5 Reasons the flu made me thankful

I have been sitting in the same bed for basically the last 26 hours and will likely be staying in it another 36 hours because I have the flu.  God has been very gracious to me in that my symptoms have not been nearly as severe as they could have been.  But even more than that He has graciously reminded me of a few things that I can be thankful for.

  1. I am thankful to have friends that let me stay at their house so that my family doesn’t get further contaminated by me. – Not only did they offer their home, they have been wonderful hosts.  Provided me dinner, bottles of water, and snacks as well.
  2. I am thankful to have a job that I am disappointed to miss a day in the office.  – You see I really do love my job and who I work with so it is a bummer when I can’t be there.
  3. I am thankful to have a family that I miss when I am not with them.  – Gloria and the kids bring great delight to my day every single day.  Being away from them is always difficult.
  4. I am thankful to have medicine that helps relieve pain, reduce symptoms, and minimize discomfort. – God uniquely gave men and women knowledge and abilities to create medicine, doctors to know how to determine you are sick, and pharmacists to get you the right amount.
  5. I am thankful to have a God (the only one) who is faithful to remind me of all that He has provided me to be thankful for!

10 tips for kids at Christmas

Gifts, visits from family, fun TV shows, special movies, tasty cookies, new toys, games, parties at school, parties at church, Christmas songs are all things that kids (and adults) think about at Christmas.  And honestly, those things aren’t bad, but, it is not the most important part.  Christmas is a time when we celebrate the coming of the Savior – Jesus.

I am thankful for parents who taught me the truth about Christmas.  I am equally thankful for a wife who keeps that truth in front of our kids during such a significant time of year.

Here are some ways you can help your kids learn and remember the truth of Christmas.

  1. Toy manger scene – When the kids are young let them play with a toy manger scene.  Use it to help them get used to the characters and their names.
  2. Daily countdown  – There are lots of different ways to help kids do a countdown.  But help them get excited, not about the arrival of presents in an enlarged sock, but the celebration of the arrival of the Christ.
  3. Daily advent – There are several resources that can be used for this.  (for additional free resources look to radical.net or lifeway.com)
  4. Toy purge – Empty out those toy boxes, shelves, cabinets, and closets and donate the toys and stuff to a place like goodwill.  This will remind your kids how much stuff they have already.  Remind them that while gifts are fun the gifts are just a part of the celebration.
  5. Baking – Kids love helping bake cookies, brownies, or even those “no-bake” type treats.  Let them do this to give to neighbors and friends.  Use it as a way to share the love of Christ with others as well.
  6. Limited gifts – Don’t go overboard with what you give your kids.  It is so easy to do, but don’t feel like you are a bad parent if you don’t get them everything on their list.  Help them see that it is not with more stuff that they will be satisfied.
  7. Hospital visits – If possible, take them to the local hospital to deliver candy canes etc.  You can also do this at a nursing home.  This will remind them that Christmas is difficult for some people.
  8. Caroling – Singing the truths of Christmas is always a great way to remember them.  Join together with friends and family and sing those songs at other houses or those same nursing homes or hospitals.
  9. Decorating – Make sure that your decorations include manger scenes etc.  It will help your kids regularly see the meaning of Christmas.
  10. Read the story – Make sure they hear the story of Christmas!

Ways to Increase Intimacy with God

Some of us, as believers, struggle with the idea of growing closer to God.  To be honest, from conversations I have with some believers, it’s that they just don’t know how to increase their intimacy with God.  While others simply don’t realize that they are missing something if they are not intimate with Him.  They called on Him for salvation, they try to obey His commands, but they don’t live their lives in deep relationship with Him.  The following steps can be taken to increase your intimacy with God.

  1. Confirm your salvation.  Evaluate your life and the fruit of it and make sure that you are actually a follower of Christ and not just going through the motions.
  2. Consider your church.  Make sure you are attending a Bible-believing, God-glorifying, Christ-exalting church. Now, make it a habit to stay plugged in and miss as seldom as possible.
  3. Cast your cares.  (1 Peter 5:7) Make prayer a vital part of your life.  Remember this is the way that Scripture dictates that we communicate with God.  Communication is key for any healthy relationship.
  4. Contemplate the Scripture.  Read it, study it, meditate on it, and memorize it.  Remember, the Bible is breathed out by God and is useful for believers (2 Timothy 3:16).
  5. Count your blessings.  As you evaluate your daily life realize how many gifts have been give to you by God and remember that every good gift is from Him (James 1:17).

A new journey- Fostering

What does fostering mean?

This past weekend our family began a new journey.  We officially entered into the world of fostering.  We have been certified as a foster family for 9 or 10 months now, we just received our first placement this weekend.

We received a call Friday evening and a short 4 hours later K-Man (that’s not his name but that’s what we will call him on here) arrived at our house.  The little guy, 2 years old, was tired and afraid as he arrived.  After about an hour of helping him settle down he went to sleep and Gloria and I quietly starred at each other as if to say, “here we go, let’s do this.”  The next 24 hours were incredibly hectic as we had to get him clothes, hygiene items, shoes, and even make a doctor visit.  Through it all our kids did a great job of loving on and caring for K-Man.  In fact, he did quite well himself.

Some of you might not be aware of the foster care system but let me tell you that there are essentially three ways in which fostering works.  One way is to foster only.  This means that there are foster parents that offer their home during the in between time.  The time while the state has custody of a child for any myriad of reasons.  During this fostering period, the foster only parents have no intentions of adopting but simply to be an aide during this difficult time in the child’s life.  There is a great need for more people to fill in this role.  On the other end of the spectrum there are those that are Adoption only.  This means that they are only wanting to have a child placed in their home that is eligible for adoption.  In many cases, the child might leave a “foster-only” house to go to an “adopt-only” house.  We, however, are on the foster to adopt list.  What this means is that we are willing to foster a child with a willingness to adopt them.  They may be in our home for just a short time and then be able to go back to stay with their family.  Or they may end up needing to be adopted and if so, we would take the steps necessary to bring this about.

We consider it a great privilege to help care for this little boy during this challenging time in his life.  We do not know very much about his background and we do not have to right now.  We simply know that we are responsible to love him and care for him as long as he is with us.  Gloria and I want to thank you already for your prayers for our family as we adjust to this new situation.  Please also pray for K-Man as he adjusts to us crazy Hunsbergers.  In addition, please pray for his parents who are certainly struggling in some manner during this time.  Pray that God would use this as an opportunity to display the love of Christ to K-Man and his parents.

Lottie Update

This week God has gently reminded me, once again, that He is in control and that He is God and I am not.  I completed reading the profound autobiography of Stephen Curtis Chapman this week.  In his book, Chapman writes very honestly about the pain and suffering that has taken place in his life.  He speaks of heartache that was brought about by sin in his and others lives.  But he also speaks candidly about the pain and suffering that took place because of unexplainable tragedy.

While reading this book I was brought to a great place of surrender, once again, as I was reminded that as Lottie was in the surgery room, essentially losing her ability to walk, God was not sitting idly by wishing he could do something different.  He was not timidly wanting for his turn to intervene and it never came.  Instead, God, the creator and sustainer of all life, was holding her hand and gently comforting her mind as she went through such trauma.  He, the King of kings and Lord of lords, was carefully loving Gloria and I as we sat in the waiting room.  God, the beginning and the end, was ushering us in to an entirely new way of feeling His presence.

I will say, honestly, that I would have rather not known this sort of pain.  More than that, I would rather my wife and my child not have this sort of pain.  But nonetheless, if we are going to feel this sort of loss, I am eternally grateful that we get to feel this sort of joy within the sorrow.  That, somehow, we get to feel the comfort during the sadness.

A few days ago, we took Lottie to Birmingham to have a yearly checkup at a specialty clinic in which she saw 4 different specialists in a few short hours.  During this visit, we were given the prognosis (that we expected) that the function Lottie has in her legs is likely to be as good as it gets.  When we heard this news, I was amazed at how well we all seemed to take it.  I guess we all already knew this to be the reality.  I am very thankful that God provided us grace in being able to handle this truth with strength and perseverance in mind.  Lottie will certainly continue to be the bravest girl I know and will undoubtedly demonstrate tenacity at its best as she conquers the wheelchair and any other scenarios life throws her way.

However, I began to feel a little sad.  You see, I know that there have been people all around the world (literally) praying for healing in Lottie’s legs.  I so wanted Lottie to be a demonstration of the faithfulness of God in hearing His people cry out for healing.  But, throughout this week, as I spent some time alone with God, and as I read the autobiography it was as though God was saying to me, “I am displaying my faithfulness as I hear my people cry out on your behalf.  I’m just not doing it the way you want, in the time you want.”  So, with that truth in mind, I am resting in His sovereign hand to perfectly control what is best for Lottie and Gloria and myself and my other kids.  I am more confident than I have ever been that God is using and will use Lottie and her story to be a constant and consistent display of the faithfulness of God.

Pray that God receives great glory as His faithfulness is shown.  Pray that Lottie sees the hand of God in her life.  Pray that Gloria and I cling to these truths as we march through new territory each day.  Pray for Abigail and Luke as they take care and protect each other during this time.  Praise God for His richest blessings, knowing that every good and perfect gift is from Him!

6 Things I Learned From My Dad

My Dad is one of the best men I know.  I realize that many of you do not have an earthly Father that cared for you well or showed and shared a love for you and for that I am truly sorry.  However, God graced me by placing me under the unique leadership of my Dad.  Here are some of the things that Dad has taught me best!

  1. How to love my wife.  Since my childhood, I have watched my Dad love my Mom selflessly and tirelessly.  He often writes her love notes and finds ways to adorn her with special gifts.
  2. How to love my kids.  Dad always looked for ways to connect with his kids.  Sometimes that was challenging because our likes were not the same as his, but he looked for ways to play, watch, and enjoy life together.  He also gave up his own wishes to provide the things in life that we wanted.
  3. How to work hard.  There is no doubt Dad has always been a hard worker.  He is dedicated to the ministry that is given to his charge and always goes above and beyond.
  4. How to invest in others.  Dad has always had a group of men that he is particularly caring for.  Whether he is leading them in singing, riding in a dogsled, or hiking Kilimanjaro, he is always looking for ways to invest in them.
  5. How to love the nations.  Even before it was popular to take short-term mission trips my Dad was leading teams around the world.  When I was 5 years old my Dad took my family, along with a large group of single adults, from Charlotte, N.C. all the way to northern New York state and even crossed into Canada.  This instilled a love for the nations for me and the rest of my family.
  6. How to love the Lord.  My Dad has done all these things well because he loves the Lord well.  He is devoted to quality time in the Word and significant time in prayer.

What are some of the things you learned from your Dad?

5 Reasons Small Groups Matter

It doesn’t matter if you call it “small groups,” “life groups,” “home groups,” “community groups,” “Sunday School,” or any other myriad of names.  What matters is that your church has them.  Here are 5 reasons that small groups matter.

  1. They provide opportunity for stronger relationships.  Small groups allow for people to get to know each other better than simply sitting next to them in a large sanctuary.  They give a chance for more and better conversations.
  2. They provide opportunity for deeper study.  Typically the lessons are heavier on the application but they often allow for more personalized interaction in fuller conversation regarding the topic.
  3. They provide opportunity for more in depth prayer requests.  Usually small groups give time for more specific prayer requests that allow someone to not only be prayed for but also to be followed up with.
  4. They provide opportunity for more specific service projects.  As a result of deeper relationships and more in depth prayer requests more specific service projects can be developed and carried out.  These points of ministry can be extremely helpful to those within the group.
  5. They provide opportunity for initial introductions.  The fear of a large group can often be intimidating for a first time guest to attempt a visit in a sanctuary.  However,  a small group provides a more casual and comfortable atmosphere for a first time guest.

If you aren’t in a small group at your church, find one and give it a try!

God’s Perfect Plan

Tonight I once again sit at the bedside of my daughter at the hospital.  This time, like all the others, we are trusting in God for His perfect plan to be unfolded.  I sit here, not in a tizzy, not worried about the outcome, but instead confident in what God has in store.

As an update: Lottie has recently been having strong abdominal pain.  This has brought about a few different doctor visits, finally resulting in a hospital stay to rule out anything major.  The surgeons seem quite confident that all of her organs are in healthy condition and do not believe that they will need to correct this issue surgically but instead will be working to bring about the best result with the use of medicine.

Back to God’s perfect plan…my good friend, Jeff Jones, called tonight to get an update on the situation and to have a prayer with me.  During his prayer he praised God for having the ability to heal Lottie and displayed confidence that there are no question marks with God.  This prayer was a great reminder of to me of the three A’s of God.

  1. God has complete AUTHORITY. – He reigns over all.  He is sovereign King.  Remember that all authority on heaven and on earth is His.
  2. God has total ABILITY. – He has power over nature. He has power over people.  He has power over demons.  He has power over death itself.  Remember that He wields His power in His timing for His purposes.
  3. God has ultimate ALTRUISM. – He loves His creations. He loves His children.  Remember that God so loved the world that He gave His only son.

With that in mind it is much easier for me to sit at the hospital bedside of Lottie knowing that the one true God, who hears and answers our prayers, has complete authority, total ability, and ultimate altruism.  As a result, He will use His sovereign power to display His love for His people in a way that brings about His greatest glory.  May we all find greater rest in these truths.

Children are a gift?

I have three children.  Abigail, Luke, and Lottie are their names and they all carry very unique characteristics and personalities.  These kids have brought incredible challenges to our family.  I mean from the very get go, before they are even here they make sleep more difficult and they make money more tight.  By the time they come into the world you are hoping (or at least mom is) for a nap.  When they do arrive they are constantly wanting something.  Hold me, change me, rock me, change me, feed me, bathe me, change me, feed me some more (and thats all before lunch).

And what about as they get older.  They need help learning…everything.  How to get dressed, tie a shoe, brush teeth, eat with a fork, write, throw a ball, shoot a ball, share, be kind, and the list goes on and on.  They have an endless supply of questions that are impossible to know all the answers to (google is not even equipped enough for all of them).  And it is your job to answer them…or they will just keep asking until they get a satisfactory answer.

I was recently shown a picture of a first time dad.  He had a big smile on his face and was just elated to have this new responsibility.  I heard that he said, “I am just wanting to do everything right.”  WOW!  What high expectations, do everything right.  That’s just not possible, and the reality is, even if we do everything right the child is still going to mess up.  Because they are sinners just like us.  Flawed individuals.

All of this caused me to think about what a blessing my kids are to me.  If you read carefully up to this point in the post you might think I am crazy.  But the frustrations, the difficulties, the late nights, the tear-filled hospital stays, the endless questions, the constant teaching responsibilities, the high expectations, all of those things pail in comparison to the delight that my children bring to me.

Children are blessing because they bring a undeserved trust, and undeserved love, and an undeserved faith in you as their parent.  They believe what you tell them about the world.  They love you even when you spank them.  They are confident that you are doing what is right for the family.  They are a blessing because amidst the heartache they bring warmth and comfort that no one else can provide.

This is why it is so hard to fathom God the Father giving up His Son for our sake.  His Son is a blessing to Him.  And yet, the Father willingly offered His Son to take on the punishment that we deserved.  Now that is a blessing!

Marry Up

It is pretty often that I am reminded that I married out of my league. Sometimes it is more noticeable than others but most of everyday it is evident to everyone.  I mean lets be honest, my life, our household, our children’s doctors, schedules, teachers, and plans would simply fall apart with the organization, planning, and forethought of my wife.  Anyone with two eyes is aware that she is the good-looking one, and anyone who has very lengthy discussions with us knows that she is the grounded one, and the smart one.  So, yeah, I married up.

Earlier this week someone commented to me how amazing Gloria, my wife, is.  I agreed, and then I commented that I married up.  This led me to think…who wants to marry down?  Hopefully, everyone wants to marry someone that they consider out of their league.  You should want to marry someone that you find to be the standard of beauty, the epitome of delight, and the perfect match for you.  Marry up.

Marry someone that pushes you to be better.  Marry someone who makes you want to love them more each day.  And, if you haven’t done that – than you be the one to help them want to be better by loving them endlessly.  You be the one to love them more than they can imagine so that they want to respond with love in return.

This post is not designed to get you to think just simply about how great my wife is (again, its true but not the point).  This post is not to get you to feel bad for her that she got stuck with me.  This post, instead, is intended to get you to realize that marrying up is the only way to go.  Reflect on your own marriage and celebrate all the ways that your spouse is better than you!