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Archive for September, 2009

Justin Taylor recently wrote in his blog on the book of Joshua, answering the question about how God could have commanded the destruction of the Canaanites.

Justin covered several themes that are also vitally important to understanding God’s authority and intentionality with regards to creating some people with disabilities:

  1. As the maker of all things and the ruler of all people, God has absolute rights of ownership over all people and places.
  2. God is not only the ultimate maker, ruler, and owner, but he is just and righteous in all that he does.
  3. All of us deserve God’s justice; none of us deserve God’s mercy

The Bible is remarkably consistent about describing God, whether it is about the weather, war, disability or election: God is sovereign over all things.

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I’ve gotten in the habit of reading Motherlode, a New York Times Magazine blog that frequently features stories about parenting children with disabilities.  This week they included a piece written by a mother who’s daughter has been diagnosed with a hearing impairment.  You can read that post here.

I would like to say that  I read that post and felt nothing but compassion and hope for that mother.  That would be a lie.  After I finished reading it, words like ‘self-indulgent,’ ‘whiny,’ and ‘pitiful’ were what I thought about that mother, and I unfortunately lingered over those thoughts.

The reason?  I was comparing my son and his disabilities with her daughter’s experiences thus far.  And that comparison did me no good at all. (more…)

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Since I began working at Desiring God, I have participated in five conferences.  For the most part, my responsibilities are defined by working at a booth and talking to people about Desiring God.

Every conference I have met someone dealing with significant hardships, either personally or in their families: disability, disease, drug or alcohol abuse, death, persecution for beliefs at work or home.  This conference included a dad who lost his adult son to cancer and a grandma whose grandchild lives in a permanent vegetative state with multiple disabilities, among others.

I know I’m ‘out there’ on this issue of disability, but none of these people know that – it just comes up.  So I’m puzzling through why that happens and so far have come up with two possible things:

  1. Pastor John talks about suffering – a lot.  Suffering people will find much at Desiring God – books, sermons, conference messages – that help them see God as he truly is in the midst of their suffering: sovereign, strong, intentional, loving, capable.  It makes sense that such people would come to Desiring God conferences.
  2. God helps us, often through other people who are faithfully trusting in him.  Given how much God has helped us through, it makes sense that the Holy Spirit would guide some people to me to talk specifically about our situation and the faithfulness of God to us personally.  God has certainly guided me to such people in the past and I expect he will do so again when I need help in the future.

Now, of course, there were hundreds of other people at the conference in the midst of hard circumstances that I didn’t talk to.  Many of my colleagues, both staff and volunteers, also have stories of praying with people suffering under extraordinary burdens.  But I still find it interesting who God brought specifically to me.

Does God do that to you as well?  Do you find yourself in the most sensitive of conversations on the deepest of subjects in unusual, unexpected places?

And rather than being a hardship, I find myself grateful that God introduces me to such people.  God is good!

I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:1-2

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Noel’s comment on Saturday’s post regarding the DG National Conference is correct!  When I wrote that post on Friday, I should have remembered what event I was writing about.

The very first event I attended, the Philippian Fellowship Annual Meeting, began with Pastor John talking about how frequently (and importantly) suffering comes up in his books.

And last night, Sam Storms put suffering into perspective against the future hope of a glorious eternity with Jesus Christ.  I highly recommend his talk: The Final Act in the Theater of God.

As I’m writing this, conference audio and manuscripts through Saturday night are now available here.  Conference audio and video for the entire conference might be available by the end of the day today.

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One of my favorite young adults in the world, who also happens to have a disability, has this as her life verse:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

It is helpful when young people who have gone through very hard things remind me that God is good and he can be trusted!  She loves Jesus (as do her parents!), prays diligently, and is working on a book that I believe God will use to change lives and attitudes.  This book doesn’t exist yet, but Lord willing, it will by spring of 2010.  Please pray that will happen.

And it started with believing that God’s word is reliable and true.  Thank you, Krista, for your happy example that God is sovereign in all things.

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Don’t pray because it is about disability or suffering – it isn’t.  It is on Calvin and you can follow it here.

Pray because people who get saturated in God-honoring, Christ-exalting, prayfully-dependent teaching and preaching that, Lord willing, is happening at the conference deal with the issue of disability and suffering in much more helpful ways.

And if you’d like to hear some good teaching on suffering, the 2005 Desiring God National Conference, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, is very good.  It includes a wonderful message from Joni Eareckson Tada I recommend.

Thank you for praying!

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Helpful Things: Organizers

I’m speaking of the human kind, not the paper or digital variety.

Yesterday I posted a letter that Pastor John sent to Dianne and me just after Paul was born, where he sent a specific word of hope to us and also a call to the church to embrace this little boy as a gift.

On Tuesday I mentioned the long-term care given to us of meals, both those prepared and those underwritten by gift cards.

Today, one of the outcomes of Pastor John’s persistent call to Bethlehem to ‘run toward need rather than comfort.’

On October 12, 2004, Dianne received a diagnosis of cancer.  On October 15, 2004, she was told that the cancer had already spread from her breast to her bones in her back and ribs.  It was Stage IV disease – there is no Stage V.  She had to enter immediate, intensive, and frequent treatment that would leave her very weak and sick for months.

Unlike 1995 when we ran from the church, this time we ran to the church.  Immediately, elders gathered to pray for all of us (which will be the subject of a future post), and the broad, international networks of prayer warriors was engaged.

Two women, neither did I know before Dianne’s diagnosis of cancer, stepped forward at church to say they would help organize the meals (and I’m not sure how many other things as well).  This was not like a small group (which was also in flux for us as our best friends and small group leaders had just left for the mission field), this was inviting complete strangers into our lives at a moment of crisis.  Would we sacrifice a facade of independence and competence to allow people to really help us? (more…)

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It can be easy to think of Pastor John as DR. JOHN PIPER.  But his heart is tuned primarily to being the pastor of a local church with real people who have real needs.

On July 4, 1995, our son arrived and we knew he would be blind as he had no eyes. On July 5, Pastor Tom Steller, now the Dean of Bethlehem College & Seminary, walked up my front sidewalk with a letter from Pastor John, which I’ve included below.  It would also be published in the Bethlehem Star, the weekly church newsletter that was sent to members and regular attenders.

Sadly, in our pain and bitterness and hopelessness and sin-filled pride, we would walk away from Bethlehem just a couple of months later, rejecting both God and the people of God.  But, thanks be to God, that would not be the end of the story!  And this letter from Pastor John would be one of those building blocks that God used to call us to himself. (more…)

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Helpful Things: Gift Cards

When Dianne was in active treatment for her cancer (chemo, surgery, radiation), we had an army of people providing things for us.  God was doing an extraordinary thing for us, and we knew it and were (and still are!) very grateful that he provided so abundantly!

The most common thing was meals – and what meals they were!  Only the best, usually completely home-made from scratch and enough for three days.  Think Thanksgiving at Grandma’s house, Christmas with the in-laws and Easter with your best friends.  That was the quality of food we were getting.

This was happening three times a week, every week, for more than nine months.  We were certainly cared for very well in that arena.

Occasionally somebody would give us a gift card for a restaurant instead.  And that was a different kind of treat.  We could go whenever we felt like it, it was usually to someplace we wouldn’t normally go, and we got to choose the food, or have a variety of things.  And gift cards are better than giving money – money would probably go to an existing expense rather than to the rest and recreation you intend to provide (and they may need).

So, if you are stumped on how to help a family with a disabled member, gift cards are an option and should not be considered impersonal or unwanted.  Sometimes they are just the right thing.  But make sure the restaurant has take-out, just in case the family really can’t get out of the house.

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More than 13 years ago I wrote an email to Pastor John in which I said I thought it would have been better if Jesus hadn’t healed the man born blind in John 9.  His response was used by the Holy Spirit to point me to Jesus, and I am very grateful to this day for that email.

So imagine my surprise, as I was wandering through the journal Disability Studies Quarterly, “the first journal in the field of disability studies,” and found this in an article by Jennifer L. Koosed, Ph.D. and Darla Schumm, Ph.D. entitled, “Out of the Darkness: Examining the Rhetoric of Blindness in the Gospel of John.” (more…)

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