Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Barack Obama and the Special Olympics

Recently our new president got himself into hot water over bowling in the White House alley. Appearing on Jay Leno's late night show, he compared his score to "Special Olympics."

"It's like - it was like Special Olympics or something," he said, smiling.

There has been much appropriate outrage over his remark. Stupidity is the best excuse he has! I fear his gaffe may stem from much deeper roots than stupidity, however.

One political figure with close ties to disability in her own family described the President's remark as "shocking." Her own view of persons affected by disability is that they are "our world's most precious and unique people."

It is both sad and interesting that those who think the most of themselves and their abilities disdain and discard as insignificant the "precious and unique people" of the special needs community.

People with special needs often have no voice in our culture. Shame on the church of Jesus Christ for not aggressively working to include all these who have a different way of being! By their very differences, they have so much to contribute. They have much to teach the "able."

At A Restoration Church we intentionally include individuals and families affected by disability! It has nothing to do with the Special Olympics. It has everything to do with completion! Paul said, "... you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." (1 Cor. 12:27)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Come When Called or Just Come?!

Do you know this drill? “O, I’m so sorry. What do you need? Well, let me know if there’s anything I can do.” And then get out of Dodge before any specifics are discussed.

Such a drill is a band-aid on a guilty conscience but it bears no resemblance to “bearing each other’s burdens.” Gal. 6:2

Just exactly what does that need to look like for me? For you?

There is apparent tension between what Paul says in Galatians 6:2 and what James writes in James 2:14 – 16: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds… Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If any one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well. Keep warm and well-fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Where is the manual for parsing these principles?

Certainly, “to bear another’s burden” doesn’t mean standing back with arms folded assessing their progress. Nor is it running along beside someone carrying a heavy burden shouting encouragement. Bearing another’s burden must include in some way taking on that burden as if it were your or my own.

Clearly Jesus calls us by His Word and His strong example to love with both mercy and grace. He also sets the pace in helping the wounded, loving the hurting and doing whatever it takes to meet a burdening need. He stopped in mid-stride – while he was on a very important mission to save a VIP man’s daughter – to help a woman who simply touched his robe. (Mark 5:24 – 34)

So yesterday after church when a family group showed up asking for money, was I wrong to question the legitimacy of the need based on past experience with this same family unit? How does the principle of “being wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16) apply? Was I – in fact – guilty of doing exactly what James suggests is a travesty of faith: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If any one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well. Keep warm and well-fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?”?

There is perhaps more than a little irony in the fact that I left church to literally help someone lift some logs at the bottom of our drive. It was really not a “woman task” - especially not two women way into their middle years - but we were stubborn enough to do it.

So are “burdens” on some hidden scale? Logs belong to my friend and me; money and food belong to someone else.

Hmmm! At least it has me thinking and wondering - which has to be a first step!

Now the phone rings: “Hello” “Can you help keep some special needs kids while their parents enjoy a coffee house experience in three days?” I have to smile. God MUST have a sense of humor. He certainly is giving me opportunity to continue my quest to understand what it means “to come when called” – to bear another’s burden!

What is becoming crystal clear in my fog of wonder is that it all requires a changed heart! It's just not natural to put others first, and that's a very good thing! "Natural" is not the path to restoration!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Live Like You're Dying

The sermon at A Restoration Church today is Luke 21:5-38 - "Serene Living in Turbulent Times!"

The bullet points are:

  • Norhing is permanent
  • Nothing is easy
  • Nothing is hopeless
  • Live in HOPE!
How can these concepts be translated into "child language" for a children's page?

Lots of thoughts going round in my head:

  • Noah's family on the ark. They were sure living in HOPE when they walked up the gangplank into that huge boat with all the smells and sounds of all the animals and birds in the world.
  • Peter walking on the water toward Jesus, getting scared, starting to sink and finally taking hold of Jesus' hand. Once I took a Red Cross life-saving class. One thing they taught us was to rescue a drowning person from behind so he/she can't get a "death hold" on you and drag you down with him or her. I can only imagine how scared Peter was and how much he needed Jesus to reach out His helping hand of HOPE.
  • Then there's the story Jesus told about the two contractors. Each built a house - one on sand, the other on rock. Then the rains and storms came. The house on the rock stood. The house on the sand went smash!

Well, I went with the "Three Little Pigs" instead. They each built a house: one of straw, one of sticks and one of bricks. When the Big Bad Wolf came calling, he huffed and puffed and blew down the houses of straw and sticks. Only the brick house offered HOPE and safety from the Big Bad Wolf!

In the story of the two builders, one was smart and one was stupid. In the "Three Little Pigs," two were lazy and stupid and one worked smarter and harder.

Then I checked my email and read a church planting blog giving the advice to "live like you're dying" when planting a church. I guess that was the essence for both Noah and Peter. They had to face the reality of the alternative before they could trust the HOPE!

I've had my own experience with living like I'm dying. It's scary stuff, but it's also where the most real reality of life is!

Country singer Tim McGraw wrote a song about "Live Like You Were Dying" based on his personal experience. He expresses doing all the things he shoved to the back burner to do later - doing them right now - like sky diving, rocky mountain climbing, two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu! "And I loved deeper ... and I gave forgiveness I'd been denying"!

What happens when we "live we are dying"? What's important shifts to what's really important! Risks don't matter except to become worth the cost. People and relationships mean more. Living God's purpose becomes a matter of life or death! Time races and we race with it as we live like we were dying!

I guess it goes without saying that "living like I'm dying" means my heart changes, too! My prayer becomes: "Lord, give me dying eyes and dying ears and a dying heart to see and hear and love with life or death urgency!" That's how Jesus lived His last days, for sure!