Archive for June, 2011

I was reviewing some verses on disability and was pausing over Isaiah 29:17-18:

Is it not yet a very little while
until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest?
In that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a book,
and out of their gloom and darkness
the eyes of the blind shall see.  Isaiah 29:17-18

In the notes in my old MacArthur Study Bible on Isaiah 29:18 it referenced Isaiah 35:5:

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.  Isaiah 35:5-6a

And that same note also referenced Matthew 11:5:

4 And Jesus answered them,“Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.”  Matthew 11:4-5

How great is that!

Yes, Jesus is Lord over all creation!

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It is more true in suffering than anywhere else that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. My prayer, therefore, is that the Holy Spirit would pour out on His people around the world a passion for the supremacy of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ.

The pursuit of joy in Christ, whatever the pain, is a powerful testimony to Christ’s supreme and all-satisfying worth.

John Piper, The Dangerous Duty of Delight, p. 84.

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Behold, I will bring them from the north country
and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together;
a great company, they shall return here.

Jeremiah 31:8

Their God will help them; and let none plead that he is blind who has God for his guide, or lame who has God for his strength.

Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible: Jeremiah 31, published around 1706.

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Those of us with children living with disabilities acquire a whole new vocabulary:  IEP (individualized education program), IDEA (individuals with disabilities education act), Section 504 (the section of the rehabilitation act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities).

Positively, these programs and protections exist to help people with disabilities receive services that benefit them.  Negatively, they exist because people with disabilities have been denied services and opportunities that would have benefited them.

And even with these programs and protections, most parents find they must advocate for their children.

We can hear echoes of that personal advocacy in the accounting of Jesus and Bartimaeus:

46 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.  Mark 10:46-52

Charles Spurgeon points out when it is good to ignore others and continue to go straight to the source of help!

He had no thought of any ceremonies to be performed by priests; he had no idea of any medicine which might be given him by physicians.  His cry was, “Son of David, Son of David.” The only notice he took of others was to disregard them, and still to cry, “Son of David, Son of David.” “What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?” was the Lord’s question, and it answered to the desire of his soul, for he knew that if anything were done it must be done by the Son of David.

It is essential that our faith must rest alone on Jesus. Mix anything with Christ, and you are undone. If your faith shall stand with one foot upon the rock of his merits, and the other foot upon the sand of your own duties, it will fall, and great will be the fall thereof. Build wholly on the rock, for if so much as a corner of the edifice shall rest on anything beside, it will ensure the ruin of the whole:

“None but Jesus, none but Jesus Can do helpless sinners good.”

All true faith is alike in this respect.

Charles Spurgeon, Saving Faith, Delivered on March 15, 1874.

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It’s easy to say that God is good when you’re feeling great. But it’s another thing – a more God-glorifying thing – to say (and sing) out loud that God is good when you’re feeling low.

The next time you’re feeling a little blue, remember to ‘talk’ to your soul. In fact, use the words “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” to tell your soul wonderful things about God.  It’ll thank you for the reminder!

Joni Eareckson Tada, Hymns for a Kid’s Heart: Volume Two, p. 17.

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Dr. Brian Skotko, a Down syndrome specialist at Children’s Hospital Boston, cites a study in the article, New earlier blood test for Down syndrome pregnancies may bring women comfort — or conflict, that “the number of Down syndrome births in the nation dropped 11 percent between 1989 and 2006, a time when it would otherwise be expected to rise 42 percent.”

That statistic has been bothering me all week, so I tried to do the math.  Since I don’t know what the actual numbers are, I tried to figure out the ratio.  If, for example, in 1989 we had 100 Down syndrome births, then we expected that in 2006 we would have 142 Down syndrome births (42% increase).  Instead, we had 89 Down syndrome births (11% decrease).

89(actual)/142 (predicted) = 62.7%

Only 62.7% of the children with Down syndrome that we anticipated would be born in 2006 were actually born.

I looked up some numbers on the Jewish population worldwide before and after the Holocaust:

1939:  17 million

1945: 11 million

The ratio of 11 million (actual living)/17 million (expected but for the Holocaust): 64.7%

Of course, the ratio in Europe was even worse – only about 1/3 of Jews living in Europe survived the Holocaust.

If the systematic identification and destruction of 2/3rds of Jewish people in Europe was called genocide, what do we call an abortion rate of more than 90% of children with Down syndrome for those women who currently are tested?  How much lower will the ratio of Down syndrome births go as new, more accurate and less expensive tests for Down syndrome become available?

I want to be clear – I do not believe that tests are the problem.  Though knowledge of a disability in an unborn child is certainly a hard thing, it is not a bad thing.

But we know our culture has a bias against those who are different, and particularly against those who have developmental disabilities.  We also know, and Dr. Skotko referenced it in the article above, that doctors are not trained in the full reality of disability and usually bring in their own biases.  Abortion is an assumed best option for many, many health professionals at a very vulnerable time in a mother’s and a father’s life.

So, let us tell and re-tell our stories of God’s goodness and provision in our lives.  Whether a person living with a disability or the parent of a child with a disability, we have a particular kind of testimony of God’s faithfulness and goodness.

And then let us pray that God will use our stories to change everyone – presidents and Supreme Court justices and members of Congress and doctors and pastors and genetic counselors and family members and mothers and fathers and everyone else.  We know God can do it!

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.  Proverbs 21:1

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A reminder that we are not only called to serve others, but to be served by those who are considered weak.

Attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

In a Christian community, everything depends upon whether each individual is an indispensable link in a chain. Only when even the smallest link is securely interlocked is the chain unbreakable. . .

Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of the fellowship.

Would anyone know from which of his works this quote comes?

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I am a natural grumbler – takes no effort at all.  But even I’m surprised at how small my circumstances need to be for me to grumble at God.

This time, it was a head cold.  How ridiculous is that!  We have big issues in our house, and God has helped us on a daily basis for years with those issues.  And I found myself complaining to God about a head cold.  Clearly, I was thinking in my own head, I am far too important in the affairs of the universe to have to deal with a head cold!  Really, Lord, what are you thinking!

God mercifully brought a good word through Randy Alcorn’s blog yesterday on an entirely different subject (in this case, hell).  But these words jumped off the page to rebuke my hard heart and to call me back to a right understanding (emphasis in bold is mine):

There will be no end to dismantling doctrines if we consider it our calling to try to make God look good in our eyes and our culture’s. If his definition of good is different than ours, we dare not expect him to be the one who changes. The Almighty doesn’t need us to give him a facelift and airbrush his image. Our task is not to help people see God favorably but to see him accurately. God has the power, through the true gospel, to touch hearts and draw people to his love and grace while they fully affirm his holiness and justice. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and.

We are tempted to shrink God so he fits inside the borders of our minds. But those are small borders, and he is a big God. There’s great comfort in knowing a God who loves me but doesn’t need my counsel.

And that reminded me of something I had just read a few days ago:

You turn things upside down!
Shall the potter be regarded as the clay,
that the thing made should say of its maker,
“He did not make me”;
or the thing formed say of him who formed it,
“He has no understanding”?

Isaiah 29:16

God is kind to remind me who is who – he is creator and I am created.  He is good and I am entirely sinful separate from him.  He is strong and I am weak.  He sustains when I am demonstrating all kinds of failure.

So, I repented of my little faith and grumbling heart.  And I asked him to take away my cold, because I know he cares for me.

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If we say it, let’s mean it.

Everyone wants some advice on how to help people who are sick and suffering.

In his article, You Look Great and Other Lies, Bruce Feiler offers some pretty good advice on things to say.  He also offers a few NOT to say, like “everything will be ok” or “you look great.”

But one of the phrases he suggested people avoid made my heart sick:

MY THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS ARE WITH YOU. In my experience, some people think about you, which is nice. Others pray for you, which is equally comforting. But the majority of people who say they’re sending “thoughts and prayers” are just falling back on a mindless cliché. It’s time to retire this hackneyed expression to the final resting place of platitudes, alongside “I’m stepping down to spend more time with my family,” or “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Attaching the words ‘prayer’ and ‘mindless cliche’ just hurts.  He is probably right that most people should avoid that statement because they either have no intention of following through or they have no thought that prayer actually means anything.

Let us not be those kind of people!  If we say we will pray, let us pray, and do so with expectation.

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16b

And when people say their ‘thoughts and prayers’ are with us, let us accept it enthusiastically, thanking them for going before the Father and Creator of all things, with joy that they love us this much!  If they said it mindlessly or carelessly, may God use our excitement at prayer to shake them up and reconsider the power available to all who cling to Jesus – we can come to the throne of God himself, boldly!

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If you haven’t seen this great article from Sunday’s Pioneer Press, A different kind of perfect: Child with Down syndrome helped family re-evaluate life, please stop and read that first.

I loved how an eight-year-old boy helped his mother see the truth in the midst of her grief about the news that her unborn child had Down syndrome.

As he received the news, this boy simply said, “Oh, good.”

His mother is quoted as saying,

In that moment of absolute grief, that little piece of clarity and truth, it took my breath away.

Clarity and truth tend to do that!

So, this family faced the reality of their situation, which included advice about options like abortion.  They heard from family members and friends who left unspoken the expectation that their other children would have their lives ruined by this little, vulnerable, unborn child with Down syndrome.

And today this family lives what appears to be a complicated, joyful life.  The future is unclear, but they know it will probably get more difficult for them and for their youngest son.

But that clarity has remained about the life of their precious Gabe.

And it began with a little boy who knew something important about his unborn brother.  There are people who do not see individuals with Down syndrome with that level of clarity, even though they are much older than this boy was, are more educated, and have earned impressive credentials.

And it is just like God to do it that way:

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”  Matthew 11:25-26

I’m very grateful to God for this positive article about parenting and Down syndrome – these things do help!  And I feel the call to be like that boy, to speak truth with clarity and conviction and certainty.

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