20 05 2010

Caedmon wears a device on each of his feet known as AFO’s, you might have heard us refer to them as his “boots.” They have very specific purpose and that is to force his feet into their proper alignment so that he can maintain some stability. Here’s the problem, his feet tend to want to do their own thing.

The Cerebral Palsy has affected his feet in such a way that his toes are almost always pointed. He is capable of relaxing them but it would be like you lifting your toes while you had 100 pounds tied them. Most of our feet, when relaxed, lie basically perpendicular to our legs. Caedmon’s might too, but he can almost never relax. He is to flexibility what Nascar is to turning right…

So we place his feet into the AFO’s and then velcro the straps down over the top of his foot, the joint of his ankle, and around his calf. Once he is strapped into his boots, he can sit or stand with his feet flat. Ideally we will get to a place where we no longer need to use the AFO’s but that is unlikely and probably a long way off. In the mean time we use the law… err AFO’s (did I let the cat out of the bag?) to get his feet to function properly.

This illustrates the dynamic of what the Bible refers to as the “law.” We aren’t talking about laws like this one from Georgia; “No one may carry an ice cream cone in their back pocket if it is Sunday.” We are talking about THE Law, God’s Law, thou shalt not kill and stuff.

Where this gets interesting is when Jesus came on the scene and claimed to “fulfill the law and offered grace to the world. Some people take the doctrine of grace, offer it a lollypop, jerk it into their van, and then drive it off into the woods and beat it. They live as if there were no law because “love covers a multitude of sins.” By their reasoning; we can lie, cheat, and steal all day long and just proclaim grace.

Other people see grace standing on the side of the road and are scared he has a knife in his pocket so they drive on by and leave him standing there. These folks tend to be a bit overbearing. Not only do they have a “Jesus fish” on their car, but they would tell you that Hell is promised for those who don’t.

I would argue that neither group is correct… hence the need for the AFO’s.

You see, our natural tendency is to self. We love us. But, God says that’s a bad idea. If I love me it is normally to the neglect of you which tends to disrupt relationships. Not only that, the love of the man in the mirror keeps us from loving the man on the throne, Jesus. This is what we are talking about when Christians use the S-word…sin.

Our natural inclination is not correct, neither is it helpful to our own well-being. God provided the Law to serve in much the same capacity as Caedmon’s AFO’s. It is a rigid, corrective measure that forces us to maintain the correct moral posture. Ideally we won’t always need the law but that is unlikely. The law provides that objective measure by which we can judge our behavior and motivations.

But, as we are all too plainly aware, we will not ever master the law. This is where Jesus comes in. He loves us knowing our inclination to self and desire for sin. He loves us more than we can really understand. You can tell your dog you love him all day long, but he really doesn’t get it. There is a gap in communication. Our communication gap with God is similar; we don’t fully get it.

The point is; without the law we would be walking around hurting ourselves and others without really knowing what was wrong.

Just like Caedmon’s AFO’s provide a feel for how it is supposed to work and, in turn, allow him the freedom to experience that much more.
God’s law provides for us, when applied, a feel for how life is supposed to work and, in turn, allows us the freedom to experience that much more.

God’s law informs us that something is wrong.
It provides the mold for us to conform our lives to.
And, it points us to Christ who overcame sin and promised us new life.

As Caedmon grows and we work on his flexibility and strength he may not need the AFO’s as much. When we put them on him now he gets red marks where his feet were resisting them and he gets blisters where his feet were rubbing against them.Eventually he may be able to put them on like you put on shoes, no friction, just the benefits.

I hope I grow spiritually much the same way. Some parts of the law really rubbed me the wrong way in years past, but now I embrace them. 

Maybe you have struggled with elements of God’s law? You might feel it is too restrictive or harsh. We have all felt that way at times. Some of it is difficult to accept. That just points out our need. If I chose not to use Caedmon’s AFO’s just because it felt restrictive or harsh we would never use them and he would suffer for it. The same is true morally and spiritually for us, we have to get past our “feelings” and trust the long-term benefit of God’s law.

While we keep trusting God’s law to guide our behavior; we trust Jesus to redeem our hearts. He is the only one who has ever lived that didn’t need AFO’s. His bent was towards obedience to God. Was he tempted, sure; but he never succumbed to it. He is perfect, He is God. This is how his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead are our rescue from this life of dysfunction.

Instead of cursing the Law, we should thank the law for revealing to us our need and then thank God for meeting that need in Jesus.

Thanks to Jesus; one day we won’t need the law and Caedmon won’t need AFO’s and that will be a great day!



12 05 2010

I often am the one who picks up Caedmon from his kindergarten. He goes for a couple of hours, three days a week and he loves it. When I arrived today his friend Gabriel was reading to him and Caedmon began desperately attempting to tell me something.

His teacher saw us talking and came over to share what Caedmon was so excited about. He had driven his wheelchair from his desk over to the table (about 10 feet) all by himself! (not exactly all by himself, but you’ll understand in a minute)

He wanted to show me so we wheeled him over to his desk so that he could perform his “trick” again. Caedmon has not been very successful driving his wheelchair to date because CP has had a more significant impact on the left side of Caedmon’s body so he is very right-handed. Whenever I have seen him drive his chair he would go in circles because he would only use his right hand on the right wheel. Not today!

He got a good push with his right hand and the chair began on its path towards the desk… with a slight slice. But then he bent down and reached across his body, gripping the left wheel with his right hand and tried to push.

This was a struggle for him and he was working at it for a few seconds before the help arrived. (grab your kleenex) In unison, his classmates stopped what they were doing and began chanting, “GO CAEDMON! GO CAEDMON! GO CAEDMON!” It was so sincere and so wonderful. He tried a little harder and he was able to get that left wheel to turn, “GO CAEDMON!” Then he popped his body upright with a Cheshire cat grin and effortlessly pushed the right wheel, “GO CAEDMON!” He bent back over and worked the left wheel, “GO CAEDMON!” In just a couple of minutes he had manipulated his chair over to the table and parked it smoothly into place, “YEEEEEAAAAAHHHH CAEDMON!” Yeah Caedmon for sure… but WAY TO GO CLASS!!

This blog isn’t so much about Caedmon but about the kids in his class and their incredible encouragement. I don’t know that we fully appreciate how powerful our words can be when people in our lives are struggling. Caedmon has a hard time with some physical things, but who of us doesn’t have hard times be they physical or otherwise?

Maybe we know someone who is struggling emotionally? Maybe a friend has lost someone? Maybe a family member is stuck and can’t get themselves where they want to go? Do you know someone who feels like they just keep going in circles and can’t get any traction in life? Maybe they need some encouragement.

The Bible teaches us that we need to “spur one another on” and “encourage one another.” God knows what he’s talking about, he created us after all. We all need encouragement because we all struggle.

Who among us wouldn’t want to see our hurting friend get out of the rut and begin moving again. To see them advance from feeling powerless to believing that they can do it! This is where the encouragement comes in. You are that momentum. You are that rooting audience.

Nobody put a hand on Caedmon’s chair, no one offered to push. Instead, everyone was generous with encouragement! At one point his teacher tried to help him steer and Caedmon moved her hand away and insisted on doing it himself; what a contrast to one minute prior when he was stuck and struggling.

The simplicity of the kids cheers were profound. No one coached, no one said “use you left hand.” Just, “GO CAEDMON!” To the kids, the goal was simple, get across the room. We, in our “maturity” can sometimes lose sight of the goals.
We demand perfection, when maybe our friend just needs to get across the room.
We expect sobriety, when maybe our loved one just needs to make it one more day.

Am I saying we should settle? Not at all. You better believe we want Caedmon to use that left hand. But, the kids don’t have that job. The kids job is to lovingly encourage their friend. The Physical Therapist will work on the left hand. PT’s make Caedmon work, encouragement fuels him for that work.

Not all of us are therapists, pastors, counselors, or addiction specialists; but all of us are friends. All of us can help by providing that fuel of encouragement. Who can you encourage today? Who can you write the note to? Who can you cheer?

Remember one very important thing. Those kids didn’t wait for Caedmon to have success to begin their chant… they cheered believing that their encouragement would help him succeed!

Let’s encourage someone today.

The Light Under The Door

11 05 2010

Early in the morning, when I am meeting with God by reading His word and praying, I am often interrupted by a knocking at my office door. It isn’t an insistent knock, but a soft “I’m out here in case you are wondering” knock. The sun is just coming up so I will open the blinds and turn off the lights in the room. The little person knocking in my door can be spared the rude brightness of manufactured light in exchange for the welcoming illumination provided personally by God.

I know who’s out there. It’s always the same little boy. When the other boys get up they head straight through the kitchen and towards our bedroom to jump in bed with Jeni. But not this boy; this boy has a different perspective. When he comes out of his room he sees the light underneath my office door so he scoots right over to it and begins knocking. I can almost see his light coming underneath my office door too. “Good morning Caedmon!”

I will pick him up and he will lay on the bed next to my desk and look out the window as the day dawns before him. I will go back to my first appointment of the day, with God. This morning while I was praying for Caedmon I opened my eyes and looked at him. Instantly I stopped what I was saying and reflected on the blessing  laying just a few feet from me.

I often struggle with how to pray for him. As many of you know he has cerebral palsy which affects the development of his motor skills. Do I pray for God to let him be “normal?” HOW DARE I DO THAT!! I don’t want him to be normal. In fact, I’d rather be more like him than be more normal.

My prayers this morning “for him” instantly became prayers “for me.” As I looked at him laying on his tummy with his knees pulled up by his ribs just looking out the window content and calm, I envied him.

I thought of the night before when he had one of his laughing moments that took his breath away. “God, please let me laugh like Caedmon.”

I thought of how passionately he loves his “best buddies.” “God, please let me love as deeply as Caedmon.”

I thought of how he loves food, all food and starts saying “mmmmm”(yum) before it even gets in his mouth. “God, please let me savor life and express gratitude like Caedmon.”

I thought of all the people he has inspired and touched. “God please grant me a positive influence like Caedmon.”

Then I thought again of his body. I though about that borderline hateful word, “normal.”

Oh that I could be more like God and look at people’s hearts and not their outward appearance. Would I really want a son who had a sense of entitlement? That took his family for granted? That complained about the abundance in his life? That was disrespectful? But, walked “normal.”

As a dad who is ignorant and a christian who is aware that, the more I learn the less I know; I still wrestle. I look at Lebron James, Michael Phelps, and Lionel Messi and covet their athleticism and accomplishments on behalf of my boys. I know how much I love my Seminoles, Atlanta teams, and US Soccer and imagine how awesome it would be to have my boys competing on one of them.

At the same time, I see the lives of many of those guys. Lives full of broken relationships and despair. Boys with the responsibilities of men, acting like… boys. I see these elite athletes with their better than “normal” abilities and all too normal lives.*

What does that say about me? Is that what I want for my kids? “God forbid.”

I have lost my way a little here. This isn’t a blog about what’s wrong in sports, or the dangers of fame and fortune. This is a blog about me recognizing that I wish I were more like my son than I wish he were more like me. About me realizing that “normal” is ugly and God is more creative than that. I can’t explain why Toby crawls better than Caedmon. But even more bewildering (and unsettling), is why Caedmon loves people better than I do.

“God, please let me be more like Caedmon… please.”

*(authors disclaimer. The paragraph about athletes bad choices was not speaking directly about James, Phelps, or Messi, but a generalization of the world of professional athletics. Those guys may be pillars of integrity, I don’t know them.)

** (authors disclaimer #2. I believe with every bit of my understanding of God that He absolutely can restore my son’s body to function… I can’t even write this. Function “normally?” What even is that? Function “like everyone elses?” What would that look like? It’s not the same even in my own family. Function “as God intended?” Who’s to say that Caedmon isn’t functioning exactly as God intended? I can’t. So, what do I believe? I believe in a perfect creator who makes no mistakes. I believe in a God who has a plan for Paul, David, Peter, Rahab, and Solomon all of whom were morally handicapped and He also has a plan for those with physical handicaps. He heals some, he doesn’t heal others but it is all for His Glory. So, I pray. I pray that Caedmon could run and jump. That he could play the sports he so loves. I pray that he will be able to go to the bathroom without our help. At the same time, I pray that he won’t be “normal.”)