Deep Roots

We need deep roots in faith, family, and friends, to allow us to weather the storms of life. Otherwise, we will fall. 

On Thursday, November 15, a ferocious ice storm hit southern West Virginia, downing trees, knocking out power, and causing major property damage across several counties. Our family lost power for over 30 hours, and six large trees came down in our yard. The children were cross, sitting in a cold, dark house and unable to get on the internet. More importantly, they were unsettled. To them, electrical power is a fundamental fact of life. It is always there – you flip a switch and…shazam! When you need power, it is suddenly there. They could not imagine living like my grandmother, raised in rural southern Arkansas, whose only power was fire in candles, oil lamps, and stoves… or sunlight.

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Accident of Birth?

No one’s birth is an accident. The hand of the Sovereign God governs all. 

A recent op-ed bemoaned Brexit and the state of the British government. The English author opined that the prime minister was weak, Parliament was fractious, and once respected democratic institutions were losing public trust. Against this gloomy backdrop, one which has persisted for decades, the British monarchy has rarely been so popular. Why, the writer asks, should a democratic country so revere its constitutional monarchy, which after all selected its leaders not by merit but by an “accident of birth?”

The phrase “accident of birth” has been used a lot in the past 20 years, often to make prosperous people feel badly about prospering. People say “You were born (white, Asian, male, female, rich, American, European, etc.), but your success is merely an accident of birth. You didn’t do it, and you have no right to be proud of it.” Former US President Barack Obama’s “you didn’t build it” gaffe during his 2012 reelection campaign is a variation – partly true, but partly false. The claim “your prosperity is merely an accident of birth” is also used against selected (usually materially successful) members of traditionally disadvantaged groups such as African Americans and Hispanic Americans. The poor can airily dismiss the rich, even as the rich have airily dismissed the poor, with this handy phrase.

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Our Persian Sister

She moved out just over one year ago. Things had been tense for several weeks, especially since her sister had visited. We didn’t know why, but I could hear the tension in Jane’s (not her real name) voice, and see her almost continually locked door in our basement. We tried to understand why she seemed to grow more distant, but the closer we tried to get, the farther she moved away.

Jane was a young Christian Persian woman who I had met on a mission trip to Central Asia in 2011.  She had come to New York City in September 2013, lived in rooms rented from families, and ate out. She linked up with the Persian community and enjoyed the night life of the Big Apple. Perhaps to save money, Jane moved to Virginia to live with us in December 2014.

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The Anointing

The anointing of God, so vital to saints of old, is available and active today. Seek it out from the godliest person you know, and you will be blessed.

Tim was retiring from the US Air Force and moving out of the national capital area. He had had a stellar career and had been seeking civilian work. He showed great confidence in the future, but as the weeks passed, worry crept into his face. Tim, his wife and daughters moved out of their rental house and moved in with extended family, but several job opportunities had faded away.

They visited with us after Vacation Bible School one afternoon, as we were going through the same transition. As Tim and his family were leaving, my family gathered around to lay hands on them and pray. We prayed for their journey to Texas, their search for a new house, their transition to new schools, a new church, and a new community, and most of all, for a job. Once we finished, I turned to Tim and said “Congratulations, you have received the anointing of the Spirit for this task in your life. You will be successful.”

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Fatherhood and Ballet

Going to your children’s events to see them is not enough. Dads have to learn to enjoy what their kids enjoy.

Last week I was at a ballet studio watching my daughter dance. It was a fun show, similar to ones that I have seen countless times before. Since my oldest daughter was three, I have attended ballet recitals, shows, and the annual Nutcracker. Over the years, ballet has become an important part of our lives.

It was not always this way. My mother was not a dancer and she had two boys. Our nearest cousins were boys and so were all of our friends. Boys dance, but finding a boy in a typical ballet school can be as hard as finding a Republican in New York City. We played football, joined Boy Scouts, and attended church, but never danced, or knew anyone who did. This all changed when our oldest girl was born.

In the early years, I went to ballet performances to see my daughter, the cutest person in the world to me. From Coppelia to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I didn’t want to miss seeing her dance or giving her flowers after a performance.

When my little ones started ballet, they began asking me questions after their performances. “Daddy”, one would ask, “What did you think about the Russian dancer?” or “How did you like the Sugar Plum Fairy?” The first time my oldest asked a question like this, the blood drained from my face and I stammered a helpless “They were great, sweetheart, what did you think?” In truth, I didn’t remember the Russian and I couldn’t tell the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Snow Queen. I wasn’t attending dance performances to enjoy dance; I was going there to see my daughters. I thought that this was enough.

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Life’s Biggest Blessings – A Large Family

Overpopulation is a myth – the world’s real problem now is not enough children. And children are worth to a family and a nation than almost everything else.

My in-laws had two children, one girl and one boy, but my father-in-law always wanted more. My parents had two sons, and sometimes said they wished they had also had a girl. I have often met people in the autumn of their lives who wished they had had more children, but never any who wanted less. Despite this, the fertility rate in America, the number of children per woman, is below the replacement level of 2.1, meaning parents are not having enough children to replace themselves. According to the 2013 CIA World Factbook, the US birth rate is 147th out of 224 countries worldwide. People chatter about how important family is to them, and then endlessly complain about children being too troublesome, too expensive, and too much of an interference with what they want to do. My goal today is to remind readers of a truth that for millennia was taken for granted; children are a gift from God and large families are a blessing.

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A Child Leaving Home, and the Providence of God

Parenting is not over when a child leaves home. In many ways, the hardest part is just beginning.

I was chatting with a friend, a professor of government late of Georgetown University, during our Wednesday night church dinner.  He mentioned several Christian youth he had recently met who had lived a sheltered life of homeschooling and church activities, and his concern of how they would do when confronted with the belligerent anti-Christian staff and libertine lifestyles prevalent in most secular universities.  As my oldest will be starting a state college this fall, I was intrigued by his observation.  This educated and devoted man was certainly right to be concerned, and mentioned that he wanted his children to attend a Christian school when the time comes.  There are many sad tales of students raised in Christian homes who are too unprepared intellectually and too undisciplined morally to resist the temptations of living on their own.  How many make mistakes that haunt them for the rest of their lives?

At the same time, Jesus and His disciples lived and worked in Galilee, the most cosmopolitan place in Palestine.  He clearly tells us to be in the world but not of the world (John 15:19, 17:14-16), and to be as salt (Matthew 5:13) to preserve and light (Matthew 5:14) to illuminate the fallen world.   How does a faithful Christian know what to do in the face of such important principles?

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