January 2009


God wants us to learn how to Share

I Timothy 6:18

Central Theme: Sharing must be an act of the heart.

 

Introduction—I told about my grandson not wanting to share his new toy.  I told my daughter who was upset with him that this would be natural.  I suggested that for her son to learn how to share cheerfully, there should be some things in his life that he didn’t have to share.

 

       I.     Have a member read I Timothy 6:18. 

              A. Sharing is an act of the heart.

              B. I am never impressed with people who give everything away.

              C. I don‘t believe that this is what the scripture is talking about when God says he wants us to learn how to share. 

                   1.  First, we should learn how to value what we have.

                   2.  Then sharing has meaning.

                   3.  I have seen that people who give away everything.  That is because they almost always know that someone will give them something new. That isn’t godly sharing.

 

      II.     Remember the widow who gave everything she had.

              1.  No one, even Jesus, was going to give her more.

              2.  Sharing must mean, I will give even though I will not get more back.

 

Conclusion—My grandson was willing to share his other toys with his friends and cousins when he knew that he did not have to give everything to her.

This is an e-mail I received from the Family Care Council.

The Florida Developmental Disabilities Council is now accepting applications for its Partners in Policymaking program. Here is some information about this excellent program:

 This program provides leadership and advocacy training that helps individuals with disabilities and their family members to be community leaders and to work effectively with the agencies that provide services. Participants are expected to attend six monthly sessions between June and November.

There is no cost to enroll. For more information, go to this link.

It is an amazing thing to realize that people that you’ve worked with for years have become your friends.  Yesterday I had lunch with the staff of a wonderful supporting church.  This congregation has fed us, supported us and loved us.  We’ve used their vans and shared their pulpit.  They have been gracious colleagues.  And they are my friends. 

On occasion I call and invite myself to lunch.  The church staff are all great comrades and they allow me to tag along.  It’s been about six months since I’ve been able to go with them but yesterday my schedule had a break.  I called and they invited me to join them for lunch.  As we sat talking and laughing, I was warmed by their love and genuine concern about me and The Special Gathering ministry. 

As area director of Special Gathering of Indian River, I can be regarded as neither fish nor fowl in ministry circles.  But my friends from this wonderful Sebastian church don’t care.  They love me. 

After lunch, I went to the Space Coast Area Transit office.  It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had a reason to pop into the main office and bus terminal.  It was old home week.  Even though they hear from me every week through faxes, we don’t often get to eye-ball each other.  We hugged and shared our lives. 

Within the mentally challenged community of professionals and staff, there is a knowing that few people fully understand what we do.  Coupled with  mutual respect, that understanding creates a bond of friendship that grows and increases over the years.  

We know the general public either look on us as super-human saints or idiots for doing what we do.  The truth is we are neither.  We are people who desire to see a group of deserving but vulnerable adults who live with disabilities receive the services that will allow them to live lives that are as normal as possible.  For the staff at Special Gathering, our mission is evanglizing and discipling, not social services.  But we honor and respect and desire to help hold up the arms those men and woman who do the necessary human service work. 

Ministry–no matter where it’s found–is not easy.  However, with friends who love you there are wonderfully bright day which shine with God’s love.  At the end of the day, I felt blessed to know that friendships have formed.  When I left the bus company, the head scheduler shouted after me, “You keep praying for us and we are going to pray for your family.”  I looked back and waved, several of my friends were still standing, smiling and waving back.  God is good.

 How do you reach out to form friendship within the professional community?  Do you feel this is an important part of your ministry?

Working with persons who are mentally challenged there are many things that other ministries don’t have to contend.  One of them is the receipt.  In youth ministry, Mom gives Joey $94 for the ticket to the theme park.  Joey gets his ticket.  The youth director does not need to receipt anyone.  However, in The Special Gathering and every ministry that works with people who are developmentally delayed, the receipt is all important.

Most group homes and even some parents will require a receipt for all purchases.  Therefore, I’ve learned to be prepared.  I’ve made up a simple receipt that says,

I have received from ______________   $__________ for______________.

Signed_______________

Here are some other awkward things that we’ve learned over the years at Special Gathering which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.

  • I keep extra blank receipts in my clipboard. 
  • By the way, I have a clipboard that has an inside compartment for storage.  You can now buy them made specifically for teachers but I purchased mine years ago for construction workers.  It’s been a lifesaver. 
  • Before I take people on a trip, I make up a checklist with everyone’s name.  Then I check them off when they get to the place we will meet, when they get on the van, each time we disembark and get back on the van.  During the day I check each person approximately three or four times.  I try to keep the lower functioning people with me or with a paid staff person.
  • Most important, on these outings we work in concert with the County Recreation Department.  This is their trip–not ours.  This is a wonderful setup because their staff works out the details.  They are the ones responsible.  They assume the liability. 
  • Years ago I had a small group of  parent/volunteers who would go with me.  Then I would divide the people into small groups.  We would all meet at a certain spot during the day.  Then I did my checks.  Now, I try to involve a smaller groups of people who are more independent for these excursion. 
  • There have been times that I advertise this as a trip only for people who are independent.   I let parents and their professional staff  make the determination of their supervision levels.  I don’t attempt to make that call myself. 
  • When someone gets lost, and they do get lost at times, I will stay with the group  or have a staff person stay with them, keeping everyone in one spot.  I usually pick a spot right next to the bathroom.  Then I go to search for the person or send a staff to search. 
  • Of course, before we venture out, prayer is essential.  We pray that everyone will be safe and that God will protect us.  When we get back into the vans to go home, I also bathe the trip with prayer.  While God is our protection and guide, I know that He requires us to be vigilant and cautious.  He doesn’t often bless stupidity. 

What are some tricks you’ve learned in working with people who are developmentally delayed?

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed nothing more than a lively discussion of differing views.  These discussions stimulate my brain and make me think.  However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to tire of the confrontation.  Perhaps it’s getting older and wiser.  Perhaps it’s fatigue.  But if I think quickly enough, I now try to not respond.  I endeavor to sit and listen, wishing I’d not brought up the subject that turned into a potential sparring match.

Understand I still enjoy the free exchange of ideas.  I love to watch the talking heads on TV.  I delight in the blogs where political and social issues are bantered freely from one position to another.  I enjoy discussions and debate regarding theology.  However, I no longer want to be the person engaged in the fray.

It may be that my mind is no longer as agile or quick to respond.  Yet, I believe it’s more than that.  As program director of The Special Gathering which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, I’ve noticed for years our members withdrawing from conversations when the issues turn from the trivial to weighty matters of State and finances.  When the flow of conversation becomes heavy with innuendo and nuances reflecting different shades of contrasting opinions, our members fade into their seats and wait for the discussion to cool to a slower burning flame.  Then they rejoin the talk with their banter and complaints.

Over the years, I sighed with regret that they are not able to be a part of the witty repertoire.  Now I understand better.  Why join a battle you don’t care about winning?  Why become embroiled in a discussion that you can barely follow?  Why seek to read minds and hearts when you can’t even decipher the motives of your own heart?

The Bible speaks of wisdom being a great virtue and I know that it is.  James even tells us that if we ask for wisdom God will give it to us and He won’t fuss at us for asking.  As I personally face new issues in my personal life, I’ve come to understand that much of the reticence I’ve discovered within the disability community.  I’ve found this may be wisdom, rather than disability.  

And, then, perhaps it could be I am not getting wiser,  just tired. 

Have you found that your members are not willing to enter conversations?  What have you been able to do to help them join?

Our prayers and blessings are extended to President Obama as he takes the oath of office.  It is an amazing thing that in my lifetime I’ve seen hate and discrimination turn into this wonderful event.

In the past two weeks, I’ve sat with ardent Republicans who worked feverishly to see another person elected president.  Each of them have expressed their joy and delight in this turn of events because President Obama is an African-American.  “It is an amazing thing that we can all rejoice in,” they have said.  “We are praying for him and his cabinet that they will succeed,” they conclude.

Each of us come from different places.  Life circumstances turn us in different directions, but Barak Obama is our president and we honor him.   This is proud day for our country and her people.  God bless American and our new president.

I read on the news crawler that our new president has sat with his girls and said, “Remember who your daddy really is.”   The Obama daughters call their dad, “our loving daddy.”  President Obama explained that he is not the sketches in the newspaper or the pictures on the TV but still their loving daddy.

Over the years, in ministering to people who are cognitively disabled at The Special Gathering, our only mission has been to evangelize and disciple people who are mentally challenged.  My greatest efforts in that mission have been to teach our members that our Father God is “our loving daddy.” 

The world–and even the church–has done a great job of teaching us that God is a cruel, vindictive personality that exacts pain and suffering whenever the slightest misdeed is performed by the worm people that he created.  However, that is not the picture presented in the Scriptures.  Of course, he is the God of justice and justice always requires punishment for misdeeds. 

Nevertheless, God sent his Son, Jesus, to take our punishment.  In the fullness of time, Jesus willingly came to empower us to be able to see how much our Father loves us.  I understand that this loving picture of redemption has even been interpreted as Divine Child Abuse–because God gave his Son.  Though that isn’t the picture presented in the Scriptures.  Jesus, being God, worked in concert with Father God in planning and executing this amazing plan of salvation.

And so our task as ministers of the Gospel will always be to proclaim and teach who our Father really is.  Loving, gracious, giving and merciful.

How do you endeavor to teach this timeless principle to your members?

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