The Ransom is Paid!

I’ve had so many thoughts stirring in my head as Easter has approached this year. In light of our earthly adoption process, I’ve been thinking about my adoption by God.

Let’s be honest for a minute– international adoption is expensive. Like really, really expensive. No agency can tell you up front exactly how much you will pay during an international adoption. If adopting, you sign (many!) forms agreeing to the amount you will pay for each part of the adoption process, and saying you understand that there will be “extra expenses” and they are solely your responsibility. At my bare minimum projections we will spend over $20,000 when it’s all said and done and Lovebug is at home with our family.

That’s a crazy lot of money. It’s a great debt we will gladly pay to ransom our daughter from a life void of hope. Without paying this money, Lovebug would remain in her current state– family-less– indefinitely. We have to pay the debt required in order to be able to bring her home and call her ours.

At Easter, we remember a similar ransom that was paid a long time ago. You see, I was lost in sin and utter darkness. I was an enemy of God. I was an orphan in the world- without hope, without love. But Someone came and gave even more than $20,000 as a ransom for me. He gave His life.


As His blood– His pure, precious blood spilled down over rough wood and pooled at the foot of a Roman cross, my adoption fee was paid in full.

Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. Without payment, there is no adoption into God’s family. Without great cost, there is no salvation for the lost. Without the debt being erased, there is no redemption from the old life. Without Jesus, there is no hope for the future.

The mystery of the cross I cannot comprehend
The agonies of Calvary
You the perfect Holy One, crushed Your Son
Who drank the bitter cup reserved for me 

Your blood has washed away my sin
Jesus, thank You
The Father’s wrath completely satisfied
Jesus, thank You
Once Your enemy, now seated at Your table
Jesus, thank You


By Your perfect sacrifice I’ve been brought near
Your enemy You’ve made Your friend
Pouring out the riches of Your glorious grace
Your mercy and Your kindness know no end
(Jesus, Thank You by Pat Sczebel) 

He paid the price to redeem my soul and then He conquered death! He died to bring us life! That is the sobering, awesome, gruesome, blessed hope of Easter. Praise the Lord.

The very good very bad Day

It’s Good Friday. But it all started with Bad Friday.


Jesus knew it would be a bad day.


“Father, if you are willing, remove <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BK)”>this cup from me. <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BL)”>Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”  And there appeared to him <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BM)”>an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BN)”>being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.


He was mistreated and slandered.


The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(O)”>treated him with contempt and <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(P)”>mocked him.


He was completely innocent, but He was numbered among transgressors– hanging between two who deserved their punishment.


…he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors…Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(AP)”>And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(AQ)”>one on his right and one on his left. 


He struggled for breath for more than three hours as darkness covered the face of the earth. Creation watched, breathless, as Jesus breathed his last and surrendered His soul.


 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. Then Jesus, <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BP)”>calling out with a loud voice, said,“Father, <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BQ)”>into your hands I <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BR)”>commit my spirit!” And having said this <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BS)”>he breathed his last. 


But this was no ordinary death.


And behold, <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BU)”>the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BV)”>the earth shook, and the rocks were split. When the centurion and those who were with him, <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(CA)”>keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(CB)”>“Truly this was the Son of God!”


And He was buried in a cave-like tomb as some of His loved ones watched.


And Joseph bought <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BQ)”>a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BR)”>laid him in a tomb <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BS)”>that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(BT)”>a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus saw where he was laid.


But the story doesn’t end there…




{Quotations taken from the ESV version of the Bible from Luke 22, 23, Isaiah 53, Matthew 27, Mark 15}

Christmas Guy

Stinkbug says, “I’m the Christmas guy!”
I think he means Joseph or maybe a shepherd. Either way this kid is hilarious.
Every time he sees a nativity scene set up he calls it an “Away in a Manger”– Mommy, look they have an Away in a Manger! And then he gently starts moving the pieces around until they are all surrounding baby Jesus while singing Away in a Manger out loud to himself. 
And I’m treasuring all these things up and pondering them in my heart.

Christmas Thoughts

She wasn’t married. But she was pregnant.

In her time, in her society, pregnancy outside of marriage was not acceptable. It caused more than curious glances and shoulder shrugs by passersby.

It was a crime punishable by death.

And yet this was the way He chose to reach out to humanity.

~~~~~~~~~~

He was a hard worker. A faithful man, and yet it appeared his betrothed had not been.

His dreams for a future and a family, crushed beneath the weight of an unexpected baby.

But a Rescuer, expected and anticipated by all of fallen creation.

~~~~~~~~~~

As beautiful and serene as we try to paint the Nativity, it wasn’t. There was sweat and blood pooling around Mary as she pushed her Savior into the world. He didn’t land in a confident midwife’s arms, but in the outstretched, calloused hands of plain, hardworking Joseph– the only one there to catch the baby, who would one day stretch out His own arms to save broken humanity.

~~~~~~~~~~

God didn’t send the angelic choir to give the news to the most important people of the day– most of us would have invited the governor, the senators, the city councilmen, the temple priests, the doctors and lawyers– instead He chose to tell a rag tag group of shepherds. Men without beauty or wealth or fame. The most ordinary of ordinary. 
And He sends us a message with His message– there is no one lowly or unworthy for this baby Savior… Come see! Come believe! Come be saved! Come all! Come seek the baby Savior!
~~~~~~~~~~

A King for all mankind, not robed in purple, but swaddled in plain cloth.

A Savior for the people, not hailed by the masses, but adored by dirty shepherds in a dingy stable.

It’s a story riddled with scandal. If we hadn’t have heard it so many times before, it might surprise us– the way God chose to wrap Himself in flesh and present Himself to the world. 


But as we gaze upon the baby in a wooden manger bed, and see through His story, to the hard wood of His cross etching its marks forever upon His body of flesh, we can rejoice and with the angels sing

Joy to the World the Lord has come!Let earth receive her king!Let every heart prepare Him room!

Coats, Coats, Coats

Things in life don’t ever seem to turn out as well as I imagine them. In spite of a yucky rainy day, we loaded the kids up and went to the bazaar in search of coats.
Of course everything had already gone wrong this morning– baby with a fever, kids fighting, parents speaking unkind words to each other. Ain’t that always the way it goes when you’re trying to be a “good Christian” and do something like buy 14 coats to send to poor children who live in a cold, snowy, devastated place? That’s how it seems to go for us anyway…
I think Hubby’s face says it all here. But doesn’t he look like St. Nick with his big bag o’ coats?
We got 14 coats. We actually ended up having more than $100 to spend on coats. When I blogged yesterday, two people wanted me to buy a couple of coats from them to add in, so the blessing multiplies. God is good.
(I totally realize the picture of the coats is oriented wrong, and usually I would so care, but I just don’t today. If you’ve ever dragged three kids- one sick- to the outdoor bazaar in the rain after a horrible night’s sleep, you understand. Ahem.) 

In spite of the rain and the bad moods, we shared some sweet conversation with the kids about why we were buying so many coats and where they were going to go. 
Ladybug promptly burst into tears and said, “I don’t want to go to Van!” I think she thought we were cancelling our trip to America for Christmas and heading to Van to deliver the coats instead. After that misunderstanding was cleared up, she was very happy to help get the coats.
And I may still be a little disappointed that I didn’t win an iPad… but how can I be anything but joyful that he will have a coat this week?

More on Christmas Contentment

I wrote yesterday about changing Christmas by seeing our selfishness, materialistic tendencies and lust for more during the Advent season, as sin and desiring severance from it.

Today I read the most beautiful and frankly-stated article by Jen Hatmaker called The Christmas Conundrum. If you are a Christian parent, will you take ten minutes and go read it today? Make yourself a cup of apple cider or (insert other wintry beverage of your choice here) and open your heart to the ideas that Jen shares about this time of the year as believers.

Pictured: Our Jesse Tree this year was so easy (and cheap!) that you could do it too.
We use the Devotional Guide by Ann Voskamp (It’s free to download!)
I printed the book and bound it, printed the ornaments and backed them.
I picked up sticks outside (free again!) and stuck them in a $3 vase– wahla! Jesse Tree is done.

I’ve also been hearing great things about Truth in the Tinsel, a guide for Advent for toddler and preschool-aged children.

Most Advent things do start on December 1st, but it’s never too late! Find something you like and can handle, sit your kids down and start talking about the real reason for this season!

Contentment

One of my favorite parts of Christmastime in a Muslim part of the world where there is no Christmas, is how simple and un-materialistic Christmas can be. I can enjoy Advent and the simple joys of Christmas music, my favorite Christmas books, Christmas movies without feeling pressure to list and shop and invite and send and bake and fret.

I can go to the mall and it’s just like any other time of the year- no CHRISTMAS-SALE! ONLY — MORE DAYS TO SHOP! signs to draw me in promising to fill my shopping bags and empty my wallet simply because it’s that time of the year.


My senses are not overloaded with the unnecessary. No one over here has an elf on the shelf. No one is mailing Christmas cards or lamenting the “costs” of the season.

(Of course, it’s sad that on Christmas Day when our living room is abuzz with the account of Luke 2 and wrapping paper piles up as little ones squeal over new toys, everyone else is going about their daily business. And I miss seeing lights on houses, and being invited to Christmas parties, and eating every dessert on the table because hey, it’s Christmas!)

Maybe you’re finding yourself buried in lists of “stuff to do/get/buy before Christmas”. Maybe you’re dreading the credit card bills arriving next month because you have found yourself spending more that you should. Maybe the whole season seems riddled with selfishness and materialism to you… If that’s you– STOP AND EMBRACE THOSE FEELINGS. If something doesn’t feel right, or you find yourself doing just because the culture around you is doing, stop!

As easy as it should be to keep my Christmas simple, I don’t. I want to give my husband and my children awesome gifts. I want to outfit the house with more red and green and lights than is tasteful. I want to pick the best gifts for extended family and friends. I want to make the most delicious cookies and desserts. I always want to throw a party (or two)… Even with all the American hubbub of Christmas removed, I still want more! want bigger! want more expensive!

I was moved when I read this in Valley of Vision recently:

Heavenly Father, if I should suffer need, and go unclothed, and be in poverty, make my heart prize Thy love, know it, be constrained by it, though I be denied all blessings. It is Thy mercy to afflict and try me with wants, for by these trials I see my sins, and desire severance from them. Let me willingly accept misery, sorrows, temptations, if I can thereby feel sin as the greatest evil, and be delivered from it with gratitude to Thee, acknowledging this as the highest testimony of Thy love.



So many Christian families I know in America just seem to be going along with what our culture has said Christmas should be. We are letting the culture define a sacred time of celebration for us as believers! Friends, how can that be? Advent should be a joyful time of watching for his coming. Instead we’ve made it into a party for us- presents for us, desserts for us, parties for us, clothes for us, more than we need for us.

It’s not easy to say no. I don’t even live in America, but that didn’t stop me from checking out Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals online. I keep checking and rechecking my gifts list and then buying something else because it doesn’t seem like enough. I’ve had my tree up since before Thanksgiving, and I get a red Starbucks cup every time I’m at the mall.

Praise the Lord it is His mercy to afflict and try us with wants, so we can recognize our lusts, our selfishness, our pull towards culture as sin and desire severance from it!

Are you with me this Christmas? Can we stop when we feel those wants creeping up? Can we be still when our lust pleads with us for more? Can we praise God for afflicting us with wants this season, so we can ask forgiveness and be severed from those sins?

Mary, where’d you go?

Notice anything unusual about our nativity?

We can’t find Mary anywhere!
I’m sure Mary was a good mom, but she was human. She probably felt like running away sometimes. 
That thought gives me comfort. 
As much as a love my children, and would give my life for theirs without a second thought… I’ve brought all this baggage to motherhood with me. My sins, my shortcomings, my selfishness and it doesn’t take much to bring those nasty, ugly parts of myself to the surface. Often, I find myself wanting to run away from it all.
Thankfully, there is a place I can always run. 
In the presence of the Lord, I find compassion unending, mercies anew, and more grace than I deserve. He washes me clean from sin’s blackness, and bandages my wounds with His healing words. He mends my aching heart and gives me courage to keep going.
Are you like our Mary today? Tired and ready to run away? Take heart and run to the One who wrapped Himself in flesh and came to be “God with us”.