Facebook pre

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An Empty Vessel

view details            Yesterday, I received an email blessing from my friend, Monika. She told me of the far-reaching impact one of my blog entries had—the one by Staci Stallings on how she used vision training to treat her son’s dyslexia. After this story was published, several moms from my homeschooling group had their struggling reader's vision evaluated and began vision therapy. Monika told me not only of her son’s new successes (which will be published here in January) but of others. And that because of their success, they passed the word to even more mothers of struggling readers. Kinda like the old Breck commercial: "And they told two friends, and so on and so on ..."

            How awesome is that?

            Monika praised me for the blog and I was grateful to be part of the chain of events that led to these families finding help. But after I emailed Staci, the author who had written this article, I realized something extraordinary. I got to truly be an empty vessel of the Lord.

            You see, having not even written the article that brought clarity to many, I only provided the space and invited the audience. It was Staci’s experience that enlightened us. And wow! I got to sit back and watch it unfold.

            Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to engage in false humility, praising everyone but myself. I’m trying to point to the One who brought it all together. He connected me to Staci. He gave me the homeschooling audience and He inspired me to create this blog. And let's not forget, He allowed the message to be read by Monika in order to spread the word further. All I did was empty myself to allow Him to fill me for my task. And there is nothing more wonderful in the history of creation than to be used by your Creator and filled with His purposes.

            Leave a comment and tell us how God has used Your empty vessel.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

He Enters Our Pain

            There is a formula I’ve often taught clients to help them communicate with loved ones in times of need. When someone is telling them about their horrible day, I teach to say, “You feel _______, because …” Of course, you need to fill in the blanks accurately. This “formula” is actually one counselors are trained to use in the beginning stages of therapy. It communicates and confirms the client is being heard and understood, before any problem solving can take place. You’d be surprised how this communication technique, alone, can impact the client to the point they need nothing else. Sometimes a person just wants to be heard. And sometimes they just want confirmation that what they are feeling is normal and they are not crazy.

            And in some ways, you have entered into their pain. It’s almost like jumping into the chasm with a person who has fallen in, to keep them company until the ladder comes to get them out.

            That’s what Jesus did.

            He entered into our chasm, felt the pain, isolation, and ridicule of this world, all before giving us the means to be extracted from it. Even now he sits with us daily as we wait for Jacob’s ladder, and helps us feel safe in the cold, dark hole.
            So, as we consider how to help someone in pain and want to be like Jesus, I suggest, before we fall to platitudes and what-to-dos, we step back, listen, understand, communicate that understanding, and sometimes just be there for them. Then we will model the life of our Savior.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Jake The Encourager--by H.L. Wegley

Welcome back to LBOC. As promised last Friday, today we have a story about a boy, who just happens to have autism, and the special gift his church and school were given when they allowed it to unfold amongst them.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage... (Romans 12:6-8 NIV)

Jake's Gift

Jake was born in far less than ideal circumstances. But from the beginning, he was loved dearly by his mother and grandparents. By the time he was two, it became obvious that Jake was different. Was his hearing impaired? Did he have learning disabilities? What did the future hold for him?

One day the verdict came in ... Jake was autistic. He began to display some annoying behaviors, especially when he got excited. But through his formative years, the love of those closest to him became the one constant in his life that gave him peace and security.

From the time he was a toddler, his grandparents took Jake to church and Sunday school without fail. Through the music at church and his fascination with the Gaither Homecoming videos, it became apparent to everyone that Jake loved music. He can imitate all of the regulars who sing with the Gaithers. While he can't read or write, he remembers everything he sees and hears. He can imitate anyone, but he limits this ability to people he admires. If Jake imitates you, he has paid you the highest compliment he can give.

Jake's grandparents bring him to every family reunion. I noticed he would approach every person present, one at a time, and ask how people were doing. He wants to know that every one is doing well physically, relationally, and spiritually. A typical conversation with Jake goes something like this:

Jake steps close and makes eye contact. "How is Julie? Is she going okay?"

"Julie is doing pretty good, Jake. But she's been sick lately. That's why she's not at the reunion this year."

A look of concern appears in Jake's eyes. "We need to pray for her. Does she love Jesus?"

"Yes, Julie loves Jesus."

"I do too. I love my church. Have you heard our choir? They sing so beautifully ..."

As Jake became a teenager, he was allowed into a special education program at the local high school. It's a large school having a student body of about 2,000. Word about Jake's love of music spread, and the band director allowed him to sit in on band classes. He can’t play an instrument, but he listened to the music, watched the director, and began to blossom.

At school, Jake circulated among the students with his one-on-one encouragement. Over his years at the high school, most of the students came to know him. At the conclusion of his senior year, the student body and faculty assembled for an awards ceremony. Jake prefers one-on-one interaction, so when his name was called to receive the Most Inspirational Student award, no one knew for sure what to expect.

Jake stood when they called his name. He walked the aisle to the front of the assembly, but he didn't go directly to receive his reward. Instead, he positioned himself in front of the band and turned to face the audience. He raised his hands for them to rise. After the entire student body stood, he turned to the band and directed them flawlessly through a rousing rendition of the school fight song. When the song ended and Jake received his reward, the applause was long and loud.

Before a church service, Jake greets everyone, and he knows them by name. He sits in the front row during services. When he is moved by a hymn or praise song, he turns, brings the congregation to their feet, and then turns to direct the praise band and choir. He does it flawlessly. The pastor understands. The people love it. The worship time is never boring with Jake in attendance.

Jake will always have the heart, mind, and innocence of a five or six year old, though he is now in his early twenties. Some hear about his autism and are saddened. They don't know Jake. But when God allowed him to be born with autism, He gave Jake a compensation for his disability, the gift of encouragement. I don't think Jake is even conscious of his gift. It's just who he is.

By the way, do you love Jesus?

H L Wegley

Author Bio
H. L. Wegley published in the scientific community for several years before turning his attention to fiction. If you Google H L Wegley, you will see some of his publications floating around in cyber space. He has a BS in Meteorology from Texas A&M University, an MS in Computer Science from Washington State University and is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, Northwest Christian Writers, and Oregon Christian Writers.
In the military he served as an Intelligence Analyst and a Weather Officer. After transitioning to civilian life, he served as a Research Scientist in Atmospheric Physics at a national lab for many years. After getting an advanced degree in Computer Science, he developed computing systems for Boeing until he retired in 2008.
He published his childhood adventure stories, Colby and Me, in 2009. But his work experience provided an abundance of material for writing romantic-suspense novels and thrillers. He is currently finishing the third book of a romantic-suspense series and is planning the first book in a new series.
He and his wife live in the Seattle area where he writes, leads a Bible-study group, spends time with grand kids, and tries to snorkel in Maui at least once a year.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?--by Monika Holt

The following is what my very dear friend, Monika Holt, and I lovingly refer to as “Monika’s Rant.” I must say she rants beautifully. The passage below is an outpouring of her very large heart after she and I had discussed concerns we saw in a large number of churches today. For some reason, many churches seem to have a much smaller percentage of special needs families than the population at large. We asked the question, why is that? I ask you, if your church is deficient in this particular population, what are you going to do about it???

Read and enjoy …

I see it clearly. I see how busy we are. Running from one appointment to another.  Aren’t homeschoolers supposed to spend at least a little time at home? The laundry we made last week is still not folded and the dishes are piling up in our sink.  The dog threw up again, the phone will not stop ringing and our heads will not stop spinning.  Life is busy, too busy; and we can’t stop moving.  The whole world “went and got itself in a hurry.” 

Now, let’s imagine the life of a mom whose kid is sick. One who, on top of all our choirs, has to take her daughter to two doctor appointments a week.  Another, who must carry her paraplegic child into the bathtub. Or one who must watch her precious daughter fall asleep in pain each night.  Imagine a mom, whose heart beats wildly  in her throat when she sees a boy walk by with a peanut butter cracker in his hand, hoping beyond hope that one cell of that offending food will not enter her child’s system, sending him into anaphylaxic oblivian.  Imagine, the mom who always carries an epi-pen in her purse, and checks her little boy’s face for hives every time his cheek flashes.  Or the mom who sees all the other kids doing normal things, realizing her child never will.  Imagine living in constant anxiety, in the world where danger lurks around each corner.  A simple field trip to a museum could cause a seizure, and a special event, like a Cookie Exchange, can end up in anaphylaxis, even death.  Now let’s imagine having to make a phone call, or send an email every time we want to go somewhere, just to verify that it is safe for your baby to be there.  Would we have the energy to do it, on top of everything else that is on our plate?  Or would we be much more likely to withdraw from participation, into the safety of our homes, where things are predictable?  How isolating it must feel to move through ones tired days, friendless.

Why are we not seeing more children with special needs around us?  Why are churches and church groups not filled with them?  After all, didn’t Jesus say, “Come to me all you who are weary?” Given this, shouldn’t the churches have more, not less than that of the public schools? The reason is, not that they are not plentiful, but because they are hiding.  Hiding from the world, which sometimes does not welcome them.  Hiding from people who are too inconvenienced by their presence.  We do not see all of them because their parents are tired of constantly striving and  explaining. So they quit in disappointment.

How incredibly devastating it is for the rest of us “normal” folks to be separated from these families of kids with special needs. It is in the hectic homes of tired parents that real perseverance is born. It is there that we find true peace and communion with the Lord. Beyond each painful trial there is joy overflowing. Beneath each bitter tear there is God’s perfect mercy. And under the heavy folds of deepest depression, born in monotone days without sunshine, are refreshing springs of His everlasting love. It is a great privilege for us to share in the lives of those who have kids with special needs.  There, we truly encounter God’s love, which if only we lend a hand, perfectly overflows to our lives.  Sometimes unaware of our ignorance we miss out on reaping the benefits and the blessings of honor, of being witnesses to the purity of this merit.  How I wait to serve them one day in heaven; because when all is said and done, the least will inherit the kingdom of God. 

Now, do the difficult thing and honestly ask yourself a question, is it easier just to look away?  Is it easier to just walk by and preach empty platitudes; that these parents should be diligent to look out for their own?  But where is the Body of Christ in that???  Why should we wait to get to heaven, to serve those in need?  Our precious Jesus washed the feet of his disciples; He led us by being a perfect servant first.  He humbled Himself to the point of the cross, not only so that our tomorrows would be in paradise, but also so that our todays would be filled with His Spirit.  Hence, What Would Jesus Do?  Often I find myself too busy to lift up my eyes and see the needs of others around me.   If I stop to help a stranger on the street, my plan for the day will crumble into pieces.   In it, I am Unfaithful!  I forget that the maker of this Universe, the One who crafted my soul is able to stretch my hours and organize my days.  As long as I am busy doing my Father’s work, he will replenish me, because His burdens are light and His yoke is easy.  The work I do for my Maker reaps rewards beyond human understanding; for the more I do for His kingdom and for His glory, the more He fills me and strengthens my spirit.   I should lift up my eyes and sift through my hours searching for tasks, which only He can assign to my destiny.  Combing for ways I can be used, to humbly serve his children the way He serves me.

We forget that our life is the greatest treasure hunt in the history of the universe.  We should dig deeply beneath our fleshly surfaces. We should look patiently beyond our material realm, and search passionately under the moods which sway us, hungry to discover the treasures, which await us from our loving Abba. 

We know utopia is not promised to us on this side of heaven.  Physical pain will always continue leaving us with countless emotional wounds to nurse.  However, by extending ourselves for the sake of others, a piece of paradise could enter in to our hearts and brighten our very existence.  Why not relieve the mom whose autistic child screams when she sings at home, so she in turn could bless her church with angelic tones of her soprano?  Why not surprise the tired parents of a paraplegic child with a babysitting offer, so they could go out for a date, maybe the first one in ten years?  Why not, pray with the sick, the hurt and the weary, right there on the spot?  Why not let the Spirit flow and take the risk of being laughed at, rejected and ridiculed, for a chance to bless others and be blessed in return?  Don’t miss out on the gifts of those who are tragically stuck in their homes.   Become not only a passive witness of their Spiritual growth, but a catalyst to the revealing of their hidden strengths.

The hardest lessons that the Lord teaches us are the ones, which bring pain into our lives.  Like a flood they sweep through our days altering the paths of each decision.  Aches, unanticipated and unwelcomed, like wild fire test our character and build our strength.  We like our cozy homes, where tomorrows are planned and we get to complain how busy we are, giving excuses for why we cannot pour more out of our souls for the sake of our sisters and brothers.  In it we forgo on the true fellowship with the real irons of this earth, which could truly sharpen our hearts.

Thanks for reading. Next Friday, LBOC will be featuring a guest blog on how one autistic boy’s gifts were given full-reign at his church and school. One example of what we are missing when we don’t reach out to all.

Born and raised in Poland, Monika Holt is a homeschooling mom of three, with a passion for Christ. She has two special needs children, one with a peanut allergy and one with reading disability, on the mend. In her BC (before children) days she was a professional ballroom dancer with an unlikely degree in English Literature and Political Science from Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ. She now chairs the Special Needs Committee in her local homeschool group.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Judging Someone Else's Servant

Romans 14:4          

view details            Who are we to judge someone else’s servant? That’s what Paul asks us in his letter to the Romans. And yet, we do this all the time.


            Does it somehow elevate us as Christians to note that we have not engaged in that sin we find so detestable? Even though the countless little ones are drenching us like rain—as in judging someone else?

            What’s worse is when we judge others on those things which are not even sin. We just assume they will lead to it, or maybe come from it.

            This reminded me of what happened when I began to write my current work-in-progress (WIP). I was told my character was hard to relate to because she’d made the poor decision of taking a position as a Resident Director in an all-male university dormitory. This position would require her to live, as the only woman, among five-hundred college guys. My first reaction to this was, of course, self-deprecating self-evaluation. After all, I’d taken that job several years ago. Was it really that sinful? Am I really that much of an idiot? Sorry, but I get prone to these thoughts at certain times of the month.

Religious symbol with Jesus and a lamb            But then I thought, even if this was a horrible, sinful act, which I no longer claim, I would wish those who are strong in faith would still find some way to love, and yes, even relate, to  me. Imagine Jesus among the prostitutes and tax collectors. Would He have mused on what made them different from Him?
view details
            Then, I thought of Joan of Arc. In fact, she is now mentioned in this manuscript as her calling parallels my main character in one way—having lived among men. She was called by God to do something which, at that time, was not only distasteful to many, it was part of the testimony against her that led to her being burned at the stake. And yet, she did it in order to be true to her Creator.

            Am I comparing my own circumstances to that of Joan of Arc? Eek! I can’t even claim the righteousness of Kirsten, the main character of my WIP. In fact, that was the lowest, weakest moment of my faith journey. And yet, God shown His light in my life even when I wasn’t looking for it. (That’s a whole different story). I don’t know if I was actually “called” to work in the all-male dorm, I just know that God used that experience to grow me in ways I needed. And perhaps He wanted me to tell the story of what it was like for a Christian, living in a very PC environment, where temptation saturates the individual, and there are few opportunities to find faith support.


            So I ask, as did Paul, “Who are we to judge someone else’s servant?” We do not know what the Master has asked of him. We could look at the woman who poured perfume on Jesus and blame her, as did Judas, for wasting the value of the item. And yet, Jesus praised her for treating Him with distinct honor. Or, we could esteem Jonah for resisting to socialize with such detestable sinners as the Ninevites. And yet, this was in direct opposition to what God commanded him to do.

            So who is the better servant? We can answer this question only because God’s Word tells us unmistakably. But in your own life, I caution you, don’t presume to be the all-knowing ear of God’s judgment.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Death of a Character

            In my last blog post about how being a writer is like being a Creator, Vanessa asked, “… what happens if you kill a character, judgment or remorse?” (See comments section of “Writer as Creator”). This is a serious question and reminds us of the question many have for God. Why does he allow death in the lives of His loved ones? I cannot in any way presume to know the reasoning of God when He, in His sovereignty, allows death. I can only guess, or maybe only say what I’m thinking when I allow it in my character’s lives.

            In my current work-in-progress (WIP) my heroine’s mother dies when the character is only fourteen years old. This sets up a chain of events in her life that, let’s just say, weren’t the best years of it. I grieve with the main character as she negotiates the loss of her mother, but I also know the end of the story. She traverses a long, arduous land, but after many years, she is able to move past this trauma, clinging to her God and Savior, which is a good place to be. Though she still grieves the many smaller losses of not having her mother in her life, she is able to move on, stronger than she was before.

            I do NOT, however, grieve for the mother. Being a believer, I know she is with the Lord. She no longer knows suffering of any kind. And even if she is aware “up there” that her child is struggling, she will be sure that God’s goodness will prevail.

            There are other characters who also die in this manuscript. The two main characters wonder about one, and how his life could have been different. I wrote this so the reader would consider the impact he or she could have on the life of another troubled soul. But in the end, I believe God KNOWS each person to the core and will therefore, act justly toward him or her when allowing His own judgment. I, on the other hand, don’t even want to judge my own characters, even though I have created them and know their hearts. I want to see each individual as having potential to really know Christ, and wonder always, do I have a role to play in that knowledge.

            Death carves great holes into the lives of God’s children. One can never take that lightly—even in fiction. But God is bigger even than that hole. He can fill it, though the landscape may look a little different when He does.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Writer As Creator

            One of the amazing things about being a writer is how it gives one a glimpse of what it is like to be God. No, I do not have the power to alter realities … but I do have the power to alter “unrealities.” And oh what an exciting prospect. I can make new worlds and tweek them to be just what I want them to be. I can control the weather, making it rain when the crops need water, and clear when the picnic needs to run its course. But one thing I still have no control over is … the human character.

            Of course, I could create nice little robotic characters who do what I say and treat everyone nice, including me. But that’s like when your husband says he loves you right after you tell him you want him to. Like kissin’ your sister. Though, I’m not going to say I know what God was thinking when He gave us Free Will, I can understand how He might just want us to choose Him on our own, and not just because He told us to.
            So, I end up with these characters who, even though I want them to do one thing, I scratch my head and say, “He’d never do that.” It just doesn’t fit with who he is. But what if that thing I want him to do would really help? I might just have to prod him in some way. Give him some sort of life-changing event that will make him want to do that one thing … even if it hurts.

            So I do it. Sometimes I cringe as my character traverses this difficult land, and I have even shed a tear as I read through the scenario, but I know it’s necessary. My character needs it to grow. So I let it happen.

            I suspect God does the same thing.