Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Prayer For My Daughter

Today is my oldest daughter's first day of school! I know that sounds odd if you know my family. My oldest daughter is 15 and she's been doing school for a long time. But today she goes to our local public school to take an AP English class.  We homeschool and this isn't the beginning of a change on that front, but we feel like this is a step we need to take to fill a gap in her educational experience.

So 15 or not, we are going through at least some of the normal first-day-of-school anxieties. Hannah is on the high school tennis team, so she is friends with some of the girls in her class, and she has spent much time on the school campus, but somehow today is a little different.

Making things harder, I'm out of town for the day! I so hate to miss this milestone in Hannah's life. but I'm praying for her. In fact, I wrote out my prayer this morning so I could email it to her before she left. After writing it, I thought it might be something that would encourage others if shared.  So here it goes...

Heavenly Father,

You have put great dreams and aspirations in the heart of my oldest daughter. I thank you for that. I don't yet know what course her life will take, but I love the brave spirit you have given her. She desires to do things of which others never dream. She stretches further than many others stretch. And I believe she will accomplish things others never could.

So that brings us to this big day, her sort-of first day of school. I know this will not be a big deal in the minds of many since she is 15 years old, but I know this day represents so much. It represents her first step into a different life. It represents her first steps into her preparation for an uncertain but exciting future.

So, Father, I ask you to give her your presence. With all of the fears and anxieties that accompany this day, I pray that your presence will also be felt.

I ask that you give her wisdom.  Hannah will face some significant hurdles. Some will be intellectual; some will be moral; some will be spiritual. Give her the heavenly resources to make wise, godly and effective decisions and choices.

I ask that you give her influence. Give her influence with her teacher and with the other students so she can be a leader, so she can be a light for your kingdom, so she can be the fragrance of Christ.

I ask that you give her peace. Calm her nerves. Remind her you have prepared her for this new day. Remind her that with your help she can do (and endure) all things.
I ask that you protect her. Protect her gentle spirit. Protect her dreams. Protect her modesty. Protect her heart and mind in a world where people often operate from a very different worldview than hers.

Finally, I ask that you give her the story of David who defeated the impossible giant Goliath. This will be an academic challenge like Hannah has never faced. This will be a cultural and learning-style challenge like she has never faced. This is her first Goliath. Please let Hannah stand as victor over this giant just like you allowed David to stand victor over Goliath by your amazing power!


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Truths about Suicide

Suicide Truths

In the last six days, suicide has popped into my field of view three different times.  For starters there was the news of famed comedian Robin Williams who took his life on August 11. The next morning I received a call from someone from Donna’s home town informing me that a friend of hers had been found dead in a suspected suicide situation. Donna and I left for Mississippi that same day to share encouragement with her family. I also had a counseling situation this week with someone who is considering ending her life.

While each of these situations is very different from the others, there are some common truths that link all suicides and suicide attempts together. Let me briefly share five of those. (Some of this may sound harsh. No offense intended. But treading lightly around these issues serves no one’s good.)

A.  Depression and despair are complicated but an abiding connection with God and his people has great value.

Depression and despair are often at the core of suicide attempts. These emotional states are real, and they can lead people to do all kinds of destructive things. The remedy for these conditions is not always simple. And we do those who are struggling with these a disservice when we suggest easy fixes. But it is also true that an abiding connection with God and his people makes a huge difference. If you are struggling with depression and despair, the good news is that abiding in Christ will yield spiritual fruit in your life, and in part that fruit will consist of love, joy, peace and patience (which is the opposite of strife, depression, stress and anxiety).

B.  Suicide is the most selfish act a person can commit.

Suicide focuses exclusively on one’s own problems. When a person commits suicide, he has put on the blinders that prevent him from seeing how his death will affect those around him. The suicide decision is one that says, “My problems and my pain are more important than anyone else's.” It is the height of selfishness.

C.  Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Everyone faces problems. Some face bigger problems, and some burdens are heavier by far, but the existence of problems is universal. Furthermore, problems are temporary, almost without exception. They may not seem that way at the bottom of the pit of despair, but it is true. When someone chooses suicide she has chosen a permanent solution for a temporary problem. There is always hope. And hope grows stronger when it is tightly embraced.

D.  Suicide always creates more pain than it erases.

When someone chooses to end his life, his hope is that the suicide will end the pain. But the truth is that suicide only transfers the pain (and magnifies it).  Whatever pain is erased with suicide is felt ten fold in the lives of those who remain. Friends and family hurt badly and usually for a very long time. The wounds that result from a family member committing suicide are hard to heal.

E.  There are people who care. (We must be sensitive to the hurts and burdens of others.)

One symptom of depression and despair is a feeling of aloneness. When we experience this, it is important to remember that this is a deception. It is not true. There are people who care. There are people who want to help.

Why do people feel so alone? Two things contribute to this. First, we often fail to reach out and let people know how much we are hurting. Secondly, we are often insensitive to the hurting people around us. The church should be a place and we should be the people for whom this can never happen. We should be transparent about our own situation and we should be sensitive to the situations of those around us.

Perhaps the hardest question I've ever been asked was asked by two teenage girls in Newark, Ohio just a few years ago. I will never forget sitting with them, a younger brother and their mom across a conference table in the back room of a funeral home. I had never met them before. The funeral home had called and asked if I would help their family through a difficult time. The two girls had a look that showed a combination of shock, confusion, pain and anger. They had one question. They both asked it, phrased a little differently, but it was the same question: Why would our daddy do this to us?

How would you answer their question? What would be the most truthful answer? I know you don't know the whole story, but trust me, it doesn't matter. The right answer is always the same.

I pray I will never be asked that question by another anguished son or daughter, or by another parent or wife or husband…

Noel Dear

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Surprised by the Truth of God's Word?

Last Sunday I nervously shared something personal with my church family.  I wasn't sure ahead of time whether I should share or not.  It had to do with giving and my struggle to be faithful in the month of July this year due to some financial stress I had experienced.  But when it came time to preach I had a strange peace and liberty about sharing, so I did so.  The response has been overwhelming.  I have had an opportunity to talk with many about their giving and have had a number of people share with me their renewed commitment to faithfulness in this area.  So I thought that God had used my confession and subsequent gift to spur some people on and that was the end of it.  Glory to the Lord!

But my wife just called me upstairs to look at the mail.  I was astonished at what I saw.  I now believe the Lord wants to use what I shared last Sunday to further highlight his faithfulness to his people and the reliability of his word.  So let me now tell you the rest of the story...

The Lord has provided five gifts since I made my confession and put my offering in the box.  I want to tell you about these to highlight God's faithfulness and goodness.  Before I do, I want you to know that first, this never happens.  I'm just like everyone else.  Monetary gifts are appreciated but rare. Second, I honestly did not expect any of these.  All five were total surprises.

So here it goes...

My wedding anniversary was Monday.  I received two anniversary gifts from friends.  One was $100 and one was $20.  Both were unexpected and greatly appreciated.  This is my 18th anniversary, and I think it is the first time I have ever received a gift of money for my anniversary.

Sub-total: $120.00.

Carla, my secretary, texted me on Tuesday, while I was away from the office to tell me that someone I had done some work for had dropped by a check for $200.  The work was a while back, and they had given me $200 (more as a gift than a payment), but I had lost the check.  It was my fault.  I had asked Carla to bring it to their attention, but never really expected to receive another check.  I had just written that out of my budget.

So the new surprise sub-total by Tuesday was $320.00.

Now to today's mail... I received two checks.  One from Quest Diagnostics, who I suppose had done some medical tests on someone in my family back in 2010.  I don't remember.  According to them, I overpaid my bill by $167.25.  They would like to reimburse me!

Great!  Usually when I get a letter from a medical provider inquiring about three-year-old service, they are demanding money not sending money.

New sub-total: $487.25.

The other check was from Amazon.  Amazon sells my Illuminating The Darkness book.  Honestly, they don't sell a lot of them, and for those they do sell, the royalties are transferred electronically to my personal account.  But there are a number of different "channels" Amazon sells through (Paper books, electronic books, referral service fees, third party merchants, international sales, institutional sales, etc.)  It can be complicated keeping up with it all.  Today I got a completely unexpected check for $110.08, for I'm-not-sure-what, something to do with unclaimed Kindle book sales.

Total: $597.33.

Now that is not exactly what I gave last Sunday, but it isn't too far off (and there are still 18 hours left before it is a full week).

So maybe all of this has just been a happy coincidence.  I honestly can't remember the last time I got totally unexpected money, much less five times in one week, but stranger things have happened.  Maybe all of this would have come to me whether I had been faithful last week or not.  But this is what I believe...

  • Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:38)
  • Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this, … If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. (Malachi 3:10)

I am not suggesting that every faithful gift will come back to the giver in seven days.  I give regularly, and this has not happened like this before.  But I believe God will always be true to his word and that he will take care of those who are faithful to him.

I have never written a blog about giving.  Ordinarily this is something we keep very "in-house."  But I felt like I should share again so that his faithfulness might be praised.  Hope no one is offended.

Pastor Noel

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Video

I recorded a brief Thanksgiving video to help families have a better focus to their Thanksgiving celebration.  Take a look.  If you like it, use it in your family celebration tomorrow and pass the word on facebook and Twitter!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Welcome Pastor Chad and Natalie

I would like to welcome pastor Chad and Natalie Winder to our church and community!  Yesterday our church overwhelmingly voted to call Chad to serve as our pastor of worship and small groups.

I am so excited about what I believe the Lord is going to do in and through our church in the years to come.  And I am thankful that He has called this family to help lead us to that place of fruitful ministry.

The Winders will be on the ground before the end August.  Pray for them as they search for a place to buy or rent.  Pray for them as they make the difficult transition from somewhere they have been serving for a number of years.  Pray for their children as they seek to get used to unfamiliar surroundings.

I want to say thank you to a number of people who made this happen.  First, of course, to the Lord for His leadership and guidance.  I believe He has led us step-by-step through this whole process.  Secondly, our worship pastor search team.  The team has done everything that was asked of them.  Our church is deeply indebted to them and their prayerful work.  Thank you to Ron Baughman, who has been leading our worship ministry for the past couple of years.  Ron has done a stellar job under sometimes difficult circumstances.  Ron has shown wisdom, leadership, faithfulness, and spiritual maturity in more ways than most of the church is aware.

Fourth, thank you to First Baptist Church.  There are few ministry positions as difficult to fill as that of worship pastor.  Music is such an emotional subject, and we all have our preferences.  We prayed to the Lord for unity, and we asked the church to come together in this search for God's man for this hour, and the church has done so in historic fashion.  I can't say I wasn't nervous at times through the process, but to stand in one of the offices and watch the ballots as they were counted and to see the overwhelmingly positive vote (99.1% with the official ballots, 99.2% if you include the unofficial absentee ballots) made me so thankful to be a part of the faith family of First Baptist Church of Heath.

If you would like to send a note of encouragement to pastor Chad, he can be contacted at

Pastor Noel

Friday, July 20, 2012

Why Does God Allow Tragedies?

Early this morning in Aurora, Colorado as hundreds of people gathered for the premier of a comic book movie, a man wearing a gas mask and dressed in black pulled out his weapons and proceeded to shoot over fifty people.  As of the writing of this post, thirteen people have been publicly confirmed killed.  

While this is not the only tragedy this week, it is the one that has the attention of America.  The nation is in a state of shock that something so senseless and so violent can happen and happen so often.  It makes us ask the hard questions:  Where is God in all of this?  Did God not know about this?  Could he not have stopped it?  Was there something about those people in that theater that can explain this? Of all the theaters and all of the movies playing last night and all of the ballgames and restaurants and malls and family gatherings... why did those particular people die?

Those are difficult questions.  They aren't bad questions, just difficult.  So here are few things we should know as we seek the answers:
  • This is not the first time these questions have been asked.  These are age old questions.  They have been asked before and unfortunately, they will be asked again.
  • This is not the time for hasty answers.  It is inevitable that some misguided people who have more words than wisdom will try to use this tragedy to promote their own agenda, political or otherwise.  That too is unfortunate.
  • The word of God speaks to this.  There are few questions the Bible does not answer if we will only be humble enough to listen and careful enough to study.
I had planned to wrap up our series on David this Sunday in our 10:45 worship service, but I believe the Lord is leading me to speak to this tragedy.  People have questions, good questions.  Thankfully the Bible has answers, good answers.  You have friends and family who will be asking questions.  Let us be prepared to honestly and humbly give a reason for the hope we have.

I hope you will join us this Sunday as we focus on the question, "Why does God allow Tragedies?"  This would be a good weekend to invite your friends and family to join you for this time of worship.

If you out of town and unable to attend Sunday, I plan to post a few comments on this next week at

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Power Outage

FBC Heath -- The 10:45 am worship service is a go tomorrow with or without electricity. Pass the word.

If no electricity then no connect groups or Sunday school.

Email if you know of any church members with special needs due to power outage. If any members need a cool place to spend the day due to medical concerns, my home is open (we have power). Call 740-877-4211 and leave a message.

If you can help with generators for tomorrow's service also call me.

Pastor Noel

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Five and a Half Ways to Recognize a Sluggard (and How to Know if it is You)

Read the article, "Five and a Half Ways to Recognize a Sluggard (and How to Know if it is You)" on my other blog site:

Monday, April 30, 2012

What is the Opposite of Depression?

Read the article "What is the Opposite of Depression" on my other blog site:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Illuminating The Darkness -- A Fresh and Effective Solution to Depression, Stress, and Anxiety

One of the most common struggles that lead people to ask pastors for help is depression.  It seems depression and the related problems of stress and anxiety have reached epidemic levels in our culture.  When people come to me as a pastor and share their stories of emotional pain, the question they are asking is this, “Does the Bible offer any real hope?”

Over the past years I have studied the Scriptures in search of the answer to that question.  The good news is… THERE IS HOPE!  The Bible gives a clear, positive, life-changing answer to this pain.  The answer is probably not what you expect. The answer is probably not something you’ve heard before.  And the answer is probably not anything like the strategies you may have tried in the past.  But the answer is true, and it is good, and it is effective.

I have shared this with many people through the years, and I have seen the truth of God’s Word do amazing things in their lives as they discovered the joy that replaces depression and the peace that replaces stress.  So, I decided to write these biblical insights down and publish a book.  That is how Illuminating The Darkness came to be.

The book came out about a month ago and I’ve been busy sending it out to family and friends.  Already I have been encouraged with how the Lord is using it both in the lives of those who have struggled with depression, stress, and anxiety and also those who just desire to know more of the Lord’s peace and joy.  So it is time to start getting the word out.  Unless you are local to where I live, the best way to purchase the book is through

Amazon is currently running my book as a part of a promotion they are doing, so the print edition is 10% off.  (I don’t know how long they will run this special.)  I have lowered the Kindle price to $4.99 for one week. (And if you are an Amazon Prime member you can get the Kindle edition for free.)

Soon I will release some blog posts that dig a little deeper into the contents of the book.  If you would like to follow the details you can follow me on twitter at @NoelDear or @KnowDepression.  I will be posting info here at and also at a new site I am developing  The book website is  You can also check out the facebook discussion site for the book.

Email me at with any questions related to the book or depression, stress, and anxiety.

Noel Dear


P.S.  Here is the back cover text of the book…

Are You Ready For A Change?

Every day there are new approaches and drugs to help people overcome the emotional pain of depression, stress, and anxiety. More people are being treated for these than ever before. So, one would presume emotional health and happiness would be at an all-time high. But you know that isn’t the case, not even close. In fact, the only thing that seems to be gaining prevalence faster than antidepressants is
depression itself!

Is there a way of escape? Is there a different approach from the failed strategies most often presented in self-help books and the doctor’s office? Is there hope for me? Can I live a life of real peace and joy?

Yes. Lasting joy and peace can be yours! 

This is no idle promise from some new-fangled philosophy or rediscovered ancient herb.  This truth has the authority of the Bible, the simplicity of fruit on a vine, and the track-record of many generations who have discovered the real source of mental and emotional health.

This is not another strategy to try, rather it is the genuine truth about why people suffer from depression, stress, and anxiety, and how those pains can be replaced with joy, peace, and patience.

The truths presented here are…

  • Easy to understand
  • Practical in their everyday application
  • Powerfully effective in both the short and long term 
  • Proven

This book is both a challenge to everything you have heard about the cause and cure of emotional distress, and a real offer of hope. Learn here what thousands of others have learned and, enjoy an enduring harvest of the fruit of real joy. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sunday Preview

I am really looking forward to worship tomorrow!  I have heard so many stories about decisions that have been made during these five weeks of revival at our church.  It is encouraging to see how the Lord still works in the lives of those who humble themselves before Him.

Tomorrow I will be preaching on the story of Jacob from Genesis 32.  This is one of the most unusual stories in the Bible.  After living a life with so many twists and turns that it could a modern soap opera to shame, Jacob finds himself alone in the wilderness, in the dark of night, when a shadowy figure approaches.  The next thing you know Jacob and the unknown figure are locked in a wrestling match that lasts hours.  Who is the shadowy figure?  If you don’t already know the story, it would be the very last person you would guess.  You can read Genesis 32 to find out or just wait until tomorrow.  Through this struggle, though, Jacob becomes a changed man.  That will be our focus tomorrow.  I cannot wait!

Special Singer

Also tomorrow we have a special singer sharing a mini concert in both the morning and evening services.  Stephanie Lambert comes to us from Lynchburg, Virginia where she regularly sings alongside Charles Billingsley at Thomas Road Baptist Church.  Stephanie has been singing for the Lord for many years at churches and events around the country such as the Jerry Falwell Old Time Gospel Hour and Mark Lowry’s National Christian Singing Competition.  In addition to her singing in both services, her husband, George Lambert will be preaching in the 6:00 p.m. service.

So I hope to see you tomorrow at 10:45 and 6:00.  It will be a good day.

New Book

On another note, about three weeks ago I published a book that I have been working on for some time.  I haven’t said much about it because my focus has been on other things in recent days, but next week I will begin to publicize the book and try to begin to get the word out.  It is titled, Illuminating The Darkness: A Fresh and Effective Solution to Depression,Stress, and Anxiety.  It gives a thoroughly biblical perspective to the mental and emotional struggles so many people face.  I will say much more about it in a blog post I will post on Monday but you can take a look at a few pages of the book by going to its page.  The cost of the book is $12.99 (8.99 for the Kindle book), but for FBC Heath people and for people in the Heath-Newark-Granville area I want to make the book available for as little as possible.  Therefore, books will be available tomorrow on the “Sermon CD Table” in the main foyer for $6.00.  Just pick up a book and use the envelope that is in it to put $6.00 in the box that is provided.

In Christ,
Pastor Noel

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Principle And The Path

There are many books I read once and enjoy. There are some books I read once and regret that I lost those hours out of my life. And then there are some books I read over and over again.  Yesterday I finished one of those books.  The Principle and the Path, by Andy Stanley, is one of those books that doesn’t tell you anything you don’t already know, but it tells you in a way that grabs you by the collar and demands your attention.  Where we end up in life, in every aspect of life, is determined by the direction we have traveled.  Sounds simple, but how often do people end up in a bad place in life and then act surprised, when at the same time, everyone around them sees their predicament as the expected result of the direction they had been traveling.

We all think we are the exception to the rule. When it comes to our marriages, our kids, our money, our health, and our walk with the Lord, we think that somehow things will just work out for us. Even though most people’s neglect of those key areas of life end in destruction, it will be different for us.  Andy Stanley reminds us that this is an absurd way of thinking.  We are not the exception!

Our destination is not determined by our desire or our intentions.  Our destination in every area of life is determined by the day-by-day direction we have been heading for months and years.

Yesterday was the first day of my annual study retreat.  This is a time I get away and read, pray and write.  These are such refreshing times for me.  And I don’t think there could have been a better book to start the week. I recommend this short book to every father, mother, teen, ministry leader, influencer…
If you need a wake-up call, you will find it in this book!

Pastor Noel

Saturday, December 31, 2011

God-Truths I Have Learned Through Adoption

We returned last night from our seventeen day journey through China to adopt Rae Michelle Dear (formerly Yang Rui).  It was a memorable trip, no major issues.  We are thankful to be home and we are so very thankful for Rae.  I know the journey has really only just begun, and there is much for me to learn, but I wanted to share a few thoughts that came to me as I was pondering the events of the last week or so while flying home yesterday.  Already, through being Rae’s earthly father for about ten days, I have learned some important truths about my heavenly Father.

#1:  God loves me more than I know!  We have had some difficult days with Rae, especially in the beginning.  Everything we did to try to help her, whether it was getting her to take a bath, brush her teeth, or stop jumping on the bed was because we loved her and wanted what was best for her.  But she didn't understand that.  Our actions didn't seem like love from her perspective.  She often stubbornly rejected our warnings and instructions.  If only she could understand how much we love her and how everything we say or do is an expression of that love.  That makes me think… How often does the same situation happen between the heavenly Father and me, his adopted son?  How often do I reject His warnings and instructions because on some level I foolishly question His love?

#2:  There is a better way to live!  Rae doesn't understand how much better life will be.  She has been living in poverty.  She has been living without the benefit of a family.  She hasn't had proper medical care.  Her future as a special needs child in the orphan system in China was very bleak.  I know there is no guarantee her life will now be a bed of roses, but she will at least have her basic needs met, she will have a loving family, she will have good medical care, and she will have the hope of a great future.  But she just doesn't understand.  The institutional life of the orphanage is all she knows.  She cannot comprehend what 'better' even is.  She has no idea what she has missed out on.  That makes me think…  Is the same thing true when I push against the life my heavenly Father wants me to live?  I am afraid that too often I wrongly think my life of selfishness and sin is the best life for me.  I wonder what I am missing out on.

#3:  I can never comprehend the depth of God’s love and the cost of the cross!  Rae doesn't understand the sacrifice her family made to adopt her and bring her to America.  She has no idea.  She has no comprehension of what a thousand dollars is, much less many thousands of dollars.  And not only was there a financial sacrifice but the major lifestyle change that comes with adding a new six-year-old to a family that is just beginning to enjoy the fruits of maturing children.  She understands none of this, nor could she understand if we tried to explain it.  That makes me think… How much do I really comprehend about the price the Lord paid to make my adoption as His son possible?  I claim to have some understanding of the cross, the agony, and the shame that Jesus faced, but do I really?  Or is it beyond my ability to understand just as our family’s sacrifice is beyond Rae’s ability to understand?

#4:  My salvation does not correlate with my merit!  Rae doesn't understand the significance and the value of her being chosen out of so many orphans in China and around the world.  There is a better biblical word for this, but it could be said that she is pretty LUCKY.  She was not chosen because of any merit of her own.  She was not chosen because she had something to offer.  She wasn't chosen because of her parents, her intelligence, her goodness, her beauty, or any other human measurement of worthwhileness.  She was simply chosen by the providence of God.  Only a handful of orphans get the chance that she has been given.  That makes me think… The most valuable thing I have is my relationship with God.  I am reminded of Ephesians 1:4-5 which says, “He chose [me] in Him before the foundation of the world, that [I] should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined [me] to adoption as [a] son … according to the good pleasure of His will.”  Not because of any merit, but simply because of his grace, I am blessed beyond measure with salvation!  The Lord convicted me; I responded to His working; He saved me by His grace.

#5:  I need to better accept the Lord’s help!  Maybe it is due to her institutional life for the last several years, but Rae is fiercely independent.  She doesn't want me to help her with anything.  There have been so many times in the last few days that I could have been such a blessing to her if she would have just let me help.  I have watched her carry around a banana for an hour while being terribly hungry but refusing to let me help her peel it.  As I am writing this we are in an airplane somewhere over Canada.  She is trying to play a video game but can't get it to work because she is starting at the wrong spot.  She refuses to let me help.  She is angry because she can't get it to work.  The solution is sitting next to her and it would take less than five seconds, but she wants to be independent.  That makes me think…  I wonder how frustrating it must be for the Lord when I insist on doing things my own way instead of leaning on His word and wisdom.  I wonder how sad He must be when he sees me struggle in life when help is only a prayer away.

#6:  The God of the universe takes pleasure in me when I honor Him!  Rae has no idea about the pleasure and joy she brings to her new parents.  Even on the most difficult days, we have rejoiced over her.  The simple times when she has looked at me and said, "Xie xie babba" (thank you daddy) when I have done the smallest favors for her have set my heart ablaze with joy.  That makes me think… I often forget (and I am sure I have never really understood) how the heavenly Father takes pleasure in me and my praise and worship of Him.

I could go on, and I probably will in the days to come.  But for now I am enjoying my new daughter for the joy she brings and the lessons she teaches!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

It All Begins Tomorrow

As I write this it is 3:30 a.m. on Sunday morning.  Looking out my hotel window, it appears that Beijing is asleep.  Me and my friend, Jetlag, are answering a few emails and pondering what is going to happen tomorrow.  There have been some big events in my life, and I have even been privileged enough to check-off a few bucket list items through the years, but somehow tomorrow seems like a bigger deal than anything I have ever done before.

Twenty-six years ago, I accepted Christ as my Savior.  Of course, that has to be the most significant thing that has ever happened to me.  I remember people telling me way back then that it wouldn’t last, and I feared they were correct.  However, as it turns out, that was real, and the Lord is real, and by his grace, he has stuck with me for a very long time.  I was married sixteen years ago.  That was a big change, and a good one, and a lasting one.  Donna and I have been blessed with two children (the biological way), and of course those were life-changers.  And there have been some other big events through the years that have stretched me and my family.  I think of leaving engineering school to go into the ministry.  I think of leaving the familiarity of the South and moving to Ohio.  But somehow, what is going to happen tomorrow seems bigger than all of that.

I suppose it has something to do with pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone, or maybe it is the factor of the unknown, or maybe it is the fact that once done, this cannot be undone, but tomorrow feels like the biggest step in my life.

This isn’t the biggest step because I am fearful.  I believe the Lord has been preparing my family for this for a long time.  I am blessed with a very strong marriage and two godly daughters who I know are willing to make the sacrifices this adoption may require.  I have exceptionally good friends and a wonderful church family standing behind me.  I know there could be some hard days ahead, but I am ready for the challenge.

This isn’t the biggest step because of any hesitation or doubt.  I think I have always known I would adopt.  Years ago the motivation was for reasons too personal to write in this blog, but for the last twenty years it has been something I just felt like would happen.  Through this eighteen-month adoption-paperwork-pregnancy there have been many questions.  There have been questions about special needs, domestic versus international, and questions about finances.  But never have we questioned the fact that we should adopt.

This isn’t the biggest step because of the words of the critics.  I have learned that if you are going to do anything important in life, there will be critics.  People have told us that we are squandering our money.  People have told us that we are being unfair to our first two daughters.  People have told us that we are ruining the American economy by bringing foreigners to the land.  None of those kinds of comments have done anything but cause us to loose respect for some really selfish people.

I believe this feels like the biggest step in my life because I am convinced that somehow my life is intersecting with the Kingdom of God.  As I write that, I am not even sure what it means, but I believe it just the same.
James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote that real religion consists of three things.  One of those three is taking care of orphans.  I know there is much more to the Christian life than orphan-care and there are many other significant ways to serve the Lord, but James’ list does give real insight to the heart of the Father.  James isn’t the only Bible writer that speaks of adoption.  Paul talks about believers eagerly waiting for the day when they will receive their full inheritance as adopted sons of God.  He writes of how the Father adopted us out of sin and suffering and has given us new hope and new life.  So, the first one to choose to adopt was none other than God himself.  (I wonder if he had to fill out the stacks of paperwork we had to complete.)

I don’t know today if my adopted daughter, Rui, is ‘eagerly waiting,’ as the apostle Paul describes or not.  I have no idea if she has any idea of how her life is about to change.  (I wonder if she is lying wide-awake in the middle of the night right now, like her new dad, wondering what tomorrow holds.)  But I do know this:  God, in His wisdom and sovereignty, has chosen a little girl, living in the squalor of poverty and hopelessness in a pagan country, and he has seen fit to put her in a family where she will hear the gospel and among friends and in a church that will show her the love of Christ.  And I know that whatever God is up to in her life and around the world, He has chosen to let me be a part of that… and it begins tomorrow.

Noel Dear