The Unadoptable Child

We had three boys and a girl. One would think that would be family enough. Yet I wanted another child—a girl—so our daughter would have a sister. We really couldn’t afford another child, so I felt I’d found our answer when I read a newspaper article about foster care. I pushed the paper in front of my husband.

“Jerry, look at this. Read this article and tell me what you think.”

After he’d had time to read it, I said, “We could afford another child if it were a foster child, as the state would pay us for her care. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get a girl close to Eva’s age, so they could enjoy growing up together?”

After we’d had time to mull over my latest idea, we agreed to contact the state social services. A social worker visited us several times, asking a myriad of questions. Then came the bombshell. “Would you be willing to take a handicapped child?”

We already had one child with serious health issues. Arthur was thirteen and had already lived more than twice as long as the doctors had predicted. He had cystic fibrosis but was doing very well. The social worker was impressed with the attitudes we had about raising him and felt she had another child in mind that would be well-placed with us.

“Tina is four-years-old and has cerebral palsy. Here, I have a picture of her.” The social worker handed us the photo of a little girl in a wheelchair with dark hair, curled fists and a plaintive look on her face. The worker left the photo with us while we met with our children over the coming days and discussed whether we should take Tina into our home.

As I prayed over our decision, I realized this would be a way we could do something for God, who had done so much for us in keeping our son healthy. But it would be important for the whole family to agree to bring this child into our fold.

The neighbors two doors down from us had a son with cerebral palsy and were very willing to share their experiences with us. That helped, as we had never known anyone with this affliction.

A few days later, my husband and I arrived at the institution where Tina was living. She was so tiny! Her name definitely fit her. When she came into our arms, she hugged us so tightly. She now had a momma and daddy.

Her new brothers and sister awaited our return home. On our way, I told my husband, “We’re never going to be able to let her go.” She had captured my heart quickly and completely.

In our earlier family conference, our oldest son was the only one who did not want to bring Tina into our family, as he felt she would hold us back from our many activities. Since he was the only one who objected, he was outvoted. It took him a week before he warmed up to her.

I was so proud of every child, as they helped Tina do all the things we did. They pushed her in her wheelchair up mountains, took her on carnival rides, and they even went water-skiing—my favorite. After Tina had spent a few years with us, one of my sons gave her a piggy-back ride, and she loved the experience. At first, she was afraid to try anything, but with her new siblings she learned to love trying every new thing. We put water wings on her and let her swim around the pool on her own. She loved the independence.

Within two years, we decided to move to another state, so we asked the social worker if we could adopt Tina. The support money would stop if we did this, but we’d decided we could handle that after all. But then the social worker told us Tina was on the unadoptable list. Flabbergasted, I asked what that meant. She said it was because Tina had three strikes against her. Most adoptive parents wanted white, healthy babies.

Tina didn’t fit in any of those categories. She was now six-years-old, was severely handicapped and was a minority. But none of that mattered to us, so she was soon a legal member of our family.

Tina has almost unintelligible speech, cannot walk and is unable to use her hands to feed herself or work a zipper or buttons. She remains at a preschool academic stage, yet she socially understands at an adult level. She does everything she can for herself and isn’t afraid to ask for help with what she can’t do. She has a happy outlook on life—inspiring family and friends all of these years. We’ve been so very blessed with this “unadoptable child.” And thank God for the faith to step out on uncharted waters.

Janice Grady is a writer from Carson City, NV.

A Living Sacrifice

SCORES OF MEN & WOMEN HAVE GIVEN THEMSELVES TO BUILD GOD’S KINGDOM

During the season of Lent—the forty days from Pentecost to Easter Sunday—many Christians decide to “give up” or fast from something. For some it may be a vice or bad habit. Others forego dessert in the evenings or coffee in the mornings. These Lenten traditions are meant to do more than just change lifestyles. They serve as daily reminders to offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices and to live for Christ instead of ourselves.

The idea of a living sacrifice is something of a contradiction in terms. Sacrifices offered under the old covenant traditionally were killed and burned in worship to God. The ancient Jews who laid their livestock on the altar of God were essentially giving the Lord a portion of their livelihood. Rather than eating, selling or breeding more sheep with his best lamb, the devout Israelite gave it to God as an act of faith. Sacrificing such an excellent animal showed devotion to the Lord. It reminded him that God was his provider. Offering ourselves as living sacrifices shows a similar reverence and dependence. It goes along with Scripture’s teachings about taking up our crosses daily or dying to self. Instead of focusing on our own desires, we give ourselves to God and His purposes.

Church history is filled with examples of men and women who sacrificed reputation, comfort, fame or fortune to serve the Lord. The disciple Matthew left his steady, presumably lucrative job as a tax collector to follow Christ. Barnabas sold his personal property to benefit the early Church. Paul traded the prestige of a Pharisee for the chains of an Apostle.

Before becoming a prominent evangelist, Dwight L. Moody was a salesman. Moody’s conversion came at a point in his life when he was beginning to find success in business. Instead of following the route of the industrial tycoons of his day, Moody devoted his life to spreading the gospel, and he leveraged his business savvy and success to help further that mission. He gave the skills and resources he could have used for himself to God instead.

Nearly a century later, a farm boy from North Carolina with a penchant for making friends and a knack for public speaking rose to prominence as arguably the most-heard evangelist in human history. Rev. Billy Graham’s humble upbringing, common touch, striking charisma and brilliant command of the English language were such a powerful combination that, had he so desired, might have outdone a Roosevelt or a Kennedy in American politics. Instead, he offered those talents in service to God. On one occasion, he mentioned some of the proposals he had received from people looking to capitalize on his abilities. “The offers I’ve had from Hollywood studios are amazing,” he said. “But I just laughed. I told them I was staying with God.”

The list of believers who sacrificed to follow Christ and serve others is long, running the gamut from the apostle Peter to Mother Teresa, but Christians do not have to be prominent missionaries to offer themselves as living sacrifices to God. Dying to self arguably is a daily task that can be carried out in ordinary ways.

Scripture repeatedly highlights believers like Lazarus, who opened his home to others. John 9:22 says the Jewish leaders had announced anyone believing Jesus to be the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue. Nevertheless, Lazarus was willing to associate openly with Jesus and His followers, and Lazarus and his sisters served them gladly in their own home.

In the Book of Acts, the presumably wealthy cloth merchant Lydia of Thyatira showed similar favor to believers who had been persecuted for their faith. Lydia’s hospitality toward people like Paul and Silas may have come at the expense of her popularity or her standing in the community. At the very least, it cost her time and money as she fed and housed them.

The Christian who tithes faithfully to his or her church trusts God to help make ends meet each month. The businessman who uses his leadership prowess to build the Kingdom of God instead of amassing more wealth for himself shows his heart is set of something besides money. The young person who voluntarily ministers at a shelter or nursing home is sacrificing valuable time for the things of God. The woman who delivers a casserole to someone just home from the hospital when she could be with her friends, and the father who spends a Saturday with his children when he could be playing golf both lay their own wishes aside so they can serve God by investing in others. These are simple ways a believer can offer him or herself to God as a living sacrifice.

Ultimately, the act of being a living sacrifice is a powerful testimony to the gospel. The British evangelist Rodney “Gipsy” Smith is said to have quipped, “There are five Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the Christian. Most people will never read the first four.” By offering themselves as living sacrifices, Christians can demonstrate the good news of Jesus Christ by their actions.

As the apostle Paul pointed out in his famous sermon on Mars Hill, God does not need human service or sacrifice. Human beings cannot add to or subtract from God’s glory or power. But Christians can worship and honor God a little at a time each day by offering themselves as living sacrifices—and they can point others to Him as well.

David Cox is a writer from Parsons, KS.

Finding a New Path Through Self-Discovery

Understanding Cleveland’s Harbor Light Community Corrections Program

“Heart to God, Hand to Man.” It’s an old slogan still cherished by some. It sounds simple, almost elementary, until you see it come to life. I experienced the meaning behind these words on a recent visit to Cleveland’s Harbor Light Complex.

The Community Corrections Program dates back to 1973, and it serves nearly 200 people on a daily basis and over 1,300 annually. 75% of program participants successfully complete the program—an impressive number by all accounts. The ultimate goal is to help transition ex-offenders back into the community and reduce recidivism. These individuals come into the program either in lieu of going to jail or to serve the final months of their sentences.

John Hill

John Hill, employment specialist.

During the 4-6-month program, these residents, who are still designated as inmates, participate in 25 sessions of evidence-based classes that focus on cognitive behavior and teach them how to make better decisions. Other classes teach soft skills, like creating a resume, conducting job searches, interview role-playing and filling out applications. Helping residents find employment is a large focus. The staff at Harbor Light works daily with area businesses to identify employment opportunities, which can be hard to come by, especially for those with felonies.

“I witnessed God’s grace and support for one another.”
“This is not just a halfway house. This is a community.”

I witnessed God’s grace and support for one another. It was demonstrated through the actions of everyone from the officers and staff to the program participants. People were smiling and engaged in conversation, and phrases of “Bless you, brother!” were exclaimed everywhere. This is not just a halfway house. This is a community. It is a place where respect, spiritual faith and faith in each other is front-and-center.

Residents Joe Hughes and Richard Withers shared with me the value of self-discovery that takes place at Harbor Light. Joe, who has been in the program for two months, has taken every class available to him, including worship services. “With this time here, I have to take advantage of that,” says Joe, who had warrants for his arrest just a few months ago. “Before I came here, I was homeless, staying in abandoned buildings. I was a junkie shooting heroin, always running from my probation officer and got tired of that. I turned myself in to the first police officer I saw. I said, ‘If I don’t do this now, I’m never going to do it.’” As for self-discovery, Joe says that learning how to set expectations is critical. “I had unrealistic expectations of not only myself but others. I put a lot on my plate, and I have to learn how to prioritize.” Today, Joe is “super confident” in maintaining this new path. He credits the staff for his growth. “Staff from every part of this building has come to help me out—giving referrals, support and guidance.” Joe is currently employed and saving money. He plans to head to the West Coast to work on a fishing boat when he completes the program in October.

Joe Hughes-Richard Withers

Participants come to the Harbor Light having experienced homelessness, drug abuse and incarceration. The value the self-discovery offered by the program.

Richard Withers, another resident, was in prison for two years for violating parole prior to coming to Harbor Light. He too shared how the classes, and especially the staff, have helped him see things in a new light. “Day one, I felt love and support from the staff. You are surrounded by positivity,” Richard says. Richard has been at Harbor Light for two months, and since his arrival, he has made a key realization. “I learned I was lazy; I need to stop cutting corners and finish what I started. I’m getting that together now.” For Richard, it’s the cognitive classes on how to be productive and manage situations that have helped him the most. In this short time, he says the biggest change for him is, “…my attitude. I cherish the smaller things in life more now than before.” Richard is currently working on his GED while he awaits his release in November. He plans to build a career in machinery or construction.

While the program elements have evolved over time, the true heart of Harbor Light’s Community Correction Program is the men and women who work there. For them, the real reward is seeing the positive change taking place every day in people who have overwhelming challenges and baggage. They delight in serving others in His name and demonstrating that living a philosophy of “Heart to God, Hand to Man” is delivering on the promise of “Doing the Most Good.”

Andy Junn lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

Cleanse Me

David not only committed adultery with the help of an elaborate deception, but he topped it off with the cold-blooded murder of a trusted associate. It is a sordid story of a very good man going very, very bad. He thought he’d gotten away with it. Sitting smugly on his throne and now married to the widow of the man he had murdered, his arrogance was suddenly shattered by the prophet Nathan.

Nathan outlined a story about a wealthy farmer who owned thousands of sheep, but to feed a visiting guest he took a poor farmer’s pet sheep away for slaughter. Hearing of this horrible and heartless injustice, David cried out, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” With fearless authority Nathan pointed at the king and said, “You are the man!” Nathan then inventoried David’s crimes, leaving the king breathless until he could but whisper, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:1-13). He next learned that his sin had wide-ranging consequences beginning in his own home then radiating throughout the kingdom.

The pompous king was now a broken man as he felt the crushing load of his sin. It was as a result of this experience that David wrote Psalm 51, a psalm that reveals both deep remorse and hope for cleansing.

David’s first plea was for mercy. He sought God’s protection from His just wrath. But he appealed to God’s unfailing love: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions” (vs. 1). David remembered God’s tender mercy for the sins of his past. Based on that record of compassion, David approached Him once again. When his sin was out in the open, he saw himself for what he had become. David knew that only God’s mercy could save him. Despite the horrible acts that caused so much suffering, he owned that it was God who was more deeply offended. Everyone else had only a partial understanding of the depth of his sin, but God knew not only what David had done but what he had fantasized and longed to do in defiance of his Lord.

David’s act of accepting his sin had to come first or else forgiveness couldn’t be given. Too many people who have done wrong just want to go on without acknowledging the harm they have done to themselves, to others and their relationship with God. But David knew that a shallow repentance was no repentance at all. This was no “slap another coat of paint on it” but a sanding down to the base material until all the old was removed.

Even as he pleaded for forgiveness, David realized the scope of his situation. Verses 5-9 outline the problem. With a fully operating sinful nature David knew he was not only guilty of this sin but capable of far worse. When he sought to do better, determined he would live right, he could feel the gravity of sin pulling him forcibly back to defeat. David said, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (vs. 5).

What was his hope? It wasn’t to be converted—David sincerely loved the Lord. If not to be saved, what did he need? He pleaded for a cleansing that would go beyond anything that he had ever experienced. “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (vs. 7). Hyssop was used in religious ceremony to sprinkle a lamb’s blood on cleansed lepers. The cleansing he begged for was deep enough to even remove a leper’s scars.

This purity that David needed led him to pray, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (vs. 10). He did not ask for God to reform him but to bring him into a new life experience. This holy cleansing is not to make his heart as good as it was previously but to make it better than it had ever been, not returning to the start but moving to another level.

Now living in the power of the Holy Spirit, David finds he is more able to be the witness God intended. He says, “I will teach transgressors Your ways, so that sinners will turn back to You … my mouth will declare Your praise …” (vs. 13,14). Later in the Bible, after the fullness of the Holy Spirit rested on the first disciples on the day of Pentecost, the first evidence that life had changed was their bold witness on the streets of Jerusalem among the very people who only weeks earlier had murdered Christ (Acts 2-3). While not everyone is an eloquent speaker when purified and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can all say something to someone.

The conclusion of the psalm shows how very far David had come. When it opens, he was a rejected and dejected man. But at the end, he speaks of what God accepts. “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart You, God, will not despise… You will delight in the sacrifices of righteousness…” (vs. 17,19).

The heart that is broken before the Lord is not only open to allow all the infection out but to allow the healing and purifying Spirit in. For many like David, it is the failure of trying to live Christianity on their own terms that brings a person to the brokenness that God uses to create a clean heart. Is your life found at the beginning of this psalm crying for mercy, or at the end, rejoicing in victory?

Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee is Editor–in–Chief & National Literary Secretary.

The Lord’s Prayer

God’s Name Represents Authority

I grew up in a family in which the sense of authority was unmistakable. In Venezuela, where I was born, it is customary that when parents leave the house or come home, their children ask them for a blessing. But in our family, the younger siblings would also ask the older siblings for the blessing. This sign of respect is still maintained among my siblings, even though they have grown older. That respect derived from the hierarchical structure within the family. As a child, I was taught that my uncles, aunts, and grandparents had authority over me, and I had to obey them.

God’s name tells us what we can expect from Him and how we should relate to Him. He rules the universe. His name represents dominion over all creation. Nature obeys Him; He can create, destroy, or restore. Angels obey Him; demons and the devil himself are subject to His commands. (See Job 1:12 and 2:6; Mark 1:34 and 5:12.) This means that, by virtue of being God, He is able to accomplish everything He sets out to do on our behalf. His name, rather than filling us with terror, should motivate us to please Him and worship Him “with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28).

Moses was alone with his thoughts on a mountainside, tending the flock of his father–in–law. Suddenly his attention was caught by a bush that was burning, but not burning up. Then he heard the voice of God issuing from the bush, calling his name. God commanded Moses to go to Egypt and lead His people, the Israelites, out of bondage. Moses resisted the idea; then he said, “By the way, what’s your name? If I do what you ask, the Israelites are sure to ask me, ‘What is the name of this God you say has sent you to us?’ ” “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me to you.” ’ ” (Exodus 3:14) “I AM WHO I AM” is an attempt at an English translation of three words in the original Hebrew, which could also be rendered, “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.”

The name of God is a statement about His person. It says that God is eternal, without beginning or end. That was the message to Moses and to the Israelites; it was the message to Jesus’ disciples; it is the message for our time and for all time.

God revealed Himself to the Apostle John in these terms: “I am the Alpha and the Omega … who is, and who was, and who is to come.” (Revelation 1:8) Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet—the equivalent of “from A to Z.” Many years after Moses’ mountainside encounter with God at the burning bush, he would write these words: “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, even from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:2)

God had no beginning. He did not and does not need anyone or anything else to exist. The Athanasius Creed, an early statement of Christian doctrine, declares, “The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten.” God has perfect, continuous, and endless life in Himself. (TW: 551)

Alan J. Gonzalez’ Spanish Colum for the War Cry (Excerpted from The Lord’s Prayer by Captain Alan J. Gonzalez. First Published by the US Southern Territory, Atlanta, GA, 2017. Available at Amazon.com)