A beautiful Song for the Suffering by Shane and Shane, with Pastor John.
Shane and Shane will be leading an evening of worship at the Desiring God National Conference on September 27.
Today is an anniversary of sorts. On October 11, 2004, Dianne came home from her doctor to tell me something was very wrong. The next day it was confirmed to be cancer. A few days later we knew it to be Stage IV cancer. And that started an entirely new chapter in our lives.
Dianne still has her port. She takes a drug every day. She still sees her oncologist several times a year.
And she manages the household, cares for her family, volunteers at church, participates in Bible studies and encourages me. In fact, until she reads this she probably won’t even remember the importance of this date – she’s got real things to attend to right now rather than bother with something in the past.
Cancer does not rule our household. But God used it to change our household.
Pastor John also had cancer, and that lead him to write a short booklet available at Desiring God: Don’t Waste Your Cancer. Please, read it and share it with somebody you know.
Joni Eareckson Tada also faced cancer, and did a one-hour video on her journey, which can be found here. Caution: this is a raw look at cancer and includes some frightening, very real images.
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 ESV)
Tears came at this announcement from Ligonier this afternoon, though I have never met her or her dad or grandfather.
This beautiful young woman died yesterday. Shannon Macfarlane Sproul, daughter of Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. and granddaughter of Dr. R.C. Sproul, was fifteen years old. She was born with a condition called Lissencephaly, a condition that left her profoundly disabled. She was a blessing to all who knew her. In fact, a few years ago, Joni Eareckson Tada produced a short TV program that showed how Shannon and her family handled disability in light of the sovereignty of God. Shannon now has not only the memory of her earthly father singing over her, but in a way that we cannot fathom, has the joy of having her Heavenly Father sing over her (Zeph. 3:17).
She and her father have helped me, and I’m guessing quite a few others.
Frankly, I cannot imagine her daddy’s pain right now. But I know God knows his pain, and loves him, and will help him.
Please pray for the family.
Get a group of parents of children with disabilities together and it won’t be long before the stories start to come out, frequently about being treated badly. It is rare to run into a parent who doesn’t have a story about a doctor or school teacher or therapist or social worker who talked down to the parent about what the child did or didn’t need, or refused to consider options from the parents’ perspectives.
Bob Horning kindly sent me another story about Krista when she was very young and they were in such a situation – and God demonstrated his might in using a little one for his glory!
Krista was in the Early Childhood Something-or-other program in our local public school when she was little. It wasn’t going well.
They were focusing on things that were not important, and our input was pretty much ignored.
“We are the experts here” is what they said. I’m not making that quote up.
We decided to pull her out of the program, but they wanted to have a meeting before we took that step. So we went over to the school and met with a therapist or two, plus the principal.
Three or four of them against a couple “confused” parents and a four-year-old girl with multiple disabilities.
Krista was in the corner playing with some toys while we were sitting at a table talking – and it also wasn’t going very well.
Finally little Krista walked over and said (I can still hear it today), “Guys, we need to pray about this.“
Fortunately I think most schools have improved over the years. But it’s always good to pray about it.
God was, and still is, good.
He hasn’t needed to improve.
Krista still clings to God. She grew up and her family created one of the best resources available on God’s goodness in disability, Just the Way I Am: God’s Good Design in Disability. Krista will also be speaking at our conference, The Works of God: God’s Good Design in Disability immediately following Pastor John.
The worship team did me a great favor by having the song, The First Place, before I spoke to the Bethlehem College and Seminary students on Thursday. May it remind you and bless you about the sovereignty of our great savior:
The First Place by Matthew Westerholm
Jesus, the perfect picture of the unseen God
Maker of things we cannot comprehend.
Wisdom, the earth displays Your strength and beauty.
Sovereign, yes, every throne knows You are God.
Every inch of this universe belongs to You, O Christ.
For through You and for You it was made.
Your creation endures by the order of Your hand.
So You must have in all things the first place.
Victor, over sin and death You triumphed.
Firstborn, You’ve shown us life beyond the grave.
Bridegroom, we long for You in expectation.
Jesus, Your church rejoices to proclaim.
Pat Robertson said some really vile things on Thursday afternoon about adopted children. Thankfully, the response was swift and thoughtful, like these from Russell Moore and Shannon Dingle (among many others).
At about the same time, an Oxford Professor of Ethics, Dr. Julian Savulescu, declared war on children. In his article in the Reader’s Digest, The Maverick: “It’s Our Duty to Have Designer Babies,” he clearly articulates his disdain for children who do not fit his particular view of the world:
Some people believe that babies are a gift, of God or nature, and that we shouldn’t mess with their genetic make-up. But most of us already implicitly reject this view. We’re routinely screening embryos and foetuses for conditions such as cystic fibrosis and Down’s syndrome, and there’s little public outcry.
He does not mention abortion, but he doesn’t need to do so; we know the result he expects from ‘screening.’ And don’t miss his subtle invitation to join the club of cool kids: ‘most of us already implicitly reject this view’ that babies are a gift. Why not make it explicit?
Wesley Smith of First Things has blogged a good response (I expect more will follow):
Eugenics originated as a “moral obligation,” moved from there to legal coercion, and ultimately crescendoed into the worst evils of human history. And now many of those same ideas have regained sufficient respectability the Reader’s Digest editors think them worthy of respectable presentation. This won’t end well.
Mr. Smith is right.
What is also alarming is Dr. Savulescu’s (an obviously well-educated and accomplished man) naiveté in believing that the difference between his form of eugenics and the Nazi version he repudiates is that his version will be ‘voluntary’ for parents, rather than what the Nazi’s did using the ‘coercive imposition of a state vision for a healthy population.’
Yet, his own example about the ‘little public outcry’ at our ‘routinely screening embryos and foetuses’ demonstrates that there are other coercive mechanisms in place beyond the state. Our culture, as well, coerces doctors, family members, mothers and fathers to see children as expendable burdens rather than the gifts they are.
Pastor John gave a wonderful meditation on Friday morning about the importance of not being vague. So here’s my attempt to be clear:
God makes people:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26 ESV)
Some of those people will live with disabilities, because God made them that way:
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 ESV)
He made them that way because he is purposeful in everything he does:
Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3 ESV)
He knows we will be tempted to think of our members with disabilities as having less worth, so he tells us how to think correctly:
On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. . . (1 Corinthians 12:22 ESV)
And if that wasn’t clear enough, he warns us not to abuse them:
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 ESV)
And if that wasn’t enough he reminds us that, for those who cling to Jesus as their hope and treasure, he makes everything work to our good:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)
At the end of the day, Pat Robertson is no real threat to children. He might reinforce some stereotypes in some people, but for the most part people see clearly how ignorant, anti-gospel, and foolish he is.
Dr. Savulescu, on the other hand, has thought a great deal about his subject and writes with easy confidence that he is right and that intelligent people should embrace his position. He knows it will be controversial, but isn’t that where all good things begin? So, he is going to help us begin a conversation.
This has happened before. The intellectual seeds of the murder of millions of Jewish people and tens of thousands of disabled people did not come from Germany but from the United States and United Kingdom. The difference is today we have the Internet to help us illuminate and to prepare so that it does not happen again.
And some of the so-called weaker members are already helping us remember that the lives of real people are at stake! Thank you to Justin Taylor for posting this video:
A few weeks ago Pastor Bud prayed with such power and articulated such a clear, God-centered vision for his people that I approached him afterwards and asked if I could have his transcript, assuming he had written it out beforehand. He had not. God had granted him that prayer in the moment. And those prayers aren’t posted anywhere.
Another man I know prays like that, and when I saw that David Michael was giving the offertory prayer yesterday, I got my phone ready and recorded his prayer. I’m glad I did.
I’ve listened to it several times and found something fresh each time to help me praise God and orient my heart more accurately toward who God is. ”Prone to wonder, Lord I feel it” wrote Robert Robinson in his great hymn, Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Prayers like this help me get back on the path.
I don’t offer it to flatter David (he wouldn’t appreciate that) but rather as a helpful tool in learning how to pray in ways that encourage affections toward and confidence in God.
Dianne doesn’t ask much of me. But a couple of months ago she asked if I could take a day off from work so we could spend some time together during the day while the kids were still all in school.
Like many men, that sounded like a great idea – for the future. I was too busy that week. And because I am so “very, very important” the weeks slipped by and I didn’t do it. And it’s also easy to rationalize that I’m a ‘good’ husband and father.
Then I realized that school was almost over! I could continue to be very, very important, or I could keep my promise. I wish I could honestly say the decision was easy!
I took a day off, and the world (even my little world) didn’t come to an end. And we had a nice day doing nothing in particular.
I’m grateful for my wife – God was and is kind to me in so many ways through her!
Paul had a crummy week, health wise. But earlier in the week we visited Grandma Darlene, and Paul was so happy he gave us a song.
God is kind to drop these happy moments into our family – and I was glad I had my phone ready to catch it!
His other grandma taught him ‘A Bushel and a Peck’ some years ago. I’m pretty sure he connects that song to being happy and safe and loved with his grandmas.
They are both tremendous blessings – God is good to give us godly grandmas who love their ‘different’ grandchildren!
And in case you couldn’t understand the words, here they are:
I love you, a bushel and a peck!
A bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck!
A hug around the neck, and a barrel and a heap
A barrel and a heap, and I’m talkin’ in my sleep.