The song, “Riders on the Storm,” recorded in 1971 by the Doors invaded my mind this morning.  Perhaps I’m the only person in the US who can’t remember ever hearing this song.

My curiosity peaked by the title, I had to look up the lyrics.  Like many songs, some of the lyrics didn’t make sense to me.  However, the chorus is stunningly applicable to what happened a year ago.

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm

There is such amazing hope and despair coupled in these lyrics that my imagination was captured.  The songwriter says, we are riders on the storm.  Not tossed or turned in the storm but caught up riding above the storms of life.  However, once the hope is given, there is great despair because we are born to be thrown alone and lost.

One year ago today, my husband fell and broke his hip and leg.  He came home from an extended stay in the hospital and rehab centers on February 14, 2011 and died May 10.  I was only 10 feet from him when he fell; but we were in different rooms.  I bust through the door to find him sitting on the shower floor writhing in pain.  I knew he had broken his hip.  My first thoughts were our lives just radically changed.  Nevertheless, I had no idea how much change had stolen through our doorway.

From that moment, together he and I became riders on the storm, embracing and repelling the future with all our strength.  We laughed and cried in the same breath.  As his dementia accelerated, each moment became a bitter/sweet memory that I knew he would forget as soon as the hour passed.  I felt bitterly alone; yet surprisingly embraced second by second by Frank, our family and friends.  God’s wisdom was clearly working in our lives while the mystery of tomorrow became more and more clouded.

Often, God uses the secular to teach us His truths.  Today, I’m grateful to the Doors for their prophetic recording.  I ask God to bless them abundantly by leading them to know him through His Son, Jesus their Savior and Lord.

What about you?  Has there be one song–perhaps even a secular song–that God has used to help you through difficult circumstances?  Would you ever be able to use this teaching with your members who are mentally challenged?  How would you share this teaching?

Today, I heard again the Christmas song about the little boy who’s mother is dying on Christmas eve and he wants to buy her shoes to wear as she goes into heaven.  He doesn’t have enough money to buy the shoes and a person in line gives him the money he needs.  It’s never been my favorite Christmas song because of the obvious sentimentality.  The song was never realistic to me.  Yet, it deliberately strokes my heart strings with grief and sorrow.

However, I heard it in the context of a devotion by a pastor who shared the song.  He spoke about his wife who died of cancer when his two daughters were teenagers.  Unashamed, the Man of God cried as he read the words, remembering the first Christmas his daughters experienced without their mother.

Many people who are intellectually disabled come perplexed to the crossroads of Christmas with mixed emotions.  During this time, why struggle to walk in joy when it seems easier to become swallowed by grief? We must not forget that people who are mentally challenged may not have the cognitive ability or possess the navigational tools which help them to choose the joyful paths which help them experience peace as they remember loved ones lost through death or separation.

Distraction may be the best way to redirect their thoughts.  However, I try always to pray out loud for our members who are grieving during this time.  A hug and quick prayer for them works miracles.  The prayer I often pray is, “Father, bless my good friend as she grieves for her loss.  Help her to remember that her loved one is no longer in need of prayer.  Let her find your peace for today and for the rest of this joyful time.”  As I release them from the hug, I smile and encourage my member to also smile.

Does it always work?  Nope.  But at least he knows that God and I love him and God cares enough to take time to hear his prayer.  That is, of course, the work God has called us to to do.  What is something that you use to help your members who are grieving during Christmas?

The choice that changed everything

Nehemiah 9:17

Central Theme: Man choices to sin and God chooses to be gracious.

A ream of paper has 500 sheets–not more and not less. A foot is 12 inches–not more and not less. There are many absolutes in our lives. There is a couple of absolutes that totally changed mankind. First, since Adam’s sin, We all choose to sin and God always chooses to be gracious and forgive. Have a member read Nehemiah 9:17.

I.     Tell the story of the first sin and the fall of mankind from Genesis 3.

A.Eve ate the fruit and Adam followed her.

B.  They were tricked by Satan.

C.God made them leave the garden but he chose to love them and forgive them.

II.     God will always choose to be gracious and loving to you.

A.We must desire God‘s love and his forgiveness.

B.  We don’t always think we need God.

III.     The ways we reject God.

1.  We decide that we can handle everything ourselves.

2.  We work toward being independent of God

3.  We want to please people rather than God

4.  We disobey God‘s laws.

A.There are unintended consequences to all of the bad choices that we make.

IV.     We should never forget that God will always show his love and graciousness to us.

Conclusions: Each of us chooses to sin but God chooses to forgive us all the time.

In the past weeks, I’ve been going over some of the key words in our covenant relationship with God.  Perhaps one of the most important words we use is grace.

Most of us have learned and maybe we even remember

  • God’s
  • Riches
  • At
  • Christ’s
  • Expense

This is great explanation of grace and the first one I could readily remember.  However, it is a bit churchy sounding for many people.

Then there is the wonderful explanation:  Unmerited favor.  I love this simple explanation that encapsulates this amazing concept in two words.

However, trying to explain grace seemed harder than I had imagined.  They didn’t grasp the whole acrostic idea.  And while unmerited favor seems simple enough, even the members who remember the two-word definition could not explain what it meant.

Therefore, we worked our way into another definition that they understood and fully appreciated.  Grace is receiving a gift we don’t deserve.

Receiving a gift we don’t deserve is not as catchy at the acrostic or as short as “unmerited favor” but our members understand it and have grasped its meaning.

When the Biblical young woman, Ruth, married into a Jewish family she understood little about their ways, God or religion.  This is my supposition; but I base the conjecture on facts.  Moabites were shunned by the Israelis.  Decades before, Moab wronged the wandering tribes who desired to travel through their land.  This set up a national rivalry.  Israel was a young nation and were probably not accustomed to travel, especially to Moab.

As a famine devastated the land of Israel, a Judean took his wife and two sons to live temporarily in Moab where there was food.  In Moab, the small Jewish family of a mother, father and two sons grew to include two Moabite daughters-in-law.  Ruth was one of them.  At the end of ten years in Moab, the ranks of the family had diminished.  All the men had died.

By this time, Ruth had come to understand the ways of Judaism.  She was familiar with the customs and norms of her adopted family.  They were attractive and persuasive.

It is understandable that Naomi, now a widow and having limited means, would want to go back home to her home town, Bethlehem.  She had family there.  They would take care of her.

The Judean famine which propelled her young family to Moab was over.  Once again, there was food in Israel.  Naomi made the logical decision to go back to her roots.  The three widows set out on their journey.

Once in that process, it appears that Naomi had second thoughts about the daughters-in-law going with her.  Perhaps out of politeness, Naomi urged and even argued with the two younger women to go back to their Moab homes and their mothers.  One turned back.  But Ruth made a history-altering decision.  She opposed the idea of leaving Naomi against all reason.  She would go with Naomi and share in her fate.

Ruth said, “I will go where you go.  I will live where you live.  Your people will be my people.  Your God will be my God.”

The wonderfully attractive customs of Naomi and her God had drawn Ruth in such a magnetic way that she was willing to leave every thing, even her own security to follow Naomi.  The key to Ruth’s decision was her resolution to follow Jehovah.  “Your God will be my God.”

The Bible is not a book about religion.  It is about God’s relationship with men and women–usually in the context of families.  Too often we see the laws.  We want to magnify the do’s and don’t’s when God wants relationship.

Moab was a rejected nation.  God had told Israel to reject Moab.  Yet, God orchestrated circumstances to include Ruth in Jesus’ genealogy.  Ruth, a Moabite, was King David’s great-grandmother.  Jesus was a direct descendent of David.  The hated and rejected Moabite’s have a prominent position in the history of our Lord.

Within the disability community, there is a lot of rejection.  Perhaps this is one reason why people who are mentally challenged are often eager to hear about the good news of God’s love for them.  Their relationship with the Lord becomes a safe haven for them to grow and mature.

Our Father desires us to know that no matter what our customs or how limited our means and circumstances, He longs for a relationship with us.  Customs and finances are fluid. God’s grace never changes.  His desire for you to know Him is unchanging and everlasting.

Is there a time that you can remember that you were pressured beyond your ability to cope? There have been many for me.

As a child, my mother told me again and again that I was constantly burning the candle at both ends. For years, I had no idea what she meant. When I finally understood her, I was sure that I was getting ready to “burn out” at any moment because she had been giving me that dreaded warning for a decade.

It’s been many years since her stern predictions and I’m still burning.

I’ve found that God is my source and strength, especially in times of stress. We are preparing for Camp Agape which is May 23 to 26. There are many details for getting ready and for being responsible for 100 people and their safety.

Yet, again and again, I find the Lord going before me and preparing my way. I’ve learned to rest in Him and trust that He will make a way. And He always does even though my eyesight gets foggy and dim through the smoke my candle burning generates.

 

Read more: http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/simplelife/2014/05/pressure-time.html#ixzz31vkjlINu Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/simplelife/2014/05/pressure-time.html#PxUwgqSoxPWQxIIE.99

jesus walks on waterRemember the story of Jesus walking on the water taken from the Gospels?  In Mark’s account of the story, Jesus doesn’t invite Peter to come out on to the water but rather he intends to walk past the disciples who are in the boat.

I often puzzle over the entire incident.  This story reeks of magic, an illusion, a trick.  Of course, I know that this was a miracle but what was the purpose?  In recent months I’ve seen there are several explanations.  First, water walking was the quickest way to get across the lake.

The second was that Jesus wanted to get the attention of the disciples to teach them a lesson.  That is pretty reasonable to me.  After all, at The Special Gathering which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, the presenter will use an attention-getting device before the devotional actually begins.  If you’ve taken any preaching courses or courses regarding public speaking, you know that attention-getting is a time-honored technique used by successful preachers and other presenters.  However, Jesus had already gotten the attention of his disciples.  That afternoon he had fed about 20,000 people with almost no food.  They were already impressed.

The third reason kind of coincides with and combines the first two reasons.  Perhaps Jesus wanted to his followers to understand in a concrete way that they could depend on God to do miracles in even the simplest areas of their lives.  He knew they were straining to row the boat in the storm.  He came the quickest and shortest way possible.  He got on the boat and calmed the storm.

jesus calms stormA few weeks earlier, he had calmed a storm and rebuked the disciples because he was asleep on the boat.  “Didn’t you know I was in the boat?” he had asked them.  This time there was no rebuking.  There was calmness.

Within the intellectually disabled community, there is a woeful lack of self-esteem.  Most of our members carry with them the stigma of their disability.  While professionals and parents do a wonderful job of helping them to understand their worth as a human being, only God can give a holy understanding of who we are to him, without the lousy side effects of self-pride.  The disciples experienced a miracle in the middle of a common storm in the life of a fisherman.  Even if our only disability is stubbornness, God wants us to understand that we can also experience miracles in our lives. During the daily storms of life,  He loves us enough to come along side our vessel and calm the storm.

Have you seen God work miracles in the lives the people to whom you minister?  Has God done a miracle for you?