And gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:11

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Room At The Inn: A Christmas Story

I have a wonderful Christmas story to share. I wrote about it last year, and it is worth being told again this year.

A young man identified as "mentally retarded" wanted to be in the Christmas play at his church. The organizers and the others in the play didn't want to include him because they knew he would "mess up."

This Christmas pageant was the church's big event of the year, and the church had become known in the area for their portrayal of the Nativity story. So it was with great hesitation that they let this young man participate. They decided to make him the Innkeeper so he would only have to stand in one place and say one line: "There is no room at the Inn."

The night of the play came, and the church's auditorium was filled. The moment arrived when Mary and Joseph knocked on the door of the Inn. The young man with special needs answered the door as he had been instructed, stood in the spot as he had been told, and recited his line. "There is no room at the Inn," he said boldly and clearly.

Mary and Joseph turned to walk away. When the young man saw that Mary was weeping on Joseph's shoulder, he jumped out of his spot and ran to them.

"Wait! You can have my room," he said.

Some in the play and in the audience thought the pageant had been ruined that night. But others knew better.

Merry Christmas, and may God bless you all.Theresa

Friday, December 18, 2009

Have Yourself A Merry Special Needs Christmas

Are you feeling frustrated by the circumstances of your life? Are the holiday preparations and anticipations making you nervous? Often, the burden of our overwork as special needs moms can lead us to feelings of anxiety, turmoil, apprehension and depression. Doctor's appointments, IEP meetings, medical testing, holiday shopping, traffic jams -- it doesn't take much for our teetering schedules to spin out of control. How can we overcome our feelings of frustration when they occur?

Isaiah 41:10
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Luke 12:27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God.

When we are overwhelmed and do not know what to do, remember that God will provide for us as He has always. His peace is there for the taking whether we have been dealing with our child's needs for a long time or if we have just recently received their diagnoses. If our lives don't look like most people's, and we don't conform to the norm, let it be. We have our own road, and we are not alone upon it. You and your child are unique. God had a plan for you long before either of you took your first breath. The call to us from Scripture is clear. We are to be still. Stand still — not because of our own countenance or sense of composure, but because God is our refuge and our strength.

There is peace where the humanity and humility of our special families meet God's mercy and grace. May your family's Christmas be unique, holy, still, and blessed. Love, Theresa

Please take a listen to Immanuel (God Is With Us) below. It is sung by children in England -- it is as if they are singing it to us and to our children. THIS,my dear sisters in the Lord, is our Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Twas The Night Before Christmas, A Very Special Version

Friends, this was sent to me by a mother of a child with Autism. I think it resonates with special needs mothers regardless of the diagnosis of our children. It was written by Cindy Waeltermann, Director, AutismLink.

May God bless you and your beautiful children this night, Theresa

Twas The Night Before Christmas (In a Special Needs Family's Home) by Cindy Waeltermann, Director, AutismLink

Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house
The creatures were stirring
Yes, even the mouse

We tried melatonin
And gave a hot bath
Asleep early for Christmas? unlikely path

The children were finally
All nestled in bed
When visions of Christmas
Ran through my OWN head

Did I get the right gift?
The right color and style?
Would there be a blank stare
Or even, maybe, a smile?

Friends & family come
But they don't understand
The pleasure he gets
Just from bending his hands.

"Just make him stop it," some say
"Just tell him "no",
You must learn to be tough.."
On, and on they do go...

We smile and nod
Because we know deep inside
The debate is moot
Let them all take a side

We know what it's like
To live with the spectrum
The struggles and triumphs
Achievements, regressions

But what some don't know
And what some don't see
Is the joy that we feel
Over simplicity.

He said "hello"!
He ate something green!
He looked me in my eyes
He did not cause a scene!

He peed on the potty!
Who cares if he's ten;
He stopped saying the same thing
Again and again!"

Some others don't realize
Just how we can cope
How we bravely hang on
At the end of our rope

But what they don't see
Is the joy we can't hide
When our children with autism
Make the tiniest stride

We may look at others
Without the problems we face
With envy, with wonder,
Or even distaste,

What we want them to know
What's important to see
Is that children with autism
Bring simplicity.

We don't get excited
Over expensive things
We jump for joy
With the progress work brings

Children with autism
Try so hard every day
That they make us proud
More than words can say.

They work even harder
Than you or I
To achieve something small
To reach a star in the sky

So to those who don't get it
Or can't get a clue
Take a walk in our shoes
And I'll assure you…

That even 10 minutes
Into the walk
You'll look at us all
With respect, even shock.

You will realize
What it is we go through
And the next time you see us
I can assure you

That you won't say a thing
You'll be quiet and learn,
Like the years I learned too
When the tables were turned."

Cindy Waeltermann, Director, AutismLink

Monday, December 14, 2009

Acceptance: My Compass, My Prayer

To yield but not capitulate. This is my motto and my daily prayer.

As the mother of a child with special needs and a life-threatening illness, I have come to embrace that my life is not my own. My compass is acceptance -- not the kind that surrenders to injustice or abuse, but the kind that yields to the reality of what I cannot change or do about a situation. It is an acceptance that understands and trusts that God has a plan for my life and the life of my child. It is an acceptance that frees me to do that which is within my power, and that to which God is calling.

True acceptance is not resignation, it is not powerlessness. It does not leave me feeling beaten or discouraged, but rather, serene. It is not passive. It does not preclude the possibility of change. It requires me to feel, not to deaden or push my emotions away. It asks me to bend, not to break.

In "The Inner Voice of Love" Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest, wrote that we are constantly facing choices, and that the root choice is to trust that God is with us at all times. He helps us see that God will give us what we most need. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, the Apostle Paul wrote about the thorn in his flesh and how he prayed for it to be removed. God's answer was not its removal, but an assurance of His grace: "My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness."

Friends, the acceptance that is my compass is not a compensation for my pain or the suffering of my child -- it is an outgrowth of it. I pray to be open to God's graces and and His Will in and over my life. I work to focus not on avoiding my trials or hoping they go away, but on the truth that God will be my strength and supply the grace I need to persevere. Thorns and all.

Peace be with you and your families this day. Love,


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

John the Baptist, John the Light of Advent

We in the Christian Church are in the Season of Advent. The word 'advent' is Latin for 'a coming or arrival'. Advent in the Church is a season of preparation; we are waiting for the arrival of the Christ Child on Christmas Day.

When we think of Advent and preparing the way of the Lord, we often think of John the Baptist. He is one we most closely associate with Advent, yet how much do we really know about him?

We know that John's parents, Zachary and Elizabeth, were childless and prayed that their union would be blessed by a child (Luke 1:6-7). Their prayers were answered when late in life, Zachary was visited by an angel of God who said, "...Thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John."

We know, too, that John the Baptist was related to Jesus Christ. Their mothers, Mary and Elizabeth, were cousins (Luke 1:36).

St. Luke tell us "the child grew, and was strengthened in spirit; and was in the deserts until the day of his manifestation to Israel (1:80).

In Matthew (3:1) we learn that John lived in the mountainous area of Judah, and his clothes were made of camel's hair and belted by leather.
His food consisted of locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4).

John had a popular ministry. "People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea, and the whole region of The Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the River Jordan (Matthew 3:5-6). Among his disciples were the future apostles Peter and Andrew.

John baptized Jesus Christ: "Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter Him, saying, "I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me? Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." (Matthew 3:13-15).

John was questioned at the height of his popularity if he was the messiah and answered, "I am not the Christ, but I am sent ahead of Him." (John 3:28).

As Jesus Christ's ministry began to strengthen, John recognized that his own was coming to an end: "He must become greater; I must become less." (John 3:30).

St. John was a prophet who announced the coming of Jesus, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord.'"

Imprisoned and later executed, Jesus said of him to his followers, "John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light." (John 5:35).

John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.
This is who was, and is, John the Baptist. The voice of one who cried out in the wilderness, a lamp who burned and gave light. No angels, shepherds, wise men, or stars heralded his coming (though the heavenly messenger Gabriel spoke to his father about his birth and call.) Yet from his obscure place in the wilderness he moved the world.

May we choose for a time to enjoy his light this Advent.

Peace, Theresa

PRAYER: Lord, we thank You for being newly born into our world again this Christmas. Help us to slow down and enjoy the light of Advent as we prepare the way for You. Amen.

Monday, November 30, 2009



This Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson frequently resembles the cry of my life: "God, my brain is full, may I please be excused?"

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the needs of a special family. School appointments, work demands, tasks of daily life, conflicting schedules, overbooked medical and therapeutic appointments -- we go on like the Energizer Bunny who keeps going and going, until all of a sudden, thud.

Though we intuitively know our bodies and minds are not created for endless activity and stress, we often push ourselves as though they are. The demands of our lives are plenty. So how can we ride out the storms that overwhelm us? By anchoring our minds and hearts on the Lord. When there is a storm raging outside or inside, we must remember that it's safer to stay anchored to God than it is to go with the flow of the tide that threatens to pull us under.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 14 we are told that God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. I offer these suggestions as possible routes toward finding His peace:

Concentrate only on the things that are necessary. Ask God to help you discern what needs to be done. I have a doctor-friend who says in times of difficulty we need to triage. Treat your life like an ER and triage your troubles.

Meditate on Biblical teachings and stories that resonate with your situation or frame of mind. Remember the miracle of the single loaf that Christ used to feed many? Perhaps you can break your tasks into smaller parts to accomplish the many. Is there a way to work on one little piece at a time?

Read "The Sacrament of the Present Moment" by Jean-Pierre de Caussade. "The will of God is manifest in each moment, an immense ocean which only the heart fathoms insofar as it overflows with faith, trust and love."

Rest in the Lord. This need not entail attending a service or sitting for a half hour in contemplative prayer (although both are recommended when possible). Take any moment you can and use it for good. Waiting at a red light? Visit with the Lord. Loading the dryer? Let Jesus help you load the clothes. Walking in the grocery store? Take the hand of Christ and walk with Him. It is when we are worn out that anxious sensations come over us. We must let God into every moment of our lives. He is waiting for us to invite Him in.

It is important that we hold on to the truth that the darkness of our situations can never diminish the Light of Christ. It may seem like the world is crumbling around us, but God can, and will lift us. He will set our feet upon the rock.

God promises us that when life is overwhelming He will work with us.

Psalm 61, verse 2 offers some support in this direction: "From the end of the earth I will cry to You when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I."

Remember that in the midst of our tears we can find that God is good, and in the bleakest of situations we can find hope. With God’s grace, we will transform the circumstances of our lives into refining experiences that help us become the people He wants us to be, knows we can be, and created us to be.

Go in peace this day. Love, Theresa

Dear Lord, when I am struggling with the demands of my special needs family or when I am overwhelmed with life itself, help me find your presence. Fill me with Your peace and draw me into a closer relationship with You. Remind me that nothing can stop the purpose and plan that You have for my life and the life of my children. Thank you for bringing us rest, and for being our Rock, our Shelter in the storm. AMEN.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Grace Before Meals: A Blessing and a Movement

As I try to find more creative ways to feed my son who is struggling with chewing and swallowing problems, I have found a new hero. His name is Father Leo Patalinghug.

Ordained in 1990, and working as a parish priest in Maryland, Father Patalinghug started a movement called Grace Before Meals. GBM first took shape when Fr. Patalinghug "turned the tables" on his parishioners who invited him to dinner -- he cooked for them! These times spent making a meal together provided the inspiration for his first book, Grace Before Meals: Recipes for Family Life.

GBM is about so much more than cooking, recipes and food. It is about strengthening relationships, building ties with one another, healing, understanding and love. Here are a few ways you can incorporate the GBM philosophy into your daily life (from his Website) : I encourage you to visit his Website ( and sign up for his Weekly Blasts if you feel so moved. I wrote and asked him if he would consider doing some recipes for tasty and nutritious pureed foods and thickened drinks for those of us with loved ones with chewing and swallowing issues, and he said he would.

Below please find a wonderful article about a family who chose not to get a feeding tube for their aged mother. No matter what side of the feeding tube issue you may stand on, I believe you will find it a tender and thoughtful story. Peace be with you tonight, my beautiful friends in the Lord. Love, Theresa

Alzheimer's and Eating: A Taste of Home
My patient wasn't eating. Why wouldn't her daughter allow a feeding tube? Toni Martin, MD.

The deep fragrance of soy and garlic wafted out to the nurses' station from Mrs. Lee's room, signaling that her daughter, Mrs. Wong, had arrived with lunch. Time for me to make rounds. Mrs. Wong was her mother's interpreter and advocate, as well as her cook. When I walked in, Mrs. Wong was untying the handles of white plastic bags bearing red Chinese lettering. Inside were rectangular plastic containers of food: a large portion of congee, the thick rice soup that was the staple of Mrs. Lee's diet. Smaller dishes of sesame-scented bean sprouts and cabbage. Buttery soft pork and noodles. I watched as Mrs. Wong broke off tiny morsels of soft, white steamed buns and poked them tenderly into her mother's mouth.

Mrs. Lee was a regular on the medical ward, usually admitted with pneumonia and dehydration. Her Alzheimer's disease was far advanced, and she often forgot to put the food in her mouth; if she remembered, she forgot to chew. Like many elderly patients who stop eating, she was almost unresponsive when we first saw her. After a few liters of intravenous fluid and antibiotics, she perked up. She reminded me of a tiny bird -- mostly bones, with shiny dark eyes. Even when she was feeling her best, she could not talk, but her eyes diligently tracked her daughter as she moved around the room.

We suspected aspiration as the cause of her recurrent pneumonia, although she swallowed well enough when Mrs. Wong prompted her. Between admissions she returned to a skilled nursing facility but never seemed to regain her strength. I assumed they did not take the time to feed her, but when I called to ask how she had been getting along, the nursing supervisor told me that Mrs. Wong fed her at least one meal there every day.

The sad fact was that despite her daughter's best efforts, Mrs. Lee did not eat enough calories to sustain herself. Other doctors before me had suggested placing a feeding tube in her stomach, a procedure known as percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG). Then we could supplement her oral intake with a high-calorie liquid formula and possibly decrease the risk of aspiration. If she were not so malnourished, she might be able to fight the infections better. But Mrs. Wong had always refused.

When I broached the subject again, Mrs. Wong demonstrated that her mother could take a few bites of cabbage. She fed her two spoonfuls of congee. Then she called in her husband, who usually sat quietly in front of the elevator with more shopping bags. He spoke no better English than his wife, but I understood that his presence added authority to our conversation.

The next day on rounds, I called for a hospital interpreter. I wasn't sure I was communicating the concepts of quantity and calories. The Wongs had told me that they did not want Mrs. Lee resuscitated, but did they understand that antibiotics and fluids could not cure malnutrition?

After an animated exchange with the interpreter, Mrs. Wong opened another container, garlicky broccoli softened almost to a puree. Again she coaxed her mother into swallowing a spoonful, and the family beamed. The interpreter shrugged his shoulders.

"She understands," he assured me. "She wants to feed her mother. No tube." We all bowed slightly, and I left to write my note.

There are vast numbers of people with Alzheimer's disease: approximately 4.5 million Americans, including more than 40 percent of those over 85. Mrs. Lee was one of the lucky ones, because she had a caring daughter. Often I find myself negotiating treatment decisions with a county-appointed conservator because the patient has no relatives. In my California county, conservators will not authorize do-not-resuscitate status for permanently unresponsive nonverbal patients. If Mrs. Lee had a conservator, she would have had a feeding tube, even if she was so confused that her hands had to be tied down to keep her from pulling it out. Of course, the conservators don't have to visit the patients.

Had Mrs. Lee lived a few decades earlier, there would have been no PEG. When placing a permanent feeding tube meant opening the patient's abdomen, it was rarely done. Today an endoscopist passes a tube into the stomach and shines a fiber-optic light from the inside to mark a spot, and a surgeon cuts just enough to insert a feeding tube through the skin into the stomach. So easy. Easier than coaxing patients to eat or allowing them to die naturally. Very few people, even if they have told their families they do not want "heroic measures" at the end of life, have left instructions about tube feeding. This leaves physicians in the sort of moral quandary we found ourselves in with Mrs. Wong.

Meanwhile, at the hospital, another week passed. The utilization reviewer asked when Mrs. Lee would be leaving. Each time she was close to discharge, her temperature rose again or her oxygen needs increased. I cultured and X-rayed her again. I added antibiotics and arranged an infectious disease consultation, but it was clear she was failing.

I told Mrs. Wong that I didn't think her mother was going to make it this time. She said nothing. Mrs. Lee was less responsive now, but when Mrs. Wong lifted the oxygen mask to slip in a spoonful of congee, she swallowed. I nodded to Mr. Wong in front of the elevator. He reminded me of pictures I had seen of seated statues found in royal tombs in China. He sat in service to his dying mother-in-law the way they sat in eternal service to the dead.

When the elevator doors opened the next morning, he was not there. Mrs. Lee had died during the night. I never saw the Wongs again.

Mrs. Lee's last year frustrated her doctors. Despite our antibiotics, we knew she would not survive. It did not make sense to keep treating pneumonia without giving her more nutritional support. We wanted Mrs. Wong to allow us to treat all the way or to give up entirely.

Instead, she forced us to find another way. She understood that her mother was dying, that eating is the last activity of daily living that we lose. Perhaps she also knew that people still aspirate, even their saliva, when they have stomach tubes in place. Had she read that there is a mortality rate of 40 to 50 percent at six months in patients with gastronomy tubes? Probably not. We told her that it was easy to place a PEG. She taught us, again, that tough ethical decisions lurk behind easy procedures.

Mrs. Wong prevailed. Her mother's last nourishment was a rich taste of home from her daughter's hand.

-- Toni Martin, MD, is a board-certified internist and geriatrician who has practiced in Oakland, California, for 20 years. She has served as Chief of Patient Education at Kaiser Oakland and is a member of the clinical faculty at UCSF Medical School. She is also the author of How To Survive Medical School (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1983). This essay first appeared in the July/August 1999 issue of Hippocrates and is reprinted here by permission of the author.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Story of Dax and God's Helpers

Have you heard the story of 2 year old Dax from Illinois? It is a sad story, and I must tell you that I wept when I read it and saw the video on CNN. But as I dried my eyes I knew this blessed child accomplished so much in his short time on earth, and I very much wanted to help spread his story.

Dax's doctors say he may not make it to Christmas. He is battling a rare form of cancer, and treatments have now stopped. He knows he will be going to be with the angels. His family, neighborhood, and now countless others, are banding together to bring Christmas early to Dax.

The news reports tell us about the loss of a child, his parents, his family, their strength, God's grace, mercy, human endurance, love... And they tell us, too, about the helpers.

Dax's story is full; it tells us to love, and reminds us to focus on what is important in life. Let his story remind us too, that when we see someone in need, witness a tragedy, or know someone who is at the end of their ability to cope, God is probably calling us to be one of His helpers.

I encourage you to go to CNN's Website and watch the video of Dax. It is beautiful. I ask that we remember all children who are ill, and lift them and their parents up in prayer this day. Amen.


On a crisp Halloween night,icicle lights and Santa Clauses mingled with ghosts and jack-o'-lanterns in a Washington, Illinois, neighborhood.

The community is helping a family squeeze in a little extra holiday cheer with their young son.

Doctors say 2-year-old Dax Locke is losing his fight with acute myeloid leukemia and may only have weeks to live, so parents Julie and Austin Locke put Christmas lights up outside their home for the little boy, who loves glowing things. Dax opens presents each day under a tree that's already been up for several weeks.

"We don't have much time left with Dax, don't know if he will make it to Christmas, so we wanted to have Christmas early," Julie Locke told local news station WMBD.

Neighbor and friend Trish Hurtgen says she and her husband were inspired by the family's efforts, so they put up their own lights and encouraged neighbors to do the same. Soon, the entire block was lit up with Christmas lights. They also planned a special surprise for the family.

While the Lockes traveled to Chicago's Shedd Aquarium for a special trip with Dax, the neighborhood banded together to decorate a huge tree in the family's yard so the Lockes could be delighted when they returned just after Halloween.

From there, she and other neighbors have helped encourage people to show silent support for the family by putting up Christmas lights at home and around the community. The effort, called Decorate for Dax, has its own Web site with space for people everywhere to send pictures and see others' displays.

Hurtgen calls the Lockes a "family of courage" that she found inspirational, and she wanted to help if she could.

"This is a family who stayed united and formed a team to help Dax," Hurtgen said. "They gave everything they had. We're trying to do the same thing."

Dax has spent past holidays at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, but this year, he's at home. Save for receiving palliative radiation to improve his quality of life, he is off cancer treatments.

Hurtgen says Dax enjoys going for car rides and seeing the lights on around him. The family plans to make a book out of photos that people send so Dax will be able to see all the lights for Christmas if he's too sick to go outside.

iReporter Cindy Miller lives in the area and got involved in local neighborhood decorating projects. She posted a video on CNN iReport to raise awareness of the Decorate for Dax project. She narrated a drive through Dax's neighborhood shortly after Halloween, and many houses were illuminated.

During one project, locals put up lights and luminarias at a local park. Miller sent photos and video of the illuminated areas she spotted, including a red, white and green sign with Dax's name in bright lights.

Miller said her heart was warmed by all the work the community put into the decorations, and she was overjoyed to see Dax out with the family amid all the people helping to decorate.

I sobbed like a baby, but was overjoyed at the show of support for this family
--Cindy Miller, iReporter. "I sobbed like a baby, but was overjoyed at the show of support for this family who may not have their baby here at Christmastime. It's unusual to see Christmas lights up so early, but this year, there's a good reason."

Hurtgen says she's been surprised by how Decorate for Dax has taken off. Submissions have come from all over the United States and in far-flung countries like Australia and Germany.

"I don't know how the word is getting out," Hurtgen said.

Hurtgen added that one woman even wrote in to say that her husband, stationed in Afghanistan, was working with fellow troops to photograph a lights display for Dax.

Some of the colorful and bright displays she's seen include big signs with Dax's name on them and holiday-themed shapes and figurines. Other displays are more humble, like a message from another boy in a hospital and a makeshift tribute inside a tiny apartment.

"It doesn't have to be big, just your way of showing support."

The Lockes aren't the only family hosting an early Christmas. Diana Biorkman of South Lyon, Michigan, told CNN affiliate WDIV that her son, Noah, is dying of a Stage 4 neuroblastoma, which is a type of cancer that forms in nerve tissue.

Noah loves opening mail, so the family asked people to send him a Christmas card. Word got out, and he started getting gifts and cards from strangers. The family recently picked up a carload of mail and toys. Detroit Tigers baseball player Brandon Inge even sent a card and stopped over for a "play date" that included building a snow fort with Noah.

Hurtgen says the silent show of support works well for their community because Dax needs his rest and the family needs their privacy.

Perhaps, she said, people will see this odd display of early lights and wonder what is going on. Maybe they'll also pause for a moment to think about Dax and about what they can do to help. The family is asking people to make donations to St. Jude.

"That's what Christmas is about, giving and not needing to get in return."

Everyone is holding out hopes Dax will make it to Christmas.

"Christmas would be a miracle. We're praying for a big miracle."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Share your H1N1 advice, stories, and plans

It might be helpful for us to share our H1N1 stories, plans, and advice as the virus is spreading, and our chances of encountering it are increasing. Please feel free to post your comments below.

My 10 year old has just been diagnosed with H1N1. We have him secluded in his bedroom, but this has not been difficult to enforce as he is too sick to even get out of bed. We are caring for him while keeping our other son who has special needs as far away from him as possible. Windows are open, hands are washed (and washed again), telephones, door handles, bathrooms and just about every other surface in the house are continuously wiped with alcohol.

The H1N1 vaccine was not available to us in Massachusetts. Clinics planned in our town had to be canceled because the vaccines were never received. We're on waiting lists. But for our family, it's too late. The virus is already here.

Our healthy 10 year old is very sick, a high persistent fever has us on guard and watching him very closely. I try not to think of what could happen to him or our other son should he contract the virus. I work to stay in the present moment. I remind myself that today our 10 year old is holding his own against the virus. Today our other son is not showing any signs of it. Today we are coping. And should this change, I remind myself that the Lord will be right there beside us as we make our way through.

PRAYER: Lord, we know that You are The Great Physician. We ask that Your peace be with all who are suffering from illness this night. We ask You to provide the doctors, nurses, and family members who are caring for the sick, the wisdom and grace to minister according to Your will. We especially thank You for holding those who are alone in their suffering and sickness, and know that You will lighten their darkness this night. Jesus, we trust in You. AMEN.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Time To Laugh, A Time To Mourn

I am taking an online course through Boston College's School of Theology. One of the questions in this week's assignment reminded me of one of my favorite movies. It is called Lorenzo's Oil.

Lorenzo's Oil is a movie based on the true story of Augusto and Michaela Odone and their fight to save the life of their son, Lorenzo. They are a Catholic family, and their faith in God is front and center in their family's life and plight.

Lorenzo, who was diagnosed in early 1984 with ALD (a then- incurable neuro-degenerative disorder) was beyond the help of conventional medicine. Unwilling and unable to give up or give in, they began their own research into the disease to help find a treatment and cure.

Lorenzo's Oil is about a family's struggle, the quest for knowledge, and the victory of hope through perseverance. For two hours, we witness each battle and each triumph. The Odone's, a family who hold on despite tremendous grief, guilt and pain, strive to help their son (and all boys). They are models of faith, hope, courage, and wisdom.

I have purchased copies of the film over the years for friends and family members because of its realisitic portrayal of a family dealing with their child's life-threatening illness. I frequently watch my own copy of the movie -- it helps me access my emotions when they are closed up tightly, and it has given me strength when I have felt tired or beaten down.

A friend told me a few weeks ago that courage is fear that has said its prayers. So friends, let us join together and pray.

PRAYER: Father, we thank You for our lives. We open ourselves to Your presence. We know that there are times when we must embrace difficulties and pain. You tell us in Ecclesiastes that there is a time to laugh and a time to mourn. We ask that You, our Prince of Peace, remind us that Your hand is always upon us, guiding us through our day. We know that You always have a plan for our lives, even we we cannot see what it is. AMEN.

Love, Theresa

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Life Is Short -- This Is Your Time, Make It Count

Short and Sweet
by Charles R. Swindoll

James 4:13-17

Average life spans are shorter than most of us realize. For instance, a face-lift lasts only six to ten years; a dollar bill lasts for only eighteen months; a painted line on the road remains only three to four months; and a tornado seldom lasts more than ten minutes.

There are differences of opinion, but most agree that the human life span averages somewhere between seventy-five and eighty years. That may sound encouraging to the young and disturbing to those in their sixties, seventies, and eighties. The simple fact is, however, nobody knows for sure how long he or she may live.

When we read and believe the warnings in Scripture, there is little doubt that life is short. James pulls no punches when he writes, "You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away" (4:14).

The average life span may be seventy-five to eighty years, but who can say you or I have that long? We may have less than two years or, for that matter, less than two weeks. Vanishing vapors aren't known for longevity.

Since this is true, let's do our best to make the time we have count. Rather than live with reluctance, let's live with exuberance. Instead of fearing what's ahead, let's face it head-on with enthusiasm. And because life is so terribly short, let's do everything we can to make it sweet.

How? Three thoughts come to mind.

First, act on your impulse. Don't wait for the perfect moment. A woman in my former church took these words to heart and contacted a person she hadn't talked to for a long time. The person was surprised and thrilled. "You have no idea how much your call has meant to me," she said. Later the woman who had received the call admitted she had planned to take her life that very afternoon. The call had changed her mind.

Second, focus on the positive. Merchants of negativism may be strong and sound convincing, but their message is debilitating. Life's too short for that. Spread germs of cheer. Joy is contagious.

Third, traffic in the truth. Refuse to stake your claim on hearsay. Check out the facts. Be discerning. If you are a conduit of communication, speak only the truth. If you're not absolutely sure, keep quiet. Lies can outlive lives, unfortunately.

Short and sweet. That's the only way to go.

Have you been putting off something you really want or need to do?
You don't have forever. Get at it!

Excerpted from Day by Day with Charles Swindoll, Copyright © 2000 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. (Thomas Nelson Publishers). All rights reserved worldwide.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What Do Martin Luther, Neil Young, Napoleon Bonaparte And Danny Glover Have In Common?

ANSWER: They are all famous people with epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder caused by disturbances in the normal eletrochemical functions of the brain. It is a condition that affects an estimated 2.7 million Americans, 50,000,000 worldwide, and impacts millions more. One in three adults reported that they know someone with the disorder and/or have witnessed a seizure. Approximately 200,000 new cases of epilepsy are diagnosed each year -- yet epilepsy remains one of the least understood of all the major chronic medical conditions.

One in 100 teenagers has it, it is not contagious, and it is not a mental illness. There are different kinds of seizures. Some are convulsive, some cause the person to stare, others create quick body jerks, tingly feelings or periods of confusion.

Please visit the Epilepsy Foundation's Website for more information on seizures and epilepsy. Someone you know may be depending upon it.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, we thank You for all the doctors, nurses, researchers, and activists who are working to help those suffering from seizures and epilepsy. You hold each of us in the palm of Your hand, and we know that with You we will find the strength to endure the challenges set before us. AMEN.

FAMOUS PEOPLE WITH EPILEPSY: (Compiled From Internet Lists)

Vincent van Gogh - (1853 - 1890)

Sir Isaac Newton - (4 January 1643 – 31 March 1727)

Neil Young - (born November 12, 1945, Toronto, Ontario) A musician known for his meaningful lyrics and also a spokesman for environmental issues, Neil Young has been labeled one of the greatest guitarists of his time.

Napoleon Bonaparte - (15 August 1769–5 May 1821)

Agatha Christie - Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa, Lady Mallowan, DBE (15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976), commonly known as Agatha Christie, was an English crime fiction writer.

Charles Dickens - Charles John Huffam Dickens, FRSA (17 February 1812 – 9 June 1870), pen-name "Boz", was the foremost English novelist of the Victorian era, as well as a vigorous social campaigner. The Victorian author of such classic books as A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist had epilepsy, as did several of the characters in his books.

Alexander the Great - Alexander the Great (July 20, 356 BC – June 10, 323 BC), also known as Alexander III, was an ancient Greek king (basileus) of Macedon (336–323 BC).

Danny Glover - (Born July 22, 1947) A great actor in both Lethal Weapon with Mel Gibson and Predator 2. Danny Glover suffered dyslexia at school when he was younger and the school staff would label him retarded. Danny Glover also had epilepsy and at an appearance on the Rosie O'Donnell Show told how he had developed epilepsy at the age of 15, and in one cross-country trip with his family had experienced six seizures in a row.

Alfred Nobel - Alfred Bernhard Nobel (October 21, 1833, Stockholm, Sweden – December 10, 1896, Sanremo, Italy) was a Swedish chemist, engineer, innovator, armaments manufacturer and the inventor of dynamite. By the time of his death he held more than 350 patents and controlled factories and laboratories in 20 countries. William Gordon Lennox wrote that “Nobel was subject to migraines and convulsions from infancy.” Nobel had epileptic seizures as a young child, which later made him write of convulsions and agony in a poem. The foundations of the Nobel Prize were laid in 1895 when Alfred Nobel wrote his last will, leaving much of his wealth for its establishment. Since 1901, the prize has honored men and women for outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and for work in peace.

Michelangelo - (March 6, 1475 – February 18, 1564) The sculptor of many of the most renowned sculptures of all times. Michaelangelo was a respected renaissance man only rivaled by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Leonardo Da Vinci - (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519) The man responsible for some of the greatest religious paintings in history Leonardo Da Vinci excelled not only in painting but in numerous other disciplines as well. He was a Tuscan polymath: architect, botanist, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, and writer. His most famous work is definetely the paintings of both Mona Lisa and the Last Supper of Jesus Christ which have both been the most reproduced religious paintings of all times.

Julius Caesar - (July 13, 100 BC – March 15, 44 BC),

Edgar Allen Poe - (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) Edgar Allen Poe is a member of the Romantic Movement, mostly as an author and literacy critic. He has written books and short stories and he is best known for his macabre and mysteries, he is the one who invented the Detective-Fiction genre.

Aristotle - (384 BC – 322 BC) Aristotle was a Greek philosopher writing on many different subjects including zoology, biology, ethics, government, politics, physics, metaphysics, music, poetry and theater. He was also a great teacher for Alexander the Great.

Theodore Roosevelt - 26th President of the U.S. (October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919) Roosevelt was a soldier , historian, explorer, naturalist, author, and Governor of New York later becoming the President of the United States at the age of 42 years old. He was well known for having a vast range of objectives and achievements, all with an energetic determination and a hard ''cowboy'' persona. He was subject to epileptic seizures, his eyesight was bad, and he also suffered from asthma, but was still a man of courage and strength appreciated by many.

Alfred the Great - (c. 849 – 26 October 899) Alfred the Great was king of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex from 871 to 899.

Bud Abbott - (October 2, 1895 – April 24, 1974) Bud Abott was an American producer, comedian and actor.

Richard Burton - (November 10, 1925 – August 5, 1984)

George Frederick Handel - (Friday 23 February 1685 – Saturday 14 April 1759) was a German-born Baroque composer who is famous for his operas, oratorios and concerti grossi. Since the 1960s, with the revival of interest in baroque music, original instrument playing styles, and the prevalence of countertenors who could more accurately replicate castrato roles, interest has revived in Handel's Italian operas, and many have been recorded and performed onstage.

Charles V of Spain - Charles V (24 February 1500 – 21 September 1558) was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 until his abdication in 1556 and also ruler of the Spanish realms from 1516 until 1556.

Pythagoras - Pythagoras was the first man to call himself a philosopher, ''lover of wisdom'' and was the most able philosopher among the Greeks. He was know as ''the father of numbers'' and greatly contributed to mathematics. It is even said that many of his ideas had directly influenced Plato. Many of his teachings were only passed down by some of his students, none of his work had seen the day and none can be sure of exactly how wise Pythagoras was. Although he had made huge contributions to both philosophy and religion in the late 6th century BC.

Hannibal - Carthaginian military commander and tactician, later also working in other professions, who is popularly credited as one of the finest commanders in history. He lived during a period of tension in the Mediterranean, when Rome (then the Roman Republic) established its supremacy over other great powers such as Carthage, Macedon, Syracuse, and the Seleucid empire. His most famous achievement was at the outbreak of the Second Punic War, when he marched an army, which included war elephants, from Iberia over the Pyrenees and the Alps into northern Italy.

Hector Berlioz - Louis Hector Berlioz (December 11, 1803 – March 8, 1869) was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande Messe des morts (Requiem). Berlioz made great contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation and by utilizing huge orchestral forces for his works, sometimes calling for over 1,000 performers.

James Madison - During his teens and early twenties, Madison complained of a voice impairment. This was a functional disability that prevented his public speaking until age 30. Madison believed he would “ have a short life due to the illness he believed was epilepsy.

Lord Byron - Baron Byron, of Rochdale in the County Palatine of Lancaster, is a title in the Peerage of England. It was created in 1643, by letters patent, for Sir John Byron, a Cavalier general and former Member of Parliament. Some biographies suggest that Lord Byron experienced epileptic seizures and in various passages he writes of symptoms reminiscent of epilepsy.

Louis XIII of France - (September 27, 1601 – May 14, 1643) ruled as King of France and Navarre from 1610 to 1643. Louis XIII ascended to the throne in 1610, at the age of eight and a half, upon the assassination of his father.

Margaux Hemingway - (February 16, 1955 – July 1, 1996) was an American model and film actress who appeared in several movies.

Martin Luther - (November 10, 1483–February 18, 1546) was a German monk, theologian, and church reformer. Luther's theology challenged the authority of the papacy by holding that the Bible is the sole source of religious authority and that all baptized Christians are a priesthood of believers. Luther had many documented illnesses, but any recurrent attacks were probably due to Ménière’s disease.

Nicolo Paganini - (October 27, 1782 – May 27, 1840) was an Italian violinist, violist, guitarist, and composer. He is widely considered to be one of, if not the greatest violinist who ever lived and it is believed to he had epilepsy.

Paul I of Russia - Pavel (Paul) I Petrovich of Russia (October 1, 1754 – March 23, 1801) was the Emperor of Russia between 1796 and 1801.

Peter Tchaikovsky - Russian composer of the Romantic era. Tchaikovsky, is believed to have had epilepsy. Pyotr began piano lessons at age five with a local woman, Mariya Palchikova within three years he read music as well as his teacher. Tchaikovsky died on November 6, 1893, nine days after the premiere of his Sixth Symphony, the Pathétique. His death has traditionally been attributed to cholera, most probably contracted through drinking contaminated water several days earlier.

Peter the Great - Peter I the Great or Pyotr Alexeyevich Romanov (9 June 1672 – 8 February 1725) Both Peter's hands and feet were small, and his shoulders narrow for his height; likewise, his head was also small for his tall body. Added to this were Peter's facial tics, and, judging by descriptions handed down, he may have suffered from petit mal, a form of epilepsy.

Robert Schumann - (June 8, 1810 – July 29, 1856) was a German composer, aesthete and influential music critic. He is one of the most famous Romantic composers of the 19th century.

Sir Walter Scott - (15 August 1771 – 21 September 1832) was a prolific Scottish historical novelist and poet popular throughout Europe during his time.

Socrates - (470 BCE–399 BCE) was a Classical Greek philosopher. He is best known for the creation of Socratic irony and the Socratic Method, or elenchus. Socrates developed the practice of a philosophical type of pedagogy, in which the teacher asks questions of the students to elicit the best answer, and fundamental insight, on the part of the student.

Truman Capote - born Truman Streckfus Persons in New Orleans, Louisiana (30 September 1924 – 25 August 1984) was an American writer whose stories, novels, plays, and non-fiction are recognized literary classics, including the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood.

Chanda Gunn - (born January 27, 1980 in Huntington Beach, California) is an American ice hockey player. She won a bronze medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics. As a female athlete with temporal lobe epilepsy, Chanda Gunn faces each day with a zest for life and the determination to live each day to its fullest. Gunn has received numerous awards, she is the first player ever to be named a finalist for both the Patty Kazmaier Award for the nation's best women's college hockey player and the Humanitarian Award for college hockey's finest citizen.

Dj Hapa - Diagnosed with epilepsy at age 17, HAPA was initially told he would not be able to attend college due to his condition. He attended UCLA on a Regents scholarship and today is the executive director of the Scratch DJ Academy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Prayer For Calm

God be gracious to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us---Selah.
(Psalm 67:1)

Lord, we are gathered around our Standard. We are bowed before our great God who offers His peace when so many panic. You are our refuge, our chasah. Rivet that into our minds. Show us how to pause, and let it sink in. Remind us of Your power and presence when the songs in the evening change into the fearful tears of the night. Remind us of that when the shrill ring of the phone awakens us. Remind us of that when we sit down and read the morning headlines. Remind us, oh great God, that You are our refuge and strength. Remind us, even when we don't understand the why of what's happening, that we have no reason to fear, that we need not be moved, and that our future is never uncertain with You.

Author Unknown

Friday, September 4, 2009

We Have Only Today

As we approach 9/11's anniversary, newly declassified photographs of the events at Ground Zero have been released.

The images bring it all back. They remind us of the thousands who said good bye to their families and friends that morning and boarded the ill-fated planes or went to work at the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

And they reminded me of something I read many years ago. Three little questions:

1) Who would you call if you learned you had only 3 minutes left to live?

2) What would you say?

3) Why are you waiting?

PRAYER: Lord, I ask You to fit my tongue with your readiness and grace. Help me tell the ones I love how much they mean to me. Help me reach out to those with whom I am in disagreement so that we may find forgiveness and peace. Guide my thoughts, intentions and words. Help me to remember that each day is a precious gift that You have made. Give me Your eternal perspective so that I can see how my time upon this earth is to be used, and how I may live it in mercy and love. Amen.

"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin." Mother Teresa

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

God's Strength Is Perfect When Ours Is Gone

"God does not want our deeds; God wants the love that prompts them." St. Teresa of Avila

Life can be full of hardships and pain, and I have had my share the past few months. Each step of the race, each day, each hour depended upon the Lord helping me to limp through.

Are you running a long, hard race right now, too? Are you exhausted by fear, sadness, or overwork? If so, I encourage you to reach out to the Lord who is there beside you. The Starter of your race is waiting to give you strength until your own strength returns. He wants to encourage you to hold on, to have faith in His bigger picture, for there is so much more to your life and the life of your child than today's struggles.

Is the sun shining? Are flowers blooming? Did a friend call? Consciously look for a little blessing, no matter how small. Receive the permission to live this day the best that you can -- and know that is enough. Be assured that the storm will ebb. Your soul shall be renewed. You shall rise again, yes mother, you shall rise again.

PRAYER: Dear Reader,
Meet Me wherever and whenever you want.
I love you.
(Signed) God

Before motherhood, I read the poem below as a love poem between a man and a woman. But at the moment of my son's birth, the poem became one between a mother and child. I recited it aloud as they laid my newborn in my arms right there in the labor and delivery room. This is for you and your child.


somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond

by E. E. Cummings

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Stigma, Prejudice, and Segregation: When The Public Tone Turns Ugly Against Persons With Disabilities

There it was again in the paper this morning. The headline about special education students taking away money and resources from "normal" children. Interesting that we never see these same headlines about magnet schools or "gifted and talented" children taking away resources from "normal" children.

More and more I seem to be reading stories about children with disabilities being turned away from communities of all kinds -- including the spiritual. There was a recent story of a boy with autism whose church took out a restraining order against him so he would not be able to attend church services with them. There were stories of children in hospitals and residential facilities being denied their church's sacraments. It is all terribly hurtful and disturbing.

When the public tone towards persons with disabilities becomes ugly or unfair, we must take it to the Lord at once. He will tell us the best way to handle it. He might ask us to step forward and publicly speak out, He might ask us to volunteer to help a family in our community, He might call us in a legal direction, or He may ask us to simply pray and meditate. He can, and will, use the situation for good. He always has a plan. Our job is to listen, and to say yes to what He asks.

With God we can stay in the process, even when we encounter unjust, harsh criticism. With Him we can be strong even when we feel timid. We can be courageous. We can teach. We can be still. We can continue getting the road ready for the families that are coming behind us. For isn't that part of why we are here? Jesus came to show us the way. He left us here to help bring His people along that path.

Below is a wonderful sermon by Charles Swindoll in which I think all parents of children with special needs and illnesses can find strength. Peace and love, Theresa

by Charles R. Swindoll

2 Timothy 1:7

Looking for a role model on how to handle criticism? It would be worth your while to check out the book of Nehemiah. On several occasions this great-hearted statesman was openly criticized, falsely accused, and grossly misunderstood. Each time he kept his cool . . . he rolled with the punch . . . he considered the source . . . he refused to get discouraged . . . he went to God in prayer . . . he kept building the wall (Nehemiah 2:19-20; 4:1-5).

One of the occupational hazards of being a leader is receiving criticism (not all of it constructive, by the way). In the face of that kind of heat, there's a strong temptation to "go under," "throw in the towel," "bail out." Many have faded out of leadership because of intense criticism. I firmly believe that the leader who does anything that is different or worthwhile or visionary can count on criticism.

Along this line, I appreciate the remarks made by the fiery president of a past generation, Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually try to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

To those words I add a resounding amen.

A sense of humor is of paramount importance to the leader. Many of God's servants are simply too serious! There are at least two tests we face that determine the extent of our sense of humor:

  • the ability to laugh at ourselves
  • the ability to take criticism

Believe me, no leader can continue effectively if he or she fails these tests! Equally important, of course, is the ability to sift from any criticism that which is true, that which is fact. We are foolish if we respond angrily to every criticism. Who knows, God may be using those words to teach us some essential lessons, painful though they may be.

Isn't this what Proverbs 27:5-6 is saying?

Better is open rebuke
Than love that is concealed.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.

And let me call to your attention the word friend in these verses. Friendship is not threatened but strengthened by honest criticism. But---when you are criticized by one who hardly knows you, filter out what is fact . . . and ignore the rest!

Nehemiah did that . . . and he got the wall built.

Friday, May 1, 2009

"The Birth" by Caryll Houselander, 1953

“The Birth”
by Caryll Houselander 1953

There was always the Crowd. Even when he lay folded in the darkness of Mary’s womb, she carried him into the crowded city of Bethlehem to be born.

There was a loud voice in the streets surrounding the stable. The clinking of glasses, the shouts, the greeting of friends, the tramping of feet and clatter of hoofs, laughter and snatches of song.

Only his Mother possessed silence. And in her silence under the noise of the crowd, she heard the sound of a stream flowing underground, and breaking through darkness to water the earth. And she heard the little snap of a bursting seed, and the sound of a bud breaking. She heard the sound of the waters of birth.

Then the sound of water and opening buds and seed pushing into the light became the thin cry of the newly born, and the thin cry was the Word.

She, his Mother, always sought for him in the crowd. It was in the crowd coming home from Jerusalem that she lost, and sought her son for the first time. And it was as one of the crowd, seeking him again in the city she heard him say - “They who do the will of my Father in Heaven are my brother and sister and mother!”

There was always the crowd, thronging the mountain side and the sea shore and the wilderness, to hear the word. And she was always there as one of the crowd, she, who had heard the first cry, and taught the Word his first word, and stored all his words in her heart. Now the Lord spoke of living streams in which those who are dead should be born again, and the single seed cast into the earth that should fill the fields for the harvesting with wheat for living bread.

Some of them questioned him: “How can these things be?” “This is a hard saying and how shall we return to our mother’s womb and be born again?” And she remembered that she too had said “How can this thing be?”

And then that crowded night in the city of Bethlehem. Would all men spark from the seed of light that had flowered from her?

There was the crowd who threw their garments under his feet, children thronging his way with palms in their hands, to greet his entry into Jerusalem when he came to die, and then, the crowd outside the judgment hall, crying aloud for his blood - “Crucify! Crucify!” and those who hustled each other, and pushed their way in the narrow street when they led him by on the way to Golgotha. And always Mary his Mother, following, seeking her lost child in the crowd.

When he died on the Cross the crowds were there, climbing the hill, as they did when first he came from Nazareth, to utter the word of his Father’s love in the broad speech of a Nazarene. But now they came to deride, to mock at him and to curse, they came to silence the Word!

Mary, his Mother, stood at the foot of the Cross. She heard the seed that had shone in her womb falling into the ground, and the sound of a great wind sweeping the red harvests from end to end of the world.

And she heard the sound of his blood, that was hers, like the sound of a great sea flowing in waves of light over the world’s darkness, flowing down the hillside, through the holy city, and all the cities, all over the world till the end of time, flooding the souls of men with the waters of life. Mary, the Mother of God, looked from the night to a million million dawns, whose rising suns were a million million Hosts.

And she saw the crowds, coming again to the mountain side from the ends of the earth, and the end of time.

She saw the cities of all the world, and the glory of them from the mountain where he had died.

And she sought for her son who was lost, and found him there in the crowd. He was there because exiles were there, those who fled from murder and had nowhere to lay their heads. He was there, because kings were there, whose crowns were crowns of thorn. He was there, because priests were there, who were there to be sacrificed. He was there, because those who were poor were there, and they were clothed in the iridescence of flowers in dew reflecting the rising sun. He was there because children were there, who looked at her with her child’s shadowless eyes.

She heard the breaking of the waters of birth.

And then the Word was silent. The sound of the great wind and the sea became the silence of the Word. She heard only the sound of the little stream that broke from his side.

But mankind born again was laid in her arms, in the body of her dead child.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Susan Boyle: Turning Disability Into Ability

Susan Boyle is receiving a lot of attention after her performance on the television show Britain's Got Talent. Her appearance and her personality caused the judges and the audience members to dismiss her, to snicker, and to laugh at her. But then she started singing. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Ms. Boyle's Cinderella story has captured the world's attention for many reasons. Last week, she was even the subject of Cardinal Sean O'Malley's homily at the Boston Catholic Women's Conference in Massachusetts. We are captivated by the extraordinary story of this gentle woman, but many don't know that Susan Boyle has had a lifelong history with disabilities.

Ms. Boyle has learning disabilities as a result of oxygen deprivation at birth. In a recent interview with CBS she talked about being bullied, teased and abused for being "slow. " Though the scars remain today, she added, "The ones who made fun of me are now nice to me, so I may have won them round."

Susan Boyle has clearly won us all round. Her performance was a testimony to the human spirit as much as it was a display of her beautiful talent. This never-been-kissed woman whom many considered a "throw-away" wants very much to highlight her disabilities.

"I was slightly brain damaged at birth, and I want people like me to see that they shouldn’t let a disability get in the way. I want to raise awareness -- I want to turn my disability into ability."

To quote Britain's Got Talent judge Piers Morgan, "Susan, you have the voice of an angel."

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I just received "Getting Involved, Part 1" (below) from Insight For Living. It came to me after a morning of prayer and meditation on a hurtful situation we encountered in a church where we live. It resonated with me, and I was certain it would resonate with some of you. I shall publish Part 2 when I receive it tomorrow.

Friends, we must always remember that God is holding us in the palms of His hands, even when our earthly brothers and sisters turn us away. We must not let these hurtful experiences, especially those at the hands of fellow Christians, take us away from the One who is our Father, our God.

The Lord is our balm. He will always be our Good Samaritan.

Getting Involved, Part One
by Charles R. Swindoll

Luke 10:30-37

Kitty Genovese was brutally attacked as she returned to her apartment late one night. She screamed and shrieked as she fought for her life . . . yelling until she was hoarse . . . for thirty minutes . . . as she was beaten and abused. Thirty-eight people watched the half-hour episode from their windows with rapt fascination. Not one so much as walked over to the telephone and called the police. Kitty died that night as thirty-eight witnesses stared in silence.

Andrew Mormille's experience was similar. Riding on a subway, the seventeen-year-old youth was quietly minding his own business when he was stabbed repeatedly in the stomach by attackers. Eleven riders watched the stabbing, but none came to assist the young man. Even after the thugs had fled and the train had pulled out of the station, as he lay in a pool of his own blood, not one of the eleven came to his side.

Less dramatic but equally shocking was the ordeal of Eleanor Bradley. While shopping on Fifth Avenue in busy Manhattan, this lady tripped and broke her leg. Dazed, anguished, and in shock, she called out for help. Not for two minutes. Not for twenty minutes. But forty minutes, as shoppers and business executives, students and merchants walked around her and stepped over her, completely ignoring her cries. After literally hundreds had passed by, a cab driver finally pulled over, hauled her into his taxi, and took her to a local hospital.

I heard of an experiment a small band of seminary students carried out on fellow members of their class some time ago. I know it is true because I later spoke with one of the men involved. The class was given an assignment on Luke 10:30-37, the familiar account of the Good Samaritan. The assignment was due the next day. Most of the men in that class traveled along the same pathway leading to the classroom the next morning. One of the seminarians in the experiment wore old, torn clothing, disguised himself as though he had been beaten and bruised, and placed himself along the path, clearly in view of all the young students making their way back to class. With their assignments neatly written, carefully documented, and tucked under their arms, not one seminarian so much as paused to come to his assistance or wipe the catsup off his neck and chest.

Intellectually, the assignment on love and caring was completed. But personally? Well, you decide.

What's happening? Why the passivity? How can we explain the gross lack of involvement in our world today and especially among Christians? We'll talk about that tomorrow. For now, go out on a limb: ask God to let you help someone in urgent distress in the immediate future. Be sensitive . . . He's going to answer your request! And take extra time today to thank God for the constant protection you enjoy from Him, allowing you to reach out confidently to others (read Psalm 121:7-8). Be ready!

Excerpted from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, Copyright © 1985, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Called To Be Blessings

Originally printed in 2005 in Washington DC:

CALLED TO BE BLESSINGS, by Theresa Lindner

Did you hear the one about the four men who lowered their handicapped friend through the roof to Jesus who was preaching God’s Word below?

We find this inspiring story of a service being made handicapped accessible in Mark 2:1-12. Jesus was preaching in a house, and a crowd gathered outside so thick that there was no way this paralyzed man could gain access to Christ. So the man’s friends carried him up to the roof, tore a hole in it, and lowered him down to Jesus below. Their tenacious commitment to their friend, and their determination to gain him access, moved Jesus to care for the paralytic man (Mark 2:5).

Since my 8 year old son became ill two years ago with a progressive neurological disease, my family and I have learned a lot about accessibility, inclusion, and barriers. There are barriers of stone, prejudice, fear, and misunderstanding. Physical barriers such as a flight of stairs or a curb can keep a wheelchair-bound person from entering a building or participating in a church service. But attitudinal barriers deny a person access to the community of the heart and soul. The good and faithful servants of Blessed Sacrament have sought to integrate persons with differences into every aspect of Church and Sacramental life, and have reached out to all saying, “You belong”. The Catholic Church teaches us through St. Paul that “though we are many we are one body in Christ, and individually we are all members of one another.” Blessed Sacrament has re-configured the church, re-imagined how to do Liturgy and the Sacraments, and re-shaped the role each person plays as a member of the Body. But still too many of our disabled and sick brothers and sisters and their families remain at home on Sunday mornings. Recent census figures show that about 1 in 5 Americans have some kind of disability, and 1 in 10 have a severe disability. There are millions of Catholics living in the United States with a disability, and yet if we look around at our churches on Sunday mornings, we see an amazing lack of disabled people at Mass. The need for the ill and disabled to hear God’s Word, receive the Eucharist, and commune with other believers at Mass each week is critical, for He alone truly is our strength. Our daily trials are tests of our faith, character and endurance. If anyone needs to hear a Homily each week and receive the Eucharist, it is we who are struggling to keep our minds filled with hope and our attitudes filled with faith.

God invites us all to His banquet table in Luke 14:12-15. The idea of inclusion is not new. Jesus teaches us by example throughout the Bible that we are to accept persons with differences as they are, and to see people’s hearts: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1Sam 16:7). The value of each person is intrinsic and our value in God’s eyes is unchanging. We have watched the Pope soldier on despite increasing debilitation due to his illness. And at a Symposium on the Dignity of the Person with Mental Handicaps held at the Vatican last January, the Pope wrote, “The quality of a life of a community is measured by the care given to the weakest, especially the disabled.” The love of God and the love of one other is inseperable.

I think when we feel compassion for another person it is God’s way of telling us to be a blessing to that person. Being a blessing might mean holding a door open, sending a note, offering a smile, or helping someone get to Mass on Sunday. Being a blessing might mean looking straight ahead when the person beside us at Mass isn’t following “the rules”, or mumbles or calls out while the rest of us are in quiet prayer. Maybe our blessing could be saying a “Hail Mary” privately for someone unable to sit still, or experiencing body jerks during Mass. In Genesis (1:31) we read that God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good. God didn’t say they were perfect. He said they were good. No one is perfect: we all have flaws, we all have differences. We must keep our hearts of compassion open, and be obedient to what God calls us to do, and whom He calls us to be.

In Matthew 25:31-45, the parable of the Last Judgment, we are told, “Inasmuch as you have done it for the least of My brothers, you have done it unto Me.” As Catholics our destiny is to serve others in His name. Compassionate outreach to the ill and disabled is a very special service to Christ. No one can make this journey alone. We all need a church family to encourage us and help us along the way. Consider a flock of geese flying in a V formation during migration. When we look closely at them we see that one goose flies in the lead, acting as a windbreak for the others in the flock until he grows tired and falls back into the lines of the V. Immediately another goose will fly up to the lead position, battling the wind that will soon tire him. And all of that honking we hear as they fly overhead? Those are the sounds of the geese in the back of the formation, shouting a kind of encouragement to the lead goose and to one another.

So perhaps the next time we see a mother struggling with a spirited child during Mass, or somebody flies off the handle at us, or we are seated next to someone who is weeping, we should consider that God has probably placed them near us for a reason. Maybe He is asking us to fly to the lead position for a moment. When God puts love in our hearts for another person we must act on it. We must say yes. We must be willing to be inconvenienced or interrupted now and then. We must be willing to be someone’s windbreak when called. For the person God has placed on our heart needs what we have to give. And in giving, God will be creating a good work in us, too. God puts compassion in our hearts as much for us, as for the person to whom we are reaching out. Write to a special-needs family you know who doesn’t attend church, and invite them to Mass at Blessed Sacrament. Call your elderly neighbor and tell them you want to drive them to our wonderful 10:15 Mass so they can enjoy the beautiful music. Invite the special education student in your child’s class to their birthday party. God’s Love empowers even the most timid among us to become blessings and champions to His purpose. Jesus came to show us the way, to give us eternal life. He left us here to be used by Him to help accomplish that purpose.

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. – John 15:1

Theresa Lindner is a member of the Blessed Sacrament Disabilities Ministry.