Friday, October 31, 2014

"There Are No Children Here"

I just finished a book called "There are No Children Here, the story of two boys growing up in the other America" by Alex Kotlowitz.  This is not normally the type of book that I read (I usually stick to history books) but I knew this was an area where my viewpoint needed to be expanded.  I was raised by and still very much believe in the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" principle.  I believe that through hard work and good choices, most Americans can do just about anything they set their minds to.  There are thousands of stories from before the founding of our country up to present day that back up that principle.  (Interestingly enough, the book that I've chosen to read next is "Driven" by Donald Driver, and his life is definitely an example of this).  The opportunities that Americans have are almost unprecedented in the world. 

But it's easy for me to believe this.  I was born into a white, two parent, middle class family who taught morality, valued education, and pushed us to succeed.  I was not exposed to drugs or drinking, poverty, rampant immorality, or violence.  That is not everyone's story.  And while I still truly believe that it's possible for a person to work their way out of poverty and make a better life for themself, I know that I need to have my eyes opened to what it's truly like to be born into horrible circumstances.  This book really helped to open my eyes.  It didn't, however, make me change my mind about the bootstrap principle.  It just made me realize how difficult it is for some people.  These two young boys, 7 and 10, were surrounded by drugs and violence.  Growing up in the projects in inner city Chicago, all they knew was what they saw around them.  It was difficult for them to believe that they didn't have to join a gang and sell drugs.  Many children were pulled into gangs, even when they didn't want to be, and selling drugs brought in money.  They didn't know that they shouldn't start fathering children at 14 years old.  Almost all the young people they saw around them had 3 or 4 children by the time they graduated high school... IF they graduated high school.  They despaired of ever getting out of the projects and with the violence that almost daily erupted around them, many times they despaired of even living past their childhood years.  They saw their friends, children, killed by stray bullets when the gangs would start fighting.  What was the point of working hard in school if they didn't even believe they'd be alive at 18 or 20? 

My heart was broken as I read this book.  Parts of it were very difficult to get through.  And although I think there are things the government should be doing to help alleviate the suffering of those who are in poverty, the answer is not the government.  The government has had a "war on poverty" for decades now and poverty is still winning.  No, the answer is Jesus.  The answer is God's people, the church, being motivated by the Holy Spirit, rolling up their sleeves and going to work to help those who are suffering.  This has always been the answer.  For some, this will mean working with their church body to provide food and clothes for the homeless (I have an amazing uncle who does this with his church).  For others, it will mean going to teach in inner city schools.  Some will be called to pastor churches in the inner city.  Some will be called to adopt orphans out of poverty.  Some of us will be called to hire those who can't find a job and give them a chance at a better life.  Others will be a role model, a big brother or sister, for children in vulnerable situations, to show them a different way of life.  There are those who will be police officers, risking their lives to protect the innocent; lawyers and judges, who will bring justice; journalists, who will shed light on what life is really like for these people; and social workers, who daily have to carry the burden of not being able to fix bad situations and broken children.

The call to help the vulnerable, to defend the widow and orphan, is put on all of us who claim the name of Jesus.  It is not an option.  But as we face the reality of what Jesus has done for us, going to the cross and bearing the weight of our sins, what He has called us to seems small in comparison.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

For Sale

A sign was put in our front yard last night and our house is officially for sale!  I want the house to sell, I want to move into a bigger place, but it will be very difficult to leave here.  This living room where I'm sitting... this is where Josiah took his first steps.  That bedroom where he's napping so peacefully... he's slept there every night since we brought him home from Nebraska.  I look out into our backyard and I can see him laughing as he goes down the slide.  I can see him grinning up at me as he sits in his lawn chair in his pool (because you can't just sit in the pool).  I can see him as a baby, laying on a blanket on the floor, wiggling around and cooing.  So many hours of rocking him when he didn't want to sleep or rocking him after he fell asleep and I just didn't want to let him go.  My baby grew into a little boy in this house and I feel like I'll be giving up a piece of his childhood when we move. 

But move we must.  Josiah is 19 months old and we want to start pursuing another adoption.  Even if we did pass a homestudy, it would be difficult to have two children in that bedroom.  Two cribs won't fit and Josiah isn't ready to move to a big bed yet (and that wouldn't solve our space issue anyway).  So we've decided to try to sell.  I don't know what we'll do if our house doesn't sell.  But I'm not going to worry about that because I trust in a God Who is big enough to handle this.  He's the One Who's called us into orphan care and called us to grow our family through adoption and foster care.  He knows this house is not big enough for the burden that He's laid on us.  So He must have a plan.  We're stepping out in faith and trusting that if this is not the path He wants us to take, He'll re-direct us.   

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Heavens and New Earth

It's been a rough week.  My kid is teething and extra fussy/clingy/tired.  I noticed last night that he felt warm and of course, my thermometer was out of battery.  I went over to my sister's house with him this morning to borrow hers and sure enough, he's running a slight fever.  After visiting for a little while, we came back home, I gave him some medicine, and put him down for a nap.  He hasn't taken a nap in the morning for months.  But that's just one thing.

There's a bad situation involving some people that we know that we were made aware of on Tuesday that has been difficult for us to accept.  There's been some tears and lots of prayers for repentance and restoration.  Last night, I posted the following statement on my Facebook: "But for the grace of God, there go I."  I have come to realize that anyone is capable of anything.  I don't condemn or look down upon anyone in this situation because I know that, given the right set of circumstances, I could do the same thing.  That's why Jesus told us to ask God to not even let us go near temptation. 

It's weeks like this that make me long for the new heavens and new earth, when all things will be restored and made right.    

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Earthquakes

I just experienced, for the second time since moving to Wichita, a natural phenomenal that I'm totally unfamiliar with.  An earthquake. 
About a year ago, I was sitting on the couch reading and I felt the house shake slightly.  It was very quick and since I wasn't sure it was actually a tremor, I immediately took to social media where my guess was confirmed.  Since that time, Wichita and the surrounding area has been feeling more tremors but I didn't feel any more until today.  About 15 minutes ago, I was sitting here at my desk reading through some emails when the house started to shake.  I thought at first it was the wind since it's pretty windy outside but then the wind died down and the house was still shaking.  It lasted long enough that my eyes got big and I started to wonder when it would stop.  This one was scarier than the last one, not only because it lasted longer and seemed stronger, but because there's been an increase in tremors recently.  They're originating in Oklahoma and whether it's man-made (fracking) or natural, we didn't used to have earthquakes and now we do.  It's certainly nothing like what happens along the fault lines in California or elsewhere around the world but it's still worrisome.

According to the USGS map, the earthquake originated near Harper, Kansas (southwest of Wichita) and was a magnitude 4.4.