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Archive for May, 2010

Memorial Day exists to remember those who died in military service.  It is good and right to remember the sacrifices made, and their impact on society as well as individual families.

I think it is also appropriate to recognize all those who are disabled because of their service, a number many times greater than those who die in combat.

The Department of Defense has reported slightly more than 4,400 military deaths in Iraq as of May 28.  Numbers of those disabled in this war are harder to come by.  But as of 2008, about 181,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were receiving disability benefits from the Federal government.

When disability comes, often suddenly and violently, on mostly healthy young men, the response can be one of intense questioning of the goodness and sovereignty of God.

Yet, God’s word demonstrates both his sovereign intentionality in our lives and the opportunity for hope, no matter the situation:

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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:11-13

Nothing ever has or ever will catch God by surprise in our individual lives and circumstances:

In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.  Psalm 139:16

And no situation that results in disability, whether from a genetic anomaly, a sickness or disease, an accident or an act of war, has the final word on the glorious reality that awaits those who are trusting in Jesus:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So, thank you to all veterans and those currently in active military service.  May Christ’s church welcome you gladly, helping you see the glorious goodness of God in all circumstances.  Especially those of you living with disability because of your service.

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We are working our way through Proverbs at work and came to this verse in Proverbs 31:8:

Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.

None of you will be surprised that I immediately thought of this:

Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11)

And because I had just spoken to some young people on this topic, this verse also came to mind:

You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:14)

I marveled at what God was reminding me of on Thursday morning:

1.  I create, intentionally, some who will live with a disability (Exodus 4:11).

2. I appoint some to protect those who are vulnerable because of their disability (Proverbs 31:8).

3. I remind you that what a blind person cannot see or a deaf person cannot hear, I will both see and hear.  If you are tempted to abuse someone with a disability, fear the one who will repay all wrongs done to them (Leviticus 19:14, Deuteronomy 32:35, Hebrews 10:30-31).

God’s word is amazing.  It is relevant in its entirety and frequently specifically helpful for those of us dealing with disability.

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Jan’s post from yesterday has been rattling around in my head along with this video that Noel Piper posted on her blog a few days ago:

At about the 1:05 point of the video comes this quote: “I bought into the lie that circumstance defines happiness.”  What a great reminder for those of us dealing with disability!

I need all kinds of reminders.  I could feel some grumbling rising in my spirit yesterday morning as I began to calculate the thousands of times we have already needed to dress Paul.  Everyone else in the family can do that without assistance.

The Lord brought this to mind in that moment:

On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. . . (1 Corinthians 12:22)

“On the contrary,” I could hear the Lord saying to me in my grumbling, “this boy is indispensable to your knowing who I am – and I have done a great deal more for you already than you will ever do for him.”

Then that final phrase in the video came to mind as well, altered a little:  I need Paul more than Paul needs me.

Blind, autistic, small, unable to feed or dress himself, completely dependent on other people for almost everything in his life.  Or put another way, an example of my helplessness before an awesome, holy and just God.  Yet God never gets tired of my dependence on him.  Quite the opposite – I glorify him when I point to how great he is and how much I need him for everything.

Yes, I need Paul more than he needs me.  And I need to trust the Father like my son trusts me.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me this boy!

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Many thanks to my friend, Jan Lacher, for writing this post today – JPK

This past Monday night, I cried some lukewarm tears.

My three older children played piano pieces for their yearly piano recitals.  Christina played Firefly Fandango by Bober.  David performed Beethoven’s Sonata, c#minor,Op.27#2, Adagio.  My senior, Jonathon, performed Chopin’s famous Nocturne Eb Major.  It was bitter-sweet listening to Jonathon, realizing that it would probably be his last performance that I would be privileged  to hear. Eleven years of practice and recitals will be done.  Sigh…  Warm tears dripped onto my starched, white blouse even as I was biting my thumb nails and holding my breathe until it was over.  Such is the torture of a parent.

At one point in the evening though, I had tears for another reason.

One of our good friend’s daughters, the youngest of six children, performed a phenomenal piece.  Eight-year old Julia played A Touch of a Dream by Cuellar with beauty and grace.  She is gifted musically, as her other siblings are.

While she performed it, I realized that she was only six weeks older than Michael. Michael seems so much younger.  Of course, mentally, he is.   I could not help noticing the contrast between her and Michael as she gracefully approached the grand piano and displayed her musical gifts even as Michael bounced away in his wheelchair in the church foyer.

I was not at all  jealous of her ability.  I was not envious.  But, a deep sorrow set in at that realization, and lukewarm tears dripped, dripped, and dripped.  I loved listening to the music and rejoiced with her parents at her beautiful performance.  But, it was shadowed with the loss of all the possibilities that could have been for Michael.

How do I think about this without becoming overwhelmed with grief?

Events like piano recitals seem to punctuate disability with an exclamation point. I need to have a way to think about his life without becoming overwhelmed with grief.    So in my mind, I am learning to shift my attention  and fast-forward  it to a time when some day, Michael will be made whole.  There will be a time when he will have full functionality and will have the ability to learn “the masters” and so much more.

I  look forward to that reality.  But in the meantime, I am learning to be content and patient with the truth and hope that the Gospel brings.  Maybe some day both Michael and I will have the opportunity, with perfection and zeal, to perform on a keyboard a duet called the Hungarian Rhapsody.  I envision how with high drama we will smoke the keys together.   Instead of lukewarm tears, there will be tears of joy and gladness.

What a glorious time that will be.

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Just the Way I Am has officially gone to its second printing!  The next supply of books should arrive by the end of June.  There are still some you can order now through Desiring God and through Christianbook.com.

Please join me in praising God for his distributing the first printing and making a second printing necessary!

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Some close friends of ours recently returned from where they are translating God’s word to spend several months in the United States.  It is best not to be specific about the country or the people groups with which they are working.

As I expected, they had some great stories. This one particularly delighted me.

Some people fluent in American Sign Language were called to our friends’ country to work with deaf people who communicate in an entirely different signed language.  I neglected to ask if these missionaries were also deaf.

In less than two months they had enough skill in this new language for them to begin evangelizing the deaf community in that country!

I know it is not wise to generalize from one specific example; these missionaries might have been given unusual linguistic giftings by God.

But how great is it that a people group, in this case the deaf community of that country, didn’t have to wait years for the gospel to be presented in their own language?  How many people will enjoy Jesus forever BECAUSE they were deaf in this life?

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Gus wut this is

Translated:  Guess what this is.

Several of you prayed for me last week before I spoke to the children at North Heights Christian Academy on what God has to say about disability.  I’m grateful for your prayers.  My continuing prayer is that God used something in it  to reveal more of himself to the children, who ranged from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Below is my own kindergartner’s version of that chapel talk.  I’m not sure why I have purple hair, but I like it a great deal!

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Why do I need to make war on my own sin?

Because this morning I woke up feeling a little sorry for myself, a little bad about what I’ve got to deal with.  And I was ready to just let it remain that way.

That is evidence of self-righteousness and self-satisfaction and self-glorification and self-esteem becoming more beautiful and more hopeful and more helpful than Jesus Christ.  That could kill me.  And my family.

And because of our family circumstances, people are ready to give me a pass  on my murmurings, even some Christians.

But we’re called to something more!  How many times have people entered into my suffering in my family with prayer and Bible and meals and leaf-raking and conversation and encouragement – pointing me to Jesus?  How many times have people acted according to Hebrews 3:12-13 in my life:

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

They didn’t obey God and enter my suffering just so I could passively sit around and let that hardening take hold and begin to kill me.

So, I’m grateful for reminders like this.

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Planned Parenthood is moving into a new, centralized site in the Midway area of Saint Paul.  They will be performing abortions at this site.

This is from their blog announcement:

With 46,000 square feet, the new building will bring our community education programs, administrative offices, and a full-service reproductive health care clinic all under one roof, allowing us to stream line our operations and continue providing our patients comfortable, secure care. The new building will be in a more accessible location and will help bring increased activity and vitality to the Central Corridor.

“Accessible” is a word we use frequently when talking about disability.  We appreciate accessible buildings, programs, and communities.  Seeing it here, though . . .

I’ve already pointed out the connection between abortion and disability.  I won’t belabor that point here.

And as soon as I heard the address, my heart sank even more.  They are locating this clinic, where I know babies with disabilities will be killed, about a block from the Minnesota State Services for the Blind.

The State Services for the Blind is obviously not a Christian organization.  But I am going to start praying that the massive evidence of the inherent, God-granted dignity and value of people living with blindness will ruin this new abortion clinic in that neighborhood.  Mothers being tempted to abort will be riding on the same light rail and the same buses as people with disabilities; in fact, getting off at the same locations.

God can work a miracle in those moments.  And then that clinic can just go away through lack of customers.

Or, better yet, because Jesus has returned!

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At Desiring God every morning we pause to have devotions.  We have been going through Proverbs verse by verse for the past several months.

Yesterday morning, we started in Proverbs 30, and these verses jumped out at me:

The words of Agur son of Jakeh. The oracle.

The man declares, I am weary, O God;
I am weary, O God, and worn out.
Surely I am too stupid to be a man.
I have not the understanding of a man.
I have not learned wisdom,
nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.

I understand weariness.  I expect that you do as well.  And I understand feeling ‘too stupid to be a man.’

Why are those of us dealing disability weary so often?  Because it doesn’t stop.

And God in his infinite mercy included verse five in Proverbs 30:

Every word of God proves true;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

EVERY word!  The omnipotent creator of the universe says he will be our shield – if we take refuge in him.  Not if we perform perfectly.  Not if we muster up enough strength on our own to do the next hard thing.  But if we take refuge in him who knows how weak and weary and stupid and unwise we are.  What a comfort!

Then, later in the day I read a Facebook entry from Justin Reimer, creator and executive director of The Elisha Foundation.  This is an organization worth paying attention to.

He had a good word for me in his most recent newsletter:

One word does well to summarize the day in and day out of families of people with special needs – RELENTLESS. Think about that word, what does it speak to?

Webster’s dictionary defines it as: showing or promising no abatement of severity, intensity, strength, or pace.

The effects of disability do not let up. They are daily, they are hourly, they are there offering challenges by the minute at times. There is no end in sight, there is no cure, there is no healing in the broader sense. But what sweet balm of ultimate healing they will meet if their eyes are turned to Christ. When they know about receiving “resurrection bodies” on that Day, the Ultimate healing!

Read this from the heart of a father:

“Though at times our path in life with our special blessing of a child seems relentless, we see there is hope in God alone. Relentless, never letting up…not a momentary inconvenience but a life of need each day with our child deeply dependent on us. We understand this now as a unique blessing and an opportunity to make much of Christ in our every day whether in caring for our child or in a simple cup of coffee with a friend.”

And the heart of our Father is found in I John 3:1&2

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

A good word, Justin!

So, weary friends, let us all take refuge in God as beloved children.  And he will provide the strength for all that we need to do today.

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