Tips for Doing Disney with a Big Family

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The 6 boys at Disney

The crew at Disneyland summer 2012 – I was holding the camera.

Penniless Parenting had a guest post with some money-saving tips for going to Disney on the cheap.  They were great, but I don’t know if they addressed the larger family very well.  We’ve been to Disneyland twice as a family and Disney World once, and our oldest is 12.  Frankly even writing that makes me feel like I have been either incredibly lucky or we have been incredibly rich… and if you saw my bank account today you wouldn’t conclude that last.  How did we do it?  Well, first, read “Tips for Disney Holidays on a Budget” then come back here.

Keep reading below the video if you want all the gritty details.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why Marriage Vows?

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I saw a friend share a short piece on how to tell if you are with the right person.  The piece got me thinking, so I dug around Google to find out the source of the article.  I found it on this blog.  So go ahead and read it – it is a solid bit of writing that points out, if I can so cheaply summarize, that the question, “Am I married to the right person?” is the wrong question.  It is a common question but it only gets asked because the person who asks it has failed to answer this question: When the initial infatuation wears off, am I
Happy Couple
willing to learn to love the person I am with?

This insight is brilliant.  Because in my humble opinion (and I say this with a great deal of sensitivity), barring extreme situations of abuse or massive cataclysmic events in your relationship, most marriages that fail or struggle do so because of that question.  We seem to forget the vows we spoke before God and witnesses that we committed to love that person for the rest of our lives.

We confuse the physical hormonal responses of infatuation with love, and then fail to do the basic logic necessary to realize that you can’t command your dopamine receptors to shower you with pleasure signals at the mere presence of that person – because you can’t command glands to secrete anything into your body.   If love is being “in love”, then it will end.  And therefore it is simply wrong and an outright lie to marry anyone.  If you believe that being “in love” is what marriage is all about, then you will break your vows and divorce.

But the vows we say are predicated on a different understanding of love.  We say, “Do you promise to love… until death do you part…” because inherent in that statement is the understanding that you can’t promise to feel love forever.  But you can promise to choose to love.  Love is a choice.

And if it’s a choice, then there is no excuse to ever ask the question, “Am I with the right person?”  Because it is irrelevant.  You are with who you chose to be with.  You are with the one you chose, willingly, to love for the rest of your life.

Angry CoupleThis leads me to the biggest thought to come out of all this.  That is another truth about the nature of love.  The nature of love, the act of love is to put another’s needs before your own.   Read the rest of this entry »

Take the Easy Road?

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I struggled with whether or not to write this because the truth is I have only been thinking about the subject lately because I have friends who are faced with major decisions right now.  And the advice almost everyone is giving them is the subject of this blog.  There are a lot of things about my faith, my relationship with God, and the direction my life has taken that I don’t understand, but somehow the truth of Matthew 7:13 has never been in doubt in my mind.  I am just struggling with how to express it to them, without sounding self-serving.

We all want the easy road.  We all want life to be simple and smooth.  We all crave simplicity and peace.  We all want comfort.  These are universal.  These are what got this world into the morass of sin and evil.  They just are.

But it is especially hard to read Matthew 7:13 when you have been through months, even years of heavy loads, squeaking by, and fighting tooth and nail just to survive.  You just want to take the easy road, just for a bit, just for a change.  Just for a break. Read the rest of this entry »

Loving Your Blessings, Ignoring the Blesser

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“Do you love this God who is everything, or do you just love everything He gives you?” – Francis Chan, Crazy Love (2008)

As I was reading the above lines, I was struck by the two levels this idea speaks to.  To the Christian, we easily take for granted the relationship God wants with us.  Like children, we often sink into a place where we love being blessed by God, we love the miracles of God, but we grow cold to God Himself.  Children love getting stuff, love food, love their rooms, love their games. But when the gravy train ends, how easily do they turn on us, saying things like “I hate you!”Tech Toys

But what struck me the most is this is really the human condition.  God rains down gifts and blessing on those who are far from Him and those who love Him alike.  And those who are far from Him think, “I don’t need God – look at all I have!”  Those same people who see no need for God because of their wealth look at the poor of this world, the homeless, the people living in squalor in the 3rd World.  They look at these people who appear abandoned by God and they say, “There is no God, because if God is love He would never let people live that way.”  Somehow in their minds they manage to ignore the God who gives to them in abundance and then blame that same God for withholding blessing from others.

Aside from the unreasonableness of such ideas, I have a response to both.  If you don’t need God because of your blessings, then don’t be mad at God for taking them away.  You never gave thanks in the first place to the one who gave them to you.  And they will be taken away one day.  Nothing lasts beyond this life but your soul.

As for the poor of this world, God never made them poor.  Evil men and women made them poor.  The decisions human beings account for something like 90% of the poor in the world.  Exploitation is the biggest threat to humankind, not earthquakes, not tsunamis, not “Acts of God”.  A few misguided people point to natural disasters as God’s wrath poured out.  I don’t see them that way.  I see them as opportunities God gives us to love Him by loving each other.  These are our chances.  These are our turns to be God’s hands and feet, loving people and meeting their needs, serving selflessly.  Being like Jesus – there is no other time in life that it is so obvious what people’s needs are, how can we pass them up?

But to the question. Poor girl

Could God rescue all the poor of this world?


Why doesn’t He?

He is.

What do you mean?

He sent YOU.

I say this with an absolutely straight face to every person I have know that takes issue with God’s heartlessness for allowing suffering.  He has given YOU eyes to see the poor of this world, that is why YOU are mad at Him.  The problem isn’t God.  It is YOU for not recognizing what God is asking of you.

If every atheist who complains that God doesn’t exist because He ignores the poor actually answered the call of God to the poor, we wouldn’t have them.  Atheists or poor.  The problem isn’t with God.  He has given us everything we need for heaven on earth.  The problem is us, selfishly holding back from truly answering His call to the least of these.

I’ll close with one more quote from Francis Chan’s book.

“Imagine how awful it would feel to have your child say to you, ‘I don’t really want you or your love, but I would like my allowance please.'”

90% of humanity says that to God every day.  We all want His blessings and begrudge Him for not giving them.  But we don’t want to know Him.  Because if we did, we might actually begin to care for someone more than ourselves.  Better to stay bitter and ungrateful, keeping the fiction alive that we know better than God the way to our own happiness.

The iPhone Mom and Over-Reaction – Godly Grief vs. Worldly Grief

by admin

A few days ago a Facebook note was being shared around the people I am friends with.  It was entitled, “Dear Mom on the iPhone” and it originated, as far as I can tell, with this blog post by a Mom blogging at 4 Little Fergusons.  I was impressed with the thoughtful and timely comment, as there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see people around town with their kids, but their heads are down, not watching anything but the latest text or Facebook post, or pinterest picture scroll across their smartphone’s screen.  I considered it a very timely message as I myself am often that Dad, even though the letter was written to Moms.On the iPhone

Turns out many people actually found the letter offensive.  Many moms read it and took away from it guilt.  One friend I know read it and then swore not to use her iPhone all day Saturday.  I considered that to be a good thing, and I will explain in a moment what I am talking about it.  But many other moms found their guilt twist into anger.  How dare that woman write such a judgemental article!  How dare she judge me!  She doesn’t know what I go through every day!  Maybe I was using my phone to pay bills, or write a grocery list, or check on a doctor’s appointment location!  How can she sit at her desk and write such hateful things!  I am a good mom!

One of those moms decided to write a defense of iPhone moms.  I read that piece over and was struck by this perspective that judgement was being brought on all iPhone moms everywhere.  One response to her on Facebook went even so far as to suggest that the original piece was meant to encourage people to judge moms on iPhones.  I re-read the original and I don’t see that at all.  I see a woman, a mom, providing a timely reminder to other moms and dads of the perils of allowing ourselves to be distracted by the culture of instant gratification and constant entertainment to the point where we miss our childhood. I didn’t and still don’t see any calls or demands for parents to be 100% focused (dare I say obsessed) with their children constantly.  Only a call for balance.

Because of who I am, I read this whole debate in light of God’s wisdom.  The verse that came flying out at me in reading this argument was this: Read the rest of this entry »

Reality Is Rude, Impolite and Uncomfortable

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I don’t pretend my current life is the most successful version of my life that could exist in the multiverse.  I am absolutely confident that in alternate universes, different choices I have made may have led to much better outcomes.  In many ways I have blown it.  But in other ways I believe the choices I have made have brought me to a place where I am certain the world is a better place with me in it.  And that makes me feel good.

But still, I continue to muck it up.  I woke up this morning at 2am with a serious case of “I am screwing EVERYTHING up!”  And I don’t even think that feeling is true, but I do have self-confidence issues that are not fully resolved, and maybe never will be.  But nonetheless, I couldn’t go back to sleep, so here I am blogging at 4 in the morning.

I am here bringing you something I ran across looking for something to cheer me up.  I was hoping for lighthearted, but ended up finding something profound and wise.  I warn you: before I bring you what I discovered, its source is unlikely.  If you are averse to reading about reality, and worldly wisdom spoken in a tone and using language that… let’s just say I wouldn’t be letting my kids read until they are 18, then don’t follow the link.  But nonetheless, the following article is one of the best examples of condensed life wisdom that I have ever seen outside the Bible.  Funny thing is, despite the author’s decidedly unChristian perspective, he freely admits towards the end that this is actually what Jesus taught, albeit in much less rude and offensive ways.

I take you to

6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Person.  Read it, if you dare.  It could well change your life.  I promise, it will hurt to read.  In more than one way.

4 Nuggets I gleaned from it (that I REALLY need to hear):

On asking the wrong questions:

Because that’s the step that gets skipped — it’s always “How can I get a job?” and not “How can I become the type of person employers want?” It’s “How can I get pretty girls to like me?” instead of “How can I become the type of person that pretty girls like?” See, because that second one could very well require giving up many of your favorite hobbies and paying more attention to your appearance, and God knows what else. You might even have to change your personality.

On wasting time:

Do the math: How much of your time is spent consuming things other people made (TV, music, video games, websites) versus making your own? Only one of those adds to your value as a human being.

Harsh, but true.  Do you want your life to have meaning?  DO SOMETHING WITH IT.

An extended thought on not doing anything… which rams home an important truth Jesus taught (I bleeped out a few choice words):

…A hundred million people watched that Kony video, virtually all of whom kept those poor African children “in their thoughts.” What did the collective power of those good thoughts provide? Jack (bleepity bleep). Children die every day because millions of us tell ourselves that caring is just as good as doing. It’s an internal mechanism controlled by the lazy part of your brain to keep you from actually doing work.

… Don’t you have that annoying Christian friend whose only offer to help anyone ever is to “pray for them”? Doesn’t it drive you nuts? I’m not even commenting on whether or not prayer works; it doesn’t change the fact that they chose the one type of help that doesn’t require them to get off the sofa. They abstain from every vice, they think clean thoughts, their internal dirt is as pure as can be, but what fruit grows from it? And they should know this better than anybody — I stole the fruit metaphor from the Bible. Jesus said something to the effect of “a tree is judged by its fruit” over and over and over. Granted, Jesus never said, “If you want to work here,close.” No, he said, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

The people didn’t react well to being told that, just as the salesmen didn’t react well to Alec Baldwin telling them that they needed to grow some balls or resign themselves to shining his shoes.

And lastly, why you won’t listen to a word he writes:

Remember, misery is comfortable. It’s why so many people prefer it. Happiness takes effort.

Also, courage. It’s incredibly comforting to know that as long as you don’t create anything in your life, then nobody can attack the thing you created.

So, do something.  Even if it sucks.  Everyone sucks when they start something worth doing.  And there will always be haters.  The difference between the haters and you is at least you had the guts to try, which most haters really hate you for the most.  Because haters generally don’t have the guts to do what you are doing.

The same writer also scripted 7 Ways the 21st Century is Making You Miserable, an article I didn’t tell Community of Hope I actually preached on, because the article was laced with profanity… but also really, REALLY insightful truth.

I am pretty sure this article will also find its way into a few messages: it’s too important not to. Sadly, I don’t think I will credit it at that time either.  Although maybe I will…

Bill Nye: “Creationism Not Appropriate”

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I don’t mind a healthy conversation about origins, but really, the arrogance of some people is just nauseating, and the sad thing is that if you agree with him, you are probably blind to it.

Bill Nye, “the Science Guy”, has gone public in a video stating a number of things that are simply, on their face, wrong.  Some are lies, some are half-truths, some are misrepresentations, to be completely fair, so I won’t call him a liar.  But take a look at this.

“Your world becomes fantastically complicated if you don’t believe in evolution,”

  • Really?  How so?  My life is not complicated at all.  I still live, breathe, buy groceries, clean my floors, and get along with people.  Same with my kids.  In fact, the cool thing about not worrying about billions of years of “prehistory” is I don’t have to explain how the fossil record is absent in some places, interrupted in others, and incomplete everywhere.  I don’t have to explain the absolute absences of transitional species now, or ever.  I don’t have to assume that “…everything goes on as it has since the beginning…” (2 Peter 3:4).

He contends that kids shouldn’t learn creationism because “we need them”.  He goes on to say that the world needs the following: scientifically literate voters and taxpayers and engineers.

Funny thing is evolutionary science is one corner of science, that evolutionists like to pretend impacts everything and everyone, but the truth is it is really only of significant influence as a theory in biology.  And even then, humanity was classifying animals and plants for millenia without evolution – why do we need it again?

But hey, catch the last example he picked: ENGINEERS.  I want to meet a SINGLE engineer in any field that needs to presuppose evolution as our origin.  Good grief.

Personally, I love science.  I love chemistry.  I love physics.  I love biology.  I love geology.  I don’t need evolution to understand any of it.  In fact, in my experience, it gets in the way. It complicates things that are simple.  I’ll give an example.

In most places in the world, the fossil record is out of order.  Evolution requires the smallest life forms to be in the lowest strata of sedimentary rock, because they are the “oldest”.  And small life came first, right?  Simple to complicated?  But in may places the rocks contain the biggest fossils at the bottom and small simple forms above.  Why?

Well, there is demonstrable, repeatable science in the way physical objects settle when in water.  If you take big and small rocks, and agitate the water to suspend the objects, then let the water settle, what happens?  The big ones settle to the bottom first, then the small er ones, until the smallest settle in a layer on top.  This science is called sedimentation.  It explains the complications of the fossil record quite well.  But of course, this known, demonstrable physical process MUST be explained away by complicated evolutionary theories.

So, whose world is fantastically complicated again?

Rebutting Wilson’s “Why the Hunger Games is Flawed”

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Trevin Wax’s friend N.D. Wilson commented on the Hunger Games and why it is seriously flawed as a work.  I really appreciated the level of thought and the perspective of a writer on how people’s motivations should be written.  He definitely caused me to think more deeply about the messages the book sends and the question of realism in terms of how the people acted and reacted in tune with (or out of sync with) human nature.

However, I found his arguments for what makes the books so flawed to be seriously… flawed.

Warning: if you have not read the books or seen the movie yet, the below will contain spoilers.  Don’t read any further unless you don’t mind them. Read the rest of this entry »

Why You Should Read the Hunger Games (and Other Books Too)

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“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
(1 Corinthians 10:23 ESV)

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
(Romans 12:9 ESV)

…but test everything; hold fast what is good.
(1 Thessalonians 5:21 ESV)

I must admit: I am offended.  I am offended by the tendency of too many Christians to simply refuse to engage with anything in the world for fear of contaminating themselves with the world.  I am offended by the idea that we should throw into the trashbin anything that we suspect might maybe be a little bit offensive, uncomfortable, or controversial.  Is this the spirit of the age – to be so terrified by everything that our first instinct is to duck and cover?

I could take this in so many directions but the one that has my goat this morning is books.  I just finished reading “The Hunger Games“.  Now frankly, it is not the finest literature ever produced, but it is worth the read in my opinion for two reasons.  First, the books engage a number of cultural realities that presently have far-reaching influence over Christians and non-Christians.  Second, the books (and the new movie) are incredibly popular, especially amongst young people.  What is so grabbing their imaginations and keeping them interested?  Should we not investigate such icons as a basic responsibility of a parent, or at least someone who at some levels “is my brother’s keeper”?

Some say no.  One vociferously opposed such an idea.  One told a friend of mine that it was wrong to read the Hunger Games.  Why?  Because it has violence in it.  I’ll give the benefit of the doubt and I’ll assume she meant the books feature children killing children. Read the rest of this entry »

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