Old testamentI’m a big believer in all of the Scriptures.  Yes.  That means that I also enjoy reading and studying the Old Testament.  Often there are great truth-gems hidden in the genealogies and the endless lists of laws.

restOne of the law that I believe is important is the Sabbatical.  After six years of blogging nearly every day, I’ve taken a year off.  I plan to return but daily entries had become a burden and not the joy that it had been for almost six years.  I felt that the Lord nudged me to take a year of rest, as prescribed by the Law.

Of course, this isn’t good for the number of hits the blog receives or for the “Google” standing of the blog.  Yet, I daily become more and more convinced that it’s the right thing for me to do.  Thanks to all the people who continue to find the blog.  There are more than 1600 entries.  If you are interested in the mentally challenged community, you may learn a bit by reading a few entries.  Thanks again for coming by.  Take you time and review as much as you like.

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last supperAfter the men had gathered for their last supper together, Jesus made a shocking statement to his followers.  In the light of who he was–mighty God, the Messiah, the Christ and Savior of the world–Jesus’s announcement is a total departure from the relationship mankind had previously experienced with God.  He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:13 and 15).

building friendshipAs we contemplate and meditate on this astonishing declaration, our hearts must swell with joy and acceptance of our new exalted position of Friends of God.  This friendship must change us, however.  We come to understand the depth of the riches of God and the depth of his love for all people, releasing us to love in a new way.  Friendship has become a holy endeavor, initiated by God and perfected in His love and sacrifice.

With that in mind, as we approach people, there are some caution signs attached to friendship.  Here are nine Don’t’s of developing a committed friendship.

1.  Don’t wait for others to reach out to you.  Our lives must be an extension of God’s heart that is always ready to receive the broken-hearted, the lovely and the ugly alike.

2.  Don’t share just facts with your friends.  Share feelings.  Let people know YOUR joys and sorrows.  Your hurts and misgivings.

rejected friendship shirt3.  Don’t expect everyone to like you.  I learned that people either love me or hate me.  There is no in-between.  This became a valuable lesson in maturity.  I’m no longer hurt by folks who don’t know me but who reject me.  It’s a fact of  my life.  And harshly speaking, it is a fact of your life.  Not everyone wants to be friends with us.

4.  Don’t expect your friend’s friend to be your friend.

5.  Don’t be quick to voice your own opinions.  Some–perhaps many–things are best left unsaid.

6.  Don’t harbor unforgiveness or bitterness over offenses.  Peel away the hurt of a careless remark.  Stomp until dead the pains of neglect that come into every friendship.

7.  Don’t share negative information about others.

8.  Don’t expect a friend to be your source for love, significance or security.  Only God can give you that.

9.  Don’t let a friend take the place of the Lord.

In dealing with persons who are mentally challenged, it is vital to understand that they often do not have the cognitive ability to understand the fine nuances of friendship.  This means that certain boundaries may be necessary for you to set.  In the opposite direction, you may experience that their responses to  your friendship overtures may be overlooked.  Friendship with a person with special needs is a great privilege and joy.  Their friendships are worth taking the time and energy to develop.

who's ya daddy“One year at Camp/Retreat Agape our theme was “Who’s ya Daddy?”  Of course, it was a bit of a spin-off from the current culture in which some children do not know who their father is because they live in a one parent household.

Our purpose was to help remind our members that their Father is God.  We want them to understand they will never be without a daddy when they accept Jesus as their Savior.  They are adopted into the household of God because of Jesus’ shed blood.

The idea actually came from my son-in-law.  His father is a bishop in the Mennonite community.  He recalls that each morning as he and his brothers left for school, they were reminded by one of their parents, “Remember who your daddy is.”  The unspoken theme was “don’t do anything that would bring shame to your dad.”

This gentle reminder has become a chorus that often sings through my heart and thoughts during the day.  Especially when I’m tempted to do or say things that will bring shame to my Father God, my spirit gently whispers, “Remember who your daddy is.”

surferPerhaps one of the saddest scenes I can remember was one morning when my husband and I went out to breakfast.  It was a school day and the high school surfers often gathered at this spot after their morning surf and before school.  Four young men sat in a booth with wet hair and muscles that bulged through their T-shirts.  When a group of men in their early 30’s came in, I saw that the eyes of one blonde teenager drawn to them in a longing, melancholy way.  He stared at the men with an obvious sorrow.

In typical workmen fashion, these thirty-something men were busy planning their day.  They were completely unaware of their surroundings.  One of the teenagers nudged the blonde surfer, “Isn’t that your dad?”

“Yep,” the teenager confirmed without taking his eyes off his father.

“Go, tell his hello,”  a third teenager commanded the blonde surfer.

father and sonRather than following the orders of his friend, the surfer bowed his head in shame.  “I can’t,” he wistfully mumbled ripping his stare from his father and directing it to his hands that rested in his lap.  “I don’t think he knew me.”

We must never wonder if our heavenly Father is aware of us because his tender compassion surrounds us each moment.  As we remember who our Daddy is, there is an equally strong imperative to know that God’s love will never leave us or forsake us.

climbing without ropesEach of us has been given a plan for our lives.  For most, that blueprint remains a mystery and a puzzle.  We wander back and forth unsure of our footing or grasp.  Much like a mountain climber who has no safety rope or pick, we inch our way through life fearing each move.  There is challenge and fear because we know that one wrong move will plunge us to a certain death.

Yet, there is little doubt that God has a plan for our lives.  It is an inexpugnable promise that glares from every page of the scriptures.  God’s direct intervention our lives is a glorious road map that leads to an abundant life.  It remains a mystery to me why we so often forget the guiding Hand that desires to nurture, lead and guide us, falling instead before the idols of selfishness, doubt and uncertainty.

roadmapGod’s plan for our lives must be the destination of our travels.  Twenty years before I was asked to be on staff at The Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, the Lord told me his plan.  I was reading Corrie ten Boon’s book about the ministry she had before the war.  Dante Corrie was the pastor to people in her community who were mentally challenged.  God spoke to me as I read, “This is what I’ve called you to do.”

Twenty years of training lay ahead of me before I was to do this work; yet, He never forgot his plan for me.  I must admit that I tried to bring about God’s plan and failed miserably several times.  Then after 15 years or so, I decided that I had missed the Lord and would never be able to fulfil God’s true plan for my life.  I put the plan on a top shelf and forgot.  While still following God’s direction, I forgot the plan.  But God didn’t.  He continued my training.

When His time came, I was introduced to Rev. Richard Stimson, founder and executive director of Special Gathering and I came to the ministry to write a book for him.  From the moment I walked into my first chapel program, I knew that I’d come home.

The book was never published; but I never left.  After a few months, the Lord gently spoke to my heart, “Remember.  I told you this is what I’d called you to do.”  I feel the Lord allowed me to forget that calling because when I remembered, it was another firm confirmation that I was walking in God’s plan for my life.

direction signCounselors are told that the best thing you can do is to allow a troubled person to talk.  In so doing, the person discovers for herself the true reason from her distress and the answer to the problem that lies deep inside of each person.  Of course, as Christ followers, we desire to know God’s plan for us and not our capricious way.  But we each know.  It may be hidden and lost in the training.  Perhaps, in frustration or fear of failure, we put in on a shelf, waiting for God’s timing.

But God does not forget.  If we are desiring to follow him and we love his ways, God will continue to direct us into his plan..into his way.  Then at the right time, he will nudge us and whisper into our spirits, “Remember where you are going.  This is the way.  Walk in it.”

family celebrationRemembering is a vital Christian discipline that is either ignored or taught in an off-handed, casual manner.  Most of us know that routine thinking is defined by psychologists as remembering what happened in the past and rehearsing how we would change it if we could relive the event.  Perhaps that is the reason why Christians disregard the command of Jesus to “do this to remember me.”

Why should such a common event as remembering become a Christian disciple?  But isn’t God the redeemer of all things, especially those events and objects which we take for granted, find most common or deem less valuable.

family preparing for deploymentOur memories are an essential part of who we are.  Family events often mean sitting around the table rehearsing past joys and sorrows.  We laugh again and again at Uncle Billy’s comment about Vero Beach.  We delight in Tarah’s antics telling about the ordeal of preparing for her husband’s deployment to Afghanistan. We use our dinner napkins to wipe away the tears when our laugher turns to piercing loneliness as we joke about Mama’s long, convoluted prayers that each year kept us from eating our Thanksgiving dinner until it was cold.

We know that these are times of joyful sorrow that make our hearts grow with love and appreciation for each other.   Yet, that experience is not often shared among the church family.  One of the highlights of my Christian life was when The Tabernacle Church of Melbourne hosted their 25th anniversary dinner.  It was a time of remembering and sharing the joys and hidden sorrows of a congregation that had grown into a family.

I believe that communion was to be more than a ritualistic handing out of the cup and bread.  It was to be more than the sharing of the “host.”   It was to be a time of true remembrance and celebration.

community churchOf course, there are times that our hearts are filled with the cares and concerns of our world.   We approach communion with a need for more time, more energy and more resources.  We don’t have the time, energy or resources to “rehearse” that joyful night which ushered in the heart-bending sorrow of a crucified Savior.

Working in the mentally challenged community for 24 years has taught me many lessons.  One is the value of remembering.  Saturday night, as I stood beside Keith’s hospital bed with two of his caregiver, our conversation slowly ambled toward Chris, Grace, Tom and so many others.  Young people who were snatched from us too soon. Keith slept because his medical emergency was over.  Relieved that he would go home, we hugged each other with sweet memories and conversation of our loved ones who have gone to be the Lord.

Perhaps turning these moments into a traditional ceremony will only take away the value.  Yet, it is apparent that the Lord wants to become a vital part of the joys and sorrows of remembering.

chatEven though saying what we mean is difficult, it may be harder to mean what we say.  When working with people with intellectually disabilities, I’ve found that our sub-culture is actually less prone to say things they do not mean than other segments of the population.  Yet, this is a continuing problem within our society.

A good friend of mine tells me that his wife was constantly threatening to “leave and never come back.”  He learned eventually that this was only an idle threat; but even in knowing this, it put him in continual trauma.  Finally, he realized that the sense of drama which produces trauma was her true purpose.  This is when he learned to ignore the threats.

However, threats about almost everything is a part of many people’s lives.  A parent may tell the Bible study teacher, “If that happens again, my daughter won’t be able to come back to your program.”  A member may inform you, “I’m never coming back…” if I don’t get my way.

talking to each otherOne of the great life lessons is to mean what we say.  Our members who are mentally challenged are concrete learners.  They must have truth in everything they do, especially in their relationship with the Lord. I’ve found that even some people who claim to have a vital relationship with the Lord have a little problem with mangling the truth.

Understand that I’m not speaking from the lofty tower of innocence.  I’ve caught myself more often than I care to remember torturing the truth in my speech.  When we mean what we say, there is a release that comes for everyone with whom you must interface.

“I will go” becomes a sealed covenant.  “I can’t do that” releases you and the other person from future expectations.  “If you do that, I must punish you” is a committment that should not be violated.  This week there was a conflict between two members.  One member began to curse at the other person.  I had to pull him out and ask for him to apologize.  He refused.

argueThis refusal meant that I had to separate him from the others.  Once we were in a more private area, I could reason with him.  Within a few minutes, he was able to understand what was needed and what should be done.  He agreed and could be moved back to his normal seat.  My greatest danger  in this situation was threatening something that I could not or would not do.  It was essential to mean what I said.

Only the Lord’s strength and wisdom can help us to follow through on what we say.  Asking for his help always allows us to become the people of integrity that who can be the example we need to be for our members.

waiting

Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of prayer is when the Lord answers, “Wait.”

We’ve all experienced that waiting time.  Personally, I’m quite ready for my prayers to be answered the day and even the moment I ask.  I’ve prayed for a good friend for more than 25 years to receive the Lord.  Daily, I’ve asked that He bless and help her.  Recently, I paid her a visit and learned that she had received the Lord as her Savior.

joyful peopleI must admit that rather than being overjoyed, my reaction was much more subdued.  I quizzed the Lord about my emotionless reaction.  In my spirit I felt His response, “If I’d done the work more quickly, you would’ve wanted to take credit.  I wanted you to realize that I’m the Savior of her soul, not your prayers.”  Understand this wasn’t a rebuke from the Lord but a simple statement of fact.

The New Testament records an interesting verse. Yet when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days (John 11:6).  

Jesus had received a plea for help from his best friends, Mary and Martha.  Their brother, Lazarus was dying.  Jesus didn’t rush to his bedside to comfort and heal.  He waited.  Oz Hillman wrote,

God often has to delay His work in us in order to accomplish something for His purposes that can be achieved only in the delay. Jesus had to let Lazarus die in order for the miracle that was about to take place to have its full effect. If Jesus had simply healed a sick man, the impact of the miracle would not have been as newsworthy as resurrecting a man who had been dead for four days. This is Jesus’ greatest “public relations act” of His whole ministry. What many do not realize is that the key to the whole story is in the next chapter.

Many people, because they had heard that He had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet Him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after Him!” (John 12:18-19)

The Lord was setting the stage for Jesus’ death and resurrection.  It was only after this great miracle that the Pharisees began to see that the only path to the elimination of Jesus’ influence was his death.  From that moment they purposed in their spirits to destroy Jesus.

God's plaMonths ago, I shared with a young pastor who had been elected to an important office some on the things that I’d learned while serving in a similar position.  He reaction was rejection of my ideas. Then, last week, we again sat at a meeting.  He shared his discouragement and the lack of success he had experienced in his ministry over the past two or three years.  Another more experienced pastor quietly shared what I’d proposed a year ago. The young pastor heard and adopted the plan

After the meeting, the older pastor came to me and whispered, “You said that a year ago; but he couldn’t hear it then.  He had to learn the hard way.”  Then the seasoned minister grinned, “We all have to learn the hard way–our way.”

Delays aren’t merely part of God’s great plan for eternity.  They are also part of his plan for our lives.  Perhaps the hardest to receive–yet most profitable–answer God can give us to our prayers is “wait.”