The Gift of a Special Needs Child

Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures and a couple by habit. This year nearly 100,000 women will become mothers of special needs children. Did you ever wonder how these women are chosen?

Somehow I visualize God hovering over Earth selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, he instructs his angels to take notes in a giant ledger:

"Armstrong, Beth: son. Patron saint Matthew
Forest, Marjorie: daughter. Patron saint, Cecilia
Rutledge, Carrie: twins patron saint - gave her Gerard. He's used to profanity"

Finally, he passed a name to an angel and smiles, "give her a special needs child."

The angel is curious. "Why this one, God? She's so happy."

"Exactly. Could I give a special needs child a mother who doesn't know laughter? That would be cruel."

"But does she have patience?"

"I don't want her to have too much patience, or she'll drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wears off, she'll handle it. I watched her today. She has the sense of self and independence so rare, and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I'm going to give her, has his own world. She has to make it live in her world, and that's not going to be easy."

"But Lord, I don't think she even believes in you."

God smiles, "no matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness."

The angel gasps. "Selfishness? Is that a virtue?"

God nods, "If she can't separate herself from the child occasionally, she'll never survive. Yes, here is a woman who I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn't realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a spoken word. She will never consider a step ordinary. When her child says "Momma" for the first time, she will witness a miracle and know it. When she describes a tree or a sunset to her child, she will see it as few people ever see my creations. I will permit her to see clearly the things I see - ignorance, cruelty, prejudice, and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of everyday of her life, because she is doing my work as surely as he is here by my side."

"And what about her patron saint" asks the angel.

His pen poised in mid air ................

God smiles. " a mirror will suffice."

I found this at Wife, Mother, Pastor Blog. I really appreciate it but I also take exception as it leaves out the possibility that dads are also part of this gift. If you are one on the journey with a special needs child, may you find hope through these words as I did.

Treasures of the Lost Art: Aptitude

I am an idiot. I am a dummy. I must be because it seems that on most any subject I want to learn about, the only books which make sense are the ones that are the "the Idiots guide.... or " Breathing for Dummies." Thankfully, I guess, I'm not alone in this. In a world where information is on an increase, test scores are on a decrease. ABC News Radio reported the administrators of the SAT discovered only 22% of students taking the SAT have the language skills to succeed in college.

But then the church, the followers of Jesus Christ aren't far behind. We've developed an "Aptitude for Platitudes." We've gotten great at cute little slogans and sayings-I've created many myself. I'm picking on myself here you know? Every one of these sermons rhymes after all. Our knowledge of the Bible and commitments to true discipleship have slipped.

We really don't understand everything about stewardship . As one saying goes, "we usually fear what we don't understand." Truly we don't understand Biblical stewardship. It seems that one of the treasures which we find in examining Stewardship is a holy APTITUDE, that is we don't have to be afraid...(Romans 8:15) For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry,'" Abba! Father! " That is the spirit and mind of a trusting child, trust in a loving father who he or she knows will care for needs.

In her book, Money Doesn't Grow on Trees. Neale Godfrey writes:
"Offerings...however small the sum, is a valuable way for a parent to teach personal values through money by showing the child how to share her [or his] good fortune (pg42)."
TWO POINTS: First, this is not a religious book it is a book for parents on teaching kids about money. Second, even those who are not religious know that we teach are children what's important NOT by what we say but what we choose to do.

I read one time that when you learn something new it puts a wrinkle in our brain. I want to wrinkle up your brain a little with a few wisdom nuggets.

Last week got part of the history of the tithe: it was given out of a thankful attitude, out of appreciation. But later it became part of the law because God's people had a tendency to forget.

All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the LORD's; it is holy to the LORD. (Leviticus 27:30, RSV)

Exodus 25:2)"' Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me an offering; from every man whose heart makes him willing you shall receive the offering for me.
Last week we dealt with this HEART issue, the treasure of ATTITUDE. The NT expands this idea: we can't pass off giving as just an emotional thing or Old Testament law: 2 Corinthians 9:7
"You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure."

That is why I want you to look in your worship guide to see what the budget of Crossroads looks like. I want you to see that we are a transparent church in these matters and not give under pressure but from knowledge.

At the end of the OT the people of God are struggling. The nation is in ruins, there is hard times and everybody points the finger at GOD (not all that different from our days today). Enter the prophet Malachi. In essence he says to the people: "you have forgotten where your help and blessings come from!"
Malachi 3:10 "Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, [seel if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing."

Only God can open that window and only when we reason/use our APTITUDE can we finally get it: our outer actions reveal our inner devotions. This is certainly not a "prosperity gospel" but an understanding of the overall health of the people of God. When we forget its God's - then we become robbers, keeping back for ourselves what really belongs to God. And here is a little secret: GOD WANTS TO OPEN THE WINDOW! He wants everyone to see how great it is to be his child!
Malachi 3:12 "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," sayi. the LORD Almighty.

This means, stewardship, our handling of money is even more so a spiritual issue. As long as we hold back the first and the best, any one of us, then as individuals and as a church, we rob from God and from the family of faith. It is out of love God calls us to give, that we might be successful Jesus-followers. We know we are called to give.

You'll notice that the offering was taken before my sermon today. I don't want you making any decisions today. Instead, I want you to take the worship guide home today and talk about it, pray about and see where God is calling you to step up. Not with a pledge either but an estimate – estimate on your giving to God in the coming year.

Now, one more wrinkle. So you get this, point, next week I'm going to add two addresses in our worship guide to two churches: Sacred Tapestries UMC in East Cobb and Fellowship UMC in south Paulding. If you're seeing this sermon as me asking for money, then please understand clearly – I want you to give to one of those two churches instead and know that I'm more concerned about your soul and your relationship with God.

God wants to reveal His treasures to you this year and I belief it can start right now.

Treasures of the Lost Art - Attitude

In the spirit of every one of us is the kid who dug in their parents back yard for buried treasure or planned the storming of a great castle or dreamed of discovering a sunken treasure ship in the swimming pool. Where have the great adventures gone? They remain where they always have-in the heart of God who created us to dream and explore and discover. The art of stewardship has escaped our attention for too long and a recovery of its treasures are long overdue!

At its core, stewardship has very little to do with amounts of money. Biblical stewardship is a spiritual issue. Stewardship is simple in that anyone can learn how to do it and discover the treasures. The first is the treasure of attitude, the emotional impact on our lives. Those who live with an attitude of thankfulness and are appreciative of all good things that come their way live with an amazing calm and peace in life. BUT also a true reckless abandon owing to a trust in God.

Like Indiana Jones, to discover the most beautiful artifacts, we must know our history AND accept the risks. The first time we discover the art of stewardship in the history of the Christian faith, it is found in Genesis 4, the story of two brothers: Cain and Abel. The writer records no order by God, no command to give. Again in Genesis 14:20, Abram, gives one tenth of all his possessions from an attitude of thankfulness. His grandson, Jacob does the same thing in 28:22 for the same reason. These were acts of stewardship- people recognizing: these things, this money is really not mine-it belongs to God.

Later in Jewish history, the tithe becomes law but God always examines the heart. Matthew 23:23 records Jesus' words of challenge to those who neglect the true nature of stewardship, that it is a matter of the heart and its purpose is to shape us. " Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (23:23,RSV)

As my journey of faith began and I developed some habits which helped me grow in faith. One of those began when a Christian singer invited me at a concert to adopt a child, you know "for
the cost of a cup of coffee." As a high school junior, I took up that challenge and began to support a little boy named Eduardo in Rwanda. For the next 15 years I gave out of an appreciation for what God had done for me. About six years ago, I said my goodbyes to Eduardo when he turned 18 but I discovered this treasure of stewardship: a thankful heart!

25%, 1/4 of the top stressors which lead to depression relate to financial problems (Minirth & Meier). The number one reason cited by married couples for arguments is financial problems. (Life Innovations/ Prepare and Enrich) There is certainly something seriously wrong with our attitudes about money in our society.
The story of two brothers, Cain and Abel contrasts the two attitudes which are the results found when we give: the moral of the story if you will of first treasure o f the art of stewardship: attitude.

Gen 4:2b And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. Gen 4:3 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Gen 4:4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; Gen 4:5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Gen 4:6 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? Gen 4:7 "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it."

1. Cain and Abel, Cain was a farmer, working hard raising crops. His brother Abel was a shepherd, and worked with livestock. The Bible records that "In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, BUT Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. (Gen. 4:3-4)"

The word "but" indicates a contrast. Most commentators lean towards no judgements in the difference between gifts which Abel and Cain bring. It seems to me there is nothing inherently wrong in giving God fruits or sheep. But certainly there is a difference between "some" and the "first."

2. History again records a contrast in how God responds: "And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard." (Gen. 4:4-5)
John Wesley wrote in essence that it was a matter of character. God does not judge without cause, it is inconsistent with His demonstrated character.

At the heart of Cain's gift lies a resentment at God being Lord of the earth. Possession principle #1 How we use our possessions reveals whose possession we are. It seems Cain with Ids the First, the best for himself. It reveals his heart is not for God.

3. We miss the point of stewardship if we are hoping for mountains of gold, mansions, yachts and lifestyles of the rich and famous. It is out of thankfulness God desires us to give. It is out of concern for us; that we continue on the adventure of discipleship God calls us to give. It is in giving freely, out of a thankful heart we are accepted: it is an acknowledge of His leadership in our lives. Even in giving with the wrong attitude, God tells Cain there is still hope: sin can be overcome. If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it. " (Gen. 4:7, RSV)

Do you live in thankfulness? Do you live with and appreciation of all you have? Do you give, holding back the best for yourself or do you give in the fullness of knowing God is your leader and and you give freely? Consider your story, your history and discover the TREASURE of a life being lived with an ATTITUDE of thanks. I want to live like there is still treasure buried in the backyard and sunken pirate gold to discover. There is more treasure to discover.

State of the Church at Crossroads - Faithing Forward

Yes - yes, I know it is a week late but certain things took precedent, needed actions, reflecting moments and time away in a duck blind with some other pastors sharing our futility and our faith journeys. There has been a great deal of that in my life lately...the working of God in prodding deeper into my soul, into places I mostly do not want to see. Since God has been patient with me, I hope you will humor my slowness of late. But enough of that, I wrote to share the journey of a people today and quite a journey it has been.

The Bible verses for this Sunday begins in the story of the Exodus of Egypt...

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that My wonders will be multiplied in the land of Egypt." (Exo 11:9 NASB) Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, "This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you. "Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, 'On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers' households, a lamb for each household. 'Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. 'Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 'You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. 'Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 'They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 'Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. 'And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. 'Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste--it is the LORD'S Passover. 'For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments--I am the LORD. (Exo 12:1-12 NASB)

It only seems appropriate during my first ever, “state of the church” address to hear a word from someone with more experience than me. In this case, it comes from, Former President Ronald Reagan. When he was younger, an aunt had taken him to a cobbler to have a pair of shoes made for him. (This was before NIKE and New Balance) The shoemaker asked young Ronald Reagan, "Do you want a square toe or a round toe?"
Reagan hemmed and hawed. So the cobbler said, "Come back in a day or two and let me know what you want."
A few days later the shoemaker saw Reagan on the street and asked what he had decided about the shoes. "I still haven't made up my mind," the boy answered. "Very well," said the cobbler.
When Reagan received the shoes, he was shocked to see that one shoe had a square toe and the other a round toe.
"Looking at those shoes every day taught me a lesson," said Reagan years later. "If you don't make your own decisions, somebody else will make them for you!"

My work is words. Whether it is studying the Word, writing with words, or discerning the right words to speak, the use of the right words is central to all I do. I've picked up words the last few weeks and turned them over, looked at them, spoken them, thrown them down and beat them up. The word that rises back to the surface when I think about the state of Crossroads is this – we are 'Faith-ing' it.

Yes, I am using a made up word but it certainly seems to fit us. A noun in action – faith as it should be. You see, picking it up and looking at it is silly – too many have done. As pastors, I confess, I've done it too, we claim faith as a shelf-badge and it collects cob webs and the dust bunnies of our souls try to carry it away.

One of my shelf-badges [self-badge?] is this, “A Purpose Driven Youth Ministry.” It is a book that guided me along with other books and lessons to build a successful, purposeful youth ministry. It also fed my soul, for a time. It is worn out, the dust jacket stolen by dust bunnies. It shaped part of me, to help me see how to live out my purpose and help others do the same.

But in time, as is the case in life, God permits challenges – tragedies – crossroads. Before such challenges came before Pharoah, they came before Moses. They had come to Joseph, to Abraham, to Noah and to others. Always different but all providing the opportunity to follow.

If Pharoah would have listened, nothing more would have been permitted. His voice tends to grow stronger. I like the way Mother Angelica, next door in Alabama, says it, “ He is a gentle God, a loving God. He will follow you until you die. He will continue to reach out to you and hover over you and wait...(pg 29).”

Pharoah had the same opportunity to be remembered as one who “faith-ed” it like Moses.

And how have we “faith-ed it” in our first year?

Celebrated 2 Baptisms
Average attendance has held steady and helped many connect to God (a year after launch w/o scheduled help).
Started a youth ministry here at Crossroads
Started Men's and Women's Ministries
Launched the newest Boy Scout troop in Pickett's Mill District in Troop 2009
Pumped over $800 worth of gas for our gas buy down in September
Provided almost 100 backpacks with school supplies for North Paulding Elementary Schools
Collected over a ton of food with Scouting for Food last March for Helping Hands of Paulding
Sponsored 4 movie nights and work day at Murphy-Harpst Children's Home
Donated computer to Helping Hands of Paulding
Helped collect over 100 Cleaning Buckets to assist with Flood Relief.
Helped the Teems family move out and installed a new door following the floods along with assisting with Samaritan's Purse relief efforts following the floods.
Took on role as Charter Organization for Pack 1916 (80+ scouts).

Each of these are steps of faith we've taken. They represent the prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness we've each taken this year. But what faith-ing steps lie before us?

These are the four areas that I want to address as Crossroads enters 2010 - FAITHING FORWARD

- Calendar year: July-June (our estimated budget is $160,000.00)
- Originally given $25,000 for start-up / raised over $75,000 in addition
- First year – N.Ga Conference/Due West UMC paid my salary & benefits package
- This year – N.Ga.Conf: 2/3 Crossroads: 1/3
- Come July – N.Ga.Conf: 1/3 Crossroads: 2/3
- Giving to the mission of people Connecting, Following and Becoming Disciples on loving act at a time.

- Praying for land & facilities to fulfill mission.
- Seeking for the location

3.Faithful Following
- Series focusing on growing in faith (sermons)
- Serving opportunities
-Growing opportunities (Men's and Womens' – Connection Groups (shorterm))

-Telling others
-Inviting others
-Going to others

We are called now to faith forward. Not looking so much backwards as it is looking directly to Jesus. The sovereign God has made us people, not puppets. We have His Word to guide us, His love to redeem us, and His assurance that we are capable of faithing forward!

For the MP3 of this sermon, visit

I Think It's Time to Trade In the Multi-tool

This fall for my birthday I got a 6 – in – 1 fleece hood for hunting. You gotta see it! To start, it is a hood, a neck warmer, a hat and even turns into a stuff sack if you need it! It goes great with my multi-tool so I don't have to carry a bunch of little tools into the woods – one will do. Of course, anyone of us with a iPhone, a DSi or almost any electronic, is carrying a multi-tool of technology. They are great to do it all...or are they?

Admit it, we're in the midst of New Year's resolutions and re-evaluating our lives right now anyway so why don't we all come clean. Just how many “hats” do you wear? How many activities are you really involved in doing? From the tasks of laundry, to chauffeur, from business executive to coach, from PTA parent to couch potato, we make choices, always, to do something with our time.

We truly cannot do it all, have it all or be “all that and a bag of chips.”

I do not want you to feel guilty. Most of what we all have going on is good, maybe we enjoy all of it or we know it broadens our kids' life experiences. But somewhere all the doing causes us to miss out on just being.

Jesuit Priest and paleontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said, “we are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.” It is that spiritual piece, our soul that is easily forgotten. Jesus said we are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”(Mark 12:30). Heart – Soul – Mind – Strength. Nope, not quite a multi-tool. It sounds more like a basic pocketknife approach. I think I can handle that balance.

Someone once called it “soul tending.” For me, it is making time in the morning after a workout, to read, write, pray, and take time to do soul work. For some of my friends, it means sitting in a deer stand and for others, it is a cup and an online devotional reading. For some, it is quiet moments in the carpool line with God. I know for some, one hour on the sabbath day is all they can find.

This year, consider putting away a multi-tool approach to life and picking up a pocketknife approach. I have no doubt that it will be good for your soul and for the souls around you.

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