July 2012


My learning philosophy with pretty much every project is that I endeavor is to learn as much as I need so I can do the job and leave the other stuff to people who compose, fix and invent things.  That is especially true with the computer.  As examples, I don’t have to have all the music memorized to lead the choir in their first rehearsal of a song and I don’t need to understand the transfer of electrical currents to turn on a light switch.  Usually, my life philosophy serves me will.  That is until I try to invade a world where I need to understand more than I know.  Like blogging.

Our executive director gave me a wonderful gift after I’d been blogging for about a month.  It’s a manual on blogging.  Excited and happy, I immediately started reading it.  I underlined and tried to memorize as I went along.  You see, after a time of blogging, I realized that I know so little about the Internet and it’s terminology that I don’t even know what I don’t know.  That, of course, means that I don’t know enough about what I’m doing to know what I need to know.  Therefore, by ability to learn is hampered because I need to know how to do what I need to know.  If you are confused by all this, imagine how I feel.

After a few hours of reading my rich treasure manual, I needed to put it down–for a few days.  This was a fatal mistake.  When I picked it up again,  I’d forgotten to mark the page I was last reading but that didn’t matter to me at the time.  Because I’d underlined key passages as I went along. I was confident that I could find my way back to my place.  The only problem.  I somehow didn’t remember one thing I had read.  I needed to begin from page one.

The acronoms were particularly troublesome.  I could not remember even one of them. This time reading through I wrote out each acronym that I came to.  Therefore, I was not only remembering what the acronym means but I’ll understand the sentence better.  My philosophy in reading is the Lemony Snicket Theorywhich is similar to my life philosophy.  I skip the words I don’t understand and usually the context of the material will help me to understand the sentence and the words I didn’t understand. This is not true in blogging.

While I’m  into my fifth year of blogging, it has been only one year since I’ve become confortable inserting pictures.  In the process, WordPress, the website that hosts my blog has made adding photos much easier.  Additionally, I’ve learned to find my pictures from Google Image.  Then I download them onto my desktop and then use them in my blog.

Jesus said that we should never begin a blog unless we understand enough about the Internet so we can estimate the amount of time it will take us to complete each daily article and draw traffic to our web entry.  Sure, I am paraphrasing but you get the point.  I’m not a quitter but I sure wish I could sleep through the learning process, the way my choir often sleeps through rehearsals.

As I venture into a fresh project, I find I have much in common with my mentally challenged members.  It’s easy for me to lose interest in the new things as they become more complicated.  But that is childish, not child-like.  Struggle helps us to learn and survive.  Forcing, Nancy and Lucy, members of the choir, to stay awake while we’re doing the hard work of rehearsal is beneficial.  Likewise, rereading those first four chapters will embed them into my brain.

Have you found, like me, that you are sometimes enthused to start a new project only to become totally disinterested when it’s a bit harder than you anticipated?   Is it possible that we are more like members of my special needs choir, than we are different?

While in Hawaii, my daughter and I rode the bus a good bit.  Waiting at the bus stops or traveling to our destination, I had time to look around the beautiful island of Oahu.  These were pleasant breaks in our day.  We often talked about the morning or the coming day.  During other intervals, we simply sat silently watching people.

Even though I value promptness, I enjoy broken days.  Taking time to enjoy the moment feeds my soul.  A fresh breeze, a quiet pause, the sunlight coating my face and arms.  It is told that Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley, would often take her apron and put it over her face.  During those times, none of her 19 children were allowed to disturb her.

One of the most valuable things, the mentally challenged community has taught me is to enjoy the moment.  Rejoice in the broken days.  During those precious times, the strains of the day are lost.  It’s a time to refuse worry about the world economy to invade your mind and soul.  The future and the past can be neatly tucked away like unused luggage because only the moment remains.

While preparing for bed last night, I received two phone calls.  One was from an ailing friend, who was returning my call.  The other was from a fellow employee advising me of a change in her schedule.  I’ve learned that I rest best when I spend about an hour in the evening getting ready for sleep.  The phone calls were welcomed and necessary but they broke my prep time.  After I hung up the phone, my mind began to fret because I was now wide awake.

Quickly I got out of the bed and took a few steps back into my preparation for sleep.  I reminded myself of the benefits–and necessity–of broken days.  Paul tells us to “rejoice in the Lord.”  Then he repeats his admonition, “And again, I say, ‘Rejoice.'”   None of us have the luxury of perfect schedules or unbroken hours.  Therefore, we can learn to look and listen, rejoicing and becoming refreshed by the breaks, enveloping them into our times of rest, rather than fretting about the interruption.

The Bible teaches us

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing people what is wrong in their lives, for correcting faults, and for teaching  (II Timothy 3:16).

Central Theme:  God‘s word is our teacher.

Introduction–Have everyone hold up their Bibles.  We have learned that the Bible is a wonderful treasure and that it is true.   But we also need to know that God’s word teaches us how to live.

I.     Paul and Timothy were good friends.  Paul was a lot older than Timothy so Paul helped Timothy learn about God‘s truth.  Paul wrote two letters to Timothy that became part of the Bible

A. Have a member read II Timothy 3:16.

B.  Timothy was a pastor and Paul was helping him with some of the problems he was having.  They were practical problems, like stomach problems and problems in his church.

II.     The scriptures are used for four things.  The scriptures are some part of the Bible.

A. To teach us.

B.  To show people what is wrong in their lives

C. To correct faults in our lives

1.  Naturally curly hair is not a virtue.

2.  Hanging onto things that are a sin; just because they are part of who I am is also not a virtue. ex.  When we get angry and try to hurt other people, we are sinning.  To say that we have a bad temper because we are English is an excuse.  It is not a virtue.

3.  If we are born with something wrong with our bodies that can be fixed, we need to fix it.

a.  my teeth were not straight.  I was able to straighten them by pushing them around.

D. The Scriptures are used to teach us how to live right.

1.  We all have question about what we should do or not do.

2.  The Bible helps us to see the areas of our life that are right and how we can improve our lives.

Conclusion–There is no way we can live a successful life without following the teachings in God‘s word.

There are times that I simply want to say something that isn’t about disability ministries.  Today is one of those days.  Bear with me.  Perhaps you may even enjoy my perspective on wealth.

When I was a child, I thought we were rich.  In reality, we were not.  Yet, I seem to have always had an exalted idea of my lifestyle.  There are a few things that I gage weath by:

1.  Do I have enough money to go out to eat at least once a week?  It doesn’t matter whether I actually go out to eat.  The standard is if I have the money.  Lunch money is my standard.

2. Do I have money in the bank?  It doesn’t matter how much money.  I need just enough to keep the check my husband wrote and did not tell me about from bouncing.

3.  Do I have extra money in my pocket that isn’t earmarked for a necessity?  Of course, women have handbags but you understand.

4.  Super Rich bonus:  Did I find a $5 or $10 bill in a pocket of the pants I put on this morning?

5.  Does my car have gas in it?

6.  If not, do I have enough money to put gas in the car so I get home?

7.  Can I pay for the cart of weekly groceries that I’m pushing into the cashier’s aisle?

8.  Can I pay the monthly household expenses: house, water, electricity?

9.  If not, do I have something that I can sell?

10.  Can I afford a $1 iced tea at McDonald’s if I get thirsty when I’m driving in the car?  Again, I don’t have to actually buy the tea.  I have to be able to buy it.

11.  Can I afford to turn down the A/C to a comfortable range while I am sleeping?  During the day, I can keep the A/C at an oppressively hot level.  Therefore,  night time temperatures are my gage.  We live in Florida.  In the winter, I can always put on extra clothes when it is cold and enjoy the refreshing cool air.

12.  Can I scape up enough money to share with someone who has a genuine need?

13.  Do I have enough on school mornings to give each child their lunch money?

14.  Do I have one really nice dress in my closet that I can wear should there be an emergency? 

15.  Super Rich Bonus:  Does each member of our family have one nice set of clothes that we can all wear at the same time should there be an emergency?

Every person has his or her own richness-scale.  Perhaps it tells a good deal about us and our happiness level when you look at how rich we perceive ourselves to be.

Last week we started learning new music at The Special Gathering Vero and Melbourne choirs.   I am the director of three of the six choirs at Special Gathering, a ministry within the intellectual disability community.  Our choirs sing in local churches and during our chapel services.  Our purpose in traveling to other congregations is to educate the church to the spiritual needs of people who are mentally challenged.

Trying to keep the choirs more interested in newer music, I often let them choose the new songs.  Because our members memorize the music, it takes a bit longer to teach them the words and melody.  Therefore I begin about three or four months before they will preform the songs.  This new music contains the songs we’ll be singing in the summer and fall.

During the time we were going over the new selections, Anna kept wandering away in her mind.  Lucy and Nancy were nodding off.  Only Sheila was awake and perky during the half hour that we were rehearsing the new numbers.  After we had sung the new pieces once, maybe twice, we jumped into the older music that we knew.  Immediately, Anna was centered. Lucy and Nancy woke up with smiles.  Their grins returned and they were laughing and happy to sing our older melodic friends.

When I went back to college as an adult, I was taught something that I had not previously learned at school.  One professor lectured, “We all learn better in bits and pieces.  A few minutes here and there; and we will absorb new information better than sitting down and cramming in one long stretch.”  As a child, I didn’t make excellent grades.  Therefore, I wasn’t considered a good student; but during those years, I did learn how to learn.  In reality I wasn’t memorizing facts; but I was learning the essence of learning.

Each afternoon, I came home from school and did my written work while watching TV.  When I was studying for tests, however, I did that while washing dishes or taking a shower.  I was absorbing bits and pieces.  In addition, because I was a more tactical learner, I would better able to associate and assimilate the facts I needed while doing another task.  Sitting in a quiet room armed with only bare facts accomplished nothing except to pile unneeded stress on me.

If you are wanting to learn, it is important to take it easy.  Take the time needed.  The Bible tells us that we learn about God’s ways “line upon line, precept upon precept.”  Turns out that all of us who learn, learn best the way God prescribed.  It is interesting that Isaiah gave us this valuable information more than 2,400 years ago.

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?

Because of unusual circumstances a good friend of mine was recently called “an enabler.”  Of course, I’ve known I am an enabler and I’ve recognized it for years.  I believe that the stem of enabling is a super-large ego that actually believes that my actions will heal all things in your life.  There can even be a big mixture of a Messiah complex that says that without me, you will not survive.

However, in the mix of that is the person who truly needs our help.  Whenever I am ready to judge another person for enabling their children, grandchildren, wife or husband, I think of my friend Eleanor.  She was a wonderful Christian teacher whose children had grown up, married, struggled immensely but became successful.

Eleanor would constantly speak to the members of her Bible study class about enabling their children who were not succeeding.  These women had come to the Lord at a later age and their children had paid the price of their ungodly, wild lifestyles.  The children were undisciplined and unable to remain off the Mommy Dole.  Eleanor counseled her students to use tough love with their children and grandchildren, allowing them to learn from their mistakes.  “Don’t let your children move back home,” Eleanor would lecture.  “You are only hindering their spiritual growth.  I don’t care if their husbands have left them and their children are hungry, they won’t grow unless you stop bailing them out of every tough situation.”

Then the unthinkable happened. Eleanor’s son-in-law came home one day and told his wife that he was leaving her and the children because he had fallen in love with his secretary.  The son-in-law was the pastor of a large church.  Therefore, he was also leaving his church, taking a salesman’s job.  Of course, he would not be supporting her and the children.  They had to move from their home, the parsonage.  Within a week, her daughter and three grandchildren were broke, homeless and fatherless.

Without any thought of right or wrong, the daughter and children moved back home with her parents.  The members of the Bible study called, “Foul.”  They went to Eleanor asking the obvious questions.  Of course, Eleanor announced that her situation as unique.  Her daughter was the wounded party, and her grandchildren were special.

When the Bible study members came to me asking my opinion, I had to take Eleanor’s side.  “What would you do?” I asked.  What Eleanor had taught, lectured and placed on the back of others did not negate the fact that her desperate daughter needed help.

From that day, I realized that enabling is in the eye of the beholder.  When it’s my hungry grandchildren…  When it’s my wounded adult child…

Yesterday my close friend who had been called an enabler visited me. “What should I do?” she asked.  I told her the story of Eleanor and confessed, “I have no idea.”

Then I remembered the great blessings God has poured on my friend, The Enabler.  She lives on basically nothing but she lives like a “rich man.”  God blesses what she has to the extreme.  I realized that whatever she is doing with the dependent people doesn’t seem to bother God.  He is pouring out material and spiritual blessings on her by the truck load.

At times, there are no answers to the why’s and wherefore’s of God’s grace.  Opening your home to family may not be the way God wants to deal with an errant young person.  Yet, it could be exactly what God is desiring to do for them.  Enablers must be constantly on the alert to be sure that we are enpowering–not hindering.  However, we cannot close our hearts to hear what God is saying, either.

Working with people who’s children are developmentally disabled has been an eye-opening experience for me.  What a tricky path professionals, caregivers and parents walk between promoting a person’s independent skills and talents while allowing them to grow up whole and holy.

There are no easy answers; but I truly believe that God will give each of us the answers that will help us to truly follow Him. At times, it may mean using tough love.  But it could also mean enfolding a loved one into our families and providing whatever is needed.  There doesn’t seem to any pat answers when it’s our children.  Perhaps God has designed life that way to keep us on our knees, dependent on him.

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