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Are We Ready for the End of Roe v. Wade?

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Backstory

Early on in marriage, my wife Jill and I learned we wouldn’t be able to have kids of our own. With this in mind we discerned that God was inviting us to become foster and adoptive parents. Over three short years thirteen kids came through our home and four stayed forever.

Building a family this way has been the hardest and best part of being married.

But here’s the thing. Our boys’ birthparents chose life. And Jill and I are forever grateful. Thank you Jesus!

Their story and the fact that they made it here alive inspired me to make the video: “Are We Ready for the End of Roe v. Wade?” If Roe v. Wade is overturned, more and more kids from unplanned, even crisis pregnancies will be born into this world. Who will step up to generously love and support these moms, dads, and kids in need?

While there are literally millions of different ways to love and serve families in this situation, I am inviting pro-lifer’s everywhere to open their heart to the possibility of engaging this need as foster or adoptive parents.

This particular call isn’t for everyone, but I believe it is for many.

My sincere and prayerful hope is that through this simple video, God would plant the seeds of this call in the hearts and minds of hundreds, even thousands of people.

And breathe life into a revolution of care.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are you trying to accomplish with this video? I created this video for two reasons. First, I want to spark conversation among pro-lifer’s around the question: “If Roe v. Wade is overturned, what more will need to be done to serve and advance the cause of life?” Second, I want the video to be an opportunity for pro-lifer’s to consider, perhaps for the first time, a call to be foster or adoptive parents. I can’t imagine a better place for foster or adoptive placements than a happy, healthy, and holy pro-life family.

Q: What did you mean when you said that infertility was a gift?  That’s a good question. It was hard to decide whether or not I should include that line. Ultimately I thought the risk of turning off some and tuning out others (neither of which would ever be my goal), would be outweighed by the value of helping yet others look at this area of their marriage differently.

Infertility, reframed as an opportunity rather than an obstacle, has been an important part of our foster care and adoption story. It took many years for God to re-frame this cross in our hearts and minds; for him to reveal his deeper purposes, love, and provision through our inability to have kids of our own.

And, if it weren’t for infertility, there would be so many things that I love and hold dear that I never would have known or experienced; my four sons, extended years of worldwide mission in the early 2000s, growth and transformation in my relationship with God, deeper layers of insight related to who I am as a man, husband, and father, etc..

Rather than a perduring obstacle it has become a beautiful doorway to discover God’s incredible, unending love for me and my wife. So, in the truest sense of the word, it has become an irreplaceable gift.

Q: I’d like to learn more about becoming a foster or adoptive parent. What should I do next? 

I would suggest two things.

First, talk with a foster or adoptive parent that you know, about their experience. This is something I wish my wife and I had done more of before we jumped in ourselves. We said ‘yes’ to foster care with great faith and hope and then figured out the details later (and it turns out the ‘reality’ of it all was really important). And before you meet or speak with someone about their personal experience prepare a list of questions to ensure the conversation is aimed at what you would really like to learn. Sometimes we foster/adoptive parents can ramble on about our experience and that isn’t always helpful. There is so much to process. :)

Second, I would take a look at the steps outlined on this webpage here. There is a lot of helpful information about the necessary steps to take to learn more about getting involved with adoption through foster-care.

Additionally, you might be interested in learning more about private or overseas adoption. Again, speaking with someone you know who has done either of those (private or overseas adoption) would be the best first step. And then asking them for further direction on which agency you could reach out to to learn more would be the best next step.

Q: As I learn more, how do I know if God is calling me to become a foster or adoptive parent (or both)? Through a combination of prayer, good counsel, and patient discernment, I believe God will make it very clear if this is His call for you.

First, through prayer, begin (or continue) a conversation with God that simply asks: “God, are you inviting us to become foster or adoptive parents?” As you have that conversation with God (and your spouse, of course), pay attention to the various ways God may want to communicate a response.

Second, through good counsel discuss your interests, desires, dreams, fears with a wise person that you trust. Allow them to ask you hard questions, to play ‘devil’s advocate’, and to speak truth into your life.

Finally, through patient discernment, take note of what is unfolding in front of you. Is a door opening or closing? Is it time now or later or not at all? Are your convictions growing or waning? If God is calling you to this there should be synergy between your desires, prayer, good counsel, and discernment. If there isn’t synergy among these areas (prayer, good counsel, and discernment) or there isn’t peace in your life about this decision, this may not be the right time.

Q: Are you planning to do more videos related to this topic?  I’m not sure. At this point, I’m going to wait and see what kind of response this video generates and what topics / questions emerge that might warrant additional videos or blog posts. What sort of topics do you think would be good to address as a followup? If something comes to mind, send it my way through the contact form on the about page.

Q: Are you launching a particular initiative with the release of this video? My goal has not been to ‘start something’, but rather to ask questions and engage in conversations with friends and strangers alike concerning the place of foster care and adoption in the broader Pro-Life movement, as well as the possible implications, in the future, if access to abortion is significantly decreased.

Q: Is this video connected to a particular pro-life organization?  No, it’s just me, my wife, and a trusty friend with a video camera. And while we are happy to personally support a few different pro-life organizations and a crisis pregnancy center locally, this video is not connected to any organization or non-profit.

Q: Who produced the video? Sacred Stories produced this video. You can find out more about them here. I think they did an outstanding job, but then again I’m pretty biased. *big grin emoji*

The Gift of Chaos

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On November 28, 1998, the priest presiding at our wedding asked, “Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?” Jill and I answered, “We will.” In the moment, the question didn’t seem especially significant. We had no idea how profoundly it would impact and shape our married life.

Both Jill and I were cradle Catholics who came alive to our faith during college. We shared a vision for a life together on mission, and shortly after our marriage, we landed in Wellington, New Zealand, for the first of many evangelistic adventures. But just before we arrived for those months in the land of kiwi fruit, our life was turned upside down by a diagnosis of infertility. While we were growing as disciples of Christ, we were grieving as Mr. and Mrs.

“We Want to Be Their Parents.” We were confused, angry, and sad, but not defeated. Remembering our wedding day yes to children, we began imagining other ways God might want to bring kids into our home. Private and international adoption, working with birth moms considering abortion, adoption through foster care—each of these choices presented unique opportunities and daunting challenges. Our hearts moved toward foster care, the one option that didn’t seem to be attracting a long line of applicants.

Top Left: Adam, Malachi, Andrew, Christian, and Jill (Summer 2018)

Top Left: Adam, Malachi, Andrew, Christian, and Jill (Summer 2018)

In our first eighteen months as licensed foster parents, thirteen children came through our home. Some would return to their birth families; others would be adopted by another family member. Jill and I decided that if any of our foster kids didn’t have those possibilities, we wanted to be their parents. That’s how our family grew to include four boys, each one as lovable as he is unique.

Andrew is the barefoot snake lover and winner of pie-eating contests. Christian is the imaginative, tree-climbing bookworm. Then there’s Malachi, the high-energy, athletic, and risk-taking socialite. Finally, there’s Adam, the cautious, cerebral Lego master.

Adopting these boys turned out to be the easy part. Becoming a virtuous father for them is a much harder process—not because they are bad kids, but because the challenges they present have often mixed poorly with my dreams and expectations.

Mysteries and Mayhem. Growing up, I was a son who knew what was expected of me and gladly fulfilled those expectations. There wasn’t a rebellious bone in my body. Getting grounded or opposing my parents was foreign to me. Our home life was remarkably free of conflict. It was peaceful and happy, marked by deep mutual respect and great love for one another. From Sunday morning hikes to regular card games to cheering on our favorite sports team, our family genuinely enjoyed being together.

Naturally, this is how I envisioned my own family would be, even if it came together through foster care and adoption. Joy, love, mutual respect. It’s what families are made of, right? Why would ours be any different? But it hasn’t always been that simple.

While there have been times of profound love and happiness, my experience of being a dad has been marked by seasons of pain and heartbreak. What caught me off guard was the sorrow of not recognizing myself—my mannerisms, preferences, or personality traits—in my adopted sons. Kids, even biological ones, don’t come with user manuals, but my boys were an absolute mystery to me.

They love mud, snakes, and danger; I want things neat and tidy, nonreptilian, and safe. But it wasn’t mainly our differences that distressed me. It was the fact that, like many kids from homes without safe and trustworthy parental figures, these boys found it normal to openly challenge authority, treat each other without respect, and damage property like it was their job. My response was to blow up and scream, “You just don’t do this!” What I was really screaming was “You aren’t behaving like I would!”

I was at a loss. How much patience and self-control was it going to take to be a dad? Apparently, a lot.

A Father’s Day Gift. One Father’s Day morning a few years ago, when my boys were between five and ten years old, I reached the limits of my endurance. Even before we were able to start breakfast, a disagreement broke out. It might have been about who would lead the prayer, where someone might sit, or what was for breakfast. Chaos again—and on Father’s Day no less! It was better to walk away than blow up.

I lumbered into my bedroom and wept. Loudly. I knew everyone could hear me, but I didn’t care. Years of heartbreak over “how things are supposed to be” came gushing out. “Why did you do this to me?” I asked God. “I wish I had never said yes.” There it was: my first admission of something akin to regret.

And then, from within, I heard a still, small voice. It whispered, “Gift.” Immediately I thought, “Yes, God, you are right. Jill and I are a gift to these boys. Where would they be without us?” Again came that inner voice. “Not only are you a gift to them, but they are my gift to you.” Life-altering words spoken into a heart hanging on for dear life.

The Gift of Chaos. With those little whispers, I realized that the very chaos of our situation is also God’s gift to me. He is transforming a judgmental, demanding dad-heart into something more patient and understanding, amid the uncertainty that is our family life.

How else was I going to be released from the hold that selfishness, a thirst for praise, and a desire for control had on me? God knew that it would take a calling much bigger than myself and my own resources. Now I can better imagine how Paul might have felt when he begged God to remove the “thorn” from his flesh and was told, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7, 9).

Since that moment of surrender, my parenting style has changed. Instead of reflexively yelling and doling out punishments, I now value remaining calm and responding in a way that fits my sons’ actual needs and temperaments. Harsh punishments aren’t motivating for them; love, patience, and understanding from Mom and Dad are.

And here’s another change. Now, the joy of being right where God wants me outweighs my old dreams of a “perfect” family.

There’s the joy of watching my eleven-year-old serve at Mass, as he does his best impression of a Little League right fielder: winding his altar server ropes instead of holding the prayer book for the priest.

The joy of lying in bed with my nine-year-old, helping him get to sleep by talking about what heaven might be like—even though the football game on TV awaits.

The joy of repeatedly reminding my ten-year-old to twirl his spaghetti with his fork and not his fingers—and remembering that it’s an honor to be his dad, no matter what he does with his food.

I’ve come to grips with the truth that God never promised me a perfect life, only a perfect Savior. And that Jesus has been—and always will be—for me.

Question: Let's keep the discussion going in the comments below. How has 'chaos' been a blessing in your life? What would be different for you if problems became opportunities for growth, not simply nuisances to be avoided? 

Note: This article was originally published in the June 2016 issue of The Word Among Us. (www.wau.org

The Secret Weapon to Help You Pray Better and More Often

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Ever tried to paint a wall with a hammer or pound a nail with a paintbrush? Having the right tool makes the impossible possible.  When I first got a ratchet set I marveled at my newfound ability to tighten and loosen all the bolts. It felt like cheating. There was no longer any bolt that could get the best of me and my superior toolset. 

Keystone habits, as Charles Duhigg defines in his book "The Power of Habit", are tools like this - but for your life.  

He noted that there are certain habits that have a cascading effect. They make it easier and more likely that other good habits would follow in their wake. Just as regular excercise reduces my dependence on caffeine and spurs me on to healthier eating, some choices we make, make other great choices easier, not harder.  

But what if we could apply this principle to the one habit every disciple of Jesus (at least all the ones I know) wants more of in their life? 

Daily. Prayer. 

Yes, please. I will have more of that. 

And so would you. 

Yet, if you are anything like me you've decided (many times over) that you want to pray everyday, but unlike showering and brushing los dientes, the habit hasn't quite stuck. Sure, you win at prayer during Lent, but then again, who doesn't? I've been doing better spiritually in Lent, except for that one year, since Marky Mark was a part of the Funky Bunch. 

In January of 2011 something happened though that made it more likely that I would sit down to pray and that I would actually pray while I was praying.  

I bought a journal. And started writing in it during my personal prayer times. 

More than any other 'tool' that journal, which is almost completely full now five years later, has helped me pray better and more often. 

A spiritual journal has become a keystone habit for me and my prayer life.  

Here are four reasons why: 

1) A journal makes prayer more real.

Prayer is conversation with God, but I still can't actually hear or see who I am talking to. Can you? A journal makes the experience of praying more tangible.  I can write things down that I would say to God and then compose ways in which I imagine God might respond. A real live conversation unfolds right in front of me. 

2) A journal keeps me focused, engaged, and less distracted

Ever been distracted during prayer? No? That must only be a me problem. The act of putting pen to paper keeps me focused and engaged on the task at hand: talking and listening to God. 

3) A journal brings to light new insights about God, myself, and His word

Here's how it goes down for me.

Fig 1 - Psalm for 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Fig 1 - Psalm for 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time.

First, I slowly read a verse from the Bible, two or three times (either from the daily mass readings - See Fig 1 - or one of the psalms from the Liturgy of the Hours). Slow works best, because when I'm praying I'm not trying to set any records. A measured pace ensures that I don't miss the treasure God so desperately wants to give to me. 

Second, I write out, word for word, the verse(s) or phrase(s) that jumps out at me. The first time through is simply to understand what I am reading, the second or third time through is to be attentive to the particular words or phrases that might jump off the page. When I get a verse that says "PICK ME", I write it down, double-spaced, in my journal.  (See Fig. 2)

Third, I try to draw connections between God's word and my life. The space between the lines of scripture allows for the conversation to more easily go back and forth.  The scripture is God's part of the conversation, what I fill in between the lines is mine. I circle words. I underline phrases. I write out synonyms above and below words to get the fullest picture possible of what God might be saying to me. At this point I pause to reflect and ask "where does this verse/idea/truth need to match up with my life?"  

Fig 2 - The check-marked verses were the ones that stuck out to me from that days' Psalm.

Fig 2 - The check-marked verses were the ones that stuck out to me from that days' Psalm.

Fourth,  I land on the main idea for the day and write out some sort of prayer or statement of faith that expresses what God and I have just discussed.  (See Fig 2.1  God, as portion, is 'all I need.' God, as cup, is a container big enough to 'handle' all that I need. This was a powerful truth for me that morning.)

Lastly, it's worth noting that this process isn't something I just made up, but corresponds with the ancient prayer practice of lectio divina (divine reading).  I start with lectio (read), move to meditatio (meditate), and finish with oratio (pray). And I aim, even if for just a few moments, before I get up from my chair, to simply rest in the truth given to me that day (contemplatio, or contemplation). 

4) A journal gets me going when I don't feel like praying.

My routine for each new journal entry is first writing down the date and location of my prayer time.  And once I've done I don't want to leave that entry blank, so something has to give.  When I don't know what else to say or do I might write down something as simple (and yet, profound) as "Come, Holy Spirit", or "Jesus, I trust in you."  That's usually enough to get the train going and before long, the conversation is underway.  

Yes, a spiritual journal is a keystone habit for me and my prayer life.  Maybe it would be for you too?  It's certainly not magic and everyone will have a different experience, but I would encourage you, especially if you are at a dry time in your prayer life to give it a shot.  

In fact, why not try it on for the next seven days and see what happens.  The worst that could happen is that you are out $9 and you put in writing seven different bible verses. The best that could happen is that it helps you pray better and more often.  

I think it's worth the risk. 

Question: Do you use a journal in your prayer time?  What impact has it had on your prayer life?  What specific part of using a journal in your prayer time has benefited you the most? Let's keep the conversation going in the comments below or on your favorite social network. 

Hey Catholics! Which of These 4 Obstacles Prevent You from Sharing Your Faith?

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Recently I asked my elementary school aged sons if their friends like to play video games and they all said “yes!” Then I asked, “how do you know?” They each responded “because they talk about it all the time.”   

When something adds value to our lives we make it known.  Whether it’s a new diet, latest task management app or a great television show, if it’s working for us, we bring it up in conversation with people we think might want to hear about it. 

But why does this principle seem to disappear for many of us Catholics when it comes to talking about our faith?  Jesus and the Church have deeply impacted our lives, changed them even, but when it comes time to sharing personally about it, many of us still clam up.  I think there are four reasons that this happens to you and to me.

We are afraid - I am very uncomfortable with the unknown. How about you? There is absolutely no telling how someone will respond if I openly share about my relationship with Jesus and my love for the Catholic Church. Will they agree with my response, tear it to pieces, or just shrug it off?  As a people pleaser, there are very few things that scare me more than the awkwardness of being on the opposite sides of a religious conversation with someone else (especially with someone close to me). This fear then often prevents me from being completely authentic with others (friends, family members, and strangers alike). 

We are ashamed - I suppose there are two ways to prevent a message from getting out - you can either attack the message or the messenger. Fear is about the content of the message.  Shame is about the character of the messenger.   Fear persuades us from without, but shame condemns us from within.  Shame prevents me from sharing, not because of a lack of confidence in the message, but because I am not confident in me, the messenger. Questions like, “I’m pretty screwed up, who is going to listen to me?” stop us from talking openly about our faith. 

Shame and fear often work hand in hand.  Which of the two are you more likely to listen to?

We don’t really believe it’s that important - You want to know what you really believe?  Look at what you really do.  You make time for whatever you believe is important.  Your actions and your *actual* beliefs are aligned.  Our actions, more than our intentions, reveal what we truly value. If sharing with someone about your relationship with Jesus rarely happens then there is a good chance that one of two things is true about you.

- Jesus hasn’t risen high enough up the importance ladder in your life.

AND/OR

- Sharing about him isn’t something that you really think is that important.  

We are too dang busy - Most of us live at the corner of last-minute and throw-me-a rope-I’m-drowning.  So, based on the pace most of us live (on top of the first three reasons) it shouldn’t surprise anyone that sharing our faith doesn’t often make the cut.  In most of our minds, it’s important, but not urgent.  We say, “I’ll get to that later”, “maybe next time I’ll bring it up” or “I need to pray about that some more.”  We aren’t too bothered to mention to the Great Clips lady where we go church, but to invest many hours into the long journey, emotionally, and relationally with someone outside of our typical circle of friends is often another question.  It might be the very thing we are supposed to do, but we are often too dang busy for that. 

But don’t take it from me, take it from Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini (Pope Paul VI).  In one of the most searing passages from the game changer he wrote on evangelization (long before it was cool to talk about these things) he says: 

“It would be useful if every Christian and every evangelizer were to pray about the following thought: men can gain salvation also in other ways, by God’s mercy, even though we do not preach the Gospel to them; but as for us, can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame—what St. Paul called “blushing for the Gospel” - or as a result of false ideas we fail to preach it? For that would be to betray the call of God, who wishes the seed to bear fruit through the voice of the ministers of the Gospel; and it will depend on us whether this grows into trees and produces its full fruit.”
 
Pope Paul IV, On Evangelization in the Modern World, 1976

Our Church leaders are wise and often understand the realities of what us Catholics are going through much more than we might think.  Fear, shame, false ideas, and negligence have been roadblocks for me in sharing my faith, roadblocks that need to be carefully dismantled (crushed) one at a time.

Lastly, when re-reading Paul VI’s quote above, don’t miss it the bomb he is dropping. He is asking if Christians will be saved if they aren’t preaching the Gospel. That’s a serious proposition.  A question, when recalled, that stops me in my tracks and returns me to the truths that:

a) Faith wasn’t given to me to be hoarded, but to be generously shared

b) Only when I become a good news share-er, not just a good news bearer, has the good news taken full root in my life.

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Questions: Which of these four obstacles get in the way of you sharing your faith with others? What has worked in your life to overcome these obstacles?  Share your answers in the comments below or on your favorite social media network.

Four Benefits of a Daily Phone Fast

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If I asked, do you want to -  

  1. Get more of the right things done each day?

  2. Connect better with the people closest to you?

  3. Sleep better at night and start your day off right?

- I’m guessing you would say “yes."  I would too. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t (except maybe an eighteen-month old little boy who just wants to lick toys and eat Cheerios). 

Well, over the last seven days a little bit more of each of these things have happened in my life, (thank you Jesus) by making one small but important decision with my iPhone. 

At the end of our lives we will not wish that we had looked at the Internet more or wished that we had spent more time with our phones. And no one is encouraging us to. Yet, we do.  With each passing week, month and year (and I’m going on Year 8 with an iPhone), we spend more and more time tapping and poking around on that little handheld computer that is more ‘my precious’ than just ‘my phone.’

A few weeks back my youngest son crawled into bed with me at about 6:30am.  I laid there phone in hand, looking at who knows what on Twitter or email and he said: “you look at your phone too much.”   I couldn’t disagree. 

I thought, “well at least I don’t sleep with the phone on my pillow like they talk about some people doing.”  But then I thought “what is looking at your phone last thing of the day and first thing in the morning (before you even get out of bed), if not ‘sleeping w your phone'?”  Okay. I’d morphed into one of *those* people. I didn’t choose it. But I did.  

A few days later as this pillow talk with my youngest son sank in I decided something needed to change.  A seven-day experiment. 

For the next seven nights I would turn my phone off at 8pm and not turn it back on until 8am the next morning or after my prayer time, whichever came later. 

After a week of this I noticed two feelings and learned two lessons. 

First, the two feels: 

  1. I felt relief. It was as though I put down something heavy that I had been carrying for a really long time. In fact, I even started ‘looking’ forward to the break. This part of the experience really surprised me. I wasn't expecting to feel this way.

  2. I felt present. Immediately I felt more present to myself, to my family, to my house, to whatever was in front of me, because there was no where else to be. Our smart screen is a portal to other places - other people, other stories, other places. If the portal is closed, there’s nowhere to be but where you are. What a great feeling.

Next, the two lessons:

  1. Things can wait What I’ve learned is that things take as long as the time allotted for them, so after a few days, it's felt more normal *not* to have the phone around at night and in the morning. Checking email can wait (and probably should). Getting or sending one more text message can wait. Facebook needs less time and not more time, so it can wait too. Even more I’ve seen that these things just aren't that crucial anyway. So, I’m not pushing them off to other times of the day, I’m just doing much less of them. Win. Win.

  2. Keeps me on track in the morning Every day I want to make room, before 9am, to exercise, pray and prep for the day. Looking at all of the internet at 6:30am never once helped me do the things I really wanted to do before I shove off for work. It’s hard enough as it is to pray every day and exercise regularly without eating everything your smartphone is dishing up. I’ve had a great week with both (prayer and exercise) and I believe there is a close connection. Also, as I pray, my mind isn’t full of internet junk, so it’s much easier to focus on God, the scriptures, spiritual reading, and prayer intentions.

So, given what I've gained from what I've given up, I'm gonna stick with his plan for now. I'm sure that seven days hasn't presented all possible test cases and I'll likely adjust as things come up. For example, if my wife and kids aren't home the phone stays on or if my parents need to get ahold of me after 8pm I've asked them to give my wife a ring-a-diing.

Her phone can stay on.  It doesn't need to be put in time-out like mine. 

At least one of us has our priorities straight.

Question: What about you?  Do you turn your phone off for intentional purposes?  How has that choice moved things forward in your life?