January 2013


crumpled paperEach day begins with prayer and either household errands or blogging.  As much as I enjoy writing, the daily household demands of living often interfere with what I feel God has called me to do.  The author of thousands of magazine articles and more than 40 books, Jamie Buckingham often said,  “Writers write.  That’s why they are writers.  Publishing may or may not happen.”

Shelly is a writer.  Many Sundays she sticks a poem or article into my hands and says confidently.  “I knew that you would want to read this.  It’s the best work I’ve ever done.”  After I hug her, she walks away satisfied that someone else appreciates her writing efforts.

the writerEric has a different writing style.  He takes a Scripture and then applies it to his life.  I must ply his works from him one finger at a time.  They are neatly handwritten in pencil.  I always receive a nugget from his scriptural commentary that I’d not seen before reading his manuscript.

Even though Shelly and Eric are intellectually disabled, they have dedicated themselves to sharing from what God puts in their hearts.  Shelly’s poetry has been published and republished.  She has been asked to speak at a high school English Composition Class.  There is much to learn from her poetry.

Eric’s works are equally provocative.  However, he is less likely to share his works with others.  His personality is more private and reserved.

On the other hand, Jeremy wants to write and talks about it often.  Yet, he never seems to be able to put onto paper the many ideas that swim through his fertile mind.  Jeremy is by far the most able of the three to put into a readable form his thoughts and idea; but Jeremy lets the tasks of the day get in his way.

There are four things I see which hinder Jeremy that Shelly and Eric do allow to work against their writing.

1.  As I said before, Jeremy is a busy person.  He flits from one thing to another.  While he says that he really wants to write, he never seems to find the time.  Therefore, it never gets done.

2.  He wants someone to work with him.  He wants a class.  Shelley and Eric simply write.  They don’t need a teacher or tutor to inspire them to put pin to paper.  They are writers and writers write.

3.  Jeremy wants his works to be as close to perfect as possible.  Perfection works against the writer, as it does in almost every area of life.  No matter how many times I go over a piece, I can never seem to find all the mistakes until I hit the PUBLISH button.

4.   There is passion in Jeremy but not for writing.  He desires to teach and he is willing to prepare to make it happen.  A writers passion much be writing, first and forever.

Jamie BuckinghamAs Buckingham said, “Writers write.”  We can’t help it.  It is born and bred into our DNA.  Sharing the Gospel of Jesus is perhaps the main reason the Lord has given many Christians a passion for writing.  Each time, I get an article, teaching or poetry from Eric or Shelley, I’m impressed with the value of the written word which shares God’s love for us or our love for God.

wordsTonight I had a pleasant surprise when I met a friend who is also a member of Special Gathering during my late afternoon walk.  My friend, M.J. was meeting with her reading tutor in the park. Her tutor explained that they often take a walk in the park to help  M.J. loosen up and prepare her for her next reading assignment.

At the time I saw them, they weren’t walking but M.J. was reading out loud.  I came on them at the end of her lesson; and by the time I reached them, they were preparing to leave.

It seemed interesting to me that M.J.’s teacher wanted to explain to me why they had her lessons in the park.  It is a very public place.  In fact, it was such a busy spot that I wondered if M.J. would be comfortable reading out loud with all the people who stroll through the area.

reading

Understand, I’m not questioning this tutor’s methods or abilities.  What I did question was the propriety of having an adult woman learning to read in this public park at a time when people are routinely walking their dogs, exercising and meandering through the area.  In conducting a reading lesson, it is logical that the student must read out loud.  Thereby, the teacher can access the effectiveness of her instruction.

child readingI’ve heard my friend read.  Her ability is at a kindergarten to first grade level.  I have my Master’s degree and I would be self-conscious reading aloud in such a public venue.  M.J. is a sharp, stylish young woman in her early twenties.  If comfortable in her surroundings, she can be boisterous.  But her typical behavior is shy and withdrawn.  I cannot imagine that she is able to function at her best while reading in the park.

Over the years, I seen men and women who are professionals use a lack of judgement regarding the feelings and emotional well-being of people who are intellectually disabled.  My concern is that this is another case of a well-meaning teacher finding an atmosphere which puts her student at a disadvantage.

Am I overreaching and overreacting?  Or do you think another place would be more appropriate to hold a reading lesson?

chatEven though saying what we mean is difficult, it may be harder to mean what we say.  When working with people with intellectually disabilities, I’ve found that our sub-culture is actually less prone to say things they do not mean than other segments of the population.  Yet, this is a continuing problem within our society.

A good friend of mine tells me that his wife was constantly threatening to “leave and never come back.”  He learned eventually that this was only an idle threat; but even in knowing this, it put him in continual trauma.  Finally, he realized that the sense of drama which produces trauma was her true purpose.  This is when he learned to ignore the threats.

However, threats about almost everything is a part of many people’s lives.  A parent may tell the Bible study teacher, “If that happens again, my daughter won’t be able to come back to your program.”  A member may inform you, “I’m never coming back…” if I don’t get my way.

talking to each otherOne of the great life lessons is to mean what we say.  Our members who are mentally challenged are concrete learners.  They must have truth in everything they do, especially in their relationship with the Lord. I’ve found that even some people who claim to have a vital relationship with the Lord have a little problem with mangling the truth.

Understand that I’m not speaking from the lofty tower of innocence.  I’ve caught myself more often than I care to remember torturing the truth in my speech.  When we mean what we say, there is a release that comes for everyone with whom you must interface.

“I will go” becomes a sealed covenant.  “I can’t do that” releases you and the other person from future expectations.  “If you do that, I must punish you” is a committment that should not be violated.  This week there was a conflict between two members.  One member began to curse at the other person.  I had to pull him out and ask for him to apologize.  He refused.

argueThis refusal meant that I had to separate him from the others.  Once we were in a more private area, I could reason with him.  Within a few minutes, he was able to understand what was needed and what should be done.  He agreed and could be moved back to his normal seat.  My greatest danger  in this situation was threatening something that I could not or would not do.  It was essential to mean what I said.

Only the Lord’s strength and wisdom can help us to follow through on what we say.  Asking for his help always allows us to become the people of integrity that who can be the example we need to be for our members.

hillary-clinton-secretary-of-stateDuring the morning, I performed some mindless cleaning and straightening of a supply closet.  Also, I listened to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she testified before the Senate.  Later, in the afternoon, I met in a strategy meeting with a co-worker and friend regarding changes that need to take place in our ministry.

In both incidences, I came away fascinated with the levels of communication that we all demonstrate.  Secretary Clinton shyly accepted the compliments of the Senators and Congressmen.  She choked with emotion as she recalled meeting the plane with the President to bring home the dead bodies of the four men murdered on 9/11/2012.  She angrily beat the table with her fists in response to a question poised by a Republican Senator.

Later, at our strategy meeting, some of the same emotions surfaced.  While emotions are an important part of our personalities, I wonder how often these necessary power-charged expressions become the villain.  Emotions often keep us from saying the things we mean.  Even worse emotions hinder our being able to communicate the things which need to be said.

Wedged between these events, I’d attended a Webinar explaining the appeals process in the State of Florida.  As I listened to three lawyers explain how to prepare and present a case in an appeals hearing, the application demonstrated by Mrs. Clinton and the Senators was shockingly evident.

honor guardMrs. Clinton was prepared for every question.  She accepted responsibility while denying all knowledge or the ability to make adjustments which could have saved the lives of our Ambassador and the other three men.  The Senators did not understand the events as clearly as she.  They were scattered and disjointed.  However, neither the Senators nor Mrs. Clinton presented the kind of information needed by the American public regarding the Benghazi murders.

Mrs. Clinton was pleasantly evasive.  The Democrats were obliging and congratulatory, more focused on letting people know how much they loved and appreciated the Secretary of State than participating in the Republican “witch hunt.”   Almost all Republican Senators showed controlled anger and a need to get their individual point across.

BenghaziThere was no request for a narrative regarding the timeline of the events.  The information needed and wanted by the US public was not presented.  I could sit, listening and understand all the mistakes made by these women and men as I took mental notes during the Webinar on the appeals process.

However, after the Webinar was over and I merged into a strategy meeting, I repeated all the mistakes I’d earlier recognized in others.  Setting aside my mind, I let my emotions rule the decision and processing of future needs.  I spoke emotionally, not logically.

Saying what we mean is much harder than we often recognize.  It takes discipline.  There must be preparation.  However, most of all, we must say what we mean–not what we feel.

In writing to the Romans, Paul was emotionally involved and those emotions are evident throughout his presentation. However, he did not allow his emotions over rule his presenting to the Roman church and to us a concise and valuable summary of God’s salvation plan.  He does not deviate from the primary message.  We are saved by God’s grace and only by his grace.  Our works must be an outgrowth of our love for the Lord, demonstrating the mercy and grace of our Father.

Because the mentally challenged community is not able to communicate at a mature level, it often becomes our responsibility to give voice to their needs and hurts.  It is important that we not only understand our members.  We must also make advocate for them in a prayerful and concise way, saying what we mean not what we feel.

Hello All!

Get your feet ready for the Brevard PALS 4th Annual Run/Walk!

 

The race is just about 1 month away and I think it will be bigger and more fun for all racers, walkers and families!

 

We have a very exciting addition to this year’s race. 

 

Kevin Soto with the Brevard County Manatees has donated 70 undated tickets to this season’s games. 

 

It is a $280 value that we will be able to raffle off on the day of the race!

 

I am often surprised at where blog entries go and even more surprised where they do not go.  It seems that each time I plug into another venue (Facebook, Pinterest, etc.), there are new readers.  At this point, other than the US, the country where this blog is most read is Australia.

Because my emphasis is the lives of people who are mentally challenged, I’m also aware that the pool in which I’m swimming is pretty limited.  However, it isn’t unusual for me to get 150 to 200 hits a day.

When I began blogging six years ago, I could not find anyone else who was doing a daily blog or even a monthly blog in the area of intellectual disabilities.  However, today almost everyone who is in disability ministry is blogging.  This is a very good thing.  The more voices, the more people have the opportunity to understand the wonderful world in which we live and serve.

In addition, people with disabilities, especially those people whose disability is within the autism spectrum, are blogging regularly.  If you haven’t seen any of their blogs simply google “Aspergers” and you will find some excellent places to learn about this interesting personality spectrum.

Blogging is a way of self-publishing and having access to a world-wide audience at no expense to you or your reader.  By blogging each day, you are able to push your blog up to the forefront of the Search Engine World.  By keeping your blogs interesting and thoughtful, or humorous and pithy, you will be able to gather an audience, no matter what your subject area.

My purpose and message has been to simply introduce people to folks who are intellectually disabled and the fact that they can have a vital and real relationship with the Lord.  This past year, I’ve not kept up my daily vigor.  However, people still come and people still read.  For that I am most grateful and humbled.

camelsOnce again reading about Abraham’s sojourning from his family and country after receiving a command of the Lord makes me realize how portable our lives could be.  Perhaps portability should even be an expected the way of life. The most important thing we have goes with us no matter where we settle.

Of  course,our relationship with the Lord and our ability of communicate with him are the most important things in our lives.  Prayer enables us to speak with the Lord and allows us to hear from our Savior.

walking in the desertIn the past few weeks, the Lord impressed me to move my prayer spot.  I’ve prayed for years in the living room.  Yet, several mornings he told me to go into the family room instead.  This week I’ve had visitors; and I’ve been praying in the bedroom.  I’ve hated praying in the bedroom because it’s much too easy to snuggle down into the blankets and go to sleep.

Determined to continue in my prayer routine, I’ve pressed into the time and felt a new joy in my prayer, even though the surroundings aren’t as familiar.

comfortableAgain and again, we are reminded that God wants us to seek him, not a place or event.  I find that I’m an expert at putting everything in front of the Lord.  I must struggle daily forcing my will and my desires into the background.  He rewards and allows us to grow and become productive followers when we allow him to move us from our comfort zones back into his will.

cross and prayingAfter 6 decades of praying, I’ve developed an awareness that the Lord honors and values our prayers far more than we do.  Considering prayer, I often think about my adult children.  They often call me merely to check and see how I’m doing.  No matter what time they call, if I’m able I answer the phone.

As they approached adulthood, I attempted to make them my friends.  It is impossible to express what their friendship and consideration for my well-being means to me.  I don’t always like or agree with their needs or desires.  Yet, I’m going to listen, give advice if they ask for it and help whenever possible.

parent and hildBeing a human, I can hardly imagine the great heart of God as he listens to our prayers.  Whether complaints, concerns, petitions or intercession, God desires to pour into our lives his blessings of grace and mercy.  Therefore, I cannot ever imagine a time that the Lord will say “No” to a plea that comes from the needs and concerns of one of his children.

However, I’m convinced the Lord always responses, “I’m not going to give you what you desire.  In my wisdom, I know that this is not my best for your life.  I’m going to give you something much better.”

James wrote that we have not because we ask not.  That implies to me that God is far more eager to answer our prayers than we are to pray.

Should our prayer life be thoughtful and reasoned?  Of course.  Should we desire God’s best for our family and friends?  Absolutely.  Should we be concerned that this bountiful, loving God will withhold from us any good thing?  Never.  Can we trust him to honor and answer each prayer with the same mercy and grace that poured from Calvary into a world lost in sin? Yes, with certain assurance.

waiting

Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of prayer is when the Lord answers, “Wait.”

We’ve all experienced that waiting time.  Personally, I’m quite ready for my prayers to be answered the day and even the moment I ask.  I’ve prayed for a good friend for more than 25 years to receive the Lord.  Daily, I’ve asked that He bless and help her.  Recently, I paid her a visit and learned that she had received the Lord as her Savior.

joyful peopleI must admit that rather than being overjoyed, my reaction was much more subdued.  I quizzed the Lord about my emotionless reaction.  In my spirit I felt His response, “If I’d done the work more quickly, you would’ve wanted to take credit.  I wanted you to realize that I’m the Savior of her soul, not your prayers.”  Understand this wasn’t a rebuke from the Lord but a simple statement of fact.

The New Testament records an interesting verse. Yet when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days (John 11:6).  

Jesus had received a plea for help from his best friends, Mary and Martha.  Their brother, Lazarus was dying.  Jesus didn’t rush to his bedside to comfort and heal.  He waited.  Oz Hillman wrote,

God often has to delay His work in us in order to accomplish something for His purposes that can be achieved only in the delay. Jesus had to let Lazarus die in order for the miracle that was about to take place to have its full effect. If Jesus had simply healed a sick man, the impact of the miracle would not have been as newsworthy as resurrecting a man who had been dead for four days. This is Jesus’ greatest “public relations act” of His whole ministry. What many do not realize is that the key to the whole story is in the next chapter.

Many people, because they had heard that He had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet Him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after Him!” (John 12:18-19)

The Lord was setting the stage for Jesus’ death and resurrection.  It was only after this great miracle that the Pharisees began to see that the only path to the elimination of Jesus’ influence was his death.  From that moment they purposed in their spirits to destroy Jesus.

God's plaMonths ago, I shared with a young pastor who had been elected to an important office some on the things that I’d learned while serving in a similar position.  He reaction was rejection of my ideas. Then, last week, we again sat at a meeting.  He shared his discouragement and the lack of success he had experienced in his ministry over the past two or three years.  Another more experienced pastor quietly shared what I’d proposed a year ago. The young pastor heard and adopted the plan

After the meeting, the older pastor came to me and whispered, “You said that a year ago; but he couldn’t hear it then.  He had to learn the hard way.”  Then the seasoned minister grinned, “We all have to learn the hard way–our way.”

Delays aren’t merely part of God’s great plan for eternity.  They are also part of his plan for our lives.  Perhaps the hardest to receive–yet most profitable–answer God can give us to our prayers is “wait.”

praying on her kneesPrayer is an eternal mystery that haunts even the most devote warrior in God’s kingdom.  For Frances, prayer was her bread and drink.  She spent her days and nights in supplication to the Lord.  I earnestly believe that it was the prayers of Frances that turned our nation back to the Lord in a great way in the late 1950’s and 1960’s.

Of course there were many others who also prayed and sought God but I experienced first-hand the result of Frances’ ministry.  I sat under her teaching and walked hand in hand with her during her times of struggle.  I also saw her confidence in prayer.  I rejoiced in what God was accomplishing through the hours spend listening, speaking, loving and even wrestling with a holy God.

tent meetingsWhile TV pundents often proclaim that everyone was stoned during those decades, there was an underground movement that consisted of late teens and young adults whose hearts pled for God to change them and our nation.  My husband and I were part that movement–the Jesus Movement.  We led a vibrant and holy group of teenagers whose sole ambition was to find a deep relationship with Jesus.  They gathered under tents and in churches.  They fasted and held all night prayer meetings.

While the focus beamed on the teens and the other young men and women who led this army of teenagers, it was the matrons and masters of prayer–such as Frances–who had plowed the ground, planted the seed and rejoiced in the harvest.  Their battle was hard-fought.  They struggled and wrestled with the enemy of our souls on their knees, weeping, laughing and facing that dreaded enemy with grace, courage and valor. The power of the Holy Spirit never failed them.  The Father’s love always embraced them and assured them that his great destiny would save even the most horrible reprobate.

These prayer warriors didn’t possess the advantages of social media, blogs or the Internet but their prayers had world-wide and lasting effects.  Somehow, Christian leaders from around the world heard about Frances and came to her humble home for prayer.  They delighted in staying in the home of Frances and her husband. eating her food, laughing and enjoying fellowship long into the night.  But they came for prayer–recognizing her vital connection to God that brought success in ministry.

joanFew of us have been given the grace Frances possessed in determined, steadfast prayer.  Yet, all of us can seek God with the grace God has given to us.  Frances died stubbornly, without fanfare.  She resisted death even after her strength and vigor had been long spent.  I asked her oldest daughter, “Why does she struggle, resisting death so strongly?”  She believed that Frances clung to a desire to be on earth when the Lord returned.

Was this woman of God perfect?  No! Was she a warrior who helped to change the world for Christ?  Yes!

puzzleEach year for almost 45 years, our family worked a jigsaw puzzle.  I loved those times and eagerly promoted the tradition by purchasing a new puzzle.

Yesterday, my day off, I once again got out the new puzzle I’d bought and began sorting the pieces.  The progress is a lot slower than in previous years when five of us gathered around the table to casually do the work of fitting the lines and colors into their alotted slots.

This year, as I’ve worked alone, I’ve been able to realize why our family loved The Christmas Puzzle so much.  We are a family of A personalities.  Frank, the head of the household, was AAA.  Therefore, every event progressed into a super personal competition.  Christmas was an especially trying AAA event.  But gathered around that silent but intriguing mass of unorganized pieces, we were all equal.  No one excelled.  Yet, even the youngest child was competent, valued and needed.

working puzzleWe waltzed in and out of the room during the day and evenings, drawn by the table.  We each worked our part without pressure, anger or expectation.  Everyone rejoiced when the other excelled because we knew that each piece neatly fitted into the puzzle made the portion we were working on easier to complete.

Only at the end when all the children competed to see who would put the last piece into the puzzle was there real competition.  All the siblings came to value that last piece; and they each hid an indiviudal piece so that they would be able to put into the puzzle that last prize.  It was a game their super competitive father easily let them win.

Often the jigsaw puzzle is used to explain the Christian life.  Often, we learn about the mysteries of life examining the lessons we learn from completing the puzzle.  For me The Puzzle was never a teaching tool.  It is a pleasant memory of how people should act and react to each other.  Helping, rejoicing in achievement and delighting in the pleasant company of each other.

arm in armOften, as a pastor, minster, helper, coach or mentor, the joy of The Puzzle escapes me.  Drawn by the need of the moment and the hurts of the past, my heart wants to fix people, especially our members who are mentally challenged.  However, usually it isn’t in the act of teaching that the greatest lessons are learned.  It is in delighting in each other and valuing the person that lessons are best transferred.

Through Jesus’ sacrifice, God’s grace is given freely, openly and without any pressure to deserve the gift.  In fact, we cannot ever obtain that most valuable gift of life eternal.  Grace is God’s way of eliminating competition and delighting in ME, not my achievements.

My prayer, as I’ve worked the puzzle alone this year has been that God will work the Puzzle Grace I’ve seen over the years into every part of my life.

7talkingTwo of my good friends are also members of Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  They are going through extremely difficult times. Last night I spent a good deal of time with them.  It was a fun outing; but my purpose was to extend our friendship.  Also, I hoped that they’d be willing to share a brief glimpse with me into their pain.

It happened.  Several off-handed remarks were passed along by both young women.  Mentally, I paused for a few minutes and took note.  I wasn’t able to be alone with one of the women. But after everyone had been taken home; and we were riding alone in the car,  the other one shared openly.

sharingI asked a question, reminding my friend, Lyleth, of the remark she had made.  Lyleth jumped in feet first and shared the painful poison residing in her heart.  I reminded her of God’s promises.  She clinched her lips and shook her head.  Her silence screamed resistance.

C. S. Lewis wrote,  “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (C.S.Lewis, The Problem of Pain.  New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1962, pg 93.)  Explaining God’s love to a person who is mentally challenged is often less complicated than trying to penetrate the heart of a smarty-pajamas who has life figured out.  However, the kind of deep, penetrating grief that these women are experiencing is never easy to explain in logical or Biblical terms.

megaphoneYet, the hardship of pain often leaves us mute and disturbed because of our own inadequacy to understand or embrace deep hurts of the past or present.  Watching the anguish of my friend as she faces what will be the death of all she truly loves, my heart was wrenched because of my inability to reach out and heal.

After I dropped her off, I went Wal-Mart even though it was after 10PM.  I needed to pace and debrief my spirit.  I walked for an hour pushing my cart  in the security of the lighted building, praying and asking God to release my friends from the uncertainly and pain that the future holds for them.

I came home still uneasy, hurting for my friends whose pain will only increase in the months ahead.  However, during the night, God did a wonderful miracle in me.  I was able to release them into His care.  He is the only one who can heal and bring true growth.  His megaphone not only alerts us; but the pain He announces has a wonderful way of teaching, healing and releasing.