Thoughts from an Ordinary Guy

This journey through life is never boring......

Month: November 2015 (page 2 of 3)

A Prayer About Not Being Okay

Dear Heavenly Father,

How did the world end up like this?  I mean I know it’s the whole Satan vs. God battle but wow, things have deteriorated so quickly in so many ways lately.

Help us to be your hands and feet and not bash others who might not agree.

Help us to have courage – because today certainly isn’t the time for the faint of heart.

Help us to balance the need of protecting our “people” and reaching out to those who need someone to protect them.   Help the balance to lean towards those who have no one.

Help us to see how is the best way to be love and to live love.

We’re not okay and many people are scared being “not okay.”   Give us all a greater sense of the new world that you have promised us and that when we get there, then we will be okay.

In the mean time, God, give us wisdom.   Give us a conscience – not only in terms of how we help or don’t help in this problem, but in how we interact with others about it and about other issues.   Facebook should be a place for Christians to shine your light and your love, not to hurt and yell and swear.

Help us to not give your church ANOTHER black eye as we know we’ve already given her many.

I’m not okay with the world the way it is today.   

Make it clear for us all what you’d have us do and how you’d like us to live.

In your name we ask for wisdom,

Amen

TJV

It’s Messy And It Hurts

My thinking on this subject has evolved and changed quite a bit over the years.    I used to be ignorant – blissfully ignorant.

But unfortunately, I’ve seen too much over the last 12 years.   Too many mistakes, too many well intentioned efforts gone wrong, too many times where families were hurt rather than helped, too many situations where children will bear scars for their entire life because of what happened.

What am I talking about?   Orphan care and the National Adoption Month celebrations.   I used to get excited about these and I used to be a strong advocate for doing events like this which raise awareness.

Not so much any more.

Am I still pro-adoption?   I absolutely am.    There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not grateful that God has seen fit to allow me to be the parent to all five of my children.  Becoming an adoptive parent has allowed me to get to know some incredibly awesome people.    It has stretched me, taught me, broken me, molded me and totally reshaped my priorities.

But this year, I have gotten to the point that I don’t like the Orphan Sunday celebrations any more – at least not the way most of them are done.    Probably one of the most common “orphan sunday” posts I’ve seen on Facebook has the statistics of how many children in the US are in foster homes waiting for adoptive families.    It then says something like, 

There are 101,000 children in foster care waiting for families.  There are over 300,000 churches in the United States.   If one out of every 3 churches would adopt a child from foster care, there would be no orphan crisis.”

This statement is true in a couple of ways and false in some other very important ways.

It’s true – if one family from 1 out of every three churches adopted from the foster care system, every single one of the children in foster care would have a permanent home.   That would be wonderful.

But this is not a true statement for a couple of reasons:

  • It would not end the orphan crisis.   Because today there are more children being put in foster care.    And tomorrow there are more children being put in the system.   So, a year from now, there won’t be zero orphans in foster care, there would be a totally new “batch of orphans.”
  • Churches don’t adopt children, families do.   From personal experience and from talking to many adoptive parents, I think that most people could describe the situation in these terms,  “There are people at my church who want to help but don’t know how.   Most people don’t want anything to do with us and some of them are outright hostile because we make them uncomfortable”     I know that they are saying “churches” because it’s a way to represent the problem – but let’s be honest, most churches don’t do well with helping raise adopted children who come with battle scars.   (See previous blog series on “Not Okay’”)

I could go on in greater detail on the messy sides of adoption (and later I will).   But let’s just that there is a growing feeling that the positive feeling about adoption is being overshadowed by an acknowledgement of the pain that comes with adoption:

Pain for the adopted child – for what they lost to get to this point, for the changes they have to adjust to, for the unanswered questions about the who, why, what of their past.

Pain for the birth parents – no matter what the situation, giving up or losing a child raises questions and causes pain.

Pain for the adoptive parents – while usually the least, the pain that adoptive parents go through is real also.   Changes to their parenting styles, constant struggles, helping a wounded child try to heal, losing friends and family who don’t understand, it all hurts.

And then there’s the system, I could write a book on that, and the way that it pits one part of the system against another and rather than working together  they continue to make life more challenging for everyone.

Adoption is messy.    It’s painful.   It is necessary.

But it’s not the complete answer on how to care for children who are struggling.   There’s more that can be done to help children, but it’s not as clean, not as clear cut but it reduces the number of orphans who need families.

Join me as we work on examining the options and alternatives.

But remember,  James 1:27 says,  “True Religion is to care for orphans and widows in their distress. “

NOT

“True religion is to adopt an orphan.”

Everyone can do something and everyone must do something.

But it’s not an adopt or else scenario…….

TJV

It’s Okay to not be Okay–and God is good with that……..

Today I want to take a look at what God thinks about whether it’s okay to not be okay.    I believe God thinks it’s okay to not be okay.

A brief look through the Bible shows us a couple of things:

  • Joseph spent many years in the dungeon in Egypt – all the while knowing that his father believes he is dead.
  • King David spent many years hiding in caves with no food while in fear for his life.
  • Elijah hid underneath the wormwood tree and asked God to take his life.   He had reached his end and was suicidal.
  • Jonah spent three days inside a whale – if that’s not okay, I don’t know what is.
  • The Israelites spent well over 40 years in the wilderness eating manna provided by God.   I thought college food was bad – and the same thing every day.   For 40 years, they ate dry crackers!   That’s not my idea of okay.

Just a few examples of people who could be very easily classified as “not okay.”

Why would God think that it’s okay for them to be not okay?  A couple of reasons come to mind:

  • If we are not okay, it’s a reminder to us that we, as Christians, are not “of this world.”   This is not our home, so the fact that we’re not okay keeps us longing for the real world and the real life with Jesus in Heaven.
  • If we’re not okay and especially if we don’t know what to do about it, it fosters a reliance on God.   We need to trust Him because we can’t do it on our own.
  • When we are okay with not being okay, we also become more motivated to do something about it.   As the popular Christian song says, “I shook my fists at heaven and said, “God why don’t you do something?”   “I did, my son, I created you.”   If we are okay with not being okay, that doesn’t mean that we’re complacent about it, it means we acknowledge it and strive for better.   That makes God happy.

God is good with us being okay with not being okay because it helps us rely on him, fosters and encourages our ability to care and make a diffe3rence and see the bigger picture.

God loves you.   God loves me.   He doesn’t want us to not be okay, but he’s okay with us not being okay because it makes us better followers of his Word, better change agents to make the world a better place for His people and more motivated to share His love with others.

And that works for me.

TJV

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay–and The Church Should Welcome That

Continuing our discussion and building on Jason Johnson’s blog (you can read his here).

You can read my thoughts here and here and here.

And you can read what Carissa Woodwyk wrote right here.

Today, I want to take it one step further.

A quick review:

First we talked about how it’s okay to not be okay.   Our society has made it seem like we are a complete and abject failure if everything isn’t perfect.

Secondly, we talked about the relationship between not being okay and National Adoption month.   How it’s possible to be both okay and not okay at the same time.

Third, we talked about how not only is it okay to not be okay, it’s okay to admit it.   Our society has a really big problem with admitting struggles and our churches are quite often the worst places for that.

Fourth – we talked about how it’s okay to not be okay and not know what to do about it.

Today, I want to take it to another level….

Not only is it okay to not be okay and okay to admit it, but the church should welcome that.   The church should welcome that we are screwed up?   Absolutely.   For a couple of reasons:

  • If we don’t admit our struggles, then we are depriving our fellow church members of the ability to step up beside us and help and love on us in our need.   That deprives the church of a major reason for it’s existence.    Jesus said, “I didn’t come to heal the healthy, I came to heal the sick.”   Well if everyone pretends they are healthy, then we miss that opportunity.
  • Not only are we depriving people of the ability to be the hands and feet of Christ, but we’re depriving ourselves of the health and help and support that we need.   If we don’t tell anyone that we are struggling, they can’t help us.
  • If we don’t admit our struggles and admit that things are not okay, we are going to drive the hurt and the struggling away from the church.   They are going to say, “I can’t hang out with these people, they are a bunch of perfect Mr. and Mrs. Jones type.”   That’s not true but if we don’t make sure people know it’s not true, they are going to assume it is and stay away.

But in order to foster a spirit of honesty and openness, the church needs to do a couple of things:

  • It needs to encourage and foster a spirit of openness in its leadership to be open about their own personal struggles and pains.
  • The leadership of the church needs to educate the church on how to respond when people  are not okay and admit it.   If someone has the guts to admit their struggles and the fellow church member they share it with says something like,  “Chin up, God does everything for a reason,” then the church has done more  to hurt the cause of Christ.

The church needs to welcome the “not okay” part of life and do it in a way that makes people feel comfortable sharing their pain and their sorrow – that’s when real Christian growth can help.

I’m curious, how does your church do with that?

Tom

Let’s Do Something for Veteran’s Day

I’ve been a military history buff since, well probably since I could read.   I’ve always had the utmost respect for those who have served and defended our country (or their country) and the sacrifices they have made.

In previous years, I’ve thanked some of the veterans that I know and that’s been about it.   I want to try something different this year.

I created a page on my blog called Stories From Veterans.   You can find it at http://tomvanderwell.net/stories-from-the-veterans/ .   I would like to collect a LARGE number of names, stories, dates and any other information that people would be willing to share.

I want to personalize Veterans Day.   I want to create a great big scrolling story book.   Each comment on that page will represent a story.  Some of them in great detail, some of them just a name or a date.   But every one of them will represent someone who sacrificed to make our country (or their country) what it is today.

On behalf of all of us, let’s show the Veterans and the active duty military how grateful we are.

Will you help?

Go to http://tomvanderwell.net/stories-from-the-veterans/ and add the stories that you can.   Then also share this with others and ask them to as well.

Thanks,

Tom

P.S. If this gets linked to on Facebook and you leave a comment there, it won’t have the same effect.   Read this and then go to http://tomvanderwell.net/stories-from-the-veterans/ and comment there.

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