World Down Syndrome Day

world-down-syndrome-day

Today is World Down Syndrome Day. And, it’s caused me to reflect. I felt compelled to share what I’ve been wondering about.

We would all like to make God into our own image. Many have tried. But, despite our best efforts to put God in a box or to define him in terms that are palatable to our highly evolved sensibilities, he simply refuses to take on most of the labels we try to apply. God isn’t Republican or a Democrat. He’s not pro- or anti-gun control. He’s neither liberal nor conservative. He’s neither Catholic nor Protestant. He’s not a kindly, old grandpa. He’s not an angry, vengeful villain.

None of these popular labels stick. However, I know of one that does:

[biblegateway passage=”Psalm 139″ display=”God is pro-life”].

If you’re watching the news or spending any time on social media today, you’re probably going to run into any number of opposing perspectives about the pro-life, pro-choice debate. Some—on either side of the spectrum—may invoke God to make their argument. Some of us will jump on one bandwagon or the other and loudly make their perspective known to all of the people who would tune in. Others will become so disoriented by the louder opinions that they’ll remain quiet.

Dispite all the bluster, [biblegateway passage=”John 10:10″ display=”God remains committed to life”].

To complicate things for us, here in Indiana, the State Senate passed on a bill to our pro-life Governor that would ban abortions when there is a pre-term diagnosis of Down Syndrome. It’s caused quite a stir and everyone has an opinion. There’s no shortage of inflammatory rhetoric on both sides of the issue.

Without regard to the law, [biblegateway passage=”Romans 8:35-39″ display=”God remains firm in his love for us”].

You’ve probably heard claims that 90 percent of all babies with Downs are aborted. That figure has long been cited by pro-life groups as an attention-getting method. However, it’s not accurate: “Without selective abortion, the number of babies born with Down syndrome in recent years would have been about 30 percent higher than it actually has been,” (Amy Julia Becker). However, even at 30 percent, the number is way too high.

No matter the statistics, [biblegateway passage=”Jeremiah 31:3″ display=”God cares about each and every life”].

Ironically, most people’s perspectives and opinions are purely hypothetical. This is deeply troubling to me. I’ll venture a guess that most people who will go online today to give voice to their opinion have never loved or cared for someone with Down Syndrome. I’d imagine that most have never been told there’s something wrong with their baby during a prenatal ultrasound. Most have never had to make a gut-wrenching commitment to love a child that doesn’t have a perfectly clean bill of health.

Here’s where this gets personal for me. At 18-weeks gestation, our own son was diagnosed with a life-threatening birth defect. We were ushered down the back stairway of the OBGYN’s office and told to drive straight to the genetic counselor. We’ve been told my wife was carrying a baby who likely wouldn’t survive. We’ve waited for results, sure we were going to be told that the most compassionate choice we could make would be to end our son’s life. Thanks to God, we’ve been able to witness a miracle for 10 years. What would live have been like if we presumed he couldn’t have had a full life because of his special needs?

We’ve been committed to our son’s life; God has been even more committed to him.

Today, World Down Syndrome Day, try to quiet yourself for a while and consider your own life, the gift of life you’ve been given. Think about the people around you who have special needs. Aren’t their lives worth something? Can we learn about what life is really about by watching—better yet, befriending, caring for, protecting, and loving—them?

Thank God he’s pro-life.

Check out these videos. And, maybe consider sharing them today.

Unborn Lives Matter

baby holding adult hand

I had the honor of offering a prayer during the dedication ceremony for a new Life Centers location in Plainfield yesterday. And, tomorrow, I have the joy of celebrating my son’s tenth birthday. What do these events have to do with one another?

The common thread is my conviction that unborn lives matter.

My conviction isn’t abstract. It’s personal. Kelly was 18-weeks pregnant when we heard the dreadful words every parent fears: “I’m sorry. There’s something wrong with your baby.” In the span of 30 minutes, we went from excitedly anticipating the discovery of the gender of our first child to anxiously huddled in a genetic counselor’s office being told that our son had a slim chance of being compatible with life.

We prepared ourselves to be told that we had the choice to terminate the pregnancy, to avoid all the pain and difficulty that would certainly come our way. But we chose life.

The last decade has brought its share of hardship, fear, and doubt. However, it has also brought immeasurable blessing, laughter, joy, growth, and wonder. By God’s grace, here we are!

Why do unborn lives matter?

We live in a culture in which the short journey from the womb to the delivery room is all that separates life that doesn’t matter from life that does matter. Isn’t that madness?

There are a number of truths that underscore why unborn lives matter:

1. We are made in God’s image.

When God created the cosmos, he placed man and woman in it as his crowning achievement. He created us in his image and we are, therefore, different in essence from anything and everything else in the universe. We have intrinsic worth. Our value is not earned by virtue or maintained by our capacity to make a valuable contribution to society. It is invested in us by the mere fact of our existence. We reflect God’s capacity for rich relationships. We long to create and witness beauty. We yearn for knowledge and wisdom, for purpose, and for life.

Unborn lives matter because all human life bears God’s indelible mark.

2. God is involved in the details of conception and development.

Life is a miracle. I still find myself stunned, in awe of the fact that a man and a woman can create new life. It’s much, much more than a mere biological process. It’s wonder. Beauty. Art. And, God is involved in even the tiniest details. In fact, it is so wonderful, only poetry can come close to doing justice. [biblegateway passage=”Psalm 139:13-14″ display=”King David writes”]:

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. 

Unborn lives matter because they are the special concern of God the Father.

3. Every human life has potential for good.

Did you know that over 57 million abortions have occurred in the US since abortion became legal in 1973? I often wonder about what those 57 million lives could have become. A little girl aborted in 1973 would be 42 years old right now, in the prime of her life. Might she have discovered the cure to cancer? Could she have been raising a few beautiful children? What if she was writing music or creating art to inspire and thrill the world? Could she have been leading a company? Might she have been holding elected office and helping to shape the laws of our nation?

Every human life has the potential for great good, to make the world a better place. The [biblegateway passage=”Ephesians 2:10″ display=”Apostle Paul”] says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Created for good works. Prepared in advance and known by God.

Unborn lives matter because of their positive potential.

4. How we treat the weak reveals the heart of our culture.

Do you want to know what is at the heart of a culture? Look at how it collectively treats the marginalized: the unborn, the sick, the elderly, the poor, the foreigners, and the imprisoned. Nothing is more revealing of the decay we see all around us than the legal holocaust that has been taking place since 1973. Do those sound like strong words? Do they startle you? They are. And, they should. They are true.

Unborn lives matter because they reveal the heart of our culture.

What about you?

For those who have had an abortion or who know someone who has: I pray you know that you’re not beyond the forgiveness of your Heavenly Father. He knows your past and your pain. He values you and he wants you to cling to him. Do you know him?

For all of us: Do you value life? Do your actions and attitudes reflect your answer to that question? What can you do, both now and in the future, to value life?

Last Is the New First

last-is-the-new-first

“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first,” (Jesus in Matthew 19:30). 

So many things made an impact upon me this weekend as we gathered at the Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds for Special Olympics to watch our Owen participate in equestrian events along with well over 100 athletes from all over the region. It was a fantastic day!

I spent the day surrounded by winners and learned again that last is the new first. What do I mean by that?

You see …

You have already won if, holding your silver medal, you can’t wait until the end of the awards presentation to hug the gold medal winner.

You have already won if you are mute but you can maneuver a 1,000-pound horse around a series of barrels.

You have already won if you can fall off a horse and jump back on with a smile and without a tinge of embarrassment.

You have already won if you are so full of joy that you jump up and down, hands raised in the air, upon receipt of your participation ribbon.

You have already won if you have friends and family who will cheer like crazy just because you finish the ride.

You have already won if you refuse to quit.

You have already won if you have refused to let your “disabilities” render you disabled.

I was so blessed to be surrounded by a bunch of men, women, boys and girls who society largely tolerates (at best), ignores, discards or abuses (at worst).

They were so much fun! The smiles were so big and so genuine. Joy permeated the event even in the presence of joy-stealing adversaries like Down’s Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Cerebral Palsy, severe learning disabilities, paralysis, and dozens of other diseases and difficulties that I’m sure none of the participants would have chosen.

My Special Olympics experience was such a stark contrast to the hyper-competitive nature of the world in which we live. Ambitious coworkers fight one another for promotions. Professional athletes lie, cheat and steal to achieve a slight edge over the competition. Siblings snipe at one another to win the affection of distracted parents. We stay longer at the office so we can buy a nicer car than the neighbors. We measure our worth by the relative worthlessness we project onto others. It’s an awful way to live.

If you have to become a wretch to come in first place, are you really a winner? No way.

The weekend reminded me that Jesus came as a physician to the sick,  as one who would seek and save the lost, as a rebel who hung out with the blind, lame, mute and diseased instead of those who could pay him back. He understood that in God’s economy of things, the least are the greatest, the meek inherit the earth, and those who recognize their need are the ones who walk away right with God.

In a very real way, I want to take my cues from the athletes I met this weekend. Character is more important than the place in which I finish. Joy is more important than looking good. My friends and family are more important than the strangers I try to impress. Refusing to give up is more important than perfection. Brokenness and honesty are better than hypocrisy.

Last is the new first.