Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Invisible God

I struggle at times with the invisible qualities of God.  There are days when I wish He was more present in physical form.  Especially when I’m….

…needing a hug:

It’s comforting to read of God’s everlasting arms, but there are many days that I want nothing else than to feel His arms wrapped around me, so I can hide my head securely in His embrace.  I understand love most clearly through touch and have had many poignant prayers with God asking Him: “Why did You create me this way when I spend so much time alone?”

So when family and friends open their arms and invite me into their embrace its more than a simple greeting, I’m reminded that God Himself loves me and hasn’t ignored how I was created.

…alone in my writing:

God promises never to leave us or forsake us, but sometimes these are hard truths to grasp.  I’m deep into writing a memoir that carefully details the painful past of my journey with Him.  Sometimes the pen is also the needle that relieves pressure and brings healing but often is an aching tool to hold.  Why is it that God seems to be the most distant when we’re in the most pain?

Today, I brought an extra chair into my office and set it at the table where I write.  It reminds me that He is sitting by my laptop too.

…needing to be carried:

The Bible speaks repeatedly of God holding us up, keeping us from falling, but how does that play out when the parking lot is icy, the stairs have no railing, or the terrain is uneven?  What am I supposed to do when I have to carry a heavy box through a doorway or drag luggage through an airport?  

Recently, I opened my car door to discover two colleagues standing in the freezing rain waiting to walk me into work so that I wouldn’t fall.  In that moment, I was reminded that God sees me and my actual needs and is working through His people to meet them.

How have you struggled with the invisible nature of God?  How have you seen Him physically meet your needs?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Birthday Reflections

“Do you know how many weeks you were premature?”

“I was born at 29 weeks.”

“Wow.”  I watched her face ponder my answer.  It took a moment for her to respond, but she finally spoke.  “For how old you are, that’s pretty incredible.  Your parents are…lucky.”

When March 26th rolls around every year, I’m not quite certain how to react.  Like the weather, I can’t decide if I should open myself up to the warmth of spring or retreat in the cruelty of winter.  I’m not sure whether I should celebrate or mourn because….

March 26th, 1984 was a dark day.

My story started not with tears of joy after nine long months of anticipation, but rather quickly through an emergency C-Section in an over-heated operating room.  I emerged into the world weighing just 3lbs. 2 oz.

It was a day when I just couldn’t get enough oxygen to my brain cells; a day that began my life-long journey with cerebral palsy.

The events of March 26th, 1984 served as an introduction to my life where many painful chapters followed:

Learning to Walk


Braces and Physical Therapy.

Chapters where there are no pictures because the journey became internal:





The origin of all of these experiences will celebrate their anniversary today, but if the painful chapters of my life are all I see when I think about the significance of March 26th, then I’ve lost the plot.

Today is the day when despite all the challenges that were before me; I was given the gift of life!

“Where, O death is your victory?  Where, O death is your sting?”  1 Corinthians 15:55

Monday, March 18, 2013

Silver and Gold I Do Not Have

My church chronicles its history based upon the sermon series that is being preached.  Church of the Open Door is known for lingering in a certain passage for weeks, examining it from every angle.  I too, am finding myself still lingering in the story of Acts 3: 1-10.

I think I’m drawn into this passage because I deeply identify with the lame beggar.  Surely I know what it is to live with a disability since birth.  Lately though, I find myself identifying with Peter.  Sometimes when I encounter people with incredible need, I feel…empty handed.  Faced with this very situation, Peter does something remarkable.  Hearing the cry of a man needing money, he looks him straight in the eye, and admits his poverty:  Silver and gold I do not have….”

I think that if we’re ever going to have something to offer another human being, we too must become honest about our own poverty and willingly embrace our limitations. 

We must do this because we simply cannot give away what we do not have.  Being honest with others in need helps people not to create unrealistic expectations and demands on you that you cannot meet.  Admitting your poverty can also free yourself from trying to be someone other than who you really are. 

Let’s face it; we all have our limits. (Ignoring this reality will place you on the fast track to burnout.)  It seems that Jesus himself was aware of His own limitations and when He found the demands of ministry to be depleting, we read in Luke 5:16 that Jesus withdrew to lonely places and prayed. 

Finally, I believe that being in touch with what we do not have makes space for God to work.  Paul compares our human bodies with fragile jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7).  God put His Spirit inside us, limited as we are, to show that His power is not from us. 

“…In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Beautiful Calling

My friend and pastor Steve Wiens invited me to guest post on his blog  The Actual Pastor.  I highly recommend you check out his blog; I think you will enjoy it!  Here again is my submission, re-posted here. 

I used to spend hour after hour as kid pouring over Christian biographies:  Billy Graham, Corrie ten Boom, D. L. Moody, and Elizabeth Elliot.  I turned each page with curiosity, wondering what made these people so great and so mightily used of God.  I savored each book, taking careful notes, until I read the story of Joni, a woman who broke her neck as the result of a diving accident and is now a quadriplegic.  Her story was both griping and violent.  In her conclusion, she told of the peace she had found in the midst of living with her paralysis.  The end pages of her memoir advertised her international ministry to people with disabilities.  I threw the book under my bed and weeks later threw it out into the trash.  Joni was content to live in her body; as a 12 year old living with cerebral palsy, I was not. 
            So when I really felt the call of God on my life 17 years later to minister to individuals and families who have been impacted by disability, I had one reaction: hysterical sobbing.  Sitting in the back of a retreat center in Alexandria, I cried so hard that a stranger came up and asked if she could hold me while I wept.  I croaked out a yes and suddenly felt my body being wrapped in her embrace. 
            Over the past six months, I have been learning that engaging in disability ministry means many different things.  Sometimes it means wiping drool off a friend’s face, or learning how to politely exit the room for a moment so they can be assisted in the bathroom or have a tube connected so they can eat a meal.  Sometimes it involves having honest conversations with people about painful topics like deformity and exclusion.  Sometimes it looks like witnessing parents weep. Disability ministry is a challenging and unique calling which is transforming my relationship with others and deepening my walk with God.   I’m learning that people who suffer in this way are close to God's heart, and they are becoming closer to mine.  I’m also learning these things:

·         This is about beholding beauty.  When a person has a disability, the task of truly perceiving their beauty can become more challenging, but at the same time even more compelling.  Physical disability, I’ve found, is often perceived in sharp and unexpected contrast to what people expect a body to look like, but even initial shock or a subtle startle can provide the extra motivation necessary to enter into a deeper realm, one that carefully peers into the human soul.   
·         The “big things” God is calling you to do may actually look small in the eyes of the world, but that doesn’t mean they’re insignificant.  Ministering to people with disabilities is largely work that goes unseen but there is something wonderful about the pattern of feeling the gentle nudge of God, responding in obedience, and watching Him bless the work of your hands.
·         Envy is not helpful.  It’s tempting to look at the work others are doing and wish your ministry looked similar.  There are times when I have wished that what I was called to was more mainstream, popular, or even simply more understood.  I’m learning to appreciate God’s grand design for us to work together as a body; not focused on how we measure up to each other, but rather maintaining our focus on God, so like Jesus, “We can do what we see the Father doing.”
What do you wrestle with when you consider your calling?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

What is your cardboard testimony?

This Sunday was the first Sunday of the month.  For me, this means it is time to serve communion and to consider the cross.  We’re continuing to camp out in Acts 3, where a man lame from birth is physically healed.  While I haven’t encountered this type of healing, I’ve been reflecting over the work God has done in my life and how God graciously extends Himself to us, working to bring redemption and healing.

Some churches have celebrated this by displaying their cardboard testimonies as in the video below:

This got me thinking, if I was bold enough to participate in a cardboard testimony service, what would I display?  I could think of many things, but here’s one thing I would say:



I know this is vulnerable, but what would your cardboard testimony be?  Feel free to share it here! 

Picture Source: