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.

prisoner

Some of the greatest miracles and healings have come into my life through forgiveness.  It is an interesting phenomenon–forgiveness.  When I forgive, it is not the person that I forgive who receives the miracle.  It was me.

I cannot say that I’ve had more to forgive than most because life is hard for all of us.  No matter what your circumstances or generational history, life has a way of taking each of us and wringing all the marrow from our bones.  Without Divine intervention, we eventually collapse from the weight of our own empty carcass and die.

moldForgiveness is one of the miraculous life-giving principles that the Lord has given to us to renew our minds and bodies.  At times, unforgiveness can be a tricky business.  Like damaging mold, it can hide behind walls we build to protect ourselves from harm.  We prance glibly along not understanding that a damaging parasite is growing in our bodies that will eventually kill us if it isn’t fumigated from our systems.

For years, I carried a hidden resentment toward my parents that seemed to remain under the surface. Because no one was hurt by the things I’d observed, I had no concern about dealing with this festering little pimple.  Nevertheless, I slowly realized that I had fallen into the same habit that had been abhorrent to me all during my childhood.

I could not seem to break the pattern until I discovered the miracle of forgiveness.  The scripture that set me free is Matthew 6:14 and 15.  “Yes, if you forgive others for their sins, your Father in heaven will also forgive you for your sins. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins” (NCV).

Even though I knew this familiar verse that follows the Lord’s example prayer, I had not applied it to this situation.  As soon as I told the Lord I forgave my parents and asked him to forgive me of my petty resentment,  I experienced a miracle in my spirit that still lingers in my memory decades later.

The sad part was that when I explained to my mother about the annoyance I held, she laughed.  “Oh, Honey.  I didn’t do that for your dad.  I did that for me!  It was only for my sake I did it.  At times, your father even resented my actions.”

I had kept that festering indignation for years and it was not even justified.  Had I not experienced the Lord’s miracle of forgiveness, I could still be hurting and following the same pattern of behavior that caused my animosity.

I had to learn that forgiveness is not a feeling but an act of my will.  The word Jesus used in the Greek means “to send away from one’s self.”  Feelings can trick you into believing things that are not true.  True forgiveness may not result in goosey feeling.  However, it will result in a miracle in the spirit man.

camp agapeDon’t miss

Retreat and Camp Agape

a Christian retreat experience for the mentally challenged community

Memorial Day Weekend–Friday, May 23 to Monday, May 26

at Life for Youth Campgrounds

Vero Beach, FL

The cost depends of the functioning life style of the person attending and ranges from $190 to $240.  We will provide transportation from Brevard County from four pick up points.  To request an application, call Linda Howard at 321-773-2691 or email at lhoward@specialgatherings.com.  Or you may leave a comment.  You will be directed to the correct person with whom you need to speak.

If you would like to attend, act quickly.  The available spaces are filling up quickly.

angelA higher functioning person in Special Gathering wanted to know how to get in touch with a medium so that he could speak with his dead relative.  Because of the teachings in the Scriptures about angels appearing to people, he had become confused.  In addition, a member had been medically dead for a very short time and he had reported that he had gone to heaven. This was my explanation to him regarding this important.  

A Brief Explanation of Angels

Part of the problem may be a misunderstanding of who angels are.  It is the popular misconception that when people die they become angels.  Even though it is commonly accepted by modern culture, this is not true.  And it is not supported anywhere in the Scriptures.

Angels are not human beings and people don’t become angels.  Angels are a separate creation by God who predate human beings.  There were angels before there were humans.  They are similar to humans in their form; but they are not humans.  They have supernatural powers that we do not have.

The Bible does not speak of angels as male or female.  They appear as large, strong males most of the time.  However, in modern and ancient cultural pictures, they are depicted as babies with wings or in a more feminine form.  In the Scriptures, angels are given what we in the Western Culture would call male names.  However, they are non-sexual because they do not reproduce.  They are spiritual heavenly beings who live forever.  In the Old Testament, Jesus is spoken of as The Angel of the Lord.

When the angel Lucifer sinned against God (He wanted to be equal with God), he was thrown from heaven and it is indicated in the Bible that Lucifer was given dominion over the earth.  It is believed that Lucifer totally destroyed the earth to such a point that God reclaimed the earth and gave dominion to Adam to “keep”  (the Hebrew word used means safeguard and protect) the earth.  When Adam sinned, the effect was that Adam gave dominion of the earth back to Satan.

When Jesus died, he took dominion over death and hell.  He reclaimed the earth for God and for man.  His resurrection sealed the defeat of Satan.  That is why Satan killed Jesus.  Satan did not understand that Jesus would pay the price for our sin and be resurrected.

When we are born, we are spiritual beings because we are part of God’s creation.  God breathed into Adam a human spirit.  After the fall, we are still part of God’s creation and spiritual beings but we are part of the Kingdom of Satan until we make a free-will choice to accept Jesus as our Savior.  Then we are children of God.

It does not matter whether we are born-again or not, attempting to speak with the dead is forbidden.

Jesus told us in the New Testament that we all have an angel that is with us at all times.  They are there to protect us.  They are not the Holy Spirit who is our guide and teacher.

These are not things that would be taught in a Sunday school class at Special Gathering.  But they are things which the Bible teaches.  Much of what we know about angels is found in the Old Testament.  When Jesus speaks of angels and the New Testament speaks of angels, it is always in the context of what we know about angels from the Old Testament.

Again, trying to speak with a dead person is forbidden.  You want to stay as far away from any hints of this kind of practice.

waterGod is Forgiving

Psalm 86:5

Central Theme:   God forgives everyone, even me.

Introduction–If I have a cup of water and I pour it on to this rag, what will happen?  The rag will get wet.  (If appropriate pour the water on to the floor.  If not pour it into a saucer or rag.)  This rag is wet and it will be wet for a long time.  If I slap Sam in the face, will it hurt?  Yes.  I can’t instantly make this rag dry again.  If I hit Sam, I can‘t take it back.  Folks, we find ourselves in a mess.  We sin and we can’t take the bad things back.  We can’t make the rag dry.  And a slap will always hurt. But there is one thing we have.  We can get God’s forgiveness when we sin. Have a member read Psalm 86:5.

I.     Tell the story of David and Bathsheba

1.  David slept with Bathsheba; then he killed her husband.

2.  God told David that he was a sinner.

II.     David asked God to forgive him.

A. God did forgive David.

1.  God says that David was a man whose heart was like God‘s.

2.  But David had sinned and even God’s forgiveness did not take away the results of those sins.

B. David‘s little son died and many other bad things happened to his family after that.

III.     God forgives but he does not always take away the bad effects of those sins.  –Ex:  a woman who became a Christian after she had killed someone.  She still had to die.

Conclusion–God forgives everyone who asks for forgiveness.

storm

It is a popular misconceptions that most miracles happen in our bodies.  While many of them do happen in connection within our bodies.  In reality, most miracles happen within the natural world.

Derek Prince often told about a miracle that happened during World War II.  One evening the prayer group he attended prayed for a particular battle that was being fought in North Africa.  It was thought that the tides of war would turn if this battle could be won by the Allied forces.  The next day, it was reported that the Allies had decidedly fought back the Axis and gained victory in this battle.  This was a miracle achieved through prayer.

storm babiesIn 2004, as their home was being totally destroyed as Hurricane Jeanne slammed into the coastline of Central Florida, the family gathered in a small inner room and prayed.  Miraculously, the house was destroyed; yet, one room was spared.  It was the room in which the family gathered to pray.

On April 3, 1974, when a category 5 tornado ravaged Xenia, Ohio.  A widow took refuge in a small closet under the staircase of her home.  She cried out to the Lord that He spare her life.  She understood that her home could be replaced; but this widow believed that she still had a work to do for the Lord.  It was a miracle that her entire house was shredded into pieces.  Only the staircase and that small closet remained at the end of the day.

A young man was diagnosed with an incurable disability.  His father was in the Air Force in Hawaii.  The entire family prayed.  Friends prayed.  Taking their son to the doctor on base, they found that the doctor who was assigned to their son’s case was the only doctor who was known to be an expert in treating their son’s disease.  Under this doctor’s care, the young man made a complete recovery from the disability.

It appears that God repeatedly and meticulously creates events that are beyond understanding and comprehension.  There is no other explanation, except that there was a miracle of God.

It is often said that if something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.  That is a great rule to follow, except when God decides to break His own rules and give us a miracle.

accidentSaturday afternoon, during choir practice, I got a phone call from a colleague, who said, “My wife and I have just been in at terrible accident. Can you cover for me tomorrow?” This is a person who downplays everything. Therefore, his admission regarding the  severity of the accident set me into caution mode.

Having him interrupt choir, when he knows my schedule was another cautionary note.  After seeing the pictures, it’s obvious that accident was terrible.  A truck rear-ended their auto.  After the accident, driver of the truck could not move his body.  In addition, the impact of the accident slammed my colleague’s vehicle into the car in front of them.  This person was also seriously injured.

All indications from the damage done to the cars and the injuries the others received, it is a miracle that my co-workers were not critically injured.  But they were not.

Earlier that day, the news media reported that an entire neighborhood was covered with mud in California.  However, no one was hurt.  People were saying this was truly a miracle.

prudenceThese are two incidences of God’s miraculous work in the world today. As wonderful as miracles are, there needs to be a word of prudence given.

Discretion teaches to never use the word, “miracle” in a loose manner.  It seems that often when Christians are speaking to each other and to non-believers, we use the word miracles as frequently as possible.  We get a parking space after prayer; and we let everyone know that it’s a miracle.  We are able to safely cross a heavily traveled highway by foot; and it’s a miracle.

Understand, I’m not saying that these things are not miracles.  I am  saying that describing everything that happens in our lives as a miracle weakens our witness with the outside world.  It is important that we protect our witness regarding God’s intrigity and our relationship.

Years ago, I learned from a wise friend that many things are too sacred to be shared.  This has been hard for me because I like to tell everything.  When we throw out these sacred bits of information, we open ourselves and our witness to criticism.

We don’t fully understand the reason why the Lord often admonished people who had received great miracles in their lives. “Don’t tell anyone what has happened to you,”  Jesus advised. Perhaps one reason is that these things are too personal and too holy to be thrown out for critique and misunderstanding.


AAIDD Colleagues:

The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) seeks applicants for the position of Editor of its peer-reviewed journal, American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AJIDD), for a term of four years that shall begin in mid-2014 and with the first issue under the direction of this Editor to be January 2015.

About AJIDD

First published in 1896, AJIDD is among the top-ranked, peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary publications reporting current and critical research in the biological, behavioral, and educational sciences. AJIDD contains high-quality, original contributions to the literature on intellectual disability, its causes, treatment, and prevention. AAIDD publishes the journal bimonthly (January, March, May, July, September, and November).

AJIDD is distinct from AAIDD’s other multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journals, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) and Inclusion. IDD focuses on the application of emerging policies, innovative practices, and transformative concepts, and Inclusion presents and discusses evidence-based interventions and strategies that promote the full inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in society.

Qualifications and Responsibilities 

Qualifications for the position are an established record of scholarship in the disabilities field, managerial skills necessary to oversee the editorial cycle, and the ability to attract and retain respected experts to the editorial advisory board.

The major responsibilities of the Editor of AJIDD include:

•    Overseeing the peer review of approximately 100 manuscripts per year;
•    Soliciting high-quality manuscripts from potential authors, deciding which manuscripts to publish, and assisting authors advance their manuscripts to publication;
•    Selecting a sufficient pool of competent reviewers to reach conclusions and make decisions on manuscripts in a timely fashion;
•    Identifying and appointing qualified members to an editorial advisory board; and
•    Providing a clear vision for the direction of the Journal.

Applicants must have clear employer or institutional support for this activity for the duration of their appointment, including release time and general office support. AAIDD does not pay for office space or release time, but can provide basic financial support for the IDD Editor, which may include funds for clerical assistance, office supplies, postage, and telephone beyond what will be provided by the Editor’s home institution. Since the support offered by different institutions varies widely, interested individuals are encouraged to contact the appropriate office of their employer in order to ensure the feasibility of your application.

Application Process 

Interested individuals should prepare and submit an application via email. The application must include:

•    Letter of Application that describes your qualifications for the role of Editor of IDD, such as past experience as an editor or member of an editorial team, history of scholarship in the field, and demonstrated capacity to manage deadlines and to attract and retain contributors to projects.
•    Vision Statement that provides a clear description of your vision for IDD under your leadership. Set forth your goals and plans for the content of the Journal, with an assessment of the current strengths, weaknesses, or gaps that you plan to address and how you will operationalize your plan.
•    Vita or Resume that accurately portrays your experience, indicates your current affiliations, and lists your current contact information.
•    Evidence of Institutional Support, which may be a letter of support or other documentation from your employer that describes the level of support (release time and general office support) available should you be selected for the position.

Applications will be reviewed by the Search Committee immediately after the submission deadline. Interviews will be conducted by phone and the selected candidate will be expected to disclose any potential conflicts of interest prior to appointment and annually thereafter throughout his or her term of service.

Applications will be accepted via email only. Send application packets to Margaret Nygren, EdD, Executive Director, at mnygren@aaidd.org by December 13, 2013.

Marc J. Tasse, PhD, FAAIDD
Chair, AJIDD Editor Search Committee

Last week we started learning new music at The Special Gathering Vero and Melbourne choirs.   I am the director of three of the six choirs at Special Gathering, a ministry within the intellectual disability community.  Our choirs sing in local churches and during our chapel services.  Our purpose in traveling to other congregations is to educate the church to the spiritual needs of people who are mentally challenged.

Trying to keep the choirs more interested in newer music, I often let them choose the new songs.  Because our members memorize the music, it takes a bit longer to teach them the words and melody.  Therefore I begin about three or four months before they will preform the songs.  This new music contains the songs we’ll be singing in the summer and fall.

During the time we were going over the new selections, Anna kept wandering away in her mind.  Lucy and Nancy were nodding off.  Only Sheila was awake and perky during the half hour that we were rehearsing the new numbers.  After we had sung the new pieces once, maybe twice, we jumped into the older music that we knew.  Immediately, Anna was centered. Lucy and Nancy woke up with smiles.  Their grins returned and they were laughing and happy to sing our older melodic friends.

When I went back to college as an adult, I was taught something that I had not previously learned at school.  One professor lectured, “We all learn better in bits and pieces.  A few minutes here and there; and we will absorb new information better than sitting down and cramming in one long stretch.”  As a child, I didn’t make excellent grades.  Therefore, I wasn’t considered a good student; but during those years, I did learn how to learn.  In reality I wasn’t memorizing facts; but I was learning the essence of learning.

Each afternoon, I came home from school and did my written work while watching TV.  When I was studying for tests, however, I did that while washing dishes or taking a shower.  I was absorbing bits and pieces.  In addition, because I was a more tactical learner, I would better able to associate and assimilate the facts I needed while doing another task.  Sitting in a quiet room armed with only bare facts accomplished nothing except to pile unneeded stress on me.

If you are wanting to learn, it is important to take it easy.  Take the time needed.  The Bible tells us that we learn about God’s ways “line upon line, precept upon precept.”  Turns out that all of us who learn, learn best the way God prescribed.  It is interesting that Isaiah gave us this valuable information more than 2,400 years ago.

Years ago, our children moved to South Louisiana.  All hot sauce and especially Tabasco sauce is a BIG, HUGE, GIGANTIC deal in South Louisiana.  Therefore, we had to visit the Tabasco Welcome Center because it is one of their greatest tourist attractions.  Both my husband and I loved the tour and the wholesome, HOT environment.

I’ve always enjoyed hot sauce as a condiment. But before our visit to that HOT Welcome Center, my husband refused to eat anything that was spicy hot.  Even black pepper was banned from my kitchen, lest it accidentally fall onto his plate.  After that visit, however, he became a Tabasco Sauce connoisseur.  He purchased a Tabasco Sauce coffee cup and that became his favorite cup.  He wanted Tabasco Sauce at the table for every meal,especially breakfast.  He requested it at restaurants and sprinkled it liberally on his food.

His visit to the Tabasco Factory Welcome Center had transformed his eating.

Interestingly, I’ve found the same is true with Special Gathering.  Most people are extremely hesitant to even visit our program.  It is as though intellectual disability will fall onto them accidentally and they might catch something.  Yet, if a person ever “visits our Welcome Center,” they are usually transformed. Our members and their inclusive, loving and enthusiastic ways become part of their cultural experience.  They usually want to and do come back.

A retired pastor and his wife often visit our program.  They have been immersed within the culture for years because their son is a popular young man within our community. Yet, they come to Special Gathering whenever he is not preaching somewhere else.   They could attend any church but they chose to worship with our chapel members because the members love them and, in return, they have come to love our members.

In much the same way we jump into a pool on a hot, sultry day, each of us reaches into different experiences with a variety of reactions .  Some are hesitant, creeping into the water slowly.  Others dive in gracefully.  Many simply jump, feet first.  However, I’ve found that when a person is fully immersed in the pool water, they want to stay in the refreshing coolness as long as possible.  It doesn’t matter how hesitant or forward they were in entering the experience.

The key to enjoying other cultures and new experiences may be immersed–or being baptized.   Perhaps this the reason that the Lord insisted that baptism become a part of the Christian experience.  There is no way to truly enjoy or become a real part of an experience without total immersion.

ImageEach year, Special Gathering of Indian River partners with the Brevard County Rec Department to provide special events.  This Saturday, we will be taking a group of SpG members to SeaWorld, an amusement park in Orlando.  These trips are a great time of fellowship and growth.

I’m responsible for 34 people who will be attending.  I’m not supervising these people; but I am gathering their information and helping to get their tickets.

However, I find several things that I cannot understand.  First, I go over my list of people who are attending several times.  I keep a complete and thorough list.  Every person gives me their money and I record the amount they gave me.  I don’t let anyone get away with not paying.  Yet, I, occasionally, manage to have less money that I should have.  Usually, it is only a few dollars so it isn’t a financial burden.  It is a source of frustration though.

ImageMy questions is:  Where does that $3 go?  Is there a hole in an envelop somewhere? Have I lost my ability to count?  This week I’ve gathered the money for the 34 tickets and I face the same dilemma.

Perhaps, it is like the proverbial sock that disappears in the short journey when transferring from the dirty clothes hamper to the dryer.  My problem is not the amount of money that disappears but WHERE has it gone?

Do you have any answers?  Does this ever happen to you?  Is this a sign of stress?  Perhaps, there is a simple explanation.  Can you help?

This is a great post that you will want to read.  I found it at youthguyerik.  Click on this link and you will be able to read it.