"Wrestling with an Angel" The Book

Wrestling with an Angel is also a book endorsed by Joni Eareckson Tada, Noel Piper, Russell Moore and others. It is available in print, audiobook, and a variety of ebook formats. Learn more about the book here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

God's Good Design in Disability

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the Desiring God Disability Conference: "God's Good Design in Disability".

I was accompanied by some pretty powerful proclaimers of God's word (John Piper, Dr. Mark Talbot and Nancy Guthrie). But the most powerful and encouraging part of the conference took place as Krista Horning walked onto the stage and delivered this ten-minute God-glorifying, Jesus magnifying, Bible saturated,  message.

Thank you Krista for displaying "God's Good Design in Disability" for the whole world to see.

And thank you Jesus for the faithfulness of your Word, powerfully proclaimed in our broken vessels!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Now to Him Who is Able...

It has been nearly three years since Jake left for the Potomac center in Romney, WV. Three years of driving the 10-hour round trip to visit. Three years of bathroom training, behavior modification, building independent living skills and learning to live in a community.

The Potomac Center has been Jake’s University of Disability.

For the past year we have been diligently, almost desperately, searching for a permanent residency for our son as he entered adulthood and began to approach “graduation”, also known as the age cut -off from the adolescent Potomac Center.

We were prepared move our family wherever we needed to move in order for Jake to have a suitable, permanent, care facility to call home. We considered our neighboring states of Kentucky and Ohio as well as western states like Colorado and Oregon. “No more long distance traveling. No more separation,” we agreed. We needed to have our son close enough to be active in his daily life. He needs us. More importantly, we need him.

Once again we were faced with the dilemma of change and the danger of upsetting the one thing that Jake thrived on—routine.  And once again, God exceeded our expectations in a lavish display of love and mercy for our family.

Jake comes home tomorrow.

I need to say that again just for personal clarification as well as a resounding testimony to God’s goodness and greatness.

Jake comes home tomorrow!

The Lord did not see fit to provide a home for our son in Oregon or Colorado, as beautiful as those states are and as willing as we were to move there. Neither did he provide a place for Jake in Kentucky or Ohio.

Instead, Jake will be moving into a house with seven other young men, seven miles from our home.  With one breath of grace, God turned ten hours into ten minutes. Can I say it again?

“God is good.”

This means we can see Jake when we want, as long as we want, and as often as we want. Our entire extended family can be involved in his life. He can be with us on holidays and birthdays and every day days. 

Yet he will still be learning essential life skills as he lives in a community of young men with disabilities similar to his own in a home where he can live and receive care for the rest of his life.  If I could dream of a final chapter to “Wrestling with an Angel” (with the exception of the future resurrection of my son's disabled body and mind) I couldn’t dream it as perfect as this.

We know there are still great challenges ahead, namely tomorrow as Jake travels the five-hour trip and adjusts to a new environment, new faces and new routines—a nightmare experience for those suffering from Autism and PDD. He will regress. He will withdraw. He will experience anxiety. But he will be with us, and we will walk through this transition with our son.

So I write today to give credit, honor and glory to our heavenly Father, the Father of mercy and the God of all comfort—the God of Jacob. Our God is in the heavens and He does whatever He pleases. This week He was pleased to bring our son home. We are forever thankful.

I also write today to give encouragement to parents of these special children. I know your anxiety for the future. Let me reassure you, God loves you and your disabled child more than you could ever fathom. He has a plan, the plan is perfect and the plan will come to pass. It may not be what we expect, but it will always be better than what we could ever imagine.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power…”


Monday, August 27, 2012

A Soldier And A Son

We let go of another son last week. Noah left for Fort Benning, Georgia for 16 weeks of training and several years of military service with the possibility of a new career in the U.S. Army. We are proud of him--as much as any parent could be proud of their child.

It seems like only yesterday that I was his age, sharpening my unfinished steel on the grinding stone of military training.  When a son steps into his father's shoes, there is a certain excitement that seems to be shared only within the fraternity of men.

Noah has always been a warrior with a tender warrior spirit--which is the best kind of soldier as far as I am concerned. He cares deeply, serves obediently, loves Jesus and is very familiar with adversity. These are the traits of most true heros.

The little boy from the coalfields came to live with us when he was four years old. Beaten, broken, timid and silent, for the first two years of his life he had lived a nightmare of physical abuse and neglect at the hands of a cruel and violent stepfather. By the time Social Services took him into custody and the stepfather was sent to prison, Noah had suffered multiple broken bones, concussions, black eyes, contusions and unthinkable emotional scars. "It was the worst case of child abuse I have ever seen." Wrote the state prosecutor in the newspaper.

Noah and his little brother Aaron joined our growing family not long after Jake had gone through the worst of his seizure disorder. They were instant friends and inseparable brothers; three great blessings brought together through the darkest of times.

Noah grew to be more than a brother to Jake. He became Jake's fearless bodyguard and silent advocate. 

When Hope joined our family, we were not too surprised to discover who she would be most drawn to as her confidant and protector.

Noah not only stood as the advocate for his brothers and sister, he stood in the gap for his father. There was once a dark period in our home when I was not the man my family needed. I was self-centered, depressed, ungrateful, unfaithful and uneasy to be around. I walked away from all that God had given me. Noah was thirteen years old at the time. He grew up, stepped up and stood up for his family. I will never forget his mettle and natural leadership during that difficult time. Neither will I forget his unconditional display of love and respect for me during this dark, disgraceful period of my life.

Now he is gone. Our lives have changed once again. And once again there is a huge void in our family. Once again, my wife weeps often for a missing son.

But God is good to give us gifts that we cannot hold onto. Only the gifts we let go will continue to feed our faith in an ever providing Father, as they bring back glory to Him on an eternal horizon. 

God is also good to give us unsuspecting gifts, special surprises dripping with grace that point our hearts heavenward. 

As Noah raised his hand to swear in to the United States Army, there by his side was one other single soldier to be shipped out with our son. He was tall with a ruddy complexion. He had rusty red hair and wore glasses. He bore the striking image of Noah's older brother. (without the hindrance of disability). And, as if that were not enough to make us smile with heavenly expectation, on his chest above his heart, was written a very familiar name. 


Welcome to the order of the Sheepdog, son. "Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." (Psalm 82:3-4) "Drive on Airborne, drive on!"

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Family" is Intentional; Not Always Conventional

Her name was Marcella Carolyn; her friends called her “Luke”. I knew her as “Aunt Sue”. She was twenty-seven years old when I was born. She died last week at the age of seventy-two.

In those forty-five years, she stood in the gap as my mother and later when my children were born—as their grandmother.

She was a high school physical education teacher and a (very famous) girl’s basketball coach. She spent her life investing in the lives of others, but I knew her best for the deep investment she made in my life.

My grandparents raised my two sisters and me after our family was shattered by the common tragedies of life. They were wonderful, godly people, but they were rather aged when we were small children. My aunt and uncle stepped up during that time and became like parents to us. They never had children of their own—because they intentionally invested their time into us. I never realized how costly this commitment must have been until I had a family of my own.

Aunt Sue lit the fire of wild, untamed adventure in my heart and fed my love for the outdoors with bountiful servings of God’s most secret places in creation. One of those secret places was the Big Rideau Canal in Ontario, Canada. It was there where she (and my uncle John) taught me the essentials of developing boyhood masculinity, like how to tie a fishing knot, how to shift gears on a motorcycle and how to keep the rod tip down so the big bass wouldn’t get away.

I slept in a canvas tent overlooking the Rideau Lake for nearly three months at a time, throughout two consecutive summers, put to bed every night by the symphony of the Katydid and the lullaby of the loons. I bathed in the lake and played in the woods. I developed skills that every boy should have, like splitting firewood, building a campfire, skipping rocks, cleaning fish, catching frogs and telling stories. This was the proving ground of my adolescence—the stepping-stone into adulthood, manhood and eventually fatherhood.

Away from the Big Rideau, my Aunt’s home was always one of my favorite places to visit. There was always the hope of a wood burning fire in her living room insert or a campfire in her back yard. Some of my earliest childhood memories are lying by a glowing fire, falling asleep to the sound of her voice singing an old country music tune (I believe it was a Willie Nelson song) in the tone of a lullaby. She told tales that I knew were more fiction than fact, but they were real to my imagination and fueled my future passions for storytelling and writing.

I think I will miss her more than anyone I have ever lost in my life. I will miss her laugh and her singing; her jokes, pranks and antics. I will miss her encouraging words and her genuine interest in my life and the lives of everyone around her. I will miss her tenacity for living and her passion for adventure. I will miss her faithful presence in my family and her love for my children, especially her care and compassion for my son Jake, who she most affectionately referred to as "Jacob G.G."

I will miss her greatly, but her legacy will live on in so many ways. It will come alive in the sounds of the summer nights and the crackling of the campfire. It will bring laughter as her stories are passed down and retold many years and even generations from now. It will breathe with new life each time I tie a hook on a fishing line, feel the tug of the rod or the rumble of my motorcycle.

Even greater, her legacy will live the fullest through the presence of my own motley tribe as I look with wonder at the children God has sovereignly gathered to my side and realize that love, more than anything, is an investment in the brokenness of life and “family” is not always conventional—but always intentional. 

Thank you Aunt Sue.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Elisha Foundation

My family attended our first TEF retreat three years ago and it changed our lives forever. Since then, TEF has become a very important part of our lives.

The Reimer's are changing the face of disability, by the grace of God, one family--one child--one orphan at a time.  

Watch this three minute introduction to their ministry and consider investing financially or as a volunteer. And, if you know a family struggling with disability, be sure to share this valuable resource with them. 

Also, consider investing in their latest fundraiser...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Thursday, May 3, 2012

When The Enemy Asks Questions About Disability

It is not uncommon for parents dealing with the difficulties of disability to stop and wonder, "What went wrong?" And as the enemy would have it, with the wondering of the mind comes the questioning of the soul.

Satan has been turning our answers into questions from the very beginning. (See Genesis 3:1-3)

It seems as if his tactics are the same when disability enters our lives: Was this my fault? Am I being punished for a sin I committed? Did I not pray enough, give enough, go to church enough? Is God angry at me? 

These are questions that almost all parents ask, or at least think of asking, at one time or another as the difficult journey through the valley of disability wears away our reasoning and tests our faith.

Only the gospel can give accurate answers: 

 1. Is this my fault? Be sure of this: disability came into the world through sin. "Therefore just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, so death spread to all men because all sinned." (Romans 5:12). Be sure of this also: All are affected by the sin of Adam, but all are responsible for their own sin. "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father; nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son." (Ezekiel 18:20). While it is accurate to say that your child's disability is the result of the fall of mankind, it is more accurate to think that everything under that fall is an intricate part of God's plan of redemption for your ultimate good and His ultimate glory!

 2. Am I being punished? If you have placed your faith in the work of Christ on the cross, the punishment for all of your sin--past, present and future--has fallen on His shoulders. "But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace; and by His wounds, we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) "For our sake, God made Him (Jesus) to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in Him (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21) "On the cross, God treated Jesus as if He had lived your life, so that for all eternity He could treat you as if you had lived His." (John MacArthur)

*A better question for believers to ask would be: Am I being disciplined?  I have no doubt that our disabled children are given to us as a form of discipline. But remember, discipline is not punishment. Our punishment was taken by Jesus so that we could receive discipline as sons. "For the Lord disciplines the one He loves; and chastises every son whom He receives." (Hebrews 12:6).  Discipline is meant to make us into disciples (that is the literal meaning of the word) by God's loving hand of instruction. Our children are agents of this discipleship.

The relentless care of a disabled child can produce some of the greatest emotional, spiritual and physical suffering this world knows. This is a beautiful picture of our sanctification, because while sanctification through suffering is temporarily unpleasant, it is always eternally profitable. God is always doing something when you are caring for your disabled child! "For the moment, all discipline seems painful, rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11).

 3. Did I not do enough to please God? No, you have not done enough. You will never be able to do enough. This is the heart of the gospel. "Without faith it is impossible to please Him." (Hebrews 11:6). You cannot please God in and of yourself because..."All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." Therefore you are made right before God--not by doing--but only by trusting. "...and are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood to be received by faith." (Romans 3:23-25). Jesus did enough to please God. God is pleased with you as you place your faith in Him. NOTHING else will be sufficient!

 4. Is God angry at me? He was, until you repented of your sin and placed your faith in Jesus. But God's anger has nothing to do with the disability of your child; it has everything to do with your own disability of sin. And that disability was dealt with when all of God's anger and all of God's wrath for all of your sin was cast on the shoulders of Jesus--the perfect and spotless sacrifice. That is what the cross is all about. (Remember Isaiah 53:5 and 2 Corinthians 5:21?) "Since, therefore, we have been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him (Jesus) from the wrath of God." (Romans 5:9). So now, if you are "in Christ", God is not angry with you. Your sin has been dealt with. He loves you as He loves Jesus. He accepts you as He accepts Jesus. He is happy with you as He is happy with Jesus.

"Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied. For every sin on Him was laid; here in the death of Christ, I live!"

So the next time the enemy comes to you asking questions about disability, turn those questions back into answers from the solid, healing, hopeful truth of the gospel.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sunday Means Someday Disability Will Be No More

“He charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, wondering what this rising from the dead might mean.” (Mark 9:9)

...and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.” (Mark 9:26-27)

“For He was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And when his is killed, after three days He will rise.’” (Mark 9:30)

Jesus tells his disciples that he will rise from the dead. They are perplexed. They don’t understand “what this rising from the dead might mean.”

So Jesus gives his disciples a real world illustration in the life of a father with a severely disabled son. Using disability as a picture, He teaches them about the resurrection.

A weary, desperate father brings his disabled, dying son to the disciples to be healed. When the disciples cannot heal the boy, the father runs to Jesus. Jesus heals the boy by casting out the spiritual forces of wickedness. The demonic departure leaves the boy “like a corpse, so that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’”

“He is dead.”

It could have ended there—he was dead—just like it could have ended after the cross. Jesus was dead. It could have ended there for all of us, if it weren’t for the next sentence.

“But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.” (Mark 9:27)

Did you see that disciples? That is what it will be like at the resurrection. He was disabled, now he is whole. He was mute, now he can speak. He was enslaved by the spiritual forces of wickedness, now he has been given back to his father. He was dead, but I took him by the hand and now he is alive. That is what it will be like at the resurrection! And I will lead the way. Because I rise, you will rise too!

Jesus was using a disabled child to teach His disciples about the resurrection!

“For He was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And when his is killed, after three days He will rise.’” (Mark 9:30)

For believers everywhere, resurrection Sunday is Jesus’ victory over death, hell, sin and Satan.

But for those of us who live in the valley of disability, resurrection Sunday also means Jesus is victorious over seizures, syndromes, blindness, deafness, muteness, disease and suffering.

Sunday means someday, my son will talk without a computer. He will see without glasses. He will understand without hinderance. He will rest without medication. He will walk without braces. And he will run without falling.

Sunday means someday a resurrected Jesus will take my son by the hand...and he will rise! He will rise with a new mind, a new body, a new heart and a new life.

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21)

Sunday is someday.

Come quickly Lord Jesus!

Friday, March 9, 2012

There is Hope!

"We wish we had known she was feeling this desperate, because we would have done what we could to help her.”

Those were the words of the Morgan Autism Center executive director, Jennifer Sullivan, in San Jose, CA after hearing about the tragic death of one of their clients, George Hodgins.

George was a 22 year old autistic man who lived at home with his parents and had attended the autism center since he was 6 years old. "He was a good kid, a very good kid. He loved to be outdoors, he loved hiking and walking and doing things like that." Sullivan said.

This was probably a great description of the man-child everyone at the center knew as “George”, but there is a darkness in the world of disability that few people realize. Even the professional caregivers that work so close with these special lives often seem to miss the extreme physical and emotional difficulties of parenting children with severe disabilities.

There is a shadow of hopelessness that often looms over the families struggling through the valley of disability. George’s mother, Elizabeth Hodgins found herself deep in that dark valley last Tuesday as she shot her autistic son to death in his bedroom before turning the gun on herself.

I cannot even begin to imagine the desperation and depression that leads to this kind of atrocity as a viable solution. (Or perhaps I just don’t want to allow myself to imagine things like this.)

Either way, there are many feelings that went through my mind when I first heard this story. I have to admit that anger was the first. How could a mother murder her disabled adult child? My anger quickly turned to frustration as I read the statement from the director of the autism center, "We wish we had known she was feeling this desperate, because we would have done what we could to help her.”

Really? You knew this family since George was 6 years old, and you had no idea that they were struggling so deeply?

And then my anger and frustration dissolved into personal conviction and self realization. I have been in this valley. I have stood in this darkness where no hope can be seen. I have looked into the future and seen nothing but pain and sadness. Jacob’s father is no better than George’s mother. (This is the real reason I do not want to imagine things like this.)

After the shooting, the autism center sent out a note to the parents making them aware of the situation. "I got back lots and lots of comments saying, 'We have all been there,' and, 'We've seen the black hole.' There's no question these children are difficult, and these families need help." Sullivan said.

"But let me tell you," she said, "parents of kids with autism are under a terrific amount of stress. Many of these children don't sleep at night. They wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning, and one of the parents has to get up, because they need constant supervision. It's an exhausting experience."

Exhausting, relentless, desperate...often hopeless. Those are all words that enter the thoughts of these weary parents.

Parents of autistic children can focus so much on day-to-day tasks that they rarely look ahead at their future.”, Sullivan said. "Then it hits them...my child is going to always be with me.' They ask, 'When is it going to end?' But it doesn't."

As I read and reread this tragic article, the urgency of ministry ignited my resolve.

This is why I write, teach and preach. This is why faithful men like John Knight blog and proclaim the glory of God in disability in the midst of great suffering. This is why Justin Reimer labors relentlessly (often in poverty) keeping The Elisha Foundation afloat like a rescue boat for these hurting families. This is why ladies like Julie Brown and Carrie Fellows and The Lakeview Ladies sacrificed to bring these families together. This is why Joni Eareckson Tada procalims God's glory from a wheelchair and writes of hope in the midst of the darkest suffering.

We’ve all been there. We are fathers and mothers and men and women and children who have walked through this valley. We know this darkness well.

We also know the only light that can shatter this darkness is the light of the gospel. And so for us, the “If we had known...” has turned into “We now know...”. And because we know, we will proclaim the hope of the gospel to these desperate, hurting, and often hope-less families.

If you are reading this today, I want you to know that there is hope. No matter how dark it may seem--there is hope. No matter what you have done--there is hope. No matter how unknown your future may be, there is a gracious God that has gone before you to prepare the way. He stands with outstretched arms proclaiming through the cross of His Son, "there is abundant hope waiting for you!"

    • Psalm 39:7 “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.
    • Psalm 42:5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God.
    • Psalm 62:5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
    • Psalm 71:5 For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
    • Psalm 119:114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.
    • Psalm 119:147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.
    • Psalm 130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.
    • Proverbs 23:18 Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.
    • Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
    • Lamentations 3:20-22 But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.
    • Acts 2:25-26 For David says concerning [Jesus], ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope.
    • Romans 5:2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
    • Romans 5:3-5 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
    • Romans 8:24-25 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
    • Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
    • Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
    • 1 Corinthians 13:7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
    • 2 Corinthians 1:10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.
    • 1 Timothy 4:10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
    • Titus 1:1-2...for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.
    • Hebrews 16:18-19 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.
    • Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
    • 1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
    • 1 Peter 1:13 Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
    • 1 Peter 1:20 [Jesus] was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

Friday, March 2, 2012

"This is My Son"

By his bed I watched him breathe as each breath seemed his last,

And in the darkness time stood still, yet moved so very fast.

Where is my faith, my trust, my hope? Where is this God of love?

“This is my son!” I cried aloud into the brass above.

Strong yet helpless there I sat and held his tiny hand,

And wondered if the God of Jacob were soon to make a stand.

As dreams once visioned disappeared and shattered in my eyes,

“This is my son!” rose from my lips and shouted to the skies.

That night was long, and dark, and numb, I will forget it not.

It emptied me of everything...of word, and deed, and thought.

Deals were made and desperate plans created in the strife,

“This is my son! And for his life, I will give my life!”

The darkness thickened like a fog and hid all trace of light.

It brought me low and there below ensued an awful fight.

I wrestled till the break of dawn and gave no certain ground,

“This is my son!” I won’t let go, till mercy will be found.

He wrapped me in His painful grip and held me there till dawn.

I fought and kicked against the goad, till all my strength was gone.

Bruised and beat He held me there, against my shattered will,

And gently whispered in my ear, “I love you, and will love you still.”

In the morning when I woke, the room was filled with light

And there I saw, and held in awe, the meaning of this fight.

“This is my Son”, He said to me, pointing to the cross.

“I know your hurt; I know your pain; I know your suffering loss.”

“I am not one who stands aloft, and watches without care.

I know when every sparrow falls. I number every hair.

This son of yours is also mine, before all time began.

Within His life and suffering, resides my perfect plan.”

“This is my Son! And He has died so all the sons may live.

Greater love has no man shown, than of his life he gives.

A sacrifice for death and sin and grace forever true.

This is my Son, and on this tree I show my love for you.”

I left the darkness bathed in light, and love, and hope, and grace,

Limping from the dreadful fight that brought me face to face.

“This is my son!” I smiled with joy, no health or wealth could bring,

And we will stand upon this Rock, and of His Son we’ll sing.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Window Seat

I am forty-five years old and I still jockey for the window seat on the airplane. My wife sometimes laughs at me as I press my nose to the window of the aircraft like a kid visiting the Orca tank at Sea World.

The very fact that a 300 ton piece of metal (that's about the weight of 30 African elephants) can fly through the air at 500 mile per hour will never cease to amaze me. I am astounded at people who actually choose not to sit by the window, or those who can sit in their seats with their nose in a magazine during take off.

I want to commandeer the flight attendant's microphone and announce, “People, we are leaving the earth in a giant metal bird! We are going to fly six miles in the sky at over 500 miles per hour! Look out the window for crying out loud!”

Sometimes I think I must be strange.

As amazing as sitting in a chair 35,000 feet in the sky with a peripheral view of the planet seems to be, there is something else that stuns me as I gaze out the window: God has used the story of a severely disabled, non-verbal, autistic boy to reach so many different people with the good news of His hope, that I have to fly on an airplane to go see all of them.

Last week, Jake’s story lead me to Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn Alabama, where a group of gospel determined ladies came up with the idea of bringing together as many families touched by disability as they could possibly find in their immediate community. But they didn’t stop there. They also sought out teachers, educators, administrators and pivotal leaders, inviting them all to an elegant candlelight dinner in an extremely welcoming environment.

When all was said and done, the count was over 200 parents, educators, leaders and children. I have never personally observed so many people from one community, in one place, at one time, with the commonality of disability. It was emotionally overwhelming for me to look out into that room and watch families--so often secluded by disability--talking, laughing and connecting within a community of special needs. It was also moving to see so many volunteers giving, serving and sacrificing for these special families.

As dinner was winding down, they set up a podium and wired me to a microphone. After introducing me, my family and my book, they asked me to say something inspiring to this large, eager, motley crew. What a daunting task!

I began with these words:

“I’m here to tell you a story about a father and his disabled son. It’s probably not the story you are expecting me to tell. It’s not from the book I wrote. It’s from another book--the most important book you will ever read. My hope and prayer as you leave here tonight is that this story, which is God’s story, will become your story too.”

I then proceeded to tell the story from Mark Chapter 9 of a father who brings his disabled son to Jesus. I was a little shocked at the fact that I spoke for nearly an hour. I was even more shocked that no one even flinched at the time. No one left early, and no one fell asleep (even after eating a huge dinner late in the evening)! As I spoke I had a powerful sense that these people were hungry, not for the food they just ate, but for the hope that God’s word was providing.

The more opportunities I get to tell my story, the more it becomes clear that it is not my story that people need to hear. Although it is good to have a personal illustration of hope within the presentation of the gospel, it is the gospel alone that gives true and lasting hope.

On the flight back home, thousands of feet in the air, I gazed out at the beautiful night sky. The lights of many cities were shining like stars on a giant crystal lake. I held the hand of my wife and thought of all the dark, difficult and impossible trials we had faced in the past and how God had strategically used every one of them to prepare us for the present and point us towards future grace.

I have heard parents say that living with disability is often like living with a huge weight around your neck. Sometimes that weight is unbearable. But even if that weight were as heavy as a Boeing 747 (or a flock of African elephants), the gospel of grace takes impossible weight and lifts it heavenward, speeding us towards the destination God has sovereignly ordained.

Many of us are on this flight together. My story is just one window on this massive aircraft. Perhaps you have a window seat too. Our calling then is to rouse the passengers, rescue them from their magazines, Iphones and Kendles, and encourage them to look out and see the magnificent miracle of the gospel of hope.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Elisha Foundation Winter Retreat 2012

There is something serene and satisfying about the Oregon Coast in the winter. The sheer beauty of the state of Oregon added to the craggy beach where waves cover giant boulders with foam and Haystack Rock juts from the ocean like a surfacing whale making a guest appearance on the beach--paints a breathtaking backdrop.

Nestled on the end of this ocean front town is the Cannon Beach Christian Conference Center; an oasis last week for twelve families struggling with disability.

Justin Reimer, his busy family, and an army of volunteers have also descended on this conference center. It is a beautiful array of the body of Christ lifting up the indispensability of the seemingly weaker members. (1 Corinthians 12:22).

We have gathered and we are on guard; because no matter how much serenity is before us, the enemy is always prowling around us seeking someone or something good to devour.

Such was the case before and throughout the retreat as health problems nearly sidelined me from ministering to these special families with the hope of the gospel. Four weeks prior to the retreat I developed a mysterious and nearly debilitating stomach illness that almost prompted me to call Justin and cancel my trip. Once in Oregon I was desperately dependent on the encouragement of friends, the prayers of the saints and the grace of God.

At the end of day one of the retreat I was so discouraged that I wondered if I could go on. A good friend, and the pastor who taught at the very first TEF retreat our family attended, sent me an email containing a excerpt from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress where Christian meets Apollyon on God’s Highway.

Accusations are flung by the enemy and an attack ensues in order to prevent Christian from moving forward. In a dramatic battle, Christian overcomes with the armor of God and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

I finished the email comforted by the prayers of the saints and then poured over the scripture for promises and hope. It came the next morning as I awoke strengthened and ready for the fight. God put three very significant passages and three very strong truths in my head and on my heart.

1. 1 Peter 5:8 Satan is like a lion.

2. Revelation 5:5 Jesus is the Lion of Judah.

3. 2 Timothy 4:17 When the real Lion roars, the fake lion flees.

"But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth."

That morning was the Parent Talk, where we gathered the dads and moms in a room around a fireplace and let them talk about the personal difficulties that come with raising disabled children. It soon became obvious why I had been fighting this spiritual battle.

I listened as fathers wept over their broken children and mothers clung to the hope of certain promises from God’s word. I heard some couples openly admit to struggling marriages while others gave testimony of rescued relationships. I listened to strong confessions of very raw fear and saw evidence of grace from very real sin.

That night I spoke to the families from Mark 9 where Jesus heals a disabled boy with a seizure disorder, possessed by an evil spirit. We talked in depth about spiritual warfare and its role in our families. I told them to run to Jesus with their most desperate scenario and to be aware of spiritual warfare, but focus on the sovereignty of God in all things.

We ended as couples joined together to pray for their children, their families and their marriages.

It was a long, wonderful, and emotionally draining evening. I was weary from battle, but I found peace and strength in the fact that it had been granted to me on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, (Philippians 1:29). This suffering was the school where I learned to depend more and more on the God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:9)

The retreat ended on several high notes as more than one family gave testimony of renewed strength from the gospel and a stronger view of God's sovereignty and purpose in their lives.

The Reimer’s have a very special ministry at TEF. It is a beautiful foundation, set in beautiful locations, building beautiful relationships. But the most beautiful aspect of TEF is the focus on the delivery of the gospel to often hopeless and hurting families. And lest we think that all of this beauty means certain safety and comfort, the evil one stands in direct opposition on God’s Highway to keep that gospel from reaching those who need it most. But we have a strong weapon against the enemy.

Martin Luther got it right,

“And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.”

And so did John Bunyan,

“Now, being refreshed, we resume our journey, keeping a tight grip on our sword.”

(Special thanks to Cassi Jacobs LeTourneau for the photography)