So You Think You Want A Big Family?

Not many people have big families anymore. People are waiting longer to have children and having fewer of them. There are a lot of reasons not to have a large family. Here are a few.

Children are expensive.

They are a strain on the environment.

There are no guarantees with children.

They are really expensive.

They take all of your time so you can’t do the things you want to do in life (travel, have anything nice, etc.)

The world is a wicked place so why bring kids into it.

Did I mention they are expensive?

When I was in a theology class in college my professor made a statement that caught my attention.   He said something to the effect of, “Christians should have large families.   Children, in the Bible were always seen as a blessing.   God told Adam to fill the earth. God never took back His command to fill the earth.” Up until this point in time in my life I’d never really thought about how many children I should have. I just assumed two children was the magic number since that seemed to be how many everyone was having.   But that day was kind of a light bulb moment in my life that changed how I thought about children. It is one thing that has largely shaped why I wanted a large family from that time on.

If you are one of those people who think you would like to have more than 3 kids then I want to give you a little dad insight as to what that might look like.

My wife and I now have 5 children.   I think we would qualify as a big family.   Here are some observations about having a big family you should consider.

CHAOS – Big families must be willing to embrace chaos.   One of our family logos is “Embrace the Chaos.” If you have to be in control of every situation a big family will crush you. Somebody in the family is always going to be crying, complaining, need something, hungry, sick or all of the above at all hours of the day.   Just embrace it.

FAILURE – If you have a big family you have to learn to accept failure, personal failure.   When you have one child you are very likely to be a close to perfect parent. You feel guilty if you forget any little thing.   You try so hard to make sure your child is perfect, hitting every milestone before the other children. With your first child if they drop food on the floor you scold them if they pick it up to eat it.   By the time a fifth child rolls around you scold a child that drops food and picks it up and throws it away because that is wasteful.   Because of the size of the family your perspective changes. The demands of 5 children are sometimes overwhelming and it is often that a project is not complete; a child did not get a bath, a form for school was not signed or a recital was missed. Failure is part of it. You must learn to get over it and move on or parent guilt will crush you.

NO PRIVACY – Don’t be shocked to see fingers under the door when you are having a moment of solace in the bathroom. If you ever want to take a shower then you have to do it with a child in a car seat staring up at you. Don’t you dare try to see something on your phone without showing your kids.   Kids are super nosey and they no nothing of boundaries.

NO SLEEP – Just write off a few years of your life when it comes to the sleep department.

SICKNESS – Big families share stuff…everything.

EXPENSE – You can’t eat out much because a meal with the family equals a small car payment.   Children play sports, go to the doctor, need dental work/braces, and it all adds up. It feels like every dollar that comes in pretty much goes out. It is very difficult to travel because adding a family of 7 to someone else’s family can be quite the inconvenience.

I am not going to lie; having a big family is hard. Every night my wife and I go to bed completely exhausted.

While having a big family is hard I cant imagine there is anything better in the world than having a big family.

SO MUCH LOVE —- I mean big love. I have little girls that tell me multiple times every day how much they love me.   Hugs and kisses till you can’t stand them anymore.   The absolute joy of walking in the house and having a bunch of children screaming, “Daddy!!” in delight as they knock you over with hugs!   SO MUCH LOVE!

TEAMWORK – I always wondered how the Duggars did it with 19 children. The older I get the more I understand.   The older your kids get the more of a help they become. You just have to train them. The 10 year old takes out the trash, feeds the dog, cleans his rooms, vacuums, and watches his baby sisters. The Twin 7 year olds change diapers, wash clothes, clean their room, cook and do the dishes. The 3 year old…destroys everything (I call her the destroyer). They may not do it perfectly but every family member pitches in to make life manageable.

PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY – My children know that they are responsible for their schoolwork and homework. If they need something signed they must remind us.   We do not remind them.

LAUGHTER – We laugh SO much!   Kids are so funny.   They are so full of joy and the wonder of life. Kids are always performing and cracking some kind of joke.

WHEN I GET OLD – One day when I get old, if the Lord allows, I want people around me. I want so many grandkids that I cannot remember their names. I know I will have a son and daughters that will take care of their mom and dad when we are sick or on our deathbed.   So yeah, it’s selfish, but I want people to love me in the end.   At the end of life people want those they love around them. The investments that last are the investments in people. When life is coming to an end you never think, man I wish I had more money to bring me comfort.

LITTLE WORLD CHANGERS – Ultimately our decision to have a large family was a spiritual one. We knew it would not be easy but we also knew that the Bible teaches us that children are a blessing from God.   There is no greater joy than to see my children growing up and embracing Jesus. To see them pray and serve others is perhaps life’s greatest fulfillment.

If you are thinking about having a big family I will leave you with this, it is hard but IT IS WORTH IT!   Now if you are physically able go make some babies, or go adopt some!fullsizeoutput_5a4e

 

 

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The Theology of Emotion

I feel like…

I don’t think it’s fair that…

I don’t feel like God would make someone unhappy…

Christians are saturated by thousands of blogs, articles, and thoughts about what is ok and not ok to do and be in our day.   One of the more dangerous false teachings I see creeping into the American Christian world is what I want to call the Theology of Emotion.

Theology simply means the study of God.   Our culture is increasingly a generation of Christians that are basing their beliefs about God more heavily on how they feel than what God has revealed about Himself through the Bible.

If you need examples of this just go talk to most young Christians and ask them if they think living together before marriage is wrong.   Or ask them if they think homosexuality is wrong. It seems that many who claim Christianity today are more concerned with how they feel about something than what God has said in the Bible about it.

Don’t get me wrong emotions are a great and powerful driver.   Emotions are the great catalyst to actions. I love so many passionate movements going on in the Christian community such as the “End It” movement to end sex trafficking.   I love the pregnancy care centers that are all over our nation that provide options to mothers who feel like they have no options. I love the push for Christian families to be involved in foster care and adoption. These are great pictures of how God uses our emotional heartstrings to rally us around causes that are close to His heart.

If we do not feel then we do not care and we are never moved to action.

Emotions are great motivators but bad decision makers.

When we allow how we feel about any certain issue to supersede what God has revealed we become our own god and no longer trust Jesus as the authority.

One recent example I read was in an interview with popular Christian author Jen Hatmaker.   I know many women in my church that love her books. Most of what she writes is helpful and beneficial. But when I read her recent comments on the homosexual community I was taken back.

Here is what she said, “From a spiritual perspective, since gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, our communities have plenty of gay couples who, just like the rest of us, need marriage support and parenting help and Christian community. They are either going to find those resources in the church or they are not. Not only are these our neighbors and friends, but they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are adopted into the same family as the rest of us, and the church hasn’t treated the LGBT community like family. We have to do better.”

I find her statements very disturbing.   The Christian community has the biblical mandate and responsibility to love and minister to every person, red, yellow, black, white, male, female, straight, gay, confused or other. But what she says takes this to another level.   She is taking people who embrace a life and identity that God clearly defined in scripture as a direct rebellion against Him, and associates those who embrace that lifestyle as a fellow believer in Christ.

This is anti-biblical to the core.   Jesus is so clear that when we become His followers we sign away all of our personal rights. We become willful slaves of Christ.   Here are the words of Jesus, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Those selfish acts of rebellion no longer characterize our life.   We willingly choose to deny what may seem pleasurable and best to us in order to follow what Jesus says is best.

The Apostle Peter said it this way,

“So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.” (1 Peter 4:1-3)

Dietrich Bonheoffer said so clearly, “the call to follow Christ is a call to die.”

My goal is not to throw stones at Jen Hatmaker or even those who identify as LGBT. The goal is to expose a larger problem that is a bitter root in the tree of American Theology.   It is the idea that we can change our theology to match the spirit and feeling of the day. The beauty of the scripture is that it is unchanging. No matter how we feel about an issue we yield to Christ.   We do not seek to make the scripture fit our feelings. This applies to all of us!   This is no indictment on any particular sin.   It is prerequisite for all of us.   I make my kids take off their shoes before they come in the house.   We must shed ourselves of all of our sins when we come to Christ.

When we come to Christ we do not have the option of holding on to any sin.   Our identity is no longer found in our activity but in our Savior.   The sex addict can come to Christ, but he must repent and turn away from his sex addiction.   The thief can come to Christ but he is no longer a thief, he now seeks to look like his Savior. He goes from taker to giver. The idol worshipper can come to Christ but he cannot bring his idol with him. He must destroy it. The homosexual can come to Christ but he no longer identifies as a homosexual. My point is not to say that Jesus followers will no longer struggle with their sin but that they will STRUGGLE. They will embrace the internal battle that is going on inside of them. They will not give themselves over to the sins of their past. The Holy Spirit inside of them will no longer allow them to be happy in their sin.

Adrian Rogers once said, “Our feelings are the most shallow part of us. God does not do His deepest work in our most shallow part.”

If you are a follower of Christ I would challenge you to read your bible more than you read the latest Christian book.   Remember that if something has been true for 2000 years of the Christian faith then God is not going to suddenly change His mind because the culture now embraces some particular sin.   The call of the Christian life is a call of self sacrifice. It is a call to lay our sins down and lay our lives down for others.

Let’s not make a golden image of god in the likeness of the American culture of our day. The world says that we should be happy and we find happiness when we do what makes us feel good.   The word of God teaches us that we should seek holiness.   When we seek to be holy, only then do we find happiness. Happiness in the Christian life is not the goal but the by-product. It’s not found in sin but often found in service.   Happiness can be briefly experienced in the passing pleasures of sin, but that kind of happiness will quickly leave you empty again. Real happiness can only last in the conscious surrender of ourselves to Christ and His calling on our lives. Get your theology from the Bible and not from your heart.

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Does The Church Still Need Youth Pastors?

Student Pastors today have pretty much become their own breed of pastor.  They are hip and cool.  Most of them come equipped with a goatee, hip hairdo, cool man bag, iphone, ipad, some type of Biblical tattoo in Hebrew or Greek, and a guitar.  I am not making fun (well sort of) because I was a youth pastor for 8 years.  My high school youth pastor made a big difference in my life, but as I have thought about it, I think student ministry has become something that has gotten away from the Biblical model.   Here are a few dangers I think student ministers should watch out for:

Student Ministry Should Not Create A Separate Church

It seems that most things that happen in church life today separate the family instead of bringing them together.  We come to church and we all go to our different divisions and we will see each other around lunchtime.  The Bible is clear that worship is a family thing, so why do we work so hard to split families up?  I think much of the church planting movement in America today is birthed out of a generation that wants their church to be their student ministry.  People my age who grew up in student ministry with a band and a “relevant” teacher now refuse to worship with “old” people that sing the “awful Hymns.”  Are we reaching the lost or simply dividing the church more by creating churches of student ministries that have grown up?  My generation has so much to learn from the previous generation.  We need to be careful not to lose the Godly heritage that came before us.

 

Student Pastors Are Not Paid Entertainers

So many youth pastors keep a full calendar with bowling, movies, 5th quarters, amusement parks, and a host of other activities. Most of these activities have little significance.  We always filed them under the “fellowship” banner.   You are there to help students know Jesus Christ and become more like Him.  There is a great pressure in student ministry to be a glorified babysitter to teenagers.  Don’t be that guy.

What Should Student Pastors Do?

Model the Way

If you want your students to go to the next level in their faith then you need to already be at the level you want them to attain.  Never expect them to witness more than you do.  Never expect them to have a better quiet time then you do.  As a leader it implies that you are out in front of them and are giving them an example to follow.  Never expect what you are not first willing to do.

Empower the Parents

My first few years of student ministry I saw parents as kind of a hindrance to “my” ministry.  I mean they did not know kids like I knew them and they threw cold water on so many of my “brilliant ideas” (like putting bananas in a toilet and blind folding kids and making them fish them out).  The specific position of “Youth Minister” cannot be found in the pages of the Bible.  I am not saying there is not a need for them, but I am saying the scripture is clear that God has put the responsibility of the next generation of faith primarily on the shoulders of the parents.  (See Deuteronomy 6).  The more you can get parents involved and get them to teach their teenagers the better.  As a youth pastor, I spent a lot of time investing in a lot of kids.  As I look back at all the students that I invested in there is a common theme.   The kids who had Godly parents are still walking with Jesus.  The kids who did not have Godly parents for the most part are living for themselves.

Give Students Big Bold Challenges

I find that this generation is under challenged.  Challenge them with changing the world with the gospel and giving their lives for the gospel.  This is a radical generation that wants something real and is willing to give their lives’ for it.  When you give them the challenge to change the world give them some practical ways to do it in their school and their neighborhoods.  If you expect little you will get little.  I believe that this generation is hungry to do something big.  Don’t sell them short with messages about having a positive self-image and recycling.  Tell them about tribes that have yet to hear the message of Jesus and are hell bound unless someone goes to tell them. Ask them to be the person who reaches them.

Teach Them The Bible

While most of this generation is hungry for something real they are also very emotional.  They have little Biblical and theological depth.  They need to learn the word of God.  It is the only thing that can truly change their lives and give them hope.  Don’t give them an hour-long worship service with smoke, lights, and a “killer band” with a 15-minute devotion.  Give them the word of God.  Teach them how to study the scripture on their own and help them learn how to apply it to their daily lives.  Take them through books of the Bible and show how the entire Bible points to the Gospel and to Jesus.

Don’t Be Afraid To Get Up In Their Business

As a youth leader you need to love the students and have a strong relationship with them.  You need to know them well enough where you can talk to them about issues in their lives they are having.  Remember what they tell you.  Ask them about their tests, games, relationships, etc.  You cannot do ministry from afar.  I was always “up in my students business.”  Sometimes they did not like how honest I was with them about everything from relationships to attitudes.  But, for the most part those students later appreciated my honesty.  Sometimes loving your kids will mean you have to tell them a harsh truth about themselves or their actions that they do not want to hear.  This will make you unpopular for the moment.  Which leads to my next point:

You Are Called To Be Their Pastor, Not Their BFF

Never forget you are there to help them grow as people and sometimes that will require being their leader and not their friend.  Many youth pastors and leaders make the mistake of giving the youth the impression that they are best friends to the students. Student ministry is not about being a cool older guy that teaches teenagers.  (This is actually quite pathetic if you think about it.  It is like the 30 year old that is still trying to live out his youth at high school field parties.)  Your relationship to students needs to be closer to a parent/child than friend/friend.  You are there to guide them and not just be a shoulder to cry on.  If they do not respect you as a leader they will not listen to what you have to tell them.

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Whether Hillary Or Donald, I Am Not Moving To Canada

Canada is cold and they talk funny…eh.

As the election year has drawn on and seems to never end most of the American public is growing very weary. This has proved to be an election of the lesser of two evils. I don’t think either party is particularly proud of their candidate. But here we are with the choice between a colonoscopy and a root canal.

Elections matter but in God’s great cosmic plan they don’t matter as much as most people think.

I vote to end abortion. I vote because I love the foundation of the country in which I was raised.   But this election has been clearer than any election to show Christian people in America that our hope is not in our country and our hope is certainly not in our politicians.

The worst thing that has come out of this election is not the scandals that plague the Clinton camp or the indiscretions of a billionaire.   I don’t think that any of the scandals that have come out have truly surprised anyone. I think both sides manufacture surprise in order to hate their opponent and get more votes. No, I think the worst thing that has come out (or perhaps the best thing that has come out) is a revelation of the soul of the Evangelical church in America.

I have felt very let down by some of my faith heroes. I have seen many men that I have looked up to and read their books quickly throw their support behind a man that embodies much of the “Spirit of the World.” I understand that we are not electing a pastor or a Sunday School teacher, but it is the hypocrisy that has hurt the most. For years the church has claimed that morality matters. We have stood against immorality.   It seems that so many leaders had already jumped on the Trump train that they are now riding it over the cliff. To be real honest I despise what Hillary Clinton stands for. She promotes evil at its very core. For a candidate to say in a debate that she will appoint Supreme Court Justices that will uphold abortion and the marriage of same sex couples is troubling to me. To murder children and dismantle the foundation of home life will continue the moral decline our country is in.

While I may agree with more of Donald Trump’s policy positions I will not try to defend his indefensible behavior. He is full of himself and is a man that, no matter how you cut it, has a problem with how he treats women. They seem to be more like property to him than people. Women are just another commodity that he can buy and sell.

So what? What are Christian to do?

I would not tell you who to vote for. I hope you pray through that and God leads you to the right decision.   I think there are some lessons God’s church must learn from this election.

It Is Not In Likeness With Christ To Desire To See That Other Side Suffer — I have seen so much hatred come out of Christian people over this election.   People want Hillary to “get what she deserves” or they want Donald to be “taken out.”   These attitudes are nowhere to be found in the words of Christ.   Jesus taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Romans 12 tells us to bless and do not curse those who persecute you.   The Bible also tells us not to repay evil with evil but evil with good.   We never win over opposition by continuing to shout back at people that disagree with us. American Christians seem to be looking for a fight. They want someone to lose.   Jesus told us that we are to lay down our lives for others. That was the model He chose. He changed the world not by the sword but by His death.

You Can Disagree With Someone And Still Be Their Friend — So many people get hatred in their heart for others when they find out they are supporting a candidate that is different than their own.   It’s OK.   You can disagree with people and not get mad. So you don’t understand how someone can have a view different than your own. You can still be kind to them. There is never a good reason for a Christian to be unkind.

The Sun Will Rise The Morning After — It may make you sick to have to say President _____________________ is now in office.   I can pretty much assure you that the sun will still rise. Your spouse will still love you. Your children will still need you. Just because the Country may be going to hell does not mean that you have to.   If the good Ole USA gets further away from Jesus as a Nation it doesn’t require you to get further away from Him as a person. In fact, I would argue just the opposite.   When we are squeezed what is in us comes out. If we are Christ followers the aroma of Christ will come out as times get harder and the culture in general goes farther away from the teachings of Jesus. It may be harder to be a Christian but throughout history the church has always grown and flourished in times of persecution.   So the day after the election I recommend you get up, read your bible, pray, kiss your spouse, hug your babies and love your neighbor. No matter what happens on the outside, NO ONE can change Christ in you.

When Something Is Evil Call It Evil — What a depressing day when Christians try to defend that which God will not defend.   Better yet, when we try to defend that which God calls us to speak out against. Objectifying and groping women is wrong.   Lying and committing treason is wrong.   Killing babies is wrong.   Just say it and don’t try to act like because your candidate did it that somehow makes it ok.

When a new day was coming in Israel God told Joshua to not be afraid. He was not to be afraid because God was with him. In Psalm 56:11 the Psalmist says, “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self control.”

Christian you need not fear the future because this election is in the hands of God.   He is the one that allows politicians to rise and fall.  He did not put the USA in His Bible. There will be a time our nation will fall. I hope it is not soon, but I trust the Lord that as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. We may lose everything but no one can take the greatest treasure, because He is in us.

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Feel The Beat Of The Rhythm Of The…Family

A few times a year our church dedicates babies to the Lord and as a pastor at our church this gives me the opportunity to meet with every family one on one to talk about their spiritual lives.   One question I ask is, “What is the biggest obstacle to the spiritual growth of your marriage and family?” I have found that in almost every young family the answer is the same.   It’s not infidelity. It’s not abuse. It’s not anger issues.

The biggest struggle most young families have is being too busy!

Almost every young mom and dad are really struggling to balance their work life and their home life. They want to be a good spouse and good parent but they feel like they are pulled in every direction.   They are doing so much and yet they feel like they are failing at everything.

I can sure relate to this struggle. Juggling a marriage, busy career, and 4 small children is no easy task. My wife and I both feel overwhelmed on a daily basis.

“How can a family that is struggling to survive raise children that thrive spiritually and emotionally?”

I am not claiming that I have figured this out. I am still in the process of raising young children and identify with the struggle.   I want to offer some insight that I have found to be helpful.

Your life needs a rhythm.

Your family needs a rhythm.

Rhythm in music is beats in a pattern.   Rhythm in your home is life in a pattern.

Perhaps one of the greatest scriptures on parenting is in Deuteronomy

6:5 “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

I love this scripture because it gives the repetitive nature of family life.   The author says we are to repeat it again and again.

It is in the repetition of parenting that we shape our children. It is in these daily and weekly life rhythms that the character of our children is being formed.

Even our best days as parents are filled with guilt and shame. We feel like we should have been more patient, kind, helpful, caring, understanding, calm…and the list goes on.   The guilt can eat at our souls and if we let it, can undermine our future parenting.

I want to encourage you as in Deuteronomy 6 to build family rhythms into your home. Make the mundane of your daily life a weekly song that your children learn to thrive in.

I fail daily but here are a few rhythms in our home.

Daily Car Ride To School – It would be easier for me to put them on the bus. It would cause me less stress in the mornings but I choose to wait in carline and drop them off.   Why? Well a few reasons. 1) I rode the bus to school and was informed about sex at age 7 by a much older boy (It was misinformation). I want to keep my children from these type experiences.   2) I don’t get much time with them each day. This gives me focused time that they are in close proximity.   3) Every day we quote scripture and pray for one another as they leave the car. We also listen to loud music and dance. Sometimes we cry as well (because someone is pulling hair, touch someone else, forgot their homework, etc…)

Taco Tuesday – Tuesdays can be mundane.   Tacos fix that!   I think this is more for me than the kids

Wednesday Night Is Church Night – Our kids know that every Wednesday they will go to church. They love it and can’t wait to go

Homework And Rooms Clean Before We Play Outside – Every weekday (except Friday) my children know that before they can play outside or do anything fun they have to do their homework and clean their rooms. This is a clear rule and helps them know that play is important but it comes after work.

Dinner As A Family 3-4 Times A Week – I love dinner table time. We always ask our kids questions that force them to answer with more than one word. We also try to ask questions that help them see how good God was to them that day.

Fun Friday – I think Friday is their favorite day. If they get good marks in school for behavior all week then when we pick them up from school they get to go to the Dollar Tree and pick out ANY one thing they want. It costs us a whopping $4 a week but the kids can’t wait for this trip. We also usually eat something unhealthy and watch a family movie on Fridays.

Worship On Sunday – Since I work as a pastor at a church my kids spend a lot of time at the church building.   We are always excited to go to church and the kids love Sunday’s

Bedtime Prayers – Every night we tuck the kids in and pray with them. This might be the most important time of the day. My older girls will refuse to go to bed until I pray with them. No matter how tired I am, this happens every night

Family Walks – I need exercise and the kids need to be outside.   My three older kids are now all riding their bikes so this provides a great opportunity to be in nature and talk with the kids.

Individual Time – If you have more than one child you must build into your family rhythms one on one time.   I let one child every week sit in my office with me for a couple of hours. I would think this is boring as I require them to be quiet. I let them play a game on my ipad and they just love coming to the church office and hanging with dad.   It doesn’t hurt that we always have some leftover goodies from a church event in the office.

I don’t know what beats your family plays but I do know it is the rhythms of family life that will shape your children. I encourage you to make a beautiful song.img_5595

On Being Blessed

I love it when people bless me!

I love it when the person in front of me in line pays for my coffee. I love it when the waitress comes to our table when it is time to pay the bill and says that someone already took care of our bill. I love it when someone tells me they appreciated something I said or wrote. Whether it is in word, action, or thought, it is so encouraging to be blessed.

Truth is we all enjoy being blessed. We all want something good to happen to us. We want to be encouraged, thought about, praised and respected. We want a smile to come across our faces and a warm and fuzzy feeling to be in our hearts.

Today, I want to tell you a way you can find a great blessing from a place you may never look.   The blessing I am talking about is the blessing of meeting someone with special needs. If you do not have a family member or friend with special needs then you probably feel really uncomfortable when you see someone that is handicapped or has an obvious external difference than you. Maybe you see someone with Down syndrome and you really don’t know how to act or respond so you just look away.   We are all naturally fearful of the unknown.   But, I WANT YOU TO BE BLESSED!.   I want to challenge you to push past your natural discomfort and feelings of anxiety and go and talk to the person with special needs.

Last week at lunch I met a man with Down syndrome as my family was waiting in line for our food. Here is what happened:

“At lunch today, after church, I met a man named Matt. Matt was so friendly. He complemented my family. He had a great big smile and he asked me if my Daughter, Joy, had Down Syndrome. He was so excited to meet Joy. I invited Matt to sit at the table with my family and eat his lunch with us. Matt has a niece that is Joy’s age that he dearly loves. He has written a book, volunteers at the Public Library and worked for 11 years at Kroger. Matt recently lost 70 pounds and is planning on hiking the Appalachian Trial. His joy and passion for life were contagious. I hope to meet with him again.

Matt happened to have Down syndrome as well. He is 41 years old. I was once again reminded what a gift God has given this world by making some people a little different.”

I have been thinking about this encounter all week. My natural response was to just say hello to Matt and be on my merry way.   I took a little extra step and tried to get to know Matt and it changed my day.

I posted about my encounter with Matt on Facebook and it encouraged one of my friends to have a conversation with someone in her town that has Down syndrome.

Here is what she said, “It was great to read about Matt.  I, too, met someone with Down syndrome.  My husband and I were at Pizza Hunt and I saw a friend and his daughter Grace across the dining room. Grace has Down syndrome.  When I finished lunch I went over to speak to them.  I, as many others, hesitated to go over, thinking what would I say or even how would I react to Grace.  Boy, was I in for a surprise.  Grace was so open, so sweet, so out going, so well adjusted.  I had seen her picture in the paper sometime back where she was chosen homecoming queen at her school.  I started the conversation and one thing led to another.  I think we could have visited all afternoon.  She was excited about cheerleading this year.  She is going to be on the varsity team.  Grace loves her daddy very much and her daddy certainly returns that love. She said she was a “hugger” and loved hugs from her daddy.  As they were checking out, Grace came over to our table and gave me a hug and told me good-bye.  If only we all could be as happy and loving as Grace is.”

People with special needs are extraordinary people! Most of them have faced and overcome challenges that “typical” people will never face.   They are full of life and have the spirit of over-comers.   They don’t quit and most people I meet with special needs have great attitudes and outlooks on life.

You could be so blessed today if you would take the time to get to know the person with special needs. Don’t look away; instead make eye contact and smile. If you think it’s appropriate go and meet the precious soul that God put in your path. Just walk across the room.

People with special needs want what all of us want. They want genuine friendships. They want to be loved and accepted for who they are. They want to make a difference in the lives of others.

Want to be blessed today?

IMG_4588Take the challenge to get to know someone with special abilities today!

“Is She A Down Syndrome?”

Recently, my wife and I packed up the family for an afternoon of hiking and exploring in Helen, Ga. We could not have asked for a better day. The kids loved the hike, the weather was perfect and memories were made.   After our hike we had dinner in Helen and we walked around the quaint little mountain tourist town.

My children are Ty (8), Karis (5), Katie (5), and Joy (22 months).   Joy has Down Syndrome(DS).   To be real honest this last detail about Joy is mostly irrelevant in our family.

To us she is just Joy.

She is a great blessing to all of us and rarely does her genetic condition affect us. This is so true that most of the time I forget she even has DS.

On our trip I had forgotten…

I walked with my older children, held my wife’s hand, and pushed little Joy in her stroller.   As we ate ice cream and waited to get our balloon animals, a well meaning young lady looks at Joy and smiles and says to Charyl, “Aw, Is she a Down Syndrome?’’

It doesn’t take long to come back to the stinging reality that our little girl is different and when other people see her they notice Down syndrome and not Joy.

As we walked back to the car that afternoon I had some big old crocodile tears well up in my eyes. As a parent nothing hurts more than when you feel like others do not see the value in your children in the same way you do.

While the conversation was innocent and the young lady was kind, I could not help but feel pierced in the heart by her words, “Is she a Down syndrome?” To a person who does not have a child with special needs this question may seem completely innocent and appropriate but somewhere in the last 22 months I have become one of those overly sensitive parents. Please forgive me. This is not like me.   I am not a particularly emotional or sensitive man.   I rarely cry, in fact I see this as a flaw in my character that I do not feel things as deeply as others, but I have become very sensitive about Joy.   I almost cry as I type this…because I can’t help but desire for people to see Joy as I see Joy. I want them to see HER and not her “Syndrome.” I want others to value her as I value her!

So, NO! She is not “A Down Syndrome.”

She is JOY!

She is made and crafted in the image of God.

She is valuable.

She is beautiful.

She loves to follow her sisters.

She loves to give hugs.

She has a smile that lights up the world.

She has siblings that can’t wait to get home from school to play with her.

She claps and cheers for everyone.

She wakes up happy.

She likes to help her daddy cook.

She is very opinioned and will not eat her carrots no matter how you try to sneak them in.

She is resilient.

She brings hope.

She is her mama’s heart!

She is her daddy’s heart!

Every life God creates carries the stamp of divinity. If we will take the time to get to know people we will be shocked by the beauty we can find in each soul.

I did not ask for, nor did a want to have a child with Down syndrome.   It will always hurt my soul that Joy will struggle with simple things that typical children take for granted.

In spite of my desires God knew better than I did.

I am so thankful that God knows what is best for me when I don’t know how to ask. I am so thankful He brought JOY into my home.

God’ s greatest gifts are often disguised as presents we think we don’t want or don’t need.

When you see a family that has a child with special needs, if you desire to interact with them, ask the person’s name.   Every person is more than their disability.   Say an encouraging word. The family probably needs to hear it.   Find something good you see in the person with disabilities and complement their ability.   It may be as simple as saying, “You have a beautiful smile.” It may mean the world to that family. Be kind and considerate.

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