4 Things Love Will Do (The Bamboo Project 2.0)

As of a few days ago, we are now eight months home with our sweet baby girl. In these eight months we’ve seen her crawl for the first time. She’s learned to walk. She’s learning to form words. She signs. She’s eating table food instead of formula from a bottle. We’ve gotten to celebrate her birthday for the very first time as a family. These past eight months have shown us a lot of things, but mostly it’s shown us love is powerful.

Love will send you to the other side of the world and back.

When we started down the road we weren’t planning on traveling too far. Maybe to the next state at the furthest. Maybe. And then we saw her picture. It was her. That’s our daughter. But wait… she’s where? China? That’s far away, right? We had no plans for China. And we certainly had no money for an international adoption. But love doesn’t limit. Love goes.

Love will break your heart in the best possible way.

Our daughter’s story began with tragedy. Many adoption stories do. She was abandoned. We don’t know why but she was. Left in an alley behind the Children’s Hospital in her home city (a city of nearly 4 million). Was she born early? Were her parents young and scared? Was there pressure from her birth mother’s family? What happened? We’ll probably never know. But, this girl lights up my day. Every day. No matter what. And at the same time, I look at her while she’s sleeping and I realize that there are millions of stories like hers. Stories that break my heart. And yet, somehow, she’s with us. How in the world did we get so lucky? Love. That’s how.

Love will keep you up at night.

Especially those nights when you’re fighting off jet lag. But those nights fade. And then there’s those nights, Mom, when the baby is sleeping on your face (literally). Our kids seem to thrive at the night life, while all we want to do is sleep. Kelley and I have made a pact. When our children are out of the house, we’re going to call them randomly and at various times of the night, just to tell them that we need to go to the bathroom or that we’re cold or that we saw something in the closet. Seriously though… every parent worries. But for parents waiting in the adoption process, your worry is a unique experience. You wake up at 2AM and imagine what your child is doing at that moment. You pray they’re eating a healthy lunch or getting a good nap or that someone is holding them when they cry. You find yourself looking for a way to book a flight to just go volunteer at her orphanage just so you can see her, hold her, care for her until you can bring her home. Love will mess you up.

Love will invite others to come along.

Here’s my thought… There’s no need for the word “orphan.” There are enough families in the world that there should be no fatherless, no family-less children. The term “orphan” should be an extinct term. But sadly, it isn’t. The exact number of orphans worldwide is unknown, but it is estimated that there are 143 million. Of those, there are approximately 113,000 right here in the US. If one family from every 4th church in the United States adopted one of those 113K, there would be no more orphans in America. No more orphans. This is not out of reach. There are more than 300,000 Christian churches in this country. One family out of every four churches? That’s crazy!

What does this look like on an international scale? We don’t know the exact numbers of churches worldwide, so let’s play a little numbers game for a second based on what we do know. We know there are roughly 8 billion Christians worldwide. We know that the average size of a congregation is 100 people.  Based on this then, there are an estimated 80 million Christian congregations around the world. Do you realize what this means? If you’re a math person, you’ve already figured it out. For the rest of us who just pulled out our calculators, this means that it would take less than an average of two families per congregation across the world and the need for the word “orphan” is gone. This number is dramatically less we we do the work of helping families in financial distress keep their families intact instead of the alternative. Some churches could certainly do more. Rick Warren and Saddleback Church have a goal of 1000 families adopting. This is so attainable. No more orphans. Come with us!

The Bamboo Project 2.0

Last week I got to share some encouragement to adoptive dads (and those considering adoption) over at No Hands But Ours. Adoption can be a terrifying endeavor. But it’s every bit worth it. All the stress. All the fears. All the costs. All the heartache. All of it. All worth it. We are part of a small group of people who have had the joy of adopting a beautiful child from China with Down syndrome (Ds) through an initiative called the Bamboo Project. A diagnosis of Ds can be scary for expectant parents and caring for a child with special needs has a unique set of challenges. But if you’re still reading this, I bet it’s because you’re wondering if you’re capable. And if you’re wondering if you’re capable it’s probably because God has been putting this on your heart. I can tell you with confidence, if God is putting it on your heart, you are capable. You may not have any experience with special needs, but if you say yes to God, he will give you exactly what you need.

These children need you. And you fall into one of two categories. Either you are called to adopt one of these children or you are called to support the ones who adopt.

sweet moon baby, patrice barton, china, adoption

From the book Sweet Moon Baby by Karen Henry Clark. Illustrated by Patrice Barton.

Here’s an excerpt from our friend Desiree (the matriarch of the Bamboo family) which originally appeared on No Hands But Ours

Two summers ago, the Bamboo Project was started as a focused advocacy initiative through Bethany Christian Services specially for children with Down syndrome waiting in China for a new forever. It has been such an honor to pray for these precious babies as they wait and for the unknown families as they step out in faith in adoption; to meet and cry with and rejoice with matched families as they bring their children home; and even to lament over lost sleep and celebrate the smallest of victories once these families have entered their new normal. It’s been an awe-inspiring journey with some incredible people. God’s hand has been miraculous.

With the success of the original Bamboo Project, the authorities in China have identified twenty-two more children with Down syndrome available for adoption. All of these beautiful children are under five years old, over half are under two. Each of these sweet hearts are full of a perfect joy carefully knit into their very DNA. Each waiting for a new forever in the arms of their loving family.

Will you join us in advocating for these perfect children?

1. Pray for their physical, emotional and mental safety as they wait in the orphanage in China. That their little hearts would be protected from fear, anxiety and hopelessness.
2. Pray for the nannies and foster families that are providing care for each of these beautiful children. That no medical issue would be missed and that compassionate care would abound.
3. Pray for soft hearts of forever families to hear God’s call to step out and welcome their child HOME. That they too would be protected from fear and blind to anything other than the Lord’s call.
4. Pray for God’s perfect timing and perfect will in each of the children and families’ lives.
5. Share about the Bamboo Project openly with your friends, family, coworkers, etc. Some one’s heart maybe waiting for ‘that sign’ from God that comes from your voice of advocacy.
6. Give your extra pennies or dollars or more to Bethany attn: Bamboo Project. Every cent goes towards bringing these precious ones HOME.
7. Pray that the Creator of these beautiful children would be glorified here in the US and in China through the Bamboo Project. That ultimately there would be no need for the advocacy initiatives like this because of the overwhelming value of life in both countries.

Click images below to enlarge…

bamboo2015-1 bamboo2015-2


Did She Really Say It’s Okay?

Couple Holding Hands In Coffee Shop - from Matt Martin Photography

© Matt Martin Photography

Valentines Day can really suck sometimes. For many single people it feels like a cruel, taunting voice telling you you’re not enough. And although it’s been nearly a decade since I’ve been single, I remember the feeling.

Ten years ago, a few months before we’d met, my Sweet Kelley was a single mom with a 3 year old. I was a lost, sad, divorced 26 year old with nothing to my name but an old guitar and some clothes. It was not the pinnacle of life and love for either of us. Valentines Day SUCKED! Everywhere I went it seemed like a sea of people with someone special on their arm. Sharing gifts. Having drinks. Going home and having sex.

I was so pissed at Valentines Day.

How did everything go wrong? What’s wrong with me? I was pretty sure there were answers to both of those questions. I went home and started dealing. The problem for sure set most of its weight on my shoulders, which was a tough realization, but it made me really examine some stuff in my life. This examination was good. It didn’t help Valentines Day not suck, but it set me up for something pretty darn special.

The problem? I was selfish. Impatient. Scared to be vulnerable. Scared to be honest. Afraid of being abandoned. So I hid. I hid my ugly stuff from the people who loved me. And because of this I could never form anything meaningful. I had trouble with authority. I had a broken relationship with my parents. I couldn’t keep my crap together. I was trying to be who I thought they expected me to be. It was tough wearing that mask all the time. I desperately wanted to be known but I knew that if they knew the real me, they’d tell me what I feared… you’re not enough.

I had often wondered if this is what God thought of me. How many times could I screw up before he was just done with dealing with me? I didn’t have trouble believing he loved me. But I couldn’t wrap my mind around the thought that he LIKED me. As I was driving to work one day, it hit me… he has welcomed me into his family in spite of my flaws. He accepts me as his son. But I think I used to view God’s love for me more like pity. I wondered if maybe John 3:16 should have said, “God took pity on the world and he huffed and begrudgingly sent his son to rescue the screw ups since they obviously can’t get it together…” This led to years of clawing for God’s approval, the approval of authority figures, the approval of peers. But on that ride to work I was shaken by the thought that God LIKES me. He looks at me through the lens of what Christ has done and he approves. Now, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t inspire me to shake off old patterns and form new ways of thinking about things. But, I couldn’t get over this new revelation that God likes me. I’d spent 26 years in church, accepted Christ at seven, answered the call into ministry at thirteen, entered the ministry at eighteen. I knew the Gospel story. But I didn’t get it – the Good News; the Too-Good-to-Be-True News that says, “God loves you. God likes you. You belong to him. And nothing changes that.” Holy smack. I was floored.

A few months later I met Kelley. We spent lots of time at a coffee shop talking about this new way of seeing people (including ourselves). We talked about ways to care for people; people in our circles and people we hadn’t met yet. And what I discovered through these conversations was that if you can stop worrying about hiding the things you think people will run from and try your darnedest to see people how God sees them, nobody really cares about your scars and flaws. In fact, those things you try to hide become strangely endearing.

I started falling in love with Kelley through these conversations. I like to think she did too. She teaches me a lot about what God’s love is like. At one point early in our relationship I was having a bad day. Grumpy. Tired. Hungry. Probably sexually frustrated. Just not a pretty cocktail. Up to this point, if ever I was angry or frustrated or pissed about something, I shoved it down and put on the mask that life was dandy. It was ugly to be angry and therefore should not be on display. But she saw right through my mask and said something that still wrecks me. She looked at me and said, “It’s okay to be grouchy. Just say you’re in a bad mood. It’s okay.”

What the frick?!?! It’s okay?!?! It’s okay?!?! It’s can’t be okay… Could it be okay? Did she really say it’s okay?

I probably looked stoned. I’m not sure how long I let those words float around in my head before I spoke again. I’m not even sure what I said next. But I remember that my shoulders relaxed. My jaw relaxed. My breathing slowed. The knots in my stomach unravelled. My heart was at peace. This was a new feeling. I could be upset and it was okay to show it?

My Sweet Kelley has always done this for me. She makes it okay to not be okay. She set something free in my heart that day. I wish I could say that I’m as good to her as she is to me. Sadly, it’s not even close. She loves me in ways I didn’t even think were possible. She sets me free from my charades. Anything valuable in me is only visible because she took the time bring it to the surface when all I wanted to do was hide.

Love is hard work. It’s painful sometimes. Love is exhilarating and exhausting. Love is enriching and yet will empty you. And if you let it, love will overwhelm you.

But that’s right where I want to be.


There’s this song by Brett Dennen that I’ve loved for some time now. I think I heard it on my way to work one Sunday afternoon. It’s one of those songs that sneaks up on you after some time. Don’t get me wrong. Initially, I really liked it. It isn’t that it had to grow on me. Just that I’ve been stewing in its meaning and personal application for awhile now and I was finally able to put into words some of what this song reveals about my faith and how it’s practice affects the general perception of what we currently call Christianity.

I don’t believe everything I say.

I’m not trying to deceive but rather I’m trying to find an answer I can believe in. Often, it’s a way to invite others into the conversation. And frequently, where truth works itself out in community, perceptions can be challenged and tested and the fringes can be shaved down leaving the integrity of the woven fabrics of belief intact. This is kinda how it works with the music I listen to also. I don’t believe or agree with every lyric of a particular song, but I can’t ignore the truth mixed in because of the points on which I disagree.

Truth can be found by eyes of discernment even when masked by the trappings of modernism.

We have so distorted the hope of heaven that most people don’t really want to go there when they die. Most people believe heaven to be a very boring place – flying around in a sheet, playing a little harp doesn’t sound exciting to me either. We define horrific or challenging events as “hell on earth” but we don’t seem to ever use “heaven on earth” to describe anything. Maybe because we believe the good of this life is better than the best heaven has to offer. Maybe because we don’t know how good heaven really is.

Maybe because we hope that heaven is nothing like what we’ve been told.

Either way, we need a better insight into what Jesus and the ancients thought was so remarkable about heaven.

Many people hold that heaven is simply a state of mind or being. Many believe that it’s a mystical (almost mythical) location above and beyond the realms of this planet. But what hope does any of this offer those who are willing to give everything to model the life of Jesus, even to death?



No, thank you.



meaningless afterlife?

This is not the imagery that Jesus uses. This is not the hope the Hebrews have for the reconciliation of God to Man at the end of all things…

…is it?

There are two stories that are strikingly similar though they were written thousands of years apart. One opens the Story and the other concludes it.

In the first part of the story, there is a tree in the middle of a small, remote village.

This tree gives life to everything it touches.

At the end of the story, the village has grown into a major city but that old tree is still there, just as strong and just as alive as it ever was,

passing down life to everything that lives and healing to every nation.

There’s a tree in the middle of the Story also. This tree, however is stained with death and decay.

This tree bears the fading Seed of the hope of freedom.

The Seed, buried in the ground and then made alive again to produce in humanity the fruit of the redemption of all things. The book of Hebrews in the Bible tells us that we get a glimpse of the light of heaven, a taste of its delicacies when we participate in the Work of God on the earth. Early in the book of Ephesians we hear that the goal of Christ’s sacrifice all along was to bring heaven and earth closer together, no longer divided by the gulf of our indiscretions. The love and presence of God and the unending provision He supplies no longer limited, rationed or withheld.

The enslaved,

given freedom.

The hungry,


The missing,

located and rescued.

We are responsible for translating this freedom to those around us. To avoid and prevent hoarding the news of our rescue.

Our ancestors were evicted from the village in the beginning because of this attitude. And yet somehow, by the end of the Book, the gates to the city are wide open and her citizens move about in the freedom originally initiated by our Creator.

This is heaven.


No longer bound by rules we cannot keep. This new freedom is ruled by love and respect. Love of self and neighbor, providing for the widow, the orphan and the immigrant,

faithful to the love and action of God.

We have it within each of us to unite heaven and earth because Christ in us has already done the Work.

If heaven has no room for those without a bed it is tyranny.
If it offers no hope for the hopeless it is a lie.
If it refuses the dignity of life it is a prison camp.

Heaven extends beyond era, class and human existence. It has always been with us and will be ours when we’re gone.

It is found in the work of reconciliation both here in our hands and beyond our reach.