Tuesday, January 28, 2014

She's In Another World

She’s 9 years old and is in another world.  She talks to herself.  She sings constantly.  She dances around the house.  She draws fairies and mermaids.  She’s oblivious to the world around her.  She leaves stuff everywhere.  She’s happily living in Maddieland.

It can be annoying.  I can’t get her attention.  She takes forever to get anything done because she drifts off into another world.  Often I can’t find her.  Her stuff is everywhere.  When will she grow up?  When will she be more responsible?

She’s 9.  She’s a child.  She’s happy.  What’s wrong with Maddieland?  She’ll grow up.  She’ll mature, just like her older sisters.  What’s the rush?  Childhood is good.  It will end soon.  Let her enjoy it while she can.  Stop being annoyed.  Stop pushing her.  Let her enjoy her childhood.

I think our society does two devastating things to our children.  First, they rush our children through childhood.  Society pushes them to be tweens and teens.  They push them into every kind of fad.  They push into clothes to make them look older.  They push them to listen to music with mature themes.  They push them to watch television and movies that are not acceptable.  Society rushes children through childhood.

Then, society tries to keep children from growing into adults.  Society wants to keep them as irresponsible adolescents.  Don’t grow up.  Make your education last forever.  Continue to live with your parents.  Don’t get a long term job or career.  Play video games all night.  Don’t bother betting married.  Experts actually claim that adolescence lasts until the age of 30.  Society tries to keep children from maturing into adults.

Right now, she is a child.  Her childhood will end soon enough.  In a few years, she will transition to being a teenager, grow in maturity, and accept responsibilities.  She will continue to grow and mature.  By her early 20s, she should grow into a godly, responsible, independent adult.  While that will happen, today she should enjoy “Maddieland” and I should not rush her out of it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Thankful for the Work of Other People

It was 25 degrees outside.  Snow was falling.  About 2 inches of fresh powder sat on the roads.  I’m out on a 3 mile run.  My family and friends call me crazy, but I need the run to keep me from going crazy.  I am enjoying the run, even in the frigid temperatures.  I like the falling snow.  I’m nervous about the footing as a I run, but this adds to the challenge.

About half way through the run, I round a corner and see a utility truck.  The men are bundled up working.  I’m out here for fun, but I don’t think they are out here for fun.  They are out here working to keep my neighborhood comfortable.  I doubt these guys volunteered to brace the cold and snow to work; or, if they volunteered, it was solely for the paycheck.  It made me think.  I appreciate the fact that they are braving the elements to keep me comfortable. 

As I run, I thank God for their work.  Then, I think about all the people who work to keep me comfortable.  It’s work that I can’t do; I don’t know how.  To be honest, a lot of it is probably work that I don’t want to do.  But, they do it in order to keep me comfortable.  I need to be more thankful for their work.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Children Are Taking Notes in Church?

I’m in church with my children.  The two 9 year olds are singing and enjoying the service.  Then, the Pastor begins to preach.  I’m taking notes and trying to learn.  But, the kids lose interest.  They get fidgety.  On a good day, they quietly doodle while waiting for church to end.  They are hanging on me.  They are distracting.  There should be a better way.

I want to raise children who actually love God and have a relationship with Him.  I don’t want them to just go through the motions.  I don’t want them to attend church just to please me or because that’s what good Christians are supposed to do.  I want them to enjoy church and enjoy growing in their relationship with God.  This isn’t working.  There should be a better way.

I look at my notes.  I look at them.  Then, it comes to me.  Why can’t they take notes?  Note taking will force them to pay attention.  It will get them to be engaged.  It will keep them involved and, hopefully, interested.  It will help us talk about the message while we eat lunch.

I get them to take notes.  I’m surprised.  They are actually doing it.  I think they are even enjoying it.  Sometimes, I laugh at the content.  My daughter’s writes, “Pastor likes pot roast with his chicken parmesan.”  Other times, I can see that they are really getting it.  Her note says, “Jesus is the main attraction.”  They’re asking me questions about the sermon.  My son runs out of space in the bulletin and asks for more paper.  He requests a notebook.  I’m pleased.  They are getting it.  Church is becoming more than just some boring thing that Christians have to do.  They are involved, learning, and enjoying it.   

I want to seize this opportunity and spread it to other children.  Now, at my church, I give candy to any child who takes notes during the service.  On the first week, the kids come with their notes.  I give out candy.  They smile.  I don’t plan to read their notes, but some want me to read what they wrote.  It’s exciting to see.  Parents are pleased and thanking me.

Many adults of all ages tell me it’s a great idea.  I appreciate their thoughts.  But, I wonder, “Do they take notes?”  If note taking is a good idea for children, then it should also be a good idea for adults.  Why would a child want to takes notes if their parents don’t take notes?  Personally, it helps me learn and remember the message.  It keeps me engaged in the service.  My mind is more active. 

You should give note taking a try and suggest it to your kids.  If you need some motivation, come see me after the service and I’ll give you some candy.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Praying for the Most Important Miracle

On December 12, 2013, God granted me a miracle.  Those who follow my blog or facebook posts know that, out of the blue, the State of New Jersey returned our four year old foster daughter after she had been removed for ten months.  This was nothing short of a miracle and I give God all the praise and glory for performing the miracle.
I believe that God wants Christians to live a life of faith, which requires that we undertake bold acts for Him that will only succeed if God provides.  Our service as foster parents is one example of a life of faith. 
If we are going to live a life of faith, then we are going to have to depend on God and ask that He perform miracles.  We cannot do it ourselves.
I asked God to return our foster daughter to us.  I did not like the fact that He allowed her to be removed.  I did not like the fact that it took ten months for Him to grant the miracle.  But, He provided the miracle in His time.  Praise God.
After he granted that miracle, I started praying for another miracle (I think God wants us to pray for miracles.  It shows we are living by faith and are depending on Him).  I prayed, and am continuing to pray, that the natural mother of our four foster children will surrender the children and allow us to adopt them.  All four foster children have the same mother; they have different fathers who are not involved in their lives.  The older three children were removed from their mother 42 months ago and the younger one has been in our house since leaving the hospital after his birth.  Despite all of this time, the natural mother is still trying to have the children returned to her and she sees the children weekly.  At this point, it appears there will be a trial to determine whether the children will return to her or whether her parental rights are terminated and the children can be adopted.  If there is a trial, I do not know how it will turn out. 
I believe it is in the best interests of the children if we adopt them.  So, I am praying for a miracle.  I am praying that the mother, even after 42 months of battle, will surrender the children and we will be able to adopt them.
While I have been praying for this miracle, I realized that my miracle is not the most important request.  The most important issue for this family is their salvation.  While I pray for the children, for their adoption, and for their salvation, I have not diligently prayed for the mother’s salvation.  If God grants my miracle, I will adopt the four children and they will accept Him as their Savior (the oldest one has already done this), but the mother may never accept Jesus as her Savior.  No matter how much earthly help I can give the children, the reality is that it is an insignificant benefit if they spend eternity apart from God.  The best thing that I can give to any of these people is Jesus Christ.  Now, I am praying for a more important miracle – the salvation of their mother. 

I’m still praying that she will surrender the children, but her salvation is the more important request.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

With books like Outliers, Tipping Point, and Blink, Malcolm Gladwell has become one of the more popular writers in the last few years.  When I saw the Kindle version of his latest book, David and Goliath, on sale, I bought it looking forward to his insights with, hopefully, a biblical perspective.  Unfortunately, after reading it, I was disappointed.  While he tells some interesting stories, he misses the point of David’s victory over Goliath and demonstrates a lack of moral judgment, which undermines the overall book.

Gladwell’s premise, drawn from the story of David and Goliath, is that we misunderstand power and advantages.  Often things that appear powerful have significant weaknesses that make them beatable.  Similarly, advantages often have significant disadvantages.  On the other hand, what can appear to be a weakness or disadvantage can be turned into strength or advantage.

Gladwell begins with David’s victory over Goliath and claims, “All these years, we’ve been telling these stories wrong.”  In his telling of the story, Goliath only appears to be a powerful giant.  Instead, he has significant weaknesses that David exploited.  For example, Goliath was armed for hand to hand combat; he was not prepared to battle a “slinger” (someone using a slingshot).  Since Goliath was so large, he probably had a physical disability, “acromegaly”, which causes vision disability.  His vision problems prohibited him from recognizing that David was attacking with him a sling.  Consequently, according to Gladwell, David’s victory is completely explainable in human, not supernatural, terms. 

Gladwell completely ignores the presence of God in the story.  While it is possible for people to overcome strong enemies and disadvantages, that is not the focus of the biblical account of David and Goliath.  When King Saul tells David that he cannot defeat the giant, David responds, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37).  When Saul sent David to battle, Saul says, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” (1 Samuel 17:37).  Clearly, David won the battle, not because he “outsmarted” Goliath or exposed Goliath’s human weaknesses, because of the presence and power of God.  Gladwell completely misses this point.

In addition, Gladwell demonstrates no moral judgment.  For example, in one chapter, he explains how some people overcome disadvantages, such as dyslexia.  However, in overcoming their disadvantages, they often resort to sinful acts.  Gladwell summarizes, “They bluffed their way into professions that would have been closed to them.”  This “bluffing” included lying and deceit, which are sins.  Nevertheless, Gladwell justifies their actions, “What they did is not ‘right,’ just as it is not ‘right’ to send children up against police dogs [he tells a story of civil rights leaders purposefully baiting police into using dogs against children in order to gain a propaganda advantage in the battle for civil rights].  But we need to remember that our definition of what is right is, often as not, simply the way that people in positions of privilege close the door on those on the outside” (emphasis added).  According to Gladwell, there are no moral absolutes.  Rather, morality is used to control power.  So, it is okay to change the morals in order change power.  This is wrong and is not biblical.  Such thinking is dangerous.

Disturbingly, some Christian book reviews failed to fully identify these weaknesses.  A couple of reviewers identified Gladwell’s weaknesses in the story of David and Goliath, but they failed to fully understood the significance of Gladwell’s misinterpretation.  One reviewer wrote that Gladwell’s approach “neglects the key aspects of David’s triumph.”  Another reviewer noted that Gladwell “ignores the obvious divine empowerment behind David.”  But, neither seem to express this as a major problem.  However, neither reviewer noted any of Gladwell’s moral problems, which should have been pointed out.

Notwithstanding these problems, Gladwell tells some interesting stories and makes some interesting points.  However, even his good points are overstated.  Just because one or two people have defeated a giant or overcome a disadvantage does not mean that everyone can use the same strategy to defeat a giant or that the disadvantage is really an advantage.  The book was mediocre.  It wasn't terrible because it had some redeeming traits (good stories and interesting points), but it had too many weaknesses to be considered good or great.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


In many ways, 2013 was a very tough year and was dominated by the foster children.  The highlight of the year occurred in February when D accepted Jesus as his Savior.  While there a several reasons to be a foster parent, we primarily want the kids to become children of God.  Now, we get the privilege of making him a disciple.  While being a foster parent can be very difficult at times, we see real fruit from our effort.  Regardless of what happens with the foster children, I know that all of the work has been worth it because D will spend eternity in heaven.  Now, we pray that we will be able to continue to raise the other foster children and that they will accept Jesus as their Savior.

            Just a few weeks later, our year hit a low point, when the State took B away from us.  She had lived with us since she was nine months old, for a total of two and half years.  This devastated us.  The State attacked us and tried to take the three foster boys from us.  The Law Guardians, the attorneys for the children, battled the State and were able to keep the boys with us.  But, despite their efforts, the State would not relent with B and they would not return her to us.  The efforts to get B, and the devastation of losing her, dominated the year.

            On December 12, God performed a miracle.  Prior to that date, the State decided to move B to a new home because she was having behavioral problems and her new foster family no longer wanted her.  During the afternoon on the 12th, B had been taken to the hospital because her doctor thought she may have pneumonia.  Even though she did not have pneumonia, the State decided to change her foster home.  Without our knowledge, the Law Guardians heard of the move, and made an emergency application to a Judge to have her placed our home.  At about 4:45 p.m., out of the blue, the caseworker called and asked us if we could pick up B at the hospital.  Immediately, my wife and I wept for joy.  We praise God for her return.  We don’t know how long she, or her brothers, will be with us.  So, we will daily take care of them.

            I achieved some of my goals for the year.  For example, I read 18 books.  I lost 28 pounds and now weigh 170 pounds.  I started running again; I ran three 5K races and the Broad Street Run.  I increased my speed and endurance to the point where I have run 7.5 miles in less than 60 minutes (less than an 8 minute per mile pace).  I bought a second refrigerator for my wife.

            Some goals were not met.  I did not memorize all the bible verses that I wanted that I had planned.  I did not get my house painted.  I blogged some, but not as much as I wanted to.  I guess these will re-appear on this year’s list of goals.

            I did something unexpected.  I wrote two books.  I never anticipated writing a book but was challenged, by my daughter Alyson, to write 100 words a day for 100 days.  The books are aimed at a 4 to 6 grade audience and are about 3 boys who solve mysteries.  Growing up, I loved reading Hardy Boy books, so I wrote a book that I would have liked to read when I was that age – lots of action, danger, and mystery.  I read the first book to my children and they loved it.  I had so much fun with the first book that I wrote a sequel and am getting ready to read the second book to the kids.

            While I learned a lot this year, I am learning and appreciating God’s care and protection.  In January, we were driving our 12 passenger van to Ohio during a snow storm.  While on the Interstate, the back end of the van slid around, I lost control, and the van turned about 300 degrees.  It was scary, but God protected us.  We did not hit anything.  We did not end up in a ditch.  No one hit us.  We were able to continue driving and arrive at our destination. 

            A few days ago, my brother and his family were traveling on the Pennsylvania turnpike.  Suddenly, a “white out” occurred and nearly 40 vehicles, including a propane truck, collided.  A truck rear ended my brother’s car.  Another car ended upon on the hood.  They walked away, unharmed.  God protected them. 

            God’s protection is more appreciated when I see that life is fragile.  A few weeks ago, I was parked on a street waiting for two of my children to come out of youth group, cross the street, and get in my car.  While I waited, a boy crossed the street and put his guitar in his mom’s car, which was two cars ahead of mine.  He remembered that he left his bag in the building.  As he returned across the street, about 20 feet ahead of me, he was hit by a car and dragged 100 feet.  I stood with my kids as EMT desperately tended to him and he was taken to a hospital.  A couple of hours later, we learned that he died.  We tend to live our lives thinking that we, and our kids, are reasonably safe.  The reality is that life is fragile.  When I realize this fact, I become more appreciative of God’s protection.