Friday, November 30, 2012

A PEEK INSIDE MY JOURNAL SERIES: Being the Gospel

*Monday...

Pastor Terry's sermon series is heavy on my heart and in my mind.  FAITH AT WORK is the title, sowing seeds through every-day evangelization. It has left me with the nagging question, "Who will be in heaven because they came into contact with me?  Who do I share the Good News with?"

I've poured the Good News of salvation into my kids, and that's a good start.  If I died tomorrow, I could be at peace knowing that I gave them the underpinnings they need for a life in Christ.

However, I was especially convicted when I did the Woman-to-Woman training with Great Lakes Hemophilia Foundation this weekend.  One of the trainers said, "I talk to everyone I come into contact with about this.  Nobody gets away from me without hearing the (advocacy) message."  If these women have such passion about sharing information which is temporal, why aren't I at least as relentless in sharing what is eternal?

I need to remember the wise words of Margo Fieseler when she met me in the hall at the YMCA, "Don't do ministry.  Be ministry."  That is so very simple, yet so very hard.  People are watching, whether we know it or not.  So if I can just do my best, as unto the Lord and to to men (Colossians 3:23), perhaps I will be doing that part which God has in mind for me right now.  The Pocket Devotional for Mothers left me with this thought today, "Do your best each day; God will fill in the gaps."  Thank You for that encouragement, Lord!

*Footnote:  Journal posts are taken from past years on my special needs journey, offering parents a chance to identify with another person who has faced similar emotions and circumstances.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Special Kind of Mother Love

"As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you..." ~ Isaiah 66:13

Lord, you have blessed me with 3 beautiful children.  I think back to the days where it seems every waking minute belonged to them.  Now they are growing at an alarming rate, all in double-digit to teen ages, and I wonder what kind of mother I have been to them.  I struggle with feeling inadequate most days.  

Do they know how very much I love them?  Yes, most mothers love their children, but this is different.  This kind of love comes from the depths of walking through the journey of special needs with a family.  It comes from the common experience of living through things that you never would have chosen for yourselves.

Does my eldest know how proud I am of her?  Does she know that I have time and attention for her?  Does she know that she is just as important as my other kids with special needs?  What a remarkable young lady You are growing her into, Lord!  Because of the adversity she has had to witness in our family, she has become a tremendously self-motivated student.  She is a compassionate young lady with a heart for those who are facing difficulties.  Poised and confident, she has no trouble scolding her friends for using the "R" word or standing up for what she believes in, even when it seems to earn her the mistreatment of others.  Father, this is all by Your hand on her life.  Thank You for allowing me to be a witness to what you are doing in her.

God, does my son know how heartbroken I am that I passed on this wicked genetic disorder to him?  Even though I know that it is the devil himself who tries to falsely accuse me of being at blame for my son's hemophilia, I can't help but feel sad that this is something I passed on to him.  Oh, Lord, how I wish I could take his place!  What I wouldn't give for it to be me that has been jabbed with IV needles over 2,000 times in 12 years.  The pain of bleeding episodes in joints and internal organs -- I never thought it could be this bad.  And now as he gets older, he bears such sadness in feeling different from his peers, wanting so much to awake and find this was all a bad dream.  Even so, Father, I want him to know that You are right there beside him, walking him through this journey.  You give his suffering meaning.  I know You have a plan for him.  This anguish will be his platform to carry Your light to the dark world around him.  Is my love enough to write these things on his heart, Lord?

My youngest pulls my heartstrings in different ways.  Father, doesn't she know she has our love without trying?  I feel like I have failed her when she doesn't sense that love.  She has endured so much and yet, come so far.  When she was little, she just appeared to be a mischievous sprite.  I still remember how sad and defeated I felt each time she received another new diagnosis.  While I felt vindicated in many ways, the false accusations by others regarding my parenting skills has never waned.  I have always known that there is a very smart little girl inside that socially awkward shell.  The way she makes me laugh every day is a gift I can never repay.  At the same time, her challenges will wear down my last raw nerve.  I never imagined it could be this hard.  Still, nothing will awaken the mama bear in me like the trials she is facing in middle school with bullying now.  I pray she senses the safety and acceptance of home when she returns at the end of each day.

Oh, God, our schedule is so disjointed because of medical emergencies; our finances are so low because of never-ending medical costs; our family life is so... unusual... in so many ways.  I am not enough for these precious kids, but You are!  Where I fall short, Your mercy covers my shortcomings.  And I pray that my love coupled together with Your infinite sufficiency fills my babies up and strengthens them for the life You have chosen for them.  Thank You, Lord.

Monday, November 26, 2012

FAVORITE VERSES SERIES: I'm No Angel

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 
~Romans 3:23, NLT~

As we enter in to the holiday season and Advent approaches, how very essential to our spiritual well-being to recall why the remarkable birth of Jesus was so necessary.  Let's ponder our awesome, glorious God together.  He has created us as the objects of His infinite love.  With just a word, He spoke the Universe into existence.  From the vast galaxies of stars to the tiniest microscopic details of organisms, He wonderfully and intricately designed life as we know it.  He created each of us as the objects of His infinite and intimate love, numbering every hair on our heads.  He willed to love and know us each individually, not just collectively.  If we actually sat to take more time, we would find ourselves breathless from the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, the quiet, gentle lapping of waves on a body of water, the majesty of a mountain or the soft skin of a small child.  Our minds are barely capable of grasping the vastness of this glorious God of ours.  His goodness, power and generosity are beyond what we could ever fathom.  And His holiness so great, so pure that it cannot be anywhere close to the filth of sin.

This begs the question, How can a sinner like me ever get close to a God this beautiful and this holy?  It seems rather hopeless.  After all, today's verse couldn't be more accurate.  Find someone who doesn't sin.  It's impossible.  Everyone is prone to some sort of shortcoming.  It may be gossiping with others that trips us up.  Perhaps we have sticky fingers and take office supplies home from work for personal use.  Maybe we cheat on our taxes.  There are plenty of us who struggle with alcohol, drug or other addictions.

I'm no angel.  I sin every day.  Not a day goes by where I don't have to apologize to my spouse or children for losing my temper.  I struggle with "unwholesome language," which is never a good example for my kids.  I get a chip on my shoulder, feeling entitled to better than what I have because our family has been through so much.  These are only a few of the daily sins that tempt me.  I am a highly average person.  If I wrestle with these things, I know others do too.  I am a sinner, just like every other human, who falls short of God's glorious standard.

Because God is all-loving as well as all-just, He had to make a special way for us, the objects of his love to be with Him while having that sin crime paid for.  This is where He carried out one of His most remarkable acts, controlling that infinite power of His and confining Himself to human existence for 33 years.  Jesus came to Earth on a rescue mission, to draw all of us into the permanent eternal hope of being with God.  He paid our sin debt for us, taking on our punishment.  This is the only thing that allows us to enter into the presence of a holy, holy God.  He served the sentence.  The debt for our crime is paid.

This is what makes Christmas so incredible!  God, the Son, left the bliss of heaven, dwelling with us hopeless sinners so that we could dwell with Him forever.  It is a gift for everyone.  Not one of us is better than or more deserving than another.  No one is holy enough to warrant heaven on our own.  Even the pain we suffer here ourselves purifies us enough to bring us up to God's standards.  Only Jesus does.

Spend these days leading up to Christmas pondering this profound thought.  Thank Him for saving you from yourself!  Because I'm no angel, and neither are you.

PRAY:  Lord, I know I get this attitude that I somehow deserve heaven, especially with all the trials I face.  But I know Your truth tells me that I still fall short of Your glory and holiness.  Thank You for what You have done for me that I could not have done for myself.  This Christmas Season, may I treasure this in my heart as I move from demands to celebrations.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A PEEK INSIDE MY JOURNAL SERIES: Worn-Out But Looking Up

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
*Thursday...

I am suffering from some serious burnout and feelings of defeat.  Both at home and in ministry, there is a constant pouring-out of myself.  But right now, I am not feeling refilled.

The kids are endlessly demanding.  Their whining and fighting is continual.  They trash the house faster than I can clean it.  And I have to sit on them, mostly W, to get their school work done.

When it comes to ministry, the situation isn't that much different.  Some people are very selfish volunteers.  They'll agree to help, but they set up restrictions to their help so that it's really no help at all.  It makes my work that much harder.  Why can't people just see an area of need and step into it?  I want to cry!

To top it all off, I lost my regular Thursday afternoon childcare, so I don't know how I'll ever get my work done.  God help me!

I cry out to You, Yahweh!  This is all Yours anyway.  If Your desire is for my children to grow up as sound, capable, loving soldiers for Your kingdom, then send me the help to make it happen.  If Your desire is to reach special needs families, give them hope, and glorify Yourself through their trials, then send me the workers, willing, humble, capable workers, to accomplish the vision You've given me.

"I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from? 
 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth."
~ Psalm 121:1-2, NIV ~ 

*Footnote:  Journal posts are taken from past years on my special needs journey, offering parents a chance to identify with another person who has faced similar emotions and circumstances.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

SO Much To Be Grateful For!


Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
~ 1 Chronicles 16:34, NIV ~

Sitting in a meeting with a local business owner, I found myself sharing with him what I share with everyone who seems to feel sorry for those of us raising children with special needs.  We are SO blessed to be living at this point in time and in this country.  We have SO much to be grateful for!  Consider this list next time you are feeling a bit down:
  • No matter how you feel about our healthcare laws or the ability to pay for that healthcare, if you live in the United States, you still have access to the best healthcare in the world.
  • There are countless helping organizations like Make-A-Wish, Variety Club Children's Charities, Easter Seals, Ronald McDonald House and the like who are all there to stand in the gap for families like ours.  Scholarships and financial aid are more readily available to us than ever before
  • Science has provided so many advances in the treatment and cure of various diseases, including rare disorders.  Researchers have more information about effective therapies and treatments than ever before.
  • Laws now require that our children receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) with Individual Education Plans (IEP) and 504 Plan adaptations.  Inclusive classrooms and special education are now the national standard. 
  • Along with those educational requirements, there are places like Wrights Law that are here to direct and advocate for families like us.  We have allies who will fight for us like never before.
  • We have greater access than ever to information on diagnoses, treatments, our rights under the law, and a wide variety of supports because of the wonder of the internet.  Whether it be WebMD or a diagnosis-specific organization like The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, we can quickly learn the latest information about virtually any given disorder.
  • In addition to the information we can access on the internet, we now have the unique ability to build support relationships with others without ever leaving our homes.  Facebook, Twitter and private websites set up using tools like Ning or WordPress all provide forums along with opportunities to meet other parents walking our same journey.
  • All of this internet access is made available to families like ours right from our children's hospital rooms when there is an admission.  This proves to be a tremendous blessing in keeping others informed when there is a crisis or challenge.
  • Assistive animals are now used in remarkable ways.  While seeing eye dogs have been used for generations with those who are visually challenged, therapy pets, seizure animals and service dogs are a unique tool in this generation.
  • Inclusion and acceptance have become the goal rather than ostracizing and institutionalizing.  Children once sent away to special schools or ridiculed even by adults are now increasingly being welcomed rather than outcast.
  • Life expectancy and quality of life have improved for our special kids.  Whereas children with diagnoses such as Cystic Fibrosis used to only make it to the age of 15, their life expectancy has now more than doubled in recent decades.  Men that were once crippled by the joint bleeds of hemophilia now enjoy a reasonably normalized life.
  • Because of improvements in the past few decades, we are immensely blessed to recognize our children for the amazing and unique individuals they are with beautiful personalities, their own likes and dislikes, and remarkable talents.  In other words, we are no longer advised or lead to believe that our children are without hope, cognitively incapable or should be cast aside.
  • There are still children around the world who don't have crutches, don't have wheelchairs, simple medical treatments and who are considered cursed because of their special needs.  How blessed we are that we do not live in a nation where our children face these additional myths and battles!
  • The future holds promise for our children.  There are terrific work opportunities in this generation for kids with a diagnosis.  Work training programs are also easily accessible.
  • Clothes on our backs, food on our tables, a roof over our heads...
These are just a few of the countless reasons we parents of children with special needs ought to be lifting an extra prayer of thanks and praise at this time of year.  When you get discouraged, give this list a look and realize, even though you are weary and may think things look dark, you are richly blessed.  Give God the praise and thanks He so deserves!

PRAY:  Father, I confess that too often I count my burdens rather than my blessings.  Today I offer You my thanks and praise for all you provide, not only for our special child, but for our entire family.  Make my life  a shining example of thanks-living!

Monday, November 19, 2012

FAVORITE VERSES SERIES: Trusting Our Faith Not Our Feelings

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding; 
 in all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make your paths straight.[a]

(Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV1984)

Everything around you tells you there is no hope.  The bills are insurmountable.  The treatment isn't working.  Your child is regressing rather than improving.  Friends and family continue criticizing your parenting skills.  All indications are, things will never get better.  But God...

Are there two more reassuring words in the world?  "But God..."  Our God is the God of the impossible situation!  Our God saved Noah from the flood, rescued Joseph from slavery and imprisonment, delivered the Israelites from Egyptian oppression into the promised land, busted down the walls of Jericho, raised a dead Lazarus, cured the blind and lame, and demolished the power of the grave through His Resurrection on the third day.  Wow! 

Knowing who our God is and what He is capable of is what gives life to this weeks memory verse.  You have learned and experienced what the Lord is capable of, so trust Him.  Don't just vacillate thinking you'll perhaps try Yahweh as an alternative or resign yourself to having no other recourse.  No, trust Him completely, because you know who He is.  

Don't rely on your own comprehension, perception or assessment of a situation.  I will never pretend to understand everything God is up to, and neither should you.  In fact, He tells us in Isaiah 55:8, "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord." (NIV1984) Our minds can play tricks on us.  Our own discernment can be a little off at times.  Trust in His divine wisdom, and you can't go wrong.

We are reminded in the Amplified Bible translation of this verse, "In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him..."  What this might look like in our daily lives is for us to continue to hold tight to the knowledge of who God is no matter what the circumstances.  The suffering Bible character, Job, demonstrates this sort of behavior when he proclaims, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him..." (Job 13:15, NASB)  It is the full reliance on the character of our Creator rather than the temporal stress of our circumstances.

When we acknowledge the Lord in all our ways, He promises to "make your paths straight."  It doesn't say that He will lift you off of your path or remove every stone from your path.  This is no guarantee that future troubles will be averted.  No, instead God offers you something much better.  He offers to guide you, go with you and get you down every path. 

It is in this full, trusting reliance on Him that we are most able and ready to witness God's glory.  As one who has experienced it before, I can assure you that it will take your breath away.  When you are fully enveloped in Him, at the center of His will and abandoning your own expectations or perception of what a situation is or should be, then the Lord can take you places you could never have ventured on your own.  For example, you can feel joy, experience awe, and even be overwhelmed with gratitude amidst the most difficult parts of parenting a child with special needs.  That is pretty remarkable!  Bless yourself by trusting Him today!

PRAY:  Today, LORD, I commit myself to abandoning my ridiculous self-reliance in exchange for your awesome wisdom and guidance.  I know that I can rely on You.  Remind me of this when I feel doubt nagging at me. 

Footnotes:  a.  Proverbs 3:6 Or will direct your paths

Friday, November 16, 2012

NEW Series: A PEEK INSIDE MY JOURNAL

My soul is thirsty for God, for the living God. When will I come and meet with God?
~ Psalm 42:2, NLV ~

It may be a scary place at times, especially for me, but God put it on my heart the other day to share some of my personal journal entries with you.  While I cannot know the reasons the Lord is prompting me, I can speculate that my transparency might bless you.  It may show you things I have struggled with over the years, conversations I have had with God, and how I worked through things.  In my brokenness, I just may make it okay for you to be broken too, and yet, still faithfully following Christ.

I ask that you refrain from trying to "fix" me or my worldview in any of these posts.  I am taking pieces from years and years of journaling without letting you know the exact date of the post, so I may have already resolved the issue.  The point of sharing such intimate parts of my life is so that you may grow.  Growth comes in a variety of ways which include observing and learning from others who have gone before us.  Knowing that motivates me to push past the discomfort and concern that opening up my private journal to you may bring me personal harm or insult.

All that being said, let's get started...


BLESSINGS TRUMP TRIALS!

How can I ever praise You enough, Lord?  Your gracious goodness is upon me each and every day.  My life is filled, touched with so many, many wonderful people.  The joy You bring me is breathtaking!  What a privilege it is getting to know the fascinating people my children are and are becoming, when I had so many anguished hours earlier in my life, wondering if I would ever be a parent.  The gift of entering into the lives, and even the pain, of others has made my life incredibly rich.  The blessing of edification by other solid, mature Christians when I am so faithless is beyond an honor.

Holy Spirit bring this day, this feeling of an overflowing heart, to mind when I am discouraged or feeling like the whole world is against me.  Strengthen my resolve and focus.  Remind me to doubt my doubts, and that a pity part is a party of one that others have no desire to attend.  Wash away my selfishness.  Make me a reflection of Your glory in spite of myself.  Work through me as a salve to a hurting world.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right"

You have heard people say, “Love your neighbors and hate your enemies."  But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong.
~  Matthew 5:43-45, CEV~ 

"Two wrongs don't make a right."  How many times I heard that over and over again from my parents when I tried to justify my bad, retaliatory behavior growing up.  And I repeat it to my mischievous children now that I am a mom.  But then I blow it.

I prove myself the hypocrite, the bad example when I respond with venom towards someone who has wronged me.  When my children hear me lose it on the phone with the customer service representative at the insurance company, even though they are rejecting yet another medical claim, I am not glorifying God.  When I get snippy with the doctor because they are not cooperating with what I think should be the course of treatment for my child, it makes my child uncomfortable.  Even though that doctor may be arrogant, something makes our kids recoil when they see us behaving like them in public.  When I complain about my husband's boss who is increasingly demanding more work for less pay, I weaken the overall spirit of my family.  When I make snide remarks about the nasty neighbors, I only "feed the bad dog" living inside my children's hearts.

The fact is, no matter what our child's abilities, they are watching us.  Our kids look to us to set the standard, the example, lay down the boundaries, show them what's okay.  Children seem to also have an intrinsic "baloney" meter that detects falsehood in a heartbeat.

Recently, I commented under my breath in the car that I did not like a certain woman because she is a gossip and a backstabber.  My 12 year old son immediately jumped, "Mom, did you say you don't like Mrs. Jones?  Why?  Aren't we supposed to forgive just like we're forgiven?"  Ouch!  Exactly, son.

To be completely honest, we all have our moments where we think we are entitled to "swing back" when we have been wronged.  This is an especially challenging issue when we are depleted from lack of sleep, worn with increased demands by our children, having to sort through troubles with schools, constantly being "on" with making sound medical decisions, nagged by continual financial concerns, and trying to fit ordinary living in between all of that.  Even so, that does not excuse or permit our snarky behavior.  The Lord doesn't qualify his statement above, "except when you have a child with issues."  He says unequivocally "LOVE," "PRAY."

I, for one, am on a journey.  I know God calls me to look more like Jesus in ever-increasing measure.  (See 2 Peter 1:8)  Some days I am better at that than others.  But I definitely find it easier to push against my fleshly desires to snap back at someone when I know my children are learning just by watching how I behave.

Won't you grow with me?

PRAY:  Jesus, your mercy takes away from me the punishment I deserve, and your grace gives me the good I am not entitled to.  Help me to extend that same kind of love to someone who has been unkind to me.  Holy Spirit, I can only do it by your power living in me.  I put my trust in You.

Monday, November 12, 2012

FAVORITE VERSES SERIES: The Inclusion Fusion Edition

But encourage each other every day while it is “today.”[a] Help each other so none of you will become hardened because sin has tricked you. 
HEBREWS 3:13, NCV

This week's memory verse has a VERY special event attached to it -- the second annual Inclusion Fusion Special Needs Ministry Web Conference, presented by Key Ministry and Pajama Conference.com.  How does it relate to our memory verse this week?  This conference is a LIVING example of how we can "encourage each other while it is still called today."  It can be accessed at your convenience right from your own home computer.
The conference does so, first of all, by encouraging one another in the wider Body of Christ to treat the least of God's children in a way that would be pleasing to Him.  The theme for this years conference is, "Why Disability Ministry?"  The nearly 3 dozen speakers will afford you the opportunity to listen throughout the week to the various reasons and ways God is calling all of us to incorporate outreach to those who struggle to attend church with the same ease as "typical" population.  From the theology of disability, to removing the fear in ministering to those with special needs, to moving from inclusion to partnership, so many of the topics will help us as Christians to spur one another on, avoiding how sin can harden us as people.

Second, those living with a special need in the family will be encouraged by knowing that there are Christians who care deeply about their situation.  Whether it be engaged professionals or those who have walked more-than-a-mile in the special needs shoes, every presenter has a deep passion for serving others, drawing them into the Body of Christ.  Messages will range from grief in special needs parenting, to why families like ours should be drawn into churches, to addressing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in kids with special needs.  The full list of presentations is listed at the Church 4 Every Child blog.  

The bottom line to this week's "Favorite Verse" is that whether it be attending Inclusion Fusion or any of the many other ways we can cheer one another on to keep walking by faith, we all need that edification in order to keep from slipping into discouragement, disgust or irritability.  Our ministry is to be both to outsiders AND to one another.  Take hold of an excellent example of that refreshment this week through Inclusion Fusion, and be sure to pass it on to another.

PRAY:  Lord, may I be encouraged to be Your encouragement to another person this week.    

A preview of my presentation, MAKING THE CASE FOR MENTORS, can be accessed at Church 4 Every Child in my interview with friend and colleague, Dr. Steve Grcevich.  I look forward to hearing from you!
 
Footnotes:
  1. Hebrews 3:13 “today” This word is taken from verse 7. It means that it is important to do these things now.

Friday, November 9, 2012

PASSION

Your heart will always be where your treasure is. ~ Matthew 6:21, CEV

  By faith, Moses, when grown, refused the privileges of the Egyptian royal house. He chose a hard life with God’s people rather than an opportunistic soft life of sin with the oppressors. He valued suffering in the Messiah’s camp far greater than Egyptian wealth because he was looking ahead,
anticipating the payoff. ~ Hebrews 11:24-26, MSG

It takes very little time with a person to discover what they value most.  How a person talks, behaves, the choices they make, all point to their ultimate passion.  What excites them?  What gives them energy?  What takes up their time?  What makes them clear their calendar at a moment's notice?

It is frighteningly easy to have our passions slide to the wrong areas of life, especially when difficulties come our way.  When we have to get up early to medicate or treat a child day after day, it seems almost instinctive to look towards worldly pleasures for escape.  When the bills pile up from all of the doctors and therapists, our vision can be distracted by creature comforts way too easily.  When the school is calling again with a medical emergency or for yet another IEP meeting, we often seek to evade the realities of our lives with superficial triflings.  Shopping, television programs, drinking, gossip magazines, spending too much time surfing the internet, having a perfect house and many other obsessions can become our misguided objects of affection.

In other words, our passion can slowly become our very selves seemingly without effort or awareness.  Self-pity still has self at the center of focus.  We can be sure that our priorities are heading in the wrong direction when all we direct our thoughts towards are self-gratification with an attitude of entitlement.  "Have you seen what I go through?  I deserve this!"  Such attitudes should trouble us.  Pushing our kids away or slacking off of our quiet time with God are also sure signs that alert us to our need to reset our values.

In the Bible, the heart was seen as the seat of our affections.  Jesus wants to be on that throne, not only because he is King of Kings.  He wants to reign because he knows that what he has to offer is so much better than any of the cheap imitations we want to grab for ourselves.  When we are weary, discouraged, frustrated, and at the end of our ropes, He knows that His comfort, love, peace and redemption are far more satisfying than any inferior substitute we seek in this temporary world.  The Holy Spirit will keep at us, in a gentlemanly way, but much like an eager child who pesters, "You HAVE to come see this!"  Yahweh God knows this is too exciting to not turn His passion into yours.

Where is your focus today?  Maybe it's time for some self-examination.  Don't waste another day on chasing less than God's best for you.  Recalibrate and direct your passion towards Him.  And you will find the strength, joy and contentment your life so desperately needs.

PRAY:  O Father God, you love me even more than I love myself!  Be gentle as You tap me on the shoulder, reminding me that I've put myself on the throne.  May I never settle for less than Your awesome goodness.  I trust that what You have is far more life-giving than my selfish pursuits could ever be.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Topic of Conversation

"When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise."
(Proverbs 10:19, NIV1984)

"A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers." (Proverbs 20:19, NLT)

"They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy."
(Romans 1:29-31, NIV)

"We were just talking about you..."  Those are loaded words!  Our minds wander to what was being said behind our backs.  Were kind things being said or critical?  Being torn down piece by piece with the words of others in our absence is painful

When we are the topic of conversation and a child with special needs is involved, this takes the pain to a whole new level.   When family criticizes or analyzes us behind our backs, we are afforded no opportunity to dispel myths or correct inaccurate assumptions.  When friends disclose certain medical facts about our children when we're not present, our privacy is violated.  When gossip about us is thinly veiled as a group prayer request, we become exposed in upsetting ways.

What can be so disturbing is that we are often guilty of doing this to other parents just like us.  I had a circle of acquaintances where one man's HIV and Hepatitis C status were discussed.  To say that this is inappropriate is a complete understatement!  We, of all people, should know how desperately violating it is to have this sort of private information shared and discussed in our absence.  That goes for everything from personal finances, to marital health, to any specifics about illness that the immediate family has not publicly shared.  The world is hard enough on us without our circles of friends in the special needs community betraying us.

Today, resolve to building people up with your words.  Exercise the self-control that is available to us by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Practice in your mind or even in your mirror new ways that you will answer questions of others that might tempt you to share private information behind another parent's back.  Withhold your opinions when it is appropriate and accept that others may not choose to do things the same way you do.  That's okay.  Respect others.  Do not make them the topic of conversation in their absence and they will learn to afford you the same courtesy.

PRAY:  Lord, put your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth!

Monday, November 5, 2012

FAVORITE VERSES SERIES: Ascribing False Intentions

"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." ~ Jeremiah 29:11, NIV

Have you ever had one of those times where you threw your hands up in the air thinking, "What have I done to deserve this?"  As the parent of a child with special needs, I would dare to say you have.  It is not uncommon for parents like us to wonder if we have provoked God in some way to bring harm upon our children.  We struggle as we try to make sense of the suffering our children endure.

"How can a loving God allow this?", our hurting hearts question.  Fewer things are more difficult in life than watching a child endure physical, cognitive or emotional challenges, especially one we love dearly.  That pain in our hearts can even morph into anger as we suddenly view God with bitterness, ascribing false intentions to Him.  We accuse him of intentional harm, not caring or even playing an evil cosmic game with our lives.

Yet, if we really take time to get to know Him, we learn that these reactive emotions do not truly reflect who God is at all.  Early in my special needs parenting journey, I was blessed with much comfort from our memory verse this week.  What a relief to learn that God has only good things in mind for me.  Just the mere fact that the Lord would state the words in this passage tells me that He understands that we might have doubts or fear that He intends us harm.  What compassion He offers us by reassuring that His intentions are only to bless us.  The fact that our Father has plans for us at all means that we have immense purpose.  And because He plans to prosper us as well as give us hope and a future, we can be sure that any suffering we bear is only in preparation for what is to come.  

Like an athlete who goes through the pain of intense training to win a prize, so too our suffering will hold infinite reward in the end, if we cooperate with it.  In the words of Nathaniel William Taylor, "In order to receive any benefit from our captivity, we must accept the situation and be determined to make the best of it.  Worrying over what we have lost or what has been taken from us will not make things better but will only prevent us from improving what remains.  We will only serve to make the rope around us tighter if we rebel against it...  No calamity will ever bring only evil to us, if we will immediately take it in fervent prayer to God."*

Friend, know that God is the ultimate recycler.  He can and will use our hurts in life for our good, and to bring about His perfect, glorifying plan.  Write Jeremiah 29:11 on your heart today, and be encouraged.

PRAY:  Lord, thank You that You have good intentions for me to bring me blessings.  My future and the future of my child hold immense promise because of You.

*Taken from Streams In The Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings by LB Cowman, Edited by Jim Reimann, Copyright 1997by Zondervan.