Thoughts and Beliefs

Do You Want Customers With Disabilities?

    Posted in Disability Speaker, Thoughts and Beliefs    |    2 Comments

What follows is a tale of two businesses.  Both experiences occurred on the same day.  Both were given a fair shot at my business.  One succeeded greatly, and the other failed miserably.

Customers With Disabilities: Epic Failure

The cleaning of my teeth was finally finished when the dentist entered the room.  This was my first visit to this dentist, and while I’m not going to shame them by mentioning his name or the name of his practice, I will say that he has glowing reviews on several public opinion sites.  The dentist came in and within ten seconds of meeting him, he said the following:

When I saw you come in, I told the hygienist that you likely had poor dental hygiene, and if that was the case, you’d need to see me every two to three months instead of the regular six months.  It turns out you have great dental hygiene, but if that changes because you can’t brush your teeth or no one will help you, you’ll need to come back more often.

There are so many things wrong with his statement that I didn’t even respond until I returned home and called his office.  First, his snap judgement of me was dead wrong.  He assumed that I was unable to brush my teeth before he even talked to me.  This assumption led to several insulting remarks.  Second, the fact that he would tell me about his incorrect first impression is unbelievable.  Making a snap judgement is bad enough, but now you are going to insult me by telling me you assumed I wasn’t capable of caring for myself?  If you guessed wrong, keep it to yourself!  Finally, he wouldn’t let go of his initial assessment.  He guessed wrong, told me he guessed wrong, and then proceeded to try and validate his assessment by assuming that my disability would further limit me in the future.  While that is a possibility, there is no current evidence of that occurring.  He so badly needed his hypothesis to be right, so he further assumed problems that may or may not happen.  The dentist failed in so many ways, that I cancelled a future appointment with him, and will never go back.

(Epilogue: I found a FANTASTIC dentist after searching for a bit, and am very happy to refer anyone to Just for Grins in Keller, TX.  They are awesome!)

Customers With Disabilities: Wonderful Success

Customers With Disabilities DoorwayOn that very same day, I went to a branch of my bank to which I rarely go.  I was by myself, which meant no drive thru banking for me.  I gathered up my deposit info and rolled out of my van and up to the door of the bank.  Usually, when I approach a business that does not have a door opening button, I get to sit and wait until someone sees me and opens the door.  It can be a little humiliating, and that humiliation grows the longer I have to wait.  So, imagine my surprise when the door swung open just as I approached.  A man whom I’d never met before opened both sets of doors and greeted me kindly.  He introduced himself as Al, the bank manager!  He took my deposits to the back and processed them himself, so that I did not have to wait in line nor did I have to reach up to the tall counter where the tellers are located.  Upon leaving, he gave me his business card and said to call him any time I was coming up, and he would come open the doors.  I’ve already tested his promise on another occasion, and he was true to his word.  He’s the bank manager, yet he has time to open the door for me.  Greatness.

Which One Wanted My Business?

The answer is obvious.  The bank manager desires for me to continue banking with his branch and he shows me that desire by treating me so well.  The dentist was arrogant and rude, and he desperately needs MY Disability Awareness training seminar.  By the way he treated me, he showed me that he did not want me there.  I don’t remain in places where I’m not wanted.

So, the question goes to you.  Do you want my business?  Do you want customers with disabilities?  Then show them you want them.  Begin brainstorming ways to make your customers with special needs feel wanted.  Make your location more accessible, but more importantly, have an accessible attitude.  There is an entire untapped market of people with special needs, and this market will reward your efforts by remaining loyal to your accessible business.

Do you want customers with disabilities?  Then build an accessible business both physically and mentally.  Simple as that.

You Are Stronger

    Posted in General, Thoughts and Beliefs    |    5 Comments

Worship had already begun.  The lights were lowered, and we were all joined in praise.  From my vantage point, I could see a family walking down the aisle trying to find seats.  Normally, I wouldn’t have given them a second look, but there was a child in the family who caught my eye.  She was in a powered wheelchair, and looked frail.  I don’t know her age, nor her story, but I was glad to see her at church.  Her family found a row with a cutout spot for her wheelchair, and immediately joined in worship.

I watched the young girl for a few moments and my suspicions were confirmed.  She was weak, and looked to be in some pain.  I made a snap judgement, and began to feel sorry for her. Then, in the midst of my pity for her, the worship band began the first few chords of the next song.  Suddenly, the faces of her family members lit up, and they began to get excited.  The excitement was directed towards the young girl in the wheelchair.  She, too, seemed to brighten up.  I wanted to know why, so I continued to watch.  When the band came to the chorus of the song, she lifted her tired arms and sang as loudly as she could:

You are stronger you are stronger
Sin is broken you have saved me
It is written Christ is risen
Jesus you are Lord of all

Her praise was being expressed from the very depths of her soul.  We sang the next verse and chorus while she continued with her arms lifted high.  It was in the bridge of the song that she started to succumb to her body’s limitations, and her arms began to fall.  We began singing the bridge:

So let your name be lifted higher
Be lifted higher, be lifted higher

Hands Lifted in WorshipOver and over again, we sang those words.  As the young girl’s arms finally fell, her sister, who appeared to be just a few years older than she, grabbed her arms and lifted them FOR HER.  They continued in that pose until the song came to an end.

Stronger.  So often, we fall into the worldly habit of thinking we are in control.  We are strong enough to face this world due to how great we are.  We are led into false assumptions of our own endurance, and our overconfidence gets us into the worst situations.  We have declared our independence from God, and because of that we are destined to fail.

You know who was the strongest person attending worship that night?  It was the young girl with more special needs than I will ever have to encounter.  She knows that she has no strength on her own.  Her earthly body has failed her.  But, her resignation to that fact allows her a freedom that few ever get to experience.

When you have to rely on others for daily needs, as I do, you come to realize that there is a freedom in that reliance.  I know I cannot take care of all of my own needs, and in that, I am forced to rely upon someone else.  That reliance can easily then be translated to the spiritual need to rely upon God.  Any pride in my own physical prowess was thrown out the window a long time ago.  Good riddance.  That pride only slowed me down in my race towards God.  My surrender and reliance is my freedom.  I know I am not strong on my own, but I am infinitely strong in Him.

What melted my heart and produced tears in my eyes that night at church was that I was being taught a lesson of which I needed to be reminded.

A lesson of dependence.
A lesson of humility.
A lesson on how to be strong – taught by the physically weakest, but spiritually strongest person in the room.

Thank You God For God

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Pro Life Speaker Chet McDoniel and daughter, HannahMost every night, I get the opportunity to read a Bible story to my (almost) four year old daughter, Hannah.  She and I treasure the time together, and I love watching her learn about God’s love.

After the Bible story, we talk about what we want to tell God that night, and Hannah always picks a few things from the day to give thanks for.  Most of the time, she gives thanks for her family and friends.  Sometimes it’s for a toy…you get the picture.  A couple of nights ago, she said this prayer:

Dear God,
Thank you for God.
In Jesus name,

At first, I thought that she doesn’t understand what she’s saying.  She doesn’t realize that we give thanks for God’s gifts or His wonderful creation.  But, that prayer has rattled around in my brain until I finally came to a much better conclusion.

Hannah prayed a prayer that I’ve never prayed.

I have never once thought to thank God for being God.   Thank Him for being who He is.  God does not have to be a merciful god.  There is no requirement on Him to be a god of love, grace, and mercy.  He could have easily chosen a different way to exist.  We exist because he is a god of love.  He could zap us out of existence with a blink of an eye.  But, he doesn’t.

So often, I get tied up in the culture we live in, and I begin to focus my thankfulness on the things I have.  Not necessarily material things, although I am grateful for what He has provided.  Even focusing solely on the wonderful family and life He has given me is potentially dangerous as my focus is on me…not Him.  Maybe I’ve forgotten that my things and my life that I am so thankful for are not for me…they are for Him.

My prayers are going to sound different.  I want to remember that God is love not because he has to be…but because He chose to be love.  He chose to be merciful.  He chose to send Jesus.  I am thankful to God for who and what He chose to be.

Thank you, God…for God.

A Wonderful Evening at The Gift of Life Premiere

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This past Wednesday, I was in Des Moines, IA, for the premiere of “The Gift of Life” documentary. This film is the best pro-life storytelling that exists in our world, today.  So many times, the term “pro-life” is received as threatening or spiteful.  The thought of life being the most important topic of this presidential campaign is dangerous to some and dismissed by others.  However, as was stated on Wednesday, if we don’t get this issue right, then all the other issues won’t matter.  I have long held the opinion that you must share and show love in order to best represent the life that Jesus calls us to live.

The Gift of Life does a wonderful job of showing the positive side of our cause while educating as it warms the heart.  Many stories of change, faithfulness, and hope are told through the wonderful cast and artful direction of the film.  The film does an excellent job sharing the emotion and wonder that is life.   Born or unborn, children deserve all we have and all we can do to provide a happy, fully-lived life.  This film is a testament to our story, and an excellent way to introduce people who may be undecided on the issue to the truths that are the pro-life movement.

Pro Life Speaker, Chet McDoniel, and Gov. Mike HuckabeeI was afforded a chance to meet one of my heroes.  I don’t have much desire to meet Hollywood stars, music legends, or any other figure that America deems popular.  My heroes are people who are true to their word and who fight for what is right.  So, that’s why meeting Mike Huckabee was such a true honor.  Governor Huckabee has fought tirelessly for the sanctity of life, and was the driving force behind the creation of this film.  What was even more amazing was how truly honored he was to meet me.  Even though it was a hurried moment when we met, the sincerity in his eyes and his words were felt through my entire being.  Governor Huckabee has the ability to make you feel as if you were the only person in the room, and that is born out of a genuine spirit that is hard to find in today’s world.  He said he was moved by my story, and was so excited to get the chance to meet me.  He then brought me out on stage at the film’s conclusion to introduce me to the crowd.  The other cast members soon joined us, and I am so proud to have been a part of this production.  My meeting with Mike Huckabee was a moment I will never forget.

Pro Life Speaker, Chet McDoniel, and Fmr. Speaker, Newt Gingrich

Four Republican candidates for president were there and I was able to talk briefly with Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.  They, too, were genuine as we exchanged greetings.  I must say, however, that while Rick Perry and Michelle Bachman were both in attendance, neither stayed to watch the film.  I felt that decision on their part was very disrespectful, and I really appreciate Speaker Gingrich and Senator Santorum for not only staying to watch the documentary, but also for staying an hour afterwards to talk with folks about the emotions that were experienced while watching the film.

All in all, it was a fantastic evening, and I cannot say enough about the Citizens United film, “The Gift of Life.”  If you consider yourself pro-life, you must see this film and you will be uplifted by it.  If you have a different viewpoint, I encourage you to open your mind and heart to listen to these stories.  Either way, I promise you will be encouraged by the hope and love shown in this film.

The Land of Me

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As we came out of the restaurant last night, we happened upon an all too familiar scene.  Someone had pulled their car right beside our van, and thus had blocked the stripes on the ground that are meant to signal that this is not a place to park your car.  Fortunately, the driver was in the car and had her window rolled down.  My wife and I approached the driver and explained that she was in the stripes and we could not get my wheelchair into my van.  We were calm, and smiled at her…trying to make this as peaceful a confrontation as possible.

“I’m checking to see if my order was correct.” she replied.  She had just been through the drive through.  She turned away from us to continue checking her food order.

“Ma’am, you are parked illegally, and we need you to move.”  I said a little more forcefully.

“I was only here for a second.  I just pulled in.”  She retorted.

“Ma’am, it was illegal the moment you drove your car into the stripes and parked.  It does not matter how long you were here.”  We responded.  After several seconds of what I can only describe as an angry stare, she slammed her car into reverse saying that she hoped we had a wonderful evening.  Her tone suggested otherwise, but I still smiled and replied that I hoped she had the same.

I wish I could tell you that this situation isn’t a regular occurrence, but I’d be lying.  It is so common, that I no longer get angry, but am just disappointed in careless thinking.  Most of the time, we are able to work around the carelessly parked car, but sometimes, we have to seek help as there is only so much room for my ramp.

I’m not suggesting that people who do these kinds of things are evil or stupid.  Rather, these actions are a symptom of a much larger problem.  We are so wrapped up in our own lives that our first thoughts do not go towards what others may need but rather what we need…or want for that matter.

Sure, doors are held open, and no one calls me names to my face anymore, but if you want to see where our thoughts and actions lie, just watch what happens when no one is looking.  When societal members think they can get away with something wrong, a significant number of them will attempt it.  What really blew me away with this interaction was the tone the driver took with us.  If she had apologized and moved as soon as she realized what she had done, then she wouldn’t have driven away feeling angry.  But, how dare we tell her she was in the wrong and how dare we ask her to move.  After all, her dinner was very important to her.  So important, in fact, that she had failed to see a dozen open parking spaces in front of the restaurant where she could have legally parked and checked her order.

I struggle with writing this as I think of my own behavior.  I, too, elevate myself to a position of importance, and have to be reminded often to think of others, first.  Fortunately, we have an example in Jesus, who was and is the ultimate servant.  In Mark 10, we find Jesus’ disciples having a little argument of sorts over who shall sit in a more prominent position at God’s table in glory.  After Jesus tells James and John that they don’t really know what they are asking for, the other disciples get upset.  Jesus takes the teachable moment to set the record straight:

42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

This must have blown their minds.  In a society that depended totally on social class and roles, Jesus tells his disciples to throw that all out the window.  Become a slave of all…they must have thought he was crazy.  I know some movies depicting Biblical times often show the disciples as nodding their heads in agreement while stroking their beards when Jesus drops a truth bomb.  I don’t see that happening this time.  I’m thinking many of them were giving a great “deer in the headlights” impression with their jaws wide open.  Become a slave?  But you’re the son of God…

As Jesus’ statements were backwards from the way the world worked back then, we are just as backwards from Jeus today in America, The Land of Me.  Our comfort, our wealth, and the lack of any real persecution allows us to think of ourselves as kings simply serving a King that is a bit higher than we.  Even when evil strikes our nation as it did ten years ago today, we soon forget our position in God’s kingdom.  We return to our “me” lives, and think to ourselves, “It’s good to be sons/daughters of the King.”  And it is…but, this King, this Lord, expects us to act as his hands and feet in the world.  His expectation of us is not for us to lord over everyone around us, but rather, to show the world His love and His compassion through how we serve others.

That driver that was so inconsiderate…I wonder what she was going through that day…

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Those Who Love God?

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My humble attempt at explaining why bad things happen even to those who serve God. We will face hard times, but in facing those times, and choosing to follow God, we honor and praise His name through our choice.

Bullying Epidemic

    Posted in Schools, Thoughts and Beliefs    |    Comments Off on Bullying Epidemic

I spoke this morning at Carroll Middle School in the Southlake-Carroll School District here in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. One of my main topics this morning was a message to bullies, to those being bullied, and to those who could do something about it. The video link at the end of this post is from a bullying report on HLN. The child being bullied appealed to school officials, and NOTHING was done. Inaction by authority figures closest to the student resulted in a more volitale situation. It makes me sick that so-called teachers and administrators would tell this child it was all in his head.

You know why I believe the child in the video? Because the same thing happened to me in 8th grade.

There was a fellow student in my class who made my life miserable. I hated going to school, and hated even seeing his face. One day, I came to the teacher of the class that the bully and I were in. I told her all of my hurt feelings that the bully had caused. I had never told anyone about my pain before. Her response, “it’s all in your head.” That night, I can remember lying in bed believing that if my appeal to an adult who was closest to the situation didn’t help, that I’d be better off not waking up in the morning. I had never felt more alone and worthless than that day.

There is a good epilogue to this story. The bully was invited to a church retreat when I was a Junior in high school. He approached me one morning to apologize, as he said in his own words, “Jesus is Lord of my life, now, and he would never have done the awful things to you that I did.” While the epilogue is good, the events that transpired in that 8th grade class could have been avoided. That teacher completely failed me and failed in her profession that day by dismissing my pain. She could have easily gotten an administrator involved, but she didn’t. (To be honest, she was a lousy educator, too, but that is a different story.)

I’m glad that the Dragons (students) of Carroll Middle School have the support that I didn’t have. I believe that the administration and teachers’ committment to a positive school enviornment would never allow what I went through to occur. Everyone near a child must understand…feelings are facts. If a child says he or she is the target of a bully, you MUST do something. Kids aren’t killing themselves simply from being bullied. They are killing themselves because they feel like no one cares, and nothing will ever be done to make the pain stop.

Check out this video from HLN of a father (and family) who tried to help, and what occurs when a school administration doesn’t do a thing about bullying. I applaud the efforts of the entire Southlake-Carroll School District, as I believe this would never occur the same way it did in this video below:

Video: Boy arrested for threatening bullies?

Our Normal Obsession

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I have an amazing wife.

I love her with all my heart, and I know she loves me just as much.  She posted a blog entry today that I believe each and every person needs to read.  It is a declaration of our “normal” and I strongly encourage you to read: “Our Normal Obsession

Christian Teens on Fire for God

    Posted in Churches, Thoughts and Beliefs, Youth Speaker    |    Comments Off on Christian Teens on Fire for God

This past Wednesday night, I traveled to Gun Barrel City, TX (awesome name for a city, BTW), to speak at the Spiritual Boot Camp at the Cedar Creek Church of God. While the evening took a turn we didn’t expect so that I didn’t get to present my story (I am returning on August 8 to present), I witnessed one of the most amazing displays of faith I’ve ever seen. At the front of the sanctuary a trash can had been placed on the stage, and that trash can had a label on it marked “Sin and Distractions.” Now, having been to many youth events, I’ve seen this kind of thing before. Usually, teens are asked to write some sin on a slip of paper and walk up to the front to throw it away. It’s a great symbolic gesture, but a gesture was not enough for the teens at Cedar Creek as I soon found out.

Before the event began, I walked up to the trash can and was blown away to see joints, bags of illegal drugs, porn magazines and videos, condoms, and other sinful pleasures. These weren’t words written on pieces of paper, but the actual devices of sin. Throughout the evening during the praise, teen after teen came forward to add to the trash can. With tears streaming down their faces, they would throw in their drugs, magazines, etc, and would immediately be greeted by the other teenagers in the room with hugs, applause, and excitement. The responses were amazing, and they reminded me of a part of the story of the prodigal son. I got a chance to share with the teens for a few minutes at the end and we focused on this statement in the story from Luke 15: 20:

So he got up and went to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

In this story, a son has squandered all his inheritance in a distant country, and he decides to return to his father to work as a servant as his actions surely would mean he could no longer be called his father’s son.  However, Jesus (who is telling the story) throws a surprise twist and has God (represented by the father in the story) run out and welcome his son home.  I absolutely love this particular statement: But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him. Where does the father (God) have to be in order to see his son returning home?

He had to be on the porch…waiting each and every moment of the day for his son to return.

God awaits for his children to come to Him…and there isn’t a hint of condemnation… His father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

Those teens who were repenting and bringing their sins forward to throw away were not being met by a disdain from Heaven, but rather by a God and a Heaven waiting with open arms and throwing the biggest party ever!  I praise God for His amazing grace!

Providing Hope for a Better Tomorrow

    Posted in Disability Speaker, Non-Profit Speaker, Thoughts and Beliefs    |    Comments Off on Providing Hope for a Better Tomorrow

On March 24, 2010, my dad and I had the opportunity to speak to guests of the Hope Network Foundation in Grand Rapids, MI.  The Hope Network Foundation provides a much needed service to those in the community with disabilities, providing everything from housing, employment, and most importantly, providing pastoral care.  So often, our churches are either ill-equipped to provide for the needs of people with disabilities, or they have attitudes that give off a message to the community that suggests that people with special needs are not wanted in the kingdom of God.

I find the direct opposite to be true in Jesus’ ministry.  In Jesus’ day, society had built walls around the diseased, handicapped, and around those who were easy targets of ridicule.  Sound much different from today?  Oh, maybe we don’t require certain people to live outside the city gates, but we do prefer that that they live in “another part of town.”  Maybe we provide some services to those with disabilities, but so often it is because the US law says to do so rather than because we are following the example of our Savior.  Jesus breaks through the man-made barriers time and time again, and when asked why, His reply is always some form of “because I know the will of my Father.”  If we are truly following Jesus, we must have a heart for those whom society has already turned its back on.  Jesus loves everyone, and so should we…

I absolutely love the work at Hope Network Foundation, and thank them for encouraging me through hearing about their mission.  The question is, though, why must we have organizations like this?  This organization specifically carries out the mission of Christ…but why has the church gone so far astray of this mission?  If Christ’s church is to continue to be THE source of love in this world, we must find a way to get past the way we look, and we must learn to see Jesus in each and every person.