Look who’s Talking…

We have had playingour little one for about a month now.  When we picked her up, we knew very little about why she was being placed in foster care.  What we did know is that this 2 1/2 year old little girl should be talking and walking by now.  Yet here she was in front us, crawling and making gurgling sounds like a much younger child.

 

We were taking a leap of faith.  It did not matter to us if she was delayed.  We would take her home, nurture her and get her through this period of her life.

After a few days, we noticed something.

She was not delayed.

She started talking – a lot.

Looks like the crawling and gurgling sounds were a defense mechanism of some kind.  As this little girl progressed in our home, we noticed that whenever she felt afraid, or felt she needed more attention, she would drop to the floor and crawl.  Ok, we would deal with this.  We will provide that love, that nurturing, that attention you need, while still letting you know it is ok to be you, the 2 year old who knows how to walk, how to talk, how to do the things a 2 year old does.

And now, I am amazed at how our little one has progressed.

Yesterday, on the ride home from day care, I noticed she was staring out into space.  She looked a little out of it, maybe a little down.  So I tried something.  I turned around while at a stop light, blew her a kiss and said “Love you baby!”

Immediately, she responded.

“Love you baby!”

Her response was preceded with a kids and followed with a giant grin, knowing she had just said something really cool.

Since that ride home, we can’t stop her from repeating everything we say.  Of course, that could be dangerous.

We will have to be very careful what we say.

Goes to show you what can happen when we let God be in control.  All we can hope for is that Jesus will let His love to continue to flow through us onto this little precious girl for as long as possible.

Either way, we are confident He will prevail.

Look who’s talking now!

 

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Dealing with the well meaning questions…

BeachSo one of the inevitable issues we are dealing with as foster parents are the well meaning questions and comments from fiends and family.  I fostered two children years ago, so I am kind of used to the questions, but my wife isn’t.  Nevertheless, we seem to be handling it ok.  Of course, we are not offended by the questions.  They are normal.  People are curious and want to know more.  But it can lead to some awkward moments.

Some of the common ones are where our foster child came from and what the circumstances of her biological family are.  Since I knew we would be getting these question often, I made sure the wife and I discussed what our answers would be when the questions came up.  The main thing I wanted to do was to make sure we answered these questions in a way that not only respected our little one’s privacy, but also in a way that did not negatively speak of her biological family.

You see, there is one thing you realize in all of this, and that is how fragile we humans are.  We could answer the question by disparaging the family, and talk about how great we are and how bad they are because their child was taken away.  But if we did that, how would we – as Christians – be behaving?  Would we be acting in a Christ-like manner, as one who loves their God and loves their neighbor?  I think not.

The fact is that as we learn more about our little one’s family, we are humbled.  We realize that we are all sinners.  We realize that “except but for the grace of God go I”.  We are sad for our little one’s family.  We are sad for her.   We can only imagine what it is like for us to be ripped from the arms of our mom or dad, and be handed into the arms of strangers, and then told “Go to a pool party and have fun!”

Then we are amazed if the child is not happy (Luckily our little one had a blast at the pool party).

There is another thing that we find of the utmost importance.

We don’t know how long this child of God will be with us.  Her family could get things straightened out and the family could be re-united.  Then again, maybe she will be with us for a long time.  We just don’t know right now.  But our absolute number one priority is her future, her well being, and her soul.  So the last thing we want is to not allow her to have a choice in how her family is portrayed to the world.  It is her family.  So when the time comes, she will know where she came from, and what the circumstances were.  Then she can decide how those facts are shared with the world.

Until then, know that she is a beautiful child of God, and that is what is most important to know about her.

Your Help is Needed, America

“Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
–Proverbs 31:9

America is still the richest country in the world.  We can be thankful to God that He has blessed us with a country where most people have a place to live and food on their table.  Even during a recession, with an uncertain future, we are not doing nearly as bad as other countries.

In fact, according to an article from ABC News:

  • In 2005, the American government gave about 28 billion in foreign aid.
  • In the same year, private Americans gave about 33 billion to other countries.
  • Immigrants send about 62 billion to their families in other countries.
  • A few years ago, the American government pledged 900 million in Tsunami aid, while the American public gave 2 billion for the cause.

That is awesome, and no country comes close to us in giving to other countries.  The fact is that America is simply a generous country.  We can be very proud of that fact, except for one thing.

People are still suffering.

With all of the money that we send to other countries to help, there are still children in other countries who go to bed hungry, who don’t have the proper clothing, who are not getting the education they need.  The fact is that with all of the money we send, it simply is not enough.

It is easy for us to look at the statistics and say “we have done enough”.  But that is not what the Bible tells us to do as Christians.

“If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.”
–Leviticus 25:35

Throughout the Bible, they are many examples of how we are to treat the poor.  The fact is that Jesus gave a commandment to love our neighbors as we love our God.  As such, it is our responsibility to not turn a blind eye to the poor and needy in this world.

Here are some of the statistics from Compassion International:

  • Children under age 18 make up nearly 48 percent of the population of the world’s least developed countries, compared with 21 percent of the population of the world’s industrialized nations.
  • More than 1.6 billion people lack access to electricity and modern forms of energy.
  • Over 1.4 billion people in the developing world live below the poverty line (U.S.$1.25 per day).
  • More than 9 million children under age 5 die each year. Two-thirds of these deaths — more than 6 million every year — are preventable.

The bottom line is that our help is still needed.  It does not matter that we already provide so much help.  As Christians, we are called by our Savior to provide help for our neighbors, and it is obvious that more is needed.

How many times do you go to a restaurant and spend at least $40 or more?  Do you know that $38 a month will feed, clothe and educate a poor child for a month?  Do you know how many children have been saved from poverty by Compassion International in countries like Brazil, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and others?  They are currently helping 1.2 million children, yet so many are still not being helped.  It is Americans like ourselves that can mean everything to one of these children.

When you sponsor a child through Compassion International, you are not just sending money to an charity.  The money you send is going directly to help a specific child.  Your contribution will clothe that child, it will feed that child, and it will educate that child.  They will teach the child about God.  You will have the opportunity to write the child and influence their life directly.  You can even visit the child if you choose.  You will have the opportunity to pull that child out of poverty, and give them a chance they would never have had otherwise.

Will you make a commitment today?

Click here to sponsor a child.

Finding Strength

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
–Romans 8:35-39

Last week, I wrote a post where I talked about the economic situation in America.  I talked about how things are getting worse.  I offered a way through the mess, through our faith in God.  Today I want to talk more about adversity and hard times.  I hope that through this post, I can reach someone who may be going through tough times, and encourage them to keep their faith in our Savior.

Pastor Greg Laurie recently told a stadium full of worshipers in New Zealand that he simply does not know why God allows suffering.  I don’t know either.  I mean I have my opinions, and I am sure many Christians do as well.  But I truly believe there are questions we simply won’t be able to answer on earth. We will have the answers one day, when we get to Heaven.  Until then, we have to look at the Bible, and do the best we can in this fallen world.

I have had my hardships in life.  No, I have not been at war.  No, I have not been in real poverty.  But the word hardship is such a relative term.  What is a hardship for one man is nothing for someone else.  With that said, I can tell you that I have had times in my life where I simply did not know how I could go on.  I spent many nights awake, pondering how to move on with life.  Yet I have never walked in the shoes of a homeless person.  I have never lived the life of a political prisoner, or a child of war.  So I consider myself truly blessed, knowing that my life has been relatively good.

My wife and I recently started sponsoring a child in Brazil through Compassion International.  The program offers help to children in need around the world.  For $38, we provide food, shelter, and help with education for a girl named Livia.  I don’t mention this to boast, although we are very happy to be able to help her.  I mention it because this experience is serving to humble us, and help us recognize the hardships others endure in this world.

Livia lives near a city named Recife.  If you follow my blog, you may remember that I posted a story about Recife, and the garbage dump people there.  This is the story of the people who live off the scraps of food and items they pick up at the garbage dump in the city.  Livia lives in a small town near this city.  Compassion International is helping to keep Livia from this situation.  They not only provide food and shelter, they educate her and her family, and teach her about Jesus, encouraging her in her faith.  Thousands of children just like Livia have been helped by Compassion International and have been able to get out the slums and ghettos of these countries as a result.

The reason I mention Livia, is because there are so many children just like Livia around the world.  Yet here I sit, in an air conditioned room, sipping on a hot coffee, typing on my computer.  Yes I have suffered hard times, but Livia has nothing.  She lives in a shack with a dirt floor.  I live in a two bedroom villa, with a fully stocked refrigerator.  So I have been thinking about Livia lately.  How is she expected to survive her situation?  How can she persevere, so that she can grow up and get out of that situation?  How can we survive our situation, and get out of our hardships as well?

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
–Philipians 4:11-13

Paul writes in Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Poverty will not do it.  Sickness can’t.  God loves us no matter what our situation is.  It does not matter if we make mistakes.  God knows we are fallen creatures.  He knows that no matter what hardships we suffer, that He has provided a way out, a way of escape. In the verses from Philipians above, we are told that through Christ, all things are possible.  No matter who we are, where we live, or what we have done, there is a God who loves us unconditionally.  We are special to Him, and through our faith in Him, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
1 Peter 4:12-13

In this passage, we learn how we are to deal with adversity.  We are to rejoice.  Why?  Because by suffering, we come closer to our Savior.  Remember how our Messiah suffered on the cross? Remember how he was beaten and tortured?  He did that for us, to save us from our sins.  In suffering, we can remember our Lord, and what He endured on Earth, and we can know that our suffering, no matter how bad it may seem, is only temporary.

In my last post, and in many that I write, I make reference to us being spoiled in America.  I always try to make comparisons to others around the world, how much other people suffer compared to our relative prosperity in America.  I believe for most of us, it is a good comparison.  It helps us to realize that we have it pretty good in America compared to others around the world.

But the fact is, for the homeless, for those that have lost their jobs, for those who are suffering from illness, my comparisons do not make their situations any better.  I understand that.  No matter how much more someone else suffers, we are still burdened with our own suffering.  I have been there my friend, and I do understand.  But know that no matter what we suffer in our earthly lives, God is with us.  He is right there next to us.  As the passage from Romans says, nothing can separate us from His love, and our faith will be rewarded.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast..”
–1 Peter 5:10

Again, we will never truly understand in this life why God allows suffering.  But we do know – through His word – that He will stand with us while we do.  Our suffering will strength us, it will make us wiser, and it will draw us closer to our Savior, who suffered on the cross for our sins.  We can know that our trials and tribulations are temporary.

For Livia, and  for us, our faith will carry us through.

“I can’t stop the rain, From falling down on you again
I can’t stop the rain, But I will hold you ’til it goes away”
–When the Rain Comes, Third Day

You Hungry?

I had a toasted bagel with butter, and some coffee this morning for breakfast. Then later on, I had a second cup of coffee. Over the weekend, I ate out twice. On Sunday at a class my wife and I are taking at church, everyone at our table brought in food. We all left with our stomachs full, and we even took some food home, since there was much more food than necessary.

I don’t remember ever picking up anything from a garbage dump and eating it.

Unfortunately, this is the life for many in the city of Recife, Brazil. If you are not aware, Recife is a major city in the Northeast of Brazil. If you look up this city in Google.com, one of the first links is this Wikipedia article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recife

You won’t find any mention of the garbage dump people there. The article explains quite a bit about the city and its people, but stays away from the negative aspects of the city. Brazil transitioned to Democracy quite a few years ago, and since then, has become an economic force in the world, a major industrial nation. However, in doing so, many have been forgotten. The plight of the street children in Brazil is well known, and much has been done by many organizations to help them. But it is still a huge problem. It is estimated that 1 in 8 Brazilian children live on the streets.

In Recife especially, poverty is rampant. There is a clear separation of classes. On the one side, one of the most prosperous cities of Brazil, and on the other, a huge poor community left to defend itself by searching through the local dump in search of food and items to sell. The video is heart wrenching. Yes I know this exists in America today. The difference is that the huge disparity between rich and poor is much greater there, as well as the blatant lack of help from the government. The poor in Brazil are truly second class citizens in Brazil. There are only a few ways to survive for them. They either beg for food, steal, or prostitute themselves. Many die on the streets or end up in jail, where they are beaten daily. Those that survive do so by resorting to the actions you see on the video. Many sniff glue or take other drugs to escape their reality.

Let’s put a few things in perspective:

  • Two movie tickets, a large popcorn and two sodas – $40.
  • Dinner for two at Chili’s, including appetizers and tip – approx. $50
  • A round of golf for two at a public golf course – approx. $100

These are things we all do for enjoyment. We work hard for our money. You may feel you have every right to spend it how you see fit. This is not a guilt trip. But what would Jesus say?

“He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.”
–Proverbs 19:17

“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.”
–Luke 14:13

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
–1 John 3:17-18

The cost to sponsor a child through Compassion International?

$38 a month.

You hungry?

News Junkie

I admit it.

I’m a news junkie.

I am constantly checking the latest updates.

During work, I usually have a web page open. I don’t let it affect my productivity, but while waiting for a response on something I need to get done, or during a break, I will look at my igoogle.com page, which has about 6 widgets from different news organizations, some of which are:

  • Google top news
  • CNN.com
  • Foxnews.com
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • The Miami Herald
  • WSVN.com

In addition to the Internet at work, I also get news on my Android smart phone, as well as TV at home. We are constantly inundated with news 24/7 these days, and most of it is negative. It seems like everywhere we turn, we are hearing about kids disappearing, wars going on, politicians getting in trouble or fighting with each other, natural disasters happening, or some other catastrophe.

So it makes me think – is our world falling apart? I don’t know. There are definitely horrible things that happen in this fallen world that was not so “in your face” before. But wars and crimes have been happening since this world began. It is no doubt that imperfect beings are capable of great sin. The difference today is that we have a media that feeds off of it, and ratings and hopes of exposure cause them to show us the dark side of our world, in the hopes of catching our attention. They are quite successful.

Just today I am saddened to hear about yet another school shooting. A former student walked into a Brazilian school and killed 13 students, before turning the gun on himself. Stories like these break my heart. Thoughts race in my head, wondering what would possess someone like this to selfishly take the life of so many. Then I look at another story about our own country, and the politicians who – again – selfishly use political positioning as a reason to cause a government shutdown, rather than make the difficult but necessary decisions to get our country back on the right track fiscally.

With so many negative things, one wonders if this world is crumbling around us.

Is the end near?

  • On March 23rd, 2011, more than 2000 people from Calvary Chapel in Ft Lauderdale cleaned up parks, gave free car washes, and fed the homeless in Broward County, spreading the word of God. You probably did not hear that on the news.
  • The Obama administration has pledged 100 million dollars to Haiti to help earthquake victims. Many faith based organizations – my church included – has sent missionaries to the country since the earthquake. When was the last time you heard anything good about Haiti in the news?
  • As usual, faith-based organizations and churches have come to the rescue – this time in Japan. Millions have already been raised and missions are on the ground helping. The news today centers more around the nuclear disaster, but where is the discussion of the enormous outpouring of help coming from generous Americans? The negative coverage far outweighs the positive coverage.

I know many people have discussed this same topic. I am not the first. My point here is how we as Christians should deal with the news we hear. How should we react to negative news we hear in a positive way. From time to time I hear the discussions of end times. Some Christians use the negative news as a way of proclaiming that Jesus is coming soon, that we should repent, lest we be left out of the kingdom. Don’t get me wrong. I think there is definitely a place for these discussions in our study of the Bible. I think it is important for us to understand that Jesus will come back, and how to prepare for His coming.

However, I think there is definitely a danger when we cross the line and profess to have special knowledge as to when it will happen. I believe it is very important to put world events in perspective. Bad things have been happening since the beginning of time. The difference today is that technology has been used to take those bad things and throw them in our face in such a way that – well – sometimes we lose perspective. When will Jesus come back? I have no idea, and neither do you. None of us know, and to look at our world and try to make some kind of decision that His coming is imminent is wrong.

So what do we do? How do we deal with this “in your face” news?

We pray.

Then we do what Jesus told us to do.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 22:38-40

It is not for us to predict when He will come back. We are to love God and our neighbors. If we do that, then Jesus will live within us, in our hearts.

He is already here!

All we have to do is let Him in.

How’s That Latte?

I am sitting here, sipping on some coffee. It is pretty tasty. I like coffee. Any coffee. It is one of those luxuries we have in this great country.

There are so many things I take for granted. Here are a few, in no particular order.

  • Drive-through fast food
  • Rounds of Golf on Saturday
  • Sleeping in
  • A washer and dryer
  • Air conditioning
  • A completely different meal in the morning as opposed to lunch and dinner
  • 3 meals a day
  • Bottled water
  • A constant Internet connection
  • A constant source of electricity with no rolling blackouts
  • The right to vote
  • The right to speak my mind
  • The right to worship Jesus

And here is the one that stands out these days…

A food and water supply free of radiation.

Japan does not have that last one. The last reports I have read are saying that milk, water, and food are showing up all over Japan with radiation in it. So on top of a devastating earthquake and Tsunami, which already caused shortages of food, now they deal with a contaminated food and water supply.

This is real folks. There but for the grace of God…

There is no doubt that America gives more through charities than all other countries combined. We are a good people for the most part, and we do a great deal for the world. As a Christian body, churches are big part of that. For example, my church has 6 locations in Japan right now trying to help.

It is time for Americans to once more take the lead and help. How much are you going to spend on that caramel macchiato? How much will lunch cost today? Can you brown bag it a couple of days this week and give the difference to one of these organizations? Maybe you can choose a less expensive restaurant this weekend and choose to feed a family in Japan.

Below are a couple of links to organizations that are working hard to help those hardest hit in Japan.

Thank you in advance for your generosity.

http://www.calvaryftl.org/calvary-blog/pray-for-japan/
www.SamaritansPurse.org
www.CrashJapan.com