All Lives Matter

All Lives Matter

I grew up in a family that accepted people of different color as all part of the same human race. We were taught to care for those less fortunate than ourselves and that all life held great value. God created the heavens and earth and filled them with diverse and wonderful creatures.  But mankind was specially created in His own image, male and female. God breathed life into them and they became living souls.  (Gen. 2)  God also gave us free will and the ability to love and be loved. Animals were given to us for food but it has never been acceptable to kill another human being.

Protesters in our streets are carrying signs that say, “Black Lives Matter” and I agree they do!  But Asian, White and Native American lives matter too. Unfortunately in our society and around the world there are many castes, hierarchies and prejudices that pigeon hole a person into what they can do or become.  We in our own wisdom decide if life is valuable or not in quality and quantity of years.

The very definition of infanticide is the crime of killing a child within a year of birth yet we have legislators that feel it’s ok to kill a living infant in a failed abortion attempt or “partially” birthed. How cold, cruel and unfeeling we have become to life!  Eighteen percent of pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) in 2017 ended in abortion – that’s approximately 862,320 in the USA.  Didn’t their lives matter?  Or do we think somehow they don’t matter because they were an accident, a mistake, unplanned and unwanted.

A well beloved surgeon I worked with learned that I had a son with disabilities. He said, “Well, you’re a better person than I am. My wife and I decided that if we knew anything would be wrong with our baby, we would abort.”  I smiled and said, “It’s hard sometimes but so worth it. We have gone places we never would have dreamed of and have met the most amazing people.”  Our son’s life matters and so do the lives of his cognitive and physically disabled coworkers and friends.

Everyone enjoyed the story of P.T. Barnum glamorized in the musical “The Greatest Showman” because “ it fosters hope in dreamers and a sense of inclusion in outcasts, projecting a message that is desperately needed in today’s society. Barnum saw possibilities and beauty in the misfits and outcasts of society and gave them a sense of family.”*** The movie crosses barriers of all kinds and the powerful lyrics to “This is Me” topped the charts. Why?  I believe we want a world of inclusion and peace deep down in our hearts. We want to belong and feel like our life matters.                                                  **quote from Jen Piekarz review

God Himself declares all life to be sacred and planned for a purpose.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15  My  frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.            Psalms 139:13-16 (ESV)

The gospel is the most inclusive doctrine in the world and has an open invitation for all. While Jesus was on earth he lived the greatest example of sacrificial love, compassion and inclusion.  He healed untouchables (ex. lepers), ate with “sinners” of all kinds and hung out with a mixed group that included uneducated fishermen as well as a tax collector. He was not afraid or too proud to speak with half breed Samaritans or Roman Centurions.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life     John 3:16 (ESV)

 Jesus came for ALL. If we could love each other like Jesus there would be no more hatred, inequality or dismissing people as less than. Bullying would cease and understanding would increase.  If only we could grasp the truth that ALL LIVES MATTER.

mixedchildren

A simple song I learned as a child says it all.

Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

Red and yellow, black and white

They are precious in His sight

Jesus loves the children of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choose to Include

Choose to Include

SO5othAnnivSpecial Olympics is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary and June 21st, 2018 will be the “Global Day of Inclusion”. Through the power of sports – people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths and abilities,skills and success.The power and joy of sport, shifts focus to what the athletes CAN do, not what they can’t. Attention to disabilities fades away.

“When a society misunderstands and underestimates the capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities, opportunities are lost. Jobs that might be done go undone. chances for friendships that might be sparked pass by. And respect that might be won is lost.”  (quote from Special Olympics website)

revs_bfag_groupRemyThe Special Olympics organization understands the odds their athletes must overcome and the barriers they face everyday. They have done much to fight negative stereotypes and misconceptions by raising awareness and providing educational experiences. They have also been focusing on Unified Teams – which gets people with and without  ID to play on team sports.

Oddly enough many churches do not include people with intellectual disabilities in their services and programs. There may be limited access and accommodations to even attend the church building. People fear “odd” behavior and may not feel comfortable around those who don’t fit in with the “norm”.  But through telling a parable, Jesus taught that is incorrect thinking.

…Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’22 After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’23 So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.’”      Luke 14:21-24 (NLT)

There is plenty of room in God’s house for ALL and they are welcome. Our family has JFsingingparticipated in Special Olympics for over 20 years. Our 30 yr.old son Jeremy has cerebral palsy and participates in three seasons of sport and my husband is a coach.  But we have learned about God’s unconditional love for us and for all people through an organization called “Joni and Friends”.  They have educational programs for churches and family retreats for families affected by disability.

At Family Retreat, there is no can’t.  WE sing, worship, do activities – boating, crafts, dancing, even rock-wall climbing – with people of all abilities. Volunteers go out of their way to make a way for all to participate.

This is where I have witnessed unconditional love and acceptance.  People who love God and see others through His eyes are truly blessed. Does it make the circumstances of life easier or go away? No. We encourage, support and pray for each other. There is a true JOY that fills the heart.

As THE CHURCH – we need to choose to include!

JFdance

When Crisis Strikes Your Town

When Crisis Strikes Your Town

Our town is in mourning. Four teens , all friends and athletes, were returning from a birthday party when a dark road, a big tree and excessive speed ended their ride and futures. A fifth teen lies in the hospital – his life hanging in the balance.

church memorialFriends of the victims called the local parish and organized a memorial service.  “It’s cathartic because you have to name it,” said Pastor James Mazzone. “You have to put it out there. You have to say, I’m grieving, I’m angry maybe, I’m confused. And when you do that when you share it with other people, it makes it easier.”

A local evangelical church also held a community service to pray for the families, the 5th young man who is in critical care and all the first responders. They offered their Pastoral and counseling staff to be at the high school to meet with grieving students.  A parent group has organized a go fund me page and gathered people to make ribbons to show support as a town for the families.

One of the definitions of community is, “a group of people living together in one place, especially one practicing common ownership”. We come together to mourn the loss of promising life, to remember and comfort one another. These boys were “our” kids.

Where do you go when tragedy strikes? What fills the hurting and questioning heart with peace and comfort? Tragic accidents happen – especially this time of year when young people feel invincible and carefree.

The Psalms echo what our hearts feel…

1 O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer!2 From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed       Psalms 61:1-2 (NLT)

Day and night I have only tears for food, while my enemies continually taunt me, saying, hug-grief“Where is this God of yours?”   4 My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be….: 5 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!          Psalms 42:3-6 (NLT)

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.    Psalms 34:18

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. Psalms 147:3 (NLT)

I wonder about the young man in the hospital and his family. Their names are being protected from the press.  They are grieving too.  Since he was the driver, if he recovers from his physical wounds, his life will  be forever changed. Will people offer him forgiveness and support? His life matters too.

We cry out “WHY?”  Wasn’t God watching? Doesn’t He care?

jesus-wept2In the book of Luke we are told that Jesus wept. He wept because His friend Lazarus died. He wept because His friends were so distraught. They said – if you had been here sooner, Lazarus wouldn’t have died!  He cried even though He knew that Lazarus would be raised from the dead.

So, yes dear one. God is watching and His heart is crying out for us to come to Him. Oh how He longs to comfort and restore us. He understands our pain.

14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.           Heb 4:14-16 (NLT)

Jesus promised a gift to those who believe. So come to Him.   “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.       John 14:27 (NLT)

             Give Them All to Jesus   (Chorus)

Give them all, give them all, give them all to Jesus.

Shattered dreams, wounded hearts and broken toys.

Give them all, give them all, give them all to Jesus

And He will turn your sorrows into joy.

hands&candle