Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Worrying Heart! Why?

Last night I opened a very disturbing piece of mail. Then I lay awake all night worrying - so much for living by faith! I'm not proud of my lack of faith, but that's me - SO much like Peter - looking at the waves and starting to sink! (Matthew 14:22 - 36)

Our oldest son took our two oldest grandchildren out in a canoe one Sunday afternoon. Our grandson began to get a bit nervous as they got farther and farther from shore. He asked, "Dad, can you swim to shore from here?" His dad answered, "Yes, Matthew. I can probably stand on the bottom and walk to shore from here." "OK, Dad." A bit further out, Matthew asked the question again. His dad gave him the same answer. Matthew breathed a sigh of relief and said, "OK, that's good, because if we tip over I don't know if Jesus can get here in time." His dad reminded Matthew of how Jesus took care of His disciples in a boat in a storm. Matthew's response was: "I know, but that was a bigger boat than this canoe because there were more than 12 men in that boat."

I thought that was a funny story, but after last night I realize I have the same mentality. I'm living like I'm not sure Jesus can take care of me and my problems. My worrying last night was no different than my grandson doubting "Jesus could get there in time." It's so hard to trust God and wait and rest. My way is to do what I can do to "fix" the problem or to do what I did last night and worry about how I'm going to fix the problem. What I need to do is let Jesus "do His thing" to restore the broken piece of life (no matter what it is) in His time and in His way.

It is like the old hymn says, "Trust and obey for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey."

My head knows He can fix anything - even this problem! My head knows Jesus loves and cares for us. The problem is with my heart. My heart is scared because - like Peter when he got out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water - I start looking at the waves instead of looking at the Savior. That's when I sink into worry.

My prayer needs to be: "O, God, give me a heart to trust You and to wait for Your restoring grace." It may not be easy, but with a restored heart and keeping my eyes on my Savior - It's always right and good! Jesus said, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? ... seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ... do not worry about tomorrow ... " (Matthew 6:27 - 34)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Disability, Chocolate Bunnies and Easter Eggs

What does disability have to do with chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs? Well, nothing really! But persons affected by disability - which, in a sense, includes everyone because we are all broken in various ways - need so much more than chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs. Chocolate bunnies might fix the chocolate craving temporarily. Easter eggs are dyed pretty colors and hidden for happy children to find. But neither chocolate bunnies or Easter eggs offer hope for change to people affected by disability.

Disabilities profoundly change the way life is lived. Disabilities affect more than the individual - the whole family is affected. Children affected by disability are often not included in "normal" activities like an Easter egg hunt for a variety of "reasons." These exclusions contribute to the isolation many who are affected by disability feel. Sometimes people with disabilities find that they have no friends. They are often over-looked or intentionally excluded because of their disability.

It’s an ugly reality of our society that perfection is honored and disability is distained. It is so sad that often people who can dress up and fix up and live to such a standard of “perfection” are really very broken people themselves.

People affected by disability are just like anyone else. They want friends. They need meaningful relationships. They deserve being treated with dignity and value. They want to be able to contribute to life and family in significant ways. They want to be included. They want to make significant contributions.

Just the other day I was at an office where a young man affected by disability was being coached in sound editing using certain software. He sat diligently with his headphones carefully listening and making adjustments. Being given a significant task and knowing he is making a difference is huge encouragement for him!

The real truth is, we all need each other. People affected by disability can teach the rest of us so much about endurance and hope and persistence. They are living parables of how to face challenges. We can all learn from each other. We all can contribute to the completeness of the whole.

Yesterday was Easter. For many people Easter means little more than candy and egg hunts.

For people affected by disability Easter should be the most wonderful day in the whole year. Easter is our celebration of Jesus coming back to life. The hope of the resurrection is the best news of us all and especially for people affected by disability! Jesus promises to “make all things new.” That includes broken bodies and minds! That includes broken relationships! That includes broken dreams and dashed hopes!

Jesus promises to “make all things new(Rev. 21:5). This ULTIMATE makeover begins with Easter, continues when we journey with Jesus through life until that day in eternity when He will totally “make all things new”!

I have my own missing and/or broken body parts so I’m looking forward to “being made new.” My “issues” pale in significance when I consider how some live. Joni Eareckson Tada who has been a quadriplegic in a wheelchair for over 40 years wrote a devotional I received by email just today:

My girlfriend arrived to get me up and ready for the day. It had been a rough night - sleeplessness, and stabbing, razor-sharp pain in my neck and shoulders. When I told her about it, she sighed and said, "Joni... I'll bet you just can't wait for heaven." As she brushed my hair, I sat and dreamed about what I've dreamed of a thousand times: my eternal home, just over the near horizon. … Some people look at my wheelchair, hear my enthusiasm for heaven, and conclude that it's a death wish. Now it's true, when I was first injured, I only viewed heaven as a place where I could get back what I had lost. I would receive hands that worked and feet that walked and even danced. … My attitude changed as I studied the Scriptures. I realized that heaven was mainly focused on Jesus, not me. (Joni Eareckson Tada, Pearls of Great Price, 2006)

And Joni knows what I also know: Heaven is the “getting” place for NEW in every sense of the word!

Disability and Extreme Home Makeover

The Easter Sunday 2009 segment of Extreme Home Makeover last night was fascinating. George and Barbara Kadzis opened their hearts and enlarged their family circle to include six disabled children from China. Melody is blind. Julia is deaf. Martin's right arm and hand are deformed. Phoenix anbd Celeste have cleft palates in the process of restoration. Aileen was orphaned by disease and desertion and facing emotional challenges as a result.

Barbara is a lifelong teacher. George worked as a dentist in a prison. Their resources were limited. Their home in Florida was badly damaged by a hurricane, and then George contracted terminal brain cancer. His dying wish was for his family to have a safe, appropriate home to live in.

George and Barbara didn't know a word of Chinese when they adopted all but their one biological son Chris. To communicate they used the medium of music. Several of the children played musical instruments: piano, violin, flute, zither and guitar. Julie dances to every note though she is deaf.

Extreme Home Makeover and their vast crew and main character designers madeover the Kadzis home in one week. During that week George was dying in the hospital. He died three days after his family moved into their new home.

I have lots of questions about the extreme home makeover concept and how much or little help it gives permanently. How can people who need so much pay taxes on this new and much more expensive home? and more.

But what was compelling about last night's episode wasn't the new home. What was compelling was the hearts - George and Barbara's obvious love for all their children and the reciprical love of their children. George and Barbara offered a whole new world and life to their six adopted children. To do so, they made significant sacrifices. Their example of love radically and obviously impacted their community.

That started me thinking. People affected by disability are all around us. The question is: how are we taking these who have such great need into our circle of love and friendship? Do we care enough to take the risk and step out of our comfort zone? Obviously George and Barbara benefited as much from their adopted family as did the children they adopted. By not including people affected by disability in our lives we run the risk of missing an incredible opportunity to be blessed and to be a blessing! Here's to warm hearts willing to include others who may have a different way of being into our circle and hearts and homes!

George and Barbara did in their home and family what A Restoration Church is doing in being a church in the South Hills of Pittsburgh - reaching out with genuine love and acceptance! George and Barbara needed the help of the crew for Extreme Home Makeover and their community. At A Restoration Church we need God's help to push us out of our comfort zone to make a radical difference in our community.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

One Small Step or One Giant Leap?

July 20, 1969 is the day man first walked on the moon. Neil Armstrong stepped down the ladder and onto the moon's surface where he spoke a scripted phrase, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." The only problem is that he boggled his line. He intended to say, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." NASA helped with the "cover-up" and claimed technical difficulties obscured the "a."

Covering up and reinventing history doesn't change the truth. There is no rewind button to go back and play the scene over again. It is what it is!

A huge part of God's restoration in our hearts is taking away our fear of exposure. God changes our hearts so we feel so secure in His love that we can acknowledge mistakes and sins. God's forgiving grace can make us bold to be honest and real!

It is in the moments of exposure that we come to understand best God's amazing grace and to know that He loves us anyway and always!