August 2009

For years, my mantra with the Special Gathering choir has been, “If the roof falls in, watch me!”  Yesterday, The Special Gathering of Indian River Choir had the privilege of singing at Word of Life Church of God in Sebastian.  It was a joyful time and we felt extremely welcomed.  There would be lunch after the Fifth Sunday Sing. 

After we finished our program, Pastor Eldon Ash asked us to sing one more song.  There was another song on our CD but we hadn’t practiced it and the middle words had been difficult for the choir to learn.  They were easy enough but somehow, our members had corporate amnesia when we reached this portion of the song.  I had turned it into a solo, but the soloist for this song was missing. 

I tried to explain to the pastor that we hadn’t rehearsed but they insisted that we sing it.  Things went as I had predicted.  The choir sang without a hitch and completely flubbed the bridge.  As we ascended to the final chorus, the electricity went out.  Lights out and the orchestration was silenced.  But the choir didn’t miss a beat or a smile.  Without even a hint of hesitation, the choir continued to sing until the end of the song.

I thank God for people who learn slowly but learn well.  I pray that we have also been able to impart to them that even if their life falls apart, they must continue to look to Jesus.  I pray I’ve learned that lesson as well.


God loves the whole world

John 3:16

Central Theme: God‘s love extends to everyone in the world, including you and me. 

Introduction–There are a lot of people that I have loved over my lifetime. But I don‘t love everyone I have ever met. God loves every person he has made and he has met every person who has ever lived.

I. Have a member Read John 3:16.

A. Tell the story of the church, persecution and how the church grew. B. The Church in Antioch needed Barnabus to come and help

B. Barnabus called for Paul–together they shared the good news and the church grew.

II. The church was beginning to see that God loved everyone–not just Jews.

A. Jews were God‘s chosen people–they were special.

1. Jews thought they had a free pass into heaven.

2. They did not have that. They needed salvation like everyone else.

III. Sometimes people think that because we are disabled we don’t need salvation–that we are special

A. We need salvation like everyone else.

B. We don‘t get a get-out-of jail free card.

C. We must ask Jesus into our hearts.

D. We must ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins.

Conclusion–God loves you and wants to be your Savior.

“They are acting like spoiled children who haven’t gotten their way” was the interesting comment of an insider commenting on APD’s reaction to the court’s rejection of the Tiers.  I found Jim DeBeaugrine’s comments this week fascinating because he said nothing would change.  In other words, APD will disregard and ignore the courts.

What other agency would have the gall to disregard and ignore a federal court? 

On the other hand, the state is out of money and revenue is dropping as people are moving out of Florida.  As interested person said, “It doesn’t matter what the courts say.  APD will find some way to keep taking things away from those who need it most.” 

While the state is out of money and must find ways to cut corners, why does the most vulnerable population seem to be the people who must burden the brunt of the sacrifice?

There are nine students in the class.  I had been invited to introduce the students to The Special Gathering.  It was my honor to go to the high school to speak to these wonderful special needs students. 

They were a fascinating composite.  Two of the students already were living in their own apartments.  From her comments, one young woman appeared to have a live-in boyfriend.  Of the nine young people, 5 of the students’ disabilities were within the autism spectrum. 

One young lady whose disability was autism was so offended by my using her name that she tried to scratch her name plate from her desk.  Unfortunately, she was the first person I had approached.  Her back was to me and casually reached out to touch her without knowing her disability.  Of course, she was incensed by my forwardness and I deeply regretted my mistake.  But the harm had been done.  I wasn’t able to dent her resolve to erase me from her life in my short time in the classroom.   

For many years, I tried to volunteer in special needs classes in the high school but there didn’t seem to be any way to shove open that door.  As I left, I asked the substitute if it would be possible for me to come and speak again.  The regular teacher was absent but she assured me that she would speak to the teacher and let her know about the offer.  As many of our members are growing older, we have seen the need to reach out to this younger generation.  Perhaps this is an open door, at last.  Isaiah says, “Every person that waits for the Lord’s help, will be blessed.” And, of course, prayer certainly helps.

For years I’ve wanted to put a small closet at the end of my kitchen.  Yesterday, the contractor and I found that there were electrical wires that could not be moved.  Therefore, we would need to put a small closet in that area.  I was thrilled because it was the exact spot where I’d wanted a closet for years.  I must admit that I was overwhelmed at God’s graciousness toward me.   I don’t think I ever prayed for a closet there but it was as though God had read my heart.

Today, a friend came over.  After viewing the skull of the new closet, she asked sarcastically, “And what do you expect to put into that small thing?” 

Surprised and dripping with an equal amount of sarcasm, I smacked with a smirk, “Whatever I want to put in it that fits.”  My friend smiled sympathetically at my ignorance and left the room.

At times, we must realize that we can’t have everything we want.  At other times, we unexpectedly get what we want and others aren’t impressed or they may even disapprove.  Looking at the facts of your life, you understand that desire must often compromise with reality.

In speaking with younger parents of children with developmental disabilities, I’m often a bit surprised by the fact that their desires and reality sometimes bang heads.  When a child is younger, desires are paramount.  This week I was discussing a young woman with a family member.  The aunt is now having to adjust her expectations in regard to her niece who is mentally challenged.

“She won’t ever be able to do many of the things I desired for her.  However, I’ve come to realize that Leeza is a good and kind person.  She loves the Lord.  She is able to love the unlovely.  She is eagerly willing to work hard.  Those are the important things in life, not her achievements in the workplace,” said the aunt.

After years of living with desire, reality has met desire and surpassed it for this family.  Does this mean that hope no longer lives?  No.  It means that hope can now be taken an a positive direction where achievement can be made.  Forrest Gump was a great story; but it was fiction.  In twenty years, I been working with people who are mentally challenged, I’ve seen God move in miraculous ways in the hearts of our members.  However, I’ve never seen the time that reality wasn’t needed in regard to the ability of a person.

Is ability more important than integrity?  What aspects of integrity do you see in your members?

Again, we are in the middle of construction.   In the forty-five years that we’ve lived in our home we have never renovated our kitchen.  With my husband’s physical deterioration, in the past five years, we are transforming our home more and more to be handicapped accessible.

We have found that Able House, owned and operated by Brad Shea, is an amazing construction company that is constantly looking for ways to make our home accessible but he also wants it to be beautiful.  Shea is a craftsman–rather than a construction worker.  He is a mechanical engineer who felt that God was calling him to help people with disabilities to live fuller and more accessible lives.

However, the reason that I’m writing this blog is because of his consideration for the keeper of the home.  I’d heard so many horror story from people who had kitchen renovations who weren’t able to use their kitchens for six months to a year.  Monday, when Shea explained his plan to me, he said, “You will have running water, your dishwasher, stove and refrigeration.  I’m keeping a portion of your counter top so that you can work from there. 

Okay, I love to cook; therefore, I was thrilled.  Others may like to eat take-out for weeks or months at a time but that isn’t my desire. 

Then when Shea left the first day, he left a clean house.  All of the cabinets and a large part of the kitchen had been demolished.  Yet, everything had been systematically taken from my home and he had swept the floors.  That counts for a great deal for me.

I understand that money is a large issue, the renovations of our bathroom and kitchen is about $30,000 less than the normal estimates.  Yet, we aren’t installing lesser quality but top of the line cabinets, flooring and granite counter tops. 

If you are looking for a Med-waiver construction expert, Able House in Brevard County at 321 752 3923 or 321 432 7894.

We’ve all been there.  Things seem to work perfectly.  You meet the person you needed to contact in the office supply store.  It only takes you 15 minutes to do a job you thought would take 2 hours.  A phone call comes that answers the questions that you thought would take days sitting on hold to answer.  Then your data base works correctly and your computer doesn’t bomb or contract a virus.  You go to bed with all the TO DO items checked off your list. 

You know that God’s presence was with you today.

But what about the days that you spend two hours on hold and you still don’t get the answers.  You can’t track down the person with whom you had to speak.  Your data base froze and your computer dumped all your files into the Netherlands, never to be retrieved.  You went to bed without doing one thing on your TO DO list and you added five items.

Had God abandoned you that day?

Of course, not.  Yet the bigger questions may be on which day did you reflect God’s glory more?  I had a great friend who was always in a muddle until the crises hit.  Then she became a wonderful reflection of Christ’s perfection.  I remember riding home with her in the car after an emergency had hit.  She calmly ministered to me and the others in the auto.  I thought, she may be a mess at other times but she has some amazing connection with the Father to be this supportive and calm after experiencing today.

Remember Moses.  He handled everyday events superbly.  But he also handled the bad days with an anointing–EXCEPT on a couple of occasions.  Then he lost it and he lost his opportunity to enter the promise land–a mighty loss, indeed.

With our members do we reflect His glory?  You have to love what you are doing, or you wouldn’t be ministering to people with special needs.  However, what about the days that you can’t look at Bill chewing with his mouth full and open one one time?  When Jamie’s constant repeating the obvious grates on your one last calm nerve?   How do your reflect his glory then?

Here are five things I’ve found that help:

  1. Keep your sense of humor.  Don’t forget to laugh at yourself and the other things that you must endure with love and patience.
  2. Keep a friend close with whom you can laugh and joke about the foibles of this ministry.
  3. Enjoy the silly moments.  If there aren’t any silly moments, create a few so you can relieve the tension with a smile.
  4. Allow yourself to become the brunt of most of the joke and laugh at them.
  5.  Did I mention, that laughter is a great medicine that cures a lot of ministry ills?

Sometimes when we are all tired after a retreat or a camp, our volunteers get together.  We make silly hats with our napkins and we laugh at the events of the day or week. 

God doesn’t forget us but he also gives us ample ways to reflect His glory and relieve our tensions with laughter.  It’s a great tool.  Use it.

This is a statement sent out by the Family Care Council:

Statement by APD Director Jim DeBeaugrine on Court Decision on Tier Rule

Tallahassee – Today the First District Court of Appeals issued a ruling determining the tier waiver rule to be invalid.

APD will thoroughly review the opinion issued by the First District Court of Appeals to determine which options will best preserve the benefits of our customers. Options include seeking rehearing, appealing to the Florida Supreme Court, and an internal review of the rule.

“The top priorities of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities are the health and safety of the people we serve. We will continue to try to meet the needs of our customers while adhering to the mandatory requirements of the tier waiver statute,” said Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Jim DeBeaugrine.

The agency annually serves about 35,000 Floridians with developmental disabilities of mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information on the agency, call 1-866-APD-CARES or visit

Breaking News

Appeals Court Rules Tier Rules are Invalid

The First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee, Florida ruled today that the Tiers for serving Persons with Disabilities are invalid. Please see the attached link for the ruling.


Giving helps us to be a part of the church

II Corinthian 8:2-5

Central Theme:  We can help the church by giving.


       1.     Ask the ushers to go and get the offering plates from the counters.

       2.     We have just taken up the offering.

       3.     Some of you gave generously;  some gave a little bit.

       4.     Whatever you gave, you gave more than money.

       5.     You gave a part of yourself.

       6.     Put one foot in each offering plate.

       I.     Have a member read II Corinthians 8:2-5.  Keep your feet in the offering plate.

              A. Spending is different from giving to the Lord.

                   1.  We spend money for a lot of things.

                   2.  Have some members tell what they bought this week.

                   3.  When you spend money, you get something in return.

              B. Giving gifts to friends is different from giving to the Lord

                   1.  For Valentine’s Day I got diamond earrings.  I love them more every day.

                   2.  Frank has a birthday coming up.  Maybe he’ll get computer equipment. 

                   3.  We give gifts because of something we have received or  because we want a good gift back.

              C. Giving to the Lord is important to your Christian life.

                   1.  We should give for the sheer joy of giving.

                   2.  God will bless you if you aren’t happy about it.

                   3.  But the motivation should be because there is great joy in giving to the Lord.

Conclusion–Giving to the Lord brings joy and shows our joy because we are able to give of ourselves to the Lord.

This is information obtained from the Family Care Council that should help when meeting with Legislators. 

Florida  Waiver Data – 7/09

29,836 People receiving services

          – Tier 1: 3,602

          – Tier 2: 3,798

          – Tier 3: 5,539

          – Tier 4: 12,731 – Roughly half

          – TBD: 3,394

About 3% are on CDC+


Waiver Services by Age – 7/09

Tier/Age              3-5              6-22           23-30         31+             Total

T1                          0                836               910         1856                    3602

T2                          0                467               619          2712          3798

T3                          0                520             1165          3854          5538         

T4                          5              5473             2451          4802        12731         

TBD                      1                480               693          2220          3394                            

Total                 6          7,776          5838     15,444     29,064       

Wait List July 2009

  • 18,972 People on the Wait List in Florida as of July 2009
  •  Ages 3-5: 676
  • Ages 6-22: 11,225
  • Ages 23-30: 3,519
  • Ages 31+: 3,552
  • Average cost per month to provide waiver services is $70,210,603.95 which is about $28,000 per year per individual
  • About $100M of state funds required to support all of those over the age of 22 assuming matching Fed. Funds

Total Florida budget is about $67 Billion

 In February 2008, I began blogging.  I had learned from past experience and from other successful bloggers that in order to make an impact in the blogosphere, you need to do daily entries.  It was like entering a whole different world.  As I’ve spoken to pastors and ministers about the benefits of blogging, time seems to be the biggest concern that others express.

“I don’t have the time to do the other things I need to do” is what I hear when I speak to groups of pastors about blogging.  Because I don’t get many comments each day, my blogging is limited to the amount of time it takes to make an entry. 

Comments do take a great deal of time because there is a need to respond to them.  I hate that I don’t get a lot of comments but if time is an issue, you can either not respond to each comment, or not allow comments.  However, that opens up an entirely different can of beans that we will talk about later.

When I first began blogging, I allotted at least an hour each day to write and edit an entry.   Usually it took two hours because I was learning the whole process and I was fascinated by the underpinnings.  Now, I take between 15 and 30 minutes to write and edit  my daily entry.  Working for a magazine, I did learn to write quickly.  However, I’ve also worked out a system. 

I put in new entries about the ministry each day, Monday through Friday.  I log in advocacy issues on Saturday.  These articles I get from advocates who e-mail me all during the week.  My biggest problem with my Saturday entry is determining what NOT to include.  

I found that one of the biggest Google requests was sermons for mentally challenged persons.  Therefore, on Sunday, I pull an old sermon from my computer files and log that.  

By Monday, I’m itching to share some of the things I learned during the weekend and the new week begins.  I’ve also learned that material is everywhere.  At times, I do a week of entries in one sitting.  If I’m going on vacation, I don’t take my lap top to blog each day.  I do an entry for each day and schedule it for the next week.  Doing a week of blogs isn’t as hard as doing one each day and it usually takes me about 15 to 20 minutes per entry.

 This past week, I knew that much of my time would be consumed with my grandchildren.  Therefore, I took all the yummy things I had learned from the Conference I had attended and used that material to write an entire week’s of entries in about one hour.  That was fun and benefitial because I was cementing the information into my brain as I was sharing with the readers.

In reality, I understand that the fact that I enjoy writing makes the entire process easier for me.  However, when I look at the fact that I’ve had 21,000 visits to the Special Gathering ministry in the past year via the Internet, I love the results even more than the process.  Yes.  Many of these people are associated with this ministry anyway.  Yet, at least 75 percent of the visits are the result of a Google or YaHoo search.  These are serious, sometimes desperate, people with questions and wanting answers. 

What are the things that make you hesitant to begin a ministry blogging?

Risk taking is an interesting topic. It is even more interesting when it translates into an individual’s life. I found myself discussing the lottery with a friend the other day. I don’t gamble in any form or fashion. I do understand the godly principle of not trying to get something for nothing and because of that, I don’t gamble. However, I must be honest with myself. For me, it isn’t as much the Christian principle against coveting that prevents me from gambling as the principle of risk. I refuse to throw money to the wind.
In the same way, at Special Gathering, we are careful about the money we receive from our local churches. Years ago, our founder and executive director, Richard Stimson, determined that buildings were an enormous expense that we could easily eliminate. Thanks to the generosity of local churches, agencies and even local hospitals, we have been able to successfully meet without the added expenses incurred if we were strapped to buildings. We have operated the same way with vehicles. While many churches are no longer able to lend their vans, we shuffle and improvise because of the great expense associated with owning these vehicles.


Faith is a great risk.  However, with God, it is never success or failure that matters but obedience.  If we succeed, He is there applauding and cheering.  If we fail, He is also there, comforting, discipling and teaching.

There was an interesting discussion on worship at this blog a couple of weeks ago.  Have you used anything in worship that seemed risky at the time but you found to be extremely effective?

She was 30ish and quite pretty.  A loyal employee, this high functioning young woman had lived in her own apartment for years.  She had never qualified for support from Agency for Persons with Disabilites.  However, a local agency took her under its wings and provided supported living services for her. 

A few years ago, she GRADUATED from supported living.  She had a job and was well regarded by her employee and co-worker.  She was a clean freak who kept her apartment squeaky immaculate.  She had friends.  Yes, she was living in a bad apartment complex in the worst part of town but it was all she could afford.  Without any external supports, there was not way she would be able to get another apartment.

She had a brutal childhood but her determination made her buckle under and become a better person, because of what she had endured. 

She was a great success story.

Monday, they found her murdered in her apartment.

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