This will be interesting

Children playing with water at Bebek, IstanbulIt’s Friday!

But in addition to that, today is the day.  Today we invite our little one’s little sister into our home.  She is being transferred from another foster home to ours.  So by this evening our home will be a little more crowded, a little more cozy, a little more…more.

If that wasn’t enough, we will begin house shopping tomorrow.  We are going to buy a home, and we don’t have a Realtor yet (that will come soon), but tomorrow we are going to go see some of the houses we are interested in from the outside and shop neighborhoods.  We may also be meeting with a friend and fellow foster parent for a play date.  Apparently there is a park near her where water shoots out from the ground.

Kids love that stuff.

So do foster dads.

Either way, we will have two small children in tow while we shop.. Then on Sunday we will partake in church services, followed by swim lessons with a friend from church. I don’t expect much rest until Sunday evening.

Maybe.

Did I mention water shooting out from the ground?

 

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.

Two Children, same result…

slide

Yesterday was our first “play date” with my wife’s friend and her son.

So we had an outing at Chik-fi-la, which has a playground.   Our little one apparently had never been to Chik-fi-la.  She was a little shy at first.  She ate all of her chicken, most of her fries, and about a quarter of a chocolate chip cookie.  She ate more than her play date partner, who was more interested in going to the playground.  Our child was not really aware yet there was such a thing waiting for her.

When we got to the playground, again there was some hesitation.  However, her new found friend was eager to “help”.

“C’mon!  Let’s climb up!”

It took all of two minutes for both children to be in playground heaven.  I loved watching their pure joy as they climbed up, then down the slide over and over.

Then it came.

It was time to go.

First our play date partner’s turn.

“C”mon, just once more!”, mommy ordered.

“No mommy, two more!”

He got his two more, then the bad news  that it was time to go, and the tears started.  He was devastated, and mommy was there to console him. Our bundle of joy saw what was coming, and quickly escaped to climb some more.  Daddy was going to have to be smart about this one. I waited for her to go down the slide again, and was waiting to pick her up at the bottom.  This was not going to be pretty, and sure enough, the complaints came.  With tears running down her face, she yelled “NO!!!!!!!” Our mistake was to not have a sippy cup of milk for the ride home, which would have eased the heartache and suffering.

We learned some things about this adventure.  First, our little one needs more play dates.  She needs to continue to learn to associate with others her age.  We also learned that her behavior closely resembles however her play date partner is behaving.  When he was ok, she was ok.  When he blew up, she did too. The most interesting thing was learned was this.  Here we had two children with completely different backgrounds, life experiences, family lives, but in the end – the same result.

In the end, they are kids, and will behave as such.

Is Facebook Evil?

Facebook is not evil.

Let’s get that out of the way.

It is a website.

It is just a website.

It used to be, in a different life, that when I wanted to talk to someone, I would use this weird contraption called a phone.  It was an interesting device.  One would pick up this handle and put it to your face.  One side was for talking, and the other side was for listening.  On the base of the device, there were a series of numbers, from zero to nine.  There was a dial, with holes in the dial for your finger.  You would “dial” a series of numbers, that were assigned to each house you wanted to talk to, and viola – within seconds, another phone would ring at that house.  The occupant of that home would pick up their phone handle, and you could hold a conversation with them as if they were in your living room.

Yes I am being silly.  But there is a point here.  The world has changed.   Today, many of us no longer call our friends and family using our phones anymore.  Why, many of us don’t even have traditional phones anymore, preferring cell phones that we can take with us everywhere.  Even those phones are no longer used to speak to anyone anymore, since many of us have email and text messaging capabilities on them.  When someone asks you if you have “spoken” to so and so, how many times do you say yes when in reality, you have communicated with them solely through text, email, or the dreaded Facebook?

Technology is perceived differently by different people.  There are some people in this world that embrace technology.  They buy the latest gadget as soon as it is out.  They know all of the features.  They use texting, email, and yes Facebook.  But then there are others who – well – get left behind.  The world moves too fast for these people.  As such, they rebel.  They refuse to adopt the latest communication medium.  If you need to contact them – well – you may just have to pick up an actual phone and call them.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;”
–Exodus 20:3-5

Let’s take a look at this from a Christian perspective.  In Exodus, God tells us very clearly we are to have no other Gods before Him.  He is not just talking about Pagan or Polytheistic worship.  He is also talking about loving something so much, it takes the place of God.  How does this relate to Facebook?  Well, let me be clear.  Facebook addiction is no different from any other addiction.  We have all seen people so preoccupied with texting, they can’t stop for even a few seconds to have a conversation with you.  The same can be true of Facebook.  We all know people who always seem to be on Facebook, either chatting, playing games, or constantly checking and updating their statuses.  This is obviously an issue, no less an addiction than alcohol or drugs.

I have had a Facebook account for quite a long time.  In fact, when I first created my Facebook account, none of my friends and family were on it yet.  Within a few years, I saw this communication medium grow from a mildly amusing website, to something most of my family and friends use as their primary method of communication.  I saw my friends list grow and grow, until I realized I had a large number of “friends” that I had never even met.

I also started to see the dangers in using this medium.  I saw friends and family members get into arguments over Facebook.  Debating political and social issues became a common thing, and people started to get nasty with each other.  I have to tell you I was one of them.  It was so easy to just say whatever you wanted, knowing nobody could interrupt you.  I began to see photos of people in compromising situations.  I started to realize that some of the photos I had posted of my family and friends, I had done so without asking their permission.  I had no right to do that, but Facebook does not stop you from doing it.  I also started to see articles in the news about people being fired from their jobs, because of things they had said or pictures they had posted on Facebook.

No I still do not think Facebook is evil.  But here is my take on it.  Facebook makes it really easy to do things you would not do otherwise.  When you think about saying something derogatory to someone, and the person is standing there, looking at you, most of us stop and think before we do it.  There is something about having to look someone straight in the eye that tells our brain we should think before we speak.  Facebook eliminates that.  You can’t see the look on someone’s face when you insult them on Facebook.  You cannot be interrupted either.  So the words flow.  Everybody is brave and says what they think, when they are hiding behind a computer screen,  And as a result, I have seen relationships damaged, jobs lost, and a lot of harm come from interactions through this medium.

With that said, Facebook has also done a great deal of good.  I see many people able to connect with long-lost family and friends.  Businesses, charities, and faith-based groups are able to communicate through Facebook in a way they never could before, reaching people who would have otherwise never known about them.

So what is my conclusion?

“And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”
–Matthew 5:29-30

Jesus Christ did not have Facebook back then, but how well he knew the temptations of this world.  It is very easy to take something that can be a great communication medium and turn it into an addiction, allowing it to destroy us.  Just like the food addict that can take something necessary for survival and abuse it, Facebook is something that can be a wonderful tool, but also our undoing.

A few months ago, when I realized that Facebook was no longer something I was using in a way that honored God, I closed my account.  It was something I needed to do.  For about three months, I did not have a Facebook account.  I am sure my friends and family thought I was being silly.

Yet it was the reason this blog was created.

Facebook had become my way of communicating to the outside world, yet it was such a poor way of doing so.  I realized that I could reach so many more people in other, more positive ways.  After my three months hiatus, I re-opened my account, but I no longer use it as a primary form of communication, nor do I engage in debates with my friends and family there, as I know they all too often serve the wrong purpose.  I reduced my friends list from 160, to less than 20, preferring to keep only family and a select few friends. When I do use it to communicate, I do so only to reach out in a positive way.

Often throughout the last year, I have thanked God for the many blessings He has given me.  In my prayers, I ask God to give me the strength and courage to live my life as He intends, to follow His plan for my life.  As each day passes, He reveals His plan to me.  I am very grateful for that.  I truly believe that using Facebook, and any communication medium in an honorable way, is one part of that plan that He has revealed to me.

For that, I am eternally grateful.

The Dunes Golf Course, Sanibel Island, Florida

I like Golf.

I started playing the sport when I was a teenager. My dad was into the sport, and I got hooked after going to the golf course with him. I later played on my high school team. After several years away from the game, I am now back into it, and I’ve got the “fever” again.

So a couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took a trip to the west coast of Florida, to our favorite getaway, Sanibel Island. We decided we would take the opportunity to play a round of golf while we were there, so we booked a tee time at The Dunes Golf Course. From the pictures of the course, it seemed like a real challenge. The course is cut out of the wildlife preserve, surrounded by water, and we were looking forward to playing on this unique course.

Our tee time was at 8 am. We booked it early so that we would have time for other activities later. When we arrived, we were one of the few cars in the parking lot. Our first impressions were very good. The Country Club consists of a club house, with a restaurant and pro shop, a driving range where you hit balls into the water, and the course itself. Everything was very clean, and quite inviting.

As soon as we got out of the car, one of the staff immediately took our clubs, and asked us to register at the pro shop. This was a nice touch. It’s nice not having to lug your bag around while registering. The girl in the Pro Shop was also very friendly, registering us quickly. The pro shop is small, not too different than most golf course pro shops. After registering, we went out to get our cart, and noticed that our clubs were already on a cart, and ready to go. The starter greeted us, letting us know when we would tee off, and also advised us where to get drinks if we wanted.

One thing I really liked about the staff here was how they handled teeing off. In some of the courses I play at, there is really no organization at the first tee. The result is that everybody bunches up and you end up in a long line waiting to tee off. Not here. The carts are all lined up and you are asked to stay there until it is your turn. The starter does an excellent job of checking to make sure the party ahead of you has gone far enough on the first hole before allowing you to step up to the first tee. It makes the round more enjoyable, so that you don’t spend too much time waiting to hit your shot, and don’t hold anybody up either.

As for the course itself, it is simply breathtaking. Most of the holes have water on either one or both sides. Some holes look as if they are an island unto themselves. However, the interesting thing is that even though the water is in play on many of the holes, the hazards are so strategically placed that if you know how to manage your game well, you can avoid them easily. The result is a great round of golf while enjoying the nature around you. I lost two balls during the round, which I consider pretty good for never having played it before.

You will need to be smart off the tee on this course. The fairways are not brutally narrow, but they are not wide by any stretch. If you tend to slice, you are encouraged to account for this by aiming correctly to account for it, or you will surely play from the rough. However, another interesting thing about this course is that because of how well it is maintained, the fairways are a joy to hit from, and even the rough isn’t so – well – rough, where you will be hitting from longer grass, not weeds. Since you don’t have weeds on this course too tangle up your clubs, hitting an iron out of the rough is very possible.

Because I had never played the course before, I decided to avoid keeping score. However, after about 7 or 8 holes, I realized I probably should have. I had read reviews that said playing here was like playing “target” golf. I disagree. As I said, the maintenance of the course and positioning of the hazards were such that all you really need to do is play smart and your score should be comparable to what you normally shoot on other courses. What you definitely cannot do is whack your tee shot or approach without carefully considering you landing zone. Because you have water and narrow fairways, you must play the odds and lay up or otherwise play conservatively at times. But so what? As amateur golfers, we should be doing that anyway right?

At the end of our round, someone was there immediately to help us take our clubs off the cart, and even cleaned our clubs for us. We were truly impressed. If you are considering a weekend trip that includes a round of golf, I urge you to consider The Dunes Golf Course on Sanibel Island. You will not be disappointed with either the staff or the course.

Now, if your are still disappointed with your round, that will be on you my friend, not the course.

Have fun!

Exorcism in Indiana

“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
–John 15:13

There are some stories I hear these days that make me really angry. This is one of them (click here to read it).

A mother in Indiana was convicted of murdering her son in an apparent “exorcism”. She and another woman created a concoction consisting of olive oil and vinegar and forced their children to drink it. While all of the children vomited the liquid, one of the boys stopped breathing in the process. The mother hid the body for over a year until she was discovered, and arrested. The worse part of all of this is that the woman, after the boy died, actually prayed and believed her boy would be resurrected.

It is times like these that I thank God for the church. I will tell you why. In bible studies that I participate in, occasionally, someone will speak out about problems they are having, and will ask the group to pray for them. It is times like these where the body of Christ has the opportunity to help a brother or sister in need. This involves prayers, but it also means common sense advice. Did these women have that? If they did, did their brothers or sisters in Christ recognize what was going on? Did they offer any help?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that as Christians, we need to be on the look out for fellow Christians that are going down the wrong path. How many times have we seen or heard of people who have been desperate, and have taken their own lives, or the lives of others? I wonder, if these people had been reached by someone, anyone, if these crimes could have been averted.

I believe the worse thing for someone in agony or despair is to be alone. Call it the devil, call it psychosis, call it whatever you want, being alone in these times leaves the person alone with their thoughts, and if they already have issues that are warping those thoughts, being alone can cause them to – well – go over the edge.

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
–1 Corinthians 12:26

I am not blind folks. I know that even a good Christian offering help will not prevent all of these types of crimes. I know that some are just too far gone. But Jesus teaches us to be there for our fellow man and woman. We are not to turn a blind eye to people in despair. We are to love our neighbors.

So let’s not look at a crime like this as some crazy wacko we are so removed from. Let’s instead see this as a woman we failed to reach. Let’s pray that we are able to help our brother or sister from being alone with their thoughts, and doing the wrong thing.

Do you know someone who is going through a divorce? Do you know someone who is going through money issues? Do you know someone who is in danger of going down the wrong path with respect to the law? Are they alone? They shouldn’t be.

You could be the one to help them.

Will you?

Is the World Ending?

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!
But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”
2 Peter 3:10-13

Harold Camping.

That’s the guy. He is the one that some of you may have heard about recently, who has predicted that Judgement Day is this coming Saturday, May 21st. He has made some calculations, based on his belief as to when the world was created, and using the Jewish calender and some other events, and made the decision that the end of the world is near. He has spent quite a bit of time advertising this fact, and there is a small minority who believe he is correct. A New York resident even spent his entire life savings – $140,000 – advertising the event on billboards.

So what do I think? No I don’t believe it. Mr. Camping wrote a book about his findings, and had previously stated the date was in 1994. We are still here. His calculations are also based on a date for creation that not only cannot be proven, but most people don’t agree with. In 1994, after the world did not end, he adjusted his calculations and tried again. Would a true prophet be so wrong? What does the Bible say? Well, the passage above says it all doesn’t it? The day will come like a thief. In other words, we won’t know when the day will come. Here is another one we should pay attention to.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
–Matthew 7:15-20

What does this passage say to us? Well, basically it tells us we can know a false prophet when their prophecy fails to “bear fruit”. Harold Camping’s predictions in 1994 obviously did not bear fruit. The passage also says something else to me. False prophets can also be said to bear false fruit when their prophesy is found to not be biblical. If we hear a prophecy, then find that it contradicts the bible, then the prophecy has been proven false. We should be very careful of anyone who claims to know the date and time of the second coming, since the bible tells us no one can know.

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”
–Matthew 24:36-37

However, let’s take a look at this prediction in a different light. Our pastor recently spoke about this and I believe he is right. How are we to react to events like these? Well, what if he is right? What if May 21st is our last day on earth? Would you be ready for the second coming of Jesus? After all, it doesn’t take the second coming for us to be called back to God. It happens every day. God could come back for me on the 20th, or maybe I survive the 21st, but end up standing before Jesus on the 22nd.

Events like these should be an eye opener for all of us. It should remind us that we are only travelers through this life, and we should be preparing ourselves to meet Jesus every day. After all, we will all be there one day whether we like it or not. There is no where to hide from God. I learned some time ago, that this life is but a blip of time, and we should be treating every day as a gift from Him, honoring Him in all that we do. This is a tough lesson to learn, and one we learn usually through trials and tribulations.

So what are we to do with our time, whether we have a few days, a few months, or a few years? I believe Jesus shows us in the bible that we are to believe in him, repent of our sins, and follow His commandments. We are to love our God, and we are to love our neighbors. Is He really asking for too much? I think not. He is revealed to us in so many ways, it really is just about surrender. We need to realize that He is in control. Let Jesus take the wheel, and know that God’s will is what powers us, not our selfish interests.

I will leave you with Psalm 39, which I believe tells us how we are to deal with this earthly life. In it, David is in torment. He feels the heavy hand of God because of his sin. So this Psalm is about David crying out to God for mercy on his soul. I don’t end with a passage like this to depress my readers. I do it to show how we should consider our actions on earth in relation to God’s plans, and His un-ending grace. Like David, we are sinners, yet we are God’s children whom He loves with a love greater than we can understand. Our entrance into the kingdom is granted only by His grace, not by any of our actions.

We are taught by the bible to humble ourselves, to recognize our fallen state, and how merciful God is to pay the price for our transgressions through the cross of Jesus Christ. How are we to live our lives, if not as humble servants? I will continue to ask God to give me the strength to follow His plan for my life, until the day I sit in Heaven. I will do my best to make every day on this earth count, as if it is the last one I am given.

“I said, I will guard my ways,
that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth with a muzzle,
so long as the wicked are in my presence.
was mute and silent;
I held my peace to no avail,
and my distress grew worse.
My heart became hot within me.
As I mused, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue:
O LORD, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!

Selah

Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.
Deliver me from all my transgressions.
Do not make me the scorn of the fool!
I am mute; I do not open my mouth,
for it is you who have done it.
Remove your stroke from me;
I am spent by the hostility of your hand.
When you discipline a man
with rebukes for sin,
you consume like a moth what is dear to him;
surely all mankind is a mere breath!

Selah

Hear my prayer, O LORD,
and give ear to my cry;
hold not your peace at my tears!
For I am a sojourner with you,
a guest, like all my fathers.
Look away from me, that I may smile again,
before I depart and am no more!”
–Psalms 39