Visit to Hollywood Studios

Friday, December 30, 2011

We enjoyed a magical day at the Hollywood Studios Theme Park even though the place was packed out with holiday visitors. For me, I love the Disney Parks and the incredible attention they place on details. And, I love to see my kids enjoy the thrills and rides of the parks. Its always good to feel like a kid again!

One of my favorite parts of this years visit was seeing the elaborate Christmas decorations. Amazing! Way over the top amazing stuff.

While at the park I managed to video our family riding the Tower of Terror. It's a crazy ride but we loved it! What is your favorite theme park ride?

The Heart of Christmas - Matthew West

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from THP!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Wally Show in the Morning!

Friday, December 16, 2011

My family loves listening to Way FM here in Nashville and we especially appreciate The Wally show each morning. Wally is upfront, practical, and hilarious. He lives his faith out loud.

This week The Wally show helped me get my focus back on the true meaning of Christmas. It’s been a tough month for me. My dad passed away on the 28th of November and the grieving process has been a challenge.

Thank you Wally and the staff of Way FM for your ministry and impact to my family, Nashville, and the world.

Here’s my favorite episode from this past week.

A Tribute to my dad Ron Wilson

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My dad passed away on Monday, November 28th after a 5-month battle with cancer. He was so much more than just a best friend.

I have walked down difficult roads with people and families for the past twenty years. I have been there when their loved ones passed away. I have conducted countless funerals. But, I have once again, learned that until you personally experience the kind of loss they have experienced, then you just don’t get it. You can’t. Through this painful journey, God has again given me new perspective.

This morning, I'm so thankful for my friends, family and faith in Christ. I'm simply not sure how people can face these kind of difficult times without a personal relationship with Jesus.

Here's the tribute video I made for dads service.

It's not the Critic who counts...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I came across this quote today thanks to Shaun King who posted it on his blog. It's a powerful quote - inspirational - and challenging. I plan to refer to this one frequently!

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

-President Theodore Roosevelt

New Technology Can Be Dangerous and Hilarious

Saturday, September 17, 2011

New technology can be dangerous and hilarious.

I couldn't help but chuckle at this video. And yes, I've had my own struggle with new technology at least once or twice. I do love the fact that this dear couple is trying to learn. I also love that they were bold enough to post the video on YouTube!

Klaire sings Justin Bieber's song "Baby!"

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Yesterday afternoon Klaire (our 5 year old daughter) took my iphone 4 and record herself singing a few of her favorite Justin Bieber songs. In this video she's singing "Baby" while using my favorite flashlight as her microphone. Klaire wants to be a rockstar when she grows up - just in case you hadn't figured it out.

2010 Visit to NYC and the World Trade Center

Monday, September 12, 2011

In May of last year Julie and I visited New York City. Here's a video of our experience including a visit to the site of the World Trade Center. It was an overwhelming experience to visit the site and the memorial that was there at the time. May God bring healing to those who lost so much and may our country grow stronger as we continue to stand for liberty around the world. God bless the USA!

Happy Gotcha Day!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Today we celebrate 5 years since Klaires "Gotcha" Day. Here's a video of our special moment.

Stepping Out On Faith

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Five years ago today we boarded a flight from St. Louis, Missouri bound for Beijing, China. After 20 months of planning, filling out paperwork, praying, and fundraising, we were on our way to bring our 10 month-old adopted daughter home.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years! Karlee was 13 years old and Kassidy was only 8! And now, that tiny step of faith toward adoption has been one of the most rewarding steps of our lives.

Here’s a link to our adoption story; Our adoption story


Saturday, August 27, 2011

I sat down to pay bills and figure out the funds that need to go into our “envelope system (see Dave Ramsey) this morning. And, I found an extra envelope tucked in our usual batch. This new envelope is the one in the picture. It simply reads, “Klaire.”

That’s right, now we have envelopes that read; Grocery, Eat Out, Fuel, Miscellaneous, and KLAIRE. That girl is smart!

Klaire is our youngest daughter (5 years old) and just started Kindergarten. She loves school and learning. I’ve included a few pictures from her first day at school as well. One of the pictures features her teacher Mrs. Tant.

I would have posted pictures of Kassidy’s first day of 8th grade but she nearly killed me when I pulled out my iPhone to take the shot. And, I would post pictures of Karlee's first day of college but it still makes me cry to just think about it.

Julie and I are truly blessed to have three amazing daughters.

Facing the Storms of Life

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sometimes life becomes difficult and other times its smooth sailing. Well, I have recently found myself in the midst of some pretty crazy storms!

All in about a one-month time period the following (and some I just won’t mention) have happened to come upon my family and me.

· My dad was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer

· My grandmother (my dad’s mom) passed away

· One of my mentors and dear friends passed away

· One of my good friends wife was diagnosed with incurable cancer

· My oldest daughter moved two hours away to start college

· My middle daughter started 8th grade in a new school

· My youngest daughter started Kindergarten

· An old back injury raised its ugly head and may require surgery to repair

· My wife’s grandmother fell breaking a her hip and wrist which required surgery

I’m not writing about this to have my own pity-party or to make you will feel sorry for me. Everyone has difficult days and I realize many people have much more going on in their lives than I do. I’m also not writing because I have it all figured out. I don’t.

I writing because I thought it might help someone else who is going through a difficult time. I’ve seen far too many friends drop off the deep end during a mid-life crisis or over some tough season of life. I don’t want to be one of those guys. So, here are some things I’m doing to work through the junk that is going on in my life.

1. Stop – realize what is going on.

It’s important to stay positive in life but there are times when we should stop and realize what we are facing just aren’t normal. One of the first steps to finding your way out of a wilderness is to stop and take account of the situation. Then you can determine a marker and set a direction for moving forward. It’s one thing to face one difficult situation in life but it’s completely different to face several all at once.

2. Talk to someone

I have to admit this isn’t easy for most men. I don’t necessarily like it. Talking with a godly person helps us be accountable to someone else and we are more likely to be honest with ourselves. I actually recommend finding two or three people that you can lean on during difficult seasons. Express what you are going through. Allow them to speak into the situation and to cover you in prayer. And, just so you know – I’m assuming you are already communicating these things with your spouse. Also, I always recommend that men find godly men to share with and women find godly women.

3. Pray and journal

Prayer is vital to our growth and walk with Christ. This is important in good and bad times. Journaling is simply another way for me to express my feelings in writing and seems to help me think more clearly about what is actually taking place. I write out my thoughts, create a prayer list, and sometimes write out things that I’m thankful for. This process can also help build your faith as you see God answer prayers and carry you through those difficult times.

4. Worship

I like to begin my day with worship. This helps me focus on God’s greatness, grace, mercy, and love. I usually have several worship songs on my iPhone that I love to listen to in the morning. Worship is the opposite of worry. I read recently that someone said, “worrying is temporary atheism.” I think we often worry because we have forgotten to worship.

5. Take one day at a time

This one kind of speaks for itself. I love to plan and cast vision. But when going through difficult times I have found it best to focus on the needs at hand for that day and trusting God with the rest.

6. You can’t walk it alone

As believers we were never meant to walk through life alone. We need each other. It’s biblical to help out others and it’s biblical to allow others to encourage, pray, and help you out when the time comes. If you aren’t part of a solid church family then you are missing out and I honestly feel sorry for you.

7. Exercise

Taking a walk, going on a bike ride, or jogging can seriously help clear your head and release a lot of tension. Unfortunately, difficult times often cause us to withdraw and avoid healthy activity. Do everything you can find ways to exercise.

8. Pick a verse

God’s word is powerful and life changing. It encourages, teaches, and guides us. I have found it helpful over the years to find a verse or two that I can focus on when facing challenges. A few weeks ago, God led me to the following:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

The fact is storms will come. God never promised us an easy, carefree life. How we handle the storms is critical. Sometimes it’s the storms that actually make us stronger and help to develop a closer walk with Christ, family, and friends.

So, how do you deal with the storms of life?

A Sweet-bitter-Sweet day.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Yesterday, we took our oldest daughter Karlee to the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. It was a sweet-bitter-sweet day. Yes, I realize I have that last sentence out of sorts but that is the order it hit me. You see, I did pretty well with my oldest going off to college. We have been slowly letting her out of the nest for years. She has been to camps, leadership conferences, school trips, and even a mission trip to France. I’m so proud of my daughter and the woman she has become and continues to grow into.

So, I had somehow managed to focus on all the “sweet” things about her going to college. And then…we walked out of her dorm and drove the car out of the city. It was somewhere along I-24 that this huge lump swelled up in my throat.

Suddenly, 18 years of our life together as a family, of my time with my first born from the moment I stood in the delivery room and watched her enter this world to the time she walked the stage and received her High school diploma – all of this flashed across my mind. And I wept. The taste of bitterness washed through my mouth and I could barely swallow it. My little girl, my baby, my first-born was now out on her own. I wept more. This stinks. Then this thought actually came to my mind, “if I would have known how hard this was then I would have never had children!” The pain was that deep. (I know, crazy thought, hang with me.)

Somewhere along our journey along I-24 I glanced out on the horizon and noticed the beautiful rolling hills of Tennessee. And it was at this point that I felt God’s peace come over me. It was if the Holy Spirit was whispering in my ear, “Joe, you see these mountains, I made them, I created all of this and I’m quite capable of watching over your little girl.”

I was then back to “sweetness.” And, I realized how crazy and self-centered my earlier thought of not having children was. Yes, having children can be painful in many ways. But the blessings of being a dad far out way them all. I’m blessed! I have to stop now – that lump in my throat is back.

“For we live by faith, not by sight.” I Corinthians 5:7

Providence and Creative Titles

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The other day I was driving back from a dear friends funeral in Missouri and decided to listen to a Matt Chandler sermon on my iphone. I typically never travel alone but made an exception for this trip so that I could have some time to think, pray, and listen. I always have podcasts ready on my phone. I have found that I need time each week to be inspired by others and so I download messages from Steven Furtick, Perry Noble, Andy Stanley, Rick Warren, Francis Chan, Matt Chandler, and others. I want to be inspired, I want to grow, I want to be stretched, so I listen.

The funeral of my dear friend was hard on me – I’ll write more about that soon. I also had just been to the funeral of my grandmother the week before. Death, dying, pain, suffering, heaven, hell – were all topics on my brain. Sometimes the difficulties in life cause us to re-examine the hard truths we often avoid in life.

I hadn’t listened to Matt Chandler in a while. His ministry has been blessed and he is an incredible teacher/pastor. And, his personal story of facing cancer over the past year or so is flat out amazing. The guy has guts, loves Christ and lives out his faith. That’s the kind of traits I desperately want in my own life.

As I scanned through Matt’s sermon titles – I noticed a 3 part series called “Transitions.” I thought to myself, I’m in a transition period – in my 40’s, our first child is going into college, we just moved to a new community south of Nashville, I’m only 1 year into a new job, my dad was just diagnosed with cancer, and I had just been to the funeral of one of my mentors.

Had I known what Matt’s “Transition” series was really about – I probably wouldn’t have listened. It wasn’t the kind of transition I had in mind. It was solid biblical truth hitting me straight where my heart was torn open. What was it about? Well, I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

I'm thankful for Providence and God leading me to these messages. I'm also thankful for the creativity at The Village Church (Matt's church). Sometimes creative titles really do make a difference. I highly recommend this powerful 3 part series. One thing for sure, this is one transition no one will avoid.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Being thankful for trials and difficulties isn’t always easy. But the truth is, God’s blessings sometimes come through hard times or even tragedies. James writes about this in chapter 1:2-4;

2 Count it all joy, my brothers,t when you meet trials of various kinds,3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

The verse I often struggle with is #4 where James tells us to “let” the tough times do the work in us. I’m not good at “letting” – I want to fix things or I want God to fix things and the sooner the better. To “let,” is hard. It takes patience and a willingness to allow God to work things out for our good.

Recently, the song Blessings by Laura Story has been one of our families favorites. I love the words and the truth found in her song.

How are you doing with the “let?”

Joplin Relief Effort

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Last week I loaded up the car and headed to Joplin, Missouri with my friend Bob Anistario. We were going to meet up with several groups of people helping in the relief effort following the devastating tornado of May 22nd. Those groups included;
*Dallas County Disaster Relief Unit
*Bridge Builders
*Arms of Compassion a Ministry of Oklahoma Free Will Baptist
*Illinois Master's Men Disaster Relief Unit

I was representing The Hanna Project and we were able to connect with our own field worker Jennifer Stogsdill who lives in Joplin and several other volunteers from MO, OK, and IL.

It was an unforgettable 4 days of hard work and service. And yet, I am so thankful we were able to go and serve.

I have posted multiple pictures and videos on my facebook, twitter, and flicker accounts. Please be in prayer for those who have been affected by these horrific storms in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, and Missouri. There is never a shortage of disasters and each one is an opportunity for each of us to respond and help. I hope you will get involved in helping others somewhere in the world.

The following video was created by Carlos Whitteaker who attends Cross Point Church in Nashville. He does a great job capturing the devastation as well as the hope that the many organizations and churches brought to the people of Joplin.

Erasing Hell by Francis Chan

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Wow! Francis is an amazing communicator and a man that lives out what he truly believes. Powerful stuff!

Best Marriage Proposal Ever! Could be.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I love creativity and when it comes to marriage proposals I'd have to give this guy a top rating. As a daddy of three daughters, I especially love the part of getting the fathers permission.

Dear Karlee...

Monday, May 16, 2011

One of the things our church does for graduating seniors is host a special banquet in their honor. At this banquet, parents were asked to read a letter written to their son/daughter. I have to say this wasn't an easy assignment. I choked up and started crying after writing "Dear Karlee!" And yet, I'm glad we were asked to do the assignment.

This is our letter I read to Karlee at the banquet.

Dear Karlee,

As we sit down to write this letter we are overcome with the speed of time and how fast the past 17 years has gone by. It’s one of those things that people try to warn you about but until you’ve actually lived through it you just can’t comprehend. Now, we get it. Seventeen years is now flashing through our minds faster than the speed of light. It is hard to summarize the past 17+ years in a letter. It seems like yesterday, we were at Pheobe Putney Hospital in Albany, Georgia welcoming you into this world- it took awhile to get you here but finally you decided to make an entrance on your own time. We remember your baby dedication ceremony and the way you screamed over the pastor’s sermon and prayer- stealing the spotlight. We remember our move across the country to Oklahoma, your first trip to the hospital with Asthma- 6 breathing treatments in the ER and then you were climbing out of your crib and running down the hall! Also your concussion by trying to stand on your daddy’s basketball in the living room, your first trip to the principals office to get paddled in K-3 for going into the boy’s bathroom and then your second trip in K-4 for running away from the teacher in the parking lot-not so proud moments there. We were so proud when you won the Miss Footprints award in 8th grade when told that no one has ever won this if you are not from Lebanon. You have helped make so many fun Christmas celebrations, yearly family vacations, church camp experiences, and mission trips. It was such a privilege to have your dad baptize you here at TDF.

We want you to know that no father or mother could be prouder of their daughter than we are of you. God has blessed us beyond measure in giving us the priviledge of being your mom and dad. Your bubbly personality is contagious. You have a beautiful smile that brightens a room when you walk in. We thank God each day for you! We know that we have moved many times in your life to different states and churches and you have ALWAYS been so willing to go where God was leading us! We remember when we felt God leading us to move back here to Nashville and it was the end of your sophomore year. You had just been elected Junior Class President and was ready to start planning the prom for next year.....we asked you if you were ok with the move. Your answer was...if this is where God is leading you and our family then I know that God has great things in store for us and who am I to argue with that. We knew then that God was first priority in your life and He had great things in store for you!

Your humor and sweet personality is such an asset to our family! You always make us laugh by being so goofy sometimes! That is what we love about you- you can find the humor in so many things! We love that you are willing to try new things and are not afraid to take chances- such as playing in the pit for the band at DCA when you had never done that before! You were great! :) Also, going to a new school your junior year and making lifetime friends!

Karlee, you have always been and always will be a blessing to us! Our hope and prayer for you is that you always let God lead you in all your decisions throughout your lifetime and put Him first in all you do! We dedicated you to the Lord 17 years ago and we have seen God working and continue working in your life. We are so thankful that God chose us to be your parents! We pray that God will continue to bless you beyond measure in all you do! You make us proud, but more importantly we want you to make our God proud and we know He is so proud of you too!

Our prayer for you is: Ephesians 3:14-20
16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your heart as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

We love you, Karlee more than words can ever say!!!
Mom & Dad

So, I've turned 43!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Yesterday while driving my two youngest daughters to school (an hour commute with traffic) - I had Kassidy write out some of the lessons I have learned in the past 43 years. These are quick - simple- statements. I didn’t spend a lot of time on this - its just what came to my mind as I was driving - the order has no importance.

My intention was this would help inspire my girls as they listened to some of my life lessons. And, I hope some of these might inspire you today as well. I can’t take credit for all of these sayings - many of them are from friends, pastors, books I have read, etc.

Here we go;

1.) Get over it's not about you.

2.) You get good friends by being a good friend.

3.) Gods word is true and the perfect road map to life.

4.) Forgive quickly and often.

5.) Little choices often have huge consequences.

6.) Consequences affect not only you but those who know and love you.

6.) Prayer is about a relationship with Christ. You build a relationship by talking and listening.

7.) Learn to love and serve others - especially those less fortunate.

8.) Be in awe of God often - your “up look” determines your “out look.”

9.) Be a giver.

10.) Go for it, think outside the box.

11.) Life is short eternity is forever so live each day like it is your last.

12.) Learn to love to read.

13.) Eat right, exercise, and take power naps daily.

14.) Not everyone will like or appreciate you and that's okay.

15.) Attitude is a choice.

16.) Honesty is crucial in all things.

What would you add to the list?

Take Time to Consider What Great Things God Has Done.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I came across this crazy video this morning of a lady using her cell phone to video tape a couple of trucks driving down the road when all of a sudden one of the trucks hits a 2x4 which propels it through her windshield! CRAZY! I would have screamed and soiled my pants! The drivers name is Wendy Cobb and you can read her story here.

Wendy’s video got me thinking about all the close calls I’ve had in life and the fact that life itself is a blessing. Actually, when I think about it, God has blessed my beyond measure!

One of the things I’ve learned (and am still learning) over the years is the importance of counting my blessings. This is a great faith exercise. Sometimes I will even make a list of the things I’m thankful for today. Samuel reminded the people to do this same thing in 1 Samuel 12:24:
“But be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you.”

It’s easy to be negative - to point out the wrong - to get discouraged. But, when we stop to consider all God has done it changes things. I heard a pastor say, “your uplook changes you outlook.” I agree.

So, what are you thankful for today? Have you every made a list of the amazing things God has done in your life?

Trail Riding

Monday, April 4, 2011

Saturday was the opening day of turkey hunting here in Tennessee. Up to this point I had only turkey hunted in Missouri - one of the best turkey hunting states in the nation. Finding a spot to hunt around Nashville has proved to be a challenge. But, I did find one friend who allowed me and my brother to do some hunting on their property in Cheatham County. It’s basically 1,600 acres of beautiful rolling hills and woods that run along the Harpeth River.

Needless to say, we didn’t see or hear a turkey. But we had a blast driving the logging roads in my brothers jeep. Here are some pics of our trail riding experience. Hopefully the next hunting trip will also allow us to bring home some wild turkey meat!


Thursday, March 24, 2011

To say the last two years have been a stretch for our family may be a huge understatement. About two years ago I left the church I had pastored for 6 1/2 years to work with International Missions in Nashville, Tn as a program director. We pulled up our roots, packed up our belongings, put our home on the market, and made the leap to the music city.

This meant a new school for our girls, transitioning our ministry, a new teaching position for Julie, and renting a home until the Missouri house sold. As I look back, it’s so obvious how God opened doors and carried our family through those times of transition.

God provided Julie with a great teaching job in the Nashville Public School system. The girls transitioned back to Donelson Christian Academy and quickly made new friends. After living several months with family then in some friends basement we found a wonderful place to rent. We began to attend our former church The Donelson Fellowship where I served as Minister of Adults for five years. The campaign I worked with went well and after its completion I was able to transition into another position with The Hanna Project. Huge blessings.

And, the transitions continue - and yes, He is with us each step of the way.

Here we are, two years later, and we are moving again. This time its because we have found a home to purchase just south of Nashville in the town of Nolensville. As you can well imagine, we are pretty excited about unpacking our boxes, many of which have stayed packed up for the last two years. We are so thankful our home in Missouri sold and that we were able to find a new place to call home.

Karlee is graduating from High School in a couple of months and praying about which college to attend.

Kassidy and Klaire will once again be moving to a new school system next year. Not so easy for Kassidy as she will be entering her 8th grade year with all new friends.

I have to be honest and say that I’m hoping we can get moved and settled over the next few months. And yet, part of me understands that I’m learning life is full of continual transitions. God never promised things would be easy. And, as challenging as we may think our lives have been over the past couple of years - it’s nothing compared to what some people are facing today in Japan, Africa, or countless other parts of the world.

As I was praying through things this morning, God led me to a devotional written by Rick Warren. He used the following passage as his focus;

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 2 Corinthians 3:5 (NIV)

The title of his devotion was God Can Even Though I Can’t. Again a great lesson for me today. Here are two quotes by Rick that I liked;

“The only way you will fulfill God’s destiny for you this decade is to rely on God’s strength. And that means you have to confess ‘I can’t’ before you can agree ‘God can.”

"God wants you to start taking steps toward your destiny. Ask him to teach you to hear his voice and then believe that he will guide you through the decisions and details of your life."

Life is full of transitions and change. Each day is a gift and an incredible opportunity for us to continually learn to follow Christ and to lean upon Him for our strength.

What are some transitions you have been going through and what have you been learning as you go through them?

Amazing perspective from Japan - Shocks, Aftershocks, and Meltdowns

Friday, March 18, 2011

Please take a moment to read this amazing perspective from a missionary family serving in Japan. Then, take the time to pray and please consider giving to help their efforts.

Here's a direct link to Ruth's blog. ruthnasia

Shocks, Aftershocks, and Meltdowns

Six full days have passed since the earthquake and tsunami, and I think I've done fairly well until today. I guess a meltdown was bound to happen sooner or later.

In the past week, life as my family and I have experienced it for the past 25 years in Japan has become almost unrecognizable. We've always joked about not being "real missionaries" because of all the conveniences, electronic gadgets, and luxuries that are available to us. One of our favorite pastimes as students in language school was to try to come up with things to complain about -- it was hard!

With a suddenness that leaves us dazed, we have (like the Velveteen Rabbit) finally become real! Blackouts, aftershocks, alarms and sirens. Grocery stores with no food, gas stations with no gas, trains parked at the station. School closed until further notice because of power shortages and unreliable train service.

Our family of 4 decided to treat it like one big adventure. We got out our bicycles, candles, flashlights, and emergency backs. We cuddled around our pre-charged laptop and watched episodes of "Castle" during our scheduled blackout time. We made stupid and probably inappropriate jokes whenever possible. "All over baby, whole lot of shakin' goin' on"... "Ewww Dad!! I thought you said you didn't have any gas!"

The truth is we were trying to keep things as chill as possible for the sake of our girls. The images coming to us on the news were too horrific to comprehend. At some point we realized that watching the coverage continually couldn't be a positive thing for a 10-year-old. Unfortunately, that point was after she had seen a video clip of the entire town of Minami Sanriku being wiped out and fleeing people being swept out to sea while their neighbors watched, screaming "Run faster! Hurry! Just a little further!"

We learned that our favorite vacation spot near Sendai was destroyed by the tsunami. Our hearts bled for the people of that quaint little seaside town and the loss of the most perfect place we've ever found on earth. "That was my happy place," said one of our daughters. "That was the only thing in my life that I thought would never change!"

Did you know that after experiencing earthquakes and aftershocks every few minutes for several days, you start to imagine things? Every truck that goes by and rattles the windows, every gust of wind, every time a family member walks around upstairs, you become convinced it's another quake. As a matter of fact, when you get really still (and scared), even your own heartbeat can make you think you're having a quake!

We took time throughout the day the gather together and pray for God to pour His mercy and compassion on the thousands who were suffering and grieving. And each night, we calmed ourselves and prepared for bed by praying as a family. For two nights in a row, just as we were ready to go to sleep, strong aftershocks sent us scrambling for winter coats and emergency backpacks. So much for a calm and restful night's sleep.

The first two nights after the big quake, we all slept in the living room. It just felt better to be together. Amy, our high schooler, went to her own bed on the third night. Caroline hasn't been willing to sleep in her own room yet. Each time the ground shakes, she needs Mom or Dad to tell her "It's okay... go back to sleep."

Our neighborhood has an "early warning system" which is designed to sound an alarm to give a few critical seconds' notice of a major earthquake. Day before yesterday, we were unnerved 3 times by the alarm and an announcement on the loud speaker saying "Take cover! A big quake is imminent!" The quakes that followed almost immediately weren't really as scary as the alarm itself.

We've been learning and reading that sustained stress affects people in different ways. At times, some of us have been a little snappy. (That might be a bit of an understatement!) Not only have we all been out of our regular routines and kinda on top of each other, but we're all feeling the tension and uncertainty of our situation. One by one, we've done some really weird things to cope. Caroline didn't cry over the graphic images on TV, the scenes of utter destruction, or the deaths of thousands of people. But to hear that her Saturday outing to the amusement park was cancelled caused an emotional meltdown. (A friend shared that her 11-year-old son hadn't cried either until his Lego project fell apart.) With a hundred things needing to be done, I stopped to pick some flowers from the yard and make an arrangement for our supper table. Why? I have no idea. I just needed to make something pretty.

Meanwhile, we were receiving steady updates on the possibility of a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant.

Actually, we all handled that fairly well for the first few days. Our home in Western Tokyo is more than 150 miles away from Fukushima so we felt we had nothing to worry about. Surely they would get the situation under control soon. We prayed many times for the brave workers that remained at the plant despite great personal risk. We prayed, too, for the people who were evacuating and those sheltering in place in a 30 km. radius of the plant.

I said we were handling that fairly well, and that's true. At least until yesterday when we received this emergency alert: "Remaining workers at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant have been evacuated. All efforts to cool the reactors have been abandoned." What?!!! We could all be in serious trouble here! (They've since sent those brave workers back to their posts.)

Then came the Exodus -- no, not THAT one. I'm talking about reports we started getting of foreigners who had decided to "get out of Dodge!" Caroline cried when, one by one, her fifth grade friends emailed her that they were leaving Japan to go home. I couldn't blame them. Most of her friends are from South Korea, a short flight from Tokyo to safety. The French and German embassies moved from Tokyo to Osaka. Then came word from missionaries with other agencies that they were either leaving or had a contingency plan to leave. Around mid-day today, we were informed that the U.S. State Department was evacuating dependents and some personnel. At 4 p.m. President Obama ordered charter planes sent in to aid in the evacuation of private citizens who wanted to leave.

So... the meltdown in Fukushima caused a meltdown in me. I kinda lost it for awhile there. It was my amusement park/Lego moment. I was ready to hit the "eject" button. "Scotty, beam me up!" It wasn't pretty.

But we spent today volunteering at the command center for C.R.A.S.H. (Christian Relief, Assistance, Support, and Hope) My husband Donnie manned the phone lines, inputing data from those calling to volunteer in various parts of Japan. I was drafted for the Media and Press committee. Amy was asked to serve in the area of Emotional Support & Training. She will be able to lend a listening ear to other children and teens who are trying to cope with this crisis.

We learned that supplies are to start arriving by the container-full tomorrow. Base camps are being set up in Sendai and other places near the devastation to distribute supplies as they come in. A million dollars is needed in the next week to get these life-sustaining items to those in desperation. All of the workers are volunteers, most of them missionaries who never expected to be doing this kind of humanitarian work in Japan.

We ended our day at CRASH with a time of worship. "You're the God of this city... You're the King of these people... You're the Lord of creation, you are! Greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city." There were many tears by many frazzled yet faith-filled people.

One of my missionary friends said, "I'm not going anywhere... I gave my life to Japan a long time ago." And I heard myself say to another friend, "We've spent 25 years trying to find the felt needs of the Japanese in order to minister to them. I would hate to have to leave now, when the need is so great."

I don't know what will happen tomorrow or how the drama at the nuclear plant will play out. I may be on a plane out of here at any time. We are very much in prayer that we will have discernment and clear guidance from the Lord. We take very seriously our responsibility to protect and care for our girls. We also take very seriously our calling to the nation of Japan. It's a complex situation we find ourselves in, fraught with layers and layers of things to consider. We will do whatever God tells us to, whether that means staying or leaving. But I don't feel like "melting down" anymore.

It was great to be reminded tonight: "No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me. From life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny."

Help us help Japan

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Hanna Project is currently working with CRASH Japan to bring help, hope, and healing to those in need. Please consider how you, your family, your church, or your community can help.

Helping in Japan

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Helping in Japan
The NGO that I work for, The Hanna Project, is working directly with our field workers in Japan and with a relief organization established in Japan called CRASH. Despite the devastation, this organization is doing incredible work and they need our prayers and financial support. Please consider making a donation to help us impact lives in Japan. Donate Here.

CRASH Mobilizes Volunteers in Japan
Tokyo, Japan – March 14, 2011 – CRASH (Christian Relief, Assistance, Support, and Hope) volunteers in Tokyo are mobilizing to provide aid to victims of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck the northeastern coast of Japan on Friday, March 11, 2011 at 2:46 PM.
The earthquake was the largest in Japan’s recorded history, resulting in a series of tsunami that reached heights of up to 23 feet and caused widespread damage. The Tohoku region was hardest hit in the coastal cities of Sendai and Fukushima, where hundreds are confirmed dead, and thousands are still missing.

CRASH Japan, working closely with JEMA (the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Association), has a large network of experienced volunteers who know the culture and language. CRASH Japan’s 24-hour fundraising goal is $100,000. In the last few years, CRASH leaders have coordinated relief efforts in China, Haiti, Indonesia, New Zealand, and other major disaster areas.

On Monday, March 14th, CRASH sent four survey teams to the Tohoku region by train, car, and motorcycle as early as 12:00 am to assess the damage, find staging grounds, and make contact with local communities to prioritize their needs. Additional survey teams will be sent out later in the week.

Teams are facing a situation that is complex, dynamic, and challenging. Communication has been difficult. Cell phones in Tokyo are overextended, and service is unavailable in affected disaster areas. Gas and electricity are being rationed in Tokyo and are incredibly scarce in disaster areas. According to CRASH hospitality worker Bola Taylor, food provisions are also short: “There were 150 people waiting in line at the grocery store for simple ramen, rice, and toilet paper. The shelves were all empty; it was very unnerving.”

CRASH Japan is using funds to purchase vital equipment, such as satellite phones, printers, computers, and wireless routers. This equipment will be used to facilitate communication between the Tokyo command center and cities where infrastructure has been weakened or destroyed. According to Intel Coordinator David Sedlacek, satellite phones are the most crucial tool in making contact with disaster areas and isolating relief needs.

A vast majority of Japan identifies religiously as either Buddhist or Shinto, or both. Only 1.5% of Japan’s population identifies as Christian, but churches all over the country have volunteered their resources in a coordinated effort with CRASH to offer aid to those who are suffering.
According to JEMA President Dale Little, “CRASH is the second-to-none relief network in Japan. No other agency is able to assess the needs on the ground like CRASH, and then take steps toward meeting those needs. The effectiveness of CRASH includes linking closely with local churches in Japan.”

JEMA Vice-President Ken Taylor also commented, “CRASH held its first strategy meeting today (March 13). Many were in attendance from mission agencies and other interested parties. There is a spirit of cooperation and desire to assist in reaching those in need effectively, relevantly, and spiritually.”

About the disaster, CRASH Japan director Jonathan Wilson made the following statement: "Many of us are wondering how we can best respond to the news of the earthquake and tsunami that have devastated Japan. As the television screens pour out images, we pour out our hearts to the Creator to take care of this great nation.

CRASH Japan, a non-profit established for just a time as this, exists to help victims of disasters. We have experienced people who know the culture and language on the ground ready to assess the situation and take appropriate action. Please consider how YOU might be able to help right now by giving a donation that will “kick start” our Tokyo based disaster relief initiative."

You Have Me

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I love the song “You Have Me” by Gungor.

It’s a great reminder for me to give myself to Christ every day - sometimes several times a day. I am His. Yet, its a constant battle between truly following Him and wanting my own way in things.

24 For whosoever would save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.25 For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose or forfeit his own self? Luke 9


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Priceless With Knowledge Comes Many Things Part II

The other day I wrote about my adoption experience, the things I learned, and the decisions that come with knowledge.

Today is part 2 - and it deals with “Sex Trade” in our world.

I grew up in small town USA - Southern Illinois to be more exact. My dad was a coal miner and my mom a nurse. I had an older brother and younger sister. Life was simple and we rarely left the county let alone the state. I graduated from Bible College in Nashville, Tennessee in 1990 and have lived in three other states. I’ve traveled to Panama, Cuba, France, China, Mexico and across most of USA. But, until recently - like the last couple of years - I had never heard of the sex trade industry - or maybe I just refused to hear about it. I lived in a box and I have to be honest - it was easy to live in that box - maybe easier than having the knowledge I now have. But, remember, with knowledge comes many things.

This past year at Catalyst this topic was highlighted. And, it was brought to light as an issue here in our own country. I’m not sure about you, but for me it was easier to think of something so terrible happening in some third world country on the other side of the planet rather than in our own back yard! But that’s not the truth.

Then, a few weeks ago I won a book from Robin Stanley called Priceless. The book is a novel written by Tom Davis the president and CEO of Children’s HopeChest.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect with this read. I had set a goal of reading one book per month this year and you can’t beat a free book! So I dove in and to my surprise I couldn’t seem to put the book down. I was captured and transported into the lives of those I was reading about.

Being a father of three daughters and an adoptive dad, my heart was crushed as I turned the pages and imagined this unbelievable social injustice that is taking place in the lives of so many innocent little girls. As hard as I tried not to, I couldn’t help but imagine my own little girls facing such despicable and inhuman treatment. As I continued to turn the pages I traveled across a plethora of emotions from anger, deep sadness, hope, fear, excitement, and shame.

Even though this is a fictional account the author estimates at least 80% of the book is based on truth in his research. It’s hard for me to imagine and even harder for me to accept.

I’m thankful for Tom’s gift of writing and his heart for orphans. I encourage you to read his book and consider how you can get involved in helping make a difference in the lives of orphans.

Here are some helpful links.

Children’s HopeChest


Not For Sale

International Justice Mission

Stop Child Trafficking Now

With Knowledge Comes Many Things

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Four years ago my wife and I along with our two daughters boarded a plane bound for China. It had literally been twenty-four months in the planning. God had spoke to us about orphans and adoption. And, after all the praying, planning, fund-raising, crying, and more praying, we were on thirteen hour journey to the other side of the world.

I thought I knew a lot about orphans and adoption. But I was wrong. The truth is I had read some about the topic. I had talked with people who had been adopted or adopted. But I only understood things from the surface.

That journey four years ago changed me and my family. As we literally opened our arms, eyes, and hearts to a little girl with dark brown eyes and black hair, God began to reveal Himself to us in so many new ways.

Part of that sixteen day experience in China led me and three other dads on a one day journey into the deep south to see our daughters orphanage. We were the very first Westerners allowed to visit this new site. It was an amazing trip and I could go on and on about all we experienced. That’s another blog post.

For me, that day was the first time I had ever stepped into an orphanage. The vivid memories make it extremely difficult for me to write or talk about even four years later. The tears are flowing even now as I type this blog. I saw first hand the babies, the cribs, the toys, the incredible nanny’s that cared for the children. And I saw the faces - faces of little boys and girls that I so desperately wanted to bring home but couldn’t. I felt helpless and that feeling still haunts me at times today.

You see, with knowledge comes many things. With knowledge you can take action or still refuse to get involved. With knowledge comes accountability or the ability to run from the truth that you now know.

For me, I thought I knew about orphans and God’s call to care for them. But until I stepped out on faith, followed His call to the other side of the world, and brought this precious little girl into our family, I had no idea.

Now, I know adoption is not for everyone- I’m saying that at all. But God’s word is clear that true religion does include a call to impact the lives of orphans.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27 ESV
With knowledge comes many things - I hope for you it’s means the opportunity to help make a difference in caring for orphans - maybe through adoption - maybe through helping support someone else who is led to adopt - maybe through visiting an orphanage here in the states or on the other side of the world and volunteering your time to impact lives. I can tell you this from personal experience, you won’t regret it!