Sarah Palin may be the mother of the year–perhaps the mother of the decade –in regard to the amount of publicity she is getting for being a mother.  As people take sides about her qualifications and whether her children are a distraction or an asset, there are several things that I think are important.  First, it’s interesting that motherhood in on the front burner of everyone’s mind and it’s not even the month of May.  Second, she is the parent of a special needs child and that is being highlighted.

Regardless of your politics, it’s a hopeful sign that children who are mentally challenged has become a campaign issue.  Sally Quinn is a columnist I respect because I believe that she is usually fair in her analysis, even if we don’t often agree.  Ms. Quinn pointedly referred to her own special needs child in an interview regarding Palin’s qualifications as a VP.  Perhaps she has written in regard to this child before but I had not seen her mentioning it before this interview.

For the first time in the history of this country, we see the wife of a presidential candidate (Cindy McCain) who is a special needs school teacher and the VP candidate who are active advocates for people with developmental disabilities.  Many professionals in the special needs field have determined that the Democrat party is more sensitive to the disability community.  At times, even the most valeant efforts of Republicans are discounted. However, it is hopeful that the background of these women has put this issue in the foreground for both parties.   

The Special Gathering of Indian River choir has as our theme song this year, “I Pledge Alligence to the Lamb.”  At SpG, we minister to the mentally challenged community.  We evanglize and disciple people who are mentally challenged.  Our theme song is a catchy little tune that draws our attention back to the Savior.  “With all my strength, with all I am, I will seek to honor his commands,”  the choir sings.  Our prayer must be that God will guide our leaders and that we will maintain our focus on the Savior, no matter who is running for political office.

Do you feel that Cindy McCain’s and Palin’s background in special needs will be an asset?  If so, why?  If not, why?

Choir yesterday was fun again.  We are learning the new music that we’ll be singing in 2009.  These new arrangements are not our typical style.  Therefore, our first couple of practices learning this stuff have been hard.

The choirs of Special Gathering of Indian River are the outreach extension of our ministry.  We are a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  Our members are developmentally disabled.  Choir consists of people who want to go into churches and the community to help share the gospel and to help educate the local church to the spiritual needs of people who are mentally challenged. 

Anyone can join the choir who has shown a commitment to The Special Gathering.  However, choir is hard.  We are keenly aware that when we perform we represent the Lord Jesus to the community.  We represent the mentally challenged community, Special Gathering and, of course, ourselves.  Much of what we require from our choir members goes against the grain of the overarching principles of The Special Gathering.  For instance, at SpG, we want our members to question and to give input.  If at all possible, we are repsonsive to the needs, desires and requests of our members.

However, that is not the case in choir.  We need to have a commitment level that is deeper than we would ever ask from our members.  When I stand before the choir as their director, I expect their full and undivided attention.  During rehearsals and performances, they are to look at me.  In addition, I require that when we are performing they are to obey without questioning me. 

Of course, they still have a choice in all of this.  They are given the rules before they join the choir; and they are not required to stay in the choir. More than one person has left the choir because it was too difficult.

Last month, I tried something new and let the choir pick out the musical selections they liked.  That’s a good thing; because otherwise, I believe they would’ve all walked out in exasperation.  In these new pieces, the timing, the beat, the words are all different from what we are accustomed to and, consequently, harder to learn. 

The new arrangements are modern day choruses wrapped around familiar hymns.  The problem:  My members only know the Christian music I’ve taught them.  They like the hymns but they don’t know the words.  Also, the words in the typical hymn are more complicated than the choruses I choose for them to learn. 

But yesterday, we turned the corner and it was fun again.  “It’s time to go,” the timekeeper/member said.  There was a collective groan.  No one wanted to stop. 

Have you found that hard work seems to produce the most satisfaction from your members?  Is there something that you do that demands a greater commitment from your members?  What is it?

During choir practice several days ago, I asked the choir to vote on what songs they would like to sing when we perform at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Indialantic, Florida, on March 30.  We will be ministering at their 10:30am worship service.  The Special Gathering Choir is a choir of individuals who are developmentally delayed.  To my amazement, they didn’t and wouldn’t raise their hands to tell me their choice. 

When Tim spoke out that he liked the second song best, everyone chimed in to agree with him.  I was surprised–not at their selection but in their hesitation to raise their hands regarding their choice.  These men and woman are the leaders in our ministry in Melbourne.  They are our deacons,  the ones who come forward to pray, lead singing, read the scriptures and greet visitors.  Yet, they were hesitant to give their opinion regarding their choice in a musical selection.  Once again they were exhibiting their need to please people who are in authority.  They didn’t want to be wrong and not please me.

I can only vaguely imagine the intimidation that my friends have endured that make them too afraid to give their opinion to me.  I am their friend and they know it.  These 13 men and women are not timid wallflowers.  They are forward looking individuals who laugh and joke and seem to express their opinions with ease.  Now, I wonder.  How much are they hiding?  How much of this self-confidence is another set of learned behaviors exhibited to impress the outside world?

There is much to learn about unlocking the potential of these men and women of God.  Pray for us as we seek to evangelize, teach and disciple God’s forgotten people.