Karen Baldwin

Looking Forward

 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Philippians 1:6 NLT

A little over a year ago, I found my spot at camp.  I would sit on the bench, which was on the bridge overlooking the creek.  It was a protected sanctuary that had a roof of large trees and leaves.  They would protect me, drawing shade from the hot sun and a shelter in the midst of a rain storm.  I would sit there to get away from the unknowns, the struggles, and honestly, the realities of having no control of my family’s future.  I would praise God there. I would sob for forgiveness in my unbelief. I would beg for assurance and peace of what I could not see ahead of me.

But it was a place where I could escape and find a moment of tranquility in what seemed turbulent and unsettled.

Sitting there where all I could hear was the invisible wind, making its presence known, birds singing as if they had no cares in the world, water flowing with a confidence of where the path would lead…it was peace for my soul.  It was a moment to just be still, and to know that the God of creation and the nature that surrounded me cared more for me than the beauty those sounds and visuals could ever fully express.

And as has been my thought many times before when God slammed doors shut on our life journey, I would wonder what a year from now would look like.  Obviously God knows the plans he has for me, plans to give me a hope and future.  And a peace would come over me, knowing that I would look back a year from that time, and see a glimpse of his perfection and goodness in my life through the changes a year would bring.  He has a plan, He cares enough to have it all laid out.  He has the moments that will take my breath away, moments where I’ll fully see his hand, and the pieces will fit together.  Moments where he will take me to new places and answer the prayers that have been most pressed on my heart.

Here I am.  A year later…seeing the pieces fit together.  Completely? No!  I’m still in personal transition.  It takes me the longest to find my place!  But I have a home…what a miraculous experience it was to find the only home with the desires of heart and location.  Close to the schools that fit our girls so well.  Three minutes from the church we’d call home.  Across from a shopping center where our daily needs are met. A neighborhood with walking paths and a pond.  Did I already say it was the only house available?  It fit our family perfectly.  It is beautiful, spacious, with little maintenance, fenced-in backyard, and a refreshing place to rest, enjoy family time, eat, sleep and feel at home.  We longed and prayed for those things: good schools, a good church for our kids and for us, a place where we could be safe, feel cared for and to experience God’’s goodness…together.  He not only answered, but he blessed more that we could’ve planned or imagined on our own.

He provided a job for Roy.  I’ll let Roy tell his side of that journey…because like every other chapter, God showed his perfection in the job, ministry and passion to the things that built up to this moment.  But I will share that once a door first opened, it was less than 8 weeks before our house was packed and being moved across the country…again.  And so again, all of the details we had to figure out in that short amount of time…between holidays even…God had to take our hands and dictate many of those details for us.  It’s like a parent, he clearly said, “call this moving company, this is the home for you, fill out the paperwork in a parking lot, this is the church you will attend (not the one we had planned on!!), register your kids in these schools.  Here’s the dates.  Here’s the plan.  Just follow my lead.”  He had to dictate.  We could’ve never figured it out on our own.

Nebraska?  Really God? 

Where the heck is Nebraska anyway? 

I know it’s out there somewhere between NH and CO…but exactly where?  What?  No mountains?  I know there’s no big bodies of water…but corn and endless fields?  Ugh…but the people.  The beauty of people is so much more beautiful than even the greatest of mountains.  I’m still on the relationship building journey, but people out here are NICE!  I mean they just make you feel like family, like they’ve known you for years.  I’m still learning to raise my head and give eye contact as I pass people…because they really want to be cordial!  Though I’m still navigating relationships, I see my kids make friends and connect, at church and school.  And for me, that was the priority.  They are so happy and so very content.  They’ve adjusted quicker that I could have imagined.  And they each have found friends who are in the foster care system or have been adopted.  That just is a God wink for the call to which he had for us here.

Did you hear my repeated words throughout?  More than I could’ve ever imagined or planned in my own strength.  Every part of the journey has found its place in the greater story of our last this last year.  I won’t lie.  I questioned and grieved, worried and doubted a year ago.  But I also fought the lies that God couldn’t move us on to greater things.  I fought it by reminding myself that the questions of the present will have many answers a year later.  The faith isn’t a one-time belief in a God who protects and orchestrates.  Faith is the journey by which we live each day, depending on the One who already has it all figured out.

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad He has it figured out. I’m completely exhausted when I take those measures into my own control. I’m reminded today, as I look back and remember,  I just need to follow His lead…and find peace, joy and purpose in the midst of the journey, which is the here and now.  And be expectant.  Because a year from now, I think I’ll be looking back at relationships, where my kids are at in their own journeys, and the  passions he’s placed on my heart…and I’ll see the pieces of the coming weeks and months play out perfectly and often miraculously.

Roy Baldwin

Embracing Humility at Home, Church, Work

“Trust and safety go hand in hand.  How safe do we feel with each other?

Are we authentic and open?

Do we place the most difficult and important issues and questions on the table…

Trust ignites safety and togetherness.” 

If trust and safety are a couple of the tires on a mission driven organization, humility is going to be the fuel in the vehicle. 

What is humility and where can we find it? Well, I believe the essence of humility is found in the life of Jesus and the Apostle Paul exhorts believers to mimic Christ:

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”
– Philippians 2:3-8

Three times in this passage we see the word “humble.” Why is humility so important? Because anything else stands in the way of our relationship with Jesus and with others. If we are to give witness to the Light and Hope that has come into the world, we must not cast our own shadows to distract from its brilliance. 

This is not a humility of thinking less of ourselves, but as Tim Keller says, a “thinking of ourselves less.” He says, the thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.”

C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, “As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”

If I can stop anchoring every experience and every conversation back to myself, and instead look upward to Christ – I can then experience the hope, the peace, the joy that otherwise evades me.  This is just as true for a mission driven organization such as a family, church, workplace, school, etc. 

There are a few stories I don’t normally share, but I want to share one that will shed light on this.  Working with at-risk kids in my life, there have been a few instances where I have been falsely accused of something. I have been placed on administrative leave as an investigation is done. I cannot even begin to express the hardship associated with such investigations – it is painful in every way.

Each of these situations ultimately revealed things about me and my calling and purpose in my life that, although difficult to walk through, has helped shape me in becoming the man and leader I am today.

If I moved through all of the painful events in my life, without Christ, I could come to the wrong conclusions and arrive at the end of these experiences with bitterness, resentment and without forgiveness. My hope is not in how I arrive at the end of my destination. My hope has to rest in the truth and redemption of an empty tomb.  If Christ can humble Himself in obedience in God, so must I. So must we. 

I cannot know true hope if I do not humble myself. I cannot humble myself if I don’t understand that brokenness and suffering are gifts and the pathway to humility and ultimately hope. 

I know there are many aspects of suffering and challenges all of us have had to endure personally but as we walk through these things personally it shapes the “organizations” in which we are participants in. Our ability to grow in wisdom by humbling ourselves shapes our culture and our attitudes especially in our homes where our children are ever watching and ever repeating. It impacts our co-workers and staff. It shapes those in our pews and fellowship halls.

The initial questions offered at the beginning of this post are great questions to ask around your dinner table, in a church staff meeting, in a board room, and as you ask these questions take on the attitude of Christ: “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, think of others as better than yourself. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others…”

Faith, Roy Baldwin

Resilient Faith

I was recently having a conversation with someone about the impact and fallout of COVID-19. For reasons that we may never understand, COVID-19, a dangerous pandemic that has derailed plans and routines, put lives at risk, and shut down businesses and schools, has impacted every one of us.

The conversation then shifted to the impact this has had on marriages and families. I shared some of the things we are doing as a family to adjust and get along. How do you manage close spaces? How do you work through healthy conflict and disagreements? How do you handle stress and anxiety? How do you manage the loss of familiar routines and the pain of creating new ones?


It begs the question:

How can we thrive in the midst of a global pandemic?

I then remembered this very important principle designed by our Creator: Resilience. I have often preached or spoken about this topic.  I’m extremely passionate about it because of my own personal journey and growth, but also because of the many at-risk families and youth I have worked with for more than 25 years.

RESILIENT FAITH

From the moment we are born to the moment we draw our last breath, we are placing our faith in someone or something. All of us are on a faith journey, not just those who have placed their faith in Christ.

Resilience is often a misunderstood concept in our society. We hear about resilience as the ability to: “spring back;” or “pick yourself back up;” or “overcome challenges.” Don’t confuse these descriptions with the definition of survival, which is “the state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances.” (Oxford Dictionary) There is a really BIG and significant difference between the two:

Real resilience is “the process of coping with disruptive, stressful, or challenging life events in a way that provides the individual with additional protective and coping skills than prior to the disruption, that results from the event.” (Resiliency in Schools, 2003)

Resiliency is not about surviving through adversity: it is built because of the presence of adversity and how you learn and grow from it.

Would you describe your faith journey as resilient? The challenge and reality for most of us is that we don’t always come out of it stronger on the other side, do we?

I know in my own faith journey I have gone through immense amounts of loneliness, pain, and subsequent addictions that I am not proud of. Although pain is a part of the faith journey, I have, at times, let my pain point me to places where I did not place my faith in Christ, but rather in a cheap substitute.

Too often we choose a path that medicates or numbs our pain, instead of allowing our faith to grow into something bigger and stronger. Growth is painful. And pain is something we are culturally conditioned to fix, instead of endure. But Paul says this:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5)

Hope? Is that all we get from toughing it out?

But this isn’t the kind of hope where we think, “Geez, I hope this works out.” This is the kind of hope that is like an absolute anchor or rock. We can put all of our faith in it without wavering because it will hold firm and strong. When the storm surges and the wind howls, we can have this hope through Christ that transforms our faith because, as Scripture tells us, it is producing something in us.

Our circumstances are not just a source of pain and challenge.  They have a purpose.  The challenge for many of us is seeing the things we face in life are opportunities and not just obstacles.  Here is a chart to help bring some general understanding of the difference between a surviving faith and a resilient faith:

A Surviving Faith A Resilient Faith
Bitterness (Hebrews 12:14-15) Acceptance (Psalm 19:14)
Resentment (Galatians 5:20) Contentment (Philippians 4:12-13)
Unforgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15) Forgiveness (Psalm 32)
Addiction (1 Corinthians 6:12) Connection (Galatians 6:2)
Loneliness (Psalm 25:16) Community (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) Depression (1 Peter 5:7) Peace (Philippians 4:7)
Shame (Psalm 69: 5,7) Wholeness (James 1:2-5)
Guilt (2 Corinthians 7:10) Resolution (Hebrews 4:15-16)

*A couple of points about this contrast: its not exhaustive; its not meant to condemn but to provide a filter which looks at how you are processing the different aspects of your life.

When you look at your pain points and wounds, would you say they have strengthened your faith or weakened it? Have you medicated your pain (alcohol, drugs, pornography, cutting, unhealthy relationships, etc.), instead of facing it? Have you invested your faith in self-reliance instead of in the Savior?

Faith as a Rubber Band

Resilience is much like a rubber band, though for a Christian it takes on a deeper, fuller meaning when you combine it with your faith.

A rubber band, when stretched, returns back to its original form. I don’t think our faith in Christ was ever intended to return back to its original form. I believe as our heavenly Father stretches our faith he does so to transform it into something bigger and stronger. Thicker and wider. Wiser and kinder. Our faith should begin to produce fruits such as peace, patience, faithfulness, and self control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

The point of our faith is that it isn’t just for us.  It’s also for those whom we love and serve. Our families should be direct recipients of our faith, witnessing it being stretched and conformed into His image. Our churches and communities should change and grow as the family of God experiences together, a faith being stretched into something that proclaims His glory rather than personal achievement and significance.

When we walk through the tough stuff of life and are not strengthened through the trial, we rob God of His glory. We deprive God of the opportunity to strengthen, not only our own faith, but those around us.

In Ephesians 3, Paul writes, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV)

I hope this post helps you to reflect on your faith and how you are currently responding to the things of life.  Are you able to see and trust the Lord as he stretches your “faith band” into something more beautiful and more profound than anything you could ever dream or imagine?  Maybe some of you feel like your faith rubber band is torn and tattered.  If that is you, my prayer is that you would know there is a God who redeems and restores the broken, if you seek Him and cry out to Him. (Isaiah 61:1-3).

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61:1-3


Don’t just survive. In Christ, you can thrive.

Much love from someone who is constantly having his rubber band stretched.

Roy Baldwin

The Beautiful Messiness of the Gospel

If you have been in Christian circles for any amount of time, then you know that the term “gospel” is a part of our everyday lexicon. It should be, considering it represents the hope and distinctiveness of Christianity. The Gospel articulates the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection, the redemptive nature of his love, and the inheritance of an eternal family and life. Here is the problem…the Gospel isn’t as clean and neat as we have made it out to be.

While there are lots of books on this topic, my goal in writing this post isn’t to give a treatise on this subject: merely to share an observation, especially during this unprecedented season of life filled with fear, loss, and hatred. 

The Gospel:

It’s messy because God wants me to love the unlovable and bless those who persecute me.

It’s uncomfortable because He wants me to grab a cross and hoist it upon my shoulder.

It demands everything: my life, my goals, my dreams, my time, my passions, my hobbies, my education

It demands me to offer forgiveness even when it’s not deserved.

It requires me to move beyond just tolerating people to truly loving them.

It draws me out of my comfort zone.

It encourages me to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

It pushes me to ensure justice for those being crushed and extend mercy and grace to those who do not deserve it.

It prunes the branches that are not only dead in my life, but the ones that are bearing fruit.

It urges me to serve by kneeling and grabbing some water and a cloth to wash feet that are dirty.

Radical Sacrifice

As pastor and author David Platt reminds us about the gospel, “it demands radical sacrifice.”

If this is true of the gospel, then why is it good news? For this simple reason “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)

I saw that back when I was the Executive Director at Monadnock Christian Ministries.  There were times when I wanted to replace our “Welcome Home” sign with “Triage Unit” or “Emergency Room.”  The brokenness was very real, and I am not just talking about the guests we served. The more we served others and the more we pointed others to the cross, the more I realized how broken I was, the more I realized how much I fall short and how much it cost Him.

A few years ago, I went on a trip to Haiti with Love in Motion ministry (now a part of Mission E4). The whole experience really brought this to light for me.  Because of my work with at-risk families, I am very familiar with US poverty.  Going to Port Au Prince was overwhelming for me because of the plight and needs of the Haitian people, especially their children. It’s one reason why we sponsor a child through Mission E4.

But seeing it firsthand changed me.

One situation while we were down there that really hit home for me was witnessing true street orphans, in which I saw 2 young girls surviving on the street that were the same age as my daughters.  Paul Deasy, who at the time was our director of Love in Motion, had shared with me that some of the girls recently brought into the orphanage had been sexually abused and/or raped.  As I came face to face with them I saw they were wearing dresses that were way too big for them and dirt smeared across their faces. I knew they were going to sleep tonight without the protection and safety of a family, of a father, and without hope.

The choice for me from this experience is to simply ignore the ramifications and say, “How can I do anything about that?” and move on…or I can allow The Gospel, in all its beauty and messiness make me uncomfortable. You see, If the Gospel isn’t radically changing me, is it truly the Gospel? If I have good news to share and I am unwilling to share it, does it mean I never received it?  If I cannot do what Christ did:  leave his home and comfort and to take on the grief and sin of this world, to bind the wounds of the broken, provide a voice to those who are marginalized, to love my enemy, has the Gospel truly changed me? These are hard questions for me to not only ask myself but to ask God. But I have to ask them. And not only should I ask these questions but I have to find ways through my actions and words to share with others that the Gospel is the only answer to the fear, doubts and hate we see in our world today.

How about you?  How is the Gospel radically changing your perspective about who you are and the world around you? My fear is that many young people are walking away from truth because they see the hypocrisy of our faith rather than the hope it provides. The Gospel has answers to the messiness of our world and our lives. The Gospel wasn’t meant to avoid the mess but to embrace it. Just like Jesus did…His life modeled for us the messiness of loving people all the way to a cross and empty grave. This example would eventually become the good news we know today. We see this beautifully illustrated for us in Philippians 2 :


“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminals death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.


I love these words. “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.”

Jesus chose the messy path.

He chose your mess.

He wasn’t afraid of it. In fact, He is going to redeem it.

He is going to make your mess beautiful and he did it the way of a cross. 

During these trying days, when there seems to be so much brokenness, fear and evil, the God we serve is calling us into the difficult and uncomfortable reality of this messy world so that we may see and experience the good news.  He isn’t calling us into it because we have it all figured out. On the contrary, He is calling us into it because we are his billboard for what he can do with a messy and broken life. This messy world is depending on the Gospel’s beautiful and redemptive power.

Video

Developing Spiritual Intimacy in Marriage

The following is an overview of a conversation between Roy Baldwin and pastor Willie Batson, founder and lead coach of W.C.Batson Coaching Services, as part of a series on Marriage. In this episode, the two discuss what it means to be spiritually intimate with your spouse, and why it is an important aspect of your marriage.

Watch the full video on YouTube and check out Willie Batson’s website for more content!

“So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessings at the appropriate time.”

Galatians 6:9
Intro

Its no secret that marriage isn’t a perfect fairytale ending: it can be messy. A great marriage, however, does not need glitz, glamour and even excitement. On the contrary, what we really need to be focused on is how much depth there is in our relationships. Depth can be given through good communication, and being kind to each other. The bedrock for an enduring and deep marriage, however, is Spiritual Intimacy.

Developing and maintaining spiritual intimacy in a marriage isn’t easy. It’s important to read your Bible and pray, but it’s a lot harder to show and demonstrate what spiritual intimacy is, especially in marriage. If you gain one thing from todays conversation and developing spiritual togetherness in your own home, it’s to live according to Galatians 6:9 and to NOT GIVE UP!

The Value of Spiritual Intimacy

One of the key things to keep in mind going into this is that Spiritual Intimacy will NOT make your marriage perfect. What it will do instead is keep you in touch with the CREATOR of marriage – the One who has the answers to your most deep-rooted marriage challenges. Spiritual Intimacy allows you to connect with one another at the deepest levels of your soul, as well as link you with God’s purposes and plans for you. It allows you to bless each other with God’s love, and unify both of your deepest desires and values.

As you and your spouse grow spiritually intimate and submit to the teachings of scripture, your biggest goals and beliefs will be in harmony with one another.

Think About It:

What are some Hindrances to developing spiritual intimacy in marriage?

Tending the Soul of your Marriage

Faith in a personal God who loves you and is concerned for your well-being is fundamental to a deepening spiritual intimacy in your marriage. 

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

Experiencing God together helps develop spiritual intimacy

There are many ways for you and your spouse to experience God together:

  • Worshipping together – At home, in small gatherings, at church
  • Read the Bible or a devotional book together
  • Talk about what God is teaching you in your individual devotions and studies.
  • Attend or lead a Bible study with other married couples
  • Make your devotions simple and brief
  • Be accountable to each other, sharing and receiving correction from each other
  • Compliment your spouse on his/her spiritual growth (no matter how small it may be. 

Together, you should seek God’s will for your life and marriage, while also counting the blessings God has given the both of you. Encourage the expression of spiritual gifts in ministry as a couple. You may have different interests, but if you can find a place where you can minister as a team, you will strengthen your spiritual togetherness.

Do not underestimate the power of prayer in your marriage.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-6

Les and Leslie Parrott report that couples who frequently pray together are twice as likely as those who pray less often to describe their marriage as being highly romantic. These couples also report considerably higher sexual satisfaction and more sexual delight. While these are certain great benefits, prayer can mainly:

  • help you with your perspective on problems.
  • help you reorder your priorities.
  • Give you a sense of purpose.

With the importance of prayer established, how can you make it a significant part of your marriage?

  • You can agree together that you will make prayer a priority in your marriage. 
  • You can keep the prayer time brief. It is not necessary to pray for hours as a couple in order to have a meaningful prayer life. If one of you is not comfortable praying aloud, the shorter time will be encouraging, and you can always extend the time when it is mutually agreeable. 
  • You can include words of thanksgiving for your spouse, along with praying for his/her needs. 

Define and Understand your shared core beliefs, allowing those beliefs to be lived out in your marriage.

Ask yourselves:

  • What do you believe about life, death, God, marriage, family, etc?
  • Do your core beliefs include a personal relationship with God?
  • What do you believe about Jesus and his teachings?
  • What are your beliefs about forgiveness, hope, or pain in the world?
  • What difference do your core beliefs make in your daily life?
  • If someone looked at your life and marriage today, what would they say are your core beliefs?
  • Are you living out your spiritual core beliefs day by day, or is your faith in a God a “Sunday thing”?

Having shared core beliefs lived out in the lives of couples is related to higher marital satisfaction and a more connected relationships.

Karen Baldwin

How Great is our God

How Great is our God…
And All will see how Great,
How Great is our God

This song played on January 26th, 2007 at 5:29am, the moment my daughter , Emily, came into this world. I can guarantee I would have never known had the midwife not mentioned it’s perfect timing and started singing along. It had been a hard week for Roy and me as we found ourselves in the middle of huge changes; ones we weren’t ready for. It wasn’t Emily’s birth, but our whole life, our work, our home, and our family.

At a time that should have been full of joy, we found ourselves devastated in our circumstances and crippled by the uncertainty of our future. Yet the birth of our 3rd child, a moment frozen in time, brought great joy and peace. What a blessing she became that night, as she continues to be in our lives. 

How Great is our God

It’s funny how, in the fall of 2006, Roy had somehow programmed our phones to play this worship song whenever someone called. I was always conscious of it, as I knew we probably paid an extra charge every time it rang!!!


But over time it proved to be a way for God to speak directly to us, as though He was constantly reminding us that He was in control of our circumstances and that He truly was a Great God.

And All will see How Great is our God

As our life began to unfold and we began our journey, we quickly fell to our knees. Our prayer for years now has been that God would receive all the glory in every part of our lives. During those months we didn’t know where he wanted us to be, where we would call home, or even where Roy would find work. There were many days where we failed to see God’s plan in our lives, and there were days we felt a lack of hope. 

But God took care of us. 

When one of us was down, the other always seemed to have the stamina to pray and encourage. God sent so many people in our path who prayed with us, shared meals with us, cried with us, and just loved us. So many of our kids from our nine years at Milton Hershey School called, wrote, or visited, sometimes without even knowing our situation. Our family, of course, stood beside us through it all. Our church pastors and staff, and many friends from within our church became a family to us in a way we can’t even begin to share. Roy and I could only give God glory for using so many people to show us His love. 

This verse is a true reflection of what we’ve tried to live up to. When times of misfortune come our way, we will still give God praise. God used that time to refine us. 

Our full dependence on God was all we had. And once we completely surrendered ourselves to Him, He began to work in mighty ways. We knew He allowed us to be stripped of everything we found comfort in so that we could find comfort only in Him. 

It’s amazing to me how this song has become our life song. In some of our darkest moments our phone would ring, an offertory would be played, and my three year old daughter, as loud as possible, would sing:

HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD!

“Healing rain comes with fire, so let it fall and make us higher. 

Michael W. Smith

How Great is He?

On July 31st, 2007 (Exactly 6 months after our final day at Milton Hershey School), Roy had a job interview with Northwest Human Services. On August 1st, he spoke at a diversity conference at a local college (sharing his group dynamics and bullying training). On August 2nd he was offered a job as a supervisor of therapeutic foster care in Harrisburg, specifically in charge of recruiting, training, and retraining foster care parents and case workers. That same day he was asked to be a keynote speaker at a bullying conference in the area because of the response from his training the day before. On August 5th, we signed a contract to buy our first home. On August 6th, Roy began working. 

In 6 months time, God was often quiet when we pleaded for direction. At times we thought He was taking us to places as far away as Utah and Georgia (which he would someday do), but every “perfect” door was slammed shut, and we were left waiting. We knew it meant He had something better, and though at times we couldn’t imagine it, we knew we had to have faith in that. Within ONE WEEK, He gave us ‘the desires of our heart’ and allowed us to stay in what had become home for our family. This only tells bits and pieces of our journey, and there are so many other amazing ways He has proven Himself to us. His faithfulness in our lives is something beyond comprehension, and we often are in awe of what He has done and how our number one prayer was answered….

We can only give Him the Glory.

Roy Baldwin

Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater

I have been feeling that those championing the cause of social justice are well intentioned but are doing one of two things: they are “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”—which means “to lose valuable ideas or things in your attempt to get rid of what is not wanted” (Cambridge Dictionary) OR as expressed in the book by Amy Tan, Saving Fish From Drowning, “that even what seems noble has severe and devastating consequences.” She writes,

A pious man explained to his followers: “It is evil to take lives and noble to save them. Each day I pledge to save a hundred lives. I drop my net in the lake and scoop out a hundred fishes. I place the fishes on the bank, where they flop and twirl. ‘Don’t be scared,’ I tell those fishes. ‘I am saving you from drowning.’ Soon enough, the fishes grow calm and lie still. Yet, sad to say, I am always too late. The fishes expire. And because it is evil to waste anything, I take those dead fishes to market and I sell them for a good price. With the money I receive, I buy more nets so I can save more fishes.”

C.S. Lewis sums this up well for me in how I have been thinking and contemplating about the social justice movement and what seems like “cancel culture” is really after. He states, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”

In an attempt to rid our country and ourselves of the shame of the past and present we are forfeiting our very freedoms; this in itself is creating something shame worthy. Shame cannot heal shame which I believe is at the root of the hypocrisy and our “whataboutism” we see and are experiencing. We have moved away from relativism—your truth is your truth—to a culture of shame and blame.

You see, I find myself grateful for my faith in Christ, because He has stated a different case for our lives. In our sin, He didn’t come to throw the baby (humankind) out with the bathwater (sin). He allowed Himself to be thrown out with the bathwater. He died, conquering sin and death AND the shame associated with sin and death, and He redeemed what was lost by dying the death I deserved. The beauty of the cross and empty tomb is that he conquered shame. Shame is not just feeling guilty about something. Shame at the core says, “I am not worthy of love or value.” I know my moments of surrender, as I pursue this deeper understanding of my faith, always came in the moments I knew I could not carry the burden and weight of my life and the sin and havoc I was causing myself and others. My experience of Jesus has never been one of shame…but of forgiveness and the opportunity freedom in Christ gave me.

The conflict I often experience with my faith and my understanding of His Gospel is then how it is played out in our churches. We either reject the mercy or grace our faith offers or we reject truth. Our churches have to embrace both grace and truth, mercy and justice. Jesus often commanded us to “love our enemies,” “speak truth IN love,” “to stand firm…knowing we battle not against flesh and blood,” but typically many are turning away from the very truth we have been taught to uphold because of the hypocrisy of our doing not lining up with our being.

A world that is broken and seeking answers sees the very hope I cling to as nothing more than religion: a bunch of rules that are oppressive. If that is what we are teaching, we have become the very thing Christ detested. Did Christ die for nothing then? Of course not but I have to wrestle with the significance of my salvation.

Is there evidence in my life that his death and resurrection have actually made a difference in my life and those around me?

The answer I believe is found in Philippians 2:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

I am glad Jesus’ approach wasn’t “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” I am glad He saw in us something of value and significance, that our sin and all of its messiness was worth redeeming. It cost Him everything…and I cannot be afraid of it costing me everything.

Here is the full quote from C.S. Lewis.

May you contemplate your own life, like I am, to see the truth of what really is at stake.My contention is that good men (not bad men) consistently acting upon that position [imposing “the good”] would act as cruelly and unjustly as the greatest tyrants. They might in some respects act even worse. Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some points be satiated; but those who torment us for their own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to heaven yet at the same time likely to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insults. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on the level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.

Roy Baldwin

The Gifts of Failure

After 45 minutes of deliberating, the church leadership took the offer back off the table. The promising opportunity to work for the church was gone. The offer not only had employment implications for me and my family but the offer we put on a house. What was supposed to be icing on the cake became a moment of failure for me. I learned that day how powerful perceptions are, regardless of whether they are true or false.

We had so many questions, as Karen and I were left picking up the pieces and figuring out what was next. How could a God that is good and worthy of our praise lead us into a situation where everything seemed to be lining up and then at the finish line pull the rug from out under our feet?

Have you ever wondered where God was in your situation?

FAILURE

It’s a word we hate so much that we like to pair it with others words such as “but” or “however.” We don’t like the story of failure without a dose of good news with it. We like reading the feel-good stories of Walt Disney, Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, or Abraham Lincoln — all of whom experienced failures in their lives but somehow were able to overcome the odds. We like their stories because they give us hope.

But what about the rest of us?

For every Steve Jobs, there are many of us who haven’t experienced success at all, but what feels like one failure after another. If we just look at our Facebook feeds, for every “feel good story” we see story after story of setbacks, loss, illness, job loss…you name it. We might not necessarily see those as failures but for those experiencing them, it sure does feel that way. Am I cursed? Did I do something wrong? What could I have done differently? All these questions go through our minds and at times can be quite paralyzing.

What do you do when your story hasn’t started upward yet?

The truth is many of us don’t like these stories until we know there is a good ending…maybe we need a new perspective.  How do we see failure as a gift?

THE GIFTS OF FAILURE

Over the years I learned some valuable lessons when the job offer was taken off the table; let go because of organizational restructure; camp closing down and know see these lessons as gifts:

Gift One: God is worthy of my trust.

God is asking, “Do you trust me even when it doesn’t make sense? Will you obey my leadings in your life as you step into the unknown?”

F.B. Meyer wrote in Streams in the Desert: “The education of our faith is incomplete if we have yet to learn that God’s providence works through loss, that there is a ministry to us through failure and the fading of things, and that He gives the gift of emptiness. …One way or the other, we must learn the difference between trusting in the gift and trusting in the Giver.”

Gift Two: Obedience doesn’t always lead to blessing.

What is the point of obedience—my comfort or blessing? Obedience to God’s leading in our lives is for Him to determine what He does. I have to relinquish all control, all of my rights to myself. Yet, that is exactly what He demands.

Did you ever notice how parents demand obedience from their children? There is a BIG difference between the parent who says, “Because I say so” and the one who says, “Because I love you.” Ultimately we want our children to obey, even if it hurts or costs something at that moment because we have a better future in mind.

The job offer being taken off the table made absolutely no sense to me. We had friends especially in the church who were grieved just as much as we were. Some even expressed their hurt by saying, “how can you even stay here based on what they did?” Our simple response, “it’s our home! How can I call something home and only accept the good?”

Gift Three: Obedience can lead to a transformed view of self and who He is…if you allow it

So, you might be wondering why they took the job offer back. One of the concerns raised about my role of leadership in the church was the perception I was a troublemaker. I stirred up problems. If this was true and I was supposed to live a life “above reproach” then there was no way I could “hold office” in the church.

Now, I admit I am not a perfect person. I have definitely made my share of mistakes…but the notion I was a troublemaker was false.

After the offer was taken off the table, Karen and I stayed at the church and continued to serve. We did not speak falsely of anyone, although we expressed our pain over the decision. Over the course of the next few months God made it very clear He wanted me to walk a different path vocationally. Those months were very difficult ones for us. However, God gave me many opportunities as we served our Church (Sunday school teacher, nursery, etc.) to absolutely destroy the perception that I was a troublemaker, especially when the opportunity to create troubles were gift-wrapped for me.

Gift Four: Obedience serves His purposes not mine.

This was probably the biggest takeaway for me. 2 Chronicles 16:9 is one of my favorite verses…”The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…”

The goal of obedience is not for my personal comfort or blessing. Don’t get me wrong. I love the verses that say that God will never leave us or forsake us; that He has good things in store for those who are His; and that He will see me through to completion. I love those promises. But those promises are based on my willingness to live surrendered to His purpose, whether there is anything in it for me or not because it’s not about me. It’s about something bigger.

THE TAKEAWAY OF FAILURE

Failure is inevitable. In fact, God can use it powerfully in our lives. The reality for us is: Do we trust Him as we step forward in obedience?

As I look back on that time, God was preparing me to work in adoption and therapeutic foster care, which prepared me for my season at Focus on the Family, then as a Director of Monadnock Ministries, and now at Christian Heritage.  I find it fascinating that God guided my steps into foster care after the offer was taken off the table and here I am 13 years later leading a foster care agency. All of these experiences were leading to the next thing.

We need to bring a different perspective to the failures we experience in life because ultimately, as we walk the path in front of us out of obedience, we will experience failure and success. The true question is, “Will I trust whatever I experience as a gift from a loving and generous Giver?”

Roy Baldwin

Stalwart Faith

My son and I are HUGE Lord of the Rings fans. We have read the books, watched the movies on opening night, and played the video games. When my son turned 13 we did a “rite of passage” birthday celebration. He received a photo frame of three pictures: a photo collage of his family and friends, a passage of scripture (Proverbs 3), and the meaning of his name. We also gave him a necklace with the word Stalwart and Joshua 1:9.

I LOVE the meaning of stalwart as defined by Tolkien’s novels and it is summed up so well in this theme analysis from Litcharts:

The Fellowship’s journey reveals this is not the case, as the hobbits surprise all with their continuous abilities to overcome hardship. Most tellingly, the humble Frodo consistently rejects the Ring’s evil power, despite a man as traditionally heroic as Boromir yielding to its temptation. Tolkien therefore implies that one of the most physically inconsequential and least talented characters is the most heroic due to his moral integrity—Frodo’s resilience in persevering towards a doomed quest while overcoming his fears and failures is the ultimate form of courage.

It is selflessness, particularly in the forms of humility and service, that Tolkien promotes as the key aspect of courage and heroism…These forms of selflessness arise from a loyalty to one another and to their home, contrasting with the goal of earning personal glory that drives traditional heroes. Furthermore, The Fellowship of the Ring does not suggest that heroes are fearless, but rather that courage requires individuals to acknowledge and deal with their fears—even if there is little hope in defeating them completely.

One of my favorite quotes from Lord of the Rings is near the end as Middle Earth takes one last stand against evil and their king, Aragorn states, “A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day.”

Being stalwart is showing selfless courage in the face of insurmountable odds. This is not determined by our size or strength or our intellect…but by our heart.

This week our son is graduating from college. We had an amazing conversation around this theme as he was presenting his capstone project on being a “Stalwart Writer.” This is what I wrote to him and want to share with you…and my desire for you and me is that we would be stalwart in our lives:

Being stalwart is embracing the reality that failure is likely…but do it you must. Its why character counts and more importantly knowing God uses all experiences for His glory and your good.

Failure doesn’t have the final say in your life.

God does.

The cornerstone piece of having a stalwart heart is found in Romans 8:37-39. Our courage is found here: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels or rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor power, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”