Wednesday, October 6, 2010

#5 – Adults’ Eyes Open a Little Wider
We've already said that,
when children and youth who have special needs are welcomed into the church,
typically-developing peers learn that they have unconditional worth.
They learn that their worth has nothing to do with their beauty, their ability, their achievements or their potential.

my fellow grown-ups,
let’s open our eyes just a little wider and realize that the same is true of us.

Our worth doesn’t depend on any of those short-term things either.

Our worth doesn’t depend on our ability.
...not even on our potential ability.

Our worth doesn’t depend on our academic achievements
...nor on our beauty (as Hollywood defines it or otherwise!)
...nor on our athletic ability
...nor on our ability to make money
...nor on our careers’ status and progress (or lack thereof)
...nor on the size of our homes
...nor on the beauty, ability, achievements, athleticism, intelligence or potential of our children.

Our worth doesn’t even depend on how much others love us (and it’s not decreased when they don’t).

One thing that says
“You are precious and loved beyond measure”
is this:
God made us.
That’s pretty awesome in itself.
But that’s not all.
He made us in His own image. He made us to resemble His character.
That’s amazing.

As if that weren’t enough of an honor for us severely-limited human beings,
The God of the Universe wanted to be friends with us.
He made us with the purpose of having a relationship with Him.

We kind of messed that up,
with the fruit in the Garden of Eden and all,
but He didn’t give up wanting it.

So, incredibly, wonderfully,
He came up with a plan to fix it.
He sent His perfect Son to give His life,
To take the punishment for us
(for eating that apple and all the other things that came with it), that we could be forgiven...
...and again have that intimate friendship with Him.

He loves us that much.
That’s even more amazing.

It’s true that our kids are loved and precious because God loves them.
We adults are loved and precious for the same reason.

We grown-ups,
who often carry the weight of the world on our shoulders,
and sometimes feel completely inadequate for all the burdens of life,
can know, too, that we’re loved that much.

And we learn it all just from loving a little child who has special needs.

Please let me say it one more time.

Now that’s amazing!

#6 – Next Up -- We practice what we preach.

Monday, September 20, 2010

#4 – Siblings Get Their Own ID

An unfair teacher or a girlfriend-break-up or a failed exam
isn’t nearly as big as your sister having brain surgery
or wondering whether your little brother with autism will ever learn to talk.

So, when typically-developing kids have a sibling with special needs,
they often start to feel their “stuff” doesn’t matter.
Way too often,
they hold back from telling adults the things that are going on in their world.

But kids who are typically-developing have needs that must be met, too,
even if those needs aren’t “special needs”.

We have to let them know that they—and their needs—matter.

Lots of parents work hard at this,
and try to make sure all their kids feel loved.

This is another way the church can help.

When children with special needs are welcomed and cared for at church
 their siblings are freer to participate in programs with their peers.

There, in a loving, life-affirming environment...

Typically-developing kids can be free to discover their own identity.
They become more than just the brother or sister of the kid who has tantrums
or the girl who uses crutches.

They can hear kids their age talk about normal issues...
the issues they themselves have been worrying about,
but haven't dared tell anyone.

They can talk about their own concerns
and receive love and attention from caring adults.

And there...
They can be taught biblical truths.
That God loves them.
He has a plan for them.
And God,
Maker and Manager of the Universe,
cares about them
and their “stuff”,
-- Reenie

#5 -- Next Up -- Adults' eyes open a little wider

Sunday, September 5, 2010

What Other Kids Learn When We’re Not Talking -- #3

Typically, these days, children without special needs are referred to as, well, typically-developing.

And those typically-developing children learn, too, when we actively welcome children with special needs into our churches.

You’d be surprised at what they hear us say... especially when we’re sure we’re not saying anything.

When they see us accept and love children with special needs, typically-developing children hear loud-and-clear the strong, silent message that their worth and lovableness don’t depend on appearance, accomplishment or potential.

So they learn the lesson of stronger, more solid self-esteem.

When children with special needs are included in a group with typically-developing peers, the other kids have an opportunity to develop compassion and understanding.

So they learn lessons that lead to a deeper, kinder character.

When children with special needs are fully included with their peers, typically-developing children are able to provide some of the extra support they need.

So they learn flexibility and adaptation -- valuable social skills in our increasingly-diverse society.

When typically-developing kids become friends with children with special needs, the typically-developing peers realize that children with special needs can give, too.

So they learn humility, and acceptance of their own limitations.

And... I bet they learn a million other lessons, too.

So -- what lessons do you see typically-developing children learn when they welcome peers with special needs?

Wherever you live or work, I encourage you to watch for these lessons... then write and tell us.

How long a list can we come up with together?

#4 -- Next Up -- Siblings Get Their Own ID

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Not Exaggerating

I've recommended a million kinds of resources to a thousand different people, for a hundred-and-one reasons. I understand that everyone has different tastes and different needs. Not every book appeals to everyone.

So I carefully hold myself back from saying, "You've got to read this book."

Back in April, 2010, thousands of women attended Beth Moore's simulcast So Long, Insecurity (You've Been a Bad Friend to Us). I attended with several friends, and we found it a life-changing experience.


I'm now reading Beth's book by the same title, So Long, Insecurity, and I'm finding it even more life-changing.

So I'm writing to say....

Every woman has got to read this book.

Nearly every woman I know deals with insecurity to some degree, in some area or another. And it's a handicap to all of us.


In this book,
you'll hear Beth Moore ringing your bell,
     singing your song, and,
          maybe, even telling your story.

Directly and indirectly, in this book Beth tells the stories of women everywhere.

The good news is, the book doesn't stop at identifying our insecurity. It gives us the comfort of knowing we're not alone, that insecurity is common to the human condition, and....

It helps us overcome the insecurity-handicap and learn to live free!


If you're a woman of any age,
and maybe if you're not... but you love a woman or a girl of any age...

I'm not exaggerating when I say...

You've got to read this book!

So Long, Insecurity (You've Been a Bad Friend to Us) by Beth Moore, published by Tyndale House.

After you read it, please write and tell me how it changed your life, too.
-- Reenie

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Children Hear What We Need to Tell Them

When we in faith communities welcome children who have special needs, those children, too, get to be taught the principles of our faith.

We believe that all our children should be taught, so we must teach children with special needs, as well as kids who are typically-developing and healthy.

In Christian faith communities, that means children get to hear that God planned them, designed them, and made them with a purpose that is broader and greater than anything they’ll ever imagine.

They get to hear that God loves them so powerfully He longs to be their Best Friend.

Like other children, children with special needs will hear that their lives have value, that the struggles and obstacles they face are not the end.

They hear that, whatever challenges they walk through in this life, they’ll never be alone. Jesus will walk with them through everything, giving courage and strength to overcome each hurdle, and to live with joy each day.

And they hear that, despite all their challenges, despite their limitations and maybe even because of them, God can and will work through them to make a positive impact on their world.

Typically-developing children need to hear all of that.
Children with special needs need to hear it, too.

Let’s be intentional about welcoming them all... and let's tell them with all our might.

Next Up -- What Other Kids See When We're Not Showing Them

Thursday, August 12, 2010

10 Great Things

More and more churches are discovering that great things happen when they become intentional about welcoming people with special needs and other challenges.

This series describes some of those “great things”, focusing on what happens when churches welcome children with special needs.

#1          Parents Get a Break!

The greatest need for most parents of children with special needs is a break.

Specialized babysitters are not exactly plentiful, even when families can afford them after paying for medical bills, expensive therapies or costly equipment.

But when a child with a severe disability is loved and cared for at his church’s children’s programs, his parents get a physical break.

Welcoming children to church can also give parents a mental break. Every parent of a child with special needs is prepared to advocate for their child everywhere they go – school, hospital, swimming lessons, dancing classes, the neighborhood playground – yes, everywhere. Parents know their child will miss out if they don’t -- and sometimes even when they do.

But when the people in a church become intentional about welcoming children with special needs, the parents of those kids can heave a great sigh of relief...because there's one place where they don’t have to fight on behalf of their child.

Parents also receive an emotional break when a church welcomes their children. They get what every parent secretly wants: to know that someone else loves their child, too.

For married parents, a church’s care for their child can give them a relational break. We all know the divorce statistics: 50% of marriages end that way. But did you know that figure increases to 75% or more when the family includes a child with special needs? Something as simple as giving couples a few minutes’ free time to talk face-to-face or worship together can make the difference between relational survival and marital break-down.
-- Reenie

Next up... Children Hear What We Need to Tell Them

Monday, August 2, 2010

If Feet Could Talk

“I’m not a caregiver.”

That’s what my cousin says when I jump onto my soap-box and talk about how the Church should welcome people with special needs.
My cousin can’t see himself as a Sunday School buddy to a child with autism. Actually, I can’t see it either.
But this cousin is my Go-To Guy in any computer crisis, and has been ever since I acquired my first computer 9 years ago. By taking care of my computer issues, he enables me to write to encourage you, and to develop curriculum and program materials for people with special needs.

In less than ten seconds, I think of a dozen people who take care of me and my stuff in other ways.
Recently, my Fix-it Brother** fixed my watch and my shredder.
My massage therapist regularly works on my neck and shoulders, relieving me of stiffness and pain.
And there’s a hundred others...

I hope you can quickly think of a bunch of people who help you, too.

One of my favourite Bible chapters compares our gifts and limitations to the parts of a human body.
“The body is not made up of one part but of many.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?
If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of hearing be?
God has arranged the parts in the body just as he wanted them to be.
The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’
And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” (1 Corinthians 12:14-21)

None of us is complete on our own, but we're complete when we serve each other.
How glad I am God figured that out before I did!

**Fix-it Brother describes his primary occupation. You can guess how my younger brother, Build-it Brother, makes his living. Truth be told, though – Fix-it Bro is mighty good at building, and Build-it Bro is very handy at fixing. I wish I had an ounce of the fixing or building skills either of them has in his baby finger. Which brings us full-circle...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

You First
The worlds of special education and medicine are an alphabet soup of labels.
Most of us are familiar with ADD / ADHD.
You’ve likely heard of MS, and maybe CP.
How about ASD, ALS and PDD?
And we all hope we never get “the big C”!
Labels tell us what a person’s needs are, so we can meet those needs better.
When I taught a little boy who has autism, I talked to him differently than I talk to my youngest niece (aka The Princess), who has cerebral palsy.
My friend’s son, who’s being treated for leukemia, receives different medication than my oldest nephew (aka The Handsome One), who has diabetes.
But, like every good thing, labels pose a challenge.
The challenge is to use the label to describe the need... not to define the person.
I wince when I hear someone referred to as a “special needs child”.
     Or “autistic boy”.
          Or “Down syndrome man”.
               Or, in the school setting, “IPP kid”.
It’s a good thing I’ve never heard someone call my niece “the wheelchair girl”,
     but I bet she’s heard it.
My niece,
     my nephew,
          my friend’s son,
               the man who lives next door to you...
is a person first...
     a complete and valuable person...
          made in the image of God
             and loved by Him.
His life, her life,
     has been impacted by some kind of diagnosis,
        but he or she is not defined by it.
At least, I pray he or she isn't!
So let’s talk in a way that expresses our belief in every person’s value.
An easy way to do that is to choose person-first language.
     It’s not hard to figure out.
     We just put the person first.
We don’t say “special needs child”.
     We say “child... with special needs”.
Not Down syndrome man.
     Man...who has Down syndrome.
Not the disabled.
     People ... who have disabilities.
Not autistic boy.
     Boy ...who’s been diagnosed with autism.
Not wheelchair girl.
     Girl... who uses a wheelchair.
While we’re at it, person-first language applies to other realms, too.
Please, please... not “the poor”.
     People who are poor.
Not “the elderly”.
     People who are elderly.
Not “the homeless”.
     People who are homeless.
Maybe you think I’m making too much fuss about simple little words.
     After all, we know what we mean, right?
But the truth is, words matter.
Words influence thoughts,
     the thoughts of both the speaker and the hearer.
          Thoughts become attitudes,
               and attitudes become actions.
So let’s start the whole thing right.
Let’s use words that show we think of the person first.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I am in Ketchikan, Alaska, and I just toured her (in)famously-historic Creek Street, where her longest-standing brothels were in operation until the US federal government closed them down. There is much laughter and under-the-breath joking about these businesses now. But the fact that many women willingly provided the "service" of prostitution... because it made more money than, for instance, waiting tables... is only sad to me.
I consider this business as one that demeans both the "workers" and the men they "serve"; it also undermines the sanctity of marriage and the family. Nevertheless, the women who engage or engaged in prostitution, then and now, are precious in the sight of God. And with that in mind, I am careful to say they were women who engaged in prostitution,  rather than call them prostitutes. Do you wonder why I fuss over this detail? (I promise you -- it's not because I want to be politically correct.) And, even more, do you wonder how this has any bearing on the theme of this blog? Your questions are good and fair... and I will answer them in my next entry, as soon as I return home. :)
Now it's back to my cruise ship... talk to you in a few days!
-- Reenie

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hot and Holy
Bill Hybels’ book Holy Discontent came into my hands only recently, but ever since I heard the title a few years ago, it has resonated with me.
I admit that lots of world-size problems weigh on my heart. I’m moved to tears that children and adults are homeless in my very own city. It tears my heart to hear stories about men, women and children sold as slaves. I feel a great sadness to know that many people are tortured for being faithful to their religious beliefs. And I get a knot in my gut when I think that many children go to sleep hungry every night.
But, honestly, those things don’t “wreck me”, as Bill Hybels’ book says. Those issues don’t burn a hole in my heart, and, awful as they are, they don’t usually keep me awake at night.
But other things do wreck me.
I experience physical pain when I watch a pretty teenaged redhead being ignored by peers and adults at the church her family attends... because she uses a wheelchair. I have trouble sleeping after a mother tells me a Christian school refused to enrol her bright, talkative son...because he has autism. I get heated up inside when I meet a sweet little girl who loves Jesus, but is repeatedly sent away from her church’s children’s programs... because she has Down syndrome.
I get hot under the collar when a child with special needs is denied proper access to any community group, but I get especially hot-and-holy about it when that group claims to be part of the Body of Christ.
We all know Jesus said, “Whatever you’ve done to the least of these, you’ve done to Me.” We who say we love Jesus should be the first to welcome people with challenges. What wrecks me is that, usually, we’re the last.
That’s what Reenie’s Resources is about. Once a week or so, I’ll post an entry related to opening doors, especially doors to the Church, for people who face challenges. I hope you'll check in regularly and comment often! I’d be honoured and encouraged if you become a “follower”.
Before I go today, I have a question for you.
What is God stirring up in your heart? What in this world gives you a holy discontent?
Whether you’re hot-and-holy about world poverty or child abuse or unjust prison sentences or rampant crime or lonely elderly people or lack of access to medical care or...or...or...I encourage you to do what Holy Discontent suggests:
Feed it. Learn more about the problem and what you can do to fix it.
Fight for it. Be prepared to meet resistance and overcome obstacles.
Follow it. Do all in your power to right that wrong in this world.
Together, you and I can leave our children a world that’s better, safer and more hopeful than the one in which we started. We can... so let’s do it!
• Reenie

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I Have a Dream

I have a dream…
that every child
regardless of ability or disability
will be welcomed
and will find a place to belong
at their neighborhood Bible-teaching Church.

I have a dream
that every child who can’t walk smoothly
will have a friend to lean on
or to push his wheelchair
so he can enter fully into the life of his church family.

I have a dream
that every child who can’t reach out her hand
will have a hand reached out to her
so she’ll know she’s accepted in the body of Christ.

I have a dream
that every child who can’t participate in a full Bible lesson
will have a lesson designed for him,
a lesson he can fully enjoy.

I have a dream
that every child who cannot speak
will be spoken to
and will be included in conversation
and in other children’s play.

I have a dream
that every child who cannot hear with her ears
will be taught stories and songs
in a language she can hear.

I have a dream
that every child who cannot sing
will enjoy the sound of others’ singing
and will praise God in his own way.

I have a dream
that every child whose hands cannot clap
will have friends who clap with her
and for her.

I have a dream
that every child who cannot run
will play games with his friends
and will have friends who cheer what he can do.

I have a dream
that every child who cannot cooperate or pay attention
will be loved and cherished
no matter what.

I have a dream
that every child who cannot see the pictures of the Bible story
will see very clearly that Jesus loves her
because she has been shown love by those who love Him.

I have a dream
that every child who doesn’t learn in the typical way
will learn about Jesus and His love for her.

I have a dream
that every child who doesn’t move in the typical way
will move into full belonging in the family of God.

I have a dream
that every child who doesn’t grow in the typical way
will grow in his or her relationship with Jesus Christ.

I have a dream
that every child
no matter how intelligent or delayed
oppositional or compliant
athletic or motor-challenged
healthy or frail
will know Jesus loves him or her
and that He died for him
for her.

I have a dream
that everyone in the community outside the church
will know they too will be welcomed
and accepted
in their local church family
because they have seen the church obey Christ’s command
to love and accept
all those who are
“the least of these”.

I have a dream...

I have a dream.

© Laureen F. Guenther, 2006

Monday, June 21, 2010

Reenie's Resources

Thanks for checking out our construction site!
You'll see an up-and-functioning project in early July, 2010.
Please check back then.
-- Reenie

Be kinder than necessary, for everyone is carrying some kind of burden.