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When life falls apart, confusion sets in. Personal questions are unanswerable, emotions are uncontrollable, and strength seems unattainable; such are the realities of shattering circumstances. Special Needs Ministries represents a source of hope for people by offering sound teaching, resources, and personal counseling. We invite you to visit the Special Needs blog, managed by Colleen Swindoll Thompson, director of Special Needs Ministries and the parent of a child with special needs. Colleen is intimately aware of the daily challenges you face, and she is honored for the opportunity to interact with you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Three Essential Questions on Our Quest for Acceptance

By Colleen Swindoll Thompson

Fear can be such a driving force—crippling, compromising, and, at times, crushing. How many times have I second-guessed my decisions, wondered if anything I said or did mattered, and struggled to measure up? The truth is, we long to be loved and accepted and to live without the fear of inadequacy.

Three Essential Questions
Photo by Luca Galuzzi [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Blessed Re-assurance

The other night, my husband and I spent one of those rare evenings with my two older children. The house was peaceful and my soon-to-be-married daughter had cooked a remarkable dinner. We talked, laughed, and reflected on our children’s lives. My husband asked them, “What has built your sense of self or given you confidence in the past few years?” I was quite impressed with his question. One of my kids said that he felt reassurance by always being welcome to join my husband and me in conversation and laughter after a long, hard day. He was reassured by our words:

“You did great today!”

“You showed up for life!”

“You are amazing!”

My daughter said she loved hearing the words:

“I’m so proud of you.”

“I have seen such growth in this area of your life.”

“I love you . . . just the way you are.”

Authentic Acceptance

I met with a friend the other day who has never been told she’s okay. She’s tried to measure up only to find the bar constantly raised just one rung higher.

Continue reading "Three Essential Questions on Our Quest for Acceptance" »

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


By Colleen Swindoll Thompson

Sorting through a stack of stuff, I tried to pull a note from the bottom. When I did, the pile came apart. Short on time and shorter on patience, I attempted to bundle it all up until . . . until the photographs slipped out from an old scrapbook binder buried in the stack. Suddenly, I was 20 years younger with three small kids; a lifetime of memories came flooding in.

Photo by Paul (Flickr: Happy Valentines Day) [CC-BY-2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

There was Ashley in her "Nala" costume, flat out on the couch after being at Disneyland for the day. Another of Ashley and Austin in their "101 Dalmatian" sweats I swore they would wear until death. Funny, kids don't wear their childhood costumes for life like so many young parents wish they would. Another picture was a snapshot of all three: Ashley at age 4 trying to read to a very disinterested Austin and Jonathan.

A couple other photos followed: some portraying life on "easy" street with just one very typical child (if there is one), several from Southern California beaches, and a few from the Texas State Fair where my husband and I were trying to carefully bond together our newly blended family.

As I viewed these photos, my spirit turned quiet, and I pondered the passageways of life that had been exacting and, at times, an unforgiving educator. Such is the education of life; it inevitably teaches us that good intentions don't always give back the desired results . . . the "best laid plans of mice and men."

What You Don't Say
Part of growing up means growing through tough seasons. Those who choose growth and wisdom are few, and, unfortunately, fewer know how to help others going through tough stuff. People will say some of the dumbest things to someone who is struggling. For example, here are things that no one should ever say to one who is hurting (and I've heard all of these):

"When are you going to get past that?"
"Don't you think you have talked enough about this?"
"Well, at least you have other 'normal' kids."
"God must have known you could handle something like this."
"God never gives us more than we can bear."

Those words do not help. They are like telling someone to whistle "Dixie" . . . while walking uphill, carrying a whopping 900-pound walrus on his or her back to a water fountain two miles up the road. Who cares about two miles up the road when life is totally falling apart where you are right now! Further, we don't know what is around the bend, so why do we assume to know what is around the corner for someone else?

What You Say
Wise words given and received during tough times can soften our souls. Proverbs 16:21–24 says:

The wise are known for their understanding, and pleasant words are persuasive. Discretion is a life-giving fountain to those who possess it, but discipline is wasted on fools. From a wise mind comes wise speech; the words of the wise are persuasive. Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. (NLT)

If words are needed—and often they are not—and if you feel the need to say something, here are some simple ways to express concern as you come alongside someone in a tough spot:

"I am so sorry."
"I cannot imagine how hard it must be."
"How can I help?"
"What can I bring to your place . . . a meal, maybe some help with laundry or the yard?"
"What do you need?"
"That has to be so hard."

Today, do your words need some attention? Are you becoming a person of grace, and are others being comforted by a soul that has endured tough stuff?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Try These Resources
I would like to suggest the following Insight for Living Ministries resources found in our Web store:

Getting Through the Tough Stuff: It's Always Something! by Charles R. Swindoll, CD series
Becoming a People of Grace: An Exposition of Ephesians by Charles R. Swindoll, CD series
Paul: A Man of Grit and Grace by Charles R. Swindoll, hardcover book
So, You Want to Be Like Christ? A Musical Companion, CD

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Think Grace

by Colleen Swindoll Thompson

A young couple in their 40s strolled through the grocery store, picking up some things they needed. They were holding hands, walking slowly as if they were in a romantic park. Yet, most of the customers who encountered them in the store were terribly bothered that this slow-moving husband and wife wouldn’t just hurry up and get out of the way.

Finally, a young businessman dressed in a fine suit brashly said to them, “Excuse me, but don’t you realize you are annoying all the customers; hurry it up a little, or shop when the store is empty.” The man kindly turned to the businessman and said, “My wife was just diagnosed with terminal cancer, and this is our last time to shop for our family’s Thanksgiving feast; in fact, this is our last holiday season together.” 

Think grace
Photo by Garry Knight from London, England (Gentle Exercise) [CC-BY-SA-2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

This couple endured harsh, impatient criticism because most forms of cancer are unnoticeable and most suffering or grief is kept concealed. As a result, prideful judgment intensified their anguish—just because the cadence of this husband and wife’s life was slowing, soon to stop altogether.

Personally, each of my children, including Jon, and I struggle with unnoticeable disabilities. We may look like a typical family, but we have great challenges and regularly encounter others’ assumptions, impatience, and criticisms and are considered problematic and perturbing—an interruption and inconvenience to others.  

Jesus Christ modeled the best way to deal with troubles.

Continue reading "Think Grace" »

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

How to Find Hope That Lasts [Video]

An Interview with Marilyn Meberg

I remember a childhood rhyme kids used to say to tease one another. It ended with something like “. . . first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.” And somewhere between childhood rhymes and the developed rhythms of adult life, these witty sayings became internalized beliefs—as if life should unfold as simply as those sayings roll off our tongues.

But life is not that simple, and sometimes the marriage or the baby carriage leaves us deeply wounded, unfulfilled, and even empty. Where is God when our wants and wishes wash away and we crash against the solid, stern rock of reality? How do we move forward with broken hearts, bewildered to know what the “abundant Christian life” is really about?

In this profoundly touching interview, Marilyn Meberg openly discusses her personal experiences of love and loss—as well as how to live with lasting hope through life’s challenges.

Watch the Interview:

(Can't see the video in email or RSS? Click here.)

 Interview Questions

  1. Something very significant happened in your life years ago. Will you tell us about that?
  2. Were there any indications of your daughter’s disorder during your pregnancy?
  3. Was she taken away from you immediately?
  4. How do you live fully on this side of heaven, knowing that your loved ones are already in heaven?
  5. How did you handle those first few hours after Joni’s birth and the grief of discovering her condition?
  6. If you could do it again, would you parent differently?
  7. When did you and your husband Ken come together?
  8. How did saying “good-bye” to your husband when he died change you?
  9. What kind of support did you have in dealing with grief?
  10. Did you ever ask, “God, why did You take my husband?”
  11. How did you find meaning and purpose in the healing process?
  12. How does humor heal us?
  13. How does a person heal after losing a loved one?
  14. What do we do with those things in life that will never fully heal? Or, what about the mom who says, “I didn’t ask for this”?
  15. What is the answer to the question, “Why isn’t God listening to me?”
  16. How long did it take you to figure out that God’s ways are not our ways . . . and how long did it take to be at peace with that truth?
  17. How can the church take better care of or offer support to those who are suffering?
  18. How did your family grow after you lost Joni?
  19. What can you say to those who have a broken heart?

Let Me Hear from You

No one plans to lose a child or a loved one. No one expects to wake up one morning wondering how she or he is going to make it through the day. Even as Christians, admitting we are lost in pain and grief is difficult because few know how to really deal with the raw side of reality.

Without a doubt, Marilyn understands the challenges of life as well as how to find meaning and purpose in them. As you watched this interview:

  • Did part of your own story relate to Marilyn’s?
  • Have you just lost a loved one and your balloon of grief is about to burst?
  • Is your baby carriage empty, while others’ seem so unfairly full?
  • Do you wonder where God is? Does God seem distant, uncaring, unfaithful, or unjust?
  • What was the hardest part of watching this interview, and why?

Remember, wherever you go, God is there—whether or not you feel His presence. Let’s talk over these real, raw issues and move forward with renewed hope.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

About Marilyn Meber

An accomplished speaker, teacher, writer, therapist, and mother, Marilyn Meberg has influenced millions of lives. Witty, wise, warm, well-spoken, and wonderfully compassionate, Marilyn invests her life into helping others understand themselves and embrace life. With a master’s degree in English, Marilyn spent 10 years as an English professor at Biola University, then pursued a master’s degree in psychology and cultivated a successful practice as a therapist in Southern California. Marilyn then devoted more than 16 years as one of the most popular speakers and authors for the Women of Faith organization. Presently, Marilyn resides in Frisco, Texas, attends Stonebriar Community Church, and continues to empower others to experience and embrace life to the fullest.

Marilyn Meberg Resources

  • Choosing the Amusing by Marilyn Meberg, softcover book
  • Constantly Craving: How to Make Sense of Always Wanting More by Marilyn Meberg, softcover book
  • Free Inside and Out by Marilyn Meberg and Luci Swindoll, softcover book
  • Love Me Never Leave Me: Discovering the Inseparable Bond That Our Hearts Crave by Marilyn Meberg, softcover book

Insight for Living Ministries Resources

Resources by Charles R. Swindoll

Topical Pages:


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Math—It’s Not about the Numbers

By Colleen Swindoll Thompson

Growing up, we always had pets—dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, birds, and hamsters, to name a few. I remember waking in the middle of the night on many occasions, only to find my pet hamster running on his (or was it her?—I could never tell) red wheel . . . for hours.

hampster wheel
Photo by Doenertier82 at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Then, my kids had their own pets, and we would watch with hearty laughter as the little furballs would run for hours. We wondered why they endured the vigorous endeavor. Instinct and exercise play a part in their running.

But I pondered another possible reason recently.

Continue reading "Math—It’s Not about the Numbers" »

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Your Battle of the Will

by Colleen Swindoll Thompson

What battles are you fighting today? I’m not referring to those we read or hear about in the news. I mean the wars that rage inside you—which ones are you fighting today?

Here are some of mine: holding on to resentment, allowing frustration to overwhelm me, wishing for something easier, wondering why trials continue, and missing my personal freedoms.

Battle of the Will
Photo by Tech. Sgt. Dan Neely [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Painful or pressing conditions quickly reveal our internal battles. These struggles are not usually between what is good or bad, right or wrong, but between our desires and God’s will. As hard as it is to admit, the battles that rage within are often caused by our willfulness. What God has allowed for us often conflicts with our heart’s desire.

So, let me ask you again: What battle are you facing today?

Continue reading "Your Battle of the Will" »

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The One Thing You Cannot Live Without

This has not been the greatest week to start my “Gratefulness” journal. Seriously. With summer heating up, schedules out of sorts, and my attitude turning sour, keeping a gratefulness journal seemed like a good idea.

But that was before summer started.

One Thing You Cannot Live Without
By Infamous Hussy at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Day one went relatively well, and day two went better. Let’s say some self-sufficient satisfaction started to kick in. Day three started with a bang . . . my husband’s back was out of whack. Since I’ve heard him complain once in my life, I was concerned but remained committed to being grateful. A good doctor, an open appointment, ice packs, and an early bed time would do the trick.

Day four rolled around, and life rolled out of control. 

Continue reading "The One Thing You Cannot Live Without" »

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

What to Do When You're on the Edge

The jumper was on the edge . . . literally. The creaking of huge metal cables echoed through the thick fog while violent tides crashed 220 feet below.

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is well known as a suicide launching pad, and apparently this jumper was next in line. Two police officers were at the scene, including one who is known for talking down hundreds of people who had intended to jump. There seemed to be hope.

On the edge-600-Iridescent_fog_at_Golden_Gate_Bridge
Photo by Brocken Inaglory (Own work) GFDL  or CC-BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons

After an hour or so of negotiations, the man asked if the officers were familiar with Greek mythology, specifically the story of Zeus and Pandora’s Box. He told the police officers that Zeus created Pandora and sent her to earth with a box, instructing her to never, ever open it. But one day, Pandora caved to her curiosity, and she cracked open the box. Immediately, a burst of ghostly plagues, sorrows, and wickedness of all kinds scattered into the air, filling the earth. But Zeus had included one more little item that did not leave the box: the spirit of Hope.

The man looked at both officers sadly and asked, “So what does one do when hope isn’t in the box?”

Silence . . .

The winds whipped hard as the bridge’s cables groaned and the waves crashed below . . .

Then he jumped.1

Where Do We Find Hope?

Where does one go when he or she believes there is no hope? This man chose the Golden Gate Bridge, but there are other options.

  • Some drink or use drugs.
  • Others spend money, stay in bed, cut themselves, or cry incessantly.
  • Hopeless people find many ways to numb themselves to cope with pain.

Human nature is interesting in that we often run to things that never promise to provide hope. But we run and run until we run out of options. Hopeless and extremely exhausted, we think that taking a leap to escape something or someone is the only option.

But it never satisfies.

Can There Be a Good God?

I have wanted to leap . . . more than once. When a storm blows through my life, it creates such a mess. Sometimes it’s hard to see the goodness of God in it all. In fact, He seems most distant when we are in grave despair. The writer Ann Voscamp stated it so well in her book One Thousand Gifts:

Can there be a good God? A God who graces with good gifts when a crib lies empty through long nights? . . . How can He be good when babies die, and marriages implode, and dreams blow away, dust in the wind . . . when cancer gnaws and loneliness aches and nameless places in us soundlessly die, break off without reason, erode away. Where hides this joy of the Lord, this God who fills the earth with good things, and how do I fully live when life is full of hurt?2

Indeed, life is full of hurt and pain we never expected. We need only look at Jesus, the greatest example of this truth. He was bullied, maligned, rejected, tempted, misunderstood, beaten, wrongly accused, and murdered. He had every right to be a bit upset, if you ask me.

But He wasn’t. Instead, He endured it all because He believed everything God said He was and is.

God and Our Circumstances

We must not treat our circumstances as our god, but we have to remember that God is with us in our circumstances—however we define them. Do you believe that? Come what may, God is not defined by what we encounter or endure. To stay off the edge, you must separate your experiences and the nature or character of God. We must believe that He is:


 Holy  Patient  Sufficient

 Just  Powerful  Supreme

 Merciful  Sovereign  Timeless




Let Me Hear from You

Are you on the edge or searching for a quick fix these days? Has life been pretty disappointing, aggravating, harsh, unfair? If so, believe in God’s character and run to Him for hope. So I’m holding out my hand, hoping you will give God a try and come off the edge. Take a leap toward the One who promises to help you through. It can be terribly difficult to believe these words. I understand.

This week, let’s talk about what you believe about God and how you can find hope in the days ahead.

 You can leave a comment by clicking here.

  1. Adapted from Kevin Briggs, “The Bridge between Suicide and Life,” presented at TED Talks, March 2014, (accessed Jun. 2, 2014).
  2. Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 12.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Transforming Your Church One Family at a Time

An Interview with Barbara Newman

Labels are everywhere! We live in a world that labels everything from coffee cups and clothing to food ingredients and designer fashions.

While labels are helpful for things, they can be incredibly damaging when they define people—their value, character, or significance. And we do this all the time without thinking.

Change must begin to take place. So where do we begin?

We begin by learning how to love without labels. Few people understand this better than Barbara Newman. For more than 30 years, Barbara has provided education, inspiration, and transformation for churches and families typically disregarded by society. This interview is a must-see.

Watch the interview:

(Can't see the video in email or RSS? Click here.)

We tend to place significant value on what one does, how one looks, where one lives, what one drives, or what one wears—all dependent on what we deem valuable.

When it comes to those who are different—those labeled as diseased, deformed, disabled, depressed, poor, weak—their lives are most often disregarded. Candidly, such attitudes and actions are thoroughly divergent from Christ’s model and teaching.

Tragically, the church is not exempt from attaching labels. I am convinced that if Christ and the disciples attended a church today, they would be looked down upon because of their appearance, what they did, where they lived, and what they said. Stop and think about it for a moment. Isaiah even said there was nothing externally impressive about Christ, but Christ came because He views all of us as priceless, unconditionally loved, so significant that He died for us.

Continue reading "Transforming Your Church One Family at a Time" »

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Getting Out the Door

by Colleen Swindoll Thompson

At my house, getting out the door, especially to church, is almost an Olympic event. There are wardrobe crises, tired teenager tensions, sibling struggles—at times it’s more a combat zone than a home. I’ve observed many families with the same struggles.

But isn’t it amazing how our attitudes change when we finally clamor into church and sit down? Those early-morning entanglements dissipate, and we worship. And no matter what went on before, God is delighted to have us there.

Photo by U.S. Navy by Paul Farley [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When my son Jon was born with disabilities, the freedom to do things like get out the door with ease was removed. I’d never considered that a freedom until it was lost. But now I hold in high regard those without the freedom of ease . . . ease in movement, seeing, hearing, tying shoes, brushing hair.

In his book, Always Looking Up, Michael J. Fox describes his morning routine:

I blindly fumble a plastic vial from the nightstand, dry-swallow a couple of pills. . . . I swing my legs around to the side of the bed, and the instant my feet hit the floor, the two of them are in an argument. A condition called “dystonia,” a regular complement to Parkinson’s, cramps my feet severely and curls them inward, pressing my ankles toward the floor and the soles of my feet toward each other as though they were about to close together in prayer. . . . The aching will persist for the next twenty minutes or so. . . . 

Grasping the toothpaste is nothing compared to the effort it takes to coordinate the two-handed task of wrangling the toothbrush and strangling out the line of paste onto the bristles.¹

Fox explains how the disease overtakes the body, affecting his emotions, intellect, and physical, social, and spiritual well-being. Even as I type, I’m reminded to be thankful for the freedom of controlled movement, of small muscles working together.

As I raise Jon, I realize how many freedoms he will never have. Throughout life, he will regularly struggle to get out the door . . . yet, right now on Sundays, he is the one person in our house who doesn’t complain. He puts on his favorite suit and tie and finds no reason to fuss. In that, he is more free than most.

Job recorded these words right after a devastating loss:

The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised. (Job 1:21 NIV)

This verse brings to mind a few things we all should remember as we get out the door and face the world.

1. To those with bodily ease—praise God for your freedom. It’s a gift, not a right. Call each part of your body to praise Him. Thank Him for your eyes, arms, legs, back, mind . . . every part. When someone else is slow, messy, shaky, or mentally unstable, resist judgment. You have no idea what that person went through just to get out the door.
2. To those without bodily ease—I deeply admire you and applaud you for your courage, determination, endurance, and humility. You’re a hero, a person of grand character. You long to be free and whole in heaven, but you’re changing lives right here without saying a word.
3. To all of us, with and without bodily ease—learn to love one another, serve one another, and live peacefully together.

Question: What helps you get out the door? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

1. Michael J. Fox, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist (New York: Hyperion, 2009), 2.