Monday, April 30, 2012

The Truth about HIV: Transmission

If you haven't read the story of how God is leading us to adopt a little boy who is HIV positive, you can read it here to better understand our journey.

Someone said that if you disclose about your child's HIV status, you immediately become an advocate.  So true!  We are passionate about sharing correct information, hence Part 1 of a series all about HIV!

Transmission . . . this is where fear comes into the picture.  Obviously no one wants to be infected with HIV, but if you don't have the facts, this can lead to unnecessary and unfounded fears.

This is also where the social stigma rages.  Again, out of a desire to not get infected, the answer for some is to exclude and ridicule those living with HIV.  

A family with a beautiful daughter who is HIV positive recently got UNinvited to a birthday party when their daughter's status was discovered.  You can read the family's post here.  This stuff happens.  Fear can drive people to do and say some pretty hurtful things.  

So I want this post to make extremely and overwhelming clear the FACTS about how HIV is and is not transmitted.  I'm praying that the TRUTH will drive away the fear!

(All of the information I will share can be found at credible sources like,, and

Transmittable Concentrations of HIV are only found in:

- Blood

- Semen

- Vaginal Fluid

- Breast Milk

HIV is transmitted by:

- Unprotected Sex (vaginal, anal, oral)

- Sharing needles and syringes (This could include needles for tattoos and body piercings that aren't sterilized properly.  Make sure you use a reputable company for these services!)

- Pregnancy and Childbirth

- Breastfeeding

These are ADULT behaviors, not behaviors of a child.  I heard a mom say that she told people who were nervous being around her young daughter, "Don't worry.  We are very strict with her.  We don't let her have sex, share needles, or give birth!" There is NO risk! 

HIV is not transmitted by:

- hugging

- kissing

- holding hands

- coughing

- sneezing

- from a toilet seat

- changing a diaper

- sharing a cup/plate/utensils

- biting

- scratching

- bathing

- swimming

- insect bites, including mosquitoes

- playing sports 

- through the air

- urine

- feces

- tears

- sweat

- spit up/vomit

- saliva

- snot

There have been no cases of HIV transmission in a household or other casual setting since anti-retroviral medicines were introduce in 1995.

There have been NO documented cases of HIV transmission in a sports environment.

There have been NO cases of HIV transmission from one child to another.

Other Facts about HIV Transmission:

- HIV is a fragile virus and does not survive well outside the body.  HIV is also unable to reproduce outside its living host (some bacteria and fungi are able to do this). 

- People receiving HIV treatment can have the levels of virus in their blood brought down to "undetectable" levels.  This reduces the risk of transmission even more in case you were exposed to HIV through one of the adult behaviors listed above.  

- A friend's Infectious Disease Specialist (an expert in HIV) said that for HIV to be transmitted from a wound, a person would have to have a gaping wound touching the other person's gaping wound with blood flowing into each others body for one hour for there to be a small risk of transmission.  This scenario does not happen in our normal living!

- The Center for Disease Control monitors HIV transmission very closely.  If there were other ways that HIV was transmitted, they would know about it and would educate the public. 

- A person's HIV status is protected by law.  You do not have to tell anyone that you are HIV positive because there is NO risk of transmission through casual contact.  You probably come in contact with people each day who have HIV and there is no need for you to know . . . no risk!

How Can You Protect Yourself Against Transmitting or Contracting HIV?

- Do not have unprotected sex (This is for people not in a faithful, monogamous relationship where you know that both of you are HIV negative.)

- Do not share needles or syringes for drug use and make sure that proper sterilization has occurred for tattoos or body piercing. 

- If you are HIV positive and pregnant, seek HIV treatment immediately.  You DO NOT have to pass HIV to your child.   With treatment, the risk of transmission can be cut to 1%.

- If you are a mother who is HIV positive, give your infant formula instead of breastfeeding.

-  Practice UNIVERSAL PRECAUTIONS (all school, sports, childcare, and church settings should already be doing this) . . . When coming in contact with blood or other bodily fluids, use gloves or some other barrier (towel, wipe) to protect yourself.  Skin is a natural barrier, but you should use another barrier, especially if you have an open wound.  Use safe methods when you dispose of materials with blood or fluids on them.  Thoroughly wash your hands and any other area after coming in contact with blood or bodily fluids.

- Teach your children what to do if they see someone bleeding . . . Get an adult immediately!

Now That You Know . . .

As you can see, children with HIV are perfectly safe to be around, hug, play, share food, and invite to birthday parties!  There simply IS NOT a risk of transmission through casual contact!
After reading all these facts, you still might be afraid . . . and that's okay.  

But you can choose not to walk in that fear.  

You can choose not to reject a child or family living with HIV.  You can choose not to discriminate or ridicule.  You can choose not to be a part of the stigma that shames those living with HIV. 

You can choose to hug and love and play with a child living with HIV.  You can choose to invite that little one to your child's birthday party.  You can choose to babysit to give those parents a night out.  You can choose to support and encourage a family walking this road.

You can choose to pass on this information to all who will listen so the fear and stigma will stop!

PLEASE share this info on your blog or facebook.  Please share this truth when HIV comes up in conversation . . . or even when it doesn't! :)  Getting the FACTS about HIV out there is what will end the cycle of stigma and fear!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Surprise for Us, but Not for God

From the very beginning of our adoption journey, we have been in awe of how God has spoken to us.  The God of the universe, the Great I Am, the Holy One . . . He has spoken in very clear and specific ways to guide us each step of the way.

We started with a blank slate, laying every question before Him, and begging for His will to be made known.  We (meaning me) could walk in the ways that seemed best to us or we could wait for His Will to be revealed and follow that alone.  We chose the latter.

This road has lead us to the process of adopting a son from Ethiopia.  We've had confirmations and an unwavering peace that this is God's path for us.

But another part of our call hasn't been as clear.  We both also felt a desire to adopt a child with special needs.  We just had no idea what that would mean.

In your adoption education you have the excruciating task of going through a list of every disorder, disability, and disease you can think of and literally checking Yes, No, or Maybe on whether you would be open to a child with this condition.  Honestly, it just felt wrong.  You don't choose with a biological child and so it was really weird to consider what we would or would not be comfortable with.  (Chad actually said that we were burning those pages when we got our workbook back!)  So we decided to be open to most disabilities and really only said no to things like TB or HIV that we felt would endanger Ava and Grayson.

We've continued to wonder for the last 5 months whether we would in fact be referred a child with special needs or whether God just wanted our "Yes" to special needs.  Little did we know that God would end up asking us 2 months ago to adopt and love a child that we had deemed "off limits."

With joy, we'd like to share that God is leading us to adopt a little boy who will be HIV positive and we are choosing to walk in obedience.

Shocked?  We were too!  Just like us a few months ago, you probably have a lot of thoughts/fears/questions going through your mind right now.  I want to tell you how this all came about and try to answer some of the questions you probably have.

Two months ago I had a friend in my adoption facebook group post current information about HIV.  She felt the Spirit leading her to share and she will forever be a part of Easton's story because of her obedience!  (Never underestimate the power of obedience or the cost of disobedience . . . that moment forever changed my life!)  I normally would have scrolled right past it, but I really felt like I should read the information.  I was shocked!  I realized immediately that I was so uneducated about HIV, had many misconceptions, and that my fears were simply not valid.  I couldn't get it off my mind and spent two days researching information, reading blogs, and looking up resources about HIV.  At that time, I didn't necessarily feel that God was telling me this is what we needed to do, but I felt like Chad and I needed to make an informed decision instead of a decision based on fear and old information like we had 5 months ago. 

Two days later, I shared all of the info I had learned with Chad.  The thing that made my stomach sink (and felt like God's nudging) was this statistic . . .

"HIV medications available in the West have made this a manageable chronic illness, but in poor countries, 50% of children who are undiagnosed and/or untreated will die by the age of 2 yrs." 

HIV is literally a death sentence to children in countries such as Ethiopia where medication isn't available or affordable. 

I wasn't sure how Chad would react to all this info.  Like I said, we were unified when we said no months ago and our decision was in the name of protecting Ava and Grayson whom we dearly love.  He listened quietly as I poured out all the facts and statistics.  I finally quit talking and waited for his reaction.

His exact words were, "I'm in.  How could we not?"

I love that man more than words can express.  Our hearts were again unified, but this time on a journey that we never expected.  I can't even describe the peace that flooded in and the joy that we have had from walking in obedience.  There is nothing, absolutely nothing, better than hearing your Father speak and following after Him.

We have come to realize that the road and the destination aren't as important as the One you are following.  He makes all the difference.  He gives peace on a road full of unknowns.  He gives joy on a road sure to be full of heartache.  He gives strength on a road tough to travel.  He is enough.

We continued to pray for confirmation that this was the road God was calling us to walk.  Confirmation came.  Then we began to tell those closest to us and asked them to pray with us.

We shared the news with our social worker who actually said that she almost mentioned HIV as she did our homestudy, so she wasn't surprised at all by our news.  I'm so thankful that she didn't mention it then.  We weren't ready (obviously) 5 months ago to say yes.  I look back at my blog posts over the last few months and now it all makes sense.  God has been transforming our hearts by His Word so that in His perfect timing, we would be ready to obey.

I've talked about how blessed I am to have Lisa as my best friend . . . this moment was no exception!  She didn't spend one moment asking about the "What Ifs," but immediately said, "Do it.  We'll walk with you."  I can't tell you how much I needed that confidence and encouragement!

We told our parents and close friends, which made me a little nervous (I knew there was no way for them to expect what we were about to throw at them!).  Some were understandably concerned, but supportive and encouraging, especially after we shared current HIV information that alleviated their fears.

We have gotten a tremendous amount of support so far and our hearts have been so encouraged by family and friends willing to face fears, let go of misconceptions, and choose to walk this journey with us!  We realize that this decision doesn't just affect us.  It affects everyone involved in our life.  So the support we have received is a blessing that we don't take for granted.

Through my research, I learned that most people's thoughts about HIV are based on the information available in 1987 . . . a lot has changed in 25 years!  My eyes were opened and my fears washed away when I learned the current facts about HIV.  I desperately want the same for you!

The truth is that the stigma and fears that still exist because of incorrect information are what make living with HIV so hard.  FACTS can stop this!

Here are some main points for you to know about HIV . . . 

(This information is from credible sources such as,,

  • HIV is not AIDS.  It can lead to AIDS if left untreated, but with treatment people can live their whole life without developing AIDS. 
  • HIV is now considered a manageable chronic illness instead of a terminal disease.  People with treatment can get married, have HIV negative babies (with treatment) and live a normal lifespan.  
  • There is still no cure for HIV, but the medications are highly effective and can reduce the amount of virus in the blood to undetectable levels!
  • HIV is transmitted through adult behaviors . . . unprotected sex, sharing needles, childbirth and breastfeeding.
  • The virus is transmitted through blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breastmilk.
  • The virus is NOT transmitted by saliva, tears, sweat, vomit, urine, feces or snot.
  • You CANNOT get HIV from hugging, kissing, touching, changing a diaper, drinking from the same cup, from a toilet, from a water fountain, coughing, sneezing, bathing, swimming, or from mosquitoes.  
  • Since the medications were introduced in 1995, there have been NO documented cases of HIV being transmitted through normal living conditions in a household, educational, or childcare setting.
  • People with HIV aren't required to tell anyone about their positive status . . . not a school, not a coach, not an employer.  There isn't a risk of transmission so no one has to know!  This privacy is protected by law in the US.  Without knowing it, you probably come in contact with people who are HIV positive quite often since there are 1.2 million Americans living with HIV.

If you are like we were 2 months ago, then much of this is new information.  It just isn't talked about a lot and even when it is, incorrect information is often given.

Which is why I'm going to do a series of posts in the next week or two with more information about HIV.

Part 1:  Transmission (I know this is what everyone wants to know!)
Part 2:  Disclosure
Part 3:  How HIV Works
Part 4:  Life with HIV
Part 5:  History of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic

Please know that we are open and welcoming to discussing HIV and answering any questions that you may have!  Don't be afraid to ask.  It will not offend us at all for you to share your concerns.  And chances are someone else has the same question and would benefit from the answer as well.

We understand that this is scary . . . we said no to it just 5 months ago.  We get it.  But we also know that the fears about transmission are not in proportion to the actual risk.  Truth can alleviate fears and current information is crucial as we work to fight the social stigma that still exists.  Please share this information . . . join with us in spreading the truth about HIV!

As I said earlier, no one has to share their HIV status.   I'll share more about why we are disclosing in the series, but we are choosing to share so that fear and shame can be eliminated and the Gospel can be proclaimed.

I've reflected deeply on my adoption by God over the last couple of months . . . I was an orphan, with the terminal disease of sin, with no hope of saving myself, with nothing to offer, and the cost was high and painful for my adoption.  But God did it . . . out of love and for His glory.  God has poured out His grace in my spiritual adoption and we see His calling for us to adopt Easton as just more of His grace!

We've held to John 9:1-3 as we've prayed for Easton.  The disciples ask Jesus if a man's blindness was because of his sin or his parents' sin.  Jesus says that it is neither, but so that the works of God might be displayed in his life.

We are clinging to God's sovereignty and praying that His works truly will be displayed in our family and in Easton's life! 

**If you would like to follow our journey and be sure not to miss any posts, you can sign up to receive an email notice of a new post.  Just enter your email address in the box on at the top of the right column and be sure to confirm your subscription when you get an email (check your junk mail for this email).

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fresh Eyes

Have you ever had one of those days where these are the thoughts going through your head?

If I get one more snotty nose wiped on my shirt, I will lose my mind.
I don't think I can handle another conversation with a 3 year old who is sure she is smarter than me.
I'm angry and I don't even know why.
One more act of disobedience and I will cry.  But why wait?  I'll just bawl my eyes out now!
I'm not cut out to be a mom.  I stink.  I'm failing my kids terribly.
Are we really bringing another kiddo into this chaos?  

No?  Me either.

Except on Sunday.  (and days before then that we just won't talk about). :)

Sunday was a rough one for me.  Both kids had been sick for days which is hard on many levels . . . they aren't their normal selves, we've been couped up in the house for too long, and we had to stay home from church.  It was a looooooong day!

By the end I was just emotionally drained and feeling awful.  Ava and I were a bad combination all day and had to apologize to each other multiple times . . . humbling for sure.  I knew that I wasn't walking in grace, but couldn't seem to get myself out of the funk.  I just kept blowing it.

So I naturally started with the anxious thoughts about how in the world I would be able to handle Easton in the mix.  O. VER. WHELMED.

I went to bed crying out to God for grace and for His new mercies to pour on me in the morning.  And you know what?  They did!  He is forever faithful and oh so good!

The last two days have been so much better . . . the kids are mostly back to normal, we've gotten out of the house, but most importantly my attitude has been drastically different . . . gracious and desiring to speak words of life to my kiddos.  What a difference abiding in Him makes!

I started a "school time" with Ava today.  We've really clashed when I've tried this before, but I have a new resolve to be intentional with her learning . . . whether she likes it or not.  Which she didn't.

She did great until the instructions were something that she didn't like.  Then she refused to obey and ran away from me.  Yikes.  She better be glad this didn't happen on Sunday . . . who knows how I would have handled it then!  But today I was supernaturally calm.  I disciplined her and reiterated the importance of following instructions instead of doing whatever you want.  Then she did it right!  When I asked later what she learned in school time she said, "To obey instructions."  At least she gets it for today!  I'll take that small victory!

This afternoon, Ava woke up from her nap asking for a sticker.  I said okay.  Here is what she came out with.  The two in her hands were on the bottoms of her feet, but she wanted them in the picture.  Love her!

And I've got to mention my little man!  He's starting to really communicate, which is both fun and frustrating.  The word he says most often is "hot" and he always does the hand motion like he is about to touch something hot and pulls his hand away.  So cute.  He doesn't say much else, so he says "hot" to all sorts of random things, hot or not!

How incredibly cute is this kid?!

But this cutie definitely has a temper!  He was so ticked at me for not letting him have my camera.

I love this one of the two of them too.  Just up from naptime and Ava was wanting a hug.  He was rightfully leery . . . her hugs usually end in him being tackled to the ground.  She better watch out though, He is only one pound behind her and I have a feeling he won't be offering a lot of mercy. :)

Kind of a random post, but I've just gone through some extremes the last few days . . . from being angry and discouraged to fresh eyes to see the blessings I have in my life.

Have you thanked God for His blessings poured out on you?  You should!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Good News, Cute Kids, and James 5

This post is heavy.  There's just no way around it.  :)

So I'll start with good news . . . our homestudy is done!!!  Multiple copies are on their way to my house and as soon as we get our immigration fingerprints, we can send in our dossier paperwork and officially be put on the waitlist.  Woo Hoo!  You don't know how ready I am to be done with the paperwork part!

And how about cute pictures to offset the intensity to come?  These are a couple of my kiddos that capture their personalities so perfectly!  My mom got them these Easter outfits so I was busting a sweat before church trying to get a good picture.  Ava, firstborn all the way, is posing beautifully at the beginning while Grayson runs wild each time I try to snap the pic.

Then we digress to the point where Ava takes charge and decides that she will hold Grayson next to her so we can get this photo shoot done.  And Grayson was having none of it!  I'm so blessed by my littles . . . even their firecracker personalities!

And now to the intense part.  Have you read Hebrews 4:12-13?  No?  Well here it is . . .

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."

So painfully and beautifully true.  And what I continue, by God's grace, to experience as I spend time in the Word.

I've been reading James the last three weeks with my accountability partner . . . good stuff.  There has been a lot that James has challenged me on, more than I'll get in to here, but nothing has hit me as hard as this little verse . . .

"You have lived on the earth in luxury and self-indulgence.  You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter."  James 5:5

Did you cringe?  I do.  Every. Single. Time.

The heading in my Bible at the beginning of this part says, "Warning to the Rich."  Pretty clear rebuke of the rich there.  When I hear the word "rich," I like to think of someone else.  I immediately get an image in my mind of someone who has more and makes more than me.  They are rich.  Not me.  Do you know what we make?  Most people wouldn't put us in the "rich" category.

Yet there are millions of people who would absolutely do just that.  The live on less than $2 a day and I'm a rich person if there ever was one.  We have a home to live in, stuff to fill our home, food to eat every day, two cars, plenty of clothes, electronics, and even a little money in the bank.  Most definitely rich.

So my first step was to quit thinking that these verse apply to other people and let them fully wash over my rich heart and life. 

I do not want my life to be characterized by luxury and self-indulgence when there are so many others who are literally dying of need.

Have you noticed that this is becoming a trend with my time in the Word?   Me too.  It is everywhere in the pages of Scripture. 

I've prayed again that my life would not be about accumulating more stuff, but that I would live instead in generosity and self-denial.  That I would take my blessings that are purely by God's grace and would use them to be a blessing to those in need. (That's Psalm 67:1-2 in action)

It does not proclaim the Gospel or life up the One who gave His all if I am living "fat" while others are dying of starvation.

So that right there was enough to again rock my world and send me to my knees.  But that wasn't it.

I learned in Secret Church a few weeks ago that I forget to look at the bigger and deeper picture as I study the Word.  David started teaching about the three levels of David and Goliath and I was like, "Hold up.  Three levels?  Aren't we just talking about a boy and a giant here?"

Nope.  There is the boy and giant.  Then the nation against nation.  Then it is really all about Jesus.  Three levels. 

I will tell you that reading to Ava from the Jesus Storybook Bible has helped me immensely at seeing how Jesus is the center of every story.  Yes, I just admitted that I'm learning something from my 3 year old's Bible!  It's true though.  Ava's bouncing all over the bed, but I'm having some good Bible study during family worship. :)

Anyway, I realized that I often take the Word at face value and forget to dig deeper or pan out for a wider look at how it applies.

So as I meditated on James 5 with this in mind, I applied this verse in terms of the Gospel.  And then it got real.

By God's grace, and grace alone, I was born into an American family who are followers of Christ.  I heard the Gospel early and often and was born again as a young girl.  I've certainly had my moments years of rebellion, but God has taken me to a place of spiritual growth and depth that I never expected and, again, had done it completely by His grace. 

But am I living a life of luxury and self-indulgence when it comes to the Gospel?  

I've got religious freedom and I am so thankful for it.  But do I wallow in it?  Do I just live at ease in my freedom with Bibles all over the house, church twice a week?  Millions of brothers and sisters have no such luxury.  Most don't own a Bible and many don't even have the Word in their own language.  I can see three Bibles right now from where I'm sitting at my desk.  Luxury.

And self indulgence?  Got that one covered.  I could (and do) spend a lot of time in a myriad of ways on my personal spiritual growth.  Now before you start yelling at the computer . . . I'm not saying that spiritual growth is bad.  I obviously love reading and studying the Word and think that should absolutely be a part of each day.  But sometimes we just take the "good" and get fatter and fatter with Jesus, not giving any of Him away.   

How many Bible studies, ministries, church services, spiritual growth books, blogs, articles, etc. can we take in before we simply explode from our gluttony? 

There are millions of people that are unsaved.  But beyond that there are 2 billion people that are unreached.  Never heard the Gospel that is the ONLY way for them to be declared righteous before God.  Never heard.  People dying daily in the sin that separates them from their Creator while a way has been made for them to live with Him forever.  It's just that no one has shared this life-saving message with them.  We haven't gone.  I haven't gone.

My heart has been pierced that I can so often get full on Jesus, but then rest in my salvation in luxury and self indulgence.  I'm safe.  What else do I really need to worry about?  Now I don't actually say that, but isn't that what my lack of urgency with the Gospel communicates?  That I'm all that matters.

Oh that I had God's heart for those who are perishing.  His love that would propel me out of luxury and into generosity and humility for their sake.  His love that would lead me to deny self so that others may know their Savior.

I shared this on facebook earlier today, but I had the best conversation while playing with Ava today.  She had a bunch of papers and started pretending that they were tracts and she was out telling people about Jesus (pretty sure I never played that as a kid!).

I asked a few questions as we talked, but her schpeel went something like this . . .

"This is a paper that tells you about Jesus.  He is a man.  And God.  I don't know how that works.  He made everything.  See this phone?  He made it.  He died on the cross for our sins.  But he isn't dead anymore.  3 minutes later he was raised from the dead and the angel said he's alive.  He can raise you from the dead too.  So now do you believe?  Good.  Then take this paper and tell someone else about Jesus."

Other than being a little quick on the draw about how long Jesus was in the tomb, it was a pretty good proclamation of the Gospel if you ask me!

And later as I prayed, thanking God for my sweet girl, I prayed that she would not waste one single moment of her life in luxury or self indulgence like her mama has.  I prayed that her urgency and pure love for others would remain and would be the fuel that send her to the ends of the earth to declare God's love for sinners.  I prayed that my heart would yield to this Word so that Ava will grow up seeing generosity, self-denial, and disciplemaking in my life.

I'd love to hear if this Word pierces your heart like it has mine and how God leads you to submit to it . . . materialistically and with the Gospel!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Seder Meal

I was blessed to participate in my first Seder Meal last night at Edgewater.  This is the traditional meal that Jews would have at the time of the Passover . . . each year remembering what God had done in rescuing the Israelites from Egypt and anticipating the rescue from the long awaited Messiah.

I helped serve the meal so I feel like I didn't get to soak in the richness of the symbolism like I would have liked, but there were a few things that really stuck out to me.

First, bitter herbs are bitter.  Earth-shattering news, I know.  I dipped that parsley into the red wine vinegar, tossed it in, and immediately started coughing . . . a sight to see I'm sure.  At least I wasn't alone.  The whole room was choking and, like me, probably trying to chew and swallow asap.

But what a vivid reminder of the bitterness of the slavery under Egypt.  I can read over that part of Exodus so quickly, barely pausing to contemplate a life of complete and cruel oppression.  They probably quickly forgot as well . . . hence the bitter herbs.  Our God knows that a horrible past can too soon be replaced in our memory by a rosy picture that is completely false.

Never forget, He whispers.

How often do I forget the pit from which I came?  How often to I paint a rosy picture in my mind of the old self?

Eat the bitter herbs, my daughter.  Remember that you were oppressed by sin, a slave to death, with no hope of ever changing your condition on your own.

Remember what I did.  I rescued you just like I rescued my people Israel.  I sent my Son to the cross to obtain your rescue.  You didn't deserve it.  You didn't earn it.  It was a gift of My grace. 

"Oh to grace how great a debtor, daily I'm constrained to be . . ."

We flowed into a part of the meal where the leader recited the story of God's rescue and the rest of us sang a little one word song . . . Dayenu.  This Hebrew word means, "We would have been content."  So basically it went something like this . . .

If you have rescued us from Egypt, but not executed judgment on their gods.
We would have been content.
If you had executed judgment on their gods, but not had them give us all their stuff as we left.
We would have been content.
If you had parted the Red Sea, but not brought us through on dry land.
We would have been content.
If you had brought us through the Red Sea, but not provided for us in the wilderness.
We would have been content.

And so on . . .

What is interesting is that obviously God did do all these things and even more and the Israelites were actually almost never content.  I would think they would be saying, "We should have been content" but who am I to argue.

Even so, this part of the meal highlighted God's grace at each step for the Israelites.  He didn't owe them anything.  Every intervention, every provision, every miracle was completely a show of His grace.

Dr. Cole, who was leading our service, made a statement during this part that captured my attention.

God had a claim to their thankfulness.  

Wow.  Any thankfulness in the hearts of the Hebrews was due only to the One who had rescued them, provided for them, cared for them, loved them despite their tendencies toward idolatry and ungrateful hearts.

God has that same claim to my thankfulness.  And yours.  His grace abounded in the Cross.  His grace was exalted in the Resurrection.  His grace is proclaimed each time the Gospel is shared.

And His grace is declared each time we offer a heart of gratitude and words of thanksgiving for what He has done.

I'm off to study about the Gospel and Suffering at the Secret Church simulcast for 6 hours . . . can't wait!  We're also praying for the Horn of Africa, which includes Ethiopia where my sweet Easton's birth family is right now.  Looking forward to a special night of worship, reflection on the Cross, and prayer for persecuted brothers and sisters across the world.  May the grace of God be lifted high!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Follow Me

I've been meditating today (really for the last 2 weeks) on a statement made at the adoption retreat I recently attended.  The speaker, Dr. Susan Hillis, just kind of said it in passing and her message wasn't built around it, but it has stuck with me in a profound way.

Respond to the call, but follow the One who called.

Read it again.  Slowly.  Let it sink in.  Chew on it.

I'm sure the other 400 ladies at the retreat heard her say these words, but I think they might have been just for me.  Okay, not really, but this one simple phrase has been so powerful to challenge and encourage this journey of faith I'm on that I know it was Jesus speaking to my heart that day!

If you have your Bibles, and I hope you do, turn with me to Matthew 4:18.  (I'm not a preacher, but I can talk like one, right?!)

Seriously though, I've been looking in the Word as I've wrestled with this idea of following the One who has called and I'd love to share what I've learned. :)

(And just a side note:  I shared this with Chad this morning and he said it was very similar to what he heard from a man on Thursday at a training on prayerwalking.  So if you were at that training, please know that I wasn't and I'm not ripping off that man's study.  I wouldn't do that!  I guess God just really wanted Chad and I to embrace this Truth so he came at us from two different sides!)

Anyway . . . back to Matthew 4.  When Jesus first called Peter, Andrew, James and John, this is what He said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."

I bet those men were pumped!  They knew fishing.  They had most likely been doing it all their lives.  Men instead of fish?  How hard can it be?   Like fish, you just gotta have the right bait. 

Well they hit the jackpot in the bait category.  Jesus.

Matthew tells us that right after these four left everything and followed Jesus, they went all over Galilee.  Jesus was teaching, proclaiming the gospel, healing the sick, and casting out demons.  His fame spread all over Syria and great crowds came from all over to follow him.

Fishing for men was going pretty well.  Jesus was a rock star and they couldn't keep the people away.  I bet they were loving their "calling" at this point.

Here's where things start to derail a little from the rosy picture in their minds.  The crowds are around, but Jesus calls His disciples to sit down for a little teaching time.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' teaching flies in the face of everything that was usually taught, everything that was expected, everything that seemed reasonable.  Jesus begins describing His upside down kingdom.  You can just imagine the thoughts going through the minds of the disciples . . .

Blessed are the poor in spirit.  Blessed are the meek.  Blessed are those who are persecuted.  This doesn't sound promising.

Don't have unreconciled anger.  Lust is the same as adultery.  Just be men of your word.  How can we live like this?

Turn the other cheek.  You must be kidding.

Love your enemies.  This is impossible.

It gets worse.  Don't be a hypocrite.  Don't store up treasures on earth.  Don't worry.  Don't judge.

Jesus' teaching would have rocked all those who heard to the core if they were really listening.  Jesus' followers were to live very different lives.  I bet fishing for men didn't seem so inviting about this time!

Jesus continues to walk down a road that the disciples couldn't have pictured traveling in their wildest dreams nightmares.  Jesus touching, actually touching, a leper.  Healing a Roman's servant (didn't He know that the Romans were the enemy?)  Healing and paying attention to women.  Eating wtih tax collectors and sinners.

Finally, in Matthew 10, Jesus lays it all out there for this band of men who are miraculously still right on His heels.  He prepares to send them out to the Israelites to heal, cast out, and preach the good news.

Just a few words of warning before you go, fellas . . .

"Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves . . . and you will be hated by all for my name's sake . . . when they persecute you in one town flee to the next . . . do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul."

"And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

This couldn't have been the job description that Peter, Andrew, James and John expected when they signed on to fish for men.  Jesus was asking for their very lives. 

Way back in Chapter 4, these men could have clung to becoming fishers of men as the call placed on their lives.  But it wasn't.  They were to follow Jesus.   Fishing for men would be the result.

Think of all they would have missed had they kept their eyes on what they thought their call should look like.  The path Jesus walked and led them down was a hard road . . . full of suffering, full of outsiders, full of untouchables, full of "the least of these."  Who in their right mind would sign up for this kind of life?  Had it been laid out to them from the start, I doubt any would have left their nets.

But that road was also full of God the Son in all His glory.  Living in His humanity and proclaiming His Diety.  Demonstrating His authority over everything while showing His tender love and compassion for those He came to save.  The Creator serving the created.  The Righteous One taking the wrath for the evil of mankind.  The Cross.  The Tomb.  The Resurrection. 

Had these men refused to follow the One who called rather than their own expectations of their calling, they would have missed the abundant live that Jesus came to give.

And here is where it gets personal.  Because we have this exact same choice.

We can have the 20 year plan of our "calling" all laid out perfectly and panic when a fork in the road appears.  As we seek Jesus, we often find Him calling us to follow Him down the dark and scary looking road.  We point to the sunny road with flowers growing beside and cute little bunnies hopping after a butterfly.  (I wish I could have found a picture of that scene from Beauty and the Beast where the horse refuses to go down the gloomy road with Belle's dad . . . anyone?)

But Jesus is walking on, beckoning you to follow, to trust Him.  What will you do?

We encountered this fork and made the right terrifying choice to follow the One who called instead of what we thought our calling would look like.  I cannot describe the joy found in obedience, even when fear is present.  We've had a peace that passes understanding and a beautiful unity as we walk hand in hand after Jesus.  So. Worth. It. 

I hope that this speaks to your heart as well.  You can trust Him to lead you.  He has His best in mind for you.  That "best" might come in unexpected ways, but He will give you the faith to walk courageously even when you are shaking in your boots.  Follow Him.

"Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it."   1 Thess. 5:23-24