Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thoughts from an Adoptive Dad who's doing it again (Part 3)

Don't lose your kids.

I'm not talking about accidentally trading them in for a 94" LCD LED flat-screen TV in Walmart.  And I'm not talking about being separated from them as you rush in to get ahead of everyone else for stuff that you will probably not use in a few years.

I'm talking about losing them.

This is one thing I'm uniquely and purposefully focusing on this time around in our adoption process. I don't want to lose my kids.  Our family is currently made up of two biological boys, an adopted princess, and a foster son.  I don't want any of them to miss out on the process.

I'm trying to talk to them about it.  I'm trying to encourage them toward thinking about it.  Especially the soon-to-be big sister.  I want this to be formative for them too.

I'm not sure they'll get the opportunity to travel to China with us.  I kind of hope they can, but the timing has to be there (along with the extra money to make it happen - frankly I'm more worried about the timing with school and other medical needs of our current roster).  With Maggie's health situation, I'm not sure there will be a huge chunk of time to sit around and celebrate when we get back.

But I don't want them to miss it.  And I don't want to lose them along the way.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thoughts from an Adoptive Dad who's doing it again (Part 2)

As I stated in my last post, I'm writing mostly to adopting dads, though if the shoe fits you may certainly wear it.  And adopting moms, you can check out our family's journey and info and story at the Queen's blog.

What am I supposed to do with all the frustration that comes with adoption, especially overseas adoption?  Can I name a few, so you can identify some that might be rolling around in your heart?

Warning, gut-level honesty ahead...

If I'm doing something I'm supposed to be doing, why in the stink is it so hard?

And not marathon hard, but stupid, ridiculous, box-didn't-get-checked, hassle x 10,000 hard?  It's one thing, at least for me, if I accomplish something that was hard but had purpose behind it.  Some of this adoption stuff just seemed asinine.  Ridiculous.  Why was it hard like that?

Why does my wife keep looking and checking when the next set of matches is going to come out?  Doesn't she know it'll get here when it gets here?  It goes into the cycle of Check -> Disappointment -> "Nothing can comfort me so don't try" -> Get better just in time for the next set of matches to come out.  In her defense, the Queen has not checked even a single blog or forum this time around.  This is not me griping but identifying things that have been or could be frustrating.  Part of the difference, I learned last time, was with a pregnancy both husband and wife know (more or less) when the baby will be here.  With adoption, not so much - which is brutal on a mom's heart.

Why if other agencies don't follow "the rules" does my agency not play along by the actual rules instead of the printed ones?  If everyone is being unethical, is it unethical to play along? (especially when it could rescue a little one sooner)

Speaking of rescue, if I'm doing this and it's going to be spiritually beneficial, can't some other things in life break my way?  Hello?  God?  Are you noticing that I'm a pastor and work for YOU and yet I get my tires changed and the guy breaks one of the studs so that I need to get it replaced with time I don't have?  Just a little help here would be nice.

We read our little one's medical report.  But why did it have to be worse than what it said?  Were we duped here?  Or were those people just too overworked / overrun / overstupid to notice?  For the record, Peanut had more involved than we knew that we didn't figure out until we were there but we obviously wouldn't trade her for anything.

So yes, dear reader, you can ask those questions and let them expose your entitlement and weak-kneed, bite-sized, always happy faith like they did mine.

And then you do something about it.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thoughts from an Adoptive Dad who's doing it again (Part 1)

My wife, the Queen, over at our family's blog is telling the story of how God has led us and has moved mountains for us in our current adoption process.  I want to piggy back on that this week to help out any adoptive dads (or moms) who might need another voice cheering them on in their process.

Today, I want to take just a moment to encourage dads not to be passive in this.  Typically, one person drives the process and the other is along for the ride.  In our first adoption (2009) and our foster care parenting (2013), the Queen drove the process.  I did my necessary paperwork and agreed with the direction, but it was a ride-along and not participatory - in my honest moments, much more so for the foster care than the adoption.  It took God rattling my cage with both to make me a willing participant in the truest sense of that term.

For the adoption, it was a picture.  For foster care, it was a story of a kiddo.  Both were heart-wrenching, what I call Divine Heart Surgery on me.  Until then, though, I think the Queen would say that she very much felt alone in the process even though I was accomplishing things that needed to get done.  Up until Surgery, she was flying solo emotionally.

Even if you don't necessarily feel connected to a piece of paper or a concept of a child, I encourage you to jump in.  Disconnection in the process is easy to do for men who have other kids, have demanding jobs, and who have this sense of a wife who's not content with the state of the family right now.  Jump in.  Even if you don't feel it at first.  Discipline yourself to ask questions.  Ask for ways to help out.  Make sacrifices to move things along.

On the other side, wives need to give some room for their husbands to come around.  That was a gift from the Queen to me.  She never quit the process, but she also didn't demand I be where she was (though she might have wished it).

Here's the outcome.  Adoption was such an incredible experience for our family that I wanted to adopt again from overseas (I thought Africa, though God had different plans).  In this particular process, I think it's fair to say that I've been driving as much (or maybe more) as the Queen has.  And I think that's part of the reason God is moving mountains, because we're both so earnest and zealous for this.

If you're an adoptive mom or dad who might need some help with this or another issue, by all means find a phone or an email account and make contact.  All of my information is accessible at Heritage Park [dot] org.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sermon notes from Sunday, 11.24.13

Here are the pre-Thanksgiving Sunday notes from Psalm 111.  You can find these notes in PDF and the sermon audio at  You can also get the audio on iTunes via our podcast.

Thanksgiving 2013
Psalm 111

We give thanks to God in His congregation

Question of structure v. spontaneity

We give thanks to God for His works

The works of the LORD are great (v.2)
They are so great they invite study
Studying His works leads to understanding His character
His works capture our attention

The works of the LORD are majestic (v.3)
They are so great they inspire awe 
Unless our head is so far buried, they will inspire us
His works capture our affections

The works of the LORD are remembered (v.4)
They are so great they impact consciences
God has willed this to be so and has called many to account because of it
God’s story is His demonstration of “gracious and merciful”.
Throughout the story, He’s working redemption for His people (v.9)
His works capture our allegiance

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22, 1963

There were plenty of people who died on November 22, 1963.

The President of the United States was one of them.  John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald.  In public.  In the open air.  On film.  Next to his wife.  Brutal.

Who knows what the world would have become had he lived?

On another continent, another guy with the nickname Jack also died from complications related to kidney failure.  His brother found him.  No film.  No public.  No bullet.  No wife.

The world knows what it has become since he died.  Because he lives on his writings.  His life and his writings have pointed people to a better place.  His life and writings pointed to the importance of fidelity in marriage and joy in suffering.  His life and writings pointed to the importance and influence of friendship.  Narnia.  Miracles.  Abolitions and Great Divorces.  Mere Christianity.  Reflections on songbooks and meditations on four kinds of love.

And this leads me to conclude, with no disrespect to the former President of his family:

Clive Staples Lewis > John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thoughts for a Thursday

Brennan Manning, in his gem of a book The Ragamuffin Gospel, has one of my favorite quotes about the stuttering and halting nature of discipleship of all time.  Some mental chewing gum today...
When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes.  I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty.  I ma trusting and suspicious.  I am honest and I still play games.  Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer. (p.22 of Multnomah's 1990 edition)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sermon series on Adoption from a church in our area

Clear Creek Community Church, a great and influential church in our area, is doing a series on adoption.  I think it's a 3-week series, although it might be 4.  If you're looking for an understanding of spiritual adoption from a biblical perspective and the horizontal, practical impact that has, check out this link (to their sermon resource page) and explore.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Power of Words on the 150th Anniversary of Gettysburg Address

On November 19th, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln looked out over the devastation that was the battlefield of Gettysburg and memorably, profoundly, and powerfully shaped the nation with these words:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

That's it.  All 272 words.  But powerful words.

And so just a brief exhortation on this sesquicentennial to think about your words and their power:

I love you.  I forgive you.  I'm sorry.  I believe.  I do.  

Whatever your words, they carry power.  Use them wisely.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, November 18, 2013

The stunning beauty of generosity

I preached yesterday to the church from 2 Corinthians 9, Paul's passage on giving and the blessings of participating in it.  And that's the point of the blog entry today.  Giving is participating.

In what are you participating?  Giving is participating in ministry.  Some can't go or physically do what others can do.  But giving is still participating in ministry because it makes possible the participation of others.

Our church sent a crew to Galveston Island this past summer to work with kiddos who are severely disadvantaged and have some significant emotional and relational needs.  We had 2-3 of our crew that didn't have the money to go because of their own family situation.  The church jumped in and put together about $600 in about 6 minutes and had the rest of the situation covered.  Anyone and everyone who gave to that trip and allowed those kids to go essentially went with them.

From the text on Sunday, when you give you are "abounding in good works."  When you give, you are "sowing."  It is a "ministry of service that supplies the needs of the saints."  All powerful participation principles.

Giving is, in its own right, ministry.  I'm grateful to God that He saw fit to provide a way for a broad swath of people to participate in ministry.  That's what giving does, broadens the participatory strata.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Do you ever think about "Free Will?"

I'm finishing a doctoral class on a pastor and theologian named Jonathan Edwards.  He has been so helpful to me in so many places, but one place in particular and with one picture in particular.

Reading the New Testament, it becomes pretty clear that people have intrinsic value, make real choices, and reap real consequences based on those choices.  But it's equally clear that we're slaves to sin, have a fallen nature that is turned against God, and make sinful and damnable choices according to the inclination of our hearts.  How can all of this be?

Edwards has helped me by putting all of this together in a picture that is wonderfully simple and makes so much sense.

He describes two different men who are locked in prison because of an offense.  The prince comes after some time to free the men because he has forgiven them.  To the first man he calls out, "You're free.  Come out of the prison and live."  But the man is still shackled to the wall, behind multiple closed doors, and guarded by watchmen.  He never comes because he is unable to break free.

That's how we picture ourselves in some sense.  Jesus comes to rescue us but we're shackled in sin, etc.  So the role of Jesus is to open the doors and we'll come out.  But that's not how Edwards (nor the Bible!) teaches we are.  The first man described is a foil to set up the second man.

The second prisoner experiences the same call:  "Come out of the prison and live!"  The doors are opened.  The guards are dismissed.  The chains are loosed.  But the man so despises the Prince, he stays inside.  He has the ability to go free, but in another sense doesn't have the ability to go free (because of his hatred for the prince).

That second guy - that's us.  We are naturally born bent away from God.  We have the capacity to go free but not the desire to do so.  We love our sin so much that we stay in the prison.  Unless Christ, by the Holy Spirit, regenerates us and gives us a new heart to love Him, we will stay as such.

Here's the summary statement of Edwards on the will of man...

You can if you will - but you won't "until."

Theology on a Thursday?  You bet.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Ministry of Church History (?)

I was at dinner last night with a professor of church history.  This is what he said...

"The ministry of church history, inside the church, is to make sure that we properly exalt saints who have gone before without making them idols."

His point is well-taken.

Looking back, we can idolize people of the past.  The years have a way of blurring or dulling the daily bilge that we all have to deal with in relationships and in our own hearts.  Just one instance from my last doctoral class:  Jonathan Edwards, America's foremost theologian and the leader of the First Great Awakening, owned slaves.  How do you write one of the most incredible sermons ever on the Excellency of Christ and own slaves?

The other side, though, is that we have a sense of what should endure and last and be worth thinking about three centuries later.  Church history helps identify what is still helpful in the days in which we live.  That's the "properly exalt saints" part mentioned above.

I've never thought about it in those terms before, but am glad to do so now.

I know four historians on what I would call a personal level.  All of them are churchmen, men who love the church and are doing work in their own congregations to see the Kingdom of God come and lives transformed.  I'm grateful for their ministry and for the ministry of church history.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Christian Judgment

There's a quote from one of the books I'm reading for my next doctoral class that has me thinking about judgment.  It gets a bad name today:  "Don't judge me," "Who are you to judge?", "You're so judgmental."

Before I give the quote, let me say that sometimes Christians can be terribly and sinfully judgmental. For the record, so can people who are telling Christians not to be judgmental.  But that's a different blog post.

The kind of judgment referenced below might be called discernment, though the two are linguistically and conceptually close cousins.  But it comes with a pastoral kind of touch.
When I speak of Christian judgment, I mean a judgment wherein men do properly exercise reason, and have their reason under the due influence of love and other Christian principles; which don't blind reason but regulate its exercises; being not contrary to reason, though they be very contrary to censoriousness or unreasonable niceness and rigidness. (J. Edwards, An Humble Inquiry, Part I)
Did you catch that?  Being Christian and being discerning / judicial brings reason under the influence of love and other Christian ideals.  But that love doesn't blind the eyes.  It helps you see more clearly and think more astutely.

And here's the big, swinging right hook to finish and think about.

Pope Francis got some press this past week for taking the time to kiss a man who was covered in tumors from neurofibromatosis.  Good for him.

Which his more loving...

For Francis to be blind and indiscriminately kiss the man who he cannot see and thus cannot discern his physically deformed state?

Or for Francis to see that man clearly, and still choose to kiss him?

I argue the latter.  And that has implications:  to be loving, one must at times discern not only the situation but what love would call for in it.  See clearly all the sin and love anyway.  It's still sinful ugliness.  Calling it such makes the love more beautiful.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veterans' Day, Grandpas

Happy Veterans' Day to both my grandfathers.

Paternal Grandfather fixed planes and worked for the USAAF in a few other capacities during WWII.  He never served overseas but was one of the many backstage guys that made stuff happen so that front line guys could do what they needed to do.

Maternal Grandfather served in the Pacific as a SeaBee, the battlefield construction guys.  He was behind the Marines on Guadalcanal.  He worked to repair the airfield there and told me the scariest in-person story of warfare I've ever heard.  Bottom line:  it doesn't feel particularly secure to work on an airfield when you're getting strafed by Japanese Zeroes.

Both are with Jesus now.  But I can't help but remember them today.

And I think about our guys at church who either have served or are serving.  Thanks, fellas.  And a special shout-out to my friend:  Semper Fi, Marine.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Wrath of God was satisfied

The Ninja, the 8-year old, said this morning as we're listening to music and eating breakfast, "Dad, I like that line of the song.  It's my favorite part."

If you're not familiar with the song, it's In Christ Alone by the Getty's, who have come upon the Christian music scene as the modern day hymn writers.

The full line...

'Til on that cross where Jesus died
The Wrath of God was satisfied

The Presbyterian Church USA created a small kerfuffle when they decided they didn't like the wrath of God being satisfied and instead wanted "The Love of God" to be "magnified."  But the Getty's didn't let them change the lyric because they wanted to hold forth the traditional Christian doctrine that on the cross a payment happened for sin, satisfying God's wrath and providing His righteousness.

And I'm reading, in conjunction for my next doctoral class, sermons by Jonathan Edwards, he of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God fame.

So all of that combined makes my response to the Ninja genuine:  "Yep, Ninja, I like that one too."

Because the more I'm in touch with my depravity, selfishness, idolatry, unruliness, and disordered soul, the more I'm grateful that the wrath of God that was once against me was satisfied by One who could bear it redemptively on my behalf.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A GREAT story regarding Orphan Sunday

A little later today (after having missed yesterday), so forgive me, Dear Reader, for having that kind of week.

I have a great story to tell.

I preached about adoption on Sunday with my wife.  This is a direct link to the audio:  Sermon Link.  Toward the end of the sermon, we did some Q&A with ourselves, trying to get to some of the misconceptions and deceptions that sometimes occur when thinking about adoption and foster care.

We moved into Communion from there.  On each of the Communion tables were a brochure with some facts about adoption and orphan care.

On Monday, our normal money-counting guy came in with a small box with what, I found out, was $42.95 in change and $1 bills.

Turns out, two little girls who were there and heard about God's heart for the orphans acted.  With Grandma's permission, they walked their block and asked people to donate "...because Jesus wants to help the orphans like we talked about at church."

They acted.  Because Jesus cares about orphans.

I love it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Orphan Monday - or, the Monday after Orphan Sunday

We had a great day yesterday at Heritage Park.  It was a day packed full of adoption-related teaching. In our Bible study, the curriculum we're using (shout out to the Gospel Project) had adoption as its theme.  The sermon was terrific, primarily because my wife helped me do a Q&A on adoption and foster care issues.  (You can find the sermon at

And today is Orphan Monday.

Never heard of it?  I haven't either.  In fact, as far as I know, I think I made it up.

Here's what it is:  the day after hearing about advocacy for the overlooked and defenseless, the need, the call, and the duty is still there.  And today is the day you do something about it if you're going to do something about it.

You make a call to a foster agency to check out the process.  You order an information pack from an adoption agency.  You call an agency to get background checked so you can babysit for your friend who's fostering.  You think about your family's finances and how you might help and participate in an adoption for another family.

Today is Orphan Monday.

What are you going to do about it?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sermon Notes from Sunday, 11.3.13

Here are the sermon notes from today's sermon advocating for orphans and orphan care.  You can get these notes in PDF and the sermon audio at  You can also get the audio via our podcast on iTunes.

Let’s Talk about Orphans 
Psalm 68.4-6

Main Thrust: God is worthy of praise because He defends the defenseless

Why is this praiseworthy?
  • When the mighty use their power for the more vulnerable, it’s good.
  • When the Almighty uses His power for the most vulnerable, it’s Great.

    Who are the defenseless?
Those who have no socioeconomic resources to change their situation

How does He defend them?
  • He allies Himself with them
  • He advocates for them
    o The voice of the Law – Exodus 22.22-24
    o The voice of the Prophets – Isaiah 1.17
    o The voice of the Wisdom literature – Prov 31.8-9
    o The voice of the NT – God revealed as Father, James 1.27 o The voice of the Spirit in believers
    § Polycarp to Philippians - “The presbyters, for their part, must be compassionate, merciful to all, turning back those who have gone astray, visiting all the sick, not neglecting a widow, orphan, or poor person, but always aiming at what in honorable in the sight of God and of people”
    § When we first meet the mention of the adoption and bringing up of foundlings, this work appears not as a novelty, but as one long practiced. It is true that the heathen also used to take care of exposed children, but for the purposes of bringing them up as gladiators or prostitutes, or to use them in their own service.... Christians brought up the children whom they took charge of for the Lord, and for a respectable and industrious life (G. Uhlhorn, Christian Charity in the Ancient Church, p. 186).
    He acts in support of them

So to be a biblical Christian and a biblical church, we must ally with them, advocate for them, act in support of them
  • Ally – let your heart turn and let go of your ease
  • Advocate – let your presence be felt
  • Act – let your life touch theirs

Application / Q & A
Is this Second Best? (like for those who experience infertility?) 
Can I afford to adopt?
Is it too hard?
Is it
that big a deal?
Could I ever love them like “my” kid?