Sunday, December 30, 2007
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18
Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. Isaiah 43:5
God sets the lonely in families. Psalm 68:6
Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength;They will mount up with wings like eagles,They will run and not get tired,They will walk and not become weary.Isaiah 40:31
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. Psalm 28:7
Here we are celebrating Jesus' birthday....
Friday, December 28, 2007
Let me share three verses that I meditated on today and then what I journaled. 1:4 says "I will remove from this place every trace of Baal worship, as well as the very memory of the pagan priests." For context, Baal (aka Beelzebub) was a false god (fertility god) during Biblical times, most prominently discussed in the ministry of Elijah. In short, Baal took people's eyes off God and onto themselves and toehr priorities.
1:8 says "On the day of the Lord's sacrificial meal, I will punish the princes and the king's sons, and all who wear foreign styles of clothing." The King's (Josiah) sons were immersed in society and living like the pagan (non-Jewish) people around them (i.e., dressing like them).
1:12 says "I will punish the people who are entrenched in their sin, those who think to themselves, 'The Lord neither rewards nor punishes.'" The people were finding joy in their sinful lives and figured there were no consequences to their wreckless lives nor did God have anything better to offer.
So I asked myself the following two questions. First, what idols are deeply entrenched i my life? Second, where have I fully assimilated into my non-Christian society? With the new year upon me, a time for resolutions, this is a great time to ask these questions!
I am still assessing my answer to the two questions, but here is a list of four things I am wrestling with.
1. Television can be such a time sink. It both takes time from things (family, Bible study, solitude, rest, friends) and fills my mind with unhealthy stuff (not many shows glorify godly men who lead and love their families). We cancelled cable three years ago to help combat this, but I still have more ground to gain both in how much time I spend here and what I expose myself to.
2. Way too many things compete for our money. We have totally confused the difference between wants and needs. 1 Timothy 6:8 tells us what we need "But if we have food and shelter, we will be satisfied with that." Natalie and I need to filter stewardship decisions through that verse as well as 2 Corinthians 8:14-15. Saying "I will give X%, save Y%, and spend the rest however I please" just doesn't cut it. I need to continue growing here, looking at God's word for direction, not this world (be it secular or church world).
3. Sin doesn't really grieve me. Sin is everywhere. It is accepted in society. It is accepted in churches. It is glorified on TV. I have been desensitized to most sin (note: I think the best way to picture sin is to look at 1 Corinthians 10:31 for how we are to live "whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God." or James 4:17 where it says "so whoever knows what is good to do and does not do it is guilty of sin."). My men's group will be jumping into Jerry Bridges new book "Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate" next month, and I really hope to gain ground on this one.
4. I thirst for comfort way too much. Comfort is a near constant objective in my life. This causes me to not hear God's whispers (and loud screams!) to seek and serve Him. I all too often ask the question "will that serve my temporary thirst for..." instead of "is that was my all-knowing, all-loving Father would have me do?" Paul got it right when he said in Acts 20:24 "But I do not consider my life worth anything to myself, so that I may finish my task and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus..." And then Jesus tells us that the SELFISH thing to do is to follow His call, not our sinful ambition, when He says in Matthew 10:39 "whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life because of me will find it." Or as Jim Elliot (movie End of the Spear) put it "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."
So that and my $2 for a Grande Coffee is what I got to enjoy this morning for 30 minutes at the local coffee shop. Praying I actually do something with these thoughts...
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Then he turned to his host.
So a group of us from Watermark partnered with our friends down at Cornerstone to reach out to some homeless and shelter neighbors. We each invited someone from the area and had a dinner at Joseph's House, a home in the neighborhood that Cornerstone owns. The dinner was last night. Anyway, I woke up yesterday morning and decided to invite Frank, even though he isn't from that neighborhood. So Caleb and I, along with a friend Cary and his daughter, headed down to McDonald's and the downtown library to find Frank. We found Frank at McD's and invited him. He excitedly accepted. We gave him a 5-pack of McD's bucks before we left and told him we would pick him up at 2pm at McDs. Now here is the cool thing. After we gave him the money, a friend of his walked into McD's, a homeless lady. Frank asked if we had another 5-pack, so he could give it to her as a gift. That was cool, and we had an extra one. We came back and picked up Frank at 2pm, and he had just finished using his 5-pack to buy him and another friend lunch.
Now here comes the huge surprise! I had some extra hotel points for Comfort Suites, so I got Frank a suite at the hotel for Saturday until Christmas day. We walked into the hotel room, and we had the fridge stocked with sodas, fruit, snacks, etc. We also had toiletries, new clothes, a roller duffel bag (huge benefit for a homeless guy who needs to drag all possessions everywhere he goes), etc. He was shocked and excited. In his words "I get to watch movies and football for four days!"
Cary and Sarah Tucker picked him up last night and brought him to the party. He had shaved, showered, etc. When Caleb saw him, he said "Mr Frank, you look really nice all dressed up." So without further wait, here is Frank (center) with me (right) and Jon Flaming (left).
So here is a little more info about Frank. He is 45 years old. He never met his Dad. He totally idolizes his mom, whom he hasn't seen in 13 years (more on that in a bit). He spent some time in foster care growing up (I didn't ask why). He has lived downtown on the streets since 2003 when he got out of Arkansas State Penitentiary where he spent about eight years for burglary. His brother died of AIDS in 2002 after using a bad needle in the early 90's when he was hooked on heroine. We are still trying to find his mom, whom he really misses. I had lunch with Frank today, and he is lovin the hotel room. I mentioned to him briefly that we have church Christmas Eve followed by a dinner at our home with another family. I also mentioned a traditional Christmas morning breakfast we have at a friend's hour with three other families. I told him we would be privileged to have him join us and to let me know. Well before I dropped him off back at the hotel, he said he wanted to come! Will be a lot of fun to party at church and my pad with him.
Anyway, we had a handful of Watermark families down at Joseph's House and were to have about 10 guests from the neighborhood. A couple didn't show up, so Steve decided to go look in the area to invite others. He was motivated to do that by this passage from Scripture.
1 Jesus also told them other parables. He said, 2
Well he found three people. The first one is Sam (picture immediately below) whom Steve had never met. He was waiting at a bus stop in 30 degree weather with a thin coat on...shivering. Steve scared him a bit by pulling up to invite him. Sam said "I am not used to white guys in Suburbans pulling up to chat." LOL. So Sam went to Auburn University, is incredibly articulate, and knows his Bible in a very deep and mature way. He moved to Dallas a month ago, lives in a shelter, and has a wife and kids staying with a friend in East Texas while he tries to settle here. They are on the wait list for a free apartment at Interfaith Housing Coalition, an East Dallas ministry we have served at for years. That was great to hear, and I will need to call down there this week to see where Sam's family is on the wait list. Sam was in the Army after college and was a quartermaster. My buddy Cary Tucker, also at the party, was a West Point Grad and quartermaster as well. They got to share fun stories. So Sam is coming to Watermark with us tomorrow as well and wants to start coming to church with us this week. He got to chat with Todd Wagner, our senior pastor, for a while last night and really liked his teaching style. So here is a pic of Sam with the Tucker's and Flaming's.
So how about the other two impromptu invitees. They are Willis and Dee (pictured below) a mid-50's married couple who live on the streets downtown. We have all met them before at Cornerstone's soup kitchen. Steve saw them where they live, in a field, huddled around a little fire they made. They came in and were super quiet...obviously very uncomfortable (no surprise). So they were very quiet. Then we had a makeshift band do carols for 30 minutes followed by Steve sharing the gospel. After that we handed out gifts to the guests. Earlier that day Natalie and I decided to buy some extra gifts in case someone unexpected showed up. Well those gifts went to Willis and Dee who then were do overwhelmed they started hugging and weeping. They told Sarah Tucker "we thought God had long ago forgotten about us." They were moved. After that, Todd Wagner sat with Willis and more personally shared the gospel with Willis, and I had the privilege of joining in on that (which is what the picture is below...Dee right beside Willis). So Willis accepted Christ last night and we got to join with the host of angels praising Christ over that last night.
Here is a picture of Bobby Silva, his son, and Larry, a guy Bobby has been pouring into recently.
Anyway, good times. All these folks were overwhelmed by the gifts, though we all received gifts from God last night as we learned more about the Father's heart for all His children. I look forward to seeing Frank and Sam again tomorrow.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Yesterday was a bit hard for me as I was so hoping we would hear something from our agency by Christmas. As yesterday came and went, the Lord was so sweet to remind me of why we are having the best Christmas ever. Our kids are more excited about Christmas than ever before...which makes our side of the waiting so much easier. Yet I really long to be able to share that fun and love with our future kids. It is so hard not knowing what their life is like right now. We know we are waiting on the Lord's perfect plan....and we all have a God given peace about it (philippians 4:6-7).
And tonight I get to meet Frank (see old post) at a dinner a friend is hosting. I will try to get a picture. Our family is so excited! The kids will get to play Santa, and see the love of Christ in action. A great way to kick off the Christmas "weekend"!!!!
And Katherine Jewel...who could ask for more? Isn't she the cutest?
Monday, December 17, 2007
"There's a little girl trembling on a cold December morn
Crying for momma's arms
At an orphanage just outside a little China town
Where the forgotten are
But half a world away I hang the stockings by the fire
And dream about the day when I can finally call you mine
It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
And so tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in his arms
And tell you from my heart I wish you Merry Christmas
As I hang the tinsel on the tree and watch the twinkling lights
I'm warmed by the fire's glow
Outside the children tumble in a wonderland of white,
Make angels in the snow
But half a world away you try your best to fight the tears
And hope that heaven's angels come to carry you here
It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
And so tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in his arms
And tell you from my heart
I wish you Merry Christmas
Christmas is a time to celebrate the holy child
and we celebrate his perfect gift of love
He came to earth to give his lifeand prepare a place for us
So we could have a home with him above
It's Christmas time again and now you're home
Your family is here so you will never be alone
So tonight before you go to sleep, I'll hold you in my arms
And I'll tell you from my heart, and I'll you from my heart
I wish you Merry Christmas "
-"Merry Christmas," Third Day.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Beau here. Caleb and I headed downtown again to walk the streets and engage with our homeless neighbors. Michael Fleming and his boys partnered with us again.
We started our preparations earlier this week as I was very encouraged by Caleb's heart. Last time we brought gallon zip-loc bags filled with water, perishable items, etc. This time, Caleb wanted to provide that and much more., so he used his savings to create some other creative bags. First, he, Natalie, and Hannah prepared some gallon bags of toiletries - comb, toothbrush, chap stick, a Bible, umbrella, socks, etc. Also, we bought some McDonald's gift certificates to hand out. Finally, Caleb wanted to get in the Christmas spirit, so he got some small stockings and filled each with a Christmas gospel track, a Slim Jim, gum, chao stick, and a candy cane. We also bought some blankets to distribute since it is cold out these days.
So we headed downtown and parked near the McDonald's. We didn't walk 50 yards before we met Jeffrey. Jeffrey got out of jail in
We then headed to the
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."
We felt like we were at church! We spent some time all hangin together and provided James with some food, toiletries, McD's money, etc.
It was freezing this morning and misty raining, so there weren't a lot of folks on the street. We walked for about 30 minutes after this without seeing any of our homeless neighbors. Michael and I had some great opportunities to teach our kids from Matthew 10:39 and Matthew 20:28. We focused on "being served versus serving." We talked about why we do what we do. As Michael says it "We don’t do this in order to make people Christians but we give and serve sacrificially because we are Christians." We pray our kids would find what we do to be "normative Christianity" when we live in a era of dead churches where people consider serving others to somehow be "heroic."
We then started walking towards McDonald's praying that we would find someone to host for a late breakfast. Along the way, we saw an odd scene. In a large empty parking lot, we saw an old minivan with some 18-22 year old kids in it. One of their friends was jogging back to the car from the nearby intersection. As he got in the back of the minivan, he lit up his crack! These foolish kids had gone to buy crack. They quickly drove off. Michael prayed God would protect them from their own foolishness.
So we keep walking toward McDonald's, and we ran into Frank! Remember him from last month? Back then he was strung out on crack, and we had brought him to a halfway house rehab center. I had found out three weeks ago that Frank left the house (presumably because he wanted crack more than he wanted to get healthy), so we have been praying that we would find him. Right when he saw us he quickly came to see us. He was soaked from sleeping in the rain last night. We went to McDonald's to hang with him, get him some hot coffee, and catch up. He looked much better than last month, so we asked about the crack. He said he has laid off of it recently, so he only does it "every once in a while." He said it is hard to do crack when it is so cold, so I told him I would pray for a long winter :) After catching up for a while, we got the names of some of his family members. We are going to try finding them to see if they are willing to take Frank in. I hope we find them, and I hope Frank humbles himself to accept help. Frank told us how he really needed socks and a blanket since his were soaked. As I mentioned earlier, we brought some (which he couldn't see), so we got to be God's arms and legs in providing that for Frank. As we were chatting with Frank, 1 John 3:17-18 really started ringing in my mind. It says "But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." Frank had no gloves, a wet shirt, etc, and I have a drawer full of shirts and a couple pair of gloves. How could the love of God abide in me if I walked away with my abundance while Frank sat there in 35 degree weather with a wet shirt and no gloves? Now that theology will get you uncomfortable! Anyway, by the time we left, I no longer owned my gloves or my shirt, and we promised Frank we would come find him at McDonald's or behind the Library (where he sleeps). We walked to the car to head out.
So as we get in the car, a guy named Jeff comes and asks us for money for the bus. He just got out of prison across the street. He spent one night in prison to get some warrants and tickets forgiven. We asked where he was headed, and then we offered to bring him there ourselves instead of giving him money. We dropped him off at "his cousins" but Michael and I got the sense we might have dropped him off at a place where he would be up to no good.
After all the adventure, we headed to South Dallas, so I could show Michael and the boys around Cornerstone, a church my family is trying to partner with a bit. They are really trying to be salt and light in a really dark part of the city. Anyway, our family and the Flemings are going to be down there next week for Christmas, so I wanted to give them the lay of the land and hopefully hook up with Chris, the pastor. Well, I lead everyone into the small church, and the first thing I see is a casket with a dead man in it. This was Caleb's first experience with death, a casket, etc, so that made for something unexpected for the day. We found Pastor Chris who shared with us the story of Claude, the deceased. There is a sweet former drug addict at Cornerstone named Gladys who has a ministry reaching those enslaved to addiction on the streets, and she met Claude ten years ago. He accepted Christ and changed his addiction from drugs to Jesus. Today we can celebrate the new eternal home Claude has with our Maker.
We then picked up lunch and headed home. We will go back downtown next month as we try to make this a monthly effort. I am so encouraged by these young boys as they develop a heart for their neighbors.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
I headed down to south Dallas to serve in a "soup kitchen" at a local church that loves on our homeless friends. My wife and daughter decided to join me down there. Well as I pulled up to the home where the meals are served, there were about eight cop cars across the street at what appeared to be a murder scene. Nothing like a little mid-afternoon adventure :) Anyway, we then had the privilege of serving our homeless "neighbors" in south Dallas.
We also had the chance to get to know someone that we will be having dinner with next week. One of our dear friends came up with the idea of hosting a Luke 14 dinner. This is based on Luke 14:11-14 which says Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." So about eight families are going to host some homeless "neighbors" for a blowout Christmas dinner next week that will include some Christmas gifts and a "white elephant gift exchange." Caleb and Hannah are really excited. Me too!!!!!
I then headed back to the office for a few hours. I was able to reflect on the opportunity to serve over lunch today and be grateful for God's provisions of opportunities to deal with my conviction about wanting to serve in specific ways.
Anyway, on the way home I get a phone call from Natalie. "Beau, an immigrant family knocked on our door because they are out of money and looking for work to provide for their family. I invited them in for dinner, so be prepared when you get home." So 20 minutes later I walk into my house to meet eight complete strangers! So we have dinner. The father will come back over tomorrow morning to continue processing ways to help them. Our greatest hope is to honor Christ through our newfound relationship and point this family of eight to their Savior.
Did I mention that I journaled this morning about God helping me to grow in my heart for serving :-)
Please be praying for all that.
Also, Caleb and I head back downtown Saturday morning for our monthly visit with our "homeless neighbors" living on the streets. Caleb is so excited. He has used much of his savings to buy gifts for the folks we will meet on the streets - gum, socks, blankets, tooth brushes, etc. That was all his idea. I am so encouraged by my son's heart for the "marginalized" in our society, and I count it as a privilege to partner with him in doing what it is Christians are supposed to do - serve.
Maybe I will have an interesting post about our Saturday morning adventure, like last month's post.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
And another update...Beau and kids wanted to add to the list of favorite Christmas traditions:
1. Having a "Happy Birthday Jesus" cake for breakfast on Christmas morning...they love cake for breakfast!
2. Reading favorite books (currently---The Advent Book by Jack Stockman and Kathy Stockman (so beautiful...a must!), Cajun Night Before Christmas by Trosclair (they like my very bad cajun accent), The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado, and Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Still, I had visions that we would be celebrating this Christmas with at least news of them. Yet we continue to pray during the waiting. And we continue to celebrate God's incredible kindness and love during this season.
And we are having soooo much fun celebrating the love of Christ this season. I still marvel how Caleb did not know how to complete a recent school assignment that asked him to list 10 things he wants for Christmas. We do not make lists for ourselves (and the kids do not in any way feel they miss any fun or excitement). We have lots of other lists...that hopefully share the love and kindness of the Lord with others during this season. We are overflowing with His goodness to us and are trying to humbly share that abundance with people in our lives.
Here is how we are staying busy with some old and new traditions:
1. The kids and I have been busy making treats and cards for our neighbors (those that live on our street and those that are homeless downtown).
2. Today we built on an old high school tradition of mine, and we painted the nativity scene on some windows in our house
3. We went to the best live nativity ever a couple of weeks ago (Bethlehem Revisited in Waxahachie) and we went to the Neiman Marcus parade. These two outings have become the kids' favorite musts every year!
4. We have a really cool collection of nativity sets. And we keep the baby Jesus figures kept away until Christmas morning. It is really sweet to see how anxious Caleb and Hannah are for the arrival of Christmas by even this small tradition...they beg every day to put the figures out:)
5. The kids LOVE driving to look at Christmas lights. Any best spots in Dallas to recommend?
6. And the kids continue to love dressing up as characters from the Christmas story and acting it out.
7. Oh and they love, love, love watching the same old holdiay shows we watched as kids....Rudolph being their favorite!
I love traditions. Beau and I both have fond memories of childhood Christmas parties and traditions, and it is so fun to start building family memories with our kids. We look forward to many years building memories with the family that the Lord is building for us!
Friday, November 30, 2007
Caleb often asks people, "Do you 'believe' in the LSU Tigers? We don't believe in the Aggies or the Longhorns" And now he will say that he believes in the Dallas Cowboys too. Last night he wanted to watch a few minutes of the Cowboys game. He was excited to cheer for the Cowboys and watch the score. And he tells me that if the LSU Tigers played the Cowboys, he wouldn't care what team won since he believes in both. He saw Beau and I smile at each other and sensed that something might be wrong about that comment, so he said "I don't care if it is a college team or an initial team" We smiled again, and I gave Caleb a giant hug:)
And Hannah is learning her letters.....a few days ago we were reading a book about the letter "i" There were igloos, iguanas, and inchworms. After we were done with the book, she asked "Mommy why are they so itchy?" "What are itchy sweety?" "The worms, why do they itch you?" Again I smiled and gave her a giant hug:)
And yesterday morning, as I was preparing the kids for school I was also preparing to bring some food to a friend who has the cutest new baby boy. I was telling Hannah what I was doing and that I was going to visit my friend and her new baby. Hannah got all excited and hopeful....thinking she might be able to join me as she LOVES babies! I told her the baby's name was Luke...she lost all excitement and said "Oh I don't want to go cuz I don't like boy babies." I smiled and gave her a big hug! I did ask her what she thinks about possibly having a baby brother (she only prays for sisters)...she did say "Boys are OK if its fammy (family)." So cute!
Sunday, November 18, 2007
We live a "privileged life"...take than back...we live an excessive, extravagant life. We throw away left over food each night, we have clothes in the closet we might wear once per year, we have an empty bedroom in our house, we have money in our accounts that we don't need, we leave the house with lights on all over (wasting money and resources). Our stewardship is not consistent with what the Great One calls us to.
Anyway, our family makes food packs (gallon ziplocs with water, non-perishables, and gospel tracts). When we see homeless folks on the corner, we give them bags of food rather than money (which might go to feeding addictions that keep them on the streets). Our children love making the packs, enjoy handing them out, and really have a heart for praying for every person who receives one - for God's provision in their life and for eternal life in Christ. Well, my life was comfortable. I felt like I was "serving the poor." Then a few things happened in the past week that really opened by eyes to how ignorant I am. Let me describe them.
First, I took my son camping with a group of other Kindergarten boys and their dads. We call our group BCM - Building Christian Men, and we go camping from time to time and build a character trait into our boys throughout the course of the weekend. Last weekend it was Servanthood. On the way home, we saw a homeless man on the corner (one we see often). His name is J-Bone. After we prayed for him, I told Caleb we can think of new ways to serve these men and women.
Second, that Sunday (last Sunday) night I was reading Scripture and a story to my son from our daily devotional. It was on Matthew 25:31-46. It speaks of our choice to feed the poor, shelter the poor, love the poor, really engage with the poor...or our choice not to. Christ goes on to say that when we love the poor, we love Christ himself and when we ignore the poor, we mock Christ himself.
Third, Monday was a day of fasting for me. A brother from church led a group of us in a week of fasting, as we prayed over Isaiah 58:4-9. In this passage, among other things, we are called to provide for the hungry. At this point, the Spirit was certainly moving in me that food packs were great but insufficient. Therefore, on Monday I asked Caleb if he wanted to go downtown and spend some time with folks living on the streets. He said "yes!"
I then called another BCM dad, Michael Fleming, and asked if he and his 5 and 7 year old sons wanted to join us. He jumped at the opportunity, which wouldn't surprise anyone who knows Michael. Caleb and I made up a dozen food packs and picked Michael and his boys up yesterday morning. Michael's wife said "Beau, do you know where yall are going?" My concise answer was "No." So we headed out with the goal of living out our faith with a lost and hurting world.
We parked downtown and started walking. My son was whining about being hungry...thirty minutes after eating breakfast at home and while we are looking to feed the hungry! We took that as an opportunity to talk about using a thorn in our side as an opportunity to pray. So we asked our boys to pray throughout the morning instead of telling us they were hungry.
After 15 minutes of walking, we met Del (short for Delano), a ~65 year old homeless man in a wheelchair. We all sat with him for 45 minutes as he shared his story. We asked how we could serve him, and he said our willingness to hang with him and chat was the best way we could serve him. We mourned with him as he shared about his broken marriage, his alcoholism, and his estranged relationship with family. Michael did a great job encouraging Del on many fronts.
After this we walked a few minutes and met Mike, a homeless guy who sells a local newspaper written by the homeless community. It is Mike's effort to get money without begging. We hung out with Mike for an hour and heard his story. Much like Del, his marriage and his career (long haul truck driver) were destroyed by alcohol and drugs. We started asking Mike about whether he had a relationship with Christ. He told us he didn't. He said he went to church growing up, but once he was on his own he found more joy smokin dope, sleeping with women, and getting drunk. I told Mike I totally understood that. I shared with him that I have been a part of self-absorbed, hypocritical groups of people called a church and when I was a teenager, I quickly turned to alcohol, sex, pornography, etc which were more fun. I then shared with him the difference between "going to church" and "submitting to and following Christ." I prayed he would have that. He then shared with us that Shady Grove church picks him (and lots of people) up every Sunday from Austin Street shelter to go worship with them. He said he went last week and wept as the pastor spoke of the danger of pursuing desires. Michael then asked Mike a question we also asked Del - "What single thing most contributed to getting you to where you are in life today?" Mike said the most destructive thing he has done is choose to do everything he wants to do. Can I get an "amen!" for that! I pray Mike is on his way to recognizing that only one Person wants the right things all the time and that Mike hands over his life to Christ.
Before I forget, everyone we met was so nice to our boys. Our boys introduced themselves to each of these men and shook their hands. The men respected our boys, answered all their questions, etc. I pray our boys' hearts continue to soften for the modern day "tax collectors, prostitutes, etc."
By this point it was getting late in the morning, and I had promised the boys we would walk over to McDonald's for a meal. I also told them I hoped the Lord would providentially allow us to invite a homeless man to join us for breakfast. Well we were walking to McD's downtown, and as we were getting to the entrance, a homeless man walked by with his head down. Michael and I both said hello, and he popped his head up and said hi. Michael asked "how are you doing?" The man said "Not good. I'm tired and hungry." So I blurted out, "you want to join us for a meal at McDonald's?" He said yes. God answered our prayer! We all introduced ourselves and learned his name was Frank. Michael, Frank and the boys sat down, and I ordered up a big breakfast (10:45am by this time). We sat down and Frank started eating a lot. I assumed he was a crack addict since he said he was tired at 10:45am and was eating like he hadn't eatem in days...likely coming off a crack fix. We asked him, and he said he has been a crack addict for the past 4 years, since he got out of prison. He told us the last time he had crack was in the middle of that night. (note: fun story to explain crack cocaine and addictions to your 5 year old!) After eating for 30 minutes or so (I had to go order him seconds!) and hearing his life story, Michael asked Frank if he was satisfied with his life. Frank suddenly got really sad and shared with us how miserable the streets are and how helpless he felt in trying to get off crack. Michael asked if Frank really wanted to get healthy. Frank said yes. We then asked if he would be willing to do anything we asked him to in order to get healthy. Frank said yes. So I got on the phone to call friends from church (Watermark) to find somewhere to bring Frank to detox. We learned of a place just south of downtown called Homeward Bound. We asked Frank if he wanted to go, and he said yes. Frank threw away his last hit of crack in the garbage can at McD's and hopped in my really stylin minivan with Michael, the boys, and me. We drive to Homeward Bound and walked into an office where a man and woman were working. (note: the look on this woman's face to see three young boys standing beside a crack addict was priceless. Her jaw dropped to here knees and she was speechless for a few seconds.) Unfortunately, Homeward only takes in new patients Monday through Friday, so we were out of luck. So we all hopped back in the car. At this point, my boy Caleb very sadly said "Mr Frank, I am so sorry we couldn't serve you."
As we drove around, Frank said "I remember a place called Victory Outreach that offered to help me. I wish I would have accepted." Within ten seconds, we were calling 411 and getting their numbers. They had relocated to east Dallas on Garland road. We went over then, but they were away from their church and shelter across the street in a park feeding local folks and sharing about the redemption and recovery that only Christ can bring. Everyone stayed in the car while I hopped out. I found the guy who runs the Men's Home for this church. I told him about Frank. All the guy asked me was "does he really want to get healthy?" I said yes, so he said "We'll take him." We all hopped out of the stylin minivan and joined this party. We met Oscar, a former drug addict and gang member who went through Victory Outreach's program after he lost his wife and kids. Oscar told Frank that the only way they could help Frank is if Frank would let Jesus help him. Oscar said Frank would have to live in their home for a year, would have to wake up at 5am daily (to allow for 2-3 hours of prayer, Bible study and worship to start the day) before working in the home for the day followed by worship and small group at night. Frank said he really wanted to do it. Then we wrapped arms around each other as Oscar prayed for all of us, and especially Frank. The prayer was quite powerful and reminded me of the prayers I heard while spending time with those suffering but redeemed in Africa. It is amazing how those who have suffered the most are the most passionate in their prayer and supplication to the Lord. By now it was 1:00. We all hugged and encouraged Frank and then left him with Oscar. I pray he gets healthy and gets Jesus. We will call Monday to see if Frank decided to stay with the program or ran out at the first longing for crack. Michael and I will also try to learn more about Victory's ministry and see if it might be appropriate for us to help them in their ministry.
My friends, the body of Christ is universal. 1 Peter 4:10 tells us that we need to use our gifts to serve one another. Michael partnered with me. Victory Outreach partnered with us in loving Frank. Shady Grove and Austin Street helped us in loving Mike. I am grateful for the vast expanse of the body of Christ. Each of us might have different views about certain theology in the Bible, but as Randy Alcorn says, if we can agree on John 17, we can then focus our efforts on serving Christ and His people together.
I thank God for this experience. It was one of the best Saturday's I have had in a long, long time. Michael and I are going to bring our boys again next month (and check out Victory again before then). We are also inviting the other BCM dads and boys to join us for a more hands on lesson in servanthood. The cool thing is we will be the ones who are served in this effort.
Grateful for the Cross -Beau
Friday, November 16, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
We also received some clarity on the time between referral and travel. It is now about 3 months time....which will seem soooo long when that time comes. I can't imagine waiting a day to go and pick up our children. But we will trust in God's perfect timing. "Yet those who wait on the Lord will gain new strength." Isaiah 40:31
And along with Watermark's Tapestry Ministry we are hosting a BBQ for adoptive families next weekend (Sunday the 18th at 4:30). Please email me if you want to come...we'd love to meet some more families and be able to encourage one another.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
This is our sweet ballerina above....playing in a mud puddle one day with her brother and friends. Caleb stayed clean:)
Hannah got some time recently with our newest family member...she LOVES babies!!!
We also went to another pumpkin patch...I love fall! It was a beautiful sunny cool day!!
We were so thankful today for the pretty weather, the fun animals, time with friends, and each other. God has been so good to us...."Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Eph 5:19-20 Even more we are thankful for the GIFT that surpasses pretty days and awesome kids.... "And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" 2 Cor 14ish
Monday, October 15, 2007
Jobs I've had:
Grocery store clerk
LSU bookstore...in charge of pens
Recruiting at Bain
Gopher at Doctors Office
Summer construction job
Places we've both lived:
New Orleans, LA
Baton Rouge, LA
Places I'd rather be:
Vacation anywhere with my family...well anywhere I can get to without getting on a small plane
Weekend away with Beau
Weekend away with girlfriends
Foods I love:
Chopped Salad at Maggiano's, really any salad anywhere
Teamonade at CityCafe
Mexican food and a good Coke
Anything cajun and spicy
TV Shows I love:
Reruns of Seinfeld and Everybody loves Raymond
Movies I love:
Natalie: all old movies
Cheaper by the Dozen
Imitation of Life
Beau: all bad movies
Books I love:
Anything by Francine Rivers
There Is No Me Without You
Catcher in the Rye
Confederacy of Dunces
Pursuit of God
Sunday, October 14, 2007
On Friday night we had the awesome opportunity to meet and get to know some new friends over dinner. We spent time with 3 other couples who are also in the adoption process for Ethiopia. It was such a joy to hear their stories and get to know them. Here are 2 of their blogs:
http://www.kaddywampus.org/ and http://eyestowardethiopia.blogspot.com/. It is going to be so fun to have others with other children born in Ethiopia!
LSU lost last night...with Caleb sooo sad and Hannah cheering "Go Tucky" to tease her Daddy. They all still love their purple and gold!
We also went to a very fun pumpkin patch with awesome friends!
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
The kids knew that we were waiting for one last piece of paper. After checking the mail, I told them we got the paper we had been waiting for....so now that the people in Ethiopia can look for their new brothers or sisters. Our tender Caleb said, "That makes me want to cry" and he was teary and Hannah was squealing....and I started crying. Beau was excited too....quickly taking care of the final notarization and fed ex to Kate! Beau's comment...."Nat, I guess this means you won't be checking the mail anymore." I never checked the mail before, and I guess I am done now:)
The kids and I prayed after we got the letter....thanking God for His delivering this awesome news to us today and for His sovereignty in our lives.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Saturday, September 08, 2007
"When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed. " Mother Theresa
They did like the balloon artist....but both lost their balloons. Hannah lost hers when she was dodging the "killer" butterflies:) and she was too scared to go back in the exhibit to retrieve it. Caleb lost his when Mommy popped the balloon sword because he wouldn't stop hitting his sister with it:)
Monday, September 03, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Beau was more excited than anyone!!!!!
I love their uniforms, backsacks, and lunch boxes....I love all the school "stuff"
This is Caleb saving a seat for a friend....and he is freinds with these kids too! Hope he didn't have too much fun at this table!!
Hannah with her teacher
At 6:56am I walked into Hannah's room...she was already a bit awake. I didn't say a word, and she immediately put her head into her pillow and started crying. This is unusual for her to wake up unhappy. I went to sit by her and comfort her....she just started repeatedly crying "I want to stay home." She obviously remembered that it was the first day of school, and she was a bit scared. Those were her last tears of the morning thankfully. She put on her game face and timidly entered her classroom. She only went a half day, and we have spent the afternoon together cooking. She is now in another room playing "preschool" and has asked me to leave...I am too big for preschool. Her stuffed animals and dolls are the right size and make great students.
Many have asked how I did since this is my first time having my kids in school. Honestly, it was easy...I am used to being away from them some thanks to great babysitters. What was most fun about my quiet morning was being home by myself and getting to listen to something grownup...
Monday, August 13, 2007
Our prayer is that we would be a group that helps people process what the Lord might have them do as it relates to adoption and more broadly caring for the "orphans and widows" of our day. We look forward to many celebrations (and of course some heartache along the way).
We have some friends that will be making a decision this week about adopting three older children, so we ask everyone to join us in prayer for clarity and peace for all involved in this process. We know the Lord's plan for these children was penned an eternity ago.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Friday, August 03, 2007
Monday, July 30, 2007
This weekend we went to a ranch for my birthday. We brought the kids and had a great time. I read "There IS No Me Without You" over the weekend....Beau and I enjoyed our last trip with our two "older kids" where Beau and I could read and relax while our kids swam in the pool. This is the first trip we could actually read poolside as our two kids just learned how to swim:) Next trip with more kids will be a bit different....though of course we are so looking forward to having new additions to the family.
A quick thought about the book I read. I wish I could convince everyone that I know to read this book. I think it would help you all understand more deeply where our hearts are during this process. The book looks "big" but it reads really quickly and is so wonderful. It would explain to any of you what is happening on one of God's big continents and specifically in Ethiopia. I think the book also helped me to better define why we are doing the adoption and has given me greater vision on ways we must be helping God's children in so many ways.
This above video of Caleb (Dancing Boy)is from a previous trip. I put it here because I just figured out how to do it:) It does fit well though as Beau and I talked a lot this weekend about what we want for all of our kids....looking forward to having more kids in the near future. Most importantly we want them to live a life dedicated to the Lord, where they can enjoy His presence and serve Him well today and forever. We can have lots of laughter in these days with children....we so look forward to bringing more kids into a life were they can be loved, be healthy, and have many fun memories.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Monday, July 02, 2007
Natalie will go get shots this week! Since I have been to Africa a couple times this year, I have all the shots. Natalie will also speak to the clinic about our kids (Caleb and Hannah), what shots they would need if we bring them to Ethiopia with us.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Now we are waiting for some documents in the mail as well as waiting for Gladney to call us to schedule the homestudy. In the meantime, reading lots of books and praying for our family.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
After prayer, time as a couple, and seeking wisdom from community, we have decided we want to proceed with adoption, so the next step is choosing an agency. There are about 11 US agencies in Ethiopia, so we scanned all of them over the five weeks or so. We chose to dig a little deeper with two agencies, and we had "final round" discussions with both of them yesterday.
We really liked both of the agencies, and we really wish we could merge the best of both of them. Obviously, that isn't an option, so we need to decide which agency we feel would best fit our needs, concerns, skills, etc.
After the meetings, we have decided to partner with Gladney, an agency based in Fort Worth, about 45 minutes from our house.
Now the paper work begins... We had to fill out a basic form at the beginning to get the ball rolling. Today, we needed to submit a form with a little more personal information to allow Gladney to do some background checks as well as receive the more substantive "official Gladney application."
We will then work on two applications concurrently. First, there is a formal federal doc (I-600A) which seems easy enough and requires including copies of birth certificates (or passports), marriage certificate, a cover letter, etc. That will likely take an hour or so, and we can ship it out this week. The other form is the Gladney application, which I am assuming will take more time. We haven't gotten a copy of that yet, so I am not sure what will need to be done. I should know more later this week or early next week.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
We talked a lot about who specifically we would like to adopt. We generally agree on the following. We would like to adopt multiple children at once. As far as the specific number of children, we talk about two or three, but we will leave the final number up to God's sovereignty. We don't really have a preference on gender (though our kids do! more on that later). Due to a combination of personal preferences and adoption agency policies, the oldest child we adopt needs to be at least a year younger than Hannah, so four years old by the time this would happen. The one aspect where Natalie and I diverge somewhat is on the minimum age we want to adopt. Natalie would really like at least one of the children we adopt to be under 12 months old, while I am indifferent to that factor. At the same time, Natalie has more of a heart for adopting multiple children than she does the age of the children, so this is a secondary preference for her.
I am reading a really good book right now. It is called Born in Our Hearts by Filis and Marisa Casey. It is a compilation of stories by people involved with adoptions - birth mothers, adoptive parents, adopted children, birth siblings of adopted children, and grandparents. The stories are really encouraing and, at times, quite emotional for me to read. It has also helped increase my sensitivity to various aspects of adoption.
We told Caleb and Hannah (ages 5 and 4) this morning about our current processing of whether the Lord would have us adopt. We started by asking them if they knew what adoption was, and Caleb quickly responded with a good description. We then asked them what they thought about us adopting, and they were both very excited. Caleb talked about wanting to have more brothers and sisters, and then Hannah quickly said she only wanted sisters :). Hannah is all girl! We then talked about how they would have to share rooms with new siblings if we did this, and they were really excited about that as well, especially Caleb. Hannah was excited too, but only if she still got to sneak into our bed sometimes :).
We have dinner tonight with the Wilkins family who recently adopted from Russia. We look forward to learning from their wisdom.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
- Born in Our Hearts: Stories of Adoption
- There Is No Me Without You
- Beyond Good Intentions
- In Their Own Voices
- Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew
- The Lost Daughters of China
- Held at a Distance
- Does Anybody Else Look Like Me?
- Cross Cultural Adoption
- Community Group
- David and Missy Leventhal who are in the process of adopting Abigail
- Garth and Tiffany Wilkins who adopted Vladic
- Celestin Musekura who leads ALARM, the ministry I am involved with in Africa
- Gladney Center for Adoption - agency we are considering
- Buckner Adoption and Maternity Services - agency we are considering
- Others planned for the near future
Sunday, May 27, 2007
At the same time, the Lord has called me to ministry opportunities in East Central Africa (Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo) since the summer of 2006. My passion for sharing Christ and His Word in this area of the world has been an incredible blessing through which God has contunually shown me that He is sovereign, Christ is sufficient, and His Word is complete. Each time I go, I have wished I can stay so much longer, missing my family yet not wanting to leave. I am grateful for the partnership my church (Watermark) has developed with ALARM (www.alarm-inc.corg).
Well, God, in His incredible goodness and creativity, seems to be drawing these stories together, as we have come to recognize the Lord could be calling us to adopt children from Africa. We are beginning to study both adoption and the country of Ethiopia, learning more about both. Through prayer, meditation on God's Word, fellowship with great followers of Christ, books on adoption and Ethiopia, and some local seminars, we are seeking the face of God in the midst of our growing passion, hoping our will is consistent with His will.
Friday night was our 11th wedding anniversary, so we celebrated together at a local Ethiopian restaurant, Queen of Sheba. It was fun the celebrate our past together and dream about the future in a reastuarant that is part of a culture we are being drawn to.