31 August 2013

Heather's Haiti Update

Good Morning,
Grace and I returned home yesterday after a week-long trip to spend time with Yoldine and Vladimy.  It was a bittersweet trip.  Grace and I spend three days at the orphanage on this trip and got a better feel for how our children spend their days.  It was very eye opening and frankly not the life that I want for my children.  Despite the conditions the kids are doing great.  It just reminded me that we HAVE to keep praying that they come home soon.

Yoldine is happy and healthy.  She is a strong swimmer and can swim laps in the pool easily.  We put in yarn braids for her.  She has never had long hair like her friends and asked that I do that on her.  She looks beautiful as you can see in her photo.  I wish I had thought to take a photo of the moment she saw herself in the mirror.  It is was pure and utter joy.  She told me that one of the nannies always tells her that her hair is too short and is difficult to braid.  She asked that I leave the extra yarn so that they can put them in again for her.  At any rate it was totally worth the time it took to see that look on her face.  

Vladimy has settled some and has learned more self control and obedience since we last saw him.  He too is happy and healthy.  He really likes to draw and make up creatures which is funny since that is what Ian loves to do as well.   We were able to spend his 7th birthday with him.  I made a cake out of rice krispy bars so that he could have his own cake to blow out candles on.  I am so glad that I got to be there with him.  

While were there we were able to go to church at an English speaking church and out to lunch at the most chaotic and confusing food court I have ever been to.  We were able to go to the baptist mission again and see our good friend Susie who works at another orphanage in Haiti and our friend James came and brought us mangos and bananas and went swimming with us.  

I was able to meet with the president of the board for our orphanage and the director at the orphanage.  That was very eye opening as well.  They are working very hard to make sure that paperwork is moving.  Unfortunately, we are again getting stuck in a staff turn over.  The adoption offices are trying to make things more efficient so while they are working on that we wait.  Vladimy has a passport that I was able to see while I was there.  Yoldine is still waiting on a document to be stamped so she can get her passport.

I want to thank my parents for watching Ian and Tessa while I was gone.  It is such a blessing that they take care of our kids and allow them to have a fun few days with them while we are gone and Jason is working.  Thank you also to Pam Berg and Kellie Downie who also watched the kids.  Our kids are still jabbering about all the fun that they had with all of you while we were gone.  Finally I want to thank Jason who did and awesome job holding down the fort!  He has got the papa thing down that is for sure!

So here are our current prayer requests....
*Yoldine needs to have her corrected document stamped
*Protect the children physically, emotionally, and spiritually
*To help the Haitian adoption offices to work well and efficiently so that they can move our paperwork thru.

Thank you for all of your love and support during this time.  We couldn't do it without you.  

28 August 2013

Split apart hearts

Heather and Grace have been in Haiti since last Wednesday, visiting with our kiddos. Ian, Tessa, and I have been here holding down the fort and awaiting their return. This was the fourth time Heather and Grace have been able to go for a visit. I have only gone twice. I have been on Coumadin, a blood thinner, since last November and at this point, the risks in going to a third world country outweigh the benefits. Even apart from the Coumadin, it is so hard for me to visit our kids now, or more accurately, to say good-bye to them. I want them home so badly. 

When we adopted Tessa, the process went so fast. She was home in just a few months after we matched with her. This adoption is taking so long. We are into our 3rd year.  Every day breaks my heart a little bit more.

I chatted with Heather this morning. Today is their last day with the kids. Yoldine awoke crying because she doesn't want them to leave. Grace is feeling sick, presumably for emotional reasons as much as physical.  It is so hard for her to come back to the United States. I am sure she would consent to stay, if we would allow it. 

It is hard to explain the feelings that occur when your family lives in two different countries. It is painful to know that we could provide better care here than they receive there because we are there parents. Every day that passes with my heart in two places, a deeper sadness grows over me.

Pray for me.  Pray that I would lead my family well and that I would love them well until Yoldine and Vlad come home.

Pray for Heather and Grace as they fly back to the US tomorrow.

Pray for our family. Pray that we would be united soon. Pray that there would be no more delays in their paperwork.  Pray that God would be readying their hearts and ours for our lives together. Pray that God would protect our hearts through all of this and that our faith in him would be strengthened.   

26 August 2013

One of my favorite Luther quotes

This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, 

not health, but healing,

 not being but becoming, 

not rest, but exercise. 

We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, 

the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, 

this is not the end, but it is the road. 

All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.”

22 August 2013

Christian Neuropsychology

I recently wrote a short article entitled "Can Neuropsychology Find a Meaningful Place in Christian Psychology" for the e-journal Christian Psychology Around. It was released today. My article is on page 175, if you are interested.

21 August 2013

Cleaning up vomit in the dark

Recently, I have been working to incorporate spiritual disciplines on a deeper level. For several years, my daily Bible reading has been a blessing to me and, every day, I am eager to get into the word. Prayer has also been a part of my daily routine, though admittedly, I believe I undervalue the power of prayer.

One of our pastors talks about the benefit of the discipline of silence and solitude. In fact, this spring he went to the Joshua Tree National Forest to spend several days in solitude. I have never specifically availed myself of this discipline, though given the "noise" in my life, it is no doubt something I would benefit from.

With my family out of town, I thought tonight would be the ideal night to practice this discipline for a while. As I returned home, however, I got to thinking that there was a movie I rented that I had not yet watched, so I decided to forgo the time of silence.

I began cooking my dinner and put in the movie I rented. Dinner was nearly finished cooking and the previews nearly done when the lights went out. I made my way to the flashlight cabinet only to discover our flashlights were dead.  I lit a couple of candles. It wasn't totally black, but the skies were grey enough that it was difficult to see in the house. 

I sat down in my chair, thanking God for His enforcing this time of solitude. I prayed for a bit and asked him to speak if He would, to allow me to hear his voice. As I settled in to listen, I could hear my dog Corbin begin to wretch. This led to that sickly wet sound that happens when a dog vomits and I thought, "come on! Really?!?" 

Just then, it seemed to me that God was telling me what my sin is like. Vile. Disgusting. Wretched. Further, he helped me make the connection that sin so often occurs in the dark.  The apostle John particularly talks about the importance of walking in the light and not in darkness. 

I tracked down some paper towels, made my way to where I heard him and started to clean it up and realized how much easier it is to clean up in the light. 

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.-John 3:20

"Simple" explanation of the Kalam argument

18 August 2013

Keep Your Eyes Forward

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.-Phillipians 3:13-14

As a teenager, I loved track and field. I was a thrower (discus and shot put), but I really enjoyed all of the events. The longer I participated, the clearer it became that good technique was essential, not just for field athletes, but for the runners as well.  I remember watching the 100 meter dash in one of the world class events, perhaps the Olympics, when one of the sprinters set a new world record, but in the last 10 meters, he turned his head to see where his competition was. The commentators noted that if he had not turned his head, he could have shaved another 0.4 seconds off of his time. Technique is essential.

I was thinking about this today as I was pondering my own sinfulness. Often when I sin, my tendency is to look back at it rather than keeping my eyes forward. I ruminate about my failure and wonder why I continue to stumble. This rumination can lead to a sense of despair if I allow it. But that is not what Paul tells us. He says we are to forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead. We are to keep our eyes focused on Christ and his kingdom, not on where we have fallen. Our success lies not in our ability to continually brood over our sin, but to look to Christ again and again.

As Robert Murray M'Cheyne once said, "For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely."

14 August 2013

Ken Boa on Process Spirituality

Ken Boa is one of the faculty members for the Centurions Program that I finished this spring. He has also written what I consider to be one of the best books on spiritual formation I have ever read and to be honest, I missed so much stuff the first time that I am going back through it again.  I found a great article on spirituality on his blog and near the end, he talks about practical ways to practice God's presence.  I would commend the whole article (indeed his whole website) to you. 

Here are some suggestions for practicing the presence of Jesus:

  • Send up "flash prayers" at various times during the day. These are very brief prayers or mental notes that acknowledge God's presence or lift up others. They can be offered when waking, sitting down for a meal, walking, driving, waiting, listening, and so forth.
  • Try using the same short prayer throughout the course of a day, such as the Jesus Prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner") or another brief prayer (e.g., "I love You, Lord"; "I thank You in all things"; "By Your grace, Lord"; "Thank You, Jesus").
  • Pray and work (ora et labora). Do your work with a listening ear that is cocked to the voice of God. When you combine prayer and action, even trivial tasks can be spiritualized through a divine orientation. Invite the Lord to animate your work so that the ordinary is translated into the eternal.
  • Play to an Audience of One; live coram deo (before the heart of God). Seek obscurity and anonymity rather than public accolades so that you will desire to please God rather than impress people.
  • Ask Jesus to energize your activities and cultivate an attitude of dependence on Him, even in areas where you have knowledge and skill.
  • Monitor your temptations as they arise (the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life) and turn these moments into opportunities to turn your eyes to Jesus. We do not overcome sin by trying to avoid it, but by focusing on Jesus.
  • Experiment with prayer. For instance, try praying for strangers you see while you are walking or waiting or driving. Ask the Lord to direct your prayers and listen for His promptings and impressions. Reach beyond your own concerns and become a channel of God's grace and mercy to others.
  • Develop an eye that looks for God's beauty and handiwork in nature when you are walking and driving: plants, flowers, birds, trees, the wind, clouds, the color of the sky, and so forth. Learn to savor the wonders of the created order, since they point beyond themselves to the presence and awesome mind of the Creator.
  • Turn the other pleasures of this life (times with close friends, enjoyment of great music and food, etc.) into sources of adoration for the One who made these things possible. Cultivate a sense of gratitude for the goodness of life and the tender mercies of God that are often overlooked.
  • Ask for the grace to see every person you meet and every circumstance you face today as a gift of God. Whether these experiences are bitter or sweet, acknowledge them as coming from His hand for a purpose. Look for the sacred in all things, and notice the unlovely and those who are usually overlooked. Remember that the EGRs (extra grace required) in our lives are there for a purpose.
  • Since we tend to live ahead of ourselves by dwelling in the future, try occasional time-stopping exercises by standing in and relishing the present moment. Realize that Jesus is with you and in you at this very moment and thank Him for never leaving or forsaking you even in the smallest of things (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5).
  • 13 August 2013

    Our Father is younger than we are

    Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we are.-GK Chesterton

    11 August 2013

    Spiritual Depression: Saying Farewell to Your Past

    I have been reading D Martyn Lloyd Jones' classic, Spiritual Depression. In the second chapter, he wrote,

    Would you like to be rid of this spiritual depression? The first thing you have to do is to say farewell once and for ever to your past. Realize that it has been covered and blotted out in Christ. Never look back at your sins again. Say: "It is finished, it is covered by the blood of Christ." That is your first step. Take that and finish with yourself and all this talk about goodness, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only then that true happiness and joy are possible for you. What you need is not to make resolutions to live a better life, to start fasting and sweating and praying. No! you just begin to say: 

              I rest my faith on Him alone
              Who died for my transgressions to atone.

    Take that first step and you will find that immediately you will begin to experience a joy and a release that you have never known in your life before. "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law." Blessed be the Name of God for such a wondrous salvation for desperate sinners.