With a Grateful Heart (November 23, 2014)

This is the week we give thanks to God for all the blessings we have in our lives.  And in spite of the challenges I have been facing, I do indeed feel blessed.   I am so very tired, and living in pain, but as a dear friend reminded me, the good thing about pain is that it reminds you that you are still alive.  And I have a warm, snug roof over my head where I may take my rest.  Others do not.

My husband was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, and we are still waiting for an appointment with the cardiologist.  We cannot see him until December 12th.  But we are grateful that his primary care physician is on top of the situation, and I am grateful that my husband is willing to go to the emergency room if his symptoms get out of hand.  The medication he has been given keeps his symptoms under control for now.  And we are blessed to have medical care when others have none.

I’m not strong enough to sing at church right now, but I’m strong enough to attend worship services, and receive the greetings and well wishes of my friends.  It is so good to enter the house of the Lord and feel the love and grace that surrounds me, and to feel that I am home.

My husband and I are exploring the new world of cooking for kidney disease, and finding that while it can be challenging, it isn’t all that bad.  We are certainly eating healthier – more fresh produce, more seafood (what a blessing to live on the coast where it’s always fresh!), more herbs and less salt.  Our Thanksgiving dinner will have some modifications, and sadly, no pumpkin pie for me, but I can still have apple pie.  Life is good.

I have heard from a couple of other people dealing with kidney disease, and that has given me hope and encouragement.  And, as the Rev. Billy Graham once said, “The will of God will not take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us.”  I don’t just believe this, I know this.

One of my favorite psalms reminds us:

“You hem me in, behind and before,

    and lay your hand upon me. . .

If I take the wings of the morning

    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me,

    and your right hand shall hold me fast.”  Psalm 139:5,9-10

And most of all I am thankful that, when I thought my useful days were behind me, I was given the opportunity to write these devotionals, to share my thoughts with you.  And I have heard from so many of you, and I am reminded that we are all a community that love and support each other and are bound together in so many ways.  And for this I am overwhelmingly grateful.

“I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise”  Psalm 138:1

We thank you, Dear Lord, for the blessings which you bestow upon us in such abundance.  Even in the midst of our despair there are blessings if we just open our eyes and look for them.  Help us to greet each new day with gratitude and enthusiasm, and close our eyes each night with appreciation and acknowledgement of a life well lived in You.  In Christ’s name we pray.  Amen.

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Setting Our Lives in Order (November 16, 2014)

I have been thinking this week about weakness, and how it might be a blessing.  When I was hit with my latest diagnosis I was depressed.  And of course I was tired, and in pain.  But then I realized that these things might be a blessing.  This was a chance to re-order my life.

Like many of us in the caring community, I find it hard to say no.  Consequently, I found myself committed to things I wasn’t really enjoying, but felt I had to do because someone asked me.  But I didn’t have the energy to do them, and they weren’t feeding my soul.  Now I had a good reason to let them go.  It used to be I could do two things on a good day; now it seems I can do only one.  And if it isn’t something that makes me feel my time was well spent, that isn’t something I need to do.

I am still tutoring children two mornings a week at our local K-3 school.  No matter how bad I feel, they cheer me up.  And it’s amazing to see how 15-30 minutes one-on-one with a child can make such a huge difference in his or her reading and math skills.

I sew quilts for charity because I am always happy at the sewing machine, or with a needle and thread and fabric in my hands.  And I just finished making Christmas stockings for a foster children’s project.  These things bring me joy.  But I didn’t enjoy serving on the board of the quilt guild, and evening meetings were nearly impossible for me.  It was a no-brainer to let that go.

The service club that my husband and I belonged to in Bishop was great.  We did lots of hands-on local projects, as well as supporting international projects.  The club here just isn’t the same.  We haven’t forged the same friendships, and service seems to be expressed by writing checks rather than getting your hands dirty.  I’ve let them know I won’t be renewing my dues next quarter, although my husband will remain a member.  It was a cordial break-up, and I will be a welcome guest at their meetings, but I’m no longer obligated to be there.

The one difficult thing to give up was an international emergency shelter organization for whom I speak as a fundraiser.  But none of the service clubs in this area seem willing to hear their message, so I haven’t been very effective lately.  The organization accepted my resignation as an Ambassador, but is retaining me as a Liaison.  They also sent me messages of support.

My decision to cut down on my activities has given me more peace and more time for the things that please me – church, children, my home.  It hasn’t made me stronger physically yet, but I believe I am on the road to a stronger spirit.  And it made me wonder why it took a health crisis for me to make this decision to set my priorities in order.  If I didn’t enjoy doing things, and I wasn’t effective, why was I doing them?

And perhaps that’s something we can all stop and consider.  Is ineffective help better than no help at all?  Let us dedicate ourselves to the things we believe God calls us to do, and give our heart to those causes.

All who cleanse themselves of the things I have mentioned will become special utensils, dedicated and useful to the owner of the house, ready for every good work.  2 Timothy 2:21

Dear Lord, Thank you for reminding us of what is truly important.  Help us to recall that there is strength in numbers, and that we do not have to do it all on our own.  Help us remember that there is tremendous power in prayer, and that your word not only created this world, but can change it as well.  Move hearts and minds this week, and open doors in every sense of the word.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

An Abundance of Challenges (November 9, 2014)

God has seen fit to provide me with an abundance of challenges this past month.  My doctor told me I have osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis.  Exercise is a good antidote to this condition, but since I must use a wheelchair, weight-bearing exercise is difficult for me.  And my current insurance plan will not allow me any water therapy benefits.

Then, of course, I lost my long-term service dog and companion Jake.  Even though I knew it was coming, it was devastating.  Jake knew what I needed before I did.  And even though he lived a long, healthy life, I couldn’t help but feel that I let him down at the end.  I feel grateful that we have a very caring veterinarian, who cared for him very lovingly, and returned his ashes in a lovely carved wooden box.

Two weeks later I learned I have Stage III Kidney Disease, caused, it is believed, by the medications used to treat my diabetes and arthritis.  I have been off the anti-inflammatories for over a year (and been in a good deal of pain because of it).  I have always maintained tight control of my blood sugar.  Now it appears the medications that were supposed to help me have instead damaged my kidneys.

My husband and I are trying to figure out how to live with a very restricted diet, and revising my medications and supplements.  And for one of the few times in my life I am depressed.  People have always commented on my sunny spirit, but this has hit me hard.  Or it did until I received an e-mail from Tanzania.

I sponsor a little girl in a nursery school there, and my candidacy mentor does as well.  She mentioned my troubles to the director, and Francis reminded me that God has a purpose for everything that happens to us.  Does that mean that God is a sadist, or has bad plans for us?  No.  But I have found that every time something bad has happened to me, something good has come from it.  I just have to trust and be patient.

When I first had to use a wheelchair, I didn’t see the blessing.  But I found I was able to minister to others in wheelchairs.  I had a better understanding of people with disabilities.  And in time, with God’s help, I could accept my situation with joy.  I trust that will happen again.  Right now I am still in pain, and in shock.  But I am not alone.  And neither are you.  We are all God’s beloved, well-cared-for no matter what our circumstances.

Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Dear Loving God, We thank you when things go well, and when they challenge us.  We know that for all the hard times that befall us, we are never alone, and for that we thank you.  We are grateful that you forgive us our doubts and weakness, and reach out to us when we are afraid.  “You alone are my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.”  (Psalm 62:2)  Amen

My Roll Model (November 2, 2014)

As we celebrated All Saints Day I thought about all those people who shaped my faith journey, from my dear great-aunt, who served as my grandmother when her sister, my grandmother, died in my infancy, to Dorothy,  who called herself “MOM,” My Other Mother, and demonstrated her huge caring Christian heart, worrying about me and caring for me every week.  There was my Great-Grandpa George, who spent hours listening to my endless stories, and kept every letter I ever wrote to him and every drawing I ever made.  Each one of these people gave me a glimpse of just how large God’s heart must be, and how important it was for me to share God’s love with the people I met.  “Your life may be the only Bible some people read,” I was told.

When I was in high school I read a book called “The Other Side of the Mountain.”  It inspired me.  It was about a young woman named Jill Kinmont.  She was qualifying for the 1956 Olympics when she broke her neck in a skiing accident.  The book told about her fight to regain her independence.  She fought to go to college, to become a teacher, and to have her own classroom.  And it was a fight.  No one thought a woman who was paralyzed from the neck down could maintain order in a classroom.  Later two movies were made based on Jill’s story, and I found them just as inspiring.

When we moved to Bishop in 1990, who was in the congregation of the Methodist church but Jill?  I should have known!  Jill’s family had worshiped at the church for years, and so had Jill and her husband John.  She had taught at the Indian School until it was incorporated into the public school system, and then continued working as a special education teacher.  She raised money for Native American scholarships, selling donations from the Mammoth Mountain Ski Shop at swap meets and fairs.  This was hazardous work because Jill had no thermostat to regulate her body, and prolonged exposure to heat or the sun was dangerous.  But she would be out there under the trees in those warm high desert days.  She was a talented artist.  A community day school was named for her.  And she became my friend.

When I started a mentoring program at the church, Jill was the first person to sign up.  And when she learned her child had a sister who also needed a special friend, she took on both girls.  She gave so freely of herself, and her time, when she had every excuse not to.  When life placed me in a wheelchair, I had a model of grace, acceptance, and overcoming the odds, all with a smile on her face, to look to.  I was at her house one day when a crew from 60 Minutes was there to do a follow-up interview.  I didn’t know she wasn’t expected to live more than 15 years past her initial injury.  And here it was, 35 years later, and she was still going strong.  I believe her faith, and her positive outlook, as well as a strong purpose to her life, had a lot to do with that.

We lost Jill in 2012, a week before her 76th birthday.  The turnout for her celebration of life was so large it had to be held at the cemetery.  There just wasn’t enough room at the church.  She touched many, many lives, all for the better.   When it came to naming that community day school, the principal related that he asked the superintendent if the students could have a voice in naming it.  The superintendent said they could submit up to three names.  They came back with only one – Jill’s.

I told Jill that before I met her, she had been my role model.  And when I went into that wheelchair, I joked, she became my roll model.  What I never told her was that she was my hero.  And for that I am truly sorry.  But I think she knew all the same.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:1-2

Dear Lord, Thank you for all the witness who have come before us, and who are with us today.  Bless those witness who are sharing the message of inclusiveness this week.  Give them wisdom to reach new people, and give their audiences open hearts and minds to hear the message and bring it into their churches.  This we pray in the name of your Son, the open door.  Amen.

In Praise of Our Furry Angels

It has been a difficult week.  I lost my older service dog, Jake, on October 20th.  He had been taking care of me ever since I went into my wheelchair 11 years ago.  He didn’t start out as a service dog, and most people were surprised to see a Miniature Schnauzer filling that role.  But he knew when I needed my meds, or needed to lie down, or to go home, or to get out of the sun.  He alerted on my arm with a gentle nudge of the paw.  If I didn’t pay attention to him, he had a special bark to get my attention.  If I were home and needed help, he would go get my husband with what Brad called the “Timmy’s in the well” bark (a la Lassie).

I learned that Schnauzers make very good medical service dogs.  They are very people- oriented, very intelligent, and very intuitive.  Jake often knew what was wrong with me before I did.  That whole sun thing – I was breaking out in hives and didn’t realize it, and he fussed at me as I was talking with a parishioner until I moved into the shade.  Like many pastors, I am not good at self-care, and will frequently overdo it.  Jake would make sure I got home before I was too tired to drive.  He got me to the sofa in the Youth Lounge before I fainted during a heat wave.  I will be forever grateful.

When we realized his gifts, we took him to a trainer to make sure he was a canine good citizen, and to my doctor to certify what he could do for me.  We provided him with a blue service vest with appropriate patches to let people know why he was with us in church, in stores, in restaurants, and in other public places.  I took him to the school when I volunteered, and educated children about when it was appropriate to approach and pet dogs.  And I took him to the nursing home and assisted living home where I visited residents because he put a smile on people’s faces.

We lost Jake at age 18.  He lived a long and amazingly healthy life.  We are training Kirby, our third try at a replacement, who has Cushing’s Disease.  We have learned that there are many people who think it is all right to dress up their pet in a vest and call it a service dog.  Here in Eureka they don’t even bother with the vest.  Jake and Kirby were attacked by a pit bull in a grocery store.  The two young men claimed it was their service dog.  We are fortunate here in the City of Eureka and the County of Humboldt that there is a requirement that all service dogs be registered with either the Police Department or the Sheriff’s Office and wear a medallion.  Registration is free but requires filling out a form and submitting a letter from your doctor.

It is a shame that a few people make things difficult for the majority, and that the honor system doesn’t work.  But I am grateful that no-charge systems are in place to help us.

Dear Lord, Please be with all your servants this week as they develop plans to serve your people.  Give wisdom to those who will speak, and open the ears, hearts and minds of those who will be listening.  Inspire people to flock to the Conference, and fill those who organize and speak with wisdom and inspiration.

We thank you for our service animals, who guide us and guard us and most of all love us.  Amen.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, so that those who love your name may exult in you.  Psalm 5:11

Wearing Away the Rough Edges (October 19, 2014)

Last week, as we celebrated World Communion Sunday, I thought about how we share and affirm what we as Christians have in common.  Our church joins together with other denominations in our community to bridge a street and share in the holy meal together.  The City blocks off the street for an hour, and the pastors share the communion liturgy.  A giant challah loaf is broken and shared.  Our church’s praise team leads the music.

This year a Spanish-language congregation joined us for the first time.  While each group’s understanding of communion might vary in certain ways – transubstantiation or consubstantiation of the communion elements, the use of bread vs. wafers, wine vs. grape juice, etc. – we can all agree that Christ instructed us to take the bread and the cup in remembrance of Him.  (Luke 22:19)

Likewise, we are all created in the image of God.  Now, none of us know what God looks like.  We don’t even know if God is female or male, or neither.  I believe God is bigger than that.  We say that God is perfect, but what does that mean?  What is a perfect body?  Do we know what is perfect in God’s mind?

Just as we all come to the communion table with our own disparate ideas of what the holy meal means, so I think we live our lives with our human idea of what “wholeness” and “perfection” mean.  God has His (or Her) own idea of perfection and wholeness for each of our lives.  (How I wish we could come up with a perfect, individual pronoun for God!)  How do we know what that idea is?  How do we know that perfection for one doesn’t include a ventilator or a wheelchair or leg braces or a hearing aid or simply silence?

Like Jesus, I believe we are made perfect in our trials.  “For you, God, tested us;

you refined us like silver.”  Psalm 66:10  As silver is refined by fire, so we are refined by the physical and mental struggles we face each day.  I believe that there is no one picture of perfect, no one ideal.

I used to joke years ago, when I first started going through a series of five knee operations, that God put me into a wheelchair so that s/he could get my attention.  But there was truth in that jest.  Before my surgeries I was so “busy” I wasn’t paying attention.  When I was forced to slow down I had time to read, to listen, to tune in.  As my body failed me in certain ways, my mind, my heart, became more focused.  As odd as it may seem, I was more at peace, happier.

And now, as I sit in my wheelchair, I can have a very bad day and people tell me how good I look.  Perhaps the processes of life, of becoming physically changed, are part of the path to perfection.

We thank you, Lord, for the gift of life, and for molding and refining us.  When we don’t understand what is happening, remind us that we are made in Your image, and that we are Yours, and that we are never alone.  In the name of your Son, our Savior.  Amen.

Take Time to Take Care by Rev. Dr. Lorna Bradley (October 12, 2014)

Compassion is offering care to other. We show compassion to our children when we help them grow and develop, assisting them with things they cannot do for themselves. Seeing an unmet need, we fill the gap. When do you fill the gap for yourself?

It seems it is so easy to put ourselves at the bottom of the priority list. We give for our children, our spouses, our friends, our jobs, our churches, our schools.  There are so many needs and they are so pressing and urgent.  At times it can be a struggle to be enough. Compassion, like any muscle that is over-used, can tire and be stretched too far.  Compassion fatigue is the inability to continue to offer care at the level previously provided.  It is hard to continually offer compassion to others when we do not even offer it to ourselves.  When you reach the point where you cannot see your way to the bottom of your to-do list, does self-talk criticize that you reached your limit? Do you drive yourself to dig in and do yet more?  Self-compassion is the recognition of your own need for help and nurture and respite.

I think as Christians some may feel they are called to give selflessly and endlessly, but the Bible models for us self-compassion and self-care even in the midst of caring for others. In Matthew 14, John the Baptist was beheaded by King Herod, “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick” (Mat 14:13-14 NRS). Jesus tried to set aside time for himself, perhaps to mourn the death of his cousin, perhaps to move farther from the reach of Herod, perhaps to avoid crowds drawing attention to him. But the people have heard where he is going and they race there ahead of him.  His opportunity for respite turned into an opportunity for compassion and healing. When the evening came there was no food.  His disciples urged him to send the crowds away so they could get food in the local villages.  Instead, Jesus multiplied the five loaves of bread and the two fish and fed them all.

So where does the self-compassion and self-care come in?  Isn’t this an example of self-care gone wrong with life interrupting and taking away the chance for respite? Here is the rest of the story, “Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray” (Matthew 14:22-23 NRS). Though Jesus’ plan for respite was interrupted, but the end of the day he made the time for it.  He took care of the pressing needs of the crowd and the disciples and then sent them both away so that he could be alone to pray. Was this to recharge spiritually?  Did he rest while alone to recharge physically?  Did he grieve for John during his time of prayer, processing emotions of loss?  Scripture does not tell us. What we do know is that Jesus offered to himself the same compassion he offered to others.  Being both human and divine, he knew his human limit and made self-care a priority, even in the midst of tremendous pressure. It may be easy to think the needs of our families are just too much for us to take a break, but could the needs of our families really compare to the needs and expectations laid on Jesus?

Taking time for self-care does not mean we are weak nor selfish nor incapable.  It means we are human and the same need for compassion that we see in others is a need that we have too.

Let Us Listen (September 24, 2014)

Yes, once again internet woes have kept me incommunicado.  But we think (and pray) the problem is finally solved.  As I tried to tell the new internet service provider, it was a bad modem.  They finally agreed and replaced it.  But it got me thinking about communication, and how difficult it can be.

I have a friend who was born with a severe form of cerebral palsy.  Ne has needed help with feeding, bathing and dressing all his life.  He needs a wheelchair to get around, and someone to push it for him.  He needs help getting into and out of bed.  And, like Moses, he is slow of speech.  But despite these ways his body has betrayed him, he is incredibly intelligent and very well educated.

Despite these challenges that might defeat a lesser person, Dan has managed to serve on a disability board for the State of California, traveling around the state on a merciless schedule advocating for the rights of the physically and developmentally challenged.  He also arranged a bowling league for the physically and developmentally challenged in the town where I used to live, which I enjoyed tremendously.

I never knew I could bowl in a wheelchair until I met Dan.  Enter the ramp – a metal device on which you (or a helper) place your ball.  You (or your helper) aim the ramp in the direction you wish the ball to go, release the ball, and with any luck you knock down the pins!  In no time I was nearly as good a bowler as I had been as a young woman (but not nearly as good as Dan).

Because of his speech impediment, people treat Dan as less than able.  They become impatient waiting for him to complete a sentence and try to finish it for him, or they look to his attendant to conduct the entire conversation.  And I think how much they miss, and how much they hurt Dan.

At the beginning I was just as guilty.  At times I thought I was helping.  I had a friend who stuttered, and it took her telling me that I was not helping by finishing her sentences.  Those who stutter need time to complete their sentence.  Cutting them off to complete it for them cuts off their mental process.  Dan was in the same situation.  Once I learned that, communication was much easier.

Sometimes we think we’re all communicating on the same level, but we’re not.  There might be language barriers, or physical barriers, or emotional or mental barriers.  We need to take those into account, and listen more carefully before we say another word.  We need to give the other person an opportunity to finish what they are saying before we respond.  We need to digest what they’re really saying, and not what we think they’re saying.

A friend always used to say that’s why God gave us two ears but only one mouth.  In addition we have  a heart and mind with which to listen, and to gauge our actions and words.

This week let us all concentrate on being active listeners, enthusiastic listeners.  What we can learn from each other, and about each other, can be revelatory.

“. . . but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.”  Psalm 66:19

Dear God, We thank you that you give us a fresh opportunity ever day to reach out to each other in love and understanding.  Help us to listen with our hearts and minds as well as our ears.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

We Must Have Kindness (September 17, 2014)

Today a man at church thanked me for my advocacy of mobility access and sensitivity for those with hearing loss, but told me how difficult hymns and scripture passages speaking of “broken hearts” are for him.  He has a broken heart; that is, he has had heart surgery and lives with a heart that doesn’t work properly.

The same pain that greets me when I see lyrics equating “lame” with “shame,” two words I don’t allow in my vocabulary, assail him when he reads and hears about a broken heart.  He shared how he’s tried to talk to people about it, and he gets the same response many of us do:  “Oh, it’s just a figure of speech.  We’re talking about spiritual brokenness.”  That response usually comes from an able-bodied person.

I thanked my new friend profusely for opening my eyes to a new (to me) disability, and another new way of thinking.  I also told him about “Invisible Illness Week,” which I neglected to mention last week.  That brought up his second sorrow, the fact that he has a disabled parking placard, but receives unfriendly stares whenever he uses it because he appears perfectly healthy whenever he exits his vehicle.  No one knows that he can’t walk for more than four or five minutes without becoming physically exhausted.  A trip to the store is a trial.

Before my legs and back degenerated to the point where i needed my wheelchair, I often found myself in the same situation.  Sjogren’s Syndrome doesn’t show on the outside.  Asthma doesn’t show.  Diabetes doesn’t show.  The old joke, “But you look so good,” was a sad truth.  No one wanted to hear that you didn’t feel good, and certainly no one believed that you deserved that special parking place.

So what can we do to be kind to each other?  That is my question for each of us this week.  As my friend Dan always says, we can’t tell what someone else is going through until we have rolled a mile in their shoes.  How can we open our eyes, ears, minds and hearts?

Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart.  Psalm 119:34

Dear Creator God, Remind us that we each have challenges, and that sometimes these challenges are not easily made known to us.  Help us to be aware of the needs of those around us, and to help and accommodate those needs in all the ways we can.  In the name of your Son, our Healer and Savior.  Amen

We Are “This Close” (September 10, 2014)

Once again problems with my internet service have delayed my devotional.  I’m delighted to say that later this week we will be switching to another internet and telephone service provider and I hope these problems will disappear.

I have been thinking this past week about immunizations.  It started with a viewing of the “This Close” commercial produced by Rotary International in which international figures, including Bishop Desmond Tutu, Jackie Chan, Bill Gates, and others, hold their thumb and index figures and inch or so apart and declare “We are this close to ending polio.”

As Rotarians, my husband and I are very proud that the fight to end polio is nearing an end.  We believe it complements the United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria campaign quite nicely, and we are thrilled to fight two diseases which threaten the well-being of so many.

Polio cases have decreased 99% since 1998, from 350,000 reported cases to 406 reported cases in 2013 according to the World Health Organization.  But three countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria – are still endemic, and aid workers in Pakistan are being turned away because the Taliban is convinced immunizing children is a plot to harm or kill their children.  Consequently, children (and adults) are becoming infected with polio and the disease is spreading.  Workers have also been attacked in Nigeria.

According to the WHO, “as long as a single child remains infected with poliovirus, children in all countries are at risk of contracting the disease. The poliovirus can easily be imported into a polio-free country and can spread rapidly amongst unimmunized populations. Failure to eradicate polio could result in as many as 200 000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world. There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, can protect a child for life.”

Many people look at the failure of the Taliban to allow aid workers to allow children to be vaccinated against polio as the backward act of an ignorant or superstitious people.  But we have a similar crisis here in the United States, where many parents are refusing to immunize their children against common childhood diseases like measles.  There is a prevalent misconception, soundly refuted, that immunizations, cause autism.  Tragically, people are exposing their children to diseases that can cause serious harm to their children based on the irrational belief that they are averting a neurodevelopmental disorder.

Most parents today aren’t old enough today to have seen a person who was touched by polio, in even its mildest form.  Measles, mumps, and chicken pox can have dire complications in children, including pneumonia, meningitis, hearing loss, sepsis, and encephalitis.  In adults complications can be even worse.  I have a friend who spent six months in the hospital paralyzed from the neck down after he was exposed to chicken pox as an adult.  He later regained use of his shoulders, arms and hands, but his life was changed forever.

Today I plead with each of you to encourage your congregations, your friends, your families, your acquaintances, to make sure their children have their recommended childhood immunizations.  It is a kindness to their own children, to the children around them, and to themselves.

We thank you, O Lord, for the gift of medicine and healing.  We thank you for the wisdom of doctors, and the gift of preventive medicine, and we ask for the faith and confidence to use those gifts wisely.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.