A Time to Rest (March 22, 2015)

This Lenten season seems to be my time in the wilderness.  I have been plagued with one illness after another, and I wonder why.  I have been weary, and I have felt empty.  It seems each time I have felt a little better, and taken a step forward, it seems I have been pushed two steps back.

For a time I was disconsolate.  Hopeless.  Why, I wondered, had God brought me to this place?  Why had I prepared for the ministry just to be cast aside?  Why did volunteering two mornings in a row at the school result in a week of illness?  Why did I have to be so fragile?

The answer came to me Sunday morning as I was sharing my frustration with a friend, one who readily understands because she lives with lupus.  After we commiserated over our loss of energy and direction, I picked up my hymnal and saw the red ribbon that marks a special place in that book, No. 607, A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition.  I purposely put the ribbon marker there because I prayed that prayer with my mentor when I started my candidacy, and I pray it every so often to remind myself of my commitment to God:

“I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine.

So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”

So I am just where God put me, idle for the time, and everything is as it should be.  It is my time to sit and be silent, perhaps to listen.  I have been here before, and good things have come from it.  Good things will come again.  I just have to remember that and be glad.

Perhaps this is happening to you, too, as it is to my friend.  Perhaps this time of Lent is a time for all of us to sit, and to listen.

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!  Psalm 27:14

Dear Comforter God:  How hard it is to wait.  We want to know what is to come, and we want to know now!  We want to be busy for you, and we find it so hard to be still.  Please help us to be patient.  Grant us the peace and the patience to wait upon you, to listen for your still, small voice.  Amen.

Will God Recognize Us? (March 15, 2015)

I’ve been thinking a lot about our bodies lately, about the human condition.  Partly because there is a new gym, Planet Fitness, opening with advertising stressing one needn’t be embarrassed to go there because it’s not “that kind of gym.”  You know, the kind with the buff bodies in the sexy gym clothes showing off the perfectly sculpted, muscular bodies.  Partly it’s the abundance of surgically enhanced bodies parading across the movie and television screens lately.

I worry about people who obsess over their bodies, much to the detriment of their minds and souls.  Yes our “bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit” 1 Corinthians 6:19, but they are not to be worshiped.  They are to be cared for and maintained to the best of our abilities.  Some of our temples are not as “perfect” as others in the eye of the world.  But they are perfect in the eyes of their maker.  And just like all living things, we age and we die.  That is the normal process.  And it got me thinking.

What if “disabled” were normal?  What if we’re supposed to go to Heaven bruised and battered and broken, and those of us with disabilities were ahead of the game?  What if showing up at Heaven’s door looking pretty much the way we did when we reached maturity was so abnormal that God didn’t know us?  Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.  Proverbs 16:31

I was very touched by an article Tim Vermande sent this past week about Jean Vanier winning the Templeton Prize.  A similar article appeared in my hometown paper, which pleased me.  Vanier has created communities where those with and without developmental disabilities live side by side.  He says those with intellectual disabilities have spiritual lessons and gifts to teach our success- and power-driven world:

“They are essentially people of the heart,” he said. “When they meet others they do not have a hidden agenda for power or for success. Their cry, their fundamental cry, is for a relationship, a meeting heart to heart. It is this meeting that awakens them, opens them up to life, and calls them forth to love in great simplicity, freedom and openness.

When those ingrained in a culture of winning and of individual success really meet them, and enter into friendship with them, something amazing and wonderful happens. They too are opened up to love and even to God. They are changed at a very deep level. They are transformed and become more fundamentally human.”*

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18:3 

Each time I looked at the photo of the young man with M. Vanier, I saw a face that knew God, that was a link to God.  What if this is how we need to approach God?  Less worldly, more childlike, more vulnerable?

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It is interesting that we refer to M. Vanier’s friends as “intellectually disabled,” but perhaps it is we who are disabled by an overabundance of worldly knowledge and a lack of trust in heavenly grace.

Dear Creator God, We thank you that we are part of your marvelous creation.  We yearn to be close to you, to hear you when you call us, to be ready to serve you when and where you need us.  We ache to understand how you can use us in our present condition, but trust that You know the directions you have mapped for our lives, and will guide our way, today and every day.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

*Timothy C. Morgan, Christianity Today, 3/11/2015

Making Preparations (March 8, 2015)

Perhaps it’s because I’m sick yet again.  Perhaps it was the fact my husband’s medicine is causing more heart episodes, not less.  Maybe it was because I had to make room in  the office file cabinet for this year’s receipts.  But I started thinking about final arrangements.  I made a list of insurance policies and what benefits are payable, and I’m making a list of my and my husband’s retirement funds and how to access them, and we’re preparing advance directives for medical care.

While this may sound ghoulish, I think these are things we all need to think about, and for which we must prepare.  The Bible speaks often of prudence, of being thoughtful and careful, of seeking wise choices.  “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.” Proverbs 14:8

It turned out my husband was having the same thoughts, and it was the first time we have ever sat down and talked about “those things” seriously.  But it felt good to clear the air, to take stock of where we are, and to know where we might be when it comes time to retire.

As people with disabilities, I think it’s particularly important.  I have no idea when or how Social Security kicks me off of SSDI and into retirement.  I’ll need to talk to someone to find out, and see what changes that entails.  I can’t find anything on their site, and it won’t give me a projected retirement benefit because I’m already receiving disability benefits.

We have no long term care insurance (nursing home or in-home care) and I admit it’s because I’m afraid I’m uninsurable.  And now that my husband has heart issues, we both might be in that group.  But my folks wound up in an assisted living facility.  Our local senior resource agency  is working on a “village” to keep seniors in their homes, and I hope it will be in place by the time we need it, but will we be able to pay for care to stay in our home?

These are tough, unpleasant questions, but they’re things with which we need to grapple.  Most of us aren’t fortunate to have family close by.  My son lives 12 hours away, and his career as a wildland firefighter means he’s gone for half the year.  My daughter and son-in-law live 1300 miles away and have taken on the responsibility of raising his young niece and nephew as well as their own two sons.  It’s up to us to find and maintain a support system.  It’s never to soon to start.

Dear Lord God, We thank you that so many doors are opening for this ministry.  Please open hearts and minds as well so that more and more of your children will feel welcome in your churches.  Thank you for all the people and organizations, from many faiths and traditions, who are working for this cause.  We ask that You continue to inspire and to strengthen them.  Keep us ever mindful of the blessings with which you bestow us, and help us to use them prudently.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen

I Moved a Truck! (March 1, 2015)

I did it.  I moved a truck!  No, I didn’t wish it away, or pick it up, or push it.  I used my voice, and my logic, the law, and my sense of justice and fair play

Yesterday I went to my credit union to conduct some business and there was a large truck parked perpendicular to the only handicapped parking space and cross-hatch loading area.  There was ample space in front of the other businesses in the mini strip mall, and across the parking lot, but the truck chose to park there because it was installing a new ATM.

I had to park across the parking lot, which is always dangerous, and was more so in this case because the truck was also blocking part of the access into the parking lot.  I try never to park away from the building which I am entering because I am not visible to drivers when I am in my chair, and Eureka has had at least two fatal accidents involving wheelchair users in the past year.

I spoke to the driver’s assistant, who apologized for taking the space, but said he couldn’t do anything.  The driver, who was in charge, said he “had to park there” because the machine was heavy.  I asked to see his placard or license plate giving him permission to park in a blue space, and then I started taking pictures.  He continued stating that he had the right to take that space, and I continued taking photos.

When I went into the credit union, I asked the teller if he had called the police department to report the illegal parking.  He had not.  At that point the branch manager came out, and I asked her the same question.  She had not called, either.  I explained the law to her, and why it was important to me.  Besides being a matter of law, it’s a matter of safety.  She went out and told the driver he would have to move the truck to free up the parking space.  Victory!

I am not one to confront people, at least not on my own behalf.  I am ready in a heartbeat to intercede on behalf of someone else, but for some reason I am silent when it comes to me.  So I thought this was a double victory.  I think those of us who need those blue parking spaces have seen similar abuses, and perhaps we have shrugged our shoulders and said, “Oh, well.”  Perhaps it’s time we all gird our loins and protest.  In my case, the business owner’s concern for a customer’s safety was the deciding factor.

Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.”  Proverbs 25:15

Dear Lord, Give us the courage to speak out for what is right, and the wisdom to use the right words.  Help us to know when to stand our ground, and when to compromise.  Thank you for the examples we find in Your living words, our holy scriptures.  Amen.