Saturday, March 28, 2009
The joke goes like this:
A guy dies. As he reaches the afterlife, into the room walks Jimi Hendrix. "Wow!", he says. "This must be heaven!" Hendrix says, "Trust me, man, this ain't heaven." Next, Keith Moon walks into the room. "Wow!" the deceased says, "This must be heaven!" Moon replies, "No way, man. This ain't heaven." Things get even wilder as Kurt Cobain strolls in. The dead man can hardly contain himself. "Wow! This has to be heaven!" Cobain assures him, "Dude, this sure ain't heaven!" Finally, Karen Carpenter comes into the room and announces, "Okay, band, on the the count of 3, 'Close to You..'"
If you get that joke, you're as much of a washed-up rocker as I am. And you also get the sick sense of things being not-quite-right that characterizes our world.
It is no secret that all of humanity struggles with the questions of why suffering exists. We see situations like 911 and world starvation, and we wonder how it's fair that agony like this should occur. Certainly we feel that stinging sense of injustice when we look at our child living with special needs.
I don't want to be overly simplistic, but God warned us it would be like this. In the lengthy Bible passage I cite today, Our Maker sets forth blessings if He is obeyed and every sort of tragedy imaginable if He's not. True to form, those being addressed by Moses didn't take long to break every single one of God's rules. Arrogantly thinking they could comply with God's guidelines, they are famous for their disobedience.
The point is this: We live in a fallen world. We cannot expect the perfection of heaven in our imperfect world. Even if we would believe that we are obeying God flawlessly, our culture provides daily evidence that the world around us isn't. One can hardly stomach a newscast with its announcements of every sort of deranged behavior, beyond anything we could think of. Unfortunately, as long as we exist in this world, we will be subjected to the short-comings of all around us. That includes disease, poverty, injustice and suffering of every kind.
Knowing this should make each of us more passionately seek after the hope of heaven. By the salvation of Jesus, we can look forward to a place where every wrong is made right. And certainly, it won't be a place where we run into Karen Carpenter's pick-up band!
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
"Everyone wants a piece of me, man!" I proclaimed with one child wrapped around my leg demanding while the caller on the other end of the phone laughed hysterically. While I was being playful, it was really true. I joke that my husband has life so much better because he actually gets to use a bathroom by himself multiple times throughout the course of any given day. Some days I feel like I'm going to hit the ceiling if one more person touches me or calls out "Mom"!
This basic condition of parenthood is enough to wear on all of us. The weariness is further compounded when your child has any number of diagnoses. It is truly exhausting, always having to be "on" to process information, make decisions and act in the well-being of this special child. The constant running to appointments with doctors, therapists and schools makes any human heart beat a little faster.
We live a "poured out" life. But we are in deep, deep trouble if we are not refilled so that we actually have a reserve to draw from. Jesus provided us with a remedy for that. Daily He invites, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29) I've mentioned before, my wise Pastor, Don Gephart puts it this way, "Come apart before you come apart!"
When I'm losing my temper with the kids, when I'm making absent-minded mistakes, when I'm not handling the situations around me as the Lord would have it, 9 times out of 10, I haven't been taking my quiet time with Jesus. God doesn't have a quota or a formula He insists that we follow. Just taking a few minutes each morning with His Word and a brief but insightful devotional can equip me for the day ahead. Taking a brisk walk, listening to some inspirational music and praying as I go can help me to relinquish my burdens and carry on. Journaling can dump my emotions at the foot of the cross and clear my head for all that He's allowed in my day.
And there are practical ways to refill my cup as well. Right after my second child was born and diagnosed with hemophilia, I had a friend who did me the favor of giving me a little verbal spanking. "You need to take care of yourself because no one else is going to do it! Reserve one night a week just for yourself and get away to do something that you really like. Get some prepared meals too, because nobody is going to cook for you!" That was some of the best advice I've ever gotten. For a season, every Thursday you'd find me at the local coffee bar enjoying a mocha and reading a book. These days, I can be found with girlfriends catching up on my scrapbooking. Whatever it is, I fill myseslf up for that pouring out that is my calling in life. I urge you to do the same.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I called my sister in California one day, dumping on her the litany of rough things going on in our household at that time. Exhausted, I just didn't know how I was going to carry on. We were both sorrowfully wishing that we lived much closer.
Nevertheless, she shared a bit of wisdom that I love to share with other mothers when I'm giving a talk. She told me, "When things get rough around the office here, we just start singing Dorie's song from FINDING NEMO. You know how it goes, 'Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!'"
Aside from getting me to laugh hysterically at a very difficult time, she unwittingly planted a new default for my brain that could bring lightness when endurance is called for.
How often are we parents of kids with special needs up for emergencies in the midddle of the night? How exhausting are the endless parades of doctors, therapists, school staff and insurance battles? What do you do? How do you carry on when you just don't have an ounce of strength left for these demands? Just keep swimming!
Some days, just showing up is all we can do. And our compassionate Savior knows that. He doesn't fault us for being disheveled, downcast or irritable. In fact, He died to cover us on days like that! He's your stand-in!
So next time you feel like you don't know which way is up, persevere! And "Just keep swimming!"
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Somewhere during the 5th century, it is believed that Patrick lived on the west coast of England and was kidnapped in his teens by Irish sailors. Living in Ireland as a slave, he eventually escaped and returned to England. Chosing to answer the call to religious life, he later became a bishop and returned to minister to the Irish people. He was passionate about God and about winning more souls for His kingdom.
Each of us would do well to imitate the life of Patrick. Look at how we might measure up to this Christian who has gone before us:
- Has the terror of unexpected trial increased your faith or decreased your faith? It made Patrick's rock solid. In his years of slavery, he learned to turn to God with ALL his heart.
- Has trauma increased your intimacy and prayer life with God? Patrick left writings that suggested he went into captivity with a more-than-lukewarm faith, but grew to a life of prayer-without-ceasing because of what he endured.
- What do you do once you've been delivered from a dark situation? Do you return to those still in that darkness and act as a guide to lead them out of it? Patrick did. He answered the voices he heard in a dream, calling to him for help.
- Are you obedient no matter what the cost? Patrick fully expected to be "killed, betrayed, or brought back into slavery, or something of the kind." Nevertheless, his passion for Jesus made him a willing slave for the Lord.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left..."
~ Barb Dittrich
*References from THE SPIRITUALITY OF ST. PATRICK, by Lesley Whiteside, The Columbia Press, 1996
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Why did this happen to my child? Is it my fault? Why won't God protect us? Why won't God heal? Why won't the trials stop coming? Why does God treat faithful believers like this? Why don't the really godless have to suffer like this? Why don't people care? Why won't anyone listen? Why? Why? Why?
I don't know about you, but not knowing "why" can inflict outrageous insecurity on me. I need stability that transcends the unknown and fearful. That can only be found in The One who is worthy of our trust. While I know that His ways are beyond my comprehension, I also know that His love for me is unquestionable. If He loves me enough to have given His life for me while I was living as His enemy, then I can trust Him with life's unknowns. I may not have the answers, but He does. I trust that He knows what's best in any situation. If I seek His face, He will guide me through all of life's uncertainties. He always has. He will never leave me not forsake me. And He will recycle or redeem any challenge for my good or His glory.
With that kind of certitude, I can find comfort in the uneasy place of wondering "why". Jesus puts a floor under me in the free-fall of frustration. That assures me joy and peace in the midst of chaos rather than trying to depend on the elimination of chaos. What a huge blessing to lay hold of right here and now! It's yours for the taking! Why don't you join me in the comfort of this blessed assurance?
My life is but a weaving Between my Lord and me, I cannot choose the colors He worketh steadily. Ofttimes He weaveth sorrow, And I in foolish pride Forget He sees the upper And I, the underside. Not till the loom is silent And the shuttles cease to fly Shall God unroll the canvas And explain the reason why. The dark threads are as needful In the Weaver’s skillful hand As the threads of gold and silver In the pattern He has planned. — Grant Colfax Tuller
Sunday, March 1, 2009
One word that makes the hair stand up on the back of my husband's and my neck is when people call our son a "hemophiliac". But why does that bother us? Because we were taught early on in his diagnosis that this is no longer an acceptable term in the community. If we hadn't been taught that, we probably wouldn't think twice about the word because he IS a hemophiliac. One of our friends in the bleeding disorders community is riotously funny with her comments: "I'm a bleeder. My kids our bleeders. My brothers and sisters are a bunch of bleeders. My whole family are bleeders!" She says this laughing, through a big smile. And it's completely and totally "un-PC", as my nephew would say. But she's someone worth listening to because she has gone before many of us on the things that concern our community.