airportToday, I’m headed home from a vacation that seemed long when I planned it; but then it was over more quickly than I could have imagined.  Other family will arrive soon and I’ll need to work around their vacation schedule.  I’ve been in Chattanooga, a wonderful place, especially since my granddaughter is here. But I’m happy to be going home.

A good friend and member of Special Gathering often went with her family on cruises.  She fretted and squirmed every time she left.  “Please pray for me!” she’d plead from the moment the cruise was planned.  “I’m going on a cruise to the Bahama’s and I really need your prayer.”

bridge in ChattanoogaI would laugh at her anxiety.  “Pray for you?  You need to pray for us.  We’re staying here, working and planning and paying bills.  You’ve going to paradise.”

Then we would laugh at her situation and she would be calm for a few days.

Most of us have anxious moments when we leave the safely of our home grounds.  Routines become important whether we are small children or decades past the age of accountability.  My observations have been that between 18 and 38 men and woman are excited about wandering.  Then, a creepy feeling seeps into our bones that screams, “Wait! You are interrupting my life with this misadventure.”

I’m often fascinated by people who leave house and home after the age of 60 to roam to unknown places.  Can you imagine how difficult it was for Abraham to obey God who told him to leave and travel to an unknown place out yonder…some where?

earthAs a child, I thought it was odd that people would ask for extra prayer when they traveled.  Didn’t God go with them?  Isn’t Christ omnipresent?  I felt that people were saying that they believed that God lived only in their neighborhood and He only attended their church.  Later, I came to understand that travel sometimes means accidents and uncertainty.

Emmanuel may be the main message of Christ’s birth.  God is with us.  Whether I’m sitting by a fire in Chattanooga or watching the winter waves on the Space Coast of Florida.  He is with Natalie in Spain.  Dave and Andy didn’t leave God when they went to share the gospel in China.  Jesus has arrived and He is with me.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!  Christ is born.  Emmanuel!

This year has been a transition point for my life.  Last year, I had a drastic change when my husband died.  In some ways, there is a new freedom.  During other times, I realize that I’m much more constrained.  There was a lot of freedom in being a married woman and simply having another warm body in the house.

The other day as I walked down my street, a man I never met called out my name.  Shocked, I turned and realized that even though we have been distant neighbors for many years, we had never met; but this person knew my name and was bold enough to yell at me.  Surprised, I smile, waved and quickly moved away.  My thoughts were Yipes!  This is unpleasant.  Okay, now what?  Do I stop walking down this street?

Because of this whole transition, I’ve yearned to know where the Lord is leading for the next years.  I believe some things are settled.  My work within the mentally challenged community through Special Gathering will be ongoing.  However, the fringe exercise and direction of my activity in this ministry is always in question.

During this time, I received some “words from the Lord” from several interesting places.  First, came a dream that I didn’t understand.  I shared it in front of a large group because I felt that the Lord wanted me to share it.  (By the way, I always advise people to never share their dreams in a crowd.  Dreams reveal a great deal about you.)  My good and trusted friend told me what the dream meant.  She said I was planning to drop a portion of my ministry; and I must not do that because it was having a wide ranging effect.  I had planned to drop somethings that I felt were not beneficial but very time consuming.

Later, as I pondered dropping a different portion of my ministry, another friend said that the Lord was telling her that even though I was thinking about dropping somethings, I should not do this.  Through my friend, the Lord said that this too was much more effective than I knew.  She hesitantly shared this during a prayer session.

God often speaks through a prophetic word to our hearts when it comes to direction.  The key is that we should be listening.  To tell the truth, I was not at all pleased with these two messages.  The things I wanted to drop have been hard work and I like results as much as anyone else.  The results I see are barely accountable.

Over the past few months, even after these clear messages from the Lord, I tried to rationalize why I should not continue doing this work.  However, there was no way these two friends could’ve known my heart-plans because I had shared them with no one–only the Lord.

Clearly, not everything that people tell us is from God.  When God speaks to us, it should be a confirmation of what you already know or the answer to a question that we are actually asking.  Therefore, if a neighbor yells your name out of the blue, giving you a message that does not apply to your life, then you should smile and move away as quickly as possible.  This message is probably not from the Lord.

Where am I? is a question that we ask in many situations.  The question may not mean that we are lost; but simply in transition.  We feel the need for more secure boundaries in our life.  God will supply the answers for us and most of time it is through godly men and women we know and trust.

Several decades ago the local transportation provider was called CATS.  It was primarily used for people with disablilites and for the elderly.  It was primarily a provider for people who would later be classified as “transportation disadvantabed.”

Understanding the growth that would be coming to Brevard, the name was changed to Space Coast Area Transit, using the acronym SCAT.  However, it is now time for another change.  Indeed, as the transportation needs and services have increased, many people remain stuck in the idea that Space Coast Area Transit is still a provider for people with disabilities and the elderly.

Therefore, led by Jim Liesenfelt, County Transportation Coordinator, one of the changes that needs to be made is a transition from the perception of limited provision to a service that endeavors to meet the transporation needs of every citizen who desires to access public transportation.  Liesenfelt hopes that the name change from SCAT to Space Coast Area Transit will also alter the perception.

In reality, Space Coast Area Transit has become much more than a limited transit line.  It is now used primarily for working people who need a safe, convenient way to get to and from work.  In addition, there is a growing youth population who travel on the buses.

If you have a transportation need, it may be that Space Coast Area Transit may be able to meet that need.  Give the office a call at 321-633-1878.  Or visit their website at http://www.ridescat.com/.

 

While in Hawaii, my daughter and I rode the bus a good bit.  Waiting at the bus stops or traveling to our destination, I had time to look around the beautiful island of Oahu.  These were pleasant breaks in our day.  We often talked about the morning or the coming day.  During other intervals, we simply sat silently watching people.

Even though I value promptness, I enjoy broken days.  Taking time to enjoy the moment feeds my soul.  A fresh breeze, a quiet pause, the sunlight coating my face and arms.  It is told that Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley, would often take her apron and put it over her face.  During those times, none of her 19 children were allowed to disturb her.

One of the most valuable things, the mentally challenged community has taught me is to enjoy the moment.  Rejoice in the broken days.  During those precious times, the strains of the day are lost.  It’s a time to refuse worry about the world economy to invade your mind and soul.  The future and the past can be neatly tucked away like unused luggage because only the moment remains.

While preparing for bed last night, I received two phone calls.  One was from an ailing friend, who was returning my call.  The other was from a fellow employee advising me of a change in her schedule.  I’ve learned that I rest best when I spend about an hour in the evening getting ready for sleep.  The phone calls were welcomed and necessary but they broke my prep time.  After I hung up the phone, my mind began to fret because I was now wide awake.

Quickly I got out of the bed and took a few steps back into my preparation for sleep.  I reminded myself of the benefits–and necessity–of broken days.  Paul tells us to “rejoice in the Lord.”  Then he repeats his admonition, “And again, I say, ‘Rejoice.'”   None of us have the luxury of perfect schedules or unbroken hours.  Therefore, we can learn to look and listen, rejoicing and becoming refreshed by the breaks, enveloping them into our times of rest, rather than fretting about the interruption.

During the past week, I’ve spent a lot of time riding the bus. I’m visiting my son in Oahu, Hawaii. They have one car which works great for them because his wife enjoys riding the bus. He has been working this week, giving his wife and me some quality time together.

“I was warned,” she told me, “that it wasn’t safe to ride the bus. However, there are mostly elderly folks and working people.” Because it is summer there is also a generous sprinkling of teenagers, eager to get to the ocean.

I serve as a Citizen Advocate on a county coordinating board in Brevard County Florida. Therefore, I am interested in seeing the operations of the bus systems wherever I go. In Oahu, people with disabilities primarily use HandiVan’s for their work transport. I also suspect that they have a system similar to Transportation Disadvantaged in Florida because I have not seen many folks with intellectual or developmental disabilities on the city buses.

Each time I go to another state and take the time to commute on the bus, I’m impressed with several things. First, the willingness of the bus drivers to help their passengers. I can’t imagine that anyone could get lost unless they are simply too shy to ask questions.

Second, I’m constantly pleased with the quality of bus riders. Of course, there are people from the lowest economic structure who are abusing/using drugs and alcohol on the buses but they are the exception, not the rule. When a tourist couple got on the bus asking the driver to take them to what the tourist guide had called the best “shrimp truck” on the North Shore. He assure them he would show them where to get off. However, the bus was filled with “locals” who were more than willing to give their expert advice. It was agreed by unanimous decree that the best shrimp wasn’t at the truck the tourist guide recommended but at a truck much closer and easier to find.

Third, the cleanliness of the buses. Sure, by the end of the day, dirt and trash has been tracked into the bus but isn’t that to be expected? Even though the Brevard County SCAT drivers sweep and clean their buses on a regular bases, the foot traffic in a place like Honolulu is much larger. This increases the potential for dirty buses. Yet, on a whole, even in a laid-back place like the Aloha state, clean buses are the rule, not the exception.

The fourth thing is purely personal. I don’t have to worry about the traffic. If there are cars everywhere, I can busy myself with other things–such as, catching up with Facebook or writing a blog entry. Riding the bus gives me permission to do things I would not ordinarily do. After all, I’m not driving. This would be wasted time for me if I were behind the wheel–so why not spend it doing something I enjoy like reading a book or guacking out the window at the scenery and the people.

Perhaps, like me you don’t normally ride the bus; but I recommend becoming one whenever you are a tourist or traveling in an unknown town. It’s a great adventure and a wonderful way to find the “very best shrimp truck.”

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.