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:

http://www.northlandchurch.net/calendar/details/faithdisability_conference/

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 lauraleewright@northlandchurch.net, 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.

Peter’s disability causes him to have many inappropriate behaviors.  He can be disruptive and even rude.  Yet, I would never consider Peter a troublemaker.

Because of Laurie’s disability, she is unable to control her appetite.  It’s an uncontrollable urge that drives her every moment of the day.  She must be watched one on one.  Her food seduction makes her manipulative and sneaky.  But Laurie isn’t a true troublemaker.

I’ve found that in our community of believers, it is not those people who have overt, inappropriate behaviors that are the troublemakers.  Paul warned Timothy in his second letter, “Beware of trouble makers.”  But who are they?

We’ve found that the gossips in our community are the real troublemakers.  They are the people who stir up interesting bits of gossip and misunderstanding, generously pouring into the fusion people’s reputations.  They continue to stir and blend unhealthy ingredients until every person’s character and moral fiber have been incorporated into the mixing bowl.  They then insert their unhealthy concoction into the oven of suspicion and guilt and out pops a batch of trouble. 

These are the true troublemakers within our cloistered subculture. Unfortunately, our community isn’t unique.  Their wares appear in the most Christ-like as well as the most desperate of environments.  Using their tasty baked goods, talebearers are able to ruin even the most sterling of reputations.  Good qualities of a person’s character can be distorted into warped caricatures to be mocked and despised. 

Sure, troublemakers do come in all forms, shapes and sizes.  Human nature can concoct amazing distortions.  Nonetheless, pastors and group leaders who deal with divergent populations will attest that occasionally, most people will cause distractions and disruptions.  While these are pesky, they can be dealt with more easily than the chronic cancer of the gossip.  He  is the one person who maims and destroys.

Paul gives good advice.  He says to watch out for these troublemakers.  He is also saying, “Beware.”  It isn’t hard to assume that he is indicating that we should recognize their skillful, divisive actions.  Paul doesn’t give any concrete ways to avoid such folks.  Perhaps because they are found in every group and situation.  Their influence is undeniable and pervasive.  Therefore, being on guard against the destruction they can cause may be the best weapon that can be used in defense of the innocent.

We must tell about Jesus

Acts 5:20 and 21

Central Theme:  Each of us should tell other people about God’s new life.

Introduction–I collect rocks.  I have rocks from around the world. I love my rocks.  The only problem is that I didn’t label them so I don’t remember where my rocks came from.  China?  Hawaii?  Spain?  SC?  VA? Illinois?  I can show people my rocks but I can’t tell people about my rocks because I don’t know what I should know about the rocks from all over the world.  Sometimes our relationship with Jesus is like that.  We know we are Christians but we can’t share with others because we are afraid that we don’t know enough.   Have a member read Act 3:20 and 21. 

       I.     The apostles had a different problem with telling people about Jesus.

              A. They were in jail.

          B. An angel came and let them out and told them something very important.

              C. They were arrested again but this time they were warned.

              D. They told the government officials that they had to obey God rather than men.

      II.     There is a story that must be told to the world.  It is a simple story that any one can tell.

              A. Jesus loves you and Jesus died for you. 

                   1.  Jesus has changed my life

              B. I think the problem is that most of us don’t really want Jesus to change our lives.

                   1.  We want fire insurance.

                        A. We don’t want to go to hell.

                   2.  These men and women in Acts were on fire for Jesus.

                        A. They did not care what other people thought or said.

                        B. They did not care how badly they were hurt.

              3.  Jesus had done something in their lives and they wanted everyone to know.

     III.     We need to ask God to really do something in our lives–to change us.

              A. Because you are disabled, you can have a great impact on people‘s lives.

              B. A mother within the disability community told me about a friend of her’s who died.  This woman had a severe disability.  At her funeral, this mother realized that we can help to change the world by living a life that tells others about Jesus and by telling people that we are different because we love Him.

Conclusions:  We are to share the good news with others.

Here is an e-mail I received from Family Cafe.
Dear Friend,
 
We would like to pass along some resources regarding H1N1 and people
with disabilities that we received from the US Department of Health
and Human Services.
 
The DHHS office for People with Disabilities can be found online at
www.hhs.gov/od/ <javascript:void(0);/*1258733886733*/>
.
You can also visit www.flu.gov/, where there is information on the
flu for parents, seniors, caregivers and individuals with special
health care needs. The disability specific page can be found at
www.flu.gov/individualfamily/healthconditions/disabilities/index.html
<javascript:void(0);/*1258733900326*/>
.
Finally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also has a page
dedicated to H1N1 and persons with disabiltiies at
www.flu.gov/individualfamily/healthconditions/disabilities/index.html
<javascript:void(0);/*1258733914342*/>
.
Please take a few moments to check out these sites and get some
information on H1N1 and people with disabilities.
 
Thanks,
 
The Family Cafe

Paul, the apostle, was an amazing teacher.  His writings have a great gap between the most profound mysteries of the faith and the most simplistic and practice advice.  Each of the letters he wrote to the church or individuals began with a high theological thesis.  His letter to the Ephesians chapter one speaks of the Father’s love and grace, “Because of his love, God had already decided to make us his own children through Jesus Christ.  That was what he wanted and what pleased him, and it brings praise to God because of His wonderful grace.  God gave that grace to us freely, in Christ, the One he loves.”

Such wonderful, poetic lyrics have been inspired fodder for Bible scholars for almost 2,000 years.  However, by the end of his letter Paul is saying, “Children, obey your parents as the Lord wants, because this is the right thing to do.”

As much as we marvel at the amazing secrets exposed in Paul’s writing, most of us need day-to-day simple direction on how to pray for our children.  We wrestle with what our reaction should be when the washing machine vomits all over the laundry room.  What is the Christ-like response to the swishing traffic when the car stages a revolt stalling in the middle of a snarled intersection?

While some of the members of Special Gathering, who are mentally challenged, obviously grasp the mysteries of Christ.  Because of their intellectual abilities, it is with a simplistic understanding.  Yet, I’ve observed that many people who are developmentally delayed live out the simple directive with uncomplicated faithful living. 

Perhaps it is in the simple living that we truly uncover the mystery.  Doesn’t “love your neighbor” automatically translate into a deep understanding that God love me no matter what my actions or reactions of the moment may be.  Patty is a servant to everyone.  She pushes the wheelchairs.  She brings the cookies.  She carries the equipment.  While her understanding of the complicated truths of the scripture seems barely a surfacing sip from the deepest of ponds, my faith is deepen by watching her unselfish labors of love toward her peers.  When Steve delights because someone else is getting the solo that he thought he would singing, there is a demonstration of God’s love flowing through an individual as he is emptying his life to prefer another person.

Perhaps part of the mystery of Paul’s letters is this:  He gives the mysterious principles of the faith allowing us to see how unobtainable it is without the grace of God.  Then he gives us the step by step process in the final paragraphs of his letters which reveal how to truly live out the glorious faith that he has described to us.

Mysteries and secrets are part of Paul’s teaching.  Could part of the uncovering of these secret be the  step-by-step dying to ourselves as we daily prefer and serve others As I rub elbows with the mentally challenged community, I’ve come to believe that practical, simple acts of love is the key that unlocks the secrets of Christian faith.

You are invited to attend

 

Arise, Shine

The Shepherds’ First Christmas

 

Vero

7pm

Saturday, December 5

Tabernacle Ministries

51 Old Dixie Highway

 

Melbourne

7pm

Sunday, December 6

Celebration Cafe, First United Methodist Church

110 East New Haven Avenue

Refreshments served after each play

No transportation provided to or from the play.

All actors and choir are part of the mentally challenged community. 

One of the last things my father said as he was dying has become significant in my attitude toward life.  Daddy was hemorrhaging internally and we knew that we were facing his last hours.  However, he was aware and even seemed strong as death inched slowly into his body.  Mom and Dad had moved into the home of my brother and sister-in-law.  She was the nurse of my Dad’s doctor.  It was an ideal arrangement for Daddy and our family.  His hospital bed and medical supplies had taken over the living room of their house.

We surrounded our father with concern and love.  Daddy loved Christian TV and my brother had moved at television into his room.  The TV was on acting more as a night-light than entertainment.  However, in the lulls of whispered conversation, we could detect the message the various teachers were proclaiming.  As my brother was transferring Dad from a chair back to the bed, we could hear the words of one particularly loud preacher.  He was preaching about how awful the world is and how much we as a Christian must avoid everything and everyone connected to the outside world. 

Daddy leaned back on his pillow and closed his eyes in exhaustion.  Then he said, “Sure there are a lot of bad things in this world; but if you look, you’ll find that there is a lot more good than you ever thought possible.”   

Paul said it this way as he wrote in a letter to the young preacher, Titus, “Everything is clean to a clean mind.”   

Lucy is a delightful example of a clean mind.  She is much lower functioning than most of the members of Special Gathering.  Her smile is contagious and dominates her face.  Unable to keep her balance her walking is aided by two Canadian crutches.  She moves slowly but deliberately.  If she loves you, she demands a hug. 

Of course, Lucy has her bad days.  In fact, after the death of her much-loved father, she has grieved, expressing herself with unacceptable behaviors.  But these are still uncommon events and her overall attitude remains serene and secure.

Before her father died, there had been little that upset this young woman.  Because grief is a natural outgrowth of life and I’ve not been the target of her unexpected aggression, I’ve not seen her behaviors as anything but a healthy response to a tragic event that she isn’t able to cognitively comprehend. 

Chrissy is also physically disabled.  However, her mind is sharp as a tack.  She was treated badly by her family as a young child but that hasn’t kept her from having a clean mind and seeing the world as a joyful habitat for joyous events to happen.  She laughs and giggles at the most common things.  She smiles at sounds and smells that I barely notice. 

The more I interact with people like Chrissy and Lucy, the more I’m convinced that Paul was correct.  As hard as it is to zero our concentration of the clean and good things of this world, the more we will reap the benefits of that environment.

I’ve always been fascinated by the personality that each group obtains.  Whether the group is large or small each one has its own personality.  As I recently talked after lunch with a small group of health-care professionals about this interesting phenomenon, I was reminded how much this applies to one small group which I’ve led for many years–the choir.  In reality, I’ve led many different choirs in six locations and each one has its own personality.  In addition, the personality of each choir changes as the membership of the choir ebbs and flows.

After a while, everyone gathered their lunch checks and paid their tips.  As I walked from the restaurant my mind was drawn to Leslie.  That is because each time she entered the room where practice was being held, the personality of the choir would change.  Blazing red hair, she stood about four feet tall.  She fought her weight all of her adult life. She would bound into the room, smiling and chattering.  Her presence lifted the dynamics of the choir–not the quality of her voice.  

In fact, as an initial reaction to her joining, I wasn’t sure I would be happy with having Leslie as a choir member–because I had heard her sing.   Her voice would be categorized as a monotone.  However, within weeks I realized that it didn’t matter how pure or unpure her vocal tones were.  Leslie became one of the greatest assets we ever had in a Special Gathering choir.  It was her desire to do her best that impressed all of us.  And that desire was totally infectious.  She brought her signature I-do-my-best drive and sat it smack into the middle of every practice and performance.  Within a few months, choir became her passion; and that passion translated into influence.  She was an igniting spark of goodwill and enthusiasm for all the choir members.

Leslie wanted to be the best singer possible.  She practiced until she literally sang the music in her sleep.  To reward her efforts, I worked hard each Christmas to find a song that would fit the tones that she produced vocally.  That song would contain her solo.  Sometimes, it would only be a few notes but she was trilled with any crumbs I could throw her way.  She rewarded me, as director, with so much excitement that everyone caught her zeal like the H1N1 virus.

Last year, the first week in September we had only started practicing our Christmas music.  The pastor of the church where Special Gathering of Melbourne meets walked through the fellowship hall, during rehearsal.  “You’re singing today, aren’t you?”  he quizzed me. 

Shocked because we had no plans to sing, I responded, “You want us to sing?”

“Yes, you are scheduled for today, aren’t you?  And I want you to sing the song your were just practicing.” 

“Sure, we’ll sing and we can certainly sing the song that we were practicing.”  I turned away from him and looked into the eyes of one of our volunteers who knew we weren’t prepared to sing.  She also knew that we had only sung the song we were practicing two times.  It was the song I had chosen for Leslie’s solo.  The volunteer’s eyes widened as she mouthed to me, “What are you going to do?”

“We sing,” I mouthed back to her, shrugging my shoulders.

I announced to the choir that we were singing at the combined service that morning and that we would sing “Here Is My Heart,” Leslie’s solo.  As I quickly made arrangements to be absent for the few minutes that we would be performing, my mind raced, “Whom can I use instead of Leslie as the soloist?”

My thoughts were abruptly stopped by a Voice that is much smarter than my brain.  “Leslie is to sing the solo.  This is the only time she will be able to sing it.”  I dismissed the last sentence because I didn’t have time to process anything, except that Leslie was to be the soloist.

She sang and she didn’t disappoint me, the audience or the Holy Spirit.  She sang with a glow and anointing that I’ve seldom seen shine from anyone’s face.  The quality of her voice didn’t changed; but the hearts of the audience were transformed.  They wept and so did I.

Leslie looked at me as we were leaving, “I did the best I could,” she said.  I reached over and hugged her.  “You were wonderful,” I said with complete honesty.

On Friday evening, Leslie’s stomach erupted and a hole developed in it.  She coded three times before midnight.  She had emergency surgery. She was given a fifteen percent chance to live. For two weeks she hung between life and death.  Then the Lord graciously took her home. 

At her funeral, the choir tried to sing, “Here is my Heart.”  While it is a beautiful worship song, we aren’t able sing it because it is simply too hard for the choir and me.  Yet for Leslie, we did our best.

Leslie taught me that doing my best doesn’t always mean that things will be sugar cookies and lime sherbert.  However, sometimes–on rare and wonderful occasions–doing our best allows the Holy Spirit to change hearts.

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