Sunday, February 27, 2011

Parables and Classical Music

Recently, I was listening to one of my new favorite classical pieces, a Khachaturian violin concerto, when it struck me that not very many people like classical music. I couldn't understand why. To me, it seemed like it could express so much more than any song with lyrics because the music came from the heart and not the mouth. Apparently, the majority of the teenage world does not agree with me.

So I did what I always do when I don't understand something. I asked my dad.

"Dad, why don't most people like classical music?"

His reply? "Well, it's not something you can hum along to. Lots of times there's not even a clear melody. It's a lot harder to understand classical music than it is to understand music with lyrics."

It's harder to understand. Classical music drives away the people who don't care enough to try and understand the music.

That's a lot like parables. Mark 4:11-12 says:

He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,
          "they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
          and ever hearing but never understanding;
          otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!"

Jesus spoke in a way that was confusing to those who didn't take the time to understand. They didn't care enough about what He was saying to try and decipher the beauty of His message. They heard but never understood.

Just like classical music.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Battlefield of Orphan Care

Honestly, I never thought of orphan care as a battlefield before I went to Peru. It was something that made me feel good. It made me feel like I was something special because I was caring for those who were the "least of the least". Sure, it had a special place in my heart, but it never had the importance that it does now.

Orphan care is a battlefield.

There is a raging war going on for the lives of God's most precious children right now. In World War II, considered one of the world's greatest atrocities, a total of 6 million Jewish men, women, and children died.

In just one year, 10.2 million children will die from preventable causes. And that is not a historical fact, something that happened in the past that we can feel sorry about. This is happening now.

If that doesn't merit a war, I don't know what does. Now, going back to World War II, how would you feel about people who just stood aside? People who felt sorry for the Jews, but did nothing to help them. You would see them as repulsive, disgusting. How dare they stand by while an innocent people is unjustly suffering?

How is that any different than the 147 million orphans that are suffering today?

Orphan care is a war. We have to fight for what we know is right. We have to grind our teeth and go into battle, suffering pain, loss, sadness, emotional turmoil, all because we know what we're fighting for is the right thing.

People wonder why orphan advocates are so persistent in getting others involved. Now do you see? It's hard to bear the fact that while we're out there in the trenches, trying to win the battle, you're just sitting in your comfortable chairs miles away. You know we can't win the battle without more help, but you're unwilling to join because -

Because what? You fear for yourself? You fear that you'll be hurt, injured, that you won't come back?

That's part of the battle. That's part of the risk we take for God's children.

Orphan care is a battlefield. And once you enlist, there's no going back. You've been changed. Your heart has been ripped out of your body and placed in the hands of millions of hurting children. And you can't sit back and do nothing while they cry out for help.

I am a soldier. In fact, I'm one of those reckless soldiers who will run into the middle of the battlefield, through whizzing bullets to get something that's been lost.

Are you?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Happy Worthday

When I went to Peru last summer, I didn't expect to be changed. I didn't expect to be altered for life. I didn't expect that my entire view of the world would be shifted. I didn't expect to want to do something about it. I didn't expect to remember quite so vividly. But I did.

I remember those precious children at the Sagrada Familia Orphanage so vividly, in fact, that there is not an hour in the day that goes by that I do not think about them. That I don't wish I was there. That I don't yearn to do something for them.

I couldn't just sit back and do nothing. So I didn't.

About five months ago, I contacted a woman at our church who is the "connection", for lack of a better word, between our church and the church in Peru. I asked her if I could give Christmas presents to Cesár, Hectór, and Carmensita. She consented wholeheartedly, offering to personally deliver the gifts when she travelled to Peru, but asked if I thought I could collect giveaways so that all the children at the baby house in the orphanage could get Christmas gifts.

As you can imagine, I jumped right on that train. With the power of God, we received plenty of donations for the kids in the Sagrada Familia Orphanage. But something had been birthed inside me. Something big. I had an idea. A big idea. I told our "connection woman" about it when she came to get the gifts. What if next year, we gave Christmas gifts to all 800 kids at the orphanage? And what if we had families sponsor their gifts, and write them a letter to make it even more personal?

To my utter and complete shock, she thought it was doable, and said she would talk to the pastor in Peru, and have a meeting with me when she got back. I couldn't believe it. Could this actually happen?

I immediately told a few girls who had been on the Peru team with me who had expressed their strong desire to be involved when I'd told them the idea. When our "connection woman" got back from Peru, we all met with her. We couldn't believe it. It was actually happening.

Over the next four months or so, we were busy planning, praying, and getting permission to do what we wanted to do. My idea had grown into something much bigger than I had ever thought it would be, and transformed into something better than it originally was. The outcome?

Happy Worthday.

When our church's student team goes to Peru in July, we will visit the orphanage, throwing the orphans a big Worthday party to celebrate how much they are worth to us and to Jesus. We will bring them a personal gift along with a letter from their sponsor. While we are excited to bring them gifts, our real joy is in bringing the love of Jesus to both the orphans, and the orphanage workers and director. We're also excited to partner with our sister church.

However, in order to accomplish the Worthday sponsorship, enforcing the connection between child and sponsor, we will travel to Peru to get pictures and information of all 800 orphans over Spring Break.

That means I'm going to Peru next month! I am so excited! Not only for this project, but also to see my little Carmensita again! I bet she's grown a lot!

And the best part? Our church thinks that this "Worthday" ministry could be used in other places that they go! So there could one day be Worthday parties in Nigeria, Haiti, Sudan, anywhere!

God is so good!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day. Considered by many to be the most romantic day of the year. The word conjures up images of heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, red roses, and candle-lit dinners.

It is truly, truly a day of love. But, what Valentine's Day is changes based on what your definition of love is. Valentine's Day is, in its essence, a day to express your feelings to those you love.

But, sadly, for most of the world today, they see Valentine's Day only as an opportunity to show romantic love. And even how to show romantic lovehas been distorted through the years.

But Valentine's Day isn't all about romance. It's not all about the kissy, huggy feeling you get that disappears within a few days. It's about true, selfless, sacrificial love.

Maybe today, instead of buying a box of chocolates for that guy you think is slightly attractive, you could buy some candy for your little brother.
Maybe having a tea party with your little sister will show more love than an expensive dinner at an Italian restaurant ever would.

Maybe giving your mom a card will make her happier than it would ever make your boyfriend.

Maybe your family and friends are just as worth your expressions of love than your romantic interest.

Valentine's Day shouldn't be about what you get, but what you give.
And if you're feeling down because you don't have a valentine this February, remember that you received the most beautiful, sweet, loving Valentine that's ever been sent. Can't you just picture it?

Don't forget the greatest Valentine ever sent on this day of love. John 3:16. Never forget how much you are deeply, truly loved. And show that love to those around you in return.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Can You Love Someone You've Never Met?

Can you love someone you've never met? Love them so much that it feels like your heart's about to burst out of your chest and fly halfway across the world to them?

I think so.

I've been told by some that my attachment to children I meet could be seen as a bad thing. I wish I could say they were wrong. There are so many children that I love. Carmensita. Hectór. Cesár. Levi. Jace. Evan. Some I've met, some I've never laid eyes on.

Some people say it's ridiculous. It's absolutely impossible for me to love this little boy as much as I do already. Isaac is four years old. He lives at Maria's Big House of Hope, and he has spina bifida. There is not much prospect for him in China, but there is the hope of a forever family in America. Maria's Big House of Hope can only hold him for one more year. Then he goes back into the state-run orphanage. He will not be cared for like his at MBHOH.

I love Isaac. I love him with all of my heart. It gives me great pain to think that he might not get adopted. It keeps me up at night. I shed tears for him. I don't know why.

See, I think loving someone is all about the connection. Hectór made such an impression on me because he reminded me of Levi. I thought, What if this was Levi? I think it's the same with Isaac.

I didn't want to go to Maria's Big House at first. I didn't want to go to China. I didn't feel called there. Until I saw this video of Isaac. I made a connection. His laugh sounded so much like Jace's when he was little. I thought, What if that was Jace?

So, yes. I think it's very possible to love someone you've never met. Love them so much it hurts.

Think about Jesus. I wonder if it pains Him that He can't meet us face to face right now. Does he wish with all his heart that he could just hold us in His arms and give us a hug? Does His heart feel like it's going to explode He loves us so much?

If it's anything like the way mine is for Isaac, I bet it does.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Better Friend

Sometimes I am a horrible friend.

Sometimes I selfishly put myself before the people I love. Sometimes I have selfish desires that motivate what I do for others. Sometimes I do good things just to be noticed. Sometimes I don't want to help. Sometimes I don't want to lead. Sometimes I don't want to initiate. Sometimes I wish that I could own something instead of letting other people take charge. Sometimes I wish I could work alone. Sometimes I don't want to be around people. Sometimes I'm jealous of my friends. Sometimes I wish they weren't so incredible, that way they'd be jealous of me. Sometimes I am a terrible friend, in thought and in action.

But I always want to be a better friend.

It strikes me that without God, I would show all of the above traits, all the time. Without God, I would be a selfishly shallow person, a terrible friend who cares only about herself. I battle those things daily, but with God, I overcome them. Sometimes they win. Sometimes I'm jealous, or hurtful, or selfish. But all the time, I have a God who picks me up when I fall down. Who reprimands me when I'm wrong. Who is constantly teaching me how to be a better friend.

I am so thankful for a God that is a better friend than I will ever be.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Lord Provides

February 2, 2011. It will always be a momentous day in my mind. Same as November 25, 2009.

At about 10:00 this morning, the phone rang. I rose from my chair where I was answering study questions about The Great Gatsby. Mom had taken Levi to therapy and Dad was at work. I expected it to be a political call.

My breath caught in my throat as I read the ID on the phone - our adoption agency. Knowing that this could either be fantastic news or terrible news, I answered the phone slightly discombobulated.

"Hello?" I said, trying to sound as calm and collected as I could.

"Angie?" People always think I'm my mom. Our voices are similar, I guess. From past experience, I knew that our caseworker wouldn't tell me anything. She'd just ask for mom or dad, and they weren't there. In that case, she'd tell me a whole bunch of nothing. I thought for a split second that I could impersonate Mom, but then decided against it.

"No, this is her daughter."

"Oh, can I speak with your mom?"

"She's not available right now. May I take a message?" I prayed to God she would let me know whatever it is we needed to know so I could take a message.

"Do you think she could be reached on her cellphone."

I sighed inside. "Probably. She usually answers her phone."

"Alright, thanks. I'll try her there."

I hung up the phone, holding my breath. There was no way I was focusing on American literature now. I sat nervously in my chair, trying to answer a question about the significance of the color green in the novel, both my cell phone and the home phone by my side. I grabbed at my cell phone when I heard it vibrate. The caller ID told me it was my dad.

Without waiting for him to say anything, I asked, "Did the caseworker call?"

"Caseworker?" Crap. He hadn't gotten a call.

"Oh! Yeah, she might have called, and, uh, given us a court date!"

I screamed and tried to stifle the tears that were immediately coming to my eyes. I almost didn't believe it. I couldn't believe it. After so long, after so much waiting, she was coming home.

March 31 is our court date. Of course, the judge could still say no to our adoption, but this is a step in the right direction. If all goes well, Evan will come home on April 20. Our Christmas tree will still be up so that we can have Christmas with her. Her presents are waiting. Her stocking is stuffed. It will be Christmas in April for the Hooks! The best Christmas ever!

Thank you all for your prayers, and if you would, continue to lift up the judge's heart and our baby girl. There are still barriers to be crossed to bring her home.