Tag Archives: Disability

Michelle Bauer ~ Healed with Compassion

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.

Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” And they had nothing to say.

When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited.If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place.But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests.For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” – Luke 14:1-14

Jesus celebrated the Sabbath by accepting a dinner invitation. How will you observe the Sabbath – a day of rest – this week? Do you rest on Sundays? What is your plan for finding time to rest this week?

In this account, Jesus wasn’t approached by someone asking to be healed. He noticed someone with an obvious medical condition and healed him on the spot. Take a moment to imagine the scene. How do you feel about Jesus as he steps outside of himself and the drama that seemed to follow him and focuses his attention on this ill person? If Jesus ignored a group and focused on you, what would you hope that Jesus would see about your vulnerabilities?

In what ways were the Pharisees failing at feeling and showing compassion? What distracted the Pharisees from the suffering of others? Who is it easy for you to show compassion to? Who do you find it difficult to have compassion for?

To be humble is to have a right view of self. What makes humility difficult? What are you learning about humility from this passage? How do you see humility in Jesus? How are humility and compassion linked together?

What do you do for others that you expect to be repaid for? Think about a time when you served someone who was incapable of repaying you. What was that experience like? What did you learn from that experience?

What aspects of interacting with broke people or ill people do you find challenging? Jesus invites us to love the person in front of us. If you are ready, ask God to help you notice someone in your life who needs your compassion.  

Think about a time when you needed compassion. Who did you receive it from? What did they do or say that expressed their compassion?

In what ways do you need compassion today? Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a sense of God’s compassionate heart.

Elizabeth Glass Turner ~ The Many Ways We Limp

The bottoms of your shoes tell a tale.

Examine them: the soles are worn down on the inside or the outside, at the front or at the back. They show how you walk. They show what you compensate for. They show the way your foot moves as you stride. And as you wear them, the sole of your shoe begins to tell the tale – of a back injury, of a sore hip, of a tender place on your foot.

A used pair of shoes will tell a foot doctor all about you.


Yesterday I visited a massage therapist. I’d had deep tissue massages in the past. This one was slightly different: she had experience working on professional athletes. I told her a bit about what my body has been through the past couple of years. After briefly expressing this verbally to her, she responded, “let’s see what we find.”

Words weren’t needed. I didn’t need to tell her about my daily habits: my body told her. At one point I chuckled as her strong hands felt a sore spot and ruthlessly applied laser-like pressure to an area that felt only a few centimeters across on my shoulder.

“Muscles and joints can’t hide anything, can they? They don’t lie.”

She chuckled back.

“No, they don’t.”

My body told her I sit hunched with terrible posture at a laptop for hours at a time, writing and editing, oblivious to everything around me. It told her I’ve been hunched nursing a lot the past few months. It told her I go from 0 to 160, sitting a lot and then doing high impact activity like pushmowing the large, bumpy, uneven lawn for stress relief, flipping the mower over to clean out the bottom and continuing on my march. It told her I delivered a baby a few months ago and my joints are still coming back together.

I didn’t have to tell her once, “there! Right there. That’s the spot on my back.” Her hands felt and prodded, smoothed and bore down without my saying a word.


So many of us have been mangling the bottom of our shoes trying not to show our limp. The body remembers old injuries, prone to re-injury. It also remembers the ways our muscles have attempted to compensate: a knee injury or hip injury on one side can lead to added pressure on the other side, throwing the other, completely uninjured side out of whack.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

So often Jesus looked at someone, and like a foot doctor examining the bottom of a pair of shoes, like a massage therapist honing in on the source of the knot, he saw the hidden limp; the old injury; the compensating stride; the posture attempting to correct itself. He asked questions, but not really because he needed to be told; rather, because people needed to tell.


The body carries memories of trauma. Brains shriek with confusion when deep chemical pathways light up again. The moment of injury seems present, whether it was a car crash or personal violation, whether it was an injustice or words that ring years after the voice spoke them.

We can’t control or compensate for it a second longer: the limp returns. The muscle seizes. Some limps remain the rest of our lives. Others fade with time. Some need emergency surgery; others need quiet, careful, long-term care.

Today, can you bring your shoes to Jesus? Can you flip them over and examine the soles? What would a specialist say about how you walk? What would a sports massage therapist know about how you spend your hours? Jesus can see you limping, or fighting to hide it. Can you give him your shoes?

Can you say, “here. I’ve been hiding this injury, or trying to hide it, for so long. It’s thrown off the whole way I walk. I’ve become so used to the ache I don’t even notice it unless I sit very still and quietly. And then I feel it crying out for relief. But that pain is so hard to sit with, it is overwhelming. I can’t do it by myself without help, I might vomit from the pain.”

You don’t have to tell him the hard words unbearable to speak aloud. Just give him your shoes. They’ll tell the story.

It is okay to stop running.

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Surely he took up our pain  and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. – Isaiah 53:1, 3a, 4-5

Tara Beth Leach ~ Inclusion Matters

This weekend we are pleased to share a sermon from Rev. Tara Beth Leach, Senior Pastor, and Pastor Julie Keith, Pastor of Special Needs at First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena, California. 

The sermon begins at minute marker 35. 


Differently Abled in the Church: “Life Unworthy of Life” & the Kingdom of God

What does your church do with people who are differently abled, disabled, mentally handicapped, handicapped, or crippled? (All of those terms have been used in my thirty-odd trips around the sun.)

Do you have someone in your church who comes in a wheelchair? Do you have training for teachers and nursery workers, preschool workers and children’s ministers on how to engage kids with autism? Do you know a person with Down’s Syndrome? Are you equipped to recognize mental illness? When you offer communion, do you comment on how someone who is differently abled may access the Body and Blood of Christ? 

I have two children. So far, to my knowledge, neither one is differently abled. The youngest can’t yet read; it’s possible we’ll learn she has dyslexia later on. Both are what strangers would call, “healthy.” For now, of course. A disease or tumor or accident could hit, leaving one with impaired cognition or missing an arm or with burn scars. When I was expecting my first child, I attempted to mentally prepare myself for various possibilities – miscarriage, birth defects, a disabled child. After all, there are a few pregnancy screenings most expectant mothers go through.

Growing up in North America at the end of the twentieth century during a constantly shifting linguistic atmosphere that aimed for more sensitivity, however imperfectly, meant changes in popular dialogue.

Recently a news story emerged about the drastic reduction of Down’s Syndrome in Iceland, ostensibly nearly “eliminated.” Actress Patricia Heaton stepped up and publicly challenged the portrayal of the reality: you’re not eradicating it, she said. You’re eradicating people with it. Because Iceland’s supposed “progress” wasn’t through some medical breakthrough: it was through abortion. 

Around the same time, when I didn’t recognize the name of one of the white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, I researched it online. The preview of their site used the word, “fit.” Fit. Not healthy or well-toned or strong. Fit, as in, fit or unfit. As in, who is fit to liveNazis had no use for people with disabilities, or people who might need special education. I was sickened to see the word “fit” on that website as my mind went back to the documentaries on the Holocaust. 

Life is a gift. Life is a good. 

Downs people matterBlack people matterJewish people matterCatholic people matterGay people matterHandicapped people matterRoma people matterPeople who protect these people matter. 

All those people went into camps and didn’t come out. 

Life is life.  

Jesus said, “let the little kids come to me.”

When someone talked about a guy born blind (in front of the man, mind you) and asked Jesus, “who sinned, this man or his parents?” Jesus challenged the notion that there was something wrong with parents of a child who was different than other children, and Jesus challenged the notion that there was something to be avoided about a person who was born with a physical limitation.

In fact, Jesus went on to clarify that the differently abled man was part of God’s inbreaking Kingdom, a specially chosen revelation of the power and love of God. 

Around the same time that I read the word “fit” on the Neo-Nazi website, around the same time I saw the news out of Iceland about the approaching “eradication” of Down’s Syndrome, I happened across the video below. 

Sometimes Wesleyan Methodists use the word “perfect” or “perfection.” We use it to mean, “complete in love,” “fullness of love,” “free of the desire to separate ourselves from God.” We use it to mean the kind of perfection alluded to in the Greek language of the New Testament – perfect, having met a full goal: whole, complete.  

We never, ever use it to mean superior, or “fit,” or more worthy than another. All through the New Testament, Jesus encounters people whose minds or bodies work differently than other peoples’, Jesus encounters people whose minds or bodies don’t work “right,” but Jesus always sees them. Jesus makes eye contact. Jesus extends dignity. Jesus acknowledges personhood 

Zaccheus, we read, was a man “short in stature.” He may have been a little person, a human with dwarfism. Zaccheus was small, and for whatever reason, he was in a very unpopular profession. He risked ridicule by climbing up a tree to see Jesus. In the middle of the shoving crowds, Jesus looked up and made eye contact. He saw Zaccheus, he didn’t see through him. He didn’t avoid him. While Jesus is the star of the day, the big news in town, whose house does Jesus decide to go to? “Zaccheus, get down from there. I’d like to come to your house for dinner, is that okay?” The small man’s life was changed. 

There is no “life unworthy of life” in the Kingdom of God. In the Gospel of Matthew we read about Jesus saying, “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.” 

One of the sisters of Mother Teresa’s Order commented on the value of disabled children a few years ago “Each life ought to be lived,” Sr M. Infanta said, even if it does not meet utilitarian criteria or is not “productive” according to today’s models. “These children have been created to love and be loved. They are a unique source of blessing for us, society and the whole world,” she said. 

Similarly, a few years ago a movie called “The Drop Box” was released about a Korean pastor who takes in otherwise abandoned infants, many of whom are disabled in some way. (At the time of publication, “The Drop Box” is available to view on Instant Netflix.) 

What a diametrically opposed view Christians are called to embrace in contrast to the concept that there is, “life unworthy of life.” But more than a viewpoint or a concept is the challenge of practice.  

In a subsection editors titled “The Judgment of the Nations,” we read these words from Matthew 25:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

An Icelandic mother of a child with Down’s Syndrome posed this question in the news story referenced earlier: “what kind of a society do you want to live in?” 

I don’t know about you, but I want to live in one that looks more and more like a place that welcomes people Jesus loves. I want to live in one that looks more and more like the Kingdom of God, where we make eye contact, where we smile, where we kneel down, where we reach out and touch, where we embrace, where we see what we have to learn from people who are different than us. 

Churches can become beacons of this merry, determined band of disciples that doesn’t leave anyone behind. The question is whether you will.

Picking up mentally handicapped adults in a church van for Sunday services isn’t glamorous. Pushing a heavy person in a wheelchair uphill with an oxygen tank banging into your shins doesn’t readily come with an apt hashtag. Learning how to serve a family with special needs kids might not headline any popular ministry conferences. 

But Jesus made eye contact. Jesus knelt down. Jesus reached out. Jesus went out of his way. And we cannot ignore that Jesus made eye contact with us. Jesus knelt down for us. Jesus reached out to us. Jesus went out of his way for us.  

A convenient time will never arrive. But if you look for them, beautiful moments will. There is no life unworthy of lifeLife is beautiful.

Kimberly Reisman ~ The Beautiful Gate

I recently returned from a two-week trip to Nigeria. I will be processing my experiences there for quite some time, but one encounter impressed me greatly and returned to my mind when I read a recent post by John Meunier – We Are All Disabled. Like John, my thoughts are not fully formed on the theological issues raised by disability – I’ve never been encouraged to actually contemplate it. But for some reason, I keep returning to it as a significant topic of reflection. While in Lagos, my conversation with Ayuba Buri Gufram intensified that interest.

Ayuba contracted polio as a child and has never walked upright on his feet. Instead, at least until he was a young adult, he crawled on the ground like most other polo survivors in Nigeria. Unlike others, however, his family kept him in their home rather than turning him out to survive alone by begging, or, as some families do, place him as an apprentice with a more experienced beggar in order to develop his skills, before then turning him out to go solo. Rather than these options, Ayuba’s family kept him at home. He was able to go to school for a while, but the fees were expensive and his father did not see the need to continue to send him.

The turning point came when Ayuba was able to obtain a wheelchair. That was a game changer. He was able to go to school for the first time in years, he met his future wife, and he discovered his life mission – to give polio survivors the opportunity to stop crawling on the ground.

Ayuba founded Beautiful Gate, an organization dedicated to building uniquely designed wheelchairs for children disabled by polio. This is definitely a cause worth supporting, but that’s not what I want to explore here.

The name, Beautiful Gate, is taken from the story of Peter and the crippled beggar in Acts 3. Peter and John go to the temple for prayers and encounter a crippled beggar at the entrance area called The Beautiful Gate. Every day this man’s friends would bring him to the Beautiful Gate where he would beg for money. The climax of the story is when Peter heals this man, and rightly so. But from Ayuba’s perspective two other details are significant.

First, the man’s friends brought him to the Beautiful Gate each day. For Ayuba, that was a sign of caring and devotion. But his next question is a valid one: Why did they leave him at the gate? Why not take him all the way in? Did they not understand that he had spiritual needs as well?

Now I understand that there are all kinds of scholarly answers to Ayuba’s question – laws about purity, understandings of sin, disease, and punishment. But those scholarly answers make his question even more poignant, did they not understand that he had spiritual needs?

For Ayuba, the fact that the beggar had spiritual needs is emphasized by what happens when Peter heals him – the man immediately enters the temple praising God. Certainly, his praise is appropriate; after all, he’s just been healed. As significant as the healing is, however, Ayuba goes on to ask another question: Might the man have wanted to praise God before he was healed? Each day, as he sat outside the temple, might he have wanted to bring all kinds of things to God in worship and prayer – his praise, his supplication, his intercession?

Obviously the beggar’s healing is worthy of praise, and it provides the opportunity for Peter to preach to the crowd that gathers, which is of course, a main focus of the overall story. But what about the man? Was he only defined by his crippled condition, which others determined placed him outside the context of worship? Was he only defined by his crippled condition, which others assumed gave him no reason to praise?

Ayuba left me much to think about. My tendency is to move to the theoretical – to ask wide open questions like, as Christians, who are we leaving at the gate? Or, what are our preconceived notions about praise and our reasons for offering it? Those are good questions, worthy of contemplation and conversation.

But Ayuba is less interested in the theoretical than the practical. And so he asks, what about this man, this crippled beggar who is sitting at the gate, this man with spiritual needs and reasons for praise? What about him? And I’m left thinking that’s where I need to start as well.