Father to the Fatherless

As I consider the concept of adoption, I realize there is a problem which seems to loom larger than life. What is your concept of a father?  

When I was much younger, my family had a strong desire to adopt a child we had been fostering. Looking back on those times, I can see how the attitude of our natural father was so crucial to the desires of the entire family. Two things about our dad were deciding factors: 1.) his history of love and support for his own children, and 2.) his current love for, desire to help, and confidence that our family was THE family for this child we were fostering. Most of us were certain we could do this simply because Dad was in it for the long haul and was confident in the decision. 

In pondering this, I get insight into a possible beginning for believers as they try to understand adoption into the family of God. In the book of Psalms, we find an insightful statement. His desire is to be a father to the fatherless. To have any understanding of that phrase at all, we must look at the history of how God has been with His people. Historically, He has been all we hope He will be. He has provided, loved, rescued, fought for, and always been consistent with His people. Yet, too often, our fallen thought patterns go to the other aspects of God. Since He is the Ruler of the Universe, there are decisions, actions, and even attributes that can strike terror in a human being – if, and only if, that human being considers themselves as not one of His people! 

In the natural, when a child turns toward his/her father, the way that father is known begins to fill the awareness of all who watch. Love, delight, and warmth might fill the room. But, in some cases, fear, timidity, or oppression might begin to exude from the child. Whether spiritual or natural, our concept of a father is just as important as his attitude toward us. 

Think about it for a moment. Who is your God? How is He known to you? If you haven’t embraced Him as Abba, Daddy, etc., are you still fatherless in your heart? Do you live with a God, but not an all-powerful Father?

As Far As the East is From the West

At this stage in my life I’ve been considering the various outworkings of His call on the lives of men and women. After 40-plus years of ministry, working together with my Lord, I am aware of how often we leave our place of grace and freedom and revert to the demands of some legislated code of identity. Seeing God as a demanding taskmaster with arms crossed, piercing eyes watching our every move, and ready to withdraw from us with little or no provocation leaves us with a wrong idea of God and, therefore, living with a wrong manifestation of Him on earth. How can I ever work together with THAT God? The very idea of THAT God that we have created in our thoughts leaves us lost with our mind, will, and emotions in a turmoil, wondering what He will demand of us next. Thus, it seems to me the first soul to be won might be my own! I’m not lessening the validity of a new spirit and a new heart, but I am questioning how effective we’ve been in allowing the wisdom of our Father’s dealings with men to win over our own thinking.

 It has taken a long time, but I’m finally realizing that much of this attitude has come from a wrong view of the complete nature of my salvation. Coming into Father’s family as a newborn believer is more complete than I was able to embrace in the beginning. At that moment, I was not an orphan, spiritually abandoned because of out of control sinfulness. I was mysteriously brought into a newness of life. In Father’s eyes I am a son whose past is gone, removed as far from me as the east is from the west. Just think about that. How far east must I travel to find myself going west? It never happens!

That means no matter how far I venture into this new family, this household of God, I’ll never find myself ensconced in yesterday’s sin – or the sin of an hour ago! Because of the work of the cross of Christ, my Father turns loving eyes on me, understanding my weakness, standing ready to empower me to overcome. More than just calling me to Himself, He draws me into all that He is. Together, He and I – along with myriads of others throughout the earth – work out from each other to bring His present kingdom to life in our world!

Clematis & Honeysuckle

Two years ago, my husband and I purchased our current home. For months we discussed and debated what each of us wanted in a new house, and we narrowed down what was critical for our family size, what was important to each of us individually, and what we could realistically afford. We spent months house hunting and despaired of finding a place we could agree on. We were facing a time deadline and we grew impatient. We even nearly put in an offer on the wrong house – twice. But one day the timing was just exactly right and we came to this house. It only took us five minutes to walk through the property and, with practically no discussion, we agreed this was HOME.

It was early March when we made our offer on the house and there wasn't much blooming, although we had noticed a heavily vined plant in one of the flower beds. I immediately mentioned that I hoped it was a clematis. I have always loved all varieties of clematis but in almost 20 years of marriage had never owned one. My husband said he hoped it was a honeysuckle, as he had grown up with honeysuckle and loved the heavy fragrance. So, we waited to see if either of us had gotten our wish and, on the day we took possession of the home, we discovered it was BOTH. A clematis and a honeysuckle had been planted side by side. Both plants were well established and mature -- the desires of both of our hearts, wrapped cooperatively together, forever entwined. For me, it was nothing short of God's rainbow.

Fast forward two years.

We still love our house and we are continually making small upgrades and adapting it to our needs. But we both have missed living in the country, and I am a rather restless sort. During our original home search, I discovered I am fascinated by real estate. So, two years later I still check Zillow daily to see what is coming on the market. I find myself analyzing trends, comparing home values and acreage, each time mentally holding my own home up for comparison. Is there a better home out there for us? Am I looking to move right now? No. But for months I have had this growing feeling of discontent. Until this morning. This morning, I stepped outside and for the first time this season the clematis and honeysuckle are blooming in unison. And what was originally God's promise was now God's reminder that we are exactly where He has placed us.

Just like the clematis and honeysuckle, we are in a season of our life. Sure, we might enjoy living further out in the country, but in this season of our life we have two young daughters. Our home is less than a three-minute drive from either of their schools, my work, their after-school extracurriculars, church, or the grocery store. Our home allows us to easily host large family get-togethers and our back porch is the gathering place for many friends and family. In this season of our life it is exactly where we need to be, and God knows that even when my restless heart doesn't.

Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

It is very easy to be influenced by the world and forget what God has given us, where God has placed us, and what mountains God has moved on our behalf. If you find yourself feeling restless and like things aren't moving or progressing fast enough to suite you, ask yourself if God has placed you in the place you are. If His answer is no, then begin to ask God where you need to be and MOVE with His direction. If He has placed you there but you find yourself restless, consider the possibility that this is just a season in your life and trust that when you need to move He will guide your steps.

Most of all, don't forget to stop and enjoy the season you are living in now. It has purpose even if it's a struggle to see it right now.

Cinderella, Cinderella!

Am I the only one who reads Proverbs 31 and starts humming "The Work Song" from the movie Cinderella? You know the one…

"…Cinderelly, Cinderelly
Night and day it's Cinderelly

Make the fire, fix the breakfast
Wash the dishes, do the mopping
And the sweeping and the dusting
They always keep her hopping…"

I'm gonna be real with you. The woman that is described in that chapter sounds like an exhausted wreck to me. I'm just sayin'. It would be impossible to be that woman!! I've actually heard people use this passage of Scripture to try to encourage – (clears throat) browbeat – a woman to be more like the woman she's expected to be.

When something hits me on such a discordant note when I read the Bible, I just have to dig a little deeper. I have to study what was really meant by the author or what needs to change in my thought process or belief system. Here's some of what I've found in this case.  

First of all, in reading the full chapter of Proverbs 31, and doing my best to set aside the preconceived ideas I had formed, I noted something I hadn't before. This chapter is written to men, not women. I checked into it, and found out that in some cultures men are actually expected to memorize this chapter – not because they should form an unreasonable goal in finding a good wife, but to make sure they keep in mind what's truly important. Verse 30 says, "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." (NIV)

These verses are actually a poem written in celebration of the wisdom of a woman of noble character. I think of it as showing us a picture of what wisdom in action looks like. Verse 31 says to "give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises!" (MSG)

This really has changed my perception of that chapter. It lines up much more with what I feel from Father. He's not raising an eyebrow and putting checkmarks beside the verses of Proverbs 31 that I still need to work on. Instead, he's urging me to draw closer to Him and hear what he has to say about me –  his creation, his friend, his daughter. He wants me to be the woman he created me to be, not the woman others expect me to be.

So yes, there are still chores that need to be done. There is life to live. There is an office to work in. There are meals to cook. But, that's not who I am. That is just one part of what wisdom in action looks like in my life. I am determined to hear from God who I am. I am a woman of valor. I am His creation. I am learning more and more about who He is and becoming a woman who reflects Him more clearly.

That takes away some of the pressure I’ve been putting on myself. I can dust off the cinders and raise my head high. I can say of God, "Your workmanship is marvelous – how well I know it." (Psalms 139:14)

Why? Because I am a Proverbs 31 woman.

And It's A Big But!

I am a learner. Plain and simple. As a lifetime student, I study all kinds of history, both biblical and otherwise. With all of that exposure to our world's history, I wish I could point back to a time when men had “done it right.” Yes, folks. There is a way to do it right. Don't get caught up in our world's lies that try to tell us that everyone has their own right and wrong. God has a right way for each of us to live and affect generations!

Some historical figures have come closer to doing it right than others. But, since Jesus came to live among us as a man full of grace and truth, no one has lived life in a way that changed a thousand generations. We do have that promise, you know! We have the power to change not only our own lives, but the lives of generations!

I think Father knew it would be this way. He staged the most massive intervention in the history of the world when he sent his Son to earth. He sent him knowing it would be a long journey. After all, it had taken years and years for men and women to become as lost as they were when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Humanity had to get to a place where they would accept a Savior. It did not need to be all of mankind who was ready for Him at that moment, but there did need to be a group of people who were aware of their need, a group whom Almighty God had called his own, to accept that The Answer dwelt among them.

Observing our world today and considering the past history of this planet, I cannot find a time when God’s people have been as aware of their need for a Savior as they are right now! That fills me with excitement! Yes, it means we are at a crisis point, but that's when people realize their need. People with any spiritual perception at all know that we need another intervention if we intend to fulfill the plan of Father on this earth. This creates great opportunity for men to be men and women to be women! No wonder the powers of darkness are raging as the psalmist declared in the first psalm. Those who do not know Father are in an uproar trying to have their way.

But. BUT…

…to quote one of my friends, "…and, it's a big but!”, He who sits in the heavens is laughing at their effort. The powers of darkness and those who do not know Father cannot – ever – stop the work of God from going forward! Our Father still has a group people on this earth. It's true that these people might be just barely touching grace and truth, but they are moving into the fullness of it. God has determined that His King will rule and that is the final word.

Now, we must stand! Who and what are we created to be? Forget about the accusations of hate speech when we say that God created us as he wants us. We all know that alone is not hate. Even the accusers know that!

When we exercise our will to be men and women according to Father’s plan, we are showing love in its purest form. We're doing it right.

What it means to live in that plan is being identified more and more fully all the time. What a purifying force we can become if we will hear His voice and respond according to His Word. There is no shame in that! It is not intolerance! It is tolerance at its best! This is why the apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy, “I want men to lift up their hands and pray!” and, “Do that without wrath and doubting.”

Men, just pray and follow God. Allow Him to lead you in ways that are right and good – AND powerful! Don’t doubt your manhood and don’t get angry with those who do. Just search His Word, respond to His voice, and watch your world begin to change as you touch grace and truth. Yes, I'm going to say it. Be the big but!