when we pray, “Lord, I need You.”

A while back, I was reading this article at Desiring God, “No Longer an Orphan (but tempted to live like it” by Christine Hoover, which led me to order Rose Marie Miller’s book Nothing is impossible with God and write this post, “erase the ways of our orphanhood” about our freedom in discovering what it means to be called a child of God.

If I haven’t lost you to the above links (I kind of wish I have, btw), then sit with me a minute as I reflect on what’s squeezing my heart today: the gospel of adoption. Jared Wilson writes in Gospel Deeps,

“Only in the complex depths of the triune godhead are wrath-owed enemies also love-won children.”

My pen painted marks all over this sentence on page 152, but it got real messy on the next page and I decided the next person to read this book might have a hard time being objective. I’m not sure how I can explain my thoughts without giving you a full paragraph, so here it is,

“God turns rebels into family. He does this in deep love before time began (Eph. 1:5), through meticulous sovereignty throughout the old covenant (Rom. 9:4), by abundant grace in the new covenant offering of Christ (Gal. 4:4-5), and with affectionate power in the Spirit’s ongoing mission (Gal. 4:6). He is still on the surface of the deep, calling out order from the formless void of our hearts. And in this wonder is another incomprehensible wonder, namely that the Spirit’s conversion of us godward is characterized as both adoption and rebirth.” (Jared Wilson, Gospel Deeps, p. 153)

Take a moment.

Maybe print off this paragraph so you can mark it up, too. Look up Ephesians and Romans and Galatians to test the assertions and hold on only to what is good (1 Thes. 5:21). What I am holding onto after reflecting is what is holding on to me: adoption papers.

I read it this morning and I can not shake it. I am adopted – a full-blown child with a new last name, an eternal inheritance, and a forever family – and I was at war with my Father when He signed the papers. He wanted me when I wanted nothing to do with him. While I was still a sinner (Romans 5:8), Christ chose me, loved me, and gave Himself up for me. I appreciate that Wilson uses the words “meticulous sovereignty” because I think it helps us picture just how intimately involved God is with the affairs of His people.

I often explain away my haphazard housekeeping by saying I am a “creative” person. For some reason “creative” people are off the hook when it comes to keeping things orderly. People will just say, “Oh, she’s artsy… you know, abstract” and that’s supposed to mean you shouldn’t expect that girl to have her life together. Maybe this makes God’s meticulous sovereignty even MORE amazing – creativity came from Him, but He is concerned with the littlest details of existence. From the broad strokes of orange-pink-purple sky to the number of raindrops in a storm, He is authoring all the beauty and also meticulously involved in orchestrating every atomic detail.

His powerful sovereignty runs like a thread throughout the old testament, reveals God’s love in Christ’s sacrifice, and weaves through the present to declare God’s glory. At the end of the paragraph I copied above, Wilson says that our conversion is characterized by both adoption and rebirth.

This. This is what is squeezing my heart today. God declares that we are His by what I imagine would be some divine paperwork and a holy signature dipped in Christ’s blood, but then He makes us His children as He sanctifies us every day. He is not an absent father, because even adoptive fathers can be absent. Instead, God declares us (His enemies) beloved children and then commits to making us more beautiful – to look more like the image of His perfect Son (Romans 8:29).

I see so many children in my work and they do not hide their fears. When parents have to leave (it doesn’t matter what the legal papers say), fear swims out of their eyes and clings in their hands. They get desperate and throw tantrums and ask impossible questions.

Today, I have been thinking about God declaring me His child and making me His child. My status is sealed in the work of Christ on my behalf, but my Father reminds me daily of His love efforts. He is relentless as He reminds me of His faithfulness that drives out fear. He is meticulous. And I need Him.

I need my Father to do more than sign papers that say I have access to forever with Him. I need Him to walk with me. I need Him to hold me up. I need Him to be strong for me. I need Him to be courage for me. I need Him to be hope for me. I need Him to be compassion for me. I need Him to be understanding for me. I need Him to teach me, correct me, rebuke me, love me, humble me, and chase me.

I need all these things in Him because I am empty otherwise. My need is not self-centered (though I suppose it can get twisted), but instead a declaration of my emptiness alone. The depth of my need would make me fearful if I didn’t know that his Fatherhood is more than abundant. His on-going, faithful adoption is a signature He writes on my heart every moment of today. The grace He has given will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory, so that His name would be praised and His perfect Fatherhood would be blessed!

The beautiful thing about singing, “Lord, I need You” is in knowing His response. When we say, “Lord, I need You,” God responds with, “I know. I am faithful to give Myself.” We can safely cry out our need for refuge while knowing we are safe inside the very refuge we seek.

I think my belly just smiled (is that where our souls are, in our bellies?) because I’m chasing this around in circles.

As we are praying our need of God, we believe His faithfulness in being what we need.

The horrors of 3801 Lancaster (the place where Kermit Gosnell (see The Atlantic article) destroyed the lives of so many women and babies), lead us to pray, “Lord, we need You.” And I think He is saying, “I know. I am faithful to give Myself.”

the opposite of mid-life crisis

Some couples graduate into their 50s and revert back to their adolescence. Isn’t that what a mid-life crisis is? You know, extravagant spending and adventures because it’s “all about me” and I’ve got to a have a cultural norm to explain it?

Vomit car exhibit two

I know, I know.
I can’t possibly empathize because I’m in my late 20s and I don’t understand how practical and mission-minded expensive motorcycles are. But, I have a reason to pick this middle life bone. My parents are having the opposite experience. They would never tell you that, so I’m going to.

My parents have hearts the size of Texas and they are constantly looking for ways to grow them even bigger. Recently, my mom sent me a text that said, “What would you think of us fostering two freshmen girls?”

She had to expect my response would be, “Yessssss! Of course!” I mean, as a sophomore in college I sent my parents pictures of children who were awaiting adoption in the state of Iowa. Clearly I would be in favor of the idea, but I’m always in favor of dramatic life changes if they are in the direction of ministering with the gifts you’ve been given.

Then I talked to my dad. He was counting the cost – thinking about how his house would change and family gatherings would be different. He was thinking about curfews and possibly inviting two people to be part of our family forever. He was considering his role as protector for my mom who has spent herself in giving to others. He was counting the cost and it made me consider the magnitude of the life-altering adjustment.

I heard my dad’s prayer requests for unselfishness. I heard my mom’s prayer requests for these girls to have a future. I heard both of them ask for hearts enlarged to fit God’s purpose for them at this stage in their lives and I’m humbled.

My parents will never tell you they’ve got it figured out, because they don’t. Their lives are evidence of their humble posture toward what God is calling them into next. I count it truly a privilege to learn how to love my Lord better alongside parents who are doing the same. This might be the best lesson they are teaching me.

The opposite of a mid-life crisis is getting intentional about serving others to the point where it hurts… it means adjusting your life in a way that’s painful so that others might benefit. There’s never a stage in life where you arrive and can say, “At last! Comfort and relaxation and vacation.” That is not a life stage in God’s development plan for your holiness. It just isn’t.

The beauty is that the pursuit of holiness – the forever life stage – is also the most rewarding and satisfying way you can choose to spend your days. That’s not my guarantee, either.

“In His presence is fullness of joy and pleasure forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

fathers be good to your daughters… and sons too

This is one of those “been-a-long-time-coming” posts.

I remember calling my dad’s cell phone randomly while working in Texas several years ago and just saying, “Thanks, dad. I know this may not make sense, but I just need to say thank you for doing what you do and being who you are.”

I was spending all my days with college age students at work and some nights with the junior high youth group girls. Over and over and over again I heard about broken homes, a spirit of distrust, and a very real longing from these girls to know their fathers and be known by them.

I’m a fixer by Nichols nature, but as I listened to these stories one thing was certain: this was out of my league.

In every case, every 12-year-old and every almost-20-something, I searched for words and came up speechless. Now, several years later, the stories are piling up like postcards from similar destinations: despair, loneliness, anger, betrayal, pain, and sometimes hope. Those are the ones I like best – the hope ones. The others are ones that make my heart hurt. Those destinations are hard to explain, but they seem to keep arriving at my doorstep.

Tonight, during our Bible study on God’s design for women, my heart broke again for all the girls in my life who have a hard time picturing God as a loving Father. If a father is someone who is silent and distant… or two-faced and secretive… or always offering empty promises, then it is hard to picture God’s role as our Father much differently.

Oh, this hurts! In the French film Amélie, the little girl’s father is a doctor and her mother is a headmistress. They are each particular about different things, but neither very particular about showing affection to their one daughter. One scene read almost exactly like one of my sad story postcards. Amélie, who looks about 5, sits like a statue while her father takes her heartbeat. Her face is emotionless, but the narrator informs us that she, like every girl, wants nothing more than to be hugged by her dad. Since he keeps his distance, she longs and treasures this yearly checkup – where he always finds her heart rate abnormally fast (due to her excitement in being near him).

Almost daily, I am reminded that I have no answers. Nothing I can say today from my mind or heart will hold up tomorrow and will certainly not pass through the many worlds separating me from the home lives of the girls who are so precious to me. I know of only one thing that is true always and it’s the unchanging Word of the Lord. I know without that infallible Word, all of my words will fall flat.

As long as I’m on the subject… there are a few things I wish Dads knew. John Mayer’s song, “Daughters,” scratches the surface of the longing a daughter feels to be loved by her dad, but (not surprisingly) it isn’t strong enough.

Fathers, be good to your daughters
daughters will love like you do

It was simple enough to capture the attention of a whole crowd of daughters who wished for what this nebulously suggests, but I wish this song spelled out specifics.

Fathers:

  1. Be transparent about your first and greatest Love. For many daughters, your faith is a secret. You might go to church or you might have a Bible, but your ideas and convictions are as hidden and elusive as treasure on a child’s treasure map. It’s okay to be somewhere in the growing stages of your faith – in fact, it’s refreshing for us daughters to know you haven’t “arrived” yet. When your daughter can see you admit you need God, her heart and tenderness toward you will grow, but more importantly you will have pointed her gaze to the Father that never fails.
  2. Love your wife. One of the greatest ways you can love your daughter is to love and serve your wife. When they see you honoring, protecting, partnering, laughing, enjoying, and living in a way that reflects God’s design, they will be confident as you lead the family AND you will give them an excellent example of a husband. (This is especially important in those years where you cannot relate to your daughter. When nothing makes sense, love your wife well and I promise your daughter will see it!)
  3. Choose to be around. Your daughter will feel special that you’ve decided the best place for you to be in that moment is with them.
  4. Get personal. Some of my favorite memories with my dad are simple ones that we shared while we did chores together on the farm or as we drove out to a football game or prepared our animals for county fair. Every discussion doesn’t have to be deep, but if you open up first then you’ll gain your daughter’s trust and she’ll likely reciprocate (even if it’s not right away).
  5. Encourage, praise, love the God-honoring things your daughter does and push her in those things to be excellent. I’ll never forget my dad’s insistence that I study that little spelling book in preparation for the elementary spelling bees. My dad still types on the computer with his pointer fingers and English wasn’t his strongest high school subject, but when he found out I could put letters together in the right order, he was going to make sure I did it excellently. Those little things (though I assure you I didn’t love them at the time) made his love for me so obvious.
  6. Be gentle. Your daughter will appreciate well-placed words and respectable silences.
  7. Be good to your sons, too. Your daughters are smart. They will see the way you are leading and guiding your sons. Right now they are probably making mental notes in their heart about whether their dream man will act like the father and brothers in their lives. Many hold desperately on to the hope that it can be different. If they have to rely on Hollywood, they will be hoping for something unhealthy and unrealistic. But she’s got a front row seat for what a man should look like, so show her!

I don’t know where all this came from, but it is so my heart to encourage men to be men as God created them. I just read this blogpost the other day and it’s a slightly different tangent, but with the same bottom line – that men would be true men.

let LOVE fly like crazy