Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Are YOU Ready?


Those servants are really fortunate if their master finds them ready, even though he comes late at night or early in the morning. (Luke 12:38, CEV)

READ Luke 12:35-48

At the penning of this passage, it's celebration season. The summer months always bring more than a few parties. Whether it be graduations, weddings, baby showers, Memorial Day, the 4th of July, family reunions or vacations, much preparation goes into being ready to celebrate.

Already this summer, I have been a witness to the tireless commitment to be ready. There's the thorough cleaning and the loving preparation of food. Details are meticulously planned out. Time and finances are dedicated without a second thought. I was even caught last minute this past weekend, running to the store for fresh tomatoes and plastic forks. When the party starts, you don't want to be caught unprepared!

If you think we have reason to celebrate now, what do you think Jesus has prepared for us in eternity? Are you ready for the party of your life? He tells us that it can come when we least expect it. While we're not saved by our preparations, our heart relationship with Christ is reflected in our activity. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be caught napping on the job, drunk or screaming at my kids when the party begins! Would you even want your mail carrier to show up at your door unexpectedly like that?

Jesus truly desires to catch us doing good. He longs to be received as our Suffering Servant. In return, He merely asks that we be faithfully obedient.

He warns that He has high expectations of those who have been given much. While we may often think of that "much" as money or possessions, it can include other things as well. Our "much" may be trials or education or experience. Whatever it is, it should translate into acts of service or sharing with others.

Get ready TODAY! Make sure your relationship is right with the One who gave His very life for you! If you're willing to go to all lengths and expense to prepare for our brief but festive occasions, shouldn't you put that much more effort into being ready for the party that will be more awesome than anything you could ever ask or imagine?
(NOTE: The next BLOG, scheduled for 7/4, will be published 7/2 so readers can be replenished before the holiday!)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Thank God for the "Ordinary Joe"!


Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. (1 Corinthians 1:27, NLT)

The other day, while reading from the Book of Acts, it occurred to me how wild it must have been to hear a guy like Peter, an "ordinary Joe", a fisherman, address a crowd with authority and wisdom. That would be like having a garbage man in today's culture give an inaugural address! Yet, God filled Peter with His Holy Spirit and used Him to bring thousands into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

As I pondered this further, today's Scripture popped into my head. What infinite purpose God gives each human life, even if we're "ordinary", "young", "weak" or "poor". He can work much more easily with a person who realizes their limitations than with a "know-it-all". And those of us living with the daily challenges of raising a child with a special need KNOW we are imperfect creatures!

In fact, we might even sell ourselves short at times. When a disability or chronic condition rudely decides to have a season of taking center stage, we might wonder what good can possibly come from these trials. What purpose do we serve? The doctors can make us all feel so ignorant or foolish at times like these. We try to regain our confidence and raise our children to believe that they have something to offer the world.

It's at times like these when God can shine His light through us in powerful ways. Little Sam, a precious boy just adopted from Africa suffered a tragic accident. One day, after a stretch of time when his mom was worn down from the results of repeated ostomy failures, endlessly doing laundry and bathing him, God spoke. Sam shared with his mom, "When I have accident -- I touch God's hand and feel better. I say 'Thank you God'." Talk about God revealing Himself through the simple and confounding the wise! Many lives were tremendously touched by Sam's mom sharing that story -- more so than the bloviating wisdom of scholarly theologians!

And don't we average parents raising these challenged kids each have our own Sam? If you pause to think about it, I'll be you could recall some tender truth they've imparted from God that would shame the arrogant. It could be as every-day as the little girl singing "Jesus Loves Me" at the top of her lungs as she swings at the playground. But it's still profound enough to make others pause and connect, if even for a moment, with the Living God.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

JEHOVAH JIREH


I was young, and now I am old, but I have never seen good people left helpless or their children begging for food. (Psalm 37:25, NCV)

Read 1 Kings 17

In today's social and political climate, we need the encouragement of God's word. At a time where people continue to lose their jobs in record numbers and socialized medical care is being vigorously debated, we need to be reminded that there is hope beyond the work of our own hands or the intervention of government. God has been recognized as our provider, our Jehovah Jireh for thousands of years.

"Easy for you to say. Your husband has a job right now!", one might be inclined to think. But our family is a living testimony to God faithfully supplying for the needs of those who love Him. Not so long ago, we found the major breadwinner in our home between jobs 5 times over a 7 year stretch of time. During that period, we had a son born with the most expensive-to-treat genetic disorder known to mankind. Still, here we are, alive and well.

If you asked us how we managed, we could never show you on paper. It wasn't our own doing or merely the government's. God used both the ordinary and the miraculous to provide for our care. While my children received food provided through WIC and our son qualified for extended COBRA coverage by being deemed disabled by Social Security, they were not the only safety nets catching our fall. During that time someone anonymously paid our daughter's tuition at a private school. One day, she came home with an envelope of $200 in cash tucked in her backpack. Other times, we got anonymous checks in the mail, perfectly timed with a financial need that had arisen.

And then there was the time when our car wouldn't start in a store parking lot. I placed my hands on the dashboard, cried and prayed, "Oh, Lord, you know we have no money to get this car repaired. If it be Your will, please make it start." I turned over the ignition, and it started right up. But the most amazing part of the whole situation happened when my husband looked under the hood when he got home. Laying there were tools and an oily cloth that were not his. Surely God had sent His angels to repair that car for us!

I could go on with many more tales of how the Lord provided for us in those days. And I will go to my grave saying that by man's logic, there should be no reason why we still own this home. But I've shared enough with you here and now for you to see clearly that God's generosity and care in this modern era are real.

All God looks for in us is total trust and obedience. When we don't compromise in the face of financial difficulty, when we tithe when the world says "that's crazy", when we open our eyes to watch for where God is working in our situation, He will be found worthy of our awe! In today's economic climate, build your life on the only sure foundation and be at peace. Awaiting you will be the fullness of joy that God meant for you in this life!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

BLESSED REASSURANCE

"Don't panic. I'm with you. There's no need to fear for I'm your God. I'll give you strength. I'll help you. I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you." (Isaiah 41:10, MSG)

God put on quite a light show the other night as a series of thunderstorms rolled in. It was the perfect summer night, balmy and breezy. The weather held until all the night's activities were finished. I lay in my bed, windows wide open, letting the soft wind blow over me and enjoying the majestic flashes of lightening still off in the distance.

Nevertheless, my 7 year old came running into my room crying. She pleaded with me frantically to close the windows, convinced that I was about to be struck by lightening and leave her presence forever. I comforted her, assuring her that I knew what I was doing, we were safe and I would close the windows when the rain started pouring.

Isn't that how our Lord comforts us? We can get so distraught over the lightening we are certain is going to strike us at any minute. Still, he pats our hands and lets us know that He has everything under control. He won't let anything harm us, and we don't need to be afraid.

So many of the things we fear will happen never come to pass. We're convinced we'll lose our house, but somehow the bills manage to be paid. We're certain that death is at our door, but we live to see another day. God is upholding us with His righteous right hand.

That right hand was viewed as a place of honor in biblical times. How blest we are that we rate so highly in God's heart! Though He rules the universe, He still cares about small humans with our endless challenges. Though we fall so short in our love for Him, still He keeps a firm grip on us. Thank Him today that though we feel panicked, His constant care reassures us that we need not fear a thing!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Value of a Life


The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me... (Psalm 138:8)


In a culture that measures the value of a human life based on how much they can produce or how successful they are, we can feel incredibly small. When disease or disorders descend upon our families, we can be filled with dread about what the future holds. Despite our love for our children with special needs, the experience of being discarded or devalued by those around us can cause us to question whether or not any good can come out of our circumstances.


Take heart! God assures us that He will fulfill the good purposes He has for each human life. He's the potter. We're the clay. (Isaiah 64:8) He promises that He can recycle each of life's circumstances for our good and His glory. (Romans 8:28)


I love to just silently witness the lives of those children of God whom others often don't take them time to even see. Sundays are extra special when David covers up his face to flirt with me or puckers up for a kiss. I can have the worst sort of day, but when Bruce banters with me as he bags my groceries or cleans my kids' school, he lifts my mood. And the fact that my daughter Lexi can get Emily laughing in spite of the fact that she can neither hear nor see Lexi, bolster's my daughter's confidence and helps her to feel valued.


At one disability conference we were at, participants shared stories of how those with challenges can serve in our faith communities. One person told the story of a severely disabled woman who was wheelchair bound and non-verbal. She attended the choir practice each week. The choir knew that if this woman clapped or cheered, they had perfected a song. If she was silent, they still had some work to do!


So often, before I speak in public or sit down to write I pray, "I'm just the pencil, Lord. You're doing the writing." Who are we, whether able-bodied or challenged by a special need, to think we are anything more than a tool in the hand of the Master Creator? We all have equal and precious value in His economy.


With that in mind, you can more-readily assist your child in finding their important purpose in God's master plan. And be encouraged! Whether others recognize it or not, you know that God is fulfilling something essential in the life of the one you love.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

FREEDOM OF FORGIVENESS


Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32, NIV)


If you are the parent of a child with a special need, you have experienced the wounds inflicted by others. (Of course, we all face this heartache in some form on this earth.) You may have been questioned, judged or talked down to. Rejection, ridicule or opposition may have pierced your heart.


It is difficult to forgive somebody who kicks us when we're already down. But that's exactly what God calls us to do. Though the world proclaims, "Don't get mad -- Get even!", our wise Father cautions, "Don't repay evil for evil." (Romans 12:17) That may be asking a lot, especially if we're trying to draw from an emotional well that's already run dry. Yet, God who commands it can help you to make it happen.


Aside from stepping back and giving our hearts time to heal, one way to produce that forgiveness is to reflect on ignorance. People who inflict such wounds are often clueless, and so, once were you. They don't know or fully understand what a day in your life is like. They don't know your child like you do. Remember how you once viewed those with a disability and their families before you began your present journey? Would you want to be held accountable today for the ignorance you had back then? With that in mind, it becomes a bit more manageable to offer others the same mercy you would hope for.


One of Jesus' last prayers on this earth before he died was, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they're doing." (Luke 23:34) We were far from perfect when our merciful Savior forgave us. When we pass on that forgiveness to other imperfect people, we free ourselves from the inevitable bondage that comes when bitterness sets up shop in our hearts.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

BLESSING BY RECEIVING


A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25, NIV)


One of the greatest deceptions of our current culture is the belief in total self-sufficiency. Day-time talk shows pander to new-age gurus who promote controlling our own destiny, karma, and the power within us.


But let's face it, we in the special needs community are living proof that sometimes, through no ones fault, life can throw us a raw deal. Despite our most positive attitudes, life can be extremely difficult. And God never intended for us to handle these times on our own. In fact, we're commanded to "Bear one another's burdens" in Galatians 6:2.


So how come we're so filled with pride when others offer help? "Oh, no, we're fine... REALLY, " we profess, though wondering how we'll get through a current trial. Clean my house for me? Watch my kids for me while I nap? If I do that these people might think I'm lazy, or worse, that I can't handle my problems. I'm supposed to be able to handle this. These are the lies that Satan whispers in our ears when Jesus really wants us to hear, "Come to me all who are weary, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)


Now, here's the real kicker -- Aside from the fact that God repeatedly reminds us that we need His help, we also rob others of blessings when we do not allow them to serve us. Ouch!


I had to learn this lesson the hard way. Four months into my last pregnancy, I began experiencing premature labor. In total disbelief and denial, I refused assistance for all the usual reasons. But then the contractions would come more frequently and would get stronger, so I surrendered to receiving help. The joy on the face of those who brought us meals or who aided us in other ways was indescribable. Far from being put out, each found themselves blest for the opportunity to serve.


If you're anything like me, trials or high-need times also have a tendency to scatter the brain. Therefore, it's helpful to have a list of things that regularly need to be done compiled either before crisis hits or when you have a minute to gather your thoughts. That list might include things like meals, transportation or babysitting for the kids, walking the dog, laundry, lawn-mowing and definitely, specific prayer requests. Don't have someone who's offering help to you in trying times? Form a network with other parents, so you can be there for each other during the inevitable situations that hit all of us.


Remember, there can be no givers if there are no receivers. Your time will come to serve another. In fact, you're serving that special, treasured child! And when you allow another to bless you, you are opening the door to God's blessings being poured out on them.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

"YOU CATCH MORE BEES WITH HONEY..."


Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. (Ephesians 4:15, NLT)


There is no doubt about it, parenting a child with a special need is stressful. Contending with doctors, insurance companies, schools and those who lack understanding can be frustrating and exhausting. With these vulnerabilities, it is easy to come at people with "guns ablazing" when we need to make a stand.


Yet, our challenging lives do not entitle us to verbally abuse others. If you look back at the first few verses of Ephesians 4, you can see that God's expectation is that we treat one another with humility, gentleness, patience and that we bear with one another. This means taking a deep breath and calming down to choose our words wisely. I have at times even prefaced a tense situation by saying, "I'm just going to apologize right now because I'm upset, and I may lose it during this conversation." That admission has been successful in changing the entire tone of an exchange.


God shows us what happens when we're not careful with our words in Proverbs 12:18. We can cut others to their very core. At the same time, we lose credibility and may appear unwise. What if, unbeknownst to us, the person we're talking to just recently lost a loved one? Or found out they had cancer? Would we give them more grace? We don't know what's on the heart or mind of others we need to work with. Further, we must understand that the other individual has not walked a mile in our shoes. We can help to increase their understanding by treating them the way we would hope to be treated.


My mom taught me the saying, "You catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar." When we tell the truth to others firmly but lovingly, we win them over to our cause. And face it, we could all use a few more allies on our side!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Backseat Driving


"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:11-13, NIV)

Motherhood has given me the privilege of seeing my children through eyes that must be similar to how God sees me. I love my children immensely, to the point of giving my life for them, just as my Father loves me. The kids make some terrible choices. I get frustrated, but I never stop loving them. In much the same way, God is longsuffering with me.

One of the ways the kids act out, that totally cracks me up, is when they backseat drive. "Mom! You're going the wrong way! Are you sure this is the way? Are you taking a shortcut? Why are you going 30 when the sign says 25?" I think, You don't even know how to drive a car and you're telling ME what to do! Hilarious!

Just as the kids make me laugh when they boss me around, so must the Father be smiling and shaking His head when we tell HIM what to do. God has given us His precious assurances, shown us His recipe for living and committed Himself to hearing our requests. He even reassures us that He's on our side. All He asks for is our obedience.

That obedience includes letting God be God. We need to back off and allow Him to make good on what He said He would do. Jesus said, "Come follow me", "I have come that they might have life more abundantly", and "Do not be afraid," NOT "You handle life on your own and I'll step in where you can't get the job done." He's got big plans for you and I, and He's promised to never leave us or forsake us. With so much invested in us, including His own human life, why don't we trust Him?

As we go forward, let's take our hands off the wheel, pray for the Lord to increase our faith and with all our hearts, seek to trust Him more. We know what He's done in the past, even in our own lives. Indeed, the One who has numbered every hair on our heads will prosper us with His plans, if only we will let Him.