Friday, August 5, 2011

Fathers of Hope

With so much going on in our lives dealing with Kyle and being parents of a special needs child. I have been blogging on

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Not what you had planned

I remember the day well, it was the beginning of September and excitement was in the air. Ministry was about to start, I had finished college and had been preparing for this moment. The church was excited and had given us a great house. Jill and I were about to embark on the life of ministry we had been expecting. Throughout the next few years we were living the dream of being in full time ministry. We had kids over to the house, we did missions trips, music festivals, and had all sorts of adventures. It wasn't exactly how we had envisioned it but it was great. We were going to live the Christian American Dream. After about 5 years in youth ministry we recieved the news about Kyle.

Life didn't change overnight and not even in the few years after his diagnosis but it was going to change. The dream of having a fairly routine family, working in the church, and dedicating our lives to ministry was not going to be for us.

I recently heard someone say "the ministry God has for you, is not what you had planned." This pastor said this in reference to a man who was planning on being a pastor until one of his sons was found to have severe special needs and that wasn't going to possible.

The journey that we have had is not what we had planned, and even less normal over the last couple of years. We tried many years to be as normal as possible, with so much frustration. As I was sharing stories with another dad of a special needs child recently we were recounting how the amount of invitations from others began to dry up. Between the physical limitations on Kyle and the mental capacity of doing unexpected things that dinner parties and gatherings would leave me mentally and physically exhausted and wondering why we even tried.

I don't know if I will ever work full time again, I would really love to have some sort of career and have the ability to provide, but who knows. I would be lying if I said I have reached the point of contentment with this idea of working part time.

Even in the midst of this we still believe that God has a purpose and ministry for Him. It is hard to give up on dreams of living like "normal" families, it is hard to see others succeeding in ways that we wish we could have.

My patience level currently is very low due to frustrations I have with all of the above. I believe God has something for us, and it maybe what we are doing right now, (but probably less than what we are doing).

The level of care, commitment, physical energy, and emotional fortitude take its toll. I wish I could spend this much energy on other thing to serve God, but serving God and my family is just as valid as doing "bigger things." God has those tasks for others and daily I work on trusting God to know what He is doing, because this life is not what I had planned at all.

Monday, July 11, 2011

God Showed Up

Where is God when_______? A common question when pain and suffering does not make logical sense. What about the flip side of the question? What happens when God does show up in a situation that is difficult, painful, or even devastating?

Hindsight is very easy and when at the end of a difficult process we can look back and see the way God appeared. An example of this would be the story of Joseph, the story is a classic story of pain and suffering and then at the end God works it out. During the story it was hopeless and tragic and didn’t have much hope through it.
During the journey of pain it is difficult to see God in the midst of it.

It is very easy to focus on just survival. Jill and I have felt much like that throughout our journey with Kyle.

We have survived, some days better than others. We have gotten small reminders throughout the journey of God’s faithfulness but never in a tangible way until recently.

This adventure with the triathlon has been quite a journey for us. It has been exciting, it has been an encouragement, it has been a way for us to get a little of our story to others. But beyond all of those great things something small but significant to us happened. God showed up. Now how do I know this?

Kyle and Paul had a “photo shoot” for the Post Trib. The photographer took many shots at various times throughout the hour he was there. There were poses and action shots. We had no idea what shot would be used. The following Saturday I received a text- Kyle and Paul are on the front page of the paper. Excited I quickly drove to the grocery store and bought several papers.

When Jill and I got home and began looking and reading the article, a lime green bracelet Kyle was wearing was very visible on the front page of the paper. On this green bracelet only one word could be read and it was legible. It said God.

To think that God doesn’t show up in the most unlikely places is wrong. To see God show up on a little special needs child’s bracelet on the front page of a newspaper is something that we couldn’t have orchestrated or even have thought to do. But yet to us this was a tangible reminder that God is with us through this, and God’s glory is going to be shown through Kyle’s life.

Jill and I have prayed John 9:3 “That God’s work would be displayed through his life” for Kyle and this one small little glimpse has been confirmation that he is.
Here is a link to the article and picture

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

As I dared brave the world with three children by myself yesterday we ended up going to see Cars 2. After loading up on popcorn and candy and praying no one had to go to the bathrooom during the movie, we had a great time watching the movie. In the midst of the movie there was a couple of scenes about the scraps and scratches on the cars. In one scene Mater is asked to remove his scratches and dings, but he refuses because of the memories that came from those scratches.

What does being perfect look like? How much of our life revolves risk aversion and worrying about covering up all the scratches and dents of our own imperfections?

Psalm 139:14 "I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.Your works are wonderful. I know that full well."

As I continue to reflect on our week at Joni and Friends camp, that concept of being fearfully and wonderfully made seems to not apply to most of the people we met. As special needs families we live in the land of misfit toys. The scrapes and scares are much tougher to cover than that of "ordinary" people. The filters and the social norms that society as a whole lives by does not apply here.

In one of the sessions a pastor from Chicago shared with us his journey. he has a daughter who has numerous issues including cerebal palsy. The pastor shared how he was praying one day about his daughter about how he would love God to heal her. The response he felt that God told him was "I made her perfect, you are the one who has an issue with her."

Does God really make people that are not even close to perfect by our standards? In Exodus Moses is making excuses why he can't serve God due to his inadaquacies. God's response is in Exodus 4:11 "The Lord said to him, "who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord?

Another comment that was made during the week was "is the church (kingdom of God) complete if there aren't special need people? Not just being on the sideline but being an intrical part of what God is doing.

The singing while at camp may have been the worse I have ever heard from a personal standard. Kyle covered his ears numerous times say "this is horrible." But the heart that was singing those songs was as sincere and full of faith and hope in the words as I have ever seen.

One moment that will last in mind was a twenty something young man who was in an electric wheelchair, could hardly speak, and was in pretty rough shape. The last night there was a talent show, he got up and sang/hoarse whispered "It is well with my soul." I think he really believed it.

In John 9 the disciples and Jesus see a man born blind sitting on the side of the road and the disciples ask why? Jesus answer in verse 3 "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."

We saw that display last week. People were given a chance to be the people God had made them to be. As many of the families were leaving, there was tears and crying. In general it was because of fears of going back to a world that is so difficult for them. They wanted to stay in an enviornment where they were seen through the eyes of someone who had created them fearfully and wonderfully made.

My guess is heaven is going to look a whole lot more like that week than many other things I imagined or envisioned.

Monday, June 27, 2011

They Didn't Leave

Life changes in a split second. The words are from a doctor and the news isn’t good, your child has _______. The diagnosis’ are all different but the results are the same the diseases are going to alter life as usual. In some cases the doctors don’t know specifically what a child has but there is enough evidence to know that life will not be as one envisioned.

In most cases like this men bolt. The fathers who had dreamt of playing sports with their kids, being proud of them for stellar achievements, giving their daughters away for marriage have all been crushed. When a special needs child comes into a family, men leave at an alarming rate- over 80% of the time.

I had the privilege last week to meet some men who didn’t leave. They have stayed despite the unmet expectations of life, they are not going to kids sporting events but rather they are changing their diapers. They have given up their own hopes and dreams to sit by hospital beds for days and months at a time.

These men come from all walks of life, engineers, accountants, ministry, banking industry, self-employed and many other occupations. These men are tough, yet tender, humorous, yet serious, boundless energy, yet a common tiredness.

But don’t feel sorry for these men, they have chosen to stay. They have defied the odds and have stayed with their families. They have seen and experienced precious moments of life that many of us have missed. There are small joys and unexpected happiness of raising a special needs child.

Curiosity and wonder is seen in the eyes and verbal sounds coming from these children. These fathers have patience that is seen in very few. In “normal” society there are some very uncomfortable moments and moments that defy logical happiness or fulfillment. Yet these men tirelessly serve and do what is needed to serve their children. The communication that happens between the fathers and their children is instinctual and can only be known from hours of being and spending time with one’s child.

Fear comes in a different form to these fathers. What happens if my child outlives me? Who is going to care for them? Who is going to protect and love them? The love of a father is precious and seen in so few fathers of special needs children.

This love that I saw from these dads this week was reminiscent of Jesus. A selfless love that is full of patience, kindness, and self-control. It was an honor and a privilege to observe these men in action.

Thank you- Russ, Mike, Frank, Chinglieng, John, and many others for being the dads that model Jesus not only to your kids, but to everyone who comes in contact with you.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What the Blackbird Network could be

Following Jesus is a simple yet difficult proposition. He raised the bar in different ways to many of those who wanted to follow Him. Pick up your cross, don’t even say goodbye to your loved ones, sell all you have etc, etc.
How is following Jesus challenging us personally? What is he asking us to put down and follow Him? How are we resisting? How are we trying to keep one foot in the door of comfort, stability, and “normalcy?”
In my mind Blackbird is nothing more than a group of people wanting to follow Jesus, those of us who currently gather may possibly be a little further along in the journey than others we are discipling.
In that context how are we encouraging, discipling, offering community, resource, and support to fellow Jesus followers?
Is our Blackbird group a rest stop on the journey we all go through during the week? Is this a cold glass of water to replenish us as we are involved in the dirty and difficult work of the Great Commission?
How easy is it for each of us to become discouraged, overwhelmed with life, tempted by giving it up to follow the American dream? It is easy for me to want to give up. I need this group for the inspiration that comes each week as I know there are others out there living for Jesus also. When we want to give up we know that we are not alone. We know that the kingdom of darkness is being attacked.
Blackbird whether it is in Valpo or wherever is attacking, it is a movement of people going after that which was lost. We have left the 99 sheep and are going after the 1.
But with this mindset and mentality we are going to be wounded and hurt along the way. There are going to be those with battle scars, and those who abandon the faith
But we press on, not giving up, and not giving in.
We continue to find others who are on the front lines, we continue to develop oasis’ whether these be locally or globally.
We continue to be a place of temporary safety, comfort, and replenishing of mind and spirit. Always with the thought of not staying in this safe place but moving back into our roles in the Kingdom of God.
We don’t create programs, tasks, or roles for us rather we help them listen to the Spirit and allow the Spirit to lead and guide us into the niche the Spirit have for them.
We do all this with a spirit of humility not valuing any of the gifts, talents, or roles given to us by God as greater or less than anyone elses.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Giving away your network

In a book that greatly influenced me "Love is the Killer app" by Tim Sanders talked quite a bit about sharing.

Jesus spoke of sharing quite a bit also saying things like "if you have two coats give one to the poor" (Luke 3:11). It is easy to quantify giving away money or material items but what about intangible things like a network of people?

Being a networker by nature- I realize how much work and time goes into connecting with people. How much time goes into lunches, coffee, emails, phone calls, and the personal investment put into each relationship. Each relationship is something that is built on trust. I was in meeting a few months ago and the guy I was meeting with said something to the effect of "I want to meet more of your friends because nice guys usually don't introduce me to jerks."

A network of influence can take quite a bit of time building up, but very easily can be ruined in an instant. So it something many hold close to the vest and don't want to share it with others.

A persons network can help find one better jobs, greater opportunities, better board members for non-profits,more chance of success with ideas, or success in fund raising to name a few.

So it is understandable why so many do not share this relationships with others.

Why should I share my network? For me my network belongs to God just as any tangible item does. I feel that I am to be generous with my other items, why would this be any different?

What does sharing look like? Every day we have opportunities to help others by giving names, email address, or numbers of those who could of help. If we know of a car mechanic that does great work for cheap- why wouldn't we share? Because if they are busy working on another car we won't be able to have ours worked on, or if they get to busy they will start charging more, or stop doing my car for a cheaper price.
All of those answers have me as the focal point, and it has a mentality of "scarcity" as Tim Sanders put it. Scarcity is the worry that there won't be enough for me. There will be a shortage, or I will lose out. That could be the same mentality for a donor, a great volunteer, or a great friend- what happens if they like the new thing better and leave me?

There are so many opportunities to get burned with this philosophy. There are so many chances that we will lose what we believe we deserve. There will be those situations were that does happen. But just because we got burned does that still mean that we don't do it?

I really wish my faith was based on Karma- I could say that as we share than others will share with us and it comes back bigger and better than what we first had. Could that happen? Sure Could we be worse off because we shared? That is also a distinct possibility. It is very difficult in my life to do right even if it is going to effect me badly.

But having a generous and giving heart needs to be part of my whole life including this area that could lead to difficulty.