Sunday, December 23, 2012

What is it to be disabled?

What is it to be disabled?

Is there a difference between a disabled person, and a person who has a disability?

A person who has a disability is a person who has gained the ability to support other people with increased interest and compassion, along with the ability to accept support graciously from others. 

On the other hand, a disabled person is one who can neither support other people nor willingly accept support from others.

I had an aunt who in her old age was constrained by rheumatoid arthritis from doing much of anything when she had a flare-up. Yet she unfailingly took an interest in members of our family and stayed involved with us. 

We occasionally received little notes, gifts and clippings in the mail from Aunt Dorothy, and when we visited her she would always be making a gift for someone. She always treated you as the most important and brilliant person she knew.

In addition, Aunt Dorothy accepted support from others with grace. Her younger brother took care of her housekeeping and provided companionship. He was loving and faithful and she was happy and grateful. She had a collection of lifelong friends, young and old, near and far, who also took an interest in her.

Aunt Dorothy got out and enjoyed the sunshine with us when she could, and when she could not get out she brought sunshine to us in other ways. 

Aunt Dorothy was "out of commission" physically much of the time, but she was not disabled. 

Aunt Dorothy showed me that a person may choose between becoming disabled, or becoming a person with a disability. May I remember this as age and circumstances limit me. As impairments arrive, may I be a person who has them, and not a person who is them.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Man Overboard?

Biblically literate Christians can have a seething gripe against other Christians, and yet quickly side-step Christ's instruction "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Mt. 18:15)

The gut impulse to attack or flee seems to summarily overrule obeying Christ’s command or heeding the principle it teaches.

“We’re talking about a business matter; not a sin” we argue. Then follows a decision to punish, retaliate or quit, without giving the offender an opportunity of input.

There is wisdom in hearing the private response of the one who has given offense. Failing to grant the opportunity of response is to throw away a learning opportunity for both sides.

The sooner Christians take heed and steer the boat the way Jesus instructs, or according to the principles he illustrates in His commands, the sooner our ship will arrive at the destination he intends - with no crew members thrown overboard.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Affordable Care Act - Our New “Spruce Goose?”

In World War Two enemy submarines were sending thousands of ships to the bottom of the ocean - ships carrying people, food, medicines, materials, and weapons that the Allied Nations needed to survive and prevail.

Of American merchantmen, we lost 2742 ships in 6 years.

America wondered, “Is there a way to cut these losses and deliver more necessities to embattled people and troops?”

A brilliant man named Howard Hughes decided to try building a huge plane, a "flying boat", to carry fighting men, weapons and supplies above the oceans that the submarines ruled.  He and Henry J. Kaiser got a government contract to develop it. Hughes, a multi-talented aircraft designer and flyer, and Kaiser, an exceedingly successful industrialist, were among the best brains America had.

Hughes called the plane the H-4, but it became better known as the "Spruce Goose" because it was built of wood - metal being too scarce in wartime.You can view it online.

The Spruce Goose was brilliantly conceived and built by the finest American craftsmen in wood - furniture makers from Grand Rapids, Michigan, among them.

I have seen the Spruce Goose. My family and I saw the huge flying boat when it rested at Long Beach, CA (it now resides at McMinnville, OR).  It is grand, graceful, and beautifully put together. It made me wish that I had a heaven-sized house in which to put this wonderful piece of "flying" furniture.

I say "flying," but in fact the Spruce Goose never really flew.  It flew once, in 1947, for just over one mile at an altitude of seventy feet for one minute. It was later taken to McMinnville on a barge. It never carried a payload.

Inadequate power was the limitation. The most powerful engines of the day lacked the energy to get it above 70 feet.

This government financed wonder - and it is a wonder - got 70 feet in the air and flew one mile. How many "Spruce Geese" has our government created since!

Will our nation have the horsepower to lift our expanding portfolio of social improvement schemes off the ground and keep them flying? Hughes proved it's not enough to be brilliant, served by the best craftsmen, and have federal government backing.

Like the developers of the Spruce Goose, do we lack the essential power to lift our government’s new social programs and keep them flying?

I am thinking of our grandest political scheme of recent years: the Affordable Care Act, which the Supreme Court affirmed yesterday.

Here's my question: In the Affordable Care Act, will we Americans have a brilliant and valuable new resource that satisfies our health care needs - or only a huge piece of furniture that rises to seventy feet for a minute and then plops down and becomes a museum piece?

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ (Luke 14:28-30 ESV)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them. (Author Unknown)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Catch and release

Landing a glistening trout arouses conflicting emotions in me. Should I catch and release, or catch and eat? My decision is easy when I fish with guide Tom Baltz in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. Even on streams where I could legally bag trout and take them home, he won’t go along with it.  When I fish with Tom, it’s catch and release – period!

Actually, with Tom there’s a third alternative – catch and cultivate. Tom not only returns fish to the stream, but he cultivates streams so trout can live long, healthy, and happy lives. Among other things, Tom and others of the local Trout Unlimited chapter check water quality, clear fallen trees and debris from streams, and maintain the adjacent habitat.

Is there a spiritual parallel to piscatorial catch and release?

As a person called by Christ to make the gospel known, should I aim only to catch and release people?

I mean, push a Christian book or pamphlet at them and let it go at that?

Or is it enough to walk away after telling them: “God so loved the world that he gave us his only son, and promised that whoever believes in him shall have everlasting life.”

I think it's better to support words with actions. I mean, become a better friend and give people an opportunity to see if the gospel is real in my life and the lives of my friends.

I don’t know Tom’s religious convictions, but he and Trout Unlimited are motivating me not only by their friendliness, but also by the way they carefully and consistently care for their fish and their streams. May I be similarly devoted to the people around me.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why do migrating salmon strike fishing flies?

My father, an avid fly fisherman, told me Atlantic Salmon do not feed when they return to fresh water from the sea. I asked, "Then why do they strike a fly?"
My Dad shrugged and replied, "A lot of people think the fish are angry at the fly intruding on them; others think they strike instinctively out of habit formed at sea when they were eating."
Perhaps today's office-seeking American politicians should ponder the fate of many salmon who strike fishing flies: striking out of anger or habit (or an exaggerated sense of self-importance) can get you caught, cooked, and eaten.
In salmon, the fundamental need to get upriver and spawn can be thwarted by indulging piqué. Isn't the same true of presidential election politics?

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Grace - (in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favour of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

A gracious favor was done me yesterday by a friend who telephoned to tell me her husband had died that morning.

Learning of Jim’s death in the newspaper would have deepened the sadness of losing a lifetime friend who mentored me during my early twenties, and remained a friend for decades afterward. As time passed the friendship came to include Jim’s wife Sue, and my mother and my wife Barbara. It also came to include Collier, one of their grandsons, and his parents.

Somehow the friendship has gone deep, though for most of the time we have lived in distant cities and have seen one another infrequently.

That is why I use the term “gracious” to describe Sue’s phone call: I can think of nothing which earned me the kind and highly valued gift of hearing from her personally at the time of her loss.

I have no doubt that Jim, Sue, Barbara and I will take up our friendship again in God’s good time. In the meantime, Jim and Sue stand as an example of the grace which friends can bring to one another: free and unmerited favor of the same kind that comes from God.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Purpose in our afflictions . . .

I love the Bible verse that describes God’s comfort to us as something we can pass on to others.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, emphasis added)

This truth has brought encouragement both to suffering Christians and those who must see them suffer.  Persevering in affliction through faith can bring marvelous unexpected results.

An ICU nurse once told me that a major experience that pointed her to Christ was seeing Christians in her ICU die differently from others. In the peaceful spirit of their dying, these believers pointed the nurse to Christ.

A personal example is my friend Jane, who died a week ago. My wife and I have lived in Dallas for several years, while Jane lived in Maryland. We saw Jane only occasionally but knew she was battling metastasized cancer. Jane sent email reports and prayer requests to women friends, and Barbara forwarded many of them to me.

The praises and prayer requests in Jane’s emails illuminated her trust in God.

The emails praised God for the benefits and victories He conferred on her and her husband in the midst of the battle (though the battles won did not in the end add up to victory over the cancer). She regularly expressed gratitude for her medical team, and happiness in the love shown her by her husband and family. Especially she expressed appreciation for the family things they were still able to do together.

Jane’s prayer requests commonly asked for wisdom and definite information with which to make wise decisions. She rejoiced that there were choices to make and paths to choose. She did not complain when a path ended and other choices had to be made.

In short, Jane comforted us by showing that in potentially fatal struggles God will make paths for us and lead us to the Good Place and joyful reunions.

Jane exhibited strong faith, but Scripture shows us that even a hesitant faith will do.

Remember the father who brought his son to Jesus and asked that the boy be delivered from an evil spirit? The evil spirit was making the son voiceless, throwing him into seizures, and even hurling him into fire and water to destroy him.

The father pleaded with Jesus,

. . . if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”(Mark 9:22 ESV, emphasis added)

Jesus responded,

If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:23-24, emphasis added)

Quickly choosing, “Immediately the father cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ Jesus delivered the son from his affliction.

Jesus now has delivered Jane from her affliction and shown us a trustworthy path to follow. God was good to show us through Jane that He will comfort and lead us, and equip us to comfort and encourage others to seek His leading in any kind of fight.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A high view of marriage, and a high view of the presidency

Transparency in marriage is a necessary qualification for a candidate seeking to be president of the United States. That was the message of former presidential candidate Herman Cain, who stepped down confessing he made financial gifts to a needy female business associate without telling his wife.

Mr. Cain flatly denies having a physical relationship outside of his marriage.

Accepting that Mr. Cain told the truth, I am left with the conviction that his withdrawal from the presidential race testifies of a high view of marriage, and a high view of the presidency. A husband and wife who are transparent with one another represent a stronger and more trustworthy team in the Whitehouse. 

There is a biblical parallel for the standard Mr. Cain - a deacon - seems to be applying to himself as a presidential candidate: that an overseer or deacon must be “above reproach.” (1 Timothy 3) Also, that overseers and deacons must keep their family lives in order.

If I remember nothing else from this presidential campaign, I will remember that one candidate made himself accountable and accepted the consequences.