Saying goodbye to my…Church

Dear Church,

We are moving soon, and this will be our last Sunday in your building.  This is the last Sunday that I get to run into my friends, pick up a “Disco bro”, and usher the kids to their classes.  And I already miss you.

I wish I could say every person by name who had a profound influence on my life, but the blog would go on for lines. So here are 5 specific good byes that need to be said:

  1. To the students: who are now becoming young adults: you are life changers.  I have loved seeing you grow in your faith, seeing you struggle in your faith, and seeing you coming back to your faith.  You are a talented group that can change the world for Christ. We pray for you constantly.  We celebrate your victories, we cry when you are hurt, and we ache when you are lost.  Being able to work with the youth in our church was the best thing to happen to our marriage and our family.
  2. To the teachers: thank you for your consistency and for being willing to sacrifice your time to teach us.  My kids loved all of you. You were a constant discussion at our dinner table.  You are someone we looked up to and wanted to do our best for you.  You helped build a foundation of faith in my children.  Years later we will still tell tales of Mr. Neil, Ms. Susan, Ms Pam, Ms. Pat, and many more of you.
  3. To our life group: I finally get the name change from “Sunday school class.”  We did life with you.  You came into our family, and we came into yours.  We did dinners together, double dates, babysitting kids, volunteering, bible studies, and everything in between. Knowing that in a matter of an email I can have 15 couples lifting our family up in prayer together is the best feeling.
  4. To the ministers: thank you for investing in our family and for getting to know our names and our story.  Thank you for asking us to serve and for expecting us to be involved.  You taught us truth in love.  Thank you for making missions a priority. Because of your influence it is now a line in our budget and will always be.
  5. To my friends: we were never in class together. Maybe we sat together once or twice at a church function. You aren’t in my specified age group, you don’t have kids the same age as mine, but you still made time to be my friend.  You poured kindness and wisdom on me.  You were a friendly face in the hallway.  You saved us seats at Dinner Theater.  You asked me how my week was going.  You invited my crazy family over for a swim.  We sat together if we ran into your family at a restaurant.  I am going to miss you the most. You were the people that weren’t planned friends for me. You were the ones that I care about simply because you go to my church and you are fighting for Christianity in this world with me.  You were the ones that we had to go out of our way to schedule time for in this busy life because if we didn’t I’d wouldn’t see you for months.  It was time well spent.

FBC Mansfield

I hope I see you tomorrow, and get to give you a hug, I’ll try not to cry (but no promises),

Beth

Summer Stories…

It’s been a pretty good summer so far.

I go to work as if nothing has changed, and my family goes to water parks, watches matinees at Cinemark, hangs out with friends, and dresses up like cows to eat a lot of free food at, as our youngest puts it, “Chick-a-Lay.” (Feel bad for me. I’m a victim!) Seriously though, it’s literally my job, and I’m glad that the kids are having a pretty great childhood. In the ever-so-wise words of One Direction, they are “Living while they’re young.”

16 Cow Salute. Yes, we have a big family, but this is my family with two others.

16 Cow Salute. Yes, we have a big family, but this isn’t just mine. Three families are represented here.

Ever since April, My free nights and weekends have been monopolized with tree trimming. We’ve had two trees creep into our shingles and another that was on the verge of falling on my neighbors house (i.e. leaning at a 60 degree angle with a rotting trunk). I’ve enlisted my little Colombinos here and there to help me with said project. Unfortunately, I didn’t specifically say, “don’t use the random saw laying on the ground without my supervision.” Yes, I had a kid cut his finger. After I saw that it wasn’t serious, I was about to explain how that wasn’t mature and he needed to be careful and get instructions before he touched anything. However, my son, still dripping blood, preempted me and quickly said, “You don’t have to say anything. I already learned my lesson.” Truthfully, he learned his lesson over the next few weeks when he didn’t get to do fun stuff with his siblings in order to keep the wound from reopening.

A few weeks later, we were moving all of the wood that we cut to the woodpile. As we were setting logs, heavy-handedly, on the pile, a little rat shot out from underneath and darted under the fence into the neighbor’s yard. First, let me point out that I have known that rat was there for several weeks. Being a man in a family of seven with two bathrooms, on occasion I will relieve myself in the back-yard, especially if it is dark out. On one such occasion, I have observed our little friend scurrying around while my lazy dogs are lounging in the flowerbed deciding it’s not worth it. I too, decided it’s not a big deal and didn’t want to go to the trouble of killing an animal that isn’t inside our house. Also, I know Beth hates them. She hates squirrels, whom she believes are “socially acceptable rats”, and any time she is confronted with them, all logic escapes her. For these reasons, I allowed her and the rest of the family to live in blissful ignorance, until the woodpile episode. At this point, the “rat” was out of the bag. I immediately told the kids, “do not tell your mother.” That lasted until our first water break. We immediately went in and someone said, “Dad told us not to tell you about something.” An intense interrogation made another crack and they divulged their secret. This had the effect I thought it would, and Beth freaked out. After I dealt with the Beth, I talked to the kids. I asked them why they told mom about the rat after I asked them not to. Our oldest daughter, a champion of truth, said, “but you told us to always tell the truth and not keep secrets. We can only keep secrets if we are making something a surprise.” Dang. It stinks when past me interferes with what current me is trying to do.

I know it is hard to take your eyes off of the lovely trimmed tree, but this is where our friendly little rat lives... let's be honest, there's probably about 10 to 20 in there. We cut a lot of wood.

I know it is hard to take your eyes off of the lovely trimmed tree, but this is where our friendly little rat lives… let’s be honest, there’s probably about 10 to 20 in there. We cut a lot of wood.

Speaking of embarrassing moments, our little girl, on the way to my uncle’s house for the Fourth of July, was playing with one of the plastic whiffle-balls we had brought with us (for entertainment until it was time for fireworks). Beth told her, “If you get your finger stuck in one of those little holes, I’m going to laugh.” Sure enough, she got her finger stuck in the whiffle ball, and Beth started laughing at her. That made her cry which led to a flood of mixed emotions from the rest of the car. Some were in the empathy camp and told mom it wasn’t funny while examining how to get her finger out. Others, myself included, joined in the laughter. Our daughter through the midst of tears shouted to her mother, “It not funny!” This had the opposite effect on her mother. More laughter with about three people saying “Yes, it is!” Beth managed to turn around, and rip the whiffle-ball off like ripping off a Band-aid. Of course this hurt her more which lead to more tears and more laughter. After tears and laughs subsided, we talked about something Beth reminds us all the time… “being able to laugh at ourselves.” For adopted children, our kids have amazing confidence, but their Achilles heel is being teased, especially from one another. Farting is still one of the only things that they do that can be joked about. Everything else is off limits. This little problem reminded us we still have a long way to go… However, I mentioned the whiffle-ball at dinner a few nights ago, and our daughter cracked a smile. We’ll see how it goes.

Fireworks, driving boats, and our first honest-to-goodness camping trip are all in the books, and we’ve been super blessed to have these fun opportunities this summer. Also, our kids are becoming incredibly useful too. We’ve got a pair of lawn-mowers, and this has cut my yard-cutting time in half! The great thing is, they still think this is a treat, even in this heat! If they do what they are told and follow instructions, they GET to mow the yard. We don’t want to burn this, so Beth and I only laugh at them behind closed doors.

Yes. The spiky-haired kid is driving the boat. Notice the adult supervision doesn't seem too worried.

Yes. The spiky-haired kid is driving the boat. Notice the adult supervision doesn’t seem too worried.

You have decided to caulk the wagon and float it across. Hopefully Zeke makes it to Oregon with us! In all honesty, this was a real

You have decided to caulk the wagon and float it across. Hopefully Zeke makes it to Oregon with us! In all honesty, this was a real “water-shed” moment for us.

Nine people in a pop-up trailer. It was great! Air conditioning, grand parents, smores, and all the bike-riding you can stand. Thank you, Cleburne!

Nine people in a pop-up trailer. It was great! Air conditioning, grand parents, smores, and all the bike-riding you can stand. Thank you, Cleburne!

Believe it or not, this was his New Year's Resolution - to ride a bike without training wheels. I didn't realize he would catch on so fast, so when he asked me to take the training wheels off, I told him to see how he did on his sister's first. Hence the Barbie accessories.

Believe it or not, this was his New Year’s Resolution – to ride a bike without training wheels. I didn’t realize he would catch on so fast, so when he asked me to take the training wheels off, I told him to see how he did on his sister’s first. Hence the Barbie accessories.

Oldest son on the Husquvarna (However you spell that).

Oldest son on the Husquvarna (However you spell that).

Middle son on the Ryobi. With the discharge guard up, the grass isn't as clumpy, but it sure goes all over the place.

Middle son on the Ryobi. With the discharge guard up, the grass isn’t as clumpy, but it sure goes all over the place.

Parenting is still awesome!

At the dinnermesa,

Tyler

Jurassic Decisions…

Our family loves movies, our kids love dinosaurs, Beth loves Chris Pratt, and I love getting out of the house, so the new “Jurassic World” movie seemed like a great Friday night activity.

Understanding that we would be providing the Parental Guidance for this PG-13 film, we thought it would be fun to let our oldest son, who will be 10 in a few weeks, see it. I’m fully aware that this may be a bad-parent call in some of your minds (and I respect your right to disagree), but Beth and I definitely talked it over and decided it was OK, since we felt like we knew what our boy could handle and since the rating was based upon suspense and horror instead of curse words and sex. We had a decision, we arranged child care for the younger kids, and we made plans to go.

However, when we shared our plans with the family, our middle son instantly got that dejected look in his face because he wanted to go. Beth and I were on the fence about it. I remember as a 13-year-old how the first “Jurassic Park” made my heart pump when it first came out, and while I thought it would be a OK for my 10-year-old, I thought it might be a little too scary for my 7-year-old.

“Because I want it” is almost never a reason to get something at our house, but we like to include as many kids as we can when we do activities, so we did something dangerous (This may really push you over the top on bad-parent calls) – We made it his decision.

We talked to him and explained that it was going to be scary and that watching a movie at the theater is way more intense then watching it at home. We also told him that playing with his brother and sisters might be a lot of fun too, and it would be the safe choice. It was made known that if he goes, mom and dad weren’t going to miss out on a movie and sit with him outside if he chickened out. Once he committed to it, he would be with us the entire time. This was not to be callous, but it was to make him think through the consequences and learn to live with them, good or bad.

With the proposition set, you would have thought I asked him whether or not we should have dropped the bomb on Japan. The boy agonized over that decision for three days. He definitely wanted to go, but the no backing out part really gave him pause. Several times, I saw him tear up about it when I asked him if he had made a decision or not. I usually don’t let our kids twist in the wind as much as I did, but for one of the first times in his life, he was making a difficult, adult-like decision, weighing both sides and figuring out what to do. Fortunately this was the better of two goods instead of the lesser of two evils (like a lot of adult decisions), but it wasn’t a clear-cut “no-brainer” choice that he was used to dealing with.

I understand that I could have done some things on my part to make this easier (go to a different movie with him, buy a movie for him to watch at his grandparents, allow him to leave the movie if it got too intense, let him sleep with us that night if he was scared, etc.), but I decided against it. More times than not, we as parents jump through hoops to push consequences out of our children’s lives such that they can’t make decisions whilst being mindful of them.

The day of the movie came, and he announced to us that he decided he would wait for it to come out on video in a few months. His ticket went to his older sister who, in her own decision, planned to stay with her two younger siblings at the grandparents house so they would be less jealous if the middle son went.

I was proud of the maturity it took for a seven-year-old to say no to something they wanted (something some adults need to do from time to time… Yes, I’m talking to myself with my Mt. Dew habit). There have been a few times we’ve asked our kids to make decisions, and they’ve made a less mature choice, but if I can live with the consequences they bring upon themselves either way, I believe they learn a lot in those situations too.

For now, the pressure’s off until “Fantastic Four” comes out! (P.S. – “Jurassic World” was a great movie. Chris Pratt wasn’t allowed to be as charming in this one as he has been in other things, but still, a fun time!)

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Punishing the Innocent along with the Guilty…

Yesterday was pretty full.

We started out the day with three soccer games, back to back. Everyone knows I really like to watch the games up close, so I was asked to referee two of them. The compliance training I have at work tells me this is a conflict of interest and I should decline, but the need for a warm body sometimes trumps ethics (Even though I try to be fair… but more about that later).

We then went to DBU where I teach and watched the baseball team play the University of San Francisco. My kids pigged out on hot-dogs, hamburgers, and cookies while I tried to explain how the game worked. I don’t know anything about baseball (thank goodness I don’t referee that game), so I didn’t know why the ball rolling underneath the outfield fence meant that the home run turned into a double. The end of the game was a walkoff-ball (Is that a thing!?! – Bases loaded and the batter got four balls.) which led to a lot of confusion between five Colombians that are very new to the game. It was a lot of fun, and God held the rain just long enough for us to get home without getting wet.

We then met up with Mami (who had gone to a musical with her mother and sister after soccer) with about a half-hour to get ready to go to our Sunday School party. No time to bathe, but we changed out of our soccer uniforms and into some fresher clothes and held our arms up for a few minutes to let the pits air out (We want to keep these people as our Sunday School class).

During that process, I went to the bathroom. When I was done, I flushed, washed my hands, and rejoined society. I was greeted at the door by one of our dogs with a “best offense” sticker (no doubt earned that morning) stuck directly over the little patch of white hair she has behind her head. I did what any rational-thinking person would do. I congratulated my dog on her scoring abilities, and giggled to myself thinking “How boring was life before we had kids?!”

About that time, our dog realized that she was being honored for her offense too, and she shook aggressively such that the sticker fell off on the floor beside her. I went into the kitchen where final preparations were being made for our mass exodus, and I asked who put the sticker on our dog, not to punish but to say it was funny and the sticker needs to be thrown away before we leave.

I immediately received five quick not-me’s.

This is where the otherwise great day went horribly bad. I told them that someone is not telling the truth. That was when my little defense attorneys began qualifying their answers.

“I don’t play soccer. I’m still too young.”

“I was only recognized for my defense today.”

“I stuck my sticker on my elbow. Do you want to see?”

I reminded them that the person wasn’t in trouble. I just wanted to know who it was so we could clean it up. I also reminded them that our problems get bigger when we lie. Despite my little speech, I had one little Colombian double-down on the lie while four others more frantically proclaimed their innocence. Over the past two and a half years, I’ve gotten to know my kids pretty well, and I had narrowed it down to two kids that would think it was funny and value humor over the personal recognition that the sticker represents.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t be sure, and I pressed a third time. Again, the same response.

I had no idea what to do at this point. A lie had been spoken, and we are a people of integrity, so that means there is a zero-tolerance policy on any lie, no matter how big or small. Those are great things to say, but in situations like that, convictions can be a little inconvenient. I just wanted this little thing to be over because I was looking forward to the party.

A fourth time, I asked, with the same response.

Beth was headed out the door with crock pots and telling me to wrap it up because we had to go.

I asked my two prime suspects directly, “Did you do it?”

“No” and “No.”

Then I had to pull out the big guns.

“If we can’t figure out who is lying, I guess we won’t go to the party.”

Yeah. It came out of my mouth, but my hope was, the stakes would be high enough at this point that one of them would finally move. I also knew that if I wanted to be a person of integrity (there I go with convictions again), I had better be willing to do what I said. That was pretty rough because everything that day was for the kids, and this was something I really wanted to do. They owed me these few hours with my church friends!

“Perhaps the sticker was on the floor face down, and the dog came by and rolled around in just the right manner as to accidentally affix it to her neck”, said one Colombian wanting to go to the party (maybe a little less eloquently as described here, but with the same basic idea).

I explained that it was too coincidental. I also said I was being super duper serious… secretly chanting “please don’t call my bluff”.

Beth gave me the now or never look. I had to make a call.

“Sorry, I guess we don’t know who lied so we are all going to miss the party.” Beth was pretty mad, and, from behind the door where only I could see, she mouthed “Really?!?” She knew what I had to do at that point. She told the kids that she was hosting the party and needed to leave, but they had to stay home with me and clean the house and go to bed early.

The door closed. The car pulled out of the driveway, and five little kids began to cry uncontrollably. I was crying on the inside too. Selfishly, not only did I miss my party, but I was now cleaning the house too, and all I did was seek the truth at all costs… I guess it cost me a lot!

When I was a kid, I remembered once arguing with one of my cousins about something stupid at a family reunion, and when we asked my uncle to settle it, he said “I’ll bust both your rears so I know I got the right one.” At the time, I thought this was barbaric and too heavy handed (pun intended). After all, how can punishing an innocent person be fair? Was I supposed to squeal and accept blame so Solomon wouldn’t cut my baby in half? Yet, here was I, punishing four innocent kids for the crimes of one… AND IT WASN’T EVEN A CRIME. It was a stupid sticker on the back of one of my dogs!

Beth called me from the party and said, “I was really mad at you for keeping the family from going to the party, but it is the right thing to do.” That was good to hear because I couldn’t tell if I was breaking new ground in child rearing or earning the “Worst-Parent Ever” award. Does anyone other than me have those moments?

I looked at the ten tear-filled eyes looking back at me and said, “If you are one of the kids that told the truth, I am so sorry this happened to you. If you are the one that lied to me, your lie ruined the evening for everyone in the family.” (Except for Mami… she said she had a great time not worrying about kids at the party)

We then proceeded to vacuum, fold laundry, do the dishes, dust, and clean rooms for the next three hours. After about 30 minutes of silence punctuated by a random sob here and there, the kids started getting into the work and we were able to get the house in pretty good shape for Beth when she got home… after all, the next day was Mother’s Day!

We then went to bed, and put a pin in this problem for nearly 24 hours. The next morning, Beth used her womanly intuition and, on Mother’s Day, determined who it was and told them it would be their decision, but they needed to confess to me what they did.

Tonight, my oldest son, came to me and confessed to the crime. I was so glad (seems weird to say here, but I have reasons… keep reading)! Not only was he one of my two suspects (and I love being right), but the trust in our relationship was severely damaged for the past day, and I hated that. I hated wondering which one of my kids had the audacity and maliciousness to lie to me repeatedly about something they did. It hurt me knowing that I wasn’t in a harmonious relationship with my family I had enjoyed so much the day before.

We talked about how our sin affects other people. We talked about integrity. We talked about how you have to live in fear with a damaged relationship when you deceive. We talked about how much better it feels to confess our mistakes then to keep them bottled up and hiding them. I told him that he, along with his brothers and sisters were all punished enough the night before, so no additional punishment was coming.

He listened to my whole sermon, but that last part may have been the only part he heard. For now, that’s good enough for me. The “Dog-Tag” affair was finally over.

Baby steps.

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Called to be a Layman…

When I was about 17 years old, several of my friends in the youth department felt called by God to go into the ministry. I was happy for them, and I was proud of the decision that they made. They were good guys and gals, and I knew God was going to do big things with them. I prayed, listened intently to God, studied His word, and did everything I knew to be right… but I was never called.

As a young and dumb kid, I wondered what was wrong with me. All of my really strong committed Christian friends were being called to the ministry. Why wasn’t I? Was God not hearing me? I definitely prayed and gave God lots of opportunities to tell me “Yes” to a life of full-time service, but He never chose to capitalize on those opportunities. So, while waiting on God, I decided even Paul had to make a few tents from time to time, so I went out into the real world, did a lot of college, and got a non-ministerial job.

That was 18 years ago (Time flies!). I am currently a youth Sunday School teacher and my family is in church almost every time the door is open. We work hard in church, and we do as much as we can, but when Monday rolls around, I roll out of bed, head to my cubical, and get ready for a 40-50 hour a week job that has nothing to do with God (aside from the fact that He blessed me with the job and the ability to do it).

Last week, I was blessed with the opportunity to go to Cochabamba, Bolivia and work with a missionary that used to go to the same church I did about 30 years ago… one of the ones that God told could serve Him full-time. He has been in Bolivia for 8 years now and has made an incredible impact in the lives of so many there.

Our team of 10 ran a clinic where the local Bolivian people were able to get free heath care, dental care, and hear about the gospel. About 20 people accepted Christ! We then worked to do some construction on an unfinished church in the area. We made a sidewalk for the church, and we built a little apartment off to the side of the main building where a family of five will be living to take care of the building. We also had a mini-VBS where we shared the gospel with about 300 kids between the ages of 4 and 13. It was an amazing time, and God taught me so much, but inevitably, I had to fly home, and go back to that cubical today.

Our team in Bolivia.

Our team in Bolivia with Missionary Joe and his family.

I know a lot of people will say, “You are always on the mission field, wherever you go”, and yes, they are right, but I all I want to do is serve God as my full-time job and leave the desk-flying and engineering to someone else.

I am so glad that God has given me a heart to serve. If he didn’t, this would be a very different blog, but it results in a very conflicted life. When I was 17, I thought something was wrong with me. I thought I just wasn’t in tune with God’s will or listening to Him hard enough, because surely I would be called to full-time ministry. I was just as good as my friends that were called (and humble too)!

Now, I live with the duality of wanting to serve God at every opportunity I get, but having to live with the fact that my direct service is something akin to a hobby… something I only get to do for free on nights, weekends, and vacations (again, I know my job is a mission field too, so please don’t think I’m overlooking the obvious when I say that).

However, as an older and slightly wiser adult, I have begun to understand that I am called to be a layman. I believe my calling is every bit as strong as those that go into full-time ministry, and it is the path God wants me walking. I didn’t mishear God. His non-answer to that prayer was an answer.

Yes, I want to serve more and more. Yes, I dream about how I can share God’s love with the world while I’m at my job every day. Yes, I have to work an entire year so I can give just a week. However, I have to be the pillar on which the church rests.

While it feels like people in the ministry are the tip of the spear and I get the shaft (meant to be funny in a witty, non-Dangerfield way), I remind myself that the spear is nothing without the shaft. Gladys Knight is nothing without her Pips. Kirk is nothing without Scotty “givin’ it all she’s got.”

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

I Corinthians 12:12-26

My job is to raise the next generation to be Christ-loving humble followers of God.

My job is to be a light in the private sector and share God with those around me (see – I told you I wouldn’t overlook the obvious).

My job is to bring tithes and offerings so that the ones called to full-time ministry can do their job without distraction or pause.

My job is to serve in the church, teach a Sunday School class, invest in students, and give hands and feet to the vision that God has given our pastors.

My job is to be the silent force on the other side of the ocean interceding for my brothers on the front lines.

My job is to be a layman.

It is my calling. It is hard, but I know now that it is exactly what God wants me to do. We need ministers and missionaries without a doubt, but we need laymen too. I hope God gives others the confidence to see it as a calling. I didn’t have that as a teenager, but I do now.

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

PS – Please pray for our friends in Bolivia and all of South America. God is doing some amazing things, and we are blessed to be a part of it!

I stand with Israel…

Usually I don’t get too political on our blog, but after debating for a few days, I thought it was important to share.

Three days ago, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, addressed our Congress (what he called the most important legislative body in the world) about his concern over a nuclear Iran.

Israel is in a bad neighborhood, where everyone, on all sides, seems to want them wiped off the planet. We, on the other hand are in a great neighborhood. Greg Gutfeld expressed a similar sentiment in that we, as Americans, suffer from “ocean privilege.” I’m not minimizing the attacks of September 11th, the Fort Hood shootings, or any other act of terror that has reached our shores, but in relative to our ally, it doesn’t compare. As the Prime Minister put it, America fights for security, but Israel fights for survival.

Some in Congress listened to the Prime Minister, his concerns, and his plans of action. Some boycotted the speech, dismissing it as political theater. This grieved me deeply.

First, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Martin Niemoller about his time in Nazi Germany:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Israel is arguably one of our greatest allies. If we don’t help them and defend them, we cannot expect anyone to do the same for us.

My second concern, is far greater. I was reminded of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3:

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

If we believe the word of God is true, perfect, and applies today just as much as it applied then, I shudder at the thought that, as a country, I see America turn it’s back on Israel, and, by extension, God’s blessing. It seems that we would rather be sympathetic to those that God would curse than to rally around our greatest friend in the world and enjoy the blessings of God for doing so.

Also, make no mistake – If you consider yourself a Christian, Israel’s enemies are your enemies. You can bury your head in the sand and enjoy your “ocean privilege” for now, but this fight will be at our doorstep soon enough… and I don’t believe claiming ignorance and wanting to stay out of it is going to matter when it gets here.

To me there are a lot of issues that Christians can argue both sides pretty effectively. This is not one. There is no ambiguity here. As Christians, we need to stand with Israel.

I cannot speak for our country. All I can do is speak for myself. I believe the Bible, and I would rather be blessed by God standing with Israel then to live on our knees placating Israel’s enemies. If saying this puts a target on my back, then so be it, but the times of half-measures is over. I’ve picked my side, and I stand with Israel.

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Boys to Men…

Before we started our adoption, I wanted a girl. I thought it would be so cool to have a daughter. The reason could be due to growing up in an all-boy house and wanting something different. I really can’t explain it. I was ultimately cool with God’s sovereign will in deciding what I got, but secretly, I was routing for the fairer sex.

I remember talking to one of the people at our adoption agency during the process, and she told me that statistically, most people want to adopt newborns (no surprise there) and most people want girls. I would not have guessed the second part. I would have thought that was unique to me or, at the very least, not something that was so clearly skewed in one direction.

When we decided on our five Colombianos, I got the two girls that I wanted, and fathering them is everything that I hoped it would be. I also got three boys. If I can say something without sounding like a terrible person, I was not super excited about the idea of having boys. I would love and care for them, without question, but my heart wasn’t into chasing these three hyper little disgusting monsters around my house for the next 14 years. During the first few weeks in Colombia when we got them, my non-excitement only got worst. I almost loathed having these boys (terrible to say, but honest). It could have been that I only chose to see the things that reinforced my point-of-view, but I was reminded of why I wanted girls in the first place:

The girls would sit and color or play with dolls. The boys would run around and turn anything into a projectile or a weapon.

The girls could focus on one thing. The boys would lose interest within minutes of starting.

The girls were constructive players. The boys were destructive players.

The girls could play in a group and encourage each other to do the right thing. They boys would drag each other down when they played together.

I have to tell the girls something a few times before they followed my directions. I have to tell my boys the same thing ten times as much to get the same results.

It didn’t help much that my oldest son was a bit defiant learning how to fit into the new family dynamic, and we came to blows (literally for him, figuratively for me) several times before he understood that we were in charge, and we were disciplining him because we loved him. A lot of people will say, “I love you, but I don’t like you right now.” That’s where I was with my boys for months. I loved them, but I didn’t like them at all.

That was twenty-nine months in the rear-view mirror now. Looking at my boys today, I can say we have made amazing progress. The same chasm between the sexes is there, but it’s more of a ditch than the Grand Canyon we had before. Case in point – my boys all worked, un-disturbed for nearly seven hours two days after Christmas putting their Lego sets together (constructive, focused, calm, group play). I’m also glad to say that God (and my boys) have changed my heart over that time. The boys are no longer the thing that I put up with to have my girls.

Quite the opposite. If I were in a foxhole at the edge of no-man’s land, and I could pick any three people in the world to be by my side, my boys would be my band of brothers.

Now, I see them in a different light. They are not violent. They are courageous. They are not ridiculous. They dream big. They are not hyper. They are adventurous. They are not foolish, stubborn, or irresponsible. They are tenacious, undaunted, and unyielding when the others give up or give in. They are not heathens. They are leaders and vision-casters.

Beth told me a few weeks ago that God has put boys on her heart, and she was glad we got our boys. She even went so far as to say that if we ever adopt again, she is leaning toward boys in general. I asked her why, and she said, “There are not enough good men in the world, and these boys are going to grow up, whether they are adopted and shown how to be men or not.”

It’s true, and it is almost becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. At our church, men can not change diapers if we work in the nursery. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally fine with not doing this job, but the simple fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of sex offenders and pedophiles are male, and it is a liability issue for the church. Men commit more crimes then women. Approximately 4 out of 10 children in the US are born to unwed mothers, and these children do not understand what a man/father is or have it modeled for them in any way. Even in a two-parent house, the man is marginalized more each day. Watch any commercial that has a married couple in it, and almost without exception, the husband is portrayed as the lazy, thoughtless, backwards, stubborn, bumbling fool that the wife must lead in the right direction. It has gotten to a point in which a man is guilty until proven innocent. Just ask the 2006 Duke lacrosse team. Maybe this is why most people want to adopt girls in the first place…

Boys will be boys, but they need our help to be men. They need our help to know how to be leaders. Otherwise we continue the cycle by declaring them unfit heathens or a lost cause and give up on them before they’ve even got a shot. I was definitely marching down that path myself, but now I see how wrong I was. Boys are hard to raise (I am not by any means saying girls are easy… I’m still wondering how the teenage years will be with them!), but it is worth the sweat equity.

Da boyz.

Da boyz. We made the assumption that the Ninja Turtles traded weapons every once in a while to keep things interesting.

I just want the world to know, there are good men out there. We are not all disgusting animals. We are not all stupid, irrational, gross, and sex-driven at all times. There are good men out there, and with a little prayer and luck, there will be at least three more soon!

At the dinnermesa,

Ty