Archive for September, 2013

hostFred and Ellie’s twenty nine year old son died suddenly of a heart attack.  Fred started one the first special needs programs in the school where he was the principle.  Eric and Daidra were blessed with twins.  One of their boys has Cerebral Palsy.  Margot leads Capernaum, a Young Life outreach to students with special needs.  She lives with her brother who has developmental disabilities.  Gail is a music therapist and her husband Steve cares for and supports adults with traumatic brain injury through music and art.  Dave and Karen are retired and looking for something they can do together.  Through their many years of marriage they have loved and served individuals with special needs.

What do Fred and Ellie and Eric and Daidra and Margot and Gail and Steve and Dave and Karen all have in common?  They are all Hosts for David’s Refuge.  They are the very backbone of our outreach.  They listen, share, serve, encourage, eat, laugh, and cry with our guests.  They drive our mission.  They Care for the Caregiver.  They are David’s Refuge!

The following is a summary of the job description for a Host at David’s Refuge:

A Host works in conjunction with the B&B or Inn Keeper to ensure that the mission of David’s Refuge is carried out.  A host is unobtrusively available to meet the needs of our guests.  Through acts of service, listening, and a willingness to share their own story guests are reminded that they are not alone, what they do matters, and that they are loved by God.

Our Hosts are concierges!  They look for every way to make our guests time away the most fulfilling.  They anticipate our guests needs.  They are available but unobtrusive.  They are comfort experts.

Why are they experts?  Because they have walked the same journey our parents are currently on.  Some of our hosts may not have had their own special needs children but for years they have journeyed with those who have.  They have wrestled with loneliness, anger at God, loss of perspective.  It is not a theoretical understanding but a practical, rubber meeting the road understanding of what it takes to love and raise a child with special needs or struggling with a fatal disease.  They are willing to share their own story and their own struggles in the hopes that it will help someone else on the same journey.  They are willing to sit and listen without judgment.  Just by being there they pour life and hope into a parent who is struggling and broken.

Our ability to grow and serve more families rests on our ability to find great hosts, people who have been shaped and molded by their own life experiences in the world of disability, illness, and special needs.  Through their own personal struggle and through their willingness to share that struggle our hosts help restore, refresh, and pour life into our parents.  Just as they were comforted by someone, they now give that comfort away.

I love how this truth is stated in the Bible in a translation know as the Message:

He (God) comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.    1 Corinthians 1:4

Who could you come alongside today?  Who do you know that needs to be reminded that they are not alone, that what they do matters, and that God loves them?   Be a Comfort Expert!


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David’s Smile

The healing benefits and power of laughter is not a new idea.  Almost 3,000 years ago Solomon, the King of Israel, wrote the following words in the book of Proverbs:

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.  Proverbs 17:22

A good laugh, a joke, a little humor is like medicine.  It heals, refreshes, and restores us.  Without it we dry up.  Our spirits are crushed.  We lose hope.

I like this quote from an unknown author, found in an editorial in the New York Tribune:

A good, real, unrestrained, hearty laugh is a sort of glorified internal massage performed rapidly and automatically.  It manipulates and revitalizes corners and unexplored crannies of the system that are unresponsive to most other exercise methods.

I don’t know about you but I could use a little massaging of those unexplored, tired crannies of my soul.  The question is, how do you find joy or laughter when the corners of your life are bone dry and about to crumble?  What do you do do when there doesn’t seem anything to laugh at?

In my last blog I encouraged you to learn how to laugh at yourself.  Today I want to make two more suggestions.

1) Prime the laughter well

When I was growing up our well would sometimes go dry.  In order to get the water flowing again my dad would have to prime the pump.  Laughter is the same way.  One great way to do that is to play games together.  Turn your phones off, shut the TV off, close your computer down, stop sending tweets, don’t check your Facebook or count how many people have read your blog, and pull out a game and play it.

Laughter and play are closely related.  Play brings you together.  It develops community and a shared experience.  When we play together we create the possibility of a mini vacation where we can escape the to do list and just be silly for a few minutes. Here are two great games that are great well primers.

quelfQuelf: One of the most stupid games I have ever played but absolutely hilarious


Apples to Apples: A great game any age can play togetherapplestoapples


2) Share something funny with someone else.

May father used to say that cutting and chopping wood warms you twice.  Once when you are cutting and splitting it, and again when you burn it.  Laughter is the same way.  When you are willing to share a silly story about yourself or something that happened to you, you laugh twice.  Once when it happens, and then when you share it.  In fact I find the more I share my stories the more I laugh.  There are stories my kids ask me to share over and over again.  And no matter how many times I share them we laugh as if it were the first time.

One of our favorites is about David finding himself in the house of someone he didn’t know.  David was at a Young Life event and the leaders called to tell us they would bring David home.  After pulling into the driveway they helped David out of the car and into the house.  Once they got him in the door they said goodbye and started driving down the road.  About ten houses down the passenger in the car said, “Oh crap, that’s David’s house!”  I’m not so sure if I spelled crap right.  They went back to the house and found David still standing in the doorway, not moving.  I’m not sure if it was the pit bull growling at him or simply the fact he knew he wasn’t in the right house.  We didn’t hear this story until David’s’ funeral.

So what is something funny you could share with all of us?  Help us to massage and revitalize the corners and unexplored crannies of our souls, and in so doing get a massage yourself.

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Pholf29One night I returned home from a late meeting to discover that something or someone was in my basement.  Brenda wanted to call 911 but I thought the baseball bat under my bed was sufficient to deal with the situation.  As I got to the bottom of the stairs we heard a loud banging sound followed by a scream.  Brenda immediately called 911 and I put on my pants just in case something happened to me.  I wouldn’t want my body to be traced with white chalk in my boxers!  Funny the things you think of when you think you have a crazy person in your basement.

The police were at our home within minutes.  As the officer entered our home we heard the pounding sound and the scream again.  As he reached for his gun he asked, “What was that?”  I said, “I don’t know but that is why you are here.”  After a few minutes of orienting him to the layout of our home he said, we need to go check it out!”  I said, “WE?”  I pointed him to the stairs that led to the basement and we opened the door.

The moment we opened the door, the pounding sound and scream happened again and I knew immediately what it was.  It was a screen saver of Barney poking his head up as a chicken throws an egg at him making a pounding sound followed by Barney screaming!  The kids had been playing on the computer in the basement, had turned the volume all the way up, and then gone to bed.  I walked into the house the moment the screen saver turned on.  I tried to tell the officer he didn’t have to go downstairs but he had to see what it was.  After he left I peeked out our window only to find him on the ground laughing with another officer.  Every time I tell the story I laugh.  Every time I tell the story people laugh at me.

I have discovered that every time I laugh I feel better.  There is something cleansing about a belly laugh or even just a chuckle.  Studies actually show that laughter is a healing activity.  It strengthens your immune system, it increases a sense of happiness, it lessens depression, it actually lessens pain, and it boosts your energy.  Every time you laugh your body releases endorphins which create a feeling of well being.  And best of all it doesn’t cost you a thing.   It is a free legal high.  Laughter is just plain good for you.   Sometimes when I am feeling a little down I go to YouTube and type in “Just for Laughs.”  I will watch one or two episodes and I will feel physically and emotionally better.  Try it!

Just being around someone who is laughing makes you feel better.  Do me a favor and click on the following link of a child laughing.  Watch the clip and see if you can stop yourself from laughing.  When you’re done watching the clip stop and think about how you are feeling.  Do you feel different than before you watched the clip?  What is different?  Do you think you need to find more ways to add laughter back to your life?

Did you know that on average, children laugh 400 times a day, while adults laugh about 15 times?  What can we do to lessen the gap?  Today I will share one idea and then share a couple more then next time I write.

Be willing to laugh at yourself!  Lighten up, don’t be so serious.  Even in the more challenging parts of our journey there is something we can laugh at, and normally it’s ourselves!

One day we were visiting my brother and sister in law and David had to go to the bathroom.  David was blind so he didn’t notice that someone was in the bathroom and barged in.  He immediately turned around but came back and said, “Well that was embarrassing, but I guess there are advantages to being blind” and left.  As he did he chuckled to himself and we still chuckle about it today.
If I were a doctor and could prescribe you some medicine it would be: Find something to laugh about yourself and laugh out loud!  Please do this three times a day or as often as is needed to start feeling better.  That’s a doctors order!

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Many moons ago I studied Greek in seminary.  Sadly I have forgotten most of it, but today I want to introduce you to a Greek word I really like: συνέργια (synergia).  It means synergy.  It actually comes from the Greek word συνεργός (synergos) which means “working together.”

Wikipedia defines synergy as:

“the interaction of multiple elements in a system to produce an effect different from or greater than the sum of their individual effects.”

DSC_0488This past Sunday I saw συνέργια in living color as 50 volunteers “worked together” to serve 140 people at our 2nd annual David’s Refuge Labor Day Picnic.  Whole families, college students, teachers, high school students, Occupational Therapists, Teaches of the Visually Impaired, Grandmas, retired college professors, pastors, musicians, and many more all joined hands to serve our families, creating an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects.

Once a year we invite all of our guests and their families to a picnic where they can meet other parents who are on the same journey they are on.  No one had to explain why their child was in a wheel chair or couldn’t speak.  No one stared at them as they communicated with their child using sign language or adaptive equipment.  No one felt embarrassed as their child squealed in delight as they bounced in a bouncy house.  We were a family.  We ate.  We laughed.  I saw a few tears.  We played.  We encouraged. And we ate some more.DSC_0526
One family wrote:

That was a very special event. You brought together a lot of beautiful people, showing us all, again, how your son’s spirit has motivated you to make a profound gift to a community who really need it– you bring us respite and also joy, understanding, and celebration. Thank you!!! We love you!!!

The reason our guests experienced joy, understanding, and celebration was because synergy took place.  A community of people came together to serve another community of people and the result was magic.  Eastern Hills Bible Church shared their building with us.  Tops Market provided a beautiful cake and all our hotdDSC_0538og and hamburger buns.  Nice N Easy provided bottles of water and all the chips our guests could eat.  An anonymous donor provided our hotdogs and hamburgers.  Wegmans gave us enough money to supply all our paper goods and condiments and other food supplies.  Dougherty’s Party Services gave us a bouncy house.  Pavone’s provided pizza.  One of our guests and friend provided live music.  Musical instruments were made and shared by an art teacher.

Burgers and hot dogs were grilled, faces painted, games played, bouncy houses enjoyed, parachutes unfurled, cake served, food consumed, pictures taken, conversations enjoyed, new friendships started, old ones rekindled, and hope instilled because they were all reminded that they are not alone!  The power of συνέργια!
We always tell our guests when they arrive that we want them to know they are not alone, that what they do everyday caring for their children is the most important thing in the world, and that they are loved by God.  I believe all these things are possible and true because of the power of synergy.

Enjoy a few more pictures of our wonderful celebration:

DSC_0481DSC_0568 DSC_0630 DSC_0669 Jessie and LeoDSC_0583

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