Psalm 119

Psalm 119:105  8, 111  12

Your word is a lantern to my feet : and a light upon my path.

I have sworn and am determined : to keep your righteous judgments.

I am deeply troubled : preserve my life, O Lord, according to your word.

Accept, O Lord, the willing tribute of my lips : and teach me your judgments.

Your decrees are my inheritance for ever : truly, they are the joy of my heart.

I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes : for ever and to the end.

Perfect Joy

Francis of Assisi, a twelfth-century mendicant preacher, said, “Above all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit, which Christ grants to His friends, is that of self-conquest and of willingly bearing sufferings, injuries and reproaches and discomforts for the love of Christ. If we shall bear all these things patiently and with cheerfulness, thinking on the suffering of Christ the blessed, which we ought to bear patiently for His love, O Brother Leo, write that here and in this is perfect joy.”

Psalm 107:1  3, 8  9

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good : and his mercy endures for ever.

Let all those whom the Lord has redeemed proclaim : that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

He gathered them out of the lands : from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his mercy : and the wonders he does for his children.

For he satisfies the thirsty : and fills the hungry with good things.

Let the Redeemed Proclaim

Every Folding of the Heart

A theologian and poet of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, François Fenelon wrote, “We must have faith during the period of our grief. We think that our afflictions will be greater than we can bear, but we do not know the strength of our own hearts, nor the power of God. He knows all. He knows every folding of the heart and also the extent of the sorrow that he inflicts. What we think will overwhelm us entirely only subdues and conquers our pride. Our renewed spirit rises from its subjugation with a celestial strength and consolation.” (Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals, April 20)

Posted in Living Peacefully, The Autism Gospel

Going Forth

Everyone asks, “So aren’t you thrilled to be back in Atlanta?” I know the expected answer is a resounding “YES!” This is, after all, my hometown. No one is asking for an interpreter when I speak in public, and I can buy Dukes Mayonnaise at my local grocery store instead of having it “imported” by friends. But re-integrating ourselves has been challenging. Everything is comfortingly the same and disconcertingly different all at once. As our little family has healed, this is one of the things we have had to come to terms with.

I have been comforted by how present and faithful God has been to Noah during this transition. I can’t imagine how absurdly difficult the past nine months have been for him. Autism makes us far less portable than the typical family. There is just no escaping this fact. His entire life is one amalgamation of sensory experiences that provide anxiety on some level. To one degree or another, he spends most of his day working to cope with his environment. At times, it is clearly painful for him yet the disquiet of reorientation is part of his daily experience.

We’re at a new church home that we are very excited about. I’m sure I’ll be sharing more about them, but know that this kingdom outpost has already embraced Noah with enthusiasm. But that didn’t stop me from reverting to old habits a few Sundays ago when we entered only to find rhythm instruments placed throughout our worship room. I immediately began an exit strategy for Noah’s eventual meltdown due to the over-stimulation during worship.

Soon, our worship leader encouraged us to pick up an instrument and join in a song. Jason and I didn’t move, afraid to set off panic in Noah. I don’t know if we were hoping he wouldn’t notice what was happening, or if we were just too tired at the moment to do anything but rest and hope that everyone would understand when Noah became distressed. Much to our surprise, neither thing happened. Instead, Noah began to search for the nearest instrument he could find and, grabbing a tambourine, played along in perfect rhythm.

Astonishment doesn’t begin to describe our reaction. Even though we are new there, everyone who stood as witness to Noah’s act of praise was surprised.

We have come out of a wilderness not of our own making. Some of you may understand better than others. More than ever before, I feel enveloped by an everlasting love that has been faithful to us. Maybe Noah does too, and he just had to rattle a tambourine – despite the discomfort the noise causes his brain.

And me, well, I wanted to dance along.

 Thus says the Lord:

“The people who survived the sword

found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from afar. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel!

Again you shall adorn yourself with timbrels,

and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.” [1]

 

[1] The Revised Standard Version (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971), Je 31:2–4.

Psalm 86:3 – 5, 11 – 13

Be merciful to me, O Lord, for you are my God : I call upon you all the day long.

Gladden the soul of your servant : for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving : and great is your love toward all who call upon you.

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth : knit my heart to you that I may fear your name.

I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart : and glorify your name for evermore.

For great is your love toward me : you have delivered me from the nethermost pit.

Psalm 86

Posted in Living Peacefully

Stillness…A Holy Habitation

It’s been over a year since my last post – one of the toughest years of my life. Those who’ve walked alongside me in my journey, realize the significance of that statement. Very little about it seemed “holy.” When it was time to renew this blog/domain, I made the decision not to renew it immediately. There were several reasons why…

  • I’ve got family who will follow this blog with the specific intent of discrediting me, and anything said here. They’ll say I’m a terrible mother and “Christian.” Don’t worry – those comments won’t be approved so you won’t read them.
  • I’ve wondered if I have anything left to say. Can I say anything else about Autism and our journey? Do I have any wisdom left to offer? Honestly, our life since diagnosis has shaped my theology in such different ways that it sets me in opposition with others more often than in agreement.
  • I’m just tired of running toward achievement, disappointing people and then walking back with my head down. I’m just ready to be still.

Faithful followers and readers of the blog might inquire how Noah is doing. I’m happy to say that he still surprises and encourages us daily through (not in spite of) his Autism. But this year has been really difficult for him as well. He lost ground that we were beginning to think he would not recover this time. Often we have felt alone and without a refuge for Noah and his needs. But once again, the combination of faith, love and a generous sense of humor has seen us through a dark night of the soul.

In the end, that was what helped reverse the decision to shut down the blog. I believe in our role as Christ-followers to serve as prophetic witnesses to our communities and wider culture. Our neuro-diversity has certainly set us in a counter-cultural place. Sometimes it seems to hold us there. But over time, I have come to see that as “gift” more than curse.

But through our struggle we have found peace. Noah pursues peace and sees goodness in unlikely places. As a faithful a witness to The Resurrection, Noah inhabits an existence where Jesus has truly ended war in the midst of struggle. As a family we strive to live peaceful, simple, and sustainable lives as witnesses to what we believe Resurrection Life will be when Jesus restores a new heaven and earth.

So in the tradition of the prophets that have gone before me, I think I’ll continue to speak and write. No longer running toward career or from criticism, I am happy to be still and proclaim the “good news” we have received. Stillness, after all, is a virtue.

 

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her right early. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. [Selah] Come, behold the works of the Lord,how he has wrought desolations in the earth.He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear,he burns the chariots with fire!

Be still, and know that I am God.I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. [Selah] [1]

 

[1] The Revised Standard Version (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971), Ps 46:4–11.

Posted in PURE Ministry

Making Lent and Easter Meaningful for Persons with Disabilities

More great information from my friends at CLC Network about welcoming people of all abilities this Easter season!

Making Us Whole

Graphic: Making Lent and Easter Meaningful for Persons with DisabilitiesPart One: Get to Know the Individual

Easter and the Lenten season are a time to reflect on the sacrificial and redeeming love of Christ. For some individuals, however, this season may be confusing, unimportant, and even scary. How can you help make this a meaningful time of reflection and celebration for a person with a disability?

Accessible Gospel, Inclusive WorshipThe most important place to begin is by getting to know the individual’s strengths and areas of struggle. Each person — regardless of their level of ability or disability — is handcrafted by God with gifts and areas of interest, as well as areas where they need the assistance and grace of others. As you consider this individual, it’s important to ask: what CAN this individual do? When you focus on what the person enjoys, it’s easier to think of the tools, approach and opportunities to include in that environment where you can…

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Posted in PURE Ministry

Inviting Them to the Conversation

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I’ve been having the same conversation with parent after parent for ten long years now. Since my son’s diagnosis and the inauguration of my journey as minister to children with special needs, this paralyzing question has been sent to me via email, whispered through tears, and even shouted in anger by many terrified parents. They all want to know the same thing:

Will my child ever really understand the gospel message?

Can they ever grasp the love of God?

Is it possible that they could ever know Jesus?

At some point during their pregnancy, and perhaps even their child’s infancy, these questions may not have frightened them so much. But then the day came when they realized that their child wouldn’t be learning the way others would learn. It doesn’t Accessible-Gospel_webtake long for Christian families to come to the place where they want to access their child’s capacity to learn, know and understand the greatest story ever told – the Gospel message. In her new book, Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship, a new resource from Barbara J. Newman and CLC Network answers this question unequivocally with a resounding “Yes!” While her credentials give her a voice to speak to any number of topics from specific disability interventions (such as Autism or Down Syndrome) to classroom strategies for general behavior management, she says this topic is “the reason for every other topic on my speaking list.” The underlying assumption of this book is that everything is about making it possible for people to connect with Christ – regardless of their ability or disability. Newman walks readers step-by-step through a process that begins with finding common ground with every learner. From this point, she explains the importance of identifying how a person takes in information in order to most clearly communicate the gospel message to them personally. Filled with examples of real life stories from Newman’s ministry experiences, the pages come to life as the message the gospel is told over and over again in many different ways. Perhaps one of the greatest contributions Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship makes is its re-framing of our concept of worship as a whole. Newman makes the point that creating an accessible worship environment is about so much more than wheelchair ramps and bathrooms that are handicap accessible. Newman writes Most of our worship settings can be described as a conversation. While some of them are corporate and others are individual, we enter into a place where we speak to God and allow God to speak to our lives. For some individuals with disabilities, the tools we use as part of that conversation might be a bit different from some of the traditional tools. For example, if we use only spoken words set to music for the part of the conversation that says “I love you, God,” then we have left someone out who has no spoken words. How can we make that part of our conversation with God inclusive each worshiper? Using the concept of Vertical Habits, developed by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Newman goes on to examine worship as expressions by which we tell God “I love you,” “I’m sorry,” and “I’m listening,” just to name a few. By reframing worship in this light, Newman is able to invite people of all abilities into a conversation with the God who made them in his image. Inclusive worship affects so much more than just the person with different abilities. This person is usually attached to a family or caregivers who are also thirsty for an opportunity to worship. Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship gives churches the tools to  invite everyone to worship. Hear me interview Barbara J. Newman on Shaping Special Hearts here. welcome everyone into the house of God. Barbara Newman given us the tools to invite everyone to worship.