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:

BROKEN

  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 Pixabay.com

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. 
Amen

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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Friday, February 17, 2017

My Sins are Covered

Copyright: anyka / 123RF Stock Photo
"He [Jesus] said to the paralyzed man, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
Mark 2:5 NIV

You are probably familiar with Jesus’ miraculous healing of the paralyzed man. A group of friends lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof of a building so that Jesus could heal him.  


In the past decade, as I have raised my son who cannot walk, this is a story that I haven’t spent a lot of time studying. Recently, as I picked my daughter, Miriam, up from preschool her teacher mentioned to me that this was the story that the children had learned that day. She said that the preschoolers were asking about Miriam’s brother who cannot walk. They asked all sorts of questions and Miriam had the chance to answer them. It was a sweet story of how my little daughter was already a beautiful advocate for her big brother.

As that day and week wore on, I couldn’t stop thinking of the man who Jesus had healed. I kept thinking of all the ways that my Liam’s disabilities help to share the gospel and how God uses my son in such beautiful ways. When I thought of these things it was with the underlying wish that no matter the great purpose that God may be achieving through my boy, I want Liam to be healed here on earth. I thought about how the paralyzed man stood and carried his mat away and I envisioned my Liam standing and walking too.

The story was on my heart for days. I went to it in my Bible time and reread it. What came to my attention was that the man’s earthly healing was important and showed Jesus’ power, but that wasn’t the amazing part of the story. The most amazing part of the story was when Jesus said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2: 10-12 says, "But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.' So he said to the man, 'I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.' He got up, took his mat and walked out." This clarifies that the earthly healing was to show those who doubted that Jesus was not a mere man. He was a man with authority to heal the body, but more importantly the soul. 

This hymn verse was a part of our Sunday worship and with this story still on my mind, I thought it had profound meaning. 


When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
["My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less," Edward Mote, 1834]


As I sang those words, I thought of the miracle that we are truly clothed in Jesus’ righteousness. When God looks at me he doesn’t see my disobedience, my mistrust, my lack of patience, or my many other sins. God sees the perfection of his son. Through faith, I am wearing a robe of righteousness that Jesus gave to me by his death on the cross. The same is true for you. THIS is what Jesus was telling the paralyzed man in the story. “Son (daughter), your sins are forgiven.” Jesus gave the man his most dire need – not the need to walk, but forgiveness of sins.

The paralyzed man had the same need that each of us has. Forgiveness of sins is what we each need the most. As the mom of a child who cannot do so many things, I was so focused on the man’s paralysis and healing. My own earthly desires for my son almost had me missing the point of this story. "Son, your sins are forgiven." 

I pray that as we head into the Lenten season in the next few weeks, God gives me a heart of faith that I can focus on this truth and walk in his grace.I pray that he does the same for you.

Pray: 
Heavenly Father,  
Thank you for your son. Because of him, you see only perfection when you look at me. Please help me to focus on you and living as your forgiven child. Help me to keep an eternal outlook - remembering that glorifying you in my life is far better than any earthly comfort and health. Lord, thank you for the promise of an eternity in heaven with you.

Wendy Heyn

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My God is More Than Enough


“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” 

Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)

I am amazed at how often I forget the reality that God is for me. I spend a great deal of time working in my own strength, stressing about my own lack of resources and focusing on what I do not have rather than thanking God for what I do have. I look at my bank account, the struggles of my teenage children, the traffic I navigate on a daily basis and I quickly lose sight of God.

  • He provided oil for the widow – enough to feed her family and pay her debts. 
  • He provided a ram for Abraham in the place of sacrificing his son, Isaac. 
  • He turned water into wine to save the honor of the wedding host. 
  • He brings joy from mourning, beauty from ashes and hope from despair. 
  • He freely gave me the greatest gift in the world…salvation. 

If this is truly my God, then how can I possibly wonder if He is enough? How can I actually think that it is truly up to me to provide at home, work and beyond?

Through divorce, through unemployment, through struggles at work, through struggles at home…God has never left my side. Every time I look back on my life, He is there, without fail! Yet, in the moment, I often forget this and stress and worry become my companions. Oh, how I long for peace and joy to be with me more often.


I spend a great deal of time feeling like the man in Mark 9 whose son had an unclean spirit. He cried out to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” I am certain that I would have been Peter – crazy enough to get out of the boat but then quickly distracted by the wind and waves. My prayer is to be more like the thief on the cross who simply saw Jesus as He is and without hesitation claimed that He was the Son of God. What peace he must have experienced in the midst of excruciating pain and humiliation!

MY GOD IS ENOUGH! 

He is enough when the bills are due. 

He is enough when family life is stressful and confusing. 

He is enough when work projects and conversations don’t turn out as I planned them to. 

He is enough when the weight of the world is on my shoulders and I don’t remember where to turn. 

He is enough.

I don’t know about you, but I need to post this reminder on my phone, my rear-view mirror, my checkbook and everywhere else in life where the storm tends to seem bigger than my God! Be encouraged that He sees and knows you, that He is for you, and that He is more than enough! 

Lord, it is far too easy to see my lack and to forget that You are my source. Remind me daily that You are enough and that all I need to do is keep my eyes firmly fixed on You. May peace and joy replace worry and stress as I stand firmly knowing that You are enough. Amen!

~ Mike