Citizenship

A while back, I wrote about a young woman named Aracely who was an illegal alien, and whom my wife Brenda helped to establish legal residency here in the US. That was over seven years ago, and just this morning this young woman and her husband — also a former illegal alien — took the oath of allegiance to become US citizens.

Brenda tells me her hope during that process was that Aracely would become a productive member of the community, and that is just what has happened. She works in the appraiser’s office as a certified public manager, has a couple of kids, and now is just as legal as you and me.

It’s a visible example of Eph 2.19, which tells us that we used to be strangers and aliens to God, but are now citizens of God’s kingdom — and not only that, but members of his household. He has adopted us! And interestingly enough, that is what we as a nation have done with Aracely and her people. “They” are now “us”. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Keeping the faith

Funny thing. I was talking with my two older children the other night, and I started telling them stories about this friend I knew in college. Actually, I had known him since high school, but the stories were from the days we lived in the dorm on campus.

Paul Childs was a unique character. As a pre-med student, he studied voraciously. He would spend hours in the study room at the dorm, where the only rule was that you had to be quiet. I only went into the room a few times in my entire college career, for the express purpose of trying to make him laugh so he would have to leave the room. I never went in there to study — I never really saw the point. Anyway, Paul had a laugh that was infectious; his laugh made us laugh.

And that’s the way it was with Paul. His joy for living rubbed off on us. Which is why it shocked us so much when he died in suddenly at the age of 20, two weeks into our senior year of college.

The summer of 1986, Paul and I worked at the church we had attended all our lives. We were on the summer youth staff, working with high school students and having the time of our lives. We went on retreats and mission trips, had bible studies, hung out with the kids, and became even better friends. I met Paul my sophomore year in high school, so we had known each other for six years. Four of us — Paul, our friend Jim, my twin brother Kevin, and I — were inseparable. We had a great life.

Then, early in September of that year, Paul competed in yet another triathlon. This one he did not complete. Paul was in contention for the lead in the Baptist Medical Center Triathlon when his bicycle collided with a truck which had been directed into the intersection by a police officer who didn’t know Paul was coming.

There was a nice article in the Sept 9, 1986, Kansas City Star. The article quotes a friend of Paul, who said this about him:

We set goals, and he always tried to accomplish them. Before the triathlon at Lake Jacomo, he sprained his ankle playing soccer. He was so competitive…that he ran the 10ks on crutches. He finished last and was proud of it. He finished what he started.

It’s always sad when someone dies, and even sadder when they die at an early age. But our memories of them live on, and that makes the pain a little easier to bear.

I told you about Paul’s laugh; when you heard him laugh, you wanted to laugh too. Paul loved to laugh, and he loved life.

Not everyone knew that Paul in high school began to visit nursing homes to spend time with the old folks there. It started as a service project with his youth group, but when the project ended, Paul continued. He returned to the nursing home on a regular basis, through high school and into college. It seems that when Paul started something, he didn’t give up.

Those who knew him could see that perseverance in his triathlon training. It takes determination and perhaps stubbornness (maybe a little bull-headedness!) to run a 10k on crutches – who does that? – but think about the dedication and commitment to excellence that caused him to train, to work hard, to sacrifice so that he had the endurance and mental preparation necessary to actually travel ten kilometers on crutches. Paul never gave up. He finished what he started.

It’s been over 30 years, and the memories of my friend are still vivid today. I laughed with him, supported him in his races, and saw over 800 people gather at his funeral to celebrate his life. Whether it was visiting an old woman in a nursing home, or facing a ten-kilometer track on crutches where he knew he would lose, Paul persevered. He endured. And I think Paul Childs could say, along with the apostle Paul: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Paul Childs

I don’t know we’re different, either

My last post talked about our kids, and how they don’t know we’re different than other families. I had a situation a short while ago which made me realize just how different we are.

I was in San Francisco at a customer event, and went down to the local British pub for dinner. The place was very crowded, but I found a small table — one of those which is about 2 feet in diameter, with high stools to sit on and not much room to eat.

I had just placed my order and was settling in to read my book when a woman came up and said, “You look like a nice man. Could my friends and I share your table?” And before I knew it, four women had gathered around this little table and settled in for the evening.

It turns out they were Teamsters, here for a convention of women Teamsters. Not only did I not know there were women Teamsters, I didn’t know they had conventions! These ladies were employees of the union, not just members, and so they had a lot to say about the organization. But when they started asking me about my life is where I noticed how different that life is.

They asked me where I met my wife. I told them it was on a trip to Guatemala, where we were going to build houses for widows who lost their husbands in the civil wars of the 80s. They asked how many children I have, and were of course shocked when I told them I had eight. But unlike other conversations, where people are shocked and almost offended…these ladies were amazed and almost had a sense of wonder.

They asked if my wife worked. I said she homeschools the kids (more amazement) and also works for a non-profit organization which supports an orphanage in India. That bit of news almost sent them over the edge with awe.

What finally did it for them was when I said one of my kids is going over there to teach English for a few months. I felt kind of awkward as we sat around this little table…four garrulous ladies out for a good time, made speechless (yes, really) by me just telling the stuff my life is made of.

It just seems so normal to me. Why wouldn’t we say Yes when our daughter wants to serve these orphans? Why wouldn’t we serve them ourselves? Why wouldn’t we have lots of kids, and teach them at home so we can spend more time with them? And what better place to meet my future wife than in the act of serving?

But it’s so crazy different, and I had no idea. In fact, if I did know the effect my story would have had on them, I’m sure I wouldn’t have told it. I just didn’t know that it was so different, or that they would react in the way they did.

But it is different. God has done something to our family, something that makes us, well, different. I had no idea.

I started to understand, though, when one of the women around the table — the one who first approached me — began to look sad. She was reflecting on her own life, and said she doesn’t do any of these things. I shared with her that we don’t have to do everything, but we can do something. I said, “You don’t have to go to India, but you probably should support a child there.”

We each have a little corner of the world which God gives us to manage. We don’t have to solve all the world’s problems, but we do need to take care of our corner. Mine happens to have some orphans in it. What’s in your corner?

Our kids don’t know we’re different

We are doing something this summer that we haven’t done before — sending our kids to a bunch of camps. Now, these are “day camps”, where they spend a few hours off doing something, then come home before dinner. However, for us it’s new.

Zoe is 13, and at “zoo camp” this week. This is a great experience for her, but it means she leaves the house at 7:30 and comes back around 4:30. Then at 6, she and her siblings head off to soccer camp for two hours.

We’ve only been doing this for two days (Monday and Tuesday), when Tommy said something that made me stop and think. He’s 11, and was talking with Zoe about the day. He said, “You leave early in the morning, get home just in time for dinner, then leave again. I hardly ever see you.” My wife Brenda overheard him, and said, “That’s what normal families do.”

See, we homeschool, so he’s used to being around all of the family all of the day. Having an older sister whom he doesn’t see all day is different, it’s weird. It’s not normal.

When we first started homeschooling, one of our goals was to have our kids be best friends with each other. We each had friends who were great companions during our school years, but whom we never see anymore. However, we do see our brothers and sisters, so our thought was to strengthen and deepen those relationships; we know those will last throughout their lifetimes.

So it struck me, when Brenda replied, that Tommy didn’t know what “normal” families do. He didn’t know that normal families don’t spend a lot of time with each other, don’t see each other throughout the day, and often begin to drift apart as the kids reach their teen years. At least, that’s what happened in Brenda and my families. We still have good relationships with our siblings, but they’re not as strong as they were…or as they could be.

My oldest, Samantha, makes sure this doesn’t happen. She told me a little while ago that even though she’s attending the local college, she thought about moving out of the house. She opted not to, though, and her main reason was this: her littlest sister, Nellie, was only four years old. If Samantha moved out, she reasoned, then she wouldn’t end up being a sister to Nellie, but more like an aunt. She would come over to visit, and maybe stay for dinner, but she wouldn’t spend quantity time with Nellie, she wouldn’t see her in passing…she wouldn’t live with Nellie. So Sam chose to live at home, if only to form a lasting bond with a pre-schooler fourteen years her junior.

That’s our family. That’s different. But our kids don’t know it.

What’s your family like?

Demolish things

I mentor some guys via email (sounds weird, I know). One of them, a young man named, Nate, wrote this to me recently:

I have been doing great. I have noticed my thought patterns lately and I feel like those strongholds are really breaking down. I pray that the devil will never be able to build his strongholds in my mind again. I love the feeling of freedom that I have when I am able to demolish impure thought patterns.

Go out today and demolish something.