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Monday, January 14, 2013

Acts 2:28
In the course of visiting Raymond, a 95 year old resident at the Fairmount nursing home, we saw this passage written on a wall.
(Click here to enlarge)

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"The Blessing Of Being Loved"

"The LORD your God loves you" (Deuteronomy 23:5b).

Kroger signAs a young teen age boy I got my very first real job as a sacker at a Kroger Grocery Store in Independence, Missouri. (Sacker is the job title in the south, bagger is used in the north.) I can rarely resist striking up a conversation with a bagger in a grocery store, if I've never met him, and reminisce aloud of my young years as a sacker at Kroger.

Inevitably Brooksyne and/or Ester will roll their eyes and give me that look that says, "Oh no, here he goes again." Since Kroger is not a local grocery store most of the baggers just listen politely as I rattle on about being a bagger over 40 years ago at Kroger. After a little more conversation I notice the exchange of glances between the bagger and Brooksyne which quickly brings my reminiscing to an abrupt ending.

Our pastor shared an interesting story yesterday that we especially identified with. Several of our local grocery stores use the mentally challenged to bag groceries and perhaps where you live as well. Pastor John alluded to an article from the Gospel Greats newsletter titled, "What I Learned From The Bag Boy" by Al Keeney which I want to share today:

Down Syndrome boy bagging groceriesI had noticed the young man bagging groceries before. He took his job seriously and worked at it diligently. It's not easy for a person with Downs Syndrome to find a job and he appreciated the opportunity to do something useful and earn his own money.

That particular day he bagged my groceries and placed them carefully in the cart for me. I thanked him and moved to push the cart out the door. After all, I'm a man! I can carry my own groceries. But he would have nothing of that. He informed me that that was his job.

I said, "OK," and he followed me out to my car. I opened the trunk and he put the bags in. I smiled and said, "Thank you."

Suddenly, he put his arms around me and said, "I like you!" I said the only thing I could say, "I like you, too."

Over the years I have read hundreds of books on a wide variety of subjects; I have heard countless sermons and preached hundreds myself; I have witnessed several remarkable, even historic events. But you know, I don't remember any of those things as clearly as I recall that simple expression of innocent love.

Now, some will say, "When you see that young man in Heaven, he will be made whole." In other words, they think he will be like the rest of us.

But I wonder...

I wonder if, when by God's grace I am made whole, I won't be more like that young man than he like me. You see, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)." My friend, the bag boy, was blessed with all those qualities and none of the pride or meanness that so often afflicts me.

When we get to heaven, few of the abilities we value so highly here will matter very much. And honestly now, would you like to spend eternity debating the finer points of physics or theology or fine art with some world renowned authority, or would you rather spend it singing in the choir seated next to a kid who is not embarrassed to give you a hug and tell you that he likes you?

Sandy w/ Ester (about 1998)
We were touched as Pastor read this story yesterday in the midst of his sermon. Brooksyne, Ester and I were sitting next to each other in the pew and we nodded with a smile as Ester said in a loud whisper, "It reminds me of Sandy". Sandy had Downs Syndrome and attended our church in New England. We came to love her just about as much as she loved us. I don't think you can ever "out-love" one who has downs. (Photo: Ester, as a young girl, hugging Sandy.)

Sandy's niece and husband lovingly cared for her many years after her mother was no longer able to do so. Every Sunday morning Sandy would rise at the crack of dawn, get dressed in her Sunday best, Bible in hand. The longer she waited for her aunt to get up the more frustrated she got, certain that she was going to be late for church (hours before it was even time to go)!

Similar to the bag boy who put his arms around Al Keeney and said, "I like you!" my mind wandered to a memorable Sunday when Sandy let the whole congregation know she liked her pastor.  I was preaching from the pulpit and made a point with an extra degree of energy and enthusiasm which stirred a more than usual round of hearty amens from the congregation. It prompted Sandy to turn around from the second row pew where she always sat and blurt out very loudly with a broad smile, "I lub my Patur".  (In Sandy's language lub meant "love" and Patur was "Pastor".) Now I know many preachers are happy to get an "Amen" or "hallelujah", but I may be the only preacher in America that morning that got the vocal affirmation, "I lub my Patur!"

Our church loved Sandy as well. She felt safe and secure. She experienced what I consider one of the most important functions of the local church; to be loved and accepted in a safe setting.

* She was accepted for the unique gifts that she brought to the church body.
* She was accepted as a reminder that all life is precious.
* She was accepted for the very perspective on life that she brought.

Who is it that needs to know of your love and acceptance today?

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Loving Father, You give us treasures that go far beyond monetary accounting. They  include special people in our lives, those categorized as mentally impaired, who lift our soul, bring a different perspective to life, and confound the most educated among us. They teach us a great deal about survival, overcoming, and simple trust. Their value of life is based not on the artificial but on the genuine. They show us that You have a special plan for each of us, no matter the challenge or how difficult the hardship. Thank You, Father, for bringing these precious souls into our lives so that we can be of blessing to them just as they are of great worth to us. We really do need each other. Amen.

Brooksyne's Note: The mention of Sandy's name brings about many memories but I'll just share one. I think that Sandy's mother taught her to have a special love toward her pastors over the years since the pastor before our arrival also had a special relationship with her. One Sunday morning Stephen happened to sit on the same pew as Sandy during Sunday School. She scooted her way toward his end of the pew so she could sit near her pastor, but then I kind of messed things up when I came in a few minutes later. I asked her to scoot down a little so I could sit next to Stephen. She crossed her arms
(the ones that spoke silently but with her added smirk communicated, "I don't wanna"). She did anyway but during most of the Sunday School hour I had to endure the sideways glance of Sandy's "silent wrath" as expressed in the crossed arms, squinted eyes, and upside down smile.

One More Note: Darrenkamps, our local family owned grocery store has hired the mentally challenged to bag groceries for many years. One man, probably in his 30's has great difficulty seeing. In fact many times the cashier has to help him as he bags groceries. More than once I've been in a hurry and found myself growing impatient. But then I am immediately convicted by the Holy Spirit as I realize the overcoming it takes for this man to work and for his company to work with him. I was so moved one day that I sought out the manager of the store. The assistant manager was in charge that day and came out to see me, probably expecting to hear some kind of complaint as they are accustomed to hearing. Instead I told him how I really respected and admired them for hiring those with special needs. We got into a lengthy conversation and he shared that he himself has a son with special needs. He was especially grateful for the positive feedback.

In Friday's message we inquired about songs regarding being the salt of the earth. A thoughtful reader suggested "Salt of the Earth" by Paul Colman Trio. However I was unable to find a YouTube version.

Another reader commenting on our remark concerning attempts to remove all semblance of our Christian heritage from the public square wondered if we had read of the incident that just occurred in the Jackson City (Ohio) Middle School.

She wrote: This school has had a picture of Jesus on display since 1947, a gift of a club from that time. The group Freedom From Religion Foundation and the ACLU are pressuring the superintendent Phil Howard to remove the picture. Superintendent Howard has steadfastly refused to do so. I wrote him an email today lauding his resoluteness. By doing this I hoped to keep him encouraged. Please pray for this courageous educator. Amen

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

"In Heaven's Eyes"
 Video  Matt Spencer "In heaven's eyes there are no losers"

"Amazing Love"
 Video  Newsboys

I'm forgiven, because You were forsaken.
I'm accepted, You were condemned.
I'm alive and well. Your Spirit is within me
Because You died and rose again.

Source of today's quoted article is from The Gospel Greats newsletter.

a message to Stephen & Brooksyne

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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