November 2012


Congressman PoseyIt was a happy day when I mentioned to a person who works at Congressman Posey’s office about my AT&T phone problem.  “Oh, no,” the Congressman’s helpful office manager, Pam Gillespie, said.  “It is a federal law that you must be able to transfer your number to your new carrier. They are breaking FCC rules.”

For over a month, I’d been fighting with a slew of AT&T representatives to get my home/ministry phone connected from a different carrier.  The result was that AT&T had somehow lost my phone number; and they were reporting to me that there was no way to retrieve it from the new carrier who had acquired it.  While this didn’t seem reasonable to me, because the phone number would not be given to someone else for at least two months, I could not get anyone at AT&T interested enough to eliminate the problem.

Mrs. Gillespie advised me to notify the Congressman’s office and fill out and sign a privacy form.  She assured me that if there were a Congressional Inquiry started regarding my situation that my month-long ordeal would be resolved to my satisfaction.  Mrs. Gillespie was correct.  Even though it was the day before Thanksgiving, I received calls from my former carrier and AT&T within an hour of the carriers’ receiving the inquiry information.

By the end of the week, I had my phone with my old phone number.  While my ordeal seemed complicated and overwhelming to me, a report to the Federal Communications Commission from Congressman Posey’s office quickly untangled the knots from the problem.

I want to personally thank Congressman Bill Posey and his fine staff for solving this perplexing situation.  Phone service seems to be a complicated problem for many people and there are many complaints regarding AT&T service.  However, if you are facing this hassle, call your congressional representative.  I did and I was thrilled with the results. In addition, I found that every AT&T rep that I spoke with (and I chatted with about 100 of them) were all friendly and sincerely wanted to help me.  Almost every time I yelled at them, I was almost sorry that it did it.

LutherMartin Luther has been quoted (or probably misquoted) as saying, “I’ve read the Bible once.  I don’t need to read it again.”  The life of Luther disavows this ascertion because it was his study of the scriptures that led him to faith in Christ.  His last note scribbled on a scrap of paper while he lay on his death bed was an exhortation to study the Bible with a humble heart.

As a young woman, I was a bit preplexed when I learned that Christian seminaries teach theology–not the Scriptures.  Theology, as I’m sure you know, is the study of God rather than the study of the Word of God.  While the Bible is the basis for all theology, our seminaries teach and examine the thoughts and beliefs of theologians regarding what the Bible teaches about God.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve seen this study of theology in our seminaries as a good thing, rather than a negative.  While I do not believe that the study of the Scriptures should ever be replaced with the thoughts and ideas of men, we learn from and gather knowledge from women and men who know God and have searched the depths of His love and grace.

This year, I’ve simply read and reread the New Testament for the past six months.  When I received an iPad as a ministry tool, I found it a valuable tool for studying the scriptures, as well.  Then I discovered the value of the audio Bible.  I read along with the audio and gleaned a great deal more than I have gathered from all the years of reading it to myself.  Preparing for bed, I would listen to the Bible.  I’d read my normal four chapters before I went to sleep and then I would listen to the Bible as I went to sleep.

I found amazing nuggets that I’d missed previously.  I’ve always desired to have a deep understanding of the Book of Romans.  I listened and relistened to Romans.  I read and reread Paul’s epistle.  I found that repetition brought great meaning to me.  I felt the sting of his rebuke and the comforting joy of knowing that my redemption was fully and completely bought by the blood of Jesus.  I entered a new time of rest and joy as I rehearsed Paul’s writings from Romans 8.

Again and again, I would stop the audio to reread a part that seemed new and fresh.  Perhaps it is the working though grief that has drawn me into the New Testament in this way.  I must say that I’ve felt more of the Lord’s grace and mercy during the past 18 months, than I’ve felt sorrow or remorse.

My mother used to say, “Repetition bring out thought.”  I’ve seen that my repeated reading of God’s Word has brought out a thoughfulness that I’ve not experienced in all my years of studying the Scriptures.

I’ve also wondered how much value the mentally challenged community would received by a daily rehearsal of the scriptures.  I understand that the Bible is not a “magic book” but we are promised that the truths contained in the Bible are valuable and able to transform our minds and hearts.  What do you think?  Do you believe that there is value in having our member hear the Scriptures read to them as they follow along?

For years, one of our Bible teachers at Special Gathering reviewed the same Bible verse with his class every week.  “I will pray morning, noon and night.”  As the first five years rolled around, I became a bit disturbed.  Doesn’t he know any other verses? I asked myself.  Then I came to welcome the value of what he was teaching his class.  The learning abilities of his class were limited.  He drilled them each week.  While some of the members could quote the verse easily, others struggled week after week, year after year.

Slowly, as the years melted into seven, eight years, I came to see that my understanding of the verse was deepening.  Almost every week, I would sit in his class.  I found that this simple Biblical declaration became dear to me.

“I will pray morning, noon and night,” I would mutter to myself as I climbed into my car for lunch.  At odd times, I realized that my spirit mind was telling my sub-conscious mind, I will pray morning, noon and night.  It became a call to prayer for me that became a welcomed reminder and spurred my mind to think about prayer more often.

My mother took a selling job when I was a pre-teen.  In her training, she was taught an important principle that she shared withher daughters, “Repetition brings out thought.”  For those of us who value our quick minds, we sometimes discount the value and purpose of repetition.

However, men and women who make a daily practice of memorizing scriptures, repeat even the familiar ones several times a day.  They carry their scriptures packets for review during their down times.  Not only are they learning the Word and hiding God’s message in their hearts, they are bringing out new thoughts about what God has to say to them.

Ethel was a Bible teacher at Special Gathering.  Additionally, she wrote many books for the mentally challenged community and they were published in our monthly newsletter.  Ethel and I shared a passion for writing and Special Gathering.  Therefore, we became good friends through our shared ministry concerns.  In addition, we both excelled at “going to lunch” and we practiced that part of our friendship often.

Ethel wrote for our monthly newsletter “Connecting Point,” and she was incredibly faithful in her efforts.  Even after she moved to Volusia County, Ethel always met our deadlines; and she wrote with great skill and feeling for the special needs population.
As a Bible teacher, Ethel could not be matched.  She taught the Scriptures with a keen eye for truth and clarity.  Her class was a verse-by-verse discussion study for our readers.  It has become the model for our leadership and readers classes.
My first view of Ethel came 22 years ago through Sarah, her daughter who was mentally challenged.  It was my first year at Camp Agape, our annual ministry retreat.  Sarah was my bunk mate.  I had the top bunk and she had the bottom.
On Sunday afternoon, after two days of camp, I thought I was too tired to climb to the top bunk.  Therefore, I decided to lay on Sarah’s bottom bed, thinking that she would never notice or understand.  I was wrong!
Sarah came into the cabin and jumped me.  “Get off my bed,” she insisted. “You can’t get on my bed!”  Ethel had taught Sarah well.  It is vital for our population to understand their rights and Sarah knew that I was an intruder and she wasn’t intimidated by me.  Ethel treated Sarah as an adult, and she allowed Sarah the dignity of being valued for being a child of the Lord.
One year, in touring our campgrounds, Ethel asked Sarah what she liked best about camp.  Immediately, Sarah said, “Pool.”
Shocked, Ethel said, “You don’t know how to play pool.”  Sarah walked over to the pool table and demonstrated to her mother that she certainly did know how to play the game.  Ethel laughed, “Guess she showed me.”
Ethel was never willing to compromise her faith.  Yet, she shared the message of Jesus with compassion and great love.  Her greatest legacy is her faith in Christ and love for all people but especially for the men and women who knew and loved her through her ministry within the mentally challenged community.

Tell the good news that makes people happy

Luke 2:10

Central Theme:   Telling the good news of Jesus makes people very happy.

Introduction–Have a string of lights wrapped around your neck and drop a box of tinsel all over the floor.  Say, Christmas does not always make me happy. During Christmas time, there is too much work and you can never please everyone. But the good news of Jesus always makes people happy.  Have a member read Luke 2:10.

I.     Tell the story of the birth and the angels and the shepherds from Luke 2.

1.  The angels told the shepherds that this good news will make the whole world happy.

2.  The encyclopedia notes that Jesus is the one man who has changed the world for good more than any other person.

3.  The influence of Jesus has made the world a better place to live.

II.     The angels promised the world happiness.

A. Happiness and joy are not the same.

1.  Joy is a peace and contentment deep inside.

2.  Happiness is feeling or sense of pleasure.

B.  The angel said because Jesus was born the world would have a greater feeling of pleasure.

III.     We talk a lot about what we can do to be better Christians but I want to talk about what God has done to make our lives better.

A. God gave us Jesus to make everyone‘s lives more pleasant and happy.

B.  Our country is the result of this happiness–part of our constitution is that we have the right to try to find happiness.

C. The Howard family is going on a cruise this week.  It will make us all happy and that is part of what God wants for all of us.

Conclusion:  God wants us to be happy and he sent Jesus to make that happen.

The choice that changed everything

Nehemiah 9:17

Central Theme:  Man choices to sin and God chooses to be gracious.

A ream of paper has 500 sheets–not more and not less.  A foot is 12 inches–not more and not less.  There are many absolutes in our lives.  There are a couple of absolutes that totally changed mankind.  First, since Adam’s sin, we all choose to sin; and God always chooses to be gracious and forgive. Have a member read Nehemiah 9:17. 

I.     Tell the story of the fall and sin of mankind.

A. Eve ate the fruit and Adam followed.

B.  They were tricked by Satan.

C. God made them leave the garden but he chose to love them and forgive them.

II.     God will always choose to be gracious and loving to you.

A. We must desire God‘s love and his forgiveness.

B.  We don’t always think we need God.

III.     The ways we reject God.

1.  We decide that we can handle everything ourselves.

2.  We work toward being independent of God

3.  We want to please people rather than God

3.  We disobey God‘s laws.

A. There are unintended consequences to all of the bad choices that we make.

IV.     We should never forget that God will always show his love and graciousness to us.

Conclusions:  Each of us chooses to sin but God chooses to forgive us all the time.

Her voice was tentative, “Are you all right?”  My friend, Pam, asked.

At first I had no idea to what she was referring.  “Great.  What are you talking about?” I inquired.

“Well,” Pam started, hesitantly, “when we were having lunch on Monday and you got that phone call from AT&T, I was really surprised at how angry you got.  I’ve never seen you get angry.”

Alexander Graham Bell

Since October 16, I’ve had an ongoing battle with AT&T to get my home phone transferred from my previous server to their phone service. AT&T has been in business since 1885 and can trace its roots back to Alexander Graham Bell.  You would think this company would know how to connect a home telephone.

In fact, the process of connecting a phone appears to be so easy that they send self-installation kits to your home for you to install your own phone. (Because of their incompetance, I’ve received three installation kits.)  Yet even with 137 years of experience and the current ease of installation, I have been trying to get my phone installed for over a month.  It appears the skill needed to install a home phone has been lost by AT&T.

My journal logging the events over the past month is a three page, single-spaced document.  I’ve been shuttled to so many helpful service representative that I’m thinking of hooking a few of them up with some stray, unmarried cousins.

During lunch last Monday, I received a phone call from an extremely polite man from India or Pakistan informing me that I would now have a new phone number.  “It appears Mrs. Howard,” he quietly and most jovially said, “that you have misplaced your former phone number and AT&T cannot find it.

In response, I screamed as calmly as I could, “Oh, no!  I’ve had that phone number for 45 years.  You lost the number; now you find it!”  Then I hung up as I headed to the AT&T store where I had initiated the transfer.  The store resides only a mile away and I arrived there almost before he could call me back.

“Mrs. Howard, you must let me explain!” his quietude was withering.  I calmly screamed for a few more minutes.  Finally, I listened.  His explanation was classic.   I had somehow fouled up the account and even though AT&T was working as hard as they could, I would need to choose a new phone number.

I have spent over 40 hours on the phone with AT&T’s extremely polite and considerate representatives. My phone was originally connected by AT&T on October 16.  Disconnected on October 17.  The phone has been connected and disconnected an additional five times in the past month.  In response to each disconnection, I have been kind.  I’ve joked. I have raised my voice.  I’ve cajoled, begged, pleaded, demanded, asked to speak to the supervisor.  AT&T’s usual response is an extremely polite moment of silence on the other end.

I must commend AT&T for the training of their reps.  In the 40 hours spend being transfer from one representative to another, I have only encountered one person who has not treated me with the greatest of respect.

The only problem–I don’t want or need respect.  I need my phone.

It is November 15 and I still don’t have a telephone. Though I have been politely and joyously assured that I will receive yet another self-installation kit tomorrow.

In all of our lives, we suffer the embarrassment and shame of falling from our horse.  You know what I mean.  Sitting high and straight on our noble steeds, we are riding along our path of life, attempting to serve the Lord and believing that we are choosing His will and way.  When blam! We are struck by a blinding light and find ourselves in the middle of a road eating dust.

Few of us hear an actual voice as Paul did; but most of us understand that voice in our spirit that demands an answer, Why are you acting this way?…or going there?…or speaking in those tone?…or feeling this resentment and anger?

Perhaps it is the acidic taste of dirt or the humility of finding ourselves in the middle of life’s road unable to stand but suddenly our relationship with the Lord becomes clear.  In that instant, we know beyond any academic knowledge that our lives will never be the same. In fact, from that moment, the greatest prayer of our hearts is that our lives will never be the same.

If we are fortunate, God will renew that moment of humility and surrender every day.  Yet, I find that I am never very far from the falling point.  Billy Graham once said that he had found that three things trip up men and women of God.  Money, sex and pride.

His explained that he formed a corporation to take care of the money.  He kept his relationship with his wife current and did not form intimate friendships or allow himself to be alone with other women to take care of the sexual area.  Then laughing, he said, “I find that when I’m even slightly connected to God, He takes care of the pride area.”

Rev. Billy Graham

This leads me to believe that Graham is intimately familiar with the taste of dirt.  I am praying that the Lord will allow me to see these tragic falls as times of learning and release.  We are told that babies and drunks don’t often hurt themselves when they fall because they don’t tense with the fall.  They are able to relax.

“Learning to Fall” should be a primer course we teach in the church because all of us experience the stench and sourness of defeat.  I’m grateful that the Lord doesn’t leave us alone during the dirty times of life but He is there.  Teaching, correcting and loving.

Recently, I visited a neighboring Special Gathering program to practice our Christmas music.  It seemed like a good idea. However, it appears that I really messed up.  After the practice, I heard that I “put down” this great choir.  I was shocked because I was so completely impressed with them that I thought they were the best choir of the four with which I’ve worked.

In my attempts to compliment this choir, I assume I mixed up the names and somehow the result was that the choir felt insulted.  That was the last thing I wanted to do.  Fortunately, the choir members told someone; and I was able to straighten out the misunderstanding.

Communication is perhaps the most tricky thing that we do as Christians.  Often, when we are trying to show compassion, we are accused of being harsh or judgmental.  Our great intentions can be viewed as meddling or interference.

I wish I could give some great pointers that would direct you to a better way of communication; but, as my recent experience shows, I’m still a novice in this area.

I am encouraged, however, when I read the scriptures.  Two great Titans of the faith, Paul and Peter, became meshed in the lack of communication webbed tangle.  Paul rebuked Peter who sat with the Jews at a meal when Gentiles were also partaking at the meal.  This was seen as an insult to the Gentiles.  It was a pretty stupid move on the part of Peter and probably deserved rebuke.

Peter, on the other hand, wrote that Paul’s teachings were so complicated that, at times, even he could not understand what Paul was try to say.  This gives me encouragement, because I often find my eyes glazing over while reading Paul’s letters.  Even though, I’ve read them hundred’s of times, I’m still perplexed by what Paul actually meant by certain sentences and paragraphs.

There are a couple of things I have learned when communication turns sour and you are the offending party.

  1. Try to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.  Don’t let things linger.
  2. Don’t let our natural inclination to avoid confrontation interfer with the need to find common ground.
  3. Apologize.  Even if you are absolutely sure that the other person has misunderstood, you are partially at fault because your communication fell apart at some point.
  4. Be honest.
  5. Try to find common ground by assuring the person you did not intend to offend them.
  6. Find something that you admire about the other person; and let them know how much you respect them in this area.
  7. Be humble.  Allow yourself to take the blame.  In the scheme of eternity, this incident will probably not bleep on God’s Richter Scale.
  8. Don’t cower.  Even if you are the offending party, stand straight and expect respect by you actions.  It will not help your relationship to become a whipping boy for the offended party. While this may sound contratictory, humility does not mean that you become someone’s door mat.  In fact, it should have the opposite effect.
  9. Don’t expect men and women to react the same way.  Men will be brief and polite but their attitudes may seem dismissive.  Women will either want to rehearse the offense again; or they will want to rehearse your apology as a way of affirming you.
  10. I believe that face-to-face communication is often the best.  I learned many years ago that I am almost never offended when I am facing another person.  It is the rehearsal of the event or the process of routine thinking that magnifies the event into an insult.  Psychologists tell us that this is true with most people.

Will these steps erase all offenses?  No. But they may go a long way in helping you to mend important fences in your life.

Often, those of us who minister to people who are intellectually disabled romanticize our population.  It is the most wonderful group of people with which I’ve worked.  However, like the rest of the population, there can be glaring bumps, blemishes and distractions.

While her mother remained as part of  her life, Windy was raised by a doting father.  His greatest compliment to her was “good enough for a girl.”  When she turned 21, she was placed in a group home about a 100 miles from her father.  Extremely withdrawn because of her inability to speak clearly, Windy was basically nonverbal.  After several years, the family learned that she was being sexually molested on the back row of the church by a “normal” man who was her own age.  This abuse has marred her personality and outlook in a multitude of ways.

Merrianne’s mother has spent much of Merrianne’s life in jail.  Merrianne has seen and heard things that I cannot even imagine.  Her perspective on life is much different from many of our Special Gathering members who were raised in stable households.  When I first met her, I was put off by her brash manners.  Yet, as I’ve gotten to know Merrianne, I have known very few people who have a heart for God like Merrianne.  She wants to grow in the Lord and every painful inch is time of celebration for her.

Yesterday, as we sat in a Bible study, I saw another inch achieved.  The teacher was speaking to another member.  “You have lived on your own for years; and you don’t like people interfering in your life.  Christians seem bossy and meddling to you.”  Merrianne leaned her chin against her fists that were resting on the table and whispered, “That’s me.”  Later, as we drove home, she commented on the class and indicated that she needed to be studying the Bible more.

In reality, these are not isolated cases within the disability community.  Again and again, as we learn about the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, we find that their lives have been filled with abuse and insecurity.  But they survive and most of them thrive when they continue to live in an environment of love and acceptance that a Church family provides.

How different are Windy and Merrianne from me?  I must admit, there is more than a few IQ point; but they are people with real needs and real desires.  They are men and women who respond to the Gospel with joyful acceptance and expectation.  Perhaps Windy and Merrianne are more like you and me than we assume.  Because like every other peson who have ever lived,  they deserve to hear the good news of Jesus’ sacrifice and the joy provided by a loving Savior who died that they might have life.

God chooses to Make the World for Man

Genesis 1:1and 26A

Central Theme:  God choose to make the earth for mankind.

Introduction–Bring a basket that you have made.  This is a basket that I made.  I did not create it because I had some material to use.  I took reed and string and made it.  To create something, you must have nothing and make something from nothing.  God created the earth; but he made man from the things he had created.

I.     Have a member Read Genesis 1:1 and 26A.

A. God chose to make the earth, the sky and all creation from nothing but his Word.

              B. Then as the crown of his creation, God made a man.

C. From a man, he made a woman.

II.     Why did God choose to create the earth?

A. I believe that the Lord made earth for man.

B.  He made man for himself–He wanted a friend.

C. Tell about studying Timothy and discovering that God wanted to be my friend.

D. That changed my life.

III.     People like to argue about creation.

A. There is no reason to argue truth.

B.  Some scientists say that the idea of a God who created earth was silly.

C. However, as more and more real facts are uncovered, more and more people are agreeing that the earth was created

1.  God created the universe for man and man for himself.

2.  Give your life to Jesus in response to God’s great gift.

Conclusion–God created the earth for man and man for himself.

The agenda for the FDOT District Five November 29, 2012 grant workshops is below.  The letter following the agenda is a reminder for you to R.S.V.P.  If you have already sent your R.S.V.P., there is no need to do so again.  Hope to see you there!

Date: Location:

Florida Department of Transportation – District 5

GRANT WORKSHOP

November 29, 2012 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Lake Apopka Conference Rooms A & B FDOT –

District 5 Urban Office 133 South Semoran Boulevard Orlando, Florida 32807

MORNING SESSION: 5310/5311 GRANT WORKSHOP 9:00 AM – 12:30 PM

9:00 a.m. 9:30 a.m. 9:45 a.m. 10:30 a.m. 11:00 a.m. 11:20 a.m. 12:00 a.m.

– 9:30 a.m. – 9:45 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. – 12:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Registration Introductions Overview of MAP-21 Section 5310 & Section 5311 Overview CUTR: Vehicle Procurement

How to Write a Winning Grant Application Questions and Answers/ Vendor Displays/CUTR & CTCs

12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. – LUNCH (on your own)

AFTERNOON SESSION: 5316/5317 GRANT WORKSHOP 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM

1:30 p.m. 1:35 p.m. 1:45 p.m. 2:15 p.m. 2:45 p.m.

– 1:35 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Introductions Overview of MAP-21 Section 5316 Eligibility (using funds under old rules) Section 5317 Eligibility (using funds under old rules) Questions and Answers

_____________________________

Letter from FDOT as Reminder of workshop sign-in details

The Florida Department of Transportation, District Five is soliciting applications for Federal Transit Administration’s Sections 5310, 5316 and 5317 operating and capital grant programs.  District Five will hold two separate program specific workshops for  interested applicants on November 29, 2012 in the Lake Apopka A and B Conference Rooms, 133 South Semoran Boulevard (SR 436), Orlando, Florida 32807.  The workshops will start promptly at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.  Please refer to the attached agenda.

 

Presentation topics will include the following: new federal laws affecting surface transportation programs; application eligibility requirements; preparation of the application and tips on grant writing; and the Department’s vehicle procurement process.  After the formal presentation session, attendees can meet with their Community Transportation Coordinator and representatives from the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR).  In addition, attendees will have the opportunity to meet with vendors under contract with the State and view some of their vehicles.

 

IMPORTANT UPDATES, DEADLINES & REMINDERS

  • ·     It is recommended that agency grant writers, presidents, administrators and transportation managers attend the workshop.
  • ·     Prospective applicants interested in Sections 5316 (JARC) and 5317 (New Freedom) should plan to attend the AM Session beginning at 11:20 a.m. to hear specific information about the grant writing and application process.  This session will not be repeated in the afternoon.
  • ·     District Five is soliciting for Sections 5316 (JARC) and 5317 (New Freedom) due to the availability of existing funds.  Please note that future funding for Sections 5316 and 5317 will no longer be available.
  • ·     Application manuals will be provided at the workshop.
  • ·     Applications will be due by 5:00 p.m. on January 25, 2013 at the District Five Orlando Office.

 

QUESTIONS/R.S.V.P

Please contact Thee Perry at (407) 482-7871 or send an e-mail to Theodis.Perry@dot.state.fl.us  if you have any questions regarding the grant workshop and application process.  Please R.S.V.P. no later than Wednesday, November 21, 2012.

 

Theodis L. (“Thee”) Perry, Jr.

Transit Analyst

________________________________________

 

Florida Department of Transportation, District Five

133 S. Semoran Blvd.

Orlando, FL 32807

The Church has quoted Jeremiah for more than 2000 years.  We especially love the verse 11 of chapter 29.  “I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future.”

What we don’t often understand is that God made this promise as His children were being prepared for 70 years in Babylonian captivity.  They had been taken there because of their disobedience to Him.  The 70 years were the accumulation of sabbath rest years which they had not observed.

While declaring that this captivity was not the end of their lives but part of God’s plan for the Children of Israel, God gives them specific instructions regarding the way his people were to conduct themselves during their time of captivity.

Build houses and settle in the land. Plant gardens and eat the food they grow. Get married and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons, and let your daughters be married so they also may have sons and daughters. Have many children in Babylon; don’t become fewer in number. Also do good things for the city where I sent you as captives. Pray to the Lord for the city where you are living, because if good things happen in the city, good things will happen to you also (Jeremiah 29:5-7).

There is little debate that we could be entering scary times.  If we are entering hard times, we should be honest that part of this is judgment on us as a nation and on the Church.  Yet, could this be a time of preparation for Christians?

I understand that Jewish historians say that it is during this 70 years of captivity that the Jewish people learned how to prosper and thrive.  Thereby allowing them to survive during the 2000 years they have been dispersed from their homeland.  Wherever Jews have been forced to live, they have seen prosperity.  Even in the middle of persecution, they have been able to be rise like cream to the top of each barrel.

If we are wise, the children of God can prosper and help our cities and nation to become more effective.  We may even be able to lead our nation back into the ways of God.

I often plug products that I’ve found beneficial, especially in the ministry of The Special Gathering, a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  The Christmas musical, A Stranger in the Manger, is a well-written and joy-filled musical that becomes an excellent presentation.  Uplifting and fun songs make the music sparkle.  However, the ballad, “This is Such a Strange Way to Save the World,” is touching enough to leave half of the audience in tears.

The musical is written for children; but it is easily adapted for the disability community, especially for the mentally challenged population.  While the words and music may be more difficult than anything you have tried, it is easy to learn because everyone loves the music enough to work hard.   With children, you can supplement the recorded voices.  However, with a choir of intellectually disabled adults, you will need to leave out the extra voices recorded because the children’s voices will not blend with an adult choir.

Arrangers Johnathan Crumpton and Sue Smith have done an excellent job in translating the gospel story of Jesus’ birth into a fun, teaching experience set to music.

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