Bucket List: 2. Bonjovi Concert

Warning, I’m about to rant about first world problems, ie: Missing Bonjovi. Again.

In our house we have 2 rules about loud music. 
1. Turn it down the volume when we say turn it down. First time.  This is essential with 4 kids. 4 kids with varying musical skill, instruments and tone deaf-ness.  Essential.
2. From a very young age this one is ingrained into their delicate little psyches.  Ask my four year old son he will, without hesitation, recite the creed.   “We don’t turn down Bonjovi.”
*Say we’re in the car, and someone is in a grumpy mood…. “We don’t turn down Bonjovi.”
*Say a certain little girl wants to listen to Taylor Swift instead for instance, “We don’t turn down Bonjovi.” 
*Perhaps one of 4 said children would like to know what we are having for dinner and we can’t hear their question over the music…. “We don’t turn down Bonjovi.”
Why this band?  Well his music has become a bit of anthem for our family.  Music was so much a part of my life growing up.  With one song I am transported back into our blue Chevy station wagon running errands with my dad, and him belting out (in falsetto) “Sherry, Sherry ba-a-by, Sherry!” Or “Help me Rhonda” or Unchained Melody…. or any number of Golden Oldies songs.  
But when I dated Alex…. and {ahem} he played his guitar for me….. to Bonjovi, and then he would look at me as he sang the lyrics with big huge googly eyes and then I would blush. A lot…. enough said. Did I ever tell you how we got married after only knowing each other for 2 years???
To get to the rant part of the evening, the first time I had an opportunity to go to one of their concerts was when I was 9 months pregnant. With the flu. Someone offered Alex free tickets for that evening’s concert.  FREE people.  They were free!!!  And my compassionate husband, knowing I was home puking and ready to pop our first baby out, TURNED. THEM. DOWN.  He’s compassionate all right, but not enough to realize he should never have told me we had a chance at the concert.  I would have brought a bowl. And given birth to “Living on a Prayer.”  
The second time was just last February.  Alex was scheduled to be in San Diego meeting with the mayor about helping the low income families of the city and what-not.  Doing Family Garden Init. stuff.  Loving God, helping people eat…. I think he should have explained to the good mayor that he needed to reschedule.  I thought about going with my 4 kids in tow, since I didn’t have a babysitter.  However, I was a little concerned about the looks I would get walking into the concert late at night with 4 kids under the age of 10. So I stayed home.  URGH!
Now, just this afternoon, my good friend Bonnie informs me that he will be back in town.  In Brown’s Stadium no less!  This concert will be awesome!  But will I be going? No I will not.  Its the day after we leave for El Salvador with our missions team.  Which of course is a better place to be.  Of course.  But seriously!  My timing is horrendous, and I’m beginning to think Bonjovi will never ever make it off my bucket list.
Like I said. First world problems rant.  Because I’m mad about missing this concert again.  And because “its my life. Its now or Never. I’m not gonna Live for ever.”

Why We Go

The missions trip that Alex and I will be leading again to La Libertad is fast approaching.  I thought I would take a moment to share why we continue to go back. In a list form, because I really love lists.

1. God has laid El Salvador on our hearts for the past 4 years. It is no coincidence that the name of the church we partner with is called The Great Commission!

2. They are quiet, and don’t get a lot of notice from people, but the affect they have had on us is enormous. They are hard working, fisherman and tradespeople.  It is a hard life.  And they are thankful.

3. Pastor Ivo’s heart for his community is a so huge. It takes a very special man to love God so much that he would pastor in such extreme conditions.  He pastors a church, that he knows can barely feed themselves, let alone give back. I have had the great pleasure of watching him take an orphaned child into his arms, and hold her as his own. His eyes shine with the love of God.

4. To go and serve people, who in American eyes have nothing, is an experience I cannot bring words to. The warmth and friendship they offer cannot be matched.  I come away every time humbled and repentant of my own mindset. Jesus is everything. Everything.  I’m not going to stand before my Lord and say someday “But Father, did you not see the new line of dishes at Target?” (At least I hope not)

5. Spending a week with children who are continually trolled by gangs. Children. Being asked to be drug runners.

6. Giving a pair of flip-flops to a child who has NO shoes. The smile on their faces and the tears in his/her parent’s eyes….. Oh my heart.  My heart cannot fathom not being able to stop the hunger pains in my child’s belly, or protect their feet….

7. The children at the church’s nutrition center. Our missions department sponsors 20 children (much like Compassion Int.)  and to watch them grow year after year, is such a statement about the glory of God. We want to get that number up to 40 people!! Lets wrap around Pastor Ivo and commit to 40 children who would not otherwise eat. Please contact me or Missions Director Don Denevic at tel:(440)323-4644.

8. We will be returning to the orphanage that we started building a relationship with last year.  We will whisper love into those babies.  Hold the hands of the children.  We will do our very best to love them for a day, but share a deeper love with them that will last far longer than our short visit.

The outdoor kitchen where the daily tortillas are cooked
If you would like us to go on your behalf, be the hands and feet, a representation of Jesus Christ, please use this secure PayPal link.
We would be honored by any size gift. Thank you so much! It means the world to us. Or if you would like to make a donation of flip flops, coloring books, etc. for the children please email me at marilee.marks@gmail.com

Summit 9: The Statement that Changed My Life

I have never been to a military boot camp. My understanding is that is is intensely, physically and mentally grueling.
Something important to know about me is I love learning! When I went back to college as an adult I loved it.  I appreciated the mental challenge far more than when I was a teenager. It felt so good to work my brain in more strenuous ways than Dr. Suess and Mickey Mouse allow for.
That being said, I thought signing up for Together for Adoption’s theology of adoption boot camp would be so fun!…. Let me tell you, Dan Cruver, Drill Sargeant, Sir. You were tough.  I left your class completely worn.  But in a good way 🙂 

If you ever have the opportunity to sit in on his teaching, do NOT pass it up. I loved the passion with which he spoke.  He brought his very personal life in as examples, emotions that would be very hard to share with the world.  But it served to prove that he was speaking from his heart and not from some lofty position on an educated, high pedastal.

In my last post I made a bold statement.  I said that what I had learned in that class had been life altering.  And I promise you it was.

Two days before I left for Summit 9, I sent a text to my husband that basically said “I’m a failure. We aren’t doing enough.  3 kids have died of hunger related issues since I started typing this text.” I wasn’t in a great place. 

So when I sat down on Wednesday morning I was shocked when the first words out of Dan’s mouth were, “Please quick write down on the back of your handouts, on a scale of 1-10 how much do you think God is delighting in you right now in your life.”

…….inside I’m screaming “ARE YOU KIDDING ME???” and I’m pretty sure he was looking right at me. I generously gave my self a 4 and then settled in for the 7 hour class.

**I’m going to attempt to take an intense 7 hours and condense it down to its most simplistic form. 

Adoption, biblically speaking, is not simply about the ~150 million children in this world. 
Adoption, biblically speaking, is the story of the entire history of the universe. Every person, that ever was.
Ephesians 1:4-6,  4 For he chose us<sup class="crossreference" value="(I)”> in him before the creation of the world<sup class="crossreference" value="(J)”> to be holy and blameless<sup class="crossreference" value="(K)”> in his sight. In love<sup class="crossreference" value="(L)”> 5 he<sup class="footnote" value="[b]”>[b] predestined<sup class="crossreference" value="(M)”> us for adoption to sonship<sup class="footnote" value="[c]”>[c]<sup class="crossreference" value="(N)”> through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure<sup class="crossreference" value="(O)”> and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace,<sup class="crossreference" value="(P)”> which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

When it was just God the Father, the Holy Spirit and Jesus the Son, and nothing else, there was great love.  Because as 1 John tells us, “God IS love. And he who dwells in love, abides in God, and God IN him.”   

Because God is love, “Love is never turned inward.  It is always turned outward upon others.” – Dan Cruver

So, when the world was a void the expression of that love was a desire to create.  Now think of the magnificent creations of this world. Mountains, forests, waterfalls, lakes, plains, desserts, animals, the waters of the Carribbean. 

It says in the Bible that He made these, and was happy.  He delighted in his creation.  But of all the things he created, all the incredible, breathtaking landscapes, flowers, animals etc., it was man that He chose to make in his image.  Man got to be designed in his image.

But man messed it all up.  Man chooses self over and over and over.

God still wants us.  God still desires to be in relationship with us.  But the only way for for us to be included into the triune circle of communion again, was for the Son to become man.  He so desired our messed up, selfish, failure selves that He sent his Son down.

And as Dan said, for the first time in history, Jesus made it possible for God to reside in Man, his new temple, new Eden, via the Holy Spirit. 

So here it is.  If you followed along with me down that road (I wish I was fancy and could have put an arrow down in betwen all those paragraphs), Dan made a statement that changed everything for me.  He took what I’ve been reading in the Bible for my whole life, but not really accepting completely, stared straight at me and said these words:

**** “When the Father looks at Jesus, He sees you.  Because Christ is in you.  And you are in Him.  He. Delights. In. You.”
And not only that, it gets better. “God puts people in your life to delight in you.  And to remind you that God delights in you.” 
 Remember how I texted my husband, and whined about being a failure?  This was his response: “You are doing exactly what God wants. When he wants. I know your heart.”

Even when I mess up.  Even when I don’t do enough.  Even when I choose to ignore the pleas of the starving because it is just so much more fun to live the American dream.  When I choose to look away.  When I give in to our fatigue.  God. Still. Wants. Me.

I am his daughter.
He Chose me.
He adopted ME.

That is what adoption is about.! The 150 million children out there, and the familes fighting to welcome them into families, and the organizations fighting to prevent orphans, and the ones fighting to reunite families… its because we are adopted by the Father.  He loves us so!  And we show that love, living in us, by loving the children of this world. By adopting them into our families. By fighting for them.

My 4, at the beginning of class became a 10.  Because there is nothing I can succeed at, or fail at that will make me be any more, or any less, loved by God.

Please come back and I will share simple ways for you to demonstrate God’s love and delight in you, to the orphaned children of this world.

And Dan Cruver, if you are reading this, I hope I did your teaching justice, please forgive me if I mangled it 🙂

Summit 9 Series: Day 1

I clearly remember when I was a little girl, sitting completely enraptured by visiting missionaries in our church sanctuary. I can still see the bright orange carpet, and the scuffs on the pew backs where small feet had for years, rested upon the hymnal racks, before mothers quietly gave “the look”and the feet were quickly dropped.

For me, when they would speak, all the people, my parents, my fidgety brother, other kids, they would all fade into the background.  I did not want to miss a single word that they said.  I visualized the far away lands that they spoke of, and imagined myself there someday.  I imagined what it would be like to be brave.  I wanted to know as much about God as they did, and speak with even a fraction of their passion.  Missionaries were my rock stars.  And I wanted to grow up to be just like them.

But it wasn’t until a woman came to speak alone, that I KNEW that God had a plan for me and my heart.  I so wish that I remembered her name.  I hate that I forgot it.  But she would probably say that is exactly what should have happened.  I don’t remember her name, but I do remember that she followed Jesus Christ every day.  And that is what truly matters anyway.  She spoke of an orphanage she lived at.  Although to her, it wasn’t an orphanage.  It was just home.  And all the children who had either been left from poverty or by their parents’ deaths, were her children.  In that moment I knew.  I didn’t know when or how, but loving children is what God had for me.  Fighting for children was my mission.  Loving babies, without a mama to make them feel safe, is who God made me to be.

Twenty years later, that is where I’m walking. I’m taking steps to follow my heart.  Sometimes those steps feel enormous and I don’t feel brave enough.  Sometimes the steps feel like I’m in slow motion or like I’m in quick sand and I just can’t get where I want to be.  And other times I stand still…. and wait. 

The peace though, oh the peace is so good.  I love how God puts you in a certain place and time, and puts all the right people in your path. If you let him. For me, going to the Christian Alliance for Orphans, Summit 8 was exactly that.  I learned so much, I met the most wonderful people, and I really was able to refine what I should do next.  This last year was definitley a year of refining.  And growing. And waiting. Excruciating waiting.  I was so tested in my personal life, family life, community and faith. 

I wanted to quit.  A couple of times.  But you can’t ever really escape your core being, can you?  I went to Summit 9 this year feeling so completely, utterly, unworthy.  A failure.  But what I learned {rather, reminded of} the very first day at a pre-conference intensive workshop changed all of that.  And then that message kept on getting hammered home to me.  I think God knows that he is going to need many people, to remind me in different ways and at different times, repeatedly.
  And he did just that.  That lesson, was so life altering.  I know that sounds so dramatic.  Possibly trite.  Maybe a little cliche.  I know it sounds that way, but it is truth.  The way I think changed. 

Come back tomorrow to find out what the message was! Subscribe, follow, or whatnot… because you just might find it “life altering” too 🙂