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

 

 

Money, Children, and Jesus

Money, Children, and Jesus

In my last post, The Problem with Locking People Up for Money, I discussed several systems of injustice we see in our society today including border concentration camps, the prison industrial complex, and the institutionalization of disabled people, and how you should follow the money if you want to identify the source of the problem.

The pursuit of money at the expense of other people is not a new problem, of course, it’s existed for thousands of years. So, as a Jesus follower, I think it’s important to consider his words on this subject. After all, many people promoting this inequity, claim the Christian faith too.

I just wonder how it is that they get there? 

For one thing, Jesus seemed to be against money as a marker of success; at least in a faith sense. I recall, one story in particular where he told a wealthy person to give up all they had, give their money to the poor, and follow him. (Mathew 19, Luke 18)

Furthermore, just prior to his discourse in these passages, he elevates children to an exalted position in the Realm of God. For the circumstances we see in our world today, this is a double damnation.

1537297551199-privateprisonmoney

In fact, just prior to both of these lessons, we are told by Jesus that it would be better for a person to have a millstone tied around their neck and to be tossed into the sea than to cause a child to stumble. That doesn’t seem to leave a lot of wiggle room. (Matthew 18, Luke 17)

Beyond that we could consider how Jesus lifts up a foreigner as the prime example of the most important Law of Love when someone tries to find room to exclude others once again in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25-37)

Everything else comes after the Law of Love for God and neighbor. 

We could also pontificate on where we would be today if Jesus was stolen from his parents after they fled as refugees to save his life as a baby. (Matthew 2:13-18)

I know you wouldn’t have done that to Jesus but, he might also ask you to consider his words about neglecting people in need while paying particular attention to the end where he says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

To be clear, in case you can’t go look up the passage to read for yourself, the righteous are the people in need and damnation is reserved for the negligent. 

Moreover, since many people like to use biblical law as a means of exclusion, we could talk a great deal about this too.

After all, Jesus tells us, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)

We are also told to leave food for the poor and the foreigner. (Leviticus 19:9-10)

Going right back to the Law of Love, we are told to “Love the foreigner as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)

That God loves the foreigner residing among you as you are to love them yourself. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

Do not oppress a foreigner… (Exodus 23:9)

It seems pretty clear. 

You can do a lot of things to people when you have money and power.

If you are going to mistreat them, however, you can’t rightly claim faith while doing it. 

At least I don’t think so, anyway. What do you think?

Wherever you find yourself this day, thanks for journeying with me and remember in the world of justice and Love,

Love Accepts You No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

If Your Faith Excludes You’re Wrong

If Your Faith Excludes You’re Wrong

“Love: Our Universal Truth”
If Love is our universal truth, then why is it so hard?
We keep each other far away as if to stand on guard.
But Love calls us to open up if we long to be set free.
And, in this way we share a Love that connects eternally.

Love Wins Wheelchair with Stole

I wrote these above words a few days ago because I believe Love and kindness is the key to everything. Love saves whereas hate destroys.

Yet, we live in a word so often characterized by hate. Even worse, just as we sometimes see, hate can be a great unifier for people. It can be a unifier that is, until it destroys and, make no mistake, it does destroy. Hate always needs something to consume.

Sure, it will destroy your identified target at first. Only, it doesn’t stop there. Hate is a scourge. It destroys everything. Eventually, it will even destroy itself.

Those, united by hate, will hate each other when nobody else is left.

Love on the other hand is different. Love saves. Love provides life. As a Christian specifically, and as a person of faith more broadly, I believe in this message.

This is what I find so troubling about people who use religion as an instrument of hate.

Since I’m a Jesus follower, I will speak directly to those who claim my faith tradition. It may be a universal truth, but I have a special responsibility to speak to my people. It’s also what I see most often in the world directly outside my font door.

If your use faith as a tool for hate, you are doing it wrong.

Put another way, you can’t rightfully claim to be a Christian while also supporting people and systems of hate and exclusion without being wrong.

As I wrote on social media,

“It would be nice if power hungry, exclusionist, patriarchal, lock up children, people of color, the disabled, and others Christians gave more consideration to the upside down and interdependent nature of the biblical narrative instead of using it as a tool for hate.” (1Corinthians 12:21-27, Matthew 5:1-12)

Love seeks justice.
Love uplifts.
Love supports.
Love sustains.
Love always expands to include people on the margins.

Love takes the force of power and hate and turns it upside down. That’s the message of Jesus.

Furthermore, yes, Love will win but we also are charged with living it into our world today. (1 Corinthians 13, Luke 10:25-37)

Maybe you still want to hate and exclude but, you can’t claim to be a Christian while doing it.

Peace Love and Acceptance

Hypocrites and the Law of Love

Hypocrites and the Law of Love

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:5

A lot of self-righteous people are going around these days telling others what they should or shouldn’t be doing. In some cases, these hypocrites have legislative power which can be a very dangerous thing.

Moreover, the hypocritical legislators can be swayed by other hypocrites too. Watch out when that happens because, as much as I hate this type reasoning, it happens from both sides. I feel this keenly as a disabled person.

We witness this in many ways.

Reproductive rights, exclusion from full participation whether in church or society, healthcare, straw bans, the list seems endless. I am going to explore each of these areas in my next several posts.

(Shameless Plug: I write every Monday and Thursday.)

But, rather than dwell on any one of these topics today, I want to offer for consideration what I believe is the best way forward no matter the subject at hand. My hope is that this will provide our basis for deeper discussion in these sensitive areas.

Note: Please chime in. I already know what I think. Be open. Be respectful. Listen and I will too.

Anyway, here it is, though, if you’ve read any of my other posts this won’t come as a great shock.

(If you haven’t that’s ok. I still love you. Shameless plug #2, please start reading, comment, and share. See: I already know what I think.)

Love always expands the circle. Love is inclusive. Love seeks justice and equality. Most of all, Love meets you where you are, knows one size doesn’t fit all, and Love love’s you just as you are even when you fall short.

I think of my experience with my daughter, Hope, and each of us are far from perfect. From the moment I held her, I knew nothing could ever stop me from loving her no matter what. She could kill me and, even though whatever pain she projected onto me would bring me great sadness, I would still love her.

Love just is. Love lives beyond what can be easily understood in our humanity. When I, as a Jesus follower ask, “What would Jesus do?” I’m really trying to discern, “What would Love do?”

Love is true, no matter what you believe or don’t believe as a matter of faith, even when the answers aren’t so easy. Perhaps that’s why we’re told Jesus said, “Love is greater than any of the other rules.” (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28)

Love is a good starting point even for old hypocrites like me. Let’s try it.

Tell me, what do you think?

Let me know if you have other discussion topics too. As long as you’re willing to respectfully participate, I’m willing to discuss. There is no shortage of questions. Who knows? Call me an optimist but maybe the answers can be found in our sharing together.

Wherever you are this day, thanks for joining 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

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

Unheard? Listen to My Plea

Unheard? Listen to My Plea

Listen to My Plea
Believe me when I say to you

This is what I need
The lives of people matter more
Than change in policy
No matter if you’re old or sick
Or like me just another crip
Listen to my plea
Because some day it could well be you
And, then where will you be?

Frazier

Did you ever try to tell someone how important something is to you only to be dismissed? This happened to me a few days ago. Admittedly, I didn’t react well.

I had my first experience with a changeover to paper straws from plastic.

I know this is controversial, but straws are not a luxury for me. I can’t tip my neck back to drink. Plastic straws, in particular, are useful for both sanitary and flexibility reasons. This matters to people with disabilities like me.

Further, unlike paper straws, they don’t disintegrate. If you want to read more, I had a post sometime back called Ramps, Straws, Access, and the General Isolation of Disabled People.

Anyway, I literally watched the straw disintegrate into my drink. Because I didn’t want to aspirate paper into my lungs, which is a real problem for disabled people like me, I couldn’t drink. The kicker is that the cup, complete with cap, was disposable plastic. I ask you, which uses more?

Again, I know this is controversial. Please don’t get stuck there. Just hear me say, I need this. Mostly, I just want to be heard and believed.

Even if you disagree can we begin there? Because if we can talk, maybe we can come up with better solutions. Ones that, you know, won’t kill me or, if I’m really lucky, add great burden to my life. I already have to take a ramp and other things with me many places.

Instead, I encounter people who want to tell me what I need and why. I can say with certainty, if it mattered to nondisabled people things would be different. I’m left to conclude, I don’t matter, or matter enough.

Be careful, though, because you could be me in an instant. Any one of us could end up disabled. If you live long enough you probably will. Trust me. You’ll want things to function differently.

It’s not just straws. It’s access, it’s healthcare, it’s lots of things.

All this to say, please hear me. That’s all I’m asking.

Maybe you’ve been where I am; unheard. It’s not much fun especially when it’s someone you thought was a friend. That was my experience this time. I guess that’s my point.

Let’s listen more to each other instead of waiting to talk. It matters.

And, if you’re feeling unheard today, I’m listening.

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.”  …Love listens too. 

Peace Love and Acceptance

Love Wins Even if You’re Struggling

Love Wins Even if You’re Struggling

Awake with Jesus: A Poem of My Night
Awake with Jesus
As the others slept
I could have and I will
The night would not hold me
In the garden I’d stay
Awake with Jesus
All the way to the hill
Yes, I might deny him
Scared, I’m sure
But asleep you’d not find me
Awake with Jesus
As the others slept
Because of my leg
But, still…

Calm Love

Good Friday: Love Rules the Day
As darkness spread across the land
And, it seemed to be bird in hand
The crowds were quiet
Their voices still
Imposing human
Over God’s good will
But God wasn’t daunted
So, neither should we
Change is coming, Eternally
Though, not just then
It is happening here
It’s happening both far and near
Take heart and hope, whatever they say
Right where you are, love rules the day.

Cross - Ashes

Today, isn’t a typical writing day for me. However, I’ve had the vulnerability of the characters in the scripture really present in my mind lately.

I will talk more about this in future posts as I’ll continue to explore the humanity on full display in holy writing. But, some of this really makes the most sense as we approach Easter, rather than after, so here I am.

I’ve continued to struggle with sleep which is largely a result of my post knee surgery life and so I’ve decided to put this struggle into verse. Why not? I’m awake.

More on that later too but for now you get a look into this world of mine as well as my belief that love is still somehow bigger even as I struggle. Maybe my words will resonate for you too. I’d love to hear from you.

Where are you struggling?

Where do you find love in spite of this struggle?

At the very least you get two poems from my sleep deprived brain so let me know what you think.

Wherever you are in all this, thanks for joining me on this part of our journey together and remember, in the realm of justice and love, “Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance