A RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS

“Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” (Proverbs 3:3)

In a world full of busyness, chaos and overcommitted schedules, it so easy to slip into an introspective mindset, “It’s all about me and what I need”, being concerned only with one’s self or those closest to us.  An inward focus becomes fertile ground for a selfish heart to develop. It can do so very slowly, without one even noticing the fade away from selfless to selfish.

Our neighborhoods, workplaces and schools are filled with hurting people, and the opportunities for acts of kindness are infinite. Jesus said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). We do not want to pass up a chance to add good to someone’s day, as it will make our day too!

Today, as you think past yourself and your own circumstances, what are some ways you can give back and practice random acts of kindness?

  1. Mow or rake your next door neighbor’s lawn.
  2. Bake cookies for your child’s teacher.
  3. Write a handwritten thank-you note.
  4. Call a family member to tell them you love and appreciate them.
  5. Leave the waiter a more-than-generous tip.
  6. Buy the  homeless person on the street a cup of coffee or lunch.
  7. Pay for the person behind you at the drive-through restaurant.
  8. Make a hospital or home visit to someone who is ill.
  9. Offer to babysit for a busy mom.
  10. Volunteer in your church or community.
  11. Smile a lot, and keep your eyes open for opportunities to practice kindness.

A random act of kindness provides happiness to the person you are serving, as well as to you. It benefits everyone and shows you respect and love others.

What are you waiting for? Go out today and look for ways to practice kindness and bless others.

Technology, Gadgets and God’s Word

In walks David to his young adult community group one Sunday morning. Like so many Sundays before, he was carrying his iPad, to which he has a rather extreme attachment and hyper focus. David is fascinated and more than intrigued with his tablet and many of the applications loaded on it. He loves technology. Give him more screen time on his iPad, laptop and smart phone, and he is happy like many of the other different learners in his community group.

On this particular morning, we began a discussion with David and his dad regarding the use of iPads during Bible study, specifically when it is appropriate to have out and on. We came to the conclusion he may have it out and on for communication purposes or to read the Bible. David had no idea there are some very good Bible apps he could load on his iPad. Up to this point, he did not really read the Bible and was not very fond of books, but the screen was different. On his iPad, we loaded the “You Version” Bible app. (thank you Craig Groeschel and the LifeChurch team for creating such a wonderful resource). He was so enthralled and began reading the Bible five times a day when preset alarms went off. No matter what he was doing during the day or evening, he would stop and read the Word when the alarm went off. His dad, who was not regularly reading the Word, took notice and became so inspired by David’s newfound routine and love for the Word that he began to read the Word as well. David was teaching his family spiritual disciplines and changing their lives as they grew to know and love Jesus more.

Use gadgets, technologies and apps to teach to a generation that spends so much of their time in front of screens. Varying modalities and offering different resources helps all; and, by doing so, we reach different learners with the Gospel Message.

Hear David and his Dad’s story at http://youtu.be/gU5iHUO0FCw.

Dear Sunday School Teacher

Dear Sunday School Teacher,

I am very excited you have agreed to include me in your class. My mom and dad have tried for so long to find a church where I could be included and treated normally on Sunday mornings. Thank you for making my mommy and daddy smile.

There are a couple of things I wanted to share with you about me so we can both enjoy this new inclusionary experience. Please treat me like any other child my age even though I have special needs. Do not use baby talk or single me out. Let me blend in with the other students. I am more like them than different.

My parents know me the best. Ask them questions, and then listen. Work together as a team when you have a challenge about my communication needs, behavior plan or supports I will need in order to have success in your classroom. Together we can figure it out.

Because I do not talk, I often tell the world my likes and dislikes through my behaviors. Sometimes my behaviors happen when I am frightened, sick, upset or angry. I am not bad; I am just trying to communicate. We can figure out a solution together.

Treat me like I am capable. I have gifts and strengths. Each child has his or her own interests and talents. While it make take awhile for you to get to know me and my ability level, you will if you stick with it.

Include me in the classroom community. I am a person of value and have much to offer. I too am made perfect in God’s image. God does not make junk.

Be my teacher, and share God’s love and truth with me. I am very visual; please teach the lesson using all of my senses. I will learn and retain more and so will every other student. Don’t be afraid to use pictures and technology gadgets. When you model God’s love towards me, the other students will learn and understand it better, too.

Help me make friends. I know sometimes people say kids with disabilities are not interested in friends. That’s not true. Because I have some social challenges, making friends is hard for me. Encourage group activities, cooperative play and collaborative learning for me to get to know the other students and for them to get to know me.

Remind my buddy not to do the things I can do for myself and to allow me some independence. I don’t want to be coddled. Sometimes it is best if my buddy becomes the buddy for a small group of students and not just my shadow, as I sometimes feel self-conscious and different.

Believe in me, and know God has a plan for me.

Sincerely,

 

Your New Student with disAbilities

Hear It, See It, Touch It, Do It. Love.

Love the Wordless Book, an awesome teaching tool for all ability levels and learning styles. The Wordless Book was most likely created by Charles Spurgeon, the London Baptist missionary, back in the 1800s when he would share the Gospel with orphan children. The Wordless Book is a concept where a page of visual color cues helps persons with the Gospel Message. Spurgeon began with only three colors:  black, red and white. Black represents our sinful nature and separation from God. Red is for the blood of Jesus shed for us. White stands for the perfect righteousness given by God to believers. Over the years, early missionaries, as well as Child Evangelism Fellowship, have added other colors, including yellow, green and blue.

As a ministry reaching and teaching different learners, we were on a quest this summer to find creative and interactive ways to teach the Wordless Book concept. Ideas included crafts, jewelry making, food projects, building items, and creating our own Wordless Books, each time hearing, seeing and doing so as to engage all learning styles and abilities. The more senses engaged, the more memorable the learning experience.

The other day we used Legos. Who doesn’t love Legos? Participants heard and saw the Gospel Message in color, which engaged the auditory and visual senses, and then created it with Legos, appealing to the kinesthetic hands-on learner. After completing the Lego creations, participants retold the Gospel Message using the Legos.

Next week, our young adults will be building cheeseburgers using the Wordless Book concept. Once the cheeseburger is built, they will engage the senses of smell and taste as well. Ingredients will include hamburger patties (dark or black), buns (white), tomatoes (red), lettuce (green) and cheese (yellow/gold).

Get creative in your teaching methods, so all learners can grow in their knowledge and love of our wonderful God.

For more information on the Wordless Book, click here.

Contentment

Each of us is in passionate pursuit of something or someone in life. It’s that object, event or person on which we spend our time, resources and focus trying to achieve or conquer. It could be that bigger home, newer car, dream career or perfect spouse. It might be fame, fortune or a trim/fit body. For those who believe they are lucky enough and achieve that dream, then what? Are they satisfied and content? Most would answer with a resounding “No.” That thing, person or gadget that was so necessary for their happiness falls short. The one thing or person they thought could take away their pain or give them joy does not come close.

It becomes a vicious cycle:  maybe the next conquest or acquisition will bring true happiness or contentment. There is no correlation between having abundant worldly possessions and being happier. In fact, more times than not, the opposite rings true. Oftentimes, we lean our ladder against the wrong wall.

We are looking to be fulfilled and satisfied in all the wrong ways, means and places. What then is our real purpose and passion in life? In the book of Philippians, the apostle Paul is supremely passionate about two things:  first, a relentless pursuit to intimately know Jesus Christ; second, to make Him known to the world. In his passion to know Jesus deeper, he experienced deep joy and contentment not based on circumstance but on a relationship with his Savior. Paul endured much suffering, hardship and adversities; but because of his deep, rich relationship with Jesus, he had come to learn Jesus was more than enough. Jesus plus nothing equals everything.

We live in a culture that almost breeds discontentment. The worlds of marketing and slick advertising campaigns are designed to make you unhappy and keep you in a constant state of want. After what are you chasing? Have you found that deep joy and contentment that supersedes possessions and circumstances?

Pure contentment comes from God. In Philippians 4:11, Paul states, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” True contentment comes from an intimate relationship with Jesus. May I suggest pursuing God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength?

The Power of Words

 

The past couple of weeks have been extremely challenging. I get ministry is hard; after 17 years, I have figured that out…thriving in disability ministry really is all about balance and making adjustments, as seasons of life change constantly. But I am reminded when I am at my weakest, He is strongest. Recently, however, ministry has been overwhelming with such need from the families Access serves from situations ranging from sickness, to death of a child, to surprise medical diagnoses, to financial ruin and job losses. People whose lives have been turned upside down and the rug pulled out from under their feet. As I and the staff scramble to meet the ever-growing, complex needs, it seems to never be enough, as the world is full of such brokenness and suffering. How can we meet every need? Accepting our limitations is so often difficult to do.

On top of this, my church is going through a time of major transition, resulting in staff being laid off and some ministries no longer functioning. During this state of flux, I have been burdened for my fellow staffers and friends, many of whom were directly impacted by job cut backs, which filled me with such sadness and sorrow.

In my personal life, I have two parents whose health is failing and the long-term prognoses are not very positive. One parent has a neurological regressive disease, and the other a rare form of bone cancer. I am in that sandwiched generation of caring for elderly parents while still raising my two youngest in the home, one of whom has significant emotional disabilities and is teaching me daily what true patience and selflessness look like…neither an easy lesson to learn.

With all that has been going on, I recently felt very empty, running on fumes close to an empty tank. Out of the blue one day last week, a fellow special needs ministry worker randomly shot me an email on a day that was especially challenging. His words of encouragement meant so much and actually helped breathe new life into me and validated again that the daily grind of ministry is so worth it in the long run. “Kind words bring life, but cruel words crush your spirit.” Proverbs 15:14

Never underestimate the power of your words; whether words of love, encouragement or concern, via email, text, phone or in person, really does not matter. What does matter is those words shared on a particular day may be just what the receiver needs to hear to keep them going, and sustain and bless them.

Who has God laid upon your heart today for you to reach out to encourage, edify and equip? If no one comes to mind, pray for God to reveal that person(s) and listen to Him. You have no idea how your small act of kindness may be what that person needs to renew his or her soul that day. Your words have the power to transform someone’s day. Language is at its best when used to inspire others to find the best in themselves.

“Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”  Proverbs 16:24

A Rich Tapestry

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Eastern Europe to work with local missionaries and church leaders on developing and launching disability outreach and ministry. In one conversation with a pastor (of a growing, relevant church), he stated, “We do not really need a disability program, as God has blessed us with no one with disability.”

Did he just say that? Are you kidding?

Being a guest in their country, I had to bite my tongue at the foolishness of such a statement. I had many things I wanted to fire back at him – none of them resembling a Christlike response.

I began thinking about how richly blessed is the church to which I belong, as we continue to not only embrace those who are differently abled but intentionally go out and bring them in from the community.

God not only created diversity but thoroughly delights in it. His church should be a place like a rich tapestry woven together of many-colored strands. Colors on their own create a boring predictable monochromatic theme, but the melding together of colors creates a kaleidoscope of beauty in design, blending rich, bold deep hues with softer muted strands to create a masterpiece – beautiful chaos. Rough cords woven with softer flax strands, mixing many textures and forming mixed feelings to the touch. The pièce de résistance is thick with texture and color, causing an expolosion of one’s senses.

That is what God desires for His church, peoples of all nationalities and ethnic backgrounds, the religious mixing with the irreligious, the gifted and not so gifted, the weak and strong, the rich and poor, all pursued by God, a God who loves us unconditionally just the way we are. Whether we are physically, emotionally or spiritually broken, He cares for us and stands there with His arms wide open saying, “Come to Me.” God’s grace is inclusive, indiscriminate and impartial for us all.

Diversity in His church brings about unpredictability, mystery, and amazement, all of which are unable to coexist with sameness.

The Homecoming

The Christmas season is a time for many that is marked by joy, festivities, frivolities and fun, a time to share and create new memories with friends and families. It is also a time to celebrate the lavish love of God and His amazing gift, Jesus Christ, to each of us, a gift not one of us deserves or could ever earn, only given to us through His amazing grace.

For many, though, it is a season of deep pain, darkness and separation from God and His people, a period of intense hopelessness instead of a time of hopefulness. In Luke 15, the father runs with his arms wide open to greet and freely love his lost son, the son who had demanded his share of the inheritance, squandered it away on a party lifestyle, and then returned home with nothing. The father loved both his sons – the younger son who left and led a life of sin, as well as the elder son who worked hard to earn his father’s love. Both were lost – the younger irreligious son as well as the religious one, who believed if he did all the right things, his father would love him.

During this advent season, it is the perfect time to invite and welcome home the lost, broken, and those living in mess and disarray. As his hands and feet, we are called to not only pursue those who are far from God but also fully welcome them into the fold. The church should be the perfect place for imperfect people, both lawless and legalistic, a place where one is able to come as they are and not have to clean up first. God meets us right where we are, just like the lost son who returned to the father in a filthy, unkempt and smelly state.

Make this Christmas a great homecoming. Open your heart to those in your families, communities and workplaces that are lost, broken and far from God. Reach out with arms open wide to care for the oppressed, poor and those in need. Care for them physically, spiritually and emotionally. We, as his children, should be known as a people of ridiculous grace and crazy love.

Light the way for those around you to return home.

“We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life!He was lost, but now he is found.” (Luke 15:32)

20 Ways to Calm A Child

1. Dim the lights.

2. Bring the child into a less busy, quieter room.

3. Have the child face a simple wall.

4. Create a “chill-out” or relaxation space, and always have it available.

5. Make sure the room is not too hot; if necessary, turn on a fan.

6. Provide a soft, slow, rhythmic song, humming, or music.

7. Repeat an affirmation rhythmically.

8. Lessen noise by closing doors or having the child wear headphones or ear plugs.

9. “Swaddle” by rolling a child in a blanket.

10. Rub or apply deep pressure on the child’s back.

11. Have the child sit in a rocking chair or use a therapy ball.

12. Have him/her jump on a mini trampoline.

13. Have the child do wall or chair push ups.

14. Offer him/her something to suck on, such as hard candy, or applesauce/pudding through a straw.

15. Offer the child crunchy foods, such as a carrots or pretzels.

16. Have him/her chew on something chewy.

17. Have the child do deep-breathing exercises.

18. Count downs.

19. Blow bubbles.

20. Use a weighted vest or blankets.

Everyone Needs…

On Saturday morning, I headed off to an early appointment with my neurologist. Because I suffer from a chronic migraine, I’m a frequent visitor of the neurology department for ongoing testings, treatments and injections to lessen the 20+ migraines that come my way each month.

As I sat waiting for the good doctor to arrive, in comes a young lady, a participant from our disability ministry. Melinda has developmental delays. I greeted her, and she proceeded to say she was not happy to see me out of church. Melinda is set in routine and doesn’t like change or surprise. I ignored her less-than-cordial greeting and informed her I was about to receive 50+ injections in my forehead/head to help my headaches.

Melinda sat quietly for a moment and then loudly announced she didn’t think I needed a doctor, and I did not look sick. I asked what she meant, and she said I didn’t have a disability. I responded back that all of us at some point in life have a need for the medical community, and, even though my disability is not visible, I do have one.

I thought about our conversation throughout that day, totally understanding what Melinda meant when she said I didn’t need a doctor. I had no visible disabilty, sickness or brokenness, but inside and hidden from the human eye, I have a chronic illness.

I am reminded all of us are broken and disabled due to sin and our separation from God. And, no matter how perfect we look on the outside, we all have need for a Savior. In Matthew 23:27-28, Jesus says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” We all need a Savior because we are all spiritually dead and helpless without Him, regardless of how put-together or perfect we look on the outside.