Friday, February 24, 2017

God Shows Up

“A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! 
I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.”
Psalms 84:10 NLT

It's a struggle to get everyone sufficiently clothed on Sunday morning. And matching is definitely optional these days. Cleanliness is relative. And it doesn't really matter if the shoes are on the right feet or the pants are facing in the right direction. Just so long as the important parts are covered and the outfit is somewhat seasonably effective. I have to choose my battles here, and clothing is just not one of them. A healthy breakfast? I guess cookies are close enough to donuts which are a decent substitute for cereal, right? Well, it's ok for one day. Of course, by the time we get everyone loaded up and into church, we're all exhausted from fighting the battles that really are critical.  Clothing is pretty much required in all 50 states, at least the last time I checked.

And then there is the dread of Sunday school - my dread, not my children's. Will the regular teacher be there? Will they actually keep my child from wandering out of the classroom? It's happened before. Will they treat those over-stimulated meltdowns gently, with respect? Will they understand the verbal stimming or the food hoarding at snack time? Do they understand the foster care rules about facebook pictures and privacy matters? By the time I get to the sanctuary for the service, I am pretty well spent. I'm trying to get my heart and mind prepared to listen to the sermon, but people are asking me inappropriate questions about some of my adopted children. "I'm not at liberty to say," I respond as gently as I can muster. The questions don't stop. And neither do the curious stares. Some days, even worship is exhausting and I am relieved when a friend knowingly diverts the conversation to my pet chickens. Chickens are such a great escape when the conversation gets a little too personal. It's easier to let them think I'm a crazy chicken lady than to argue about not wanting to disclose information that really isn't theirs to know. Chickens don't judge, I think. It probably would have been easier to just stay home.

But church isn't supposed to feel like this. King David wrote in the psalms about worship. He said,
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies. I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the LORD. With my whole being, body, and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God! What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises.” (Psalms 84:1-4 NLT). In the Old Testament, God would come and rest on the tabernacle, the place of worship, in the form of a pillar of fire or a cloud of smoke. His presence so real, so tangible, I think the worshippers could smell the smoke heavy in the air, feel the warmth of His presence. A presence so real that even the sparrows longed to be there. The psalmist writes that just one day in God's presence at the tabernacle is better than a thousand days anywhere else. The love, the hope, the healing presence of God was unmistakable because God, in His glory, showed up.

What if the presence of God was just as real today? What if we could physically feel God in our midst, smell the aroma of His closeness like the heavy floral perfume of the lady in the next pew? If we could sense God so strongly, wouldn't the struggle and hard work of getting to church pale in comparison to being with Him? Wouldn't we be less focused on all of life's challenges and more focused on getting to know God Himself if we could just know for sure that He was there?

Jesus tells us that wherever two or three are gathered in His name, He is there. The loving, healing, hope-instilling presence of God is just as real, just as close, just as powerful today as it was in the manifestation of God hovering over the tabernacle in the wilderness. This is why we come to church. Not because Sunday School is the perfect haven for our kids with extra needs, not because it's free of challenges, or even free of nosy folks. We come because God is there and it is so good to be in His presence. Neither God's availability nor His presence is in question. We don't have to wish or hope or wonder if He's there. We don't have to be perfect or even worshipful to get God to come near. No matter what we've faced, what challenges we had to overcome to get there, no matter if our children are clean, or well-fed, or even wearing mismatched socks, no matter what other people do or say when we arrive. When we come to worship, God shows up.

Dear God,
Coming to You is a hard journey, each and every time. Help me to remember that church is a time when Your people come to be together with You. Please make me keenly aware of Your Presence as I come to worship You. Pour out Your Spirit on me and work in me so that I am forever changed by being in Your Holy Presence on this day and every day.

Amanda Furbeck

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Stop, Think, and Feel

Whoever is patient has great understanding, 
but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.  
Proverbs 14:29 NIV

God has been working on me and my patience as I've gotten older. He continues to show me more and more of how foolish I appear when I am angry. A recent sermon that I heard at our church was on the topic of anger and how to rid your life of anger. It was tremendous because the most important thing I gleaned from that sermon was the fact that my ANGER is ALWAYS the band-aid on top of a different emotion.  

Take for example my experience recently in trying to start a dialogue with a number of different people in our state assembly or even those in my own city regarding Rare Disease Day. I had sent in my proclamation request to the state in the month of November and had e-mailed a number of different people in the middle of January trying to drum up enthusiasm for the event. However, I found that I wasn't getting responses from anyone!

I was so ANGRY. I had that feeling of, "Of course, here we one cares."

Thankfully, the sermon came at JUST the right time because, rather than send ANGRY e-mails as I really, REALLY wanted to, I stopped and thought:  


I determined it was covering frustration, and possibly even fear.  

So, rather than send an ANGRY e-mail, I sent an e-mail that said something more like this.  
"I was just following up to see if you received my e-mail in January regarding Rare Disease Day (see attached). I have hopes of starting a conversation with lawmakers about what we can do in this state to help families who live with rare diseases. The most frustrating part of being the parent of a child with a rare disease is that I often feel as though I don't have a voice. Well, Rare Disease Day is an opportunity to change that, but I can't be heard unless someone responds to my message, and I haven't heard back yet from anyone. Please consider responding to this e-mail so I know I'm being heard."

I had a phone call before the day was over and even met to have coffee with the assemblyman who received this message.  

Had I responded in ANGER, I wonder if I would have received the same response...

In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he says, "In your ANGER do not sin..." (4:26 NIV with emphasis added).  I think this says a lot.  It reminds us that we are human and we WILL FEEL ANGER. But, Paul says, "Don't sin because of your anger."

So, if we STOP, THINK, and IDENTIFY WHAT WE FEEL...I think we will be less likely to SIN in our ANGER.

I consider, for example, about the times when I have lost my cool at the pharmacy, or yelled at someone in the billing department at a specialists office...what was I REALLY feeling besides ANGER?

Hopelessness, helplessness, and even pointlessness.

When I have had the wherewithal to EXPRESS that verbally, I seemed to have gotten farther without burning a bridge that I may need to use in the future. Rather than, 
"Are you kidding me? You filled the WRONG PRESCRIPTION again? Will you ever get it right?" 
 What if I said, 
"Oh my goodness, I feel so helpless right now because it seems like every time I call in this prescription you have gotten wrong. How can we fix this? I'm afraid this is a vicious cycle that we will never be able to fix, and I need it to be done right for my daughter's health."
Now I'm not saying that this will ALWAYS work. But, what I am saying is that God wants us to show that we are Christians through the fruits of the Spirit, and ANGER is NOT from the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25).

I encourage all of us to consider the times that we have responded in ANGER and try to identify the actual emotions we were feeling and how the anger was a way that we were trying to protect ourselves. Now, think about how you could have reacted differently without anger, and rather tried to express those true emotions. If you can identify them in hindsight as I now can, maybe you too will be able to STOP, THINK and FEEL the next time you are faced with a situation in which you would have instinctively responded in ANGER.

Pray:  Heavenly Father, I ask your forgiveness for the anger that I have let take hold of my heart. I know that you want MORE for me than that. I pray that you help me temper my anger by identifying where it really comes from and then learning how to express myself more effectively with those emotions. Amen.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

On Dignity

Photo image courtesy of Pexels via Pixabay
Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
~ James 3:17-18, MSG ~

Parenthood is a lesson in adjustment and readjustment. From that first day we become a mom or dad we are adapting to raising this young human. Life changes in drastic ways. 

Eventually, we gain a level of competence and confidence in our role as a parent. Getting to know our child, their likes, their dislikes, their fears, and behaviors all bring us to a point where we feel more secure as mom or dad. 

But then things change, and that's where life can get messy.

In one of our Side-By-Side Parent Mentor Small Groups we are reading the book Life Will Get Better: Simple Solutions for Parents of Children with Attention, Anxiety, Mood and Behavior Challenges by Nicole Beurkens. It has been an invaluable tool for us as we discuss various topics and grow in our skills.

This week we covered Section 5 of the book which discusses "Connection." Many relational strategies are discussed, providing ways of helping our children to grow and adjust in the wider world. In a chapter that covers staying calm when our kids don't, the word "DIGNITY" jumped off the page for me. The author states, 
"Don't pour salt in the wound by embarrassing your child, or instilling guilt or shame about the behavior. Allow your child the dignity to successfully move on to whatever needs to happen next..."*
I marveled at how we moms and dads go from this feeling of uncertainty and trepidation to becoming more authoritarian in our children's lives. That's a good thing. Our children need our authority and guidance. However, there comes a point where we need to put the brakes on how strict we are as parents. We need to come to an awakening that our kids are becoming distinct individuals with feelings, thoughts, and self-esteem.

How we treat our kids as human beings is pivotal in how they move through life. In her book Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, author Brene Brown pulls apart the issue of shame and vulnerability. My own old past wounds opened up anew as I saw how Brown exposed behavior in adulthood resulting from feelings of inadequacy inflicted earlier in life. Seeing how I was affected made me even more committed to set a guard over my mouth so that I never create that sort of damage in my kids. 

Living with an executive function defect, disability, anxiety, or chronic disease can make our children feel diminished enough without us adding to that hurt. Being good stewards of their dignity and value as a person should be our highest calling. We have the unique opportunity to give our kids perspective. Assuring them that there is not one perfect person in this world can instill just enough confidence to regroup and go at the difficult pieces of their lives. Equipping them in their formative years strengthens them for the future.

Chances are that we will not always be there to defend our kids against assaults on their personal worth. We can't expect others to treat our children with dignity -- or even expect them to have their own sense of self-worth -- when we are not first leading by example as parents.

PRAY:  Father, how incredible You are that You ascribe infinite worth and dignity to each of us. Remind us to speak life to one another, especially to our children. Let us be builders rather than destroyers.

~ Barb Dittrich

* p 150, Life Will Get Better by Nicole Beurkens, Sky Water Press; 1st edition (March 10, 2016)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Are We Really Broken

The definition of the word BROKEN, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. is in part as follows:


  1. violently separated into parts
  2. damaged or altered by, as if by breaking, such as:
      a. having undergone or been subject to a fracture  
      b. not working properly

I have thought before, this is all ruined, it's unrecognizable, it's broken. I have worried and wondered; how do we possibly make this work? how do we move forward? Many times I have stood at a point in my life where all I could say was "Dear God why?".

We don't like broken things. They are not useful or pretty, they are not easy to live through or easy to live with. I have looked at things and circumstances and had thoughts of, "There is nothing left," and "This is useless."

As a parent of a child severely impacted by his disability I have a front row seat for viewing societies reaction to their perceived brokenness of my son. They don't always use words, it's most often displayed in lack of desire to accommodate and non-existent services. That sentiment of being what Merriam-Webster and the rest of the world define as "not working properly," that sentiment is a little tough to swallow when it comes to my son. I don't see him as broken, more importantly, God doesn't see him as broken. Unfortunately, we exist in a world that does.

The Bible speaks of brokenness, and great comfort can be found in verses like the following:

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. 
(Psalm 34:18 ESV)

Verse 20 continues on to say this: "He protects all His bones, not one of them will be broken."

He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3 ESV)

There is beauty in the brokenness. When we are willing to follow God, He shines through those broken pieces:

“While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.” 
(Mark 14:3 NIV)

Sometimes it takes the worldly breaking of something lovely, something cherished, to see the love of God shine.

I have spent a great deal of time with the word and idea of broken. My children have brought me tear-soaked broken; toys, projects, and dreams, to attempt to repair. We have taken many trips to the doctor for broken bones. I have lived through promises broken that were vowed to never be.

I stand here today, BROKEN by almost every definition of the word, just as God intended. 

I don't stand alone.

Sometimes, as with our children, we have no choice in our perceived "brokenness". The reality is, we and they, are only "broken" by the world's standards. They work beautifully in their brokenness for the purpose to which they were created. We just don't always see it.

As I read some words of another mom, where she expressed her heartfelt belief that God did not create her child with a disability but allowed it to occur during their development, I was struck by her notion that God wouldn't create anything that isn't perfect but He would allow it to be "broken".

Psalm 139:16 says, "Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

Worldly brokenness is that thing that pulls us, that keeps us tethered closely to God. We need it. It is what he wants from us, it's why He sent his Son, and it's what He created us for.

We are only violently separated into parts, we are only damaged, when we REFUSE to break and be broken, that is when we cease to work properly.

We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works...(Ephesians 2:10 NIV)

We are not broken, not really.

My prayer for us:

Dear Heavenly Father, You have known us from before we ever were. You know what we need to fulfill Your purposes in this life. God, we pray that we are willing to break. That in our obedience to Your will the light of Your love will shine through the brokenness of our existence. Amen

Monday, February 20, 2017

Life After Death

Photo image courtesy of

The Circle of Life. We think baby Simba and hear the Disney song, but the reality is much closer than it would appear at first. Aside from our obvious interaction with death in lost loved ones, we face death daily. We live our lives, stumbling upon dead hobbies, relationships, dreams, careers ... the list is endless. Some of these dead things is like the out of style psychedelic shirt that no longer fits. That's ok and good riddance. We moved on the new look, on the better version of ourselves.  Sometimes, though, like with loved ones, these deaths are hard. Crucial parts of ourselves that get lost leave us unable to figure out who we are.
As parents of special children, so much of our new identity can be wrapped up in our role as caregiver, advocate, therapist, teacher, nurses our children.  Each aspect of the role needs validation, and often, that does not come from our child, or even our families. Our recent struggle with sleep, OCD, oppositional behavior has challenged much of my identity related to those roles, and, when I'm honest, it has threatened the  hope that was re-birthed with some glimmers of progress that we saw 6 months ago. Actually, the hope, based on glimmers, has died. In this moment, the evidence of progress is hard to see without the eyes of faith. And some days, I need special glasses.

Mary's Story
That must be what happened to Mary. Her Lord was dead. Along with all the evidence of his existence (John 20:11-18).
Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her. “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
Who knows what causes this blindness. Stress? Excess of realism? Depression? Whatever the case, when the evidence is plainly available, she doesn't recognize it. Perhaps the form of the evidence doesn't match up with her internal compass.
She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
So her eyes weren't working well, and maybe her ears were affected too. But then Jesus said her name.
“Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).
And she recognized him.
Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.
When she heard the Resurrection and the Life call her name, believing in resurrection became easier. Jesus died. She knew this as a fact. But he was alive again. This she also now knew. Because she could see Him.

Alive Because He Said So
Sometimes things die to create space for the Resurrection that God brings. Sometimes the resurrection isn't in a form that we recognize, but like Mary, when we hear Him call our name, we will recognize Life, and see it coursing through everything He touches, including our very special children. And nobody, not teachers, doctors, parents, not even you, can call something dead, that the Resurrection and Life has declared to be alive.
Dear Lord, Thank you that you are the Resurrection and Life. Please heal our eyes and help us to see your life at work in all that concerns us today. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Dreaming of the Day ~ #SacredSunday

When we see something remarkable in nature, our hearts can lighten realizing that it is merely a foretaste of the glory, bounty, and joy Jesus has waiting for us in Heaven.
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