The Baby’s Heartbeat

My wife and I are adopting.

Even though I have said and written those words many times, they still hit me in a surreal manner.  I instinctively think something like this: We’re not really adopting; this must just be a dream or something.

But it’s real!  In fact, yesterday it just got very, very real.

We heard our baby’s heartbeat for the first time.



A sample fetal heart rate monitor

The Baby’s Heartbeat

Wendy, my cousin and our birthmother, had a doctor’s appointment yesterday and we went with her.  The doctor and her assistant helped Wendy get into position and placed the listening end of a fetal heart rate monitor on her stomach.

And then we heard a series of sounds that brought this whole adoption thing out of the realm of “no way” right into the realm of “yup, it’s real.”

After listening for a little while the doctor told the assistant that the heart rate was 145 beats per minute.  But I wonder what the heart rates of my wife and I were?  I know that my heart was racing at a pace that felt like a million beats per minute!

That tiny baby’s heartbeat, which is in the normal range by the way (I Googled it!), represents a lifetime of stories, heartbreaks, love, and excitement.

That tiny heartbeat will change our lives forever.


Jesus’ Heartbeat

This whole experience kind of reminds me of when I first heard the heartbeat of Jesus.

Sadly, I lived for more than 20 years as a follower of Jesus before I really heard this heartbeat myself.

Don’t get me wrong.  Sometimes I would hear a faint sound that might have been Jesus’ heartbeat.  I certainly heard other people talk about experiencing his heartbeat firsthand.

But I hadn’t, at least not consistently.

But a few years ago I pulled my head out of my academic books (where it had been buried for 7 years at the time) and came up for air.  I realized that while I was on my self-imposed academic exile, an entire movement within the Church had taken on full form.

That movement is called the missional movement.  (Here’s a post where I talk about this process in more detail.)

That word, missional, has definitely hit buzzword status and, as such, it needs a bit of explaining.  So, here goes: “missional” means to be on mission with Jesus.  As Hugh Halter puts it in his book entitled Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation down to Earth — being missional means being disciples that live the human life of Jesus in our human lives.

So, if we see Jesus doing something, then we should be doing it too.  If we see him telling his disciples to do these sorts of things and not those sorts of things, then we should obey.  If we see Jesus caring for people, whoever they may be, then we should follow suit.

Here’s a way I like to think about it — being missional means letting Jesus’ heartbeat beat in our hearts.

And what is Jesus’ heartbeat?

I think we see it primarily in two places.  And each of these two places is of utmost importance and both should be pursued by followers of Jesus with all of our gumption.

The first is found in Luke 4.16-21:

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Here we see Jesus’ heartbeat in this way: his heart beats for the downtrodden, for the oppressed, and for the forgotten.  When our hearts start to mimic Jesus’ heartbeat, then we’ll start caring for the poor, those who are imprisoned, those who are differently abled, and those who are oppressed.

The second is found in Matthew 28.18-20:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Here we find the other side of Jesus’ heartbeat — his desire that his followers would help others follow him too.  And who are his followers supposed to help become disciples?  Everyone, all the nations.

And what are they to do with them when they start following Jesus?  They are to baptize them (making them part of the church family) and they are to teach them to obey Jesus (mentoring them to live the human life of Jesus in their lives).

Traditionally different sorts of Christians have focused on one aspect of Jesus’ heartbeat or the other.  Friends, this is simply a cop out.  We must focus on both.  All of us.  Each one of us.  Together.

We must be all about justice and we much be all about making disciples.

And hearing the heartbeat of Jesus can change our lives, even more so than hearing the heartbeat a baby.

When you think of the heartbeat of Jesus, what do you think of and why?  Let me know in the comments below!

If you would like to know how you can support my wife any I in this crazy process of adoption, click on the following link or copy and paste it into your browser:

To read some more of our adoption story, CLICK HERE.



Years and years ago my then-girlfriend, Alida, told me about her passion for adoption.  Little did I know that more than a decade later me and that same woman would be pursuing the adoption of a child together!


Adoption: Our Story

It only took a small amount of time for me, as Alida’s boyfriend, to catch the adoption bug too.  Over the years that followed we periodically dreamed together about what adopting a child could look like.

Then, through a series of God-ordained events, we ended up in the Los Angeles area and began to become more and more affected by the realities of poverty and injustice within America’s inner-cities.  That’s when our adoption attention turned from international settings to domestic ones.  This  was a huge change for us.

So, due to this new focus and passion toward domestic adoption, Alida and I began researching options.  We discovered and then agreed to pursue the foster-care-to-adoption route.  Basically we would become a certified foster-care home and receive foster-child placements.  As a foster-care-to-adoption family our hope would be to foster children that we may one day adopt.

Alida and I found a agency to go through and started the process in mid-September of 2014.  We told our parents, siblings, and close friends that this process was beginning and they all started praying for us.

My dad told many people, including his sister Ellen, about what we were doing so that they could pray for us.  Unbeknownst to us, Ellen’s granddaughter (my first cousin, once removed) Wendy was pregnant and had just found out that very week.  She and her family decided that it would be in the best interest of the child to give it up for adoption.  They held out hope that it could be adopted within the family.

And it could!

Ellen told Wendy about us, Wendy’s mom asked us if we wanted to adopt Wendy’s child, and we asked for a few days to think it through.  Over the next two days we prayed, researched, prayed, cried, prayed, talked, prayed, didn’t sleep, and prayed some more.  After a long process we determined that this adoption was for us!

We believed, and still believe, that this adoption is what God would have for us to do at this time in our lives.  In fact, for us and in this specific case, we realized that all our reasons to say “no” were fearful, selfish, and not centered on the good news of Jesus and his kingdom.  Those were not the sorts of things that typically influenced our other decisions in life, so we felt that it was clear that saying “yes” was the right course of action.

And we did!

This January we’ll be the proud parents of a newborn!


By: gabi menashe
Note: These feet are from a Flickr photo and not the feet of our child!


Adoption: The Reality

During our decision-making process we realized that we were not prepared for the financial differences between a foster-care-to-adoption process and a private, independent, interstate adoption.

In short, we quickly realized that attorney fees, social worker fees, state and federal fees, etc. were going to pile up.

Add to this the fact that our friends and family have very helpfully inundated us with offers of help.

In response we wanted to provide a way for people who so desired to help us and partner with us in the process.  In order to do so, we created a fundraising page.  So if you would like to offer us help in this way, simply go to the following link or copy and paste it into your browser: .

Even more importantly, we covet your prayers and support during this time.  Please pray that this process would go smoothly and please pray for us, Wendy, and the baby.


Thank you for reading this!  Feel free to leave a comment or two for Alida and me below!  🙂

Obedient: John 2.1-12

There’s a popular fashion trend that’s been a thing since 2001.  It’s called OBEY Clothing.  Surely you’ve seen their shirts and hats out and about.  Here’s an example:


OBEY Clothing Hat

The great thing about the OBEY brand is it’s origins.  It began with the street art of Shepard Fairey and is heavily steeped in the cultures of punk rock and skateboarding.  Thus, it’s both funny and odd that the word “obey” is so closely associated with this company since Fairey, punk, and skateboarding are all known for individuality, independence, and spontaneity.

Here’s the way OBEY’s website describes the use of the word “obey”: “With biting sarcasm verging on reverse psychology, he [Fairy] goads viewers, using the imperative ‘obey,’ to take heed of the propagandists out to bend the world to their agendas.”

Thus, even though OBEY uses the word “obey,” they are clearly hoping that the people they influence will not be obedient to the culture of advertising in America…unless, of course, they happen to be obedient to the advertising of OBEY itself and buy some of their products!

Needless to say, it has always been an interesting tug-of-war in Western culture between being obedient to cultural norms and being independent and entrepreneurial.  Whatever the case, we, as Western people, are rather obsessed with the idea of being obedient.

Thus, it is only wise for those of us who follow Jesus to see what the Bible has to say about being obedient.  One place to look is Jesus’ first miraculous sign in the Gospel of John.


Obedient Servants

In a previous post, I wrote about the story of Jesus turning to water to wine from Mary’s perspective.  Now I’d like to look at the story from the perspective of the servants.

So there were some servants minding their own business at a wedding in Cana.  It had likely been a long day, or even couple of long days.  They had worked hard and were probably enjoying a moment of calm.

Then the wine ran out.

While the shame of this fact fell on the family throwing the party and not them, they knew that it likely meant lots of work for them.  They’d probably have to go out and find some more wine, buy it with the master’s credit, and haul it back to the party.  And they’d have to do all of that super fast!

But then Mary says to them, “Do whatever my son tells you” (John 2.5).

Apparently Mary had the authority to command them to do things, which likely meant that Mary was either serving as a wedding coordinator of sorts or that she was simply protecting the honor of the family responsible for the wine.  Either way, these servants were prepared to follow Mary’s orders.

They waited.

After a second Jesus told them to do the following: “Fill each water pot with water until it’s ready to spill over the top; then fill a cup, and deliver it to the headwaiter” (John 2.7-8).

I love the way John explains the next part: “They did exactly as they were instructed” (John 2.8).

They were obedient.  Exactly obedient.  They filled the part pots all the way up to their brims.  Then they scooped some out and served it to the headwaiter.

If you stop and think about that for a second, it’s pretty crazy!  They knew what they were doing.  They were putting water in pots and then serving water to the headwaiter.  And this headwaiter likely had the authority to get them in all kinds of trouble for serving him water when wine was in order.

But they were exactly obedient anyway.

For whatever reason they trusted Mary and by proxy they trusted Jesus too.  They obeyed.

And somewhere in the midst of their obedience Jesus did a miracle which led to a deepening of the faith of Jesus’ disciples.


Obedient Followers of Jesus Today

One of the most common questions pastor-types get goes something like this: “I was listening to an international missionary talk about the cool things that God does over there, like miracles and stuff.  Why don’t those things happen here in the West?”

I don’t really think there’s an easy answer to that question.  But as of late I’ve been getting a feeling that the Bible may be pointing to something helpful.

And here it is in plain language: In the Gospels Jesus often does miraculous things within the context of obedience.

It’s not that obedience “causes” the miracle, but it appears that Jesus responds to obedient people by doing cool things on their behalf, or at least in their midst.

Friends, if that is true (which I think it is!), then perhaps we don’t see as many miraculous signs here in the West because we’re not all that obedient to Jesus.

We are obedient though!

  • We’re obedient to the value of individualism.
  • We’re obedient to the value of commercialism.
  • We’re obedient to the value of materialism.
  • We’re obedient to our selfish desires.

And the list could go on.

So here’s the question: To what or to whom are we obedient?


In the comments below let me know what you think about being obedient to Jesus.


Grocery Store Healing

I’m starting to learn that following Jesus is a full-time calling.

And I’m not talking about this government-regulated 40-hour work week stuff.  No.  I’m talking about every waking moment.

Now I’m not saying that we have to be “on” and doing “ministry” at every moment.  But what I am saying is that we need to be open to whatever God wants to do in us or through us at any moment in any place.

Even at the grocery store.


Grocery Store

Are you ready to follow Jesus…even at the grocery store?
By: r. nial bradshaw


At the Grocery Store

So here’s the story that inspired this post:

The other day I needed to run to the grocery store.  So I left the comforts of home and made my way to the market.

The grocery store that I went to is one of my regular haunts.  I know most of the cashiers’ faces and a few of their names.  This time, however, when I went to check out, I ended up in a line with someone I had never seen before.

I never caught her name because her name tag was flipped over, but she was pleasant enough.  She made a few little jokes and I politely laughed.  As I have mentioned before, I am an introvert and small talk is pretty much the bane of my existence.  But I felt like I needed to clue in, so I started paying attention.

The cashier was making a small grimace with her face each time she reached for my items with her right hand.  She noticed that I noticed and started talking about the pain in her wrist.  She told me all about it — when it started, what her doctor said about it, how long it takes to get in at the local clinic, and how she has to miss work sometimes because of the pain.

In fact, she talked so much that she was still talking even though I had paid for my items and reloaded my basket.  She kept talking.

Now I need to be honest.  My first reaction was to be frustrated.  My wife was waiting for me at home and it had been a long day.  All my selfish side wanted to do was to shut her down and get out of there.

But due to the fact that my wife and I (and some of our closest friends) have been attempting to make ourselves more available to God, I felt a small voice in the back of my mind telling me to listen up.  So I did.  I put all my introvert tendencies aside and continued to listen.

The cashier talked for another minute or two.  (Luckily there was no one else in line!)  Then I felt a very clear impression to ask her if she was a praying person.  So I did:

“Are you a praying person?”

“What?” she said.

“Do you pray?”

“Sometimes.  Well, not really all that much.”

“Would you mind if I prayed for you?” I replied.

“Uh, sure, I guess.”

I let go of my basket and moved in closer to her and asked if I could touch her wrist where she was feeling pain.  She extended her right hand and I took her forearm in my right hand.  It kind of looked like a Roman hand shake.

Grocery Store

Roman Handshake

I bowed my head and closed my eyes and said a really short prayer asking Jesus to heal her.  When I finished praying, I opened my eyes and we made solid eye contact for a few seconds.  She had gotten a little misty and I told her that I hoped Jesus would heal her.  Then we parted ways.

I went back last night to check on her at the grocery store and she wasn’t at work.  When/if I see her again, I’ll post a short update!



So I’m only telling this story for one reason: we need to be more available.  I’ve lived much of my life viewing others as extras in the movie of my life.  This is unfair and selfish on my part.

God sends us to the places where we work, live, play…and shop!  Even the grocery store!

And the only reason this story sticks out in my memory is because it is the exception to the rule: I’m usually unavailable.

I’m distracted, or looking at my phone, or staring off into the distance, or talking to someone I came with.

But when I make myself available for God to use, he does!  And I guarantee that if you make yourself available, God will plug you into the work he’s already doing in the places where you work, live, and play.

Even at the grocery store.


(BONUS: This isn’t the first time that something interesting has happened to me at the grocery store.  Click here to read another post about an unexpected missional encounter at the grocery store!)


So, how has God used you in unexpected ways?  Has he used you at the grocery store?  Let me know in the comments below!

Trust: John 2.1-12

Jesus’ first miraculous sign in John is one of my favorite stories in all of the Gospels!  In fact, I love it so much that I plan on blogging about it from several different angles over the next few days.

And to get things started I want to look at this story from Mary’s perspective.  Spoiler alert — Mary’s perspective is defined by one word: trust.


Mary’s Perspective

The story of Jesus turning water into wine has been interesting to me for decades.  When I was younger, I was surprised to learn that Jesus’ first miracle in John involved him creating wine because the religious context I grew up in taught that all alcoholic drinks were to be avoided at all costs.

Later, while in college and seminary, the sociological background of this story began to intrigue me, specifically the elements of honor and shame that are part of this story.  And that’s right where I want to start, with the honor and shame system and how it impacted Mary.

So in the story what we see is that Jesus, his friends, and his mom attend a wedding.  This wedding was in the town of Cana, which is a neighbor city to Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown.  And one of the first details that we learn about this wedding is that the wine was gone.

Why is this detail important?  Why would John include it?  For one main reason, at least in my estimation: the wine running out brought shame on the family organizing the wedding.

Since I didn’t grow up in an honor/shame culture, this part of the story is hard for me to understand.  So maybe an analogy would help…

Imagine that you were invited to a wedding.  When you arrive at the venue, everyone is standing outside because the venue has been double-booked!  Everyone is in their best clothes.  The bride and groom are ready to go.  But the family who booked the venue is embarrassed and frustrated.

These feelings are similar to what the family in this story would feel if they were made aware of the problem of the wine running out.

And who is the person to step in and prevent this shame from coming to fruition?


And who does Mary turn to in this time of need?


Mary trusts Jesus.  Maybe she remembers what she was told about Jesus when she was pregnant (Luke 1.26-38).  Maybe Joseph has passed away, as is commonly believed, and Jesus was her nearest male relative to whom she could turn, which was the societal norm of the day.


Trust in Jesus

Whatever the case, Mary trusted Jesus.  She asked him for help.

And despite Jesus’ strange response, which we’ll talk about in a future blog, Mary tells other people to do whatever Jesus says.

So Mary’s trust doesn’t just stay private, she shares it with others.

Friends, whom or what do we trust?  Many of us would say that we trust Jesus, but our actions sometimes say otherwise.

From our obsession with our stuff, it could be said that we trust our possessions.

From our constant pursuit of more things, it could be said that we trust in our ability to consume.

From our protection of our autonomy, it could be said that we trust ourselves first.

From our focus on our families to the detriment of those in need around us, it could be said that we trust our families.

This list could go on and on.

The truth is that we seem to be willing to trust just about anything and anyone except Jesus.  How do we know this?  Because we aren’t doing a great job of following Jesus.  If we trusted him, we would follow him more closely.

If we trusted Jesus, we would be centered on his mission to make disciples and bring about justice for those most in need.

If we trusted Jesus, we would spend less time judging the sin of others and more time loving them.

If we trusted Jesus, we would be like Mary, letting our trust move from being private to becoming public.

And if we trusted Jesus, we would demonstrate less and less that we trust other things and people more than him.


What do you think about Mary’s trust in John 2.1-12?  And how do you think that we, as followers of Jesus, could demonstrate our trust in him more and more?  Let me know in the comments below.