Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Driven by Eternity

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on the Day 3 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comments section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

Day 3: What Drives Your Life?

As we continue towards learning God's purpose for our lives, Day 3 deals with the other, more hidden motives that can direct us. It's important to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge these, then surrender them to God so that we can move past them and into His purpose. The biggest drive I have in this autism journey is to heal and recover all of the areas where my son has been affected. That sounds like a very selfless purpose but as I look deeper I can see areas where it can be tainted and can work against me. The first drive Rick Warren mentions is guilt, a classic trap that so many of us fall into. Even though I intellectually know that I did no intentional thing to cause my son's autism, there is a part of me that can be tricked into feeling like I need to make up for things I should have known. (Side note: Any sentence beginning with "I should have" is a trap set by the enemy to get us off track). It really helped me in this area to read last week in Day 2 that God already knew this would happen before any of my choices, and would use it to bring Him glory and lead our family closer to Him. Another drive I related to is fear. There is the fear that my son will die from an allergic reaction, fear that he will not make enough progress, fear that in the end his needs will overwhelm our ability to meet them and my personal favorite: fear that somehow I'm not doing enough for him-more traps.

The truth is that yes, these are trials, but so far God has moved in many ways to help us and him in all of these situations. Every serious reaction he's had I've been there to comfort and give him the medication, doors have opened and opportunites have come to us by no other explanation than from God, and in spite of some very overwhelming challenges my son is resilient, loving, continuing to learn and progress. Why would I think that God would all of a sudden stop being there for us? On page 29, Rick Warren states "Fear is a self-imposed prison that will keep you from becoming what God intends for you to be. You must move against it with weapons of faith and love." God loves us so much, and we grow in faith and knowledge of His love by studying His word, especially in these areas. It's also so important to count our blessings. It can be so easy for me to be so overwhelmed by the challenge I am facing that I lose touch with all of the wonderful things God has done for me.

There are so many benefits to knowing our purpose. It is comforting to know that God sees a purpose in everything, to know that none of us is struggling in vain. It's good to know that even if right now I don't understand why or what His purpose is, He knows and will lead me there at exactly the right time. Knowing that God has a purpose gives meaning to all we are going through and hope that with His help we will triumph. On page 30, Rick Warren states, "Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope." Dr. Bernie Siegel observed that the cancer patients with a greater sense of life purpose were the most likely to survive (p.31). This definitely encouraged me and gave me hope. I often feel like my life is very complicated with all of the therapists, teachers, doctors and specialists that we keep up with. I am always longing to simplify things but feel like I am somewhat limited in my ability to do so because of my family's needs.

It definitely spoke to me that knowing my purpose will simplify my life. If you clearly know your purpose, you are in a better position to use your resources more wisely and make better, more effective decisions. On page 31, Rick Warren states, "Without a clear purpose you have no foundation on which you base decisions, allocate your time, and use your resources. You will tend to make choices based on circumstances, pressures, and your mood at the moment. People who don't know their purpose try to do too much-and that causes stress, fatigue and conflict." This is a tough learning curve, one which I am making progress, but have still not mastered yet. The example of light diffused vs. light focused is a great analogy for what can be accomplished by a person whose faith, abilities and energy are clearly focused. Diffused light has very little power but focused light is like a laser beam, able to cut steel! (p.32) No wonder the devil works so hard to get us off track. Another benefit of knowing our purpose is that it motivates us. This is crucial: with all that we have to know, do and prepare for, we need this motivation to energize an renew our enthusiasm.

The most important benefit of knowing our purpose is that it prepares us for eternity. On pages 33-34, Rick Warren writes, "You weren't put on earth to be remembered. You were put here to prepare for eternity". Every choice that we make leads us either closer to or farther from God. Rick Warren tells us that when our lives are over, God will want to know: How well did we love, know and cooperate with His son, Jesus Christ and also how we used the gifts, talents and opportunities given to us for the purpose God made us for. I am thankful for this book and look forward to all of us learning more as we grow together.

Bible Verses:

Isaiah 49: 3-4

He said to me, "You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will display my splendor."

But I said, "I have labored to no purpose;
I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.
Yet what is due me is in the LORD's hand,
and my reward is with my God."

1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Jeremiah 29:11

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."

Philippians 3: 12-14

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Created by God On And With Purpose

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on the Introduction, Day 1 and Day 2 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comments section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

The Purpose Driven Life is divided into 40 chapters, to be covered over 40 days. As mentioned in Journey With A Purpose, the Bible repeatedly mentions 40 days a s a spiritually significant period of time. Some examples from page 10 are: Moses' transformation in 40 days on Mount Sinai, Noah's 40 days and 40 nights of rain in the ark, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, the 40 days the disciples spent with Jesus after his resurrection. In all of these examples, people were transformed, strengthened and renewed by dedicating 40 days to God.

It's Not About Me

In Chapter 1, It All Starts With God, we are reminded that our life's purpose was predetermined by God, before we were born. Rick Warren makes the important distinction between searching for our own meaning in life as opposed to going to God and learning His purpose. This really refocused me. We are so often trained in the "self-help" manner of achieving success and accomplishing goals, but without purpose we are not fulfilled. The self-help way to success means that we start with ourselves and go from there. Since God is our creator, He knows us better than we know ourselves, and we need to go to Him first for direction. I have had to learn to let God lead me in so many ways regarding how I approach helping and healing my son with autism. This entire journey is a process of letting go and letting God in so many ways for me. First there is the diagnosis, the painful process of letting go of my dreams and ambitions for my son's future. The reminder of how we always start with ourselves really hit me here, and how I need to take the focus off of what I think and turn to God and ask Him what He thinks. Letting God give me new dreams and teach me how to trust Him completely, even when I don't know where it will lead me. On page 18, Rick Warren states, "You were made for God, not vice versa, and life is about letting God use you for His purposes, not using Him for your own purpose." God has a unique purpose for each of us and for each of our children. He knows exactly what we need before we need it and has a bigger vision, even bigger dreams than we do. It is easy to want to put God in a box and tell Him how He should arrange our lives. Through every obstacle and victory I learn to trust Him more and look forward to the day when I can see it all worked out, better than I could have imagined.

Nothing is an Accident

Chapter 2, You Are Not An Accident, takes us further into the truth that we are a part of God's perfect plan. How wonderful it is to know that every detail about us and our lives were pre-planned by God. That means our talents, gifts, and even our flaws are not a surprise to God. It is kind of earth-shattering for me to know that God knew that I would be raising a child with autism, before my life even began. Even though there may be some environmental factors that led to my son's developmental and health difficulties, God already knew how it would all unfold. I have taken myself back through the past, so many times, wondering how it would be if I had done some things different, when my life is meant to be exactly as it is now. I definitely wouldn't go so far as to say that God wanted my son to have autism, but I do sometimes think that I was chosen to walk this road for a reason. God knew how difficult this would be, but He also knew what could be accomplished with His help. He knew that this situation could bring me closer to Him and make me better able to live out his purpose for my life, not to mention the awesome purpose He has for my son, Matthew.

Psalm 139: 1-16

O Lord, you have searched me
and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O Lord.

You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"

even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

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.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Coming Up Next...

We hope you have enjoyed our study of The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. We are excited to announce that our next study will be The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. The spiritual premise of The Purpose Driven Life is that there are no accidents. God planned everything and everyone. We are looking forward to exploring this topic and how it relates to our experiences with autism. We will begin this study on April 21st. As always, we look forward to your comments and insights as we work our way through each chapter.

This month, Spectrum Spirit celebrated its one year anniversary. Thank you all for sharing your time with us and joining the discussion. Nicole, Jessica and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to explore God's word with our fellow autism parents.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Can You See Your Dream?

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 14, Living Out Your Big Dream, of The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comments section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

As we come to a close with learning about our Big Dreams with our Dream Coach and our dear friend Ordinary, Bruce Wilkinson really opens my eyes and my heart to a different but similar dream.

In Chapter 14, Living Out Your Big Dream, our Dream Coach shares with us his Big Dream and how when he finally found it, it looked different. It was still his Dream but only bigger. Bruce shared with us how we are to not hide ourselves from God and what He needs done. On page 151, Bruce says "We did know what God wanted done. And we could not-we must not-hide." He then went on to say "God had promised to provide, to protect, to answer, to always be with us. How then could we say no to what He wanted done?" He then showed us that once we realize what God needs for us to do, we need to "turn the tide". This might shake our Dream up a little bit but Bruce encourages us to be mighty Warriors of faith. Our Dream Coach then tells us of how Ordinary finally gets to the point of where he feels like he's accomplished his Big Dream. That's when The Dream Giver tells him "Let me show you more.....Come further." Our Dream Coach urges us to go further. Keep pressing forward to God and what He needs done. Keep leaving the Land of Familiar.

When you think about your Big Dream, I'm sure like most of us including Ordinary, it looks a certain way to you. However, like Ordinary, when we reach our Big Dreams they will most likely look different. Better. Bigger. Why? Because we have left the Land of Familiar, conquered our Comfort Zones, beat our Border Bullies, survived and learned so much in our Wasteland, found our Sanctuary, defeated our Giants and most importantly found our Big Dream. The funny thing is the reason we are ok with our Dream looking so different is because through all of the things we traveled through we became closer to our Dream Giver. We started living our lives for God instead of for ourselves. Our Big Dream became the Big Dream that God needs for us to have.

So what does all this mean to me as a mom with a child with autism who has a Big Dream of my child being healed one day? It means that I'm not going to hide from what God needs for me to do while I'm pursuing my dream. Even if it means the outlook of my Dream changes. Just this week, God showed me a different side to my Dream. As we all know, it's Autism Awareness Month. I've had a lot of people, mostly friends, telling me they want to learn more about the diet, therapies and what they can do to help. I think this is wonderful. However, honestly, all I want them to do is know my son. See my son the way I see him. The way God sees him. Please don't point out what's wrong and make me see him any differently. Then God showed me that's what I need to do this month of April. Help others really get to know my son. Most importantly, encourage others to get to know other children with autism, especially their own. See their children the way God does. And it's ok that my Dream looks a little different right now. You see, God has our best interests in mind. He loves us so much and only wants the best for us. I honestly believe that like Ordinary when I find my Big Dream it's going to look different. Bigger and better than before. More promising. More love. More hope. Why? Because it's what God needs for me to do. And just when I accomplish my Big Dream and start to be in the Land of Familiar, I'm going to remember this journey I'm on now so that when I hear The Dream Giver whisper "Come further", I will quickly pack my bags and leave the Land of Familiar in hopes of finding another Big Dream.

Bible Verses:
The following Bible Verses are the verses that I found throughout the Bible that I feel go well with this chapter. I also want to encourage you to read all of the verses our Dream Coach listed on the Notes section in the back of his book.

"I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me." -Psalm 16:7-8

"Moses proceeded to do everything as the Lord had commanded him." -Exodus 40:16

"Jesus replied, "I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again. Those who believe in me will never thirst. But you haven't believed in me even thought you have seen me. However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who has sent, not to do what I want. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them to eternal life at the last day. For it is my Father's will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life-that I should raise them at the last day." -John 6:35-40