I'm not writing a New Years post

I don't feel very filled up with insight and wise words this evening.  I'm not reflective, or even anticipating a brand spankin' new year.

I don't have the feeling that I'm turning over a new leaf, or starting a fresh page.  I didn't buy any champaign, and don't have any fireworks...even if I did the fact that it's like five million below zero outside would keep me inside (because I'm a big wimp).  My "Littles" went to bed at 7pm, and my "Bigs" went to bed at 9.  There was no way on God's green earth that I was going to enjoy their presence until midnight and then suffer the fallout of crabby kids tomorrow.
Today was enough to have me rocking in the corner...well maybe not literally but deep inside was a whiny little girl threatening to come screeching out.  Needless to say children asleep in their beds is a glorious way to end any day.

My husband also went to bed at 9.20pm.

I guess I'm just a ba-humbug lamo New Years grinch.  This night feels a little anti-climactic.

I'm am thankful for another year.  I'm thankful for the amazing year we just survived.  God is so good, and has been faithful every step of the journey.  I am truly undeservedly blessed, and thankful for so many things, but mostly this night feels just like every other night.

I'm not apprehensive about another year because I know who sovereignly holds it.  I'm not anxiously waiting for a "clean slate" because that was already purchased for me through the atonement.

I must admit that I am excited to see what God has for us just down the road but I know that I'll only be given enough light for each step along the way.  I can make all the plans I want but it's the Lord that directs my steps.

I gave up on "plans" a long time ago.  They went the way of many New Years resolutions. I know I'll fail, but I rest in God's undeserved grace, unearned favor.  I know that as I focus on Him, and keep pressing the gospel down deeper into the cobwebbed corners of my heart that this same grace that saved me will continue to transform me.

There is a certain peace and rest in that.

This year I resolve to eat more tacos at more Mexican taco stands.
I think I can, I think I can....

I lack the brain power right now to write anything of value so I'll share my friend's words with you. This is written for a specific church body, but It could be applied to the Church universally as well as we use this time of year to redirect our focus.

Happy New Year, from the Burlando clan.
I hope that you are blessed in all the ways that matter in 2014.

Soli Deo Gloria,


Just in time for Christmas

There are so many Christmas memories being made for this little man.  
It's fun to experience this season through his perpetual sense of wonder and enthusiasm.
After having Santa show up at a couple different Christmas programs/parties he is officially a fan.

Santa was his new best friend.

 That's what -40 degrees Celsius looks like.

It turns out we have some strange traditions here in Canada...like instead of eating our cookies we make houses out of them. 

Today Elijah finally got his casts cutt off.
Daddy and his boy were up super early on this very cold day to drive to the city.
He wasn't so sure how they were going to take those casts off.  When they brought out the noisy saw, he told them "No, no thank you.  No like it".  

This brave boy happy was happy to see the casts go.

He came home to his first real bath in several weeks.
We got all the gnarly-ness scrubbed off, lotioned him up and it's so nice to see his little legs and feet again.
He has some new incisions though that were hiding behind the casts.  This is where they lengthened his Achilles tendons.  

He's not so sure about using his new straightened legs and feet though.  Now that his feet can bend those tendons are a little sore.  It's crazy how fast muscles atrophy too!  His legs look like skinny little sticks. He'll be on his feet again in no time though.  Mommy is making him do all kinds of exercises.

Tomorrow is Christmas eve! 
I'm thankful for so many things right now. At the top of the list is the gift that we celebrate at Christmas.  
Jesus giving us himself.

"Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn king!"
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"

That last line just blows my mind every time I hear it.  

"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, 
because he has come and has redeemed his people. 
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us 
in the house of his servant David
as he said through his holy prophets of long ago,
...to remember his holy covenant...
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
though the forgiveness of their sins,
 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace." Luke 1:68-79

"Glory to God in the highest, 
and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests."

I want to share a super adorable video made by some very dear friends of mine.  The camera man (Dad) is my pastor, and these cute kids are my kids best buds.  So, because they have way more talent than we do,  I'll send you a Merry Christmas wish from another family.

and a classic...because I love Christmas music.

"O come, O come Emmanuel"


I'm Offended

This past week has been one big mouldy internet stew filled with careless words, over reactions, offence, and demanding of rights.

It's like watching civilization implode.

I have considered sharing my knee jerk reactions, irritation, thoughts, predictions, and disappointment over the Phil Robertson bruhaha but I think the interweb is filled up with a good variety of responses to that already.  I find it all rather fascinating actually...in a rubber necking an gnarly accident kind of way. In case you haven't had your fill.

Here's some wisdom and pointing out of irony by Albert Mohler .  There is a reminder not to arm ourselves for the wrong battle by Stephen Miller.   A reminder that grace can be strong, and that love can be tough by Jenilee Goodwin.  A post about why the suspension of Phil will backfire by Trevin Wax.  A diplomatic call for genuine diversity by Russell Moore.  An entertaining rant and prediction by Matt Walsh.   Some thoughts on intolerant tolerance by Joe Carter.   And a reminder to watch our words by Anne Voskamp.  An article about the genuine conflict being ignored.  And a faux interview that would actually include not painting groups of people in the worst possible light.

It's been an interesting little experiment as the rubber meets the road for issues of "Tolerance"...both from Christians who end up acting more like a pack of angry little elves than Jesus, and for uber "tolerant", highly evolved, progressives who love to harshly condemn viewpoints that don't fall in line with their own.

This odd, bizarre, moment of cultural upheaval is a lot of things but one thing it's not is surprising.  At all.

This has been brewing for years now, mostly under the radar, but now that it's taken down a pop culture icon the general public has taken notice of the hypocritical intolerance of modern "tolerance".

To quote a book I read recently "A call to Resurgence"

"Today there are not sins.  There is only one sin, and that is calling anything a sin. 

"A few things are perhaps most curious about the new tolerance.  One, it denies moral absolutes while holding to the moral absolute that there is no moral absolute.  ...  I hope you see that the statement itself saws off the very limb it's sitting on."

There are a lot of things to learn through this spectacle....which is usually my focus because I have a lot to learn.

One is to watch words and choose them wisely.  Be wise and discerning, because in our age of words travelling at the speed of light the consequences of carelessness can be monumental. Social media has an atomic bomb power to it, and inflammatory words can light a fuse we never intended to light.

 Be bold, be counter cultural, but be gracious. We will be judged by God, and our fellow man, for insensitive words and foolish talk.  That doesn't mean for a second that I don't think words can be distorted, twisted, or misused as ammunition for slander.   I know from personal experience that they can be.  People can make unfair assumptions, and interpret wrongly anything that is said, regardless of what's actually said.  At the end of the day, no matter how much care you use, some people are just not going to like what you say...because they don't like who you are, or who you follow.

Church, in this "post-Christian" culture we need to be extra kind, extra calm, extra gracious, and extra tactful when we give honest answers to questions regarding volcanic issues and when we engage in cultural discussion.  People are watching and listening.  Bait will be laid out, and traps will be set.  Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.   Notice I did not say be accommodating and tolerant of everything, but if the world is going to hate you don't let it be because you flap your gums and are rudely obnoxious. Not every bump in your path is a hill to die on.

 Truth is important (too many Christians are inclined to sacrifice it on the altar of social acceptance) but knowing when and how to speak truth is important.  I don't claim to have that one figure out yet, but I know that every truth doesn't need to be spoken all the time, just like every sin doesn't need to be called out all the time. Check your motives, assess the strength of your relationship, and monitor your heart. Be gracious.  Be led by love, not a desire to prove your right-ness or assert your own "rights" even in a culture swirling with absurdity.  Our freedom is not found in anything this world has to offer, and our "rights" were laid down with our old selves at the foot of the cross.

Another thing I've been pondering is the notion of offence.

Why do I think I have the right to be offended by something someone else says and then freak out based on that perceived slight?

I saw a meme the other day that said "Your rights end where my feelings begins".  It could be true to the extent that I should be willing to lay down my own rights for the good of someone else, but I don't think that's what it's saying.  I let that thought percolate a bit and came to the conclusion that this statement is utterly absurd but it pretty much sums up our culture. "I have the right to demand that my fleeting feelings are affirmed, validated and honoured and if at any point in time I don't feel those things someone will pay".  

I "feel" like I've fallen out of love so I can bail on a marriage.
I "feel" like my sensitive little feelings are hurt, so I can slander you.
I "feel" that you are inconvenient to me, or are a threat to my lifestyle, so I can kill you.
I "feel" irritated, so I will disregard everything you have to say.

Do you see the problem with putting subjective, self coddling, feelings over the rights of someone else? It's crazy narcissistic hypersensitivity.

This is epidemic in our culture and society.  Like, insanely ridiculous.  I strain my memory to try to figure out when all of this started happening.  Was it always so, or has the internet and the ability to say anything, any time, to everyone, made us all nut balls?

Why would I think I have the right to be offended by something someone I don't know, have no relationship with, and who wasn't talking to me anyway, says?  

It's one thing to read articles, and tweets from various view points to try to better understand how to engage culture, to understand society's deeper questions and motives, and to attempt to figure out where completely different perspectives and world views are coming from but it's another thing to go out of our way to be offended by stupid things other people say.
I can disagree, and even express my profound disagreement if I wish to, but seriously folks.  We've got insane thinking it's our duty.

Why on earth does one tweet, tweeted by a nobody nowhere near to you cause you one moments outrage, or offence?  Why on earth would it be worth the effort it takes to be offended?  I was scrolling through the "#hasjustinelandedyet" craziness and while her tweets were ridiculously ignorant and foolish, I can't for the life of me figure out why so many people took the time to care what she thinks or says. Passionately, vehemently care.  Referring back to my previous point, careless hurtful words have consequences and she paid with her job and reputation. That's bound to happen, but we live in an odd world when careless, insensitive words can go viral and bring down a trial by social media lynch mob.

 The thing is, usually words hurt and sting because they come from someone we know, and maybe even care about.  Someone who is close to us has the power to hurt us with their words because it feels like a betrayal.  A perfect stranger ranting obscenities into the internet air should really have no affect on us whatsoever.  I really just don't get it.  We are not obligated to respond (although I admit the pull to do so is strong)

Here's an incredibly novel idea.  If you don't like what someone is saying, or writing, there is usually a small "x" in the top corner of your computer screen.  There is also the option of turning the magic box off altogether and finding something else to do.  Problem solved.  No further action required.

You cannot (and probably should not) control what other people think and say.

My friends, what you can control is your reaction and response to it.

Sometimes controversy sparks some very needed and constructive conversations.  By all means, engage, our world needs people who are checked in...but do it thoughtfully, respectfully, cautiously.  Shoot from the hip reactions are typically never the best ones, and for crying out loud LAY OFF THE ALL CAPS.  (It makes you look like a crazy person before anyone even reads what you have to say).  Thankyou, and you're welcome.

Another crazy idea is, if you don't want to know what someone thinks regarding an issue, don't ask them. Crises averted.  If you ask someone their honest opinion, and they give you an answer you don't like, you have no justification for rage.

If you love to go looking for things to be offended about, you have issues that would be better served through therapy than Twitter or Facebook.

Reality is that there are no shortage of ignorant people saying ignorant things (I know that I am sometimes one of them, as my foot makes it's way to my mouth on occasion)  and sometimes the best thing to do is just bear it, or keep scrolling, because it just doesn't matter all that much.

 If I called my lawyer, demanded someone's head on a platter, insisted on an apology, or wrote a scathing letter to everyone who refused to validate my feelings, or said a insensitive or rude remark regarding disabilities, adoption, race, my faith and values etc. I'd have little time and emotional energy for anything else.

Sometimes people say things using the wrong words because it's never occurred to them to say it any differently.  Sometimes it's because they are from a different generation, different culture, and different era...and weren't given the hand book necessary to engage in PC conversation.  Occasionally it's appropriate to gently guide someone to a more respectful, sensitive way of saying something but most of the time I look for the heart behind their words rather than getting hung up on actual words used. Often the meaning and heart behind the less than ideal choice of words is caring, and kind.  If the heart behind the words is cruel and hostile, it's still not generally worth my time to respond or care.

We need to be slow to judge motive and intentions, and quick to show a generous grace and forgive.

I'll leave you with a couple wise thoughts to ponder.  I must admit I've learned many  all these lessons the hard way (and probably will again...daily)

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" Proverbs 15:1

"when words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise."  Proverbs 10:19

"A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offence.  Proverbs 19:11

Soli Deo Gloria,


Official Family Christmas letter

Dear friends far and wide,
may those who live far stay near to our hearts, and those who are wide lose some of their girth.

Blessings to you this Christmas.
This year has been a spectacular one.   We have a minimum amount of vomit to report, and the police have never once arrived to investigate the strange noises that come from our home.

I (the mom) have managed to keep the children alive another year.  That is no small task and requires constantly saving children from their own stupidity.  I have hope that the constant nagging, reminding, and restating things I've said a million times may have penetrated some skulls.  I have found a new hobby this year as well.  I have discovered the joy of long hot showers without children peaking through the curtain, or joining me.  It's a blessed experience and one that I hope I will be able to keep up with as the years go by.  My accomplishment this year is that I have had no crying in my closet, while clinging to a bottle of wine, episodes while trying to homeschool my brilliant children. I believe we have turned a corner and may survive.

Eldest Daughter is a prodigy.  In fact we're placing all our bets and hope for family honour on this one.  She spends most of her time doing good deeds, and helping the poor.  She is a very talented basket weaver, and has great potential as a Drill Sargent.  We have high hopes that she will also make it into a community college someday and be a catalyst for world peace.

Eldest Son broke a record this year for the most words spoken in one year. He also had special recognition for the sheer volume of nonsense words used.  We are currently in negotiations with our energy company and are in the final stages of a plan to harvest his gratuitous amount of kinetic energy.  We are confident that we will not only be able to power our own home, but most of North America.  We have a patent for this new energy source and we have Al Gore lined up to be the bearer of good news. It seems that this child may be useful to us after all.

Son Two joined our family this year through adoption.  He has begun to come to terms with the reality that he must be associated with us, and that embarrassment will be his new lot in life.  His hobbies are collecting air-miles, and making escape plans.  We have set up a foundation to fund his future therapy.

Son Three  is excelling in a variety of activities.  He is a star at playing Mine Craft and has quite a collection of homes, chickens, and cows on his estate.  We are very proud of his achievements.  We had always hoped that one of our children would be a rancher.  We know his tenacity will pay off one day, and that his cunning intelligence will be a great asset in the penatentiary system.

Youngest Daughter is a perfect little princess who can do no wrong.  We are very proud that she earned an international award for highest decibel achieved by a human voice. We all now have profound hearing loss but have decided that this is a blessing in disguise.  We have had to have her de-clawed and so far this has been an excellent solution to violent outbursts.

The Dad of the home is still trying to figure out how he ended up with five kids.  He continues to work hard, bring home the bacon, and eat most of it too.  His current hobbies are shovelling snow, driving kids to their various activities, and changing light bulbs.

As another year draws to a close, those of us who are able to count past five, count our many blessings.
We hope that your home and family is blessed this year, but just only just blessed enough that you still feel envious of ours.

Merry Christmas


Orphan-care Ethics - join the discussion.

I recently wrote a post that had been in my heart and banging around in my head for a long time.  I felt compelled to get it out of those places and work it out on "paper".  Little did I know that it would gain some momentum and climb to 7,000 hits in just a few days.  That blew my pea brain a little.

It was written based on our own observations, stories from others, and a hunch that these problems are not the exception but much more common than we would like to believe.

My biggest fear when hitting "publish" was how it would be received by those who work in orphan care, and orphanages.  It's a sketchy thing to stick your neck out and speak about something that is also fiercely defended in many Christian circles.  I understand that deep loyalty, because I feel it too.  Shooting an arrow at the sacred cow of "orphan ministry" generally doesn't go unnoticed so I fully expected and feared a negative reaction.

Surprisingly, the points made, and concern raised resonated with many others who have worked in orphan care, or are passionate about serving "orphans".  To my shock the reaction I've received has been a collective sigh of relief that someone is talking about it.

The very people who I feared the most negative response (former and current orphanage workers) from, are the ones who have written to tell me things like

"I read a blog post that you wrote with a title along the lines of, 'How to screw up orphan care in Jesus name'. As I read it, I literally looked over my shoulder, wondering who had told you what I saw, and what happened to me.
I have been burned, by my experiences as a staff member at what is considered one of the best orphanages in -----. It has just occurred to me that several of the things you wrote that seemed like they could have been lifted off the pages of my own journal, might not have been based on my experience, or any other orphanage workers experience, but that maybe, this kind of behaviour is commonplace. I am a 'whistle blower' who was systematically bullied and shunned by my North American colleagues, discredited and disposed of. The things I opposed were the exploitation of children, the practice of switching group mothers every three months, and some instances of abuse and neglect. It was not about the children or about Jesus. I think it once was, but in the end, it was not. "

Do you remember that red flag I mentioned about dedicated staff/ volunteers regularly disappearing? That red flag has been confirmed time and time again. Major. Red. Flag. Flashing beacon screaming "something is going on here". Of course there will always be people who didn't fit, only planned on staying a short time, or had a difference of vision which produced a natural parting of ways.
Too often that "parting" is dramatic, devastating, and triggered by higher up dysfunction and damage/ PR control. Staff can be banished for mentioning, and raising concern privately, about the children's well being, theft, corruption, unethical practices, habitual lying to donors, child abuse etc. They will leave silently crushed, betrayed, and justifiably cynical. The absence will be covered with lies and an appeal for "loyalty to the organization", "unity among the staff", and demanding people be "team players". It's all pretty text book. I just wish I knew where this text book was so I could burn it. I know a better book we could use....
The root problem of most institutional dysfunction is undealt with sin (like pride), but the fallout of that when amplified within an organization, is vast, complicated, and the destruction left affects many lives....both the vulnerable children, and those who love them.

My goal isn't to sit around licking our wounds. The goal is always to use the story that God has written in our lives, both painful and delightful, to encourage others. Experiences can teach us, grow us up, open our eyes, and motivate us to chase hard after Jesus and HIS mission. This honestly has little to do with the staff/ volunteers who have been burnt by orphanage ministries. We are merely a symptom of an underlying dysfunction. What really matters are the children that are brought into orphanages, the children we are accountable and responsible for as donors, supporters, volunteers, and ministry leaders.

We can do better Church. Rise up and care for the destitute, the vulnerable, and the orphaned...but hold fast to a high standard.
Here's what it comes down to.

Donors are the life blood that keeps places running status quo. It's donors that choose which ministries to support, and money talks. Orphanage ministries realize that and as a result "policy" is too often driven by what will bring in funds (and keep it spent at the top), rather than best practice principles, ethics, and what is best for the children. Idolizing orphanages, and sainting their leaders is a sure fire way to allow corruption to flourish.
Any ministry will rise or fall with the quality and character of leadership. An orphanage is no different. The difference is that breaches of integrity can be so easily covered, and there can be little, to no real accountability.
"Christian" orphanages are a fast moving train, with decades of momentum. If tracks can't be switched, the fuel can be diverted elsewhere.
"Once a movement becomes an institution, the next step is to become a museum unless a course correction is made to get back on mission. Once the mission of an organization becomes the preservation of the institution, the original mission stops, and the Holy Spirit stops showing up in power. What people used to give their lives for has somehow become simply another job. The remnant that is left behind exists solely to tell the story - not to keep writing it. In one generation a movement can transition to being an institution and then a museum." 
Mark Driscoll (A call to Resurgence)
We can always compare certain orphanages to worse conditions, and worse situations out there. There will always be "worse". We can compare "Christian" orphanages to horrific government institutions, or to kids huffing in back alleys, but proving one orphanage is "better" than another one is not our standard.
Jesus is.
It's that simple really.
Simple and yet completely impossible, at least in our own strength and wisdom.
Comparison is a strong human tendency but it shows a huge lack of understanding of the gospel, and God's grace if we constantly justify our own sin by comparing ourselves to those who we see as "worse". That is exactly what can happen with orphanage ministries. We can't call steaming pile of manure what it is..because we're too busy justifying it and covering it up. People don't question it, because they can always find something "worse".

On a personal level we can't repent, embrace God's scandalous grace, and grow if we don't acknowledge our own depravity, bent toward self destruction, and sin. The Christian life is one of repentance and surrender, not self preservation.  The same principle applies to ministry. What if the gospel not only transformed our own hearts, but the way we do orphan care? Ministry success comes with inherent pitfalls, and too many orphanage ministries aren't prepared for, and don't have the leadership structure in place to withstand the temptations as they grow.

Every orphanage is different and will vary in quality, but once you start digging deeper many are so very similar in flawed premise, methods, abuses, and structure. They are still orphanages. When you put an orphan into an orphanage he is still an orphan, when you place him in a family he becomes someone's child.
Some orphanages will try very hard to avoid the "we've always done it that way" trap, use different innovative methods, and do better. Some do a good job at loving kids, putting the kids needs first, and making a difference in their lives. I whole heartedly cheer on those attempts, I really do. In a perfect world every orphanage would shut it's doors, but we don't live in a perfect world, we live in a very broken one. We can't fix that brokenness but we can enter into it with a message of hope, and an overflow of God's love.

We can never, ever have an "end justifies the means" mentality as Christians, especially when it comes to ministry. The means is the end. The process is where we remain faithful, stay on course, and are sanctified through fire. The "means" is where the fruit is cultivated. The "end" is the accumulation of all those small choices, and those decisions made when no one is watching. The "end" is the sum of a lifetime of integrity, character, and faithfulness, in the hands of a Sovereign and merciful God. That "end" is God's business, not ours. We must always focus on the process....regardless of the "end".
Strength in ministry does not come through seeking notoriety, money, influence, and control. Strength comes from knowing where our strength is found. It comes with realizing just how weak we really are.

There has been plenty of discussion happening lately and there seems to be a consensus that donors need to be more aware of how orphan ministry can best be practised, and supported.  In my last post I brought attention to 10 redflags to watch for. I know we could come up with many more, but I'd like to flip this over now and start brainstorming, and gleaning wisdom for what we should look for and strive for in orphan-ministry. So many of you have so much more experience and knowledge than I do on the topic and I would love to hear from you.
If you have ideas you'd like to share please join the conversation by clicking on my Facebook page icon. If you have any experience, in any sort of orphan-care, or as a foster/ adoptive parent who has a keen awareness of what institutionalization does to a child, I would very much value your voice in the discussion.

How can orphan-care best move forward?  
What are some things currently being done that are producing lasting fruit?
What are innovative methods of caring for children who may never be adopted? 
What widely accepted methods need to be questioned, and what methods should replace those?
As Christians how does that change what we do, why we do what we do, and how we do it?

Soli Deo Gloria, 


'Tis the Season

Elijah thought we were a little crazy at first, but soon got the hang of things.

Last Christmas we were counting down the days until we could bring him home.  I hung an extra stocking along side of the other four, simply because I couldn't bear not to include him with my other children. 
 It remained empty, but I loved seeing five stockings hanging by the fireplace.  

This year he's home.  
His stocking is hung, and he will wake up on Christmas morning with gifts under the tree.  
10 months he's been our boy, and I'm so thankful that we get to celebrate Christmas with him.

{Cece helping bake some Christmas cookies, in her festive dress}

Like something out of a magazine right?

This time of year things slow down a bit.  A time to catch our breath, and curl up at home.
Minus all the trips to town running kids to appointments, and activities of course.

Elijah loves the snow.  I took the snowman pictures a month ago before he had his surgery.  We now have much more snow, and the temperature has dropped.  

We're so photogenic.

Soli Deo Gloria,