Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Search & Rescue


"Look at it this way. If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders off, doesn't he leave the ninety-nine and go after the one? And if he finds it, doesn't he make far more over it than over the ninety-nine who stay put? Your Father in heaven feels the same way. He doesn't want to lose even one of these simple believers." (Matthew 18:12-14, MSG)

Even weeks after it happened, the world is still fixated on the amazing rescue story of the captain of the Maersk "Alabama". Overtaken by modern-day pirates, the crew was released after Captain Richard Phillips offered himself up as a hostage to the weapon-weilding youths. Days passed, and things looked grim as the captors held Captain Phillips at gunpoint in a large lifeboat. Easter morning brought an extra dose of hope when it was announced that Navy Seals had launched a surprise assault on the pirates and rescued Richard Phillips unharmed.

While both Captain Phillips and his rescuers continue to be hailed as heroes, there is One who executes these types of operations daily, and goes mostly unnoticed. His name is Jesus. In His own words, He described how He seeks and pursues us until we come to a saving knowledge of Him. Like those Navy Seals, He is uniquely qualified to know just when and how to reach us. Humble and loving beyond all measure is our Deliverer.

His rescue doesn't stop at that initial homecoming either! What's taken you hostage? Fear? Disease? Frustration? Medical bills? Despair? Exhaustion? "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear." (Isaiah 59:1) Your Lord is the only one capable of putting a floor under your free-fall. He cares deeply about every challenge you face and anguish you feel. He will rescue you because he delights in you. (Psalm 18:19) Sometimes He delivers you from the problem. Sometimes He delivers you through the problem. Either way, be assured that He loves you immensely and will reach out to save.

My friends, I recommend that you keep a notebook of all the times and ways He's rescued you. Record every dark tunnel that seemed would have no end. Reflect on those times and how your faithful Shepherd rescued you, bringing you joyfully home on His strong shoulders. Then you will have that constant encouragement to turn to when circumstances seem impossible. Peace will fill your heart as you realize, He carried me through before, and He'll do it again.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

This is NOT the Life I Ordered!


"The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." (John 12:25, NIV)
I'm sure you've never had a day like this: Everyone's up and it it in the morning. Coffee is being poured. Lunches are being packed. Showers are being taken. Family members are getting dressed. Things are humming along just as they should be. Suddenly, a crisis related to your child's special need arises. You treat, medicate and attempt to get the situation under control. But denying the inevitable becomes useless. Your child's not going to school. The plans you had for the day just got scrubbed. And you may even end up at the hospital... again!
That was one of my days recently. I was planning to visit the gym to work on my own recovering health, after the rest of the family had left for work or school. After that, I had a very important meeting scheduled. However, I didn't end up with the day I had ordered. My heart sank as I had to clear the decks, set my own stabilized health aside and cancel my meeting because of my child's unexpected health crisis. It was not life or death, mind you, but it could easily have become so, and was enough of a problem where school was not an option.
In my excessively mature way, I threw myself on my bed and yelled, "I have no life! All I ever do is run to doctors, and run to hospitals, and run to therapists! If it's not Charlie, then it's Sophie or me. I hate this!"
Whew! That certainly didn't do much to improve the mood in the household!
Once I was done with my detour to Selfish-ville, God's words came flooding back to my mind: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18, NIV) And, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, NIV)
My friends, when we are "havin' a day", we need to remember that this life is just temporary. It may not be the life we ordered, but it's not the life we're stuck with forever! Thank God that Jesus went to prepare a place for ornery souls like me & you! (John 14:2-3) He took that unthinkable punishment for us, so that we could enjoy an eternity better than anything we could ever ask or imagine. And we were built for that eternity, not just for these few days we may hate.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Surgery

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." (Psalm 51:10)
Stories of children going into the operating room are a continual part of the prayer requests that flow into our ministry. Parents anxiously wait as their precious offspring undergo such things as having cysts removed, heal cords lengthened, and shunts or ports implanted. The hope is that these little ones will come through these procedures renewed, healthier and on the road to an improved future.
While it can be extremely painful watching our children go through a surgery, it can be equally painful enduring God's character-surgery on us! When the Lord recognizes something unhealthy inside of our hearts, He seeks to extract is before it poisons or destroys us. Dr. Jesus is uniquely equipped to repair the damage with His healing words and His powerful Spirit. He restores and steadies us through the help of fellow Christians. And we come through the process transformed.

But, as in our earthly experience, we must sign the consent form. We can ask The Expert all the questions we want. He can handle them. We may not receive enough answers to be satisfied or understand. Still, our cooperation and follow through are essential for a positive outcome. If we refuse to sign the consent, refuse to cooperate, we may still live on, but only at a fraction of our potential capacity.

What type of surgery are you in need of? Does God need to put you under to cut out habitual gossip or deep bitterness? Do you need to have your aching heart repaired, followed by a little forgiveness therapy? Whatever it is, the Holy Healer knows how to diagnose it. Are you brave enough to face the discomfort? If not, pray for the courage to trust your soul to the Great Physician and cling to his words. Reading Psalm 51 is a good place to start.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

In Need of a Faith Infusion

"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
(Mark 9:24, NIV)

We have dear friends who have served and continue to serve in places like Swaziland and Kenya. These friends have seen first-hand the power of God as they pray with individuals who then receive a physical healing. There is not a shadow of doubt in my mind that my friends' stories are true. And I covet their experience.

Several years ago, our son Charlie's hemophilia was causing some serious disruptions in our lives. The poor boy was experiencing nosebleed on top of nosebleed that never seemed to end. We had him to an Ear Nose Throat Specialist who cauterized him. It felt like we were infusing gallons of clotting factor that would not stop the bleeding. Creams applied topically and oral syrup did nothing to provide relief. We couldn't go grocery shopping, to church or enjoy any sort of recreation without Charlie "springing a leak".

Finally, my girlfriend, Anne, asked me if I had ever considered having him anointed. Truthfully, I hadn't. It wasn't that I thought God was incapable of healing Charlie's hemophilia. But I felt that God had other plans that didn't include removing this trial from him. And if I'm completely honest with myself, I had never heard of Jesus delivering someone from a genetic illness like Down Syndrome or hemophilia, so I wondered if it could happen. I do believe, but this was my seed of doubt.

Despite the shortcomings, we did move forward with the small amount of faith that was in our hearts. Charlie was anointed and prayed over by elders and friends. To God's glory, the bleeding inexplicably stopped! Now, Charlie still has hemophilia, but the ceaseless season of his troubled nose came to an abrupt halt.

Take some time today to read the story of the father begging Jesus to heal his son in Matthew 17:14-21, Mark 9:14-29 and Luke 9:37-43. I AM that father! And if you're truthful with yourself, I'll bet you're that father too. You profess with your lips that you believe in God and that Jesus is Lord. You want to hope, want to believe. But there are those miserable, nagging seeds of doubt: "Healing is for others, but not for me;" "Maybe healing is all in the imagination;" "There might be ways to explain those healings other than divine intervention."

Pray with me today! "I do believe; help me to overcome my unbelief!" Our faith can only be bolstered by fleeing to God in prayer. If we just take that one small step of trust toward God, in His amazing compassion, He does the rest of the work. Does this mean that God will grant us healing every time we ask? Of course not! In His infinite wisdom, He knows what is best in the "big picture". But if we never ask, seek, knock, then the answer is always "no".

~ Barb Dittrich

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sunday Without Friday

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.
~ Matthew 26:39, NKJV ~

We live in a culture that is fixated with avoiding pain or discomfort at all costs. The prevailing acceptance of abortion eliminates the discomfort of giving birth to a disabled or unwanted child. The rising occurrence of assisted suicide expedites imminent death while eliminating its pain. Heck, we can even be sedated to snooze through a dental appointment if we choose! 

Unfortunately, we as Christians are prone to buying into this cultural folly. We want Easter Sunday without Good Friday. We want The Resurrection without The Crucifixion. 

This distorted mindset has plagued us since the dawn of history. Sarah felt the need to help God along, attempting to remedy her pain of childlessness by getting her husband, Abraham to sleep with her maidservant, Hagar. (See Genesis 16) Barak insisted that the prophetess Deborah accompany him into the battle God had ordered him to lead, hoping to insure an easy victory. (See Judges 4) Saul rushed ahead of God in an attempt to calm the fears of his soldiers, refusing to wait for Samuel the priest to arrive and offer a burnt offering to the Lord. Instead, Saul offered the sacrifice. (See 1 Samuel 13) None of these situations resulted in an outcome pleasing to God. Thus, the people involved forfeited their own enjoyment of God's best for their lives. 

We would do well to take notice of these outcomes as a cautionary tale to all of us! 

There are many lessons that can only be learned through the school of crucifixion and suffering. Humility, self-denial, mercy, compassion, persistence and commitment are not traits that naturally come to us with ease. Furthermore, God assures us that His power is made perfect in our weakness. (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10) We rob God of glory that could be displayed through us when we try to circumvent suffering at all costs. 

The perseverance that glorifies God and carries us through to our final destination is much closer to the athletic mantra of "No pain, no gain!" than it is to the insanity of our luxury-driven culture. As we struggle through our daily trials, know that these "...light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (2 Corinthians 4:17) Obeying our Wise Father, even if it means discomfort, is where we should set our sights. This is the exact behavior that our beautiful Savior engaged in when He took the hope-giving route from Good Friday to Easter Sunday! 

PRAY: Holy Spirit, make me brave in the face of pain and discomfort so that it brings You the most glory. 

~ Barb Dittrich

Saturday, April 11, 2009

NEVER Without Hope!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead... (1 Peter 1:3)

I think one of the things that I find myself constantly wrestling with as the mother of a kid with special needs is a sense of hopelessness. The daily living can be so exhausting, being on top of medications and treatments. The endless doctor's appointments hi-jack life and overload the brain with intense information. It's sobering realizing there is no cure in sight for your child's diagnosis. And it's equally sobering feeling like you'll never get out from underneath the mountain of never-ending medical bills.

If this life were the only thing I focused on, I would be utterly hopeless and depressed.

Easter Sunday is a day most worth celebrating because it's the day my hope was born! The God who is big enough to overcome death itself is big enough to handle any trouble I may have. The God who gave purpose to the horror of His Only Son's brutal crucifixion can surely give purpose to my suffering. Easter gives me hope that, in spite of all of my imperfections and shortcomings as a mother, through Jesus, I have a mansion in Heaven. Jesus' resurrection provides the promise that the anguish of this life is only temporary, but my joy is eternal.

With my eyes fixed on all the hope that Jesus died and rose to provide for me, the problems of this life suddenly fade. Although I may have days where I feel hopeless, because of my precious Savior, I am NEVER without hope! Hallelujah!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Be Afraid... Be VERY Afraid!


A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!" (Matthew 21:8-9, NIV)


What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate asked. They all answered, "Crucify him!"
"Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!"
All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"
Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. (Matthew 27:22-31, NIV)


At times, it can be amazingly frightening when we stand back and pause to witness humanity's depraved capabilities. With our modern sensibilities, we can shake our heads wondering how the masses could be hailing Jesus as their new leader on Sunday and screaming "Crucify Him!" by Friday. But in reality, we are no better than those Israelites 2000 years ago.


I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard a tale of betrayal from a parent of a special needs child. I would be very wealthy! First, there can be the family members, ones own flesh and blood, offering painful remarks or criticism about how you are raising your child. Next, there can be the close friends who never lend a helping hand, not even a listening ear, when the weight becomes too much for you to bear. Finally, and this is the one that really gets me steamed, there is the church who either asks people to leave because their disabled child makes too much noise or who refuses to make room for individuals with disabilities and their families in the Body of Christ.


This is a cautionary tale. Be wary of who you share things with as a special needs parent! People are people, capable of sin in a fallen world, able to turn on you in a New-York-minute. Recognize these human tendencies and realize this is a possible challenge in your life. Guard your heart and mind with God-given discernment. Pray that the Holy Spirit will fill you with confidence and peace in knowing that the Lord entrusted this child to you and nobody else.


Jesus promised His followers that in this world they would have trouble. If people turned on Him, you can plan on them turning on you. Nevertheless, don't be discouraged by this realization. Instead, cling to His encouragement, "But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33, NIV)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cain & Abel



How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1, NIV)



There can few more prominent concerns when a parent has a child with special needs than the relationship between siblings. The jealousy between the unaffected and diagnosed child can be more fierce than in a family where there are no health issues. In a family where a child has a special need, the sibling is not only burning with jealousy, they can also be burdened with guilt, anger, fear, worry and a sense of injustice. These siblings are forced to mature earlier and to make sacrifices along with parents in order to compensate for the special need.



While this brings additional anguish to any loving parent, there are some helpful ideas to keep in mind when dealing with your health children.

DON'T:

  • Make the healthy child feel guilty because of their feelings or because they don't struggle with the same issues their sibling. Their troubles are certainly of concern to them.

  • Try to make things even. They never will be!

  • Overcompensate with the special needs child. This creates a whole host of problems, no the least of which is adding fuel to the flames of jealousy.

  • Dwell on your guilt. While feeling guilty is only natural, it is important to remember that these circumstances are not your fault, and that even healthy siblings have rivalry.

  • Ignore the problem. Properly addressing the issue will help you to get a handle on it. Ignoring it will only make the situation grow in size.


DO

  • Make some special time for your healthy child. Go on adventures to their favorite place, the ice cream shop, the playground or shopping. Building relationship through that reserved time helps them understand that they are equally important to you.

  • Make it safe for them to express their emotions like anger and frustration. Appropriate venting and talking the feelings through will diminish negative behaviors.

  • Applaud their accomplishments, including the kind treatment of their sibling with the special need.

  • Let them use the skills they've gained as a sibling of someone with a special need to bless others. Our eldest daughter, who has the unique perspective of being completely uninhibited by the disabled, really enjoys encouraging special needs children in our local adaptive aquatics program by swimming with them. This helps them to see the positive benefits of having a sibling with a special need.

  • Acquaint your kids with programs like SibShops (http://www.siblingsupport.org/sibshops/index_html) or books like VIEWS FROM OUR SHOES (http://www.siblingsupport.org/publications/views-from-our-shoes). In this way, they are comforted knowing that they are not alone.
Above all, cover each of your children in prayer. God loves those kids more than you ever could. He will not hesitate to help you guide them through difficulties of your circumstances.




*SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES currently holds SibShops in partnership with The YMCA at Pabst Farms (http://www.ymcaatpabstfarms.org/). For more information, e-mail us at barb@snappin.org.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Steady Diet

“And so, my children, listen to me, for all who follow my ways are joyful. Listen to my instruction and be wise. Don’t ignore it. Joyful are those who listen to me, watching for me daily at my gates, waiting for me outside my home! For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord." (Proverbs 8:32-35, NLT)

California Carol, my hip, fit, older sister has been an inspiration to me. She has fiercely devoted herself to a new and healthy lifestyle in recent years, and she's got the beautiful results to show for it. Rarely does a day go by when she isn't getting proper exercise or nourishing her body in wise ways. Besides looking great, she has the energy to meet the demands of her life.

If these amazing results are available in the physical realm, how much more does God seek to daily nourish us in the spiritual realm? By becoming human in the form of Jesus Christ, how boldly God sought to be called our friend. As with any friend, how can we know Him if we don't spend time with Him?

Above all other friendships, God provides great benefits to get us through our daily living. In His word, we are provided with encouragement, love, wisdom, joy, hope, and the list goes on. Who doesn't seek such things in their life? Surely, this alone is reason enough to merit spending daily time with Him. But additionally, He tells us in Isaiah 55:10-11 that time in His word is never wasted. When God speaks, good things happen!

Strengthen yourself daily, my friend, through prayer and the Word. It's a steady diet that will not only energize you for this life, but will also give you a joyful peek at the next!