Why You Should be Glad When You Have No Reason to Be

photo-119We’ve been extremely fortunate in our foster-to-adopt situation with Baby A.

More fortunate than most people.

In a few weeks the State will change Baby A’s permanency goal from reunification with her birth parents to adoption.

We’re hoping Baby A will officially be a Toy by Christmas, which is feasible as long as there are no surprises.

We also just found ourselves in a situation where we are ready to take in another baby if the State calls us. So we’re looking forward to an addition to our family of five (two dogs) in the next couple of months.

Right now, things can’t seem to get much better, but we recognize that things could change in a heartbeat, so we live with that reminder and walk cautiously, yet graciously.

We owe our happiness to God, for He has graciously provided us with Baby A after years of praying, waiting, crying, and longing for her. The wait was worth it.

I was not a good Christian during that waiting period. I grew resentful toward God, and even hated Him for not giving us a child when I wanted. But looking back, I can see that the timing was absolutely perfect.

I just wish that while we were waiting for a child that I had acted better. I wish I had prayed more and taken the opportunity to grow in my relationship with God.

So, if you’re in a waiting period, or things are difficult, or you’re at your wit’s end, or life just seems to be falling apart around you, I can’t promise that it will get better, but the odds are definitely in your favor.

Just don’t wait for things to get better and then praise God for what He’s done, because then you’ll end up like me and feel like a hypocrite (or something… I haven’t quite figured it out yet), and you’ll feel a little out of place when you do thank God for the turnaround in your life circumstances.

So even in your mourning and your crying and your despair, God is to be praised, so that when things do look up for you, you can confidently point to Him and say, “It’s because of Him that this happened,” and not feel so out of place.

3 Words, 7 Letters, One Cosmic Offense

vomitingBeing a father has caused me to be extra careful with the words that I use in the house. There’s no need for my foster daughter to hear certain words, and there’s certainly less need for me to use them.

There is a phrase that you might use today that is the most deplorable phrase to God’s ears – worse than all the obscenities that might raise the MPAA rating for a movie.

A phrase that is frequently used on television that is acceptable viewing for children.

Your friends might go along with it, your family members might not notice it, and your pastors might not call you out on it, yet it’s the most vile exclamation that can come out of your mouth.

It might as well be vomit.

We are so used to the stench of this phrase we go about our lives hardly noticing it.

Using this phrase is the same as urinating on the cross of Jesus, and spitting on the face of God.

While the children of God are going to church, tithing, and praying for the lost, they are defecating in God’s holy temple by saying these three disgusting words.

You don’t have to read very far in the Bible before getting to it. It’s found on page 62 in my Bible.

James, towards the end of the Bible, implores us to watch our tongues, but this one phrase is forbidden in the ten commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

Brothers and sisters, we are to be set apart from the world, even if it means refraining from “cute” little phrases we acronymically type into our phones and ipads as friendly texts.

When I hear someone confess to be a Christian and then defile the Lord’s name, I automatically can’t help but question their salvation. After all, if they can’t refrain from using such a simple seven-letter term in their best moments, then what other sins are they giving into in their worst moments?

(On the flip side, when I hear someone say, “Oh my gosh” – a very deliberate and countercultural phrase, it gives me pause to look for further fruit in their lives.)

We must treat the name of God as reverent and holy. The very thought of Him ought to bring us to our knees in awe, not curse in jest.

If God means so little to you that you’re willing to just throw His name around like a deflated beach ball – which lacks value of any kind – ask the Lord to change your heart toward something you have viewed as being so trivial and inconsequential.

Ask Him to help you realize that the world has influenced you for the worse, and that using His name in vain is offensive to Him.

He will forgive you, if you are His child and you ask Him to, and He will never remember it if you repent of it, as He does with all sins. That is an absolute promise.

But if you want to go around continuing to use the Lord’s name as a curse word, just remember the next time you yell, “Jesus Christ,” out of pain or anger, you will someday finish that sentence with “…is Lord,” and He will reconcile His namesake.

That is another promise.

Rescue Me

captain-phillips-movie-624x346Sarabeth and I just watched Captain Phillips last weekend.

I’m telling you, I haven’t been that on edge in a movie since Mission: Impossible III. 

At the end of it, as I was trying to catch my breath, Sarabeth made a very astute observation. She said, 

“It’s amazing how far we’ll go just to save one American.”

She’s absolutely right. While other countries couldn’t give a rip about their citizens, our military will go to the ends of the earth to bring back our own.

I needed to see this movie, because it’s been a long time since I’ve felt proud to be an American.

It’s crazy though, because God is the same way with His children, and we can say the same thing about Him.

It’s amazing how far He’ll go just to save one of His children.

Aside from His Son dying for us and breaking free from the grave for His glory and on our behalf, He doesn’t just stop there.

He keeps a careful eye on us. When we stray, He searches us out.

I’d say that He’ll go to hell and back to save us, except hell wouldn’t be hell if He went there.

But He’ll go wherever you are. 

You may not be held captive by Somali pirates, but you might be held captive by your sin, or your addictions.

If so, and you’re God’s child, and you’re pleading for help, take heart, because He’s coming for you.

In Captain Phillips the SEAL Team tells Captain Phillips to stay where he is, to not move from the very seat he’s sitting in.

That’s what we’re to do. We’re to be still and know that He is God.

Don’t try to save yourself. It won’t work.

Just sit still, and pray.

God is coming after you, wherever you are.

It may be that you don’t want Him to. It may be that you’re happy in your sins. That’s all well and fine, and if you’re not a Christian, He’ll let you have at it, turning you over to your desires. (Not such a controlling, dictating God, is He?)

But if you’re His child, He’s coming after you wether you like it or not. No father will leave the mall without his child (hopefully).

And God won’t leave you enslaved to your sins if you ask Him for help, over and over and over again. Who knows, a rescue mission may already be under way.

Just stay still and wait.

And pray.

 

How Salvation Works

kids-in-classroomOn the first day of school, Mrs. Shermann passed out the kid-friendly syllabi  to her students and asked, “How many classroom rules do you notice on the whiteboard?”

“Ten!” they all shouted in unison.

“That’s right,” said Mrs. Shermann.

What she was about to teach them was her favorite lesson to teach. And she wondered who, if any, would learn it.

Rules 2-10 were the standard RAISE YOUR HAND BEFORE SPEAKING; BE COURTEOUS TO YOUR CLASSMATES; WRITE YOUR NAME ON ALL ASSIGNMENTS, etc.

But Rule No. 1 was the heart of it all.

It said, “ALWAYS SAY YOU’RE WELCOME.”

She spent probably eight minutes stressing the importance of this rule. A simple rule at best, a curious one for the 21st century at worst.

But the No. 1 rule, nonetheless.

But as the year progressed, it proved to be so much more complicated than it ever needed to be. And many kids had their feelings hurt by it, and others cried, and many were grounded by their parents for bad grades. All because of that dreaded Rule No. 1.

Mindy’s parents went over her assignment with her at least twice before declaring that it was indeed a perfect 100% (a 99 at worst if Mrs. Shermann was counting the missed comma in one of Mindy’s answers). But the 0/100 blotched in red ink at the top was a curious and disdainful score.

Dylan came home crying to his mom for the second time that week because, “Missus Shermunn calls on me and I give her the right answer, but she says I’m wrong. I raise my hand and say the answer is Benjimin Franklin and she says no. Then she called on Lindsy and she says Benjimin Franklin, and Missus Shermunn says she’s right.”

Every year Mrs. Shermann meets with a lot of parents the first couple of weeks of school. But the parents walk out appeased and relieved almost every time.

“It’s come to my attention that most of you think I’m unfair with my grading,” said Mrs. Shermann one Thursday morning before diving into the day’s agenda.

Some of the kids skeptically nod their heads. Others sit stiff upright, as though not wanting to show disloyalty or doubt to the fuhrer.

“A lot of you feel that your answers are correct in your assignments, but you get 0′s. And some of you give the right answer in class, and I say you’re wrong.”

A few more heads nod.

“You can do all the right things, and have all the right answers, but none of that matters if you don’t follow the rules. Especially the most important rule.”

Her gaze directed the others’ toward the whiteboard. Rule No. 1 seemed to be written in a much brighter color that day.

ALWAYS SAY “YOU’RE WELCOME.”

“If you turn in your assignment and I say ‘Thank you,’ and you don’t respond with ‘You’re welcome,’ then what good is it if you have all the answers right? You broke Rule No. 1, so nothing else matters.”

She continued. “If you give the right answer in class and I say ‘Thank you,’ and you ignore me or just nod your head, then I’m going to call on someone else until they obey Rule No. 1, then I’ll tell them they have the right answer.”

“Let’s say you live in a small town and the most important rule is that you must wear a blue shirt all the time. If you don’t wear a blue shirt all the time, but you do a lot of amazing things like save kittens from trees, give money to the poor, be nice to your enemies, none of that matters, because you’re not wearing the color blue. You’re breaking the most important rule. It might not make sense to you, but the rule in this classroom is to say ‘You’re welcome’ when thanked.”

“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39

“All have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6

You’re welcome.

A Father’s Love

handsofGodParentI always thought it would be easy to be a baby.

I mean, I know I was one once, but I honestly don’t remember a thing about it.

Think about it:

No taxes

No dishes to wash

No homework due

No fight up the corporate ladder

Just lots of food, lots of cuddling, and lots of pampering.

I used to think it would be nice to be a baby, but since taking Baby A. into our home, I’m realizing that it’s not so easy.

Poor girl can’t even hold her own head up. She’s completely, and 100% dependent on us.

For everything.

And if she has an itch on the back of her hand, we have no way of knowing about it.

She’s thinking, Stop rubbing my belly and scratch that darn itch! 

(Except what’s really going on in her mind is, Poeihaoiehagpoei papoe apoeiemb!)

Here I am shoving a soggy bottle in her face, and for all I know she just wants a better look at the picture on the wall behind her.

And don’t even get me started on diaper changes. Imagine being soppy down there, then stripped bare and exposed to the elements, and then having a cold wipey rubbed all over – and all this done by an amateur, and somewhat clumsy, father.

So already, we’re not perfect parents, but we’re doing the absolute best we can.

It’s nice though, that God is a perfect Father. And though we don’t know every single need our baby has, we know the basics.

And God has provided us with the patience and love that we need to see her through every obstacle in her little fragile life.

Seems to me we as Christians have a pretty good resource to tap into for extra help.

And when we need that extra bit of love and patience at three in the morning, I’ve been learning that prayer over my child is a pretty good tool to have to remind me that my job is to love Baby A just as God loves me in my fits of rage.

Chuches, Why Have We Not Yet United?

Russian_orphansPastors, deacons, elders, church members, Sunday school volunteers – I’m curious.

(And please know that I ask myself this same question.)

Two questions, actually.

Two questions that could revolutionize the world.

A question that could shout volumes to the planet of God’s love.

And here’s the first question:

Why are our orphanages so full?

The way I see it is, the fuller the pews are, the emptier the orphanages ought to be.

Doesn’t that just make sense?

Here’s the second question:

It’s a bit more personal.

The last question was directed at the universal Church.

This one’s directed at you. And me. And my wife. And my neighbors. And my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Okay, so here it is:

It’s a scenario, really.

Suppose you received a text message from an unknown sender.

And it said

THERE IS A NEWBORN IN A DUMPSTER SOMEWHERE WITHIN A SIX-MILE RADIUS OF WHERE YOU LIVE.

FIND HIM. SAVE HIM.

Would you not call all your neighbors and friends and family to comb the entire neighborhood, day in and day out, until you found him?

Would you not be dumpster diving in every dark alley?

Folks, there are babies and kids dumped in the orphanages and the hospital every day.

When Sarabeth and I were visiting our Baby A. in the hospital last week, there was a premature baby tucked in the back of the room all that time, crying.

Crying.

Crying.

And no one, that we saw, ever came to visit him.

A newborn left to his own devises in this great big, cruel world.

Our social worker told us that she was on the very brink of calling us the day we brought Baby A. home because, for the life of her, she could find no one to accept the placement of another little boy who needed a home.

But she didn’t want to overwhelm us with two newborns in one day.

The title of this post is, “Churches, Why Have We Not Yet United?”

I think it’s possible, and necessary, for churches to finally come together and encourage, no - admonish, implore  – their members to go out and adopt the local orphans and unwanted children.

We observe Orphan Sunday.

That’s great to name a Sunday after those we’re to care for. But what’s the point if we’re not all going to go out and care for these orphans?

It’s like celebrating Christmas paying no mind to Christ. Or uttering no one word of thanks on Easter.

Or eating pretend food at dinner, Neverland style.

If you smell a universal Chruch-wide calling in the air, if you’re wondering the same things I’m wondering (like why aren’t we as a whole taking this calling seriously), please forward this post on to your pastors, your elders, your deacons, your Bible study groups.

Let’s start something here.

Let’s start a revolution in the name of God.

Let’s flood our country’s orphanages with not only the love, but the presence of believers everywhere, and wash those children into our homes.

Our imperfect, flawed, loving, caring, warm, welcoming, Christ-centered homes.

And change their lives – and the world – to be a little bit more like what God had intended.

If you are interested in joining me in getting the word out to churches everywhere, or if you would like your church to be involved in this, please email me at andrewtoy1208@aol.com.

Please include your church status as a church employee or member,

and please include your name of the church you’re apart of, with their website address, and tell me the city and state.

One last thing, please share your interest in orphan care, by choosing one of the following:

a) I’ve not given it much thought until I read this post

b) I’ve always wanted to be involved, but just didn’t know where to start

c) I’ve adopted/fostered, and would like to educate others about the process

d) I’ve wanted to see something like this happen for a long time – Let’s do it!

Let’s get something started.

 

She’s Not a James, But…

baby_carriage3

I’ve been married for five years, and I just fell in love again.

You’re probably aware that Sarabeth and I have been in the process of becoming foster-to-adopt parents.

We’ve been longing for a child all these years.

Well, we finally got a call last week for a little girl born a month-and-a-half early.

So through a whirlwind of confusion and excitement, we’ve been at the hospital visiting with our beautiful, gorgeous, foster daughter whom I’ll call “A” for privacy reasons.

Seriously, for the first time ever I understand what the big deal is about babies.

I mean, I’ve always been pro-life and have understood the value of a baby’s life, but loving a baby?

Yeah. That’s a new one for me.

Now, we fully understand that, as foster-to-adopt parents, we may not be able to keep her—that there’s only a chance that our time together will end in adoption and little “A” becomes “A. Toy.”

It’s a fear and a faith we’ve never known. But more on that in later posts.

She’s not home with us yet. She’s still at the hospital, but we’ve got everything ready for her big arrival day later this week.

In the meantimes, I’ve learned a few things this weekend as a foster dad:

How to change diapers.

How to swaddle.

That I chose the best wife to be the best mother.

That out of respect for little “A,” I’ll always keep my nose hairs trimmed (not that that’s been a problem).

And my tears aren’t like a Phoenix; they can’t heal my little girl’s tummy cramps, or make her sleep. (I know, I know, let the ultra-cheesiness begin.)

Oh, and I learned one more thing.

While I had given up on God waiting for a child all this time, He was busy giving A. life, forming her, shaping her, caring for her.

So even while I was angry at God for “holding out” on us, He still came through. And now, I don’t want any other baby in the universe but her. Even if she does cry and fuss all night long.

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