November 2009

About 15 years ago, I realized that I had lost much of my balance.  It is perhaps a chronic inner ear thing.  However, wanting to increase my balance I began exercising everyday.  From the beginning, I hated it.  There was no joy or delight in getting up each morning an hour earlier than my normal routine and “sweating to the oldies” or the newbies.  Christian music didn’t adjust my rotten attitude.

However, over the months and years, I found that something began to happen to me.  I was able to maneuver better.  That chronic pain in my neck was gone, if I worked it each morning.  Fortunately, the idiots on the TV who conducted my exercise program through their daily torture sessions were consistent to insure that I rotated and moved my neck appropriately. 

One morning I missed my exercising and I truly missed it.  Over the years, I continued my program.  There are weeks that I take off when I’m on vacation or have a house full of guests.  Yet, I’ve remain consistent because of the benefits that I’ve seen in my flexibility and overall well-being.

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he tells him that bodily exercise is good.  No.  Paul doesn’t overplay the importance but he does say that it’s beneficial. 

Several years ago, my husband and I were at his physical therapist’s office.  There was a woman there who could do amazing things with her body.  She was the most flexible person I had ever met.  She maneuvered the mats with such agility and grace.  Both my husband and I sat and watched her in amazement.  As she dismounted the mat, I remarked to my husband, Frank, “It is remarkable what she can do for a person who is paralyzed from the waist down.”

“She isn’t paralyzed,”  he said in an almost mocking tone.

“Yes, she is,” I confirmed pointing to her as she reached for her wheel chair and positioned her legs to be able to sit in the chair.

I’ve seen many people with disabilities who sit and let their bodies become temples of lethargy and misuse.  While I know there are many people out there, she was the first paralyzed older person I’d seen who seemed to fully understand how important movement and stress is to keeping her overall well-being.

Within the time parameters and restrains we have in our Christian programs, it is good to occasionally underscore that our bodies are the temple of God’s Holy Spirit.

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 make 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 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 benefi

     III.     The Benefits you can get               

              A. Singing–you get to bless God because he blesses you.

               B. Prayer you get to talk to God with other who are also talking to him.

              C. Giving–you get to put your money in and God multiplies it with the money of everyone else.

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

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

November, 2009

RE:     A Conference on Faith and Disability

We are very excited to inform you of our upcoming, second annual conference on January 22-23, 2010, entitled “A Conference on Faith and Disability.”  The conference is hosted by Access Ministry of Northland: A Church Distributed, in Longwood, Florida.

This is a unique time for the community as we continue to grow in welcoming those from across Florida and beyond. The opportunity to gather each year is powerful – we link persons with disabilities, their families and friends, caregivers, ministry personnel across all denominations, and community and faith-based organizations together under one roof.  It differs from most other disability-related conferences in that the discussion of access to and inclusion within the faith community is an integral part of the conference.

You have the opportunity to join with us in this exciting event!  As an exhibitor, you will be a great asset to the conference.  You will benefit from the exposure to those in attendance, many who are learning about disability-related issues for the first time.  The resource and information you provide will be a great service to our attendees.

Vendor display hours will run as follows during the conference: 

Friday, Jan. 22 – 3:00-5:00 pm                   Vendor Set-up

Friday, Jan. 22 – 5:00-9:00 pm                   Vendor Exhibits Open

Saturday, Jan. 23 – 8:00 am – 2:00 pm     Vendor Exhibits Open

Saturday, Jan. 23 – 2:00-3:30 pm              Vendor Break-down

This year features dedicated Exhibitor Hall time with no scheduled speakers or break-out sessions.  Those times will be 5:00-6:30 p.m. on Friday during registration, 8:00-9:00 a.m. on Saturday, and again during lunch break on Saturday from 12:30-1:30 p.m.  In fact, attendees will be seated for lunch in the same hall with the vendors.

With the purchase of an exhibitor table, you will receive:

  • A six foot, cloth-covered display table, with free electrical hook-up.
  • Full registration for two representatives of your organization to man the exhibit (the registration includes snacks, continental breakfast, and lunch, as well as admittance to keynote and workshop sessions).  Please note however, all vendor tables will be open during the entire conference, and will need at least one representative at the table at all times.  You will be able to include one or two more representatives of your organization for an additional cost.
  • Listing in the conference program booklet which all participants, vendors, and conference volunteers will receive.
  • The opportunity to interact with a variety of attendees.
  • And most important — the distinction of participating in a unique outreach effort to support and encourage those with disabilities, their families, and interested community and faith-based personnel. 

For full conference information as well as Vendor Registration, go to:

We trust you will find the conference of interest and ask that you to share the information with others.

Confirmation of your participation will be sent upon receipt of your registration.  A vendor packet will then be sent closer to the actual conference date.  Please note that vendor space will be limited to the first twenty registrants – we hope you are one of them!

Please feel free to contact Laura Lee Wright, Director, Access Ministry, at Northland Church, at 407/937-0549 or, with further questions.

Many thanks for your consideration —



Laura Lee Wright

Conference Team Member

Is Thanksgiving really about the meal or the soft touches of love that follow that festive time of fun and fellowship.  Sure there is always someone who gets her feelings hurt.  And there is usually one person who isn’t satisfied with the menu.  But our minds and hearts must cling to and embrace the mellow times of love and tenderness.

A good friend told me that her son in law came up to her after everyone had eaten.  She had rushed to the utility room, trying to find another clean, dry dish towel when she felt a touch on her back and a gentle male voice said, “Mom.” 

She turned half expecting a complaint.  But he stood tall but wavering, “I want you to know that I’m most thankful for you.  You make all of this happen for all of us.”  They embraced and returned to the bustle of the group.

I had a similar experience this thanksgiving.  There were ten of us gathered at the table.  Six of them were members of Special Gathering.  They ate heartily.  Betty was insulted that I offered her baked tomatoes because she was sure that she would hate them.  Morris ate all of his meal.  Then when he was offered seconds, he said, “I guess all if really want is for you to give me some potato salad.  You can’t have Thanksgiving without potato salad.”  We all laughed because there were 15 different dishes but no potato salad.

However, when they left the hugs and thank you’s were unanimous.  “You are the best,” Kathy said.  When we talked about what we were thankful for all the Special Gathering members said with one voice, “You, Linda.  We are thankful for you.”

Some folks wonder why those of us at Special Gathering do what we do.  But it only takes one Thanksgiving to confirm that the blessings of God flow abundantly through our members into the hearts of those who minister to them.  They are the best.

Today, I’m cooking and eating a great Thanksgiving feast.  Our son, Mark, is here from Hawaii.  He is celebrating the publication of his book, Sea Turtles A-Z.  He was the illustrator. Mara Hixon was the author/publisher.  It is a bitter/sweet time because none of my grandchildren are here and I’m not at their home. 

However, we’ll been able to share our meal with five of The Special Gathering members who weren’t able to join their families for the day.  Some of them have outlived their parents and siblings.  With others, family is not living in town.   

Paul tells Timothy in I Timothy 3: 2 that Christian leadership should be “ready to welcome guests.”   It is, in fact, a great honor to host grateful and gracious people, such as folks within the mentally challenged community. 

I thank God for our nation and for all the blessings He has flourished on the Howard family. 

A few days ago, I read a sign that said, “If you can’t think of anything to be thankful for.  Feel your pulse.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is interesting what people call gifts from God.  In reality, the scriptures are pretty clear what gifts from the Lord are.  In Romans 12:6 to 8, we learn that God, the Father, gives every person a gift.  They are prophet, server, teacher, encourager, giver, leader, and mercy.  Jesus said that the Father sends rain and sunshine on the just and the unjust.  He gives his gifts to all mankind.

In I Corinthians, the gift of the Spirit are given.  Interesting, it appears that these gifts are used by people, as the Spirit desires, but they are not GIVEN but remain with the Spirit.  Paul said, “These are different ways that God works through people but the same God.”  While the Father gives gifts to every person, these gifts are given only to Christians.  They are wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophesy, discernment of spirits, speaking in different languages and interpretation of those languages. 

In Ephesians 5, Paul again gives another list of gifts.  They are gifts given by Jesus for the church as a body.  They are people who serve in the church:  apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.   Paul said, “Christ gave those gifts to prepare God’s holy people for the work of serving, to make the body of Christ stronger.”

Within the mentally challenged community, it is evident that our members also have the gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in their lives.  Many of our members naturally show mercy.  Jack is a natural leader.  When taught the gifts, our members understand and they identify with the gifts that are operating their lives.

Paul instructed Timothy, “Use the gift given to you” (I Timothy 4:14). While Timothy was a prodigy of Paul, every person should use her gifting in ways that will build up the church.  Serving and ministering in appropriate ways is necessary.  Will mentally challenged people make mistakes.  Of course, they will.  However, it should be encouraging to the body of Christ that God desires to use every person.

Tim was born with a disability.  His parents weren’t sure that God would ever be able to use it.  It was the greatest sadness in their lives.  However, one day they heard the Special Gathering choir sing.  They left the meeting knowing that God could and would use their precious son.  Two years ago, Tim joined the Special Gathering choir.  He is a great asset.  His gift is not singing but God uses his gifts of mercy and encouraging when he sings.   

God is so good to us that he gives each person at least one gift.   And as a bonus,  he will give us opportunities to use our gifts to bless others–not matter what your problem or disability.

In the scriptures, we are told that the Christian life is a mystery.  In fact, Proverbs teaches that it is God’s glory to hid many things but it is man’s glory to uncover these secrets of nature and eternal life.  In Paul’s letters he often talks about the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection.  We are told that we won’t understand everything.  However, we are reminded that many things are clear enough. 

These uncovered mysteries are the simple principles of life and I’ve found in my 21 years of working with people who are mentally challenged that simple principles are often best learned from simple lives. 

In the past months, I’ve been watching Toni learn, and I’m  learning from her.  Toni is short of statue with mousy brown hair.  Because of the adverse circumstances of her life, Toni is an extreme extrovert.  Everything about her countenance and her fashion shouts, “Don’t look at me!”  She is pretty certain that no one is concerned about her or her situation. 

However, when Toni faced a serious operation for cancer, she became a forceful advocate for herself.  Each time we met, she requested prayer.  It wasn’t out of fear.  I had seen fear on her face.  No.  These prayer requests were from a sincere belief that God cared for her and wanted to heal her.  She would quietly make her way into the prayer line that is an intricate part of our Special Gathering chapel services and say, “I need prayer.”  Once she told me, “God wants to heal me.”

The operation was intricate, rare and delicate.   The outcome is still uncertain.  But Toni is secure in one thing.  In the end, it is the most important thing she will ever learn. God loves her.  Toni and I became a close friends after she joined the choir.  Because of her health, she has not been able to attend.   One day after I had inquired about her health, she whispered to me .  “God wants to heal me but I need to do my part.  The doctor says for me to be careful.  And that is what I’m doing.”

Teresa is another person who is learning these simple principles of life.  Teresa was a young woman when I met her 15 years ago.  It’s been a adventure to observe how she has matured over the years.  Her mind is simpler than many of our members.  However, raised by her father, he playfully pushed her beyond her abilities.  Because of his joy-filled,  playful, positive manipulation, she is able to do far more than the prognosis of any medical professional. 

But verbal prayer remained a mystery to her.  I’m sure that she prays; yet she never wanted to attempt to pray out loud.  Because her speech patterns are confused, she is careful who she talks in front of and she is leery of  her conduct in regard to talking.  Nevertheless, a few weeks ago when I asked the choir who would like to lead us in prayer, she raised her hand. 

Trying to keep my extreme joy from being exposed in my voice, I attempted to calmly say, “Teresa, you need to say, ‘Thank you, Lord for our choir practice.’  Keep your prayer simple.”

Teresa prayed and I rejoiced.  She is learning and she is growing.  Of course, the Christian life is a mystery.  Like you and me, Toni and Teresa won’t learn everything.  But many things are clear enough and as we grow we are able to go beyond our abilities–beyond the expectations of others–discovering the mysteries of our faith.

Next Page »