October 2009

Here is some commentary on the worship questions Special Gathering struggled with during our retreat.  On Friday evening, we listed these in order of importance to us. That is we tried to determine which our teachers and volunteers (our elders) think are important.

1) What do we like? I think often this becomes the primary issue that determines what worship services for mentally challenged persons look like. Those who are in charge often structure a worship service that is meaningful to them (those in charge) or they structure a worship service they feel would be meaningful to children.

2) What is educationally sound? This became an issue for me personally when I realized that most of my sermons were not educationally sound. We often used object lessons that were figurative. The first video we made of The Special Gathering showed me with some test tubes. One of the test tubes (which was ¾ full of a clear liquid) represented a person. There was a second test tube that I poured into the first that represented sin. Now the first test tube turned blacked (to ooh and ahs). Yet the third test tube which had red liquid in it (representing the blood of Jesus) was poured into the first test tube turning it clear again (to yet more ooh and ahs). A mentally challenged person has to mentally make abstract connections between test tubes being humans, The devil, and Jesus. Even though people enjoyed the trick I think they missed the point. The object lesson did not make it easier to understand and in fact may make it harder to understand. One of our teachers asked me lately, “how many of our members could tell you who Moses is?” I then asked myself what was important for our members to know? For me the list would be Christ and Cross focused. Also knowing we are sinners.

3) What is theologically correct? For the purpose of this discussion we are not referring to your systematic theology or belief system. The issue to be considered is weather there is a correct way to “do” worship and an incorrect way to “do” worship. Or is it only a matter of preference? I like contemporary music, you like hymns and yet someone else likes southern gospel, but are they all equally valid? Are there types of worship that are false fire (Lev 10:1-3, Heb 9:1). Or are there things you just should not do like – You just shouldn’t do communion with Mountain Dew and Dorritos? 1 Cor. 14 is about what should not happen in worship. One of the standards used is what the unbeliever would think.

4) What is meaningful to those attending? This really is not about the service being “seeker friendly” as much as it is about worship being ‘man” centered or “God” centered. Are our sermons more about what we need (how to have a better marriage, more happiness, better finances, etc) or is it about the greatness of God, the cross and the sinfulness of man.

5) What does God likes? Are there types or styles or forms of worship that are more pleasing to God? If we are to give God our best does He prefer more sophisticated music over simplistic music? Does it sadden God when we dress better for a job interview than to worship Him? Does he want our first fruits and not our leftovers? a) Those that have liked more traditional worship to high worship have at time made the case that contemporary/charismatic worship was not up to par and looked down on it. b) Likewise many who liked contemporary/charismatic worship felt that others were just missing God. That they were more spiritual. c) If God does not have a preference then it does not matter what we do. d) What is in Spirit and in Truth.

6) Disability Sensibilities? How does the culture we are trying to reach change what we do? It is the puppet/clown question. Many if not most of the people we serve are offended by being treated like children. So do we never use puppets or clowns?

7) Good enough for retarded people? No one would ever say that, but it can become an attitude we have. Does it empower mentally challenged persons? What part of what we do can be done by our members. Parts of worship like praying, scripture reading, etc.

8) Is it being well done? Doing everything as well as it can be done. Is this the way you would do “it” in your home church? If not, why not? Is it different because of the needs of mentally challenged persons or is it different because we put less effort into “it” when “it” is for persons with disabilities.

9) Being mystical? We know that when we worship something is happening on the spiritual domain. That none of us are able to reach God so God reaches us. That is what Jesus is all about. How important is cognitive understanding?

This is a comment submitted by Richard Stimson to the Friday, October 30 post.

Because our retreat begins tonight, I will be posting highlights from the retreat regularly.  However, I wanted to post an article I received from Prime Time with God.  I get daily e-mails from them.  If you are interested in receiving these you can e-mail them.  The address is below. 

Worship and Work
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 2, by Os Hillman

“One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike” (Rom 14:5).

Avodah (Ah´-voe-dah) is a Hebrew noun used in the Bible that has two distinct yet intertwined meanings: worship and work. It is also derived from the Hebrew verb L’Avod which has two meanings; to work and also to worship. The dual meaning offers powerful wisdom for modern times for how we are to view our work lives.

Work, if done with integrity and unto God, is a form of worship in the biblical Hebrew context. There has never been a concept of segmenting our work from our faith life in the Bible. It is in the realm of the sacred to bring God into our everyday life. Hebrews did not set aside a “day of worship,” such as Saturday or Sunday, but everyday is a place and time of worship. They did set aside a Sabbath day of rest.

It is a western idea to segment one’s faith life from our work like. In the Middle East and Asia, their cultures would never separate their faith from their work life even though their faith foundations might clearly contradict Christian beliefs. When someone comes to faith in Christ from this area of the world, they have an easier time of assimilating their faith into their work because they have always done so.

God calls us to do our work as an act of worship to Him. Our work is not to be a place of sweat and toil, but an expression of our love, faith and adoration of Jesus Christ. Today, before you work, ask God to help you see your work in a new way ? as worship to Him.

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Richard Stimson has come up with a list of questions he developed that which he believes effect how people evaluate worship.  These questions will be the jumping in place for the Special Gathering Retreat held on Friday, October 30 and Saturday October 31.  Here are the questions.  Perhaps you have others that you believe should also be considered.  In fact, feel free to hop into the wrestling match.

  1. What do we/I like?
  2. What is educationally sound?
  3. What is theologically correct?
  4. What is meaningful to those attending?
  5. What does God likes?
  6. Disability Sensibilities?
  7. Good enough for retarded people?
  8. Does it empower mentally challenged persons?
  9. Is it being well done?
  10. Being mystical?
  11. Other  

Stimson says that he has not been original in what he is doing.  He took work by Dr. Harold Westing for Denver Seminary and applied it to what Special Gathering does, hoping this will stimulate conversation and reflection regarding effective worship within the mentally challenged community.


Pam is a member of our Vero program.  She is in the hospital with viral pneumonia, in critical care.  She is also in semi-isolation.  She cannot confirm because she doesn’t know if she has swine flu and the hospital staff cannot tell me.  Pam has no family in the area. 

As you probably know, it is not the flu that is life threatening but the viral pneumonia that takes lives.  Pam is having an operation to drain the fluid from her lungs.  Please pray for Pam. 

She is an active member and a faithfully attends our choir.  Pam is one of our higher functioning members.  In addition, she is a member of a local Lutheran church.  Several of the church members who were friends of her mother’s before she died have adopted her.  They take her places and see to her personal care needs.  One of our more quirky members, Pam is delightful to have around.  Of course, she can also make everyone miserable with her idiosyncratic mannerisms.

Pam’s gifting is in the area of evangelism.  Each Christmas Pam has a row or two of people that she has urged to attend our Special Gathering Play.  And they come.  She is able to gather people around her in a positive way. 

Again, please pray for Pam.  She has great value to many people.

Have you ever been like Abraham and Sarah?  God had promised something wonderful and you are tired of waiting?  Of course, this impatience only produces an Ishmael that will cause contention and pain for years.

Often I tend to blame the Ishmael’s in my life, rather than put the blame for the trouble produced where it is needed, squarely on my shoulders.  In ministry, I believe that we are constantly in danger of producing Ishmael’s.  Of course, our purpose is only for the good of the ministry.  We only have the goodwill and future spiritual growth of our members at heart but…  Producing an Ishmael is never a good plan.

The past few years, our Melbourne program has seen no growth.  We would gain a member.  Then we would lose a member.  You know the process.  No growth always leads to death.  That could be an actual quick death or a slow dying process that eats at the inner being of the ministry. 

I seemed to be able to do nothing but pray.  People would sometimes ask, “What is your growth plan?”  I had to admit that I could not come up with anything. 

In the past, I’ve fallen into the trap of wanting growth more than God.  Perhaps, it’s my age, but this time I’ve been willing to wait on God to move.  It appears that he has.  This Sunday, with new members coming each week this month, our numbers were up above the norm.  I am grateful that God has begun to move again, touching hearts and bringing in new members and bringing back others.

God will do what he has promised but the danger is not being able to wait.  Then our impatience produces an Ishmael.  Has your impatience ever produced an Ishmael?  How have you been able to work around your Ishmael?

This is the content of a letter sent from APD signed by Jim DeBeaugrine, Director, to Family Care Council.  It’s a bit of a smooze job.  However, I thought would want to read this.   For some odd reason, it would not copy directly, therefore, I had to type it into the post.  If you would like to give your own very positive feedback, please respond by phone at 866 273 2273 or online at http://apd.myflorida.com or wirte to Director Debeaugrine at 4030 Esplanade Way, Suite 380, Tallahassee, FL  32399 0950. 

October 19, 2009

Dear Family Care Council Members,

We have completed the last of our seven public meetings to share the news about APD’s new initiatives.  The feedback we received was very positive.  Consumers, families and providers especially appreciate the chance to ask questions, provide comments, and hear responses.  I also enjoyed the opportunity to speak directly with those we serve and those involved in making those services happen.  The family Care Councils’ involvement in helping to organize and publicize these meetings was key to their success and I am very grateful to you.

Agency staff is responding to the large number of questions asked at these meetings.  We will be posting these questions and resonses of general iterest on our website by early November.  Links will be e-mailed to you once they are posted.  However, we are responding individually to those questions which address personal situations.

Other feedback we received was taht attendees wanted more dtails about he initiative.s  As I mentionned during the meetings we are planning anouther round of events to share more information once the plan for individual budget (iBudget Florida) has been further developed.  We are tentatively planning those for January 2010.  In the meantime, we’ll be sharing information through out website.  Loook for more information on specific links in a future e-mail.

Again, thanks for your support of these recent meetings, and thanks for all you do to help those we serve,


Jim DeBeaugrine


The Church Worships God

II Chronicles 29:31

Central Theme:  The job of the Church is to worship God.

Introduction–Bring a watch that does not work.  Throw it away.  Bring a straw with a hole in it.  Throw it away.  I don‘t use things that don‘t work.  I am so glad that worship is such an effective tool that God has given to us, the Church.  Have a member read II Chronicles 29:31.

       I.     Tell the story of King Hezekiah. 

              A. He became king of Judah at 25.

              B. He restored the temple and made the preachers do the things they needed to do to serve God.

              C. He told the people to clean themselves up and come to worship God.

      II.     Worshiping with other Christians is a powerful tool.

              A. Show my new box of tools that have not been taken out of the box.

              B  Some of us sit in a worship service but we get no benefit from it.

              C. You don‘t sing or pray or give or listen.

              D. You love Special Gathering and you would not miss one Sunday coming but you get no benefit.

      III.     The Benefits you can get               

              A. Singing–you get to bless God because he blesses you. And singing is fun.

              B. Prayer you get to talk to God with others who are also talking to him.  He answers our prayers

              C. Giving–you get to put your money into the church and God multiplies it with the money of everyone else.  You cannot out give God.

              D. Listening and learning–you can learn about Jesus and he can help you with all your needs.

Conclusion  Worship is important and it is what the church does.

This article was taken from Aaron Nangle’s newsletter.  If you aren’t on his mailing list, you should be.  You may subscribe by e-mailing Waiverinfo@aol.com

CDC PLUS is being expanded
CDC + or Consumer Directed Care is a program where consumers direct their own care and manage their allocated monthly budgets. APD hopes to enroll 5,000 people in the next two years.

A letter and information package is being mailed out regarding interest in the expanding CDC+ program. It is now posted on the APD website as well. It is being sent to individuals currently enrolled in the Home and Community Based Services Waiver who reside in their own home or in their family home. So if you are on the wait list you are still waiting for services.

The handbook For the CDC+ program is 90 pages. Before you decide if you would like to take part in this program. I want you to be aware of a concern I have. Whether those already on the program have read it and realize what if any changes may take place. Changes will be instituted that could change what you are used to. If you are new to the program make sure you are prepared for the new rules and changes. It will be very important for people to understand what they are signing up for.

Included in the packet is the information about each of the Family Care Council areas around the state. Each one is having a meeting that you can attend for even more information on the CDC+ program.

The mission of the Family Care Council Florida is to advocate, educate, and empower individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, partnering with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), to bring quality services to individuals for dignity and choice.

Click one of the links below to see the letter being sent out by APD

  • Ms. Liesl Ramos began as the new CDC+ Program Administrator effective June 12, 2009. Ms. Ramos has a wealth of experience in the APD service system and has most recently moved to APD from the Department of Health in the Early Steps Program. Ms. Ramos will be leading the expansion of the CDC+ program this upcoming year. Contact information for Ms. Ramos is:Liesl V. Ramos
    Program Administrator
    Consumer Directed Care Plus
    Agency for Persons with Disabilities
    4030 Esplanade Way, Suite 360R
    Tallahassee, FL 32399-0950

    Customer Service:1-866-761-7043
    Fax Number: 1-888-329-2731

Last Sunday, I invited 15 of our members and volunteers to come to our home for lunch.  The preparation for a large meal of 15 people can be overwhelming or it can be kept simple.  I served three kinds of pasta and three sauces with a large salad, pizza bread and a dessert.  It took me exactly 30 minutes to cook the entire meal. In truth, it took longer to reheat it after church, set the table and get ice in the glasses than it did to cook the meal.

Here are a few secrets I’ve learned over the years.

  1. This sounds simple but don’t sweat the small stuff.  If a bedroom isn’t spotlessly clean, close the door.
  2. Keep the menu simple. 
  3. If you don’t have time to prepare a meat, serve fried chicken as your main course. Most grocery store chains carry fried chicken that is cooked fresh in the store.  It is inexpensive and almost everyone loves it.  Your local store may also carry roasted chicken. 
  4. The menu can consist of:  Chicken, salad, rice or baked potatoes, a vegatable.  Dessert can be a store bought plain cake with ice cream on top and a prepared sauce.
  5. It is allowed to use the prepare salads from the grocery store.  Add a tomato, if you desire.
  6. For your vegetable, try serving frozen petite peas.  They cook in the microwave or on the stove top in five minutes and they are better tasting than their larger brothers.
  7. In simple terms, you can serve a large casserole or speghetti or lasana with a salad, simple dessert and people will love it and you. 

Other menu suggestions are

  1. A large leafy green salad topped with broiled chicken or fish and shredded cheese.  With both of these meats, the problem can be overcooking them.  They can be prepared quickly. 
  2. Pot roast cooked the night before with potatoes, onions and carrots.  Serve with rice and a salad. 
  3. Top a large dish of prepared stuffing  from a box with a chicken breast for each person eating.  Let them bake together until the chicken is cooked.  Serve with a large salad and dessert.
  4. Serve a salad plate with potato salad, leafy green salad, slice tomatoes and top with a thin slice of your favorite cheese, put a canned pear on a lettace leaf, top with yogart, sour cream or mayonnaise and cheese.  Add a relish of pickles.  Put on a deviled egg.  Slice into strips lunch meat.  It is great meal that takes minutes.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to slave all day to have guests.  Your members will be thrilled to be invited to come to your home.  The Bible teaches that we are to be people who practice hospitality.  Keep it simple and everyone, including you, will have a wonderful time  of friendship and building lasting relationships.

I carry our chapel program in my van.  Each week, The Special Gathering of Indian River meets in two locations.  Saturday, we are in Vero.  Sunday, we are in Melbourne.  In addition, there are chapel programs that meet on Sundays in Cocoa and Titusville.  There are other programs that meets in South Carolina and Jacksonville.  During the week, two Volusia programs meet.

Over the years, we’ve all learned a few things about equipment survival and self-preservation when you carry church with you.  I say self-preservation because there is nothing more defeating than arriving at your program only to find that you have left a vital piece of equipment somewhere across the state.

Here are a couple of things we have learned over the years:

  1. If possible have more than one set of equipment.  Ask the facility you are borrowing, if you can use a locked closet to store your equipment.  This is the optimum way to travel from one venue to another.  However, this is the most tricky because you must have a great working relationship with the church or owners of the facility to merit this kind of favor.
  2. Barring this, do not attempt to transfer your equipment from your car or van each week. 
  3. Make your trunk or the back of your van your equipment storage unit. 
  4. Eliminating the number of times you must move the equipment also eliminates the number of times you will leave an amplifier or a microphone in a place it should not be.
  5. Purchase the best equipment you can afford.  Buying cheap doesn’t pay in this regard.  Moving your things from one place to another is difficult, especially on delicate sound equipment.  Therefore, purchase the best you can afford.
  6. The Fender company has a portable sound station that includes a good quality sound board, amplifier and speakers.  There is even a microphone included.  This is built sturdy enough to withstand most abuse you can thow at it.  We have found nothing like it in the world of sound.  It isn’t cheap but it also isn’t expensive for what you get.
  7. Personally check and recheck your equipment each time you leave one place to travel to another.  I check the equipment in my van.  Then I also go back into the building and check to be sure that all my wires and mikes and stuff is gone from the building.
  8. Learn the things you are most likely to leave somewhere.  Be sure that you also recheck that one thing that seems to hid from you when you are transferring your equipment.  It is usually a small things.  For me it is an electrical wall adapter or my offering plates.  If possible, try to have spare of this piece of equipment that you carry with you. 

Leading a chapel without walls can be exciting and frustrating.  Eliminating as much of the frustration as possible will make it even more exciting.

What are some of the ways you’ve learned to make your life traveling easier?  What is the thing you lose most often?  What can you do to eliminate the frustration of lost stuff?

At Special Gathering there is an understanding of the workings of each denominational system and how their support is distributed.  This is a powerful tool in obtaining support from local churches.  People are surprised and happy to know that you care enough about their system to learn how their funding apparatus works.

Another thing we study and try to master are the expectations of different denominations.  As a gift, our executive director gave to me the book, How to Be a Perfect Stranger.  It is billed as “the essential religious etiquette handbook.”  It was the winner of the Best Reference Book of the Year award.   Edited by Stuart M. Matlins, this is a must have book if you are seeking funding across denominational lines. 

Matlins took information obtained directly from each of the religions and denomination.  This is an indispensable handbook on what to expect and what will be expected of you when you attend different worship services.   A paperback book, the cost is reasonable–$13.95 at Amazon.com–for this excellent reference volume.

After Hurricane Andrew

After Hurricane Andrew

Often when I travel to other parts of the US and even around the world, people ask me about the hurricanes.  They express their fear that they might one day get caught in a hurricane.  When I tell them that I live two blocks from the ocean, something like terror crosses their face.  “Aren’t you afraid?” is always their next question.

This is a new phenomenon and one that puzzles me.  The truth is that anyone who gets caught in a bad hurricane is either stupid or extremely arrogant.  Sure there are extreme and rare cases like Andrew which was a category one storm not headed in the direction of south Florida when people went to bed and they were awaken a few hours later to a category five storm that had sped up and was crashing around them.  But the Andrews are the rare exceptions.

And when we evacuate, we leave our houses and property to the fate of the winds and rains; but it’s not any worse than what most people experience sometime during the year with tornados and floods and snow storms hit their areas.  In fact, it’s a great deal better because we can leave the island; and we have days of preparation time.

“But people don’t have any place to go,”  I’m often told.  My comeback is that there are shelters set up all over the state to accomodate people who don’t have a place to go and can’t afford a hotel. 

What isn’t often told but is true, nevertheless, in some of the more recent and serious storms, people suffered terribly in their homes, while shelters stood empty or half empty only a few miles from their residences.  Before the storm, officials begged people to leave the area.  But the people were too self-assured to leave their homes until it was too late.  Then the tax payer had to pay the bill to rescue them from their roofs.  Warning had been given hours and days before; but there were a myriad of excuses used to stay.  The bottom line was “it won’t happen to me.”  That is either stupid or arrogant.

What actually does concern me and many other people  is that some of our most vulnerable members of society were not properly cared for during the past stormy events. Advocates and families have been assured that proper precautions have been taken to provide for the needs of people who are mentally challenged and live in independent situations.  Yet it has been four years since the last big storm has hit our area.  Time causes stupidity and arrogance to grow.  The mentally challenged community is aware of the dangers; but they remain captives of a government system that sometimes doesn’t provide proper care for them during emergencies.

For those of us who work within this community, our prayer is that with this next storm (and there will be another one) proper care will be taken and the most vulnerable people  will be the most safe.  Anything other than that is either arrogance or stupidity.

I’m not sure that it was the right Sunday but this week some of our volunteers did a simple ceremony to thank me as their pastor.  I was really humbled by their throughtfulness. 

The whole thing started me thinking.  Do I do enough to show our Special Gathering volunteers how much I appreciate them and their service?   We do several things in Special Gathering of Indian River.  We have an Elder’s Appreciation Day the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  We give them gifts and pray for them.  We also have an annual retreat.  Both things are meant to bless and show our appreciation to the wonderful volunteers who faithfully serve year after year.  In our Brevard programs, which meet in Cocoa and Titusville, they have a monthly prayer time and fellowship supper at a local pizza joint.  Their volunteers find great value in this time of fellowship, prayer and fun.

All of this is good.  Yet, I could not help but wonder if we do enough to show our appreciation and love for the people who give and give and give.  We often say, “Our volunteers get to do whatever they want to do.”  In reality, they probably don’t REALLY WANT to give up hours in their week to transport, teach, serve, bake and do other “foot washing” assignments.  But they find value in their service and they come back year after year.

What are some of the things you do for your volunteers?  Do we as paid staff sometimes forget the service that our volunteers give so freely?  Do we sometimes expect from others more than we are willing to give of ourselves?

God protects Me

Psalm 46:1

Central Theme:   God knows when we are in danger.  He will help and protect us. 

Introduction–The night I broke my leg, I was surprised.  I did not know that I was going to break my leg.  The day that Frank broke his ankle, we were all surprised.  I sometimes wish that God would always let me know when I am in danger.  Sometimes, I know; most of the time, I don’t.  But God always knows when you are in danger and He protects you.  Have a member read Psalm 46:1.

       I.     Tell the story of Jesus in the boat with a great storm  (Mark 4:1-2, 35, 41).

              1.  His followers were terrified and they were fishermen.

             2.  Jesus was asleep on the boat.

             3.  Jesus wanted to know why they were afraid when he was on the boat.

      II.     Jesus calmed the storm and he can give us calm in our lives also.

              A. Jesus wanted to disciples to be calm in the middle of the storm.

                   1.  When they were not calm, he make the sea calm.

                   2.  Jesus wants us to learn that no danger can hurt us unless he allows it.

              B. When Jesus allows hurt to get to us, he will teach us many things.

     III.     How we can be calm in the middle of danger.

              A. Plan ahead to be calm and to trust God.

              B. Repeat verses that will remind you that God loves you.

              C. Ask God for help.

              D. Ask others for help.

Conclusion: Danger will happen to all of us but God wants to protect us.

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