Mommy and Daddy…

daddy's_hand

 

So as foster parents there is the inevitable dilemma.

What should our foster child call us?

Mommy and Daddy?

Should they call us by our names?

Is it even up to us?

 

Our little one has called us mommy and daddy since she got here.  Honestly we have not discouraged her, as doing so I think would cause even more confusion.  She is not old enough to understand why we would be discouraging her.  But I have to tell you at first it seemed odd.  Obviously not odd to this little innocent child.  Odd to the adults who know the circumstances.  I mean, how will the bio mom feel about that?  How will our little one react when she sees her bio mom again?

Just last night at dinner, we were sitting around at the table, and our little one pointed at me, and told my wife “That’s daddy!”.  I pointed at my wife and asked “Who’s that?” to which she answered “Mommy!”

After some thought, I realized the sense of comfort and safety those words must mean for her.  She is with mommy and daddy.  Mommy and daddy represent family to her.  They represent normalcy.  They represent love.  Isn’t that, in the end, what we are called to do for this little girl?  Aren’t we charged with bringing the joy and love of Christ to one who needs it the most?

Of course the answer is yes.  So for now, we will be her mommy and daddy.  One day, when she is older, she will understand the difference between our kind of mommy and daddy, and the bio mommy and daddy.  But this child has already experienced a trauma in her life  no child should ever experience.  Adding more trauma by trying to take away the only mommy and daddy she knows right now would not be in her best interests.

Besides, I can’t tell you it doesn’t feel good to be called daddy.  Sure, I know one day, she will be mad at me, and as most do, she will angrily take that title away from me as revenge.  It is part of growing up and for foster kids part of dealing with their circumstances.  And I will have to understand.

But right now, I am daddy.

And as George Strait says in his song, a dad’s love is “A love without end, Amen!”

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One step forward, two steps back…

crying

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

–James 1:2-4

 

We are learning every day about our precious child of God, this foster child we have been blessed with.  We had been progressing with her pretty steadily.  However, a couple of days ago, she met with her bio family.

All seemed to have gone well according to the case worker.  However, that night, she couldn’t sleep.  She awoke at 1 AM and was awake for about 3 hours before falling back to sleep.  We can only imagine what she was thinking.  Maybe she thought when she saw her bio family that she was going home with them.  We were not able to be with her during the visit so we don’t know for sure, but we know it could not have been easy to leave her family again.  She probably thought it was all happening again, that separation that these foster kids deal with over and over again.

My heart breaks for this precious child, and I feel helpless.

The last couple of days have been hard at day care drop off.  As we get closer to the door, she starts to grab on tighter to my neck, wrapping her little legs around me to prevent me from putting her down.  Inevitably, when I finally set her down, the tears flow.  As much as I want to grab her tight and take her home, I simply tell her I will be back later, and walk away quickly.  I can see her through the window as her care taker picks her up to console her.

Again heartbreaking, even if it is necessary.

I know the impact we are having on her.  I see the progress she is making.  I see how much she smiles and dances when we are together.  In her smile, I see the work of Jesus.  She really is our Lord in bottle for me, pure joy that comes from the love He emanating from Him through us.

But sometimes I simply don’t understand why she needs to go through this.  I know there is a plan, a holy one that one day I will realize.  But right now, I just want to protect her from this world,  a world that can be cruel and uncaring, and one she does not deserve.

For now, I will lean on this verse:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

–Proverbs 3:5-6

 

What Happened To You, Caylee Anthony?

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”
–Matthew 18:10

I am angry.

Even though I have my opinions about the case, the fact is I was not there. I don’t have all of the facts. I was not a juror, having to decide the fate of this mother. Yet the truth is that I have serious doubts as to Casey Anthony’s innocence. I also have serious doubts as to the innocence of the entire family. I cannot believe that no one in the Anthony family knows what happened to Caylee. They know, and one day, mark my words, those responsible will have to stand before God and explain their actions.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
–Jeremiah 29:11

I know where Caylee is. She is in Heaven. She is sitting next to our Savior. Whether she is aware of what is going on down here I don’t know. But she is no longer in pain. She no longer has duct tape wrapped tightly around her mouth and nose, cutting off her breath. She is no longer lying in the back of a car trunk. She is no longer discarded in a field, being rained on, open to the elements. She is flying high, safe and sound, in the arms of a family that has much more concern for her than she ever received on earth. No longer will she wait for her mother while she parties all night. No longer will she be neglected, set aside while the adults in her life find other pursuits to entertain them. She is now receiving the love she was denied on earth.

This case makes me angry.  I am angry because the trial, and its verdict, reminds me that a family in Orlando cared so little for the welfare of this child, that they allowed her to be killed, stuffed in a car, then discarded in a field.

What really happened to Caylee?

The trial did not answer the question, and we may never know.  The Anthony family knows the answer, though.  They were entrusted with the care of this child. The child was NOT their possession, to do with as they please. That child belongs to God, and they chose to destroy her earthly body, either by their actions, or by their neglect. They will answer for it. God is not only a God of love, but one of justice. They will never be able to hide from Him.

The ones responsible for Caylee’s death may have escaped justice in this world, but God’s justice will come.

In a few weeks, the media will slowly stop covering this case. People will go about their daily lives. Some will forget the names, the facts surrounding the case, and the faces will fade from their memory. Caylee will become one of the many children our society mourns for a time, then discards much like the way she was discarded by those she trusted. I hope this does not happen in this case, but I know for many it will. We are a fickle society. We have been de-sensitized to these stories, because, unfortunately, they happen often enough that they no longer shock us as they should.

But folks, this is a human being, a child. She did not deserve this. My hope is that everyone who reads this blog will look at the photo of Caylee, really look at it. She is your daughter. She is your sister. She is your friend. She deserved much better. She deserved to live a full life. We need to cry over her death. We need to mourn her. We need to be angry. We need to pray – really hard – that God does a work on the hearts of the mothers and fathers in our society. We need to pray that parents place a higher priority on the health and well being of their children than they do on going to a party, getting a tattoo, and drinking themselves into oblivion.

Today, I mourn the death of a little girl taken too soon, but I rejoice in knowing she is safe in our Savior’s arms.

America, look at that photo, and see that you do not forget that little girl.

I will never forget you,  Caylee Anthony.

Wanna Go For a Ride?

“Hey, someone outside said he knows you from school.  He’s asking if you can come out.”

I had just come home from school.  I  was in the 9th grade, which in 80’s meant I was still in junior high school.  Later they would change the school system, and 9th graders would be moved to high school.  When I go outside, I see a kid on a dirt bike.

“Hey, what’s up man?”

It was Michael, a friend from school.  We were in a couple of classes together, and usually had lunch at the same time.  We had kind of become friends, and I had told him where I lived.  Turns out he lived only a couple of blocks away, so he came over on his dirt bike that afternoon.

“Hey, Mike.  You have a bike? Nice!”

I was intrigued.  I had been around dirt bikes and three wheel all-terrain vehicles before.  Miami back then had plenty of rural areas, and plenty of kids had them.  However, my parents didn’t let us ride them.  They considered them dangerous, and I was only 14, so they not going to be ok with me hopping on the back of Mike’s dirt bike.

“Wanna go for a ride?”

Yes of course I did.  Who wouldn’t.  I was 14, and what kid at that age wouldn’t love to ride a motorcycle.  I was conflicted.  I could probably ride with Mike for a couple of minutes without my mom knowing.  She was inside cleaning, and I would probably be back before she could figure it out.

But what if she did figure it out?  What if she told my dad?  Then I would be in big trouble.  I would probably be grounded for a while, and summer was coming up.  Was it worth it to get a chance to ride?  I thought about it for a few seconds.

“Sorry, man, my parents won’t let me.”

“Whatever, dude.  See ya.”

Off Mike rode into the sunset, the motorcycle kicking up dust into my face, as my chances of “cool-dom” rode off with it.  I felt like a total geek.  My parents are so dumb, I thought.  All the kids are doing it.  Why did my folks have to keep me tied up in this dungeon of a place, only letting me out for exercise one hour out of the day, feeding me scraps and dirty water as I worked the chain gang in the mines all day.  At least that is how I thought of my life at that moment – a prisoner.

I eventually got over my deep depression.  I had a decent summer that year.  I went to high school and graduated with a decent GPA.  After trying college and dropping out, I eventually went back, graduated, and today I consider myself lucky to have a career in a slumping economy.  Even though I have had my bumps along the way, my life has been relatively good.

Mike hit a car that summer and was thrown from his bike, landing on his head. He became the subject of controversy that year, helping to ignite a series of changes in Miami over a trauma center crisis in our city.  He suffered a serious head injury, but was denied treatment at the nearest hospital, which did not have a trauma center.  He died on his way to Jackson Memorial Hospital, the only trauma center available at the time.

I think about Mike every once in awhile.  He was a good kid.  He didn’t usually get into trouble.  His parents apparently allowed him to ride a dirt bike – without a helmet.  I had made a choice that day, using the free will God gave me.  It really could have gone either way.  I could have given in to my impulses and hopped on his bike.  Mind you, that day he came over to my house was not the day he died.  But who knows what could have happened if I had made the decision to ride that day?  Maybe it would have only been the first day I rode on the back of that dirt bike.  Maybe I would have been on the back of that bike the day he had his accident.  Who knows?

What is my point?

Well, a couple of things.  First of all, I thank my parents for raising me in such a way that I feared my consequences if I didn’t do what they told me to do.  They simply told me I was not to ride on motorcycles – period.  They didn’t spend much time telling me why.  They did not counsel me.  They did not advise me.  They said don’t do it or else I would be in trouble.  There is something to be said for parents exerting their authority on their children.  Your children don’t have to  understand everything in life, they simply need to trust that you are doing what is best for them.

The second point is more about faith.  I truly believe that God has a plan for every one of us.  My plan apparently involved living past 14.  I was put on this earth for a reason, and I hope to continue to fulfill God’s will for my life, until He calls me home.  As for Mike, apparently God only needed him on this earth for 14 years.  In that time, Mike helped to change our world for the better.  Miami finally realized the huge problem their health facilities had with regard to trauma centers, and today Miami does a much better job in that regard.  The dangers of riding a motorcycle without a helmet is very apparent today, even though some still ignore the dangers.  Back then, no one rode bicycles without helmets.  Today, I put one on every time I take my mountain bike around the block, and most people put one on when they ride their motorcycles.

God gave us free will.  We make our choices in life, and hopefully we make the right ones.  But while we make those choices, God will always guide our path.  In the end, He is the one in charge, and He will decide when it is time to come home.  Thankfully, God blessed me with parents who protected me and taught me – sometimes with great resistance – when to say no.  He worked on them, so that they could teach me to stay safe, so that I could fulfill God’s plan for my life.

My hope is that Michael Pollack is looking down on us, and is smiling every time he sees a 14 year old put on a helmet.

Ride on Mike…

Thanks Dad!

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
–Proverbs 22:6

1978.

We had recently moved from New Jersey to Miami.  Our dad had bought a few chickens, and  was in the backyard, with a bunch of wood and other materials.

He calls out for me to come out.  He says he needs help.

“Son – come over here.  I need some help.”

He is standing there with a box of nails, hammer in hand.

“We are going to build a chicken coop.  Stand there and hold this box of nails.”

It is now three hours later, and I am still holding a box of nails while my dad is hammering away.  During those three hours, I have asked several questions about the chicken coop – how we were going to build it, where it was going to go in the back yard, which chickens would live there.  Yet during the entire three hours, I have done nothing but hold a box of nails. Suddenly I am not getting the whole “we” part of the equation.  Not feeling very helpful, and fidgeting about as frustration grows, I start to complain.

“Papi, I am not really helping here.  Can I go play?”

Dad is not pleased.  He gives me one of those looks that says I am venturing down the wrong path with my words or actions.  History tells me that this look is usually proceeded with consequences for continuing my bad behavior.

I stand quietly for the rest of the afternoon.

1982.

My grandfather has passed away, and we are at the funeral home.  My dad’s father was a very well loved man, and it is standing room only as we mourn his passing.  My father is a strong man.  I see him greeting people as they come in.  Many hug him, offering their condolences.  This is my first funeral, and it is confusing.  My grandfather helped raise me, and the loss is so hard to deal with for me, yet I see my father walking around like it is no big deal.  Sometimes I even see him smile and laugh with others as they engage in small talk.

Then it is time for the priest to say a few words.  I don’t remember what he said.  I just remember everyone standing around the coffin and praying.  My grandmother and aunt are crying now.  Then the coffin is closed, and my father finally breaks down.

“No!  I can’t do this!”

I see him run to another room, and we all look around at each other.  Before I realize what is happening, my brothers, my step mom, aunt, and a few others are in the other room, and we are huddled together around him, all sobbing and coming to grips with our loss.

It was the first time I can remember seeing my father cry.

2010

I am getting married.  This is my second chance at a covenant with God.  My first wife passed after a long bout with Diabetes and Kidney disease.  Throughout our battle with the disease, my dad was always there, offering whatever help he could.  But now, I had gotten a second chance at marriage with a wonderful woman.

My dad steps to the altar, and begins to read.  We had chosen John 3:1-17 for him to read.  I know that this is one of his favorite passages of the Bible.  Throughout the years, it had also become mine.  What a comfort it is to know that the man who led me to follow Christ many years ago, is present to remind me and those around us what being a Christian is all about.

The day I spent holding a box of nails was one of the most boring in my life.  I really did not understand what the point was.  What was this torture my father was putting me through?  What was the point of standing there with a bunch of nails?

There was a point.

He was teaching me obedience.  Through my obedience to my father, I was learning patience and humility.  I was learning that sometimes, we don’t have to understand they why’s of life, but that if we simply stand there and obey our father, we just may learn something, through patience, through listening, through observing.

The day of my grandfather’s funeral still plays out in my head.  We all miss him so much, even today.  He was such a great example for all of us.  That day at the funeral home, my father taught me more than he knows.  He taught me strength.   He taught me how to be strong in the face of trials and tribulations.  He taught me love.  His love for his father came through in a way no one could doubt.  It is the same love I hold for him as well.  Finally, I  learned how important family is, how valuable it is to have a family you can call upon at a moments notice.

The day I was married, I had both my mother and father present to view it.  How valuable it was to  be married in the presence of the two people who are responsible for making me who I am.  Hearing my dad recite the way to salvation confirms what Jesus was really about – love.  When I was young, I did not understand, so I put my trust in my earthly father.  His unconditional love for me guided me through a path in my life that led me to the unconditional love of my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ. Throughout the years, when I have needed him, my Dad has been there.

No he is not perfect.   Part of growing up is coming to understand that our parents are human.  As we become adults, we learn to have adult relationships with our parents, and part of that change is understanding that our parents are sinners.  We all are.  Yet there is strength in that understanding.  When we realize that our parents are not perfect, we also realize that they too have gone through the same trials and tribulation that we may be facing.  It is that wisdom they have from experiencing life that continues to benefit us as we go through this life together, as brothers and sister in Christ.

Thanks Dad, and Happy Father’s Day!

Justin Beiber Tattoo – Commitment or Pride?

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
–1 Corinthians 19-20

Justin Bieber recently got a tattoo on his body with the name of Jesus in Hebrew. You can read about it here

Please don’t go away. Keep reading. This is not a religious indictment on tattoos per se. This post is really just my opinion about tattoos in general, from a Christian perspective. This is not the old guy on the corner yelling “Get off my lawn.” I promise.

So what do I think about Justin Bieber, or anyone, getting a tattoo of Jesus? It is actually a difficult question to answer. On the one hand we have the passage above, that puts such great emphasis on how God expects us to treat our own bodies. On the other, it is a tattoo of Jesus. I mean if you are going to get a tattoo, why not one that tells the world that you follow our great Savior, right?

Well, I can tell you that I have no tattoos, not even of Jesus. I have never really liked tattoos. I always considered them to detract rather than add. You see, I have always considered my body to be something given to me by God, and a tattoo was something that – well – was not right. Yes I know that in society today, tattoos are widely accepted. Yes I know that this position makes me somewhat of an old fuddy duddy. By no means do I consider tattoos some really bad evil thing you should be condemned for, but I have always considered them a negative thing. Hey it is just one guy’s opinion, take it or leave it.

But is it really a sin? Is it really wrong? I mean, if you get a tattoo for the purpose of honoring God, is it acceptable? That is a very good question, and here is my opinion.

It depends.

Why are you doing it? No I mean really, deep down inside the depths of your soul – why? There is another article about this subject, which you can read here. It is talks of a pastor who has tattoos himself and approves of them as memorials. I get it. I can see how a tattoo can be used as a memorial to Jesus, as a powerful statement of faith. However, it is a slippery slope for us, and one we should think seriously about. Before you go out and get yourself a Yeshua tattoo to match the one Justin got, be sure that is really why you are doing it. Let’s make sure this is really not something you are doing out of pride, rather than as a statement of faith. C.S. Lewis, considered one of the great Christian writers of our time, explains pride this way:

“The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility. You may remember, when I was talking about sexual morality, I warned you that the centre of Christian morals did not lie there. Well, now, we have come to the centre. According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”
–C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The form of pride I am talking about specifically here is vanity. The problem with this particular vice is simply that in many cases, it is hidden from us. How many times have we seen people do very good things for the wrong reasons? Sometimes it is the person giving to the poor to impress other people, or going to church to be seen by others as good. There are so many examples of pride, where we place ourselves first and act out of vanity or conceit, rather than the selfless humble way in which Jesus would prefer.

So in that respect, my word of caution is this. If you truly are getting that tattoo in honor of Jesus, and it is an act of humble recognition of your commitment, who am I to say it is not a good thing? But if your real desire is to stand out in the crowd, to puff yourself up or say “hey look at me, look how great I am”, then my suggestion to you is simply – pray about your decision. The tattoo artist will still be there tomorrow if this is the right decision. But make sure your decision is for the right reasons.

“But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
–Mark 10:42-45

What a beautiful passage this is. It shows how Jesus, as great as He was, humbled Himself to minister to His people. What better way of closing my post than to say that with regard to tattoos, as Christians we are to humble ourselves as Jesus did. Let’s remember that Jesus can see our actions. Jesus does not need a tattoo to know your commitment to Him, and the outside world will benefit more from your humility and selflessness, than the attention you attract by your outward display of a tattoo.

It’s a Secret

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
–Genesis 1:26-27

“And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
–Genesis 2:21-24

I think most of us are familiar with the passages above. It is how we were created. Notice the clear distinction between man and woman? It was deliberate. It is apparent that we are to take these passages and see the obvious differences between men and women. We are not the same, and there is good reason for it. Whether we like it or not, God created men and women for different purposes. We each have our roles on this earth.

No my blog is not about homosexuality. It is not about women’s liberation, or the other controversies you typically hear about in today’s society attributed to men and women’s roles. I do realize that this post may be about those subjects in an indirect way, but it is not my intention to discuss those topics here. I get that in today’s society, women work outside of the home, and some men stay at home with the kids. I get that we have a society today that is much different than the ones depicted in the Bible. Instead, my blog post today is about an article I read that has me a little – well – upset.

There are two parents that have decided to raise their 4 month old child without a gender.

What?

Yes I said that right. You can read the article here. The Stockers have decided that the constraints of gender in our society is something they don’t want to expose to their young son or daughter. Here are some of the quotes from the parents in the article:

“If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs…”

“We’ve decided not to share Storm’s sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm’s lifetime (a more progressive place? …).”

“What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children. It’s obnoxious”

“In fact, in not telling the gender of my precious baby, I am saying to the world, ‘Please can you just let Storm discover for him/herself what s (he) wants to be?!.”

You ever read an article on the web, and have the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? This one did it for me. Gender is such a basic part of who we are. How could these parents possibly make the decision to deny this to their child? Listen I get that gender is a hot topic in our society. But gender is not something that is to be decided. It has already been decided. Gender is not a choice. Mind you, I am not talking about sexual orientation, but rather gender.

What is “between your legs” is God given, whether you like it or not. By not teaching their children properly with regard to gender, they are not giving them freedom of choice, they are stifling their growth as human beings. I wonder, if when crossing the street for the first time, they will attempt to hold their child’s hand, or simply let them make their own decision as to when to cross? I mean, if you want them to have freedom of choice…

Children are not to be used as social experiments. Parents have a responsibility given to us by God to raise our children correctly, and part of that is showing them what it is to be a man or a woman. Denying gender is a lie you are telling to your children, for your selfish reasons, and based on your own hangups and baggage. I pray that these parents will come to their senses and choose not to cripple their children by resisting the God given, wonderful differences between man and woman. They were given to us for a reason, and we should embrace them, not hide them in the interest of pleasing a sector of society, that in many ways is broken, and in need of repair.


“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
–Proverbs 22:6

Again, my intention by this blog post is not to cause controversy or stir up issues with regard to the battle of the sexes, or homosexuality. It is simply a recognition of what we have learned from the Bible about how men and women were created, and the natural differences between us.

Christians, let’s learn from these misguided parents, and be ever mindful of how we train our children. They really our the future of this world. Don’t succumb to the pressures of this fallen world and resist the God given gender differences we have been given. Your child will have plenty of time in his or her life to make the tough decisions on their role in society. Don’t make it more difficult for them by confusing them. Man was made for a reason. Woman was made for a reason. Embrace the differences, because they came from a God who loves us, and He wants men and women to complement each other and help each through through this momentary blip of time we call life.