One of the men who has mentored me through his writings is Dallas Willard. Earlier this year, just before he went to be with Jesus, Dallas spoke at a seminar that focused on God’s Kingdom and Jesus’ command for us to make disciples. I’d like to leave you with a portion of one of his talks that sums up what Cindy and I have discovered this first year among God’s Church around the world.
"I think that we are on the verge of a time when the Church is going to be able to make some decisions. That may be a funny way of talking to you, but for long periods in the history of the Church, as the history of Israel, there were really no significant decisions that could have been made.
I think we've been through a pretty tough patch with the Church. I try never to criticize the Church because I know whose in charge of it. But sometimes we need to be conscious of where we're coming from and where we're going. I think that we are coming into a time when many churches and leaders and Christians who are in leadership positions will be able to say,
'It's all about discipleship and transformation into Christlikeness.'
Now if you've read the New Testament or even the Old Testament you might have come to that conclusion already.
It's hard to avoid. But circumstances and history have a way of claiming us and not letting us see what's actually happening. And we've been through a period where the dominant theology simply had nothing to do with discipleship. It had to do with proper belief, and how on the basis of that God would see to it that you didn't go to the bad place, but you got into the good place.
But the way that developed, it turned out, you could have the worst character possible and still get into the good place if you believed the right thing. And the disconnection over time became increasingly burdensome to the Church itself until you come to the point to where, as is widely discussed, in some respects there is not a clear difference between a 'Christian,' and those who aren't Christians."
I have only been home a week since returning from Bolivia where I participated in a Bolivian Discipleship Consultation with about 135 participants. I teamed up with my former professor from Asbury Seminary, Dr. Darrell Whiteman, who focused upon how to effectively share God’s Message across a variety of cultural barriers. I had about seven opportunities during the three-day gathering to focus upon discipleship and disciplemaking concepts. I had never been to Bolivia prior to this trip and I absolutely fell in love with the people and the beauty of the mountain landscape. One of the highlights of our trip was taking a five-mile walk on our final morning as we trekked high above the city at about 12,000 feet!
FAMILY – September 2, 2013
Who is my family? I’m reflecting on the gift of “family” today because I encountered family this weekend everywhere I turned….it is complicated, loud, confusing, comforting and often a very beautiful picture of the Body of Christ….actually much of my “family” is not what we called in Branford “blood kin”.
Family has always been a conglomerate in the Ware household beginning with “Uncle” Carl Schneider’s visit to my grandparents when their youngest son, my Uncle Albert, was killed during the Korean War. I never had the chance to know him since his plane crashed in the Sea of Japan several years before my birth. But I KNOW my Uncle Carl, one of his dearest friends, who fulfilled a promise to visit Albert’s family in the event that Albert never made it home. Albert DID make it home, we know it as HEAVEN, and that’s when Carl became “Uncle” to a grieving family.
From that time on, our family grew. Although Mom and Dad had but three “biologicals”, they began to collect children, tucking each in their hearts to be forever part of the Ware Family. I remember the day Daddy called home from the pharmacy and told Mom to set two more plates for the noon meal we called DINNER. He had taken in two young scruffy men who were paddling their days away on the Suwannee River. Troy and Roger made their way into our home and into our hearts.
Mickey & Mary Dean, young newlyweds in the midst of crisis, came to live in our home the day their house was consumed by fire. As their family grew, the generations have adopted each other. We’re on the third generation of sharing the love. Preston and Fairly are our amazing godchildren!
Pam, my look alike, came to us at 14, in need of love and family. Mom and Dad would only take her if the rest of the family agreed that it was a “forever” arrangement. Randy & Gary, distant cousins from Iowa in need of a Mom, reached out to “Mama Doris” during the difficult years of high school and college. My siblings, Peggy & Harry and Scott & Melissa continue our parent’s tradition of extending family via fostering and adoption. Aunt Cindy & Uncle Denny cherish ALL of our nieces and nephews – Danny, Kayla, Jessie, Kristina, Meagan, Coral and Bryce AND their furry rescue pets!
Denny and I married in 1980 and that year one of my best friends moved in after the death of her husband. Thus began a long tradition of extended family in the Heiberg home! I cannot began to count the numbers of “sent family” that have joined our home over the years, enriching our lives and expanding God’s love toward us in ways that look a lot like the Walton Family on steroids. “Good night, Tess”, “sweet dreams Holly”, “nite-nite Benjy”, “good night Chris”, “Buenos noches Amanda”, “night, love ya, Em”, “night Margaret Ellen”…..we could be awake all night saying “Good night, sleep tight!”
In the midst we have been blessed with our own “biologicals”. Rachel, Joanna and Sarah helped raise us and, through their friendship connections, our dining room table bulged with “Family Dinners” that sparked a 12 year run of “Monday/Thursday night dinners”. Our girls increased family as we married three new families!!
Neighbors have become family in the midst of difficult circumstances. How I cherish the children “of my heart”, Jorge, Emily & Lily. As I put the period to the sentence, I heard voices in the kitchen. Emily, her daddy and her friend, Emma were in our kitchen getting a snack! How I love the open door policy!!
Our “collected children” have come from continents far and wide from the outskirts of Branford, from the perimeter of the University of Florida, to the southernmost tip of Africa with China and India interspersed. We are blessed!
Our children have continued the tradition begun by Grandmama & Grandaddy. Rachel and Jon are part of a “community group” that do real life together on a daily basis. Just check out Rachel’s FB page….little Lydia might live at another house, but Rachel is one of her Mamas! Joanna & Ben have parented more kids through the ministry of Young Life than we can possibly count! Sarah & Kyle are also “Young Life Parents” and their photos reveal two little girls that might keep them grounded in Orlando for longer than planned!
Last night “family night dinner” included six new international students, along with several local families. It was loud and messy, the strains of “Heart & Soul” being banged out on the piano while the dishes piled higher in the sink. The dishes didn’t last long as two of the guys jumped in to clean up and to give impromptu lessons in how to run a dishwasher and a dryer. One-on-one conversations took place in various areas of the room while the kids ran around with wild enthusiasm. The strains of laughter wafted through the house and Jesus smiled.
FAMILY – a priceless gift from God! How I thank Him for those birthed by blood and brought to us by His blood! We are the FAMILY of God!
Denny & Cindy Heiberg