Displaying items by tag: for the heart

Never Overlook the Obvious

Servants of ExcellenceLoveOneAnother

“By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

 

One of the easiest answers in the Bible is found when we pose the question, “How can I show others my faith?”

While there are a variety of characteristics a Christian might display—including the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control)—there is one salient attribute the outside world will never overlook: Love for one another.

Jesus’ words in John 13:35 often wind up on our refrigerators, in memes on the internet and on tee shirts. But here’s a question: Do we really get it?

I’ll be the first to admit, I enjoy digging around in scripture to find powerful truths and unique ways to highlight these thoughts. But in the middle of reading, studying and writing on these subjects, am I taking the time to love those who share this faith with me?

Am I making it the priority in my life to love my fellow believers so that others will know—without a doubt—we are all Christians, faithfully following Jesus Christ?

There are evangelism courses all over the place. There are writings on topics relating to defining our faith, sharing our faith and defending our faith. These are all good, and important. No question about it.

But I must ask the question of myself: Is living my faith by loving my fellow followers the key focus of my faith? Or is “the love thing” simply a sweet ditty of Jesus; a nice thing to hear, or a good subject for an occasional devotional?

Just before speaking the words above Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Do I take this command to heart so strongly that I truly believe our love for each other is all we need to identify ourselves to a hurting world?

Because if I believe “love for one another” will make everyone see the power and the impact of our faith, I also understand the first logical step in reaching more people with the message of Good News Jesus offered is . . . love.

“Love one another” is more than icing on the Christian cake. It is the nourishment which fuels a healthy body of Christ. When we love, we create a powerful, engaging incentive for those outside of the faith to say, “Can I join, too?”


by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist

Who does Jesus trust to reveal himself?

Servants of ExcellenceWomanattheWell

The woman said to him, “I know that messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when that one comes he will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
John 4:25-26

Before his interaction with the Samaritan woman in John 4, Jesus referred to himself as the “son of man” and as the son of God. While we understand the meaning and power of these terms today, if we read Jesus’ first references to himself, those listening might not have captured their importance.

For instance, God referred to the prophet Ezekiel as “son of man” on many occasions. And the Israelite people saw themselves as children of God, so “son of God” could have had multiple meanings without full context.

The point here is that early in his ministry, few if any fully realized who Jesus was. Except for a woman of Samaria; a woman with a checkered past, drawing water from a well outside of her city.

Remember, the Jewish people were eagerly awaiting their messiah, the Christ. In their minds, this messiah would usher in a new kingdom. They were right that the messiah will rule a coming kingdom; they didn’t understand this kingdom would not come immediately.

Who would Jesus tell first that he was the messiah for whom all of Israel was waiting? Would he tell a religious leader? One of his disciples? A power broker in the Roman Empire?

None of the above.

In a quiet, one-on-one conversation, Jesus chose a woman who was likely called many names for her improprieties with men. With her, he spoke directly, saying, “I who speak to you am he.”

This woman didn’t have to answer carefully-crafted questions, or work through parables. Instead, Jesus was direct and forthright. And her entire life changed. Suddenly she was telling those in her community about this man who she believed to be sent from God to save the people.

The result? “And from that city many of the Samaritans believed in him because of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all the things that I have done.’” (John 4:39)

Those entering the door to a pregnancy help ministry appear—at least to most—to be the most unlikely to spread the gospel message. Sure, many applaud us for reaching out to these with checkered stories. But they don’t think much change will take place. Perhaps we don’t, either.

Yet we must keep in mind, this is who Jesus chose first. Because he did, the good news of the kingdom of God took off in a Samaritan city.

Apparently, Jesus gave hope to a Samaritan woman. We can do the same. And when we do, we never know how far that hope might spread.

 

Turning the World Upside Down

by Jennifer Minor, Editor/Writer, Heartbeat International

“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also ... saying that there is another king, Jesus.”
Acts 17:6-7 (ESV)

WorldUpsideDown

One of my favorite books of the Bible is Acts of the Apostles. I love seeing the commitment of the early Christians, the conversion of Paul, the change in the Apostles after Pentecost, the community life of new churches, and of course, the way the entire world was shaken by the Gospel.

In Acts 17, we see an accusation of just that, when Paul and Silas come to Thessalonica, proclaiming Jesus as King. 

"These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also,"  the rabble yells, "... saying that there is another king, Jesus."

How? By proclaiming that Jesus is King.

Now this particular accusation was against Paul and Silas in Thessalonica, where Paul was speaking in the synagogue about Jesus Christ, but that’s not the only way to proclaim Christ’s kingship.

We proclaim that Jesus is King every time we show love for His sake. Every time we speak truth into someone’s life, offer material assistance to someone in need, invite supporters to participate in the lifesaving work in our organizations, begin to mentor a young woman or man, we proclaim that there is some authority higher than this world.

And every time we do it, we turn the world upside down – for the good.

This world that says women can’t have kids and an education or career, that encourages women to take an “easy way out” through abortion – that tries to convince us that freedom means no consequences – that shouts about claiming rights for women by taking away the rights of their children.

It's a world crying out for a Christ-centered upheaval and we're just the ones to do it. 

If you can’t see this world being turned upside down, there’s plenty of evidence. Life is winning. There are national political gains, visible drops in the number of abortions performed in the United States, and even public opinion turning more and more pro-life.

It’s not always easy to see how our daily work is making the difference on the world scale, but every woman, man and child who lands in our centers is going through a major world change. We are there to make sure it’s a positive one.

We turn a woman's world upside down when we show her the love and support she needs to be a mother. We turn a new father's world upside down when we challenge him to step up as a protector for his child. We turn a child's world upside down when we help ensure that he or she is born and loved and cherished.

And it’s our commitment to Jesus Christ, King of Kings, that continues to turn the world upside down today, just as Paul and Silas did in Acts.

Lord, Today I Ask for . . . Courage

Servants of Excellenceprayerhands

“And grant that your bond servants may speak your word with all confidence.” Acts 4:29B

At many of our ministries we start the day with prayer. We may do so individually, or in a group as the early church in Acts 4. Few of us face the situation they confronted, but even today we would be wise to pray as they did.

Setting the context, the religious leadership arrested Peter and John for the “sin” of healing a lame beggar and following up the miracle by preaching the good news message. After a quick convocation amongst themselves, they ordered the two apostles to stop preaching—immediately.

Peter and John’s answer? “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

Once released, the two reported to their friends that heavy persecution could be on the way.

The early church’s response was to pray.

Let’s note first what they did not pray for. They did not pray for the Lord to halt their enemies, nor did they pray for safety. Or even for positive responses to their message.

Are any of these reasons to pray somehow “wrong?” Not at all. There may be times to pray for each of these outcomes.

Yet in this situation the early church, knowing they would face beatings, imprisonment or death, asked of God, “Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that your bond-servants may speak your word with all confidence, while you will extend your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of your holy servant, Jesus.”

They did not ask for escape, but for boldness and confidence.

What a powerful example they set for us. When we pray before beginning our day, may the Lord give us the confidence to speak clearly, in love, to impart God’s truth to every situation. This is the boldness of the first followers, a boldness which literally changed the world.

When they finished praying together, “the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”

God answered their prayer. When we pray for confidence, we can expect God to answer us as well.


by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist 

A Mother's Legacy

Josh Boston, son of Heartbeat VP Cindi Boston writes about his compassionate and inspiring mother.10387696 10152847806316623 5441913189294826302 n

When I think about my mother, there are an endless amount of words, emotions and thoughts that come to mind.

I could easily talk about her courage or her kindness, how she has selflessly served our family throughout the years or sacrificially cared for her parents as they entered the realm of dementia and Alzheimer’s. I could recollect on how she graciously lead me through years of bad grades and adolescent rebellion or how she supported my brother in his soccer career - never missing a game despite being a CEO, caretaker and wife.

And whilst all of these things are accurate and worth the time it would take to reminisce them, nothing connects to the heart and ethos of my mom more than the picture that accompanies this tribute.

My mother has spent her entire life sacrificing for those less fortunate, those without a voice of their own - those incapable of fighting for their own rights.

She has given up dreams and accolades, a life of ease and one of plenty so that she could assuredly provide those in the target of humanity’s worst harm a chance of safety and a hope of life beyond the womb. She has spent countless days and long nights ministering to lonely, frightened teen mothers who have watched their worlds begin to crumble - seeking to provide each of them with hope, healing and arms to collapse within when all seemed lost.

And in the midst of this fight for the lives of those most vulnerable, she’s been placed on the front lines of a spiritual battle in which she’s incurred and faced insurmountable odds and a fierce opposition that would take the sanity of most, quite consistently.

Nevertheless, people most often describe my mother as having a glow about her, and a kindness within the depths of her. At times when circumstances have been most dark, I can recount walking into her bedroom seeing her on her mother’s couch reading her bible, listening to worship music and reminding me that no matter the circumstance, no matter the obstacle, we find all that we need at the feet of Jesus - her portion and supply, and her best friend.

No amount of words or writing will ever be able to fully explain or express her beauty, grace or kindness. No tribute will ever be able to fully contain the legacy she has left, and continues to leave. She is an enigma and a one-of-a-kind, a diamond among coal and a breath of fresh air, she is a best friend to many and a constant source of encouragement and love to all those with whom she comes in contact.

She is my mom, and I will never be able to fully express the love and admiration I have for her.

Love you mom,
Josh

 

Once a Mom, Always a Mom

by Kim Padan, Guest WriterEMPTY CRIB

In 1994, I celebrated Mother’s Day for the first time as a mom myself. I was just two months into my pregnancy, but already wearing maternity clothes even though I really didn’t need them yet. I was simply so excited about my new identity as a MOM, and could not help but tell everyone about little Baby Padan.

In 1995, I celebrated Mother’s Day for the first time as a grieving mom who lost her child.

What a difference a single year can make.

The full story of that single year is filled with some joy, but many tears. My husband and I wanted our baby; my pregnancy was intentional. We simply had no idea how many challenges we would face.

At the time Bruce and I found out we were pregnant, I was working full-time as a music therapist. At 14 weeks gestation, we went for a routine ultrasound, watching the monitor with great joy. The next day, I brought my glossy 5x7 photo to work, showing off my baby’s cute profile, with him sucking his thumb. The “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” were all that I had dreamed about.
But later that day, my dream began to change into a nightmare. Looking back, that term may be too harsh, but it’s how I felt at the time. On the very day I was showing off my first baby picture, I received a phone call from the nurse.

“Mrs. Padan, the doctor has found some anomalies on the ultrasound. He wants you to see a specialist.”

I’m Still a Mom of a Baby Who Lived

The following Monday, I had a more detailed, intensive ultrasound at Indiana University Medical Center. Because it was an emergency referral, I got the doctor on-call. After scanning me, he said I was experiencing “amniotic band syndrome.” It is rare, and there is no known cause, but because it happened during my first trimester, it was a very serious case. So much so that the doctor said, “You need to consider your options.”

I never thought I would ever hear those words. While I was not as steeped in religious practice as I would become later in life, I knew and agreed with the biblical and Church teaching on the sanctity of human life. In other words, there were no “options.”

The rest of the day is a blur to me now. I remember stopping in Rockville, Ind. before going home to see my mother-in-law and Bruce’s youngest brother, Chris. I remember crying a lot while Chris tried to console me. I remember calling my mom on the phone later that day, but I can’t remember how I broke the news to her. I simply remember being shocked, saddened, confused, and worried. From that day forward, everything changed.

But one thing did not change: I was still a MOM.

After many doctor visits, tests, and prayers, Gabriel James Padan was stillborn on Oct. 6, 1994. Born just after midnight, he weighed only 2 pounds, 3.8 ounces. His frail body was unable to survive the process of birth. Despite his tiny size, he made a big impact on our family. Along with his mommy and daddy, Gabriel was welcomed by two grandmas, two uncles, one aunt, and even church friends all at the hospital.

We arranged for a hospital chaplain to baptize him, since we know not when the soul leaves the body... and because I really needed the beauty of baptism to commend my little one to God. Two days later (the day before our first wedding anniversary,) St. Paul Church in Danville was packed for the funeral mass of a boy who never took a breath.

When people say to me “I’m sorry that your baby did not live,” I quickly correct them. Yes he did. My son was alive for 33 weeks in my womb.

Hope on a Mother’s Day of Grieving

There are many details of this journey I won’t share in this article. The reason I’m sharing this story is to say that I know many women in our churches and communities struggle with Mother’s Day. Some studies indicate that as many as 25 percent of pregnancies end naturally in miscarriage. Many women carry to term, but experience a stillbirth as I did. Still others suffer the anguish of losing a child to SIDS.

There are many women who have experienced pregnancy, but their children are not around to make breakfast in bed, or pick dandelions from the front yard. To these women I say, “I get it.” This holiday can be tough.

But you are still a MOM. Whether God has granted you the blessing of additional children or not, you are a MOM. Human life begins at conception, not at birth. Every child ever conceived matters in the eyes of God. Every child conceived is gifted with a soul... and these innocent ones are in union with God eternally.

As mothers, we miss our kids. But as women, we can find peace in knowing that they are being taken care of by our Lord and the great family of saints in heaven. What joy there is in knowing that!

Years before I was married, a friend said something that has deeply impacted me to this day. She said she had nine children. I was confused; I only knew about the three kids I saw with her at Mass each week. “Oh Kim, there are just three here now, but I had six miscarriages. Those kids are just waiting for us in heaven.”

How beautiful is that? In the years since, I have spoken to many women who have lost babies, and I encourage them in this way... Count your children. All of them. Born alive, miscarried... whatever the outcome, count your children. If we are to proclaim the Gospel of Life, let us boldly tell the world about every baby we’ve ever had.

Now, I also realize there are women reading this who lost their babies by the choice of abortion. You are also mothers. You and your children are also precious in the eyes of God. As bad as abortion is, please hear me when I say, Jesus loves you and wants to heal you with His Divine Mercy. You are made in God’s image and there is a place for you in God’s family, in the Body of Christ.

As a young woman, I always wanted to be a wife and mother. I am both. Bruce is the wonderful man who made me his wife. Gabriel is the little boy who made me a Mommy. That is worth celebrating every Mother’s Day.

 

Kim is a self-professed charismatic-pentecostal-evangelical Catholic who uses far too many exclamation points! She loves travel, stamping greeting cards, reading, and the Chicago Cubs! Her pro-life upbringing was put to the test when she was encouraged to abort her son Gabriel. Kim rejected the idea of abortion, and after losing her son at birth, she felt compelled to get involved in the movement. Kim served on the board of the local pregnancy help ministry for seven years, then as Executive Director for eleven years. Since stepping down, she has begun writing and speaking wherever God permits. She has a periodic column, “Called to Witness,” in the Peoria Diocesan paper, The Catholic Post. Kim has been married to Bruce, a St. Louis Cardinals fan, since 1993. Together they fostered 41 children, ages 4-18, over eight years. They now enjoy the blessings of non-traditional grand-parenthood! Kim blogs at http://gabrielsmom.com

Bearing Another's Burdens Without Being Crushed

by Jaimy Craemer-Adjei, LPN, Heartbeat Medical SpecialistBearBurdens

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

What does it mean to bear one another’s burdens?

In the Pregnancy Center it can be a daily unconscious ritual to bear another’s burden, and in the attitude of Christ, it is part of our calling. In that “routine” moment when a woman pours her heart out to you behind closed doors, you are bearing the burdens of Christ. You are following the commands of Christ as you offer a listening ear and kind words. You may be the only friendly face this woman sees in her life right now, even though you are a stranger.

But isn’t that part of who we are? Strangers in this world – with a higher calling?

And what exactly is the law of Christ that we are to fulfill? In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that the two greatest commandments are, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…”  and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). As we put Christ first in our lives and love Him with everything we have, we can then turn and love our neighbors – our clients – the women coming to us with one of the biggest burdens in their lives – an unexpected pregnancy. But here she is, in your consulting room, and you are the one taking on her burdens in that crucial moment of her life.

As nurses we take on so many things. Our families, our profession, our education, our church – and life can get overwhelming. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  The problems in not just our lives, but the problems in the life of the pregnant, devastated woman sitting across from us, can be overwhelming at times.

But it is not our responsibility to bear these burdens forever.

We are told to come to Jesus with our burdens, and He will give us rest. It’s that simple. Give it to Jesus. The devastated woman who feels she simply cannot handle one more crisis… the unborn baby whose life hangs in the balance… everything that weighs us down at the end of the day… give it to Jesus.

Jeremiah 31:25 says, “For I have given rest to the weary, and joy to the sorrowing.”  He has given us rest and joy. Thank you Jesus for rest and joy! As we turn over the heavy loads we carry day in and day out, we will be able to rest in Him and have joy in our lives. What a privilege our Father in Heaven has given us to allow us to turn our sorrows and burdens over to Him.

As we play this unique role in life, as we touch the lives of so many, we have to be reminded to give it all to Jesus – it's all in His hands anyway. As you see your clients in distressing situations, remember to pray, and turn her problems (on your shoulders) over to Christ, and He will give you the rest you so desperately need.

God bless each and every Nurse doing the work of Christ, bearing the burdens of others, and making a difference in the born and unborn souls of this world. Happy Nurse’s Week!!!

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

 

What does it mean to bear one another’s burdens?

 

In the Pregnancy Center it can be a daily unconscious ritual to bear another’s burden, and in the attitude of Christ, it is part of our calling. In that “routine” moment when a woman pours her heart out to you behind closed doors, you are bearing the burdens of Christ. You are following the commands of Christ as you offer a listening ear and kind words. You may be the only friendly face this woman sees in her life right now, even though you are a stranger.

 

But isn’t that part of who we are? Strangers in this world – with a higher calling?

 

And what exactly is the law of Christ that we are to fulfill? In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that the two greatest commandments are, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). As we put Christ first in our lives and love Him with everything we have, we can then turn and love our neighbors – our clients – the women coming to us with one of the biggest burdens in their lives – an unexpected pregnancy. But here she is, in your consulting room, and you are the one taking on her burdens in that crucial moment of her life.

 

As nurses we take on so many things. Our families, our profession, our education, our church – and life can get overwhelming. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” The problems in not just our lives, but the problems in the life of the pregnant, devastated woman sitting across from us, can be overwhelming at times.

 

But it is not our responsibility to bear these burdens forever.

 

We are told to come to Jesus with our burdens, and He will give us rest. It’s that simple. Give it to Jesus. The devastated woman who feels she simply cannot handle one more crisis… the unborn baby whose life hangs in the balance… everything that weighs us down at the end of the day… give it to Jesus.

 

Jeremiah 31:25 says, “For I have given rest to the weary, and joy to the sorrowing.” He has given us rest and joy. Thank you Jesus for rest and joy! As we turn over the heavy loads we carry day in and day out, we will be able to rest in Him and have joy in our lives. It is such a privilege that our Father in Heaven has given us to allow us to turn our sorrows and burdens over to Him.

 

As we play this unique role in life, as we touch the lives of so many, we have to be reminded to give it all to Jesus, for it is all in His hands anyway. As you see your clients in distressing situations, remember to pray, and turn her problems (on your shoulders) over to Christ, and He will give you the rest you so desperately need.

 

God bless each and every Nurse doing the work of Christ, bearing the burdens of others, and making a difference in the born and unborn souls of this world. Happy Nurse’s Week!!!

 

Jaimy Craemer-Adjei, LPN

Faith and Obedience in the Path to Effectiveness

by Peggy Benicke, Executive Director at Robbinsdale Women's Centerfaith and obedience

Have you ever thought, “Okay, Lord, here’s what I’m planning to do. Please bless and provide.”

Have you felt the Lord’s clear calling to do something that you were sure was impossible to achieve because you thought you didn’t have the money, staffing or resources? Maybe you were willing to step off the “cliff” of faith but were held back or discouraged by others with influence. I’ve encountered these circumstances many times in my 22 years of pro-life ministry and look forward to helping you not only navigate these challenges but also helping you to achieve miraculous, God-glorifying effectiveness and growth in your pregnancy help organization's future.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

I’m very excited about encouraging you at the upcoming Heartbeat International Annual Conference and look forward to sharing amazing testimonies of not only effective ministry but significant growth through faith and obedience during my workshop. Topics we will explore include:

  • Am I certain of my specific role in this ministry?
  • Discerning God’s next steps, (“Is that really your will Lord?”)
  • Being quiet and listening for God to reveal His plan
  • Surrendering to His will
  • Finding the courage to step off the “cliff” of faith when all the odds are stacked against us
  • Convincing those with influence who may discourage us of the importance of faith

Peggy Benicke joined Robbinsdale Women's Center in Minneapolis in 1995 and has served as Executive Director since 2000. Peggy's background in business and marketing and her personal experience with unexpected pregnancies have enhanced her leadership at RWC. She gives God all the glory for the many lives saved from abortion. Peggy and her husband Ralph have 2 daughters, and 3 grandchildren. In addition, Peggy was recently reunited with her daughter whom she placed for adoption at age 17 and now has an additional five grandchildren and six great grandchildren. Meet her at the 2017 Heartbeat International Annual Conference.

What’s in a Name?

by Ducia Hamm, Associate Director of Affiliate Servicesbaby name surprised

Names have always fascinated me, maybe because my first name is Ducia (pronounced Doos-ya). It was given to me by my dad who emigrated from the Ukraine. Now here in the good ‘ol USA, Ducia is considered an unusual name but go to the Ukraine and it’s a common girls name.

Names give us identity – Mom, Dad, Aunt, Uncle . . . you get the idea. Before I had children, hearing “MOM!” wouldn’t make my head turn. Now, when I hear “MOM!” – you bet my head turns – after all they’re calling my name.

Names have meaning. Parents often choose a name for their children based on what they mean. That’s what my friend Sue and her husband did. They waited over three weeks to name their oldest son because they wanted his name to fit his personality. Sue & Pat chose Isaac, which means “laughter” and it fit baby Isaac perfectly.

Ducia means “sweet soul." I’ll let those who know me best judge whether it fits me or not.

When we think of the story of Daniel and his friends’ captivity in Babylon – the fiery furnace or the lion’s den tend to be what we think of. But in reading the first chapter of Daniel, something interesting about the power of a name emerges.

Daniel 1:3-7
The king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his court officials, to bring some of the Israelites from the royal family and from the nobility - young men without any physical defect, good-looking, suitable for instruction in all wisdom, knowledgeable, perceptive, and capable of serving in the king’s palace - and to teach them the Chaldean language and literature. The king assigned them daily provisions from the royal food and from the wine that he drank. They were to be trained for three years, and at the end of that time they were to serve in the king’s court. Among them, from the descendants of Judah, were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The chief official gave them other names: he gave the name Belteshazzar to Daniel, Shadrach to Hananiah, Meshach to Mishael, and Abednego to Azariah.

Why the name changes? What made the boys’ Hebrew names unacceptable to the Babylonians? The meaning of their Hebrew names centered on the one true God: Daniel – God is my judge; Hananiah – Yah has been gracious; Mishael – who is what God is; Azariah – Yah has helped.

Contrast that to their “new” names whose meanings centered on several false Babylonian gods: Beltashazzar – Bel will protect; Shadrach – inspired of Aku; Meshach – belonging to Aku; Abednego – servant of Nego.

Assigning new names was a common court practice in the ancient world. Its blatant intention was to change the entire identity of the bearer until the life matched the title.

Actually, God is the one who originated the concept of a name change back in Genesis. God changed Abram's name to Abraham, meaning Father of many. Jesus followed in His Dad’s footsteps and gave the apostle Simon the name Peter which means Rock.

Matthew 16:18
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.

When we became believers – we either were given the name or took on the name "Christian" – one who follows Jesus Christ. The intent of the name changes for the Hebrew captives was to change their identity until their life matched their name.

It begs the question then: How intent are we as Christians to change our identities until our life matches the meaning of our name Christ follower?

Eph. 5:1-2
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

So . . . What’s in a name???

Acts 4:12
Jesus Christ . . . Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

The Christmas Gift

A short story by Kirk Waldenbabychristmas

Though the date was December 14, Rick Shannon was not in a Christmas mood. Carols were playing on his car radio, but as he sat in traffic watching snow shower his car, Rick could only think of the reasons why he could not sing along this particular Christmas.

For one, Rick’s five-year-old advertising business he launched out of his converted garage was skating on ice much thinner than that which was collecting on the roadside signs. Today he had hoped to turn things around. But a meeting with representatives from Home Again, a restaurant chain of more than 600 establishments, started fast and seemed to fizzle at the close.

“We like your work, Rick,” the vice president in charge of advertising told him. “You seem to understand our Christian values. Your ideas may fit now, or perhaps later on. We’ll let you know.”

“When do I need to get in touch?” Rick asked.

“Oh, we’ll get in touch with you. And don’t worry, we will contact you either way.”

Rick had heard the don’t call us, we’ll call you line many times. If things did not turn around soon, he might be looking for work early next year. But it wasn’t as though he had children to feed. He and Joanne had always desired children, since the day they were married nine years earlier. They prayed, they went to every doctor they could find, and still no children.

For the last three years they had worked with an adoption agency. The wait, they were told, would be at least five years, perhaps more. Maybe seven or eight. As Rick’s mood faltered further, he wondered if he would ever hold a child of his own. And here he sat, two hours from home, with traffic moving at a snail’s pace. The snow fell even harder now. Would they close the roads? Would he even see Joanne tonight? He picked up his cell phone to tell her the bad news.

A change in plans
Before he could dial the number however, Rick was startled by a banging on the passenger door. The boy couldn’t have been more than 17 or 18; his hair was black, wet and sprinkled by the snow.

“I’ve got to get to the hospital!” He yelled through the closed window.

Rick looked him over quickly. Was he sick? Wounded? Or was this kid a thief or a carjacker? Rick didn’t have time to pray over the situation. The banging on the door was that of desperation. Rick popped the locks and the kid hopped in.

“Thanks man. I’ve got to get to the hospital. Can you run me by?”

Rick mumbled in the affirmative, asking where he was to go.

“About two miles up ahead. Not far. It’s on the left. You’re not from here?”

“No, Barrier Cliff,” Rick responded, trying to focus on this new situation.

“You’re a ways from home, man. You gonna try to beat the storm?”

“I might try . . .” but Rick was cut off by the chatty young man.

“You’ll need this, that’s for sure,” The kid was tapping Rick’s Bible, which he had pulled off of the passenger’s seat when he jumped in.

Rick smiled at the attempt at humor. He decided he could be friendly, even with all that was on his mind. The kid was talkative, and seemed honest enough.

“Have you read it all the way through?” The kid was inquisitive, too.

Rick nodded. What was this kid’s story?

“I’ve read it through too,” the kid told him. “Just gave my life to the Lord three months ago. And I’ve read like the whole Bible already. Wild what happens when you really need the Lord, isn’t it?”

Rick nodded again, but found it hard to force a smile. Rick was wondering where God was at the moment. Did the Lord even care about his struggles with his business? And where was the child he and Joanne so desperately wanted?

The kid interrupted his thoughts. “Yeah, it’s been a tough time,” he said as if Rick had asked. “But God pulled me through.” He was oblivious to Rick’s lack of interest in a conversation.

“My girlfriend had a baby,” he continued. “That’s why I’ve got to hoof it to the hospital. Couldn’t catch a ride, so I started walking. To see my boy. He was just born an hour ago. He came so fast and my cell was off at work. He’s two weeks early.”

He kept talking; all Rick could do was listen. “I won’t see him long, though. We decided to place him in an adoptive home. She told me I can’t say like, ‘gave him up for adoption’ cause we’re placing him. Our choice. She’s doing the right thing though, I guess. We’re just in high school. I just can’t do much for a baby right now. You think it’s okay, don’t you?” He stopped abruptly, waiting for an answer.

“You two made a wise choice. You tell your girlfriend she’s a brave girl,” Rick offered.

The kid was ready to talk again. “She is,” he said quickly. “She picked the adoption agency, even made the phone call. She liked the people there. She even asked the adoption people to pick the family. Then when they came to—like—talk to us about all of it, they talked about the Lord and He just started changing my life.” The kid was quiet for a moment, then kept going. “Funny, huh? It’s like God reached down and snagged me when I wasn’t even expecting it.”

Finding an answer
The kid’s next question caught Rick off guard. “You got any kids?”

“Uhhhh. No.” This wasn’t a subject Rick wanted to touch.

“Why not?” To go with “talkative” as a character trait for the kid, Rick noted “nosy.”

“It’s not that we don’t want kids,” Rick said sullenly. “It’s just that . . .” Rick’s voice began to trail off. What could he say to a high school kid? “It’s just that it hasn’t worked out.” The kid was silent, for a change. For a few moments, nothing was said.

The kid broke the silence, starting with some small talk. He introduced himself as Mike, and after a while they were talking as traffic broke loose and began to move. They talked about sports, a shared love of baseball and even about their spiritual lives.

Though Mike was young, Rick marveled at his insights. A few minutes later, the hospital came into view. There, Mike directed Rick into the parking lot. “That’s where I can go in. Hey, will you come in with me and see my boy?”

Mike hesitated for a split second. “My parents,” he said slowly. “They uh, they didn’t want—they couldn’t, you know—make it.”

Rick understood. Even if the day wasn’t what he expected, maybe he could help the kid a little. The snow was still coming down; he would need to find a hotel for the night anyway. Rick would call Joanne and let her know he would be home as soon as the roads cleared in the morning.

“It would be an honor,” Rick replied. “Let me give my wife a call.” Rick dropped off Mike and checked the signs for Labor & Delivery. He would find his way there in a little while, he told Mike.

Rick punched the buttons on his cell phone. In a moment, Joanne answered and Rick shared his story of a strange finish to a frustrating day. Joanne listened closely, then had a question.

“Have they already picked an agency?” she asked.

Yes, Rick told her, everything was settled.

A thought
Joanne wasn’t finished.

“What if God wants us to . . . well, if they wanted to pick a couple . . .” Her voice sounded hopeful.

“They’ve already worked it out,” Rick told her softly. “I’d better not get into our situation with them. It just wouldn’t be right.”

“I know, I know,” Joanne said, her voice failing to mask her pain. “You’re right. We’ve just waited so long . . . .”

The conversation ended and Rick went inside. After a few wrong turns in the halls of the hospital, he finally caught up with Mike. Mike stood outside the newborn window, gazing quietly at a tiny bundle on the other side of the glass, wrapped in a blue blanket. Rick walked up beside him and admired the little boy.

Both men, caught up in private thoughts, watched silently for a moment. This time, it was Rick who spoke first. “He’s a beautiful baby.” And he was. Mike responded with a nod.

“And look at his hand. Isn’t it cool?” Mike pointed at the infant’s left hand. And there, between the thumb and the forefinger, Rick saw an unmistakable birthmark. Immediately, he understood what Mike was talking about.

“The nurse told me about it, and when I saw it, I knew she was right,” Mike said. “It looks just like . . .” he didn’t get a chance to finish before Rick jumped in.

“A baseball,” Rick said with a chuckle. “You can almost see the seams in that little hand. It’s amazing.”

“He’s going to be a ballplayer I guess,” Mike said quietly.

“That must be his pitching hand,” Rick said with a smile.

Mike grew silent again. A minute, maybe two, passed.

“I’ll be back in a little while,” Mike explained. “Will you stay?”

Rick said he would, and Mike was gone in a hurry.

A gift offered
Rick sat in the waiting area reading a sports magazine while he waited. He glanced at a clock on the wall. After a half hour passed, Mike was back, walking straight up to Rick and giving him a hopeful, yet piercing stare.

“You said you didn’t have any kids, right?”

Rick started to get an idea of where this was going.

“And since it hasn’t worked out for you, me and Sara—that’s my girlfriend—we want you to have this baby.”

Rick simply stared back, not knowing what to say.

“God does things for a reason doesn’t He? And He put me in your car. We think it’s what we’re supposed to do.”

Rick looked in Mike’s eyes and saw nothing but honesty and conviction. A surge of elation quickened his pulse. He thought of Joanne, and all of the years of waiting. He thought of calling his attorney and getting the process moving immediately, before any minds changed.

Rick could drive home through the snow, get Joanne and be back by mid-morning. As soon as the adrenaline began to flow however, Rick was struck with a sense that he needed to slow the pace.

“We can’t do that,” he said without conviction. “You two made your plans already. Someone is probably waiting by the phone to hear about your baby boy.”

“We can change it,” Mike said. “They said whoever got picked wouldn’t even know until we sign everything. And the adoption people said we could change our minds.
That’s what we’re gonna do. It’s okay.”

Rick thought about Joanne and the long wait they had endured together. And now, it could be over. “Give me a few minutes, okay?”

A gift given
The kid had no problem with that, and Rick called Joanne. Something kept gnawing at Rick as he went to the phone, but he dismissed any thoughts. God had worked the whole thing out, hadn’t He?

During the phone call with Joanne however, the uncomfortable feeling returned. Their miracle would be another’s loss. They both knew it. Tears flowed as they came to their decision. Rick had to tell Mike.

He found him still in the waiting room, with a smile on his face. It was difficult for Rick to look him in the eye, but finally, he did.

“We just can’t do it,” Rick said, dropping the truth like a hammer. “Believe me; we want to with all of our hearts. We really do. But if we say yes, another couple is going to be disappointed, even if they don’t realize it.”

Rick continued as the emotions began to well up in his voice. “Your offer . . .” Rick paused and tried to compose himself. “It was the greatest Christmas present we could hope for, and I’m not saying ‘no’ because of you.” Rick finished as a tear rolled down his cheek. The kid looked like he was about to cry as well.

“But you—or I guess the agency—has already chosen the couple they believed God has for your boy. We’d better not change things at this point. Our day will come.”

With that, Rick thanked the kid again and turned toward the elevator. He knew he had to move quickly. He wouldn’t hold up much longer. Rick shuffled out into the parking lot with his head down, got in his car and found a hotel a block away. He hardly slept.

The next morning the roads cleared and Rick headed home to Barrier Cliff. Though hardly jovial, Rick still felt a small sense of joy as he drove into his neighborhood. The day before, he had spent his time dwelling on the missing pieces of his life. Today, he was reminded that he had given the gift of a son to a couple he would likely never know. Though he and Joanne would continue to wait for a child, he would remember this Christmas for a long time. A reminder of what Christmas is all about, Rick thought.

A reminder of the gift given
The few remaining days before Christmas passed without Rick and Joanne talking much more about Mike or the baby. There were things to do, and they were heading to Joanne’s parents this year—tomorrow—on Christmas Eve.

Joanne was running down her list of things to do before leaving town. “Did you get the mail today, Rick?” On the list was the need to pay bills before the end of the year, hence the needed trip to the mailbox.

“Naw, but I’ll get it,” Rick said. Rick eased down the icy driveway, watching his step. A sigh of relief went through him when he pulled out a stack of letters and saw no bills. There was however, a letter from Home Again Restaurants.

The envelope was thin, which rarely meant good news. Rick opened it, expecting the standard two-paragraph rejection. Instead, he saw two pages of correspondence.

The first sentence was all he needed to see: “Congratulations, Mr. Shannon. We look forward to partnering with you as we roll out our new advertising campaign.” From there, Home Again’s vice president followed with an announcement that their advertising buy would be 45% higher than earlier estimates. Rick’s idea had carried the day.

“Yes!” Rick barked as he pumped his arm—trying to keep his balance as he raced up the driveway toward the front door.

“Christmas is here!” Rick yelled as he came in the door.

“Great!” Joanne said, not understanding Rick’s excitement. “Phone is for you, Santa Claus.”

Rick picked up the phone, handing Joanne the letter. He gave her a thumbs-up sign as he said a quick “hello” into the receiver.

“Mr. Shannon?”

“Yes,” Rick replied as he attempted to catch his breath.

“That must have been Joanne. I could have told her,” the voice at the other end explained. “This is Paul Jensen from the Hope Adoption Agency, and we have a small Christmas present for you.”

Rick’s heart skipped a beat, or maybe more as Mr. Jensen kept talking. “He’s eight pounds, four ounces. You can come and pick him up here tomorrow, just in time for Christmas.”

Rick was nearly speechless, trying valiantly to put words together. “Yes . . . Sure—We . . .”

“Well, the baby was born last week and we were able to move things more quickly than we thought,” Mr. Jensen said. “He’s a cute boy. And I remember from the biographical information you turned in that you said something about being a baseball fan. You won’t believe this baby’s birthmark . . . .”

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