On being forged into a warrior mom
If I could summarize our journey from Hell to HOPEISM, it would be in my faith, which I call HOPEISM. It has been my weapon of choice to get me through each battle I have had to fight in my mission to win our war called life with autism and seizures. Vaccine injury to be more specific. It would also be in committing to heart, soul, & mind the words and motto's from Forged, NDCQ, the Lone Survivor, and Levi Lusko in his book, "Through the Eyes of a Lion." I will be forever grateful to the inspiration, encouragement, and mental fortitude found through all of them collectively. Because of that, I am not allowing this tragedy of vaccine injury that has come into our lives to be an obstacle to being used by God. I am instead turning it into an opportunity to be used like never before!
This blog is dedicated to Brandon. His life has been forged by difficulty, obstacles, & all too often because of seizures - pain, blood, broken teeth, & broken bones. Yet through all that he has shown such fortitude. The bravery, strength, & resilience of a true warrior. He taught me that having strength through adversity means that even if you lose every battle, like the Lone Survivor, you never quit fighting until you win the war. That in the words of "NDCQ," you keep "dreaming," keep "daring," & keep "doing." As Team Guppy has yet to be able to escape vaccine injury, we have no choice but to as Levi Lusko writes, "Run toward the Roar." God has indeed given us such incredible power in enduring such impossible pain.
Some days the HOPEISM in that simply takes my breath away.
August 29, 2011
In the early years of having one son who was diagnosed with autism, and a typical son only eighteen months older, I really talked to God.
Things like, "Lord, Really? You're killing me. One son you give me cannot talk. I've spent a fortune on therapy to try and get him to talk. I've begged him, pleaded with him, and bribed him to talk. But he won't talk. One son you give me will not shut up. I've begged him, pleaded with him, and bribed him to stop talking for just a few seconds to allow my ears to rest. But he won't stop talking.... Could you just share. Divide up the language between them both?" I think it was during that period of time when I realized God must have a sense of humor, and when my own sense of humor took a turn for the bizarre. But hey, laughing about it was better than alcohol, drugs, or smoking!
One son I had to start in school when he was three years old so that he might have a chance at adulthood. The other son I waited as long as possible to start school, until he was six years old, so he would have more time to be a child.
One son failed IQ test after IQ test in assessing his disabilities. The other son's scores through the roof on IQ test after IQ test in assessing his abilities.
One son had IEP's having to do with 'manding'. Which means he had to make a sound, any sound, to get a desired item. The other son had a behavior contract where he would be rewarded for only talking out loud 3 times out of every 15 minute period.
And so the extremes began. Both sons so very, very different. Both sons so very, very much loved.
One son the moon -- quiet, serene, gentle. Humbly being that light in the darkness that is autism. The other son the sun -- bright, shining, rambunctious. Joyfully being the laughter in the lunacy that would be our life.
One needing to be protected. The other, the protector.
It's been an emotional roller-coaster ride being the mom of both boys, that is one thing in this unsure world, that I am most sure of. And over the years I thought I had experienced every extreme emotion a mommy could. It's been a decade now of autism and all the ups and downs, twists and turns, joys and sorrows, tears and laughter that goes with that. And my oldest son, the "other" child as he is called because the child with autism consumes parenthood, -- has just graduated High School.
It's been a whirlwind. I've seen it all and I've been through it all.
Or so I thought.
The events of late have me revisiting that in contemplating which is harder as a mom. Having a child who does not know how to dream and therefore will never experience a dream being shattered, or having a child who does know how to dream, and him having that dream shattered?
Once again back to God in that never-ending conversation we've had over the years, in that once again I am experiencing such extremes in my children..... Which is harder? Not being able to dream, or being able to and having them crushed?
All hopeism aside for a moment -- knowing that the son with autism had that part of his life stolen by the very autism that consumes him at times. In that he's never played make-believe. Never had an imaginary friend. Has never shared his hopes and dreams with me. I'm not sure he knows what dreams are or what the future means. I know how stark raving mad that makes me feel inside. I know the pain of how that sword pierces my soul at times. But at least I know that he doesn't feel that. He can't mourn the loss of a dream he never had in the first place. To him, this day, this moment, is his dream. There is nothing more pleasurable than the moment he lives in. There is no anticipation of tomorrow, there is no regret of yesterday. For him, there is only the right here and right now. Any pain is only in this moment, any anger is only in this moment, any laughter is only in this moment. And then gone in the next moment. The heartbreak of him never having his heartbroken by a girl will only be mine. The heartbreak of him never getting to be something every fiber of his soul longs to be when he grows up, will only be mine.
I fear the possible day my other son has his heartbroken by something or someone. I've been grieving for my other son who might possibly have his dream crushed by something out of his control.
It's that cross-roads where you look both ways and think not knowing is better than knowing. I guess that's why God doesn't always reveal things to us. We just couldn't handle it I don't think. I know I couldn't. I can't.
All I can do is bump up my humor a notch to cope with those questions. Those extreme heartaches for my extreme children. And I must bump up my conversations with God, aka, my prayers. They need to be as extreme as my situation often is.
I just wish I had extreme patience to go with it all. But until that time, I'll have to settle for having extreme faith. Extreme hopeism. Extreme love for these two boys and the Savior who blessed me with them for a season, a reason and for a purpose.
And extreme thankfulness for the husband who has stood by and comforted me through the madness of my extreme mommy-hood.
August 25, 2011
Yes, this is Michelle being her perhaps to some, not so humorous self. But it's how I cope with things. How I help sort them out in my mind. How I not go mad in dealing with the maddening.
So back to my sin scanner. I think all churches should have one. It would make things much easier on those who want to serve, who have served, then find they're asked not to serve anymore because of some "sin" that has been scanned by some obvious "not-ever-have-sinned" sinner themselves.
While I have to put my spin of humor on this story, it is based on a true story shared to me by the person this happened to. No, not gonna say who. And no, not gonna say what church. And no, not gonna entertain speculation about who was right or wrong. I'm just going to say this is one of the many issues that keep sinners hesitant to go to churches for fear of them being judged by their sin. Oh, we may say we accept them, but we make them wear a scarlet letter so we can identify them, the sinners, from us, the apparent non-sinners. Or them the "really bad" sinners, from us, the "not so bad" sinners.
This person is a Christian who has made mistakes. To that end there is no doubt. But I've not personally seen God's hierarchy of sin to know where their particular sin falls, and yet I know it's not anywhere close to child abuse or murder. What I would consider the big 'en's on that nonexistant list. Either way, this person went to a Ministry meeting for this particular gender and opened their heart about their sin. Fully exposed themselves. Fully shared their sin and how they struggle with it. Not for any other purpose but to seek support. Encouragement. Accountability in overcoming that. And what this person thought, to actually maybe start a support Ministry for this particular struggle for this particular gender. After all, surely they're not the only one. Above all, they're most certainly not.
What this person got, was asked not to serve where they were serving because someone took one sin - and immediately blew it out of proportion to sins it never had anything whatsoever to do with. No, this person didn't get continued encouragement for having the guts it took to stand in front of a bunch of people and admit their sin. They didn't get encouraged to serve elsewhere, just asked not to serve because of someone's rampant imagination.
Wow. Talk about being crushed by the very place crushed people are supposed to go to get uncrushed! To find unconditional love. To find acceptance of them as a person.
At first I was angry. Then just sad. Then I laughed. And began thinking about inventing my sin scanner for churches. It would be just like a metal detector or body scanner in an airport. When the doors of church open on Sunday, it would be right there for everyone to walk through. The church could have it programmed for their list of sins they won't allow or accept - and when that person walks through meeting that criteria, flashing red lights go off along with an alarm and the bouncers would descend upon them like Baptists at a pot luck and escort them out. I guess to perhaps come back another time when they are less a sinner. Or when sufficient time has passed for us to not be embarrassed by their sin. Who knows.
We would have one for each Ministry too, and the criteria of sins you can't have to serve in that Ministry would be programmed in. I mean really. Not everyone wears their sin on the outside, and not everyone would be honest on any pre-screening sin-questionairre. But we have to know... We have to scan those sins that folks keep hidden! You've looked at porno? Well of course that means you could be a child molester and so the sin scanner will sound so we don't let you work anywhere near children. You stole a piece of gum as a child? Well, then the sin scanner will go off anytime you enter the church office or want to be an usher passing the offering plate. You had an abortion as a young teen? Yep, we've programmed our sin scanner to detect that so that even though you are a forgiven Christian now, your past sin might still smear onto our youth. You're divorced or an unwed mother and want to sing in the choir? No, we've found that only married people can truly make a joyful noise unto the Lord. No matter that often the most heartfelt songs are written by the most broken or the purest melodies sung by the most unpure. I would want one for each Adult Sunday School leader as well. I mean really, I wouldn't want a lustful leader who has ever had the human reaction of thinking momentarily "He looks good in those jeans" -- teaching a class with my hottie husband in it. So yep, "lustful thinking" would be programmed in that sin scanner as well. Doesn't matter that you've not committed adultery, but it starts with a thought you know... I wouldn't want a youth leader teaching youth moral principles if they've had premarital sex themselves. And oh my the scandal if we had one as Deacons enter a deacon meeting and anything on that "deacon to not do or have done" list had actually been done!
Many may think I'm going overboard with this, but am I? Do we not see that everywhere we go? In churches we've been in?
I know I've felt it whether it was intended or not. And I know I've used my own sin scanner to judge others as well. Maybe I'll donate mine to the church. I don't want it anymore. My dad-blasted son has called me on that a time or two. How dare he trample on my own self-righteousness so!
Rest assured, I'm not saying that we should let convicted child molesters serve in the Children's Ministry. That's where policies of background checks for volunteers come in. Let's start with that basic tool in judging others to see where they're fit to serve, or not serve. But for bloomin onion's sake, let's not immediately judge those who haven't even committed a crime. I mean really, do we as a church want to be in the business of judging one's sin, or in this case, taking one sin and relating it in our mind, in our judgement of their sin, to a level of sin it never was nor ever would be?
And I wonder, when we do that -- when we "scan" people's sin and judge them based on that -- what blessing are we missing? Who better to form bonds with men who are struggling with men issues - then the very men who have had to deal with and overcome those issues? How many teens can benefit from one teen's past mistake of pregnancy, or dare we allow them to admit, -- abortion? Who better to teach honesty than a thief who has found truth?
I wonder who is leading our Churches, our Ministries, or Sunday School classes now, who would not make it past that sin scanner? I know I wouldn't. I'm probably considered too radical. So I guess I should save myself the humiliation and just not ever volunteer to serve. I might corrupt people. But I wonder, if all it took was one radical woman who was an atheist to get prayer out of schools, what could be accomplished for the kingdom if we had 10 radical women on fire for the Lord, in the church, leading other women in how to get radical and thus help get God back?
I wonder who would be left to serve in our churches if we had such a scanner?
Who could ever hope to go through one without setting off the alarm?
I know who....
The very people most often shut out of churches.
Those with disabilities.
And that makes me laugh even harder.
That's more than a cliche' spin-off to me. It's been a very real lesson lately. In trust. In hope. In faith. In everything that as a Christian we must have, but often fall short and don't.
In simply "layin 'em down" when it comes to giving my prayers to God.
The lyrics to the song by that name go like this:
Come down to the river
Come and let yourself in
Make good on a promise
To never hurt again
If you're lost and lonely
You're Broken down
Bring all of your troubles
Come lay 'em down
All you sinners
And the weak at heart
All you helpless
On the boulevards
Wherever you are now
Whatever evil you've found
Bring all of your troubles
And come lay 'em down
We're all tied to the same old failing
Finding shelter in things we know
We're all dirty like corrupted small towns
We'll bring our troubles
We'll bring our troubles
Lay 'em down
All you rich men
And the high above
All of those with and without love
All you burdened broken down
Bring all of your troubles
Come lay 'em down
Singing that song often as I do, it seems so simple. Just lay em down. Pour your heart out to God, tell him the situation you are in, trust in Him to answer as only He can.
But it's not that easy. It's hard. To open our heart in that way, to tell God what it is we need to happen, and then to just let go. No, that would mean we have to totally trust. Totally surrender. Totally let go. And we are control freaks whether we admit it or not. If I just hold on to that by a pinky, I'll still have some control.... If I just sorta believe it won't hurt as bad if the answer isn't what I hoped.
We do that. Oh, we go to Him and "Lay em Down" all right, -- but we just don't ever walk away and "Leave 'em Be" or "Leave it to He".
We hold on as if our strength is greater than His and therefore don't let go.
We think we know better than He how we need the prayer to be answered and therefore don't totally trust.
We think surrender is a sign of weakness and therefore don't give God a chance to be in control of the situation.
We keep those thoughts and prayers to ourselves because we feel we'll be humiliated if we share the prayer request, it's not answered in the way we wanted, and then we're left feeling others think our faith wasn't great enough to warrant what we asked for, or our worth not high enough for answered prayer.
When really, it has nothing whatsoever to do with us. Not totally at least.
It's about God.
It's about what will bring HIM Glory.
It's about what HIS plan is for us.
That's the hardest part. I don't doubt God answers prayer. But I often doubt my ability to cope with that answer if it's not what I was expecting!
That's the lesson I'm learning lately. Fully trusting. Fully believing. What it really, truly means to "Lay the Prayer request down and walk away..." To not think about all the what if's... To not doubt. Not debate. Not have a panic attack. To not hang on just in case...
To just give it to God and walk away.
August 24, 2011
Take your lies
Take your deception
Take your temptations
I don't need them.
Take your doubts
Take your betrayal
Take your bondage
I will escape them.
Take your deals
Take your destruction
Take your captivity
I'll keep my freedom.
Take your anger
Take your fury
Take your impatience
Faith doesn't hurry.
Take your pride
Take your blame
I'll confess to Christ
I'll bear no shame.
Take your pity
Take your pain
What you mock as loss
I'll claim as gain.
Take my tears
Take what you've broken
Your door's now closed
God's window always open.
By Michelle M. Guppy
August 22, 2011
I read stories like Kobe Bryant who get off charges scott-free, and despite immoral behavior, still get to enjoy millions of dollars and a lucrative career. Stories like his are a dime a dozen, if worth that. Politicians who lie yet get re-elected. Criminals who kill, get off on technicalities, never at least repent, get away with it and go on with their life. All the while innocent, good people, who make one mistake, are forever penalized because of it.
It makes me angry.
It makes me think sometimes that the cosmic justice system is nothing but a bingo cage filled with lotto balls. Everyone rolling around in there while some little old lady with blue hair turns the handle. All of us. The sinners, the saints, the innocent, the guilty, the rich, the poor, the deserving, the undeserving, the believers, and the unbelievers. We're just all in there rolling around hoping it's us who rolls out once the cage stops turning.
Life seems so unfair like that at times.
When good people make a bad mistake and forever after have dreams crushed. When faithful people pray for healing yet never see that in this lifetime. When you do the right thing and your fate rests in the hands of others while you must wait, sitting there as the white lotto ball in that cage hoping when it stops, you roll out with a decision in your favor.
You really find what your faith is made of during those times.
Among all the uncertainties, you have to know the one thing that is certain. That God is not a genie in a bottle that you can rub in an emergency, and your faith can be many things, but it cannot be fickle. That your faith in God is not a sprint where you can go strong and then stop when you are tired or that particular race is over. No... you learn that God is a Sovereign God and that having faith must be like training for a life-long marathon or its not faith in God you have, it's a momentary fad that will fade when the current trend does.
I have to remind myself of that often, especially when challenging times hit us like a brick wall knocking our breath away. That after we have done what we could and trusted God to do what we can't -- are we contemplating the odds of us being the lotto ball in the bingo cage overcoming the odds, or are we trusting fully, faithfully, in God? Do we know in our hearts that it's not the odds we want in our favor, but God's Grace and Mercy in our favor? Will we still believe and remain steadfast in our faith in God if when the handle stops turning, the cage stops spinning, and we aren't the ball that is chosen? When it's not our prayer that was answered in the way we wanted?
When we realize we screwed up and do the instinctive "rub the bottle hoping the genie comes out to grant our wish" - and he doesn't?
Waiting is hard.
Trusting is hard.
Wondering if your faith is worthy, is hard.
I'm glad God knows that about me. That I have these thoughts. That I wonder if I'm worthy of him answering my prayer. That I'm scared to death about whether his answer will be the one we need. The one we want. The heartbreak we will have if it's not. I'm glad he knows that I am furiously saying those prayers, making those promises to pray more, read more, do more - furiously rubbing that bottle, -- if he would just....
And above all I know he knows that I am sometimes the father in Mark 9:23 who brought his son to him and said, "If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." And I know God's reply is "If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes." Where I exclaim with everything in me, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
That's where I find myself. In knowing God can, and in praying he will. And wondering what will happen if he won't. Playing all the odds in my head. All the alternative scenario's of what to do if our ball isn't chosen.
But that's not faith. Not the kind I want to have at least.
The faith I want to have is found in the woman of Luke 8:44. Seeking out Jesus in a pressing crowd, making her way to him no matter how inappropriate it was of her to do that in her condition, but doing it anyway because she knew the power of Jesus and she knew if she could but touch him, she would be healed. Her faith was not based on odds, but on Jesus being the omnipotent.
Her faith that did not for once consider what if he couldn't or won't, but knew with all her heart only that he would.
That's what gives me hope.
That despite my flesh, God knows my heart. Our family's heart. He knows we're the father mentioned above. He knows we're the woman mentioned above. He knows we play the odds in our head and in our feeble desperation wish he were a genie. He knows we know he can, and he knows we worry about if he won't. He knows we've cried out to him and wept in each others arms.
He knows we know that we are unworthy, but that he is worthy. And that because of that, we have great worth in his eyes and he will only prosper us, never harm us.
That we are running to him in prayer with faith that he has the power to answer that prayer.
We believe that Lord.
I believe that Lord.
~ ~ ~
And when I wonder what to do while waiting, while running the race of faith, I find that answer in a country song of course...
In God smiling and saying to me, "Raise your hands, bow your head, find more and more truth in the words written in red... Know that there's much more to your life than just what you can see... That there is so much more than this... Oh my child.... Just believe...."
I do Lord...
August 7, 2011
It was the first Sunday in a long while that I have actually attended church. Many Sunday's missed because of Brandon's penchant for having seizures on Sunday mornings. Many more times because of a period of personal "pondering" and getting things back in focus that needed to get back in focus to return.
And two things I was reminded of today, on my first day back:
1) The Worship should leave you feeling invigorated, inspired.
2) The Message should leave you feeling convicted.
I was both, and it was very challenging. I mean really. Typically on the first day back at school you're allowed to "ease" into it, in terms of review or something. One doesn't expect a final exam on the first day! But I felt as emotionally drained as if I had just taken a final exam or something. And I mean that in a good way. If worship doesn't leave you invigorated & inspired, it wasn't the worship that was wrong. It wasn't the music too fast, too slow, too old, or too new. It was you. It was your distraction. Of your thoughts. Of your wants. Of your prejudice.
If the message, sermon, preaching, -whatever you call it in your church, doesn't leave you convicted of something in your life that you need to change or do better, or dare I say, - do... Yes, as if you were on trial and being examined, and cross-examined, then it's not that the message was wrong, it is that your heart is wrong. It's not the Pastor being judgemental, it's your selfish desires & stubbornness not wanting to be called into judgement.
And if as a Christian I am to be known as anything, it has to be about being honest. In the good, the bad, and the ugly. I know nothing else. I best not brag when I'm right if I'm not willing to admit when I'm wrong. I best not portray my greatness if I'm not willing to expose my weakness.
I have to say, that today was one of those "be honest with yourself" times that quite frankly sucked after I got over myself to see that.
A simple stage reminded me of that. The picture shown above was the stage at church today. Nothing else. No band, no instruments, no choir, no nothing. No fancy props, no expensive decorations, no lighting effects, no trendy/pretty/fashionable anything.
In today's philosophy of extravagance and entertainment, that was pretty bold a move by the worship leader. People do judge books by cover, not content. Which is why my respect level for that worship leader just went through the roof. My life is based on focusing on the content, not the cover. My son's cover is Autism. So many people write him off by just that. Never bothering to look at his content. Which if they would take the time too, they would see is love. Beautiful, pure, innocent, unconditional love. Which is what this world craves. Yet because of his autism, his cover, - they miss out.
I wonder how many visitors or even church members will miss out on what today at church was about, simply because of the cover?
I don't know what anyone else there today saw, but I saw Jesus. Or rather felt his presence. I saw the way church was, and should be. People gathered in the grass around Jesus sitting in a shack or under a tree. No lighting but the sun. No props, just the people. No band, just the sound of voices singing to their Savior. Perhaps why today's worship and message touched me so, is because worship and a message had a chance to touch me so. Without all the other distractions that take our focus and attention away.
Something the Pastor said explains it perfectly for me... He said something along the lines of "You can have a form of religion and totally miss out on the power of God." I think we have. I think we've made religion a form of complicated entertainment where because of that, we have totally missed out on the simplicity of a complex God.
I know I have lately. I've hit "send" when I should have hit "delete". I've had feelings hurt when I assumed instead of questioned. I've spoken when I should have shut up. I've judged when I should have simply loved.
I've harbored resentment when I should have instead used that time for resolution.
I've quite frankly screwed up in many ways, and that's not an invitation to reply, "No, you're great...". Another thing wrong with our culture lately is that we can't just admit we're wrong. And my thinking has been wrong. It's as if God knew the day I would get my blue-streak-feather-in-hair, jeans & t-shirt self back into church, and saved today for just that occasion. No feast for this prodigal daughter, just Jesus and the final exam of all Christianity boils down to...
Joshua 22 -- "....but be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul."
Much like how church has become a production and gone so very far from what it's called to be in the book of Acts, my actions in what to focus on and how to think about certain situations has gone further.
And it's amazing how a plain simple little crooked wood shack on an 'as far as today's standards go' ugly stage showed me all of that.
And I thank all involved.
I was inspired, convicted, encouraged, challenged, accused and forgiven. And as I sat there, having been gone for so long, I couldn't help but look around and be reminded of why we were drawn to our church so strongly in the first place. It's the people. The good ones, the bad ones, the young ones and the old ones. It's the seemingly perfect ones, the rich ones, and the poor ones. It's the black ones, the white ones, the tattoo'd ones, and the dyed hair ones. It's the teen mom ones, the divorced ones, and it's any sinner-ones. It's the ones who can sing and the ones who can't. It's the ones who do things and the ones who don't. And most especially, it's the special needs children and the problem-children like me. It's the people who can come together no matter their differences or imperfections, and unite as one for a greater purpose in serving an even greater God.
And most of all and above all, it's the presence of God in that church that unites all of us as one. That accepts all of us for who we are, yet encourages us to be more like who HE is. That works in and through the Pastor to speak the truth and say what needs to be said and to call us to do what we need to do.
Some could walk out of there and think of the Pastor, how dare you...
I walked out of there thankful for the Pastor & Worship Leader, for daring...
One of the key scriptures used today was also in Joshua 22... "For a long time now -- to this very day -- you have not deserted your brothers but have carried out the mission the LORD your God gave you."
Even though today I feel tried, convicted, & hung on my own pitifulness of late, I can smile. Because for a long time now, every time I have fallen down, I have picked myself back up to continue on in Christ. For a long time now, though I have faded away, I have never left. For a long time now, every time I have sinned God has forgiven. Because of how God loves me and pursues me and forgives me, I will pursue my mission in life, in autism, and in my Ministry with the same determination as the Lone Survivor, - and like him, I will Never Quit.
Satan doesn't win when we falter.
He wins if we quit.
August 4, 2011
Recently I've been a bit bummed-out by Religion and how it has affected those I care for, as well as myself. The hurt feelings that fester simply because someone chose to take the easy way out of ignoring instead of being open and truthful. The rumors that start, and spread, because someone chose to assume and not verify. The misunderstandings that go without being asked and clarified because the person chose to harbor resentment instead of resolution. All of these things I have experienced. All of these things hinder the Kingdom of God. All of these things fortify satan's stronghold. And all of these things are down right ridiculous when we are called to be radical. Rebellious I would dare to say. Radically rebelling against sin. Against complacency. Against ineffectiveness. Against a lost community. Against satan.
Ugh. I just don't get religion at times.
But I do get God.
A letter I received in the mail reminded me of that. That whenever religion doesn't make sense, and becomes downright ridiculous, squelching the very desire, fire to serve, and serve radically, that God so desires to be in each and every one of us; that it's not "religion" or "religious people's rules" I need to "get". It is GOD I need to get. Religion will never make sense. People will never make sense. But God will always make sense.
And He does.
A letter proved it to me on a day I needed proof. It was a letter from Brandon's Camp Counselor. A young man. It was addressed to Brandon. No one has ever sent a letter to Brandon. No one has ever sent a letter to Brandon about God. No one has ever sent a letter to Brandon about God, encouraging him, my Brandon, my Brandon who cannot read, write, or talk, - to pray to God. But his Camp Counselor did. He started off "Hey man, I hope you're feeling better!" (Brandon had seizures at camp) "I had a blast with you at Camp and I can't wait to see you again next year." He's not only writing a letter to Brandon, but he is writing a letter to Brandon and talking to Brandon as if he's his "typical" buddy. You cannot know what that does to a mamma's heart. This mamma's heart who has personally had a church in the past ask her not to bring her child back to that church because his needs could not be met, served. The letter goes on... "Camp ended for the summer. On the last day I decided that I wanted to send you a letter of encouragement at the beginning of each month. Each letter will have a challenge from me. It will be something to work on over the next month to strengthen your relationship with Christ. The challenge until my next letter comes is to pray. I want you to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). It is such an important part of having a healthy relationship with Christ! Now you don't have to pray out loud, but I want you to pray in your heart. Too often I think that people assume you can't because of your special needs. But I think that people who think that way don't understand that spirituality is completely separate. The Holy Spirit does his work in us and no "handicap" can prevent that. People that try to say otherwise, who are they to question the work of the Lord? I want you to pray every chance and never sever that spiritual communication with the Holy Spirit!"
It was signed by his counselor.
I could only sit in my 120 degree car in the Post Office parking lot stunned & speechless after reading that. I know people who have been beyond discouraged from serving, who were denied serving in some way for some reason, and here I was reading a letter from a young man who knows that nothing can hinder a person from praying to God. And dare I say from serving God? Nothing can. Not sin. Not disability. Not autism. Not the fact that my son can't talk, read, or write. Nothing. He is encouraging him to seek the God who loves him, hears words not spoken, and who accepts him despite all of his imperfections! He is challenging my son, who schools think can't learn, who society thinks shouldn't be a part of, who insurance doesn't think needs equal coverage, who churches don't think need to learn about God too, who the government won't treat as worthy of help (not a hand out), -- to pray. To pray to the God who overcomes all that.
"The Holy Spirit does his work in us and no "handicap" can prevent that..."
That blows my mind. We typical adults with all the smarts in the world do not even fully grasp that. But yet here is a young man who not only grasps that, but is encouraging my son with a disability to grasp it too!
I wonder what would happen if we in the church, we who get caught up in why we can't do this and that, why we can't have this or that ministry because it's not "Bible Study" enough, why so and so can't serve in so and so position because of some so and so reason; --- would exchange the word "handicap" for "sin." For "blemish." For "political incorrectness." For "prejudice." For "blue streak and a feather in her hair." For "controversial stuff."
How about we go further and replace "in us" with "church".
This young man's letter was written to Brandon, but I pray he knows how much it has blessed me. Much like Brandon, I am different. I think different. See things differently. Do things differently. And when I feel squelched because of that, I need to remind myself of the wisdom in that camp counselor... In how for him it all boiled down to such simple, yet radical, things: Loving the Lord. Serving Others. Sharing the Gospel.
And when I think about it, that's the very motive behind anything I do.
While the church, any church, any one in the church, is busy tangled up in the web of all that "its" not about --- I can smile and be blessed by the people God has placed in my life, in my son's life, who truly "get" what its all about.
Thank you Brandon's Camp Counselor.