On a hot July afternoon in 2010,  my husband and I went with my daughter and her family to the National Space and Aeronautics Museum in DC to see the IMAX presentation of the Hubble telescope.  Everything about it was spectacular.  It was especially impressive that my husband worked all the launches related to the Hubble, except one and we saw that launch in our front yard as it careened into space.

The movie showed the astronauts as they played in the Brevard County beaches only a few miles from our house. It was a an eerie feeling to realize that I had seen history being made a few steps from my front door.  Of course, we always glibly talk about the fact that we are watching history in the making.  But sitting in the theatre with approximately 1,000 other people puts the NASA experiences of the past 4 decades in a totally different light.

Then as the pictures that have been taken from the Hubble unfolded, we all gasped in wonder.  Perhaps the other people in the theatre didn’t have the same sense of amazement as our small group because we lived it.  When the Hubble first launched, the Hubble family came to see the first launch attempt.  They were Presbyterians and they attended Trinity Presbyterian Church in Satellite Beach where I was working.  It was an honor to have the Hubble family with us.

God has been such an important part of our history.  As I pushed him out of the theatre, my husband, Frank said, “We cannot even imagine how big and awesome our God is.”  We have prayed for each launch and the many astronauts.  We have their patches tucked away in desks drawers.  There are  framed photos of launches hanging on our walls.  Years ago, I stood on the road of our church when the Challenger exploded.  The stunned staff stopped to pray for the astronauts and their family, because the horror of the moment was more gut wrenching than we could imagine.

Our small troop walked from the Hubble movie and headed into the McDonald’s attached to the museum.  While licking our escaping ice cream, we discussed the wonders of what we had seen.  Reality was beginning to seep back into our lives.  After a heady time of reviewing history, ice cream was a refreshing touch of today.

We walked out of the museum blasted by the scouring heat.  Walking a few feet from the museum, we realized our car had been towed away by the police while we were reliving history.  A passing pedestrian said, with a grin, “Welcome to DC.”  We all laughed and I thought to myself,  welcome back to reality.

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

meeting PresidentMeeting Important People

Central Theme:  As the Lord leads, we can have influence on many people.

Call to Worship: Go everywhere in the world, and tell the Good News to everyone (Mark 16:15).  

I will tell you what he has done for me (Psalm 66:16)

Introduction—Many years ago, a young man moved down the street from us.  He was living with friends.  He was from Canada and beginning a small ministry.  My husband and I worked hard to introduce him to some important people in the area.  That young man has become pretty famous and infamous TV evangelist.  At different times in our lives we will be thrown with people who are famous.  Paul was in prison but he was meeting important people.  Have a member read Psalm 66:16.

I.    The Romans had put Paul in jail.  In addition, the Jewish leaders were still trying to kill him.  Paul didn’t want to go free because he believed that the Jews would kill him. (Acts 25:13-26:32).

A.    The Roman governor was Felix.  Paul was called before him many times.  Felix wanted to set him free; but he also knew the Jews would kill Paul.  Then Festus became governor.

B.    One day King Agrippa visited Paul.  Agrippa was a Jew, like Paul.  Paul told Agrippa about Jesus.  King Agrippa asked, “Do you think you can convince me to become a Christian?”  Paul said, “I wish everyone could be like me, except for these chains.

C.    Everyone agreed  that Paul had done nothing wrong.  They wanted to set him free.  Nevertheless, Paul said that he wanted to have a trial before Caesar, the Emperor of Rome.  As a Roman citizen he could do that.

II.    Because Paul was in prison, he was able to tell many important people about Jesus.

A.    One of the worst things in Paul’s life became a great blessing because Paul followed the Lord and obey him.

B.    Paul obeyed God and did what the Lord wanted him to do.

III.    The time for each of us to share Jesus may be during times that are hard for us.

A.    Paul said that he hoped everyone would be like him, except for the chains.

Conclusion—Can you think of a time that the Lord used you even though you were hurting?  God wants to use us all the time, not only when things are going good.