November 2008

God’s Plan is to Bring you from Sorrow

Ruth 4:14-15


Central Theme:  God wants us to put our hope in Him.


Introduction–My mind and heart are full of good things that have happened in my life.  But there are some things which have happened that were not so good.  My daughter, Leah almost died when she was 13 months old.  Frank’s dad and my father died about in the same year.  But when I look at my life, the good has definitely out weighed the bad things which have happened.  Not so in Naomi’s and Ruth’s lives


       I.     Have a member read Ruth 4:14-15. 

              A. You remember the story.  Sick and Pining, Naomi’s sons and Naomi’s husband died. Pining was married to Ruth.  Now Naomi and Ruth were living in a Israel and they were alone.

              B. But God did not leave these two women in this terrible state.


      II.     These women did several things which showed that they trusted God and He honored them.

              1.  They came back to the place where God was.  They moved from Moab back to Bethlehem.

              2.  They worked hard (in the fields) to make things better for themselves.

                   A. They were willing to let other people change their lives.  (Ruth went to work in the fields of Naomi’s cousin.  He was a good friend who helped them and even fell in love with Ruth and married her.)

                   B. They took charge of their own lives.

              3.  They trusted God to help them each step of the way.


     III.     Sorrow does bad things to us when we hang on to it. 

              A. Sorrow brings confusion. 

              B. Sorrow makes you mean and self centered.

              C. Sorrow makes you think only of yourself.


     IV.     We need to be like Naomi and Ruth

              1.  Find out where God is.  Where can you find God working in your life.

              2.  Try to make things better for yourself.

              3.  Let other people help you.  People you can trust.

              4.  Trust God to help you each step of the way.


Conclusion–God’s plan for you is to always come out of sorrow.  You do not need to be confused because God wants to help you.

God Uses People

Luke 1:18-20, 76

Central Theme: God uses people who make mistakes to do the miracles of life.


Introduction–In Algebra I, I discovered that in the back of the book were all the answers.  A College Algebra book also has all the answers.  Why?  Algebra is a disciple of principles and knowing the process.  Learning the correct process is much more important than getting the right answer.  Because if you learn the correct process, you will get the right answer.  In the same way, God wants to use people. He knows we will make mistakes.  But He still wants to use us. 


       I.     Jesus‘ birth came after thousands of years of process–God‘s plan. 

              A. God works patiently to accomplish His process.

              B. John the Baptizer was an important part of God’s process. 

              C. Read Luke 1:18-21, 76.

II.     Tell the story of John‘s birth, and of Elizabeth and Zechariah

          A. God‘s process included using people.

          B. Zechariah made a BIG mistake but God still used him.


     III.     God wants to use us but he wants us to understand how to live for him–the process.


          A. Life is not a game or a trial run–life is all you have.  “It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment.”

              1.  God wants people who will obey him.  Luke 1:75

              2.  He wants to help people Luke 1:68

              3.  He wants to give them freedom. Luke 1:68

                 4.  He wants people like John who can tell others about Jesus’ love for them.

   IV.     God chose John to be part of the process–a man who would talk about Jesus coming. Luke 1:76 and 77

              A. We are to tell others about Jesus and we will make mistakes.

              B. We are to share that we love Jesus.

                   C. It is more important that we obey than that we do it perfectly correct.

                   Johnnie  Lord is a pastor’s wife who said that the first time God told her to get up and pray at 6am in the morning she fell asleep.  God told her that he wasn’t concerned about her performance but in her obedience. 

Conclusion:  God uses people who know the process of life.

Because I know that no one is reading this, I going to vent a bit.  Be forewarned, this is today’s list.  I’ll take off about half of them by tonight.  Nevertheless, here we go.  I’m tired of these things.

  1. Trying to find a way to end a sentence without using a preposition.  It really seems like a silly rule and wastes a great deal of time.
  2. Arguing with anyone, especially my husband.  After almost 50 years together, we should be working on ways to please each other rather than looking for ways to antagonized the britches off of one another.
  3. Drama.  Life is complex and full of peril.  It appears that some folks try to deliberately interject drama into their lives.  Me?  I’m a bit tired of the unnecessary spectacles.
  4. Having people tell me how special I am because God has called me to work with the most wonderful and grateful people in the whole world.  (I’m program director of a ministry to people who are developmentally disabled called The Special Gathering.  We are called to evangelize and disciple the mentally challenged community.)
  5. Being the bad guy.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  This a role I’ve played for years and usually I don’t mind, and even have enjoyed in times past.  I know someone must the bad guy and I have very thick skin.  Therefore, I do this part well.  But for today, I’m tired.
  6. The person who expects me to do her work for her.  Don’t ask me to do something that you can do for yourself but you’re too lazy to do for yourself.
  7. The person who expects me to call him when he can just as easily call me.
  8. The person who expects me to come to her office or house in order to fix her mistakes when she can easily come to my office or house.  The roads not only run from my office and house.  The roads run to my house.
  9. Having to go to a restaurant to eat. 
  10. Having to go the grocery store to buy something to prepare in order to eat.  I want to have everything I need at my house so I can quickly cook easy, yummy meals when I get home from work.
  11. Having to explain to people why they should jump at the chance and be eternally grateful that a wonderful, all-forgiving God wants to be their Lord and Savior. 
  12. Not having enough money to give generously to hard-working mothers who are supporting three children, one with a disability, and who don’t make enough to make ends meet. 

That’s enough.  You can now add to this list or just go back to your left-over turkey and playing with your friends and family.  Or you can go take a nap which is what I plan on doing.

There are a group of pastors who minister in rural Florida who have become my friends over the years.  We meet each week for prayer and fellowship.  As program leader of The Special Gathering which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, I occasionally feel like a fifth wheel in pastor’s groups.  However, from the beginning, this group of pastors was different.  For one thing, they meet every week.  It’s a prayer/fellowship group where the men and women are free to share their concerns and problems. 

It is an interesting group.  There is a former boy evangelist who grew up in the pulpit preaching, leading praise and worship and seeking God.  He is now a respected pastor who has pioneered two churches in the area.  There are four or five Pentecostal pastors and their best friend is a fundamental Baptist.   The Lutheran pastor who left the area two years ago but keeps in contact through e-mail and phone calls is another female.  The Episcopal priest is a renegade even in conservative Florida Dioceses.  Two of the men are youth pastors who are not yet 25.  

One young pastor in our group is finishing up his thesis for his doctorate.  One of the pastors has been so successful that he regularly teaches in a large Christian university in Central Florida, even though he has no college education.   There is a former magazine editor and a former Wal-Mart employee.  Four or five of the men own motorcycles; most of them drive a truck.  Though one of the trucks is a Cadillac Escalade.  A former strong man evangelist –known to fold frying pans, rip phone books and break layers of bricks–rounds out the group. 

I’m the oldest person in the conclave.  They have shown great respect for me and affectionately call me “one of the guys.” They listened to me whine for more than five years regarding a problem that was greatly effecting my personal life.  Because they were mostly a group of men, they expected me to get to be bottom line quickly and to bring my concerns to a speedy conclusion. 

This has been the best counsel and the most compassionate stern advice I’ve ever received.  They let me whine for about four minutes; then gently ask,  “And what can we pray about?”  There is much more that I could say about these supportive, wonderful pastors; but the best thing that I can say on this Thanksgiving Day is “Thank you for being my friends and letting me be ‘one of the guys.'”

Early in my ministry to persons within the mentally challenged community, I learned that using the public forum for publicity for a ministry to persons who are developmentally disabled may not be the best thing.  Parents with children who have disabilities are leery of publicity that is “too cute” or too forward.  Because of exploitation, parents want to be sure that where they send their children is a safe haven.  Therefore, publicity is tricky business for any ministry that desires to be successful within this population. 

At The Special Gathering, we prefer to use word of mouth and personal endorsements to promote our over all ministry.  However, each year I struggle when it comes to our Christmas play.  We usually have about 300 people who come to our Melbourne program and approximately 200 at our Vero program.  Yet, it’s taken us years to get that many people there.  And I’m aware that as soon as people aren’t prompted to attend, they won’t be there. 

There are other Special Gathering plays that are preformed.  Our Cocoa and Titusville programs also have a play on December 21 in north Cocoa.  Our South Carolina program will have a musical production this year. 

My questions are: 

  • How do you best let people know about this kind of production?  Is our monthly newsletter enough?  Or should be try to do more?
  • Should we encourage people who are not part of the mentally challenged community to attend?  After all, it is the local churches who pay for this ministry through their donations.  Shouldn’t they also be invited?
  • Can flyers and posters be put into local workshops? 
  • What about posters in grocery stores and local businesses?  Would that be overkill?
  • How do you effectively insure that parents are invited?  This is one part of the audience that you want to attend.  While we try to know all of our parents personally, there are people who live in group homes who have parents that we have never met.
  • What about parents whose children don’t attend our program?  How do we convince them to attend?

The first year we were in Vero, I presented a pitiful plea to a pastor’s group to please attend our play.  “I just pray we have 10 or 15 people,” I had told them.  We had been operating in Indian River County for less than a year and almost no one knew who we were.  One of the churches brought about 25 people.  I was so grateful.  I’ve deeply loved that pastor ever since that time.

Each year, it seems that the time slips up too quickly and our play is on top of us and I feel that I’ve not done nearly what I wanted to do in regard to publicity.  Our members and choir labor so hard to do a good job that I hate for them to be disappointed.  However, God graciously sends the people he wants there. 

Are there some things that you have found that work for you in regard to the play and prodcutions you have for your community?

Oh, by the way,

You are invited to attend The Special Gathering of Indian River Christmas Event

Above All Else

A Christmas Musical

In Vero

7:00pm–Saturday, December 6

Tabernacle Ministries

at 51 Old Dixie Highway


In Melbourne

7:00pm–Sunday December 7

First United Methodist Church–Celebration Cafe

110 E New Haven Avenue

Come.  Bring a friend.  All of the cast and choir are members of The Special Gathering 

I spend a great deal of time in my car.  It’s my office.  When there is no one I’d rather have lunch with other than myself, it’s my favorite lunch spot.  It’s the place where I get informed about the world and politics and the place where I memorize and study my Bible (via my tape or CD player).  I’ve spent hours studying Korean in my car.  It’s one of my favorite reading spots and the place where I listen to Christian music.  I prepared for praise and worship and for The Special Gathering Choir in my car, rehearsing the music for endless hours.  It is often my prayer closet where I speak loud and long to the Lord.

As you can tell, I spend at least three to four hours in my car almost every day.  Because The Special Gathering which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community is scattered up and down the East Coast of Florida, those of us who minister within this small sphere spend more time than we like to admit in our cars.  However, we’ve become pretty creative in our time management. 

In the mornings and late in the afternoons, I listen to National Public Radio for several hours.  In between, I listen to talk radio.  I feel this keeps my political equilibrium pretty much balanced. 

I now have a car with a CD player.  Therefore, I’m listening to my Bible.  I’m also finding that memorizing has come easier over the years and I’m having great fun memorizing parts of the Bible that for years I thought I couldn’t digest. 

Most of my life, I’ve wanted to learn another language.  My daughter-in-love is Korean.  So speaking Korean seemed a natural step for me.  When I had only a tape player in my car,  I found the repetitive playing of the tapes that I needed ruined them.  Therefore all my Korean tapes were soon destroyed.  Now, I’m excited to get some Korean CD’s that will hone my listening and speaking abilities. 

When I discovered Lemony Snickett via my six-year old granddaughter, the two of us enjoyed the perils of the children in their fictional adventure.  It was a wonderful together time though we were separated by more than a thousand miles.

Deuteronomy 6 explains that we are teach our children and talk about the ways of the Lord when we are sitting at home, “when we walk along the road, when we lie down and when we get up.”  The great commission, I’m told, could better be translated, “As yougo into all the world…”  This gives me great comfort as I travel from Melbourne to Merritt Island to Vero to Fort Pierce.  With that in mind, as I journey from Indian Harbour Beach to Cocoa or Daytona or DeLand, I work at creative ideas for making my trip more productive.

Of course, I’m not alone.  There are millions of people who are busily moving from job site to job site each working day.  Keeping aware of the traffic and keeping close contact with the Lord is a balancing act.  Beside smearing ketchup and mayonnaise all over your best trousers, what are some of the creative and productive things you do in your travels?

I’m checking my cell phone about now to be sure that this entry actually made it onto the Internet.  I wrote it several days ago, anticipating that I would be on a road traveling to visit our children and grandchildren.  Okay, I still don’t trust technology.  However, I do believe that this is the brave new world which could be used to reach millions for Christ world-wide–and the wonderful bonus is that, at this point in time, there is virtually no cost.

In reality, you may not be looking for The Special Gathering Weblog, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  You may have no connection with people with developmental disabilities, the population which God has called us to evangelize and disciple.  Yet, through some convoluted maze of internective connections and events, you are here.  We hope that you will stay for a while, reading the entries and perhaps learning a bit about our wonderful community.

A ministry within the mentally challenged community is much like junior high youth group without the attitude.  Our members (we do church, rather than social work) are men and women who are a marvelous mix.  We learn on a third to fourth grade level; socially we are sort of stuck in junior high; but as men and women, we have all the needs and concerns of any other adult. 

Our prayer is that from reading this blog, you may see the great value in the population that we serve.  And as a result maybe you will seek out someone who is mentally retarded who is in your church community and delve into their lives to discover the pearls of wisdom and nuggets of love they have to share with you and your church.

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