Remembered Grace: An Anniversary and a Birthday

Today was our four-year wedding anniversary.  It was also Judah’s first birthday.  Cindi and I were married on December 20th, 2002, and Judah was born (unbeknownst to us at the time) on December 20th, 2005.

The end of the semester was very lopsided for me as I worked overtime to finish my M.Div. at The Master’s Seminary.  Maybe posts here will be a bit more regular over Christmas Break.

But this occasion calls for at least a brief tribute — not to us, but to the Lord.

We have not necessarily filled the day with special events, since we just returned from two days away with Cindi’s aunt and uncle in beautiful Monterey.  But both Cindi and Judah are on my heart.  I could never repay God for all the joy He has given me in my wife and my son, so I’m glad that He does not ask for repayment but only the worship of Christ-centered enjoyment and honest gratitude.

Anniversaries and birthdays are good times to celebrate the goodness of God in traditional and fresh ways.  Traditions reflect the constancy of God’s faithfulness, and fresh celebrations reflect His vivacity.  We need both because God’s traditional faithfulness is not stale and His lively works are not whimsical.  He is always the same, but often in new ways.  Yet the newness of His yearly grace never jeopardizes the rhythmic, predictable pattern of His steadfast love.

From now on, December 20th will be a double blessing in my life — the reminder of my precious marriage with my bride as well as the gift of my first-born son.  Always this will be a day of remembered grace.


19 thoughts on “Remembered Grace: An Anniversary and a Birthday

  1. Hi Gunner,
    I’ve been looking into adoption lately- as a ministry that maybe I can pursue in the future. I was reading the adoption requirements for Uganda and it said the parents must be Ugandan residents- and that is accomplished by living there by 3 years. How did you achieve that? If you can’t share that in this forum could you email me? I’m also looking into Russia- seems much quicker there (though more expensive).

  2. Kim: I assume you wanted me to read the article you linked to. I did. But I’m not a good mind-reader, so perhaps you can just tell me your point.

  3. Kim: My point is that your views of God and the world are all based on your own subjective feelings. Since everyone else in the world has their own subjective feelings, too, your views can’t be of much use to anyone else because your views have no authority outside of yourself.

    I don’t doubt that you have some healthy common sense and some helpful life experience and some generally insightful lessons learned through hardships. I’m sure you’re trained in certain areas that can assist other people. The Bible even says that you have God’s law written on your heart, which is why you inherently know that bitterness against others is wrong and that murder displeases God and that adultery is immoral and that generosity, compassion, justice, truth-speaking, and many other things are right in God’s eyes. But you’re also a sinner by nature and by choice, just like me. This has a blinding effect. The Bible actually describes us as being “dead in sin.” So when it comes to discerning spiritual issues of life, morality, eternity, the character and thoughts of God, and our relationship with Him, we’re not trustworthy sources of truth. Yes, God’s law is written on our hearts and we were created in His likeness (according to the Bible), but we suppress the truth because we don’t like knowing that God is the center of all things, not us; that we’re accountable to God, not Him to us; that we’ve offended Him and are worthy of His anger and punishment; and that we can’t do anything to save ourselves because we need God to forgive us.

    As humans who are sinful by nature and easily self-deceived, we need a truth-authority outside of ourselves. This is exactly who God is, and He’s given us His truth in the Bible.

    Responding to one small phrase which only served as an implication of my much-larger point is not the best way to deal with the eternal questions I’m trying to ask. You can label me as “negative” and “dismissive,” but it would be more profitable for you to actually think about why you believe that you can trust yourself as your own source of truth.

    And by the way, if you knew some of the things that the Bible says about me, you would do a lot more than shudder. Contrary to common belief, we human beings are in a desperate condition as sinners before a perfect and good God. I realize that since you don’t personally feel that this statement about God is true, you think that your feelings make it untrue. I would encourage you to consider God’s truth which stands above all sinful human thinking (both mine and yours). Feelings do not create reality.

  4. My views can be of no use to anyone?

    I really think you need to work on the way you address people, it’s so negative and dismissive. I shudder to think of how you speak to yourself.

  5. Kim: Thanks for your Christmas wishes. Christmas is always a sweet opportunity to celebrate God sending His Son Jesus into the world to die for my sins, so it’s a precious time.

    Thanks also for taking the time to answer my host of questions (which were really just one question re-phrased a number of times for clarity).

    If I’m understanding you right, it seems you believe that God is a sort of impersonal, positive force who can be sensed and felt, who loves everyone and judges no one, and who moves through people in an undefinable way. Of course, I realize that I’m leaving out some things that you said, but I’m just trying to sumamrize.

    I trust that you can understand why, again, your views are far too vague to be of much use to anyone. There’s simply no standard that you’re appealing to outside of your own personal subjective feelings. Here’s what I’m hearing you say: You feel like God’s voice is quiet. You feel like you’re close to him. You feel like he’s on your side. You feel like yoga is a means of drawing close to him. You feel like God doesn’t get displeased with anyone or punish anyone. You feel like God isn’t worthy of being feared. You feel like Satan doesn’t exist. You feel like heaven and hell are man-made ideas. You feel like you (and everyone else) will neither be punished nor rewarded for your life on earth. You feel like loving and respecting ourselves first and foremost is a wise way to live. You feel that God is on everyone’s side.

    As you can see, the common denominator in all your views is your own feelings. In other words, you are your own source of truth.

    Do you really trust yourself that much?

    I don’t mean that question as a personal insult. I would ask it of anyone who based everything they believed on what they felt. I would imagine that you realize that there are millions of different viewpoints in the world regarding the things you’ve mentioned, often opposite viewpoints. Who’s right? You or them? Or is everyone right, which makes God a blatantly contradictory communicator (i.e., a liar).

    I simply find it fascinating and frightening that you’re willing to bank your entire life and the life hereafter on your own feelings. I realize that this is the path that most people take, but that doesn’t make it less astounding.

    God has actually spoken to us clearly and concretely in the Bible. Many of the things that He has told us are quite different than your views, often devastatingly so. And I would quickly add that all the religious books are not the same. In fact, to believe that all the religious books could all come from God is to take a stand opposite of the Bible. Jesus Christ claims exclusivity as the Savior of the world and the center of God’s revelation. Anyone who denies this or tries to add to it is standing against Him. So one must either embrace the entirety of God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible or say that the Bible is complete rubbish. There’s no valid in-between stance. Neutrality is not possible, nor is it regarded favorably by God.

    I’m sure that both of us have a lot more to say, and I appreciate the time you’ve already given me regarding these important issues. And I would really like to continue this discussion, because it has eternal importance. Feel free to let me know your thoughts about what I’ve said above. And I would urge you to take some time to read some of the Bible, particularly the book of John, the fourth book in the New Testament. It reveals Jesus in all His glory.

    I hope you’ve had a good beginning to 2007, and thanks again for your time.

  6. Gunner,
    I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. I don’t know if I told you that you are welcome to take advantage of the links on my blog. I have several blogs by adoptive parents who are raising children from other countries.

    Blessings to you and your family.

  7. Oh urgh that’s a lot of questions, I will do my best.

    The voice of God is not loud, it’s very quiet and it doesn’t demand to be heard. You have to be still and quiet to hear it and you have to trust yourself to hear it to.

    The friends part is to just totally trust that this being loves you and is on your side. For me it comes more if I don’t steal things, like I really want to steal a yoga mat from the gym but won’t because it will give me a bad energy.

    I find the more I say no to abusive situations and take distance from negativity the closer to God I feel.

    The other thing that makes me feel close to God is doing yoga. I have started dedicating my practise to different people, the ones who hurt me the most deeply in my life and I had a lot of anger towards. That has had an amazing effect on my life.

    It’s ok to rase J. as a Christian as long as you also teach him to love and embrace his culture. You might want to go and visit his country of birth every few years and see if it’s possible to locate family member.

    I am wondering how much contact you have with adoptees and other people in the adoption community, my links section is really wonderful because there are so many good writers talking about their feelings growing up adopted. I also have some lovely mothers on my list who are raising children who are not white.

    God for me just feels friendly, it’s not some old man with a beard, it’s more like an energy. I don’t diss the Bible as being meaningless but I respect all the religions, they too have holy Books, they all say they are the word of God.
    Perhaps they are all the word of God, I don’t know. I don’t need to know.

    I don’t feel like God gets displeased and I don’t believe God punishes. God doesn’t demand obedience from us, it’s more like you want to do what is right anyway as much as you can. I try my best to not let fear or jealousy hurt other people.

    God moves through me, it’s like a colour,it’s like air, it’s like your cells, I can’t explain it in words. It’s in the way I work, the things I see, the reactions I get from a lot of people, it’s in the love I feel in my heart. It’s all things you have and feel too.

    I just don’t have a fear of God and I don’t believe in Satan, I don’t believe in Heaven and Hell, I don’t believe in punishment and reward.

    I believe in the power of forgiveness and in the safety of self esteem. I believe when we truly love ourselves then we love God. When we try to live to our full potential then we are serving God and that’s maybe simple and stupid to some people but it works for me.

    God isn’t exclusive to some people and denied to others, I think it’s the energy of a power greater than myself.

    I think the most important thing for Judah is that he grows up knowing who he is and that he isn’t denied his true identity. I think it’s important that he isn’t burdened with a closed adoption, if you can find family members that would be really good.

    I really respect your patience and willingness to listen. It can’t be easy having me just turn up and leave my opinions.

    I do think the most important motivation for adoption is that you simply fell in love with the child, you just felt this overwhelming desire to share your life with him.

    We don’t have the resources to adopt, I am involved in a project I started where we have adopted a young mother who is struggling with things and is a good soul. More than 60 women have participated, that is where I want to put my energy for now.

    Feel free to come by and leave comments on my blog anytime, you are always welcome.

    I hope my comment wasn’t too long and gushy.

  8. Kim: I’m glad you’ll get to talk to your daughter around Christmas. I hope you can see her sometime soon despite the geographical distance (I don’t know many of the details of your relationship, so please bear with me if I get some of them wrong).

    Thank you for making your views on the Bible and Christianity clear. That helps me understand where you’re coming from. At least you’ve half-answered my question about your source of truth by telling me what it’s not.

    You’ve mentioned twice now that you and God are “good friends.” You’ve also said that God is your source of truth, but that you don’t mean the Bible. I’m sure you can understand why I find those statements to be too vague to be of much use in our conversation. I’m still genuinely curious: How do you know that you and God are “good friends”? May I too become good friends with him? If so, how should I go about doing that? If not, what’s hindering me? I sincerely want to know. Perhaps I would be persuaded by your viewpoint if I could know that it comes from God.

    If God is your source of truth, how does He communicate with you? Does He tell you things personally? Does He make you feel a certain way? Do you just sense when He is pleased or displeased with something?

    My main request is this: Please describe how you know who God is and what He’s like. I think that’s a fair and important question for both of us to answer. I have attempted to make my answer clear from the beginning: God has revealed Himself in the Bible, a book full of clear statements of truth about God and the way to know Him. You’ve told me that you and God are “good friends” and that He’s your “source of truth.” But there must be some sort of communication going on for that to be the case, along with some way to develop a relationship with God. Please explain.

    I think you’re right that you and I want the same general things for my son. I would only add that the most important thing to my wife and I is that Judah grow to understand and embrace the good news of forgiveness through Jesus Christ and that he love and serve the glorious, perfect God of the universe, revealed in the Bible. Everything else is secondary, though we will of course seek to provide him with everything he needs for life, as an outgrowth of our commitment to Christ who has given us the wonderful command to love and provide for our family.

  9. I think you will find I already answered your questions in my last comment.

    I don’t recognize the Bible as the word of God so that’s where we differ. I don’t think Christianity is the only way to God either. I respect your beliefs and respect your religion 100%.

    I also think we are both wanting the same things for that little boy and it’s possible I just misunderstand you because of your choice of words and vice versa.

    Of course God doesn’t plan adoptions, I am as certain of that as you are certain that He does.
    It’s ridiculous to think that he makes some people infertile or has parents be too poor to be able to pay for their child’s upkeep. It’s not a mix and match family world. We as people are responsible for these things. I am responsible for what happened to me with my daughter. What is the difference between me and another young mother who DID get support? Did God choose her over me? I don’t think so. You think God chooses one family to be loving and another to be abusive? Most adoptions come from mothers who grew up in less than ideal families, that’s people not God.

    I also think you don’t mean that you feel sorry for the little boy and that you take him from just compassion, at least I hope that is not the case. I wish for him to be adopted and raised as a son, not as a charity case. He will NOT be told that he was some pathetic orphan that you took from the “goodness of your heart” to raise in a Christian family and “save” him. That’s why I get so angry. BUt I think I misunderstand you, surely that isn’t your perspective.

    I get my source from God, not the Bible if that is what you are asking. I don’t claim to speak for Him, don’t claim to be closer to Him than you. Just claim to be good friends.

    Yes, you have a wonderful Christmas too. I won’t see my daughter, you may have missed that on my blog but we live in different countries. But we will talk which is good too.

    All the best
    Kim

  10. reunionwritings: Thanks for taking the time to respond. A few things –

    1. I’m still wondering how you know what God thinks about all of this. I welcome your thoughts and opinions, but it’s very important for you to know your basis for holding them. Again, I ask: How do you know what God cringes at? How do you know what God thinks about adoptions? Are your thoughts based on experience? Opinion? Culture? Feeling? Some other source?

    2. My ground of belief is the Bible, God’s Word. I specifically mentioned the Bible five separate times in my last comment, so it’s not sensible for you to accuse me of claiming personal divine revelation. God hasn’t told me anything personally. But He has revealed His perspective and His will in the Bible.

    3. The idea of helping someone does not necessarily imply condescension or prideful feelings of superiority. I agree that Judah is a great blessing to us and that he will bring something wonderful (himself) into our lives. Read any of my posts about our adoption and you will quickly see that. But your view that “you’re not helping orphans by adopting them, they’re helping you” is simply unrealistic and based on skewed definitions. I don’t think we’re doing something massively special for Judah. But I do think we’re doing something for him that he can’t do on his own at this point (have a family). If he could, we wouldn’t be adopting him. That’s just plain and obvious. As for “burdening him with the expectation of gratitude,” that’s so foreign to my thinking regarding this adoption that it’s almost unfathomable. I can barely make sense of what that would even look like, and I have no idea where it came from or why you said it.

    4. You said, “God doesn’t plan…” and then gave a litany of presumedly bad things. There are two big questions regarding that statement: (1) How do you know what God does or doesn’t plan? (2) Who’s to say that the things on your list are bad things? For instance, what makes torture wrong? What makes generosity right? What’s your standard for right and wrong, good and bad, godly and godless? My standard is the Bible which is a reflection of God’s own perfect, beautiful character. I still haven’t heard yours.

    Again, thanks for the dialogue. The issue here, as I’m sure you’re aware, is much larger than adoptions. The issue is where you get your perspective from. That’s the issue I’d rather discuss, because until that’s settled, we can’t really get anywhere. I get mine from the Bible where God has revealed Himself. I’m still genuinely curious to know what your source of truth is.

    I hope you’re getting to spend some good time with your daughter over Christmas, if/when you celebrate the holidays. My family and I spent some time looking at Christmas lights tonight, and it was a sweet time together.

  11. (From another person you don’t know…)

    My wife and I have enjoyed reading the posts on your blog-site(s)…(and we have read most!). Our son is also a 3rd year seminary student (at Denver Seminary) going for his Masters of Divinity. Our daughter, Rachel, is one of the volunteers at Amani in Uganda. She and her friend Arielle have posted the pics of the kids awaiting connection with their parents.

    The primary distinction missing (IMHO) from preceding discussion is the difference between pity and compassion. I feel that the Christian perspective gives us compassion (which I see in your posts and in our daughter;s motivation) rather than pity which is the motivation ascribed to some by persons of a non-Christian perspective.

    I feel so blessed to know that there are families with the heart (that you and Cindi have) who are willing to commit to parenting a child who needs, will benefit and will return the love you invest.

    Dave

  12. Gunner,

    Congratulations to you and Cindy!! We can still vividly recall your beautiful wedding and reception–our girls were mesmerized as it was only the second “American” wedding they had attended.

    And, we can definitely relate to the longing in your heart(s) to show Judah the love you so deeply wish to share. We’ll look forward to seeing pics. here on your blog next year of his second birthday celebration–his first with mom and dad!! Trust me, there will be plenty of “firsts” once he comes home! :-)

  13. I don’t know what God cringes at any more than you know that He plans your adoptions.

    She’s not a child. She’s a grown woman. Thank you for your good wishes.

    I do think it’s wrong for you to think you are helping the boy out by “giving” him a family. I think it’s a disgusting way to look at things. He is giving you a family. He is helping you out. You are not superior to him, you are not saving him or rescuing him. You are getting a beautiful child. You lack humility when you say you are helping him. Don’t burden him with the expectation of gratitude.

    You think God gave the child to you, I think that is also lacking humility. What gave you that child is the lack of resources that his family had, the poverty in that country and the fact that there are organizations that invest a lot of time in making adoptions possible rather than putting that energy into supporting struggling families.

    You believe what you believe because it seems right and fair to you. Not because God said it. God never said he plans adoptions or gives children out like chips at a party. I don’t know what your source of truth is either. It’s not direct word from God, or are you going to say that it is?

    I am not saying you are a bad parent, nor am I saying that you have no right to the boy, I am glad you have a son that you love and cherish.

    I would have the same opinion about this even if I hadn’t lived with adoption. I just don’t think God plans adoptions, nor does he plan rapes, nor does he plan car crashes, cancer, abusive mothers, earthquakes, limb amputation, poverty, war, abuse, toture, false imprisonment, death penalties, divorce, marriage, or anything else.

    God grants free choice. It’s us as people that make these things happen. It was me that lost my child, not God doing something so that other people could raise her. It was my family that didn’t give me support, not God planning anything sinister. He didn’t plan for them to be infertile so they could raise my daughter.

    God didn’t plan all the babies that got snatched in the babyschoop era. God doesn’t work like that.

    God and I are pretty good friends in case you are wondering. So you better be nice to me. :-)

  14. reunionwritings: Thanks for the dialogue. I read a little bit about your story at your blog (http://reunionwritings.wordpress.com/about/). It helps me understand why you’re unhappy with the way I’m describing our adoption.

    I don’t know if you believe that the Bible is the ultimate authority over our lives and the source of truth. If you don’t, our differences can’t be settled. I’m a Christian, so I believe what God has told us in the Bible. That’s where my perspective comes from regarding this adoption.

    I’ll try to respond to your comments and questions. You may not like my answers, but I’m just attempting to explain what’s in the Bible regarding God’s purposes and His control over all things. I’m not trying to be condescending. I just don’t know what you believe, so I’m trying to be as clear as possible.

    1. I do think that God gave Judah to us. But I don’t think this means that “God created poverty in that country and made his parents suffer misfortune so they couldn’t keep him.” I understand how you make that connection. But we can’t know exactly what God was or wasn’t doing in Uganda to bring about our adoption. We can only know (by the testimony of the Bible) that none of it was out of His control.

    2. My point with the fertility comment is this: We’re not just trying to get a kid any way that we can. We want to adopt in order to provide an orphan with a family. I think it’s better to grow up with a family than without one. Would it be ideal for each child to grow up in his biological family? Yes (except for some obvious exceptions). Do we have a choice in this instance? No. We were matched up with a baby boy who was abandoned and whose family is unknown. And I’m delighted to provide him with a loving family.

    3. I wouldn’t say that we adopted Judah to do him a favor. Those are your words. They sound condescending, which is why neither of us would say it that way. I would say that we want to help Judah. We want him to have a family. Perhaps you misunderstood these two statements that I made: “We’re adopting because there are untold millions or orphans that need families and homes” and “We simply wanted to adopt first because of the great need.” Do you think it’s wrong for me to think that we’re helping this baby boy by giving him a family?

    4. I think you insult God when you say that he doesn’t have a direct hand in adoptions. You’re saying that it’s out of His control; it’s just chance; it just happens. But again, our disagreement here isn’t just an unsolvable difference of opinion. God has clearly revealed His perspective in the Bible. The issue is one of authority — why you believe what you believe. Because it seems right and fair to you, or because God said it? I don’t know what your source of truth is. I can only comment based on what God has said.

    5. How do you know what God cringes at? I’m not being sarcastic — that’s an honest question.

    I’m sorry about the loss of your child years ago. I wish you and your child and the family the best in the reunion process. I don’t know all the circumstances, so I can’t really comment beyond that. But I would only urge you to not define God and His purposes based on your experience, especially your hardships. Let God tell us who He is and what He does and what He loves and what He hates.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  15. I think it’s wrong to thing that God gave you that child, it’s saying God created poverty in that country and made his parents suffer misfortune so that they couldn’t keep him. That wouldn’t sit right with my conscience.

    Why on earth would it help me to know that you don’t know if you are or aren’t infertile? I am confused by that.

    So you are saying you adopted the boy to do him a favour? Surely not, I hope I misunderstand you here.

    I don’t have a problem with most people who adopt either. I just find it insulting when it’s implied that God has a direct hand in adoptions. I think He probably cringes when people say that too.

  16. reunionwritings: I don’t know where his mother is. I assume she’s still living in Uganda where he’s from. The records we’ve received tell us that she gave birth to him at a hospital near the capitol city and slipped out without him. We found out recently that the father was at the hospital with her and that he left, as well. No one knows anymore than that.

    My guess would be that they felt they weren’t able to take care of him.

    I do believe that God has given Judah to us. I don’t think it’s wrong to believe that. I do not celebrate the hard circumstances that his family most likely faces. I do not judge them for leaving him at the hospital, because I have no idea what they were up against and what their motivations were in leaving him there. Perhaps they loved him so much that they wanted to make sure he was taken care of.

    I am sad that they won’t have the joy of raising him. But I don’t think that God is less sovereign or good because he will grow up with us instead of them. And I don’t think that I should de-emphasize God’s gracious gift to us. We aren’t adopting to take someone’s child from them. We’re adopting because there are untold millions or orphans that need families and homes.

    I don’t know if or how much I’ve written about Judah’s biological family. I’ve mentioned it to a lot of people and am not trying to hide anything.

    Perhaps it would help you to know that my wife and I haven’t even tried to have children. We do plan on having biological children in the future, if God allows. We simply wanted to adopt first because of the great need. In other words, the reason I rejoice over Judah being my son is not because we can’t have children and are therefore trying to get one any way that we can. I have no problem with people who adopt because they can’t have children biologically. But that’s not our reason for this particular adoption.

  17. Where is his mother? What happened with his family? I tried to find something about his family or his mother in your blog but havent been able to. You keep talking about God making this all possible for you to have a child.

    Have you written anything about his family? I am always wanting to know about the child’s familiy of origin.

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