Christian Music


bulliesFighting Fair

The Philistine also said, “Today I stand and make fun of the army of Israel! Let me have one of your men to fight!”  I Sam 17:10

Introduction–A few years ago, two young men tried to steal my purse from me by grabbing it and driving off in their car.  They weren’t able to get my purse or really hurt me.  You see, even through they were driving a Honda and there were two of them and only one of me, it was not a fair fight because God was on my side.  As we look at the story of David and Goliath, I want us to think about what makes a fair fight.  Have a member read I Samuel 17:10.

  1.  The story of David and Goliath.  Goliath was taunting the Army of Israel and making fun of them.  He said to send one man to fight.  (I Samuel 17)
    1. What Goliath didn’t know was that this was not a fair fight.
    2. He thought he had the advantage but God had the advantage
    3. God sent David to the camp to be able to fight Goliath and to win.
    4. What we need to understand is that God wants us to win every battle and to have the victory everytime and in every way.
  1. God gives victory to his children because he loves us.
  2. Last week we had a funeral for my brother-in-law and it was sad but wonderful because we were able to spend time together and be with the family that does not know Jesus as their Savior and we saw the young people ministering to each other.
  3. Have you ever been in a problem and seen God turn that problem around for your good?
  1. I have a person in my life that has tried to hurt me and my family.  This person has only made us stronger people.
  2. I had a person one time who wanted to really hurt me; and for a while it seemed to work. Then in my hurt, I found SpG and God gave me all you folks to love me and for me to love.

Conclusion:   God doesn’t fight fair when it comes to his children.  There will be people who will try to hurt you; but they cannot because God is on your side and he always gives us victory.

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.

I was blessed yesterday to sit with two friends who pour their lives into the lives of others.  One of these women has ministered to me in countless ways in the course of 20+ years.  We lingered at the table refilling our iced tea glasses long after the lunch dishes had been cleared.  We had stopped to take time to share prayers and the concerns of our lives.  Sitting there,  I recounted the many women whose lives have been turned and blessed by one of women who has held important positions of  leadership in our community.

Her talents are many.  She is a great cook, a fabulous hostess.  She understands how to lead.  She teaches, prays and encourages.  But it is in the area of discipleship that she excels.  Without fanfare or trumpets blasting, she comes along side younger women in the Lord and she holds them up, sharing the strength God has given to her.

Many times I hear from other people, “Nancy is more of a mother to me than my own mother.”  Or, “Nancy is the true friend I never had.”

So often we want our ministries to be soaring rhetoric that touches the hearts of millions.  We desire to be able to minister in music reaching out to the masses with our CD’s and iTunes downloads.  We forget how deeply personal Christianity is.  It is a ministry of touch and conversation.  It is one heart overlapping another bleeding heart with concern and love bringing the healing touch of a holy Lord who truly cares.

In the past months, I been reading and rereading the Pauline letters.  They are vividly personal love letters from Paul to his friends.  It is only because the Holy Spirit preserved these letters that we can look into the heart of this great apostle.  We forget that the book of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were written by Luke to one man.  The books of the New Testament written by Peter and John are letters, either to congregations or individuals.

Their intention was not to bless the world with a faceless voice or unknown stroke of a pen.  They were writing to help strengthen friends.  Man to man.  Woman to woman.  Today, we reach out over the lunch table grabbing a hand for prayer.  We slow our pace at bit to be able to walk along side a hurting and wounded soul, allowing God’s strength to minister healing. Christianity is a deeply personal relationship with God.  However, we cannot ever overlook that Christ left us as a Church–a fellowship of believers.

We all stumble through life with that deep abiding need for a father, a mother, a friend.  People who come to Special Gathering usually leave changed.  It isn’t the vibrant conversation or the deeply spiritual banter.  It is Joey who comes without speech and takes our hand and shouts with his eyes and touch, “I love you.  I take you as my friend.”  It is Patty with her mindless chatter and suffocating hugs that whispers to our hearts, “You are accepted and loved here.”

As my friends and I stood by the door, wanting to share “one last thing,” I was struck by the deeply personal nature of God’s love.  Jesus came to heal and minister, delight and correct.  He is our personal saviour.  Hallelujah!

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

For our 2012 Special Gathering Christmas music, we are using the score from a children musical,  Stranger in the Manger, by Johnathan Crumpton and Sue Smith, published by Brentwood-Benson Music Productions. Brentwood Choral holds the copyrights.

Even though it is a children’s musical, it will adapt easily to the needs of the adults in your program.  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.

Crumpton and Smith’s music and words are wonderful.  The words to the songs are not childish. They tell the message of the miracle of God’s son’s birth in a touching and anointed way.  In fact, everyone has their favorite song. Most of our choir members tear up during one of the song. I’ve had to almost harden my heart to the song, “This is Such a Strange Way to Save The World,” because the words are so powerful that the first 500 times I heard it, I cried.  Even now, writing about and remember the powerful words of the song, I am fighting back tears.

The musical score can easily be adapted to adults who may have a difficult time learning choral parts.  While many of the words may be difficult to say for people who have speech impediments, I’ve found that our members are learning the words because they love the music.  The big band, upbeat sound of the orchestration and musical score make this musical easy for our members to learn because they want to work hard to learn the words and be a part of this choral expression.

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?

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.

Early Friday morning, 33 people from two states gathered for a Special Gathering choir retreat.  As you probably know, Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  People who are developmentally disabled compose the three choirs. This is part of the outreach of Special Gathering into the community and a small portion of what we do.

Our primary purpose for the weekend was to learn the Christmas music that the three choirs will perform in their local communities but God had a different objective.  During Friday practice time, the Holy Spirit ministered to us in uniquely, pleasant ways.  Choir members who had little interest in developing their voices for praising God were sitting on the edges of their seats, responding to the music and director.  Those who love to sing and hungerly grasp all the solos were pressing other less-talented members to try to sing certain solo parts.

During one song, a quiet holiness fell as we sang.  Our rehearsal became worship.  Unexpectedly, four or five people started to cry because of the presence of the Lord.  Together, we laughed and cried as we savored a precious moment as God decided to touch an entire group of people with his love and grace.

On Saturday, we had a short rehearsal and left for a day of playing at Disney World’s Fort Wilderness.  By the afternoon, our fun was interrupted by concern for one of the members.  Late Friday afternoon she had stepped off a curve wrong and twisted her ankle.

She never fell, limped or complained.  She insisted that she was fine and in almost no pain.  We had iced it, called her supervisory staff.  We gave her over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory  medication approved by her staff.  However, by Saturday evening as we traveled home, it was apparent that she was in severe pain.

Additionally, one of our van drivers got lost going home.  We expected her to get home a bit before 10PM.  She did not arrive until 11PM.  When I got a phone call at 10:40 that she was late, I called parents to see if she had gotten stuck at one of their homes.  She had not arrived.  I got dressed; headed out to find her.  As I was pulling out of the driveway, we got a phone call that she had arrived at one of the homes.

On Sunday, the lady with the twisted ankle had to be taken to the hospital.  The doctors found that she had broken her foot.  When staff called me, she was irate that I would allow her to walk on that broken foot for two days without taking her to get medical attention.  This was the same staff person that I’d called three times to give a progress report regarding her condition.  During those conversations, she had not told me that my member had extremely brittle bones because of a new medical condition; and she takes medication for the condition.

Additionally, when I returned home, languishing among my junk mail was a letter from the IRS.   I am being audited by the IRS for the last three years.  The audit is expected to take at least four hours.  The last time I was audited, even though I had receipts and written proof for all my deductions, the auditor refused to look at them and she would not allow the deductions because the audit was taking too much of her time.  It had cost us over a thousand dollars.

As a commissioned minister, I am self-employed.  I save every receipt and form.  I also prepare my own taxes, using Turbo-tax.  Instructions from the IRS on how to prepare for this audit is a five page letter and represents a monumental task.

In contrast, on Sunday morning, a combined choir sang at a large local church.  They were anointed and ministered the Lord in a marvelous way.  As they sang, I sat aside my concerns for my member’s broken foot and the IRS and how the driver got lost.  Quietly, the Lord reminded me of the reassuring calmness that always proceeds severe storms.

I was raised in Charleston, SC.  Hurricanes were an annual event during my childhood.  The 1950’s marked the lowcountry cities with the scars of wild wind and furious rain.  However, after the weather forecast told us about the approaching storm, the neighborhood children would gather on our front walkway. Squatting on the hard, cool concrete, we marveled at the peace and stillness.  While our parents frantically prepared our homes, we would sit quietly, experiencing the calm.

As interesting as the storms were, it was the calm that followed and proceeded each storm that captured my young imagination.  Yesterday, the Lord reminded me of the calm that always attends an approaching storm.  “You would be wise to not let the fury of the storm destroy the peace you feel before and after you are attacked by the enemy of your soul.”

How often I’ve been so caught up by the storm that I lose my perspective of a life lived in Christ.  Joy and triumphant singing go before us each step of the way.  Goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives.  We are wrapped with peace in the middle of the storm.  Yet, I sit in the rocking chair of our soul and rehearse every moment of the last storm.  I recount in my mind the wind and the rain.  I speak to myself about the damage and the despair.

Yep, it appears that another storm period has invaded my life.  But quietly God is saying, “This too shall pass.”  In the meantime, God has touched a small group of mentally challenged folks and used them for his glory.  Does life get much better than that?  I don’t think so.

I often laugh at radio and TV commercials when women (or men) talk about their new weight loss and say, “I have my life back.”  The commercial writers want to convince us that I cannot have a real and honest life, unless I am a size 2 with no sags or wrinkles.

The Christian songwriter and singer, Michael Card, has a teaching on Jesus’ miracles.  Using a study in  Jesus’ years of ministry, Card concludes that Jesus often down plays healingsand miracles.  Not with standing, Jesus placed the emphasis on the need for changes in the life of the person who was healed.  Again and again, Jesus exhibited no need for “the thrill of the exhibition.”  When he healed the ten lepers, Jesus sent them to see the priest.  By the time they appeared before the priest, they had all been healed.

Michael Card

When Jesus healed a blind man using mud, he told blind man to go and wash.  The man was healed but Jesus was no where in sight.  However, after the healing, Jesus sought the man out to insure that his spiritual man was healed.

There are perhaps two conclusions we can reach from the way that Jesus handled miracles.  First, miracles should be such a common place thing in a Christian’s life that we are not overly impressed by miracles.  Years ago, comedian Lilly Tomlin’s attended a Katherine Kuhlman meeting.  Miss Kuhlman was known as a person through whom the Lord performed miracles and healings.  Ms. Tomlin said, “I’m embarrassed to say that there were so many miracles in those four hours of the meeting that I got bored.”  Perhaps, this is a more healthy attitude than we would care to admit.

The second way to handle miracles may be to look beyond the miracle itself to see what God desires to do in the hearts of people.  His goal is conforming us into the image of Christ.  He will use many features from his tools box to reach that lofty goal in our lives.  When people who are mentally challenged accept the Lord, they don’t expect God to heal their minds.  They do desire to have God change their lives, making them into faithful disciples.

Any person with an ounce of self-esteem does not need to have a perfectly sculpted body to have a life.  In the same way, as wonderful and needed as miracles may be, the Christian must always be on guard to see how the Lord can redeem our lives, teaching them His will and changing us into His image.

What miracles have you seen in your life?  What was God trying to teach you through the miracle?

When God calls us to do a work for him, he actually means business.  At times, we have this lassia faire attitude that says, “Really, God?  You want me to do what?  You must be kidding.”  In reality, God is deathly serious about the things he desires us to do.

For many years, people encouraged my husband to stop working for NASA as an engineer and start a church.  But there was never any indication from the Lord that this was what He wanted Frank to do.  My husband and I both knew that his mission field was at his work place.  

For most of my life, I did not know that God would call me into missions.  My husband, on the other hand, would say, “We should move overseas.  I’ll get an engineering job;  and you can do missions work.”  Because I felt I was already doing what God was asking me to do–raising three children and being his wife, I never commented.  

Some years after all our children had graduated from high school, I visited Special Gathering to write a book; and I knew that I’d come home.  While my husband had often fought things that I wanted to do for the Lord, he never hesitated to agree with God’s true call on my life.  This was a perfect position for me.  From that first day I visited, I’ve been as comfortable at Special Gathering, as if I’d been born to do the job (which, of course, is true).

Yet, in his daily email newsletter Oz Helman asks,

Have you ever not pursued something because it had to be perfect? There is a fine line between doing things with excellence and being a perfectionist. Perfectionists become argumentative with God. They refuse to step out in faith and obedience because they care too much about what others think if the results don’t turn out perfectly.I battled these same demons when God led me into a writing and speaking ministry. “Lord, I am weak in grammar and you know I’m an introvert.” Then He reminded me “…for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).

When God places His anointing on you He uses whatever level of skill you have to fulfill His purposes in your life. This is why you need not fear moving into an unfamiliar area if He calls you there.

 

 

What is God waiting for you to do? It may be time to step out. He specializes in “cliff-catching.” 

This is the Christmas play we will be using in Melbourne, Vero and South Carolina programs of Special Gathering.  You will need to use your imagination to adapt it to your own staging area.  In one of our programs, we have not curtains.  We adapt the play to fit the area in which we must perform.

The music is from Cedarmont Kids, “Gospel Christmas Songs” Album.  Your choir will love the upbeat Spirituals with a Jamaican influence.  My choirs have not even noticed that the songs are sung by a children’s choir. 

You can order the album on line.  The songs are sung twice.  The second set has split track.

Joy!  It’s Christmas Time

By Linda G. Howard

Choir should be positioned on the side of the stage opposite where the actors will be entering and exiting the stage. Three people come to the front. 

Speaker 1—We’d like for everyone to join us as we sing, “Joy to the World.”  Everyone, including audience sings, “Joy to the World.” 

Joy to the World! The Lord is Come

1. 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 haven and nature sing,

      And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

2.  Joy to the World the Savior reigns, Let men their songs employ.

      While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains

      Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy,

      Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

3.  He rules the world with truth and grace,

      And make the nations prove the glories of His righteousness

      And wonders of His love,

      And wonders of His love,

      And wonders, wonders of His love.

Speaker 2—(Comes from the audience.  He puts his hands on his hips as though angry)  Okay, it’s Christmas but can we really be singing about Joy?  Everything is a mess.  There are wars.  People hate us.  We hate others.  I don’t know where you get all that joy stuff.

Speaker 3—Hey, sit down!  You are messing up our play.  This is the story about Jesus’ birth. 

Speaker 1—That’s right.  Can somebody make this person sit down?  Will anyone help us?

Speaker 4—Wait a minute.  Isn’t this why we celebrate Jesus’ birthday?  We need to help people understand why Jesus’ life is important to us.

Speaker 2—Yeah, why do you think that Jesus was such an important person?  What makes his birth special?

Speaker 1—Sit down and watch our play.  We’ll explain it all to you. 

Speaker 2–Okay.  I’ll watch your play.  After all, it is Christmas time.

Reader 1:       God, the Father, knew that people need someone to help them with their lives.  We need a Savior.  Sin has made us fearful.  We hurt each other and ourselves.  God had a plan to send His Savior.  That Savior was His son, Jesus.

Choir sings “The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy.”   Mary comes from behind curtain, looking up to the sky.  The house lights go off and the only light is on Mary.  The Angel Gabriel comes from the opposite side of the stage.  She should be looking in the opposite direction.  He quietly stands behind Mary.  She does not see him. 

2. The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy  

1.     The Virgin Mary had a Baby boy. (3xs)

        And they said that His name will be Jesus.

chorus

He come from the glory.

He come from the glorious kingdom

He come from the glory.

He come from the glorious kingdom

2. The Angels sang when the Baby was born…

chorus

3. The Shepherds came-a when the Baby was born…

chorus

4. The wise men saw-a where the Baby was born…

chorus

Reader 2:  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. 

(As the choir begins to sing, “Wonderful Counselor,” the angel takes Mary‘s hands.)

3. Wonderful Counselor 

1. Tell me, who do you call The Wonderful Counselor?

 (Chorus)

Oh, oh, glory, hallelujah

Oh, oh, glory, hallelujah

Glory, Hallelujah to the newborn King.

2. The Holy Spirit will come on the Blessed Virgin Mary.  (Chorus)

3. Well, they’ll call Jesus, “TheWonderful Counselor.”  (Chorus)

4. Cryin’ Peace on earth, Good will to your neighbor…  (Chorus)

5. Well, I call Jesus, my wonderful Savior… (Chorus)

6. They’ll follow the star to find the baby…  (Chorus)

When the song ends, the angel leaves.  The curtain opens and Mary sits on a bench. Hands and face held up in prayer.

Joseph comes out and stands in the center of the stage. Mary stands and meets him and uses gestures to explain about the angel.   As they talk to each other, they move around the stage.  Choir sings, “Jesus, What a Wonderful Child.”


4.  Jesus, Oh, What a Wonderful Child 

(chorus) Jesus! Jesus! Oh, what a wonderful child!

Jesus!  Jesus! So lowly, meek and mild.

New life, new hope, new joy He’ll bring

Won’t you listen to what the angel proclaims.

Glory, glory, glory, to the newborn king.

I am an angel from the heavenly King.

He’ll born in a lowly manger.

The Virgin Mary is his mother.

And Joseph, you’re His earthly father. 

Take Mary to be your only wife

You’ll be blessed with a heavenly star.

To see King Jesus will be your joy

In a manger filled with hay.

Repeat chorus 2xs

Tag  Glory, glory, glory, to the newborn king.

Reader 1:       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. 

Mary turns away from Joseph and has her back to the audience. She slowly walks back stage.  The choir sings “Go Tell it on the Mountain.”  Joseph goes to center stage.  He is confused, hurt, and angry.  He sits down and falls asleep. 

As the choir begins to sing “Go Tell it,” Joseph’s Angel comes on stage wakes him up and talks to Joseph.  At verse 3, the angel leaves.  Mary comes on stage.  Joseph goes to Mary, takes her hand and helps her off the stage.

5.  Go! Tell It on the Mountain 

 (chorus) Go, tell it on the mountain,

Over the hills and everywhere;

Go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.

1.     While Joseph tossed in anger,

 An Angel came to earth,

The Angel came to tell him

Of our great Savior’s birth.

2.     The Heavenly One told Joseph,

“Take Mary as your wife.

She’ll be the Savior’s mother.

He’ll live a holy life.”

3.     So he obeyed the angel

The humble Christ was born

And brought us God’s salvation

That blessed Christmas morn.

Chorus

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.)

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 choir sings, “O, Little Town of Bethlehem.”

6.  O Little Town of Bethlehem 

O little town of Bethlehem—

How still we see thee lie

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting light;

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, And gathered all above.

While mortal sleep the angels keep

Their watch of wondering love.

O Morning Stars together proclaim the Holy birth

And praises sing to God the king and peace to men on earth!

(Back to first verse.  Audience is invited to sing with them.)

As the choir sings, shepherds should move to the front floor area.  At verse three, open the curtains. Mary and Joseph should be center stage with the baby in Mary’s arms.  There should be no angels or shepherds on stage at this time.

Reader 4:  That night, Mary gave birth to her first son, Jesus. 


Choir sings “Mary had a Baby.”

7.  Mary Had a Baby

Mary had a baby.  Yes, Lord. 

Mary had a baby. Yes, my Lord;

Mary had a baby, Yes, Lord!

The people keep a comin’ and the train done gone.

1. What did she name him?  Yes, Lord.

What did she name?  Yes my lord;

What did she name him, Yes, Lord.

The people keep a comin’ and the train done gone.

2.      She named Him King Jesus, Yes, Lord!

She named him King Jesus, Yes, my Lord.

Wonderful Couns’lor. Yes, Lord.

The people keep a comin’ and the train done gone.

3.      Where did she lay him?  Yes Lord!

Laid Him in a manger?  Yes, my Lord!

Wrapped Him in swaddlin’, Yes, Lord!

The people keep a comin’ and the train done gone

Reader 5:       Some shepherds were in the fields watching their sheep.

Reader 6:       An angel of the Lord stood before the shepherds and said,

Reader 7:       “Don’t be afraid.”

Angels walk up.  They should point the shepherds to Mary and Joseph and the baby. 

Choir sings,“Rise Up Shepherds and Follow.”

8.  Rise Up, Shepherd and Follow

There’s a star in the east on Christmas morn,

Rise up, shepherd and follow.

It will lead to the place where the Savior’s born,

Rise up, shepherd and follow.

Leave your sheep and leave your rams,

Rise up, shepherd and follow.

Leave your flocks and leave your lambs.

Rise up, shepherd and follow.

If you take good heed to the angel’s words

Rise up, shepherd and follow.

You’ll forget your flocks; you’ll forget your herds;

Rise up, shepherd, and follow.

Follow, follow, Rise up, shepherd and follow.

Follow the star of Bethlehem. Rise up, shepherd and follow.

Rise up, shepherd and follow. Rise up, shepherd and follow.

 As soon as the song ends, the shepherds walk to the center stage on the floor and bow, if they can.  One or two shepherds should go on stage and bow before the manger. 

Angels should move on to the stage.  As the music begins for “Behold that Star,”  the wise men begin to move from the back.  They come on stage and kneel on the floor before the baby.

9. Behold that Star

(chorus)

Behold, that star

Behold, that star up yonder,

Behold, that star

This the star of Bethlehem.

There was no room found in the inn.

This the star of Bethlehem.

For Him who was born free from sin,

This the star of Bethlehem.

(chorus)

The Wise men came from the East

This the star of Bethlehem.

To worship, Him, the Prince of Peace

This the star of Bethlehem.

(chorus)

(tag)  This the star of Bethlehem.

Choir sings, “Silent Night” as speakers 1, 3 and 4 move to the front of the stage on the floor.  Then speaker 1 goes and gets speaker 2 and helps him to come onto the front of the stage.  Speaker 2 bows at the manger.  Then all the other speakers come on the stage and bow with him.

Silent Night

Silent night, holy night, All is calm all is bright.

Round yon virgin, mother and Child!

Holy infant so tender and mild. 

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly, heavenly peace

Silent night Holy night

Son of God, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With the dawn of redeem grace

Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

Choir and audience sings “O Come All Ye Faithful.”  Everyone, except Mary, stands and sings with the choir and audience.

O Come, All Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,

O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem!

Come and behold him, born the King of Angels!

O come, let us adore Him, (3xs) Christ, the Lord.

Sing, Choirs of Angels, Sing in exultation.

Sing, all ye hosts of heav’n above.

Glory to God all glory in the highest,

O come, let us adore Him, (3xs) Christ, the Lord!

Yea, Lord, We greet Thee, born this happy morning, Jesus to Thee be all glory given.

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing,

O come, let us adore Him, (3xs) Christ the Lord.

 

For about 10 years,  mourning doves nested outside our back door.   The sweet cooing of the birds and the chirps of their young, filled my morning devotion and prayer spot with joyful, mourning sounds.  Several times a day, I’d venture outside the sliding glass door to view the tiny babies or the hovering parents.

The year after Hurricanes Frances and Jean, the mourning doves were replaced by the ringed-turtle dove.  We are told that the winds blew these lovely, wanderers into our area.  Then the second year of their nesting, I lowered the plant where the nest was perched.  The birds decided they couldn’t trust this lower spot.  They nested but later left the eggs and the nest.

Trust is a foundation stone of life.  Whether you are a newly-migrated, ringed-turtle dove searching for a nesting area, a small child grasping the hand of his dad, or a woman in her 40’s who reaches across the bed each night to touch her spouse, we need someone to trust.

Whom can you trust? In the book of Acts, chapter 12, Luke writes about one fateful night after Peter had landed himself in jail.  He had been arrested for preaching the good news of Jesus.  They incarcarated him, placing him between 2 guards.  In the night, an angel woke Peter up,  told Peter to get up, get dressed, put on his shoes and follow the angel.

After Peter had escaped jail.  He went to the house where the church had gathered to pray for Peter’s release.  He talked to Rhoda a servant girl.  The young girl was so surprised to see Peter that she rushed upstairs to tell the church.  Even though, they had been praying for his release, the prayers didn’t believe that Peter had been released.

Obviously, the church members had not learned to trust God, yet.  Here are some tips we can use to learn how to trust the Lord.

First, we need to stop worrying.  Worry will kill you and make others want to kill you.  Peter was not worried.  He wasn’t lying awake concerned about being able to escape.  He was asleep when the angel executed his rescue.

Second, we should truly look for God to give us miracles.  Too often we ignore unexpected good and godly things which happen to us.  We can recognize when God is helping us.

Third, we can tell others about what God has done for us.   Trusting God means that we live different from other people.  At any moment, we should expect a Peter to arrive at our door.

 

On December 13,  I injured my eye ball.  I was working in the garden when a spindly plant pierced my eye directly into the corneal.  It caused what the doctors called a Recurrent Corneal Erosion (RCE).  In simple terms, the skin on my eyeball would dissolve in the middle of the night and I would wake up in terrible pain.  This happened each night, often several times a night.  While the eyeball heals quickly, many nights, it would not heal.  The patient is left with an inability to tolerate light. Daytime became exceptionally painful.

There is no cure or remedy for RCE.  Everyone who inherits or develops this condition learns to live with the pain.  As debilitating as the condition is, I was preparing myself to live this way for the rest of my life.

I spent countless, sleeplesss nights in pain.  I was under constant care of the doctor.  In the end, I had two operations on my eye.  The Special Gathering members who are developmentally disabled caught the need for the Lord to heal me.  Chrissy especially realized that God is merciful and He would hear her prayer.  To be honest, I was in too much pain to have much faith.  But not Chrissy.

Every day, several times a day, Chrissy prayed for my eye.  Chrissy has CP and she has been confined to a wheelchair all of her life.  She does not talk but she can communicate and she can pray.

The last attack on my eye was at the end of September the next year.  Four glorious years I’ve been without pain.  But Chrissy has remained faithful to pray for me each day.  Chrissy understands what James wrote that the effective, fervant prayer of a righteous woman does a lot of good.

Even though it’s been four years, the two years of piercing, reoccuring pain and trauma have not been forgotten.  I am so grateful to the Lord for healing my eye; and I am so indebted to Chrissy who prayed for me when I was too weak in my faith to pray.  The Special Gathering members often have no boundries in their ability to touch the heart of God because they understand Him.  They, often, don’t understand unbelief.

Have you seen God use people in exceptional ways to answer prayer?  What have you learned about faith from these prayer warriors?

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/simplelife/2011/07/prayer-of-the-saints.html#ixzz1SZuldhl7

          Wednesday, November 10, did not seem like an eventful day for Joey Melton.  He got up, got dressed, ate breakfast, took his lunch and went to work.  None of us would have suspected that this would be his last day on earth. How could we know that by 2pm he would slip into eternity?  He was not sick.  The behaviors which had haunted him most of his life had been tamed and subdued.  He had become known as the “gentle giant.”  He would touch, not strike.  Though still able to crush, Joey caressed the things he found fascinating and beautiful.  But Joey was not to remain here.  The Lord had a better plan for him.  (Read Psalm 4:1, 6b-8.)

          During the praise and worship time at The Special Gathering, Joey danced through the praise.  At first, he would sway during the music at his seat.  When he started knocking into people, some thought that we should make him stop.  But this was his expression of joy and delight in the presence of His Lord.  That joy should not be suppressed.  Gently Gladys LeGrow or Dan Guiles, his Bible teacher, would lead him into the back of the room or into the aisles.  He only danced during the fast music, the praise music.  After the praise time, he would slowly move back into his seat as we sang the slower worship music.  Joey knew the difference between praise and worship and always responded appropriately.

Joey had several special giftings.  He could down a 2-liter bottle of soft drink in less than 30 seconds.  He could eat a meal in record time and his smile would brighten the saddest heart.  Once at work, he got into a highly concentrated red drink.  The results were astronomical.  As you know with our bodies, what goes in must come out; and within a short time Joey was pouring red from both ends.  The staff was puzzled and confused until they found the half empty bottle of red drink with the lid off.  It was clear that Joey had tried to finish off the entire bottle.  Thankfully, he did not succeed.

Joey loved work, church, Amy and Michelle. His caregiver, Tom said that at one Sunday afternoon dance with the Rec Department, they missed him.  He was found on the dance floor smoosing with some tiny little female girl.  It was apparent that Joey had a secret life of romance that he did not share with his group home family.

Joey was selective about whom he gave his affection.  While it was apparent that he loved, Dan, his Bible study teacher, he withheld his affection from me for several years.  But there came a wonderful day when Joey sought me out and extended his hand to me for a handshake.  I knew that I had won a great victory that day.

Through his praise and worship, his delight in attending church, Joey shared with us his devotion to Jesus.  While he often had to be directed to the next class, Joey sat quietly, absorbing the Word of God as his teacher, Dan, or I taught.  Each of us has something that we can share which shows our devotion and love for the Lord.  Joey danced and sat quietly.  Can any of us really do much more?

Psalm 8 says, “You have taught children and babies to sing praises to you.  I look at your heavens, which you made with your fingers; I see the moon and stars, which you created.  But why are people important to you?  Why do you take care of human beings?  You made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.”  Few people here on earth understood the glory or honor that God graced on Joey.  Yet in heaven, right now, the angels are singing because he has come home and Joey is dancing.

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