Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The True Joy of Christmas

Merry Christmas!  Besides Easter, this is my favorite time of year—colorful lights, beautiful choral music, good food, and warm family memories.  But if this is all there is to Christmas, it’s robbed of its glory. 

The lights of Christmas wrapped around trees and hanging on houses, the star and angel toppers on Christmas trees, and the candles that carolers hold all remind me of the glorious day when the radiant angels met a group of forgotten, stunned shepherds in Bethlehem, telling them of the birth of the one and only who would save His people from their sins.  These lights also remind us of the star that appeared for the Magi to guide them to the manger.  But our lights are but shadows of the glorious flood of brightness that filled the sky on that awesome Christmas night, and even that sky pales in comparison to the Light that the shining angels proclaimed—the Light of salvation that had been born into the world.

After Christmas Day, most people feel relieved.  The mad rush of shopping and feasting is over.  Normal life can begin again.  This truly is the irony of all in the Christmas season.  Though gift giving is supposed to be a picture of the ultimate gift God gave to mankind in Jesus Christ, His Son, it has been turned into a commercialized frenzy of materialism.  The ultimate Gift frees us from greed and gives us life unto eternal purposes.  The ultimate Gift enables us to know God Himself, giving us peace that passes all understanding.  As Mike and I drove home from church on Sunday morning where we had sung Christmas carols and heard afresh the story of the Savior’s birth, we passed a line of traffic jamming itself into the mall.  I had to marvel.  On the Lord’s Day, people were so wrapped up in shadows and types of Christmas gifts that they had no time to stop and ponder the Lord of Christmas on the day He has gifted for us to rest.

I pray that all of you have found the true joy of Christmas—the joy of knowing Christ Jesus who was born in order to die for the sins of His people and to rise again unto eternal life for all who believe in Him.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Help Me Oppose the Abortion Pill Mandate

Sign This Petition to Stop Obama Care's Abortion Pill Mandate

Our religious freedoms are being stripped from us at an alarming rate.  It's time for Christians to stop putting our heads in the sand and DO SOMETHING.  God help us!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

30th Birthday

Today is my 30th birthday, and being such a monumental milestone, has had me thinking a lot about my life.  Last night was sleepless for some reason; part of that time was spent wrestling the devil’s lies.  He always likes to point out everything that I don’t have.

Satan:  “You’ve made it to 30 and what do you have to show for it?  You don’t have the body you always dreamed of; you didn’t go to graduate school like you imagined; you had to drop out of your low-paying teaching career; you still don’t have children; you’re not famous and influential…”

Me:  “You’re right…I’m a complete loser; I’m always sick; I basically can’t do anything I set my mind to…WAIT A MINUTE!  I’ve heard those lines before!  You used that ploy with Eve in the Garden of Eden.  The one tree she couldn’t have—that’s what you capitalized on.  But what do I have?  I wasn’t born and raised in a dilapidated hut half starving like so many children in the world.  I wasn’t raised in a ghetto and given to street gangs.  I’ve never known fear for my life, fear for basic needs, not even fear for love.  My family was always there for me when I wanted to go home.  So what if I had become everything you said…
Suppose I had had the culturally modeled body, never got scoliosis, and had much more self-confidence?  I probably would have been liked by my peers, would have developed social ease and confidence, would have gone much further in my youth toward worldly progress.  I probably would have gained an interest in fashion.  I would have been engrossed in speaking the language of the world and would have been at ease among those my age.  Maybe I would have pursued a career on stage.  I always admired my voice as a girl to a vice.  Maybe I would have gone to graduate school.  I would have been rich and famous.  But where would I have found the husband I have now?  How would I have known the deep, abiding love of God shown me through the church on account of my trials?  I would have been empty, void.  Maybe I would have ended up one of those stories on a news headline: “Famous singer has everything going for her, tragically ends her life” or “Famously wealthy singer poor for love, gets another divorce.”

Paul, the great, ambitious, energetic, zealous, famous Pharisee of Pharisees said it all in Philippians 3:4-11: “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

When I was eight years old, God put that seed of desire in my heart to know Christ.  Throughout my youth, I prayed that very verse; I prayed for the power of his resurrection, for the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, and to become like him in his death.  I prayed that I would be a window through which people would see Christ’s glory.  As a girl unaware of trial, I didn’t really know what I was praying from a physical perspective.  Now at 30, I look back and realize that those prayers meant that the Rachel of the world, that could have been, had to be demolished.  That meant that the culturally idolized body figure had to go (i.e., scoliosis).  It meant that the desire for fame and self-confidence had to go with it, with all that that implies.  It meant that my life had to be modeled after Christ—a path of suffering.  “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).  But it also meant that in place of fame, I would be given Christ’s glorious righteousness; in place of self-confidence, I would be given His power; in place of earthly loves that end in death, I would be given agape love that ends in eternal life.  Oh what a blessing that I did not choose my own path!  I would have chosen death.  God chose life for me.  Blessed be His holy name!

The trouble with giving me His righteousness, though, is that God had to strip away my self-righteousness and expose what I really looked like in His sight—“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6).  That has destroyed my self-esteem; it has exalted Christ.  It has made me weak and stripped me of all self-confidence—hence my many sickly years—but it has shown me the faithful power and love of my God to physically, emotionally, and spiritually care for me.  It has guaranteed the death of my earthly dreams for self-exaltation, but these have been replaced with greater gifts of deep and abiding love shown to me through a Christian family, church family, and my own dear and faithful husband.

Are not the gifts so much greater than what was removed?  The gifts are of eternal value!  That which was destroyed in my life is passing away!  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!  I praise Him for answering those youthful prayers—for indeed making me a window through which people can see His power and glory at work.  I pray He gives me grace to stand firm in that realization, un-swayed by the devil’s taunting.  May a life of dark providence serve as the backdrop to the glorious strands of golden tapestry that God is writing by His own hand on my life for the praise and honor of Jesus Christ!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

For Me to Live is Christ...

Lord, why is this simple lesson so hard?  Everything in my being screams that for my life to have meaning, I have to do something meaningful—like saving hundreds of orphans or donating millions of dollars to charity or adopting children or even—be it so simple—keeping my house in order.  But you have thwarted every design.  As the poet exclaims, “Lord why is this…wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?”  But I think back to the heavy contemplation that entered my mind when I walked off the airplane and entered the wealth of middle class America after having been in the poverty of third-world civilization.  “It’s too easy…too easy to be lazy, to be disciplined to walk with God, to forget God because everything is so comfortable.  It’s harder to live the Christian life here than in the DR!”  The thought was prophetic.  I shudder at how far I have slipped.  The daily fervent prayers that seemed to be an essential on that island seem to be few and far between.  Now, when I do pray, it’s cursory or forced, and I find that passion only comes when I am pushed into a situation where I really feel my need for God.  But I should feel my need for Him every moment.  Even the will to live or to initiate any life endeavor is from Him, but I don’t ask Him for it.  I don’t feel my need for Him enough.  Oh this idolatrous heart!  I have used my own schemes to try to replace the emptiness I feel.  If only I could get my house in order…if only I could have a child…if only I had more money to give to good causes…if only I felt well enough to go on weekend excursions, have parties, or just plain enjoy life…if only…  But God’s hand has been getting heavier and heavier.  Alas!  Has the light finally dawned on this sleeping soul?  How is it that I have known the truth so well in the past but have forgotten it so well in the present?  How can I have experienced God so deeply not that long ago and yet have taken so long to wake up to God’s pursuits?  Oh wretched soul that I am!  How glorious my redeeming God!  Oh the blessing of His unrelenting discipline!  Katie of Uganda writes in one brief paragraph what I have been trying to figure out for a year—really, for my lifetime; just because my life has so vastly changed through marriage doesn’t mean this truth has changed one bit: “A life is not made by lives saved or bellies fed or words written. To adore the one who created the Heavens and the Earth, to give thanks for who He is and all He has given, to worship and commune with [the] Holy God, whispering in the quiet, clinging in the noise, believing in all circumstances – this is what makes a life large” (http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/).

I have been looking for meaning to life in all the wrong places--yea, under the guise of serving God--when all God wanted was me.  When I would scan through all the events of my life in my mind’s eye and find so many that have seemed utterly wasteful, I would grow so very depressed.  I would ask myself and God why those things happened.  I would search desperately for some redeeming quality that would make those events worthy of my life.  I would tell myself the promises (e.g., “All things work together for good to them that love God”) or that God is sovereign, but I was still earthly-minded in my search for peace.  Why can’t I seem to think beyond the five senses?  I should know better!!  I was still missing the foundation that ties it all together.  God wants me!  Not what I can do for Him, not what I can accomplish, not even what I can do to love others (although that should flow from love for God).  No, God just wants me to find my fullness in Him—to be enraptured by Him and to see all life’s circumstances in the great vortex of His awesome power and greatness.  The details of how everything fits together, He’ll work out; I don’t have to grapple with it.  All He wants me to do is find Him in it.  On my honeymoon, I had no problem enjoying myself, even though a spectator would have thought it was a less-than-desirable experience (frequent power outages, marooned on a beach without a soul in sight, caught in undertows, sunburned, head sore from a crash into a tree branch in a mad dash home in a thunderstorm, etc.).  But what made all these events seem unimportant?  We had each other.  We were in love.  That’s all that mattered.

Can I start again?  Oh Lord, may you be ever before me.  May I never again lose sight of you in the details of life—indeed, may they reveal you in depths I have never had eyes to see.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ronald Reagan Tribute

I never knew that Ronald Reagan was a Christian.  I was a newborn when Reagan was president, and I marvel how far our nation has fallen in less than 30 years.  I wonder if Reagan was God's "voice in the wilderness" before He gave up this nation to its own evil devices.


Monday, June 4, 2012

One-Year Update

One week from now, Michael and I will be celebrating our one-year wedding anniversary!  Time has flown! And for me, life has changed so much!  June 11, 2011, Michael and I were married after being engaged the previous December.  We had dated until that time from June 26, 2010 when we met at a wedding.  I had moved in October 2010 to New Jersey from Massachusetts so I could get to know Michael better.  I had transitioned from Christian school teaching to online editing and began learning how to live in a vastly different culture of suburban New Jersey compared to the quiet pace of Northern Indiana and South Coast Massachusetts.  Over the year, I began to establish loving roots with my new family, getting to know my new aunts and uncles, cousins, and brothers and sisters-in-law.  God was guiding me through the emotional process of coping at a distance with the massive changes occurring in what I had always known as my "secure" home in Indiana.  Mom and Dad moved away from the house of my last single years, my sister married and then recently moved with her husband to Michigan, my brother married and established his own home with his new bride, my last remaining grandparent died, and I realized that going home would never be the same.  Nevertheless, God was giving me a new family that I was learning to cherish, and He replaced my grandma with another who is close by.  I have been learning to make New Jersey my home, but more than that, I have been learning not to set my hope too strongly on anything in this world.  God has been teaching me more about heavenly citizenship.

Since being a wife, the transitions have multiplied.  Now a homemaker, I have my own Cape Cod-style home to manage while muddling through the complications of Chronic Fatigue.  Feeling rooted in a quiet neighborhood with a man who loves you so much is a tremendous blessing.  God has been good, but He does use pain and trials to keep us on our knees and make sure we hold these earthly gifts loosely and relinquish our pride.  Despite these physical setbacks, He has enabled Michael and me to transform the house into a comfortable home that has our own personal touches.  The living room has gone from off white to warm green with white trim; the ragged brown carpets have been removed to reveal beautiful hardwood flooring, accented with a beautiful, rusty brown, Hungarian carpet given to us by friends; the living room windows have been adorned with lacy white valances; and the spare rooms have been cleaned and organized, and have even received guests!  Outdoors, the gardens have been tamed and dabs of color added to clay pots and hanging porch baskets.  The trees have flooded with multi-colored birds for their daily suet feeding.  The skunks have tried to take advantage of our hospitality but failed.  The groundhogs and deer have learned that the Adamus home is a habitat for birds and small rodents only.  And there's more...Michael's sister Betsy and her husband have loaned us their dog for a year upon moving across country from New Mexico to New York for additional schooling.  Hezzy (Hezekiah)--the new member of the family--has been a source of companionship, laughter and good exercise.  God is faithful in everything, and He is good, even when the body seems to restrain all advancement.

Since returning from teaching in the Dominican Republic, I have been so blessed to have for the first time a regular medical doctor to care for me that specializes in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.  We are praising God for Michael's medical package through work that has enabled me to get regular treatments and gain better answers into my health difficulties.  I have begun to explore more seriously and regularly the world of healthy food, fruits, vegetables and gluten-free baking and set up foundations for healthy lifestyles for years to come, by God's grace.

Preakness Valley URC during the youth group's Mother's Day Flower Sale 
Over the past year, we have been established as a married couple in the church of our membership (Preakness Valley United Reformed Church) where I lead ladies' Bible studies and prayer groups, seek to help out in outreaches such as evangelistic events and Vacation Bible School, and join the Preakness Chorale.  Michael has continued to deepen his ministry as an adult Sunday School teacher, youth leader, musician, and choir director, among other things.

Ministering to the neighbors has lain heavily upon our hearts as we pray for their salvation and God's grace to enable us to be His witnesses.  Our relationships with various neighbors have grown in the past year, and as we clean up our yard and patio, we hope for opportunities for cookouts this summer!

Above all, we have seen God growing us toward Him together, which has drawn us closer and deepened our love and appreciation for each other.  Marriage has a way of exposing sins and selfishness.  It is humbling.  It makes me realize how much we need God's grace and Spirit to love each other for better or for worse.  But God is so good and so gracious.  He has shown me His tender, unconditional love through my husband.  Now into Year 2: I pray God enables me to learn how to be the wife of noble character while being content with my physical limitations in a Christ-centered way.  We are eager to see what our Lord has in store for us this year, praying for new lessons, new mercies, and deeper love toward Him and each other.

God's Will, Not Mine

Why won't I get it through my head?  I learn, and then it's like I never learned it before, and God patiently re-teaches me the same simple lesson: not my will but Thine be done.  Yesterday, God opened my eyes anew to this simple but foundational concept of the Christian faith.  In the weeks previous, I had been in spiritual and emotional agony over my ongoing physical weakness and my inability to carry out my "dreams for God" (which were really my dreams wrapped up in fancy language), such as starting a Christian school or even having my own children.  I felt like I had some wisdom or talents to bring to the table.  That's where I went completely wrong.  God started showing me just how much I had to bring to the table by removing just a little of that restraining grace against sin and lengthening just a little the leash that holds Satan back from carrying out his efforts to deceive and temp and discourage.  By yesterday, I was utterly worthless in my own eyes and realized I had absolutely nothing to offer of my own.  God had brought me low, destroyed my wretched pride, and made me feel my own evils and Satan's lies and accusations, which I had been prone to believe (i.e., the godless neighbors have it better), for which I hated myself all the more, knowing that wasn't really true but seeming helpless to not embrace the idea of it.  God's hand was heavy upon me.  I begged Him to deliver me, while wondering if He even heard my prayers anymore--the thought of which gave even further cause for grief and despair over my state, for I knew in my mind that God did hear me and loved me through Christ.  However, in my experience, it seemed the contrary.  So I waited.  With heavy, broken heart I waited, sighing for heaven.

Then last night, God sent me on a mission to do what I didn't think I had talents to do, where I had no personal knowledge or wisdom, where I knew I needed to act but where I was helpless.  And God acted.  In the middle of the moment, when I needed it, He gave His wisdom.  He showed me worldly wisdom is futile.  He showed me self-confidence is futile.  He showed me personal talents mean nothing if He has not called me and sent  me.  And if He has called me and commissioned me, He will do it, and glory to His redeeming grace, He often does use the pieces of our broken human experiences and talents to do it!  Why did it seem before that God did not hear my prayers?  Because I was praying for my will, not His, and I was thinking I could do it; He could just help.  Oh devilish mutiny!

Oh gracious Father--that He did not leave me in my wretched, selfish state but disciplined me and still used me--this chief of sinners!  Oh how magnificent is His love and grace!  How patient and faithful a Father!  How marvelous the power of Christ's redemption!