Friday, October 28, 2011

Parable of the Lost Sons

I’ve heard a lot of sermons, read a lot of books, and listened to many personal testimonies on the parable of the prodigal son. I’ve been taught about the father, the son and the older brother again and again. Sadly, I’ve gotten to a point where I tune out from listening because it feels like I’ve heard it all before (just an honest confession).

Yesterday, as I was driving into work a song came on the radio and about halfway through I realized it was this story. Something in it made me start to think and I realized that I’ve never heard anyone consider the relationship between the two brothers BEFORE the prodigal took off.

I am a first-born. Shocker, I know!

We “tend to be reliable, conscientious and perfectionists who don't like surprises. Although, firstborns are typically aggressive, many are also compliant people pleasers. They are model children who have a strong need for approval from anyone in charge.”

We want everybody to play by the rules.

Younger siblings tend to be potentially spoiled and given less responsibility. Often leaving the elder to feel the need to parent the younger.

Imagine with me back when these brothers were just young boys helping dad in the fields…

Day in and day out older brother, we’ll call him Sam, is asked by dad to look after his baby brother, whom we’ll name Ben. He’s given the chores he and his brother need to get done before they head in for supper. Day in and day out Sam strives to finish everything on the list, while Ben spends half the day playing instead of working. Sam so wants his father’s approval that sometimes he even finishes up Ben’s chores too. Inevitably, at the end of the day, dad says nothing of consequence – at least nothing of the praise Sam feels he deserves. And after supper, dad takes Ben on his lap while they share a moment with Sam off to the side.

Let’s go back a little further…

Sam is the pride and joy of his father as the first-born son. Dad is thrilled that the family lineage will carry on. He plays with him, pulls him up on his lap and begins to teach Sam all he knows. As Sam gets older, he wants to be respected as a man and pushes his father’s affections away. Every day he raises the bar for himself a little higher, waiting for his dad to take notice. He is desperate to prove himself and sees this as the way to achieve his father’s love. It’s the only place he’s looking for it.

In order to understand the end, it helps to know the beginning. Our reactions and emotions are not static and instant; they are connected and influenced to all our previous emotions and experiences.

Now we get to the story in Luke 15…

See, while Sam loved Ben, he also began to feel burdened by him. He felt replaced and less loved by dad because of Ben. So when Ben asked for the money and ran, Sam was first enraged that once again Ben broke the rules and he would have to pick up the slack. Then he felt relieved. Perhaps with Ben gone, he could once again have the attention of his father.

But he still didn’t get what he wanted. He only saw dad watching day in and day out for Ben to come home…

The father loved both his sons, each for their differences. He was proud of Sam and his hard work, but he couldn’t seem to help him understand that his love wasn’t conditional on the amount of work. After years of being pushed away, he gave Sam the space he seemed to want. And Ben… he knew there was a recklessness about him. While he didn’t want to let his son go, he hoped and prayed the experience would help him grow up without too much pain and heartache. He also prayed that by letting Ben go, Sam might see the freedom love brings releasing him from his self made prison. After a long day of watching the road for Ben and turning around to watch for Sam, he goes in each night feeling the loss of both his sons.

Sam just doesn’t understand that he’s built walls that keep him from receiving dad’s love. They also keep him from experiencing joy, and intimacy, and grace.

Then the day comes when Ben comes home.

Sam wants justice. He wants dad to play by the rules, but just like Ben… he bends them. Dad offers love and forgiveness. While it rattles the walls around Sam’s heart, it doesn’t break through. Instead his pride lets loose.

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Sam is screaming, “I wanted to be loved, too, Dad.” And dad says, “You have been. You are. You are loved with everything I have but you just couldn’t accept it.”

That’s where Jesus ends the story.

We don’t know if Sam ever understood the extent of the father’s love. We don’t know if he went into Ben’s room later that night and whispered into his ear while he was sleeping, “I’m glad you’re home little bro.”

If it didn’t…

You can bet the father waited with hope every day for him to come home, too.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What really has value?

Plane ticket to Ghana........... $1,400
Cost of a school building...... $30,000
Increase in faith ................... Priceless

When JD first told me she believed we could raise the $30,000 for the school, I was absolutely sure she had lost her mind. I believed God could do it, I just didn't believe he would do it through me. I had a laundry list of reasons why we would come up short.

I don't know enough people.
It's a bad economy.
We have no way to prove that we are legitmate.
I'm not a good sales person.
and on and on...

Then somewhere along the way, I began to see the vision she saw. I was desperate to see God work though the two of us, who soon became three. I prayed earnestly for God to build the school and knew even if we didn't reach our goal before we left, we would continue until it was complete. After breakthrough often comes battle.

As the months went on and the numbers seemed to be at a stand still, I once again began to doubt. "See... I knew we couldn't do it." I felt let down by God. I trusted Him. I believed in His ability and even though we had sucessful raise 12% (still a large amount by any standards) I still saw it as disappointment.

Then He blew my socks right off! In one minute, the school went from 12% to 46%. And with only a couple weeks left, we discovered that if we could simply get to 50% another organization would match our funds and be able to oversee the construction of the school. Voila! The school funds were raised. My doubt once again put to shame.

God could have easily brought people together to raise all that money without me. He could have given us all the money in the first month or two when I was riding the high of trust and big dreams for him. But he didn't. I believe it's because He always focuses on what really has value for his children.

Does he want the children of Lake Volta to have a school? Absolutely. But what is more valuable is not a building that will eventually crumble, but a faith that is stretched and built with incorruptible materials. He wanted to teach me to never see a situation as hopeless, that even when things appear to be failing it can turn around in an instant if I just wait patiently on Him.

God's plan was always about my faith and never about the money or the school. In the end, it's a larger, deeper blessing for me and His African kids.


In preparation for spending 2 weeks in Africa where a trip to the gas station or vending machine for my daily fix of diet coke isn't very likely, I decided to go ahead and quit now. I have no desire to be struggling through caffeine withdrawl headaches while in Africa. Not only will this help in Ghana, but is just better for me in general to severly cut back on the amount of pop I drink and increase my water intake.

So... started this journey on Tuesday. It went well as did Wednesday. Yes, I had a little headache, but work kept me distracted. Thursday was a little worse. My head hurt, I was tired and the day seemed to drag. But I still didn't drink any.

In addition to this sacrifice, I also gave up any chocolate and changed my schedule to make sure I am healthy and well-rested before traveling. All these changes at the same time are hard to adjust to.

After 4 whole days without a diet coke (it's been a long time since i've gone that long) I caved and bought 1 for today.

No... I don't feel guilty. I am relearning the art of moderation. I'll enjoy it while I'm drinking it as a special treat. Once this bottle is empty, I will try going 5 days.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What is Alaska?

Back in June I visited Alaska for the first time. Upon returning, I shared this news with my sponsor children. Apparently, I did not do a good job of explaining this or something got lost in translation as I recieved a funny letter from Meena in India.

She said:

I would like to know what Alaska is and is it kept at home? Is it dangerous animal?

At least I know what to write about in my next letter!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

To Build a School

Today we officially reached 100% of the fund raising for the school in Ghana. JD had the honor of accepting the finish line crossing donation this morning. Here are her words:

I just arrived home from going to the Glen Falls school here in Saint John... one of the poorest schools in our city... where the children, led by their awesome teacher (a woman from my church), pledged to raise 1% of our goal. When someone from the community heard about their initiative, they offered to match whatever they raised up to $300 (also 1%).

As you know, we were currently at 98%...

Were. Past tense.

The Glen Falls school kids were honored and thrilled to help us reach across the finish line this morning... we are now officially at 100%!!!

We still need a few more donations to cover our in-country travel expenses, but are confident that God will continue to provide as He will finish what he has begun.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The great slave master

Thoughout this year, I have been learning about issues of human trafficking and child slavery. An issue that barely registered in my life before. As I share the realities and the hope we are trying to bring with people I come in contact with daily, I find that they too are shocked to know that slavery still exists. Some simply say, "I didn't know about that. I don't think I could do what you are doing." For others the sense of injustice rises. As I was explaining how the children are negotiated for to the nice man who was driving me from the dealership to Enterprise for a rental car, he became quite affected. He said, "I'd do some negotating, all right!!"

Yesterday as I was reading, I saw the bigger picture.

There are millions of children being forced into labor slavery and it breaks my heart.
There are millions of women and children trapped in a sex slavery and it makes me sick.
People are beginning to rise up and fight for these nameless, forgotten and used ones. As we should.

But what about the grandma whose been left with 5 grandchildren and must continue to work long hours each day to get just enough food to keep them all alive another day?

Or the single parent who works 2 jobs to feed and keep the kids in school in hopes of changing their future?

What about the 10 yr old who can't go to school because she must walk miles to fetch water each day and work in the fields with her family?

What about the 12 year old who is now the only caretaker of the younger siblings and now must dig through garbage to eat each day?

Aren't they also slaves? Slaves to poverty.

Poverty is the great global slave master.

It works you to the bone, leaves you with nothing for your efforts, and beats you down continually. Your children are born into the same condition. Escape seems impossible and death often a welcome relief.

While you sit somewhere comfortable, reading this on your computer I am pleading with you to consider that you can make a difference. You might not be able or willing to come face to face with a child trapped on a lake, or a slave master who you know beats that child -but you CAN do SOMETHING somewhere.

Make the choice of sponsoring a child and you might just be preventing another child from being sold as a slave. You never know what that child has the potential to become.

You never know what will change in you.

Thank you to everyone who does their something. Thank you for being a part of this jouney to Ghana with us. As the final weeks wind down, we are a mere $400 away from reaching our goal. This is only the beginning...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


On Sunday, I got to go to the Toledo Zoo with 2 of my favorite boys. It was a perfect day with cute animals, lots of laughter, and even ice cream!

This photo was actually taken on an earlier trip, but I liked it so much I wanted to add it.

Someone let the lion out of it's cage

The cutest baaaaaaby elephant - Lucas

Austin & I

Austin & homie tortoise

This one is for you Tiff

It's just a catfish, Kevin not a sea monster

THIS is a sea monster. Beauty sleep much?

Monkey see

African penguins

who doesn't love the penguins?

Every little girl loves her teddy bear

Every bear loves his little girl

Shortly after this photo was taken the bear on the right lunged and the one on the left clearly being submissive took off running. It was pretty spectacular to watch.

Nice Llama...

Don't let the owl bite you, Kev

More cute baaaaaaaby photos

and to top the day off... a baby giraffe too

Friday, October 7, 2011

Paint Tia Pink Wrap-Up

I survived the pink! And was a good sport even for this photo.

The night before the race it rained, but race morning the weather was PERFECT. Only sleeping about 2 hours... not perfect. I did show up with my pink shoes, pink fingernails and pink shirt for the occasion.

Tiff we missed you though....

This was a little past the halfway point of the race. No I don't run with my arms splayed like that. At the turn, they had music blaring "Throw your hands in the air..." My hands were either going up or down after my little dance moment for the camera.

At the finish line... see the tutus I was spared from in the background?

Despite having just run 13.1 miles, we took the train into the city and walked through Central Park searching for my bridge. (which we only found by accident after we gave up looking

It was a great weekend. Thank you to everyone who donated for a total of $1400 raised. Additionally, we have GREAT NEWS!!

Since the chip-in counter on the blog only reflects donations made through paypal we have an additional $10,000 that was donated through the Interlink account.

That puts us at 50% of the school raised with less than a month to go.

With your help we can still get this school completed as we sprint towards this finish line.