Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Pastor's Prayer

Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?’ I said, ‘Here I am. Send me.’” 
Isaiah 6:8 NLT

Five years ago, I was introduced into the world of disability ministry through Joni and Friends. Although I had been in full-time vocational ministry since 1997, I admit that I was nervous, confused, and even wondered if God might have made a mistake. Since then, I have been privileged to gain so many friends across the country who are affected by disability and who serve people affected by disability. Having just returned home from Family Retreat, the prayer below is what God has shown me and continues to show me over the years. May my prayer provide blessing and encouragement to you.

Dear Lord,

Help me to see the world through Your eyes.

Help me to live with compassion and grace, treating others as You treat me.

Teach me Your Word and provide insight to Your truth.

May I see all people as created in Your image without exception.

Lord, help me to make space for peoples’ abilities, rather than build obstacles for their disabilities.

I confess that I get busy, tired, exhausted and impatient…and then treat people poorly.

May I surrender to Your strength and rest in Your presence every day.

Lord, my head understands that we all are affected by disability due to sin, but I confess that my heart does not always respond accordingly.

Teach me how to love people Your way, to include people Your way and to serve people Your way.

Keep my heart tender and open – available to love, learn, and lead as Jesus did.

Thank You, Lord, for introducing me to disability ministry…my life will never be the same.

Amen!

Lord God, I am so blessed to serve and befriend people affected by disability. Thank You for calling me into this area of ministry. My life has truly never been the same and I am transformed daily. I pray that You would continue to draw more pastors into the world of disability, not merely as spectators, but as active participants creating space for people affected to fully belong. Strengthen, encourage, and equip each one of us as we continue to simply say “here I am, send me.” Amen!
~ Mike

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Summer Camp for Families and Kids with Special Needs

For I am about to do something new… 
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. 
Isaiah 43:16,19 NLT 

I was 8 years old when my mom and dad let me go to Summer Church Camp. I still vividly remember falling to my knees with my camp counselor and asking Jesus to come in and fill my heart. Summer Church Camp continued to make an immense impact in my journey as a Christ follower.

Our other children also enjoyed camp, youth retreats, and mission trips -- all except our last child, Bethany. Bethany just turned 17 and has Down Syndrome. What was an adventure and growing opportunity for our other children, didn’t work for with Bethany's special needs and maturity level.

But God doesn't make our lives out of a spiritual cookie cutter! He is a God of new beginnings, new ways, new paths, new solutions -- if I will just let go of the past and look for how He is guiding. He makes a way when there seems to be no way.

Oftentimes, parenting a child with special needs can feel isolating, lonely, and similar to a “wilderness” or "desert place". While everyone seems to be enjoying “normal” summer vacations and camps, we search/pray/wish for something that will work for our children. Something where they can flourish, be confident and comfortable, and be accepted just as God created them.

How does a parent of a child with special needs provide a glorious summer time experience that is common to most typical kids?  
I’ve looked into Camps for kids with special needs, and while they look amazing, Bethany hasn’t really been around lots of kids with special needs and has never spent more than 2 nights at a time away from us. I’ve contemplated sending her to a typical Christian camp but realized she would either need someone to help keep her up to speed or I would need to go and be her counselor.

This year, a wonderful opportunity presented itself in the “medium” Bethany is most accustomed to: A Christian Family Inter-generational Camp.

We just got back from a Christian Family Camp and I have to encourage you to check out this option if you’re nervous or if they're nervous to go to camp alone. (Just google it and you'll be amazed how many places are offering a camp experience for the whole family!)

The absolute beauty was this: Bethany got to experience camp but in the context of her comfort zone -- Family.
3 Reasons Christian Family Camp Worked For Us 


  1. Family Support  - While developing community and common experiences with other families, Bethany was surrounded by 4 nieces, a nephew, a sister, a brother-in-love, and her parents! This camp was open to any conglomeration of family; blended family, grandparents, single parents, cousins and any combination. Family was the starting point, the launch pad, and the end place of camp. (But the flip side was our family wasn't in charge of orchestrating the fun, the food, or the fellowship times!) The games, devotions, crafts, swimming, archery, horse back riding, and obstacle course were the commonality that was shared by the whole community.                             
  2. Structured/Unstructured - The days and evenings were structured with plenty of personal space intermixed and all activities were optional and scheduled by the individual family. Bethany, Cadence and I took a 2 hour nap Saturday afternoon (which met our needs), while Sarah, Finley, Jeff, and Cohen did the obstacle course and archery. We all met up later to swim before dinner. The camp directors provided an hour of activities for all the kids while there was a time of encouragement and respite for the parents/grandparents.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
  3. Warm and Accepting Community - We didn’t have to worry about behavior or oddity or not fitting in. Everyone was friendly -- each family was different. There were crying children, clingy children, whiny children, uncooperative children. Everyone just took it in stride. I reveled in the relaxing, accepting attitude. There were no dirty looks or snide comments, just warm community.
sign at our camp!
I know that Family Camp isn't for everyone. Some parents enjoy the respite and the break it provides when their child is at camp, knowing their child is well cared for and having fun! 

Other parents feel camp is a rite of passage and another step into independence.  

While this is true, the point is that God can and will make a way for each of our children. One that fits their needs and ours.  

I'm thankful our daughter, Sarah, found this family camp and invited us to join in with their family. It was the perfect answer for our family and Bethany this summer.  

Be encouraged, even if you can't do the exact same experiences for your children with special needs, God will make a way -- create a path in the wilderness for you and your child. I'm learning to keep my eyes and heart open to new things He might want to do in our lives, while letting go of what worked in the past.  

Prayer: Wonderful Way-Maker, You are a God of making a way when there seems to be no way. You delight in bringing water to the desert places of our lives. I pray that we would seek you to open up ways for our children to experience You and enjoy life. Thank you for Your care and creativity in our lives. In Jesus Name Amen. 

Cindy Barclay

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

beyond the front door


“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.”
Psalm 127:3-5 (NASB) 

The choice is hard, sometimes very hard.
   
Satan wants to weigh in on the choice.

Culture wants to weigh in on the choice.

The flesh wants to weigh in on the choice.

All three want to mess up the choice, they want their say, and drown out God’s voice.

All three throw up barriers – no place to change her, lack of accommodations, lack of accessibility, lack of compassion, lack of assistance, lack of understanding, just plain old fear.

Do I take my special needs child out in public? Or do I keep girlie at home?

The older she gets, the harder the decision becomes. Depends on the day, depends on the circumstances, depends on her mood, and depends on the emotional state of mom.

But, do I let my enemies have a say in the matter? 

No, I really shouldn’t. 

Just NO

Psalm 127 says she is a gift from God, of whom I should not be ashamed. Scripture does not say if she is physically perfect, if she can walk, if she can talk, if she can communicate, if she has good behavior. Psalm 139 tells me my daughter is “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God.

Scripture says she is a gift, that is all, plain and simple.

She is valuable to God, she is valuable to her family, and she has value and importance as a member of society – she is different but differences are important to be SEEN not HIDDEN.

Do I hide the gift that God has given my family?

 NO

She deserves the chance to interact with others, to people watch (one of her favorite things), to talk and sing in her special voice to others, and to enjoy riding in the car (another favorite) with her family in the seat between her brothers who love her and hold her hands.

Oh, but I need the courage to go out with girlie some days.

The fear sets in – wonder who that is from? You guessed it, an enemy.

The heart flutters set in – wonder who that is from? You guessed it, an enemy. 

God made my personality as someone who does not like to be in the public eye. I don’t like people looking at me, wondering about my family, wondering about my child. I would much rather be under the bench, behind the tree, behind the curtain.

God is doing a work in my heart in this area - because GIRLIE SHOULD NOT BE HIDDEN.

Oh my. Just keep breathing. Keep being brave.

Please pray with me:

God, I need your courage, and I need your bravery, and I need You so that I can keep taking my child in public and not run from the hard places. I so want to run, Lord. Please help me remember that you have not given me a spirit of fear, and that I should never be ashamed of my beautiful and amazing daughter.  Also, Lord, please help me give grace to those around me in public who may not at all understand this journey. 

Amen.

Monday, July 17, 2017

When nothing goes to plan

Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see— how good God is. 
Blessed are you who run to him.
(Psalm 34:8, MSG) 

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 
(Lamentations 3:22,23, NIV)

It’s been another tough day. Nothing has gone to plan – not even sure I’ve actually had space and energy to formulate a plan! My to-do-list has had no ticks, I feel I have been reacting to demands and problems left, right, and centre, unable to move things on to a more constructive, purposeful, harmonious way of being together. Family time doesn’t always feel Instagram pretty, Pinterest fascinating, or Twitter newsworthy – some days I can feel as though we must be the only family that feels that way… We do family life in our own way, with our own eccentricities, limitations - and strengths.


I am trying to reflect, and recognize the blessings hidden like gems in the midst of our day. The Bible tells me God is good, God is faithful, God pours out blessings – my head knows it. Yet some days I need to sit and count them as I run to him for strength and renewed energy. As my lamentations are poured out, becoming aware of the blessings of my good God turns my heart back to trust and renewed faith. I am reminded, through those tangible gems that God is my safe refuge and that he will not let me down.

So, the beginning of my list of the blessings of today: 
(And as I reflect I'm humming 'King of my heart' to myself for encouragement!)
  • A butterfly by my feet
  • A hearty giggle between siblings
  • The smell of food cooking
  • Blackberries in the freezer, like jewels
  • Beetles camouflaged amongst the seeds of a wildflower
  • A phone call with Mum
  • Walking through an avenue of trees
  • A curly haired dog on a walk in the park
  • Conversations with people out & about in the community
  • Pancake breakfast
  • Teamwork – I’m not doing it all alone
  • Music … 

What’s on your list today?
How has God gently shown you his goodness, 
his compassion, his faithfulness today?

Father, bring to mind the moments where you hid your blessings in plain sight for me today. Open my heart to see them, taste them, hold and treasure them and know that you are good and faithful, my refuge and strength. Thank you Father. Amen

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Only Elohim ~ #SacredSunday

Our summer delight rises to an entirely new level of awe when we reflect on the fact that the beautiful skies, gentle breezes, and whimsical waves all come from God's hand. Elohim, "the strong one," Sovereign and Mighty, is the sole Creator of all this wonder. And we are blessed to be able to enjoy it all. What a generous God! What a sweet Savior! 
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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Second Look Saturday - 6

Summer -- The source of so many happy plans and photos. It's meant to be a carefree time where we take life a bit easier and spend our days with the people and things we love.

Yet, Mike Dobes' post "Summer Plans With a Twist" reminded me that this can be a melancholy time for so many of us. Whether it's the family separation encountered by divorce or the disappointment of the season not turning out quite the way we had planned, Mike has some sage advice.
"Be encouraged that no matter what your summer might look like, God has plans for it. He is sovereign, He is for you and He desires to invest wholeheartedly into the life of you and your family."
That is such needed reassurance that we can too easily forget!

Is your summer painful? Our God is a redemptive God. He can help you formulate a new strategy to lift your spirits for the days ahead.

Reflection Questions:

  • How much are you trusting God with the life of your child?
  • What do you cherish about your family time together?
  • Are you investing in your marriage or other significant relationships in spite of difficulties?
~ Barb Dittrich

Friday, July 14, 2017

Fist-Clenching, Tongue-Biting Patience

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 
Galatians 5:22-25, NIV

My friends and family know the truth. They've seen me at my best, and they have certainly seen me at my worst. They are fully aware of those days when I only look patient on the outside. But on the inside, my teeth are grinding, my fingers are clenched, and I am wishing I wasn't quite so frustrated by the circumstances happening in my life. I wish and I pray to have the patience that people think I have already mastered. But to be honest, brutally honest, sometimes, patience is hard to come by. I feel a like a piece of fruit that looks tasty on the outside, but is rotten and moldy on the inside.

Moms of children with special needs aren't supposed to admit that we don't always feel patient with our littles. Because if we did, it is somehow offensive to those not walking in our shoes. Sadly, I cannot always laugh it off when thing go wrong, when chocolate sauce is intentionally poured on the brand new IKEA sofa or when the plumbing is broken and the toilet is exploding... again. Perhaps I look patient on the outside, but I don't always feel it on the inside. Especially when I am wandering through the labyrinth of insurance and co-insurance and referrals and pre-authorizations, and especially when I can't arrange treatments in a timely manner. Sometimes, my patience with hospitals or doctors offices or therapies is stretched beyond belief. Sometimes, the lack of sleep rubs my patience raw and it isn't a reflection on anyone but myself. Patience does not come naturally, nor can we will it into action. We cannot force ourselves to be more patient any more than we can force delicious fruit to grow and ripen. Only the sun can do that. Sometimes, I fear that the more I pray for patience, the more I will have to practice it. And practicing patience is much too hard. Patience is simply not our nature.

The Bible speaks to our nature in Galatians 5, when it talks about our sin nature - our natural bent towards being impatient, and selfish, and a whole bunch of other less-than-wonderful and sinful things. But we aren't stuck in this sin nature, because Christ died and rose again, and when He did, He gave us a new, grace nature. This new grace nature doesn't take hold overnight, but is a process of growth. Through the process, our old nature is at war with the new. The new nature makes us want to be more patient, more kind, more good, but our old nature wants us to do everything for ourselves, to have it our way, right now. But there is a cure for the war between our old nature and our new nature.

The only way we are really going to become more patient, more kind, more good, more loving, is to lean into the Holy Spirit. To pray - not just for patience - but for the Spirit's filling in our lives, for the Spirit's hope in our lives, and for the Spirit's power to live our lives to the fullest capacity, and to grow pleasing, enjoyable fruit. It is by drawing closer to God that we grow in our new, grace nature. The only way we can be more patient is not to scold ourselves for our impatience, but to draw more deeply from the river of life - that is, the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

We don't have to grit our teeth and clench the steering wheel in rush hour traffic, hoping to feel better about our lack of patience. We need to draw from the Spirit, to get to know the One who is always patient with us. The more time we spend with Him, the more like Him we become, and the more precious, beautiful fruit we will bear. And I especially, need to be more like Him.

Dear God,

Thank You for being so patient with me. Please forgive me for the times when I have not shown patience and kindness, or love. God, please fill me with Your Spirit, help me to lean upon Your strength, and make me more like You, especially when I need to show patience each and every day.

Amen.

Amanda Furbeck