Posts Tagged ‘disabilities’

Labels as Excuses

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Are you “one of those people who …”?

I lived in schools for about fifty-two years.

K-12, four years of college, and thirty-five years as a teacher—52 of my first 58 years, interrupted by brief stints to build houses (which I enjoyed) and rehab from my injury (which I enjoyed a lot less). Toss in some nights and summers doing a Master’s degree, and it all adds up to a lot of time in schools.

When you live in schools, you learn about labels. Geek. Nerd. Jock. Goth. Skater. Gangster. School’s all about labels. The only worse fate than being labeled and stuck in a group is NOT being labeled and stuck in a group.

Jocks and gangsters get to walk down the middle of the hallway, crowds parting before them in a confused mixture of adoration, disdain, and fear. Geeks and nerds slink along the walls.

In college I took a class called “Adolescent Psychology.” The professor’s opening line: They’re all crazy!

We learned that kids group themselves as a way of separating from parents and developing an identity, that’s it’s normal for them to try out different costumes and roles. Colored hair, odd clothing, mimicked behaviors—it’s all just part of growing up and figuring out who they are. One of the many paradoxes of adolescence involves the need to discover one’s individuality by identifying lock-step with a group.

And we learned that it’s a phase, that eventually we grow out of our need to define ourselves by the group(s) to which we belong.

That professor was mostly right. They ARE all crazy, which explains my love for them as co-conspirators. They do try on identities like costumes, which makes them fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously. There’s something refreshing about a young lady with pink spiked hair and holes in her jeans intently solving an equation, especially when she shows up after Christmas break with beautifully curled hair and a flowered skirt.

The adolescent labeling process makes developmental sense, bringing humor and pathos to a difficult, confusing stage of life. But I always felt less comfortable when adults insisted on placing kids in much less temporary categories.

During my career I taught classrooms filled with “gifted” students and others identified as “special needs.” I often wondered whether Christian parents believed some kids weren’t gifted by God, or whether ANY parents thought their kids weren’t special.

In the same room I’d find kids who were creative and artistic, lazy and driven to achieve, lethargic and hyper-active. Some were inquisitive, some wanted to read everything in sight, and some were fascinated by technology. Some struggled to focus as they worried about issues at home.

And of course it’s obvious which group I just described, right?

I think the professor missed an important point. I don’t see much evidence that we grow out of our adolescent need to define ourselves with labels. When you live in a wheelchair you get really sensitized to labels. People slap them on my forehead (which has plenty of room) like bumper stickers. But you don’t need paralysis to see the harmful effects of labels.

Last time I discussed labels as averages.  Today I’m thinking about labels as excuses.

Labels excuse laziness.

    No need to actually invest in getting to know the person and really understand his perspective. Just slap on a label, toss him in the right bucket, and you “know” all you need to know about him.

Labels excuse marginalization. She’s one of “them” and “they” just can’t do certain things. Of course we’ll be nice to her, but we can’t expect her to really participate. We’ll make a spot on the edges where she can watch without getting in the way.

Labels excuse unacceptable behavior. If you attach the “enemy” label to someone, you don’t have to treat them with respect. So it’s suddenly okay to demonize and shout at the person with different political views. There’s nothing wrong with gossiping and spreading rumors about “bad” people, right?

Labels excuse divisiveness. Why would we support that “evangelical” church down the street? And that one over there that doesn’t condemn our notion of “unbiblical” behavior, or the one around the corner that’s “right wing?” Just label them and the walls magically appear.

Of course, labels don’t really excuse any of these, but they certainly provide convenient excuses. When I hear adults using labels in such hurtful ways, I wonder how much we’ve really progressed since eighth grade.

I can chuckle when a kid with baggy pants will only associate with other kids that have the same brand of baggy pants. They’re learning, and next year they’ll all have short hair and khakis.

It’s a lot harder to find the humor when adults use a label based on behavior, belief, appearance, or perceived ability to justify including or excluding an individual.

And if you’re tempted to think it’s really not that important, that labels are just words, that “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me” I’d offer an alternative view.

Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can break my heart.

Broken bones are easily treated; no surgical procedure exists that can mend a broken heart.

Do you see examples of labels as excuses?

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Dixon
Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

You are Not a Label!

Monday, November 30th, 2015

An odd question brings us today’s word-of-the-week…

LABELS

“What kind of quadriplegic are you?”

Seriously. Now I not only have to be labeled as a quad, but there are subcategories? I’m getting really tired of labels.

The guy’s sister just had a car accident and he was seeking information. Parents relayed a ton of stuff by phone and I was someone to talk to. I get it.

But I remember a few weeks after my injury. Docs told me I fell into certain categories, slapped labels on my chart, and pronounced sentence.

“You likely won’t live past age 50.” (I was 36 at the time, 27 years ago.)

“You’ll have limited physical independence.” (I taught full-time in a public school classroom for 21 years after my injury; I’ve handcycled nearly 35,000 miles.)

You get the idea. Labels chunk people into categories so we can make broad assumptions about the people in those categories.

Liberal. Conservative. Evangelical. Mainline. Gay. Protestant. Catholic. Black. White.

Muslim.

Each label conjures an image and a bunch of stereotypes that likely don’t describe most of the individuals in any of the groups.

Jesus didn’t do labels, because He saw individuals. He didn’t accept or reject anyone because of the group they came from or any other such silliness.

Think you’re immune from the labeling disease? I had coffee a while back with a friend who casually mentioned, as a tangent to our conversation, that we’d all be better off without Democrats. I chuckled and told him I was registered as a Democrat. His face fell. “I hope you’re joking.” Then he changed the subject.

Labels are lazy shortcuts. Once I know you’re “one of those” I can stereotype you. I don’t have to bother with the hard work of knowing you as a person.

I’m weary of labels. They’re too frequently about fear, bullying, and anger. They’re nearly always about divisiveness.

What kind of quadriplegic am I? I’m the kind who sits in a wheelchair and dreams God-sized dreams.

A challenge: Look for the labels you use to categorize people–or yourself.

It’s Monday! This would be a good week to see people rather than labels.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
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Copyright by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

But I need something more!

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

But I need something more! I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I am at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Romans 7:17a and 24-The Message

Before we can get a hopeful answer to this predicament, we first have to arrive at the door of giving up! Just like Paul; who remember, had a religious pedigree as long and as impressive as the State of Texas is wide-we seem resolute to exhaust all of our personal resources first.

Does the power of sin and unhealed or unresolved life issues ever seem to sabotage your best intentions? More often than I like to admit, they do for me. Any real, transparent or honest follower of the Grace message of Jesus Christ will readily admit to Paul’s dilemma. The very things I truly think are behind me, often jump up, seemingly out of nowhere, and bite my religious butt.

The answer to this is in the giving up-truly coming to the end of our rope. “There is none perfect, no not one!'”

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

God went for the jugular when He sent His own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In His Son, Jesus, He personally took on the entire human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. Romans 7:25-8:1-3b, The Message.

In our quest to please Him, we long for something more-something that will finally bring hope to our hearts. He is the something more! Total and constant surrender and trustful reliance upon Him, is always the answer. It is only because of Him, (even on the best or worse of days) that our hearts can be pregnant with hope. Besides this hope will never disappoint us because God proves his sustenance by his daily love gift of Holy Spirit in our hearts.

God went for the jugular when He sent His own Son.It will never be because we finally have a perfect religious score or day-we finally get it right…no, we must always let go of our rope and grab onto (by a sheer act of faith) the resurrection power and Grace of Jesus Christ. Something and someone more loves you and me, especially in our frailty and weakness. We cannot do much of anything in our best of intentions. We can do all things through Him. That brings our heart hope!

In the grip of His Grace,

Ron Ross

Copyright by Ron Ross.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Rev. Ron Ross is a pastor, author, teacher, and counselor.
As founder of NET Casting Ministries, he equips the church
around the world to care for the wounded and addicted.
Ron is a cofounder of the NET Training Institute.

How Do You Handle Illness?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

I don’t like to sneeze and cough constantly, and I don’t like to blow my nose over and over. You probably don’t either.

If you’re like me and have allergies, you don’t welcome spring. The thought of pollen in the air and my car covered with yellow pollen makes me want to stay inside or move to Florida. How about you?

Most of the medicines used for allergies have side effects that leave me sicker than the pollen does. So I can’t take them. I tried Tessalon on Friday and Saturday I had glassy eyes and felt hung over.

This past week I realized anger against God had crept in. Why did he allow me to have allergies and get sick from the pollen? Do you ever feel that way? Maybe you don’t have allergies, but you have cancer or diabetes. Perhaps you suffer from migraine headaches or some other illness. How do you handle it?

When the anger crept in, my joy slipped away. I no longer smiled and laughed. Little things irritated me. What happens when anger enters your life?

I realized I had a choice. I could continue to feel anger and self-pity or I could confess my sin and ask God to restore the joy of his salvation. I chose the latter.

Although the physical symptoms remain, God has restored the joy of his salvation. I can smile and laugh again. I look forward to heaven where sickness will no longer exist.

Psalm 51:12: Restore to me the joy of your salvation.

Dear God, I don’t like to be sick. Please help me get through this illness. Amen.

Application: What day this week will you confess your anger or pity party to God?

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Copyright by Yvonne Ortega, LPC, LSATP, CCDVC
All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
Yvonne is a Speaker, Author, Counselor, Cancer Survivor and
serves on the Board of Directors of Christians in Recovery.
She is the author of Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer.
If you would like to have her speak for your organization or church, please contact her through
her website: http://YvonneOrtega.com

You are not Invisible

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

invisibleHagar was a slave and and she was in a mess. (Genesis ch. 16 & 21)

Some of it was her fault, some of it wasn’t. But now she had run away into the wilderness. Pregnant and alone, she waited by a stream to see what might happen. An angel of God appeared and delivered a surprising promise. He told her to return to camp and submit to her mistress.

Hagar was amazed that God would even acknowledge a lowly servant. She called Him “the God who sees me.”

Hagar understood a central truth about God’s character: He’s the God who sees every person equally.

For the last couple of years I’ve been honored to spend some time with men who are recovering from addiction. I’ve learned more from them than they’ve learned from me, and one of the most important things I’ve learned is the pervasive nature of addiction in society. These guys were always here, but they were invisible to me and to much of my suburban culture. Sadly, I think they’re sort-of invisible in my church.

They’re not invisible to God.

This got me wondering about other sort-of invisible people. The door’s open, nobody’s keeping them out, but they aren’t there. Or they are, but they’re on the edges and it’s clear they aren’t really part of the circle.

Homeless people.

Poor people.

Folks without much education (churches look a LOT like schools).

People whose life doesn’t look like the American dream.

I could go on but you get the idea. Many churches just aren’t all that diverse. Those who don’t fit the profile become invisible. We know they exist, but we don’t see them.

Maybe that’s why Jesus hung out with them. He was tired of the religious leaders looking past them and talking about them as though they weren’t in the room. He made them visible because He was the God who sees.

Invisible people make us uncomfortable. It’s hard for me to admit how often I pretend not to see, but it’s a sad truth.

I can’t change that all at once, and there’s no sense beating myself up. So I try to see one or two a little better and go from there.

I trust that the God who sees will see my heart, and help.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
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Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!Dixon
Copyright by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

How Do You Use Your Freedom?

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Something I saw (and can’t remember where) prompts today’s word-of-the-week…

FREEDOM

I’m grateful for freedom. I’ll bet you are as well.

As a wheelchair user, I might be more aware of day-to-day freedom than a lot of you. I know first-hand what it’s like to not be able to go where I want (can’t use that door), to be confined (can’t use my own basement), to have my options limited (only certain tables or rooms). I know what it’s like to have others make choices for you.

I can’t express how much it means when someone goes out of their way to serve, to grant me a small bit of freedom when they didn’t need to. It’s an act of service, putting my well-being ahead of their convenience, comfort, or rights.

Freedom’s a precious commodity. We ought never to take it for granted.

The Good Samaritan had every right, and every reason, to pass by. He chose to forego his rights, set aside his convictions (Samaritans absolutely hated Jews), and serve the man before him. Instead of seeing a _____ (you fill the blank) he saw a person in the image of God.

When I show up, I’m frequently inconvenient. And yes, I know there’s a law that says they have to let me in. But the law doesn’t say they have to like it, and some folks make it clear they’d rather not have me around. I get in the way, slow things down, make other customers uncomfortable.

I’m grateful for those who open their hearts, who view their freedom as an opportunity to serve rather then an opportunity to exclude.

I think that’s what Jesus had in mind. Follow me and be free…to serve, to welcome, to love. Even those who make you uncomfortable. Even those who get in the way. Even those you don’t like or approve of.

Even old, bald guys in wheelchairs.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
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Copyright by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

What Really Matters?

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

What do you see when you approach a staircase?

Me? I see a diabolical obstacle designed to keep me from reaching the other level.

Of course I don’t believe the builder intended to frustrate me. I’m simply seeing the stairs through my personal biases.

I know the creator of this sign meant well. I’m sure he didn’t intend the chuckle as I picture myself rattling down 15-20 flights of smoke-filled stairs because “the sign told me to do it!”

The stairs are a good reminder for me when I’m tempted to pound on my bible because “it says what it says.”

In my experience I’ve known people of good will who love Jesus with all their hearts, and yet have studied deeply and reached different conclusions about certain theological issues. They read the same words, follow the same Lord, but hear different results.

Augustine said: In the essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity (love).

I often picture the folks I spoke about above sitting in a room. Certainly they’d disagree about important issues–how could it be different in a room filled with smart, educated people with their own biases, backgrounds, and life experiences?

But they’d agree about love, about service, about placing God at the center. They’d agree that following Jesus comes first, that the CHURCH is more important than any individual church. They’d agree on grace, forgiveness, gratitude, and hope.

Those are the essentials, the things the world needs from us.

I don’t read scripture in a vacuum. The bible says what it says, but what I hear is colored by my biases and preconceptions as well as those of my teachers.

I believe God wants me to think, to study and listen and reach conclusions. But I always want to hold my ideas lightly, without the need to be right or win the argument.

I hope I listen before I speak. What unites matters more than what divides.

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Copyright by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

Do You Feel Broken?

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

We may be broken but not done coloring yet

We can still draw even in our brokenness!! Sometimes the depth of color is better with broken crayons.

~Fran

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When You See A Bully In Action

Monday, September 8th, 2014

Last week I asked a tough question.

How we can oppose injustice while demonstrating unconditional grace and forgiveness? I even posed a specific situation and asked what you would do if you observed this event:

Suppose a guy in a wheelchair visited a public spot that, by its nature, was minimally accessible. And imagine that the guy and his companions were subjected to continual rude, insensitive comments from other patrons or staff members who objected to the perceived inconvenience caused by the presence of a wheelchair.

Here’s My Take

As the guy in the wheelchair, I’d roll away if possible. That’s not an endorsement of bullying behavior, it’s a personal choice to say I’m okay with who I am and I don’t want to risk escalating the situation.

As an observer, I’d intervene. Every time (I hope).

I might go to the person in the wheelchair (and his companions) and reassure them that the bullies are wrong. I might help them diffuse or get away from the situation.

I might locate a supervisor and seek help in dealing with the bullies.

I might talk directly to the bullies and ask them to stop their behavior. Ideally I’d have a discussion, bring them together with the person in the wheelchair, and facilitate understanding.

I might, as a last resort, call law enforcement.

I’d choose based on the apparent level of potential conflict and the perceived opportunity for discussion and reconciliation.

I would do my best not to be divisive or to shame anyone—including the bullies.

This is a difficult situation, but “difficult” isn’t an excuse for inaction. I hope I wouldn’t turn away from someone being bullied. I hope you wouldn’t, either.

A child who’s been bullied or abused becomes easy prey for a sex trafficker. Nobody else cares, so when a pimp says nice things and offers protection, she believes his lies.

An adult who’s been bullied or abused loses self-esteem. Why not give in to the perceived comfort of alcohol, drugs, pornography, or other addictive behaviors when no one believes in you?

We’re called to respond—always—with love and grace. But we’re also called to stand up for the oppressed.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6)

“Love and grace” must never be an excuse for failing to confront injustice courageously with wisdom and discernment.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!Dixon
Copyright by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of: <br
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

What Would You Do?

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

What_Would_You_Do_logoQUESTION: How much grace?

ANSWER: Grace is boundless and unmerited.

QUESTION: Who do you forgive?

ANSWER: Everyone.

Yeah, I know it’s not that simple—except, it really is. Not easy, for sure, but those are the principles to which we’re called.

So now I have a real-world question for you to ponder.

How do we act out those principles in the face of injustice?

Injustice doesn’t have to be human trafficking or murder. Let’s boil it down to something we all encounter. How do we act out grace and forgiveness when we encounter someone being bullied?

When I was a kid, the standard advice was Punch a bully in the nose. Now we hear Stand Your Ground.

What Would You Do?

The following situation isn’t truly hypothetical. It’s a sanitized compilation of some actual situations I’ve faced.

Suppose a guy in a wheelchair visited a public spot that, by its nature, was minimally accessible. And imagine that the guy and his companions were subjected to continual rude, insensitive comments from other patrons or staff members who objected to the perceived inconvenience caused by the presence of a wheelchair.

As a companion, What Would You Do?

As an observer, What Would You Do?

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Dixon
Copyright by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com