Joni shares about a little slice of heaven she experienced while playing wheelchair tag at a Family Retreat.
Whenever I'm up for some joyful playing, I go hunt up a kid.
Hi, I'm Joni Eareckson Tada and when I want to play any child will do, but I prefer a little boy or girl with a disability - their smile seems to shine so bright despite their junior-sized wheelchair or their crutches or little walker. And, boy, did I learn a lesson about heavenly joy last summer at one of our Joni and Friends' Family Retreats.
It was on Monday evening during the ice cream social, and I powered my wheelchair over to little red-haired Nicole who was sitting in her wheelchair; next to Rachel who was standing there in her leg braces. And after a couple of comments about the ice cream... and what did you learn in the Bible time this afternoon... and how'd you like the barbecue chicken dinner... after grabbing a few minutes talking, we soon found ourselves playing a game of tag, wheelchair tag. Before long, a boy in his walker joined us and then a couple of children with Down syndrome and their siblings. And there we were weaving in and out, and around the chairs where adults were sitting, we were giggling and screaming as our foot pedals clunked together, bumping and bouncing like Dodg'em cars.
Well, our retreat director looked at his watch and tried to herd the families back to their cabins, but I tell you the kids and me we just kept playing. We were totally caught up in the game and I was having so much fun that I lost all track of time. Only after we waved goodnight to each other, exhausted, did I realize that that wonderful game was just like a slice of heaven. Really it was. It was heaven because of the joy and the play and our losing track of time. Because in heaven, joy and gladness is going to overtake us (just like it says in Isaiah 35), and we will lose all sense of time. Plus, in heaven, we will shout and sing and be forever young - we'll be young; it'll be a place where sorrow and sighing will flee away. I think you can see now why that game with those boys and girls felt so heavenly to me.
Looking back, I remember that night right before I entered my cabin, I paused a moment and I looked up into the stars and thanked Jesus for the sneak preview of eternal joy... I thanked Him that, for just a brief time, He had pulled back the veil and let us all - kids and adults alike - He let us all get a taste of heaven's joys. And that night when I put my head on the pillow, I thought of our Savior's words in Matthew 19, "Let the little children come to me... for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." And, friend, it's a lesson today for you, too. For "unless you change and become like a little child, [it says], you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." Oh, that you and I both would have the joy and trust, the sense of play, and confidence in God that we see in so many children who love the Lord.
Oh, speaking of which, if you know a disabled child and his family who you think could benefit from attending one of our Joni and Friends' Family Retreats, we still have a little room left for more. But also, if you know of a family whose child is disabled, I've got a special booklet called "Disability: When it First Touches Your Family" - it's full of lots of resources, web links, information; all sorts of stuff to help a family enter this new world of disability when a child suffers an impairment. So, come on over to joniandfriendsradio.org and we'll get the booklet off to you right away. And while you're on our radio page, take a minute to check out all the updates on this season's Family Retreats. Thank you for caring for the children; especially children with disabilities!
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