Soul School – Lesson 46: The Story of How “Heathens” Received my Son

Soul School – Lesson 46: The Story of How “Heathens” Received my Son

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Welcome to SOUL SCHOOL.

These brief “lessons” are released each Wednesday
(on “Hump Day” aka Midweek).

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Scroll down for the AUDIO PLAYER to hear the epsiode.

INTRO:
Today, I share a personal story as springboard for something about compassion offered in context.

Many of you might not know that my husband and I have a special needs son named Nathan. (We also have a normally-developing daughter named Gabrielle, who we usually call “Ellie”. See photos of both of them below.) It’s been very arduous over the years with Nathan’s myriad of challenges and a strain on the whole family in many ways. To those friends, teachers, family, and others (too many to name) who have been helpful and supportive over the years, we say “thank you”.

What I am sharing today relates mainly to Nathan finding rich connection, friendship, or being truly accepted among his self-identified Christian/church going peers. Acceptance is a challenge for many typically developing children and teens. Children and teens by nature are immature, so I don’t (and didn’t) expect things to go perfectly!

His story is far from unique and neither is my pain as his parent watching it unfold. In a Christian setting, we’d like to think that rejection doesn’t happen too much because children might be influenced by church teachings and leadership. Or, Children and teens might be influenced by their Jesus-loving parents to act in ways that loving receive others with equality, but that was not our son’s experience.

When “being a mascot” is the best your child can hope for in terms of acceptance (that is to say that being ostracized is normal and being treated as a ” ‘Hey there little buddy!’ mascot” is a more rare but rather humiliating experience), your context as a family, how you help your child cope, and who shows up as your salvation, can take a surprising turn.

This personal story is the springboard for a deeper reflection today: about how we find our way in the world, make life better for ourselves and others, and maybe find some healing in the process.

What our family’s experiences showed me was that we can provide for others best out of the context from which we come, eventually. Examining those needs, hurts, and context can (possibly) yield a harvest of “good fruit”, eventual healing, and service to others. And maybe (with some new awareness), as we become more mature we can be increasingly mindful to ways we distance ourselves from people we fear. We also distance ourselves from people who unconsciously reflect parts our own weakness or insecurities back to us, and sometimes we distance ourselves from others we deem un-preferred to our sensibilities (or our cultures’  sensibilities) and are unlike us. If we can begin to see this, it’s a start. 

• Thanks for listening today! Blessing and peace.

See the show notes below for my two previous fantastic conversations on the theology of disability and hospitality from Dr. Thomas Reynolds. He offers some truly inspiring and enlightening things in these areas that are likely to be completely new ground for you and your community.

AUDIO PLAYER:


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SHOW NOTES:

This is Nathan.

nathanandmore
Pictured in photo: Nathan, his friend Cori, Nathan’s sister Ellie, and Luna–our dog.
A little bit about Nathan: Nathan loves to make videos on his youtube channel about trains, how-to videos, and animation videos. He loves working at his part-time job (large scale yard work), spending time with friends, making things from soda cans, drawing, playing with Luna, and coming up with fanciful business ideas. He also enjoys posting on his Instagram account. You can follow him on those outlets and encourage him, if you’d like. He loves connecting with new friends and fans. (And if you send him train video footage or interesting video script ideas he might try to create new videos with them.)


Nathan’s video channel trailer:

More on the the study and theology of disability and hospitality.

Tom Reynolds – Part I

Tom Reynolds – Part II


Thank you so very much for listening today.

Hear other recent episodes:


Pick an option below!

Episode 21 (PART II Tom Reynolds) “Care isn’t so much “doing for” but “being with”

Episode 21 (PART II Tom Reynolds) “Care isn’t so much “doing for” but “being with”


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Tom Reynolds
Tom Reynolds, PhD

 

Shownotes: PART II
A conversation with Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality, author Tom Reynolds

 

Bio:
Tom joined the Emmanuel College (part of the University of Toronto) faculty in 2007. He is committed to an interdisciplinary, practical, and relational vision of theology, and his teaching and research address a range of topics related to constructive theology (particularly the doctrine of God and theological anthropology), theological method, intercultural and interfaith engagements, contextual theologies and globalization, philosophical theology, disability studies, and the thought and influence of Friedrich Schleiermacher.

His recent Articles

Email: tom.reynolds@utoronto.ca

MIN 00:30

Tom on Theodicy – The question of why does God allow suffering and how should we think about suffering.

1:00

How would Tom, as a theologian answer the question, “Why would a sovereign God allow a person to be born disabled and encounter such suffering?”

2:20

The Why questions and the answers are messy, ongoing, and evolving. These answers are limited and open to ongoing revision.

3:00

Reframing needed. Question the question and its suppositions about seeing suffering first and foremost as the issue.

3:40

If we are pitying a disabled person and seeing them how we would interpret suffering, we might be off base.

4:10

Exclusion as suffering. Social suffering is something we can alleviate as the church or community.

4:40

Tom on the central questions of Theodicy.

5:30

What would a good world be? Interdependent and that holds up the preciousness and fragility of life and human experience as valuable. Good things can be fragile things.

6:30

Does God cause suffering and determine it? Maybe it’s (all) unfolding for us in mysterious ways.

7:40

Book of John, chapter 9: The man born blind.

Who sinned? (disciples of Jesus thinking of blindness as a curse)

So the glory of God can be revealed. (What might that mean that we haven’t understood yet. [Lisa])

The story is less about curing the disabled and more about reveal Jesus’ power and legitimacy as the Messiah.

9:20

NT Wright author of Evil and the Justice of God

(on the Problem of Evil)

• God as the Incarnation steps into human suffering as a means to assuage it and also, in that, provides us a model for how to encounter it in the world ourselves, practically speaking.

The answers to suffering can become “incarnational”, not cerebral and (held) at a distance.

12:00

The why questions signal a (good) unsettledness which can be productive…

12:20

1. God is bigger than our questions and we should feel free to engage in dialogue with God and each other about God.

2. And because it calls us to live into the world and the lives of people will engage who ask, “Where are you?” and we can be there in presence and not (just) with answers.

13:00

“being-with”

(The heart of Incarnational living.)

13:30

In many cases God’s own presence is us to each other.

14:00

“Care isn’t so much “doing for” but “being with”.”

15:00

1 in 5 families regularly encounters a serious disability of some kind.

15:30

We (as a family) chose to continue to come to church even though it was sometimes messy so he (and everyone) could figure out how to make it work. (Lisa)

16:00

How can people in Christian Communities or leaders in Christian communities do better when it comes to being truly hospitable  and caring well for people with disabilities.

17:00

Training ministers to come along side is important.

17:30

In his mission and intro to Theology class, what is framed is practical wisdom lived out in relationships of caring regard with other people. (not in the academic halls or in isolation).

18:00

On developing the perception to see/understand differently and to see places where people have been harmed by certain ways of seeing these…like the healing narratives…illness as curses from God, or metaphors of seeing and hearing language and attitudes (able-ism) for example.

18:50

How to show consideration:

Asking before you assist someone. Or asking how you can best help and not presuming that you know (or know better).

Listen first, then do.

19:30

Ministry doesn’t have to be deficit-focused to the “needy”…but rather possibility focused.

As all people of resources and gifts [are] welcome among the community…this turns things upside-down.

20:30

Think of people as sites of wisdom that help a community of belonging.

21:00

1 Cor 12:25

Members having the same care for one another. All can care and contribute.

Living out the image of God with shared affinity.

22:00

Transformative and vulnerable communion within our communities…being together.

23:20

[There is] dignity in participation. (Lisa)

Allowing people to serve along side means that we are equal.

25:40

Equality isn’t sameness. Difference doesn’t mean a hierarchy.

27:40

(Tom) Music is my therapeutic other life.


 

A Call for Help!
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Episode 20 – Puncturing the Illusions of our own Ableism and Flawed Ideas of Normal (with Tom Reynolds) part 1

Episode 20 – Puncturing the Illusions of our own Ableism and Flawed Ideas of Normal (with Tom Reynolds) part 1

Tom Reynolds
Tom Reynolds, PhD

 

Shownotes: PART I
A conversation (in 2 parts) with

the author of Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality, by practical theologian Tom Reynolds

 

Bio:
Tom joined the Emmanuel College (part of the University of Toronto) faculty in 2007. He is committed to an interdisciplinary, practical, and relational vision of theology, his teaching and research address a range of topics related to constructive theology (particularly the doctrine of God and theological anthropology), theological method, intercultural and interfaith engagements, contextual theologies and globalization, philosophical theology, disability studies, and the thought and influence of Friedrich Schleiermacher.

His recent Articles

Email: tom.reynolds@utoronto.ca

MIN 4:00

Incorporating the theology of disability into his work training pastors at Emmanuel Seminary, because theology is personal, and not disconnected from the real world concerns of the church and people living their lives.

4:30

About his son Chris sparking his interest and work in the theology of disability.

5:30 Learning that disability isn’t a problem to figure out, but rather it’s about a person who I love and live with, and care with and for, which radically reoriented my perspective on theology.

5:50

Disability and God’s Providence

(Questioning does God “cause” disability as a curse or opportunity for healing…or a kind of moral lesson…)

6:30

His son exploded the theological categories (and assumptions) pertain to Providence…making everything confusing and needing to be re-thought.

7:00

What is abnormal? What is “faulty” humanity?

Amos Yong, Hans Reinders, John Swinton writing on the topic too.



8:15

Tom details the new book on the Theology of Care which builds on the first book.

8:40

Some churches stress Cure over Care in terms of disability.

8:50

(Lisa) My visit to a church where the leadership was interested in healing my son from his non normative experience of the world.

10:00

The range of responses churches have when encountering people with disabilities.

The  church’s “urge to cure” is better than outright exclusion, which plenty of families have encountered.

11:00

It comes from the the idea of remaking and fixing someone in a way that is more comfortable for non disable people and normalcy (what they consider normal). Not helpful or Christian.

12:00

About the church that didn’t want his son as a disruption and a church that did receive them.

13:00

“How can we help you?” was water for his parched soul. How the church accepted and welcomed the uniqueness of his son.

14:15

Hospitality vs. a narrow view of what is preferred.

15:00

The messiness of various kinds of people, in general, means we have to expand our view of grace.

15:30

Who gets to be a full-fledge member of the church community?

and the “mascot syndrome” for those with disabilities.

16:30 – 17:50

Levels and types of responses:

• Tolerate disabled, but they do not get to be a true part of the church.

• “Inclusion” sometimes means means the the “outsiders” get invites to the inside group based on the good graces of the in group, but are still treated as problems to be solved, or people that are to receive the gestures of charity from others (people for whom things are “done for (them”)”. Doing for instead of “being with”.

18:00

What is access? In is not just accommodations (i.e. ramps and special bathrooms) and alterations but ongoing…

Faith communities may be not expecting and not ready to receive those with disabilities.

18:30

It’s not an issue about outsiders, because disability extend to a broad range of issues, both visible and not visible, including mental health challenges that are already there.

18:50

Thinking of the word “BELONGING”

as in “to be longed for when you aren’t there in the fullest sense.”

John Swinton and belonging

19:40

Jean Vanier “In giving and receiving do we really thrive as people”

20:30

Unconscious bias that includes “fear of the stranger” and “fear of the stranger within”.

21:00

We fear weakness and vulnerability.

21:30

Before “mainstream”…the stigma of “retard”…and fearing and disposing weakness.

22:20

Nathan means gift. (Lisa) I learned that I had to recognize weaknesses (shortcomings) in myself the I saw reflected in my son…and communities can do the same type of thing unconsciously.

23:00

“The encounter with disability punctures the illusions of what we think of as our own strengths.”

23:50

The journey with a child with disabilities is isolating.

25:30

Societal epidemic that fears being vulnerable or perceived as weak or unable to perform in ways that are considered valuable by society.

26:00

We have to see what are myths about autonomy, independence, and productivity where are assume we are self-reliant and these qualities are prized so highly. “Able-ism” (The idea that being able in body and mind is normal and most vital which serves as the lens by which we see and judge the world and others outside those parameters as faulty.)

27:00

Tom’s latest work called “A spirituality of attentiveness”. Christianity: St Paul’s strength in weakness serves as a prophetic witness against a society that prizes the strong as the main thing of value. 1 Corinthinians pretense of strength undercuts our ideas of grace)

29:20

We are all only temporarily-abled. (Lisa).

31:00

On hearing “You must be so blessed to have a disabled person as a teacher.” Is this sometimes a reframing of the situation that spins the situation to be more palatable? A glossing with spiritual truths and making it about spiritual growth.

31:20

Instead, Chris’s life seeks its own flourishes, and he may at times function as a teacher.

33:00

Thoughts on intellectual ability (or inability) and belief in terms of Salvation.

God’s works God’s own path in different ways and in different capacities with people. This undercuts my arrogance (as a theologian), so I don’t think I can so easily map it out definitively and universal for all people in all places.

34:00

His son’s atheism (who is the God he doesn’t believe in)…and how that challenges our presuppositions about God.

34:50

“It is in the kind of relationships of mutual belonging that the full image of God is borne out.”

35:30

(Lisa) To my son I said, “when you see someone who is loving you, you are seeing God.”

(Lisa) On how I changed from thinking “right belief” as the way to understand God was central. Our intellectualizing what God has done is not salvific.

38:00

Martin Luther’s theology of the Cross:

The pretense that we know exactly where God is and how God works. Where God is most hidden is where God is most vividly revealed in saving ways.

38:30

“Who I am to declare that God’s grace only works in some ways? and the God’s capacity and God’s own mystery is limited to what I would deem and my community would deem adequate.”

39:30

What the practical theology of disability tells us about Grace with God and relationships with others.

40:00

“The longer I live and work as a theologian the more I realize the limitations of theology and the true infinite mysteries of God.”

Jesus was disruptive to religious pretense and suppositions. “You say this..but I say this…”

Theodicy – The question of why does God allow suffering and how should we think about suffering.

How Tom, as a theologian, answers the question,
“Why would a sovereign God allow a person to be born disable and encounter such suffering?” (This is great!)

The best is yet to come! Come back for part II next week.

Will you help me meet my goal of raising $100.00 in August to keep Spark My Muse going? Use the Donate button on the left sidebar. Thank you for being a big ball of love!

Finding Your Purpose: Using the WISP method (part II)

Here we are at PART II.

If you didn’t read the first post in the series,
it’s the important first step.

You don’t want the ISP method. That would be weird. :)


 

Read about the “W” by clicking HERE.


journal

As I’ve studied transformation and purpose I’ve noticed there seems to be something slippery about it. Sometimes we can feel derailed or question our purpose. It’s rather ordinary, in fact.

The famous people in the Bible went though times of doubt and I’m glad those ancient accounts are included because it helps to know that the human condition is rife with slumps, bumps, murky waters, aimless wilderness periods, and questions about what we should be doing on this “Big Blue Marble”.

 

We tend to see these periods of purposelessness or doubt as problems instead of as part of the journey.

The WISP technique is something I came up with to keep me on track.

I find that keeping a notebook of the process makes it much simpler.


 

Did you do your homework?
Make sure you do it before you encounter the next step, okay?


 

STEP 2

“I”

Inquiry

 

General inquiry is not what the “I” in WISP is about.

This step of the process helps to loosen our firm grip on seeing and directing our lives as usual.

This type of inquiry:

  • is one of faith
  • leaves some open-end questions up in the air, for now
  • digs down deeper into underlying blocks and fears
  • taps into a greater understanding of human purpose and how to get there

For this step, you get your handy-dandy notebook out and start by making a list of all the questions you have on your mind right now. What’s bothering you?

Write. It. Down.

There may be many questions. Just get started. Write as much as you can for about 10 minutes.

As you write them out you will find that categories or patterns emerge. If you don’t, let the questions sit and add more in a day or so. Then, look again. If you still don’t see patterns, ask for help from someone you trust.


Examples of possible inquiry/question patterns:

  • What can I do that I love that will provide enough money right now?
  • What have I enjoyed doing the most and what happened during those times?
  • What will it take to get prepared for the next leg and how will I pay for it?
  • What caused my last failure and how could I have prepared better?
  • What is bothering me about Mr [So & so]’s success?

 

Do you see the pattern that started to emerge here?

It’s Money.
Fear of failure and jealousy are cropping up too. All good to see.

When we put down our burning questions our fears will be revealed.

 

Our fears cloud the way to finding our purpose, but…

“The remarkable thing is that our fears themselves are not the obstacles but the vehicles that lead to finding and fulfilling our purpose.” -LD

Example:

Josie finds it hard to find her purpose. She’s been unhappy at her job and wants to make a bigger difference in the world. 

Through inquiry she locates the root of her fears, and realizes that her compassion for the intellectually disabled is because of her own story.

She always felt stupid in school. A learning disability made it hard for her to read in first grade. Eventually, she did well in school, but the fear of not being smart enough still distracts her and clouds the pursuits of her greater purpose.

Josie’s purpose lies in working closely with this population.

Upon realizing this, Josie sets out with new verve to get experience and the additional skills needed to find other more meaningful work and accomplish her greater purpose. She creates goals to get there.

Goals are measurable. Wishes are not.

During a period of inquiry we may inquire of God and others we trust, too, but we have to do our hard work ourselves, and not cop out.

If we ask questions of them, we have to be prepared to both listen without judgment and superimposing our wishes and agenda (for the time being), but also we need remove the weeds from all that we are hearing get to the best and most useful parts for the next step. No ACTION is required, just honest inquiry, awareness, and digging around.

In this stage, answering all the questions isn’t as important as having the guts to ask them honestly.

The next step is “S”.

(scroll down)


 

Sometimes just doing the first two steps will create a breakthrough. You may have found your purpose already. If that happened, I encourage you to see the whole method through regardless. If you find yourself closer to understanding your purpose right now, that’s great, but you’ll be surprised by the next two Steps, and you shouldn’t miss out on them.


 

HOMEWORK:

Make your inquiry list.

You don’t have to answers the questions yet, just put them out there.

Let them percolate for a few days and then return to them. 

Note what patterns emerge. Add new questions.

See what new perspective you come up with.


Click for the next post here.

 

10 Misconceptions Christians have about non believers

Christ Pantocrator study

DUCKMARX via Compfight

This might read heavy because I’m confronting some pervasive concepts. It’s like I’m playing the heavy, but try to read it in a gracious spirit because it is meant to bring clarity not conflict. Plus, I have a damp sense of humor  [not too wet and not super dry either] so take that into account. Chill and stuff.

Okay, buckle in for the bit of Groundwork:

First, from my end, I make no secret here that I see things from the paradigm of a Christian worldview. This has been my family background, my life experience, and the central feature in my graduate education. That’s my lens.

In having a lens I’m not alone. In fact, every one sees reality through his or her own lens, but not everyone will really investigate and coordinate their worldview in a consistent way. I won’t either, not because I’m not making an effort, but because seeing the task to completion is so massive and unwieldy. As I approach this topic I come with a vatanage point…and so do you.

We can take as a given:
Our beliefs will cloud our perceptions and our perceptions will work to evidence our already held beliefs
–except in rare cases where we make a focused and conscious effort to consider or accept another point of view. Those cases are quite rare because we tend to use our life experiences to back up what we already think is true. (I’m reiterating.) So, when a change happens–it can be big. This is essentially how the Christian idea of “conversion” plays out too: A person is thinking one thing about reality, and somehow becomes convinced of something else and has a turnaround to something new. Christians would also say God had a direct part in igniting that process.

Peeking outside the Bubble:
In learning more about the people outside the Christian belief “bubble,” I’ve noticed that plenty of my assumptions about non Christians were flawed, false, or incomplete. Other times, I’ve noticed that while some of these perceptions may ring true at first blush, they more often reflect a universal truth about what it means to be human, (and do not effectively describe the group that doesn’t ascribe to the Christian belief system.)

The 10 misconceptions are things that many Christians want to be true. If they are not it could convince them that Christianity doesn’t provide the best answers. This fear can cause people to be even more unreasonable or averse to mystery…even though Christianity is chocked full of mystery. I’ve come to a place where I am more settled with mystery.

Christianity provides a framework for me, and everyone has a framework whether they know it or not and whether they like it or not. Christianity takes many shapes in different eras and in different cultures. Since I came from a conservative fundamentalist background I first saw the world through that lens. I haven’t retained all those same beliefs. Now the beliefs I ascribe to are not as important as the person I am becoming. Jesus as God-man is plausible and that is fine for me. For others, that simply will not be enough. For non Christians it will be too narrow for their spirituality. I also  realize that Christians may sometimes perpetuate myths for an imperious framework needed to maintain fervency.

Better that we see these misconceptions for what they are than run afoul with them and forget whose image is the object of our recreation. (That would be Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, if you aren’t following me.) I give you these misconceptions to expand your ideas about the Christian framework and how it can help more than hurt.

Now to the 10 Misconceptions:

1. Non believers aren’t spiritual, or at best they are pseudo spiritual.

This is false because the amount of mystery and the unknown in life as we perceive it (being finite in mind and body) all point to the spiritual (the unseen). What is pseudo spiritual to some is more likely to be something that smacks as out of sync with one’s prescribed Christian beliefs. We are all spiritual and what we try to understand outside of we what is know is be definition spiritual, whether is a referred at that or not. The interest in spiritual things has been vibrant throughout human history as long as we have been trying to understanding our world. The “brand” (if you will) of spiritual that is may be may be off-putting depending on your experience, training, or preferences. Ex: “Using Tarot cards is pseudo spiritual.” Actually, using them is an attempt to understand the spiritual, but for Christians it falls outside the scope of what is acceptable because of the tenants residing in the Bible.

2. Non believers aren’t happy because they don’t know Jesus.

This is a complex and interesting misconception because it assumes that Christians are happy, by contrast. Many are not. Many are miserable and their Christian belief system has not given them this happiness. Christians may behave as if they are discontent or unhappy also. Certainly some Christians are content and at peace for periods of time, and some are remarkably hopeful and peaceful is even the most horrible circumstances. Nevertheless this is also true of non Christians.

3. Non believers do good things to “get them to heaven”, or to otherwise alleviate their sin-guilt.

What is more often the case is that people (Christian and non) try to do good things because they feel they should. Their motivations are quite varied and prove to be shallow or to be deep. Christians, though they may feel their eternal destiny is secure, will do good things sometimes for reasons just as poorly conceived as non believers. Strangely, it can boil down, in the final count, to semantics. It’s false to guess the true motivations of why people do good. Better to do Good for the love of it and accept the good at face value as it can only be originally sourced in the Source of goodness–apart from whom no goodness dwells. The idea that actual goodness cannot come from non Christians contradicts the Christian precept that a good God has created all of us and that same God works through all of creation, (and even those who do not knowledge “him”.)

4. Non believers can’t have peace with God.

For Christians, peace with God usually looks like a publicly confessed accession to the belief that Jesus is the Savior who died for the sins of humankind (i.e. somehow understanding atonement). But, in general, peace with God is probably as varied as there are people in the world. Grace is sufficient and comes in a manner of ways that point to the ultimate work of Grace that is of and from God. If by peace we are really speaking of contentment, and not atonement, then many do arrive at peace with God at some point in their lives. Many also arrive at a place of grace and forgiveness as it is God’s prerogative how this happens. The very idea of grace necessitates that a mental ascension is not the crux of the matter at all. Sometimes it is not at all involved as any modicum of studying a Christian theology of (mental) disability will reveal. Grace does not require anything on the part of the recipient accept perhaps a sort of acceptance. What that does or doesn’t have to be has be a rueful point over the years but is actually quite simple and easy if we are to believe in its true nature.

5. Non believers have misperceptions about reality and their place in the world.

Our finite minds give each person the opportunity to routinely misperceive reality, regardless of her beliefs in Jesus or God. No one has the corner on this problem. We share our foolishness in this regard across the whole spectrum of humankind. To think otherwise is to underscore the misperception.

Since this post is getting too long, the next 5 misconceptions will be revealed in the next post-here.

Thanks for reading!

Pass this along, will you?

Do you agree? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

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