7 Principles For Single People Wanting To Date (A blog series on dating, 3 of 4)

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[This blog is the third installment in a series of four blogs on dating for single people and for parents raising children. Read the first blog and second blog to catch up]

There are four types of relationships when it comes to dating today, and three of them are acceptable for Christians. 

  1. Prearranged marriage. 
  2. Courtship. 
  3. Christians dating. 
  4. Non-Christians dating. 

In any of these scenarios of pursuing marriage, I want to give seven principles for single people. 

1. Utilize your current singleness for God (Philippians 2:3-4)

Single people desiring marriage can give in to two temptations that will harm the work God wants to to through them. 

One: They will be so consumed with wanting to date, wanting to be engaged, wanting to plan a wedding, wanting the kids and the picket fence that they waste their years of singleness. 

Two: They will choose to be selfish in their season of singleness. 

These temptations really go together. If a single person is being lazy, or selfish AND they’re always thinking about wanting to marry, there’s going to be long-term harm if they do end up choosing to marry. 

Marriage is sacrifice. A single person needs to be using their singleness as a time to serve God, serve the church, serve co-workers and neighbors and those in need. A single person will never have more time and opportunity in their lives to serve others than right now in their singleness. Marriage and children bring beautiful distractions that limit the amount of self-sacrifice that can be done toward others. 

Singleness should also be a time where a person is leaning on the Holy Spirit and Scripture and Christian community to mold them into a more godly person, which prepares one greatly for marriage. This means no to pornography, drunkenness, drugs, grudge-holding, promise-breaking).

2. It’s not wise to pursue a relationship until you are ready to marry (Proverbs 18:22)

Each parental unit in the household will have their own guidance on when their children can start dating. This should be done with prayer and conversation with godly people and not done with what culture is doing or what the child’s friends are doing. 

There’s no where in the Bible where it gives a certain age on when someone should be married, so there’s definitely not an age given on when someone can start dating. 

Who and how someone dates is more important than when they date. 

When I say that Christians should not pursue a relationship until they’re ready to marry, I really mean until they’re ready to commit fully to one person. They don’t have to by forever committed to the first person they go on a date with. The point of dating is to search out what godly and lifelong characteristics are valuable to you.

Problems occur when someone in dating wants a greater intimacy than what is wholesome in God’s eyes and doesn’t want to commit to much. Those who simply want to date around and be physical with others while giving no concern to commitment long-term aren’t ready to find or enjoy a spouse. 

3. It’s healthy thing to not set your expectations too high or too low.

My heart breaks for the person who worships romance and marriage and they basically want to find Jesus to marry, not giving any room for sin or defect or flaws in the other person. They won’t find Jesus to marry (even though He should have their heart above all). Sometimes Mr. Right is Mr. Right In Front of You but you’re dismissing that person because they’re not perfect. Your bar is too high. 

My heart also breaks for the person who doesn’t see the value and worth God has instilled in them, so they settle for any person to be with long-term. Even if the person is destructive or if there are obvious character defects that loved ones warn about, they are staying with that person. They’ve set the bar too low. 

We won’t find Jesus to marry but we shouldn’t date the devil either. 

Yes, you deserve someone godly to serve you and lead you closer to Jesus, but no, you don’t deserve anyone ungodly to use you and belittle you and let you down continually. 

4. Never date a non-Christ-follower (2 Corinthians 6:14)

In our household there are two daughters. My wife and I encourage them to not say the words never or always. When they express what is wrong they will say, You always side with her, or, You never let me play outside. Of course those aren’t factual. They’re over-exaggerations based on emotion.

But, when it comes to God’s Word, if God uses always (He will always love us) and if He uses never (He will never forsake us), then it’s time to use those words too. 

God tells His people to not (never) be emotionally and physically intimate with non-believers. Not because Christians are better than non-Christians, but because there are severe issues long-term when one side worships Jesus over all and the other side worships someone or something other than Jesus. 

And notice I didn’t say, Never date a non-Christian. I said, Never date a non-Christ-follower

Just because someone is in church doesn’t mean they’re in Christ. 

It’s when a girl says, He’s so cute and so funny and he likes me and he told me that his grandma used to take him to church once in a while and he’s cool with me loving Jesus. 

Not gonna fly. They need to be in Christ. The love for Jesus and the fruit of the Spirit should be oozing out of them.  

5. He should initiate and then she should respond. 

In the biblical roles for men and women in marriage, men are assigned the role of leadership. This is not to say that women don’t lead (my wife leads me), or that women don’t have leadership skills (the church leadership team where I serve has more women than men). This isn’t to say men are more valuable or have greater importance in the marriage. Both spouses are equally, worthy, spiritual beings. 

But in dating, men should initiate and women should respond. 

Biblical evidence of this is the creation order in Genesis 2 (Adam is created first, he speaks first to Eve) and also, 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 and Ephesians chapter 5. 

The guy should approach the girl (or ideally, her father first). After there’s a friendship, after there’s prayer, after there’s visible evidence of fruit of the Spirit and a servant-heart toward others, after he’s ready to commit to one person to date and hopefully marry, he should initiate. 

A girl is best suited to lean on God’s goodness and sovereignty as she prayerfully waits for a godly man to initiate a relationship with her. 

Now, does this mean a woman never tells a man how she feels? Because men are dense. They need help connecting emotionally. They need help realizing what signs she is giving him.  

I know this: God is sovereign and powerful. If it doesn’t work out for a girl with a particular guy because he didn’t see the signs or the beauty in her or wasn’t ready to commit – whatever the reason – God knows what is best for us and will orchestrate someone better in the future. 

We can trust Him with the things that are most important to us. 

6. Feel free to utilize technology wisely (internet dating) (Proverbs 4:23)

What technology has done to many young people is devolve them into not knowing how to have a conversation. They can text a bit, use emojis, film a Tik-Tok, but their phone has become such a desire, it’s like their fifth appendage. 

With not knowing how to talk (and with the dating scene being pretty sparse because you probably aren’t going to find the guy/gal for you long-term that God wants at a bar or a club), and, with many churches not being relevant or not caring about the next generation (since the churches are getting older and older), there aren’t a lot of millennial or Gen Z options to date at a lot of churches, it can be dismal out there.

Internet dating becomes a viable option to meet people. Let’s allow God to use technology for redemptive good. 

Your trust should not be in a dating site. Your energy should not be spent on a dating site that is only for hook-ups or good times. You don’t need a good weekend, you need a good legacy. 

Just be cautious as you sift through online options. You don’t want physical attraction to be primary, you want to prayerfully seek the character and heart of the person you might go on date with. As Proverbs 4:23 states, guard your heart. 

7. Only invest in a relationship with someone you are attracted to completely. 

You should be attracted to them physically, yes. You can be attached to how talented they are, sure. It’s fine if you like their success, though that fades (so does beauty and talent). 

There needs to be a mental attractions (you think highly of them). 

There needs to be an emotional attraction (you trust them and feel safe with them). 

There needs to be a spiritual attraction (they love Jesus more than you or anyone/anthing else).

There needs to be a gifting attraction (you see your spiritual gifts and theirs combined well together to do ministry).

When the two become one, it’s not just sex. It’s not just living other. It’s not just having one bank account together. It’s everything. 

It’s views on marital roles, on parenting, on gender, on spiritual disciplines – everything, on how time away from work is spent. 

For the final post in this mini-blog series on dating, we’ll ask each man and each woman 8 different questions when it comes to them dating. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

2 Blunders Made By Single People Who Date (A Blog Series on Dating, 2 of 4)

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[This blog is the second in a series of four blogs on dating for single people and for parents raising children. The first blog can be read here.] 

If you are single desiring marriage, you are not alone. You might feel lonely at times, but you are in the majority of American adults right now. 

There are more adults who are single right now in America than there are adults who are married. This is a first in the history of America, where the adults who are single are the majority. 

Now, the majority of people will eventually marry.
Nine out of ten people do. 

When it comes time to get married, the man is on average 30 years old and the woman is on average in her late 20’s. 75 years ago, the average age to marry was ten years less than it is today. Young adults are prolonging their commitment to marriage, which has led to much sexual sin and cohabitation. 

It’s also led to more time to think about marriage. Which means there is more time for single adults to put the prospect and hope of marriage on a throne it shouldn’t be on. 

For single Christians hoping to be married in the future, and for dads and moms wanting to raise godly children, let me share the two big mistakes I see single people making:

Blunder #1: I desire marriage so strongly that I worship it. 

Those who idolize the concept of marriage have a stress-free, worry-free, romantic, Disney-like picture of what marriage is like. 

That’s not realistic. 

The gap between the fantasy of marriage and the reality of marriage is quite the chasm for this person. 

The more a single person worships the idea of marriage (meaning, it’s what their heart wants more than anything, it’s what they constantly think about, it’s what they’ve spent their life desiring), when marriage is worshipped, immediately that person becomes someone who is codependent. 

Those who idolize marriage are the ones who always have to be in a relationship. They cannot stand the thought of being single. They feel less-than if they’re not dating someone. Their greatest fear is not marrying and instead of celebrating friends who do get married, they are jealous and bitter. With each boyfriend or girlfriend they have, they turn that person into a functional savior. Their heaven is the wedding altar. 

When a single person worships the idea of marriage, when falling in love sits on the throne of their heart, here’s the danger with that: You will overlook the faults and flaws you and the person you are dating have.

When all you think about is marriage, you’ll be blind (or choose to ignore) glaring personality deficiencies and unhealthy habits just to get to the wedding day. 

This mindset leads to long-term issues, because when the wedding day comes and goes, the faults and flaws remain, or, outside of Jesus, get worse. 

Marriage is a starting line, not a finish line. 

This blunder usually is tripped over by women. 

Recently I was counseling a young woman in her late 20’s who is overwhelmed by her being single. She is full of anxiety over the fact that she isn’t married and doesn’t have any children. In our hour together, she said the words I’m single six times. Instead of Jesus’ love defining her, her identity is: not married

Through some questions I asked, she relayed that she feels miserable while she doesn’t date and feels like she’s on Cloud 9 when she does. She said by the second or third date with someone, she’s picturing having kids with the guy and seeing how his last name fits with her first name. 

This tells me she is rushing the process, controlling too much, not letting go of this idol to be married and probably smothering the men she gets to know. 

I’ve said it before, and it’s true for those who idolize marriage: Chase after happiness and you’ll never find it. Chase after God and happiness will find you. 

Blunder #2: I detest marriage so strongly that I condemn it. 

The other mistake single people make isn’t idolizing marriage, it’s demonizing it. 

In this extreme, the single person doesn’t have a euphoric picture of marriage, they have a very dismal, miserable view of it. The chasm for this person is the horror stories of marriage they’ve seen and have heard verses the hope for a wonderful relationship they could hope toward. 

While the worship of marriage leads to an unhealthy codependence (save me, fix me, always love me), the condemning of marriage leads to an unhealthy independence (I don’t need anyone, look what I can do). 

This perspective of detesting marriage leads to a more self-centered lifestyle. The single person thinks they will get the most joy out of being by themselves, when, Christ-followers know we find ourselves by serving God and others. 

Not to saying people who have a bad taste in their mouth toward marriage don’t date. Sure they do. They reflect the desire that God has made us for companionship. It’s just, while they date, they severely focus on the person’s flaws and faults (most of the time exaggerating them). They inherit the role of being a bad prophet predicting that this is the reason it wouldn’t work out long-term. 

While the person who worships marriage ignores the flaws in a dating partner (no truth), the person who detests marriage focuses too much on the flaws in a dating partner (no grace). 

Rather than pushing a good relationship along, they push it away. Deep down inside they want to meet Mr./Mrs. Right, but their fears and unrealistic standards of a marriage partner keep them from pursuing Mr./Mrs. Right In Front of Them

This blunder is usually tripped over by men. 

While counseling a single young male in his early 30’s, he confessed a daily involvement with pornography and a periodic involvement with pre-marital sex. I asked him who he was having sex with and he told me it was typically girls in their early 20’s. 

I asked why he thought there was typically a ten year difference between him and the girls he chose to pursue and his response was, They’re not thinking about settling down. They’re more fun

While he wasn’t worshipping marriage, he was worshipping pleasure. He was worshipping temporary acceptance. 

He went on to talk about how awful his parents marriage was, how ugly their divorce was when he was 15 years old and how stale his friends marriages are today. He condemned any idea of tying the knot.

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 

For single adults, and parents raising children, we don’t place dating or marriage or sex or friendship on the throne, and we don’t place those things under our feet and stomp on them. If desired, marriage is a beautiful gift, and if done in a godly fashion, it’s such an amazing adventure with your best friend. But it can’t be worshipped and it can’t be spit on. 

I firmly believe that when you are focused on God above all, placing Jesus on the throne of your thoughts, words, actions and dreams, He does, in His timing, give you the desires of your heart. 

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

A History of Dating (A Blog Series on Dating, 1 of 4)

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With my oldest daughter turning 9 this month, which makes me realize she’s halfway to moving out of the home, and also, with the numerical increase of millennials and generation Z’s being led to the church I get to serve, the topic of dating wisely has been on my heart. 

[This blog is the first in a series of four blogs on dating for single people and for parents raising children.] 

To kick off this blog series on dating, it’s probably a healthy first step to understand how fast the dating process has progressed (I should say, how it has regressed). Here’s a history on dating: 

History of Dating

In 1896, the word dating was first used as lower-class slang for prostitution. To date someone meant you were soliciting a prostitute (I see patterns today in culture where modern dating still includes some sort of prostitution).  

The Parlor With Her Mother and Father and His Shotgun

In the early 1900’s if a young couple wanted to get married, here’s how it would go down: Dad and mom would have a front room in their house called a parlor. There would be some nice chairs, maybe a piano, some big paintings on the wall. 

If dad and mom had a lovely daughter who was near the age of marriage, they would make a list of qualified, approved male suitors who earned the right to be interviewed by the girl’s parents. A letter of acceptance would go out to the young men stating something like, Congratulations, you’ve been approved to interview with us to court our daughter.

After receiving this invitation to interview, the young man would clean himself up, put on a suit, comb his hair, get rid of foul body odors and he would go to the girl’s house, sitting in the front parlor. Dad and mom would sit with him, and the girl would sit in the back of the room (this was social distancing before it was a 21st Century trend).  

Dad and mom would then drill the young man with questions, Do you love the Lord? What are your intentions? Do you have a job? Are you ambitious? Are you gracious? Do you have goals? Are you a drunk? Do you own a Bible? Can we see your Bible? 

They would have this conversation to get him thinking seriously, they would feed him some small snacks and tea (not dinner, they don’t want him hanging around too long). Later on, if he was a healthy prospect in the parents eyes, they would notify him again, and through more interviews, if he was deemed worthy, he could talk to their daughter, maybe end up marrying her. 

This was a long process where the young man would have to come onto her family’s property, play by her parent’s rules, and the young man and the young woman weren’t even permitted to be alone together. Dad was always watching. With a shotgun in hand. And a whisky. A loaded shotgun.

Women’s Magazines

But then something happened in the early 1900’s women’s magazines started gaining steam in popularity as they were put in the hands of these young women wanting to marry. The Ladies Home Journal by the year 1910 had over 1 million subscribers. 

Instead of a young lady taking wisdom on what a godly woman is and looks like from their Bible, or their mom or grandma, or their church, now they’re getting advice and looking at pictures from magazines who are saying that this is what a woman should look like, this is fashion and sexuality. These magazines still exist today, they’re very popular and are in every grocery check out line. Have you read through Cosmo or Vogue? There aren’t a lot of Bible verses in them. They teach you how to break all the commandments from God while spewing lies on how to get a good man. 

Women started reading these magazines and they began thinking, Oh, maybe I don’t show enough cleavage. Oh, I need to listen to my desires and my heart over my God. Oh, I need to sleep around to have fun and see what I like. This is what’s called normal. Now I get it.  

Growth of Urban Cities

What happens in the 1920’s is that urbanization became exciting and contagious where everyone is moving to the city and working in the city. Since the city is full of creative and hard-working people who need an outlet, the entertainment industry exploded. There’s restaurants and movie theaters and dance halls.  

What happened is young ladies were being taken away from their home to go eat, drink, dance with boys the parents don’t know. There’s no, dad and mom get to know the boy in the parlor of the girls home anymore. Today if you watch the ABC show The Bachelorette, the girl’s parents aren’t meeting the aspiring boys episode 1. The girl is making out with boys in episode 1.

The Automobile Takes Her Away 

This process of going from the woman’s domain (her parents house) to the man’s domain (wherever he wants to go) picks up fast in the 1930’s with the mass production of the automobile. Young men buy cars, they pull up to the girl’s house beep beep, honk the horn, the girl comes running out of the house and drives away instead of the boy parking his car and visiting with the parents on the front porch or in the front parlor room. 

He takes the girl out on a date where she spent all day trying to look pretty and attractive and her heart is involved with this boy so she’ll go where he takes her.

A little later on, the young man begins to realize, Wow, I are spending a lot of money just to go on a date. I bought a car, a few suits, and I’m picking up the tab at dinner and at the club, and I’m not getting anything in return. 

There became this uncomfortable pressure from the boy onto the girl to neck/make out/go too far/have sex. Because after all this spending of money and time, at the end of the night the girl saying, thank you wasn’t enough for these guys. 

This is where I believe dating became a form of prostitution. The guy pays for the entire evening, and he unfairly expects physical affection in return.

The guy would insinuate that the girl owes him, that there needed to an exchange, money for affection. Some of ladies reading this have felt this pressure so what the women came up with was this term going Dutch, apparently the Dutch are very cheap people, and it’s where both sides of the date split the check. Women everywhere declared, Tonight I will pay for my own steak and he can’t touch me. 

The Feminist Movement

The 1960’s come along and the feminist movement begins to grow and gain an audience. And their cause was this: we want women to be treated like men! The shortcoming with this movement is that men don’t treat other men that well. There was a day where if a woman walked into the room, all the men would stand up out of respect, open the door for her, seat her nicely but feminism said, treat us like men, well, as men, we don’t stand up for you, we don’t compliment you, we use you, rip you off, lie to you, hurt you. 

The Sexual Revolution

Next comes the sexual revolution in the 60’s and 70’s (to be truthful, the first sexual revolution occurred in the 1920s, so don’t let your grandparents tell you it’s the hippies fault on why sex is so casual today).

Another sexual revolution happened in the mid 1960’s where young adults basically spent 7-8 years completely naked. The clothing manufacturers in the 1960’s-70’s declared bankruptcy because no one was wearing clothes.

Sex goes from being a committed intimate act to a hobby with not much emotion involved, there’s an increase in sexual diseases and pregnancy outside of marriage. 

With this revolution came their scripture: The first Playboy magazine was issued with Marilyn Monroe on the cover. With each risqué issue, there’s no dad or mom on the cover with them, no Bible, no clothes and Playboy and Penthouse go from behind the counter to on the shelves and now we’ve got women investing in magazines on how to make your man happy, and we’ve got men addicted to pornography, investing in the lie that this is what all women should look like and what they should do.

With all of this sleeping around we were given birth control pills and condoms and other contraceptives but people were still getting pregnant before marriage and before maturity so in 1973 our country legalized institutional abortion. 

The marriages are falling apart because lusting eyes and flirting tongues and an improper view of each other was the norm but it was still considered just fine. In 1974 the lawmakers in America passed the edict of no fault divorce. It’s not your fault, it’s not my fault, we’ll just say it didn’t work out and go date other people.  

Dating Today

Today it’s been magnified times ten with sleeping around before marriage and divorce after marriage and parents not raising godly children in how they date. Even young adults not being faithful to God in their 20’s.

80% of  Christians ages 18-29 years old are having sex before marriage (Not 80% of young adults, 80% of so-called Jesus-followers).

In just a matter of a few generations, we have this meltdown in culture and very few are saying, Hey, this isn’t working. I’m still broken and lonely and empty. Maybe we should repent? Maybe we should go back 100 years and see what was working then? We just keep trying solve our own mess with protection, abortion, divorce, lazy parenting, avoiding the Bible while all this time we should’ve just brought our mess to Jesus and let Him cleanse it and show us the right way to have an intimate relationship. 

In 1970, 36% of Americans were unmarried. 
In 1980, it went up to 39%. 
In 1990 it went up to 41%. 
In the year 2000, 44% of American adults were unmarried. 
And today it’s at 51%

People aren’t getting married because their parent’s marriage or divorce scared them, and if they can sleep together, live together, play house, and get some of the benefits of marriage without having any of the obligation or commitment that marriage requires, they’ll do it.

Sex used to be just for married people. Then it was, oh, but we’re engaged, we’re gonna for sure get married so let’s have sex. Then it was, we’re dating and we’re serious. And now people just have sex with anyone. The term friends with benefits has come along. Personally, I’m friends with a lot of people, only one of those friends gets benefits from me and that’s my wife. Benefits to me are like medical and dental and retirement and when McDonalds brings the McRib back each year. Not sex.

The average age of a man on his wedding day today is 30.
For females it’s 28. 

In 1960, the average age of a man on his wedding day was 23, and the bride was 20. 

In Europe, they don’t believe in marriage anymore because in some countries you can get married and have a 3-4 year relationship and then the marriage license expires like a driver’s license. 

We need to admit this culture isn’t working. This culture is a lie. People are not complete and happy without Jesus. People are not fixed by doing whatever they want. We need an alternative. We need a different way to live. We need Jesus. We need the Bible. We need to get back in the parlor with the dad and mom (which, dad and mom need a godly, committed marriage to showcase). 

If culture and our natural desires lead to destruction in relationships, how are young adults to be while dating and what wisdom are parents to give to their children when it comes to dating?

This is my attempt in this 4-part, mini-blog series.

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

When Unborn And Born Babies Die, Do They Go To Heaven?

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As a church leader I have been given access to hurting families who have gone through the tragedy of losing a young baby, either through a miscarriage, a still born birth, a premature death, SIDS, cancer or a horrific accident. I mourn with those who mourn. 

As a father who has two living daughters, and four babies who didn’t make it to full term pregnancy (one miscarriage, one still born and two premature infants who died within a day of being born), my wife and I have those who choose to mourn with us (for those who are unaware, more of our faith journey can be read here).

The instances of abortion, miscarriages and the death of a baby raises an important question (a biblical one, in fact): Where do dead babies go when they die?

This has been an old question in the entire history of the church. In the first century, infant mortality rates were high, and as it does today, it caused great anxiety for moms and dads who were wondering about the eternal destination of their dead child. 

An old school scholar named Irenaeus (130-201 A.D.) taught that the reason Jesus became an infant was to save infants. However, in the early first century church, baptism was legalistically tied to salvation. This meant if your unborn child, dead child wasn’t baptized in the church, they were destined for hell. The Catholic Church has extended this teaching up to today. 

To me, this is a stretch at least and superstitious (unbiblical) at most. Parents who want their children baptized so that they can be saved is off the biblical radar. There is nothing magical about the water when someone is baptized. Baptism doesn’t save anyone. Jesus alone saves. It’s a faith in Him as Lord and Savior that alone saves.

The Age of Accountability Doctrine

Growing up in the church, I was wrongly taught the unbiblical doctrine of the “age of accountability”. This unhelpful teaching says that someone is not responsible for their own sin until they reach an age of reason (and yet when I asked questions to church leaders about what that age was, there was never an answer).

What confuses me about the age of accountability teaching is it seems to say that a child goes to bed with no moral responsibility and then they suddenly wake up the next day accountable for their desires, words and actions. 

The psalmist writes, “For I was born a sinner – yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5). 

Once our heart is beating, we have moral responsibility and it grows in us emotionally as we grow physically. Those who teach age of accountability teach it as a light switch that just turns on one day. Rather, it’s more of a dimmer switch where the more we grow the more we are illuminated of what is right and wrong. If Jesus grew in wisdom as He grew in strength, so do our children (Luke 2:52).

If your church wrongly teaches the age of accountability doctrine, show them some of the Apostle Paul’s last recorded words where he writes, “You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15).

What I Teach My Children and My Church

With the loss of a baby, people not only need answers but they need love. They need prayer and compassion and a presence of friends and a listening ear. As a husband to a wife who asks questions about the triplets who were in her body for 21 weeks and then were delivered too soon to survive, this is a very personal issue. I cannot provide the theology to satisfy the grieving emotions myself and parents who have lost precious children. God’s Spirit will mend wounds. God is good. Jesus saves. Grieving parents should long for heaven, and here is some theology on why they can look forward to seeing their baby (pending the fact that mom and dad are believers in Christ as Lord and Savior). 

As a leader in my family and a leader in the church I get to serve in, here’s what I teach: 

(1) God Can Relate to Us Emotionally and Physically (Hebrews 4:15)

It’s taught frequently in churches (and rightly so) that Jesus became a man. But first, He was a baby. Before that, He was an infant in His mother’s womb. I take great comfort in knowing Jesus can identify with my wife’s miscarriage and her still born birth. 

I also take great comfort in knowing Jesus felt the emotional pain of losing a loved one. He hurt when hearing His cousin John the Baptist was executed. He wept at the grave of Lazarus. He Himself experienced death. For Him to come as a baby means He can relate to our humanity at every stage of human development (from unborn to adult). 

More than answers (which is what parents of dead babies want), God’s provides His presence and His love (which is what parents of dead babies need). 

(2) God Can Save Babies From the Womb (Psalm 22:9-10)

Did you know this? Psalm 22:9-10 speaks of God leading a baby to trust Him while the child is breastfeeding. It speaks of the baby serving God as Lord from the moment they are born. 

Further examples of God calling babies to be His are found in Jeremiah 1:4-5 and Isaiah 49:1-7. Both prophets, messengers on God’s behalf, were called by Him when they were in their mother’s wombs. On top of that, so was John the Baptist (Luke 1:15) who was promised to be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb of Elizabeth. 

(3) Jesus Loves the Little Children Whether Born or Unborn

The word for child (brephos) that is used speaking of Jesus being a baby in the womb of His mother Mary (Luke 2:12) is also the same word used when Jesus asked for the little children to be brought close to Him (Luke 18:15). 

In the same chapter in Luke (18:17) He instructs His disciples that His kingdom (heaven) was custom built for young children who will be with Him forever. This historical picture of Jesus inviting children to be with Him is a deep solace to parents who have lost a baby. I weep joyful tears when I think about Jesus holding my four dead babies on His lap waiting for my entrance into heaven. 

(4) There Is a Biblical Example of a Deceased Baby Being Saved (2 Samuel 12:15-23)

King David had a baby who died very young. The child was born sick. David’s leaders of faith prayed with him over the child and the baby survived seven days and then died. On the same day David chooses to go into the house of the Lord and worship Him. When he returns home after praising God he chooses to eat and try to move on with his life. It’s at this point he tells his friends that he knows he can’t bring his dead baby back into his life but rather he will focus on the fact that he’ll go to his baby one day (2 Samuel 12:23). 

This account gives me great hope and even assurance from David’s faith that dead babies are ushered into the arms of the heavenly Father in heaven. 

(5) God is a Good, Good, Perfect Father (Psalm 103:13)

Even as a leader in the church I have no idea who goes to heaven and who doesn’t. My role on this planet is not to judge anyone or determine their eternal destination after death. My role is to simply love people with the grace God has shown me. I can hope. I can trust. I do not know for sure.

God the Father alone determines which children He permits via spiritual adoption into His family. It’s His choice alone. Not the parents of a deceased baby who need false hope. Not any church leader trying to say nice words to a grievely family. It’s the Lords’ choice. 

And that’s very good news. 

I trust the Father God who pursued me, saved me by His grace, through His Son and has sealed me forever in His care, so, yes, I also trust Him fully to do what is loving and merciful and compassionate to do what is best with the babies my family has lost. 

I am a dad who worships a heavenly Dad Who brings life where there has been death. 

I am pro-life (more here). I am in anguish over the 50,000 abortions happening each year. But I have faith that all of those 50,000 babies each year are ushered into heaven, praising Jesus forever (when, in reality, had all 50,000 babies been allowed to be born, some would grow up rejecting Jesus and not in eternity with Him).

In the end it’s God’s decision to welcome dead babies into heaven or not, but from what I believe about God’s character, what my faith has seen in Scriptural references and in the trust I have in God’s hesed (unconditional) love, I am eager to spend eternity with four children I didn’t have the honor of raising in this life. I am eager to weep no more as Jesus wipes the tears from my eyes. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

What Every Retired/Former Pastor Should Be Doing

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I was raised in the home of a pastor. My father, before his death, was in ministry for over 40 years. Throughout his career in the church, he noticed that a lot of his friends in other vocational fields were always looking for ways to work less and play more. They were trying to hire other people to do their work so they could travel more, improve their golf game, retire early. I heard him repeatedly say that he’d probably never retire unless God made it clear for him to do so – and he never did. 

However, many pastors, ministers, ministry leaders do retire or step away from vocational ministry.  Some of them have left the ministry to work somewhere else, maybe in a parachurch ministry format. Others have fully retired. In either case, for those not in full-time, local church, vocational ministry: this blog is for them. I know them. I see the highlights of their lives on social media. I wonder about them.

And in a sense, this blog is also for me.

Now, when I say, “What Every Retired Pastor Should Be Doing”, how arrogant does that sound? I’m not even 40 years old and I’m declaring what people decades older than me who have so much more wisdom, experience and faith in God than I do should be using their time for. Seven things they should be doing, to be exact. 

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father,” [1 Timothy 5:1]

I hope these seven actions come across as encouragements and aren’t felt like rebukes. 

Be thankful to God in reflection. 

If a pastor has retired, that means God sustained him for a long duration of ministry. Only one out of ten pastors make it to retirement age as a pastor. The other nine are either fired or they burn out and quit. For a retired pastor, there is much to look back on and be thankful for. There is much to celebrate. 

Looking back on how God was faithful and what answered prayers there were and what fruit there was is always healthy to reflect on as it takes the eyes off the retired pastor and gives praise to God. 

There are also so many people in a retired pastor’s past to be grateful to God for, and those people could be written heart-felt letters expressing gratitude for the support they gave to the pastor. Makes you wonder if Moses ever wrote a thank-you letter to Aaron and Hur [Exodus 17:12]. 

Attempt to reconcile with broken relationships. 

This is the most difficult step of the seven. 

Ministry is messy. It is full of imperfect people trying to serve a perfect God as well as other imperfect people. There is much let down and pain and harsh words said and for some reason American church leaders have made “nice” a fruit of Spirit as we shove the past severed relationships under the rug hoping they’ll go away.

I remember serving in a church where the senior pastor and the worship pastor were incompatible to the point where they were giving each other the silent treatment. These were grown men in the faith who were on stage together every week refusing to talk and forgive each other. 

It came to a point when the worship pastor was leaving the church for another position elsewhere. As he was packing up his office, I was in the senior pastor’s office and this leader of the church, the senior pastor, told me, I am so excited he’s leaving. I don’t even feel bad about not saying good-bye. 

I just sometimes wonder if pastors forget that one of their main ministries is the ministry of reconciliation [2nd Corinthians 5:19].

Sometimes the relationships the retired pastor needs to seek forgiveness for is with his family. In ministry he chose the church over his first ministry, his wife and kids, and as a result, there is distance in his marriage and a lack of faith in God with his kids. 

Most people aren’t self-aware at how they come across, but it is definitely true for leaders in the church. We just don’t know how what we say and what we do is felt by those around us. 

Some of the pain a pastor causes is unintentional, and some of it is downright sinful. 

80% of pastors are discouraged and 70% are clinically depressed. Much of that negative weight is due to broken relationships that weren’t peacefully mended. The retired pastor still carries around the anger towards others in their ministry past.

There are broken relationships that every church leader can think of, and, if that retired leader still believes in the Gospel, they should seek out forgiveness, give forgiveness, and vie to extend the hand of grace for the purpose of reconciliation.

They should spend time in prayer and ask the Spirit to bring names to mind. Past church elders. Past church staff. Past church members. After decades of ministry, surely there are a handful of people to reach out to and apologize. Hopefully they still have a pastor’s heart to be that humble and that courageous. 

Those are the kind of leaders I want to follow. 

Develop authentic and transparent friendships. 

Did you know that 70% of pastors admit they do not have someone they consider to be a close friend? 84% of pastors desire to have a close friendship with someone they can confide in and trust.

Yet it doesn’t happen. 

Pastors, being burned by people and seeing their sin burn relationships (usually related to pride, anger and an unhealthy obsession to control people), have trust issues. They’re afraid to get close to someone. 

67% of church people expect their pastors to have a much higher moral standard than they themselves do. 

Many pastors, while in ministry, are leery of letting their guard down because they might disappoint someone by showcasing a weakness. But now, being retired, they should feel set free to have zero pretense and develop friendships that are transparent. 

They should have a relationship where a same-gender friend holds them accountable, urges them to repent, urges them to seek reconciliation, urges them to keep their spiritual disciplines. 

Sadly though, the retired pastor will just keep people at a distance. As he continues to post pictures on social media about how much fun he’s having in retirement, it’s the thing he craves, a close friendship, that isn’t realized.  

Get actively involved in a local church. 

Some retired pastors stay active in the church they served vocationally before retiring. Some move on. That’s between the pastor and their spouse and God. Either way, whether a retired pastor stays in the church he served or moves on or moves away, they must be in a local church somewhere, consistently. Otherwise their entire career was a farce. 

Every week, as a vocational pastor, they would preach to others about the importance of church community. They would repeatedly urge people to attend worship, to serve in the church, to be in a small group, to give financially back to God.

For many, when a pastor retires, they neglect church life. Not only is it hypocritical, but it’s damaging to their spiritual and relational health.  

I know of a senior pastor who told his church elders he was going to retire in a few months and the night he told them, he stopped giving financially to the church. He ended his online giving immediately, even though he had 100 days left to serve vocationally. Instead of storing up treasures in heaven, he was storing up acorns for the winter. To him, if he was done with the church mentally, he was done financially [Matthew 6:19-20]. 

I can imagine that retirement in ministry isn’t full of lavish riches. Things get tight. You won’t find “pastor” as a Forbes list best-paid professions. But even so, tithing shows that Jesus is the retired pastor’s God, not money. Not control. Not fear. 

I know of a retired pastor who serves in the children’s ministry of the church he served for years as the preacher and it’s such an example of what volunteering looks like. What an example he must be for the parents picking up their elementary kids. What an example he must be in the worship service as he humbly puts himself under the teaching and worship of other church leaders. 

If ministry was all about getting a paycheck and being noticed and having a feeling of power in decision-making, then yes, those retired pastors are not actively involved in a local church today. But if it was all for God’s kingdom and for a love for others, you’ll find a retired pastor and his family with towels and basins all over a local church family [John 13:14]. 

Privately and publicly support your previous church leadership. 

When a pastor gets fired or leaves a church frustrated, yes, then it can be difficult to honor a church leadership. Those who do so anyway have a maturity of faith that is God-honoring. 

When a pastor retires from a church after many years of service, it should be a great and easy opportunity to honor the elders and the new pastor in place. 

They should do this privately (because church members will flock to the retired pastor to give their opinion about decisions the current church leaders are making) and they should do this publicly (on social media, while hosting others over to their home). 

Both private and public support carry weight. I publicly boast about my wife all of the time. Her faith in God, her love for her family, her heart for those in need, her hospitable nature to make others feel at home and the fact that she carries the fruit of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22-23] around with her more than anyone I know. I am utterly blessed to be in her life. 

That is me praising her publicly. And while those things are true about her, if I never tell her personally what she means to me, in private, then I’m not really uplifting her as much as I could. 

The devil gets a foothold toward church divisiveness because a retired pastor refuses to encourage the church leadership publicly (people are watching his response) and privately (due to gossip, and stubbornness) [Ephesians 4:26-27].

If he feels uncomfortable praising the current church leadership, then that takes us back to his need to seek reconciliation with others. If he’s staying silent, either it’s due to a sin that has yet to be uncovered or a relationship with church leadership has yet to be mended. 

Be aware of  the motivation for your online presence. 

When a pastor leads a community of faith for so long, and then steps away, he has an overwhelming feeling of displacement. He isn’t seen up front as much anymore. He’s not counseling people in need as much anymore. Sometimes he and his family step away from the church they served completely and with that there are losses of relationships and a loss of influence.  

Sometimes, to over-compensate their displacement, they post pictures online of how amazing their life seems to be. They desperately want the church people they used to serve to know that they are out of the house, with others, still trying to make a difference. 

They still want to feel they matter as their pulpit has been replaced by selfies. 

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this, but have you seen that the most active people on Facebook are women and male pastors? I don’t see a lot of non-pastor males posting as much as male pastors do. There’s a large insecurity inside each church leader that screams for people to notice and like them.  

It’s fine to post every time you go to a restaurant with someone. Every time you go golfing with someone. Every service project you do. Every vacation you take. I’m not against it at all. I’m just curious as to why that is done. What’s motivating it?

And this is my point with these things a retired pastor should be doing. If a retired pastor is posting constantly about how great his life appears, it could be a clear indicator that he hasn’t reconciled relationships with those he hurt and who hurt him, he doesn’t have close, real friendships, he’s not involved in a local church and he doesn’t support his previous church’s current leadership. 

You might want to lovingly ask him if he’s done those things. 

Finally: 

Dream what’s next. 

Many have heard the phrase, If you’re still breathing, God isn’t done with you yet. While this isn’t a scriptural reference, there is still truth to it. Just because a church leader resigns from vocational ministry doesn’t mean they’ve resigned from serving God and serving others in big, impactful ways. 

Sure retirement can be full of loving on grandkids and entertainment and traveling but dream what could be next along with those blessings. 

I just don’t understand why so many pastors just get online and share articles when they have such a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and experience to write their own articles to help others. 

They should be writing worship music. They should be mentoring pastors. They should be evangelizing to their loved ones and neighbors. They should be leading a small group. They should be involved in international missions. They should start a non-profit. They should pray big prayers. Sadly, many don’t (in fact, 95% of pastors admit to not praying daily and to not ever praying with their spouse). 

I hope every retired pastor is like Simeon, the religious leader in the Temple in Jerusalem, who was promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he laid his eyes on Jesus [Luke 2:26]. 

The greatest event in Simeon’s long life occurred at the end of his life this side of heaven. 

If Simeon had stopped thanking God, stopped serving others, stopped his ministry of reconciliation and stopped trusting God to show up in his life, would he ever have held the Messiah in his arms?

My heart in writing this is for retired pastors and their wives and retired church leaders to not settle in life. Jesus came so that we would experience life to its fullest potential, and the hope He has for us to do so doesn’t end when our paychecks from the church conclude [John 10:10].

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [John 14:27]

May each pastor, retired or not, have the peace to pursue these seven actions. Don’t be troubled or afraid to do so. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

Words of Lament: How 3 Of Our Children Died In 3 Days

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On July 15th of this year, my wife Whitney was urgently rushed to a hospital in Detroit, Michigan. At the time, she was 20 weeks pregnant with triplets. Doctors informed us that her cervix had opened, that there was a bulging sac and that the babies were going to be delivered far too premature that evening. 

I stayed the night at the hospital with Whit and no babies were delivered. We call that an answered prayer. 

The next morning I read through Proverbs chapter 16 where the first line says, 

We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. 

Our plans, our dreams, as a married couple, was to have my wife become pregnant, experience pregnancy and give birth. It had been a desire on her heart for most of her life. 

Unable to conceive naturally, years into our marriage we have pursued in-vitro fertilization via embryo adoption four times. 

Attempt #1: Chemical pregnancy (false positive)

Attempt #2: Chemical pregnancy (false positive)

Attempt #3: Conception (miscarriage at 9 weeks)

Attempt #4: Conception (pregnant with 3 fetuses)

With each attempt there are mountains of paperwork, finances, medication, injections and prayer. But the dream we had to expand our family and love on another child was all worth it without a question. 

This past April was when we found out Whit was pregnant with triplets, and we were ecstatic. Not only was there hope of a baby coming, but it was threefold. The magnanimity overshadowing this attempt was that we were told this would be the last chance at pregnancy after three previous unsuccessful ones. 

Sure there was a pandemic starting, and school was canceled, and our family was moving out of state, but we couldn’t stop praising God for an answered prayer as Whit’s pregnancy prolonged through the first trimester with three healthy babies. 

When she was 19 weeks pregnant, we announced the exciting news to social media. Five days later she was a high risk patient in the hospital with doctors telling us the babies were coming too early and there wasn’t much they could do. 

Five days after that, her water broke. The doctors told us the babies were going to be born any minute, yet for the next 12 days no babies were born. We call that an answered prayer. 

On July 31, at 1:39AM, 16 days after Whit was first put on bed rest in the hospital, a child was delivered. A baby girl was born at 22 weeks and 2 days. She came out still born and we were able to hold her and cry and thank God for her. 

The concern at that point was that Whit would get infected. If she showed signs of fever or a high white blood cell count, the other two babies would have to be induced because at that point the situation would be life-threatening to Whit. Her health was primary to us. 

Later on July 31st, her fever spiked to 102.9° and she started having chills. At that point it was a no brainer, Whit was given medication to give birth to the other two babies. 

On August 1st, the other two babies were delivered. At 4:20pm another baby girl was born at 22 weeks and 3 days. She came out and gave one exhale and eventually within minutes had no heart rate. We were able to hold her and cry and thank God for her. 

11 minutes later a son was born. He had a heart rate and had low oxygen levels but came alive out of the womb. He was rushed to the NICU immediately. His weight was just under 1 pound. 

Over the first hours of his life he was put on a ventilator, and then another ventilator and a third ventilator. He was given two blood transfusions, given sugar, caffeine, hydrochloride, saline and multiple doses of dopamine. 

He was considered by the nurse first in charge of his care to be a fighter and ended up fighting for 17 hours, dying at 9:40AM, August 2nd. The last moments of his life Whit and I were able to hold our son and cry and thank God for him in our lives. 

Sometimes God blesses parents to love their kids for a lifetime, sometimes for a day.

Three babies, all three dead on three different days due to being too early in birth. During our time in the hospital, we were constantly educated that if the babies could make it in the womb until 23-25 weeks, there was a good chance at their survival. That was our prayer, and our three children almost made it to that goal.   

We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. (Proverbs 16:1)

Hadassah Lynne, born and dead July 31. Her name means: One who brings joy, of the church. 

Beatrix Tyler, born and dead August 1. Her name means: One who brings happiness, home builder. 

Samuel Dominic, born August 1, dead August 2. His name means: The Lord heard, of the Lord. 

The most amazing moment happened on Samuel’s first and only night on this earth. While in the incubator, his heart rate was dramatically dropping around 11:30pm. The doctors were doing everything they could but things looked grim. They asked me to go get Whit since she hadn’t seen or met him yet. 

When Whit got to the NICU, she asked if she could touch Samuel. With her two hands around his tiny head and chest, over the course of an hour, his heart rate, blood oxygen level and pulse all went up to the best they ever would be during his 17 hours of life. The doctors were amazed. We call that an answered prayer. 

There is a lot of confusion, loss and sadness right now, but rather than focus on those things at this time, let me give you the other answered prayers we were able to experience: 

  • Our dream was for Whit to get pregnant, to experience pregnancy, to go into labor and all of those things occurred. 
  • Being in love with having daughters, I had prayed for a son to see what that was like. Out of the three babies who died, our son survived birth as we were able to know him and hold him.
  • Each day Whit was on bedrest, with each healthy ultrasound given, the doctors kept telling us that something beyond science was happening. Again, they said on July 15th the babies were coming and to see Whit be prayed for and to watch her fight for the chance at life was beyond anything they had seen. We like it when faith and science work together and medical professionals noticed. 
  • My wife and I have been a praying couple in our marriage, but at no other time in our relationship had we prayed together, cried out to God together more than these past few weeks. It’s an intimate thing to pray with your spouse. We were able to tangibly feel God’s care for us by doing so. 
  • Our church stepped up to love on us practically during the 18 days of bedrest. They made meals for our family, mowed our yard, took care of our kids, sent flowers, gave gifts and kept checking in letting us know we were prayed for. 
  • Our witness for Christ was known throughout the entire hospital by nurses, doctors and administrative workers. With all of the sorrow, tears and loss, the hugs given to us came with comments like “We have never seen a couple with more resolve, faith and gratitude than you two.” Every new nurse that came in to care for Whit, they had already known about Whit’s joyous and kind spirit even while going through the scariest trial of her life. My faith in God grew and my love for her increased just by watching her character in hardship.  

During Whit’s time in the hospital, she would write in her gratitude journal, listing things she was grateful for to God rather than worrying about the future in the worst way. She would write thank you cards to express her gratitude to others while they were serving us in this time. She would read her Bible, listen to worship songs, read a book about anxiety, write encouraging notes for our two older daughters and always would uplift the spirit of the nurses and doctors checking on her. 

To see her be bedridden enduring all the IV’s and blood tests and morphine and pain and the bed pans and the lack of showering and the inability to sleep a full night and the concerns of a dream dying, to know the pressure she felt even though none of what occurred was anything she did or didn’t do, to know this was her last attempt at IVF, with all that going on, those able to witness her faith in God completely floored them. 

I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. (Philippians 1:12)

Since Hadassah’s death, I have been walking a little slower. 

Walking around the hospital God brought to mind a memory of my father that expressed the emotions I was having. 

When I was in the 6th grade, my father, a pastor, came into my bedroom the week before Christmas. He was wearing a suit and tie and he asked me to get dressed up. It was 10AM and I argued with him stating I wanted to stay home in my scrub clothes and watch TV. He kept asking me to get dressed. I finally gave in as I came downstairs in wrinkled khakis and a sweater. We got into his Chevy Blazer and drove off. 

My dad didn’t tell me where we were going even though I kept asking. 30 minutes later we pulled into a hospital. My dad grabbed his Bible from the back seat, and he and I walked into the cancer wing of a Cincinnati hospital. 

Over the next hour I witnessed my father officiate a wedding inside a hospital room. The patient, a dad with cancer, had the dream of walking his daughter down the aisle. His daughter was engaged to be married in six months, in June. Plans changed when the father had been told earlier that week that he only had days to live. 

So this dad could see his daughter be married and get to be a part of one of the biggest, joy-filled days of her life, my father showed up to the hospital room in December to officiate, as tears mixed with sadness by all were falling in the room. 

Had I remained lazy and whiney at home earlier that day, I would’ve not of only missed out on the emotion I felt that day, but also what my dad said when we got back into the car. 

My dad said, with tears in his eyes, “Z……I hate death……..but I love you and I love Jesus.” 

Twenty years later, on his own deathbed due to cancer, after he had walked his daughter down the aisle just two months before, I said to my father, “Dad, I hate death, but I love you and I love Jesus.” 

And with the death of three children in three days, it’s the exact sentiment I have. 

I hate death. I hate it. 

As people are unsure how to respond to our pain currently, we have heard that this is part of God’s plan. Our 8 year old, after initially hearing her siblings are dead, cried out to us, “How could something this horrible be part of God’s plan? I thought God is loving?”  

He is loving, but I had no words for her in the moment. Yes, it could be viewed as God’s plan for our family, a purpose we may never visually realize going forward, but there is also an evil side to this. There is an unseen but not unfelt wicked presence in our world. The devil’s only obsession each and every day is to hurt God by hurting us. 

I don’t understand how people go through the brokenness in this world without Jesus. How do people do it without His love and without a longing for heaven, a place where there is no pain or sadness?

Yes, I hate death. But still, I love people and I love Jesus so much. 

Thanks for reading and I thank you for prayers for my wife and myself as we move forward in grief and gratitude. 

Z

A Letter to Izzy: a white father’s apology to his black child

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I am a Caucasian (white) male. My race, ethnicity and gender do not define me, they merely describe me. 

I am a father of a beautiful African-American (black) daughter. Her race, ethnicity and gender do not define her, they merely describe her. 

I am a white father to a black daughter. Her name is Israel Cate. Her name has meaning. She was purposely given the names she has. 

The name Israel means: With God there is victory. My wife and I knew that being a black female, Izzy was going to have more of an uphill battle when it came to the way people related to her, gave her opportunities and viewed her. We wanted her to know in her core that there is only victory with God – only identity and purpose – in the way He views her. If she is going to succeed in her desires and dreams, it will be because of Him. If she was going to heal from the pain that is coming her way by being a non-white female, it would be because of Him. 

Her middle name Cate means purity. When her own choices stain her, when this world throws it’s trashed opinions onto her that are about her, when she is dismissed and left out due to appearing different, because of God’s love for her through Jesus, God sees her as perfect. As pure. As stainless. 

I have been praying about what to say her about her life. Already in her world, at 6 years old, there is heartache due to her being black. 

What I am hoping to do with this post is convey what I am personally sorry for to her and also what has hurt my heart in what others have said and done. I can apologize for myself but I cannot apologize for others. Instead, I will simply say my heart hurts seeing what I’ve witnessed. 

Let me look in the mirror first. 

To Israel Cate: 

I am sorry I have not been a proactive learner of the dynamics in being a white father to you as a black child in a country that still has much unrest and undertones racially. I am sorry that it has taken circumstances in America, and even death, for me to learn more, read more, have more conversations about racial equality, justice and reconciliation. I should have been doing these things more throughout the six years of your life. I am sorry for being a reactive, pharisaical leader of you. 

I am sorry that when you are in my office at work, and you look at the poster on the wall that has a quote and a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. that you don’t recognize who that is or what cause he was predestined to lead. 

I am sorry that as a family we instinctively watch television shows like Full House and Little House on the Prairie. While these shows are mostly wholesome and have good lessons to share, I am sorry you very rarely get to see someone who looks like you as you continue to see people who look like your mom, myself and your older sister (who is white). I am sorry for being an unintentional father during our down time as a family. 

I am sorry that when we went to go visit your birth-mother when you were 5 years old, that I did not make 110% sure she was able to meet us at the time and place we had agreed to meet. I know when she did not show up to meet us, it broke your big heart and left a scar there. I am so grateful for your birth mother and what she has done for our family in giving us you – and I want you to have a possibly close relationship with her as you grow and when you are grown. I am sorry for not nurturing more of a relationship with her since she did not show up to be with you a year ago. I will extend forgiveness and grace and be in constant communication with her. 

I am sorry that I used to spread the message to others that I was colorblind. My intentions were to show that I loved all people equally, no matter their appearance. What I now know is I was showcasing that your unique, specific, beautiful ethnicity was being ignored. You are black. I see you. I want to point that out in you in a positive affirmation and not sweep your race away in a quick, hidden way. For me to say “I’m colorblind” is to not acknowledge the specific way God has created you.  

For these things I am sorry. 

My heart hurts as well on what I have witnessed from those around me. 

My heart hurts that when we informed extended family members that we were going to be able to adopt a black child, we were asked, “Why would you ever want to do that?”. 

My heart hurts that through our nation-wide adoption agency, there were two categories to choose from to adopt a child. You can either adopt a non-black baby or a black baby (this is how these were worded). There are so many babies born to black women that are not being adopted by people in our nation that they outnumber the amount of babies who are not African-American. 

My heart hurts reflecting on a meeting I had with elders at a church in Tennessee. When I informed them of the exciting news that God had added a second child to our family, and then showed them your picture as an infant, one long-time member, a leader in the church, said, “Oh, she’s black? Okay. Just make sure you raise her right because 1 out of 4 black women have abortions and we don’t need more of that.”. 

My heart hurts remembering when you were a few months old and our family attended a county fair. I was holding you and trying to eat an ice cream cone at the same time, and a mother and her adult daughter were oohing and aahing over you. They came close to see your adorable face and the mother asked, “What’s her name?”. When I told her, “Israel Cate”, she responded, looking at her daughter, saying, “Thank God he didn’t name the child one of those long, confusing names those black people name their kids.”. 

My heart hurts when people assume you were born in another country. I tell them you were born in the country of Virginia. 

My heart hurts when people wrongly assume that your older sister is biological and you are adopted. Both of you, in God’s providential plan, are our daughters through infant, domestic adoption. But, next to you, your sister “looks” like us. It’s said continually and we are sorry that you hear those comments and feel left out. Remember, with God alone there is victory. 

My heart hurt at Thanksgiving one year, when many of your aunts and uncles and cousins were gathered around the table, having a good meal. Your sweet two year old cousin looked around the table and said out loud, “Everyone is white. Izzy is brown.” And that was an innocent observation on his part. He’s learning his colors. I was confused when all of your aunts and uncles laughed out loud. You looked at me unsure why people were laughing over the fact that your cousin had stated your skin was brown. 

My heart hurts that you are the only black person many of our family and friends know and love. 

My heart hurts when having conversations with other white pastors in the community on how diverse their churches are and they blame the lack of diversity on the fact that either their community isn’t diverse (which, through my eyes, I see diversity all over. They have scales on their eyes that only allow them to see people like them) or, the lack of diversity in their church is due to the fact that “those people” have “their own churches” to worship at. My heart also hurts that these white pastors are posting pictures of them and people of color with them when all of these pictures are people they met briefly on a mission trip, not someone in their local community. 

My heart hurt and was enraged when you and I went for a short run through our neighborhood last month. Our run took place after the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot to death while jogging. When you and I jogged by a man who was outside his home we both overheard him say, “That’s smart, dad. Run with her. Keep her safe.” I was not happy with my response to him as I noticed the Confederate flag on his pick-up truck.  

My heart hurts that I get worried when you are outside playing away from our home.

My heart hurts when you and I were playfully wrestling in the home shortly after George Floyd had been murdered. While we were tickling and laughing and jumping – as I rolled over you to make you laugh and you felt my weight, you said, “I can’t breathe.”. I was horrified inside and stopped wresting right away and began praying for the day when I sit down and walk you through some of these tragic events that are happening.  

My heart hurts that just like people in our nation were praying for Sandy Hook, praying for Paris, and they were praying for Las Vegas – the reaction of most people is going to be a phase in terms of standing up for racial justice. 

My heart hurts that as you grow older and learn more about your heritage, our nations’s history, the present day shortcomings and lack of progress, that I will be bewildered and at a loss for words for the many questions you will have. I am here to process your emotions with you. I am here to work toward making the desires you have for a better world with you. 

I will listen to you. 

I will be in tune to your feelings. 

I will continue to ask you specific questions about how your day went. 

I will provide reminders on how much you are loved by God and by your mom and I and by your sister who is utterly protective of you. I am thankful that she sees you. 

I will strive to correct the wrong done against you. 

I have one other apology: I am sorry that I have never been the subject of racism. Though I try to understand and pray to empathize through what you will endure, I will be a step removed. I will feel powerless. My heart aches that I cannot fully ensure your well-being through the myriad of elements in this life when it comes to this ignorant (at least) and hateful (at most) comments and actions those near you choose. 

I want you to know any attack on you is an attack on me and against God Himself. I want you to know that the pain caused by others, unintentionally or purposefully, does not need to be repaid with revenge. We will love. We will be peaceful.

“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21)

Thanks for reading. Thanks for learning. Thanks for seeing a side you don’t normally see. You are loved. 

Z

How Change Happens In Culture (What You Can Do And Not Do To Help)

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Indulge me for a moment because this might not make sense until I explain it a bit. 

Many Christians don’t know how to change the culture around them. We get frustrated because we feel helpless and overwhelmed and confused. We say, I don’t like the way the world is, I wish it was different. But what can I do? 

What Christians unwisely do is they react to culture by dividing it into sides. 

They say, We have the Christians over here on my side, the Christians are the good guys, they wear white hats, God loves them more. And on the opposite side we’ve got the non-Christians, the sinful people, the bad people, they wear the black hats.

The Christians declare a cultural war on the non-Christians. 

But the Bible doesn’t teach that. Your spiritual beliefs and your church home shouldn’t buy into the good guys verses the bad guys. 

There’s only one good Guy, His name is Jesus. The rest of us, we’re all bad guys. There is one white hat in the entire Bible, it’s worn by Jesus. One Person rides the white horse, and it’s Jesus. 

Every other person is bad. Most bad people die without Jesus, some bad people are forgiven and will live forever with Jesus. 

The church believes in equal rights, meaning, everyone is with sin. Everyone. You, me, your church elders, your grandma, Tim Tebow, the Duggars, the Trumps, Duck Dynasty, Desperate Housewives, the Pope, Dave Ramsey – all stained by sin. All loved by God. And only a few trust in Jesus as Lord and are cleansed. 

Not everything has to be an upstream battle. I don’t see any evidence in the book of Acts, when the first century Christians are being arrested and beaten and killed for loving Jesus, there’s not one meeting where a revolt is planned against Caesar. 

So today, yes, prayer will be taken out of schools and God will be taken out of the pledge of allegiance and abortions will remain legalized and people will be arrested for feeding the homeless and same-sex marriages will be law and no-fault divorce is easy and Islam is growing fast on college campuses and the racial discord in our country is horrific. Somewhere there’s a Christian fighting all of these issues.

In the latter part of the book of Genesis, when Joseph gets to Egypt, God is with him. He looks around and there is plenty to be unhappy about. There is plenty to be disappointed and angry about. Rather than being discussed and declaring war on Egypt in the name of his God, he serves people and blesses them. That’s what the early church does too. They didn’t attack the Roman government. They trusted God was in control and served the people around them. 

Historically, in our country’s history, if people are going to go upstream and change something in culture, they’ll have a march. The Civil Rights movement was very effective. The church, not so much.

The church is like, Everyone is sleeping with everyone. They’re all perverted. Abortions and divorce and same-sex relations and cohabitation is running rampant. We’re going on a walk to change things. We will make poster board signs and bring megaphones and gather all the other people who are angry like us. 

And the Christians walk, walk, walk for Jesus. March for Jesus. Sign the petition for Jesus. Complain on Facebook for Jesus. 

I’m not against walking for Jesus, but the non-Christians don’t look at the Christians marching and think, Oh man, we’ve got to change the way we’re living! We’ve got to change the laws we’re instituting! We’ve got to change the music and the movies we’re making! Quick! How can we start over? They’re walking!!!!! They’re posting on social media!!!!!!!

God doesn’t need you to walk for Him. God needs you to walk with Him. 

God doesn’t want you to fight others. God wants you to love and serve others. 

We need to be in the world, not of it. Love the world, don’t fight it.

See, we turn on the radio, but we don’t get to decide what bands are signed. We turn on the TV, but we don’t get to decide which shows are on. We enjoy Thanksgiving with loved ones but we don’t get to decide which stores are open. We like to read, we don’t get to decide what gets published and what doesn’t. We don’t get to make the laws. We pay our taxes but don’t get to decide how much we’re taxed. All of those decisions are made way upstream by a select few people sitting high up in culture. 

And more recently, we can’t control much during Covid-19 except wash our hands continually. 

And more seriously, we don’t decide which police officers are hired, approved and trained. 

If we really want to change culture, it’s not going to be during big events with Christians in a big room chanting, We love Jesus, yes we do. I’m not against the marching or the big events, but we’ve got to realize that there are cultural gatekeepers who shift culture and education and laws and influence others. 

And the church yelling downstream at the people they think are wearing the black hats (while they view themselves as wearing the white hat) isn’t going to change anything for God. 

If we declare war downstream, we don’t get to move upstream. 

We’re not going to compromise on God’s law and truth, but we’re also not going to judge, hate or gossip (how many people in here slander a politician over them compared to how much they pray for them?). 

We can’t hate and gossip and judge. Instead we must love others, serve others, have integrity, be generous, pray for God to put holy people in those cultural gatekeeper chairs. 

In Genesis, Joseph has been a blessing to people and faithful to God and now God has put him upstream. Joseph decides the law, he decides all things food and property rights and taxation and education and he affects the lives and the betterment of millions of people. 

With Joseph ruling, how many God-fearing people are in Egypt? 

One. Just Joseph. 

If he had shown up and declared war and fought for everything and slandered non-Christians, he’d never be upstream. He shows up to Potiphar’s house and asks, How can I be a blessing to you? And Potiphar puts him in charge. He’s put in jail and he says, How can I be a blessing to this jail? And he’s put in charge. They give him, a prisoner, the keys to the prison. He’s brought in front of Pharaoh and he just wants to know how can he improve Pharaoh’s day, and he’s put in charge. 

Not once does he fight, or complain, or lose his temper. As a result, God guides him upstream, because he doesn’t declare war on those who are downstream. If we’re shrewd and wise and always loving and always generous and always forgiving, who knows what God could do through us. 

If we believe God has taken care of us, then we will take care of others. 

When Jesus shows up on the scene, He says, I’m a servant. Be a servant. The apostle Paul says, I serve Christ. We need to be a servant to all. It’s not that we compromise, okay, you should know I love truth more than anyone, we don’t compromise, but instead of fighting and whining, we pray, we love, we’re generous. We show God has been good to us and that He loves everyone. 

If you strongly desire to change the culture around you in a God-honoring way, serve and bless the people downstream from you (the marginalized) and pray for the people upstream (the cultural gatekeepers).

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z 

Balancing Work and Rest Post-Pandemic

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So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. (Genesis 2:1-2 / NLT)

Most evenings in our households while putting our young daughters to bed this is what the routine looks like: pajamas on, teeth brushed, hug mommy goodnight, have daddy read a fictional book and a chapter from their children’s Bible, then, prayer and kisses (and then they have the endless excuses to stay up like: I’m hungry, I’m not sleepy, I’m itchy, my tongue hurts, I’m afraid of that fly I saw earlier outside, etc). 

The other night for their children’s Bible time we read the creation account where God the Creator creates the world in six days. 

To their numerous amount of questions I was explaining everything God had done in the Creation week to my  daughters. I’m saying, God did this. God then did this. God then brought the animals. God then made Adam and Eve. 

One of the girls takes the children’s Bible from me and puts it under her sheets as if she was tucking in her own child to sleep. She looks at me and says, God needs to go to nap time.

She doesn’t comprehend it yet, but God doesn’t rest on Saturday because He was beat. God worked and accomplished so much, but He the reason He rests on Day 7 wasn’t because He was all plumb-tuckered out. 

God didn’t wear himself out to the point He needed to go to Florida for some R & R. He wasn’t like, “Oh, man! I pulled a hamstring. I got calluses. Whoo, making the goats, that was exhausting. I’m not as young as I used to be.

But what God did, God finished his work, and then He rested.

The point of rest is this: To enjoy life.

Did you know that? 

The point of resting is to enjoy life. So many people work and don’t enjoy life. 

I know people who work really hard to get a boat and don’t go boating.
I know people who work really hard to get a car and never go for a drive.
I know people who work very hard to have a vacation property and don’t vacation.
I know people that got married and don’t go out on dates.
I know people that have kids and don’t hang out with them. 

It’s because they keep working. They can’t stop. They won’t stop until they completely crash and harm what is good in their lives. This is why we have rates of burnout and anxiety and depression, because people just keep going until they absolutely come undone. 

What God is saying is this, “Work hard for most of the week. Work hard, do work that honors me, make things good and very good. But then, take your day off. Sleep, rest, enjoy. Don’t just work all the time.

I am concerned about what life is going to look like post-Covid-19 for some of you because still, after all of this time seeing how things are out of our control, you think everything is up to you and you have to work constantly and you’re fraying yourself, you’re going to come undone and you’re missing moments with your loved ones. 

When I moved to Brooklyn, NY right out of college, during my time there I didn’t take a day off. I had three jobs. I slept 4-6 hours a night. I burned myself totally out. I was frustrated and angry and easily agitated. I was not as pleasant to my friends, or my roommates and I treated the girl I was dating at the time in a disrespectful way. I can’t blame that on anyone. That was absolutely my sin that I needed to repent of.

And it was all due to not resting. 

The point of rest is to enjoy life and when I refuse to rest I harm the good life I’ve been given. 

It’s the person who hasn’t slept and is stressed out and freaked out and angry and agitated and then their productivity suffers. Those who don’t rest well, don’t work well.

It’s the person who works hard and well, and then rests and plays hard and well, and then goes back to work that has this rhythm in their life. 

I have parented two toddlers in my history of being a dad. Toddlers play hard, they work hard and they sleep hard. Toddlers have rhythm. It’s how we’re created. If they get off that rhythm, the ugly side comes out. 

Adults aren’t much different. 

The subtle thing behind people who work too much is this: If you don’t take a day off, and if you don’t take a nap, and if you don’t cease from your work to enjoy what God has given you and what you’ve done by his good grace, then you are demonstrating to the world that you don’t trust God. 

(you might want to read the above paragraph again, slowly)

Those who work too much, too late in the day, at night and on the weekends when their family is around, checking their phone all vacation, they’re saying, If I don’t work, it all falls apart because God’s not sovereign and he doesn’t hold things together.

If we don’t take time to worship and we don’t take time to rest, we don’t take time to love, we’re being terrible followers of Jesus. We’re sending out very mixed messages about God to our loved ones and to the world, This is the God who’s sovereign, but I have to keep everything under control.

But, the person who works hard, takes time day off seriously, enjoys their family and their friends and enjoys their hobbies – those are people who live better lives and longer lives. They leave a legacy that is more productive. We should rest. 

Don’t feel guilty about resting, it’s biblical. 

I can think of two types of people who have the hardest time having a Sabbath and a rhythm of rest. 

(1) The Self-Employed and (2) The Mother

Those who are self-employed struggle to rest and find boundaries in their schedule because they don’t have a boss, and they just keep working. And mothers, because on the weekends, their kids are still there. Motherhood never ends (in a good but exhausting way). 

No matter the case, when some type of normalcy begins to occur, it’s going to be important for those of you who have fast-paced lives make sure that you still Sabbath, that you get your date night if you’re married. That you get time with family and friends. That you make time for a Bible study. That you make time for prayer. That you can put the phone down. 

People can get real legalistic about Sabbath, they ask really detailed questions like, What constitutes as work – if I mow the lawn or bake a cake? Or if a go for a walk, is that work? Am I sinning against God? 

If you want to go for a walk and that’s restful for you and you enjoy the Lord, it’s a nice day, go for a walk. If for you it’s restful to take a nap, take a nap. If it’s restful for you to be out in your garden, then go work in your garden. If it’s restful for you to have people over and to have a big meal and to enjoy your family and friends, then enjoy yourself and have people over.

Let’s not argue too much about the Sabbath. It’s a gift that God gives for us to have joy and rest. And that’s why some people argue over the day. Well, is it Saturday, is it Sunday, is it this, or is it that? Paul says in Romans 14, it’s whatever. If Tuesday’s your day off, Sabbath on Tuesday. If your job forces you to work Sunday, and Wednesday’s your day off, enjoy Wednesday.

Some people have this picture of God, that when God tells us to do something, it’s bad, and we need to be defiant. I’m telling y’all, when God tells us to do something, it’s good. When I looked at my toddler daughter, and noticed, Whoa, Mr. Hyde is back in your personality. Toddler, go take a nap, that’s because I love her. I want her day to go well. I know what it’s going to look like if she doesn’t rest.

I know what my life will look like if they didn’t rest.

God’s just like that. God’s a good Dad, who looks at us and says, “You need to rest today. You need to just read and pray and hang out. It’s a nice day, go for a drive. Go for a walk. Go for a bike ride. Take a deep breath of fresh air. It’s a nice warm winter day. I’ve given you the whole world – get out of your cubicle, go enjoy a little bit of it. Go play some golf. Go read a book. Take your preacher out to Chili’s with you.” 

Alen Cohen says, “There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” 

We have been given the gift of rest and time with God and with loved ones for a couple months now. All I’m inviting you to do is discipline yourselves to, when you go back into life once the restrictions lift, is to keep rest in your week. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

 

To The Woman Who Isn’t A Mother On Mother’s Day

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In the church I get to serve in now as a lead pastor, decision-making is not done in an unbalanced, anarchist fashion. I am not the CEO of the church. I am not the President of the church. I am not the Leader of the church. Jesus is. I am a servant under Him, and I’m also willingly and humbly under the elders at the church.

In the church, decision-making amongst leadership should be collaborative and unified, and it shouldn’t be done just because we’ve always done it this way. 

When I was in my late 20’s I was in ministry as an associate pastor at a larger-sized congregation where the senior pastor had been in the church for nearly three decades. 

At the time I was an arrogant and naive team-member. Hard-working, yes. Caring, yes. But there were still many things about the decision-making in leadership that I didn’t understand. 

My continual questions in leadership meetings was: Why do we do things this way? Could we do it better? More effectively? More honoring to more people? 

Too often I enjoyed playing devils advocate and it would ruffle feathers of those making the decisions. 

I’ll give an example: At this church, Mother’s Day was a big day (as it is with most churches). A sermon was given to mothers specifically each Mother’s Day. Special music was sang to mother’s specifically. The children’s ministry would have the kids in the church make crafts for mothers specifically. 

And, a flower was specifically given to each mother walking into the church. 

Now, I am for honoring mothers. I feel strongly that the role of a mother is the closest thing to Jesus in the flesh I have seen in my life. It is a selfless daily task that is fueled by unconditional love. There is fatigue, heartache, service done when no one is looking –  above anyone else, it is the mother who instinctively is thinking about others over herself. 

Here was the issue I had: To each woman walking into the church on Mother’s Day, the greeters at the church were instructed to ask, Are you a mother? If she said, yes, she got a flower. If she said, no, she did not get a flower.  

Imagine a woman who wants to be a mother desperately, but isn’t for whatever circumstance. She knows Mother’s Day is going be a tough day for her. But, because she loves Jesus, she gets dressed for church. She drives to worship. She parks her car. She watches other family units smiling and walking together into the church building. And, as she walks into worship, she is asked, Are you a mother? She replies, No, I’m not. Then a flower is pulled back away from her. 

It’s the woman who has had a miscarriage.
It’s the woman who is infertile.
It’s the woman who has had an unsuccessful in-vitro fertilization.
It’s the woman who’s friends are having babies while she isn’t.
It’s the woman who’s had an abortion and is reminded of that pain every day.
It’s the woman who gave her baby up for adoption.
It’s the woman who had plans to be a mother but it didn’t work out that way.
It’s the child making a craft for a mother they don’t have in their life. 

Remember, it’s the mother who thinks of others over herself. So that’s what I vied to do one meeting at this church.  

In a staff meeting in the early Spring one year, as we were planning for Mother’s Day, I brought up the suggestion that all women on Mother’s Day should get a flower. 

I brought up the perspective of the women who aren’t mothers walking into the doors of the church who already feel the rejection of not having a child – and how being refused a flower would compound that rejection. 

I brought up Jesus’ constant compassion to be drawn to the marginalized, the left-out, how He was the ultimate Includer. And, if a church chooses to love those who are on the outside of things, then she is truly loving Him (Matthew 25:40).  

I was berated for suggesting these things.  

I was given the, We’ve always done it this way. Mothers get flowers on Mother’s Day. Why would we give flowers to women who aren’t Mothers? If they want a flower they should be a Mother. 

I am so thankful Jesus doesn’t give out His love to people in the same way. What if Jesus were to say, Only perfect people get My love. Why would I give My perfect love to imperfect people? If they wanted My love, they should’ve remained perfect.

……………………………………………

My wife and I were married fairly swiftly after initially meeting each other. Due to being married quickly, we decided to get to know each other for the first 5 years of marriage and then in year 5 we would attempt to start having a family. 

We made it to year 4, saw all of the fun and joy our friends were having with their newborn children and couldn’t wait to have a firstborn, so we started trying. 

And trying. 

And trying. 

Nothing happened.

If you know the journey of infertility, it’s full of attempts at trying, false symptoms, negative pregnancy tests and another month of trying again. This went on for a year. 

Finally, after some tests, the doctors told Whit and I that I would never be able to get my wife pregnant. I was infertile. Biologically, it was not going to happen for us to have a child. 

We wanted a family so badly. God was giving us an opportunity to place our faith in Him during this trial. 

Two weeks later we entered into the adoption process. 

Many of you know the endless paperwork and classes and interviews and tests and waiting required and money needed to have the opportunity to adopt a child. 

In January of 2011, we were on a waiting list where any day we could get a call that a baby had been born waiting for us to adopt and care for and love on and raise the best we could in God’s way. At the time, my wife and I were living in Northeast Ohio.  

The next month God brought a potential job change to us that would require us to move out of state. After a couple of interviews with this prospective employer we realized quickly that this was God’s hand leading us to move from Ohio to Tennessee. 

As the job opportunity became serious, we were told by our social worker in Ohio that if we moved out of state before a birth-mom chose us, we would have to start the adoption process all over.This meant we would need to repay all the money, resubmit all of the paper work and go through all the hoops for all those months. 

God was giving us an opportunity again to trust in Him.

In tears and confusion, we trusted God wanted us to move to Tennessee. I accepted the position out of state and my starting date was to be a month after accepting the position. I accepted the job on May 1st of that year and I was to start at the position on June 1st. 

God had 4 weeks to get us a baby or we would need to start over

Mother’s Day came, a very hard day for us (because, as mentioned earlier, my wife was one of those women walking into a church I served at who was made to feel more isolation by being asked if she was a mother and not receiving a flower). 

She sits in a worship service that is all about mothers and has her mind full of thoughts of anxiety and pressure and knowing that one week had passed and three weeks were left for God to do His thing.

That was May 8th. It was a difficult Mother’s Day for my wife. 

The very next day, on May 9th, I was at Wal-Mart picking out a Sugarland CD to try to see what the big deal about country music was (since we were moving to Tennessee), my wife called me in tears that a birth-mom from Missouri had chosen us to adopt the baby she was carrying. The baby was due in September, but we wouldn’t have to start the adoption process over. God had come through again for us. We had a new job in a new state and by stepping out on faith, we were going to be new parents. 

If you just trust God, and give control over everything, He will come through. 

The thrust of the Christian journey, when it comes down to this mystery of having a relationship with the Creator God – it’s not a faith issue. It’s not a theological issue. It’s a trust issue. 

Many of you are put off by the fact that God is for you, wants the best for you, wants to come through for you and wants to give you the desires of your heart in His will. The reason you struggle to believe these things is because you have trust issues.

To the woman who, after Mother’s Day, is feeling sadness, rejection and loneliness because she’s not a mother for whatever reason: God is giving you this opportunity to trust Him.

To all of us, please continue to think of the marginalized, the outsider and those who are left out. Be the includer. Spread the aroma of Christ to all around you (2 Corinthians 2:14). Which means, figuratively hand a flower to every one you meet so no one feels isolated. 

And, please, continue to trust God one day at a time with whatever you are going through so you do not feel isolated. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z