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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Are You Blessed?

Matthew 5, 6, & 7.  This is a scripture passage I have been contemplating and meditating on, for several months now.  It's one of those scriptures that keeps coming up in Bible studies, on the radio, is shared in conversations and then, randomly, His Spirit brings it to mind.  And Matthew is also this year's focus for Bible Study Fellowship. 

This portion of the Bible is most notably known as Christ's Sermon on the Mount.  The first 12 verses of chapter 5 are referred to as the Beatitudes.  

Jesus said:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I wanted a deeper understanding of the word beatitude/blessed, so I did some research.  The limitations of the English language will not allow for an accurate translation of the Greek word makarios or 'blessed' which means so much more than our English fortunate or happyMakarios has a much deeper meaning and one that is related to the condition of the soul and not based on our outward circumstances or conditions.  It is more deeply related to an inner joy and peace that only comes from a right relationship to God. 

I wonder, today, when we use the word "blessed" or "blessings" when speaking or writing to others, do we fully intend the deeper meaning or are we thinking more superficially and thinking more about physical blessings?

Apparently, the attitudes and actions Jesus describes as blessed or makarios (poor in spirit, mourn, meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness), are some, if not all, what we as God's children should be experiencing and emulating, especially if we want to experience the benefit of the blessings each brings.  Jesus does not mention asking for any of these things to be removed from our lives, which could be causing these attitudes and actions.  Nor does He promise He will remove them, but rather states when we experience them...we ARE blessed and exactly how we ARE blessed or makarios by each one.  Let me list for us the benefits/blessings/makarios Jesus mentions:

Yours is the Kingdom of Heaven

You will be comforted

You will inherit the earth

You will be filled

You will be shown mercy

You will see God

You will be called children of God

Yours is the Kingdom of Heaven

The above is how Jesus defines makarios, blessed!

I purposefully left the last one, verses 11 & 12, off the list above.  “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Once again, our Lord's perspective on markarios of the Christian's life seems to be in direct opposition to what most of us think it should be.  People insulting us and then saying all kinds of evil against us BECAUSE OF HIM, we should rejoice and be glad? 

He did not say we should feel offended.  He did not say we should become indignant.  He did not say we should demand our rights.  He did not say He would come to our aid and remove the evil and injustice being done to us.  He also did not say we should become prideful because of any of these things. 

What DID He say? 


Sunday, September 1, 2013

So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child, Part 8...

What is BEST for the Deaf Child and Beyond?

The blogpost below was originally shared in September of 2013 under the title, "What is BEST for the Deaf Child?".  I have decided to include it, in its updated form, to become Part 8 in the series, "So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?"

In an effort to inform and equip adoption agencies, especially faith-based ones, as they seek to provide the best possible family environment for the raising of deaf children and to expand their understanding of the Biblical Worldview concerning the Deaf Peoples around the world, I have decided to write this post. 

Having numerous dDeaf family members (d meaning a form of deafness and D meaning a member of the Deaf Community) I often thought my husband, Charles, and I would end up giving birth to and being given the responsibility of raising a deaf child.  However, Rachel and Joseph are both hearing and we never had to face that all-encompassing question, "What is best for our deaf child?"   
Thirteen years ago when God led me to return to school in the fall of 2000 at the age of 41--2 yr. Interpreter Training Program degree and then 4-yr. degree in ASL Studies,--the answer to the question, "What is best for the deaf child?" became a personal quest of mine. At that time, I did not understand why I was so obsessed with wanting to know the answer to that question, but I do now, at least in part. 

I researched and researched and researched some more...I still do.  I talked to numerous educational interpreters, they are on the front lines and see what deaf children are faced with day in and day out...I still do.  I have also listened to many dDeaf people share their stories of frustration and pain with hearing family members who never learned sign language...and I still do.  
And I listen to the stories of those who experience deafness, but do not know sign language or were not exposed to it until much later in life and do not feel accepted by hearing people or by Deaf people, to this day.  They do not really "fit" anywhere! 

Sometimes, I feel embarrassed to admit that it took me several years to come to my conclusion. However, that uncertainty forced me to develop a strong and sure foundation for why I can boldly say, today, without reservation or hesitation, that providing the deaf child a sign language rich environment, as their strong foundation, is by far...BEST!

In addition, over the past 14 years, I have become heavily involved with the Deaf Community.  I have learned they are among one of the top three unreached people groups locally and around the world.  An unreached people group is an ethnic or ethnolinguistic people in which less than 2% of their population know of and follow Christ.
Often, Deaf people remind me of this story in the Old Testament, Exodus chapters 3 & 4, where the LORD (Yahweh) is speaking to Moses from the burning bush and Moses is making excuses as to why he should not be the one to do what God has called him to do.

"Then Moses said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.
The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (Exodus 4:11, NASB)

Many Deaf people who do follow Christ, believe it is no accident God has allowed them to be deaf and that He clearly has a plan for each of their lives within their deafness.

This additional knowledge has led me to see more clearly, another reason, possibly even a stronger and more important one for granting the deaf child the right to be allowed to learn ASL and that is for the purpose of impacting those who are dDeaf with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We know, from much research, the ability to share the hope of Christ by others within their own people group is much more successful than when those from outside their group try to do the same.  If ASL-fluent and Deaf Culture-immersed families adopt deaf children and then provide them with a sign language rich environment there will be many more opportunities for God to lead some of those children to share their beliefs with other Deaf people as they become adults.   I already know stories of adopted deaf children who feel called to return to their home lands to share the gospel with the Deaf people there.  Their sign language fluent hearing adoptive family members will also have influence on the Deaf Community and vice versa.  However, if families never give their deaf children the opportunity to learn sign language or interact with other Deaf people, the possibility of them ever influencing the lives of Deaf people for Christ is minimal to none, at best. 

Maybe more of us hearing people should follow Paul's example, learn sign language and become immersed in the Deaf Community:

"Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." ~1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Some challenging questions for us to ponder:

For the sake of the gospel, should Christian hearing parents of deaf children learn ASL?  To date, in the US, 90+% of hearing biological parents never learn to sign with their deaf children. 

For the sake of the gospel, should Christian adoptive parents provide a sign-language rich environment for their deaf children? 

And, finally, should any and all hearing people learn ASL and be immersed in Deaf Culture, to possibly 'win the Deaf' and some how 'save some'?

Before I am misunderstood, let me go ahead and say clearly, I believe the BEST for the deaf child is knowing and embracing both ASL and English, as best they can. In addition, I also believe they should be given every opportunity to embrace both the hearing and Deaf cultures, as well. 

Ideally, I also believe it is also BEST for all hearing people and all dDeaf people to do the same. 

God has purposefully given us family members who experience deafness.  This is no accident nor is it only a result of the fall of mankind or sin which we should simply accept as a part of this life.  Why else would He continue allowing 95+% of deaf children to be born to and/or raised by hearing parents?  And why else would He be allowing as many as 70% of our aging population of hearing family members experience debilitating deafness in their final years? 

We are long overdue for asking God, specifically, what His will is concerning the dDeaf in our midst.  Over the years, we, hearing and Deaf people alike, have constantly been separating these two groups of people, but God is constantly trying to ensure that the vast majority of deaf people (old and young) always have hearing family members.  The family is a part of God's design from the very beginning.  When will we stop separting what God Himself has put together?  What are we missing when we separate ourselves from each other?

If you are an agency or a family not focused on adoption being, solely, His work and ultimately to spread His gospel, I urge you to do some soul searching and ask God to reaffirm to you why it is you are involved with adoption and more specifically the adoption of children who experience deafness.

James 1:5

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.