Tag Archives: Risk

To the woman who had an abortion… and to the church


I was sitting at lunch yesterday, on the first day of a retreat, when my friend Nate told me Twitter was blowing up over Planned Parenthood. I didn’t think about it much at the time.

Then last night I began reading the stories. I had a lot of feelings: Anger, disappointment, disgust… Then Messenger buzzed.

It was a young mom I know really well.

She’s a great mom. And I will never forget the incredible courage it took for her to share with me that she had had an abortion, the circumstances surrounding it and the shame-filled self loathing guilt she felt everyday:

Would she ever stop grieving? Could Jesus ever really love her? Forgive her? Could she ever forgive herself? Would I think differently of her and push her away? Would the church?

That was several years ago. And in a moment it seems like all the healing, discipleship and faith building has been undone.

She had gone to a Planned Parenthood clinic to have the abortion performed.

Every angry post on Facebook, every Tweet of disgust, each news article are experienced as deep cuts of a knife to her soul. They remind her to keep believing the lies she has been working so hard with God to overcome.

She wants to hide in her shame, disconnect from others & God and not be known. Like the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, she “knows” she is unloveable, unforgivable, and undesirable. 

She isn’t alone. I know several women who constantly battle with the ongoing shame of their abortions. I also know there are many more who suffer in their shame in silence. That is what shame does, after all.

To every woman who suffers in this shame, even more so in the wake of Planned Parenthood, I want to hold both of your hands gently in mine and look you in the eye:

You are created in the image of God. You are beautiful. Jesus loves you. In fact, Jesus couldn’t possibly love you more than he does right now. His grace is yours and I offer you mine. I do not condem or judge you. I want to know and love you, the real you – in the midst of the mess.

And others want to as well. You don’t always have to hide. You have something incredible to offer all of us – your self. I know it feels impossible, but reach out. Find someone safe to reach out to. Tell your story to someone who will listen and love. Be reminded of the incredible gift you are. 

I know it’s risky and scares you to pieces; but you don’t have to walk alone.

Church – may we remember that our anger and outrage often has the unintended consequences of pushing others away from Christ’s love and grace rather than inviting them toward it. If you know someone struggling in all this, would you share this with them? Remind them you love them?

When The Heart Loves Easily


May I introduce you to a very special boy? His name is Eria and he lives in Katuba, Uganda. It is a small village just about a 2 hour drive from the capital of Kampala – give or take an additional couple of hours depending on road condition and traffic!

Right now I am crashing in the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam with 11 others who have traveled with me to this wonderful village. We are heading home. We are eager to get home to family, friends and familiar surroundings. We are looking forward to favorite foods and our own beds and pillows.

We are also heading homes with hearts that are exponentially larger than when we left!

When you risk to love vulnerably, it doesn’t take long and you find yourself falling in love with beautiful children of God who speak a language you can’t understand.  Eria is the little boy we as a family sponsor through Children’s Hope Chest.  He is a friendly quiet boy who came down with Malaria while we were there. He also loved just sitting by me and holding my hand.

We spent 10 days in Uganda and a week in our adopted village of Katuba. We were all deeply impacted and over the next several weeks I plan to share some of our stories and pictures as a way of encouraging all of us to love like Jesus loves.

A Snowy Encounter


The call came early.  Really early.  5 something.  The robocall was telling us there would be no school today.  Weather.  Weather in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  As I rolled over to try and go back to sleep the thought in my mind was, “don’t plan any June vacations!”  We get a lot of snow in Southwest Michigan and I love it!  I like the snow.

At 6:00am I determine sleep isn’t returning so I get up, blow one side of the driveway and then head off to the gym for an early workout.  With close to 8″ of snow on the road I am enjoying how my Subaru Legacy handles in the snow!  It’s dark and so I am pretty close to them when I spot two people walking in the middle of the road.

Why don’t they walk on the sidewalk!?  As I look over to the side I realize the sidewalk is hidden beneath the snow that is falling and being blown around.  Looking ahead again I slow down to drive around the people walking in the road.  It is a man and a woman.  They aren’t wearing hats or gloves and are carrying plastic bags with what looks like groceries. The man has a binder in his left hand.

He is slightly in front of her as I drive up alongside them.  I put the passenger side window down.  “Would you like a ride?” I ask.  He looks at her, she looks at him, he looks at me.  Looking in the car he asks with a bit of skepticism, “are you sure?”

“Yeah, get in,” I respond.  He gets in front and she climbs into the back.  My legacy isn’t a big car and he is a big guy and they both have bags of food with them.  It didn’t matter if we were clogging up North Westnedge Avenue, the only people driving around in this weather are goofy folks like me.  We start heading south again.

“Where are you headed?”

“Downtown,” he says.

“Where downtown?”

“The McDonalds.” He says it like a question, wondering if I am willing to take them that far.

“No problem,” I say and we are creating tracks through the snow.

We chat a bit about the snow.  We remark about how early it feels for this kind of weather to be upon us already.  He shares that they have a car but it isn’t working  yet.  He’s confident he will get it running – in the next couple of weeks – maybe.  They’re both rubbing their hands together to warm them up.

There’s no traffic so it doesn’t take us long to arrive at McDonalds.  I pull into the parking lot and stop.  He looks at me and is sincerely grateful as he thanks me for the ride.  Then he stops for a moment and says, “Well this was really unusual!”

“What is?” I ask.


“What do you mean?”

“Well, there aren’t a lot of white people giving rides to black people,” he states. “Especially at 6:30 in the morning!”

“You’re black!?” I exclaim with mock surprise. He laughs. She laughs. We say goodbye.

Today we anticipate the grand jury in Ferguson will announce their ruling on whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Brown, an unarmed black man and the city is poised for violence.

I can’t help but believe that we can live differently.

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? ~ Mt 25:37-39

Love Travels Far

family at lake   I have avoided writing for awhile.

I knew I was going to write about our experience with Tikumporn (Fah) for a couple of weeks but I didn’t want to face all the emotions and be that vulnerable.  But love is vulnerable isn’t it?  Love puts itself out there, feels deeply and risks everything. We risked it all! In September we welcomed a new daughter and sister in our home.  Fah is 16 and came to us as an exchange student through AFS (find out more about AFS here).

We made the decision while kayaking on a Saturday and in just over a week all the paperwork, background checks and home visits were done.  We knew we wanted a daughter (Hayley argued strongly for this) and that she would share Hayley’s room.  We read her bio and became friends on Facebook.  All of a sudden we were picking her up in Ann Arbor, MI.

I thought we made a huge mistake!

We, Andrew, Hayley and I, bought her flowers on the way to getting her. We had the truck so we would have room for all her luggage (she came with one suitcase). And we believed we were ready.  It was mostly nervous smiles until we hit the road back to Kalamazoo when all of a sudden Fah began asking questions.  That’s when I thought we made a mistake.  I had no idea what she was saying!

All the paperwork said she was great in English!  I looked at my daughter in the rearview mirror, looking for help, I found none.  Hayley looked at me with a look that said, “Panic!”  I looked over at Andrew sitting next to me in front and he said, “why are you asking me?” After 10 minutes the first question was understood.  An easy one, “what is the difference between Catholics and Protestants?”  This is going to be a fun year!  The panic and thinking we made a mistake soon gave way.

Panic and fear were quickly replaced with joy and love.

Looking back I think about how silly those first feelings really were.  It didn’t take long and I was watching my family fall in love with this young lady.  It wasn’t long and I was too.  It wasn’t long and she had captured the hearts of many in our church, youth group, school and community.  She might have been born in Thailand to a different set of parents, but she is every bit our sister and our daughter.

Fah laugh Over the course of nine months as we watched Fah change, grow, learn, and become very comfortable in the family and in the community; we also changed and grew.  We discovered just how capable of deeply loving we are.  We learned what it means to fully invest ourselves into the life of another.  We learned what it really means to let others in so that everyone is impacted and transformed.

Leadership is really discipleship and discipleship is courageously loving.

That’s really at the heart of the Gospel isn’t it?  Jesus even tells us that the heart of the Big Ten are summed up in loving God and loving others.  Really loving others is a risky proposition because it can’t happen outside of relationships. This week has been hard.

Monday we took Fah to the train station and watched her load with a few other students while a cranky Amtrak employee barked orders and complained about their luggage.  He wasn’t what made that moment so hard, though.

As Fah borded the train we all felt a part of our hearts board that train as well.  As the train pulled out and went east to Ann Arbor, we felt our hearts speed away as well.  I walked upstairs yesterday and saw her closet, empty. Today we saw pictures of her with her family in Thailand (after 17 hours of flight time!).  We saw the smile on her face and the love in her family.  And while it feels like part of our heart is now in a time zone 12 hours ahead of ours; it isn’t a part that has been taken away.

It is a part that has been added.