by Ellen Foell, Heartbeat International Legal Counsel
For years, our children begged us to add a dog to the mix of our already busy family. Finally, when our twin sons were 11 years old, we relented and welcomed Gabby to our family.
When we picked her out at the animal shelter, Gabby was still a puppy—active, untrained, mischievous, and always hungry. It had only been about three weeks since we brought her home, when that puppy energy and our busy family life collided.
Before we left to spend the evening at the local zoo, I planned ahead and put a 12-quart pot of beef vegetable soup on the stove—out of harm’s reach, of course—on the back burner where Gabby couldn’t reach it. Everything was going according to plan, as we came home, ate dinner, and the boys headed upstairs to get ready for bed.
The situation went south, however, when I was interrupted from cleanup detail by two boys needing tucked into bed. Without thinking to put the soup back to its proper location on the back of the stove, I answered the summons. But no sooner had I entered their room, than the three of us heard a loud crash and an unmistakable yelp!
We arrived on the scene to see Gabby, standing in the middle of the kitchen floor, lapping up beef vegetable soup as quickly as she could. There was soup everywhere—on the cabinets, under the refrigerator—some had already spread to the living room carpet. It was a nightmare.
To make matters worse, I instinctively scolded the dog, which caused her to lie down—right into the soup. My follow-up rebuke led to the next mishap, as she stood back up and shook her entire body, flinging soup into every conceivable nook and cranny that hadn’t already been tainted by the initial spill.
Since the entire mess was really their fault (they had asked for the dog, right?), I yelled at my sons, “Go straight upstairs to bed!” Paul pitifully asked, “Mama, you aren’t going to send Gabby back, are you? I’ll help clean up the mess, Mama. Don’t send her back.” One withering look from his frustrated mother was all Paul needed to dutifully trot off to bed.
Instantly, I felt terrible.
And so, in the wake of this disaster, I found myself gingerly navigating my way through a soggy bog of soup and upstairs to my boys’ room to apologize to them, reassuring them of my love and care for them. At the same time, I had to ease their concerns about Gabby, who they now assumed was on her way back to the shelter.
I said, “Boys, you need to know that Gabby is part of our family now, and just because she does naughty things, it doesn’t mean we are going to send her back. Things don’t work that way when you’re a family.”
As I soon found out, I was totally unprepared for my sons’ reactions. Sam reminded me that I’d signed a contract with the animal shelter, so of course I wouldn’t take Gabby back. True enough, I supposed. But Paul nearly broke my heart when he piggy-backed on Sam’s appeal:
“Yeah, just like you signed a contract with the adoption agency in Thailand that promised you would take care of us and keep us even when we do naughty things.”
In that moment, I was struck with just how sad and pathetic it would be if all that held us together was some kind of paper-and-ink contract, signed many years before.
Still trying to take all this in, I answered, “Boys, a contract is not what makes us a family. Love makes us a family—God’s love, and the fact that God has chosen us for one another.”
In that moment, I wanted to convey a sense of security, a sense of belonging, a sense of family—even a sense of uniqueness in having been chosen and adopted that far out-weighs any sin, imperfection or mistake. My family is not my family because of paperwork, contractual agreement or any other impersonal force. My family is my family because we love each other.
And isn't that what our Heavenly Father has been trying to teach us all along? His acceptance of us, His children by faith in Christ, is based on His love, and His love alone. Just like my love for my children, God’s choice of us is no mere contract, or impersonal set of paperwork. It’s deep, personal, and real—even to the point where “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
By taking on flesh and dwelling with us—and by dying in our place and defeating death for us—Jesus identifies with us in such a deep, personal way that Hebrews 2:11 says, “He is not ashamed to call us brothers.” In other words, we’re family, and since we are, we have no need to appeal to contracts, paperwork, or performance.
Our status as God’s family, His sons and daughters, is infinitely secure because it’s based on the love of the God who always makes good on His promises. This faithful God is the God who is eternal, infinite, all-powerful, and extravagantly near.
Each one of our children—three adopted and one birth child—was placed into our family by God Himself, and we are constantly affirming each one with the words, “You are ours. God has chosen you for us and us for you.”
In the same way, I hear my Heavenly Father say, “You are mine. Nothing changes that. I have chosen you. You have been adopted as my daughter, and I love you.
“Even when you spill the soup.”
by Julie Parton, Ph.D.
To: Jesus Christ, Commander-in-Chief, Spiritual Armed ForcesSubject: Request for Transfer
I am writing this to You to request a transfer to a desk job. I herewith present my reasons:
I began my career as a private, but because of the intensity of the battle, You have quickly moved me up in the ranks. You have made me an officer and have given me a tremendous amount of responsibility. There are many soldiers and recruits under my charge. I am constantly being called upon to dispense wisdom, make judgments, and find solutions to complex problems. You have placed me in a position to function as an officer, when in my heart I know I have only the skills of a private.
I realize that You have promised to supply all I need for the battle. But Sir, I must present you a realistic picture of my equipment. My uniform, once so crisp and starched, is now stained with tears and the blood of those I have tried to assist. The sole of my boots are cracked and worn from the miles I have walked, trying to enlist and encourage troops. My weapons are marred, tarnished, and chipped from constant battle against the Enemy. Even the Book of Regulations I was issued has been torn and tattered from endless use. The words are now smeared.
You have promised You would be with me throughout; but the noise of the battle is so loud and the confusion is so great, I can neither see nor hear you. I feel so alone. I'm tired. I'm discouraged. I have battle fatigue. I would never ask You for a discharge. I love being in Your service. But, I humbly request a demotion and transfer. I'll file papers or clean latrines! Just get me out of the battle, please, Sir.
Your faithful, but tired,Solider
To: Faithful but Tired Soldier, Spiritual Armed ForcesLocation: The BattlefieldSubject: Transfer Request
Your request for transfer has been denied. I herewith present my reasons:
For this reason, I am setting aside a place on the battlefield that is insulated from all sound and fully protected from the enemy. I will meet you there and I will give you rest. I will remove your old equipment and “make all things new.”
You have been wounded in the battle, My soldier. Your wounds are not visible, but you have received grave internal injuries.
You need to be healed. I will heal you. You have been weakened in battle. You need to be strengthened. I will strengthen you and be your strength.
I will instill within you confidence and ability. My words will rekindle you with a renewed love, zeal, and enthusiasm. Report to Me tattered and empty, and I will refill you.
by Ellen Foell, Legal Counsel
Last month’s article, “The Robe of Restoration”, got me thinking a little about another son who received a robe of restoration.
In Luke 15, we read the familiar story of a prodigal son who received a robe of restoration. Like Joseph, the son of Jacob, this son’s story also involved a robe. As a beloved son of a wealthy man, he probably owned several robes, signifying his honored position.
But unlike Joseph, whose special robe was taken from him, the prodigal son forfeited his robe, selling it for something better, flashier, more trendy. He demanded his inheritance from his father, and left home to pursue wild living.
The end of the story is also familiar: The son returned home, and his lavishly loving father blessed him with the best robe in the house!
As I was reading Luke 15 recently, I was struck by the image of the prodigal son, walking down the homeward path, dreading the moment he’d have to face his father.
As a teenager, the very thought of facing my father after I’d done wrong filled me with terror. Truth be told, the thought of facing my mother filled me with even more terror! I can still remember the pounding of my heart as I walked down the hallway, going to face my parents after I’d failed them.
Like the son in Luke 15, I would rehearse the conversation in my head, and sometimes even in front of a mirror—so as to ensure that my facial expression reflected “sincere” remorse. I would rehearse my approach, come up with words to say how I hadn’t meant to do it, or how it had been an accident, and how I’d never do it again.
Isn’t that what it was like for the son in this story?
Well, if we look at the text, it describes the state of mind of the son: Moving from euphoria to deep depression and disillusionment. When the son left home, had money, he had time, he had no boundaries, he had friends, and he had wild living. But he soon became impoverished. The party died and his so-called friends left him lonely and broken.
Isn’t that often the case? Our sinful tendencytoward God-neglecting self-reliance only leads us to loneliness and spiritual bankruptcy. Without the help of God himself, we find ourselves trapped in a self-perpetuating cycle of joy-robbing, isolating rebellion.
That’s why, even in his initial poverty, the son was not quite desperate enough to face his father. He thought he could help himself by hiring himself out. Again, watch how our self-reliant tendencies only lead to further misery. Try as he might to pull himself up by his sandal straps, the real problem with the prodigal son was always an issue of the heart.
We find it hard, as did the son, to face the father and ask him to change our heart. It seems easier to try and fix ourselves than to confess our short-comings and face our father.
What happens when even our best efforts come to nothing? The story tells us that in the midst of pigsty and slop, the son finally had an “aha” moment. He finally came to his senses, owned up to his hopeless emptiness, and set off to face his father.
But while the son made his way home, dreading the moment he was to face his father, a shocking display of the father’s grace awaited him. Filled with grace and eager to forgive, the father had never given up on his rebellious son.
I love the description of this scene: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20, NASB).
What was the father waiting for?
Did he wait for his son to return in order to get an accounting of how he’d spent the inheritance?
Did he wait in hope for a blow-by-blow retelling of every stupid decision?
Did he yearn for a well-rehearsed apology for every poor attitude and wounding word spoken?
No, the father waited in hope that his son would one day break the horizon, and come on home.
To be sure, something changed in the pigsty. But the real point is how everything changed when the son experienced his father’s undeserved, intimate, and unbreakable embrace.
In that moment—experiencing true grace and forgiveness—the son’s heart was changed, and he finally understood what had been in his father’s heart all along: Unconditional love.
Have you experienced the unconditional love of our God, who doesn’t demand an accounting, but instead, rejoices to demonstrate his incredibly patient love and mercy toward the children he loves?
This is a love that frees us to live joyfully, as we remember that our God is a father who delights to do good to his children—especially when we don’t deserve it.
By Debra Neybert, Training Specialist
"So Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.'Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck." - Genesis 41:41-42
The heart of God the Father is one of restoration. He walks with us and fulfills the dreams and destiny He ordained for us even from all eternity.
There are many aspects of Joseph’s life that have blessed and encouraged the body of Christ. The robe that Joseph received from his father when he was a young man is a great example. In Genesis 37:3, we read, “Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him.”
This robe is described in the Amplified Bible as (a [distinctive] long tunic with sleeves). It was a very special garment that signified his father’s love and favor, as well as the destiny he would one day fulfill. For Joseph, it would be a daily reminder that he was covered in his father’s love.
Every time Satan looked at Joseph, he saw the robe, which constantly reminded him of his own inability to destroy the ultimate plans and purposes that God had for Joseph.
Because of that hate, Satan incited Joseph’s brothers to jealousy: “So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the richly ornamented robe he was wearing” (Gen. 37:23). Although his brothers stripped Joseph of his physical robe, what it symbolized could not be stripped away. Even as Joseph entered into captivity without his richly ornamented robe, the covering of God’s love, favor and purpose remained over him.
Joseph walked through some very difficult places, and he must have struggled quite a bit to understand God’s plan for him in the midst of his circumstances. For a season, the Enemy took what had symbolized so much to him—the robe—out of his sight, and yet, his father’s love never changed. More importantly, God’s favor followed him wherever he went, and after 13 years of captivity, full restoration came, and he finally experienced the fulfillment of his destiny.
When Joseph was dressed in robes of fine linen, he had suddenly become the second-most powerful and honored man in all of Egypt. The robe of restoration was finally his!
Scripture also speaks of another robe, a robe that was provided at a great price—the life of a Father’s only Son—covering all who accept it as a gift. In Isaiah 61:10, we read, “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness.”
These garments signify in part, God’s provision, favor, healing and deliverance by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All of this flows from His incredible love.
In Christ, we are clothed in garments of salvation and a robe of righteousness. The Enemy desperately wants to keep us from “seeing” the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers us, and so he sends us accusations and condemnation to try and keep us from seeing our inheritance in Christ.
The Father wants to open our eyes to see who we truly are: joint-heirs with Christ, fully restored to the position of sons and daughters, and made worthy through the blood of the Lamb. When we “see” ourselves clothed in Christ’s righteousness, we will be able to rest in His love and His favor, and fulfill our God-given destiny!
by Betty McDowell, Heartbeat International Director of Ministry Services
As a social worker in the mental health field, I was trained to assess a patient’s level of alertness and orientation by asking them four questions: (1) Who are you? (2) Where are you? (3) What is the date and time? (4) What just happened to you?
This simple exercise helped determine the next steps in diagnosing the patient and constructing a treatment plan. But I have since discovered the value of asking the same four questions to those serving in ministry when I try to help them diagnose a problem and move forward in a clear direction.
How would you answer these four questions?
I have found that spending a little time at the end of each day to review my answers to these four questions has been a great habit. You too may find this practice valuable in becoming alert and oriented x4.
Also check out the link to "The Daily Examen" by St. Ignatius:http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/how-can-i-pray/
by Rindy Brooks, Heartbeats of Licking County, Newark, Ohio
Our staff retreat in late July focused around 2 Timothy 4:1 – 8 and the need to fulfill our ministry. It is the last recorded letter of Paul as he knew his time of departure was near and he needed to share certain things with Timothy as he passed the torch of ministry.
The study was so timely and personal for us. We had just lost the “Paul” of our pregnancy center. A special lady named Merridy Hoover. She is the reason I and so many are here at Heartbeats of Licking County today. She rescued the center from demise in 1989 and built a solid foundation of faith that we firmly stand on today. Her vision and servant leadership even serves you in Heartbeat affiliates around the world every day.
The prototype for the manual “Talking About Abortion” was written by her – she called it the “10-Point Health and Safety Check List”. She tested it, we trained and used it in our center and found out this “women-centered” approach worked to engage abortion-minded women on the phone to help and care for them. So she called Heartbeat's president, Peggy Hartshorn, and told her this method was working and that it needed to be published by Heartbeat International and distributed.
It was published and still is distributed by Heartbeat. Option Line actually uses this format 24/7 to reach women in crisis. The list of impactful projects Merridy shepherded could continue, but more insightful is to share how she lived up to the end to encourage us to carry on the torch of ministry.
A greeting card came to the center a week after her funeral. It was from her.
We tearfully opened it together at the retreat and what we received from her was our charge. A miracle to us from God, it was the perfect object lesson to illustrate these verses. Merridy “Our Paul” had retired 12 years prior but her prayers and encouragement were steadfast, especially to me, her “Timothy”. I have ably served 12 years as Executive Director and yet for the first time, I felt strangely on my own. And now, in her own hand, written 2 months prior to her passing she says to me, to the staff, and now to you in ministry every day:
“To my beloved sisters and brothers in Christ, His work in you is so beautiful- keep shining with the light of His presence! Keep shining. I am so proud of you all. God’s hand is on your ministry and service to Him.
Love and Blessings, Merridy.”
So let us remember to encourage and teach those “Timothys” in our midst. To clearly charge them and remind them of the suffering and sacrifice in serving Jesus and yet the gladness and joy found in fulfilling our work received from the Lord. I want to be able to pass the torch of ministry and say as in 2 Tim 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Until then, we must carry our torches high and keep shining.
(Staff Retreat material part of Beth Moore’s 3-part DVD series with listening guide “Fulfill Your Ministry!” available from Living Proof Ministries)
By Aaren Rutan, Client Services Director for Loving Arms
I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve been feeling kind of like an island when I look at the world around me. It seems that when I turn on the news the tide of public opinion is completely against everything I hold dear. We wouldn’t be involved in the pregnancy help movement if we weren’t keenly aware of the attack on life that has been waged in our country since 1973. And, we can’t turn on the television without hearing the ongoing debate about contraception, comprehensive sex education, marriage, and the list goes on. . .
When you are tempted to dwell on the discouragement that sometimes creeps in, remember that Jesus went against the tide from His very birth until His death on the cross. Consider His birth—we can be quite confident that it was not commonplace for kings to be welcomed to the world by farm animals and shepherds. Remember the story of how His parents, likely frantic from searching for Him, found Him in the temple teaching those who should have been teaching Him. Or, do you recall those He chose to join Him in His ministry? Among His chosen twelve were tax collectors and fishermen—not likely considered to be among the spiritually elite. I love the story of the “wee little man” (you know the song) whom Jesus called down from the tree. Can you imagine what Zacchaeus must have thought when Jesus said He was going to his house that day?
The religious leaders were horrified when Jesus allowed the woman to wash His feet. And, when He healed the sick on the Sabbath they accused Him of being a blasphemer.
Even the way He died went against the tide of human nature. He gave His life so that we might have life eternal. And, He is only one of two who rose from the dead; and, unlike Lazarus, He never felt death again!
But, the one story about Jesus that really speaks to me when I consider the context of our ministry is the story of the woman at the well. This is another perfect example of how Jesus broke the barriers of cultural stereotypes of His time. “Sam” (I recently read a study that referred to her as “Sam” since she was a Samaritan) was shocked when Jesus asked her for a drink of water–understandably so considering the fact that she was a woman AND a Samaritan. Add to that the fact that she was living in a sinful relationship with a man who was not her husband and was, therefore, most likely looked down upon by many in her community.
“Sam” wasn’t used to Jewish men striking up conversations with her. But, Jesus went against the tide of society by not only acknowledging her by speaking directly to her, but also by reaching out to her and meeting her deep need for the water that would quench her spiritual thirst forever.
Isn’t that what we do in the pregnancy help movement? How many people have come through these doors to experience love, grace, and a non-judgmental response regardless of the circumstances that brought her/him through our doors? Many of our clients hear a message that is the complete opposite of what they have been exposed to throughout their entire lives. They’ve been conditioned to believe that they aren’t special enough to wait for. They’ve believed the lie that God isn’t real and He doesn’t care about them. They are members of an entire generation that has been told that the lives of unborn children have no value because they can’t be seen. We tell them that God does in fact love them, that He does have a plan for their good, that He is real and that they can trust Him, and that He values every life—both born and unborn. Jesus ministered to “Sam” in much the same way—by showing her that she was valuable in His eyes.
The next time you hear the news and feel that you are swimming against the tide of our society, rest assured that you are—and you are not alone. Jesus is swimming with you.
Book review by Debbie Schirtzinger, Heartbeat International Affiliation Coordinator
“What does true encouragement look like – the kind that changes lives forever? To encourage people is to help them gain courage they might not otherwise possess – courage to face the day, to do what’s right, to take risks, and/or to make a difference. And the heart of encouragement is to communicate a person’s value. When we help people feel valuable, capable, and motivated we sometimes see their lives change forever – and then see them go on to change the world.
“God’s love for us gives us the reason to encourage others.God’s love in us gives us the ability to encourage others.God’s love through us gives us the way to encourage others.”
Encouragement is an essential part of growing a positive attitude and improving life; and providing that encouragement benefits both the giver and the receiver(s). This book is packed with timeless quotes, scriptures, and short but meaningful stories that illustrate the value of offering and receiving encouragement. Author John Maxwell shares ways to effectively provide the kind of encouragement that transforms individuals, families, churches, and work teams into happier, healthier, more affirming networks.
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