Saturday, December 15, 2012

What's the Answer to Newtown?

Yesterday our collective hearts were broken and our minds were stunned with news of the terrible tragedy in Newtown, CT! There are no words that reach deep enough to encapsulate the grief of parents who kissed their children good-by yesterday morning and sent them off to school never to see them alive again!

Some are making ridiculous statements about the shooter and his life circumstances. Let me be clear: autism (or any Autism Spectrum Disorder including Asperger's Syndrome) does NOT cause someone to do what Adam Lanza did yesterday - if he did indeed was somewhere on the Autism Spectrum. But, Adam Lanza is not where our immediate focus should be!

This may seem controversial but neither should our immediate focus be on the personal and corporate loss in Newtown, CT though my heart and prayers go out big time to the entire community and especially to those who have empty places in their homes and hearts due to this tragedy!

Nor should our focus be on increased restrictions on gun ownership!

Our focus should be on the heart!  The tragedy of yesterday is purely and simply a heart issue!  Sin is ugly - ugly to the bone! Ever since Adam and Eve made a very bad choice in the Garden of Eden, sin has been the greatest problem we face. We may not like that reality but our discomfort doesn't change the truth. The truth is that we need Jesus! We need Him to change our hearts! We need Him to begin the process of restoration - one heart at a time.

I read wise, compelling words yesterday from Mercedes Cotchery:
I do not think gun control is the issue.Man's heart is the issue. People are spiritually depraved on their own. Apart from God any of us can and will do all kinds of things. That is the real issue. We want to worship God however we want to, yet also want to be surprised when things are out of order. We cannot have it both ways. We either abide in his word or sit and watch all hell break loose.

We don't need more laws and fewer guns. We don't need to presume that people who present differently than we do are fundamentally flawed and therefore a danger to themselves and others. We need to focus on the heart - our own first and work from there!

5 He who was seated on the throne said, I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rev. 21:5)

We need to pray that the King of Heaven - Jesus - will begin that process of restoration in me and you! That's the ONLY answer to pain, suffering and loss!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I Saw Love!

I saw love at the movie theater

I went to the movies a couple of weeks ago to see “Lincoln…”
But instead, I saw Love. ….               (Posted on December 11, 2012 by katiewetherbee)

My husband was treating me to a movie and burger date for my birthday. For me, going to the movies is a huge treat. I love the atmosphere…the anticipation when purchasing tickets, the hushed feel of a darkened theatre…the fun of the previews and the uninterrupted enjoyment of a story on film.
When we arrived, Tom went to get the tickets and I ducked into the ladies room. We were running a bit late, and so I hurried in, pleased that it wasn’t crowded. In fact, only one other person was there…an older lady wearing a red winter cap on her grey curls. She smiled at me as I ducked into the stall. When I emerged, she was still there, pacing back and forth, humming to herself. As I made my way toward the sink, she turned and followed me.
And then she spoke.

“I can’t find my way out of here,” she said quietly.
“Well,” I replied, “I know the way out. We’ll go together as soon as I wash my hands.”

She smiled and waited for me. We walked out together, and she murmured, ” You seem like a kind person. Don’t ever let this happen to your brain.”
“Is someone here with you?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “My…” her voice trailed off when she saw him, her delight shining in her smile. “There he is!” She pointed to a gentleman wearing a plaid flannel shirt.
Her husband’s worried look was replaced with relief when he saw her.

Yes. Here I am,” he said, “Let’s go.” He nodded and smiled in my direction and gently took her hand.
I found Tom and we made our way into the theater and found a seat. Settling next to us were my ladies room friend and her husband.

Soon, the lights dimmed and “Lincoln” began. We were transported to the Civil War, mesmerized by the scenic design, costumes and acting.
About halfway through the movie, the lady shifted in her seat, becoming disoriented and agitated. Her husband immediately stood, and put his arm around her, whispering comfort to her as they walked out of the theater.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things(from 1 Corinthians 13, NRSV)
I saw love at the movie theater. … and I saw it in action. Clad in a flannel shirt, holding a wrinkled, familiar hand, whispering comfort.

This blog post is by my dear friend Katie Weatherbee. I had no warning it was going to be a sweet sucker-punch but it was!
You see, Katie could be describing my own dear parents: Ed (Buddy) and Austin Robeson. They loved with just such a love for all the world to see! My mother like the lady in the restroom is mostly confused and fragile mentally – much more often than not! She also has a hard time sitting still! And, I must say, my daddy would have done just what the man Katie wrote about did. He would gently get up, hold her hand even as stooped as he was from severe Parkinson’s and lead her from the theater.

Then there is the part about the flannel plaid shirt. My daddy always wore a plaid flannel shirt in the later years.
They loved each other with a holy love! I know the couple in Katie’s story isn’t my sweet Mother and Daddy because my daddy slipped away to heaven a few months ago and my mother is still confused about “why he doesn’t come around anymore.” She just can’t take in that he’s gone ahead without her. She just told me this afternoon that she expects to see him standing with Jesus when she comes to heaven’s gate. She said, “I’m gonna smile, wave and start running to Buddy and Jesus!” She will too! ‘Cause then it won’t matter anymore that her knees have nothing but bone rubbing on bone or that she totters! Then it won’t matter any longer that she loses her balance and doesn’t have the strength to do what her mind wants her dear old body to do. What will matter is that Jesus is there and Buddy too! It’s a wonderful thing to find love, Katie, whether it’s in life or in a theater! Thanks for sharing your story so I could share mine!

       --used by permission:


Friday, December 7, 2012

Day of Infamy - Day of Remembrance!

On December 7, 1941 my precious Daddy sat in chapel at the United States Naval Academy listening to a sermon preached by Peter Marshall, the great Scot preacher.
His wife Catherine details "behind the scenes" of that sermon in the biography of her husband, A Man Called Peter:
"A strange feeling which he [Peter Marshall] couldn’t shake off led him to change his announced topic to an entirely different homiletical theme based on James 4:14: For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away. In the chapel before him was the December graduating class 1941, young men who in a few days would receive their commissions and go on active duty. In that sermon titled Go Down Death, Peter Marshall used this illustration:
In a home of which I know, a little boy—the only son—was ill with an incurable disease. Month after month the mother had tenderly nursed him, read to him, and played with him, hoping to keep him from realizing the dreadful finality of the doctor’s diagnosis. But as the weeks went on and he grew no better, the little fellow gradually began to understand that he would never be like the other boys he saw playing outside his window and, small as he was, he began to understand the meaning of the term death, and he, too, knew that he was to die.
One day his mother had been reading to him the stirring tales of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table: of Lancelot and Guinevere and Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat, and of that last glorious battle in which so many fair knights met their death.
As she closed the book, the boy sat silent for an instant as though deeply stirred with the trumpet call of the old English tale, and then asked the question that had been weighing on his childish heart: “Mother, what is it like to die? Mother, does it hurt?” Quick tears sprang to her eyes and she fled to the kitchen supposedly to tend to something on the stove. She knew it was a question with deep significance. She knew it must be answered satisfactorily. So she leaned for an instant against the kitchen cabinet, her knuckles pressed white against the smooth surface, and breathed a hurried prayer that the Lord would keep her from breaking down before the boy and would tell her how to answer him.
And the Lord did tell her. Immediately she knew how to explain it to him.
“Kenneth,” she said as she returned to the next room, “you remember when you were a tiny boy how you used to play so hard all day that when night came you would be too tired even to undress, and you would tumble into mother’s bed and fall asleep? That was not your bed…it was not where you belonged. And you stayed there only a little while. In the morning, much to your surprise, you would wake up and find yourself in your own bed in your own room. You were there because someone had loved you and taken care of you. Your father had come—with big strong arms—and carried you away. Kenneth, death is just like that. We just wake up some morning to find ourselves in the other room—our own room where we belong—because the Lord Jesus loved us.”
The lad’s shining, trusting face looking up into hers told her that the point had gone home and that there would be no more fear … only love and trust in his little heart as he went to meet the Father in Heaven.  Catherine Marshall, A Man Called Peter, pp. 230-231, 272-273
As my father told us the story of that day, he said that when they walked out of chapel the newsboys were on the streets crying, "Extra, extra! This morning the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor was bombed...." Within a few months many of those midshipmen who heard Peter Marshall's sermon that fateful day would go down to hero's graves in strange seas. Soon all of them would be personally involved in the business and dangers of war.
The sermon they heard in chapel that day offered these men the defining metaphor of the reality of eternal life: For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away. (James 4:14)

On December 7 I often - almost always - reflect on my dad's real life experience. This year is no different except that another chapter has been written in this story. It was written early on the morning of August 5, 2012. On that day my precious Daddy was carried by his heavenly Father (in much the same way as Daddy often carried each of the six of his children back to our beds at night) to his eternal home. NOW my dad knows what waking up in that other room is in reality! He is in the place he belongs forever - the place that will never vanish away where there is no more fear or pain, no more death or sorrow or tears - the place where Jesus sits on His throne proclaiming, "Behold I make all things new!"

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A New Look at an Old Story!

Notice anything different?!
A friend put her nativity out yesterday with the usual set of participants. This morning she found a creative twist to the traditional scene. The dinosaurs had also come to worship Baby Jesus! Wonder if they came before or after the shepherds or between the shepherds and the wise men?
It's kind of cool, isn't it? It's pretty tragic when the wonderful story of the Gospel becomes so commonplace that we lose our sense of wonder!
It's interesting that dinosaurs can bring back a sense of wonder!
It's not just the Gospel story; it's life in general! We so easily lose our sense of wonder, joy and expectation! We get all mired down in sloughing through the mud of daily existence until that's all we see and we miss the wonder! 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Listening Kindly!

In ministry and especially ministry to special needs families this is SO true! It's not words even wise words that reach the heart! It's the kind heart that really listens! That's what matters as we show Jesus to the watching world!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Now Thank We All Our God

Approximately 375 years ago, a little known German pastor named Martin Rinkart lived in the walled town of Eilenburg. The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) with all its horrors was fought in central Europe but spread to almost every European country. It was a terribly long war which decimated huge areas of many European countries as it was fought from countryside to town from one country to another. Famine and plague were rampant. And Europe became a seething mass of refugee-fugitives which overcrowded small towns and cities. Eilenburg was overrun by such refugees.

At this time there were four pastors in Eilenburg. One got out of town abandoning his parish for a healthier place for himself and his family - never to return. Pastor Rinkart presided over the funerals of the other two. As the only pastor left, he often conducted funeral services for as many as 50 persons in a day - some almost 4500 funerals in all. In May 1638 Pastor Rinkart buried his own wife. By year's end so many died that they had to be buried in trenches without services simply to get the bodies out of the way before more plague could ensue.

In the midst of all this horror and loss, Martin Rinkart wrote Now Thank We All Our God:

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers' arms has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
and keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
and free us from all ills,
in this world and the next.

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
the Son, and Him who reigns with Them in highest heaven;
the one eternal God, whom earth and heaven adore;
for thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

--Martin Rinkart, 1638

He wrote this magnificent hymn for his children to say at bedtime each night. He wanted to focus their motherless hearts on the wonder of their God even in the midst of such horror and pain! From their pain and need, we now have this wonderful hymn that still remains as a memorial and enduring testimony of gratitude and hope!

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy:

Empty Chair

Recently there has been bi-partisan talk about chairs:
  • Nancy Pelosi talked about her surreal "experience" at the White House where her "chair was getting crowded ... and then I realized Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (etc. all the suffragists) ... 'At last we have a seat at the table.' "
  • Clint Eastwood spoke to an empty chair at the Republican National Convention
That's not the kind of chair conversation I'm talking about this Thanksgiving Day. I'm thinking about all the homes where there will be an empty chair today:
  • In some homes it will be a US serviceman or woman's place empty because he or she is serving us to protect our freedoms - so we can continue to live in the land of the free!
  • In other homes there is an empty chair because a service man or woman - soldier, sailor, airman or Marine - gave the ultimate sacrifice for us to live free!
  • And in still other homes - homes like mine - there is an empty chair because someone very loved and special has moved on to heaven to a place God has prepared for him! For now, that place is empty both in our home and in our hearts today!
God, for all those homes where there is an empty chair today, fill hearts with your peace and with gratitude for all your blessings even in the pain of loss!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

God Counts Your Tears - Every Single One!

When my husband and I were in Israel, we visited a small gift shop near the garden tomb. I was fascinated by their collection of beautiful, very small hand-blown glass bottles. The sign with the display identified them as lachrymatory bottles. These tiny bottles have been used since ancient times to collect tears. I bought quite a few to bring home.

Over the years since I have gradually given all but one away. I have given each one - as a reminder of God's presence and faithfulness -to a special friend who was experiencing great grief in life .

In the Old Testament (over 1000 years before the birth of Christ) King David writes in a prayer to God (Psalm 56:8): “Thou tellest my wanderings, put thou my tears in Thy bottle; are they not in Thy Book?” (KJV)

There have been times in my life where I have experienced intense grief. I have always been comforted by God's abiding presence and faithfulness! The image of a lachrymatory is a visual reminder that God cares about each tear!

Whatever your grief is today, my friend, my prayer is that you too will find comfort in the only place where REAL comfort is found - in the faithful love and grace of God!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Undetected Sacredness of Circumstances

The circumstances of a saint’s life are ordained of God. In the life of a saint there is no such thing as chance. God by His providence brings you into circumstances that you can’t understand at all, but the Spirit of God understands.

God brings you to places, among people, and into certain conditions to accomplish a definite purpose through the intercession of the Spirit in you. Never put yourself in front of your circumstances and say, “I’m going to be my own providence here; I will watch this closely, or protect myself from that.” All your circumstances are in the hand of God, and therefore you don’t ever have to think they are unnatural or unique. Your part in intercessory prayer is not to agonize over how to intercede, but to use the everyday circumstances and people God puts around you by His providence to bring them before His throne, and to allow the Spirit in you the opportunity to intercede for them. In this way God is going to touch the whole world with His saints.

Am I making the Holy Spirit’s work difficult by being vague and unsure, or by trying to do His work for Him? I must do the human side of intercession— utilizing the circumstances in which I find myself and the people who surround me. I must keep my conscious life as a sacred place for the Holy Spirit. Then as I lift different ones to God through prayer, the Holy Spirit intercedes for them.

Your intercessions can never be mine, and my intercessions can never be yours, “. . . but the Spirit Himself makes intercession” in each of our lives (Romans 8:26). And without that intercession, the lives of others would be left in poverty and in ruin.
                                      --written more than 100 years ago by Oswald Chambers

Saturday, October 6, 2012

4 of our 7 AWESOME grandchildren - the SuperHolmes!
Thanks to my friend Laura Miller for sharing this with me! What a beautiful story! What an incredible love!
I could be "jealous" of Nella's family. I came to "my" story much, much later! I missed those first hours, days, weeks, months and years! I so wish I could have been part of "my" story then. I wish I could have been "in the room" for my Jade and my Vania those 15+ years ago. God knew my heart wasn't ready yet for such special love and amazing blessing. God knew I needed some "heart surgery" before I could understand and value the special gift

He had for me (for us)!
So, get your Kleenex or roll of TP and settle in for an incredible blessing!!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What Will the King Say?

There is an awesome opportunity for anyone involved in or having a heart for or needing special needs ministry - Inclusion Fusion 2012! The theme is “Why?” Why is it so important for churches to be intentional about serving families impacted by disability?

Today I was reading a blog I really enjoy that always makes me think:

Jeff McNair is a leader in the field of Disability and Ministry. He was writing curriculum and thinking about disability ministry long before it was on most people's radar. He has the first in the US - as far as I know - Master's degree program in Disability Ministry at California Baptist University. He directs the program.
His blog post is about special needs people in independent living and personal care homes. He makes a persuasive argument that these individuals need their religious rights and freedoms protected. They need to be enabled to exercise their religious freedom by offering them the opportunity to attend church.
Reading Jeff's post started me thinking! This issue is part of the Inclusion Fusion question Why?'s challenge. The church and individual Christians need to step up with heart and hand to help make this happen. We in the church should advocate for special needs individuals living independently. Christians individually and in the corporate church should reach out to assist care providers with religious freedom options. I know this is no easy issue. Just the transportation piece alone is challenging!
The whole issue of transition for young adults and other adults with special needs as well as those who live in group homes for other reasons is huge in the special needs world! This issue of religious liberty and protecting this right for those who cannot advocate for themselves seems a no-brainer. It is also a huge black hole! Where is the church? Where are individual believers to step up to bat?
Frankly, I never thought of this issue in quite this way until I read Jeff's blog today. And, it is sticky and difficult but very needed. That being said, I personally head out every Sunday morning and drive to a friend's home, park my car and drive her to church in her accessible van. No one made this choice for me. I make it gladly because she's my friend! I'm blessed by the time we spend together!
Just this morning as I was dressing I was contemplating who would step up to bat for her if I couldn't pick her up on a Sunday. I knew who in this case. In August I was gone for a Sunday when my dad died. One of our members drove a considerable distance to bring our friend to church. But, what of those no one comes for? What of those who sit and wait?
Who knows and who cares if we (the Church) don't? Who will give voice to those who have none? I think I hear Matthew 25:31-40 ringing in my ears and heart:
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, ... He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, ... Then the King will say ... , Come, you who are blessed by My Father ... For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited Me in. ... Then the righteous will answer Him, Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and invite You in? ... Then the King will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me. It's certainly something to contemplate!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Boundaries for the Heart

Reflecting on these two quotes today brings my "prone to wander" heart back to focus on my King and Creator! Introduced the Latin saying, In principio erat Verbum, to my students John 1:1 this week - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

It was an awesome chance to point out that the Creator is more the God the Father - In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth Gen. 1:1. The Creator includes The Word who was also in the beginning and the Spirit of God who hovered over the face of the waters Gen.1:2.

Only grace can harness your (or my) wandering heart and cause it to rest in the faithful love of the Savior. --Paul David Tripp

Today your (and my) heart will search for satisfaction. Will you and I look for it in the creation or in relationship to the Creator? --Paul David Tripp

Surely makes me wonder why my heart would EVER be prone to wander or stupidly search for satisfaction anywhere else than from the Creator!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Important!!! We are grateful for these friends!

Sometimes in the course of life and ministry God sends special encouragement in the form of special servants and ministries. We are so grateful for many new contacts and ministries with whom we share our passion for and commitment to special needs ministry.

One of these ministries in particular is Key Ministry. Steve Grcevich MD is the President and Founder of Key Ministry. They have just introduced a new website with a whole new look and one of the first features is other ministries. We are greatly blessed at A Restoration Church to be included in that list:

Another special opportunity this past week was the opportunity to guest post on Gillian Marcenko's blog. You can read my post:

My friend Katie Weatherbee, also with Key Ministry, guest posted on Gillian's blog today and her post is a phenomenal blessing:

These are just a few of the special encouragers God has sent into John's and my life over recent months. We are greatly blessed by them and the great God we all serve!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Awesome Grandkids and Down Syndrome!

Haven't blogged lately as have had 3 grandchildren for over a week which I totally love but it is beyond busy! They are the greatest! Yesterday taking them to meet their mom my car overheated to the top of the red on the gauge. I turned on the heat full-blast to "limp" to mechanic. It was almost 90 degrees and not one single word of complaint! Pretty impressive! In lieu of new post until later today (hopefully!), read guest post for Gillian Marchenko yesterday:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"Death Dew and Glittering Crown"

My Jesus, I Love Thee

I'll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, 'tis now....
In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I'll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I'll sing with the glittering crown on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

Two weeks ago early Sunday morning I stood beside a hospital bed in my parents' bedroom and watched the death dew on my beloved Daddy's face, heard his struggles to breathe as he slipped away to heaven. He got his glittering crown, I'm absolutely certain! I'm also just as certain that he's not wearing it. He placed it at the feet of Jesus and now he's living in the place that God has prepared for those who love Him! If ever a man qualified to be and live in heaven, it's Edward J. Robeson III, my Daddy! NOT because of ANYTHING he ever did or said. He qualifies for heaven because Jesus gave him the ticket in and made a place just for my Daddy to live forever! (James 1:12, John 14:3; John 3:16, Rev. 4:10-11)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Boulder on My Chest!

Not doing so great with blogging these days - too far behind and not enough time ahead ... ! Just not moving as fast as usual either - just plain tired! Suddenly came to me this AM that maybe (novel thought for me!) giving in to the tired (not too much but just a little) might be a very productive thing to do as in about 7 days I'm back to 4:30 - 5 AM wake-up calls and back in the grind of school until next May!
So, in lieu of any of my thoughts, here's a real treat from Nancy Guthrie about grief - blessed me so I'm hoping you'll be blessed too!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Real Hope and Change!

Scotty Smith posted the words of the Messiah He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found. Then he observed in his post: There's no broken place Jesus' doesn't own as his.
WOW! Those words just jumped out and grabbed my heart! The flow of the effects of the curse (Genesis 3:14-24) fill the earth, all creation and into every crack and crevice anywhere!
Lately I have been "mourning" my dear Daddy's death Aug. 5. It is a HUGE loss! AND it's ALL because of the curse! There was no death and dying until there was sin! There was no pain until there was sin! There were no tears until they was sin! It stinks to the 10th power!
Jesus the Great King and Conqueror comes to make all things new! He DOES makes His blessings flow far as the curse is found!
Brokenness is the reality of life. It is found in too many forms to count! Buried in the brokenness of life is total hopelessness and impossiblity to change without Jesus the Kingly Conqueror who makes all things new! He brings real hope and change forever!
No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found, far as, far as, the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love, and wonders of His love, and wonders, wonders of His love.
--Isaac Watts, Joy to the World
Thank you, King Jesus, that there is NO broken place that You don't own as Yours! It's the ONLY hope for change!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Worship in the Face of Death - Dying Well!

He looked more dead than alive gasping for breath with oxygen cannulas in his nose. His eyes were closed as he lay in his hospital bed at home in his own bedroom. He was surrounded by his wife and sweetheart of 68 years, his five hugely loved children and their equally loved spouses along with a couple of grandchildren. We were all singing hymns. One grandson played his violin.
My sister and I stood on either side of him - our deeply loved and respected father. Each of us had a hand on his arm.
Someone requested "Rock of Ages." We began to sing. It was NO angel chorus! Except for two or three, none of us would ever be mistaken for a singer but we were all singing from our hearts. Almost from the first word my dear Daddy mouthed the words to each verse. He could hardly speak so we could understand him but he could sing "silently" with us. It was more than obvious that the words were resonating with his heart and his deep, deep love of Jesus, the Rock of Ages. He knew better than we did that his time on earth was drawing to a close. His sights were more on heaven that on this world.
It brings to mind Matt Redman's 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord):

O my soul, O my soul - Worship His holy name! Sing like never before, O my soul! ...
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me; let me be singing when the evening comes!

Bless the Lord, O my soul! O my soul, worship His holy name!
Sing like never before, O my soul! I'll worship Your holy name!
You're rich in love and You're slow to anger; Your name is great, and Your heart is kind.

For all Your goodness I will keep on singing - Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find ...
And on that day when my strength is failing, the end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending - ten thousand years and then forevermore!
... I'll worship Your holy name, Lord! I'll worship Your holy name.
Sing like never before, O my soul. I'll worship Your holy name, Jesus.
I'll worship Your holy name, sing like never before ... I'll worship Your holy name!

I looked down into that dear, dear face and saw something I had almost never seen there before - there were tears leaking out of the corner of each eye. He wasn't crying for himself. His tears were for me and all of us he was leaving behind. He knew he faced a far better place where he truly and forever would be worshipping his Jesus. He also just had to know what a huge hole in my heart his leaving would make. We all agree it's very hard to imagine a world without him but life goes on even when there is loss and pain and we too worship Your holy name Jesus!
In the face of dying, he worshipped with us. In the face of dying, he taught us the last great lesson: how to die well!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Death Really Isn't the Big Bad Wolf!

You get the drill: Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down. So he huffed and he puffed and he blew the house down.
That's how death is for many - It's the Big Bad Wolf coming and blowing the house down! Death REALLY, really isn't the Big Bad Wolf! Death really, really doesn't have to blow the house down. Death comes knocking on the door and Death is knocking on the door of this house today. It may be today. It may be tomorrow as one day soon Death will come to take my dearly loved Daddy away into eternity but the house won't fall down because we all know we will see him again - straight and tall, no Parkinson's, no pain, no subdural hematomas, no brain surgeries, no hospitals, no intensive care or doctors or morphine. All that stuff goes away in eternity!
When my thoughts fly away I start thinking about a world without Daddy and I barely can. But when it's all said and done, the house (as in family) will stand because we stand together in the strength of the One Who conquered death and Who promises to make all things new! (Rev. 21:5)

Friday, August 3, 2012

In the Midst of Life ...........

No blogs since July 17th. Sorry but it's all about death in the midst of life..........
My heart and body have been totally absorbed first with a wonderful visit from three hugely loved grandchildren. And then, the day they returned home I got a call on my way home from taking them that my 91-year-old father with rapidly advancing Parkinson's had a subdural hematoma. He had emergency surgery that night in Greenville, SC.
We've done the intensive care bit and then a private room. They (the hospital folks) were wonderful partially because they do their job well and also because my brother is a consultant helping them develop their hospital system technically, philosophically and in leadership and team concepts.
[Just a side-bar: He's gotten a real upfront and personal look at life in that hospital system in the last 8 days.] From the private room we moved to a two-room suite. Since there are 6 children with spouses, 21 grandchildren (all but three with spouses) and 29 great-grands, we are a formidable crowd! AND since there are no cabbages in the bunch - well, you get the drift!
Long story short is that the sub-dural (which was very large) caused pretty extensive right-sided weakness and just seemed to my dad too high a mountain to climb. He is ready for heaven and wants to go there. He's getting his wish as we brought him home several days ago under hospice. As I try to put the sequence into time it seems like it's been a year since Wednesday, another since Monday and two or three since last Thursday!
This journey is one of the most amazing experiences of my life! Trust me that my life has been filled with many varied amazing experiences. My youngest sister posted on her FB page this week that this day ranks right up there as one of the worst. For my money it seems like this week has been filled with worst days - if that's possible!
Through it all there are wonderful snapshots of amazing love and tender grace! Here's just one for tonight: Earlier this week when Daddy was still taking tiny bits of liquid, I was giving him a few drops of coffee. Our granddaughter Abby, 10, touched my arm and asked if she could give it to him. I handed her the spoon. It was so precious to see her tenderness and love - a picture I'll carry in my heart!
It is so strange and wonderful being on this island of death in the midst of life and traveling this journey with my dear brother and sisters and their spouses and our children and children's children! This is a treasure beyond telling! Sola Deo gloria!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A BIG Shout-Out for Parents!

CBS and ABC news are reporting a horrifying incident in New York city yesterday around 2 PM. A 7-year-old little girl, who her mother thought was sleeping, apparently crawled out her bedroom window and was dancing on the window air conditioning unit. (The entire sequence is captured on video.) THREE STORIES UP. She slipped and fell three stories. A bus driver named Steven St. Bernard saw her falling. When he was interviewed yesterday said, I just prayed, "Lord, please help me catch her." He did catch her with God's help.

That is wonderful but not the focus of this post. "The rest of the story" as Paul Harvey used to say: This little girl has autism. The focus of my heart today is that there are thousands and more children under the age of 18 in the United States (Some sources say as high as 1 in every 88 children somewhere on the autism spectrum.) who have some form of autism.

These children have parents. Usually one or more of their parents are participating in caring for this child which is often an extremely challenging and extremely intense responsibility. Like for the little girl's mother, just a moment can make all the difference.

I know personally that just about any child can get into risky situations. One of my sons has been a risk-taker from birth including being born three months early. Just one story: when he was six he hid behind my car and I backed over him accidentally. I could tell a thousand or more other stories that are almost as dramatic. Fortunately God took care of both of us like He did this little girl! No question that Mr. St. Bernard was in the right place at the right time by God's design.

I totally get that even vigilant parents cannot always prevent accidents. It's like what my grandmother used to say, It is much harder to raise race horses than cabbages but then you have more when you get through! My guess is that this little 7-year-old is a race horse just like my son!

This mother probably has many, many challenges with her daughter. The point of this post is to raise awareness in some small way for the parents of children everywhere and especially children with some form of autism. These moms and dads are heroes in my book! They face exhausting challenges all day long!

The challenge for the rest of us is to search out ways to encourage these parents!

My sister and her husband are care-takers for my very fragile 91-year-old parents. It is a 24/7 kind of job that requires incredible love, vigilance and energy! I recently spent a week helping and came home exhausted! During that week I realized that a very important thing to do was and is to encourage and appreciate my sister and her husband! I know they were grateful for two more hands, but I also know they appreciated the encouragement I could offer with words and actions.

As with the old TV show, Mission Impossible - Your mission for today (and beyond) - if you choose to accept it - is to do what you can to support a parent with a special needs child especially a child with autism!. Here's a great big shout-out for them far and wide!

Monday, July 9, 2012

An Awesome Life!

AND the truth is that I give huge joy way beyond my size! My heart for people is as big as all outside! I have lots of love and joy to spread around! (That is, if pictures could talk.)

Isn't she adorable? I don't know her or her name but I have some special friends who - like her - are defined by their happy love not by any diagnosis including a beautiful granddaughter!

I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. --Psalm 139:14

Friday, July 6, 2012

To Include or Not to Include???

To include or not to include? Include in what? Include where?
Basically the term inclusion is used to describe an educational model (applied in various settings) where students with special needs spend most or all of their time with more typical students. The concept becomes difficult in determining how to implement this practice.
I approach inclusion with more subjective than objective thoughts because I have a granddaughter who has Down Syndrome. She attends school in the same building she would attend if she did not have a Downs diagnosis. However, she goes to a single classroom. Her classroom is not bright and cheery. It is a bit dark and, from my observation, more baby-sitting than educating. There are no more than eight others in her "class." There is a "teacher" and an aide. But, from what I can see, the "teacher" doesn't do much teaching.
Vania doesn't get to change classes like other middle school students. She doesn't get the mental challenge of inter-active learning even on a modified basis.
Vania comes to school every day dressed very typically if how the other students are "decked out" is the indicator of typical. In fact, she makes a teenage fashion statement. Truth be told she loves knowing she looks cool!
I don't know what her typical day looks like but from just stepping into the classroom there didn't appear to be anything much going on. There was no music or books. There were no cheery bulletin boards. There were no learning or activity stations. It almost seemed to me like school for Vania is a time warp she walks into each day. The other students - some who appear to have more profound needs than Vania - don't seem to be doing much of anything either. The classroom is off down a fairly long dark hall. It's about as far from inclusion as a classroom setting could be!
I do understand that there are challenges to inclusion in an educational model. Just like for more typical students (whatever typical means) there is a wide range of ability among students, the same is true with students categorized as special needs.
Have you ever seen a truly typical middle school student? Personally I'm not at all sure what typical looks like in a middle school setting! The other day I was just hanging out with some middle school students who would probably pass for typical. There was not one single cookie-cutter kid in the bunch. Some even looked a little strange with all kinds of piercings (tongue, ear, lip, cheek and other unnamed places) and tats anywhere and everywhere. The style of dress can only be described as eclectic.
At home Vania has lots of stimulation in activity, media and family time. One of her very favorite things to do is take care of her new little baby brother. She loves him and he loves her! She gives him very good care. She is very responsible with her baby brother.
There is no one size fits all in any educational model! Inclusion is not achieved with a cookie-cutter mentality. In my opinion, inclusion that is effective requires educators and parents coming together to think outside the box and step outside their comfort zones to maximize the educational experience for every child!
The challenge goes to educators in both school and the church. The challenge goes to parents of both typical and less traditional students! The challenge goes to friends and advocates! The challenge is to dialogue and ponder and evaluate how to include every child in every possible way at school, at church, and in life in general!
I sit in on some special need network parent meetings. Sometimes there is so much pain in the room that I can hardly bear it! The stories Moms tell ................ Moms of mainstreamed kids at a local high school tell about their kids in regular classes for most or all of the day but then ostracized at lunch to sit at a table alone or with their "peers"! It's heart-breaking!
My Vania is very social! She loves people! Whenever I hear these stories, what I hear in my heart is the pain because I know my Vania needs to be included in every possible way! She is being raised by loving parents (and extended family) along with her three brothers and included totally.
We HAVE to find a way to be more inclusive! It matters all the way around! We ALL need each other with all our diversities! That's what gives depth and texture and color to the mosaic of life!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Frightful Times in the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave!

Yesterday we had a wonderful celebration with very special friends in our home!
Part of our discussion as we were eating had to do with Obamacare. As I looked around the table with people from 20-somethings to 60-somethings and somethings all in between, I realized that every single one of us is impacted by Obamacare in a unique way. Every single one of us deals with a "hidden disability"!
Some friends sitting there discovered for the first time that Obamacare - to their great surprise - has provisions in the Obamacare bill that might well prohibit necessary medical care for some of us due to age or need or past medical history. The thought came to me that more than one of us might not be around to celebrate another Independence Day simply because the greatest medical care system in the world may be in for radical changes even in the next year!
It was a great discussion with no one getting unduly exercised and all giving respectful attention to all the views expressed!
It was a microcoism - what exists in a large sense in society represented in a much smaller sample - of our America and how we the free and the brave should celebrate this Independence Day 2012. It was a demonstration of how change to our world comes on a personal relational level emanating from the heart!
And a great time was had by each of us in spite of 95 degree plus weather outside!
We ended the evening with a rousing game of "Take Two" - judged unanimously more fun than fireworks downtown or even more nearby!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Plans and Course Corrections

This morning I pretty much kept to my routine tho' I slept a few minutes past my regular wake-up time. My routine is: up; coffee; pack lunch; computer: email, Twitter, Facebook; consult list for today.
In reading down the 84 Twitter posts I came across this post by Paul Tripp:
Our struggle with sin is so deep it was not enough for God to forgive us, no he has also unzipped us and gotten inside of us by his Spirit.
I woke up this morning the same way I always do - carrying around a sinner's heart. Granted God is working to restore all that is broken by sin down to the core of my being (my heart) but the process is far from done. I need Him to change me in ways I may not even comprehend to make me less broken by the end of this day than I am at this moment!
What a great thought for beginning my day! I don't know what this day will bring into my life and sphere of influence. I pretty much know that it's going to be beastly hot. I know I have a long list of things to do. I know that sometime today I have to help set up for church tomorrow and finish the Children's Page.............I also know that my plan is often changed by the One Who says, I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer. 29:11)
When I put Paul Tripp's thought with God's promise I have to know - when my plans change today in unexpected ways - that because God cares enough about me to get inside me and direct my life from my core being (my heart) that it's a good thing.
I can't see into the future as far as the end of one step in any direction. There is One Who knows His plans and will direct my steps. When the end of the day comes if I look at my list and find few items checked off because of Divine interuptions, I remind myself that because God has plans for me - to prosper me and not to harm me and to give me hope and a future - that these course corrections are a good thing!
When my dad was captain of a Navy ship in the south Pacific during WWII he left the con (control) of the ship to a younger officer while Daddy went to eat down in the mess (dining hall). As he was finishing his meal another officer looked out the porthole and asked, "Captain, you preparing to beach this craft? My dad was always quick on his feet. He jumped up, looked out and saw the beach coming up fast. As he ran for the ladder, he called to the man actually steering the ship, Left full rudder and hurtled up to the bridge. Sitting at the con he found a young ensign with his feet propped. Daddy said, Do you plan to run this ship onto the beach? The young ensign casually looked at his watch and said, Capt'n, it's 20 minutes before a course correction. My dad said, Do you think this thing has wheels? In 20 minutes we'll be three miles inland.
The urgent Left hard rudder brought the ship around close enough to the beach that they could see the natives running down to see the big ship. The ship turned just as the breakers were forming. That was a serious and necessary course correction!
Perhaps I will casually and sometimes frantically go though my day working my plan until the Capt'n asks, You planning to "beach this craft"? I am pretty stupid if I tell the Capt'n that my agenda (to change course in 20 minutes) is superior to His command to change course NOW!
Course changes in my life often include people and their needs. Will I be willing to change course for someone who needs a kind word or deed? Will I be willing to change course for some urgent "interruption," I certainly hope so. And I know so if my Capt'n is directing my course from the center of my heart!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Life Stinks!

Last week I had a wonderful opportunity to visit my sister but it wasn't a social call. She and her busy pastor-husband are caring for my feeble, elderly parents in their home. I was there to be an extra pair of hands because my brother-in-law had to be out of town.
It is a 24/7 kind of job with minimal (a few hours a day) help from home health aides. It is physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually heart-wrenching! It involves taking care of practical needs - day and often night - that children just don't usually have to do for parents. It involves enduring the pain of dementia and severe Parkinson's. It is losing parents who are loved, respected and honored because the bodies are there but each day and each week brings further decline and increased need for care. The reality is that having meaningful conversation or getting wise counsel is gone and never coming back!
From my earliest memory both my parents spent time each day reading the Bible and praying and having daily family "worship." Their decline - as I realized last week - includes the fact that neither ever holds their Bible to read and pray. They still attend church but never discuss meaningful things that impacted them in the service. They are no longer able to connect in that way.
There's more but you get my point................ And I know what I describe is the experience of life in many homes where one or more family members have some disability. It's real, it's demanding, it's draining, it's constant and more! Great love doesn't impact the needs or change the demands! The hearts of parents or children are twisted with all the pain and loss! Nothing is as it was meant to be! Everything is broken and needs to be fixed and the reality is that no fix will ever happen in this life. The reality is that ONLY Jesus can make all things new re His promise in Revelation 21:5 - And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. But knowing that while living in the reality of the present pain is almost impossible!I
I spent last week providing a small piece of respite care. If you don't know, respite care is providing short-term, temporary relief to those who are caring for family members who might otherwise require permanent placement in a facility outside the home. My piece last week was really support service and encouragement for my sister as well as love to my parents.
My brother, my four sisters and I along with our spouses take great joy in providing care for Mother and Daddy so they can remain at home. But mostly I'm the chicken related to the breakfast menu while my sister is the bacon big time! The chicken provides an egg and moves on to another day. The pig provides the bacon to his mortal harm. That's the HUGE difference between the rest of us and my sister and her husband!
Last week I found myself so tired that I mostly kept going knowing I would fly home and catch up. My sister would just keep going!
I understood intellectually what respite care is and does prior to last week. I know something of what it means to be pretty involved in caring for a church member or friend for an intense period of time. But I can say emphatically, I have an indelible understanding after last week that sends me to my knees to pray over and over for my parents, for my sister and her husband. I also know I need to plan to go again soon!
Life stinks and there's no getting around that for some because every day brings new, painful reminders!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hands AND Heart!

Yesterday I read Ann Voskamp's blog.
She talks about two Black Angus calves and how she and her daughter tried to get them to drink water from a bucket as part of the process of weaning them:
I rest my chin on the farm gate, and exhale in one long breath while two baby calves with saucer-like eyes stare back at my daughter and me. It’s a showdown. And these cows simply won’t budge. We cajole. We gently splash at the water in their five-gallon buckets. We even sing a sweet, silly tune: “Daisy, Daisy don’t be la-zyyyy! Come drink from your pail of waaaa-ter!”
But those two unyielding, black calves with wet noses simply blink long eyelashes at us.
What they say about horses is also true for cows: You can lead them to water, but you can’t make them drink.
My daughter, Lydia, wears worry on her knitted brow. Will these calves ever learn to drink from a bucket? She kneels down, swirling water in a bucket with her index finger. I rub her back.
“It’s OK, hon. We’ll try again tomorrow, all right?” I hand her an oversized bottle of milk-replacer to feed Sherbert, and I hold another bottle for Daisy.
They come to us, ravenously. I look down my arm at Lydia and reassure: “They’ll learn. They’ll wean eventually.”
............. And I can’t figure out simple tasks, like how to get a calf to drink from a bucket. Two tails twitch. Wide, begging calf eyes plead, “More.” Both bottles have been sucked dry now. Lydia and I walk up the hill, to wash up before breakfast. I turn on the faucet, and wash bottles. I rinse with water, watching it all swirl down the drain.
And it feels like a sort of inner cleansing, an act of faith, to stand here at that sink, watching dirty water drain away. It’s an inner turning, a refocusing, a flipping over.
I have to remind myself daily what I already know: Focus on the Father, not my flaws. Look to the Savior, not the self. The Messiah, not the mirror.
And this is the power of the Gospel: Water cleanses, t
hrough the Word.
But this is also true: the patient Father can lead His child to water, but He doesn’t make her drink it.He holds water out, as if in cupped hands. He bids us, come. And at the edge of this sink, I drink from those hands. I preach the Gospel from a self-pulpit. I repeat memorized Scripture, about who I am, about how I’ve been fashioned by God, created in Christ Jesus
to do good works that will bring His Kingdom glory, here-below. There is no earthly yardstick, rating system, ticker or scale to measure that sort of thing. The water runs clean, and I confess it here, to this King with open hands. I confess how I have downplayed the inventive way that He molded singular me. I can feel it now, how when I shift the focus to Truth, anxiety drains away. The Lord didn’t ask for gold-star performances in this life. He didn’t ask me to prove my significance to the world. Or to prove myself to Him. He didn’t ask me to prove anything at all. He is the One who approves, declaring us beloved while we were yet sinners. He asks now only for my heart, my willingness, my hands—even when my hands haven’t seemed all that useful.
Just then, it dawns on me. My hands. I turn off the faucet, and walk back down the hill, to two stubborn calves who won’t drink the water.
I open the creaky gate, step inside and call out for them. I kneel at the side of a five-gallon bucket, dip my hands in water, and hold those hands straight out—cupped—under the wet nose of a baby calf. And, right then, from cupped hands held out on a June morning in Iowa, a baby
learns to drink.
AND THEN is when a light came on! What a parable of life and ministry! We can stand at the bucket containing the Water of Life and we can splash and conjole and sing. All the response we may see is non-response - just waiting and watching us splash, conjole and sing. We live in a cynical world! And splash doesn't impress and never motivates ... well, mostly anyhow. The reason is that life comes with pain and loss and splash just doesn't seem like nearly enough reason to move to the Water.
We all need this Water. We even thirst for this Water but we won't go there for splash. The water in the bucket in the farmyard is only symbol. The Water we need is the same Water offered to a lonely, sad, ostracized woman beside a well at high noon in Samaria (approximately the modern day West Bank). The One offering her Water was the Savior of the World. He promised to give her water that never would run dry and always satisfy! He offered her all that she longed for in her soul and she drank deeply! (John 4:1-26)
What the calves were missing and what people are longing and waiting to find is the hands!
When Ann Voskamp dipped her hands into the bucket of cool water and lifted her cupped hands dripping with water right under the nose of the calf the calf lapped eagerly! It was the same water. It was the same bucket. It was the same two calves. It was even essentially the same time and place. The difference was the hands!
The hands weren't spashing. There was no cajoling. There was no silly singing, But there was a real live person attached to that pair of hands. It was the heart behind the hands that brought the calves. It is the heart behind the hands that brings sad, lonely, disenfranchised people to come with their aching pain to the Water of Life - Jesus!
I saw this lived out last week as I served my parents to help them and my sister. It gave me a whole new perspective on respite but more on that tomorrow! Hands are NOT enough! What matters is the heart behind the hands!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Word is A Word is A Word!

Words do matter! Word choices matter! It matters if the hearer thinks one definition and the speaker has another meaning in mind! NOT much communication happens in that case!
Recently Dr. James Dobson featured on his radio program a couple who discussed "Raising a Handicapped Child."
Handicapped ...... Special Needs ....... Disabled ........... Affected by Disability ...... and more. Which is the best practices term?
No criticism intended or implied to either Dr. Dobson or Focus on the Family or the couple interviewed - just some personal observations related to my journey in disability ministry:
  • In the last six years my thinking has undergone a radical transformation in relation both to individuals affected by disabilities, to myself in relationship to them and to HOW and WHY and WHEN the Church of Jesus Christ should and must work out the mandate to be inclusive to all!
  • Luke 14:12-14 is the core passage from Scripture which addresses this concern. AND the fact that Jesus spent almost His entire ministry hanging with just such individuals is both inescapable and compelling as a mandate!
  • Terms matter - What is the best term to use for this discussion? Frankly I'm still studying on that one. To quote a famous someone, my thinking is "still evolving" evaluating terms and process related to special needs ministry.

Some years ago I read an article in a publication from a nationally known special needs ministry. They actually prefer and advocate "affected by disability." The article described the difference between "handicapped" and "disability." I have never forgotten the distinction:

We are ALL handicapped in one way or another. To use the article's example - I am 5'5" tall. It is impossible for me to reach the top of my kitchen cabinets without some assistance. That assistance may come in the form of a chair or stool or climbing up on the counter top or even something else. I overcome my handicap with a "tool" intended to increase or augment my height.

A disability is a lack of function in life which may be physical, mental, emotional or even spiritual. We are all disabled in one way or another if we generally include "brokenness" as a qualifying category. There is wisdom, however, in having a "best practices" term related to individuals dealing with the wide range of physical, mental and emotional diagnoses or "labels" (for want of a better term). There is significant discussion about hidden disabilities in this "field." We all have hidden disabilities in the sense that all of us are broken in one way or another until Jesus makes all things new on an awesome future day! But I think we need to be careful not to appear to minimize the HUGE pain experienced by individuals and families whose lives are affected by disability 24/7 with real diagnoses and needs.

I don't pretend to know the precise best practices term. I leave that determination to minds much senior to mine in pay grade. What I do know is that there needs to be open discussion about words related to describing disabilities so we communicate without doing harm! My friend Dr. Steve Grcevich of Key Ministry recently blogged his own thoughts on this very subject.

The ultimate goal is to find and use terms that are inclusive, respectful, clear, person first, relational and effectively communicative because words DO matter! There are far too many wedge words in life for the church before the watching world not to take the meaning of words seriously!