Let Your Light Shine

I held the mag light in my spiritual hand and was ready to move. I only had a moment to spare, life or death was held in the balance. If I missed the perfect opportunity to shine the light into the darkness, that moment would be lost forever. I may not get a second chance. It was my responsibility. I would have to answer for it.

mag lightI turned on the glaring light and shone it right into the eyes of the person in front of me.  As I witnessed both of  their arms fly up to shield themselves from the pain of it, I was filled with a sense of dread. I wasn’t quite sure why – something deep down told me I was directing the light in the wrong direction. Maybe the beam was too bright. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it yet, but something didn’t feel right. People were supposed to be seeking to be saved from the darkness no matter how much pain.

blinding light

But this was how I had been told it was done. The brightest,  biggest, instantaneous, glaring, in-your- face kind of light  was the best to use for this purpose.

That was the kind that saved lives, and we are were in the business of saving lives. Or were we?

So it is with much of evangelical Christianity. At least the evangelicals of the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s I associated with. I happen to admire my children’s generation and their methodologies to authentic discipleship, authentic love, authentic social justice, and authentic “church.”  Yes, “authentic” to use their term.

They look Jesus straight in the eyes and all they see is genuine love. They are not afraid to look Jesus in the eyes.  Many of the 40 and unders get that you can look Jesus in the eyes and  you will see a cross looking back. Not a cross that we must cling to for dear life as we are dragged to and fro in an attempt to figure out which direction we should carry it, but a cross that clearly points the way back to itself.

eyecross

Back to Christ.

A cross that was carried by the God-Man who said, “It is finished.” And we can rest in that. Finished. Grace. The cross points the way to Jesus. The cross points the way to God. God is love. He died so we can believe. Not work to believe. Simply believe.

My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love”. I John 4:7

Our rest in God’s love produces change. Our belief in the cross as purchasing love for us, produces change.

Our belief in His love produces love.

His light is a gentle light. He lived with, and by, the light of a flickering oil lamp. Nothing blinding. Nothing painful.

oil lamp

 

A radiant warmth that drew people right to it. A light that gently led the way to the banquet table. The bread, a cup, and a soft glowing light – all pointing to the finished work of grace upon the cross.

In that flickering candlelight the cross of Christ is reflected in our own eyes; others see that light and are warmed by it.

“In the same way, let your light shine before people in such a way that they will see your good actions and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matt.5:16

Adoption is for Orphans

God’s love is best reflected in the example of the orphan. He loves orphans – He has proven it in His great love towards us as adopted children. I understand that love. At least I am beginning to. One of my best teachers has been my adopted son, Samuel. It was twelve years ago today we celebrated a “first,” third birthday with Sam. We brought Samuel Miras (which means peace) home from the orphanage in Kazakhstan, on June 1, 2002. We gave him a little riding car that you move by scooting your feet, for his birthday. We had seen it in a store a week before and he had loved it. He had been so very good when it was time to leave, that we knew we had to go back for it. It has seen a lot of abuse over the last twelve years, and a bunch of grandchildren. Sam's birthday 017 He was 24 pounds and 31 inches tall – malnourished, small in stature, and very, very, angry. He had not been treated well in the orphanage because he wasn’t a go with the flow kind of kid.  We were fortunate to receive videos from other parents adopting who just happened to see Sam in them. When all the other children were eating Cheerios or cookies from the American stranger, getting hugs from them, playing with them, he was the one wanting to stay with the caretaker and read books. He was the one who threw himself down and tried to crawl under the cribs. He didn’t want Cheerios. He was the one carried off to the back room.  Little did we realized how healthy that really was, and how much despite his other challenges, attachment would not be one of them. He came home 6 months after that video. One year later, he was an uncle. And to this day, his best friend is his nephew, Ethan. sam and ethan We spent 28 days away to bring him home. The first 21 were at the orphanage bonding. He wanted nothing to do with us at first and screamed. At the end of the day when any of the other children would have stayed with us, Sam happily waved to go back to his group. When we finalized his adoption, he screamed for four days. He screamed for his passport photo, he screamed the whole way to Moscow…he screamed…  And I wanted to drop him from 35,000 feet flying over the Atlantic Ocean.  We worked hard on attachment – I regressed him back to a bottle, we fed him by hand, he slept in our bed and then our room –forever.  He learned to love – and he learned to trust. He began to play more, scream less; his older sisters loved to dress him up and take pictures, in this case, a Roman. Roman   There were still lots of tears, lots of yelling, lots of attachment work, and lots of anger, anger, and more anger…but God’s love and family love were winning the race.  There were (and still are) some challenges – nothing he does wrong – just sometimes life throws you a curve ball. I well remember the first time someone picked on him for being “Chinese, ching, chong, chong” and he came back to us crying. He is not an emotional kid and when he cries it stems from deep pain. The mom in me wanted to hurt the little ___.  Dad took care of it by speaking to the parents who were apologetic. “Breathe Jamie, life is painful…But NOT MY BABY. Not this gentle spirit with so many challenges already.” Life is unkind. People are unkindest. God is good. vacation Homeschooling has been a great way for him to adjust to live out of the orphanage at his own pace, without the pain of a judgmental, amandas weddingcompetitive, and fallen world. There is plenty of time for that as he enters the world. And for the skeptics who think kids need socialization and miss out too much – sorry, your words fall on deaf ears. The seven kids who have gone before him are all upstanding, hard-working, honest, intelligent, citizens with good jobs, grades, degrees, mothers and fathers – the kind of people who businesses want to hire – and keep. A little nurturing through the informative years can go a long way. Class trips with his cousins are always a blast, and he loves being the “older kid.” He is now involved in a homeschool coop which gives him an opportunity to develop his social skills more, his emotion regulation, and have deadlines, projects and teachers other than mom who he has to answer to. Most importantly – a place for friends. And he grew. And he laughed. And he loved. Adoption is for orphans. He is no longer an orphan. He is a loved and cherished member of a family, just as we are when we join in God’s Kingdom as adopted children.  Jesus becomes our perfect brother – more than mere human, He never disappoints, rejects, or bruises. Joy replaces pain, family replaces isolation. Weakness becomes strengths. On the farm, he helped to care for the sheep. Marvin was his pet, and ran after him like a dog would.  Unfortunately, that also meant diving into the house at every opportunity. Did you ever try to house break a sheep? Me neither. Marvin had to stay with the farm when we moved. sam and marvinHe is right-brained – artistic beyond belief. He draws. He writes deep, thought invoking stories and quotes. He is a talented photographer. He still collects the eggs, but now he also takes pictures of them. 1010533_1380692662190193_1753158049_n How can a child so young understand suffering so much more than the average adult? But somehow, from the depths of his heart comes compassion that puts me to shame. “Mom, lets not get presents for Christmas, lets send the money to orphans.”  And because he knows that finances are a struggle for us when stopping for ice cream, “You get some mom, I can eat when I get home.” (I don’t think so!) He knows more about the “truth about life” than I do. And I think I know a lot. 1782493_1412092419050217_1339755641_o A sample of his photography – all done with an inexpensive camera:  (PLEASE DO NOT USE WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION!) 1526515_1381544822104977_1641603385_n   1920244_1430698937189565_8085037730229775677_n10401591_1429047944021331_7888666818256161173_n1965695_1416529548606504_5333428085661674700_o1529826_1411866582406134_1596796109_o 1656374_1405817753011017_127658512_n10403774_1433409290251863_102890549182627700_o1972346_1409638205962305_764499041_nAnd he likes to set the camera on a timer and do crazy selfies because he loves to laugh. He loves to have fun. He loves Taekwondo, youth group, and “PT.” 1513796_1388686114724181_901926467_n1017540_1382363382023121_93748158_n   There are the self portraits that mom likes too. The ones I look at think about how fortunate I am to have him for my son. Out of the millions of orphans in the world, God gave me this one. No longer an orphan, but my son. final He is the greatest, deepest, most sensitive, loving, compassionate fifteen year old boy who I know. He helps me around the house – a lot. I call him my Benjamin – the son of my “old age.” He is the kind of kid that if he sees me crying – if he knows something has happened – I find the dishes done and little jobs cleaned up. He tries to make it better. I don’t appreciate him near enough. I yell when I should show Mercy. I discipline when I should show grace.  I fear his future more than I trust God. I need to rest in the fact that adoption into our family was not his greatest gift – it is not the thing that “saved” him from a life of pain, maybe the streets, or worse. It was adoption into God’s family, into His house that has saved Him. God has his back. He never fails. It is my job to live for Him. It is my job to point Sam to Him by my life. It is my job to teach Sam forgiveness by example, love by example, grace and mercy by example. And yet, I find when it comes to my relationship with Samuel,  I am more the student than the teacher. Thank you Sam for being in our lives. Thank you Jesus for this gift of life. One son was taken from my arms to live with Jesus before I could know him; but another son was given from the arms of a woman to live with me. Happy Birthday (6/14/99)Samuel Miras Grubb, I love you. The shadow was “pierced” when you came into our lives. 964049_1424499147809544_2787424469205740087_o

Life in the Past Lane

It may not run deep. It may not run wide. Sometimes it doesn’t run at all, forming little pools where scum builds up and swirls around from the wind. At other times the rocks are uncovered, revealing a bed of slimy moss. And yet, when it runs, it runs fast. Sometimes after the spring thaw, after the darkness of winter, it runs so fast it can sweep you away. Just like our memories. Just like our dark, cold buried thoughts.

River

It’s not really life in the fast lane. It’s life in the past lane. And sometimes, it’s a race for survival. It moves forward, then it retreats. But it’s always moving.

I had a conversation recently with a friend about individuals having to “go back” – go back to the past. He expressed not understanding why people need to – especially after they have found Hope in Christ. He said he has never had to go back.

But in our case, our trauma – our grief – our past lane – is after Christ. It happened in the name of Christ. 

It is difficult to explain to those who have not experienced trauma, or who have not yet recognized their trauma,  that like grief, it is cyclical.  We didn’t recognize it for many years either. It was buried. It was buried deep. At least for me. And yet it came out every day – in flashbacks, and anger, in voices, and an obsessions to keep me busy. Keep busy. Keep busy. Don’t stop. Don’t think. Don’t feel. Keep moving. Keep working. Find a new thing to do. Don’t stop moving. Stay hidden. 

Hidden in positive confessions and Christian cliches. It was hidden in shame.  To see it for what it was would be a “lack of thankfulness for our life in Christ.”  When someone dies – no matter how – no matter the age – if they are with Christ, we rejoice. End of story.

 It was a cold and lonely place. There was a light up ahead, but it was always out of reach to me. I kept reaching. Moving forward through the cold. Hoping.                                               forestAnd Jesus kept me warm.

We survive the race. One day at a time. One memory at a time. One dream at a time. We survive because of the Hope that is within us. Hope in something and Someone who is bigger than us.

We survive to help others. We are touched with the same infirmities – our wounds become the tattoos of His scars. Our pain becomes the evidence of His grace in our lives.

We survive to love.  And it makes us stronger. More compassionate. It makes the day brighter. The night skies are more starry. It makes love more valued and laughter ring like crystal.

We survive to look up. And in doing so, others look up with us. And for a just a moment, we get a glimpse of heaven.                                                                                                                      clouds

David Grubb, I love you. You have traveled the past lane by my side, and together we see heaven.