June 25, 2012

The Fathering Instinct

[This was intended for Father's Day, but was postponed due to my wanting to post on my son ASAP. I think it was worth it]

Often people talk about the mothering instinct. Well, at least the mothering instinct is well known: it is that women have a stronger desire and passion to nurture than men do in general. It isn't that men can't nurture, or that all women are good nurturers, but that most women have a stronger passion to nurture than most men.

So what does that mean? Does that mean that women are just, in general, better parents than men? I don't think so. I believe that God designed both a mothering instinct and a fathering instinct so that the parents will balance each other out raising the child.

So what is the fathering instinct? I think it is that men have a stronger desire and passion to train than women do in general. Not that women can't train, anymore than men can't nurture. It isn't that men don't tend to be more willing than women to see their child a little hurt because we don't care. It is because we want to see the child learn from his/her mistakes.

When I talk to most mothers-to-be, and ask them what they are looking forward to, most talk about holding their people, feeding their baby, and certain milestones in development. When I talk to most fathers-to-be, and ask them the same question, they talk about playing catch with their child, or taking them to work, to teaching them something, as well as certain milestones in development. Those are certainly the things I look forward to.

So let's take the time and really respect the role of the father. We're very important (as are mothers of course). It is best for two to raise a child, and we see what happens when children are raised fatherless. So men, let us train up our child in the ways of the Lord, and be thankful to God for the chance to pass on what we know to someone we love.

June 18, 2012

Prayers for my Son

Two Fridays ago (6/8) my wife and I got an ultrasound of our second child to determine gender. The good news was that it was a boy, and that his name will be Justin. The bad news is that they noticed a significant congenital heart defect. The rest of Friday, as well as the next couple of days, were mostly emotional recuperation for my wife and me. It was last Tuesday (6/11) that we were able to get an ultrasound with a cardiologist for an actual prognosis.

So I am writing this post for two reasons. First, I would like to ask you for your prayers. And I don't mean simply "I hope everything is OK" kind of prayer. I believe things can change with prayer, and that an outcome can be altered, or even a miracle can occur. These are the kinds of prayers that I am asking for. Please pray that Justin's heart is healed, and that no surgeries would be necessary.

The second reason I am writing this is to better understand what is going on. It helps me to understand something if I explain it. So the rest of this post is an explanation of exactly what is wrong with Justin's heart. I hope that this will also help in focusing your prayers in terms of what needs to be healed.

What Is Going On


Heterotaxy is a condition where the organs in the body aren't where they are supposed to be. For Justin, this relates both to his heart and to his stomach, which are located on the wrong side of his body. As of right now this poses no immediate threat, though it is possible that the stomach might get twisted as he develops. As of right now though, this is a minor issue and does not require treatment.

The Heart Problems

The biggest issue is Justin's ventricular septum, which is practically not there. The diagram below shows a normal heart:

The top two chambers of the heart are called the atria. The ventricles are the two lower chambers as labeled above. Deoxygenated blood (blue arrows) from the body flows into the right atria, is pumped into the right ventricle, and then pumped to the lungs through the pulmonary artery to receive oxygen. Oxygenated blood from the lungs flows into the left atria, then pumped into the left ventricle, and then pumped into the aorta to the rest of the body. Between the two sides of the heart, separating the deoxygenated blood from the oxygenated blood is the septa: the atrical septum and the ventricular septum.

Now this is Justin's heart:

The most obvious difference is that the ventricular septum is barely there at all. The two ventricles are essentially one large chamber where both deoxygenated blood and oxygenated blood are pumped into. Therefore, there is blood which already has oxygen being sent to the lungs, and only 50% of the blood going to the body has any oxygen (which is the bigger problem). While the heart still works, it is horribly inefficient.

While that is the biggest problem, it is not the only problem. If you look at the normal heart diagram, the two great arteries (the aorta and the pulmonary artery) are crossed. In Justin's heart they are parallel. This is called transposition of the great arteries, which is a fairly apt name for it. Ironically, given this transposition, he actually needs to have his blood mixed, or else the blood coming from the lungs would only go back to the lungs, and the blood coming from the body would only go back to the body. Additionally, with the septum (the wall between the two halves of his heart) not there, this problem is moot.

The third problem is that the valves going to the great arteries are only one valve. This means that if his septum was intact, the blood would mix anyway. So again, this issue is moot given the problem with the septum.

The fourth problem is the location of the septum, or the septum nub in this case. Justin is still growing, so even though the septum isn't forming, it still could (unlikely, but scientifically possible). However, it is too far to the right. Therefore the right ventricle is smaller than it should be. If the septum never develops, this also is moot. If it does though, it may make the ventricle too small to be operative, or, even if it is operative, it may become too small given operations.

Another thing, which I don't show in the diagram, is the doctor thinks he might have pulmonary stenosis, where the pulmonary artery (the one going to the lungs) is narrowed. However, she is unsure of this, so we'll see. Also, since she is unsure of this, that also means that if it is a problem, it is relatively minor.


There are two possible solutions to this problem. The first is surgery.

The most likely scenario, which is also the worst scenario, is that the ventricular septum (that wall dividing the right and left sides) never develops. If that occurs, then there will be a series of three surgeries. The first surgery will be a couple of days or a couple of months after he is born, depending on the severity of his condition. The next two will be, if I remember correctly, when he is five of six years old. The goal of these surgeries will be to separate the heart from the pulimonary artery (the artery from the heart to the lungs) and the venae cavae (the veins running from the body into the heart). The will somehow connect the venae cavae to the lungs.

In essence, they would be removing the need for the right side of the heart so that the whole heart will only be pumping blood from the lungs to the body. The bright side is that there will be no mixing of blood. The negative side is that he would functionally have only half a heart. That said, if all goes well, he still should have a relatively normal life. He wouldn't be a professional athlete or be able to join the military, but the doctor believes he still should be able to run around and even play picnic sports like an average person.

There is another scenario for surgery though. If his ventricular septum does develop, then they could surgically make his heart whole. All of those problems which I said were moot given the septal defect suddenly become the problem, but they might be solved in one surgery: swap the arteries and split the on ventricular valve into two. Now, if the right ventricle is too small, or if the pulmonary artery is too narrow, then they will have to go back to plan one anyway.

This brings us to the second possible solution to the problem: prayer. In my mind, this is the more important one. I believe that God can still perform miracles. The comforts of our society make it difficult for us as a church to live out the faith necessary to see them commonly, but He hasn't changed. God still works in mysterious ways but He could heal him.

So I am asking you all to please pray. Additionally I believe that specificity in prayer helps. So please pray for the healing of Justin's septum. Pray for the healing of Justin's arteries. Pray for the healing of the valves as well. And pray for faith for my wife and me. We have a hard road to travel, but I believe God will be there through it all.

God bless.

June 11, 2012

How Should Christians Date?

Christian dating is in big trouble. I know so many Christian men who are stranded with no possibilities of even finding someone to date. Why is this? I big reason is that in high school we are trained to only date girls we already know, and are often given strict guidelines on how to be with that girl.

But the problem with these dating methods that are taught in youth groups is that they only work within in the artificial environments of high school and college. Once you are in the real world, there are very places where you are naturally getting to know a group of girls your own age large enough for it to be likely that you can find someone compatible. This is why the church has created on-line dating services, and special single groups to help facilitate these kinds of meetings. Especially since it is evil to go out with someone for one date and to then find out that they aren't Christian.

We need to think about this differently, so that there is an ability to go out there a meet prospects, not just simply wait for something to come your way. The method that I used myself I think is much better than what it currently being taught in youth groups, so I wanted to present it here. It is a four level method of approaching dating:
  1. Dating: The actual dating level for me is setting aside dates on a calendar to do an activity with someone of the opposite sex. The purpose is simply to get to know the person on a one on one level. When actually dating, you are still friends. There is no commitment here. You are just two friends hanging out.

    However, the point is that you are asking in the back of your mind if you want more. This is a contemplative state. You are asking questions, and testing compatibility. Also, you should only need about 4 or 5 dates to determine if you want something more. If you need more than that, then the answer is probably no (or you are just being cowardly). Whether or not you stick to 4 or 5 dates, you should have a maximum number in mind that you hold yourself to. However, you are not considering whether you want to marry her. You are just considering whether you want to court her.

    It is OK to date someone you believes things radically differently than you, especially since part of the dating process is to determine what they believe. Essentially, given availability, there should never be a reason to not ask someone out on a date.
  2. Courting: By courting, I am referring to the classic idea of going steady. At this point, you are in a relationship and responsibilities. There should be some ground rules that the two of you establish, like no sex for instance. This is also the level where you getting to know her family and you are integrating each other into your lives.

    Courting is basically a trial run on marriage. It is testing the relationship before the big commitment to see whether you two really work together. The entire process is about determining whether you want to marry this person. Also I held myself to courting for at least 1 year, which I think was a good number. My wife and I actually courted for 2, but 1 year was only a minimum. There is no need for a maximum.

    You should not court a person who believes radically different things than you though. There should be standards you have about who court and who you don't. You should some of these standards in mind, but as you date and court, you will be able to refine what your standards are.
  3. Engagement: After courting someone for a reasonable period, eventually you'll want to advance to marriage, so you enter engagement. Engagement is a preparation phase. It is for preparing for marriage, not for the wedding. During this time you should be talking about where you want to be in 5 years, discussing conflict resolution, strategizing your finances, exposing past mistakes and regrets, and also talking about sex (just talking though). I highly recommend a pre-marital counselor to help you go over these things.

    I cannot stress the need to practice and talk about conflict resolution. You need to understand not just how you solve problems, but also how your fiance solves problems. How you communicate can be very different than her. You need to respect that, which not only means learning how she communicates, but train her on how you communicate. Communication is the fundamental tool you will have to solve your issues in you marriage. While it won't guarantee a solution, its absence will guarantee failure.

    I also held myself to a minimum of 1 year for engagement. Sometimes wedding plans will cause this anyway, but it is so you can really sort through the changes that are about to happen, and keep the transition smooth.
  4. Marriage: While this is the goal of the marriage process, it is not a static state. Your relationship goes on, and continues to grow and be challenged. In many ways, marriage is the most difficult level, for now you are truly reliant on each, and bound together. I do not believe in divorce, and I believe that all divorce can be avoided if couples sacrifice for each other. Your life is no longer your own, but belongs to your spouse.

    If you are careful in the dating process, then you can be sure you are putting your life into the hands of someone you can trust. After all, trust is the foundation of a good marriage, not passion. Passion fades and becomes forgotten, but trust only grows and deepens. If you keep trust and faith at the forefront of your marriage, and leave your lives in each other hands, instead of trying to control the other, your marriage will last.
For those of you who are single and reading this, I would like to add that I strongly believe in marriage. God gave us marriage as a blessing. But only God can truly unite a man and a woman. Trust in Him, and keep Him in the process, and you will have success. I pray that each of you will find the love that I have with my wife. God bless.

June 4, 2012

Being Naughty

Children are so innocent, aren't they? Well, no they aren't. One of the fundamental beliefs of Christianity is that we are all born with a predisposition to sin. It is very easy to see that as a parent.

Now I've met kids before. I've never been ignorant that kids are sometimes bad. Everyone knows that kids misbehave. What has really been incredible for me is how quickly they figure it out. It is so instinctual.

The first rule that my son learned was to not touch the trash can. Often my wife or I are doing dishes in the kitchen, or maybe preparing food for him or us, and he's running around the kitchen playing. Every once and a while, he was wonder over to the trash can and try and touch it. We would tell him "no" and if he tried to touch it again, we would move him away. Eventually he learned that the trash can was off limits.

However, it is important to note how I knew he knew it was off limits. It wasn't that he started to stay away from it. It was that he started to watch me when he was about to touch it. His first overt act of sin immediately followed when he first became aware of a rule.

Paul says:
Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. -Romans 7:7a-8
When Paul says, "sin lies dead" he does not mean that sin doesn't exist apart from the law, but that sin is inactive with it, for transgression needs something to transgress. We see this in our children, where often the rules we create to protect them and teach them end up becoming the very source of their misbehavior.

So all we can do as parents is to keep trying, and to teach our children that laws are there for a reason. We need to teach them to trust in the laws that we give them, and hopefully they will learn to trust the one from whom all justice and righteous comes.