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Archive for January, 2011

Pray for your pastor today

Today begins the 2011 Desiring God Conference for Pastors.  I love this gathering of faithful leaders.

This is my sixth Pastors Conference, and my fourth as a member of the staff of Desiring God.  If things progress like in years past, these things will happen:

  1. I will meet men dealing with such extraordinarily hard things in their churches, they live with constant discouragement and temptation to quit.
  2. I will meet men who are experiencing spiritual change in their own lives they never would have predicted – and this change is frequently coming years after they first began pastoring.
  3. I will meet some young man who makes the decision to pursue seminary based on what God is doing in his life through this conference.
  4. God will bring some man dealing with disability, either in his own family or in his church, directly to me without either of us knowing it until we meet.  In other words, he didn’t know about Bethlehem’s disability ministry or me or The Works of God, and I didn’t know anything about him.

Conferences like these are really important to those of us dealing with disability, and it is one reason I come back to our supporting our pastors in prayer and encouragement so often.  Not only does their being grounded in the truth of God’s word help us in our own lives, but leaders with that kind of affection for God and his word also tend to be more supportive of initiatives like disability ministry.

In fact, I can point to one church with a thriving disability ministry that had, at best, lukewarm support from their pastor.  All of the rest had clear, vocal, personal support from the lead pastor and usually the elders as well.

So, please pray for your pastor – especially if he is lukewarm to disability ministry – that he may be gripped by a big view of God and his sovereignty over all things.  And please pray for the gathering of pastors these next three days as well.

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This video isn’t directly related to disability, but it is so wonderful I couldn’t keep it myself.

The Kimyal Tribe of Papua, Indonesia received the New Testament in their own language in 2010.  This video documents when that Bible was delivered to them.  To see such passion for the Word is humbling – and wonderfully exciting!

Let us pray for more and more such videos as more languages are translated and more people have access to the word of God in their own language.

Rosa Kidd (on this video) and her husband Orin will also be at the Desiring God Pastors Conference!  Please continue to pray for the pastors who are coming.

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Dianne and I were reviewing some of what is happening around us the other evening.  It seems like nearly everyone we know is dealing with something really big and really hard – personally, professionally, ministerially, involving health or spouse or children or finances or systems or the consequences of somebody else’s sin.

Some are doubting their faith.  How to respond?

The paragraph below from Pastor John was helpful for me.  Luke 17:6 can be misapplied, even when intended as a comfort or as advice.  But for those hearing that verse it can feel more like an indictment against them – ‘you need to have faith like a mustard seed!’  The answer isn’t more faith and it certainly isn’t telling them simply to have faith (adding guilt on top of doubt).

Luke 17:5-6:  The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

He strengthens our faith by telling us in verse 6 that the crucial issue in accomplishing great things to advance the Kingdom of God is not the quantity of our faith, but the power of God.  He says, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”  By referring to the tiny mustard seed after being asked about increased faith, He deflects attention away from the quantity of faith to the object of faith (emphasis mine).  God moves mulberry trees.  And it does not depend decisively on the quantity of our faith, but on His power and wisdom and love. In knowing this, we are helped not to worry about our faith and are inspired to trust God’s free initiative and power.

John Piper, Pierced by the Word: Thirty-One Meditations for Your Soul, p. 99.

May we all remain fixed on the object of faith and the enduring hope we can have in His power and wisdom and love.

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On Monday the Desiring God Conference for Pastors begins.  You can get more information about this conference and the speakers here.

The theme:  The Powerful Life of the Praying Pastor: In His Room, with the Family, Among the People of God.

When pastors have a really big view of God as sovereign over all things, when they love the Word of God and preach out of their knowledge AND affections, when they pray earnestly to God who has promised to supply every need, their people are better prepared for disability!

Not just the families experiencing disability – everybody has been prepared to engage this issue, sometimes through radical acts of service in love!

Please, pray for these 1,600+ pastors who are gathering.  May God raise up hundreds more churches impacting thousands more families like ours with the joy of God’s goodness and sovereignty over disability.

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Several mothers of children with disabilities from Bethlehem gathered at our home last week.  Caryn Turner organizes these regular gatherings, which rotate to different homes.

For this gathering she used Greg Lucas’ book, Wrestling with an Angel, to help guide and generate discussion.  Dianne (who has read the book) was struck again by this statement:

I hear religious-minded people say all the time with good intentions, “God will never place a burden on you so heavy that you cannot carry it.”

Really?

My experience is that God will place a burden on you so heavy that you cannot possibly carry it alone. He will break your back and your will. He will buckle your legs until you fall flat beneath the crushing weight of your load. All the while He will walk beside you waiting for you to come to the point where you must depend on Him.

(That quote is part of the first chapter, which can be read in its entirety here)

That may not sound like good news at first – but it is actually the best news there has ever been.

Read the chapter, then buy and read the book.  Especially if you are a man.  You may never think about God the same way again.

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From “Race, Gender, and Genetic Technologies: A New Reproductive Dystopia?” by Dorothy Roberts in Signs: The Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 2009, v. 34, no. 4, p. 792:

Brian Skotko’s survey of 985 mothers who received postnatal (after birth) diagnoses of Down syndrome for their children similarly discovered that many of the mothers were chastised by health care professionals for not undergoing prenatal testing (emphasis mine):

“Right after [my child] was born, the doctor flat out told my husband that this could have been prevented or discontinued at an earlier stage of the pregnancy,” wrote one mother who had a child with DS in 2000. A mother who had a child in 1993 recalled, “I had a resident in the recovery room when I learned that my daughter had DS. When I started to cry, I overheard him say, ‘What did she expect? She refused prenatal testing.’” . . . Another mother reported, from her experience in 1997, “The attending neonatologist, rather than extending some form of compassion, lambasted us for our ignorance in not doing prior testing and for bringing this burden to society—noting the economical, educational, and social hardships he would bring.” Regarding a postnatal visit, a mother who had a child in 1992 wrote, “[My doctor] stressed ‘next time’ the need for amniocentesis so that I could ‘choose to terminate.’” (2005, 70–71)

As a result of such pressure, many pregnant women now view genetic testing as a requirement of responsible mothering (Harmon 2007).

Again we must be clear: there is nothing wrong with receiving genetic testing for the purpose of serving the needs of the child.  What is assumed above, however, is that when an ‘anomaly’ is discovered, the child will be aborted.

Let us individually work to change those assumptions, for the sake of the child, the parents, and the medical community that includes too many members who have lost their way.

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Brian Stotko, Children’s Hospital Boston Clinical Genetics Fellow, Down Syndrome Program, wrote last week that a new, non-invasive test for Down syndrome is nearing reality:

But now scientists have learned how to quantify the fetal copies of the 21stchromosome, the genetic basis for Down syndrome, with a simple blood test taken in the first trimester. These tests would be safer, faster, and, most likely, cheaper than anything available today.

Because the current tests are invasive and are risky for the child, many parents choose not to test.  But with this new test, Dr. Stotko expects that nearly every pregnant woman will know in the first trimester if her baby has Down syndrome.  Dr. Stotko references the 92% rate for aborting these children using the current tests and asks the obvious question: will the births of babies with Down syndrome begin to decrease because of this testing?

Of course what he means is, will the decrease in births accelerate.  With a 92% abortion rate, we are already experiencing a significant decline in the births of children with Down syndrome, even though many women choose not to test.

I am not against this new test; knowing things about a child before he or she is born can be very helpful in serving the child’s medical needs.  I am against tests being used in a search-and-destroy matter.  And I do not mean that from the perspective of parents.  I am far more concerned about how doctors, medical systems, and insurers behave, because their current behavior generally is not in the interests of the children with Down syndrome being born.

Dr. Stotko addresses that issue as well:

Part of their decision will be based on the information they receive about Down syndrome from their medical providers. Yet, the majority of medical students argue that they get minimal education on children with intellectual disabilities; and nearly half of obstetric fellows claim their residency training is “barely adequate” to “nonexistent” in terms of how to counsel would-be parents of a child with intellectual disabilities. Some physicians who do routinely deliver a prenatal diagnosis also admit to purposely describing Down syndrome in negative terms. Not unexpectedly, then, many mothers feel that they receive inadequate, incomplete and sometimes offensive information about children with this condition.

I have no romantic notions that providing better education to doctors-in-training will turn this tide and create a whole generation of doctors who encourage mothers to let their children live.  But I think it might help.

Closer to home, I wonder what the church will do.  Will we stand for these parents and their children?  Will we present a different view of disability to every member? Will we raise up a generation of doctors who battle for the unborn?  Will we trust God to supply every need?

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As frequently happens, God was getting me ready for Sunday’s sermon through an entirely unexpected avenue.

I was pointed to Cassie McLellend’s blog posting on Saturday evening and was gripped by several things she had to write, all of which are in quotes below:

It upsets me that doctors tell woman awful, terrifying things about their baby and then push them toward abortion.  We were told horrible things when we found out Caleb had SB, and we were “offered” termination at least 4 times.  I remember the doctor being shocked that we had no intention of aborting.

This is an example of the cultural weight against our children with disabilities.  Are parents really making an informed choice, or are their natural fears, limited information, and trust in experts guiding them?

I don’t mean any of this to be hurtful to someone who has had an abortion.  My heart breaks for the women who made that choice or felt like they had to make that choice.

What a reminder; this broke my heart for a different reason.  I spend a great deal of time and thought on arguments against abortion, especially addressing those in leadership who support this horrible practice: pastors, seminary and university professors, government leaders.  I have assumed people will understand I have a high level of care for the mothers involved.  But as I reviewed my own blog posts, I couldn’t see much evidence of that care.  This point that Cassie made, in particular, prepared me for Pastor John’s sermon; my heart was wide open when he came to his example of the university sophomore.

On another note, I have decided NOT to make this blog private.  At least not now.  I hate the thought that a parent expecting a child with SB might miss out on seeing this blog, seeing how wonderful Caleb is, because I decided to go private.  I wish I knew about blogs like mine when I was pregnant with Caleb.  It would have made a world of difference.

YES!  This young man stands as evidence of grace.  He has purpose and is already impacting people’s lives for the sake of the kingdom.  And from the comments to her post, Cassie has a broad audience and is helping guide people into different kinds of questions.  I’m grateful for this example.

And Greg Lucas has updated his blog as well.  I continue to learn new things every time he writes.  He reminds me that in the midst of extraordinary suffering, God demonstrates his power and mercy and grace.

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Please, not that color!

Years ago I followed an email list for parents of children with disabilities.  A member of that group started the Silver Ribbon Campaign in the late 1990s.  It included this tagline:

Consider this silver ribbon a special gift. Please wear it to promote the awareness and support of children with disabilities.

Yesterday, on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, I found this on the site maintained by the Reproductive Coalition for Reproductive Choice website:

Join the Silver Ribbon Campaign – Wear A Silver Ribbon January 22-February 22 to Stand in Solidarity for Reproductive Rights and Justice.

In case you had any doubts, these ‘religious’ leaders support the practice of abortion.  And you know what that means for unborn children with disabilities.

It just made me want to cry.  Of all the colors the pro-abortion marketers had to choose, why that one?

I am tempted to a cynical thought that it was intentional, but I’m sure that isn’t the case.

The Silver Ribbon Campaign for children with disabilities never really took off here, but I would occasionally see a ribbon that looked silver or grey.  And that would make me smile.

Now, that symbol has been connected with the destruction of those same children.

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Today marks the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade.

This is particularly important in the realm of disability.  Many people who are normally against abortion are acting against that conviction when the child still in the womb has a disability.  Since the 1990s, from 40% – 50% of American’s have claimed to be pro-life.  Yet abortion rates have approached or exceeded 90% for some disabling conditions, like Down syndrome.

That child is no less human.  But the cultural desire to control the future, claim sovereignty over the rights and dignity of small human beings, and to avoid all forms of suffering is strong.  Is it not amazing that Jesus, who actually does control the future and truly has sovereignty over all human beings, does not avoid suffering but actually chose to suffer?

I found these posts, all from or linked to The Gospel Coalition, to be informative and helpful on this subject of abortion, though not specifically on disability.  It is important for us to be ready, and to speak clearly, and to pray earnestly:

Clarity Not Gadgetry: Pro-Life Apologetics for the Next Generation by Scott Klusendorf

The Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, and Abortion Law by Justin Taylor

Randy Alcorn to Pastors about Abortion linked by Justin Taylor

Abortion Is About God: Piper’s Passionate, Prophetic Pro-Life Preaching by Justin Taylor.  This last one is by far the longest to read, but it provides an in-depth look at Pastor John’s preaching on this subject.  My only regret is that Justin wrote this chapter for the book, For the Fame of God’s Name, before Pastor John gave his sermon last year, Born Blind for the Glory of God!

May 2011 be the beginning of the end of this abhorrent practice forever.

 

 

 

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