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.

What Christians Fear Most

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Sometimes I feel like a monster.

Not when I lose my temper. When that happens, I’m just being a typical fallen human – my old fleshly self.

But sometimes I feel like a monster from Monstropolis. You know, the ones from Monsters Inc. who are afraid of children.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it?

But we’re not much brighter. We fear man.

We clamor for man’s approval and stop at nothing to gain the respect of the masses.

And if we’re honest with ourselves, on our worst days, we’d rather be judged by God than by our bosses.

This is the wrong way of living. Jesus is very clear in Matthew 10:28: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.”

We’re so anxious to please others and remain certain not to offend ignorant people with the Gospel, but we’d much rather offend the One who commanded us to do just that!

Think about it. There are plenty of reasons why we don’t witness the way we ought. Laziness and carelessness may be at the top of the list, but fear is most certainly right up there.

Why won’t you witness to your boss? Because you’re afraid of getting fired.

Why won’t you witness to your neighbor? Because you’re afraid of making future front yard conversations terse and awkward.

Remember. These people who do not know the Gospel are as harmless as a child in Monstropolis. You have the Holy Spirit fighting with you, and enabling you to carry on the task.

Easter’s coming up. Invite someone to church. Just a simple, harmless invitation.

After all, who doesn’t like an invitation somewhere, right?

And don’t loose sight of who the real enemy is: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

Don’t be like the monsters who are scared of little children. Know who your real enemy is and realize the potential – through Christ – they’re keeping you from.

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.

 

The Silver Coins – A Parable

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Once there lived a father and a son. The father loved his son very much as did the son love his father. One day the father said to his son, “You’re old enough now to perform a chore for me. I want you to take this silver coin, travel across the country and deliver it to the king. If, for any reason you lose the coin, come back to me and I will give you another one.” The boy, feeling very sure of himself took the coin and began his long journey across the country.

When he came to the town, he was interested in the things they were selling. So he bought a piece of candy from one of the booths with his father’s silver coin. Upon doing this, the boy felt sick to his stomach and knew that he had let his father down. He returned home to his father with a broken heart. But the father did not scold him nor punish him like he thought he would do. Instead the father smiled and gave his son another silver coin and said, “Now, be careful when you cross through that first town. Don’t stop to look at anything.”

The boy was soon on his way, thankful and glad for his father’s reassurance. When he got to the town, the boy did not slow down like he did the first time. This time he picked up speed and ran all the way through without stopping. When he reached the end of the town, the boy was tired and had to slow down.

At the end of the town was the woods, and sure that he was safe from any danger, the boy strolled along carelessly. Before he reached the end of the woods, a beaver came out from behind a tree and told the boy that he would cut down a tree and provide a bridge for the river up ahead… but it would cost him one silver coin. The boy agreed to this, because he wasn’t prepared to go swimming. Upon giving the beaver the silver coin, he realized that there would be no point in continuing on in his journey without the payment due to the king. So the boy, very much ashamed at his lack of preparation, turned around to collect yet another silver coin from his father.

The father’s heart melted when he saw his son coming home with his shoulders slumped and head hung low. The son cried to his father, “I’m so sorry.” And the father spoke these words to him: “Here is another silver coin. Take it, and do not simply walk through the town letting your eyes fall on whatever is available, and do not let your guard down when you enter into the woods. Run as fast as you can, stopping for no one for you know now that you cannot trust the people there.”

So once again, the young boy set off across the country, running through the town, and running even faster still through the woods. When he reached the river at the end of the woods, he noticed that a tree lay across stretching to the other side, just like the beaver promised to do. But he also noticed that the river was no deeper than the height of his ankles; it was more like a stream.

The boy continued to walk on past the woods, being very exhausted by now and was breaking quite a sweat. When he cleared out of the woods completely, the boy found himself at the foot of a windy road leading up a high mountain. The boy pressed on, though slow as a snail because he was still trying to catch his breath from the long run. Half way up the mountain, the boy came upon a wishing well. Now everybody knows the law of the wishing well. One tosses his money in and makes a wish. So the boy tossed his silver coin in and wished for a dozen more silver coins. The well told him to go home and ask his father.

Dumbfounded and empty-handed the boy returned home and apologized to his father once again. Certain that his father would scold him this time, the boy found himself to be very hesitant when he entered into his father’s house. But the father did not scold his son this time either. Instead, the father gave him another silver coin and said, “Be a bit more careful this time. Make sure you hurry through the town, run through the woods stopping for nobody because you know the woods people cannot be trusted, and make haste up the mountain as fast as you can, wishing only that you make it to the top.” With these words the father hugged his son and sent him on his way once more.

The son did what his father told him and hurried through the first town, ran through the woods, and made haste up the mountain. But in each new terrain, the son somehow lost his silver coin either by being careless and losing it or giving it away or spending it on something ultimately worthless. And each time the son found himself empty-handed, he returned home to his father, who was always waiting with another silver coin and a smile. Needless to say, the boy got his wish and he received more than a dozen silver coins – one at a time, of course.

         One day when the boy returned home yet again to apologize to his father, the boy said, “Father, every time you send me out on the same quest, and every time I fail you. How come, when I return home to apologize, you’re never angry at me?”

         The father’s response was simple, and it was then and there that the boy understood his father’s compassion. The father said, “My son, the tragedy isn’t that you make mistakes. The tragedy would be if you never returned at all.”

-Andrew Toy

 

Image Credit

Everyday Orphans

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Think about the first image that comes to your mind when you hear the word “orphan.” Most of us think immediately of a poor, desolate child staring at you with big eyes, and skinny arms and legs, with loose rags for clothes. This is a very true image of an orphan, yet the idea of an orphan is much, much bigger than that.

You and I run across orphans every single day. We talk with them and joke with them and conduct business with them on a daily basis. They are people who have no heavenly Father. Their deepest relation is with the Father of Lies who keeps them in bondage and slavery and neglects their needs. He withholds their daily bread, and inflicts harm on them by spoiling them with the evil desires of their hearts, and spares the rod. He is the antithesis to what a father is. And so those who do not know the Lord God as Father, are fatherless.

Now, we may not be able to adopt them, but we can direct them to the One who can. After all, if you are alive in Christ, you were once an orphan. And as Hosea 14:3 states, have you not found mercy in the Lord? Just like He did with Adam and Eve, God took pity on you and clothed you, not in animal skins, but in Christ’s blood, covering your sins.

We have a responsibility to the parent-less children, by taking them into our homes, or providing others with the means to do so. But we must not neglect our responsibility to the countless others who are spiritual orphans. Though they may seem content with their lives, and walk around with a smile on their faces, wearing expensive suits from Barney’s, they’re not happy. They may tell you they are, but like a rebellious orphan who has never known a home or love, they scoff at the idea of needing a Father to guide and direct them.

What is stopping you from showing mercy to the orphans of the world? Seek them out, be Jesus to them. Offer them the shelter of a church, the clothing of Christ, and the ever-extending hand of the Father waiting to take them Home.

In you the orphan finds mercy. – Hosea 14:3

 

Of Silverfish and Prayer

200817751706“Honey, don’t look up. Just slowly get up and go to the bedroom,” I said as I eyed the giant silverfish sitting on the wall about seven feet above my wife’s head.

It was yesterday. Sunday morning. And we were just finishing up breakfast on the couch. Buttered chocolate-chip bread for her, and that plus a bowl of breakfast candy (Cocoa Puffs) for me.

I don’t know what made me look up, but I did. And there it was. Images from my book The Man in the Box flashed into my mind. I must be a prophet, I thought to myself. Except, this wasn’t a centipede as the characters in my book are apt to encounter. This was a silverfish.

A silverfish is similar to a centipede, and honestly, I don’t know which one is grosser. I had never even heard of a silverfish until I moved to Kentucky, but I learned quickly that they blend in more, so they’re harder to spot, and they’re quicker than centipedes, so they’re harder to catch.

I don’t suggest Googling them. Just imagine a centipede with larger legs and long curly antenna.

“Go to the bedroom,” I told Sarabeth. She grabbed the dogs and did as I said.

This was my moment to shine. I grabbed my sword (fly swatter) from the storage room and returned to the wall above the couch where the silverfish remained, eying me. Daring me. Taunting me.

I had to climb up onto the backside of the couch to get a good swat in. And that’s where I met my dillimma. The silverfish was close to the corner of the wall, and you know that that’s the worst place for a bug to be when armed only with just the face of a fly swatter.

You must meticulously graze the adjasent wall with the edge of the swatter at a rapid enough speed to stun – no, disable – the offender. Yet if you swat too hard, you run the risk of chipping the paint off the wall or making a long, bug-gutted scratch.

The other threat that was posed to me was that if I didn’t kill my opponent on the first try, it would fall twelve feet onto the carpet below, behind the couch, and could scurry any which way.

And we all know that a lost bug really is a phantom bug just waiting to strike – especially when you’re on the couch enjoying the latest episode of Downton(Poor Matthew, right?? And, I’m sorry, but Thomas is absolutely detestable, so they might as well not try to redeem him.)

So there I stood, precariously on the back of the couch, clad in my jamie-jams, hair disheveled, bright green $2 plastic weapon in hand. A true knight.

I strike.

My foe is stunned, and furiously clutches to my weapon. I lose my footing, possibly due to a premature celebratory jig. But as I fall, I lose hold of the fly swatter, but manage to fling my assailant into the bowl lamp standing behind the couch. The bug is trapped, and I continue to fall and my foot lands on the soft cushion of the couch

and twists. Ker-Rack!!

Words are scattered into the air that Sarabeth attempts to rebuke from the bedroom. This is not a very good way to prepare for church which starts 45 minutes.

I would have gotten up much quicker if I hadn’t made sure the silverfish was trapped in the lamp.

With sweat dripping from my brow and the bones clanking in my right foot, I manage to get back up and find the silverfish curled up by the bulb in the lamp, just as stunned as I am.

I should have just turned the light on and let it burn. But this job had to be finished sooner rather than later. Plus, I don’t really want to know what burnt bug smells like.

So, having convinced myself that the silverfish is either dead or too injured to move, I scooped it out of the lamp with my fly swatter – you know, because the laws of nature will just work out in my favor: the bug will stick to it, and I’ll have no problem carrying it over the couch across the room, open the window and fling it out –

and it falls.

Down behind the couch.

And it runs.

I didn’t know which way it ran. Heck, I didn’t even know if ran or limped or skipped away with glee and giggles. All I know is that it was not where it had fallen.

“I’m not sitting back on that couch until you find it,” Sarabeth said.

Now our lazy Sunday afternoon plans were at stake.

This. Just. Got. Serious.

So I searched far and wide for the little brute. I felt like Tom Hanks searching for Private Ryan. It was going to be a long day. And the little devil would have a long morning finding the perfect hiding spot while we were at church. Maybe it would even find a mate and have babies by the time we got back.

Church. Oh, yeah. And I remembered the book we are going through as a congregation in our small group. Paul Miller opens up his book, A Praying Life with a story about his daughter losing her contact outside in the grass on a camping trip. After searching for it, they pray. And they find it.

To be honest, I rolled my eyes at this story, because that always happens to someone else.

I could do with a little more faith in my life. And I didn’t pray to find the silverfish as a ploy to test God. I didn’t even have faith that I would find the silverfish, because so much time had passed and at this point it could be anywhere.

But something very, very deep inside me had just enough faith in the One to whom I was praying. And just like Jesus told the fishermen to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, I went to the other side of the room where I honestly didn’t believe I would find it.

And there it was. Under the love seat waving a little white flag.

Our lazy Sunday afternoon was saved.

But more importantly, my faith in God went up a notch. And you know what? It was worth twisting my foot for.

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5 Tips for Making New Year’s Resolutions

calvin-and-hobbesI mentioned in yesterday’s post that if you feel like you ought to make a resolution this year, then that probably means you need to make a resolution.

But the word resolution is overused and not as heavy as a word I am going to propose in its stead for this post. This year, I plan on making a few New Year’s commitments. But how do you decide if it’s worth it?

You know what I mean… you resolve to lose three pounds a month and it’s December before you even realize you gave up on that back in March. But this year, let’s make deeper commitments than just meager weight loss and less video game time. Let’s examine a structure for how we can set commitments for 2013 and actually keep them.

1. Start Now

If there’s something you know you ought to change, we’ve less than a week before New Years; start today. Get a head start and prove to yourself that you can indeed make this change in your life. Don’t wait till New Years Eve. If you plan on drinking less, start now and persevere through December 31st. That way, when you’re tempted on January 3rd, you can look back and say, “If I can make it then, I can make it now.”

2. Replace, don’t omit

As creatures of worship and busy schedules, it’s not really possible to omit something from your life. We’re all completed puzzles, but if you take a piece out, we’re going to search frantically for something to fill in that missing piece. If you decide you want to play less video games, have something positive to fill in that block of time you usually play games. And make it fun! If you can afford it, go out for coffee during that time. If you’re trying to cut back on your cursing, learn to replace curses with blessings or positive words.

3. Commit to add 

When we think of New Year’s resolutions, we often think of depleting something from our lives, like sugar or bad habits or attitudes, or time spent online or in front of the TV. If you’re like me, you read too much, oft times at the expense of my loved one. So, instead of merely reading less, I am going to try to involve her in my reading more, and propose we read more together. If you watch too much TV, try watching things your kids would rather watch and join them in their interests. Add your loved ones to activities that have become solely about you.

4. Commit to fail

I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy. If I fail once, I throw in the sack. But if I make room for imperfection, then I have a better chance at success in the long run. When I started this blog back in March I never made a commitment to post every single day. I just sort of generalized it by saying I’ll post 2-6 times a week. That’s a pretty big margin for failure if I’m committed to to posting every day. But 2-6 times a week – that’s doable, and it’s worked!  Leave room for imperfection.

5. Commit to achieve 

In exactly one year from this very moment, what do you want to look back on and say you’ve achieved? Want to have that book finally written or published? Want to have that degree in your hand? Want to have a stronger relationship with your spouse? Keep this future moment in mind. Every day. All year. And remember how fast a year goes by. It’s but a breath, so you really have very little time to achieve these goals.

Get a head start and begin today, before the 31st. Replace something bad with something good. Add things to enrich your life. Know your potential and leave room for imperfection. And always have the end in mind and imagine how wonderful it will be to reach it with a job well done.

Please help us achieve our goal to foster-to-adopt in 2013 by purchasing my book here.

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