Just Keep Swimming

Just-Keep-Swimming
You know those weird people that laugh at funerals? Yeah- that’s me. I have inappropriate reactions to stress. It gets worse than laughing at a funerals though. For example, several years ago, I was selected to serve as a juror in a murder trial. After two days of testimony, arguments, and deliberation, we, the jurors, entered the courtroom to deliver a verdict. As I walked towards my seat in the jury box, I could feel the stares from the friends and families of both the victim and the accused on both sides of the aisle. The tension was palpable. Suddenly, my eyes locked with those of the lead defense attorney. I could tell he was trying to “feel” me out- trying to gauge what decision the jury had reached based on my observable body language. Quickly I turned my gaze away and bit the inside of my cheeks to quell the nervous laughter trying to bubble out. I could actually hear Perry Mason music inside my head, and the whole thing seemed too utterly ridiculous to be real. But it was real.

Although my thoughts were jumbled that day, if I could have verbalized them, they would have gone something like this: “How can this be real? I live in world where lovers actually kill each other?! Someone wake me up from this nightmare, please!”

Often I’ve wondered why I am like this- why I laugh when I should be somber. I guess it’s easier to smile than it is to cry.

When I was four and living in a foster home, I used to stand at the top of the stairs each morning shivering in fear at the prospect of facing another day. Some days my teeth would chatter in terror as I gazed down at the stairway. I used to stand at the top of the stairs for many minutes most days silently willing my right foot to take the first step down. I don’t know how this happened in my four-year-old creative mind, but somehow the stairs became representative of the real enemy that was my loveless, hopeless life. I knew that if I descended the stairs to join the world below, I had to face another day. Thus, going down the stairs became a battle- a daily valley to be traversed. Sometimes, I would take two or three steps downward toward the reality awaiting me, but then I would chicken out and run back to my bunk bed to hide away under the covers for a few more minutes. One time I hid so long upstairs that it was after lunch before I was finally brave enough to come down. Nobody checked on me to see if I was okay in all that time. Such was the nature of my life.

To cope, I built invisible walls inside. Mostly, I detached entirely.

Later on after I was adopted, most who observed me would have called me a happy child. They would have been mostly right. I smiled easily and did well in school. However, the hurts inside were always there lying dormant, just waiting for the right set circumstances to make their appearance.

And appear they did. During my senior year in high school, I finally let someone in- a boy. I loved him so. He made me feel wild and beautiful. But also scared and vulnerable. I clung to him with all I had. When he suddenly moved mid-way through my senior year, my worst fears were realized. I lost him and then most of my mind for a few months. The pain and grief I experienced is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. I still carry the scars.

My mother took me to a therapist around this time. A middle aged professional doggedly asked me questions for an entire hour in a feeble attempt to get me to open up. I smiled mutely, brushed him off, or redirected the conversation throughout the appointment because I refused to let him see who I really was. I walked out of his office towards the elevators feeling smug. Julie 1, Counselor 0. Mom never took me back to that poor guy again.

Why am I writing all this depressed stuff? I hate doing it. I prefer the happy stuff, right? Walls are my MO.

Recently, I got an email from a friend. She is an extremely private person, so I’ll just call her Ann. Ann wrote to let me know that she has cancer and does not have long to live. When I read the news, every cell inside my body ceased moving. I stopped breathing. Then the walls that I work so hard to hold up crumbled. I laid down, hugged my pillow, and cried. Ann is one of the very few people I’ve managed to let in. She is a beautiful Christian lady, so I know I’ll see her in eternity. I also rejoice for her because she is going to meet our King Jesus soon. But… she’s my friend. She’s a guide and mentor. Ann is my lovely, beautiful, wise, quirky, insightful friend. Oh I’m going to miss her.

Grief. How could anyone put good in front of that word? It scrapes at your outsides. It rots your stomach. Brokenhearted isn’t the right word for grief, is it? How can the heart be broken when it is the organ that keeps you alive. Instead, acute grief feels like a vice grip around your heart. When grief is at its maximum intensity, a broken heart would be a mercy over the pain of a very real and pumping restricted heart. Grief is manic panic and sluggish sadness wrapped up into one ball of hell. I have worked my whole life to avoid it.

God won’t let me get away with that anymore. Grief is a part of the human experience. My Savior can attest to that.

I edit sermons for radio at home. Predictably, I began editing a sermon series in the book of Job after hearing Ann’s news. Job is not exactly joyous reading. Poor Job. When I read and heard the pastor describe just how much Job went through, I really had no idea how he was able to continue and remain faithful. He did though. I suppose that’s why we keep telling his story. 🙂

I am a good student of the Bible because of my memory. I can retain information fairly well. However, the Lord usually speaks directly to me with quick, simple bursts of truth. It only takes one or two sentences from an entire message to stick to my insides and change my life. I’ve been directed to travel great distances to hear one sentence in an entire message. One sentence is all it takes though. That is the power of the Word.

Do you what sentence changed me in this latest sermon series based in Job? (It is a little embarrassing because it is so cliche´.) It is this: Just keep going.

I’ve learned through Job’s story that grief is something that is universally experienced. Even when we feel alone in our pain, we are not. We live in a fallen world, and as such, we must grieve. We must cope.

What do we do when a wave of unrelenting grief comes crashing down on us? In those moments, we can only cry out to the Lord. This is a recent conversation I had with Jesus just two days ago when one such wave of grief threatened to drown me:

Me: “Lord, I just want to be where You are. I am tired of this pain. I want to be with You!”
Jesus: “I am with you.”
Me: “I know, but You are not right here WITH me. I miss You. How can I miss Someone I’ve never met in Person? But I do!”
Jesus: “I missed my Father too (when I was on earth).”
Me: Silent sobs.

Jesus was gently reminding me that there is no pain that I could ever experience that He has not already walked through. In fact, Christ willingly drank my grief just so He could hold my hand today.

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3)

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

“The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:8)

Jesus is with me.

What I haven’t told you about Ann that I want to tell you now is that God gave me a gentle heads up about her health last summer. One day as I was writing her, the Lord gently whispered that the time with my friend was coming to an end soon. Immediately understanding what the Spirit was saying, I swallowed past the lump in my throat and continued to write. I never mentioned a word of what I heard to anyone, but tucked it away.

When I got Ann’s news, I was immediately comforted. The Lord had told me this was coming. He was with me. He would walk me through it. And somehow, because God is God, I knew I would look more like His Son when I made it past the wave. That’s the only way grief can be good.

I have no choice but to keep going. To descend the stairs and join the real world. To silence the Perry Mason music and face harsh reality. If brother Job could do it, I can do it. I can do it because Christ is with me.

Just keep swimming. Seems like Dory was on to something.

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Love is a Battlefield

loved-graphic

On Black Friday, my children, husband and I sat underneath a string of colored lights in a Mexican restaurant enjoying an unhurried lunch. Happy conversation drifted effortlessly from one topic to another until it landed on family lineage. I remarked that our son, Noah, was the sole person to have any hope of carrying the Hamner name into the next generation.

At this point, my comprehending daughter piped up, “Noah, if your wife doesn’t give birth to a son, you should adopt a boy!”

My husband, Jason, responded, “Yes, but that’s not the same.”

My fork stopped midair, and I gaped at him in shock. Didn’t he remember that I was adopted? How could he be so uncomprehending? Trying to stop him from saying something even more hurtful, I asked, “Are you really saying these words?”

Ignoring the warning in my question and facial expression, Jason blazed onward with an explanation. “The child wouldn’t be a blood relative, so it’s not the same.”

Time slowed down. I turned my face away from the table and stopped breathing. So many ominous gray thoughts began to prickle and congeal, but before I could form a coherent word or react any further, I heard the Spirit whisper, “Adopted into the beloved…”

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:5-6).

Father God, using His Word as a sword, zoomed in to tear down the lie that threatened to take root in my heart right there in the restaurant. This lie was the same falsehood I had worked my whole life to fight. It was the lie that told me I was not accepted, that I was not loved, that I “was not the same” as other children. I thought that I had won this war when I had settled contentedly into the truth of God’s love for me years before. I was wrong.

That was because this time I was hearing the lie come out my husband’s mouth. I was stunned. Slowly panic began to hit, and then I could feel that panic try to give birth to something more crushing: shame. I recoiled.

NO. This was not happening. I could not let this happen!

Before saying another word, I got up from the table, walked to the bathroom, locked myself in a stall, and howled. All my shell-shocked spirit could do was pray for help. In complete desperation I pled, “Jesus!” over and over. I had faith that Father God would fight the fiery arrow trying to burrow its way into my mind just as He had always done.

In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:16)

He would keep his promise that nothing could separate me from His love. If He didn’t, I would be ruined.

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

After a few minutes of ugly tears, I found the strength to imagine grasping the fiery lie and the crippling shame with both hands, gathering it together to create a tight ball, and throwing the ugly mass to the eternal throne where my King continually sits interceding on my behalf.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Slowly…slowly with each breath I took, the hurt and panic ebbed away. Calm and peace took their place. God’s Word was stronger than the lie and my riotous reactions. Satan had no power over me.

Steeling myself with another silent heavenward plea, I exited the stall and washed my hands and face. Then I left the quietness of the bathroom for the hustle and bustle of the restaurant. The Mexican décor no longer had a joyous effect, but instead the colors and blaring foreign music left me dizzy and off balance. I wanted to escape- to take cleansing shower in a dark room without any other stimulus to push on my already overwhelmed body.

But I had to rejoin my family. They were probably worried about me, and I didn’t want to ruin their lunch entirely.

Jason held out his hand to take mine as I sat down at the table. As he stumbled through a sincere apology, I looked into Jason’s agonized blue eyes and realized I wasn’t even angry with him. There was nothing to forgive. By the grace of God, I understood that the whole experience was a spiritual attack to which Jason was only a bystander. God would not waste the opportunity to point me to higher understanding.

It is January now, a couple of months removed from the rawness of that day. I know without a shadow of a doubt that this little incident will serve as a marker in time. A war was waged, and I won. And you know what? It really wasn’t a fair contest.

I will win all battles, both big and small, when I apply the truth of God’s Word.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

Fire

My move towards Jesus didn’t happen over night. Surrender was a slow progression over many months. God called out to me through songs, His people, and in a quiet but ever present pull. Eventually, as I began to read His word at first sporadically and then night after night, the Truth became too bright to ignore. After a small uneventful confession of both my sins and Jesus’s Lordship one day (and to be truthful, I don’t even remember a specific day that I prayed that fateful prayer of faith), I really began to seek out God’s will for my life.

When I read Scripture in those early days around my twenty-third year, the pages seemed to be alive. I would weep with deep gratitude at God’s love. I would shout with happiness at His forgiveness. I imagined myself walking in sandals next to Jesus listening to the Master speak as I poured over the red words. One night after reading the book of James for the first time, I was so convicted that I wouldn’t touch those chapters again for months. Gratitude poured out of me like an overflowing cup. One summer evening in the back yard I danced for Christ in the darkness, and Jesus sent shooting stars to light up the sky to say, “I love you too, Julie”! Oh there was so much joy in the spring season of my walk.

I discovered that the #Bible was not a dusty old book. His Word was ALIVE! I also found that I had developed some false thinking and misconceptions in my many years going to Sunday school. The thing that stuck out the most was that the God described in Scripture was powerful and that the church I knew looked nothing like the early days in Acts. I was so in awe of God’s might that praying was difficult, not because I was fearful of sounding silly, but because I knew I was speaking to the awesome omnipotent Creator of everything. When I approached the throne, I knew I was speaking to Jesus: Victor, Champion, Healer, Restorer, Author of Life, The One True God! I trembled at His authority.

But even while I trembled, I ached to experience Jesus in all His fullness. So, although I was only a little child, I began to take tiny baby steps in faith. Many days movement forward looked like this: “Oh, Jesus, I love you. Show me how You love me today.” I quickly discovered that my prayers were answered. Often times the answers left my mouth on the floor.

One morning I began reading the Book of Acts and about the Upper Room:

Acts 2:2-4 “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”

As I read those words, I thought, “I need the Spirit too, and Jesus promised that He would send The Helper!” (John 14:16) Later that day, I was in the shower again thinking about these verses. As I lathered my hair with shampoo, I prayed (I pray a lot in the shower!), “Lord, please give me the gift of the Holy Spirit like You did for Your followers in the Upper Room.” I paused a beat as the water poured down, waiting for something mysterious or miraculous to happen. Nothing did. So, I just accepted that God had heard my simple prayer of faith and answered because my request was according to the promises in His Word.

Something miraculous would happen a couple weeks later.

I was dead asleep one night when suddenly my “spirit” became aware of a Presence in my bedroom. Although my physical body was unconscious, my inner man was awoken. I wish I could describe the experience better, but words fail. One moment I was lying on my tummy sleeping, and then suddenly I was awake. More awake than I had ever been in my life. I felt two hands rest softly on my back. When they did, I felt a surge of energy and heat burst out from my middle to my extremities. I tingled with electricity everywhere. I obviously wanted to see who was in the room, so I rolled over and looked up. What I saw was the single most amazing, indescribable, life changing sight I have ever seen. A Being hovered above me, near the ceiling. Again, there are no words. The Spirit looked like an Angel on FIRE. The eyes were absolutely holy, and absolutely terrifying. I knew I was in the presence of power. As soon as my spiritual eyes saw the Spirit, I instantly jerked to fully physically conscious. I was still lying on my stomach. However, the energy that had been imparted was still coursing through me. I lay panting, but very still. I was too scared to move a muscle for many minutes.

Finally I got enough courage to look over at my husband sleeping beside me. Had he noticed anything? Nope… he was still sleeping soundly. “How could he not have noticed!?” I thought. After a long time, I bravely turned over to my back to sheepishly gaze up at the ceiling where I had seen the fiery Being. Of course I could not see Him with my physical eyes. I knew He was there, though, living inside me. The Spirit had been given as a down payment on my soul. I would never be alone again (2 Corinthians 1:22).

I am retelling this event more than a decade later, but the image is still burned into my memory. I was a life forever changed. My walk with Jesus took on new power after that night. I was filled with faith. I also believe that God gave me spiritual gifts that day- one of which would be the gift of discernment (1 Corinthians 14:1). Occasionally the Lord has pulled back the curtain allowing me to see into the spirit realm in dreams as He did that first day.

Father God is so generous, holding nothing back from His children (Luke 11:11-13). He wants to hear from us! We should pray simply, with faith and always within His will (Matthew 7:7). We have not because we ask not (James 4:3).

I would challenge you, beloved, to approach the throne of Grace boldly, and to ask for His Spirit to fill and lead you this and every day (Hebrews 4:16). Amen.

The Beginning

I suppose the best way to start my blog about miracles is to begin with the the most impactful miracles I have witnessed: my adoptions!  Twice in my life I have been invited into another family and given a new name. I was spiritually adopted when Abba Father called me His daughter in my early twenties. I will write about that wonderful day in my next story. However, today I will expound upon my first earthly adoption and explain how it forshadowed the second.

I’m two years old.  It’s the middle of the night and I wake up cold and in need of another blanket.  I sit up in my crib and look around a big dark room.  Other cribs are situated around the perimeter of the room – each one containing another sleeping child.  I strain to see in the dark.  Where is my twin brother?  I cannot find him here.  I have no mom.  I have no dad.  It would be pointless to cry… no one would answer me.  After a few seconds, I lay back down, pull my knees to my chest, and fall back into a fitful sleep.

 This is a snapshot of my story.  But let me back up a few years to explain.  See, I was born into a tumultuous family.  My biological father met my biological mother in high school.  After many years of dating, affairs, and on again off again relationship, they finally got married.  After only a few months, the couple was pregnant with a baby girl named Candy Rose.  About a year or so later, the couple had twins- Scott and me.  One day at a family outing full of strollers and amusement park rides, it became obvious that Candy Rose was sick.  A trip to the doctor followed.  Then radiation.  Then chemotherapy.  After months of struggle, Candy died of leukemia at Riley Hospital For Children.  She was only three years old.  After the loss of her daughter, my biological mother went AWOL.  I don’t know if this is because of the immense grief she was experiencing.  I don’t know if she took off for another man- because I do know there were many men in her life.  Maybe it was both of these reasons.  But what I do know is that she abandoned her husband, my brother, and me.  My biological father, having lost his job after spending so much time at the hospital caring for my sister, was unable to cope.  He’d lost his daughter, his wife, and he did not have the financial or emotional reserves that were required to take care of toddler twins.  So, one sunny day that is permanently etched into my memory, Scott and I were dropped off at a children’s home for orphaned kids.  The children’s home was a lonely place, especially in the middle of the night when you are cold and in need of a mother.

 Fast forward a few months.  I’m out of the children’s home.  Things are a bit better.  Scott and I have been placed in our first foster home.  An elderly preacher and his wife take care of Scott and me.  I remember the sanctuary of their church.  I remember the Easter Bunny and ice cream.  I remember playing outside with Scott- and being terrified when Scott was stung by a bee.  But most of all, what I remember from this time is Jesus and His love.  It was during this time at this Godly home that I heard the Name of Jesus for the first time.  I was only three years old.  Sadly, things didn’t stay better for long.

 Another snapshot.  Scott and I are four.  You see, the state doesn’t like foster children to stay too long in one home because they don’t want the kids to become too attached to the foster parents.  So we move to another foster home.  It is a tiny house in a small town Indiana full of other orphaned children.  Sandy, my foster mother, is screaming at one of my foster brothers named Mikie.  Mikie is just six-years-old.  Sandy has a 2X4 in her hand and all of us kids are shaking with fear because of her unbridled anger. 

 Another snapshot.  Again I’m five.  I’m in a bedroom.  Lisa, my fourteen-year-old foster sister, clearly in pain herself, closes the bedroom door and locks it.  I beg her “not again”.  She makes me promise not to tell.  Once again, another piece of my innocence is robbed.

 A final picture.  A big white and red Chevy van picks my brother and me up.  God has granted us parents.  Not biological parents.  Parents born in love and grace.  We have been adopted.  We have a family.

 It’s hard to sum up the first five years of my life in a few minutes.  The experiences of that time permanently shaped my life.  For instance, one of my first requests in my new family was to attend church.  I wanted to know more about Jesus.  And I hadn’t heard His Name spoken in years- I had only been three years old when the good preacher and his wife taught me about Him.  There is something about that Name.     

 But of course- the residue from my early years wasn’t all good.  Having been robbed of my innocence and having fears of being alone, I spent my teen years chasing and clinging to boys.  I didn’t feel whole unless I was in a relationship.  I ran away from God and His goodness in exchange for things that can never truly satisfy.  Maybe you have done that too.  Maybe you’ve chased girls.  Drugs.  Material things.  Power or control.  These things will never truly satisfy, but instead they leave you searching for more or at worst leave you empty and completely out of control.

 I was a liar.  You could not believe a word out of my mouth.  During the years in foster care, lying became a habit.  I lied in my mind to escape the reality that I faced daily.  

I lied to get out of trouble.  I lied to get attention.  Stories I told had to leave the listener captivated… so I’d add a little “innocent” extra detail here and there to make my stories more interesting.  Maybe you have done that too.

 Some of my rebellion against God was purely my sinfulness.  I wanted to run this show.  I wanted to direct the course of my life.  I … I … I.  Whenever I made my own decisions regardless of the rules, wisdom, or sound advice, it usually didn’t work out so well for me in the end.  You see, sin has a season.  It’s fun, you feel in control, sometimes you get what you want.  But then… oh but then. The Bible says that “there is a way that seems right to man.  But in the end it leads to destruction.” 

 One day, September 11, 2001, I suddenly realized I was on this very road to destruction.  After living my life for myself for the majority of my twenty-one years, I had married a man that I didn’t really know (under two months of dating before the courthouse), I had dropped out of college, and I had alienated my brother and my parents because of hurtful choices I had made while directing my life.  

 As the terrible horrors of 911 flashed across the screen, words like terrorist and hijackers flooded the airwaves.  All day as I watched the events unfold, I looked down at my baby girl and then back up at the screen.  It suddenly dawned on me that my child’s destiny literally lay in my hands.  I thought, “How does one go from an innocent baby to a terrorist willing to kill thousands of people?”  I saw for the first time how powerful my position as a parent was!  My beautiful innocent six-week-old daughter needed a real mother- not someone who lived a life for herself.  Surely parents are a child’s first line of defense against evil.  On that day and over the next few months, it slowly began to dawn on me that I had a responsibility to my daughter’s soul- her eternity!  But how could I protect her and show her the good way if I continued living a life for myself?  I was humbled by this realization.  I had to fight for her!  For those of you who don’t have a mom or a dad fighting for you, I have good news.  There is a Father in Heaven who fought and continues to fight for you and your eternity.  He fought so hard that He was willing to send His only Son to die so that you would be able to be free from evil and free from a life lived on the path of destruction.

 Something else hit home on that day.  Almost every great story has a good guy v. a bad guy.  Superman v. Lex Luther.  Cinderella v. The Evil Step Mother.  William Wallace, or Braveheart v. a corrupt English empire.  This universal theme of good v. evil is so prevalent in our stories because I believe we are in a real battle between good v. evil!  On 911, I wondered how my story would go.  How would my daughter’s story end?  I had to pick a side!  I knew I wanted to be on the winning team- the good team.  And I also wanted to know the Captain of that team: His Name is Jesus Christ.  It was evil that caused me to be physically and emotionally abused as a child.  It was because of the selfish and sinful choices (evil choices) of my mother that my brother and I were abandoned.  Don’t worry, I have totally forgiven my biological mother.  But her sin, our own ability to make selfish evil choices, must be called what it is: sin.  911 showed us all just how low evil can stoop.  But, I also knew that September morning that good exists because just as I had seen and lived through the effects of evil, I too had tasted and seen the effects of the good in my life!  My brother and I were given a mom and a dad who were willing to take in and adopt two five-year-olds and love them as though they had come from their own bodies.  But I think this earthly adoption was just a foreshadowing, only a glimpse, into another adoption that I would experience in my life: when the Loving, All Knowing, All Powerful God of the Universe adopted me as His daughter.

And this good news of adoption continues now as I tell you something marvelous: you too can experience the loving embrace of a new family.  God wants to adopt you!  Once we are in God’s family, we are called God’s children- sons and daughters of the Most High.  Princes and Princesses in Christ the King’s Kingdom- no Evil Step Mothers allowed in Jesus’ house.  What does it mean to be God’s child?  It means that we are loved and embraced.  We are welcome to come into His kitchen, open the fridge, and get daily food to live on.  We are invited with open arms into a relationship with Our Abba Father, our Daddy!  WOW!  But guess what?  It gets even better. 

 Let’s look to an example on earth to fully understand what it means to be adopted by God the Father.   Most of us know that when a father dies on earth- all of his possessions are usually given to the father’s children.  The children are called “heirs” to the estate because they inherit everything that was the father’s.  Do you know that Bible says that we, God’s children, are heirs to the Father’s Eternal Kingdom- His “Estate”?  The Bible says that God’s children are co-heirs with Christ, the Son of God!  The moment we believe and trust in the Son Jesus, we partake in the divine nature of God because we are legally HEIRS to His Kingdom!  Look at the following astounding verse:

 Romans 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

 Isn’t that amazing?  CO-HEIRS with JESUS- God’s Son- because you see, we are also God’s sons and daughters!  That’s why Jesus says to us that whatever you ask for in my Name according to God’s will, it will be given. (John 15:16) WOW!  BEING ADOPTED IS GOOD!  Here’s another earthly example to illustrate the point even further: when I was living at home, if I went to my dad and asked him to get me McDonald’s French fries even as late as 10 o’clock at night, guess what?  He did it!  Why?  Because my dad loved me!  How much more will our Father in heaven give us good gifts when we ask!

 The last part of that verse in Romans 8:18: “if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” sounds a little scary.  But let me “unpack” that a little so that maybe you’ll understand what Paul is saying. 

 At the beginning of this story, I shared details about a time in my life when I was alone in the middle of the night in a children’s home.  That scene always haunted me until one day Jesus showed me this verse:
Jeremiah 18: 1-4 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD : “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

 You see, I am clay on the Potter’s wheel.  The Potter is God.  I was marred in the Potter’s hands.  Marred means to disfigure or spoil.  So going back to that lonely moment in the crib- do you see that God was there?  Shaping me.  Molding me.  Always ALWAYS in HIS hands.  It wasn’t God who caused the pain of my early childhood- that was because of the poor choices and sinfulness of others.  Of my biological mother.  Of Sandy.  Of Lisa.  But, the pain I experienced wasn’t wasted.  I was being marred in God’s hands.  What happens in this verse after the clay is marred?  It says that the Lord “formed [me] into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.”  God, my Daddy, is shaping me into a pot that He can use for His purposes, will, and glory.  Because of my experiences, I am more compassionate.  I know what it’s like to feel alone.  I know what it’s like to feel forgotten.  Because He is remaking me, I reach out to tell others about the Good News of Jesus.  I love to tell people that they too can be forgiven and loved and welcomed into the Father’s House.  God does not forget us.  His eyes miss nothing- He numbers the hairs on our heads- that’s paying very close attention!  He sees all of us.  He knows our hurts.  He understands our pain- because He suffered as you and I have suffered.  Let’s read that verse in Romans again:

 Romans 8:18 “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

 I suffered and was marred so I could be remade into another pot.  As this new pot, I share in His GLORY!  After the suffering, the pain, and the loneliness, God takes that pain and uses it to advance His kingdom.  That’s how we share in His glory!  We are adopted sons and daughters in His Kingdom.  There is NO better place to be than in the palm of His hand. 

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”