Is healing the only thing God has to offer for people with disabilities? If they are not healed, does this mean they do not have God’s favor? In my early years with the Christian faith, these questions haunted me. I loved Jesus and had cerebral palsy. I craved healing.  I begged for healing. I also wanted to know if I didn’t get healed, what in this life does God have for me?   Is there any examples of people with disabilities not being healed and they still had a blessed life. A life accepted by God? In the book of 2 Samuel, we meet Mephiboseth and God answers these questions in a beautiful way.

Mephibosheth’s background:

[4] Jonathan, the son of Saul, had a son who was crippled in his feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and his nurse took him up and fled, and as she fled in her haste, he fell and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.

(2 Samuel 4:4 ESV)

First off, we learn that he became disabled because of an accident, not because of personal sin. He was 5 years old and his nurse dropped him. What would God do for him? These circumstances were beyond Mephibosheth’s control. Would God have a plan for him?

God Blesses Mephibosheth Through David:

[1] And David said, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” [2] Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David. And the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” And he said, “I am your servant.” [3] And the king said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.” [4] The king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “He is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.” [5] Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar. [6] And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, “Mephibosheth!” And he answered, “Behold, I am your servant.” [7] And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.” [8] And he paid homage and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?”

[9] Then the king called Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, “All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master’s grandson. [10] And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce, that your master’s grandson may have bread to eat. But Mephibosheth your master’s grandson shall always eat at my table.” Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. [11] Then Ziba said to the king, “According to all that my lord the king commands his servant, so will your servant do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons. [12] And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Mica. And all who lived in Ziba’s house became Mephibosheth’s servants. [13] So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both his feet.

(2 Samuel 9 ESV)

When I first read this, I was blown away by the grace God. God never healed Mephibosheth. This is true. However, he poured his favor out in abundance. He returned all of his grandfather’s land back to him. He gave him workers to take care of the land and produce. He had a young son named Mica. He ate always at the king’s table. Did he still have this hard thing like a disability to deal with? Yes! But can we say he was also highly favored in God’s eyes? It’s a overwhelming yes! His life had a purpose. It was worth something!

A Seat at the King’s Table

Through my Christian walk, many people have told me that I don’t have God’s full blessing. That cerebral palsy is not his will for me. That I’m lacking because I don’t have healing yet. All I ever wanted was to know I am loved by God and that he accepts me. That he sees me like his other children. Like Mephibosheth, I come limping to the Lord’s table. I take my seat with my other brothers and sisters in Christ. We are nothing more, than equal members of God’s family. This is grace. I have humble confidence know that He approves of me. I belong!

That day when we are at the marriage supper of the Lamb, and we rejoice over how Jesus saved us and we recount the way he loved us I can’t wait to share. I will raise my glass and say:

“People said nobody would love me with cerebral palsy, He made me someone’s husband. People said I couldn’t have a family, He made me someone’s daddy. People said that I lacked faith and God didn’t have much for me, He made me a preacher of the Gospel! People said my life would count for nothing, He made me a director of organization that helps people with disabilities. People said I need healing, He said that His grace was sufficient for me! My life with this thorn of CP has been blessed. It’s all for him. He has not withheld good from me. Praise God!”

So, do I think pursuing healing is a bad thing? No way! God can choose to heal at anytime he wants. But Mephibosheth reminds us that God has higher plans than healing. When God heals, it’s for his glory. When he does not heal, this is for his glory. Disabled or not, we all have circumstances that are good and bad. Don’t miss God in it. He’s working for your joy and His glory. I’m thirty-three and still have cerebral palsy. I am also very blessed. If you have a disability or love a person with a disability, can look past the times God says no to healing and see all his greater yeses?

[19] Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, [20] for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

(1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV)

There are days that I have a very hard time living in my body. I’m hating my cerebral palsy and dealing with my limitations.  I believe the lies that culture  screams at me about not adding up to other people. But God’s word breaks through the noisy world and sings to my heart.  He redeemed me. He changed my heart. He did this while I was living with cerebral palsy.  He’s not ashamed of my outside appearance.  To him, my body is his temple. A holy Sanctuary where you can find his Holy Spirit. How can I let myself get weighed down and tripped up by what others think about me? If my body is good enough for Jesus to use it to show off his light, than it’s ok for me to live in too.  I am so much more than the definitions the world tries placing on me.  I’m not handicapped, crippled, gimp, retard, and whatever else people use to label others. My identity is in what God says about me. I may have cerebral palsy. But by the grace of God,  I belong to him and he’s happy to make me his temple. I’m never alone in my circumstances. Knowing that God is in our circumstances gives us hope that he will use them for his glory and our joy.  On my darkest days, I step out to face the world in a body that I trust God is in to big things with. I wait with eager expectation to see how God will use my life that day.  He never disappoints. No self-help magazine or feel good talk show can give you this kind of outlook on body image. The world will fail you. God’s Word will never let you down. Enjoy life in your body knowing you belong to him. You make the Lord smile.

 

Prayer

“Father, there are days that I hate looking at my outward appearance. I hate being me. Thank you so much for your word. I am your child and you are not ashamed of my body. You call me holy and clean. A temple of the Holy Spirit. May I grasp this truth as I face a world that wants me to find my identity in worthless things. May I use my body to bring you glory. Amen”

he had sent a man ahead of them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
His feet were hurt with fetters;
his neck was put in a collar of iron;
until what he had said came to pass,
the word of the LORD tested him.
The king sent and released him;
the ruler of the peoples set him free;
he made him lord of his house
and ruler of all his possessions,
to bind his princes at his pleasure
and to teach his elders wisdom.
(Psalm 105:17-22 ESV)

I love the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. Great trials were placed on him, yet he overcame. He went trough real hurt. Stuff that I can’t even imagine. His brothers beat him and sold him into slavery. In Psalm 105, the writer gives brief but powerful account of How God use Joseph to bring his people peace and place him in a place of leadership in Egypt. Seeing God in our hurt is vital to us not caving to our pain. Admitting life hurts is the start of seeing God in it. The words “His feet hurt with fetters” stuck out to me as I read this Psalm. I can imagine that Joseph may have had a hard time seeing God when his legs were shackled in he was in pain, but you get the sense he knew God had a bigger plan for the hurt. I love what he says to his brothers in Genesis 50:

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
 
(Genesis 50:15-21 ESV)

The Bible never sugar coats anything. Joseph knew pain. Real pain. Not in theory or wishful thinking did he come up with “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for Good”. Hurt tries to blind us from seeing how God is moving in our circumstances. We must take God at his word when he says he is with us. Seeing God in your hurt will not make the pain hurt less. Seeing God in your hurt will help you to see that your pain is not pointless. God does not waste are trails or tears. Joseph was placed in slavery by his brothers, he was beaten, chained and shackled. There is no way to gloss this hurt over. But God was going to use this to bring his Name glory. Your hurt is real. We can’t gloss over your child’s disability, your husband’s cancer, your parents’ divorce, or whatever life throws at you. But remember, Your pain is not pointless. Trust God.

-Prayer-

“Father, my life is filled with hurt right now. Please help me to see You in my hurt. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

mikereese

My son Reese is turning 3 this July. I am so thankful for this curly-haired, wild and crazy boy. I am so humbled that the Lord would trust me to be Reese’s daddy. Having cerebral palsy and raising a child finds my boy and I in some funny and trying situations. I love “Guy’s Night out” outings with him. A few months back, I took him out to eat at a local restaurant in our town. People with disabilities need to get out in live our lives. If we are ever going to change society’s perception of what we can do, we can’t hide in our homes because someone may look at us or not understand. God made me this way. God trusted me with a child. These two facts is all I need to get out there. When we went out to this restaurant we ran into a few bad attitudes and perceptions. When the hostess called our name, I grabbed his hand and went up to her. She had a shocking look on her face and said, ” Uh, is it just you two?”. I replied, “Yeah, but don’t worry, he drove.”

At our table, I over-heard a group of women talking. Is that his father? Are they by themselves and etc.   I was too caught up in the moment of being with my boy to worry about what others think. I’m not letting my CP or what others may think about keep me from building memories with my son. I didn’t have my biological father in my life. This will not be part of my son’s story. Having a disability is tough but don’t use it as an excuse to not live your life. God allowed me to be a father and that is what I intend to be. When my son smiles at me and wraps his arms around me and smiles, it’s all I need to keep going and overcome society’s stereotypes of what I can and cannot do. Trust God and live your life.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
(Philippians 4:13 ESV)

 But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
  my glory, and the lifter of my head.
(Psalm 3:3 ESV)

   Have you ever had a bad day? Nothing seems to go your way? Yeah, we all been there. Life stinks sometimes. To deny that life is not tough would be foolish. People will hurt us, we will lose our jobs, we will get sick, bills will stack up and etc. Where can we turn for peace? Who will lift our head and put joy back in our steps? The answer is simple but we often forget Him in our storms. When it seems our world is falling down around us, The Lord will be there to be our shield and lift our head. Circumstances change, but He will not.

Prayer

“Father, life can be tough sometimes. My current circumstances lie to me and tell me I’m alone. Please shield me and be the lifter of my head. Amen!”

I will be working on making LFD more helpful to readers. I will be posting writings that our more for devotional purposes.

-Mike

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.- Galatians 1:10

When God opens your heart to grace, it changes the way you want to live. Grace captures your heart and you want to get more of it, and pass it to others. But Grace is dangerous. Grace-Killers are lurking out there trying to stop you from living a grace empowered life. These Grace-Killers do not look like what you imagine. They look like the good guys on the outside and they lurk in every church.They carry their Bibles, teach Sunday School, never miss a church service, and often are in leadership.But on the inside they are unkind,unloving,judgemental, and rule keepers. Their hearts have been harden by self-righteous religious pride. For some reason they think it’s their job to choose who gets in to God’s family and want to weigh people’s life down with legalistic man-made rules. They want to control you. They got into God’s love by grace, but now they make people earn it. Wear the right clothes, no tatoos, read the right Bible version, no movies, no dancing, no dating,vote republican, and the list could go on forever. The biggest problem with grace-killers is they love ranking sin. In their minds, God’s grace only goes so far,and what’s funny is that the sins they do is covered. But everyone else is going to hell. Non-believers and other christians are in the same boat with the grace-killers. You could belong to a great Christ-loving church but it’s not their church so you’ll be nuked by God. And for non-believers, these grace-killers forget that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. Be ready! Loving people will put you on the grace-killers radars. They will try to bring you under their religious guilt, but don’t give in. God has your back! Read romans 8:31:

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Grace-Seekers understand we are messy people yet God loves us any way. His love is about what He did for us in Jesus on the cross. We can’t earn His love, we need to trust that we are loved. Grace-seekers want to share this knowledge with others. Be carefull not to keep grace from the grace-killers. They need it the most. Don’t repay evil for evil, but give grace and love. It’s the only way to wake a person’s heart up. Live Loved! Change the World!

2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.- Ephesians 2:1-10

This Column was written by my good friend, Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski. I was consulted for the column. “Ask Mary Jo” is a weekly column in the observer-reporter in Washington PA. www.observer-reporter.com

 

Today’s column was inspired by a series of questions I received from a former student who has lived with a disability all of his life. I was moved by his thoughts and want to dedicate this column to raising awareness of the needs and rights of people of all abilities. I consulted with my friend and colleague Mike Matthews, Youth Specialist at TRIPIL, to make sure my response was correct. Thanks, Mike.

Q. Why don’t people expect much from me if I have a disability? Why don’t people expect me to want to love or be loved? Why don’t people expect me to be a sexual being? Why don’t people expect me to do anything independently? Why don’t people expect me to be a productive member of society? I grew up with my disability. I thought these thoughts. I know this column will help kids and provoke our community to think. Thanks.  Former student

Mary Jo’s response: Your words are powerful and made me ponder your thoughts. Thank you so much for sharing.

I’ve dedicated my life to the belief that all people are full and complete human beings. All people have the right to information about sexuality. All people have the right to be respected as sexual beings. All people need validated as people of worth who deserve to love and be loved. Every child is born with potential. Independence for all is a right our community needs to embrace.

The question “why?” echoes through your post. I’m an educator. I believe one answer to your question lies with education. Children are not born with prejudice or bias toward others. Hatred and disrespect are often carefully taught   by words, by actions and by the examples of adults. Caring adults can empower children with the strength to respect difference. Empowered, educated children will develop positive self-concepts and self-esteem. The quest for identity is a strong human need. Children can be taught that each person’s identity is worthy of respect. Fear of diversity can lead to hate; if our children experience the positive aspects of diversity they can understand that different identities are valuable and interesting.

I have often said that my best teachers were my parents. My papa taught me a beautiful lesson about respect and inclusion when I was a child. I remember it well. It was the summer between fourth and fifth grade. My friends and I were jumping rope (yep, that’s what we did) and my father overheard me call one of my friends “retard.” He didn’t correct me in front of my peers   in fact, he didn’t verbally correct me at all. After my friends left he asked if I’d like to go to work with him. I loved going to work with him, although the factory where he worked was hot and scary and reminded me of the stories about hell I learned in Sunday school. Still, being with him was wonderful and I liked seeing the new pieces of glass he created. At the factory he introduced me to one of his co-workers. He was deeply respectful. Not long before he had introduced me to a state senator. My papa’s tone and his words with his co-worker were no different than those he used to introduce me to the senator. My papa told me that his co-worker helped make his job easier   that without him the work would not go well. Even as a child I could tell that something wasn’t just right. The man had a limp and his speech was slurred. One of his arms hung by his side in a twisted position. His face lit up when he spoke with my father, though, and he bent down to my level and asked me questions about my life that were not only respectful of me as a person but acknowledged my worth, even though I was a child. On the ride home my father asked me one thing: Do you understand? I told him I did. I never used the r-word again. My parents believed in teaching by example   in Italian they would say: fare un esempio. When my father died his co-worker revealed my papa’s role in his independence. My father had stopped other workers from bullying him. He’d helped him obtain a union job with benefits. My father took a chance putting this man on his work team, and the man never forgot the respect he was given. I remember his tears as he stood beside my father’s casket. The lessons we learn by example are lasting ones.

Adults are responsible for providing example to young people. To do so we must:

1. Know our stereotypes. Consider what “pushes our buttons” and work to develop respectful reactions to difference.

2. Monitor our words. Words matter. Jokes that mock others aren’t funny.

3. Be aware of body language. Young people read our non-verbal communication.

4. Be a role model for respect.  Teach children pro-social behavior, that is behavior that is non-violent, non-hurtful and non-hateful.

5. Go beyond tolerance to acceptance.

Thank you for giving me a chance to talk about the needs of all people.

Youth Champions:  Once again I owe a huge shout-out to our Real Talk Performers for their stellar performances Sunday at Off the Wall Theater. Thank you to John Berdine Jr., Amanda Campbell, Katie Dessart, Troy Frazier, Serena Green, Violet Lawson, Dominique Levy, Mackenzie Martin, Briann Moye, Pablo Pascoe, Emmett Patterson, Will Reusch and Cheyenne Taylor. Thanks to Staci Boucher for sound and to my daughter Amy for directing. A special thank you to Hans and Ginny Gruenert from Off the Wall Productions for the generous use of their theater space. We are grateful to all who attended the performance and supported our Common Ground Teen Center.

Mary Jo Podgurski is founder and director of Teen Outreach in Washington. Email questions to podmj@healthyteens.com or mail to P.O. Box 437750, Observer-Reporter, 122 S. Main St., Washington, PA 15301. All names will remain confidential.

Hi Friends. I’m Rev. Mike Matthews. I haven’t posted much since March. My wife and I have been busy with work,ministry, and raising our son. I will be posting new content to the LFD blog soon. I want to continue to help people to see God’s good design in disability. God bless.

  Growing up with cerebral palsy was not always easy. One of my biggest barriers was doubt. Other people’s doubts about my abilities often slowed my progress as a person. There doubt would feed my personal doubt. Even though it is something I still struggle with, I learned in my teen years to fight doubt. I pushed myself to have a social life, play sports, and go to public places. There was times when people tried to make me feel like I didn’t belong. Sometimes, they would even use words like retard, cripple, and gimp to get their point across to me. However, I kept pressing on and knew I had value and my life counted. My cerebral palsy did not disqualify me from life, it taught me that life is not easy but it’s worth living. CP was a tool I used to teach me to persevere when others start doubting. The quicker young people with disabilities learn to never give up despite doubt, the quicker they will take control of their lives. Doubt is going to come from inside and out but we can’t listen. I’m 30 years old now. I have a beautiful wife named Robin, an awesome little boy named Reese, work two jobs, and own my home. When I was younger, dating never came easy and people told me I would never find a girl to love me. People told me I would never do much because of my cerebral palsy. When I look into the eyes of my little boy, joy overwhelms me because he is here because I did not let doubt win. Young people with disabilities can do great things. They can be great. Don’t Doubt Yourself!