The Reality of Two Realms

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A: I am alone.
B: No, you’re not. Jesus is always with you. He will never forsake you.

This is how the conversation goes. Someone confides in another person that they feel alone- walking through life alone, fighting battles alone, ect. And the “Church-y” response is to instinctively reply with how that is not true because Jesus will always be by their side.

Are they alone? Are they not alone? My answer would be yes.

As Christians, we live in two realms: the Natural and the Supernatural. Until Jesus comes back, these two realities cannot fully be integrated as only one realm. We live horizontally (earthly realm) and vertically (supernatural realm where God dwells). Horizontally, we live in a world where we interact and relate with people on a daily basis. It is a part of our lives on earth and a major part of our existence.

As the Church, somehow we have developed this easy, pseudo-fix-it-all answer to the statement posed in the beginning. But we must remember that we live in two realities- one is not void of the other.

Is that person truly alone? yes. Is that person truly not alone? yes. The world we live in is a very real and yet fallen world. It is not unlikely that someone may have “fallen through the cracks” or not have a close knit community of friends. If someone is saying they are alone, do not be quick to consider that statement as false. If they feel this way, correct or incorrect as it may be, it is a very real reality for them.

Likewise, it is true that Jesus is always with them and will never leave them or forsake them. In that sense, they are never alone; however, we cannot neglect the physical realm we live in everyday to impose our spiritually solution based answer to the issue expressed. It is not that easy. We were made by God for earthly relationships. This cannot entirely be substituted with the fact that Jesus is always with us. We were not made to live this life independent of relationship with people. God wants a family.

That is not to say that you shouldn’t remind them and assure them of God’s commitment to them to never leave them or forsake them. Just don’t forget to address the natural issue present.

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A Message of Hope: Part 2

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To me, the greatest expression of hope is in the Christmas story. Over 400 years after the book of Malachi, the appointed time had finally come. Jesus came down into our world and was born in a stable. When we were destitute, dead in our trespasses, Jesus came. When we were enemies of God, reveling in our sin, Jesus came. The Hope of the world. He didn’t wait until we got our act together. He didn’t wait until we cleaned ourselves up nice. He came down into our mess, right into the darkness. He stepped right into our brokenness and weakness and fulfilled the long, awaited promise of restoration and redemption. In this, He shows us that there is nothing that we can do, no distance we can run, and nothing we can walk through, where Hope will not invade our situation.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.” – Psalms 43:5

Jesus, Himself, said “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). The tense of the verb in “I am making” is present progressive which indicates something is continuous. It expresses something that is currently happening, not something that just happened in the past. This tense is only used with what is called dynamic verbs which are verbs “that show qualities capable of change”. When you make something, it is in a constant state of change until you get your end result. We are the clay in the hands of the Potter who is making us into something beautiful. Through our journey, in every step, he is making us new. He hasn’t given up on us. He doesn’t become indifferent to our struggles or our pain. Those things impassion Him. He will turn it around for our good and for His glory.  This verse can, also, be read as: “Behold, I am continuously making all things new”. He has a way of rewriting our story. No matter how hard, no matter how deep the valley, where you’re at is not the end.

There is Hope! Be filled with hope today.

“May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope.” -Romans 15:13

A Message of Hope: Part 1

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Reading through the prophesies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel for the last few months, one thing I continuously notice is how God will decree judgment and destruction on Israel and Judah and then at the end say “…but there will come a time when I will restore you”(paraphrased). He tells them of their sin, abominations, and the impending wrath of God- how He will utterly destroy them and the land will be left desolate- but then He leaves them with a glimmer of hope. A remnant will remain, and there is a time coming when He will restore them and restore their fortunes.

What hope there is for us in that! For in our darkest times, he will restore us. In every struggle, in every wound, in every trial, in every valley, when everything looks bleak, He’s there saying “I know where you are at. I see what you’re going through. There is a time coming when I will restore you”. When the tempest rises, and you feel beaten down, and your soul is wounded, He whispers “I will restore you”. He will never leave us in the fire of a trial or the shadows of the valley.

Micah Wood, an influential speaker from The Ramp in Hamilton, Alabama, defines hope as “the simple belief that things can change.” Hope believes that things can and will change. There is hope that it will not always be this way. The earth is made of up seasons that constantly change- Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter (unless you live in the south- then it is just Summer and Winter:). It’s one of God’s expressions of the promise of Hope. It will come to pass. It will not always be the bitter cold of winter for Spring is coming with the fresh smell of flowers blooming again.

A Global Crisis

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November is Orphan Awareness Month. If someone was to ask me what engulfs my mind, aside from the day to day happenings of life, I would say the fatherless and missions. And yet, they are so easily forgotten by many and go unheard. The plight of Foster Care and the plight of the Global Orphan Crisis is not commonly talked about from the pulpit. We need to be aware of the reality around us. Not push away and try to convince ourselves it’s not real or “it’s not my problem”. If you follow Jesus, then it’s your problem. It’s not the responsibility of the DHR. It’s not the responsibility of the government. It is the responsibility of the Church.

This month become aware of the plight of the Orphan. Even more, become aware of the Father’s heart for the fatherless. But don’t let it stop at awareness. What does that really profit these children, yourself, and even more the Kingdom if it just stops at becoming aware. Let your awareness compel you to action. I recommend that you watch this video. It’s real. It’s relevent. It’s life. It’s the Gospel. Will you answer the cry of the orphan?

Jesus sees you and He’s smiling

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Yes, even in your mess. Even through the hard times. Even in your struggles. Even in this valley. Even when everything looks unlovely. Even in your frustration with the process. Yes, in all of your journey.

He’s not frustred with you. He’s not weary of you. He’s smiling at you.

‘Cause He sees who you will be,
and He see where you’ll be.
He sees you overcome,
and He likes it. Oh, He’s smiling.

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Break the Cycle: Part 2

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This past February, while doing my internship at DHR, I wrote a post about the generational cycle of foster care
(https://generationalvoice.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/the-practicum-saga-break-the-cycle/).

I mentioned that what I was noticing as I talked with the foster care supervisor and read case files was that the child’s mom and her sister was in foster care when they were children, this child’s mom was subject to physical/sexual abuse when she was a kid, and so on. It goes back to generations having been brought up in the system and aging out or growing up in an environment wrecked with abuse. It’s a generational cycle.

I came across this blog post tonight written by someone that talks about the generational cycle of adoption. It’s a beautiful, amazing post. I love the way he discusses and describes the impact of natural adoption as well as supernatual adoption. I highly recommend people to read this post at the link below:

http://jasonjohnsonblog.com/blog/the-generational-effects-of-adoption

 

joanna

 

 

Just Look Away

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There was an Episode from a TV show I watched a while back where this girl was having a hard time figuring out how to do something. I don’t remember what that thing was now, but her husband, trying to help her, told her that right before a baseball pitcher throws the ball, he always looks away first. His point was that maybe she needed to “look away” from what she was doing and come back later and try again. She did that, and she was able to accomplish her goal.

Recently, I endeavered to look up why pitchers look away before a pitch. What I found was “… most pro pitchers do it as a way to break the monotony of staring at the same target, which can — for prolonged periods — actually make it more difficult to locate a pitch.”

Sometimes in life, things begin to feel overwhelming and even stressful. On occasion, things begin to look so big. It’s like we are standing at the foot of a huge mountain just looking up awestruck at its size. When we stare at these particular situations for a prolonged period of time, we tend to cultivate the anxiety or stress. Our vision becomes blurry, and we don’t see straight. It’s in those moments where we need to just look away for a moment. Get refocused. It may look like reading the Bible. It may look like praying. It may look like praise and worship. Whatever you need to do to get your eyes off of your situation and back on Him. Remember who your God is and how big He is and let the peace of God rule your heart and mind to which you are called to.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.” – Ps 121:1-2

Your help comes from the Lord, whose name is Faithful and True, and it is He who made the Heaven’s and the Earth by the word of His power. This is He who holds us and carries us through. He is big enough.

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Quote was found at this link:
http://www.stevenellis.com/steven_ellis_the_complete/2005/08/the_pitching_se_1.html

He’s There In The Shadows

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Since Aug 2011, I have worked in the Preschool department at my church. For a while, I was considered a “floater”. I was just put where I was needed each Sunday. Several months into it, I was finally made the official Squirrel room teacher (the theme for our preschool department is Noah’s Ark. So, each room has a different animal name). These children are basically your older 1 year olds (starting at about 14 months) to your 2 year olds.

I thoroughly enjoy each Sunday in this room working with these children. They are an absolute joy! They always make me laugh and smile. I look forward to seeing them each Sunday. There’s no place I’d rather be on a Sunday morning. There are those who have a rougher time when starting out in my room. Those that when Mommy and Daddy hand them over they start crying. Some are easier to comfort (and distract:) than others. One of the insticts, at least for me, that kick in during those moments is to tell them “Mommy and Daddy haven’t left you… Mommy is coming back…Daddy is coming back”. For these children, you have to prove to them that Mommy and Daddy are coming back. As they learn that, their crying and distress due to separation diminishes. Soon, they will begin to run to the gate and even start trying to climb over it out of excitement to come and play.

After a while of doing this, I began to think about our relationship with God. How at times we go through these struggles and walk through these valleys and sometimes wonder where God is at. “God where are you? Why aren’t you doing anything!?” Then God leads us to the other side into victory and we look back and see how God was there in the trenches and how loving and good He was. Then years or even months or days later we walk through another valley or the Enemy comes and attacks us again and sometimes we find ourselves in the same place. Sometimes, I think His heart would scream “Haven’t I proven to you yet that I am here? Haven’t I proven to you that I will come to you? That I will help you? Haven’t I always brought you through? Look back at how far I have carried you.”

Our Daddy will come to you. He hasn’t left you. Your Help is on His way. He will come like He promised.

A couple of days ago, I started thinking about this concept again, and I remembered a time a couple of years ago or so on a Sunday night while I was doing childcare in the Elephant room when a little girl (about 2 1/2 to 3 years old) came in a little upset. She wasn’t crying, but she was defintely sad. Just minutes after she came in, as I was holding her, she looked right at me and asked: “Mommy’s coming back?” and I replied “Yes. Mommy’s coming back”. Then she asked me “Daddy’s coming back?” and I replied “Yes. Daddy’s coming back too.”

I didn’t have to tell her that her Mommy and Daddy was coming back like I do my younger ones in the morning. Being older, she reassured herself that Mommy and Daddy was coming back. It reminded me of what Paul said “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Cor 13:11).

For my younger children on Sunday mornings, I have to tell them in these distressing times that Mommy and Daddy are coming back and haven’t left them. But like this almost 3 year old, who has matured, she learned that Mommy and Daddy were coming back but needed to reassure herself. I didn’t tell her that her mommy and daddy were coming back. She told herself. In other words, those who may be young in the faith might come to those times where they ask those questions, but I think sometimes we get stuck there. There’s many people who have been on this journey for years and still find themselves at this place over and over (I would be included in this). As we journey with Jesus, we need to come to a place where we mature in Christ as He continuously proves Himself to us, to be able to reassure ourselves and know that “My Daddy’s coming for me. Jesus hasn’t left me. He will come. He will come like He promised. He will carry my through”.

There’s nothing wrong with those times of questions. We all I’m sure at some point have asked those questions. In 2013, I think I’ve asked one of two of those questions, and I’ve been on this journey with Jesus for several years, but I believe that God wants to bring us to levels of maturity where we have the security like my kids on Sunday mornings get over time as it is continuously proven to them to know that in those difficult times God is coming. He hasn’t forsaken me. He will come. My Help is on His way.

etsy4photo courtesy (without text): my cousin Corey

Dothan PD Citizens Academy: Part 1

For the month of May, I was able to participate in the Dothan Police Department’s Citizen Academy for the first time. What a great experience! I found out about it last minute, but I am so glad I didn’t miss it.

pinterestSouth side of the Dothan PD
Sitting in my car before starting the 10pm-2am shift

The Citizen’s Academy provides the opportunity for citizens to get an inside look at a Police Officer’s job. You get the opportunity to have a first hand experience of what a day in the life of an Officer on shift looks like- the fast pace, in the moment decisions, and the unpredictability. The Academy lasts for one month. Every Tuesday, you meet at the Police Department for “class”. This go around there were 7 of us (which I heard was unusually small). Some Tuesdays we stayed there to hear lectures from different units such as: The Narcotics Division, the Bomb Squad, and Crime Scene Investigation. The lectures are very interesting, and they give you a lot of information. (It could only be better if they would give you hand outs). On other nights, we would go to the gun range. There we got to hear short lectures from the K9 Unit (and see a couple of demonstrations) as well as the SWAT team (and they did a demonstration as well). The last Tuesday of the Academy, you go to the gun range and they allow you shoot a gun and a rifle (don’t ask me what kind they were) at a target. Also, each Tuesday night, before class starts, you sign up for the nights when you are available to ride with an Officer. You can sign up to ride for however many days you can and have the choice to sign up for the 6pm-10pm shift or the 10pm-2am shift. (You don’t have to ride if you don’t want to; however, I’d say that’s where the majority of the experience is).

I’ll write another blog post later sharing some stories from each of my rides out with an officer, but for this post, I wanted to share just a couple of things I learned.

After riding out a few times or so, I quickly realized that Officers do not use the lights and sirens for every call they have to go out on. Maybe that was common knowledge, but I didn’t realize that. It’s really the more serious and urgent calls that they will use it- especially if they are some distance away from the location. So, just keep in mind that just because you see a Police car that doesn’t have his lights on does not mean that he is not headed to a call. I know there have been times in the past where I have seen Cops going pretty fast and would think something along the lines of them thinking they are just privilege and don’t have to go close to the speed limit but can go faster than we are able to. Am I really the only that has thought that? However, if they are going pretty fast over the speed limit, they are more than likely headed to a call (even if the lights and sirens aren’t on). Moreover, one day when I was out riding, we were headed to a call (without lights and sirens), and it was very difficult to get there because as soon as the car in front of us saw us, they would slow down and there would be no way to get around. Now, I know the instinctive thing to do when you see a Cop behind you is to slow down and maybe at times that would be a good call; however, possibly more times than not, they are not interested in you and how fast you may or may not be going (unless you are going significantly over the speed limit- then that would be a different story). They are more interested in getting to the location. That can be very frustrating for Officers. With that in mind, what I am going to start trying to do and would recommend you to do too, is when I see an Officer coming up behind me, I’m going to get into the other lane and get out of their way if possible because they may be on a call.

The other thing I wanted to briefly share about is the issue of calling in drunk drivers. One night when I was with an Officer, he talked about how a lot of people will call in a drunk driver, give the current location, and a description of the car but then go on about their way. This makes it less likely for the Officer to find that vehicle and pull them over. This actually happened that night while I was with him. We got a call, the location, and a description of the vehicle, but by the time we could actually get to the reported location, that person was long gone. We never did find him. So, my suggestion (which would really help the Officers out) is that if you are going to call in a drunk driver, give them the information that I mentioned above but keep tracking the car. Don’t call it in and then head on home or wherever you are going. Keep following the vehicle (at a safe distance- don’t put yourself in harms way) until the Officer can get to your location. That will help them to get these people off the roads.

If you ever have the chance to participate in a Citizen’s Academy (for all ages), I would highly recommend it.

The Practicum Saga: The Conclusion

My internship at DHR has now concluded. Today I cleaned out my desk. This season of my life is over…It’s not to say I may not come back sometime in the future- I might have to check up on some of these workers. Make sure they are behaving ;)

This internship was nothing like I thought it would be. It’s had its ups. It’s had its downs. It’s had its frustrating moments. It’s had it moments of laughter. It’s had its exciting moments. It’s had its extremely boring moments. It’s had its entertaining moments. It’s had its adventurous moments. It’s had its friendship building moments.

I’m glad I got this experience. I got to meet alot of new people, reconnected with an old friend, and connected more with a current friend. How great is that?

There are definitely alot of memories:

  • Getting lost trying to find my way through the building and not being able to get back in the building after lunch on the first day.
  • Ah! And those policies books and DVDs. Let’s not dwell on that part. ;)
  • Supervised visits
  • Jess and Jojo time- What would I have done without her!?
  • Walter the Security Guard- He is so funny! Always made me smile. :D
  • Police pulling out there guns during a home visit (not as dramatic as it sounds…but it was a little exciting).
  • Worker having car trouble on the way to a home visit and had to get a Police Officer to jump the car.
  • A client telling the court that the other intern and I were “not professional”- It was so laughable!
  • Doing my first home study.
  • My battles with the copier when I had to copy entire case files for court. There was bloodshed. (I won the battle in the end. Dominate!:).

Now, I’m graduating on Sunday. May 19, 2013 @ 3:00pm. Finally! Then I can write my name as:

                 JoAnna Hernandez, BSW

So grateful that Jesus has carried me this far through all my schooling, and I know He will continue to carry me as I go for my Masters next. Then I’m done with school. Oh happy day!!!! :D

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The End.