I can see something similar running through the minds of those who want to “rescue” these children from their situations.)
The other question that sticks out for me was asked in the context of bringing in a foster child who was older than your own child or children — a teenager perhaps. The questions was “how do you know that there won’t be any sexual issues that your own children will be exposed to?” My immediate thought was “you can’t.” Thankfully, that was the ultimate response from the Faithbridge rep as well. It reminded me of our adoption situation. We couldn’t really “know” anything about the background of Kee’s birth parents. The limited info we have is based on self-report for the most part. We trust that what we know is true. But we cannot know. We made the conscious decision — even before we launched into the adoption process — to trust that the Lord would walk alongside us regardless of how things turned out with Kee. We reiterated that statement of faith after K-Man was ours.
I think we would have to walk into a foster family situation the same way. We would certainly try to determine as much as we could about the child’s background, but we would have to remain vigilant and pray that the Lord would protect our family and heal whatever scars and pain exist for the child we brought into our home.
We haven’t decided how or if fostering is a part of our future. But we wanted to know more about the process if for no other reason than to help our friends who are working with Faithbridge. We’ll see what the Lord has in store for us though.
Jen and I have been attending a small group at church for the last couple of months. The focus of the group was parenting. All of the couples in the group have from 1 to 4 kids. A pair of seasoned couples led the group. They weren’t experts per se — and more importantly didn’t profess to be experts either. They simply had a few more years than the rest of us do raising their kids — a number of whom are married already.
It’s been a great opportunity to get to know the other couples in the group better as well as gain a few new ideas on how to deal with K-Man’s more challenging moments. Tonight, one of the leader couples hosted us for dinner. They lived in France for a number of years, and the evening was a typical French meal. The meal itself was great: heavy hors d’oeuves, boeuf bourguingon, salad, fromages (cheeses), and sorbet. But the best part of the evening were the many conversations around the table. Stories of how the couples met, first dates, deciding on baby names. It may seem mundane, but the shared time was food for the soul. In today’s fast-paced world, we often eat as quickly as we can to get to the next thing on the schedule. It’s refreshing to sit for a few hours an enjoy a meal and the company of friends.
I’m glad to have shared these last few weeks with this group and look forward to more shared time and shared meals.
We heard a good message this morning at church about the power of words. David said that the average person speaks 16,000 words each day. (Jen would argue that I might do that in a week.) Regardless, we speak a lot of words over a lifetime, and they have an impact on those who hear them. Speaking words of encouragement is not something that comes naturally to me. Having a child though magnifies the importance of developing that skill. You would think that having a wife might, but what can I say? I’m not perfect. Not by a long shot! I’m not proud of that; just being honest.
But having K-Man around really does make messages like this morning’s hit me in the face. And it’s not just about saying words that build him up. It’s as much about avoiding words that retard his enthusiasm. I need patience to deal with his off-the-charts energy. I’m not wired that way. I’m also not 3 years old. I need to adjust my reactions to things because it’s not fair to him to expect him to have that much self-control. When I examine this, I generally come back to my selfishness. I get caught up in what I want to do or not do. It doesn’t apply just to Kee’s demands on my time either.
David made another good point this morning about the words we say. It’s not just about words we say to others. We also need to stop saying a lot of the negative things we say to ourselves about ourselves. Is there a more powerful influence on our psyche than the words we let fly in our own heads? I think not.
I heard a good message this morning at church. David was talking about worry. I think most people worry about something from time to time. Some worry more than others, but we all worry about stuff at some point. I’ve heard messages about worry and specifically about the passage in Matthew 6:25 that David talked about today. This wasn’t one of David’s messages that opens a new perspective on the Word for me (but there have been a few of those). But it was a perfect message for where I am at the moment. I don’t really want to share all of the details of that just yet, but suffice it to say, I could identify with the other people in the room today who identified themselves as “worriers.”
Here’s what I heard about worry today (that takes David off the hook if I screw up the paraphrase of his message). The Lord knows that we are prone to worry. But he wants us to know that he wants to take those burdens from us. He provides. He wants to provide. What that provision looks like for me or you or your friend or your co-worker or your classmate or your neighbor is different. But he knows what would work best, and he wants to provide. That doesn’t mean we can just sit around and wait for that provision. We have our part to play. We have to work. Or we have to go to school. Or both. Maybe we have to pray. Maybe we need to ask for help. Maybe in verbalizing what it is that is worrying us we are admitting that it is bigger than us, and we need the Lord’s help.
So why don’t we take advantage of the Lord’s desire to help? Well, if you’re like me, you probably don’t have faith that the Lord really will help you. I’m not saying I don’t believe the Lord can help me. I do. I do because I’ve seen it before. In my own life. So if I’ve seen it before, why do I continue to doubt that he’d do it again? Why is my faith so ephemeral? (David didn’t answer this question today, but it got me asking myself that question.)
I don’t know the complete answer to that question, but saying that “I am just human” is a trite cop out. I know that I am way too self-reliant. I spend too much energy thinking about (read: “worry about”) all the negative ends that could be reached instead of doing what I can do and trusting that the Lord will provide what I/we need.
David shared a couple of images today. One was God with a closed fist and us prying it open to get him to open his hands to us. That is the picture many of us have about making our requests to God when those things we worry about come to the surface. We think we have to convince God to open up to us. In fact, he’s sitting there with his hands open already to give us what we need. If we’ll ask. Without the faith that he can and will provide for us, we don’t bother. How much faith is enough? A mustard seed’s worth. (David’s second image)
David actually had mustard seeds for us to hold to get a visual for the passage in Matthew 17:20 where Jesus commented to his disciples that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed, they could move a mountain. I don’t know if I have that much faith, but I have enough to loosen my grip on the things that I cling too tightly.
So what I’m trying to do is hold onto a Matthew 6:34 perspective: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”