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Open Letter to Refugees

Dear refugees,

I’m sorry this is happening to you. Some of you left your homes years ago and traveled thousands of miles to seek refuge. You sold everything and risked even more for an idea there would be a safe haven for you in America, the land of the free. Many of you said good-bye to or buried your loved ones along the way, and I realize my sympathy will never be able to take that pain away.
Some of you have managed to navigate the maze of bureaucratic red tape and the most rigorous vetting process in the world to be approved for entry to the US. I can’t imagine the emptiness you may feel to have your hopes dashed by the stroke of our President’s pen, and now you must find a way to survive even longer in conditions I will never comprehend.
It breaks my heart to learn the leaders of our government have decided you are not welcome here because of the country in which you were born and the deity to whom you pray. I’m sorry that your humanity has been denied, and you are now branded a threat to our national security.
When you hear the news that your chance to come to America has been delayed, please know that we are better than this. We hear you, we know your stories, and we will welcome you here. If your patience, courage, and determination are wearing thin, please hang on. Don’t give up.
Love,
Dustin

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/us/politics/trump-syrian-refugees.html?emc=edit_na_20170127&nl=breaking-news&nlid=9583097&ref=cta&_r=0&referer=

Because Laughing Is Better Than Crying Part 3

Sometimes you just need to LOL about parenting. Because if you can’t LOL about it what is even the point!? Kids are cray. (Part 1. Part 2.) 

 

I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy saying I don’t understand what “I want to drink my slushy outside inside” means. #ivolunteerastribute 

Wyatt: Can I bring my snack inside? Me: Yes. Wyatt (bursts into tears): No! I don’t want to bring my snack inside!! #mmmmkay 

I’m learning that “the other day” in a 2 year old’s mind is literally any day from birth until present. #likeseriouslykeepupmom

It’s such a funny story, my toddler is doing this thing where he has “fake hiccups” every day because he hates me. 

My favorite part about breakfast is when my toddler exclaims from the table that he’s eating leftovers he found from dinner. 

  
Someone walked in on me in a public restroom recently and I was literally like, “It’s fine. You can come in if you want. I have a 2 year old at home.” 

Does anyone know where I could get a sheet cake and 100 balloons on short notice? I tried to go play with my 2 year old and he told me that I could go away. #dontmindifido 

Try telling your 2 year old that there is still in fact food on their plate when they are hell bent that “no, it’s all gone.” #LOL

My 2 year old has become besties with the liquor store employees. I have no idea how that happened. We don’t even drink. #sarcasmfont

My 2 year old is in this phase where he ROARS really loud in your face when he’s in trouble. The other day I ROARED really loud back because, YOLO. #thelookonhisfacethough

  
I have an actual masters degree from a credible university and I just wiped my toddler’s tears off wrong. #ūüôĄ

What am I doing? Oh sorry, just practicing my “mommy watch this” face.

My toddler is obsessed with Thomas The Train. His favorite train is Percy except he can’t say the R and he pronounces the E like a U. So that’s been super fun for him to yell in public.

A fun thing about parenting is trying to decide if your toddler is screaming because they’re dying or because the crayon broke. 

  

God Is Faithful

It’s about to get old school up in here. ¬†This post will take us back all the way to Genesis. ¬†Not so far that we’re back in the Garden of Eden, but far enough back to when Abraham was still Abram. ¬†In my Bible, it’s page 30. ¬†Double-digit page number? ¬†That’s right – way back in the day.

In Genesis 12, God calls Abram to leave his nation and take a mysterious journey to a new home. ¬†God doesn’t tell him where he is going, he simply says, “Go to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). ¬†Pretty vague, but Abram decided to be faithful so he can earn his place in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. ¬†With this calling, God also tells Abram that he will bless him with many descendants and make him the father of many nations.

Sounds like a pretty cool deal.  At this point, Abram is 75 years old.  Science will tell us that this is a bad time to start having kids.  Not for a lack of trying, but Abram and his wife Sarai were unable to have kids up to that point.

In Genesis 15, God promises to bless Abram with a son. ¬†Nothing seems to be happening, so Abram and Sarai decide to take matters into their own hands to “create” a son. ¬†Abram sleeps with Hagar. ¬†Surprise, Hagar gets pregnant. ¬†Fantastic, Abram now has a son named Ishmael.¬†Now, Abram is 86 years old.

Well, it turns out that God wasn’t very pleased with Abram taking the cause of baby-making into his own hands. ¬†After Ishmael’s birth, an angel of the Lord says, “He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will have hostility toward all of his brothers” (Genesis 16:12). ¬†How’s that for a blessing? ¬†By the way, followers of Islam are believed to be descendants of Ishmael. ¬†There’s an “Ah-ha moment.”

Fast forward 13 years. ¬†Abram is 99 years old, and God speaks to Abram saying, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. ¬†I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers” (Genesis 17:2). ¬†A few sentences away, Abram becomes Abraham and God tells Abraham that he is going to have a son with Sarah (Sarai got a name change, too), and they will name him Isaac. ¬†

Great, all is fulfilled.  God was right.  God wins.

But it took 24 years for the ball to start rolling.

As you read this story, you can sense the frustration that Abraham had toward God. ¬†“You told me your plan. ¬†You said I would be a large part of that plan. ¬†What are you waiting for? ¬†I obeyed and took a mysterious journey to find a new home. ¬†Your move.” ¬†Abraham is praised for his righteousness and is the father of many nations, but he went through many of the same seasons that we often go through.

We want to believe that God is faithful, but it seems like nothing is happening. ¬†Even after Abram chose to take matters into his own hands by having a baby with Hagar, God doesn’t immediately respond to Abraham (according to what’s written in Genesis).

But God is faithful. ¬†He returns to Abraham 13 years later. ¬†“Hey, remember that covenant I made with you, Abraham? ¬†I know you’re 99 years old, but great things are about to happen. ¬†You’re going to have a boy! ¬†By the way, every male among you shall be circumcised…Including you” ¬†(Check Genesis 17:10 – it’s in there).

Sometimes we wait.  Sometimes God waits.

In the end, He is faithful.

When was a time in your life when you waited for or doubted God’s faithfulness?

Lord of the Ants

On Sunday, Jon Acuff (writer and blogger of Stuff Christians Like) decided to talk about the age-old question of “Why do bad things happen to good people?”¬† As Christians, this is probably one of the questions we wrestle with the most, but we never truly seem to come to a reasonable conclusion.¬† We pass it off by saying, “It’s a part of God’s plan,” or “This world is not our home,” or some other type of religious word-vomit.

Jon said that this question stems from the “conflict between a beautiful God and horrible pain.”¬† It simply doesn’t make sense to us that God would create us and then throw us into miserable situations.¬† Yes, I get that.

It is as if we picture God to be the Lord of the Ants.

I recently heard a comedy bit from Dan Cummins about his fascination with ants and his affinity to ruining their lives.  Here a portion:

I came up with another game you can play with ants called “Lord of the Ants” because it occurred to me that anthills are like their own little world.¬† It’s a whole little civilization, a hierarchy, people living, working there, and then I could stand on that world and declare myself a god of their kingdom.¬† Sometimes I was a good god, and I nourished my children with gifts of bread and skittles and jerky.

He later adds that he finds it equally enjoyable to keep them in check with bug spray, fire, and the infamous magnifying glass.¬† He doesn’t want the ants to get too spoiled.

Some people analogize God to be like Santa Claus, a magical genie, a loving father, or a therapist, to name a few; but in a strange way I sometimes see God as this Lord of the Ants.  When things are going well, I imagine God pouring his blessings on me, taking care of me, and keeping the junk out of my life. 

Then everything hits the fan, and it is like God kicked my anthill.¬† When you knock over an anthill, what happens?¬† Well, if you’re in Texas and it happens to be a pile of red ants, they will maliciously attack you and make your legs itch for about two weeks.

The ants scurry around trying to fix everything – to put everything back together.

We turn to scriptures like I Peter 5:7 that says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you,” to give us encouragement.¬† More often than not, I wrongly paraphrase that verse to say, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he will fix it.”¬† This begins an inner struggle because I don’t want/need God’s help.¬† I can fix it myself.

So I start to scurry.¬† I work tirelessly to take control and put everything back together.¬† As my wife (who is also a counselor) would ask, “How’s that working out for you?”

The good thing is that God is not the Lord of the Ants.  No matter how likely it seems, God is not in the business of knocking down anthills.

Have you ever had a moment where you could relate to the idea of God being the Lord of the Ants?

When it seems like everything has “hit the fan” in your life, where do you find God?

Angry Old Lady

There is an elderly lady that lives around the corner.  When I go running in our neighborhood, I usually see her out in her garden, mowing the grass, or taking care of her flowers.  Well, over the weekend, her flowers were maliciously attacked, and she posted the following message at the end of her driveway for all to see on a large poster:

Dear God, please kill all the people who killed my flowers for no reason.  Sentence them to Psalm 109.  Kill them all, Lord, and I will praise your name forever.  In the holy name of Jesus I pray РAmen.

In a perfect world, I would have taken a picture and simply posted it on Twitter, but she lives on a busy street, and I didn’t want to cause a wreck.¬† Also, if I did stop to take a picture, I was afraid that she would call the legions of angels from heaven to take me out.

I did a little research, and Psalm 109 is not one of those “My name is David, and I play the harp” kind of psalms.¬† Here’s an excerpt: “When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him.¬† May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.¬† May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow” (Psalm 109:7-9).

Ouch.

What are your thoughts?  Is this lady overreacting?

Not Now

Last week, my wife and I went to Washington, DC, and took a tour of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  I can remember studying the history of flight when I was in second grade, and we watched videos and looked at pictures featuring the subjects now located in the Smithsonian, so this was at the top of my list of places to visit.

While it was great to see all the old planes, rockets, space shuttles, and satellites, the thing that fascinated me the most was the exhibit of the Wright Brothers.

Brief history: Back in December of 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright were the first ones to actually fly a plane.  Up to this point, several others had created aircraft that mostly fell and crashed, but never flew.  The Wright brothers were the first ones to create an aircraft that actually flew in a controlled path of considerable distance.  Hopefully, you remember that from school.

The disappointing part of the Wright brothers’ story is that Wilbur passed away 9 years later in 1912, but Orville lived until 1948.¬† The amazing thing that I noticed in the Air and Space Museum is that roughly 80% of the exhibits there centered on things that happened between 1912-1948.¬† The Wright brothers, together, made a fascinating breakthrough that launched the age of flight, but Wilbur never got to see it.

Between 1912-1948, there were two world wars, which led to mass production of planes.¬† Commercial airlines were also created, resulting in the need to build larger, stronger planes.¬† The airplane industry “took off,” (ha, get it?) during that time, so that I can now travel across the country in a few hours.

And Wilbur missed all of this.¬† Over the years, Orville could look up in the sky, see a plane flying overhead, and think, “We made that happen.”¬† After dedicating countless hours to create an aircraft that could fly successfully, Wilbur didn’t live to see the fruits of his labor.

In Hebrews 11, which I was told is considered the “Hall of Faith” in the Bible, we are told of dozens of biblical pioneers who lived by faith everyday, but rarely reaped the fruits of it.¬†

We learn of Abel, who was killed by his jealous brother Cain: “And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead” (Heb. 11:4).

We read of Noah, Abraham, David, Samuel, Rahab, Joseph, and many others, but their lives are summed up in a simple phrase: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth” (Heb. 11:13).

In a time where we want instant gratification from our education, careers, charities, ministries, families, and social circles, we have to face the reality that we might never see the end product.¬† We may never see the impact our work has.¬† You may be working will all your might to make things happen, but you are still waiting, as if God is telling you, “Not now.”

What is the “Not now” subject in your life right now?

Atheists

I don’t have very many atheist friends.¬† According to Facebook, which is the source of all relevant things, I have 914 “friends,” and a very small percentage of those friends classify themselves as atheists.¬† Where would a person go to find an atheist? Even if you saw a sign that read, “Atheists gather here,” how would that first encounter go?

“Excuse me, Mr. Atheists? Hey, my name is Dustin. I’ve been a Christian my whole life, but I need some more atheist friends. How about joining me for a round of golf on Saturday?”

Maybe I’m intimidated by atheists.¬† They are on the opposite side of the spiritual spectrum from me.¬† They tend to know a lot of scientific rhetoric, and science was my least favorite subject in school.¬† They are mean and rarely smile.¬† Just kidding.

I read the articles and other blogs online about faith and Christianity to get some fuel for this blog, and reading the comments is always very exciting. It seems to me that the Christians always look like wimps. Atheists always have trump cards.

If there is a God, why did he let the earthquakes happen in Japan?¬† If there is a God like what the Bible says, why doesn’t he show himself anymore?

Christians do have some comebacks though: How did the earth and everything on it get here?  How do the different fields of science work together perfectly to produce and sustain life?

At some point, for both atheists and Christians, the only thing left to say is, “I don’t know, but I still believe.”

In his book Life of Pi, Yann Martel tells the story of a young Indian boy who is trapped on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger in the middle of the ocean.¬† Exciting, I know.¬† The young boy, Pi, meets an atheists in a zoo one day, and after several hours of conversation Pi says, “I felt a kinship with him.¬† It was my first clue that atheists are my brothers and sisters of a different faith; and every word they speak speaks of faith.¬† Like me, they go as far as the legs of reason will carry them – and then they leap” (Martel 28).

Before reading this, I never thought of atheists having faith, but it’s true.¬† They have faith, it’s just in something different.

As Christians, we see things that point to the existence of a supernatural Creator.¬† We have the Bible that tells us of the hope that we have with eternity in heaven.¬† But at some point, we have to leap.¬† That’s where faith takes over.

How can this influence how we view and treat atheists?

The Merger

In business, when companies merge, they typically eliminate redundancies.¬† This usually comes in the forms of lay-offs and demotions.¬† The people from the weaker company become victims to save money.¬† That’s capitalism.

It is very rare to hear of church mergers, though.  More commonly, we hear about church splits, which can be even worse than a corporate merger.

The Christian Post ran an article last week about two churches in Arizona that are merging together.¬† They seem to be taking Captain Planet’s motto – “by your powers combined” – to a whole new level.¬† Audrey Barrick writes, “Church mergers mostly involve one healthy church saving a dying one. But in Arizona, two growing congregations are coming together for the purpose of creating a greater impact.”

It’s actually a pretty cool story.¬† Both churches are growing and preaching a Christ-centered message, and they chose to team up to have an even greater impact on their community.¬† Tom Shrader, pastor at the East Valley Bible Church in Gilbert, AZ, said, “We wanted to be an influence beyond the campus.”

For some reason, this encourages me.¬† Until I left for college, I went to the same church my entire life.¬† Throughout those eighteen years, I grew to become very comfortable in my pew, beliefs, and traditions.¬† It’s easy to be comfortable, and I like how the pastors from these two churches have decided to go beyond their comfort zones to join forces.

If I were a member at one of these churches, my first reaction to this news probably would not have been very positive.  However, as an outsider to the news, I see how these two churches becoming one can serve the community in a great way.

The new church, Redemption Church, it set to have it’s first service on January 9, 2011.

How would you feel to be a part of a church that decided to merge with another?

Dubya

Our preacher at church likes to ask the question, “What would you do if you knew God would always be there with you?”¬† Essentially, it’s a question that will make your head spin if you think about it too hard.¬† First, you think about all the huge tasks that you would be able to tackle if you had God on your side.¬† Second, God is on your side already, so get to work.

It’s a pretty daunting thought to truly understand what it means to have the Creator of the universe in your corner everyday.¬† Obviously, He’s not there endorsing the stupid/sinful things that we do, but He’s there nonetheless. If you look up passages in the early Old Testament, there are several times when God tells His followers that He is there, and He will always be there.

His presence – His love – is unconditional.

I started reading President George W. Bush’s autobiography, Decision Points, yesterday, and I must admit, I’m pretty impressed so far.¬† I know the book has only been out for about two weeks, so is it too soon to drop a quote from the book yet?¬† I hope not.¬† Regarding the love he saw from his parents, Bush writes, “When you know you have unconditional love, there is no point in rebellion and no need to fear failure.”

Everyone has a different vision of what they think God looks like.  I think of Him as an old man with silver hair and a deep, booming voice.  When I think of His unconditional love, I picture Him standing there always waiting with His arms open preparing for a hug.

It’s similar to how Jesus describes God in the parable of the prodigal son.¬† The short version of the story is that the son betrays his father, blows all of his inheritance, and returns home ready to grovel at his father’s feet, but the father welcomes him back with open arms and throws a party for him.

The problem is that most people think there is a catch to everything.¬† There’s no such think as unconditional love, so we do everything we can to try to earn God’s love, and we are drowned in guilt when we fall short.¬† Thus, our failures drive us further from the truth that God is still there waiting with open arms.¬† If we truly believe in unconditional love, Bush said it correctly – we don’t need to fear failure, but we also choose to live obediently.

What would you do if you knew God loved you unconditionally?

Lukewarm

On Monday, when I left for work, there was frost on my windows.¬† How exciting.¬† The first frost of the season.¬† I grabbed the ice scraper out of the trunk of my car and started scraping.¬† Within a few seconds, my hands were freezing, but I decided to scrape the ice off my wife’s car as well.¬† Stars in my crown.

That night when my wife got home, I asked, “Weren’t you glad I scraped the ice off your windows for you?”¬† “What ice?” she replied.

Little did I realize that within the 2 hour difference between the time I left for work and she left, the temperature rose from 35 to 73 degrees.  My work went unnoticed.

Have you ever done a good deed, but no one noticed?¬† That’s just a bonus question – not the main point.

What this post is really about is how the weather can’t make up its mind right now.¬† I am a big fan of the cold weather, and I am also a big fan of temperatures in the low 70s, but when you combine the two everyday, that just gets annoying.¬† Make up your mind.¬† Do I need my jacket today, or not?

Let’s look at the book of Revelation.¬† To the church in Laodicea, it says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!¬† So, because you are lukewarm‚ÄĒneither hot nor cold‚ÄĒI am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15-16).¬† What’s the point of this verse?¬† Well, God doesn’t like cold mixed with hot either, specifically when it comes to faith.

Think about it – coffee is only good served two ways: hot or cold.¬† If you let it sit for too long, it’s terrible.¬† The taste is the same, but the temperature ruins the experience.¬† In the same way, your “faith temperature” can be a deal-breaker for God.

Reasonably speaking, we all have periods in our lives where our faith is like a roller-coaster ride (that’s normal), but that’s not what the issue is with the church in Laodicea.¬† Their problem was that they acted like they had everything taken care of (they were hot), but on the inside they were “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17).

Be transparent.¬† It doesn’t make sense to put an iced coffee in to a Styrofoam cup emblazoned with “CAUTION: VERY HOT!!”¬† Be real.¬† Let people see it.