Mount Everest, Mercy, My Friend Ken

I love it when people get what they deserve.

So do others apparently.

“Instant Karma!” the video title trumpets. Scan Youtube or any social media and consider the wealth of uploads portraying people getting exactly what they deserve.

There’s the young disrespectful punk getting knocked out by the old man. An angry dude yells at a woman and promptly walks into a stop sign headfirst. A motorist cuts in line only to get pulled over by a policeman.

We love comeuppance. We gloat. We bask. We tingle inside. We love it when people get exactly what they deserve…

…except when it’s us.

A Deserving Son

We all have that friend with that son, or maybe you have that son, or maybe you are that son.

My friend Ken’s son had been straying for years, decades even. He fell into drug addiction and all that comes along with that. He committed crimes to support his habit, spent time in jail. He impregnated his girlfriend and abandoned his daughter.

But this wasn’t how he was raised.

Ken raised him in a loving, Christian home. He gave him everything—love, discipline, affection, opportunity—and he rejected it all in the name of sin and self. Yet, time and again, Ken was there.

His son would come back from a season of affliction and he’d hire him to work in his shop or help him get back on his feet only to be rejected and betrayed again. Time and again, his son received and then rebelled.

I cannot fathom his sense of betrayal, maybe his righteous indignation, certainly his grief. He deserved so much more.

Or did he?

A Deserving Father

All men receive either mercy or justice.

There is no injustice.

Peter writes for believers, “once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:10b) Consider the mercy of our heavenly Father.

In my sin, I rejected Him entirely. I knew there was a God and was therefore without excuse but still I exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the created thing rather than the Creator. (Romans 1)

I deserved justice, eternal justice for rejecting an eternal Creator.

But still, in His mercy, He reconciled me to Him by the shed blood of Christ on the cross. God saves sinners. God saved me. I did nothing to deserve it, nothing to merit it. I never could have earned it by any ‘good’ deeds. The only thing I deserved was justice, condemnation…

….but in His mercy, He gave me infinitely more than I ever deserved.

God is, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Exodus 34:6) I have lived this truth, known it, rested in it. If you are of Christ, you have as well.

My friend Ken lives these truths. He knew exactly what he deserved and in light of that, exactly what he had received—everything!

What could he himself give, but mercy?

No Mercy on the Mountain

Who ever thought mountain climbing would entail moral considerations.

Eleven climbers have perished on Mount Everest during 2019’s climbing season, a record, and why? They perished because of mercy, or a distinct lack thereof.

The world’s highest mountain presents climbers with some unlikely challenges. It takes roughly two months to make the ascent and weather only allows a handful of opportunities around the middle of May.

The last base camp is around 26,000 feet. From there, climbers make a brutal push into the “death zone” and the final summit at 29,029 feet. The one narrow path to the summit, the severest conditions on earth, and the demand for oxygen to survive provide a tiny window to attain the summit and descend. Only the slimmest of margins separates climbers from death.

Severe crowding complicates the issue.

The unscrupulous Nepali government issues hundreds of climbing permits, with no qualifications required, to anyone who can afford the $11,000 fee. Everest is a cash cow and the result is an ascent flooded with people who have no business being on Mount Everest.

This year’s ascent saw a several hour delay to get to the summit, a flat area roughly the size of two ping-pong tables, where climbers jockeyed for position, snapped selfies…stepped over dead bodies. People died waiting in line to get to the top.

Eleven people succumbed to the elements this year, many on the way down. They ran out of oxygen or became too fatigued to continue and collapsed on the path.

Many of them died of arrogance or hubris. Their Sherpas urged them that they were going too slow, that they would run out of oxygen, that they wouldn’t make it, and still they pressed on until collapse…

…and people stepped over them to continue.

If they stopped to help, they might risk their own lives or worse…not make the ascent, not get the selfie from the summit, not be able to say, “I did it!”. Besides, these people should not have been there in the first place. They were warned. It’s their own fault.

They needed mercy, in spite of their faulty actions, and did not receive it.

I wonder if you are as troubled by this as I am.

Mercy Received

My relationship with God governs my relationship with people.

My relationship with people testifies to my relationship with God.

What is God’s will for my life? Should I buy the blue minivan or the red one? Should I work here or should I work there? What would God have me do?

I cannot comment definitively on all of these questions. However, the word of God offers explicit commands, expectations God has of His people.

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:26)

Blessed are the merciful…” (Matthew 5:7)

I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (Matthew 9:13, 12:7, Hosea 6:6)

As God has poured out His mercy upon us and lavished us with love, love that we did not deserve in any way, so too ought we to pour out mercy upon others. We who have been forgiven much ought to, in the same way, forgive much, forgive quickly, forgive often.

Our words, our actions, our thoughts ought to drip with mercy, just as the Bible drips with the mercy of our heavenly Father. And every single human interaction we have is an opportunity to show mercy.

We ought to give that which others need, even if they don’t deserve it. What are you worried about, your rights? Our rights no longer matter. We’ve given the rights to ourselves over to the Lord and as such, can pour out mercy with no regard for self.

Who needs mercy in your life?

A lazy husband. An unappreciative wife. Your needy children. Your incompetent boss. A hateful relative. A gossipy neighbor. The rude dude at the grocery store.

A wayward son.

Mercy Given

My friend celebrated his birthday recently by posting to social media a video of him talking.

Amid the ‘likes’ and ‘loves’ and other comments, one stood out. His son remarked, “Happy belated birthday pops” followed by, “I look very bad.”

What would the world say but, “Well man, it’s your own fault”? You had everything, you had a father who loved you. You’ve had a home and opportunity. You are the one who wasted this. You are the one who has walked away from what you know to be right, time and time again.

What did you expect? When will you learn?

It serves you right.

My friend looked at his son and his affliction, his suffering, and responded…in mercy

          I see you as my son!

This is the exact thing my heavenly Father said to me, as I turned to Him in my sin and affliction. May we all be moved to mercy.

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

FOLLOW THE 413!

Abortion and the Taliban…Checkers and Chess

How do you best kill the Taliban?

Upstream, that’s how.

Let’s see if I can explain.

For nearly two decades, we engaged the Taliban on the battlefield with stunning success. In virtually every engagement, coalition troops prevail. Usually, it’s a slaughter. I can think of only a handful of tactical engagements won by the Taliban.

Yet, they stand poised to eject us from Afghanistan with control over large swaths of the countryside. Outside the capital and the few cities, the Taliban are the power-brokers.

After 19 years and over 2,000 American soldiers dead, the United States finds itself embroiled in a strategic quagmire from which we may not extract ourselves or the whole thing likely falls apart.

Each year, we bleed out just a little bit more.

How could this be?

Checkers. We’re playing checkers.

Just like the church.

Don’t get me wrong.

Checkers is a fun game, valuable to an extent. When your opponent plays chess though…

Pro-life advocates declared February 23rd of this year, a Day of Mourning. In response to the recent and radical New York abortion law, the website instructs us to wear black, not shop, close businesses, and repent for abortion. Albany, New York will host a rally/meeting/worship service with a host of notable pro-life speakers.

On January 18th, tens of thousands of pro-life warriors braved the cold streets of our nation’s capital in protest of the evil of abortion. This is the 46th annual iteration. Vice President Mike Pence and a host of conservative leaders attended this year’s event. President Trump attended last year.

Though large and dramatic, these are tactical engagements. Like any tactical engagement, if not supported by sound strategy, the engagement fails to yield long-term results.

And, in a way, these are the large-scale equivalent of me arguing with my pro-choice cousin on social media.

I’m not too sure about their productivity, even on the tactical level. I acknowledge the efficacy of compelling our political leaders to pen pro-life legislation and nominate pro-life judicial members.

But this is about hearts and minds, like any counter-insurgency.

Has a single heart or mind been changed by demonstrations?

Building pregnancy centers is a step toward strategy, toward chess. What if, next to every single Planned Parenthood, was a crisis pregnancy center that offered every service, but abortion? Once a woman views her baby on an ultrasound, once she sees it’s personhood, she is much less likely to go through with an abortion.

Our city has a crisis pregnancy center with a great ministry.

Adopt.

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. Parcheesi maybe.

What if we could tell every woman in a crisis pregnancy, “Don’t abort, please. We’ll raise your child in a loving home.” I choose to believe that most women do not want to have an abortion, but in many cases, feel they do not have an option.

The church ought to be elbowing one another out of the way to adopt available children. The existence of unwanted children is itself, an indictment of the church.

We never get this far. It’s too hard, requires too much of us.

We’re stuck in confronting the issue head-on with protests and marches and rallies and moaning and arguing on social media, slandering those who live blinded by their sin.

Meanwhile, the enemy busily destroys the nuclear family, drives a wedge between men and women, even going so far as to destroy the very idea of men and women, blurring the lines until the are unrecognizable.

And his agents of destruction are legions of unwitting men who stand idle as their sons grow into godlessness.

But, what if we played chess?

Like with the Taliban.

I’ll not deny the efficacy of shooting the Taliban in the face wherever you can.

We can build the world’s most sophisticated military machine to ensure that the trigger-puller is in the exact right place at the exact right time to squeeze the trigger and propel the 7.62 round into the skull of said Taliban.

The problem…he’s got brothers, and a father, and uncles, and friends…i.e. the Taliban.

Checkers.

Let’s work upstream.

What if he was never there in the first place? Let us dispatch him before he ever sets foot on the battlefield, perhaps walking out his door in the morning, or sleeping in his bed at night.

Let’s give him options, an education. Let us dangle the allure of financial prosperity before him, the hope of a better future for him and his family, a desire common to all men.

Further upstream, let us raze the Pakistani madrassa that taught him the Koran and to hate America. Let us coerce Pakistan to raze all their madrassas. Imprison the fundamental clerics. What if we westernized his homeland to the greatest extent possible, immersing him in the seductiveness of secularism, confusing him, undermining his Islamic faith which drives his zeal.

What if we fervently prayed for the Gospel to penetrate Muslim lands and for the Lord to raise up missionaries to go, and to make disciples? What if we went ourselves?

Check.

Abortion and Chess

Abortion will never end as godlessness proliferates.

Revival is the answer to abortion and I’m not talking a scheduled tent revival with open-air preaching. I’m talking real revival found in the serious commitment of men making disciples of their sons.

You want to end abortion?

Men, let us teach our sons to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s that simple.

Do the other things. Protest. Legislate. Inform. Rally. Resist. Build. Adopt. All of it. But apart from the engagement of godly men discipling their sons, these are but band-aids on a gushing hemorrhage.

Abortion is a symptom. Treating symptoms is okay as long as we treat the source of the illness. The source of the illness is godlessness, and as each generation becomes increasingly godless, abortion will proliferate.

Consider a generation of young men, of young Christ-followers and what the Lord would accomplish through them.

These young men would cherish and esteem young women. They would honor them and respect them. They would reject the overt sexualization of our culture and the insidious but prevalent view that a woman’s worth is in her sexuality and her looks. They would lift this burden from young women.

These young disciples would not pressure them into sex outside the covenant of marriage. They would value them as people, as sisters in Christ, as perhaps a future mate and wife.

But you know what, it will still happen. Christ-followers still fall into sin. There will still be unplanned and unwanted pregnancy. Yet, these young men, as Christians living a life of repentance, would seek out the Lord’s forgiveness and the woman’s as well and then seek to make things right.

Young disciples would not abandon a young lady to her pregnancy and vulnerability. Young disciples would not force her into a position of having to make a dreadful but seemingly necessary choice. “I’m here,” they’ll say. “I’m scared too, but let us rejoice at life. It didn’t happen how we planned, but it happened and so we’ll embrace it. Hallelujah, I get to father.”

And still sin happens. As their brothers wrestle with the flesh and maybe do abandon a woman in her time of need, they would come alongside and say, “we will support you as you need or, if necessary, we will love this child and raise them as a son or a daughter.”

Godly young men would push back against the rampant godlessness and how, by living according to the dictates of Christ, as disciples themselves. They would commit their lives to being disciples and themselves, to making disciples, of their own sons at first and then all the nations.

As they push back the darkness, as revival engulfs the nation, abortion would necessarily wane.

Men, make disciples of your sons.

Checkmate.

Kings to you, Satan.

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

FOLLOW THE 413!

You are special and worthy of so much more…and other useless drivel that is clearly #nottheGospel

We’re drowning in a cesspool of dissonant voices.

Every single person has a voice. Each person has an agenda. If you have an internet connection, you have a platform.

Satan’s misinformation campaign runs around-the-clock and he employs, as his heralds, a legion of oftentimes well-meaning people, even believers, who mindlessly and faithfully regurgitate and proliferate messages of personal empowerment that sound nice.

However, upon examination, they are definitely #nottheGospel.

Rid your life of negative people.

This one is so prevalent but so clearly #nottheGospel.

“You cannot hang out with negative people and expect a positive life,” quoth (gulp) Joel Osteen. Negative people bring people down. They have a problem for every solution. Their negativity is contagious and will certainly detract from you being the best you that you can be and achieving all that you dream.

The only solution is expulsion.

Get them out of your life. Now, not later. Expunge them from the books. Move on. You do not need these people in your life.

On the contrary, surround yourself with positivity. Positive people. They will lift you up. They will empower you. They will help you take your to the next level. Success is the goal. Positivity fuels our motivation to get there. Think positive thoughts.

Makes sense. Right?

Rubbish.

God calls the believer to be the salt and light of the earth. (Matthew 5:13-16)

God calls the believer to make disciples of all the nations. (Matthew 28:18-20)

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)

Nowhere is a man’s attitude a factor.

Yes, being around negative people can be tiresome. Yes, being around negative people can sap your strength. Yes, I like to be around positive people as much as you do, but there is really no such thing as an inherently negative person. One is either redeemed or not, saved or not, of Christ or not. One may feel, speak, act, or even think negatively, but why?

If that person is a brother or sister in Christ, would we reject them? Maybe they are struggling with sin of some kind. Maybe they are lonely. Maybe they are wrestling with God about a hidden issue. Either way, Paul tells us that when one member of the body of Christ suffers, we all suffer. (1 Corinthians 12:26) We ought to suffer alongside a fellow believer suffering in negativity.

If the negative person is not a believer, should we really cast them from our life. They are unredeemed. Negativity is the least of our worries. They don’t know Christ! They need the words of life that you have. Perhaps they are negative because they don’t know the hope found in the Gospel of the risen Lord Jesus. 

In sovereignty, God has placed these people in your life. Would you be the one to tell them the good news?

Are we to decide who is worthy of our fellowship and love?

You are special and worthy of good things.

So much is wrapped up in our self-worth and our self-esteem.

From our youngest days, we impress upon our children their entitlement. It’s a joke, a cliché, but every kid truly does get a trophy, no matter how they do or do not contribute. We do everything in our power to build up their self-esteem, their sense of self-worth, how they feel about themselves.

We’ve built an entire cottage industry with the sole purpose of making us feel better about ourselves. In many ways, we’ve shaped our entire system, our entire culture, around making us each feel that we are not only unique, but unique and deserving.

We deserve better.

We were made for more.

This life you’re living now, it’s not good enough. Your relationships. Your job. Your home. Your financial standing. Your social status. They could all be better. You know it and I know it.

You are worth it and don’t let anyone ever tell you differently.

Excrement.

On my own merits, I deserve hell and nothing less.

Gulp. There it is.

God speaks clear to the intrinsic worth of a man. I had worth. Created in the image of God, I reflect the summation of the possibility of His character. (Geneses 1:27) Man is the pinnacle of creation, the crown jewel in the created order. (Psalm 8) As such, every man or woman to ever walk the planet is deserving of dignity and respect.

Yet I slandered it.

It’s all been corrupted.

We took the beautiful created order and in our sin, rendered it wretched. There is no one who is righteous, not a single one. No one seeks after God. No one loves God. No one does good, not one. (Romans 3) Our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick. (Jeremiah 17:9) There’s nothing I can do about it. I was born into it. (Psalm 51:5)

At the same time, creation testifies loud and clear to the existence of a God whom we all reject. (Romans 1) Therefore we are without excuse.

Each of us, at some point in our lives, maybe even presently, looks at all that God is and rejects Him. We choose to worship and serve the created thing instead of the Creator and for that, we all deserve one single thing. 

Justice.

Justice for sin against an eternally holy and righteous God equals eternal torment in a place called hell. How’s your self-esteem?

The idea that I deserve anything other than justice is clearly #nottheGospel.

It’s all about doing good, being kind.

Think of the best person you know. Perhaps it’s even you!

Either way, consider them for a minute. What makes them special or good? Have they done good deeds? Have they helped you? Do they display selflessness? Consider their goodness. Consider their righteousness.

Now, consider that the very best you or I or anyone else has to offer, of our own volition, is a filthy rag in the eyes of the Lord, literally a used menstrual garment. (Isaiah 64:6)

We may do good deeds, certainly, but the corruption of sin has tainted even our best deeds. The idea that we can do enough good things, that our good deeds will save us is clearly #nottheGospel.

We will never earn favor with God. We will never attain standing before Him, of our own accord.

When you really want something, you will find a way.

Tony Robbins spearheads a bevy of self-help motivational speakers that convince us that “We Can!”

You cannot…and even if you could, does it actually matter?

Definitely #nottheGospel.

If you’re unhappy, that’s on you.

Assuredly #nottheGospel.

God is infinitely more concerned with our holiness rather than our happiness.

Be the hero of your own story.

Self-worship that is clearly #nottheGospel.

There exists a billion deviations, perversions really, of the singular message of hope and that is this:

God saves sinners!

This is the crux of the Gospel, the only message with timeless merit.

Okay, I’ll concede. These other ideas may possess temporal merit. If pop psychology and self-help gurus can motivate or equip someone to attain a measure of peace and/or happiness, then that is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not like God begrudges us our livelihood.

Substitution is the issue, substitution that generates confusion.

When Christians parrot this drivel either as the Gospel or on par with the Gospel or even as a part of the Gospel, we fuel misunderstanding, perhaps even our own. Consider that Satan would love nothing more than for each of us to trumpet our own ability, while standing in line to see Oprah, convinced of the possibility of so much more.

Jesus Christ died on the cross for wretched sinners like me or like you, that we might be forgiven our sins. Our only hope lay in this truth, that if we repent and believe in the risen Lord Jesus, we will be saved, unto eternity.

Only He is worthy. My value exists only in Him. His work becomes my work, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Let us cut through the confusion.

Let us propagate this message worth hearing.

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

FOLLOW THE 413!

Food and the Foster Child

It was corn. A single kernel of corn.

“I won’t eat it! And you can’t make me!” the little boy screamed.

“Just a bite, buddy…whaddaya say?”

“I’M NEVER GONNA EAT IT! NEVER!”

Yikes!

I had never really dealt with an outburst like this before. Food is an issue for many families. I suspect that for many foster families, food is a major issue.

An Introduction to the Issue

One of the difficult aspects of parenting a system kid is that they look just like any other kid.

It’s not as if they carry a neon sign, “Trauma! Trauma!” It’s only recently that I’ve come to understand the level of trauma merely being removed from their home may have induced, much less the neglect and abuse that often accompany a kid from the system.

Not having lived it, I know I can never understand.

Lawrence arrived, age 5, the picture of the foster child, showing up on our doorstep in the middle of the night clinging to the caseworkers leg, clutching a dirty stuffed animal and a single Walmart bag with a toothbrush and a change of underwear. He looked like a typical boy, head full of blonde hair, fair skin. His appearance belied a deeper trauma, inevitably betrayed by his behavior.

The honeymoon period lasted for a few weeks but dinner first exposed the breach.

He absolutely and resolutely refused to eat anything even remotely healthy. Meals devolved into a diabolical battle of the wills. Corn brought it to a head. Corn.

“I’m not gonna eat and you can’t make me!” became his stance.

A Clash of Culture

Culture presents a distinct challenge in fostering.

They train you in the classes to respect cultural differences and to be ready for them. Be sensitive to them. Food provides great insight into a family’s culture. You can tell a lot about a family by what they eat.

I know that all kids would rather consume garbage. I’ve met very few, if any, who would willingly consume vegetables or salad. When fostering, you really have no idea of the biological family’s eating habits and how they might compare with your own.

We’ve seen this. We’ve lived this.

Take my 14-year-old son. Unless it comes from a fast food joint or a gas station, he’d just assume not eat it. 

Lawrence was just as picky and I don’t mean picky like, “I don’t like onions” or “I don’t like meatloaf”. I mean picky as in “I like bacon and I like eggs but I won’t eat my eggs if they are cooked in the same skillet as the bacon” picky. A new level of pickiness.

Does it stem from culture? Perhaps.

Perhaps there’s more.

Equality

I’ve noticed that many foster kids share eerily similar traits.

Many possess a tendency to not see past the next 5 minutes of their life, in any regard. Their minds seem to warp the very fabric of the space-time continuum. This is an actual conversation with my oldest son:

    Dad, can I go to the gym and shoot hoops?

    Son, we have to be at church in 20 minutes and the gym is 15 minutes away…

    Okay…so can I go?

They all seem to possess a distinct sense of justice or rather, injustice.

Any kid(s) will always be on the lookout for any situation whereby they might receive less of something than a sibling. This is amplified in the mind of the foster kid. My sons will go to extraordinary lengths to verify that one of the others is not receiving something more than them. Food provides an opportunity for a potential disparity.

As such, they maintain a constant vigil over allotments.

When confronted with a situation to select a portion, my sons will always, without hesitation, choose the largest possible, unless it’s something they truly don’t like. They will even select the largest of something even if they do not even know what it is.

    I want some! I want that piece!!!

    Do you even know what it is?

    Well…no, but I want it!

The thought that a brother or sister would receive more, or even worse, something that they did not receive, is excruciating to them. It induces agony. My 14-year-old, on the cusp of self-awareness, will smile guiltily when I notice him angling for the largest portion. If I remark about it, he’ll steadfastly deny it. Then he’ll do it anyway. He literally cannot help it!

Control

At some point it’s about control.

The foster child lives in a continual state of uncertainty and flux with very little/absolutely no control over their future. They did not choose to be born into an afflicted family, to be removed from what they know. Whether you or I would judge their family life as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is irrelevant at some point.

No matter the conditions, it’s what they know and is therefore good.

Then, without warning, they are ripped from their lives and thrust into the lives of another. Despite the assurances, they must wonder what is happening, if they’ll see their parents again. The case workers do the best they can, but many are overworked, handling multiple cases and at some point, placement supersedes suitability.

Just get the kid placed.

Adding even a newborn biological child to any family can completely upset the fraternal order, the group dynamics. Envision adding a child with an already developed sense of self and culture and righteousness, a child used to things a certain way. At some point, a clash occurs.

Food provides a platform for just such a clash. They have lost control of everything…but what they eat.

Priorities

I can tell, at any point, what my sons are thinking about. Perhaps this is normal to all sons, but for mine, from the system, they are always thinking about food.

Always.

    “When is lunch/dinner/breakfast tomorrow?”

    Even more importantly, “What’s for lunch/dinner/breakfast tomorrow?”

One of my sons will visibly squirm, I mean visibly writhe, at the uncertainty of an imminent meal. “I don’t know,” is not a satisfactory answer. They must know and they must know now and can they have pizza or cereal or chips or whatever.

As an example of this, during church, they sit in a constant awareness of the potential to go out to eat after church, an exquisite torture in the uncertainty. Immediately following the service, I am bombarded by queries and maybe some not-so-subtle manipulation to try and shape events to not just go out, but go to a desired location.

    “Hey Dad, the so-and-so family is going to the China King Buffet and want us to go!”

    “We haven’t been to Taco Bell in awhile,” one will casually remark.

    “Kids eat free at Dickie’s Barbecue,” another will inform me.

Again, as I see this from my biological children, I know it is not unique to my sons. It’s just amplified, taking on a heightened sense of urgency.

Perspective

We got through it.

I don’t remember exactly how or what we did. There’s no magic answer, no trick. We just got through it and so did Lawrence. His mother got clean, got a job, got well and after about six months, Lawrence went home.

His mother remains a family friend to this day.

Lawrence and his mother represent what is right with the system, how it’s supposed to work. For all of its flaws and absent the engagement of the Church, the system is what we have.

I have a few vivid memories of Lawrence’s time with us but most all, seared upon my conscience, is the image of a little boy pouring out his rage at a single kernel of corn. For him, that kernel of corn must’ve represented all that was wrong, things that he could never fathom, things he will never fathom. He unknowingly raged against injustice and the tyranny of affliction all while nursing a gaping wound to his soul.

I don’t recall if he ever ate the corn.

 

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).

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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

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