July 2009

Teaching worship is always a tricky thing.  I remember a very young Christian who had been given a pretty powerful position in a large church, scolding the members during a teaching session.  “You people have no idea what worship is.  You wouldn’t recognize worship if it slapped you in the face.”

Though I’d been a Christian for about 15 years at the time, I’d become a Christian at eight years old and I was still a young adult.  I knew there was much to learn about worship.  I was only scratching the surface regarding this important subject.  I listened carefully for his explanation of worship but to my disappointment it wasn’t forthcoming.  He continued his vicious scolding but he didn’t tell us what he thought  worship actually was.

My conclusion was that he didn’t know what worship was either. 

In the Old Testament, words that we translate from the Hebrew as worship often mean service to the Lord, within a corporate setting or with individual sacrifice.  This leads us to understand that worship is a corporate and an individual act.  The New Testament understanding of worship was broadened to include sacrificial giving of ourselves or our material possessions.  But the meaning doesn’t stop there.

Yesterday, there was a lively discussion regarding worship at this blog.  Don Boden reminded us that one Greek word, proskyneo, and the Hebrew equivalent, shachac, are translated as worship.  They refer to a posture of submission and thus an acknowledgement of God’s complete soverignty.  Other Greek and Hebrew words that are associated with worship mean to bend the knee, bow down and to kiss forward.  See “What is Worship in the Bible?”  for a more complete study.  This article is a synopsis written by Lee Campbell, PhD, taken from the article on worship by G. W. Bromiley in the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume 5

In regard to people who are developmentally disabled, it appears that leaders within the disability community have formulated or they are seriously formulating what is appropriate worship for our members.  As Tony Piantine asked, would we go to any other culture or sub-culture and not endeavor to meet their spiritual needs on a level that they can understand?

Stimulating conversation in which I am a part but where I don’t agree sets my brain to whirling in a good way.  I’ve never been a part of a debate team but I think I would really thrive under that type of experience. 

There is a problem with my debating skills, however.  I’m not able to control to emotions that slip into my voice.   I sound extremely angry, when I feel the excitement of debating.   There is no measured meter to my tones but quivery, shrill underpinnings that shout, “Don’t you dare disagree with ME!”

Therefore, I was excited today to be discussing the concept of worship within the mentally challenged community and what should we strive to include in a worship setting.  What makes an appropriate worship service for our members?  Our conversation whirled around praise and worship in song.  Because the folks debating have worked together for several decades, we understand each other quite well.  Therefore, during much of the conversation, we spoke mostly in shorthand, as good friends often do.

There were, however, several items that we touched on.  First, do the members of Special Gathering need some form of affirmation of faith?  If so, what would this look like?  What principles of the faith should be understood by every Christian?  How can these be translated into a simplified form so that people with developmental disabilities can easily understand?

Second, we discussed the appropriate types of music that will most effectively minister Life to our members.  Are hymns (songs that teach about or minister to HIM) the best?  Do gospel (testimony) songs actually teach our members more effectively than hymns that instill theological principles about the personhood of God? While contemporary scripture choruses may be wonderfully singable, do our members actually understand such songs as “I Exalt Thee.” 

What about you?  What do you believe an appropriate worship service for the mentally challenged community would include?  We’d love for you to join in the conversation. And, as an added bonus, with the wonder of the Internet, you won’t even have to listen to my shakey, shrill voice, when I become excited.

Today, I sent our payment for a year of coverage for The Special Gathering of Indian River to Guide One Insurance.  Guide One is advertised as “one of America’s largest church insurers – serving nearly 43,000 churches. ” 

Having our own insurance has made obtaining places to meet much easier.  Because we don’t own anything but some equipment, our insurance bill remains minimal.  We are able to insure the square footage that we use in the church where we borrow their facilities.  The type of policy we purchase is “Commercial Monoline.” 

As an aside, most of your members will be covered under the medicaid program in your state.  Therefore, if there is an accident, there should be no problem with calling for an ambulance and this probably would not effect your insurance. 

In Florida, we have found that Guide One coverage has been great.  If you think your ministry might benefit by obtaining insurance from Guide One, visit their web site.  You may click into the link above.

How do other people keep up with their passwords?  I have so many and none of them really are vital but there is always the concern that something will get through the net and cause problems that will take hours to resolve.

In our society, we all face dangers and concerns that were unknown to our parents.  However, our parents faced dangers and concerns that were also unknown to their parents. 

Yet, while my mother didn’t have to worry about identity theft, she did survive a depression, a world war and the Korean Conflict.  My first home was larger than the home my parents owned when I married. 

Whether it’s struggles or danger, it’s easy to look at everything only from our own warped perspective.  It’s easy to believe that you are the one who is being victimized. 

Often, when the Special Gathering choir sings or a first-time visitor comes to our program, people are impressed by how much our members enjoy life even though they live with what should be a debilitating disability.  Their courage in the face of the drawbacks they face can be overwhelming.  Of course, when you get to know our members better, you understand that they can be just as cowardly and aggravating than anyone else.  However, I have learn some important principles from them.  Here are a few:

  1. Everyone has something to overcome.  Each person has a distraction that could ruin his or her life.  It’s up to you whether you allow it to destroy or strengthen you.
  2. The most courageous folks don’t always have the most perfect bodies.
  3. Happiness is a choice.
  4. Your relationship with the Lord, doesn’t depend on your IQ.
  5. Wisdom doesn’t depend on IQ.
  6. Abilities often have more to do with CAN DO than IQ.
  7. By and large, the mentally challenged community desires to go to work for a living.  This has taught me that work has great value in life, much more than I ever realized.
  8. From our non-reading members, I’ve seen that reading is a wonderful gift that should never be neglected.   Much of the Judeo-Christian culture has been built on study and reading of the BOOK.

Of course, there are so many others.  What are some of the things you have learned from your members?

Many observers see that individuals who live with developmental disabilities are exceptionally concerned about pleasing people that they perceive as “important or influential.”   At times, visitors, who do not have a disability, are overwhelmed by their reception when they first attend Special Gathering.  Part of that reception stems from the perception that these visitors are more important than their peers. 

Within psychological circles, this is called “associative power.”  That is, you will be perceived as a more powerful person if you associate with powerful people.  One of the best examples of the ugliness of associative power is found in the Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast.  The bully who is trying to woo Belle has a friend who obtains all his power from being the buddy of the bully.

At Special Gathering, we have found that many of our members have shed this drive for importance by associating with other people that they perceive as influential.  They have forged true and lasting friendships with their peers.  Here are some ways that we have worked to make this happen.

  1. Recognize the problem.  Observe how your members treat a person who is perceived as a peer and how they treat a person who is perceived as “normal.” 
  2. Identify the issue with our members.  Once you have seen there is a difference in their behavior, address the issue with your members.  This can be done a) person to person, b) within a small group, c) within larger group settings.
  3. Don’t encourage this behavior. 
  4. When a new member comes, assign several members to mentor them.  In this way, you will be saying, you are a person of importance and you need to be a friend to others. 
  5. Encourage and foster friendships among your members.  This can be done by giving verbal encouragement to your members who are friends.  It may be a simple statement, “Laurie and Annie are such good friend.  That is a good thing.”
  6. Whenever you informally associate with one of your members, try to also invite one of his friends.  Going dutch out to lunch is fun.  When you invite George, also invite Melvin.
  7. Speak often about your ministry program being a safe place for all the members.  Explain that everyone who attends should not worry about being intimidated or becoming the object of ridicule

Yes, these are simple steps but they will work.  Whenever you deal with this issue, assure your members that your goal is to help them know their worth in Jesus.  

Have you found this is a issue your members fight?  What are some of the ways you have helped them to face and overcome the issue of “associative power”?

Why Do We Pray?

Acts 12:12

Central Theme: It is important know why we pray.


1. Have a member read the scripture Acts 12:12

2. Say, “Let us pray.” Then wait for a very long time.

3. When people begin to stir or look around, say, “Why do we pray?”

4. Have you ever thought about that? Let’s look at that question for a moment.

I. Quickly tell the story of Peter in prison and the church in prayer.

A. Why were they praying?1. Everything we do begins and ends with prayer.

B. Why do we pray?


2. Is it part of the ceremony? the Pagentry? Or form of the church?

II. We pray for one main reason:

A. God answers prayer.

B. When we pray and we are Christians, God listens to us.

C. I don’t think Peter thought God would answer his prayer…but He did.

D. I don’t think the church thought God would answer their prayer…but he did.

III. Are there other reasons why we pray? Yes.

A. We pray to tell Jesus we love him.

B. We pray to ask God for things.

C. We pray to thank God for his blessings.

D. We pray to confess our sins.

E. We pray to vent. We can tell God things we can’t tell others.

Conclusion–Those things may all be true but mostly we pray because God is listening and He always answers prayer. Maybe not in the way we would like. But he loves us and gives us His best when we pray.

In the past, I’ve toyed with the idea of beginning a blog for recipes for person who are mentally challenged.  However, I put it aside after starting a second blog and not having much success at updating it.  Therefore, I will occasionally put in simple, delicious and kitchen-proven recipes that can be used by anyone but could be especially useful for persons who are mentally challenged.

Easy Enchillada Salad

(two to four servings)

  1. Four frozen bean or bean and meat burritos. Cook frozen burrito according to directions of the package.  (Microwaving is the simpliest way to prepare.)
  2. One can of Ranch Style Beans.  Put the Ranch Style Bean in a microwavable bowl, cover with a wet napkin or paper tower.  Heat for approximately 2 minute or until the beans are hot.
  3. Enough chopped Lettace to cover the bottom of a plate (about one cup).  On a bed of chopped lettace put one or two burritos and cover with portion of the Ranch Style beans.
  4. Add 1/4 cup chopped fresh tomatoes

Serve immediately.

Several days ago, I taught a class teaching about disabilities.  It was a class for children.  There were three sessions.  The children were helped by adult teachers and several teenagers.  The teenagers were especially wonderful and helpful, except in the last class. 

One teenage helper stood in the back of class and worked feveriously at distracting himself and his friend.  He fiddled and wiggled.  He took out stick pins from a cork board and rearranged them.  His hands didn’t seem to stop.  He wasn’t talking but did not slow down the figiting for one minute.  I almost stopped to ask him to be still but decided to continue without saying anything.

At the end of the class, as I was walking out the room, this same teenager quietly slipped beside me, “I have turret’s,” he said, in a whisper.  “It really sucks.”

I stopped and turned to him.  “I’m so sorry.”  Knowing the struggle a person with turret’s syndrome has in controlling his ticks and urges, I whispered back, “I can’t believe how well you control it.  Good job!”

Often, disabilities remain covered.  Yet, there will always be tell-tale signs, if we are observant with hearts open to pain.  Is a person misbehaving or behaving in reaction to a deep hurt or in response to a disability.  Yes, most of the time, persons with disabilities are able to control themselves.  However, there may be times that fidgeting replaces jerks and ticks.  Wiggles are much more acceptable than grunts and groans. 

Has there been a time in your life that you were inappropriate in a stressful situation?  Did that experience help you to understand people who are mentally challenged?

Today, I’m in Virginia helping my grandchildren improve their swimming skills.  I’m not a swim teacher but since we put in our pool years ago, I’ve helped many people to become better swimmers. 

It seems that much of what I do in life is to help others find ways to improve in a skill they have learned.  I don’t seem to be a good initiator but a person who knows how to fine tune some effort that has begun.

There are some things that help in becoming a fine tuner.  Here are some of the things I’ve learned.

  1. Don’t assume that everyone wants your advice, help or teaching abilities.
  2. Don’t give advice unless it is REALLY needed. 
  3. Give the person the benefit of the doubt and don’t give help unless you are asked.
  4. Be sure to study the person’s present skill level before you seek to help him or her.
  5. Ask questions before you give advice.  Be sure that you understand, from the person, the level of help he or she is seeking.
  6. Be honest…
  7.  …but never brutal.  There is a difference.  “A spoonful of sugar” still “helps the medicine go down.”
  8. Encouragement is always better than correction. 
  9. Rather than pointing out things that are wrong, point to ways to improve.
  10. If you must point out the things that are wrong, be gentle.

Remember in dealing with persons who are mentally challenged, I would put each suggestion in bold print and place an explanation point at the end of each sentence.  People who come to a ministry within the developmental disability community have often given up on themselves.  They are longingly  looking to others for help.  Your encouraging voice may be the only one they will hear that week. 

Remember things can always be made better.  Improvements can always be made.  Encouragement is always needed.

At choir we had a visitor.  She has loosely followed the progress of the choir for as long as it has been around.  After the practice, she said, “I cannot believe how very much you have improved.  You sound like different people from when you first began singing together.”  The choir beamed and so did I.

It is a difficult process for persons with disabilities to make progress, especially in something like singing.  I’ve found that basically singing is a foreign skill to most people who are mentally challenged.  This fact is a mystery to me because I love to sing.  I can’t even imagine life without a song.

More times than not, when new members comes into the choir, I not only have to teach them the words and the melody but how to sing also. Often I catch them at an off moment when I hear their REAL voices.  It may be outstanding.  That is the voice that I aim to uncover.  Yes, it will probably take years to uncover that voice but it is always worth the effort. 

Last Christmas, I found a song that was a perfect fit for two of our ladies who are contraltos.  Several people came up to inquire who had sung the wonderful duet.  One man said, “That was the most wonderful duet, I’ve ever heard.”  He was stunned when I told him that one of the ladies was his daughter.  “She can’t sing!” he exclaimed. 

“I think she can,” I said, smiling.

When it comes to teaching mentally challenged persons, it is good to mark small improvements in your mind and heart.  After all, it is the small steps that lead us to the big things in our lives.

What are some of the small things that have helped you know that your work is making a difference in the lives of your members?  What are the steps you are taking to build a choir or a class?

I conducted a disability workshop today for about 100 children attend Bible school at First United Methodist Church in Melbourne.  Stealing from our founder, Richard Stimson, I wanted to help the children to understand what it was like to be disabled in a way that they could touch and feel. 

I began with the scripture in Exodus 4:11 in which the Lord speaks to Moses and says, “Who made a person’s mouth? And who makes someone deaf or not able to speak? Or who gives a person sight or blindness?  It is I, the Lord.” 

After a brief introduction in which I explained that persons with disabilities know they are different and know that they have a disability.  We started by blindfolding a child and asking him to navigate around the room.  Then we gave him a guide who helped.  Because the children were making a craft for puppies who will be trained to be guide dogs, I explained a bit about what a guide dog does.   

After that, I put sound surpressing ear phones on one of the children and asked another person from across the room to speak in a low voice giving his or her name and address.  We then talked briefly about lip reading and sign language.

Another child had her arm tied down. I asked her to lift several items that would be easy to carry with two hands but difficult with one hard.  The next child had her leg tied up.  She could hop but found that her balance was the hardest thing to keep.

Then every child was given some crackers to eat.  I told them to put all the crackers in their mouths at once; chew them; then try to speak.  We talked about the difficulty it was to speak this way.  As they were eating their checker, I explained that many people with disabilities are born with mouths that have deformities and they have difficulty speaking.

After each class, hands shot up all over the class, students wanting to share about their sister, brother or cousin with a disability.  Each one of the students seemed touched by the personal experience of sharing with persons with disabilities in a tangible way. 

It was a good day!

Perhaps you’ve seen the commercial where the important people of a fictitious company are trying to find answers for their faltering bottom line.  One exec says, “I’d think we should try blame storming.  I would like to blame Eileen.”  It’s a great back-handed commercial.  However, blame storming isn’t humorous in real life.

I’ve spent more time than I care to recollect either “blame storming” or listening to others who are “blame storming.”  You know how it goes, you are having lunch and someone brings up someone and then the nit-picking begins.  You end up pulling apart everything and everyone remotely attached to a situation or congregation.

Several weeks ago, I spent a good deal of time with a member who enjoys “blame storming” other SpG members.  He is higher functioning than most of his peers.  Therefore, he is able to find problems and concerns that others may overlook.  Finally, after several hours, I asked, as gently as I could, “Why are you putting down other members?”

He looked at me shocked, as though he couldn’t believe that I felt that his behavior was inappropriate.   Then I realized that he was perhaps mimicking behavior that he had seen from “normal” adults, perhaps even me. 

For the rest of the afternoon, he stopped the blame storming and the rest of us enjoyed our trip home.  However, I couldn’t help but think about his look of shock when I attempted to correct him.  It was as though this type of conversation was “supposed to be.” 

What are your members learning from your behaviors? Are you able to stand for righteousness and justice?  Could blame storming be a part of their interaction with others who are supposed to provide examples of godly behavior?

The Church believes in Jesus

Acts 16:29-32


Central Theme:  The church believes in the Lord Jesus Christ.


       1.     Saturn car dealerships sell all kinds of things that show we are owners of the Saturn.  Show some things.

       2.     What identifies you as a Christian.

       3.     Have a member read Acts 16:29-32.

       I.     You are part of the Saturn family by the car you drive.  But you are part of the Christian family because of what?

              A. Is it the way you live?

                   1.  That is important

                   2.  As a Chrsitian you should be good, kind, generous, honest.

                   3.  But that is not what makes you a Christian.

               B. Is it because you go to church?

                   1.  Important but NO.

              C. Taking Communion?  No

              D. Being baptized?  No

      II.     We become Christians inside of us.  In our hearts.

              A. Reread 30 and 31..

              B. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

              C. Our hearts must say, “Jesus is my Lord.:

              D. He must be our best friend and our boss.

     III.     Then you are a true believer.  We become different people.

Conclusion–Saturn may be a wonderful car.  It is only a car.  Becoming a Christian is a deep change in who I am.

Proposed Rules for Medicaid Home and Community Based Services

 The  Center  for  Medicare  &  Medicaid has released   a   notice  of  proposed  rulemaking  for Medicaid  home  and  community-based services (HCBS) waivers.  Some of the proposed changes include:      
·  Giving  states the option to combine or eliminate existing permitted waiver target populations  (the  aged  or disabled, or both; the mentally retarded or developmentally   disabled,   or   both;  and  the
mentally ill).  States must develop separate  Section  1915(c)  waivers  to serve more than one of the three populations.   The intent of the change is to give states additional flexibility, allowing  them  to  use  person-centered  delivery systems driven by need, rather than  by  diagnosis  or existing dedicated funding streams. Allowing states the option to combine targeted groups within a single waiver would remove a barrier for  states  that  wish  to  design waivers across various populations.                                
            ·   CMS  is  particularly  interested  in  receiving comments on how removal of the existing  regulatory   barrier  regarding target groups can increase a state’s ability to  design  service packages based on need, rather than diagnosis or condition.                        
            ·  CMS  also  plans  to propose adding a requirement that individuals receiving home and community-based services must either reside in homes or apartments not “owned,  leased,  or  controlled” by providers of any health-related treatment or support  services,  or  must  reside  in  homes or apartments “owned, leased, or controlled”   by   providers   of   one  or  more health-related treatment or support services  that  meet  the  state’s  standards  for community living.                                    
To be assured  consideration,  comments  must  be received no later than 5 p.m. on August 21, 2009.    
                       DEPARTMENT    OF    HEALTH    AND   HUMAN   SERVICES
                       Centers    for    Medicare   &   Medicaid   Services
                       42 CFR  Part   441 [CMS-2296-ANPRM]                                    
                       RIN     0938-AP61
                       Medicaid  Program; Home and Community-Based Services
                       (HCBS)  Waivers
                       AGENCY:  Centers  for  Medicare  & Medicaid Services
                       (CMS), HHS.
                       ACTION:   Advance  notice  of  proposed action

Next Page »