It’s Never Too Late for a New Beginning

Harriet Sulcer has had years of success selling nutritional products through her home business –something she started out of necessity.

“I didn’t want a career, I wasn’t looking for a job, but suddenly we were in a very different situation,” Harriet recalls.

At the time, her husband had fallen into a clinical depression so debilitating, he didn’t work for months, and eventually left.

“After my husband left I had to declare bankruptcy and we lost our home,” Harriet remembers.

With her life in pieces and her business struggling to get off the ground, Harriet watched the 700 Club for encouragement.

“Hearing how God had restored other people not just financially, but restored their marriages, it built my faith and gave me hope,” says Harriet. ‘“And I really came to a point where I let go and I said, ‘Here Lord, here —all the broken pieces of my marriage, my finances, and I’m going to allow you now to put it all back together.”’

But as hard as Harriet worked, her business wasn’t growing fast enough. She says one morning while reading the Bible, she realized why.

“I was not tithing. I was giving occasionally when I could, but in my mind I didn’t feel that I could afford to tithe,” Harriet remembers. ‘“But when I read 2 Corinthians 9:10, it literally jumped off the page. ‘Those who sow sparingly will reap sparingly.’ All of a sudden I realized that I was trying so hard to produce the seed and that was not my responsibility; that my responsibility as a child of God was to make a deliberate decision to sow into his kingdom, and once I made that decision to sow, he would provide the seed.”’

From that time on, Harriet tithed faithfully to her church. She also became a 700 Club partner.

“God had spoken to me so many times through the stories of other people,” says Harriet. “So because that had meant so much to me, I wanted to be able to help support that program. Within a year I could see marked differences in my paycheck, my commission check each month, and my team began to grow. It not only began to grow, it began to grow exponentially.”

Her business has been growing consistently ever since. And that’s not all! Ten years after they separated, her husband came home.

“God graciously restored our family,” Harriet declares. “And then gave us thirteen years back together.”

The Sulcers were able to build their dream home, Promise Point, before her husband passed away. Harriet enjoys the peace of knowing her future is secure and
encourages others to trust the Lord with their finances.

“If we’re faithful and obedient then God will meet our needs. And he will supply the seed so that we have more seed to sow.”

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My Early Education

Christmas 2017

Dear Priti

It was my first year in the broadcast profession. And even though it was over 50 years ago, I can remember it clearly and distinctly. In a sense…it was an early education program that God sent me that Christmas season so long ago.

I was excited. My first radio job. KGFF, Shawnee, Oklahoma. A small AM station in the college town where I was attending Oklahoma Baptist University. I was in the process of changing my major from music to speech, with the idea of pursuing a career in radio and television. I had my first radio position, and I was excited.

The first lesson for me that holiday was this: Someone has to keep the radio station going, even during holidays…like Christmas. I normally worked nights and weekends. And I quickly learned I would not be going home for the Christmas break. There were only a handful of us students there. An empty campus. An empty dorm. And… I would soon learn… an empty holiday.

My routine was to grab a 15-cent hamburger on the way to the radio station in the late afternoon. Yes…that’s what they cost then…and that was about all I had to spare. Then I worked untilmidnight. After I played the National Anthem and closed down the station, it was back to the empty room on the empty campus. I would wake up late the next day, and repeat the same routine. Day after day, all through the Christmas break.

Yes, I was thrilled to be working in radio. And I was learning a lot about the craft. But the holiday was quite empty for me.

Then, a kind man who had been to my hometown brought me a big box. In it were the gifts my family had wrapped and sent for my Christmas celebration. They didn’t want me to be left out. That was a neat moment. But I was about to learn a BIG lesson.

I remember opening the first gift. It was from my Mom and Dad, and it was a watch. I couldn’t believe it. It was beautiful. I don’t know what it cost, but I knew it was a stretch just to pay for my education, much less give such a nice gift. Upon seeing it, I was excited. Thankful. Happy. But that was short lived. As I looked at that watch, I realized there was no one there to thank. No one to hug. No one whose eyes sparkled in anticipation of my reaction to the gift. An empty moment.

No more Christmas gifts got opened that day. Or the next. Eventually I opened them, one a day or so. Then I would set it aside and go on to my radio routine. Sleep. Eat. Work. Repeat.

The big lesson I learned that Christmas had little to do with school or radio. The lesson learned had an eternal impact on me. You see, I understood that the joy of that Christmas wasn’t in the presents I received. It was because of the giver of those gifts…my family. Without them, the gifts held no real meaning. Yes, I appreciated the thoughtful gifts. But I missed the joy of personal fellowship with the ones who went out of their way so I wouldn’t miss Christmas.

It seems a lot of folks have missed that lesson. We love to see the pretty picture of the baby in the manger. And we love the happy feeling we get with all the concerts, music, lights, parties, and presents. But we often miss the Giver of the Gift. The disciple John told us that God… Almighty God… Creator of the universe and all that is in it…that God… so loved the world (you and me) that He gave a gift… His only Son… Jesus… to be born, to live, to die, so that we might have the joy and hope of Heaven. The old Christmas carol painted the dramatic picture for us.

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,

When Thou camest to earth for me;

But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room

For Thy holy nativity….

God gave His Son. God is the Giver of the Gift. As James reminds us…every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights.

I learned a lot in that first radio job at KGFF in Shawnee, Oklahoma. About announcing. About news, and commercials, and music. About radio in general. But the greatest lesson…the greatest understanding I gained…was learned in an empty dorm room on an empty campus in front of a box full of wrapped Christmas presents. What I learned was that it is the giver of the gift that is most important.

Today, enjoy the gifts, the family, the food, the lights and music. But don’t lose sight of the One who gives the most important gifts, and the most important Gift…Jesus. Let’s live for Him. To God be the glory. Great things He has done.

Merry Christmas!

Ron Harris
MEDIAlliance International

The writer: Ron Harris began his broadcast career over 50 years ago. He has worked in radio, television, and church music and media. He has taught communication at both the university and seminary level. Ron Harris was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Dallas Baptist University. He is president of MEDIAlliance International, training and mentoring Christian broadcasters worldwide. Ron and Judy Harris have been married for over 50 years, and live in Arlington, Texas. They have four children and six grandchildren.

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Our breakfast table conversations are quite interesting. They range from the sublime to the ridiculous. And a lot of points in between. This morning it was one of those “in between” times.

Judy and I began to recall the investment in our lives that our parents made. Judy’s mom was instrumental in seeing that Judy got the musical training that has shaped her life so much. Judy recalled the joy of taking the bus to downtown Kansas City to go to one of the main music stores to buy some new piano music. Then she would head home to sight-read the difficult music. As a result of the sacrifice of her parents and Judy’s joy in her musical journey, she has been an amazing accompanist for decades, and a teacher to hundreds of students through the years.

My folks also sacrificed for us kids. Whether it was music lessons, educational trips, or college, they somehow made it happen. For me, it was spending several years in the Texas Boys Choir, and traveling for six weeks in Europe on a concert tour. I learned through that amazing process what it takes to be excellent…how much work is necessary to achieve at a high level. It is a lesson I have tried to apply and teach for most of my life. I have yet to figure out how my folks paid for that.

By the way…our families were not financially in the upper class. I doubt if we were even middle class. In fact, by most standards, we could have been called “poor.” Our parents were working class people who did whatever it took to provide for us kids. We didn’t have a lot of “stuff,” that’s for sure. But our parents made sure we had what was the most important…love, faith, and the critical extras that would serve us for all our lives.

One thing Judy and I noted in our morning conversation. Our parents never talked of the sacrifice they were making. They never came back with things like, “If you only knew what I’ve given up for you.” They never made us feel bad about the good things they were providing. They wanted us to have the joy, and not the guilt.

Why am I sharing this? There may be times in your life…with your family, with your ministry…that you will have to sacrifice for others. If you do so, try to do it in such a way that they have the joy of what you provide, and not carry a guilt for having it. Yes, there are times that others need to know that opportunities come at a price. But that should only enhance the value of what is received, not bring on any guilt.

I think of our salvation, provided by the sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus. His death on the cross brings us today’s joy…and purpose… and value. While we are not worthy of such a sacrifice, we can rejoice in what the Lord has done and is doing.

Jesus saw the sacrifice as a joy. No… not the cross and all of its agony… but the result of the sacrifice. The writer of Hebrews wanted us to see that when he wrote of Jesus in Hebrews 12:2:

Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame…. (NLT)

You may find you need to give up something for those whom God has placed in your life, whether it is your children or even your co-laborers in ministry. Do it with joy.

Then… watch what the Lord does with your sacrifice.

God’s best…

Dr. Ron Harris, President

MEDIAlliance International

The writer: Ron Harris began his broadcast career over 50 years ago. He has worked in radio, television, and church music and media. He has taught communication at both the university and seminary level. Ron Harris was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Dallas Baptist University. He is president of MEDIAlliance International, training and mentoring Christian broadcasters worldwide. Ron and Judy Harris have been married for over 50 years, and live in Arlington, Texas. They have four children and six grandchildren.

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The Many Benefits of Generous Giving

Dr. Linda Mintle – Therapist & Author

Have you noticed how generous people can be when there is a felt need?

Giving opportunities exist on a daily basis in America. Someone goes through an illness and needs help with medical expenses, a family is homeless, or the church is sending an offering to an orphanage overseas. And lately, we have seen our share of natural disasters and hardships.

It’s always so encouraging to see the way people give sacrificially in order to help their neighbors in distress. Whether it is giving time, resources, money or talent, when we step into a need or help a weaker person, we are showing the best side of ourselves.

But, did you know that giving provides both physical and mental health benefits to the giver?

When we give, the “happiness hormones” in our body are activated. Those hormones and molecules responsible for mood, feeling reward and compassion all come on-line when the act of giving occurs. The warm glow we feel in giving is from this brain activation. The resulting feeling is stronger than a great night on the town or buying a new outfit! Giving blesses others but also makes the giver feel good.

Several studies support the fact that giving lowers blood pressure and reduces stress levels. According to a University of California Berkeley study, if you are 55 or older and give of your time as a volunteer, you lessen your chances of dying over a five-year period! And those who give social support to others do better when recovering from coronary-related events. There is power in giving. The physical body responds.

God designed us to give. Acts 20:35 says that it is more blessed to give than receive. As you can see, science certainly bears this out. As we get the focus off ourselves, see the needs around us and give unselfishly to others, we experience joy and contentment.

Think of it like this: giving is a win-win. You help others and in turn, your physical and mental health is helped. So, give, and give generously.

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Redeeming the Locust-Eaten Years

“…I will make up to you the years that the locust has eaten…” (Joel 2:25, NASB)

This verse may be sound familiar if you’ve spent some time in Christian teaching. It’s a quote from the second chapter of Joel in the Old Testament. Out of context, it can lose the truly life-changing message of the book – God delivers and restores.

In the first chapter of Joel, the writer uses the imagery of locusts to warn the people of Israel of God’s judgment. The second chapter delves into what their – and consequently our – reaction to a Holy God should be – repentance. Joel is speaking to a nation that needs to acknowledge and receive God’s mercy and to repent (turn away from) their sin. God’s deliverance and blessings are named starting in verse 19, leading into the familiar saying shown above. In a merciful response to our repentance, the Lord promises to provide our every need (v. 19), protect us from our enemies (v. 20). We will rejoice at what He does, giving us joy in life instead of fear (v. 21-22). Even the rain is evidence of God’s faithfulness (v. 23). The effects of the locusts will be reversed (v. 25). The Lord continues to prove all of this.

26 Once again you will have all the food you want,
and you will praise the Lord your God,
who does these miracles for you.
Never again will my people be disgraced.
27 Then you will know that I am among my people Israel,
that I am the Lord your God, and there is no other.
Never again will my people be disgraced. (Joel 2:26-27, NLT)

After restoring what was destroyed, the Lord goes on to promise even more.

28 “Then, after doing all those things,I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your old men will dream dreams,
and your young men will see visions.
29 In those days I will pour out my Spirit
even on servants—men and women alike. (Joel 2:28-29, NLT)

Though Joel is speaking to a nation (a message our culture could stand to hear today), it’s important to reflect on these promises from God on a personal level. Not only are we – as a society – resurrected from sin because of Christ’s sacrifice, we are – corporately and individually – given life in the Holy Spirit. In the midst of judgment, God shows His mercy. He goes beyond saving us from our wretched sin; the Lord forgets we ever wronged Him, granting us access to Himself (Ephesians 2:17-18) and pouring His Spirit into our renewed lives.

When we allow God to work in our souls, we give Him the access He needs to clean out what the locust (the invading enemy of our souls – sin) destroyed and build up what the Spirit delivers. The Holy Spirit, in effect, redeems what was lost by working through our lives.

Each of us who have called on the name of the Lord understands this completely. It’s further evidence that Romans 8:28 is true.

26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.
28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. (Romans 8:26-30, NLT)

Our sin makes us weak, but it is Christ in us that makes us strong in spirit. God works every thing together to restore what sin has cost us. It does not matter what the “locust” have done to destroy your testimony or the life of a prodigal you know; the Lord, through His mercy and grace, is ready to redeem.

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Running with Jesus

Bill Gaultiere, Ph.D.
In 2009 I won a medal for finishing the “Surf City” marathon in Huntington Beach, California. I ran 26.2 miles in under 4 hours. It was actually the 5th marathon that I’ve completed and it was my slowest one, but it might be the one I’m the most proud of because I did it at 46 years old. The other four I did in the physical prime of my life, between ages 17 and 21.
You’re probably thinking to yourself: “I couldn’t run 26.2 miles!” Or maybe, “I wouldn’t want to run 26.2 miles!” Well, most of you, if you wanted to run a marathon you could do it – if you trained for it.

To finish my last marathon I trained for months. Every Saturday morning I did a long run. I started with a four-mile run that goes alongside the two lakes near my home. Each week I went a little farther, building up to a 20 mile-long run in the hills. I also did shorter runs or rode my bike each week. And I worked out with weights and the stair master three times a week.
My preparation enabled me to enjoy the race – until I hit “the wall” at mile 20! My overall experience of the race was that it was wonderfully inspiring to run on paths lined with people cheering me on as I made my way through parks and along the ocean. And then what a thrill it was to cross the finish line in under four hours with thousands of people – including my wife and three kids – cheering for me!

Running with Jesus, my Coach, is what I enjoyed most about my race and all the jogging I do. We read in the Gospels that Jesus went up into the hills to pray. So I run out the door of my house to follow Jesus into the hills near my home! I love to be alone with Jesus in the quiet and beauty of nature, meditating on Scripture and conversing with him about life in his kingdom.
Jesus is my Champion of Psalm 19:5 who is rejoicing to run his course in the kingdom heavens all around us. So as I run my life race I fix my eyes on Jesus. I listen to him. I keep in step with him. He is the author and perfecter of my faith (Hebrews 12:2).

The Apostle Paul taught us that the only way to run a good life race is to go into training with Jesus. “Train yourself to be godly,” he urged Timothy and us too (1 Timothy 4:7). Spiritually, we need to get in shape! Paul challenges us:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Going into training with Jesus is the only way you can succeed at being his disciple. You can’t do algebra until you learn decimals. You can’t minister healing love to people until you learn to pray as Jesus prayed. And you can’t do all you do in your daily life as Jesus’ disciple without using disciplines to prepare yourself.

There are many spiritual disciplines that we can use as “means of grace” to help us to run a good life race with Jesus. In my Soul Shepherding ministry I teach people how to train with Jesus for their spiritual growth. For instance, you can learn to…

• Meditate deeply on God’s Word to renew your mind (Romans 12:1-2)
• Fast from food (or some food) for awhile in order to feast on the bread of angels (Psalm 78:24-25)
• Meet alone with Jesus in quiet to “Be still and know that he is God” (Psalm 46:10)
• Learn to serve others as Christ has served you (Matthew 20:26-28)

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The Path to Freedom is Surrender

Have you ever sensed you have built a wall around your heart? If we are honest, most of us recognize that we have done so at one time or another. This is simply one of many fallouts from living in a sin-cursed world. Some of us may use bricks of callous emotions; for others, the bricks may be power and position, but for the rich young ruler in chapter 10 of Mark’s gospel, the wall was built from bricks of money and possessions.

The man comes to visit Jesus, at first appearing to humbly seek the way of eternal life. However, it quickly becomes apparent that his real aim is to use this encounter to self-proclaim his righteous standing before God as a result of his faithfulness to God’s commandments. But Jesus knew something was holding the man back from experiencing true freedom and a real encounter with God. Verse 21 says, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” (NIV) Jesus knew what stood in the way and said to him, “One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (NIV)

The man came to Jesus expecting affirmation of his goodness, which he sought in order to justify himself and return to the life he already enjoyed. Instead, he was confronted with the truth and invited to walk into a glorious new life with God through Christ. However, even while standing face-to-face with the Son of God Himself, the young man decided in his heart that what Jesus had to offer could not possibly be more valuable than what he already possessed. As a result, instead of finding freedom in Christ, the man chose to remain a slave to his possessions, clinging to his false hopes and false security. (See Mark 10:17-31)

How about you? Are you clinging to something that might be preventing you from following Jesus with your whole heart? If so, what is holding you back? Take a few moments and ask God to reveal to you what might be holding you back. What (or who) have you become a slave to? What are you afraid to let go of? Fill in the blank space that follows with what God has shown you must do:

“Go, [tear down your brick wall] then come, follow me.”

The moment we surrender that which is holding us back, He invites us to move forward to follow Him. Praise God that the moment we embrace the freedom Christ offers, we are no longer imprisoned by walls of fears and false security built by our own hands!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1 NIV)

“I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26 NIV)

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Forgiveness is the Key to Unlocking God’s Miracle Power

The Importance of Forgiveness
Lack of forgiveness blocks access to the kingdom and to miracle power.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23-24).

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:14-15).

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt” (Matthew 18:21-25).

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:25).

Forgive Yourself
The first person you probably have not forgiven is yourself. More people have a lack of forgiveness toward themselves than toward anybody else. They are unwilling to forgive themselves and to recognize that God says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). If you are a believer, He has already cleansed your conscience from dead works so that you might serve the living God. God cleanses us for service in order to not leave us with the guilt of past sin. That should be dead, buried, and forgotten.

People must forgive all who need forgiveness. If the first person to forgive is yourself, you need to say, “God, before You, I forgive myself. Whatever I have done, I accept Your forgiveness, and I forgive me.” That’s a very simple but profound statement, because as long as we feel that we are under condemnation, we will never have faith to see miracles.

“If our heart does not condemn us,” the Bible says, “we have confidence toward God” (1 John 3:21). Obviously, we cannot have continuing sin in our lives and expect forgiveness. We have to be free from ongoing conscious sin and rebellion against God. But if we are walking in the light, and walking in forgiveness, then the blood of Jesus Christ is continuously cleansing us from all sin (see 1 John 1:7).

Are You Blaming God?
The second person we have to “forgive,” if we have bitterness, is God Himself. There are people who blame God because a child died, because a husband ran away, because they have been sick, because they have not had enough money. Consciously or unconsciously they think all of these things are God’s fault. There is deep-seated resentment; yet you cannot be resentful toward God and experience miracles. You have to rid yourself of any bitterness toward God. That may take some soul-searching. You must ask yourself, Am I blaming God for my situation?

Forgive Those Closest to You
The third person you may have to forgive is a member of your family. I spoke to one woman in an Asian country, and I asked, “Do you have any resentment against anybody?” She said, “No.” I said, “What about your husband?” She said, “Oh, well, I resent him, but I don’t think he counts.”

You have to get rid of resentment, especially toward those closest to you. The husbands, the wives, the children, and the parents – all must be forgiven when slights and resentments have built up in family situations. Many people say, “Well, I didn’t think that counted. I thought that was just a family matter.” All lack of forgiveness has to be eliminated, especially toward every family member.

Forgive Anyone Who Hurt You
Finally, there has to be forgiveness for anybody else who has ever done anything against you. It may be that your resentment is justified. The person may have done a very evil, terrible thing to you. You may have every legal and intellectual right to hold a grudge and to hate that person. But if you want to see miracles in your life, it is absolutely imperative that you forgive.

Forgiveness Cleanses You
Forgive them to the point where you actually feel yourself cleansed of resentment and bitterness and are actually praying for them. If you do not, the lack of forgiveness will make it impossible for God to forgive you. Every miracle depends 100 percent on your relationship to God the Father. That relationship is built strictly on the strength of His forgiveness of your sin.

Forgiveness is the key. Other sins can be present, and if your heart condemns you for something else, then of course, you do not have confidence before God. But it is lack of forgiveness that most often comes between people and God.

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Sorry What Did You Say?

Sunita tried to get an extra hour in bed on Sundays and do everything a bit more leisurely than usual. When she pulled her phone towards her she was amazed to see it was already 8.30. She could not believe that the sounds of the morning in her Delhi flat had not woken her already, she must have been much more tired than she thought. She rolled over onto her back and suddenly noticed that the fan was going at high speed but she could barely hear it. With a sense of foreboding she sat up and realised she could hardly hear anything. The sound of water running into the sink as she brushed her teeth was odd, as if only some of the sound was reaching her ears.

Sunita had been deaf in one ear for many years but it hardly bothered her, now something was wrong in the other ear. As she reached for some cotton buds hoping to clear out the blockage her cousin popped her head around the door and said something, Sunita could see Asha’s mouth moving but she couldn’t hear a word. A feeling of complete panic engulfed her and wildly she prodded just below her ear. A fraction of hearing returned and logic told her that it must be a local blockage and she should not be afraid.

No specialist was available until Monday so Sunita decided to go to the chemist for some wax softening drops in the hope that they would help. The medical shop was just along the street from where she lived but it involved crossing one little lane and manoeuvring around the cars, bikes and veg stalls lining the narrow road. But she was as uncomfortable as if she was crossing a busy railway junction unsure where all the noises were coming from and which direction she should watch first to avoid being hit by a bike or car. She was feeling very fragile by the time she reached the medical shop. It was busy so she had a moment or two to collect herself but when she spoke she couldn’t tell how loud she was or what she sounded like and she was relieved to find she had been understood. The next hurdle was paying the bill. She concentrated hard and looked at the mouth of the shop keeper before she could understand how much she had to pay him.

Though she was discouraged and worried she decided to go to church anyway. She felt safe once she was in the auto but church was altogether different. Usually she loved the songs and hymns but the distorted hearing made the music sound horrible and she dared not sing because she could not hear what she sounded like. She was able to follow very little of the sermon and was hopelessly distracted by a miserable feeling of what she would do after church when her friends would greet her and she would not be able to hear them. She suddenly felt an enormous sense of loneliness. Being deaf in one ear had been one thing, this was horrible, so horrible she crept out during the final hymn rather than have to meet everyone.

She spent the day quietly contemplating what life would be like if her hearing could not be restored; music would be out of her life, an unimaginable loss she thought; she guessed that if there was some residual hearing she might be alright to talk one to one as long as she could see the face of the person she was talking to but if there were other noises or conversations going on or if it was too dark to see the mouth of the speaker, she knew she wouldn’t manage and people only have so much patience to repeat things. In the afternoon when her phone lit up she had to ask her cousin to take the call and she realised that if she couldn’t use the phone then she would be useless at work. One by one the difficulties presented themselves in her imagination. By the time she went to bed she was most sincerely praying for a reprieve with the visit to the doctor the next day.

Sunita, had nothing seriously wrong this time. On Monday the specialist syringed her ear and solved the problem. She was left hearing well but deeply touched by the experience.

Mercifully most people do not get to experience any type of disability except perhaps until they grow infirm with old age, although maybe if we did, we would be more sensitive. As a Christian how often do you find yourself thinking about what life is like for others? We should be doing it all the time because that is the stuff of compassion which is a characteristic of our Lord Jesus and also because we are told to do so in Colossians 3:12

“Therefore as God’s chosen people clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

In the story, Sunita experienced just a few of the daily challenges of hearing impaired people –

  1. Vulnerability walking down the street unable to hear the traffic.
  2. Wary of speaking because they have no idea if they are shouting and worried about annoying others.
  3. Exclusion from singing with others in church for the same reason
  4. Inability to hear the sermon
  5. Dread of after-church-fellowship because they cannot hear what their friends are saying
  6. Loneliness
  7. Risk of being unemployed

I am sure there are many more.
We who are church, have the power of the Holy Spirit, our own attempts at compassion will be pathetic compared to what the Spirit can show us. Let us call upon the Lord to open our eyes to the challenges of people with disabilities around us and find ways to make sure that the Gospel and fellowship of other Christians is readily available to them.

Let us call upon the Lord to open our eyes to the challenges of people with disabilities around us and find ways to make sure that the Gospel and fellowship of other Christians is readily available to them.

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I Can Always Ask

If it is true as I mentioned in my last post, that we are all vulnerable, all dependent on others and indeed God, for who we are and how we can live in this world then there is a commonality between all people, those with disabilities and those without. It is at that point of vulnerability that compassion is possible. It is not a superficial attitude that says “there but for the grace of God go I”, rather it is a deep understanding that if I wish for a full place in society, if I long to be loved and need to be accepted then so do others and if I am hurt by rejection or being considered inadequate then others too will equally feel the pain of rejection or exclusion and resent being written off as useless.

George Abraham is a most accomplished man; he is musical, a cricket wizard and experienced CEO who has founded and run organisations and seen that they achieve sustainability before handing them over. He is an events organiser, public speaker and a Christian leader, and has a delightful sense of humour, he also happens to be visually impaired. I have known him for a few years and long since realised he was talented. I met his wife Roopa much later at a lovely lunch they hosted for me in their home. She knew George when they were children in Sunday School, lost touch as parents were posted and then met up with him again as a student in Delhi at which point she decided that he would make a great match. She said what she saw was a handsome, intelligent and accomplished, Christian man and she told her parents that she was fond of him. George’s father, on the other hand, was having to battle George saying he did not wish to be defined by his disability so his parents should not accept proposals from people with disabilities. As an aside it is a great testimony to share that George’s Dad said it would be his prayer that the Father would “send the proposal to his door” which is exactly what happened with a re-routed letter from Roopa’s parents suggesting they should meet up.

The reason that I tell this story here is because although George has a full and fine life he is the first to admit his vulnerability not as a sign of weakness but as a fact. He was as daring as any youngster even riding his bike around the colony where they lived and his love of cricket was based on bodyline bowling…

”I would aim for the haze at the far end of my vision and it was either a wicket or hospital for the batsman!”
But he is the first to admit that the derring-do of youth was matched by the practical application of his Mum collaborating with teachers, opening the house to his childhood friends for shared homework etc. He described himself as outgoing with lots of great friends so he was always surrounded by sighted boys and girls growing up. He used the word collaboration a lot. And it is a great word for that is what we all do through life, collaborate with others to get things done, because we cannot do them alone.

In 1 Cor. 12:21-26 Paul is talking about how the body (the Church) is made up of many parts.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.
I was near Delhi University North Campus a few weeks after visiting Roopa and George when I saw four visually impaired students walking together towards the metro and I was reminded of George’s comments about how his achievements are greatly influenced by the good sighted friends he has had along the way. He wished visually impaired students would reach out and make friends with the sighted students for their mutual benefit.

George had recently found himself forced to take an unscheduled long bus journey and had told the conductor he would need help to know when they had reached their destination and how to get from there to the airport. His neighbour on the bus asked why he did not travel with a companion his response was

“I can always ask for help.”
It is obvious isn’t it? I cannot tell you how many times I have felt inadequate to a task and have had to ask for help. How is that alright for me but somehow considered a weakness in a person with a disability?

So, what has any of this got to do with you as an Indian Christian reading this blog?

I hope it has challenged your idea of what it means to be a person with disability

I pray that it will bring you to your knees to thank God for reminding you that you are nothing, nothing at all without His blessing. You are vulnerable and that is the common ground you share with all men and women. We all need each other and God.

I trust that if you are a parent and you know any children with disabilities you will encourage your children to play with them, invite them for birthday parties, and children’s activities at home and church.

I hope that the next time you need to ask for help or directions you will recognise the need as one you share with people with disabilities, the elderly and children ….. and it will make you more sensitive and caring and less quick to judge.

I pray that if you are student you will not shy away from fellow students with disabilities because you are afraid.

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