Archive | February 2016

Is There a Leader in the House?

I watch too much Fox News. It is non-stop political chatter day in and day out—but I am Fox Newshooked.  The pundits and talking heads have been deliberating this coming election since the last election—and before.  The discussion has been hot and heavy for months, and will only become much more intense as the weeks count down until the big day in November.  Every once and a while I get fed up with it all and swear off watching so much news—for a day or two—but then I am right back at it.   I know I am much too emotionally invested.  Most of what I hear is downright depressing.  If I didn’t know that God is ultimately in control and working it all out, I would be in a sad, sad state.

And it’s not just Fox News, either.   I’ve been watching the Presidential Debates—all the leader5debates, and all the commentary and interviews afterwards ad nauseam.   This election year is so very important to the future of our nation, but sadly the process that is unfolding seems to resemble a three ring circus more than a serious, crucial decision that will affect us all.    I get it that people are angry, actually furious, and frustrated with Washington—all three branches of government and both parties—and with good reason.  But whatever happened to plain old civility?   Three ring circus?  More like a slug fest that would put the WWE to shame.

These are men and women who are vying to be President of the United States of America—the most powerful position in not only our nation, but in the world.   When they act like children, when they lie, when they put self before anything else, when they stray from the foundational truths and values that have made this country the greatest on earth and the greatest in history, it makes one question where are the leadership qualities we expect in a leader?  Where is the maturity, the honesty, the selflessness, the moral character?

My grandson Joshua called me yesterday. He was writing a paper about his dad and wanted to “interview” me for my opinions about his father’s leadership qualities.  I was honored that Joshua would come to me—after all, I am his dad’s mother-in-law, and you know what they say about mothers-in-law!  God has blessed me with two wonderful sons-in-law, though, and Joshua knows how much I love, admire and respect his dad.  As I pondered his questions I began to think about the qualities that, in my opinion, make a good leader.  Better yet, what makes a godly leader?

Humility. A great leader does not seek the limelight for himself, but does not fail toleader step forward when action is needed. He recognizes that a true leader must also be a servant. The good of others, rather than self, comes first in the selfless leader. Jesus was the example for us. Philippians 2:5-8 says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Confidence. A true leader is not boastful or proud, but has confidence in God’s Word for guidance, and faith in God to help him through whatever it is that he has to do. A godly leader recognizes that he must have wisdom to lead and does not lean on his own understanding, but seeks that wisdom from God. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5)

Dependability. A good leader is disciplined and determined. He always does his very best and fulfills his commitments to the best of his ability no matter what. Luke 16:10 says, He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”

Strength. A godly leader remains true to his convictions no matter the opposition, and focused on the goal no matter the obstacles. His strength comes from God. Isaiah Isaiah 40.3140:28-31 says, Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Philippians 4:13 reminds us,  I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.”

Courage. A leader does not seek confrontation or create conflict, but when necessary he has the courage to say and do what is necessary. His courage and steadfastness inspires trust and courage in others. Joshua was a strong and courageous leader. The Lord told him, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Because of his courage and faith in God, Joshua was a strong leader for the Israelites and led them into the Promised Land.

A role model. A true leader leads by example. He does not ask of others that which he is unwilling to do himself. Jesus himself was our role model. He said in John 13:13-16, “You callJesus Washing Feet 14 Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right,  for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet, For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.” The character qualities of a godly leader—goodness, kindness, patience, generosity, selflessness, humility, faithfulness—earn him the respect and admiration of all who know him. Paul told the young pastor Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (I Timothy 4:12)

leader4I would love to believe our next President would be a born-again, Bible believing Christian. There are two or three in the race who profess to be that. Only God can judge their hearts. And whether or not a godly man will win the White House, only God knows. The Bible tells us it is He who raises up kings and brings them down again (Daniel 2:21) and if he chooses to allow an ungodly man to be our next leader, well, I can only think it has to be His judgment upon us and moving His plan forward for this world. Whether or not we get a Christian in the White hillarybernieHouse, is it too much to hope we will get at least a good leader of moral character? After all the name-calling, lying, mud-slinging and false promises that have been flying about thick and heavy, I am beginning to wonder. Comparing our list of character qualities to the candidates who are before us, does anyone measure up?

And as for us, how do we measure up? If God puts us in a leadership position, whether it be in the home, at a job, with children, or at church, what kind of leader are we? A godly leader is a follower first—a follower of God. Jesus called his disciples to ultimately be leaders, but first He said, “Follow me.” Character matters, wherever God places us in life. Let our character always be one that is an example to others and brings glory to God.

 

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Gotcha!

mandy3Tomorrow is February 22nd—a very nice day in our family.  Tomorrow will be our little Wild Child’s (my granddaughter Mandy) fifth birthday.  It is also my sister’s granddaughter, sweet Hannah’s, birthday, and our dear family friend Lee Roy will be celebrating his birthday in Heaven, as well.  I loved celebrating Mandy’s birthday with her when I was down there in Ecuador a couple weeks ago.  I’ve sent a gift for Hannah Grace and am hoping she’ll love it.  And I’ve been thinking of Lee’s wife and family and praying they will celebrate the beautiful memories they have of him and be happy for him enjoying the glories of Heaven.

Tomorrow will be a wonderful red-letter day in our family for another reason, however. Tomorrow morning Julie and David and their entire family will go before a judge in court for the finalization of Baby Josiah’sJosiah adoption!  At long last—Josiah’s Gotcha Day!  I am so thrilled!   Josiah will officially and forever be our own grandchild.  David and Julie can finally put the long, arduous adoption process behind them and move on with their lives.  I am so proud of them—and so thankful to God for this miracle baby who now has a chance at having a wonderful life and family and the opportunity to know Him someday as his personal Savior.

Just last Sunday we celebrated Robbie’s Gotcha Day—40 years ago, February 14, 1976, when the Lord brought our precious Robbie into our family through adoption. There have been other Gotcha’s, too.  Less than four years ago we welcomed Anastasia and James into our hearts and family when Julie and David brought them home from orphanages in the Ukraine.  And there are three young cousins in our extended family who have come to us through adoption, as well—all of them just as loved and accepted as any of the “blood” members of the family.

I get excited when I hear about someone who wants to adopt! I know from my own experience the true, wonderful blessing it can be.  I have thanked God every single day for giving us the beautiful gift of Robbie in our lives.  I know to some people it may appear that having a severely handicapped child would be more of a burden than a blessing, but I can say from the bottom of my heart that I have never, ever regretted for a single moment adopting Robbie.  He has enriched our lives every day with love, laughter, joy and fun! Having him has taught us things like patience, acceptance, faith and unconditional love.  The Lord used Robbie to mold us into servants for Him, and to help his sisters to grow into beautifully nurturing, compassionate and responsible women.  Of course there have been tears and frustrations, fears and emotional trauma as we faced almost losing him several times, but those have been growing times, as well, and precious times of drawing closer to the Lord.  From the moment Robbie became our child we loved and accepted him in exactly the same way we loved and accepted our daughters.  There has never been a difference in our minds or hearts in the way we felt about him.  The love we feel for him is as deep and real as if we had given birth to him ourselves.

adoption-gal44-blueDid you know that we are adopted by God as his children and joint heirs with Christ? Galatians 4:4-7 says, “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”  Not only has He loved us with an unconditional love, so deeply that He was willing to pay the ultimate price of His Son, but He has given us the standing with all the rights and privileges of Jesus Himself as a joint heir with Him!

In Bible times a child by birth did not have any more rights than one of his father’s servants. He became an heir of his father, however, when he became an adult and was legally “adopted” as his son. When the Lord adopts us as His children we are not just stepchildren, or foster kids or “second class” children, but we have the same full love, acceptance, position and inheritance as His beloved Son, Jesus Christ!  Amazing!

The Bible tells us, also, that when one lost soul turns to the Lord for salvation that there is rejoicing in Gotcha joyHeaven. “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth… Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (Luke 15:7a, 10)  Do you suppose the Father is saying joyfully, triumphantly, “Gotcha!” as He bestows the precious adoption and status of heir with Jesus Christ on each one of us when we come to Him?

It is not easy to adopt, these days, either domestically or internationally. It can take a long, long time and be horribly, unbelievably expensive. The cost of adoption is high in so many other ways, as well.  It takes a very strong desire, an extreme amount of commitment, hard work and perseverance, a willingness to endure the emotional roller coaster, courage, deep faith and most of all, unending love to adopt.  It certainly was a whole lot easier when we adopted Robbie forty years ago! The costs are worth it, though—a thousand times over.  That is why we get so excited when we finally reach that Gotcha Day and can put it all behind us!

Every child the Lord brings into our family—whether by birth or adoption—is a precious treasure, fully and equally loved and accepted. How precious it is to know, as well, that we are His children, fully equally loved and accepted as joint heirs with Christ!

adopt

Love, Love, Love

I returned from Ecuador last Sunday after a wonderful visit with my daughter Laurie, her husband Fernando, and my seven beautiful Naranjo Vanessa9grandchildren. How loved I felt!  Little Vanessa, just-turned-two and normally shy, climbed right up into my lap and snuggled in close with Grandma—even though she Katie2only remembered me as a voice on the phone or a face on a computer screen.  I could see she was thrilled to be with Grandma—and I was just as thrilled!  Twelve year old Katie stuck to my side like glue throughout the week, full of hugs and non-stop chatter!  Mandy who will celebrate her fifth birthday next mandy1week, was her usual “Wild Child” self—a perpetual twinkle in her eye (or is it a mischievous glint?), showing off and highly entertaining her grandma.  Eight year old Matthew matthewloved playing games—and the harmonica—with me.  And I loved the heart to heart talks the three older girls (Sara, twenty-one; Gabi, eighteen; and Melissa, fifteen) and I shared, talking fashion, make-up, boys—you know—girl stuff!  It amazes me that these young women would still want to spend time with me, chatting as if I were one of their girlfriends instead of their old grandma!

saragabimelissa

Then, of course, there was the time I got to spend with Laurie—sitting together over breakfast in the morning, our late night talks, helping her make decorating decisions for their new house, helping out a bit side by side with her in the kitchen… I had planned my trip to celebrate her birthday with her, and I am so glad I did!  I know it totally made this birthday memorable for her and I loved being with her again and seeing the beautiful-in-every-way woman and mother that she is!  She and Fernando made me feel very loved and welcome even though my trip had coincided with their big move and most likely added to the stress of those chaotic days.  Fernando graciously made the round trip to and from Guayaquil to pick me up and then take me back to the airport—nearly twelve hours altogether on mountain roads.

I certainly felt the love when I returned home, as well. Robbie’s face shone with joy and excitement to have Mommy back, and he couldn’t seem to hug and kiss me enough to let me know how much he’d missed me.  And my sweet husband took good care of me when I came home sick and feeling pretty miserable. I am a blessed and, I know, a well-loved woman.

love Valentines-day-valentines-day-22236757-2560-1600-1Today is Valentine’s Day and since I am thinking about love, love, love, I thought I would share part of something I wrote back in February 2010 called “Love Is…”

There are certain Valentine Days over the last [sixty-four] years that stick out in my mind—times when I thought, “This has got to be my best Valentine ever!”  I remember the first real Valentine I got from a boy.  I was in third grade, I think, and a nice boy named David gave me a little red heart-shaped box of chocolates.  I had no idea up to that point that he “liked” me, and as little girls do, I voiced my thoughts to my best friend.  “I don’t ‘like’ him, but I sure like the chocolates!”  And as little girls do, she went and told him what I had said.  It hurt his feelings, I am sure, and that was the end of that.  I felt really bad about it.  I learned a good lesson that day about what not to say to even your best friend, and he learned a lesson on the cruelty of young puppy love.  Ouch.

A couple years later I got my next “Best Valentine Ever.”   An evangelist and his wife came to our church for a week and during that time they had a little contest for the kids.  They displayed a table of prizes and said whoever learned the most Scripture verses could have first pick of any of the prizes; second place would have second choice and so on.  I had my eye on a red Bible.  So did David—the boy who had given me the box of chocolates.  It was a fierce competition but in the end I won, winning that red Bible by learning something like 105 verses.  Poor David.  It was February 14, 1962 and I wrote on the dedication page “My Best Valentine Ever!”

My next precious Valentine came a couple days early.  Laurie was born six or seven weeks early on February 1, 1971 but did not leave the hospital until the 12th.  I remember thinking at the time how blessed we were to have this tiny but healthy little baby home at last just in time for Valentine’s Day.  Robbie one-upped her, though, when he actually came to us right on February 14, 1976, eight days old and straight out of the hospital.  I thought “Now this is our best Valentine’s gift ever!”  We are celebrating his Gotcha Day, today, exactly 40 years later!

Those Valentine gifts were special and I will remember them always.  My memories of other Valentine gifts are not as strong, but long after the flowers have faded, the candy’s been eaten, and the cards stuffed away in a drawer, what lasts is the love behind the gifts.  Ah, love!  What confusion we have when it comes to love!

Someone has said, “Love is a wildly misunderstood although highly desirable malfunction of the heart which weakens the brain, causes eyes to sparkle, cheeks to glow, blood pressure to rise and the lips to pucker.”  That is humorous, but I’m not sure I would call it love, to tell you the truth.  Puppy love, maybe?  Love is portrayed everywhere today as a physical reaction, or at best an emotional one.  If I were to rely on feelings, I would say love is like a pair of your favorite old comfortable slippers—a soft, cozy, comfortable, safe place in which to rest at the end of the day, molded just right over the years to fit you perfectly.  You might have your own picture of what love is to you.  Fireworks, maybe?  A pot of homemade chicken soup and plate of chocolate chip cookies?  Moonlit walks on the beach?

What the Bible has to say about love is not based on either the physical manifestations or the emotional fluttering of the heartstrings.  God has given us a description of the nature of  love in I Corinthians and it is not “What do I get out of it?” but “What ought my conduct and communication be with others when I say I love them?”  The King James Version puts it like this:

Charity suffereth long, [and] is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether [there be] prophecies, they shall fail; whether [there be] tongues, they shall cease; whether [there be] knowledge, it shall vanish away.  (I Corinthians 13:4-8 KJV)

Now, I love the King James Version.  I don’t believe it is the only one we should use, but it is the one I prefer to read, study, and memorize.  In this particular passage, however, I think we lose the impact a bit of what the Lord is telling us when we try to read and understand the King’s Olde English.  This is such an important passage for our everyday lives, for our relationships and for our happiness that I think we need it spelled out in plain 21st century English so that we truly understand and soak into our very beings what it is saying.  Here it is again in more modern day language (New International Version):

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  (I Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV)

And again in the New Living Translation:                            love 1-corinthians-13-4-7

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! (I Corinthians 13:4-8 NLT)

When I read these verses the thought always goes through my mind, “Does the love I show my husband and others measure up to this?”  Am I patient?  Am I demanding or easily angered?  Do I bring up past grievances?  Am I respectful?  Am I kind?  Do I think the best of others and try to build them up?

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible sheds some light on these verses.  Charity (love), he says, is “slowness to anger or passion; longsuffering, patient endurance, forbearance. It is opposed to haste; to passionate expressions and thoughts, and to irritability. It denotes the state of mind which can bear long when oppressed, provoked, and when one seeks to injure us…”  The word kind, he goes on, denotes “to be good-natured, gentle, tender, affectionate, courteous…  It wishes well.  It is not harsh, sour, morose, ill-natured.  The idea is, that under all provocations and ill-usage it is gentle and mild. ‘Hatred’ prompts to harshness, severity, unkindness of expression, anger, and a desire of revenge.  But love is the reverse of all these.  A man who truly loves another will be kind to him, desirous of doing him good; will be ‘gentle,’ not severe and harsh; will be ‘courteous’ because he desires his happiness, and would not pain his feelings.”  Barnes continues, “Love does not envy others the happiness which they enjoy; it delights in their welfare; and as their happiness is increased by their endowments, their rank, their reputation, their wealth, their health, their domestic comforts, their learning etc., those who are influenced by love ‘rejoice’ in all this. They would not diminish it; they would not embarrass them in the possession; they would not detract from that happiness; they would not complain or repine that they themselves are not so highly favored.”

Why is it we are so often more polite, more patient with perfect strangers than we are with those we profess to love the most?  What a shame.  True love is an action.  It is not merely physical attraction or emotional feelings– what I am experiencing.  It is not concerned with me—it is concerned with the one I love. It is showing through my conduct and my communication honor and respect, patience and kindness, gentleness and selflessness.  It is working hard for the relationship and for the good of the other.  It is supporting, encouraging, standing behind, protecting, pressing on when the going gets tough.

I wish all these thoughts would pop into my mind every time I am tempted to retort in anger or put someone down or be impatient.  There is no neon sign that will flash STOP! in the heat of the moment; no menu of Love Is-isms to flutter down in front of my eyes to remind me.  The best thing to do is to memorize this passage in one of the modern translations and then to meditate, and meditate, and meditate and MEDITATE on it until it becomes so ingrained that it becomes natural to interact and respond with God’s love.

I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT) says, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.”  It’s not the gift that counts on Valentine’s Day, or even the thought behind it.  It is not flowery words or poetry or even a heartfelt love letter.  It is not a romantic dinner or date night or what comes after.  It is the everyday actions of godly, loving conduct and communication that truly say, “I love you!”

love HAPPY-VALENTINES-DAY-IMAGES-CARDS-FOR-WIFE-GF-1