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Peace! Be Still!

 

Candle-flame-and-reflection

“My desire to be informed is currently at odds with my desire to stay sane.”

This funny quote from David Sipress posted by a friend rings true. The evening news seemingly becomes more distressing day by day. When we already feel pushed to the breaking point by busy schedules and demands of caring for family members with exceptional needs, there is little reserve left to cope with added distress. This second week of Advent we celebrate the light of peace, yet peace can be hard to find within our world and within ourselves.

The irony does not escape me that as I was gathering my thoughts to write about peace, my newsfeed was filled with the story of yet another mass shooting. I was setting aside time to write about peace and instead found myself writing about more senseless death.

We cannot isolate ourselves away from the world, yet we can still cultivate peace. Peace within and peace without. Cultivating peace is an important part of the “desire to stay sane” written of by Sipress. We cultivate peace outside of ourselves by engaging peacefully with others, building relationships and displaying kindness to others. It can be as simple as helping someone in a small way. Anything that reduces turmoil ushers in peace.

When Jesus was traveling crossing the Sea of Galilee, he fell asleep and a storm erupted and threatened to sink the boat. When his disciples awakened him, the chaos ceased at his words, “Peace! Be still!”

At times our lives feel like that boat tossed about on the sea. We, too, need a break from chaos to find that quiet center. We, too, can say to the chaos around us, “Peace! Be still!” and claim for ourselves the peace that Christ offers. How do we do that? We can start by taking a short break for quiet meditation. It is an easy pathway to at least a moment of inner peace. When you have a few moments to be quiet and still, sit comfortably, take a few cleansing breaths and read what follows. Engage your senses in the experience of the moment.

Picture yourself lying on a grassy hillside under a night sky.  It is early winter and there is a chill in the air, but you are warm, wrapped in a thick garment with soft layers underneath. Heavy leather boots keep your feet dry and warm, and the weight of them tips your toes outward to the right and left. Your hands are deep inside your pockets, your fingers curled against the soft fabric. The air is just cold enough that the tip of your nose is cool and your cheeks have a rosy flush. There is a soft breeze that rustles the dried grass on the hillside and carries the scent of wood smoke from a hearth in the nearby village. The thick grass underneath you makes a soft pallet that your body has warmed from your lying there. Through the grass, you can feel the solid ground underneath, supporting your body, gently sloping, inviting you to relax your weight fully as you look overhead into the darkness. The evening breeze has blown away all traces of clouds and the night sky sparkles above you, full of wonder and possibilities.

The moon and the stars give just enough light that you can see across the hillside and down to the village and you know that you are safe.  A subtle movement nearby draws your attention and you turn your head, propping up on one elbow to see your flock. A brief count reassures you that they are all there, lying down in the grass with you. They are safe and at peace, gathered close to share their warmth and sleeping because they know they can trust you to keep watch. You look around the hillside and all is well, no movement save for the swaying of the grass.  You settle back once more and turn your attention back to the stars.  They are so bright tonight and you can see them so clearly. You start counting them, just as you do every night. It fills your time on long, silent nights of keeping watch and you have come to know the night sky very well.

But on this night you notice a new star.  It is big and, and it shines directly above you, a beacon. You wonder where it came from, this new star that appeared so suddenly. What does it mean? It must be a sign of some kind. It is so bright, even in its silence you feel it calling you from the night sky. Even as you wonder what it means, somehow when you look at that star you feel a sense of peace, deep and still, and you know that it is a gift.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NRS)

God of Peace, bring your peace to the world that longs for reprieve. Where there is violence, let there be peace. Where there is worry and anxiety, let there be peace. Where there is a sense of “There is too much to do and I am never enough” let there be the peace of completeness and satisfaction. In our hearts, in our minds, in our souls, and in our world, let us embrace your message, “Peace. Be still.” Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Image Candle and Flame Reflection by Richard W.M. Jones (Self-photographed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The New Normal?

Burning Candle by Sommai

I recall when my father had terminal cancer I would fly out to see him each month. His abilities changed a bit each time when I saw him. There was a constant adjustment to the “new normal,” yet we all longed for a different “normal” than the cards we had been dealt.   My heart hurts today at the news of yet another mass shooting. Somehow this sort of news has become the “new normal” in our nation. Again, I find myself wishing for a very different “normal” from what plays out on the news each day.

The shooting in San Bernardino hits especially close to home because, according to a colleague in disability ministry who lives very close to the epicenter of violence, the office building is mostly for social workers who provide services to individuals with developmental disabilities. When the story broke, my first thought was that the assailants had opened fire directly upon the most vulnerable members of our society. My corrected understanding is little changed from that initial reaction. Death and devastation of innocence is unconscionable in all circumstances. No one, regardless of physical ability, can outrun a bullet.

Thinking of the light of hope that we celebrate this week during Advent, I look forward to a time when the events of San Bernardino, and Sandy Hook, and hundreds upon hundreds of other locations this year alone, are no longer our normal. I pray for it to be so.

What is the purpose of prayer in the midst of such violence? I begin each day with prayer and take a mid-afternoon break to visit the prayer garden at my office. In prayer I share my thoughts with God, become more centered in God’s presence, and then renew my daily efforts in providing social justice and offering hope for families raising children with special needs.  Prayer serves a purpose.  Prayer creates peace and centerdness, and it is also creates action. Prayer is how we communicate with God so that we are listening when God points out to us the way forward. It is then up to us to put our feet on that path one step at a time.

I do not know how our nation got so off track, nor do I care to engage in political finger pointing. That is not helpful.  What I do know is this. Daily mass shootings are not God’s plan. God is lighting a different path and I pray for us to follow it. As a pastor in disability ministry, what action can I take to make a difference?  I can offer words of hope to prompt us to that path.  The Gospel of John tells us, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.” (John 1:5) Darkness cannot win. The Advent wreath lit this week with the candle of hope reminds us that it is so.

Healing God, provide comfort and healing to those directly affected in San Bernardino. Provide peace for those in fear. Light a path forward that leads us from this place of violence and into living as the people you have called us to be. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Image Burning Candle by Sommai courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.com

Put on Some Red Lipstick and Face the World

Candle-flame-and-reflection

Waiting was never my strong suit as a child. Brightly wrapped packages appeared under the Christmas tree sporadically throughout December. I would flop on the floor by the tree each morning. Shaking the packages, I would ask my Mom, “What did Santa bring?” She always replied with a smile, “Time will tell.”

Nothing makes time go more slowly than when you are waiting for something with great anticipation.

December may feel like the season of hurry, but it is meant to be the season of waiting and anticipation. Advent celebrates the time of waiting for the Christ child. Waiting with the keen sense of urgent anticipation like I had as a child, yearning for all of the answers to be revealed.

I thought I had outgrown that keen sense of yearning, but then I became a mother of a child on the autism spectrum. I found a whole different level of yearning for all of the answers to be revealed as I contemplated an unknown future.  I experience that daily with the parents in my support groups. “When will he …?” “How can I help her …?” “What if they…?” We yearn for answers to calm our fears. The unknown is so much more frightening than the known. Just give it a name, please.

How are we meant to wait? We are meant to wait with hope.  The Apostle Paul wrote the Romans, “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-25 NRS)

Long with hope and wait with patience. I tell that to my inner child who still eagerly shakes the metaphorical package and asks, “Why can’t you just tell me now?” At times Paul’s advice is easier said than done.

Today as I collected prayer concerns from parents after a group meeting one mom shared an update.  We’d been praying for her son to conquer four words. After many weeks her therapist offered a possible new diagnosis, apraxia. A real kick in the gut. We all shared her tears and felt her sense of anxiety about an unknown future.

Ultimately, it was her Mom who gave the best advice of all long distance from the UK. How can a mother maintain hope and wait with patience? “Put on some red lipstick and go face the world!”

There are days that are tough, days with news that takes our breath away, days for Kleenex after Kleenex. But all of those days can be defeated by hope. One of my favorite hymns that celebrates the birth of Christ praises what God has done, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” There is hope in Christ in all things, in life, and in death, and even in apraxia. And so while I wait, longing with hope, I am digging through my desk drawer looking for that red lipstick.

God of Hope, thank you for the gift of Christ that fills us with hope. Rekindle the true spirit of the season to help us calm that inner voice of fear and anxiety and instead wait with patience for the glorious future you will one day reveal. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Image Candle and Flame Reflection by Richard W.M. Jones (Self-photographed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I Can and I Will!

Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us… (Hebrews 12:1 NRS)

Family hikingA few months ago I introduced my readers to Elizabeth Elder and how her journey of self-discovery and acceptance in the midst of raising kids with special needs inspired her to run a marathon.  You can read that original post by clicking here to learn more about Elizabeth’s story.

After just a few months of training in the heat and humidity of a record-breaking Houston summer, this Sunday, November 1 Elizabeth will tackle the NYC Marathon in honor of her children Blaire and Annabelle. She is also raising awareness and funds for Achilles International, an organization that enables people of all ages with disabilities to participate in athletic events.   Here is the latest from Elizabeth:

Hard to believe, but the countdown is officially on…. 4 days until I cross the finish line in NYC! First of all, I just want to thank all of you for your support and words of encouragement. I can’t tell you how much that has fueled me throughout my training! I recently ran my peak run of 23 miles and felt great! I am feeling confident and able to now focus on the last minute (fabulous) details!


As you may recall, I originally pledged $3,000, but because of YOU, we blew right past that and now have $16,000 on the horizon!!! OMGGM (Oh my goodness grateful me)! Now for the fun part, you know I can’t resist adding a little extra flair! During my training, I relied so much on what became my mantra “I CAN and I WILL” that I decided it would be neat to have the words “I CAN” on the top of my left hand and the words “I WILL” on the top of my right hand so I could have my own little inspirational words right there when I needed them. Only problem is even a brand new black sharpie wouldn’t outlive 5 hours of blood (hope not), sweat, and tears of joy. So I needed tattoos (take a breath, Mom. They’re temporary). Long story short, I now have 500 sets of “I CAN” and “I WILL.” 

I Can and I WillWhat to do with 500 sets of tattoos? I’m giving them to other Achilles athletes and supporters to wear with me on November 1st. Arms crossed over the chest is an international symbol of love. It’s also how Annabelle and Blair first learned to say “I Love You.” With tattoos in place, and arms crossed, we can share the lesson I have learned…. Say “I CAN” and you inspire yourself. Say “I WILL” and you inspire others.

Once again, thank you for being in my corner. My family is truly blessed to have such an amazing, strong, beautiful group of people cheering us on!

I and a group of courageous moms from Elizabeth’s Tuesday morning parent connection will be sporting our “I can” and “I will” tattoos on Sunday while we use technology to track Elizabeth on her 26.2 mile journey. If you want to track her progress along with us, here is a link explaining how you can download the NYC Marathon runner tracking app.

I hope my readers will join me in wishing her well and prayers for a successful journey, both physically and emotionally. You can learn more about Achilles International, a charity for children with disabilities and war veterans, here: Achilles International

Enduring God, Bless Elizabeth and the whole Elder family on their journey. For Elizabeth, and all parents running their own personal marathon with special needs, offer your strength when there is fatigue, guidance when the way is unclear, and hope in all things. We can and we will, because through you all things are possible. Amen

Review: Every Child Welcome

Philo Weatherbee

Last week I shared with my readers an interview with Jolene Philo, co-author with Katie Wetherbee of the new book Every Child Welcome: A Ministry Handbook for Including Kids with Special Needs. This truly is a wonderful new resource for any children’s ministry team that wants to create an inclusive welcome to families with special needs, while at the same time equipping ministry leaders to be confident in their ability open the doors to all of God’s children.

Like expert guides, Jolene Philo and Katie Wetherbee gently lead the reader along the pathway to creating an inclusive ministry for children. From casting a vision for ministry all the way down to detailed strategies in the classroom, Every Child Welcome sets out a clear and easy to follow process for staff and volunteers alike.  The writing is clear, accessible and engaging with years of expertise in the field apparent on every page.  Any church with a goal to welcome all children and their families will be blessed by the abundance of wisdom contained within the pages.

Set in the metaphor of receiving guests for a dinner party, the authors create a comprehensive plan for welcoming children. Just as any good meal begins with planning and preparation, so too does creating an inclusive children’s ministry. Step by step, staff and volunteers are prepared with thoughtful consideration of how best to receive children by creating welcoming space and activities. With a clear understanding that not every volunteer has a background in special education, nor even in teaching, Philo and Wetherbee provide practical advice that is clear and concise. Their suggestions are both creative and adaptable to a variety of settings. This is a “go to” resource that I imagine children’s ministry teams referring to again and again.

Chapter topics include all parts needed for an inclusive welcome: preparing the space, preparing the children to learn, teaching the Bible, activities to enhance learning, ideas for holidays, and more. In addition to offering multiple strategies in each chapter, there are also suggested resources for children’s ministry teams who want to learn more. Readers can also connect to the author’s blogs for ongoing articles and tips on creating an inclusive ministry.

In other news…

I recently shared the story of Elizabeth who is new to long distance running and training to run the New York City Marathon this November.  I’m happy to let you know training is going well and she has already conquered a 16 mile long-run in the sweltering Houston heat and humidity. She is on target to be ready to cover 26.2 in November.  Also, she has already raised over $7,000 for Achilles International in honor of her children. And, I saved the best for last, her children with a rare genetic mitochondrial disorder are responding well to their new treatment and reaching new devlopmental milestones that used to seem impossible.  You can read more about Elizabeth’s inspiring story here: http://bit.ly/1I5odhg.

Gracious God, thank you for the gift of Jolene and Katie who inspire and equip others to reach out to families with special needs.  Guide ministry leaders to encourage their teams to create ways to include all children who come to be taught by them and to know you. Continue to guide and bless Elizabeth and her whole family on their journey of self-discovery of new abilities being revealed every member of the household. Amen

Blessings,

Rev Doc Lorna

But I Don’t Want to Run a Marathon!

“Exercising In The Park” by mapichai from FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1(b) NRS)

“But I don’t want to run a marathon!”

I think every parent of a child with special needs has received the pep talk, “This isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.  Pace yourself.”

This is great advice for all of us who are caregivers to children who have extraordinary needs. Pay attention to how you care for yourself, how you spread your energy, so that you don’t burn out and you have enough in the tank for the long road ahead. But what if running a marathon was never your goal? What if your personal road to acceptance means literally have running 26.2 miles?

Special needs parent Elizabeth Elder joined one of my support groups and shared her inspiring story:

My husband, James, and I have two beautiful children, a four year old daughter, Annabelle, and a three year old son, Blair. Both of our children were recently diagnosed with a rare mitochondrial disorder that has caused significant developmental delays and mobility challenges. Although we believe they will eventually walk and hopefully run someday, they can’t right now. In fact, they work very hard to sit up on their own. But what they lack in strength, they make up in determination, while flashing the most infectious smiles!

Frankly, running a full marathon has never interested me. Until one day about five months ago… I was having a difficult day and my dear husband gave me a pep talk. Having run the New York City marathon himself in 2009, James likened our challenge to running the marathon. He explained how our situation is not like a sprint. We can’t just give it our all with the comfort of knowing it will quickly be over. Instead, we have to follow our kids’ lead and give it our all, day after day, knowing that we have a long road ahead of us. To that, I responded, “but I don’t want to run a marathon!”

The next day I was actually on a run when I had a great epiphany: I CAN run a marathon and I WILL! From that moment, I accepted the road we are on and decided to use my strength to embrace what I have: an able body and two disabled children. Running a marathon is a huge personal achievement for anyone. However for me, running the NYC marathon is about overcoming challenges and proving that perseverance wins.

So on November 1st, I can and I will give it everything I have in honor of Annabelle and Blair and every other determined soul who doesn’t let their disabled body stop them from their own marathon.

Elizabeth has taken on training for the NYC Marathon in order to raise awareness and funds for Achilles International.  So far, friends and family has helped her raise over $7,000, far exceeding her original goal.  I hope my readers will join me in wishing her well and prayers for a successful journey, both physically and emotionally. You can learn more about Achilles International, a charity for children with disabilities and war veterans, here: Achilles International

Family hiking

Supporting God, Help each of us run with perseverance the task set before us. The fact that it is hard at times reminds us that we need you.  We lift up Elizabeth in her goal for NYC and pray blessings on her journey of self-discovery. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

“Exercising In The Park” by mapichai from FreeDigitalPhotos.Net.jpg

Need Project Interview

Need Project Logo

Last week I had the opportunity to talk to Bob West at Need Project, an organization devoted to supporting families with special needs children and adults.  Their mission: healthy families and healthy children through the creation of pracitcal resources and support for parents of special needs children.

Bob heard about my new book, Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving, coming out March 2015 and interviewed me for thier monthly podcast. Click the link below to hear the full interview:

Need Project Interview

A Bag of Leaves and 13.1 Miles: Piece of Cake!

1024px-Leaf_rake_and_leaves

“Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1 NRSV)

Leaves drop late here in Texas and raking under the red oak on my front lawn is a regular Saturday activity for me lately.  Recently my neighbor called to me from across the street as I worked, “Lorna, did you run that half marathon downtown today?”

Rake. Rake. Rake. “Yes.”

“And you are out here raking leaves?”

Rake. Rake. Rake. “Seems like as good a time as any.”

“Aren’t you tired?”

Rake. Rake. Rake. “Kind of, but it needs to be done.”

Shaking his head as he walks away, “I wish I could find that motivation.”

Running 13.1 miles and raking a bag of leaves isn’t hard.  Coping with autism induced emotional meltdowns in public, now that is hard.  Teaching handwriting to a child with dysgraphia, now that is hard. Getting wheelchairs in and out of stores, now that is hard. Facing a long summer without a single playdate or birthday invitation, now that is hard. Enduring the unwelcome stares of strangers, now that is hard.

As parents, of course we get tired.  Yet we find the motivation because it needs to be done.  In comparison, a bag of leaves and 13.1 miles is a piece of cake!

Enduring God, Give us strength when we are tired, motivation when we want to stop, and hope in you in all things. Amen

Photo: By David Goehring (Flickr: Fall Labors) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I Have A Dream, Too

Martin_Luther_King_-_March_on_Washington

Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.(Joel 2:28 NRS)

Four iconic words ring the air today. They are woven into the fabric of our nation even as they help us celebrate the life, vision and ministry of a man gone too soon.

“I have a dream …”

Standing up for justice and creating social change is hard.  It takes vision and determination. It takes breaking down walls and stereotypes and creating in their place dialogue and relationships. It takes embracing a dream and working diligently with others to make it a reality. It also takes time. Lots of time.

Thinking of Dr. King, he has inspired a nation and set in motion a movement that continues beyond his years.  He alsp left as his legacy a model for change.

Listening to his speech once more makes me realize that I have a dream, too.

I have a dream that all children, on or off the spectrum, with or without a genetic difference, with or without typical body, will have friends. I have a dream that bullying will end and understanding will take its place. I have a dream that child and adult alike will be accommodated for their differences out of a sense of equality and compassion. I have a dream that everyone who wants to be part of a church will find ministries ready to receive them.  I have a dream that no parent will feel alone on the journey with special needs.  I have a dream that all families, whatever their shape and size, will grow in resilience rather than being torn apart by disability. I have a dream that communities full of understanding will offer refuge, hope and healing for the heart and soul.

My dream keeps me up late at night and prompts me out of bed early in the morning. My dream makes “good enough” not an option. My dream leaves me exhausted and stretched too thin at times, but filled with joy and hope as well. My dream connects me with others who share my vision for social change in the area of special needs and work toward it diligently. My dream keeps me grounded in God’s path for me and guides what I do every day.

I will never be the leader Dr. King was, but he inspires me with what is possible. I too have a role to play in making the collective dreams of many families living with disability become reality. We all do.

When you dream of the future, what do you see?  How are you helping that dream come a step closer day by day?

God of our visions, thank you for directing us to better live as your people. Help us to always strive for your justice. Create for us a dream for the world as you would have it and inspire us to follow your vision. Amen.

 

“Martin Luther King – March on Washington” by Unknown? – This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the ARC Identifier (National Archives Identifier) 542069. Public Domain.

Please Hear Me

In honor of veterans today I want to share this blog once more.

On this veterans day I am thankful for those who serve and pray for peace.

Special Needs Parenting

Bend down, O LORD, and hear my prayer; answer me, for I need your help. Protect me, for I am devoted to you. Save me, for I serve you and trust you. You are my God. Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am calling on you constantly. Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to you. (Psalms 86:1-4 NLT)

My husband and I have the good fortune of commuting together and we enjoy listening to TED Talks to fill the time in the carpool on mornings when the caffeine has not yet gotten on board to create energy for conversations. Recently we heard Afghan war veteran Wes Moore talking about the experiences of veterans returning from war. He said he used to say to soldiers, “Thank you for your service,” because he thought it sounded right. He heard others saying it and so he did too.  He came…

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