Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Decision to Live

I have been very disturbed this week, as I've read articles and watched interviews, regarding a lovely teen girl in Wisconsin who has chosen to end her own life... and thousands of people are praising her for being brave and strong. This girl has the same disease as I do - Spinal Muscular Atrophy, and has decided at the age of 14 that she doesn't want to deal with the pain and limitations anymore.

I don't know if this young lady has gotten wrong medical information, has poor role models, or is watching the wrong kinds of movies. But whatever has caused her to want to give up, it deeply breaks my heart. I want to sit with her, tell her my story - and Kevan's story, and Joni Eareckson Tada's story, and Nick Vujicic's story, for that matter! She is not alone in pain and weakness and weariness, and this is not the end of her story!

The crazy thing is, when I was 14, I was in the hospital with pneumonia and a collapsed lung, and the doctors told my parents I probably wouldn't make it. At that time, in the midst of incredible pain and weakness and feeling like I was slowly drowning, I could have very easily given up. The short term prognosis was bad, but the long term prognosis was worse - that it was very likely I would be hospitalized many times in my brief life. I had a critical decision to make then, and I chose to live. I was able to do it because of the hope and peace and strength Christ has given me.

I have had to make the decision between life and death countless times in the nearly 20 years that have passed since then - on hospital beds, on ventilators, and in my own bed at home. Choosing life is incredibly difficult sometimes. I wrestle with depression and frustration in my weakness and limits, and I battle with thoughts of being a burden on the people I love.

As a true follower of Jesus, that decision is more complicated than you might think! I often think about what heaven will be like - no more pain, no more weakness, no more limits! I'll get a new and improved body, and I can tell you right now that I will be unstoppable, making up for many years of missed-out activities like mountain climbing and scuba diving, and dancing - SO much dancing! Sometimes I get so homesick, its all I can do to not beg God to let me get there already.

But then... I remember that Jesus came so I could have life to the fullest (John 10:10), and that God commands me to choose life, that I and my family might live (Deut 30:19). He is the Author of Life, and the Giver of All Good Things. And he knows the good plans he has in store for me (Jeremiah 29:11). He knows the number of my days, and he has a perfect plan for each one. Why would I throw away his precious gift of life? Why would I give up and quit before his plan is fulfilled in me? That wouldn't be brave; that would be cowardly and selfish and the weakest thing I could do.

I've been thinking this week about all the incredible, beautiful moments I have experienced since I was 14 years old. In choosing to live, I rejected my own self-pity and all the easy excuses I could use to be worthless. I found true joy in life by doing hard things, taking risks, trusting people, and researching the best ways to care for this frail little body I've been given. Every morning, I chose to get out of bed and keep breathing, keep smiling, and keep moving. I choose to not let my disability rule over me, but defy every limitation in the name of Jesus, and with the help of amazing friends and family who love and support my choice, not just to exist but to truly live. My relationships have been so rich and full, because they've taught me to trust others and receive help, and they've taught my friends a whole new level of creativity, selflessness, strength of character, and love.

Choosing to live is a hard thing to do, but it is the very best thing. It is the only truly brave, amazing, praise-worthy thing to do. Every day is a new adventure, when I remember that I am not alone. Jesus is with me, to give me strength to live, and to carry me through my weakness. In him, I am limitless and strong.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Ocean Waves

A poem I wrote, inspired by the beautiful ocean views and the beautiful ministry I experienced in Portland, Maine... 

The rhythm of the waves --

Reaching out and pulling in
Rolling forth and falling back
Advancing and retreating
Swelling and shifting
Coming and leaving
Exhaling and inhaling and exhaling again.

Constant in its fluidity
Eternal in the temporary
Making all things new and fresh and new again.

Sweeping over sand
Swirling among shells
Washing through seaweed
Crashing against rocks
Transforming everything it touches
In slow, deliberate strokes.

Let me not sit
Still and stagnant
Safe and timid in the shallows.

Give me purpose and freedom on Your open seas --
Breathing Your mercy in and out of me
Casting Your love on dry and parched hearts
Bringing life to dead and dying souls
Filling hollow spaces with Your peace,
And forgotten places with Your hope.

Make me like the ocean waves,
Delighting to move with Your wind and tide, to

The rhythm of Your grace.

~ c. l. chandler

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Backpack: A Parable of Grace

About two months and $27,000 ago, my brother sat next to me in my room, with a pinched, anxious look on his face. "I'm just worried that this thing is going to become about me... I don't want that. I don't want to become overwhelmed by the organizing and the details and the spotlight, and the weight of being the Point of all this..."

In case you've been living under a rock lately, "this thing" Kevan was referring to is a campaign that he and his friends were just beginning, called "We Carry Kevan." You can visit their page... or read/watch basically any major newscast in the world (literally)... to learn the details of this now and become a part of it. But before it was a famous global campaign, it was Kevan's dream to do some things he physically cannot do alone. And before it was a viral internet sensation, it was a commitment that Kevan's friends made, to help him fulfill his dream. (By the way, if that seems vaguely familiar to you, check out Luke 5:18-20.)

When Kevan shared his concerns with me, I tried to be patient and sensitive, and then I said, "But Kevan! The whole Point of it all is that it's NOT about you! The Point is, you CAN'T do any of this on your own... the Point is, you need others - we need each other. And just because your name is on it doesn't make you the Point. You are the object, not the subject!" (Side note for the word-nerds: "We" is the active subject, "Carry" is the action that the subject does, and "Kevan" is the passive object - the one being carried. So really, it about the ones who are doing the carrying.) "So, just relax and enjoy the ride. Your role in all this is to be the receiver of this awesome gift, and to tell the amazing story."

I've been trying to understand GRACE more this year. I think maybe it's some kind of powerful, potent, magical, dangerous, life-changing, world-changing thing, and I'm on a quest to try to somehow grasp more of it. Do you know Jesus didn't really talk about grace? I mean, in the Bible he didn't ever have a sermon on the topic of grace, he didn't outline the five steps to having or receiving grace... but actually, he talked about grace all the time - he lived grace. His parables and miracles and interactions all sparkle with grace, because grace is not a textbook term, it is a living story.

"We Carry Kevan" is a parable of grace. It's a cripple in a backpack, leaning and depending and trusting on others to carry him when he cannot take a single step on his own. It demonstrates our personal limitations and inadequacies, and our desperation for something bigger, stronger, and more than ourselves.  It's a group of friends who offer strength where it is lacking, and who share a burden in order to experience deeper joy together. It is a message of hope and abundance beyond what we can ever earn or deserve.

It's a picture of Jesus Christ, lifting us out of that broken, dark, hopeless curse of sin, and lavishing us with a deluge of forgiveness and redemption and favor. He is the one who sees us, hears us, knows us, saves us, loves us... and yes, carries us. We are just the objects, the receivers and witnesses of his amazing grace. He is the subject - and it is all about Him.