The Little Things

It’s 12:40 on Thursday morning, and I’m sitting in ER room 13. It’s as dark in here as I’ve ever seen an ER room, and that’s good, because my son Zach doesn’t like any light when he’s sleeping. To avoid embarrassing any of the principals in this story, I’m not telling you why he’s here. It’s one of those pedestrian things that happens with kids, and after several overnight checks he will go home no worse for wear. But for now, we are here.

As Zach sleeps on his twin bed (even lightly snoring now), I am reminded the extraordinary privilege behind being a caregiver. Just before he drifted off, Zach and I had an exchange that went like this:

Zach: Go home.
Me: Not yet. Let’s stay here for a while and sleep. We can go home later.
Zach: Go home. He stretches this out, getting his money’s worth out of every letter – the guttural entry of the H, an O that modulates and bends in the middle, an M that leaves the word practically suspended in air, an open-mouthed “mmmma”.
Me: no, let’s go to sleep here.

This goes on for a while.

Eventually I convey to him that we are going to stay for a while, and I’ll be with him the whole time, and this is enough to let him drift off to rest. When we sleep, we are totally vulnerable, and going to sleep in a strange place requires either total exhaustion or a special sort of trust. He accepts that I will be here, that nothing will happen without me. He does not like the blood pressure cuff tonight, but if I put it on him, he accepts it, and locks eyes on me as the machine does its work.

For someone to allow us to be their caregiver, they cede incredible trust to us. I should be thankful every time someone trusts me enough to care for them. Parents, adult children, relatives and friends, remember that when someone allows you to protect them, that they have paid you an enormous compliment, and that you are entering into something holy with them. You are like God to them in their greatest vulnerability, and they trust you enough to put their life in your hands.

Never grow bored with the beautiful opportunity God has put into our hands.

Learning to Live in the Kingdom

Last Sunday in worship, I talked about how God protects his Kingdom people in the world (If you are interested in seeing that sermon, you can click here). One of our observations was that God promises to protect his people and his Kingdom; if we believe this, then it is wise for us to obey God, because the path God offers to us is the path of protection, even though it is sometimes difficult.

If we find obedience difficult, it may be helpful to realize that the act of obeying actually can be subdivided into several smaller steps:

Listen – we have to start by receiving the direction of another
Hope – for us to take what we have received any farther, we must believe that the one who has offered us direction is qualified in such a manner that such direction could actually lead us to a positive outcome
Trust – we must also believe that the one who directs us intends or desires good for us, and therefore is offering a credible direction
Act – finally, we would take the steps proposed by the one who we believe to be qualified to speak into our lives and oriented toward our well-being

These are the stages that can move us from inaction to obedience. If you wish to examine yourself, to consider where you may be disposed to obey or where you may need to change yourself, the following are questions that might be useful for such examination.

Listen:
Are you listening for what God has to say to you?

How do we listen? Historically, the primary ways the Church has listened is by reading the word, praying, worshipping, and fellowshipping with others who are following Jesus

Are you committed to continuing to seek out the promises of the Lord, to come to deeper understanding and better knowing of God?

Hope:

Can you believe that God can do the extraordinary things he has said he will?

Can you give thanks for things that have been promised but have not yet come?

Can you believe that God will even remove your sin, that he will make it as if you never had sin?

Trust:

Are you willing to be fully dependent upon God?

Are you willing to set aside your own methods of gaining love, power, righteousness?

Act:

Are you willing to set aside whatever in your past you must walk away from?

God called Abram to make God the only priority in his life; are you willing to do the same thing?

Are you willing to make your past past?

The Bible, Disability, and the Church

The title above is also the title of a book by Amos Yong that I’m reading today.  Yong is a Pentecostal theologian, and the brother of a man with Down Syndrome.  I want to share with you today the end of his first chapter, as it’s clarity was particularly gripping to me.

Some say that sustained thinking about disability is unnecessary because disabled people constitute only a very small percentage of our congregations.  I counter, however, that this is probably because the church communicates the message ” you are not welcome here” to people with disabilities. Further, there are more and more “hidden” disabilities that are not easily noticeable, so how do we know that there are in fact few people with disabilities in our churches?  Last but not least, the challenges associated with living with disability will be experienced by everyone if they live long enough, whatever medical aids and technological advances may develop.  Some people might resist associating the struggles of being older with those of disabilities.  My focus, however, is less on the why of our challenges than on the fact of our ongoing exclusionary and discriminatory beliefs and practices.  Hence, I am suggesting that disability needs to be a present concern for us all, even if only because  all of us will in due course have to confront the issues that some of us now live with every day.

Amen, brother Yong.  I’m thinking of putting together a reading group, either in person or online, to discuss The Bible, Disability, and the Church later this summer; if you’re interested, let me know in the comments.

Play a New Game

Since I was a kid I’ve enjoyed playing the “Celebrity Look-Alike” game, and the stranger or more obscure the better. You know the drill: “You know who that guy looks like? Michael Stipe with a curly wig!”

In the last two weeks, I’ve found myself noticing not would-be celebrities, though, but people who look like people I know. One day, it was an old friend from my old haunts of Lena, Illinois, strangely out of place in the suburbs; a few days later it was my grandma; then earlier today it was a dead ringer, from behind, for one of our church’s members. As I walked behind this woman, thinking of this other woman, I realized a fresh opportunity to pray for my church member. And with that, a new game was born: for the rest of the day I looked for people who resembled people I know, and when I spotted them I offered up quick prayers of blessing and thanks for my remembered dears.

Why not try joining me in this new Look-Alike game this week? Let’s see if it creates a new habit of prayerful awareness.