Adoption Update: August 13, 2014

Good afternoon! Here is the latest update regarding our adoption. We are being prepared by our adoption agency to travel in September to travel to China to bring home Malachi! We cannot begin to express our excitement and our stress at the same time!
 
Our travel dates are not yet set in stone- we are awaiting a Travel Invitation from China and an appointment with the Chinese Consulate/US Embassy. 
 
Would you continue to keep us in your prayers in the following ways:
 
1. Pray for Malachi’s health. Pray for his cognitive development as well. Pray that he would be prepared to become part of our family.
 
2. Pray for our travel that all the planning works out smoothly and that we would be able to bring home Malachi in September. Pray that all the “red-tape” would be cut, that there would be no travel issues (mechanical or otherwise), and that our health would remain good while overseas.
 
3. Pray that God would continue to provide for our finances. We are very close to our goal- the last of it primarily being our travel expenses.
 
4. Pray for our family would prepare our hearts and our home for Malachi to join our family.
 
Thank you for your continued support and your prayers!
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A Message For A Wedding Day

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This past Saturday I had the honor of officiating the wedding of my sister-in-law, Marci, to my new brother-in-law, Darryl. It was a great day! The couple picked out a scripture from Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs- depending which Bible you’re looking at) and the four points that I shared with them about cultivating a marriage that will last a lifetime.

1. Ground Your Marriage in Trust: 

“My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” Song of Solomon 2:14

The man is calling out to his bride-to-be and sees her as a gentle dove hiding in the clefts of the rocks. This is a remote place that is difficult to get to. A dove would have to feel safe to come out of the rocks- to come out of her hiding place.

Relationships/marriage must be built on trust. We do not grant our trust to another on the first date- it is grown over time. When each person feels safe in a marriage they are able to be themselves- their real selves. There is no need to hide, no need to pretend to be something you are not if there is trust. Trust allows us to be God created us to be knowing that our spouse loves that person.

If we break trust, the text implies that the dove will not come out of the hiding place- or perhaps the dove will fly back there after time. If we want to grow in our marriage, we must establish a firm trust in each other and fight to maintain and grow that trust.

2. Eliminate Little Foxes Before They Become Big Foxes:

“Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” Song of Solomon 2:15

In the passage- foxes come and destroy the vineyard. Looking at the poetic language, vineyards are an image for the relationship between the man and the woman- and it is in full bloom! Foxes are the problems and stressors that show up and threaten every relationship. It could be a lack of trust; money issues; working too much; bad communication; conflict resolution; pornography; drug abuse- these are all foxes that destroy the vineyards that are in bloom in a marriage.

The solution? Catch the foxes (problems) while they are small before they get to be big problems. This makes sense, but is often harder than we think because we can be reluctant to be honest with our spouse about issues or problems in our relationship (or within ourselves). We must cultivate a relationship of trust where we can be honest that there are foxes in our midst and deal with them before they become destructive.

3. Choose Love Daily:

“My beloved is mine and I am his: he browses among the lilies.” Song of Solomon 2:10

Love is a somewhat difficult thing to define in our culture. Much of what is called love is often a combination of lust and hormones- at least in pop culture. When it comes to real and lasting love- love is commitment. As we come to marriage, we are committing to wake up each morning and choosing to love our spouse. As husbands, we choose to lay down our lives for our wives as Christ laid down His life for the Church. We choose to present our wife as a radiant bride without blemish or stain. For wives, you must wake each morning choosing to honor and respect your husband and to be his biggest cheerleader (because we men are often insecure). Love is choosing to submit to one another out of our reverence for  Christ Jesus.

There are going to be times in marriage where we may not like our spouse- perhaps it is while dealing with a fox that has worked its way into the marriage- but we must still choose to love- to say “My beloved is mine and I am his!”

Root Your Relationship in God:

Interestingly in Song of Solomon, God is never mentioned. Yet the book has been part of the Jewish and Christian scriptures for thousands of years. In ancient Israel, where the book was written from, the worship of God at the temple was a central aspect to one’s spiritual and social life. Faith in God wasn’t meant to be an afterthought, but so ingrained and inseparable from who we are.

I encourage you to root your relationship in God- allow the seeds of faith in your life to grow and bloom. Just as you begin your life as husband and wife here- before friends and God- invite God to be part of every aspect of your relationships and life together. God will be a source of strength, of comfort, of peace, and a light during times of darkness.

This passage encourages us in our marriage relationships to Ground our relationships in trust, to get rid of foxes while they are small, to choose love daily, and to root our relationship in God. Let’s see what happens to this couple and their love for each other:

“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” Song of Solomon 8:6-7

A love chosen daily, grounded in God and rooted in trust that seeks to eliminate the foxes is a love that is as strong as death. It burns like a blazing fire lighting up the darkness around us. This kind of love is able to withstand the flood waters of doubt, of insecurity, of trouble that life sends our way. This love is so valuable that a price cannot be placed on it.

This is the kind of love that God desire us to grow in our marriage relationships. This is the kind of love that your friends and family pray will grow between you. This is the kind of love that the world needs to see- a love that comes from God that never gives up and never surrenders.

Choose love. Build Trust. Live with God. Work on problems together. When you do this- your life together will blaze like a fire in the night.

 

 

 

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Adoption Update: Meet Malachi

Earlier this summer we accepted a referral for a 13 month old boy and have begun the paperwork to bring him home. His name is Zhang Shuo- and we plan on calling him Malachi Shuo LaMotte. You may remember that we were planning on adopting a little girl, at our most recent Home Study Update, we opened our parameters to include boys- and we received a referral literally within hours of notifying the International Office at Bethany. We met with our medical team to go over the health assessment and spent time in prayer before making the decision to accept the referral. As with any adoption- and especially international- you cannot always ascertain all the health issues, especially cognitive, from the medical reports you receive.

While we don’t have a firm timeline, we hope to bring Malachi (as we’ll call him) home before Christmas. We have seen God at work by the quick movement of the adoption process and through favor with some scheduling with Immigration here in The United States.
Our girls bounced back quickly from the revelation of a boy rather than a girl and are looking forward to adding to the family. Both Abbie and Chloe still prefer a girl, but say they will love Malachi.
Below is a picture of Malachi when he was six months old.
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We continue to covet your prayers for our adoption.
1. Pray for Malachi’s health. He is a little guy for an 13 month old, but is tracking well on some of his physical benchmarks for his age. Pray for his cognitive development as well. Pray that he would be prepared to become part of our family.
2. Pray that God would continue to provide for our finances. We are very close to our goal- the last of it primarily being our travel expenses. This number could inflate if we leave for China on short notice.
3. Pray for our family would prepare our hearts and our home for Malachi to join our family. We know there will be challenges along the way- but we are excited about our family expanding to 5!

 

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Wesley Wednesday: The Almost Christian

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I am reading though John Wesley’s Sermons; An Anthology and will post some thoughts on his sermons each Wednesday.

In the sermon The Almost Christian, Wesley set out to move his listeners from almost Christians to Altogether Christians. Wesley preached that “…being ‘almost a Christian’ is the having a form of godliness, of that godliness which is prescribed in the gospel of Christ- the having the outside of a real Christian. Accordingly the ‘almost Christian’ does nothing which the gospel forbids.”

The ‘Almost Christian’ has a “form of godliness” without ever really having God. They live a moral life, attend to the sacraments, and pray. The ‘Almost Christian’ practices religion without really having a relationship with God. Wesley writes about himself,

“And God is my record, before whom I stand, doing all this in sincerity; having a real design to serve God, a hearty desire to do his will in all things, to please him who had called me to ‘fight the good fight’, and to ‘lay hold of eternal life’. Yet my own conscience beareth me witness in the Holy Ghost that all this time I was but ‘almost a Christian.’

Wesley goes on to share what he means by an ‘Altogether Christian.’ This is the person who goes beyond practices of religion to loving God- and loving their neighbor. This is the believer who “loves the Lord his God, his spirit continually ‘rejoiceth in God his Saviour.” Our neighbor, according to Wesley, is every person and that we much be servants of all.

Wesley also notes that one needs a faith that brings about repentance- reminding his listeners that even the “devils” believe in Christ- but that they remain in their “damnable state.” The faith needed is that which purifies our heart by the power of God from pride, anger, desire and from all unrighteousness. Whoever has this faith “is not almost only, but altogether a Christian.”

Wesley gets personal, reminding his listeners that good intentions are not how one is altogether Christian. He asks his listeners a series of questions aimed at some internal reflection on whether they are an ‘Almost Christian’ or ‘Altogether Christian.’ Wesley ends with this prayer focused on justification and redemption through Jesus:

“May we all thus experience what it is to be not almost only, but altogether Christian! Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus, knowing we have peace with God through Jesus Christ, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, and having the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us!”

Amen! And Amen!

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LeBron James, Dan Gilbert and the Danger of Being Impulsive

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By now, you’ve heard the news that LeBron James is heading back home to Cleveland as he re-signs with the Cavaliers. This comes after famously leaving Cleveland for Miami in “The Decision”- and ill-fated decision on James’ camp. “The Decision” left a bad taste in the mouth of Cleveland fans- and especially their owner, Dan Gilbert. Gilbert fired off a letter claiming James left in a “cowardly betrayal” and claiming the Cleveland would win a title without James before LeBron would win one in Miami (Miami has been to four straight Championship games-winning two- while Cleveland has led the league in #1 draft picks)

USAToday ran an article this morning about how Gilbert and James buried the hatchet after Gilbert’s letter. One of Gilbert’s quotes is appropriate for leaders consider when we deal with things that do not go our way. Gilbert said,

“There were a couple of people who tried to talk me out of it [the letter],” Gilbert tells me via phone from California. “Frankly, I didn’t put it in front of enough people. It was boom-boom, put it up. That’s something I’ve learned. When you’re in an emotional state … wait.”

Gilbert highlights to problem that everyone- especially those in leadership- can have when we respond impulsively to the circumstances around us. Gilbert was obviously upset (I’m sure that is put mildly) when Lebron went to Miami and pounded out a letter about how he felt. He posted it online- where everything lives forever- without running it through enough filters.

Honestly, I know that I have spoken impulsively before. Perhaps you have to. I was always taught to think before I spoke, but even then I could think I really wanted to blow a person up verbally! I do better online- but see people responding impulsively and/or passive aggressively in Facebook post or Twitter updates. We all can fall prey to responding impulsively.

So how do we avoid responding impulsively when we really want to?

1. If you feel you have to respond NOW- it may be a warning to slow down: This is often a indicator of our need to defend ourselves. In the world of Facebook and Twitter, it is so easy to respond now. But I have found that there is rarely anything that needs an immediate response- especially when our emotions are involved.

2. Write out your thoughts/response on paper first: This saves us from accidentally hitting send/post/tweet and posting our impulsive thoughts for the digital world to read. Write out all your emotions on paper as if you were journaling. Then put the paper away. Come back to it a few hours later- or even a few days later- and see if that is what you really want everyone to read.

3. Surround yourself with people who can act as filters: I personally need people in my life that I can share what I am really feeling- no matter how raw the emotion- and trust that they will help me process what I feel and move forward in a healthy way. There are a few people I send drafts of letters/emails/responses to get their input on. Because I trust them, I value their input and if they don’t feel I should post- or need to make major revisions, I do it. This is part of my accountability as a leader.

The letter that Gilbert wrote in a few minutes has characterized him over the last four years and it was potentially a road block for the best basketball player in the world coming back to Cleveland. Gilbert was given a second chance and the opportunity to clear the air with LeBron- as leaders, we are not always given a second chance when we respond impulsively and must respond to our critics in thoughtful, helpful, and appropriate ways.

How do you respond to critics? What system do you have in place when you have a difficult or emotional response that you want make?

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Wesley Wednesday: The New Birth

John_Wesley

I have been reading and rereading some of John Wesley’s sermons as part of my own spiritual growth. I will be the first to admit that as a Methodist, I don’t know Wesley’s sermons as well as I probably should. That said, Wesley’s sermon “The New Birth” (#45 in his standard sermons), really did an excellent job of explaining the need to be “born again.” According to Wesley, because humanity is “‘born in sin’ we ‘must be born again.'”

He then provides an excellent illustration about the difference before and after a child is born,

“Before a child is born into the world he has eyes, but sees not; he has ears, but does not hear. He has a very imperfect use of any other sense. I has no knowledge of any of the things of the world, nor any natural understanding. To that manner of existence which he then has we do not even give the name of life. It is then only when a man is born that we say, he begins to live. For as soon as he is born he begins to see the light and the various objects with which he is encompassed. His ears are then opened, and he hears the sounds which successively strike upon them. At the same time all that other organs of sense begin to be exercised upon their proper objects. He likewise breathes and lives in a manner wholly different from what he did before.”

Then Wesley talks about how a spiritual new birth changes a person,

“While a man is in a mere natural state, before he is born of God, he has, in a spiritual sense, eyes and sees not; a thick impenetrable veil lies upon them. He has ears, but hears not; he is utterly deaf to what he is most of all concerned to hear. His other spiritual senses are all locked up; he is in the same condition as if he had them not. He has no knowledge of God, no intercourse with him; he is not at all acquainted with him. He has no true knowledge of the things of God, either of spiritual or eternal things. Therefore, though he is a living man, he is a dead Christian. But as soon as he is born of God there is a total change in all these particulars.”

When we are born again, our eyes are opened to the things of God; our ears can hear the voice of God; We are able to feel the Spirit of God in our hearts. “All his spiritual senses are then ‘exercised to discern’ spiritual ‘good and evil. By the use of these he is daily increasing in the knowledge of God, of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, and of all the things pertaining to his inward kingdom. And now he may properly be said to live.”

When we respond to God’s grace at work in our lives, when we seek New Birth through Jesus- our spiritual senses become alive- becoming able to perceive, begin to understand, and respond to the leading of God’s Spirit. It is this new birth that makes us truly alive.

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Update On My Blog

This is just a site update to let you know that my post from my previous blog have been imported to this site. This means that you can go back nearly 10 years and read my thoughts. Just a warning- the imported post are not always formatted correctly, nor do they have the links or photos. I hope to go through some of them and update.

In the meantime- I will re-post some of my more popular post from the old blog to share with new readers. I also hope to begin blogging a little more regularly again. This is therapeutic for me in helping me process my faith, sermons, and life in general.

Thanks again for nine and a half years of reading my thoughts!

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