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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Teaching Our Children Obedience

I honestly think that teaching obedience to our children, for the most part has become archaic and obsolete. I read this short article today and it prompted me to write a post about this topic. I tend to think that we have come to believe the child-centered political correct attitudes and beliefs that don't require obedience from children. It's a bad word. It might lead to oppression and quenching of natural inclinations and abilities. Then there is the naivete of parents. They think children come with a blank slate (Tabula rasa) and don't really understand or mean what they are doing and we should just ignore anything they do wrong. I find it amazing that even babies know how to get what they want through crying and can get parents to obey them. Then we also have children demanding parents and telling them what to do. I have seem them regularly. "We cannot expect children to stay still" is how we often excuse bad manners and behavior. The results are misbehaved, ill-mannered children running around in the stores (my children always look at them with the "I can't believe they are doing this!"), yelling and playing. Children talking and playing during church, standing on the pews messing around with the hymnals. Children with behavior problems in school and society. They are only reflecting our lack of teaching them proper behavior and expecting them to be well-mannered anywhere and everywhere. All of it is connected to obedience.

Then there are those that think good behavior (i.e. obedience) should be encouraged by rewards to motivate intrinsic behavior. It always bothered me when I saw this as a teacher. I just didn't buy this idea. How does it really transfer into real life like? Do we always get rewarded for doing what we have to or expected to do? Do we get rewarded for being in line? Do I get rewarded for going the speed limit? How about work? Yes, we get paid for our work but it comes with non-optional requirements (we have to obey and do what we are told). Obedience is expected for adults as well. We obey laws. When we don't, we pay a price (try not paying your taxes) and yet we fail to teach this to our children.

As Christians, our basic duty to God is obedience (see Romans 16:19, Philippians 2:12, Hebrews 5:9, John 14:15). It is our obedience to The Gospel that led us to belief in Christ (see Romans 1:5, John 3:36, Acts 5:32, 6:7) and keep us in the God's path of righteousness (see Romans 6:16, 1 Peter 1:22).  Even our Lord Jesus learned obedience (Romans 5:19, Hebrews 5:8).

Here are some things I teach my children about obedience:

1. They are commanded to obey us (Ephesians 6:1) as we are also commanded to raise them in the ways of The Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

2. We are all called to obey God first and when someone tell us to do something contrary to what God has commanded us, we politely refuse. (I actually do say, "obey your teacher," to my children.) See Acts 5:29.

3. Obedience means doing what you are told the first time.

4. Disobedience will always bring consequences some in the form of discipline.

5. We will always be consistent in our expectations for obedience and in discipline.

children photo: Vintage children vc318.gif

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Adoption: An Answer to Prayer

Here is Mylee who would be 10 yrs. old
"Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." - Psalm 127:3

 Ever since my wife and I got married 22 years ago we were interested in adoption. God in His sovereign will allowed us to only have two children who are both adults now. We always wanted to have more and we tried many times but once again we were not granted this. We tried adopting in the year 2003 through a Christian agency but we had to do foster first. We took a little girl named Mylee who was four months old. Almost four months later, she was returned to family members. We were sad and discouraged. 

Here is part of what I wrote December 2003:
16th: "It's hard to conceive that after almost four months, this will be her last night with us. We have gotten used to her. We have seen her grow in this last four months. When she came to us that Friday she was so quiet, skinny and hardly did anything. Now she is talking much more and is crawling all over. How are we going to cope with this? I am going to miss her in the morning we I left for work. I always looked at her and touched her. When I got home from work, I was always anxious to see her and play with her. I am going to miss her looking at me with her big dark eyes in the morning when she would awake. And her smile. I am going to miss her waking me up in the middle of the nigh. I am going to miss her breathing when she was sleeping. I will miss her smell."

And on the 18th I wrote: "This morning I missed seeing her in the crib. Everything was so different. Twice or more I touched her little shoes while driving trying to feel her again. I wondered how her first night away from us went. It was hard"

It was very hard. We kept a few mementos, one was a shoe which still hangs in my car.

As time passed it looked less likely that we would attempt to adopt. Private agencies charged too much and we didn't have the funds. Around 2009 we thought of trying just one more time through our local agency. We went through parenting classes and became licensed in 2009.

On October 6, 2009 I wrote "I have played the movie about our adopted child, what it will be like, over and over. I pray for her wherever she may be, whether she is born or not. Her home awaits her. It is open with love waiting to embrace her. I only ask this to God. I want a daughter, another one, this is my greatest prayer."

Now I can say she wasn't born yet.

In January 2010 I wrote about my desire to adopt: "We will also start the process of adopting through our local agency. An adoption could happen this year but only God knows."

At this time, to increase the likelihood of adoption we decided to change our desire to adopt one child under 3 to a sibling set provided the youngest was a girl and the oldest wasn't too old.
Time passed and our hope started to dwindle. I prayed a lot for a little girl but no answer came. Our youngest son left for college in August 2010 and so we began a new life the two of us. By the beginning of 2012, I was ready to give up any hope of adoption.

In April of 2012, my wife and I went to Europe to visit our son. On the 7th we read an email we received that week regarding two children with possibility to adopt. One was a girl 2 years old and the other one an 8 year old boy. We couldn't believe it. We talked about it and decided to see the possibilities when we got back home.

On April 19 we met with the social workers to discuss the children. We saw their pictures and got information about them. We had 24 hours to decide. It took less for us to decide. On the 21st we met them and on the 27th  they came to our home. 

Our little girl was quiet and spoke almost nothing. In fact, the social worker told us, she could hardly get her to say anything or smile. She was developmentally about a year behind. In less than a year, she was speaking fluently and met her developmental goals. Now she is a chatter box. She is a happy child. Every morning when she wakes up she asks, "May I have a hug and a kiss?" and I when I answer why, she tells me she is my daughter. She is the attention of everyone anywhere we go. She is charming, sociable and loves to eat just about anything. Not only this, but she has become a puzzle lover. Her recent puzzle has 1,000 pieces and she is almost done.

relaxing with Daddy
Our boy came to us very low academically. He was at first grade level when he was in second grade and could barely read. He had never read a chapter book in his life. He was put Special Education since first grade and was ostracized in the classroom with others. He couldn't focus and his behavior wasn't good either. After ending second grade, I worked with him all Summer long. By the start of third grade he was grade level and had read many chapter books. His behavior during second grade was better but not great. He finished at grade level and I was able to get him off special education. He has made incredible growth at the start of 4th grade. He loves to read and is reading at fifth grade level. His behavior is better but is on medication for ADD/ADHD. He is a kind boy who loves helping others and has a generous heart. He runs with me everyday and can run up to 4 miles. He also has a heart for God. So far he has read all of the Gospels, Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy and is reading Joshua (in the English Standard Version which adults use as well).  We know God has a plan for both of them. He will do great things in their lives to bring Him glory and blessings to others. Our role is to guide them along and be faithful to God.

Having them in our home, is an answer to prayer but we didn't know how difficult the process would
be. For a year and almost six months we have cared for them as our own and prayed for God's will to be done. We have been ready to keep them but also ready to let them go if God closed the door through the legal process. Our role was to pray and let God continue the process without us pushing our own will.  This was a very different attitude since our first adoption attempt. We realized these children aren't ours but God's and our role, as long as God's wants to, is to raise them for God's glory. Not only has the process been long and difficult but the parenting as well. Both have made incredible growth in every way but it hasn't been easy. It has tested me especially, in the area of patience.

waiting for school 5th grade start
Today, the adoption was finally finalized. They are legally part of our family. God answered our prayer to adopt, yes, in His timing. Our journey with them has only started. We have a long way to go. With thankful hearts to God, the support of family, friends and our church family (we are thankful for how our church family has prayed for us and given us encouragement through this time) our journey with our two children continues.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Oidor Olvidadizo o Oidor Hacedor?

Estoy re-memorizando el capítulo 1 de Santiago. Hace muchos años cuando era mucho más joven lo memorizé en la antigua versión 1909 de la Reina Valera (mi primer Biblia). Bueno lo importante es lo que estoy aprendiendo. Me llamó la atención este pasaje el día hoy:
"21 Por lo cual, dejando toda inmundicia y superfluidad de malicia, recibid con mansedumbre la palabra ingerida, la cual puede hacer salvas vuestras almas. 22 Mas sed hacedores de la palabra, y no tan solamente oidores, engañándoos á vosotros mismos."

El contexto del libro es importante para entender este pasaje. Los cristianos (Judíos creyentes) estaban sufriendo pruebas debido a su fe. Aún en la iglesia había discriminación. Muchos de ellos sin duda estaban agobiados y me imagino que comenzaron a dudar de la bondad de Dios. ¿Será Dios culpable de mis pruebas y aun tentaciones?
En este pasaje Santiago les invita a dejar todo lo que es moralmente sucio, todo mal deseo en contra de Dios. En lugar de esto deben recibir en sus corazones La Palabra injertada (algo injertado llega a ser parte de la persona) la cual puede salvarles de lo que están experimentando. Salvar sus almas en este contexto se refiere a su condición moral no a su salvación. Deben recibir La Palabra con mansedumbre, humildad. En este periodo la iglesia no contaba con Biblias completas. Habían lectores que leían las Epístolas de los Apóstoles (como en éste caso la Epístola de Santiago) o El Antiguo Testamento a la congregación. Al escucharla, Santiago les dice, deben recibirla con mansedumbre. Sin duda que habían algunos que al escucharla comenzarón a dudar su pureza y rechazarla debido a sus experiencias y pruebas, algo que también sucede con nosotros. Santiago también les amonesta a ser "hacedores de la palabra." No basta sólo escucharla (no es malo escucharla, mire Apocalipsis 1:3) sino que hay que perseverar en ella, hay que obedecerla. Les da una ilustración de una persona que se vé en el espejo y se olvida que tal és y de otro que se vé y hace correcciones. El que mira atentamenta a la perfecta ley, La Palabra de Dios, y la obedece (o cumple) éste es el que es bienaventurado, bendecido en su acto de obediencia.
Aplica mucho éste pasaje a nuestras vidas. Sin duda escuchamos mucho acerca de La Palabra de Dios (mucho, mucho más que ellos), el domingo, a través de los medios de comunicación, y en nuestra lectura diaria. La pregunta es, ¿Somos oidores hacedores o oidores olvidadizos? Esta es una de las razones por las cuales estoy memorizando La Palabra. Necesito ser hacedor de ella. Quiero recibirla con mansedumbre en mi corazón.
¿Y tú, qué clase de oidor eres?