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To mourn a child.

There are losses so profound that special words are used to describe a new state of being – when you lose a parent you are called an orphan, bereaved spouses are called widows and widowers.

In the English language (and Afrikaans), there is no term that describes the loss of a child – perhaps the loss of a child is not perceived as different from other losses.

Jacob lived 22 years in the belief that Joseph, his son, had died. When his sons returned to Canaan without Simeon, Jacob was beside himself.

Jacob uttered the Hebrew word in Genesis 42:36 that is used for a parent that has lost a child – shakhul. He said to his sons: “…You have bereaved me; Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin.”

Shakhul is simply translated as “bereaved”, not capturing its true meaning.

Shakhul is used a few times in the Bible (for example Gen. 27:45, Gen. 42:36, Gen. 43:14), and means to “be robbed of offspring”. This Hebrew term reserved for bereaved parents describes their initiation into the unenviable fellowship of shakhul.

 The recognition of being shakhul does not make this journey any easier, but there is comfort: the LORD treats the loss of a child in an honest and real way – as it should be. He designates a word that describes a parent that lives with the pain of losing a child – acknowledging that the loss is unique, traumatic and heart wrenching. The pain becomes a new reality – there is no new normality.

Revelation 21:4 “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

God bless, Anje

posted in: Hidden Truths

You've done a splendid job of capturing not only our visit with Ralph but also the impression he's made on so many of us, Mark.

Ralph is one of the CRC disability advocates who early on made such a strong and positive impression on me as the RCA's Disability Concerns ministry began its work with CRC Disability Concerns. Like you, I've had the privilege of seeing Ralph's gifts and skills shine in many arenas since we met six years ago — chairing meetings, leading workshops, planning conferences, managing a business, gathering resources for mission, networking and making connections, mentoring others … (the list goes on). Each is noteworthy and commendable, but as you've so beautifully captured in this post, what many of us in Ralph's cloud of witnesses admire most are his deep faith, gentle spirit, and indefatigable approach to life in the face of mounting challenges.

Beautiful and touching story. Thank you so much for sharing this, Mark.

Thanks for this great testimony. 

My very first meeting in GR, I had the privilege of sitting with Hank and Ralph at a table for the day.  Learned so much from the two of them and laughed a lot that day.  Peace and blessings to Ralph.  

This graph shows US measles deaths were negligible by the time the vaccine was introduced.


There is no vaccine for scarlet fever and yet it has practically disappeared similar to diseases for which a vaccine was created to take the credit for the natural reduction of cases and deaths due to improved sanitation and nutrition.

The following excerpt is from the American 1984 DHHS federal register, which listed final rules pertaining to the polio vaccination campaigns in USA after three decades of scandal and misinformation:


"any possible doubts, whether or not well founded, about the safety of the vaccine cannot be allowed to exist in view of the need to assure the vaccine will continue to be used to the maximum extent consistent with the nation's public health objectives"

In other words deny any possible risk of vaccination - just vaccinate.  Like putting one's head in the sand and hoping for the best.



Readers, as Joy knows, she and I had a discussion about some of these topics not long ago, in case anyone would like to read the ways I addressed some of the concerns Joy raises, in particular, the effectiveness of vaccines, the claim that vaccines are made using aborted fetuses, and the link suggested between vaccines and autism. 

There is also the issue of 'Original Antigenic Sin' that makes the vaccinated more vulnerable to the very diseases they were vaccinated against.  A vaccinated person is not only able to catch the disease but can even get the disease more than once.

For more info read:

Someone has said: "We shouldn't be expected to set our children on fire to keep other children warm".  As there are risks with every vaccine parents should not be coerced into vaccinating their children.

You are assuming that vaccines are actually effective.  There have been many cases of epidemic of diseases such as measles and mumps in highly vaccinated environments, with the vaccinated being affected practically just as much as the unvaccinated.

In reality vaccines provide a false sense of security.  Also a number of vaccines such as the MMR are live virus vaccines, i.e. can shed the virus for weeks. 

No they are not authoritative.  However, they do show what the general public feeling was regarding measles, i.e. it was not regarded as a fearsome deadly disease.


Of course Wikipedia could hardly be regarded as authoritative on any subject.  It is curious how once they introduce a vaccine then the propaganda starts exaggerating the disease to scare people into vaccinating for a disease that was regarded as benign before vaccination.

Regarding measles cases the Wikipedia you quoted is absolutely false.  This graphs shows the reported cases of measles:

This graph shows the US measles deaths which were negligible by the time the vaccine was introduced.

Something precious that is lost with mass vaccination is the protection a baby was designed (by God) to receive.  When a mother as a child has measles then she has immunity for life and passes on the immunity to her babies.  However a vaccinated mother only has temporary immunity and can provide very little if any protection to her children.  That is why typically before mass vaccination of childhood diseases mainly elementary school age children are affected.  After mass vaccination the most vulnerable tend to be affected, due to inadequate maternal immunity.

In the developing world where children are often severely malnourished a child could die just from a bad cold.


What would be your response when the child dies of a disease that could be prevented by a vaccine?


So the Donna Reed Show, The Flintstones and the Brady Bunch, constitutes the authoritative voices on whether to vaccinate or not? Here is a piece from Wikipedia (see below) The reason for vaccination is that measles kills children under 5 years old. That is why we started vaccination in the first place. Measles is a killer of the young and most vulnerable.

From Wikipedia:

"The measles vaccine is effective at preventing the disease. Vaccination has resulted in a 75% decrease in deaths from measles between 2000 and 2013 with about 85% of children globally being currently vaccinated. No specific treatment is available. Supportive care may improve outcomes.[4] This may include giving oral rehydration solution (slightly sweet and salty fluids), healthy food, and medications to control the fever.[4][5] Antibiotics may be used if a secondary bacterial infection such as pneumonia occurs. Vitamin A supplementation is also recommended in the developing world.[4]

Measles affects about 20 million people a year,[1] primarily in the developing areas of Africa and Asia.[4] It causes the most vaccine-preventable deaths of any disease.[8] It resulted in about 96,000 deaths in 2013, down from 545,000 deaths in 1990.[9] In 1980, the disease is estimated to have caused 2.6 million deaths per year.[4] Before immunization in the United States between three and four million cases occurred each year.[6] Most of those who are infected and who die are less than five years old.[4] The risk of death among those infected is usually 0.2%,[6] but may be up to 10% in those who have malnutrition.[4]"

BTW, I wonder what would have been the response/reaction of the pastor if the couple, who were persuaded by the pastor to have their children vaccinated, were to inform him afterwards that their child(ren) had been damaged by the vaccines that the pastor swayed them to get.  Did this pastor, you mentioned, consider this possibility?  

As someone has said: "We shouldn't be expected to set our children on fire to keep other children warm".  As there are risks with every vaccine parents should not be coerced into vaccinating their children.

Where is the love for the vaccine injured children, in the church?  Or would they rather deny that it was the vaccine(s) that harmed the child(ren).


Contributing to the tension is the propaganda (fear-mongering) regarding childhood diseases.

Compare the latest hysteria to how measles, for example, was regarded decades ago before mass marketing of the vaccine:

I had measles as a child so I am immune for life, compared to temporary immunity from vaccine(s) that wanes.  For example recent mumps outbreak amongst vaccinated hockey players.  Mumps is more of an issue (for boys) from puberty onwards, therefore it would have been better if they actually had the mumps as boys.


We Don't Vaccinate - Myth and Reality of Vaccine Campaigns: is an excellent documentary regarding the true facts regarding vaccination.

An important consideration for Christians is the fact that vaccines such as the MMR and chicken pox are made utilizing aborted (murdered) unborn babies.  Actually scientists have found a link between vaccines made utilizing aborted unborn babies and autism.  This is not surprising as autism used to be rare and now it is about 1 in 100 children (and getting worse).

Similar to the link between smoking and lung cancer:





Thanks to everyone for the kudos! Special thanks to Jonathan Wilson for his excellent mentoring of me during his tenure with CRC Communications.

Bill, I'd like to see your statistics for this assertion. Disabilities I have in mind with regard to communication differences include intellectual disabilities, autism, and even (sometimes) fetal alcohol syndrome and schizophrenia. Rarely are these self-caused. 

True, but most of the disabilities are self-caused.

Hi Duane,

Beautifully written!

Elizabeth Schultz


Elizabeth Schultz

I agree Shannon. Most parents make the decisions they make for their children because they believe they are doing what is best for their kids. But parents need to remember that these decisions can affect others, besides their own children, so we need to interact with one another in a gracious spirit. 

Thanks for sharing this, Mark. I have seen these tense conversations going on in facebook groups as well. Whether about the decision to vaccinate your children, circumcise infant boys, or use pain medication in labor; there is a lot of judgment going on. I think, at the root, is all of our desire to do what's best for our children. Conversations and questions are good when they happen in relationship, and not just as shots on someone's facebook wall. 

Please vaccinate your children, for the sake of everyone.

Thanks Mark,  Judy certainly has it right.  A person permanently confined to a wheelchair certainly faces a number of trials that those of us who are physically healthy don't begin to realize.  It just takes a month in a wheel chair recovering from a broken leg or foot to realize the challenges of maneuvering in public spaces.  A lot of those challenges come from the inconsideration of people and stores.  Everyone should have the opportunity to spend some time in a wheel chair to get a hint of what a wheel chair bound person faces every day.  Thanks for the reminder.  And blessings to Judy as she faces a challenging life.

posted in: Common (?) Courtesy

Thanks Michele for your article.  I think we tend to judge other people as though I'm the official pattern of normal and anyone slightly different is abnormal.  What a great challenge to love those who are different from ourselves.  Thanks for sharing.


Thanks for sharing this. John Richard sounds like a wonderful man and blessing to Neland. I love the mischief in the sermon story! 

Thanks for pointing us towards Jesus' way of looking at things. 



Thanks Duane, for an interesting article on normality.  You interpret Psalm 139 more in terms of our physical and psychological makeup rather than moral makeup.  You draw out the uniqueness of every individual to point out that God, in a sense, doesn’t look at us in some cookie cutter perspective, in which we are all the same.  And certainly that fits well with a “disability concerns” sermon.   But I’m not sure that you really connected with David’s thoughts in writing this Psalm.  I think David’s confession was that God knew his heart and thoughts and knew either the purity or impurity of his being and thoughts.  And this brings me to God’s basic understanding of our being.  So what does God really think of us?

There’s no doubt that we are all unique and are individual.  No one else like you or like me.  But the real normal that the Bible or Christianity seems to emphasize is that we are all sinners.  In fact looking at all human beings through the eyes of God, we are all failures, completely with no one excluded, except one.  When Christians are asked, what makes Christianity unique from all other religions, the answer given is usually, Jesus Christ.  Christianity is the only religion that provides a Savior, who is Jesus, who is set apart from all others.  But the other unique factor that distinguishes Christianity from all other religions is that all people, none excluded, are moral failures in the eyes of God.

The God of other religions doesn’t look at people in such a way.  People are given the life long opportunity to serve and love their neighbors, as well as God.  We don’t read of the God of other religions setting the bar at any particular height. So it might seem as though their may be a variety of passing grades by which to win God’s approval ,such as A through D before getting to F for failure.  Even the Mormons think that by far most people will make it to heaven, even if not a Mormon.  But our God (the Christian God) says, of yourselves, you are all failures.

We’re all failures in God’s eyes because we miss his mark of absolute perfection, whether by a little or a lot.  A miss is a miss.  That seems to be a pretty high standard for God’s created creatures (human beings).  After all he didn’t create us as Gods.  We’re not expected to be all knowing like God, why perfectly holy?

But the good news is that he sent a Savior into the world.  But wait.  The Savior isn’t really for everyone, but only for his chosen ones (L - limited atonement).  Whereas most have never even heard of Christ, let alone been persuaded by the Holy Spirit, therefor are condemned.  I’ve heard of other religions having secret or hidden truths.  I guess we, as Christians, are no different.  Let’s talk as though the good news (the gospel) is good for everyone.  But, of course, it’s not (just read the Canons of Dort).

So you ask, how does God see people?  Primarily, as moral failures, deserving of eternal damnation.  Not a very happy thought, about us or about God.  I think you could have picked a better Psalm, Duane.  Perhaps, I shouldn't have read Psalm 139 along with your article.  Anyway, thanks for your article.  It does make a person think.

Thanks, Duane. Good reflection and reminders for me. 


Michelle, I praise God that you know what it is to belong and serve well within your congregation, but congregations are not the same. Pastors have to tailor their messages to their own congregations. I know Greg. He's a wonderful, sensitive person who has a great deal of empathy about mental illnesses. I fully expect that he wrote this and preached it for a congregation that was in a different place than your own. We're all on a journey. 


 I have a confession to make. I stopped reading midway through Point #3. I couldn't take anymore.  Man alive, are we still there? I remember reading stuff like this back in the late 1980s!  This text, although it is meant to show support to people with mental illnesses is actually depressing because it makes us feel as though the CRC is spinning its wheels in butter and getting nowhere as a denomination. Now, thank God, some congregations have moved on from this Psychiatry 101 discourse, and the one I attend is one of these.  Maybe it's not irrelevant that one of our pastor's adoptive daughters also has a diagnosis of schizophrenia, and her son has an ASD--for Autism Spectrum Disorder. And that former members of our congregations have had bouts of depression or paranoid psychosis.  Still, I no longer feel the need to appeal for acceptance or recognition as a gifted human being.  That IS established by now, and my contribution is sought after.  Mind you, I have been in recovery since 2005.

Sigh! Please, as a denomination, do catch on to the 21st century and stop dragging your feet.



People who say we should eradicate the word disability from the language supposedly because everybody is limited in some way trivialize real illnesses, especially severe mental illnesses like bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, and other forms of psychoses.  Il's one thing to have to admit that you can't run as fast as an Olympic athlete, and shrug it off by assuming those same athletes have other limitations and quite another to be stigmatized because you hear voices and reply to them loudly in public spaces causing people around you to look at you oddly or fearfully as though you were going to assault them in the next minute.  Although psychotic people have been known to do that, most people with mental illnesses are not violent and are more often the victims of assaults by so-called normal people than the other way around.  In fact, in an issue of Schizophrenia Digest, as it was called back then, a columnist quoted a friend of his who referred to mentally non-sick--to put it that way since health is more than the absence of illness--as the "chronically normal".  I like that phrase because too many people who look askance at mentally ill people are chronically normal themselves.

Great message! Honest & hopeful. Helpful. I especially liked the challenge to be "an abiding presence" throughout life with a person with a chronic mental illness that does not heal. My mom suffered from schizophrenia most of her life. My friend, Rick, does as well. Abiding with them reminds me of what Wes Smedes used to say to me, "we are all crooked sticks... and God uses crooked sticks." Thanks Cindy!

Some of the strongest and most beautiful people I know are people who have struggled, whether it be with mental illness, or with tragedy, or abuse. It becomes part of who they are and contributes to their often deep faith. They've been a gift to me in so many ways. Would I wish that these "bad" things never happened? Maybe. But then I would have missed knowing the wonderful people that came through these things. And I would be a different person too.

Well deserved, Mark!

Congrats Mark. Well deserved.

Congratulations Mark! Well deserved.

Congratulations Mark for your contributions and recognition for this much needed work!  Blessings as you continue to serve the kingdom!

So great to hear, congratulations Mark!!  God's peace and guidance be with you as you humbly obey God's call for your life and encourage all of us to love and include ALL God's children.  


Congratulations and keep up the great work. You are a strong and clear voice for many who would otherwise not be heard.

Such a valuable gift, to walk alongside, to listen with love, in acceptance rather than in judgment. Lord, help your people to be those who can walk alongside. Thanks for the article!


posted in: Just Walk with Me

Great story about Max - thanks for sharing.

I have had mild hearing loss in one ear ever since a bad infection over 20 years ago, and I find small group conversation challenging; I can only imagine how bad it could be for those with more severe impairments.  I definitely concur with the suggestions in the previous comment--first of all, evaluate the room.  High ceilings, hard furniture, tile floors can create a "live" environment that bounces the sound around and makes for too much noise competing for my "good" ear. This is particularly important in a large room with several groups meeting at different tables.  In that type of setting, something to absorb some of the extra sound (curtains, acoustical panels, carpets or area rugs) is needed.  Flexibility in seating may also be helpful.  If I can sit where the primary sound is on my right (the good side), I can manage better.  And limit "background" sound.  If music is used, keep it very soft and instrumental only, so it doesn't compete with conversation.  Do consider having some type of visual support.  If the setting isn't appropriate for a Power Point, maybe just a flip chart and markers to highlight main points being discussed will help people make sure they don't miss anything.  Hope these suggestions are helpful.  

Kory, what a wonderful conversation your church is having and your concern for inclusiveness is wonderful.

It may be possible to do small group conversations that include both the hearing and a wide range of cognitive abilities with just a few modifications.  

What room are you having the small group conversations in?  If it is exceptionally "live" acoustically a change in venue may be all that a hearing challenged person needs.  Also sitting in a circle may help so that the reading of lips is possible and the sound of the voice isn't muffled by people's backs.  

As for reaching the full range of cognitive abilities.  I'd encourage presenting the material using as many media as possible.  Can every topic be presented in two different ways?  Could a discussion on a scripture passage be set up by both reading from scripture and a storybook Bible or a thematically related picture book? Or use scripture and video?  Then in setting up the questions keep at least some of them very open ended.  "I wonder..." questions work well for adults as well as children or "What would you do if..." If there are no right/wrong answers then it is possible for everyone to feel comfortable participating.  

I don't know, maybe you've already tried these things and they didn't work in your context.  If you haven't tried them, it may be a place to start.

If you do decide to move forward with this let us know how it goes and what you learned because I think you are right that many churches are struggling with answering that same question. 

Actually, if you see my posting of yesterday you will notice that a senior CDC has blown the whistle that the link between MMR and autism was covered up.  The lead scientist of the infamous Danish study absconded with over a million dollars.  Danish study was found to be totally flawed.  Surely, especially Christians, shouldn't be believing CDC liars as well as crooks instead of a commendable scientist who is a pro-life Christian.

Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first it is ridiculed, in the second it is opposed, in the third it is regarded as self-evident.  

This was the case with the link between smoking and lung-cancer and will be the case with vaccines, especially MMR, and autism.  Hopefully people wake up to the truth sooner rather than later.  Are they going to wait until 1 in 10 or even 1 in 5 has autism before they accept the reality of the link?

Contrary to the vaccine propaganda, the cases and deaths from vaccines had already plummeted to a great extent before vaccines were even introduced.  For the last three decades of the use of the small pox vaccine more children were being damaged and killed by the small pox vaccine than were dying from small pox.  In the past scarlet fever was a problem causing many deaths.  Have you heard of scarlet fever deaths recently?  BTW, there is not vaccine for scarlet fever!

As Christians we are told in Romans 12:2 not to confirm to the world.  Nowadays some Christians rationalize unbiblical practices such as using aborted babies to make vaccines.  Whether the babies were killed yesterday or decades ago, it doesn’t matter to Almighty God and Christians who don’t conform to the world.  It is still the shedding of innocent blood.  The end doesn’t justify the means.

In reality the vaccinated are more of a problem to the unvaccinated than the other way round.  The live vaccines, such as MMR, shed and can infect other people.  For example the medical advice given to those that are immune compromised, taking chemo etc., it to not have visitor(s) who have been recently vaccinated with a live virus.  They can shed for even a month or so.  Another issue is that unlike true immunity from getting the disease, the vaccine effect wanes and the vaccinated person gets the disease and can also infect others.  For example recently hockey players who were vaccinated for mumps still got mumps as an adult when it is more serious.   

It's nearly impossible for science, good science, to make a blanket statement about a condition as complex as autism. However, the article I cite says, "The American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, the World Health Organization, and the Institute of Medicine all agree that there's probably no relationship between autism and vaccines." Considering the enormous, real, and documented risks posed to unvaccinated children, compared to the highly unlikely connection between autism and vaccines, I still feel the need to express my belief that the most responsible and loving choice a parent can make is to have his or her child vaccinated.

Regarding your final question, I'm strongly prolife. Your question is a difficult one, though you ask it in a misleading way. Your question makes it seem as if babies are continually aborted in order to create vaccines. In fact, some, not all vaccines, use stem cell lines from three babies that were aborted decades ago - two in the 1960's and one in the 1980's. Just because these abortions happened decades ago does not make the action of the abortions morally acceptable. However, as this article from Right to Life of Michigan  points out, "The further away the current act (using a vaccine) and intent (protecting a child from a disease) of an individual are from a previous immoral act (aborting a child), the less that individual is restricted by the immorality of the previous act. While the act of aborting the child was certainly immoral, all of the steps involved with the development and use of the vaccines thereafter did not cooperate with the abortion." This article goes on to cite a number of authorities who agree that using these vaccines is morally acceptable.

What we have here is a not-so-subtle attempt to "chill" scientific research in an area that the vaccination lobby doesn't like.

If you attempt to discredit Dr Deisher's work because of purported conflict of interest, consider the other conflicts of interest that exist , i.e. Vaccination advocate, Dr Paul Offit earns royalties from Merck for his vaccine; Julie Gerberding formerly positioned at the CDC moved to head Merck's Vaccine division.  Financial ties held by CDC and FDA to the Pharmaceutical companies they are making recommendations about.

This is a statement by a doctor:

As a physician for more than 35 years, something has certainly happened that has caused this epidemic of autism and autism spectrum related disorders. My concern is that why would we just not be more aggressive in trying to understand this disorder? It will adversely affect our society in a major way if 1 in 58 boys are continually afflicted. Dr Deisher should be commended in her efforts to evaluate this association of change points and changes in the vaccine schedule.

God is holy and from my reading of the Bible He hates hands that shed innocent blood. That is what happened when babies were aborted and their cells were harvested (live) to make the cell lines MRC 5 and WI 38. Both babies had their blood shed. The DNA of those children are injected into those that receive live virus vaccines like MMR.

We should understand God's wisdom is higher than man's wisdom. We should pray for His wisdom as well. I personally am concerned about these vaccines that have utilized cells in which innocent blood was shed. I am not so sure that good can come from evil. I am fairly convinced that Christians need to be careful in this regard. Biomedicine excludes the issues of the spiritual part of man and this can be dangerous premise. Spiritual illness can cause physical and mental problems.

Actually the real fraud has been committed by those covering up the link between autism and vaccines, especially MMR (from aborted unborn babies):

Statement by whistle blower Dr. William Thompson, Senior Scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since 1998.

“I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that especially African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed. 

There have always been recognized risks for vaccination and I believe it is the responsibility of the CDC to properly convey the risks associated with receipt of those vaccines.”

Also the infamous Danish study purporting to deny link between vaccines and autism, has been found to be totally flawed by scientists.  Also the lead scientists of the Danish study i.e.: POUL THORSEN, 49, of Denmark, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud and money laundering based on orchestrating a scheme to steal over $1 million in CDC grant money earmarked for autism research.  

Those who are denying the link are actually ‘anti-science’, just like those who denied the link between smoking and lung cancer.

 I also believe that this supposed finding of a link between vaccinations and autism is baloney.  I subscribe to Scientific American Mind, and in one issue there was an article titled "Why We Cheat," in which the case of this fraud was discussed along with other scientists who were also found to have cheated with data while they were still Ph.D. students but apparently their supervisors failed to confront them at the time, and when they submitted an article with fraudulent data and were found out their budding careers were over.  Who wants to hire an individual known to cheat and lie?


My sister also believed that autism was linked to vaccines and was extremely reluctant to have her son vaccinated because of that fraud, but she resigned herself to have it done because he would not have been admitted at the school where she and her partner wanted to register him UNLESS he were vaccinated.  I have lent her the issue but I don't know if she's read it yet since she's a pretty busy woman.  However, since both she and my brother-in-law are engineers, there is very little likelihood of them being anti-science.