11/22/2006

AWESOME!!



It is hard to think "awesome" when you are sitting in Barnes and Nobles studying Systematic Theology for a mid-term. So I took several breaks to reflect, and I can't erase the recent memory I have of taking the family to Disney through the work of the Dream Factory of Bowling Green. The trip to Disney with the family was AWESOME! I say awesome because I lost count of how many times Abby said that word while touring the different parks. Most of which I caught on film. The most memorable part about the trip for me was the way she was celebrated by the many employees of the parks. Even the person making minimum wage working the front of a line treated Abby as more than a guest, but someone worth celebrating. If you have ever met her, then you know she celebrates right along with you. There were moments I almost lowered the video camera just to cry. What a joyous trip.

7/20/2006

No Fault

Jennifer is a girl at our church. She has a disability. More important than either of these things, she is one of God's creations. He had a purpose in mind when he created her. John 9, Jesus says about the man born blind, "He was born this way so that the works of God can be displayed in his life." Not the fault of his parents. Not his fault. No fault. Where is the fault in Jennifer if all his works of creation are wonderful - Psalm 139

Spiritual mind-shifting

Should we be concerned that we as the church have a difficult time reaching out to one another, especially in our differences? Is it our nature to exclude others who are not like us? Do we as a people have to be shown how to include others, or is it something we pick up along the journey? What makes a person inclusive?

These are just a few of the questiosn I hope are allowed to surface among church communities.

I remember special education class when I was growing up. All the "special ed." students were in their class room, while all the rest took up the rest of the school. Certainly, curriculum was an issue and we in America have improved on mainstreaming efforts in schools. There just seems to be something deeper that makes us people that exclude others so easily.

One author wrote about doing special needs ministry with Lifeway publishers and stated that only 5% of America's churches put forth any effort to minister to people with disabilities. Is this because churches don't know how to program such a thing, or because they prefer not to? This is an alarming statistic for Christian churches considering the lame, the blind, and crippled were at the forefront of Jesus' ministry throughout the gospel. Of all the institutions and people groups, church communities should be the most inclusive groups of all.

Maybe a more fine tuned questioned in this regard is this... Does it require a program for the church to reach out to a certain type of people, or should our reach be a natural reaction to who we are? And, does our identity move us further to designing programs and efforts to reach out to certain groups, or can we live together without the programs?

I write these questions because there is a strange cycle that takes place in many churches across the globe in regards to ministry efforts and different people groups. Imagine for a moment that God has one very large table. He is throwing a party and everyone is invited to the bash. What does this look like and is this table reflected in the church today? Does God have one table or many that are bound together in the work of Jesus?

How do we view disabilities? One might say that no one is truly disabled, which leads to normalizing. This thinking would deny the very fact that people are different. There would be no need to pay any attention to the extra needs of others. The opposite view is to say that everyone is disabled in one way or another. I call this supersizing disabilities. Supersizing leads to the same end result in that extra needs are not given a correct amount of attention where needed. For those who are abled minded and bodied, it is important to find a balance. Neither normalizing or supersizing leads to including the disabled in our daily lives and practices of the church.

Bottom line, we all have neighbors. Many who have disabilities. Some of us have family and friends with disabilities. Whether by their own fault or genetics, each of these people are worthy of being included in the life of the church. Nearly ten percent of every city in America is considered to be disabled in some fashion or another. If we are who we say we are, we will make a way for all to play in the kingdom of God.

What barriers does your church face in creating an atmosphere that includes the disabled? Moreover, what does your church do to reach out to this marginalized group of people? What is accessible about your church community? Can that be improved upon? Part of our journey in Christ is about discovering and learning the ways of Jesus. What would your journey look like if you included a cast of mentally and physically disabled people? What could God teach you about the ways of Jesus, through the lives of the disabled?