April 2009


Her raven, black hair shines and her industrious handiwork produces intricate birthday and get-well cards that delight all the people who receive them.  This serious, inquisitive young woman is about 25 years old.  She is of Chinese descent and a Canadian citizen.  For two nights last weekend, Lisa was my roommate at a leadership conference I attended with Joy Fellowship, a ministry within the mentally challenged community, in Vancouver, BC. 

Friday evening we were in bed late.  Though I was bone tired, I wanted to read my Bible before I retired for the night.  I dutifully propped up my pillow and positioned the scriptures on my lap, as I sat up to read in my bed.  We were on an island in the Indian Arm outside of Vancouver.  The beauty of the island surrounded by black water and forest-covered  mountains had exercised my excited brain all afternoon. 

Lisa, part of the member/leadership team of Joy Fellowship, propped herself up in her bed and read her Bible silently with me.  The next night our routine continued.  A few minutes into our devotions, we heard snoring coming from the next bedroom.  However, Lisa mistaking the origin of the snoring asked, “Why do you snore when you read your Bible?”

“That’s not me snoring,” I said, laughing.  “I’m awake.  The snoring is coming from the other room.”

“But you snore when you read your Bible.  You did it last night.  Why do you do that?”

Again, I laughed.  “Because I fell asleep.”

“Umm,” Lisa pondered the mystery.  “She can sleep while she reads,” I heard her muttering to herself.

Interesting, Lisa, my new friend from Canada, has exposed a new talent I had not known I had.  Often, the best and the worst  is graciously exposed by the austute observations and simple faith of members of the mentally challenged community.  Lisa is a new Christian who wants to serve God but still confuses her new faith with her old traditions.

I, on the other hand, am a much more seasoned Christian who snores while I read my Bible.  Guess there isn’t much difference there. 

What are some of the things your members have exposed in your life?  Are they good traits or things you wish you could discipline more accurately?

I set up everything for our chapel service ahead of time as usual.  I don’t like surprises when it comes to our worship times.  My praise and worship cheat sheets are there.  My sermon is in place.  The scriptures are found.     

I was, of course, thrown off guard when my sound system chose not to work.  We had to do praise and worship with a small CD player.  During our prayer time, we had to put our deacon who prays for our members in a chair because he was weak from a recent illness.  As he prayed for our members, something awful happened. Our deacon fell off his chair crashing to the ground.  He wasn’t able to get himself up.  Another member who has a crush on him, rushed up to help.  We couldn’t get her to get out of our way so we could assist him.  Finally, he got himself up but the entire episode spoiled the atmosphere usually established during our prayer time.

Now it was time for our devotions.  The sermon I had carefully placed turned out to be the wrong week.  The scripture was wrong.  I had left the correct sermon in my van and I didn’t discover it until it came time to give the devotion.  Because I was so distracted by my sound system woes, I’d not carefully checked the sermon.  By God’s grace, I had gone over the sermon multiple times in the morning.  So I was able to preach it without the notes.

Recounting the entire horrific day with a volunteer from another area, we started to laugh at the misadventure.  By the time, I got to the lost sermon, tears were rolling down our cheeks. 

There are few things in life that can’t be eased with the delightful joy of humor.  During hard times of pain, suffering and even death watches, families often break into laughter, mingled with their tears.   

I am always delighted with Teri, a Special Gathering member, who has a great sense of humor.  Though she isn’t able to speak as plainly as she would like, she can make people laugh with her facial expressions and gestures.  I have seen her keep a van full of people laughing for 15 or 20 minutes.  When I inquire, “What did she say that was so funny?”  The answer is always the same, “I don’t know but she is really a funny person.”

The gifts that God gives to us are listed in Romans, Ephesians and Corinthians in the New Testament.  While one of those gifts isn’t humor, it is still one of the most valuable treasure humankind possesses.  A well-developed sense of human, I’m told by the experts, is a sign of high intelligence.  While I know that is true, it is more a sign of a joyful and thankful heart. 

Only God can turn a day of mistakes and missteps into a laugh session where tears flow from the humor.  God is good.

Who is the funniest person in your ministry?  Which one of your members is able to make you laugh most easily?

It is A Challenge to Get Along with Others

Romans 12:18

Central Theme:  Living at peace with other people is important but it is a great challenge.

 

Introduction–More and more people are using the peace symbol again.  Show the symbol.  Back in the ’60’s it had a lot more implications than just “world or personal peace.”  It meant a whole culture of drugs, sex and rock and roll, rebellion and civil disobedience.  There was nothing “peaceful” about those times for most people.  But the symbol has survived and as much as I rejected that symbol, I’m beginning to think that this is may be a good thing because we are to live at peace with everyone. Have a member read Romans 12:18.

 

       I.     Bible heroes have all had people they did not agree with.

          A. Abram and Lot had to part ways because their shepherds were fighting.

          B. Paul and Peter didn‘t seem to get along.  Each wrote about the other person in not too complimentary ways.  Paul rebuked Peter for sitting with the Jews instead of the Gentiles.

          C. Paul and Barnabus parted because Paul wouldn‘t take John Mark on the second missionary journey.

          D. But in each incident the people were able to work out their difference.

 

      II.     Living with others is a challenge; living in peace seems impossible at times.

              A. Special Gathering should be a safe place.

              B. As you get to know each other better you will have challenges and maybe even arguments.

              C. We are to live at peace not matter how much we might argue or disagree with others.  God’s peace come by forgiving each other.

 

Conclusion      Getting along with others is a challenge, even Bible heroes had a hard time; but we can work at it and make it happen.

Consumer and Families Leadership and Development Assistance Program    
                                                                            
 RE: Opportunity for People with Disabilities

People  with  developmental disabilities and their families are offered the opportunity  to  apply  for  financial  assistance  to  attend conferences, workshops  and  other learning opportunities through a grant awarded to The Florida  Center for Advocacy, Research and Education (Florida CARE) through the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, Inc.

This  project  will  enable individuals with developmental disabilities and their  families   to become better self-advocates and enhance their quality of  life  through  improved  knowledge  of  many  aspects of the disability system.   In  addition,  this knowledge will facilitate their inclusion and
participation  in  numerous  planning and decision-making committees, forum and leadership in organizations in their communities.

More  than  35  people with disabilities and their families will enjoy this opportunity.  These  individuals  will  come from different demographic and targeted  groups around Florida and will be selected through an application process.   Interested  families  should  go  to  www.floridacareinc.org and complete  an  application  for  consideration.   There  is  also a calendar listing upcoming opportunities.

Florida  CARE  passionately  advocates  for  people  with  disabilities  by providing   corporations,   school  districts,  groups  and  families  with employment  coaching,  transitional  skills, ADA compliance tips, diversity planning and outreach, disability awareness and hiring techniques.

We read in I Chronicles 21, God stopped a plague when David sacrificed at the thrashing floor of  Araumah.  David had sinned and conducted a census.  God had given him three choices in punishment.  David had chosen to receive punishment from God rather than man.  It is an awful story dealing with the cost of disobedience.  The sad thing is that David sinned but all of Israel had to pay the price of that sin.

David had been right to trust God’s punishment because as the Angel assigned to conduct the plague approached Jerusalem, God did not want to destroy the city.  He initiated David’s offering the sacrifices which halted the plague.  Then, in chapter 22:1 after the plague had been stopped by David’s sacrifices, David said, “The Temple of the Lord God and the altar for Israel’s burnt offerings will be built here.” 

David wanted to mark for all time God’s desire to be gracious even in a time of punishment.  David said, “Here.  The Temple will be here.”  Interesting, that in marking God’s gracious turning from punishment, David was also marking his own sin of pride. 

For most of my life, I’ve heard debates regarding this passage.  How could God punish a whole nation for one man’s sin?  I don’t know the answer.  But David chose to significantly  mark God’s merciful acts by erecting the building of the Temple in that place.  For many centuries, David’s decree for the placement of the Temple has overriden his foolish and prideful sin. 

Again, we see from the scriptures that God can make great revelation come from great pain and even great sin, when we turn to him for redemption.  My friend, Dolores, was a world-renowned solicitor in disability law.  She once told me that her son, who was mentally challenged, was the best companion she had ever had.  “I’ve had two husbands.  One was a doctor; the other was a lawyer.  I’ve sat with women and men who held high positions in our government.  I’ve been friend of  lawmakers, governors and aristocrats but my son’s simple humor and loving ways make him a most pleasant person.” 

Long past was the distressing questioning of why he was born with a disability.  Dolores had learned to replace those doubts and concerns by marking God’s graciousness and the love she found in her son with a thankful heart. 

How many of your parents have learned to build temples of love in lives where others would see only failure and disappointment?  Have you been able to erect a Temple of God’s love in lives that are often rejected because of their disability?

For more than 40 years, I’ve read through the Bible at least once each year.  Some years, I would read through the New Testament every month and the Old Testament each year.  Yet, during the past four or five years, this daily discipline has been a terrible struggle for me.  At first I wasn’t particularly disturbed, I’ve felt study and reading the scriptures was a discipline that needed to be done and it wasn’t important to enjoy it.  Nevertheless, I did miss the joy I’d always had in discovering new and exciting nuggets hidden in sometimes obscure portions of the Bible.

I still understood the benefits of daily reading and study.  However, it seemed that everything was a deterrent to me.  In fact, there was almost a bitterness in my mouth each time I would open up the Scriptures.  This greatly disturbed me and I prayed that the Lord would take it from me.  However, it persisted for at least five years.

Even though a struggle, I consistently read through the Scriptures each year.  Then a most wonderful thing happened last January.  One evening, I thought, “I need to go to bed and read.  This is the most important thing I’ve done all day.”  Without the bitterness or tension, that I’d become accustomed to feeling, I got up, went to bed and read my Bible. 

Every night since then, I’ve been able to read my Bible before I go to sleep.  Yes, some nights I fall asleep reading but I continue until I’ve finished.  Some evenings, I tell myself, “I’ll read and then I can get back up and finish my project.”  Then I speak to myself, “This is the most important thing you will do today.” 

Such a simple word has taken away the bitter taste and the hesitancy with which I’d struggled.  For me, it’s a real miracle, giving me back one of the true joys of my life–reading God’s word and hearing Him speak to me with revelations and hidden treasures.

It is hard to recount how many simple words of truth have changed my life by inches.  Most of the time, other people have spoken those simple words of truth to me.  My mother, a Bible teacher, a loving friend, my children.  My first memory of this happening was when I was seven years old, a substitute Sunday school teacher chose me first to give me the new quarterly.  I’d never been first in my life.  It was a thrilling experience and a turning point in my young life.  God used that lady to let me know that I was important to him.  I’m going to find her in heaven some day and thank her.

In working with people who are developmentally disabled, we are often working with folks who don’t expect much from God or society.  You can give them simple words of hope, joy and release.  Simple, loving words can change lives. 

How many simple things do you do that help to change the lives of your members?  How often are you the vehicle that reaches out and says to a person who never expects to be first, “You are important to God”?

I know the proper way to refer someone to another blog entry is to link it, but I’m afraid that you won’t go there.  Therefore, I’m including it.  You will also want to visit Tony Piantine’s blog. 

Today it is April 10. For most people…just another day. This year April 10 is Good Friday. For my family, it is a day that I believe keeps us all remembering and mildly sad. April 10 was my brother Dan’s birthday.

 

For many years after he died. we sent cards to each other on this day. Eventually we stopped, because it seemed less to do with grieving and more to do with habit. But this day is always one I know is coming and I like to see it going. 

 

This week I have been remembering a lot about those days growing up. Recently several of our friends with kids with disabilities have had to spend time in the hospital. Hospitals always make me think of Dan and my family.

 

We did spend a lot of time at Children’s Hospital in Chicago. On one hand it seemed to be the most hellish place on earth to me. Kids sick, dying. Parents hurting and crying. Brothers and sisters trying to make sense of the fear, hurt, worry, stress, love, tears and hugs.

 

But on the other hand I know that was where I learned to know God. 

 

I remember always having to walk through the ER after hours to get into the hospital. Walking among those families with kids crying, I remember finding a quiet corner and wanting to be so angry that so many people where so sad and hurting.

 

I remember the baby boy in the intensive care room next to Dan’s that no one came to visit. I remember the morning after that baby boy died, crying in the waiting room bathroom. It seemed heartbreakingly unfair that no one was there to love him.

 

I remember my mom so fatigued and sick after many sleepless nights on the intensive care chair/bed at Dan’s side that she stumbled when she walkedI remember standing in the hall outside Dan’s room as we left to go home for the night with Dad, and hugging my mom and feeling her sobs of sadness that Dan was so sick. . I remember being scared as I shut the door on Mom’s bedroom that night after I looked in on her when she came home. I remember sobbing in my bed that night as I wondered if Dan would die, or if my mom would die because she seemed to hurt so bad.

 

But I also remember spending time in Dan’s hospital room watching movies, talking, just hanging out with our family. Sometimes we would get Chicago pizza or snacks. Sometimes we would goof off and try to scare the nurses. Those were moments most families don’t understand. In the middle of the crisis, the middle of the battle, in the middle of suffering and heartache, there was peace, love and always time for our family. It was secure, loving, never rushed and no one had anything better to do–those moments when life in the outside world stopped abruptly and all that mattered was each other. 

 

This may sound stupid, but, oh, how I wish to be sitting in that intensive care room now. With beeps, and buttons, equipment, doctors and nurses in and out, Dan in his iron lung right in the middle of it all and our family gathered round, watching the Cubs game and eating pizza. Those days in the hospital have shaped my life, my belief. It was where I first sensed the God I was learning about in Sunday School and Children’s Church. In the calm of the storm, the peace in the intensive care room…I knew God was there with us. It made sense to me then. Now as I try to search out that peace and calm that only God can bring, I find it in Camp, in the hectic pace, extreme heat, suffering people, the long days, short nights, worry, the tears, the loving embraces. 

 

So how can it be the place I hate the most is place I love the most? It makes sense only if I know the first will be last, the poor will be rich, that I must die to have life. God’s ways are not our ways, why is that so hard to embrace?

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