“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Starving on the farm

Imagine that I am a farmer.  I live with my wife there on our farm.  It is a beautiful farm with corn and tomatoes, fruit trees, and even chickens and milk cows and a small heard for beef. Lets even imagine a fresh stream running through the farm with cool clear water.  Idyllic.

Oh, lets also imagine I have 3 kids who live "at my house."

Dinner time comes, and I habitually go to the cupboard and get a "fresh" package of twinkies for my wife and I.  We wash them down with a bottle of diet Coke!  Yum!
Time to feed the kids too, so a volunteer from across the street comes and gets them from the cottage they live in by the house, and takes them to a place down the street for candy!

Now you might look at my situation and wonder why I am eating twinkies and diet Coke when I could have fresh vegetables, fruits and healthy meat products.  It actually seems a little goofy from your perspective.  But you don't judge me and just go on with your life. 
Then you find out that not only do my wife and I not partake of the fruits of our amazing farm,  neither do our children.  You wonder about the fact that we don't spend time with our children and that we have someone to feed them candy for lunch.

If you heard about the above, would your comment be,
"At least they are doing something.  It is better than doing nothing, right?"

Not only that, would you say, "At least they have someone come in and get them.  And the kids love eating candy all the time!"

Or, if you heard about the above, would your comment be, "Why don't they feed the kids and themselves on the products of the farm? Who in their right mind would give their children over to someone else and just allow them to feed them candy?"

HOLD ON! Let me try to explain the facts to you...
You see...
First, if I kept the children at my house, then I would have to change my home so that it would be more hospitable, safer for them.  You know I have never had to put covers on the electrical outlets and if I did that, then I would have to take the covers off every time I wanted to plug something into the outlet. I would have to put barriers up to keep them from falling down the steps. I couldn't swear as much and I would have to be more patient. Hellish! (pardon my language).
Second, I would have to feed them which means I would need to prepare the twinkies in different ways as some babies need milk, other people need food chopped up into smaller pieces and so on. And we don't like to eat in a different way, a way that might cause us to like chew, or exert other effort.
Third, if there were other people in the house, I would also have to do things that other people like to do rather than the things that I like to do. I have already decided what I like to do and I don't want to change that for some group of people who seem to be doing fine without me and I without them.
Fifth, children do things like get dirty, drop things, talk when they aren't supposed to and for that matter, talk about things that I am not interested in.  How are my wife and I supposed to talk about the things we are interested in if other people want us to talk about things they are interested in.

Besides, we always talk about the children when they are not with us in very positive ways! We say how lovely and friendly they are.  How they are such a blessing! Particularly when they are taken care of by someone else in a different place!

No, this is the best way...At least we are doing something and it is better than nothing.


Monday, October 28, 2013

"If it wasn't for you two I would NEVER leave my room!"

"If it wasn't for you two I would NEVER leave my room!"
That was the title on an email I recently received. A dear friend of mine will often email me with his entire message being the title of the email.  This time his message stopped me short. But this message is not about Kathi and I, it is about the potential power that anyone can have in the lives of people to enrich their lives.
I have often said to groups that I am a good friend to have because I have a car.  But a car isn't even the important thing. It is that you see a person as a person and choose to develop a relationship with them.
My friend happens to have a physical disability and uses a wheelchair which limits his movement somewhat. He could move about the community more than he does, but for whatever reason, he chooses not to. The cool thing is that Kathi and I can be the encouragement to assist him to broaden his life a bit by going out into the community. Nothing special really, we just go to church together, go to a restaurant occasionally, phone call sometimes.
But my friend realizes that the simple interactions we have are the keys to unlock the door to his room, so to speak, and invite him into the community. It isn't that he doesn't want to be in the community.  It is just that he like many people simply needs an invitation from a friend.  No invitation, no involvement in the community. Life all day in his room in front of his computer. But a simple invitation from one person, and his life opens up to meeting others, sharing his gifts and his sense of humor.  Leading others in prayer and so on.
All that is needed is one person in a life to make a significant change in that life.


Monday, October 14, 2013

A young man attempts self advocacy

The attached video below is an attempt by a young man to advocate for himself relative to his frustration that his IEP objectives were not being addressed by his teacher in his classroom.
The Northport Dispatch (October 11, 2013) states,
"The Northport-East Northport Board of Education cut off a 14-year-old boy from speaking during Monday's meeting when the teen, who has a form of high-functioning autism, attempted to express what he felt was unfair treatment in his classroom due to his disability.
Christian Ranieri held back tears as he left the room after being shut down just a few sentences into his speech, in which he was asking the board to hear him out after he felt he was unfairly suspended for two days from school.
The school board president cited privacy laws in his reasoning for halting Ranieri's speech. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the privacy of student education records.
Ranieri, a freshman at Northport High School, explained that since the beginning of the school year, his individualized education program and behavior intervention plan have not been implemented. After four weeks without it, his parents called meetings with administrative staff members. When his behavior plan was put in place however, it was done incorrectly, Ranieri said, adding that he was refused when he asked to speak to his teacher outside of the classroom about the error. Out of frustration, he said that he raised his voice at the teacher and was suspended from school for two days for the outburst." 
Here is the video of the presentation...
I love when people are emboldened like this to speak up for themselves.  I have no idea about the specifics of this situation, whether channels wer followed or whatever.  But what I see is a young man self identified as having developmental disabilities, something that takes courage to do. He tells the school board that his teacher is not implementing his IEP which also takes courage.  They don't care.  They tell him the channels to take, his parents indicate they have tried to follow those channels with no success.  All they would have to say is that "We will look into this through the Supt. and he/she will get back to you in __ days."  Instead, they shut him down.
I wish many more parents of students with severe disabilities would call school districts, boards of education, or whomever to account for educational programs not being followed; particularly for students with developmental disabilities.


Friday, October 04, 2013

Open Range and the parts that "seem weaker"

1 Corinthians 12:22 "The parts of the body that seem weaker are indispensable."

     There is a scene in the 2003 western, Open Range, where Denton Baxter (the evil land owner) gets shot up in a gun fight. He drags himself to Doc Barlow’s office and finds him working on Button, one of the good guys. Baxter pulls out his gun to shoot Button lying on the doctor’s table. But Doc Barlow tells him, “You pull that trigger, Baxter, you can forget about me patching you up!” Baxter is now faced with a dilemma. In order for Doc Barlow’s indispensable nature, to be evidenced, Baxter must relinquish his power over the doctor. When he does so, he himself benefits from the doctor’s “gifting.” However, if he as the seemingly powerful person in the room (he has a gun, etc.) does not set aside his power, the seemingly weaker doctor and the other wounded man will not benefit and the doctor’s indispensable nature would not be displayed. 
     The implication from the 1 Corinthians 12:22 passage is not that those in the Body of Christ who seem stronger are violent or evil as in the movie. However, there is a wrong being perpetuated. The wrong is seen in people with power prohibiting others who are gifted such that they are Biblically described as indispensable, from expressing that gifting by refusing to change.
     The parts "seem" weaker, implying that those with power have relegated others to the category of being weaker. As a result, the Body of Christ as a whole, truly does suffer in this way, when one part suffers (1 Corinthians 12:26). The strong are haughty and the seemingly weak are excluded.  Exclusion of people with disabilities leading to this type of attitude is much too common in the Christian church and we suffer as a result of it.
Interestingly, Paul’s correction ("On the contrary" and "seem weaker") once again implies that those who have made the determination of another’s weakness are actually wrong.  Although some are thought weak, their strength, their power will not be demonstrated unless those who wrongly determined they were weak, repent of their error, humble themselves, and provide the opportunity for them to evidence their power (one aspect being how they are a conduit of God’s power).  The seemingly stronger must relent from their haughty exercise of power in both relegating others to weakness and on some level enforcing that perception (through exclusion, segregation, paternalistic behaviors, etc.), ultimately preventing the perceived weak from displaying the strength that causes them to be labeled indispensable. This power of the seemingly weaker when “wielded” over those who are seemingly stronger, will demonstrate why they are indispensable. Perhaps at this point, the “stronger” will repent of the label they projected on another of being weaker (2 Corinthians 7:8-11).  But for the stronger to benefit from that realization, they must first relinquish their power over the situation, no longer relegating others to weakness and the social consequences that accompany that designation.  Power in weakness has the potential to be present, but it is not displayed, not expressed.  It is unused, frustrated from being employed because those having the power to open the door for the expression of another’s contribution, refuse to do so by refusing to relinquish their own power such that it might be seen.
Earlier in 1 Corinthians 4:7, Paul addressed the haughtiness of his readers asking, “What do you have that you did not receive.  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”  They should not see themselves in a manner as “different from anyone else.”  Paul himself was someone who experienced a difference that would have caused him to be relegated to the seemingly weaker class (2 Corinthians 12:10). The end result is the production of entirely wrong, entirely negative perceptions of what is indispensable for body life.  At the most basic level, this is seen in a lack of love for others.  It is also evidence of pride in that I am unwilling to become a servant and in this case, allow others to express their gifting.  This unwillingness to serve, to facilitate expression of the gifting of others because of what might be demanded of me (power over my time, my activities, my traditions and the necessity for change in each of these areas) will prohibit the indispensable nature of those seemingly weaker from ever being expressed.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul describes his experience with a “thorn in the flesh”, how he prayed to have it removed, and God’s response, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  The implication is not that God’s power is imperfect, but that weakness allows God’s power to be evidenced the most perfectly.  Perhaps this perfect expression of the power of God contributes to why the parts of the body that seem weaker are indispensable.  Paul says, “for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  If for no other reason, weakness may drive me to dependence on God.  Strength may cause me to see myself as sufficient within myself.  Weakness disarms me.  For example, in my own suffering or if I wade into the suffering of others, I find myself at a total loss.  My cry becomes like that of Jehosophat in 2 Chronicles 20:12.  When he is surrounded by the armies of “the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites” (verse 1), he goes before his people and prays, “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (emphasis added).  Desperate situations reinforce in us our need to depend upon God.  However, if I am seemingly stronger and I am disconnected from seemingly weaker parts of the body, I will perhaps not suffer with the parts that suffer (as described in 1 Corinthians 12:26) and be lead to dependence upon God.  I will not allow another part of the body to have power over me in making any sort of demands for humility on me, on them, on the entire body. But through my entrance into their weakness, I allow others to make demands on me; sometimes through unsolvable situations of life: demands that would cause me to depend upon God.  God’s power can be perfected in my participation in another’s weakness, if I allow their weakness to become my weakness.  But I don’t want to participate in their experience or at times the difficulties others face, so my response is that I will exclude them. There might be a degree of unconsciousness about these issues, however, one might ask “Why there is a collective unconsciousness within the church?”  This unconsciousness could be squarely placed at the feet of church leadership at a variety of levels. As a result, the statement, “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it” ends up becoming an aspiration, or a statement of how the body should be.