All Aboard The Crazy Train! An Update And Some Random Thoughts

May 21, 2013 at 12:37 am

securedownloadMy wife Kristi and I have been foster parents for almost one year now. Trust me, I know how crazy this is to most people. We already had four biological boys of our own. But we didn’t feel like our family was done, even though it was done biologically (trust me, I had the surgery). So, last July we began praying for a bigger van. We simply outgrew the normal minivan. A minivan could no longer hold our love.

Last week, we picked up our new 12 passenger van. And just in time, too.

I can’t give a lot of details, but our world has became a lot more chaotic. In fact, it’s a beautiful madhouse. Late last week, we received a call asking if we could take three more foster kids. We said yes. So, we went from 5 kids (our 4 sons and Baby G, who we’ve fostered for almost a year now) to 8 kids in our home. It helps that the other kids are Baby G’s biological siblings, but It doesn’t help as much when 8 kids are fighting, fussing, whining, pottying (on a potty or in diapers) or falling asleep at the most inopportune of times.

We never set out to become a big family. But then again, we never opposed being a big family. That much should be obvious with four biological sons of our own. But there’s something unexplainable about foster parenting. Someone recently told us that as you begin to love the kids God places with you, your heart expands to love each additional child for the season they are with you. That is very true. But it’s hard. In fact, sometimes it sucks. Our house is loud. It can get messy and lots of things break. We sweep/mop/vacuum/wash dishes/load laundry/fold laundry/put away laundry/wipe privates, change diapers, wipe mouths, tables and floors, etc., multiple times a day. Every day. And, in addition to the normal household chores that any children bring with them, foster children often bring problems of their own with them (though the problems are most often not their fault) and these kids are no exception. But then again, biological children are not always a walk in the park either. This type of life requires sacrifice.

But then again, it always takes sacrifice to love others, doesn’t it? And this has led me to lots of thought and prayer lately.

I am passionate about foster care and adoption. We have four biological children of our own and then decided our family wasn’t complete. But I know people that aren’t called by God to be foster parents. And that’s OK. I am under no illusion that you are called to be a foster parent, especially of multiple children. And I’m OK with that.

Just don’t tell me how crazy I am for opening my home. I already know that. I can’t even go to Target without getting stares and comments. Even in the heart of Suburbia, large families are not the norm. I understand that you may not be called to open up your home. But I have to ask: how has God called you to sacrifice? Even though I may not know personally, I can guarantee you that God has called us to more than a comfortable American life where we put our church sticker on our car and call it good.

How has God called you to sacrifice? How has God called you to embrace and enter the suffering of the world He loved enough to send Himself/His Son to die for? Just like I believe that ”Not Every Local Church Is For Every Person,” I believe that not every Christian is called to sacrifice in the same way. But all Christians are called to sacrifice. Something.

This may seem self-evident to you, but the way Christians treat one another says to me that we don’t believe this. I am weary of Christians believing that because we’re not all called to sacrifice in the same that we’re not all loved by our Father in the same way. While most of us would never be so blunt as to word it that way, this is exactly how we treat one another. The ones who passionately sacrifice on behalf of those caught in sex trafficking/slavery sometimes look down on those who aren’t called to serve in the same way. The people giving their lives to the homeless want others to share that passion. Those fighting abortion passionately ask “Where. Is. The. Church?” Those, like me, who open up their homes for kids with no home wish that more Christians would do the same.

But instead of celebrating and encouraging and equipping the beautifully different ways Christians can and do impact our culture, we cast dispersions at those who aren’t called to serve like us.

Now, I’m going to be brutally honest; if you claim to follow Jesus and you’re not living sacrificially in some way, I urge you to repent. I’m not sure you can truly belong to God’s family and live for yourself. However, that’s really not the group I’ve been thinking/praying about.

I am far too quick to dismiss those who are not like me. But at the same time, I tire of people that are just like me. After all, “variety is the spice of life,” right? What kind of world would it be if we all liked the same music or movies or food? I am deeply concerned that we are creating non-necessary dividing lines within the big freak-show tent of Christianity. I am far too quick to think that if you’re not called to serve in the same way that I am, then you’re not called by God at all. And that’s just nonsense. We don’t all like the same music. And that’s awesome. We don’t all like the same movies and I thank God that I’ve never had to sit through Titanic or Avatar (the 3D thing, not the animated series) even though I can appreciate that those may be your thing.

Why do we all take for granted that our passion (trafficking, abortion, homelessness, poverty in all its forms, health, water, children, hospitals, literacy, etc., etc., etc., etc.,) is the only passion? If that were the case, we might make a large dent in one issue without making any dent in others and making little to no impact on the big picture. Why are we so quick to elevate our own passions while diminishing others (hint, I think it’s because, even in serving, we are arrogant)?

This whole journey has reminded me that God’s people are nothing more than a beautiful circus of crazies and freaks. Instead of judging one another for not serving in the same way, why aren’t we one another’s best cheerleaders? Instead of looking down on each other for not serving in the same way, why aren’t we reaching back to grab the hands of those who aren’t yet serving at all? Instead of believing that our focus is pitch-perfect, why aren’t we all listening to the beautiful symphony of God’s will to reconcile all things to Himself through the Son while we try to find our part in the orchestra?

If the world will know that we belong to Jesus because of our love for one another (John 13:35), I wonder what our false judgment of one another tells those who are paying any attention?

The Gospel Love of Foster Parenting

March 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm

In order remain licensed as foster parents, Kristi and I not only had to go through the intrusive and long application process, we have to do continuing hours of training every year. So, not only do we open up our homes, our lives and our hearts to children in need, we have to continue to jump through hoops to have the privilege of doing so. But I digress.

This past Saturday, we attended a 6-hour training. As might be expected, some parts were more helpful than others. But the thing I most clearly came away with from the day of training wasn’t part of the training at all. Instead, it came from thinking about the fact that, in many ways, foster parents have to beg to open up their lives and how much that is an embodiment of the Gospel. I kept thinking of 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, where Paul commends the Macedonians who begged for the chance to serve:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, [2] for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. [3] For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, [4] begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—[5] and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

I had to spend six hours of my Saturday in order to keep a baby we love. The Macedonians begged in order to give more money than they could afford (don’t show these verses to the Financial Planners in your church family)! What compelled them? Paul tells us in verse 9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Grace. Grace compelled the Macedonians to go to great lengths to seek opportunities to give and serve. Yes, Foster Parents have to earn the right to give of ourselves, but why would I complain about jumping through some hoops when grace reminds me that Jesus “for the joy that was set before Him” gave everything. He became poor so that we might become rich. How could the Macedonians not give exuberantly? How could we not joyfully pursue the opportunity to serve?

During one of the sessions, the teacher made a remark to the effect that foster parents don’t have the option of not opening their hearts to these foster children. These are kids who need love, stability and consistency and love. You have to love them knowing that they can’t give anything in return. You may have them long enough that they learn to love you in return. But you may not. Not only can these children not repay you, they may bring troubles and headaches, visitations, appointments, health issues, family issues, legal issues with them. Some of these kids may even resent you for trying to love them and let you know it. But they need love whether or not you want to give it. They need it more than you need to keep it.

What a beautiful picture of the love God has for His children. We take Him for granted. We rely on ourselves when things go smoothly and call out to Him when we need help. We complain when He doesn’t do things the way we think He should. We resent Him when He disciplines us. And yet He relentlessly loves His children. He pursues us when we want to run. He stands by the road, looking over the horizon for our return, running out to meet us when we’ve spit in His face.

Foster parenting is hard. It requires sacrificial love. But it has reminded me of the beauty of a Savior who has led the way of sacrificial love, taking on death so that we may live. How could we also not strive to serve?

Learning From Baby G

January 23, 2013 at 11:40 am

My wife and I are foster parents. Yes, we have four biological sons of our own. Yes, we are probably crazy. We’ve had Baby G. since he was two days old (we can’t even foster a girl!). He’s our third placement since becoming foster parents and we’ve had him just over six months. Up until very recently, we had been told by many people within the system that we would be able to adopt him. Then a family member showed up asking for custody (you can read about some initial reactions to that news here). I get it: we signed up for foster-care and we knew that we might lose him, but it’s been difficult. Baby G has become part of our family.

It’s been an interesting process. I can honestly say that Kristi and I have a peace about the situation. It will suck if we lost him, but God is Good, Right and Perfect, and we can trust Him. The possibility of losing Baby G (we still don’t know what will happen) has prompted some soul-searching and initiated some serious questions about my family and particularly my role as a Daddy.

If you’ve seen Baby G’s smile, you know how precious it is. If you’ve heard his laugh, you know it can melt hearts. We’ve come to the conclusion that, even if we do lose Baby G, our “job” right now is to love the snot out of him, make sure his needs are more than met and enjoy him. And that’s the way it should be. That’s the way it should be with my other kids. But it took the possibility of losing our foster son to realize how easily I take my biological family for granted.

I have been reminded to ask: “What is my life?” because “I am a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). I have learned again to know that, even though I should get on them more about bedtime, to enjoy the sound of their chatter. I have been reminded that it’s a small thing to live with the clutter of five awesome boys. I have been reminded that my boys are more important than my possessions. I have learned to love them for who they are instead of being frustrated that they’re not who I want them to be. It’s OK when they’re loud. I have been taught again to eat, drink and be merry, because life is good. Sometimes loss is part of loving. It’s not easy but it doesn’t excuse us from loving.

Jesus has a special place for children and so should we. Not just the dry obligation of “doing what’s right” to care for children but to actually enjoy them because they won’t be children for long. Baby G has reminded me that the heart is truly more important than behavior. True, behaviors flow from the heart but I worry too much that too many parents focus on the behaviors rather than the heart. And I can’t focus on my family’s hearts without first focusing on my own. My relationship with God will determine what kind of Daddy I am.

Thank you, Baby G for teaching me.

“Maybe God Has Something Better Planned For You”

January 15, 2013 at 8:39 am

As many of you know, we are a foster family. That is to say, Kristi and I are licensed foster parents. We are currently loving our third foster child, whom we will call “Baby G.” (I have written about some of our foster experiences here and here).

We had our first two placements each for five days. That was quite the “introduction by fire” way of getting into foster parenting because five days is just long enough to begin getting attached but not long enough to really understand to whom you are getting attached. After a short break, we received our third placement, a 2-day old baby boy. We have now had Baby G. for six months. That’s quite enough time to understand to whom are getting attached and we have fallen for this little boy. He is truly a joy for our family and everyone who meets him.

I can’t share all of the details, but let’s just say that a relative recently came forward saying that they want to adopt Baby G. Up until last week, we had been assured by several people in the system that we would be able to pursue adopting Baby G. When we began to hear this from several voices, we really let our guard down and welcomed Baby G into our family. Our biological sons adore him. Neighbors ask if he can come visit. Teachers at the school ask about him when we don’t bring him with us to pick-up or drop-off. People in our church family stand in line to hold him. We have endured hospital visits with him. And now he might be leaving. I’m not going to lie: we’ve shed some tears.

It’s in the midst of tears that we’re often the most attentive. This can work itself out in a number of ways. For me, during this current situation, it’s resulted in frustration with Christians. I remember, a very long time ago, I found out that a girlfriend had dumped me and a close friend of mine nonchalantly told me: “God works in mysterious ways.” Of course he was right, but it wasn’t helpful. In fact, it was patronizing and aggravating. And somehow, this seems to be the drawer into which so much well-intentioned “Christian” advice is filed: “theologically correct but not helpful in the moment.”

One of the phrases that I have heard during our current test goes something like: “God probably has something better for you in all of this.” I understand the intent: “sometimes, we want what is not actually best for us.” But, the way it is often communicated, it actually comes across more as something like: “You think Baby G. is a good baby and that you’ve bonded with him and you want to raise him, but wait until you meet the next baby, he/she will be SO much better than you ever could have hoped for!”

Notice that there has been a subtle shift between those two statements. It is indeed true that “sometimes, we want what is not actually best for us.” But I don’t think this necessarily means that God will astound our earthly expectations with something newer, bigger, better and with a superior warranty. When we think of our own misconstrued expectations in this light, it helps explain why wer’e so often disappointed or even angry with God; I expected my life to be materially better and it sure doesn’t seem to be. Could it be that our expectations are misplaced?

God does not promise to make us more comfortable for our time here on earth. Perhaps God sometimes removes the earthly things we treasure, not because He wants us to look for a “better” earthly replacement but so that we would find our deepest satisfaction in Him; that we would love the Giver more than the gifts. Maybe that “something better” that God has planned for us is actually Him? You know the saying: you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone. But what if what we’ve really got is never gone? What if it takes the removal of things that get in the way for us to fully realize what we’ve had all along?

This is not to say that Baby G. has been a hindrance in our lives or that we have any such notion that he “gets in the way.” However, my relationship with him should prompt me to wrestle with the question: what if he does go? If he does, will we withdraw from fostering because we allowed ourselves to get too attached to this precious baby? Will we keep on pursuing the “foster path” and continue to offer the best home  we can to the children that God brings us? He is an absolute blessing. But what if my stress over him causes me to question my trust of God: God wouldn’t take him because we’re the best home for him (but who am I really to say that!). In that moment, I love the gift more than the giver. If something God has given me distracts from my love/affection/obedience, to Him,  it is no longer a “gift,” it is an idol

I do believe that what we want is not always best for us. Just think about when our children ask for candy for every meal. I also believe that God has better things planned for us than we do. I just worry that our expectation of “better” is not God’s. God is the good, better and best. God will not tempt us, but He will test us. His ways are better. He is the supreme fountain of love, security, identity, satisfaction and joy. He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. When God orchestrates our circumstances to bring us closer to Him, do we really believe that He has given us the best?

Praying For A Bigger Van (And Some Initial Thoughts On Becoming Foster Parents)

July 5, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Kristi and I would like to ask that you please pray with/for us. Last Friday morning we were officially licensed to be foster parents. By Friday afternoon we had our first placement, a beautiful baby girl who went back to be with her Mom on Tuesday. But we’ve also had to say no a couple of times, primarily to sibling groups. We are licensed to take up to two children at a time but our minivan means that we can only take one child at a time. We have room in our home for two more kids but we’d have to drive separately everywhere, which is not the end of the world by any means, just very inconvenient as a family.

So, we’ve started praying for a bigger van and we’d like to ask you to pray with and for us. Or, if you have a van that seats more than a minivan (but not necessarily as big as the 15 passenger vans) that you would like to give us, we’d gladly put it to good use. Let me be clear; we don’t ask that because we want something new or we just want a change. We don’t. This is not a want for ourselves but a desire to serve more in the very specific way of opening our home and family to children in need.

In the meantime, while you’re praying with and for us (or donating a van), I wanted to share a couple of things that we’ve learned so far in our foster-care journey:

True service requires sacrifice. As a Christian and as a pastor, this is something I think a lot about. We Christians like to talk a lot about sharing each other’s burdens, as we should (after all, it’s in Scripture!) until it actually becomes a burden. But Jesus said that His people should serve “the least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46) and that “pure and undefiled religion” means caring for widows and orphans (James 1:29).

This is more than dropping off supplies at a homeless shelter or packing boxes to ship overseas (though we still desperately need to do these things so let’s keep doing them). God actually entered our suffering to bring reconciliation and calls His people to be His hands and feet in the midst of this troubled world, to serve rather than be served just as He has shown us in Jesus (Mark 10:45), to consider others before (and more significantly) than ourselves just as He has shown us in Jesus (Philippians 2:1-11).

Let’s be honest: sometimes this sucks. It is hard. You will get emotionally involved and attached (in our case to a baby who left but in other circumstances, to someone who may leave or betray you). You will have to give up your own comforts and conveniences. Your stuff may get broken or even stolen. But what better opportunity to ask where our treasure lies (Matthew 6:19-24) and if we’re really willing to deny self to follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24).

When I think about how much Jesus sacrificed in order that we might be reconciled to God, I can’t imagine continuing to live for myself, my success or my comfort. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

Serving others empties us of self-reliance because, frankly, there are times when we realize we can’t (nor were we meant t0) do it on our own. Serving others reminds us of how much Jesus has lead the way by being the True and Better Servant, giving up His life; taking on death so that we might live.

Knowing what you signed up for doesn’t necessarily make things easier. Having said all of that about service and sacrifice (all of which I fully believe, by the way), doesn’t make it any easier. Our Church of the Cross family where I serve does not have official church “membership.” Instead, our Missional Communities write covenants together which they sign and hold one another accountable to. One of the items they covenant together about is how they will serve (one another and together). We try to instill this idea from the moment someone is interested in getting plugged in to a missional community. In our “basics” MC, our introduction to life together as Church of the Cross, we try to scare people away a bit. We try to discourage people from church hopping and we tell them that we are going to unapologetically ask them to serve and learn to radically reorient their lives around the Gospel.

But this doesn’t make things easier when that call to sacrifice actually comes; when CPS calls and says the baby has to go back. Sharing burdens means actually taking someone else’s burden upon yourself. It means discomfort and sacrifice. If we want to establish cultures of service, then we need to not only be honest about how hard it can be, but commit to sharing those burdens, because knowing what you signed up for doesn’t make it any easier.

Leaders should lead by doing. I sometimes find myself at “pastors” events. I try to avoid these things as much as possible, but there have been a couple lately where I’ve been struck by the same thought: leaders need to lead by doing. I won’t go in to specifics because I don’t want to diminish other churches programs which were birthed out of good hearts. But, I’ve heard leaders recently urge people to do things they themselves don’t do. Now, I understand this might happen. I have not been called to every ministry and there might be times when, to equip people in my church family, I have to learn about or encourage someone in something I’m not personally doing. That’s fine. I get it.

But I want our leaders to serve by example. I want our joys and sorrows to be in front of and with people. I don’t want there to ever be the question about me or any of our leaders: “Yeah, but what are they actually doing?” We must guard against doing things for the applause of men for then, we will have our reward (Matthew 6). And yet, at the same time, Christian leaders should be able to urge people to follow our examples as we follow the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Thank you for praying with us on this journey.

Wait No More

November 17, 2011 at 9:49 am

I had the privilege this morning of attending a breakfast sponsored by No Child Waiting and Focus on the Family to help promote an upcoming one-day event to help place children from the foster system into Christian families. The event will be Saturday, February 11 at Scottsdale Bible Church from 1:00pm-5::00pm. Please consider being there and helping spread the word:

 


Arizona Wait No More Promo Video from Focus on the Family on Vimeo.

Together For Adoption (5): Dan Cruver

October 21, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Dan Cruver closed out the day’s session from Psalm 36.

When we get caught up in the everyday trappings of life, it often doesn’t feel like the Gospel applies to the world in which we live. Yet, God’s Story is “the real world.”

If we ask what God really wants from us, several verses might come to mind: Micah 6:8, Psalm 82:3, James 1:26-27. The Christian life should make a tangible difference in the lives of “the least of these.” We are called to bear witness to God’s image throughout all of life, reflecting His character, not only in our words but in deeds.

Our view of God drastically affects the way we live this out. We must learn to understand God primarily as a Giver. If we view God as wanting (anything) from us, we will not live, love and serve out of humble, joyful gratitude but out of fear and obligation. When we experience God as Giver, we are better equipped to serve those around us, including orphans.

The Fall changes the way we view God. The idols we create are always needy and wanting. We begin to view God this way as well, beginning to believe, somehow that God is just a taker. Our lives; our obedience become burdensome. It is only when we are washed afresh in grace that our obedience becomes worshipful.God created us to share in His love and delights.

When we doubt God as The Giver, we can look nowhere more powerful than the Cross where God gave Himself. God is the Supreme Giver and He has given us Jesus. Viewing God as the Giver reminds us of our emptiness and dependence. This then moves us to obedience, not out of obligation but joy.

No matter where you’re at in life, God is the Giver and it is in Him that we serve the orphan and widow.