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

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Micah 6:8 In Action



International Justice Missions:


Amazima Ministries:


These are three ministries with one goal: to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world. They were all started by people who headed God's call and said, "Yes." They are all ordinary people falling an extraordinary God. They are all taking care of the least of these and seeking justice for the oppressed.

As Cornell West said, "Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public."

Here are links to all three of their websites:
Sole Hope:  http://www.solehope.org/

International Justice Missions: https://ijm.org/

Amazima Ministries: https://amazima.org/

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Will Of God: Make A Decision


How many of us search the scriptures, seek wise counsel, pray and then, when it's time to act, want to go back to our Bibles some more, seek out more advise, want more confirmation, and pray some more?  Jesus spent time in prayer but then He went out and did His Father's will among the people who so desperately needed Him. Why are we so reluctant to do likewise?

Fear?

Does scripture not tell us that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and a sound mind?

Not to mention that we are constantly reminded that God will be with us.

Are we afraid to leave our comfortable lives? We can either seek the comforts of this world or we can seek the Truth. Truth will never let you be comfortable. Many may turn away because of this fact. Like the rich young ruler, we will cling to our things and fear that following Christ means we will go without them. As David Platt wrote in his book Radical, "Radical obedience to Christ is not easy . . . It's not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in the world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But, in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us."

Do we live our lives as if we truly believe that?


As a girl, Katie Davis read her Bible and, even at the young age of 12, gave her life to God for whatever purpose He had for her. At the age of 17, she went on her first missions trip to Uganda. It was there that she felt God's purpose for her life, so that after she graduated high school, Katie returned and became a kindergarten teacher. As she walked to school each day, she saw so many children that were too impoverished to get an education because, in Uganda, they are charged a fee.  Seeing a need, Katie started an Education Sponsorship Outreach that now sponsors over 700 children. Not long after that, she started Amazima Ministries to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the Ugandan people. While working with the Karimojong people of Masese, who live in dire poverty, she went on to start the Masese Feeding Outreach. They provide meals Monday through Friday to over 1,000 children. To help the women, Katie started a self-sustaining vocational program to help them generate income by making their unique beaded necklaces and selling them on the Amazima website. As if, by our standards, this weren't enough, she has adopted 13 girls of various ages.  

"I am not really very brave; I am not really strong; and I am not doing anything spectacular," Katie Davis said, "I am simply doing what God has called me to do as a person who follows Him. Feed His sheep, do unto the least of these."

Katie, like the great figures of faith in the Bible, are not any different from you and me. The only difference is that when God called them, they were obedient and moved forward in faith that no matter what happened to them, God was with them. We are all called to be Paul, Mother Teresa, Gary Haugen, Dru and Asher Collie, and Katie Davis because we are all called to do unto the least of these. The only thing that separates us is our excuses. 

Too many of us want a content, cozy, and comfortable Christianity, but that's not the Christianity of Christ. He calls us to "deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."  This is not something we see on bumper-stickers. This is not what most of American churches talk about because we often want a God to serve us, instead of us serving Him. But when one looks closely at those who are strong examples of the faith, we will see that they did not have this false idea of God. They knew that to stand for Christ was to stand even when others didn't.


Just look at the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who would go on to write a book entitled The Cost of Discipleship.  Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor during the rise of Hitler. While others in the church were caving in to the world around them, Bonhoeffer stood firm against Nazism and continued to proclaim the truth that he saw in the scriptures. Later, he would be imprisoned and died at the gallows. As he wrote in The Cost of Discipleship, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." Now, he was referring to dying to self, but he also meant that standing for one's faith can often cost a person their life. So why would he be willing to literally die for his beliefs?  It lies in this:

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: 'Ye were bought at a price,' and what has cost God cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the incarnation of Christ.

God love us so much that he withheld nothing from us, but gave up His only Son.  So why do we hold back from Him?

Do you know where most of the art in many museums, like the Louvre, are?

In the basement. Away from sight.  Unseen. Beautiful, priceless works of art that cannot be appreciated which is their very purpose of existing. Those artists did not create to have their work hidden away.

How many of us do that with parts of our lives from God?

How many of us only give God part of ourselves?  "You can have this God, but not this over here."  Waht are we withholding from Him? Our families? Our jobs? Our finances? Our talents?  Our security? Our priorities?

How many of us will be like the one in the parable of the hidden talents who will stand before Christ and say, "I was afraid . . ."?

Or will we give all to Him, for His glory, and hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant"?

According to Hebrews 11:6, ". . . without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

Do we, like Esther to Naomi, tells God, "Wheresoever you go, I will go also"?

Is it self or Savior that we are focused on?

Remember we are not called in this life to build monuments, we are called to leave markers. What will yours be pointing others who come after you to? Christ? Or the things of this world that you chased after?

We can either retreat or risk? Obedience is risk. Always. Paul knew this. Yet he said, "Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, sword separate us from the love of Christ?" He goes on to answer his own question, "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35 - 39).

God will not impose His will on us. It requires our active participation. We have to follow Jesus. He may lead us through strange and unfamiliar territory, but we know that despite the ever changing circumstances, God never changes and He will never leave us nor forsake us. How many of us sing the lyrics to Hillsong United's "Oceans" without even thinking about what they really mean?  The chorus goes:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters 
Wherever you would call me.

Many of us sing this, but how many of us mean that?  

Isaiah 1:19 tells us, "If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the Lord. . ."

We can choose obedience or independence. We can either go after our own wants and the things of this world or we can go fervently, single-heartedly after the things of God. 

When the Lord divided Canaan among the tribes of Israel, Levi received no share of the land. Instead, the Lord told him, "I am thy part and thine inheritance." How many of us would be happy to hear that? How many of us prefer the land to the Lord that created it?  

As the wife of the missionary Jim Elliot, Elizabeth, said, "The will of God is not something you add to your life. It's a course you choose. You either line yourself up with the Son of God or you capitulate to the principle which governs the rest of the world."

When we have lined ourselves to the things of God we are willing to risk it all and take that first step. When we trust God wholeheartedly and without reservation, we may not be able to see where He is leading us, but we know that we don't have to because He does. Like Peter, we take that first step. He knew that, no matter what, Jesus would not let him drown. And He won't let us, either. 

Saint Francis said, "Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible."

That is exactly what Katie Davis did. That's what Gary Haugen did. That's what Dietrich Bonhoeffer did. That's what Dru and Asher Collie did. They saw a need, took that first step, and saw God work in their lives and the lives of others. They understood that by us being faithful to God's call, He would be glorified and others would be drawn to Him. 

What will you say, "Yes" to?  What are you willing to risk? Where do you need to take that first step?  

When we do, we will learn what the late Rich Mullins did when he said, "A faith that moves mountains is a faith that expands horizons, it does not bring us into a smaller world full of easy answers, but into a larger one where there is room to wonder."

Please say, "Yes." Please take that risk. Please take that first step. If you do, it won't be just your life that will be transformed.



Friday, February 27, 2015

The Will Of God: Pray


When the pro-tennis player Arthur Ashe got HIV-Aids from a blood transfusion during heart bypass surgery, a reporter, knowing Mr. Ashe was a Christian, asked him if he was going to pray for his healing. Arthur Ashe's response shocked the reporter, just as it will many of us when we read it, "God's will alone matters, not my personal wants and needs. When I played tennis, I never prayed for victory in a match. I will not pray to be cured."

How many of us would say that?

I know when my own mother was dying of cancer, I didn't think that way. My family was praying for her healing daily. Do I think it's wrong to pray for the healing of someone? No, certainly not. But what it ultimately comes down to is: Am I willing to pray for God's will to be done no matter what the outcome?  That can be hard - particularly in regards to our families. One of the hardest things for me to do was to give God my children. But why is this? He loves them far more than I do; after all, He did not even spare His own son because He loved my kids. His is a sacrificial love. Mine tends to lean more towards the selfish kind.  This selfishness can also show itself in my prayers, which tend to be very me-centric, even when I'm praying for my family.


Dru and Asher Collie were by American standards a success. Dru ran a chain of coffee shops and Asher had her own photography business. Both did this while raising their kids. While considering adopting a child from Africa, Asher was looking up videos on YouTube of African children and came across one that showed the devastating impact of jiggers on children there. Jiggers are small sand fleas that enter bare feet, burrow under the skin, and infect the feet. This can lead to infections, paralysis, and even amputation.  Asher admitted, "At first I tried to close off my heart and prayed that someone else would do something about this."  But the more she tried to escape, the more God placed a burden on her heart for those children. She began to research the problem and realized that the solution was a simple one: closed toe shoes. If the children wore them, their feet would be protected. This led she and her husband to start Sole Hope. They not only provide shoes, but help with education, job training for the parents, and medical relief. They left their successful businesses because they believed that actions based on love and hope can change a nation and that such actions can ultimately lead others to Christ. 

Once more, we see someone who sees a need and, ultimately, surrenders to God and says, "Yes, I'll do it."  

In a recent poll, Americans were asked, "What do you pray for?"
82% said they pray for family and friends
74% said they pray for themselves
38% said they prayed for people who suffered a natural disaster
35% said they prayed for prosperity
13% prayed for their favorite sports teams
12% prayed for their government leaders
5% admitted that they prayed for the failure of others
48% said that they prayed every day

First, I found it telling that more people prayed for sports teams than our government, which we are called to pray for. I often think Christians spend too much time complaining about their elected officials and not enough time praying for them.

Nearly half, said they prayed every day. Even nonbelievers pray. Doctors and scientists are continually coming out with studies on the benefits of praying. But is longevity a good enough reason to pray? Many in our culture would answer a resounding, "YES!"  Yet even among Christians, how many of them are praying as Christ taught us to pray? How many of us pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?"  How many of our prayers are more focused on "mine" than "thine?"  I will openly admit that I am guilty of this. I wonder how much of my prayers are focused on self and do I sound to God like my kids sound to me as they continually revise their Christmas lists and tell them to me?

Anne Lamott wrote that too often our prayers swing between "Help me, help me, help me" and "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Mother Teresa said, "Prayer is not asking. Prayer is about putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depths of our hearts."  She understood that prayer is, "Thy will be done," just as Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. How may of us pray "Thy will be done" and actually mean it?  Sometimes I know that when I am praying that outwardly, inwardly I'm still saying, "But Your will is going to match mine, right?"  When we pray for knowing God's will in our lives, do we really want to know it? Or do we only want to know it when it matches our hopes and expectations?

So often I think we get in the way of God's will because we are still too focused on ourselves. A. W. Tozer wrote, "The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven't come to the end of themselves. We're still trying to give orders, and interfering with God's work within us."  How many of us need to get out of the way, empty ourselves of ourselves, and pray only, "God, I trust you. No matter what the outcome. No matter the path it takes."

Philip Yancey wrote, "I know the Lord is speaking when I stop listening to sounds from the world that feed my sense of pride and ambition." It is about letting go of our agendas. Prayer is not a wish list from a catalog where we have circled everything we want God to give us (a great job, lots of money, a happy, healthy family) and then are disgruntled, angry, and questioning when He doesn't. Faith is not about God serving us, it is about us serving Him.

I think when we reach this point that we let go of our wants and desires and let God be God, we will know His will because He longs to show it to us. Knowing God's will is not an Easter egg hunt. He does not hide it from us. Knowing God's will is not about having a road map, it's about having a relationship. When we pray, we are strengthening that relationship.

How often does God show us His will and we, like the rich young ruler, turn away because we fear what it will cost us?

Are we, like Asher Collie, praying for someone else to do what we are called to do? She realized the truth and surrendered to God. Like Jim Elliot, the missionary who lost his life while trying to evangelize the Huaorani people of Equador,said, "The will of God is always a bigger thing than we bargain for, but we must believe that whatever it involves, it is good, acceptable, and perfect." When we act on God's call, no matter what the outcome, we realize the joy that comes with conforming to the will of God. To know this will, we need an open Bible and an open heart.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths." He shows those who follow obediently. When we truly say, "Thy will be done," let go of our own, we will find that when we do, we will follow God in the embrace of extraordinary love into a life that is far greater than any we could ever have imagined because it will be in service to a heavenly Father who loves us with what Rich Mullins called, "the reckless, raging fury that is called the love of God." Imagine love like the strongest hurricane and that is only a fraction of God's love for us. We must remember that when we pray because when we realize how deep that love really is, we should jump at the chance to follow wherever He leads.


To learn more about Sole Hope, go to their website at:
http://www.solehope.org/





Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Will Of God: Search The Scriptures


Recently I had been asked to teach a class at our church about the will of God from the book Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung. I was to teach the last class on the last two chapters of the book. My first reaction to doing this was a resounding, "NO!" I, like Moses, wanted to back out with, "But I'm not a good speaker." I am shy and introverted and public speaking has never been my thing. Yet, the class, which I was also taking, was about doing just this and, my only real reason for saying, "No," was fear. Since God has not given us a spirit of fear, I, reluctantly said yes.

 Now I had a few weeks from the time I was asked until the time I was to teach to prepare. My poor wife had to put up with me during this time of writing out my lesson, revising it, revising it again - and again - and again. She joked, "You could never be a pastor with as much trouble as you take over teaching one lesson."

Last night, despite the inclement weather, I got to finally teach my lesson. And, guess what?  I didn't use 90% of what I had written. I had prayed beforehand that God would speak through me and I hope that He did because I am super harsh and critical of myself and came home dejected because the lesson I taught wasn't the polished one I'd written.

So, I decide to post my lesson here. I am breaking it into the four steps that the chapter I was to cover used for discovering God's will for our lives. The first was Search the Scriptures, second was Get Wise Counsel, the third was Pray, and last was Make a Decision. Here is my lesson on Search the Scriptures. I will post the others separately at later times.


Gary Haugen once said, "If you're wrestling with some sort of decision, reflect for a moment and ask yourself, Am I being brave, or am I being safe. In the end it depends on whether we think God can be trusted." For those who aren't familiar with Gary Haugen, he was the former Human Rights Attorney for the United States Department of Justice. A Christian, he was reading the scriptures and was bothered by what he saw as Christians ignoring the Biblical injunction to "seek justice, protect the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow."  He kept asking God, "Why? Why aren't Christians stepping up to do this?" And each time he was convicted with, "Why aren't you?" So he did. He saw the need to stop human trafficking, such as sexual trafficking and human slavery, and founded International Justice Missions, which is one of the biggest organizations in the world to stop what is a grievous evil taking place all around the globe.

Haugen studied the scriptures. He saw the need, a real physical and spiritual need, and when God asked him to, he said, "Yes."

When I was 10 years old and a Boy Scout, our troop went camping at Crowder's Mountain. It was a crisp, beautiful fall day. The sky was blue. Leaves were in all the autumnal glorious reds, oranges, and golds. But I saw none of this because I was afraid. Why? Because after we hiked up the mountain, we were going to repel down the 150 sheer drop. Now I was terrified of heights and the thought of doing this was overwhelming to me. So much so that I worried endlessly the week before it and, especially, the day of this activity. Other boys were having a blast, but I sat there on a cold rock, sweating, my heart pounding, in terror. The leaders kept trying to persuade me about how much fun this activity was, but I would have none of it. Finally, they tricked me by telling me that all I had to do was try on the harness built. Being a stupid and naive kid, I did and, next thing I know, I'm hooked to that rope and standing on the ledge. That first step off solid ground was the hardest. I don't know how long I stood there before I finally took that step.

But how many of us are like that about the things of God? We stand there, peering over the edge, or skirting around the edge, without ever taking the risk of that first step. We don't fully abandon ourselves fully to God. We are oftentimes too afraid to take that first step because we fear, "What is it going to cost me?"

Why is this?

For many, myself often included, it comes down to an issue of trust. Either we trust God or we don't. He always puts us at a crossroads. First, we have to answer that question that Jesus asks, "Who do you say I am?" If we answer that he is Christ, our Lord and Savior, then every crossroads we come to after that comes down to, "Will you obey me or go your own way?"

I think our fear stems from not fully knowing and trusting the character of God. To fully know Him, we have to spend time in our Bibles because His nature is there from cover to cover. It continually speaks of the "goodness" of God. In Latin, there are more definitions for this word than in English. It can mean beautiful, beneficent, pleasant, loving, and full of mercy and grace.

James 1:17 tells us, "Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming from the father of lights with whom there is no shadow or variation." The last part tells us that He doesn't change. There are no gray areas with God. Like a loving father, He gives "every good and perfect gift."

But do we truly see God as loving? As tender? Luke 13:34 tells us, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest and stoneth them that are sent to her, how often would I have gathered the children together, as a hen doth gather her chicks under her wings, and ye would not." It is God who longs to love and protect His children. It is the children who have abandoned Him.

No matter how bad of a day I have had with my two sons, when they are asleep in their beds at night, I always go in there rooms and look on them with tenderness. I cannot help but love my sons. I kiss their foreheads and I say a quiet prayer over them. As their Papa, I would give my life for them - and I am an imperfect, often selfish, and fallible father. Our heavenly Father isn't. And He loves us as we are, not as we are supposed to be.

Oswald Chambers once wrote, "Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time."

How true this really is.

I often think that life is like a quilt. On the back of a quilt, it's all ugly with knots and seams and it doesn't look like much or make a lot of sense. It's only when we see the front of the quilt that we understand and see the true beauty of the craftsmanship. I think this is how it will be with God when we are finally with him. We will be able to see our lives and go, "Oh, now I get it."

To know his character, we have to daily read our Bibles. Scriptures are there to reveal God to us. The more time we spend in the Word, the more we can see the unchangeable, unshakable, immutable, ever constant, and infinitely holy and loving God. We will see that He is true. He is faithful.

Joshua 1:9 says, "Have I not commanded you? Be of strong and good courage; be not afraid, neither you be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

Now I am someone who struggles with depression. This is something I have dealt with since high school and there have been times in my life that reached the lowest depths one could reach. But what kept me from ending my life as so many others who suffer from clinical depression have?

The love of God.

Psalms 139:8 tells us, "If I ascend into heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there." And He was. That's why I love the Psalms. David and the Psalmists keep it real. They often start off with, "Where are you God? Have you abandoned me?" How many of us can relate to that during difficult times in our lives? But the Psalms always end with, "I may not understand, but I will trust You."  During those times of depression, I learned the truth of Romans 8:39 that says, "Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." And nothing, not even the depths of utter depression did.

God is always with us. We don't need to fear that if we say, "Yes," to the will of God that He is going to declare, "Gotcha! Now I'm going to send you to be a missionary to the third world!" No, as Frederick Buechner wrote in his book Wishful Thinking, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."  How true this is. When He calls us, He calls us to a place where we are capable. So often we build up people like Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, and Katie Davis and put them on spiritual pedestals, but we shouldn't. They are ordinary people falling an extraordinary God. We are, all of us, if we listen to the call, called to be modern day Pauls. These people should not stand out as different from others in Christ, because we should all be striving towards the goal that is set before us.

And God will lead us. It may not necessarily be by a way that we would have chosen or expected, though. Look at how he led the Israelites out of Egypt. He led them to a place where the Red Sea was on one side of them and mountains and a desert were on the other. They had to be asking, "God, did you bring us here so that we would die? Do you want us to die?" No, God doesn't want them dead, he wants them obedient. He put them in a place where they could not save themselves, where only He could and only He would get that glory. He may put us in such a place.

Later God would lead them by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  When God moved, they moved. When He stopped, they stopped. They did not move until He did. Sometimes I think we aren't led because we want to move when He wants us to stand still. Psalm 46:10 tells us, "Be still, and know that I am God." That means, "Stop! I am God." In Latin, "Be still" translates to "Vacate." "Vacate and know that I am God." this is freeing because God is telling us that we are not in control of the situation, nor of the outcomes, and that we don't have to have all of the answers. We are not God. He is.  There is true freedom in trusting God and following His lead. "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." (2nd Corinthians 3:17)

He will lead us. That is why we are called His sheep. Sheep have to be led.

Why?

Because they are such stupid animals. That's why you don't see any wild sheep. Sheep wander off and must be found. They must be brought back to the fold. To survive they must be under the protective guidance and gaze of the shepherd. Jesus didn't call us any of the smart animals, like dogs or dolphins. Sheep are wholly dependent on their Shepherd. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want . . ." It's all there in the 23rd Psalm.

This goes openly against our culture. It bucks the Emersonian notion of self-reliance. In this culture, we don't want to be led, we want to be the leader. Even Christians can be this way. We too often are under the false impression that we are smart sheep. To follow God's will means we need to let go of our self-reliance, let go of self, and empty ourselves of ourselves and fill ourselves with the love of God.

Why?

Because, as one of my favorite writers, G.K. Chesterton wrote, "When we bind our hearts, we free our hands." What does that mean? It means, when we truly give our hearts to God, we are freed up to do His will. When we know and understand the character of God, we will want to do the will of God. It means that when we are reading our scripture and trusting a loving Father, we will hear His call and reply, "Yes."

For those interested in learning more about Gary Haugen and the work of International Justice Missions, here is a link to their site:
https://ijm.org/

Monday, February 16, 2015

Science Before The Snowstorm


Since all of our local weathermen are predicting snow and ice to hit our area late today, and because the boys were out of school for President's Day, we decided to take a trip to one of our favorite places - the Schiele Museum to see their new exhibit The Solar System.

No sooner had we entered the exhibit when Cava learned why we do not touch the sun . . .


Walking around to each of the planets, Cava loved all of the interactive monitors that had short videos. He loved reading about planets named after gods because it was "just like in Percy Jackson," which is one of his favorite book series.


This was one of his favorite facts:


Cleverly, he asked, "Shouldn't that have been on Pluto?"

I loved how Cava didn't rush through the exhibit, but stopped, interacted with the monitors, read facts and information about the different planets, about meteorites, and space travel.  


This is a far cry from when he used to make a mad dash from each area of the museum, barely registering any of the exhibits. He was fascinated about space. He loved the calming music they had playing and the twinkling stars overhead.



One of the facts that made the biggest impression on him was this one:


It showed how big the Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet was by putting the city of Charlotte in front of it for perspective. "Whoa!," Cava declared, "That is incredible!"


Once we had finished going through this special exhibit, I asked Cava where he wanted to go next. 

His reply? 

Back through The Solar System! Do we have a future astronaut on our hands?








Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cava's Story


For homework, Cava was asked to write a realistic story. Originally, he was writing about our trip to Disney World. Being a literalist, he began writing about our trip down to stopping to get gas and buy snacks. In fact, he had written the entire front of a wide-ruled sheet of paper and had not even gotten to Florida yet. I stopped him and explained to him what a story was and gave him suggestions. Cava being Cava, he decided to scrap the Disney story and write one about Ukraine. This surprised me since he's never written about his time there.

Here is what he wrote:

Cava woke up and got dressed in his nice clothes.  "Don't get your clothes messy," the care giver told him. "You want to look nice for the family coming to visit you today."  Cava was nervous and excited because no one had ever come to visit him before.

It felt like forever for the time to come when he would meet this family. When it was time, another boy came to get him. He took him to the office. Now Cava was very scared. What if he said or did something wrong? What if they didn't like him?

He opened the door and saw the family. They looked nice and happy. He wanted to be happy, too. They brought him toys. He had never had a toy before. It was a truck and Legos. They sat with him on the floor and played with him and his new toys. After awhile, Cava was asked if he wanted to be a part of their family. "Yes," Cava said. He wanted to be in a family most of all.

Now in his story, Cava had to change his name because the story wasn't supposed to be about him. It's difficult for our very literal-minded son to write an imagined story about an imagined child. Still, I am so happy that he did choose to write about this moment in his life. Once more, I see the healing process taking place. I also love this story for the insight it gives us about what he was thinking, feeling, and going through the day we met him. I cherish every glimpse I get into his past and this story will definitely be going in his life-book.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Paddington


I must admit that when I saw the trailer for this film, I cringed. Paddington was a charming children's book that I loved and, like many of those, I feared that this had been turned into yet another awful adaptation of a beloved classic (i.e. The Cat in The Hat). Rotten Tomatoes has the film at a 98% in terms of positive film reviews, which is higher than many of the films nominated for best picture  for an Oscar this year. Still, I went in wary but found myself charmed by this movie about an orphan bear who is taken in by the Brown family.


When he first gets to their brownstone in Notting Hill, we find that the family is disconnected from each other. Each in their own room and their own little world. From the moment she first saw this little bear in Paddington Station, Mrs. Brown (played beautifully by Sally Hawkins) has felt a small connection to him. While Paddington has literally lost his family, she, in her own way, has too.

A family and being in a new place is all strange and unfamiliar territory for Paddington. He makes a lot of mistakes and struggles to fit in with these humans, just as they don't know what to make of him. The eldest daughter, who, herself, is trying to fit in at a new school. She doesn't want this "strange" bear in their family because she thinks they are "weird" enough.


Unlike many family films, this one cares about its characters and shows that there are more to all of us beneath the surface, as shown in the father's storyline (played by Hugh Bonneville of Downton Abbey fame). He, like the father in Mary Poppins, goes through a transformation that shows how deeply he really does love his family. His character is not the typical movie father, but all of his struggles are out of a genuine concern for his family's well-being. But he will have to learn, as Mrs. Bird tells him, "This family needs that bear as much as that bear needs you." This line is true for any adoptive family about their adoptive child . . .


. . . because, ultimately, this film is about adoption.  Just as in adoption, the family's life becomes a mixture of chaos and joy. I, like Mr. Brown, wanted my family's life to just return to "normal" after Cava's arrival. Like Paddington, Cava put our house in sixes and sevens and upset the routine of our days, but, like the Browns, our routines needed upsetting so that it could be filled with more love and joy than it had ever been before. Cava was our little brown bear who opened our family up to so many new experiences and people that we never would have had or met without him. As Mr. Brown says, "It doesn't matter if someone comes from halfway round the world, if you love them, they are family." This hit straight to my adoptive father's heart because of how true it really is. In so many ways, our family, like the Browns, have grown closer and stronger because of him being a part of us.  


When he came to London, Paddington had a small note attached to him for someone to "please look after this bear" and the filmmakers clearly have. This film is absolutely delightful, warm, and full of heart, It's a treat for the whole family.