Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Couple of Sermon Teasers

From my man Spurgeon, commenting on Psalm 138:1 -

In these days when new religions are daily excogitated, and new gods are set up, it is well to know how to act. Bitterness is forbidden, and controversy is apt to advertise the heresy; the very best method is to go on personally worshipping the Lord with unvarying zeal, singing with heart and voice his royal praises. Do they deny the Divinity of our Lord? Let us the more fervently adore him. Do they despise the atonement? Let us the more constantly proclaim it. Had half the time spent in councils and controversies been given to praising the Lord, the church would have been far sounder and stronger than she is at this day. The Hallelujah Legion will win the day. Praising and singing are our armour against the idolatries of heresy, our comfort under the depression caused by insolent attacks upon the truth, and our weapons for defending the gospel. Faith when displayed in cheerful courage, has about it a sacred contagion: others learn to believe in the Most High when they see his servant

"Calm 'mid the bewildering cry,
Confident of victory."

And then this question: "Should a Christian always pray before he eats? Even in public?"

For your consideration:

1 Timothy 4:1-5 - "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer."

See you in the morning! (Lord willing.)

Stupid Advertising #2

Stupid Advertising: The Series

Here is some very reassuring information from the fine sneaker-makers at Adidas...

"...after shave developed with adidas' in-depth skin and body knowledge."

Excuse me.

You make running shoes and that grants you "in-depth skin and body knowledge?"

Such as, "We know that feet smell after you wear the same shoes too long?"

Or, "If you wear shoes two sizes too small then the part of your leg below the ankle joint that supports the rest of your body and maintains balance when standing and walking will hurt?"

I'm just not seeing the connection.

But the after shave does smell rather nice...

Friday, June 08, 2007

Considering Special Needs in Church: An Idea

I found this comment attached to that good post Tim wrote on Wednesday...

Our church has a ministry called Special Friends that my wife and I are a part of. About every 4-6 weeks we have a Respite night where families can drop off their special needs children and their siblings for an evening of games and stories while the parents go off and do what ever they like. Respite is open to the community and is a very effective outreach to the unchurched. Special Friends volunteers are also available to augment the regular child care during the church's worship services. This ministry is such a blessing to the parents of special needs children as well as to us volunteers! It is a very much needed ministry.

Stick that in your file of ideas of how one local church could minister to those families with special needs - both in your church and in your community.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Sermons for Little People

Reformation21 » Sermons for Little People

Phil's way of helping his kids learn under the preaching of the Word:

Whenever I get the chance, I try to do what my mother did for me when I was roughly age 5 to 8: draw little pictures with short captions to illustrate the sermon.

The quality of the artwork is low (mainly stick figures and other crude drawings), but my efforts are generally appreciated by Jack (age 6), Kathryn (age 5), and maybe even Kirsten (age 11). Over the course of a half hour sermon I typically draw 15 to 20 boxed pictures on the back of bulletin inserts or what have you.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Considering Special Needs in Church: Ramps and Relationships (Challies Writes)

Tim wrote a really thoughtful and meaningful post today on the subject of ministering to those folks with special needs. (It is somewhat in response to this post.) You should read the whole thing, but here is a little snippet to whet your appetite.

Pity isn't necessarily a bad emotion, but I've found that it does not tend to be the foundation of good, noble and godly ends. I pitied my classmate and did what I felt was best for him. I extended some kind of companionship, but my pity led me to focus on myself more than on him. What I did, I did for others and not for him. Looking inward or upward I was unable to see past myself to see this boy for who he was. I found pleasure not in anything he was or anything he offered, but in what I thought I might gain through the gratitude of my parents, the gratefulness of his parents, or the blessing of God. Looking back I can see that I really knew nothing about him. I never made any kind of effort to get to know him. I never made the effort to let him touch my life or to show me who he really was. I thought I already knew. I was arrogant, believing in the innate superiority of my normalcy while assuming that his eccentricity necessarily meant he had nothing to offer and that he needed my help. He was pitied, but not accepted; tolerated but never loved.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Considering Special Needs in Church: Ramps and Relationships (PART TWO)

Last night my better half gently suggested to me that my previous post came off as rather arrogant and angry. I was glad for the observation, as I hesitated for a while before posting due to a somewhat uneasy feeling about the read. If you felt I was angry at you, please forgive me! I do not think I am angry (although I know I am proud!), rather my mind has been reeling with all kinds of ideas since our week with The Elisha Foundation and I am finding it hard to get the time to write it all down! Another fine example of clicking SEND too soon!

So, here is a second attempt at talking about how to minister to families with a special needs member.

Yesterday, I wrote: “...even more important than physical accessibility is relational openness.” That point cannot be understated.

Jeremy Pierce commented on this... “I'd be happy to have people stare as much as they like if it would get them to remember how difficult it is to have two autistic kids and little money for babysitting and then volunteer to watch them for us. Respite from care for them is a much greater need than wanting to be treated as normal.”

For that kind of care to take place, people need to be known.

Yet, representing the other side of things, the ReformedMommy asked: “... we have a dear new family who have several adopted foster children, one who is close in age to our 6 y.o,daughter, and "seems" to be developmentally delayed. Is there any polite/loving way to inquire, or is it most loving to just wait to be offered information?”

Can you feel the tension?

So, I think the first thing that has to happen is for people to start talking to each other, rather plainly, about what is going on. One commenter noted that not everybody feels “ready” to talk about their child’s disability or special needs. As much as that may be true, I think that may be the hurdle they have got to get over just as the “normal” people have to get past some of their fears and misgivings.

All the parents we talked with at the TEF Retreat, for instance, were eager to have people understand them. Susan and I talked about this a lot yesterday. It is a careful balance. We do not want to “make” everybody understand all the nuances of Williams Syndrome, but we love it when they take an interest in learning about it! There have probably been lots of times we have talked more about this in conversation than we should – after all, it is not Williams Syndrome or my son that defines us! But there have been other times we have said nothing at all only to have a well-meaning new acquaintance end up saying something rather embarrassing in the context of our family’s needs.

Ah, more tension!

Which leads me to the big point of this particular post.

In my view, only the Christian Church is really set up to joyfully co-exist with families of all different types of needs. For a large measure of the tension we feel is bound up in our own sin, and only Christians have a means to genuinely deal with that sin. Because God has given us the Holy Spirit, we can be humble. And large doses of humility are what is needed in order to walk through all this tension and awkwardness.

Humility to have a new friend say your daughter with Rett Syndrome has Down Syndrome. Or the humility to walk up to a new family at church with a physically impaired son and get down on your knees to address him in his wheelchair. Or the humility to admit that you have no idea what life must be like for that family, and so you ask them to explain it to you. Or the humility to have that family into your home (and that one goes both ways!).

As Justin Reimer said to me, “What these families need is help, not pity.” And who better to help than those who have had their own disability – the controlling influence of sin – removed?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Considering Special Needs in Church: Ramps and Relationships

In a previous post I promised to write down a few ways I think local congregations make it difficult for disabled / families of the disabled to “do” church. As I have thought more about that over the weekend and entered into a few discussions (electronically and personally) I have decided to take a mixed approach. I will try to point out both what I think a church should not do as well as what they should do in order to minister to families with a special needs child.

The obvious first place is physical accessibility. I doubt too much needs to said on this matter as much has been accomplished in “the world” to make public facilities easy to navigate for anyone that suffers mobility hindrances.

That being said, churches may be at the last of the line in this matter. Many congregations constructed their buildings many years ago and may not have a lot of extra cash sitting around to build ramps or install elevators. Still, a wise congregation is going to walk through their facility and see if the majority of areas are accessible by wheelchair, crutches and the like. When they are not, then it is high time action is taken to make them so.

Our own church is in a bit of quandary here. We rent a Christian school, but to get to our main meeting room requires navigating two sets of concrete stairs. That ain’t so easy if you use a walker like one of our members or if you have depth perception limitations like my son. But we do not own our meeting place, thus it is difficult to know how to solve this. (One more reason we continue to pray for our own building for free.)

Relationships: Start with Your Eyes
But even more important than physical accessibility is relational openness. When a family walks into your church with a special needs child (trust me on this), they feel every single eye that is stealing a perplexed look their way. If I could encourage churches to do just one thing to minister to families in this situation, it would be this: do not stare. Not even for a second. And especially do not stare or look when the special needs kid yells or laughs too long or talks at the wrong time or drools or makes some unmistakable bodily sound.

Do you know what this family longs for? To be a “normal” part of your fellowship. To be accepted and loved and cared for and related to. Whatever the injury or chromosomal damage that causes their child to be “different” – the fact is, 9 times out of 10, things are not going to improve.

Most cognitive disabilities mean that large body is housing a mind that functions at a much younger age level. Recall what it was like to get your three-year old to sit through a church service with you! If you were like us, it meant many trips out of the meeting room to explain what appropriate behaviour was needed. Three-year-olds are not naturally prone to sitting still, looking up, staying quiet, singing along, not fidgeting, avoiding staring, and all such things! They have to be trained and the typical child will grow in his understanding...

When a child is atypical, however, the issue is not obedience, it is ability. The disapproving stare... or even the curious stare... when seen by the parent, is like another kick in the gut. These parents are trying... hard! They do not want to be the centre of attention, they do not want to disrupt the proceedings, they do not come to church to make a spectacle of things... but that may be what happens. Every week.

Is your church ready to love a family like that? To serve them by accepting them, not condemning them (even silently in your heart)? Are you ready to put up with “being interrupted?”

The first door into relationship is acceptance.

We need to get over our fears and learn to walk up to families that include a special needs child and welcome them! In the next post, I hope to expand on this very idea and give some practical suggestions on what else you can do to make your church one where everyone, not just special needs families, feel welcome.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Buffalo - Land of the Bored

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Such was the scene at Buffalo Airport on May 31, 2007 - two weeks AFTER Buffalo was lasooed out of the playoffs! TWO WEEKS!

On the same day I sat in front of three men on the plane. One of the fellows was coming to Buffalo to start a new job and the other two were waxing eloquent about the city. But then... then the one said in serious tones: "But you really need to go up to Toronto. It's beautiful up there... THEY PUT US TO SHAME." End of direct quote.

And frankly... that is my point exactly.

Have a nice summer grazing, Bisons!