Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Sheshe is back home

As most of you who know us already know, sheshe (Ramona) has been in the hospital since Christmas eve. This along with all the Christmas stuff has engendered the complete lack of posts recently. We hope to get back to business soon.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

While You Were Sleeping

We had the opportunity to attend a "sing along Messiah." They played the first part of Handel's Messiah and the Hallelujah Chorus. Musically it was a wonderful evening. There were probably several hundered singers who came to join in the sing on the choruses, and the solos were wonderful.
However, we were saddened by the almost total lack of mention of the subject of the music. The program made it clear that this church "repects all faiths." Apparently this means that you sing the Messiah, but make no mention of who or what the Messiah is. As sheshe said I wanted to shout, "let us pray" after it was over. Instead we were told about the wonders of the music and how we had "feasted on it" tonight.
The Hallelujah Chorus always brings me images of all the saints from throughout the ages standing around the throne singe praised to The Lamb Who Was Slain. This time though, I could only wonder how many of those who stood there truly call Him King of King and Lord of Lords. They certainly were not led in that direction from the stage.
In the words, the Promised One came but the hearts of the singers seemed to have missed Him. I am reminded of the song "While You Were Sleeping" by Casting Crowns. I pray that the hearts of those there will awake to the Messiah.


"While You Were Sleeping"

Oh little town of Bethlehem
Looks like another silent night
Above your deep and dreamless sleep
A giant star lights up the sky
And while you're lying in the dark
There shines an everlasting light
For the King has left His throne
And is sleeping in a manger tonight

Oh Bethlehem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
For God became a man
And stepped into your world today
Oh Bethlehem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
While you were sleeping
While you were sleeping

Oh little town of Jerusalem
Looks like another silent night
The Father gave His only Son
The Way, the Truth, the Life had came
But there was no room for Him in the world He came to save

Jerusalem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
The Savior of the world is dying on your cross today
Jerusalem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
While you were sleeping
While you were sleeping

United States of America
Looks like another silent night
As we're sung to sleep by philosophies
That save the trees and kill the children
And while we're lying in the dark
There's a shout heard 'cross the eastern sky
For the Bridegroom has returned
And has carried His bride away in the night

America, what will we miss while we are sleeping
Will Jesus come again
And leave us slumbering where we lay
America, will we go down in history
As a nation with no room for its King
Will we be sleeping
Will we be sleeping

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I have seen the lights

This is what you get when you mix too many Christmas lights with an electrical engineer who has too much time on his hands.

HT Robert and Gradine Simpson

A Life in the Day of the Edwards

Yes, I know, the saying is wrong. Not around our house, though. Every day indeed has a life cycle all its own. I remember back when we had only three kids, and I would always wonder what the lives of large families were like. Since some of you may be curious, also, I will share our day with you (prompted by a thread on our pastor's blog). Keep in mind that this is the holiday season, so things may be a tad more busy than usual. In a "normal" day, I will have two hours to rest in the afternoon, plus usually time in the evening to sit and rest, too (and no ER trips).

We got up around 8:30 or so (got to sleep in since it was Saturday), and could hear the kids already milling around in the kitchen, eating breakfast. I took a shower, talked on the phone with my mom, then went to get my own breakfast. As I ate, I coordinated some of the days activities, had Zhenya put some clothes in bags to take to the Salvation Army, talked to various kids as they came in and asked questions, checked email, etc. Dad gathered up the kids for the "Bus Route" (he takes those who want to run errands in the van, dropping them off and coming back to pick them up in a loop), with Naomi making sure I would be there when a neighbor came to pay her for raking.

I stayed until the woman came, then packed my things up and went to run my own errands. First I mailed my Christmas cards, then went to the Christian book store to buy a gift and some stocking stuffers. Next I dropped the clothes off at Salvation Army and picked up some of their free bread (Yummy - we love it!). From there I went to WalMart, where I spent the next couple of hours, buying Christmas gifts. I was so pleased to be able to find everything on my list, almost completing my Christmas shopping. I filled the truck up with gas, then went to eat lunch. From there, I went to a bookstore for another gift, then the Far East Market, to finish up my shopping (Yeah!!).

Once I arrived home, the kids helped me unload the truck and put things away (I got groceries at WMart, too). Some more questions came my way, and then I was finally able to sit down and rest for about 20 minutes (checked email, of course!). Then I helped Shawn get ready for choir practice, and drove him to the church office. The choir director said I did not have to stay, so I went to Mike's Merchandise to look for stocking stuffers. It was exciting to find out that they had gotten in a new shipment of books that very day! I found a number of good books for myself, and some stocking stuffers to boot! (pun intended) Shawn called, saying they were done, so I returned to pick him up.

He and I stopped to order some pizza on the way home (a luxury for us), since most of the other kid would be gone to a youth fellowship. As soon as we got home, we finished lighting the luminaries that the other kids had prepared already (the whole neighborhood did them last night), helping a neighbor along the way. (In the meantime, Bob had taken 9 of the kids to the fellowship.) The pizza tasted good at that point, and we didn't have much to clean up, thankfully. I folded clean clothes that had been washed on Wednesday, then went to check on the luminaries, admiring the sight that they made in the neighborhood.

Finally, I got a chance to sit down and rest! After doing my daily Bible reading, I checked email and blogs as I unwound. The phone rang around 8:45 - it was Bob checking in from the youth fellowship. Tessa had just fallen down a spiral staircase and needed to go to the ER. Ugh. I waited a few minutes, put the two kids who were at home to bed, and went to meet them at the hospital. After filling out the forms, I brought the other 8 kids home, while Bob stayed with Tessa.

Kathryn wanted to talk for awhile, which we did. I put in a load of clothes to wash, then urged her to go to bed. Bob and Tessa made it home around 11:00, with her foot bandaged up and in a "boot". They gave her a choice, and she chose to not get stitches, although it would mean wearing the boot an extra few days. (Sunday update: after looking at her foot today, I really think it is broken. It is quite swollen and bruised, but the treatment would be the same, so I guess it does not matter.)

Blessed rest! It was great to finally get to bed, after a full day! Our lives are full, but organized (out of necessity) and fun. The kids are great about doing their chores, for the most part, which helps the household run well (they don't do chores on Saturday - next time I will tell about a "typical" school day).

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Another new link

I have added a link to Purgatorio in the links section. Marc Heinrich does a brilliant job of commenting on Christian culture. In and of itself that is not anything new. What is brilliant about it is that he does so with images, not words. Check it out.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Christian Culture vs Christianity

A discussion on at Paul Lamey’s blog, got me to thinking about the difficulties we face sometimes separating artifact’s of our “Christian” culture with true Biblical Christianity. The discussion was over Christmas. Many Christians seem to think that it is a fundamental part of the Christian life. Just look at the fact that some are boycotting retailers because they have removed the word Christmas from their marketing. Christmas must be really important to spend so much energy over getting unbelievers to just use the word. The problem is that no where in the Bible are we told to celebrate the day of Christ’s birth. The reality is that the celebration of Christmas is an artifact of our culture and tradition.

Our nature is such that we tend to believe that how we have always done it is the “right” way to do it. No matter what “it” is. This was brought home with several of our adopted children. Since most of our children were older when they were adopted, they had already been acculturated into their native culture. Many of the normal things they did when they came just seemed “wrong” to us. As an example, toilet paper is thrown into the trash not the toilet in Russia. If you are not aware of it, this can cause some problems, particularly if you attribute ulterior motives to the child.

This forced us to examine many of the things we did to see if there was a purpose to them, or if that was just “the way we had always done it.” In some cases, we allowed them to keep their ways of doing things. In others, we trained the kids to conform to our culture so as not to offend others.

When we are saved we become a member of a different kingdom, a different culture, if you will. Because of this, we need to make sure to learn the behaviors and demands of our new culture. Unfortunately, in America there is a distinct Christian subculture. Even worse is that, within that sub culture, there are even further distinctions based on denomination and even the local church. If we are not careful, we can confuse the rules of our Christian subculture with the rules of the Kingdom.

Therefore, we need to examine our traditions, out practices, and what we consider “the right way to do things,” to see if they line up with Scripture. This may mean discarding some of our well held traditions where they do not line up with Scripture. It may mean going counter to not just the worldly culture, but the culture of our church environment. It means not only applying Romans 12:2 to the world, but to the Christian culture.

A Contest for all you word freaks.

A lot of my friends and family are work freaks. So let's have a little contest. Post a comment, and look at the "Word Verification" word. The contest is to see who can make up the best definition for the word.

Grace and Truth Books

I have added a link on the side bar to Grace and Truth Books. They are run by our pastor from our Tulsa days, Dennis Gundersen. They specialize in "Character building Christian books for Christian families." They carry lots of other good books too. Check them out.

Another one from Segei


If you look closely you can even see the photographer.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Coins


Sergei always amazes me with his ability to see things that I cannot see. How he took this picture, I am not sure. But this is an unretouched photo he took. Pretty amazing, huh?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Anyone guess what this is?


Another photo by Sergei. Anyone want to guess what it is?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Kathryn's Testimony


This is Kathryn's baptism testimony.

"I was saved by Jesus Christ a long time ago, but I never realized it back then. I was abandoned by my birth mom on the street when I was three days old [in China]. Then a guy passed by on the road. He heard a little girl crying ,and he picked me up to take to his home. After that I never thought he wasn't my own father, I found out by an accident. But he told me it didn't matter. Right after I was twelve years old, he lost his job and he couldn't take care of me anymore, so he sent me to an orphanage. I was almost thirteen when he sent me to the orphanage, then I got adopted by a family in Tennessee. Somehow we didn't work out, because back then I didn't know anything about God, I sinned against Him and them. Then they thought they didn't want to keep me anymore, so they tried to find a different family for me.They found the Edwards family for me. At first I didn't obey them, I even hated them, because I was very angry from my other family. Back then I was a very naughty and unlikable person. One morning, when I woke up I felt the things I did were different than before. I started saying sorry to people which I had never done before, I also started caring about people. I was confused because I didn't know what was going on, I didn't know me anymore, because things I was doing, I would never able to do by my self. I picked up my Bible, and I found a verse that helped me understand, why I have been doing bad things against God.

Roman 7:18-19 For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.These verses helped me understood why I'm a sinner, for I understood that all people are sinners.Having faith in Jesus Christ,and believe what Jesus has done for us, he died for our sins. He was resurrected in 3 days.

Luke 9:22 The son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief preists and scribes,and be killed, and be raised the third day.

Romans 5:8-9 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. God has taken care of us, a long the way. He sent me here to hear about him and believe Him. I'm really thankful that God has chosen me, I'll try to live my life to serve Him."

Update: Our pastor has likewise posted it here.

Manifold Blessing, Also Known as Our Kids

Friday, December 02, 2005

Loving without liking

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and seeshis brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18 (NKJV)



A common complaint from adoptive parents that also have biological children is that they do not feel the same way about their adopted children that they do about their biological children. We have also had these feelings with the children that we have adopted and have struggled with the feelings of guilt that it brings.
However, as with all feelings of guilt, we must examine the source from a Biblical standpoint and see if the feelings are correct. It is possible that we truly are being sinful in our unloving spirit towards them. In that case, the feelings are showing us where we need to repent and to drive us to seek the forgiveness of our Lord.
However, it is often the case that some of our guilt is false and we have allowed our culture’s view of love to permeate our thinking. Our culture views love as this sentimental feeling that has us feeling all warm and squishy toward the person we love. When we do not feel this way, we think that we should and start to feel guilty about it. The problem is that this is far from the Biblical definition of love. The Biblical definition of love is an act of the will where one does what is best for another person, even to the point of self-sacrifice. Biblical love has little to do with what we feel; it has everything to do with what we do for and how we treat another.

The Bible does deal with our feelings and emotions. However, it does not place nearly the emphasis on them that our culture does. Our culture runs on its emotions. Love is something you fall into and out of. After all “Love just happens and you can’t change how you feel about someone can you?” However, the Biblical picture is very different. In fact, the New King James
Translation of the Bible never uses the words “emotion” or “emotions” and the word “feelings” only appears once:

Proverbs 29:11 A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back. (NKJV)

Yet some will say that they cannot act loving towards them, because they do not feel loving towards them. This is simply unbiblical. The Bible teaches us that if we act rightly our feelings will follow. In his book “The Christian Counselor’s Manual,” Jay Adams talks about this in relationship to husband and wife, but the principle is equal valid to child and parent.

Living According to feeling rather than God’s commandment is a fundamental hindrance to godliness and is a factor with which every Christian counselor must learn to deal. It is a clever “wile” of Satan to tempt men to think that they cannot do what God requires because they do not feel like doing it, or that they must do what they feel like doing and cannot help themselves.

Often the argument takes subtle forms, which at first seem plausible, even pious. For instance, a husband and wife may say, “I guess there is nothing left to our marriage – no love – no feeling – nothing,” and thereby hope that the Christian counselor will concede that a divorce is allowable on other than scriptural grounds.

If they can get him to agree to this, they hope that their bad consciences over what they have already determined to do may be salved. They vainly look for balm in Gilead.

But, instead, the nouthetic counselor replies: “I am sorry to hear that. I guess you will have to confess your sin and learn how to love one another, then.” Their reaction to this is usually sheer astonishment. "But,” they protest, “we told you that we don’t feel anything for
each other any more.”

I understand, but that is irrelevant; God says that you must love one another. When you learn to do so, the feelings of love will follow. Love is not feeling first; it begins with obedient living.”

“What? Do you mean to say that we must try to love one another contrary to all of our feelings?”

“Exactly!”

“But wouldn’t that be hypocrisy?”

“No, that would be obedience to God, who has commanded:
‘Husband, love you wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25).

Joe, God says that you are responsible to love Phyllis; love begins with the husband, whose love must reflect the love of Jesus Christ (I John 4:19).



So if we are not to operate on feelings, what are we to operate on? We are to operate in obedience to the Word of God. God commands us to love one another. We are even commanded to love our enemies. Surely if we are to love our enemies we ought to be able to love a child who God has placed in our home.

You may ask then, “If love is not a feeling, what is it?” Let us examine what God does say about love:

1 Cor 13:4-8a Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.

Love is defined by what it does and does not do. How it behaves toward the other not how it feels towards them. It does suffer long, it does not envy, etc. Based on this definition of love, there is no problem loving a person, even though we do not like them. I cannot believe that Jesus liked those who mocked and tortured Him. However, the Bible is clear that He loved them (and us) enough to die for them.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Happy Birthday Trey

Trey is officially a teenager today. We now officially have ten teenagers in the house (assuming we cannot count grandma who is 80 but acts like a teenager).

Trey is one of our home grown kids (as compared to the hand picked ones). Trey has been voted for thirteen years running as the child most likely to kill himself. He has the distinction of having been to the emergency room more times than all other ten children combined. I think this comes form being so exuberant, which has always been our word for him. Trey is best described as the child who at age four “accidentally” swung on the curtains. His exuberance makes him a fun, entertaining guy.

Trey is bright young man. He is doing well in his studies, but is still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up, which is happening quickly.

Trey is also going to be a very large young man. At age thirteen he is 5’7” and is growing about ¾” a month. At that rate, he will be over 6’ in less than six months.

Happy birthday, Trey!

You'll never think of ukulele music the same way.

I did not know you could do this with a ukulele. And for another example look here.

The First Pet Church of Christ

They appear to be serious. For only $9.95 you can get a certificate dedicating your pet to God and signed by a church officer. I am sure all of you will head right out and buy serveral.

Widows and Orphans - Ruth 2:8-9

Over the next few days I am going to look at one of the best examples we have in the Scriptures regarding the care of widows and orphans: Boaz. In particular we will look at his care for the widow Ruth. Let us start in Ruth 2:


Ruth 2:8-9  

Then Boaz said to Ruth, "You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women.  "Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn." (NKJ)

First it appears that Boaz observed the Deuteronomy 24:19 admonition to not over harvest his fields and to leave some for the “stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.”  More than that, he makes sure that Ruth knew she was welcome to glean in his fields.  We can imagine that many in Israel did not observe this custom as the law commanded.  Ruth might fear being viewed and treated as a thief for taking grain from someone else’s field.  Boaz set her mind at easy by telling her she was welcome in his fields.  Boaz even gave her provisions that went beyond what was required, offering her drink.

We also see in Boaz more than just a wooden obedience to God’s Law. He went beyond the command to leave some unharvested and made sure that Ruth was welcomed as one of his own telling her to “stay close by my young women.”  Rather than making her an outcast he brought her close so that he could make sure she was cared for.

Boaz insured her safety.  Knowing the way of young men, Boaz commanded the young men not to touch her.  A young woman who has no protector can often fall prey to young men of the rougher sort.  Boaz used his authority over them to protect her who had no protector.  Again this was more than was required of him by a simple interpretation of the letter of the Law.

Finally, we note in all of this that Boaz was active in caring for Ruth.  He recognized her need and set about meeting that need.  More than passively allowing her to glean the dropped grain, he made her welcome and met her needs.  He went beyond what was strictly required, capturing not just the letter of the law, but its spirit as well.

May there be more of Boaz’s kind in our midst today.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Getting Started in Adoption

Our regular commenter geanann asked about how we got started in adoption.  I thought I would respond here rather than in the comment, as not everyone reads the comments.
I need to say first of all that Ramona and I never planned on having eleven children.  If you have asked me in December 1998 that seven years later I would have flown to Russia twice, once circumnavigating the globe, got on the first plane out of Tulsa after 9/11, and adopted children from Russia, Khazakhstan, China, and Vietnam for a total of eleven kids, I would have said you were crazy.  God often does not show you the path before you, but only shows you the next step.  Faith sometimes requires that you take that step, trusting that He will guide you along the way. That is not to say that no planning went into any of the adoptions, just that the end of the journey was not even dreamed of when we started.
So how did we start?  In 1996 Shawn our third biological child was born.  Ramona’s pregnancies were very difficult.  The doctors said that another pregnancy would kill either her or the baby or both.  Wisdom dictated that we not have any more children by natural means.  
After some time we started feeling a desire to have more children.  We discussed the possibility of adoption, recognizing that this was one of the ways we could carry out the many Biblical commands to care for widows and orphans.  James 1:27 says that we are to visit widows and orphans.  My understanding of that verse and others suggests that we are to be active in seeking to help those in the category of “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.”
We recognize that by Biblical definition we, and most Americans, are rich.  We will be called to account by our Lord as to how we have used our wealth.  We also recognize what great import God places on caring for widows and orphans.  His people are to reflect His glory by caring for them with the same compassion.  We decided to pursue adoption as the Lord provided
Having made a general decision to pursue adoption, we had done some looking around, but never quite found something that we thought would fit.  Adopting an infant domestically is very difficult because there are far fewer infants available than parents, a product of the abortion tragedy in the country.  Older children are difficult because of the anti-Christian sentiment in the child welfare system.  Also our courts never seem to make adoptions permanent, with either parent being able to come back years later and reclaim the child.  Ramona and I find it very difficult to think of the possibility of losing a child we have brought into our family.  We could never foster kids, that is just not the way we are wired.  Domestic adoption just did not seem to make sense for us.
We had started looking at foreign adoptions when someone posted an item in our church bulletin.  A local doctor and his wife who had been medical missionaries to Russia were looking for help in finding parents for two children from an orphanage in the region they had been in.  We contacted them and after a meeting and prayerful consideration, we started the process to adopt Vanya and Irina.  
Nine months later we found our selves leaving out of Tulsa to fly around the world to adopt two children from the Amur Region in Russia.  In the process we would ride the Trans-Siberian railway, see Red Square, and bring home the first of our eight adopted children.  But I will tell the rest of that story later.

Post of the week

If you are at all aware of the emerging church you have to read this.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Mother of Dragons

A whisper in the sky
A rustle ‘long the ground
A shiver in the sunlight
A shadow on a cloud.

Hot breeze upon the air
Gold scales upon the ground
The dragon ‘pon the mountain
Watches all around.

Her eyes are swiftly scanning
Her ears are strained to hear
Her tail tip quivers slightly
She’ll protect the load she bears.

Her claws clutch at the stone
She peals unto the air
A warning thunders strong
To all who might come near.

She spreads her wings to fly
She strong legs thrust her high
The load she bears is heavy
She labors towards the sky.

The young within her stir
They yearn to live their life
But ready yet they’re not
To face her world of strife.

Her life has not been easy
The last one of her kind
Men pursue and hunt her hard
No solace can she find.

The mother of a dying race
She longs for what she’s lost
The only hope she knows
Comes not without a cost.

The young that are inside her
Could kill her in their birth
They know not what she’ll give
To bring their young lives forth.


She lands into her cave
Her belly swollen tight
She crawls with rumbling groans
Her eyes are all alight.

Next morning out they crawl
Twelve new dragon beings
They crawl out towards the sun
To flap their glistening wings.

Their mother follows close
She keeps them all in tow
Her body slim and sleek
Her crooning soft and low.

Her happiness is boundless
She watches with delight
She does not wait to growl
If one goes out of sight.

Her race is now remade
Twelve new dragons live
Raising voices to the sun
Loud roarings now they give.

Tessa Edwards

Monday, November 28, 2005

Where Do We Blog From Here?


James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (NKJ)

The word translated “to visit” has the sense of being actively involved in the overseeing of orphans and widow.  This is what James calls “Pure and undefiled religion.”

I have been thinking about what my role in the blogosphere is to be.  I am not a great theologian, apologist or pastor.  Rather than being a front line guy in the great spiritual battle of the day, I am more the guy holding the pack camels still so that the troops can have supplies.  I may be able add a little here or there to the battle, but I am not a front line warrior.

So what is my purpose here?  God has given me a work, the caring of eight former orphans along with three biological children.  He has taught Sheshe and I a number of things regarding adopting older children that might be a benefit to others.  And, I hope, he has been glorified in the fact that such nothings as us could do something that most people consider impossible.  We are such nothings that it should be clear that it is Him doing it and not us.

So with that in mind, I am setting out on defining the purpose of this blog:

  1. To glorify God in telling the story of what he has done in our lives.

  2. To encourage others to live out a James 1:27 style pure and undefiled religion, by showing them that if we can do it anyone can, by God’s grace.

  3. To teach the principles we have found in God’s Word that are helpful for raising adopted children in particular older ones.

  4. Occasional random, usually sarcastic or humorous thoughts that may come to mind.

Ephesian 6:13-17 For the 21st Century

In honor of Tom Ascol's comments on yet another Christian boycott, I give you Ephesians 6:13-17 for the 21st Century church:

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to make the day seem a little less evil, and having done all, to promote moralism. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with opinion polls, having put on the breastplate of political action, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the righteous boycott above all, taking the shield of social relevance with which you will be able to no longer be ignored. And take the next election for the Republican party, and load the Supreme Court because they speak as if they are the word of God.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Butterfly


Another Sergei (or perhaps Zhenya) photo

Friday, November 25, 2005

Just Wait

This is one of my favorite poems (aside from Tessa's, of course), and it has helped me through many difficult times in our adoptions.

JUST WAIT

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried.
Quietly, patiently, lovingly God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate,
And the Master so gently said, “Child, you must wait!”

“Wait?, you say, wait!”, my indignant reply.
“Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is your hand shortened, Or have you not heard?
By FAITH I have asked and am claiming Your Word.
”My future and all to which I can relate
Hangs in the balance, and you tell me to WAIT?
I’m needing a ‘yes’, a go-ahead sign,
Or even a ‘no’, to which I can resign.

“And Lord, You promised that if we believe
We need but to ask, and we shall receive.
And Lord, I’ve been asking, and this is my cry:
I’m weary of asking! I need a reply!”

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate
As my Master replied once again, “You must wait.”
So, I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut
And grumbled to God, “So, I’m waiting…for what?”

He seemed then to kneel and His eyes wept with mine,
And He tenderly said, “I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens, and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead, and cause the mountains to run.All you seek, I could give, and pleased you would be.
You would have what you want – but, you wouldn’t know ME.

“You’d not know the depth of my love for each saint;
You’d not know the power that I give to the faint;
You’d not learn to see through the clouds of despair;
You’d not learn to trust just by knowing I’m there;
You’d not know the joy of resting in me
When darkness and silence were all you could see.

“You’d never experience that fullness of love
As the peace of My Spirit descends like a dove;
You’d know that I give and I save… (for a start),
But you’d not know the depth of the beat of My heart.

“The glow of My comfort late into the night.
The faith that I give when you walk without sight,
The depth that’s beyond getting just what you asked
Of an infinite God, Who makes what you have LAST.

“You’d never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that “My grace is sufficient for thee.’
Yes, your dreams for your loved ones overnight would come true,
But, oh, the loss! If I lost what I’m doing in you!

“So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see
THAT THE GREATEST OF GIFTS IS TO GET TO KNOW ME.
And though oft may My answers seem terribly late,
My wisest of answers is still but to WAIT.”

Author Unknown

A Poem From Tessa

This is a poem from one of our fourteen year old daughters. I hope you enjoy it:

The grass grows green in spring
The sun shines warm in summer
The leaves turn colors in autumn
The snow lies thick in winter.

A baby comes into the world
A toddler learns to crawl
A child pulls himself upright
An adult standeth tall.

We think of time as a river
That flows on in a line
But I like to think it’s a spiral
That adds on to that which we’ve seen.

Sometimes it comes back to haunt us
We feel like we’ve been here before
A turn of events that is startling
Like a cold wind through the door.

Other times it is pleasing
A feeling of joy remembered
A comforting pattern in change
A light in the darkness we feared.

History runs in a cycle
The same mistakes happen again
The peace gained is lost
Events like links in a chain.

The seasons themselves run in circles
In spring new life is seen
In summer it flourishes and grows
It winter it dies yet again.

The grass grows green in spring
The sun shines warm in summer
The leaves turn colors in autumn
The snow lies thick in winter.

God's Delightful Timing

My husband is a brave soul, granting me posting rights on his blog. He knows my love for writing and tendency to ramble, yet he willingly offered me free time on his very own blog. What a mess I would make of my own, anyway. A geek, I am not. Writer, perhaps, but not a computer literate one. As it is, I created a "Pepto Bismol" pink blog (Bob's words) so that I could post on this blog, but now can't figure out how to get rid of it.

Thank you, dear, for graciously granting me writing rights. As I sometimes say when speaking before a crowd, "You don't know how dangerous it is to give a mother of many kids a captive audience."

So, having said that, allow me to share a few ramblings of my own.

We are all familiar with the phrase, "God's perfect timing." Yet, are we truly willing to give the timing of our lives over to Him? Take moving for instance. Bob and I have been married 27 years and have moved about 17 times. Most of those were BK (before kids), when I was working in apartment management, but suffice it to say that I always knew it was time to move when the cobwebs started forming in our apartment. What better way to spring clean?

Moving has been a hard habit for me to break, especially since I simply love to look at all different kinds of houses. Each time Bob would even mention the possibility of moving, I would be on the internet searching for the "perfect home" for us. That's not an easy task when you have as many people to house as we do, but I loved the challenge.


So, when Bob's mother graciously agreed to move in with us, I was once more on the prowl for the perfect house. Many hours were spent searching valleymls.com, and I have to admit that I loved every minute of it. It became somewhat of an obession for me, of which I often had to repent and purposefully lay aside for a while. Days were spent going to remote locations to look at houses that might or might not fit our unique needs. Our kids were dragged through numerous homes, where they each claimed a space, only to be told later that it was not the right home for us. Faces glowed with expectations and fell with disappiontment on a regular basis for many months.

We even seriously considered adding to our current home, or building a small home for Ollie on half of our one acre lot. After much prayer and consideration, those possibilities were ruled out, however, and I continued my search for the perfect home.

Finally, "the" home showed up. It was large enough for us all. The price was well below market value and it appeared to be a very good buy for the money. Good neighborhood. Good schools (not a factor for us, since we homeschool, but improves resale value). The kids all loved it, and so did we. The biggest selling point, by far, was the fact that it had TWO full kitchens, though. Ollie and I spent many a night dreaming of ways to utilize that aspect of the home.

An offer was made at the full asking price, since we felt it was a fair price, and we proceeded with securing a mortgage. From the first, things did not go well on the seller's part, however. There were problems between him and his own mortgage company and one of the requirements was that they approve the contract.

Over the next few weeks, the words, "mortgage company" became a cloud threatening to break loose with thunder at any moment in our lives. In the eyes of our kids, this far away entity seemed to hold such power in their uncertain lives. Every time they us asked about the house deal, we had to reply, "We are STILL waiting on the mortgage company's approval".

As we found buyers for our own house, this became even more of a roadblock for us to stumble over. Everyone who has purchased a home understands the tight schedules the process runs on, and yet we did not even have a fully approved contract at any time! Everything was up in the air, and we were seemingly at the mercy of the mortgage company. Our own buyers were military, and in a hurry to move before the school year started.

Four weeks into this stressful game, we discovered that there were actually two mortgage companies involved, both of which were stating their desire to approve the contract before we proceeded with the purchase. Our suspicions were aroused and we began to push to get more information.

Our real estate agent was a delightful Christian man named Sam. You gotta' love a guy who answers his cell phone with "Sam I Am", right? At this point in the process he agreed that it might be wise to look elsewhere, just to cover our bases, since our buyers were scheduled to move in the following week. I was certain that I had scoured every web page in the area, but he found one I had not even considered. It was listed with only two bathrooms, which I did not perceive as being an option for our family. I believe his exact words were, "Well, you are pretty desparate at this point and you could always add another bathroom later on." We packed the kids up that evening and went to look at one more house.

My husband does not get easily excited over houses. Rather, he leaves that duty in my capabale hands. However, as we were walking through this house, he actually came bounding up the stairs, announcing in a rather loud voice, "Guess what I found downstairs!!! Yes!! Another BATHROOM!!" He was excited as I have probably ever seen him when looking at a house, and just over an extra, unlisted bathroom. Sam was amazed that the house had been listed incorrectly and promptly got on the phone to the listing realtor to report the mistake, who was equally amazed and embarrassed. Apparently this one mistake had caused the six bedroom home to remain on the market for close to a year, without any serious inquiries.

As we left that house, Bob and I cautiously looked around at the kids. The poor things had been through this so many, many times already. They were weary and ready to move, having already packed their belongings. I knew how much they liked the house we had the contract on and I hesitated to even mention the possibility of not getting it at that point.

One by one, they informed us how much they liked the house. What a shock it was to discover that this opinion was unanimous among the kids! I then asked Ollie, knowing how many hours she had spent already "moving in" to the other house. She looked at me with a bit of a sideways grin and said, "Uh, I actually like it better than the other one." The concerns she had had about the first house were not factors with this one (the house being on a steep incline had been a big issue for her, but being the trooper she was, she would have dealt with it).

The next morning we sat in Sam's office, telling him of our decision to cancel the contract on the first house. At just about the same time, we found out that the second mortgage company had decided to foreclose on the property, although they had a ready buyer (us, up to that point). We were offered the opportunity to purchase the home out of foreclosure, but didn't even seriously consider it. All we wanted at that point was to be released from the contract and allowed to move forward with other option. This was granted us, and we had our earnest money returned within the hour.

Having gained full agreement on the house we had looked at the previous evening, we decided to make an offer on it. There was no time for a professional inspection to be done, so we asked if we could do it ourselves. The owner must have been stunned to receive our full price offer and a request for a move in agreement at the same time. He stuttered around a bit, but agreed to let us inspect the house while he considered the offer.

So, after being "on hold" for such a long time with the perfect house that I had picked out, God showed us the house He had for us, and provided us with a move in agreement less than 24 hours after we first looked at it. God's timing was indeed perfect, and all of my fretting and worrying had been for naught. Will I ever learn to, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God?" If I do learn that lesson, then indeed "the peace that passes all understanding, will guard my heart and mind through Christ Jesus."

Five months later, this house and neighborhood have been such tremendous blessings in our lives. We are within bicycle distance to a library, park, bank and other various stores. The kids have greatly enjoyed walking throughout the neighborhood, and we have been pleased with the friendliness of the neighbors and the many stories we have heard concerning the stability and lack of criminal activity in this area.

This fall, Naomi has begin a leaf raking business, which has brought us in contact with a large number of our neighbors. Over and over, folks have commented on our well behaved kids and the good work that they do. What blessed sounds those are to the ears of parents!

Will I ever learn? I pray that I will. Have you learned? Are you anxious and worried this holiday season? "Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand." Philippians 4:5

Blessings to all,
Ramona, aka "sheshe"

Thursday, November 24, 2005


A Sergei picture.

Thanks

A tradition around our house at Thanksgiving is to have all the kids make a list of things that they are thankful for. We then read them before the meal. I thought I would share them with you. They are ordered from oldest to youngest. I have kept the English pretty much as written to give you the flavor of language around our house.

Jennifer,

Thanksgiving to God!!

Thank you to Jesus for coming to the Earth and die on the cross so we can be free from sins. Thank you for good works you have done in people’s heart and still do. Thank you for being here for us so we can worship you and fellowship with you. Thank you for providing for us all things which we have. Thank you for giving us a good Christian family who love us and help us to learn more about you and understand your word. There a lot of children who have not parents to love them and to tell wonderful news about you and what you have done for us.

Thanksgiving is all about give thanks to God and Jesus Christ who are here for us all the time to help us in hard times and deal with things. Thanking God for giving us a Bible and His Word to us.

Sergei,
I am thankful for the family we got, food, house, my camera, church, computer, Bible.

Zhenya,

I’m thankful for mom, dad and Grandma, house food, dogs. Bible good Christian friends, a church, clothes, school, all of the electronics that we have like computers, cameras, etc. dad’s job, thankful where God has brought me to America and in a good home.

Irina,
Thank you for having mom, dad, sisters, brothers, friends, family, teach Bible, church, house, birthday, Christmas, food, clothes, music, jewelry, hearing aids, school, drawing, park, work, laptop, dogs.

Kathryn,
I thankful for today is holiday and Grandma and the Dolittles able to come with us. Thankful for all the food. I really thankful for God brought me here.

Tessa,
For this house which keeps us against winter’s and summer’s storms.

For Grandma who fixes our meals and without whom you wouldn’t see the wonderful spread in front of you today.

For my family, every one of whom is a gift and treasure and a story just waiting to be told.

For God’s grace without which I would have none of it.

For Sandy and Charlie (our dogs) both of whom have been the best child therapists that money can (or can’t) buy.

For friends, especially the ones here today, who have performed valuable services and never asked for payment.

For my dad, who alone supports this horde, by his hard working diligence and patience.

And last but not least – my mom, whom something yesterday made me realize is the most beautiful woman I know.

Naomi,
1Thes 5:18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (NKJ)


1 Tim 2:1-2 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (NKJ)

I’m thankful for the food, house, friends, family, job, clothes, and all the stuff that I have.


Vanya,

I am thankful for:

  1. a car

  2. a house

  3. an air conditioner

  4. clothes

  5. Sun

  6. inside light

  7. chairs to sit in

  8. food to eat

  9. dogs to play with

  10. weather cold, hot, warm

  11. things to have fun with X-box, computers

  12. people to play with

Annalia,
I am thankful for a grandma, parents, house, Bible, God, brothers, sisters, church, friends, food, clothes, neighbor, (

Trey,
Trey’s thankful list:

  1. Family

  2. Home

  3. Food

  4. God

  5. Jesus


Shawn,
Family, Jesus, house, shelter, toys, friends, Jesus dying to save us from our sins, God, nature, clothing, furniture, computers, God making all things, food, water, His grace.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

WWJD - World Wide Judgment Day

As I humorously pointed out here asking "What would Jesus do?" can sometimes get us in trouble. When we fail to see the differences between deity and humanity, we can get ourselves in serious trouble. Likewise, Jesus often did things that confounded and astounded those around Him. Do we really think we know what Jesus would do in a particular situation? Even if we could know, most of the WWJD trinket wearers I have know do not even know all of what Jesus did do. So what do they base their ideas on?
So to turn the WWJD trinkets to a more useful task, I suggest we redefine what they stand for. Hence for and for evermore WWJD will mean “World Wide Judgement Day.” This would make it a great evangelism tool. We can talk about the coming wrath of God, their sin, the judgement, eternal punishment, their need for a Savior, and how they can be reconciled to God. That sounds more like what Jesus told us to do.

An Eventful Day

We have moved up in the Blogospher we have gone from being a Insignificant Microbe to a Multicellular Microorganism in the TTLB Ecosystem. I would like to thank all the people that helped us get here. When I say all, I really mean both, because only two people have actually ever linked here: our pastor and this guy.

What does all this mean?

First it means that getting one guy to link to you can move you up 45000 spots in the list of most important blogs. Proving that nobody cares or is paying attention to most blogs.

Second it means that we are now more than nothing (Nihilo) in the blogosphere. Will this self contradiction cause the universe to spit us out because we cannot be both nothing and not nothing at the same time? Only time will tell.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

WWJD

One day I was out in a boat with the twelve (my wife and the eleven kids) when a storm came up. Seeing the ship starting to flounder and the panicked look on the faces of the twelve, I said "What would Jesus do?" Of course, remembering a story from Sunday School, I did exactly what Jesus did in a similar situation, I stood up in the bow of the boat and rebuked the waves. Suddenly a large wave crashed over the bow knocking me into the water and nearly swamping the boat. A couple of the kids held onto me and I was able to finally climb back into the boat. From then on I simply prayed that God would keep us through the storm.

The moral of this story is that sometimes it is not profitable to ponder what the Sovereign King of All Creation would do in a situation, but to ponder what He would have me do. Maybe we should change it to WWJHMD (What Would Jesus Have Me Do?).

Note: No animals were harmed in the making of this story. Except the tasty ones we ate.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Modern Day Prophets (or is That Profits)

The Pyromaniac has been trying to have a discussion regarding the clear lack of reliability of modern day prophets. This has created a firestorm of people trying to justify that the sign gifts really are for today. While I would classify myself as a hesitant cessationist (I find the argument for cessationism less than 100% convincing), there is one part of this discussion that simply flabbergasts me. That is the people that attempt to justify a success rate of 2/3 as being God given prophecy.

First, I see little exegetical evidence to sustain anything other than the 100% success rate demanded of the old testament prophets, assuming that the gift has not totally ceased. Given the vauge nature of most of these prophecies, someone with a good understanding of the times and the way the world works should be able to achieve a rate of 2/3. Are we then going to say that God cannot provide these “prophets” with better information than that?

In fact, I would recommend that someone try their hand at it and we will compare your success rate to theirs. Any takers? I’ll start:

There will be a major earthquake in Asia next year.

Of course there is in most years, but don’t pay any attention to that.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pictures from Adoptions - IV

One of the interesting aspects of adopting a child is the insights it give us of sovereign election.

First, when adopting a child, it is always the parent’s choice. A child does not choose the parent, but the parent chooses the child. Often there are many to choose from that meet the general criteria the parents have chosen (age, gender, race, even skin or eye color in some cases). Yet in the end, it is only for reasons that are understood by the parents that they choose one over the other. One is chosen the other is left behind, and someone looking from the outside can see no reason why. Likewise we cannot understand why God chooses some that we would not have chosen for salvation while leaving others unsaved we would have chosen.

Second, when we went into the orphanage we saw many children waiting to be adopted. We loved them all and would have taken anyone to be our child. In the end however we chose some and left others behind. This did not mean we did not love the ones who stayed. It only meant that, for our purposes, only some could be chosen. Likewise, though God loves the entire world, it does mean that He loves everyone in it the same nor are His purposes for them the same.

Third, once we had chosen children we adopted them and placed them in our family. Though we loved the others, we chose to poor out our love on these in a special way. They became objects of our special care and affection. Not just a general love and compassion for them, but a special familial love poured out on them. Likewise, God shows His love for His chosen people in ways that He does not for those who do not believe.

Pictures from Adoptions - III

The word most often used in the Bible for orphans is "fatherless." What does a father provide a childe? A father provides a child with the necessities of life, protection, love and many other things. Perhaps the greatest thing a father gives a child is access to himself. Not only can he come to the father for help, but he gets to enjoy the relationship that they have with one another.

An orphan misses out on these. Life is hard because there is no one to help him navigate through life. He has no one to provide for him, no one to care for him, no one to love him. All this changes when the orphan is adopted. Suddenly he has access to a father. He has someone to love him.

Likewise when we are adopted into God’s family, we have access to Him. We can go to Him with our needs, our cares and our joys. We have access to the Father.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sergei Daniel

I have already told most of Sergei's story as he was adopted at the same time as Jennifer. I could show you a picture of him, but he is hard to get in front of the camera. However, with Sergei, you learn more about him from the pictures he takes than pictures of him. He says more with his camera than he does with his broken English. So here is Sergei through his pictures.




Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Pictures from Adoptions - II

One of the things that happens when an orphan is adopted, is that the child becomes an heir to the father.  As if having a new home, new parents to love them, and all the blessings that come from being in a family were not enough, he is made to share in all that the father has, both now and in the future.  

I have two boys that we adopted from Russia when they were twelve and thirteen.  In Russia the boys in the orphanage have two basic career paths the Russian Army or crime.  Given the current state of the Russian economy and the Russian Army, neither is a very good choice.  One day we were talking about the future, and we were talking about what they were going to do.  They kept asking about what the American Army was like.  I kept explaining to them that “if” they went into the Army it would be like so and so.  The word “if” kept confusing them.  Suddenly it dawned on them what I was saying; they were not required to go into the Army.  They began to realize that, with their new father, not only had their present life changed, but their future as well.  They suddenly had a new hope in life.  

Much more so ought we to realize the eternal blessings that are ours because of our adoption.  Our hope is not in material blessings such as better jobs, houses, and other trinkets.  Our hope is in the Lord and the glory of His presence and that we have a home with Him forever.  Do we really know and understand what that means? Do we recognize the infinite value of it? Oh, that we may know and understand the riches of our inheritance!  


Rom 8:14-18      For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.     For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
(NKJ)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Pictures from Adoptions - I

One of the things I intend to do from time to time is to post images from our adoptions that mirror some spiritual truth.  I will call them Pictures from Adoptions.  This is the first installment.

When we adopted our kids out of the Russian orphanages, one of the things that the kids could not take with them was their clothes.  They belong to the orphanage.  So to the older orphans, the new clothes are a symbol of the fact that they are now part of a family and that they have a new home.  The father comes and gives them new clothes fit for living in their new home.  They are the first gift the father gives to his children when he adopts them.

Likewise in the book of Zechariah we see the picture of God giving Joshua the high priest new garments.  The old garments are filthy, a symbol of Joshua’s iniquity.  The new garments show that God has taken away Joshua’s iniquity.  This then makes him (and us) fit to be members of God’s family and fit for our new home in heaven.  All are a gift from the Father through Jesus Christ.

Zech 3:2-5  And the LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?"
Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel.
Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, "Take away the filthy garments from him." And to him He said, "See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes." And I said, "Let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the LORD stood by.
(NKJ)

Jennifer Grace - Part II

Continuing on with the story of Jennifer…

When last we left we were stuck on the ground after 9-11.  I must admit that we really were not very concerned about getting on the plane, assuming one was going to fly.  It seems that God had confirmed the trip in so many ways that we were to go, no matter what the outcome was to be.  That is not to say that those around us were not concerned.  Both our moms were scared to death and I guess from a purely human standpoint it was probably pretty ridiculous.  However, in the end, we cannot live one day more or less that God has planned, and so we went forward knowing that our lives our in His hands.

So we took a 6am flight out of Tulsa the day the airlines started flying again.  I don’t know if it was literally the first flight to fly, but it was the first on the schedule for Continental.   In the mean time, we had been unable to find out whether Aeroflot was flying from Chicago.  So we got on the plane not knowing whether our connecting flight was going to fly.  When we finally got to Chicago, it turned out that the Aeroflot plane had landed in Montreal when all the planes were grounded.  They then flew a 767 wide body jet back empty to Moscow.  So we were stuck in Chicago.  So we spent the rest of the day trying to find an alternate flight.  No luck.  The entire airline industry was in chaos with the terrorist attacks.

So we had to decide whether to use our round trip ticket to get back to Tulsa and see what we could do from there or find someplace to stay while we tried to get someplace to stay in Chicago.  Part of the problem was that, with the job loss, the impending move, $15,000 for the adoptions, we were getting strapped for cash.  By God’s grace someone in the church offered to pay our hotel bills in Chicago.

We spent the next several days trying to find a flight.  Finally, Aeroflot flew a flight into Chicago.  After five days we were off to Moscow.

Once we left US air space things were pretty uneventful.  The trip was long.  A twelve hour flight to Moscow, an over night stop in a hotel, get on the plane another long trip to Irkutsk, change planes in an airport where no one speaks English, and arrival at 3 am, all just normal stuff for such travel.

It was about 4 am when we got to our flat and we had to be up at 8am to meet the kids.  Whew!  

So at 8 we are up, the ever entertaining Russian car ride (do they even know what a lane is), and we get to the orphanage.  We got shuffled into the orphanage director’s office.   We had an interview, I think so that they could make sure we had the right answers for the judge.  Almost no one in Russia has eight children, no one home schools, and we were doing both.  They seemed to really want us to get the kids, but I think they thought it was going to be hard for the judge to understand what we were about.

I remember during this time trying to convince them that we had enough room for eight kids.  Discussions of how many square feet, two acre yard, and all of that made little difference.  What really convinced them was the fact that we had three bathrooms!  After you think about it, it makes sense.   In their culture every home is a flat in a big apartment building.  And every flat there is one bathroom.  So having three bathrooms means that we have the equivalent to three flats!  Ahh, cultural context is everything.

Then we got to meet the kids.  I frankly don’t remember much about that meeting.  We were going on about eight hours sleep in about 72 hours of travel.  And, they wanted them to go with us!  I can’t say that we were thrilled.  At that point we really just wanted to crash for a few hours.  Still, it would have looked really bad it we had not taken them.  So off we went, eight hours on the ground, the same amount of sleep out of 72 and three teenagers that didn’t speak English.  

From there things went fairly well, given the circumstances.  Jennifer (Veronika at the time) was the oldest.  She kind of kept the other two in line.  They were very intimidated by us and were on their best behavior.  

We had several adventures shopping for clothes, and getting food for the five us.  The kids offered to clean up after the food was fixed and were generally helpful.  

Then the day for court came, it really was somewhat anticlimactic.  There was an interview with the judge who really did not have many questions.  Everyone seemed very happy that the kids were getting homes.  I guess the fact that we had adopted before from that court helped get us through quicker.

From there we had to get passport pictures, finish paperwork, and start the trip home.  We had to stop in Moscow for several days while we got their visas.  We did a little sight seeing.  We took them to Red Square and to the Arbat(marketplace).

Finally, the flight home began.  The plane was filled with other parents who had adopted, mostly small children.  It was nice not to have to fight with a toddler or infant that suddenly had new parents.  Our kids even helped some with the little ones.

Finally, after more than three weeks we arrived back in Tulsa.  Three days later I left to go to Alabama to start my new job.  However, that and the move don’t really come into this story.

Now Jennifer has been with us four years, and seems like it has been forever and no time at all.  One of the bittersweet elements of adopting teenagers is that you have them for so little time.  Jennifer turns nineteen in a few months and will legally be an adult.  Though she will probably stay with us a few more years as she completes her education, it still seems like such a little time.

Jennifer has been such a blessing to us and she is such a testimony to the grace of our God.  She has come to profess faith in Christ and is working out her faith with fear and trembling.  We are excited to see her grow in faith and thank God for every day we have had her.

To Him be All the Glory forever.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Bumper Stickers

I am teaching Jennifer to drive right now and we have gotten to the stage where I really am not teaching as much as just sitting in the front seat while she practices.  So being the ADD/ADHD type I am looking for something for my mind to do while she is driving and still keep myself aware of the traffic and her driving.  So I end up reading the bumper stickers I see in traffic.

Personally, I am not a big fan of bumper stickers.  They tend to turn into labels, and I really don't want myself labeled with one, often humorous idea.  I also don't like Christian bumper stickers, because they don't contain enough room to explaining a truth in any depth and so end up being a caricature of the actual truth.  I also see too many people combine them with others that cause the message they do have to be confused.  Or is it just the people thatput them on their car that are confused?  In honor of that point I present the one I saw today.  These three bumper stickers were on the same car:

Get In, Sit Down, Shut Up, Hold On.

DON’T TELL ME what kind of day to have

Smile God Loves you.


Of course there is still my all time favorite.  I once saw these two on the same car:


Real Men Love Jesus

I miss my ex-wife, but my aim is getting better.

So if you are of the tribe and clan of bumper sticker users, think about the message you are sending.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Not a Chance

There is a lot of talk in the scientific world about how things happen by chance. However, all chance really means is that we are ignorant of the laws that cause an event.

Take for instance the flipping of a coin. We say that whether it lands heads or tails is a matter of chance. We will even say that there is a 50-50 chance of it being either heads or tails. However, if we analyze things closer, we realize that we really could predict how the coin would land. If we knew the exact weight of the coin, the initial position, the exact shape of the coin, the force applied, the direction of the force, any wind currents, the exact shape of the surrounding area, and all other necessary factors we could calculate with certainity the exact position of the coin when it came to rest.

So in reality when we say something happens by chance, we are simply saying that we are ignorant of the underlying processes. We can predict the frequency of the possible results with some certainty over a large number of trials, but we cannot predict the outcome of a given trial.

Remeber this the next time someone says that something happened by chance.

Chance = Ignorance

Stars

Current estimates of the number of stars in the Universe run to about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Consider that our sun, a rather mundane star, produces the equivalent of 3 trillion atomic bombs every second. The amount of power required to create and maintain such a Universe then is completely beyond our imagination. How then does the Bible describe this unimaginable creation event:

Gen 1:16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. (NKJ)

The creation of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars is described as almost an after thought. What then does this say about the One who created those stars, Ex Nihilo (out of nothing)?

If there is not an aspect of abject terror somewhere in your soul when you consider such a God, you have not considered Him enough.



Saturday, October 15, 2005

Excuse me sir, can you tell us which way to Normal?

One day Sheshe and I were driving along discussing some crisis that was going on in our life. She was complaining that she “just wished things could be normal for awhile.” I pointed out to her that she was driving down the road in her fifteen passenger van with her eight (at the time) kids, three of whom were having a conversation in Russian. How exactly are we to get to normal from here? I am not sure she completely appreciated my comments.

Jennifer Grace

From time to time I am going to feature one of our kids in this venue. Not as much to honor them, but to tell of God’s marvelous grace in their lives. With that in mind, let me introduce you to Grace, Jennifer Grace that is.

Jennifer was born in the Russian Far East, in the Amur Oblast. Her parents died when she was young and she went into orphanage around the age of nine. There she stayed with her two brothers Sergei and Zhenya. Jennifer did what she could to keep their family together. This was not always easy as Sergei was, shall we say, not the best of little brothers. Hanging out with the older boys he seemed headed for real trouble.

During this time she met a Russian believer named Tanya. Tanya worked with the orphans and Jennifer formed a real attachment to her. Jennifer started asking Tanya to help them find a family. I say ask, pestered is probably a better word. According to Tanya, Jennifer called almost every day asking if she had found a family for them.

Tanya knew of a couple in America who had been medical missionaries in the region. This couple had been helping the orphanages to find homes for some of the children in America. Tanya got in contact with them to see if they could find a home for Jennifer and her two brothers. Not many people want to adopt an older child, even fewer want to adopt three older children. Still the couple (Barbara and Darwin Olsen) said they would try.

This is where we first entered the story. We had adopted a brother and sister through the
Olsen’s a couple of years earlier. In the process we had become one of their prayer partners for their work with the orphans. They asked us to pray for these three. Some time after that a couple came forward who wanted to adopted them. After several month of working through the process, a snag occurred. The wife became pregnant even though they though they could have no more children. The child would be due about the time the adoption would be completed and they decided that they could not manage both.

We were heart broken. We had come to love these children even though we had never met them. At this point, we asked a simple question: “Could God actually want US to adopt these three children?” The question sounded almost absurd. At the time we had five children, a very large family by most people’s standards. Could God really be asking us to adopt more? We did the only sensible thing that someone in our situation could do. We tried to find someone to talk us out of it.

So we went to the elder board of our church and asked for their advice. They asked us a number of questions, listened to our replies, and as we had hoped rebuked us for our foolishness. NOT! The actually offered to help including the finances. OH, MY! At that point we were kind of stuck. Funny how, when you are unsure of whether you are following the path He has set before you, God often confirms it through the unified voice of His people.

Well after that, things went perfectly smoothly; sure there were lots of bits of paperwork to be done, and things to arrange. But God was in this so there couldn’t possibly be any thing bad that could happen along the way. If you believe that, you need to reread your Bible. Has it ever occurred to you that when Jesus calmed the storm, it was God that brought the storm! God brought the storm so that the Glory of Christ could be manifested in the calming of the storm. On July 31, 2001 our storm came.

I went into work that Friday, just like any other Friday. However, that day we were notified that the company I worked for was closing the Tulsa office and we would no longer be employed. If you were thinking that might be a problem, you were right. Not only was I out of a job, we were due any moment to get the call to go to Russia. As you might expect, not having a job would disqualify us from being able to adopt these children.

So we prayed, and I went to work looking for a job. Unfortunately, I had been working in the telecom industry, and we were right in the middle of the telecom bust. Since telecom was a major industry in Tulsa, needless to say there was a glut of talent and a dearth of jobs.

One week after I lost my job, on Friday Sept 7, 2001 we received the call to go to Russia and we had to be there in less than two weeks. Any of you who have ever traveled to Russia know how hard it is to get your Visa’s. When you adopt you do not get the letter of invitation to get your Visa’s until the court date is set. So we had six days to get our Visa’s and get on the plane to be in Russia in time for our court date, and I did not have a job.

At this point we did the only sensible thing a couple in our situation could do we panicked. After a few minutes we settled down and I went to pray and my wife called our church to ask for prayers. She got a hold of a wonderful man by the name of Jim. Jim is one of those men who knows from whence he was saved, and always exhibits an annoying amount of faith when faced with a crisis. Fortunately, for Jim he was on the other end of a phone when he responded to my wife’s panicked plea for prayers with “I can’t wait to see how God works this one out!” She probably would have wrung his neck. You see she was in the mode of “If you can keep you head, while others about you are losing theirs, you probably don’t understand the seriousness of the situation my son.” Still, I think Jim introduced a much needed godly perspective to her.

About, this time I came back from praying. While praying I had decided that I would do what I could and leave the rest to God. At that point there was one avenue I had not pursued with regard’s to looking for a job. The first week had been spent looking in Tulsa since we really did not want to move. I had one quick possibility left, but that required us possibly moving. I took it.

I called an old friend in Huntsville, and asked if he knew anyone who might have work for me. He offered me a job over the phone! Less than two hours after receiving the call to go to Russia I had a new job in Huntsville, Alabama and we were on our way to Russia again. Things were hectic the next couple of days, we got the Visa paperwork FedExed and made a run to Oklahoma City on Monday to get the last of the paperwork apostilled.

On Tuesday we were packing and waiting for the FedEx truck to arrive with our Visa’s when a friend of mine called. He asked if we were watching television. We turned on the television just in time to see the second plane crash into World Trade Center. The date was September 11, 2001.

As the day wore on we realized that all planes had been grounded, including those to Russia. The FexEx guy delivered our Visa’s and the last of our needed paperwork. He said we sure were lucky that our stuff had gotten in before everything was grounded. We explained to him that luck had nothing to do with it. Still all the planes were ground, including the ones to Russia.

To be continued…

Friday, October 14, 2005

Welcome to Sheshe

My wife has decided to start posting here from time to time.  She is posting under the name of sheshe.  The name sheshe has special meaning to us as it is the Kazakh word for mother.  Three of our daughters were adopted from disruptions.  Because they already had someone they had called mom and dad and those people had rejected them, they had a real hard time calling us that.  So we decided to accept other terms that they recognize as terms of endearment and respect, thus they call her sheshe.  They also call me “Old Man”, we may have to work on that one…

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Are We Scandalous Enough?

I said I was going to post tomorrow. Well several tomorrows later, I am finally going to do it.  Somehow, with eleven kids life just seems to happen fairly often.

My question is “Are we scandalous enough?”

When we look at Jesus’ ministry, we see that He was scandalous in several different ways.  As I look at myself and my church I think we do a good job of confronting error and standing for the truth.  At times this makes us scandalous.  

Where I think we fail is that we do not reach out to the kinds of people that Jesus did.   It seems that, when we confront the seeker friendly, purpose driven, or emergent churches for their unbiblical methods, we stand for the truth but miss a valid criticism of our ministry.  That is that we are not reaching people that we should.  Perhaps we should rename ourselves the Reformed Church of the White Middle Class.

When I look at our community I see those of other races and nationalities.  I do not see the same demographics represented in our church.  When I look around our community I see many “tax collectors and sinners,” yet I do not see many of them in our church.  I see mostly middle class intact families who have a basically Christian background.  Not that we never see the others just that they are far less common than they are at our workplace, the gym, or the other places we frequent.  Our church is made up of people mostly like us.

So why is this?  This is one of those areas where there is not an obvious particular sin of an individual or group, but the net cumulative effect of all our actions appears to be something wrong. It is certainly worth examining to see what it is we are doing wrong.

First, I do not think is comes from bad doctrine.  Those who teach in our church are sound and would confront someone who was actively sinning in this regard.  Nor do I think it something wrong with the leadership.  All the members of the church are to be making disciples, and if they all look like us, whose fault is that?

I cannot answer for all the others in my congregation, but if I examine my own heart I find at least three particular sins in this regard.

  1. I am too in love with the things of this world.  I get distracted by all of the things in my life that are of little importance.  Thus I do not seek out others to who I could witness? Do I get out into my neighborhood and meet the neighbors, or do I sit inside working on my computer?

  2. The fear of man.  I am more afraid of the rejection and persecution of man than I am the displeasure of the Sovereign Lord of the Universe.  Do I speak the truths of the Gospel to my neighbor or co-worker or do I, out of the fear of man, hold back lest they think I am weird.  Of course they already think I am weird with eleven kids.

  3. I am lazy.  I would rather sit and rest than take the time that is required to get to know my neighbor.

May God grant us the Grace to take the Gospel into the uttermost parts of the earth, including the guy in the next office at work!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Scandalous Behavior

Paul Lamey at lameworldview made some critical remarks regarding popular preacher Joel Osteen. Joel’s ministry seems to mirror many in the church today who are constantly trying to make the Gospel more relevant, user friendly, or attractive. There are several Biblical reasons this is wrong and Paul and others have made those points.

However, it got me to thinking about one thing that I have not heard discussed. That is the scandalous nature of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus often ran afoul of the religious leaders of His day at times calling down curses upon them and calling them names. He associated with the local riffraff and crime elements. He claimed that He was God. He even appeared to have recommended cannibalism (John 6:53).

Were it not for his miracles, we would label Him a dangerous lunatic. However, even the miracles were not enough to keep the people around as some of the strange things He said ran off many of the people who some because of the healings, free bread, and fish.

How are we to take the teaching of such a man, the message of the cross, the resurrection, etc and pretty them up so as to be inoffensive, particularly, if we are dealing with those steeped in the modern and post modern disbelief in the miraculous? The answer is that we cannot. The Bible says that the Gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing.

In the end, we must recognize that God has not only given us the message, but the methods of spreading the Gospel. They do not involve slick marketing and production values they involve prayer and the preaching of the Word.

Tomorrow: Are we scandalous enough?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Space Aliens

Many teenagers probably think at some time in their life that their parents are from another planet. When your family consists of eleven kids of various races and nationalities they do start to notice that your family is a little different than the ones around them. This adds to the impression that maybe mom and dad really are aliens from outer space.

At times this makes it hard for them to believe that some of the things you say are true, particularly when it comes to the things of the Bible. Obviously, most people around do not live this way, so it must just be these weirdos who have kidnapped them and brought them to their home.

Over the last couple of weeks our pastor went on mission trip to Russia. His wife asked if our girls could come over and spend some time and help with their two small boys while he was gone. So we rotated them through in two girl shifts and they all got to spend some time with her.

This had a unexpected side benefit for us. They got to spend some time with someone who seems pretty normal. In the process she reinforced through her life and her words the things we teach every day. They may still think we are from another planet, but at least it is a few light years closer than they originally thought.

I love how God uses others to bless us when we are only seeking to help them.

Cultural Relevance

Phil Johnson over at PyroManiac has been having an interesting discussion on the Christian being "culturally relevant." Much of the discussion there has been good, pointing out the difference between being culturally relevant and being mired in the culture and its sinful practices.

However, I sometimes have to laugh at the notion of being culturally relevant. My family consists of children from five distinct cultures. Having adopted most of them as preteens or teenagers, they come with the imprint of their native culture upon them. Thus we have a mixture of the prior culture, American culture, and several subcultures as some have come to us via disruptions of prior adoptions. How do we untie this cultural Gordian Knot and preach the Gospel to them?

I can tell you it is not by trying to immerse ourselves in their culture. We simply explain to them what the Bible says with regard to the Gospel in terms they can understand. Sounds too simple does it not. Well let me give you an example.

Our most recent daughter came to us at fourteen from Communist China via a disrupted adoption from an atheist couple who sent her to a Roman Catholic school. In China she was also introduced to some degree to Buddhism. First I have no idea how to be relevant to her cultural context as I can barely conceive of what that is. Second, it does not matter. I simply explained to her about what God says.

We talked about a Holy God and how she was in rebellion against him.

She would tell me she did not believe in God. I would tell her that God’s Word says she knows there is a God and she is simply denying what she knows is true (Romans 1).

She would ask me why what I believe was better than what the Buddhists or the Catholics believed. I told her that because God’s Word says these things are true.

She would ask me about the fact that the Catholics use the Bible too and they believe different things. I told her that if she could show me that the Bible says what the Catholics say, then I would believe it too.

We talked about Christ and His atoning sacrifice. How she could be made right with God by putting faith in Him and repenting of her sins.

We talked about how He was God and how He lived a sinless life and how He died to pay the penalty for our sins and how He was buried and He rose again the third day.

In all of this I quoted very little Scripture because her English was too weak for her to understand the verses as they were written, but explained them to her in terms she could understand and I pointed her to her Chinese Bible, and she read, and the Holy Spirit used His Word to change he heart and she believed.

I have known many believers whose lives changed drastically after they were saved. However, I have never seen such a drastic change in an individual. This girl who literally cursed me when she first came into my home, who left scars on my arms from scratching me, is now my beloved sister in Christ. She now abounds in love for God, His Word, and His people. Today she is not quite sure who she is. All of her old affections are gone. But, she is learning what it means be a child of the Living God.

Two things we can learn from our little example about cultural relevance (assuming we have not already learned it from God’s Word itself).

1) The Gospel speaks to something beyond culture that crosses every boundary and every construction of man.
2) The Gospel is supernatural. God is the one who gives it the power, and He has said that it comes through the preaching of His Word. There is no greater miracle than the changing of a wicked human heart.

Certainly, we may use cultural artifacts as a way of communicating the Gospel such as Jesus did in His parables, or Paul did on Mars Hill. However, that does not mean that we have to become like the culture wallowing in the mire of worldliness so that we can somehow make the Gospel more attractive. He has promised us that the Gospel is offensive to those who are perishing. We cannot make it less offensive without making it less than the Gospel.

In the end, we must obey Him. We must preach the Word and He will save souls through it.