Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Of Life and Death

Life is so short.

I was once again reminded of that while at work as a chaplain for a local hospice where we live. 

I had spent considerable time with one particular family.  The mother was the patient, who was living with her daughter and son-in-law.  All said they were Bible-believing Christians.  I was thrilled to relate to them on the same spiritual level.  But then things started being revealed which saddened me. 

As the mother approached death, the daughter and the son-in-law were experiencing a lot of tension with each other.  Sam (as I’ll call the husband) was a mess.  He was shaking uncontrollably.  Was he prepared emotionally for what was about to happen with his mother-in-law?  Could he bear the burden of the tension with his wife who was stretched and stressed beyond description?

I spent a lot of hours with Sam at his house.  On that particular day, he confessed that he had a drinking problem—“a few cocktails every day,” as he put it.  His mental health wasn’t the greatest either, so he also took prescription medication to calm himself.  I saw him swallow his pills, but even they were not able to lessen his horrendous shakes.  And he was too hyper to sit down with me on the couch.

So we spoke for hours, standing up.  Mainly about the Lord.  Since he was also a musician, I let him break up the stress of the day by placating him—allowing him to place headphones on my ears to hear his favorite singers on YouTube. 

“Man, Sam, that guy has such a ‘liquid’ voice!” I said.

Sam smiled big and had a little boy’s eyes as I struck a chord with him by speaking his language.  I was so happy I could get a smile out of him.  All the while, his mother-in-law was in the next room gasping for her last breaths.  I had already spent lots of time with her, preparing her for what was to come and praying for a smooth transition into eternity with her Savior.

But with Sam, I was burdened.  He was concerned about and even frightened for his wife.  His shaking still dominated his hands and arms.  It was then that the Holy Spirit had filled me with supernatural boldness to say what I know He wanted me to tell Sam:

“Sam, I understand your mental issues.  I even understand your stress, considering what’s happening now in your family.  But I really feel that the Lord wants you to rid your house of all alcohol and for you to take your God-ordained position as spiritual head of your marriage.  Sam, God may not change the strain on your wife, but as for you, He wants YOU to step up and put Jesus Christ back in as the center of your life, in your marriage, and in this house.”

I said a lot more, but to be honest with you, I can’t remember.  The words just flowed and flowed and I had the feeling I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to.  But I knew that each and every word I spoke was from the Lord and was meant to be a direct hit into this precious man’s heart.  And they were.

Sam looked at me frozen.  His eyes, again, gleaming with the innocence of a little boy.  He was speechless at first, although his lips tried to form words. 

Then he took a deep breath, nodded, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “Anthony, you’re right.  I know you’re right.  But it’s going to take an intervention team to help me.”

I told Sam that I understood and that he really should start that intervention as soon as possible.

Sam’s mother-in-law died that evening.

Six days later, Sam was dead, too.

I was called to the house—a house full of police and detectives.  His wife told me that Sam felt bad for her because it was Mother’s Day on Sunday, and it was only days after his wife’s mother passed away.  So he suggested they go out to a popular café and “celebrate” Mother’s Day.

And celebrate they did.  This particular café served alcohol.  Sam had consumed several shots of hard liquor.  He even bought rounds for many at the café.  They were so inebriated that they took a taxi home and passed out.

The next morning (yesterday), Sam’s wife turned to him with a glass of water and found him dead in bed.

I miss Sam so, so much.  When I spent that last day with him, I was thinking this guy could be a friend of mine, someone I could invest in and mentor, someone I could see blossom into a beautiful man of God.  He was so soft-spoken and gentle, yet his vices ravaged his soul.

Pray for his wife, too.  She lost her mother and husband within a week.  Pray for healing in her soul.

I write this story because I wanted to say that God reminded me of something yesterday…

He is real.

His love for us is TANGIBLE.

He is serious about us being healed of all the demons that haunt us…at any cost.

And finally, God will go to the ends of the earth (which He did, in Jesus) to see us whole. 

To give us hope.

To love us to freedom.

I hope all of you will do what I just did tonight—I held my kids a little tighter, telling them how much I truly love them, and how much a loving heavenly Father loves them even more.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Conversation with a Reluctant Husband

Although I wrote a series on reluctant husbands, I’d like to speak with you right now, right here, if you are one.

ANTHONY:   OK, so why are you so reluctant to adopt?

RH:  I don’t know, really.  I guess I’ve been working so hard just to “protect” the family that I have now.  What I mean by that is that I’m trying to preserve time with my family.  And that’s already a challenge with my work schedule.  How can I possibly fit one more in?

ANTHONY:   What do you mean?

RH:  I feel it’s not fair if we bring another child into our home because I feel like I’m lacking as a dad already, not giving enough quality time to the children I already have.

ANTHONY:  That’s a fair statement.  But I can tell you from personal experience that whether you have one child or ten, you never feel like you’re giving each one ample attention.  That may not be a bad thing.  It keeps us dads on our toes.  Besides, God somehow makes it all work out anyway.  And how great it would be if you show your children, by example, the heart of God lived out—His heart of adoption!  Every day you show your other children how the Father loves each of us adopted believers.

RH:  That’s all good in principle.  But I know me.  My stress level is at its threshold with the kids we have now. 

ANTHONY:  Then stress is the issue that must be addressed first.  If we see our children as a source of stress and not blessing, as the Word depicts them, then we are not living with the peace of Christ in our hearts.  And our children will always remember their dad as a nice guy, but an uptight dude.

RH:  But the source of stress isn’t always the kids.  It’s the finances that help pay for the kids. 

ANTHONY:  Aren’t you putting the cart before the horse?  If you are open to the Lord merely asking you to adopt, don’t you think He’ll take care of the finances?  If God asks us to do something, don’t you think He’ll pay for it?

RH:  That sounds a bit pie-in-the-sky, doesn’t it?

ANTHONY:  It does only if you are the god of your own finances.  In all that we do, we trust in the Lord, don’t we?  Why is our financial future any different?

RH:  OK, but I really have to admit something.  Even though we have the money, I’d really like to grow old with no kids in the house.  Children with special needs, well, many of them may end up staying at home for the rest of our lives.


RH:  And when am I going to have my time?  My time to finally spend with my wife.  My time to finally travel and see the world.  My time to just sit and relax and do nothing, if I want.

ANTHONY:  I understand.  But if you’re like me, then this passage in Luke shakes you up:
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.   And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
~Luke 12:16-21

RH:  Ouch.

ANTHONY:  I know.  Me too.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Please Vote for This Ministry

Hi, friends. This is a repost of what my wife published on her blog today. A cause well worth it!

There are so many ministries around who do incredible works.  All of them are advancing the kingdom of God on the earth--taking the Good News to all four corners of the globe. It's a beautiful thing. There are a handful of ministries that Anthony and I absolutely love.  They're led by people of integrity who serve sacrificially and seek the Kingdom above all else.  When we look for ministries to get behind, there are a few things which are important to us.  Integrity is one.  Walking the talk is another. 

 One of the ministries we believe in is PROJECT HOPEFUL.  We love these people!  Carolyn Twietmeyer and her handful of volunteer staff are the real deal--sold out for Jesus and just doing the most wonderful work in spreading the TRUTH about HIV around the world.  They rely solely on donations to spread TRUTH to whomever will listen. 

A few years ago I got to follow Carolyn as she traveled to Ethiopia to adopt her precious little girl, Selah.  My heart ached as I saw Carolyn embrace her little angel who, at that point, was barely alive due to the crippling effects of HIV. Since then I have watched Carolyn and her hubby Kiel live their lives out loud--with an authenticity that is rarely seen.  They truly do walk the talk big time. And so today I come to you all asking for help. 

My friends at Project Hopeful could really use a helping hand. You see, they have been given an opportunity to win $50,000 for their ministry.  That's a whole lot of money and would be such an enormous blessing. All that is required is for folks like you and me to vote...it's as easy as that!  And you can do it once a day for the next 55 days. 

 I cannot even begin to tell you how many e-mails I get with people asking me, "What can we do to make a difference in the life of a child?  How can we get involved in the orphan crisis when we are not in a position to adopt?" Easy!  Vote for Project Hopeful and help them win an enormous amount of money to help children living with HIV/AIDS by educating, encouraging and coming alongside families stepping out in faith to rescue these precious ones. It's as simple as that...and you don't even need to leave your own home. Please vote every day, friends.  Just go to THIS LINK!
Thanks for caring! Please share on your social networks and blogs.  The more people we have voting, the better.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bulgaria's Abandoned Children Video

In my last post HERE, I mentioned a horrific video showing the condition of children in orphanages in Bulgaria.  Please understand this--I am not being melodramatic when I say that conditions compare to the worst concentration camps the Nazis maintained, but what's worse, all of the "inmates" are fatherless children.

I want to first show you a "teaser" below.  If you speed up the video to the 1:52 mark, it's only eight minutes long.  But I can assure you, it will be eight minutes that will change your life.  I suggest you speed it up because the first part only shows an older orphan who is upset that another child broke her handbag.

After you watch this teaser, you can click on the next video, which is the full 89-minute version.   "Bulgaria's Abandoned Children" is a BBC documentary produced by their reporter Kate Blewitt.  Many of you may remember Kate from when she produced the documentary on "dying rooms" in China several years ago. 

Kate spent nearly a year in Bulgaria so that she could depict an accurate account of daily life (and death) in these orphanages.  DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND WATCH THIS FULL VERSION.  But be warned, there are parts which may not be suitable for younger children.

In the full version, you will learn how many, many children enter the orphanage at infancy because of a disability like blindness, deafness, Down syndrome, or autism.  Sadly, you will see how these children were healthy otherwise, but institutionalism has caused them to exhibit at best autistic tendencies and at worst, insanity or even death!

But for now, take a look at this teaser:

And now here is the full 89-minute version of the documentary:

Please know that this is not some freak occurrence.  It is prevalent all over the face of the globe, whether the countries are developing or are first-world.  You heard in the documentary that Bulgaria is a member of the European Union.  Unheard of.  Until now.

Spread the word, church, and spread the prayer!
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