hillary-clinton-secretary-of-stateDuring the morning, I performed some mindless cleaning and straightening of a supply closet.  Also, I listened to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she testified before the Senate.  Later, in the afternoon, I met in a strategy meeting with a co-worker and friend regarding changes that need to take place in our ministry.

In both incidences, I came away fascinated with the levels of communication that we all demonstrate.  Secretary Clinton shyly accepted the compliments of the Senators and Congressmen.  She choked with emotion as she recalled meeting the plane with the President to bring home the dead bodies of the four men murdered on 9/11/2012.  She angrily beat the table with her fists in response to a question poised by a Republican Senator.

Later, at our strategy meeting, some of the same emotions surfaced.  While emotions are an important part of our personalities, I wonder how often these necessary power-charged expressions become the villain.  Emotions often keep us from saying the things we mean.  Even worse emotions hinder our being able to communicate the things which need to be said.

Wedged between these events, I’d attended a Webinar explaining the appeals process in the State of Florida.  As I listened to three lawyers explain how to prepare and present a case in an appeals hearing, the application demonstrated by Mrs. Clinton and the Senators was shockingly evident.

honor guardMrs. Clinton was prepared for every question.  She accepted responsibility while denying all knowledge or the ability to make adjustments which could have saved the lives of our Ambassador and the other three men.  The Senators did not understand the events as clearly as she.  They were scattered and disjointed.  However, neither the Senators nor Mrs. Clinton presented the kind of information needed by the American public regarding the Benghazi murders.

Mrs. Clinton was pleasantly evasive.  The Democrats were obliging and congratulatory, more focused on letting people know how much they loved and appreciated the Secretary of State than participating in the Republican “witch hunt.”   Almost all Republican Senators showed controlled anger and a need to get their individual point across.

BenghaziThere was no request for a narrative regarding the timeline of the events.  The information needed and wanted by the US public was not presented.  I could sit, listening and understand all the mistakes made by these women and men as I took mental notes during the Webinar on the appeals process.

However, after the Webinar was over and I merged into a strategy meeting, I repeated all the mistakes I’d earlier recognized in others.  Setting aside my mind, I let my emotions rule the decision and processing of future needs.  I spoke emotionally, not logically.

Saying what we mean is much harder than we often recognize.  It takes discipline.  There must be preparation.  However, most of all, we must say what we mean–not what we feel.

In writing to the Romans, Paul was emotionally involved and those emotions are evident throughout his presentation. However, he did not allow his emotions over rule his presenting to the Roman church and to us a concise and valuable summary of God’s salvation plan.  He does not deviate from the primary message.  We are saved by God’s grace and only by his grace.  Our works must be an outgrowth of our love for the Lord, demonstrating the mercy and grace of our Father.

Because the mentally challenged community is not able to communicate at a mature level, it often becomes our responsibility to give voice to their needs and hurts.  It is important that we not only understand our members.  We must also make advocate for them in a prayerful and concise way, saying what we mean not what we feel.

Glenn McGruffie, the team manager for Veteran Services for Brevard County, Florida, signs his emails with this quote. “A veteran is someone who at one point in his or her life wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’ for an amount of  ‘up to and including my life.'”

Chris Stevens

While this isn’t a special day in which we pay honor to our veterans, this quote is so significant I feel it must be shared.  Our nation has seen too many of our most valiant men and women lost in the turmoil of war.  This week we have been shocked and saddened by Libya Ambassador Chris Stevens.  The accounts that are emerging are disturbing and sad.

We live in a blessed nation that may be teetering on the brink of several disasters.  We are in unthinkable debt.  There are billions of people who hate us.  Yet, the men and women continue to write that blank check so that we can live in freedom.

We own them more than a debt of gratitude.  We own them our prayers and our commitment to the faith in the Lord that we, as Christians, recognize is the true reason for our strength.  The Lord calls his people to prayer.  During this holy week in the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah, those who call on Christ as our Savior should not only pray for the peace of Jerusalem but for our troops who are willing to die for our freedom.

I sat at the table. The paper placard in front of me had my name printed on it to remind people of who I am.  For about four terms, I’ve served either as an alternate or a member of a local coordinating board for transportation in our county.  I have, in fact, sat through multiple meetings like this one in three different counties in Florida.

While I serve as a citizen advocate on this board, the issues that face us are more complex than I ever imagined when I first started to attending them.  Of course, I sat dazed by the acronyms and double speak that swirled around me for the first couple of months; but I assured myself that if I continued to attend, I would gradually begin to understand what was being discussed.

Then I applied to serve as an alternate.  After being in that position for about four years, I once again assured myself that I’d soon understand everything there was to know about transportation in our county.  When the fog cleared a bit and a position on the board opened, I applied.

Unfortunately, as soon as I was seated on the board, the federal and state legislation changed drastically and I was back to square one.  I found myself flipping through the pages sent to me before each meeting wishing I could decipher the complex verbage on which I was supposed to vote.  With every new administration, there are new laws and regulations that the local boards are supposed to miraculously comprehend.

Yet, in the past few years, I find myself understanding the discussions that swirl around my head.  No longer does the talk whiz over my head, it is now filtered through knowledge and history.  In fact, at a recent committee meeting, I found that I became the historian of the group, having served longer than anyone else.  My mind recalled facts and figures that surprised me.

At times, citizens are reluctant to become a part of the process because the issues are simply too complex.  And that is usually true at the beginning.  Even after years, of study and research, administrations and local issues change as well as the laws.  Then the learning process begins again…and again…and again.

Isn’t that like our lives, however?  As soon as I thought I had my husband all figured out, the Lord would do something different and I would be left scratching my head, wondering why he had changed.  Even in my own life, I wake up and find that during the night the Lord supernaturally answered a prayer and transformed my heart.  Or I read a book and God begins to speak to me about fears and concerns that have plagued my spirit since childhood, he makes my spirit responsive to his love and the Holy Spirit does a fresh work.

Different from the complex issues that we face with governance, God’s transformations are usually simple changes that transform our behaviors, attitudes and desires.  Paul was correct when he wrote to the Romans that laws and regulations cannot make transformational changes.  That is God’s job.

ImageFeds: Florida dumping disabled kids in nursing homes
By KELLI KENNEDY
More than 3,300 children with disabilities are at risk of being pushed into adult nursing homes because the state is slashing nursing and other services that would otherwise keep them at home with their families, according to a lawsuit filed against state health officials.

The lawsuit mirrors a letter sent this week by federal officials to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi alleging the state is violating federal law by allowing more than 200 children with disabilities and even babies to be kept in nursing homes, often for years.

The suit and federal regulators say children languish in facilities, sharing common areas with elderly patients and having few interactions with others, rarely leaving the nursing homes or going outside. After visiting children in six nursing homes, investigators noted the children are not exposed to social, educational and recreational activities that are critical to child development. Educational opportunities are limited to as little as 45 minutes a day, according to a detailed letter sent Tuesday by U.S. Department of Justice officials.

There are things which disturb my peace.  Yesterday, I realized that circumstances were heading Special Gathering of Indian River into a potential obstacle course.  I’m not sure whether I was more upset by the situation or by the fact that I’d not foreseen the concerns.

Either way my peace was destroyed for several hours.  Seeing the problem, I immediately began making phone calls and the situation was handled within three hours.  But it was as though my peace had flown out the window.  My mind swam into some pretty swampy waters concerning the “what if” possibilities.

Jesus plainly said, “My peace I give to you.”  He didn’t say, “You have my peace, as long as you don’t see any deep ruts in the road ahead.”  He never proclaimed, “I give you my peace, unless someone you love does something really bad.”

Of course, when trouble raises its grotesque head in the middle of your life’s road, you must take care of the situation.  But should peace be burned away like the morning dew as the sun ushers onto the horizon?

The past weeks, I’ve listened to the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul during the day, in the morning and at night before I go to bed.  What has struck me is the ordinary life Paul was living as the Holy Spirit was shaking up an entire civilization.  He never seems to lose his peace in the middle of ghastly upheaval.  He was beaten, jailed, the subject of riots, despised and rejected.

Yet, in his letters, we see that his main concern wasn’t his own safety; but he wept over the well-being of the Church.  He wanted to protect the new believers who were struggling.  That is the kind of peace I want.

For too long I’ve been satisfied with a piece of peace.  I’ve been willing to sluff off the concerns of my brothers and sisters in the Lord while obsessing over the well-being of me and mine.  I know that each of us walks a fine line regarding God’s peace.

Yet, I’ve been impressed that a piece of God’s peace isn’t good enough.  I desire to know the Lord in such a way that I can claim his peace no matter what the situation or concern.

Shocking new information from Shannon Dingle, MAEd, from Raleigh, NC.  She is a special needs teacher in her church in Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh.

The journal article: After-birth abortion: why should the baby live? And this isn’t just any publication; it was found in the Journal of Medical Ethics. The juxtaposition of the idea of ethics with what’s put forth in this journal is ironic at best.

Here are some quotes from the article itself. First the abstract (emphasis mine):

Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.  To read more…

Quaker Worship Service

Several years ago, my friend who is a wonderful Catholic and an elder at Special Gathering, gave me a book.  I’m not sure of the title or the author because as soon as I finished it, I lent the book to another friend and it hasn’t returned home.

The book was written by a Quaker pastor, living in a small, upper New York State community.  While my views of many things were radically different from his, I have no doubts that this pastor is a deeply, dedicated believer.  As a Conservative, Evangelical Christian, I was fascinated by the characterization of my scriptural and traditional viewpoints as seen through the eyes of this liberal pastor.

While everything was crouched in delightfully, loving humor, I was stung more than once to see how others view a presentation of truths with which I am quite comfortable.  It was as though a light had been beamed on my attitudes and beliefs that exposed dimensions which were unattractive and downright ugly.

As a result, I looked with fascination at the controversy still stirring and the snippets of the sermons of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, President Obama’s pastor.  As a conservative, I’ve hated when the media or either political party has torn apart things which have been said in the context of my belief system.  And I find that I’m equally uncomfortable with what happened with Pastor Wright.

I remember there was a fire storm about 20 or 30 years ago when Christian TV personality, Pat Robertson prayed to keep a hurricane from the shores of Virginia.  When the storm moved, it went up the coast, gathered strength and destroyed much of the New England coastline.  Horrible accusations were hurled at Robertson for selfishly thinking only of his region of the country and being totally uncaring about the areas which were hit by the storm.

Now, it appears as the liberal political spectrum has desired to be more closely identified with the Christian moral arena, it’s their turn to be criticized.  At The Special Gathering we function within the cloistered, sub-culture of the mentally challenged community.  Because of the successful civil rights battles fought by African-American pastors,  we have been affected by Afro-Centric Theology.

 Without pointing fingers at anyone else, I cannot help but wonder:

How much of what I’ve written and said in regard to the discrimination foisted upon mentally challenged persons could be viewed as hateful, anti-social rhetoric?

How loving am I in presenting my viewpoints regarding the hurts leveled against the population I serve?

Is biased uproar an indication of how important it is to guard with our very lives the truths of the scriptures?  Is making the truths of scripture real to our particular sub-culture ever an excuse for not being true to the text?

When we are enveloped into a cloistered sub-culture such as the mentally challenged community, how often does group-think cause us to go places that do not make sense to other people?

How different do things that are said within our own sub-culture sound when heard by people not familiar with that sub-culture?