The Family

The Family
Justice, Logan, Jacy Klaire, Joy, Josie Kate, Luke, Megan, Judah, Kerry, Jaxon

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Raising Kids Ain't Easy

Raising kids ain't easy.  As parents we constantly battle with decisions and plans as we try to find fulfillment in our own lives without messing our kids up too badly in the process.  There is so much pressure sometimes.  Then when you do make a big decision: do I take the job, do we move, do we have more kids, do we buy that house, etc. we constantly question whether it was best for the kids.
"Get food for (?) people don't got none food"
Working on the grammar but love the heart!
When we decided to sell out and move to Haiti, it did not sit too well with our older kids.  They were high school and college ages and in complex situations themselves.  We felt torn between doing what we felt we should do and doing what seemed "best" for our kids according the world's standards.  Many sleepless nights were spent in prayer and seeking God's direction.

It was tough!  We cried and struggled through many nights in Haiti.  Phone calls and skype often ended in pain.  But we knew we were doing the right thing.  We knew that God's plan is not best for me and bad for them.  We had to believe that by faith, because on the surface it did not appear that way at the beginning.  But God is faithful.  With time, each of our older children came to Haiti and were impacted by it.  All of them came to place to realize that God had worked things out perfectly. 

Looking back, we see how God used all of that to make ALL of us better and stronger.  All three of those kids in college make us so proud we don't know what to do.  Not because they are in college.  Not because they have it all together- none of us do.  We are so proud because they have a heart to give back and impact the lives of others.  They all get that life is not a race to the most toys.  Life is a difficult adventure where you navigate complicated relationships in order to impact as many people as you can for their good.  It's about helping people fulfill their destiny for which God created them.  It's a reciprocal process.  The more you pour yourself into others, the more you find who you are and what you were created to do.  Our move to Haiti helped our older kids see that.  But what about the  younger kids that we took to Haiti with us.  Many argued that they already had issues from being adopted.  We were told that they needed a stable environment that Haiti couldn't provide.  But we knew we were supposed to go.

So we went.  We spent 3 years serving God by ministering to the Haitian people.  It was hard on everyone.  Our kids reached school age and we realized that there were issues from the prenatal drug abuse.  We tried many different arrangements for educating them.  Nothing seemed to be working.  Finally we knew God was moving us back to the U.S. to meet their needs.  We didn't feel like it was a mistake to have gone.  It changed all of our lives, even if our impact there was not as far reaching as we had hoped.  But in our minds, we still sometimes question if our time there really impacted our kids possitively or not.  Then we get a glimpse into their hearts from something like the picture Jaxon drew for MLK day.

Jaxon is our 6 year old kindergartner.   He is  a special little guy that has already overcome some pretty big odds in his six years.  Looking at the picture he drew makes me very proud.  Not because of impeccable spelling or mastery of writing skills- although mine is not much better.  I am proud because it shows he gets it already.  The looks on the faces of the people with no food is eerily reminiscent of the looks on faces of the hungry in Haiti.  The desperate souls that came to us constantly in need of food and care.  You wonder if the kids even really got it.  By the looks of Jaxon's "I have a dream..." picture, Yeah, he got it...

Monday, January 12, 2015

This Sunday is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.  As I consider that, I wonder just how "pro-life" we really are.  I fear that at times it is just another way we justify dividing up teams between "us" and "them".  We as evangelicals often feed ourselves on self righteous platitudes that make us feel better about ourselves, but does nothing to mobilize us to love and engage a hurting world.  Where do we find ourselves on the pro-life scale:

Bumper sticker pro-lifer
T-shirt pro-lifer
Facebook/Twitter/Instagram post a pro-life slogan pro-lifer
Give some money to a pro-life cause pro-lifer
Post a shock video of aborted babies pro-lifer
Volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center pro-lifer
Campaign and vote against pro-abortion candidates even I think they are cute and charismatic pro-lifer
That's all good stuff, but what if that crisis pregnancy center called and said that they have a pregnant mother willing to carry the baby and forego the abortion if there is someone to adopt it...what kind of pro-lifer are you?

Help find a home pro-lifer
Create a fund and raise the money to fully sponsor the adoption pro-lifer
or do we believe SO much in the life of ONE child as to say WE would take it?

What about our other kids though?  What about our career? What about our weekends and trips? What about the things we would have to sacrifice?  Would you even CONSIDER it- pro-lifer?

What if the baby is a minority, or mixed race- pro-lifer?
What if the mother is currently on drugs and the baby may be addicted- pro-lifer?
What if the minority, drug positive baby, is the child of a prostitute- pro-lifer?
What if that minority, drug positive baby, is the result of that prostitute being raped- pro-lifer?

It comes down to do we REALLY care about LIFE or just a political, evangelical, conservative dogma?  Will we give OUR lives for the sake of ONE unborn life?  Will we even give our oppulance and comfort for ONE?

If all us Pro-lifers we're that committed to LIFE and not just an agenda or position, we could rescue thousands of LIVES with LOVE.  But that would require too much sacrifice of our lifestyles I think.
Strange thing, Jesus died so WE can have life, and we must die to SELF if we are to truly be Pro- LIFE.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Physician Heal Yourself

Sunday morning before the message at church I had a young lady come up to me and ask about Luke chapter 4.  Specifically she wanted to know about verses 23-24:
23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
She asked what was meant by "physician heal yourself." I explained that the people were having trouble accepting Jesus for the messiah since they knew him already as Joseph the carpenter's son in his home town.  The people wanted him to do miracles like he had done in Capernaum.  They did not feel he was authorized to correct them.  As one commentator put it "deal with your own defects before telling someone else to deal with their defects".  Some say it was a foreshadow of Jesus being called to come down off of the cross.

Sunday night I played Satan in a drama at church and so I had bought some white contact lenses to wear to add to my effect.  As soon as I took the contacts out on Sunday night I knew there was a problem.  My vision was very blurry in my right eye.  All day Monday things kept getting worse so I had a colleague look at it and started medication.

On Monday night, the epithelium of my cornea completely peeled away.  In other words my eye got messed up!  Extreme pain.  I spent the whole night hurting and thinking about all of the worse cases I had ever seen in my 15 years of practicing optometry.  It hurt too badly to sleep at all.All the worse case scenarios were playing out in my late night imagination.  In the middle of the night, this verse came to mind; "Physician heal thyself".  Easier said than done!

Early this morning I got Dr. Berg to check things out and we started some new medications and put in a type of bandage contact lens.  My eye is red, swollen, and ugly.  I have a booked schedule and it is not contagious so I am suffering through seeing patients.  I've tried to keep the lights low so the patients can't see exactly how ugly my eye is.  I can just hear them all thinking "Physician heal thyself" before you come trying to take care of me.

The experience has been good for me though.  I had forgotten how badly those drops burn when your eye is so inflamed.  Patients tell me all the time, but now I have more compassion.  I forget what it is like to spend the night in extreme pain just waiting for morning to get to the office for relief.  Patients come in that way all the time.  But now I can better relate.

It helped me see that verse in a different light too.  Jesus was the physician and he did heal himself. He had just left the desert being tempted by Satan- the real one not the one with the fake white contacts.  He had decided to leave the applause and the approval of Capernaum to take his ministry to the people that needed it instead of enjoying the fame and letting the people come to him.  He had broken away from family and loved ones to fulfill his destiny for the Father's kingdom.

So when I am tempted, He's been there.  When I struggle with decisions about ministry or family or where to go, He's been there.  He's made the tough decisions.  He's sacrificed to experience the Kingdom first hand.  He's been the physician and know's what I need.

I have decided that I would much rather spend my days imitating Jesus than running around acting like satan.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Three Rocks

Twa Men- Three Hands Monument in Port-Au-Prince
For those of you that have been to Haiti, the odds are you have seen the monument of three hands in the circle leaving the airport.  The monument was built during the Aristide regime.  The meaning of the monument depends on who you are talking to.

If you ask a guide that frequently brings in Christian tourists- I mean mission groups- they will tell you that the hands represent the Father, Son, and Holy spirit holding up the world and even Haiti.

If you are talking to an activist Haitian living in PAP they will tell you that it represents two hands from a Haitian and one from government, the other hand of the government is in your pocket.

The average Haitian though will tell you it has three hands because you can't do it alone.  We all need someone else to help us.  The saying in Haiti is "ou paka kwit diri sou de wo'ch"- You can't cook rice on two rocks.  It takes three rocks together to hold up the pot.  That is the way life is viewed in most societies besides ours.

In America, we believe we can do it all on our own.  We are so proud that we do not want to ask others for help or ever admit that we need it.  We base our success and achievements on our abilities and hard work. It's the "I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps" mentality.  Now I am a committed advocate of hard work and independence.  I hate entitlement and hand outs.  I am talking about something more basic yet essential than that.  I am talking about realizing that we were made by God to interconnect and help each other reach our full created potential.  When we arrogantly feel like we don't need others to reach our full potential, then any attempt by us to reach out to others to help them reach their potential will be condescending and superficial.

To be rich, I don't need you.  To be powerful, "I got this".  To achieve the American dream, "I am my own man".  To be successful I can rely on my intelligence, education, heritage, networking skills, communication ability, and inner drive.  To be what society says I should be, I don't need you.

But to reach my created potential as a Kingdom child, I need you.  I need people to speak truth to me in love.  I need people to help me be stronger in my faith.  I need people to keep me accountable as a father and husband.  I need people to encourage me on my down days.  I need people to celebrate my victories with me.  I need people to go into battle with me.  I need people to sit around and talk about nothing sometimes.  I need you.

By recognizing MY need for people, I am equipped to BE that person for others.  That is the key to humility being the basic foundation on which God builds us up.  Let's throw off the pride and self sufficiency that this society tries to encumber us with.  Let's commit to acknowledging our need of others so that we can help others reach their full created potential as Kingdom children.  It really does take three hands- and I only have two.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Day That Ruined Me

Part of it was finding myself in what appeared to be a war zone.  Smoke, smoldering fires, destroyed buildings, and dead bodies.  The bodies.  Lines of dead, uncovered, mangled bodies.  Nameless.  Lifeless.  Futureless.  

Part of it was the eyes.  I look into people's eyes for a living but I will never forget the look in the eyes of the people in Port Au Prince that morning.  Fear.  Hopelessness.  Confusion.  They had spent the night hoping not to die.  Most had stood huddled in the streets away from any buildings as the aftershocks continued.  For hours they stood.  Eyes wide.  Nerves on end.  Even as we arrived after sunrise to search for friends, the people still stood.  The ones not digging through the rubble or holding dying loved ones stood with eyes that will both haunt me and drive me for the rest of my life. 

Part was the realization that had I remained in the comfort and security of my job, and home, and family, and future, and church, and ministry in the U.S. I would not be the one God would use to help a people heal from the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual wounds of losing over 250,000 lives in 43 seconds.  

Part of it was the word.  As we put up makeshift clinics in the streets- far enough away from any buildings to keep people at ease- we tried to clean wounds, stitch people up, dig out shards of metal and concrete.  We carried the mortally wounded on doors through the streets to clinics.  We comforted the dying and their loved ones.  And in the midst of the desperation and overwhelming chaos I kept telling God I was an optometrist.  I kept reminding God that this was not what I signed up for.  Then I got a word.  Not an audible word.  But a clear word in my spirit.  As I said I am just an optometrist, God said "no you are a Christian.  And THIS is what Christians do." 

I was ruined.  I can never go back.  I can never go back to being ok with what's happening around us while we play church and act like we are doing what Christians do.  I can never go back to being content with chasing the American dream and giving God a token nod as I pursue wealth, comfort, security, and honor.  I am ruined.  I don't necessarily like it.  At times I wish I didn't weep over the condition of the church.  I wish it didn't break my heart knowing that there are enough Christians to care for every orphan in orphanages around the world but we don't.  At times I hate being angry about the prejudice and racism that is allowed to fester in the hearts of friends.  I wish I could just be content.  Good job.  Nice house.  Pickup truck and fishing poles.  Retirement account and people that like me.  

But I can't.  I am ruined.  Ruined to mediocrity and temporal thinking.  All I can see is me standing before God and wanting to have something to give back to him.  Some gold. A little silver.  A few precious stones.  I dread the thought of standing on a pile of wood, hay, and stubble and trying to explain to my Jesus that I went to church every Sunday.  I gave my tithe- of my gross even. I was good.  Better than some anyway.  "It was just so busy Jesus."  Work.  Church.  Ball games.  Civic clubs.  I did the best I could.  Come on Jesus, you know how it is.  


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Haiti is Still Haiti

A Humbling Gift

Many of you that have been to Haiti have met Pastor Remy. He lives in the distant mountains and pastors a small church there. He is the father of 7 children and lives in the two room house that I stayed in with Tracy Robinson, Tracy White, and Mark Ikerd the one trip we managed to make that far into the mountains. He fell and broke his shoulder recently and at about the same time their donkey died. They have a 3 hour trip to get water and without the donkey it was very tough for them. So we were able to buy them a new horse to replace the donkey. He wanted to come down and thank us and bring us a gift.

When they arrived they very formally told us they had a gift to give Joy and I as a thank you from their family. They first took out of their bag a large papaya. Next she pulled out a beat up canister with ground coffee in it. Finally she opened a container that she had carried the four hours to meet us and began to pull out eggs that her chickens had laid. She gave us 10 eggs. I came up with the excuse that I would go and get a box. I actually had to go because I could not help but cry. To think that these humble people would bring us their best. They wanted to bless us so badly. I immediately was reminded how selfish and proud I am. God used this encounter to remind me what true love and humility looks like. Thank you pastor Remy. I know you will never read this because you lives miles from electricity and have never used a computer. But Thank you for being used to humble me and remind me why we left all the entanglements of the life of prosperity to come here to be loved by people that give us eggs.  
(Originally Posted Tuesday, February 2, 2010)

Update:  When cholera hit Haiti in 2010 it was a compounding difficulty on top of the devastating earthquake in January.  Just months after Pastor Remy and his wife came to deliver us this gift she succumbed to the disease. She was out working in the field in the morning and started feeling sick.  Before she could get down the mountain she died.  She left pastor Remy with 7 children to care for alone on top of that desolate mountain.

I was praying for the pastors in Haiti this morning as Pastor Remy came to mind.  I called to check on him through pastor Cesar and found out his father is deathly ill.  What a tough life to live.  Pastor Cesar reminded in his tone of wisdom "Haiti is still Haiti".  Pastor Remy is also the pastor of a small church that has a small school.  The school had to close 2 years ago due to lack of support.  The kids that can afford to pay now travel down the mountain to a school in a distant village each day.  We need to help him restart the school. So many needs. "Haiti is still Haiti."

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Do you really know the answer to the question "Who are you?" Do you REALLY know the answer?

I think we all have a little bit of confusion at times in our lives and it can have a huge impact on where we go in life.

This is a picture of Jacy Klaire in her Lee County Middle School cheer uniform after a competition.  Do you have a better grip on your identity than when you were a middle schooler?

What if we put emphasis on the different words?  If we say:

"WHO are you?"-  As opposed to WHAT are you.  'What' is much easier to define.
  "I am a teacher"
  "I am a mother"
  "I am a runner"
  "I am a husband"
  "I am a coach"
  "I am a middle child"
  "I am a ..."

But you are not defined by WHAT you are- You are defined by WHO you are.

"Who ARE you?" - As opposed to who WERE you or who WILL you be.
  "I was all-state in three sports"
  "I was valedictorian of my class"
  "I was beautiful"
  "I was such a sinful person"
  "I was a drug addict"

  "I will be better once I finish school"
  "I will quit soon"
  "I will be retired"
  "I will be alone"

Our past helps to mold who we become but it does NOT define us.  The hope of our future motivates us to be the best we can be, but it can't dictate who we are in the present.

"Who are YOU?" - As opposed to who you appear to be.
Facebook and social media are great tools to connect with people that are not in your everyday circle of encounters.  Distant relatives, past friends, and others we like to communicate with can seem closer.  But, it can also be a huge confusing element in our true identity.

Most people are NOT who they seem to be on Facebook.  People put on Facebook what they want people AND themselves to believe that they are.  We see how other people are on their pages and we want to be like that.  If we can't actually be like that, at least we can look we are.

The greatest influence in my spiritual life other than my father has been Pastor Ruffin Snow.  Pastor Ruffin taught me more about life and about myself than anyone else in my life.  He teaches that pride is wanting people to see us as ANYTHING other than what we really are.  Humility is allowing EVERYONE to see us as we truly are.

Facebook and social media make it hard for us to stick to that standard of humility.  I don't mean you should "air your dirty laundry" on social media.  That is not being transparent and humble.  I mean you should recognize Facebook and Twitter etc. for what it really is.  A place of communication and "social"-izing.  Hence the name "social" media.

Don't base your identity on who you are and who you want people to believe you are on Facebook.  Don't modify your identity based on how many "likes" you get from a post.  Base your identity on what the ONE WHO MADE YOU says you are.  God made you.  God made YOU to be YOU for a reason.  God has a perfect plan for the REAL YOU in His Kingdom to make an impact.  His plan is not for the Facebook you, or the High School Year Book you, or the Sunday morning you, or the water cooler you, or the past you, or the future you.  God says "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."- Jeremiah 29:11.

Don't miss that plan because you don't know you.  Take time to find the YOU that God has the plan for.  Study His word.  Talk to Him about it.  Make it enough of a priority that it has an impact on your life.  Your kids need that you.  Your spouse needs that you.  Your friends- fake Facebook friends and real life friends- need that you.  And if you don't start living in that you- YOU will miss the very purposes for which YOU were made.