healing


I received an alarming phone call from a parent of a young woman who is in trouble. She is still at the age that she should not be distressed about life and death issues; nevertheless, her fate hangs in the balance almost daily.

Everything in me shouts, “This should not be!” Children should not be dealing with such weighty issues. But she is not the only child who has become plagued with thoughts and actions that force them to take mature stands that are far beyond their emotional abilities to cope.

It appears that no longer are only adults forced to walk through deep shadow lands of great depression, doubt and fear. Because of demonic attack, even children raised in Christian homes with godly parents are now being forced to wander aimlessly into vast wastelands of the mind and spirit.

While details cannot and should not be given, I am requesting that people pray not only for the three young people with whom I have personal contact but that our children be held up in prayer pleading for God’s protection of our young. I personally know of three young people ranging from the ages of 10 to 20 who are on the verge of horrific danger. Two of them are under the age of 13.

It is time for Christians to be alerted and called to action in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to guard against such attacks on our children. Many parents within the disability community report that dealing with their child’s weaknesses has been the worst and best thing with which they have ever been forced to deal. Jack Green, an pastor from Alabama, used to say, “Only God can strike a straight lick from a crooked stick.” Like Moses, we need to raise our staffs before the Lord, striking at the heart of our enemy who is seeking to destroy a new generation.

While none of these children deal with developmental or intellectual disabilities, each of them has a vital connection with Special Gathering.  Do you know of any children who are under unusual attack? What do you believe could be the reason for this onslaught?
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/simplelife/#ixzz1yXWI6bM2

During the 20 years that I’ve lived and worked within the mentally challenged community, one thing I’ve seen again and again.  These brave parents learn to find goodness and joy in the circumstances in which they are forced to live.  No one plans to have an intellectually disabled child.  Each mom and dad groans with gut-wrenching grief when they see other children’s reaction to their precious treasure.  They wince when adults stare, shake their heads and turn away from their child.

Yet, again and again, I’ve seen that these parents and their children learn to benefit from the grief, abuse, insults and sorrow.  Laughter and joy emerge as their family’s life permeates all their relationships.  Parents bond over bowling and special needs activities, in hospitals, and in the doctors’ offices.

In many ways, The lessons I’ve learned from them have made it easier to  adjust after my husband’s death.  I loved my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed being married.  Nevertheless, I love the silence in the house, when I want to be quiet.  I enjoy watching the TV shows that I want to watch, without any surly comments.  I can go out to eat at any restaurant that pleases me.  Or I can stay at home and cook all the vegetable I desire.

My husband was allergic to the vegetables in the cabbage family.  Additionally, most other vegetables were simply put into the “NOT TO BE EATEN” Catagory, as well.  I was never allowed to cook them during the years we were married.   Naturally, vegetables–all vegetables–are my favorites.

Yesterday, a young pastor came to our meeting loaded with gifts from his vegatable garden.  There were bags of egg plant, okra and jalapeno peppers.  All things that I would never be allowed to cook, if my husband were alive.  Without hesitation, I grabbed all three.  I was planning my menu as soon as I heard what he was offering.

As I stuffed my portion of the garden goods, into my bags, I smiled inwardly.  It’s not all bad being a widow, I said to myself as I picked up an extra handful of okra.  Rice, peas and okra are on the menu.  For sure, it’s not all bad.

A few days ago a Special Gathering volunteer came to me and said, “I believe that the Lord has shown me that to help Valerie, I must simply love her.  She is hurting and that is why she is so impossible to everyone.”  It’s true.  Varerie has recently lost her mother and father who were extremely protective of her.  Her sisters have resented her because of the attention she received most of over their lives; and Valerie is no longer welcomed to be with their families.  For several years, she was living in her own apartment but medical and behavioral issues forced her to move into a group home.

The staff at her new home is loving and cares deeply about Valerie.  Yet, her bossy attitude keeps everyone stirring in anger and confusion.  Each time we have Special Gathering, the residents emerge from the bus in an annoyed state, pushing and pulling of each other’s emotions.  Even some of the members of SpG are effected.  This volunteer notices the confusion that Valerie engenders.

There are so many people who are wounded that know no other reaction other than lashing out to wound others.  Is the answer as simple as what the volunteer said.  Can love simply work to heal hurts?  The answer is yes but there must also be discipline.  When Valerie decided to cause a stir later that day, the wise volunteer stepped in and firmly but gently disciplined her.  Then she hugged Valerie.

Love is training our members into truth.  In Titus, Paul wrote to a young pastor and told him to train his congregants in truth.  Paul advised him that we must love enough to disciple.  There must be a balance even for those who are wounded.  We must help the wounded by reaching out in gentle love.  Yet, when needed, we should also touch with grace and discipline with godly mercy.
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/simplelife/2012/04/helping-the-wounded.html#ixzz1sRf8BEln

It is inevitable that conflict will come when two people live, work, play or worship together.  An extremely quotable pastor from years past, Jack Green, once said, “If two people live together, there will be conflict, unless one of the two people is dead.”

I’ve always assumed that if there is a conflict between two people at least one of those people is angry.  That does not mean, of course, that one of the two people is sinning.  The Bible clearly says, “Be angry and sin not.”  This makes it pretty clear that you can be angry and not sin.

I am area director of Special Gathering of Indian River, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community. Our mission is to do classic ministry, evangelizing and discipling the people we serve.  Like every other pastor who ministers to a particular group, we deliberately tackle issues that are relevant to our members.  We talk about the sheltered workshop and having a job on the outside.  We try to deal with the issue of having to live with your parents FOREVER.  Proper behavior with your girl/boyfriend is a scorching hot topic.  Yet, I’ve never squarely faced with our members the issue of siblings–until last week.

Our sermon was on Jacob and Esau.  We are all familiar with the bitter rivalry that these men faced, even in the womb.  Both mother and father were guilty of fostering these battles, which eventually led to resentments.  This week in our sermon I explained to our members that their brothers and sisters have given up a lot for them.  Because many of them were sick as children and they always have had special needs, their siblings lives were different from others.  I urged them to say thank you to their brothers or sisters for helping them and for being kind to them.

I was surprised because one especially sensitive young woman, Michal, spoke up and said, “I don’t have to, my sister loves me.”  While I don’t often welcome interruptions during our devotion time, I was happy for this one.  As she spoke several of our members vocally agreed with her.  Obviously, I’d not made my point clearly.

“No!”  I tried to clarify.  “I’m not saying that they resent you so you need to say thank you.  I’m saying they have given up a lot for you, and for that reason you need to say thank you. Recently, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said, “You are so involved with what you don’t have that you don’t appreciate what you do have.”

It is true that our members are discriminated against almost everywhere.  But in their homes, they often receive preferential treatment.  Siblings see it.  They may even be angry but it’s been my experience that few of them sin.  They embrace their disabled partner in family life and move on, helping where they can.  Siblings deserve a big thank you for their love, understanding, and caring.

Is there someone in your life that you need to thank?  Perhaps your husband or wife who does so many little things to please you?  What about one of your members who is careful to help you each time you meet?

Often my neighbors and I talk about the varmints that live in our attics.  We have tons of squirrels.  Then there are the raccoons and opossum which ravage our insulation with their nests and filth.

Putting out traps and carrying the rascals away only means that new animals take their place.  They rip open our soffets and hide cleverly in the warmth of our homes.

“There is no way to get rid of them,” I told a new neighbor during a recent conversation, “not as long as the people who live behind me are feeding them.”  This well-meaning very elderly couple attract the animals like mosquitoes with their peanuts, bird seed and cat food.  This has been going on for decades.  Obviously, the animals are smart enough to not hide in the offending couple’s house because they continue to be the neighborhood feeding station.

Within the mentally challenged (developmentally delayed/mentally retarded) community, there is a wonderful axiom that every person should all learn to live by.   If someone is harassing a member of The Special Gathering, a ministry within this cloistered sub-culture, they are taught to “ignore them and walk away.”

Of course, our members don’t always follow their own advice.  People who have symptoms of autism seem especially sensitive to hurts and offenses.  Arnold paces frantically reciting the hurts of the day.  “He called me stupid.  She tries to speak to me.  He won’t speak to me…”

I remember taking Michelle in the post office one Saturday when I was checking my mail.  Michelle is a college student who exhibits autistic tendencies.  Her diagnosis bounces from Asperger’s Syndrone to High-functioning Autism.  She has an off-the-charts IQ.

We had gone our separate ways because she wanted to get some stamps.  Suddenly, she began to scream.  I raced to her, calling out her name.  “What is wrong?” I asked when I found her in the deserted post office hallway, sobbing between her screams of “No!  No!  No!”

Within a few minutes, she had calmed herself enough to tell me, “The machine is out of stamps!  I wanted to mail this letter to a mail order company and they are out of stamps.   How could the post office do this to me?”  She has never used that post office again and she emphatically states that she “never will.”

However, ignoring the offender is a tried and true Biblical principal.  We are all familiar with the scripture that says, “‘Vengence is mine. I will replay,’ says the Lord.”  Solomon said in Proverbs 20:22, “If someone does something against you, don’t try to punish him yourself.  Wait for the Lord!  In the end, he will make you the winner.”

Each of us needs to remember that feeding the varmints of hurt and disappointment in our lives will only reap more and bigger hurts.  Walking away and ignoring the hurts rather than feeding them will always result in a better life.

Are there areas in your life that you are “feeding” what should be ignored?  Have you seen mentally challenged people who have benefited from this godly principle?

Yesterday, The Special Gathering Choir of Indian River sang at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Indialantic, Florida.  The Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  Our mission is to evangelize and disciple people who are developmentally disabled.  However, we realize there are many misconceptions about our population; therefore, our ministry to the Church is to help educate them to the spiritual needs of people who are mentally challenged.

After the choir sang their two selections, they received a resounding, standing ovation.  They exited the church, all smiles and returned across the river to Melbourne Special Gathering to catch their rides home.  I stayed for the entire service.  After the benediction, the pastor, Rev. Elmer Floyd, graciously asked me to stand at the door of the church and receive the members as they left the sanctuary.  That is an honor that is sometimes given to us by hosting churches.

The response of the congregations is always extremely emotional and overwhelming.  Almost everyone who spoke to me had tears brimming their eyelids.  Old hardened housewives, who long ago quit hoping for a better day, took my hand and were speeching, barely whispering, “Thank you.”  Tough, tall young men in their twenties, with their tattooed arms and fingers, gripped my arms tightly, looking directly into my eyes and mumbled in a gravelly, shame-faced voice, “They touched me.” 

Long ago we learned to understand but underestimate the emotional effect the choir have on audiences.  Because emotions are temporary vapors that are whisked away in the wind.  Yet, there are always several people that are deeply effected by the choir.  Not on the emotional level but in the inner recesses of their spirit, God does a miracle.   One family who spoke to me was touched deeply, beyond the emotions.  Their hearts were bent and perhaps healed a bit by seeing the choir’s ministry.

It was a grandfather and grandmother.  The husband spoke for both of them.  “Our granddaughter was born with Down’s Syndrome,”  he said, not resisting the tears that slowed worned their way down his wrinkled cheeks.  “What a comfort to see what God can do with a person who is mentally challenged and willing to be used by the Lord.  The choir gave us such hope that our granddaughter can we used by God.”  His tone softened,  “Our granddaughter is greatly loved.”

My thoughts raced back about 18 years.  The choir I was directing was singing for a women’s conference.  After the performance, I asked the choir to line up in the front of the auditorium and pray for the women there.  After a member of the choir had prayed for her, Betty came over and hugged me tightly.  Betty and I were friends.  I knew she had a young son who is mentally challenged.  In my arms, she wept deeply. 

Wiping the tears away, she explained, “My great sorry for my son was that I thought God could never use Tony in ministry.  Now, I know that God can use him even with his developmental disabilities.”  Again, she cried.  This time I wept with her. 

A couple of years later, Tony, her son, became a part of Special Gathering.  About a year ago, Tony joined the choir.  Yesterday, this was the song he sang,

Jesus, You alone are worthy,

And I lift my voice to you.

Jesus, You alone are worthy.

I will worship none but you.

 While emotions are an important part of our human make-up, they can’t always be trusted.  However, God’s economy is amazingly green.  He can be trusted to turn what some people consider unusable into life-changing treasures. 

Has God used someone that you thought was unusable in your life?  How have your members ministered to you?

The hardest part about directing a choir of mentally challenged people is teaching them to look at me.  In the twenty years that I have been a choir director for persons who are developmentally delayed for The Special Gathering, this has been a constant and consistent problem. 

In the 1960’s when the Jesus Movement was sweeping across America, my husband and I were swept into the miraculous wonder of the Holy Spirit’s healing touch.  Though I was very young, almost daily, I had the privilege of praying for people.  Occasionally, these were African-American women who were visiting our home.  With this wonderful population of women, I was always faced with the same problem.  They refused to look at me. 

No matter how bold they had been in conversation, when it came time to pray, they all took the same posture.  They would sit with their heads pressed to their chests and their hands clasped in their laps, too timid to move or speak. 

I felt that the Lord told me that part of what was needed for them was to insist that they raise their heads and look at me, eye to eye.  At times, I had to physically force their heads upward.  Amazingly, once these women began to look up, there was a visual transformation that happened every time.  They seemed to come alive with joy and acceptance.   Laughing and crying at the same time, they would say, usually in a reverent whisper, “I’m free!”

I wasn’t totally surprised to also have this problem in the mentally challenged community.  This cloistered, sub-culture is made up of individuals who are told all their lives,  “Sit down.  Be quiet and don’t draw attention to yourself.” 

Even if those words are not spoken, they are told that a million times in their lives in a multitude of different ways.  I remember a funeral that I attended.  The father of one our members had died.  At that time, Nora was in her mid-thirties.  She is a high functioning, well-spoken, sophisticated woman.  Several times before and after the funeral service, her mother, brother and two sisters gathered in a circle.  Comforting each other,  they joined in a large group hug.  Nora was never a part of the hug.  She stood on the outside grasping her arms close to her chest, weeping alone. 

I don’t care how tonally correct the members of the choir sing but I do care whether they look at me or not.  For some of the members, this is especially difficult. For it is not only part of our culture to not look people in the eye; but it is also part of their disability.  Yet, I have never had one person who has not learned to overcome his training and disability.  They have all learned to look at me. 

Each new member thinks I’m incredible horrible when I harp on them, not allowing them to look away for a second.  Usually by the time they have trained themselves to look at me, another person will join the choir. Then she sees that I have to go through the same thing with the new, fledgling performer.  Almost, without exception, she will say in a patient, mentoring voice, “You can do it.  I had to learn and you can too.”

There is an element of self-worth that is essential in maturing in the Christian faith.  Through Christ’s sacrifice, God makes us his children, not his slaves or lackeys.  Perhaps the greatest joy I have when the choir performs is not the musical quality or the correct enunciation of all the words but 12 sets of eyes that meet mine and look at me, eye to eye.  Equal partners in ministry, holding our heads and hearts high. 

It makes me want to have a large, group hug with no one left outside grasping their arms.

What have you found to be the hardest thing for your members to do?  Have you found that making eye contact is important to self-worth?  What are some other signs of a good self-worth?

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