Adoptees Are Being Abused, But We’re Too Busy Praising Adoptive Parents to Notice

As an adoptee, the news about the Hart mothers driving themselves and their 6 adopted kids off a cliff last week hits really close to home.

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Link to photo credit.

So much about this situation grieves me:

  • An authority decided these mothers were the best placement for 2 separate groups of vulnerable children on 2 separate occasions.  The second placement happened AFTER allegations of abuse were found to be true.
  • The women isolated themselves and removed their family from the public eye as much as possible.
  • They placed themselves and their family in positions that held up their facade of being a social-justice-driven, happy clan.
  • Their friends, acquaintances, and neighbours felt like something was off, but most of them avoided pursuing it because it didn’t align with their idea of who they believed the Hart mothers to be.
  • The children were regularly showing signs (and in some cases, even verbalizing it to people they thought might help) of abuse and neglect.

But the thing that gets to me the MOST, is the facade they kept up, and how that facade is what prevented so many people from coming forward.  “But they were such a nice family.  They adopted those poor kids and saved them from drug-addicted moms.  They grew their own vegetables and attended political protests in the name of love!”

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https://www.vibe.com/2018/03/parents-of-devonte-hart-child-abuse-neglect-before-fatal-car-crash/

And that is exactly the problem with the saviour complex in adoption.  We’re so busy praising these “selfless” adoptive parents that we’re missing the abuse.  The lenses we’ve put on that positions adopters as sacrificial do-gooders is the very lens that is allowing warning signs to be missed.

I’m an example of this.

My mom abused me physically and emotionally.  She regularly hit me on the bare bottom with a belt when I misbehaved.  She ignored me.  She didn’t play with me or volunteer at my school or take me to the library even though she was a stat-at-home-mom.  She neglected guiding me about hygiene and reproduction.  She lied about my past, my birth family, and my heritage and kept vital information hidden from me.  She gaslights me continuously.  She plays the victim if I try to approach her about anything.  She uses her facade of sickness and fragility to garner an army of soldiers around her who will defend her and her lies, and who threaten and attack me for speaking out about the abuse.  And my dad?  He has stood by for the entirety of my life and let all of this happen.  (She has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which is devastatingly common in adoptive mothers.)

But no one knew about the abuse and neglect, because all they chose to see was what a “nice” family we were from the outside, and surely someone doesn’t selflessly adopt a child and then abuse and neglect it.

Actually, they do.  Lots of people do.  More and more adoptees are speaking out about being abused in the very homes that were supposed to protect them and help them heal.

Many adoptees were taken from abusive situations, only to end up in another abusive situation.

But see, our lenses are adjusted to see abuse when it’s a young, single, alcoholic mother.  Her children should be taken from her.  She’s not a fit mother.

We don’t see the abuse when it’s a nice, white, Christian, married couple who “lovingly” opened their home to an unwanted child.  Oh, that’s so nice!  John and Martha adopted that poor little baby girl.  You know, I heard her birth mother was a drug addict.  Oh, she is just so lucky to have a nice family now.

You’ve heard it.  Maybe you’ve thought it.  Maybe you’ve said it.

We need to change our lenses.  Kids who are already vulnerable are being hurt.  Kids who were already abused are being abused even more.  Kids who deserve a home that will protect them and help them heal are being put in homes where they are being victimized further.  Kids with trauma and wounds are being placed with people who not only ignore those things, but deny their existence.

We can’t prevent it all.  But this heart-wrenching story tells me we can do more.   We can do better.  And we must.

Please Stop Telling Adopted People to be Thankful – and 9 Reasons We Don’t Need to Be

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As an adopted child, I’ve heard every ridiculous comment about adoption you can think of.  My whole life, I’ve had to navigate awkward conversations, questions I didn’t have answers for, being called names like “bastard”, and being asked why my mom didn’t want me.

But the worst one?  The most cutting one?  When people tell me I should be thankful.

Recently I had two family members on different occasions rebuke me for speaking out about my lack of intimate relationship with my mom.  One of their reasons they used to try to silence me?  I should “be more thankful” that my parents saved me.  Because, you know, adopting me was so selfless and sacrificial, and that should nullify any hurt or negative feelings I had or have.  I’m not showing my thankfulness very well if I am open and honest about my childhood.

But the sad thing is, this attitude isn’t just from family members who are upset about me sharing.  I’ve heard this same sentiment expressed from various places my whole life.

It’s an attitude that needs to stop.  It is hurtful and damaging to an area where there was already so much damage done.  Being adopted is a damn hard road for those of us who walk it, and we don’t need it to be any harder.

So here are 9 reasons why adoptees don’t need to be thankful:

1. Our lives began with major loss.

As adoptees, we experienced major loss at a very young age; we lost our mothers, our chance at a secure attachment, and often times we also lost a sibling or siblings.  Can you imagine as an adult losing all the people that matter most to you, in one foul swoop?  Never mind for that to happen when you were a vulnerable, innocent infant?  Can you imagine if someone were to take you away from everyone and everything you know, and put you in a group of strangers and told you this is where you’ll live now?

But we should be thankful for this?

2. We had to become someone else.

I don’t care who you are, your heritage and your genetics matter.  They are part of who you are.  As adoptees, all of that gets erased the minute we are adopted.  All of a sudden, we have to assume a new identity; we are often given a new name, a new family, a new heritage to take on as our own.  Often there is no more mention of our heritage or our family of origin.  Our genetic makeup, our geneology, and our cultural background is lost and forgotten, and we are given a replacement set of those things that we must accept and become.

But we should be thankful for this?

3. Information about our past is hidden or kept from us.

This one is not always the case, but in my case this is true, and for lots of others.  My adoptive parents knew that I had Indigenous and Scandinavian roots.  They knew I had an older sister.  They knew my birth mom had brown hair and brown eyes and had a small, slight frame (just like me), and they knew she had an aptitude for art and language (like I do too).  They knew my name was “Melissa Joan Carlson” when I was born.

That information belonged to me, not them.  Yet, they hid it from me.  I never got the privilege of knowing that my skills and talents were genetic, that I bore a striking resemblance to my mom, and that – above all – I had a sister somewhere out there.  Growing up with 5 older brothers, I always dreamed of having a sister.  But I was never allowed the right of knowing any of that.  I remember dreading the “Family Tree” unit that would come every year in school, because my true heritage was taken from me, and without apology.  I didn’t know where I came from, and that is an unsettling feeling.  Giving us a replacement family tree and a fake heritage doesn’t fix it.  We live like imposters being told who we are supposed to be.

But we should be thankful for this?

4. We often grow up in a culture of shame.

My parents hid the fact that I was adopted.  They did tell me, so I give them kudos for that at least.  But very few people beyond those that were around when I showed up at 15 months old ever knew I was adopted (and I attribute that amount of honesty to the fact that they had to explain my appearance somehow!).  And that’s the way they wanted it.  I was told it was better if people didn’t know; I would simply get hurt and people wouldn’t understand.  They said they were protecting me, but I know it was themselves they were protecting.  But I complied, trusting their word.  If people know I am adopted, they won’t like me.  Tell me – do you hide those things you’re proud of, or the things you’re ashamed of?  I didn’t have words to put to it, but it created a deep sense of shame within me to know it was a taboo subject.  If it was something to be hidden, it must be bad.  I must be bad.  I carried that burden for many, many years.

On top of that, I was never allowed to talk about it or ask questions even at home.  I remember having questions burning in my heart, but I knew they weren’t welcome.  In fact, even as an adult, my husband made the mistake of asking my parents what my original name had been – to which he received a sharp kick in the knee under the table from my brother, and an explanation afterwards that “we don’t talk about that”.  The indignant looks on my parents’ faces were a harsh reminder of the silencing and the psychological and emotional abuse I had endured growing up regarding my adoption.

But we should be thankful for this?  

5. Our birth mothers (where we come from) are often shed in bad light.

There is an assumption that if a woman gives up a child for adoption, they obviously weren’t fit to be a good mother.  And that assumption may be true in some situations, though certainly not all.  But to shed a child’s birth mother, where they came from, in a bad light is not only selfish, but damaging to a child’s identity.  How do you think it feels to have someone assume you came from a prostitute or a whore?  How do you think that affects the heart of a vulnerable child when you speak with disgust about the woman who bore the child you are now privileged to raise?  Growing up, I never once heard a positive word spoken about my birth mom.  Never once did we pray for her, talk about what a brave thing she did, or how much she might miss me.  We hardly talked about her at all, and the things that were said were hushed whispers about what a screw up she must have been.  Children aren’t idiots – when you talk about where we came from in that way, it affects them.

But we should be thankful for this?

6. Lots of adoptive parents lack the tools to deal with the issues an adopted child might face.

This is especially true, I think, for those adoptees who are now adults.  (I believe, and hope, these things have started to change.)  My parents had an attitude that they would just bring me home, raise me like my brothers, and all would turn out fine.  They never sought out courses on parenting adopted children, on attachment issues, or reached out for help or counsel in any capacity.  In fact, I would even say there was an arrogance displayed there; an attitude of knowing how to raise kids already, because they had done this 5 times before.  I was expected to just adapt, and to never have issues.  But I did have issues; of course I did!  My birth mom had given me up, I had spent time bouncing around foster homes, I was neglected and physically sick for that time, I probably had trauma behaviours, and I was suddenly put in a family and expected to simply adapt.

And on top of all of that, I knew I was not to bring any of it up.  That hole in my heart was never given a voice; it just continued festering through my childhood, until I finally was able to seek help and healing once I was outside of my parents’ care.  So when people say, “but they did the best they could”, I don’t really agree.  And if that really was the best, it doesn’t mean it was good enough.  And it doesn’t mean they did right by me.  And it doesn’t mean I came out unscathed.  They never sought help, asked for support, read parenting books, or even admitted they didn’t know what they were doing raising an adopted child.

But we should be thankful for this?

7. Our adoptive parents are made out to be selfless saints.

Let’s face it – how good do you feel when you are the subject of pity?  How wanted would you feel if someone asked you out on a date and then told it they did it as a humanitarian effort?  As adopted children, we are often made out to be some charity case, and that is not okay.  Adopted parents wanted children, just like biological parents did.  No one fawns over a biological parent and tells that what a selfless act it was to procreate and bring a child into the world who wouldn’t have been otherwise.  So why would we do that to a adoptive parent?  People do it because adopted children are made out to be unwanted; praising adoptive parents perpetuates this attitude.  (And an even worse step is, “Oh, good for you.  But I could never do it.”  I won’t even touch on that one.)

Another sad reality is that a lot of children are being adopted by the very people who are looking for this attention.  Healthy parents are always looking to pour out of themselves into their children, and aren’t looking to get something back.  Often times, with adoption, a mother (or father, but often it’s the mother) adopts to fill a need.  (In my case, it was a need for a daughter, but it can also be a need to look good in the public eye, or to seek praise or recognition.)  Right from the get-go, this is a dangerous situation; it was never my job to fill a need for my mom.  But not only was I supposed to fill a need, and be the perfect little princess for her (my identity was taken away and I was made to be who she wanted me to be), but she gets praised for being a selfless saint for adopting me.  So this act that appears so selfless to some people, is actually the opposite, and creates further damage to the heart of the adopted child.

But we should be thankful for this?  

8. I would still exist if I hadn’t have been adopted.

The truth is, if my family wouldn’t have adopted me, another family would have.  Perhaps even a family that was healthier!  Of course, maybe a family that was more dysfunctional could have adopted me.  We’ll never know.  But the point is, I still would have had life without my adoptive parents “saving me”.  Biological children don’t feel the need to thank their parents for conceiving them, do they?  For “saving” them from the plight of non-existence?  Are biological children told they should be thankful their parents had some hot sex that one night and got pregnant with them?  No!  And in fact, if any child should be thankful, it’s the one who wouldn’t even exist unless their parents had fornicated at that exact moment.  I don’t go around telling people to remember to be grateful their dad and mom had intercourse and his sperm fertilized her egg, because they wouldn’t be here without that.  That’s ridiculous.  It’s just as ridiculous for anyone to expect an adopted child to live in a forever state of gratitude because someone took pity on them.

But we should be thankful for this?

9. We are talked about like we are stray dogs that someone took in.

One common theme that runs through all of these points, is that they all come from an attitude that adopted children are unwanted.  No one sees adoption as a humanitarian effort unless you see it through the lens of “nice family takes in poor, unwanted child”.  If we were to see it as, “family gets privilege of raising and learning from this child, and growing into a mutual love and bond” (and I’ve seen this attitude in adoptive families, so I know it exists), people wouldn’t say these things and hold these attitudes.  It doesn’t feel good to be looked at this way, especially when we already have other heart issues to work with.  Don’t add to it.

But we should be thankful for all of this?

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Please stop telling us to be thankful.

We shouldn’t be pressured into being thankful for things that non-adopted kids aren’t pressured into being thankful for.

And for the record: I’m not thankful that I was placed in a home that not only didn’t recognize my unique needs, but ignored them and then used them against me when I did start speaking up.  I’m not thankful that my being adopted is used as a means to manipulate me into allowing poor treatment of myself and my family, and then to silence me about it.  I’m not thankful that I am told that putting up healthy boundaries isn’t showing gratitude like I should be.

So no – I’m not thankful for any of that.

But you know what I am thankful for?

I’m thankful that in the midst of brokenness, God was there.  And still is.

I’m thankful that it was never His plan for me to be hurt or damaged.

I’m thankful that He had a will and a way for my heart to be healed, and that he put people in my life who support that path.

I’m thankful that I’ve been able to find ME – the real me.  I’m thankful to discover my heritage, my past, and my birth siblings.  I’m thankful for the parts of me that have been woken up, and to see how much genetics do play a part in who we are.  I’m thankful that after years of missing this, I now have people in my life who are related to me by blood, and that we can compare looks and mannerisms and quirks.  I never had that growing up.  I am thankful for it!

I’m thankful that my brokenness as a child has helped me become the mom that I am.  I am thankful for the redemption I’ve found in parenting, that I can be the mother I never had.  Sure, I make mistakes, but I am thankful I learned to hear my kids, validate their feelings, own what I’ve done, and ask for forgiveness.  I am thankful I am able to do for them what my little heart screamed for as a child.

I am thankful when I see adoptive families who do this differently.  I find hope to see adopted kids’ needs be acknowledged and met.  I am thankful to see adoptive parents seek support and knowledge, and put their kids’ well-beings above their need to be praised or thanked.

I am thankful for a husband who has loved and accepted me in my mess.  Who has held me as I’ve cried.  Who’s listened for hours when I’ve had revelations about the past, or pulled back a new layer of my heart.  Who has bore the most brunt of my woundedness, but loved me anyways.  Who is on the same page as me and wants to grow as a person too.

And you know what?  I am thankful for my adoptive family.  I’m not thankful for the reasons I’ve been told I need to be, but I am thankful.  God turns all things for good, and He has certainly kept His promise.

Lastly, I’m thankful to have found my voice and courage to speak up, even in the face of pressure to stay silent and keep things hidden, so that others can hear the truth and find support and freedom we all need.  I would be even more thankful if I knew these words resonated with someone and helped them, which is what my heart truly is.

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Please feel free to share if this resonated with you,

or you feel someone would benefit from hearing this!

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* I suspect already this post will receive some heat, either to my face or behind my back.  I have been told that to speak out when you’re not reconciled with people involved is not okay.  Here are my thoughts on that:  1) Reconciliation only occurs when both parties will acknowledge and validate the others’ feelings, take responsibility for hurts both ways, ask for forgiveness, and then change future behaviour.  All of those things have to happen for true reconciliation to take place.  2) If the door has been open for that to happen, and it has not been walked through, it is no longer my responsibility.  My openness is my responsibility; I am not responsible to make other people open to this.  And truthfully, it may never happen, so my life needs to continue regardless.  3) I am not going to hinge the fate of my calling on someone else’s life choices.  4) These actions were wrong the moment they happened, not the moment I decided to share about them.  5) It is not my job to protect anyone, but it WAS their job to protect me, and that didn’t happen.   6) This is the most important one to me: I have been inspired, changed, challenged, renewed, healed, and encouraged by the stories other people have taken the courage to share.  A lot of those stories were shared in the absence of reconciliation (because then it would hinge on other people taking part), but in the presence of pure motives and a heart for those who would read it.  It is a risk, for sure.  But I’m diving in.  And above all, I care more about what God has called me to do, then what other people think.  I will not allow the enemy to shut my mouth to the things God has called me to open it about.  He is my refuge, even when the storm rages. 

Letter Boards by LetterPoet

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Hope

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Let me tell you a story of hope.  And a story about someone who’s lived without it.

Lately I’ve been feeling an urgency to bring Jesus’ love to the unlovable people in our world.  I’ve always had a passion for people living in the inner city, and particularly for women working in the sex trade.  I’ve been feeling challenged recently about what I’m going to do about that.  Am I going to walk out my passions?  Or let my life and my comfort overrule?  If I’m really head over heels for Jesus, why don’t I share it more often?  Why am I not walking on this earth as Jesus walked when he was here?  Fear.  Comfort.  Insecurity.  To name a few answers to that question.

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”  (James 1:27)

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to walk this out in Edmonton’s inner city.  In my fear, in my wondering, in my insecurity.  But also, in Jesus.  In the confidence I have in Him.

Earlier that day our family had gone skating.  As we were piling out of the van,  my 6 year-old son piped up out of the blue and said, “HOPE.  That’s a nice word.  Hope.”  Our 8 year-old son agreed, and added that we should have named our 3 year old daughter “Hope”. We agreed it was a very nice word.  I honestly didn’t think much of it in the chaos of hockey bag and stroller and busy parking lot.

This was probably not the first time I’ve missed hope in the midst of my own agenda.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit obviously wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to miss the message this time.  He tried again.

When I arrived in Edmonton, I made a quick stop at H&M to grab a few items before heading into the downtown area.  I noticed the cashier had a 4 letter word tattooed across the fingers of her right hand.  I looked harder and saw – you guessed it – HOPE.  I told her of my kids’ conversation of just a few hours before.  She chuckled and said, “That must mean something!”  It must.

I drove downtown, and kept my eye out for whoever it was who God wanted me to minister to.  I felt a bit discouraged when I didn’t see anyone out on the streets.  After some twists and turns, I spotted a lady limping down the street.  She was really labouring just to walk, and her legs bowed out.  I parked up ahead of her a bit, then got out and went to talk to her.

I asked her if she had heard of Jesus, and wheezing and panting she said she did.  (She was not in good shape, she could hardly breathe.)  I asked if I could pray for her, that I had noticed she was having trouble walking.  I told her Jesus wanted to heal her.  She was totally open to being prayed for.  She asked if we could sit, so I helped her to a nearby curb.

I asked her name, and she told me it was Tara.  I told her mine too.  I asked if I could put my arm around her.  I believe that touch is so unifying.  It says, “I’m here with you.  I accept you.”  She agreed and leaned in.

We chatted about her legs.  She told me the pain in them were unbearable.  Then she told me she was angry at God.  I told her that was ok.   I told her He understood, and that He could handle her being mad at Him.

She paused for a few moments, and then said, “Can I tell you something?  A few days ago, I was in such bad pain I almost ended my life.  But you know?  Something stopped me.  I don’t know why, but something stopped me.”

I responded, “Or maybe someONE?”  She chuckled and agreed.

I said, “let’s pray for your legs now!”  I was excited to see what God was going to do.  I just knew He wanted her well.

I got down in front of her, and held her legs (checking with her that she was comfortable with that).  I thanked Jesus for this beautiful woman and then out of my mouth I heard the word HOPE come out – the Holy Spirit had me pray for hope in her life.  For a new season of HOPE like she hasn’t known in a long time.  What is life, what is a healthy body, even, without hope?  Now I knew why HOPE kept finding me that day.  You don’t realize how important hope is until you meet someone who doesn’t have it.

After speaking hope into her life, I rebuked the pain in her legs and commanded healing into them.  I looked up at her.  She was staring deeply into my eyes, and looked totally at peace.  She had a slight smile on her wrinkly face.  I asked her how her legs felt.  Sometimes healing doesn’t happen instantly.  I was ready for this and was intent on persevering until the pain was 100% gone.  To my surprise – and delight! – she said, “There’s no pain.  The pain has left completely.”  She smiled really big now.  “Praise Jesus,” I said!

I sat back on the curb with her.  She continued to tell me a bit about her life growing up in a foster home.  She told me how she meets some Christian girls around downtown and how our smiles look different than everyone else’s.  She said she could tell I was a Christian because of my smile.  She told me how her friend started hitting her and how her last boyfriend was the one who gave her the black eye she had.  She gave me a Kinder egg out of her bag.

I asked her what she really needed, what she really wanted, and what I could pray for her for.  She said she wanted not to smoke anymore, she wanted prayer for her family, and she wanted to have a place of her own to live, where she could watch TV by herself without roommates around all the time.  I said, “let’s pray for those things too”.  So I prayed for her again, bringing her requests before our big Daddy.  Afterwards, she smiled at me, and told me how much better she felt.  I asked if I could take a picture of her, to remember her.  She agreed, and I asked if I could take it of her hands, as I noticed how beautifully she took care of them and how she had done her nails so nicely.  We all need something to make us feel beautiful, don’t we?

We got up to go on our ways.  I asked how her legs were, wanting to make sure she went away with no pain.  She said they were great.  They had been throbbing terribly when I had walked up to her. Now they were fine.

She asked me where I came from.  I told her God had sent me to pray for her, that I had driven an hour to come find her.  I told her that God loved her so much He would do that for her.  She giggled.  She said, “you know, Sarah, I’m around this area a lot.  If you ever come back, you can find me down here.”

Oh, Tara, I’ll be coming back.

She pointed down the street and told me she was heading in that direction.  She asked for money for bus fare.  I gave her $5.  I know a lot of people would say, “She’s probably using that for drugs or alcohol”.  I say, I’m ok with that.  Why?  Because I’ve never known what it’s like to need drugs more than I need food.  I don’t know what it’s like to grow up in foster care and sell my body on the street and live in homeless shelters and be beaten by men.  If she did use my money for her next hit, I hope the Holy Spirit reminds her of God’s love while she taking that hit.  I believe we need to use wisdom and be lead by the Spirit in our giving, but I also don’t believe we are to judge.  Why would I expect an unhealthy, addicted, wounded, lost person to make a wise choice with my money?  I don’t.

She was very thankful for the money, and then gave me a big hug.  She headed down the street.  I got back in the car and drove away, past the building that was her destination:  HOPE Mission.  And then it hit me as I read those words:  God had sent ME on a Hope Mission.  A mission to bring hope to someone who had none.

My heart grieved as I realized those were the roommates she was referring to.  My heart grieved as I realized what a blessing it is to have a home, a place where I can watch TV by myself.  My heart grieved to think of her sleeping on the floor, surrounded by people on drugs, people getting sick, people acting out beyond their faculties just feet away from her, people who smelled.  My heart grieved to think of how this innocent little girl had been abandoned and so wounded, that she had ended up wandering the inner city in her middle age, instead of living in a home and enjoying grandbabies and hobbies and travelling.  My heart grieved as I recounted all of this to Kris, and asked him, “Where were all the Jesus-followers while she was growing up?”  One.  It could have taken just ONE person to have brought the hope of Jesus to this little girl before drugs and men and a life on the street became her reality.  But Jesus is all about redemption, and I believe that is still His plan for Tara.  And for all the Taras out there.

 

 

 

 

What it actually means to be pro-life

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To be pro-life means you are advocating for a life, not just a birth.

Abortion is one of those controversial topics that has a huge influence on the way people vote.  I can’t remember any election in recent years in which the “pro-life vs. pro-choice” issue wasn’t a part.  And there is certainly no shortage of passion coming from either side of the argument.

In all the articles that fill our social media newsfeeds, and all the televised debates, one question that always remains in my head is, “What happens to those babies?”

You might assume that this question is referring to all the fetuses cut out of their mothers’ wombs and disposed of.  That’s a real concern for many.  I certainly share the concern.

But you know what?  I have a larger concern for those babies who’s lives we are advocating for.  I’m asking about all the babies who live.  Where do they go?  What happens to THEM?

When a woman chooses abortion, she does not want a baby.  Simply telling her she should – or has to – remain pregnant and birth her baby solves very few problems in my mind. It’s great that she remained pregnant and gave birth.  But now we have a baby that wasn’t wanted.

A baby that wasn’t wanted, grows into a child that wasn’t wanted, and becomes an adult that isn’t wanted.

It’s all fine and good to fight for the life of a precious, innocent infant.  But when that infant grows into the behaviourally-challenged bully that targets your child in the classroom, or becomes the drunk, homeless man who stinks and begs you for change on your way to work everyday (“and why doesn’t he get a damn job like the rest of us do!”), it’s not so cute anymore.  It’s not so simple anymore.

We want babies, but we don’t want needy adults who are a drain on society.  We want babies, but we don’t want to get messy.

I’m not saying that every unwanted baby become a bully, a homeless man or a prostitute. Certainly that’s the extreme.  What I AM saying is that it is not right to advocate for lives just to the point that they make it out of the womb, and then think your job is done.  Regardless of the socio-economic status of the mother involved.  I am saying that to be pro-life means we stand for life – the mother’s, the infant’s, and whoever that infant becomes in the future.

Being against abortion means that we are going to have many babies – people – born among us who were not wanted.  Being against abortion means we will have women in our midst who need support and help.  Being against abortion means being willing to foster a child, adopt a child, or to simply step up to help a mom.  Maybe it means volunteering with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters.  Maybe it means supporting a single mom financially.  Maybe it means working with a ministry that helps street people find and secure jobs.  Maybe it means being available to babysit for the worn out mom who didn’t want another child.

One thing I know for sure, is being pro-life DOESN’T mean sporting a sign outside an abortion clinic or sharing a Facebook post to voice your opinion, without any intention to support a mother with an unwanted pregnancy or a child who WAS the unwanted pregnancy.

I know that I want to be pro-LIFE – and all that it entails – and not just pro-birth.   Lord, help me be okay to get messy.

 

“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

-Sister Joan Chittister

Why Christians need to stop hating prosperity.

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“Health and wealth”.  “Prosperity gospel”.  Whatever name you call it, it usually is accompanied by a mindset that people who believe in wealth and prosperity from God are selfish, materialistic Christians who thinks God is a spiritual “Santa”, who is only loved for what He can give.  These are Christians who are wrapped up in money and riches and care about nothing else.

I recently read a really sad article that hasn’t left my mind.  In a nutshell, the author pleads with Christians to stop saying “blessed” when referring to a promotion, a nice home, or any other earthly blessing we might receive; the core of his argument is that by saying God has blessed us with those things, we are implying that the person who didn’t get a promotion or a nice house wasn’t blessed.  So we shouldn’t say that God has blessed us at all.  You know, lest someone be offended.  Which is the adult, Christian version of, “Why did he get new shoes and I didn’t?!” that I’ve heard from my elementary-aged children.

This attitude actually seems to be putting MORE emphasis on “things” and money, in my opinion.  If prosperity and wealth is wrong, then why should it offend someone if another person has it?  If it’s wrong, then Christians shouldn’t be accepting promotions, or buying houses, or getting new cars.  Right?  “Sorry, I don’t believe in prosperity.  I can’t accept that.”  If anti-prosperity Christians are right, then that should be their response, shouldn’t it?

The funny thing is, a lot of anti-prosperity Christians live pretty comfortable lives; lives that are a direct contradiction of their firm beliefs that say wealth is bad.  Or wait – maybe it’s that wealth from God is bad, but wealth in general is okay?

Back to the article, and being offended by the word “blessing”.  In my experience, the only people who get offended by another person’s blessings are those who are operating in a religious spirit, or who are more led by money than they are by the Spirit of God.  When I’ve shared how God has blessed me (and yes, even in material ways), it’s the unbelievers who are excited to hear all about it.  They don’t have a chip on their shoulder about the possibility that we have a good God who wants to lavish us with good things.  Seems a little backwards to me.

So who’s the source of the things we have, then?  If it’s not God who has blessed you with a good year in business, or a good deal at the grocery store, or with a home that your family can enjoy, then who is it?  There’s one of three options, as far as I can see it:

  1. You are responsible for the good things that have come into your life.  “I’ve worked hard for the bonus I got at work this year.”  God is not part of the equation here.
  2. The enemy has provided it for you.  (This is just silly, but I’m just going through the possibilities here.  We know the enemy is not capable of giving good things.)  God is not part of the equation here either.
  3. It’s just kismet.  Fate.  Good luck.  Again – God is not part of this equation.

Wait – so it’s not okay for me to say God blessed me with a house, but it IS okay to give myself credit for it?  It IS okay to think it just happened by coincidence?   It IS okay – and in fact, preferred (because watch out for prosperity teachings!) – to take God out of the equation when it comes to our earthly blessings?

There is something so, so wrong with this picture.  Either God is responsible for material blessings in our lives, or He isn’t.  And it saddens me that there are Christians in the camp that believes He doesn’t.  Which automatically puts them in the camp of thinking it’s either due to their own hard work (giving credit to self) or simply because of fate (giving credit to something other than God).

But what does the Bible say?  Well, the Bible says that Abraham was a very blessed man. In fact, he was extremely rich (Gen. 13).  Super rich in material things.  But it wasn’t just for him.  He was blessed, so that he could turn around and bless others (Gen. 12:2).  The Bible also talks about Job.  He was extremely rich too.  “Yes, but wasn’t all of that taken away?”  Yup, it was.  And then after the enemy messed with him, God blessed him with even more.  Even more material things.  God did that.

This reminds me of a common argument against prosperity, which is the following: “The blessings God gives us are spiritual blessings.”  Well yes, He does give us spiritual blessings.  And those are far greater than earthly ones!  In fact, it was Kenneth Copeland himself (yes, one of those “prosperity teachers”!) who said that financial blessings are actually the lowest form of the riches God has for us.  We can be rich in many ways: in our relationship with God and people, in our marriages, in our health, etc. etc.  But that doesn’t mean that financial blessing is bad, or isn’t a part of the deal.

In fact, Paul talked about telling the Gentiles about the “endless treasures available to them in Christ” (Eph. 3:8).  The Greek word for “treasures” in that passage is “ploutos”, a noun which means “an abundance of possessions and economic prosperity“.  I didn’t say it, the Bible did.

Another common thing that Christians will do in regards to material blessings is make their own judgement about what is enough or not enough.  Which means it all comes down to how you can justify the things you have.  “Well, I need this van.”  Actually no.  You don’t need a vehicle.  “I need a house to live in.”  Again, no you don’t.  You could live in a 100sq.ft. shanty.  So really, anything above being naked and having more than $5 in your hand makes you blessed.  So there – if you have a computer or mobile to read this on, you already are blessed.  Blessed beyond measure!  “Well, it’s okay to have a $200,000 home, but not a $400,000 home.”  Who are you to say that?  Either of those things are in excess when you think of the world at large.  So who’s to draw the line?  That is the issue with this type of thinking: You are making yourself the judge of what others have.  You have decided you are the plumb line for what is “necessity” (things that are okay to have) and what is not.  I know these things, because I did them.  All of them.

So here’s the thing.  Here’s the reason all of this matters:  Taking God out of the equation when it comes to my material blessings, means I am either taking the credit for it myself, or giving it to someone else.  If I think it belongs to me, I will not seek God as to what to do with it, and how He wants me to use it.  I earned it, it’s mine.  But if I see my wealth as coming from God, and ultimately still belonging to Him (I am just a steward of it), I will seek Him as to how to use it to further His kingdom.  I will ask Him what I should be doing with it, and how I can bless others with it so they can have the same good Dad I do.

And the bigger reason all of this matters, is because Christians need to be the pipeline of God’s goodness to others, not the voice that is speaking out against it.  How can we pass it on if we’re against receiving it ourselves?

It costs money to buy a car for a single mom when God tells you to.

It costs money to build an orphanage in Haiti.

It costs money to buy a new bike for the kid down the street who’s bike was stolen last week.

It costs money to put on a Christmas meal and invite homeless people.

It costs money to fly to a northern community to share the hope and love of Jesus with hurting people.

You don’t NEED money to bless people.  We should be blessing any way we can!  But as believers, I think we need to wrap our head around (and stop speaking against!) a God who wants to increase us and bless us, so that we can turn around and show Him to others in tangible ways.  So that we can be the solution to the world’s problems that we were created to be.

We have a good, good Father, and there is a hurting world out there who is waiting for the sons and daughters of God to reveal His goodness to them.  And the first step is believing in, and then receiving with gratitude, that goodness ourselves.

***

My heart in this is not to pass judgement.  If this is where you are, I get it.  I really, really do.  Part of the non-material blessings I receive daily is His abundant grace, which I also extend to you.  None of us have arrived, none of us know it all.  This is simply a challenge to look at what we believe and why we believe it, and then to look at the effects that belief has on the ministry of the church in our dark world.

 

What Do I Need to Let Go Of?

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When I struggle or I’m working through something (whether it’s a deep relational issue, cranky kids, or a pile of laundry), the first place my mind goes to is, “Okay, what do I need to do here to make this better?”

Usually the answers I come up with are along the lines of: be nicer to the kids, get that load of laundry done, try to change my thought and behaviour patterns, respond differently next time, etc. etc.

But I recently figured out that I’ve been asking the wrong question.

God spoke to me last week about this.  I was feeling overwhelmed and all over the place, and about to go over the same old mantras of figuring out what I need to do to fix it.  God gently said to me, “it’s not about doing, it’s about letting go”.

So He said that in those moments, I need to ask Him:

What do I need to let go of?

See, doing just puts more pressure on.  And typically, the only reason I am wanting and needing to do something different is because the pressure is already on.  Another thing to do really doesn’t help.

But letting go of something?  I can do that.  I need to do that.

Sometimes the thing we need to let go of is something concrete:  an added task that pushes your day over the edge, a toxic relationship, a box of junk that just clutters up your space.

And sometimes the thing we need to let go of is an expectation:  an expectation that my to-do list is empty, or that my house will stay clean, or that my kids will behave perfectly.

Doing puts pressure on.  Letting go takes it away.

Doing fills my plate.  Letting go clears it.

Doing makes me tired.  Letting go helps me to breathe again.

Doing is a burden.  Letting go lightens the load.

The great thing about this is that even when we don’t know the answer to this question, if we will quiet ourselves and listen, we have a good, good Father who will tell us.  He always knows what we have been holding on to that is not good for us.  He knows what we need.

So, what do you need to let go of today?

Trust me, you’ll feel lighter when you give it up.  🙂

 

 

 

 

Boundaries

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“You can’t control behaviour,

but you can control consequences.”

This quotes comes from the authors of the awesome book “Boundaries” by John Townsend and Henry Cloud.

Boundaries are an interesting topic.  Loved by some, hated by others, boundaries are – in the very least – a good litmus test of the health of a relationship (or a person in it).  If I put up boundary A with someone I love, and they respond with malice and spite, and are offended by my boundary, I now know that there are some issues of power and control at the heart of that relationship.  If I am being loved, valued, protected, and respected in a relationship, then a boundary should be something that I am encouraged to put up.  If it’s not understood, a healthy person will ask genuine questions to gain understanding.

I read a great analogy on the “Boundaries” Facebook page a few weeks ago that has been rolling around in my head since.  It was talking about how a boundary is like a fence that we put up around our property.  What is inside that fence belongs to us, and as such, we have a say as to what happens there.  As a silly example, I’d prefer if you didn’t pee on my lawn.  You can pee on the lawn outside of my fence – I have no say as to what happens there – but if you choose to pee on the inside, I will no longer allow you inside my fence.

The interesting thing, is that a healthy person will realize that they are the one who has caused themselves to not be allowed inside the fence anymore.  An unhealthy person will blame the person who put up the boundary, and say it is their fault they are no longer allowed.  Now, if you’re not wearing a shirt, and the store requires you to wear one, is it the store’s fault you have to remain on the street?  Or is it *your* choice not to adhere to the standards set by the owners of the property that you want to enter into?  The funny things is, a simple change of behaviour would allow that person back into the property (ie: not peeing on the lawn, or putting on a shirt).

An unhealthy person will not only make you responsible for their choice to continue in the disrespect that put them outside your fence, they might even go so far as to make you feel guilty and put a lot of negative pressure on you due to the boundary you’ve set out.  A lot of people in this situation take the bait, and to avoid the discomfort that has been created, will change their boundary and allow the person to come on in and pee on their lawn again.  Never mind, you’re right.  I was the problem.  Come on in and do whatever you’d like.

Now, the other person knows they have won, and can continue in the disrespectful behaviour on your property.  They thought you were the problem all along, and now you’ve just finally seen the light.

The question is:  How many yards has this person been peeing on?  Maybe dozens.  And you may be the only person in his or her life who has put up a fence and set out a clear consequence should the standards you have for your property be breached.  So clearly, you are now the problem.  “Bob doesn’t care if I pee on his lawn!”  Well, that’s fine.  Go to Bob’s house to do that, it’s not okay here.

Now obviously, most of us don’t have people clamouring around our yards wanting to pee on our lawns.  But we all have people in our lives who expect to treat us however they’d like, and we just keep the fence open.  “Come on in and treat me like crap!”  I’ve even heard people say, “well, Jesus was walked on.  So we should be too”.  Jesus died for the sins of humanity as a fulfillment of prophesy and to save us.  It wasn’t an issue of relational disrespect.  Jesus DOES however, tell us to be holy.  And part of being holy is being loving and truthful.  Allowing continual, unrepentant disrespect to keep happening without saying anything is neither of those things.  It’s not loving to enable someone to continue hurting you – or others – without saying something.

Everyone has an example of their life of someone who comes in and pees on their lawn.  I want to encourage you to be okay to put up a fence and protect your emotional property.  It’s okay to have a say as to what happens to your heart.  “You can’t control behaviour, but you can control consequences.”  You might lose family, you might lose friends.  But you will have peace inside that fence, and people in your yard who truly love and respect you unconditionally.  You will have truth, and honesty, and love, and respect.  And that fence is always open for people who are willing to come in and be nice.

I know that I want to be the kind of person who is welcome and safe to be inside other peoples’ yards.  And I also know that I want to model to my children not only the putting up of boundaries, but also the respecting of boundaries.  And the only way to do that is to walk it out as best I can, armed with His love and grace.

Where’s the Line?

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To be honest, a lot of questions arise for me after the recent conviction of the Alberta couple who “failed to offer the necessities of life” to their son who died of meningitis.  On the one hand, I do agree that they failed their son, that they should have sought medical attention a heck of a lot sooner, and that they are definitely partly responsible for the fatal outcome they experienced.

But on the other hand, I also see them as parents who were doing what they thought and felt was right.  No parent – apart from the small group of seriously deranged, abusive parents out there – wills their child dead.  No parent intends for anything negative to happen to their child.  Especially not sickness and definitely not death.

Really, aren’t we all just doing what WE think is best, even if that is different from what someone else thinks is best?

The fact that a couple can be convicted in the death of their child makes me wonder:

  • What about the parents that slowly kill their children by consistently feeding them unhealthy, fatty, sugary, processed food?  What about the years they suffer from childhood obesity and diabetes (not to mention the shame and insecurity should they be teased or bullied in school because of it)?  Most children go on to continue the cycle as adults, and the outlook for them, according to Statistics Canada, isn’t positive when it comes to disease and life expectancy.  Didn’t they fail to offer the necessities of life (healthy nutrition)?  Why aren’t they on trial?
  • What about parents who smoke in the house and vehicle while their children are present?  The health effects of second hand smoke are terrible, and are responsible for over 1000 infant deaths annually.  Didn’t they fail to offer the necessities of life (healthy air)?  Why aren’t those parents on trial?
  • What about the parents of a child who takes his or her life by suicide?  This is obviously a very sensitive topic to touch on, but for the sake of argument, are the parents responsible at all for the factors involved in a child who is so pained they don’t want to live?  Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24, making it a very serious problem in our country.  Which begs the question:  Should parents be held responsible, because they failed to offer the necessities of life for their child to thrive?   Why aren’t they on trial?

A person can argue that these cases are too different from the meningitis case to even compare.  And that’s probably true.  And obviously I am just pushing the envelope to make a point and open up some dialogue, even if it sounds or appears completely insensitive.  These examples aren’t indicative of my own heart and opinions, but rather a way of asking “if this ___ is true, then what about this ___?”

This headline story makes me wonder:  Where do we draw the line after this?  Aren’t we all just doing the best we can, based on our thoughts, feelings, convictions, beliefs – even if that ended in the worst case scenario?  And what about the worst-case scenarios of infants, kids, and young adults who have died in less-obvious (and perhaps slower, more painful) ways due to the choices of their parents?

Either way, as parents, we are certainly responsible.  Either way, we will make mistakes or choose a way that someone doesn’t agree with.  Either way, the death of a child is a tragedy, and being on trial in the wake of your grief likely makes it even harder.  Either way, it’s complicated issue that will never have answers.

Those are my un-edited thoughts on the issue.  What are yours?

 

 

Healing theology: Why it ticks people off.

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I’m not sure I know a doctrine in the North American church that manages to offend and tick more people off than the doctrine of healing.  (Wait, I do know another one:  Wealth. Combine the two, and you’re in even more trouble.  But that’s a touchy subject for another day…!)

Here are the 4 top reasons I believe it is always God’s will to heal:

  1. Because it says in His Word that He came to heal us and make us whole (Psalm 103 and many others).  He came to give us an abundant life (John 10:10) and to destroy the works of the enemy (1 John 3:8).  We know from Scripture that sickness is a work of the enemy, not from God.  How do we know this?  Because only good can come from God.  He is not suffering from multiple personalities – He is either Jehovah Rapha (our healer), or He is the giver of sickness.  He can’t be both, and He only says He’s one of those things.  We know which one if we read His Word.  (Also, why would he put sickness on people, just to have Jesus come and take it away from them?  Jesus wasn’t able to work against the Father, so if sickness was the Father’s work, Jesus would have been working against Him if he healed.)
  2. Because Jesus came and healed ALL he came in contact with.   There is not one place in the New Testament where Jesus left someone unhealed and told them it was God’s will that they remain the way they were.  (The thorn in Paul’s flesh doesn’t count, because it states it was a “messenger of satan” – not sickness  – and it was eventually removed once Paul learned to lean on God’s grace and not himself.)
  3. Because the Greek word for “saved” (SOZO – my favourite topic that I will scream from the mountaintop to free people from religious bondage – and the subject of my recent tattoo!) also means “physically healed”.  In fact, there are many places in the NT where the word “sozo” was used when someone received a physical healing:  The woman with the issue of blood and the ten lepers, just to name a couple.   Healing is part of the same package that salvation is part of.
  4. Jesus told us repeatedly in the Gospels that we are to go out and heal the sick, free people of demons, and raise the dead.  Mark 16 says that healing is actually a sign that will follow those who believe.  Luke 9 says that he sent out the disciples to heal ALL diseases.  He wouldn’t tell us to do something we’re not capable of (with him).  And it wasn’t just the disciples, so don’t let yourself off the hook.  The apostles did it too.  It wasn’t just for them, any more than any of the message of the Bible was solely for those who walked with Jesus.  It was for us too.

Here are the top 4 reasons people don’t believe this is true and it downright ticks some people off:

  1. “Because Uncle John died of cancer and lots of people were praying for him.”  Praying for a sick person is actually something Jesus never did.  (I know, right?!)  And just because he wasn’t healed, why does that change what God’s will was and is?  God’s will is that NONE should perish (2 Peter 3:9), yet people still perish and fail to repent. There is a big gap between what God desires for us and what actually happens, because we have free will.
  2. Circumstance theology:  this is the fancy word for #1.  It’s when people take our earthly circumstances (ie: the healing didn’t or hasn’t happened), and then determine God’s will based on that.  Uncle John died of cancer so that must mean that it’s not always God’s will that people are healed.  A good rule of thumb that I’ve learned, is that NOT EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS LINES UP WITH THE WILL OF GOD.  There are things that have happened in my day already today that were not the will of God.  Yet they still happened, because there are two forces that work against God’s will:  1. The enemy; and 2. My own flesh.  Now, the great news is that both of those things can be overcome.  But if you maintain your belief that whatever happens – even if you activated the church prayer chain about it – is God’s will, you will never get to the point of overcoming those things, because you are missing their involvement completely.
  3. Christians love to spiritualize suffering.  For some reason, we think we are to suffer for Jesus.  Yes, trials will come.  Yes, we are told to take part in Christ’s suffering.  But if you look at the original Greek, we are to “simpatiko” with Christ – to identify with, to have compassion, and to be of one mind with – not physically suffer.  Jesus was called to suffering so that we might be saved through him; my suffering does not accomplish that.  Yes, God will use the hard things I go through to refine me, but He doesn’t author them.  He would much rather I learn through seeking Him and heeding His Word, just like I would rather my children learn not to run in the road because I tell them, and not because they got hit by a car and got paralyzed.
  4. Because we don’t see it happening.  (P.S. You should go somewhere where it is.  It’s way more exciting!)  Just because we don’t see it, again, doesn’t mean it’s NOT God’s will.  It just means we’re missing something.  Remember again how Jesus said, “These miraculous signs WILL accompany those who believe (not just disciples): They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages.  They will be able to handles snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them.  They WILL BE ABLE TO PLACE THEIR HANDS ON THE SICK, AND THEY WILL BE HEALED.”  (Mark 16: 17-18)  Jesus said that, not me!

Part of my journey with this, is that I had to get to the point where I asked myself, “Do I believe the Bible, or do I believe my experiences?”  “Do I believe what God said, or do I believe what I see or don’t see?”

Why can we have faith for salvation, but not for healing?  “Sozo” says they’re part of the same package, so why is one part easy to believe and another isn’t?  I believe part of it is because we never see “failed salvations”.  We don’t know if someone actually went to heaven or not.  But we’ve seen people sick with cancer, or lose a baby, or live with diabetes (or perhaps we ourselves have been the person).  So those experiences taint our ability to accept God’s word about healing (but not salvation), and we eventually decide healing must not always be God’s will.

Friend, God is good.  If you’re not experiencing these things in your life, it’s not because God doesn’t want them for you.  It just means you’re like everyone else and you’re on a journey of faith.  There’s no judgement, no condemnation no matter what you believe.  There is no one waiting to wave a finger at you if you don’t believe these things or even if it makes you downright ticked off.  But I encourage you – do your own study.  Dig into it.  Ask God to show you more of Him and what His desire for you is and what His character is.  I need to do this daily, as I grow and change and realize areas where I’ve missed it.  (And there’s lots!)  But regardless, His love for you is great.  And that’s a doctrine that we can all agree on.  🙂

So maybe your answer to my title question is different than mine.  Perhaps your answer to why this theology ticks people off is because you think it’s wrong, faulty theology.  You’re entitled to that opinion, and I am open to hearing where in Scripture it says that sickness and disease come from God, or that He won’t heal us.  I am always open to some good discussion!

I’ll leave this on this note:  I heard a quote once that really resonated with me, and it said something along the lines of:

The truth that has the most chains around it 

is the one that has the most ability to set you free.

So maybe – just maybe? – has the enemy put enormous amounts of chains around the doctrine of healing in our church, because it is that very truth that has the MOST ability to set people free?  Why does God being SO good anger people the way it does, instead of excite and spur them on to walk in more of His goodness?  I guess that is for each of us to ponder and decide for ourselves.

Peace and blessings.  Thanks for hearing my heart.