A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

The Dignity of Risk

posted by Linda G. Howard

I direct two choirs as one of my tasks as area director of The Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community. During one of our choir practices, I asked the choir to vote on which songs they would like to sing when we perform at a local church. We were currently rehearsing about five songs.   We will sing at a large Presbyterian church and we will be ministering at their 10:30am worship service.  To my amazement, as we went through the list, they didn’t and even with encouragement they wouldn’t raise their hands to tell me their choice.

When Tim spoke out that he liked the second song best, everyone chimed in to agree with him.  I was surprised–not at their selection but in their hesitation to raise their hands regarding their personal choice.  These are men and woman who are the leaders in our ministry in Melbourne.  They are intellectually disabled but they are our deacons.  During our prayer time, they are  the ones who stand at the front of their peers and pray for the member who request prayer.  They are part of our praise team.  They lead singing, read the scriptures and greet visitors.

Yet, they were hesitant to give their opinion regarding their choice in a musical selection.  Once again they were exhibiting their need to please people who are in authority.  They didn’t want to be wrong and not please me.  They were refusing to take the risk of offending me.

I can only vaguely imagine the intimidation that my friends have endured that make them too afraid to give me their opinion.  I am their friend and they know it.  Additionally, these 13 men and women are not timid wallflowers.  They are forward looking individuals who laugh and joke and seem to express their opinions with ease.  Now, I wonder.  How much are they hiding?  How much of this self-confidence is another set of learned behaviors exhibited to impress the outside world?

Each day I realize that there is much to learn about unlocking the potential of these men and women of God.  Nevertheless, I see all of humanity as I stare into their faces.  As much as we may want to deny it, their simplisitic faith and uncomplicated processing doesn’t make them less like people who are “normal.”  If any thing, it exposes more of our humanity than we want to confess.

God make humans to be people who take risks.  It is part of what give us dignity.  Often, our community has been push into a corner and denied their God-given right to take risks.  However, I could not help but put myself into their faces and remember all the times I’ve not wanted to take a risk because of fear.

Over the past three years, I written a daily blog about The Special Gathering ministry.  One of the Google searches that is most requested is a definition of the dignity of risk.  This is a phrase that is often used within the intellectually disabled community.  After 22 years of ministry within this community, I believe that a good definition is:  Dignity of risk is the moving away from a safe place, in order to fully experience the self-respect and self-esteen of being a human being.

Taking risks is one quality that moves humans from the animalistic realm of instinct or habit. Therefore, anyone denied the ability to take risks cannot fully understand or experience their true humanity and is consequently denied true dignity.

Fact or fiction

posted by Linda G. Howard

Working and living within the intellectually disabled community, I found that there are many common bits of misinformation and urban legends that haunt our population.  These distortions diminish all of us.  Here are a few of the most common misunderstandings.

  1. They don’t understand insults or compliments. The fact is that they love compliments and completely understand insults.  Their feelings can be hurt and they are as sensitive as any other person.
  2. They are dangerous and cannot be trusted. While they are people and can do harm to themselves and others, in reality, our population is usually eager to please.  In addition, they are much more apt to harm themselves than someone else.
  3. They are over-sexed individuals, especially the men. Most developmentally disabled women want to have babies; but they are not usually interested in sex for any number of reasons.   Men who have had sexual experiences are always more aware than men who have not experimented with sex.  However, in most cases, the hormones of men and women who are mentally challenged are not underdeveloped.
  4. Individuals who are mentally challenged are loud and unpleasant. The personalities of people who are mentally challenged are as varied and complicated as any other people’s group.
  5. All people born with Down’s Syndrome are sweet and compliant. While there are those with the typical personality attributed to a person born with Down’s, they too have a variety of personality types.
  6. People who are mentally challenged are God’s special children.  This usually means that they are exempt from sin; and they are given a “get-out-of-jail-free card” in regard to the judgment of God.  The reality is that they need salvation and discipleship just like everyone else.  There are some people who will never obtain an age of accountability because their IQ is extremely low.  Yet, we have seen exceptionally low functioning individuals eagerly accept the claims of Christ, and their lives change as a result of their salvation experience.
  7. They can never understand the plan of salvation because their minds are too simple. Everyone can understand “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  This is the essence of God’s salvation plan provided by Jesus.
  8. People who are intellectually disabled are especially gifted in spiritual areas. As with other people, there are women and men who hear from God in unique way within our population.  Nevertheless, there are also people who don’t even care about the things of God.  They are no more gifted than any other person who care nothing about God.
  9. When you meet one mentally challenged person, you have met them all because they are all just alike. This community is extremely diverse.  Not only are their personalities different but they also have disabilities that are varied and different, adding texture and interesting flavors to their uniqueness.
  10. Medication should be given to modify every behavior. Medications are important and they are a wonderful gift for modern man.  Nevertheless, discipline can be learned by our population.  At times, habits are formed; but they can be broken by godly teachings.

There are other misunderstandings that float through the larger population regarding this interesting sub-culture.  Yet, God has made every person uniquely his treasure.  It is up to us to turn our hearts and lives over to this loving Father.  Is there an interesting person who is mentally challenged that you have met?  What are some of their characteristics that interest you?

Top 10 Predictions for the Second Half of 2011

posted by Linda G. Howard

In case we forget

  1. The Bible will still have all the answers in the middle of our joys and sorrows.
  2. Prayer will still be the most powerful thing on earth.
  3. The Holy Spirit will still move in the hearts and lives of men and women.
  4. God will still honor the praises of His children.
  5. There will still be God-anointed teaching and preaching.
  6. There will still be singing of praise to God all over the earth.
  7. God will still pour out blessings on His people.
  8. There will still be room at the cross for hearts burdened with sin and distress.
  9. Jesus will still love each one of us.
  10. Jesus will still save the lost when they come to Him asking for forgiveness and new life.

Exploring a Brave New World

posted by Linda G. Howard

The date is March 11, 2011.  As I sit around the dining room table with my family who is visiting their ailing father, I’m hurriedly writing my daily blog.  My granddaughter is playing an on-line video game.  My daughter, Carol Howard Merritt,  is quickly editing the forward she wrote for a friend’s book to email it to his publisher.  My son-in-law is reading a theology book on-line.  While my husband sleeps, we are all commenting with each other about the Tsunami that may be invading Hawaii.  All of us are fiercely following the real-time action on Twitter because my son lives on Oahu’s north shore about two blocks from the ocean.

My daughter asked me to proofread the forward she was writing for Landon Whitsitt’s new book, Open Source Church.

Landon Whitsitt

 

After reading the forward, I was reminded how much our lives have changed because of recent changes in technology.  Aren’t we all a bit skeptical of this brave new world when it comes to our places of worship?

Sure we power point our illustrations on screens attached to the walls of our ministry.  Computers have become irreplaceable for most tasks for which we once used our IBM typewriters. Email has replaced the more expensive, slower and less convenient  US Postal Service.  We only recently became comfortable with our computers when the Internet burst into our work area.  But like the phone of older generations, we don’t trust or want to depend on this in most aspect of our Christian life.  (The word “phony” came from an innate mistrust of the telephone.)

Whitsitt’s soon-to-be-released book will help all of us to overcome our concerns about this new techno world.  Yep, you may have to wade through some complicated verbiage because Whitsitt actually understands what is happening in cyber-space.  He might think that he’s making all this simplistic for us while he is only confusing our minds.  However, I’ve learned that if we wade through the technical detritus,  we will learn new and exciting things about how to effectively use this new way of  ministry.  Whitsitt’s book promises to be able to help each of us learn new things to be able to make our ministries even more effective.

Is there a book you have read that has made you more comfortable using technology in your life as a Christian?

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