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Future Me’s Problem

Future Me’s Problem

Last night, while answering the routine ‘how-was-your-day’ questions, Evelyn (9) said, “I left my math homework at school, but I’m not worried about it right now. That’s Future Me’s problem and I can’t do anything about it. Future Me will just have to deal with it tomorrow.”

I’m still not sure if this is irresponsible or brilliant… or both! Certainly “Future Me” had to deal with some consequences today when the future collided with the present, and more consequences are pending if “Future Me” doesn’t maintain her math grades.  Still, I have to admire Evelyn’s carefree attitude when it comes to circumstances beyond her control.  She is an honor roll student, so please don’t get the impression that this is a common occurrence, but forgetfulness can happen to the best of us.  I must admit, I would probably lose sleep over what may or may not happen when I had to face my teacher the next day, but to Evie… that was Future Me’s problem.  She was just going to eat supper, play with her little brother, take a bath, and go to bed.  I think we can safely assume that Future Me won’t have to deal with any stomach ulcers down the road!

Anxious PenguinAdmittedly, I’ve been battling with anxiety in my own life recently.  Anxiety about the future, the economy, abortion, terrorism, growing threats here in the United States and abroad, the plight of Christians around the world, the fast growing moral decay that is eating away at the foundations of our society like a cancer and spiraling faster and faster out of control.  *hyperventilates into a paper bag… oo-ee-oo-ee-oo-ee*

I know 1 Peter 5:7 tells us, “cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.”  I know that, but it’s so easy to get overwhelmed with everything going on around us in the world and forget that God is indeed in control.  I’m (still) learning to calm my fears by spending time in prayer and in God’s Word.  God says “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”  (Psalm 46:10)  The Hebrew word for be still in this passage doesn’t mean to sit still and be quiet; it means to “let go”.  Let go of the things that you can’t control and know that He is God, He is on the throne, and He is in control.

I’m reminded of a little wooden plaque that used to hang on the wall in our kitchen when I was a boy.  We moved from Henagar to Rainsville when I was 12-years-old and I don’t recall seeing it since, but I remember it’s words very well.  Written on this plaque was a prayer called The Serenity Prayer.  You’ve probably heard it before.  It’s been often used and quoted:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I’ve prayed those three lines many times through the years.  That prayer, a memory from my childhood mingled together with memories of orange counter-tops and plaid wallpaper and my family sitting around a country kitchen.  It always takes me back every time I think about that little prayer.  But those three lines are actually a condensed version of a larger prayer; a wonderful, rich prayer authored by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in 1937.  Here is the prayer in it’s entirety:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.

May we live our lives with serenity, courage, and wisdom.  I will not be anxious (Matthew 6:31).  I will cast my cares on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7).  I will not be afraid because God is with me, giving me strength. (Isaiah 41:10)  The future may (or may not) be full of trouble and hardships, but I’m trying not to worry about it.  That’s just something that Future Me will have to deal with.

SerenityPrayer3

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2015 in Family, Personal

 

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Sexiest Thing I’ve Ever Done… Grocery Shopping?!

Sexiest Thing I’ve Ever Done… Grocery Shopping?!

The day started out normal enough.  It was stormy last night so none of us slept well.  The kids were in our room by 3am asking to crawl into bed with Mom and Dad.  One succeeded and the other two huddled together in the toddler’s room next door.  At daybreak, we hit the snooze button a few times before tumbling out of bed.  The remainder of the morning was a mad scramble to get ready and get out the door on time.

I usually drop the older kids off at school on my way to work while my wife stays at home with our youngest.  We knew before we left this morning that the kids didn’t have lunch packed, but we also didn’t have time to stop at the grocery store on the way.  Mandi could have taken the kids some food later in the day, but it would have been out of her way, so I decided to run to the store and pick up a Lunchable® to take back to the school after I dropped them off.  Problem solved.  I sent Mandi a quick text to let her know that she didn’t have to worry about the kids’ lunch.

Based on her reaction, this was the most provocative, sensual text message I’ve ever sent.  I may have inadvertently stumbled upon an obscure, enigmatic form of ‘sexting’ where you message your wife a list of chores that you’ve accomplished without being asked.  This message ignites the fires of passion and she texts you back a declaration of her love and unending devotion.  I think I’m onto something here.  I honestly think that if I had told her that I also filled up her vehicle with gas, she would have begged me to come straight home.

LovableLunchableIn Back to the Future Part II, Dr. Emmett L. Brown (Doc) tells Marty that he intends to destroy the time-traveling Delorean.  He explains that, “time-traveling is just too dangerous. Better that I devote myself to study the other great mystery of the universe: women.”

I certainly haven’t unravelled the mystery of women yet, but I did learn this principle several years ago and I was reminded of it today.  God has created men and women differently!

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” -Genesis 1:27

We are all created in the image of God and share so many similarities, but we cannot deny that there are some differences in the way that we are made.  Some of these gender differences will always remain a mystery, just as certain aspects of our wonderfully complex Creator is a mystery.  However, recognizing our differences is important because these differences affect your understanding and ability to please your spouse and create a wonderful, fulfilling marriage.  In short, you will not change your spouse to think and act just like you, so learn the differences and complement one another.

I actually found out the hard way that these difference don’t work in reverse.  We’ve read several excellent books over the years about how to have a successful marriage, and most of them have one chapter for men only and one chapter for women only.  In his book, A Celebration of Sex, Dr. Douglas Rosenau, a Christian marriage and family therapist, was no exception.  He even gave husbands and wives tips on how to arouse your spouse.  To the men he suggested things like, “Clear the table and load the dishwasher after dinner, wash and dry a load of laundry, or watch the kids and give your wife some time alone for a hot bath.”  I remember thinking, “Are you kidding me?! This stuff is a turn-on for women?!”

Then I flipped over to the chapter labeled “For Women Only” and read something much more interesting.  In my mind, the tips Dr. Doug gave the women on arousing their husbands sounded much more compelling.  One item in particular on this list caught my attention, and I thought we’d give it a try since the men’s list just sounded like alot of housework.  Tip #3 read,

“Don’t wear any underwear to a social gathering, and tell your husband on the way out the door. You’ll drive him crazy all day!”

The next opportunity we had to attend a “social gathering” was on a Sunday.  At a church.  Where I was leading worship.

That Sunday morning while I was driving, I looked over at my beautiful bride in the passenger’s seat, lowered my voice and said, “Hey, guess what… I’m not wearing any underwear…”  I probably don’t need to tell you that this statement did not achieve the intended results.  When I got the car back on the road, between punches and through clenched teeth I could just make out Mandi saying, “You’re not wearing underwear?! You’ve got to lead worship!!”  For the sake of the people involved, I won’t tell you when or where I was singing that day.

There really should be a warning label on marriage books like that, so consider my example before you try to reverse roles.  It was a hard lesson learned, but we look back on it and laugh now.  Mandi and I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Rosenau just a few weeks ago at a marriage retreat with the 10,000 Fathers Worship School and I shared our story with him over dinner.  He got a kick out of it, but he also took the opportunity to say, “I told you so.”

We are created different, but we should celebrate those differences and complement one another, not try to change each other.  I’m an extrovert and Mandi is an introvert so it used to drive me crazy when she would avoid calling someone on the phone.  I would try to “fix” her by forcing her to make calls, even if it was something simple like ordering pizza.  Now I understand more about her personality and her comfort level and I truly have her best interests at heart.  I’m perfectly capable of ordering pizza and I know she really appreciates not having to speak to people over the phone.  Neither is right or wrong; just different and complementary.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 12.00.05 AMBecome an expert on your spouse.  Check out Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, and learn how to speak your spouse’s language.  Take a personality profile together like the Myers-Briggs test to learn more about one another and how your personalities differ.  Above all, God’s Word tells us to “put on a heart of compassion and patience” (Colossians 3:12).  If you love your wife, then you’ll want to know her, to understand her, to have empathy for her so you can love her more.  It’s what we want in marriage: to know and be known by another in the safety of unconditional love.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the dishwasher just finished a cycle and I think I hear my wife calling my name.


If you’d like to know more about some of the resources that I mentioned, click here to see a list of books that have been a tremendous help to me and Mandi in our marriage and as we raise a family.  God Bless.


 
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Posted by on April 21, 2015 in Family, Personal

 

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Marriage and Family Resources

Here is a list of resources that have been a tremendous help in our marriage and as we raise a family (books are listed in no particular order).  We sincerely hope these Christ-centered resources will help you as much as they have helped us.  If you haven’t read my post about some of these resources in action, check it out here.  You might enjoy a good laugh.  And if we can ever be of any service to you, please feel free to contact us.


Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 12.00.05 AMThe 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts
by Dr. Gary Chapman

Falling in love is easy. Staying in love-that’s the challenge! How can you keep your relationship fresh and growing amid the demands and conflicts and just plain boredom of everyday life?

In the #1 New York Times bestselling book The 5 Love Languages, you’ll discover the secret that has transformed millions of relationships worldwide. Whether your relationship is flourishing or failing, Dr. Gary Chapman’s proven approach to showing and receiving love will help you experience deeper and richer levels of intimacy with your partner-starting today.


Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 11.58.53 PMThe Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love
by Tim and Beverly LaHaye

For engaged couples and newlyweds who want to make lovemaking a joy from the start . . . For couples who have been married for years and want to maintain the flame or rekindle the embers . . . for every husband or wife who wants to be a better lover — here are the insights into each other’s bodies, psychosexual makeup, and need for tender, unselfish affection that can help you achieve your goal. With over 2.5 million copies in print, The Act of Marriage has helped thousands of Christian couples maximize their joy in sexual union and saved countless marriages. Pastors, doctors, and psychologists alike have endorsed the frank, practical insights.


Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 10.28.26 PMA Celebration of Sex: A Guide to Enjoying God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy
by Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau

Dr. Douglas Rosenau is a licensed psychologist, and a Christian sex therapist who has for the past seventeen years used his training in theology and counseling to help Christian couples enrich and reclaim God’s wonderful gift of sexuality within marriage.

A Celebration of Sex answers specific, often unasked questions about sexual topics, presents married couples with detailed techniques and behavioral skills for deepening sexual pleasure and intimate companionship, and is an excellent tool for premarital education.


HisNeedsHerNeedsHis Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage
by Willard F. Jr. Harley

In the classic bestseller His Needs, Her Needs, Willard F. Harley, Jr., identifies the ten most vital needs of men and women and shows husbands and wives how to satisfy those needs in their spouses. He provides guidance for becoming irresistible to your spouse and for loving more creatively and sensitively, thereby eliminating the problems that often lead to extramarital affairs.

This revised and expanded edition has been updated throughout and includes new writing that highlights the special significance of intimate emotional needs in marriage.


RedHotMonogomyRed-Hot Monogamy: Making Your Marriage Sizzle
by Bill & Pam Farrel

With their trademark insight, humor, and candid personal perspectives, Bill and Pam Farrel reveal the truths about the sexual relationship in marriage and what husbands and wives need to know to keep the embers burning.

  • Sex is like fireworks!–why a little skill turns marriage into red-hot monogamy
  • How sex works best emotionally, physically, and physiologically
  • How to avoid the pleasure thieves that steal your chance for fulfillment

The Farrels present difficult-to-discuss topics and biblical truths in universal language with sensitivity, fun, and understanding.


Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 12.21.32 AMRekindling the Romance: Loving the Love of Your Life
by Dennis & Barbara Rainey

By God’s design, romance is supposed to be the flame in the fireplace of marital intimacy. Yet far too many Christian couples feel cheated because their marriage produces as much spark as a book of wet matches. Others have neglected to fan the flames of passion for so long that they have lost hope of experiencing romance.

Rekindling the Romance is organized into short, biblically-based chapters. Packed with practical insight, this tastefully candid and inviting resource provides the Christian couple with the keys to unlock their relational and sexual intimacy.


FAMILY RESOURCES


ToTrainUpTo Train Up a Child
by Michael & Debi Pearl

Three thousand years ago, a wise man said, “Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Good training is not crisis management; it is what you do before the need of discipline arises. Most parenting is accidental rather than deliberate. Imagine building a house that way. We don’t need to reinvent training. There are child training principles and methods that have worked from antiquity. To neglect deliberate training is to shove your child into a sea of choices and passions without a boat of compass. This book is not about discipline, nor problem children. The emphasis is on the training of a child before the need to discipline arises. It is apparent that, though they expect obedience, most parents never attempt to train their child to obey. They wait until the behavior becomes unbearable and then explode. With proper training, discipline can be reduced to 5% of what many now practice. As you come to understand the difference between training and discipline, you will have a renewed vision for your family, no more raised voices, no contention, no bad attitudes, fewer spankings, a cheerful atmosphere in the home and total obedience from your children.


OrphanologyOrphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care
by Tony Merida and Rick Morton

Orphanology unveils the grassroots movement that’s engaged in a comprehensive response to serve hundreds of millions of orphans and “functionally parentless” children.  You’ll see a breadth of ways to care with biblical perspective and reasons why we must. Heartwarming, personal stories and vivid illustrations from a growing network of families, churches, and organizations that cross culture show how to respond to God’s mandate. The book empowers:
– churches—to plan preaching, teaching, ministering, missions, funding adoption, supporting orphans;
– individuals and families—to overcome challenges and uncertainties;
– every believer—to gain insights to help orphans in numerous ways.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2015 in Family

 

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When Life Lessons Backfire

When Life Lessons Backfire

IMG_1710I took all three kids to Stevi B’s (pizza buffet/arcade) by myself this week to give my wife a break (and let’s be honest, to earn a few brownie points in the process).  Part of the proceeds would benefit their school and the pizza is good, but the real reason the kids like Stevie B’s is the arcade.  You’ve been there before, or somewhere very much like it.  In the arcade you exchange cash for tokens, then the kids play their favorite games and win tickets.  Finally, at the end of the night, they add up their tickets to exchange the tickets for toys.  Sounds like fun, but I overlooked one little detail.  I forgot how long it takes for kids to decide what to get with their tickets.  Their little faces were pressed up against the glass for what seemed like hours, making life-and-death decisions.  “Super Bouncy Ball or Glow in the Dark Vampire Teeth?!? Dad, I’ve spent 383 tickets, but what can I do with my last four?!?”

I’ve never missed my wife more than I did in that moment.

Once they carefully selected their treasures we made our way back to the truck for the drive home.  Since the kids spent some of their own money in the arcade, I thought this would be a great time for a life lesson.  Our conversation shifted toward value and worth.  My daughter asked how much each ticket was worth.  I explained that each token cost twenty-five cents, but the number of tickets you received for each token depended upon your skill at the game.  The better you are a Skee-Ball, the more tickets you get per token.  Then I asked the kids to add up how much money they spent in the arcade.  The total was about five dollars each.  So I asked them to look at the cheap, plastic items in their lap and tell me if they were worth five dollars.  And that’s when I learned my life lesson.  My son looked up with wonder and amazement in his eyes and exclaimed, “I got all this stuff for just five dollars?! What a great deal! We need to come shopping here all the time!”

In my son’s eyes, you just couldn’t put a value on a blue plastic samurai sword that he had “always wanted forever”.  Then you throw in a ball, some glow-in-the-dark teeth, and a friendship bracelet… this was a king’s ransom.  I didn’t have anything else to say.  The words “value” and “worth” have never been so real to me.  I remember asking my Dad one time how much something was worth and his reply was, “whatever someone is willing to pay.”  It really is hard to put a value on some things because value is relative based on the object’s merit or importance.

As we drove along in silence and the kids played with their new treasures, my mind drifted to a few scriptures that describe our worth to our Heavenly Father.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” -Matthew 10:29-31

God cares for his creation.  In fact, not even one sparrow dies and falls to the ground without God noticing it.  To us sparrows seem so small and insignificant, but if God values the sparrows so much, how much more does He care for, and value us?  We are more valuable than many sparrows!  God knows so much about us that He even knows the number of hairs on our head! (insert joke about your friend who is bald)

Listen… sometimes you may feel like a worthless pile of plastic junk.  A bent and broken toy samurai sword that’s just one swing away from the trash, but when your Heavenly Father looks at you, He sees a King’s ransom.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2015 in Family, Personal

 

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James W. Ingram – My Tribute

You’ll find below my sermon notes from the eulogy delivered at my grandfather’s funeral on May 9, 2014.  I share them for posterity, to let people know more about the greatest man I ever knew, and in hopes that one day my children can look back at this report and learn more about a man who loved them to the moon and back.


In my mind, James Ingram was the personification of the fruit of the spirit.  Each word penned by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatian church describes him so well.

Galatians 5:22-24 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

I can only testify about my grandfather from my own perspective with the knowledge that grandchildren have a special vantage point.  By the time we meet our grandparents, they’ve made most of their mistakes and learned most of their life lessons.  I never knew the soldier.  I never knew the medic. I never knew the constructions worker.  I just knew him as Grandaddy.

Some of my earliest childhood memories come from spending time with my Grandaddy.  He was my ride to school in the mornings when my sister and I were in elementary school at Pisgah.  Then he would pick me up on Saturday mornings and we would go up to Ford’s restaurant in Henagar for breakfast.

Grandaddy served faithfully at Happy Home Baptist Church as a treasurer and deacon for fifty-five years.  He would always let me tag along to fill up the baptistry or put out the new Sunday School literature once a quarter.  After church on Sunday afternoons he went to his study to add up the morning offering using his old manual adding machine.  He would type in the numbers and let me pull the big lever to produce a total.  Grandaddy was great with money and I would always ask for pennies for my birthday or Christmas so we could spend time counting them all out and rolling them (it was only later than I learned that 1,000 pennies wasn’t that much money).

He was so good with numbers and puzzles and counting.  If you ever played cards with you him you knew that.  Grandmother would pretend to drop something so she could look at your hand, but Grandaddy knew exactly which cards had been played and which cards were still in the deck.  They’d never let him play in Vegas.

IMG_6930In the past few days many people have remarked how quiet my grandfather was, and that’s true, but when he did talk people listened.  There were a few occasions when he would get a far away look in his eye and start talking, recalling his childhood or his time in the Army serving in Korea.  We learned to just drop everything that we were doing and listen.

Just a few weeks ago after lunch one Sunday he started telling us about riding his bike all over Dutton, Alabama when he was a boy.  He told us about cruising off the mountain on Hwy 35 to Scottsboro and trying to get all the way to the bottom without pedaling.  After his first time riding back up the mountain he figured out that you better catch a ride back up in a pickup truck or you’d be so sore you couldn’t ride your bike for a week.

That same day Grandaddy told us about getting a little older and riding a horse.  He loved his horse because you could stay at a friend’s house till after dark and when it was time to go home, the horse knew how to get there by himself.  Grandaddy could just hop on and get the horse started and he would go all the way to his stall in the barn.

I loved hearing him tell stories about serving in the Army; stories of God’s faithfulness and protection.  Many of you have heard my grandfather share his testimony about being wounded in battle during the Korean War and missing his chance to go on leave for a week.  He was stuck in a military hospital, but God used those circumstances to spare his life.  The flight he missed went down on it’s way to Japan.  Ninety-nine soldiers died that day, but his life was spared.  He carried those battle scars for the rest of his life as a reminder of God’s grace and mercy.

God has also spared Grandaddy’s life several times in the past few years.  He has been been on dialysis and oxygen for the last four years, but his health really began to deteriorate about ten years ago.  At that time Grandaddy told us that he just wanted to live long enough to see my oldest son, Titus, turn five years old.  Not only did God grant that request, but He gave him a double portion.  Titus turned ten years old this January.  Grandaddy was also able to spend time with three more great-grand children: Solomon York, Evelyn Reed, and Matthew James Reed, who bears his name.

IMG_6252Now, I would do you a disservice this morning if I stood before you without sharing the source of Grandaddy’s peace and faithfulness.  Your life may not look like his.  Your life may look like the verses in Galatians just before the fruit of the spirit.

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 

Examine your own life this morning.  Does your life look like the first list?  Or the second?  James Ingram is in heaven today, not because he strived to attain the Fruit of the Spirit, but because of his relationship with Jesus Christ.  Those attributes (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) are evidence of his salvation, placed there by God.  He didn’t work to earn his place in heaven; it was a free gift.

My Grandaddy loved to give gifts.  I’m 33 years old and that means I have at least 66 pocket knives because he gave me one for every birthday and every year at Christmas.  If he gave me a knife and I never took it, never opened the wrapping paper, never accepted it, was it ever really mine?  No!  I would have to receive it before I could really say that it was mine.

Likewise, salvation is a free gift from God, but we have to receive it!  We are all sinners that owed a debt that we could not pay on our own, but Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, died on a cross and defeated death to pay OUR debt for us!

Sometimes I find it difficult to share the Gospel in the area where we live.  So many of us have heard stories from the Bible for so long that we’ve forgotten how amazing God’s grace really is.  People justify their actions by placing their security in walking an aisle as a child, even though they haven’t been to church or read their Bible in years.  There is no evidence of salvation and the Fruit of the Spirit is not evident in their lives.  Their life looks alot more like the deeds of the flesh.

My words don’t mean much this morning, but allow me to share with you the very words of God concerning salvation.  Listen to me!  God’s Words are quick and powerful and able to convict hearts and change lives this morning.  In the book of Romans we read:

Romans 3:23-24 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

We’re all sinners; all of us ungodly, even my grandfather. The Bible goes on to say:

Romans 5:6-8 “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The wages of sin is death.  That’s what we earn by our sin, but eternal life is a free gift!! So what do we have to do?

Romans 10:9-10 “…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

Painted in WaterlogueToday is the day of salvation.  If you can’t see the Fruit of the Spirit in your life that was so evident in the life of James Ingram, something is missing and that something is Jesus. If your life looks more like that second list, seek after the Lord and receive that free gift of salvation. Come find me after the service today and I’d love to talk with you or pray with you.

In closing I want to share a quote by Charles Spurgeon that I came across a few weeks ago.  I read it again this week and found it so fitting for this occasion.

“A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.” -Spurgeon

I believe James Ingram carved his name on the hearts of everyone here today.  We will continue to remember him long after all of these flowers have faded.  I’d like to leave you with a few words of comfort from the Scriptures:

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18  “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”


 
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Posted by on May 10, 2014 in Family, Personal

 

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Video

Sharing our Adoption Story

I was so blessed to have the opportunity to share our adoption story at my church, Nazareth Baptist, this evening. It’s a rare thing for the worship leader to step behind the pulpit and have the senior pastor lead the music, but God has given us a wonderfully talented staff. Each with his or her own strengths, but gifted in a variety of ways.  Glad I could be used by Him this evening.

Click here to watch a video of the worship service.

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2013 in Family, Ministry

 

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Our Foster Care to Adoption Journey – Part 4

If you haven’t read the other 3 posts, a great place to start is in the beginning.

ANTICIPATION

After the ISP meeting at the courthouse, Matthew’s biological mom began to realize that this case would not last much longer.  They had coasted for 13 months, and time was running out.  During our GPS training classes we discussed a child’s need for permanency, either with bio-parents or adopted parents.  Children thrive when they have structure and stability, so DHR owes it to each child to settle their cases as quickly as possible.  If reconciliation is achievable, then it should be done as soon as a safe environment for the child is provided.  If an adequate amount of time has passed and reconciliation looks less likely or impossible, then there comes a point when the court has to terminate the parent’s rights (TPR) and place the child with an adoptive family that can provide that stability they long for.  A Bill passed in the State of Alabama in February of this year requires TPR to be filed after the child has been in foster care for 12 months (it was previously 15 months which is what happened in Matthew’s case).

Bio-mom began looking for a job with a little more diligence. We even helped her fill out some applications, but a good job wasn’t that easy to find.  She finally got hired on second shift at a gas station, but it only lasted for 4 hours before they sent her home (I still don’t know the reason).  Around the same time they moved from their trailer back into the motel room and took two steps backward.

Mandi and I were experiencing an emotional tug-of-war during this time.  Our lives had become irrevocably intertwined with Matthew’s, and we knew that his bio-parent’s success meant that he would go back home.  It would have been easy to cut ties and let them sink or swim on their own, but if there was a chance that Matthew could stay with us forever and ask one day about his biological family, we wanted to be able to say that we did everything we could to help them make it.  This wasn’t just about Matthew, and this wasn’t just about his parents.  God called us into this, and we were serving Him.  Mandi and I held on to the parable of Jesus in Matthew 25:40.  His disciples asked, “When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?” and Jesus replied, “I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.”WhateverYouDid

The next few months dragged on for what seemed like an eternity.  Uncertainty weighs heavy on your soul and has a way of slowing down time.  With no forward progress attained, DHR filed for Termination of Parental Rights in November 2012 and scheduled a hearing before the judge.  They don’t typically schedule special hearings in December because of the holidays, so that pushed us into the new year.  A newly elected judge was set to take the reins in January, but at the last minute he was appointed to a higher position and all cases were postponed until another judge could be selected to serve in Marshall County.  When the new judge was finally in place, the docket was so far behind that the first hearing date available was April 3, 2013.  Seven full months since Matthew’s permanency goal was changed to adoption, and for us, seven full months of that tug-of-war emotional uncertainty.

TERMINATION

Just before the court date in April, there was a last minute panicked attempt from the Bio-parents to get things accomplished, but it was too late.  The damage had been done.  As we entered the courtroom it more closely resembled something on TV, since it was reserved only for Matthew’s case.  The bio-parents were seated on one side of the court with their attorney,  and the social workers with DHR’s attorney were seated on the opposite side.

As foster parents, Mandi and I were only responsible for Matthew’s care.  His permanent custody hearing was between the bio-parents and the State of Alabama, so we were allowed to attend, but had to remain silent observers.  I won’t go into the details of the four hour hearing, but it was excruciating for Mandi and me to be a third party in the courtroom, unable to speak on Matthew’s behalf.  After the witnesses were called and the evidence presented, the judge announced that he would issue a ruling in a few days then dismissed the courtroom.  A few days later I wrote the following to a friend:

We finally received word this morning that the judge has made a ruling in Matthew’s case and has terminated his biological parent’s rights. Their name will be stricken from his birth certificate, and when his permanent adoption occurs, our name will be written in it’s place. He’ll be given the new surname, Reed, and will forever become our son.  It will be as if he never knew them.

Our family is grateful for the ruling that was handed down today, and we can only imagine the path Matthew’s life would have taken if the outcome had been different. At the same time my joy is tempered with grief as I think about another set of parents who received a call with bad news this morning. They were told to prepare for one last farewell visit with their son. Through it all, I’m convinced that Matthew’s parents truly loved him. They rarely missed a visit, and they sent text messages to check on him often. They just didn’t love him more than they loved themselves. They have been quick to profess their love, but seemingly unwilling to do what it takes to provide a stable home for Matthew.

ADOPTIONIMG_6292

Even after the TPR was finalized it still took a few months to complete all of the paperwork for adoption.  Matthew’s case was handed over to a different social worker at DHR that specialized in facilitating the adoption of children in foster care.  She walked us through all the steps. We secured an attorney to handle the paperwork and filing on our behalf and requested one more hearing before the judge to finalize the adoption.  When the call finally came from the attorney’s office to inform us that we had been given a court date to sign the adoption into law, we were overcome by God’s provision and blessings.  The date was August 22, Matthew’s 2nd birthday.

At the time of adoption, we changed his last name (of course) and could have legally changed his first name as well, but we decided to leave it alone.  He would always be Matthew to us and any other name would seem unnatural at this point.  Besides, we couldn’t have picked a better name.  “Matthew” means “gift from God” and he certainly is.

COMPARISON 

“If anybody understands God’s ardor for his children, it’s someone who has rescued an orphan from despair, for that is what God has done for us. God has adopted you. God sought you, found you, signed the papers and took you home.”  –Max Lucado

Adoption is a wonderful picture of the Gospel.  We recognize ourselves as spiritual orphans; lost sinners in need of a Savior.  But Jesus came to earth to redeem us and give us the gift of salvation and a way to the Father if we will put our faith and trust in Him.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

“When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!”  So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” -Galatians 4:4-7

I believe this whole journey has given Mandi and I some insight into the lives of everyday people who say they love God, but are unwilling to surrender their will, their actions, their very lives to Him.  All around us people are quick to name the name of Christ, but they seem content to visit Him once a week and spend the rest of their lives doing what they want to do.  Matthew’s bio-parents were an extreme example of nominal Christians who say they love God, but do not posses any of the fruit of the spirit.  Jesus’ words in the book of Matthew immediately come to mind when he said “These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.”  I’m also reminded of John 14:15 that says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Christianity really is that simple, but it’s also that difficult.  Are we willing to do what it takes?  Do we love Jesus more than we love ourselves?  Do we spend our money and time on useless frivolity instead of giving our all to the Son?  One day it will be too late.  Time will expire and people will scramble to make last minute confessions, excuses about their inability to meet minimum requirements.  They’ll have one last farewell visit with The Son.  Then God will say, “depart from me, I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:23)

CONCLUSIONAdoption Day

Even though the adoption is complete and they have no legal standing, our family continues to visit Matthew’s Bio-parents on occasion.  We’ve met them at a local restaurant a couple of times and presented them with a Bible and devotional book to read.  They text us less frequently now, but still check-in from time to time and see how he’s doing.  I’m not sure what our relationship will look like in the future, but we will continue to pray for their well-being and their salvation even if they move on to another city or state.

Matthew’s adoption journey ends here, but our journey as a family is still being written.  We feel certain that God has more in store for our family through foster care and/or adoption, and we’re confident that whatever He leads us to, He’ll lead us through.  We cannot abandon the call of Psalms 82:3-4 to “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.  Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

If you’ve read this blog and God is moving you to action I’d like to recommend a few ways that you can get involved:

  • Pray – The children in foster care, the parents trying to straighten their lives out and get their kids back, the social workers that deal with problems every single day, all need our prayers.
  • Contact DHR and attend a GPS class  – There is no commitment involved.  These classes are for you to decide if foster care is right for your family.
  • Provide Respite Care – Foster families need a break from time to time and DHR is always looking for families that can keep foster kids just for the weekend, or maybe during a week-long vacation.
  • Donate – When children are removed from their home they often leave so much behind while they’re in foster care.  Help DHR provide clothes, stuffed animals to comfort children, suitcases for their belongings, etc.
  • Get Informed – Check out Jim Daly’s recent blog at Focus on the Family’s website.  You might be surprised to find out that 450,000 children are currently in foster care in the US.  Of those, 100,000 have parents whose rights have been terminated and are immediately available for adoption.

“Do you want to do something beautiful for God? There is a person who needs you. This is your chance.”  –Mother Teresa (very famous Albanian)

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Family, Personal

 

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