Sapphire Sky

December 31, 2014

Countless Blessings

Filed under: adoption, encouragement, marriage and family — Tags: , — Anthony Biller @ 1:01 am

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
Psalm 95:1-3

It’s official! The six children we set out out to adopt earlier this year are our children … … at least in Latvia.  God provided the way and has been with us every step.  He has more than answered our prayers, blessing us abundantly.

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I’ve intended for months to write a “thank you” post regarding God’s overwhelming love the past several months, particularly as expressed through his people.  Life has been a bit hectic, however, the past five months, but in a very good way.

After many months of paperwork, interviews, and more paperwork, we have one more trip (our third) back to Latvia to process U.S. immigration for the children to be admitted as citizens.  We spent most the month of August in Latvia for our “first” hearing (which actually entails two formal court hearings, two informal meetings with the adoption judge and an interview at the U.S. embassy).  Like the children’s visit last Christmas, Inga, the then-orphanage director, was with us every step of the way.  She attended every hearing and spent nearly every day with us.  Inga prepared a (large) rental home for us and reserved a large van with a full time professional driver (required for passenger vehicles in excess of 9). She also brought us several home made and excruciatingly delicious Latvian tortes.  She taught us how to make eastern-European styled pork roasts. Inga planned an itinerary and showed us the sights of Latvia from well known Cesis castle to Rundale Palace to off-the-beaten-path places like Barefoot Walk , the delicious bread of Liepkalni bakery (the best rye bread I’ve ever had), Viking boat tour of the Dauguva, a fantastical doll museum in Preili and the nearby ruins of Kokneses castle and several other interesting places. IMG_2173Perhaps my sweetest surprise was the afternoon we spent with master beekeeper Jana Bisu, eating honey directly from a few of his hundreds of hives.

We returned to the loving embrace of dozens of our friends and families at the airport.  As I mentioned on these pages before, it was a celebration of life and a lifetime memory.  It has been the only time I’ve walked into an airport terminal to the sound of vuvuzelas blaring and people cheering — and for us! We were embarrassed and encouraged and loved.  Our Latvian children were primarily bewildered.  All were exhausted after 24 hours of travel.  It was a welcome home kiss from God.

A week after we returned, several members of our church coordinated a clothing and stuff donation drive.  There was so much donated that donations not only filled one room – they filled several.  There was the ‘girl sweater’, the ‘boy pants room’ etc.  The kids’ favorites were the toy room and the sports room.  Within minutes they were riding scooters and bikes up and down the church hallway.  We were encouraged to select as many items as we wanted.  Unwanted items were sold at a local thrift store for which we received a gift card.  Following our ‘shopping’ spree they treated us to a reception/celebration.  Many friends and family participated and we felt so loved and encouraged.

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Another great example of support we received came through our daughter’s American Heritage Girls troup. The coordinator approached us saying they wanted to bless us with their annual service project.  Together we came up with the idea of doing a ‘yard make-over’ to prepare our home to put up for sale.  The outside had been at the bottom of the priority list with basic survival as a large family at the top of the list for several months so the yard was definitely in need of some TLC.  By 9am that day mini vans lined our street and whole families marched about our lawn armed with rakes and shovels.  Dead leaves were removed; flowers were planted; and 20 cubic yards of mulch was spread.  The transformation was incredible and trumped only by the support we felt.

The love we’ve received has been incredible, very welcomed and appreciated. Through the past year, so many friends and people we do not know have prayed for us and/or given us encouragement, time, money, food, clothes, toys, furniture, bicycles, bedsheets, computers, games, puzzles, medicine, dental care, yard cleaning, house cleaning, packing/moving/unpacking help, and I’m sure there are at least another dozen areas of help we received.  It has been an overwhelming wave of love.  There are too many names to name.  To each and every one – THANK YOU!

thank you

A few folks commented that we are “saints” for adopting six children at once.  Heh. They are correct in the theologically accurate, New Testament sense that we are “saints” because we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ as our lord and savior.  In the colloquial sense, however, I can assure you that I don’t feel “saintly.”  What we experience is just what every other parent experiences, it’s just we’re getting a more concentrated dose of it lately.  Parenting and marriage exercise the fruits of faith.  Or to put it less diplomatically, few things expose our fallen, self-centered nature more readily than parenting and marriage.  At least that’s the case for me.  Being an adoptive father of a large set has shown me more areas than I care to admit where I really need to be more like Christ and less like me.  “Areas” … that’s too generous.  More like territories.  Like Newfoundland size territories.

But while being stretched over the past year exposed my weaknesses, God yet again showed me that He is far bigger than my shortcomings.  He provided beyond my weaknesses and beyond our expectations.  He is a mighty and awesome God who provides for his children.  We might not feel saintly, but we feel incredibly blessed.  We serve a holy and almighty God. He provided the way and loved all twelve of us abundantly, particularly through His people – the church.  We thank God for each of you who faithfully loved and supported us this past year.

God is great!

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December 7, 2014

The Outcast

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 7:14 pm

We have just seen the conversation between Son of God and one of the great teachers of his day (John 3:1-21).  Nicodemus was a highly respected teacher and one of the Jewish rulers in the Sanhedrin.  Nicodemus thought he knew a lot about God, and yet Jesus showed him that he needed to be born from above before he could even see God’s kingdom (see here).

The next scene is a complete contrast to Nicodemus. Jesus initiates a conversation with an outcast Samaritan woman, one who would be despised by any “respectable” Jew.  Nicodemus had initiated a secret meeting with Jesus for fear of reprisal from his own countrymen.  Jesus initiates this next meeting with an immoral “foreigner” woman with no fear of reprisal.

 Jesus’ message to Nicodemus was that the spiritual world is much greater than anything we can see or hear.  Jesus further explains the spiritual world to this sinful, Samaritan woman using water.

 The Samaritan woman would not have understood the Old Testament metaphor of water’s cleansing and new life [2].  But more importantly, Jesus is bringing her to the point of understanding eternal life.  The well water is temporary, but Jesus is offering something permanent.

Jesus then brings her to the next step, which is to show her that he knows about the details of her life. He knows all about her five failed marriages and that she is not married to her current man. Note that Jesus neither excuses nor corrects her current lifestyle. What is most important is that she needs eternal life.

 The woman’s response seems strange to our minds.  She almost seems to change the subject, asking about the place of worship.  But her core Samaritan beliefs had been shaken.  The Samaritans did not believe in any other prophet after Moses except for the Messiah [3].  Therefore, she has just acknowledged that this man must be be the Messiah.  And he is a Jew.  Therefore, what else about her Samaritan beliefs were wrong?

 The Samaritans believed that the the true source of worship was on Mount Gerizim (see here).  If the rest of her Samaritan beliefs were wrong, where was the correct place to worship?  More specifically, how can you come to God?

 How do you worship God?  Jesus says it twice here: You worship God in spirit and truth.

 You worship God in spirit.  This is not a reference to the Holy Spirit but in the human spirit, the part of us that communes with God.  As we draw close to God, our worship of God comes from the inside-out.  [4]

 You worship God in truth.  It is not enough to have great emotions, or to feel close to God.  Our worship of God is rooted in the truth of knowing who he is and in studying his Word.

The woman points out that truth will come from the Messiah.  Jesus unmistakably declares that he is the Messiah.

 It is this faith in Jesus that brings her to eternal life:

 “The conviction, sudden but firm, that He Who had laid open the past to her was really a Prophet, was already faith in Him; and so the goal had been attained – not, perhaps, faith in His Messiahship, about which she might have only very vague notions, but in Him. And faith in the Christ, not in anything about Him, but in Himself, has eternal life.” – Alfred Edersheim [3]

 

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