Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Riding in the Car with My Wife and Two Kids


Kate is four and Karsten is one.  When my family drives somewhere, even just 10 minutes away, Kelley and I can’t speak a word to each other unless we yell.  

Karsten whines, cries, or starts saying CONTINUALLY, “ahh unh, ahh unh, ahh unh, ahh unh (brief pause) unh ahh, unh ahh, unh ahh, unh ahh.”  

Kate eventually gets tired of it, so she tries to drown Karsten out by LOUDLY singing OVER and OVER,

“There WAS a FARMER,
HAD a DOG
and BINGO was his NAME-O,
E-I-N-G-O, E-I-N-G-O . . .”

Kelley interrupts to say, “Kate, it’s B-i-n-g-o.  Buh Buh Buh –B!”

So Kate STARTS OVER and may or may not spell Bingo with a B the next of 10 times she sings the song.  We’ve told her plenty of times that it’s B-i-n-g-o, but I think she spells it wrong just to be annoying. 

Meanwhile, Kelley and I are still trying to talk so our volume has risen to about 9, and that’s when it SUDDENLY hits me that my HEAD is about to explode!  It doesn’t slowly build, IT HITS ME ALL AT ONCE.  You’d THINK I’d see it coming. 


I went 34 years without a wife and wondered if I’d EVER have children, so I should probably just smile when this stuff happens.  But smiling isn’t my first impulse!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Fanatical Thanksgiving

Part of my sermon from this past week:

I've observed this over the years: People who are God-focused make people who are self-focused uncomfortable - believers and unbelieversThose who make God their priority and love Him with all they've got can't help but acknowledge Him CONTINUALLY.  They see God's hand in everything, and they accept their current situation in life as a divine calling

Other people, even some who claim to be Christians, call them a name they INTEND to be NEGATIVE and CRITICAL.  That name is FANATICS.  But look at the meaning of that word:

Fanatic - a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal.

I hope you've been around a JESUS FREAK lately, someone who is FANATICAL about their Savior.  I hope it made you SMILE, but if it made you UNCOMFORTABLE, I hope you had to ask yourself, "I love Jesus, so why is this person's FANATICAL LOVE FOR JESUS MAKING ME SO UNCOMFORTABLE?"  I hope you saw that you had NO GOOD REASON for your feelings.  I hope God used that person to CONVICT you for your own second-rate devotion to Him.  And mostly, I hope you're ready to be FANATICAL about Jesus, too. 

If you're not FANATICAL about Jesus, WHY AREN'T YOU?  The Bible teaches that God is to be our SINGULAR PRIORITY, and His Kingdom is to be our FOCUS.  (Just to name a few references, Matthew 6:33, Matthew 22:34-40.)  That sounds fanatical to me!


This Thanksgiving, I hope you'll surrender yourself to God's calling, and become FANATICAL about WHO HE IS, HOW HE WORKS, and WHAT HE WANTS.  And that you'll celebrate our National Thanksgiving Day with true, genuine FANATICAL thanksgiving.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

My Mom the Teacher

Kathleen Virginia Casey Elders
July 4, 1950 - October 30, 2014

My mom, Mama, died at 2:55am last Thursday morning.  She found out in late July that she had cancer.  And that it was bad.  And that there was little hope of surviving it.  By the time she went to the doctor, what started as ovarian cancer had spread to other parts of her body, including her lungs, which is what ultimately took her so quickly from the time of her diagnosis.

I won't go into the details of the last 22 years of my mom's life here.  She and my dad divorced in 1992-3 when I was 19 years old.  Here's what I primarily tell people about my mom: She taught her four sons to know and love Jesus.  She was faithful and obedient to the highest call God gives mothers.

Deuteronomy 6:4-8  "Listen, O Israel!  The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength  6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today  7 Repeat them again and again to your children.  Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.  8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.  9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

She taught us, as well as countless other children at Poplar Springs Baptist Church in Lavonia, GA, many things I used to take for granted.  Back then, as a traditional Southern Baptist Church, we went to church on Sunday mornings at 10am for Sunday School, 11am for worship, and then again at 6pm for Discipleship Training, and 7pm for worship.  Yep, we spent 4 hours at church every Sunday, and I never thought it was too much.  For several years of my childhood, Mama was my Discipleship Training teacher.  During those classes, I learned the 39 Books of the Old Testament, the 27 Books of the New Testament, the Ten Commandments, the Eight Beatitudes, and the Twelve Disciples.  I remember her teaching us the Books of the Bible 5 at a time: "Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.  Again - Genesis, Exodus . . ."  She taught us the Twelve Disciples 4 at a time: "Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John. Again - Andrew, Simon Peter . . ."  I don't know why she started with Andrew when Scripture starts with Simon Peter, but that's still the way I say them - Andrew first.

As for the Books of the Bible, it helped that my church also did the "Bible Drill," where students stand holding their closed Bible in front of them, and the teacher calls out a Bible verse.  The first person to find it steps forward and reads it.  I loved the competition.

As I said, I used to take all those lists for granted.  I thought it was normal for every Christian to know them.  I learned otherwise as I grew up.  When I took my first youth ministry position and started teaching students regularly, I saw that most church kids not only don't KNOW the Books of the Bible, but they aren't even FAMILIAR with them.  That was in 1997, and since then, at every church I've served, I've had a standing deal with my youth: the first one to come to me and recite all 66 Books of the Bible will receive SOME AMOUNT OF MONEY (it has changed through the years).  To this day, nobody has ever done it.  Learning 66 things in order isn't impossible, so the reason has been that nobody has CARED to do it.  I'm glad my mom taught me before I reached an age that I didn't care.

Then I had another eye-opener.  At Erskine Theological Seminary, one of the schools I attended for my Masters, I had to take a Bible Survey course.  It was a semester-long overview of the entire Bible.  I loved it, while most students didn't.  Why did I love it?  Because I already knew a lot of the stuff we were tested on, and I made an easy A.  Other students spent long hours trying to memorize all the things I learned as a child.  During tests, I was always the first student finished.  It was honestly the first and last class in my seminary education that I felt was remedial.  When my friends in the class asked me how I knew all that stuff so easily, I told them about my mom.  I was shocked that so many pastors and pastors-to-be didn't know these BASICS.

Aside from the lists, Mama taught my brothers and me what it means to know who God is, how He works, and what He wants.  She made Bible stories come to life, and I can still remember the characters she drew and cut out to use on her flannel board to teach us Biblical truths.  I'm trying to pass on what I learned from her to my 3-year old, and in the future, to our 1-month old.  I cared that she taught us all those things way back then, but the older I get, the more I care and the more it means to me.  Especially this week.


Friday, October 10, 2014

High-Pressure Baby Naming



Three years ago, we shared the naming of our first child with her birth parents.  We chose "Katherine."  The name means virginal or pure.  Something to aspire to!  Also, it's a derivative  of Kathleen, which is my mom's name and Kelley's mother's, mother's name (Kelley never met her grandmother).  Kate's birth parents named her Ava.  We don't know their reason for choosing that name, but for Kate, Ava's meaning comes from the fact that her birth parents chose it for her.

We found out about Kate in late June and she was born August 10, so we had plenty of time to choose her name.

We found out about Karsten on Tuesday afternoon around 2:30.  She was born on Monday at 10:37 am.  She was to be discharged from the hospital on Wednesday morning.  We had to say yes or no to the adoption quickly so that if we declined, another adoptive family could be identified.

It just so happened that when I got an unknown call on Tuesday afternoon, I let it go to voice mail.  I was in Pinehurst, NC playing golf on a planned 3-day trip with my friend and former pastor/boss, Charles.  We were on hole 14 at Deercroft Golf Club.  We had paid for a rarely offered all-day rate and were on our second round.  Before the call, I was wondering how many holes we could play before dark.  A few minutes after ignoring the call, I listened to the voice mail.  I told Charles, "That was Bethany.  That was THE CALL.  I have to call Kelley."  I stayed calm, but true to his nature, Charles did not.

I called Kelley and asked, "Did you get an unknown call?"  She replied calmly, "Yes.  I'm in the doctor's office right now and I can't answer it.  There are two doctors in here checking Kate out and giving her a breathing treatment."  (Turns out that Kate has pneumonia from a respiratory illness she's had recently - another story in itself.)  I told Kelley, "That was Bethany.  That was THE CALL.  You need to call them back, see what they say, and then call me back."  Immediately, Kelley's voice got all high, chirpy, excited, stressed - sort of like mine when I think Georgia has a chance to win a big game.

If you're thinking that I was just playing golf so I should've called, you should know that Kelley has handled ALL of our adoption correspondence - calls, emails, rejections, confirmations, etc.  So I wanted her to get all the info first - just like with Kate.

Meanwhile, I kept playing my final 4 holes.  I'll just say that I wasn't quite concentrating, and the 41 I shot on the front was a lot better than whatever I shot on the back.

Kelley called back when I was on hole 17.  She gave me the details and said, "We have to decide NOW because the baby is being discharged in the morning.  AND YOU NEED TO COME HOME RIGHT NOW!"  I actually hit 3 shots while we were talking - a poor chip and two poor putts with one hand - double bogey.  And since 18 was on our ride back to the clubhouse and I knew nothing could be done tonight, and since I had a 3.5 hour drive home through Charlotte traffic, we went ahead and played 18.

Charles and I got back to the hotel about 4:30, showered, ate the free supper included in the cost of the room that we forfeited for the night, and I left at 5:45.  Made it home about 9:15.  And that's when Kelley said, "We need to give them a name tonight so they have it to discharge the baby in the morning.  If we don't decide till later, it'll be an ordeal."  I already suspected this, so on the way home, I was asking Siri for the meanings of various, possible names Kelley and I had discussed.  We'd been on the waiting list since February and we started a list of possible names back then - but hadn't really added much to it.  So while we did have something to work with, it was limited.  All we were FAIRLY certain of was that we wanted a name that starts with K.  We didn't want to be, "Kevin, Kelley, Kate, and Sophia."  But we're getting pretty limited with K names.  Kevin, Kelley, and Kate.  My brothers' names are Keith, Ken, and Kris.  My step-sister's name is Kim(berly).  Kelley's sister's name is Kristi.  Kelley's cousin has children named Christopher, Collins, and Campbell.  See what I'm saying?

Being a golfer, I was familiar with a word/name, Karsten.  I knew that word was stamped into some PING golf clubs, but didn't know the history.  When we started making our baby name list, I looked up the name.  Karsten Solheim founded the PING golf company - actually, Karsten Manufacturing.  He was born in Norway but grew up in America, and his name was from German.

Karsten is Greek and means "anointed one," just like "Christ" means "anointed one".  In Low German, Karsten means "Christian."

I was pretty set on Karsten when I learned its meaning - although I've never owned a PING golf club!  (That's likely to change, now.)  The name Karsten identifies me with Jesus Christ.  Karsten is what I am - a Christian.  Jesus is my Savior, my Lord, and my priority.  I will raise our children to know and love Jesus and give them the very best environment to do so.

I shared the name with Kelley and she liked it, but she also kept coming up with other options.  Even this past week, before we got THE CALL from Bethany, she sent me a text asking what I thought of the name "Dylan" for a girl.  I told her I liked it.

After I'd bee home long enough to unpack my truck, and without us even discussing options, Kelley said, "So we're naming her Karsten, right?"  I was happy, but I just said, "If that's what you want."  Inside I was talking to myself in that voice I described like when I think Georgia has a chance to win a big game.  But there was still the middle name.  The complete naming of this child was all up to us.  I threw out a couple of names from Kelley's family, but she took just a few seconds to say, "Karsten Rose.  Rose is my Mom's middle name."

So quickly coming up with a name was much easier than I thought.  Kelley emailed Bethany our name about 10pm.  On Wednesday, we went to the hospital, which just happened to be in our own city, at 10:30am.  We got our first glimpse of our new daughter.  The experience this second time was so much different.  It wasn't as painful.  Our first adoption was painful and joyful all mixed together.  That whole hospital experience was the hardest thing I've ever done.  This time was just joyful.

Karsten was released to Bethany because we hadn't signed any papers, yet.  We went to Bethany's office, signed all the papers, and left with our new daughter by 2pm.  Kelley's family was calling and texting, asking for pictures and a name, but Kelley told them they'd have to wait.  Gena (Kelley's mom) was at our house, waiting.  Kelley planned it to happen like this: we walked in with our new baby girl, put her down in front of Gena, and said, "This is Karsten Rose."  Gena put her hands to her chest, and in her own high, chirpy voice said, "MY name???" and started crying.  It was just like Kelley wanted it to be - perfect.

So Karsten means Christian, and Rose is after Kelley's mom.  We think that's quite an inspiring name for this little girl.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Kate's Rebellion

As far as I can remember, Kate has reached a new FIRST in her young life: she has come up with her own expression to show her disgust or rebellion.  We were on vacation the past week, and that's when it started.  Kelley and I heard it a couple times each before we realized she was actually SAYING something PURPOSEFULLY.  I'm going to keep this as short as possible and show you a video to show you where she got her EXPRESSION.

Each time she said it, she was mad.  For example, on our way home from vacation, she threw her sunglasses across the back of the car against the window.  She's been told plenty of times not to do that, so I turned around and popped her on the leg (Kelley was driving).  Normally, that brings a few tears followed by an apology.  This time, she leaned forward, glared at me, and said something that sounded like "AHN-tie"!!!  She sounded like Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid.

Since it sounded like an Asian cuss word and we had no idea where she heard it, we'd been asking her who says that.
Kelley: "Kate, who says that?"
Kate: "Rapunzel."
Kelley: "Who does Rapunzel say that to?"
Kate: "Her mom."
Kelley: "When you say it, are you being nice, or mean?"
Kate: (smiling as she answered) "Mean!"

As soon as we got home Saturday night, I started the movie Tangled and watched it with Kate as I unpacked our stuff.  If I stepped out of the room I'd ask if Rapunzel had said it yet, and she kept saying, "No, not yet."  The movie was nearly over and I'd decided that Kate was making it all up, but then she started smiling and said, "Here it comes!"  And here's what I saw:

video

Rapunzel says, "I am the lost princess!  Aren't I!"  Kate doesn't know the words "aren't I."  She saw Rapunzel's scowl, heard the expression, and thought Rapunzel was expressing anger!

Kelley and I will probably be saying, "AHN-tie" when we're mad for the rest of our lives.







Thursday, November 21, 2013

Adoption Demands

We had our LONE home study for our second adoption this morning.  We had about 4 for the first adoption, but since this is our second and we're using the same agency, it's a little less complex.  We do have the same adoption worker, though, at least for now.  She's leaving the agency - sadly for us.
I told our adoption worker that we're not going to say "boy only" this time, although that's what I'd like to do.  Kelley won't let me. She says, "If we were having a child naturally we couldn't choose."  My argument is that since I can't have children, GETTING TO CHOOSE is one of the few benefits.  So I asked about it - just for my own information.  She said, "You don't want to do that."  I wasn't sure what she meant, so I asked.  Selecting a specific gender means you'll be waiting longer.  That didn't make sense (because I haven't thought it through).  If half of all children are boys and half are girls, I thought it'd just mean we had half the chance as before.  But, many times, a birthmother doesn't know the gender of her baby until after she picks a family.  If she knows a family only wants a boy, she won't pick that family, since she doesn't know if she's having a boy or a girl.
Now it makes sense to me.  I get it.  I love it when I come to understand something I didn't before.  That's part of why I like Bible study, writing messages, and teaching: I get to learn, but I also get to help others learn.  It's fun to see someone's eyes light up when they "get" something for the very first time - especially when it's about God, His purposes, and His ways.
I'd love to have a little boy, but I'll love any child we get to have call us Mommy and Daddy.  It's not like girls can't  play golf, swing a bat, throw like Roberto Clemente (well, maybe that's a stretch) . . . Maybe I should've said "throw like Jeff Francoeur" since I doubt many people know who Roberto Clemente was.  I know Francoeur hasn't lived up to expectations (Braves fans), but there's still nobody else I'd rather have in right field trying to throw out a runner at 2nd, 3rd, or home.  OK, I got sidetracked a bit.  It happens.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Chuggington

Kelley had a continuing education class in Chicago last week for 3 days, so Kate and I tagged along and we made the last part of the week a vacation.  Kate flew on an airplane and rode on a train for the very first time.  Kelley loaded several episodes of the two shows Kate loves, "Little Einsteins" and "Chuggington," on her iPad.  Both of these shows are on Disney Jr.


We don't let Kate watch much TV, but we thought we better have a way to keep her occupied waiting for our flights and on our flights.  It worked, but I was reminded of why we don't let Kate watch much TV: it's ADDICTIVE for her.  We'd rather her play (inside or outside) and look at books, anything other than becoming another TV/Computer/Gadget zombie child.

Kate developed a favorite saying on our trip.  I've been recording her first word each day in my journal, just for fun.  One morning when I went into her room (we had a suite the last part of the week) to get her out of the crib, her first word was "light" because I'd turned on a lamp to get her up, and with her next breath she said, "More Chuggy!"  Not "Daddy," "Mommy," "Breakfast," or any of her usual first words of the day, but "More Chuggy!"  She had watched those 3 20-minute episodes so often that it was all she began to think about.  At various times throughout the day, she'd say it to us.  She wanted to watch Chuggington, ALL THE TIME.

I don't think using the TV (or newer technology) to babysit children is a good idea.  As I've worked with teenagers since the late 1990's, I've noticed a drastic change in how they act and interact.  It's disturbing.  I regularly witness groups of teenage boys and girls in a room together, DURING UNSTRUCTURED TIME (no lesson, no one addressing the group), and the only thing you can hear is thumbs moving on keyboards or scrolling the glass faces of their phones.  Sometimes, they're texting each other - in the same room - instead of talking.  I've also experienced this on trips, where there's very little sound inside the van I'm driving, because everyone is playing with their phones.  When this trend first started, I banned the use of phones, iPods, etc. on our trips so that they would ENGAGE one another.  It didn't work: they mostly just rode in silence unless I tried to make them talk via playing games, etc.

Years ago, some of the greatest ministry the week of a youth retreat happened ON THE RIDE TO/FROM OUR DESTINATION.  Now on these trips, there's mostly silence or music from the radio that few people hear because they're all listening to their own.  We witnessed this same thing on the subway last week - most people were PURPOSEFULLY isolated, even though they were sitting or standing inches away from others.

I'm an introvert, but I like to talk to people.  The few times I've flown alone, I've usually sat beside someone who wanted to talk and I generally enjoyed the conversation.  But nowadays, kids don't care to talk to even the people they KNOW, let alone the people they don't know.  I wonder how some of them will find a relationship meaningful enough for marriage.  I wonder how the Christians in these younger generations will ever be able to share the Gospel, which by nature is difficult, controversial, and polarizing, when they don't even have the desire to have conversation with others.

As funny as it sounds coming from a 22-month old, I hate the reality of the words, "More Chuggy!"