Dirt.

I find it splattered on the knees of little pairs of blue jeans and caked on the bottoms of little shoes, ground into the carpet and scattered across the foyer floor.

Dirt.

It’s not that exciting, really. It’s just dirt, it gets washed out, wiped up, swept away, and scrubbed clean. You might not even notice it, unless you don’t have good dirt. Around, the soil is a hard clay clumpy kind of dirt. The water jsut pools and kinds of runs off; it doesn’t soak in deep until it floods. And in the gardens, we have to fix our dirt. So we pile on the compost and we pile on the manure and we pile on the straw and then we set the chickens loose to dig and dig and turn that clumpy clay dirt into rich, healthy soil. And this doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s a process of years of working that dirt until it becomes a life-giving source of nutrients and moisture.

And Jesus said our hearts are just like the dirt when He told His story about the sower planting seeds. The seeds that fell on top of the well-worn path were snatched away by the birds; those seeds never had a chance to grow. And the seeds that fell on the gravel shot up fast, but the lack of roots and the lack of dirt couldn’t sustain the growth. And those tender shoots couldn’t withstand the wind or the storm. And the seeds that fell among the thorny weeds grew up strong but were quickly choked away. But the seeds that were sown into rich, healthy soil grew big and strong and produced much fruit. And if the seeds are like God’s Word, and our hearts are like that dirt, which one are you? Is your seed being stolen away by the distractions of this world or by the devil himself? Is your seed sown into gravel, where you don’t have a strong foundation to withstand the wind and the rain? Or is your seed being choked out by the thorny worries and cares and pleasures of this world?

I hope your seed is sown in good dirt. I hope you’ve worked your soil, and screened out all the rocks, pulled up all the thorny weeds, and fertilized with compost and worm castings and lots of manure. And I hope your seed grows up big and strong and that you can produce fruit, the kind that can only come from being rooted deeply in the Word of God and watered by the love of the Savior.

Dirt. It’s just dirt, but it changes everything. I’m going to work on my dirt.

 

I wish we lived in a world where children didn’t have to go to school with empty rumbling tummies, expected to learn and keep up without having enough calories to energize their little bodies and their growing brains. I wish we lived in a world where senior citizens didn’t have to wait around for a government agency to send them dinner, and then fret whether or not there would be enough boxed up meals to go around. I wish we lived in a world where drug addicts could get real help, where they had the support and love and treatment to overcome the situations leading them down the broken path to addiction. I wish we lived in a world where food stamps weren’t needed, and refugees had homes and veterans weren’t out on the streets because they don’t have access to funds or houses or simply basic needs. And I wish we lived in a world where children weren’t lost in the shuffle of broken homes and broken families and broken lives with no choices other than growing up to be broken adults. And I wish single pregnant moms didn’t have to depend on controversial agencies because they already had somebody helping them, loving them, caring for them, championing them. And I wish we didn’t have to fight for equal rights because everyone was already valued, loved, and important enough to already have them. I wish we lived in a world where someone, somewhere, would heal the hurts, feed the sick, help the poor, rescue the lost. And I wish we didn’t have to fight with each other over politics to make these things happen because these needs would have already been met. I wish the government didn’t have to be anything more than just the backup plan when it comes to caring for the underprivileged, underemployed, and underfed. And I really wish we didn’t have to hate each other to help each other make it through this mixed up world.

I wish.

I suppose we all wish for those things, or we wouldn’t be fighting over rights and budgets and health care and meal plans. I suppose we all know the importance of those things or our texts and posts would not burn with passion and fervor and vitriol while we try to find some palatable solution. I suppose we need to find a way to live with ourselves, our choices, and our fervor, and especially, our own agendas and those of both parties of the government attempting to serve us. And I suppose we need to figure out how to live with each other when we fight so hard over all of these important things.

But isn’t it ironic that God has already given us a plan to take care of all these things and none of it involves fighting, and none of it involves hatred for those on the opposite end of the political spectrum and none of it, none of it involves leaving anyone cold, hungry, tired, sick, lost, or alone. Because God has already made a plan to take care of these people and these things and God’s plan is the church.

From almost the beginning of time, God commanded His people to show hospitality to the poor, to care for the sick, to heal the hurts and to feed the hungry. God told His people that there would not be any poor among them because they were to use the blessings He gave to each of them to make sure everyone had everything they needed to live. And when the people faltered, and when the people’s greed and the people’s selfishness overtook the call to care, God wouldn’t hear their worship until they had made a course correction. Because God’s plan for the poor is His people. And when Jesus came and walked on this earth He told His people to sell what they had so that they could cover all of these important needs. And Jesus said that when you give to the least of these even a cup of cold water, you are giving it to Him because caring for the least of these is a special kind of worship that is sweet to the ears of God.

You see, Church, God’s plan to care for the poor wasn’t the government institutions, although government institutions and government agencies make a really great plan B. You see church, God’s plan to care for the poor and the hungry and the weak and the cold is His church. It is you and it is me. We are God’s Plan A for all of these because being a Christian nation doesn’t start with a Christian government. It starts with a people willing to step up for the sake of Christ, a people willing to give from their own budgets to pay the medical bills of the sick. A people willing to share the very food on their very own table when someone else is hungry. A people willing to invite the homeless under the shingles of their very own roof, to support the single mom, to make meals and drive them to the sick and the shut-in. If we have been blessed by God. if we have been loved by God. If we have been saved by God then it is our job, dear church to do all of these things. Oh, sure, we can let the government offer programs and give support and that’s ok but that is simply second best whether you are a democrat, a republican, an independent, or none of these. Because we have been given a holy calling to care for the least of these and why on this side of heaven would we want anyone else, even our good but imperfect government, to take that holy calling away from us? Why would we want to give over our freedom when we can give so freely? Why do we expect our government to act as if we are a Christian nation when we do not even act as if we are the Christians we profess to be?

Dear Church, we can wish and we can fight but if we want to worship in a way that is sweet to the ears of Jesus we will feed, and we will shelter, and we will share what we have and we will show love until there are no more thirsty or hungry or sick or poor or homeless or lonely people left for our good but imperfect government to help on our behalf. And then, dear Church, we will truly be a Christian nation whose God is the Lord and whose worship is very, very sweet.

“10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

IMG_1364I want the full life. I want all of the abundance that Christ can give. But there is an innate restlessness in me. An appetite that is never filled, a thirst that is never relieved. I can drown it out, for a bit, with blogs and facebooks and my cause of the week, pouring myself into something new and fresh and exciting. But the familiar ache always returns.

It is that ever increasing desire for something greater, something better. I’m always seeker the more, the better, the newer. Never content, never satisfied. At times, it is a good quality, as it propels me forward, always looking to make myself better and to improve the world around me. At times, it is a waste, when I try to fill that hole with something other, something less.

Just a few nights ago, I had a dream. Dare I claim to say it was a vision? Quite possibly. Or perhaps it was just a dream.

In my dream, I heard my Dad’s voice, reminding me of a conversation we once had. He told me, as Christ’s return became near, that Satan would replicate all of God’s miracles, in order to bring confusion, temptation, and to lure us from Truth. My mind conjured up all kinds of crazy things, but what I saw in my dream was totally normal. Or so we think.

I saw people, hoardes of people, staring at their phones. Lost in Facebook, and Hulu, and Netflix. Choosing to live in the virtual world, rather than the beautiful one that God created.

I saw people, eating plate after plate of processed food, chock full of preservatives and things that we can’t pronounce, instead of choosing to eat the fresh, live food that God provided us.

Oh, technology isn’t bad. Preserving food isn’t bad. Both of those things save lives, help others, and offer enjoyment. But what I saw in that dream made me wonder, in my quest for the best – is that what God intended for us? Why would we choose the virtual, the fake, when God wants us to choose His abundance? Why do we want to watch someone else’s life unfold on a screen when we can create life and love in the real world? Jesus said that He came so that we can life to the full – I don’t think He was just talking heaven. I think He meant earth, too. I don’t want to limp along through life, placating myself with fake food and fake relationships. I don’t want to treat myself with medications for diseases that happened because I ate too much food that wasn’t the best for me. I want that life to the full, not the virtual second best.

I’m already contemplating how I can live more fully. As spring draws near, I’m planning on expanding my gardens. Why? So that I can feed the ones I love with real, fresh food. Food that God grew. We are working to implement permaculture strategies, using nature’s abilities to farm our little homestead and live more simply. No, I’m not going off grid. At least not today nor in the immediate future. But I am making small daily choices to live more simply and to be present in the moment. Daily choices to grow closer to God. To cut the clutter. And live a real, abundant life.

I don’t want to just sit by and watch those farmers growing things on YouTube. I want to feel the dirt under my toes, the warmth of the sun on my face. I want to smell the rich, dewey grasses and taste the sun-ripened tomatoes and the earthy green mint. I don’t want to just watch someone else live the life I love, and I want to get out there and build it. One seed at a time, one baby chick at a time, one bleating goat, and one budding leaf in every moment. Moments brought to us by a God that loves us and wants to see us living in His abundance.

Will you join me in living life to the full?

This world makes my head spin in crazy circles and it makes my breath catch and my stomach lurch when I think of all of the bad things that could and might and will happen in the lives of my precious little babies, these small people, IMG_1785so fresh on this earth, sprouting and growing and still rich in their innocence and wonder and joy and the peace of their unknowingness. So easily could I give in to the fear of the ‘what-ifs’ and and the regret of the ‘should-haves’ and ‘could-haves’ and ‘what if I hadn’ts.’ And so easily I could give over my heart to the hurts I see and the hatred I see and the pain and the fear and the trouble that I know lurks and leers in darkness and corners. And I worry that my precious little tots will never be able to navigate this life and I fear what might happen when I’m gone and I can no longer shield them from the hard, and the worrisome, and the things that might break their tiny little tot hearts, and the things that make the news, and the things that take our innocence away. Moms and dads and parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends, we are not different; we want the same things; to protect our beloved babies and let them grow up to be free in a world that is more frightening than free. And sometimes it’s easier to be the big mama bear who chases off the hard stuff and the scary stuff and the bad days and the things that we can’t understand. And we don’t like to be afraid so we fight hard, ferociously hard, to keep the scary and the dark and unknown away. And the fear and the fighting is for our babies so it must be a good cause but fear and fighting kind of look like hate and hurtfulness and I really, truly think that there’s a better way to change the world.

And how do we navigate this life when the opportunity to share God’s love is directly at odds with the convictions we have of what is right and wrong? And what if we cannot find the balance between standing up for what is right and standing against what the Bible says is wrong and offering mercy and grace to the people who disagree? And what if fighting for the safety of our precious babies is in direct opposition to the moms and dads that are fighting for their own precious little babies? How do we win the war where all sides stand on moral ground and how we do we win a fight that shouldn’t have become one in the first place? And how do we know the truth when that Christian over there says truth is different than what I believe the truth really is? And how do we stand for Christ and stand for love and stand for hope and still sit down and listen to what’s happening on the other side?

Don’t step up, SuperChristian. Step back. Retreat. No, no, not from the hard stuff and not from the people we don’t retreatunderstand and not from the half-truths and the broken and the pain and the wrong. Retreat to your knees and retreat to your closets and retreat to the place where you can run right to the waiting, loving, restful arms of Jesus. Because it is in quiet conversation that we learn God’s heart and we learn God’s voice and we learn God’s Word and we learn God’s ways and we learn what it really is that we are fighting for. And we want peace and we want freedom and we want safety for our little ones but what is that God wants for all of his children?

Retreat, SuperChristian. You don’t have to fight so hard against the world with words and weapons and wits. Our best defense, our smartest strategy, our toughest offense, our bravest moves are in the quietest moments of honest conversation between created and Creator. Surrender, Warrior Ones and Wise Ones and Weary Ones, Surrender, Cautious Ones and Confused Ones and Courageous Ones, surrender your passion, surrender your purpose, surrender your hopes, your dreams, your goals, and your moral ground, surrender your fight not to the other side, but to prayer.

 

 

IMG_7754Jesus is her Savior, she said. Her Lord, she said. And heaven was her eternal home. She had no doubt. She told me these things resolutely, she went to Christian school, after all, and she knew the truth for her whole life. But she didn’t pray, not all that much, not all that often, only when it was really really important, because God had much more important people to listen to, like the president, the Pope, Mother Teresa, perhaps. She just didn’t want to get in the way, she didn’t want to take up God’s time from people who were doing real work for the world that needed it so badly. It was ok that way, she’d make it through without wasting God’s time. She didn’t want to burden Him with her petty stuff.

And then life happened. And life choices were made. And there were bumps in her road, but she still believed, she said, and she’d make it through, she just knew. But she didn’t make it through and her life on earth was over and done way too fast and then she went to her eternal home long before I was ready for her to exit this one. But her words will never leave me and I wish that I had time to tell her one more time how she was never in God’s way. She knows now what I wish she could have known on this earth, that God designed her and me and you to be in His presence, to be together, to heap our burning desires, our deepest needs, our trivial thoughts, our fleeting ideas and longings and everything else, all on Him. She doesn’t have to think she’s a burden anymore; her identity is solved her problems completely resolved and she is wholly His and she is wholly loved.illusion

Perhaps our life choices would be so much more clear, our paths, our destiny, perhaps God’s perfect will would be more easily known if we knew the truth about who we really are, how we are never in the way, we can never burden God with any care or thought or pain or idea. Perhaps the bumps in the road would seem smaller, and wouldn’t slow us down quite so very much, if we realized our identity is not in who we are or what we do or where we go or who we hang with or just how we look. Perhaps if we could see ourselves that way that our Jesus sees us, we would be different people after all. Perhaps we would look different or talk different or speak different to ourselves and to those who dare to come near.  Perhaps it would be easier to find our true selves when our trueness is God’s truth about us, perhaps we could love ourselves, really truly love myself, as God loves me.

Then it would matter so much less what that Facebook says and I wouldn’t need to search for significance as I scroll through social media and what that Twitter tweets me would tell me so much less about my worth and perhaps it wouldn’t mean so much or hurt so hard when the job doesn’t last or the pants suddenly seem too small and the number on the scale is too big, or when the children talk back or the bills pile up and we can’t ever seem to dig our way out. Perhaps we could do so much more than just get through this thing called life and we could run our race with joy and that penetrating, paralyzing fear wouldn’t make us so afraid if we found our completeness in the One who took on our identity and made it His very own, who gave up both heaven and earth to draw us close.

IMG_7751Perhaps if we didn’t strive quite so hard at knowing or doing or being or finding peace or making our way but just rested our very selves, our very identity, in the love that comes from Jesus, perhaps if we were known as one who is loved by God, if we just knew ourselves as one that is wholly loved by Jesus, we would wholly love ourselves and we would wholly love others and isn’t that a whole lot better of a life when what makes you tick isn’t you finding your way but you, finding yourself completely loved by Him?

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You went to church, yesterday, didn’t you?

On that unbelievable day that we get to celebrate Easter, the day of our risen Savior,  you went to church. And you sang glorious Easter IMG_0592songs, perhaps heard the heart-pumping strains of Hallelujah, rejoiced in the alleluias, adored the chiffon and the bows and the satin on the little tiny tots with their chocolaty mustaches and bunny stuffies and and fist-bumped your way through the greeting and the celebrating and the empty tomb and the awesomeness of the day. And you heard an inspiring sermon about the earth quake and the soldiers scared to death and that Jesus breaking out of that tomb and perhaps a lovely solo or two, and the musicians played their very bestest and the pastors preached their hearts completely out of their chests and it was really really an awesome spiritual holy day. And you were thrilled with your delicious Easter dinner and then when you couldn’t possibly eat another bite you snuck a few chocolate bunnies from the Easter baskets when no one was looking and then you later collapsed in your bed, happy, full, and content with the risen Lord and the Easter bunny and the church service and the happy, happy children and it was still an awesome, maybe even perfect day. And it deserves the very best of celebrating, it needs a give it all you got because it is the most amazing day of the year kind  of a celebration, this Easter day that we celebrate our risen Savior.

And then there was Monday.

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And Monday hits like a dump load of broken up bricks because the festivities are done, and everyone is reeling from their chocolate bunny hangovers and crankily seeking out their sugar fix and you can’t hear that glorious music ringing in your ears anymore and the chocolate bunnies are gone and the leftovers are just left over and the Easter grass is strewn around and the foil wrappers are ground into the carpets and the toys are already breaking and you are so exhausted from all of that fun. And the risen Lord was so so yesterday and His death defiance fades into the background and life hits you really hard right there in the here and the now and the gut. And pretty soon it’s back to work and back to school and back to the drudgery of life and back to our budgets and our dirty dishes and wiping runny noses and everything else that drags us down when the Easter high has gone away. And Easter has come and gone and nothing is really any different or better it’s just dull and dingy in the light of all that celebrating.

But Easter living isn’t one day a year.

Easter living is in the heartbreak, those cold hard days when the emptiness of your arms makes your very bones ache and you cry for your IMG_0606dad or your husband or your favorite grandpa but they aren’t there so you find rest in the only place you can, in those stretched wide arms of your risen Lord with the nail holes and the scars. And Easter living is in the tension of your company, so close to breaking apart that it keeps your eyes open throughout the night but you can find your rest deep in the soft kind eyes of the risen Savior.  And Easter living is in the mounds of laundry that overwhelm your laundry room day after day after every single cotton picking day and you feel like you can’t do one spiritually important thing because laundry. Because work. Because kids. Because grief. Because everyone else’s family Facebook pictures are happier, more perfect, and more than you think yours are. Because chocolate bunny hangovers remind you that there are too many days in the year that aren’t really awesome, maybe even perfect fist-pumping Easter Sundays.

But Easter living isn’t one day a year.

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And in the days of the heartbreak, and the cold, and the laundry, and the grief, and the Facebook pictures and the empty Easter baskets we find the real meaning in the Easter celebrating. Because when the rejoicing has passed and there is nothing left but the chocolate bunny hangover we find that the risen Savior is still just as real, and His welcoming arms are still waiting, still stretched wide with those unmistakable nail holes and those holy scars. And instead of high-fiving those reached out hands for accomplishing that act of death defiance we run straight and hard into them because there is no place left to go and that’s ok because we are still just as welcome right there in those open wide arms. And whether it’s the first place we look or the last place we turn there is still the love of a Savior who was willing give up His very own life even for our daily drudgery with the laundry and the Facebook and the chocolate bunny hangover. Easter living is the promise that the God who defied death is very much alive and the God who defied death is within our grasp and the God who defied death wants us to grasp for Him. And Easter living isn’t just in the resounding trumpet but also the tiny whisper of hope He speaks to our weary souls when we start to let the resurrection break forth into our dingy dull places and our laundry and our Facebook and our grief-stricken places and our chocolate bunny  hangovers.

 


There was that hard time,  when my son was tiny, and frail, and his IMG_0201premature 2 1/2 pounds of life didn’t come with any sort of a lifetime guarantee, and I didn’t know how his desperate lungs could fill themselves with air even just one more time. It was hard to find my hope because I thought my hope was lost. And I needed that nurse who offered me her hope that he was going to be just fine.  She propped me up with all of the hope that was her own so I could be every bit of mommy that his tiny body, heart, lungs, and soul could need to get him through that one very hard day in a series of hard, hard days. Her hope was never false – it was everything I needed to hang on to in that moment, on that one very hard day. And today he is just fine and 8 years strong and smart and full of love and life and a beacon of hope beyond anything we could have ever even hoped for.

IMG_0180And I want to be a hope bearer, too. I want to bring hope to someone else because I’ve been in that place and I know that feeling, that one singular desperate ache, the emptiness, the lonely need, to find someone else who can possibly ever hope on my behalf when I’ve just plum ran out of every bit of hope that I ever thought I had. I know what it is when you try to muster up all the hope that you can find and come up with none to get you through that really hard day in a series of hard, hard days.


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:13, NIV 


Sometimes, its easy to see hope in every little place; sometimes, hope is elusive. We know it’s out there, somewhere, but we can’t quite get a grasp of it. And if we catch it by the tailfeathers, maybe we’re afraid to hang on to it for dear life, because, what if that thing we caught is not really a hope at all, but a forgery of falseness that leads us daringly away from our tenuous reality only to dash us on the rocks below.

But I say hope is hope, and if it gives you something to cling to tightly, something to grasp even if it is no more than a handle to pull yourself out of the deepening water, then it cannot possibly be false hope because it is real and it is tangible and it is giving you what you need to make it through that hard moment on that hard day. And I say Jesus doesn’t want you not to hope because the Bible says that our God is the God of hope and He wants you to overflow with hope so that you have enough for you and enough to prop up the person next to you, too. And I want to be that hope-bearer, too.

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And sometimes, sometimes, I hear a tiny chirp of hope in the peeping of the baby chicks nestled safely in my library. And some moments, some days, I watch it grow before my eyes as tiny shoots of kale and broccoli break out of plump little dollops of dirt. And some days, some weeks, I smell a hint of hope in the air as winter’s gasping fades away into the sweet sweet baby breath of spring. My burgeoning homestead shows me there is hope, reminds me when I lose my hope, that Jesus is all of the hope.

It is the possibility of a better, healthier future. It is the summer harvest coming soon, with an unending supply of sun-warmed tomatoes, and delicious zucchinis, and melons snuggled in the dirt. It is the gleam in the eyes of my aging house kitty, invigorated by the joys of spring air seeping in through opened windows. It is the sound of laughter as my children roll haphazardly down the clovered hill, landing willy nilly, belly up, and head over feet trying to find the bottom fastest.

My sweet little baby homestead shows me my hope because it is the footprint of a Creator who came to give us all Hope in the form of a baby, born to suffer, and die, and raise again so He can be our everlasting hope, our one true hope, our greatest, our only Hope. And I have precious little to offer you, friend, but I can walk alongside you on my little patch of dirt and offer you what hope I have. And I can hand you baby chicks to cuddle in your empty arms or playful children needing to be tagged in the warmth of the sun. And I can pass you the freshest eggs, and maybe they will be help you find your hope and show you there is hope so you can remember all of the baby miracles and great big miracles that the God of Hope can do.

But I can do a little better, I can help you plant some seeds in a pot, or a mug, or an old egg carton filled with dirt. And I can introduce you to the One who really is our Hope, and IMG_0209together we can water those teeny tiny seeds of hope and place them in just so, so that as the sun shines on those little seeds and creates a miracle that makes them grow, His love can shine bright right on that broken heart you carry and make a miracle of hope to grow, right there, right here, right when you need it most on this day, this hard day in a series of hard, hard days.

I want to be a hope-bearer, too.


 

“Hope” is the thing with feathersimage

BY EMILY DICKINSON

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Source: The Poems of Emily Dickinson Edited by R. W. Franklin (Harvard University Press, 1999)

 

“I know right where you are and I’ll come to you,” echoed my new 1147603_10201900890624407_1866935575_ohusband in my ear. The tow truck driver hollered these words to him to pass on to me. I was stranded on the side of the highway, barely out of the path of cars whizzing by in their rush to get home.

It was frigid and my car was dead. Not even a click when I turned the key. It was so dark no one could  see that I was inside the smokey blue Dodge Colt, stranded and alone. I locked my doors and huddled under an old blanket, shivering in the 10 degree weather. The car shook from the passing traffic and I couldn’t see who might be out there in the darkness. Not a soul, not one, stopped to help. Maybe that was better, safer. I climbed into the passenger side, furthest from the wildness of the traffic, praising God for 1 thing – my very first cell phone, purchased the day before, at the insistence of my groom. The phone I didn’t really want.

557048_4218347977465_104829219_nHe’s coming to me, echoed in my head.  He must have broken the laws of man and nature to get to me so quickly, because the tow truck driver, who I had seen only a few times before in my small town, arrived within a half an hour. He saw me shaking, and with compassion in his eyes helped me into the cab of his truck. “I said I’d be here; let’s get you warm.” And he cranked up the heat and loaded my little car onto his big truck.

He knew right where I was, and he came to me. Yes, the tow truck driver.

Yes, Jesus. Jesus knew right where I was, and He came to me.

I find so much comfort in that statement – he knew right where I was. It5311_10200880558236735_1400010509_n was going to be ok.  Nothing would stop him from getting me home safely. He meets us right where we are. Just like the woman at the well (John 4). Just like Mary and Martha (Luke:10-38-42) Just like Lazarus (John 11:43). And just like the women bewildered by the empty tomb (Matthew 28). He came to us, each one of us, right where we are. He didn’t wait until we knew the answer, or had it all together. Jesus knows us right where are – in the cold, in the dark, afraid, alone, He knows. He knows when we are alone in a car or a tomb or even near the tomb; when we are dying or living, working or not working, Jesus knows just where we are and He comes to us to warm us with His love.

23924_1385760284543_4829787_nDo you remember how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead? It’s such a well-known Bible story that we don’t think about it too deeply, do we? But Lazarus was dead. And Jesus came to him, and met his greatest need.

Then there were the women near the empty tomb. Jesus, Savior, Messiah, King, the Word, God, defeated sin and death in this most incredible amazing victory – the event that changed the entire course of the world forever and ever – He could have gone anywhere, or done anything. But He met those women in their greatest need, right where they were. He met them by His tomb. What a stark picture of the life giving Jesus meeting us in our places of death and despair, offering us hope, resurrection, life.

There is never a place where we are too far for Jesus to come us, no place too dark, or cold, or alone. There is no death that can prevent Him from coming to us. There is nothing that will stand in Jesu11990476_10207840579712922_8025513724316635598_ns’ way. He knows where you are and He is coming to you.

This week, this Holy Week, where we remember Jesus’ suffering, and His death, and His ultimate resurrection, we remember how Jesus gave everything because He knew right where we would be. He wasn’t afraid to join us in the cold, in the dark, in the fear, or in the pain, or even in death. Jesus knows right where we are because He’s been where we are. And He is coming to us.

I didn’t set out to become a foster mom. It simply wasn’t on my radar for a very long time. It was only after our Chinese adoption agency closed mid-adoption and our biological son was born extremely premature that we considered Foster to adopt for our family. And we’ve never looked back. It was – and is- the right choice.

But Foster care is not what you think.

I’ve heard a lot of difficult comments and been asked a plethora of personal, uncomfortable questions, which tells me that most people don’t really understand what Foster care is all about. I’ve been stigmatized and judged. And so have my children and other children who were unlucky enough to find themselves in ‘the system.’ My children and others who are completely innocent of what their biological parents have or haven’t done. Children who deserve the same respect and love and fair chances that any other child receives. Children who deserve to have privacy about their situation because some day they will be an adult who has no option but to grapple with the choices that their birth parents made or didn’t make. Children whose health and hurts and abilities are not for public inspection, just like your own children. Children who are not bad because of where they come from. Children who are definitely not unwanted or unloved.

Foster care is NOT loving someone else’s child. Foster care is welcoming a child into your family and making them your own, for as little or as long as they are a part of your household. Foster care is not all runaways and shoplifting and lost kids and police reports and bad news from teachers. Foster care is offering a safe place to grow and learn through the day to day workings of a family who isn’t perfect. Foster care is being to willing to love no matter what the cost. It is being willing to accept the grief of a child who has lost their home, their belongings, their family, their parents, their everything they have ever known or loved. It is advocating for someone who can’t do it themselves, filling out a few papers, following a few rules, and giving a few reports. But that’s not all.

Foster care is joy and triumph over a tiny human learning how to love and trust and become everything they were meant to be. It is picking up the broken pieces and putting them back together again. It is offering grace and hope and kindness to birth parents who perhaps made bad choices and mistakes and who still love their child very very much. It is offering grace and hope and kindness to children who didn’t have everything they needed and don’t know any other way to act.

Foster care is being the hands and feet of Jesus in a very broken world. Foster care is showing the world just how much Jesus loves children, even the children that the world might see as less than, because God sees them as worth dying for.

Foster care is your responsibility and it is mine.

Foster care is changing the world. One child at a time.

 

 

Advent – that glorious time of year where everything sparkles and shines and smells of cinnamon and spruce. That time of year when we hustle around, surviving on coffee and spurts of shopping-frenzied adrenaline and perhaps a sticky bun or two, and squooshing and squeezing in one more thing before we have to be at that next one. When, now more than ever, we are beckoned, courted, and teased by all manner of delightful, stuck-in-your-head-forever Target ads, provoking us to empty our wallets for all those lovely, sparkling trinkets that our beloved little people simply cannot be without.  Advent – the time of waiting, seems to be the time when we are never still, but instead, constantly juggling the added responsibilities of pageant practice, and children’s choirs, and school programs, and Christmas parties and all of the fun and all of the mundane that takes up our every spare second. Advent – the time of year when we stuff our homes to the brim with hidden gifts, waiting for the opportune moment to be given.

This season of Advent is also the time when the church lays aside it’s typical worship music for something of a more traditional fare, carols steeped in nostalgia and restyled for the new styles. Where typical Advent sermons, I find, are heavily laden with sincere, heart-warming, stories, practical advice, and Scriptural helps to keep us keeping Christ first  and in the forefront at Christmas. And we need this!  More than ever our hearts long to be tugged by anecdotes, like the often recounted account of the widow who surprisingly received a puppy for Christmas from her late husband, giving her a reason to celebrate the season when she thought she had none. The time of year when we are taught and groomed and reasoned into putting our focus on the Christ-child, the baby born in a manger. Emmanuel, God with us. And it never, ever gets old, no matter how old we get, because the baby in the manger was born for each and every one of us. And we who believe will never forget the joy of the earth in that moment. We can’t forget, we shouldn’t forget the moment that Peace came to earth to be our Emmanuel. But as I reflect on the Christmas story, I think maybe we did forget something. Or at least, maybe I did.

At Christmas, we seem to forget that baby isn’t in the manger anymore. That tiny baby, God with Us, that gave up the glories of heaven to be with us in a whole new way isn’t just a baby all wrapped up and tucked in the hay. That God who became flesh isn’t helpless, or frail, or even new. The baby that we celebrate grew into the God-Man that walked among us. That healed us. That forgave our sins. That baby was crucified and rose again – not as a baby, but as our Savior and King. And He did it all to restore a broken world – to restore a broken me and a broken you – to redeem every mess we ever made, to reshape our bottomed out hearts and breathe new life into our tired, weary existence. He became a baby because He loved us. But He didn’t stay in the manger.

This Advent, don’t forget God with Us. The baby doesn’t lay still as a tiny wooden idol beneath our sparkling trees, or tucked neatly into manger scenes dressing up our altar tables. He’s not just the God with us, He is the God who is STILL with us. He is the God who is with us when we are hustling and bustling, and shopping and serving, and cooking and cleaning. He is our Emmanuel our God with us when we feel Grinchy or giving. He is the God who is always with us when we are singing Christmas carols and sweeping up Christmas cookie crumbs and when we are weeping for Christmases and souls gone on.

Don’t just put the baby first this Christmas. Put the baby who became our Savior first this Christmas. Jesus Christ, our Messiah, our Healer, our Hope. Our Friend, our King, and our Savior is with us. And we need Him.