Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Because You Say So . . .

Photo Credit, David Niblack,

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all 
night and haven’t caught anything. But because 
you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Luke 5:5 NIV

Last weekend was a tough one. The weight of the world was pressing down, and I don't have any of the answers I think I need to have right now. My mind wasn't really focused on the sermon. I've heard the account in Luke 5 countless times, but I found myself reading along in my Bible as the student pastor read the first eleven verses. And then it hit me: ". . . because you say so, I will . . . ."

In my quest for answers - and my demand that God supply them immediately - I have forgotten that God has already given me a lot of direction. It's direction that I haven't followed, so why would I expect Him to give me more information?

There's a lot I need to do before I can ask Him for more. He has told me not to worry, which I continue to do. He says over and over to not be afraid, and I'm failing there too. He wants me to not grow weary in doing good, and some days I just don't want to keep on keeping on. Perseverance is hard work.

God has told me to love and forgive others, and I struggle with this in certain areas of my life. I also have a hard time doing everything (like the never-ending dishes and laundry) like I'm doing them for Him. Then there are the endless doses of medication to give, therapy sessions to attend, doctor appointments to make and keep up with, and all of the new challenges that pop up daily. It's a lot to deal with!

It's time to get back to faith, trust, and surrender. I've got to face everything that happens each day with God's words in mind, and tell Him: "because you say so, I will." Then I've got to walk it out.

Pray: Father, help me to persevere during the hard times, knowing that you've got my back and are protecting and providing for us in every area of our lives. Help me to focus on You and what You have said instead of demanding my own way like a petulant child. Forgive me for thinking that I know what's best for me, and help me to trust You during difficult times and seasons of change. Amen.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

True Identity Is Not In The Disability

"...even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, ..." 
Ephesians 1:4-6

Dear Fellow Parents,
It's time to take your life back. No, this isn't the latest Beachbody exercise routine or a diet to have your body 'beach-ready' (whatever THAT means).  What I mean is that it is time for us as parents to come back to live our own life.

Do you remember going through High School or College and daydreaming about what life would be like on the other side?  You would have a great job, fun vacations, great friends and then settle down with an amazing blessing called "family."

You made decisions based upon the direction you wished your life to go. There is an old saying that goes, "You choose the life you live".  It is true, you chose to make life decisions that would point you towards your desired destination in life.

And then you had a child with a disability.

Aside from the grief and struggle of adapting to an unexpected lifestyle, you have chosen to not be angry at God for your blessed child and you have chosen to move on with life in this new "normal."

But now, take a look at where you are. Perhaps your child is now 3 years old, 7 years old, or 16 years old. Doctors and therapies have moved onto IEP's which morph into life skills and job training.
Yet, you are still involved in every detail of everyday.

What ever happened to your identity?  Did it get lost? Misplaced? Or did your identity get sucked into the vortex of your child's disability?

Let's be honest...if you looked in the mirror who would you see? A person or a caregiver?

Who are you? What is your identity?

In the Bible we see a very clear look at who we are as a person (individual) according to God, who is the one who created us.  It says that we are HIS sons and daughters!  Let that thought sink in into our harden hearts like a hard cookie into a cup of tea.

God looks at us as an individual child of His, who has been chosen according to His purpose (Ephesians 1:6).

The Bible does not identify anyone by WHAT they do. It consistently identifies us by WHO we are IN Christ alone.

It's true, once you finish reading this you will probably have to race back to working, parenting, cleaning, cooking, disciplining and a thousand other "-ings."  But that is not what defines you.

It's worth noting that you do not need to feel guilty for NOT finding your identity in your child's disability.  Remember, advocating is something that only a third party can do on behalf of someone else.  Advocating for your child is something that we all must do.  But it is easy to allow emotions to overrule the moment and give advocacy undue emotion which gets you stuck on the crazy cycle of "doing" parenting and eventually, somewhere in the years that pass, your identity is lost and your assume the identity of your child.  You may have even taken control of you child's decisions.

Oh, dear fellow parents... let's rediscover who we's not what we DO.

Yes, we are parents. But we are individuals primarily. We were babies before we grew into childhood. We were adolescent before growing into adults. We were single before finding the one we love.

You ARE a person.

Ephesians 3:19 tells us that we can pray, "to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God".  You can't be filled in yourself if you are living someone else's life.

To take the thought even a step further, Ephesians 2:10 is very clear to let us know that the we are the result of God's workmanship. The idea that God expressly focuses on us as individuals for tasks that we are designed to do.

Parenting kids with special needs is a dichotomy of joy and struggle... however if we find our identity in Christ, and not in the never ending work load of responsibilities, we will discover the greater purpose in the work, which is to Glorify God...and that brings peace.

Dear God, I know that I have responsibilities, but please help me not to get confused between those responsibilities and who You created me to be as a person.  You promise to keep working on me until Jesus returns...please help me in this area of my life so that I can be at peace with who I am and subsequently what I do. Amen.

Be Encouraged,
Jack's Dad

Monday, May 23, 2016

Let This Blessed Assurance Control

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

He had played it perfectly all week, but now barely into the third canon, he found himself stuck, forgetting the next note, and stalled in his performance. I could see it in his expression: he was embarrassed. Before him, the audience of parents, fellow young pianists, and a local piano prodigy, waited silently. Quietly from behind him, his teacher prompted, and he recalled the missing note, completing the balance of the piece flawlessly. But I could sense his disappointment, and the rise of claps of encouragement did little to assuage his despondency. I had prayed for his brother and him for many nights, not only for clean performances, but that they would play to the glory of God. In fact, I was praying as he climbed the stairs to the stage, bowed, and began. As the remaining performers played, I sat pondering the purpose of this letdown.

At the end of the recital, a graduating senior among the students rose to offer her farewell speech and to share what she had learned over the course of her six-year tutelage. “I learned to persevere,” she revealed--when a piece was challenging, when practice meant a balancing act with her studies, and when faced with a tragic error in a public performance. The investment made in piano practice and performance built character traits of excellence, self-discipline, and fearlessness.  I was glad for her words, so well timed after my son’s upset. Setbacks like my son’s, and his pushing through to recover rather than giving up, would serve to build resilience and tenacity. At the end of her adolescent music education, this young lady looked back with joy at every hardship she faced along the way, knowing that each was integral to her development into a polished musician. And so her message to those still plodding through, and particularly to those discouraged by less than stellar recital performances, was that a hopeful culmination awaited those who would persevere.

My husband and I have long prayed another prayer for our sons: that they would each grow to have the mind and character of Christ. More than any earthly success, we want them to know Christ and be conformed to his image. As I considered the young woman’s words, I thought of the passage above on trials and endurance (or perseverance), and their curious pairing with rejoicing. I thought, too, to my husband’s sermon message earlier that morning: “Christ, in the process of conquering sin in our lives, ordains the difficulties we face as believers to mold us into his likeness.” God is as sovereign over the mundane as he is the crucible. Neither is without divine purpose, nor divine grace to endure to its intended purpose in our lives. In fact, the trials are themselves divine grace, because they produce in us hope. Later in 8:24 of Romans, Paul says, “hope that is seen is not hope.” Presently, my son cannot see how his pushing through to finish his piece after failure has accomplished something greater than if he had played his piece flawlessly. Similarly, on a weightier level, we cannot naturally see God at work through the trials and suffering of this life—that they are changing us and conforming us so that we will endure to the end. And so the word of God and the people of God are the means through which our hearts and minds are directed towards hope. But as well, there are markers in our lives where, having come through trials, we can look back and recognize his hand both guiding us into them and supporting us through them. It was painful in the moment, and for some of us, pain remains a constant in our lives, yet we can see the goodness of God and the good plan of God more clearly than one who has lived carefree.

Paul ends with a guarantee: “hope does not put us to shame.” Our hope rests in the love of God, and his faithfulness to sustain us through every circumstance.

Prayer: Lord, when trials and suffering come, give us the grace to endure. Give us a sure conviction that as believers they serve your divine purpose to mold each of us into your likeness for our salvation and your glory. God of hope, fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit we may abound in hope (Romans 15:13).

Friday, May 20, 2016

52 Things God Has Taught Me In 52 Years

Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.
~ Psalm 90:12, TLB ~

My child, you must follow
and treasure
    my teachings
    and my instructions.
Keep in tune with wisdom
    and think what it means
    to have common sense.
Beg as loud as you can
    for good common sense.
Search for wisdom
    as you would search for silver
    or hidden treasure.
Then you will understand
what it means to respect
    and to know the Lord God.
All wisdom comes from the Lord,
    and so do common sense
    and understanding.
God gives helpful advice[a]
    to everyone who obeys him
    and protects all of those
    who live as they should.
God sees that justice is done,
    and he watches over everyone
    who is faithful to him.
With wisdom you will learn
    what is right
    and honest and fair.
Wisdom will control your mind,
    and you will be pleased
    with knowledge.
Sound judgment and good sense
    will watch over you.
Wisdom will protect you
    from evil schemes
and from those liars
    who turned from doing good
    to live in the darkness.
Most of all they enjoy
    being mean and deceitful.
They are dishonest themselves,
    and all they do is crooked.

Follow the example
of good people
    and live an honest life.
If you are honest and innocent,
    you will keep your land;
if you do wrong
and can never be trusted,
    you will be rooted out.

2.7 helpful advice: Or “wisdom.”
~ Proverbs 2:1-15, 20-22, CEV ~

Tomorrow is my fifty-second birthday.  Like anyone else, my hope is that my life has purpose.  In the spirit of jovial celebration, I thought I would share 52 ways that God has imparted wisdom to me over these past 5+ decades of life.  Some of them are profound, and some are just plain silly.  Either way, I pray they bring your soul refreshment for the weekend:
  1. The red hair you thought was so ugly growing up is highly valued in adults.
  2. You can travel nearly anywhere through the pages of a good book.
  3. Most arrogant people have no clue how foolish they look.
  4. I need a ton of grace in my life, so I had best be offering the same to others.
  5. A root canal, while definitely unpleasant, is not as horrible as people make it sound.
  6. There really is something called Osgood-Schlatter disease.
  7. Life is way too short to hold a grudge.
  8. The Maker of the entire universe knows me better than I know myself.
  9. Freckles are really not rust spots on your skin.
  10. Politicians are really no big deal.  They are human beings just like you.
  11. I would need about 5 lifetimes to do everything I would like to do on this earth.
  12. Even in persistent darkness, God is at work, executing His perfect plan, and is worthy of my undying praise.
  13. Despite my husband’s mocking, Jon Bon Jovi’s music equals classic fun.
  14. There is a huge difference between crisis and inconvenience.  Most of the things I get upset about are merely an inconvenience and not worthy of my adrenaline.
  15. A college degree really does open certain doors for you that can’t be opened without one.
  16. Laughter shrinks the power a problem has over you.
  17. There really is water that looks as clear and blue as the magazine pictures in the Caribbean.
  18. Shooting guns is big fun and a great stress reliever.  You have to concentrate so hard on hitting your target, that there’s no room in your brain to think about your troubles.
  19. The irrefutably BEST way to make bratwurst is to soak them in beer overnight so the beverage permeates the casing, then brown them on the grill.  Mmmmm!
  20. You cannot make enough laws in this world to protect idiots from themselves.
  21. The best way to flip easy-over eggs is to slide them onto a pan lid, cover the lid with the fry pan, then quickly turn the covered pan right-side up.
  22. Riding on the back of a motorcycle is positively exhilarating.
  23. A coqui is about the size of your thumb nail but can make a noise of up to 90 decibels, the volume of a running lawnmower.
  24. Almost every family on the planet is dysfunctional in some way.
  25. Be careful when you pray or sing, “Break my heart for what breaks Yours,” because God is sure to answer that prayer affirmatively.
  26. Few things look as breathtakingly miraculous as a clear sunny day after a fresh, heavy snowfall.
  27. The clotting cascade consists of over 20 chemical reactions that must happen in correct sequence for you to form a stable blood clot.
  28. Divorce, even if it’s civil and no-fault, is emotionally traumatizing.
  29. Carp are disgusting, ugly fish, who will come to the surface to steal bread crumbs from the ducks.
  30. The uglier I am willing to admit I am, the more beautiful Jesus looks to me.
  31. Women will pay insane amounts of money to get their hair colored the same red as yours.
  32. Nobody will beat the original cast of Saturday Night Live.
  33. Jesus really is THE way, THE truth, and THE life.
  34. My children have been God’s classroom for my soul.
  35. Frozen red grapes make a delicious, refreshing summer treat and a fancy garnish when floating in a beverage.
  36. Every “normal” human being is just one emergency room visit away from having a special needs family.
  37. Making certain your embroidery looks as neat and flat on the back as it is on the front makes is much easier to frame.
  38. No matter how much you try to do the right thing in life, you WILL end up offending someone.
  39. Having a knee replacement makes natural childbirth seem like the pain of a hangnail.
  40. American Kennel Club training for a dog gives them the best start ever as a family pet.
  41. There is no such thing as karma.  Jesus took the penalty and punishment we deserve.
  42. Frozen custard beats ice cream ALL.DAY.LONG.
  43. Having extra needs is NOT the same as being overly needy.
  44. Life is a series of lessons in getting over yourself.
  45. Essential oils are awesome, even if only for the smell.
  46. If you cannot laugh at your own mistakes, you are missing out on a lot of good material.
  47. God sends no trial that coffee and chocolate cannot handle.
  48. I really can put an IV into a child’s arm despite my shaky hands.
  49. A cup of vinegar in a load of dark laundry is phenomenal at getting the smell out.
  50. I am extremely flawed, but even more loved as evidenced by God’s infinite grace.
  51. My unshakable worth lays in the One who ascribes value to me.
  52. Anywhere we find ourselves looking for happiness apart from our Maker will only lead us to disappointment.  Our TRUE JOY is not found in marriage, parenthood, the beautiful house, the new car, the successful career, or the best vacations.  None of those things will pass the test of eternity of give you HOPE when all hope is gone.
What would YOU add to the list of things God has taught you over the years?

PRAY:  Magnificent Maker, thank YOU for the gift of life!  Teach us to view our lives with the proper perspective.  Remind us that we only gain wisdom by staying plugged in to You.

~ Barb Dittrich

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Why Moms Are The Best

May 2016 - Mother's Day

"Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Deuteronomy‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭ESV

I have been blessed to have the world's greatest mom. Now, I know that sounds cliche and that many people would say that about their moms, but I mean this will all sincerity. I could not have asked for a greater person to show me how to pray, how to love, how to care and how to grieve. She models a transparent life that is completely dedicated to pursuing an ever-deepening relationship with God and I am blessed.

But this post is not exclusively about her. Rather, it is about what makes her a great mother and I pray that it encourages the moms who read it that they see glimpses of themselves in this. Too often, our society takes motherhood for granted, and at times even seems to resent it, rather than giving the honor due.

1) My mom is a praying mother and I have seen evidence of this throughout my life. I am convinced that, much like Batman and the Commissioner with their red phone, she has a special connection with God that He quiets heaven when she prays in order to hear every word and respond accordingly. I have witnessed healing and reconciliation and provision and vision come as direct results of her prayer. When my mom says she is praying for you, believe that heaven and earth are now moving on your behalf and that her prayers are on a direct line to the throne of God. While this is true about her, it is true about so many other mothers. The foundation of amazing motherhood is a heart and lifestyle of prayer.

2) My mom is overly generous, even with people she does not know. I can remember our home being the place where everybody was welcome. I once brought about twenty friends from Bible college to spend the night on a Friday as we were heading out to Las Vegas for street witnessing on Labor Day weekend. My parents were coming home from a camping trip at the same time and opened the door to sleeping bags and complete strangers strewn all across the downstairs of our home. Her response? She woke up Saturday and cook pancakes for everybody to make sure we were full before heading out on our road trip. How about your mom? Or maybe this is how you are with your kids? May I say thank you on behalf of children around the globe for being a generous mother?

3) My mom is a solid rock in times of grief and loss. Years ago, when I was reeling from the effects of an affair and pending divorce, my mom was simply there. On the phone, in person, buying groceries, lending her ear and just making sure I remembered that God had my back and that she (and my dad) would never leave me. She has faithfully been in my corner my entire life and times of grief have been just a bit more manageable because of her presence.

4) My mom encourages me to dream and to aim for the sky. I cannot remember a single crazy idea that my mom told me to not try. Often, she would shake her head (and continues to do so) at my outrageous ideas and plans, but that shake was always accompanied with a "you can do it, son." How amazing does it feel when you know that your mom believes in you and is just waiting to see you shine?

Now, I realize that some of us have not been blessed with a mom who fits the description above. May I encourage you to look at those whom God has used to fill that gap, if necessary? Maybe this month brings up pain and even resentment. I do not want to seem trite, but turn to God for your comfort and, if possible, pray for open doors to reestablish relationship. Also, remember that we are commanded by God to give honor and it does not seem conditional on the level of parenting that we received.

If you have been blessed in such a way, make sure to give honor where honor is due. Tell your mom how grateful you are and how blessed you are. If your mom is already dancing in heaven, then maybe write her a letter this year and express your heart.

And for the moms reading this post, be encouraged that God has blessed you with the opportunity to pray for and encourage and love and support your children in such a way that they will see and know the presence of God because of you. Be faithful, stand firm in the storms of life, and allow your heart to guide you as you raise those precious children in your life.

Dear Lord, thank you for the blessing of a faithful mother. Life just seems so much better and sweeter with the blessing of a mom. I pray for each of us to remember the good, to forgive the bad and to give honor where honor is due. Bless us this day and allow those who are currently moms to walk in the strength and grace that You provide for them as they care for their precious children. Amen

~ Mike