Monday, August 20, 2018

The Frustration and Blessing of Having an Invisible Disability

 The handicapped placard hanging on my rearview mirror is both a source of support and embarrassment for me.   Even the logo shouts to everyone around that I’m faking it.  Living with a disabling invisible illness for more than 30 years has been a challenge like no other.    Not only does the illness itself present limitations and challenges, but few people are able to understand why someone who appears to be healthy needs to hog a parking spot reserved for those who are “really handicapped”.

I was chatting recently with a paraplegic Christian friend over lunch and tried to explain how frustrating living with an unseen disability is.   My friend has his own unique challenges which I certainly wouldn’t want to deal with either.   But he shared how he was able to complete several college degrees, enjoy a prestigious career, and travel abroad with assistance while I sat there whining and  looking healthy as a horse.  Once again I felt as though I was on the defensive, trying to explain myself.  

My illness came on overnight during a time when I was a happy and busy 36 year old mom of three running around like a chicken with my head cut off.    I have ME/CFS aka Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – which is an absolutely LOUSY name that doesn’t begin to describe it.   There’s a link at the top if you want to learn more —Jen Brae’s short Ted Talk is perfect.   

The morning I woke up with it I couldn’t lift my head off the pillow.   Most of my children’s growing up years flew by while I was confined to bed.   I missed many of  their Christmas concerts, track meets, and didn’t darken the door of the church for over a year, even though we lived in the parsonage, literally a stone’s throw from the church my husband pastored.    Robert was affectionately known as Mr. Mom because he did both his and my job for several years—and never once complained about it.      If there are special rewards in heaven for good husbands I know he’ll get one.   

The illness has waxed and waned over the decades.  Even now there are months  when I rarely go out of the house.   If you ran into me at church or Costco you’d never guess what how unpredictable this illness is.    Some days just walking from one side of the house to the other is a challenge while the next I might be able to clean the house and go shopping.
Disabling invisible illnesses have many causes and are not unique by any stretch. 
“It is estimated that 10% of people in the U.S. have a medical condition which could be considered a type of invisible disability… some struggle just to get through their day at work and some cannot work at all.” 1 
I hope it doesn't sound like I’m whining, because truly, I am not.  The Lord has helped me in ways I could not begin to describe.   Even though it's frustrating to have an illness that others don't understand,  James says,
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” James 1:2
And trials come in all shapes and sizes.  Everyone suffers with some kind of infirmity  because the whole creation groans under the fall.  And flawed as our bodies are now,  one day the trumpet will sound and Christ will resurrect us and give us a glorious new body.   
And this is why I can rejoice!  
Susannah Spurgeon was no stranger to physical affliction, nor was her husband.
“When the fire of affliction draws songs of praise from us, then indeed we are purified, and our God is glorified….Singing in the fire! Yes! God helping us, if that is the only way to get harmony out of these hard apathetic hearts, let the furnace be heated seven times hotter than before.”2
We can “sing in the fire” because whatever trial God has brought our way,
"This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” 2 Corinthians 4:17

2. 1. Singing in the Fire by Faith Cook: Banner of Truth Trust; 1995; pg. 34

Sunday, August 19, 2018

One Day

This is another beautiful old hymn where the music has been updated.  The new music (below) is lovely but I'm partial to the above original.  

Lyrics by John Wilbur Chapman
(Original Music by Charles H. Marsh-1911)
Born: Richmond, Indiana -1859
Died: New York, NY- 1919
Chapman was a Presbyterian minister who held two Doctoral Degrees. He later became a pioneer in evangelistic crusades, before they were predominately Baptist and Pentecostal.  
 At one point, Chapman hired a young former baseball player to serve as an “advance man,” arriving in a targeted city several weeks before Chapman to construct a temporary facility or pitch a huge tent, as well as recruit a choir. (The young ballplayer, a fellow Presbyterian, would subsequently launch out on his own with “methods” decidedly more theatrical than the sober Chapman. His name was Billy Sunday).
Chapman maintained a lifelong friendship with Dwight L. Moody, whom Chapman credited with helping him as a young man to understand the doctrine of assurance. 
Although quite ecumenical within evangelical circles, Chapman was a hidebound conservative when it came to fundamental doctrines, leading a campaign to have all Presbyterian missionaries recalled from the field that would not affirm the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Before Billy Graham, There Was This Man

One Day
  1. One day when Heaven was filled with His praises,
    One day when sin was as black as could be,
    Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin,
    Dwelt among men, my example is He!
    • Refrain:
      Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me;
      Buried, He carried my sins far away;
      Rising, He justified freely forever;
      One day He’s coming—oh, glorious day!
  2. One day they led Him up Calvary’s mountain,
    One day they nailed Him to die on the tree;
    Suffering anguish, despised and rejected:
    Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He!
  3. One day they left Him alone in the garden,
    One day He rested, from suffering free;
    Angels came down o’er His tomb to keep vigil;
    Hope of the hopeless, my Savior is He!
  4. One day the grave could conceal Him no longer,
    One day the stone rolled away from the door;
    Then He arose, over death He had conquered;
    Now is ascended, my Lord evermore!
  5. One day the trumpet will sound for His coming,
    One day the skies with His glories will shine;
    Wonderful day, my beloved ones bringing;
    Glorious Savior, this Jesus is mine!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Power of Music on Dementia and Why Our Kids Should Take Lessons

One of the coolest times in our life was a period in which our garage became a weekly hang-out for  jazz musicians.   Robert played sax and our son-in-law played drums, but the real treat was our friendship with several retired jazz musicians.   A couple of them had played music with the Big Bands in the 1940’s.  They would get together and jam at our place and sometimes over at John's. 
 John Peirce was a Christian who had been a world class jazz alto saxophonist and had played with some of the greatest musicians of the last century.  He lived and breathed music and his lingo reflected the bygone Beatnik era.   He always referred to the other musicians as “Cats”.    John was such an interesting man who played many instruments and gave music lessons to children in his elderly years.    And yet his neighbors probably never knew that such an incredibly gifted man lived in the humble ramshackle house on their street.    

John developed severe dementia in his final years and his family eventually had to place him in a care facility.  The last time we visited him at the nursing home, his memory was pretty much gone.   Dementia had changed this dear saint nearly beyond recognition.    
But when we escorted him to the community gathering room and sat him down at the piano, the magic happened.   John began to play and pretty much blew everyone who happened to pass by out of the water.  In those few minutes he became the old John again.   

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Maintaining a Gospel Centered Counterculture

"My kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36

Before I was saved in the early 70’s I saw the world through rose colored glasses.  In my quest to find a more meaningful existence than what society had to offer, I submitted myself to a na├»ve worldview consisting of peace, love, and hedonism.      

But after becoming a Christian, the thing that struck me most about the church as a people group was the love that Christians had for one another despite their very different backgrounds.    The church we attended was comprised of rednecks and hippies, young and old, educated and not so much.  It was awe inspiring to observe how the Gospel of Jesus Christ broke the barriers of ethnic diversity and socioeconic strata  and brought people together in joyful harmony.     

The Gospel accomplished what the counterculture I was previously involved with could not deliver.    The Church proved to be genuinely countercultural. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Our Scars as an Ebenezer

 Mural 15' x 30' - Robert Bucknell
"God's wounds cure, sin's kisses kill." - William Gurnall 
I have two round scars, one above each eyebrow.    They were put there by a surgeon to fasten a metal halo to a body cast when I broke my neck in a car accident.  The wreck happened at the height of my hedonistic rebellion against God.  But God mercifully saved both my life and my soul the night it happened. 
Those scars always remind me of God’s unmerited grace toward me.  
Every believer bears some kind of scar resulting from sin against God—whether that sin was self-inflicted or inflicted by someone else.   Some wounds are not even the result of a particular sin, but come from the sorrows of living in a fallen world.   Wounds come in all different shapes and sizes.  Some are physical and some are mental, but all have a spiritual impact.

Monday, August 6, 2018

What We Don't Say Can Speak Volumes

 “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.” Proverbs 10:19