“Won’t You Be my Neighbor?” What I Learned From Mister Rogers About Life

I wrote this when I first started writing. Mister Rogers, (the creator of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood),was born on March 20 1928, and died ion February 27, 2003. I decided to put this on my blog in light of the new movie that’s out in theaters titled, “Won’t You  Be my Neighbor?” If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It’s very well done. However, it’s not meant for young children. It’s rated PG-13. This year would’ve been his 90th birthday. I’m sending a thank you note to heaven.

“Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.” Mister Rogers

Dear Mister Rogers,

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood ….” My name is Rachael Benson. You and I have been television neighbors since the day I was born on February 8, 1983. I am now twenty-four years old and I still watch your show whenever I can. I never get tired of the songs, or of seeing how people make things such as bicycles, crayons, backpacks, etc. I also never get tired of knowing that I’m “special.” It’s neat to hear you call me your “friend” through the television and know that you mean it. I am now 24 years old, and I still watch your show whenever I can. I never get tired of the songs, or of seeing how people make things such as bicycles, crayons, backpacks, etc. I also never get tired of knowing that I’m “special.” It’s neat to hear you call me your “friend” through the television and know that you mean it.

Lots of people my age would think I’m crazy for watching a children’s program. Because of the puppets and simple lyrics, they only see it as child’s play. If they would look beneath the surface, they would see a whole lot more. The truth is, no matter how old you are, everyone needs to hear, “You make each day such a special day for me. You know how. By just your being you. There’s only one person in the whole world like you. People can like you exactly as you are.”

Everyone needs to come to a point where they accept themselves the way they are before others will like them. You said it yourself, “Deep within us- no matter who we are- lives a feeling of wanting to be loveable; of wanting to be the kind of person others like to be with. And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of loving.” I couldn’t agree more.

A lot of people won’t watch your show because it’s slow. I have cerebral palsy. Maybe it’s because of my disability and the fact that I can’t move so easily that I don’t mind the slow pace. But then again, the truth is that no matter what age you are, we all need to learn to slow down and take our time, so we don’t make mistakes. We ALL need to learn how to be patient and wait for things; not just little kids.

These “get rich quick” schemes aren’t real. Anything of good quality is worth the wait. I can think of nine things to do at one time even if I can’t do them physically. My mom is always telling me, “Slow down you’re putting energy into planning something that is months from now.”

“Someday you’ll be a grown-up too and you’ll have children grow up too.” The key word in that song is someday. Nothing happens fast in our culture the way we would like it to because it isn’t natural. The slow and steady process is what is natural. You’re right Mister Rogers when you say, “That’s not just a song for children. No. Someday you’ll be a grown-up too and you’ll have children grow up too. Then you can love them in and out and tell them stories all about the times when you were their size… that’s a little hint for you know who.”

If more people could look beneath the surface and really listen to what you are saying, they would realize that your songs are simple on purpose so that all people can understand your messages. Unfortunately, too many people my age tease me about the fact that I watch your program to understand that. Too many people my age think they’re too old for your program and I think that’s really sad. When I try to explain to people that your show and songs are for everybody, the response I get is often something like this: “His songs are for children. Mister Rogers is for kids.” People just don’t get it.

Even in my family the only one who seems to understand and who will watch your program with me is my mother. Her name is Rosemary. No matter how old I get, my mother has never minded your television visits. To her, it’s better that I watch your show than a lot of the other stuff that is on television for people my age. In the Pittsburgh magazine somebody said, “It was reality television at its best.” Again, I agree. Instead of throwing furniture and calling people names, you dealt with things like anger in a constructive manner. Even though the characters in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe might disagree sometimes, they always came to a solution and said “sorry.”

My mother also likes the program because of the principles behind it. She knew that you were a Christian by your character. You hid it so well because you wanted to reach more than just Christians. I didn’t even recognize it until I got older and more people (including Amy Hollingsworth and the people at Family Communications) started to put out some information about you in 2003.

I remember the first time I realized that you were a Christian. I was about nine or 10. You wrote the word “agape” in Greek and you told viewers that it meant love. I realized that it was the same kind of love the Apostle Paul talks about in the Bible. The same kind of unconditional love that Christ had when he died on the cross. It was then that my mother told me that you had a degree in ministry; you just didn’t have a church. I remember another time when you were talking about day/and night care. Daniel Stripped Tiger wanted to know who made things and Lady Aberlin’s response to everything was “God.” You were careful because you wanted to live it out more than anything and you didn’t want to offend people who weren’t Christians, but if people look and listen carefully (as one of your songs says) they might be able to figure it out.

The Song “The Truth Shall Make Me Free” comes right out of the Bible. In John 8:31-32 Jesus said, “If you hold to my teachings you are really my disciples. Then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

The song “Then Your Heart Is Full of Love” is full of Christian principles from beginning to end. “When your heart can sing another’s gladness, then your heart is full of love. When your heart can cry another’s sadness, then your heart is full of love.” In Romans 12:15 Jesus said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34). You sang, “When your heart has room for everybody, then your heart is full of love.”

Everything you did was full of Christian principles. Here I was going to church memorizing Bible verses and I didn’t even know it! You slid it right underneath my feet.

Another reason that explains why my mother has never minded that I watch your show even when I’ve gotten past the age that most people would typically watch it is that it is always clean. She likes the show because with you she has “never had to worry about what was on.” Those are her exact words. Unlike most shows that start out okay for children and then change, your show has never changed. It has always been the same.

Even I don’t like a lot of what is on television today. I can’t handle the news for very long because it’s all about who killed who and the war in Iraq and people hating one another. I’m more of a comedy show type person, but even those are getting dirtier and dirtier. It’s getting to the point where I like to watch some of my old videos or read instead of watching television.

Most of television today (in the year 2007) has no value. If you were on Earth today, I’m sure you would have a lot to say about it given your “Fame is a four-letter word” speech. Americans would get an ear full! You encourage people to be themselves and assure children and adults alike that it is okay to still enjoy younger toys. You bring back memories of what life was like for me before I had to think so much and start making some hard decisions in my young adult years. Your voice has a soothing effect.

I love the second and third stanza in “Please Don’t Think It’s Funny” when you say, “It’s great to know you’re growing up bigger every day, but somehow things you like to remember are often put away. And sometimes you wonder over and over if you should stay inside, when you enjoy a younger toy… You never need to hide. In the long, long trip of growing There are stops along the way, for thoughts of all the soft things and the look of yesterday. For a chance to fill our feelings, With comfort and with ease, and then tell the new tomorrow,”You can come now when you please.”

That is encouraging because one day when I was in high school I tried to watch something else because I got tired of being teased; but I couldn’t help it; I went right to your program. My mother told me I was probably destined to work with children and that rather than try to get away from it, I should take all the notes I can. I knew she was right and from then on, I didn’t worry about it. At least when she was in the room. If other people came in, I did change the channel because I didn’t want to hear any negative comments.

You know what righteous anger is. You said, “Usually when I get angry it’s because somebody has demeaned somebody else.” That’s why you wrote, “What Do You Do with the Mad That You Feel?” Ephesians 4:26 says, “Let not the sun go down on your anger.” You also knew that Jesus is the only one who is perfect. That is the point behind the song, “Sometimes People are Good.”

Mister Rogers, thank you for bringing joy to my childhood and for giving my mother peace of mind when I watch the television. You referred to the television as “Holy Ground” and said, “Why in the world couldn’t we use this thing called television for the broadcasting of grace throughout the land?” Good question Mister Rogers. Even if they never mentioned God, I wish more people in television could see it the way you see it – as a ministry. Thank you for taking it so seriously. Because of that, you’ve had such an impact on my life. Even from way up there in heaven. I can’t wait to meet and talk to you face to face. “When your heart beats for a special someone, then your heart is full of love.” Mister Rogers, you truly are a special someone. My heart will always beat for you. You are always welcome in my home. I will always have a special place in my heart for you because “You are special.”

Love,
Rachael Benson

 

 

How Becoming A Christian Is Like Becoming A Vase A Gospel Message

Here’s a condensed version of the vase lesson I did with my Awana kids back in October. Originally, I talked about inner beauty, and them seeing themselves as God sees them. Many of the kids go to my church, so I taught the lesson as if everyone was a mature follower of Christ who just needed help growing in the Lord. If someone wants to share the gospel with a friend, here’s how to use the same lesson as a gospel tract.   I shared this when I did an interview to become a member of my church. Enjoy!

  • All Adam and Eve had to do was obey one rule. They couldn’t do it. In Genesis 2:16-17, God said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
  • Because of sin, we are like broken vases. Romans 3: 23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
  • God has to repair the vase; He did that by sending His son to die on the cross. Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
  • There’s hope! The vase can be repaired!
  • ”Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Acts 16:31.
  • 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
  • After we believe in Jesus and accept Him as our savior, He washes away our sins and makes us new. We begin to be transformed into that beautiful vase He means for us to be. Psalm 51:7”Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”
  • From the day we accept Christ as our Savior, until the day we go home to be with him in heaven, He’s always working on us. God will always be faithful to complete the work He started in us. The next step is to stand back and watch the work He does in our lives. God always does great things! Philippians 1:4-6 “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
  • Just because you accept Jesus as your savior, doesn’t mean you won’t have problems,  Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly be perfect. No one is perfect until they get to heaven. We all have our weaknesses. Even though God does forgive us, it’s not easy for us as humans to forget the past. You may still have blemishes from things you did in the past. At one time or another, we could all look back on something and say, “I wish I hadn’t done that.” When you have Jesus in your life, God uses those blemishes to make you stronger and build your character. Those blemishes are often used to help you minister to others and see the work God does in other people’s lives through you. The more you get to know the Lord, the more you’ll say, “Lord, thank you for leaving the blemishes in my life to remind me of what you brought me through. You are so good to me. Please help me use the blemishes in my life to bring glory to you.” In 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10, the apostle Paul says, “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

 

 

Blessings In Your Day How To Put A Smile on Your Face All Week long

This is my friend Ken Seekers. He’s  the one from Michigan who told me about the different phrases for the different days of the week. I love our conversations Ken. Thanks for helping me come up with the Blog title for this post!

This is my personal care attendant Traci. She gave me the suggestion for this new blog post since I tell patients the different phrases frequently. Great idea! Thanks for your help Traci. We really do make a great team! I love our many adventures!

I volunteer at my local hospital twice a week passing out magazines and delivering smiles to patients. My job title is “patient visitations “volunteer. My favorite part of the job is being able to talk to patients and visitors and hear about their many life experiences. Even the nurses and doctors love to talk to me as well.

One of my favorite nurses is a guy named Ken. He works on the Acute Rehab floor. He’s from Michigan. He says the weather back there is pretty gloomy all year round. There’s lots of rain, snow, it’s windy, etc. You get the idea. Because of that, you often see people walking around with glum faces. In order to make people smile, someone came up with a phrase for every day of the week. Here they are:

Merry Monday.

Terrific Tuesday.

Wonderful Wednesday.

Thankful Thursday.

Fantastic Friday.

Super Saturday and Sunday.

He said it worked! People started laughing and smiling, and were happier. I believe it. The phrases are catchy. I often share them with patients and visitors. It makes them smile. So, here’s my challenge to you. Find something in every day you can thank God for and praise Him. It’s a great way to share the gospel. When people see Christians smiling even through the hard times, they get really curious and wonder why.  Look at your bible and pick out a verse for the day. For instance, for Merry Monday a good verse is Proverbs 17:22 where it says:

“A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Many physical illnesses are brought on by unnecessary worry and anxiety. What’s one good thing that makes your heart feel merry? How do you like the nice warm weather we’re having? I love the sunshine!  Did someone tell a funny joke? If you have a pet at home, what did they do that made you laugh? Focus on that.

On Terrific Tuesday, What happened that makes your heart feel terrific? In my case, I feel terrific when a training session goes well at the gym. With cerebral palsy, every little thing I’m able to accomplish toward being independent  is progress. Philippians 4: 4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

On Wonderful Wednesday, many times I think about the great times I’m going to have with my Awana kids. I love dressing up for theme nights. I can also  thank God He allowed me to live so I can tell people about His goodness. The way things went when I was born, I should be in heaven now. Psalms 139: 13-14 says: “For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.”

On Thankful Thursday, I can be thankful I’m able to volunteer at the hospital and church and have a huge impact on people. People are often surprised when I tell them I have CP because they’ve seen worse cases of it. To them, I don’t look like I should have it because I can sit up in my wheelchair so well. One time, one visitor said, “You speak well.” Volunteering at the hospital is a highlight of my week. Many people have asked me how they can become volunteers when they see me volunteering; I have also encouraged people who have to adjust to a lifetime in a wheelchair. I love it. It gives me a great sense of fulfillment. Sometimes, just to add a little bit of humor I tell people, “I’m thankful for Thankful Thursday because on Thankful Thursday, I get to plan what I’m going to do on Fantastic Friday and the rest of the weekend.” It makes people laugh. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

On Fantastic Friday ,(This one is my favorite. I honk the horn on my wheelchair on this day), BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!  I often think about the fun places my mom and I are going to go over the weekend. One of her favorite things to do is go for a drive up the coast. I love that too. Just recently, we took a drive up north to a place that has a whole bunch of swedish shops called Solvang. It’s above Santa Barbra. They have a Christmas shop I love. As we drive, we can just sit back and admire God’s creation. I love looking out the widow at the ocean and the green hills because of all the rain. John 1:3.Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

On Super Saturday and Sunday, I’m thankful I get to sleep in, do things at my own pace, and spend time with my mom. At the end of the day on Saturday, we go to the 5:30 service at church. Psalms 118:24 says:

“This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.”

What blessings in your life can you thank God for this week?
Lord, as Christ-followers help us to be people who proclaim your goodness. Help us to find ways to live out your word and do what it says in Psalms 34:1-2. “I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” May we be people who bless your name at all times so we can advance your kingdom and bring people to you. Amen.

Author’s Note: All Scripture references are taken from the New International Version of the Bible except the last two which are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Story of Hal’s Pals Dolls Dolls Designed to Help Kids with Disabilities

 

 This doll was given to me by my occupational therapist when I was 13. My mom found it one day while she was cleaning the attic. It’s called a Hal’s Pals doll. You can’t find them anywhere in stores but similar dolls have been made by other companies and are sold directly through the mail to certain organizations who work with kids with disabilities. Today, you would be able to find Dolls like this on eBay, but you can’t find this particular one anywhere! This doll is a rare treasure! My therapist gave this to me on the last day of occupational therapy and said, ‘Whenever you look at it, you can remember how hard I made you work.” I smiled and said, “Thank you,” as we hugged each other and my mom and I left the room for the last time.

The idea for Hals Pals dolls started in September of 1983. A lady named Susan Anderson was chatting with a neighbor during“Handicapped Awareness Day” at a Fraser, Colorado elementary school when her friend Audrey Boxwell asked: “What do you think about handicapped dolls?”  They were manufactured by Mattel after ski instructor Hal O’Leary, who has coached Ted Kennedy Jr. and blind actor Tom Sullivan—the 19-inch, soft-sculpture dolls are clearly disabled but as cute and cuddly as a Cabbage Patch Kid. The five Pals include a one-legged skier, a ballerina wearing hearing aids, a doll in a wheelchair, one with crutches and leg braces, and one with dark glasses, white cane and seeing-eye dog.”

Even Hal O” Leary said: “When you see a one-legged skier whipping past you on the slopes, you suddenly grasp that person’s capabilities in a very real way. “When I saw the dolls, I thought, ‘These do the same things for kids.’ ”

The dolls are designed to give kids with disabilities positive images of themselves and help those who don’t have disabilities to accept and become comfortable around someone with a disability. I’ve seen it work. When my niece and nephew come to my house they love to play with it. My nephew loves to push the wheelchair and says, “I’m going to take her for a walk.” He pushes her over to the bookcase and says, “Is that nice?” He sounds so cute! When they came to the house last weekend, he and his sister started pushing me in my manual wheelchair down the hallway and spinning me in circles. As for my niece forget the doll, she wants to ride in the little wheelchair!

Dolls like this are a great idea. I’m glad to see that more companies are coming out with dolls like this. I wish stories would sell them so more kids could see them and play with them. When it comes to getting society comfortable with people with disabilities, we need all the help we can get. I love this doll! Thank you, Mattel!

 

Works Cited

Kelley, Jack. “Hal’s Huggable Dolls Score a Hit with the Handicapped.” PEOPLE.com, people.com/archive/hals-huggable-dolls-score-a-hit-with-the-handicapped-vol-26-no-6/.

More Than Volunteering It’s A Highlight Of My Week

Earlier this month I was asked to speak at the Foundation Board Meeting at the hospital. Here’s the speech I gave. Enjoy!

Hi, my name is Rachael Benson. I have cerebral palsy and I’m 34 years old. I’ve been volunteering at Henry Mayo 10 years in July of this year. I’m known as the patient visitations volunteer. I go into the patients’ rooms and spend time talking and visiting with our patients while offering them a magazine. Traci and I are a team. I call Traci my cart pusher. She only goes in if it looks like there’s too much equipment and It’s going to be a tight squeeze. She also lets me know if it looks like a patient is asleep.

When I go into a room, I knock on a patient’s door and then say, “Hi, my name is Rachael. I volunteer here. Would you like a magazine? It’s free.” If people say yes I tell them what we have. I give them a magazine and tell them, “When you’re done, you can leave the magazine here and housekeeping will take care of it and toss it. Or you can take it home with you and it can be considered a gift from the hospital. Many times people smile and say, “Thank you.”

I explain to the patients that the magazines we get are donated by people from the community. If you have any magazines you’re not using, you can drop them off at the volunteer office where you get your visitor pass. People love hearing that and say, “That’s great. Now I know what to do with my magazines.” If I feel like they’re able and a patient is interested I give them the white pamphlet that says, “Who’s Your Healthcare Hero?” and say, “See the white pamphlet? That’s in case you want to nominate someone like myself, a nurse, a doctor, anyone. That’s just one way to let the hospital know they’re doing a good job.”

If a patient offers me a tip, I explain that I can’t accept cash. The service is free but if you want to donate to the hospital in honor of someone this pamphlet is how you do it. Since we started giving out the pamphlet I’ve been nominated Healthcare Hero six times.

Even if people don’t take a magazine they often say, “Thanks for coming by.” The fact that I’m in a wheelchair starts many conversations. People want to know what it’s like to be in a wheelchair because now they have to adjust to a new lifestyle and they just need someone to listen and relate to them. Sometimes I’ve inspired people to become volunteers at the hospital. I tell people, I love being here because I have cerebral palsy and people are often looking for a way to help the person with the disability. That’s fine but I like showing them that I can give back too. It gives me a sense of fulfillment. Coming here is a highlight of my week. People are impressed and often say, “Thank you for what you do.” I reply My pleasure.” It’s not uncommon for me to hang out in a room and talk to a patient for a while. One time I talked to a patient who was new to being paralyzed in rehab and now he was going to be in a wheelchair the rest of his life. We talked for two hours.

Outside of the hospital, I also volunteer at my church at my church at Grace Baptist Church on Wednesday nights in a program at my church called Awana. It’s a bible program for kids. It’s like boy and girl scouts but it’s Christian organized. I’ve been helping in it for 17 years. I teach the 5th and 6th-grade girls. The 5th and 6th girls are called the T & T club. That stands for Truth & Training. In October I did a lesson. How Becoming A Christian Is Like Becoming A Vase. It’s also on Youtube. If you want to check it out type in the title and then by Rachael Benson. Don’t forget the extra a or it won’t come up correctly. Remember the famous cook Rachael Ray? She spells her name the same way.

I also have a blog. http://rachaelbenson.com/ I write a lot about my life experiences. I like to tie in a Biblical lesson. I wrote a book for kids called The Hunt For Heaven. It’s a picture book for kids ages 4-8. There’s a link to it on my blog. I’m trying to get more of my writing out there. I would love to have a full-time writing job where I write bible lessons for kids. I’m also a member of the Henry Mayo Fitness Center. I love it. I love the atmosphere and the people. They’re very knowledgeable and very caring. I work with a personal trainer on Tuesdays. My mom is also an associate member under my membership. Since I volunteer at Henry Mayo we get a discount. My mom often says, “Don’t quit your job.” I love being here at Henry Mayo and volunteering in the community. I look forward to many more years to come. Thank You.

My most recent picture after being nominated Healthcare Hero. September 2017.
Halloween 2014. Traci and I are getting ready to go work and “bug” the patients.

“Made Perfect in Weakness.” My Thoughts on Faith Healing Theology

 

How do you react when you see someone in a wheelchair? From experience, I’ve found reactions vary. I’ve seen people make eye contact with me, smile, look away and some even want to pray for my physical healing. It happened last Saturday when my mom and I went down to Orange County to visit my sister. We took my niece to the park. While we were there, a lady saw me sitting in my wheelchair. She approached me and said she felt led to pray for me.

“What’s wrong?” She asked.

I replied, “Nothing, I was born this way. I have CP.”

“What does CP stand for?”

“Cerebral palsy,” I answered.

I talked a little bit about Joni Eareckson Tada. She knew who she was. Then I said, “There’s more than one kind of healing.  Suffering displays God’s goodness at Its best.”

“How so?” She said. The lady had been on disability from an illness for quite some time and still had many physical ailments. She was depending on her healing to come from one of those faith healing ministries on television.

“Many times, It’s the physical ailments and hardships in our lives that bring us closer to God. That’s when we depend on Him the most.” I talked about the phrase, “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I explained how I learn things about Him, I might not have learned otherwise.  I also mentioned how I often feel like many times I get to see the good God does in other peoples’ lives because I need help from others. I often feel people need more of a spiritual healing than a physical healing. The lady was intrigued. I think she was surprised I could talk.

I talked about the story in John chapter 9: 1-3. “You know when Jesus is talking to the disciples and they asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Yes, I know that story.” She answered.

I went on and quoted the next part; “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” What I was trying to emphasize is the blessing that comes with a physical hardship that never goes away. The lady was pretty locked into her thinking. In the end, she did pray for me and said, God bless,” and walked away. My mom was impressed that I was able to talk to the lady and answer her so well.

“Good for you. I think you sent her away with a strong message.” She said“Yeah,” I said.  “Now, I hope she’ll go home and take another look at that story, and think of me and my story, I hope she searches more in the word of God and finds the deeper kind of healing.”

It got me thinking. People often feel sorry for me because I’m in a wheelchair. However, for me, it’s the other way around. I feel sorry for the people who are looking for complete physical healing and want to pray for me because they don’t understand the blessing an ongoing hardship can be. Many of the old church hymns were written by people who had physical ailments. Because of what the songwriters went through, the old hymns really have meaning. For example, look at the hymn, “To God Be the Glory,” by Fanny Crosby. She was only six weeks old when she lost her sight because of a doctor’s error.  Later on in her life, she said: “I believe the good Lord, in all His infinite mercy, has through my blindness consecrated me to the work I am to do.”

Well said! My favorite part is the stanza where it says, “Great things He has taught us, great things He has done, and great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son; But purer, and higher, and greater will be, our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.” She wrote that and many other hymns. I don’t think she would have written hymns like that if she didn’t have to lean so hard on the Lord for strength. The list of great hymns goes on and on.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I do believe people can get healed after many years of having an illness. I’ve seen it happen to a few people I know, and I’m happy for them. Praise God! I just don’t believe it happens in a faith healing service on television. If it does happen, it’s a miracle performed by God not man. God chooses who He will heal and who He will not heal. Those He doesn’t heal, I believe it means He has a bigger plan for their life and wants to use them in a special way. Jeremiah 29: 11 says,“ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future .” (New International Version) Another great verse is Ephesians 2:10 where it says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  One of the problems with faith healing theology is it gives the person with the illness or disability the impression it’s their fault. It happened because of a sin they committed. Nothing could be further from the truth! Again, read John chapter nine. I cannot emphasize that enough!

In one sermon a long time ago, my old church pastor Tom Givens said, “If those people on television really have the gift of healing, why aren’t they in a hospital helping people?”Tom Givens is in heaven now, but his words of wisdom have always stuck with me.  His words couldn’t be any more accurate! For example, I volunteer at my local hospital twice a week and I haven’t seen any faith healers come. I’ve also heard Joni talk about when she first got injured after her diving accident. She went to a faith healing service. The light never shined on the section of people who were in wheelchairs. Why? Because the faith healer knew she couldn’t fix it! Many people walked away disappointed. Joni said it caused her to study the word of God more. Now she’s more satisfied with her life than physical healing could ever give her. As I’ve said before, I was born with cerebral palsy. I don’t expect it to go away while I’m here on earth. Instead of trying to get rid of it and spend my life being miserable, I choose to focus on what I can do rather than on what I cannot: as my mom often reminds me. Instead of always trying to get rid of pain, we ought to say, “What’s God trying to teach me through this? How can I use this to glorify Him? What are the blessings about this hardship?” Instead of cursing God in hardship, we should praise Him.

In my case, I can be thankful God pulled me through my birth. According to medical reports, I should be in heaven. I can be thankful I come from a loving Christian family who cares for me and has taught the gospel at an early age. I’m thankful I chose to embrace a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I’m thankful I’m able to help people at church and at the hospital. I can relate to people and have an impact on their lives that I wouldn’t have without the wheelchair. I can help people who may have to adjust to a lifetime of disability. In Philippians 4: 12-13, the apostle Paul says, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”

I’m glad people have a heart of compassion toward a person in a wheelchair. However, instead of praying for my physical healing, I’d much rather have people pray for my attitude that I would be content in every situation, and shine for Jesus. It’s not easy to keep the smile on my face. If I didn’t have God in my life, I couldn’t handle having cerebral palsy. It’s easy for me to compare myself to another person who has a lesser degree of cerebral palsy and wish I could do certain things, or dwell on memories of things my body used to be able to do that I can no longer do. However, the Lord calls me to stay focused in the present and be content in all circumstances. I need help with that more than anything!

Lord, help me to be content in any and every situation, and not get bitter when things get tough. Help me to remember it’s only through you I can do everything. Without you, I am nothing. Help me to embrace my cerebral palsy as a gift. Thank you for the many abilities you’ve given me. May I use them to glorify you with everything I do in my life. Help me keep my eyes focused heavenward toward you so that when the day comes, I will qualify to win the prize. I can’t wait to get my reward in heaven. Amen.

Here are some verses about having a new body in heaven:

2 Corinthians 5: 1-5: New International Version: ”For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile, we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

2 Corinthians 4: 16-18: New King James Version: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

If you’re interested in having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as your savior, pray this prayer or something similar:

Lord, I can’t handle my life alone. It’s too much responsibility. I need you to come and take the weight off my shoulders. Show me the bigger plan you have for my life. I need that deeper kind of healing. Please come into my life and show me how to be content in all circumstances. Show me how your power is made perfect in weakness. From now on, I choose to follow your plan for my life and not my own. I can’t wait to see what the big plan is. Amen.

Playing With Play-Doh Week 11 “A crown that will last forever.”

Activity/Discussion for 5th and 6th grade Awana or Sunday school. Have a contest. Have the kids make a crown using the play-doh. See which one is the best. Hand out first, second, third, fourth, and fifth place. Then talk about how as long as we are true Christ-Followers who honor the Lord, the kids are all winners in God’s eyes. Ask the kids what they can do to serve the Lord. What could they do that would make God say, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Welcome home.” Close in a time of prayer. Thank the Lord that He promises to never leave us nor forsake us. Pray to the Lord to help them to keep their eyes focused on Him so they will win the eternal prize in heaven. Emphasize that It’s not where you start with your trials that matters but where you finish. God is always interested in bringing us closer to Him.

Jessica wasn’t able to come to my house on Monday so she came last night so I wouldn’t miss an entire week of practice and my muscles wouldn’t forget how to do the hand movements. I did okay but it took me a few times to get the shapes formed the right way because it was nighttime and my body was tired. I function better during the day. After the third time, I finally got the ball formed the right way and I remembered to put the rolling pin in the middle so I could focus better on getting the right height for the vase.  I did well with wrapping my fingers around the play-doh and squeezing it at the bottom so I could get the right height. The problem came when I was trying to form an hourglass shape to get the right height for the finishing touches. Jessica had to help me with that part. Just when I think I have it down pat, there’s always something else to work on. The same is true with your Christian walk. Just when you think you would do well in a certain situation, God puts a trial in your life to test your character and see what you know about Him. Will you put your faith in God’s goodness into practice, or will all those verses just be head knowledge? In what areas of your life do you need to grow? Always remember until the day you get to heaven, your eternal crown doesn’t have the finishing touches. As Christians, here on earth, we’re always in training. Lord, help me to make the most of my trials so I can be a light that shines for you. Help me to use them as times to really learn about you. Help me to remember there’s a great reward for those who finish the race well. I can’t wait to hear you say, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Welcome home.”

1 Corinthians 9: 24-25: “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.”

Playing With Play-Doh Week 10 Beautiful Imperfections

Activity/ Discussion for 5th and 6th grade Awana or Sunday School. Bring some play-doh that’s not new. Have the kids try to build something with it. Anything they want. See if the pieces stay together. Talk about how the “cracks” in our lives, serve as trials to help develop our character and bring us closer to God. Talk about looking for blessings for the “cracks” in our lives. Close in a time of prayer and thank Him for being there through the tough times. It’s the “cracks” in our lives that cause us to grow.

Today was all about seeing what I could do in front of the kids when I do the lesson for Awana. I wanted to see if I could make the vase while telling a story and sharing scripture. That’s not going to happen. It takes a lot of focus for me to concentrate on the hand movements while I’m making the vase. Counsel time is short. See how the play-doh is falling apart? It seemed like every time I tried to make the vase, the play-doh gave me a hard time. I finally did make the entire vase with the help of Jessica because I’m still struggling with how to get the height at the top. If there was one crack in one place, as soon as I fixed it, there was another crack in another place. Eventually, the whole vase just fell apart. The play-doh had been getting old and dried out. It just wouldn’t cooperate. It reminded me of how many times there are “cracks” in our lives. God could fix them, but many times He doesn’t. Many times He allows the trials in our lives to stay in our lives to see how our character will develop, and how it brings us closer to Him. Trials are often how we learn more about God and get to know other people in God’s family. Without the “cracks” in our lives, we might miss out on other blessings. Because I have cerebral palsy and need help, I get to see the great work God does in the lives of other people. I get to minister to others in a unique way. In 2 Corinthians 12: 7 -10, the apostle Paul says,“I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Amen! Lord thank you for the “cracks” in my life that bring me closer to you. Help me to remember my blessings on a daily basis. Thank you for the many people you’ve put in my life who shine for you. Help me be a light to others. You may ask, “So how are you going to do the lesson Rachael?” I’m going to prepare the pieces ahead of time. Talk about each step it takes to make the vase, and back it up with scripture. Then I’m going to have the kids make something of their own with play-doh, and ask them how they would feel if that thing talked back to them, and told them, ‘I don’t like the way I’m made.” I want to communicate to the kids that God made them perfect in His image. Each person is beautiful just the way they are! I should be ready by late October or early November.

 

 

 

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