Jon and Sylvia Flint have an inspiring and challenging story for us all. They have been faithful prayer partners, cheerleaders, and monthly donors supporting Walk Right In Ministries for many years. Their generous partnership may have started out as simple compassion but it has grown for surprising reasons over the years.
We’re thankful they shared their story, and thankful you are taking time to read it. God’s ways are ever-increasingly powerful and meaningful, when we step out in faith to follow His promptings.
It was many years ago when we decided that we needed to financially give back to God much more than we had been doing. We were giving far less than the ten percent tithe that many churches and pastors promote. Something or Someone inside of us kept whispering that we should do more.
And so we began.
As we approached the ten percent goal of such gifts, we began to understand that said number was not the roof of the “giving house” but rather the floor. And God really didn’t just want our left over “10% plus” income. He preferred the “first fruit” (Exodus 23:16, Deuteronomy 14:22).
At the same time, we were beginning to understand that we couldn’t out-give God. Every time we would increase our giving, additional funds seemed to mysteriously appear. Where before this learning we had been living from paycheck to paycheck, we were beginning to have enough money to do things beyond basics and not have to call the bank to see if our check would bounce.
As we gave funds to typical non-profit groups, we noted that the whole world began to be in touch with us. We didn’t realize how much mail one person or family unit could receive each day. It seemed that the total group of non-profits keeping in touch with us was collectively spending more money on stamps than we were providing the few that we were supporting. We quickly realized that we needed to decide on those we were going to support and advise the others to look elsewhere. We did the first very quickly but they, the non-profits, didn’t keep their part of our one-sided bargain. To this day, we throw away so much unasked for mail from non-profits that we bemoan the wasted money we see going through our mail box.
Enter “Walk Right In Ministries!”
We’ve known Lisa & Larry Jamieson for more years than any of us would like to admit to. They’re members of our greater family. Larry is Jon’s nephew. We attended their wedding. We rejoiced as their children were born. We watched from afar as their youngest was born even as something seemed different from the norm. We prayed with and for them as they struggled to determine what was going on with her and what support was available to help them through the different difficulties they had with Carly.
It was obvious that there wasn’t much of a support system for families like theirs. Yet, rather than sit and complain at what was happening to them, they chose to begin to be active and build a support system, not just for their situation but for the situations of many families who have special needs.
We must admit that we waited a bit to see if this ministry was for real or just a passing fad. It didn’t take long to realize that they were in this for the long haul. And it was also obvious that monies provided were going to be put to good use – not frivolously. These folks are the same “off camera” as they are “on!”
As time went on, we increased our financial support and watched as God used it through Walk Right In Ministries and, at the same time, God provided us with more to be shared with others.
Of course, as is the case in so many other places in our lives, God was already preparing the way in our personal lives.
Several years later we received the privilege of having a special needs great granddaughter (Cambria, pictured here) born into our immediate family. She lives here in our town.
It’s been a great sense of comfort to know that Walk Right In Ministries is available as quickly as a phone call. Even as they may not directly know the answer to the various questions we have, they have many contacts that can help with the support needed.
Earlier we said that you can’t out-give God. We should not limit our understanding of the gifts we receive to the financial world. The comfort and peace we feel in knowing that there is a whole community of help, available as needed, is far greater than any monetary gift we are able to provide.
People insure so many things in their lives and yet, too often, they ignore the most important parts of that life until it’s too late to receive help.
Come and join many others who have insured what is often thought to be the uninsurable – finding help and support in times of intense need.
There is help out there. If someone can only tell us where. Look to Walk Right In Ministries.
We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9
Caregiving has forever changed me. In some beautiful, cherished ways and in some ways I’m not at all proud of too. I’m sure there are more than a few here who can relate. It’s always a rich discussion when we get to this principle during the online discipleship group I lead.
In recent blogs, I’ve written about grief and lament — and how uniquely that is experienced by families affected by disability. Part of this life we’re living involves learning to suffer well. Does that statement sound strange? What might it mean or look like to “suffer well?”
“Suffering well” includes allowing God to refine us through challenges.
I believe we honor God and experience richer lives when we let life refine us — shape us for the better. The scary things is, the Almighty Refiner might choose to use a furnace of very high heat. The fires of life can make us terribly uncomfortable. Our human nature will be to resist the fire. But there are gifts and opportunities there.
Life’s shaping and purifying process makes life so much richer. Sometimes I wish I didn’t know that.
Being refined by God means to stop resisting things that aren’t going our way. Stop. Did you catch that? Speaking to myself here: quit resisting all the heat, my friend. Consider that God’s priority is to inject His presence —love, care, vision, and purposes — into the situation rather than just fixing things with His power. Whatever circumstances you’re in, no matter how intense they feel, regardless of how long they seem to drag on, even when pain seems pointless, and we feel hopelessly stuck — God is there.
God doesn’t leave us to burn and He doesn’t leave us alone.
God was inthe fire with Daniel.
“Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!” Daniel 3:25
Consider that God’s priority is to inject His presence — love, care, vision, and purposes — into the situation rather than just fixing things with His power.
If we receive God’s presence and power, He will form our character while teaching us to love Him more and love others like Christ loves. And that’s just the beginning of the gifts He’ll unfold.
God will use the heat in our lives to refine others around us too. That could be our spouse. It is often our children. Certainly, God is using the fiery furnace of our lives with disability to refine the broader community too. Our neighborhoods are watching. Our churches see (even when they don’t seem to be looking).
It can be tempting to grow bitter when we feel like we are the only ones allowing the fires of our special situation refine us. I’ve pounded on God’s chest a time or two feeling unheard, unseen, uncared for by Him or someone else. He further refines me by teaching me to be more patient, and trust Him in using his kindness to lead others to repentance.
Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? Romans 2:4 (emphasis mine)
That’s just one lesson I’ve been learning that I attribute to being a special needs mom. I don’t get to define the pace of someone else’s growth.
There are so many many lessons! Here are just a few more of them in a nutshell. Perhaps sharing them will inspire you. It helps hold me accountable to remembering God is faithful to teach me and give me grace, that’s for sure.
Accept that we are all in process. You, me, our spouses, our children, our friends, our churches, our extended families. All are sinners who fall short. All are acceptable to God when we repent and turn to the Lord. Each of us who believes in Jesus and trusts Him as Lord is in an ever-increasing process of becoming like Him. That is called sanctification. And God alone authors that process for each of us who love Him. I don’t author anybody’s sanctification (even my own), nor do you.
Suffering transforms us into Christ-likeness (Philippians 3:10) and that’s our highest calling.
Suffering cultivates our dependence on God (Luke 9:23).
We learn compassion for others (Philippians 2:5-8).
We ascribe to new values and develop eternal perspective (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) even to the point of holding onto life and death differently.
Extend compassion, grace and forgivenesstoward yourself and others. Growth is a process. Grief is a process. Faith is a process. It can help to recognize that the ugliest parts of us are most apparent at home and in our closest relationships. (I believe it was author Gary Chapman who said that marriage is the mirror showing us what is worst about us.) Yes, those we live with are often the “mirror” showing us who we really are.
Expect everything from God and little from each other. This is a broken world and every person faces weakness and vulnerability. With God, there is victory over sin and death, as well as strength in weakness. We can learn to play to each other’s strengths. We can’t let our circumstances have too much power — but we can let them have power to trigger opportunities that nothing else could trigger.
Understand where your true soul cravings are coming from. We can’t expect to get our greatest fulfillment from our children or spouse, or our circumstances. That’s a set-up for disappointment. Our spirit is designed to crave GOD. So, only deepening our walk with Him will truly satisfy us and energize us for a life that really breathes!
I want that so much. I want a life that breathes life. A life that multiplies life and love is joy. It is a privilege. And that is what growth looks like. I hope I’m growing. Don’t you? I don’t want to be the same person next year that I was this year. Do you?
The human soul was designed to aspire growth. The Creator is the author of all growth. Leaning into a life that cooperates with Him — even when it stings of disability’s fires — is a rich adventure, in so many ways deeply satisfying.
QUESTIONS FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION
In what ways have you seen God strengthen or purify you (your faith, your character, your mindsets) as a result of challenges, special needs, or some other “fire” in your life?
Have you felt vulnerable to thinking certain prayers aren’t being answered because you haven’t learned enough or changed enough? Talk to Jesus about those feelings and let Him show you the truth.
How does the idea of being held in the gentle hand of the Almighty Refiner give you comfort, peace, or hope?
Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. She leads a weekly online discussion group welcoming caregivers in families living with disability. Lisa and her husband, Larry, are co-founders of Walk Right In Ministries, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. They live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome.
We use one Bible principle as the theme for each week’s discussion during Real Talk Connect. Please consider joining us any Tuesday at 2 pm Central! Drop in for richly encouraging connection in a casual setting.
In the late spring of 2020 when it started becoming clear that Covid quarantining wasn’t going to end soon, I started realizing a lifestyle reset was in order. It took several months and an untimely accident to shake me to my core and get my soul powered up for the long winter at home parenting an adult child who doesn’t understand why her world has so dramatically changed.
You know how it is when you restart your computer. The process is designed to clear errors and bring the system to normal condition in a controlled manner. My phone reminds me on a weekly basis to restart all of my devices. I’m told that a reset puts less stress on the hardware than power cycling because the power isn’t removed. How interesting!
I would really like my life to be cleared of errors and to feel like it’s working in an orderly manner. And, as this computer metaphor suggests, I would benefit from staying connected to my Power Source in the midst of transitions.
Life sure does benefit from a ‘restart’ now and again. Many of us try to reset our priorities on New Year’s Eve. A new schoolyear and birthdays are seen like fresh starts for many. Spiritually speaking, repentance gives us a chance to begin anew too.
Acts 3:19-20 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
I’ve been desperate for refreshing lately while asking God to protect some old stuff I actually did NOT want gone!
My 22-year-old daughter Carly has Angelman Syndrome and lives at home. Her anxiety and difficult behaviors have ebbed and flowed through degrees of troublesome to exhausting throughout the pandemic. She’s confused. She’s lonely. She’s bored. She needs more physical touch — lots more. Like you and me, she’s sick of it all. But she doesn’t have effective coping skills or communication abilities to give voice to her many feelings and needs. She’s destroying clothing (chewing collars and sleeves, literally ripping pajamas off at night and risking damage to her teeth on zippers). She’s having trouble going to sleep at night and staying asleep throughout. She gets agitated during the day without our creatively offering as many choices as possible on laminated photo cards. I fear the poor girls feels like she has no control over her world anymore. Last week she bit me twice — hard. This from the girl who hasn’t bit me more than two or three times in her whole life until now.
In the midst of navigating Carly’s needs, the usual household chores and several pressing work deadlines, my husband and I sat down to finish recording a presentation we were doing for the Wonderfully Made Conference. We wrapped up just before lunch one day back in September and I decided to eat a sandwich on our deck while catching up on a few emails. After that I was going to record another of my personal presentations.
It was in that moment of sunshine when our already sideways world turned completely upside down.
I spilled a full glass of orange juice on my laptop. Let’s just say that the past four weeks since that day have been deeply disappointing, stretching and eye-opening. The irony of the situation was not lost on me. The conference presentation I was going to record after lunch that day was titled, “RESET: A Seasonal Necessity for Special Needs Families.”
My original inspiration for the subject was the pandemic. Now I was living a metaphor that had me squirming deeply. It took me to my knees day after day while we waited for the data recovery specialist to bring news that my badly damaged hard drive was restored. A couple of weeks went by and the conference organizers were graciously waiting on me. But their window of flexibility was quickly narrowing. Other concerns and timelines were looming too.
One morning, I had a caregiver staffed with Carly for the day so I could get back to regrouping and trying to record my presentation from memory — without my notes or PowerPoint slides. I was tempted to throw down breakfast and head straight into the battle before me. I longed to take a cup of tea and my Bible to our deck as the warm fall days will soon be past. But that felt indulgent on a day when opportunity to “take the hill” was in front of me and I had help with Carly for a limited time.
Reluctantly taking a lesson from myself and many past talks I’ve given to countless others, I leaned into Jesus’ prompting to carry His lighter burden and go to the deck anyway. Against all my task-oriented leanings and self-reliant ways, I tried to yield to that still small voice that wooed me, “be still, Lisa.” One of the original verses I had planned to reference in the RESET talk was ringing in my ears, “Come to me…find rest for your soul.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
I sat down wondering where to open my Bible but got distracted. My mind wandered to Joshua 3 and 4. Those are favorite passages that inspired the naming of Walk Right In Ministries back in 2008. And they continue to be reminder and inspiration to me about walking in faith, one step at a time, and trusting God to show each next step as I trust Him and obey Him.
For a moment I got curious. What, specifically, happened right after the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River to the Promised Land? I could specifically recall. I knew that their lives of slavery and then wandering in the desert were followed by a period of many victories in battles that seemed insurmountable. But I couldn’t remember whether the Bible gave any specifics about the transition period between marking the Gilgal spot with a pile of rocks and then heading into that first battle.
Immediately, I had a sense that there could be clues in Joshua 5 or a powerful example of a God-style, God-sized, power-packed reset. What I found there was, in fact, a gold mine. Within about 15 minutes time, I had a roadmap and encouragement to step back into my life with peace and a renewed sense of empowerment. My fear was gone and my frustration was released. The sense of pressure I felt to dig into my projects no longer had a grip on me or my blood pressure. I felt like the soldiers walking quietly and patiently around Jericho simply waiting for the final blast of the horn. I wondered what walls God was planning to throw down when I had the chance to shout praise for His perfect timing and process on the road to my Promised Land.
That was a holy moment in my life. Reading Joshua 5 and 6 with a deep personal need and new perspective was just what I needed. I was no longer stuck and my process for a course correction was clear.
As a bonus, I had a brand new (and much better) outline for my presentation. What would have taken me a couple of days to rebuild, had been reestablished with fresh perspective and new fire (passion) in just minutes. Once again, the Divine irony.
Here is the Joshua reset model God showed me.
REAFFIRM IDENTITY — Joshua 5:2-7
Remembering WHO and WHOSE they were was essential to claiming the promises and hope ahead. The only reason that circumcision mattered was because there was a promise on the other side.
We tend to let disability start to define us as individuals and a family. We can tend to give disability too much power over our grief, logistics, attitudes towards caregiving, etc.When one of our daughters once exclaimed in frustration many years ago, “We’re so high maintenance!” I knew we needed to review how we thought about disability in our family.
Romans 2:29 True circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit.
REST — Joshua 5:8
Before heading straight into battle, the Israelites spent time recovering and regrouping from everything behind them.
Getting adequate self-care feels impossible for many caregivers. We need to have compassion for ourselves in weakness and trust God while we fight for refreshment in mind, body and spirit. I fight as hard for sleep, respite, vacations, staycations and deep connections with loved ones as I ever did for Carly’s IEPs, quality medical care, therapies and healing.
CELEBRATE — Joshua 5:9-10
God told them to roll away the shame of their slavery in Egypt. He knew that the Passover Feast (a celebration of God’s faithfulness) would restore their confidence in Him, boost their morale and bond them as an army of warriors for the battle ahead.
Our investment in celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and family reunions — despite how difficult that can be to make happen — is a way to cultivate appreciation and grace for each other while developing relational bonds. Those bonds will be valuable to us and our children’s future in ways we probably can’t fully understand now.
FUEL UP — Joshua 5:11-12
The Israelites stopped eating the manna of the past and starting nourishing on the crops of Canaan (the Promised Land).
Ecclesiastes 7:10 Don’t long for the “good old days,” for you don’t know whether they were any better than today.
We have to keep saturating our minds with God’s promises, our future hope. There is too much temptation to dwell on life’s ease before disability or fantasies about what the future would look like without it. Fueling up on gratitude and God’s promises helps me keep my goals and priorities in perspective. Effective soul care keeps me energized too. Our family has used Christian temperament therapy for almost 25 years to understand how God uniquely created each one of us. And that helps us learn to optimize our strengths, recognize our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and teaches us how to tap our full potential by leaning into the power of the Holy Spirit within us.
WALK IN ATTENTIVENESS TO GOD — Joshua 5:13 to Joshua 6:21
The Israelites needed to pay attention to God every step of the way. As he walked toward his battlefield, Joshua asked God, “What do you want your servant to do? (Joshua 5:14-15) As God’s army of chosen people asked for His leadership, trusted His strategy, obeyed methodically and responded thoroughly, God made them strong.
Seeking God for guidance and help as a lifestyle impacts how we put supports in place and build teams (respite staff, volunteer helpers, medical providers, supports planners, church, IEPs, guardianship and wills, etc.). God is ready to help us handle crisis (illness/hospitalization, pandemic) and approach transitions (education, caregiving team, jobs) too.
Joshua and the Israelite army did not rush but walked methodically in faith and obedience (Joshua 6:3-5) trusting for the promise (Joshua 6:2). They had to be thorough in their obedient follow-through by destroying everything and not taking anything with them. All of the plunder was to be an offering to the Lord. (Joshua 6:17-21).
This day and this situation is not just about WHAT and WHOSE battles we fight but HOW we fight them.
Matthew 11:28-29Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you…and you will find rest for your souls.
I’m still unpacking the full meaning of Joshua’s reset model for my own march toward the promises of God. And I’m excited. I’m no longer stuck in regrets about the past or lamenting what is lacking yet today. I’ve captured the vision of my Israelite ancestors and I’m walking in freedom, anticipating the surprises of God’s love.
What can this look like for YOU? What are your next steps toward the promises God has for you and your family? What is on the other side of COVID, our marriage storm or disability? What is on the other side of anything that is disabling you or your family?
Like Joshua, let’s stop right now and pray, “What do you want me to do?” and then worship God. Joshua worshipped by taking off his sandals and recognizing the holiness of that moment on the edge of promise (Joshua 5:15).
Recognize YOUR Holy Moment! Walk closely with your God and let Him pave your way to His love.
LISA JAMIESON is a special needs family advocate and co-founder of Walk Right In Ministries where she serves as a caregiver coach and pastoral counsellor. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Lisa’s books and Bible studies include Finding Glory in the Thorns and the picture book Jesus, Let’s Talk.
Families impacted by disability often feel isolated. And church must be the place where they belong, where they are encouraged, where they find hope and healing. There are a growing number of churches that are being intentional about caring for and fully engaging with people who have atypical lives. These churches are doing more than just “being nice” to people with special needs. They are actually engaging in life with each other. They are resisting fears. They are stepping in faith despite concerns about being over-stretched. They are taking risks to be engaging. They are discovering that God changes lives and enriches churches when they care for and include each other, especially when life gets the most challenging. Accessibility isn’t just about ramps, elevators, special seating in the sanctuary and gluten free communion. The church—and Jesus most of all—needs to be emotionally and spritually accessible to all people. And that involves more than just being greeted nicely by an usher. Jesus was much more than just NICE to people. He fully engaged with them—their questions and their pain. He cared that people experienced belonging in His family and wanted them to feel assured they had tremendous value. Very often, Jesus physically reached out and actually touched hurting people. In fact, Jesus spent a lot of time hanging out with people who were on the fringes, the hurting, the weak, the weary, the “different,” the ill, the disabled, the unpopular, the unglamorous and those who were seeking hope (even when they weren’t really sure where to look). What Jesus always did was engage in love and his foremost concern was and still always is for us to BELONG with Him and to have HEALTHY SOULS.
The Gospel answers hard questions and gives ultimate hope. The church has an enormous opportunity and responsibility to engage those questions, serve in love and wholeheartedly include people with disabilities in the life of the church family.
Paul describes the church using the metaphor of the human body. God arranged the members of the body as he chose. Some parts were weaker but indispensable and others less respectable but treated with special honor and greater respect.
(See 1 Corinthians 12:14-27.)
Doing life together well and according to the ways of Christ involves messiness. The church can not be self-preservational. Still, we all need to be patient with each other. People experiencing disability, for example, deserve to be fully integrated in the life of our churches. Likewise, people facing challenges need to be patient with the persevering church. That kind of patience is a form of grace.
Loving and praying for each other is not optional and scripture doesn’t leave room for anything but whole-hearted engagement with people who are suffering. True, it can be overwhelming, scary and messy learning to engage in the lives of others when their needs are complex (e.g., disability, mental illness, aging, traumatic injury, chronic illness). But people with atypical lives are not a liability to the church. They are what enrich the church! No situation is too big or too complicated for God.
History resonates. Paul was anxious to meet up with his friend Timothy and enjoy an extended visit with old friends in Corinth. He had every intention of spending some quality, unrushed time with them even though there were plenty of other things competing for his time and attention. For example, prolonged stays in Ephesus and Macedonia kept Paul from his visit to Corinth for well over a year.
Do you ever feel like that? You want to go hang with friends or pursue some dream that excites you while there are other pressing matters all around? I sure relate!And it can be hard sometimes to discern which of those “pressing matters” are actually as important as I think they are. Sometimes I feel like it’s moment-by-moment battle to discern what to do next, where I should make some intentional decisions about priorities and when I simply need to press in and make the best of circumstances out of my control. Paul seemed to be a master at all of this kind of discernment and submission. He recognized a ripe opportunity right in front of him and was willing to wait a little longer to see his friends so that he could do the “great work” right where he was and resist moving on too quickly.
Earlier this year when I was reading Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, this verse from 1 Corinthians 16:9 literally jumped off the page at me. Let me take a moment to tell you why.
Since the beginning of Walk Right In Ministries (8 years this month), we have periodically asked the question: “Does God want this to be a ministry specific to people with disabilities or is He really moving us into a broad place to serve people facing a wide range of life challenges?” Our missions was clear (to help people connect and grow in Christ-centered community) and our general audience was clear (people feeling lonely or isolated and often existing on the fringes of the church).What was not always clear is to what degree God wanted our “audience” to be targeted and in what specific ways He wanted to us to reach out.
Probably like most of you, I have wrestled with these questions in my personal life as well. So when I read this verse and considered Paul’s situation, I got excited. I found great personal encouragement and felt it offered clarity for this current season of ministry. Immediately, I sensed this was a direct and timely Word for Walk Right In Ministries. We discussed it during a Board meeting and agreed the scripture was to be received as reassurance of our existing vision, plans and activities as well as exhortation to release concerns about whether we were becoming too narrowly focused. So what that looks like today is that we are pouring our energies in three areas:
1.Programs, services and resources that strengthen caregivers and families experiencing special needs
2.Fostering inclusive communities that reflect the kind of atmosphere of belonging Jesus loves
3.Equipping and encouraging leaders in disability and special needs ministry
I had been entertaining anxiety about missing His call. Instead, He was reaffirming our call and refining the vision for Walk Right In Ministries.It was as if God Himself put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Lisa, it’s all good. Your wholehearted commitment is well placed right where it is!” As I thought about areas of this ministry where there has been growing momentum—areas like the Minnesota Disability Ministry Connection, Jammin’ Pie Fest, one-to-one coaching, public advocacy and speaking opportunities—I had been tempted to see the growing focus on the special needs community and feel restless. Yet God’s voice was clear: “Stay put. I understand you feel like you are leaning into a stiff wind. Progress seems slow and you face obstacles at many turns but I am in the midst of it all doing a great work. Look straight ahead through this door I’ve thrown wide open for you! Stay attentive to Me and the time will be equally clear, if and when I want you to throw your net in a different direction.”
Please pray for Walk Right In Ministries. These are exciting days. We are busy and we are focused. We sense God’s presence, power and good fruit is steadily growing where He has carefully placed us in positions of influence. Yet we hold plans loosely with the understanding that the Holy Spirit is dynamic and brilliant. We are anticipating surprises in 2017 and are already seeing some sweet ones on their way. Scroll to the end of this post for an announcement about COOL NEWS! for 2017.
How about you?
When was the last time you wrestled with God about whether you are fulfilling your purpose or correctly hearing His call? Perhaps you’re making it too complicated when God has actually put a wide open door right in front of you.
Do you ever look around at what others are doing and feel guilty or envious? Consider that God doesn’t want you to experience pressure. He wants to give you joy in knowing He has appointed you for something unique and He wants you to experience the kind of spiritual rest that comes from simply embracing the doors He is opening right in front of you every day.
Is this the time of year when you will begin wondering about how to invest yourself in 2017? We’re praying for you to have eyes to see and ears to hear when new doors open.
What obstacles or opponents are you facing that may be tempting you to change directions when, in fact, God wants you to run straight ahead and trust Him to do a great work despite those challenges? If there is repentance to be done, do it. If there is forgiveness to be offered or reconciliation to be sought, extend it and seek it (whether it is received or not). To what extent might the very things that are challenging you right now (e.g., health crisis, stretched finances, strained relationships, job dissatisfaction) are actually part of what God is using to make your effectiveness more significant?
Does this Thanksgiving and Christmas season bring any “open doors” to your mind? What opportunities may be right in front of you where your involvement could produce a great effect?
What joy lies before us when we embrace our current situations for all they are worth and trust God to cause tremendous Kingdom impact!
Lord Jesus, thank you for answering when we prayerfully wrestle with You. Your encouragement to embrace our circumstances as opportunities is challenging at times but an exciting reminder that life can be a wonderful adventure.Thank you for appointing us right into life and relationships where we can make a Kingdom difference. Help us to follow you faithfully and enthusiastically, without grumbling or succumbing to doubt. Increase our clarity and confidence so that we live, love and serve without reservation and in full trust that you will bring it all to great effect! AMEN
I have been invited, along with my two oldest daughters Alex and Erin, to present a workshop titled “Parenting Special Siblings” at the 2017 Accessibility Summit in Washington DC. More information will be available when the full workshop schedule is announced in early December. Until then, here is the low-down on what we will be offering:
Parenting Special Siblings
This interactive session opens a dialogue about the challenges, disappointments, advantages and opportunities of being a sibling in a family affected by disability. It is led by Lisa Jamieson, the mother of three adult children and author of Finding Glory in the Thorns. Lisa is joined by her adult daughters Alex and Erin who share candid perspectives about growing up with a sibling who has Angelman Syndrome which involves chronic health issues and severe developmental disabilities. Discussion topics will include sibling conflict, balancing attention, grief processing, dealing with social stigmas and misunderstanding, family vacations and managing stress. Participants will leave encouraged with basic principles and numerous practical ideas about how to enjoy more victories and deeper graces despite the reality of weaknesses in every family.
Presenters: Lisa Jamieson, Erin Jamieson, Alex Jamieson
Theme Verse: 2 CORINTHIANS 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Lisa Jamieson is a national speaker, author, consultant and advocate who serves as executive director at Walk Right In Ministries and leads Minnesota’s Disability Ministry Connection. Her books include Finding Glory in the Thorns and Living Your Glory Story. She is also creator of the Finding Glory small group curriculum, a favorite of caregivers and others wanting Christ-centered discussion through challenges. Lisa and husband Larry have three adult daughters. Carly lives at home with Angelman Syndrome. Their story has been featured on Words to Live By, 100 Huntley Street and My Refuge Radio Belize.
Alex Jamieson is a senior audit assistant at Deloitte (Minneapolis). Active in her church and as a community soccer coach, Alex also volunteers with Walk Right In Ministries as an occasional speaker and regular encourager to families experiencing special needs. She is the oldest sibling to a sister who has Angelman syndrome. During her high school years, Alex worked as a personal care assistant and has since become a strong advocate for her sister Carly and others who experience disabilities. In her blog “Authentically Alex,” she reflects on a range of topics from setting goals to dealing with life’s transitions.
Erin Jamieson is a singer-songwriter and worship leader. Her songwriting, blogging and speaking is often inspired by challenges and insights experienced growing up in a family affected by disability. The title cut from her debut EP Without the Dark is featured in the movie Season of Miracles about a baseball player with autism. Erin is a senior at Belmont University in Nashville where she recently performed in the 2017 Christian Showcase. Her latest release No Dream Too Big is available on NoiseTrade. Erin’s youngest sister has Angelman Syndrome.
Halloween is done. And that means some people are already dreaming about Thanksgiving pie, fireside card games with family, lunch and shopping with friends, high-fiving across the couch during a football game, delightful music and white Christmases. It also means that some people are already on the slide toward holiday season melancholy. And that gets me excited. “Weird and twisted,” you say? Well, it would be except for the fact that there is a very real opportunity to share the life-changing love of Jesus where there the “soil is soft” and hearts are ripe and receptive to receiving love. But seriously, so many of us walk around wondering about our purpose and wanting to be “significant for the Kingdom” when there are opportunities everywhere we look to love someone who is struggling and loneliness may be among the easiest problems to solve. That’s what Jesus would be doing. Plain and simple. Makes me wonder why we complicate it so much. The subject of isolation and loneliness was up for discussion at a recent meeting of the Twin Cities Disability Ministry Connection. Although we weren’t discussing it in the context of holidays, I thought it would be worthwhile to highlight some of that reflection here because it could help ALL of us capture this opportunity during a season when loneliness is epidemic. Isolation is especially pronounced during the holidays but an opportunity that is always there. For many people in the midst of challenges, the sense of loneliness and isolation can feel more overwhelming than the crisis itself. Some even feel like they are being persecuted by God and/or others. For example, things like sleep deprivation, attrition of friendships, stigmas about mental health, lack of accessibility and rejection from Christians/churches can cause suffering that feels like oppression. Jesus would not turn too quickly to the feasts and festivities. Jesus would devote time, compassion, affection, prayer, eye contact, conversation. He would sit down and play trucks with a non-verbal boy, hang out with the bullied teen who isn’t invited to the New Year’s Eve parties and patiently re-teach King’s Corner to the older woman whose memory is fading. Jesus’ primary activity was pouring the practical power of His love into people (and so often in the form of healing mercies). The conversation among church leaders during the Disability Ministry Connection meeting began looking at verses that speak directly to people who experience real or perceived isolation. For example, here are two verses that have brought comfort and encouragement to me personally during seasons when I have felt alone, apart or invisible and frustrated because caregiving makes me feel imprisoned sometimes.
PSALM 68:5-6A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,is God in his holy dwelling.God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing;but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
1 PETER 5:8-10Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lionlooking for someone to devour.Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. [emphasis mine]
Jesus was regularly found reaching out to people who felt lonely, isolated or discouraged. Are we regularly doing this?
Since disability ministry leaders, not much unlike any of us really, have a unique opportunity to be a voice for caregivers and people who are struggling with physical or intellectual challenges. They can educate others and advocate for those whose needs can get lost in the shuffle of things like busy lives and holiday festivities. Ministry leaders asked this question: Where are we supposed to be on the spectrum of being program developer-implementers vs. educator/advocate/facilitator/culture influencers? Both are needed and can influence our churches and culture to step out and step up when it comes to engaging with those who struggle. Each of us will lean a little more in one direction than the other depending on things like the season of circumstances/needs in our church, the particular resources available to us, our own personality and passions, or our unique gifting. But the need for us to educate our faith communities is strong and should not get forgotten in the midst of running programs. Anyone who is not leading a ministry could ask a similar question: In what ways am I supposed to be reaching out in practical ways to someone who is struggling versus filling an advocate role in speaking up on behalf of those who need my voice and praying with intention? The reality is that we are all to do all of these things. “I’m not one of those advocate kind of people,” you say? Consider this. Jesus told everyone to “go and make disciples.” No one was excused from sharing the Good News. Sure, some were better at it than others. Some were more passionate about it or comfortable with it than others. But Jesus didn’t put any qualifiers on it. He just said, “go.” It’s the same thing as it relates to engaging with people who are struggling. We’re all supposed to go and get engaged, even if it might get messy or we don’t feel particularly good at it. I’ve been one of those “high maintenance messes” who has needed too much from others at times because I’m a full time caregiver to my daughter who has profound disabilities. I’ve also been in ministry long enough to have encountered more than a few people who stretched me a long way out of my comfort zone with their weighty needs. But when God puts an opportunity in front of us, we know it, don’t we? And He equips us to engage. If we stay attentive to Him, He also shows us when some boundaries may need to be established. (That’s part of what He means when He promises a light burden. He never wants us to overstep Him or His power at work within us. He never told us strive on our own part.) But God also beautifully affirms our inclusive choices. Living like Jesus means, in part, that we extend compassion, attention, time and care towards others. It also means speaking up for “the least of these.” Jesus specifically draws our attention to the needy, orphans and widows while also insisting we throw banquets (real or metaphorical) for the poor, crippled and lame (Luke 14, Matthew 6). These folks need extra care during the holidays and the rest of us tend to be paying a little more attention at this time of year. (It makes us feel good, and less guilty about all of our holiday indulgences, when we try to pour into others.) But what about the rest of the year? I’m praying that we would all grow increasingly aware of the struggling people around us and become more lovingly engaged with each other. Let’s just be more like Jesus and quit getting distracted by busy work, popular/fancy programs and even well-intentioned church outreaches that take our eyes off of the needs right in front of us. What can you do right now?
Pray. Ask the Lord to increase your awareness of people in your church, neighborhood, workplace, school or circle of influence who may be feeling socially and/or logistically limited by their circumstances (e.g., injury, illness, disability, aging, broken marriage). Consider a way you could connect with this person(s) during the holidays and even a few times a year thereafter. Practical helps like bringing a meal, doing some chores and giving a gift card are wonderful but a simple phone call, email, card game, cup of tea and hug can make a world of difference. Explore scripture and learn together with anyone who may be asking tough questions about the sovereignty of God in their situation. Ask for God’s help to move toward others as Jesus would.
Explore scripture and learn together with anyone who may be asking tough questions about the sovereignty of God in their situation. Ask for God’s help to move toward others as Jesus would and make discoveries with them. (There are some fantastic books available to help also. Contact Walk Right In Ministries or check out our Lending Library if you want ideas.)
Share this post with your friends on Facebook or via email to help stir appreciation for the needs and opportunities around us.
Share this post with leaders and pastors in your church. Let them know there are tremendously helpful ways of connecting right here in Minnesota to help us better understand and grow into the kinds of communities that delight God.
Visit one of the monthly meetings of the Twin Cities Disability Ministry Connection if you are a leader or volunteer in a church. No matter where your church is on the spectrum of serving one family at a time or having an official disability program, these gatherings offer great inspiration and insight. Download the 2016-17 schedule here.
Join the Facebook discussion forum for leaders and volunteers wanting to learn about ministering as a church to people with special needs. The page is specifically designed to connect, encourage and grow churches ministering to special needs throughout the state of Minnesota. All group members are welcome to post about ideas, questions and resources to expand opportunities for collective support. The Facebook page is also a great opportunity for those in rural/outstate areas to connect when they can’t easily attend the monthly gatherings in the metro area. You can find us at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/DisabilityMinistryCONNECTION
Loving and praying for each other is not optional and scripture doesn’t leave room for anything but whole-hearted engagement with people who are suffering. True, it’s overwhelming, scary and messy for us as individuals and as the church trying to meet a wide array of complex needs (e.g., disability, mental illness, aging, chronic illness). But people with atypical lives are not a liability to the community or the church. They enrich our lives, communities and churches! No situation is too big or too complicated for God.
LORD, forgive us for showing partiality with our love and compassion. You call us to love our neighbors and pray for our enemies. Move people into our circles of influence that give us opportunity to stretch our love muscles and prove ourselves faithful to YOUR ways! This is one of our spiritual acts of worship. AMEN