The Five of Us, Spring 2014

The Five of Us, Spring 2014

Sheep, Goats, Taxes, Bonuses, Raises

Editor's Note: As I've told you before, I sometimes use this blog to "think out loud." Sometimes I wait to write until I've got things all sorted out (for the moment anyway, I'm only 33 after all), but sometimes I just have something fomenting and need to get it out of my brain and into a workable format, even if it is half-baked. This is the latter type of post. So, feel free to give feedback, but first give grace. Lots of it. Thanks.

Before I left for Uganda, I was asked to read "The Hole in Our Gospel" by Rich Stearns, president of World Vision US (a Christian global relief agency), in order to prepare for the trip (everyone on the team was, not just me!). I'll confess that I didn't finish it before we left. Smack in the middle there's a section with a lot of statistics and I got a little stuck up in that. But, I enjoyed and related to a lot of the beginning and thought maybe the end would be good too. So, I picked it back up again. The point of the book is that Jesus came for more than our personal salvation. He even came for more than that plus as an example of how to live. He proclaimed his own mission as including freeing prisoners and the oppressed. Rich asserts that that freedom, that social revolution, as it were, is actually part of the Gospel, as essential as personal salvation from sin and hell. But, we have largely forgotten, avoided, or misunderstood Jesus' intent on that.

So, the book covers a lot of biblical passages that deal with how we are to interact with the injustices that seem inherent in our world. That we're (you know, Christians) supposed to care for widows and orphans. Not only care for them, but actually defend them, plead their cases. Like, do something about their plight. Most of the biblical passages dealing with the poor and oppressed demand action.

Being a sort of black-and-white thinker, I tend toward extremes. I can be all-or-nothing. Which is one very good reason God gave me A. (Thank you, God!) It's hard for me to find balance in life. I read a book like this (or the Bible itself!) and I want to throw myself and my family off a cliff of voluntary poverty. I start rushing around in my mind trying to think of things we ought to be depriving ourselves of, hunting for items we could sell, axing categories of our budget, and feeling guilty about all the things we have and are able to do. Most of this is just mental (yes, I get the pun) and as soon as A gets a whiff of it, he tries to muddy it up with greyness. Reminding me that the Bible also says God gives us good gifts and that he even gives us some things for our enjoyment. Hedonist! (A, not God.)

As I was reading "The Hole" before Uganda, I got a little consumed with the "sheep and goats" passage. You know the one, it's nearing the end of his earthly ministry (which, as we've all heard from countless preachers, makes it of uber-importance), he says, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' the the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (Mt. 25:31-40) Of course, Jesus goes on to say the opposite to the goats; they didn't come to his aid because they didn't aid "the least of these."

So, I got to thinking, black-and-white thinking of course, "So, then aren't we just paying other people to do this for us?" I mean, A and I give generously to organizations that help the poor and needy. We have a really soft place in our hearts for those living with HIV/AIDS and those orphaned by the disease and our money follows that compassion. But, aren't we really just paying people to be sheep for us? I have never handed an article of clothing to a naked person. I have very rarely handed a plate of food to a hungry person myself. I can't recall ever visiting anyone in prison (or even writing them letters) and haven't even been to many sickbeds other than those occupied by immediately family. So, have I done what Jesus requires? Does giving money to other people who are on the front lines qualify me for sheephood? At the end of the passage, Jesus says, "Then they [ie--the goats, those who didn't come to the aid of the needy] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." I mean that's serious! It's eschatological, for heaven's sake! I really, really needed to know whether our generosity made us sheep or goats. It plagued me.

A (and some other loving friends) pointed out that God judges us by our hearts. Okay, so, yeah, my heart is generous and I'm moved by real compassion and mercy. But those three aren't the only residents of my heart. Fear lives there too. And self-centeredness. And comfort. And separation between me and "them." Those are the tenants I fight with, but for now, they remain. If we're using the measure of "love your neighbor as yourself," I'd give myself a D at best and only if I was grading on a curve. Love? Love? Really, love? How can I love someone I've never met? I loved both of my children before I met them, but that's different. I'd feel like a fool and a hypocrite if I said, "I love poor people. I love AIDS orphans and widows. I love them." I don't. Not enough to fight for them. But, if I'm being generous with myself, I can admit that I do love them enough to sacrifice a higher standard of living (while at the same time recognizing that my "normal" American lifestyle is among the richest in the world) for them, for like half a dozen of them.

Enough. Enough, enough, enough. How could it ever be enough? I feel that I could consign my family to voluntary poverty and give away all the "extra" money we would have and it still would never feel like enough. The problem is sooooo huge and even if we gave 10, 100, 1000 times what we do now, how would it even make a dent in the problem. Besides the fact that money doesn't solve poverty, consigning myself and my family to voluntary poverty still wouldn't put us face to face with genuine need. My stupid-human ideas of "enough" will never answer the sheep-or-goat question.

But, I think I went to Uganda because God knew this question would be brooding in my heart, that this storm cloud would be darkening my mind. I had to meet some "least of theses." I had to look them in the eye. I had to find out if I could love them, if I did love them. I had to hold them on my lap and hear their giggles. I had to hear their stories while I looked into their eyes. I had to find out what was motivating my generosity. I had to find out, in Uganda, among the naked, hungry, thirsty, strangers, sickly, and imprisoned whether I have a sheep-heart or a goat-heart. Of course, Jesus will be the Judge, and he and I both know there's more to be done, but I feel much more sheepish now.

So, when I got home from Uganda and I told A that we were going to adopt a slum in Kampala, he told me that he knew God was going to give us an additional investment. And then A told me that God was also giving us additional capital! Our tax return is huge, he got two more bonuses from work, and a raise. That's more (like way more) than enough to adopt Nateete, so we'll tuck most of it away in savings until we know what to do with it. And, yes, we're spending some on ourselves and our family. But, when I read in "The Hole" today the following passage from Deut. 8:10-18, my heart went, "YES!" "When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God. . . Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. . . You may say to yourself, 'My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.' But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who give you the ability to produce wealth." I felt that God was saying, "It's good. Your hearts are in the right place. Keep remembering where your wealth came from and keep stewarding it well. You are doing what I've asked of you." And my heart cries out in response, "But, who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand." (I Chron 29:14)

So, I guess maybe, if you're careful about your heart and DO go once in a while, you can be a sheep who pays other people to be sheep too.


My Man and Me

My Man and Me
married 7/7/2001


ours through biology, born 7/25/2004, home 8/1/2004


ours through adoption from Liberia, West Africa, born 7/15/2005, home 10/25/2007


ours through domestic adoption, born 1/15/2011, home 2/10/2011, final 8/3/2011

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Round Two Timeline

  • 9/24/08 Home study update home visit for Ghana adoption
  • 10/15/08 Dossier sent to AOHG
  • 10/15/08 I600A application sent to USCIS
  • 10/30/08 First heard about possible domestic private adoption
  • 11/18/08 Last spoke with contact about possible domestic adoption; expected to hear back about meeting with birthmother
  • 12/3/08 Withdrew application from AOHG
  • 1/6/09 Found out another family had been chosen for possible domestic adoption
  • 1/21/09 USCIS fingerprinting appointment
  • 1/8/09 Received USCIS fingerprinting appointment notice
  • 4/11/09 Sent Pre-Application to Covenant Care Adoptions for Domestic Infant Adoption program
  • 6/8/09 Social worker visit to update home study from International to Domestic
  • 7/24/09 Received completed home study update
  • 8/25/09 Went "on the list" for birthfamilies to choose from
  • 4/28/10 Found out a birth mom had chosen us
  • 5/8/10 Met the birth mom
  • 5/11/10 Got the call that birth mom changed her mind
  • 5/19/10 Birth mom's scheduled c-section
  • 11/30/10 Visit from DSS sw about foster parenting
  • 11/30/10 Got the call that another birth mom had chosen us
  • 12/21/10 Met with the birth mom
  • 1/15/11 @1:42 PM BB was born!
  • 1/19/11 ICPC (interstate) paperwork sent to GA for approval
  • 1/31/11 ICPC Clearance Approved
  • 2/10/11 Placement Ceremony and Pup comes home!!!!
  • 8/3/11 It's Official! Pup's Adoption Decree was issued