Friday, September 30, 2011

Has the church disabled itself?

Yesterday I had the privilege of guest posting on Diving for Pearls, the blog-child of Katie Wetherbee. Katie is my online ministry BFF, and she's my sounding board for all things Access Ministry. You'll find the beginning of that post below.

~+~

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. (Isaiah 35:3-6)

This post isn’t going to be about what you think it will be. It’s not about people with disabilities.

It’s about a church that has disabled itself.

Please don’t get me wrong. I love the church...

(Please keep reading the rest of the post over on Katie's blog. And come back and leave a comment!)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Four reasons I am thankful for our special needs ministry team

In disability ministry, we are regularly faced with the reality that God is sovereign in ways that we can't always see, understand, or explain. As such, it is foolhardy to create a ministry that requires your presence.

This is more acutely on my mind right now as I rest my knee and await my appointment with the orthopedic surgeon. My MRI showed an uncommon friction syndrome in my right knee that is difficult to treat and heal, complicated by bone erosions and cartilage damage due to rheumatoid arthritis. I'm not sure what the next steps will be but the current treatment involves rest, ice, and pain meds. And we have our first respite care event this Saturday afternoon. 

If I didn't have an amazing team and a trustworthy God, I might be freaking out right now. But I know God is in control, and I know that I can trust any member of our leadership team to run the event if I couldn't be there. Why?
  1. Because they are each passionate that this matters. I don't think I can claim responsibility for that passion, but I do begin most planning meetings with a verse and a story or statistic to stress the importance of what we're doing. It helps us all remember that we're not just putting on an event; we're loving these families because Christ first loved us.
  2. Because they know what's going on. We've made decisions together. I've filled them in on ones I've had to make without them. The youngest member of our team - who is still in high school - has been valued as much as those of us with more qualifications on paper. Each of us has a slightly different job this Saturday, but we each know the roles of the other team members. With the exception of our medical team leader, we could rotate jobs without much difficulty.
  3. Because I trust them and they know that I trust them. We're not an incredibly experienced team when it comes to church event planning. The average age of the six of us is 25. We're all young enough that we're not the typical go-to folks for steering committees. But each of our team members lives up to these words from 1 Timothy 4:12: "Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity."
  4. Because nothing we do is designed around any person other than Jesus Christ. I have seen many ministries flourish under their founders' leadership and then disintegrate when he or she steps away because no plans were made for anyone else to lead. Disability ministry is too important for me to let that happen. Additionally, the limitations of two chronic illnesses keep me mindful that I need to plan for days when I can't be 100%. If I need to direct our respite event on Saturday from a chair, it will go just fine because it doesn't depend on me. It's not about me. "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)
None of the families in our ministry expected to have a family member with a disability, but God ordained disability to be part of their lives anyway. Likewise, you have expectations for your ministry and your life...and God might, in His wisdom, change those without your permission. 

Access Ministry at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC, does not depend on me. I'm not in charge; God is. I just get the privilege of having a front-row seat to watch what God is doing to impact families in this ministry, and I'm humbled by the opportunities He provides that allow me to be involved in His work.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you 
not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, 
but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,  
so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Romans 12:3-5

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

you never know
(so make the most of every opportunity to show grace)

On Friday evening, my husband ventured out to Wal-Mart with the kids to let me rest my knee in a quiet house. Because we needed some staple items, he decided to take our son and daughter, ages 2.5 and 4.5 respectively, to the store, knowing that running errands with them can be an adventure.

And, let's be honest, Wal-Mart on a Friday night is its own adventure.

The kids did well, though Cocoa Puffs - which we don't usually have in the Dingle house - ended up in the cart, as did a few other items that the kids convinced Daddy that they needed. Toward the end of the trip, Robbie - tired from a long day and less than an hour from bedtime - plopped on the floor and rolled across the aisle. In doing so, he blocked a woman's cart.

Lee scooped Robbie up and apologized to the woman, but evidently that wasn't enough for her.

"Where is their mother?" she asked, with no malice in her tone but no kindness either.

"She's at home resting," he replied.

"I wish I had her phone number so I could let her know how little control you have over the children. You should thank her when you get home for taking care of them."

It took Lee a moment to realize what she had just said, and she was gone before he could reply. Her tone had not been sharp, but her words had. Flustered, he grabbed the wrong item from the shelf and had to go back later to get the right thing.

Neither of our kids has any special needs, but she didn't know that. From the brief encounter she had with them, he couldn't have known that Robbie didn't have autism or another disability that might have made a trip to the store more challenging.

And, let's be honest, the diagnosis of being a two-year-old boy just before bedtime is enough to make a trip to the store plenty difficult, don't you think?

After I stopped fuming about the careless words the Wal-Mart shopper had dropped on my kind husband who was blessing me with a restful evening, I thought about a different shopping trip a few months ago. I was at a different grocery store by myself when a little girl - I would guess about five or six years old - had a meltdown. Her wailing could be heard in nearly every corner of a large store. For the next thirty minutes until they checked out, the child screamed and screeched. I passed them twice and exchanged brief smiles with the mother each time. I didn't offer any encouragement or offer to help because I wasn't sure how she would respond and because I was nervous about stumbling over my words in Spanish, a language that I speak but not well. I wish I had said something.

I don't know if the girl had a diagnosed disability, but I do know that they were having a rough evening. I don't know if other shoppers showed any kindness to this family, but I'm glad I had the opportunity to offer a couple of smiles. You never know what the realities are for a family or what that day has been like for them. (I try to keep that in mind on Sunday mornings and not take offense to any harsh words, because I have no idea what that morning has been like in the hurried attempt to get to church.)

I do know, though, that I will have more opportunities, and you will too. My prayer is that we both will make the most of every opportunity.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 
making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 
Ephesian 5:15-16 (NIV)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Special needs ministry weekly round-up {9/26/11}

Happy Monday! I hope you're having a great day. I'm heading out to my pastor's farm today with the rest of our church's Family Discipleship team to plan and play and pray together. Would you mind taking a moment to pray for us, that God would make our time fruitful? Also, today I will hopefully find out the results of Saturday's MRI on my knee; pray not only for the results but also for my reaction to them to glorify God.

And, now, notable links related to special needs ministry that I came across this week...

I've linked to her before because her content is consistently among the best of special needs parenting blogs, but Ellen at Love That Max has a post about disability ministry: Worshiping with children who have special needs: Help me, G-d The post and comments represent a wide swath of religious perspectives, and all of them are helpful reading if you want to understand the need for and challenges of disability ministry.

Parents, are you hindering your children? This article, drawn in part from Joel Beeke's latest book, Parenting by God's Promises, breaks down six ways that parents can hinder their child's spiritual growth, such as, "We ourselves do not go to Jesus. If we do not go to Jesus, how can we expect our children to do so?" A tough read, but a good one.  

When are kids most at risk of aggressive behavior at church? The title is self-explanatory, and the post will help you consider Sunday morning in a new way for kids prone to aggressive behaviors. (By the way, this blogger - Dr. Steve Grcevich from Key Ministry - has two series on his blog right now: one announcing the line-up for Inclusion Fusion, a free web-based conference for special needs ministry, and one on this topic. I think it would be wise for you to subscribe to his blog for both.)

Jacynthe is a 26-year-old Canadian woman works for an autism advocacy group, mentoring individuals with autism. She also helps organize and prepare for communion at her church. And she herself has autism. This article about her work and the award she'll be receiving, the Community Achievement award at the second annual International Naturally Autistic People Awards and Convention, is a great reminder that those with disabilities have a lot of contribute to their local churches. We are missing out if the church is not a welcoming place for Jacynthe and others with special needs!

My friend Katie posted about an awesome way that God used writing, disability, and parenthood to weave lives together in a way only he can. 

You know I'm a big advocate of special needs adoptions, so I loved seeing this blog post about one family's experience. My heart went pitter-pat at this line: "We adopted a special-needs child, not because he was the best we could do, but because he was an amazing child, who happened to have some special-needs."

And here's another special needs adoption story. This stood out to me: "...Diane felt a connection and found a member of staff who could tell her more about the girl. ‘Trust me,’ the member of staff told her, ‘raising this child will be a lifelong struggle. You just don’t want her.’ But they did. ‘If you tell Bernie and I that we can’t do something, we will do everything in our power to prove you wrong,’ says Diane. ‘And we just knew that she needed us.’"

The time I've spent resting my knee this week meant I caught up on some blog reading, including this gem from Jeff McNair at disabled Christianity: Helping those who may not realize they're being wounded

Six Reasons to Be a Faithful Member of a Local Church: Which could also be considered six reasons that we shouldn't create boundaries to involvement for families with special needs.

One more safety consideration for your ministries: Study find that having ADHD doubles a child's risk of injury. The more you know about successfully including kids with ADHD, the safer your church will be.

He Got the Picture, But At What Price? The picture that held the answers behind the tragic plane crash at a flight show recently was taken by a boy with autism who had become fixated on both airplanes and photography. His mom writes about the bittersweet experience, including what they've learned and how you can pray for them.

The How-To's of Accessibility: This lengthy but insightful article covers a lot of bases and a lot of religious angles, including other faiths, and it's worth the read, especially for the South Park reference at the end.

The fake thing we sometimes pray for: Jon Acuff is the most witty Christian with a unibrow I've ever not met. In other words, I'm a fan. He wrote last Wednesday about our tendency to turn to pray for clarification as a stall tactic for not going out and doing what God has already commanded. Should we include people with disabilities in our congregations? Scripture is clear that the answer is yes. We don't need to pray for God to clarify if we should. As Jon writes, "if you’re like me, chances are, there’s something you’ve been holding back on. Some call, some action, some step you’ve got to take. And today is the time to stop asking for clarity and instead start asking for courage. The courage to get started."

What is a worship disruption? Mark Stephenson, the disability ministry blogger for the Christian Reformed Church in North America, writes about news stories and his own family's experience of worship with a child with a disability who can, at times, be disruptive. 

And speaking of possible disruptions, this post from a mom gives solid tips so that you don't complicate a child's outburst

And some news stories of churches who are rolling out the welcome mat for people with disabilities:
Have a great Monday!

    Saturday, September 24, 2011

    Entertaining Angels {Hebrews 13:1-2}

    Let brotherly love continue.  
    Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, 
    for thereby some have entertained angels unawares

    {Hebrews 13:1-2}

    Friday, September 23, 2011

    You don’t know their story, but you know grace.

    I mentioned yesterday that I’m limping. And that God is teaching me as I limp.

    You see, my knee doesn’t bend on its own most of the time now. Over the weekend, the pain was excruciating, but right now it’s just uncomfortable and inconvenient. Because no other joints are flaring up and because I’m not running the low-grade fever I usually have with a flare, odds are good that this issue isn’t due to active disease. Yes, what’s happening is the direct result of rheumatoid arthritis, but my disease is being held at bay with my IV meds. Right now we’re dealing with problems due to damage from previous disease activity.

    Let me pause to give a little bit of a rheumatoid arthritis primer: 
    • It’s an autoimmune disease, as is one other condition I have. In simplest terms, my immune system is an ignorant overachiever. 
    • Overachiever, because it does what it’s supposed to do – fight off illnesses – and then it goes even further. That’s where the ignorant part comes in. My immune system fights bad stuff…and then ignorantly fights a couple of a good things, which include my thyroid gland and the lining of my joints. 
    • With RA, you can also have inflamed lungs, heart, and eyes – which I haven’t experienced – as well as a higher rate of serious infections like MRSA and c. diff – which I have experienced, though I've thankfully been infection-free for nine months. 
    • What most people know about RA, though, is the joint problems. The lining of my joints – called synovium - is attacked by my immune system, and the joint becomes red and swollen and painful. Since that occurs from the inside out, the bones and cartilage in the joint rub against the swollen synovium. That friction results in erosions in bone, deterioration of cartilage, and creation of bone spurs.
    When I say that my present knee problem isn’t the result of active disease, I mean that the synovium doesn’t seem to be inflamed. Right now, my immune system isn’t misbehaving. The problem is that previous inflammation has weakened my knee – both the bones and the cartilage – so that the joint is functioning more like a rusty hinge than a fresh one. I'll have an MRI tomorrow to figure out what the (probably surgical) solution will be.

    If you look at my knee, you can’t see anything wrong. It’s a little puffy, but you won’t notice that unless you look closely. From the outside, you wouldn’t notice that I’m anything other than a typical 29-year-old mom. You wouldn’t guess that previous damage is impacting my ability to walk right now.

    Likewise, when you meet a family member of a person with a disability – for example, a parent – you don’t know what previous damage has occurred. Has a church rejected them? Did a ministry leader elsewhere promise to love their child but fail to follow through? Have they spent the previous week fighting for basic services for their child from a school or insurance company? Did they have their parenting abilities questioned at a previous church when people misunderstood their child’s disability? 

    Parents at my church have shared stories of each of those situations with me, and they each brought their own damage. Some are so used to the fight that they have trouble trusting that our motives are genuine. Others are hesitant to even trust us with basic information about a disability, choosing not to disclose any information if the disability isn’t physically obvious. And some seem unfriendly until you realize that they’re simply exhausted.

    If you aren’t aware that damage could be lurking under the surface of my knee, you might wonder why I stay sitting even when my kids want me to run and play with them. 

    And if you aren’t aware that damage could be lurking under the surface of their lives, you might get frustrated if a parent is pushy or cryptic or disengaged.

    You don’t know their story. But, if you know Jesus, you do know his – the story of a love so powerful that the Father sent his Son to live a sinless life, die a sinner’s death, and rise from the dead. the story of a Savior taking the penalty we deserve so that we can receive the reward he deserves. the story of grace.

    You don’t know their story, but you know grace. Show that grace to others, fueled by the power of the One who does knows my story and your story and their stories.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    go ahead and stare

    I’m limping, but I’m still here. And, as He is apt to do, God is teaching me about Himself in these present circumstances.


    I’ll explain a little more about what’s happening with my knee in tomorrow’s post. Today all you need to know is that I’m limping and that my right leg occasionally gets locked in a straight position, unable to bend unless I use my hands to manipulate the joint. That means I’m not walking around much, but I made an exception Tuesday night.


    You see, we had our last respite planning meeting on Tuesday, and I needed to be there to lead the team. I also need (okay, wanted) to be there to eat dessert. We met at Yogurt Mountain, which is a wonderful world of about a dozen flavors of frozen yogurt and 50+ toppings that you can combine in any way you’d like. For the record, I’m an acai berry energy + vanilla bean yogurt topped with Nerds candy and sour gummy worms kind of gal. 


    This is not the sort of treat you can have someone else make for you. 


    Because the proportions have to be just right for it to near perfection, I had to hobble around to make my own.


    Because not making one isn’t an option, no matter how injured you are.


    And as I hobbled, I felt conspicuous. Some people were more tactful in their glances while others just stared. A couple of young guys awkwardly went out of their way twice to make sure they weren’t in my way. (Their youth gave them the awkwardness; I bet their mommas gave them the good manners.) 


    When we met at Yogurt Mountain two weeks ago, no one looked my way. No one noticed me. Everyone ate their yogurt, had their own conversations, and went on their merry way, myself included. I had rheumatoid arthritis then too, but it wasn’t visible.


    Tuesday night, though, I was noticed. And, with the exception of kids’ staring in curiosity or the young guys’ trying not to hinder me in my quest for yogurt, I didn’t want to be noticed. Not for my limp. 


    Generally speaking, people like to be noticed. But they like to be noticed for some skill or talent or accomplishment, not for a challenge or problem. We like to be noticed for what we can do, not for what we can’t do. We like to be noticed for ability, not disability.


    The gospel turns this desire to be noticed upside down, though. We like to be noticed for good things; but as Christians, we confess that we are sinners. We like to be noticed for accomplishments; but as Christians, we confess that only accomplishment that means anything is what Christ accomplished at the cross as the perfect, final sacrifice for the sins of his people. We like to be noticed for what we can do; but as Christians, we have to admit that Christ did what we couldn’t do.


    I emailed the rest of our church’s Family Discipleship team yesterday to share details with them about what’s going on with my knee, and I’ve been overwhelmed by their sweet replies. One, though, I have to disagree with. The response began, “Shannon, You are remarkable.”


    The truth is, though, that I’m not. I am clinging to God’s truth, not because I am strong but because I know nothing else will satisfy. I can trust that God has a plan to make good out of my knee failing me at age 29, not because I have a great ability to trust but because God is absolutely trustworthy. I am willing to share these challenges through the internet, even though most of you will never see my limp, not because I want you to be impressed with my faith but because I want to impress upon you the reason for the hope I have. 


    It’s Jesus.

    And if my limp will point others to Christ, I would rather limp than walk normally. If noticing my limp will make others notice my God as well, then I don’t mind the stares.


    To him be the glory.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    not understanding the circumstances, but trusting anyway

    I'm still not feeling up to generating new content here, but I'd love to share an old post from my other blog. I wrote it the day before my then six-month-old son Robbie had an MRI to explore possible spinal abnormalities. It turned out that no abnormalities were present, but the whole process was daunting for us.

    As an update, I am doing better than I was yesterday. This head cold has me curled up in bed or on the couch with far more television being consumed by the kids than usual, but I can hobble with a little less pain due to a cortisone injection in my knee. It will get me through our October 1st respite event and through an MRI, which will help us know what other next steps we'll need. Thanks for your prayers and encouragement yesterday!

    And now, my post from October 7, 2009...

    Tomorrow is the MRI for Robbie. I was sharing with a friend last night that my biggest concern isn't the results, since we're totally trusting God with all of that. I told her that what still had my stomach in knots was the thought of tomorrow morning. Robbie can't nurse after 1:30am because he has to be sedated. We have to be at the hospital at 7:30am. As I told my friend, by the time of the MRI at 8:30am, he would have nursed twice, sometimes three times, on a typical day (since our little man cluster feeds in the morning). I told her that he would be hungry and crying and wouldn't understand why Mommy wasn't feeding him. I told her that the part I was dreading of all this wasn't the MRI or the wait for results (not sure how long that'll be) ... but rather the morning of seeing my son hungry, being capable of feeding him, and choosing to withhold that from him. Tears are coming to my eyes right now as I anticipate his cries as he can see Mommy but can't understand why Mommy won't feed him. There isn't a way for me to explain to him why he's hungry or to explain to him that it's just temporary or to help him understand that nothing will keep me from nursing him as soon as the medical professionals give me the green light. I know all of that, but he won't. He can't grasp that we're letting this occur for his good, so that we can see what his spine looks like. And it's likely that he'll be crying, upset and confused and hungry, not understanding the circumstances at all.

    And as I thought about this tonight, it brought me back to my favorite thing about parenting: what it teaches me about God.

    "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9

    How many times have I cried, not understanding the pain or discomfort of my circumstances? How many times have I thought I knew exactly what I needed, praying in a way that tries to demand, "God, give me this," as if I know my needs and the big picture better than He does? And, yet, our wise Father has reasons for withholding what I think I need. Looking back at my past, I can understand some of those reasons now. Other reasons I may never understand. But my prayer tonight is that I'll remember this the next time I'm crying to God about something that has made me upset, confused, and hungry. And that, in that moment, I'll be reminded that our sovereign God causes and allows those moments in our lives as part of His plan for our good and His glory, just as Lee and I are going to allow some discomfort into Robbie's life tomorrow morning because it's part of a plan we've made with his doctor for his ultimate good.

    I am SO thankful that God has given me the sweet blessing of mothering these two darlings! And I am amazed by the lessons He teaches me as I live out that blessing every day.


    (Oh, and my sweet friend - the one who I shared these concerns with last night - told me that she had had similar concerns when one of her babies had to have some procedures done. She prayed that it wouldn't be an issue, and it wasn't. There were no tears, no fits, no angry baby-ness, even though her little one was hungry. That made me realize how much I limit my prayers! Instead of praying that God will help me deal with Robbie's cries tomorrow, I'm now praying that He will supernaturally comfort Robbie even though he can't eat. And, just as Azariah, Hananiah, and Mishael answered Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3:16-18, my attitude is simply that God can do that ... but, even if He doesn't, He is still God and we still trust Him.) 

    ~+~
    As I mentioned at the beginning, the MRI was all clear. And you know what? He didn't even cry to nurse until the whole procedure was done and we were nearly cleared for him to eat ... cuddles and thumb-sucking held him over until then! You wouldn't guess it from the picture below, taken on that day in October, 2009, but he is now a tenacious two-year-old boy who keeps me on my toes and who blesses me beyond measure!

     

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    we all need encouragement

    I'm hurting today. I mentioned in my post yesterday that my knees were acting up, and my right one is now the worst it's ever been. Being a stay-at-home mom to two kids - ages 2 and 4 - isn't easy when the pain of walking from one room to the next can take your breath away. And having all three of us sick with head colds certainly doesn't make it any easier.

    To be honest, I don't have much to offer right now. I'm feeling pretty depleted. Some days God strengthens me in spite my rheumatoid arthritis, and some days He uses RA to empty me so that He can fill me again. Right now I'm feeling as if I'm being emptied. How encouraging it is to know that He is faithful to fill me once more with His goodness and strength!

    In all this, I am thankful for friends who God uses to encourage me, friends who send me messages like this:

    I am praying for your heart first and your knees next. Don't go the pity party route... please!!! You know that won't accomplish anything, so don't buy the lie. I am super-angry at the enemy for attacking you. And I'm telling Jesus all about it.

    And friends who write words like these:

     I’m weeping with you, and KNOW that God will bolster you

    And these:

    I am so sorry you are hurting. I am praying for you. Let me know what the rheumatologist says. Love you!

    Special needs ministry is often about encouraging people who have found themselves in circumstances they wouldn't have chosen if it had been up to them. And about pointing to a God who is sovereign over all things, even if we don't understand His ways.

    How can you encourage someone else today?


    I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
       in the land of the living!
    Wait for the LORD;
       be strong, and let your heart take courage;
       wait for the LORD!
    {Psalm 27:13-14}

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Special needs ministry weekly round-up! {9/19/11}

    Before I dive into the links this week, I have a prayer request to share with you. I'll be talking with some of my specialists today to figure out what's happening with my knees. I think it's a fairly sudden flare of rheumatoid arthritis, possibly related to the shift in weather this week, but I've never had a flare this severe come on this quickly before and the weather has never affected my arthritis before either. I think we'll need a couple weeks of a drug I hate/love, and we might need to add some physical therapy into the mix too. Please pray that this will not interfere with the planning and execution of our October 1st respite care event!

    And now to this week's links... 


    This isn't related to special needs ministry, but my senior pastor has started a new blog: Equipped for Life I am blessed to work alongside godly men and women who lead our ministries.


    Special needs ministry isn't just about the person with a disability. It's about family ministry. Here's a great post I meant to include in the round-up last week: 6 Ways to Support a Sister of a Child with Autism


    I've blogged occasionally about adoption and will continue to do so. For starters, rates of disability are higher among kids who have been adopted. Beyond that, special needs and adoption have other overlaps as well; both change families, both include people who are often left out on the margins of church and community, and both give us the opportunity as a church to put our faith into practice. In this post, Jen honestly writes about life as an adoptive family ... not just in the beginning, but after the airport. Where are we then, after the airport or after the diagnosis?


    What do we know about kids at risk of behaving aggressively? This is part of a fantastic series of posts by Dr. Steve Grcevich, who is the president of Key Ministry and a physician specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry. His closing comments are something all of us need to consider:
    The most important take home point is that there’s a pretty good chance kids who struggle with aggressive behavior at church have some condition that predisposes them to act that way or have been victims of such behavior themselves.

    They sound like kids who could certainly benefit from the opportunity to experience the love of Christ through a local church, don’t they?
    Yes, they do.


    One of the ways disability ministry can display the works of God is that it shows what we're for. When polls and books like unChristian highlight that we're often viewed by what we oppose, it's refreshing to see posts like this one. He writes, in response to a video clip of Mike Huckabee on Fox talking with Emily and Chuck Colson about her son and his grandson Max who has autism,
    Although I am not a fan of religion in general, I love the commitment to family and to love beyond oneself that faith often awakens in others.  This segment from Mike Huckabee's show on Fox News demonstrates how Christian values can open up a deeper and more meaningful conversation about people with autism than what we usually see on TV.
    Time and time again, I've seen disability ministry catch the attention of secular groups or media. Let's be a church characterized by radical love for others, such that those who admit "not [to be] a fan of religion in general" commend what we're doing!


    These definitions of the fruit of the Spirit by Tim Keller - the definition, opposites, and counterfeits - are useful for how we can minister and live as believers. (Thanks, Kim, for the heads up on this one!)


    This article ran in The Salt Lake Times this week: Churches must welcome special-needs children It raises some good points, but I'm a little perturbed by the headline: special needs ministry is not just a children's ministry thing. Our Joy Class had a party this weekend in which adults with disabilities were celebrated as part of our church body as well. My role in our church is focused more on children's and student ministries while another volunteer, Katie, and her team do an excellent job serving alongside adults with disabilities. It's illogical to welcome kids with special needs if you plan to exclude them once they grow up.


     And now, a couple of churches doing it well:

    Finally, Joni & Friends held a Through the Roof conference this past weekend, equipping church leaders to engage in disability ministry. Join me in praying for all those who attended and who return to their churches this week to put some of what they learned into practice.

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Pat Robertson's view of Alzheimer’s and divorce:
    Not just wrong, but dangerous

    My heart ached today as I read this introduction to Russell Moore's post:

    This week on his television show Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson said a man would be morally justified to divorce his wife with Alzheimer’s disease in order to marry another woman. The dementia-riddled wife is, Robertson said, “not there” anymore. This is more than an embarrassment. This is more than cruelty. This is a repudiation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

    The opinion Robertson gave is wrong. It is not supported by scripture. I could write an entire post on why his words fly in the face of biblical teaching about both earthly marriage and the union between Christ and the church. Moore has already done an excellent job of explaining that, though, so I suggest you read his post.

    When it comes to people with special needs, from the littlest ones to the elderly wife he said the husband could divorce, Robertson's words are more than wrong. They are dangerous.

    If it's okay to say that a husband can desert his wife because she is "not there" anymore, what else is okay? How about a parent deserting a child because she can't communicate verbally? Or aborting a child because he has a disability? Or telling the world that you wish you could have had an abortion so your child wouldn't have to watch other kids run and play without being able to join in? Or what about a judge forcing a couple to fight to adopt a child with a disability because that judge doesn't think the child deserves anything more than a sterile institution? If it's okay to walk away from marriage because your wife isn't cognitively there anymore, then why aren't all of those things okay too?

    Or, to return to the topic of marriage for a moment, how about me? When we were dating, my husband and I charted out several lengthy rock-climbing adventures we planned to do one day. Rock climbing was a passion we shared and loved together, and we expected it to be a major part of our married lives too, at least while we were younger. We also each wrote on our premarital counseling surveys that I would probably be the one to get up during the night with the kids. We didn't know I would have two chronic and incurable diseases before our second wedding anniversary, health conditions that make sleepless nights much harder for me (so he's the one to get up with the kids, not me) and that ended our rock climbing plans (though I still have them saved because those dreams are still precious to remember). Would it be okay for my husband to walk away because our lives are vastly different than we planned and because he has to do more to support and care for me than we ever anticipated at this stage in our lives? Thank God that the answer is no!

    And what about a church that says it's just too hard to include people with disabilities, especially those who might not be able to understand basic theological instruction? If it's okay for a husband to divorce his wife who has Alzheimer’s, then logic would allow the church to neglect those who we deem to be "not there" by our standards. Neither is acceptable.

    I opened with Russ Moore's words about this, and I'll close with them as well, because he nails it far better than I could:

    Sadly, many of our neighbors assume that when they hear the parade of cartoon characters we allow to speak for us, that they are hearing the gospel. They assume that when they see the giggling evangelist on the television screen, that they see Jesus. They assume that when they see the stadium political rallies to “take back America for Christ,” that they see Jesus. But Jesus isn’t there.

    Jesus tells us he is present in the weak, the vulnerable, the useless. He is there in the least of these (Matt. 25:31-46). Somewhere out there right now, a man is wiping the drool from an 85 year-old woman who flinches because she think he’s a stranger. No television cameras are around. No politicians are seeking a meeting with them.

    But the gospel is there. Jesus is there.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    When are YOU fed? When do YOU rest?

    I have a range of readers for this blog - ministry leaders, parents, pastors, people with disabilities, and other friends - but we all have a few things in common:
    • the need to be fed, not just to be feeding others
    • the need to rest, not just to offer rest
    • the need to rely on a Savior, not just to trust in ourselves
    Today is the first day of this year's Bible study for me and the kids. I'm thankful to have a great program at our church in which I'll be studying the book of Acts with other women this year while my kids - Robbie, age two, and Jocelyn, age four - will be exploring the same passage at their own levels in their own classes. I love our Tuesday morning program because it provides me with an opportunity to show up and participate without being in charge of anything, which is a refreshing change of pace. I get to dive into God's word to be fed alongside other women. And it is always a blessing.

    Instead of writing a complete post today, I'd love to hear from you. What do you do to be fed? How do you prioritize rest? When you're serving, how do you avoid the trap of relying on yourself instead of Him?

    It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
    eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.
    {Psalm 127:2}

    And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
    {Mark 6:31}

    "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
    {Matthew 11:28-30}

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Weekly round-up! {9/12/11}

    I've mentioned before that Wrestling with an Angel is one of my all-time favorite books and the book that every pastor ought to own and read through at least twice. Here's an interview with Greg Lucas on the Together For Adoption website, posted last week.

    To spotlight one church that is doing it well, here's one that held art classes for adults with special needs and then held an art show to display their works.

    That church with the art show? That's Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. It also happens to be the church pastored by Chuck Swindoll. He also happens to be the keynote speaker for Inclusion Fusion, an upcoming web summit for special needs ministry that will be held November 3-5, 2011. I have been helping with it as part of the program team, and I will be one of the speakers. I'm excited to be part of an event that can equip church leaders for free and from any location via the internet. You can find out more or register here.

    And, though I usually end these on a positive note, I want to leave you with this story. I blogged on Friday about a mom who testified in court that she would have aborted her three-year-old son if she knew before birth that he would have no arms and one leg. Later that day the court ruled in favor of her and her husband, awarding them $4.5 million dollars. Here are some quick takeaways from this:
    • Pray for their son, Bryan, who will one day learn that his care was paid for because his mother told a room full of people that she wished she hadn't given birth to him.
    • Pray for everyone involved in the case, from the parents to the ultrasound technicians.
    • Pray that this wouldn't encourage other doctors to recommend for abortion to avoid similar malpractice cases.
    • And pray for the church to rise up and take a stand in love with people with disabilities. If we do nothing, then we let the world define the worth of individuals with special needs. And this is what the world is saying.
    And a positive note for us to end on? A related post from my friend Becky about the choice for life that she and her husband made for their son with special needs. It's worth reading.

      Friday, September 9, 2011

      Fridays from the Families: A mom who says she would have aborted if she knew her child would have special needs (UPDATE ADDED)

      I know I have several new readers this week, so - as a quick note of explanation - most Fridays I either feature a guest post here from someone who has a disability or a family member with a disability or I link to posts like that. Why? Well, I've found that most churches that exclude people with disabilities aren't mean or malicious or heartless. They're just ignorant or unsure of where to start. Hearing from the families helps demystify disability for church leaders. (Here's the page with links to all of my Fridays from the Families posts if you want to check them out.)

      Some days the post is positive, but today isn't one of those days. Today I'm asking you to pray as you read this post and its comments: A Mom Says She Would Have Aborted Her Child with Special Needs. Even though the mom admits that her three-year-old son's life has value, she also says she doesn't think it's fair for him to have to live with his daily hardships.

      Ellen from Love That Max is the writer of this post, and she's not a Christian nor is she pro-life. While she seems to be disturbed by the mother's comments, she admits that she doesn't know what she would have done if she had the option to abort her son with special needs before she had met him. Now that she knows him, he loves him and is completely thankful for his life; before his birth, though, she admits that the fear of the unknown could have overwhelmed her if the diagnosis had come prenatally. She writes, "Having a child with disabilities can seem like a terrible fate…until you have a child with special needs."

      I think this is how many church leaders feel about disability ministry. Welcoming people with disabilities can seem like a lot of work without much return ... until you begin to do it and realize how incomplete your church body was before you included people with special needs. (Even then, it can still be a lot of work at times!) According to 1 Corinthians 12, we are incomplete without all our parts.

      Pray for those churches. Pray for the boy at the center of this story - his name is Bryan and he's almost three - whose mom has now gone on court record stating that she wished she knew about his disability before he was born so she could have aborted him. Pray for the commenters who offer a range of perspectives. One states that he would abort a child if he knew that the baby would have the same disability that his brother has, sharing
      I simply don’t think I would want anyone to go through the same experiences that my family went through. I wouldn’t want to allow any child to have to go through the pain, suffering and other difficulties that a disability creates. Likewise I wouldn’t want any family to have to the make sacrifices that you necessarily and willing make when a family member is disabled.
      Another wrote
      I understand what she’s saying because I did have a right NT scan at my 10 week ultrasound. I had a cvs to determine his genetics. Turns out no downsyndrom however he might still have heart problems. If my testing had come back positive for ds we wouldv terminated the pregnancy. I can’t see purposely bringing a human into the world who would always have medical problems. I know I’m not strong enuf to handle it. I know to some of u it sounds weak but after a ton of research I just couldn’t do that to a child of mine. I already have one son who is perfectly healthy and it wouldn’t be fair to him or the other child to live their lives like that if its avoidable.
       Yet another says
      It’s so hard to know what you would have done had you known. I hate to say it, but if we had been told our child was going to have autism, I probably wouldn’t have gone to term with the pregnancy. I’d like to think I would have had my son anyway, and that knowing he had autism would have benefited him because we could have started therapy right away…who knows? I know I love him and I wouldn’t trade him for the world though.
      That last sentence is promising. Before she met him, she says she would have aborted if she knew about his autism; now that he's in her life, she loves him and wouldn't trade him for the world. I'm praying that God would allow his people to interact with those with special needs so we can all have that same before/after transformation as God changes our hearts in a true community of unified diversity.

      And, when that community is established and the church truly loves those with disabilities, perhaps more families will see that life is a viable option for a pre-born child with a disability as they see that the church is ready and willing to walk that road with them. It isn't easy, but God provides a model for us in the early church of a body of believers who were willing to go to great lengths to care for each others' needs. Let's show the grace and love we've received from Christ to one another like the Acts 2 church did.

      And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  
      And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. 
      And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
      Acts 2:44-47

       Update: Later on the day I posted this, the court found in the mother's favor; read about it here. She and her husband were awarded $4.5 million dollars. Here are some quick prayer points to take from this:
      • Pray for their son, Bryan, who will one day learn that his care was paid for because his mother told a room full of people that she wished she hadn't given birth to him.
      • Pray for everyone involved in the case, from the parents to the ultrasound technicians.
      • Pray that this wouldn't encourage other doctors to recommend for abortion to avoid similar malpractice cases.
      • And pray for the church to rise up and take a stand in love with people with disabilities. If we do nothing, then we let the world define the worth of individuals with special needs. And this is what the world is saying.

      Thursday, September 8, 2011

      Jesus, I will give you little; I surrender some

      I can't claim the title. I pulled it from the talented team in the three-minute video below.



      (Have you watched the video yet? Be honest. If you haven't, do. Seriously. I'm not a YouTube junkie, and I love it.)

      I know I chuckled as I watched it. It is funny. But I want to challenge you not to stop at the chuckle.

      Think beyond the laughter, and be challenged, as I was. Do you worship God, or do you go through the motions? Do you exalt Christ or yourself? Do you sing the words but fail to put them into action in your own life? (I know I've been guilty on all counts at times.)

      And how about what you claim to care about? A catchphrase at our church is "engage the church; engage the city." When we became much more intentional about special needs ministry a little over a year ago, I challenged one of our pastors with that phrase, asking, "Do you mean it? Do we want to engage all of our city or just those who will fit in without much effort or change from us?"

      In the video, I noted this line toward the end: "someone stop that baby from crying right now..." I have a two-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter, and I cringe inwardly when they have acted, well, less than church-like on Sundays. I can't recall any dirty looks for it, but I wouldn't know; I'm usually too busy trying to sink into the floor to notice. It's uncomfortable.

      We like comfort, don't we? I'm writing this on an evening when everyone else in the family is gone. I'm lounging on the couch with my feet propped up, and I'm considering a bubble bath later. I'm liking this moment, because - with two preschoolers - this type of thing doesn't happen often.

      And I can bring that comfort-seeking desire into church too. Too often I'm thinking "I can't wait to see Norma this morning; she always encourages me!" on Sunday morning instead of "who can I encourage today?" How about you?

      When a baby cries during service or a child has a meltdown or an adult sings terribly off-key, are you willing to show the grace you've received from Christ with others, or are you simply annoyed?

      When you're presented with an opportunity to serve God and others, are you excited or are you concerned that it might mess with your plans?

      When you realize that people with disabilities aren't represented well in your church, are you willing to do something to change that? Or are you content with your church being a place in which the gospel is presented to just those who look and act like you?

      Ouch. I need to go spend some time with God to ponder those questions and examine myself.

      Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
      2 Corinthians 13:5

      Search me, O God, and know my heart!
      Try me and know my thoughts!
      And see if there be any grievous way in me,
      and lead me in the way everlasting!
      Psalm 139:23-24

      Let us test and examine our ways,
      and return to the Lord!
      Lamentations 3:40

      Wednesday, September 7, 2011

      ever have to pay kids to come to your child's birthday party?

      A friend of mine shared a conversation with me recently. It began with this question to a mom whose adult child has several disabilities: "What was the hardest thing for you about his childhood?"

      Her answer? "Having to pay the neighborhood kids to come to his birthday party."

      I can't even type that without feeling a lump form in my throat. To her, it was vitally important that her son experience childhood rites of passage, like birthday parties in the backyard with his friends. He'll never know that his neighbor "friends" required bribes to come; he just remembers fun parties with other kids.

      His mom knows what it took, though. She knows that the other kids didn't think hanging out with her son was incentive enough. She has bittersweet memories of watching other children celebrate with her son and then doling out cash afterwards.

      Most folks think that special needs ministry is about the people with special needs. And it is. But it's also about the mom who would love for her child to be included with other kids.

      And it's also about the other kids who get the opportunity to learn that they can love a child who seems different from them. It's about seeing those kids come to realize that they have more in common than they realized. It's about blurring the lines between "us" and "them" and just being the unified diversity that is the body of Christ.

      Instead of the family with special needs having to pay the non-disabled kids to come to the party, how about this instead?
      He [Jesus] said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” {Luke 14:12-14}
       Now that's more like it, don't you think?

      Tuesday, September 6, 2011

      Michael W. Smith and a star-struck teenage girl

      During my junior year of high school, the Billy Graham Crusade came to town. I was copy editor for the school paper, so I managed to talk my way into a press pass. When the press conference for the first night's musicians began, the only available seats offered no clear line of sight to the front of the room (which I needed, because I was photographer as well as writer for the story!), so I crouched near the side.

      When Michael W. Smith came in, I was determined to ask him a question. However, the press assistant running the conference didn't see me, squatting against the wall and balancing my camera, notebook, and pencil as I raised my hand to ask a question. As the assistant announced that no more questions would be taken, Michael W. Smith interrupted him, saying, "I'd like to take one more question from that young lady," pointing to me.

      If you know me well, this will be hard to picture, but I was speechless. The question in my mind previously was forgotten. My mouth didn't work. I was humbled by this famous and godly man noticing me and breaking the rules to allow me to ask him a question ... a question I couldn't bring to mind or speech.

      I did regroup, after being asked a second time, and ask the only question that came to mind: "If you only achieve one thing from the stage tonight, what would you want it to be?" (Well, let me be honest. I did consider asking if his oldest son - handsome and right around my age - was available, but I exercised restraint.)

      I can't even recall his answer, though I think I included it in the article which I'm sure my momma saved. But, as I consider this instance in light of my current role as Access Ministry coordinator at our church, I think this provides a few takeaways for us:
      1. We need to intentionally look for those who are on the margins of church. It's easier to look toward those who are right in front of us rather than looking to the left or right. What I love most about John 9:1 is that Jesus saw the man who was blind; when he transforms our lives, we're more apt to notice others as well.
      2. We need to be willing to speak up when we do notice those on the margins. It's easy to divert our eyes. It's harder to do something more than that.
      3. We need to regularly ask ourselves, "If I only do one thing on Sunday morning (or any other ministry time), what would I want it to be?" Or, better yet, what would God want it to be? What is the one thing that would most clearly glorify him?
      How do you intentionally notice those on the margins of your church?

      And (be honest!) what musician had you star-struck as a teen?


      Edited to add: Thank you to Rick Warren for sharing my post with his followers and for all who retweeted it. Please check out the other posts and resources I have here (you might find the why and how pages helpful; I'm updating them right now to include more posts since I haven't done that in a while!), and email me at shannon@theworksofgoddisplayed.com if I can offer your church any help as you welcome people with disabilities.

      And I just found some pictures! I do apologize for the quality; I certainly didn't have a fancy camera in high school. The first one is of Michael W. Smith and the media guy, and the second one is MWS on stage (with me only about five or six yards away, standing on the field with the rest of the press, thankful for my interaction with a considerate man of God).


      Monday, September 5, 2011

      Weekly round-up {9/5/11}

      What Does Alternative Medicine Have in Common with Biblical Counseling? This article by Ed Welch makes a valid point: if modern medicine met every physical need, alternative medicine wouldn't be as popular as it is. In the same way, biblical counseling can offer something - Jesus - that medicine cannot.

      Suffering: How to Steward God's Most Feared Blessing: Suffering? A blessing? It can be.

      I've written about the plights of abortion of babies with disabilities, so it shouldn't surprise you that I found this interesting: Half-Aborted, Why Do "Reductions" of Twin Pregnancies Trouble Pro-Choicers? In the past week, I've talked with one friend who has quadruplets who aren't much younger than me, another who has triplet boys who just entered middle school, and another who has twin babies - one girl who is crawling, one boy who is content to wait a bit longer. I am thankful none of those mothers reduced their pregnancies.

      Randy Alcorn's review of Why O God?: Suffering and Disability in the Bible and the Church: I haven't read this yet, but it's at the top of my to-be-read-next stack! Another great review that graciously mentions this blog and our church's ministry is this one from my friend Kim, who is also the Director of Family Discipleship at our church.

      In this post, a mom and children's ministry volunteer talks about how children's ministry opens doors to your church. People will come to church for the sake of their kids, even if they aren't personally interested in the church scene. For example, we've had a few different family members who had no interest in church until their kids were born and they wanted them baptized as babies, just like each of them had been. This post isn't disability ministry specific, but oh! how it applies.

      Ellen at Love That Max talks here about emergency preparedness for kids with disabilities. It's good for us to be mindful that those emergencies that are stressful to us can be much more stressful for people with disabilities and their families. This gives us an opportunity to come alongside them and do life together.

      Surviving a stay in the NICU: A guide for parents: This is useful for those of us who may be called to minister to these families as well.

      Pasco author takes time with girl losing her sight: Scott Smiley graduated from high school in 1999 and lost his sight in an explosion in Iraq in 2005; Sofia Martinez is nine years old and will be blind in a year as her rare genetic disease progresses. They met this past Thursday.

      Motherhood is Application: This isn't about special needs ministry, but (a) there are parallels and (b) I'm a mom, as are many of you. If I quoted all my favorite lines, then I would be reprinting the entire post here. Here's just one paragraph I loved; read it and then go read the rest: "The gospel is not just something to talk about Sunday morning while you are in clean clothes and the kids are looking orderly. It is not limited to quiet times and reflective moods. It is something to apply while you are in a difficult position in the back of the car trying to buckle a child up who is playing the kazoo and needs their nose wiped."

      As a Dominican nun, doctor offers unique perspective on stem-cell research: She's a nun. She's also a doctor of internal medicine. And she spoke about stem-cell research at St. Philip Catholic Church in Franklin, TN, last week.

      And, as usual, a list of churches committed to welcoming people with disabilities:
      Finally, I enjoyed this protest sign, found here:


      Saturday, September 3, 2011

      worthy creator of all things {revelation 4:11}

      “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, 
      to receive glory and honor and power, 
      for you created all things,
      and by your will they existed and were created.”

      {Revelation 4:11}

      Friday, September 2, 2011

      Fridays from the Families: Communion, the cry room, and funerals

      This week's edition of Fridays from the Families is a little different from usual. I have found a few posts written by moms on their own blogs, and I'm sending you to each instead of having you read them here. In other words, it's a sort of Weekly Round-up for family posts.

      First up, The Crying Room. This mom writes about a sweet moment in her church's cry room with her daughter CB. On the intro page to her blog, she describes CB as "16 year old, lanky blue-eyed girl with a sweet soul and good nature. She has been diagnosed with severe Autism, severe cognitive impairments, a seizure disorder, hypothyroidism, and scoliosis. She is non-verbal, receptive language at about a 8-10 month old level, needs all self-care done for her, and she is still in diapers. She has a smile that will melt your heart." And this post will melt your heart too.

      In this guest post on the Autism & Alleluias blog, Take This All of You and Eat, parents share how they prepared their daughter Danielle, who has autism, to take her first communion using visual cues and communication. Then their son used the experience as the foundation for his Eagle Scout project to provide resources to other families and churches in this same situation. While the qualifications for receiving communion and the preparation for it vary from church/denomination to church/denomination, there are useful ideas (and a sweet story) for any church leader here.

      And this is a great post about how to help families who have a child with autism attend a funeral. Tips include providing childcare if needed, offering tools like social stories if the child will attend any part of the services, and making meals for the family that take into account any food allergies or sensitivities.

      And, finally, Gillian Marchenko is a pastor's wife and mom of four girls, including two with Down syndrome (one who also has a diagnosis of Moyamoya disease and has survived a stroke and two brain surgeries, and the other who was adopted into their family internationally through Reece's Rainbow). She is asking for input from parents of kids with special needs and mothers who have experienced a miscarriage as she prepares for some MOPS speaking engagements. If you fit those categories, please visit this post and leave a comment.

      Thursday, September 1, 2011

      considering a different perspective

      Two nights ago, my husband was cleaning the kitchen, I was taking a bubble bath (yes, my man serves me well!), and the kids were playing ... that is, until my son sliced two of his toes. Thankfully, we didn't have to visit the ER or urgent care, but I thought we were destined for one until the bleeding slowed.

      Our master bath looked like a horror scene, and I have to say that it's a good thing I was already planning to replace the rugs in there. Robbie didn't want us to touch his foot, and we couldn't convince him in his two-year-old logic that pressure would help and that a bandage was necessary. Eventually he allowed it, but only after he asked for bandaids on his knee, ankle, and right big toe ... none of which had any cuts or booboos. As I put bandaids in places where he didn't need them, I gained his trust to put them where he did need them.

      (I think there's probably a lesson there about building trust with families in need at church, but you can go ahead and draw that lesson out, because I'm taking this a different direction.)

      As we cleaned him up and fixed him up, my daughter stood in the doorway of the bathroom. My husband, concerned that she would get blood on her princess costume (aren't all four-year-old girls in princess costumes at 6:00pm?), asked her to go to her room. She hesitated, and I saw something in her eyes that made me pause as well.

      "Jocelyn, do you think Robbie is going to die?" I asked quietly.

      She nodded slowly, her gray eyes large and brimming with tears. Bless her heart. She had never seen more than a single drop of blood before, so she drew her own conclusions.

      We assured her that Robbie wasn't dying, and Lee found a clean place she could stay in the bathroom while she comforted her brother and we comforted her. But if I hadn't noticed that look in her eyes when Lee asked her to go to her room and realized the fear in her perspective, we would have sent an anxious girl to her room where she would have thought she was waiting alone for her brother to die.

      Many people with disabilities aren't familiar with church because churches haven't had a great track record for  welcoming them. As such, we need to be willing to consider their perspectives. What regular activities that are common to us might seem odd to them, such as communion, baptism, or even just the cues to sit and stand at various points during the worship service? What words are mystifying, such as grace, mercy, triune, or hallelujah? What phrases could be confusing to someone who thinks more literally, as some people with disabilities do; would "invite Jesus into your heart" (which is a phrase I think we all should retire, but that's a post for a different day) or "pass the peace" make sense to them?

      If you're a ministry leader or someone who has attended church for at least a few years, you may have trouble considering the perspective of someone who hasn't entered a church in years. Or maybe you know your specific church so well that you forget what aspects of it could all be strange to newcomers. For example, my church doesn't look like a church because it was once a hotel building; I'm used to that, but it is a little weird.

      Ask God to open your eyes to consider what church is like from someone else's perspective. He knows their perspectives already, and his perspective is invaluable.