The Family

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

Thursday, October 1, 2015

I HATE that My Kids Are Adopted

As parents we want to keep our kids from experiencing pain and heart ache.  We do all we can to shelter them from the world for as long as we can.  Sometimes, there are things we can't protect them from.

We were having a family discussion about the prayer requests that our kids share in school.  I asked the probing question to our 9, 10, and 13 year old why would they bother asking the class to pray for something.  I asked if they really believed that God was listening to them and really answered prayer.  It was a loaded question of course but I wanted them to think about it.

They all three at first gave the canned answer of yes.  Then I asked them to give me an example of God actually changing circumstances or doing something that was impossible as an answer to prayer.  You could see their minds racing with conflict.  They couldn't believe that their preacher daddy was really asking them if God was real and really answered prayers.  They were struggling to come up with proof to prove to their dad that God was really listening. 

Judah, our 10 year old was adamant.  He was struggling with coming up with a proof example of answered prayer, but he was sure in his belief that God answers prayers.

Jacy Klaire, our 13 year old, chimed in with confident faith in both who God is and His answering of prayers.  She started naming off specific answers to prayers in our family.  She said she had prayed for God to give her a friend and now she has several close friends.  She prayed for a youth group that she could be a part of and God answered her prayer.  As a family we prayed that God would make it clear how we could minister to people here once we left the mission field and now I am preaching.  She was convinced and there was not swaying her.

Josie Kate, our 9 year old, was not as positive.  She definitely wanted to believe that God answered prayers and she loved our prayer times but she was struggling with a definite answer to prayer on which to anchor her belief.  I began to share about a family that had received a huge answer to prayer. 

I shared how the mom had prayed for God to open the door for them to be able to adopt a little baby girl that was in foster care.  I shared how the agency didn't think it would be possible for them to adopt her but the mommy kept praying for God to do the impossible.  Tears began to fill Josie's eyes as she realized that I was telling her story.  She couldn't help but come over and bury her head into my leg as I talked about a real God answering real prayers.  It was a sweet time.  But then my heart got broken.

Joy came over and took Josie into her arms.  Josie just cried.  She said that some kids in school had been asking her about her "real parents".  Josie said her response to them was that she didn't care about that.  I could see such deep pain in my little girl's eyes.  It was a pain that parents can't stand to see. 

The pain was not from the kids' questions really.  The pain was just from the depth of her coming to understand her adoption.  We explained that WE are her "real parents".   We were honest and transparent about the fact that her birth parents could not care for her and loved her enough to let us adopt her.  We talked about how God had designed her to be my girl and He designed me to be her dad.  The same with Joy and the rest of the family.  She was not born into our family but she was designed as a member of our family.

For the first time since we adopted those four little rascals I HATED that they were adopted.  I hated that they were going to have to deal with that truth and the related issues.  I was tucking Josie Kate in and she just kept hugging me and thanking God that he made me her daddy as she cried.  She said she could just cry tears of joy all night long.

It wasn't just tears of joy that Joy and I cried as we went to bed.  It was deep pain.  The only consolation was knowing for certain that the original question I asked about God being real and answering prayers is clearly answered in the affirmative.  God is real.  God does answer prayers.  Please pray for the adopted families you know in your life.  They need it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why Can't Haitians Grow Enough Rice to Feed Themselves?

Why Can't Haitians Grow Enough Rice to Feed Themselves? I get asked that type of question a lot.  I am going to defer the question to the former President of the United States, Bill Clinton.  In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2010 Bill said:
“Since 1981, the United States has followed a policy, until the last year or so when we started rethinking it, that we rich countries that produce a lot of food should sell it to poor countries and relieve them of the burden of producing their own food, so, thank goodness, they can leap directly into the industrial era. It has not worked. It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake. . . I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did. Nobody else.”
The deal was that Haiti could not charge a tariff for imported U.S. rice that got the nickname "diri Miami" or Miami rice.  On top of that, the Haitian government could not use U.S. aid money to subsidize Haitian farmers for their rice in order for their price to be competitive with the imported U.S. rice.  In a matter of 4 years the Haitian grown rice market was essentially demolished.  In the deal we were going to help them develop a mango export market so they could join the international trade community.  It hasn't happened.  This was not a new approach.  We did the same thing to the Haitian and Dominican sugar cane crops. We took a team over to the DR to work in the sugar cane fields providing medical care to the Haitians living in the middle of 1,000,000 acres of sugar cane that can't be cut and sold because of subsidy deals with the U.S. and Canada.

Did you know that Hillary and Bill got a trip to Haiti as a wedding present from a friend.  They spent some time in the little country while Baby Doc was the dictator.  Maybe that's why Bill is so distraught over the repercussions of his policies in Haiti.  It's not a political party issue though.  It is standard U.S. domestic policy for the last 40 years.

Anyone that has been to Haiti with us on trips have seen the trucks loaded to the gills with rice coming in from the U.S.  In a funny side note, the rice is vitamin fortified but I have never met a single Haitian that cooked the rice without washing it twice even though the bags say NOT to wash it or you remove all of the vitamins.

American rice buying and selling has become a major part of the Haitian economy.  We try to send money to buy rice there instead of filling the boxes here to send down.  At least the money is going into the economy, unlike the aid money from the earthquake relief.  Did you know that out of the $360 million the U.S. allocated for Haiti after the earthquake that $120 million was reimbursed to the U.S. for military support we sent down?  $151 million went to U.S. based aid organizations.  A piece of the rest maybe somehow actually helped the people that we know.  There was a soccer stadium built and a bunch of hotels for the tourist industry that is supposedly going to start booming.

I say all of that to say that we as Christians can't rely on the government, foreign or domestic, to do the job of the church.  The church's job is to love people and help the oppressed.

Isaiah says the purpose of religion and commitment to God is this:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Are we doing that as the church?  Are we doing all we can to break the bonds of wickedness or do we get too caught up in complaining about government not doing things our way?

Do we share our bread with the hungry or do we complain that we already pay too much in taxes so we don't have to share with the needy because that's welfare's job.

When's the last time that you or I got personally involved in helping a person being set free from oppression or bondage?

If Isaiah says that's the job of religion, what are we doing?  Somebody else's problem?  Send $10 to the Red Cross by
text so I can forget about it?

We share in the responsibility of the oppression.  We also share in the opportunity of the liberation.  We can work together to be the hands and feet of Christ loosening bonds and giving bread to the hungry.  We just have to allow God to use us.  We have to slow down enough to know He is trying to use us.

Don't blame the Haitians for their lack of rice or the homeless man downtown for his homelessness.  Instead consider your opportunity to pour yourself out for someone else.  Don't fall for the fool's trap of being distracted by an argument or apathy.

I just don't think "It was against my party's policy position, Jesus, so I really shouldn't be held accountable" is going to fly when we stand before our God.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

One Nation Under God

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Originally composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892 and then formally adopted by Congress as the pledge in 1942, we all grew up reciting it in school.  It was about third grade before we realized it didn't say 'invisible'.  It seems that somewhere along the way we have lost the allegiance portion.

There seems to be factions in our culture bent on defying "indivisible".  There seems to be a tide towards division and separation:
Rich vs. Poor
White vs. Black
North vs. South
Gay vs. Straight
Elite vs. Common
Washington vs. States
Politicians vs. Americans
Christian vs. Non-Christian
Socialists vs. Conservatives
Immigrants vs. Natural citizens
These groups have always been a part of our society.  Diversity is truly one of the attributes that makes America so great.  The difference is, for the last 300 years we have been the best in the world at putting our differences aside and rallying together for the good of the nation.  We have not allowed our differences to defy our allegiance.  We have had our struggles to overcome in these areas but part of our identity has always been to strive for the good of the nation.

When national leaders, media, rebel rousers, and academia are spewing and perpetuating anti-America rhetoric bent on exacerbating tensions between all groups, it leads to an overall loss of national moral.  In a time of ISIS, Iran, North Korea, Putin, and cartels is it good for us to lose our sense of nationalism? Many in our nation seem to think so.  I vehemently disagree.

I think it's time to start back saying the pledge and teaching what it means or there will be liberty and justice for none.  In the words of  John Dickinson in his revolutionary war song The Liberty Song first published in the Boston Gazette in July 1768:
“Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!”

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

From Witch Doctor to Wake Up Call

He wanted to be a witch doctor.  In his remote village of Haiti, the witch doctors were the ones with the influence and power.  They were the ones that seemed to have the answers about the spiritual realm.  As a young boy, he would dress up and play like he was the witch doctor for all of his friends.

Then at age 10 he started having seizures.  Before his 12th birthday, while visiting an aunt, he had a seizure and fell into the cooking fire.  Most of his body was covered in 3rd degree burns.  By the time he was taken to the distant hospital 3 days later, he was severely infected and not expected to live.  In a last ditch effort to save him, the doctor amputated both arms.  He survived.

This is Kesmy's story.  We met him in Haiti but really just got to know him well over the last couple of weeks as he stayed with us in our home.  He is in his second year of getting his masters degree in theology from Wheaton in Chicago.  He is my hero.

I am sorry for complaining about my first world problems.  I am sorry for worrying about things that don't matter.  I am sorry for allowing insignificant issues to get to me.  I am sorry for being distracted from my purpose.  I am sorry.

God is so good to take the time to bring into our lives what we need to reawaken us.  We often get lulled to sleep by the steady beat of the world around us.  The tick of the time clock.  The chime of the church bell.  The hum of humanity around us.  Kesmy was my wake up call this week.

Thank you Kesmy.  Thank you God.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Culture War

Is there a culture war going on in our society?
My answer is an overwhelming YES.

What are the battle fronts?
Among them are:
1- Marriage and the definition of it.
2- When does life begin?
3- Is there absolute truth?
4- Should Judeo-Christian based morality have a prominent place in our society?
5- Does our country want to ascribe to progressive/liberal ideals or conservative ideals?

In my mind, the question is not whether there is a culture battle raging, the question is whether or not I want to actively engage in the battle or  allow the fight to play out and sail along disengaged. Does it really matter?  Should Christians and the church be involved in culture wars and the direction the society and our generation progresses?

I would argue that since morality is at the heart of the battle, and the church in our nation has been a compass for morality since our nation was founded, then yes the church finds herself in the midst of the battle.  Is fighting the culture war our major objective?  No.  Our major objective is pure and un-defiled religion as defined by James as caring for those in need and fulfilling the Great Commission of going into the world making disciples of Jesus Christ.  Can we fulfill our primary objective and still be effective in engaging in the culture battle going on around us?

I believe that to best fulfill our primary duties as the church, we should be involved in espousing biblical morality.  Our message of love and hope are going to be best heard and received in an environment of morality.  If we truly believe that it is best for people to live moral lives according to our convictions of the Bible, we are doing the society as a whole an injustice by turning a blind eye to the immorality and rebellion against the things of God.

There has always been a culture battle going on.  In past generations however the church was seen as the moral foundation upon which people either followed or opposed.  Now, in our day, the church's message in America has been diluted and redefined to better suit the times.  Therefore there is no definitive authority of morality by which we can stand.  In order to be "relevant" the church has become neutered and powerless.  Caving on the redefining of certain sins.  Changing stances on moral issues.  Being weak in order to be seen as receptive.  These tactics have only served to weaken the stance that there is truly a moral absolute by which God judges human activity.  Vacillating on these issues only makes it seem like it is up to us to decide what is right and wrong.  The church as a whole in America has helped to create a situation similar to Judges 21:25 -"everyone did what was right in his own eyes."

The Bible clearly condemns this societal position.  We do not get to chose what is right and what is wrong.  We get to decide if we want to do what is right or not but moral Biblical standards set the bar.

There is a large and growing contingency in America that does not believe that this is the right path.  Many feel that the Bible is not a moral standard and should not be used to dictate to others what is acceptable.  Others take the Bible and interpret it in such a way as to support their stance even though it is contrary to the overarching interpretation and stance of the scriptures.  THAT is why there is a battle.  If there was no opposing side, there would be no battle.

The progressive forces in the culture war have done a masterful job of using media, public opinion, governmental authority, and the education system (elementary through university) to position themselves as the trendy, modern, accepting side in the battle while all others are narrow minded, bigoted, and ignorant.  Therefore, in areas of our society where people are only marginally engaged in the pursuit of bettering the world around them, they are easily drawn in to the side of the battle that seems trendy.

In my own personal battle, I chose to stand for the principles that I believe will help our society be a better place for my children and grand children to live.  I chose to stand opposed to forces that tend to erode morality and the institutions of marriage, family, and the church.  I vow to support organizations and institutions that espouse decency and traditional values of goodness and hard work.  I don't chose a political party.  I don't chose to be known by a label, but I will fight for the unborn and those unable to fight for themselves.  I will live with being called names as I paddle upstream against the current of popularity and political correctness.  I will not hate.  I will not begrudge.  I will not  condemn.  But that does not mean I will not stand firm.  I want to be known for what I stand for more than what I oppose.  I want to be remembered for the difference I made in the lives of all types of people instead of just being remembered for being different.  In the process, I will use all platforms that God affords me to be engaged in the culture battle that we currently find ourselves.  I will also encourage others to engage.  Not for the sake of the fight.  But because knowing what you believe to the point that you will fight for it is a liberating position and what I believe marks a fully committed follower of Jesus.  I will be satisfied with the epitaph: "Everyone knew what he believed- especially he himself".  Know what you believe then stand for it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Where is GOD When Evil Runs Amok?

Why doesn't God do anything about evil?

Why would God let this type of Christian persecution happen?

When those 21 Egyptian Christians- yes CHRISTIANS- called out to God on the beach in Libya, why didn't God send in an angel army to help them?

If God is so good then why does He let such bad stuff happen?

Is God too weak to stop evil or does He just not care?

These are the types of questions that come up during these times of blatant evil expression.  When we see evil paraded on the world scene we begin to question our beliefs and often our faith is shaken.  So what should our response be?

First, God is aware of what is going on.- God is omniscient- He knows.
Second, God has the power to do anything...ANYTHING- God is omnipotent and sovereign
Third, God is good.- God is Holy- God does nothing that is flawed, tainted, or incomplete.

The bottom line is that God IS doing something about the evil we see displayed on the world's stage before us.  God has been dealing with evil since He told Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  He was preemptive then and he is proactive now.

We must see that God's plan for mankind involved giving him a free will to choose God.  Otherwise, God would have been limited in receiving of glory.  By allowing mankind to CHOOSE to follow Him or rebel, God was creating a situation to demonstrate the fullness of His character: loving, forgiving, long suffering, patient, kind etc.

If man had no choice and an alternative to pure goodness never existed- aka. evil- then the God of mankind would not have means to express the depth of Himself to His creation.

But, that choice by God to allow an alternative to pure good, in a way restrained God.  He can do anything.  He is bound by no laws, constraints, or dictates EXCEPT His own character.  Just as God cannot sin because He is Holy, God also cannot violate His own character because He is faithful.

That means, since God chose to give man a choice, He chooses to live with allowing those choices even though it brings pain, death, sickness, dissension, and enmity towards God Himself.  Those things are manifested as man living out evil.

BUT, God does not simply allow those forces to go unchecked.  Ejection from the Garden of Eden, the great flood of Noah, the tower of Babel, Jesus' birth, and ultimately Jesus' return to judge all evil are all parts of God's plan with dealing with evil.

On a more personal scale, God also fights evil in the world everyday.  The book of Romans teaches that as long as God has men and women of faith that are filled with the Holy Spirit, then evil will remain in check and subdued.  To the extent that men and women of faith do NOT walk in that spirit of power, evil has freer reign.

Ergo, God is doing something about the evil in the world.  YOU.  ME.  His church.  Christians.  God's design is that we are His instruments of good in a world that is inherently predisposed to pursue evil on a grander and grander scale.

So the question shouldn't be what is GOD doing about it.  The question should be what am I doing about it.  What am I allowing God to do with ME to fight evil?  What am I allowing God to do through my life to express love to the hurting, sick, afflicted, lost, confused, frustrated, despondent world around me?

Am I standing up against the evil represented by ISIS?  Am I making my voice heard in memory of the martyred and in protection of the endangered?  Am I broken in prayer?  Am I grieved of spirit?

The day has come for God's people to be the force He designed us to be to fight back evil.  It's time for us to be the "boots on the ground" in the spiritual battle.  It's easy to blame God.  It takes more courage to put the blame where it belongs, on ourselves.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Five Years of Justice

I clearly remember the day I was walking down the street in Montrouis, Haiti to visit a couple of the babies that Joy was treating for malnutrition.  A seamstress we had used to make school uniforms for our sponsorship kids came to me.  She told me of a baby that was very sick.  She said the baby had been abandoned for dead and then found on the concrete floor of a school by a pastor's wife at 3 weeks old.  That was about 3 weeks prior.  I will never forget the moment I arrived at the house and saw the little baby.
She had the cutest little round face and big brown eyes.  She was covered in sores and severely malnourished.  As soon as I held her, I knew she was born to be our baby.  We weren't looking to add to our family.  We already had 7 kids.  It's not like we were bored!  But just as Joy knew as soon as she saw Josie Kate and Judah for the first time that they would be ours, I sensed the same thing with this little sickly doll.  I had the lady take the baby to a missionary hospital in the neighboring village.  I called Joy and told her the story and she immediately went to the hospital to handle everything.  The story was long and sad.  Joy stayed at the little hospital that night.  No electricity.  No running water.  But she stayed and held our baby.  She was able to get her to eat and the next day she brought her home.  Within weeks she was growing and getting healthier and stealing our hearts more by the day.  

This week she turned 5 years old.  I can't believe it.  Our little baby is school age.  She is strong willed and full of life.  She has a stubborn streak consistent with her heritage.  She loves anything shiny, feathery, or sequinned- the tackier the better!  She is daddy's little girl and I am eternally grateful that God picked our family to be her forever home.  

Happy Birthday!  We love you Justice Kacia!!!

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

Pro-Life Really?

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.