Tag Archives: Paul

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

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There Are Plenty of Things More Painful than a Root Canal

“Discourage Or Encourage Keys” by Stuart Miles

Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. (1Thessalonians 5:11 NRS)

Honestly, a root canal is no big deal. I had one 13 years ago, and then had it retreated on an emergency basis last week when that one failed.  All I experienced was relief, though there was one moment of great discomfort…

The doctor and his assistant kept a running conversation while I was in the chair, involving me at times with questions that could be answered by grunts and shrugs.

The assistant told of her two year-old daughter and her precocious language skills.  “We were at my son’s soccer game this weekend and my daughter was talking away.  She was talking in sentences early and has progressed to whole paragraphs. There was a dad near us who commented on what a good talker she is.  He pointed to his son, ‘This one is three and hasn’t said a thing.’ Then he hit the boy on the side of the head.”

It wasn’t long after that the doctor noticed a tear in the corner in my eye, “Are we hurting you?”

Yes, but not in the way you think.

My heart still aches for the young boy with a speech delay and a parent who is a bully. Is he receiving early intervention for his delay? I doubt it.  I could be jumping to conclusions, but reading between the lines I see a parent’s ego tied up in his child’s abilities. When those abilities don’t match his standards – whack! That “playful” whack was painful enough.  I hope that he does not also receive ones that are harder when others aren’t around to see.

It is normal for a parent to feel grief for a child with differences, and part of the grief process is denial. Denial can be helpful in some ways.  It guards us from what we cannot yet process and accept.  We are, however, not meant to dwell in the land of denial forever. It can be harmful to ourselves and those around us.

Maybe if that parent moved out of denial and into acceptance the conversation would have ended like this, “Your daughter is so inspiring.  My son is working hard to get some words. He has a great therapist. I know it will happen for him someday.” In my mind’s eye there is a hug in there too.

While finding the courage to face a diagnosis can be painful, it opens the door to become an encourager. A person who encourages also empowers. The Apostle Paul set an impressive example in encouraging.  Paul writes again and again to his churches, offering to “strengthen and encourage” them. Variations on the word “encourage” appear thirty times within Paul’s letters and the story of his ministry in Acts. He wrote to people being persecuted.  He wrote to people who mourned the loss of loved ones.  He wrote to people trying to follow the spirit of the Jesus’ teachings, but getting it wrong at times. If needed, Paul would admonish and correct, but he always followed up with encouragement. He went back to his churches and visited in person, or sent his friends, so that others wouldn’t feel alone in their struggles.

In part because of encouragement offered to the early followers, a rag tag band of persecuted people persisted and overcame hardship in order to share the good news of Christ. Encouragement empowered them to live up to their potential.  A little encouragement changed the world for the better.

And so, too, can it change the life of a child.

Encouraging God, I thank you for the parents who encourage their children in all things. I pray for the children who need an encourager and ask you to send your messengers with words of hope and understanding. Tear open the veil of denial and create a pathway to acceptance. Amen

Image “Discourage or Encourage Keys” by Stuart Miles curtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

ID-10087368

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. What do I love about it?  It’s a holiday without a big fuss. Okay, there is a meal, but I enjoy cooking and the day really isn’t about the turkey and whether or not it’s dry. What I like is that Thanksgiving doesn’t come with expectations. If I drop a card in the mail to a friend or give a small gift to someone I am thankful for, in the month of November that is just a thoughtful gesture. Come December, the bar gets raised substantially on that whole card-sending, gift-giving thing.

Thanksgiving Day itself is about simply sharing a good meal with family and friends. It brings back childhood memories of a houseful of people at grandma’s, sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor with my cousins, putting pitted black olives from the relish tray on my fingers like little puppets and savoring the salty brine as I ate them one by one.

Mainly, Thanksgiving is about thanking God for an abundance of blessings. Thanksgiving is simple and beautiful from start to finish when I focus is on what is important.

One day of thanksgiving isn’t nearly enough. For the past several years I have celebrated Thirty Days of Thanksgiving and write down every day in the month of November something for which I am thankful . Time and again I come back to my son. I am thankful for milestones that I thought would never come.  I am thankful for the sense of acceptance for the milestones that will never be. I am thankful for a sense of hope in a future that is yet to be revealed. I am thankful to be a parent to a remarkable young man who inspires me every day.

I am also thankful for other parents on the journey with me who encouraged me when I was unsure and who allow me to encourage them when they need it too. Years ago the Apostle Paul wrote to a dearly loved church in Philippi. This small group of followers encouraged each other and lifted each other up when they needed it. Paul opens his letter to them:

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you (Philippians 1:3-4 NRSV).

These were Paul’s people, the ones who had his back when times were hard, and the ones he encouraged and guided when they needed it too. These were Paul’s people and special needs parents are my people.

My thanksgiving today, and every day, is for parents who raise remarkable children and for the communities that surround them with unconditional love and support.

God of many blessings, I thank you for parents who are strong and parents in need of strength. I thank you for those who have wisdom and those who seek it. I thank you for those filled with hope and those who struggle. Woven together, parents strengthen each other. I thank you for the gift of community. Amen.

Image “Thank You on Post It Note” courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pick Anthony!

Hand Reach To Sky by samuiblue

The reason we never sit in the front row of a show is the inevitable request to the audience, “I’m looking for a volunteer.”

The reaction of virtually everyone was the same… Look away… Don’t make eye contact… Sit completely still and don’t appear that you can be separated from the herd…

Everyone except Anthony.  Anthony’s hand shot in the air with all the enthusiasm of Arnold Horshak on a re-run of Welcome Back Kotter. “Oh! Oh! Oh!”

I was sitting up in the balcony well out of the “accidental volunteer zone,” and it seemed everyone around me knew Anthony.

“Look at Anthony.”

“Anthony wants to volunteer.”

“I don’t think the juggler sees Anthony.”

Thus began the cheer from the cheap seats.  “Pick Anthony! Pick Anthony!”

I never actually met Anthony, but I knew of Anthony almost immediately when my husband and I took a recent fall New England cruise. Whether it was our fellow dinner companions, casual conversations in the gym, or chatting with fellow passengers on tours, it seemed everyone knew Anthony.

“Have you met Anthony yet? “

“No.”

“Oh, you will!”

I’m sure there are many things Anthony can’t do.  Frankly, I don’t care about those things. There are plenty of things I can’t do either so that just makes us even. A young adult in his mid-twenties, he was gregarious, friendly and everyone who talked about him thought he was great and had a funny story to tell. He sat in the front row at every show, always starting a standing ovation and blowing kisses to the dancers. Anthony was a unifier. Anthony was a cheerleader. Anthony was everyone’s friend. Our tablemates hung out with Anthony a good bit since their cabin was close to his and I always enjoyed hearing the stories that started, “Guess what Anthony did today.”

I suppose one of the favorite things about my vacation was that I got to experience a place called acceptance. No one focused on what was different about Anthony, but rather what was great about him.  It reminds me of Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth where they played favorites and he reminded him that we are all in it together.

As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. (1Corinthians 12:20-26 NRSV)

Paul reminds us how to get it right. Everyone belongs. Everyone has a gift to share. It was a pleasure to see that lived out among my fellow passengers. The trip would have been less without Anthony. I’m glad God picked us to be on his ship.

Holy God, thank you for Anthony and the way that you have gifted him. May all those who share his unique abilities find a place called acceptance. Amen.

Image courtesy of “Hand Reach to Sky” by samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Caring for God’s Holy Temple

Young Woman Relaxing At Mountain View by Feelart

My lungs were burning, longing to take a breath, but I couldn’t.  I was taking part of in exercise in a room full of people and we were told to hold our breath, so hold it I would.  I started seeing little dots!

At recent retreat spiritual director Cindy Serio of MOSAIC Ministry had us sit quietly and practice a deep breathing exercise she learned from Joyce Rupp.  We began breathing at the rhythm that she dictated. Breathing in and holding, breathing out and holding.  She led us into longer and deeper breaths with longer periods of time in between. At first the exercise was soothing, but as the pauses between breaths got longer and longer, I began to grow uncomfortable.  As a runner, I have pretty good lung capacity, but I found it challenging to exhale and keep my lungs empty for as long as she required.  As the pauses grew ever more exaggerated my oxygen-starved body grew very uncomfortable. Try as I might, I just needed air. I chalked it up to a recent round of the flu and pneumonia, so I cheated and inhaled just a little. Who would know? Then I had to do it again. I marveled at Cindy’s lung capacity and felt like a failure as we finished the activity.  Afterwards, Cindy asked who needed to breathe in before she prompted us.  Everyone in the room raised their hand. Cindy said, “Good. You each showed compassion to yourself. It is hard to offer compassion to others when you cannot offer it to yourself.”

Isn’t it interesting that I felt like a failure for needing air?  Air!  A basic bodily need and I denied it to myself simply to keep up with everyone else. Taking care of our bodies is one of the most basic of needs we have and yet all too often we shove it to the back burner.  There is just too much going on in our lives.  Maybe when things are less hectic… Consider Paul’s words to the church in Corinth.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. (1Co 6:19-20 NRS)

We glorify God when we take care of ourselves!  When I look it that way, taking time to care for my physical well-being isn’t an indulgence. It’s a gift to God.  I can’t keep up with the pace God sets for me in ministry if I am sick and run down.

So what are some basic ways to care for our bodies?  Below I have a brief list of options.  Look it over and note down the ones you already do, the ones you would like to start, and the ones in which you have no interest.  The goal here is not to make you feel guilty. Rather the goal here is to find where your interests are and focus your energy there:

  • Get adequate sleep
    • I will go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual three nights this week
    • I will schedule one sleep-in day once a week
    • I will take a nap or lie down while my child naps
    • I will remove distractions from the bedroom (TV, iPads, laptops, pets, etc.)
  • Eat a balanced diet
    • I will keep a healthy snack in my car, purse, desk, etc.
    • I will read an article on nutrition and make one change in my diet
    • I will drink less soda
    • I will try a new food
    • I will reduce caffeine intake
  • Drink plenty of water
    • I will grab a travel cup of water every time I head out the door to run errands
    • I will try a caffeine free tea or mineral water (no sugar, no caffeine)
  • Exercise
    • I will walk one mile three times this week
    • I will sign up for a class (yoga, pilates, walking or running group, Crossfit, etc.)
    • I will do some stretching on weeknight evenings before I go to bed
    • I will sign up to run/walk the local Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning and then train to do it between now and then
    • I will do 25 sit ups every day
  • Take time to relax
    • I will soak in a hot bath for 20 minutes after the kids are in bed
    • I will put my feet up and read a magazine
    • I will sit outside and enjoy the sounds of nature when I need a break
    • I will lie down and rest for 10 minutes
  • Seek Medical Help as Needed
    • I will get an annual flu shot
    • I will see the dentist
    • I will get an annual physical
    • I will get a mammogram
    • I will see a doctor as needed

These are just a few suggestions.  I’m sure you can think of others that are the right fit for you.  Looking over the list, the ones that you marked that you already do, give yourself a pat on the back for doing those.  Look over the list of ones in which you have no interest.  Perhaps consider those for another time, but if they aren’t a fit for you don’t beat yourself up about it.  Now look at the list that are things you would like to do.  Pick one and make an intentional plan for the week.  Write it down and post where you will see it as a reminder. Maybe this week you will choose to walk a mile three days of the week. Perhaps next week you will choose to schedule a sleep in day.  Whatever it is that appeals to you, make an intentional plan each week to do something that takes care of your physical well-being. Learn to take care of God’s holy temple by building it up with one brick at a time. You’ll be stronger for the journey ahead.

Check back next Wednesday for the next part of this wellness series, emotional self-care.

Holy God, what a gift it is that you live inside of each of us, filling us with your strength and peace.  Help us find the time and energy to care for our bodies which are wonderfully made by you. Let our bodies be your temple, your holy dwelling place giving honor to you. Amen.

Young Woman Relaxing At Mountain View

Image courtesy of Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net