Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Disability Kayaking - Living an Adventure, Creating a Memory

Yesterday I went kayaking with some friends. My friend Carol went along. On the surface it was just some friends eating a picnic in a beautiful park and then kayaking a few miles down Pennsylvania's Youghiogheny River.

However this was a very special adventure and memory! Another friend and I first planned to take Carol kayaking, but our plan grew into an adventure and memory for several other disabled friends. All seven of us participated in the adventure and making a wonderful memory!

When I went into Yough Outfitters to pay for the kayak rentals, I told the young man at the counter that we only needed five oars as one person on the trip wouldn't be rowing. (The single kayak was privately owned with its own paddle) I explained that my friend walked with a walker and had a bad shoulder. I wish you could have seen the expression on his face. He said, "You are going to take her kayaking? Are you sure?"

I smiled and said, "Yes and it will work. We have a plan." When he continued to look at me as if I had three heads and an extra eye in the middle of my forehead, I said, "Trust me. It will work fine!"

Yough Outfitters rented us kayaks and transported us to a lovely park. We ate a leasurily picnic and then put in the Yough from the boat ramp. We ended up with seven people and four kayaks: three tandems (kayaks built for two) and a single kayak.

We stowed all our gear including two coolers in the four kayaks. Then we walked Carol from the picnic table across the grass and down a little incline. The wheeled walker she usually uses was back at the outfitters in our van. Two of us got on either side of her and were her "crutches." She also used her folding cane.

Our plan was to seat Carol in the front of a tamdem and then push the kayak into the water. With only a few lurches, Carol was soon seated and ready to roll!

All in all we had a friend with Altzheimer's, a friend who is blind in one eye and another friend who suffers from depression plus Carol who has Parenchymatous cortical degeneration of the cerebellum. She has severe issues with her balance and a number of other challenges.

We put into the Yough River at the park and floated down the river a couple of miles back to Yough Outfitters.

The original plan was for another friend and me to take Carol kayaking. We had a plan as much as you can ever plan for something totally "out of the box" and very challenging.

When we were several miles into the trip, the youngest member of our party decided to jump out and "swim" for awhile. Carol told me she'd like to swim, too. Amazingly Carol was able to sort of fall out into the water without turning the kayak over. She brought two swim noodles. We rigged those around her and removed her life vest. Some of the others held the two kayaks. Two of us got on either side of Carol in the water. We walked her and floated till we were just in sight of the last set of gentle rapids.

When Carol suddenly "fell" over into the water, some in our group were shocked as they didn't know it was planned. The water was mostly shallow enough to walk except for some deeper spots.

When we got close to the rapids, we steered our kayak and Carol over to really shallow water. We were able to push Carol back over the kayak and then turn her so she was seated properly again.

On the way home we all agreed we'd had a blast!

It's so cool to be able to give an adventure and a memory to someone who couldn't do kayaking without considerable effort on someone else's part.

Just getting Carol to the picnic table and then back to the boat ramp to put her in the kayak was challenging and interesting.

By the end of the day, we were all tired, happy and ready to do it all over again another day!

And as Porky Pig says, ""Th-th-th-that's all folks!" - for now!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

UP is an action not a movie!

Yesterday I went to the grocery store. Same old, same old? Not quite!

As I entered, I saw a tall older man in front of me. He was pretty stooped over. His head hung down almost to his chect in a contorted way. His back was hunched from being pulled forward by his contorted neck and head.

I don't know why but I was watching him when he was looking at the doughnut case. He put his hand to his forehead and pushed his head up and held it up with his hand so he could see the doughnuts. He went from there to the produce section. Each place he stopped, he continued the drill. He stopped, put his hand to his forehead and pushed his head up so he could see. As I made my way through the store, he did, too. This forehead - head up routine occurred over and over.

I have a stiff neck from a broken neck I got in a car wreck 32 years ago. I can't turn my head very far. My heart went out to the man in the grocery store. What a way to have to live!

Then I thought: Isn't that exactly what God wants? He wants me to intentionally push my heart and focus upward straight to God's throne where He sits just waiting for His child (That would be me!) to focus on Him. He wants to hear from me. He wants me to think about Him. He wants me to hear what He has to say in His Word. He wants me to talk to Him (when I pray).

But the huge and significant difference between me and the grocery store man is that my focusing on Him isn't a tortuous ritual. It's simple! It's me crawling up into my heavenly Father's lap to have a chat and receive His hug! It gives me strength for this day.

It's something to think about, isn't it? And it's more. It's something to intentionally do over and over and over again!

Friday, July 17, 2009


My husband and I went to Disney World in March 2008. We flew to Orlando for a nephew's wedding and then joined our son's family for two days at Disney World.

We arrived the first day and went straight to Cinderella's castle. In the courtyard we encountered the step-mother, two step-sisters and then Cinderella. Each one signed autographs and spoke with the children who came up to them.

My two little granddaughters were enthralled. They gazed at Cinderella, and I don't know exactly what they were thinking but I can imagine! One of their all-time favorite stories is the Disney story of Cinderella with its beautiful pictures. It's the same book I read to their daddy and uncle so it's well loved!

A few weeks ago at Joni Camp I heard a beautiful Cinderella story. Max Lucado tells this story in his book, A Gentle Thunder.

My friend Kenny took his family to Disney World. He and his family were inside Cinderella's castle. It was packed with kids and parents. Suddenly all the children rushed to one side. Had it been a boat, the castle would have tipped over.

Cinderella had entered. Cinderella. The pristine princess. Kenny said she was perfectly typecast. A gorgeous young girl with each hair in place, flawless skin, and a beaming smile. She stood waist-deep in a garden of kids, each wanting to touch and be touched.

For some reason Kenny turned and looked toward the other side of the castle. It was now vacant except for a boy maybe seven or eight years old. His age was hard to determine because of the disfigurement of his body. Dwarfed in height, face deformed, he stood watching quietly and wistfully, holding the hand of an older brother.

Don't you know what he wanted? He wanted to be with the children. He longed to be in the middle of the kids reaching for Cinderella, calling her name. But can't you feel his fear, fear of yet another rejection? Fear of being taunted again, mocked again?

Don't you wish Cinderella would go to him? Guess what? She did!

She noticed the little boy. She immediately began walking in his direction. Politely but firmly inching through the crowd of children, she finally broke free. She walked quickly across the floor, knelt at eye level with the stunned little boy, and placed a kiss on his face.

Isn't that a totally awesome story? God tells us a similar but much better story on the pages of my Bible. The names in God's story are different, but the story sounds a lot like an echo of this Cinderella story.

On the day Jesus died on His cross, Jesus - the Prince of Peace - encountered a guilty thief beside Him on another cross. Like the boy in the castle, the thief yearned to be part of God's forever family. In fact, he was the first person to enter God's forever family after the cross.

Cinderella bestowed the gift of her attention and a kiss on the twisted face of the little boy. Jesus did even more for the thief. Both gave a gift - Jesus and Cinderella. Both shared love with an outcast. For both the boy and the thief, each was accepted by the beautiful one.

But the gift Jesus gave was far more valuable than Cinderella's. When she walked away from the boy, she took her beauty with her leaving the boy still twisted and deformed. What Jesus did was to give the thief the ultimate make-over forever.

He took our suffering on Him and felt our pain for us. ... He was wounded for the wrong we did; He was crushed for the evil we did. The punishment, which made us well, was given to Him, and we are healed because of His wounds." (Isaiah 53:4-5)


Jesus gave the thief more than a kiss. And Jesus offers you and me much more than a kiss. He gave His life to take your and my punishment. It was a terrible trade for Him - a life-saving one for us. He traded His righteousness for all our sin!

Jesus did much more than pay the thief a visit. He paid the price the thief should have paid because of his sins. He wants to do the same for you and me!

Jesus took more than a minute or two with the thief. He takes more than a minute with you and me. He took away my (and the thief's) guilt and sin and brought both the thief and me into God's forever family forever!

It's awesome and amazing!

At A Restoration Church, we are reaching out to all the lonely, twisted little boys standing against the wall all alone and offering each one the love of Jesus! It's an awesome, exciting opportunity!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wheelchair, Sewing Machine, Baby-sitting Evangelism

A Restoration Church is participating in WORD FM 101.5 's annual Wheels for the World fund-raising campaign this week. I've been thinking about a wheelchair as a gift of hope to soften a person's heart toward Jesus.

God uses so many different ways to reach hearts. I guess He uses about as many different approaches to individual hearts as there are different fingerprints. We are all different. We process information differently. We hear the same words through different filters. It's pretty awesome that God can use you and me with our distinctive differences to make a difference for His Kingdom!

Just today I spread a little of God's love by sewing this morning and keeping twin brothers this afternoon. See what I mean? It's not rocket science! It's just being myself - you being who you are - and both of us can be the hands and feet of Jesus for someone or several someone's any time, anywhere.

Think about it. What do you do well? What skill or interest do you have? Personally I don't like walking up to a stranger and trying to engage in a "God discussion." But I love to share my story of how God has changed my heart!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Disability and Shoes

What in the world could shoes have to do with disability and people affected by disability?

Recently the news in Pittsburgh has followed a disabled Ohio man's story. Apparently he arrived by plane at Pittsburgh International a week ago. No one was there to pick him up due to miscommunication issues. SO he took off on his own walking. He walked 18 miles into Pittsburgh and has apparently been living on the streets until yesterday when a policeman recognized him near a convenience store. In the interim he has done a LOT of walking! The man is now home again in Ohio safe and sound.

The news article about his being found talked about his black dress shoes, no socks and blisters from so much walking. The man wasn't complaining but apparently doesn't plan to do much walking except next door to see his neighbor for some time to come. I was impressed that this disabled man has such an incredible attitude about his swollen, sore feet as sore feet make me cranky! His statement to the police officer (and the condition of his feet) was that his feet were swollen and blistered from all the walking, in black dress shoes and without socks, but that they didn't hurt.

At A Restoration Church we have a very good friend who is also disabled. He had an encounter with another disabled man on the street in a small community near Pittsburgh where both of these men live. The other man actually took off my friend's shoes and socks on the street. He didn't steal the socks and shoes but just apparently has some kind of fascination with feet. The local police know this "shoe man" well. They said he tries to take their shoes off, too.

Who would think of shoes as a disability issue - especially a social issue? My friend has a very good attitude about his own encounter with the "shoe man." My friend now understands that there is a healthy boundary to draw about his own shoes, socks and the "shoe man" or anyone else. In fact he calls the "shoe man" "Triple F" (translation: "Foot Fetish Freddy")!

At A Restoration Church we really care about people affected by disability. We particularly and intentionally want to love these dear folks with the love of Jesus. We want to reach out to them with the hands and heart of Jesus in practical ways. Apparently that includes shoes! Who would think it?

Obviously there are therapeutic, medically related issues regardidng shoes and disability for folks who are paralyzed, etc. but who would think there are social and safety issues as well?

The lesson in these stories is that I have a lot to learn about this HUGE area of caring about people affected by disability. God is teaching me and the rest of us at A Restoration Church some things we can learn from our disabled friends! That's a good thing!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Inquiring Minds?

Remember the commercial: "Do you want to know ... ? Inquiring minds want to know ..." The ad was for the rag mag (magazine) The National Enquirer. I'm thinking of an "inquiring mind" with a little more substance than "National Enquirer" fare.

When my 96-year-old grandmother died, she had an inquiring mind until just the very few last years of her life. I'm sure her "inquiring mind" kept her sharp. She inquired about all kind of things and wasn't shy about asking whatever her "inquiring mind" wanted to know! You better be ready, too, because only an intentional plan prepared you to draw boundaries in response to her inquiries!

I was just musing about what "inquiring minds" want to know. What does my mind spent time wanting to know? I suppose this line of thought was prompted by a devotional I read yesterday about computer time: Facebook, Twitter and all the other ways the computer can eat up time in questionably productive ways.

I see the magazines in the grocery store line that have covers and headlines with banners deliberately contrived to get an inquiring mind to open the cover and read the information inside. It is hardly substantive stuff!

I hope my heart and my head inquire about things that feed my spirit. How much does my inquiring mind seek God? How much time do I spend reading the Bible and contemplating its application to my life?

The path to a restored heart is an inquiring mind seeking God where He can be found: principally in the pages of His Word!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Disability - Learning from the King of Pop

I spent yesterday hanging around with a bunch of teenagers kayaking on the Youghiogheny River. It was a lot of fun! After our kayak trip, we invaded a local pizza place for some really delicious pizza. While we waited for our pizza, the TV blared news about the "earth-shattering events" of the day at the funeral of the King of Pop Michael Jackson.

Now I'm cool but I'm not hip to Michael Jackson. I don't own a single one of his Cd's nor do I aspire to. I've seen passing glimpses over the years of Michael in some of his "over the top" performances. I've heard more than I wanted about his bizarre lifestyle. I remember the picture of his dangling his infant son Prince Michael II over a balcony in Berlin and other even more unspeakable bizarre acts and accusations that swirled around Michael Jackson during his life.

Yesterday I watched Michael's daughter Paris struggle to talk about her father through her tears while her Jackson aunts and uncles stood in a circle around her. What I heard and saw moved me to tears in my heart - not because of Michael's death - but rather because of his life and what it says about the world we live in.

Michael Jackson is the epitome of tragic living! Some say he had it all: he had the world by the tail. Millions worshipped at the altar that was Michael Jackson. I never knelt at that altar but I do mourn from my heart because of who Michael was and the picture of our culture he presents. In that one frail abused body - remanufactured over the years with life-altering surgeries and other treatments - is a living parable of what our American culture worships.

If he did have it all, then why was he so desperately unhappy? What led him to always push the edge of bizarre behavior to one more atrocious act after another? What really went on in his mind and heart? What really happened on his Neverland Ranch in those "secret rooms"? Why was he the boy who never wanted to grow up like his idol Peter Pan?

Michael Jackson had fame. He had celebrity and notoriety. He had money and glitz beyond description. He had adoring crowds screaming at his every gyration.

His life was a long story of abuse beginning in his own childhood. Apparently his own father "dangled his son Michael" from a dangerous height just because he could as he pushed Michael to be a super star - the King of Pop. Accusations of drug and sexual addictions, pedophilia and all kinds of bizarre behavior followed Michael Jackson around wherever he went and even when he tried to hide - under his umbrella or on his Neverland Ranch.

One op-ed piece in the New York Times by Bob Herbert (July 3, 2009) describes Herbert's mid-1980's meeting with Michael Jackson "as one of the creepier experiences of my life." Later in the same article Herbert writes that Michael "weirded me out."

Herbert continues: "... what I wish I had thought more about in those long-ago days of Michael-mania was the era of extreme immaturity and grotesque irresponsibility that was already well under way in America. The craziness played out on a shockingly broad front and Jackson's life, among many others, would prove to be a shining and ultimately tragic example. ... All kinds of restraints were coming off. It was almost as if the adults had gone into hiding. ... In many ways we descended as a society into a fantasyland, trying to leave the limits and consequences and obligations of the real world behind. ... Jackson was the perfect star for the era, the embodiment of fantasy gone wild. He tried to carve himself up into another person, but, of course, there was the same Michael Jackson underneath -- talented but psychologically disabled to the point where he was a danger to himself and others.
Reality is unforgiving. There is no escape. Behind the Jackson facade was the horror of child abuse. Court records and reams of well-documented media accounts contain a stream of serious allegations of child sex abuse and other inappropriate behavior with very young boys. Jackson, a multimillionaire megastar, was excused as an eccentric. Small children were delivered into his company, to spend the night in his bed, often by their parents.
One case of alleged pedophilia against Jackson, the details of which would make your hair stand on end, was settled for a reported $25 million. He beat another case in court.
The Michael-mania that has erupted since Jackson's death - not just an appreciation of his music, but a giddy celebration of his life - is yet another spasm of the culture opting for fantasy over reality. We don't want to look under the rock that was Jackson's real life. As with so many other things, we don't want to know." (Bob Herbert, New York Times, July 3, 2009)

There is a huge teaching moment in the tragic story of Michael Jackson's life and death. It is call for serious Christians - especially parents - to stop and ponder some life lessons we can learn from Michael. Perhaps the greatest success of Michael Jackson's tragic life would be if men and women, teens and children whose hearts belong to Jesus could see this tragedy as a call to reevaluate what we value, what success really looks like from God's perspective and what we need to change in our own hearts.

The glitz, the "success" and fortune all came to a crashing meteoric burn when the King of Pop lost his life for whatever reason (to be determined at some future date related to various tests by forensic pathologists). The bottom line is that Michael the man is dead. He will never prance across another stage. He will never perform another bizzare act or be accused of some audacious activity.

In both life and death Michael screams for thoughtful people everywhere to take a serious look at what "success" should look like in our world. For Christians, the search for what God thinks "success" looks like might begin with the ancient prophet Micah: "Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

If we summon the moral courage to turn over the rock of who and what Michael really was, we will find some horrors but we may also discover what is real and true by way of comparison. That would be a very good thing from a very tragic life!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Chasing the Small Stuff

Occasionally beached whales make the news. Recently I saw an article about 300 beached whales. These whales were chasing small stuff - sardines in this case - and got trapped on the beach at low tide. They were so preoccupied by sardines that they encountered danger and death on the beach. The "small stuff" drew them and preoccupied them. They perished as a result.

In life we chase "sardine small stuff." When the "small stuff" fills our focus, we forget more important things. The "small stuff" gets our whole world out of whack.

Jesus put what we should focus on very simply: love God first and most and then love others. We love God because He first loved us. God made a huge sacrifice to demonstrate His love for us. He sent Jesus to the cross.

Recently Islamic extremists in Somalia killed two young sons of a pastor. The pastor, his wife and remaining son fled for their lives to a refugee camp in Kenya where they live without shoes or shelter. The loss of a son is huge! I'm sure that family understand God's love in a deeper way than before their loss. What God did to demonstrate His love was an incredible act! He gave up Jesus to show His great love for us!

We can love others simply because we see what love looks like in God's demonstration of love for us. God touches our hearts with His love and changes us forever! He gives us His love so we can love Him first and others next.

Loving God first and others second is the way to change our world one heart at a time!

The beached whales lost their way chasing small stuff. We too chase "small stuff" to our peril. Our focus must be on God and then others!

Friday, July 3, 2009


We are so silly - to the point of stupidity - about who we mark as "heroes" in our culture: From a LONG list, these few stand out just in this week's news: Michael Jackson and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford - both "heroes" of a sort.

Michael Jackson blurred the lines between insanity and genius with his music, his plastic surgeries and his lifestyle. Like Peter Pan, Jackson's own personal hero, he wanted to be the boy who never grew up.

In the arena of politics, Mark Sanford is only the latest in a long line of political figures who stepped off the straight, narrow path of morality, ethics and family values. He crossed the line from "genius" to the insanity of stupidity. Family man with a beautiful wife and four handsome sons, Sanford chose the insane path of infidelity over commitment and faithfulness.

There are other heroes. One of note is Oprah, one of the wealthiest women in the world. Her daily television program is watched religiously by millions. She is a living icon who has shaped culture in her own image. The "Oprah cult" is alive and seems well. She is a blazing star in this day and time.

The list of heroes - both real and fictional - goes on. Literature and life give us these heroes. They are larger than life. They do extraordinary things. They face danger, adversity and challenges with courage and self-sacrifice for some greater good. Our culture worships these heroes and models them.

The meaning of "hero" is rooted in the ideas of protector, defender and guardian. All too often the heroes in history, in literature and in real time here and now eventually evidence flaws that damage both themselves and others who have worshipped at their feet.

Particularly pop heroes (or heroines) shape culture with their music, beauty or brillance. The sad truth is that often these individuals betray the public trust by their actions. Brittany Spears, Madonna, Elvis Presley, Bill Clinton and a long list of others have blazed in glory and then crashed and burned.

The truth and problem is that we are all flawed no matter how we try to hide behind brillance and glitz. It started in the Garden of Eden when a man and a woman were seduced by wanting to be like God. They ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They passed on to all their posterity the pain of brokenness. Satan, once the most powerful and beautiful of all the angels, fell from the height of heaven because he wanted to be like and even more important than God Himself (Isaiah 14:12 - 14). There is something so seductive about beauty, prestige and power.

The stuff of heroes - both for the hero and his following - is sitting on a high pedestal surrounded by throngs of "worshippers." The true hero (or heroine) is the one who perseveres to the end protecting honor and integrity, defending right and good and guarding truth.

The only One who has ever lived and persevered as Protector, Defender and Guardian without flaw or failure is Jesus, the Son of God! He alone is worthy of our worship! He lived the perfect life so he could change our hearts and our culture forever.

Other heroes are flawed and broken no matter how they dress up with glitz and glitter. Jesus made no pretense. Jesus led no army. Jesus had no beauty that distinguished Him from other men (Isaiah 53:3). An endless stream of heroes have marched across the pages of literature and life, but only Jesus is the Hero Who never fails!

Jesus never wrote a best seller. He never was elected to political office. Actually He did none of the things that constitute a hero by our culture's standards. But His life validates Him as Hero more than any entertainer or politician or military genius. He never made a life-changing scientific discovery, but He created the world and all that is in it. He was born in obscurity but lives today as the King of Kings. He calls people from every time, tribe and tongue to follow His example of love. He modeled forgiveness when He called from His cross, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." He alone of all who have ever lived and carried the label "hero" is truly worthy of the name!