Listening to the Father

There is a small passage in the Bible that has stood out to me for years:

But Samuel replied: ‘Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.’”~Samuel 15:22

While we no longer live in an era of animal sacrifices to atone for our sins (thank you Jesus), this verse is still applicable. God desires obedience from us. It is a beautiful offering. We live in a world that jokingly encourages, “it is better to ask forgiveness than permission,” and we are tempted to exchange the truth for a lie. We find ourselves drawn to living for momentary pleasures, and forsake pursuing the enduring beauty of a disciplined life.

Obedience Britney BradleyWhen I knowingly sin against my Lord, I shamefully think to myself, “I can ask forgiveness for this,” which really means that I am choosing disobedience now and then beg for forgiveness later. Oh the conviction that floods over me when I put off obedience and choose to sin. This passage in 1 Samuel has opened wide my eyes. God desires that we obey His commands. Why disobey and lament later? Don’t I know that He loves me? Don’t I know that He desires relationship with me, not the disconnection that disobedience brings? Don’t I see how hurtful my sin really is?

These are the questions I find myself going over and over again in my mind and heart. Let me tell you, friends, it is EXHAUSTING. However, when I am choosing spiritual discipline (reading the Word of God and speaking with him in prayer) light begins to shine on the disobedient heart. As a mother of three I deal with disobedience daily, and when I draw near to my Savior, it becomes quickly apparent that the misbehaviors of my children offer a glimpse into my own heart. However, on days when I have gotten “behind” and “have no time” to spend dedicated to Christ, I become blinded by my sins. When I am blinded by my own sins, I become infinitely more frustrated with the sins of my children, because my heart is not properly oriented. I become quick to forget that I am just as sinful as my three children combined toward my heavenly Father who knows and loves me.

britney bradley obedience (2)The Lord teaches me much about my own sinful heart by allowing me to see the same rebellion in my children. It amazes me how hurt or insulted I feel when I am sinned against. When my kids do not obey me, and I am not close to Christ myself, I forget how offensive my sins are towards God, and I lose sight of how obedience to Him is GOOD for me. I forget it is one of the ways I show my love for Him.
Readers and friends, I want to challenge you with this. If you claim Christ as your Lord and Savior, please do not use him as a genie in a bottle, only asking favors of him or complaining to him. He is so much more than that. Please consider the importance of obedience to the perfect Father in your daily life decisions. Who better to trust and obey than the One who loves you and has given His all to claim you as his own? I am motivated by this challenge myself, and I pray that choosing obedience will bring you into deeper relationship with Him.


britney-squareBritney Bradley loves being a wife to her loving husband, Brian. She is mother to 3 girls (so far) Ruby, Cora, and Lily, as well as auntie to 8, and friend to many. She has always dreamed about marriage and motherhood, and is now navigating God’s will each and every day in these realms. She enjoys writing when she gets a chance, and of course, coffee.

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Loving Obedience

“Wow. I could never do what you’re doing. I would get so attached, and never be able to let them go home.”

I have heard this, or variations of this, thought throughout the years from kind well-meaning people. This statement, that strokes my pride but forgets the work God has done in me, is the most common reaction I get as a foster parent. It comes in different tones. Astonishment. Admiration. Confusion. Perhaps a touch of guilt. I never know quite how to respond. Whether it comes up at the grocery store, through a message on Facebook, or while standing in the lobby of a church, we all agree on one thing It isn’t natural to love when there is nothing in it for us.

Attachment foster careI hear you. It’s true, it is hard to continue connecting. Pursuing the best for a child I won’t get to see grow up takes a whole lot of grace, and I can only describe this grace as not from me. My husband and I are not the heroes of this story, we love because God loved us.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. -1 John 4:7-11

Jesus loved sacrificially. We have grace, forgiveness, mercy, freedom, and abundant life not because of anything we’ve done, but because God loved us and wants to be known by us. But his love was poured out through great suffering. Why are we surprised then, that when we follow Jesus and obey his call to love the world, it comes at a cost, as Philippians 2:8 says, Jesus “…humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

I have resolved within my soul that I will love like my Savior, and if that means I must set myself in the path of heartache so that I may obey, so that  I may love, so be it.

As C.S. Lewis said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” So I wake for midnight feedings that may never shift to midnight chats. I celebrate “first” experiences and offer wisdom when little ears are listening, praying it will stick. These children that enter into my home have experienced loss, and I cannot seek to comfort while remaining robotic and unconnected.

Yes, it hurts when they go, but love is worth the risk. It is the gift we can give to combat the suffering that presses into children just looking for a way.  At the beginning of our foster care  journey my husband and I talked about seeking to love every child like they would never leave. Simultaneously, we fight to remain open handed since we do not determine how long we have them. The ethos of love for our family is no longer as simple as an emotion.  It is a choice, deliberately made, to mirror the gospel.

HeroesTruthfully, I’ve said my own version of, “I couldn’t do what you’re doing,” when I see people love in wild, outlandish, and unconventional ways. Families who invite refugees to live with them while they acclimate to a new culture. Women who give friendship to the lonely and offer their presence in the midst of hard times.Single ladies who leave everyone they know and move across the country, or the world, to pursue a vocation where she will be able serve a hurting population. Mom’s who fill their van’s with neighborhood kids, building community amongst the noise.

All these pursuits may seem different, but they are the same at their core. Obedience. They are all a response to the call to love the person in front of you, so that the God who loved us first can be made known.

I wish that instead of “I could never” our narrative could turn to a celebration of obedience as our sisters participate in the different ways God asks us all to join Him in His work. It doesn’t have to be life altering. Perhaps it is as simple as asking God for the strength to view the person in front of us as he does. Reaching out to the other with the resolution that,  “I will love you, even if you don’t agree with me. Even if I don’t get anything out of it. Even if it hurts.”


Readers, How has God called you to obey him? 

holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

At the Door of Obedience

My adult life has not been marked by a lot of risk. That is, up until the fall of 2015. After 14 years of working for the same employer, things had come to a head at my husband’s job at a martial arts school. One evening my husband came home and revealed a troubling situation that had unfolded at work. There was only one thing to do. Through uncertain tears, I told my husband I just wanted to be done. It was no longer the right thing to stay at this job. My husband looked at me with agreement and said, “Okay, I’ll quit tomorrow.”

obedience martial artsThat night, he stayed up in the wee hours of the morning, trying to meet the unknown with hope, he began the search online for other job opportunities. Jobs for martial arts instructors in the American Taekwondo Association (ATA) aren’t exactly ripe for the taking. North Carolina was an option, but for people who are planners, not risk takers, the thought of moving across the country terrified us.

Obedience through Faith

God was calling us both to radical obedience and to have faith in His unseen plan. We are typically the kind of people who plan out our next move, months, if not years in advance. But in this situation, we had to obey without any clear direction in mind. We hadn’t premeditated my husband quitting his job. We didn’t have the next move lined up. We couldn’t rely on our own strength. We had to obey and trust God that He would show us the next move. I found myself leaning on God’s strength like never before. This was definitely a whole new level of obedience for me.

He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:29-31 (NIV)

My husband went to work that next day, informed his boss he was quitting and would leave enough time to train a replacement. Because of this unprecedented move, the way things went down at his work went differently, which was good, but it meant my husband spent the next week on the phone, exploring what might be our next move. It was terrifying. We both felt sick to our stomachs. The future we had planned on seemed to have evaporated, and now we had no idea where God would place us. Then God opened a door and my husband secured a position as head instructor at a martial arts school, not in North Carolina, but just 45 minutes away from home.

Trusting God for an Unknown Future

Each step of the way, God called us to have faith and obey. He opened one door after another but only one door at a time. In this journey, God gave us one clear direction but only for each step. It wasn’t obvious how all the steps would connect, how each would help my husband’s career goals or secure the needs for our family in the future. We just had to obey and move forward in faith.

When the panic attacks started. I tried to embrace this new level of faith in God for me as we faltered into an unforeseeable future. I remembered, Abraham had also been called to obedience without being able to see the future.

 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

Hebrews 11:8

Opportunities would emerge then the door would slam shut. It was discouraging, disheartening. Until December of 2015, when an opportunity to buy a local martial arts school opened up. It was very unexpected.We thought that door had closed. It looked promising, but how would we manage the financial end of purchasing a business? Was it God-given or a fool’s foothold?! Could we risk again? He unveiled the path. Just one way. So united in love and faith we said “yes!” and walked through the door.

obedience YesI worried during this time that the bottom would just fall out from underneath us. I found hard questions circling all the time. Could my God be trusted? Could I trust Him with our future? What would become of us and our two little girls? Even after we bought the school, our fears didn’t just disappear. We wondered how we would pay the bills each month. Yet God provided the exact right staff, as well as new students for our school.

May 1, 2017 marks our one year anniversary of being owners of our own martial arts school. It’s been an exciting, frightening, and victorious year for my husband’s career. It’s also been a life changing 20 months and a spiritual journey of obedience as we’ve trusted God to provide for our needs.

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11

This verse doesn’t mean difficult things won’t happen or we won’t have struggles, but it is a comfort to know that God has an endgame in mind and has provided everything we need as we hope and trust in Him.


sarah-c-squareSarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, and prolific reader. She received her BS from Corban University in English and still loves writing. She helps her husband run their martial arts school, and in her free time, enjoys sewing, experimenting with makeup, and reading blogs.