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Todd Payne
Matthew 5:11-12

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Blessed Are You
by Todd Payne

"Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12).

I was born with Cerebral Palsy, a condition that affects body movement and muscle coordination, usually caused by brain damage. My Cerebral Palsy (C. P.) occurred at birth and caused a deformity of my left arm and leg. From the time I was born, life was a real challenge. As a baby, I could not crawl with only one functional arm and leg, so I improvised.

I sat on top of a dust mop and scooted myself across a hard wood floor with one foot. At three years of age, I learned how to walk with a push toy. When I was four years old, both pectoral muscles were removed from my left shoulder, because the doctors said this would give me some range of motion, which I never had.

At six years of age, my forearm was surgically rotated 180 degrees because it was backwards when I was born. At ages 8, 12, and 18, the heel cord of my left leg was lengthened because my leg bone was growing faster than my calf muscle could handle. As a result, my left leg is shorter than my right one.

Because of my disability, my childhood was a living hell. I wore corrective braces on both my leg and arm so I couldn’t play like normal kids did. I wanted so much to ride a bike, roller skate, or go skate boarding, but I couldn’t. At age twelve, I had my second leg operation around Christmas time.

When I got home from the hospital, waiting for me was a brand new gold Schwinn Sting Ray bicycle with a banana seat, high "sissy" bar, and training wheels! I was so excited about the bike and wanted to ride it immediately, but I had a cast on my leg from hip to toe. With a lot of God-given determination, I finally did learn to ride that bike!

All through my childhood, at school and in my neighborhood, kids teased me because I couldn’t play the way they could. They called me "retarded" and told me that I would never amount to anything in life. To avoid being called names and being made fun of, I just stayed in the house and watched TV. Television became my best friend because it couldn’t hurt me.

When I got older, people assumed because I was physically disabled, that I was also mentally disabled. To try and fit in somewhere, I started doing drugs with my "friends" from high school. My father was a Pharmacist and my mother was a Registered Nurse, so I knew very well about the risks of taking "recreational drugs," but I finally just gave in to peer pressure. I knew I was letting down my parents and God, but I didn’t care.

When I was 22-years old, God blessed me with a job at a State Hospital for the mentally and physically handicapped. During the eight years I was there, I witnessed the appalling way men and women just like me were treated. Many of them had no mental disability at all, but were treated as if they did and were stripped of their rights.

Seeing this fueled my determination to live a normal life and not give up on myself. It also showed me how very blessed I was to have been raised by two loving and supportive parents who never gave up on me. Instead, they could have just warehoused me in a State Hospital like so many of the patients I knew. My co-workers and bosses at the hospital were impressed by how capable a worker I was, and this gave them a new perspective on the disabled. Even this was part of God’s plan.

When I was 36, I was invited to Church, and learned about the love and peace we can all have in Jesus Christ. I gave the Lord control of my life and learned to fully rely on Him for everything. Jesus has changed my way of thinking and the cruel things people have said to me, no longer hurt.

Jesus has brought me the good friends I never thought I’d have, and took away my fear of being disabled. He even gave me a sense of humor about my disability. I once had a license place frame on my car that said, "Spastic Gimp – Proceed With Caution".

My disability has truly been a blessing to me because it has taught me compassion for people. I can and DO serve God single-handedly in a 2-fisted world. Matthew 5:11-12 says to not be disheartened by difficulty. God uses such difficulties (as my handicap or other momentary failures) for His glory in His own time.

I have a friend whose car broke down and needed engine work. Another Christian friend of his heard about his car and said that God laid it upon his heart to give my friend the money needed for the repair, plus loan him his truck until the repairs were finished. When your life is graced and blessed by God, helping people in such ways comes naturally.

Awhile back, God blessed me with a mini-van that I could not afford. By doing so, He’s made it possible for me to give people a ride to and from Church or work, to Christian concerts, to the Harvest Crusade, and to the orphanage in Mexico where my Church serves. Yes, serving God’s people can be as simple as offering a ride to someone in need.

I want to some day serve God’s people by teaching stroke or accident victims (who may find themselves suddenly with the use of only one arm) how to dress themselves, tie their shoes, and do things that they think are impossible. That’s right, I said "tie their shoes". Have YOU tied YOUR shoes with one hand lately? I do it everyday with God’s help and grace.

In Germany, there is a statue of Christ that lost its hands during a bombing raid in World War II. A sign was placed on the statue that reads, "Christ has no hands but yours". Remember, Christ is counting on YOU to be His hands and feet. Continue the development of the kingdom that began in Christ and share His love.

God has blessed you; and so now – go and bless others.
 

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