Saturday, July 31, 2010

Maintenance of the House and the Church

Today was a productive day for Pam and I! We changed light bulbs, unclogged drains, checked smoke detectors, and tightened loose screws around the house. Actually, dear Pam did these things, and I directed and oversaw all the projects. :) I must say I am quite impressed with my little handy-girl! We finished up the day with a fabulous salad, which included Jayne's home-grown lettuce, with some mandarin oranges, craisens, sliced almonds, shredded colby-jack cheese, grilled chicken, and ranch dressing. It was beautiful and delicious, and I like to think it would make my dear Miss Peggy back at home very proud.

While we worked on the house, Hau Lun had a group of about ten Burmese men in the dining room around the table, snacking on oranges, with their Bibles and notebooks open. From the tone of their conversation, we are pretty sure it was a church leadership meeting. The new pastor has been here for about two weeks now, and I think they are figuring out how to serve and grow their little Chin-Zo fellowship more effectively - as any church leadership team should do from time to time. They talked for several hours, interspersing their conversation with songs and prayers. They sounded very excited and passionate, and I wish I knew what they were saying. I wish I knew what their ideas are and how they worked through their questions and concerns. When they were through, they hugged and blessed each other warmly, and Hau Lun looked very pleased and excited. I can't wait to spend the fall with them and see what God is leading them into!

I want to take good care of my house, because it is not only where I live, but it is one of my central places for building relationships and ministering to others. I invite people to come in, so I want them to feel like it is clean, safe, orderly, and comfortable, and I want them to know they are welcomed and loved here. The church is very much the same - it is a place of community and fellowship, and should be well maintained - spiritually, emotionally, socially, and physically - so that those who come in will experience the love of Jesus.

Friday, July 30, 2010

To dispell some misconceptions about disabilities - Part 2

My circumstances do not dictate my relationship with God. I love the verses in Daniel, where three friends are faced with death by fire. They tell the king that they know God has the power to bring them out and spare them from certain horrific death… and then they say, “But even if he doesn’t…” Even if he doesn’t, I will still praise the Lord. I will still honor and obey him. I will still believe that he is good and he loves me. It is hard to explain to some people that I don’t think God is going to “heal me” in this life, because then I sound like I have no faith or I have given up. But that isn’t the case. I know he is able to, but I don’t think he wants to. I believe this is the truth, and it does not make me angry or discouraged because my devotion to the Lord is not based on my strength or weakness. Whether I walk or whether I sit, whether I live independently or whether I must depend on others more and more as I get older, I will serve the Lord. Isn’t this a louder and more powerful witness than making my faith in him contingent on whether or not he “heals me”?

The greatest and most eternal miracle is the work Jesus has done in our hearts. If God healed my muscles, took away this disease, and strengthened me physically, one day I would still grow old, get weak again, and possibly need a wheelchair again. This body is temporary, and will eventually fade and die. But the spirit is eternal… and the greatest miracle Jesus ever performed was the work he did on the cross, to cover my sin and make a way for me to have access and relationship with the Father. He healed my heart, restored my soul, and gave me a new spirit… and when I die, it will live on for eternity with my Lord.

God can receive glory through the lives of those who are “imperfect” or “broken.” The saddest thing I have been told regarding my disability is this: “God wants to heal you so people will know his power and he can get the glory.” Can he not accomplish this even if I am in a wheelchair? In fact, in some ways I think he can get more glory through my weakness, because any strength that is demonstrated in my life can only ever be attributed to him. God chose the weak things of this world to shame the strong.... the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, so that no one can boast before him. Louis Giglio would say my disability is God’s megaphone, through which he can amplify his message of hope and joy and peace to others. I pray that people will see and know his power in a mighty way, and that he will receive all the glory, whether I stand up or sit down.

There are more important things to look forward to than physical healing. This is something Joni Eareckson Tada has taught me over the years, through her life and ministry. I do not want to waste my life chasing after selfish ambition – which is how I see it if I relentlessly insist that God “heal” me even after he has said no. I want to spend my time and energy on sharing the gospel with people so they can know Jesus too… because the thing I look forward to the most is heaven. Heaven is where I will walk, true. But heaven is also where I will never make another stupid decision, I will never have any more regrets, I will never hurt someone again. Heaven is where relationships will flourish the way they were meant to – without tension, jealousy, distrust, insecurity, or geographical or chronological distance. Heaven is where there will be no more tears, no more exhaustion, no more “burn out.” Heaven is where we will be with Jesus forever – directly in his presence, without fault and with the greatest joy imaginable. With heaven in my view, how could I desire anything else?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

To dispell some misconceptions about disabilities - Part 1

In loo of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as some awkward sermons from well-intentioned charismatic Christians, I thought I might lay out some truths that God has revealed to me over the past 27 years. When I wrote this, it was insanely long, so I decided I will post it in two parts, for your reading convenience – so come back tomorrow for part 2!

- God will do what he wants, and he does not need to explain, apologize, or get our permission to do so. It sounds harsh, but it is so true, and because it is true it can be a comfort. His ways are not my ways, and his thoughts are higher than mine. He does not need to give me reasons why my muscles are weak; he knows the reasons and will accomplish his will through it. I am so thankful that God is God and doesn’t need me to direct or manage him or hold him accountable. He is always good, and I can always trust him.

- Prayer and faith are not a guarenteed recipe for us to get what we want. Another hard truth. Donald Miller has said that there is no formula for how to come to Jesus, and if you think you have discovered one, you don’t really know Jesus at all. I get tired of hearing people say, “Just pray! Just have faith!” I do! I do pray, and I do have faith that I hope has grown a little bigger than a mustard seed… but in praying, I have heard God assure me of the purpose he has for my life in this chair. In cultivating faith, I have learned to trust him even when I don’t understand, and to have joy even in suffering. If anything, prayer and faith have brought me to a place of contentment and peace in this gift (yes, I just called it a gift) God has given me.

- I have been healed. Does that shock any of you? If it does, my parents can give testimony to its truth. I have been in the hospital many times, my life in the balance, and God chose each and every time to save me and restore my health and strength. The doctors have been amazed more than once by remarkable – miraculous - recoveries. Don’t overlook the fact that my life has been spared over and over again.

- One day I will walk. Another shocker? Well, I have this promise that in heaven, there will be no more pain or sickness. I don’t even think I will have the weight of gravity to hold me back – I will walk and jump and run and dance and surf (hey, why not?) better than anyone on earth ever could, in my brand new, god-like perfect body! Why desire to settle for anything less in a mortal body?

- Sometimes, the things we think are important or necessary are not the same things that God considers important or necessary. I see this in the story in Acts 3 of the man at Solomon’s Colonade, who had been crippled since birth, and all he was asking for was money. In his case, God did not consider money to be his problem – his weakness was. In my life, I don’t think God sees my disability as the main problem, or physical healing as the main solution. If I waste my life begging for my muscles to be strong, I will completely miss out on the ways he does want to bless me.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Little Michael

One week until my mom comes! I am so ready to spend time with my family.

Yesterday was our last Women’s Club for the summer. I had eleven women in my ESL Bible class – a record attendance! We used all the chairs in my house and filled the dining room, but I think they had a good time and learned some things. The Bible story was one of my favorites to teach, about the woman at the well in John 4. “Give me this living water! I want to drink your water!” the woman says, and I asked the women if they want the water Jesus can give. They said yes, and I told them that if they just ask Jesus for it, he will give it to them. If they really do, I believe the Holy Spirit will convict them of sin and lead them to forgiveness too. I’m praying this happens.

Little Michael is getting stronger every day. He can now burst through weighted doors and climb the flight of stairs to his family’s room (which is no small feat). And yesterday he proved that he can now climb onto my lap all by himself! For most of the summer, he has showed me love by running up to me, patting my lap with his little hands, and grinning up at me. Sometimes, he just runs straight to my lap, wraps his arms around my legs and rests his head in my lap. I return the love by patting or kissing his little head or giving him hugs. He is precious, after all. Well yesterday, he ran to me for his usual greeting, but this time he grabbed my skirt on both sides of my lap and pulled. Using it as a makeshift rappelling rope, he put his little feet up on my footrest and then hiked his knee up on my lap! At that point he got this sudden realization that he didn’t know how to get his other leg up there, so here he was, halfway between secure ground and an inviting cuddle corner. I grabbed his upper arms to keep him from falling on his head and held on for dear life until Thang Ngaih could run to the rescue. Of course, now that we both know he can do it and that it’s not mere wishful thinking or empty threats, I have to be much more careful and make sure another adult is around! He is indeed precious though, and his determination to sit on my lap says, “I love you and trust you,” so much louder than words ever could.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The greater Chicagoland area

Just got back from a wonderful weekend in Chicagoland with my travelling buddies, Pam and Jayne, and introducing our new sidekick, Maelynn! While Pam enjoyed spending time with her parents and a handful of "fake" aunts and uncles, Maelynn, Jayne and I visited the International Teams office in Elgin, the Malaysian restaurant in Arlington Heights, and Cantigny Park in Winfield. We all stayed at Pam's friends' house, who were all too gracious and amazingly brave to let three total strangers crash at their beautiful home in Hanover Park for two nights. In the midst of torrential thunderstorms and flooding one night, we ate Ben 'n' Jerry's Phish Food and revelled in the childhood familiarity of old McGee 'n' Me films, and the next night we took full advantage of their cool coffee machine and played epic card games like 5 Crowns and Skip-Bo until midnight, as Maelynn video-blogged the whole thing. Of course the weekend ended with the "native Chicagoans" exposing us tothe famous Portillos hot dogs and beef sandwiches, which really are as amazing as everyone says they are. Good weekend, good times, good friends! And in conclusion, I like the west side of Chicagoland much more than downtown.

Ten more days til I go home to North Carolina! And then... four weeks until I return to Indiana! No, I am not devoted to Fort Wayne as a city... no, I do not look forward to the winter here... and no, I did not fall in love with any boy this summer... I just prayed a lot, and God gave me peace that this is where I need to be, for now. My next commitment to this corn-infested land is until Christmastime. I'll be really busy - teaching English, leading youth ministry, living with internationals, and my latest assignment is to be "House Mom" to incoming refugees at #629 where I live, better known as "The Angaying Inn." Many blog entries will be written, and more pictures displayed, so stay tuned! Until Labor Day, I have two weddings to attend, hours of quality time with my family to catch up on, and about 1,000 friends to see, so it will be busy... but oh so good...