Confidence in Our Calling: Introduction

Over the last week, I have begun to listen to an audio recording of Jonathan Edwards’ seminal work, Religious Affections. [1] Edwards wrote this treatise at the end of the First Great Awakening, during a period when emotional and “Spirit-filled” expressions of faith had come under especially intense scrutiny among many Christians.  Although God’s Spirit had been working mightily and extraordinarily throughout the colonies for several years, many who had seemed to experience deeply heartfelt and even miraculous conversions to Christianity had fallen away from Christ.  This added fuel to the arguments posed by numerous believers that displays of emotion were unnecessary and undesirable for true Christians, and even that such “religious affections” indicated that a person’s faith was not genuine. Edwards wrote Religious Affections as an attempt to restore balance to the place of deep and prolonged feelings and their expressions in the lives of God’s saints.

Part II of this exposition is concerned with “Showing what are no certain signs that religious affections are gracious, or that they are Not” – that is, “false positives” of authentic Christian faith. [2]  One of Edward’s assertions in this section is that “It is no sign that affections are gracious, or that they are otherwise, that persons did not make them themselves, or excite them of their own contrivance and by their own strength.”  Edwards argues that although strong impressions and impulses regarding belief in Christ may indeed be caused by powers outside of those who experience them, these affections are not necessarily indicative of God’s salvation, and may not even be from God Himself, despite their great passion and sincerity.

This got me thinking about the events and feelings that served as catalysts for my family’s adoption journey.  My own “conversion” to the pursuit of adoption occurred with strong feelings and impressions that I took to be from the Lord.  (They certainly were of my own doing!) However, in light of Edwards’ treatment of such affections, I began to wonder if these experiences are enough to confirm that the leading I sense is actually from God, or if they might be from somewhere else.

scriptureWith this concern in mind, I started looking at the Scriptures to better understand God’s point of view adoption.  I began this study with a fairly good idea of what I would find. (You might have a hunch, too.)  However, I was surprised to discover just how much God’s Word has to say on the matter of adoption.  I did not expect the Bible to deal with this subject with the breadth and depth I encountered.

My hope is to unpack what the Bible has to say about adoption in a series of posts over the coming weeks.  I think a careful study of this topic is in order, as it will help me to walk the path of adoption with confidence that this is an endeavor close to the heart of God, and not some fleeting urge fabricated by my fickle mind or picked up by my all-too-itching ears.  Understanding the Lord’s perspective on adoption is also likely to provide stability and encouragement when the going gets tough and the future looks uncertain.

[1] The entire text of Religious Affections is available online for free.
[2] Thanks to Dan Ledwith for this wonderful summation of Edwards’ topic here.

Other posts in the Confidence in Our Calling Series

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Offertory for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

This morning I sang Beneath this Christmas Moon at church — probably one of the most significant and nerve-wracking offertories I’ll ever do.  You can view a rough video recording of this song, as our church posts a live feed of our services to

Disclaimers: As is a free service, you may be required to watch an (hopefully unobjectionable) advertisement video before the offertory video actually starts.  You might also see popup adds on the video while it plays.  You should be able to dismiss these by clicking on the [X] in the ad’s upper-right corner. Also, the highlight of the offertory takes place over an hour into the service, so it may take a moment or two to load.

I’ve posted my introductory remarks to the offertory below.

View the video.

Did you know there are over 132 million orphans in the world today?

Some of you might know that today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.  Tony Dungy, former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, believes that to be pro-life is to be pro-adoption.  This is easy to agree with, but it becomes more interesting when the prospect of adoption comes knocking on your own door.

My wife Rosemary has wanted to adopt since before we were married, but I have never really been open to this path.  In recent years, Rosemary’s desire has intensified.  God has brought to her mind images of a young Asian girl.  He has even given her a name – Sonja Ruth: Sonja meaning “wisdom” and Ruth, after the Biblical heroine, meaning “friend.”  During this time, I have remained skeptical and resistant, praying things like “Lord, we already have three great boys,” “God, have you noticed how small our house is?”, “Have you checked our savings account balance lately?” and “Is this really the best time given that Rosemary is in the middle of two highly invasive and disruptive oral surgery procedures?”  These have been just some of my objections.

Yet amidst all of my quibbling, God has transformed my heart over the past two months.  Through a series of events, he has shown me that He is indeed leading our family to walk the path of adoption in spite of, or maybe even because of, these obstacles.  This change of heart runs so deep within me that I have come to feel like our family is not yet complete, that there is an empty seat at our dinner table waiting for our little girl.

Moreover, the Lord seems to be urging us to walk this journey in a very public and vulnerable manner.  That’s why I am sharing all of this with you today.  God aims to be glorified as we go through this process.  We are just beginning now, and it’s scary.  We ask for your prayers and support, but we also hope that as you see this journey unfold, some of you might also feel the Holy Spirit prick your hearts and open your minds to the possibility of adoption in your own families.  Above all, we want Jesus Christ to receive all of the glory for this endeavor, for it is surely only by His grace and strength that it will come to fruition.

Last month on Christmas Eve, the Lord birthed in me the song I’m going to sing for you.  Its text is included on an insert in your bulletin, along with the web address of our new blog,, where you can learn more and follow our story if you are interested. This song is a way for me to express to Rosemary my newfound resolution that pursuing adoption is the right path for us, and my commitment to walk it with our family.

View the video.

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My Son’s Composition

My seven year old had to write a composition today on the following two questions:

“When will you have your next vacation?”

“What do you expect to do then?”

Here’s what he wrote:

Note: He wanted me to change “China” to “the Philippines” when he realized that we would like to adopt from the Philippines (he wants us to adopt from China because he is really interested in China).  I told him he can continue to pray that God would lead us to adopt from China if it’s important to him.

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Did You Know?

Did you know…

163,000,000* children are orphaned, abandoned, or vulnerable.

“Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.  Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”

Isaiah  1:17 – NIV

*Statistic taken from the Bethany Christian Services website.

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Beneath this Christmas Moon

Somewhere beneath this Christmas moon
our daughter sleeps tonight
in orphan’s bed, or mother’s womb,
or heaven’s hid’n delight.
Her fragile heart our Father holds
and fashions in His hand
to bear the wisdom He bestows,
and share it as a friend.

Her name God etched upon my heart
though I know not her face:
a wondrous pang that bids me start
to make her dwelling place.
To join her precious life with ours
will call for greatest faith —
to shun our comforts, bare our scars,
to watch and hope and wait.

Yet sweeter joy God stirs us find
if we would dare this dream:
our thriving hearth a living sign
of how the Lord redeems.
So here I pledge my soul with yours
beneath this Christmas moon
to stay this calling and this course,
to bring home Sonja Ruth.

For Rosemary.
December 24 and 25, 2011
New Durham, New Hampshire
© 2011 Pedal Point Music

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.”
Isaiah 43:5

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Beyond Coincidence

This morning I spoke with one of the sound volunteers at our church about potentially being involved with our adoption-funding recording project.  He is a talented guy with a college degree in sound recording and engineering, and he seems interested in helping out.

Anyhow, we were discussing the feasibility of producing professional-sounding recordings at the church.  He mentioned that one of the biggest obstacles would be the need for high quality microphones.  The microphones the church currently owns are good for recording Sunday services and other live events, but are not up to par for studio-quality projects.  We began wondering aloud about the possibility of borrowing or renting microphones for this work.

In the middle of this conversation, the church’s music director walked over and said that a parishioner had come into an inheritance and wanted to donate it to the church’s music ministry.  “Start making a wishlist,” he quipped.  He and the sound engineer were soon rattling off ideas for how to best use this gift. One of their proposals centered on the need for better microphones for the choir — microphones that might also be used to create high quality recordings of other instruments.

Within a couple of moments, the sound engineer was online, pricing out such microphones to see if they could be purchased and delivered in time for the church’s Christmas program later this week.  I asked him if these mics might be good enough to use on my project, and he indicated that they could potentially be used to record piano, guitar and other instruments.

Now, I don’t know if my church will actually purchase new microphones, or if we will end up recording some, any, or all of this project there.  Nevertheless, this episode seems to go way beyond coincidence. I take it to be confirmation from God that we should move forward with the adoption dream, and specifically with the recording project to support it.  The Lord used these events to speak hope and confidence to my heart. May Jesus Christ be praised!

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Of Discs and Domain Names

I’ve known for years that my wife has deeply desired, and even felt called by God, to adopt.  Yet I could not see our family adding another child.  We already have three wonderful boys and two dogs in a very cozy, cramped, and cluttered house.  It just didn’t seem like a feasible option, nor a desirable one for me.

Even so, a couple months ago, I told Rosemary that I was ready to begin this journey of adoption with her. Despite my discomfort with this course of action, it had become clear to me that the Lord was strongly impressing on her to step out in faith and begin this process, and I should at least trust her enough to walk with her onto this misty road, even if I had not personally heard God speak to me on the matter.  It probably wouldn’t work out anyway, and I would at least get some husband points in the process.

Well, that all changed yesterday.

Two nights ago, Rosemary and I attended an informational meeting on adoption held at our local Bethany Christian Services office.  Both of us felt hope and faith in God’s plan and power stir in our hearts as we listened to the office director speak about the many aspects and tasks related to adoption. The next morning, I began to do some of my own thinking and research into this crazy idea of adoption.

It wasn’t long before God started throwing bricks at me, too.

First, He brought to mind several of the songs I have written over the past years.  Since my first album was released, I have continued to write songs on an infrequent basis on various topics (corporate worship anthems, lullabies, Communion meditations, etc.).  However, I was never able to string these pieces together into a cohesive musical tapestry.  At least, not until that morning.  All at once, I saw that the majority of these newer songs fit together within the themes of belonging, family, and togetherness.  The overarching concept of dwelling place sprang into my head, and I realized that the pieces in this repertoire make up a fairly substantial collection . Toss in a couple adorable little tunes my boys have composed, and there is enough material for an entire full length CD — a CD that might help to raise money for an adoption!  Astounded, I asked Rosemary and the kids what they thought of this idea.  They were all excited and supportive, and suggested I look into it.  Amazing!  I had come to accept the likelihood that my recording days might be over, and I would never have hoped to undertake a project of such scope during this busy season of life.  And yet, it seems that God may well have given me back this dream to use for this wondrous Kingdom journey with those I love the most.

A few hours later, I recalled how Rosemary had mentioned that we should write down the events of this remarkable unfolding story.  She had suggested putting something online, perhaps on Facebook, and I had noodled the idea of chronicling our adoption journey on a blog.  But what domain name (a.k.a web address) would we use for such a blog?  Curious about what might be available, I browsed to my favorite domain name registrar and typed in a couple of possibilities.  One of these was simply, a domain I was practically certain would have been snatched up after so many years of online property squatting, bartering, and profiteering in this wild frontier of the Internet.  To my shock, was still available.  Stunned, I quickly grabbed my credit card to make the purchase.

So, in a few short hours, God used music and technology, two of the most prominent facets of my life, to show me that without a doubt, He is behind this adoption pipe dream, and He is calling me to walk in it with my family.  In this moment, the truth of this matter is clear and plain as day to me, and I feel a deep gladness and gratitude for such a wonderful part to play in this tale.  Glory to God!

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The word “vulnerable” is defined as, “susceptible to attack; susceptible to criticism or persuasion or temptation; capable of being wounded or hurt; susceptible to physical or emotional injury.”

Being vulnerable.  This is the lesson God wants me to learn.   To my surprise, on October 9, 2011, everything in my life pointed to vulnerability.  Brennan Manning told me to be vulnerable, Melody Beattie (another author) told me to be vulnerable, even the devotion in my Bible spoke of releasing my “tight-fisted control” and surrendering everything to God.

The October 9 devotional in the book, Reflections for Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning reads:

The inner child is capable of a spontaneous breakthrough of emotions, but the Pharisee within represses them.  This is not a question of being an emotional person or a subdued one.  The issue is, Do I express or repress my authentic feelings?  John Powell once said with sadness that if he had to write an epitaph for his parents’ tombstone, he would have to write: “Here lie two people who never knew one another.”  His father could never share his feelings, so his mother never got to know him.  To open yourself to another person, to stop lying about your loneliness, to stop lying about your fears and hurts, to be open about your affection, and to tell others how much they mean to you—this is the triumph of the child over the Pharisee and the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit at work.

Like a turtle, I have spent most of my life thoroughly protected by my hard outer shell.  And, like a turtle, there has been on occasion, a soft, seldom-exposed underbelly.   I have been a good turtle, rarely experiencing bites at my underbelly because of my fierceness at protecting it.  Every time something attacked that underbelly, my defense grew greater…so great in fact, that in time, I have forgotten what it means to be vulnerable.

In their book Captivating, John and Stasi Eldridge write:

But we don’t get to wait to offer our lives until we have our acts together.  We don’t get that luxury.  If we did, would anyone ever feel like offering anything? God asks us to be vulnerable.  He invites us to share and give in our weaknesses.  He wants us to offer the beauty that he has given us even when we are keenly aware that it is not all that we wish it were.  He wants us to trust him.  How it turns out is no longer the point (pg. 215).

So, on October 9, 2011, God told me to just give it all up—the protection, the “safety,” and even the turtle shell!  I screamed and cried, “But what if I look like a fool and this doesn’t happen?”  God’s response, “It’s not about you.”

So, here I am, being completely vulnerable because it’s what I feel God wants me to do.   For most of my life, I have wanted to adopt a child from Asia.  Because of endometriosis, I was told early in my life that by the time I was old enough to have children, I probably wouldn’t be able to, so I should be prepared to explore other options.   I literally gave up any ideas about having my own biological children, and resigned myself to adopting any children God would allow me to have.  Ironically, getting pregnant was not a problem for me, and Simon and I have been blessed with three precious boys.  But, the longing to adopt has not gone away, and in the past few years, it has been accompanied by the ache for a daughter.  For a while now, I have felt strongly that God wants us to adopt, but Simon did not share my feeling.  It was very scary for him, but I prayed that if it was truly God’s will for us to adopt a daughter, that God would bring Simon around first.  I have had dreams about my daughter — vivid, painful dreams that I would try not to think about because it hurt too much.   This summer, after such a dream, in that time between sleep and wakefulness, I asked God to stop tormenting me with such images, and he gave me a name — Sonja Ruth.   Sonja is the Slavic or Scandinavian form of the Greek Sonya which means “wisdom;” Ruth is Hebrew for “friend”.  I had always planned on naming my daughter Ruth after my favorite book and heroine in the Bible, but Sonja was a name I never would have chosen without God’s intervention.  Frankly, I had never really liked the name and never knew what it meant—boy, was I blown away when I looked it up online at 5am.

So, here I was on October 9, reading my devotions and getting hit over the head with “be vulnerable” bricks.  Sitting in church that day, Pastor Bill Boylan referenced a passage from Scripture that mentioned our adoption by Christ.  At this point, the thoughts in my head went something like, “Now you’re going crazy, looking for meaning where there is none, so let it go.”  And, I managed to for a short while, but it kept creeping back.  The rest of the morning continued in that manner, to the point that I looked at Simon in the car on the way home and said “I think God’s getting ready to shake the snow globe.”  Simon responded something to the effect that the snow globe was already shaken enough and we didn’t need it shaken anymore.  I said that I wasn’t sure that it was going to be a bad thing.

My poor husband never saw it coming.  (Ok, well maybe he suspected.)  We went to a Steven Curtis Chapman/Andrew Peterson/Josh Wilson concert that night to celebrate our 11th anniversary.  I love Steven Curtis Chapman, and I’m always teasing Simon about his “man-crush” on Andrew Peterson. While we waited for the concert to start, Simon milled about the church narthex while I sat in our seats.  I looked up at the pre-concert slideshow to see a picture of an orphan named “Ruth” who was waiting to be adopted.  Ok, God, enough bricks.  Anyway, the concert was awesome, and on the way home Simon told me that he was now on board and we could start the adoption process.  I wanted to throw up.   It was not the crying, laughing celebration of victory I had imagined.  It was the scariest thing I had experienced in a long time.  But it’s right.  Then God reminded me, “be vulnerable.”

So, here I am, being vulnerable.   We are asking you to please pray for us, for our boys, and especially for Sonja Ruth.  There are a lot of reasons why this won’t work, but God is bigger than any of them, and this is about God.  Our house is small, just over 1100 square feet, but we have one room that can be emptied and made into a bedroom.  We do not have the money to pay for all of the adoption fees, but I know God will provide.  He has already provided the two most important things I needed—my husband and my boys want to do this.  So, please pray for Sonja Ruth, that she would know she has a heavenly Father who loves her and who is watching over her.   Pray that she would know that she has a mom and dad and three awesome brothers who love her and can’t wait to meet her.  Pray that her biological mom would be healthy and would come to know Jesus.  Pray that Sonja Ruth shines with the light of Christ, so that all who know her know will know her King.  Pray that God would be glorified in a huge way through every step of this adoption.  Pray that all the obstacles would be removed.  And finally, pray that I would continue to be vulnerable.  Thanks.

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