I arrived as I always do. My head was full of the business of life, my body was tense, and everything was normal. I was asleep within an hour, having unpacked and settled in with prayer. After waking up long enough to have dinner, I went to the welcome session for new folks (which I always do).
After some study time I fell asleep and woke on my own about a quarter to 6. This year I am in the South Wing where the monks used to live. There aren’t as many monks as there used to be so this wing is used as overflow for male guests. The wing is set up dormitory-style with 8 rooms to the shared showers and restroom. I managed to get up, take my shower, and begin some early study before breakfast when I heard the rooster crow. For some reason it reminded me that long ago and far away, I woke up early without an alarm clock.
I only mentioned the welcome session because it got me thinking about the whole concept of an abbey. A place to choose to live apart from the rest of the world. It felt to me a little like having your best players on a team bench themselves. Of course, one shouldn’t dismiss the power of prayer and they certainly pray a great deal about current issues around the world. But it seemed wrong somehow to have people who are devoted to God choose to recuse themselves from the world. We need as many workers in the field as we can get.
Then I thought about the hospitality ministry they have. It really is a God-send for me and no doubt the many others who come. It made me wonder about why there aren’t more places like this. Maybe not so large as to have a thousand acres to walk around on, but at least a place to have quiet and be surrounded by other believers. Of course, the main thing that strikes me is that it would take a great deal of money to run something like this at no charge. I am truly grateful that this place exists.
Excitement at the Abbey
Breakfast was exciting (for a silent monastery). The first interesting event was my noticing a man at the next table praying very fervently (though silently). I thought this was very deep and spiritual but wondered if his food was going to get cold. Then I noticed he was a rather fidgety prayer, his fingers kept moving. Upon further, (but discrete) inspection, I discovered he was not praying, but texting. When I realized this I wondered if it might be disruptive to the person across the small table from him. My concerns were quickly alleviated when I realized she was also texting. Now, for those of you who have been to the Abbey before you may be screaming “Blasphemy!” For those of you who haven’t you may be thinking “So what?” You’re probably both right, it’s a bit of both. But I figure it’s no different than the occasional written note Tom and I have passed to each other under our doors. Really, I was more impressed they had a signal.
The excitement didn’t end there though. Just as I was leaving I heard that all too familiar sound of breaking glass. I turned around there was a fellow who looked rather “shocked and somewhat embarrassed” (for you Veggie Tales fans) looking down at a shattered juice glass. His hands were full of his own tray and he certainly didn’t look like he knew what he should do. (How do you ask for help when talking isn’t permitted?) I resumed leaving… for about two steps. I’ve always had this battle in me about being helpful and being in the way. I have a tendency to think that others are far more capable of handling any given situation than I am so I leave so as to not get in the way. But it didn’t take me long to realize that in this situation, my help would be appreciated. So, I turned around and started collecting the glass shards. For those of you who don’t know, over the years I have cleaned up glass fragments by hand many times and have quite a knack for doing it without cutting myself. Being rather clumsy myself, I’ve broken many glasses over the years. I was about done when the kitchen worker showed up with a broom to get the rest. Unfortunately for her, she apparently doesn’t have my practice with broken glass and she managed to cut herself on a piece. But, it all got cleaned up and I went back to my room to study.
Thoughts on Adoption
Aleah and C.J. Brought up the question of us adopting again recently. Really it was more Aleah who brought it up. Heather and I talked about it for a bit and like last time, I was far more reluctant to the idea than she was. That is not to say I don’t want to adopt or am unhappy that we did. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve known what my hesitation is. I think I’ve put the pieces together though. I have been struggling with the amount of friction and frustration between family members I’ve seen over the past year. More recently, we’ve been able to work out some of the sources and things have begun to improve. There is always going to be friction though, and of course the old saying says to pick your battles. I think part of my confusion has been “What battles should I pick?”
Heather said something recently that really stuck with me. She reminded me that our goal in adopting was always to save children for Christ. That their spiritual foundation was really the primary focus. That’s not to say we aren’t trying to get them ready for the basic life skills to take care of themselves. But at the same time, we know that God can and will provide for His children. Our job is to plant those seeds of Truth in their ears so the Holy Spirit can do His work in them. I feel like we have been faithful in that regard.
So then, if we are to adopt more children then it begs the many questions of when, and how many more, and how many can we take at a time and not lose our sanity or the battle for their souls? I think this is the part that has been overwhelming me a bit. It’s only beginning to dawn on me that I’m not giving God enough credit for being able to heal our hearts as well as those of our children. I think I need to believe more strongly that He is more capable than we are obedient. Meaning he can bring more children to Him through us than we have faith to trust Him to do it. Therefore, we will only bring as many children to Him as our faith allows, not as many as His ability allows.
So then the real issue is our amount of faith. This is an interesting conclusion for me to come to because of something Heather has been saying recently. She mentioned an old testament passage about a fellow named Gideon who asked God to do something to prove to Gideon that He would make Gideon successful in battle. Heather suggested we do something similar. She has done so in the past and God was faithful and did all of the miraculous things she asked. I’ve been struggling with doing something similar for adopting children but I couldn’t figure out what my problem with it was. I think I may have a better idea now that I have studied that part of scripture and looked at my own situation. Gideon put that request in for proof after God had already very clearly spoken to him and given him direction on what to do. Gideon’s faith was weak, so he asked for proof not once, but twice in a row. He even says to God “Don’t be angry”.
So here I am presented with a similar situation. I know God called Heather and I to adopt children in order to bring them to Christ. We currently have two children who, despite their broken and angry backgrounds, have a sincere thirst to serve God. Both have been baptized and both try sincerely to live their lives in a way pleasing to God (the best they know how, just like the rest of us). So, with a clear call to adopt and clear success that could only have come from God (all of their therapists and case workers have been amazed at their improvement), why do I still have so little faith in God to use me successfully? I think some times I feel that I am too broken for even God to use.
What is “Biblical”?
One of the common themes throughout the book “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth” is to be careful to understand the original context and intent of a passage (exegesis) before trying to put the passage into practical use in our lives today (hermeneutics). One of the examples was showing the pericope (per ik o pay) or story of Zacchaeus as an example of a rich man entering the kingdom of Heaven and at the same time that the pericope of “the rich man” did not mean that giving away all possessions was necessary to be saved. However, in reading about Zacchaeus, I noticed that he chose to pay back 4 times anything he had cheated someone out of as well as give half of his possessions to the poor. This was a response to Christ’s request to stay at his house that day. This story stuck out in my mind because recently I had heard that paying back four times what you stole from someone was “biblical”. Now, I’m not saying it’s a bad consequence at all. It was the justification of “it’s biblical” that had caught my attention. When I heard those words it made me think that somewhere there was a directive in the old or new testament that talked about repaying 4 times what you steal from someone. I have been reading through Exodus recently and had read about some of the old testament laws regarding theft and murder but didn’t remember seeing that one. All that to say that the true context of the pericope had nothing to do with teaching about punishment for thieves or cheaters. It’s important for us to be careful not to turn a single example into doctrine or law when it was clearly not intended as such.
God’s Glory and Miracles
I’ve felt a stronger struggle on this visit than others. A struggle between wanting to feel in control of my life and feel like I know what is best for me and my family vs truly surrendering to God’s will. See, the problem with surrendering to God’s will is He has a tendency of performing miracles. That is, he brings you success when all evidence and common sense say it’s impossible. So, I can choose to wait to do God’s will until I feel and see that it is possible or, I can choose to walk in faith that I really do know God’s will and he’ll make it succeed because it’s His plan and then He gets all the glory for the success. If I can point out all of my good planning and preparation then the glory belongs to me, not God. But I’m not on this Earth to bring myself glory, I’m here to bring God glory by letting Him do miracles through me.
My children are evidence of God’s glory. There is nothing I can point to and say “Yup, they have made that miraculous change because of this particular thing I did”. There is no strategy I can teach or practice I can show you because all I did was love them the best I could with the love God has given me and teach them who Christ is. God did all the rest. Thankfully, I don’t even have to do my part very well. God can use anyone for His glory, the less likely the better. This is because He continues to show His power and authority when we choose to trust in Him.
Helping the Needy
I had a thought about giving monetary support to a crack-head or any other person who has an addiction or pattern of very foolish choices in their lives. Have these people not suffered enough already by their poor choices? I would certainly much rather give some food or warm clothing or shelter as they need it than money (for obvious practical reasons). But it isn’t always practical to have food on me to share or to invite a stranger to stay in my house. It is, however, possible to have a little money to share with a prayer to God that it will be used for their health and not their detriment. At that point it is between them and God. I have shown love in giving, despite my misgivings.
Now, it has been argued that giving money is akin to giving a drunk a drink. I’m not certain I’m convinced that’s true. I have not given the drunk a drink, but a choice. God also gives us the freedom to choose to follow Him or not. Now, if the person is someone I am able to spend more time with and create a relationship with then I may tailor my help more specifically to that person and I may choose to only provide needs, instead of cash, to help reduce the temptation of misusing any monetary support. But again, there are those who I can invest the time and energy to help more, and there are those I can only help a little with some money and a prayer.