Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for November, 2013

Giving Thanks!

I want to take some time to give thanks if I may! After all, Thursday is Thanksgiving and I’m in a “thankful” mood. So, if I may…I’m going to “thank” away. But, I’d like to preface my thankfulness with a few verses of Scripture. Take your time while reading these if you don’t mind:

1 Chronicles 16:34 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 9:1 I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
Psalm 57:9 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.

Psalm 79:13 But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.

Psalm 116:17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

1 Thessalonians 3:9 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God.

See that last one? “For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you…” I’m thankful first of all for you my readers. Bless your heart for reading my ramblings. It’s my honor to correspond with you. I hear from many of you, but I’m convinced there are many that I’m not even aware of who read regularly. Thank you!

See this lady and children below?

Check out the picture in the left corner? She looks like she’s about 19 doesn’t she? With today being her birthday, we’ll be the same age for the next four months. And yes, “I’m VERY thankful for my bride!” We’ll soon be married 23 years (December 22nd). Kandace put those pictures on Facebook earlier today. She was being “thankful for her momma,” when she said: “Happy Birthday to my wonderful mother. Not only is she my mom, but she is also my teacher, trainer, and the strongest woman I know. I love you, Mama!!!!” Katy (now married) said this about her momma: “here is no greater, harder calling or job than being a stay-at-home mom. Thank you Pam Sheets Brown for raising me every day and moment of my life. I pray that one day God will allow me to be a mother too and when that happens, I will love my babies like you loved me.”

Man do I love those two girls…

Speaking of Kandace…she clogged in Light-Up Downtown in North Wilkesboro this past Friday night…

That’s her in the middle with dark brown hair (like her momma) :). I’m thankful for that young lady. She’ll be 16 in January! Crazy!

I’m thankful for Jason and his wife Katie and their desire to go to Weslaco, Texas and serve the Lord. We had Jason’s ordination council on Wednesday night…

ordination council

We had a wonderful meal and service at the church last night to ordain Jason. Katie and her brother Robby and Kandace did a great job.

There’s Jason sharing his testimony…

Here we’re laying on hands…

I’m thankful for a wonderful church who supports missions and wonderful missionaries!

I’m also thankful for Clara. She’s a sweetheart and here she’s a peppermint in the “Nutcracker.”

She dances at Tonya’s Dance Academy. That’s Tonya and her husband Tim and their wonderful family.

Thankful for my two dancers…

I’m thankful for how that lady is seeking to honor the Lord with her studio. What a wonderful show yesterday!

I’m thankful for my Great Aunt…

Clara and Aunt Kate

That’s Kate Huffman with her great, great niece. I take Clara and Andrew with me to see Kate at an assisted living home often. I make rounds at the homes on Wednesdays after Iron Men. I’m thankful for a wonderful great Aunt! When I was 18 and graduated from high school, she gave me “Haley’s Bible Handbook.” She said, “One day, you’re going to make a preacher.” You were a prophet Aunt Kate:

I’m thankful for the best son-in-law on the planet…

You bring my daughter such joy!

Thank you Josh! I love you and I’m so thankful for you!

And speaking of sons…

Boy am I thankful for my Lego-loving boy…

I love all my family and times like these…

I’m sure thankful for the greatest parents in the world! Mom and Dad…what would Kim and our family’s do without you?

I’m thankful for the greatest church I know…

So, I’m thankful! I’m thankful for all the Lord has allowed and accomplished in my life and that of my family and church family this year. I’m blown away by His favor and anointing! Thank you Lord for your many blessings!

I’m certain you are thankful too. I’ve pondered deeply these things of my “thankfulness” in writing this to you. Consider what you might be thankful for and just for kicks…if you wrote them down…what would you say. It might be something that you’d want to share on Thursday with your family.

God bless you and Happy Thanksgiving!

Read Full Post »

Grief

Many of you know that I am very, very close to Dr. David Black and his wife, now with the Lord, Becky Black, whom I affectionately called, Mama B! I have taken the liberty of taking a couple of Dave’s posts over this past week and noted below because he deals so transparently and honestly about grief! This is a Bible Scholar and one of the most brilliant men I’ve ever met (or will meet) and yet, he shares his soul about loss, grief, death and even depression.

I share this with you because it’s too good to keep locked up just on his site. So, read and read with the mindset that yes…you might not need this information today or tomorrow or even this year…but, I promise you…one day you’ll need this!

Sunday, November 17

6:12 PM

So how are things going at Bradford Hall? I’m actually doing pretty well, though I’ve had my “moments.” Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Why does it only seem to get harder?” Yesterday was horrible. It was the two-week anniversary of Becky’s Homegoing. Yesterday I felt like a professional cyclist who has just climbed a long hill and now feels he should be able to coast down the other side. But when he reaches the top he sees that the road winds on, with even steeper hills than the one he has just climbed. Saturday, as I sat alone in my library, I began to sob. I don’t know if I can do this. Well, I may be dumb but I’m not stupid, so I got on the phone and called one of my daughters. I don’t need to suffer alone, I reminded myself. November 2, 2013, is a day I will never forget as long as I live. It is one I look back on with thanksgiving as well as heartbreak. With the Lord’s help I want to extract every ounce of positive teaching from the 4-year-long illness and passing of Becky. I want my whole life to count for Christ.

I try to thank Him every morning for all He has done for me, to praise Him for His goodness, and to ask Him for the strength to do His will so that through my actions others will see Him in me. Lamentations 3:23 has meant so much to me lately. “He does not willingly afflict the children of men.” I must be clear about that. God may permit suffering but He does not cause it. He seeks only my utmost good through the pain. With rare exceptions (thank God they have been few!), people have shown me love and acceptance. They have shown me how to support bereaved people with the greatest sensitivity. Mostly you’ve just taken time to visit my blog and listen.

What are the lessons I am learning? I’m learning to lean on God more than on others. I’m learning to appreciate the hospitality of people. I’m learning that it’s okay to miss Becky’s companionship. I’m learning the importance of studying the life and teachings of Jesus so that I can know how to react to the pressures of everyday life. I’m learning the value of singleness. (Jesus was a bachelor, and who would dare call Him an oddball or unfulfilled?) I’m learning that life can be rich and satisfying even if, humanly speaking, I am alone. I’m realizing that there are places in life I can go as a single person that would be out of the question if I were married.

So what makes being a widower so hard? I think it’s because the Christian widower knows that God is good. He dares to push the Absolute back into the center of the picture. He recognizes that his life is the product of a wise Creator. Where others see only loss and silence, he knows that God is shouting aloud in the color and scent of every sunset and rose. He knows he has no one apart from Christ. He realizes that Christianity is for people who have no answers apart from faith in a loving and just God. He knows that Christ will stick with him, change him, and in the end receive him into His presence. Ain’t it just like Jesus to teach me these things? The apostle Paul (a single man) had one ambition, and that was to know Him (Phil. 3:10). This is the same Paul who experienced success and loneliness, elation and depression, who had known Christ on dry land and in shipwreck. Richard of Chichester once prayed: “May I know thee more clearly/Love thee more dearly/and follow thee more nearly.” I suppose I can say this is my prayer too.

Well, I need to get caught up on emails and cook supper for Nigusse. As you know, I leave on Thursday to help the Ethiopian church cope with Becky’s death. I fear that for all too many, Becky’s passing is seen as the worst thing that could befall them. I shall seek to help them view it as a graduation into glory, into a life no longer marred by sorrow and suffering. I will be quite insistent that while tears of grief are acceptable, an atmosphere of gloom and doom is not. Death is a defeated enemy because of the first Easter. Christians are the only people on the planet who can rejoice in the face of the Valley.

Amen?

Wednesday, November 20

4:12 PM

During the past couple of weeks, ever since Becky’s death, I have thought a lot about grief. I know that sounds morbid, but it’s true. Everyone tells me that what I’m experiencing is normal. Let it do its work, Dave. It’s okay to mourn. Believe you me, that’s a hard lesson for me to learn. I’m a fighter. I want to struggle against grief. But it seems that the harder I struggle, the worse it becomes. It’s like trying to walk on an icy sidewalk. Every step you take is precarious. The faster you go, the more likely you are to slip and fall.

When I was a teenager, my friends and I used to surf the North Shore of Oahu during the winter months, when the waves were anywhere between 15 and 25 feet.

 

On a big day, you were happy to get in four good rides. Wipeouts occurred frequently, especially if you were a risk-taker. Now, when you wipe out on a big wave, it’s like being tossed about in a washing machine. No sooner do you break to the surface to grab a quick breath of air when the next wave of the set comes crashing down on top of you. Every surfer knows exactly what to do in that situation. You release. You let go completely. You let the wave pummel you until it decides to let you go. Because the more you fight against the wave, the more exhausted you get. Fighting a big wave is an exercise in futility. You just have to let it do its work.

Grief attacks me like those 25-footers at Sunset Beach. The wave comes rolling in out of nowhere, and I am helpless to stop it. The harder I fight it, the more exhausted I become. I have to accept it, let it do its work. I lie in bed at night, sleepless, staring at the ceiling. I get tears while driving. Each wave reminds me of how different my life is today than it was when I had Becky by my side. The taken-for-granted normalness of life is a thing of the past. Everywhere I go I see where we shopped together, dined together, cried together, laughed together, made love together.

Back then, when the waves came, we went under together. We had each other to hold on to. Not anymore. Where do I even start to describe how lonely I feel? Irrational as it may sound, I sometimes say to myself, “No, it isn’t true. Becky can’t be gone.” Grief stalks me like a hunter. Scripture helps, but it’s no panacea. Just when I think I’ve made a few baby steps forward, I take bigger steps backwards. Her face fills the bleachers of my memory. I suppose that’s why I blog. I suppose that’s why I talk about her so much in these pages. Expressing my grief publicly is a reminder of how much I loved her. I try to fill the vacancy with activities. I put pictures of her on the blog that I know must drive my readers crazy. But even that doesn’t fill the hole. I feel violated, raped. Strong words, I know, but even they don’t describe how I feel sometimes. Diminished. Impoverished. Abandoned. I am lonely even in a crowd. Thankfully, one emotion I have not felt is anger. (I feel very virtuous in saying that.) Or maybe I am angry but just not expressing it. Knowledge is not my problem. I know that God will make this loss a gain. But if you ask me how I’m doing, I won’t white-wash it. If I’m struggling, I’ll say so. If I’m exhausted, I will let you know. If I’m depressed (dare I use the “D” word?), I won’t hesitate to tell you.

How often I have thanked the Lord that I had a chance to say goodbye to Becky. There I would sit, helpless to ease her suffering, but I could still speak, and she could still listen and nod. God didn’t have to plan things that way. He could have taken her suddenly. I am also so very thankful for all of you and for your emails. This is the other side of grief: the body of Christ coming together, rallying around the sufferer. You, dear reader, have helped me to pick up the pieces. I want to embrace life to the fullest. I realize that my life will never be “normal” again. My mind will always carry the videotapes of her life. I have “let her go” so many times I’ve lost count. I know I will have to let her go many more times. I have entrusted her to God. For years she filled an empty place in me, and that place is empty again. And so I’ll say it for the millionth time:

Goodbye, Becky. I miss you. I love you. I do not blame you for the pain in my heart. I just wish we didn’t have to say goodbye so soon.

Oh thank you Dave for sharing this! What a blessing it is that you have allowed us to look into your soul.

And this is how I will remember Mama B.

I miss you too Mama B! And I grieve…and yet rejoice! How can that be! Thank you Lord for the resurrection! It guarantees that I’ll see her again…and that Dave will too!

Read Full Post »

Remember This?

Remember this? I posted this on August 8, 2013:

“Temps will be close to normal this winter with the best chance of snow being in January and February (which is normal). But, don’t be surprised if we see a freak ice/snow storm in late November, early December. You heard it here first!” Full post found here

I wouldn’t be shocked if we have a near miss next Tues/Wed. with some ice (foothills) or ice/snow (mountains). We’ll see. One thing is for sure… It’s going to be COLD for Thanksgiving. Looks like low to mid-40’s for highs at best in Western NC. Take a look at the Almanac that was printed last November 2012 (one year out).

calendar

Look closely. It says, “Messy mix of rain, sleet and snow North Carolina, Virginia border northward…snow…mountains of NC. There’s a good shot at this and I’m telling ya…if this pans out…then the Almanac is “THE BOMB!” 🙂 We’ll see!

Andrew loves this place:

Andrew karate

He’s at Life Skills Martial Arts in North Wilkesboro.

LifeSkills Martial Arts - North Wilkesboro, NC

Scott Matheny is the owner and lead instructor. He’s amazing with kids and adults alike. This is Scott and his wonderful family. He’s gone with us many times to Mexico. In fact, two years ago, we were bunk mates. He was top bunk (he’s so nice) and I had bottom bunk. He’s a tremendous worker and he and his family love the Lord!

His wife, Renee and Scott have their three boys, John Scott, Sebastian and Wesley, and baby #4 is on the way. He’s got a great website. Found here… and more than that I can tell you he’s a great man.

He’s excellent at his craft. He’s taught Andrew so much about self-defense and in doing so he’s reinforcing the discipline I’m teaching in my home. He demands obedience and respect and the kids eat it up! Andrew has worked his way up to a yellow belt and he got another “tip” on it tonight. With another tip…he’ll be up to his orange belt.

It’s a great place.

Scott does birthday parties at his studios too! You can cut your cake with a sword!

Check out his Facebook page to learn more! I wholeheartedly recommend Scott and his fine studio for you and your children.

Speaking of children. Pam showed me a wonderful article about children. It blessed my heart and it totally embodies what I believe the Scripture teaches about the entire family being involved in worship in church together. It’s entitled: “To You Who Bring Small Children to Church.” Here’s the first paragraph:

There you are sitting in worship or Bible study. Your child, or toddler, is restless. Perhaps they’re even a little boisterous. You try to silence them, and nothing. You try to pacify them with food or toys, and nothing. Eventually, you resort to the last thing you wanted to do: you pick them up, and before a watching audience, you make the march out of the auditorium. All the while, you’re a little embarrassed. Maybe you’re a little frustrated too. You might even think to yourself, “There’s no point in coming to church. I get nothing out of it because I have to constantly care for my kid.”

Small_child_worship_-_Ben_Mizen_710_244_s_c1_center_center_0_0_1

I want you — you mothers and/or fathers — to know just how encouraging you are to so many.

The rest of the article found here… It’s excellent and if you attend MPBC, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. 🙂

Katy blogged earlier this week and she’s hit the nail on the head about money and what’s important. Here’s an excerpt from her post: “All That Dough:”

Daddy always put that check in the plate. Always. Sometimes I wondered. Why do other girls get really nice, popular clothes? Why do those kids get razor phones and even Blackberry phones (those were actually popular in the day)? They didn’t have to work for them. On the flip side, I knew that some kids worked even harder than me. Some children didn’t even have food to eat or new clothes even from the cheapest stores, but I didn’t think about them… I thought about the rich children and all that they had.

Time has passed and some of those “rich children” grew up with a very selfish and spoiled mentality. They were always on the cutting edge, but their families happiness was a facade. Suddenly, I realized that I had more than they ever had. Those days that my family cleaned those showrooms were some of the most treasured days of my childhood. I can still smell the aroma of fresh pizza from the Italian restaurant floating through the cold mountain air as we lugged the brooms from the trunk. I can still hear Kandace singing as she went around getting up the trash. I can see Daddy through the front window in his toboggan, his nose red, as he wipes the water off the glass. I remember all of those talks as we rode up the mountains to work… those talks that I wouldn’t trade for a million dollars.

 Mom and Daddy gave and gave. I once asked them how much money they would have had if they had never given all that they gave. Dad said, “Why ask? The Lord has blessed us because we gave. It was His anyways.” But I still managed to figure out that we could have bought a beach house, maybe had a boat, had really nice cars and purchased clothes at very expensive stores. We COULD have.

You know what? Many “Christians” chose the life that my parents avoided.

What life did we choose? See the rest of the post here… Thanks for the kind words Kate!

What do the Bible, “The Hunger Games” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” have in common? All three are works of fiction, according to the booksellers at Costco. According to Fox News, Pastor Caleb Kaltenbach made that shocking discovery last Friday as he was shopping for a present for his wife at a Costco in Simi Valley, Calif. “All the Bibles were labeled as fiction,” the pastor told me. “It seemed bizarre to me.” Kaltenbach is the lead pastor at Discovery Church, a non-denominational Christian congregation in southern California. He thought there must be some sort of mistake so he scoured the shelf for other Bibles. Every copy was plastered with a sticker that read, “$14.99 Fiction.” Full article here…

What a crazy world!

Just about as crazy as ice on Thanksgiving! 🙂

 

Read Full Post »

Enjoy!

Enjoy! I’ve done that this week and I did that one year ago.

Yes, one year ago this past Sunday we celebrated one of the most wonderful days ever in the life of our family…

Wedding Picture-Family

What a wonderful, wonderful day that was! In fact this past Sunday is the 25th anniversary of when I asked Pam out on our first “date.” Amazing how time flies! We know that…and yes, we say that to one another, but do we really “enjoy” life or do we just live for the next big adventure or fun thing?

I’m trying to enjoy life. I really am. I’ve been far to guilty of living life for the “next thing.” So, we decided to take some time and come down to Cherry Point and see our “kids.” For that’s what they are to me.

167

They are still my kids. I’m learning more and more that just because they are no longer living with you, it doesn’t change that they are still your child. Yes, we let them go so they can “leave and cleave” to one another. But, I tell Katy and Josh that “We’re always here for you!”

We’ve had a wonderful week with them. Josh has had to work, but we’ve had some time to spend with Katy. We spent some time at the beach where we made our “Christmas picture” that we’ll mail out shortly. Can you believe that’s it’s less than a month and a half until Christmas? We trudged down and back to the ocean to do so…

At Atlantic

That was a blast! This picture IS NOT the Christmas picture! I’m not allowed to show it yet… 🙂 But, I thought this one was good too!

image

Pam was coming back up the path and she had the tripod. She was pointing it at me and said, “I’m gonna get you!” I think I’ll let her! Doesn’t she still look great after 25 years of knowing me! 🙂

Atlantic-Pam

I’m a blessed man! And I’ve enjoyed the wife of my youth and I now enjoy the wife of my middle age.

It’s also a blessing to have a Marine in the family. How about a condo for 5 days for $279. And get this… The Lord worked it out that we were here visiting with our family at the same time that Dave Black was doing some surfing about 20 minutes from us. We had dinner together on Tuesday night. Dr. Black is the best! What a mentor, friend, confidant and brother in Christ!

Dr Black and family

For those of you who didn’t know, Dr. Black just lost his wife of 37 years, Becky to cancer. He is so transparent about how he’s dealing with her death on his blog. It’s ministering to literally thousands of people, including this pastor/elder. I read Dr. Black’s blog every day. He’s mentoring me from afar. Thanks so much Dave!

I wrote the sermon for this Sunday on Tuesday. The rest of the family went to Pet Smart where Katy (and Josh) got a beautiful kitten they’ve named Teddy.

andrew and teddy

Two cuties! That picture was made in Katy and Josh’s home at Cherry Point.

Speaking of Andrew, this past Sunday at church he had the privilege of running the words on the screen as the children’s choir sang.

andrew at church

He was soooooo excited! Thanks Albert McGee and Jacob Church for mentoring him and most of all for Pastor Brad Cordray for having the vision to mentor and train up or young people. You see, Mt. Pleasant is not just my church, it’s Andrew’s church. He calls it “my church.” Why? Because he has a part in the church. He’s valued and he’s given a job and is being trained and cared for. His counterpart is Ty Bryan. He’s working on Jacob’s “board.”

Andrew and Ty

And Pastor Brad is leading the choir…

children's choir

He’s on his knees there in the middle. Doesn’t the choir look good! And they sound just as great! Well, the kids have enjoyed the indoor pool.

Atlantic-Kids

You can tell that no one is around. Of course it’s a whopping 41 degrees outside! I was able to read a book manuscript for my wonderful publisher, Henry Neufeld of Energion Publishing on an upcoming Study on Ecclesiastes. He needed it back pretty quickly. He’s a blessing to work with to say the least!

Let me show you something that once again struck me this week. See this picture…

Mexicans working hard

Those are men working on the condos. They start at 7:30 and stop at dark…around 5:30ish. They are amazing workers. And guess what nationality they are?

Drum roll please…

I’ll give you three guesses and the first two don’t count.

Mexican.

Why is that the case? Well, I think you know. You can’t find anyone else who’s willing to work those hours and do that kind of work. And why should they? You can get on government assistance and ride the train. I watched those guys work in 30 mph wind gusts on Tuesday afternoon when the cold front was coming through. They never stopped! What happened to the “American” work ethic? I think we will probably need to start calling it the “Mexican” work ethic if we want to be fair.

We had some nice walks on the beach.

Beach-family

There are mostly fishermen at the coast in November. I got to play a game with the kids on the playground.

playground

I was the dragon/alligator and they had to keep me off the ship. They did with their special wands. They saved the kingdom and the flag. Clara said, “We did it with the help of the Lord!” Gotta love it!

Here we are…

the three amigos

…the three amigos! Making memories!!

Can I tell you something. 10 years ago, I would have NEVER done this week. NEVER! Why? Because I’m a recovering workaholic. I still work a ton of hours. More than I care to admit. But, nothing like I used to…even five years ago. I have learned as a Pastor, I’ve got to get the time when I can. There are no days off and being “on call” means that there are no weekends. I’ve worked this week. I’ve counseled via email. I’ve checked on people. Made phone calls. Even counseled over the phone for several hours this week. It is what it is. If you weren’t called by the Spirit of God to do this job, you couldn’t do it. Being an Elder/Pastor/Shepherd is not for the faint of heart. It’s the greatest blessing in the world for me to be a part of this wonderful work…but, again…I’ve got to get the time off when I can get it in and that’s not usually when everyone else does it. So, this week I have had the chance to enjoy!

sunset

Isn’t that a great sunset? You know what I did? Yep! I enjoyed it! Enjoy!! We’ve got to do more of that. Enjoy our work. Enjoy life. Even in the struggles? Yes. Even in the hard times. Yes. Reading through Ecclesiastes helped me see that this week as well.

Let me show you how Eugene Peterson put it The Message:

Ecclesiastes 12

1-2 Honor and enjoy your Creator while you’re still young, Before the years take their toll and your vigor wanes, Before your vision dims and the world blurs And the winter years keep you close to the fire.

3-5 In old age, your body no longer serves you so well. Muscles slacken, grip weakens, joints stiffen. The shades are pulled down on the world. You can’t come and go at will. Things grind to a halt. The hum of the household fades away. You are wakened now by bird-song. Hikes to the mountains are a thing of the past. Even a stroll down the road has its terrors. Your hair turns apple-blossom white, Adorning a fragile and impotent matchstick body. Yes, you’re well on your way to eternal rest, While your friends make plans for your funeral.

6-7 Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over. Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends. The body is put back in the same ground it came from. The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.

It’s all smoke, nothing but smoke. The Quester says that everything’s smoke.

9-10 Besides being wise himself, the Quester also taught others knowledge. He weighed, examined, and arranged many proverbs. The Quester did his best to find the right words and write the plain truth.

11 The words of the wise prod us to live well. They’re like nails hammered home, holding life together. They are given by God, the one Shepherd.

12-13 But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else. The last and final word is this:

Fear God. Do what he tells you.

14 And that’s it. Eventually God will bring everything that we do out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it’s good or evil.

One last thing. Have you heard about the movie “Noah” that’s coming out? It’ll be out this March. It’s starring Russell Crowe. Check out the trailer and ENJOY!

NOAH-The Movie

Read Full Post »

An Old Story

Recently, I was asked to write for the North Carolina Homeschool Educators (NCHE) bi-weekly “Greenhouse” report about our adoption story. November is “adoption” month in our nation. The story came out today and I thought, “Hey, there might be blog readers who don’t know about our adoption stories.” So, here goes…

Brown Family Adoption Story

Nov 13, 2013

Adoption is part of God’s plan for mankind as the Apostle Paul recorded in Romans 8:15, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”

Our family didn’t always understand fully what adoption means to God. It should also be said that in the beginning of our marriage we really didn’t take seriously the command given to Adam and Eve and to Noah to be fruitful and multiply. God wants to use all of us in many ways to build his eternal kingdom. We grew up in the American Dream society, where so many have pushed the idea of having more than two children out of their minds. Many say, “We could never afford more than two children or be able to send more than two to college.” This was our philosophy as well. God showed us about ten years into our marriage that this view was not scriptural at all, even though we considered ourselves solid followers of Christ.

Through a series of events (miscarriage and inability to have more children), God opened our eyes to the possibility of adoption. One factor was a radio program Pam heard on “Focus on the Family,” about the millions of children in the world in orphanages. She felt specifically called to foreign adoption (more specifically China), so she prayed about it and didn’t tell me for several months. When she finally confessed this leading, I was open to it but unsure of the cost and work involved. Interestingly, at the same time, our oldest daughter, Katy who was about nine years old at the time began speaking to us about adoption. She told us she was having dreams about pushing a sister in our backyard swing, but “she doesn’t look like us.” Katy said, “She is Asian.” Pam and I had said absolutely nothing to either of our two biological children, Katy and Kandace (six years of age at the time).

Finally, we told our daughters we would pray about this adoption thing for six months and see what the Lord said to us. During that time we attended an America World Adoption Agency (AWAA) seminar in Charlotte. After I was there five minutes, I was convinced. Before anyone even got up to speak, I saw a little two or three year-old Chinese girl run up to her American father and say, “Daddy.” That did it! And so the journey began. After $25,000 in fees and costs, stacks of paperwork (measuring one foot thick) and about a year’s worth of work, we were winging our way to China to adopt our little girl. We stayed two weeks in China and ultimately halfway through the trip, a chubby-cheeked, twenty-eight pound, little girl named Fu Mei Xue was given to us. We named her Clara. She cried for two straight days! But, we finally realized that she disliked the hotel room. Once we got her out in public, she was a totally different child.

Clara Orphan Picture

To this day, she loves being around people. We thought our adoption journey was complete, yet God, (as He often does), had different plans.

God placed it in our heart to adopt again. This time we felt compelled to adopt a special needs child from China. These children are called special needs because they can have health issues ranging from various kinds of birth defects, clubbed feet, hearing/vision issues, heart problems, missing limbs, etc. We thought originally that another girl was in the offing. Yet, God led us to a little boy who had two clubbed feet. He was three-and-a-half years old, and we were told the Chinese would not pay to have his feet reconstructed. His orphanage was too poor for such an expense. He would be relegated to a life of pan-handling on the streets of his town in the Henan province because of his inability to walk properly. This broke our hearts, and we fell in love with him.

After a little over a year’s worth of paperwork and approximately $22,000 we were ready to travel again. So, after another two-week journey to China, the Brown family had another child. His name was Dang Qing Bin. We named him Andrew David Brown. On March 12, 2013, he had his third and final surgery to repair his clubbed feet.

Andrew before surgeryHe can walk, run, jump and play like any other child. Clara and Andrew are only two weeks apart in age. Both will turn eight years old this spring. To say that our family has been blessed by these two children would be the greatest understatement known to man. Without question, the greatest joy our family has ever known (outside of salvation in Christ) is adoption.

There are millions of orphans throughout the world who need a home. There are special needs lists with hundreds of children just waiting to be adopted. Do you have a heart of love to give? Do you value life? Adoption is a way to give the gift of family to a child and to give the gift of modeling unconditional love to your birth children (they will be forever changed as well). God provided the money for our family. As a pastor, I didn’t make the income to be able to spend close to $50,000 on adoption fees for two children. But, God provided through our family, church, friends and even strangers. It has been said, “Whatever God calls you to, He provides for.” Amen to that! We know that God adopts us into His family when we call on the name of His Son. We know that doing so makes us joint-heirs with Christ. Yet, we can easily forget the name of that transaction. It’s called adoption. Amazing thought, isn’t it?

Kevin Brown and his wife, Pam, have been married for twenty-two years, and they are the parents of four children (two adopted from China). They have been homeschooling for sixteen years and have one married daughter (a homeschool graduate) and three more children still in the home. Kevin pastors Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Wilkesboro, NC. Kevin has written a book, Rite of Passage for the Home and Church-Raising Christ-Centered Young Adults. In the book, Brown details how the Christian faith depends upon the transfer of the gospel from one generation to the next. He describes how “Rite of Passage” is not a program but instead represents a family’s commitment to making sure the principles of Scripture are passed on to the generations yet to be born. – See more at: http://www.nche.com/article/brown-family-adoption-story#sthash.ucxD1hvp.dpuf

 

Read Full Post »

My Hope

I’m sitting here watching “My Hope with Billy Graham,” on Fox News.

It’s so penetrating!

Tomorrow night I’m excited to say that we’re hosting a My Hope showing here in our home. Pray for us! I’ll update you next week.

I must tell you that I’m so amazed at what Billy Graham is still doing at the age of 95. (Today is his birthday! 95!) You can watch the 29 minute video online here… It’s riveting! I pray you would view it with family or friends or neighbors or co-workers who are not believers or you aren’t sure are true believers and followers of Christ. You can also cut and paste this address into an email or on Facebook and send it to people to watch: http://myhopewithbillygraham.org/programs/

I just put it on Facebook.

We’re having a showing at church on Sunday night at 6 pm. I invite you to come. We’re going to have pizza and wings. Come and bring your lost friends, families and neighbors. And if you can’t come…pray!

I’m in a nostalgic mood as I consider that God given me the privilege of shepherding a church. I’m so blessed. Numbers aren’t everything, but we had a “non-Easter” record this past Sunday. 596 people! Unreal! We’ve had an another 30 people join the church in the last 7 Sundays. To God be the glory! It’s all His doing!

I love God’s creation. This is a picture from just north of our home. It’s an area called Cielo Falls.

cielo falls

There’s a little church right near the Blue Ridge Parkway called Yellow Hill Baptist Church. It’s so quaint and wonderful.

yellow hill baptist church

Pretty huh?

Check out this tree near the church…

maple tree

Can you say, “Wow!”

yellow hill baptist church 2

Oh…my heart is full tonight! Thank you Lord for Billy Graham. Thank you for Lord my salvation! Thank you Lord for the beauty of your world. Thank you Lord for Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. Thank you Lord for my wife and children! Thank you Lord for my friends and brothers and sisters in Christ!

Thank you Lord for you…my faithful readers!

Kevin

Read Full Post »

Marriage

I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage lately. I’m not a big fan of Huffington Post because it’s a very liberal publication. However, this was a pretty interesting article on Marriage and Divorce. This map is very interesting…

The article in the Post that was sent to me is entitled: “I Didn’t Love My Wife When We Got Married.” It was posted on September 11, 2013 by  

Love

It’s about a five-minute article:

I’m a ridiculous, emotional, over-sentimental sap.  I guess that’s why I told my wife I loved her on our second date.

I had tried really hard up to that point to hold it back, honestly.  I wanted to tell her on the first date, but I knew that would probably be weird.

I still remember her reaction.  She kind of gave me this half-shy, half-amused smile.  Then she nodded and looked off into the sky.

I wasn’t heartbroken by the response.  I think part of me recognized that she was much smarter and more modest than me.

But as time has gone on, I also realized that she knew something that I didn’t.

Like most Hasidic Jews (we both became religious later in life), our dating period lasted a very short time.  After two months of dating, we were engaged.  Three months after that, we were married.

And that whole time I was swooning.  This fire was burning in me, a fire that burned just like that second date: I was in love.

But then we got married, and everything changed.

Marriage, quicker than I was ready for, did this thing: It started sucking away that emotion.

I tried so hard to keep that fire going, to keep that emotion alight, but it got harder and harder.

I mean, how you can feel that burning love when you’re sitting at the table discussing how to use the last $20 in your bank account?

How can you feel it when you get into an argument?

How can you feel it when you think it makes perfect sense to put your socks on the floor after you’re done with them, and she has this crazy idea that they need to go in the laundry basket?

There was no way I could keep that dating fire burning as practicality invaded our lives.

And at first, it drove me nuts.  That emotion meant love!  That excitement was how I knew I cared for her!  But suddenly, life was this grind.  Even when I was with her.  Especially when I was with her.

And even worse, it seemed that the harder I tried to be sentimental and lovey-dovey, the less it was reciprocated.

But it wasn’t that she wasn’t giving me love, it just seemed to come at different times.

Like, when I offered to do the dishes.  Or make dinner after she had a hard day.  Or, once we had a daughter, when I shared the responsibility of watching over her.

I don’t think I noticed this consciously for a while.  It just kept happening.

But I think it had an effect on me.  Because as our marriage progressed, I found myself offering to help out around the house more and more.

And after each time, there would be this look she would give me.  This look of absolute love.  One that was soft and so beautiful.

It took me longer than I care to admit to understand what was happening.

But eventually it became clear.  Through giving, through doing things for my wife, the emotion that I had been so desperately seeking naturally came about.  It wasn’t something I could force, just something that would come about as a result of my giving.

In other words, it was in the practicality that I found the love I was looking for.

And what was even more interesting was that once I realized this on a conscious level, and started trying to find more opportunities to give, the more we both, almost intuitively, became lovey-dovey.

And now, as I’m a bit older and a bit more experienced with this relationship, I’ve finally come to realize something. Something I haven’t wanted to admit for a long time, but is undeniable.

I didn’t love my wife on that second date.

I didn’t love her when we got engaged.

I didn’t even love her when we got married.

Because love isn’t an emotion.  That fire I felt, it was simply that: emotional fire.  From the excitement of dating a woman I felt like I could marry.  But it wasn’t love.

No, love isn’t an emotion or even a noun.  It’s a verb.  Better defined as giving.  As putting someone else’s needs above your own.

Why wasn’t I getting reciprocal lovey-doveyness when we were first married?  Because it wasn’t for her.  It was for me.  An emotion I had in my chest.

And even when I let it out of my chest, it wasn’t love.

Being sappy isn’t love.  Telling someone you love them doesn’t mean that you do.

And that’s why my wife just gave me that half-smile.  She knew, even if I didn’t, what love really is.

And now that I’ve tried to change the way I look at love, the more I become shocked at the messages of love I had gotten when I was younger.

From Disney movies, to my favorite shows like The Office, to practically every pop song released, love is constantly sold as an emotion we have before we’re married.  An emotion that, once had, somehow magically stays within a marriage forever.

I can’t imagine a bigger lie.  And I’m saddened to think about how much those messages bounced around in my head for so long.  And how much I’m sure those messages are bouncing around in other people’s heads as well.

I think that might be a big part of the reason the divorce rate is so high in this country.  Imagine a whole nation of people constantly chasing the emotions they had when they were dating.  A country of people trying to live a Disney movie.

That’s a recipe for disastrous marriages; for a country with a 50 percent divorce rate;  for adultery (the classic attempt to turn the fire back on); for people who do stay together to simply live functional, loveless marriages.

It’s sad to see just how common all the above is.  How many people are in pain simply because they’ve been lied to.

Those people deserve better.  We all deserve better.

It’s time that we changed the conversation about love.  It’s time that we redefine it.

Because until we do, adultery will continue to be common.  Loveless marriages.  Divorce.

Living Disney movies in our minds, and tragedies in our lives.

Now many of you know how close I’ve been to Dave and Becky Black for years and with her passing I’ve been following closely how Dave is doing via his blog. Let me tell you something…this man is so transparent and I’m SO grateful! He let’s us come along in his journey through grief and pain in the final days of marriage.

The other day someone asked me what it was like to be married to Becky. “To me, Becky was …” I stammered, unable to describe the story of our life together. William Lane once said, “When God gives a gift, He wraps it in a person.” Marriage must be lived out to be properly understood. A marriage is organic; it flexes and grows. It is a life, not a dogma to be explained. It is truth, fleshed out and alive. What a gift Becky was to me and to so many others. Not simply because of who she was but most especially because of whose she was.

The other day someone asked me what it was like to be married to Becky. “To me, Becky was …” I stammered, unable to describe the story of our life together. William Lane once said, “When God gives a gift, He wraps it in a person.” Marriage must be lived out to be properly understood. A marriage is organic; it flexes and grows. It is a life, not a dogma to be explained. It is truth, fleshed out and alive. What a gift Becky was to me and to so many others. Not simply because of who she was but most especially because of whose she was.

The first thing I noticed about Becky in that cafeteria line 40 years ago was her walk — quiet, graceful, elegant. When she stopped in line behind me, in that very instant I knew she was special. Behind her glasses flashed those beautiful blue eyes. One ear, I noticed, stuck out more than the other. Cute, I said to myself. We met, and the rest was history as they say.

Dave and Becky black

It is impossible to estimate the significance of that first encounter. Two lives intersected in a “chance” encounter, as if the meeting had been preordained. (It was.) Becky would introduce me to the Truth in ways I never thought possible. That Truth set us free, free from the shackles of the Churchianity we both had been living. With Becky’s help, I became alive to how good God is, and how much He loves the nations. After all, that’s one of the tasks of a spouse: to wake us up to what Reality is and to encourage us to take our eyes off of ourselves and the “good life” of the American Dream. Through those bright blue eyes I could see it all for myself. I discovered the joy of close friendship with my newly-found partner in the Gospel. We began to be gripped by the apostle Paul and his vision of self-supporting missions. Bec was particularly gifted at seeing the future, at envisioning the ministries God would eventually call us to. Struggling with godly manhood, I was eager to learn from her. I felt honored that God had given me such a special gift. It was as if God had created my ears just to hear His voice through hers.

Middle age came before either us realized it. Then the cancer struck with all its fury. We did the best we could to understand the monster that was ravaging her body. In reality, it was worse than we had imagined. It is more important to say “I trust You” to God than to say “I love You.” Becky knew this, and that’s why we decided from the very first day to be transparent about our cancer journey. We began publishing her essays on the subject, the final one of which was called Running to Home Base. As I look back on Becky’s life and ministry, I am reminded of the three phases in Jesus’ pattern of discipleship. In Mark 3:13-15, the disciples are first of all called to be with Jesus. Then in Mark 6:12-13, they are commissioned and sent out. Finally, in Mark 6:30-31 they return to Jesus and report to Him all they had seen and heard. It was only after they had done His work that He said to them, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31). Becky used this verse for our retreat ministry at the farm. I never imagined it would describe perfectly her own going from death to her eternal Rest.

Becky always felt it was important to be well-prepared for our mission trips to Ethiopia. She knew we would confront the demonic in direct ways. After all, she was a TCK — a Third Culture Kid. She grew up witnessing the impact of demonic activity firsthand. In her final days she was assaulted directly by the Evil One. In her heart she knew that Jesus alone had the power to get her into heaven. Being His “soul-friend,” she finally was able to rest in His arms, the One who considered it a joy to endure the pain required in order that the two of them could walk together as friends. As far as I know, that was the only time Becky ever doubted her salvation. She knew better than anyone else her own failures. But she also knew that Jesus was her Friend, and that friends always love and always forgive.

As I sought to listen to her, I sought also to listen to God. What was He trying to teach me? I recall the story that Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer’s biographer, tells about their days in an underground seminary in Germany. When the young men became distracted during their two-hour long silent prayer meetings, Bonhoeffer would tell them not to fight the distractions but instead to “Follow your mind wherever it goes. Follow your thoughts until they stop, and then wherever they stop, make that person or problem a matter for prayer.” During the past few months, Becky and I learned to listen to God. He desires to be with us. He wants to fill our emptiness with His presence. And that’s exactly what He’s done with our Becky. She understood where she was going when she died. God calls each of us to take this step of faith, to become totally and completely dependent upon Him and His promises. This is the kind of childlike faith that made Becky a woman of God. She knew that this old world is not all there is, that one day she would stand before her Judge and receive her reward. In the death of a Christian, God’s love is expressed in sharpest detail.

On Saturday, November 2, Becky lost her battle with cancer. Or did she? Jesus always referred to death as “sleep,” a state from which we will be awakened by Him. Becky was created not only to perform the good works for which she is justly famous, but for more, for something infinitely better, for eternal life. And now, what she has left unfinished, we must complete. Becky’s magnum opus, her “big one,” was nothing she did on the mission field. It was her simple, childlike trust in One who is the Magnus Salvator, the Great Savior of the world. “Be faithful to Him, Dave,” she would often tell me. “Be faithful.” “Yes, honey, I will.”

Last Saturday morning Jesus said to Becky, “Come with Me and rest.” Her faithful duties were over. As she breathed her last, I had the sense that I was escorting a fallen warrior off the battlefield.

She had fought the fight, and had won. 

 Dave and Becky Lynn Black

And so Dave adjusts to a new life as a widower… No longer married…

4:38 AM It’s early morning. There is a fog of silence upon the heaths and hills of the farm. I awoke and gave thanks for the rest God gave me, for my family and friends, for work to do today. I read that great first chapter of 2 Corinthians about comfort. It is a reminder that the God of all comfort does not hide His eyes from the groanings of a freshly-minted widower. “God has no problems,” wrote Corrie ten Boom, “only plans.” I’m thankful for Kim, who cleaned my bedroom yesterday. I can’t bring myself to sleep in it yet, though. I have often thought of that horrific trash heap Job sat on, scratching and shrieking. Can we watch him suffer and not cry along with him? I suffer because I am human, and we suffer together because we are members of the same body. Through His Word, and through your words, the Lord has made His face to shine upon me this morning and has given me peace. He is gradually bringing the sunshine back into the house. If ever a woman accepted change it was Becky. Hers was a positive and active acceptance of everything God gave her. She lived for others, no matter what her own circumstances were. Thanks be to God. Shall I not follow her example? All right, Dave. Let’s try it again. Love means sacrifice. Sacrifice means death. I really do believe you can do it with My help. Want to try it again today? Acceptance of change is not possible without a deep and abiding belief in the sovereign love of God. Will I accept His will for my life? Or will I grumble, gripe, and complain? Ingratitude in the midst of change is nothing less than rebellion against God.

One day Becky and I were lying in bed when an earthquake shook our California home. Without hesitation we grabbed each other, intent on protecting the other person. Today I cannot bring myself to sleep on that same bed. What will happen when disaster strikes? Who will I hold on to? I am not a husband any more. Singleness? That’s for Catholic priests. I have a right to feel sorry for myself. It is a terrifying thing to feel alone, to feel isolated without a bedmate. You are not a couple any longer but a fifth wheel. It is not your fault yet you keep blaming yourself. Wasn’t there more I could do? Why didn’t I get the cancer instead of Becky? But this will not work. The things that break our hearts are not just gifts from God. They are the gift of Himself. You can’t ever truly be alone as a Christian. Nothing in that dark bedroom is mysterious to Him.

My life is anything but a good example of walking by faith. Occasionally I get a glimpse of how deep His love is for me. Sometimes the sense of His presence is overwhelming. But not always. It is immensely comforting to know that even the Psalmists complained about loneliness. Long before dawn this morning, I am called to get my bearings before entering the day. I have found that the only reliable compass is the Word of God, even when it reproves me, even when it drags me to the bottom and makes my gasp for breath.

Have you met with God yet today? Have you thought of thanking Him for a new day? Have you asked Him to give you the strength and courage to enter that room you are afraid even to think about? The Word cuts and cleanses. It creates hope and courage.

Without it, what would we ever do?

Thank you Dave for showing us what marriage is like.

What is marriage? Well, coming from my perspective as a 23 year veteran this December 22nd, marriage is the joining of an imperfect person to another imperfect person who choose to sacrifice their desires, their wills and their lives as they seek to live for a perfect God and His kingdom.

I think Becky would have liked that definition. Man do I miss Mama B! God help my brother, Dave. Bless and encourage his spirit dear Father.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »