Wednesday, March 26, 2014

World Vision, same sex marriage, and priorities

This post will probably get me in trouble again, but here goes:  As I continue to compile photos for the sequel to my “Levi’s First Week Alive” post, I decided to share this short piece from one of my other blogs.

The World Vision controversy has been blowing up my Twitter stream and Facebook newsfeed this week, so this may also be of interest to my readers.  Some may not give a rip either way.  If not, check back here soon for more outdoor adventure and family pics with Lena and baby Levi!

This is not a blog post about gay marriage.  It’s a plea to avoid putting doctrine ahead of compassion.

Personal disclosure: While I still believe World Vision is a wonderful relief organization, my preferred means of supporting impoverished children overseas is either via the Church of God’s Children of Promise or through Compassion International.

Join the Compassion Blogger Network

On Monday, Christian relief agency World Vision sent shockwaves through many segments of the Evangelical community with an unprecedented revelation-- they were dropping an employee conduct policy that previously forbade employees to participate in same-sex marriages.  U.S. branch president Richard Stearns explained that World Vision was not necessarily endorsing same-sex marriage, but simply promoting unity by choosing to not take a stand on what he viewed was a divisive issue among Christians.  Predictably, controversy ensued.

And then this morning, in response to a flood of both criticism and praise, Stearns made the startling follow-up announcement that the employment policy change would be reversed.  He described the original move as a mistake.

Many people whom I love and respect disagree strongly about whether the real misstep was the decision or the reversal.  Many on the extreme Right are renewing talk about proponents of the LGBT agenda trampling on Biblical values… and many on the extreme Left are accusing anyone associated with traditional marriage views as homophobic.  So what else is new?  Level headed people on both sides will continue to be loving and open minded enough to at least LISTEN to the hearts of people with whom they may disagree.

But here’s where things got really upsetting:   Before World Vision caved to the criticism and reversed their decision, the internet was awash with some very vocal Christians who were so incensed with the policy change that they encouraged their audiences to stop supporting World Vision completely.  Worse yet, nearly 5,000 [3-29-14:  5,000 is an updated number, based on this interview] actually CANCELED monthly support for their sponsored children (and some even boasted about it on Facebook).  That’s right, they disagreed with a World Vision employment policy and chose to make severely impoverished children and communities pay the price.

In the words of Rage Against the Minivan blogger Kristin Howerton:

"Is access to food, water, and education trumped by keeping gay people out of a job at a nonprofit? If we want to serve people, we should not make distinctions about who we serve, and we should not deny those we serve out of disunity or division. It's astounding to me that Christians would take food from starving children because a gay person might have helped in getting it there."

How could this possibly reflect God’s love?  Here are some honest questions:

Shouldn’t Christians be eager to work together with anyone who is passionate about ending poverty, regardless of their beliefs?  Would Mother Teresa have discouraged someone, based on his or her lifestyle, from helping the needy?  Would the Portland Rescue Mission refuse help from someone whose personal conduct fails to align 100% with Biblical values?  And shouldn’t doctrinal debates play second fiddle in a lifestyle that actively prioritizes the Biblical values of holiness, unity, AND God’s concern for the poor and for social justice?

Plus, wasn’t it Jesus who chose to heal that dude with the shriveled hand on the Sabbath in Matt 12:9-14, despite the religious leaders being uncomfortable with Him breaking the rules?  I’m pretty sure that Jesus also mentions something about the value of a human life in that passage…

The heated discussion about same-sex marriage isn’t going to end anytime soon.  But neither should our support for organizations that are committed to providing food, clean water, shelter, education, and safety for impoverished communities around the globe.

At the risk of sounding like a cliché-spouting goofball, I’ll end with this:  Together, we can change the world.  We should focus on our commonalities, not our differences.

So let’s get past this controversy and refocus on a common goal: Ending poverty!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Photos: Baby Levi's first week alive

Jumping ahead:  A more recent pic of the newly expanded Hamilton 4.

Levi's first Sunday at Aloha Church of God:  Daddy, Peggy, Aunt Jamie, and Larry proudly admire the newest Hamilton, four days old.

This photo dump from January is yet another "catch-up" post. So many blog-worthy adventures have happened recently... but those can wait until after we share a few moments from our baby boy Levi's first week in this world.

Here are some pics:

Grandma and Grandpa Eason capture the moment as Lena excitedly reaches out to hold baby Levi, for her first time ever.

Note:  See Part 3 of my "Birth of Levi" posts from a few weeks ago for more precious photos from their initial sister/brother meeting!

Levi's first night at home

Lena holds her new baby brother

Outtake:  He's mine!

Uncle Mike and Aunt Summer finally meet their 2 day old nephew

Levi's first breakfast with the family

Grandpa Bo plays with his two grandkids

Levi's first Sunday morning in church

Our church family gets their first peek at Levi, four days old.

"I love it that it's Levi's first Sunday to be alive, and he's in church."
-Pastor Tim, from the pulpit

"YOU sing, Daddy!"
-Lena, trying to steal the spotlight after church... and then wanting to hand it off.

Coming next week on Garth's Blog...

More never before seen Levi photos:

Showing off Levi around town, visits from family and friends, and getting Levi out on the hiking trails!

And coming in April...

Snow play, more outdoor fun, and overseas hijinks!!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mama's got a brand new blog

En route to Ireland last weekend:  My beautiful wife Kathy is a good sport.  She lets me drag her anywhere!  Wanna hear her point of view?

Pardon the funky James Brown sacrilege of my title. This is an oh, so important announcement about something that broke loose during last week's trip to Ireland (link):

Kathy started her own blog! 

She's calling it The Hamilton 4.

Click on the link directly above, or type in this URL:

Here are the Top 5 reasons to keep up with Kathy's new blog:

5. Quality-  This one's obviously not a concern for this main site, Garth's Blog. Anyone could maintain a better blog than this one, right? Seriously, though, Kathy's got what it takes to be an excellent writer.

4. Family emphasis-  There's a reason why I only sparingly upload photos of our beloved Lena and Levi to Facebook that lack any adult context:  Kathy does such a thorough job of posting those photos herself! I highlight the milestones here on "Garth's Blog" (and feature pics of Lena and Levi in almost every post) but my focus is often more on the adventure-type stories that I would personally want to read. For almost everyone else we know, Kathy is the one who is more likely to let readers in on our everyday family life.

3. Spirituality-  The mainstream channel of "Garth's Blog" shoots mainly for lighthearted adventure and entertainment value, though I contribute more spiritually oriented (and sometimes controversial) content to my other blogs and around the web. In contrast, Kathy's inspiring faith in Christ is front and center in all of her writings.

2. The personal touch-  Kathy doesn't censor or tone down her emotions and convictions like I typically do on my main site. She tells it just like it is, with her heart on her sleeve.

And the #1 reason to follow Kathy at is...

1. The amazing author-  Two words: Kathy Hamilton. Need I say more?

My Ireland travelogue from last week will be coming soon to Garth's Blog.  But today is St. Patrick's Day, and live Irish music is calling our names tonight.

No matter how many Irish bands we barge in on around town tonight, we'll try our best to not let THIS happen:

The Onion: Irish-Americans Gear Up For 'The Reinforcin' O' The Stereotypes'

From The Onion

Happy Saint Paddy's Day!!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The birth of Levi, Pt. 3: Lena meets Levi!! (with video)

Posted from Belfast, Northern Ireland this morning:

Part 3 of this story actually happened on January 16 in Beaverton, Oregon.

Loading our newborn son Levi into the car at Providence St. Vincent hospital

The time had finally come. After three days in the hospital, our two day old Levi was finally ready to come home with Daddy and Mommy.

As mentioned previously in The birth of Levi, Pt. 2: Levi's first two days (link), the moment when our nearly 2 1/2 year old Lena would meet her newborn brother Levi was one of the most anticipated moments of my entire life. I wanted everything to be perfect. As I drove Kathy and Levi home from the hospital, I asked Kathy to phone her parents at our house to make sure Lena would be ready.

My heart lept into my throat as we pulled into our driveway. I gently set down Levi's car seat on the ground, and Kathy approached the door.


Tom and Lora opened our storm door so little Lena could step down into the sidewalk. I fired up my Galaxy Note's video camera and held my breath.

My lack of technical expertise is preventing me from successfully uploading the clip here to Garth's Blog.  But the photos that follow are still shots from that priceless video:

Lena gets a first glimpse at her baby brother, Levi.  After months of buildup, is this what she was expecting?

Lena goes in for the first kiss.  It's an air ball.

Inside the house:  Lena's arms involuntarily pop up at the sight of Levi, in anticipation of holding her new baby brother.

The first sister-brother kiss!!

And finally, here is the first ever photo of our whole family together:

Introducing the newly expanded Hamilton clan!  Lena is happier than she looks.

So let's end on an even happier note.  My video upload above may have failed, but anyone who missed the Vine that I tweeted on January 16 is in for a treat.  Here's a 7 second video clip of Lena trying to say baby Levi's name, while holding him in her lap:

 Click in the upper right corner of this Vine video for audio of Lena trying to say, "Levi"!

This was, without exaggeration, one of the greatest days of my life.  Our family is complete.  Lena and Levi are perfect together!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Update from Ireland

Dublin, Ireland:  St. Patrick's Day celebrations spill out into the streets every night, even the week before.  Watch your step!

The past few days here in Dublin have been refreshing and festive for Kathy and I, but it's time for us to move on.  Kathy just boarded her flight back to New York an hour or so ago.  As a reward for her braveness to fly standby, Kathy will be flying home to the U.S. with a very cushy seat in the front of the plane!

As for myself, I'll soon be right behind her.  Lena and Levi are tugging at my heart!  But I have a quick stop or two to make on this side of the pond before I head home.  I'm over here anyway, right?  Nobody get your hopes up-- those of you in Europe whom I've cancelled visits with this week (circumstances were completely out of our control) will have to hold out a while longer.  As always, it will be worth the wait to see each of you again in your home countries!

Visits were planned for Belgium, Germany, Croatia, Italy, and Switzerland.  We even had some non-refundable bookings.  Being forced to change plans mid-journey isn't always cheap, and we owe some of our overseas friends BIG TIME for their understanding.

So how did we end up here in the U.K. instead?  Not to worry, I've been blogging via my phone about this current trip as we move through it.  I hope to start uploading those Ireland travelogues here as soon as I sort out the pics.

Stay tuned... this adventure ain't over yet!