September 2010

This past week was filled with preparation for our annual choir retreat.  Our retreat was Friday, Saturday and ended Sunday when our choir sang their new music at First United Methodist Church in Melbourne.  Our South Carolina choir members traveled to be with two of our choirs in Central Florida. 

We spent Friday night at Word of Life Retreat in Hudson, Florida.  It was a marvelous experience.  Three meals (lunch, dinner and breakfast) and a night in cabins for $50 a person.  The meals are unbelievably extravagant.  The accommodations are excellent for campgrounds.  There are 12 bunk beds in each cabin with two rooms and a large bath with three showers.   We were given enough cabins so that we didn’t have anyone on top bunks, except one person who always chose the top bunks.  Things are clean and new.  These were the cabins where they formerly housed their full-time Bible college students.

After an amazing breakfast, we went to Holy Land Experience, in Orlando, Florida.  I must tell you that I’ve resisted going there for years.  However, this visit has changed my mind and heart.  The tickets on-line are $30.  There is now a series of stage plays all day long.  They are funny and Bible based.  The actors and singers are gifted men and women whose dedication to the Lord shows in each performance. 

Even more than the food, teaching, entertainment, fellowship and accommodations, the Lord truly moved on the hearts of our choir members.  We saw hard heart melt and soft hearts weep for families and friends.  As we left, each of us said that the most important thing that had happened was the we met God in a miraculous way during our retreat.

The Family Cafe is very excited to announce that we have been awarded
a federal grant to serve as Florida’s Family to Family Health
Information Center! This grant from the US Department of Health and
Human Services will support our efforts to provide families in our
state with accurate, relevant information for families of children and
youth with special health care needs.
This program fits in very well with the activities that The Family
Cafe is already engaged in, and we are looking forward to providing
Floridians with all kinds of useful information over the course of the
The beginning of this program coincides with the six-month anniversary
of the Affordable Care Act. As you may have heard in the news, many
important provisions are now in effect. As we get the Family to Family
program up to speed, we thought that sharing some information about
the changes in the law would be a great place to start!
One of our grant partners, Families USA, has a lot of information
collected in one place. Please take a moment to check out their
Patients Bill of Rights page
. It has a lot of information about the changes, including new rules
about pre-existing conditions, annual and lifetime limits, and
limitations on insurers’ ability to cancel your policy.
This is an exciting time for all of us, and The Family Cafe is looking
forward to being your source for reliable information and essential
resources to help you take care of your family. We will be telling you
much more about what we have in store soon, but in the meantime,
please check out the Families USA resources!
The Family Cafe

Today, 28 people traveled to Hudson, Florida for our choir retreat.  Our members were overwhelmed by the positive and wonderful response that they received by the Bible College student at Word of Life.  We could never thank them enough for their gracious response to us.

While our population is a cloistered sub-culture, it is not always by their choice.  Yes, they love being together and sharing among themselves.  However, when people show them gracious and loving hospitality, they are exceptionally complimented and feel that love. 

We will never be able to thank the students from Word of Life enough for singing with us for hours.  Playing pool and swimming with us was so much fun.  We hope that they will come to visit us.  Of course college students are always strapped for gas money.  However, we never know when God is truly working in the hearts of people and perhaps even drawing people toward ministry within this important population.

In the meantime, thank you, students for loving us and showing such hospitality!

Os Hillman sends out a daily newsletter that I enjoy reading.  It is geared to people who are involved in business and are attempting to involve Christ into everything they endeavor.   However, I find that his words often speak to those of us who are entrepreneurial by nature and are involved in full-time ministry. 

I intended to paraphrase his work, but I really can’t say it better than he did.  Hope you can transfer what he is saying to your ministry as easily as I could.  Perhaps those of us in ministry face greater danger than people in the work place in regard to doing “a work” to which God has not called us.

“When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and He struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark…” 1 Chronicles 13:9-10

There are good things we can do, but only God-things we should do. Those activities not born out of the Spirit will result in wood, hay, and stubble. What seems good in our eyes may be an abomination in God’s eyes. For instance, if you decide to build an orphanage but God has never directed you to do so, then God will not see that work as good; it was born out of your own strength, even though it was a “good work.”

The most difficult challenge a Christian workplace believer will ever have is to know what things to be involved in and what things not to be involved in. Many workplace believers have a great ability to see opportunity. What appears to be a “slam dunk” may come back to haunt us if God never ordains us to enter that arena. There are many good things we can be involved with. However, there are God-things we are supposed to be involved with. Uzzah was a good man in David’s sight. It was a time of celebration, and David and the people were transporting the ark of God. However, the ark hit a bump, and Uzzah reached for the ark to hold it steady. He touched the ark, and he immediately died. David became very upset with God about this situation; he questioned whether he could serve God.

God’s ways are not our ways. The most important quality God desires to develop in us is our dependence on Him and Him alone. When we begin to make decisions based on reason and analysis instead of the leading and prompting of the Holy Spirit, we get into trouble with God. David later learned the importance of this principle in his own life. This encounter was one of the stepping-stones in his pilgrimage. David was an extraordinary entrepreneur. He ran the nation very successfully, but he, like each of us, had to learn the difference between “good things” and “God-things.”

Are you involved in anything in which God has not directed you to be involved? Do you seek God about every decision, every action before you take it? This is where God wants you and me to be. Ask Him to show you how to walk with Him in this way.

Today God Is First (TGIF) devotional message, Copyright by Os Hillman, Marketplace Leaders.

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As a child I had no problem believing the miracles of healing in the Bible.  However, my imagination stumbled over the passage where Jesus was about to make his final entry into Jeruselem.  Jesus said to his disciples, “Go to the town you can see there.  When you enter it, you will quickly find a donkey tied there with its colt.  Untie them and bring them to me.  If anyone asks you why you are taking the donkeys, say that the Master needs them and he will send them at once (Matthew 21:2 and3).”

The logistics of this entire episode boggled my mind. I’m still mystified by this whole process.  Can you imagine the disciples’ discourse as they traveled to the city?  “Did he say what color the donkey would be?  What if there isn’t a donkey there?  What if we get there before the donkey gets there?  Do we wait or do we go back to Jesus?  What if the owner is gone and someone else sees us taking the animal and won’t let us take it?”  This could not have been a task that they enjoyed doing.  But they obeyed and the donkey was there. 

The logistics of our Christian walk is truly miraculous.  A few days ago, I got a call from a Hospice volunteer, Jack.  He called to verify that my husband wanted a visitor.  After a few minutes on the phone, Jack said, “I think I know you.  Are you the Linda Howard with Special Gathering?”   I told Jack yes and he continued, “We met through Patty when her husband and daughter died.” 

After her husband died perhaps seven years ago, Patty became a faithful volunteer whose daughter was a Special Gathering deacon and part of our choir.  About two years ago, the daughter died.  Patty and I have become good friends.  Even though she has moved to another state, I call her occasionally.  Patty and I had talked about Jack a few days before.  “Of course,” I said to Jack, “Patty and I were talking about you the other day.”

Jack came to our home last Monday.  Briefly, my husband, Jack and I talked.  Because I was preparing for a board meeting, I excused myself.  I needed to call Patty because she had agreed to serve on our board before she moved.  While talking with her, I decided that she would probably want to speak with Jack.  Walking back to the bedroom, I said to Patty, “I have someone here at my house that you would like to talk to” and I handed the phone to Jack.

They talked for a very long time.  Jack seemed pretty involved and concerned but they weren’t talking about anything important.  Finally, I was speaking to Patty again.  “Jack will be such a blessing to you and your husband,” said said.  “The Lord has used him so often in my life,” Patty said as she began to cry.

“Do you remember that this is the second anniversary of when my daughter died?” she asked me.  I did not remember.  “The Lord has sent Jack to me everytime I needed someone to encourage me since my husband died seven years ago.  I could not believe he was on the phone today.  I needed to be able to speak to him, today.”  Of course, by now, both of us were crying.

That night in my daily reading of Scriptures, I read Matthew 21.  The Lord quietly spoke to my heart, “I’ll always have the donkey at the right place when you need it and when I tell you to get it.”  Every ministry depends of logistical miracles.  Special needs ministry is even more important as we are dealing with parents and members who may be required to wrestle almost daily with crises. 

Remembering that the donkey will always be in the right place at the right time means that our task is simply listening and obeying.

Isn’t it amazing how quickly work can turn from great satisfaction to great frustration?  For the past week, I’ve been working to update The Special Gathering of Indian River data base.  It has been an exciting learning curve for me.  I truly enjoy stretching my mind and learning new things.  In the back of my mind, of course, there have been nagging concerns because I don’t really understand the overall picture of what I’m doing.  I’m learning the 1, 2, 3 steps but not understanding the overall picture.

Facing a deadline this afternoon, I labored this morning well ahead of time to meet the deadline.  Then I came to a screeching halt.  Several things with my husband took up more time than normal.  I returned to finish a simple task that I’ve done for 20 years.  However, I was working with the adjustments in our data base and I somehow doubled all my labels.  Instead of 425 labels, I ended up with 850, two of each label.  Unfortunately, because I was feeling the pressure of the deadline, I didn’t catch the mistake until I had printed all 850 labels.  I tried to redo the labels.  Again, they were doubled.

I redid the whole process.  Still, double labels.  Frustrated, I reworked the entire data base.  Doubles, again.  Finally, I returned to last month’s data and successfully did my labels.  By now, I was stressed and confused. 

As I drove to The Special Gathering office to deliver the newsletter and labels, I reviewed what–if anything–I had learned.  Here are several things which might help you.

  1. Complete the task as quickly and easily as possible. 
  2. Assume it is an OE (operator error) problem.   
  3. If you must, go back to older data or an older methods to complete the task.
  4. As soon as the job is completed, leave.
  5. You may not be able to leave your office, but leave the work area for a time.  Walk away from your desk.  Do a completely different task. Get a cup of tea or coffee. 
  6. Reward yourself.  Eat a piece of chocolate.  I went through a drive-thru restaurant window treating myself to my favorite fish sandwich.
  7. Find some soothing worship music to calm your spirit.
  8. Once you have cooled down a bit, review your mistakes and actions in your mind. 
  9. Try to understand what you could have done differently.
  10. If your review causes the stress to return, challenge your mind to jog away from the event, again. 
  11. Return to your review when you can objectively face the ministry problem.
  12. Pray and ask God to show you the mistakes and the way to correct your mistakes.

Even Jesus moved away from the stress of ministry, only to return stronger and more determined.  You will become exasperated at times; and you will be frustrated.  During these times, move away and allow God to heal your wounded spirit.

Have you seen the movie, Paying Forward?  It is about a young boy who starts a movement that spreads all over the world by helping someone whom you may not even know.  The person who receives the favor must then pay forward by doing something good for someone else.  It’s a tear-jerking, feel-good movie meant to touch your emotions and perhaps even motivate you to do good.

About 30 years ago, I started visiting nursing homes.  I did it for about five years.  I would dress our daughter in her prettiest dresses and take her with me.  She would smile and charm all the residents.  They would ooh and ahh over her for as long as we would stay.

My purpose was somewhat selfish.  We lived 400 miles from my parents’ home.  I realized that when the time came for them to have a need for care and concern because of their old age, I would not be around to do it.  However, I wanted to sow seeds in the lives of others to ensure that my parents would receive the care they would need.  As it turned out, my sister and her family became their caregivers.  I’ll be eternally grateful for the care they received.

Last night, my paying forward reaped six personal faces.  Brad Shea of Able House brought a group of six to play hymns for my husband and me.  The name of the instrumental quartet and the two singers is The Hymnsters.  There was a clarinet, violin and two guitars.  They were extremely gifted and in our family room, their music was truly magnificent.

Frank and I sang and cried because of their great kindness.  “But we are the ones who were blessed,” Shea said as they headed toward our front door, while surrounded by our thanks and praises. 

Of course, our lives have been filled with kind people who do kind things for us.  Yet, in this time of need and weakness, The Hymnsters act of love and goodwill took on larger proportions.  Being a person who shows love is sometimes as easy as showing up and doing what you love to do.  Within the mentally challenged community, our teachers and volunteers are the type of people who show up and do what they love to do.  It is a good thing to remind our members occasionally how important their ministry is. 

Ed is a Bible teacher in one of our programs.  He has been faithfully serving for more than 10 years.  He has come to teach his class a few days after a stroke and less than a week after major surgery.  Our members genuinely adore him.  Occasionally, I will explain something to one of the members of his class.  They will look at me with skepticism and reply, “I’ll ask Ed about that.”

As Ed pays forward, I am praying that God will richly bless him, as much as Ed is blessing them.

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