Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

Posts tagged ‘#hope’

Can we all be a bit more like Angela please?

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Psalm 131 (NIRV)

A song for those who go up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. A psalm of David.

Lord, my heart isn’t proud.
My eyes aren’t proud either.
I don’t concern myself with important matters.
I don’t concern myself with things that are too wonderful for me.
I have made myself calm and content
like a young child in its mother’s arms.
Deep down inside me, I am as content as a young child.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forever.

I’ve just come home after attending the funeral of one of our Good News Group members.  Angela had Down’s Syndrome and lived to be 61.  She lived with her family and was part of a church that loved and accepted her as she was.  She’d been at the GNG for many years but hadn’t been attending for almost a year due to being ill….but she is and always will be part of our family.  We will miss her very much.

You see Angela didn’t have very many words but those she did have she used to great effect.  She introduced herself to everyone – literally everyone – by going up to them with a huge smile on her face and greeting them with “Hello, my name is Angela” in a beautiful sing song voice.

Angela loved handbags, football and colouring in.  She loved music and singing worship songs and got so excited when we had puppets that we used to just get them out of the box and sit one next to her, just to share in her delight.  She had a twinkle in her eye that told us when she was joking or pulling our leg and Jesus shone in her and from her every pore. And Angela could say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” because that came from one of her favourite films.

Angela was never judgemental.  She had no regard for status or rank.  She treated everyone the same whether she liked you or you had done something that annoyed her (although she was never mad for long).   Angela lived each day just for that day and didn’t seem to worry about the future.  She did love and engage with everyone around her, no matter who you were.   The Queen would have had the same greeting as a pauper.

A bit like the Jesus I know.

I’m tired of people being excluded from church families because they are different, don’t fit the mould or are the wrong kind of person.  “Are you disabled? Well, you can’t do this or that.   Are you a woman…then, you can’t do this or that.  Are you LGBT?…then, you can’t do this or that.  Are you a foreigner?…well you can’t do this or that.  Can’t you keep you disabled child quiet?…then you can’t do this or that.  Are you mentally ill?…then you can’t do this or that.  We can’t have our churches run by these kinds of people.”  

 Did Jesus make up these categories…I don’t think so…

But these are the messages I hear from all kinds of Christians and church people.  We’re all shouting at each other and no-one seems to be listening.  (Except maybe the outside world who think what are they on about?!)

So, in my grief today I was reminded that Jesus came for all of mankind.  That no-one is excluded unless they think they don’t need him.   I want to be more like Angela and accept everyone, just as they are.  I am working it out as He teaches me what that looks like in practice.  I’m willing to be shown where I’ve got it wrong –  by the Spirit working in and through the people and situations I meet.   At the moment I don’t even know if I want to part of ‘the church’ in this country that’s doing a lot of shouting – but not about the gospel, only at each other.  But I expect God will sort my thoughts out about that eventually.

So will you join me in being more like Angela?  Angela’s name means “MESSENGER OF GOD” and here’s her message. It’s simple really.  Open up your arms and greet people in the name of Jesus.   No matter who they are.

Multi-Ethnic Group Of People Holding The Word Welcome

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Just do something…

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Hello Faithful blog readers and new-to-this-blog visitors.

I have been thinking about who you might be, apart from comments, me reading your blogs or if I know you on another media there are very few clues as to who you are.

All I hope is that the insights, thoughts and advice I can share will help someone somewhere feel more confident and able to reach out to people with learning disabilities in their life and church.

Have you ever taken time out of your busy life just to reflect, pray and contemplate with God?  Was it last week, or last year, or even years ago?  There is great value in doing this but then there is the hurdle of actually doing it – organising work, family, life – to make a bit of space for you…and then we feel guilty.

But we mustn’t feel guilty…

This week I have made some space to reflect, seek God and to chat to people I trust about trying new things, dealing with hurdles and what seem to be huge mountains in the inclusion of people with learning disabilities in our churches.  I am fortunate to have two very supportive leaders at church who both are very encouraging, willing and wise in working towards a more inclusive church.  Both realise that we have a long way to go and both realise how far we have come.

The conclusion I have drawn from their wisdom is that we must not give into fear.  When we don’t know what to do, fear can imprison us and we end up doing nothing. Therefore as one of them so wisely put it ‘what ever we do will be something this time next year we weren’t doing already.’

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So my plea and encouragement to you is to just do something…anything…that makes a small faltering step forward. And here are just a few suggestions…

  • Say hello, introduce yourself and ask their name to someone who has learning disabilities in your church, supermarket, street, any place.  Adult or child. Then pray for them.
  • Offer to do something practical at a group for people with learning disabilities – make the tea, clean up, put the tables out…anything really that helps and gives you chance to acclimatise to being around people with learning disabilities. you can then watch how others speak and interact with them and learn from their example.
  • Meet with parents of a child with additional needs for a tea and cake session.  Just listen and maybe ask them what THEY would like you to know and how could you pray for them. Then keep in touch and do what you promised – pray!
  • Ask God to take away your fear and bring opportunities to try out the new courage he gives you…
  • If you are a church or Sunday School leader use more visual images, slow down, break things into chunks and use objects that stimulate the senses.  You’d be surprised at how many more people would engage with your talks – not just PLD!
  • Think of where you’d like to be, what you’d like to be able to see in your church or group to make it inclusive. See it as a step on a tall staircase and then step onto the first step no-matter how far away the goal seems to be.

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  • Don’t think you are alone. We Are the Body of Christ and we were meant to work together. Network via social media, blogs and other people in your church, diocese, look at inclusive church websites and email them for a chat…I would support, help and encourage any of you and I know many others would too – just look at some of the people and organisations I have linked up with below.

Finally – who are you?  What are you doing reading this blog?  What are your simple ideas that would help others JUST DO SOMETHING?

My networks:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/additionalneedsalliance/  – you can apply to join this group – so many great people to connect and share with.

http://www.prospects.org.uk/index.php/whatwedo/2/7  – a charity our Good News Group is supported by.

http://www.throughtheroof.org/ourprogramme/churches-inc  – lots of good resources and is developing regional networks.

http://www.careforthefamily.org.uk/Family+life/parent-support/parenting_additional_challenges/additional_needs_support – just full of care!

http://musingsofakidsworker.blogspot.co.uk – Kay’s blog which is very informative.

http://www.snappin.org/   and their blog (do sign up for by email – daily encouragement!)  http://www.snappin.org/#!blogger-feed/cund  An American Special Needs Ministry that is amazing.

http://www.acceptrespectconnect.co.uk/  – just look at what they do!

 

 

 

 

When we want to run away. (God and Elijah.)

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Run away or stay and fight?

Elijah’s story is an exciting one. He stands up to the evil King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who kill all of God’s prophets except him because he has run away in fear after declaring God’s judgement that a drought is coming. He is brought food in the desert by ravens, runs away again to a far away town, a widow feeds him and her jar of grain never runs out, then God brings the woman’s son back from the dead. In the nail-biting climax, Elijah goes back to King Ahab and challenges all the false god Baal’s prophet’s to a duel of fire…and the one true God of Elijah wins, hands down. Finally proving that Baal can’t do anything, the Israelites turn back to their God and it rains again.

We are always pleasantly encouraged by how our Good News Group of adults with learning disabilities love to listen to and join in the stories from the old testament. They seem to grasp the drama and the tension, learning the ‘Goodies’ and the ‘Baddies’ names and cheering when God steps in, intervenes and saves his people. We have explored some interesting, flawed and surprisingly ‘normal’ characters and I think we have learned a lot through their flaws and how God used them anyway. We are learning that God can use us, that we are not useless or broken even if society looks down on us and doesn’t realise what we are capable of. We are learning that we have Jesus as our saviour and to follow him means that God WILL use us. We are part of the body of the church that belongs to Jesus Christ and no disability excludes anyone from that.

Elijah’s story has spoken to me about what we do in the most difficult situations in our lives. I have had times when the situation has been so hard and threatening that all I have wanted to do was escape. Each day I have prayed for God to give me the ability to persevere and stick it out for my own spiritual growth and maturity. I have prayed for those who hurt me and for blessings upon those who present themselves as my enemy. I’m sure as Christians we all have been in similar situations. Jesus warned us that in this life we will have trouble. But he came to carry our burdens and rescue us for eternity.

But do you know what? I am a coward. In threatening situations all I want to do is get out. Looking back, I used to feel great shame and disappointment that I had given into fear and run away. But whilst studying Elijah I had a change of mind. See how God was with him when he ran away from Ahab and Jezebel. God didn’t reprimand him and send him right back in there to face the enemy. No, he tended to him, gave him a safe place to rest and renew his strength by the brook. He took care of Elijah’s basic needs by sending the ravens with food each day. When the brook dried up, he sent him to another place of safety and provision. It wasn’t until Elijah was fully restored, built up by the experiences of God’s power and miracles, that he sent him back to do the job of standing up to his enemies.

Elijah Prophets of Baal FINAL

Take heart, if you are in a place where you are struggling and want to escape. Do ask God to strengthen you each day and he will Often that will be good and get you through. But sometimes it seems that running away, leaving, failing even…is all we have left to do. Know that God, through the saving grace of his son Jesus, is able to restore us and lift us up. I have heard of marriages, families, drug addicts and lives restored by an awesome, amazing, faithful and kind Lord God of all creation. And once restored, we can fight the battles in HIS strength – and see HIS power just like Elijah did.

Amen to that!

 

I failed…

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This week  is one of my rare personal posts. I have always intended this blog to be about ministry to people with additional needs but as is often the case, I find myself learning and being challenged along the way.  Sometimes I am very challenged.

This week I have failed…and failed a lot. No matter how much time and effort I put into doing the right things, striving to do all that is expected of me and still have time for people, Bible study and prayer….I fail.

This week I have let people down.

I have forgotten important things…like a family birthday.

I failed to reach certain standards at work and didn’t get some things done by the deadline.

I have hurt people because I said the wrong thing, or snapped at them, or couldn’t spend enough time with them.

I couldn’t cope with other people’s problems so I hid away.

I didn’t do something I should have and caused a lot of upset to someone because of it.

This week I failed and failed and it made me feel crap.

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The way out of the pit.

One thing I have learned as a Christian is that God can truly meet all my needs. He promises me that if I trust in Jesus there is no condemnation from him for me.  I am set free from guilt and sin…..WOW!

I need to remember to go to Him in prayer and ask him for what I need. This week I need to ask for forgiveness, mercy, memory, the ability to sort out what is really important from what is not….and rest….yes…rest (PLEASE!). It is a lesson I have been learning for years and each time God takes me a little deeper into knowing and trusting him.

This week his answer to me is this….

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
 Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
This week I will still fail, let people down, not be good enough, forget things and upset people.  But don’t you notice it too….we live in a world that is constantly judging, measuring and reporting on our worthiness.  And I bet that you sometimes don’t live up to these standards too.
But what about God’s standards?
His is perfection.
But we can’t live up to that if we can’t even live up to this messed up world’s standards.
Then we thank God that he sent his son Jesus. The only one who ever lived a perfect life because we cannot.  He died for our failures, sins and evil ways.  He died to be our saviour.
So next week I am going to remember that God sees me as perfect through Jesus, because when we put our trust in Jesus this is the promise we receive.
To my family, friends, colleagues at work and in ministry I am sorry when I fail you.  Where I can I will put it right.  Where I can’t I will ask you to forgive me and let God’s grace restore us and make our weaknesses show HIS strength and power at work in us.
Thank you for listening.

 

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