My Disability is Not Your Inspiration

My Disability is Not Your Inspiration

My Identity
My chair
Beat up and battered

Like my body, broken
Yet, battery powered, it carries on
Moving me throughout my day
Allowing me life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
My chair and me
My identity

Everyone likes a feel good story.

“An overcomer, how wonderful!”

Except, when it isn’t. 

Now, I have no problem if you find my sermons moving as you would another pastor or if you think I did something good, regardless of the body in which I live, but overcomer stories are insidious. Here’s why.

When you focus solely on achievements in light of my disability, my real life needs are overlooked. 

As disability advocate, Stella Young said,

“No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp.”

This is what happens: If I have to overcome my disability, I also suffer from my disability.

What if my disability is not the cause of my suffering? 

My body sucks sometimes, sure. Nobody likes being sick or in pain.

Do you know what would help? Access to affordable healthcare. A ramp.

Those are the things I need. We have the technology. We just gloss over the effort.

I’m not bound by my wheelchair. My wheelchair is freedom. Just like those ramps and curb cuts.

sea black and white landscape beach
Photo by Sabeel Ahammed on Pexels.com

I don’t need to be free from my disability.

I just need you to help me create a world that includes me. 

Otherwise, telling me I’m inspirational is meaningless.

In fact, people viewing me as an inspiration is killing me. 

Love Always Includes Justice. 

Wherever you are this day:

Love Accepts You, No Exceptions. 

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

Is Your Love in Limited Supply?

Is Your Love in Limited Supply?

The following post is a reflection based on the lectionary readings from May 19, 2019 of John 13:31-35, Acts 11:1-18, and Revelation 21:1-6. (https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=137#hebrew_reading)

Calm Love

It’s been a long week.

I had a great time and I learned a lot at a church conference in Atlanta. Then, on the way back, I visited family in Tennessee which was awesome (and a cool story about connection and restoration in its own right.)

I even wrote a blog post from the car about the tragic passing of blogger, speaker, and writer, Rachel Held Evans which had me marveling at the abilities of technology even as I mourned the loss of her voice while also thinking how it is more important than ever to speak up for justice and love when you lose leaders like her. (And, feeling some pressure as I try to find a platform for my own voice right now.)

So, maybe it’s really been a long few weeks.

Travel is not easy in this broken body for one thing. I came home and just crashed. But, it’s more than physical although it certainly is that.

I came home sore, tired, and drained; both physically and emotionally. And, I went to bed for like two days. I’m still not sure I’m fully recovered.

However, as I began to awaken from my travel stupor, I was overcome with great sadness. I began to hear again the ongoing stories of division in our world, of anger, injustice, and hate…

I don’t know, maybe I just blocked them out for a time. Maybe, I had just grown numb to them and, as I woke up, instead being refreshed they just hit me. – HARD.

Do you ever feel like that? Hit hard by the world around you? It can be you personally or collectively. It can come from yourself or others. Just the weight of it all. Like it’s all collapsing onto you?

What do you do? It’s overwhelming isn’t it? It seems like the best thing to do might be just to go back to sleep.

Except, you can’t sleep forever. Life carries on. You have work to do. Bills to pay. Maybe you’re at a life stage like mine where you have kids looking to you asking, “What do I do?”

My daughter, Hope, came to me just a few days ago and opened up about some of her questions and struggles. So, I listened. We talked. It was beautiful really to be able to relate on this level even as part of me wanted to say, “I just don’t know!”

That’s it, isn’t it? That’s the struggle. Wanting answers and not always having answers. Do you feel that?!

It doesn’t have to be just with kids either. I’m sure you have someone asking you questions no matter who you are even if it’s just yourself asking them. Because, these questions aren’t coming from just one of these directions. (Kids, others, or ourselves) they are coming from ALL of these directions.

We live in a time of division. We live in a time of injustice, and we live in a time of questions.

In fact, no matter what you believe or don’t believe, I bet we can agree that life comes with no shortage of questions.

Truthfully, though, we’ve always lived life amidst questions. That’s nothing new; not now or in Jesus’ time. I think the only variable is how much you feel these questions at any given moment.

Perhaps, not surprisingly then, we hear from Jesus about what matters most when confronted by these questions we all face right here in John 13.

This passage is part of a collection of passages known as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. Jesus is preparing his disciples for life without his physical presence. More than offering comfort, though, Jesus is trying to focus them and us forward to live into our mission as his people.

 And, they need it just like we need it. Think for a moment about everything they’ve been through over the last several weeks… Palm Sunday, “Hosanna!” Savior! (Matthew 21:9)

We are going to claim our power over injustice! …And, then, they watch Jesus get killed…

“Well, somebody has to anoint the body” and, in typical male fashion, we read the women go. “Us guys, we’ll just stay safely locked up in this room.” … “Wait. What do you mean he’s not there?!” (John 20:1-2)

“Wait, Jesus is back! Savior, again!” (Thomas, “I don’t believe it…”) … then, “My Lord and my God!” …We really are saved! (John 20:25, 28)

Except, ultimately, Jesus leaves again which the disciples aren’t ready for.

(Though, remember, they are waiting for the Holy Spirit. We already have the Holy Spirit, wait not required.)

Still, whether it’s the original disciples back fishing in John 21 or later retreating into the upper room in the beginning of Acts 1 or it’s us today, Jesus has already offered these words from John 13 to remember in our questioning times.

Jesus says, “Listen, I’m gonna go…” (John 13:33) And, they say just like we sometimes do, “What do we do now?” …Because, that’s the point. What are we, followers of Jesus, going to do in our world of uncertainty?

But, Jesus’ answer is simple… Even if not always easy to live out – Love

When uncertainty comes – And, it will come – Love

When you don’t know what to do… Love

That’s what we see in Acts 11 today. Some disciples weren’t so sure what to do about the non-Jewish believers…So, of course, they were fighting about it because that’s our human brokenness. We’d rather fight to keep people out rather than let everyone in. That’s not Love.

They said to Peter, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” (Acts 11:13)

But, Peter had a vision …A word from God…which told him just as it tells us, “Don’t worry about what you think the rules are. Love meets you where you are, no matter who you are just as I did because I am Love. Go do the same.

Remember, the disciples didn’t come to Jesus and ask to follow him.

That’s how it was done in those days. You’d go follow a rabbi for a time until you’d generally be sent home. (or you’d go become a rabbi yourself.)

But, Jesus did something different. He went and told these people (who would have been already told by another rabbi they weren’t good enough) “Come follow me.” (Matthew 4:19)

He says the same thing to us. “Come follow me” because Love accepts you no exceptions”

That’s what Peter’s actions in Acts 11 demonstrate as well.

It’s also what so many people who profess Christian faith seem to get wrong so often today.

The Good News is you can begin again today even if you’ve always gotten it wrong. It’s never a bad time to Love.

When you have questions, when you doubt, when you’re scared and uncertain as you look around at a world filled with injustice, unfairness, hate… and everything else…or even if you, yourself, are just not sure what to do, Love.

Just as I have loved you, love one another. (John 13:34)

Because, in doing so, in being loving in a world so often characterized by not Love, people will know who you are and whose you are.  “Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” They’ll know you belong to Love. (John 13:35)

And, you’ll change hearts.

 Ultimately, love will win too so have courage to keep going. That’s the true significance of the vision in Revelation no matter what some folks try and turn it into. (Rev. 21:2-6) It’s love over injustice.

My home will be among you. I’ll dwell with you and wipe the tears from your eyes. “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more. The rest will be stripped away”

All things will be new. And, you can remember my words.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will provide the water of life.

In the meantime, Jesus says, hold onto love even amidst the questions, the hurts, and everything else and others will know Love because of me.

We are unified by Love, whenever we Love, and in case you need to hear it again so you remember it in your most difficult times, Love Accepts You No Exceptions. – Love always expands its circle. Anything else, isn’t Love.

Love is NEVER in limited supply. So, speak out for Love. Embrace it. That’s true discipleship; 2,000 years ago or today. 

Imagine if we lived this way? You can live this way. It even multiplies as you do it, and another, and another… That’s the power of love!

That’s Jesus message. Love. Wherever you are or whatever you’re going through, remember Love. Live Love out. Again and again, one action at a time. One person at a time. Until Everyone is included. That’s True Love. Amen.

Wherever you are this day, I hope you’ll join me in reflection on these words of love as we share this part of our journey together and remember, wherever you find yourself, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance

Nighttime: Are You As Tired As Me?

Nighttime: Are You As Tired As Me?

I’ve been in a funk lately. I hope to share more about this on Monday but, for now, I’m just tired. I want to sleep. To be embraced by the night; a time ironically when I often find myself awake. Still, there’s something comforting about the night, awake or asleep, that sometimes seems so elusive for me during the day. Acceptance – Even when you’re tired – I wrote a little about it.

Let me know what you think.

scenic view of forest during night time
Photo by Hristo Fidanov on Pexels.com

“Nighttime”
Morning
Quiet time
You speak of it softly
A time when mysteries unlocked find their place among the awake, the alert, the early risers
“Try it,” I’m told, this thing of beauty
Try rising with the light of day and be transformed
And, I’d like to find this space, this new morning life, I really would – This time of glory
It’s just that it comes so early
Early, not easy in this restricted body though, in truth, it’s never been easy – Even in my nimbler days
I much prefer the night
Its cast of characters, its shadows unlocking truths not so easily revealed in the daytime sun
Sure, this morning of which you speak seems a lovely sort, a perfectly fine fellow, I might even meet someone new who, until now, I’ve only known in passing
But, the night greets me like an old friend – the kind of friend not too warm or too friendly – and yet she is
She’s the kind of friend, we are the kind of friends, you meet, and you know, with a kind of understood silence
A silence that says, “Be who you are, we are in this together.”
So, I take my place, embraced by night, alongside the other daytime outcasts. The broken, the hurting, the misunderstood
Together we move through the darkness, though, it’s brighter than you think
Each of us helping the other find our way – Perfection not required, our scars not readily apparent as the would be at other times
Yet, even if they were, these scars more visible, it would be ok
This peaceful cover is provided for my comfort, for the night has accepted me long ago, just as I am, faults and all
The same is true of my people
In fact, we are the broken-unified as we journey together
Therein lies the beauty
Our salvation is found in the now
We are not told to come back at some ungodly hour
We are met right where we are, and we are loved
So, keep your morning sun-squinted eyes
Mine are more likely to be closed just then
And, it’s ok to be different
I mean, “Hi, my name is Chris and I’m a night person”
Besides, I wish you well
I’m just following the night
If God is everywhere, after all, God is there too
Finding me, loving me, loving each – Even long after most have gone to bed
This is my nighttime
This is my life

Wherever you are this day, I hope you’ll join me in reflection as we share this part of our journey together and remember night or day, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

Transformation on a Damascus Road

“Transformation on a Damascus Road”
Transformation on a Damascus Road
I’ve heard anecdotes it’s true
Some might say that’s long ago
Except, it could happen to me or you
I hope I’m on the side that gives
Blessings so that others live
Make it more than allegory
Arrival, is the point to take
Lord, hear these heartfelt words I pray
Transform me in your glory
Demascus

I’m always fascinated the story of the Apostle Paul’s transformation on the Damascus road. (Acts 9:1-20)

He was out persecuting people for believing differently than him. This feels all too real to me today. Love calls us to do better. A lot better. But, before I look at the actions of others, I feel compelled to look at myself. I have shut the door of love on others more times than I care to admit.

Except, I think that’s the point.

God can use me whether I’m the one being called away from the error my ways, like Paul, or being used as the vessel through which restoration happens like Ananias. I just have to be willing.

Look at the story. Paul is admonished and healed. (Yes, I know admonished is an understatement!) Ananias is called to go forward even with fear. Both men are transformed.

This is good news!

So, where do you need transformation today?

Do you need to move beyond fear to go forward?

Do you need to make changes?

Either is possible with love.

Ultimately, the question becomes, “Are you willing?”

Let me know what you think about all this. I look forward to your comments.

Wherever you are this day, I hope you’ll join me in reflection as we share this part of our journey together and remember, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”
Peace Love and Acceptance

Notes:
Link to Acts 9:1-20
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+9%3A1-20&version=NIV

Are You Still Doubting?

Are You Still Doubting?

“Peter Doubted”
Peter doubted three times more
Than he said he’d ever do
That is good news for folks
Ordinary like me or you
Whenever doubt does come your way
Love is always there to say
Skeptics still can prove
Just look at Peter
The rock he is
The one who Jesus power gives
To build the church most true
And, Peter doubted three times more
Than he said he’d ever do
doyouloveme

Scripture Lesson: John 21:1-19

I’ve been on a roll lately with the shortcomers of the Bible; Judas, Thomas, Paul, Peter. (With Paul notably a bit out of order for his presence in my last post.)

Still, there are stories like these all throughout the scriptures.

I think it’s this way because God, or Love if non-churchy language is preferred, wants us to know we can all be used as restoration bringers. Just as you are. Just as I am. Perfection not required.

As I often say, “This is good news!” We follow in a long line of people who sometimes mess up. Peter is one of my favorites.

He gets it wrong as much as he gets it right. He speaks when he should listen. He’s emotional. Peter is full humanity on display. He even denies Jesus three times after saying this is something he would never do. Here he is. Today’s scripture slightly ahead now to where Jesus restores Peter’s brokenness.

I love Peter. Maybe because he’s most like me.

Jesus asks him not once but three times, symbolic of Peter’s three denials, “Peter, do you love me?” In doing so, Jesus also tells Peter to care for his sheep, meaning his people, affirming him in love.

He next foreshadows the kind of death Peter will have in following this path of Love. Peter follows anyway.

This time, something is different. Peter becomes everything Jesus calls him to be. Love does the same for us. Where we fall short, love calls us to renewed life.

Ask yourself:

Where is love calling you to renewal today?
What’s one step forward you can take?

Don’t doubt. Believe. Believe in yourself. Believe in God’s love.

It might not be easy but it is worth it.

If today is a challenge, start with focusing on yourself. How can you practice a little self love and acceptance today?

Just take it one day at a time. Try to move forward a little more each day.

If you have a day when you struggle, don’t give up believing it’s hopeless. Pick up from there. Love is still with you because love is aways with you.

Wherever you are this day, I hope you’ll join me in reflection as we share this part of our journey together and remember, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”
Peace Love and Acceptance

Notes: John 21:1-19
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+21%3A1-19&version=NIV

Jean Vanier’s Jelly Beans

Jean Vanier’s Jelly Beans

Today, I am cross-posting a blog from my friend, Tim Vermande, about Jean Vanier who is the founder of L’Arche Communities. I encourage you to learn more about Vanier and his work if you don’t know it. Tim’s original post, which includes my poem, can be seen here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On Holy Saturday, the world heard that Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, had moved to palliative care at the age of 90. My friend Chris Wylie wrote this poem in response, which in turn led me to write the essay that follows the poem. We are publishing our thoughts together.

You created a place for people like me
A caring and loving community 
You called it The Ark
L’Arche in your tongue 
Living together
Together as one
To learn and to grow was your grand vision
Fulfilling in unison love’s great mission
Grow we did like flowers in bloom
Ushering Heaven into the room 
Go with peace as we wish you good rest 
Because of your spirit we have been blessed
We leave you these words we’re grateful to say
Thank you for everything Jean Vanier
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Jelly beans. Not just bags, boxes, or even crates. The day I arrived at a L’Arche office to begin a short-term residence as part of my seminary work, the office was full to the brim with cases of jelly beans.

The jelly beans were part of a federal government surplus program. They’d been stored in a warehouse for a while, and someone had decided it was time to share them. So social service agencies throughout the northeast received a share of the supply.

And social service agencies throughout the northeast had no idea how to handle stacks and stacks of jelly beans. If I wanted to sit, I had to move jelly beans. In the end, I was encouraged to (and did) take some jelly beans with me as a souvenir of the trip.

For the remainder of a two-week period, my wife and I enjoyed the hospitality of a L’Arche community, and shared lives, love, and jelly beans like never before.

We also, as befitting a seminary assignment, discussed the workings of L’Arche with people in the business office, and, most of all, with the community’s full-time chaplain. Refreshing and insightful discussions with a colleague of theology, pastoral concerns, the history and writings of Jean Vanier and Henri Nouwen. In one of those talks, I asked how he approached people with limited language skills. He replied that they didn’t need to understand the words, they would understand the love.

Love is sort of like jelly beans. It’s everywhere, you just have to learn to appreciate the gifts, even if the package may be different.

And now, Mr. Vanier, as you stand on the edge of eternity, maybe we can understand the love  you have given the world, the gift of learning about ourselves.

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Poem: Chris Wylie
Notes: Tim Vermande
Photo: Tiia Monto, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30369613

Notre Dame: Our Hope and Prayer

Notre Dame: Our Hope and Prayer

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Our Mother

Blazing

Broken

Like our hearts as we watch you burn

Your roof

Your grand spire

Like kindling

The flames apparent victorious as we pray

To you

For you

Restore our faith

Give us hope as we search forward together

Sifting beyond our pain

May this be our answer

To find a better more mutual way

That our fall

Like your fall

Only temporary abate as we rebuild

Collective

Unified

Loving again as words into action

Notre Dame

Our Mother

Pray for us as we pray for you

white concrete building
Photo by Adrienn on Pexels.com

 

Yesterday, the world watched anguished as Notre Dame Cathedral burned. So much history, so much beauty, literally gone up in smoke.

Like many things in our world, the pain seems too much to bear. This seems especially cruel when happening to a grand masterpiece. Art is our sustainer. It gives a vision for better days.

There is order to our lives. We expect things to come and go, sure, just not like this. Hundreds of years of splendor gone before our eyes. It is out of order.

Even amidst our pain, of course, there is a small measure of good news. I read that several statues were removed just days ago as the cathedral was under restoration for example. Even now, that news offers some solace.

However, there is greater comfort for me, even as I struggle, and I hope for you too. It’s something you’ll read about regularly in this space as it is my heart-song. That is, love is bigger. Collective love even greater than the sum of its parts.

Love is always working to redeem the world’s brokenness. Even as flames ravaged seemingly victorious love worked quietly in their shadows. Except, love is never really quiet.

Love only grows. Unlike those destroying flames, love can never really be contained.

So, it is for us too when we join forces with love. May this be our chance.

May our love, yours and mine, move us from the shadows of dark days and destroying flames into boundless love. May we be unifying, love bringers together into our out of order world.

When everything else is gone, and all our days are done, love remains. (1 Corinthians 13)

Wherever you are, please join me as we begin this part of our journey together and remember, in the realm of justice and love, “Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

May this be our hope and prayer today.

Peace Love and Acceptance