June 2009


Readers, we have spent the morning on the phone after receiving word that one of our cousins (a boy around 12, I think) is in the Pediatric ICU.  He was bitten by a tick and got Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, then he contracted a staph infection which turned into sepsis.  As of now, he is in an induced coma, is intubated, and is on a lot of medication and life support systems.  He needs to be life flighted to a bigger hospital, but is not stable enough to make the short flight.  Currently, due to everything, his kidneys are failing. His condition is literally minute by minute right now.  They are asking for prayers.  Please pray for healing, if it be God’s will, and please pray for peace and comfort for the family.  Feel free to forward this to anyone you know who can pray. 

Then go hug your children.  Things can change in an instant.

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wedding

Happy Anniversary to the man who is far more than I ever could have dreamed!  I am truly blessed to have you in my life, and I look forward to many more years together.

Based on a reader’s question, I wanted to explain why we choose to dedicate our babies rather than baptize them.  It is far too detailed of an answer to post in a comment, and because it is a question I have heard previously, I thought it made more sense to post in my blog.  Because this is a highly debated topic, let me preface by saying that neither infant baptism NOR infant dedication is mentioned in the Bible.  So, while neither ceremony is wrong to perform, we must also understand that neither action will get our children into heaven.  Only Christ can save us and our children.

John 3:16 specifically states “For God sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  The only way to get to heaven is to believe in God’s son, Jesus Christ.  We must accept the fact Jesus willingly became human and came to earth with the sole mission to die for us.  He took the sins of each of us upon His shoulders by shedding His blood through the most horrific death imaginable–Roman torture and crucifixion on a cross.  He died, sacrificing Himself, for us.  But it didn’t end there.  Christ then rose from the dead 3 days later.  Because of that sacrifice, that gift, each of us now has the opportunity to spend eternity in heaven.  However, we must believe.  Heaven is not just guaranteed to everyone, rather, each person must decide for him- or herself whether they want to accept that gift and believe that it happened.  Scripture spells it out many times….repent and believe.  Scripture emphasizes that there is no shoe-in; there is no gray area.  We are created in God’s own image, as people with free wills to make our own choices.  Therefore each person must individually choose whether we want to accept what Christ did for us, believe that he died for each of us, repent of our sins, believe that he died but then arose, and believe that Christ returned to heaven, where he now reigns for all eternity. Acts 4:12 states, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” 

So where does baptism fit in?  Throughout scripture, baptism was used as a symbol for repentance and belief (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:4).  In Acts 2:38, Peter specifically states, “Repent and be baptized…” which confirms that baptism is an outward sign of the inward repentance you have made and belief in Christ that you have chosen.  Acts 8:31-39 tells of the time when Philip, a minister, encountered a man, a eunuch, on the road.  The eunuch was sitting in his chariot reading a passage of scripture, but he did not understand what he was reading.  Philip sat with him, explained the passage, and told him the good news of Jesus.  The eunuch believed and then asked to be baptized.  Philip baptized him, and then the Lord took Philip away, but the eunuch “went away rejoicing” in his new found faith.  Furthermore, throughout Paul’s ministry, we can read of people who simply “believed” with no mention as to their baptism.  In other passages, we read about large groups of “believers” being baptized.  So, while baptism in itself does not save us, it is the outward symbol that shows we have repented, believed, and accepted salvation through Christ Jesus.  If you are saved, you will spend eternity with Christ in heaven, regardless of whether you are baptized.  However, baptism is the public profession of faith, and an opportunity to become unified with the body of Christ–other believers.

So, why do we feel the need to perform ceremonies for our children?  If you read the Bible or study history, you will see that from the beginning of the foundation of the church, churches and religions have formed sets of rules.  These rules are usually based on Scripture, but we must remember that earthly rules are not Scripture in themselves.  Rather, they must always be weighed against Scripture to determine their truth and necessity.  New Testament Jews had thousands upon thousands of rules.  Christ often condemned them, in fact, for putting their rules before doing good to others (Matthew 12:12, for example).  Jews have thousands of laws pertaining to every aspect of their lives, while Muslims have rules and laws that followers are encouraged to abide by to earn heaven.  Though these laws differ between religions, they have the same purpose.  Catholics have the sacraments which are typically required to be followed in order to be a true Catholic.  LDS and Jehovah’s Witness perform certain rituals and place great value on church rules that dictate how they should lead their lives.  Even different denominations such as Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Church of Christ, etc.  have rules and beliefs that differ from church to church. Rules in themselves are not bad, as they help give us boundaries and guidelines to follow.  This, in turn, can help hold us accountable.  The rules and rituals only become bad when they either contradict scripture or when more importance is placed on following rules then on following Scripture and believing in Christ.  So, in essence, we perform certain rituals and ceremonies because of traditions within our church.  Some traditions are very Scriptural, while others are not. 

Is infant baptism Biblical?  Throughout our discussions with believers in infant baptism (including a Lutheran minister), as well as our research into the Scriptures this belief was founded on, we came to one conclusion.  Like infant dedications, there is not one single Biblical reference to “infant baptism.”  There are many references to baptizing your family and/or children, however, it is imperitive that these passages be read in context with other scripture.  Some churches do have a tendency to find a particular verse or passage of scripture, then use it as the foundation of an entire belief.  It must be evaluated with other scripture and kept in context.  Scripture will NEVER contradict itself.   So, if we are commanded to repent, believe, and then be baptized, then it would only make sense that a young child or infant is incapable of such a task, as they are incapable of the first 2 steps of repentance and belief.  If we believe John 14:6, which says “Jesus answered, I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me,” yet we then believe that baptizing our children will save them, then our beliefs our contradictory to each other.  So, while the ritual of infant baptism in itself is not wrong or sinful, if we do it for the wrong reasons, then it could be.  In fact, a good example is the fact that S was baptized as an infant, yet he will be quick to tell you how he came to a saving knowledge of Christ many years later.  As a result of his new-found understanding of scripture, he chose to participate in “believer’s baptism” (also known in the Scripture as “baptism of repentance”) through our church.  He has no memory or sentimentality to the first baptism, but places a lot of meaning on the second.  Based on our beliefs in the scripture though, S and I decided that infant baptism would essentially do nothing more than get our babies’ heads wet.  It had no personal meaning to us otherwise, so we felt it would not be right for us to participate in this tradition. 

Likewise, there is nothing in the Bible that discusses infant dedications.  This ritual is just that…a ritual.  It has become a tradition in many churches.  As I described in my “Baby Dedication” post,  it is simply an opportunity for us as parents to take the opportunity to thank God for blessing us with the gift of our baby.  Secondly, we symbolically offer our child up before God as we promise to do our best to love and raise this child in a Christian home.  Thirdly, it is an opportunity for us to come together as a family with the pastor and the church members and ask them to come together in unity to help us as parents, by being mentors, supporters, and accountability partners, as needed.  Because S and I consider ourselves very blessed to have been rewarded with our children, truly believe children are a gift from God, and believe we should always thank God for our blessings, this tradition means a great deal to us.  We tend to be quite sentimental about the meaning behind it, and feel it is part of our responsibility as a parent to thank God for each baby, as well as ask Him to guide us in raising them according to His will.  I almost feel like God has blessed me with this child, and I am essentially presenting this child back to God with the heart of “This child is Yours.  We can do nothing without Christ, and certainly nothing as great a responsibility as raising a God-fearing, Christ-following child, so we come, seeking Your direction and intercession.”  So, although the Bible does not command us to do so, we chose to participate in this little ceremony because of the meaning it had for us. 

If you are in a position where you are trying to decided what to do, or whether to do anything in regards to your baby or young child, no one can determine this answer but you.  You need to start in prayer.  Ask God for His guidance and direction.  Ask Him to open your heart to what the Scriptures instruct you to do.  Then read the scriptures.  Look specifically for passages relating to your dilemma.  Compare them with other scriptures, and pray that God show the context in which they are intended.  Do not be led by peer pressure or other readings, as, no matter how theological, these are personal opinions.  If you do seek advice, pray about it, and weigh it very carefully against scripture.  In fact, don’t hesitate to ask those offering counsel to show you the scripture that supports their advice.  God will never lead you astray, if you genuinely and prayerfully seek his guidance.

Perhaps you have heard of a new pet grooming tool known as the Furminator.  I had heard about this little tool some time ago, and, of course, the ads make it appear to just miraculously rid your pet of all loose hair so they no longer shed.  I never fall for gimmicks like that, and, when possible, I tend to use those around me for product reviews before I purchase something (yes, K, you are my current guinea pig!).  With 2 babies in the house, as well as a nearly 100# dog and a shedding cat, I have to vacuum frequently.  After researching and hearing great things from friends about this tool, though, I took the plunge and made the purchase. The following is the result of our grooming session, and what I concluded:

 

It is astounding how much hair comes out with this thing!

It is astounding how much hair comes out with this thing!

Pros: 

  • Definitely removes your pet’s under coat!
  • Comfortable to hold and use for long periods
  • Drastically reduces in-house shedding
  • Pets seem to enjoy it more than a slicker brush
  • There is no sharp blade, so you don’t have to stress too much over injuring your pet

 

I thoroughly brushed my dog with a standard slicker brush, and got about 2 handfuls of fur out.  Then, I groomed with the Furminator and got enough to stuff a pillow!

I thoroughly brushed my dog with a standard slicker brush, and got about 2 handfuls of fur out. Then, I groomed with the Furminator and got enough to stuff a pillow!

Cons: 

  • Despite what the ad says, it did break and pull hair if I tipped it or combed in even a slightly wrong direction. This is likely worse with medium to long hair than with shorter hair.
  • The first few sessions can take a while, and should be divided up into several sessions
  • Does not remove ALL loose or shedding hair
  • You wind up covered in hair
  • Blade eventually has to be replaced
  • The tool does have sharp teeth that can injure if you aren’t cautious

 

I even tried it out on my cat for a few minutes.  This is gonna be one soft pillow!  (just kidding)

I even tried it out on my cat for a few minutes. This is gonna be one soft pillow! (just kidding)

Conclusion:  I found this to be an amazing product, and exactly what we needed to help control the hair.  There is no doubt it has made a difference.  You should be aware, however, that it is designed for pets with an undercoat (labs, golden retrievers, shepherds, most cat, etc.).  It would likely be a waste of money for other breeds with no under coat (pugs, dachshunds, weimeraners, etc.).  Furthermore, the tool seems to use a static cling factor to help pull loose hair out, so you will likely wind up covered in static pet hair.  Because it does break and damage topcoat hair, I would not recommend using every day.  After the initial sessions, once or twice a week during shedding season should be sufficient without causing too much damage. Initially, grooming will loosen up more hair and stimulate the hair follicles, so you will likely need to do it again later.  Finally, remember, this tool does not perform miracles.  Animals shed.  It’s the way God made them.  If, however, you want to make your life a bit easier in the cleaning realm, then give this tool a try!  FYI, I found mine on Amazon.com for $22, so shop around for the best deal.

 

N, 5 months

N, 5 months

A new visitor to our home just looked around at the kids playing and asked, “So, you run a daycare here?”

Nope.  They’re all mine!

Have you had any monkey lovin’ recently?  I have!  As well as a bit of lemur-lovin, dog-lovin, tortoise, kangaroo, camel, zedonk, goat, pig, and even porcupine-lovin (though not necesarily in the following order)! 

Alright, so before you think I’ve finally lost my mind, I’ll explain. The kids and I were invited to go visit a friend of a friend who has a very unique lifestyle.  She and her husband are both veterinarians, and developed a passion for kangaroos a number of years ago.  My understanding is that they began raising the kangaroos and wallabies, and their mini-menagerie began to expand through animal donations, rescues, and some limited exotic purchases.  They have a cute little house sitting on 3 acres of land that has become their “compound” of sorts.  It looks pretty normal from the outside, with a pretty, if tall, painted block wall surrounding their boundary.  We knew it would be something special though, as soon as the gate began opening. 

We were first greeted by the family dogs, consisting of an Australian shepherd, Great Dane, and Basset Hound.  Then the owner walked out—a wonderfully kind lady who is truly passionate about animals of all kinds—with a capuchin monkey on her shoulder.  She directed us to park, and then the fun started.  After we unloaded, (and got assurances that all animals had been hand raised, and thoroughly socialized and people-trained) we all got to greet the monkey.  Slowly, the monkey began making rounds to investigate, groom, and love each of us visitors.

 

Caico the Capuchin Monkey

Caico the Capuchin Monkey

 Before I knew it, she had jumped into my van through an open window, and was perfectly content to stay there and investigate the upholstery and carseats. 

Caico exploring my van

Caico exploring my van

 We then got a tour of the prairie dog and guinea pig yard, which, by the way, was designed as rodent heaven!  They had the most square footage of probably any domestic guinea pigs on earth, with all the sand they could dig in, fun little houses, toys, and climbing things, and tons of room to play.  Since they were used to people, we were able to pet them.  As the monkey continued to jump from one visitor’s shoulder to another, we made our way over to the otter enclosure.  She had a breeding pair of otters who also had all the space they could desire, a fresh-water pond, toys, and things to stimulate themselves.  As soon as the owner called, one came running over to us, she reached in and picked him up, and everyone got to pet.  This is when we learned the monkey was pretty much friends with every other creature in the place, so as we were trying to pet, the otter and monkey played with each other.  It was absolutely adorable!  We watched the otters play for a while, then I looked up to see a rather large lemur creeping across the top of the fence, about 8 inches from M.  I quietly told M to look, and I think she was so shocked to see this “thing” inches from her face, and reaching out to investigate her, that she just froze.  I couldn’t believe she didn’t scream and run.  M actually reached up and started petting her. 

 

Ringtailed Lemur

Ringtailed Lemur

The lemur then jumped onto a nearby tree and sat watching us.  The kids eventually got bored watching the otters and sat down to rest in the shade for a moment (it was well over 100 degrees).  As they were sitting there, another lemur came from seemingly nowhere to check them out.  From then on, we became a lemur and monkey playground.   

 DSCF4366

The kids got to feed them treats, and it seemed like every time I looked up, another lemur was investigating my stroller, trying to climb into the diaper bag, or attempting to share the baby’s bottle (which I quickly learned to keep the cap on!) 

 DSCF4389

Caico on my shoulder

Caico on my shoulder

Mowgli the Red-Fronted Brown Lemur on JR

Mowgli the Red-Fronted Brown Lemur on JR

At one point I was holding N, and Caico decided to come investigate.  According to the owner, she loves the feel of black hair, and she would just rub his little head.  It was sooo cute!

At one point I was holding N, and Caico decided to come investigate. According to the owner, she loves the feel of black hair, and she would just rub his little head. It was sooo cute!

Then Mowgli decided to join us.  All I could do was cover the baby's face!  Of course the critters were harmless enough, but they were enthralled with the baby!

Then Mowgli decided to join us. All I could do was cover the baby's face! Of course the critters were harmless enough, but they were enthralled with the baby!

Lemurs investigating my stroller.  They quickly realized there were snacks and baby formula in there somewhere, and they were determined to find it!

Lemurs investigating my stroller. They quickly realized there were snacks and baby formula in there somewhere, and they were determined to find it!

JR holding a ferret

JR holding a ferret

We were then given a tour of the room that houses the parrots, toucan, and sloth.  Although we got to pet the sloth, he was a bit hungry, which apparently made him a bit cranky.  He threatened to bite a couple of times, but fortunately he moved so slowly, he was never really a threat to anyone.

 

2 toed sloth

2 toed sloth

At this point, we walked over to the livestock enclosure, which contained emus (A can honestly say his feet have now been mistaken as emu-biscuits! Not that he was too thrilled when he actually got nipped!), zebra, zedonk (zebra/donkey cross), camels, lamas, pot-bellied pigs, fainting goats, a donkey baby, and who knows what I am forgetting!

 

Donkey foal checking out the kids.

Donkey foal checking out the kids.

JR holding a fainting goat kid.

JR holding a fainting goat kid.

The lemurs followed us over to the livestock enclosure and continued to look for treats in my stroller.

The lemurs followed us over to the livestock enclosure and continued to look for treats in my stroller.

A real treat was when they had the camel lay down, and the kids got to take turns sitting on one of the camels.

 

JR and A on the camel.

JR and A on Sayid, the Bactrian camel.

I lost count of how many times I asked the lady for reassurance that the babies were safe and wouldn’t get bitten or sick from the lemurs and other animals they were being exposed to.  I could tell just from the upkeep of the place, though, that there was little to be concerned about.  As a vet, she knew these animals in and out, and their living quarters were immaculate!  They were very obviously happy, healthy, friendly, and well-mannered animals.

 We then walked over and toured the ant-eater and one porcupine enclosure, and JR got a lesson in how ant-eaters eat.  It was pretty neat to get to pet him!  Just for the record, the ant-eaters and monkey happened to be great friends as well!  At this point, we were pretty hot and dehydrated, so she invited us around to her back porch to sit in the misters and have some cold drinks and a snack.  We willingly obliged.  While we sat and enjoyed ourselves, we learned that you don’t eat or drink around there without sharing with whatever animal asks! 

M sharing her snack with Caico

M sharing her snack with Caico

 As we played and took pictures, she started bringing out her baby animals that had been rescued or orphaned.  We got to pet or hold each one.  There was a baby beaver, a baby tortoise (M just loved this little guy), a baby kangaroo, a baby Muntjac Deer, and a brush-tailed bettong (similar to a kangaroo-rat).

 

M holding Deer Abby, the baby Muntjac Deer.  This little girl was precious!

M holding Deer Abby, the baby Muntjac Deer. This little girl was precious!

JR and the baby beaver

JR and the baby beaver

M holding a baby Brush-tailed Bettong

M holding a baby Brush-tailed Bettong

After a lengthy cool down and snack, we visited another enclosure that held several different types of kangaroos and wallabies, as well as pantagonian cavies.  In one enclosure, the kids were turned loose with the instructions “feel free to try to pet them, just don’t run.  JR and M spent a good 10 minutes walking around the field trying their best to pet the kangaroos, who, of course, thought a game of “catch me if you can” was great fun! 

Kids trying to pet kangaroos and wallabies

Kids trying to pet kangaroos and wallabies

After wearing the kids down a bit, the lady called one of the kangaroos over and gave him a treat to sit there and let the kids pet him.  It was amazing.  The animals were so comfortable with whatever she did with them or asked them to do for her! 

Petting the kangaroo

Petting the kangaroo

She then introduced us to a kangaroo who had to have one of his hind legs amputated.  A lot of people doubted they could amputate and he survive, but her and her husband did it.  As far as anyone knows, he is the only kangaroo to survive such a surgery, and not only survive, but thrive.  This guy hopped around just like the other kangaroos, perfectly balanced on the remaining hind leg, and his tail.  It’s always a great reminder what TLC can do in an otherwise bad situation! 

 

Kangaroo with only 1 hind leg

Kangaroo with only 1 hind leg

But we still weren’t done!  Then she led us over to another porcupine enclosure.  She called “Spike” out of his underground den, and he curiously came out.  Once he knew a treat was involved, he showed no hesitancy as she invited the kids over to pet him.  Another porcupine followed soon after.  The owner then allowed the kids to walk around and collect quills dropped by the porcupine over time, so they could have souvenirs.

 

Spike the porcupine

Spike the porcupine

Finally, we went back to the porch to cool down once more.  We learned how to tell the difference between male and female tortoises, how the zoo had gradually accumulated their animals, and a little about the owners themselves.  A got to ride the large tortoise.  He couldn’t have cared less until the big guy started crawling away, and then A’s eyes got big as golfballs and he didn’t know what to think as he realized it was alive!

A riding the 3-legged tortoise

A riding the 3-legged tortoise

This guy lost his leg in an accident involving a cord being wrapped around his leg.  The choice was euthanasia or amputation.  They figured they would try to amputate and see how he did.  Obviously, he did quite well!

Finally, we got to meet a munchkin cat, which looks like a regular cat except that it has very short legs, and the family dogs. 

Yes, the cat is standing up.

Yes, the cat is standing up.

 

the Great Dane

the Great Dane

As if all that wasn’t enough, we also got a tour of the monkey’s bedroom, and got to watch the owner change the monkey’s diaper and put her dress on. 

Changing Caico's diaper

Changing Caico's diaper

Putting her dress on

Putting her dress on

Finally, we all agreed it was time to let everyone (including the monkey) take their naps, so we said our goodbyes and headed home.  It was such an amazing day, and just full of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to touch exotic animals we usually only see behind bars or glass.   It was fascinating watching them interact and do their animal things, and the personalities were as varied as the animals themselves.  I would love to go back again one day, but if not, I am so thankful for the opportunity!

Oh, and I got to take my own souvenir of sorts.  You see, at one point, the monkey tore, bit, and scratched part of my stroller handles.  I actually wasn’t angry in the least, as it will be such a funny and unbelievable explanation–should anyone ever ask!

We have always been strong believers in baby dedications.  We take a baby before the church in a short, simple ceremony.  The dedication serves several purposes:  First, we, as parents, take the opportunity to thank God for blessing us with the gift of our baby, secondly, we symbolically offer our child up before God as we promise to do our best to love and raise this child in a Christian home.  Thirdly, it is an opportunity for us to come together as a family with the pastor and the church members and ask them to come together to help us as parents, by being mentors, supporters, and accountability partners in parenting, as needed.  The pastor makes a small speech, then offers up a prayer that the protective hand of God would be on our child, and that He would give us guidance as parents to raise this child according to His will. 
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Our first two children were dedicated in a little church where we were stationed at the time.  Our third child was dedicated in FL.  Due to a set of circumstances, we were unable to dedicate little N in our current church, so we payed a visit to our old church where JR and M were dedicated.  We have a wonderful relationship with the pastor and his wife –almost like our “west coast family.”  They have been some of our best mentors, and seeing as how they have 5 grown children all involved in ministry, they obviously know a bit about raising children for the Lord.  So, long story, short, “PaPaw” agreed to dedicate little N during one of our visits there. 
Presenting our baby up before the church membership

Presenting our baby up before the church membership

"Ma-maw" joined us as our "extended family" for the day

"Ma-maw" joined us as our "extended family" for the ceremony

The pastor (known to the kids as "Pa-paw") dedicating little N.

The pastor (known to the kids as "Pa-paw") dedicating little N.

I love baby dedications.  I just feel it is such a Biblical picture of how a body of believers can come together in unity and help each other raise and train our children to be the God-fearing, Christ-following, Bible-believing, next generation.   It is wonderful to know we do not have to approach this parenting thing alone, but that we have the resources of Biblical guidance and fellow Christians to turn to when needed.  Each time we are blessed with a new child, I always eagerly anticipate this opportunity.

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