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Monday, January 29, 2018

Christians & Foster Care & Adoption - The Blessings - Part 2

Today's focus will be more on the positive aspects of foster care and adoption from people who have been there.
Part 1 on this subject might have discouraged people (keeping it real), so I want people to also see that fostering and adoption can be rewarding and is important for Christians to get involved in.

Here are some thoughts from friends.

This thought was from someone in California who was trying to adopt from the start (with two adoptions finalized).  
Another foster family had one of the girls before this adoptive family did.

Fostering is important work.  
Without people who do that, these kids would end up in group homes or on the streets (if they are older).  
Every child deserves a family and these girls bring so much happiness to me, *** and ****.
I can't imagine a life without them.

A local foster parent shares her feelings about fostering children:

"Very rewarding  Make a difference one day at a time"

The rest of this post is written by another foster parent (Jason Marianna) who is from another state in the U.S.
It should be encouraging for Christians to get involved.

Some positives:
It’s a unique way of not only sharing the gospel with people in need of hearing it but also living out the ramifications of that gospel in front of people who probably have never seen it. The kids typically, mostly, come from bad homes.  The tale of God-fearing people who spanked little, homeschooled church going Susie a little too hard and had their kids removed is mostly non-existent (MOSTLY).  Rather, most kids in foster care come from broken dysfunctional homes and have been raised (or neglected) by people who act in some of the worst ways sinners can act.  The little ones show up at our door with all kinds of bruises, abused in ways that will make your stomach turn.
They also show up poorly trained, hungry, used to being discouraged and put down, used to having to fight for basic needs, believing adults are a fierce enemy to be dealt with, and many other things most kids don’t deal with.  Their sin natures are on full display too. They’ve been trained (one way or another) to steal, swear, hate, lie, physically assert themselves, and sexually gratify themselves. You’d be surprised how young those things begin.

And Jesus can and will heal it all!  Not only that, but even more amazing is that He would use a Mom and Dad like my wife and I, with all our weaknesses, to be the way He ministers to those poor kids. In the midst of it all, it’s easy to lose sight of how incredible it is... but when you step back and see it, it’s breathtaking. God deserves the glory.

It was tremendously rewarding to watch our last foster kid transform from what a social worker described as “a feral child” into a normal and happy little boy.
I was so proud of him to see him learn how God wanted him to behave and think and to see him try to please God (and us).  And when he failed, I found it to be a joy to sit with him and tell him that God was honored by repentance and trust and to remind him that we loved him, but God loved him even more.  He struggled with his own sin, and he struggled with the sin of others that had hurt him.
He had good and bad days.  But for the first time in his life, he had a Mom and a Dad who struggled with him and had been there before to show him the way.

Lastly, many of these kids are poorly educated. Not all, but many.
To be able to help them advance in even that regular boring “all kids have to go through it” way was a joy. For us, with all these things, we felt like we were making a difference in a culture that hates God and us.  It felt as if we had found our purpose.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Christians & Foster Care & Adoption - The Hardships - Part 1

"....the reason we chose to go the adoption route was because I didn't think my heart could take it if they left us."

I can understand this sentiment from a friend, and I think that I would feel the same way.
That family chose the adoption route with siblings.

Fostering children has its rewards from what I have been told, but  I can see it isn't a picnic.
Punishment is regulated by the state which can make discipline more difficult.
Taking babies in so that you will then have to give them up is a very sad thing, although I know of a state where a baby may be adopted pretty close to birth.
The adoption process in California is daunting -  whether starting with fostering and then deciding to adopt - or with the plan to adopt from the beginning. 
Clearly, foster parenting is not for everyone, but it is something that many Christians should consider.  Not everybody is strong enough emotionally, and not everyone is physically able to care for kids.
This is what I see as an outsider.

Within recent history, I've learned how a native tribe in the U.S. swoops in to claim children with the slightest native blood from that tribe to place them wherever they so choose (ignoring what is really best for the child when they already have excellent foster parents that they have been living with and that are ready to adopt them).
This happened to a family in California nearly two years ago.
Lexi Taken From Her Home

Children do need love and the gospel influence of loving people, and so I realize that there is a great benefit to the kids to be in a godly home.
Christians are still able to be involved at this point in the U.S., and that's a good thing.
I have heard that there are some pretty terrible foster situations (not just in the U.S.), so these kids really do need love, patience, and sheltering.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
James 1:27 NASB

A friend in regards to the difficulties of adoption:

"The system can be slow in regards to adoption and you aren't always kept in the loop, you also have many visits (1 for each child) a month as well as other check-ins by various social workers."

The following is from Jason Marianna highlighting the hardships of foster parenting.

Some negatives: 
The system.  
The state-run, culturally informed, wholly secular, and wickedly administered system is easily the worst thing about being a foster parent. 
Individuals within the system range from wonderful to abhorrent, but the system has a way of reducing everyone to the lowest common denominator.  
There is no way to even charitably describe the goal of the system as being to pursue the best interests of the child.  The kids have only token advocates.  Bad parents often only have to demonstrate the illusion of change. 
The people who genuinely do care for the kids are systematically shut out from decision making. 
It’s awful. 

I’d say also that you feel largely alone in the church. 
Don’t get me wrong, what foster parents do is smiled upon by most Christians and many individual believers are happy to do whatever they can.  Nothing wrong with that, but often those folks don’t know what to do or how to help.  We had a lot of meals made for us, which was very sweet and much appreciated, but very few had anything in the way of answers for tough questions. 
It’s not because the church is full of bad people, but, I believe, because caring for orphans is a sub-culture of the church rather than part of the mainstream culture of the church. 
Almost everyone has an opinion of worship music, or a theology of how preaching should be done... but almost no one has had foster care or orphan care even cross their minds let alone developed some thoughts on it.  We should do better in these areas. 

Finally, the emotional roller coaster is a huge downside.  
You grow attached to the kids and you are confronted by the kids too. 
They’re dealing with loyalties to their blood relatives and yet anger and confusion over the hurt those same people have caused.
You’re dealing with a cute little one sleeping in your arms one day and a wild untrained brat throwing eggs on the floor at the grocery store in an angry fit the next day. 

It’s tiring enough to train and raise kids, let alone UNtraining and dealing with trauma as well. 
It can be emotionally draining, and then they hug you and snuggle in and whisper “goodnight Dad” as you’re putting them to bed and you’re ready to sign the adoption papers right then and there. 
It’s so strange and it has unraveled the resolve of some foster parents. 

Even more emotionally draining is the back and forth of the system. 
Mom and Dad are getting their lives together and the kids get excited and you think they’re headed home and then Mom gets a DUI and Dad gets arrested for selling meth. 
The little ones don’t understand why they can’t see them anymore and you don’t know what the future holds. 
Or, Mom and Dad aren’t interested for months and then suddenly hire a lawyer, make a few legal moves, and a sympathetic judge sends what you thought was going to be your kid back to two people who are largely the same parents that were showing “your” kid porn and touching them in places they shouldn’t, that is when they remember to feed “your” kid and aren’t beating them for watching the TV too loudly. 
And there you sit... helpless and voiceless, forgotten by a system that doesn’t like you and doesn’t care for “your” kid.

Part Two on this subject will feature more of the positive aspects.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Parents Abuse 13: Should Homeschooling Families All Be Suspect?

Most of us have heard something about the Turpin family.  The couple who had 13 children that were malnourished and reportedly abused. 
Some guy wrongfully proposes checking up on all homeschoolers after this, but that is absolutely ridiculous. 
I sincerely think that people who suggest that kind action are actually anti-homeschooling and are looking to take more control. 
They will use any excuse to get into the home and take away freedoms.
The kinds of people who homeschool are varied, but I believe the majority of homeschooled children do quite well.
It is not something to be afraid of. 
If you were homeschooled, don't be ashamed just because criminals exist.
Public schools have plenty of their share of criminals.
While we all want criminals caught, going into all homeschooling or other homes without probable cause is an abuse of authority just like the Turpin parents abused their God-given authority over their own kids.
It seems to me that there was some probable cause in the case of the Turpin family, but the warning signs seen by neighbors and relatives were not heeded and acted upon.

There was another family in another state that had their kids taken away (wrongfully I believe in their case) due to suspicious people, and they had a nightmare of an experience to get their kids back. 
Thankfully they did get their kids back eventually. 
When I do an online search, it seems this kind of thing has happened to others who are suspected just for not being cookie-cutter families. 
People seem to be suspicious of parents simply for homeschooling and not being what others think they should be like, and that's nonsense! 

People should learn to discern between true neglect and abuse by parents, and loving hands-on parenting.
Not wanting your kids to be taught false value systems that go against Scripture, phony theories as facts or the acceptance of immoral lifestyles is not something that should make parents be treated like criminals to have their kids stolen away. 
Wanting your kids to not be distracted from their education and to have a better learning experience can also be positive.

I was homeschooled in the days when it seemed very few kids my age were homeschooled. 
We usually stayed inside until the time when those who weren't homeschooled would be out due to fear that someone would wrongfully think we were truants or be suspicious of us.
We did our schoolwork inside, and we lived pretty normal lives.
Yes, we didn't have a TV for most of my growing up years, but we had the radio, books, music, and did other fun things.
I went to public school through the 3rd grade and did homeschooling and Christian schooling at various times in my life. 
My parents didn't starve me, abuse me, or keep me from having any friends in the neighborhood or at church. 
We moved around a lot, but that had nothing to do with homeschooling.
I had Lebanese friends in one place and Jewish in another. 
Yet some people fear what is different from what their own experience.

Criminals are in every walk of life because sinners are everywhere.  It isn't a homeschool issue.  Evil is a humankind issue.

Some children who legitimately need to be protected from true abuse (spanking that doesn't cause serious injury is NOT abusing) and those kids end up in the foster care system.
Foster care has it's share of problems as well.  Some foster homes are abusive, and some are truly loving homes.  Sometimes decisions are made that emotionally harm both the kids and the foster parents who genuinely love them.
I have never done foster parenting, but I hope to write a little from an outsider's perspective in a future post.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Gospel In Marriage, Guarding Against Immorality, & Creative People

Todd Friel's G3 Breakout session was really good and convicting. 
It's about husbands and wives, but it is just as good for those of us who are not married.
Discipling Your Spouse

Learn about the tactics that lead to immorality & guard against them as a Christian.
This was given to college students.  It's the kind of message that a lot of young people should hear (and older people needing to be reminded).
Message by Tom Pennington

I have met some really interesting people online.
The following is one of them!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Wise Behavior & Wise Speech - Take Heed Social Media World!

The Master's University has been holding the Truth & Life Conference again this year, and the first two messages that I have been able to stream have been so excellent that I want to share them with you!
These messages were given at a college, but what is being taught from Scripture is very applicable and needed by all Christians.
It is something that those of us on social media need to consider often, although it is true for all of life.
I would like to see myself living and speaking with more wisdom.

The first message live-streamed was given by John MacArthur.
He shared Scripture comparing fools with the wise, and at one point he simply read straight from Proverbs!  
Wisdom is found in God!

Steve Lawson gave a message about the tongue being a fountain of life.
He shared from Proverbs about the kinds of things we should & shouldn't say as believers.
It will likely be convicting to you!
Sometimes we need to confront people, but there are many times we should restrain our words.
It starts a little over 4 minutes in.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

30 Influential Evangelicals In My Life

Who have been some of the top influential evangelicals in my life?

1 & 2.  My parents - I heard the Gospel and gained an interest in missions and learned that God provides needs especially from them as well as my siblings. 

3.  John MacArthur - I learned sound doctrine & gained more of a desire to hear it from him.

4.  Dewey Bertollini - I learned some good principles for life from him.

5-9.  Other Sunday School & church youth leaders.

10.  Scott Ardavanis  -  Back to basics.

11.  Donald McDougall - He set an example in his response to attacks & demonstrated joy in the midst of trials (and taught us well too).

12.  Ray Comfort - He gave me an excitement for evangelism.

13-17.  Other evangelists/street preachers.  - They encourage me to keep distributing tracts, pray for outreaches and are a reminder of one of the big reasons why we are still here.

18.  Sye Ten Bruggencate - Biblical Apologetics.

19.  Nathan Busenitz - He gave me more of an appreciation for church history.

20.  Steve Lawson -  He has given me a continuation of seeing how people in history can be an influence on us, as well as including Gospel proclamation.

21.  Don Green - Not only does he deliver convicting Biblical messages, but he exudes compassionate pastoral care even without having personally met him.

22.   David Forsyth - He gave a pretty good series on being chosen by God years ago that was helpful (sadly I think they took it from the archives from online).  I appreciated being able to sit under his teaching for awhile before moving from CA.

23-27.  Christian Musicians - Yes, they can be an influence, even though over the years I have found I can't wholeheartedly recommend the majority.  There actually have been some songs that had spiritual messages over the years - beyond the overly repetitive and treating Jesus like a romantic figure.  I did learn some from them.

28.  Nate Pickowicz -  It is an encouragement to see how a small church planting pastor can have a passion for Biblical truth, discipleship, etc., and his enthusiasm rubs off - including through his books.   My hope is that there will be more pastors like him even in my small town.

29.  Mike Riccardi - He appears to have a desire to evangelize, teach well, write well, and serve the church well including teaching seminary.  I only hope he doesn't burn out!  

30.  Doris "Granny" Weaver - She went on to Heaven, but she was an example of love for others in a small church that I went to many years ago now.  She encouraged me, and she encouraged many others in the church.  She showed genuine care for many of us, and we would all do well to be more like her.

There are some people who have influenced my life that I am not going to list.
And for my friends reading this, some of you have had a positive influence in my life as well.
Be encouraged.
It isn't just the pastors and the well-known people that influence people.
The servants, the persevering persecuted and suffering, the caring, the truth warriors, the patient, and others who are examples, all can be a godly influence. 
We may not see the impact until we reach Heaven.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Across The Sea

On December 26, 2016, a short video was released that was based on some children's books written by Andrew Peterson.
Andrew is also known for being a Christian singer.
I'm not giving a review of the film or the books (which I have not read), but that is the background of something interesting which I discovered recently.
I found a couple of versions of a song that seems to be connected with The Wingfeather Saga where Skye Peterson sings with her father.
Some of you may have already heard it in the past, but it was new to me.
I was impressed!

The best live version that I found with Skye playing the accordion I will share a link to HERE (as the person who posted it really doesn't want it embedded).
I will share this earlier rendition from 2014 for those who don't want to go to another link.

An Irish Hymn
Something about the song I shared above (especially the accordion rendition) reminds me of Ireland.
There is an old Irish hymn that still is sung today even in the U..S. which has prayerful lyrics, and churches that don't mix in some of the old hymns along with newer hymns and spiritual songs are really losing out. 
There are newer songs with excellent lyrics, although sadly a lot less than there should be.
Someone shared with me how the following hymn sounds when it is sung in the native tongue, and it is really pretty.
I don't know the singer, so I'm not making any endorsement on that.
You can also hear the English version of the song sung by men from The Master's Seminary HERE.