February 2010

We Please God When we Obey Him

Acts 5:29

Central Theme:   God gave us His 10 laws so that we can live happy and safe lives.

Introduction–All of God’s laws have been given to us to help us and for our good.  As an example, when I was a little girl, I stole a piece of cloth from my good friend, Mrs. Youngblood.  It was a scrap but she knew I took it and she sat me down and talked to me about stealing.

                1.    She explained that we only steal from ourselves when we take things that don’t belong to us.  I did not understand but I stopped stealing.

                2.    When I was in junior high I started cheating on tests and then I found out that I was only cheating myself because I was giving more answers than I was getting.

                5.      Have a member read Act 5:29.

       I.     Each of the ten commandments or laws is given for our good.

      II.     God expects us to follow his laws but he does not expect us to do it alone.

              A. He gave us Jesus as an example.

              B. He gives us the Holy Spirit who helps to teach us and show us the way.  (We all have a conscience)

              C. He gives us the Bible to explain the laws and how we can live and examples of good people and bad people.

              D. He gives us the church where we can meet Christian friends who will help us do what is right.

              E.  He gives us teachers who explain God’s ways to us and remind us of what we should do.

              F.  He gives us prayer so that we can talk to Him and confess our weaknesses.

Conclusion–God‘s laws make our lives easier and he gives us lots of helps to make obey his laws easier.


Dr. Susan Gold, Chairperson
Debra Dowds, Executive Director

To: PIP Graduates

From: Debbie Hannifan, Partners in Policymaking Project

Re: Partners in Policymaking Program
The Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, Inc. is currently accepting
applications for the Partners in Policymaking Program Class of 2010. Please
take a few minutes to review the attached information and application and
forward to those whom you work with within the developmental disability
community. Space is limited and the application deadline is April 1, 2010.
Please note that this is a free program only available to those with
developmental disabilities and parents or guardians of young children with
developmental disabilities.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at
Dhannifan@tampabay.rr.com or call me at (863) 738-6367.
Debbie Hannifan
Partners in Policymaking Coordinator
Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, Inc.
P.O. Box 2864
Lakeland, Florida 33806
phone (863) 738-6367
fax (863) 688-2551

For years, The Special Gathering has used the Southern Baptist Curriculum published by their publishing arm, LIFEWAY.  In their current curriculum, they have announced that they are now publishing a special series for children.  It is called Bible Teaching for Kids Special Buddies. 

This is a great addition to the resource materials for special needs Bible teachers.  Asking the question, “Are their needs being met?”  LifeWay designed this specific material for children who are in first to sixth grades. 

LifeWay believes that versatility is the key to successfully using this curriculum.  They say

One of the most exciting features about Special Buddies  is that it works well in all kinds of situations with children of varying developmental levels.  Try it out with:

  • a self-contained classroom of school-age children with special needs.
  • an individual child who receives one-on-one care at church while parents attend Bible study.
  • a child with special needs who attends a typical Sunday school setting but responds well to modified lessons and individualized attention.

Check out their website and see if this is something you can use with your ministry.

JAF (Joni and Friends) has moved all of their operations from Florida.  A few days ago, they met with their Florida representative and told him that he had been laid off.  I understand, but this has not been confirmed, that they asked for the keys to his office, his computer and files.  It is suspected that financial concerns may have resulted in the closure.  For more than a decade, JAF has had one of their Family Camps in Florida.  Their state headquarters was in Orlando, Florida.  When you go to their national map on their website, there is no longer a dot in the state which indicates that they have operations in this state.. 

JAF is the premiere organization within the disability community.  As Joni Tada, the founder and head of this national ministry, has aged, it appears she wisely wanted to move the emphasis from a personality-based ministry to a ministry that highlighted needs within the disability community.  From the viewpoint of JAF headquarters, this move must have appeared to be a natural outgrowth from their prominence.  Their goal was to establish community-based support ministries to aid and empower other special needs ministries that were smaller and perhaps struggling.  That support has not actually materialized in to the type of intricate web of support that was originally envisioned.

Like Mrs. Tada, I believe there is a need for a national organization that supports, trains and certifies local ministries.  Even though a certification process did not appear to the part of the JAF vision, it is sad to see that this ministry is no longer operating in the fourth largest state in the US.

This is an entry from my prayer journal dated April 8, 2006.  Eric died a few weeks later.  He got sick beginning in December 2005 when the hepatitis appeared in the form of a severe nose bleed that his mother could not stop.

I just got a call from Susan, Eric’s mom.  He is dying.  Hepatitis from contaminated blood that he received as an infant possibly from a druggie who never imagined that 21 years later, he would be come a murderer.  Therefore, he sold his blood and the blood is killing Eric. 

Consequences from our actions are amazingly far-reaching–for good and for bad.

Lord, help me to know You and live Your life through the power of the Holy Spirit.  May my life change–not destroy–lives.

A couple of months ago, I received a note from a parent who is a friend.  It was scribbled on the corner of a sheet of paper.  “What do you do when your child is physically abusive to his family?”  She and I had spoken about the things that were happening in their home.  Her son had not become physically abusive with their parents; but there are a great deal to tension as their son began to struggle with a middle-aged crisis.

His job of 25-years was no longer good enough for him.  He no longer wanted to live in the apartment they had built for him away from the main house.  He wanted them to continue to help him with his daily needs; but he thought he had outgrown the need to mow the lawn and help with the laundry and to do the other things that needed to be done in their compound. 

Again, I went to her and I asked if things had become physical with her son.  She assured me that she and her husband were safe; but she had started to be concerned about others.  Does a parent call the police on their mentally challenged child should he or she become physically abusive?  Perhaps the answer is yes, but I also understand that few parents will do that. 

Because it is likely a mental health issue, speaking to someone who is a professional counselor could be the best answer that will insure the safety of the family and their child.  A behavorialist can often help to pinpoint the problem and bring a worable resolution. 

Unfortunately, because of the cut-backs in the social services all over the nation, these expenses may have to come from a parent’s own pocket. 

However, the expense can be well worth it.  Of course, there are other solutions that can and should be explored.  No, I am not ignoring the help of the Holy Spirit in issues like this.  Prayer and teaching should be an inticate part of bringing a member back to good mental health.  Nevertheless, I believe that we need to be realistic about the strengths and weaknesses of our ministry.   Pastoral counseling is valuable and we know our members more than most people.  But there is a time and place for good, professional intervention. 

What about your minstry?  What would you suggest to a family facing this crisis situation?  What do you believe can be the solution to this  problem?

I have often joked that people who minister within the special needs population are the only pastors in the world who carry rubber gloves in our pockets.  In addition, each Special Gathering has a biohazard kit that we are to have with us during each program.  The kit basically contains the supplies needed to clean up and dispose of bodily fluids that may be harmful to others.  Along with the kit, we received training on the proper way to handle the supplies contained in the kit.

A rather boring teaching video contained the bulk of our training.  I have to admit that the first time the teaching film was shown, I slept through it.  However, about six months later, I closely reviewed it.  Within a few weeks, I was extremely glad that I had stayed awake during the second viewing of the film because I needed to apply everything that was contained in the video. 

Since that time, I’ve had several occasions to use the information but I never thought that I would need it in my own home.  However, a couple of days ago, my husband’s doctor prescribed nitroglycerin cream to help stimulate the blood vessels in his feet.  I was given precious little training by the doctor, none from the nurses and a sheet of paper with the medication telling me how dangerous it was but no information on how to prepare my home for this toxic cream.

The doctor did tell me that if the cream was used improperly, it could cause a drastic drop in my husband’s blood pressure and he could die.  Because I was the person administering and handling the cream, I was as much–if not more–at risk as my spouse. 

My biohazard training kicked in immediately.  Yes, my training helped me to understand the potential side effects and the dangers.  But more importantly, it took all fear away. I understand how to handle even more dangerous materials than a simple cream that increases blood flow but, if abused, can cause cardiac arrest.  I got out my rubber gloves, my extra sturdy plastic bags.  I reread and followed the directions exactly.

Preparing for potential danger is not only prudent for people who minister to the special needs population, it also could save a life. And that life could be yours.  God desires that we be wise as a serpent and as gentle as a dove.  In the case of people who minister within the mentally challenged population, wisdom may include biohazardous training.

Worship Pleases God

Psalm 95:2

Central Theme:  God‘s people should know how to worship him.

Introduction–Ask the question, “What is worship?”  Wait a long time for a reply. 

      A.     Worship is one of those words we talk a lot about but may not know                            much about.

              1.  We may sing when we worship, but singing is not worship.

              2.  We may worship when we go to church, but going to church is                               not worship.

              3.  Have a member read Psalm 95:2.

       I.     Worship is loving and obeying God.  Amos gave us some guidelines for worship. 

          A. We must worship God for the right reason–because we love him.

          B. We must turn away from our sin.

          C. We must obey God to truly worship him.

          D. We must love God in everything we do.

      II.     King Solomon learned how to worship God when he built the temple.

              A. He obeyed God and did exactly what God wanted. 

              B. He loved God so much that he wanted to make a good place for him.

              1.  At Special Gathering, we are careful about how we set us the building–because it is a place of worship.  We want the chairs to match and be straight.  We want the table to the centered correctly.  Details matter.

              2.  A member once said, “I always feel good when I come into church.”  But we were meeting at the ARC building.

          C. During King Solomon’s worship time, he knew he was a sinner but he was willing to ask God to forgive him of his sins.

Conclusion–Special Gathering should be a worship place.  We are the only people who can make it a worship place.  We do that by worshipping Jesus.

 This is an e-mail received on Friday, February 19, 2010.

Subject: Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee 15%

> budget reduction proposal
 “Suzanne Sewell” <ssewell@floridaarf.org
 <mailto:ssewell@floridaarf.org>> 2/18/2010 12:04 PM >>>
 Yesterday, the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee reviewed agency submissions in response to a request that agencies should submit 15% Budget Reduction proposals. APD submitted the following proposals:
_Item GR & Trust_
-Cap Tier 1 at $120,000 $ 12,600,000
-Eliminate behavior assistance services in standard and behavior focus group homes $ 4,000,000
-Reduce CDC+ accounts by 10% $ 3,319,623
-Consolidate and Reduce Meaningful Day Activity Services $113,925,118
-Eliminate Medication Reviews $ 100,636
-Consolidate Durable and Consumable Medical Equipment $ 932,093
-Reduce General Revenue Budget in Individual and Family Supports Category $ 1,000,000
-Room and Board Category $ 200,000
-Eliminate funding for Special Projects and Supported Employment (GR) $765,985
– Eliminate Budget Related to Reversions of FY 08-09 _$ 733,648_ $137,577,093
-The proposal to consolidate Meaningful Day Activity services represents a 40% reduction for the involved services. Director Jim DeBeaugrine explained implementation would result in the blending of Adult Day Training, Respite, Companion, Supported Employment, and Supported Living into one service which would be known as a Flexible Services Benefit and total hours of services received by individuals would have to be because it would be devastating to individuals served but to achieve the 15% reduction such cuts would have to occur.
-In the Senate Policy and Steering Committee on Ways and Means, Medicaid Reform expansion was reviewed. The primary expansion area that was addressed was traditional Medicaid coverage to more counties (MediPass for children and families). Some discussion occurred regarding the impact on “carve outs” in the areas of Mental Health Behavioral Health,
Dental, and Transportation services. There was no discussion on adding APD waivers or long-term care services as part of the Medicaid Reform(Managed Care) waivers.
-On the House side, we met with Representative Snyder and his committee
staff to discuss Background Screening changes. House staff encouraged us to work with them on this issue. More information will be forthcoming.
> Suzanne Sewell
> President & CEO
> Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities
> 2475 Apalachee Parkway, Suite 205
> Tallahassee, FL 32301
> Office: 850.877.4816 (#123)
> Cell: 850.251.7925
> Fax: 850.656.0168
> ssewell@floridaarf.org <mailto:ssewell@floridaarf.org>

Several days ago, I promised to include a discussion on Identifying the Gifts of our members that had taken place on LINKEDIN.  I got side-tracked by some guests in our home.  However, here is the information sent by David Hayward of Joy Ministries in Vancouver.

I believe the question was about identifying ministry skills that our folks have, so they can be better used to the glory of God. It’s an important question, and one which I’d like some more ideas about.

In the early days of Joy Fellowship we observed that those who really grew as disciples were those who became involved in serving (ie – ministry). This should come as no surprise, since Jesus identified that as the key to being his disciples. We are studying Mark this year, and in Mark 1:30-31, Jesus goes to Simon’s house after synagogue, and He is told that Simon’s mother-in-law was sick. He goes to her, takes her by the hand.  The fever leaves her and SHE BEGAN TO WAIT ON THEM.

A very wonderful story, right at the beginning of the gospel. How pleased I think Jesus must have been, to see her thankful response to his blessing and healing, empowering touch. Jesus blessed her, and she immediately wants to bless in return. How disappointed Jesus was as the years passed to see how little his male disciples understood how essential this posture of service is for anyone who wants to really follow Jesus. Instead, they too often became wrapped up in jockeying for status and power in the group.

I imagine that you have seen both of these things happening in your groups too, and I think we can agree that the posture of servant is the one we really long to see becoming part of our lives as well as the lives of our friends.  Jean Vanier observed that people with disabilities have often been looked after all their lives. All their lives others have been serving them, and in the church this often continues.  Of course it should and often needs to be that way.

But if being a disciple of Jesus involved serving others, we have to help our folks find ways in which they too can SERVE. It is my observation that serving others often brings our folks great joy – so it should! We follow there in the footsteps of our Lord!

So in early days my father, who founded Joy Ministries, began to look for ways in which our people could be involved in serving others. There were those who had roles at church. Usually, as Richard Stimson noted, we’d see something that someone really LIKED to do, and WAS ABLE to do (often the things that give us joy, can be a clue to an area of gifting).  We’d let them know we’d be happy for them to do that job.  As an example, one person loved taking cushions off the pews before the service and putting them back on later – so we don’t stain them.  Because we have damaged some of the Chinese songbooks pretty badly from over-enthusiastic use in the past, others people enjoyed removing these books from the pews and returning them after the service.  A few were gifted at welcoming people, serving as ushers, serving in our sign-language choir, reading the Scripture.  One note:  Joy Ministries used only use those who could read, but we soon found that EVERYONE wants a chance to read, and so we open this now to anyone who brings their Bible to church that Sunday.  Then we help those who are non-readers.  Everyone takes great joy in this and our members are especially are respectful of the honor of it.  Some folks help run the computer with the Powerpoint, some help with worship, everyone can contribute a prayer if they wish, etc. Some help serve tea coffee, pancakes etc., when we have refreshments.

But one of the most fruitful areas has turned out to be visitation. Years ago, Dad began taking teams of 6-8 people, some with disabilities, and some volunteers with musical ability, to visit the big institution where many people with more severe disabilities were housed. We would go and hold weekly worship services on several of the wards – twice a week, two different teams would go. When there, we would gather the people who wanted to come in a room, and then sing favorite choruses and hymns, read the Scriptures and pray.  Then we’d move to another ward and repeat.

Our disabled folks began to be our best ministers there, boldly loving and encouraging and blessing these sheep that were even more needy than they. Lovely, wonderful, heavenly things happened in those meetings, and those who took part began to grow in spiritual things – they were our most fruitful disciples and that has continued. It is in serving that we grow.

I often tell our members that they must understand that their birthday is not a national holiday.  One of the charming things about our members is that socially they are sort of stuck in junior high for most of their lives.  But there is a limit to the charm and for me the “birthday” thing is my limit.

Each of us have things which don’t sit quite right with some of our members.  However, isn’t that true about most sub-cultures.  Because I’m a Southerner, I well aware of the fact that we are looked on as slow.  My neighbor from New Jersey scolds me regularly because I often go barefooted.  In most sarcastic terms, I was told yesterday, “I can tell you’re a Southerner.  Only a Southerner would come outside barefooted in this cold.”  I laughed because I was taking out the trash early in the morning and I had no shoes on my feet.  It was 30 degrees. 

I’m familiar with one culture that–as a population–they all seem to be Type A personalities.  They play hard and work even harder.  Gregarious and bold, these folks don’t mind giving you their opinion about almost everything.  One day my husband and I were visiting an ethnic restaurant.  The waitress came up to us, smiling and happy.  My husband knew exactly what he wanted to eat.  In fact, we had come to this particular restaurant because it carried this certain dish. 

When he tried to give his order to the waitress, she said, “No.  You cannot order that.  It costs too much.  You must order from the list on the back.”  She turned over the menu and showed him the items that were on her approved list. 

“I want this,” he said forcefully, turn the menu back to his desired spot.

“No!” she insisted.  And the confrontation continued for several minutes until my husband made his point clear that he wanted the item that he had originally requested

Finally, I asked what city our waitress was from and I named her native country.  “How did you know I was from there?”  she asked, looking shocked that I would know her nationality. 

But what do you do with the peculiar knitch of circumstances that irritate you about our sub-culture–the mentally challenged community?  Like the birthday thing?  I would suggest that you don’t try to ignore it.  That is usually a recipe for hurt feeling.  Here is how I have come to resolve my feelings.

First, I admit my irritation to myself.  Second, I examine it.  I take my irate feelings out and place them beside the offense.  Then I ask, Is this offense really equal to my annoyance?  Almost without exception, the answer is that I am overly sensitive in this area.  Usually these two simple steps will help me to see that the frustration I feel is overblown at its best and silly at its worst. 

If a third step is needed, I tell another person about my pesky problem.  I’ve learned to be sure that my confidante is a good friend.  Because when I hear myself explaining the ire that this action engenders, I realize how inane the issue is. 

Understand that while we may realize that the frustration can and should be humorous, it probably is not to you.  The irritation is real.  The anger is a true emotion, even though it may be unjust.  Once you have faced your irritation, ask God to deal with it and with your feelings. 

In any endeavor for the Lord, it is the small things that often catch us off guard and may even spoil what God wants to do through you.  Song of Solomon says, “Catch the little foxes that spoil my vines.”  It is often the little things that are used in our minds and by the enemy to destroy our joy and effectiveness.

In the meantime, have a happy birthday!

I’ve spent the last few days with an extremely close friend who is dying.  Three of us spent the last three days together.  He was terribly ill during their visit; but we laughed and talked when he could. 

At one point, I took him a blanket.  “I’m not an invalid; I’m just dying,” he quipped.  The three of us, close friends, burst into laughter.  And then we laughed again at his ability to find humor in the face of great trauma. 

My friend is dying because of a careless lifestyle.  He has lost everything, except his sin life.  And he refuses to lose that, even though it is killing him.  However, as I sat and held his hand, all I could remember was a blonde-headed, loving and caring child.  I saw him playing high school football and becoming captain of the team.  As a young adult, he looked exactly like the 1960’s teenage idol, Tab Hunter and all the girls loved him. 

It is a great mystery to me why my friend will not turn his life back to the Lord.  But during the week, I just wanted to love him as Jesus loves him, without reservation.  This morning as my company drove off, I was struck with a deep lonliness and I was sure this is the kind of feeling God has when we wander from him…only He loves and grieves more deeply. 

Pray for my friend.  Pray that he will come back home to the faith of his father and mother and he will give up the things that are killing him.

Because I’m in the car a lot, I listen to the radio more than most people.  One newscaster reported that people are constantly getting stung by what they post on social networking sites.  A friend who has a wonderful sense of humor Tweetered that he was “so over the grace thing.”  I can see his friends laughing out loud because we all know that HE needs more grace than most of us.  We also know how much he leans on God’s grace each day.   However, the comment was somehow picked up by another Christian group who labeled him as a heretic. 

Another pastor of a local church in another state commented to me, “I can’t imagine blogging each day.  I have plenty to say but it’s all about my parishioners and most of it isn’t pretty.”

We must all realize that Internet communication is tricky at best and can easily become dangerous.  What should be written?  First, positive material.  Of course, everything you say can’t be syrupy sweet.  It would not minister to people lives.  Yes, you must share your struggles and concerns but try to keep others out of it.  Second, if there needs to be a villain, you should be the villain–not the hero.  When you paint yourself in the most positive light, it is distasteful to your audience.

I was studying a sermon that I had written about a month ago and will deliver this week.  There was one statement in the sermon that I had written that made me look extremely positive.  I was the author and it was about me.  Yet, looking back over the comment after letting it rest for a month, I found it distasteful.  What would others think had they read it? 

You know the phrase TMI.  Most of us are guilty of giving “too much information” at times.  However, TMI can really bite you back when it is encapsulated on the Internet.  It is a tricky business to be personal but vague.  Nevertheless, that is vital in sharing over the net.

I’ve uncovered things that I wrote years ago and I find that I was extremely preachy.  Again, I cringe when I read them.  Jesus told story that pin pointed heavenly principles.  That is a great pattern for each of us to follow, especially if you are interested in reaching a wide audience.  Therefore, the third advice I would give is don’t be preachy.

Please understand that these are not MY principles but things that I’ve learned from authors who were and are a lot smarter than I am.  Over the years, I realized–the hard way–that they work.  That is especially true when communicating over the Internet.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend today.  She said that for years she didn’t think that she had any talents, until she realized that her ability to make up creative recipes and work with people was a gift that God had given to her.  In reality, I see her as one of the most talented people I’ve met.  She has an eye for detail and putting things together to make them attractive and effective.  However, it wasn’t until SHE saw those talents for herself did she begin to move comfortably in her gifts.

In the past weeks, there has been an interesting conversation going on among leaders within the community of leaders within the mentally challenged community.  The question was asked, “How do you help your members identify and optimis their gifts.  Of the next few day, I’ll be using the answers that various people submitted. 

It do think, however, that our members often go through life thinking that they have little to offer society.  That is not true.  There are many gifts with which God has blessed our members.  The mystery is identifying them and allowing our members to operate within their gifting. 

Another important key is helping our members discover for themselves that they are gifted and that God wants to use them in the gifts that they have.  Like my friend, Pam, sometimes releasing a person to know that they have talents and gifts is as vital as discovering what the gifts are.

How have you been able to teach your members that they are gifted individuals and that God desires to use them?

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