Monday, July 5, 2021

Happy Birthday Goregous!

Happy Birthday to my favorite person in the world!  We've had such an adventure over the past year and I can't wait to see what the future brings.  I'm looking forward to spending all your many mores with you!

Here's to the fun.  Here's to us.  Here's to you and to many more returns ahead.

Love you!  To the ends of the earth...




Sunday, June 20, 2021

Happy Father's Day 2021!

"The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature."
Atoine Francois-Prevost

I am very grateful for the great example that I have in a father. On this day we set aside to remember, the most important thing I can say is thank you. Love you Dad! And Avalyn and Jude Love their PapaRock! We look forward to seeing you in a few days.


Saturday, June 19, 2021

Juneteenth 2021

 "The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, 'all slaves are free.'"

June 19, 1865



On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued Proclamation 95, an executive order intended to go into effect on January 1, 1863.  The Proclamation would become known as the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing some 3.5 million enslaved African Americans in Confederate states.  

Though the proclamation would be mailed and telegraphed across the country, there would be parts of the Confederacy that would refuse manumission, that is, they would refuse to free their enslaved people despite the order.  Texas was one such state.  The enslaved would not be freed until over two years later, when the Union army reached Galveston.  Union Army General Gordon Granger would announce the proclamation above, informing Texas that all enslaved were free.  

Though all enslaved African Americans would not be freed until the passing of the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865, June 19 became a day of celebration in Texas.  Juneteenth.  Emancipation Day.  Jubilee Day.  Celebrations started as early as 1866 and spread across the South.  Though the celebrations became quiet during Jim Crow and the Civil Rights era, they experienced a resurgence in the 1970s and in many states the day has become a state holiday.  There is a push now for the day to be a federal holiday.

Though Texans of all stripes probably know about Juneteenth, they may not know why it is celebrated or what it celebrates.  Americans, in general are learning as well.  Congress has made Juneteenth a federal holiday just this year, with President Biden signing the law into effect on June 17, 2021.

If anything, for a large portion of particularly white America, today highlights how badly history has been taught to us.  And we are seeing across several states attempts to keep our ignorance in this area high.

About Emmitt Till.

Or the Tulsa massacre of Black Wall Street, where white rioters tore through the Greenwood district of Tulsa following a misunderstood altercation between a black male shoeshiner and a white female elevator operator.  The riots led to the National Guard being called in.  Estimates of include up to 300 dead, 800 people admitted to hospitals, 6,000 black residents interned at large facilities for several days.  10,000 black people were left homeless and property damage amounted to more than $1.5 million in real estate.  

The Tuskegee Experiments in which African American sharecroppers were used as experiments in order to observe syphilis in African American men.  The program started 1932 and involved 600 participants.  Of the participants, 399 had latent syphilis.  The other 201 were used as a control group.  Those with syphilis were not told they had the disease, only that they were being treated for bad blood.  They were only given placebos, so that the scientists could explore the full range of effects on syphilis on the patients.  The experiments continued until 1972.

About COINTELPRO, the covert and illegal projects conducted by the FBI to discredit political organizations like the Black Power movement, leading to the assassination of Fred Hampton.

About Redlining.

About the Lost Year in Arkansas education, where the governor of Arkansas closed all the white schools following the integration of Little Rock Central High School.   With the view that it would be better for white children to get no education that to share the classroom with a Black child.

The police bombing the MOVE house in a residential neighborhood in Philadelphia in 1985.

And so, so much more.  

Or even learning about more positive points in history.  

Like Madam CJ Walker, the first self-made millionaire in America, an African American woman who ran a successful cosmetic and healthcare company for black women from 1888 to 1919.  

Katherine Johnson, whose orbital mechanics calculations were critical to the success of the United States' crewed spaceflights.  

Robert Smalls, the first Black American in the United States to hold the title of Captain, in 1863.  

Gloria Richardson, who negotiated the Treaty of Cambridge with Attorney General Robert Kennedy.  

Claudette Colvin, who at the age of 15 preceded Rosa Parks in giving up her seat on the bus by a few months.  

Ralph Bunche, the first African American and the first individual of non-European ethnicity or race to be awarded as a Nobel laureate.

This just scratches the surface.  We've segregated history such that we've forgotten that Black history is American history.  And to that end, we've done us all a great disservice.  Much of what we are seeing today is because a large percentage of the population has no idea about the truth of our past.

Further, we are actively engaging in steps to keep the hard parts of our history from being taught.  From teaching about the history of racism in our country.  To ignore the reality of racism in our country today.

Hopefully, today can be the starting point.  Use today to educate yourself on the true, complicated history we have in our past.  And to educate yourself on the problematic systems that we still have in place today.

A good place to start is the Emancipation Proclamation and the history of emancipation.  I've included the full text of the proclamation below and have also linked to an excellent audible version produced by NPR, where their African American correspondents read the proclamation, as mirror to NPR's tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence on July 4.

One part in particular that has always stood out to me in the celebration of Juneteenth, is its recognition as Jubilee Day.  The Jubilee here refers to the Biblical principle of Jubilee, or the Year of Release.  From Leviticus 25:8-12 -

You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years.  Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month.  On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land.  And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.  That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines.  For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field."

The Jubilee is literally a trumpet blast of freedom, a practice in which every 49th year (or 50th year, depending on how you count) slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven, and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest.  It was a year of forgiveness and emancipation.  It was also very practical, as it prevented the over accumulation of wealth and arable land in the hands of a few.

African Americans after the Civil War and with the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment recognized their jubilee.  

Perhaps its time for another?


"January 1, 1863

A Transcription

By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

"That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States."

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.
"

Monday, June 14, 2021

The First Dozen


We’ve been talking a lot about how time is relative and I know that is true because these first dozen years have felt simultaneously like they have occurred over a number less than half that and as if this has been the way things always were and were always meant to be.  This is what my life was meant for. 

Gorgeous, you are the fulfillment and completion of so much in my life. We have grown stronger over these past two years than I would have ever imagined we could be. We’ve been tested and tried and we are better for it. 

I don’t know what the next twelve years and beyond will bring. I don’t know what new challenges we will face. What new joys and new pains we will experience. 

But I do know, there is no one else I would rather have at my side. 

I love you…
Bigger than Godzilla
All the way to the moon
To infinity and beyond
To the ends of the earth!


Friday, June 11, 2021

7

i will tell you, my daughter
of your worth
not your beauty
everyday.  (your beauty is a given, every being is born
beautiful)
knowing your worth
can save your life.
raising you on beauty alone
you will be starved.
you will be raw.
you will be weak.
an easy stomach.
always in need of someone telling you how beautiful you 
are.

nayyirah waheed



To my daughter, my pirate, my basketball champion - Happy Birthday, baby girl!!!

I pray you always know how much you mean to us.  I pray you always know your worth, deep down in your soul.  I pray you also know your beauty, for it is a given.

Stay fierce, stay strong, and stay curious.

Monday, June 7, 2021

The Panic Attack

This is the story I promised I would tell.  It took providing the backstory with Our Adoption Story and The Michigan Trip to provide context as to why this induced a panic attack and why we made that trip more stressful on ourselves than it should have been, even beyond the stress this incident caused.

By way of context, the Michigan trip was something we planned for early April, to be a fun weekend getaway for the four of us.  Our first trip as just a family of four and a fun venture to see another state.  Jamie and Avalyn had gotten to make a quick jaunt into Michigan for a meal on a girls' trip, but this would allow us to see state together.  It was supposed to be a trip to Fort Wayne, where we would further explore our new home state, but our reason for going to Fort Wayne was the zoo.  We of course found out it would be closed when we planned to visit.  With that not an option, we changed our plans to Saugatuck and Holland, Michigan.

It is important to note that this trip came shortly after spring break, where we had spent two weeks in Texas with family.  During that trip, we spent a little more on restaurants and eating out that we had planned to, and thought that since this would be such a short trip, we would pack meals to number one, eat healthier, and number two, use our restaurant fund for fun snacks.  Jamie had that Friday before we left pretty wide open, beyond a bible study that morning, so she was planning to prepare and pack the cooler that day, ready for us to leave when Avalyn got out of school.

At this point in our adoption process, we had completed two of the three required homestudy sessions, still had several hours of education remaining to be completed, and had recently learned there were a few key pieces of paperwork not yet filed.  

So when Jamie got a text from our adoption specialist during her morning bible study that Friday morning, asking her to call her, she thought it was related to one of these areas.

Instead, the adoption specialist let Jamie know that there was a birth mother that was going to give birth in two weeks who was questioning her decision and wanted to look at more profile books.  Our adoption specialist didn't have more completed profile books, but knew of a few families like us who were near completion of the process and wanted to ask us if we wanted to be submitted as a potential family for adoption.  Blitzing through the remaining steps for a meeting and ultimate adoption should we be chosen.

To top it off, they needed an answer as quickly as possible.  At the longest, by the next morning.

When Jamie came upstairs to tell me, that's when the panic attack set in.  I know Jamie tells me that she broke down a few times that day, but it wasn't something I saw.  She broke down in calls she made for prayer over the issue. 

I, on the other hand, starting visibly shaking and couldn't come down for nearly two hours after that point.  I've had anxiety attacks before, but those are slow builds of stress and pressure over several days or weeks that release in pain and discomfort.  This was an instant onset of that.

My mind kept racing because it felt like everything was moving so fast.  I saw the first step as Jamie and I discussing whether or not we would be allowing our name to be submitted.  Jamie, by necessity, was starting to work through setting up the things that would be needed if we proceeded.  Each mention of the next piece being set up sent me further into the attack.

It felt like we were skipping a lot of required development just to get a result.  Skipping a lot of essential education that would be of the utmost importance.  In addition, we had virtually nothing for a baby, and would had a few thousand dollars left to save to have the whole process covered.  That would all be necessary in a couple of weeks.

Needless to say, the rest of that day was filled with discussion, and questioning, and asking for prayer requests which turned into a supply drive. The bible study group Jamie was on that morning knew something was up with the adoption process, so when Jamie filled them in on what happened, they got to work collecting a lot for us already.  

The drive to Michigan was nearly completely all about Jamie and I trying to figure out whether or not we should move forward with this.  We kept getting calls from our adoption specialist, giving us more information on the birth mother and child, but that really had no bearing on our decision.  The question that kept gnawing at us was one of timing.

Was this the right time to move forward, or was there more we needed to complete for it to be right?

I think there is a fallacy in Christian circles to assume when things fall into place like this, it is automatically the work of God.  That every easy path is the answer to the prayers that have led up to this point.  While it can be, that is not always the case.

The problem that Jamie and I found is that neither of us could have any joy about this particular situation.  Just terror.  We know this kind of quick turnaround is completely possible once we go live, and we know our reaction will be completely different from what it was then.  At this particular time and in this particular situation, we felt that we still had much more growing and learning to do to be ready.

We decided we were saying no after waking up in the early, early hours Saturday morning.  We then called our adoption specialist at 9:00 am that morning and told her. 

That weight had been lifted.

This didn't mean we didn't feel the effects of this stress for a while.  I felt the physical effects for several days after that Friday, into the next week.  It felt as if I had undergone heavy physical exertion, in addition to ramping up my reflux for that week.  It took a while just to mentally come down from the stress, so we were definitely on edge for the trip.

And here's how we made it harder on ourselves.  Remember the plan to pack food for meals.  Well given the craziness of Friday, the careful planning and packing of the ice chest went out the window.  We had supplies but they were more thrown together in there.  

Instead of giving ourselves grace and a break, we forged on to continue the plan.  Looking back, we know we should have just forgone the attempt to pack the food and just let ourselves enjoy the break and the opportunity.  Bringing the food made us try to keep Avalyn and Jude to it, and of course they didn't want it, so that added to our stress.  

It's something we can look back on now and laugh a bit.  Lessons learned.  And if nothing else, we saw that God can move in a powerful way.  We know we're in the right location because of the outpouring of support we saw should we decide to go forward.

We know when it is our time, we'll be ready.



Sunday, June 6, 2021

The Travelers' Report 21: Saugatuck and Holland, Michigan




Part 21 in the series of our ongoing travels, both as a family and individually.   This covers our trip to Michigan as a family, the first trip we have had since moving to Indiana and our first trip after the pandemic began.

We chose Michigan because it is the neighboring state that we have not visited and it's just a couple of hours away.  Saugatuck had a cool looking motel that had been converted and upgraded into a neat almost Airbnb alternative (less housekeeping, focus on personal access, etc.).  And it was close enough for us to go into Holland, Michigan to go see the tulips.

We were a couple of weeks too early to see all of the tulips, as not all of them had fully bloomed.  They had started, though, and we still had a wonderful trip.  We realized that this was our first vacation for just the four of us as a family.  Our other trips have been to go visit family or have been a vacation with family, but not just the four of us.  So this will always have a special place.

It was stressful (more on that tomorrow) and we made it a bit more stressful on ourselves, especially given the events of the weekend, but it was a good trip all in all.  We definitely look forward to going back up into Holland in the coming years to really see the tulips in bloom.

Our motel room. A cool funky place. 
Our main attraction - the Holland Windmills. This was a very cool stop and the kids got fun pictures in the tulips that had bloomed. 

Holland also had a neat Wizard of Oz walk at the library, complete with a yellow brick road at the nearby park. 

Our other stop was at the beach for Lake Michigan. Cold, but fun.  And we discovered that Jude has an obsession with sand. 
My selfie with the lighthouse in Holland.
Why we have to go back - the Root Beer Barrel.   Just a block off the main road with a stand serving homemade root beer.  So cool.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

To the Graduating Class of 2021

In Brownsburg, tonight represented the end of the school year.  The last day of class was a week ago.  Tonight is graduation.  My thoughts go to the wisdom that many will try to impart through commencement speeches, while the newly free minds will be focused on one thing and one thing only: walking across that stage so that everything is finally finished.

Like last year, I know of no reason why I would ever be asked to give a commencement speech, but were such an occasion ever to present itself, this is what I was say.  (I should note that, again, the speech itself probably gives good reason why I'll never be asked to do so.)

--------------------------------------------------

Ladies and gentlemen, family and friends, administration and faculty, graduating class of 2021, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you tonight.  It is truly an honor and a privilege to be here and to join in this celebration and transition in your lives.

Though I realize it was [mumbled under breath] years ago when I was in your position, that time seems to have flown by.  From my graduation night, I've forgotten a lot of things.  I can't remember the speaker that was present.  I can't remember what was going through my head at the time.  I can't even remember the speech I gave.  It's lost in a fog of memories.  I do remember being ready to move quickly through the ceremony.  To get to the party at home, to get to Project Graduation.  To get on with this new beginning.  In that spirit, I will try to keep these comments brief, and hopefully a little entertaining, so that we can get to the part of the ceremony that everyone is truly here for.

I suspect, though, many of you will never forget this graduation, just like you will never forget this past year.  It was probably not the senior year you imagined growing up.  There were a lot of changes this year, and a lot of things to deal with throughout the year.

You more than most have learned how to adapt.  You've been forced into new learning environments, new technologies, new social norms, new world wide situations.  All of which continued to change throughout the year.  You likely had quarantines, and virtual learning, and many, many different accommodations.

And yet, you are still here.  

You have adapted, you have learned, you have grown.

That's the secret to life.  

To grow, to learn, to adapt and change.

To roll with it.

While I do not claim to have it all figured out, I do know this, life has a way of humbling us.  Even if we can perfect all the things in our control, something can always intervene.  Hurricanes, death, disease.  Quarantine.

What matters is how you respond to it?

Will you learn and grow from your situation?  Or will you try, foolishly, to remain unchanged?

Louise Erdich said, "Things that do not grow and change are dead things."  Are you alive or dead?

Have you learned something from this past year?  This interruption of life?  

Like many, are you looking forward to life returning to "normal"?  Or are you planning on making the new normal "better"?  More environmentally friendly, more inclusive, more equitable, more just?

I pray you do better than the status quo.  I pray you have learned that this season has revealed systemic issues that will fall to your generation to address.  Issues like:
  • The need for better healthcare for all of us, healthcare that does not disproportionately affect specific communities.
  • The need for better access to voting.  It shouldn't take a pandemic for us to plan for more accessible ways to vote than standing in lines.
  • The need to value our vote.  It's under attack and we should be all interested in protecting our voice.
  • The need for broadband internet as a public utility, accessible by all.  Education success should not depend on your ability to find and pay for high-speed internet.
  • The need for better education funding and solutions.
  • The need for a living minimum wage.  Our lowest paid workers were essential in this crisis. Many of our highest paid were not.  Think on that.
  • The recognition of the impact we can have on our planet.  Look how quickly the planet started to heal itself when we were slowed down.
  • The need to address our racial bias.  To address the sin that we have ignored for so long in this country.  The need to heal the wounds of slavery once and for all.
That's a big list.  It is daunting.  It contains a laundry list of things the generations before me and my generation have so far failed to accomplish.

Here's what we've also seen though.  
  • We've seen the importance of science.  Though we have many that are doubting science and many that have tried to sow that doubt for political and financial power, we have also seen the power that science brings.  The amazing development of this vaccine, built on the back of years of research into this type of vaccine.
  • We've seen the importance of art.  We like to downplay the arts, particularly when artists speak up and out, but we all made it through this past year and a half thanks to good art.  Television, movies, music.  That is what make quarantine bearable.
  • We've seen the importance of history.  Of truly knowing history, especially the parts that we do not like to talk about.  The parts we have forgotten, or were never taught.  We've seen how that impacts our present.
  • We've seen the importance of civics. The importance of raising our voice, of voting, and making an impact.  Of owning up to our history and implementing change to make it right.
This is why you are here.  Why this diploma is so valuable. Why it is so important for you to continue to foster a spirit of learning.  To be a continual student.  To not let this be the end of your journey, but just a beginning.

The great thing is, I think you are all up for the challenge.  The last two and a half months have proven you are ready for whatever life throws at you.  That you can adapt.  That you can learn.  That you can change. 

That you can do better than us.

Keep it up.


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Our Adoption Story

As mentioned before, I realized this was a part of our lives for the past several months that I had not shared.  So, I wanted to take a blog to kind of catch up and describe our path to adoption and where we are in that process.

We always knew that adoption would be part of our story at some point.  Jamie and I had discussed it when we had started dating.  It was something mentioned as on Jamie's heart from an early point in her life, and something we recognized as going to be a part of our family.  

And this sounds a bit weird to say, but we knew it would be a part of our story because we could.  Though miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy were part of our family path, we weren't motivated to pursue this because of infertility.  We weren't motivated because of adoption in our family history.  Rather, we were motivated because it was something we recognized that we could do.  That we could help take care of widows and orphans as we are called to.  And that we were in a privileged place to be able to afford the adoption process and to be able to have more children in our home.

While we knew we would adopt at some point, the timing was always the question.  After the ectopic pregnancy was so scary, and after Jude was born healthy, we knew that we were done trying for more biological children.  It was too much of a risk.

Then as our lives went through the upheaval of the job loss, the move, and all that 2019 brought, we began to know that wherever we ended up for my new job, that would be where the rest of our family was.  We knew that after the move, adoption would be the next big change in our life.

Shortly after we moved, we began investigating adoption in Indiana.  At the start, we weren't sure exactly what path for adoption we would take. We knew other families in Texas that had gone through the adoption process, some that had gone through foreign adoption and some through a foster to adopt process.  As we started our investigation, we learned that most Christian adoption agencies were no longer doing foreign adoptions, and are instead focusing their efforts on local adoptions within each country.  Similarly, we learned that Indiana has different laws regarding foster care that make foster to adopt a harder and much, much longer process.

That lead us to infant adoption; which aligned with many concerns that we had.  It focuses on permanent placement, which is something we are desiring.  It would help us preserve birth order, which we have learned is important.  And it encourages openness in the process, for the benefit of the child.

With that confirmed, we started the application process last December.  And there is a lot of paperwork.  It has been a challenge to complete, and I know it has driven Jamie a bit crazy to keep up with, as it seems new documents keep popping up on our page.  Thankfully that part is done.

We're now at a point where we have gone through the complete homestudy process and are waiting for our adoption specialist to finalize her report on the homestudy.  We expect that to be completed by the end of June.  At that point, we would be going live for adoption.

This means, at the end of June, we would be available as adoptive parents.  We have put together a profile book and are working on a profile website that would be shown to expectant mothers.  The expectant birth mother would look over several profiles and identify one she would want to meet.  If we were chosen, we would meet with the birth mother, and she would get to ask us questions and get to know us, trying to decide if she wants to chose us to parent the child.

At that point, the decision is in the birth mother's hands.  And we are in the waiting.

We could get chosen for a meeting as early as the beginning of the third trimester, which would give us a few months to get to know the birth mother and to prepare.  We could be chosen by a mother at the hospital when she is about to or just completed delivering the child.  We have to be ready and to trust in God's timing.

They say the average placement is one to three years, though it could be a month after or longer.  We have heard from a few families where their placement was within six months.

It has been a very revealing process.  It has challenged us as individuals and as a couple.  We have learned things about ourselves that we had previously not known.  There has been a lot of laughter and tears through the process. And it has exposed some insecurities.    But, we've grown closer together and more united.  

I would say, I would not recommend the process to anyone if they are not ready to go through a crucible.  But as for us, we know it is completely the path and journey we are supposed to be on.

So, please keep us in your prayers.  Within a month, we'll be in a waiting period, where everything could change in an instant.

I'll be sharing more of the process as we continue to move through it.  And as promised, I'll shortly share the tale of what made our trip to Michigan such a stressful weekend.


Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day 2021


“They do not need our praise. They do not need that our admiration should sustain them. There is no immortality that is safer than theirs. We come not for their sakes but for our own, in order that we may drink at the same springs of inspiration from which they themselves drank.”
President Woodrow Wilson

Today is a day for remembrance.  To remember the sacrifice of those who have served and gave the last full measure of devotion.  To honor their legacy.

May we never forget.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Indy 500

Today is the Indianapolis 500.  Not something I normally would have kept up with, but living here, it's hard to ignore.  There are yards that have been decorated all month for the celebration.  And references everywhere.  I understand that it normally would have been an even bigger affair, but still muted a little by the pandemic.  They are allowing the stands to be at 40% capacity for fans to observe, but that will still be 135,000 people.  That makes it the largest sporting event yet of the pandemic.

There have been other modifications this year.  The infield "Snake Pit" will be empty and the pre-race concerts will not be held.  They will, though, allow local broadcast of the event, so that Central Indiana gets to watch it on television as an alternative.  

If we didn't have other plans for today already, we'd be watching on television at least, just to feel a part of it.  This remains one of our goals to attend to feel like we've really experienced Indianapolis.  Hopefully next year.

For now, hopefully, it's a great race.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

School's Out For Summer

It's finally here...

Today is the last day of school.  It's hard to believe it is already that time, and yet, it feels like so much has happened in this past year.   It's easy to imagine why the kids and teachers are so ready to be finished.  

Particularly this year, I think it is important to show our teachers that we recognize how difficult this year has been and we appreciate how much they have done.

Hopefully everyone has a teacher that they can thank in their life for inspiring or motivating them.  Recognizing the impact teachers have on the lives around them.

I feel blessed to have had so many wonderful teachers throughout my lifetime, at all levels.  There really are too many to mention here in any meaningful way.  I'm proud to have so many teachers that I would consider family and I'm proud to have teachers that I call friends.  I'm especially proud to have married one.

The hours go way beyond whatever you imagine a regular school day is.  The pay is far too low for what we ask of them.  They cobble things together from duct-tape and baling wire to make sure they have what they need for the class.  And they succeed in spite of the ridiculous tests that we ask them to prepare students for.

This year, they were challenged in ways that cannot be imagined.  Having to add safety protocols on top of their curriculum.  Managing in-person and online learning at the same time.  Having to worry about quarantine periods and potential exposure.  So much change that they could not have been prepared for.

They do it because it is a calling.  Because they know that they have the potential to reach someone.  To make someone else's life better.

So go hug a teacher. Go shake their hand.  If one of them truly made a difference in your life, please let them know.  You cannot imagine how much it means to them.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Amazon's New Secret Agent

Film distribution sure looks different these days.  

Gone our the old studio days.  Now streaming rules the roost, and that is very evident in today's acquisition.

Today, Amazon's finalized its purchase of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $8.45 billion.  This marks Amazon's biggest push into the streaming wars, with the acquisition of the MGM brand and the library dating back to 1986.  Please note, the Forbes article linked to is wrong.  Amazon will not be getting access to the full historic MGM library.  The MGM film library prior to 1986 are already owned by Warner Bros. through Turner Entertainment.  This is what makes TCM possible, and is why Amazon doesn't own The Wizard of Oz.  It does however now have James Bond, Thelma and Louise, Robocop, and Silence of the Lambs, for example.  

This represents the other strategy in the streaming wars - acquisition.  Disney leapt ahead because of its deep library.  Netflix maintains its position because of its commitment to the creation of original content.  Amazon is buying the deep bench to keep content on its platform.  As each studio is launching their own service, this is the quickest way to have content.  And at this point, with MGM for sale and floundering, bets were on either Amazon or Apple purchasing it.

Current CEO, Jeff Bezos basically admitted as much in his remarks today.  “The acquisition’s thesis here is really very simple: MGM has a vast, deep catalog of much-loved intellectual property. With the talented people at MGM and Amazon Studios, we can reimagine and develop that IP for the 21s century… People who love stories are going to be the big beneficiaries.”

It will be interesting to see how this plays out on Amazon's Prime Video Service.  Does Amazon start prioritizing MGM films over all others?  Does Amazon in its storefront do the same?

It's certainly interesting times.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

One Year Out

Around the time of the George Floyd murder, we watched the movie Just Mercy as a family.  It tells the true story of Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard educated lawyer who travels to Alabama to found the Equal Justice Initiative, a program to help fight for poor people who cannot afford proper legal representation.  Much of his work takes the form of appeals for death row inmates, including Walter "Johnny D" McMillian.  McMillian was an African American man convicted of the 1986 murder of a white woman, Ronda Morrison.  When Stevenson studies McMillian's case, he discovers that the entirety of his conviction hangs on the word of another convicted felon, who traded his testimony for a lighter sentence.  All evidence favorable to McMillian was excluded, including several eye witness testimonies that confirmed that McMillian could not have been involved.  The testimonies were excluded because the witnesses were black.  McMillian was convicted because he had "looked like a criminal" in his mug shot.  And so there is no mistake, he was wrongfully convicted.

He was guilty of existing while black.

Stevenson is also African-American.  The film depicts other instances of Stevenson suffering for existing while black.  He is forced to strip naked before visiting his clients in the prison, something no other attorneys are required to do.  He is pulled over by the cops while driving.  They offer no reason for the stop, but threaten him at gunpoint.  Guilty of the crime of driving while black.

"Driving while black" is the usual way this crime is referenced.  It refers to the tendency of African Americans to be pulled over for no apparent reason.  The thought is the very fact that an African American is driving that type of car, in that neighborhood, at that time of day, and so on and so on, is inherently suspicious.  "Driving while black."

We're seeing that the list of suspicious activities and crimes that African Americans can be stopped for, questioned about, convicted of, and killed for is rapidly increasing.

At that time a year ago we added:
In the year since George Floyd's murder, we've added
And those are just perhaps two of the most noteworthy.

There have been 181 Black people killed by police since George Floyd's murder.  Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people, despite being 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed than white people. These figures are amplified when looking at the country's largest cities.  In 47 of the 50 largest U.S. cities, police killed Black people at higher rates than white people. In Chicago, police killed Black people at a rate 22 times more than that for white people, based on killings per 100,000 population. In Miami, racial disparities could not be calculated because every person killed by the city's police department was Black or brown.  Of the 181 police killings of Black people since Floyd's death, the highest number of killings occurred in Florida, with 19 victims, followed by California, where there were 17, and Texas and Georgia, which each recorded 13.

We would like to think things have changed, and they have in small ways.  But there are so many large scale changes that still need to be implemented.  We have to remember that we are here because of long standing wounds of our past that we have never atoned for completely.  We've always pushed it down the road, because we don't want to deal with harsh truths.  

The thing about wounds is, though, if you don't fully treat it, it just becomes infected.  That's what we have.  A deep infection in the country regarding race, that must be treated.  And the treatment is going to be painful.  It's going to require a lot of substantial change.  And it requires our full attention to it.  All of our attention.

This can't just be a fad cause for allies, like so many others.  We're seeing now that white ally support for change is starting to fade.  Just after Floyd's murder started attracting national attention and starting a conversation about race relations and power, corporations pledged $50 billion to causes on racial equity.  To date, only $250 million has been spent.  Initial investor's meetings and earnings call transcripts had a ten-fold increase in mentions of "systemic racism" and "Black Lives Matter," but those mentions have dropped back down to original levels.

Recent polling numbers show that the support for Black Lives Matter has severely declined. Despite the litany of evidence, a May 21, 2021 PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll insinuates that most white people still don’t believe Black people are treated differently by law enforcement officers. While it shows that ethnic minorities’ support for the movement and for other key indicators for racial justice are higher than they were before George Floyd’s death, white people’s support has declined to levels lower than they were a year ago.

We can't keep going on like this. 

We have to pay attention and do something about it.

Not debating the appropriateness of Critical Race Theory in the Southern Baptist Convention and then conveniently setting it aside so that no action is required to be taken.

Actually committing to make a change in this country.

I know it's hard, but it's simple enough even for children to understand it.

We get it as kids, we've got to do better as adults.  After the Ahmuad Arbery murder came out and there was a call for a Run With Ahmaud on the celebration of his birthday, we participated in that 2.23 mile run.  Jamie and Avalyn ran, I walked Jude in my arms or on my shoulders the whole way.  Jamie asked Avalyn why people do such hateful things.  Avalyn replied, " I think some people just don't like other people because they're black or they think that they are better but I really think it's because they just don't understand that we're all special to God.  We all get happy.  We all get sad and angry.  We're all loved by God."  

Your mouth to God's ears baby girl.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Super-Fan

The Basketball Hall of Fame held its induction ceremony on Saturday, May 15, 2021.  This years inductees included Patrick Baumann, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Eddie Sutton, Rudy Tomjanovich, Tamika Catchings, Kim Mulkey, and Barbara Stevens.  

They also included a first, a former car salesman that has never played in, coached, or broadcasted a single NBA game, inducted as the first fan inducted into the hall's new superfan gallery.

His name is Nav Bhatia, and his story is incredible.

With political turmoil making life in India unsafe, Bhatia fled his home country, immigrating to Canada.  Despite having a degree in mechanical engineering, he struggled to find work because of his "long beard & turban."  After a great deal and months of searching with no luck, Bhatia finally accepted a job as a car salesman in the rough part of town.  Though severely overqualified, his mission was simple: "To prove hard work trumps hate."

Through a combination of hard work, a friendly personality, and some catchy radio ads, Bhatia became the best car salesman in Canada.  To put it in perspective, he sold 127 cars in his first 90 days on the job, a record that still stands today.

From there, he was recruited to become the general manager of a larger dealership across town.  This business was close to bankruptcy, and the current owner felt Bhatia might help turn it around.  When he arrived, all but one of his employees quit.  They refused to work for him,

Faced with this opposition, Bhatia did what he always does - he got to work, even harder.  He hired an entirely new staff and started to transform the business.  Within a few years, the near-bankrupt dealership was now one of the largest in all of Canada.  Bhatia ended up buying the dealership, along with the original one that hired him in 1984.

After spending a decade working for, purchasing, and building up two car dealerships in Toronto, he was now a self-made millionaire, giving him the financial flexibility to pursue his other passion, basketball.  Which brought in his connection with the Toronto Raptors.

When the Toronto Raptors were named the NBA's 28th franchise through league expansion in 1995, Bhatia purchased season tickets.  Even though the team was terrible at the time, Bhatia showed up at every game.  He was the loudest guy in the arena, cheering from start to finish.

In 1998, after years of loyalty and dedication to the struggling franchise, General Manager Isiah Thomas took notice and bestowed on Bhatia a new title, "Superfan."  Bhatia has remained a superfan of the Raptors, through their thirteen losing seasons, multiple blizzards, and even blackouts.  Bhatia hasn't missed a single home game.  He never leaves early and he's still the loudest guy in the arena, even as he nears 70 this year.

After the Raptors won their first NBA title in 2018, Bhatia became the only fan in NBA history to receive an official championship ring.  He's now the first fan to be inducted in that hall of fame.  After being inducted, Bhatia remarked, "I made a promise as a kid to my mom I would never remove my turban.  Today it is in the Hall of Fame.  Embrace what makes you different.  It is your superpower.  This is the crown I wear each day.  Thank you, mom."

The best part, and what truly makes Bhatia a superfan - he spends $300,000 annually to send thousands of kids to Raptors games.  He intentionally makes people from different backgrounds - black, white, brown, rich, poor, Christian, Muslim - sit next to each other.  He is using his favorite pastime to bring people together.  To bring communities closer together.   

That is one super-fan.

Credit to Joe Pampliano (@JoePampliano) on Twitter for sharing this story.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Rapture Party Day

In preparing blogs, I sometimes check to see what holidays may be celebrated on the day.  Sometimes, it reminds me of important holidays to other cultures and faiths.  Sometimes, it introduces me to a niche holiday that sounds particularly interesting.  

Today, it brought up an interesting day - Rapture Party Day.  The day was created to memorialize Harold Camping, the president of Family Radio, making the prediction that the rapture would occur on May 21, 2011.  Camping's followers began preparing for the impending rapture, selling off their possessions, and some quitting their jobs and spending their time trying to save souls. A retired subway worker spent $140,000 on billboards that told of the rapture. 

Of course, the rapture did not happen. After this prediction did not come true, Camping changed his story to say the rapture, as well as the destruction of earth, would then take place on October 21. On October 16, he admitted he didn't know when the end would come, and he didn't comment after October 21 passed. In March 2012, he said he had been "humbly mistaken."  This wasn't the first time he had made such a prediction either; Camping had made a similar prediction back in 1994.

Why is it that so many Christians spend so much time worrying about or rushing the world to end, instead of doing the work God has called us to here?  Why are we so obsessed with figuring out the time when the rapture will occur, when God himself has said none will know the hour?

Below is an updated prior post on the rapture and my thoughts on how we should view it as followers of Christ.

"Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord."

1 Thessalonians 4:17


The rapture of the church is one of the most debated concepts in any discussion of Revelation.  While there is no specific chapter or verse that specifically mention a rapture, there are a handful of verses that can lead to the interpretation of a time where believers are "caught up" or raptured in the air.  The general accepted idea of the rapture is that there will be a time in the future where the trumpet will sound and all believers, both living and dead, will be called up in the air to meet with Christ, thus physically uniting Christ and the Church and removing the Church from the world. 

The main question regarding the rapture is usually one of timing. When exactly does the rapture occur with regard to the other events of the Revelation?  One of the most widely held beliefs is in a pre-tribulation, pre-millennial rapture. This means that the rapture would occur at the beginning of a seven year period of great turmoil called the tribulation, followed by the millennial rule of Christ, all before the ultimate final judgment.  First proposed and popularized by John Nelson Darby in 1827, this is the view of most Evangelicals.  This particular view has been further popularized by the Left Behind series, as it is the main view of the rapture where the events of Revelation start with a great disappearance of all the believers.  

Great for dramatic tension.

There is one verse in chapter four which can lend to this interpretation of the rapture.  "After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.  And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, 'Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.'"  In this passage, John seems to be referring to a separate event from the initial vision in chapter one.  In chapter one, John heard the voice like a trumpet, turned around and started seeing the visions of Jesus and the seven churches and seven spirits.  Here John hears the voice again, the sound of a trumpet calling him up to heaven.  This interpretation goes that this sound of a trumpet is the one that will call up the believers to heaven prior the the events of the tribulation unfolding ("what must take place after this").

There are many other interpretations of when and whether the rapture will occur.  Ultimately, it is a mystery and a non-essential for a believer.  There is room for disagreement and lively discussion among believers, because there are only passing references to it in scripture.  At the end of the day, when the rapture occurs is the least interesting question about the rapture.

The more interesting question, the more cutting question about the rapture is the one that is most often unaddressed.  At our prior church, there was a motto for our study on Revelation.  "Don't be mesmerized by Jesus' second coming if you're not going to tell people about His first coming."  The question relating to the rapture is similar.  The pastor discussed how after the rapture of the church, the world would see what happens when the influence of the church and the Spirit of God are removed.  

I agree that the world will be dark indeed when the influence of the Spirit of God is removed, but I wonder about the church.

If your church disappeared today, would the community even notice?  Would anyone other than the members notice if your church just stopping meeting tomorrow?  Would the influence of the church be missed?

Even worse, has the church been such a damaging presence that the community would be better off without it?  Has the church hurt so many people that it has done more harm than good?

These are the tough questions.  It is wonderful to know where you stand on when and if the rapture will occur as described.  To be prepared for that future day.  

But it's more important to be a beneficial influence on your community.  To be the salt and light to the world around you.   That's where a lot of conservative churches have often fell down.  You know the types.  Those that believe Jesus is coming back so soon, they've stopped all other work and are just waiting for it to happen.  Praying "come soon and save us from this wicked world."  The hunker down, doomsday preppers.

{  Side note - This brings up to me a curious thought about doomsday preppers that I have - many preppers are religious and believe in a rapture, but still prepare for the coming apocalypse as if they would be present.  Are they all mid or post trib?  Do they not fully trust that they would be raptured?  }

While God instructs us to be prepared, one of His greatest commandments is to "love they neighbor," which requires us to be out there in the world doing His business.  The church should be the most impactful social organization in each community.  It should be have the greatest charitable effect, it should be the greatest agent of positive change in the world.

To do that, we can't just be waiting for it to end.

Don't wait so expectantly for a rapture that you miss being a servant today.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

I'd Like to Take a Minute, Just Sit Right There...

A heads up for a fun diversion for my Gen-X/early Millennial friends.  

Go to Google.  

Search for "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

Click on the FRESH license plate.

It's worth it.  And every link is awesome.

I love Easter Eggs like this.  Like the Google Pac-Man.  Like image searching Atari Breakout. Or searching for "askew" or "barrel roll."  Just fun pieces of code to help make the daily a little sillier, a little brighter.

Like the one house here in town who has taken to putting up their own yard signs in the pandemic to make people smile.  The first, declaring the stretch of sidewalk in front of their house under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Silly walks.  Subsequently, putting up song lyrics to brighten people's days.  Now it has "Jesus loves me, this I know, so I'll keep rolling with the flow."

We all need it every once and a while.  Something just to break the monotony or the seriousness and give us a smile.  

And the Fresh Prince fun above certainly does that.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Can I Take Your Order?

I've had this blog in my back pocket for a while now.  There was a social media challenge that went around several months ago encouraging people to place their fast food orders for a list of locations.  While I'm typically loath to recommend participating in these, as they can often be thinly veiled attempts to gain password or challenge question information, this one has less potential to do so and is a little fun.  So, should the mood ever strike you to order for me, these are my favorites.



SUBWAY: Footlong steak and cheese on Italian herbs and cheese, toasted, toasting the green peppers as well, with lettuce, tomato, olive, and mayo.


CHIK FIL- A: Original Chicken Sandwich, waffle fries, a large Dr. Pepper and Chick Fil-A sauce


STARBUCKS: Only if I’m forced to


CHICKEN EXPRESS: chicken tenders, fries, jalapeño poppers and a couple of rolls, large Dr. Pepper


WHATABURGER: Honey butter chicken biscuit on the jalapeño cheddar biscuit, large Dr. Pepper


DAIRY QUEEN (TX): 3 tacos, a regular nacho, and a Dr Pepper


SONIC: Mayonnaise hamburger no onions, tater tots, and a Dr. Pepper


PIZZA: Stuffed crust, pepperoni, with marinara sauce to dip it in


MCDONALDS: 10 piece chicken McNuggets, fries, hot mustard sauce and a large Dr. Pepper


TACO BELL: Crunchwrap Supreme, Cheesy Gordita Crunch, and a large Dr. Pepper



You'll notice the large Dr. Pepper as the constant among all the orders.  I'm currently off caffiene and most soda until our vacation, so I'm particularly missing that right now.  And I had to add the distinction of this being an order at a Texas Dairy Queen.  As we've discovered, Texas has a very different menu than the rest of the country.  Up here, it's not surprising for us to see a Dairy Queen that is just an ice cream stand.

Anyway, those are my favorites; what are yours? 🍕🍔🌮

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Toothless


We finally have the first tooth out. That tooth had been so wiggly, so loose and hanging on by a single thread of a root for the past week. Over the past two days it seemed to drop an additional millimeter each day, but she would not let anyone touch it. We finally convinced her we had to pull it last night because we were seriously concerned it would fall out in the night. 

At least now she knows the process doesn’t hurt. Hopefully the next tooth, which is the other one on the top, will be a lot easier of a process. 

Otherwise, it’s going to be a very involved ordeal as she keeps losing these baby teeth  

At least for now, she’s so excited to show it off. I’ll try to convince her that if she can avoid sticking her tongue through the hole, it will come in all gold (as my family tried to convince me). 

I’m sure she’ll buy into it as much as I did. 

Monday, May 17, 2021

The Eighth Plague

The plague has started.  The Brood X cicadas have started to come out across the country.  This species reappears every 17 years from their burrows in the ground.  The longer winter has delayed their arrival a little bit, but the season starts now.  

This summer, we can expect up to one million cicadas per acre to emerge in the affected states.  That includes us, as well as Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan and New York.

So, we missed this last year, and it will be an experience this year.  We can look forward to them emerging from the ground, shedding their skin, flying around for a few weeks, laying eggs, and starting the 17 year cycle again.  

Yay!

If we start to get a little punchy, you'll know why.

We'll keep you updated on how the plague is going.


Friday, May 14, 2021

The State of Israel =/= The Nation of Israel

A re-post of a blog from March 14, 2019.  The sentiment needs to be reiterated again, especially in light of the current conflict in Israel.  We would like to think that the government of the modern nation of Israel always acts honorably, but that is not always the case.  Especially, towards its non-Jewish citizens, of which, there are many.  In this particularly incident, Israel barred tens of thousands of Muslims from prayers at the Al Aqsa mosque over the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a move which drew criticism from all but the most hardline of Israeli leadership.  Israel has also threatened eviction of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah district, a move which has received the condemnation of the EU, the UN, and the UK governments.  And as tensions and conflict grew as a result of Israeli actions, the Israeli government authorized the use of CS gas and stun grenades in the Al Aqsa mosque on May 10 to help quell the conflict.  Imagine if our police started using tear gas and stun guns in a church here (or think back to when US troops used pepper spray on those at a church so Trump could have a photo op with the Bible).

It's one thing to support Israel.  It's another to blindly allow it to act however it likes.  There are times when we have to call out our allies.  And this is one of them.  The Netanyahu government has been increasingly hostile to a significant portion of the nation's population.  That cannot stand.

If we are going to fully support Israel because of Biblical pretexts, we should expect that they uphold their faith obligations as well. 

------------------------------------

This is likely not going to be a popular entry, but it's one that needs to be said.  The title should effectively read the current state of Israel does not equal the biblical Nation of Israel.

We can see many instances in which a government is not its people.  Government's can be corrupted, governments can be broken.  Further, the full Nation of Israel is still dispersed across the globe with its people. God's people are in nearly every nation on earth, while the government of Israel is protecting its promised land.

A land that is contentious and controversial.  Leading to need for diplomacy in the area and international relations with the government that are plagued with mine fields.

The United States has had a close relationship with Israel since the recognition of the state of Israel in 1948.  This bilateral relationship is a very important factor in the overall policy in the Middle East and considerable importance has been placed on the maintenance of a close and supportive relationship. This is particularly true among political conservatives and especially heightened by the evangelical influences in the Republican party.  This can be seen in comments like Senator Lindsey Graham's recent "reminder."  "Here's a message for America: Don't ever turn your back on Israel, because God will turn his back on us."

For many, the deep nature of this connection stems from biblical warnings to the enemies of Israel and protections for its allies.

"I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

Genesis 12:3


"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May those who love you be secure.'"

Psalm 122:6


"For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined."

Isaiah 60:12


And while I do not want to suggest that we should not be an ally to Israel or that our relationship should not be maintained, I do think it's time we take a hard look at how that relationship is manifesting in our country.  Because we seem to be getting dangerously close to "Israel can do no wrong."  To a position where any questioning, any criticism, any rebuking, any statement or action against something Israel has done is not tolerated and labeled "anti-Semitic."

We can see it in the discussion after Rand Paul blocked a bill that would send billions of dollars of aid to Israel, though it came from his strict Libertarian position.  "I'm not for foreign aid in general, if we are going to send aid to Israel it should be limited in time and scope so we aren't doing it forever, and it should be paid for by cutting the aid to people who hate Israel and America.  This is a stance I've taken for many years."

Or in the firing of Marc Lamont Hill following a U.N. speech endsoring the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement against Israel, but closing with the call for a "free Palestine from the river to the sea."  The phrase drew criticism from some conservatives and staunch Israel advocates, who view such remarks as echoing language used by Hamas and other groups that seek to eliminate Israel.  Hill emphatically denies these allegations, and reiterated that while he supports Palestinian freedom, he does not support anti-Semitism, killing Jewish people, or any of the other things attributed to him.  He petitions for the return to pre-1967 borders, to give full rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and to allow right of return.  The full rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel in particular will come up later.

More recently, look to the controversy around Representative Ilhan Omar's latest comments on Israel.  While speaking to a bookstore, Rep. Omar suggested that pro-Israel groups were pushing lawmakers to "pledge allegiance to a foreign country."  This led to Congresswoman Nita Lowrey responding in a tweet that "Lawmakers must be able to debate w/o prejudice or bigotry.  I am saddened that Rep. Omar continues to mischaracterize support for Israel.  I urge her to retract this statement and engage in further dialogue with the Jewish community on why these comments are so hurtful."  Omar fired back, "Our democracy is built on debate, Congresswoman!  I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.  The people of the 5th elected me to serve their interest.  I am sure we agree on that!"  The exchange resulted in the House shifting their focus to overwhelmingly pass a broad resolution Thursday afternoon, March 7, 2019, to condemn all bigotry.

Rep. Omar's comments, like Hill's, were claimed to draw on anti-Semitic tropes, particularly those that play on Jews hypnotizing the world or running the world behind the scenes.  And while she may need sensitivity training on how to phrase her comments, she does have a point.  We're seeing a pattern where every attempt at a discussion of American-Israeli policy is met with a hard stop.

And we're seeing a need for that discussion in the actions of current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Netanyahu has tried to rally his religious and nationalist base for re-election by charged accusations that his challengers will form a coalition government with Arab political parties.  This was met with a post by Rotem Sela, one of Israel's top models and TV hosts, stating "What's the problem with the Arabs?  Good heavens, there are also Arab citizens in this country.  When the hell will somebody in the government tell the public that Israel is a state of all its citizens and that all people are born equal?"

To which Netanyahu replied, "I would like to clarify a point that, apparently, is not clear to slightly confused people in the Israeli public."  Israel "is the national state, not of all its citizens, but only of the Jewish people."

There are around 1.8 million Israeli Arabs.  20% of Israels nearly 9 million citizens.  And its prime minister has just written them off.  It's one thing to say the religious, the biblical Nation of Israel is just Jewish.  That would be correct and as I've stated, reflects the Jewish population across the globe.  But it's true of only about 75% of the citizens of the state of Israel.

And so far, American politicians have been silent. Our president can tweet false claims regarding the co-founder of Greenpeace, fan the claims of anti-Semitism in the Democratic party, and continue to stoke his ego, but nothing about a country clearly disregarding a subset of its population.

This should be concerning even for those believing in the biblical call for supporting Israel.  In our Journey Groups, we have four core values, the final of which is admonishing biblically.  It's a reminder that when you are someone's ally, when you are interested in the growth of a friend or family, you speak up when they are acting inappropriately.

"As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned."

Titus 3:10-11


Further, we know that historically there were times that even the Nation of Israel "did what was evil in the sight of the Lord."  That there were times they needed to repent and return.  And even if the current government of Israel completely represented the nation of Israel, there would be times where we could not support them.  That we should not support them.  If we are a Christian nation as we claim to be, we should be following the Lord's instructions and speaking up when admonishment is necessary.  To bring our friend to repentance.

We have to be able to do this.  We have to be able to talk about this.  Otherwise, we're supporting the exclusion of a minority population in that country.  And that can't be who we are.

Abraham Lincoln believed the political religion of the United States to be liberty.  Liberty and Justice for All.

If we believe in that like we say we do, we have to call out our allies when they infringe on the liberty of their citizens.

Especially when it's not popular.