December 2012


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Thought you might like to see a few of the stats over which we bloggers obcess.  Here’s an excerpt:

Crunchy numbers

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 33,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 8 Film Festivals

In 2012, there were 243 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 1,600 posts. There were 370pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 21 MB. That’s about a picture per day.

The busiest day of the year was November 27th with213 views. The most popular post that day was The Mystery of Prayer.

Click here to see the complete report.

I found an interesting tip for making your own personalized dinnerware.  You buy the cheap white china from the Dollar Store and write on it with a porcelain pin.  Then you bake them in the oven for 30 minutes.

It’s a great idea for the crafty folk out there who are living on a budget but like stylized personal items.  However, on reading this, my mind went immediately to how often the small things we do make a permanent mark on the lives of others and ourselves.  A touch can lift the spirit of another person.  Stopping to care could guarantee that life is lived a bit better and longer.

olderYesterday afternoon, as I traveled home using the Atlanta airport, a woman who was probably in her 80’s stood in the mass of people, turning in circles.  As I passed, she softly touched my sleeve.  “Can you tell me where a McDonald’s or Arby’s might be?”   In an instant, I was in love with this tender soul who had reached out for help.  Her touch was gentle and kind.  Her eyes revealed her helpless state of mind.

I pointed her to the restaurant and walked away, anxious to find my gate, even though I still had two hours before the plane left.  I felt the Holy Spirit say to me, “Go with her.  Help her with her meal.”  Ignoring the prompting of the Lord, I didn’t turn back but headed in what I thought was the direction of my plane.  But I was headed the wrong way.  I turned back and found that my gate was next to the McDonald’s.

The older woman was at the McDonald’s counter with another helpful customer who was assisting her with the order and helping to pay her bill.  I was sad that I had missed the opportunity to serve.  “Someone else got the blessing I intended for you,” I heard the Spirit nudge my spirit.

I knew I couldn’t break in the food line and that it would take a while for the women to get their food.  I thought I would walk a few more steps, survey my gate and then return to find the confused lady.  I resolved to sit with her while she ate her dinner and perhaps help her find her plane.  But when I returned, she was gone.  The other helpful customer was there; but the older lady could not be found.

TalkingOf course, there are many times that we miss the mark. (That is the definition of sin, isn’t it?)  As I sat and ate my McDonald’s salad, I asked the Lord to make this incident a permanent mark on my life.  I prayed that I would learn from this misplaced blessing.  Without condemnation from the gentle Shepherd, I wanted to never forget a lost woman who only needed a few minutes of my time.

airportToday, I’m headed home from a vacation that seemed long when I planned it; but then it was over more quickly than I could have imagined.  Other family will arrive soon and I’ll need to work around their vacation schedule.  I’ve been in Chattanooga, a wonderful place, especially since my granddaughter is here. But I’m happy to be going home.

A good friend and member of Special Gathering often went with her family on cruises.  She fretted and squirmed every time she left.  “Please pray for me!” she’d plead from the moment the cruise was planned.  “I’m going on a cruise to the Bahama’s and I really need your prayer.”

bridge in ChattanoogaI would laugh at her anxiety.  “Pray for you?  You need to pray for us.  We’re staying here, working and planning and paying bills.  You’ve going to paradise.”

Then we would laugh at her situation and she would be calm for a few days.

Most of us have anxious moments when we leave the safely of our home grounds.  Routines become important whether we are small children or decades past the age of accountability.  My observations have been that between 18 and 38 men and woman are excited about wandering.  Then, a creepy feeling seeps into our bones that screams, “Wait! You are interrupting my life with this misadventure.”

I’m often fascinated by people who leave house and home after the age of 60 to roam to unknown places.  Can you imagine how difficult it was for Abraham to obey God who told him to leave and travel to an unknown place out yonder…some where?

earthAs a child, I thought it was odd that people would ask for extra prayer when they traveled.  Didn’t God go with them?  Isn’t Christ omnipresent?  I felt that people were saying that they believed that God lived only in their neighborhood and He only attended their church.  Later, I came to understand that travel sometimes means accidents and uncertainty.

Emmanuel may be the main message of Christ’s birth.  God is with us.  Whether I’m sitting by a fire in Chattanooga or watching the winter waves on the Space Coast of Florida.  He is with Natalie in Spain.  Dave and Andy didn’t leave God when they went to share the gospel in China.  Jesus has arrived and He is with me.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!  Christ is born.  Emmanuel!

going to hosptialI remember my husband, Frank, and I rushing to the hosptial.  It was Christmas eve.  I’d farmed out the other two children to willing neighbors in a pitch of fervor.   Frank had refused to pick the name for a girl because he was convinced that this unplanned little one would be a boy.  I pressed him as he pressed the gas pedal.

Carol Howard MerrittFinally, we settled on Carol Christa because Carol was my middle name and she was coming on Christmas eve.  She came quickly.  I’d convinced my uneducated doctor that natural child birth would work for me, since I’d had our first son using natural methods.

When the doctor anounced that I’d had a girl, I asked what he said, thinking he had made a mistake.  Our new babe was to be a boy, born the end of January.  Carol Christa, our Christmas baby was a total surprise.  Over the years, everything about her has been surprising.

travelingIn some ways, I understand Mary.  As thrilled as she was to be the mother of Jesus, his birth was a bit inconvenient.  Later, he showed a love for His Father early.  Then he didn’t follow the regulated rules put forth by the temple experts.  Mary didn’t fully understand or consider the gifts of her son appropriate at times.  They didn’t always agree, Yet, he was gracious regarding her feelings and instructions.  She loved him dearly.

Each Christmas eve holds a double blessing for me as I remember the birth of our third child and try to understand Mary’s joy and confusion that would follow as her heavenly blessing was born.

happy at dawnThere are few times that I don’t feel light-hearted and joyful.  My brother says that it’s only because I’m stupid.  I think it’s because God has given me the ability to see beyond present pain and embrace the joy of a new day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I went through years of depression.  In fact, at a time when I knew that I was in big trouble, I consulted a good friend who was a therapist.  “You have what is called a ‘smiling depression,'” he told me, laughing.  Even though, I thought this was a contradiction in terms, I knew that he had struck a deep chord of reality in my soul.  My life was filled with methods to hide, camouflage and disguise my real emotions, especially anger.

He gave me a book to read, Happiness is a Choice authored by Frank Minirth, M.D. and Paul Meier, M.D.  I learned how to resolve the anger that was causing the depression and work toward allowing the Lord to control my emotions.

It is interesting to me that IQ doesn’t seem to matter regarding depression.  My husband’s IQ was off the charts; but from his childhood, he battled with depression almost every day of his life.  He died weeping.  Therefore, it’s easy to see how people who are intellectually disabled (ID) can easily fall into a state of sadness that leads to depression.

christmas-familyWe are told by the experts and our own experience that more people become depressed during holiday seasons than at any other times.  Where is my family?  Who cares for me?  What wrong with me that I don’t have the joy that others seem to have? are only a sampling of the questions that dance like sour grapes through our minds and thoughts.  There are more suicides committed during Christmas time than at any other time of the year.  We become angry and depressed.

Iraq Prison AbuseMuch of our anger comes from a lack of control.  People within the mentally challenged community control almost nothing in their lives.  They live with their parents or surrogate parental figures all their lives.  Depending on their personality–rather than their IQ–this can lead to depths of sadness that would be hard for anyone to express.  Couple this with the fact that the ID community has a limited vocabulary and a limited ability to express it; and you have a powder keg waiting to ignite into explosives depression.

Yet, God in his infinite wisdom gives us a new beginning with every sun rise.  Recognizing your sadness and anger are the first step.  The second is forgiveness.  When we forgive, I am not excusing the behavior.  I am simply releasing them from my judgment and turning them over to God.  After all, he is the one true and righteous judge.

No matter how difficult and painful yesterday was.  It is gone and we have the morning.  This morning.  Great, powerful and joyful things are about to happen.  Rejoice!


starsGlory to God in the Highest

Luke 2:6-16

Central Theme:  Christmas is a time for big changes.

Introduction–I have to admit that at Christmas I go a little crazy.  I save all year and spend all December.  I blame my parents.  They worked all year preparing for Christmas for us.  Sewing cooking and repairing, painting old bikes.  The majesty of God’s gift cannot be matched but I try every year.  READ Luke 2:6-16.

       I.     Pretend that you are a shepherd.

A. They were minding their business but God had planned a little surprise for them…before the foundations of the earth. (vs 8)

1.  What we can’t imagine is that God has exquisitely exciting surprises for our lives.

Christmas costumes 2.  Last year as I was fretting about the number of hours I spend working on costumes.  I said to the Lord, “No one’s life has ever been changed by a costume I’ve made.”  Within a few minutes,  a young woman who was a  neighbor stopped to say, “I never told you but you made a costume for me and it was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.  I’ve always loved you for that.” 

B.  We fear the glory of the Lord getting too close (vs. 9).

1.  Songwriter Michael Card’s speaks of the “friend that we most fear.”

a.  we hide our faces from him–he can see us.

b.  we hide our hearts from him–he can change us.

II.     God comes again and again to assure us of his goodwill for us (vs. 10-12)

A. He never comes in the expected ways/expected times.

1.  Remember the times God spoke to you–unexpected, unprepared.

2.  You prepare your heart in a quiet place–He speaks in the shower or sitting at a red light.natures wonder

              B. Angels filled the heavens the night he was born; but only a few shepherds saw it (vs. 13-14).

                  1.  Would Disney put on an expensive, extravagant light show for a few middle-class herdsmen?

                  2.  Would you pour out your life in a place where no one will see–on one will know?

III.     Whatever he does, His purpose is to entice us come to Jesus (vs 15).

A. However, Jesus is not what you expect.

                  1.  Wherever our executive director preaches, people say, “That sermon was one of the best I ever heard.  You know, you could what you do for real people.”    We often chuckle and ask, “Then why aren’t you rich and famous?”

2.  However, there is not a mentally challenged person in Duval, Indian River or Brevard or Volusia County who doesn’t know him and all of them love him.

Conclusion–Going crazy at Christmas should be expected.  After all, God went a bit crazy with joy at the birth of Jesus.  Several angelic appearances.  An old couple unexpectedly has a baby they name John.  A host of angels.  A new star.  Yet, not embracing the Living Lord any time is a horror.

wrist radio This is a comment I received from a reader.  I thought this was well worth our review.

Autistic people can be some of the most vulnerable dependent adults in the universe. Mainly, because they are at the mercy of others who care for them and can take advantage of them by blaming abuse on the autistic person themselves. You have to be a seriously sadistic, cruel coward to prey upon defenseless, non verbal, severely-autistic people.

on iphoneThere is an epidemic of trusted caregivers from school personnel to home health workers who are being CAUGHT on tape ABUSING autistic people. What are YOU doing about this? Why aren’t more people addressing this hidden violence towards our autistic children?

http://www.hlntv.com/video/2012/09/27/caught-tape-autistic-man-allegedly-abused-caregivers

These caregivers better get the maximum sentence! http://iwidk.com/2012/09/21/horrible-caregivers-caught-on-video-beating-autistic-man-hundreds-of-times-video/

keep calmOkay! I had to do this.  But I have more reason to write about December 21, 2012 than most folk.  It’s my birthday and it’s a big one.  That is, it’s a big number.  For many people, my age might even signal the end of the world.

However, I don’t intend to go away today.  I plan to live to my societal prophetic 100 years and continue to work.  There is a great deal of freedom that comes with age.  I’ve heard from a variety of people different milestones that change you.

My good friend Mama Poulsen said that 50 was the changing age.  When my friend, Grace Caldwell, died at 79, her only regret was that she didn’t reach 80.  “Because at 80 you can say and do whatever you want.”

me rabbittSince I’ve pretty much lived that way many years of my life,  maybe it’s time for me to pull back.  Whenever I asked my husband for his opinion about a decision, he used the old phrase, “Do whatever you want.  That’s what you always end up doing anyway.”  When he said it, I chaffed at the notion.  Nevertheless, looking back, I see that he was right more times than he was wrong.

Of course, I had three children and a fairly demanding husband; but in the end, I’ve seen circumstances and realities change to the point that I seem to “end up doing whatever I want.”  Through this, I’ve learned that in the Christian life sacrificial giving often becomes a doorway to your greatest blessing.  The first really become the last and the last often finish first.

HB to meIt takes years to comprehend.  Yet in God’s economy, there is a strength in weakness.  The poor in spirit always obtain the heavenly riches.  Those who weep acquire the greatest consolation because their comfort emanates from the throne of God.  And the whole earth will be given to the humble.

Happy Birthday to me!  I pray your day will be as blessed as mine.

angel-shepherdsThat night, some shepherds were in the fields nearby watching their sheep. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them. The glory of the Lord was shining around them, and they became very frightened. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all the people. Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is Christ, the Lord. This is how you will know him: You will find a baby wrapped in pieces of cloth and lying in a feeding box.”

Then a very large group of angels from heaven joined the first angel, praising God and saying:

“Give glory to God in heaven,
and on earth let there be peace among the people who please God” (Luke 2:8-14).

storm cloudAs often as we quote these amazing promises, the signs of our times proclaim that “there is no peace on earth.”  This year, we must bow our head in wonder at the gross event that happened in the elementary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut on December 14.  While others are calling for gun control and more security in schools, parents of children who experience  psychotic episodes are pleading that our nation will begin real reform in our mental health system regarding children and young adults who are prone to violent behavior.

Ministers and pastors within the disability community are filling Internet blogs and social networks with information and warnings that our health care system regarding psychotic young men is not broken but non-existent.

President ObamaI am not an expert in this area.  In fact, in my ministry, our members who are mentally challenged, are remarkably healthy in the area of mental health considering the rejection and ill-treatment they receive on an almost daily basis.  Therefore, I do not speak as one who lives with the effects or desires to bring a measure of peace and health to this population.  Yet, I do have a small voice and there is great need to speak.

The concern for many in the area of mental illness is that nationalized health care will not mean better care but less care.  History speaks a prophetic work of more neglect as the government takes more and more power in the area of public health.  As other populations have benefited, this segment of our nation has been overlooked more and more.  This must not be.  It has become clear that the lives and well-being of our most vulnerable populations are at risk.

Our prayers are extended to the families of the young ones who were killed.  We also extended our prayers to the parents and children–who like this young shooter–suffer every day the torment and cruel effects of mental illness and psychotic behavior.

We pray that the peace of God will reign in the hearts and minds of all who seek the Lord.

live pageantHow do you tell the Christmas story to a group of people who are intellectually disabled?  Of course, this is a dilemma no matter where your ministry lies.  If you are a parent, can you make the story fresh to your growing brood?  If you preach to a congregation of 10,000, what is the method you will use to keep the message relevant while remain true to the gospel message? Each year I try to find a different way to share the story of God’s love incarnated into a man to the programs I shepherd at The Special Gathering which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.

This year, I told the story using members who are least  physically able to respond as the characters.  I joked and laughed with them, sharing as humorously as possible the in’s and out’s of the Biblical account.  Because I work with three different programs at Special Gathering, each reenactment had different characters and each one was vastly different because of the diverse personalities that made up the “casts.”

angelIn each program, there was one person whose personality shined through when selected.  I chose the people at random asking them to participate as their character was introduced.  Mary was a young woman who is extremely low functioning in one of our enactments.  Everyone attending applauded when I selected her. Her smile told the story of her delight and her smile carried the action through until the end.

The first time we had our presentation, there was a small group of 17 people.  Therefore, we had one angel who came to Mary, Joseph and the shepherds.  This person was animated and funny.  His flair for the dramatic was obvious.  After he had spoken to Mary, I said, “Then the angel disappeared.”  He looked at me quizzically and shrugged his shoulders, acting as though I expected him to disappear.  “Can’t you even disappear?”  I asked.   He pretended to try to disappear.  “What kind of angel are you?”  I asked.  Again, he mischievously responded with a great deal of humor and delight.

Each time he “appeared” the audience laughed with pleasure at his antics and showmanship.  We played off each other and I took my cues from his facial expressions and movements.  We all laughed all through the actions because of his good humor.

At our largest program, there were more than 50 people from which to draw.  Mary was a higher functioning young woman She does not walk or speak.  We call her the “queen” because everyone loves her so much that we fight over who will serve her and push her wheelchair.

Charlie BrownThe surprise, however, was the man I chose to be Joseph.  This Joseph is an amazing actor.  He, too, is physically disabled.  He navigates with a walker.  Extreme palsy plagues the movements of his body, making them exaggerated with spasms and violent jerks.  Yet, in front of an audience, this Joseph came alive with expression and animation.  He was the attentive lover.  His visage stormed with disappointment and anger, when he heard about Mary’s pregnancy.  His face showed shock at the angel visitation; then his movements turned to extreme tenderness toward Mary.

I keep the story simple but embellishing it with the emotions that each character must have felt.  Laughter and silliness are the mark of the day.  Of course, I don’t make fun of the details of the story but, like this year, there is always someone who wants to play the clown and I play off of their ability to laugh at an awkward situation or a unique situation.

After we laugh and play, I turn the story to the seriousness of Jesus’ sacrifice.  The good news of God’s love for us is amplified by the birth and life of this humble god-man who was born in order that he might die for us.

Christmas presentsThere are few times of the year that present the Church with a greater degree of purchasing power than the time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.  I’m actually not thinking about purchasing gifts or other stuff but purchasing a more valuable commodity–time.

Christmas clockDuring these weeks, as we abandon our vocations in order to celebrate the birth of Christ, time can seem to slow to a creep as we share these hours and days with family or friends.  We are often moving in a whirlwind of activity. It is because we are thrown with our closest associates and family that we can purchase time and make memories that will last all during our lives.

family at ChristmasTime may be the most valuable thing we can give the people who live with us and around us.  I’m not suggesting that the purchasing of gifts isn’t important; but it is the time we spend playing and laughing that will be cherished as precious memories.

During these precious days, we can speak about our Savior, sharing the love of God in many abstract and concrete ways.  As I sit in the dining room of my daughter, I hear a whispered, “I love you” shared from mother to child as she hands her daughter a towel and clean school clothes.  It’s an important day in school and the preteen woman/child needs the added assurance of love and acceptance.

Time has been purchased in a minute snatch for a little one.  A granddaughter for whom Jesus came in order to purchase her with his own blood.

Happy Birthday, JesusAt Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, we have several activities to celebrate the birth of the Savior.  My favorite is our Happy Birthday, Jesus Party.  Our members bring food.  There is a birthday cake.  We feast, sing “Happy Birthday” and retell the story of the birth of God’s son.

It is the timeless recounting of God’s great love for mankind which captures my heart each year.  A young virgin girl visited by an angel.  A distressed and heart-broken young lover hears his fiancee’s obviously attempt to cover her unfaithfulness with a bazaar and fabricated lie.  Another visitation from an angel to Joseph and an improbable marriage.

stableThe ruling emperor who demands that the young couple travel to Bethlehem to pay their taxes as the due date for the Son of God approaches.  An inn overflowing with travelers and the holy child born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a cattle feeding trough.

Shepherds and an angelic chorus who heralds the birth of the Christ child.

Thomas Paine, one of the founding fathers of our country, speaks of these amazing events as myths that cannot be taken seriously.  Others scoff while men and angels still praise the wisdom of our God who sent the Eternal King to earth in the form of a baby, born in a lowly estate.

autism societyThe Autism Society continues to mourn the lives lost on Friday, December 14 in Newtown, Conn.  We join the nation as we keep our collective attention focosed on those directly impacted by this tragedy. In the nation’s rush to understand the reasoning for such an awful occurrence, the conversation evolved to  include the alleged shooter’s possible autism diagnosis. The Autism Society feels it is imperative to remove autism from this tragic story.  Race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation are seldom, if ever, linked to the actions of an individual in a causal relationship.  It is imperative that developmental disorders and disabilities be treated in the same vain.

Further, the Autism Society is committed to informing, educating and securing appropriate services by providing reliable and unbiased information. To that end, we are compelled to dispel any myths about individuals with autism: No evidence exists to link autism and premeditated violence. Suggesting otherwise is wrong and harmful to the more than 1.5 million individuals living with autism in the United States.(1) Individuals with autism and those with other disabilities are more likely to be victims of violence than the perpetrators.(2) Many of the individuals with Asperger's syndrome who have committed crimes had co-existing psychiatric disorders.(3) Individuals with autism who act aggressively typically do so because they are reacting to a situation. 

Please do not judge any individual with autism based on the discourse surrounding Friday's tragic event. Instead, please strive to educate and inform your communities. Help the Autism Society ensure that individuals with autism are not marginalized due to a misunderstanding of a complicated disorder. 

Please consider forwarding or sharing this information with a friend. 1. Gunasekaran, S., & Chaplin, E. (2012). Autism spectrum disorders and offending. Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, 6, 308-313. 2. Hughes, K., Bellis, M. A., Jones, L., Wood, S., Bates, G., Eckley, L., ... & Officer, A. (2012). Prevalence and risk of violence against adults with disabilities: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. The Lancet. 379, 1621-1629. 3. Newman SS, Ghaziuddin M: Violent crime in Asperger syndrome: the role of psychiatric comorbidity. J Autism Dev Disord 39:1949-52, 2008.   

FORWARD: http://support.autism-society.org/site/R?i=BwuaLdwzQuFm3woiaz--Zw

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/simplelife/2012/12/no-link-between-autism-and-planned-violence.html#ixzz2FhYEsXhG

face to face with lionIn ancient times, few people were given the privilege of seeing God.  While we aren’t told that Abraham actually saw God face to face, we know that God valued Abraham so much that he was called “the friend of God.”  It was an amazing closeness.

However, for the Hebrews to acknowledge that a man would have friendship with their G-d was not even logical.  Jehovah’s name alone was so holy that the Jewish people dare not speak it.  Therefore, when spelling G-d’s name, the vowels are left out so it cannot be pronounced.

Understand, this is a sensible precaution considering the history of  mankind-and-God’s tentative relationship. We note that God loves.  Man rejects his love through sin.  God continues to love.  Women and men fail.  God loves.  We finally fail so completely that the only answer is to turn to God.  God forgives in his love.  God and man live in harmony for a time and then the cycle begins again.

Therefore, it is amazing that God’s mercy and grace reached out to us to give to us his son.  He is a man whom we can touch and with whom we can experience God’s forgiving love through a personal relationship.  We are no longer slaves but friends.

I often tell people that I’m God’s favorite.  Most people laugh.  Some get angry.  Yet, it is the fact that God desires to have a personal relationship with me that leads me to believe that I must be his favorite.  I know who I am and how much I must be forgiven each day.  Still, he loves me.  He desires to be my friend!

Christmas reminds us that God became a man in order that we might become a friend of God, having a face-to-face relationship.  Through our own efforts, we cannot obtain forgiveness or peace.  Ironically, achievement isn’t necessary.  Acceptance of God’s grace is.  Jesus’ birth means that we come face to face with God and we share in his love with total abandonment and joy.

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