Saturday, October 27, 2012

Provision vs. Stewardship


God has always provided in abundance for my family. We don't always have all we want, yet our needs are met daily. We certainly have more than we deserve on earth and waiting in heaven. That truth is easy to lose sight of if we are to focused on things of this world. Our instruction is to be in the world, but not of the world. If our vision is eternal, the joy of the Christian should be full.

Salvation starts with faith in the evidence of things not seen. Unfortunately, for many Christians that is the high point of their faith in God. Many of us don't "leave it with God". We want to do things in our own power. Consider how ridiculous this is. We have the power of a Holy God dwelling in us and we choose to not harness that power. That is like riding a skateboard from New York to LA when you could fly on a jet.

So where does stewardship fit in? Can't we just ask God to answer our prayers and leave it at that? The Bible tells us to manage our time, treasure, talent, and testimony wisely. Therefore, we need to ask for God's favor and work hard at the same time. God's Word it truth entirely. We often want to take part of the Bible and dismiss other parts. I think it always comes back to faith. He wants us to ask and be confident that He can answer our request. We show our faith through obedience. If I ask God for a more dependable vehicle and fail to take care of the one I have than I am not being a good manager of what He has trusted and supplied me with. It is also about contentment. Obviously, if we can't be happy where we are, new things will not achieve this. God is concerned with our attitude. He looks on the inside.

I recently heard a great message about why God doesn't answer prayers from some people. If we hold on to one sin it keeps His favor from us. He is merciful and loves us, but a Holy God hates sin. He cannot tolerate sin. We are all sinners and as long as we are on this earth we will continue to sin. The key is what we do about our sin. Do we continue in our disobedience? Do we hold on to our one pet sin? Or do we ask for forgiveness and turn from the sin?

I know our Lord provides, because I have seen it over and over again. I also realize we are to be accountable for our actions. We are to do everything heartily. We should work hard and be responsible in all areas of our life. Some Christians are constantly miserable by choice. We know there will be storms. There is no guarantee of an easy life, but in my opinion, if a believer is miserable everyday than they are not right with God. We often want God to hear us, however we aren't always willing to do our part. He is able. He is willing. Let us live a life of obedience, accountability, and expectation. I know my God is ready to pour His blessings on us.

 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gold Medal Memories

My family has really enjoyed the Olympic Games. It has been another opportunity to spend time together. My boys continue to perform their own version of volleyball and basketball in the living room. My son Christian has been wearing his plastic gold medal all week and makes us all chant "USA USA"  as he competes with his brother. It has been a blessing to see my children enjoy the games just as I did as a child.

This summer, as a whole, has been a lot of fun for us. Time has flown by with our busy schedule and we have made the most of the long days. It is interesting that we have not went on any big trips this summer-no amusement parks-yet our days have been filled with excitement. The little things have made our summer. Whether its a movie projected on the back of the house or Sunday lunch at our favorite restaurant, our time together is always precious.

Every day has not been perfect. The kids often fight and sometimes, as parents, we don't handle every situation with patience. Despite our flaws, God continues to bless and honor our commitment. Not that we deserve it, only because He loves us. I am looking forward to making some more Gold Medal memories before the summer ends.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Things Not Taught

In the past I wrote about a homeschool dad who told me academics were not a primary concern in his house. At the time, that was a very shocking statement to me. Back then I was not sold on the idea quite yet and to hear someone say reading, writing, and math was not the most important part of their school day really surprised me. Now that my family has homeschooled for three years I really understand the meaning behind such a statement. I know science and history are important, but I realize many things my kids need to succeed are not taught in most schools.

First and foremost is the need for a personal relationship with Christ followed by knowledge of absolute truth only found in the Bible. Preparing them spiritually to face a world growing more and more evil is paramount. Our childrens foundations are being formed every day. Are we preparing them adequately? There struggles are even more difficult than when we were young. Satan has more avenues to reach our kids.

Another principle I want my little ones to learn is in the area of personal finance. Most kids today completing college are already in debt with student loans. The culture today tells us we deserve the best houses and cars right now regardless of how much money we have. I want them to learn how to save and budget. If they fail to learn this principle it won't matter how good of a job they have.

I interview several potential apprentices in my job. It is amazing how unprepared most applicants are when they arrive. Many have no idea how to dress or present themselves. Although they may be very interested and even qualified for the job, their body language and speech say otherwise. I want my children to see the importance. I want them to understand they truly will get only one chance to make a first impression.

These are a few qualities I pray they learn and possess. A good background in these areas helps produce a confident young person more capable of facing the world and effectively serve God. There are many other areas in our children's life we plan to focus. My wife and I feel character traits are vital. If we teach them about kindness, backed up with what scripture states, they will grow to have it as a quality. These are all lessons not taught in most schools, and to be fair, it is not any school's responsibility. It would be great if they reinforced them, but we parents are to teach them. This makes homeschooling even more of a blessing. These skills and qualities can be incorporated throughout the school day. As parents, we should never take our charge lightly. The Lord expects our best and we are accountable for how we raise them.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Kid's Day

Saturday was the first annual kid's day in our home. I know many will argue this takes place every single day. My wife and I decided to draw attention to a specific day. This was also their day of recognition for advancing to the next grade in homeschool. The day was packed with activities and we never even left home. Sometimes it seems when we spend less money we often have more fun. This is especially true when we set out to spend time together as a family. It was difficult throughout the day for me to not work on the lawn or clean off the front porch. We decided our chores will still be here another day, but this day was for the children.

The day began with breakfast followed by the promotion ceremony. Each homeschool student received a certificate and individual recognition in front of their siblings. They were very excited and enjoyed the recognition. We then prepared for a water party. This consisted of a three wide slip and slide, a sprinkler spraying up through the trampoline, and a bubble station. After a couple of hours of fun in the sun the kids enjoyed chocolate ice cream with sprinkles on the front porch. We then went in and enjoyed a little AC as mom prepared one of their favorite meals, an entire dinner made up of appetizers. Once dinner was over they played outside as we waited for the sun to go down. The evening was wrapped up with a movie projected on the back of our house followed by some backyard fireworks. It was an exhausting day, but one I wouldn't trade for anything.

I always feel like time spent together as a family is time well spent. We put this day together to let our children know how privileged we are to have them and to emphasize they are a blessing and gift from God. I'm not sure the day had this meaning to the kids. Perhaps it was just a day of fun for them. Maybe all they saw was ice cream and activities. One thing I am sure of is that it allowed us parents an opportunity to pause and really see all we have. We are wealthy with the blessings from the Lord. I encourage all parents to a break from the hustle and bustle. Family is about the relationships. It is about having their hearts and leaving no doubts in the minds of our children that we love them. Our kids are already asking about the next kid's day. I look forward to the 2nd annual event and any other chance to grow as a family.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lessons Learned

The past couple of weeks have been very draining for my family. My father's illness took a turn for the worse last week. Sadly, the ICU turned to hospice and on Friday he passed. It was grueling to watch my Dad slowly die. It was difficult to see the pain on my families faces as we waited for God's time. I am thankful my father was saved. This makes his dying easier to deal with, however, there never seems to be a good time to lose a family member. One thing I have learned in this experience is the Lord is always prepared to teach me, especially when times are tough.

From trials comes opportunity to grow. Dealing with death makes us appreciate life. We clearly have no guaranty of tomorrow. I have realized as Christians we need a sense of urgency. The world around us is dying. My family is blessed that my father trusted Christ. Many around us will only hear the gospel if we share. I recently heard a great message preached about being a fisher of men, not only through specific out reaches, but as a lifestyle.

Another thing I learned is that life is about relationships. First and foremost is obviously our relationship with Christ. What about the human relationships? We put so much focus on goals and career. Meanwhile, we put others on the back burner. The death of my father has taught me I need to value these relationships more. I clearly need to be a better son and brother. While I know my primary responsibilities will always begin with my wife and kids, I need to make time for others as well.

I am thankful God cares enough to put a premium on our relationship. If I would follow his example I would have the perfect blueprint to guide me. We all need to display a Christ-like kindness. I am sad to see my Dad pass away, but I am grateful he is in heaven. His pain is no more and his tears are gone. I hope to honor him in how I live the remainder of my life.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Fathers Hope

This past week we attended a homeschool kindergarten graduation for my twins. It is sometimes difficult to accept my kids are quickly growing up. As there names were announced pictures of their school year scrolled across a large screen. This made me think about how much they have learned and how little time we have to impact their young lives. I began to consider my hopes and dreams for my children.

Many dads dream of their kids playing sports at a collegiate or professional level. They want them to graduate from popular universities and become doctors or lawyers. Parents often want to live out their dreams through the lives of their kids. As if to fill the voids from their own failures.

My world view of what I wish for my children has changed dramatically in the past 5 years. I have always wanted them to be happy and successful, but my ideas about success have changed. I learned the best place for them is the center of Gods will. I realize their lives will hold so much more value if they focus on eternal things.

Having 5 daughters I know the day is coming when young men will have interest in them. I will have my shotgun ready and waiting. On a serious note, I see no reason for my young daughters to date. Any courtship should be for the purpose of finding a husband and at 14 years of age they are not ready for marriage. If a boy wants to see my daughter he has one choice which is to come to church. She will be there at least 3 times a week. I pray my girls one day seek and find a husband who loves God more than he loves her. If he puts the Lord first I believe everything else will fall in line. I hope my girls will glorify God in all they do and understand how vital their roles as wife and mother can be.

I have many hopes for my 2 sons. I pray they will take serious their responsibility to lead from the front. They are both fully capable of someday shepherding their families in a Godly manner. I want them to highly value their wife and constantly attempt to improve and grow that relationship. They will hopefully stand in the gaps and be willing to die to protect their kids. I pray they have the staying power which helps them drive through the difficult times and always put family before career and hobbies. To do this they will clearly need a strong foundation consisting of a close daily walk with the Lord.

My expectations are different from the normal of the world. My kids will have to be noticeably different. They will face persecution if they choose to live a Christ-like life. I hope to instill in them persecution is a small price for the privilege of honoring God and having a strong family.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Wall Of Protection


In ancient times many cities were surrounded by a wall. Citizens did not feel imprisoned, but rather enjoyed the safety within the wall. The completeness and strength of the wall was important to its ability to protect those inside from the enemy. A gap in the fortress would provide access to those wishing to harm those inside. The same is true for the spiritual wall of protection placed around our children.

Satan is always seeking entrance to a young persons heart. Sometimes it is through the wrong music, TV, Internet, video games, other kids, or a combination of any of these. He has more avenues today than ever. We parents need to stand in the gaps. Just like with the walled cities, it is not about confinement but protection. It is about the necessary safety for these young hearts.

This brings me to another thought. What about those kids that lack the Biblical authority? Who will stand in the gap for them? As difficult as it is for some people to put their own children first, it is even more rare for people to think outside of their own biological family. I am not only referring to foster care. What about our daily opportunities to mentor to young ones we cross paths with? What about the ones in our neighborhood that don't have the ideal home life? As a former bus kid, I have always had a burden for the little ones in Sunday School whose parents won't come to church with them.

We all know how difficult raising kids are in the best circumstances. There are few things as valuable as the investment in the life of a child. A small investment goes a long way for many kids. Imagine the impact when they spend time with a family who prays and opens the Word of God. It could have eternal results. There are so many little ways to make a big difference. You can prepare one extra plate at the dinner table or just spend a little time listening to the concerns of someone that no one else will. It is amazing the instant change when a child picks up on the fact that you really care for them. Christ was drawn to the weak. Shouldn't we be Christ-like?

At the end of the day we need to extend our love and kindness beyond our immediate family. God places other kids in our life for a reason. We are to help be the hedge of safety and stand in the spiritual gaps. The ancient city walls were made up of many stones. The wall of protection for kids today requires the God placed authorities to all do their part for complete protection from the enemy. Are you willing to be part of the much needed protection?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Some Gave All

Memorial Day has almost arrived. The public pools are open and you don't have to go far to smell a barbecue. Many kids are out of school. Vacations are starting and the weather is beautiful. Campfires, fireflies, and of course fireworks are common. The fellowship of family and friends makes this a great time to reconnect.

As wonderful as all these things are, I pray we take time to reflect on the purpose of Memorial Day. Let us honor and pay tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. The kind of sacrifice that allows us to enjoy the benefits of our freedom. We all know freedom isn't free. I was fortunate to not have to go to war during my military service. I can remember when I reported to my first duty station. So many soldiers just returned from Desert Storm the previous year. I could sit and listen to their stories for hours. I often wondered if I could be as brave as these heroes. One of these soldiers gave his life in Operation Iraqi Freedom when his vehicle was struck by a RPG. I have so much respect for those who have volunteered in the past decade. These men and women stepped up knowing they were very likely to see the battlefield. That says so much about their character.

The sacrifice of these outstanding service members reminds me of another price someone paid for me. It was a debt I owed and could not pay. It is the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary. I can know him personally and with the acceptance of His gift my forever is changed.

Let's not forget, this weekend or ever, the ones who went in our place to protect the greatest country on earth. Pray for families who mom or dad never came home. As the flags are flown from our front porches we need to recognize it is not just decoration or the start of cookouts. It is about shed blood and those who gave all. May God bless the great United States of America and especially those who protect her.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Spiritual Widow

Our churches are full of faithful women. Some are single moms, while others have unsaved husbands. Many are married to believers who have strayed from God. I trully believe God will one day reward the faithfulness of these "spiritual widows".

I guess I am burdened for these Godly women since I was raised in this type of home. I can remember my mom ensuring we were in Gods house pretty much everytime the doors were open. My father was an alcoholic and was not very involved. So many mothers, just like mine, are basically doing it alone. They just keep on moving forward through the pain.

I know today it is difficult to maintain a strong Christian family, even with two like-minded parents. Our homes are under a spiritual attack. Even in the best situations challenges arise. Imagine the struggles for the ones flying solo. This is why the church family is meant to strengthen each other. The spiritual widows need our compassion. They also need our support, but mostly they need our prayers. I can't imagine the pain of some just hoping and praying, year after year, that their mate will step up and fulfill their role.

So many of our problems today are not always from the bad things people do. It is often from the things that are not done. The failure to act among men is destroying our families. The combination of Satan's easy access through modern technology and sideline fathers not standing in the gaps, creates a difficult atmosphere for our children to be victorious. Let's encourage and pray for these families. God can fix any family with willing participants.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Disconnected

I have heard a lot of talk lately about the dangers of social media. The convenience of modern day communication devices has a down side. While we stay in contact with friends all around the world, our minds are a million miles away from those in the same room. Satan never misses an opportunity to encourage family fragmentation. It is one of those things in itself is not sin until it keeps us from fulfilling our Christian roles as father, mother, husband, or wife.

I can remember when my wife and I moved in our first home together. It was a run down single-wide trailer way out in the country. We were an hour from everything. Many times we only had one vehicle and rode to and from work together. We were getting ready to have our first child. It was such an exciting time. At this point in our lives we had little money. Looking back, that was more of a blessing than a curse. We could not afford luxuries like cable, phone, internet, or even a second vehicle. We were in our own world, away from distractions and God blessed our family. What seemed like hard times was actually the start of a strong foundation for us. We argued as most young couples, but most of our disagreements were settled during our commute time. The long drives really served us well and helped keep our relationship healthy. Our evenings generally included dinner conversation around the table and quality time with our new baby.

Looking back, I realize sometimes we can learn so much from where we began. A successful marriage has nothing to do with how much money we have or how many things we acquire. A strong family is not determined by how many activities our kids participate in. God's design for the family is about close fellowship and a nurturing environment. We are to be growing together in His grace. All the advances in technology are great until it keeps us from being what we are meant to be. I don't think it is necessary to fully disconnect from it all, but where our time is spent tells us a lot about ourselves. Our heart is where our treasure is.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Who Cares?

We now live in a me first society. There are so many parents who won't even put their own children's needs ahead of their pleasures. Think of how many kids today are raised by grandparents. Consider the number of kids in foster care. Some days I am ashamed to be part of this generation. My wife and I often talk about how nice it would have been to grow up in the 1950's. Although I truly enjoy the comforts of today's technology, I would love to raise my kids in a more wholesome time.

Today there is no sense of community. No one sits on their front porch and talks with their neighbor. We are a bunch of zombies glued to our smart phones. Our communication is text messages and emails. Our poor communication conveys little compassion or concern for others. When I was a kid there was always 15 or 20 of us out nearly every summer night playing spotlight. Today's kids are nowhere to be found, unless you find their television, computer, or video games. Just like with adults, most children today are having less and less interaction. I think this is a big reason we tend to care less about each other these days. We fail to invest time in one another.

This is especially a tremendous down fall for Christians. Imagine how powerful our influence of sharing Christ would be if lost people around us knew we really cared for them. What if our hearts were broken for these souls and our actions displayed it. I think this holds true with leadership as well with fathers. If our wife and kids can see it hurts us when they hurt, that is so powerful. Us dads need to take ownership of our family problems. We all spend so much time today trying to stay connected. All the while we are pushing ourselves further and further away. Perhaps it is time to unplug from these convienences more often and focus back on relationships.

Monday, May 7, 2012

More Than ABC's

May 8 is teacher appreciation day. We decided to honor my wife a few days early with some home-made cards, cake, and a gift. The small gesture does not describe the magnitude of our gratefullness. A homeschool mom has one of the most difficult jobs in the world. New challenges arise daily along the stress of disapproving family and friends.

Many times we take for granted the huge blessings of homeschool. A homeschool dad once told me academics was low on his priority list. That statement seemed really odd at the time. Today it makes a lot more sense. Is spelling, math, and science important? Absolutely! It's not nearly as important as the values and life lessons my kids learn daily. It is so much more than ABC's. It is the bond my children have with their mother through the commitment of her being there all day every day. What an awesome gift to give your kids, your time.

After three years I have seen so much growth in my family. I truly believe my daughters will become strong, loving mothers and wifes one day. I expect my boys will be kind Christian leaders. We pray this will be the case and we work hard expecting our dedication to be honored. So today I realize the time my children spend in their insulated atmosphere is about a lot more than learning to read. It is about being in an environment that is conducive to finding God's will for their life. It is about an eternal investment and changing our family tree for generations. It is of real value and I am grateful for our homeschool Mommy who is so willing and capable.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Predictable Or Normal?

I have been studying my Sunday school lesson the past few days. We are learning about the phases of corruption in the heart of teens. It is scary to know the spiritual attacks on our children are a constant war. Battle after battle, Satan wants nothing more than distance between our families and God. The lure of sin is always attractive in the beginning. What seems harmless will slowly adapt the spiritual lives of our kids. Over time, what once was clearly wrong becomes more and more acceptable. I am beginning to really understand the importance of foundation.

My children are young and we are not fighting the teen battle yet. I know how I'm raising my kids today will have a direct impact on the teen years. As a former soldier, I often find myself making military comparisons with daily life. Why do we have the strongest national defense in the world? One reason is how our troops train. They are prepared and equipped for battle. We wouldn't parachute our service members behind enemy lines with a water gun. In a sense, that's what we are doing with our kids when we offer them no spiritual foundation. When they are not taught to consistently pray and hide Gods word in their heart we fail. One of the best things we can do for our kids is prepare them for battle. The battle is a sure thing. It is dangerously foolish to think otherwise. Failing to act is failure.

We parents often fall in the trap that it's just a "phase". We accept their increasing bad attitudes, anger, and bitterness as acceptable. I have learned this week that no Christian, of any age, should remain in a miserable state for a long period of time. This is a warning sign to parents. The physical signs on the face and actions of our children is direct evidence of a serious internal, spiritual problem-a problem that needs our attention. These so called "phases" are not normal for a believer, yet they are predictable. We should expect these problems and then deal with the issues. I am learning this daily. The world tells us they will grow out of the disobedience and disrespect. The world's view is much different than the absolute truth of what the Bible teaches us what our family should be. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to see Christ-likeness in society. More than ever we need to work hard to seek truth from our creator. It is not normal for families to live in the same house and rarely spend time in the same room. It is not normal for our kids to listen to music or watch TV that is not God-honoring. It is not normal for our kids to dress in a way that is not modest. It is not normal for my sons and daughters to disrespect me. It is not normal to miss church. These are all worldly acceptable and even predictable, but to the Christian parent should never be accepted as normal.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Making It Count

One of the best things about homeschooling is you can make your own schedule. Your not confined to the time requirements of the county school system. You can teach math at 8:00 PM at the dining room table. You can teach about Jesus and pray in class. More and more I am grateful that we are able to teach our kids at home.

Unfortunately, we have not been able to fully take advantage of this freedom lately. We have 2 foster children and one is required to attend public school. Prayerfully, we will soon adopt these beautiful kids and return to what is "normal" for our family. Our normal is way different than many other families version.

One thing we generally do is take our vacation while other kids are still in school. It is so nice to enjoy the pleasure of smaller crowds. This year we had to vacation during our counties spring break. Although it is not completely ideal, any vacation is a good one. This one has definitely been a great time. We spent our week at The Smoky Mountain Christian Village in Pigeon Forge, TN. It has been wonderful to relax in an alcohol-free environment with like minded believers. I think we will be back next year for sure and I would definitely recommend to others.

The other night after the kids were asleep I sat and thought about the day. I thought about how important it was to make these times really count. I realized the quality of our time is far more important than the quantity of places we visit. We parents look at vacation week as a checklist. We want to get the most for our money and for our children to have as many experiences as we can cram into the week. The funny thing is our kids mostly enjoyed the low key events that were free, like sitting around together each night before bed watching "Little House On The Prairie". They found more excitement looking for turtles in the pond and swimming than visiting Dollywood.

I learned a lot this trip. I learned it is about the relationships more than anything. Just like with Christ. Christians need to comply with obedience, but there is so much more to it. It is about the personal relationship. The same is true with our children. They need the discipline and need all that goes with that. They especially need us, all of us. Not the leftovers and not just on vacation. We need to have our children's heart individually. I hope to make every day count, because we don't get these days back. We have the opportunity to make life long memories and influence how our kids will value their children.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

We Fail When They Don't

Spring is in the air. It is such a beautiful time of year. Everybody seems to be spending more time outdoors. There is nothing like the smell of freshly cut grass and hot dogs cooking on the grill. The kids can begin to burn up all the stored energy from a long winter. It's symbolic of a new beginning or a rebirth. God allows us to see so much of his beautiful creation this time of year.

The warm weather ushers in Spring sports. Our children are kicking soccer balls and hitting baseballs. Teamwork is being taught. I can remember playing Teeball as a young boy and how exciting it was to have a uniform and play an organized sport. In the past few years I enjoyed seeing some of my children play soccer.

Youth sports have changed a lot since I was little. It seems some parents are obsessed with their kids winning. You often see the worst in parents on the sideline in how they treat officials, their kids, and other parents. Our kids will learn more from our example than our verbal instruction. In an effort to calm parents, and protect the feelings of kids, some leagues no longer keep score. I find this to be a shame. It is easy to be a winner, but how will our children know how to deal with loss if they never experience it? In a world where all must be fair, they are being short-changed in the long run. How will children be able to one day deal with not receiving a promotion or being rejected in a relationship? It is our job as parents to prepare our kids for adulthood and not some make believe world where they always win? In the end, we fail our children when we don't allow them to fail.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Paralysis By Analysis

Did you ever know someone who constantly out thinks the room? I have worked with people who were brilliant, but often their brain kept them from accomplishing goals. We can always find reasons to not act. We can always talk ourselves out of moving forward.

Golf is a very interesting game to me. Seems like most years when spring arrives I look forward to at least making it to the driving range. Without fail, I am eventually hitting at least a few decent shots my first day out. Then something happens almost like clock work. I start thinking of adjustments to improve my game. I begin to change my stance, how I grip the club, and how I swing. I become tense and have a million thoughts going through my head as I attempt to hit the ball. Thus begins the downhill spiral of my golf game for the year. Many call this paralysis by analysis.

We often do this with issues in life that are way more important. We wait for the stars to align before we act. Some want to be advanced in their career before having children. You will never arrive at the "perfect time" for children. I can't imagine having missed a house full of happiness waiting for the "perfect time".

Non-believers will want to straighten out their life before coming to Christ. In reality they need Christ to do the straightening. As Christians, we need to look for opportunities to serve God right where we are. We don't need to wait until our children are grown to serve more. Just as we shouldn't do less once we are retired. The sad fact remains, that while we find ourselves people are dying and going to Hell every single day. Our purpose on this earth is to be doers of the Word.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

As They Grow

March is a busy month for birthdays in our family. St. Patrick's Day is my twins birthday to cap off 4 celebrations for the month. I feel old as I reflect back on my children growing so fast. Our oldest is ten and will most likely be out of our house within a short decade. There is so much excitement knowing they will one day have their own families-their own babies to ooh and ahh over. It is exciting and also sad. I am in no hurry to be an empty nester.

In today's world we rarely take time to reflect. Why do we no longer see the value of unwinding and considering our completed day or week. There is so much to be learned from what we experience. We allow the "hurry up" attitude of modern day to cheat us out of this time. Time in which we learn to grow as Christians, husbands, and fathers.

As important as reflection can be, there is also a premium on realizing we have a short time to impact our young children. We need to reflect, but not get stuck on yesterday. The truth we teach today will impact generations of our family tree. That is very eye opening. Our roles as parents is an awesome responsibility we should take very seriously. It is not just parents with this influence. Imagine the impact grandparents can have on the values our kids will take forward.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Encourage

Somebody once said they could survive a week on one compliment. There was a time I thought encouragement was unnecessary. I felt everyone should have enough drive within to be successful. I have now realized the importance of encouragement in the lives of others. Often it is the one element missing that keeps a friend or family member from prospering.

Husbands need to be the encourager our wifes' need. I have not been all I should be to boost the confidence of my wife. They deserve it and most importantly, they need it. I have noticed a confident mother is nearly unstoppable. This is twice as important with a homeschool mom. They are fighting an uphill battle from the start. The commitment to educate children in the home is mostly unaccepted outside of the immediate family. Often it is not supported by friends and extended family. Society thinks your kids are at home watching cartoons all day. This adds up to a lot of pressure for a homeschool mom and means they need us more than ever.

How important is encouragement to our children? It is vital in there development. We have seen this in extreme cases with foster children in our home. Many kids spirit have been severely defeated. It is visible in their body language. Within days of being constantly built up and loved the difference is noticeable. It is like watering a tomato plant and physically seeing the growth daily.

God intends us to lift each other up. Iron sharpeneth iron. It also helps get the focus away from self. Just think what a few positive words can mean to a new Christian or someone convicted about salvation. We clearly spend too much time on the negative. Think of those few people you know who always have something nice to say. Think of how they make you feel. Let's be that person for those we influence.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mine Eyes Have Seen

I have seen some crazy things in my life. I can remember one Sunday morning leaving home to see my niece perform in a church program. We didn't regularly attend church at that time and my wife was pregnant with our first child. We lived way out in the country where most roads are slightly wider than one lane. As we started up a steep hill I noticed a fire truck approaching. I then pulled our small pick-up truck to the right and came to a halt. As the heavy fire truck slowly passed us a portion of the blacktop broke free causing their right-side tires to come off the road. The top heavy vehicle began rolling down the hill in seemingly slow motion only stopping when it's progress was stopped by a couple of small trees. We were able to help most of the trapped firefighters out of the truck except for one whose leg was pinned. My wife went back home to find something to help dig him out. To this day, one of the funniest things I ever seen was my pregnant wife charging up the side of this mountain with her arms full of shovels and hair full of curlers. Some other rescue workers soon arrived and were able to free the young man. He was fortunate to only suffer a minor injury.

Looking back I think that day was a metaphor of what our life was about to become, chaos. Of course the chaos of today is the good kind-the kind that includes many blessings-the kind of chaos that comes with the sound of many little footsteps constantly moving through our house. That day also reminds me of all the times I see God answer prayer and can physically see the results.

I think back to when we decided to get involved in foster care. We already had 2 beautiful daughters and prayed we would someday adopt a son. People constantly told us the deck was stacked against us. You see, most new foster parents rarely get a baby placed in their home and if this rarity actually happens they certainly have almost no chance of ever adopting the baby. This all seems logical except for one thing. God is not limited to what seems logical in our small minds. We continued with the process of becoming legal foster parents and after we finished we waited for our first placement. We didn't have to wait very long. A few short short months later my wife came home with our first placement, or should I say placements. I can still remember her walking through the door with 6 week old twins, Christian and Samantha. The social workers warned us to not get attached because this is only a "temporary" placement. As I type this I am watching the twins complete their school work. They will be 6 next week and we have been blessed to adopt these beautiful kids. So many unlikely things had to work out for the twins to permanently join our family. What seemed to be the perfect storm of events in human terms, was a piece of cake for God.

God is always ready to bless us. He is waiting on obedience and belief. We need to "prepare our fields for rain" and expect that He will deliver.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Keep It Simple

I have never been accused of being the smartest person in the room. I don't think God planned for me to perform brain surgery. Knowing this, I try to keep things in the simplest form. I can still hear drill sergeants screaming "keep it simple stupid!" I am not equipped to understand what takes place to make my IPad function. Thankfully my wife can help me out. I am just grateful I can turn it on and check my email. I can already tell my kids will one day be smarter than me. Some think they already are.

Most of us find ways to complicate the things in our life. Our problems usually have a simple root cause and a simple solution. Just consider salvation. Very few Christians receive Christ the first time they hear the gospel. What could be simpler? It only requires acknowledgement and faith. Just as if someone is standing there holding a gift and all you have to do is take it. So simple, yet we find ways to make it complicated. We have trouble believing we can have something so wonderful without deserving or earning it.

What about getting our prayers answered? God longs for a personal relationship and cares about the many details of our life. So why would he not answer our prayers? I believe in most situations there are a few possible reasons. First of all, perhaps it is something that would distance us from him. He cares for us and knows what is best for our growth. How many times have we wanted something so much only to realize later we were better off without. Maybe at times He is answering with a no. Secondly, God may want us to eliminate sin before he chooses to bless us. It is generally no mystery what specific sin is keeping us from the Lord's favor. Other times we don't ask with confidence. Our weak faith is evident when we don't display an attitude of expectation. He wants to answer our prayers, but He also wants recognition that we believe He can. We are instructed to come boldly before the throne of grace.

If we keep this simple approach in our life we can avoid a lot of heartache. Instead of settling for "woe is me", we should look for the simple answers in the form of absolute truth. Sometimes we act as if we are content being miserable. This is very sad. The Christian life is meant to be victorious. When we sit in our self-pity we are wasting valuable time. Time that we could be influencing others.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Keep Moving

I believe every Christian knows their next step of spiritual growth. We don't know the details, but we have a general idea of what God expects next from us. He is just waiting on us to step out on faith and move forward. Maybe it's a commitment to reading our Bible more or progress in our prayer life. Perhaps it is sharing the gospel with others. No matter what the case, it is our responsibility to take that step.

If our children fail to develop physically it is cause for alarm. We expect our kids to be sitting up, walking, and talking within a specific time-frame. When these milestones are not met it often brings on panic and the need for investigation. The same panic should be present when we are standing still spiritually. This is true individually and as a family. I believe it all starts with knowing absolute truth. What does God expect the family to be? If we don't know truth to start with we cannot know how to step forward. The world today has a different idea about what is acceptable within the family. Fortunately, we can look to the Bible for truth. We can know with certainty we are to love God with all we have and to teach our children the same.

So where do we start? We can't focus on yesterday, we can only learn from it. Be mindful we can't always make big changes overnight. We can make the commitment and instantly start acting on that commitment. I believe progress is very important to God. He just wants you to trust him and keep moving, one foot in front of the other. If we are humble and pray with an attitude of expectation He will guide us. He just wants to be first in our life.

Whatever that next step is, it is time. It was time yesterday. We parents need to encourage our boys and girls to get in the habit of just continually saying yes to God. If we don't understand all His ways, just say yes. If the world disagrees, just say yes. If it is uncomfortable and seems difficult, just say yes. We should teach this and most importantly our children need to see it in our actions.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

You Were Chosen

Dads it is no accident where you are in life. God knew about your current situation long before you were you. He has a plan for you to lead and left you instruction on how to do it. It is easy to think we are in our current situation by default. You might feel as if you don't make enough money or haven't met the goals you set out to meet by now. A good father realizes he must put his family's needs ahead of himself.

We should display an attitude of thankfulness. While the task can be difficult at times, the rewards are many. Dads should be grateful God allows us the wonderful privilege of guiding our families. The opportunity is there to change lives for generations. What an honor to be a part of that. It is no accident. A clear perspective will show what He has for you. It is all in how a dad views his situation and how his vision lines up with the Lord's design for the family.

Recently I have been blessed to see God honor commitment in my family. It is in the spiritual growth of my wife and children. They seem to move closer to God every day. Fathers have to understand the responsibility lies with us and it is not a burden. The joy of this charge should put a smile on your face. Realize you were chosen to fulfill the role of father and husband. You didn't end up there. You were positioned there to allow God to accomplish great things through you.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Breath Of Fresh Air

I Love Sports. This is the understatement of the year if you ask my wife. I can remember watching Sportcenter, before being married with children, over and over again on Saturdays. I could practically recite the previous night's highlights after watching for hours. It's the thought of competition at a high level and the idea that either side could win. I could be content watching Olympic Curling.

High level athletes are often considered role models. Sadly many are not much to admire outside of their sport. For this exact reason it is so refreshing to see the recent success of Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin. Two unlikely stars, each with a wonderful Christian testimony.

Tebow enjoyed much college success and a Heisman Trophy. Few thought he would translate to the different style of play in the National Football League. The only thing standing in his way was opportunity. That opportunity came this past season when he led his team to the playoffs and a surprising victory over the favored Steelers. The media continues to doubt his abilities, but his actions show he is a winner. What is most impressive is his humble attitude. He is not afraid to speak the name of Jesus publicly and always redirects his compliments toward his team.

Jeremy Lin is the biggest story in Sports today. He did not have the college visibility of Tim, but shares many of the same qualities. Jeremy is a gracious Christian who also made the most of his opportunity. Both are products of hard work and determination. Just as Christians should, they do everything heartily. These guys will most likely be successful in whatever they choose to be involved with.

In a time when sports stars are using drugs and going to prison, Jeremy and Tim are a breath of fresh air. They are role models kids can look up to. We know that any human can let us down including these two, however it is nice to see devout believers in such a visible setting. I am grateful they point others towards Christ. They are under a microscope and choose to not fit in. We can learn a lot from these highly visible young men.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I Must Decrease

Most everyone is all about self these days. You don't have to look far in today's world to see this is evident. It's in the workplace, on social media, and sadly can be in our homes. This is not a Christ-like attitude. It is clearly not a trait a family leader should possess.

Some days it is almost comical to scroll down your Facebook page and see how many people are constantly taking photos of themselves. Posed in front of a mirror, snapping a pic with a smart phone as to say "Hey, look at me!"

On the job this can be a daily battle. Employees often go out of their way to make others look bad. They strive for career advancement at the expense of someone else. Often it is masked by good intentions such as "I'm just trying to provide for my family". However, when our attitude is not right we know it is not pleasing to God. Sometimes God won't allow Christians to move up the ladder at work. Strong believers often won't fit in and face persecution. Perhaps it is to keep us humble. Maybe a promotion would equal more time away from family. We may not always understand His ways, but the Lord always knows what is best for us.

In the home it is easy to be physically present and mentally absent. We can get caught up in the things we want to do. We want to relax after a stressful day with our mindless entertainment or on our computers. Fathers often put a priority on hobbies. We're quick to ration our valuable time between self interest.

The Bible instructs us to love our neighbor as ourself. We are also expected to be humble. There's so many principles in Gods word that points us to unselfishness. If we acknowledge we belong to Him it should be easier to get the focus away from self. John 3:30 tells us He must increase, but I must decrease. These are principles that seem so basic and simple, yet we struggle to apply them to our lives. Unfortunately, until we put God and others before ourselves we cannot be what He expects us to be.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Our Nonrenewable Resource

February is Stewardship Month in our church. When most Christians hear stewardship they instantly think about money and tithing. We consider it another item on the believer checklist. While tithing is commanded, it is only one part of being a good steward.

A steward is defined as a person who manages another's property. We are managers of what God entrust us with. Our attitude must be one of acknowledgement that all we have is God's. This includes our material possessions, our abilities, and our time. Our best in these areas is always enough for Him, no matter how small.

I have come to realize time is my most valuable resource. This is especially true for working dads with large families. It seems everything is tugging for your time. Your time is divided between family, career, ministry opportunities, and much more. How we prioritize our time is critical to so many. Once it is gone it cannot be retrieved. It is so easy to fail as a manager of our time.

What can we do in our children's life today that will matter for eternity? Is it that important they play every possible organized sport? What if we were as excited about our children learning scripture and hiding it in their heart as we are about a touchdown?

If we have a proper perspective it is easier to "make it all work". We should be aware that our time is a gift from God just like every other blessing He gives. Our time should be thought of as a budget. We can't spend what we don't have. If we spend most of our day not honoring God than our "budget" is upside down. Many times fathers have good intentions and still make poor choices. We are wired to be providers and can focus too much on our jobs if not cautious. Sometimes the best intentions are damaging to the family. This makes it so so important to have the right vision for your family.

Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Heart To Homeschool

I have not always been excited at the thought of my kids being homeschooled. My wife saw the value long before me. It always seemed to be something for kids that couldn't adjust to public school. I considered it an alternative that appealed to the hippy style family who always bucked the norm. I spent several months in prayer before I felt it was the right direction for our family. I finally ran out of excuses why anyone would be better to educate my children than their Christian, loving mother.

When I think back to my thought process in the beginning it helps me understand why others may initially be unsupportive of our decision. I have to realize they don't understand how much went into this decision. It easy to be frustrated. For some reason others sometimes see our decision to homeschool a form of judgement against their education choice. Many times individuals fail to realize it is a family choice. It is what we believe God expects from us.

Homeschool has been a challenging transition. Of course I am usually at work all day so my wife faces the majority of the challenge. Her days are not easy, but they are very rewarding. After a few years she is really beginning to see the fruit of her labor. It is an exciting time in our home. The kids are developing daily in all areas. We are beginning to see some creative talents surface.

These positive results naturally encourage us to advocate for homeschooling. There is always families on the fence about whether or not they should educate their kids in the home. Many moms would love to homeschool, but lack the confidence and/or family support. My wife really enjoys encouraging these mothers. They are all highly capable of teaching their children. As with my wife, they just need to trust God and go for it.

We fathers need to understand how important our role is as well. Our wives need our support and guidance. Our kids need to see it also. We need to thank the Lord these moms are willing to homeschool. They did not take the easiest path. I need so much improvement in this area. We should seek out ways to help. If it is a family decision to homeschool, then it is the fathers responsibility to ensure success. Everything rises and falls on leadership.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

It's Not A Checklist

My wife is the queen of lists. This is not surprising in a house with seven kids. There is packing, chore, grocery, and to do lists. Let's not forget the dreaded honey-do list. This one is never completed and always growing. They have become a necessary form of organization in our home.

Sometimes, as dads, we look at our role as a checklist of tasks. These tasks may include being a good husband, child disciplinarian, and financial provider. We might pay the bills, cut the grass, and make home repairs. We tell ourselves as long as we keep checking these items off we are okay. We are also similar in our approach to Christianity. We go to church, check. We read our Bible, check. We pray, check.

This is great behavior and is all things we need to fulfill, but we are called to be so much more. If our tunnel vision focuses only on the task at hand then we miss out on so much. A true, God honoring father is a dynamic individual. He is about the required tasks, but he is also about the relationships. He is in tune with the emotional concerns of his wife and children. He knows he cannot let them fail, because he is the leader. His family needs to know that he would die before letting Satan in the home. I admit that while I may accomplish some of the tasks, I still have a lot of growing to do in this area.

The big question is, where do we start? Cleary we can't change the past. We only have today forward. It starts with commitment and foundation.  First we need to realize the need for us to improve is necessary. Not one of us has "arrived". Not until we are like Christ and that is not happening on this earth. A dad needs a humble spirit. It is only then when we are most easily molded into what we need to be. We have to know it is only through His power that we will ever be the spiritual leader needed by our family. We have to exercise obedience to God and remove the sin from our life that has stunted our growth. A great father also is a consistent man. He is willing to work hard and honor God day after day. This is when it gets hard. It is difficult to stay the course over time. I know dads who provided strong foundations for their kids for a long period of time, only to let their guard down in the tough teen years.  It is difficult, but it is what is needed.

One thing we need to be mindful of is the days are continuing to get more evil. The world has changed so much even since the time when I was a child. The dangers of the world have instant access to our children through technology. Now more than ever us men need to dig in and take a stand. We can't afford to waste another day on the sideline.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Modern Day Large Family

My father was child number eleven growing up on a farm in Wisconsin. That was very common in that period of time. Today large families are looked at as an oddity. It comes with a stereo-type of irresponsibility. In most cases nothing could be further from the truth.

Many people are very critical of the Duggar family. I cannot tell you how much respect I have for this family. To me it is easy validate they are great parents when you simply look at the character of their grown children. They all love the Lord and are natural leaders who care for others. This doesn't just happen out of coincidence. This is clear evidence of God's blessings resulting from obedience and consistent faithfulness to Him.

My family obviously is not as big as the Duggar's (at least not yet), but we do have 7 children. We often see the judgmental glares and hear the rude comments such as, "Don't you know what causes that?" I can't imagine making such a comment to a complete stranger. I guess most people view family different than us. It is not as if I think everyone should have their own in house baseball team, but if they do it is their business. Sometimes it is difficult to stay positive when others look down on you.

The fact is we have had the opportunity through foster care and homeschooling to be around many large families. These are some of the most responsible, intelligent, and caring folks I have known. One thing I truly admire about these families is they are willing to think outside of the box, especially if that thinking strengthens their family. They don't settle for what society finds acceptable.

Something that upsets me most of all is when other Christians are critical of the modern day large family. As if it's not difficult enough in today's world, the resistance from fellow believers is definitely not encouraging. What has happened to iron sharpeneth iron. I think we all know the Christian family is under attack. Sadly, what I have learned from these Christians is how "not" to treat others.

I know it is my task to lead my family regardless of others. I am thankful to be part of a loud and crazy household. I'm grateful for the sound of little footsteps, lots of footsteps. Our home is full of love and is blessed daily. And by the way, we do know what causes that.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Time To Lead

I was reminded of something just the other morning. I was reminded of how our attitude and mood affects others. After hitting snooze several times I finally realized I had a meeting and if I didn't get moving I would be late. The previous night I had been up late for no good reason. Needless to say I was groggy and a bit grouchy. As I reached over I noticed my wife was already up for the day. When I came downstairs she had already made coffee, spent time in prayer, and was reading her Bible. She looked to be revived and ready to face the day. She was excited to see me and before I said the first word I instantly felt better. My spirit was lifted.

Reflecting on that moment made me wonder how many times after a tough day at work I probably deflated the life from my wife and kids. The times when a stressful day kept me from leading and encouraging those who need me most. I think of those times when my children are begging for a little time and all they get from me is "not now, Daddy's busy". There have been days when my body is home, but my mind is still at the office. It is very sobering to step back and think about it.

It is time that us fathers and husbands step up to the plate and focus on what is really important. We are called to lead and we need to do just that. It's time we hold ourselves accountable. We should realize our jobs are just a means to provide for our family. How great would it be if people didn't think of us first as construction workers or office managers, but thought of us as Christians and family leaders? One day we will retire and our companies will keep moving as if we were never there. Maybe we will have a shiny retirement watch. All of this is of no eternal value. I know guys who have totally sold out for their job just for career advancement and when they retire are miserable and begging to go back to work. On the other side of that coin I know strong Christian men whose children are now grown and faithfully serving the Lord. Some of these men I have no idea what their career was because they were not defined by their job. It's time we recognize our role and fulfill it.

At the end of the day we are very blessed to have all we do. We should acknowledge that of whom much is given, much is required. Let us not take lightly that which God has trusted us with. He knows all about our situations and he sets us up for success. It is our responsibility to be obedient to him.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bankruptcy By Way Of Tooth Fairy

Everybody knows raising children can be expensive. My son lost two teeth this week and I joked the Tooth fairy is going to put us in bankruptcy. Especially when you consider seven mouths times 20 teeth. In our house it requires some creativity when it comes to money. Fortunately my wife is the deal finding, bargain shopping, won't pay full price, clearance Queen of the world.

Our family decided years ago to do our best to live debt free. I would rather drive a beat up passenger van with 140,000 miles as opposed to being slave to a loan company for a little more comfort. We struggle with money like most others, but we have adopted some principles to live by. It's about changing behavior and not so much about making more money.

The first principle is not to finance anything. If we don't have the cash, we probably don't need it. Secondly, is shopping rule number one, "we buy cheap". My children can quote this upon request. This does not necessarily mean the absolute cheapest. We shop for the best deal with quality in mind. My wife is naturally wired this way. For me it has been a work in process. I enjoy convenience, but it is expensive. It is why a 20 oz. soda cost twice as much as a generic 2-liter. Just another reason God knew what he was doing when he placed us together.

I think for us it all came down to priorities. We had to decide what we value most. There was a time when we picked kids up from daycare in the evening, went home for dinner/bath time, and next thing you know it was bedtime. Quality family time was lacking. Our relationships were suffering. This was clearly not God's will. We feel nothing that causes family fragmentation is God honoring. I am not being critical of others; this is about our family decisions. It is a work in process and a humbling one at that. It wasn't easy moving from the nice subdivision to our old handyman special. It wasn't easy, but God always honors commitment and has blessed us over and over again. Today, my wife works at home, educating our kids and soaking up every precious moment. We have been blessed with more children and our family unit continues to strengthen.  We may "buy cheap", but we are rich in family.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Need Is Great

I feel very blessed for the opportunity to serve as a foster parent. For nearly 6 years my wife and I have had fourteen different children in our home. Unfortunately, we said goodbye to many of these sweet kids. I have been amazed by the beautiful spirit each one possesses. Especially considering the severe abuse and neglect in their past. Most have been so grateful when they arrive just to have regular meals and someone who says I love you and will keep you safe. They begin to strive instantly once provided with opportunity and support previously missing. Obviously, some have more difficult needs that require individualized attention. If the truth be known, they have been more of a blessing to us than we have been to them.

Some placements have become permanent as with our twins, Christian and Samantha. I can remember my wife walking through the door the first time with those tiny six week old babies. We argued over who was going to stay home and love on the new additions and who was going to go pick up our other kids. I lost that battle and looking back I maintain a little bitterness. Through answered prayers, from an awesome God, they were adopted on July 18, 2008. Others have come and gone and took part of our hearts as they left. We are often told "I could never do foster care because it would so hard to let go after becoming attached". I will be honest in sharing that it is very difficult and painful. Our opinion has been that it is about the child first. Some were part  of our family a week and some over a year. Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing even knowing they would one day be gone. Every minute has been precious just knowing we got to be a small part of their young lives.

In West Virginia there are currently around 4,000 children in foster care. Nearly 1,000 are legally eligible for adoption. Many homes take in the maximum number of kids allowed and without these limitations would take more. There is a need for loving families to open their hearts. There is a need for Christians to allow Christ's kindness to flow through them, to care for those who need them most, to love outside of their biological family tree, and to change some one's life forever.

I am saddened as I look around and see all the potential. Those who think they are not capable or don't have enough time. From the empty nesters who could provide a strong foundation to the young family just getting started. It doesn't take someone who is perfect or you don't have to wait for that perfect time. Actually, the perfect time is now, just as the need is now. God will give you all the ability, wisdom, and resources you need. If there is one thing I know, He always honors commitment. I realize every day I don't have to be a foster parent, I get to. I consider my foster, adoptive, and biological children a true blessing.

WV Foster/Adoption Info.

National Info.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

He Knew What He Was Doing

I'm sure twenty years ago I would have no idea I would be where I am today. Married with seven kids and fostering seven other children who have since moved on. Working as a union rep while my wife homeschools our kids. Driving a fifteen passenger van and teaching Sunday School. Are you kidding me? It still seems crazy today just thinking about. Such an unlikely set of events which adds up to where I am today.

I think back to how random it was that I ever met my wife. I had been working a series of odd jobs after returning to West Virginia from the military. I helped an upholstery shop one time for about three weeks to get caught up on some work, only to be let go when the workload lessened. The shop owner happened to mention my name over coffee to a friend who was a foreman for a glass company. I received a call and was offered a job on the spot. A year later, through a co-worker, I met my beautiful wife. We had little in common and were separated in age by seven years. She had only been out of school for a year. For two people with little in common we were instantly drawn to each other. I can remember talking for several hours that first night as if we knew each other for years. The following day she told her mother she met the guy she was going to marry. Amanda really enjoyed the "I told you so" when her mom later served as her maid of honor.

We faced a lot of challenges as a young married couple. God used a difficult event to get our attention. Our first daughter suffered a severe seizure lasting nearly thirty minutes. We were so close to losing her. It was out of nowhere. She had no history of medical issues and none since. I believe it was our wake up call. See, I was saved as a young child and always knew God expected more from me. Amanda was a new Christian at the time. We both grew up in church and knew it was where we needed to be.

I am so thankful God made us like-minded when it comes to our values. We always seem to be on the same page in our obedience to Him. We don't disagree about tithing or modesty issues. My weaknesses are her strengths and her weaknesses, which are few, are my strengths. We are a team in every sense. It seems very unlikely that we would have ever met, not to mention end up together today. Not to God though, He knew what He was doing.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What Makes A Hero?

Webster's defines it as a central figure in any important event or period, honored for outstanding qualities. For my boys it's Ironman and Spiderman. For young men maybe it is the latest sport star. Many think of our troops and first responders. I definitely have much respect for those who put the safety of others before themselves. With all that being said, what makes a hero?

In the Bible we can read about heroes of the faith in the book of Hebrews. Men and women of different status all pleased God for one reason, their faith. When I think of great faith I often think of Noah. An ordinary man with extraordinary faith. He had no special physical power. He was just like you and me except for the strength of his faith. Noah simply obeyed God and took him at his word. What if we used this criteria to select our heroes today? Would anyone measure up?

Someone with the faith of Noah or Abraham today would still be thought of as a lunatic. It helps prove the Bible is perfect and just as relevent today as it was thousands of years ago. We can learn so much from these heroes. Moses refused to enjoy sin for a season. He showed us the importance of having eternal vision.

It's sad that most great athletes are just naturally thought of as great family people. When the truth is many are horrible fathers and husbands. Just look at Tiger Woods. If you step back and look at it with a clear perspective it makes sense. Do you really think these athletes achieve such a high performance level by putting their families first? Of course not. Tim Tebow is clearly the exception.

We need to first realize anyone who is human is capable of sin and can let us down. Christ should be who we look up to most and try to pattern our lives after. Our kids don't need Ben Roethlisberger or Lebron James to look up to. They need Pastors and Sunday School Teachers. They need the mechanic next door who supports his family, leads his kids in devotionals, and helps spread the gospel. So what makes a hero? I guess it depends what measuring stick you are using, God's or that of the world.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Offended Or Convicted

It seems like social media has changed society. We now have instant access with just a click of the mouse. The good, the bad, and the ugly traveling along the information super highway. Unfortunately it is another dangerous gateway attacking the innocence of our children, but that is another post for another day.

Whether it's Facebook or Twitter, no matter where you are, you can know that Mary had a turkey sandwich for lunch. As with most advances in technology there is always good and bad. I am thankful to keep up with old Army friends from all around the country. I am not thankful to read filthy words. As a Christian I don't appreciate foul language at all, especially in a public forum. Aside from my faith I also consider it unprofessional and lazy. It is a quick way to emphasize a point without having to think or use any creativity.

Many times I am very encouraged when reading status updates. When someone shares how they made it through a trial, became a daddy, or returned safely from Iraq it does my heart good. I want to encourage others that way, but mostly I want to honor and please God. This makes me wonder if I am striving to be Christ-like and my words offend others should they go unsaid? Does this mean someone is offended or convicted? Is there a difference?

The Bible speaks about whatsoever are honest, just, and pure. We are told to think on these things. If our words fall in this category we should share, but share with the right attitude. We are instructed to preach the truth with love. That is not always easy to do. With that being said, we should never be ashamed of sharing our values. We should also not be surprised when the "world" is unaccepting. We know we will suffer persecution. In terms of eternity it is a small price to pay.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Then There Was Jayna

Here is something from about 4 or 5 years ago. I hope it is enjoyable.

Jayna Grace is our blue-eyed beauty with the platinum blond hair of an angel. That is where the angel comparison stops. She is full of passion and very emotional. There is no slightly upset or somewhat happy with Jayna. We have come to realize that with her drive she will be faithfully serving Christ with everything she has, or a serial killer. She is all about daddy, but tries to deny that when she is alone with mommy. She is the first kid awake in the morning and generally the last to fall asleep. Ms. Gracie has little fear of discipline and periodically test her parents to see what she can get away with. She is also not afraid to love. She loves her family, friends, and Sunday school teachers and will let it be known.

Jayna has done some strange things in the past. There has been times we did not know whether to yell or laugh. I can recall multiple times when one of us would scold her and the other would have to leave the room to avoid cracking up in front of her. One Saturday afternoon I was watching the kids while Amanda was working. Jayna was about 18 months old and was taking her midday nap. I decided to go on the porch and visit with a neighbor. When I returned inside I was greeted by Jayna who was now awake. She had brought one dozen eggs from the refrigerator to the couch and was in the process of cracking the eggs and smearing them into the couch. This also happened to be a relatively new couch. She went through a toilet fascination phase. For a period of time the bathroom door had to be locked from the outside. Jayna has attempted to drink the toilet water with a straw and when a straw was unavailable she would soak a sock in the potty and then straight to her mouth. It is very important that the commode in our house is flushed after every use. It was common to find the plunger stuck to bathroom walls and cabinets.

Our little angel is also famous for stock piling house hold items in her bedroom. It is not unusual to find vacuum cleaner parts under her pillow. Some items found under her bed include toothpaste, deodorant, money, jewelry, fly swatter, bottled water, and many more.

We realize that her potential is unlimited. When describing one of his children, Dave Ramsey said he knew his daughter was going to go off, they just needed to aim her in the right direction. That is definitely the case with Jayna. We understand the importance of good parenting and the actions we take today will affect our kids decision making when they’re away from home. I don’t just want to “hope” my kids turn out right. I want to scratch and claw working hard to give them the spiritual, physical, and emotional guidance they need. I know God honors faithfulness and commitment.

Update:
Jayna is now seven and thriving as a home school student. She loves music and has a beautiful singing voice. She is a leader in our home and is very helpful with the younger children. Her kind helpful heart is on display daily. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dad's Needed

What's the greastest job in the world? Is it President of the United States, NFL quarteback, or maybe Krispy Kreme taste tester? Nope, the best job is definitely being a Daddy. It is not even close. I think of the feeling everyday returning from work and being greeted like a celebrity. They don't see all your flaws, they only see, "Daddy!" The overgrown child to climb all over and tell rediculous stories. The one who offers free lawnmower rides and fixes things with loud drills. The one the little girls want to marry and the boys want to grow up and be like. Doesn't matter your occupation, to your kids your the coolest Data Entry Processor of all time. Moms definitely get a raw deal in this equation.

The problem is the current Dad shortage. There are plenty of fathers, and yes there is a difference. So what defines a Dad? Is it biological? I have two adopted children and two foster who I love the same, so it's not that. Maybe it is being a provider. I think that is important, but that alone clearly does not meet all their needs. What about a disciplinarian, teacher, counselor, or mentor? I think it's all these and more. It is someone who shows up again and again and puts the needs of his kids before his desires. Their emotional, physical, and spiritual growth are a priority and take precedence over the golf course and video games.

I clearly have room for improvement as the leader of my family. Us Dads often take for granted the amazing privilege God has given us. Our children should never be considered a burden. They are a blessing, a gift from the Lord. We need to take a stand. It is not about our past failures. You can't unscramble eggs. We only have today foward. Our children and God always deserve our best no matter how small that may be. Time is such a valuable resource that is nonrenewable.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Junk Food Bandit

Here is something I wrote about 5 years ago. I just come across it. Hope you enjoy it.

The Junk Food Bandit


Kendra is our oldest and is a very sweet girl. She is the kind of child that makes you want to keep having children (and so we did). She is often called a “little mommy”. Kendra is very nurturing and cares deeply for her younger siblings. It is hard to believe she is in school. We are very blessed to be able to send her to a Christian school where she has thrived. Kendra has a content spirit and really enjoys life’s simple beauties, such as clouds, stars, and spring colors. While her behavior is normally good, she does seem to find mischief from time to time.

Kendra is a healthy eater and is usually willing to try new foods. She also enjoys sweets which she is only allowed to have occasionally. At times she has attempted to satisfy her craving using a few different methods.

One time when she was around four years old Kendra was moping around the TV room. I believe she was not allowed to play in the toy room from misbehaving. She eventually crawled up in the recliner and buried her head in the cushion. This was not uncommon behavior. After about twenty minutes I went to talk to her and she wouldn’t answer. When I picked her up I discovered that she had been straddling a bag of chocolate chip cookies. In our estimation she must have eaten 12 to 15 cookies. The moment was only lacking a picture. Cheeks full of cookies, eyes bugged out and the most sad expression I’ve ever seen.

From right outside of Kendra’s bedroom there is a set of steps going to the kitchen. The kitchen is connected to a large pantry, which contains some shelves used to store foods including snacks. That kitchen entrance is visible from the living room if you look through the toy room. One night Amanda noticed a pink flash out of the corner of her eye. It was Kendra sneaking to the pantry to get peanut butter crackers. Further investigation revealed this had been going on for a while. Twenty empty wrappers were discovered hidden behind her bed. She was caught probably three or four more times.

We have also had a time keeping her from eating on the school bus. She has learned the fine art of trading healthy snacks for chocolate and bubble gum. Usually the evidence would do her in since she would be wearing most of the snack on clothing.

This seems to be one of the few areas Kendra will defy us. It is sometimes difficult to discipline her for this since most of the time she is very well behaved, although we know it is necessary. I feel her outlook on life will never let her be motivated by money. She will have to do something in life that helps other people and is important to her rather than profitable. We could definitely picture her as a teacher, nurse, or full time mother. She often says she wants to have 20 children. It is funny to us that most people think we are peculiar for having a large family, but to our kids it is perfectly normal.

Update: Kendra is now 10 years old and is doing very well physically, acedemically, emotionally and spiritually. She now has 4 sisters and 2 brothers and excels as a homeschool student.

Monday, January 9, 2012

No Substitute For Experience

I can remember thinking as a kid that I would never get old. I couldn't wait to someday turn 18 as if that magically made me a man. I would instantly have sufficient knowledge to carry me through the rest of my life. Life would be easy since I would no longer have anyone telling me what to do. Boy was I wrong. Two months after graduation I was on my way to Ft. Leonardwood, MO for basic training. It did not take long for me to realize that for the next 8 weeks someone was going to tell me how to do everything and it would be in my best interest to listen. As tough as that situation was for a shy West Virginia boy who had never been away from home, I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. With the next six years as a soldier I met some of the greatest friends I ever knew, learned the importance of teamwork, and got the opportunity to participate in a lot interesting activities(like jumping out of perfectly good airplanes).

Once Uncle Sam was done with me I was sure I would be an instant success back in the civilian world. Wrong again. That transition was more difficult than going to boot camp. I really feel for veterans  today coming home from a warzone. They have it much worse than me and I know it is a difficult adjustment. We don't do enough for them. They are American heroes and deserve our support and prayers.

Today I am very happy with my life. I have a wonderful wife and seven beautiful children. I have a great job and belong to an awesome church. I learned that we will never "arrive". Well I guess I'm happy but not completely content. There is so much more I expect of myself. I know something is wrong if I am not constantly improving as a Christian, father, and husband.There is no substitute for experience. It is how we learn and grow. There is not enough text books printed to replace actually experiencing something. I think that is why it is so important we "aim" our kids in the right direction. Obviously we wont always be there once they are grown. I like to consider the areas in which I struggled and how I can give them a better foundation. I guess we never quit learning. I am excited for what's next in my life. Whatever that may be.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Slow Death of Customer Service

What is going on with customer service today? Good service has become mostly rare. Whether it's fast food, a nice sit down restaurant, or a retail store. The patron seems to be a bother more than a blessing. What has happened to "the customer is always right" or "service with a smile"? I have noticed a decline in my short lifetime. I can imagine it is even more evident to those older than me. Is it the busyness of today's world? The disrespect of this generation? Who is to blame?

I think one thing that feeds the issue is product demand. The owner is looking at bottom line. Is customer service a requirement or will we still wait 45 minutes for a steak and settle for an unkind, incompetent waiter? I think we know the answer to that question. The businesses are still full of people waiting for Ipads, Kindles, or whatever else we "got to have". The demand trumps the lack of quality service.

This leads to another point. Since good customer service is not required to keep our business, it is unlikely employers are teaching or emphasizing customer care. They are more focused on a strategy where you purchase their food, eat quickly, and leave quickly to make room for the next spender. Rinse and repeat, again and again until it no longer works.

It has become a sad part of our American culture. Have you noticed when you visit a spanish restaurant that the service is usually great. My families favorite place to dine is La Caretta in Elkview, WV where we are treated like part of their family. Great food that is reasonably priced and delivered promptly with a smile. What a concept, right? This courtesy may be rare, but at least it is not gone completely. I have noticed this varies in different regions. When I lived in Georgia I had very few complaints about customer service.

As Christians, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. I hope to teach my kids this principle. Our responsibility is to God and not based on how others treat us. I guess we can only control our own actions. God placed a large emphasis on how we treat others. I think this is an area where most believers struggle. We can only choose to treat others well in our daily interactions and pass it on to our children. Maybe we should also continue to support the few businesses who place a premiun on consumers.