choir for persons who are developmentally disabled


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.

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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.

As a “hook” this year, I have used the winter waves on the east coast of Florida that our surfers love.  This makes our play regional.  However, you can insert any event that is peculiar to your area. There may be a Christmas tour for which your community is known or some regional arts festival, the rodeo.  In addition, we are using youth from several local churches.  They are the speakers who are leaving rehearsal to go surf.

This play is divided into 1) speakers–these are the people at the beginning of the play who are reading or speaking the modern-day part of the play. i.e. the surfers and decorators. 2) actors–they are the people who are portraying the  Biblical part of the play, Mary, Joseph, wise men.  3) choir 4) readers–they are the people who read the narration.  Our readers are usually choir members who have not been given solo parts.

Our music and words have come from the wonderful children’s play, Stranger in the Manger, by Jonathan Crampton and Sue Smith, published by Brentwood-Benson Music Productions.   I have included the words to the songs.  They are copyrighted by Brentwood Choral.  You will need to buy the Demo CD and the Split-track practice CD.  There is also a great orchestration CD and books available.  This music is certainly worth the expense.  The music is wonderful.  The words are not childish but can adapt to adults who may have a difficult time learning the choral parts.  Your members will love upbeat, big band sounds. 

A Florida Christmas

By Linda G. Howard

All the actors, speakers, choir, readers and helpers should be out front getting their costumes on.  Speakers who are youth should be helping to do different tasks.  The play will begin at set time but everything (costumes, etc.)  will be out front in full view, rather than in a backroom.  Choir should be ready to get into position on the side of the stage opposite where the actors will be entering and exiting the stage. Everyone is hurrying to get things cleaned up and out-of-the-way at the time that the play begins. 

Speaker 1 (comes out with a bathing suit–possibly a wet suit—swinging in mid-air  and a surf board under his arm and shouts)—Surf’s up!

Several people begin to get up as though they are leaving. They gather up surf boards.  Shouting:  All Right! Let’s go!

(As the Speakers are talking, the choir gets into place. People finish getting actors seated and all the boxes out-of-the-way.)

Speaker 2—(stands)  Wait a minute!  Are you getting ready to leave?

Speaker 1 (coming over to Speaker 2)—Yeah!  This is Florida, Man.  There is surf and we can catch at least a full hour of waves, if we hurry.  (Motions to everyone to leave.)

Speaker 3—(Stands in the way of the surfers.)  You promised to help with our Christmas play.  It’s time to start.  (Sarcasticlly and motioning to the audience.) The audience is here, parents, friends.

Speaker 4—(Standing with speaker 3)  You can’t leave now!

Speaker 5You don’t understand.  We wait all year for the winter waves.  This is Florida.  That’s what a Florida Christmas means waves, waves and more waves.

Speaker 2Come on.  We know better than that.  Sure, Christmas in Florida means waves but it means a lot more.

Speaker 6—He’s (or she’s) right.  We can’t forget the real meaning of Christmas.

Speaker 7—Big deal, a baby, a stranger in a manger.  How does that compare with waves, real winter waves.

Speaker 2—It’s the story telling how much God loves us.  That’s way better than waves.

Speaker 5—Okay, we’ll stay but this better be good!

(As the speakers put their surf boards away, the choir begins to sing.)

1.  Tell Me the Story of Christmas

(chorus)

Tell me the story of Christmas. I love to hear it told.

Every detail of that incredible night.

Never, no, never, ever grows old.

I love the part where the angels are singing

and the shepherds and wise men are worshiping.

I’m ready to hear all the wonderful things That happened in Bethlehem.

So tell me the story of Christmas once again.

 

Good Christian Men Rejoice

Good Christian men, rejoice With heart and soul and voice.

Give ye heed to what we say:

News! News! Jesus Christ is born today!

Ox and ass before Him bow And He is in the manger now.

Christ is born today, Christ is born today.

 

(Back to top and Repeat Chorus)

 

I really love to hear the story get repeated, cause every time you tell about the birth of Jesus,

If someone else can hear about it and believe it,

They’ll find his love.  So if you wait until the middle of November

Or if you sing it from December through December

Just tell the world about His coming and remember the way it was.

(Repeat Chorus)

Hark! The Herald Angels sing

Hark! The herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King;

Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!

Joyful, all ye nations, rise, join the triumph of the skies.

With Angelic host proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem!

Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King.

(Repeat Chorus)

Tag–So Tell me the story of  Christmas once again.  Again!

As the song ends, the curtains should open half way.  Mary and Joseph should be on stage by the end of the song.  Holding hands, smiling.  

Speaker 1 to Speaker 5—(They should be carrying the final box of costumes out of the stage area. They stop in the middle of the stage area but on the floor.)  Ahh, maybe this won’t be too bad.  I guess the waves can wait.  (They continue to stand-off to the side on the floor area.)

Joseph:  (Joseph comes to the edge of the stage.  He puts his finger to his mouth and says) Sh-h-h.  (Everyone joins him, including the choir. Joseph puts his hands on his waist and walks to the side of the stage.  Angel walks up to Mary and begins to talk to her.)

Reader 1:       God sent the angel Gabriel to a virgin girl who lived in Nazareth, a town in Galilee.  The girl was engaged to marry a man named Joseph.  Her name was Mary. 

(Mary’s angel leaves. Mary goes to Joseph to talk.  They walk to center stage.)

Reader 2:       Mary was engaged to marry Joseph.  But before they married, Mary learned that she was pregnant with a child by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Mary’s husband, Joseph was a good man.  He did not want to bring shame to Mary before the people.  So he planned to divorce her secretly. 

Speaker 1 to Speaker 5:  (They should be standing on the floor area but still in view of the audience. Speaking loudly.) This is my favorite part.

Except for Mary and Joseph, everyone–including the choir–says:  Sh-h-h.  (Speaker 2 comes and helps them to sit down.)

Mary walks off stage.  Joseph goes to center stage.  He is confused, hurt, and angry.  He sits down and drops his head as though asleep.  Joseph’s Angel comes on stage wakes him up and talks to Joseph. 

Reader 3:  While Joseph thought about these things, an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream.  The angel said, “Joseph, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the baby in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus.

As the Joseph angel exits, Joseph goes and gets Mary.  They stand together talking as the choir sings.

2. The Answer is “Yes”

 (Verse 1)  What do you say to an angel who suddenly appears

With news that’s so surprising you can’t believe your ears?

Do you have to think awhile, or do you tell him with a smile

(Chorus) The answer is “yes” to whatever God says. His plan is all right with me, wherever He leads.

Anytime, any place, I’m gonna obey. He knows that I know that He knows best.  That’s why the answer is Yes.

(Verse 2)  What do you say if you find out

The Father’s calling you for something very special  He’s planned for you to do?

Do you try to run away or bow your head and simply say:

(Repeat Chorus)

(Verse 3)  The answer isn’t “Maybe” or  “Come back and ask me later.”

When you choose between your own will and the will of the Creator

(Repeat chorus)O-o-oh  He knows that I know that He knows best.  That’s why the answer is Yes.  Yes!

Reader 3:  And Joseph did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream.  He married Mary.

(Joseph puts his arm around Mary.  Mary and Joseph walk off the stage. Close curtain or the stage should be empty.)

(Shepherds move into place at the front of the stage on the floor.)

Reader 2:    At that time Augustus Caesar sent out an order to all people.  The order said that all people must write their name in a book.  All people traveled to their own towns to be registered.  So Joseph went to Bethlehem in Judea.  Joseph went with Mary.  While Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have the baby.

(The Angels come out to the shepherds.)

Reader 4:       Some shepherds were in the fields watching their sheep.

Reader 5:       An angel of the Lord stood before the shepherds and said,

Reader 6:       “Don’t be afraid.”

Choir sings “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

3.  Angels we have Heard on High

Angels we have heard on high,

Sweetly singing over the plains

And the mountains in reply,

Echo back their joyous stains.

(chorus) Gloria in excelsis Deo.

Gloria in excelsis Deo.

Come to Bethlehem and see

Him whose birth the angels sing.

Come, adore on bended knee

Christ the Lord, the newborn king.

(repeat Chorus)

Tag:  In excelsis Deo.

After the choir sings, the curtains open, Mary, Joseph and the baby are there.  Choir sings “A Stranger in the Manger.”  Some of the shepherds who can go up the stairs and kneel go up and kneel by the baby.

4.  Stranger in the Manger

(verse 1) There’s a crowded inn in a little town,

At the barn out back shepherds gather around.

As they go inside, they are all bowing down.

What can it be?  Come look and see.

(chorus) There is a Stranger in the manger, out where the animals are fed.

There is a Baby in the hay, we’ve seen, who’s using that manger for a bed.

Why are there songs of joy praising this little Boy?

Telling the reason that He came?

There is a Stranger in the manger, and King

Jesus is His name.

(verse 2) It was long ago. It was far away but we’re still surprised

When we hear it today.

Could the Son of God be asleep on the Hay?

Yes, it is He.  Come and Believe!

(repeat Chorus)

Why are there songs of joy praising this little Boy?

Telling the reason that He came?

There is a Stranger in the manger, and King

Jesus is His name.

Jesus is His name.

Jesus is His name.

Angels should move on to the stage. 

As the music begins for “Walkin’ Like a Wise Man,” the wise men begin to move from the back. 

At first, they should be looking up into the sky, as thought they are  wandering around. 

Then Speaker 7 should come out carrying a large paper star on a stick. He will walk from the floor onto the stage and stand behind Mary and Joseph with the star held hight.   Then WiseMen see the star, point to it and come to the place where Mary, Joseph and the baby are.   They come on stage and kneel on the floor before the baby.

5.  Walkin’ like a Wise Man

(verse 1) Just another moonlit night like many they had seen

But there was something different about the sky above them.

It had to be the brightest star proclaiming heaven’s King

And if they follow, they would surely find Him

(chorus) Three men out searching in the night,

Who walked by faith and not by sight.

Woh-h-h-h   Walkin’ like a Wise Man.

Woh-h-h-h   Walkin’ like a Wise Man.

 (verse 2) Just a humble village where nobody would have guessed

The men would bow in honor of the little Baby.

But as they knelt before the child to offer up their best,

They knew they found the reason for their journey. (Return to chorus then “We Three Kings”)

We Three King

We three kings of Orient are.

Bearing gifts, we traverse afar

Field and Fountain, moor and mountain

Following Yonder Star.

Now everyone who follows Him

Is really walking just like them.

Woh   Walkin’ like a Wise Man.

Woh   Walkin’ like a Wise Man.

 

In the darkness, faith is the key.

When you trust Him, you’ll find you’ll be

Woh   Walkin’ like a Wise Man.

Woh   Walkin’ like a Wise Man.

Woh   Walkin’ like a Wise Man.

Woh   Walkin’ like a Wise Man.

 

Speaker 7 with the star should be on stage standing behind everyone.  Joseph should take the baby and hold him walking around the stage or just standing looking at the baby.  Choir sings, “A Strange Way to Save the World.” All of the speakers should come on stage and bow before the manger during the song.  

6.  A Strange Way to Save the World

(verse 1)  I’m sure he must have been surprised

At where the road had taken him cause never in a million lives

Would he have dreamed of Bethlehem.

And standing at the manger, he saw with his own eyes

The message from the angel come to life.

And Joseph said,

( Chorus) Why me?  I’m just a simple man of trade.

Why Him? With all the rulers in the world?

Why here? Inside this stable filled with hay?

Why her? She’s just an ordinary girl.

Now I’m not one to second guess what angels have to say,

But this is such a strange way to save the world.

(verse 2) To think of how it could have been if Jesus came as He deserved.

There would have been no Bethlehem, no lowly shepherds at His birth.

But Joseph knew the reason love had to reach so far.

And as he held the Savior in his arms

He must have thought,

(repeat Chorus)

Tag:  But this is such a strange way to save the world.

Joseph puts the baby back in the manger.  Speaker 1 goes to Speaker 2 and puts his arm over his shoulder. 

Speaker 1:  You are right this is much better than surfing.

Speaker 2 and everyone else:  Sh-h-h.

Choir sings “When I think of Christmas.”  As each new verse is introduced the person mentioned will leave. 

Verse 1:  Speaker 1 and the other youth (except Speaker 7)  will come and give the baby to Mary. 

Verse 2:  The youth will take away the manger and wave. 

Verse 3:  Joseph will wave and leave.

Verse 4:  Mary will wave and leave.

Verse 5:  Youth holding the star will wave and leave.

Verse 6:  The Angels will wave and leave. (Youth should help them where necessary.)

Verse 7:  The Shepherds will wave and leave. (Youth should help where necessary.)

Verse 8:  The Wise Men will wave and leave.

Verse 9 and 10 the Youth with the star should come back at the star verse.  Last time one of the SpG speakers will pull him off the stage area.

7.  When I Think of Christmas

When I think of Christmas, I think of how God’s only Son came to earth.

When I think of Christmas, I think of how the manger was empty

Till God’s only Son came to earth.

When I think of Christmas, I think of how Joseph was thankful, the manger was empty

Till God’s only Son came to earth.

When I think of Christmas, I think of how Mary was smiling, Joseph was thankful,

the manger was empty Till God’s only Son came to earth.

When I think of Christmas, I think of how a new star was shining bright

Mary was smiling, Joseph was thankful, the manger was empty

Till God’s only Son came to earth.

When I think of Christmas, I think of how the angels sang “Glory,” a new star was shining bright.

Mary was smiling, Joseph was thankful, the manger was empty

Till God’s only Son came to earth.

When I think of Christmas, I think of how the shepherds were frightened,

The angels sang “Glory,” a new star was shining bright.

Mary was smiling, Joseph was thankful, the manger was empty

Till God’s only Son came to earth.

When I think of Christmas, I think of how wisemen came searching,

the shepherds were frightened.

The angels sang “Glory,“ a new star was shining bright.

Mary was smiling, Joseph was thankful, the manger was empty

Till God’s only Son came to earth.

When I think of Christmas, I think of how the whole world is different cause

wisemen came searching.  The shepherds were frightened,

The angels sang “Glory,“ a new star was shining bright.

Mary was smiling, Joseph was thankful, the manger was empty

Till God’s only Son came to earth.

When I think of Christmas, I think of how God’s love is the reason the whole world is            different cause wisemen came searching, the shepherds were frightened,  The angels sang “Glory,” a new star was shining bright.  Mary was smiling, Joseph was thankful, the manger was empty Till God’s only Son came to earth.

Choir Sings:

8.  Finale–Joy to the World

It was, long ago, It was far away but we’re still surprised

When we hear it today

Could the Son of God be asleep on the hay?

Yes, it is He.  Come and Believe!

(chorus) There is a Stranger in the manger, out where the animals are fed.

There is a Baby in the hay, we’ve seen, who’s using that manger for a bed.

Why are there songs of joy praising this little Boy?

Telling the reason that He came?

There is a Stranger in the manger, and King

Jesus is His name.

Joy to the World

Joy to the World, the Lord is Come

Let earth receive her king.

Let every heart prepare Him room

And Heaven and nature sing,

And Heaven and nature sing

And heaven and heaven and nature sing.

He rules the world with truth and grace

And makes the nations prove

The glories of His righteousness

And wonders of His love,

And wonders of His love,

And wonder, wonders of His love

Yesterday was one of those days.  For months, I’ve tried to figure out how The Special Gathering of Indian River Christmas play should be written.  Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  Our population learns more slowly than normal; yet they are adults.  It is important that the play is not only educationally appropriate but also appropriate for adults.

Regarding the play, I write it.  Therefore, I begin searching for ideas for the next year as soon as the play is written for the current year.  Sounds as though I’d be way ahead of the game by mid-summer, doesn’t it?   That could be true if I can “see” the logistics of the play.  Many years I’m a bit stumped regarding some portion of the production.  My idea this year comes from the participation of the youth department at our program in one of our programs.  Yet, how do I make it appropriate for our other program.

During my prayer time yesterday, I suddenly knew how the play should be written so that it would be age appropriate and would easily adapt to our other program that does not have youth participation.  I began working on the play about 6:30am.  By 9:30am, I was ready to send it to our staff and volunteers for their suggestions and comments.

Then I began working on other deadline projects.  I was able to complete them all.

By the end of the day, I was thrilled at the productive time I’d experienced.  As I crawled into bed, I was pretty satisfied with the accomplishments of the day.  I prayed, “Lord, thank you so much for the great day.  I feel your presence and your pleasure because of all the work I was able to do today.”

Gently, I felt the Lord’s response, “Linda, I’m with you, leading and directing you at your least productive day, also.  Sometimes I have a greater goal in your life than finishing tasks.”

Whoa!  My tired brain soared.  Of course, it is great to be able to complete tasks.  But what about the days that you work diligently and nothing is accomplished.  Is God pleased with your failed efforts?  Will the Lord honor us, even when we fall short?

Johnnie and Peter Lord

Years ago, Johnnie Lord, the wife of well-known Pastor Peter Lord, said that the Lord assured her that he was much more concerned about the intent of her heart than her actual performance.  While the Bible teaches us this truth, we forget.

How has God assured you that he loves you even when you don’t “perform up to par”?  Are you able to pass on to others the same gace and mercy?

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?

The choir sang and then I spoke.  As I shared our missions vision to the group at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Satellite Beach, I scanned the people’s faces and my eyes screamed to a halt when I saw her face.  “My good friend, Carol, was sitting in the audience.  She smiled as she realized that I had recognized her.  Though, it’s probably been 10 years, it was the same smile and the same kindred that was sparked as I continued my presentation.

There is perhaps nothing better than seeing the face or hearing the voice of an old friend.  Yesterday, Mia called.  Even though my phone clues me into the person calling, I waited until she responded to my greeting before I called her name.  It makes her giggle that I “recognize” who she is.  Mia is a Special Gathering member who has attended off and on for more than 20 years.  She was a young girl of 14 or 15 when I first met her and now she is an adult with two teenage children.

High functioning and dual diagnosed with mental health issues, Mia began smoking cigarettes when she was first institutionalized for bipolar disorder.  Now, she has ruined her lungs.  At times, she cannot breathe because of COPD.  We laughed and talked for about 5 minutes.  “Please, pray for me,” she said before we hung up the phones.  She promised to come to Special Gathering on Sunday but I no longer expect for her to attend, even when her deep desire is to be there.

This morning as I texted Carol hoping we could meet for lunch, I was struck by the fact that my love for Mia and my love for Carol are the same.  Mia isn’t a “special needs project.”  She is my good and long-time friend who often calls for prayer because she loves me as much as I love her.

I talk often with Ferne Brandt, our area director of The South Carolina Special Gathering.  I’m happy that I’ve finally gotten to know most of her core membership because I can never tell whether she is speaking about her members or her volunteers.  The respect and admiration regarding the friendship they share isn’t different.

When there is genuine friendship, something miraculous happens.  We not only share memories of the past but joy of the present and anticipation for a glorious future.  When I scanned the room at Trinity Presbyterian, it wasn’t simply the joy of seeing an old friend that ignited my spirit but her smile said, “You are doing good. You’ve found YOUR place and I love you for who you have become.”  The most wonderful thing I saw in Carol’s smile was an appreciation for who I am today–not what I was twenty years ago.

I find that sometimes I get stuck in the mud and mire of the past in regard to my members.  Oh, you act so spiritual now.  Thoughts swim in and out of my brain.  But I remember when you hit George and cussed out Marie.  Then there was the incident on the city bus and…  Too often, my thoughts are Ralph will never change.  Ignoring the fact that those behaviors were when Ralph was 20.  Now he holds down a job.  He has become the primary caregiver of his elderly mother and he has garnered the respect of his peers.

While old friends are wonderful, we cannot get stuck with old visions.  I must demand that my thoughts leap forward into the future, commanding myself to learn and grasp the new visions of Special Gathering members, all my friends and of myself.

This week  my grandson, his girlfriend and I toured Kennedy Space Center.  I saw that one of the astronauts who walked on the moon had received a Exceptional Service Medal for this task.

I was a bit shocked because my husband, Frank, also has a Exceptional Service Medal.  It is the highest award given to a civilian by the Federal government.

Even at a young age, my husband knew that God wanted him to be an engineer.  He did his engineering work for the Lord; and he did a great job.  My husband simply knew that he loved solving engineering problems and this led to his decision to become an engineer.  Nevertheless, there are times that special signs are given to people letting them know God has given them a unique assignment.  That was what happened to David

It started like every other day for David.  The young man awakened and went to work tending his father’s  sheep.  It’s a good assumptions that he slept in the fields with the flock all night, protecting them from bears and lions.

On the other hand, Samuel may have started his day with a sense of destiny.  The Lord had rejected Saul as king of Israel and God was going to have Samuel anoint a new king.  As soon as Samuel saw the sons of Jesse gathered in front of him, he knew that the oldest and strongest son was the best selection but God had other ideas.  Each son passed by Samuel but God rejected each one. Handsome and strong, these men didn’t pass God test.  “Is there another son?”  Samuel asked the father.

“There’s David in the fields,” the father answered as though David were an afterthought.

“Send for him.”

David came and the rest is history.  God chose a singer and song writer who appears to be a bit of a dreamer for the next king is Israel.  David did not fit the picture of a king but God saw a great warrior and leader in the young shepherd.

What does God have for you to do?  Each of us has a special place in God‘s heart.  His love extends to all; and he wants us to do his work.  He probably doesn’t want us to be the ruler of a nation.  Yet, never discount the job he has chosen for you to do.  God’s work for you is needed.  If we are willing, God can teach others through our lives.

About 20 years ago,  The Special Gathering choir sang at a small meeting for women. Special Gathering is a ministry within the intellectually disabled community.  The choir sings for the community and church events.  The choir’s purpose is to teach the Church that people with disabilities have valid spiritual needs.   That Saturday morning, God used the choir to teach a mother that God could use her son who is also developmentally disabled.  About 15 years later, circumstances worked out that her son became a member of the Special Gathering choir.

There is no one that God doesn’t want to use.  God will use me and you if we let him.

From all accounts, Jesus did not appear to be the kind of person who was part of the Godhead or that his sacrifice would save the world.  Most people did not understand his great mission for redemption of the earth.  Likewise, David was a humble man and he didn‘t appear to be strong and powerful.

God used David who became a great king.  Of course, Jesus is our Redeemer and Savior.   Likewise, God can and he will use you and me.

No matter what our past has been, no matter how bleak your future looks, no matter what my life is like today, God wants to use me.  God wants to use you.

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