February 2012

It is inevitable that conflict will come when two people live, work, play or worship together.  An extremely quotable pastor from years past, Jack Green, once said, “If two people live together, there will be conflict, unless one of the two people is dead.”

I’ve always assumed that if there is a conflict between two people at least one of those people is angry.  That does not mean, of course, that one of the two people is sinning.  The Bible clearly says, “Be angry and sin not.”  This makes it pretty clear that you can be angry and not sin.

I am area director of Special Gathering of Indian River, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community. Our mission is to do classic ministry, evangelizing and discipling the people we serve.  Like every other pastor who ministers to a particular group, we deliberately tackle issues that are relevant to our members.  We talk about the sheltered workshop and having a job on the outside.  We try to deal with the issue of having to live with your parents FOREVER.  Proper behavior with your girl/boyfriend is a scorching hot topic.  Yet, I’ve never squarely faced with our members the issue of siblings–until last week.

Our sermon was on Jacob and Esau.  We are all familiar with the bitter rivalry that these men faced, even in the womb.  Both mother and father were guilty of fostering these battles, which eventually led to resentments.  This week in our sermon I explained to our members that their brothers and sisters have given up a lot for them.  Because many of them were sick as children and they always have had special needs, their siblings lives were different from others.  I urged them to say thank you to their brothers or sisters for helping them and for being kind to them.

I was surprised because one especially sensitive young woman, Michal, spoke up and said, “I don’t have to, my sister loves me.”  While I don’t often welcome interruptions during our devotion time, I was happy for this one.  As she spoke several of our members vocally agreed with her.  Obviously, I’d not made my point clearly.

“No!”  I tried to clarify.  “I’m not saying that they resent you so you need to say thank you.  I’m saying they have given up a lot for you, and for that reason you need to say thank you. Recently, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said, “You are so involved with what you don’t have that you don’t appreciate what you do have.”

It is true that our members are discriminated against almost everywhere.  But in their homes, they often receive preferential treatment.  Siblings see it.  They may even be angry but it’s been my experience that few of them sin.  They embrace their disabled partner in family life and move on, helping where they can.  Siblings deserve a big thank you for their love, understanding, and caring.

Is there someone in your life that you need to thank?  Perhaps your husband or wife who does so many little things to please you?  What about one of your members who is careful to help you each time you meet?

Is there a way that we can super charge our ministry?  Perhaps a better question is “Should we even try to have a super-charged ministry?”  Last October, as I sat with more than ten people who head special needs ministries from many parts of the US and Canada, I saw men and women who weren’t looking for a position of importance or even a national platform.  They merely want to do an effective job in the ministry to which God has called them.

In studying men and women who have been successful in ministry, there are several things I’ve observed which factor into their success.

First is a strong sense of CALL.  Each person I’ve met who heads a successful ministry within the mentally challenged community has felt that the Lord has called them to share the gospel with men and women who are intellectually disabled.  They can pin-point a day and hour when God cemented their call within their spirits.  There have been a few folks who have sort of fallen into this ministry for one reason or another. Even though they are fine people, they don’t have the a burning gut to reach special needs people for the Lord.  They seem to fall away quickly.

Second, they are hard-working people.  Ten-to-16-hour days are the norm–not the exception in their lives.  Taking a day off is one of the hardest things they do every week.

Third, they are able to intensely focus on their God-given purpose.  Having a singular focus means that they are able to eliminate things in their lives which distract from what God has called them to do.

Fourth, they maintain a relationship with the Lord that is separate from their ministry.  They learn early that losing a relationship with God will shipwreck their calling.

Fifth, they are able to change their mode of operation.  Even though they know what God wants them to do, they are not married to the methods.

Sixth, they are eager to learn from others.  They read and study.  They welcome times to gather with others who are doing what they do to be able to hear what others are doing.

Seventh, they are willing to generously share their methods with others.  They liberally give away their thoughts and techniques to other people who minister within this community.

What are some of the other things you have observed which have makes a ministry head successful in their ability to reach people for the Lord?

Today is a day I will NOT remember.  I got up at my usual 4:30A.M.  After my prayer time, I went into the kitchen to start a pot of decaf; but instead, I had a text message from my son.  I sat down on the couch to answer the message.  After I pressed Send, I closed my eyes and went back to sleep.

The rest of the morning is a bit of a fog.  I woke up a few minutes before 9A.M. to the sound of cable news.  Sometime during those four hours, I’d turned on the TV and fallen back asleep.

Perhaps this is a good thing that I’m having a forgettable day because the last three days were pretty significant.  In fact, I was so excited about the happenings of Friday, Saturday and Sunday that I awakened at 1A.M. each day and I couldn’t seem to get my mind to stop revolving and rehearsing the events of the coming weekend.

To others, there may not be much significance regarding what happened.  I was directing one of the Special Gathering choirs on Saturday and again on Sunday.  The Special Gathering is a ministry within the intellectually disabled community.  Our mission is evangelism and discipleship.  I’ve been a choir director for a Special Gathering choir for about 22 years now; and I’ve not lost the joy of experiencing their performances.  In addition, they share my excitement about being given the privilege to minister and sing for the Lord.

In contrast, last night, I watched an extremely painful interview with Whitney Houston by Oprah Winfrey.  The painful thing was that Ms. Houston had lost the joy of singing.  Again and again, Oprah tried to pull from her some recognition of sorrow for having lost the opportunity to sing for almost 10 years.  But the only response from this extremely gifted woman was “I had all I needed.  I didn’t need money.  I had everything.  I didn’t need to sing anymore.”

Of course, Ms. Houston wasn’t singing for the Lord and that may have made a difference.  Nevertheless, I could not help but compare the joy The Special Gathering choir has in worship and ministry to this sad woman who “had everything.”

To be honest with you, The Special Gathering choirs are “better felt, than telt.”  Some of the choir members would even be put into the category of  Tone Deaf.  Yet what they lack in talent, they make up with joy and excitement to be serving the Lord.

Forgettable days should happen on occasion and I’m glad that for me it means a day of rest.  But to lose the joy of a new day would be sad beyond imagination for me.

What are the things that give you the most joy in your life?  Are forgettable days times of rest for you?

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/simplelife/#ixzz1myQZ6EIm

God is Just
Ezekiel 18:2527
Central Theme: God is just, not like people.

Introduction–Show the a picture or a replica of the White House and the Congressional building. Talk about the three parts of our government. Each part of the government checks up on the other one; and they each have a only a part of the power. They balance each other out. That is because mankind is very wicked. Sometimes we are so evil that we think that even God is wicked.

I. Have a member read Ezekiel 18:25-27.
A. Tell about Ezekiel and how the people were being punished; yet they were still being evil and bad.
B. God said that they were so wicked that they even thought that God was evil.
C. Before my children became parents, they thought their dad and I were really mean and hateful.
1. Now they think we were really soft of them.
2. They are going to be tougher on their children.

II. We cannot understand God and sometimes we think that God is mean.
A. Richard Stimson says that we all see reality from our own perspective.
B. That means that we understand what is happening from the way we see it.

III. We must learn to trust God and believe that his way is right no matter that happens.
A. One day I lost your pocketbook and I wanted to blame God.  But I knew that was wrong and I told God that I knew I was the one to blame.  I asked that God would help me to find it.  I got home from looking for my pocketbook and I got a phone call from the police.  They had found it and not one penny or credit card was missing.
1. I learned to not blame God for my mistakes.
2. God is not responsible for my goofing up.

Conclusion–Because we are people who do not really understand what is right. We need godly people to help us understand.

On Saturday, several people who have not attended Special Gathering for almost a year came back.  I could tell from the expressions on their faces and from the look in their eyes that they completely enjoyed their time with us.  My questions when they left was “Will they come back?”

Scout is a man with a brain injury and severe short-term memory.  He is enthused about the way we allow him to take a leadership position.  Recently, he was moved from his group home to an independent apartment.  However, he can only come when a staff person from his former group home decides to pick him up from his apartment.  Because of his short-term-memory disability, he cannot keep track of the day of the week.  Even though he loves the worship experience and his time at Special Gathering, each week is a new experience for him.  Therefore, he doesn’t remember from one Saturday to the next what has happened.

There is no doubt that Scout is growing in the Lord.  Yet, keeping him focused is a concern for him and for Special Gathering staff.

Babs is a high functioning middle-aged woman who also lives in her own apartment.  She lives with a young woman who feels that Special Gathering is too structured and “religious” for her.  Her housemate influences her.  Babs is normally a sad person.  I haven’t seen her smile in almost a year.  On Saturday, she was smiling for the entire time she was at the chapel program.  While she didn’t want to enjoy her time with us, it was as though she had come home and her face showed it.

At times, people within the mentally challenged community struggle with the same issues that folks without their disability struggle.  For Scott, it is remembering and trying to fit Special Gathering into his schedule.  Babs struggles to sort through her emotions regarding her relationship with the Lord.

Our struggle is helping the men and women who are face these issue to remember that their peace and joy comes from worshiping and loving the Lord.  What are some of the things that you do help your members overcome these battles?  What have you found that does not work?

One year ago tomorrow, my husband came home from the skilled nursing center to die.  While I often say that I don’t live in denial, I had no idea that three months later, he would be dead.  For about a week, the nursing center had been telling me that I could not take care of him if I took him home; but I knew that I would not do heroics regarding his care.  Additionally, he greatly desired to come home.  I had been preparing financially for his care for years and we were ready to take on this monetary responsibility.

For two decades, I’ve observed families living with people who have disabilities and I’ve learned a great deal from their wisdom and mistakes.  Yet, I was struck a month later when I realized that my husband’s Hospice diagnoses had changed from “late-term dementia” to “adult failure to thrive.”  Simply speaking, this means that my husband was in the dying process.

As I remember the day he came home, so many things flood my mind.  Here are some things I learned.

  1. He was constantly falling in and out of reality.  It became my job to remind him where he was and who was taking care of him which greatly relieved his anxiety.  As each caregiver entered his room, I tried to reintroduce them.  “Frank, Terry is here.  Remember she is here to take care of you today while I’m going to work.”  
  2. I learned to leave him alone because that was his desire.  Additionally, he was no long about to respond.  I had no idea how much he understood; and I was concerned that when there were distractions he knew more about his atmosphere than we thought.
  3. He slept most of the day; and he no longer wanted the TV set playing.  Frank had always wanted the TV on constantly.  Now it disturbed him.  This was my cue that he no longer needed or desired distractions.
  4. I’d been critical of the nursing care staff who would not get him up each day.  However, when he came home, I realized how weak he was.  The first day, I got him up early.  He sat up for several hours.  It was clear that he was totally exhausted beyond anything I’d experienced from him.  The next day, I got him up.  Again, he sat up for several hours.  As I took off his feet props from his wheelchair, I turned to put them out-of-the-way.  When I pivoted back, he had slipped and was falling out of his chair.  I realized how weak he was.  This was his last day to get up.
  5. I realized that his great strength could only keep him alive for so long.  I felt that he would continue to live for many more years because he was the strongest person I’d ever met.  However, operations, pain and bone cancer had stolen his ability to fight.
  6. I learned that I must be firm with his support staff, especially the doctors and nurses.  I had assumed that they would keep me informed.  Yet, when I was told that my husband had bone cancer, this information had been kept from me for several months.  Additionally, I had not been told that he was in the dying process.  When I realized his condition, I made an appointment with the nurse and told her that I could take any information given to me.  I would not tolerate not being told my husband’s status.  From that time, everyone was aware that I needed to be informed.  However, I had to be emphatic about my need to know.

I am extremely grateful for the lesson I’ve learned from the disability community and the heroic family members who have walked “through the valley of death” for years.  Again, they have taught me more than I could ever teach them.

Salvation brings changes in my life

Matthew 5:16

Central Theme:   When we are saved, we will make changes in our lives.

Introduction–Point out some positive changes that you have noticed in your member‘s lives since you have known them.  When we have Jesus, he helps us to change in good ways.  Have a member read Matthew 5:16.

I.     Tell the story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector.

1.  We know that Zacchaeus became a follower of Jesus, because he changed.

2.  Zacchaeus said that he would give half of what he had to the poor and pay back four times if he had cheated someone.

II.     When we repent of the things in our lives God makes changes.

A. Share a story about how the Lord helped you to change.

B.  My example:  For many years, I would do all my laundry on Monday–an all day process.   I would do my husband’s laundry last to insure that all the REST of the laundry would get done.  I felt putting his clothes last insured that I did all of the laundry.  However, every Tuesday, I would get up and remember that I had not put his laundry in the dryer.  I would rush to try to find him a clean underwear or frantically try to dry one pair.  On day, I was so frustrated with myself that I prayed, “Lord, help me solved this problem.”  Immediately, the thought came to do Frank’s laundry first.  That day I changed my behavior.  Frank always had underwear after that.  I call this example of drastic change, Underwear repentance.

B. I also learned that when I burning the peas and that I could not make excuses.  When I faced my responsibility, I quit burning the peas so often.

C. Tell about gossip and how Jesus is changing my talk.

1.  I love gossip but God hates it.

2.  I am seeing how it looks to God and why He hates it.

Conclusion–Zacchaeus gives us an important principle to live by.  He wanted God to be in his life; and he changed.  Change shows people that we are God‘s children.  We act differently from the rest of the world.

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