Top Tweets for April

Sucking his toe on a school bus.
What a great month. Soccer camp, Easter, trip to beach, great reads, and getting ready for the summer.

From others:
  1. AskListenLearn:  RESEARCH - 83% of youth cite parents as the leading influence in their decision not to drink. Read more!
  2. JohnSowers:  The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the *Incarnation* — This story begins and ends in joy. -
  3. Ballhawk_9:  Be a blessing to someone today..
  4. JohnPiper:  65 Years ago today Jackie Robinson becomes the first African-American to play major league baseball. Well done, Dodgers
  5. Steve Sammons:  We need to somehow make it clear that Jesus came first not to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive.
  6. GabeLopez:  It's so often that I mistake the still, quiet times where God is free to speak as a void that needs to be filled by others. God forgive me.
  7. Jim Thompson:  "Better is a sinful person who knows that he has sinned, than a righteous person who knows that he is righteous." -Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz
  8. David Allston:  If a man is not pursuing, protecting, and providing for anyone, he is not reflecting the image of God in the world.
  9. Mendmark:  People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. Don't confuse the 2.
  10. Challies:  In 2006 the iPhone didn't exist. Six years later it generates 58% of the revenue of a $550 billion company.

And from the story of my life (though a couple of these are borrowed from others, but I tweeted them, so I get some credit):
  1. Easter egg hunts are like Black Friday for kids.
  2. Some boys never grow up.
  3. Fatherless boys commonly turn to either gangs or passivity.
  4. I don't know. Something seems like a rip-off.
  5. Automatic carwash is the cheapest big-time entertainment with kids. 
  6. Sometimes when I'm headed towards nothing, it shows that I'm trusting in the One that I can't see.
  7. "To belong to God means I am no longer defined by what I do... I am defined his love for me." @ #fatherlessgeneration
  8. "Intentional mentoring can literally change lives -- forever. But ... it takes time. It takes consistent & faithful presence."

Strangers in the Night


In the midst of the fun and blessings of our spring break soccer camp, I tweeted this:
"Two random guys doing laundry in our house."
That was only partially true. Two guys that I just officially met that day were in fact doing their laundry in our house. But I wouldn't call them random. After all, in God's perspective, is there anything random?

But even more than doing laundry, they also slept there.

What?! You mean I let two strangers sleep in the same home with my precious family? How did that happen?

Long story short, through the magic of the internet, I connected with a couple of guys who were planning to take a cross-country road trip. Their goal is to collect stories, film, and photos from a variety of different locales. Noticing that they would be traveling down I-95, I invited them to check out Allendale.

They accepted and after several travel delays, Jay and Redrik were on their way out of New York City. We kept in touch through their travels, and we offered them to stay the night with us.

Sure enough, when they arrived on the first day of our camp, we reminded them of the offer. They were happy to accept, after having spent some nights in motels, and some nights sleeping in their cars. After dinner (how can you come to Fairfax and not eat at Clara's Fried Chicken?), I led them to our house.

That's when it hit me. "Do you guys need to do any laundry?" "Actually," Jay replied, "That would be great."

So after a night of being treated to homemade strawberry cake, laundry, real beds, and Wi-Fi, (and collecting some stories and photos), they were back on the road.

Why did we do that? I guess a big thing was just to be hospitable and kind to two young guys doing something cool. And part of it was to be a model to our kids of what real hospitality is (from the Greek philoxenia, or "love of strangers"), as opposed to what we usually think of hospitality (being a good hostess when your friends come over).

You can read more about their journey on their website, as they travel around asking the question, "What is your philosophy of life?" They have some photos from Allendale, video footage, and a more personal diary account.

So, knowing what we did, let me know in the comments: What do you think would be a scarier experience -- letting strangers sleep in your house, or sleeping in a stranger's home?

Related Links:

We Love the Olympics

This is a from an article I wrote for the Grace Church Children's Ministry Parenting blog in 2010. I'm re-posting it here, with minor edits.

In 2010, my kids proved themselves to be incredibly patriotic throughout these Olympics. As we gear up for this year's summer Olympics, here are somethings we've learned and some things we predict:
  • My kids always pull for USA in whatever competition is going on.
  • In 2010, if the USA was not in that specific competition or race, Hannah pulled for Germany, because she "liked the soda that was from Germany when we went to Disney World." She's easy to bribe, apparently.
  • In 2010, if the USA was not in that specific competition or race, Elijah pulled for the person from "the country that is closest to the United States" (usually, of course, Canada). He's ever the geography student.
  • Hannah will probably wear red, white, and blue as much as possible. In 2010, she wore Joanna's old gymnastics outfit just about every day, even though there has never been gymnastics in the Winter Olympics.
  • In true boy fashion, Elijah and Sender will love it when people wipe out (except for when Americans do it).
  • Lego creations will be made to correspond to Olympic events.
  • Mimicking acrobatic events, Sender will jump off all sorts of furniture. Considering that most of the furniture in our home is borrowed, we'll do our best to limit him. Sorry, Camille.
  • The kid will be all too eager to stay up an hour past their bedtime to watch more and more Olympics. Surely this is because they're patriotic, not as an excuse to stay up late, right?
  • We only get 2 TV stations, so we'll need to figure a way to watch as much as possible. (And no, our laptop will not connect to our TV.) Maybe we'll splurge and get cable for a few weeks. Can you do that?

**image courtesy of sundesigns via

A Break After Spring Break

 "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." So wrote Charles Dickens.

"We had two spring breaks, we had zero spring breaks." So said Joey Espinosa.

During Allendale County's spring break, we were involved with an all-day camp that included soccer, crafts, and nutrition classes. We knew that it would be an exhausting (though fulfilling) week, and that we would need time to recuperate afterwards.

Therefore, we took a short vacation the week after Allendale's spring break, just to get away as a family. And because we waited until the last minute to book our lodgings (Amelia Island, FL), we saved about $200. Thank you, Dave Ramsey! (Or, ummm . . ., "Thank you, People-who-took-Ramsey-and-told-me-what-you-learned.")

We actually spent a night near this beach when Hannah was younger than Sender is now, and before Sender was born, so it brought back a lot of good memories for us (like the fun Seaside Grille, with it's great seafood and outdoor playground to keep the kids occupied).

Just for the sake of recording our memories, and to make you a wee bit envious, here's some of what our few days in Florida was like:

On the beach the first afternoon.

These guys enjoyed the ice-cold waves.

Nothing really incredible about this video, but this guy is so cute.

We built castles and moats and towns (like I did when I was a kid).

This cute girl wants to live at the beach.

Yeah, so . . . . Putt-putt is expensive!

But it was worth it for this guy's first time playing (and he shot an amazing 26 over the last 9 holes, 6 strokes better than his Daddy).

Seems like the Fernandina Beach school system has some math education problems. I'll just buy the 3x5 cards one-at-a-time, please.

Back to reality this week. But as Sender has learned, we're glad to be back home in Allendale.

Related Links:

Your Child's Health May Be 64 Calories Away

A recent study indicated that in order for the USA to reach its goals for reducing obesity rates by 2020, children need to eliminate an average of 64 excess calories per day. This average varies according to ethnicity and socioeconomic class, and you can read a more complete summary here.

I'm not proposing that we put kids on strict diets, or that we need to stress over obesity rates. Continually talking about being "fat" or "skinny" probably does more harm than good to a child's psyche.

Instead, I want to point out how just small changes can help an individual (and a family, and a society) increase its health and well-being. Reducing 64 calories can mean an extra 30 minutes a day of outdoor play, or eliminating 1 chocolate chip cookie. You can get closer to that goal by taking the stairs instead of an elevator, or by regularly choosing water over your preferred iced tea or soda. And kids get more active when there is a variety of toy choices.

Again, the goal is not to stress over body weight itself, but to promote a lifestyle of health.

Related Link:
image courtesy of richardsweet via

When Were Flightless Birds Created?

Here's a recent thought from my daughter, Hannah:

We know that birds and fish were created on Day 5 (Genesis 1:20-23). And we know that land animals were created on Day 6 (vv. 24-25).

But what about flightless birds, like ostriches, emus, and penguins? Are they still grouped with the Day 5 animals, since they are "winged birds" (v. 21), even though they don't "fly above the earth"? Or are they one of "all the creatures that move along the ground" (v. 25), and thus were Day 6 animals?

What do you think? When were flightless birds created?

Genesis 1:20-15
 20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
 24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 

Related Link:

image courtesy of imc via

The Cell and the Origin of Life

I'm currently teaching through a unit on the Origin of Life in my biology class. While I don't agree with all the assumptions and presuppositions in the text book, I feel that the material is important for those students who will continue their science studies in college.

Growing up, I was taught about evolution, the Big Bang, etc, and believed that those were all true. Even after I became a Christ-follower, I still thought that naturalistic science, not God's word, could better explain the origin of life. At the least, I figured that modern science and the Bible had to be reconciled.

But over the years, my investigations have led me to see that evolution (or, more accurately, macro-evolution) is not a valid explanation of how we got to where we are. Talks of primordial soup and billions of years and vestigial organs can make up a good story. But let's not fool ourselves into thinking those ideas give any more empirical evidence that the Bible.

(And for the record, I don't think the Bible is a science textbook either. The Bible's purpose is not to prove anything except that God has had a plan of redemption since before He created the world.)

Look at this great video rendition of what happens in every cell in your body, every moment of the day. Look at the amazing complexity. Not sure how reasonable that this could come about through billions of years of slight modifications.

I encourage you to watch this with your children. Mine loved it. (You can also see the full video, complete with labels, here.)

Seeing things like this lead me to more intimate worship of our God. He designed each intricate part of us.

Even more, I am amazed that He would send His Son to pay the price for my sins.

The real story of the "origin of life" is that He made us (the origin of our physical life), and He died for us (the origin of our spiritual life).

Related Links:

**image courtesy of euthman via flickr

What Blogs Do You Read?

I love to write. I've been blogging for over 3 years now, on 3 different blogs (and a few guest posts). It has been a great outlet for me, as a way to work through thoughts in my head. I think I've been more amazed that anyone wants to listen to what I have to say.

I also love to read. I've traditionally read 90+% non-fiction books, from theology to leadership to biographies and more. And now I follow 50-60 blogs across a variety of categories. I don't read every post from every blog; using Google Reader, I skim the headlines and see what might be interesting for me, or for any of my friends and followers.

I have learned so much from reading from a variety of blogs (besides have a streak of winning some give-aways). Because the truth is, if you are a parent you are a leader. And leaders are readers. You have to continually grow and learn, so that you can better disciple your children.

Here are some blogs that I've started following over the past few months; maybe you'll enjoy one of them as well:
  • Kickin' it in Buddenville.  This is by our friend Susan Rice. Any blog that comes out of Allendale County is worth following.
  • Julian Freeman.  I don't always get theology stuff, and I don't always get Canadians (sorry Nicky & Des). But this guy is good.
  • JBM Thinks.  For any parent who has a child that plays organized sports, this is a must-follow.
  • Enough of the Cat Talk.  In the past 15 months, I've become suddenly passionate about education. Darlena brings up some great talking points.

Now, let me know in the comments: What's your favorite blog? If you have a few, you can name your favorite "famous" blog (100's of readers) and your favorite "obscure" blog.

**image courtesy of mzacha via

What Sender Is Learning

A pose learned in Ninja school?
 Sender (our 5 year old) is learning a lot in school. Sure, he's been learning to count and read (more due to his siblings' efforts than those of his exhausted parents). But those are the main courses. Just as important are the other schools that Hannah and Elijah are taking him through. For instance:
  • Magic School.  Most often than not he flubs the "Pick a card" trick. But he sure looks cute (and serious) trying.
  • Gymnastics School.  Where he learns many of his dance moves.
  • Ninja School.  Apparently he's reached the maximum training level that's possible, until he legitimately saves someone.
But my favorite is that he's learning is to be thankful. He still thanks God for things like "Jesus dying on the cross" and "that I have a brother and a sister and a Mom and a Dad."

And he's already learned that Allendale is our home. How do I know? Because after we return here from an out of town trip, he prays, "Thank You that we get to go back home to Allendale."

Did you hear that? We get to go back to Allendale. He's not upset about leaving Greenville or Florida; he's happy to get back to our home in Allendale.

I guess when you spend the last 25% of your life somewhere, it should feel like home.

Getting Out of Our Little Boxes

I saw this video a couple of weeks ago. Besides being very creatively produced, the lyrics are interesting to ponder. I may be missing the main point to the song Little Boxes (originally written in 1962), but it challenged me how much I enjoy being in rut, content with conforming to a comfortable existence.

I can easily settle into a routine of "normalcy." Maybe that's why I'm glad God shook up my family by sending us to Allendale. Maybe breaking out of the routine is why this guy is hiking across the US.

I'm not saying that anything is wrong with a middle-class suburbia life. But here's what you have to ask yourself:  "Are we raising our kids to conform to a 'normal' life, with some good deeds on the side? Or, we raising them to be instruments in God's hands, in order to spread the gospel?"

Consider reading about My Radical To-Do List.

Consider that maybe a change is needed for you. Maybe it's for a few days, or a week, or 6 months, or for 3 years.

Consider that it's not about what sacrifice God may want from you, but about what blessing God may want for you.

Related Link:

Passover and Easter Ideas

This year, Passover begins tomorrow night (April 5th, at Sundown), while Easter is this coming Sunday. Here are a couple of links from last year, to give you some ideas to celebrate as a family:

And here are some other articles that will help you and your family prepare for these celebrations:

Do you have any special ideas for how you will celebrate and worship? 

Related Link:
 **image courtesy of ba1969 via

Top Tweets for March

Excitement like this kicked off the month in Allendale

Great thoughts by others:
  • mitchmillerme:  After reading the comments christians make on other christians blog post and status updates I've decided I only want to minister to the lost
  • FirstWorldPains:  When I Google my name somebody else's information comes up first.
  • Kabmwangi:  Anybody can afford a smile, but a radiant face reflects what cannot be hid in a smile. A smile impresses, a radiant face inspires.
  • Foster_White:  There are two rules for success: 1) Never tell everything you know.
  • FunnyTweets:  Why does Facebook even give me the option to 'like' my own status? Of course I like my status. I'm hilarious. 
  • JimGaffigan:  I like taking my kids to IHOP. They eat like 5 dollars worth of food and do like 40 dollars worth of damage to the restaurant.
  • Tim Hawkins:  The term 'Christ Follower' is pretty popular with Christians right now. 'Messiah Stalker' not so much.

Here are my so-so thoughts (you can follow me @EspinosaJoey):