I Hate Autism…but I Love It

It’s personal.

I just don’t recall an autistic kid growing up.

We had this one kid in high school who, in recollection, must’ve been autistic based upon how he acted. He was just strange, peculiar in an autistic sort of way and of course the kids, me included to my eternal shame, were just awful to him.

I don’t remember another.

We had mentally retarded kids. Lots of them. Is that even appropriate terminology anymore? These kids had obvious mental and oftentimes physical limitations. They had their own class in school and even their own bus. Do they still have that?

But autism wasn’t a thing like it is now.

About Autism

It’s personal for me.

It’s easy to speak in a sterile fashion concerning a particular affliction.

Autism rates have skyrocketed over the previous decades, doubling in the last 20 years. Today, roughly 1 in 100 children will be diagnosed with autism, depending on the source. The CDC has estimated as low as 1 in 68.

Scholars differ over the cause. Is it due to increased awareness and diagnoses or is there actually an increasing prevalence. Most assume both.

Anecdotally, I’ll affirm the latter as children today are afflicted from conception.

Though it’s not entirely established, there is a clear link between between autism and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome as well as prenatal drug exposure. If a child is lucky enough not to be murdered in the womb, many are subjected to a full scale chemical assault that changes the very nature of their future existence. I’ll abstain from the vaccination debate for now.

The foster system has afforded us a front row seat to the struggle. Prenatal chemical and alcohol abuse afflicts all of my sons, some more than others. The only thing more shocking than its effects is its prevalence.

So for me, it’s personal. My son has autism.

And I hate it.

Why I Hate It

He showed up on our doorstep at two months of age and we immediately suspected something was amiss. His hands and feet rotated in a continual, rhythmic fashion, never at rest. He had other behaviors I’d just characterize as odd.

He flapped. I don’t know how else to describe it.

He also piked when excited, stiff as a board.

Diagnosis after diagnosis followed as the wholesale prenatal assault of illegal drugs had left their indelible mark. Epilepsy. Developmental Delays. Tourette’s just to name a few. And of course, autism.

We learned. Autism is a spectrum, a processing issue manifesting itself in behavioral, relational, and sensory issues.

My son thinks differently. His brain works in a different way.

And he acts weird, often strange.

He has ticks.

And meltdowns.

At a pool party, my son’s popsicle fell to the ground and he lost it. I mean, he lost it. For those who have never dealt with an autistic meltdown, know that no amount of consoling, cajoling, comforting, even threatening can preclude the meltdown. In front of everyone, my son melted into rage at the fallen popsicle…and everyone stared at him, family, friends, other parents. And he knew they were staring at him, and he raged that much harder.

Never mind that another popsicle stood at the ready.

We finally found a sport he enjoyed, soccer. Well, he really didn’t care about the game, but he liked to run and he liked to talk, so he would frequently run alongside his teammates while playing, chatting up a storm, moderately oblivious to the game itself to the ire of his coaches and teammates.

Autism is not something a kid ‘grows out of’ either. The older my son becomes, the more obvious it is that he is not a normal little boy.

Every parent worries about their child, desires a better future for them. For my son, I wonder.

  What will his future hold?

          Will he hold a job?

          Will he have a wife?

          Will he be loved?

I feel an intense need to protect him from a cold and uncaring world.

Because he is different, because he often acts strange, others notice. Kids instantly realize he is different. Interestingly, most girls treat him with intense kindness. With young boys, some do and some, well, you know the deal. You don’t have to teach kids to be mean.

Adults either.

My son has autism. I hate it.

And I love it.

Why I Love It

My son is peculiar and wonderful in a peculiar way.

He is truly God’s gift to us.

I asked him the other day teasing, “Who do you love more, Moe or Titus?” speaking of our dogs. He just looked at me, puzzled. “What about Dexter or Gideon?” speaking of our other two dogs. Again, a puzzled look.

“I love them all the same,” was his most serious response. He simply could not fathom the concept of loving one more than the other. He loves them all.

I frequently walk into the bathroom to find two cats lounging around a stopped-up sink full of water, evidence of his care for them. He is the only one who routinely wakes as early as I do. Some mornings, I’ll sit and listen to him carry on a conversation with two of the cats in the next room. Maybe the most precious thing I’ve heard.

He plays with hilarity and exhilaration with friends who accept him as he is.

His ever rotating catalog of ticks, Tourette’s-related, always bring a smile to my face. One week he stretches his mouth as wide as he can. Other weeks he stops frequently to touch his toes. The one where he rolls his eyes in an exaggerated way while being spoken to is probably my favorite.

He is a comforter, an encourager.

One of our tutors at school had suffered an intense personal issue that grieved her soul. As she sat softly weeping in a dark room, my son walked by and saw her grief. Without hesitation, he went in and gave her a gentle hug, the sheer sweetness of the act a boon to her spirit.

God made him perfect, my son.

And it’s just like God to do such a thing.

God is not the author of sin. The relationship between God and evil is a mystery and anyone who professes to understand it completely is either a liar or deluded. Yet, of this I am certain. God works all things to the council of His good will. All things serve Him and accomplish good in His people.

Not that all things are good in and of themselves.

You see, God made my son exactly who He meant him to be.

And he has changed me, my son has. God has changed me through him. Autism is hard. Autism is painful. I hate autism. But, my son has autism, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. He is perfect just as he is.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

Do NOT Become a Foster Parent

Don’t do it.

Don’t adopt either.

You will thank me. This I promise.

The System is painful.

Okay, that’s a lie. The System is excruciating, frustrating.

Light yourself on fire and extinguish it with a ball peen hammer. Punch yourself repetitively in the genitalia until it stops hurting. Fling yourself down a flight of concrete steps into a kiddie pool filled with thumbtacks.

Okay, I’m being dramatic, sort of.

We pursued our son, Tevin, for years. He was 13, a resident of a group home, and had been in foster care for most of his life. We wanted him. He wanted to be adopted. It took nearly three years to make it a reality, three long years of absolutely critical developmental time, missed.

Two of my sons, brothers, had also been in foster care for most of their lives. They were our foster sons for four years before we could adopt them, four years of uncertainty, trepidation, and angst…for them and for us.

Overworked and underpaid, DCS workers manage intense caseloads and as with any system, there are good ones and not so good ones. Their bottom line is placement, not profit. At the end of the day, they have to get the kid placed, somehow.

          He’s healthy, sure!

          He’s well-behaved, no red flags at all.

          He is just the nicest young man.

I’ve spent enough time in court, we actually recognize repeat offenders. No joke. And each time, it’s the same. We expect the judge to issue the decisive ruling we’ve been waiting for aaannndddd, “Let’s hold off and set another court date in three months.” Hear me sighing.

Mountains of red tape, frequent and inconvenient supervised visits, ungrateful and sometimes even hateful birth families: expect this and more. Did I mention the hours and hours of mandatory classroom training?

Don’t do it.

Spare yourself. Trust me.

Not to mention that the kids are bad.

They are. You just won’t believe it.

They lie without hesitation. They take whatever they need with no qualms. They have unsafe premarital sex. They smoke anything they can get their hands on.

We’ve been cussed at and cussed out. We’ve been threatened. We’ve been stolen from, repeatedly. I own nothing of value and haven’t for many years and don’t intend to for this very reason.

Get the fairy tale out of your head. I know what you’re thinking. You’ll just love them so much that they’ll fall in love with you and everyone will just live happily ever after. Puppies and rainbows.

It’s a ruse.

What will happen is you will love them, pour into them, give of yourself with no guarantee of reciprocation. In all likelihood, they may hate you. Doesn’t make sense does it? None of it does.

Here is what will actually happen.

They will leave.

And it will hurt you.

Badly.

A friend of ours was gifted with a beautiful foster baby. For nearly three years, they loved that baby like no tomorrow and it looked like she would be theirs. At the 9th hour, a biological parent surfaced and the courts sent her home.

Our friends were beyond devastated. They were crushed.

They System errs on the side of the biological family as it must, to the point of insanity. Reunion is almost always the primary goal and biological parents are afforded every single opportunity to get their children back.

This is right. This is good, but it’s at your expense. Oftentimes, you must send the children home to a situation you know is not good, that you know is lesser.

We had two young girls for a couple of weeks before we had to send them home to their birth parents, a couple of local meth-heads. Well, at least they had their pit bulls to keep them safe.

Listen. You have a nice life. Go ahead and turn that spare room into a man cave. It’s what you really want to do anyway. Imagine a sweet 88” HD hanging on that wall, maybe a kegerator.

You don’t need this hassle.

Do NOT become a foster parent.

Do NOT adopt either…

…unless you want to obey God.

God doesn’t mince words.

Care for the orphan. Make disciples of them.

Take them into your home, love them as your own, and bring them up in the ways of the Lord that when they are older, they will not depart from it.

God is a God of justice, a Father to the fatherless and He commands justice for the fatherless. He commands it! What else could he mean by justice for the fatherless…than a father? The fatherless did not choose their plight, it was given of them by the sins of another. God speaks clearly, from Genesis to James, care for the orphan.

A true disciple of Jesus follows His commands, obeys Him, up to and including the willingness to deny self, to even suffer on behalf of the name.

The fatherless suffer at the hands of a cruel and unrelenting world. They grow into afflicted adults with little hope for advancement and most of all, they will likely never know Christ.

The biblical mandate is clear, much more clear than you’d like to acknowledge.

Otherwise don’t do it…

…unless you want to practice Christ-like love.

The love of Christ is this.

In eternity past, He set His affections upon His people. He decided to love a people who did not love Him and He died on the cross for their sins, that they might be reconciled to Him. He gave them new hearts that they might believe Him and love Him, but still they betray Him, every single day.

Still He loves them.

What could be more Christ-like than setting your affections on one not yours by birth, deciding to love them, even if they are unlovable, just as you were when Christ died for you?

Could you love one who offers you nothing in return? Could you love one who returns your love with hate?

Foster care and adoption fully demonstrates the heart of Jesus to the fatherless. Imagine being betrayed by those who were supposed to love you the most. What a bitter pill it must be, so imagine the surprise, the fear even.

You have nothing, no one, and then all of a sudden, you do.

What an amazing witness to the orphan.

What an amazing witness to your biological children.

As I seek to make disciples of my own children, perhaps nothing has better demonstrated for them the heart of Christ than our family’s ministry to the fatherless. I fail daily. I make mistakes, damage my witness with them, but the fact of adoption perseveres.

My greatest testimony resides in my daughters’ love for the orphan as all are active in caring for the fatherless.

What an amazing witness to the world, a world that has cast aside the powerless and left them at the hands of those who would exploit them.

So definitely do not foster…

…unless you want to change a life.

Drive-by ministry makes me want to vomit. Truly.

I despise ministry which costs men nothing. We must be willing to pay a cost, to sacrifice, to give of ourselves. Caring for the fatherless demands sacrifice. It cannot be done on the cheap.

But if you truly want to change a life, foster. Adopt.

Decide to love a child and then pour the grace, mercy, and love of God into them, as you ought your own children. It will change their lives. Irrevocably. Irreversibly. It has to.

At a minimum, they will be safe from the hands of those who would exploit the helpless and powerless. Maybe they’ve never had that, never had a home or a family. Maybe they’ve never actually been loved.

They may even reject your love, but nothing can change the fact that they will have been loved, they will have seen Christ in your love. No amount of rejection, hate, or affliction can diminish that.

Adoption and foster care will definitely change their lives, but most all, it will change yours.

You will never be the same…and that is a good thing!

Or you could just carry on as you have. It’s probably best that you do. Besides, I’m sure someone else will do it.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

Foster Parents—When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough

Most days, I love my son greatly. I’ve become increasingly patient, responding to hostility with gentleness. I listen. I try to understand his perspective, taking into account his past affliction while holding him accountable as he needs.

Other days, I want to punch him in the face.

I’m not the perfect foster/adoptive father. Are you?

Parenting is hard work, no doubt. It always has been. Yet, our age presents unique challenges. Culture, media, the internet, the descent of our entire nation into godlessness— all conspire to mold your children into disciples of Satan.

Now, add a healthy dose of trauma.

System kids need perfection. Their trauma demands it.

And I’ve screwed it up, a thousand times.

I’ve been lenient when I should’ve stuck to my guns. I’ve been harsh when I should’ve shown mercy. I’ve lost my temper, been too dogmatic, focused on the less than important, not followed through, demanded more than necessary, expected too little. You name it. I’ve messed it up…and I’m tired.

Perfection is exhausting.

They Look So Normal

My sons look like any other kids.

In fact, they are handsome boys. I know I’m biased. Several of them look like the typical All-American kid— sandy blonde hair, blue eyes, the whole bit. The others sport year-round tans with mops of dark, curly hair—cute or handsome, depending on their age.

The trauma remains hidden…until it’s not.

It has no choice but to manifest itself in their actions.

I will never understand their trauma. I am only now coming to terms with its existence.
Consider, as a child, having your entire life ripped to shreds, repeatedly. A stranger shows up in the middle of the night and takes you…to a stranger’s house. The trauma of forced separation alone is stunning to consider.

They lack certainty and assurance. Who will love them? Who will take care of them? Will they ever see their parents again? Each move sets them back months in development. What happens after the fourth move, the fifth?

Physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or the fallout from drug abuse—all prevalent in system kids—darkens the reality further.

Episodically, all of my sons have been betrayed by those supposed to love them the most. Several suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or prenatal drug exposure. They witnessed violence, against their mothers. They were exposed to rampant drug abuse. They suffer physical, psychological, and emotional conditions.

And I expect them to act just like any other kid?!?

What About You?

It’s not fair.

It’s not fair to the kids. They didn’t ask for this hand. They were dealt it by the sin of another, through no fault of their own.

And now you have to deal with it. It’s not fair to you either.

They need a perfect parent. They need one who is compassionate, patient, loving, kind, understanding, steadfast, and firm. They need a parent who resonates with grace, one who emanates mercy.

They need a parent unlike you, or me for that matter.

In case you haven’t figured this out, you’re not perfect. Nor am I.

My son and I had a confrontation that went poorly. I prayed before speaking with him, but the issue became heated and before I knew it, he stormed out the door to the streets. In that moment, I failed him. He needed more than I had to offer. He needed something I did not give. This wasn’t the first time either.

After he walked, I retreated to the upstairs bathroom and wept bitterly. “Here we go again,” I thought to myself. My failures, my shortcomings, my imperfections as a father, overwhelmed me in that moment.

I needed to be reminded of a few truths.

Academically, I know these truths, but in my desire to be what my sons need, I need to be reminded myself. Perhaps you do as well.

1. They don’t need perfection. They need advocacy.

My wife embodies the advocate.

There is no limit to which she will not go on behalf of our sons. She will move mountains, storm the very gates of hell, on their behalf. She battles red tape, the system, lawyers, and doctors on their behalf.

She took a catatonic, FAS baby and loved and advocated that child to health and vitality, to life. Woe be the person, system, or process that stands in her way.

When they lost their families, my sons lost their advocate. They needed another to champion their cause. They will never know the extent of her advocacy.

Yours won’t either.

They will never see the sleepless nights, the tears, the hours spent on the phone with uncooperative government agencies. They will never know the turmoil in your own life wrought by the turmoil of theirs, the uncertainty you deal with.

They just will never know.

And that’s okay. It has to be.

2. They don’t need perfection. They need love.

Can you love someone who doesn’t love you in return?

Can you love someone who cannot love you in return, who lacks the sheer ability?

They desperately need unconditional love, just like everyone does. Yet, their affliction will oftentimes render them unlovable. They lash out, they rage against the invisible constraints of that which they cannot understand. They misplace hate and anger, maybe direct it towards you, the very one trying to help them.

They run and rebel. They resist overtures and maintain baffling loyalties to those they ought to hate.

It doesn’t make sense. It’s hard. It’s frustrating.

Love them. You’ll respond inappropriately. I promise. You’ll get frustrated yourself. You’ll return anger for anger. You’ll make decisions in response to their aggression and then you’ll second guess yourself, maybe doubt.

“What am I doing? I’m not cut out for this.”

But love them. You must.

3. They don’t need perfection, they need Christ.

How could I father without Him?

As often as I’ve failed, as often as I’ve dropped the ball, I have Christ to rest upon.

Who embodies advocacy but Jesus?

He presently sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty interceding for us, advocating for us. (Romans 8:34, 1 John 2:1) He is our voice, our righteousness. In the great transaction, He imputes His righteousness to us and we our sin to Him and forever, He is our champion.

Who embodies love but Jesus?

Really. Let’s talk about it. Imagine marrying a woman or man knowing that every single day for the rest of your life, they would cheat on you with another. When I was in my most unlovable condition, while I was yet a sinner, a hater of God, Christ died for me. (Romans 5:8) He decided to love me, he decided to set his affections on me.

Your foster children need this, they need Jesus, desperately.

Like anyone, He is their only hope. Yet, their affliction denies them the one who was supposed to bring them to the cross, their parents. Their suffering builds a great callous upon their hearts. The hardness is astounding.

Let your advocacy, let your love, fully demonstrate the love and advocacy of the risen Lord Jesus.

And let Him be your strength. Let Him be your rest. Let Him be your comfort, your strong tower, your rock, your help, your happiness. Let Him empower you.

Let Him free your foster children with the burden of your happiness or satisfaction.

My son needs perfection. I don’t have it, but I do. He needs perfection, so I give Him Christ, as much as I can, as often as I can, imperfectly, but perfect in my imperfections. When I tire, when I fail, I go to Christ. When I sin against my son, I repent. I ask Him to forgive me and then I ask him to forgive me. I lift him in prayer, do my best, and trust in the Savior.

Take heart. This is all you can do.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

Men, Let Us Quit Holding Back

Modern drive-by ministry makes we want to vomit.

Okay, there. I said it.

The church ought to be challenging people. We ought to be calling ourselves to higher levels of service to accompany a deeper knowledge of the Lord. That’s not what seems to be happening.

Many churches behave as if they exist to afford you, the church attender, with the possibility of contribution with no sacrifice. Pay a bit of money, money that you can afford if we’re honest, and I’ll fly you halfway around the world to hand out water bottles with Bible verses on them to complete strangers that you’ll never see again.

Don’t forget the mandatory pic with some brown people for your social media account to confirm that you’ve been ‘on mission’.

I find no prescription for this in the Bible.

I find a prescription for community, for sending money, for church planting…

…and for adoption…all things that demand of you.

Guarded Affections

Let us dispense with the platitudes.

You keep some of yourself for yourself, as do I.

Whether it be time or resources including money—we reserve some of it for ourselves.

If I give all of my time to another, to anyone or anything, then I won’t have as much time left for myself as I’d like. We all wake each day with a predetermined idea about how we would like to spend our time. Some of you (us) jealously guard our time. We demand “me” time.

And if I gave all my money, I likewise wouldn’t have any left for myself. If I put my money toward anything other than me, then I’d have less to spend on, well, me. I may not be able to afford that new bass boat or Harley-Davidson. I may have to make do with my 2015 F250 and not be able to upgrade to that cherry 2019 Dodge Ram with a supercharged hemi.

If I give of myself too much, I may have nothing left for…me.

I can be generous. I have been generous. I’ll give to another. If a friend of mine has a need, I’ll be there, as long as that need corresponds with a convenient time for me. If a family member needs something, hey, I’ll be there, within reason.

Within reason…this is the universal caveat to much in the way of our generosity.

Don’t actually ask me to sacrifice.

The Kingdom

Isaiah likens the church to a tent.

As he prophesies about the growth of the church, he commands God’s people to stretch out the tent, to lengthen the ropes, to strengthen the stakes, driving them deep. As the tent is stretched, nearly tearing, those in desperate need of shelter can be pulled into the sanctuary of the tent where they find rest and protection. (Isaiah 54:2-3)

This is the kingdom of God.

This is the Church.

This is what happened to me. I was an orphan, Fatherless. Yet unknown to me at the time, the Father had set His affections on me in eternity past and one day nearly 14 years ago, He affirmed those affections and saved me, adopting me as a son of the Lord God on high, pulling me into the tent of His shelter.

I am His. For good. A son.

Now, imagine setting your affections on one in a similar manner, deciding to love them as your own, deciding to adopt, pulling them into the tent of your shelter. Sounds good until you start to notice how crowded it’s getting in that tent. Sure would like to have a bit more space for myself.

In the middle of the tent metaphor, Isaiah inserts this curious phrase, “Do not hold back.” (verse 2) “Spare not,” is another rendering.

Interesting that in the context of pulling orphans from their affliction, Isaiah feels led to exhort men to stop holding back.

He must know something we do not.

Truth

Fact: Adoption is a Gospel issue, not a social issue.

Okay, it is a social issue. Orphans never adopted suffer in life. Period. Homelessness, incarceration, addiction, pregnancy out of wedlock—pick an affliction and they almost all suffer it. Hardly any go to college and these are all real issues.

But the greatest issue is that they don’t know Jesus!

Scripture states it, reality bears it out. The most effective evangelist, by far, is a loving and engaged father. Children tend to inherit the faith of their fathers, or lack thereof. What of those who have no father?

Who will be the one to teach them about the Lord, to bring them up in the way so that when they are older, they will not depart from it? Will you be the one?

Scripture is intensely clear on the mandate for parents to make disciples of their children. What of the children with no parents to make them into disciples? The world and Satan will gladly make disciples of them, thereby relinquishing you of your obligation.

As we, men, worry about being inconvenienced, every year tens of thousands of children nationwide turn 18 and ‘graduate’ the system to a life of hopelessness. As we idly dither about with various trifling pursuits, thousands come of age and assuredly will never know the Lord.

But that Hemi sure is sweet.

More Truth

I cannot adequately describe the need. It is that vast.

I cannot adequately describe the cost. It is that vast.

Nothing will stretch you out more spiritually than bringing a child not your own, particularly an afflicted child from the system, into your home and loving them as your own. I have done nothing harder than foster and adopt my sons.

I have done nothing more valuable.

Preaching, teaching, evangelizing, ministering to my congregation: all take a back seat to the ministry of adoption. And I have my sons! I cannot imagine my life without them. Would I have left them to languish for the sake of my comfort or my standard of living? At one time, the answer would’ve been a resounding, ‘yes!’

Several years ago, I held two-month-old Max in my arms, begging God to take him from me.

I’m too old God. (I was 42)

I can’t do this God.

I don’t want this God!

But he wore me down, God and Max. As I pondered his solemn brown eyes, the still soft voice of the Holy Spirit whispered continually into my ear, “It’s not his fault. It’s not his fault.”

I crumbled like tissue paper.

Three years later, I am privileged to call this little guy my son.

Brothers, let us stop holding back. Your hemi will one day be no more. Your home will one day be a pile of rubbish. All that you lust after will all come to naught. The heart and soul of an orphan though, here is eternity.

Men, let us stop holding back…let us adopt.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

Men, Let Us Quit Dabbling in Minutiae

Sorry, not sorry, for the gender-specific, non-inclusive language of this work but…
…the future of our nation depends upon our men, our sons.

That is a fact.

As such, we (men) ought to quit dabbling in minutiae.

Not as they seem…

A couple of euro-beatniks illustrated this point.

My friends Ron, Luke, and I were working in Lima, Peru at Heart of Christ Ministries, an amazing ministry that teaches the Gospel to impoverished children in the slums of Caja de Agua. Each evening we’d retreat to a local hostel for some rest.

South America is rife with travelers and backpackers. The Andes Mountains make Peru a favorite and I’ve seen legions of them, Europeans in particular. One evening, we were hanging out in the common room of the hostel when two young travelers entered, a young man and a young woman. They could’ve been typecast for their role, complete with dreadlocks, shabby clothes, and a distinct laid-back vibe.

The man began to strum a guitar as we struck up a conversation. A German, he had toured in a band before deciding to take a year or two and travel. He wanted to ‘find himself’ and have time to discover life, or something to that effect.

I found this fascinating. I could scarcely imagine such freedom. My friend Ron was not as impressed.

“What a waste of time,” he uttered in disgust later.

“This young man needs to get serious about life and quit hiding from reality and responsibility.”

“Pitiful.”

Well, then.

A clear call…

From first to last, God’s voice resonates from Scripture concerning His will for your life.

God desires that you pastor your family.

He desires that you make disciples of your sons. Period.

God’s original command to the couple were to that end. God commanded the man to know his wife in the most biblical sense of the word and to raise up their children as disciples. This was the original revealed plan for God’s people to spread across the earth. (Genesis 1:28)

The Fall soon corrupted every relationship and once the relationship between God and man was severed, men immediately set about their own way. Thus, children are born out of wedlock. Fathers neglect their children or walk away entirely. Instead of abrogating the original plan, the Fall strengthened the urgent need for fathers to engage.

As our sons are born into sin, they desperately need the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the most effective evangelist is a loving and engaged father. Reality bears this out.

Children tend to inherit the faith of their fathers, or lack thereof.

This is a fact.

Scripture speaks to this with the urgency and frequency with which God commands men to make disciples of their sons.

God gives us the great Shema, the great declaration of faith. “Hear O’ Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) And then…teach these things diligently to your children. Talk about them all time, while you’re walking and standing or sitting or lying down. Write them on the walls of your home. Whatever it takes, but teach them.

The wisdom literature, the Psalms and the Proverbs, resonate with God’s call for fathers to disciple their sons, to raise them up in the way of the Lord that when they are older, they won’t depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

Paul exhorts us, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesian 6:4) We are commanded, exhorted, encouraged, and equipped to accomplish the primary commission God has given us, to make disciples of our sons. They are desperate for this.

The slow death of our nation is a distinct reflection of our collective failure to make disciples of our sons.

So for God’s sake men, let us teach them!

The minute you die, the world will begin the process of forgetting all about you. Don’t believe me? Who was the most popular or richest man in your town 30 years ago? Twenty? That man is dead and buried. Gone. Forgotten.

The only true legacy we have is our sons.

Our children are not a hindrance or a nuisance. They are not an obstacle to overcome. The Psalmist tells us that our children are like arrows in the hands of warrior. They are our inheritance, our reward. (Psalm 127:3-4)

Embrace it. Embrace them.

A hard truth…

Let’s put first things first.

One must first be a disciple before one can make a disciple.

So as men, let us put the proverbial cookies on the bottom shelf. We’re men, correct? So we can speak candidly and frankly without worrying necessarily about feelings and such.

Are you a disciple of Christ?

Are you a follower of the risen Lord Jesus?

Have you confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in your heart that God raised Him from the dead?

Have you been saved?

You were born into sin, a rebel against a holy and righteous God. And He is angry at the sin of men. His wrath abounds and it had to be satisfied. As such, Jesus drank the full cup of the fury of God’s wrath at Calvary, serving as a substitutionary atoning sacrifice for all who would believe.

Do you believe?

Be real. I didn’t ask if you went to church, if you were raised as a Christian, if you did good things or were a good dude. Do you believe? Are you a disciple, seeking to live your life as a Christ-follower?

If not, you have infinitely more pressing matters to concern yourself with.

If so, amen!

Let’s talk about making disciples of your sons.

Our various pursuits…

While our sons die in the streets, we fathers tarry in the trivial.

Ron was talking about experience.

How many men spend their lives pursuing experience? Legions of aimless young men pour themselves into this pursuit, fleeing God’s call as a man. They travel, hike, backpack, seek out adventures, bungee jump naked from a hot air balloon, strapped to a motocross bike and a gnarly set of snow skis.

Experience is their god, adrenaline their drug.

Garbage.

While we waste time with such vain pursuits, the enemy remains busy destroying a new generation.

As we work 80-hour weeks, the enemy is just as busy making his own disciples of our sons. Pop culture, friends, media: we’ve entrusted the disciple-making of our sons to these and others and they are more than willing.

And don’t think the church is going to make disciples of them. Or your wife. That’s your job. Ever wonder why most kids brought up in this manner walk at the first opportunity? It’s because we have failed.

We put our stock in our vocation. Position is our drug.

Accomplishment is our god.

Excrement.

The acquisition of stuff governs us, motivates us. If only I had a bigger home, a better truck, a boat, a jet ski, a whatever. If only I could save up enough money to retire. Ahh, the holy grail of men, fiscal security.

“I work hard so they’ll have a better life.”

Really?

Leisure. College football. The internet. An endless array of dalliances distracts the most vital person in a son’s life, his father.

Two easy benchmarks readily indicate reality, the clock and the Bible. We ought to spend time with both, our sons and the Bible.

It’s the only way. All others lead to only death.

Parting shots…

Don’t hear me say that work is bad, or taking care of your family.

God calls men to work hard, to provide for their families. Don’t hear me say that any of that other stuff is bad, in and of itself. I love the Ohio State Buckeyes as much as the next guy, but what about our sons?

Do they sit famished for discipleship while we neglect them for other pursuits that ultimately have no lasting merit, no eternal significance.

This is the issue.

Confronted with such truth, what then will you do?

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

The Good Dude—the Worst Kind of Dude

God’s ways are not our ways.

Nowhere is this revealed more than with the good dude.

Awesomeness Everywhere

For nearly 27 years, the Army surrounded me with good dudes.

The Army foments a stark dichotomy. The poorest performers I encountered often left me shaking my head and wondering, “Just where does a guy like this come from?”

The best guys were just that, the best. Amazing men. Patriots. Heroes, truly.

With much affection, I recall the various good dudes I served with. My first Platoon Sergeant set the bar high. My first First Sergeant raised it higher. Various warrant officers set the standard for professional excellence and competence. I worked for some of the most motivated and intelligent officers that you can imagine. Peers of mine will no doubt be general officers soon, deservedly so.

My tenure in specops further elevated the standard.

My first commander in the regiment advised me that, if I didn’t do anything, took no action at all, the men would just go ahead and accomplish the mission, even without me. They knew what to do, far more than me. They were self-motivated, self-starters, driven to perfection. How to lead such men?

Where else could I give a young officer purview over a handful of men and tens of millions of dollars of equipment and dispatch him around the globe to accomplish any number of missions with minimal oversight or guidance? These were all good dudes, committed to the most serious and challenging missions.

I sought to emulate them. Reputation means everything in the community.

          “You know such and such?”

          “Yep, good dude.”

A pipe-hitter. A trusted agent. A fire-and-forget kind of guy.

I put my life in their hands. They put their lives in mine as we accomplished the nation’s business. These were some of the finest men I’ve had the privilege to know.

Awesomeness Personified

I recall with much fondness, the greatest soldier I served alongside.

He was a man of integrity, a man of commitment, a man of honor. He was a good dude. If I still cussed, he’d be a good ****’n dude.

He loved his wife and she loved him. He loved their daughters and they loved him. Apart from the Army, he was the quintessential family man, loving and committed to his family and their well-being. They adored him.

At work, he was the picture of composure, unflappable in any circumstance. This man could make anything happen, accomplish anything, motivate men to accomplish anything. He loved the soldiers and they knew it and they loved him for it.

In the years I knew him, he never once raised his voice in anger, didn’t have to. The men just knew to respond. He always, and I do mean always, did the right thing, no matter how great or how small. Walk past a piece of garbage on the ground? No way. Walk past a soldier not doing the right thing? No way.

He was absolutely committed to the defense of the nation and the care of soldiers. He sacrificed, never asking them to do that which he did not expect of himself. I’d follow this man through the very gates of hell.

He was a good dude.

And to my eternal and undying shame, I never once told this man about the risen Lord Jesus…

     …why would I? He’s a good dude, right?

Not Awesome

It’s easy with dirtbags. They obviously need Jesus.

The blatantly wicked make it just as easy.

The woman celebrating her umpteenth abortion, exalting in the death of her own children at her own hand— this is obvious wickedness that must be condemned. She obviously needs Jesus.

The man publicly celebrating his sexual perversion, demanding affirmation from everyone else and denouncing any form of disagreement—this is overt evil that must be condemned and confronted. This man definitely needs Jesus.

People living openly sinful lives, unabashedly and unashamedly, rejecting all things good and godly and mocking the things of God—they are clearly children of wrath who need, above all else, the Gospel of the risen Lord Jesus.

Liberal snowflakes who hate guns and America and want to take away your freedom of speech while aborting every baby, transferring all of your money to illegal immigrants, and forcing you to use a public restroom alongside drag queens while safely squirreled away in their college safe space—they need Jesus!

But what about the ‘good’ dude?

The good dude, the good man, the trusted agent—he makes things just a bit tougher.

Awesome God

It’s really very easy.

There are no good dudes.

Both John and Paul remind us that we are either of Christ or we are not, and if we are not of Christ, we are of the world and our father is the Devil. (1 John 5:19, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 2:1-3, John 3:19)

Isaiah tells us that our righteousness, our very best, is as a filthy rag in the eyes of the Lord, used menstrual garments at its most literal. (Isaiah 64:6)

Paul teaches us that all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. There is no one righteous, not a single one. No one seeks after God, no one. (Romans 3)

In short, there are no good dudes.

I don’t know if my friend knew the Lord or not. He never once mentioned God. He never attended church that I knew of. His life bore no fruit of salvation in any way. He could’ve been a ‘closet Christian’ I reckon, as if there were such a thing, but from every outward appearance, he did not know the Lord Jesus.

And I never took it upon myself to introduce him…

…he was just such a good, freak’n dude.

Nothing is Awesome

I resolutely denounce works-based righteousness.

I’ll stand and declare the Gospel with all of its authority, with all of its teeth, that God saves men in spite of themselves and their wickedness. In eternity past, God set His affections on a people, and He is in the business of calling them to Him, and all that the Father has given to the Son, will be saved.

He does this in spite of their sin, in spite of their utter inability to save themselves, that no man may boast. He does this to His own glory.

My friend is a sinner…in need of a savior.

Underneath his righteousness, rather, all of his righteous acts, resides a deeply flawed and sinful heart. He is dead in his sin, bound for eternal destruction. His goodness won’t save him. His deeds won’t save him. The acclaim of men, that he is a good dude, will definitely not save him.

Only the grace of the Lord through the shed blood of Christ on the cross can save him. But how will he believe unless someone is to go and tell him these things?

My failure to witness to my friend reveals a sense of unbelief on my behalf. I know these things to be true. I know what the Bible says about works and righteousness yet…he’s just such a good dude!

God would never stand in judgement over a dude as good as this. Unfortunately I know, in my heart of hearts, this not to be the case. Scripture well affirms that,

Hell is full of good dudes.

Are you yourself a good dude?

Let us vow to never let man’s idea of righteousness trump the universal need of all men, the need for salvation, no matter how ‘good’ they may be. I wonder if I still have my friends phone number…

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

Liberals…Conservatives…slaves to the god of confusion

We live in a sea of disparate voices.

Confusion colludes with superficiality to enslave a generation to the god of this world.

Confusion Displayed

Several months ago, a young lady contacted me requesting a visit. She wanted us to pray for her and her housemates, and to bless their home. They suspected a demonic presence had invaded their lives.

After trading a few phone calls, I agreed to the visit. Ami and I secured the assistance of a friend, met and prayed, and made the 20 minute drive to this particular home.

Confusion reigned.

Two young ladies and a young man welcomed us and we spent about two hours with them. “You called us, the church, so you know you’re going to hear about Jesus,” was my caution. They were perfectly open to hearing about Jesus.

“We don’t have a problem with Jesus.”

One of the ladies, the one who called us, ‘used’ to be a Christian but wasn’t anymore. The young man, an astute fellow, was fine with Christianity. He liked several different religions and Christianity was one of his favorites.

The other young lady, like an increasing multitude of young people, was confused as to her identity, who God made her to be. She had rejected the very foundation of her being, her DNA, the very fingerprint of God upon her life.

“If I became a Christian, will I have to change?” was her hesitant concern.

“If you become a Christian, there is no way you won’t be changed, for the better. That’s what God does. How that happens would be between you and Him.”

God is not a God of confusion. (1 Corinthians 14:33)

Satan is the author of disorder and discord, chaos and confusion.

Unfortunately, this home was a perfect representation of the contemporary proliferation of confusion. What an effective strategy! Satan has muddied the waters with the proliferation of competing ideas, inundated the market with a deluge of seemingly valid views.

Truth is concealed beneath a mountain of ignorance.

Confusion

Contemporary concepts of God, even in the church, have deteriorated to the point of being unrecognizable.

There is no God.

God exists, He just doesn’t do much.

God is my friend, the Big Man upstairs.

God is a grandfatherly type character that really just wants us young people to have a good time.

All roads lead to Heaven. Your concept of God is what matters. All people generally worship the same God. Just be a good person. That’s what matters. Do good stuff.

God wants you to be happy. He wants to empower you to the be the absolute best version of you that you can be. He doesn’t desire you to languish in poor health or poverty. Why would He? If you don’t have those, then you must lack a measure of faith. Please confirm your faith by sending a check in the appropriate amount. Message me for my PayPal info.

I’m spiritual, I just don’t go to church.

I love Jesus, it’s just his people I don’t like.

Jesus loves everyone and would like to just, you know, hang out and get to know you and he would never, ever judge anyone. That’s what these ‘Christians’ do.

More Confusion

Social justice is not the Gospel.

Gay rights. LGBTQ rights. Reproductive rights. Minority rights. Women’s rights. Immigrant’s rights. Civil rights et. al. will one day matter not.

#metoo, #blacklivesmatter, ANTIFA and all other ‘movements’ will wither and die.

Egalitarianism, multiculturalism, globalism, socialism, Marxism, secularism, environmentalism, humanism. All will be blown away as chaff in the wind.

Income equality saves no man.

Nor does gun control.

Still More Confusion

The 2nd Amendment is not the Gospel.

Your guns won’t save you.

Neither will any Supreme Court justice, or President Trump.

The United States will one day be a footnote to the annals of antiquity.

The NRA will cease to exist. The American Dream will fade into obscurity. You might as well burn an American flag. One day it will be as meaningless as the fabric on which it is printed. Support the troops while you can, certainly. They will bear arms no more.

Capitalism will die. Veterans will have no more benefits. Abortion will end, but not because of anything you’ve done. So will welfare, taxes, and every union. No reform required.

Please do not be confused. I believe in some of these things but…

…God is not a God of confusion.

Clarity

There is one true God.

He is Yahweh, the great I Am.

He is Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Rapha. He is El Shaddai, Adonai, Elohim. He is Abba, Father.

And His wrath burns in fury against the sin of men, as all men reject Him even though Creation testifies to His existence. Therefore, they are without excuse.

As such, I need a Savior. I need righteousness. I need that which I could never gain of my own accord.

In love, God sent His only begotten Son, Yeshu’a Mashiach, Jesus the Christ, the Son of Man, the Lamb of God, the Alpha and the Omega, the Firstborn over all creation, to be a substitutionary atoning sacrifice for the sins of all who would believe, and to propitiate the wrath of a holy and righteous God.

In grace, God sent His Holy Spirit to change my heart, to replace my heart of stone with a heart of flesh, to regenerate me, that I might believe…

…and believe I did. I repented of my sin, confessed with my mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believed in my heart that God raised Him from dead.

And He saved me, through no merit of my own, made me a new creation, breathed His life into me and imputed Christ’s righteousness to me as He imputed my sin to Christ. Forever more, when the Father looks upon me He will see the righteousness of Christ.

And as I walk in discipleship, grow in sanctification, I am ever molded into the image of Christ until I am glorified one day in death, as my faith finally becomes sight.

And one glorious day, He will return, the Lamb, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. He will return, bodily, visibly, in power, to judge and make war. He will set all things right. The books will be opened, the dead will be resurrected, those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life to eternal life, those not, the unregenerate, to eternal destruction in the Lake of Fire.

The Heavens and the Earth will be consumed by fire and replaced by the new Heavens and new Earth.

May these truths destroy our confusion.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

In Transition: I’m a Veteran…Quick, Tell Me How Great I Am

Affirmation is a powerful opiate.

Facebook knows this.

So does LinkedIn and Instagram and Twitter et. al. I mean, they’re all the same people, but Zuckerberg and company long ago deciphered the secret.

Napoleon knew it too. “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon,” he remarked while being taken into exile on St. Helena.

The U.S. Army knows it. What men won’t do for a bit of colored ribbon.

How might we act when the ribbons run out?

Military Affirmation

At some point, most Army officers begin to look like Mexican generals.

I was a freshly-minted lieutenant on my first assignment, when our unit had it’s battalion formal. Like a good LT, I assembled my uniform and brought it to work for inspection. 1SG McCool was your typical salty, old-school First Sergeant. He examined my uniform, nodded his head, pointed to my whopping total of 2 ribbons, and coolly remarked, “You’re some kind of f***’n hero, huh, Sir?” before strolling off, leaving me in a pool of my shattered manhood.

But the ribbons came…in bunches over the years.

I recall my excitement upon receiving an Army Commendation Medal 12 months later as a PCS award for doing my job. Many had to settle for an Army Achievement Medal which is, you know, like one less. A second PCS generated another ARCOM and even a Humanitarian Service Medal for, you guessed it, doing my job.

The war opened the floodgates. Ribbons flowed like wine and the medals flocked like the salmon of Capistrano. Air medals. Meritorious Service Medals. And the brass ring of hubris, the Bronze Star: all awarded for…doing our jobs.

And men jockeyed for them. Buddies submitted buddies for ribbons. Soldiers in unusual occupational specialties sought to “get outside the wire” for a bit of excitement and perhaps a medal. Ground guys hitched a ride in an aircraft, “performed duties”, and received Air Medals.

The Pentagon even invented a badge, the Combat Action Badge, the epitome of every-soldier-gets-a-trophy, the requirement being that the enemy “engaged” you. That’s it. Define “engage.”

          “So let me get this straight, the enemy mortared the base and you want a Combat Action Badge.”

          “Yes Sir. I deserve it.”

          “I guess we’ll have to submit one for the other 5,000 soldiers stationed here.”

Entitlement replaced expectation, so powerful is the need for affirmation.

The military ribbon is a symbol of affirmation, never mind if accomplishments are real or imagined. If they’re on the rack, it must’ve happened. Throw in some skill badges, maybe Air Assault or Airborne, and bam! Looking good. Instant hero. Let the praises flow.

After nearly 23 years, my ribbon rack looked pretty decent despite the fact that I really only felt as if I’d earned one, my Army Commendation Medal for being a rear detachment commander. No matter.

Pride is a powerful motivator, with the need for affirmation as a willing accomplice. It wasn’t the ribbons themselves, it was what they symbolized, the acclaim of men. And it’s effective.

Never mind what I’m asking you to do—deploy repeatedly and be absent from your family for years on end—here’s a ribbon. Now get on the plane.

Seeking Affirmation

Social media is a powerful influence in our society.

Affirmation is it’s fuel.

Consider the idea of ‘likes’, until a few years ago, a completely foreign concept. Harness man’s innate desire for the approval of other men, give them a platform for obtaining that approval via a tangible ‘like’ or even better, a ‘share’, and watch usage skyrocket.

Brilliant.

They’ve marketed affirmation as a commodity and like any commodity, some attempt to acquire it illegitimately.

You can buy ‘likes’. Did you know that?

I’ve always felt sorry for the stolen valor dudes.

You’ve seen these guys. They dress up in military uniforms, despite never having served or having served in a ‘lesser’ capacity, and then parade themselves seeking, you guessed it, affirmation.

An entire cottage industry exists in ‘outing’ these guys. Some veterans are so offended by the idea of ‘stolen’ valor—as if true valor could be stolen—that they confront the offenders and publicly shame them on the internet.

But men desire acclaim. It is natural to seek the praises of other men.

Men need affirmation, particularly in their vocation, from where so many find their worth in the first place.

A New Reality

In some ways, the civilian sector is harsher than the military.

The bottom line rules. The ability to generate revenue drives everything in our capitalistic system.

There are no service awards, no awards formations. You’ll not receive the acclaim of men by what you wear on your ‘uniform’. No one cares what you did yesterday, but what have you done for me lately.

For years, you’ve been told how special you are. You’ve been lauded for your sacrifice, honored for your service, praised for your commitment. You have the ribbons to prove it.

For years, you’ve received a healthy and regular dose of affirmation.

What will you do when that is no more?

True Affirmation

Let’s talk about acclaim.

As I have died to sin and self and been raised to a newness of life in Christ, I no longer serve myself. I do everything unto the Lord. (Colossians 3:23) Ultimately, I labor on behalf of the Lord. I love on behalf of the Lord. I father on behalf of the Lord.

As Paul writes, “we make it our aim to please him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9) We reject the empty and hollow praises of men, knowing that the fickle hearts of men often reject that which they have previously praised. We reject the need for worldly affirmation and rest in the promise of one day hearing the gentle words of our Father, “well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)

Knowing this, what more could I need?

I recall feeling similarly about football helmet stickers.

I was a decent high school player and our team awarded little white skull stickers to paste on our maroon helmets for good plays. At the conclusion of Thursday practice, the coach would assemble us and hand out the stickers in front of the entire team. Then, you could wear the stickers on your helmet for everyone to know what a standout you were.

I was decent, but not as good as Woods. He battled through a knee injury and missed the first few games of his senior season. His first game back, he killed it, terrorizing our opponents, worthy of more than a few stickers. I sure bet he was excited to start filling up his otherwise plain maroon helmet.

And sure enough, he received several stickers and as the coach dismissed us, I looked over at Woods who had casually dropped his stickers to the ground and was grinding them into the mud with his cleats in disgust. I was shocked.

Woods had no need for the acclaim of men. As my coach used to say, he let his pads to the talking.

May we all let our pads do the talking.

Now, if you’ll just share this post please and maybe even comment about how excellent it was, I’d be very appreciative.

In Transition: Series

Time and the Transitioning Warrior

I wanted a mission…

Veteran, It’s Not All About You (me)

Round is a Shape

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

5 Things Adoption/Foster Care Did to Our Daughters

What about my biological children?”—a common refrain from those considering adoption.

What about birth order?

What about family dynamics?

How will my biological children respond?

The fears are palpable, based upon both realistic and conjured concerns.

Ami and I pondered foster care and adoption with three young daughters. They must’ve been around 10, 11, and 15 at the time, and we had many of these same concerns which drove us to impose restrictions. We wouldn’t take boys with sexual issues.

Outside of that, we’d trust in who the Lord would send…never realizing for a second, the journey He was about to take us on.

I never anticipated what adoption would do to my daughters.

1. It blessed them.

As much as I cannot fathom life without my sons, my daughters feel the same regarding their brothers.

Shortly after becoming a certified foster family, I deployed to Iraq. Two weeks later, I checked my email to see a message from Ami in my inbox. I clicked on it and was greeted by the dark, serious eyes of a little brown guy, peering out at me from the folds of a blanket in my wife’s arms.

“This is your son,” the Holy Spirit whispered.

True to His word, the Lord had brought him, and he never left, later becoming my first son. The Lord sent others, 20 or so in all, slowly, steadily. Some stayed for a few months, some a few weeks, a handful for as short as a weekend or a few days.

Others never left. Six in all. My sons.

My daughter’s brothers.

Sure, they have the same issues as any siblings. The boys eat all their food, sometimes in the middle of the night. They get in their stuff. They argue with them, annoy them, get on their nerves.

As their brothers are all system kids, they have some other issues, perhaps not as common.

My daughters have been stolen from, all of them, repeatedly. They’ve witnessed turmoil that they’d likely have never witnessed, been exposed to things they’d likely have never been exposed to…all that comes along with kids from the system.

Yet, they unanimously proclaim the blessings of their brothers. They embrace them, cherish them, love them. They’ve never once expressed, at least openly, any regret in having them.

From my oldest daughter:

          There is a reason I moved out as soon as I turned 18, but only moved a fourth of the mile down the road. I deeply love them all, but dear Lord I don’t know how mom keeps her sanity.

         “Without them I would have never had to teach my 2 yr old she doesn’t have a ‘hog’ [our family word for male genitalia].”

          And there’s this, “If the sock looks hard, use a glove to pick it up…

You can see that it also blessed them with a sense of humor!

2. It united us as a family.

Early on, we made adoption and foster care our family’s ministry.

Our daughters became my wife’s right hand in caring for our boys. They changed diapers, wiped butts, learned to deal with boy issues to include guns, swords, “hogs”, and such.

We made decisions as a family, openly discussed each situation as it arose. As I was deploying with regularity, my daughters were indispensable in caring for them. 

My sons and the other kids we’ve fostered became the rallying cry of our family, the nexus of our call. The plight of the orphan united us in action in a way that few other things could’ve.

They became so intertwined into the fabric of our existence that I just cannot even imagine how dull our life might’ve been without them.

3. It taught them selflessness.

They’ve gone without, my daughters.

Seeing the system up close and personal, seeing the affliction wrought by the sins of men, impressed upon my daughters that it wasn’t all about them. And they were asked to sacrifice, repeatedly.

The boys and the others consume(d) vast resources of time, money, and emotional energy. With up to ten in house at a time, my daughters certainly received much less attention than they would’ve otherwise…and they’re better for it.

One incident highlighted this.

After several years, I decided ‘we’ needed a ‘break’ from fostering. Everyone agreed, sort of. That night we got the call. Two boys were at the DCS office with nowhere to go. In anger I declared, “No, absolutely not! We knew this would happen.”

Later that night, they were still there so I reluctantly allowed them to come to our home to spend a night or two until DCS could find a permanent placement. One night became two and my frustration grew.

In desperation, I sought out my two younger daughters.

“You know you’ll have to move back in together,” I appealed to them, as they’d recently just gotten their own room after years of cohabitating.

“Dad, we already did,” they chorused.

“You did?”

Yes, these boys need a home.” I swallowed a lump and made a call.

Years later, I call these two boys sons.

4. It demonstrated Christlikeness.

Other than my wife, I’ve no more urgent mission field than my children.

The Psalmist reminds us that, “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.” (Psalm 127:4) Children are not a hindrance or a nuisance. Children are a blessing, “a heritage from the LORD.” (v.3)

I really have nothing but my legacy.

Immediately following my death, the world will begin the process of forgetting all about me, covering up any trace of my existence. Only in the eternal kingdom work of the Lord, do I find any perseverance of my existence.

The Lord entrusts us with our children and commands us to make disciples of them, to teach them, to raise them up in the way of the Lord that when they are older they will not depart from it. (Deuteronomy 6:7-8, Proverbs 22:6) This is the primary design for the spread of the faith, the propagation of the Gospel and since becoming a Christian some years ago, I’ve sought to honor this call.

Congruence between word and deed is the most effective method to proclaim. Speak the Gospel. Live the Gospel. Pray for the Holy Spirit to convict.

As I’ve sought to teach my daughters, perhaps nothing has better proclaimed Christ and Him crucified than adoption.

Adoption enabled me to proclaim far beyond my sanctification.

As an adult convert, I carried intense baggage into my walk and yes, the Lord has faithfully delivered me from affliction after affliction over the course of these years. Yet, adoption displayed for my daughters the love of the Lord Jesus in a way that I never could of my own regard, despite my deep flaws.

Perhaps nothing we’ve done, my wife and I, has demonstrated better the glorious riches of the grace of our Lord Jesus than our family’s willingness to take one born of another, declare them our own, and lavish love upon them.

As such…

5. It inspired them.

At least two of my daughters desire to adopt, maybe all three. One of them is actively taking steps to establish a home/ministry for older foster kids. All of them have intensely selfless hearts and a love for the downtrodden and oppressed, particularly the orphan.

I can think of no greater testimony than this.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

In Transition: Round is a Shape

Transition yields transformation.

For years, the warrior conformed himself to a certain standard, been pounded into the mold. Now, with fewer constraints, he is free to make himself into that which he desires. Many plan for years prior to retirement, creating a vision of themselves and then reshaping themselves into that image.

Often it’s vocationally driven. Some commit to a particular profession and conform to a new standard. I have a couple of friends on Wall Street, suits and all. Some enter law enforcement and adopt their quasi-military standards. Small business. Industry. Coaching. Teaching. Private sector. 

Whatever the field of endeavor, interestingly their first order of business is often to grow out their facial hair or all of their hair, fostering a distinct homeless vibe. Testing the possible, I reckon.

For 26, nearly 27 years, I conformed to the image that the Army demanded of me, begrudgingly. Upon retirement, I entered full-time ministry, as I had prayed about for years.

And what did I become?

Fat.

I became fat.

This was my transformation.

Is that appropriate for a pastor? Easy!

Fat Origins

Ever since this kid pushed me in homeroom in 7th grade, I wanted to be big.

A naturally wiry kid, I wrestled the 98 pound weight class in 9th grade and didn’t have to cut weight. So I stopped wrestling, started lifting, and ate everything I could get my hands on. Everything. Shakes were my thing, peanut butter shakes, with ice cream, and five raw eggs, and a scoop of protein powder, two scoops.

I recall a 22 taco binge once.

Amino Acids. Weight gainer. Creatine.

I didn’t try juice because of cowardice, not any moral convictions. I was afraid I might get caught, but my efforts worked. In three years, I doubled my body weight, in a good way, and earned a starting position on the football team as a reward for my labors.

And I never got pushed in home room anymore.

New Fat

I believe I’ve handled the transition pretty well thus far…or am handling it, rather. You’ll have to ask my wife to be sure.

From the army to the pastorate of a small church, I went from structure and rigidity to having absolute flexibility in my life. I possess near complete autonomy with few external demands. I help homeschool my sons, minister to my congregation, write a bit, get a lift in when able.

I’ve definitely felt a little lost at times as I’ve written about previously, but seem to be coming out of that as I’ve reshaped my priorities. Rather, the Lord has been doing a work in me, conforming my desires to His.

We even successfully negotiated housebreaking a new puppy with no meltdown from me. A few close calls, but no meltdown.

But food.

I’ve always had a pretty big appetite, tempered by a modicum of necessary self discipline, but since retirement, I’ve noticed an unusual condition.

I eat every single thing I get my hands on. Everything!

An entire large pizza. No problem. Chips and salsa until I’m on the cusp of yacking. Sure, I’ll eat a salad, but I’ll chase it later with an entire can of Pringles. An extra sandwich at Chik Fil-a. French fries and did I mention pizza. I actually eat, inhale really, a double Bacon King from BK and then go home and eat dinner. Two chocolate chip cookies from Starbucks. Not one. Two.

Cheat day after cheat day.

My generous daughter left two candy bars on my desk the other day. Without hesitation, I destroyed them both in less than a minute.

I can’t explain it. I’m not sure why, but my gluttony seems to know no bounds.

Army Fat

I’ve never been a runner.

In fact, I hate running, distance that is. Doesn’t contribute to my objective. Detracts even.

The only thing I hated more than running were scranny Army officers who made me run. While serving in the division, our commanding general was one of these runners (I say as I spit onto the floor and wipe my mouth unceremoniously!). He weighed about a buck thirty soaking wet and could run till the cows come home and took great pride in taking his officers out for a leisurely jog at a nightmarish pace.

Run for your job, literally.

Nearly vomiting, white foam forming at the corners of my mouth, stumbling, gaggling—I always managed to keep up, barely. I used to fantasize about locking this man in a sweet rear-naked choke or lining him up on the deadlift bar, seeing how much gumption he possessed when confronted with his own weakness.

But standards are standards. Requirements are requirements.

And so I ran, some, and I maintained a bit of discipline in my food consumption, as I must. Had to make body fat standards—I never even sniffed the height-weight standards—and had to score reasonably well on the APFT.

Much as the common grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ restrains sin, so the Army actively restrained my gluttony, though I wasn’t even aware of it. I should’ve seen it coming, especially since…

Future Fat

God gave me a precursor.

After my second knee surgery, I finally relented to a permanent profile. Run at your own distance and pace which, for me, meant never.

“Train me like an aging defensive tackle,” I directed my strength coach. If it was within a 10 meter radius, I wanted to be able to close with and destroy it as rapidly as possible. Outside 10 meters, I’d concede for another day. My body began to respond accordingly and I began to look…like an aging defensive tackle.

If I thought the Bod Pod was devilish, the trainers’ new electrical impedance device was an absolute nightmare.

Whereas the Bod Pod utilized air displacement to let you know just how much blubber you were carrying around, this new device actually ran a current through you and could tell exactly where your blubber was located on your body.

There’s nothing like being confronted with cold, hard data.

Here’s your percentage.

Do the math.

Realize you are carrying around the equivalent of a 4 year old child’s worth of lard…and the majority of it resides in your gut.

“It takes mass to move mass,” Mike, the head strength coach, tried to console me. After a bit more cajoling, he talked me off the ledge and I headed back to the weight pile. Still gotta get a lift in.

The Dream: Fat no More

6 months.

25 pounds…not good pounds.

The collusion of gluttony and idolatry—my worship of physical strength—inflamed by the absence of restraint yielded the expected result. All of this masked the prideful heart deep beneath my newest layer of blubber.

I confided about my struggle to some brothers, ex-military themselves. Seems this isn’t unique to me. Change wrought this unexpected development. My vigilance, focused elsewhere, failed to anticipate something so simple, but so unsurprising.

Though if this is the extent of the struggle, I’ll count myself blessed. My wife likes me big. My kids don’t really care. A hefty Baptist pastor seems appropriate. As long as I can maintain physical domination of my sons, or the appearance thereof, then we’ll call it success. I have a few years to that regard.

Yet, Monday will be six months exactly. Perhaps it’s time to get tighten up the shot group…but not till Monday. My daughter made cheesecake tonight.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

%d bloggers like this: