LOVE: Week Two of Advent

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We are in the second week of Advent. Last week, we lit the candle of Hope as we heard that Jesus’ return brings us hope in the midst of despair. This morning, we hear from the prophet Malachi:

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.
2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.

Imagine this scenario: An 8-year-old​ boy wearing jeans and going outside to play. We all know what will happen, right? The jeans that he has on will come back with grass stains and covered in dirt. The boys loving parents will take the jeans and treat them with stain remover and wash the jeans so that they are wearable. Of course, the boy will continue to get the jeans covered in stains and the loving parents will continue to clean the jeans.

The prophet Malachi tells us that God will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. A refiner’s fire would melt metal and cause the impurities to rise to the top to be skimmed off. The launderer would use lye soap to remove stains and to whiten fabric. Like the boy whose parents continue to clean his jeans, God’s love works in our lives to refine and purify us so that we can stand in God’s presence.

Why does God do this? God refines and purifies us because God loves us. The Gospel of John records:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

This morning we light the second candle, the Candle of Love, remember that God loves us and sent Jesus to us so that we might experience that love. This morning, and in the mornings to come, let us choose to experience the love and God and to share that love with those we meet.

Let us pray:

Loving God, as we light the second candle on our advent wreath, help us to live in love by living in you. May your LOVE always be on our mind, our lips, and our hearts. Amen.

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A Long Day With Postive Results

Yesterday (11/19), Caleb received his long-awaited hearing test at Children’s Hospital​ of Pennsylvania (CHOP). Knowing that he has microtia of his right ear, and concerned that he has diminished hearing in his “good” ear because of fluid, we had been anxious to have this appointment and to begin mapping out what the future might look like when it comes to Caleb’s hearing.

When I say it was a long day, that is the feedback from Andrea because I stayed home with the other kids! Caleb’s day began at the hospital at 7:30 a.m. but quickly was delayed because he was coughing and sounding congested (even though his lungs are clear). This hearing test, a Sedated ABR, required Caleb to be sedated. Through some consultation with other doctors, they decided that they could move forward with the procedure with some changes to the sedation- which would push back the procedure until 1:00 p.m.

Since there is sedation involved, there is also fasting involved. This meant that Caleb, who had not eaten since dinner time the night before, was going to have to fast for another five hours. Maybe more importantly, this meant that Andrea would have to continue to go without food. Have you seen the Snickers commercial with Betty White???? Well, then, you get the idea.

Ultimately, Caleb had the hearing test and Andrea had a really good conversation with the doctors there. We had some good results.

1. Caleb has full hearing in his good ear. Let me say that again- Caleb has full hearing in his good ear!

When we first saw his file from China, there was no guarantee that he had​ any hearing in his good ear. Our prayer was that his good ear would be fully functional. Over the last six months, it has become increasingly clear that he can hear pretty well. This was good to hear! Praise God for healing and provision because one good ear is better than none!

2. We have options for hearing aids​ but don’t need to make a decision today. Caleb is developing his speech by leaps and bounds (which is indicative of his hearing ability). We have to remember that he has only been in America and English speakers for about six months. His vocabulary and enunciation are​ really good when you keep that (along with being hard of hearing) in mind. We have a lot of reading and research to do on our own to see what will best help Caleb.

The day at the doctors reminded us of some other things about Caleb. He is an amazingly happy and patient little boy. We are daily amazed at the love and the kindness that he shares with our family and with others. As we approach Thanksgiving Day, we are thankful to God for Caleb, for the healing that has already taken place in his life and how he completes our family!

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Orchard Midweek Podcast: EP 001

I have the honor of working with Ben Wilcox at Orchard Church. He is our Worship/Youth Pastor- and all around good guy. We’ve been talking about recording a podcast as a resource to our church and greater community since August of 2018. We finally recorded the first episode and released it through the Orchard Church page and on iTunes.

We have some plans to do plenty more episodes, perhaps 2 a month right now. We want to be able to go a little deeper in response to the Sunday message (especially if we go weekly) and be able to tell the stories of how God is moving in our community. We have a list of people we want to interview who have incredible ministries in Kent County and throughout Delaware (and beyond!).

But for now- we have Episode 001. Subscribe to the Orchard Church Podcast and you’ll get content as soon as it is live. Leave us some love on iTunes or Spotify as well!

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God Said Yes

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I’m leading a Bible study this Fall on the book of Ephesians. We’re just a week into it, but Paul’s writings are so rich and vivid as he talks about our place in the family of God. He writes,

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us for adoption to sonship for through Jesus Christ, in accordance to his pleasure and will…When you believed you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession-to the praise of his glory.”
Ephesians 1:4-5, 13-14

When we adopted Malachi and Caleb (two different adoptions), we had the opportunity to look over the files of different children to see if they were a fit for our family. It is a gut-wrenching process of saying “yes” and “no” to a variety of scenarios.

When we made the decision to adopt Malachi and Caleb, our yes to them was not yet known by them. While there is a lot of paperwork to do when we said yes, there is also a deposit. There is a financial transaction that takes place guaranteeing that the child agreed upon is the child that will join our family as well as guaranteeing that we will come and give him a new life.

Both Malachi and Caleb lived as orphans for several months each without knowing that they had been adopted- without knowing that we had said YES! to them. I believe that this is our experience before we encounter Christ. God said Yes! to us before the foundations of the world; God put a seal, the Holy Spirit, guaranteeing our adoption. Until we have that encounter with Christ, we live as orphans- without a name, a family, or a future.

As you read this, give thanks that God has already said yes to you. Claim the new name and family that a relationship with God offers us.

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Album Review: Palms (Thrice)

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I remember hearing about Thrice for the first time in 2007/8 with the release of The Alchemy Index Vol. 1 and 2. I thought that album was incredible in to be split into different sounds to match the elements. While I liked the album, and gathered more albums in my collection, they weren’t a band that I played over and over again.

That changed with the 2016 release of To Be Everywhere is To Be Nowhere. Thrice was coming off a hiatus where frontman Dustin Kensrue spent time writing solo material and was one of the worship leaders at Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill campuses. TBEITBN was charged with spiritual themes as well as socially conscious themes throughout, which have always been part of Thrice’s music.

With Palms, Thrice serves up 10 songs that continue their maturity, intensity, and thoughtful lyrics. Still plenty of heaviness in the music, Palms also includes a piano ballad and a harp adding to the musical pallete. There are some interesting themes present in Palms:

Doubt:

In the song, The Grey, Thrice sings about moving away from of a black and white understanding of the world. Kensrue sings

And my hands are open, reaching out- I’m learning how to live with doubt- I’m learning how to live with doubt- I’m learning how to lean into the grey. Cause I’ve had enough of black and white- I’ll find another way- and I will lean into the grey.

In A Branch In The River the listener envisions holding onto a tree branch in the midst of a rushing river. They are encouraged to

Let go, and let yourself be carried away. Let go of all your certainty; let go, and let yourself be carried to me.”

The songs makes me think of Kensrue’s time as a worship pastor as Mars Hill. Churches can be very black and white- even to our own detrimant. We find comfort in being certain. I believe that part of faith is knowing that we don’t have all the answers. It would be a lot easier if life was black and white- but faith is faith because we lean in the grey.

Using Your Voice

The song The Dark seems to be a song about speaking up for those without a voice and/or acting on behalf of those in need as well as speaking against those who abuse power. We can choose to live “in the dark” and plead ignorance about what is going on around us the plights of people in our community and world. Kensrue and Thrice sing

“We’re not gonna stop ’cause we’ve seen a world worth fighting for. Ready of not- together we’re kicking down the door. And we’re not gonna sit in the dark anymore.”

Redemption:

Hold Up The Light is the most anthemic song on the album. The song takes place in the midst of darkness. Kensrue tells of the power of the light to cut through the darkness and the cold. We live in a tiring time, but we’re told to

“try and raise your lamps a little higher. Hold up the light- hold up the light- hold up the light ’til the world is won.”

The song, I believe, is a song longing for redemption. That even though the night is long, cold, and dark- the dawn is just about the break through when the darkness is pushed back. The song concludes:

Darkness above, but we’re dreaming of the new dawn when love burns this night away.

Palms is a continuation of TBEITBN thematically and with a continually evolving sound. It has been in constant rotation since getting it last week. It will continue to stand out in Thrice’s celebrated catalogue.

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A Long Overdue Update on Caleb

Wow- time flies. The last update I wrote about Caleb was back in May when we were still six days from returning to America. It’s been a busy summer. At one point (May through August 1), our family had been some place other than home for 41 out of 85 days.

But enough about us, you’re probably reading this to know more about Caleb.

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Caleb joined our family on May 14th and we arrived back in America on May 25th. He has been quick to assimilate into our family and as “one of the kids.” Part of the reason for the quick assimilation is that he is very happy, fun-loving, and “goes with the flow.” What better kid could you ask for in a fourth child?

You may have read in earlier post, but Caleb was born with a condition called Hemifacial Microsomia that left the right side of his face not quite fully formed. He does not have an outer ear or an ear canal- which has led to hearing (and speech) issues. We’ve been told that this is a physical condition while Caleb was in utero rather than a genetic condition.

This past week, Andrea has been up to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania) in Philadelphia twice for two full days of test and specialist. This week, Caleb has seen Cardiologist, Plastic Surgery (Cranial-Facial), Genetics, as well as ultra-sounds and x-rays. He had previously seen an audiologist and an ENT. The test have all turned out well and allow Caleb to have a tube placed in his good ear on Monday (August 13) to drain some chronic fluid. This is exciting because it will allow him to have a more accurate hearing test in several weeks- which we expect to lead to a hearing aid.

Caleb has handled all the doctors appointments like a champ. He was calm and sat through an EKG. He played with the doctor’s light and examined their eyes and mouth. He got to spend a lot of quality time with Andrea. (Andrea really likes traveling with Caleb because he LOVES food- and eats anything. This allowed Andrea to take Caleb to Panera today for lunch.)

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There is so much I could share with you. Like how his smile lights up a room; how he gives kisses when it is time for bed; like how he ran away from us and did a cannonball into the pool (he doesn’t know how to swim); or how he loves getting piggy-back rides from his sisters; or how he enjoys playing with Malachi.

At this point, what really needs to be said is “thank-you!” Many of you prayed for us and for Caleb during this process. When we agreed to adopt Caleb, we were unsure if he had significant hearing loss and what his physical condition would be like. But we felt God nudging us to say “yes!” We invited you to pray for physical and emotional healing in his life. We can only give Jesus praise for the ways in which he has adapted and begun the attachment process. We continue to pray that he will keep growing and loving life!

 

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This is America: Are We Listening

I’ve been watching the video for Childish Gambino’s (or as Cardi B wonders, is it Donald Glover?) song “This is America.” It is an important commentary on the America that our African American brothers and sisters experience that is different from my experience as a white American. The differences of privilege makes it necessary for me to listen to the experiences of others so that I might be able to stand beside and walk with my neighbors.

There are a lot of interpretations of what Gambino is trying to communicate in the video and there are many places on the internet to find those thoughts. A couple really stand out.

1. Treatment of Guns vs. Victims: Notice that the two times guns are used in the video, Gambino’s character gives them to a man who takes great care of them, wrapping them in a cloth/towel to protect versus the way the man killed by the gun is drug offscreen. There are those who are quick to cherish our guns (things) while disregarding victims/marginalized (people).

2. Distractions vs. Injustice: The dancing in the video, especially in groups, looks like any number of pop song dance routines. It really doesn’t fit the tone of the video- which is intentional. Look in the background of the video. There is chaos happening all around. The dancing takes our attention away from the injustices and chaos being portrayed. The news cycle has trained our minds to do this.

A great example of this is the recent news story that the hurricane is Puerto Rico killed over 4,000 people rather than the official 64 listed by the government. TV news stations greatly ignored this story and instead chose to focus on the racist remarks by Roseanne Barr that got her fired and her sitcom cancelled. (Read the analysis here)

Oh yeah, Puerto Rico still needs power. (Flint, MI still doesn’t have clean drinking water).

As Christians, and especially a white Christian, it is imperative to listen to our brothers and sisters, and the experiences that they have and are having. We cannot discount what they go through because it does not line up with our experience or because it is something we cannot relate to.

Watch the video. Listen to what it says through the medium of art/music. Where are there injustices happening that we too quickly gloss over through distractions?

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