Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Holy Goat and Selfish Doxologies

I love to hear my daughter pray. At 2 1/2, she has a few basic prayers that she regularly prays: “Tank you Jesus for all da bressings, and mommy and daddy and mammy and papa and all da friends. Amen,” is one of my favorites. But tonight at dinner she sort of got off track, and missed the point of the whole thing. She wanted to sing the doxology, which we sometimes do at dinner time. She calls it “Praise Fadder,” because of the last part, “praise Father, So-on and Holy Ghost.” We all started to sing, and she immediately interrupted us and told us to stop. “Charis do it,” she said. Apparently, she wanted this doxology to be HER doxology, and hers alone. So, after silencing me and Paula, she came to the finish. “Praise Fadder, Son, and Hody Goat.”

After we stopped laughing at the thought of a holy goat (I know, how could we!), I couldn’t help but think how ironic her prayer was—and probably how typical of the way we followers of Jesus behave. We want to sing about God’s glory, all the while seeking our own. We want to shush those voices that would join ours, for fear that they might drown us out. We want to be heard above the crowd, not blend in with it. We want to offer a doxology in which we are the star, not Christ. We want to be glorified in glorifying. Ok, maybe you don’t. But if I’m honest, I have to admit that at times, I do. I suppose if this weren’t so, Jesus would have never had to say, “take up your cross DAILY, and follow me.” But he did, because we do. And we must, take up our cross that is, and stop making it all about us. The song just sounds a lot better that way. Really, it does.



Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hello friends! It has been a while since I've posted, and I just wanted to inform you that I've started a new blog over at wordpress, called wordandwind. I probably won't be posting much here, as my life has become a bit more academic these days, and that just is where I'm at, mentally and otherwise. So, come on over and join the conversation!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Silence of God


Last night we had to let Charis cry herself back to sleep in the middle of the night. She has been waking up at 2 a.m. every night for last few weeks, mostly because we have been on the road, and now that we are at home we want to get her back on schedule. It wasn’t easy though. As I lay in bed and listened to her go from whimpering, to wailing, to moaning––as though she were in the throws of some terrible agony, I wanted so desperately to go and pick her up and give her a bottle, which was all she really wanted. But I knew, because of the advice of countless friends, that if we continue to let her do this we would be getting up with her at 2 a.m. until she was practically in high school.

And so, I lay there and did nothing, except pray for her (and for us) that we would all soon go back to sleep. And it occurred to me that this is probably the way it is with some of the things we adults pray for.

Often, I suspect, we ask God for things that are neither good for us in the short-term nor that bode well for our future. We are infants crying out in the night for another dose of formula, for more food in our bellies, when in fact what we need is rest and the discipline that comes from learning to wait patiently for the Lord. Even as my not responding to Charis’s cry, was an intentional act on my part, done out of my love for her and concern for her future, so too is God’s silence most often an act of grace and compassion. By not giving us what we want, God often gives us something much better––namely, what we need. Or, as David Platt recently put it in a sermon, “What a terrible thing it is when God gives to sinful creatures exactly what they want.”

My encouragement for you today is to remember then, that no matter what it is you are crying out to God for, be assured that He is listening. Though, like Habakkuk we may say “O Lord, How long shall I cry for help and you will not hear?” (Hab. 1:2), we can rest assured that not only does God hear, but that He is ever at work in the lives of those who trust Him. And it may very well be for us, as God said to Habakkuk, “Look among the nations and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your day that you would not believe if told.”

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Less than Perfect

Wow...its been way too long since my last post! Sorry for that! By way of a quick update, we are back in the US, and full-swing in the itineration process. Last Sunday we were with Daniel McNaughton and the folks at Spring Valley Community Church in eastern PA. We had planned on showing our missions video, but somehow the video we brought with us was a family Christmas video! Imagine our surprise when that came up on the screen! Anyway, we are thankful that the folks at SVCC are gracious and could just roll with it. No one freaked out, and in fact someone said we should have just gone ahead and shown that video! I like that! After all, we are all family anyway––right!

I sometimes struggle with, and internally want to rebel against the "performance" aspect of ministry. I don't even like to use the word "performance" but there is a sense in which that is exactly what it is. There are times in ministry when it is easy to feel the pressure of needing to convey a sense of our having it all together. And often, I think its healthy to be reminded that we really don't have it all together, that no one does (but Jesus), and that our humanness––rather than a false perfectionism, provides the greatest potential for connectedness with those around us. Would love to hear your thoughts on that topic though!

Also, some new developments are afoot in our ministry while we are in the US for itineration. We will be helping out with Africa AG Care–-a new ministry in Springfield, MO that focuses on compassionate ministry in Africa. We will be especially helping out with a magazine called Embrace. This is not a full-time thing, but just something we are lending a hand with until we get back to Zambia. We are exited about the opportunity, and will have more details in the coming days. Thanks for sticking with us, and being a part of the journey!

Jerry

Friday, December 17, 2010

Release of my book, "Embracing the Baobab."

Hi friends,
I wanted to let you know that Life Publishers has published my book "Embracing the Baobab" and that it is available for purchase either on our website www.keepingupwiththeirelands.com or by emailing me directly (jerry.ireland@agmd.org).
The book is basically a collection of blog entries arranged in devotional format. The book also contains some additional material not found in the blogs that I hope will be a blessing to you!
Let me know if you would like to order a copy (or several) and I will get it in the mail right away. There is still time to order for Christmas presents.
Paula and I pray you all have a wonderful Christmas and experience the joy and peace of Immanuel, God with us!
Also, we would like to request prayer for a new court date for the custody hearing of our recently adopted daughter Charis Jordan. The hearing is scheduled for Monday morning and we are praying that all goes well, that the birth mom is able to make it to the hearing and that there are no complications. Thanks so very much and God bless!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Child of God


It has been two weeks now since Charis Jordan entered our lives and hearts; two weeks since our world was gloriously and wonderfully turned upside-down, or rather, turned right-side up. We are continuing to wait for a court date, though, for a custody hearing that will finally allow us to go home to Springfield with our new daughter.

I’ve never been good at waiting. I’ve at times been said to have patience, but having patience and being good at waiting are not really the same thing. A patient person is just someone who is perfectly happy to never be anywhere but where they are and never do nothing but what they are doing. People who fish are patient. But waiting, putting everything on hold until some event transpires that releases you to get moving once again, that allows you to resume life as you know it, that I am sure, is something hardly anyone really likes.

But, we wait. We wait, and we wait because what we wait for is worth waiting for. Not everything is. Babies, though, are because of what we know they will do and are doing to us and in us. We look at a baby and wonder about not only the life that awaits them, but also the life that awaits us because of them. A baby has a way of reordering our world and our priorities that seem to so often get out-of-whack.

I have struggled a lot this week with the waiting part. I have wanted so badly for this part to be over, for the custody to be official because in the waiting there is a degree of uncertainty and that uncertainty, if you let yourself dwell on it, can be terrifying. That’s because there are few guarantees in life and the possibility that things might turn out far worse than we hope always looms large, perhaps especially so after the loss of Josiah. And I’m not sure I could survive the loss of this little girl who has so captured my heart, who at 19 inches and some 8 lbs. or so, stops the world.

Since Charis came into our lives, my favorite time of day has come to be around 3 a.m., when it’s just me and her and the stillness of the night, when nothing is there to call me away, when I can dote on her and talk to her—not baby talk, but adult talk, daddy to daughter––about life and about diapers and Binkies––all the things that really matter. Of course, its not all glory and good conversation. There is another side of those 3 a.m. moments and I know now why they call it the “wee” hours of the morning.

During one of those times recently, I looked down at Charis, and overwhelmed by how much I love her, said out loud, “No one will ever love you as much as I do!.” And I meant it too. Immediately, though, I knew that it wasn’t true. Immediately I knew that God loved her more than I do and I could hardly fathom that. I knew too that God loved me more than I loved Charis, and that too was something I found impossible to get my head around.

And as I sat there on the couch with Charis, I couldn’t help but think about the twin realities of both God’s love and his waiting (and perhaps for Him, waiting and patience are the same because for God the outcome is never uncertain). I was struck by the fact that because we have a loving God, we also have a God who waits to finally bring us home. And, free will being what it is, there are no guarantees that all of us actually will come home. Some will choose to turn away from the One who loves them most.

As Christmas approaches, I find it overwhelming to contemplate that God sent His only Son to die on a cross, and finally lead us all home. I find it overwhelming to contemplate that God became an infant, and in doing so said truly, “No one will ever love you more than I do.”

For God so loved the world…!

This Christmas, I am reminded that in Christ we have all been given a Child who, if we allow Him, will gloriously and wonderfully reorder our world and our priorities as only He can. Because in Christ being born we see the love of our Father most fully expressed. In Jesus, we find hope because in Him we become God’s children (John 1:12).

Merry Christmas everyone!


Friday, December 03, 2010

Grace, Flowing Down.


Even though I feel very much at a loss for words, and very certain that I will not come close to expressing all or even most of what is in my heart right now, I have to at least try. I have to try because—one, I want to follow the advice of a friend and not let this moment slip by. But also, I have this sense that there is more to this moment than I understand, that it is beyond even the miraculous event we know it to be.

Monday morning at about 11 a.m., we got a call from the adoption agency we have been working with. They wanted to know how soon we could get to Tulsa because a baby had been born at 8:30 that morning, and her mother––a single mother of four, was not going to be able to care for her and would be placing the baby for adoption. The mother had left it to the agency to choose an adopting family, and that family happened to be us. After we picked our jaws up off the floor, we rushed home, through some clothes in a suitcase and headed for Tulsa.

Three hours later we arrived at the hospital in Tulsa, and were met by a friend from the adoption agency. They took us in, and in a matter of minutes we were holding the most beautiful little girl we have ever seen—a perfect little baby, wrapped tight in a blanket––a baby burrito the nurse called her. At a glance, this would seem to have been the most simple adoption to ever take place. We woke up that morning expecting just another November day. We went to bed that night as the parents of beautiful Charis Jordan.

The truth is, though, this process has been anything but easy. It has been a tumultuous roller coaster of a ride. Several times it appeared an adoption was coming together, and yet it never quite seemed to work out. That in itself was emotionally draining and left us despairing that an adoption might never happen. We were to be in the U.S. now for only a short time, and we had an acute awareness that if something didn’t happen fairly soon, it would not happen at all. Our window of opportunity was very narrow.

Recently, we had been feeling the combined pressure of this narrow window and past disappointments (including the loss of Josiah), very acutely. Our hope was fading and we both were beginning to grow weary of trying to hang on to hope that never seemed to materialize into reality. It began to seem as though it might be better to simply abandon hope all together and just give up. Before doing that though––which was never what we wanted to do, only what we feared we would be forced to do––we decided to spend some time really seeking the Lord. And so, in the week just prior to our receiving Charis, we both committed ourselves to a several days of fasting and prayer specifically for God’s guidance and direction regarding adoption. Our prayer was that God would either close the door completely, or that He would throw it wide open and make it clear what He had planned for us. We felt we really needed to hear clearly from God in order to continue in this process.

One of the things we were wrestling with was that we had lately begun to consider embryo adoption as a possibility. After looking into this, and meeting some wonderful people involved in it, we thought this might be something that could work for us. In some ways, it seemed safer than traditional adoption. Paula would carry the baby, and so we would know that the baby was not being exposed to drugs or alcohol. So, we starting moving forward with this, and made an appointment to see an embryologist in St. Louis. Long story short, there was a medical complication that brought that whole plan to a screeching halt. Another dead end, another disappointment, hope deferred yet again. It was feasible that a simple procedure would have had the ball rolling again with embryo adoption, there was no guarantee. We just began to get overwhelmed by the choices and decisions to be made, and felt we completely lacked the ability to make those decisions. Hope was starting to feel like a ball and chain that we drug around with us wherever we went, rather than something to look forward to. And I was starting to think that the best thing we could do was to cut hope loose and just move on.

But after our time of prayer and fasting last week, Paula and I both sensed peace in a way we hadn’t in a long time. Paula one morning during her devotions felt the Lord speak to her specifically when reading the story of the birth of Samuel, when Eli said to Hannah, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him” (1 Sam. 1:17). After that morning, Paula felt sure that God would do something, and that we would have a child. As for me, I wanted to be sure, but I found myself bogged down with past disappointments.

We had no idea that in less than a week’s time, we would be holding a precious baby girl––our very own daughter, Charis Jordan. We are still in shock somewhat over all that has happened in the last three days. But we marvel at the impeccable timing and guiding hand of God that has brought us to this moment. If we had gone ahead with the embryo adoption (which we continue to believe is a wonderful program!), we would have had to close the door on traditional adoption. In other words, if were not for a medical complication in that process, we would have gone ahead with it right away and in doing so we would have effectively shut the door on becoming Charis’s parents.

And so now, as I write this and contemplate all that we feel God has taught us over the last two years, several things come to the forefront. First, the one truth and hope that we must cling to always, is that God is good and that His plans endure forever. “I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him” (Eccl. 3:14). Difficult and challenging times will come when it seems that God has completely forgotten us. And though that is never the case, most of the challenges and difficulties we go through (perhaps all of them) cannot be solved simply with a clever Tweet.

Hope is not a ball and chain that we drag around, but it is of utmost value because it carries us through the darkness and tells us that a brighter day is coming. It tells us that a brighter day is coming, not because we deserve it (we don’t!), and not because we’ve earned it (we can’t!) but because God loves us, and desires to give us that brighter day. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,” Jesus said. I don’t for a moment pretend to understand the darkness, or to know why the valley’s can seem so incredibly low. But this I do know. The valley is not where we are meant to stay. It is a part of the journey, but it is never our destination. And the key to getting through the valley is not to abandon hope, but to hold to it with all that we have, with prayer and fasting, with tears and crying out to God because it is God Himself that we need to encounter, it is God Himself that is our hope. Our hope is really not that our prayer will be answered, though God does that too, but our hope is that we would in clinging to hope, cling to God.

Charis means “grace” and Jordan means “flowing down.” As we look back over the gift of Josiah, and the journey of the last two years, we can think of no more appropriate words to describe our situation, both then and now. Grace. Flowing down.