This is the third entry in the UCCDM Lenten Devotional 2016 series. This devotional reflection comes from Dr. Jimmy Watson Pastor if Immanuel UCC in Ferguson, Missouri.. This devotional reflects the views of the author and not the views of UCCDM.

“Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.” (Philippians 3:17)

These days we talk much about privilege. White, male, heterosexual privilege. The privilege of wealth, height, and beauty. The list is long and yet not long enough to include my 20-year-old stepdaughter who was born with mental disabilities, including finding a spot on the autism spectrum. Megan’s only privilege is that she will live most, if not all, of her life in close proximity to her family. She will never, however, enjoy the privileges of meaningful work or marriage and raising children. For Megan, the operative word is “limitation” rather than “imitation.”

Most of us seek to imitate those who have been successful in one way or another, even when we do not have the same privileged starting point. We want to imitate those with successful careers or those who have significant talents, even when the odds are stacked against us because of our family of origin, limited resources, or lack of acumen or natural abilities.

Megan’s attempts to imitate those who are an example of how to live is limited to very simple tasks such as sweeping floors, wiping off countertops, and making her bed in the morning—tasks that give her enormous satisfaction and a taste of wholeness.

While most people would not consider imitating those with physical and mental limitations, I have learned in my brief stint as Megan’s stepparent that she sets an example for the rest of us in ways that the privileged are hesitant to admit: utter humility without a speck of pomposity, no desire to leave a heavy carbon footprint on the environment, a childlike curiosity that knows no limitations, and finally, an unconditional love for her family, friends, and caretakers with a default setting of forgiveness.

There is no arrogance, materialism, close-mindedness, or grudges in Megan’s world. It is a world of wonder, love, and simplicity. Knowing her has been a true privilege.

Prayer—Dear God, we might be limited in who we are called to imitate, so we give thanks for those souls who offer us examples of how to be human in ways that never crossed our privileged minds. Amen.


UCCDM Lenten Devotional-Reflection for Good Friday

This is the ninth in the UCCDM Lenten Devotional Series for 2014. This reflections comes from Rev. Peggy Davis Dunn, UCCDM Board Member and former Chair. Her bio can be found on the Board of Directors page.

Good Friday

I am poured out like water, and all my bones have fallen apart; my heart is like wax; it melts inside of me; my strength is dried up like a piece of broken pottery. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you’ve set me down in the dirt of death. Psalm 22: 14-15 CEB

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. John 1:5 CEB

I write this reflection sitting on a couch in a room in the Walter Reed Military Hospital in Bethesda MD. About six feet away from me lies a grandson whose body was broken in a horrific car accident about 6 weeks ago. We are here this week to be with him and to give his mom some companionship and respite as she accompanies him on his journey back from the days when he was given a 5% chance of survival. His trauma has involved having both arms and both legs broken, broken ribs with internal injuries, extensive facial damage including the loss of an eye and some hopefully temporary brain injury. Parts of his body which are whole have been drawn from to repair parts of his body which are broken. His rehabilitation has involved 21 surgeries so far, and this journey will likely go on for about a year. His body will not be the same as it was before his accident.

His pain has been great and his body has been broken. His life path has been altered in a split second. The words of Psalm 22 above are apt.

But daily we see him return to the land of the living. He gains strength and capacity. He moves more steps forward than back.

Good Friday is the day when Christians reflect on the suffering of Christ on a cross outside of Jerusalem, on the willingness of Jesus to endure the suffering of crucifixion. The suffering of Christ then, and the suffering of this grandson now, are very real. But suffering is not the last word, then or now.  Suffering itself is not redemptive, on Jesus’ part, or anyone else’s. What is redemptive is the Spirit that sustains in the experience of the suffering. And the Light which shines in the Darkness even when we cannot see it. We believe, in the words of John’s gospel, that the darkness of our lives cannot extinguish the light, tho the darkness be very real, and very dark. The light is found in the darkness. In our various ways, we hold that faith.


UCCDM Lenten Devotional–Old Bones

This is the sixth in the UCCDM’s Lenten Series 2014. This reflection for the sixth Sunday in Lent comes Rev. Lynda I. Bigler, Chair of UCCDM. Her bio is available on the Board of Directors page.

The Lord’s power overcame me, and while I was in the Lord’s spirit, he led me out and set me down in the middle of a certain valley. It was full of bones.

He led me through them all around, and I saw that there were a great many of them on the valley floor, and they were very dry.

He asked me, “Human one, can these bones live again?”
I said, “Lord God, only you know.”

I prophesied just as he commanded me. When the breath entered them, they came to life and stood on their feet, an extraordinarily large company. ~~Ezekiel 37:1-3, 10

Have you ever felt like a worthless pile of bones?  Undervalued?  Overlooked?  Uncared for?  Discarded?  Stranded in the middle of nowhere, watching all of life’s actions swirl around you without you?

I did. I was eleven years old. It was a particularly bad week. First, my classmates decided it was the right thing to do to let the visually impaired kid make a home run in soft ball before sixth grade ended.  I’d never hit a soft ball in my life. I always struck out. I couldn’t see the bases so I figured it was just as well I never hit the ball. I had no clue where to run.  But that day, they decided I needed to get a home run.  It started by allowing me to barely hit the ball. Then the first, second, and third basemen missed catching the ball  when  it was thrown to them. And then somehow I made it home before the ball did. I guess they figured I wouldn’t hear them discuss the Plan or argue with each other as that all played out. There is little lower than being the object of someone else’s good deed for the day.

It was the week those of us on the safety patrol who were moving up to junior high school got our awards for being good safety patrol members.  As I marched forward to get my award, I guess I wasn’t supposed to hear how I’d only been put on the safety patrol because I could buddy up with my best friend who was sighted.  Besides, it seemed to be the right thing to do.

And then there was the sixth grade dance. I didn’t know how to dance and the boys I liked were certainly not interested in me. But I was on the dance committee because I was a girl and that’s what girls did.  At the committee meeting, the head girl said I couldn’t do anything except bring napkins because I had no other abilities.

I told my mother about all these things. She told me that it was all part of growing up with a disability. Time I just smiled my thanks for their kindnesses and get over it.

I felt as lonely as those old bones.  Even though those bones ended up in that valley as a result of physical violence, emotional violence put me in the same spot. If all I could expect from life was being someone’s good deed or a token or being prejudged for what I could do, then I might as well be among that pile of bones, too. What kind of life was being offered to me that was better?

Few people talk about depression in children because they believe it to be imagined or learned behavior or even just acting out for attention. Not so! Adult friends with disabilities also talk about their childhoods and/or teen years  in which they experienced depression and contemplated suicide like I had experienced. Some of them acted upon their contemplations, but I did not.

Just like those dry bones, God resurrected me. Just like those dry bones, God can resurrect each of us to a new life, a new life in which we can find value and be valued. Resurrection for me meant learning how to channel my anger resulting from social injustice and putting that energy into educating myself to the best of my ability. Resurrection meant learning I had a Voice and how to use it. Resurrection for me eventually meant empowerment.

Ezekiel says there was an extraordinarily large company of us coming back to life: perhaps like were those who are different because of disability, skin color, sexual orientation, culture, or mental health issues , brain injuries, developmental or cognitive disabilities. We are those at the margins of life who are discarded like Ezekiel’s old bones. By sharing our stories we discover how similar our stories are. By sharing our witness, we share our strengths and our value as a People, a People who can effect change.

UCCDM Lenten Devotional – “Enduring Character”

This is the fourth in the UCCDM’s Lenten Devotional 2014 series. This devotion for the Third Sunday in Lent comes from the Rev. Gunnar Cerda in Ohio. Rev. Cerda has served as local church pastor, has served as chaplain for Widening the Welcome, and currently serves as a hospital chaplain.

Romans 5:3-4  “…we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…”

Sometimes I find it hard to read Paul.

It’s not just because of his rhetorical style, but also because his theology is hard to swallow.  I mean really, who boasts in their sufferings?  And what is the deal with suffering producing endurance?  Don’t you need a bit of endurance to, well, endure the suffering when it comes in our lives?  And what about Hope, why is it last, as in a goal-line to which we hope at some point to arrive?

My wrestling with passages like this, and sometimes with Paul in general, is that he seems to have this idealistic view that suffering is positive, that it is somehow justified, which is where he loses me.  In a way it almost feels patronizing, as if Paul was saying “get over it” or “shake it off.”  After all, suffering leads to endurance and then to character, so this is really just a character building opportunity for you.”  Thanks but no thanks Paul.

See, I am the parent of two great kids, one who happens to have an intellectual disability named and labeled as an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  As a parent, such a life event changes your worldview, and you find yourself shifting from looking at the world from the dominant viewpoint of “normal.”  You start to see how your child doesn’t fit in with the other kids.  You start to see the dirty looks and people whispering because your child doesn’t behave or talk the way others expect.  You start to notice posts on facebook highlighting how “back in the day” kids were not “brats” because people knew how to be parents.  “There’s nothing a good spanking can’t cure!”  You notice—and cry—when your child is sitting alone and ignored by other kids.

And you know you are not alone.  I recently saw a post on a blog from a parent who wrote seeking some understanding.  This parent’s words were all too familiar as I read them:”…it always feels like a slap in the face when people, knowing my situation, say they were blessed with healthy children.  Are only the healthy and wealthy blessed?”

I sensed right away what was behind this question.  It is grief, which is a manifestation of suffering.  And it is a suffering many of us experience, not always because of the physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, visible disabilities, hidden disabilities and mental health concerns, rather, because society values ability over accommodating disability—where those who are “able” are blessed.  Thanks to culture, life is a journey through suffering, which often looks more like an endurance race.  We don’t need Paul to remind us about suffering, endurance is the ticket.  And Hope, hope that someday it will be different.

So I had all of this running through my head, and my emotions, leading me to give Paul a hard time.  For as I prayerfully reflected, I recalled the words in Exodus when God speaks to Moses.  It is a powerful moment when God says “I have heard the cries of my children.  I know their sufferings and I have come down to redeem them.”  There are the words of our UCC Statement of Faith, reminding us that our Savior, Jesus the Christ, has come to us and shared our common lot.  And then there is the outlook of our beloved United Church of Christ, that God welcomes any body, every body, Christ’s body, into a church that is Accessible to All.

Indeed, God knows and shares in our sufferings!  In those moments when we feel like we are alone, or on the outside looking in; when we are praying for the hurtful attitudes of the world to change…God understands, Christ “gets” it, and the Holy Spirit calls us into a community of care and support, while comforting and advocating for us.  How about that, God doesn’t give sufferings or disabilities or mental illness, rather, our Still Speaking God shares in those journeys.

Now that’s something which gives me hope!  And that hope keeps me going, even when the going gets tough.  That’s the endurance I need in those times when the grief or suffering seems too much.  And I can realize all of that because of the enduring character of God, pouring out upon me a character of faith.

So maybe I’ve been too hard on Paul.  I’m still not sure about the boasting in my sufferings piece (I’ll leave that to someone else to explore).  But if I could suggest a helpful edit in your rhetoric Mr. “of Tarsus,” then perhaps we could try it this way:  We know that we can endure our sufferings, no matter what, because we have hope which comes from a God who really understands what we are going through.

And THAT is something that I can hang on to.

Holy One who knows and understands our sufferings—during this season of Lenten reflection, empower us to live into your mission and companion others in enduring their sufferings.  Bless us to be a blessing to others, both in our character and as your church which you call to be Accessible to All.  We ask this in the name of the Christ who shared our common lot and defeated the power which suffering has over us through hope enlivened in the resurrection.  Amen and Amen.


Web Resource for Parents of Children with Special Needs

Strategies for balanced living for parents of children with special needs:

Free articles, blogs, teleseminars and other resources are available.
During the recent few years the sleeping pill n

amed ambien has become very popular in many countries of the world and alone in the United States of America it is consumed by around a 22 million people. This medical product would not be available from any place unless you are having a prescription from a registered doc.