Our Journey to the Altar

  • January 15, 2012
  • Blog

In my Bible, the year 2000 is written in bold print beside the verse Psalm 84:3

“Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, a place near your altar, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.”

It meant something, something special, but I wasn’t quite sure what. I just knew God had spoken to my heart, so I made a note of it. In particular, the words “a place near your altar” resonated deeply in my heart. They simply made me feel a sense of comfort as I thought of the sweet journey I’d been on thus far with my Father God. I was also newly married, living in a new city, and working as a 1st grade “rookie” teacher…all in less than one year! These precious words also made me think of home. Oh, there is nothing like home and nothing like being near the Father.

Eric and Jodie FryeFast forward 8 years. I still loved that verse in Psalm. But it was about to take on a whole new meaning. Easter weekend, 2008, middle of the night. The love of my life, my husband, is taken to the ER by a friend of ours. We think it is the flu and a really bad case of dehydration. 4am. Haven’t slept a wink, worried sick. The phone call is difficult. I don’t fully understand all I am being told. The only words I somehow manage to digest are that Eric is getting increasingly worse and that I need to make arrangements for our boys so I can get to the hospital. Literally, it is dark outside, but it is also dark inside of me. I am calm, yet unsure as I walk through the hospital doors. I am sickened when I see my husband gasping for air. I have never seen him so afraid. A doctor takes me aside and says they need to put him on a respirator to help calm him down so he can breathe…his lungs are full of fluid. He has strep A pneumonia and is in septic shock. His organs are beginning to shut down. I am told that if we had waited just 8 more hours, this man that I had said YES to, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, would have been dead. However, I am assured he will only be in this medically-induced coma for a day or two, and then he should be much better. World spinning, chaos erupting, and yet I feel peace. This is a story in and of itself, and that is for another time and space. But, Eric did not come out of the coma two days later…it was 18 days later (GLORY TO GOD), and another 18 days after that before I brought my little boys’ daddy home, as promised. Not only had I been back and forth to a cold, cramped room in the ICU for 36 days, but I had been at “a place near His ALTAR.” This time, “altar” symbolized laying down our (whole) lives as an offering, as a sacrifice, for the One who had called us to Himself and for Himself. And, amazingly, this painful “place” had become one of pure praise, where the sweet incense of a childlike trust was lifted up to Abba Father.

In these 36 days, I came to know Jesus as “the altar” of Psalm 84:3. The One whom I’d treasured for so long already but had not fully understood until our “darkness.” Jesus had already laid His life down for us at the Cross, the ultimate altar, and He had asked us to do the same.

I’ve learned something about the sparrow spoken of in Psalm 84. This little creature learns to sing in the darkness of the pre-dawn hours. The daylight just brings too many distractions. So, in the black of night, the nestling listens for (and hears) its teacher…and learns the song. In our time of “darkness,” I was like the sparrow. I was forced to listen to my Teacher. And by the grace of my Master, I heard Him and learned to SING…near His Altar!

God’s Word is alive and active. It soothes, and it divides. In November 2010, our family made some new precious friends, the Bice family. We had much in common, except they were adopting from Ethiopia. Oh, my heart had BIG strings attached to Africa since my grandparents were missionaries there for 16 years. But, adoption? Unsure, we simply committed to pray and seek His will and be open to where He may lead. Then, we were asked to serve as volunteers at the orphan care table at church. After all, it was Orphan Sunday, so it was the least we could do. We did care. We stood behind that table and left forever changed. Statistics. There are over 143 million orphans worldwide. Another child is orphaned by HIV/AIDS every 14 seconds. There are roughly 500,000 children in the American foster care system. If just 1 out of every 4 families in the church of America would adopt, there would be no more orphans in our country. And these words, HIS words: “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us” (James 1:27). “The helpless put their trust in You. You are the defender of orphans…You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so people can terrify them no longer” (Psalm 10:17-18). The Word of God is piercing. We just didn’t know…but now we did, and we couldn’t close our eyes and pretend we hadn’t seen. We were now faced with a decision: obey or not. And we are choosing to obey the call to care, defend, and bring justice to the orphan. The exact picture of what that looks like for our family is still unraveling, but we have surrendered. There’s no one like our God, and we trust Him. We learned our song in the “dark,” and we desire to see the orphan SING too.

Late on a Saturday night, following my “serving” opportunity at the orphan care table, I sensed the Father drawing me near. So, of course, I picked up my Bible. Now I’m not one that believes in what I call “Wala!” Bible reading. In other words, just divinely opening up to a specific page and it being GOD speaking to me. But, I was feeling discouraged and heavy-hearted … and, yes, “Wala!” opened the Word straight to Psalm 84. He knew exactly what I needed to hear. And then, I come to verse 3. I know it’s Him…I’ve heard Him so many times before. In the stillness of night, I hear my Teacher whisper: “The sparrow.” What, Lord? What is it this time? I had already had my lesson of learning to sing, 2 years ago. But, what did this verse have to do with my current portion? I had been thinking and praying over the command to care for the orphan, and it was heavy on my heart. I wanted to help, but what was it supposed to look like for our family? And He gently responded to my heart: The sparrow is like the orphan. We are all like the sparrow – in seasons of physical darkness, when we must choose by FAITH to listen for our Teacher, and in spiritual darkness, before He adopted us, before His sacrifice at the Altar.

As I sought to understand this truth, I learned something pretty (God) neat. In the Old Testament, sparrows were known to be numerous. And they loved to make their nests in the roofs of the temples. These tiny, insignificant creatures have an instinct to build their homes…and the fact that they built them near the ALTAR, the Most Holy Place, was even more astounding.

The sparrow. They are numerous.

The orphan. 143 million, and counting.

Me.

You.

The God-given instinct to find our HOME, the physical one of a family and the eternal one of Heaven

The Altar: Jesus Christ, the Teacher of our night-song

Psalm 84:3 – This is a message of the Gospel.

The Church has always been God’s plan for the orphan, and Altar 84 will seek to work intimately with the Body of Christ to “care” for the orphan. WE, the body of Christ, have the potential to produce MUCH fruit in this calling and we must link arms with others in our community and city. If we fail, we will fail miserably. God cares deeply for the orphan and the families that have heard the call. So must we.

And, oh, one more thing we’ve learned about the sparrow. In a recent study, a nestling was taken from its nest at 8 days old. The frail, helpless creature was placed into a cage and separated from its family (and from any other birds at all). It was lonely. It was dark. It was orphaned. And its song was abnormal and weak. In the same study, another nestling was taken at 8 days old. It, however, was placed into a cage with a “tutor” bird. It was not lonely. It was not orphaned. It was dark. But, it learned to SING, beautifully, just as the Creator intended.

The Frye FamilyWe will all face darkness, as spiritual orphans apart from our Redeemer, and in different seasons of life. Because of our Teacher, we do not have to be alone …we will always have a Home and a reason to sing.

This is my story, this is my song, this is my journey to the Altar.

For the least of these, and for my Father’s glory,

                                                                                      Jodie

 

Our Journey to the Altar 

“But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.” Numbers 14:24 


In late 2007 while studying the Israelites journey to the promise land, I came across that verse and God stopped me right there and put a new desire in my heart. All of a sudden, I wanted to be like Caleb. I wanted to be different in spirit and I wanted to follow God whole heartedly. This changed the way I thought, the way I prayed and even the way I studied scripture.

Shortly after this, Shawn and I started praying as a family that God would use us in a mighty way for His Kingdom. He started opening doors for us to serve in different places. And the more we served, the more we were filled with joy. But, we quickly realized with the needs of the people God was placing before us, we needed the help of others. So every time we had an opportunity to serve, we would ask others to join us and the response was overwhelming. This gave us an idea. I’ll never forget one Sunday, we were driving out to my parent’s house and talking about how amazing it would be if we could start an organization that allowed people who wanted to “serve”, to partner with us, then when we heard of a need we could serve together as a team. The only problem was, we had NO idea how to do that. So we just kept praying.

During this time God was beginning to break our hearts for orphans. We began studying scripture about caring for orphans and that led us to prayer. We were soon aware that as Christians, we were commanded to care for orphans but we weren’t sure how that looked for us. So, we started praying and asking God to show us our place in orphan care. He quickly made it clear that He was asking us to adopt. We were thrilled about our new journey but I will never forget…. from the very beginning, Shawn kept saying that God was telling him this was not about just ONE child. It was about a lot of children. That sounded exciting, yet scary, but we kept walking forward in obedience.

Fast forward a few months… our dear friends, Jodie and Eric were aware that something was going on in our hearts. They knew a little about our desire for an organization and they wanted to meet for dinner and hear more of our hopes and dreams. They also had some things on their heart they wanted to share with us. During the week before we met with them, Shawn told me that he felt God was calling him to a place in life where he could do the things he is gifted at doing, but not for a paycheck. Instead, he felt like it was time to start using his gifts and talents as a ministry. That sounded exciting but it’s not cheap to raise seven (almost 8 ) kids. This sounded like it would be the most unbelievable balancing act ever.

A few nights later, over a Mexican dinner with Jodie and Eric, we shared our dreams of caring for the poor, broken and orphaned, only to hear that God had placed the same desire on Jodie and Eric’s heart. We both shared a dream of an organization that would bring awareness to the orphan crisis and challenge the church to follow the commands in God’s Word by caring for them.

The word from the Lord to Shawn about “this being about more than just ONE child” is beginning to make sense. We ARE in the process of adopting a little girl from Ethiopia. However, this is a two-fold calling for us. We are excited about our adoption and eager to get our little girl home. But, this is truly about more than one child for us. God has given us the desire to serve the orphans of this world forever.

I once thought orphan care offered three options: adoption, going to another country and serving in orphanages, or sponsoring a child. Those are all great things and we support each of these options, but we’ve learned that orphan care is so much more than that.

Let me end with this, God often speaks to me in single words or short phrases. Recently, two words (or three) have consistently been whispered to my heart.
“Relationship” and “Link Arms”.

Here is what I feel God is saying to me through these words. This is about building “relationships”, not just making a one-time appearance in the lives of those we get to serve. It’s about God making the connection and us staying for the long haul. Doing life with those He allows us to serve. Isn’t that a more accurate picture of the gospel anyway? It’s not just about redeeming, it’s also about relationship.


The other words “link arms” is the picture He has given me of what it will take to fight the battle He has set before us. There are currently over 150 million children that are orphaned and many more that have a parent but are broken, poor and lonely. They need the church! One family or one body of believers can make an impact but they will not be able to make the impact that these millions of children need. It will take “the church” linking arms and waging war for their sake. This is our journey to adoption and the Altar. I hope and pray that you will join us!

Polly