November 2008

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?

« Previous PageNext Page »