December 2009

God Gives His Obedient People a Great Gift of Understanding

Proverbs 8:33

Central Theme:  Obedience means that God will give us wisdom and understanding.

Introduction–I am one of the wealthiest people in the world.  Show checkbook.  Not in my checking account or in my wallet.  My wealth is not in money.  My wealth comes from the Bible and the church.

                    Have a member read Proverbs 8:33.

       I.     Tell how Joseph was in prison but wherever he went he was blessed by God.

              A. In prison, he was the favorite of the head jailer.

              B. One day, the king, Pharaoh, had a dream.

          C. God helped Joseph to understand the dream and he became the prime minister–like the President of the country.

      II.     Understanding things make us people of power and trust.

              A. This is not knowing things about people.

              B. It is like wisdom–it is a gift that God gives to everyone.

              C. It is like when you know something about a situation that you should not know.

     III.     What does understanding do for us.

              A. Helps us with everyday problems

                   1. I had a squeaky van–my friend, Sam had the answer for me.

                   2. Sam is able to solve problems because God gives him answers.

              B. Understanding helps us in times of trouble.

                   1. I know of a family in SG who gave away everything they had to build a house to a family in need.  They are now able to begin building their house.

                   2. God’s understanding makes us people who know that is important in life–I don’t have to own every pretty thing to enjoy it

Conclusion      God understand and wisdom are better than being rich in money and stuff.

It’s my birthday.  It’s the one that proves that I’m old.  However, I’m traveling from SC to VA and I’m happy to be healthy and traveling with my husband to visit two of our children and their families.  Life doesn’t get much better than this.  Thank you, Lord for another year of blessings and joy!

For years I struggled to write a relevant sermon for Christmas and Resurrection Day.  Then our executive director gave me some wise advice.  He said, “Years ago, an older pastor told me that people come to church on Christmas and Resurrection Day for one reason.  They want to hear the story.”

That changed my approach to sermons at this time.  It is The Story that makes people come back again and again.  This year, tell the story in its simplicity, beauty and power.  Emmanuel, God with us.  How much more relavant can we get than this wonderful story of God who became man to save us from ourselves and our sins.

Solomon warned at the end of Ecclesiastes that we need to be careful about what we study.  He said, ” People are always writing books, and too much study will make you very tired.”  Another translation says that there is no end to the number of books that you can read. 

Paul additionally warned Timothy that there is a danger in some knowledge (I Tim 6:3-5).  There is knowledge that puffs up.  This is the kind of knowledge that makes us vain and unpleasant people to be around.  We all know those kinds of folks.

My children once told me that I had a song for every occasion.  I took that as a compliment.  Later, a friend said that I had a “story for every occasion.  No matter what I say, you will be able to top it with an anecdote that you have read or from your own life.”  I did not take that as a compliment.  I understood that she was giving me some sensible and needed correction.

I think one of the things that makes our members endearing to people who visit or who have a casual relationship with them is the fact that they almost never have an “I can top that” attitude.   Delores listens politely to the flow of conversation that buzzes around her when her family is gathered.  Unless she is engaged in a one-to-one conversation, she seldom tries to interrupt to interject her thoughts and ideas.  This is endearing to those of us who always have another wise-crack or enlightening suggestion that must to be push into the minds and hearts of our family and friends. 

However, Solomon had said, “Wise words are like sharp sticks people use to make their animals go the right way.  Those teachings are like strong pegs that won’t break.  You can trust those teachings to show you the right way to live.  Those teachings all come from the same Shepherd (God).  So Son, study those teachings”  (Ecc 12:11 and 12).

Most of us want to know the right way to live.  We all desire to make wise and prudent decisions.  Not all knowledge is good.  Yet, the wise teachings from the Scriptures and godly adviser will guide, teach and give correction.

Because almost everyone is much too busy to check their computer for new updates on this blog,  I’ve not been too concerned about having trouble with my computer.  Over the months it has been doing some pretty interesting things.  However, I learned to NOT turn it off and it seemed to operate slowly but with the grace of an old sted my grandpa owned named Prince.

My computer Prince was dying.  When I could not longer trick it into starting, I called my good friend, Sam.  He dropped all his commitments and came to help me and Prince.  We had a wonderful time with his family over a supper of pasta.  Then he worked for hours.  His diagnosis for Prince was that I would lose it in a couple of days unless major surgery was done.  We (he) replaced the hard drive and the ram.  Now it’s running like a charm and the renovation only cost me $150.   I have 1 tarabyte of memory and 1 gb of ram. 

Can we ever replace good friends and family?  As we run around getting gifts and groceries for the perfect dinner and Christmas day, keep remembering the Sams who give up their time and bring their families to share and repair.  Thank you to all the folks who sacrifice to help me and my family.  We are blessed.

I have a good friend, Eric Wright of Journey Church, who has taken some pretty hard knocks over the past three years.  In fact, when you google his name on the web, there is a website devoted to what this person claims are his mistakes and bad behavior.  After a lot of research, I found that none of these accusation and claims are true.  He isn’t without sin but these accusations are not valid.

He has proven to me to be a man of integrity.  Even more, he has been the one person who has looked at our family with love and compassion during some pretty rough time.  He not only befriended us but he also tirelessly prayed and put his prayers into action.

During this Christmas time, I wanted to give him and his family a gift of love.  Perhaps you have come across the other website but I hope you will balance out the fact that he has chosen not to retaliate with harsh words.  While others complained about his greed, he sold his home to pay debts that others made and to insure that the Church would not be stuck with unpaid bills. 

In a conversation with a good friend, I commented, “I wonder why this has happened to them.  They are such people of integrity.”  My friend said, “It rains on the just and the unjust.”

That is true but perhaps it a time for internet shower to bless my good friend again.

A few days ago, I spoke with a woman who is coming into her place in ministry.  God is moving in supernatural ways in her life but she desires to remain grounded in sanity and God’s word.  It is hard to not believe your own press releases, even if you know you are the person who wrote them. 

S/he is a wise person who will follow Paul’s advice given to Timothy in his first letter chapter three.  Paul told his young disciple that Timothy should prove himself first.  The Bible often speaks of the importance of the church not fostering the promotion of the novice.  However, this is a different warning.  Paul puts the responsibility for monitoring on the back of the young pastor, Timothy.  As he was being promoted, Paul said that it was Timothy’s responsibility to see that he had been proven. 

About ten years ago, a young woman in Special Gathering came to me.  She had just graduated from high school.  Minnie is high functioning and possesses the A-typical Downs Syndrome personality–pleasant, kind and amiable.   Minnie was also ambitious.  She wanted to be made a deacon.  Other than her youth, she seemed to be qualified.  I explained to her that she would have to wait until she was older in the Lord.

Amazingly, Minnie didn’t argue with me.  Minnie was willing to wait.  However, she didn’t sit idly by as she waited.  She worked at any job that came across her path.  She began to write poetry.  Her writings are often published in our monthly newsletter.  She moved chairs.  She helped serve food.  She pushed wheelchairs.  No job was too large or too small for her to tackle.

After almost a decade, Minnie is ready to fulfill her dream of becoming a deacon.  Of course, there needs to be a vote from the congregation, but everyone  in Special Gathering recognizes her leadership. 

The thing that has impressed me about Minnie has been her willingness to prove herself before she is given a title.  She still has a great desire to be a leader but she has come to understand that leadership in the Church is an outgrowth of servanthood–not prestige.

As a young woman I had one friend with whom I could be totally honest.  I remember a telephone conversation in which I blurted out, “I have something to say!”  I can imagine my friend’s smile as she held the phone to her ear. 

“I know,” she said, “But if that is true, you will be wise to wait until God opens the doors for you to teach and minister.” 

It was a long, hard wait; but somehow from that conversation, God gave me the grace to monitor myself.  Perhaps it was the silliness I felt after I blurted out what my heart-felt.  However, even after four books were published and there were lots of opportunities to be published and to speak, I knew there was something missing in my ministry.  When I walked into my first Special Gathering, I found the essential, missing piece. 

Specialized ministry isn’t a showy place in the church or a spectacular splash.  But it is where I belong and I’ll be eternally grateful for my wise friend who gently scolded me and gave the same advice Paul gave his young protegé.  “Prove yourself first.  Then move into what God has called you to do.”

This fact sheet on Asperger Syndrome appeared on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Website.   It is an excellent reference.

* Asperger Syndrome is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and was first included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (American Psychiatric Association) under the general category of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs) in 1994. In Vienna, pediatrician Hans Asperger wrote about this cluster of characteristics as early as 1944.
* Although research on the prevalence rate for Asperger Syndrome is ongoing, it is thought that as many as 60 individuals per 10,000 have some form of an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Based on current population statistics for Ontario, this prevalence rate translates to 74,356 individuals in Ontario living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
* Asperger Syndrome traits may make it difficult for children to function well in school and for adults to find and keep employment.
* Many individuals with Asperger Syndrome exhibit extensive knowledge of a specific interest and therefore are capable of major accomplishments.
* Although Asperger Syndrome can be first detected in childhood, many individuals are not diagnosed until well into adolescence or adulthood.
* The cause of Asperger Syndrome is not yet established, but a leading theory at this time points to genetic causes. Many individuals diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome identify similar traits in their family members.
* Treatments for people with Asperger Syndrome may include counselling, psycho-education, social skills training, medication, family intervention, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, special diets, and others.
* Without diagnosis, support and intervention, children, adults and their families struggle to understand their puzzling profile of strengths and deficits.

Common Traits of Individuals with Asperger Syndrome

Social/Communication Traits:

* Despite a desire for friends, difficulty in initiating or maintaining close relationships
* Problems reading non-verbal or social cues or understanding/using social rules
* Very socially naïve and as a result are often taken advantage of, rejected, or bullied
* Social contact may be directed by them (e.g. play is “on their terms” or not at all)
* Poor (or intense) eye contact, atypical use of gestures and flat or inappropriate facial expressions
* One-sided conversations, and little ability for “small talk”
* May appear overly shy or overly extroverted, but inappropriately so
* Unaware of others’ thoughts, feelings or perceptions resulting in inadvertently appearing rude or inconsiderate
* Literal interpretation of communication from others
* Avoidant of social contact or events, and may experience heightened anxiety in social situations
* Language is learned and used in “chunks” (e.g., phrases, dialogue from TV shows, etc.)
* Communication is used for delivering information or requesting, not as a way of interacting socially

Behavioural Traits:

* May respond poorly to changes, sensory stimuli, transitions, lack of structure, and restrictions
* Repetitive movements (e.g., jumping, rocking, pacing) and speech (i.e., talking about favourite topics, interest)
* Rigid, inflexible and rule-bound behaviour
* Inappropriate behaviour given the social situation (e.g., speaking too loud in place of worship)
* Exaggerated emotional response to situations (e.g., tantrums when asked to something that they don’t want to do)
* Superior ability to focus on favourite activity or area of interest (e.g., spends hours mastering video game to the exclusion of other pastimes)

Cognitive Traits:

* Average to superior intelligence
* Detail oriented approach to tasks which may result in missing the “bigger picture”
* May have associated learning disabilities (e.g., non-verbal learning disability)
* Often have high verbal scores in a cognitive assessment, and low performance scores
* Difficulty seeing “parts-to-whole” and “whole-to-parts” relationships
* Prefer technical/factual information over abstract

Associated Challenges:

* Anxiety and depression
* Attentional difficulties (e.g., shifting attention; attending to unimportant stimuli)
* Tics or Tourette Syndrome
* Gross and fine motor deficits
* Poor organizational skills (e.g., time management and planning, partializing tasks)

Over the years, I’ve come to depend on the men and women who man our prayer lines at The Special Gathering .  At each worship service, we have at least two of our members, usually deacons, who are asked to pray for the other members who come up for prayer. 

At first, I got into the prayer line as an example.  I wanted our members to know that I respected the men and women–their peers–who had been asked to pray for them.  Quickly, though, I came to understand that their simple prayers were powerful.  Now when I say simple prayer, I mean really simple prayer.  “Lord, bless Linda’s friend.”  Or “Lord, heal Linda’s daughter.”  No fluff or puff.  Just a straight shot of prayer into the heart of God.

I especially remember one Sunday morning that everything was going wrong. In those days the Brevard programs were more interconnected.  I had the responsiblity to go from Melbourne to Cocoa many Sunday mornings to conduct both worship services.  I had come in late because of traffic.  When I set up my sound equipment for praise and worship, I found that an important piece of equipment had been left in Melbourne.  I disappointed in myself and frazzled.

Even though I had not expressed by private concerns to anyone, Judy, a member of the choir and a real prayer warrior, understood that I was hurting.  She leaned over during a quiet time in the service and prayed, “Lord, Linda’s upset.  Heal her.  Help her.  In Jesus’ name, amen.”  Instantly, God answered her prayer.   

I admit that during my private prayer time, I still try to impress God.  It isn’t a conscious action but a slow meticulous act of my mind that says to my spirit, “If you let your mind come up with just the right words.  God will be so impressed with your ability to speak a flowery prayer that He is bound, maybe even obligated, to answer.” 

Of course, this is not true but it is a struggle for me to overcome.  However, Carlos sets me back on the right path whenever I listen to his prayer.  “Lord, help Linda.  Help her son and daughter.  Help her grandchildren.” 

Paul’s instructions to Timothy found in chapter 2 verse 2 of Paul’s first letter to his young friend was to pray in every way you know how for everyone you know.  Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? 

Years ago, I did a study on prayer.  While I gleaned some wonderful pointers from the study, it made prayer seem delicate and complicated. Even though I’d been praying from the time I was a small child, deep inside I felt that I was no longer qualified to pray.  It took me a while to come back to an understanding that prayer must remain a simple exercise of a child communicating with her father.  The simplicity of prayer may be the greatest secret to prayer anyone can learn.

We Can Never Move Away from God

Genesis 28:15

Central Theme:  We can never move away from God‘s love.

Introduction–Show the Hubble telescope book and talk about the pictures from outer space.  We all travel now very quickly.  I can go to SC in 6 hours.  But it has not always been that way.  Not so long ago it took weeks to go that far.  We are beginning a study about the life of Joseph.  We begin with his going on a long journey–away from his family.

       I.     Have a member Read Genesis 28:15.

              A. Tell the story of the Joseph and his brothers who hated him.

              B. They sold him into slavery and he was taken to Egypt.

              C. He had been his father‘s favorite son and now he was a slave.

           II.     God did not ever leave him–even in Egypt when he was a slave.

                   A. God used him to help the nation of Israel to survive during a famine.

                   B. We can know that God will be with us.

                        1.  The Bible tells us. 

                        A. Ex–A woman who moved to Melb and her husband got cancer.  This was bad but she got saved and that was really good.

              2.  We have examples of actual people–Joseph, Moses, Paul, David, Ruth and many others.

              3.  We have the Holy Spirit with us as Jesus promised.

              4.  God has told us that he has a plan for our lives.

     III.     God went with Joseph and had a plan for him

              A. He will show you the plan for  your life.

Conclusion–God will not leave you not matter how far you travel.  has reported that approval of the ethics of clergy has dropped to only 50 percent.  This is the lowest the rating has been since the scandal in the Catholic church was report in which priest had sexually molested children and the Roman Catholic Church had systematically worked to cover up the abuse.

While questioning why this drop from 56 percent in 2008 to 50 percent in 2009, it is important that we not lose our perspective as ministers, teachers and elders within the mentally challenged community.  There are many pro-active things that we, as ministers, should do that will that will insure that we are not caught in a compromised situation. 

Some have reported that sexual abuse within the mentally challenged population is over 75 percent.  While we don’t believe the statistic is that high, one percent is too high.  It means that we MUST be proactive.

First, we should not be alone with one member.  Be sure that all events are public events.  Should someone need to speak with you “privately” move to another part of the room, not out of the room.  Move to a place where others cannot hear you but can still see you. 

Second, report all accusations of abuse to the proper authorities.  In every state, there is an 800 number that you can use to call and report abuse.  That number is found in the front of your phone book.  You can also Google for the number.

Third, understand that proactive steps will help to stem temptation.  Be aware, trust no one, especially yourself.

Fourth, require background checks for all volunteers and teachers in your program.  Be sure that all your teachers do not have private access to your members.

I overheard A choir director say recently, “Betty would like to be the head of every project we start in our choir.”  Betty is a higher functioning mentally challenged person.  I had to laugh because I, of course, have my own Betty in one of  The Special Gathering choirs.   My Betty isn’t willing to do the work required to obtain boss status.  She merely desires to be bossy. 

On the other hand, John has the talent, gifting and mental ability to run many parts of our program.  Even though he is mentally challenged and he’s IQ is probably equal to My Betty, he is not bossy.  Team John with Missy and Laura and they could run any program in Special Gathering.  They are that talented and motivated.  

However, they have a wonderful plus that Betty and My Betty don’t possess.  They don’t try to run things.  They aren’t even bossy.  Paul instructed Timothy that there is a danger in usurping yourself into a situation, problem or project and trying to take charge.  Using The Message as our reference, in Paul’s first letter chapter 3, Paul instructed Timothy, “Don’t try to run things.”

 People who know me will understand that this is an area where I’ve had to learn to sit back and wait to be asked.  And the lesson has been learned the hard way.   Much of my gifting from the Lord is administration or leadership.  For me the easiest job you can give me in a project is to be the head.  Instinctively, I understand where people should be placed.  I’m able to let volunteers do as much or as little as they can. 

In addition, as a teenager, I learned that people like to do things when I ask them to do it.  There is nothing that I do that makes this happen.  There is no effort that I expend.  It is truly a gift from God.  For years, I thought everyone could and should be a leader because it seemed to be the most effortless position.  Later, I realized that God didn’t give everyone that gift and therefore, it was much harder for others.  I gained enormous respect for people who would take on a leadership position when they were much more comfortable being a server.

There are also many other mammoth deficits to the gift of leadership.  It is hard for me to sit back and see a project or program run badly.  Understand that in my perverted, youthful mind, a project run badly was probably one in which I was not in charge.  Over the years, I’ve learned that God uses many talents and giftings.  I grown to appreciate all aspects of the leadership of others.  Yet, I especially savor good leadership.

I found that I get some of my most delicious joy in helping to maximize the gifts and talents of others.  Coming along side and helping a leader become an even better leader is especially fulfilling for me.  I have never been offended by being assigned a position where I must work in the background.  In short, I come to understand the wisdom of Paul whose instruction to Timothy, a leader in the early church, was “Don’t try to run things.”

My son sat with the children’s book he had illustrated sitting on his lap.  “Mom,” he said, leaning forward to give his words emphasis, “all my life you told me that I could do anything I really wanted to do.  When I was 18, I didn’t believe you.  Now, I only wish you had told me that more often.”  After a successful career in the Air Force, he retired and took up an old passion, painting.  He was able to take lessons for a world-famous artist.  He is looking forward to painting full time.

When Henry Ford, the industrialist, was asked what the secret to his success was, he said, “When you start something, don’t quit until you finish it.”   No one doubts that this man and his automobile has had a tremendous impact on the world.

In Revelation, the Lord Jesus commended the Ephesian Church when he said,  “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. . . . You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (Rev. 2:2-3).  The Ephesian Church refused to quit.  They continued to press forward.

I have found that one of the most consistent things in Christy’s life is perseverance.  She has lived her life in a wheel chair.  I remember taking her on a two-day trip several years ago.  I’m not sure whether she was modest; but she wanted no help in transferring herself in the bathroom.  I watched as she creeped her way from her chair on to the adjacent seat.  Her movements weren’t by inches but centimeters.  However, she was successful. 

My respect for this young woman leapt as I saw the perseverance she used in navigating her way into a position to give herself success.  Over the years, I seen the same perseverance in Terri, Melvin, Carlos, and hundreds of other mentally challenged men and women.  They understand their disabilities and the limitations their bodies and minds present to them but so often ignore those limits.  Rather they choose to squirm their way centimeter by centimeter toward their goal. 

In the end their successes won’t make the record books.  Reaching the toilet seat each morning may not merit anyone an Olympic Gold Metal.  However, I’m confident that it wins a place in the heart of God.

Senator Barbara A. Mikulski’s online newsletter reported, “U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski today introduced Rosa’s Law, a bill that will eliminate the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from the federal law books. U.S. Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is the Republican sponsor of the bill.”

Good idea?  “Mental retardation” is the legal terminology used in all Federal and state laws.  

Personally, I’m not sure this is a good idea. Because “mental retardation” is the legal word for intellectual disabilities, this would mean a major overhaul of the laws. Would all states and cities then be required to change their verbage? If they aren’t required to change, then wouldn’t this only bring more confusion.

And would this move make “retard” illegal or hate speech? Unless it is illegal, would people stop the hateful speech? I don’t believe most people realize that they are being offensive by using this word.  What do you think?  Of course, our members are greatly offended by the offensive remarks of others but wouldn’t another word be used?

Perhaps the one thing will be good whether it passes or not. It could stimulate a conversation regarding how offensive the word “retard” is to our most vulnerable population.

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