Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Light Bulb Power

Summer has a way of distracting me from quiet, introverted activities, such as writing blog posts. Although life has not paused, we have enjoyed a few weeks of peace.

Roma has been home a month from his adventure in Idaho. Quick recap:

First week, he stayed home, reconnecting with friends, readjusting to house rules after four months with no rules.

Week two we spent together, en route to and from Atlanta.

Home again for the third week, Roma continues to struggle with house rules.

Week four he was in Pittsburgh, PA with our church youth group for work camp, repairing houses.

Building his character, his humility, his gratitude, his faith, and his testimony!

Am I waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop? Maybe, but I am also celebrating a season of relative calm. Calm before the next storm? Maybe, but God reminds me that tomorrow will have it's own worries. I will not "go there" today!

If you are a new reader, you should at least go back to The Hound of Heaven Winks and read all the newer posts from that point. My wish is that each post reads like a continuing story, like a chapter in a novel. Maybe one day there will be a sequel to But the Greatest of These is Love. Roma is more than eager to be a colorful, engaging character who diligently strives to create interesting drama!

More on our trip to Atlanta: On Sunday, July 13, Roma and I headed south, first stopping for two nights in North Carolina to visit friends and family. On Tuesday, we continued to Atlanta for two nights for a court appearance on Wednesday for his arrest for "disorderly conduct," which is, by the way, a "city ordinance," and does not affect his clean criminal record. He does, however, owe me $350 for his fine.

For me, the highlight of this trip to Atlanta was the opportunity to meet two very dear Sisters in Christ who had previously been dear Facebook friends, Nancy and Beth. Such JOY in meetings those two Godly women who God had clearly placed in Roma's and my paths!

We stayed an extra night in Atlanta so Roma could attend the Wednesday night service for young adults at Passion City Church. He had met friends there with whom he wanted to reconnect. In the "Oval," outside the theater, is a wall with light bulb sockets creating the words, "Jesus is Life." On his last visit before he left for Idaho, Roma lit one of those light bulbs. Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City, mentioned those lights, and Roma by name here, starting at the 13:47 mark.

Once home from Atlanta, as Roma was again struggling to live in a house with rules, I frantically read a book, Losing Control and Liking It, How to Set Your Teen (and Yourself) Free. I only have a teen in our house for a few days, so I am reading fast! I would recommend it, but start before your child is a teen!

God is clearly after Roma. So I wait for the Supernatural Work of the Holy Spirit. Losing Control reminds me I have no control over Roma and his choices, and I do not have to take responsibility for them. They are his. Mine are mine. I have "influence" but not "control." How can I best exercise my influence? By loving him and continuing to "be there." I see growth. I celebrate every victory. It is a process. God is in control and continues to make me aware that He wants His job back!

Starting in my next post, I might change the name of a certain character in my ongoing saga, the protagonist who is also sometimes the antagonist, in order to protect the guilty. I think I will name my new young, lovable, exciting, and sometimes exasperating character Dmitri, after a brother in Fyodor Dostoevsky's magnum opus, The Brothers Karamazov.  The Main Character will remain the same—God! Read some of the reviews on Goodreads. An 800 page, 18th century Russian epic novel might not be your cup of tea, but the book has staying power. It influenced intellectual Soviet dissidents in the 1970s, sparking interest in spiritual matters—taboo topics in the former Soviet Bloc.

Dostoevsky wrote that each of the three brothers described his own faith journey's steps.
Dmitri, the self-centered, happy-go-lucky eldest brother is not a bad guy, but he makes poor choices.
Ivan, the middle son, is an intellectual atheist.
Aloysha, the youngest, is a man of considerable faith, the "hero" of the story, as the narrator points out in the opening chapter.

You will read the next 790 pages paying attention to learn why Alosha is the hero.

Read more about Fyodor Dostoevsky in this post, Powerful Literature.

Roma's light in lower right corner in the "F" of LIFE
Would readers like a more tumultuous update like the past several posts?  Those are the stories that "write themselves." They give me chills to live, write, and read. Those are the exciting ones. But life is not always exciting. Not always a mountaintop experience. Sometimes we dwell in the valleys. Most of the time. God is no less present in the valleys.

Roma has had experiences in his short life that are becoming part of his testimony. My testimony too! He has plugged his light bulb into the Source, and witnessed the results. That knowledge is powerful! Will his light always shine bright? No. Sometimes we move too far from the Source of Power. But we remember where the Source is when we long for that Power. If we could only understand the Divine Pull and comprehend God's infinite love for us, and the lengths to which He is willing to go to bring us back to that Source.

I don't often "get it." How could I expect "Dmitri" to understand.

Thanks for tuning in! Keep praying!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Building a Palace

The last series of posts beginning with The Hound of Heaven Winks, garnered a lot of page views, shares, private messages, emails, and teary phone calls. And I'm sure many kind people kept their opinions to themselves when they thought I'd lost my mind or joined a cult! One expressed concern was that I have been too open about my son's private life. Perhaps I share too much. But I share to the Glory of a loving God who I want to make visible.

The calls of encouragement and thanks I received far outnumbered the ones I interpreted as assessing my insanity. After all, I was writing about "spiritual warfare"! Angels and demons! Casting out demons! You know, stuff Jesus talked about! 

Many readers have asked, and yes, Roma made the trip to Idaho, the build up to which was documented in the previous posts. The journey to Idaho was a divine arrangement by a miraculous act of a merciful, gracious, active, persistent, and supernatural God, and servants of God who answered the Call along the way. Every experience he has lived adds to his growing testimony that I pray he will one day share. Will it be soon? Or must he endure many more stories of how God found him as he was running away or bouncing along in the pit of hell? I don't know. Roma is only 19. 

Did I understand at 19? I might have thought did. I had grown up in the church. I did all the "right" things, for the most part. I never doubted God's existence. However, I didn't know I was asleep in the faith, comfortably just coasting along. I was shaken awake in my fourth decade with an experience I describe as the "scales falling off my eyes." I had been blind, but suddenly I could see! I didn't understand then that it is a process that continues throughout life. Powerful readings, conversations, and experiences have peeled other layers of scales back on a regular basis. Every time God reveals a new bit of His Truth to me, I become more curious and thirsty for more Living Water. To know and love God, and to make Him real to others has become my life's greatest desire. 

When I was experiencing my born-again epiphany, a trusted friend who knew what I was going through sent me an article that led me to a book that resonated with me. I wrote about it in my post, Quantum Change. The book by the same name is not about "religion," it is a psychology book. Check it out. I am convinced what I experienced 14 years ago was indeed a Quantum Change, where my priorities changed through no effort of my own and I met God for the first time in a powerful, intimate, life-changing way. 

I have prayed for this kind of life-changing experience for my children and everyone I pray for! I didn't deserve it. I didn't go looking for it, because I didn't know I needed it or that it was even possible.  It was an extravagant Gift from God that I initially tried to reject.  

So I circle back, as always, to the God who relentlessly pursues us. All the time.

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity: "Christ says, 'Give me All. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good . . .Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.'"

What are humans, that God is mindful of us? I ask myself this question all the time. We know what God wants from us.We are most often not having any part of it, so we keep running! We wander off, God comes after us, offering His best. We are always wondering how painful God's best for us will turn out to be.

I wish I could paraphrase C.S. Lewis, but no one can express ideas like he can, so I will end with another quote from Mere Christianity,

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."

We would be wise to let Him have His way! 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Angels and Demons, part two

My last post ended with me in a state of near hopelessness, for the first time ever. Roma seemed to be lost in a haze of evil. I couldn't reach him. He didn't want to be reached. I went to bed Sunday night despondent and crying over my lost boy.

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." –Psalms 30:5

Monday morning, June 23, when I woke up, the world seemed much brighter than the night before. I reread Roma's texts. "You need to reconnect my phone, I have to be able to contact Markus."

Who was Markus? Did he mean Mark? Mark was the man who wanted to take Roma and other young men to his ranch in Idaho for a week. The mere suggestion of the trip had "irritated" Roma two days earlier. He had said, vehemently that he was NOT going. But Nancy was so sure Mark was the "real deal" from her first meeting on Saturday. I totally trusted Nancy!

I turned his phone back on. I texted, (even though I had been instructed to stop responding to him), "if you want to go to Idaho, we will pay."

"Yessssss" he texted back. I knew whatever his reason for deciding to go, God wanted him there.
Our texts through the morning revealed a hurt boy. We "made up," and I offered grace to a boy who needed my love like never before. He needed mercy so much more than the world's view of "justice" at the moment!

I had spent Saturday afternoon, before all Hell broke loose, literally, reading the long, detailed, articulated email and information Mark had sent me after he met with Nancy and husband that afternoon. His testimony and career credentials were impressive, and Sacred Echoes rang throughout. His recorded testimony included his unexpected Call to mission work in Russia, much like mine to adoption. The God-you-have-got-to-be-kidding feelings, the provisions supernaturally supplied for the Call. And, "coincidentally" (I think not), he mentioned in his email the name of only one young man who was a past ranch visitor. Mark had no way of knowing that I just happened to know this young man's mom on Facebook. I live in Maryland, and Beth, in Atlanta. As Facebook friends-you-don't-actually-know go, Beth is closer than most. We were connected by a mutual friend, adoption, and my book. We have even spoken on the phone a couple of times, and prayed together for our boys!

Sunday I sent Mark an email informing him of Roma's arrest. Would that preclude him from going, and could the trip help him if he didn't think he needed help?

Mark said that Disorderly Conduct was a misdemeanor, and he had met much tougher cases than Roma. He was hopeful. No, he changed his word to "confident."

I asked the price of such a week. Only his plane fare. Mark said he and his wife had been blessed with this mission and would provide for all his needs for the week.

Too good to be true?

Beth, my facebook friend who had prayed with me for our boys was learning the same time I was that her son and Roma had been invited by Mark to dinner! She was speechless on how it had all happened. She called me and we marveled at God's work in the lives of our two boys. She echoed Nancy's sentiment that Mark was the real deal! She said that whatever Mark suggested, do it.

Mark called on Monday evening and patiently answered our many questions. He had had an experience with God many years ago. He had been an addict and almost at the point of death when God came to him. He spoke of the demon who had lived in him, causing depression and addiction. He said as soon as he saw Roma, God told him that Roma was the one he was supposed to take to Idaho. That many of these boys adopted from Russia had a foul spirit attached to them.

Nancy messaged me on Monday morning to say Mark had just called her husband. Remember, Nancy and her husband had not met Mark before Saturday, less than 48 hours earlier. Mark asked if they could pick Roma up from his hotel room that he would soon be checking out of, and bring him to their house. Could he stay with them for one night? He would keep him until Thursday, June26, when he would fly out with Mark instead of waiting until Saturday, June 28, with the other boy, Roma would fly with Mark. Mark was afraid to leave Roma unattended until they got on the plane. He didn't want anything to happen to Roma to prevent him from going. He said that Roma's demon was fighting for his life, and would try to stop him from going to Idaho. I looked back over the past few days and saw it was true.

This was starting to sound like a Frank Peritti novel!

Before this experience, I have talked about "spiritual warfare" in abstract terms. But now I have witnessed it, and felt it, and Nancy was constantly validating my suspicions through the weeks of our close communications. And now a man God so clearly led into our lives is talking about casting off demons? This man who is a lawyer and scientist by profession?

Nancy successfully handed Roma over into Mark's care on Tuesday, June 24. Tonight, June 25, Nancy is picking him up to take him to his last, for a while, Wednesday night service at her church. She asked me if it was okay. I messaged back, " BE VERY CAREFUL WITH HIM! Haha! I feel like you will be in possession of the box that holds the Hope Diamond. The box doesn't look like it, but Satan wants to steal it, and God has gone to amazing lengths to protect it! Please keep him on a leash and in ankle cuffs!"

She wrote right back, "I will protect it with my life!"

What are the chances all these connections would have happened without Divine Help? Zero!

Had I continued along my stubborn path, having once said that if a child of mine was ever arrested, I would let him sit in jail a couple of days to learn a lesson. Satan was counting on that. I am thankful for Nancy's gentle nudge that we needed to get him out. The window of time was so small, to get him off to Idaho. Had I been firm about my earlier conviction that Roma needed to learn the hard way was exactly that, MY convictions. I had not consulted God about it. And the Enemy didn't want Roma to get out. He wanted Roma to miss this trip that God so clearly was lining up.
The timing, the circumstances, when I look at the bigger picture, were uncanny. Roma meets a man on Saturday, and by Tuesday, is staying at his family's home. On Thursday he will be flying off to a new opportunity. Had I listened to MY conviction to turn his phone off forever, this opportunity would be lost.

So many pieces of a enormous puzzle. Every piece has it place, and its purpose. During this season of testing, I have learned so much about God, and the Enemy. God's love is incomprehensible. His mercies are brand new every day! My life is enriched by a new, improved prayer life. Never before have I spent so much time on my knees or on my face, pleading my case, and Roma's, before the throne of God. And God showed up! Another layer of scales have fallen from my eyes. I also have a new, dear Sister, Nancy. We will meet one day, hopefully before Heaven! I have a new peace, that He who is in us is stronger than he who is in the world.

I have no idea what tomorrow holds. None of us do. But today brings great JOY! And I will embrace it!

Thanks for your continued prayers.

To the Glory of God! Amen!

Next post, Building a Palace

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Angels and Demons, part one

I had a dream several weeks ago in which I was sharing some Roma stories with a group of friends.
As I turned to leave, a close friend of mine was standing near the door. She said slowly and deliberately, "Write all this down." That was the end of the short dream.

After the past week, the dream makes perfect sense, so I am writing it all down.

If you don't know who Roma is, and are unfamiliar with the events leading up to this post, you will not want to miss the prior posts, The Hound of Heaven Winks, and next Trying to Outrun the Hound, But Steadily Losing Ground about this incredible Odyssey with God. To start at the the beginning of the Odyssey, read my book, But the Greatest of These is Love!

I have met, up close and personal, a loving God who relentlessly pursues us. I have seen an illustration on a grand scale, of the Powers of Heaven fighting the dark powers for the soul of one lost and loved young man, my son, Roma

Roma has been in the Atlanta area since May 6 after he walked away from his halfway house in Florida. At that time, I sprayed prayer requests in all directions. One happened to hit my new best friend, Nancy, within reach of Roma, in Georgia. I live in Maryland. I only knew Nancy from a Facebook adoption group. Almost immediately Roma and this sweet family bonded. Since then, they have gone out of their way, and way out of their comfort zone, to reach Roma. They have taken him to church on Sundays and mid-week services, and even had him over from dinner, and eventually had him spend the night.

He has had no job and has no (legitimate?) source of income, but seemed to be satisfied just coasting along. Pot and alcohol are regular pastimes. Nancy's and my desperate prayers started to include that Roma and his roommate would part ways. We both kept getting dark vibes about his living situation.  She had even graciously offered to give him a room at her house, but my memory of living with this lovable, but often difficult young man was too fresh! I would NOT impose the experience on anyone else. Especially people I was just beginning to love! And Nancy has a beautiful young daughter, and Roma is a hopeless romantic!

I did mention to Nancy that she might put the word out, if there might be a family man who had a passion for boys like Roma. Surely there were lots of people just waiting to take on lazy, pot smokers! We continued to pray for a change in Roma's living arrangements. It did not seem to be a good match for either boy. Along my daily nagging about getting a job, I added that a new roommate would be in his favor, maybe he could make some good friends at his new church. Roma flipped out, saying that his roommate was his good friend. They had been through a lot together. I was told to back off.

Friday morning, June 20, I got a phone call from Roma that began, "Mom, okay, I have to tell you something. But it isn't my fault." Oh my God (meant as a prayer!) He's in jail!

But no, he and his roommate had had a fight and since it was his friend's apartment first, Roma was out. I almost laughed at our blessing of having a homeless son! He was with Nancy, always the angel, who he called first. She picked him up at another friend's house where he went after the fist fight! Roma is many things, but not a fighter! He is 5'9', 145 pounds, in heels and soaking wet! His friend, a former football teammate is 6"5' and weighs a lot. But Roma assured me he was okay, but added that his roommate could seriously use a detox program. Takes one to know one! Nancy set him up through Sunday in a hotel room near her family.

Later when we spoke, Nancy mentioned that someone had told her there was a man who had a calling to work with young men in addiction. She would find out more.

Nancy and I frantically messaged, trying to decide what was in store on Sunday when he was out of his hotel room. I looked into homeless shelters, Job Corps, anything. I checked into flights for me to go down, and other flights for him to come home. I felt strongly it was not time for him to come home.

At 3:30 that afternoon, Nancy messaged me that her husband had talked with the man her friend told her about, who had a heart for young addicts. Roma had agreed to go with them to meet with him the next afternoon. I was humbled that Nancy and her husband were willing to spend their Saturday afternoon with my son. She wrote, "And wait till you hear this–God is in this BIG time–Not only does he have a heart for teen/young addicts–he particularly has a deep passion for helping boys from RUSSIA!!!"

You can't make this stuff up!

Saturday, June 21. I prayed that Roma would be interested in what the man had to say, and thanked God over and over for sending Roma straight into Nancy's heart! What are the chances that I would ask for prayers in a secret group and a woman I had never met would respond who would develop such a heart for my boy. And have the time to devote to his various and extensive needs!

She reported later that he had been very interested to learn that his man took young men on retreats to his ranch in Idaho for a week, if God pointed them out to him. This man, Mark, said that God had clearly said to him that Roma was to be one of these young men when he met him. Roma was all in for another new adventure, until Mark started talking about addiction and recovery. I can imaging Roma writhing with his demons over such talk. Roma texted me that he was irritated. He was NOT going.

Nancy messaged me later. This Mark was the real deal. We needed to persuade Roma to get on that plane next Saturday. Nancy was certain it would be a good opportunity for Roma.

Sunday morning, June 22, the phone woke us at 6:00 am. I handed the phone to Bruce, the strong one–I sensed bad news. His strong "Hello" soon gave way to a quiet, shaky voice. The hospital? The morgue? I ruled at the morgue with his comments. The hospital? My imagination filled in every question I had. I got up to look for insurance information. Then I could hear a woman's voice. A familiar woman's voice. I had only talked to Nancy a few times, but I recognized her voice. Bruce was grabbing a paper and pen from his desk,

"Dekalb County Jail."

@#$%!!! Then, "Thank you, Lord!" I said. I was thankful my son was in jail! When had I lowered the bar so low on my expectations! But he was not dead! He was very much alive!  Until I could get my hands on him!

Poor Nancy had to be the stand-in mom with my son in jail for the charge of Disorderly Conduct!

The next few hours went very fast. I spent five hours trying get through to the jail. Unsuccessfully. When I did finally reach a warm body, I was going to pay his bail with my credit card. No, the bail has to be paid in person and $350, exact cash. I explained to the disinterested woman that I lived in Maryland, and I was satisfied to leave him in jail for the WEEK, but Nancy assured me that jail in Decatur, Georgia, or any jail, I'm sure, could be an institution of higher learning("high," being the operative word!)! The hook for me was getting him out to go to church with this family at their 5:00 pm service at Passion City Church where they had taken him for the past three Sundays. We worked all day trying to reach the right number that would unlock the door, literally. Nancy's husband went to his ATM for get the $350 bail money to take to the arresting police department, then back to church, because this Sunday was very busy Sunday,  being Generosity Sunday! No Kidding! The police station told him it could be up to five hours before they could release my son, who by that time might be a hardened criminal! So he would miss church after all. They would go pick him at after church, around 7:30.

Roma entered jail and 3 am and was released about 8 pm, seventeen hours later. Nancy wrote that, if we didn't mind, she and her husband would like to take Roma out for a bite to eat and have a long, honest talk with him.

Where do we find friends like this, except for God connecting us? I headed to my prayer closet to pray for what I hoped would be their meeting with a contrite, humble, sniveling mass of repentance.

my sweet boy, age seven
Nancy's message revealed my unrealistic optimism! I called him. My young jail bird was cocky and totally unrepentant. "Mom, it was nothing, It probably won't be on my record since I've never been arrested before." He laughed.

"Roma, being arrested IS a big deal!" Our conversation went from that high point and plummeted to him dismissing us as parents and telling us to have a nice life!  He HUNG UP ON US! In my frustration and anger, I suspended his phone service. He continued to text saying "you need to reconnect my phone, I have to be able to call Markus." But then the arrogant lad texted "Stop responding to me!" So I did!

I was defeated. There was no hope in the foreseeable future. I started to worry, for the first time.
I believed the lies the enemy told me! My last message to Nancy that night was "In the story of the Prodigal Son, the father does not go after the son. He lets him go.

That might be true for the earthly father. But not so for the Heavenly Father!

This seems to be a good place to take a breath and rest my speeding fingers. I will try to post the rest of the story tomorrow, or rather the next installment of the ongoing story of our Amazing God who promises to never leave or forsake us!

God bless! Please pray for Roma!

Next post, Angels and Demons part two

Friday, June 6, 2014

Trying to outrun the Hound, but steadily losing ground

It is easy to overlook miracles, until you've experienced one from a front row seat! Once you have eyes to see the evidence of God, His involvement is hard to miss! 

I have these front-row seat experiences at such a regularity, I call them Sacred Echoes, borrowing Margaret Feinburg's title of her book by that name. They have a repetitive nature, in case I miss the Message the first time!  People always tell me I have the most amazing stories. I can't deny it. But I believe we all live amazing Moments of God's extravagant Presence, if we have eyes to see the miracles that we too often miss.

Readers obviously like a feel-good story. My last post, The Hound of Heaven Winks racked up page views, comments, and shares, and initiated emails, phone calls, and community chats more than any other post to date, blowing past long time front runner, Celebrating Mediocrity.

My last post ended with Roma, my son, adopted at age seven, now nineteen, heading to Georgia after trying to give God the slip as he left the halfway house in Florida. If you didn't read The Hound of Heaven Winks, you must go back and read about our awesome God. (And if you didn't read But the Greatest of These is Love, the story full of miracles about our adoption, again, you must read about our awesome God!)

After Roma had been in a suburb of Atlanta for almost three weeks without a job, I started to wonder how he had money to eat. The possibilities were troubling. We kept open the lines of communication, "speaking" daily, mostly by texts.

I am part of a private, supportive adoption group on Facebook. I posted, on Sunday, May 24, asking for prayers for my lost boy. One member, Nancy, messaged me to ask how she could  help. She lives near Atlanta too. I mentioned that I hoped Roma's thirst for God would drive him back to church one day soon. She graciously offered to invite him to her church, Passion City Church where Louie Giglio preaches. I knew of Giglio from a video, but all I could remember about it was the amazing universe God has created and big suns! I did't know much more about him other than he knows a lot about outer space!

On Wednesday Roma shared that he had had nightmares the previous night. I have never know him to have trouble sleeping, even when he first joined us at age seven. I interpret the nightmares as confusion and spiritual warfare. There is a battle raging against terrifying enemies!

On Thursday Nancy messaged again, asking if her daughter, close to Roma's age (wise woman!) could call him and invite him to church on Sunday evening, to a service that attracts many young people in the congregation. I was pretty confident Roma would go. He is an extreme extrovert, and has probably been spending too much time alone, in front of a screen of some kind. His soul is dry from pursuing the world and trying to elude God. I know this because another Facebook sister has told me that is what she is praying for my boy—that he becomes thirsty for relationship with God. I gave Nancy Roma's number.

Then I contacted Roma and asked permission to give a stranger his number, in case he needs anyone down there, and oh, by the way, she might invite him to her church. We texted back and forth and finally he said "sure, whatever," which I interpreted as an enthusiastic "YES!" (Well, it definitely was not a "No!")

Nancy and I frantically messaged back and forth. Her daughter called Roma. She reported that he was "very pleasant." He would consider the invitation, and call her back in a day or two.

Often I decide to drive in silence on my 15-minute commute to my part-time job, in order to "Be still and know that God is God." But on Friday morning, May 30, I decided to tune in to my Christian radio station, WAVA, in case God had a message for me. Focus on the Family was beginning, and the morning's guest was none other than Louie Giglio. I just shake my head sometimes and marvel at God's creative provision. I almost felt Him smiling and asking from the passenger seat, "Are you paying attention, dear one?"

"Examining My Past for a Better Future" was the title of Giglio's message that morning—exactly what Roma needs to hear. Older adopted kids carry heavy baggage of grief, loss, and abandonment from their  past that is too bulky for ill-equipped young souls to carry alone.

After work, I contacted Nancy again, a woman I have never met in flesh and blood, but who is suddenly my sister. God, Himself has introduced us! I messaged her to share about the Holy time with Louie and God in my car.

Nancy reported on Saturday that Roma had called and wasn't available to attend church this Sunday, but maybe next Sunday. A little later, Roma called me to say he wanted to come home to Maryland. He was restless and disillusioned in Georgia. I reminded him it was not our idea for him to go to Georgia, but he shouldn't bail out again when things get difficult, but stay and learn the lesson! I was secretly happy he was experiencing that dryness that my friend was visualizing for him. I suggested he accept the church invitation. Without a job, what could he be doing of any importance on Sunday evening?

Later Nancy messaged to say Roma had called and had changed his mind about attending church with them.

Nancy's family picked Roma up on Sunday at 3:30, and spent some family time with my lonely boy, until the service started at 5:00 pm. As they were picking him up, I headed into my newly requisitioned prayer closet that I have utilized since Roma went AWOL in Florida. After spending silent time in the dark and praying, I headed to my favorite chair and opened the Bible for the next phase of the battle. God led me to Psalms. I "randomly" (right!) began in chapter 139.  I was struck in verse 5 by the image of "hemming in" which had been the words of yet another Facebook sister. Then by the time I was at verse seven, I had the image of the Hound of Heaven again: "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?"
Verse 13-14: "You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

I read to the end of Psalms and stopped to eat. I checked my email, and another new sister had sent me a link to a Louie Giglio video. It just happened to be the one I have seen, about the universe, "How Great is Our God." I sat and watched all 40 minutes of it. When he started quoting the same verses I had just read, in Psalms 139, around the 19 minute mark, again I smiled, acknowledging God's presence, and His question, "Are you paying attention, dear one? Don't miss the Miracle of My Presence!"

Monday's report brings news that Roma is actively looking for a job, and plans to return to church next Sunday. His new "extended" family in Georgia has displayed the love of Christ to my spiritually parched boy. Love like that is hard to refuse!  

Thanks to all who have entered the Pursuit on Roma's behalf with your prayers and answering the still small Voice to respond to Roma and me. I am comforted and awestruck as I image God's earthy creatures joining the Heavenly realm in the pursuit of one lost soul.  

Try as we might, we can never elude God. The best we can do is deceive ourselves that we have hidden from Him.  Perhaps, like Saint Augustine, we pray for God to take away our lust for worldly things. And like Saint Augustine, we add, "but don't do it just yet." We don't understand that only Living Water can satisfy this hunger and thirst.  Like it or not, we are made for God.

It is impossible to grasp the depth of God's love for us. "What are humans that You are mindful of him?," David asks in Psalm 8. I ask too. But I am reminded by God, who is always nearby, that Roma is a treasured child of the most High God. So am I. So are you. 

Why do we want to hide from that kind of Love?

Continue this story with Angels and Demons, part one

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Hound of Heaven Winks

I recently heard prayer described as unleashing the mighty powers of Heaven. I am a visual learner, so I easily  "see" that imagery. My friend said it like this: "There is a spiritual battle going on in the heavenly realm and when we pray we offer the angels from heaven power to fight the battle against evil." The all-powerful Hound of Heaven and His army are relentlessly pursuing His people for His glory.

If you read my book,  But the Greatest of These is Love, you probably fell in love with my charming son Roma, now 19, adopted from Russia at the age of seven. I tell this story not to expose Roma's life and invade his privacy, but to glorify God. 

Roma went into drug and alcohol rehab in Florida in early March. Prior to his departure, he was out of control, making bad choices. If his lips were moving, he was lying. He stole from his family. He stopped coming home  at his midnight curfew. His anger raged against his dad and me. He wanted freedom to live as he wished.  We knew this plan would fail, but we were powerless to control him. We told him, sure he could live his life his way, just not in our home. He had to go. We believed living on the streets, for the second time in his young life, would not foster growth for this young man who was removed from his Russian family after repeated reports to the authorities that the small child was begging on the streets for food. We offered an alternative after much prayer, research, and reaching out to anyone who had experience with addictions. A plan emerged for a thirty-day drug rehab followed by possible 4-6 months in a halfway house with intensive therapy. The intensive therapy was key—Early issues of trauma to adopted children often hijack their lives. A trusted young friend who recently graduated from Pepperdine Law School shared his successful experience in Delray Beach, Florida. He offered me hope for Roma's success. 

In order to locate a reputable treatment center, I prayed and googled Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered recovery program, in the Delray Beach area. MANY churches offer CR in Delray Beach, Florida, the rehab capital of the country, apparently. One sponsoring church also had listed on their website "Adopted Orphan Care." Those words jumped out at me.  I reasoned that this church might understand square-peg Roma.  I emailed the contact name for rehab facility recommendations.  A woman emailed back and recommended a facility her own son had attended with success. My "thank you" reply included a request for prayers for Roma with a link to my book, stating that God had merged my life with Roma's in a "God story."

Roma was initially eager to head to Florida, to live close to the beach after a long, cold winter in Maryland. He breezed through the 30 days of intensive residential rehab. He moved into his halfway house, got a job, a bike, and it appeared all was well. I felt he was gradually getting me ready for the idea he might not leave Florida, but stay after the half-way house residency. 

Then the rumblings of discontentment and denial began. "I hate it here. You guys made me come. It isn't as if I were doing hard drugs like everyone else here. Just pot. Lots of people do pot. It will be legal soon." (Roma is not a quiet kid, so read all of that with volume and passion!) We offered encouragement. I was actually glad things were getting "hard" for him. He had work to do. "Roma" I would gently say, "Life isn't about doing the easy thing. You will learn so much by working through the hard stuff." Profound, I know! But he would only listen to short, simple sentences. We refused to allow an easy exit from the halfway house.

Earlier this week, five weeks into the halfway house program, we were devastated to learn, and not from Roma, that he had left the halfway house and quit his job. His plan was to go to Georgia, move in with a friend from his days at Fork Union Military Academy, get a job, go to college, figure it out, and make something of his life!  Reasonable plan!  But, after spending his last paycheck on a tattoo a few days earlier, he was in need of money to eat and check his bag on the plane. He texted me to ask for $40 "for groceries."  "Nope,"  was the immediate answer, as the truth that Roma had bailed was just, at that moment, coming into the light of day from his former counselor. The timing was eerie. The day before news of the tattoo, also not from Roma, was revealed. We were not willing to offer financial help to our darling boy, sporting a new tattoo and who slept in a car the night before.

I texted him periodically though the day, just to remind him I love him.  He texted back more than usual, sizing up the situation, sensing my sensitive mother's heart. He asked again if I could just help him out with $25, at least, to check his bag on his flight to GA. (I would later learn his friend's mother paid for his plane fare.) No deal. The texting stopped.

That evening,  May 6 about 7:45, a man called who introduced himself as someone who runs a Celebrate Recovery center in Delray Beach. He reminded me of the email written months earlier, long forgotten. He said the woman who received it forwarded it to him  in case Roma ever showed up at CR. 

The stranger began his story by saying "This is a God story." A half hour earlier, he stopped at Dunkin Donuts. After exiting his car, a young man approached him on the sidewalk, asking if he could spare some money. 

The caller, Fred, told the young man that he didn't give money to people he met on the street. But he added, "what's your name?" (Who asks strangers begging on the streets their names?)

"Roma" the young man answered. Suddenly the man remember the forwarded email and was alert.

"I know you!" (How many Romas can there be!) " Were you adopted from Russia?" At this point Roma was stunned.  They chatted a while, as Roma truthfully told Fred his whole history. Fred, 39, was intrigued as he has been in recovery for many years, and he was blown away by this Cosmic experience. He said Roma was there with him, and did we want him to give Roma that %#$& twenty-five dollars to check his luggage to fly to Georgia.  The answer remained  "no." He agreed that no was probably the right answer and came up with an inspired plan. He would mail Roma's luggage to him in Georgia. He shared his opinion that the halfway house might not be the best place for Roma at this time. There were truly hardened drug addicts there, which might frighten Roma. 

Once off the phone, I sat processing the call. Over 60,000 people live in Delray Beach. What are the chances that a man reading about an adopted Russian boy named Roma would be approached by the same boy a few weeks later on the sidewalk? And what made Fred ask Roma's name? I am convinced it was a Divine appointment. As I sat recalling Fred's words, a text interrupted my state of awe. My humbled boy texted his chill-bump-covered mom. He wrote,

"Only by the grace of God could that have happened! I couldn't thank y'all enough for everything y'all have done for me. I will not let you down anymore. "

Fred called again later. Not wanting Roma to spend another night in a car, he took him to a Christian halfway house run by a friend, where he could sleep on the couch and would be fed. That night Roma was in the company of seven or eight devoted Christian men. And God!

The next morning I received an email from Fred, who was apparently still marveling about the experience. He wrote, "God has tremendous plans for Roma!" I put a book in the mail for Fred! He will really be touched by the rest of the story.

The night before, I had been in tears about the path Roma was choosing. But in the middle of my fitful sleep, I was comforted by a dream: I was looking through a doorway, an ancient arch of cracking plaster. I was watching a scene from Roma's life, like a movie. I was standing on the right-hand side of the entrance when I sensed someone standing very close to me. I turned and it was Jesus.

I am not naive enough to expect Roma to change overnight. It might take years. But I do believe that he is keenly aware that he is being Pursued, that his life is somehow not his own. Like me, he will fight for control. Yet, I am confident that the many prayers lifted to Heaven on Roma's behalf have indeed unleashed the Hound of Heaven. 

He who began a good work will see it through! 

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you: I have called you by name, you are mine." Isaiah 43:1

Praise God!  

Continue this story with  Trying to out run the Hound, but steadily losing ground

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Science versus Science

We often hear the debate “Science versus Religion,” as though theologians are on one side of an argument and scientists on the other, but who do we believe when scientists disagree?  There are many examples, but let’s consider the Big Bang Theory. This almost universally-accepted theory states that in a single cosmic explosion the universe that we now inhabit came into existence.

While scanning the heavens with his telescope in 1929, Edwin Hubble, observed red shifts, or elongated wavelengths of light, indicating expansion, or the moving apart of stars and planets.   If there was expansion, then there was a time when the celestial bodies were closer together, and a time before that when there was a “beginning” of the universe. This notion was a radical departure from the centuries-old belief was that the universe was infinite, or “static,” that it had no beginning or end. Earlier, in 1917, Albert Einstein had formulated his theory of relativity claiming that space must be able to expand or contract; but he found this hypothesis so improbable, that he revised his theory to line up with the common belief of the day that the universe was static and motionless.  After Hubble's discoveries of expanding space, Einstein regretted second guessing his original conclusion, and eventually gave an obligatory, though reluctant, nod to what he called "the necessity for a beginning" and eventually to "the presence of a superior reasoning power."

The discovery of cosmic microwave background in 1965 is probably the most conclusive evidence for the Big Bang.  Arno Penzias, who shared the 1978 Nobel Prize for the shattering breakthrough said  “The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, and the Bible as a whole.” 

By the 1980’s most scientists were in agreement with the Big Bang.  But physicist and “Nature” editor Sir John Maddox was not convinced.  In his 1989 “Nature” article titled “Down with the Big Bang,” he wrote, "Apart from being philosophically unacceptable, the Big Bang is an over simple view of how the Universe began, and it is unlikely to survive the decade ahead." Maddox hoped that photos from the Hubble telescope would prove the theory wrong; however, the images sent back to earth did not challenge an expanding universe. 

Wait a minute, “philosophically unacceptable”?  What about scientifically unacceptable? 
Other scientists were uneasy with the implications of the Big Bang that required an ultimate “beginning.”  Arthur Eddington, prominent astrophysicist of the first half of the 20th century, described the idea of a Big Bang as “repugnant,” confessing his desire to find “a genuine loophole” to “allow evolution an infinite time to get started.”   “Repugnant”?  Only if the idea doesn't fit one’s philosophy.   Eddington finally accepted the veracity of the Big Bang, but admitted that “the beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look at it as frankly supernatural.”  (Italic mine)

Dr. Robert Jastrow, (1925-2008), recipient of the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, admitted that although he was agnostic, he was nonetheless fascinated by the implications of modern scientific discoveries,  particularly in regard to the Big Bang. In God and the Universe, he wrote, “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream.  He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer the highest peak.  As he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” 

In his 1992 Los Angeles Times article, science-historian Frederick Burnham wrote, "These findings (concerning the Big Bang), now available, make the idea that God created the universe a more respectable hypothesis today than at any time in the last 100 years."

Theoretical physicist, Steven Hawking, best known for his cosmology work regarding black holes, had this to say in his bestselling book, A Brief History of Time, (in which, by the way, God is the main character), “It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.”  And “It is quite possible that God acts in ways that cannot be described by scientific laws."

Yet, Steven Weinberg, 1979 winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics, and avowed atheist, claims that some cosmologists endorse theories on the basis that they “nicely avoid the problem of Genesis.” 
And what exactly is the problem with Genesis? 

Is this the “Science” of empirical evidence, or “philosophical” science?  Why are opinions of respected scientists dismissed, ignored, and maligned in certain scientific circles?  In naturalistic science, (the belief  that natural causes alone sufficiently explain everything in the universe, read “no God”), there is a philosophy, a worldview, which is being vehemently protected and advanced, even to the exclusion of new scientific evidence. 

Scientists frequently disagree. Who are we to believe?  Probably the ones whose conclusions most closely match our own philosophy

That the earth began at a fixed time in the past, in a burst of light and energy is sounding strangely like Genesis. 

Sir Francis Bacon, (1561-1626), English philosopher, statesman, and father of modern scientific thought, said, “A little science estranges a man from God; a lot of science brings him back.”