Spirit of Adoption

If you have adopted or been closely connected to an adoption, you understand with great clarity that it is far more than a legal matter, far more than a mental decision, far more than an emotional commitment. Adoption, at the core is spiritual. Adoption, true adoption, reaches into the depth of your soul and changes who you are forever.

I read a number of definitions of adoption this morning and many said something along the line of ‘taking as your own’. That definition bothered me a bit. That tiny little two letter word ‘as’ just seemed to be what the whole definition pivoted on. Finally I found a better worded definition. It simply said ‘make your own’. That says it properly.

Adoption is not raising another’s child ‘as’ your own. Adoption is raising your own child. Adoption is becoming the parent to a child you have made your own. Your very own. That changes everything.

So many times people look at adoption as a second chance for people to have children and for children to have parents. A second chance as in if the best and original plan couldn’t work out, maybe this one will. You know, kind of like a consolation prize. Can you see how dangerous this mentality could be?

Second chances are wonderful for those who have made mistakes, somehow failed, stumbled and fallen, come up short, betrayed a friend, broken a promise or committed a crime. Second chances are a result of forgiveness and restitution. But, second chances are not what adoption is about. My children are not my consolation prize and I am not theirs.

As a Christian I am always eager to know what the Bible says about a subject and it speaks about adoption. Look at this one verse and consider what it says for a moment.

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭1‬:‭5‬ NLT)

In advance, as in, always was the plan. He wanted to bring us to Himself. He wanted to and it brought Him great pleasure. Great pleasure.

Not being God, I didn’t have this foresight and had no idea as a young married woman that was trying to navigate the land of infertility that there was a plan in place. I viewed every attempt as a failure. I didn’t understand then. I understand now.

These seven children were always meant to be mine. They didn’t need a second chance and neither did I. We needed to find each other and love each other and make each other our own, not ‘as’ our own but our very own. The plan was made in advance and it has brought me great pleasure.

I am thankful that God loves me with a Spirit of Adoption. I am able to smile at my children’s imperfections and take great pleasure in them because they are my own. I treasure the security that comes with knowing He takes pleasure in me with all my imperfections. I am His own.

Every Tuesday in September, October and November, I will be hosting a Small Group called ‘Spirit of Adoption’. If you are in the Birmingham area and know of a mom who is involved in or interested in adoption or foster care, please let them know and I’ll be glad to answer any questions. Prayers for this brand new group are greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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Preparing a Place for the Presence of God

One of my favorite things to do is to study the Bible with friends. Whether at a retreat or around the kitchen table, it is such a delight to open the Word of God together and discover nuggets of truth, gems of wisdom, treasures just waiting for us to claim as our own.

Each time I teach a study it is very important to me that we consider the spiritual strategies in the passage before us. Too many times we make ourselves spiritually vulnerable by not considering the consequences of our actions. We have an enemy who studies us, plots against us and hopes to cause us to stumble. When we live our lives intentionally, practicing the spiritual strategies that are illustrated throughout the Bible, we can avoid many of the crisis’ we face as Christians.

One of my favorite characters in the Bible is the Shunammite Woman. She lived thousands of years ago. She remains nameless. Yet, I admire and relate to her so intensely that I have made her the subject of many Bible studies that I have taught over the years. Like the Shunammite woman, I am eager to spend more time in the presence of God. As an adoptive mom of seven, I could easily neglect providing a place for Him in my very full life. Sometimes I need reminding that the reason my life is so very full is because He has blessed me abundantly. He deserves my undivided attention.

“One day Elisha went to the town of Shunem. A wealthy woman lived there, and she urged him to come to her home for a meal. After that, whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for something to eat. She said to her husband, “I am sure this man who stops in from time to time is a holy man of God.”
(2 Kings 4:8, 9 NLT)

The Shunammite woman recognized the presence of God and was wise enough to prepare a place in her home, in her life, so that when crisis would come, as it inevitably does, she knew exactly where to go, who to seek out and how to find him. We discover this at the onset of this passage that accounts her first, but certainly not last, encounter with Elisha.

Not only did this Shunammite woman have the means and the manners, she had discernment. If you read verse 9 in other translations it will say that when she spoke to her husband she said “I have perceived, I know, I am sure, I am convinced, I am certain” this is a man of God. She had no doubts.

What had led to her to this firm conclusion? We can draw a few conclusions ourselves. If she could recognize a man of God, she must have already been familiar with the ways of God. Also, during the time he spent at her dinner table, Elisha had confirmed what she believed, even perhaps with that first invitation. This was a man of God.

In the next verse we learn a little more about our leading lady, she was a woman of action. She shared her insight with her husband and presented a plan. She set about to provide a place for the presence of God. How she did so is what we want to examine more closely.

“Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.” (2 Kings 4:10 KJV)

At first glance we may assume that these were meager, bare minimum furnishings for this place that was to be set aside for the man of God. Instead, meticulous care was given so that everything necessary for comfort and convenience during his stay would be provided.

A Bed, A Table, A Stool, A Candlestick:

*A Bed – What does it represent?

A bed provides a place for sleep, recuperation, rest, and recovery.

These are necessary and yet often neglected aspects of our spiritual lives. The condition of our physical body reflects upon our spiritual condition as well. No matter how determined, impassioned and sincere we are, without proper rest, we are not at our spiritual best. Rest is ordained by God. As a matter of fact, it is a spiritual discipline. for further study on spiritual disciplines I suggest _The Life You’ve Always Wanted_ by John Ortberg. One of my favorite quotes concerning,this subject of rest is found within the pages of this book. “For many of us, the most spiritual thing we could do right now is take a nap!”

Let’s look at a few of the many verses that mention the importance of proper rest and adequate sleep.

In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psalm 127:2 NIV)

In a society that is so driven to constantly go and do, we struggle to heed the clear and healthy instructions of the Lord when it comes to rest. God understands our tendency to push the limits and that is why He instituted a mandatory Sabbath for His people. He knew we would need reminding to stop, to be still, to be quiet and sit in His presence so that we could be refreshed.

The battles we face are continuous. They are constant. They often won’t allow us to catch our breath between one crisis and the next. Even when we are trying to fight the good fight and do our very best for our God whom we love so much, if we are not careful we will make ourselves vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy by weariness of body, soul and spirit.

God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. (Hebrews 4:1 NLT)

*A Table – What does it represent?

A table provides a place to eat a meal, to receive sustenance, nourishment and refreshment. It provides a place to break bread together, share a meal, feed the body and the soul with communion of food and drink.

Few of us need reminded to feed our physical bodies. Most of us however, need a firm reminder to feed our spirit. We too often expect a bit of nourishment that is delivered during Sunday morning worship to sustain us for a whole week, perhaps longer if it’s not convenient to attend the next Sunday. The Word of God is our spiritual bread and it is to be our daily bread. While it is a pleasure to be served occasionally at someone else’s table, we need to be able to prepare our own meal, feed ourselves and in order to do so we must learn to divide the bread that is before us.

Every meal will not necessarily be a banquet, a fancy feast that includes special dishes and delectable desserts. But, every meal can satisfy your appetite with tasty morsels discovered within the pages of the Bible. How sweet it is to find that ‘word in due season’ as you search the Scriptures hungrily. If you have not developed an appetite for the Word, set about doing so.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! (Psalms 34:8 NLT)

How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey. (Psalms 119:103 NLT)

In Biblical times one of the highest honors was to be given a seat at the King’s Table. In like manner, our King has offered us the chance to sit and sup with Him. This invitation should not be taken lightly or for granted. What excuses will you offer? Are they similar to the ones Jesus mentions in this illustration?

Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!” Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I now have a wife, so I can’t come.’ (Luke 14:15-20 NLT)

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. (Psalm 23:5 KJV)

*A Stool – What does is represent?

The word here that is translated in this verse as stool occurs 135 times in the Old Testament. (H3678 – kicce’ כִּסֵּא) . Of those times it is translated 127 times as throne, 7 times as seat (seat of honor or position) and only this one time as stool. So, if like myself, you pictured a little three-legged milking stool where one might precariously but, certainly not comfortably, perch ones self, think again. This was a seat of honor for the man of God, perhaps even a throne.

Now we have a very different scene developing in our mind’s eye. Not only has a private chamber been built but, it is being furnished in a manner that gives honor and place to the prophet. As we contemplate the implications of a throne versus a stool we can begin to understand a bit better what this particular piece of furnishing might represent to us.

A throne is the King’s seat. A throne is the place petitions are taken and judgements are given. A throne is a place of authority. A throne is a place of honor. When we set aside a place for the presence of God in our own lives, we must include a time of prayer, a time where we approach the King and make our petitions known. Lack of prayer can result in worry, stress, confusion, discouragement and vulnerability when faced with the attacks of the enemy.

Unfortunately we might be tempted to think about things instead of pray about them. We might be tempted to talk more to others than to the One who can actually do something about it. We might be tempted to take matters into our own hand when we do not get the answer we are seeking or perhaps not on the time table we have chosen.

Prayer is vital, absolutely vital to a healthy spiritual life. It is not what we should do as a last resort. It is what we should do first and foremost. It is far more than telling God what we need or want. Prayer is also about listening. Listening requires our attention if we are going to hear properly what is being spoken.

When I am giving my children instructions I ask them to stop all other activity, lay down what is in their hands, be still and look me in the eye while I speak. Now, certainly I talk to them throughout the day in a more casual manner as we go about our activities and our conversations are not always of such a serious nature. But, when it is important, when it involves instructions, I want their undivided attention. They honor me by doing so.

The Lord ’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive. Unfailing love and faithfulness protect the king; his throne is made secure through love. (Proverbs 20:27, 28 NLT)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6, 7 NLT)

*Candlestick – What does it represent?

The final item listed for our consideration of furnishings for this place being prepared for the presence of God is a candlestick, a lamp, a lamp-stand. When we spend time in His presence, we see things differently, our perspective changes, our outlook is adjusted and quite frankly we can see more clearly. What an extraordinary gift! Why would we pass on such an opportunity? What could possibly be worth missing out on such a blessing?

O Lord, you are my lamp. The Lord lights up my darkness. (2 Samuel 22:29 NLT)

We do not have to stumble through life on dark paths wondering where we are going and how to get there. We do not have to take our chances and take a stab in the dark that lies ahead. We can access the light that the Spirit is willing to provide and prevent unnecessary stumbling. But, not only can we greatly benefit from the provided light, we can bless all those near us by letting our light shine.

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. (Matthew 5:14-16 NLT)

During seasons of weariness, we can refill our lamps with the oil available in His presence. We aren’t the source of energy and when we need recharging, we are allowed to do so as we sit at His feet in the place we have prepared for His presence.

You, Lord, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light. (Psalm 18:28 NIV)

Take caution that the candlestick that is provided for your enlightenment, for your understanding, for your guidance, for your revelation is never taken for granted. It can be removed. The darkness after being exposed to the light, would be dark indeed, darker than you remember.

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. (Revelation 2:2-5 NIV)

In conclusion –

Just like the Shunammite woman, we can choose to set aside a special place for God in our lives. It will take some effort, some space, some energy, some discipline, some attention and some provisions. She chose a bed, a table, a stool and a candlestick. We can choose the wisdom of rest, the nourishment of the Word, prayer and enlightenment.

The prophet was so pleased that when he next came to her home and stayed in the place she had prepared, he called her to his room and while, I imagine, he sat upon the seat she had provided, asked what he could do for her. She didn’t come asking, he came offering. Her reward is the subject of another study in the following chapter. Later still, when a terrible crisis arose in her life it was straight to the bed in that little room that she took her son, even when it appeared all was lost and received him back miraculously.

When we prepare a place for the presence of God in our lives we are simultaneously preparing a place for ourselves – a place of refuge, a place of safety, a strong tower. I pray that this very day will find you adding on a room, a room in your heart, that causes you to stop everything else and look full into the face of the One who has so much to say to you.

Enough is Enough

I’m wondering as I write my blog this morning how many other moms are out there feeling a bit frazzled and overwhelmed like I am. There’s no huge crisis and I am so thankful for that but, some days, like this day, I feel like I am standing in the aftermath of a tornado. Have you ever seen those pictures where a family stands in the midst of what once was their home and strewn all around them are their belongings and broken furniture? I also wonder how they know where to begin. How do they start such a seemingly insurmountable task?

Well, we haven’t faced a tornado of that sort, I am glad to say. But, I do feel like we’ve been facing a whirlwind of activity and changes for a good solid year. Honestly, when I think back on all that has happened in the past twelve months I am astounded and left dizzy.

I looked up synonyms for the word whirlwind and I found myself nodding in agreement as I read the list. Here are just a few.
Tornado
Mayhem
Sudden
Dizzying
Hurly-burly
Commotion
Confusion
Three-ring circus
Breakneck
Madhouse
Dust devil

I can just see y’all now nodding along with me. You may not be the homeschooling mom of seven who is trying to find time to write a novel and is very active in her church. You most likely have your own whirlwinds blowing through your life right now even if they are of a different sort.

The Bible mentions whirlwinds a number of times. Two of the most famous involve the Prophet Elijah. They both came to mind this morning and I want to share with you my thoughts about one of them and the whirlwinds that we are facing this very day.

In 1 Kings 19 we find Elijah afraid and literally running for his life. To understand this fully you’d need to read the chapters before and know the backstory. Elijah had just seen experienced an enormous victory and participated in an astounding miracle. One might assume that he would be shouting the victory, having a celebration or sighing a great sigh of relief. But, instead, he was spent, he was tired, he was weary and he was worn out.

Look, I can relate with Elijah. Maybe you can too. We press on and stand up for what’s right and face down our fears and see great victories. Then, we think, we will be able to catch our breath and rest a while when wham! There’s the next next threat or crisis or decision to make. After a while, we may find ourselves afraid and feeling like running as far as our trembling knees will take us. Elijah was in such a state that in verse four he says to the Lord, “I’ve had enough.”

I can’t count the times that I’ve said something similar. “Enough is enough!”

The Lord didn’t zap him or scold him. You know what He did? He sent an angel to minister to him. He told him to rest. He told him to eat. He told him to get up.

Afterwards Elijah journeyed to Mount Sinai and spent the night in a cave. It was there, alone and disheartened that the Lord spoke to Elijah. Elijah didn’t hold back in his answer. Basically, he said he had done his best and that wasn’t enough and he felt alone. Ugh.

I have so been there. So many times in this journey of being a mother I have felt like I wasn’t enough and that I was alone in my shortcomings. What about you? Well, as this story continues, we see this noteworthy moment between Elijah and God. After Elijah had said all he felt needed saying God told him to leave the cave and stand before Him on the mountain. In verse eleven Elijah has a choice to stay in that cave of isolation or to obey. The first thing you and I have to decide is if we are going to sit in despair or get up and move.

I wonder how Elijah felt when he once again, did the right thing and all heck broke loose. A windstorm (tornado, whirlwind) that was so terrible it blasted and tore loose the rocks of the mountain! Then, we read a very significant statement. The Lord was not in the wind. Then, there was an earthquake. But, the Lord was not in the earthquake. Then, there was a fire and as with the whirlwind and earthquake, the Lord was not in the the fire.

I know what the next sentence says. I know how this ends. But, at that very moment, Elijah did not know. All he knew was he was trying to obey a God that he trusted. All he knew is there were more storms coming from every direction. More upheaval. More mayhem. More confusion. More crisis’. More commotion.

Maybe that’s where you find yourself right now. Maybe you are feeling like there’s another impending storm and battle right around every corner. Maybe you are considering stepping back into the safety and isolation of that darkened cave. Maybe you just aren’t sure you can take one more unexpected blast. But, before you decide, read the rest of Elijah’s encounter and take courage as you face today.

And afterwards… “there was the sound of a gentle whisper.”

Today I pray that no matter how hectic life is, you will be able to hear the gentle whisper of the Lord. If the noise rumbling in your ears like an earthquake is a financial crisis, don’t expect an answer in the noise. If the fire that seems to encompass you is the heartbreak of a broken relationship, don’t expect healing from the source of your pain. If the whirlwind in your life that is leaving you dizzy right now is an unexpected diagnosis, don’t expect compassion from the disease. Instead, when all is said and done, listen for the whisper and I’m believing, for you and for me that whisper will be, “Enough is Enough.”

Momma Caboose

Did you know that the caboose was often the observation point on the train? The engine was in front, providing the power and determining the direction, but, it was the roof of the caboose where men would position themselves for a good vantage point to look down the tracks and watch for trouble. Did you also know that due to modern technology that the caboose has been determined unnecessary? Well, trains may not need their cabooses like they once did, but, families still benefit from a good caboose.

When our seven were younger and we would venture out, I had to teach them to stay in a straight line lest we clogged up entire aisles at the stores or blocked entire sections of sidewalks. Plus, I will admit it, I liked my little ducks all in a row. I didn’t want to lose anyone in a crowd, after all. Once you have more kids than you do hands, you have to be creative. So, as long as Henry, my husband, was with us, I’d find myself often saying, “Behind Daddy and in front of Momma.” I felt most comfortable right there in that vantage point. Henry could plow ahead making a path in the crowds and leading the way. I could watch carefully that no one wandered off or got turned in the wrong direction. I could also, like the train riders of old, keep an eye out for any possible trouble.

Oddly, every test I take about such things, says I’m a leader. I know they are right as I am often leading small groups or women’s ministries or family meetings or Bible studies. Leading comes natural to me. So why would I feel so comfortable as a caboose? I think that it belies my trust in Henry for one thing. He isn’t going to lead us astray. He is good with directions and can stay focused on the goal of getting us where we are going. Parenting isn’t after all a competition where we are vying for position in our children’s lives. Parenting, at it’s best is a team effort where strengths are celebrated and strategies are developed to work together and be made better for it.

If a child stumbled or lagged behind or became distracted, I was aware of it and that’s what I wanted. I could offer a little assistance and gentle guidance when necessary or sound the alarm if I needed to. The thing is, as seasons change and children grow, it isn’t so easy maintaining that position of momma caboose. Every once in a while we, as a family approach a crossroads and sometimes one of us veers off the track and goes their own direction for a while. It’s not always a good choice, not always a wise decision, not always what I had hoped they would do. Sometimes our heart is heavy as we consider the consequences before them.

It is so tempting as a momma caboose to panic. After all, we might reason, how can we help them when they are so determined to head in the wrong direction? What if they have a train wreck on the track and get stuck there? What if they get so far away I can’t even see them from the roof of the caboose? What then? But, after a while you learn not to panic as quickly and assume the worst. After a while you relax the tiniest bit and wish them a grand adventure while your attend to your own. After a while, you realize that a temporary redirection is usually exactly that, temporary. After a while you anticipate those moments of traveling side by side, heading the same direction, but by different routes. After a while you come to expect those moments when you step back and let them step back in, reconnect to the strength of their daddy and rest under the watchful eyes of their momma caboose. We are still a family, after all, and always will be.

When we accept that no matter how hard we’ve worked to give them direction and wisdom and a good start, they must make their own way and find their own paths, it takes the pressure off and keeps our relationships from being strained and sometimes broken. Trains after all were designed to add and release cars as needed. They are flexible like that and we should be the same.

When you spend a couple of decades being a caboose you develop certain routines and perspectives that assist you in your endeavor of bringing up the rear. Some days I feel as if my position as momma caboose is more taxing than ever before. I strain my eyes watching for predators of all sorts. They come in from so many directions after all. Modern technology may have done away with train cabooses but, modern technology like Internet and social media and smart phones with stupid apps have made the caboose even more necessary for families. But, then there are the other days. Those are the days that I climb up on that roof of the caboose and enjoy the ride for a while. I gaze upon the future with confidence and hope. I stretch out and stare at the stars realizing I’ve done my best and will trust God with the rest. I contemplate the journey ahead and wonder what we will discover over the next mountain. That’s an advantage of bring a Momma Caboose.