Friday, May 22, 2009

Human Forgiveness Commanded


Ge 50:15-17
15 When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died, 17 ‘Say to Joseph, Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of
f the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him.

...I wonder how often the sons of Jacob thought about what they had done to Joseph. This verse comes after Jacob dies. Even after all the graciousness shown, the brothers still fear for their lives.

These weak, lying liars used messengers and the name of their dead father to manipulate forgiveness from Joseph. The offender always remembers, it seems. How could Joseph let them off the hook when he had it his power to take revenge? He could punish them if he wanted...

But look at Joseph's response: he wept.

I submit: weeping is not the response of a man nursing a grudge. This is not the response of a man struggling with a decision. This is a man that is living in freedom but broken hearted over the imprisonment of his bothers.

When Jesus was on the Cross, He said "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." This was Jesus' natural response. Jesus was being squeezed with all the might of the forces of evil and this is what comes out of Him: "Father forgive."

What comes out of you when the squeeze is on? I know what comes out of me: self-pity, anger, cursing, hate, thoughts of revenge, and an impulse to indulge in things that are destructive but give momentary pleasure (or relief).

This is the condition of my heart.

Contrast with what came out of Jesus when the squeeze was on Him:

"Father forgive."

This is the condition of His heart.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Book Review: 10 Things I Hate About Christianity


Book title: Ten Things I Hate About Christianity
Author: Jason T. Berggren
Publishing information: USA, X-Media, 2009
Number of pages: 236

In Ten Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Christianity, author Jason Berggren gives full vent to his angst.

Christianity is not easy. Christians are difficult to deal with. Jesus I like; it's his followers I have a hard time with. These are all statements describing the book's theme. Usually it's the non-believer, the atheist, the jaded that writes a book like this one. But this is an honest description from the inside looking in.

I enjoyed Berggren's book. He makes my complaints and criticisms feel a little more normal; a little less sinful. I looked forward to picking the book back up every time I had to set it down to go do something else (like work or do family stuff).

The ten things covered are faith, prayer, the Bible, sin, rules, love, hell, answers, church, and Christians. Each of these topics are frustration filled topics, we usually just fake it and pretend like we have 'em handled. Especially when in a group of other believers. Talk about peer pressure. You don't want to come off as faithless...

Pick this book up. It's a quick, easy read.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Authentic Faith

If it doesn't translate into your every day life, then it really doesn't matter...

image That'll preach. Pastor Dan Plourde introduced a series kicked off at Calvary Jupiter on Sunday morning.

Why doesn't it matter? Because if it doesn't translate into your everyday life, then nothing changes. If nothing changes, than what's the point?

This is going to be a great series. Link in. Listen up.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Next Phase

IMG_1212 Allie will wear these braces for the next four months. These are called HKAFO's; that is Hip-Knee-Ankle-Foot-Orthosis. We thought maneuvering her in a cast was tough. That was a cake-walk compared to our new setup. Allie weighs much more in this contraption than she did in the cast (she probably weighs more than you did before your last diet). And she still has to wear this thing 24/7.

I have to tell you: we were not expecting this. We were told that Allie would wear braces, but from the knee down. We lost it when we saw Jeff The Braces Guy bring this monstrosity out.

I usually try to be upbeat in these posts, but I am not at all upbeat about this. This is depressing. Enough already.

The good news is we are able to take Allie out of her braces to give her a bath IMG_1214and today I plan on taking her up to the pool for a dip. That should be fun. She can also come out of it at physical therapy when Dancer Joan works her magic on her.

But she has to sleep in this set up and that's hard. She's more comfortable in this than the cast, but she has to constantly be adjusted through the night because she can't roll herself over. So we constantly give her the old heave-ho all night to keep her from cramping up and getting sore. Don't worry; we've gotten use to not sleeping through the night over the past two years.

Allie is doing much better through all this than we are. One thing the medical professionals have continually said is that children are amazingly resilient. It's the parents that panic and freak out most. But these braces conjure up childhood memories of the Dark Side of the Force. I'm pretty convinced that these braces are manufactured by the same evil corporation that assembles uniforms for Darth Vader's Storm Troopers, protectors of the Death Star.



Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cast Away

For six weeks we looked forward to Allie having her cast removed. Friday was the big day.

What a day.

The front of the cast was discarded while the back half of the cast was Ace bandaged to her legs to keep her legs in place. From the doctors office, she went to be fit for a hip-knee-ankle braces.
The past few days have been a huge adjustment for Allie. A painful one. But she wants to be happy.

This morning, we unwrapped her legs to allow her to become reacquainted with them. Below are a couple of videos of her getting to know how to move her feet without them rubbing against each other.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Domestic Violence Awareness Day

I agreed to post about Domestic Violence today. My family and extended family have been severely impacted by domestic violence. Below is a letter the judge residing over the case involving my granddaughter asked me to submit to the court in the city of San Francisco.
My purpose for posting this is not to draw attention to the young man paying for this trespass. It is to draw attention to the far reaching, multi-generational impact and consequences of the violence that sometimes takes place in the safest place in the world: home.
It is imperative that I mention that the immediate family of the offender in our situation have been our most significant supporters day in and day out and our gratitude to them will never be adequately expressed. Our affection for them grows daily.

Life Has Changed

It’s difficult to imagine what the future holds. We all imagine a future better and brighter than the difficulties we’ve weathered in the past. My wife and I have been married for twenty-three years this August. We married very young (She just turned twenty and I was a couple of months away from my twenty-first birthday). Our first child, Charity, came along when we were married ten months. Aaron followed about twenty months later.
We tried to do everything right raising these kids. I worked as hard as I could so Susan could stay home with the kids. I have very little formal education so that means I worked a series of blue collar jobs to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. I managed to go to Bible College part time at night and on weekends. In 2000, I started to work in full time church ministry.
I worked for our church both locally and on the foreign mission field. As my two kids grew up, my wife began to talk about what we would do with ourselves when they were out on our own. We’d be in our early forties and knew that we had a lifetime in front of us. We had conversations with relief organizations about working in Africa.
clip_image002We knew that our plans were on hold when my then eighteen year old daughter got pregnant. Charity had Allie just after her nineteenth birthday. We were in love.
Charity lived with us and Allie’s father moved to San Francisco. They never seemed to be in love anyway, so it really wasn’t an issue. We decided we’d help our daughter any way we could. While Charity finished up vocational school and worked part time, Susan cared for Allie. She was the light of our lives.
In December of 2006, Charity’s schooling came to an end. She began to think about what was next for her. She’d been talking to Allie’s father, Timmy, from time to time and between the two of them, they came to a decision: Allie and Charity would move to San Francisco. Susan and I were devastated, but knew that this was Charity’s decision.
The day Charity left was the most depressing day I can remember in my adult life. But I had no idea how difficult the days ahead would get.

The Phone Call

On the evening I returned from an out-of-town assignment, I got a phone call in the middle of the night from my daughter. She was terrified.
“Oh my God, Dad! You have to pray. Allie stopped breathing. She’s on her way to the hospital in an ambulance.”
In an hour or so, we received another call.
“He shook her and squeezed her. They have her breathing on a machine.”
That was pre-dawn Sunday morning; I was on a plane before sunrise on Monday.
clip_image004Charity did not relate information very well. I was astounded to find Allie in a coma. The day I arrived, she was not able to maintain her body temperature, she had tubes taped into her mouth and nose, and her head was wrapped with bandages. It was a difficult sight to take in. It was terribly disorienting for me, like a train coming off its rails.
I got a number of reports from the doctors. Here’s how I remember it: Allie had a broken collar bone, a broken leg, and a broken rib. Each injury was in a different stage of healing indicating that the abuse was not a one time event. At the time, the doctors in the intensive care unit where Allie was being cared for did not know if Allie would be able to breathe without the machine. We had a conversation about a future discussion that may need to take place if Allie couldn’t breathe on her own; options I didn’t want to think about then and don’t want to think about now.
My daughter Charity was in a daze. I had to talk to social workers, some helpful and some hostile. I had to be told that Allie had moderate to severe brain damage and that she’d be handicapped the rest of her life whether she came off the breathing machine or not. I was told that if and when Allie came out of the hospital, she would probably not be released to us, but into a medical foster care program that was better equipped to care for her.
The good news is that Allie’s little body began to maintain temperature. She was successfully taken off the breathing machine a few days later. But she was still in a coma.
Allie was only ten months old at the time.


clip_image006Allie came out of her coma on the tenth day after my arrival in San Francisco. That was the day my wife made the trip from Florida. As Susan was talking to her, one of her little eyes began to flutter open.
A week later, a G-tube (a feeding tube giving access straight into her stomach) was installed. Susan lived with Allie in the hospital and was fully trained to care for her. Allie needed round the clock care both in and out of the hospital and Susan was on top of it.
We were live-scanned and approved for foster care. After six weeks, Allie was discharged into our custody.
We left everything we had in Florida and moved immediately to Northern California where I was raised and still had family.
I couldn’t afford to maintain a house in California and in Florida and we couldn’t sell or rent our home in Florida’s dismal real estate market, so we lost our house. I was able to continue working in my field from my new home, but I had to take a pay-cut since I wasn’t able to continue in all of my regular duties. But given the choice to keep Allie in California or keep our lives in South Florida, we picked Allie. We’d make the same choice again in a heartbeat.

A day with Allie

We had no idea what we were getting into. Having the support of hospital staff was easy. The drive from the hospital in San Francisco to our new home in Eureka is a six hour drive. Allie screamed the whole way. It was harrowing.
Her condition upon discharge was cerebral palsy, quadriplegia, and cortical visual impairment. She couldn’t take food or liquids orally; we had to use the G-tube. She had no head or upper body control. The only protective reflex she had was to tense up her entire body which makes her straight as a board. After a few hours with this “tone,” she begins to cramp. She takes a muscle relaxant twice a day to minimize this condition.
clip_image008For the first several weeks, Allie cried for sixteen hours a day. We had to keep the house as quiet as a morgue. Any stimuli would set her off. We had to (and continue to have to) bounce or rock her to sleep every night. This took a minimum or forty-five minutes to as long as, on occasion, three hours.
We had to hook her to a feeding machine every three hours around the clock for nourishment. Thankfully, with the help of an amazing speech therapist, Allie is able to take food orally now. The change has helped Allie tremendously. Eating and drinking are incredibly soothing activities, it seems.
Allie had spasms at odd times during sleep or waking up that caused her head to turn abruptly toward one shoulder. At other times, the spasms caused her arm and shoulder to jerk. These episodes lasted for about a minute. Our neurologist did not seem surprised by this, however. He doesn’t believe that the spasms are seizure activity; they just come with the territory.
Now, instead of isolated spasms, her whole body folds into the fetal position. She stops breathing for the minute the episode lasts. The shortness of the occurrence keeps doctors from worrying that it’s some kind of seizure. Their opinion is that it is linked to an over-active startle reflex. They don’t happen daily. They seem occur in cycles of a few days every month.
Immediately upon our arrival in Eureka, we enrolled Allie in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. And now that we’re back in Florida, she continues to attend therapies on a regular schedule. We’ve been blessed to have incredibly talented people involved in Allie rehabilitation both in California and Florida. They’ve helped Allie improve and have trained Susan and me to work with Allie at home.

What’s Next for Allie?

Next week (March 24, 2009) Allie will have hip surgery. Due to the damage to her brain, her body is not growing in proper proportion. Her bones are growing faster than her muscles. The strain of her muscles against her bones has caused her hips to migrate out of joint. Her right hip is 50% out of joint and the left is 35% displaced. Her legs “scissor” as a result. This is one of the factors that keep her crippled.
While the surgeon is working on Allie’s hips, he’ll lengthen her Achilles tendon and hamstring muscles. This will not guarantee that Allie will walk one day, but if she doesn’t have the operation, she won’t and, eventually, her hips will pop out of joint. There is also no guaranty that she won’t have to have this operation again. It’s highly likely that as Allie hits her normal growth spurt in puberty, she may need the procedure repeated.
Allie is a full time job for both Susan and me. I’m able to continue working at home so that gives me the flexibility needed to do what it takes. Our whole lives are structured around Allie’s unique needs. Allie is the center of our universe, and caring for her consumes all of our waking ours. A couple of times a month, we get some respite when Allie’s paternal grandmother visits with her for a few hours on Sunday afternoons.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Damage Control


Internet terrorists are at large. I guess my ingenious password (I use "password" because I figure no one would think I was that dumb and, therefore, not guess my password... the ol' switcheroo), was too easy to crack for the diabolically evil minds lurking through our Facebook pages. Who was it? Al Qaeda? The Mossad? CIA? NSA? MI-6? The former KGB? Dick Cheney?

Remember when I told you all that the Internet had no conscience and was, therefore, evil? The chickens have come home to roost.

Let's look at the bright side: I haven't heard from so many of you in such a long time. The little crisis you had when my funky email hit your inbox generated so much concern for my welfare along with many greetings. My inbox is full! I'm buried in good will. So this is what I have to do to get you to send me a note? Get hacked? Jeesh!

So I changed my password: DROWSSAP. That'll trip 'em up.

Technorati Tags: ,

Phase Two

Project Duct Tape has moved into it's second phase. We've discovered a design flaw in the intersection of the cross-bar with the cast on her left leg. Our research and development department spearheaded by the charming and beautiful Susan submitted designs yesterday for the modification pictured below.


The retrofit only has to make until Friday tomorrow morning when the cast is cut off.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Midwife on a Mission!: Water buffalo with pumpkin mash and braised witlof -- Yum!

I just had to share this from Shepherd's Staff Missionary Stephanie Williams. She serves as a midwife in the Philippines.

imageWater buffalo with pumpkin mash and braised witlof (Endive)

Serving size: Serves 4

4 x 150g fillets water buffalo
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 medium onion, sliced
45ml port
1/3 cup beef stock
50 ml fresh pouring cream
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon picked thyme leaves
4 head witlof
2 tablespoons caster sugar
40g butter
5-6 baby zucchini
80ml white wine
40 ml white wine vinegar
Pumpkin mash to serve
Parsley sprigs, extra, to garnish

Season buffalo fillets and rub with olive oil.
Heat a large pan, cook buffalo to your liking, as you would with a fillet of beef (4-5 minutes each side) for medium/medium-rare. Remove, cover with foil and rest.
Meanwhile return pan to heat.
Add a little extra olive oil, if necessary, cook onion until soft.
Add port, beef stock and cream, cook, simmering reduce by a 1/3 or cook until sauce thickens.
Stir in fresh herbs and remove from heat.
Meanwhile cut witlof in half and rub cut side in sugar.
Heat a medium pan, place witlof sugar side down and cook a few minutes to caramelise.
Reduce heat, turn witlof. Add butter and zucchini and cook covered until vegetables soften. Add white wine and vinegar, simmer until wine and juices reduce by half.
Serve Buffalo Fillets with port sauce, pumpkin mash and caramelised witlof.
Garnish with a little extra parsley if desired.

via: The Australian Women's Weekly

Midwife on a Mission!: Water buffalo with pumpkin mash and braised witlof -- Yum!

Williams Missionary Page

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Morning Project

How many uses can you think of for duct tape? This morning we strengthened the cross-bar on Allie's cast. The bar broke inside it's fiberglass wrappings. So we splinted the break with a plastic chopstick and taped it up with neon green duck tape.

We splinted the splint. Nice.


By the way... the green stuff in Allie's mouth is avocado, not misplaced scraps of green tape. Honest.

Monday, May 04, 2009

South Florida says goodbye to ‘Musicianary’ Bobby Michaels

image Here's a link to an article I wrote for the Good News of South Florida about Bobby Michaels.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Social Networking

One of the things I finally decided to do was create a Facebook page and Twitter account for Shepherd's Staff Mission Facilitators. Actually, I decided to do these things awhile ago. I finally got around to taking some action.

Thanks to those of you that signed on as fans of Shepherd's Staff this week. And also thanks to those of you following on Twitter.

Click the images below if you want to jump on board.




Friday, May 01, 2009

Book Review: The Hole in Our Gospel

image The Hole in Our Gospel
Author: Richard Stearns
Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 2009
Number of pages: 279

The Hole in Our Gospel analyzes modern Christendom's commitment to the whole gospel. "More and more, our view of the gospel has been narrowed to a simple transaction, marked by checking a box on a bingo card at some prayer breakfast, registering a decision for Christ, or coming forward during an altar call," says author Richard Stearns, director of World Vision. Stearns strongly believes that our twenty-first century, suburban gospel needs an overhaul.

Heeding the gospel, according to Stearns, means that God's Kingdom is breaking through to earth in the here and now. "If your personal faith in Christ has no positive outward expression, then your faith - and mine - has a hole in it."

Most Christians treat the gospel as fire insurance; it's a switching mechanism for re-routing as many hell-bound souls as possible to heaven. The afterlife is the ultimate priority. Life here and now matters little, so Christians make minimal difference in the world beyond their neighborhoods' cul-de-sacs.

Stearns challenges that idea. He reminds us that we'll be judged in the afterlife for our treatment of people in this life. "...focusing almost exclusively on the afterlife reduces the importance of what God expects of us in this life. The kingdom of God, which Christ said is 'within you' (Luke 17:21 NKJV), was intended to change and challenge everything in our fallen world in the here and now. It was not meant to be a way to leave the world but rather the means to actually redeem it."

Early in the book Stearns draws the reader into the discussion Jesus had with religious leaders in Matthew 22.

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" a Pharisee asks.

Jesus' answer: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," and, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Stearns posits that the third greatest commandment is introduced in Matthew 28: make disciples. He calls Matthew 28 a "bookend to the momentous announcement in Luke 4 that Christ came to preach the good news to the poor, restore sight to the blind, release captives, and proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. But it is more than a call to proclaim; it is a call to make disciples." Stearns bullets his points this way:

· We are to love God.

· We are to love our neighbors.

· We are to go and make disciples of others who will do the same.

Stearns argues that the church misunderstands and is misapplying the gospel. "What 'good news' have God's people brought to the world's three billion poor? What 'gospel' have millions of Africa's AIDS orphans seen?" Stearns supports his argument not just with statistics, but with a narrative of what he's touched and seen firsthand. He's visited cities like Rakai, Uganda, ground zero of Uganda's AIDS pandemic. He's sat with boys like Richard, the thirteen-year old head of his household. In that city alone there are sixty thousand children orphaned by AIDS.

This book emphasizes faith transforming the life of the believer in a way that the world around the believer changes as the believer is changed. "Light dispels darkness; it reverses it."

At first glance, it seems that Stearns falls too far on the side of a "social gospel." But Stearns makes the case that true faith will produce deeds that collide with despair, not apathy that colludes with ignorance and spiritual impotence. "The whole gospel is a vision for ushering in God's kingdom - now, not in some future time, and here, on earth, not in some distant heaven," Stearns writes.

This book is intended for anyone who says that a personal relationship with Jesus is meant to be private. The one that evaluates faith by putting check marks in the proper theological boxes especially needs to read this book. It's Stearns fervent hope that those readers will come to the conclusion he came to: "...if Jesus was willing to die for this troubled planet, maybe I need to care about it too. Maybe I should love the people who live on it more. Maybe I have a responsibility to do my part to love the world that Jesus loves so much."

Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., was named to President Barack Obama’s new Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The council is composed of religious and secular leaders and scholars from different backgrounds.

Evangelicals and Torture - Jesus Creed

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this...

The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new survey. More than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54 percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is "often" or "sometimes" justified. Only 42 percent of people who "seldom or never" go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

What do you believe? How would you answer the question at the bottom of this post?

White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did. This is the question: "Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, sometimes be justified, rarely be justified, or never be justified?"

via: Evangelicals and Torture - Jesus Creed