Thursday, May 31, 2012

Content ≠ Satisfied


There are twelve people to whom that word brings an instant feeling of peace, joy, and absolute contentment.  It's like when you take a deep breath and let it out with a sigh that says, "All is right with the world."  That's what that word sounds like to us.  And it looks like this:

You see, for the past four years, my family and some of our dearest, let's just call them an extension of our family...have spent every Memorial and Labor Day weekend camping in a paradise on my grandparents' land in the Ozarks.  You might say we live for camping.  We spend countless hours planning our camping trips.  We talk about how early we can get there, decide on our favorite camping meals, discuss which campsite we'd like to inhabit, check the weather to see if we'll freeze while swimming (for swim we will, regardless of temperature!), reminisce about past trips, and count down the days (sometimes from triple digits) until the next camping trip.  To give you an idea of the extremity of our love for camping, for most of us our favorite holiday is now a toss up between Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Christmas.

Camping.  According to one of our favorite camping quotes, it's "a bunch of bad ideas strung together over three or four days."  But really, it's three or four days of swimming, hiking, shooting, whittling, eating, four-wheeling, Coke drinking, footballing, whiffle-balling, story telling, laughing, picture taking, Jesus loving, campfireing, and best-friend-quality-time-ing.  It's almost perfect.

I don't know how many times we've thought or said something to the effect of, "I could live here forever!!!"  And sometimes, we mean it.  Even with the bugs and the sunburns and the cow patties and the sweat and the lousy sleep and the occasional squabbles of tired little girls and the allergies and the birds that wake you up at 4 a.m. and the tents that let the rain in and soak your stuff and the campfire smoke that always seems to blow directly toward your chair and the rocks that find their way to your feet no matter which shoes you wear in the creek...even with all the imperfections, we're content there.

But every time we go, my friend Mackie reminds me that being content is not the same as being satisfied.  No matter how much fun we're having, Mackie keeps her perspective.  Heaven is always in her conversation.  It's always in her line of sight.  Every single camping trip, she reminds me in some way or another that, "Camping is great, but heaven is better."  She doesn't forget that this isn't all there is.  She's like Abraham in Hebrews 11:10, "For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God."  Mackie loves now, but she never stops looking forward.

Mackie is ten years younger than I am.  I think that's why she gets it.  See, I think the longer you're around in this sin-infested world, the less perfection is required to attract and satisfy you.  The more heartbreak and heartache and imperfection you experience, the lower your standards become for something you consider perfect.

I mean, really?  Who in their right mind would consider sleeping on the ground with ticks in a field that smells like cow patties to be eternally attractive??  Sure, it's great for a weekend.  And sure, maybe we'd even enjoy living out the remainder of our earthly life right there ('cause yeah, we're weird).  But we have to keep our perspective.

We have to keep the perspective of the children.  Mark 10:15, "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."  If we want to get in, we have to see it like they see it.  We have to see it as the only thing that satisfies.  They know it's silly to be satisfied by tick-infested, cow-pattie ground.

Paul, the same Paul who says he learned how to be content in all circumstances, was not satisfied with this earth.  He says in 2 Corinthians 5:1-2, "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling."  We long for heaven, for eternity in perfect communion with God, because nothing here can truly satisfy.


Camping doesn't satisfy.  A beach vacation doesn't satisfy.  A mountain ski resort doesn't satisfy.  The ideal career doesn't satisfy.  Achieving your goals and dreams doesn't satisfy.  Finding your God-chosen spouse and having a loving, happy family doesn't satisfy.  And, listen, not even serving God to your fullest potential will satisfy.  That is evident in Paul's longing.  We know of few who served the Lord with as much fervor and faithfulness and reckless abandon as Paul did, but he wasn't satisfied.  He was longing for his heavenly dwelling.

So we find ourselves walking a very thin tightrope.  We must be content.  But we must not be satisfied.  Because camping is great, but heaven is better.

"I know there'll be a moment
I know there'll be a place
Where we will see our Savior
And fall in His embrace
So let us not grow weary
Or too content to stay
'Cause we are not home yet
Keep on lookin' ahead
Let your heart not forget
We are not home yet!"

                                ~Steven Curtis Chapman                  

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Psalm 46 - FCV (Foster Care Version)

I was reading this Psalm in the NIV the other day while listening to our six-year-old throw a tantrum in the background.  As I read, the Lord transformed the words in my mind and made them very real for that moment.  I chuckled to myself as His word again became living and active, but in a way I'd never experienced before.  If you're a foster parent (or any other parent, for that matter!), I hope this gives you a laugh and speaks to you the way it did to me!

"God is our refuge and strength,
     an ever-present help in the insanity.
Therefore we will not fear, though our
           patience give way
  and we want to toss everyone into the heart
          of the sea,
though children roar and foam
   and the mountains quake with their

There is a river whose streams make glad
          the home surrendered to God,
     making it a holy place where the Most High
God is within it, it will not fall;
    God will help it in the crazy mornings.
Children are in an uproar, plans fall;
    He lifts His voice, the insanity calms.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
     God draws us into His fortress,
   and reminds us that we're all on the same side.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the humility He has brought to the
He makes arguing cease
    at the end of the hallway.
He breaks the defiance and shatters the disobedience;
    He burns the pride with fire.
He says, "Be still, and know that I am
     I will be exalted among the children,
     I will be exalted in this home."

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    God draws us into His fortress,
   and reminds us that we're all on the same side."

Sunday, May 13, 2012


On Thursday, I unpacked a navy blue duffle bag.  It didn't have much in it.  They seldom do.  It's not the first one I've unpacked.  In fact, I've helped unpack more than two dozen of them.  You see, navy blue duffle bags are what the children's shelter packs all the kids' stuff in to send them to their foster families.

This one belonged to a seven-year-old boy, the precious newest member of our family.  I helped him unload his meager belongings, a small pile of clothes and a few McDonald's toys, and took his duffle bag downstairs.  As I tossed it to the back of the closet onto the pile of navy blue duffle bags that has accumulated there, this thought flashed through my mind:

"These kids come with so much baggage."

It wasn't figurative at the beginning of the thought, but it was by the end.  Because it's true.  They all come with baggage.  Some come with more than others, but if they're coming to our home from the shelter, they all have at least a little.

Buried inside that baggage is all the good stuff they bring.  Physically, their baggage is wrapped around their clothes and toys and sometimes one small thing from home.  Figuratively, their baggage is wrapped around sweet smiles, big hearts, intelligent minds, bright personalities, and passion for the Lord.

As a foster family, we have a job.  And it's not to get rid of the baggage.  You see, you can't get rid of their baggage.  You can't erase their memories.  You can't undo their experiences.  Our job isn't to get rid of the baggage.

Our job is to dig into the baggage and unpack all the good.  Unpack all the good, and add to it.

Physically, we add to their sparse wardrobe and provide for their needs.  We get them favorite new toys, the likes of which they've probably never had. 

Figuratively, we return their smiles, pour love into their hearts, feed their minds, appreciate their personalities, and teach them about the Lord.

But what do we do with their baggage?  Honestly, sometimes we don't know.  And neither do they.  So we toss it to the back of the closet.

Sometimes it looms and it seems to fill the whole closet and spill out into the hallway to be tripped over by everyone who passes.

Sometimes it shrinks to the back and is almost forgotten.  Almost.

Sometimes it comes back out in a very matter-of-fact way.  Like the other day when I rearranged the closet and pulled out the stack of duffle bags.  Our six-year-old remembered what they were, and we had a good talk about where they came from and reminisced about the day she came to live with us.

They all come with baggage.  When they arrive, their whole life fits inside it, is swallowed up by it.  Our job is to make sure that when they leave, their life is so overflowing that you can't even see the navy blue duffle bag underneath.


This post was originally going to be about foster kids and end with the sentence above.  But then I put it off until today, and today is Mother's Day.  Not only does my mom have foster kids with baggage, she also has biological kids...with baggage.

Because let's face it--we all come into this world with baggage, don't we?

"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me."  (Psalm 51:5)  Baggage from the very beginning.

Before we're even born, we come with the baggage of morning sickness and weird cravings.

As infants, we come with the baggage of sleepless nights and dirty diapers.

As toddlers, we come with the baggage of messes and tantrums.

As kids, we come with the baggage of fights with siblings and an innate drive to test boundaries.

As teenagers, we come with defiance and stupid choices and know-it-all attitudes.

As adults, we come with bigger baggage, which is now compounded by our own kids' baggage.

...and that's the short list, isn't it?  Yes, whether we come from the shelter or the womb, we come with baggage.

But He knew we would.  So He created a wonderful group of people and taught them how to deal with it.  He taught them how to dig into our baggage, unpack the good, and add to it.  He taught them how to make our lives overflow with Him and His blessings so that our navy blue duffle bags are but a distant memory, buried beneath an abundance of grace.  He made them, He gave them to us, and we call them Mommy.

Here's to the best Mommy in the world!  Thank you for constantly burying our baggage in blessings.  I love you!

"Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 'Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.'" (Proverbs 31:28-29)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

What is it worth?

I cleaned off my desk this weekend.

If you know me, you know just how remarkable that statement is.  I don't clean off my desk.  Ever.  So much so that it's been close to a year since the last time I did it.  Needless to say, there was a lot of junk piled up and it took get it all stacked away/put away/thrown away where it belongs.

In that pile of things, I found a folder.  In that folder, I found a high school diploma, a high school transcript covered in 4.0s, an ACT score that's nothing to sneeze at, three semesters' worth of honor roll certificates, even a driver's ed certificate.  You might could have written "Achievements" across the front of that folder, if it hadn't been covered with Disney Pixar characters.

And as I looked at that folder, I started thinking about heaven.  I thought about getting to heaven and looking back on that folder.  As I thought, one question plastered itself on the walls of my mind:

What is it worth?

When it's all been said and done, when I'm in heaven living out my eternal happily-ever-after with the Prince of Peace, when I'm living in the mansion prepared for me, when I'm spending every moment doing nothing but worshiping the Almighty God...what is it worth?


Honestly.  If I'm thinking eternally, it doesn't matter if my transcript says 4.0.  It doesn't matter into what percentile my ACT score fell.  It doesn't matter how many semesters I made the honor roll.  It doesn't matter.  At all.  Eternally speaking, it's worth nothing.

And how else should we speak, other than with eternity in mind?  After all, our eternal life has already begun.  John 17:3, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent."  If we know Him, we're already living eternity.  We should be like Abraham, "looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:10) 

So if we're already living eternally and thinking in terms of eternity, shouldn't our energy be directed toward things that will be worth something then? 

As I continued clearing my desk, I found something else.  Pictures.  Pictures of children who needed a home and found one here.  As I looked at those pictures, the same question echoed through my mind: 

What is it worth?

I thought about getting to heaven and looking back at those kids and asking myself that question.  And when I do, I'm going to look down the street of gold at those mansions lined up side by side by side with mine, I'm going to look at those smiling faces that are spending every moment doing nothing but worshiping the Almighty God with me, and I'm going to say,

"It's priceless."

Because it is.  Whether they came into our lives for a moment, for a year, or forever, God placed them here for a reason.  Whether He had us plant the seeds, water the seeds, or prune the plants, He made them grow while they were here.  And because of Him, we'll see them there.

That's valuable.  That's something to invest in now, because it's going to be worth something then.

Lord, teach us to invest in eternity.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Run Into It

When I was little, we used to sing this song at church.  It comes from Proverbs 18:10:

"The name of the Lord is...
  a strong tower...
  the righteous run into it...
  and they are saved"

When I sing a song, I tend to create mental images of the words I'm singing to help me process through the meaning.  Well, when I sang this song, I didn't picture a righteous person running through a gate and into the safety of a strong tower.  No.  I couldn't be that profound.  When I sang this song, I always pictured a righteous person running into a tower.  Not running INto it.  Running INTO it.  Picture a stick figure running...running...running...aaaaannnddd....SMACK!!  The righteous stick figure runs into the wall of the strong tower and falls flat on his back.  That is the image of this song in my mind.

As I got older, I decided I should probably adjust that mental projection so I didn't have to repress laughter every time I sang it.  After all, God couldn't possibly have meant that the righteous literally run into the strong tower of His name, could He?

...or could He?

Psalm 1:6 says, "The Lord watches over the way of the righteous."

The Hebrew word for "way" in that verse can also be translated to mean "direction".  So the Lord knows the direction of the righteous.  He knows which way they're headed.  They're headed His way.  (Hosea 14:9, "The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them.")

Now, if you're running, it's probably for one of three reasons:
  1. You're running to something.
  2. You're running from something.
  3. You're one of those crazy, disciplined people who runs just for the sake of running.
Take that in the context of Proverbs 18:10.  Why are the righteous in this verse running?  Obviously, not #3.  At first glance, it seems like #1.  The righteous are running to the strong tower, right?  Maybe.  But why would you need a strong tower to keep you safe?  Because something is attacking you.  You're being pursued.  I think in Proverbs 18:10, the righteous are running from something.

I don't know if you've ever literally run for your life.  Like, something is pursuing you with intent to kill and you're fleeing.  I haven't.  But I imagine if I was in that situation, my brain would be so consumed with my flight that I wouldn't be thinking about where I was running.  My only thought would be to run away as hard and fast as I could.

What if the righteous are under attack in spirit?  What if we (those who have been made righteous through faith in Christ, Romans 3:22) are being relentlessly pursued and are fleeing for our lives?  What if we're so disoriented by pain or disaster or torment that we can't even think about what we're running to, because all we can think about is what we're trying to get away from?

We're back to Psalm 1:6.  "The Lord watches over the way of the righteous."  When we're running in blind terror, He's watching over us.  He knows which direction we're going.

And I think He drops the strong tower right in the middle of our path.

See, in Proverbs 18:10 when it says, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower," the translation of "Lord" is "Jehovah", which means "the existing One".  I think the Lord looks down, sees His righteous ones pursued, knows the direction they're running, and chooses to exist right in front of them.  So unexpected is His sudden appearance in the midst of their panic-stricken flight that they literally run into Him.  And when they do, they're safe.

So my friend, if you're running blindly, pursued by a pain or a fear or a struggle that is bigger and stronger and faster than you are...heads up.  You're about to run into Something.