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The Ability in Disability

I am beginning to wonder if many of the things I consider tragic in myself and others are special gifts that, when properly noticed and submitted to, become a way for the community to better receive the richness of God.

Disability ConcernsPastors
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Sadly, Here We Go Again

After a shooting rampage in Grand Rapids, Police Chief  Belk said he did not know Dantzler's mental-health diagnosis, but said he was "obviously a very troubled individual involved in some horrible activity." Why is Belk speculating about Dantzler's mental-health diagnosis? Whether or not Dantzler had a mental illness is no more relevant

Disability Concerns
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Poverty, Rights, and Disability

If we are serious about our mission as God's agents of renewal in society, our efforts at eliminating injustice, mitigating poverty, and helping people to become self-sustaining need to start with people with disabilities. If every anti-poverty effort, every development initiative, every benevolence committee in every CRC in North America began with the question, "How will this affect people with disabilities?" our work would be transformed dramatically for the better.

Disability Concerns
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Reflections on the Death of Dr. Jack Kevorkian

Although arguments in favor of assisted suicide appeal to dignity and relief from suffering, they always miss the main point: the sanctity of human life. Whenever people are permitted to seek out the assistance of their doctors to take their own lives, society begins to put pressure on some individuals to bring about this final solution to the challenges they face.

Disability Concerns
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James Durbin Blazes a Trail on American Idol

James Durbin found fame on American Idol this season, though he was cut this past Wednesday. I rarely watch American Idol, and I know little about James Durbin or his music. Except this, Durbin lives with Asperger syndrome and with Tourette syndrome. I don’t want to set him up as “an inspiration,” which would do him a disservice, but I do want to set him and the staff of American Idol out as trailblazers.

Disability Concerns
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The Elephant Man Brings Light and Darkness

Near the end of the play, just after being beaten and abandoned by his handlers, he calls after them in a husky voice, “I’m a man. I’m not an animal. I’m not an elephant. I’m a man.” The Elephant Man helps audiences reckon with the painful dehumanization that many people with disabilities experience: gawked at or ignored, left at the margins 

Disability Concerns
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Living Out Our Values

The National Association of Evangelicals produced a document in 2004 called “For the Health of the Nation.” It is not so much about health care reform as about the health of the United States as a nation. The scope of the document reaches far beyond the “traditional” evangelical issues of abortion and marriage. These are 

Disability Concerns
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Mental Illness, Isolation, and Ministry

The discussion last week after my post about the Tucson shooting brought home to me all the more clearly that mental illnesses do not affect “those people” over there, but they are us. Pejorative labels like “crazy” and “whacko” only reinforce this separation or stigma which hovers over people with mental illnesses. But the people who live with mental illness are not just those with the disease itself, but also their family members, friends, fellow church members, and society as a whole.

Disability Concerns
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A Second Arizona Tragedy

The first tragedy, of course, is the senseless death of six people and wounding of several others including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords a week and a half ago. A second tragedy arises from the first. This second tragedy follows on the heels of every random act of mass violence.

Disability Concerns
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The Boy in the Moon

Journalist Ian Brown applied his skills to plumb the depths of raising a son, Walker, who has severe disabilities resulting from a genetic disorder, CFC. In his quest for meaning, among others he seeks out wisdom from Buddhism, from a shaman at a native healing center, and from Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities. As a Christian, I can’t endorse all of his conclusions, but reading about his journey helped to enlighten my own path. It’s something that some of us Calvinists call “common grace.”

Disability Concerns
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Good Answers to Questions about Disability

Why is a church without people with disabilities incomplete? What do we mean by the word “disability”? What is ableism? In what ways are people with disabilities marginalized by societies around the world? What is “healing”? A friend of mine, Carolyn Thompson, directed me to a pithy statement called “The Accessible Church: Toward Becoming The Whole Family Of God” which she helped draft for the Massachusetts Council of Churches. Here are some excerpts.

Disability Concerns
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A Little of God's Work in Kenya

Mark Stephenson led several workshops on inclusion of people with disabilities in church life at a conference in Limuru, Kenya. At the third and final session of his workshop, a pastor stood up and said with great passion, "Brothers and sisters, we must do something about this. The time to act is now." Everyone then applauded!

Disability Concerns
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I Have a Dream for the Church

In my wildest dream for the church, I dream of the day that churches are so welcoming, so eager to have people with disabilities use their gifts, that the percentage of people with disabilities in the church is greater than the percentage of people with disabilities in the population at large.

Disability Concerns
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Lawsuit against Arkansas Raises Questions

According to an AP article, the US federal government is suing the state of Arkansas because, it is claimed, Arkansas "illegally segregates hundreds of individuals in institutions across the state and places hundreds more at risk of needless institutionalization." The first question will be, what is really provided?

Disability Concerns
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Breaking More Barriers

The Reformed Church in America is just beginning to catch on—and catch up—to the Christian Reformed Church’s prophetic focus on disability concerns. After giving occasional consideration to disability issues over the past several decades, we in the RCA are grateful to be welcomed by the CRC in this promising partnership of inclusion...

Disability Concerns
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Bill C-384 Defeated by Canadian Parliament

Good news!  Bill C-384, which would have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, was defeated on April 21 by a vote of 228 to 59. Thank you for raising your voice about how this bill would have impacted people with disabilities. Please continue to advocate for better palliative care throughout Canada, and for changed attitudes and improved services for people with disabilities.

Disability Concerns
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On Finches, Disability, Business, and the Kingdom

A few weeks ago, my wife Bev found three tiny birds’ nests in the small maple tree in our front yard. A few days later, I saw finches hopping about the branches. So we decided to get a finch feeder to hang in the tree. Bev bought a feeder prefilled with Nyger seed which soon had gold finches gathered on its perches. What a gift from God!

Disability Concerns
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Hearing Aids as Fashion Accessories?

In a comment to my blog post, "Do Older People Have 'Disabilities,'" J Cornelisse wrote: "Isn't it funny how we have so many things to make our lives more convenient (remote controls, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, little things on our key chains to lock and unlock our cars, automatic windows and doors, garage door openers - you get the point) and yet if using a hearing aid or a walker would make our lives easier..."

Disability Concerns
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Paralympics Live Out the Olympic Spirit

The Olympic Spirit seeks "to build a peaceful and better world in the Olympic Spirit which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play . . . " No games better exemplify the Olympic Spirit than the Paralympics. See results from the winter Paralympics which ran from March 12 - 21 in Vancouver. 

Disability Concerns
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Virginia State Legislator Says that Disabled Children are Punishment from God

Long ago, or so I thought, people said that children born with anomalies were warnings to their parents that covenant with the gods had been violated. The Latin word for "to warn" is monere from which comes the English word, "monster." Thus, children (and adults) with disabilities were thought of as monsters to be feared, because they were proof that the gods were angered by violations of their laws. 

Disability Concerns

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