Category Archives: loss

(Nancy Eiesland) ‘The Disabled God’ -How do we define “normal”?

In reality, all of us “healthy” or “normal” people can more aptly call ourselves, “the temporarily able-bodied.”

Theologian, sociologist, and author Nancy Eiesland was wheelchair bound since childhood. She surprised many when she said she hoped to be disabled in heaven. She died at age 44 of congenital lung cancer, but not before she made huge inroads for the Rights and Dignity of the Disabled, and penned a groundbreaking book about understanding disability, and suffering, in light of God, and his nature.

Nancy Eiesland 1965-2009

Article excerpt on Eiesland from the “Scotsman” publication:

By the time of her death, Eiesland had come to believe God was disabled, a view she articulated in her influential 1994 book, The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability. She pointed to the scene described in Luke 24:36-39 in which the risen Jesus invites his disciples to touch his wounds.

“In presenting his impaired body to his startled friends, the resurrected Jesus is revealed as the disabled God,” she wrote. God remains a God the disabled can identify with, she argued – he is not cured and made whole; his injury is part of him, neither a divine punishment nor an opportunity for healing. FULL ARTICLE HERE

Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability

God and Disability

Nathan, like many who experience Autism, often doesn't like having his picture taken. (Later, he saw this photo, and thought it was funny.)

Currently I am taking a rather fascinating class delving into the topic of God and Suffering, called “The Theology of Suffering.” For my final project, I am taking on a specific topic under that category–Disability.

I’m endeavoring to uncover questions like, “Why does God allow children, and adults, to suffer with disabilities?” “Is disability part of God’s plan, or part of what’s broken and wrong in the world?” “What place do the “disabled” have in “God’s Story”?” “How can care-givers of those with disabilities view this type of suffering in light of what God has done, what he is doing, and what he will do?” And some other questions.

In 2001, when my son started to struggle with a rather severe case of regressive autism, I wondered not just what was going on with him, but why? What was the point? I have to say, it all seemed like a mistake. My faith was shaken; not because I thought I should be able to have the child of my dreams, (this was a sad part of it too,) but because seeing my child suffer so badly made me question what God was really like. After a period of grieving, I had to find out more.

Nathan made a paper Nativity set at Christmas

Our son went from meeting all his developmental milestones ahead of time (rolling over, sitting, walking, talking), to not even answering to his own name for days on end, not reacting to pain in any normal way, not speaking to us, and not even calling us “Mommy” and “Daddy” any longer. I didn’t know where to turn, on many levels, and I wondered why God would want to kill me by breaking my heart, day-by-day, as my son sank into frustration, fear, pain, and despair. At times I felt hopeless.

We don’t live near family, and I’d like to say our church, and other Christians, were helpful, but almost no one reached out in any way that was truly or consistently supportive, or meaningful. Experiencing disability and struggle has a way of isolating us, and creating more hopelessness to wade through.

Instead, the opposite can be true. The disabled have much to teach us about hospitality, a characteristic of God, both individually and as a community.

The primary text I’m reading for my research is Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality by Thomas E. Reynolds. What an interesting book!

Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality -Thomas E. Reynolds

Here are a few nuggets I’ve gathered:

• The “disabled” are a picture of human weakness and vulnerability, from which we can learn about the human condition, and God himself. They teach us about the goal of Reliance, versus our misguided and typical goal of “independence.”

• These people are at the center of God’s love, and made in God’s image, they display attributes of God. They help us to see the true nature of God–One who made himself weaker and vulnerable, and still is vulnerable to us. (This vulnerability is epitomized in the historical event, and saving action of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross at Calvary.)

• The “disabled” give us the opportunity to learn, practice, and experience hospitality, and “do for God” (Matt: 25:40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”)

This is a topic close to my heart. Uncovering more about it has helped me to not just understand my son, and his struggles better, but to understand God, his character, and his intentions.

Now I’m wondering, “Is it time to write a book on this?”

Please leave your thoughts on this topic, or comment in any way.

May God bless your heart,

Lisa


What is Backsliding?

 

Is backsliding a matter of perspective?

 

This is not an article that defines backsliding with a simple answer. Rather, it is one that is asking questions, and interrupting our presumptions about spiritual things.

On the surface-Backsliding implies that something or someone is pushed/set back, off track, or somehow, something has gone wrong. It connotes that one must “make up ground” once backsliding has happened. One should avoid or prevent it. It is not the “best for us.” But, perhaps we can take this definition to task, and investigate further…

So, I ask: Is backsliding used as a term for other things? Is it a nicer way to say rebellion? Is it a more pleasant way to say, “my heart is not as loyal,” or “I’m doing my will, for now” ?

What if backsliding is actually not a backwards motion at all, for some. Could this be true?  Perhaps the term is a misnomer?

Could it be part of the journey that takes on the appearance of wrongheadedness, doubt, or bad judgment?

And is backsliding the same as “going astray,” or is it something different?

I was thinking about this a lot because I see a tendency for Christians to label things as all good or all bad. Tough times, like a period of dark night of the soul, does not feel pleasant. Many can mistakenly name something such as this, something it is not. At times, the Christian may not be going backward, but ever deeper into the love and understanding of God, and will come out on the other side, strengthened and changed.

I put the question out there: How do you see it? Does it matter? If not, what does?

Coping with Pain (The ironic strategy)

 

Why are we so often alone in our pain?

 

There is a terrible irony in the typical human’s response to pain.

Emotional, physical, or mental suffering is most often considered personal, or about one’s self, and so it is dealt with on one’s own.

A suffering person, ready to divulge their pain, may say, “This is hard to say out loud,” or “This is difficult to share with people I don’t know that well.” The pain has been internalized, and taken in, stewed.

We all do it. But now I ask “why?” Habit maybe, yet we do terrible jobs of healing ourselves. Our wounds fester and putrefy.

Outside perspectives, and the gracious love of community offer healing we can never find alone.

I wonder if the broken-ness of this world makes us retract. Maybe a flight/flight instinct is at first to simply be self-preservative. In reality, we are not alone, our pain is not unique. But, the shock, and upset sends us into hiding, or a kind of “hunker in the bunker” mode. The bitter stab, the disappointment, or the awfulness of suffering makes us fear, and mistrust, so we give ourselves no option but to withdraw, and go inward, taking the pain with us. It rarely finds a good exit. Then we lick our festering wounds, in solitude, even as we may curl back unnoticed, behind the dumpsters of the very hospital (a situation) that could being healing, comfort, and hope. Don’t we?

Could pain really be something different altogether, and we might just be misapprehending it far too much?

                         Could it be a way to lead us home?

                                       Is it a way to lead us into each others arms, once again?

Those who have been calmed and gained healing, find that healthy community is the surest way to growth, start invigoration, locate meaningful purpose, and heal hurts. How is it that so many of us suffer quietly, and alone, in the margins?

How very strange that together, we suffer alone! The irony is horribly striking. How awful too, I think, that we’ve also missed something big about others who suffer. We too often shoot our wounded, by condemnation or inattention. Or push them out, somehow, into further isolation. How coarse. How morbid. The God who welcomes the outcast, the wounded, the sick, and the sinner, mingles with them, pulls them in, and is close enough to touch their afflictions, and pass them bread.

Let us think of ways to come out of our own sufferings into the light and healing nature of community with others, God has provided. Beyond that, let us reach out to those isolated, or away from us–those silently hurting. Let us understand that they will try to handle their pain themselves, but they cannot. We can kindly be there, to hear them, offer friendship, and love. But most of all, with or without words, reassure them that no one suffers alone, not any more.

Do you have comments about suffering or isolation?

Please contribute.

If you take this to heart, and do something about it, please share that with us. Thank you.

My ugly Confession.

I have a confession to make.

ambition while missing the point

 

In about 2 weeks, this blog site will be a year old. In the last 5-6 months, I’ve been trying pretty hard to write interesting, helpful, or entertaining stuff for this place, almost every single day. I’ve made fantastic contacts, great new friends, and I’ve had a good time doing it.

This is hard to admit, but, I have to confess, that I’ve been blogging mostly to build a larger reading audience. A little while ago my agent told me that I stood a good chance to have my material published, but the biggest obstacle was “lack of platform.” Lack of platform sort of means, not too many care who you are, or what you do. A successful blog can change that, and help a writer build this much-needed platform. I know there’s nothing shameful about writing a blog and hoping others read it, but my remorse at this moment is that I realize I have made it my means to an end. I’ve been holding so tight to this idea that I can generate a solid readership base to, as Pedro says, “make all my wildest dreams come true,” that I didn’t realize I was putting it before the whole point, which is to share myself and my God with others. In a real sense, I’ve thought of this blog as a vehicle to “get me somewhere,” and I’ve made it an idol. Sometimes I have said to myself, “Well, it’s really both, a vehicle and my ministry.” This may be true, and I hope things work out like this, but if my priorities or motivations shift weight, things get off balance. And they have been.

I stopped long enough for God to speak to my heart, and in my spirit, it seems “he” said, “Let it go.” I got a little panicky at first. “Completely? What? Huh? What ‘chu talkin’ ’bout Willis…er, Father in Heaven?”

Then it seemed like God nudged me, and “said,” “Don’t be such an extremist.” This threw in off a little. So, I sort of looked around sheepishly for a little, almost looking for an exit, but without trying to be obvious about it. It seems like God “said,” “You’re clutching. Stop it. Just write and stop thinking about the rest. It’s none of your business.”

This bothered me. I felt out of control. Of course, it was a false assumption that I really have control like I was thinking I had. But, then I thought about what that might feel like…to hand things over… and I tried to “put that skin on.” Even just putting it on halfway felt SO nice. Relaxing. Like the pressure was off, and leaving the room, like a smog lifting. So, I stopped that exercise midway, I took a deep breath and I yielded. I took my sweaty feet off the pedals and coasted. I waited. And nothing happened. Nothing, for better or for worse, but I felt much better.

I wanted to tell you about it, because I know I haven’t been thinking the right way. I know that has to change, and I’m turning my heart the other way. I may post less often, but maybe there will be more true joy and inspiration when I do.

I do hope many are blessed by this blog, and resources, but I’m not going to transpose the priorities anymore, if I can help it, (with God’s grace). This will happen on a heart level, and it might not even be apparent to you, but I hope that my honesty will not only encourage you to look carefully at your own priorities, and goals, but also be a way to ensure that I stay congruent to my core convictions and values, in the way and nature of my God.

It’s hard to make confessions because, sometimes, it makes you feel really weak, stupid, or like some kind of a scum bag. It’s risky. The temptation to keep on a mask, and act like things are all pulled together, can be a strong influencer. Even though it feels embarrassing, it’s still the only way to move forward, and toward shalom (well-being/peace). I’m trying to be brave.

Thoughts… comments?

Correspondence from a Haitian friend

A fellow student of mine is Haitian. Though he lives in Pennsylvania, his whole  family lives in Haiti. I contacted him directly to see if he had any ideas about how to help. Below is my initial email, followed by his response. His confidence in God is awing. Stay tuned for future posts on how to help Haiti, in ways that make a real difference. (Leave feedback, if you’d like.)

(from me)

Greetings Brother,

We’ve had a few classes together, and Ellis mentioned that you may be  

one to ask about how some of us, or ETS could be of assistance during  

this time of calamity in Haiti. Your family, and your country are in  

our prayers. I hope we might be a blessing in a tangible way to those  

who are suffering.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Thank you.

Lisa DeLay

(from Chezaire)     

Dear Brothers and sisters,

Thank you for your emails, I truly appreciate them and they give a sense of comfort that my familiy and I are in your prayers.  My brother works at the epicenter of the earthquake, was he at work that day is still unkown?  The area where he lives with his family is completely crumbled, and another brother was visiting, and I don’t know if he was in town or left that day. I have over a dozen of cousins in that city with their families, only one is acounted for with a broken leg.  I am still praying and hoping some sorts of good news to come my way. I was in contact with that cousin’s mother, and encouraged her to give God praise for that son with a broken leg because as bad are things in Haiti, it could have been worse.

In time like this, we need to keep our heads in place, and keep our emotions in check while we have the desires to help.  

Several people have asked me how to help.  For now I can’t tell, I don’t really know my people’s needs except for being rescued, having medical care, water and food.  I beleive in the power of the Holy Spirit, continue to pray, I am sure He will dictate us what to do.


In His name,

Chezaire     

Prayer for Haiti / photos

100,000 are feared dead in Haiti. Let us reflect on this prayer by St Francis, and seek to aid the people of this country with care and compassion.

Prayer Of St. Francis

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)

Leave your prayers for Haiti here.