Monday, October 31, 2011

Why YOU Need to Attend INCLUSION FUSION ~ Our Top Ten


 
"...I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10b, NIV)


Coming to a computer screen near you, November 3-5, 2011 will be the landmark Inclusion Fusion web conference for those with interest in topics related to living with special needs and the Christian church.  Here is our Top 10 list of why YOU should make attending this event your top priority:

10.  The conference is completely FREE!  How many times has the cost of a conference posed an obstacle to you attending?  Not this time!  The only thing this conference will cost you is time.

9.  You can attend the conference right from the comfort of your own home!  Let's face it, if you care for a loved one with special needs, getting out of the house or finding respite care can be tough.  There are no such concerns with this conference.

8.  You have access to two dozen of the foremost experts on disability ministry!  From those who have been trail-blazers in the field to exciting up-and-comers, you will have the opportunity to listen to wisdom on a wide variety of topics.  Never has there been such a fabulous collection of speakers in one conference!

7.  Preeminent preacher, Chuck Swindoll will be the event's keynote speaker!  If you are not familiar with the Insights for Living radio show and the preaching ministry of Pastor Chuck Swindoll, you are in for a treat.  Pastor Swindoll's wisdom is sure to grow and inspire participants.

6.  There will be information just for parents or caregivers!  Topics addressing advocacy for the child, forgiveness, and transitions to adulthood are just some that may interest those raising a child with special needs.

5.    There will be information just for churches interested in starting an inclusion ministry!  Merely understanding the mission field is so important!  This topic as well as a basic presentation on how to get started will be offered along with others.

4.  New innovations will be discussed!  From respite to curriculum to social media, fresh ideas will be available to those who already have a special needs ministry at their church.  

3.  You will have an opportunity to live chat for 1 hour during the conference with most of the speakers!  When is the last time you had THAT sort of time to further discuss topics of interest with the presenters at a conference?  This offers attendees a much more engaging experience during the conference.

2.  A host of additional resources will be available to participants!  Each speaker or the organization they represent will have recommended resources or their own items to offer for sale to attendees.

AND THE NUMBER 1 REASON YOU NEED TO ATTEND INCLUSION FUSION...

1.  You were designed for fellowship!  Whether an isolated parent or an inquisitive servant looking for more guidance, God never intended for us to do life in a vacuum.  This conference will afford you the opportunity to connect to hundreds of others around the nation who have the same questions and interests.  And through such a venue, you are bound to be blessed!

JOIN KEY MINISTRY, SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES, LIFT DISABILITY NETWORK, THE NEED PROJECT, THE P.U.R.E. MINISTRY PROJECT, AND SO MANY OTHERS FOR THIS EVENT BY REGISTERING FOR THE CONFERENCE TODAY!

Pray:  Lord, wherever two or more are gathered in Your name, You are with us.  Thank You for being with us during the Inclusion Fusion conference.  Bless our time together, and help us all to grow as we learn how to better serve the least of Your children.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Going Backward to Stretch Forward

"So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands." ~ Psalm 78:7, NLT

I just had the great blessing of spending four days at a fabulous women's retreat in the North woods of Wisconsin.  The theme, which was walking in the Spirit, didn't especially trigger any anticipation in me prior to the event, but it certainly transformed me once I was there.  I had attended this retreat for the first time last year, and merely sought to once again experience the refreshment I had recalled receiving there.

Prior to my departure, there had been many demands on my life.  I had just finished working on writing two grants.  We were in full swing of preparing the kick-off event at our collaborative pediatric facility development.  I was in the throws of leading a committee as they develop a curriculum for parent mentors.  I was one week late in submitting my video presentation for a virtual conference.  Children were needing assistance with various special needs issues including a bleed incurred in a foolish phy ed accident, and a truth telling issue at school.  Things had really come to a head when I had to call an ambulance for my elderly mother when I found her unable to get out of bed when I arrived at her home.

It has been a rough but productive year.  And the battle scars of walking through life trying just to do the next right thing have left me feeling hard pressed on every side.  Restoration was not just a desire, but a requirement at this point.

As He so faithfully does, God met me right in my messiness at that retreat.  Escorted right into the presence of our Creator by worship leader, David Kaap, I came to the end of myself.  My focus changed, and I gained a deep desire to leave that place completely transformed in comparison to the way I had arrived.  More of You, Lord, and less of me, was the prayer of my heart.   I gained many new insights to walking in the Spirit through my sweet friend and speaker, Margo Fieseler.  But much of what I heard, read and learned were things that I had encountered before, yet God was bringing them afresh to my weary soul.

This retreat so emphatically convicted me to share with you that often we need to reflect backward on the eternal truths our Maker lovingly grants us in order to strain forward toward the prize He is holding out for us.  For instance, we may require some time to be alone with God and recall that He tells us that there is nothing that is too difficult for Him. (See Jeremiah 32:27)  Remembering those words, we can also remember times where the Lord got us out of an extremely sticky situation or a seemingly impossible circumstance.  This equips us to go forward in trust and confidence of His capable care.

Perhaps we face that ocean of medical bills that never seem to relent in a family living with special needs.  But as we quietly sit with our Bibles open, He bathes us in promises of His provision, faithfulness and care.  We read the stories of how God delivered people in the past and see that He still delivers today.  In those times, he brings to mind all those times he provided an unexpected rebate in the mail, an anonymous aid or a tax refund just in time.  And He refills us, equipping us to go forward in strength and assurance like we've never known before.

Our challenge is to keep walking in that knowledge of who He is.  Walking in humility, purity, contentment, faith, trust, truth, love, patience and wisdom, like sweet Margo taught, keeps us plugged in, close to His side so we can intimately hear Him whispering His blessed assurance to us as we stretch forward.  We're enabled to live a life filled with good works, light and the remarkable "something different" that draws others to the Savior we adore.  But we have to be deliberate in carving out that time to spiritually refill and recollect.

If we allow the insanity, pain and demands of this life to continually drown out what God stoops down to lovingly bless us with, how will we ever enjoy peace in the storms?  It is humanly impossible to experience joy amidst life's most severe trials.  But by the power of His Spirit, we can be filled to overflowing in spite of our circumstances.  May we make that time to reflect backward so we can go forward in the power of all He wants to lavish upon us!


Pray:  God, most days I'm just carried about by the whirlwinds of life's latest demands or crises.  My vision of you becomes blurred, and I'm left feeling desperate.  Oh, Holy Spirit, bring to my mind today all those truths you have taught me before, so I might be strengthened for today!  Apart from You, I can do nothing.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Curious Disturbance

How horrible it will be for those who call evil good and good evil, who turn darkness into light and light into darkness, who turn what is bitter into something sweet and what is sweet into something bitter.~ Isaiah 5:20, GW

Something has been eating at me lately.  Every morning when I sit down at my desk and begin my work at my computer, I receive notices that help me screen the vast sea of information pertinent to parents and caregivers of children with unique challenges.  I filter everything from small town newspapers to major news stories, from blogs to breaking government recalls.  But I've been viewing something in the mix that's disturbing.

In amidst announcements of interest to those of us serving family members with disabilities are urgent pleas for animals with special needs. Writers extol the virtues of a precious pooch missing a limb who is so worthy of saving from the pound, if only someone will provide a home.  Humaine animal welfare organizations plea that if we will only donate today, a kind creature who merely needs regular insulin shots can live out the rest of its days the way they were meant to be - in utter bliss.  I even saw a post the other day regarding a two-faced cat for whom animal rights enthusiasts are soliciting assistance.

Now, at first blush, people might not find a problem with wanting to show kindness to cute, cuddly little creatures.  Why wouldn't you want to help Fido?  After all, no reasonable human being would find animal suffering to be attractive.

However, where I get stuck is on that boundary line that distinctly lays between humanity and the animal kingdom.  I still firmly believe the truth of Genesis 1:26 that says, "Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'”(NIV, bold print added for emphasis)  In God's economy, there is an order to things.  And people have priority over creatures.  We alone are created in His image. 

I look at how mixed up our culture has become.  I remember the case where a woman received a lesser punishment for delivering her baby in a public bathroom, killing it and throwing it in a dumpster than a professional athlete did for the animal abuse of dog fighting.  And things like this disturb me.

How can we as humans even think about rescuing a two-faced cat when every church in this country doesn't even have fully accessible restrooms?  What is appropriate about giving assistive devices to a rabbit when children in this country aren't able to function because they're specialized walker or wheelchair was stolen?  
I drove past the auctioneer's on the way home from our country getaway last week, and they were advertising "Culling Cow Action, 10 AM, 10/6".  That sounds like hamburger to me.  It's not cause to rescue Bessie when we are still nowhere near a cure for genetic disorders that still take the lives of our precious, valuable humans each day.

Are you disturbed by this too?  I surely hope you are.  For when wrong becomes right and right becomes wrong, our culture is in dangerous territory indeed.  And when I see this type of behavior, I keep looking towards the sky for Jesus' imminent return.


Pray:  God, give me perspective.  Help me to value every human life the same way you do.  Thank you for the gift of pets and all of your creatures.  But let me never give them better treatment than I would give one of the least of your children.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

LEAVING NO STONE UNTURNED!

"...And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” ~ Matthew 10:42, NIV


Running a non-profit ministry for parents of kids with special needs is an interesting endeavor, to say the least.  People often wonder what a person like myself does all day.  How much time can it take to set up an occasional meeting or respite event every-so-often?  Writing a blog is something many do as a hobby on the side.  How hard can it be to pack up a lovely gift basket to bless a mom or a dad in need?


While I will contend that God has blessed both myself and those who minister alongside me far more than we could ever bless those we serve, I want to encourage parents by letting you know that we leave no stone unturned for your benefit.  Walking the path myself gives me a keen awareness of how wearisome and anguishing it can be to parent these precious kids.  That only fuels my passion.  I feel grateful for all that God has done and continues to pour out on my family.  The only appropriate response is to share that Good News and hope beyond all hope with a hurting world.  To the great fortune of other parents, I have a big mouth, and hopefully, that results in the many others who step up to share the vision and serve.


That service is all wonderful, but in this world that God presently has us passing through, money is needed to fund all of these things and assist parents.  We leave no stone unturned by searching every corner to gain help with what we do.  Every Tuesday via Twitter, we "tweet" a #CharityTuesday request asking people to donate via our website.  We seem to be continually writing grants, and are immensely thankful for the kindness of organizations like The Stackner Family Foundation who share our vision and heart for families with a child who has special needs.  We apply for contests like the one we are currently involved in, Citgo's Fueling Good Program which awards gas gift cards to their winners.  Since gas cards are such a big part of what we do, programs like this seem to be a natural fit.  A simple way we offer people to support our organization without having to spend a dime themselves is to use our Good Search Toolbar where we get $0.01 ever time you search using us at the charity of choice.  We also use well known organizations like Great Non-Profits.Com and Guidestar to build awareness of our families' needs and what we are striving to do to meet those needs.  And we rely on the generosity of local businesses like The DeRosa Corporation, which have been great friends to us in providing dinner gift certificates or food at events at a deeply discounted rate.


The point is this, my friends, God loves you!  He has numbered every hair on your head!  He cares deeply for and about you, your child and your circumstances!  We who serve through SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES have the great honor of being His ambassadors to you in this dark world.  We hold this privilege in high regard, searching tirelessly and obediently for ways to serve you and to provide for your needs.  We do this in order that you may know the riches of His goodness and pass that on, in turn, to your children and everyone around you.  Won't you please share with those you know and love these different ways of supporting an organization that supports you?  We love to offer a cup of cold water to those traveling through challenging times.  But that pump needs to be primed, and these various ways all add to that.  If you have been blessed, pass on the blessing!


Pray:  Oh, Father, You are the great Jehovah Jireh!  You provide every good and perfect gift, including the most simple of comforts.  Please continue to provide for us in our times of greatest need.  Help us to pass along every blessing you pour out on us, all to Your glory!