Friday, July 25, 2014

I Was On the Way to Help Toby Mac, Then I Wasn't

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 "What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”
James 4:15, NLT

When you live in the world of special needs you must keep your life open to unexpected changes; at all times. My daughter adores Toby Mac. She would most likely do whatever it takes to get there to see him perform! Music is a soul soother to her and her autism and Toby Mac is on her top five.

Of course, because of this great love for Toby Mac, I thought I would be safe in signing up to help him out by selling merchandise and other various things when he came to our city. Well, I was wrong. The only thing that would keep my daughter away from Toby Mac was a greater fear. In this instance her fear surpassed her love.

Because of autism, my daughter has some extreme and at times random (to me) sensory issues. Yet at times her greater love for things can surpass her greater fear or pain of the sensory overload. It is not an exact science so it feeds the unpredictability of our life. An example of this is the loudness of a concert, it is a bit painful but she endures for the greater love of the music or the show.

On this particular day we had a major storm system come through our town. It included very loud rain and booming thunder. It was very disturbing to her. It was something she was not equipped to handle. Though she loves Toby Mac and always wanted to attend a concert, she could not go through with it because of the current tormenting storm.

I then had to cancel and disappoint people yet again. Another commitment broken adding to my lack of reliability. I really hate that because I only commit when I believe I am absolutely sure I can finish the task well, however, my life will not even allow things like this if other unknown factors, like a bad storm, enter in.

All our lives come with a certain amount of unpredictability but the parents with special needs children come with more. I am learning to live open handedly with my plans. I try to give this up front speech about it now when I try to commit as well because more of us would do well to live more open-handedly.

James tells us to say, "Lord willing we will do this or that." Therefore as a parent of a special needs child I just have to be okay with this because I believe God would have us put those He gave us charge over, first priority. We are not to neglect our children but serve them first. Cancelling the concert was serving my daughter.

Prayer: Lord help us live with our hands open not clinching too tightly to things we cannot control. Let us keep our hope and trust in You alone.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

May God Bless You and Keep You

Peer pressure, bullying, and simply trying to fit in can lead any child to make wrong choices.  When you add to the mix our kids who can struggle socially due to their differences, the desire to be part of the crowd (or just have one friend – PLEASE!) can pull our kids in directions we certainly would not choose. How do we raise kids who are grounded? At a recent lunch and learn event, Rabbi Ranon Teller of Brith Shalom Congregation talked about Jewish traditions and how they are effective in raising young people who are grounded.  He had my undivided attention. He pointed to three pillars that are part of Shabbat (Sabbath): ritual, Sabbath rest and blessing.

On Shabbat, the family gathers for a meal Friday night beginning at sun down.  In this tradition, all family members are present and seated at the table together enjoying a meal without interruptions. No excuses accepted for other things that need attention. A key piece is simply the ritual, the intention and practice of making it a priority to be together. In this, the family disconnects from the outside world and reconnects with each other.  Studies show that over time American families eat together less and less. Conversely, families that do eat together are more resilient and have improved communication between members.  A healthy body happens with intentional regular action. We can say we want to have a healthy body and that it is important to us, but for that ideal to become a reality we need to develop regular practices of healthy eating and exercise.  A healthy body comes through regularly repeated activities. And so it goes for the health of the family. Building family closeness and connection requires regular practices as well, such as the ritual of a gathered meal and time that is set aside just for the family. (Family game night, anyone? Pizza and a movie? Build the best ice cream sundae contest?)

Sabbath is the practice is disconnecting from the business and work of everyday life and setting aside a time of rest.  In the Jewish tradition, part of that rest includes disconnection from technology.  (I hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Yes, some of the noise is coming from me!) Engaging with technology draws focus and energy away from those gathered together.  Rabbi Teller told of families placing technological devices in a basket and intentionally setting them aside. Disconnecting from iPads, gaming devices, and cell phones encourages deeper connection within the family. On a recent date night my husband and I did something we'd not done in years.  We left our cell phones at home.  On purpose!

In the Jewish tradition of Shabbat, parents bless their children in prayer, often with the priestly benediction:
May God bless you and keep you.
May God shine light and be gracious to you.
May God show you kindness and grant you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26 NRSV)

Showering your child with the gift of regular prayer and blessing teaches them of God’s love, as well as your love, for them. Also, the power of prayer is an amazing thing in the life of a child.  Never under-estimate what God does through prayer.  Prayer itself can become a ritual.  I used to pray with my son every day before he got on the bus to go to school. It was just a brief prayer about asking God to protect him, bless him and give him the ability to handle the day.  Several years into this tradition I started attending seminary.  As I was leaving that first night for class my son came bounding down the stairs and said I could not leave yet because we had not prayed.  He offered a blessing to me, a simple prayer that left me blessed in more ways than one.

What are your family rituals?  Are there ones you would like to start?  How do you take a Sabbath rest and disconnect from the demands of the world?  When and how do you bless your child and family?

PRAY:  Lord, help us to keep in focus what really matters.  Take us back to Your Sabbath rest.  Remind us to spend time together, creating our own family rituals, lifting our souls to You in prayer.  Guide us to be intentional as we care for the precious family with which You have blessed us.

~ Lorna Bradley

“Time for Family”
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Beauty of Letting Go

Do not fear, for I am with you;

do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10 HCSB

I admit it. As the parent of a child with special needs, I tend to hover. It's often necessary, though. Someone has to help her figure out what foods are safe to eat, to administer her medications on time, and to give her the weekly infusions until she's old enough to handle these tasks herself. But as she gets older, I'm realizing that I've got to start letting go. This is difficult, since I've been with her since birth, at every specialist appointment, therapy session, and surgery. I've stayed overnight at the hospital, researched every procedure, and logged more miles on our old van than I care to count. But the letting go is critical if I want her to reach her full potential and live as independently as possible. 

My resolve to work myself out of a job as a parent was recently tested when it came time for my daughter to go to church camp for the first time. She refused to go if I didn't attend too, so I made arrangements to be one of the female adult leaders on the trip. The children's minister assigned me as her "camp mom" so I could monitor her medications, food, and general physical and emotional state closely. At first, she said she wanted to be my roommate too, but as our departure date got closer, she changed her mind and said she wanted a "real" roommate. She was assigned to a room with two other girls, in a room that was more than halfway down the hall from mine.

I wanted to protest this change because it would make it inconvenient for me if she got scared or needed something in the middle of the night. Then I realized that my comfort and convenience were not the primary issue. She was expressing her desire to be independent, and I owed it to her to give her the opportunity to try. It wasn't easy, but it worked out better than I dared hope. I helped with medications and food selections, and she asked for help when she needed it. The other adult leaders and I were always nearby if she needed us, but I tried to stay in the background as much as possible so she could have the full camp experience without mom being at her elbow all the time.

There were some scary moments when some neurological issues we hadn't seen in a while reappeared, but we dealt with those as best we could, and the "normal camp experience" resumed.

Isaiah 41:10 became real to me in a whole new way this summer. God isn't just strengthening, helping, and holding me by the hand. He has my baby girl too, and I can count on Him to take good care of her. Part of the beauty of letting go is that I get to watch Him do just that.

Father, thank You for helping me to step back to let my child take steps toward independence. Thank You for loving her more than I do and for being right there with her to watch over and protect her when I'm not there. Thank You for allowing me to see Your work in her life and for the opportunity to see her faith grow as she learns to trust You for herself. Amen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

NEVER Underestimate The Power of Praying for One Another

Photo image courtesy of Cathy Yeulet via
"When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there."
~ Jesus speaking, as quoted in Matthew 18:19-20, MSG ~

How many times have you listened in sympathy to someone, replying, "I'll be praying for you"?

How many times have you cried out for help, asking others to say a prayer for YOU in a time of need?

We all do it.  Even those less inclined to do so tend to at least ask for "positive thoughts when the going gets rough.  As the saying goes, "There are no atheists in fox holes."

Yet, do we pray?  If you had to measure as a percentage, how much do you actually follow through on praying for those you said you would?  When you ask for prayer from others, how often are you actually joining them in prayer?

I have had the great privilege of having my prayer life stretched over the years.  You can read about one such experience that I wrote on last October in, Revolutionary Prayer & Dirty Carpet.  I have learned so much about connecting with God in remarkable, sometimes ordinary, ways.

In recent months, our ministry has become involved in two different endeavors that have unfolded prayer like blossoming flowers in a stunning bouquet.  The first is The Front Door Church, an online church service that allows families of ALL ability levels to worship together right where they are -- at home, on vacation, in a hospital room.  Our ministry was thrilled to partner together with our friends at Key Ministry in this pilot program, because we wholeheartedly agree with reaching people who have not found or cannot get to a church home locally.  What the service involves is merely clicking on every Sunday night at 7 PM, CST, watching a sermon and praise music, and praying together.  It has been revolutionary!

When people offer their prayer requests, we DON'T WAIT -- We pray right then and there.  A transforming work of the Holy Spirit takes place when people see a prayer typed out for their concerns right there on the chat wall.  God's presence and care are made known to them in a tangible way.  It brings almost unspeakable, inexplicable comfort to those who are there.

We continue checking in on participants throughout the week.  We offer a word of comfort and a private message with  prayer at that time too.  It's as reassuring to me as it is to those I am praying for or with.

The second endeavor is our team of private prayer warriors that we developed recently.  For the entire life of the ministry, we have had a dedicated prayer team supplicating for our work and our families.  It was usually done through e-mail updates.  But in the past month, we transferred it to a private, confidential Facebook group that only serious, mature prayer warriors are invited into.

When we issue a prayer request, we share a photo of the one we are praying for, with permission.  Words cannot express how this has utterly transformed the way our prayer team is praying for people!  The visual aid gives there prayers more specificity, more life.  Because of Facebook's ease of use, we are able to give updates on those requests much more quickly to the team.  It fuels their prayers as they see their joined requests come to life in God's hands.  We have already seen so many prayers answered, and love to rejoice together.

Friend, never, EVER underestimate the power of praying with and for people.  Don't hesitate.  Do it right away!  If they ask you to pray, stop the person and ask, "Would it be okay if I pray with you right now?"  Even if you don't feel proficient at it, the Lord doesn't care about perfect words, only the position of your heart.  Write yourself a note to check back in with the person you prayed for.  You can't believe how much that SMALL THING will encourage them!

As you obey in prayer and supplication, you will be amazed and transformed by watching the MIGHTY hand of God at work!

PRAY:  Father, thank You that You are not a God who is far away, but One who is close to our hearts, and deeply involved in our concerns.  Jesus, thank You that You made a way for us to come BOLDLY before the throne of grace in our time of need.  Holy Spirit quicken our minds to remember to pray for people the minute they ask for it, and follow up on those requests as a means of showing your care to the hurting.  We can't do a thing without You, Lord.  Thank You for keeping us upright when life weighs us down.

~ Barb Dittrich

* Click here to read more of our posts on PRAYER.
**Click here to learn more about The Front Door Online Church

Monday, July 21, 2014

Asking People That Agree With Me

“The older counselors replied, ‘If you are willing to be a servant to these people today and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.’  But Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers.  ……  Rehoboam spoke harshly to the people, for he rejected the advice of the older counselors….”  1Kings 12:7,8,13  NLT

Before we delve into this I want to make it clear that the point of this passage is not old vs. young.  In general, the older the wiser, but this doesn’t mean that young men or women don’t give good advice.  In this story that is the case, but that is not necessarily true of all cases. 

David made his fair share of bad decisions and then some.  When a person that has borderline personality disorder goes untreated or treated for the wrong diagnosis they are bound to make some bad decisions partly due to the human sin condition and partly due to their illness.  They also will take bad advice from time to time.  Here are a few things that I was consulted on.

Should I get another tattoo or pay this bill?  I think I should get the tattoo since I haven’t done anything for myself for a long time.  A friend said the bill will always be there next month.  He got the tattoo.

Should I try K2 (synthetic marijuana) because it’s legal, (it was legal at the time), and my friend said it’s not addictive?  I think I’m going to try it.  He tried it, smoked it for a while, and even offered it to me.  You can guess that was an interesting conversation.

Should I buy a newer truck and take out a loan or buy something older that I don’t need to borrow as much for?  I only have had my current job for two months but I know I will keep it long enough to afford the newer truck.  It won’t be like my previous jobs.  He bought it and it was repossessed about six months later.  He was only able to make one payment and quit the job a few weeks after buying the truck.

What should I do about my debt?  Maybe I’ll just ignore it and hope it goes away.  He ignored advice, ignored his debt and it grew and grew.

These sound pretty absurd, but all are true and really help get my point across.  David took advice from anyone that said what he wanted to hear.

Before we all point to him let’s think about ourselves.  When I need advice what do I do?

Do I only ask others that I know will agree with me?  
Does this sound somewhat familiar.  You want to buy that new clothing item, but really can't afford it right now so you reason with a friend that you haven't had a new outfit for ever so long.  It sounds alot like the tattoo David wanted.
Or how about this.  I can eat that extra yummy cake because it's a special occasion.  Never mind that I just had way too much dessert at the last three parties I was at over the last week and my friends were all saying that I only live once so I might as well indulge myself. Sounds a little like K2.

It can be as simple as overeating or even something like seeking marriage advice or similar serious types of decisions we may have to make.  

I think you get the idea.

Am I just like my son David was or just like Rehoboam in the Bible story above?

Good question.  How about you?  Where do you get your advice from?

Prayer:  Lord, help me to seek wise counsel and when I am tempted to only want my way remind me that your way is the best even when I don’t understand it. 

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Photo by Stuart Miles stock image ID: 10079680 from

Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Are You Serious?" Awards - Volume XXVI: The Problem with Parking Edition

I can remember getting my first hang tag for disabled parking, not for one of my kids, but for one of the four knee surgeries I had in a two-year period.  It was a huge blessing at a time where maneuvering through every sort of weather on crutches was an invitation to re-injury.

Fast forward a few years, and I had a son who was confined to a wheelchair during school hours while he tried to heal from a serious internal bleed in his hip.  Other parents GLARED at me for parking in the disabled spots in front of our school, despite the fact that they watched me hauling a heavy, old wheelchair out of my vehicle every day for my son.  I had my application in the dashboard window until his hang tag arrived, but my grouchy, judgmental fellow parents never took time to notice it.  The principal confirmed to me that people called complaining that I was parking there without my parking tag showing.  It gave us both a good laugh at the pettiness of others.

Since that time, my son has been know to bark at me if I dare to suggest that we use that hang tag when he is fully ambulatory.

"Don't you dare, Mom!  I can walk!" he'll admonish.

Interestingly, I had a friend challenge that notion recently.  She described frustration with a parking lot that was crammed to the gills with cars, nowhere to park, but dozens of handicapped parking spaces sitting frustratingly vacant.

Are you SERIOUS?!

Photo Image Courtesy of Jim Parkin via
So it's time Heather receive her award for suggesting that we are foolish not to use our hang tag.  Her point of view?  She told me, "When you don't use the hang tag that you have been given with your doctor's permission, you take up a parking spot that I could be using.  Use your tag!"

I never thought of it this way, and my son still isn't buying into it.  

What say you?  Do you agree with my award-winning friend this week, Heather?  How do you handle parking?

We would love to hear from you!

~ Barb Dittrich