"For in you the orphan finds mercy." - Hosea 14:3

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Yesterday I returned the rental car. My kids, who were fascinated by all of the buttons and gadgets on the Ford Fiesta, were disappointed. "Why can't we buy a new car like this one?"

"Because my old car is paid off, that's why," I replied. Besides, I never could figure out what all of the buttons on the rental car was for and there was no manual in the glove box for me to even try.

I knew when I dropped the rental car off that I would have to get someone from Enterprise to drive me to the body shop to pick up my car. Being introverted and shy by nature, I normally dread this. The idea of having to spend ten minutes with a complete stranger in a vehicle, making small talk (something I find awkward and extremely uncomfortable), was something that I tried to avoid. I have often sat in the barber's chair, getting a haircut and said nothing unless spoken to. But as I drove the rental car to Enterprise, I asked myself, "Why?"

Would Jesus?

Or Paul?

No, they would use this opportunity to be a witness to a complete stranger. Why wouldn't I do that, too? Because I'm not them. For years, I have avoided such moments by bringing a book with me, thereby avoiding chit-chat by reading. I have taken a book with me to many social gatherings over the years and snuck off to some quiet corner to enjoy the company of literary people over real ones.  And yet, in recent years, I have felt compelled to stop doing this and engage with others. It is not always easy for more - or successful. Each failure has caused me to doubt myself and wonder if I shouldn't return to the warm, safe confines of the pages of a book.

Now, when I dropped off the rental car, I did not have a book to retreat into, but I did have my smartphone, by which I could check e-mail, Facebook, or other important social media. I owed this driver nothing - right?  He probably would prefer not to have to enter into conversation too, right?

Yet, when I got into the van, I silently prayed, Help me to be open to this moment.

As we pulled off the lot, I surprised myself by asking him how long he had been driving for them. Then I commented on how his job must be affected by the personality of the person he was driving. He told me that he didn't let the passenger determine his day. If the passenger was irritable or complaining, he would just nod in agreement, but that most people were pretty nice.

How many of us care?  Do we think about how our attitude can influence or affect that of another person, especially those in the field of service (waitress, cashier, clerk, teller). Do we think about how a smile or a kind word or simply asking them how they are doing might be what they need in that moment?

I didn't talk about myself. I focused on him. Asked him questions about his life, found out about his family, and just took the time to see him as a person and not just as a driver who was there to get me from point A to point B. In her book Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, Kathleen Norris wrote, "True hospitality is marked by an open response to the dignity of each and every person."  That is what I wanted to do with this man. And in listening to him talk about himself, I found myself glad that I did. I was accepting this stranger on his own terms and accepted his openness by receiving it as a gift.

Now I don't know if I made his day any better by asking him questions that were asked with the purpose of seeing him, really seeing him, and letting him know that he mattered, even to a stranger he may never see again. Why? Because he was made in the image of God by God. God had us in that van, at that moment in time for a reason. I trusted in this and did not withdraw into myself. God allowed me to be open without feeling like I had depleted something of myself. Instead, I felt enriched by this conversation. I realized it wasn't about me, anyway. It was about being open to what God wants me to be open to. As Henri Nouwen said, "To wait with openness and trust is an enormously radical attitude toward life."  Indeed it is. And this introvert will try to approach life with more of this openness.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

An Uncomfortable Truth

Fact: Christians outnumber orphans 7 to one.
Question: Why then are there orphans?

The only answer I can come up with is that Christians don't take seriously God's call for us to take care of orphans. Certainly anyone who has adopted has been told by someone else, "Oh, I couldn't do what you've done." Families who've adopted are viewed as being somehow better people and some view them with either a distant respect or with distrust. After we adopted one orphan and then hosted another, we were told, "Well, at least you are done now." As if somehow we can check taking care of the orphan off our spiritual check-list and now move on to the widows and the poor (as if all of them aren't interlinked together in scripture).

Not long ago, I read through all of the Old Testament prophets. While not necessarily easy reading, it was highly convicting. What I noticed was that they always called for repentance (first as a repentance from sin and a turning back to God, which is an inward action) and then a call to social responsibility (taking care of the poor, the widows, the orphans, the sojourners, the refugees). An inward change leads to outward acts. Why don't we see that in the modern church?  We tend to see repentance soley as a fleeing from sin, but we don't connect the dots towards outward action and social justice.  In fact, many churches view social action as akin to socialism.  I once spoke with a pastor who, when asked to write out his mission statement for the church he was interviewing for, literally wrote down what scripture called the church to be and do and was told by that church that he was a "socialist." Because, even today, Jesus challenges our social conventions and shocks us either into obedience or separation from Him. Don't believe me?  Just try and live out the Sermon on the Mount and see how those around you react.

Yet Micah 6:8 commands us, "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?"

God links justice with mercy. Why?

In his monumental work The Prophets, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote:

God's concern for justice grows out of His compassion for man. The prophets speak of a divine relationship to an absolute principle or idea, called justice. They are intoxicated with the awareness of God's relationship to His people and all men. Justice is not important for its own sake; the motivation for justice, and the validity of its exercise lie in the blessings it brings to man. For justice, as stated above, is not an abstraction, a value. Justice exists in relation to a person, and is something done by a person. An act of injustice is condemned , not because the law is broken, but because a person has been hurt. What is the image of a person? A person is a being whose anguish may reach the heart of God.

Ultimately because it shows that God loves people above justice. Because of this, a person's "anguish" reaches the very heart of our Creator. Justice is not just about taking care of injustice, but, ultimately, in taking care of others to ensure that all have what they need. It's about dependence on Him and interdepenced on each other.

Jeremiah 22:3 tells us, "This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place."

God is telling all of us to walk in this manner, not just a select few. He is not asking, He is commanding. Too often Christians view those who do act on His command as being special or different.  Mother Teresa, Gary Haugen, and Katie Davis should be the norm, not the exception. All of us should step up to be a voice for the voiceless and the vulnerable. We should be leaders in compassion, sacrificial courage, and A Christ-centered conscience. As Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Missions, said, "God has a plan to bring justice to the world - and His plan is us."

But this requires us to move in godly obedience.  He wants action, not excuses. He calls for acts of love of endurance for the long-term to bring about change. We are to be brave, not safe. He has called us to love the unlovable, touch the broken and improverished, free the enslaved (and for those who don't see the modern slavery all around them, they are blind to the millions who are trapped in trafficking. The city of Charlotte, that we live outside of, is tenth in human trafficking in this country. And every 30 seconds, another person becomes a victim of human trafficking), and helping the victims of oppression and injustice. This means getting down into the dirt and reality of this hurting world. It means finding the beautiful where the world sees none, value and worth, where the world views them only with disgust and indifference.

Isaiah 1:17 states, "Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow."

Are we?

Are we walking in justice, mercy, humility, and love in obedience to God's call?  Are we the good Samaritans of the world, or do we move to the other side of the road?  How do we view the poor, the needy, the immigrant, the widow, the orphan, and the weak?  Do we love them as Christ loved them with a sacrificial and servant's love?  Do we embrace them? Defend them?  Protect them? Love them?  Christ does and, as His followers, we are to be known by our love. But are we?

Do we heed the warning of James 5:1-6?

"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days . . . You have lived in luxury and self-indulgence. You  have fattened yourselves in the day of the slaughter . . ."

Strong, harsh words.

Reading those words makes me uncomfortable, but God isn't concerned with my comfort. Why? Because too often comfort makes us complacent. For those who disagree and believe that God wants us to have a comfortable life, I would challenge you to read the prophets, about the disciples, and even of His own Son.

And for those who would defend themselves with, "But I'm not wealthy," by most of the world's standards you are. More than a billion people in the world live on less than a dollar a day.

"To whom much is given, much is expected," Luke 12:48.

Being the body of Christ is not about building bigger churches, being "better" versions of ourselves, getting richer and healthier, but in loving others, in serving others, in seeking justice for others because God requires us to. Ultimately, when we love, serve, and strive to help the least of these, we are doing so to give God glory, to point others to Jesus. We don't have to work for our salvation, but from our salvation flow good works. As it is said, "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:17).

Do we seek after justice, righteousness and peace?

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, wrote of the Old Testament prophets:

. . . some of the strongest language in the Bible about worship and justice, and it clearly makes a connection between the two. God "takes no delight" in the "noisy" worship of his people if their worship is disconnected from jusitce - from making things right for those who are poor and oppressed.

So, are we?

If not, why not?

Either because we don't believe God means it or because we just don't want to.

Repeating Micah 6:8, "What does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

It's not about offerings, it's about obedience.

How different will not only the church but the world be if we took this at face value and acted as we are called?

Friday, October 2, 2015


It has been awhile since I have promoted another blog, so today I want to focus on one done by the Nasledie Heritage Foundation.

Originally started by Slavik and Alyona Puzanov in 2006 as a way to help low income families and orphans, their goal was to "help families to stay together with their children despite difficult circumstances and conditions" and to "remind them that God loves them even when it seems they are not wanted."  Over the years, they found themselves working with orphanages and special needs orphanages in the Odessa region, as well as helping to take care of the elderly. In the summer of 2014, they also began to work with refugees fleeing from the war torn areas of Eastern Ukraine.

They and their volunteers call on each of the orphanages in the Odessa region each month to spend time with the children. This includes interacting with them through activities such as crafts, games, sharing the Bible, praying with them, and teaching them life skills.

From November 9th through the 14th, their organization has a Prayer Day Marathon. During this time, they go to all of the orphanages to pray for orphans and with them. They ask churches around the world to join them in prayer on International Day of Prayer for Orphans on November 8th (Orphan Sunday).

Here is a video they made to explain this day of prayer:

To learn more about this organization that truly has a heart for the fatherless, you can go to their website at:

Here is a video that tells more about them and their amazing work:

Everyone is not called to adopt, but we are all called to take care of the orphans. Here is a way that you can. To donate in helping them show the love of God to orphans in 16 different orphanages in and around Odessa, go here:

You can also pray for them and their ministry. Here is a list of what they would have you pray for:

1.We have active teams in 18 different orphanages. Please pray that the teams will be able to build relationships with the kids.
2. Pray for peace in our country.
3. Pray for the financial crisis and that affects the orphans and elderly.
4. Pray for us as we lead this movement and organization. Our desire is to encourage and mobilize the believers in our region to care for the orphans.
5. Pray for the new government that is forming and that it would be established on honest principles.
6. Pray for revival in our country.
7. Pray for believers and that their hope in God would be deepened and that they would share this hope with nonbelievers.

This is an organization that truly lives out Isaiah 1:17, "Learn to do good, seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow."

Thursday, October 1, 2015

An Un-Christlike Commute

The other morning, it was rainy, misty and traffic was a nightmare. A commute that normally takes me forty-five minutes took me two hours. I would like to say that I used this time to pray for others, to meditate on the verses I'd read in my Bible that morning, or just praise God to the music I was listening to. I knew that I needed to do any one of these things, but did I?  


Not only did I not do them, but I was adamant about not doing them. Instead, I stewed in my own inner road rage. Gone were any of the fruits of the spirit in this car. Not a trace of gentleness, kindness, peace, patience . . . Nope. Instead, I used colorful language that made me glad my kids weren't in the car with me. 

I had moments where I attempted to stop this and pray, but I just became frustrated again by the fact that traffic was just inching along. About the only prayer I really meant was the one where I asked God, "Can't You do something about this???"  

His answer?

"Praise You In This Storm" by Casting Crowns came on.

I get it, Lord, I get it. Sometimes He really isn't subtle at all.

And with that, I flipped to another station. One that played old school. I might hear some Gap Band or LL Cool J or Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, but I would not hear anything that would remind me of what I was not supposed to be doing.

Or so I thought.

God being God, He had them play Al Green's "I Know That Everything is Gonna' Be Alright." For those of you unfamiliar with this song by the soul singer (best known for the hit "Let's Stay Together") some of the lyrics to this one goes:

Just give your life and love to God and He'll give you a peace of mind
I know that everything is gonna' be alright

Well played, God, well played. 

The song goes on to say that "everything is gonna' be alright 'cause He's comin' back just like He said He would."

Sitting on the turn-off to get onto I-485, I was ready for Him to; not because I was spiritually ready, but just because I didn't want to be sitting in stop-and-go traffic. And the worse part was, this was only one of four times I would have to drive I-485 that day (as it fell on the day I had to take Cava to speech therapy).

It was National Coffee Day, but I knew that by the end of it, I would need it to be National Wine Day.

I knew I would have to repent later, but for now all I wanted was my for my car to be like the one in the 80's video game Spyhunter so that I could shoot and bump other cars off the road. I definitely wasn't extending grace to those drivers who cut in line either.

Yeah, not very spiritual that day. Thankfully, I don't have an Ichthys (or Christian fish symbol) or any religious bumper stickers on my car to call me out as a Christian. I notice that so many people who do are the worst drivers.  Not an accusation, just an observation.

One of the verses I had read that morning had been Psalm 34:14, "Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it."  Why then wasn't I?  

In his book Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, Francis Chan wrote, "Stress says the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace towards others, or our tight grip of control."

The whole commute reminded me of how un-Christlike I am, how in need of His grace and forgiveness I am, and how, when I, like a petulant child who is not getting his way, do very little to truly deserve either. 

I should have been praying. I knew this. Understood this. And ignored this.

The Danish philisopher Soren Kierkegaard even knew this and wrote, "Impatience is an evil spirit that can only be expelled by prayer . . ."

God was blessing me with time to pray to Him and worship Him, but I chose not to. Instead, I chose to get angry over something that was totally out of my control instead of controlling something that was in my power to do so: my temper. How many times had I gotten on Cava for doing the same thing during traffic jams?  

By the time I finally got to work, I was frazzled, irritable, and downright grouchy. Not to mention I had to pee really bad from all the coffee I had already drank that morning to celebrate National Coffee Day. 

So what is the point of all this rambling?

Well, for one, it shows all those misguided people who believe that I am the most patient of people that I am really not.  It shows that situations like this are a real weak point for me spiritually. It shows me that I wish someone would hurry up an invent viable transporters like on Star Trek so I can just beam places.  (There isn't any beaming traffic, is there?)  It also goes to show me that, when I think I've got it all together, I don't. And that the new mercies I need every morning, I need to then respond in that same mercy and grace to others. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Coffee Break

I love coffee.

That is not a statement. That is a fact.  Much as I would state, "I need air to breathe."  

Now I am in no way, shape or form a morning person. It is best not to try and strike up a conversation with me in the morning unless you want monosyllabic grunts. It's not until I have had my coffee that I can begin to form the words that form sentences. Or even begin to have the thoughts that form the words that form sentences. No coffee, no thoughts. Maybe that's why Sir James Mackintosh said, "The powers of a man's mind are directly proportioned to the quantity of coffee he drinks."  

"So pour on!" I declare so that those profound thoughts can spring forth. 

And not a small cup of coffee, either! But a mug of coffee!

I have a favorite coffee mug. My Mickey coffee mug. I love not only its design and color, but the size of this mug, which is the perfect size for a coffee mug. I don't want a dainty coffee cup. No, I want - dare I say - need a coffee cup this size.  

Is there nothing better in the morning than the smell of freshly brewed coffee?

And dosn't a doughnut taste better with coffee?

Or a pastry?

Or pie?

Or any dessert for that matter? Ahhh, I'm in my happy place . . . .

And drinking coffee makes me a better parent.  To prove my point:

Parenting after drinking coffee:

Parenting without coffee:

I love coffee in a Gilmore Girls love of coffee. My favorite show encapsulates two of my favorite things: books and coffee. (For those who haven't watched this show - WHAT???? Go now. Get a cup of coffee and go binge-watch it on Netflix!)

My mornings are comprised of coffee, prayer, and reading my Bible before getting the kids to school and myself to work. All three (coffee, prayer, and scripture) are vital. When the Bible talks about "joy comes in the morning," I can't help but think that part of that joy is in the form of coffee. 

On rainy days, particularly cold and rainy days, I love nothing more than a cup of coffee, a good book, and a warm blanket to enjoy both under.  

Even C. S. Lewis understood this. He said, "You can never get a cup of coffee large enough or a book good enough to suit me." To this I holler, "Comrade!"  (I might also add "long enough naps" to that list. Just saying). He was not alone in this thought, as the novelist Anthony Trollope asked, "What on Earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?"

Can't answer that question with anything other than, "Nothing, Anthony, nothing."  


Because it's true!  

And he should know. Anthony Trollope was one of the most prolific and prodigious of authors and he invented the mailbox. He would wake up at 5:30 every morning, drink coffee, and begin writing. Trollope would go on to write 47 novels, sometimes as many as three in a single year. If you've never read him, grab a cup of coffee and one of his works, find a comfortable sofa to understand his question even more fully. 

What better and more welcoming invitation is there than a friend suggesting, "Let's meet over coffee"? Unless, of course, it's, "Let's meet over coffee and books"? Along with books, friendships go better with coffee. I mean, who hasn't enjoyed a deep, meaningful conversation with a close friend over coffee? Aren't they more pleasurable over coffee?  Of course, what isn't?   

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Documentaries About Adoption

Here are some documentaries about adoption that can currently be streamed on either Netflix or Amazon.

1. Adopted directed Barb Lee. "Of the 1.5 million children in the U.S., international adoptees are the fastest growing segment. While many of their stories play into our self-image of American compassion and generosity, the realities are much more complex. Adopted reveals the sober reality of interracial adoption, delving deep into the intimate lives of two well-meaning families and showing the challenges they face."

This one can be streamed on Amazon Prime.

2. Approved for Adoption by Jung Henin. This animated documentary traces the unconventional upbringing of its director.

This one can be streamed on Amazon Prime. 

3. Giving a Child Away is a documentary that "throws fundamental questions into the air about love, adoption, and family. One of its greatest strengths is that it gives no straight answers."

This one can be streamed on Amazon Prime.

4. Bringing Joshua Home "tells the personal story of one family who successfully adopted a Russian child. Arthur and Hanna Rosco share the challenges, joys, and drama of adopting a baby boy from Moscow and introducing him into their family. If you've ever wondered what it is like to adopt internationally, this film givens an inside, real-life look into the process from start to finish."

This one can be streamed on Amazon Prime.

5. The Drop Box. "This documentary chronicles the work of South Korean pastor Jong-rak Lee, who overcame multiple obstacles to take in orphans no one wanted."

This one can be streamed on Netflix.

6. Closure is a documentary about Angela Burt Tucker "a black woman raised by a white adoptive family" and her search for her biological parents "after 25 years without any contact."

This one can be streamed on Netflix.

7. The Dark Matter of Love is a documentary directed by Sarah McCarthy about "an American family that adopting three Russian children at once, and how they coped with the challenges behind bonding with children raised in an orphanage."

This one can be streamed on Netflix.

8. Stuck "follows the fate of four orphans from around the world, this earnest documentary argues that international adoption laws are deeply flawed."

This one can be streamed on Netflix.

If you know of any others, please feel free to comment and let me know.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Language & Loss

Cava is doing really well in school this year. He was elected to his fourth grade student council. His interim report was three "A's" and one "B."  That is no small feat.

Today, as I was leaving from having lunch with him, I ran into a woman who works at the school who stopped me to tell me how excited she was that Cava had gotten elected to student council and how she tells people who don't know, just how far he really has come in just under three years. And it's true. Amazingly true.

When I think back to when Cava first arrived here, I think about how hard it must have been to be caught between two languages. Everyday words and their meanings becomes lost, the person disconnected, and the world around them becomes strange and unreal. All your life you've thought and spoken in one language and now you have to shift gears and not only translate your thoughts from one language to another, but you must also speak them. How humbling it must be. And there is a hesitancy to speak because you're not sure of the right words or if you are pronouncing them correctly or using them in the right context (and I'm learning more and more about how important context is for Cava to learn and understand his new language). To not be understood and feel like you are stupid because of that must create a lot of internal anger and frustration. Add this to their struggle with identity, rejection, acceptance, and being uprooted from everything they know and it's a volatile mix adding to their sorrow, confusion, loss and anger. When language and communication are gone, one is left without meaning; stumbling to say what one thinks, what one feels, and what one wants. It's harder to trust those you don't understand.

I can't imagine coming here as an older child and no longer be able to speak my birth language: the language of my identity. As Dr. Sharon Glennen wrote on the subject, "The loss of the first language before the new adopted language develops leaves the internationally adopted child in a linguistic and educational limbo."  Essentially, until the adopted child learns the new language, they have none. And it negatively impacts "cognitive and linguistic development."  As Glennen goes on to write:

Consider these facts. The typical 6 year old understands over 20,000 English words (Owens, 2000).  A 5 year old child adopted from another country would need to learn an average of 54 new words every day in order to fully catch up in language comprehension abilities by age 6.  If the catch up timeframe is stretched out to 2 years, the adopted 5 year old would still need to learn an average of 27 new words every day to fully catch up by age 7.  However, while the adopted child has been playing catch-up, his 6 year old friends have also added an average of 5,000 words to their vocabulary.  By age 7, the typical child understands 25,000 words.  In order to fully catch up within a 2 year window, the adopted 5 year old needs to learn an average of 34 words per day.  In summary, expecting older adopted children to develop proficient English language skills within 1 or 2 years of adoption is unrealistic. 

Yet aren't those expectations put on these kids?

And they must feel it as they have to learn a new language by sink-or-swim method. How much pressure and stress must that cause them?  

Is it any wonder that Cava was so angry when he got here?

We have worked with him in not only learning his new language, but helping him understand meaning and context for all the new words he's encountering.  Going to speech therapy has been a big help in equipping us, as his parents, to ways we can help him do this and succeed. Because of Cava's hard work and determination, he is beginning to see the fruits of his labors. He is making good grades and this is also impacting behavior. He is able to understand and be understood. More importantly, he is finding acceptance. How much greater are his strides going to be with all of these in place this year?

I cannot wait to see what this boy can accomplish.

To read more of Dr. Glennen's writing and to find more resources on the matter of language development in internationally adopted children, go to the following website: