November 11th was National Orphan Sunday. Frankly, every Sunday should be Orphan Sunday.
Our church is advocating for John and other children in foster care. You can help John and other children find a forever family!
“John is a sweet 10 year old boy! He said, “I really, really want to be adopted!” He is described as being all boy. John loves playing outside and catching bugs. He is very sweet and fun to be around. John likes to make jokes, and his infectious laugh will spread to anyone around him! He is competitive, athletic and ambidextrous. John is artistic and loves to draw- especially Minions and Pikachu from Pokémon. He desires a family that will love him unconditionally and be patient as he works through his trauma.”
Nearly 7% of all orphans in the USA are in Texas
17,000 children in Foster Care in Texas
340 kids are currently in Tarrant County foster care waiting to be adopted
20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless when they reach 21.
7 out of 10 girls who age out of the foster care system will become pregnant before the age of 21.
25% of children who age out of the foster care system still suffer from PTSD
Not everyone is called to adopt or become a foster parent. However, everyone can advocate for children in the foster care system.
Creative ways to help:
Pray for children in the foster care system and families who choose to step in.
“There are almost 17,000 kids in foster care in Texas. That seems like a crazy number until you hear there are almost 30,000 churches in Texas! There is more to Orphan Care than just fostering or adopting. If one Christian family from every church adopted and that church agreed to support and wrap around that family there would no no more orphans in Texas.“
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
Note: I’ll be the first to admit my own responsibility for being a part of the problem in the past. I’m lovingly, yet sternly challenging you to read and consider what I am saying. After thoughtful consideration (perhaps 24-48 hours), if you disagree – that is fine. Articulate your disagreement if you like. Emoting is a sign of immaturity and my response will call out immaturity. If that causes a bit of anger to well up in your little heart, so be it. You need to learn to deal with anger and this conversation is not for you – yet.
Boys are crying out for help!
Over the last 50 years, our moral revolution has attacked the sanctity of human life, destroyed the family and diminished the father’s role in society. So, males are nothing more than animals that have sex at will with whomever they want, pursue immediate gratification and comfort, relish violence and affluence and move on like a swam of locusts.
Today boys, as young as 8 years old are immersed in pornography, addicted to violent games/movies and have ZERO respect for human life. As a result, girls (and boys) are objects for their personal gratification, other children are targets for destruction and parents exist to feed and pamper them.
Our boys need to be rescued from this toxic culture and men who have abandoned their responsibilities need to repent and be restored. We need to admit we need to help each other.
No matter how you slice it – Males hold all the cards.
We are paying the price for the “moral revolution”. This revolution is rooted in nothing more than personal immediate gratification (of males – primarily). It says,
“I want what I want and I want it NOW… And I will use the veil of reproductive rights, feminism, sexual freedom, personal autonomy, marriage, coercion and political volition to achieve my personal gratification – be it comfort, affluence, power or orgasm.”
Our children are paying dearly with their lives. Make no mistake – the cost is high for “if it FEELS good, do it” culture. It is no accident that we have arrived at this very moment.
“A poor sailor blames the wind.”
It is also no accident that adult males are molesting and demeaning women, abusing children, stealing, doing drugs, lying under oath, murdering and going to jail at high rates. We raise our boys according to the rules of the moral revolution and when our boys become adults infused with the ‘values’ of the revolution and act out of those impulses – the moral revolutionaries make an ‘out-cry’ and blame everyone except themselves. A worldview that blames systems, things and institutions for society’s problems is rejecting any personal accountability. They will deny this but there will always be a ‘but’ to avoid personal responsibility.
How about raising boys who know what it means to be authentic men?
A man does not give into passivity, he takes responsibility for his own actions, he practices personal accountability and integrity, he is humble, just, kind, self-disciplined, leads courageously and focuses on a cause greater than himself. A man is the voice for the voiceless, a protector of the weak and a provider.
Stop the cycle of blame. In order to raise men of honor and integrity, we must look ourselves in the mirror and ask how we are going to help raise boys into authentic men. It is an issue of our hearts. Boys are crying out for help. Let’s help them by modeling manhood for them – teaching and challenging them to become the courageous men they are created to be.
Ignore the screaming of the moral revolutionaries – they will never stop screaming. That is what they do – they rage against everything. They will not stop raging until they destroy everything – including themselves. I’m not sorry for pushing back against the disjointed and dangerous worldview driving the ‘moral revolution’. As a matter of fact, I’m going to challenge it with extreme moral force.
Dave Ramsey once said,
“We all have a red-faced screaming child inside us. That child’s name is ‘Immaturity’.”
It’s not too late.
Our future depends on our personal accountability today.
How am ‘I’ going to raise my son to be man?
How can ‘I’ support the fatherless who have no role model?
The following originated from an email I sent to my fellow team members at Christ Chapel on January 8, 2018.
Good morning team,
On December 31st, I set about my morning bible reading asking the Lord to give me a passage of scripture for the new year. Up to this point, I had been journeying through the Psalms. At eventide of 2017, my foot set upon the golden shores of Psalm 16.
As I considered the entirety of this magnificent passage, I discovered a treasure I could hold in my heart at dawn of a new year…
“In your presence there is fullness of JOY.” (Psalm 16:11)
Unbeknownst to me, Pastor Ted Kitchens would announce on Sunday that the staff’s “theme” for 2018 would be ‘JOY’!
I too thirst for Joy! We all do. It’s been tough and trying year for many of us, and the only prescription is more Joy!
As I studied Psalm 16 again today, I couldn’t help but reflect on Jesus’s words in John 15: 1-11 (the True Vine). I encourage you to set both passages side by side and ponder them. One can’t help but be awe struck by how God has woven his word together. So, I pulled a couple threads I hope will encourage your heart as we embark on our voyage this new year.
Where do we begin?
Begin with the end in mind: Joy!
“in your presence there is fullness of Joy….” – Psalm 16
“that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full (or complete).” – John 15
How do we find this ‘Joy’?
Set the Lord before and abide in Him – the Vine
“I have set the Lord always before me…” – Psalm 16
“Abide in me (Christ)….” – John 15
By intentionally yielding our will in humble obedience, we enthrone Christ in our hearts to rule and reign. In turn, we yield fruit (which brings the believer Joy to the Father’s delight!). We are running to our Father shouting, “Father, father, look! Look at this beautiful fruit that you planted in my garden!” And the delight of the Father’s smile begets Joy in the hearts of his beloved children.
Can we find Joy apart from Christ?
The answer is ‘no’.
“I have no good apart from you.” – Psalm 16
“apart from me (Christ), you can do nothing” – John 15
So, Where do we end?
End with the beginning in mind: Joy!
Everyday – “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord’… in your presence there is fullness of JOY!” (Psalm 16)
I have been keeping a journal for nearly ten years, and every year at the end of December, I have a tradition of reading through the previous year’s entries. Sometimes, I get lost in the pages of my own writings and I am swept back in time.
On the morning of February 5, 2016 I journaled a prayer for my dad’s ‘routine’ gall bladder surgery later that morning. He had been experiencing a great deal of pain.
My prayer: “Lord, I pray that you would use this trial in his life to draw him closer to you … bring him out of this a changed man.”
That morning, I was reading Psalm 36 as my devotional. The theme of this Psalm is God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.
“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” (Psalm 36:7-9)
There is a huge difference between knowing the meaning of a passage in your head and understanding it in your heart.
Shortly before noon on February 5th, I entered the crucible with my family. The surgeon walked into the waiting room with a file folder in his hand. He seemed to be a bit young to be a surgeon of his caliber. But, I brushed that aside remembering that I’m older than I think. The doctor sat down next to my step-mom and began to speak. The surgery was a success and dad’s gall bladder was removed. The doctor opened the file folder. Inside it were hi-res photos. Then the words came, “Jim has cancer.”
58 days later on Saturday April 3 at 9:33 p.m., after indescribable suffering, my father succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Poppa was surrounded by his family when he drew his last breath of Texas air and woke up in eternity a changed man. The words of the old hymn “Finally Home” washed over me and gave me comfort.
“But just think of stepping on shore – And finding it Heaven! Of touching a hand – And finding it God’s! Of breathing new air – And finding it celestial! Of waking up in glory- And finding it home!”
A couple days ago, I woke up early in the morning as is my habit. I turned on the lights on our Christmas tree in the dark room where it sits in a corner, lovingly decorated by our children. On this particular morning, the lights were blurry. A wave of grief ushered in my quiet time with God as tears had blurred my sight. I did not know the tears were there until I turned on the Christmas lights.
“In your light do we see light.”
I now understood the meaning of the passage in my heart.
This holiday season, there may be an empty chair at your dinner table. You may wake up early on Christmas morning to say ‘Merry Christmas’ to the one you love only to find them gone. There will be a void in life. There will be an embrace and a voice missing from the greetings and conversations. That distinct familiar laugh from the other room.
There will be blurry lights.
Therefore, take heart! It’s okay to grieve. To grieve is at the core of what it means to be human. Grief tells you that you have loved and been loved. It reminds you that you must truly live. Grief should point us to God as our help and comfort in this broken world. We can draw near to Him and to each other.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
In the light of God’s love, there is sufficient grace for me and you. In the midst of the storm and fog, there is a kindly light and peace to be experienced.
“The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings… in your light do we see light.”
Those who grieve can help the grieving. When the lights are blurry, remember many others experiencing the same thing. Do not allow the ministry of grief to be wasted. We who grieve have the privilege to come alongside those who are grieving. We do well to acknowledge and validate the pain yet lift each other up in love. God’s kindly light shines through the fog of pain and grief. The warmth of that light is felt in a loving touch, a nod of the head or a kind word of encouragement.
I’ll leave you with my closing words from dad’s memorial service. I pray it will minister to you if you are grieving and encourage you to be sensitive if you are not.
“It is part of the pathos of mortality that we only discover how dearly we love things after we have lost them. “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” It is the law of the cross, it is a sacrificial law. “Christ gives rest to the heart by giving burdens to the shoulders. And, as a matter of fact, it is in being burdened that we usually find rest… Heavy luggage is a cure for weary hearts.” So, we must bear each other’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Look into the world around you. Can you feel it’s pain?
A “Harvey Hangover” is the best way to describe my experience since late August. I’ve been back to the coast 3 times. In my hometown of Fort Worth, everything looks normal. Big trees, houses and children playing in the neighborhood are daily realities. As the 24 hour news cycle pushes the conversation on, its ‘normal’ to forget a tragedy.
‘Normal’ on the Texas Coast is much different. Mighty oaks are snapped in two and uprooted, houses are torn apart, not a child is to be found playing. The image is stark and lifeless.
Last Saturday, we were preparing to feast on a fine breakfast with a group of men at a small church in Aransas Pass to fuel ourselves for the day. Our team leader saw a lone man rummaging through a forgotten pile of cloths outside the church. He called out to the stranger to join us for breakfast.
The man came into the building, shaken, weary and with tears in his eyes.
His name is David. My friend Shawn asked him what he was looking for in the clothing piles, he said, “I needed socks.” Behind the tough, worn exterior of tattoos and scars was a broken man. You could see it in his eyes. He was coming down from being high – as he was fidgety, sighing and his eyes were never fixed on one place. I could sense his anxiety, having been there myself, under the bondage of drugs, suppressing my pain. That place ain’t pretty. It is dark, hopeless and controlling.
We prayed for the food and began to eat with David. He was thankful to be here. As he relaxed, he shared his story. His wife was a heroin addict and would leave him and their children for days. She would return and the cycle would begin again with an argument. After the hurricane, he sent the children to live with grand-parents out of town. He was hopeless, hurting and the tears poured. It was apparent this man lived a hard life. At one point he had been in nursing school and working. Somewhere hope had turned to heartache.
I admit, part of my heart began to become callous toward what I saw in the disaster zone.
The ‘normal’ is destruction and need. It’s ‘normal’ to see people wondering the streets with a blank robotic stare on their faces. It is ’normal’ to see people camped outside their homes under make-shift tents. It’s ‘normal’ to see destruction everywhere you look. It’s not like a tornado disaster where you can drive a few blocks and everything is in tact. In contrast, Hurricane Harvey’s path of destruction is so extensive that you can drive 30 miles in any direction and all you can see is devastation. It can cause a heart to become callous.
A couple days ago, I was safely at home preparing to go to work and I began to weep for a few moments. I had to let it all out. Certainly God was softening my heart against the callouses that had formed on the coast. All around is so much pain, brokenness and loss.God touched me and healed a part of my heart that had been dying in indifference. My only response was thankfulness.
It’s right to bend under the burden of the pain of others. I admit to trying to fix before feeling, I understand this is the wrong response.
In God’s amazing grace, He reminds us to look into the world and feel it’s pain.
“And Jesus went forth and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion towards them…” Matthew 14:14
In last week’s post about fatherhood, I described a father’s gain – the treasure formed and refined in the fires of pain and loss. If you haven’t read it, I recommend you do so before reading this post. Click here to read it.
This week, the story continues.
Jamon Horne, Jacob Steele and me circa 2000 in Austin, Texas.
In the months leading up to my friend Jamon’s passing, Pastor Horne and his son had grown closer than ever before. Jamon’s mother will tell you that his dad never left his side. He was with Jamon day and night – loving, serving and shepherding his boy. He was walking with him, leading him in faith knowing full well the final destination. Jamon’s mother knew why her husband was not asleep in the bed with her at night. There was a burning fire of refinement bonding a father and his sick boy. The heat of this trial was forming and fashioning a priceless treasure of fatherhood.
Pastor Horne asked me to speak at Jamon’s funeral. I felt inadequate for the role. However, I realized it was a privilege to speak about my friend, encourage others and share my faith. Furthermore, I believed Jamon wouldn’t have had it any other way.
How does a man stand before his dead friend’s family and say anything worthwhile or meaningful?
How does a man stand before the teenage son of a friend and comfort him? I could barely look at him in the eye without crying.
At the funeral service, I was seated on a stage among a group of fine seasoned pastors. While their words were comforting and powerful, I found strength and encouragement in the silent and solemn acts of my friend’s father. I witnessed one of the most heroic, humbling and powerful scenes of my life.
Finally, the moment arrived when Jamon’s casket had to be closed forever. His parents arose to their feet. Pastor Horne left the side of his wife, accompanied by a friend, and slowly approached his son’s casket with streams of tears running down his face. Trembling but not shaken, the good pastor stood above his son. His face was set like flint. Pastor Horne had made up his mind to remain firm and resolute in what he was about.
A father’s final act of heroic love for his son.
The sanctuary of the church of a couple hundred family and friends fell silent. It was a holy moment. Pastor Horne reached Jamon’s casket and his friend patted him on the shoulder and walked away leaving Pastor John Horne alone with his son. He gently placed his hand upon Jamon’s lifeless chest and folded the casket dressings inside. Then, he raised his trembling arm to close the cover. This was the same arm that had held Jamon as a baby. The same arm that helped him up when he fell as a child. The arm of discipline and love. The same arm that hugged Jamon on Thanksgiving. Pastor Horne wept and trembled but, he wasn’t crushed by the tremendous weight of grief. His faith held him there.
God was right there and everyone could feel His presence.
I don’t know how long Pastor Horne stood over his son. But, he finally closed his eyes as he slowly closed the cover of the casket. And watching him walk away seemed like turning the final page of a great novel or hearing the fading notes of a sweet song. He returned to his wife’s side and held her head to his heart and sang a beautiful hymn. A man humbled yet full of pain, courage and faith beheld his Heavenly Father’s gain.
A father’s gain
I recognized this gain. I knew this treasure as streams of my memories flowed back to when I was with my dying father. He lay at home in the hospital bed provided by hospice – breathing slowly with eyes half open. My father’s mischievous blue-green eyes gazed at me as if he wanted to say something but he was unable to speak or move. We had progressed beyond words and the light was fading.
As I remember back, I couldn’t recall the last time I ate or slept. It seemed that being there was enough for me. God was there sustaining me. With a trembling hand, I would moisten a cotton swab and wet dad’s lips. In the fading embers of my father’s eyes, I saw my father’s gain – a priceless treasure. Deep in those eyes, I caught a glimmer of joy.
Our story continues in the fires of this life.
Fatherhood ain’t easy. Being a son ain’t so easy either.
Sons will become fathers someday. As we experience fatherhood, we must understand there will be pain, distance and fire. However, treasure will be found if we can look beyond the blinding smoke and heat of trials. Something beautiful is being formed. It is our duty to search for this majestic treasure and find a father’s gain.
“When God wants to drill a man, And thrill a man, And skill a man When God wants to mold a man To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart To create so great and bold a man That all the world shall be amazed, Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects Whom He royally elects! How He hammers him and hurts him, And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which Only God understands; While his tortured heart is crying And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks When his good He undertakes; How He uses whom He chooses, And which every purpose fuses him; By every act induces him To try His splendor out- God knows what He’s about.“
This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.