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Archive for the ‘Helpful things’ Category

God sends help in really interesting ways.

Yesterday I posted a quote from Dr. Michael Beates.

Pastor John was travelling to Florida in 1997 (I think) and met Dr. Michael Beates who was then at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando.  Dr. Beates has a daughter with severe disabilities due to a genetic anomaly, and he trusted God as sovereign and good over all things.

I wasn’t so sure about the ‘good’ part in those days.

Pastor John kindly had Rick Gamache, then his assistant, send me an article by Dr. Beates that I’ve kept for more than 14 years.  Rick included this note with the article:

I pray that God will use it to encourage you and bring you joy and peace as you trust in his precious and very great promises.

That prayer was certainly answered!

I haven’t met Dr. Beates, but we’ve corresponded a few times over the years.  That 1996 article, less than three pages long, was remarkably helpful.

Through that article, God granted me a man who spoke a language I could understand.  He used words like ‘excruciatingly painful’ and ‘harsh reality’ – words I understood but didn’t see that often in ‘religious’ treatments on disability in 1997.

Dr. Beates sent me his dissertation a couple years later and I remember thinking that I had never seen anything like it before, either.

Seeds of grace from God’s hand.  God really is amazing.

He and Joni Eareckson Tada have a new book coming out in July that I can hardly wait to see!

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I found a booklet written by Jan Lacher when she was still pretty new to parenting a child with a disability as Michael was quite young.  Knowing what Michael and the entire family have gone through since this was first written, and seeing the evident faith in Jan and Mark that has continued to grow, made the words in this little book even more precious:

The ongoing nature of Michael’s situation is daunting, but we are not without hope. What seems impossible to us is possible with God. His mercies are new every morning. I have seen his faithfulness even when things do not go the way we want them.

I am trying to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness, lest I get sucked down into the tar pit of despair. I claim the hope that is in Christ, trusting that he will work this out for our good, even if Michael’s health deteriorates.

When Michael was in the hospital after his surgery, he was sleeping in his crib; I was looking at his big, swollen head with the 40 plus staples, and God led me to John 11 which talks about the suffering and death of Lazarus. Even though there was great suffering and grief by Lazarus and his family, Jesus told his disciples that he was glad for their sake so that they would believe and that it was for the glory of God.

Meditating on this passage and others, gives me hope that Michael’s suffering is not in vain. I also take comfort knowing that as I watch Michael continue to suffer with his seizures, I have a heavenly Father who knows what it is like to have watched his son suffer, all without anesthesia or morphine.

The entire booklet can still be found online here: Creations of God Impacted by Disability: One Mother’s Thoughts.

And I even found an early draft!

I’d like to see this booklet updated and posted as an ebooklet.  What do you think?

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Dianne and I often long for people to hear from all the leaders at Bethlehem who guide us in worship, prayer, introductions, communion and the like.  Our leaders consistently point us to God!

You already know my affections for David Michael, our pastor for Parenting and Family Discipleship and overseer of our disability ministry.  I’ve learned some tremendous things about prayer from him.

So when I saw he was going to pray during last Sunday’s worship, I recorded him.  He’s allowing me to share it with you.

David Michael Prayer 2-12-12

I don’t offer this to make much of David, because that would dishonor him and the God to whom he prayed.  I offer it because it is God-centered, rich in Bible, and deeply encouraging to my heart because it raises my eyes to see God!

May these two minutes bless you richly and point you to our magnificent, omnipotent, purposeful, glorious God.

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God used Paul Tripp to protect me from myself, again.  It doesn’t really matter what the circumstance was, I was letting a situation dictate a growing scoffing, sneering, dismissive attitude.

Then I read this:

I still need to be rescued from me because as long as sin remains I’ll be drawn to desire, think, say and do what God names as evil.

Quickly followed by this:

It’s my heart that’s the problem. People, locations and situations don’t cause me to sin, they’re where the sin of my heart gets revealed.

Paul Tripp, via @PaulTripp, Friday, January 13, 2012.

APTAT!

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Sometimes I am tempted to think in terms of what the church ‘should’ do for its weaker members because of disability.  The old legalist in me finds that line of thinking comfortable.  You can measure what the church ‘should’ be doing.

But I received a good reminder yesterday from the pastor I referenced for my Desiring God blog post this week.  He’s a godly man and I like him a great deal.

He reminded me that there’s something better than meeting a legal requirement to serve – the call to joy!  Pastor Chris reminded me he doesn’t serve Kristina out of reluctant obligation, but out of the benefits he receives and likes, for himself and his church:

Kristina is an amazing example of how God takes the very things that we would see as weaknesses and makes them strengths.  God has blessed me and the body of Christ through Kristina’s life.  I can’t tell you how many people appreciate her smile and hug every Sunday.

I believe it; I’ve been in his church and seen Kristina work a room.  She doesn’t care one bit about economic standing, physical ability, age, race or anything else when it comes to sharing her affections!

And it’s nice to see leaders understand that she may live with complicated disabilities, but she is all gift to the body of Christ, from God himself.

The same God who commands us to pursue our joy in him!

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We had multiple blessed experiences at church this weekend.  I hope you did as well.

One of the benefits of having a blind son (yes, I said benefits) is that words that used to flow by me land with power.  It happened again during one of the songs from Sunday morning, You Are Amazing, by Lincoln Brewster:

You’re the one who welcomed sinners
And You opened blinded eyes
You restored the brokenhearted
And You brought the dead to life

Four miracles right in a row – welcomed by God, spiritual sight, restoration, life.  Simple words, but only God can do it!

Yes, he is more than amazing!

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One of the great blessings of my work is morning devotions lead by our president, Jon Bloom.

Yesterday he was making the point to remember who God is and who we are as we deal with the anxieties of the day using Luke 12:28-34.  But he began by saying:

We are all leaky buckets.

That image was so good and so helpful.

There are days when I feel ‘full’ of the grace of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Those are good days!  Not unexpectedly, they are more likely to come when I am filling myself up with God through prayer, time in God’s word and time with God’s people.  My desire for my own joy encourages it!

And when I neglect those same disciplines, the leaky bucket starts to empty.  Ironically, the more I neglect getting close to God, the less I want to pursue my own joy in him.  That’s a terrible cycle.

And, of course, there are those days when we must fight for joy.  Pastor John provided some helps for us in his sermon, The Fruit of Hope: Joy, that he delivered back in 1986:

How then do we obey the commandment to rejoice? How do we fight for joy in the ups and downs of everyday life?

First, let us acknowledge that by nature we are sinners and helpless to become the kind of people who rejoice in the glory of God rather than our own glory.

Second, let us cry out to the God of hope that he would send his Holy Spirit and pour the love of God into our hearts.

Third, let us set our minds on the biblical expressions and evidences of God’s love for repentant sinners. For example:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,

“For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

And so, finally, when the love of God has filled us with hope in the glory of God, we rejoice in that hope, and again I say to you, REJOICE!

I was a pretty good legalist for the first 2/3rds of my life, believing if I did the ‘good’ things (prayer and Bible reading) then God owed me (like a non-disabled child).  When he revealed himself as greatest treasure, the legalist in me still exists, but he gets quieted (most days – that’s still a battle!) by remembering who God is and pursuing him and getting closer to him.

So, a simple plea today – remember and fill your leaky bucket.  Seek your own joy in the only place where there is real, everlasting, infinite measures of it:  Jesus Christ.

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This is the last in a series to honor men who have been helpful by their examples.

Paul Harland Knight is the sixth grandchild of Harland Paul Knight.  We’re not very creative with names in our family, but we know why our children carry the names they do!

There is a part of me that wants to be reckless and effusive with my praise for my dad, because I think it is warranted.

But I know there are people who have never experienced this kind of fatherly support, and this is a painful reminder of what you long to have.  If you are in that group, remember that God is always a good father, infinitely capable beyond the capacities of any earthly father, even a good one like I have.

And pray that God would raise up a man like this man in your life:

  • He loves God’s word. My dad didn’t have the chance to go to college, but several little churches around Winona have asked him to fill their pulpits for vacations and the like because he has the reputation of loving God’s word and handling it carefully.
  • He prays, earnestly.
  • He has been married to the same woman for more than six decades, and he clearly delights in the wife of his youth (they met when he was three years old!).
  • Though he has taken on fewer things as he entered his 80s, he still volunteers at church and in the community.  ‘Retirement’ only meant more time to pour himself into others more freely!  He likes walking on the beach, but his passion isn’t seashells! (If that reference doesn’t make sense, see page 46 of this book.)
  • He loves his children (and their spouses) and grandchildren (and their spouses) and great-grandchildren.  He hurts the most when they hurt.  He delights the most when they are around.
  • He is generous.
  • He is unafraid of hard things.
  • He doesn’t quit on those he loves.
  • He is the same at home, in his work, at church or out in the community; no hypocrisy in our household.

I’ve always respected my father – it is hard not to, especially when everyone in our little town seemed to know him, like him and respect him.

But the arrival of my Paul put everything into a different kind of clarity for me on who this man is.

Only days after Paul was born, while he was still hooked up to machines, dad held him and simply said to him, “if the only reason I was put on this earth was to be your grandpa, that’s good enough for me.”

Tears still come to my eyes, nearly 16 years later, at the memory.  My father was for me.  My father was for my boy.  Nothing could change that.  Nothing could stop that.  He didn’t require Paul to love him back.  He has NEVER required Paul to love him back.  He didn’t require me to do anything for him.  Paul simply was his own, and that’s all dad needed to know.

This is love.  This is God’s gift in fulfilling the commandment: By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (1 John 3:16).

And that is what I mean when I title this blog, ‘he taught me everything else.’

Thanks, dad.  Happy Father’s Day!

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This is the sixth in a series to honor men who have been helpful by their examples.  We’ll conclude tomorrow.  If you aren’t sure who will be honored tomorrow, you haven’t been reading this blog for very long!

At some unknown point I went from being a ‘new’ dad to one with some experience.  That’s just weird.  I still feel like a new dad, given how inadequate I feel much of the time.  And I continue to prize the example of men who are years ahead of me in their parenting and their skill and their dependence on God.

But today I want to acknowledge God’s goodness through the example of the younger dads I know.  These men are precious to me, many of them holding on to the promises of God in ways that are beautiful and faith-filled and God-centered and which make God look very, very attractive.

  • I’m grateful for men who are looking at disability with clear eyes and seeing God’s grace instead of the darkness I saw in our early days.
  • I’m excited as I observe God’s leading younger men with disabled children into areas of responsibility and ministry that show off God as of greater value than anything.
  • I’m humbled by the testimonies of wives who speak so well of their husbands and the godly leadership they are experiencing in their homes.
  • I love to hear stories of God calling men away from the darkness in which they were living and into his marvelous light, frequently using their children’s disability to help them see God clearly.
  • I’m hopeful for those dads who were like me, that God would do the same miracle in their hearts that he did for me.
  • My faith is encouraged when I see broken-hearted men persevere in faith with strength only God can provide as they seek to love their wives and children through impossible circumstances.

I realize in writing this that God has granted me a lot of those younger men in my life!  What a gift to see God moving like that!

I’ll close with an example of encouragement from one of them.  Kempton Turner is one of those younger faith-filled dads described above.  His oldest boy lives with multiple disabilities.  His wife is a leader on this subject at church.  Together they parent three children.  I’m grateful to learn from him how to pray to the God we both love:

Kempton Turner praying at BBC June 5, 2011

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This is the fifth in a series to honor men who have been helpful by their examples.

I can’t remember when I first met Karl Kanowitz.  It was sometime in the early 1990’s and he was simply doing what he always does – serving other people.  In this case it was an adult Sunday School class I was attending.  There wasn’t anything particularly special about him nor did we have a close relationship.

Then God gave us our Paul.  For some reason, God put us on the hearts of the Kanowitz family.  And while I’ve been emphasizing men this week, the kindness we received was definitely extended from their entire family to my little family.

The lesson I want to emphasize here is how much Karl practiced the discipline of understanding, as Pastor John has taught, when words are wind:

In grief and pain and despair people often say things they otherwise would not say. They paint reality with darker strokes than they will paint it tomorrow when the sun comes up. They sing in minor keys and talk as though that is the only music. They see clouds only and speak as if there were no sky.  John Piper, When Words Are Wind, November 10, 1993.

I said some horrible things at his dining room table in the presence of his children.  And I knew how to hurt people with my words.  Even my attorney once said that I frightened him.

None of those words seemed to have that impact on Karl.  Sometimes, I wasn’t even sure he had heard me and he certainly didn’t seem to feel the emotional explosiveness of the verbal grenades I was lobbing at him.

He just kept coming, and he kept coming with affection and confidence that God is good.  He understood that there are ‘words on the wind.’

Again, from Pastor John:

These words are wind, or literally “for the wind.” They will be quickly blown away. There will come a turn in circumstances and the despairing person will waken from the dark night and regret hasty words.

It is tempting to assume that he saw something in us that confirmed God’s work in our lives, something to give him encouragement to persevere.  That wasn’t the case.  There was no evidence, for a season, that anything positive was happening.  They prayed, and trusted God.  And kept coming.

All my bitter, angry words frightened many people away, but not this man (or his entire family).  And in fearing God more than me, God worked on me through him.

Eventually, God would open my eyes and I would see my sin and my need for a savior more clearly than I had ever known.  But before that happened, he gave me a man who righteously feared the Lord and practiced a depth of wisdom that simply crushed my bitter rationalizations.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!  Psalm 111:10

In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?  Psalm 56:10-11

You can hear more about what this family did for us and my regard for them in this video interview.

 

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