Do you ever wonder why people are born with disabilities? If I were to be honest, I have these thoughts and I know many people have similar questions. One may wonder, “If God is good, then why are people born this way?”
I have many theories on things like this, but I imagine 90% of the theories I maintain would be nothing more than religious platitudes that seek only to push the issues aside and “Jesus” them away. In these conversations, it can be unhealthy to give canned “Sunday School” answers that are often spouted by people with the greatest intentions.
I do not really know why people are born with various ailments, malformations, and general physical obstacles, but I do know that so many times, people in these circumstances can bring the most inspirational value to the people around them. For instance, we may ask why Down syndrome exists, but if you have a family member with this genetic makeup, you know that people in this situation often love more deeply and enjoy life on a different level than others. I use these folks as an example because one could argue that many of them often have different hurdles to overcome.
People who are born physically or mentally “different” than your “average” person often do a lot to inspire the world around them. Now, don’t hear me saying (somehow) that I believe that people are born with disabilities, conditions, or ailments for our amusement or selfish gain. No, in fact the story in the Gospel of John comes to mind regarding the man who was born blind. The disciples asked Jesus why this man was born blind (thinking it was because of the sin of him or his parents). Jesus, however gave them a shocking answer. “This man was born blind so that the glory of God would be seen in him”, was the odd response. In this example the man was released from his life obstacle, but this also shows us that anyone’s story can be used for His glory!
My Uncle Jay was very much like this man described in John. Jay was born with cerebral palsy and early on his ability to walk was taken away. Despite this, Jay led a very active life. He worked, engaged socially with the world around him, and even dated from time to time. On top of this, he was a volunteer minister for a long time at his local church. He lived independently until several years ago when he entered into a nursing home.
We, as a family, knew that his life expectancy was much shorter than your average person, but when he finally passed away this year, he was just shy of 57 years old; which is far older than the doctor’s predicted.
Jay never complained about his lack of mobility or grumbled about his situation. He exhibited joy even when we knew he was tired and weary.
Funny story that turned into a lesson: In Jay’s final moments, we stood around his bed battling with the decision to remove him from life support. We gathered as a family and said goodbye as we cried together and shared stories of our life with him. The hospital wanted to give us our necessary privacy, and respectfully drown out any background noise of beeping monitors and nurses socializing so they turned on the radio. The music started playing and we weren’t really paying much attention to the words, but my ears perked up as the radio began to play “another one bites the dust” at the same time my uncle struggled to take his last breath. I brought this to the attention of the rounding doctor and the music was turned off. We had a little laugh about that, and it reminded us that there was going to be joy just on the other side for Jay. We were happy and sad simultaneously.
My Dad decided to choose the music and turned on a Christian station via a radio app on his phone. The song that played was “Eye of the Storm” by Ryan Stevenson. This song became our anthem throughout this hard time in our lives. It was also played at his funeral.
Here are some of the lyrics:
In the eye of the storm
You remain in control
And in the middle of the war
You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor
When my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me
In the eye of the storm
In my next post, I will dive further in the concept of dying. I know this seems morbid, but it can be joyful as well… All I will tell you is, sometimes, we all just need a tour guide…
It can be so hard
Waiting in my boat
Being tossed by the waves
Barely able to float
The thunder roars
And the winds overwhelm
My fear overrides
With no captain at the helm
Suddenly I remembered
At the apex of my fright
I am supposed to live by truth
And not by sight
As a child of God
I learned to obey
And anticipate miracles
When I fervently pray
So I will bow my head
And do more than survive
With trust in my heart
As long as I am live
I make the choice today
To not worry about my strife
And live every day in faith
Despite what happens in life.
My son’s demanding shout came from the back seat…”TELL ME WHERE WE ARE GOING!!!” In my house, if we are doing something fun for the whole family, we keep it a secret from the children. This is not necessarily so we can have a giant reveal and see the look on their faces, but because of the incessant questions and whining that will inevitably occur from the time they are told our fun location to the time we arrive. My kids, when they know something fun is going to happen, tend to get really impatient.
Often we will tell them when we are in the car on our way to the exciting destination. This particular trip was not really that different. In this particular instance, we decided not to tell them until we were about 30 minutes away, due to the fact that it was going to be a two-hour excursion; which was equivalent to some CIA level torture in the minds of my offspring. As implied above, the little man who thinks he runs my house became irate with the fact that we did not let him in on the secret. So, like any good parent, we yelled back disciplinary threats in hopes the screaming would stop. It didn’t. In fact, he became so upset that he threw out a bluff. He said that he didn’t want to go anymore (with arms folded of course) and wanted to go back home. Of course we rolled our eyes and ignored it. We knew he would be elated when we arrived.
I can’t help but think of the Israelites in the book of Exodus. Over and over again, God had shown his power, faithfulness, and eagerness to accomplish His will through His people, but every time, His people slipped back into their own comfortable habits. In the journey that took place during this time, God gave them specific instructions regarding behavior and when to move after the Tabernacle was built. God would show up regularly in the form of a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day, and these forms would fill the holiest place of the Tabernacle. Israel saw the result of His glory. God then instructed the people to get up and move their camp, only when God’s presence left. They were instructed to follow cloud and fire. They never knew when they were leaving, and they never knew where they were going. They just followed.
Despite the miracles and consistent provision God gave His people, they still felt the need to complain regularly. Whether it was food, water, sickness, worship, or legal disputes…they made a full time job out of whining about their circumstances. On more than one occasion, many even threatened to find their way back to Egypt. The only reason cited was the fact that Egypt made a mean cheeseburger (paraphrase) and they missed it. In many other cases, people even fell back into idolatry as if they were chomping at the bit to get back into these old habits.
I can accuse Israel of being selfish, impatient, and ignorant all day, but I have to look into the mirror. We tend to be like 4 year olds who do not know where they are going, when God calls us to follow. That is the temptation, at least. We want to know NOW, and if we are not informed then we begin to look back at our past as a comfortable and controllable existence. Faith is the concept of believing in that which we cannot see. We can accept that cognitively, but it is so hard to act as if it were true.
If we ask God, in honest times of prayer, to guide us we must be ready for uncertainty and discomfort. Also, we must be ready to move when He does instead of complain about our lack of knowledge, resources, abilities, and influence. Just follow.
The world is a dark place. It needs us to follow. It needs us to be uncertain but resolute. It needs us to be all in for Christ. What is stopping us?
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” -Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life
I sat in front of a couple who were so newly married that their rings still lacked any scuff. They were struggling desperately with issues that were not resolved prior to their marriage.
The wife wrestled with insecurities, anger, and disconnectedness. The husband dealt with denial and an inability to relate to his new bride. He felt as if he was being compared to past boyfriends, despised because of his lack of understanding, and he was frustrated because he felt as if something was being hidden from him. Both of these individuals were broken, and at the end of their ropes.
They said things to each other that could not be taken back, and things had escalated to the point of possible divorce.
As a young pastor, these type of situations make me feel so inadequate. It, however is part of my job, and a calling I have accepted. During these type of conversations and tense moments, I have to pray and trust that God will give me the words to say and hope that some amount of educational memories make their way to my tongue as I speak. This situation was one I have dealt with in the past, but every marital difficulty is like a snowflake. None are exactly the same.
As I inwardly prayed for God to guide my thoughts and speech I looked the wife in the eyes. These eyes were red from weeping, and her mascara was ruined. When I looked into her eyes, I saw pain and a little girl hiding behind a rock. If you know me very well, you know that sometimes God gives me the ability to look into the eyes of someone I am talking to and, I feel, God gives me a mental picture to illustrate what they are feeling. Obviously it is impossible to fully know what the pain feels like, but it helps when knowing what to say to start digging deeper into understanding the core issues. This beautiful lady that sat before me was dealing with deep insecurities, fear, and anger and, as I mentioned I saw a little girl hiding behind a rock. As If she was once hurt and was afraid it would happen again.
At that moment, I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to ask her a question. A question that would be very risky, and, if I was completely off base, would embarrass me and damage my credibility as their pastoral counselor. “How old were you?” I inquired. She stopped crying and looked at me as if I had uttered a gibberish language. “What?” she answered. “I said…how old were you. How old were you when it happened?” Her eyes became wide and the tears began to flow. The crying became more and more intense and finally, after a little recovery, she spoke. “I was 15”.
Internally, I was extremely surprised that I hit the wound. Then, I continued. “Who did it?” The tears came again and she told me that her boyfriend at the time was the culprit.
This lovely young woman was raped. This was the root of her pain. It had caused a domino effect of shame and she felt as if she was irreparably broken because of what happened. The husband also had past issues that needed to be addressed. I explained that these past hurts had to be confronted and we set up a plan to move forward to address the situation.
I wish I could say that this marriage was fully restored because of my eloquent words and deep wisdom. It wasn’t. Eventually the couple went separate ways, and after this break up, the healing began. It took a few years for this woman to find healing and a healthy relationship. She allowed God to work through her, and even though the past is not erased, she found that the brokenness in her heart was less painful.
She was right. Her heart was irreparably broken. God, however, gave her a new heart that is whole.
I thank God for speaking to me that day. This is the second time something like this has happened in this context.
If you feel like you are broken beyond repair, remember that God wants you to be whole. There is hope for the broken. I promise. Help is available whether you believe it right now or not.
Love you all.
When people are passionate about something, they tend to become frustrated when others are not fully immersed in their cause.
Currently, America is fully involved in a public debate about politics, because we are on the verge of electing new leaders into prominent leadership positions throughout the country. This debate stems from ideas that guide our thinking and these ideas are often guided by past experiences and even hurts that we want to eradicate.
Christians that enter this public debate make comments often about “who true Christians should vote for” and, lucky enough, the answer to this always follows who they happen to support. The question of who Jesus would vote for is the proverbial “elephant in the room” and I think it is an important one to explore.
As I read scripture, I think I have figured it out. Jesus would vote for:
- Those who clothe the naked, feed the hungry and are close to the broken-hearted.
- Those who care about the dignity of every human, and who would respect life at every stage.
- One who cares enough about their neighbor to look at them with compassion…
- One who flees from temptation
- A person who sacrifices and serves
- …who is a peacemaker
- …who mourns with those who mourns and rejoices with those who rejoice
- A person who hungers and thirsts for righteousness.
- Those who are passionate about the persecuted.
- A person who speaks truth when it is hard and even sometimes unpopular
- …whose heart breaks when they see evil running rampant
Ultimately, there is no perfect candidate.
When we look at scripture, we see that Jesus was not concerned with who was governing, or who had the most power in the region. He simply healed, loved, spoke truth, and sacrificed. He knew that no matter who was in charge, His kingdom was what mattered more than anything.
Maybe we need to stop being so concerned with who is going to be president of our land and start being concerned with who is king of our hearts. Voting is important and a duty we should embrace, but our eternal destiny is much more important.
So, who would Jesus vote for? Well…He may accidently forget to go to the voting booth because He would be too busy conquering death and healing the broken. I’m not encouraging you not to vote. Just remember that the way you treat your neighbor is much more essential.
Love you all.
The book of Joshua records an incredible story about God’s people during a time in which the odds were against them. Joshua, who took over for Moses to bring people into the Promised Land, led the Hebrews to Jericho; a massively fortified city that was nearly indestructible. With a very low population of nervous people who believed God could do anything, they were able to make the walls of Jericho fall. Somehow, they won the battle. This didn’t happen because of their might, but because of God’s provision and protection.
In the book of Judges we find one of God’s anointed Judges, Gideon, who many would say lacked confidence and charisma, but still believed God was supremely powerful. God tells Gideon that the vast Midianite army will fall to a militia that Gideon is going to lead. Many scholars say that there were over 100,000 soldiers on the Midianite’s side, and through a series of events, God tells Gideon to send most of his troops home. He sends so many home, in fact, that Gideon is left with 300 people. This is certainly not enough to get the job done.
Fast forward: Gideon’s band of 300 easily destroys their foe.
In the book of Luke, Jesus sends out 72 of His followers to different towns for the purpose of sharing the Gospel. This relatively small group of people expend their energy and resources to make sure the good news of Jesus is spread throughout the land. These followers come back testifying of great victories and entire households being converted to faith in God. Once again, a miracle happens through faith and obedience.
In all of these cases, we see that a relatively small group of people were able to exercise their faith in God and He blessed them with disproportional abundance and victory.
There is an interesting trend that has arisen in Christian culture. Larger churches are attracting people by the hundreds and sometimes even thousands. These megachurches, in many cases, have filled a need for a community who has seen dwindling church participation over the years, and the greatest contribution they have given, in my opinion, is the participation in areas of ministry from people that were once estranged from the church.
Big churches are exciting. Many have great music, excellent preachers, and elaborate programs that keep people busy around the clock. There always seems to be something going on and people get energized when a new initiative or series is introduced.
In this context, it is easy to forget the vital importance of the small church.
The healthy small church provides a needed service to the community that larger churches cannot easily fill. In a lot of instances, Christians will see exciting things happening in a large church and their attraction to the excitement becomes intoxicating.
It’s hard to not be drawn in when these churches create an assembly line of spiritual cheerleaders who market the church every chance they get by their actions, logo wear, insider language, and testimonies of God’s work through the ministry. Big churches are great for the most part, but sometimes people do not see how the smaller church can possibly fit in the local community like a piece of the puzzle.
The healthy small church does great when it comes to getting people involved in ministry, corporate accountability, developing deep life-long relationships, and creating an atmosphere of extended family.
The common misconception is that a small church is the size it is due to failed leadership, or some catastrophic event that split the membership. In some cases this can be true, but in most cases it is not. From my experience as a pastor of a smaller church, I have noticed that there are instances in which people are getting involved in leadership in areas where they would not be able to plug into in a larger setting.
Often, for instance, in music ministry, the larger church looks for those gifted on a professional level. A small church looks for those willing and with the talent and call to participate. A person of average leadership abilities can become a leader in a small church for the purpose of sharpening their skills and growing into their call.
There are unhealthy small churches just like there are unhealthy large ones. As implied, the inverse is also true. Healthy large congregations are ones that are not interested in simply getting bigger, but multiply with purpose through smaller works.
Congregations of all sizes are needed. If you are not a part of a church, consider trying out a small church with passion and a heart for Jesus. You may need what it has to offer. With that said, don’t just look at your “church search” with a consumer mentality of what it can offer you, but truly pray about how you can get plugged into the kingdom of God and use your gifts to serve the world.
Love you all.