By Matthew Hobson

Trust in God is a common theme heard in church. Trust is the assured reliance on someone or something.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”

(Proverbs 3:5 NIV)

This has been the verse I live by. I do not understand why I was born nonverbal with autism. The odds were so against this happening to me. I often ask myself “Why me?” Why did this happen the way it did? The thing is, I know God has a reason. Continue reading

A Prayer For National Healing

By Mark Hagen

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

I’ve been thinking of this quote by President Abraham Lincoln often this past year. We are one week removed from one of our nation’s most acrimonious and divisive elections. Pundits and “experts” are taking credit, assigning blame, and assessing what went wrong or what went right – dependent, of course, on one’s political leanings.

I happened to be in Washington, D.C. on Election Day.

Continue reading

Faith Community Involvement: What are the numbers?

By David Morstad

The numbers have been circulating for years.

  • Citing one prominent organization, a contributor to Christianity Today states, “perhaps 80% of the disabled are unchurched…”
  • A church’s website proclaims, “… 95% of those with disabilities are unchurched.”

Numbers that high certainly get our attention, create a sense of urgency and may indeed spur faith communities to action. Unfortunately, no one seems to know exactly where those numbers came from and, for a very long time, they have gone largely unquestioned. Continue reading

‘Fixing’ the Disability

By David Morstad

As Christians, themes of healing and wholeness come naturally. We seek to be compassionate and make right that which appears broken, wounded or wrong. It is a noble and blessed calling.  In the lives of people with disabilities, we see undeniable need.

But what is the curative solution we seek? Are we more likely to pray, “God, take away that person’s disability,” or to pray, “God grant me patience to listen, grant me acceptance, grant me a voice to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, grant me forgiveness, grant me the wisdom to learn from those who have so much to teach me?” Continue reading

Challenges of Interfaith Dialogue in Disability Ministries

By Rev. Betty McManus
Ministry Consultant
Bethesda Lutheran Communities

Bethesda Lutheran Communities supports people of a variety of faith backgrounds. Honoring each person as an individual child of God requires the openness of ensuring religious choice is honored. Interestingly, in a state-wide census of all the group homes throughout Wisconsin, it was discovered 30% of the people Bethesda supports have a Catholic faith background – yet Bethesda was only in partnership with three Catholic churches. Continue reading

Valuing Life, Preventing Suffering: A Central Tension in Genetic Screening for Disability

By Ellen Painter Dollar
Author, No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Parenthood, and Faith in an Age of Advanced Reproduction

I am writing this post from a hotel in Arlington, Virginia, where I am attending a conference of people with my genetic bone disorder, osteogenesis imperfecta (OI). OI is a collagen disorder that leads to fragile bones, skeletal deformities, and other symptoms. As I always find when I attend these conferences, the greatest benefit does not come from learning about the latest research or functional adaptations. Rather, it comes from being surrounded, as I so rarely am, with people who look and function as I do. Continue reading

Veronica- The True Image

By Ben Conner

In the practice of iconography, the writer (the one who paints the icon) transmits the Tradition of the church and proclaims the gospel.

By means of the postures of the people in the icon, the inverse perspective of the scene, and the sanctifying prayers that recognize the sacramental possibilities of the icon, the viewer of the icon is drawn into communion with that which is depicted and is given a glimpse into the Kingdom. Continue reading

Identity and Ability

By Amy Julia Becker
Author, A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations and a Little Girl Named Penny

When our daughter Penny was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after birth, I discovered that I had unwittingly believed two lies. One, that our identity arises from our abilities, or, put another way, that who we are is determined by what we can do. And two, that if we fall into the category “disabled,” we don’t have much to offer. Continue reading

What does it look like to be remembered by God?

By Professor John Swinton
Practical Theology and Pastoral Care
University of Aberdeen

In 2009 I was asked to take part in a programme on BBC Radio 4 called Beyond Belief.  The topic of the programme was the theological issues surrounding dementia. The programme was a three way conversation between myself in the studio in Aberdeen, Scotland, UK and two psychiatrists, one a Muslim and the other a Hindu. Before the interview began the host of the show, Ernie Rea, told the three of us that we would be asked one final question at the end of the interview and that it might be useful to begin to think about it before the interview started.

The question was this: “if you ended up having dementia, how would you like to be treated?” Continue reading

Summer: Celebrate or Survive

By Sandra Brese Rice
Bethesda Lutheran Communities

For many families the summer is a time for vacations, outdoor free-play and fun. For some parents, however, it is a time of much-needed prayer. Parents and people who care for children with autism have mentioned to me how difficult the summer can be for them. Children with disabilities are used to routine and many thrive on schedules, patterns and details. Without the routines followed in school, summer can be quite a challenge for families as they reteach the rules they need to use each summer at home.  Continue reading

Spiritual Life Assessment

By David Morstad

As evidenced by the joint position statement by the ARC and AAIDD, spirituality is acknowledged to be an important aspect of life for all people. From the standpoint of professional support provider planning and implementation, however, there continues to be little integration of active spiritual support into formal planning – and this includes many faith-based organizations. Continue reading

Have You Asked Him Yet?

By Sandra Brese Rice
Bethesda Lutheran Communities

“I’ve had a breakthrough! I’m so excited!” proclaimed a friend of mine who just began to pastor a congregation in Pennsylvania. He was referring to John, a young man with Down syndrome who attends church regularly with his parents.  Continue reading


By Ellen Hierl

Several years ago the question, “What would Jesus do?” was common in Christian circles as a challenge to guide our day-to-day interactions. It’s a great question and frankly, one that is very hard to live up to. All too often I find myself being impatient or self-serving, characteristics that are definitely not in keeping with WWJD.

Recently, while traveling in China, I came face-to-face with a situation that made me question what Jesus would do in this situation.  Continue reading

I Will Survive the Darkness

By Thomas Heuer

In a recent blog posting I wrote about my son Ryan’s dilemma regarding the Tenebrae service at St. Paul’s. I thought perhaps a follow-up was in order.

Up until the actual day of the Good Friday Tenebrae service, Ryan was vacillating between the ‘safety’ of sitting with Mom and Dad in the balcony and the move toward independence of sitting by himself downstairs.

Questions like: ‘When will the service be dark?’ – ‘How can I see to get my offering out of my pocket?’ – ‘How can I find my way out when the service is over?’ were frequent.

I knew he was struggling with his decision to do more things on his own.  Continue reading

A Step Toward Independence

By Thomas Heuer

Have you ever been talking with one of your kids, and they say something that nearly knocks your socks off? That happened to me recently.

My son Ryan and I were coming home from the Lenten service at St. Paul’s. The church calendar for April had just been made available, and Ryan was studying his copy (which would end up on his bulletin board). He noticed that there would be a Tenebrae service on Good Friday evening. From previous years, he knew this meant that at one point, the church would be totally dark. Totally. Continue reading


By David Morstad

We talk a lot about community in this field, e.g., community living, community-based services, etc. But when it comes to a real sense of community, I think we would all agree that we have something more meaningful in mind. What does it take to build real community? Continue reading

Those Are Just Words

By Matthew Hobson

Terminology referring to people with disabilities has definitely changed in the last few years. Referring to them as “disabled people” can be offensive to many. Now the correct thing to say is a “person with a disability.” The reason for this is that they are people first who happen to have this disability. People can say it either way as far as I am concerned. Continue reading

A Litmus Test for a Society’s Health

By Steve Ristow
Executive Director
Quiet Waters Outreach


Every couple of weeks guests from our day respite program volunteer for a local nonprofit  organization called “Store to Door” where they buy groceries for elderly and disabled people who are confined to their homes. The other day our group had  finished their shopping and were headed towards the check-out line. Their carts were full and they were excited to finish their volunteer work. They  were proud as always of their part in serving  their community. That day, the store was bustling with a more than usual number of frantic shoppers. Our guests started happily emptying their baskets for the store clerk.

Within minutes, we noticed a lady in line behind us.  She was noticeably growing more and more impatient as our guests slowly placed their groceries on the conveyor belt. Then without a care in the world, she yelled beyond us to the clerk, “Where is the line for normal people?!”

What?! Continue reading

Changing Routine when Down Syndrome is a Factor

By Thomas Heuer

Like many people who share Down syndrome, my son Ryan is a creature of habit. I guess this is true for most people who don’t share Down syndrome as well, but perhaps not to the same degree as Ryan. Maybe it’s something in that extra chromosome. Continue reading

Focusing on Ability

By Matthew Hobson

God loves all people. God has also given each of us gifts, and He loves us for our own gifts and talents. You may not immediately understand or recognize others’ gifts most of the time. It may take a while to see those unique talents, especially in those people with disabilities.

Others, who are not disabled, have the chance to demonstrate their talents in more situations, because they often have more opportunities than disabled people. Non-disabled people seem to have more experiences that enable them to discover their abilities. Continue reading

“It’s got to mean something”

By Hollie M. Holt-Woehl

Recently two high school hockey players in Minnesota experienced spinal cord injuries while playing in high school games for their respective schools. One will never walk again; for the other it is still unknown.  In his first interview since the injury the 16-year-old boy, adjusting to the realities of his injury stated that he wanted to live a full life. “Whatever is normal at the time, I have to accept.” He said. “This is like a calling almost… It’s a mystery, but at the same time it’s got to mean something.” (“This is like a calling almost,” StarTribune, January 20, 2012.) Continue reading

Perception vs. Reality

By Matthew Hobson

My name is Matt Hobson. I have had autism all of my life. The hardest thing is being non-verbal as well. When I was young, I was diagnosed as severely mentally handicapped. However, I learned to use facilitated communication when I was eleven. (Yes it does work for some people. A subject for a future post.) Since then I have graduated from Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis and co-wrote a book called I’m So Glad You Found Me in Here. Continue reading

Ministry WITH

By Michael DeDominick

The other day I had a great time with several friends of mine. Some people had disabilities, and Bethesda Lutheran Communities provides support staff and housing for them. Some people were staff, whose paychecks come from donations and increasingly shrinking state and federal sources. Some of the people were volunteers from an area congregation.

It started when a youth pastor at an area congregation and Joel, a good friend of mine, were looking for a service opportunity for his church. Joel and I have known each other for a while. I bought Joel and the head pastor lunch a month or so ago, so he may have owed me.  Joel and I met to scheme and plan and generally get on the same page. Continue reading

A True Example of Inclusive Worship

By Ben Stuckey

“We are all born helpless. As soon as we are fully conscious we discover loneliness. We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually: we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves.”

- C.S. Lewis

Yesterday I spoke with Pastor Brian Van Osdol, Senior Pastor of LaGrange Church of God.  I called to check on how their Bible study class was going.  His response was, “It is amazing.” While this class runs about 30-40 people with a close ratio of one-on-one relationships, half volunteers half students, there was something he brought to my attention that made me think of this quote by C.S. Lewis.

Generally the philosophy of these classes would be that a person with a disability would form a meaningful relationship with someone without a disability, and that relationship would transcend the walls (not being limited to an hour a week relationship). In turn they would naturally begin to attend that congregation’s worship services, and be empowered to use their gifts. Continue reading

You Are Magnificent!

By Steve Ristow
Executive Director
Quiet Waters Outreach

I recently watched a short internet video called the Butterfly Circus. It told a touching story of a man with no limbs who served as the main event in a 1920’s circus sideshow. Constantly subjected to the piercing jeers and cruel laughter from a steady stream of curious patrons, this man truly believed being a “freak” was his only purpose in life.

That is until one day, when a showman from another circus, the Butterfly Circus, visited his sideshow.   Continue reading

What Do I Say?

By Ben Stuckey

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” 1 Corinthians 1:27 (NIV)

In the field of working with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, “People First” language is of the upmost importance. An example of what not to say would be, “disabled people.” The correct example would be, “people with disabilities.”

The concept is we identify the person before the disability, and not to define the person by their disability. This is the acceptable terminology endorsed by all organizations, but I want to question the spiritual view of this. Continue reading

Mistake? Not a Chance!

By Steve Ristow
Executive Director
Quiet Waters Outreach

I often get the question, “Are people with developmental disabilities a mistake?”  I believe what is really at the heart of this question is “Where is God’s image in these people?”  In order to understand the answer, it’s important that we clarify what it means to be created in the “image of God”.

In Genesis, 1:27 it states, “God created man in his image, in the image of God, he created them.”  Now the Hebrew word for “image” (tselem) translates as “an outline or representation of an original as a shadow is the outline of the original.”

A commentator said it best when they wrote:   Continue reading

Can You Have Too Much Good?

By Ben Stuckey

“However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20

Can you have too much good?

I have pondered this question for almost six months as it seemed like amazing transformational opportunities were coming at me left and right, and I wanted to do them all. Nothing makes me feel better about myself than when people are constantly calling me to speak at their congregations, chapels, teach a college class, youth groups, Presbyteries, etc.

As these opportunities kept coming, like an approval addict I would says, “Yes!” Then when the time started for this whirlwind tour to begin, the ministry began expanding; I looked at my co-workers and myself and realized how tired we were, and how our ministries had become a “have to,” and not a “get to.”  The answer came to me: Yes, you can have too much good, but not too much God.   Continue reading

Pray Continually

By Ben Stuckey

“Pray continually” -1 Thessalonians 5:17

Do you believe in Christmas miracles?  I don’t by the world’s standards.  I do believe in CHIST-linked miracles.  This one I am sharing just because it happened on Christmas day. Continue reading

That Which ‘Must be Honored’

By David Morstad

Nearly two years ago The Arc and the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) released their joint statement on Spirituality. Among other things, it states:

“Spirituality, spiritual growth and religious expression that respect a person’s history, tradition and current preferences are rights that must be honored by service systems and faith-based communities, as should the choice not to participate.”

Why did they create the statement?  Continue reading