happiness_bulldogdrummondAre you one of those who can’t figure out how to enjoy life? Many people are experts on making themselves (and others) miserable. So how can you flip-flop it? Here’s a start:

* Lighten up. G.K. Chesterton said that angels are able to fly because they take themselves lightly. So don’t take yourself so seriously. And don’t take matters so personally.

* Laugh more. Perhaps your circumstances are so far gone that it’s time to just have a good laugh. I don’t mean to belittle but with Jesus as your treasure and glory as your Home aren’t you ultimately free to do just that?

* Don’t live in your past. Every good and bad decision, every sin by you, and every sin against you God has bent toward His will and plan for your life. He has redeemed it in Jesus.

What do you do to enjoy life? What else would you recommend?

An orphan no more….

November 19, 2014 — 2 Comments

IMG_2996“Veronika has a little sister in a different orphanage she doesn’t know about?” What were we to do? Could we handle Veronika AND Larissa (she was three years old at the time)? In addition, the cost of adopting them both was nearly double what we had saved for, not counting the extra weeks we would have to pay for housing and food to remain in Ukraine. But… what if? What if the Lord wanted us to trust Him to make a way? What if the Lord wanted to blow our minds?

We decided we would reach out cold-turkey to our family and friends via social media to try and raise the funds to adopt Larissa. Due to the cost, it would take a miracle. And the full amount would have to be raised in the span of days. It just simply felt impossible. We went live with a blog post to family and friends asking for the funds on a Friday afternoon from Ukraine. Saturday morning, I made it to a local coffee shop in Kiev to see if anyone had contributed. When I checked it (less than 24 hours later)… wait for it, wait for it…the full amount for Larissa’s adoption had been given. To say I wept would be an understatement. photocjphotocj1

How God loves the orphaned…. And I bless God for those who may never adopt but sacrificially gave to make Jubilee Larissa’s adoption happen. If God isn’t calling you to adopt, opportunities abound for you to financially help families who are called. They need you. And you’ll feel the pleasure of God as you do.

But know this too: He loves you, child. He did whatever it took to pursue you, rescue you, and call you His daughter or son, even when it meant He gave Himself up on the cross. Yes, on the cross, Jesus cried out to His Father and got no answer. Jesus reached up His hand for His Father and only got the air.* He did that for you. On that cross, Jesus was orphaned for you, so that you would be an orphan no more. He was orphaned for you so that when you cry out you can know the Father hears; and when you reach out, you can know He’s there to take your hand.

I get to be that to my little girls. They once were orphaned, now they’re rescued. When they cry out for a daddy in the night, I am there to answer. When they reach out their hand for daddy to help, I am there to hold them close.

Adoption is the gospel.jubsjj

* Pastor Tim Keller

Faith is…. (Nine thoughts)

November 16, 2014 — 10 Comments

PrayerFaith is… believing for the miracle despite the impossible.

Faith is… believing God will answer though I come up with reasons why He won’t answer.

Faith is… persevering in prayer and belief despite evidence that the miracle is undeserving.

Faith is… persistence and perseverance in pleading with Jesus for the miracle despite 1) silence from God, 2) inner and outter voices that beckon me to give up.

Faith is… recognizing my own unworthiness, but at the same time beholding Jesus’s worthiness and mercy, and applying that to myself and my situation.

Faith is… not being offended by Jesus because of what I am in His perfect and holy presence.

Faith is… believing Jesus will lavish me with mercy, delight in my feeble belief, and grant my request.

Faith is…“the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen…and is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.” (Hebrews 11:1).

Faith is… what pleases God. (Hebrews 11:6).

What are your thoughts on faith?

When she said, “Yes!”

November 12, 2014 — 2 Comments

Salt-N-Pepa‘s “Pump Up the Jam” was blaring over the small radio box in the Orphanage’s assistant director’s office. It was the day we were to meet 8 year old, Veronika (pronounced “Veer-oh-NEE-kah”). This was the little orphan girl we would call “daughter” forever. The only picture we’d seen of her was outdated. So we had no idea what she looked like at eight.

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The wait inside the little office was excrucating. Would she like us? Would she be afraid of us? Would she want us? Would she let us be her family?

Josiah was having a “moment,” so I walked him into the hallway to get some air. Still, my thoughts were on Marni. We’d come so far. What if she didn’t want us to adopt her? Suddenly, a little girl whizzed by me in a bright orange dress and in flip flops that were hanging on by a strap. She was carrying an unpeeled banana in her right hand. Abruptly, she turned back and looked at me. I knew in that instant it was Veronika. Her long black eye-lashes and those big brown eyes took my breath away. She smiled that precious gap-between-her-two-front-teeth smile.

I was smitten like a shy schoolboy. So smitten that I turned away like I didn’t recognize her and sprinted into the AD’s office. “It was Vernoika, Christie! I think I just saw Veronika!”

Moments later, Veronika was escorted into the office by one of the orphanage workers. She was seated before our family of four. We couldn’t help but gawk at this beautiful creature of God. Right then I thought, “Dear God. How does this child not have a mommy or daddy? Who could give her up?”

Candy and stuffed animals are a cross-cultural language, of course, so we drenched her in that. We learned her favorite colors, games, and the like. We did all we could in the few minutes allotted us to drink in the lifetime of this little girl, and to share ours with her.

Then it was time to pop the question. In our presence, with all eyes fixed on Veronika, the assistant director asked: “Veronika, do you want to be adopted by this family?” All the air was sucked out of the room. While we held our breath, Veronika looked down at her hands, smiled, and in Russian, and in her cute raspy voice, answered: “Yes! Very much!”IMG_2224

That moment changed all of our lives forever. A little girl who faced a potential future of doom was not only rescued, but given the life many orphans will never know–a life with a mommy, daddy, siblings, pets, days at the beach, her own clothes, plenty of food (and candy), and most of all, the practical love of God through Christ through a family to rescue her, give her a new name (Marni Veronika Jones),and a new life.

Adoption is the gospel. It is the gospel in living-color. Every day Christie, the boys, and I, and even Marni and Jubilee see, hear, and feel God’s passionate rescuing love through adoption. It’s hard at times. It’s glorious at times. It’s the gospel at all times.

Could God be leading you become the gospel-in-living-color for an orphan? For more information contact Lifesong for Orphans HERE. If you are a Grace Community Church family or friend, email our Grace Foster and Forever Family Ministry at: GFFF@graceoc.com
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prayer-bible“There is a mighty lot of difference between saying prayers and praying,” declared a 20th Century preacher. So how can we be sure we’re not just saying prayers, but praying?

In the previous two posts we’ve considered having a morning ritual of meeting with God in the quiet. We’ve surveyed the six musts of how to prepare and spend time with the Lord. In this post, let’s consider praying, and not just praying prayers. The greatest way is praying Scripture.

Why is praying God’s word a wonderful means of prayer? God promises that He is watching over His word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12). God declares His word will not return to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11). As we pray God’s word, God’s word penetrates us more deeply (Hebrews 4:12). To pray God’s word is to pray God’s will. Praying God’s word moves us to pray timely truths and promises that we may otherwise overlook. Praying God’s word assures that we are not mindlessly saying prayers, but praying.

Many years ago, Pastor Harry Walls of Shades Mountain Independent Church, Birmingham, AL, taught me a beautiful way of praying Scripture. This is a summary of his teaching that I share with you.

Approach the Scripture with the below questions and statements to direct you. We’ll use Psalm 23 as our text for this post.

* What is God saying about God?
Per Psalm 23, God is Shepherd, Satisfier, Leader, Rest-giver, Restorer, Promise-keeper, Comforter, Conqueror, Protector, Victor, Pursuer. He provides resources for courage, confidence, and security. He is intimate, good, righteous, and merciful. He is home.

* What is God saying about me?
According to Psalm 23, deep down I am unsatisfied, needy, lost, confused, weary, fractured, lonely, afraid. I lack courage and confidence. I have enemies (spiritual and otherwise) who want to do me harm. I am exposed and unable to see things as they really are. On my own, I have no protection. Yet God loves me. God protects me. God pursues me with his goodness and mercy every single day of my life. God wants me.

* Talk to God about God.
Now take all that God has revealed about Himself and praise Him for it! Which apply most to your life right now? Now, hush. :-) And just “be” before Him. Allow who God is to be the warm blanket to your soul. Open yourself to what He wants you to know most about Him in the moment.

* Talk to God about me.
Take all that God has revealed about you and admit it to Him. Which most apply to your current situation(s)? Confess it fully before Him. Allow what He’s revealed about you to be covered and redeemed by what He’s revealed about Himself.

* What must I do (regarding what God said about God and about me)?
You can never leave an intimate time with God the same. Ever. Where must you repent? What promise can you claim? What truth helps your unbelief? Who must you apologize to? Forgive? What people do you need to stop fearing? And on and on.

The popular “A.C.T.S.” (Adoration. Confession. Thanksgiving. Supplication.) is also a great way to pray Scripture. Whatever you do, guard against approaching God with a prayer formula. Only let it be your guide to intimate communion with Him.

Is this helpful? Do you pray Scripture? Do you follow “A.C.T.S.”? What is your approach? How do you guard against prayer becoming formulaic?