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.

God’s Plan is to Save You from Evil

Genesis 14:13


Central Theme:  God’s plan is to save you from evil.

Introduction—Show something that represents evil to you.  It could be a picture of a movie poster or a toy gun.  Anything that you feel represents evil.  After showing the object or picture, explain that part of God’s plan for you is to save you from things that are evil.  (I showed a very ugly chick mask that my son had sent to my husband for Father’s Day.)  Have a member read Exodus 14:13.


       I.     There are several problems with evil.


              A. It may be that evil doesn’t always look ugly. 

                   1.  Some things that are really evil look like fun.

              2.  You see T-shirts all the time with ugly evil faces and people are wearing them.  They obviously don’t think that they are evil looking.  So evil may not look like evil.

          B. Or if you know it is evil, evil makes us afraid.

              1.  When you are afraid, you don’t want to take action.

              2.  You are paralyzed and cannot move, think or do the right thing.

      II.     Tell about how the children of Israel were leaving Egypt and Pharaoh’s army came after them.  They were facing the Red Sea on one side and the Army of Pharaoh on the other side.  When Moses and Israel were faced with the evil of Egypt‘s army,

          A. They knew they were faced with evil.

              B. They were paralyzed and did not know how to take action.

                   1.  They begged Moses, “What are we going to do?”

                   2.  Moses said, “Do not be afraid.  God will save you.”


     III.     God’s plan for you is the same as with Israel.

              A. You do not have to be afraid.

              B. You can trust God to save you—every time.


Conclusion–God’s plan is to always save you from evil.  Do not be afraid.  Look to Jesus for he will drown your enemy if you will trust him.

“But Ya Didn’t Need It Last Year”
Cost Plan Rebasing

information from Aaron Nangle  

Although we are still in the midst of implementing the tiers, a new cost plan slashing exercise is just around the corner.  It is called “Cost Plan Rebasing”.

Those of you who said, “Use it or Lose it” were on target. Those of you who tried to be fiscally responsible, and only used bare bones services will be left short. 

Many people are still waiting for their “fair” hearings to see if their services will be cut by the tiers.   In fact, nearly 5,000 waiver recipients requested a due process hearing because they were asked to give up services that had already been determined to be medically necessary.  It is estimated that another 2,500 did not request a hearing, and their services have already been cut.     

People who are on the Medicaid waiver will get a letter in late November explaining possible future cuts to their cost plans.  This round of cuts is called Cost Plan Rebasing. 

The Agency for Persons With Disabilities will look at what you actually spent on services in the “previous state fiscal year”.  Then they will add 5 percent to that figure. 
This amount will then be your new cost plan cap.  This is called “Cost Plan Rebasing”

Cost plan Rebasing will occur UNLESS, your current cost plan is cheaper.  If your current cost plan is less, then you will have no changes at all. 

The Law – Cost Plan Rebasing

The 2007 Florida Legislature required APD to implement cost plan rebasing effective January 1, 2009.  The text of Section 292.0661(6), F.S.(2008) is as follows:

(6)  Effective January 1, 2009, and except as otherwise provided in this section, an individual served by the home and community-based services waiver or the family and supported living waiver funded through the Agency for Persons with Disabilities shall have his or her cost plan adjusted to reflect the amount of expenditures for the previous state fiscal year plus 5 percent if such amount is less than the individual’s existing cost plan. The Agency for Persons with Disabilities shall use actual paid claims for services provided during the previous fiscal year that are submitted by October 31 to calculate the revised cost plan amount. If an individual was not served for the entire previous state fiscal year or there was any single change in the cost plan amount of more than 5 percent during the previous state fiscal year, the agency shall set the cost plan amount at an estimated annualized expenditure amount plus 5 percent. The agency shall estimate the annualized expenditure amount by calculating the average of monthly expenditures, beginning in the fourth month after the individual enrolled or the cost plan was changed by more than 5 percent and ending with August 31, 2008, and multiplying the average by 12. In the event that at least 3 months of actual expenditure data are not available to estimate annualized expenditures, the agency may not rebase a cost plan pursuant to this subsection. This subsection expires June 30, 2009, unless reenacted by the Legislature before that date.


TIP- The APD CARES Hotline Is There to Help You

You can contact The Agency For Persons With Disabilities (APD) at 1-866-APD-CARES or 1-866-273-2273. APD’s website states “It will be manned Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. (EDT). The phone operators will answer questions directly. For more complex questions, however, the caller will be transferred to the best person to respond in a timely manner”

If your much needed services are cut, remember that you have the right to a fair hearing.  The Florida Advocacy Center has very useful information about these hearings.

Yesterday, I called an on-line travel agency to book a hotel room for one night.  I had used them about a year ago with great results.  Now, I was hoping to get a room in the same hotel with the same great price.  When the option for a wheelchair accessible room didn’t appear on my computer screen, I called the 800 number to speak to an operator. 

“I need a wheelchair accessible room.  I would like to book with the Sheraton Pentagon Hotel, please.”

“Thank you,” the operator said.  “I will inquire regarding your request.”

After a few minutes, she came back on.  “I’m sorry.  This hotel doesn’t have any wheelchair accessible rooms available for that day.  However, you may book a room and perhaps there will be one available on that date.”

“Well, I must have a wheelchair accessible room,” I endeavored to make myself more clear.

“Yes, I understand.  So you will book a room?”

“Is there a wheelchair accessible room available at the hotel?”

“Not at this time.  But I have been assured that if one comes available for that date, you will  be able to have it.  I will book your room now.  You do understand that there will be no refunds and no cancellations, once I book your room.  Can I have your credit card number?”

“Excuse me.  Didn’t I just say that I must have a wheelchair accessible room?”

“I am sorry; you are not understanding me.  Let me explain one more time.  There is not a wheelchair accessible room at this time; but if a room becomes available, you will be able have this room.  Do you understand?”

“Yes.  You are asking me to pay for a room that I probably will not be able to use.  I don’t think you understand.  My husband cannot walk.  He must have a wheelchair accessible room.  I cannot take the chance that I don’t have a room that will be accessible.”

“I am sorry.  You don’t understand me.  I will explain again.  You cannot get a wheelchair accessible room at this hotel unless you book a room.  Then if a room becomes open, you can have it.  May I have your credit card number now?”

“No, you cannot have my card number.  We just need to start over with another hotel.”  We went through several hotels.  She finally came back with a hotel that she assured me would have a wheelchair accessible room.  I booked the room and gave her my card number.

When I got the information in an e-mail, the Special Requests portion of my itinerary said, “We cannot guarantee that your requests will be honored.”

I called the hotel directly and spoke to the front desk.  “No,” the desk clerk said, rather glumly,  “we weren’t told that you needed a wheelchair accessible room.  However, we have many rooms that are accessible.  If you will call me on the day you check in, I will assure you that you will get the room you need.”

The long and short of this story is:  If you need a wheelchair accessible room, some on-line travel agencies cannot or will not insure that you will be able to get one.  If you use an on-line agency, review your contract.  Then be sure to call ahead to the hotel front desk to insure that your accessibility needs will be met.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of telling the story of Jesus’ birth to two children who had never heard it.  They know that God is their father and that Jesus is God’s son.  But they haven’t been in church and they had never heard the story of God With Us.  It was an exciting experience.  They are exceptionally bright and articulate children who are excited to be a part of a Bible study that will teach them about Jesus.

As the program director of The Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, I’m usually involved with people who are developmentally disabled.  Our goal is evangelism and discipleship of our population.  However, through a series of events, I was asked to teach these children the “God and I” scouts Bible study.  Knowing the children and their parents, I jumped at the chance. 

Of course, at seven and nine years old, they squirmed and wiggled their way through the details but they grasped them.  And they got the wonder of what happened 2,008 years ago. They loved hearing about the angels, the kings and the shepherds.  I was born into a world that ignored or denied the supernatural.  But attitudes have changed.  They are living in a society that accepts the supernatural.  There was no doubting the existence of angels or the validity of their appearance.  They oohed and aahed at the appropriate times.

Sunday I had a similar–though different–experience with Jonathan, a friend who is a teenager.  He has been diagnosed with autism.  Jon was full of delightful questions.  “Can your husband be a Christian?  He’s in a wheelchair.  I thought people in a wheelchair couldn’t be a Christian.”

Smiling at this curious questions, we briefly explained that God isn’t interested in how we look or how we get around.  He is interested in whether we love him and accept him as our Father.

“Oh, I know that,” he said confidently remembering his years of Christian training.  “It’s what’s in people’s hearts that counts.  I know that.”

The conversation returned to the ebb and flow of college and daily routines. 

After a few minutes of contemplation.  Jonathan concluded, “Then I guess men with a comb over can be a Christian, too,”  he mused, pouring more catsup into his mustard making a sauce for his French fries, “if their hearts are right with God.  Is that true?”  

The delightful curiosity of youth is wonderful to be around.  Perhaps that is part of what makes working within the mentally challenged community so much fun.  Curiosity remains an important and valued commodity.  As we mature into adulthood, curiosity becomes hidden.  It’s no longer cool to admit,  “I didn’t know.”  Therefore, we must hide our questions and guard the wonder.  But wonder and curious awe is less hidden within our community.  We are still able to appreciate and enjoy the surprise and glory of a new idea, a new experience.

Yesterday, after retelling the Christmas story using our creche, the children and I reassembled it into its Styrofoam packaging.  I had given them a gift of a small creche that they could take home with them.  “Can we repackage our gifts and pretend that we didn’t open them?”  the nine year old asked. 

“Then we can reopen them on Christmas and have a great surprise,”  the seven year old concluded.

“Of course, you can,” I said.  What a marvelous idea.  A repackaged gift that’s a great surprise!  Maybe there will even be a older man gathered around the tree who is a comb-over Christian. 

Isn’t life great?

I was recently referred to the article “Words that Pack Power” written by Frank Luntz published in the November 3, 2008 issue of Businessweek magazine. His thesis is that in business there are five words which are powerful.  These words were “consequences, impact, reliability, mission and commitment.”

Within the mentally challenged community there are also words that have great impact.  Yesterday, I found a new set of words that brought a transformation to a small group of our members with whom I have a great deal of contact.  The words were “you are good enough.”

The Special Gathering is a ministry that seeks to evangelize and disciple people who are developmentally disabled.  Working with The Special Gathering choirs for almost 20 years, I’ve learned that the hardest thing I have to teach them is to look at me.  Each new member must be taught that they are to look at me and not take their eyes from me.  This is painfully hard for them.  I learned that this problem is epidemic within the community as a whole. 

Yesterday was perhaps my worst experience with this problem.  Mary Lou has a solo in our upcoming Christmas play, Above All Else.  This is her second year in choir.  However, she is still not able to look at me.  I’ve worked, pleaded and cajoled.  Nothing has worked. 

The great concern for her and for me is that each time Mary Lou looks away, she misses a que during her solo.  She will come in wrong or not come in at all.  Yesterday, she was on the verge of tears.  I quietly prayed, Oh, Lord, help me, help her.  Then I said, “Someone has taught you that you aren’t good enough to look at people.  You have learned that you can’t look at people because you aren’t good enough.”  Silent tears began to flow and–as an interesting aside–tears pooled in the eyes of several other members. 

“Let me tell you something,” I said as forcefully as I could.  I backed away slightly to address all the members of the choir.  “You are good enough to look at me and every other person in the world.  You are good enough to look at me in the eyeballs.  You are God’s child and you are as good as any other child of God.  You are good enough.  Now look at me. 

“You are good enough,” I repeated again and again.  “Don’t believe anything anyone has told you in the past.  You are good enough.”

Please understand. Probably NO ONE has ever verbalized the words to Mary Lou or our other members, “You are not good enough.”  But this community has been told that in a thousand different ways almost every day of their lives. 

Yesterday, it was as though a there was a transformational experience that happened in each of these choir members.  They smiled, sat up straighter; and they looked at me, square in the eye.  Unbidden, the tears were still flowing down the cheeks of Mary Lou but she, too, sat up straight.  She was smiling and she didn’t take her eyes off of me for one second during the rest of the rehearsal. 

 I was amazed.  Using those words God had done a miracle in her life and that miracle had spilled over into the lives of the other choir members.  Can a lifetime of untruth be erased in one moment?  I’m not so naive that I think that but I now know that there are key words that can have the impact to unlock the hurt and pain bringing God’s redemptive healing and release.

What are some of the words that you have found that have great impact on your members?

Since July at Special Gathering of Indian River, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, we have been preparing for our Christmas play which will be held two times this year.  Our purpose is to evangelize and disciple people who are developmentally disabled.  However, we hope that our Christmas play is a love gift to the community in appreciation for all that people do for us over the year.

In Vero 

Above all Else

 will be on Saturday, December 6 at 7pm

at Tabernacle Ministries

at 51 Old Dixie Highway


In Melbourne

it will be held Sunday, December 7at 7pm

First United Methodist Church

110 East New Haven Avenue

We would like to invite you to come and enjoy this night of music and fun.

Every year like all churches, at Special Gathering we start preparing for our Christmas event early but end up wondering if we’ll ever get it right by the night of the event. This year is no exception. One song is the choir’s favorite because of its tricky melody and fast words. Of course, it is the tricky melody and fast words that they can’t seem to get right. Mary and Joseph in both our plays have been a challenge this year. Health and temperament have caused our directors to wonder why they even have to do this. Of course, things will come together and Mary will tenderly hold her babe just right and Joseph will be a proud papa standing quietly to the side.

Yesterday, a Christian parent asked me, “If the group homes takes all the money of your members how do your members who live in a group home tithe?” My answer was, “They can’t.” In reality, none of our members have access to their money. They are dependent on others to insure that they give to their churches and to Special Gathering. Therefore, we never forget during our preparations and prayer for our Christmas event, that it is the faithful giving and prayers of the community makes this and all our events possible. Thank you so much.

Today, I once again rehearsed with a mutual friend the details of the death of a young woman who was a member of The Special Gathering and a deacon in our ministry within the mentally challenged community.  It was a sudden death about two months ago. 

This young woman came home from work feeling fine.  Suddenly she became ill.  She was rushed to the hospital, coding three times in the night.  After major surgery, she was suspended between heaven and her hospital bed for two weeks.  Then a series of strokes ripped her life from us.

Over lunch, my friend and I cried as I shared some of the details.  My mind and spirit are still in shock regarding this death.  Later this afternoon, I sat thinking how painful it still is for me to tell about her death.  I couldn’t help but see in my mind’s eye her mother.  This morning, she was standing with another volunteer from Special Gathering quietly weeping.  The mother is preparing to take a trip to visit her family for Thanksgiving.  The hurt is so deep that she can’t even begin to pack her bags. 

How often does the mother have to rehearse that painful night with the trauma and sadness that accompanies the details, I wondered.  How does she do it?  How can she bravely get up each day knowing that someone will inquire.  Someone will question.  The Rehearsal will begin, one more time. 

Death is still our enemy, even when we know for sure that God’s grace is covering every detail of a life given over to Him.  Time will eventually begin its healing process.  However, the throb of hurt and even guilt may never be fully erased, even for this Christian mother.  She calls it the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” syndrome. 

Are there things in your life that you find you must rehearse that bring pain?  Does The Rehearsal sometimes bring a release from a bit of the pain?  Is it possible that The Rehearsal may be part of our healing from grief?

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