Your Prince is in Another Castle: A #bethegood tale

At the end of last week we had a conversation with our adoption agency.  One which we forgot about the day before, but our agent got swamped as well and lost track of time.  So we both forgot, which is good I guess.

The conversation was bitter sweet.  We wanted to call to check to see what we needed to do now that our dossier (fancy word for “crap ton of paperwork) was in the Hattian Government.  She assured us that there was little we could do.  In a little while we will need to make sure we are up to date with the home study paperwork, get fingerprinted again (time number 5 or so) so that all of the information while the matching process happens is current and we will not hit any snags along the way.  Perfect!

We could also continue to write and apply for grants for travel expenses and other bits along the way that add up after a while of this multiyear process.

This was great, but now time for the bitter part.  We wanted to know about our timeframe….

Well because of the recent change in the status of Haiti to a Hague Convention nation the process is both more intensive on the paperwork side as well as streamlined and hopefully smoother and faster.  But Haiti is just trying now to close out all of the pre-Hague cases it still has hanging over it from a previous era.

This means that what we thought would be a total of 2 years for the process from beginning with the start of the official application process will not be much longer.  As in the typical case is taking about 2.5 years from the point we are now until our son would be at home with us.   Which would make the whole process- from start to finish 4 years. (We are 1 year in.)

This was not the timeline that had been communicated to us throughout the process.  We were clear in asking questions about timeline.  If there is one thing a 2 pastor household knows from countless hospital visits, working through social services and court cases with people, it is that we always ask about the timeline.  So when she said we would essentially be starting the 2+ year time clock over again it was like a punch in the gut.

This sucks…. It is this strange kind of grief.  It is not like when we had a miscarriage and there was a physical loss, but rather it feels like a loss of something that we never had in the first place.  And it is not really loss just postponement.  Words don’t really do it justice, but at the same time I want to write a post about how deflated it makes us, weird right?  Katie is more articulate than I am about this new timeline.  The best way that I can put it into visuals is the first time you play Mario and realize that your princess is in another castle.  It takes the wind out of your sail- but you know that you have to soldier on.

But here is the crazy part.  We know we are not in this alone.  Katie and I were talking about how there were a hand full of people every day at the week of middle school camp that we do who were wearing our “Be the Good” shirt.  From capers, to staff and our volunteers every day we were reminded of the community who is in this journey with us.

It has been a blessing that we know that there are people around the world on this journey with us.  We know that our shirts and message have been skydiving in California, to numerous orioles baseball games, made their way to other continents and started us some really life giving conversations. I see facebook posts with #bethegood and one of our shirts, our churches leaders wear them and when I go to film people to talk about how God is moving in their lives they are wearing them.  It is amazing.  We have been in the newspaper and you have opened up your businesses to us to sell the shirts and tell our story.

We know your heart breaks along side of ours with this new timeline.  But it is our call and we will soldier on to the next level to bring our son home.  Thank you so much for being a community that is more loving than we could have imagined and a wider reach than we would have dreamed.

While our prince might be in another castle (for now) we continue to work on bringing him home strengthen by the stores you share with us about how one little shirt is making a difference.


The Other 6 days

When someone finds out that I am a pastor, I will often be asked “So what do you do the other 6 days of the week?”

Besides the obvious, 16 hours of daily prayer, bible study and fasting, there are a ton of exciting things to do.

My church is currently doing a teaching series on the balance of family life, and so I have been more aware of doing some fun and different things with my girls so that they will ask questions or have fun. The goal is to take a little bit of the frantic-ness out of our lives.

After some conversation with our 7 year old about the dishwasher, we made a hypothesis about what happens to get the dishes clean.  One guess was that little guys come out from a trap door and scrub the dishes with little brushes (mine). The other guess involved a lot of bubbles (Eden’s).

So yesterday Bethany and I took some video of what happens in the dish washer.  We set up a light in a Tupperware food bin so that we could see the the little guys come out and scrub our dishes what happens inside the dishwasher.

Bethany’s input to the project was to make sure her Elmo plate was washed, so he was given a staring role.

The footage proved to be less dramatic than either hypothesis, but fun none the less.  It also is a good opportunity for some good creative thinking and conversation.

Back to the question at hand, “What do I do the other 6 days that are not Sunday?” My week is filled with planning worship, youth group, pastoral care, cross country practice, meetings, paperwork, juggling and putting out the occasional fire just to name a few things.  While all of the work stuff chips away at my time I try and fight for the family time and make that a priority.  I don’t always do great at it, but when I do it is super fun and that is the encouragement to do it more.

Next stop… The dryer

All Saints’ Weekend

This past weekend was All Saints’ weekend where I was privileged to share with my district superintendent what FaithPoint has been up to in this past year.

If I am being honest I will tell you that I don’t really remember picking when our annual charge conference would be considering it feels like we signed up for them 6 months ago.  Charge Conference is a meeting where our District Superintendent, JW Park, comes  to check in on how FaithPoint is doing.  He has a little over 75 churches that he oversees as a kind of pastor of pastors.

As I reflect on this weekend I can’t think of a better time to have a worship celebration of this kind than on All Saint’s day.  This is not only because we got an extra hour of sleep due to the time change, but also because it puts into perspective that we are not alone in this journey of faith.  There are those who have faithfully gone before us to blaze trials and pave the way for us to be the church (universal) we are today.  There is also a realization that at some point we too will be part of the great cloud of witnesses encouraging others to faith and good deeds.

We were able to share with JW and the FaithPoint congregation the ways that we are growing in our weekend worship, making disciples though youth ministry and raising up young leaders.  We also were able to honestly talk about our growing edges as well.  As a congregation called to reach out wide and invite the non-religious and nominally religious, financial stewardship is a critical part of our discipleship.  It is critical that we don’t minimize this growing edge because our finances are what allows us to live into the mission.  Financial stewardship is first and foremost a discipleship issue.  It is also a way that we are able to partner with the Holy Spirit and the local church to transform hearts and lives.  Your giving to the church will not return a dividend check each quarter, but goes a long way to make disciples and change the lives of those in our community and beyond.

We finished up the service with communion and a time of sharing about the impact that some of our local missions have had on our community and some of those servants who were willing to make food and be the hands and feet of Christ in Urbana.  It was awesome.

After worship we were able to gather for some food and the business end of the Charge Conference.  We ate, and between mouthfuls of delicious food, voted on leadership, approved compensation and set goals for the coming year.  I have to say that it was by far the best annual meeting I have ever had.

Above all, this past weekend reminded me of how proud I am to be the pastor of FaithPoint.

We has a trunk-or-treat to start the weekend, then worship and charge conference, and the weekend came to a close with youth group.  As I was a part of all of the ministry that happened I found myself pausing and thinking, “I can’t believe I get to do this for a living!”  Yes we are not a perfect church, but we may be perfect for those we are called to reach. We have growing edges, but they are a result of us doing what we are here to do.

The fact that few other churches would have a sandal and superhero tee wearing, socially awkward goober like me is not lost on me either.  🙂

I can’t wait to see how God uses FaithPoint in the coming year.  I know the course we have set and I am excited about the ride to come.

10 Things I learned as a solo dad for a week

So at the beginning of the month Katie went to Haiti with her church. At the same time my mom went on a mission trip with her church and the girls and I were determined to do this.
As a side note my mother in law had Bethany for an extra night and my dad was also around (but more of that soon)

So here are the learnings:
10. Planning, planning, planning– I spent much time planning everything that I needed to get done.  I made sure that the first things I tackled were the most mission critical and then if (when) the day got away I would not lose too much ground.  Also I told the kids and anyone who would listen about the plan until I was blue in the face.  This way when it came time to transition to the next thing no one was taken by surprise.
9. Sometimes you have to move at their pace– not everything God done because there were times where I would have to stop and be enamored by a bug that Eden found or play a game with Bethany that involved putting on and taking off socks and shoes about 50 times.  It turns out to be far more enjoyable when you just accept the fact that you will HAVE to go at their pace, after all they are going at mine so much of the time.  I was able to find wonder in bugs and rocks, and got really good at putting little socks on squirming feet.
8. It Sucks Getting Sick with your kids– One of the worst parts was that Bethany and I were sick with a stomach flu together.  There have been few things in parenting that I have felt more helpless in than telling the almost 2 year old just to stand in the tub while we are both getting sick together.  This is not the kind of bonding we look forward to as parents.
7. Planning doesn’t mean it will work like the plan– So we planned and planned and then we have to also be ready to call an audible and shift things up to make the best what you have to work with rather than lamenting on what great and glorious plan you had in mind.
6. Some things are sinking in…–In the middle of the chaos of the week there were some really bright spots with.  I had a bunch of cool conversations with our oldest (6) about where mom was ans about the work she was doing.  Eden then talked about how unfair it is that we have so much while other people are going hungry.  Also when we were sick she did a great job of taking care of us in a way she could only learn from her mom.  Awesome!!
5. The older one has a servant’s heart– This one kind of dovetails with the previous.  There were some times where I would need Eden to help with this or that because I was trying to deal with the sick toddler.  Eden got towels, helped with dinner, made sure the dog was fed…. it was a blessing.
4. The little one is sneaky– Bethany loves to watch and pretend that she is complying with what you ask, then when you turn around she is off like a shot and has snatched your keys and hidden in her room somewhere.
3. The hairy one thinks he should go on every car ride– every time we got in the car the dog would try and hop in too.  He would squish between the 2 car seats and pretend to look small.  This is not an easy feat when you big, hairy and weigh more than both children combine and in the back seat of a Honda Fit.
2.My Dad is AWESOME– while Katie was away so was my mom.  But every time I needed some extra help my dad was there willing to take the girls while I when on visits to the hospital, to connect with unexpected meetings with hurting families or to help build a pinewood derby car.
1. I am glad Katie is home- Katie and I are definitely partners in all areas of life (kids, ministry, work, chaos management) so now that she is back it is so wonderful.

Spreading good cheer

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Bethany knows that Katie loves Coke.

Bethany’s logic: “If mom loves Coke so much, think about how much my best friend Kronk will like it.”

Bethany loves spreading Christmas cheer.

The dog…… well he is still trying to figure it all out.

God as venture capitalist

This past weekend I had the chance to worship with Katie and the girls at New Hope UMC.  It was wonderful to be with them and that community of faith.  It is always neat to me to see the radically different ways God moves throughout different churches and how the Spirit comes in all different forms.  Throughout the morning the scripture we were encouraged to reflect upon was the parable of the talents found in Matthew’s gospel.  Here 3 servants were given differing sums of money to care for. The 2 that received the most doubled the money and the one who had the least buried it.  Then the master pleased with the first two, took the money from the 3rd servant and gave it to the one with the most. 
Now in this teaching we are the servants and God is the master.  However one thing has stuck with me for the past couple of days.  Now you have to keep in mind that i am a tech nerd and our family watches the show Shark Tank often.  So I love seeing new and innovative ideas and also those who have enough financial resources to fund some of these ideas.  The area of venture capital is fascinating to me. 
With my limited knowledge of how the financial backing system works I can’t shake the feeling that God must be the worst venture investor EVER! Think about little bit.  Would you invest and entrust your valuables to the battered broken mess that is humanity if you were God?  This is not simply a one time teaching.  Look at the disciples Jesus chooses to carry on the Gospel after he is gone….they are a mess.  Other parables like the one of the sewer tossing valuable seed on the rocks, in the weeds, on the cart path and eventually the good soil.  No famer would really do that. 
So then why?  Why invest in the lost cause?  Why give so much to those who have such a sketchy track record?
In a word Grace. 
In more than one word. God knows the full story and the big picture.  God can operate or invest out of an economy of abundance rather than scarcity.  God is able to pick the long shot evey time because God (the creator) knows the potential of every single one of us.  And this is why the master in our parable is mad at the 3rd servant.  He knows the potential he sees the worth on the inside.  And when the servant doesn’t even to the least to yield a return (stick the money in the bank to collect interest) the master, God, is angry.   
God, Alpha and Omega, knows the beginning and the end because God is the beginning and the end. So the question I am asking each day is how am I showing a return to God DAILY on God’s investment of grace?