How To


smile of friendship Since there are three levels of friendship–causal, close and committed–it should be our goal to move as many friendships as humanly possible from a causal to a committed friendship. There is means that there are at least 10 things that each of us can and should do in nurturing a friendship grow.

  1. building friendship1.  Recognize you need friends.  It’s the first step that leads to better and more secure friendships.
  2. Look for others in need of a friend.  This may mean reaching out to people whom you might otherwise pass over.
  3. Ask God to bring a faithful friend into your life.
  4. Be approachable by smiling at others.  At times, I’ve been to that I look stern when I’m not aware of my expression.  This means to me that I must be more aware and adjust my facial expression.
  5. Speak to others by name.  Learn names and say the name often.
  6. friendshipListen attentively to others.  Look at the face of the speaker and keep your eyes on the face of the person speaking.
  7. Give genuine compliments and encouragement.  Ge caught noticing the good things in a person.
  8. Ask open-ended question.  Is your daughter feeling better?  How is the job?
  9. Help others verbalize their feelings.  You don’t seem quite yourself today, are you feeling all right?
  10. Look for the kernel of truth in your friends’ criticism.

I’ve learned a great deal about friendship living within the mentally challenged community.  In general, these are people who give of themselves without reserve to people they preceive as an authority figure.  With the slightest encouragement, you become their friend for life.  Yet, shifting on the other foot, they find interacting with their peer may be more difficult.  Within Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, we endeavor to help our members establish valued and long-lasting friendship with their peers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God is Patient

II Peter 3:9

Central Theme:  God is patient with everyone.

Introduction–  Bring branch from the jassmine vine.  Tell about the other one getting killed in the storm.  I was sad because it was beautiful and large and provided shade for the back yard.  Do you think a man of God should be more concerned about a dead plant or a city like Vero Beach (Melbourne), Florida?

I.     Have a member read II Peter 3:9

A. Tell the story of Jonah.

B.  Show a dead plant.

C. Jonah wanted God to kill all the people in the city.  However,  he was so angry when the plant that had grown over night had died that he said he wanted to die.

II.     God is patient with everyone.

A. He does not want anyone to have an unhappy life or die without Him.

1.  Tell about getting angry with some people who were spreading terrible gossip about you.  At times you wanted them to disappear.  I didn’t really want them to die but I wished they would just be gone.

2.  God helped me to love them because he loves them.

B.  This is how God  helps me be patient with people I don’t want to be patient with.

1.  God can help me remember that he loves that person as much as he loves me.

2.  God can help me find good things about that person.

3.  God can help me love that person when they are not with me.

A. Many times when we are not with a person, we think about what the other person did or said and then we get angry.

Conclusion–God is patient and he can help me to be patient also.

It is probably true that you will be asked to do a funeral for one of your members at some time in your ministry.  There are specific things which I have observed from pastors who are successfully able to capture the essence of the person and still glorify Christ in a funeral sermon or eulogy.  Here are some of those things which you may find helpful.

  1. First, find a hook.  This is something about the person that seems to embody their personality or mission in life.  It may be a phrase, a sentence or an observation.  Most often this should come from the family.  In trying to find a hook for one man that I had never met, every person I spoke to said, “He was a good man.”  I kept trying to find something else about this man until I realized:  This was a truly good man and that was what family wanted to said about him.
  2. Interview as many members of the family as possible to be able to grasp what is meaningful to them.  Ask probing questions.   What is the thing you remember most about Phil?  What did he do during his free time?  Tell me a little bit about his life.  When did he become a Christian?
  3. Everyone has some humor in his or her life.  Try to find it and use it.
  4. The deepest, most moving memories are best wrapped with a glimmer of humor, if possible.
  5. Don’t be afraid to share deeply personal things that the family has given you permission to share.  This is a time for them to hear their words echoing back to them in a positive message of hope.
  6. If the person is not a Christian, amplify some good traits.  Then emphasis that if she could stand before you today, she would want each person present to know Christ.  We know this is a true statement without saying things which are not true.
  7. Use a Thesaurus in finding different words to express what you want to say.  Don’t limit yourself or your imagination in your sentence structure or your vocabulary.
  8. Use Scriptures to say the things you desire to say about the resurrection.  Then don’t forget to speak about the hope of the resurrection of Christ in each sermon or eulogy.  That, after all, is why we have sermons at funerals.
  9. Keep it short.  Limit yourself to a maximum of 10 minutes of sermon.  I also try to limit the Scripture readings to five to 10 minutes.  Intersperse the Scriptures throughout the service.  Find my favorite Scriptures here.  

Remember, above all, you are speaking the heart of the family and the heart of Christ.  When the two are in harmony, it’s a wonderful union.  When they are divergent, God will help you to find ways to honor both.

God loves the broken hearted and desires to heal those who grieve.  It is a wonderful opportunity to show the love of Christ to people who are wounded and hurting.

If you are sharing with a family of a mentally challenged person who has died, this is especially important to remember and acknowledge their grief.  God wants to touch this family in a real way and you can be His instrument.

Here is a eulogy that hopefully will help you to see how these steps can be put together.

Eulogy

Leslie Ann 

          The Apostle Paul writes in the Holy Scriptures that the joy of the Lord is our strength.  Proverbs reminds us that a merry heart is as good as any medicine.  On December 19, 1972, God gave to us an ambassador of laugher and giggles when Leslie Ann  was born to Priscilla.

Raised in a strong Catholic family, faith and commitment to the Lord were the backbone of her existence.  As a natural outgrowth of that love for the Lord, her first communion was a joyous time shared with her mother, grandparents, her Uncle Jack, his two children and the community of believers.

Later, as Leslie matured into adulthood, reaching out became an anchor of her commitment to the Lord as she endeavored to share her faith.  Each Christmas at Special Gathering, we collect gifts for the Haitian children.  Leslie was the first one to bring her gifts.  But she didn’t stop there.  Sunday after Sunday, she would bring toys and school supplies for the young children who have so little.

Of course, Leslie understood the value of money.  The best presents she received were always money or gift cards.  No birthday was complete without a card filled with big bucks. Yet, she never totally comprehended the complete concept.  After obtaining her first job came the wondrous first paycheck.  Excited by this new found wealth, Leslie wanted to put it in the bank as the first installment toward buying a new Corvette.  Somehow the fact that it was only $4 escaped this young financier.

Leslie had a knack for remembering names and addresses. She remembered the full name of everyone she met.  But phone numbers were her specialty.  She spent hours on the phone with her various boyfriends.  Mark from New Jersey was her first real boyfriend.  For more than ten years, they conversed every evening until it was time for them to go to bed.  Last July, when Leslie and her mother went back to Jersey, Mark begged them to come back in the spring because he needed a date to the prom.  “You know my girl’s down there with you,” Mark told Priscilla pensively.

Though she seldom complained, at times her disability would hinder her from doing the fun activities that the other family members enjoyed.  One day, Elaine, her step-sister-in-law, could no longer take her mournful expression as the other young adults scooted around on jet skis.

“I’ll take you,” Elaine volunteered.  Leslie was in her mid-twenties but not too old to giggle.  Unfortunately, in her enthusiasm, Leslie leaned too far and tipped over the jet ski.  In an effort to save herself, Leslie quickly grasped the closest thing to her–which was Elaine’s throat.

Her mother was following her in a boat.  She and the driver of the boat scooped Leslie up from the water within a few seconds.  And Elaine is still thankful.

Leslie never liked being left behind.  And she didn’t like losing when she played games.  After her great nephew, Colin, was born, she would spend hours coloring and playing games with him.  He was her little buddy.  But her competitive nature didn’t die easily and she didn’t enjoy losing, even to him.

Vincent, Colin’s dad and her cousin, was two years younger than she.  He, naturally, was her big buddy.  As children the cousins etched together a life-long bond.  They spent hours building towers with blocks.  After the construction was felled, they would head for the hallway and a ball game.  For Leslie, the fun with Vincent was never in the game or the competition but in the giggling.

About ten years ago, after moving from Jersey, Leslie began attending Special Gathering.  Later, she joined the choir. Her commitment to the choir was remarkable and we came to lean heavily on her strong–though never pitch-perfect–voice.

Every Saturday evening, she’d ask her mom, “Do I need to wear my choir uniform to Special Gathering?”  Her mom would explain that the choir wasn’t singing at another church, only practicing.  “Are you sure?”  Leslie would enquire suspiciously.

One of Leslie’s favorite songs was a selection from our choir.  Often before practice, we would sing it as our prayer.

Change my heart, Oh, God.

Make it ever true

Change my heart, Oh, God,

May I be like you.

 You are the potter, I am the clay

Mold me and make me.

This is what I pray.

Change my heart, Oh, God.

Make it ever true.

Change my heart, Oh, God.

May I be like you

As Leslie slipped into eternity last Saturday, I believe she met the Lord giggling.  You see, her disability and pains are gone.  She isn‘t hurting or afraid anymore.  (show the crystal bowl and the paper cup)

On the Friday evening that Leslie was admitted to the hospital, she was in agonizing pain.  Her stomach had ripped and her lungs were full of pneumonia.  She would code three times before they could get her into surgery.  Fighting frantically to save her life, the technician began taking X-rays.  Explaining to her what they were doing, the tech said, “We are going to hold up this piece of metal and take your picture.”

Leslie weakly nodded her understanding.  As the technician put up the metal sheet to her chest, ready to click the X-ray, Leslie said, “Cheese” and grinned for the picture.  With each X-ray she said, “Cheese” and smiled.  As we remember Christ’s ambassador of giggles, we cannot weep for her, though we will often shed tears for ourselves.  She would demand that we gratefully grin and say, “Cheese.”

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?

Each week at Special Gathering, we teach the Scriptures two times and two ways.  First, we teach in a devotional format where the entire group gathers.  Of course, this is much like a sermon.  Then we teach in a smaller classroom setting.

Obviously, preparing a teaching for the classroom is different from preparing a devotion.  At Special Gathering, we have done a good deal of work in how to prepare and present a sermon to people who are mentally challenged.  We have prepared several videos that you can view on our website.

Teaching a class with ten to 12 students can be even more challenging than teaching a larger group.  Here are

some pointers that you should remember as you begin to prepare.

  1. Don’t under prepare or over prepare.  Study three times the amount of time that you will teach.  A 15 minute teaching requires 45 minutes.  One hour, three hours of study.
  2. Mentally challenged people (and everyone else) learn by continual repetition.  Reteaching the same lesson that was taught or will be taught for devotion on the same day will only reinforce the Biblical principle.  Don’t shy away from teaching the same lesson.  This seems to be the hardest lesson for Bible teachers within our community to learn.
  3. Reading the lesson to my class is NEVER acceptable.  It is harder to learn the lessons so that I can teach it without reading it.  However, the benefits to me are greater than the benefits to my class.
  4. Be sure to include daily applications in the lesson that give practical benefit to applying God’s word to life.
  5. If you desire to have the students participate by having them read the lesson, do not have them read from the curriculum.  Read from the Bible passage from which the lesson is taken.
  6. Be sure that every student participates each time you teach.  This is not only a good practice, it keeps folks awake.
  7. Ask the class questions that are simple to understand and answer.  Don’t try to trick the members.
  8. Expect your class to answer the questions.
  9. Somehow, reward the students who reward by assuring them that they have answered correctly.  Every one of Laura’s answers is “Jesus.”  I ask her questions that will give me that answer.  She loves to participate.
  10. Allow the Holy Spirit to take over the class. His invasion can come in the form of a prayer, a prayer request, an answer to a question or a thousand different ways.  Give way to the Lord if he desire to touch hearts.
  11. Don’t allow one or two people to monopolize the class time by answering all the questions.
This list is only a precursor to the nuts and bolts of how to prepare a lesson.  There is more to come.  To be continued on Monday…
What do you think is important in teaching a class?  What is the optimum size class?  What is the maximum size class?

Several times each week, I would take one or all of my children on foot, crossing the busy five-lane A1A Highway to the ocean.  Each time, I would instruct them.  “Stop.  Look both ways.  Listen.   And do not EVER run across a busy highway.”

Once we had gotten through the traffic; and we were safely on the other side, I would explain.  “If you run, you may fall.  If you fall, you will not be able get up; and a car will hit you.  Before you begin to cross the highway, always be certain that there is enough room between the cars that you don’t have to run.”

These were the same instructions my mother and father had given to my sister, brother and me when we had to navigate across the bustling Dorchester Road in Charleston Heights, SC.  My parents owned an ice cream parlor in a small strip mall; and we often had to walk to their work.  Mother’s instructions echoed in our minds so accurately that when we were old enough to walk with my older sister and without our parents, we would tell each other how to cross before we stepped off the curb onto the buzzing street.

Now, many decades later, it was such good advice that I’m still giving myself the same instructions about many areas in my life.  In more detail, here are steps you can take to eliminate many stressful situations.

  1. Stop!  Take a break.  Whether you are pressing too hard to complete a garden project, preparing to host a social event or trying to meet a pending deadline, taking a break will enhance your productivity and increase your ability to concentrate.  Thereby, your stress level will be reduced.
  2. Look far beyond the immediate situation.  Continually look at your life and at your goals.  To cross a bustling highway, you must understand the patterns of traffic.  This takes times of examination.  To understand what God has planned for you.  Daily evaluation and observations is essential.
  3. Listen!  Observing the flow of traffic for a highway and in your life takes all your senses.  Listen to the Lord, your critics and your friends.
  4. Don’t run.  Only people who are insecure about their ability to cross a busy highway attempt to run across the street.  Running dramatically elevates your chance of failure.  You increase your stress level–not lower it–when you are in a hurry.  Be sure that you have the time needed to complete tasks.  Then and only then, proceed.  Tripping and falling in the middle of a project spells disaster and increases the strain on your body and mind.
Years ago when I was learning to hear the voice of the Lord, a respected teacher and older friend told me, “Linda, God has an eternity to accomplish His good work in you.  He doesn’t push us.  If I feel extreme inner pressure, I stop.  Then I seek God to truly hear from Him.  God isn’t in a hurry.”  That day my stress level decreased sustantially.  Each time I remember her wisdom, I’m blessed by lower stress levels and God’s peace.

Your Parents are Important In your Life

Ephesians 6:1

Central Theme:  You are to learn to be friends with your parents.

Introduction–A choir member years ago told me that his mother was of the devil because she made him clean the bathroom when he dirtied it.  I told him to call her and apologize.  Have a member read Ephesians 6:1.

I.     Jesus was a boy but he was God.

A. His parents didn‘t understand or respect him.

B. He was patient with them and he helped them to understand him.

II.     You are in a bad position–adults but live a home.

A. Seeking independence but need special guidance in many things.

B. Pulled by professionals to GROW UP; but your parents will have to fix any messes.

III.     Talk to your parents.

1.  Always side with them.

2.  You know they don’t know everything but you also need wisdom to help them understand you.

A.     Tell about a time that you talked with your parents and helped them to understand something that you needed and they didn’t understand.

Conclusion     Parents are to be honored and loved.  We can work to help them understand us.

Several months ago, I posted four entries about the importance of not wasting the time of an assembly of people–large or small– when you are given the opportunity to speak to a group.  However, when we find ourselves stuck in a meeting where the speaker is either unprepared or unconcerned about the time she may be wasting, I find that my attitude can make the difference between a lost hour and a creative opportunity.

A good friend carries Scripture verses that he pulls from his pocket to memorize whenever he finds himself bored during a sermon or teaching.  An Air Force Major, who is also a Bible study teacher, regularly prepares his next Bible teaching during the Sunday morning sermons.  These are creative and, depending on the level of boredom, can be beneficial ways to deal with the lack of preparation of another person. 

Yet, there are other techniques that could be even more valuable.  Again, attitude is the key.  First, I try to check my attitude the instant I realize that I’m in trouble.  I find that attitude is often the key to retrieving my time.  There is usually something that I can learn from the experience. 

I learned more about preaching the Scriptures from a retired college professor who was the most awful teacher under which I ever sat.  I learned more from him than from the many gifted men and women that I’ve had the privilege of sitting under.  I took extensive notes.  I reviewed my notes and I tried to evaluate these notes in a realistic way about what I could learn.

In other situations, I’ve found that a change in my attitude can make the presentation more valuable to me.  I try to stay engaged with the speaker and follow the teaching that she is presenting.  This was a hard lesson for me to learn.  It grew from the fact that week after week I’d emerge from the church disgusted that my time had been wasted while others would stroll from the same assembly happily talking about how much they had learned.  This happened more often than I want to admit.  Finally, I realized that my attitude needed to be amended.

There are five things that I find greatly enhance my ability to learn.  These are rudimentary; but I find I need to review them often.

  1. Arrive early and be prepared to learn. 
  2. Sit as close to the front as possible.
  3. Bring a Bible and the equipment needed to take notes. 
  4. Sit up straight in my seat.  Leaning forward in an attitude of expectation helps me.
  5. Take notes.

Of course, after menopause and lots of sleepless nights, my biggest problem with poorly prepared presentations is simply staying awake.

In June of 2006, I listened to Chip Ingram on my car radio.  He spoke about how important it is for us to learn to be connected to the Lord.  We all make “to do lists” as an incentive to accomplish more.   Yet, Ingram taught that our doing should always be an outgrowth of our “being connected to our Savior.”  Therefore, he contended that a “To Be List” is far more appropriate for the Christian than continual “To Do Lists.” 

Agreeing with Ingram, I came home and made my own “To Be List.”  I took every area of my life where I felt God was calling me.  Deliberately, I didn’t specifically include Special Gathering because I believe any ministry within the mentally challenged community should be treated as a ministry–not a specialized ministry.  Additionally, I included areas I enjoy and some places where I feel I should be.  Here is my To Be list:

  1. A woman of God who lives in integrity and love so others will see Jesus in me and desire God’s grace.
  2. An evangelist who is able to lead people to God’s unconditional, agape; love.
  3. A godly, kind, gracious and wise wife who loves unconditionally.
  4. A person of prayer and the Word of God.
  5. A good friend to my children, grandchildren and those people God puts in my life.
  6. A pastor who is able to care for God’s people with tender wisdom and agape’ love.
  7. A person who gives liberally with wisdom and love.
  8. A person who is physically and mentally fit.
  9. A gracious hostess to many people in our home.
  10. A writer whose works are able to bless many people.
  11. A choir director who is able to communicate, teach and bless the choir.
  12. An anointed, wise, gifted preacher/teacher of the Gospel whose words can bless the smartest person and minister grace, knowledge and wisdom to the simple.
  13. A skilled gardener who can learn about God’s grace from His creation.

I didn’t put these in any order of importance but what came to mind.  I’ve been open to changing the list or adding to it.  However, in the past four years, I’ve not added to it or changed it.  For about a year, I meditated on the list and prayed that God would work these into my life.  I still go back and refer the list often. 

Of course, your list will be different.  It is an easy exercise but eye-opening and helps to establish within your spirit what God is doing or desiring to do in your life.

Os Hillman sends out a daily newsletter that I enjoy reading.  It is geared to people who are involved in business and are attempting to involve Christ into everything they endeavor.   However, I find that his words often speak to those of us who are entrepreneurial by nature and are involved in full-time ministry. 

I intended to paraphrase his work, but I really can’t say it better than he did.  Hope you can transfer what he is saying to your ministry as easily as I could.  Perhaps those of us in ministry face greater danger than people in the work place in regard to doing “a work” to which God has not called us.

“When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and He struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark…” 1 Chronicles 13:9-10

There are good things we can do, but only God-things we should do. Those activities not born out of the Spirit will result in wood, hay, and stubble. What seems good in our eyes may be an abomination in God’s eyes. For instance, if you decide to build an orphanage but God has never directed you to do so, then God will not see that work as good; it was born out of your own strength, even though it was a “good work.”

The most difficult challenge a Christian workplace believer will ever have is to know what things to be involved in and what things not to be involved in. Many workplace believers have a great ability to see opportunity. What appears to be a “slam dunk” may come back to haunt us if God never ordains us to enter that arena. There are many good things we can be involved with. However, there are God-things we are supposed to be involved with. Uzzah was a good man in David’s sight. It was a time of celebration, and David and the people were transporting the ark of God. However, the ark hit a bump, and Uzzah reached for the ark to hold it steady. He touched the ark, and he immediately died. David became very upset with God about this situation; he questioned whether he could serve God.

God’s ways are not our ways. The most important quality God desires to develop in us is our dependence on Him and Him alone. When we begin to make decisions based on reason and analysis instead of the leading and prompting of the Holy Spirit, we get into trouble with God. David later learned the importance of this principle in his own life. This encounter was one of the stepping-stones in his pilgrimage. David was an extraordinary entrepreneur. He ran the nation very successfully, but he, like each of us, had to learn the difference between “good things” and “God-things.”

Are you involved in anything in which God has not directed you to be involved? Do you seek God about every decision, every action before you take it? This is where God wants you and me to be. Ask Him to show you how to walk with Him in this way.

Today God Is First (TGIF) devotional message, Copyright by Os Hillman, Marketplace Leaders.

More and more of our parents are faced with the possibility of having to terminate the life of their loved one who was born mentally challenged.  Medical professionals have found that putting a person into a medicinal coma helps to make the patient easier to handle and treat.  It also facilitates healing and the risk of infection.  However, with these heart and breathing devices in place, you can keep the body of a person alive for an indefinate amount of time, long after the brain has died. 

Helping the family of a person who is developmentally disabled make life terminating decisions may become part of what is expected from you as the pastor or spiritual leader of the person who is critically ill.  There are several precautions of which you should be aware.

  1. The decision to terminate the life of a member is not and should not be yours to make
  2. You should be prepared mentally and professionally to help the guide the family to make a decision that will be best for them and the person who may be facing death.
  3. The professional guidance you will need is readily available to you. This type of information is available through the hospital and from a doctor.  You can also search the Internet to find information.  Avoid any site that may encourage you to make that decision for the family.
  4. Prayer and study of the Scriptures will help prepare yourself mentally for any guidance that you are asked to give.
  5. Steer away from anything other than asking pointed and helpful questions.  “What will be her quality of life, if she is allowed to continue to breathe?”  is an example.
  6. Questions of this nature will allow the family to walk down paths that they may feel are inappropriate for them to explore.
  7. Give the parents/family permission to speak the unspeakable.  Again, a pointed question coming from you will help them to talk openly about the consequences of the decision they are asked to make.
  8. Each time you walk into a hospital room where a person is attached to lifegiving equipment, come armed with questions that should be asked. 
  9. Understand that you may not be asked to become a part of this conversation; but if you are, you should be prepared to guide the discussion into fruitful areas.
  10. Do not enter this area of discussion unless you are given permission from the family.  If you begin to ask probing questions and the family has not invited you into this extremely private area, you are opening doors that are not yours to open.
  11. If the family desires for you to walk along side of them, they will let you know.  “What should we do?”  will probably the the first question you are asked.
  12. Avoid this question like the plague by answering it with pointed questions.  “What do you believe will be best for him?”  “Does he have a living will?”  “What do you believe would be the best thing to do?”  These are questions that will open the conversation and allow them to explore freely the possibilities.

This is a horrible time in the life of a family.  Either way the family decides, there will be future second guessing and prolonged self-examination.  However, most people know in their gut what they must do.  They only need someone who will facilitate giving themselves permission to do the right thing.  Your place is not to make the decision but to help the family find out what they already know they must do.

Over the past two years, I’ve done a lousy job of organizing the material that is published on this blog.  After about six months of articles, I knew I had to make a decision.  Would this be a teaching/informational blog or would it be an advocacy blog.  I made the decision to make it both.

I divided the advocacy section to be published on Saturday.  There were two reason for this decision.  First, advocacy is the information that most people will use a search engines to acquire.  Therefore, it doesn’t really matter what day it is published.  Second, Saturday is the day that gets the least amount of traffic.  Therefore, it doesn’t matter what information is contained on the first weekend day. 

While advocacy is a vital part of what we do at Special Gathering, this blog reaches into almost all the states and several countries.  The folks who regularly visit, do so on Monday through Friday.  Readers from other states and countries aren’t interested in Florida budgets, state politics or agency issues.  The traffic that comes to the advocacy articles–and it is significant–comes primarily  through the search engines. 

Sunday is the day I publish a sermon.  I’ve kept years of sermons in my files.  I’m now publishing sermons that were preached nine years ago.  While this is the page that gets the least amount of traffic, I still feel it is beneficial for the person who may want to understand the basic rudiments of preaching to people who are mentally challenged.

Week days are reserved for teachings and reflections.  I don’t sort these articles efficiently.  On occasion, I do a series of teaching articles.  However, I hijack myself continually by interrupting a series of teachings with some reflection that I feel is important.  Perhaps it’s an age thing.  Experts say that the older brain thinks differently from the younger brain, and the older brain is more prone to allow interruptions and distractions which side track their efforts.  Perhaps it’s merely a problem that all daily columnists face. 

Nevertheless, navigating this blog should not be an adventure in the unknown.  I hope this clears up some of your questions about the construction of these entries.  I sincerely thank you  for coming and reading.  You make this blog profitable in the Kingdom.

Blonde and pretty, Marnie is extremely shy.  For about three years, I didn’t think she could speak, only sing.  However, over the years that I’ve come to know and love her, I’ve learned that it isn’t an inability to speak but intense shyness that keeps her from expressing herself.

However, last month when I asked if someone would like to lead in prayer, she raised her hand.  And she prayed out loud.  Later, during a questioning game, she answered the question that was presented to the group.  The home where she lives agrees that Marnie is slowly emerging from her self-inflicted shell. 

It is a thrilling sight to see the words of Paul being reenacted in the life of this young woman.  Paul told Timothy, “For God id not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (II Timothy 1:7).  Working this verse into our lives is hard road to travel.  All of us wear a protective shell of timidity at some time or another.  All of us struggle to break from this shell. 

There are some things which make the shell easier to break.  Perhaps the most important thing we can do for others is to provide an environment free of criticism.  We know that correction does not have to contain criticism.  Psychologists tell us that it takes 10 declaration of encouragement to overcome one critical statement.  Becoming a continual encourager will break shells of fear and concern.

Several months ago, I learned a key that seemed to unlock Marnie in regard to our relationship.  One morning, I picked her up.  She was in one of her sour moods.  In the past when I seen this foul mood, I would quiz her with a barrage of questions and statements.  “Are you all right?” Her response was silence with a side-ways look of disgust.  “What’s wrong?”  Silence.  “Tell me.”  Silence.

One morning, she came out the door with THAT look on her face.  “Hey, Dearie,”  I said.  “You look beautiful this morning.  Is that a new dress?”

“No” was the curt response.

“Well, when you get tired of it, promise to give it to me.”

Marnie giggled and said, “Okay.”  She opened the door of the van and began to smile.

From that morning, we’ve experienced maybe ten to twenty bad mood mornings.  But she has responded to my compliments and encouragements.  There have been no questions or criticism. 

Each of us work through hard days of fear, anger and remorse.  Usually what we need is a small word of encouragement and help.  Marnie has taught me the benefits of allowing God’s spirit to work in Marnie’s life as I cooperate with Him.

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