Thursday, March 31, 2011

If...Then in 1 John

If ... Then in 1 John
Wow, this was really cool. I love the If - Then's of 1 John. They have always jumped out at me. Read them.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Functional Universalism

I just saw this video.  It is amazing how easy it is to proclaim the truth of the Gospel without ever really considering its effects on how we live our lives.  Do we really believe that we need to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in order for men and women to be saved? Do we really believe that HELL is a real place? When have you shared the Gospel last? What are you doing to spread the Good News?

Take a moment to watch this challenging video.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

People Need the Lord

When our family sang "People Need the Lord" a few weeks ago in church (see, we had the special recorded.  Since then, I decided to take the recording and put it to a video of pictures from the last two missions trips that Tim and I have taken - one in Togo and Ghana, West Africa, and the other in Asia Minor.

Joshua, our 6 year old (who has Asperger's Syndrome), absolutely loves this song (well, so does David, for that matter).  As you will hear in the recording, Josh likes to sing right into the microphone.  We kept pulling him back during the song, and he kept moving closer.  I personally think that it's awesome that he would be willing to stand up in front of people for one, and then so jubilantly sing his praises to the Lord!

May the Lord use the message of the song and the pictures of people to burden your hearts for the lives of those around you and abroad!  What are you doing to share the Gospel to the lost?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Life of Spring

Once again, God brought my attention to Isaiah 61 (see Renewing the World post for previous thoughts)  through a completely different and unexpected way yesterday. This time, God opened my eyes to the richness of verse 11.

Isaiah 61:11 ~ For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.

What an awesome truth to meditate on! I have been absolutely LOVING watching life spring up in my flower gardens as well as my vegetable garden. With each green and vibrant leaf that unfurls itself, I am reminded of God’s incredible design in nature. No matter how dead plants may seem during the dreariness of the winter, life is renewed and springs forth once again after a season as Spring awakens a new life cycle. Plant life can resemble our spiritual lives many times. Just when our spiritual life may seem its bleakest, God’s work, many times unnoticed by us, awakens our heart and brings new life and growth of "Spring" (in a spiritual sense).

As I anticipate our trip to Bulgaria in search of the ministry that God has planned for our family, I am frequently thinking about the dark and dreary world of lost souls we live in. Bulgaria is a hurting country left with hearts that are bitter and untrusting from the marks of Communism that it was just released from in 1989. According to the 2010 Operation World data, only 1.9% of the population is Evangelical Christian. However, despite the darkness, God is miraculously working in the hearts of the Bulgarian people, and new growth is being seen all over the country. Just like the earth brings forth its sprouts, God is causing righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations, including Bulgaria. After a long and hard winter, Spring has come, and souls are being saved! God is at work in the hearts of His chosen people, and I am blessed to witness this new life and be a part of it!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ministering to those with Special Needs - Part 4

My heart has been so full the past several weeks with a desire to love and minister to those with special needs (as if you couldn’t tell by my series of posts regarding special needs :-) -- <See all posts in this Special Needs 4-Part Series>). The more I dwell on this, the bigger my dreams get.

As serving God in Bulgaria becomes more of a reality, I often think about the children and families there who are affected by autism (I’ve been told that Bulgaria has the highest incidence of autism in all of Eastern Europe). I wonder about how I could reach out and show them the love of Christ. In searching my autism resources online or talking with people, I discover ministries and ways to do just this. I have been told of a man who started an autism school in India touching the lives of so many there, including impacting the president of India himself. I just learned today of a ministry in Indiana that just opened up an orphanage for special needs children in Uganda (, where those with special needs are considered “cursed.” I don’t know if I could do anything as grand, but I pray that God could use me in my everyday life at least. I understand the loneliness, the struggles, the disdain and misjudgments of others. I know what it feels like to long to talk to someone who understands me and my child. I pray that God can lead me to people who feel just like me, and through our common connection, I would then have the opportunity to share the Gospel. Without Christ, the hardships of caring for a special needs child can be overwhelming. Many days, it’s only God’s grace that sustains me and brings me to the end of another day or allows me to have the strength and courage to wake up and begin another day. My heart hurts for those who go through life without knowing the comfort of God’s grace that sustains and peace that surpasses all understanding.

These thoughts then lead me to the here and now. In the Pottstown region alone, there are many families affected by autism. I hear story after story from Josh’s behavior specialist. In doing my own research or using the resources given me by the behavior specialist, I have realized that there are not too many connections in our area for parents to commiserate or get kids together for a play date. I have been thinking about how I could reach out to the community wondering if I should start an autism play group or a parents of autistic children support group. Doing something would be better than nothing. I then think about the church and how the church body could be ministering to these families and wonder how to incorporate my own dreams into a ministry outwork of our church. It’s a perfect way to demonstrate the love of Christ.

After all, I overheard one mother talking to another at my son’s special Olympics swim class telling her that she takes her son to particular church just because there is a ministry just for kids like him, and she feels it’s a good outlet for him. What a great way to open the door for the Gospel to be proclaimed! Our denomination has a special needs ministry and is training churches to minister to these special groups of people ( I am so excited about this work and have been in contact with the director multiple times. I am looking forward to meeting her in person this weekend. I pray that other churches will be burdened to take on this ministry to be a blessing in their own communities.

As my mind rapidly swirls in thoughts and dreams regarding the potential to minister, I pray that God would keep my heart open and receptive to the ministry opportunities He brings me daily and that He would burden the hearts of others to love these special children and adults and their families.

Joshua and David enjoy one of the many cool sensory activities at the Special Needs Class at the Spring Valley YMCA.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ministering to those with Special Needs - Part 3

<See all posts in this Special Needs 4-Part Series>

How to minister to the caregivers of those with special needs:

  • Provide a meal during a difficult time or just because - I never realized how exhausting caring for a special needs child can be.  As I said in my previous post, it can be draining!  Many times, after a rough battle with Josh and his anxiety-induced behavior issues, the last thing I want to do is scramble to throw together a last minute dinner.  There have also been times where I really should have taken more time to process an event with Josh to help him better understand what the problem was in a given situation, but having to care for the rest of the family caused me to stop short and lose the great teaching moment.  It's a hard balance.  There have been times when I have been ministered to by dear friends who have provided a meal for various reasons.  Each time, even if I feel awkward in even accepting the meal, I am so grateful for their kindness.  Not having to prepare just one meal makes my life a little easier.  If you know a special needs family, perhaps you should attempt to make a meal for them even this week to be a blessing - just because!  Call them up and tell them you will be bringing by a meal on a specific day unless another day would be better.  If they are anything like me, they will try to decline, but don't back down.  Take the opportunity to tell them that God has laid them on your heart this week, and you want to be a blessing to them in this way.
  • Offer to watch/care for the special needs person so that they can get out and run errands or get a much needed sanity break!  Warning:  If you do this, don't complain about petty behaviors to them afterward making them feel guilty for leaving their child with you in the first place!  Accept the challenges that come with the favor and better learn how to pray for these caregivers!  
  • Offer to do something special with the siblings of a special needs child.  Oftentimes, the siblings get unintentionally neglected because of all of the time and energy that goes into caring for a special needs child.  Also, sometimes the siblings just feel left out because their special needs sibling gets to do "special & fun" things for special needs kids, and they get left out.
  • Offer your services to the caregivers - offer to go pick up groceries, clean the house, do dishes, etc.  These will be a true blessing to the caregivers who often don't have time to stay on top of these duties or not have the energy to do them.
  • PRAY!!!!!!!!!  These caregivers need all of the prayer they can get!  Take the time to pray for them on a daily basis that they would have the grace and strength for each day and find ways to care for themselves.  Pray that they would not become weary in well-doing and find joy in their service for the Lord.
Caregivers often feel all alone in the world.  Surround them with love and friendship and help them know the comforts of God's love and care!  Build them up and strengthen them!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ministering to those with Special Needs - Part 2

<See all posts in this Special Needs 4-Part Series>

How can we minister to those with special needs and those who care for them and how can we do it so that they can see the love of Christ?  My mind has been spinning in countless directions thinking about this concept.  I've finally decided I need to organize my thoughts into groups, so here goes nothing!

Reaching those with special needs around me:
  • Get to know those with special needs - talk to them, treat them like normal people, let them know through your conversation with them that you are interested in what they have to say and that you care about them as a person.  It is so easy to feel awkward around these people and be at a loss to say.  The temptation to look the other way and keep walking is great.  Put yourself out there and make an effort to stop and be a ministry just like the Good Samaritan did when he saw the beaten man on the street.  Even if you make a fool of yourself, most likely, that special needs person is VERY forgiving and is simply touched you stopped to acknowledge him/her to even realize the errors in your attempt to converse.
  • Smile often and give compliments.  Hugs are great too, if appropriate.
  • If the special needs child is a child, set up play dates with your children - help your child(ren) to embrace those with special needs and learn that they are the same inside.
  • Again, if you are dealing with a child, get on their level and PLAY with them!  Make them feel important and loved.
Thoughts of how this idea can be carried out cross-culturally:
  • The need to feel loved and acknowledged is pretty much universal!  The above techniques work for any culture!  Love and compassion is the key!  Jesus realized this and acted it out in the various kinds of people from various cultures that He ministered to during his earthly ministry! 

Next, I will discuss ways to minister to those who care for those with special needs, which I believe is just as important!
Josh and even David love going to the Special Needs Play Class at the Spring Valley YMCA - a great opportunity to play, have fun, get sensory stimulation, and make new friends

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ministering to those with Special Needs - Part 1

<See all posts in this Special Needs 4-Part Series>

Never in a million years did I ever dream of raising a special needs child of my own, but God called me to the amazing task and gave me the gift of Joshua Caleb.  My eyes have been truly open to the challenges parents and caregivers face taking care of a child with special needs.  With as difficult as it has been for me so far, I also recognize that I have it so much easier than most parents who have a special needs child because my child is considered "high-functioning."
On Joshua's 1st Christmas, we put him in one of his gift bags because he was our gift from God for that year.  Little did we know how special of a gift God had really given us.  We can't imagine life without him!

Ever since Joshua was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum disorder, I looked at this neurodevelopmental disorder as a challenge, a difficulty, a thwart to my plans for the mission field.  This diagnosis had a negative connotation in my mind.  However, God opened my eyes to the truth back in November 2010 during the MTW Missions conference when I was talking with a pastor who had led the seminar "Lord, Here am I, But What About my Children" I had just attended.   I was asking him about our specific family issues related to serving as missionaries.  When I told him about Josh's autism diagnosis, he laughed, catching me off-guard.  He then asked if we'd ever be interested in serving as missionaries in Bulgaria (the 3rd person to ask us that very question).  I asked why, and he responded, "Because Bulgaria has the highest incidence of autism in all of Eastern Europe, and they are behind the times in the therapies and services that the U.S. has.  Don't you think that when God called you to be a missionary when you were 11 that God called you knowing He was going to give you an autistic child?  Could it be that God is going to use you in a way He wouldn't have been able to use you otherwise because you have a child with autism?"

Those two questions revolutionized the way I thought.  In that moment, I was convicted of my lack of faith regarding the sovereignty of God (having an autistic child didn't catch God off-guard or thwart His plans) and my negative perspective of Josh's diagnosis.  Asperger's Syndrome is not a negative thing, but it's a GIFT!  God gave me the gift called Joshua for my good and His glory!  It's an honor and privilege to raise this loving child with his difficulties and his joys!  It's also very humbling that God would consider me worthy for the task not to mention call me to minister because of this gift He has blessed me with.

The more I understand and experience first-hand the world of special needs, the more my heart is challenged about ways to minister to this special group and those who love them and care for them.  Caring for these special people is a joy, but is not always easy.  Oftentimes, I find myself physically, emotionally, psychologically, and mentally exhausted, especially when Josh has been really struggling with anxiety issues related to change or the unknown which often leads to lack of focusing and staying on task and behavior issues.  I have gained a lot of insight about the needs of the caregivers of special needs people and now understand better how I can minister to them because of my own experience.  I also know the pains of feeling different and struggling to fit into a world that is very unforgiving because I've witnessed it through my own son's eyes.  These special people need to know the love of God.  God made them special because they are each equippede with special blessings that God has given to them for their good and His glory.  We need to surround them with God's love and enable them to glorify God through their lives and abilities.  I intentionally say "abilities" because what most call "disabilities" (giving a negative connotation) are actually "abilities" in other ways - a blind person can be gifted with acute hearing, a person who can't walk might be gifted with his hands; a child who is socially awkward as in Asperger's can be gifted with an amazing mind, etc).

Check back soon for a follow-up post of ways to minister to special needs individuals as well as their caregivers as I continue to explore ways God has called me to minister to these wonderful people.
One of Joshua's highlights of his week is his Special Olympics Swim Team practice.  He loves swimming, and it is wonderful therapy for him!