Fences

I’ve spent a significant amount of time lately thinking about fences. Far too much, actually. Susan and I have a few acres outside of town, and it’s just about time to put fall calves on the pasture. So most weekends—and many evenings—for the last month or two have been spent setting posts and stretching wire. Barbed wire and I are not good friends. No matter how I prepare, how good my gloves are, or how careful I am, the end of a fence-building day means a session with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a tube of ointment. That’s just …

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Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit 2015

According to Christianity Today, the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) Summit has become the national hub for “the burgeoning Christian orphan care movement.” Last year’s conference drew 2,600 foster and adoptive parents, orphan advocates, pastors and leaders from 35 countries. On several occasions it has been my good fortune to attend, to lead topic-specific workshops, and to participate in panel discussions. And I’m looking forward to this year! CAFO Summit 2015 will take place in Nashville, Tennessee on April 30-May 1. While I realize the date is almost upon us, it’s not too late to make your plans to attend! And …

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This IS Family

Yes, family is the ultimate answer.  But family—as we understand it—is  not always a possibility. Stefani did not fit the profile of the kids who usually come to Hope. She came from a middle class family, with two parents. She was not a typical child of the streets, but in her 15 years, she has experienced a lifetime of hurt, abandonment, and abuse. In her voice: My parents started to drink, and then to fight. My mother was being bi-polar, and the alcohol drove her over the edge. And then my father left. As mom’s drinking got worse, she introduced …

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Privilege, Peripheral People, Rising Lights, and Two Emails

As I write this, I am sitting in my comfortable East Tennessee home.  My reality is safe, secure, well-fed. But then an email comes from Brazil, telling the story of a family of children brought to our campus, chilling in its matter-of-fact recital of the children’s condition. This group of seven siblings, ages 3 to 17, were discovered in a shack near the City of Youth living in conditions of wretched poverty and malnutrition. The youngest sibling, now a 3-year-old, was a baby who the family ‘adopted’ after he was abandoned by his mother and left to fend on his …

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God of the Shadows (Part 2)

 He restores my soul.  (Psalm 23:3) I want God to look like me. Not physically, of course, but to share my values, to reaffirm the way I see myself, to make me comfortable with who I am. As I said last week, “To restore my soul.” I want my soul to be restored—especially the way I define it. Restored. It means that our hearts are not heavy, that we feel good about the world and ourselves. You know… generally upbeat and positive, blessed. It means we and our God live in a place of light and brightness Or does it? …

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God of the Shadows

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)   I did not expect to meet God there. At least not my God. My God is the God of light. Of purity. Of beauty. Of Sunday mornings in contemporary cathedrals. My God is the God of 1 John 1:5—and I encounter Him in places of light. In the words of the Psalmist, He restores my soul—and He does it in places that feed my soul. And none of those descriptors fit that …

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Five Contexts where Residential Care Works

A lot of folks are not going to like this post—but these things have to be said. Residential care works. Not for every child, not in every situation, and certainly not when it is no more than the warehousing of children. But, done right, it works. For kids who have been on the streets, for kids who have been trafficked, for kids whose years of being abused, abandoned, or exploited have destroyed their ability to accept love and build relationships, it works. But there is a cottage industry built around blasting residential care. Like the quote in last week’s post …

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Mortal-risk children and residential care

Eventually, eventually, the story gets okay, but it has a lot of twists and turns to get there—and along the way an important lesson about thoughtful care for mortal-risk children. I’ll also introduce you to a debate that impacts the lives of millions of children. Jaime was a child of the streets. Abandoned by a prostitute mother, he spent his days in begging and thievery—and his nights under an overpass, a piece of cardboard his street mattress. Eventually sent to a shelter, he was adopted for the first time at age seven. By eight, he was back at the shelter, …

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But God. . . (Part 2)

A little theological digression here before we get back to Graziella’s story… How often in the follower’s life does the story turn on those words? But God. . . The case can be made that the thought embedded there is central to our identity. It is an affirmation that He is the creator, that He is sovereign, and—perhaps most important—that He is actively engaged in the lives of those He calls His own. This whole thing is God’s game, not ours, and He can suspend the rules and change the outcome as He chooses. David said it this way: ”Though …

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But God. . . (Part 1)

Difficult story here, and I apologize for its graphic nature, but there is no other way to tell it. This orphan stuff is hard, and easy answers almost always elude. But, but, this isn’t our work; it’s God’s, and He is in the business of hard answers. Susan and I first visited Brazil in the fall of 2007. Our first night there, we joined Philip and a group of girls and their houseparents for a pizza party at a local rodizio. The girls were used to American visitors, and all went out of their way to make us feel welcome, …

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