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Yesterday was a big day around our place–Jonathan’s 5th birthday. Unlike Jeremy’s birth, I wasn’t around when Jonathan was born; I did not even know that he existed until exactly one month after the date. From what we’ve heard, his birth was even a surprise to his birth family. Though they were not expecting his arrival, they began searching for whatever life would hold the most hope for this new surprise gift. Unselfishly, they choose adoption, and we are so glad that they did. We thankful for the folks at Agape who helped them choose our family as the receivers of this precious gift.

We started celebrating his birthday over a week early with a gathering at my parents’ to celebrate all of the August birthdays in our family. Sunday night we shared birthday cupcakes with our CORE group from church, Monday morning Jonathan had our tradition birthday breakfast of custom-made pancakes (in keeping with his usual well balanced diet, he also had pancakes for lunch and dinner), and we went and played arcade games that evening, using up our reserve of Chucky Cheese tokens. I offered him cup cakes and ice cream when we got back home but he said, “No, thanks, I’ll just have my chocolate milk.” Chocolate milk in a sippy cup is still Jonathan’s ultimate comfort food.

Here are some photos of Jonathan’s various celebrations.


The painting above is the last souvenir that we purchased before leaving Togo on May 4 of this year. We finally got around to getting it stretched and framed and picked it up on Friday. The painting is by a Togolese artist, Barnabé (Barnabas) Sallah. From the time we moved to Togo in 2001, I often saw Sallah’s work in restaurants and hotel lobbies. I always had the intention of purchasing one, but never quite saw one I liked at a price I could afford. Once I even met him at an exhibit at the Sarakawa, Togo’s nicest hotel where we would often go swimming, and carried around his cell number in my phone, but never called him.

About a week before we left Togo, Maureen and the other women on the team went for a one-night getaway. The hotel where they had planned to stay was full, so they went down the road and tried out another place. They ended up having a good experience, and Sallah’s paintings were also on display there. The women decided that the whole team would spend our family’s last day in Togo at this hotel. We could swim, the kids could play, we could eat together, and celebrate Jeremy’s birthday which was that day–AND the hotel manager said that she would invite Sallah to bring more of his paintings so we could have a look.

The day went well and finally Sallah showed up. All of the paintings were bigger than what we had imagined and well out of our price range. We talked and visited with him. We found a painting we liked, as did Stacey, our school teacher who was also leaving the following day. But none of us could afford what he was asking. We talked some more. Finally, we offered what we thought we could afford to pay, and acknowledged that the paintings were worth more, but that was all we could give. He accepted, took the painting off it’s wooden frame, rolled it up and gave it to us. It was a pretty big roll to carry onto the plane–the main part of the painting is 31 inches square.

The painting then went around the world with us–to Paris, Singapore, Alabama, and stayed rolled up until we got into our apartment. We decided to have a look at how well it had survived the trip. There were a couple of small cracks and a few chips in the thick acrylic paint, but it had made it relatively intact. We took it to Hobby Lobby for framing–we got their “half price” special (is it really half price when you can get that price anytime?), but the framing still cost more than the painting did. Still, we’re proud to have our last souvenir on our wall.

Oh, the title, written by the artist on the back of the canvas (along with his name and cell phone number) is “Les Bergers au Paturage”– “The Herdsmen in the Pasture.” How many herdsmen do you see? (I’ve changed my mind after looking at it more closely.)

Homewood minister Rick Kaufhold gave me some material today that included this information. Unfortunately, I don’t have the original source, but if this is anywhere near accurate, it should make us all stop and reflect. Most of you reading this post will find yourselves, like me, squarely in the extreme minority of the world’s population, yet holding access to tremendous resources, power, and influence. What would the world look like if we surrendered all of that to God and asked him how we should use it?

“According to the World Development Forum, if our world were a village of 1,000 people, there would be 564 Asians, 210 Europeans, 86 Africans, 80 South Americans, and 60 North Americans. In the village would be 300 Christians (183 Catholics, 84 Protestants, 33 Orthodox), 175 Muslims, 128 Hindus, 44 Buddhists, 47 Animists, 85 from other religious groups, and 210 Atheists. Of these people, 60 would control half the total income, 500 would be hungry, 600 would live in shantytowns, and 700 would be illiterate.”

He has shown you people what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, TNIV)

Here are some thoughts I shared at the Lord’s table yesterday:

When I was growing up, every Sunday my mom would get up early and begin the preparations for a big Sunday dinner.  The meal was so special that we called it “dinner,” even though it would be eaten sometime around noon.

A few weeks ago I was up at Lipscomb for their summer lectures, and I ran into Ralph and Betty Nance, a couple that I had not seen in close to twenty years.  Ralph Nance taught physics and engineering at Lipscomb, but I knew him best as the preacher, and later an elder, at the church I attended.  The Nances had a large family with grown children and grandchildren, and every Sunday the whole clan would gather around the Nances long table for Sunday dinner.  And every Sunday there would always be guests invited to join them.  On more than one occasion, I was one of those guests, and the feeling of being included as part of such a large and loving family is one of my best memories of my college days.

These days, things have changed for most of us.  At best, we go with a few of our best friends after church to a restaurant to eat our Sunday lunch.  The meal may be nicer than what we could have cooked at home, but it’s still not Sunday dinner.  We may have great food, be with wonderful people, some visitors may be invited along, and we enjoy true fellowship—but we lose some of the intimacy of being in a home where real life takes place.

This time of year, as we rush out the door of church on Sunday morning to get to some other activity, we’re just as likely to grab something at the drive-thru window of a fast food restaurant.  In this case, there is no intimacy at all, and what we eat is not that important—it’s just something that has to be done so we can get on to the main event.

Sometimes we approach Communion in the same way—something to be done as quickly and as efficiently as possible so we can get on to the main event.  We lose any sense of intimacy as we partake in a room full of people, where each individual is totally isolated. 

This lack of connectedness is one thing that led to problems in the way the Corinthian church was observing communion.  They, like the early Jerusalem church, took communion in the context of a common meal.  But, unlike the Jerusalem church, they did not have “all things in common.”  Those who had arrived early—probably the wealthy who didn’t have to work on Sunday—brought the bread and the wine and indulged heavily.  By the time the slaves who had been working all day arrived, there was nothing left.  And the rich probably didn’t even know that they were doing anything wrong.  Paul says that they were failing to discern the body of Christ—to recognize that they were united in Christ to each other.  And when part of the body cuts itself off from any other part—the whole body suffers.  Paul says, “That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.”  By ignoring the health of the whole body, they were eating and drinking judgment on themselves.

Sometimes, though, we break through that and feel a real sense of engagement with Christ and with his body.  We understand that we are eating with family—but we somehow we only reach that cafeteria level of intimacy instead of being truly at home with one another.

I think the Lord had something else in mind—when he disciples gathered for a meal, it was in an intimate setting where they were sitting around on the floor and leaning on against one another—and they shared a meal so significant that the church has come to refer to it as “Supper,” even though we usually eat it in the morning.


This past Wednesday our sponsoring church hosted a housewarming shower to help get us outfitted for life in the U.S.  Even before the shower, people who heard that we needed to furnish an apartment responded generously by loaning and giving us furniture.  My sister Ramona mobilized her church in Morris, AL to provide us with a “pounding” of common household staples—sugar flour, paper towels, window cleaner, etc.  That saved a trip to the Stuff Mart and quite a bit of money.

Our home church, Homewood, has been through a lot of turmoil over the past few years and a lot of people have left to worship elsewhere.  In the meantime, those who have remained at Homewood and many new people who have come, continue to make it a life-filled church with many vibrant ministries.  As word about our return and the shower got out to both current and former Homewood members, we were indeed showered with gifts and encouragement.  But what was most encouraging was to see old friends who now worship in different fellowships reunited, mixing and mingling together as we sorted through the abundance of gifts.

It occurred to me that the four churches in the Birmingham area whose members have so graciously welcomed us to America represent four very different places on the spectrum of Restoration heritage churches.   There are differences of style between the congregations, and some differences that go far deeper than style.  I agree with some things in all of these churches, and I disagree with others.  But I am deeply impressed with the fact that they are all filled with loving, giving people who are seeking the kingdom of God.   I dare not judge the authenticity of another’s discipleship just because they don’t choose to worship where I do or do things the way I do them.  Oh, how I wish we could all be together now, and I so look forward to the day when we all are.  When we stand in the presence of God, there will be no thought of “worship wars” or any other kind of conflict, because our focus will be totally on God and not on ourselves.  But we will only be able to participate with joy in that assembly if we extend grace and acceptance to all of our brothers and sisters, wherever they fall on “the spectrum.”

Thanks for all of the input we received regarding our schooling decision.  As we prayed and sought counsel, it became clearer that the public school was the best option for our family.  We have so much admiration for families who can successfully homeschool, but we didn’t think that it would work as well for us.  The transportation issued remained, but yesterday we were offered the loan of a 2nd car for a month, and this just confirms that God will continue to work out the logistics—not just for this, but for all of the major transitions that we are facing.  He is faithful!