Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Joy, Unspeakable Joy!

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior this Christmas, as individuals, as families, and as cultures, I’ve been reflecting on how we all celebrate in various ways with different traditions. One of my favorite Christmas traditions is celebrating through music! Now, I’m not a very good singer by myself and I cannot play an instrument. I have more of what one would call a “congregational voice”. During December, I love nothing more than to listen to Christmas songs on the radio, attend Christmas programs in a variety of settings, and sing Christmas carols and songs with groups of people, large or small. I remember going Christmas caroling with the small church family I grew up in and attending a concert in an arena full of people gathered to enjoy a popular Christian artist’s newest Christmas tour. I cherish the old songs and thoroughly enjoy newly written songs about our Savior. Then there are also people who have arranged great combinations of the two.

So far this year I’ve attended a performance by the Samford University Band to hear my son play, a massive production put on at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church and an inspiring collection of songs performed at my own church, Valleydale Church. I also enjoyed singing one single song with folks at the Lifeline’s Foster Parent Christmas Party standing beside a foster dad holding a sleeping baby.. I even attended the University of Alabama’s graduation ceremony in which the university ensemble played Christmas music while we waited that surprisingly included “religious” Christmas songs. Every Christmas season I purchase a new Christmas CD to enjoy and add to the variety of ones I already have.

Christmas songs tell parts or all of the story of our Savior’s birth, remind us of prophecies about His coming, and express all the different emotions that we, as humans, feel as we try to grasp that the God and Creator of the universe would step out of His kingdom and take on the form of man in his most vulnerable state, a baby; that Jesus willingly took on human flesh as this baby, knowing that it meant He would lay down His life in order for the world (you, me, each person who has ever lived or will ever be born) to have the opportunity to be saved from God’s wrath because of our sin; to know that forgiveness, that peace, that hope of eternal life, that JOY!!!...Which leads me to share with you my favorite Christmas song.

It really is a tough choice as I enjoy so many! Every time I hear a different song, I’ll think or say: “Oh, I love that song!” or “This one is the best!” or “This is my favorite one” and on and on. But when it boils down to it, I definitely have to say my very favorite is “Joy to the World.” As you read the words below, I encourage you to do so aloud…..or maybe even sing it aloud right where you are.

“Joy to the World”
Words by Issac Watts; Music by George Fredrick Handel

Joy to the World, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And Heaven and nature sing, And Heaven and nature sing, And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing. Joy to the World, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy. No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flowFar as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found, Far as, far as, the curse is found. He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove, The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love, And wonders of His love, And wonders, wonders, of His love.

In God’s Word it says, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”
I Peter 1:8

I know that although this is a joy-filled time for many people, it is also the time of year when sadness is multiplied for those who have suffered loss—the death of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce, chronic illness, the death of a dream. This time last year, my Dad passed away after an extended illness. It was a difficult time for my family last Christmas and it continues to be a struggle as my family and I continue to miss Dad. But the pain is buffered by the knowledge that Dad believed in Christ as his Savior. I know Dad is in heaven, praising our Heavenly Father eternally. He has a new and healthy body, with no more pain, suffering or sadness. I know that he has received the fulfillment of his salvation and wouldn’t want to change places with any person on earth. Dad believed and he now sees his Savior’s face. And along with all the other believers who have past from this life, surround God’s throne and continually praise Him with joy that we can only attempt to express with mere words.

Amy with her dad as he told her his salvation experience for the first time in 1999.

I will exalt you, LORD, for you rescued me.
You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you restored my health.
You brought me up from the grave, O LORD.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
Sing to the LORD, all you godly ones! Praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:1-5

My prayer for you this Christmas season is that in the midst of any sorrow in your life, you will experience true joy that only comes from the King who heard our cries and became a baby to rescue us from our sin and despair, adopting us into His family, giving us eternal life.

Amy Griner
Domestic Social Worker

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christ "mas" time

During this time of year, we are all surrounded by Christmas. Christmas preparations, Christmas parties, Christmas plans…Christmas, Christmas, Christmas is everywhere! And yes, many of us do love Christmas! We love the sights, we love the smells, we love the excitement on the faces of little children, we love the anticipation of getting together with all of our family members, etc…
As I was thinking about what to write about during this very special time of year, 3 words appeared in my mind. Of course “Christ” came first, then the “mas” stood out on the paper in the word Christmas, and then “time”. Now I know from having 2 years of Spanish in high school (and trust me that was a long time ago) that “mas” means “more” in Spanish.

No, I don’t remember all of the correct uses and what “mas” is supposed to be combined with to be used properly, but I do know that when combined with the word Christ and time, what pops into my mind is spending MORE TIME with CHRIST.

As I reflect on the many different ways that we can spend more time with Christ, I think how blessed we are to be able to freely share our love of Christ at Lifeline. We share HIS love with our adoptive families. We share HIS love with the children we advocate for and pray for each day. We share HIS love with our Lifeline family. We share HIS love with all of you! That is our mission; that is our purpose!

Lifeline exists to provide a hope and a future for children around the world by bringing families together through the mission of adoption. Our purpose is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to witness the faith through counseling, ministering, residential care, adoption, and orphan care.

During this busy Christmas season, you may think to yourself, there is just no way I have any more time to spend doing one more thing. It’s during these busy times, that the Lord does not always come first because there are so many places to be and so many things to do. The challenge to all of us is to make sure the time with spend with God comes first!

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” ~ Matthew 6:33

Below are some suggestions on ways to spend MORE TIME with CHRIST:

  • Set aside time early in the morning to be alone with God. Seek the Lord!
    “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on Him while He is near.” ~ Isaiah 55:6
  • If you aren’t an early morning Bible Study kind of person find another regular time in your day to spend quiet time with God. Clear the clutter of the world away. Prepare your heart and mind for HIM.
    “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” ~ 1 Peter 1:13

  • Use the time you exercise! Read the Bible while on an elliptical machine/treadmill, meditating on Scripture, or going through a list of people/situations to pray for.
    “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” ~ Psalm 19:14

  • Pray for people as you are driving or waiting somewhere.
    “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” ~ 1 Timothy 2:1

  • Keep it simple. Don’t have the time you spend with God, just another thing to check off your “to-do” list. The goal is to spend time with God and to grow closer to him without distractions. The important thing to remember is that God longs for you to spend time with Him.
    “Pray without ceasing.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:17

  • Pray with others – designate a time and a place to meet and give this time up to God.
    “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." ~ Matthew 18:20

We need to all ask ourselves, how are we spending our Christmas time? Are we spending MORE TIME with CHRIST? Are we reflecting on the many blessings that surround us during this very special time of year? Or is our life feeling frantic because there is just not enough time in our day to accomplish all that needs to be done to prepare for Christmas?

During this time it is truly challenging to stop and spend time with God. I venture to say that if we all take a moment out of our day to devote time to God; that frantic feeling will become less and less. The Lord can focus us on what is important during this time of year – and that my friends, is HIM!

HE is what Christmas is all about! HE is where our focus should be! HE is our Savior and King! Without HIM, we would not have Christmas. It is not by chance that Christmas is so very special. It is not by chance that the word CHRIST is in Christmas. During this special time of year, spend “mas” time with Christ and just wait and see the plans that HE has for you unfold. May you all be truly blessed!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Lisa Kelly
International Adoption Specialist

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of

the eternal life to which you were called when

you made your good confession in the presence

of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12

Lately this charge to fight has been impressed upon my heart in a variety of ways. I have been challenged to spend my time and resources in a way that makes an investment in the eternal fight. This is a daily battle that I desire to always fight well. For the adoptive parents that I work with, this work takes on an entirely different level of meaning.

When he recently spoke at Lifeline’s annual banquet, Dr. David Platt said something that really resonated with me in regard to our adoptive families. In explaining the similarities in adoption and the gospel, Dr. Platt made a simple statement: “One does not adopt accidentally”. He went on to discuss the tedious and trying journey that all adoptive families walk in pursuit of their children. Immediately I recalled Jeremiah 29:13- “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart”. While written in reference to our relationship with our Redeemer, it is also extremely appropriate in the context of the adoption journey. This is the epitome of a fight. The fight that I see on a daily basis from adoptive moms and dads is an intense fight that amazes me. And I find myself challenged to emulate this same intensity in my own pursuit of my Savior. Just as one does not adopt accidentally, I cannot enjoy an intimate relationship with the lover of my soul without intentional pursuit. He promises that I will seek Him and find Him when I seek Him with all of my heart.

As I daily engage in this fight alongside adoptive moms and dads, I must constantly remind myself that the Father’s love and pursuit of His children far exceeds that of me or even their earthly parents. He is the one who calls us to fight, it is His passion that is placed within us for which to fight, and it is His power within us that enables us to fight. While we desire to fight the good fight to which we have been called, we would be amiss if we failed to remember an additional promise from His Word:

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will

see the deliverance the LORD will bring

you today. The LORD will fight for you; you

need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

He will fight for us! That is amazing! He calls us to fight- to be faithful, determined, and diligent. He wants us to work with all our hearts to toward the calling that He has given us, but it is He who fights in and through us. When we come to the end of ourselves, it is He who continues to battle and be the warrior on our behalf. He fought for us on the cross- He battles for us at the right hand of the Father- and He fights for us in this. As I marvel at the intensity at which a parent fights for his child, and as I desire to pursue the Lord with all of my heart, I realize that this is but a fraction of the love and intensity with which He has and continues to pursue me!

To the adoptive parent, we are battling with you. I pray that you would know this truth: that the Father is the love, care, comfort, and protection that your child needs. As your child waits for you, He is there. I pray that He will be all these things to you in this interim period as well. God’s promises are true. He will put you in the cleft in the rock and cover you with his hand. He will hide you in the shadow of His wings. He will sing over you. The Lord your God is with you. He is the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you. You can take rest in His love. He will sing and be joyful over you.

To anyone else, I urge you to consider how you might be called to join this fight. Is it as a prayer warrior for those in the adoption process? Is it to step up and advocate for the fatherless? Is it to adopt? Whatever it may be, I encourage you to gird yourself with His truth and step out in full faith as you engage in this battle for that which is eternal- live the life worthy to calling to which you have been called.

Mallory Blackmon
International Social Worker