Archive for May, 2011

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Memorial Day: Not all our fallen are vets

Southern families whisper memories of brother fighting brother. Maybe that’s why we called it The War Between the States, instead of The Civil War. A fractured family was a symbol of the fractured nation. More recent wars also have splintered families, and not always on the battlefield.

Decoration Day, 1956

We 3rd graders stood on the playground watching the big kids—the 7th graders—line up on the eroding side street. Each held a bunch of flowers that ladies had picked from their gardens that morning. The boys’ fistfuls of daisies and delphiniums dragged limply toward the 4-inch cuffs of their dungarees, and the scrabble of their black Keds hightops scuffed up swirls of red dust.

“Line up straight. Hold your flowers in front of you. Follow me,” fluted their teacher. The procession wormed its way to a nearby cemetery, where the children laid their bouquets on the graves of some of the South’s fallen heroes.

Fall, 1964

I waited in the concessions line for my usual—a bag of Tom’s peanuts and a green-bottled Coke to dump them into. “Can I watch the game with you?” came a voice from behind me. I’d seen him before. He went to the “town” school and bagged groceries in the afternoon.

After that, I always did the groceries for Mother. The other bagboys knew he’d take my stuff out to the goldish green ’60 VW bus.

There wasn’t much happening in our town. We’d drive fifteen miles to the nearest movie theater or cruise in his ’57 Ford to see who was hanging out at the Burger Palace or the Rec Center.

The next school year, I went north to college. He went further south. We saw each other that first Christmas holiday, but not at Easter.

Christmas Vacation, 1968

Back home during Christmas break, I looked up from counting oranges in the produce aisle and saw him where I’d seen him so often a few years earlier. “Hi,” he said.

“Oh, hi.”

“I hear you’re getting married.”

“Mm-hm. Next week,” I answered.

“Yeah, well, good luck.”

Spring, 1970

Mother’s letter ended, “You remember him? Well, he died in Vietnam. We went to the memorial service last week out at his mother’s church.”

Far away in my new home, I sobbed. I had never gotten as far as loving him. But he had been a steady friend through my last year at home.

By now the South had conceded; Decoration Day had become Memorial Day, a day for a whole nation to remember together all who have fallen in all its wars.

Summer, 1984

The blue-and-white trolley stopped at the Lincoln Monument. I stepped down and walked toward the Vietnam Memorial. I found his name among 58,228 others—lines of emptiness chiseled from black granite.

Summer, 1992

Vacation biking was reacquainting me with my childhood countryside. From one vaguely familiar crossroad, I pedaled onward several miles between grassy hills. Suddenly I recognized where I was. There was the farmhouse that had been in his mother’s family since before the Civil War. I rolled my bike to the door and knocked.

His brother greeted me. “Come in! Come in! You’ll want to see this! These are his things.” We stepped into the entry hall and faced a wall of certificates, souvenirs from his travels, letters, pictures of him, a rubbing of his name from the Wall, and more—too much to remember. His brother eagerly pointed out each thing.  I wondered, did this living brother have to run the gauntlet of dead-brother memories every time he entered the house?

But the dead brother was in the living room too—a life-sized portrait sat on the TV alongside a vase of roses. “Mama keeps fresh flowers by his picture.” Anyone reclining in the Lazy Boy for the 6 O’clock News would be peering into his smiling, forever 23-year-old face.

But we were living people in the living room. I turned to his brother, “What’s happening with you?”

“Well, I was married, but . . . and I’m out of work, so I’m here with Mama a while. It’s not what we expected. It would’ve been different with him. I couldn’t hardly finish school, but he was always on the dean’s list. He had great ideas of what he’d do. He never got the chance. Sure wouldn’t’ve been like this. Mama thought he’d have children as smart as him. But now . . . life’s so different than . . . maybe the wrong one . . . .” His voice slipped to nothing.

“Uh, well,” I broke the silence, “it’s getting to be suppertime. I better go.”

“But Mama’ll be back soon. She’ll want to see you. Can’t you stay a little longer?”

“No. I have to go now.”

“Well, watch for her—’76 Cordoba, burgundy—big old thing.”

I hugged the right shoulder and glared at hayfields and heifers on my right as I pumped my pedals. I didn’t see a car.


Mother’s email ended, “Remember? There was a brother who died in Vietnam. Well, this other brother still lived at home and was killed in a farm accident. There was a memorial service last week out at his mother’s church.”

Memorial Day, 2011

As we honor our war dead today, I’m remembering that not all of our fallen were front-line veterans.


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Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Reclaiming Adoption — Book winners

Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba FatherI asked Dan Cruver of Together for Adoption to share some thoughts with us this morning. Dan is the editor and one of the authors of Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father.



What Orphans Need

by Dan Cruver

When Jesus was about to go public with the mission of God, his Father declared over him, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Although we are quick to recognize that Jesus moved forward to accomplish his Father’s will in the strength and knowledge of his Father’s delight (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22), we are too often slow to believe that the Father delights in us with that very same delight. And when we are too slow to believe this good news, the very practice of true religion (James 1:27) becomes a burden too heavy to bear.

Therefore, what orphans need are churches that are full of people who wake up each morning sure of the Father’s delight in them. Because of Jesus, the Father says to us: “You are my beloved children, in whom I am well pleased. Yes, you were once without hope and without me in this world, but I have brought you near by the blood of Jesus. I have embraced you in the Beloved. Live in my love as you move out in mission.”

If you are a Christian, God declares these amazing words over you. He doesn’t speak them over you because you have earned them. You could never do enough to earn these words of love. No, the Father speaks these words over you because of who Jesus is for you.

As our Messiah, Jesus was the faithful Son who always did the will of his Father. Never once did he disobey or disappoint Him. All of his living, from his birth in the manger to his death on the cross, was perfect in thought, word, deed, and motive. His life was perfectly lived, and he lived it in our place and on our behalf. This means, among many other things, that the words that were spoken over him at his baptism are also spoken over us today.

Living as Christians in mission—in other words, being the church—involves learning to live each day knowing that God the Father delights in us even as He delights in Jesus. Those who learn to live in the reality of God’s loving pleasure will find that circumstances no longer control them. They will find that they are able to deal with the difficulties of the Christian life with confidence and humility. To be adopted by God is to enter into a family relationship where all of God’s children are treated even as He treats His Beloved Son. If we are confident that we are being loved by God like this, we will not only desire to love others like we are loved, we will also be empowered and compelled to do so.

Imagine the impact that churches would have upon the global orphan crisis if they were filled with people who lived each day in the strength and knowledge of their Father’s delight. Just imagine.

What orphans need are communities of Christians (churches) who live in the joy of their Father’s delight.


Congratulations to the winners of a copy of Reclaiming Adoption. I have sent emails to each of the following to confirm.

  • Dan Sudfeld
  • Lance Skifter
  • MarkC
  • Justine B
  • Michael Hallas
  • Carol Schneider
  • Heather
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Friday, May 13th, 2011

Orphan Summit: complete but there’s more

During the last session of the Summit, Hyatt Moore looked at life and children through the eyes of an artist. He said something like this:

Art is a metaphor for all of us. Something from nothing. Order from disorder. At any stage it could be done. It was good before. It is good now. I feel like that sometimes about my art, but still I have more ideas for it.

Every child is complete, but there’s more. Every stage is beautiful, but there’s more. That’s how God looks at me–You’re done, but there’s more.

Throughout the Summit, the painting of a dark-haired girl was in progress. In the photo above she is at one stage of being the tangible metaphor of  “beautiful, but there is more.” Look her in the eye for a moment before reading on.

The painting could be finished as I see it there, but as he spoke he pointed out the “more”: “The girl is looking at the cross, you can see it in her eyes.” In the finished painting, her eyes are alive with the reflection of the cross, which wasn’t there yet in the photo. Now she is truly complete.

May we and our children all be completed in the only way possible–by looking at the cross.


Hyatt Moore: People have been asking me what I’m going to do with this painting. I can’t think of a better thing than to contribute it to the Christian Alliance for Orphans.


(Visit the Summit Blog to see what’s happening from the viewpoints of several different bloggers.)

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Friday, May 13th, 2011

Orphan Summit: in the image of God



When you take into account the many places where people were born or grew up and where their children were born and where they live together now, I’m guessing God is the only one who knows how many tribes, tongues, and peoples are represented here at Global Orphan Summit VII.

So it seems appropriate to find Hyatt Moore in a prominent place surrounded by his paintings of people from many tribes and nations.

Although his body of work is broad, I’m especially drawn to his paintings of people. They seem to flow from his heart after almost 30 years with Wycliffe Bible Translators, including 5 years as president.

At home I take pleasure in leafing through In the Image of God: Faces and Souls that Reflect Their Creator, a stunning collection of paintings of peoples of the world, compiled by Mr. Moore. Many of his own paintings are included. And I have to say, the price is amazingly accessible compared to what I’d expect for a full-color coffee-table-sized art book.

This is a book where many of our children will find “their” faces, the beloved faces God created in his image.


(Visit the Summit Blog to see what’s happening from the viewpoints of several different bloggers.)

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Friday, May 13th, 2011

Thriving as an Adoptive Family: book giveaway




The Connected Child: Bring hope and healing to your adoptive familyFocus on the Family has been connecting for years with the needs of families. One newer initiative is in the area of orphan care. For starters, they offer some really helpful resources (including, for example, Karyn Purvis’s The Connected Child).

David and Renee Sanford are the editors of Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family: Real-Life Solutions to Common Challenges. They have collected ideas, information, and personal stories from adoptive parents and from professionals.

Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family: Real-Life Solutions to Common ChallengesMany thanks to the folks at the Focus exhibit here at Global Orphan Summit VII who have donated 5 copies to be given away.

If you’d like to be eligible for winning a copy of Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family: Real-Life Solutions to Common Challenges, here’s what to do.

  1. Visit the orphan care/adoption page of Focus on the Family, and look around.
  2. Write a comment here to let me know you’ve done #1 (honor system).
  3. Comment  just once.
  4. Do it by midnight Sunday, 15 May.


Focus on the Family Canada also has an orphan/adoption page.

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Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Orphan Summit: Reclaiming Adoption (a giveaway)

“The main reason we gather here is not first because we have adopted, but because we are adopted–because we’re in God’s family” (Jedd Medefind, President of the Christian Alliance for Orphans).

Yesterday, in a pre-conference gathering, Dan Cruver took that to an even deeper reality, that adoption is anchored deeply within the internal relationships of the three Persons of the blessed Trinity.

Jesus said, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be  with me  where I am,  to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me  before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).

There was never a moment when the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit did not exist. There was never an eternity when they did not exist–eternity past, eternity present, and eternity future did not, cannot, and will not exist without them. Not only did all three Persons of the Trinity preexist the sending of the Son and the Spirit, they preexist and transcend time itself. They are, after all, the very foundation of the universe and the intelligent reason for its existence. Without them, nothing else ever could or would exist. God’s perfectly enjoyed and unbroken communion of love existed forever before anything was made!

“I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).

So, as wonderful as the story of our adoption is, it is the Story of the Trinity behind it that gives God’s work of adoption its ultimate meaning, beauty, and significance. As John Piper has said, “Adoption is bigger than the universe.” How is that true? Because the eternal communion of our triune God is behind, beneath, beside, and above the Universe and is the ultimate reason and cause for our adoption.

When we adopt, we are reflecting the love of God. Adoption may lead us into harder relationships than we expected. But then, God’s adopted children aren’t so loveable either. He loved us before we ever cared anything about him and he sticks with us even when we look away from him.

May the love with which the Father loved the Son be in us.


Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba FatherThe quoted paragraphs are from Reclaiming Adoption, by Dan Cruver.

Here’s what you can do to be eligible to win one of 7 copies of Reclaiming Adoption that Dan has provided.

  1. Leave a comment at this post.
  2. Leave just one comment.
  3. Do it before midnight this Sunday, May 15.


(Visit the Summit Blog to see what’s happening from the viewpoints of several different bloggers.)

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Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Orphan Summit: Shopping and giving at the same time

Beginning Thursday, the Exhibit Hall at Orphan Summit VII will be teeming with people. I expect to see lots squeezed around displays of beads and leatherwork. Purchases will benefit organizations that minister to orphans in various ways.

I was thinking that some of you might also like to go shopping for a good cause even if you haven’t come to Louisville.

147 Million Orphans — “We have developed a program that allows you to purchase specific gear from our collection of wholesale prices. In turn, you can sell that gear at full retail price with the profits being used to underwrite your adoption costs.”

Fields of Promise –“to promote God’s heart for the fatherless, bringing their plight to the awareness of the church and global community. We encourage the church as a whole to take action by praying, going, giving, sponsoring, and adopting.”

The Mercy House Kenya — “to support and provide alternative options for pregnant girls living in the streets of Kenya. The Mercy House will raise funds to aid them in nutrition, housing, prenatal care, counseling, Biblical teaching and job skills for sustainable living” — Product website.

LoPa Art — By selling high quality products from Ethiopian artisans, LoPa returns profits to Ethiopia to help feed, educate, trade train, and provide minor medical care for children and widows in hopes of creating and encouraging self-respect, economic stability, and freedom from poverty’s effects.





(Visit the Summit Blog to see what’s happening from the viewpoints of several different bloggers.)

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Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Orphan Summit: Losing my home once and then again

The Hillis Family has 10 children. 8 of them are adopted from Russia. Susan laughs when she says, “sometimes people ask me if  we’ve ever had any hard times.”

Watch this,” she says.


(Visit the Summit Blog to see what’s happening from the viewpoints of several different bloggers.)

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Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Orphan Summit: What’s ordinary about helping orphans?

I’m in Louisville, KY, for Orphan Summit VII. I’ll be blogging and tweeting from there. I asked on Twitter, “What do you want to see blogged about from Summit VII?”

One person replied, “I’d like to hear stories of ordinary (not famous) people caring for orphans.”

I’m not sure anyone who is caring for orphans can be called ordinary, but I know what he means.

So here’s a story from Jared Winger, who is coming to the Summit from the Minneapolis area. He writes about the way God has turned his and Michelle’s lives in a direction they hadn’t expected.

Our interest in the process of adoption and care for the orphan began years ago as we prayed against the ever-increasing number of abortions. I would often plead for mercy because I knew God would not endure ongoing murder like we see in this nation.

Eventually, we realized that our fight for the unborn child doesn’t have teeth unless we’re providing solutions after birth. If abortion were ended in the United States and  life were allowed to some 4,000 babies each day, who would care for those “unwanted” babies? The Church would need to be ready to receive them.

God was doing something bigger than just within our own family. More than 15 families in our church expressed a desire to adopt, foster, or help with an adoption agency. Considering the cost of adoption, the obstacles for the church beginning adoption services on a larger scale seemed insurmountable. But with this many people interested in investing time and prayer, we felt the Lord urging us to move forward.

Thus began the process that we are currently in—starting Olive Tree Adoptions. Related ministries are also in development (birthmother care and adoptive family care), but we are on the way!

Personally, our family is trying to reduce some of our “extra” activities to begin focusing more on Olive Tree Adoptions. I recently finished a part-time teaching job, and aim to finish my master’s degree in Pastoral Counseling at Liberty University this year. My wife has increased the publicity of her  business as a freelance proofreader/copyeditor to help our family income. As God blesses her role, I will be able invest more time as Director of Olive Tree Adoptions.

This is an exciting, but challenging, vision for our church family and for us. We feel we are heading into a new season in our lives.

Jared says: “If there are other churches out there doing something similar with adoption services and ministry, we would love to connect with them!”

Please leave a comment to bless Jared and Michelle and/or to tell them about other churches with adoption services.

(And visit the Summit Blog to see what’s happening from the viewpoints of several different bloggers.)

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Sunday, May 8th, 2011

When Mothers Day isn’t a celebration

(Update: I have added to the lists below as God has brought more of you to mind during the day. And I hope you will read Julie’s blog which I added later.)

God knows, Mothers Day is the hardest day in the year for some of you.

Large bouquets of white roses are at the front of our church. If you were with us this weekend, one of those roses would have been for you.

Your sadness may be related to your mother:

  • Your mother is not alive.
  • Life with your mother was too difficult to celebrate.
  • Your mother wasn’t part of your life.
  • You can celebrate with your mother because she lives too far away.
  • Your mother is ill or suffering dementia.

It may be grief related to your own mothering:

  • You have longed for children but have never been able to be pregnant.
  • You have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth and never had even one sweet moment of looking into your baby’s eyes.
  • After that loss, you fear it might happen again.
  • You laid your baby down to sleep one afternoon or evening, and your little one never woke again.
  • After losing that child, you feel fear when you look at your other children or think of having another.
  • You were so close to adopting the child you already loved from a distance, and then the plans fell through.
  • Your child–whether a child or adult–lost the battle to a disease, or died accidentally, or was murdered, or took his or her own life.
  • Your child was placed for adoption and has another mother now.(If this is you, I hope you will read Julie’s blessing and thanks to you.)
  • You  grieve over a pregnancy you chose to end.
  • Your child is alienated from you.
  • You’ve always dreamed you’d be married by now, with children, and that hasn’t happened.
  • Your child has a disability that doesn’t permit you ever to hear “I love you” from him or her. (If this is true, I hope you will be comforted today by John Knight’s post about his wife and son)

God knows. That wasn’t a throw-away phrase I used at the beginning. God does know. He knows your fear, grief, anger, anxiety, love–the welter of emotions today that you hardly know how to name. He knows that even though you may be mostly composed most days, this day stirs it all up.

I pray that your church and others close to you will be Christ’s hands and heart for you today.

Even if other people aren’t aware or sensitive, I pray for you today that you can feel deeply the com-passion (together-suffering) of Jesus who bears our griefs and carries our sorrows.

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Saturday, May 7th, 2011

What moms were reading 100 years ago

Maybe you or your mom would enjoy glimpses of what mothers were reading a hundred or more years ago when they were hoping for advice, encouragement, recipes . . . .

Kindle 3G Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 3G Works Globally, Graphite, 6

I’ve linked each title to the page where you can download it free to read on Kindle.



Or if you prefer to read on your computer without downloading the free Kindle app, you can also find all the books at Project Gutenberg.


The value of a praying mother, Isabel C. Byrum, 1911

Advice to a Mother on the Management of Her Children and on the Treatment on the Moment of Some of Their More Pressing Illnesses and Accidents, Pye Henry Chavasse, 1878

The Prospective Mother, a Handbook for Women During Pregnancy, J. Morris Siemons, 1912

Mrs. Whittelsey’s Magazine for Mothers and Daughters, 1842

Practical Suggestions for Mother and Housewife, Marion Mills Miller, c.1900

Things Mother Used to Make: A Collection of Old Time Recipes, Some Nearly One Hundred Years Old and Never Published before, Lydia Maria Gurney, 1914

(Note: The opinions expressed in these books are not necessarily those of the author of this blog!)

When you dip into any of these, comment to let us know what you DO agree with or what’s really different now.

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Friday, May 6th, 2011

The beauty of my mother

It’s true that “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field” (Isaiah 40:6). But still, God does create beauty for us to enjoy short-term. Sometimes short-term is quite a few years.

This week, I’ve been organizing some old photos of my mother from  the years before I knew her.



































Of course, there’s a beauty that’s much deeper than what a photo can show. “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).

Thank you, Lord, for a mother who fears the Lord.


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