November 2009


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.

« Previous PageNext Page »