Thoughts from an Ordinary Guy

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

Month: January 2016 (page 1 of 5)

Adoption

Things that I’ve learned #5

Out of respect for my kids privacy and their right to tell their story the way they want to when they want to, what I’m going to say today contains no details of their own private histories.

We adopted our two youngest children 11 1/2 years ago from Haiti.   They are both teenagers now. 

In the process of the adoption and the last 11 1/2 years, I’ve learned a number of things about adoption.   Some of these are going to be harder to read than others.

There are too many children available for adoption.   There will always be some situations where there simply is no option to provide a loving and caring family for a child than adoption.   But there are too many children “in the system” who shouldn’t be there.   Why is that?

    • The “poverty orphan” – that’s a term created to designated children who are abandoned by their birth family because their birth family is not currently able to provide for them.   Sometimes it’s a long term issue – mom died and dad has to work in the fields all day and can’t watch a baby while doing that.   More often than not, it’s because of a shorter term economic “speed bump.”   Temporary issues – housing, job loss, etc. can put a marginalized family in to a situation where they can no longer care for their children.
    • Money – Where do you think adoption agencies and orphanages get most of their operating funds?   Enough said.

Success Story – not so fast.   I was once told that every child that an orphanage sent home with their new family was what they considered a success story.   I believe that to be a mistaken assumption for a couple of reasons:

    • It assumes a happily ever after “rainbows and unicorns” story when the child gets home.   This is not aligned with the reality of the losses that an adopted child faces and sets both the child and the parents up for feeling like failures.
    • It ignores the past that brought the child(ren) to this place.   The loss of parents, the loss of a home, of siblings – I’ll have more about it later but no matter the story and no matter the age, the child(ren) have significant losses in their past.

Adoption Training is a failure – A recurring theme that I’ve seen and heard from an overwhelming multitude of the parents that I know and interact with can be described in this sentence,  “The adoption agency never prepared me for this!   If I had known more, it would have helped.”

    • I firmly believe that too many adoption agencies and adoption workers soft sell the challenges of adoption and parenting adopted children.   They do that for two reasons;  1) They are afraid that if they tell the truth, they will scare away prospective parents and scaring away parents doesn’t help the children who need families.    2) Scaring away parents reduces the bottom line financially for the adoption agency.   Yes it comes back to money.
    • I believe that most adoptive parents would still have adopted had they known more of what to expect.   Some of them might have “tightened” the requirements that they would accept and there would be some who say, “Nope, that’s not for me.
      • If it’s not for them, then the last thing that we should do is have a parent who is not fit for being an adoptive parent being exactly that.   You end up with a high needs child in a family that isn’t prepared and not capable.   A recipe for disaster.
      • Not giving adoptive parents a true and honest idea of what to expect is like sending a fire truck to a fire with only their axes and their fireproof suits.   They can’t do what they need to do because they  don’t have the tools to prepare for and deal with the issues.  

An open invitation about adoption training – if you work for an adoption agency or you know someone who works for an agency, I would love to make myself available to help them work on and adjust their training so that their families are as prepared as possible when they get their children.   Feel free to pass on my information to them.

Too many churches have their adoption ministry set up wrong.   There are many many churches in America who advocate for orphans along this line,  “If every church in the United States adopted one or two orphans, there would be no crisis.”   There’s a couple of problems with that, as I see it:

  • A ministry from a church that is run based on a guilt trip is never going to be run the way that God wants it to.   Instead of advocating that everyone should adopt – and push away those who might want to help but can’t or won’t adopt, a church should instead encourage everyone to do something.    Provide opportunities for everyone to help – in various parts of the process – so that everyone can play a part, even  if they don’t adopt or won’t adopt.
  • The theology of adoption – many people have written entire books on this subject, and I can’t do that – so I’m going to be brief.   Many churches, pastors and denominations draw a parallel between the way adoptive parents adopt a child and the way God adopts us as his children.   It is true to that extent but it falls short in a couple of aspects: 
    • Being adopted as sons and daughters of God grants us eternal life and an eventual happiness and joy that comes from life with God in Heaven.    If you notice, I said, eventual.   Adoption quite often equals the pain and suffering of this fallen world, but there are no guarantees of happiness at the “end” of the road.
    • The theology of adoption strong implies, as the Apostle Paul says, “the old life has fallen away” and the new life is now here. “ (my paraphrase).   That says to me that the past is gone and it’s all looking forward and while not totally pain free, the suffering and baggage of the past is gone.    That’s not true for adoptions – some are able to come through the trauma of adoption and “shut the door” on the old life but most adopted children bear scars from their old life.

If you are thinking, wow, this guy is very anti-adoption.   That couldn’t be farther from the truth.   I am very pro-adoption.   But I’m pro-adoption if the adoption is done well, openly, with the proper training and understanding.

And the current system falls far short of that goal.

TV

“Uncomfortable” is a Word That God Uses–A LOT

Things I’ve Learned #4

Another thing I’ve learned over the last 10 years is that God uses the word “Uncomfortable” a LOT.

He doesn’t always say it.   But He uses it.

I think an entire book could be written about the ways that God has used uncomfortable to change the course of the world and change the course of his people.

Do you think Noah was comfortable building a big ship in the desert?

Do you think Moses was comfortable going to see the king of Egypt?

Do you think Esther was comfortable going to talk to the King and attempting to save the Jews?

Do you think the people who hid the Jews in Europe during WWII were comfortable?

Do you think the troops that landed at Normandy on D-Day were comfortable?

Do you think Rosa Parks was comfortable?

Do you think Martin Luther King Jr. was comfortable writing in the jail in Birmingham?

Do you think Mother Teresa was comfortable?

I could go on for hours with more and more examples.   But I won’t.

What do all of these examples have in common?   Well, obviously they were all in uncomfortable situations.

But also, they all acted in their “uncomfortableness” and made the world a better place.   Sometimes a better place for one or two or three people, sometimes for larger groups of people.

God wants His people to be uncomfortable.   Because when we are uncomfortable that’s when we follow His will.   When we are uncomfortable, we lean on Him because we know we can’t do it all ourselves.   When we are uncomfortable, that’s when God can really accomplish His plan through us.

If you go back to what I wrote a couple of days ago about wearing Camo and spiritual warfare, that is actually tied very closely to being uncomfortable.

If we are comfortable where we are, then we don’t feel like the devil needs to be fought against.   That’s when he can throw in his sneak attacks and often accomplish more inside the church in the 1st World than he would if he made a frontal attack on the church.

Uncomfortable.

It doesn’t feel good.

But it is good – especially when it pushes us closer to God.

TJV

I Don’t Like Mr. Jones

10 Things I’ve Learned #3

If you are reading this and your name happens to be Jones, don’t take it personally.   I’m not talking about you.

I’m talking about the “Keep up with the Joneses” attitude that is prevalent in American society.

I don’t like Mr. Jones.

I don’t like someone who encourages people to be dissatisfied with “where they are.”

I don’t like someone who encourages compliance and wants us all to be like him.   “You haven’t arrived until you own one of these.”   “You won’t be happy until you go to Disney for your daughter’s 5th birthday.”

I don’t like anyone who makes you feel like you should spend more time working on your lawn – instead of playing on your lawn with your kids.

I don’t like anyone who makes you feel like you should spend more time at the office or the shop.

So why don’t I like Mr. Jones?

Because I firmly believe the following;

  • Jesus would not want us to be like Mr. Jones.   Jesus doesn’t have a problem with money.   He doesn’t say, “Money is the root of all evil.”   No, Jesus says,  “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.
  • My time in the banking world taught me that all economic levels, all income levels have concerns about money,   So there is no such thing as “enough.”
  • For every person or family in the United States that you could point to who has “more” than you do, I can tell you stories and show pictures of people and families who have less than you do.
  • If we are obsessed by the accumulation of things then we are not focusing on helping and serving others and we aren’t focusing on what God would want us to be focused on – loving him.

Am I saying that you shouldn’t make a lot of money?   Absolutely not.    But what I am saying is that the mentality that comes with a LOT of money – the keeping up with Mr. Jones can be very distracting and damaging to our walk with Christ.

So be careful about Mr. Jones.   He’s a tricky one.

Until tomorrow……

TJV

We should all wear Camo

Things I’ve learned #2

No, I’m not advocating that we all join the Army – though I have a TON of respect for those who do serve to protect and defend our country,.

I believe we should all wear camo because whether we like it or not, we are in the middle of battle.   A spiritual battle with Satan and his forces of evil.

I’ve known all of my life that Satan was a force to be reckoned with but it’s really been the last 10 years or so when I’ve learned how deeply and how openly he hates what a Christian is and what being a Christian means.    I first saw it from my brother’s experiences.   Let me explain…..

At that point, my brother, a pastor, was planting a church out in California.   They were meeting on Sunday mornings in a movie theater and I remember getting e-mails from him week after week after month about things that would go wrong on Saturday.    Their welcome sign would break, the power would go out, the projector would break, the guitar player would get sick, the list goes on and on and on.

I might not be the smartest apple in the bunch (just compare my high school GPA’s with a couple of my kids) but it doesn’t take long to realize that something’s up.   Satan didn’t want that church to impact lives and was fighting against it.

Many of you who read this know that almost 12 years ago, we adopted our two youngest kids from Haiti.   It’s no surprise they are adopted – they certainly don’t look like us.

Well, I’m not going to because I could write for hours if not days about the specific ways that we’ve seen the devil fighting against not only the adoption of our two but many of our friends who have adopted as well.    Satan does not want these children in stable, God loving homes where healing can begin from the trauma they have gone through.

If you want to go into more detail, invite me to come talk to your bible study  or something else.   I could tell stories for hours.

We are in spiritual warfare and we are fighting against the effects of the devil.   He is using a large number of really sneaky and really brutal weapons to attempt to knock us out.

It’s a good thing that we know God is in control and we can trust in Him.

It’s a God thing that we don’t have to fight on our own.

It’s spiritual warfare and we should all wear camo to illustrate it.

Until tomorrow,

Tom

10 Things in 10 Years–What I’ve Learned……

Yes, it’s true, today I have the privilege of celebrating the momentous occasion of marking another trip around the sun.    When you’ve been around the sun a few times, it’s not nearly as momentous as it was when you were marking your 13th or your 21st or your 40th trip……

But I thought I’d take some time and share, one a day, 10 things that I’ve learned over the last 10 years.   I hope you’ll join me for the adventure – and it’s an adventure because as I write the first one, I don’t know what the list of 10 will be.   Smile

Oh and these are in random order – just because something is first or third or tenth has no impact on its significance.

So here we go.   What’s one thing I’ve learned in the last 10 years?

Relationships matter – almost always more than technicalities.   I’ve seen people who have ruined relationships with people who they were close to and many of those have been over things that don’t really matter.

Am I saying that the relationship should always take precedence over the behaviors and life choices that people make?    No, I believe that everyone has certain non-negotiables which, if that line is crossed, will result in the termination of a relationship.    But I believe that there are too many people suffering too much pain because relationships have ended – when they didn’t have to.

In a way, it’s called grace.   God gives us huge amounts of grace.   Way more than we deserve.   We don’t give nearly enough of it to our friends, our family, our church members, those who we meet who are struggling.

We all need to give each other more grace and more space to be human and to make mistakes and keep the relationships and the conversation open.   That’s what God does with us.   That’s what Jesus did when He had dinner with the prostitutes and the IRS agents.

There needs to be more grace and more mending of relationships.  Life is too short and God is too good to not extend grace and to mend relationships.

So, in random order, one of the things I’ve learned over the last 10 years is that relationships matter – often more than technical disagreements.

Until next time,

TJV

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