The False Summits of Adoption

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In hiking, a false summit is the portion of the mountain that appears to be the highest point; however, upon reaching it, a mountaineer sees that the summit is higher. Unless prepared for such false summits, the effect on a hiker’s psychological state can be damaging.  So much so, that the she may give up and begin a disappointing descent.

In the summer of 2015, our then family of four hiked the majestic Manitou Incline in Manitou Springs Colorado. It was the most difficult hike to date that we have hiked as a family, and it has proven to provide so many parallels to obstacles we have faced in our adoption journey. The two-thousand feet gain in elevation over a mile at the front end of the hike was almost paralyzing to my psyche. I wasn’t sure we could complete this hike with success, but we ventured forth anyway. The people along the journey were so encouraging. They couldn’t believe that our five and seven year old children were attempting such a hike.

The real kicker came as we were approaching what seemed the top of the incline. Another hiker told us, its a false summit. The top is still a ways up. What? There was more? We had already had to make accommodations for one child to poop while on the trail (that was a first and only so far!) and our other child started off battling a bit of an asthmatic episode and had to be carried for part of the initial portion of the hike. A false summit! Okay, time for a snack and to regroup and prepare ourselves for the remainder of the journey to the summit.

In order to complete this hike we were on all fours, lifting children, encouraging children, and taking multiple breaks. The good news is… we made it! The victory welcome at the top from the other hikers is something our children will never forget; and I am almost positive, some of our fellow hikers will not forget either. In particular one man named Don.

Our adoption journey which we had temporarily laid down for nearly two years was reinitiated after we returned from that family vacation. That summer multiple videos were released which exposed Planned Parenthood for selling the body parts of aborted babies and killing them in such a way as to gain the most profit from their organs. These videos were the tipping point for us to take another step towards adoption. We had fostered for 13 months in the hopes that we would foster to adopt. However, our hearts were so wounded  and raw after the reunification of our foster son, that we knew a time of refreshing and regrouping as a family was necessary. As we all know, the Lord will not let us rest forever. That summer He was calling us back to the work of adoption and orphan care.

In July of 2015 we decided not to recertify as foster parents but to ask that we go straight into the adoption process. In short, much misinformation was communicated to us which has further complicated our adoption journey there on out. However, in September of 2015, through the fostering of a baby by friends of ours, we met a beautiful blonde-headed, blue-eyed boy that we are now in the final stages of adopting. For ten months we daily made multiple phone calls, sent numerous emails, and advocated on behalf of the best interest of this child before he was placed in our home as a pre-adoptive placement in July of 2016.

You may rush by that last sentence; but for us, the living out of those ten months was long and arduous.

With high hopes that the adoption would be finalized in October of this year (2016), we awaited the go ahead from the attorney to schedule the court date. We inched closer to the anticipated court date only to discover that our son was not yet free and clear for adoption, but that a paperwork error had occurred and we were essentially back to a holding period.

Was this a false summit, or merely a strenuous portion of our hike?

With that knowledge in mind, I boarded a plane in late September and went hiking for two days in breathtaking Washington State with a dear friend. No false summits in sight on our hikes, and so far, none our adoption journey.

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Until…

Two days after my return home, we were told that our adoptive son’s mother was pregnant and would give birth to his sibling within a month.

False summit identified.

Stunned, is probably a good word for our reaction to this news. Overjoyed, is the word for our children’s response! Little had we known that Emily, our oldest daughter had been fervently praying for a baby sister. Now, she saw that her dream was within reach.

So today, we find our family expanding–at least at present, and Lord willing forever- to a family of six. Emily was right, the baby is a girl. So as we ascend this (what we perceive to be) the final portion of the adoption summit, let our story be one that encourages and informs you. Few adoptions are expedient, and none are without loss and pain. False summits happen all the time in hiking and perhaps with more frequency in life.

We are looking forward to that mountain-top view. The summit shall surely be worth it. We anticipate sharing in the joy and telling the God moments. To God be the glory!

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We Fall Once More

Fall Once More

Yesterday marked the first day of fall. We had a humble, but much anticipated, celebration in our home all day which we lovingly termed our Fallibration. Nothing fancy, just simple fun. A fall sign made from repurposed brown packaging paper from an Amazon order, dollar store cups, plates, and a table cloth, and plenty of baking and books for all.

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Each year the turn of seasons is a good place to pause, praise, and perceive what the Savior is teaching us in our current season. Also, to identify what type of season we are in. It is easy for us, particularly women I believe, to assess our entire season of life on the last week alone. I know I do. My husband can ask me how I, we, our family is doing, and I will base my answer on the afternoon and not the week or season in its entirety.

We are back in the throws of toddlerhood and homeschooling as September is turning a brilliant red and bursting into October. I have failed in grace and fallen so many times in need of grace. Can you relate? In fact, this week, while apologizing to my oldest son, my daughter quipped with a knowing grin, We have to forgive you everyday mommy. It’s true, we fall once more and need to be forgiven daily. Maybe not by our children–as my daughter was partially teasing, or maybe we so– but certainly by our Heavenly Father. The maker and sustainer of our physical seasons and our life’s seasons knows our weaknesses and limitations. He remembers out of the dust we were formed. We fall once more and then turn and fall into the forgiving grace-filled arms of the Savior.

We repent and seek change in ourselves, our reactions, and reconciliation with God and man daily. God knows we will fall under self-sustained burdens. That is why we need to be in fellowship and friendship, with Him, with a local Body of Believers, and with the Church Universal. He assures us in His word:

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.… (Matthew 11:28-29)

As we fall once more, may we keep these and similar verses in mind so that we may fall forward in grace and sanctification; sustaining ourselves with God’s Word, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the fellowship of believers.

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Beginning Again

Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet? ~Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Fresh starts. What a positive turn of phrase. Lucy Maud Montgomery’s protagonist,  Anne Shirley, Anne with an e, states the above quote which makes each day sound so romantic and full of possibilities. Contrast this with the phrase beginning again, that sounds more determined with an end-goal in mind.

I believe that most of life is full of moments which necessitate beginning again and less of fresh starts.

Consider Mark 4:1, in which Mark documents the setting of Jesus’ teaching: And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. (Emphasis mine.)

I read this verse one morning in July and it stirred both comfort and an impression to pause and consider. I had quickly gathered belongings to take our children to the beach and thought how much effort it takes to get us to the surf and sun. Once we arrived, this verse was brought to mind again as I watched our oldest son playing in the sand. Today’s efforts may seem to disappear with the setting of the sun, but it is the continuous working over time that brings growth which outlasts the sunsets of today.

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Beginning again: parenting.

Over the past fourteen months, we have actively pursued adding to our family in the manner of adoption. We are less than a month away from the culmination of faithful prayers and petitions on the part of numerous friends and family… in short, the efforts of the Body of Christ. One fall day in early October, our son will be legally deemed our son, and the work of adopting will be sealed.

During the last eight months, I’ve written far less than usual and certainly below my personal desire. My days have been full emotionally, physically, and dare I say, spiritually. The task of beginning again each day has been most of what I could handle. In honesty, I have wondered if it were time to hang up my writing hat until another life season. What is the purpose of blogging? Aren’t there enough bloggers and books out there? Is this creative outlet for me purposeful, or is it a frivolous use of a precious commodity that always seems in short supply? Additionally, it has been a season of reading, studying, and learning from others. I have weighed writing versus reading many days.

Beginning again: daily work.

Everyday I must begin again. In our home, we have chosen home education for our children. This means that my personal and professional calling are synonymous. I am a mother and an educator. Both teacher and disciple-maker. This has proven to be a passion of mine and a daunting task as I, we,–my husband and I– bear the responsibility of preparing our children for the rest of their lives in every aspect. Beginning again everyday in this area takes energy, courage, and determination. It also takes will. The will not to compare my methods, my children, or the opportunities that we provide them to other homeschoolers, family members, or the world in general. Our education endeavor is on the forefront of my mind always. I weigh the options of running to the beach, out to the park, or reading one more book with my kids, to writing and slipping away to pound the keyboard with my thoughts.

Beginning again: daily tasks.

Everyday you and I must begin again with daily tasks. It is essential that we perform the mundane tasks of life in order to live. Food, dishes, laundry, cleaning, studying, working. This is our everyday lives. These are the things we are to purposefully bring to the Father and offer as a sacrifice to Him. Consider Romans 12:1: Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Each day we must begin again to keep our living areas, desks at work, and our daily schedules in order. In the words of Mother Teresa, we are to do small things with great love. These are our everyday acts of worship to the Lord. To praise him in the daily and seek him as we begin the tasks of each new day. Oh how I need to remember and practice this! The joy that would invade my life if I approached tasks in this way.

Beginning again: unexpected change.

So there you have it. We know this in our hearts and minds that each day we begin again; however, we think about beginning again perhaps as often as we think to breathe. That is, we think of beginning again each day with such nonchalance until beginning again becomes more difficult than usual. Some beginnings may not be such a welcome and expected turn of events that cause each new day’s beginnings to be challenging. It may be a move, an unexpected health issue, a death in the family, or a career change. In any case, God’s word models constancy for us. Following in His footsteps, we can begin again with eternity in mind. We are able to pause and picture Jesus, with His complete knowledge of what the future would bring, with His mission on the forefront of His mind, stepping into a boat once more to teach the multitudes that were drawn to hear Him. He knew the harvest was ripe, He knew His time on earth was short, and He began again…

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Here’s to beginning again every day,

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Lessons from a Dirty Fan

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The last two-to-three months has found our family in the midst of two property renovation projects. Gratefully, this weekend we finished up the last touches on the second house we are putting on the market. As I dusted and wiped down the ceiling fans, it occurred to me: we each are like a busy fan whirling and whirling. Like the ceiling fan I was cleaning, we too are frantically flying through our days working, or trying to get from point A to point B, meeting goals, beating deadlines, checking off our to do lists, or even distracting ourselves to death; however, we are nonetheless collecting dust, stains of the earth. Newton proved that objects in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force; but dust seems to land on anything moving or stationary!

In the frantic pace of life, even for people like myself who try to keep a simple, steady rhythm, we circle round again and discern that we haven’t taken the time to stop and reflect on our souls, our situations, our strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps, at best, we have paused. We haven’t completely halted to inspect the accumulation of dust, rather we have forged on with little notice of the cleaning of the heart and mind that needs our attention.

Hearts, like fans hurtling headlong day in and day out, can look the picture of health and beauty, but upon closer inspection can be layered with a thick covering of dust and earthly filth.

In our own homes, we tend to get in the spring cleaning mode as the spring days quickly glide into summer. We may find that we are dusting off shelves, emptying closets, and cleaning out drawers…even cleaning ceiling fans. As we do that, perhaps those actions could be mirrored in spring cleaning of the soul. Some time to stop and consider:

  • what practices do I need to cease in order to become more like the image of Christ?
  • what practices should I resume or initiate?
  • who do I need to forgive, or forgive again?
  • who do I need to seek forgiveness from?
  • where am I wasting resources that could be of better advantage used differently?
  • what is God whispering to me by the power of His Holy Spirit that I’ve been too busy to notice?
  • what leading have I dodged from the Holy Spirit?
  • what have I been lamenting over that I need to praise God for?
  • what passion needs to be further put into practice to see God’s Kingdom come?
  • what distraction do I need to do away with?

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. ~Psalm 51:10

It seems ceiling fans aren’t the only thing that needs a little dusting off.

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Lessons Gleaned from the Sea

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They stoop low at the ocean’s edge inspecting a Florida horse conch. The sun has just begun to peak out from beneath the clouds and warm the day.

I snap their picture and think, this is what learning looks like from here.

Bent low, searching, seeking the knowledge and adventure that await in a moment of exploration. God’s sea creatures each tell a story, and the seemingly peaceful shore mocks the real truth that life in the sea is fierce and tumultuous even as the soothing, rhythmic sounds of the ocean lull me into a peaceful state.

There is always this tension just beneath the surface of life.

There is no escaping the forces of good and evil when we live on this side of eternity.

There is a constant need to bend low and search out the still, small voice of God that can also boom like approaching thunder.

Near the supposed age of Christ during his final year in earthly ministry, I feel what most people feel as they steadily grow older: wisdom comes with age and it is harder not to be blinded by the cares of this world nor the skepticism reality brings with each passing year. I am learning that I can no more hold on to the present than it becomes the past. I must enjoy each moment for what it is, for it only comes once and then a memory.

Is it any wonder that God asks us to approach Him with the faith of a child? The child that is oblivious to the cares and demands of life. The child that sees not distractions, but opportunities to explore and learn. The child that sees now even as she anticipates the future. The older they grow the faster they desire to grow up and shed the contentment of their age at present.

Life, like the tide, is in a constant state of give and take, come and go. With the passing of each year, birthday after birthday with our children and friends, we join with the throngs who utter, “Where did the time go?”.  But hidden with the jewels of the sea, there are lessons to be learned, discoveries to be made that utter even of the passing of time. Anne Morrow Lindbergh captures a few of these lessons in her book, Gift from the Sea:

One learns to accept the fact that no permanent return is possible to an old form of relationship; and, more deeply still, that there is no holding of a relationship to a single form. This is not tragedy but part of the ever-recurrent miracle of life and growth. All living relationships are in process of change, of expansion, and must perpetually be building themselves new forms.

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

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The jewels of the sea grow larger with age–their age brings constant rebuilding of their present forms. So do we, don’t you agree? We shouldn’t look the same at fifty as we did at five, nor should we come to the same hobbies void of new knowledge and understanding.

I have always loved the shore. The splash of waves and the picking up of shells. However, now I enjoy it with specificity. That is, I see it more like God sees it. Crying forth its message of creation, fall, redemption, life, death, catastrophe, and rebuilding. I can name the shells I once only admired. Isn’t that grand, that learning from here continues, but looks different than nearly three decades ago?

I can only imagine the discoveries I will make and the view-point I will take in one, two, or perhaps three decades time. Then, maybe I will stoop with my grandchildren and ponder, So this is what learning looks like from here.

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Admitting Our Weaknesses to Seek God’s Strength

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I like to think that I stay on top of tasks and deadlines. However, there come certain times and circumstances in our lives that demand we lighten our load before we lose our mind! Just this week, I had to call and cancel my daughter’s orthodontist consultation for the second time. Actually, the call went something like this:

“Hi, Marline. This is Brooke Cooney. I am scheduled to bring my daughter in tomorrow for her orthodontist consultation. Last week I called to cancel because I hadn’t sent in the paperwork beforehand and also, we had a guest with us all week. Today, I am calling to cancel because I not only didn’t send in the paperwork, but now I can’t find it. Last week one child ran a fever and had a virus all week. This week my younger child woke up with a fever and has the virus too. Also, we are in the middle of an adoption and have just come off a weekend with family in town. I am sorry, but I will need to cancel and just stop by when everyone is well to fill out the paperwork and reschedule.”

Needless to say, Marline received more information than necessary, and was fine with me rescheduling. She was a little baffled that I lost the paperwork, and quite frankly so was I—the yellow folder containing all the paperwork will show up eventually. Cue the power of positive thinking!

I am a Type A woman, and Type A women like myself often want to function out of our own strength. We don’t usually ask for help, and when we are offered help, we hesitate to take it. Additionally, we’d rather not raise the white flag and admit we can’t make all things go according to schedule or as planned.

Right now, my family is walking through an emotionally difficult time as we are walking the slow path of adoption. Further, my husband’s mother is in the second half of a year-long chemo and radiation round to address breast cancer. To top those two situations off, the demands of homeschool, ministry, and work don’t cease. I feel like I am constantly giving and am at times to the point of completely poured out. I know my husband often feels the same. 

Please join me over at iBelieve to continue reading.

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Walking By Faith: Responding to the No and the Yes of Jesus

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Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:18,21, ESV)

A few weeks ago, I was strolling alongside a newly-walking one-year-old. He had tired of simply watching the gymnastics lesson and wanted to try out some moves of his own. Instead of letting him onto the gym floor with my kids in class as he first attempted, I took him outside to walk on the sidewalk. I wanted to hold his hand to protect him from falling and getting yet another bump on his face. He’s gained the nickname “Bruiser” because of all his recent spills.

Needless to say, newly walking one-year-olds think they have the whole walking bit down. He didn’t want to hold my hand this time. He hadn’t asked for assistance, but rather, he had a taste for freedom.

As I grasped his hand and wouldn’t let go, I considered that all he was hearing was, no, no. 

No, don’t pull away from me.

Continue reading at iBelieve.

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Investing in Eternity

 

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

(Psalm 1:1-3, NIV, emphasis mine)

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Investing in eternity. That’s what parenting is. We plant the seeds of God’s word, prune and trim our little saplings, and bring rain and sunshine with life giving words and consistent discipline. Indeed, there are days where our words pour forth torrentially, but most days are steady streams of sunshine mixed with necessary watering and pruning as the need arises.

Our second sapling, Joshua, turned six last week. Over the last six years, we’ve diligently laid down tracks we pray he will continue to follow in the future as we tend to and nurture the young warrior God has given us. One discipline that we wanted to initiate in his sixth year, and soon to be our daughter’s eighth year, is that of saving. We’ve preached and modeled giving to God’s Kingdom, then enjoyed encouraging their dreams of giving their money away. But we haven’t as consistently modeled saving money for future use or for unforeseen needs.

On Wednesday afternoon of this week, I taxied Emily and Joshua to the local bank to open his savings account. He decided to place all of his birthday money into the savings account, which I thought was a wise decision. As we waited for the banker that would be assisting us, the lead teller walked by and we told her of Joshua’s plans. She said, “That will make your money grow!” Joshua looked a me and said, “Really mom? Will it make my money grow?” I smiled and answered his question as simply as I could to a degree satisfactory to him.

Finally, our turn arrived to fill out the appropriate paperwork for Joshua’s savings account. We gave the banker the necessary documentation (for future reference, be sure and have your child’s social security number on hand, I had to drive home and get his) and waited for him to process the request. As the banker walked away to gather the account number, he too stated, “Are you ready to watch your money grow?” When he had left us, I sensed the Holy Spirit telling me to share with Joshua the ways in which we watch our money grow.

“Joshua, come here sweetie, I want to tell you something,” I coaxed as he hopped into my lap. “There are two ways to watch your money grow, one is to invest your money in a savings account or investments which will grow your wealth on earth. The other, is to give it away to missions, or the poor, and by doing this, you grow your wealth and rewards in Heaven.” He looked at me and nodded his head in understanding, I continued, “I am so glad you are starting this savings account, and I am also glad when you give your money away to God.”

As Joshua nodded and said, “okay mama, I understand,” I gathered that was enough of a money lesson for the time, but I could not ignore the weight of this teachable moment upon me as a parent. Each time we invest in teaching our kids about godly and biblical principles, we are investing in eternity. That moment it happened to be about finances, but it could have easily been something else to do with friendship, honesty, loyalty, or discipline. Each lesson waters the saplings our children currently are to enable them to become mighty oaks planted by streams of Living Water.

What are the teachable moments you have had with a young person or peer this week? How have you sensed the Holy Spirit prompting you to make a disciple? Please share your moment so that we can learn and rejoice with you.

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Your Kids Slow You Down… and That’s a Good Thing

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We all know kids take time, but do you ever feel as if your kids are slowing you down? Maybe you long to shop alone without the help of little hands? Or perhaps you wrap all of your Christmas presents at bed time because you know you can do it faster without the assistance? You are not alone! Please join me over at iBelieve to see why it is a good thing that your kids are slowing you down and how this points to the Father. Read this slowly here.

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Being the Ten Percent- Gracious Gratitude

Thanksgiving Post 2015 Living the 10 Percent

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”  And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all your possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

(Mark 10:17-22, NASB)

Gratitude is not greedy for power, possessions, or prestige. Gratitude graciously bows out when it is time.

Perfect peace is found not in trying to achieve power, but in using the power and platform God has given you for such a time as this. 

Only a few men in history have set themselves apart for the power they graciously relinquished. They knew when to walk away in order that the greater good would be served in their absence. Consider:

Moses, relinquished the rights of an adopted grandson of the Pharaoh in order to remember the plight of his people. In so doing, he hastened his humble service to rescue God’s people from slavery and captivity.

(Moses) considering the reproach of  Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.

(Hebrews 11:26-27, NASB)

Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, “a man who neither sought power nor held on to it when his duties had been fulfilled.” (The Cincinnatus Association) Cincinnatus, for whom the city in Ohio is named, was a Roman citizen who was offered endless power and, instead, returned to his farm after saving his country in battle.

George Washington, known as the American Cincinnatus, was not only America’s first president, the model for all who would hold the title after him to emulate, but a man who walked away from power twice so that the great American experiment would not falter under the unbearable weight of a king.

Who can imagine that the liberty of millions might depend on the character of one man? What was it that gave him the strength to do the right thing when the temptation to do something less noble must have been overwhelming?

More than two hundred years after Washington’s death, his willingness to relinquish power–twice–is the most remarkable thing that we remember about him. These refusals to seize power for himself were the greatest acts of one of history’s greatest men.

(7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness, Eric Metaxas)

Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, left the honor and majesty of heaven to come to the squalor and filth of earth. He left His throne in heaven to be laid in a cradle, and later hung on a cross before conquering the enemy of death and sin once and for all. (See Philippians 2) It is to Jesus that we owe all gratitude and praise. If it were not for His modeled call to lay down our lives, His example as He resisted the urging of even His closest friends and disciples to siege power over people before the appointed time, then we would not one day receive the power to be joint errs and rulers with Jesus in Heaven.

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.

(1 Timothy 6:17, NASB)

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;

(Philippians 2:3, NASB)

We, like the rich young ruler in the first passage above, may have choices in our future to posture ourselves in gracious gratitude and service to Christ, or to walk away with our possessions, power, or prestige in hand; heavy in heart and guilt. Being the gracious ten percent includes knowing when to walk away from the things of this earth in order to walk toward the person and mission of Christ. May we choose to follow Christ’s example.

 But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” (James 4:6, NLT)

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