Autism Matters. Children Matter. Families Matter.

Autism - CopyAutism matters. Children matter. Families matter.

My grandson Joseph will celebrate his fourth birthday soon.  Joseph and I share an amazing love affair. This boy has my heart, and I have his.  When we received the official diagnosis that Joseph was affected by autism disorder, I cried many tears.   Through much prayer, love and therapy, Joseph has made progress.

We personally have since learned of two pastoral families, friends of ours, who have received the same diagnosis.

We don’t talk about it a lot, but autism affects so many families.  I think I always cared about children with special needs, but when it touched my family, that caring went off the scale.  I love Joseph Benton beyond words.

Much can be done to help these children if therapy is started early.  Often insurance won’t cover all the child needs to improve their lives, and in some cases covers nothing.  While some free therapies are available, they often need more.

I think even more, I have realized that, as the Church, we must be caring and prayerful for these families.

For instance, does your church have any kind of ministry in place for families affected by autism?  Does your church offer any kind of ministry to families with children who have special needs?  The Church must minister to these families.

I’m thankful that our church is trying.  Our church offers a group for moms to get together to encourage, support and pray for each other.  I am personally working to put together a group, inviting moms into my home to minister to them.  Our local church also has a ministry, The Haven, for all children with disabilities.  In essence, The Haven allows a family to attend a church service.  While the parents are in the regular service, someone sits one-on-one in the nursery or children’s church to help the child.  For a season, the same person is usually with the same child, so that familiarity is built.  The Haven throws a big Christmas party for these families.  I know of a small church in the Midwest that raised funds to set up a sensory room, utilized workers trained in this area, and used it as outreach. They immediately got new families – families who had never been able to regularly attend a church service.

The Church has to step up.  Don’t close your eyes to this need.  Ask other churches for ideas.  Search Pinterest for ministry for children with special needs.  Call that mom and ask her how she is today.   Pray with her.  Men, reach out to a man who is trying to be a dad to a special child.

Think about it.  Pray about it. Care about it.  But, please don’t ignore it.  Why?  Because autism matters, children with special needs matter and families matter.

“Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2 

Having A Failure Doesn’t Make You A Failure

Failure2There are few weeks that go by without someone confessing to me how they have royally messed up, how they have failed.  Many times these people feel condemned.   Fear grips them that the Church and God will mark them off the list, calling them disqualified.

Having a failure doesn’t make YOU a failure!

The book of James has a powerful scripture: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”  – James 5:16

James understood the need for the Church (not the building) to be a place where people who failed could come, confess, be prayed for and be healed.   Why don’t we see very much of that today?    I believe it’s because we are not always authentic in the Church.  It’s easy to yell at the top of our lungs, or post on Facebook how evil people are when they commit sexual sin, or when our country openly embraces things contrary to scripture.  Open computer – get fingers ready to tell the whole world how they are going to hell.

Don’t stop reading out of anger … keep reading.

Over these forty-seven years I have walked with God, I have failed many times:

  • During one period in my life, I stopped preaching/teaching several months because I was offended by folks in church.  That is failure.
  • During one period in my life, while married to my wonderful, godly husband, I pulled away from God, stopped listening to any worship music, and only listened to country music.  The point is not the country music; the point is why I was listening.  I was letting my heart walk away from God, while my body sat on a pew.   On the outside, I was the “holy” wife of a wonderful pastor.   On the inside I was playing games with the devil.  That is failure.
  • I have gone through periods when I was jealous of other ministries, and I let it overtake my thought life to the point of disliking the success of others.  That is failure.
  • I have carried grudges and unforgiveness for long periods.  That is failure.
  • As a leader, I have been infuriated with people who did not do things the way I wanted them done, and they got a taste of my venom.  I had to control everything! That is failure.
  • While rolling my eyes at the “terrible” sins of  others, I allowed myself to binge eat, better known as gluttony in the Bible. That is failure.

So, what do you think of Barbara Benton now?  (Rhetorical, so please don’t answer.)

Thank God I am not the woman above any more.  I have learned to receive the grace of God that says to me, “Having a failure doesn’t make me a failure.”   Because of that grace, I am simply not that woman above.  She has been changed by His grace.

One of the things that has helped me most in overcoming the mindset of failure, is that I found trusted people with whom I could talk.  I could talk openly and honestly, without fear of condemnation.  I could talk with people who weren’t ready to throw me out of the Body of Christ or out of ministry; people who genuinely prayed with me, kept in touch with me, and wanted to see me totally healed.  Thank God for healing!  Thank God for the power to overcome!

What about you?  Can God trust with the failures of other?  Can we be authentic enough to say, I’ve not walked this thing perfectly?

We desperately need authentic Christianity – the kind that says, “I have failed, but God has forgiven me and given me the strength to rise up and continue walking.”

This is one of the most vulnerable blogs I have ever written.  I, like others, still wrestle with the fear of what will others think or say about me. What impact will this have on my ministry?   Will people no longer invite me to conferences and churches?

It is essential that we have welcoming arms for those who have failed.  Oh I know, some will read this and think I’m just opening the doors to all kinds of people.  Well, yes I am.  That is what the Church is called to do.  We are called to be a place of forgiveness, restoration, love, exhortation and patience.

I am so thankful that God said to me, “Having a failure, doesn’t make YOU a failure.”

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!

Two-Degree Living

cockpit2In 1979 a large passenger jet with 257 people on board left New Zealand for a sightseeing flight to Antarctica and back.

Unknown to the pilots, someone had modified the flight coordinates by a mere two degrees.  This error placed the aircraft 28 miles to the east of where the pilots assumed they were.

As they approached Antarctica, the pilots descended to a lower altitude to give the passengers a better view of the landscape. Although both were experienced pilots, neither were aware that incorrect coordinates had placed them directly in the path of Mount Erebus, an active volcano that rises to a height of more than 12,000 feet.

As the pilots continued the course, the snow and ice-covered volcano blended with the white of the clouds, making it appear as though they were flying over flat ground. By the time the instruments sounded the warning that the ground was rising fast toward them, it was too late. The airplane crashed into the side of the volcano, killing everyone on board.

It was a terrible tragedy brought on by a minor error—a matter of only two degrees.

Over the years I have been blessed with the opportunity to mentor and counsel many people.  As I look at God’s people, including myself, I have learned that much of the failure we are seeing is a result of “two-degree” error living.

Countries, relationships, businesses and holy living don’t fail overnight.  It’s usually “two-degree” error living.   What are you accepting in your life that used to be unacceptable?

It is my opinion that the USA finds herself where she is today, because those at the helm have led us away two-degrees at a time.  As I observe the differences in our world between when I was thirty and when I turned sixty, it is shocking.  Very little, if any of it, happened over night.

The same can be said of Christian living.

What is your tolerance for being off course?  The longer one stays off course, the further one will be away from the intended target, which invites unwanted pain and consequences. We don’t run away from our values – we drift away two-degrees at a time, and find ourselves in places we never meant to be.

Straying off course does not have to result in a terrible crash in life. Course corrections can be made in-flight.  Here’s the Good News – no matter how terribly off course you are, no matter how far you have strayed, the way back is clear.  Make a course correction and head back towards God, towards His word. He awaits you with open arms.

 “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” – Job 23:12

Defining Moments – Who Will I Be?

635693748712989117972323024_leverage-your-life-now-defining-momentsDefining moments in life can mold us, shape us and direct our lives.

Some defining moments can be traumatic, and others can be incredibly wonderful.   For example, after the first instance of abuse at the hands of my father, my life direction and thought process were profoundly impacted.   For years that event and subsequent events molded me to be angry, agitated and headed in the wrong direction.  These events bred a lack of belief that I could ever be healed, and make anything of my life.

I’ve also had defining moments that were wonderful and changed my life.  Giving my life to Jesus Christ, and going to Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, was life-changing for me.  For the first time, I was in a stable, Christian environment, and over time I no longer lived in fear.    Marrying Gaylon Benton and birthing three children were defining moments in my life.  What kind of wife and mother did I want to be?

Did those moments define me?  Not really.  How I responded to those moments determined the course of my life.

Because of childhood abuse, miscarriage of my first baby, church hurt and the painful reality of losing a son, I have the right to be angry.  Mix that with other hurts and betrayals in life, and I have the right to live angry.  But, I did not want that to define my life, so instead I chose to give up the right to live an angry life.

At the age of seventeen, I made a choice to follow Jesus Christ, not just go to church, but follow Jesus Christ.   I chose to let that decision define who I would become over time.    I gave up the right to live angry, and allowed God to give me abundant life.  I do not regret that decision for one moment!  Not one!

Moses could have been defined by the murder he committed, but he was redefined by a burning bush experience.   Peter could have been defined by sinking into an angry sea, but he was redefined by the power of the Holy Spirit, and became a powerhouse for God.   Saul could have been defined by his involvement in the killing and persecution of many Christians.  Instead, he was redefined by an encounter with God, and renamed Paul.

What defines your life?  The negative moments?  Those moments do not have to control your destiny in life.    I am so grateful for a God who offers us defining moments, and once you affirmatively respond to a defining moment from God, you are never the same