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Let the Joy Begin

Joy 2015

It has started, and this year it is already so much more. More joy.  More dresses.  More excitment.  Joy Prom is seven weeks away.

Our church, the creator and host of Joy Prom, has dresses and tuxes at no cost for the honored guests. So, on a joyful Tuesday evening, Savannah and I met up with Ms B and Ms D.  Ms B is the large-hearted woman who co-ordinates not only Joy Prom but the special needs ministry at our church, and Ms D is Savannah’s personal angel who makes personalized lessons every Sunday just for Savannah to learn the greatness of God. They are our blessings.

We arrived at the church for Savannah’s personal fitting. Like some upscale store catering to a movie star, dresses were brought in and shoes were laid out and accessories were bountiful and pop-tarts and VeggieTales were there on demand.

For over an hour, Savannah was Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly, Betty Davis. She tried on purple dresses, black dresses, pink dresses of one shade and then another, Dresses with sequences. Dresses with layers. Dresses with many colours. The child with sensory issues wore bracelettes and rings. Eventually, she settled on an off-red, one-strapped dress with flowing scarf, accented by silver sparkly three-inch heels. Her first pair of heels. She chose, out of all of the shoes showered at her feet, her first pair of heels. I took my little girl to try on dresses and an hour later left with a beautiful excited young lady.

Savannah left that evening with a new dress, a purse, jewelry and of course shoes. More importantly, she left happy, confident and feeling both beautiful and loved.

Seven weeks before prom: let the Joy begin.


B-A-B-Y doesn’t always spell Baby

Savannah was an early talker, but more impressively, an early reader.  I’m certain I wrote it in my obsessive list of Savannah’s accomplishments, but my memory only places it around very, very early.  I am certain, however, that it was at Super Target, during a time when we lived in a dingy apartment.  We had one car we divided between us, so errands were run in the evening, after a day of baby care and a sleepless night.   I was exhausted and spent, trying to pinch pennies and calculate coupons.  Savannah sat in the basket listening to me ramble, describing everything around us, everything in the cart, everything we needed and couldn’t afford.

“Bay-bee!” Savannah interrupted.

“What are you saying?” I asked, the way any parent would  It is the automatic relex that kicks in even when you’re half asleep.  It replies and encourages without demanding any thought on the parent’s part.

“Bay-bee!”  Savannah demanded thought.  She reached and squirmed in the basket for an object behind me.  I began to back the cart up to find the interesting object, to stop the squirming.  We weren’t close to toys, and I found my curiosity piquing. Then she snatched it, dragging it off the hook and into her chubby little hands.  It was a small black purse with a chain shoulder strap, a chain draping across the front and silver charm letters which hung ever few links:  B-A-B-Y

Months later, while looking through a Clifford book at Barnes and Noble, waiting for the weekly story time, it happened again. Whle I read the words circling around Emily Elizabeth, Savannah yells “Ahh-Choooo!”  They were the letters arching over Clifford’s sneeze on the next page, blowing the fall leaves in his path.

A few months later, it happened again, with a most annoying book about busy bees. The book hummed the bzzzzzz of the bees with each page turned.  She opened the book to the first page, “Biz-beez.  Biz-beez.”

And then it stopped.

It has been years since those spontaneous readings.  It was a skill she lost after losing speech.  A skill that gave us hope her speech would return, until it was gone as well.  Now, she has a closet full of purses.  Pink, purple, black with fur.  Yellow, blue and green quilted.  Velcro-able with PECS, knitted and woven, laced and lined with glitter and sequins.  What she doesn’t have, is the ability to read B-A-B-Y.


All That Glitters May Be Bronze: Area 3 Special Olympics

20130513-104122.jpgI remember listening to my aunts voice. My amazing aunt who faced intellectual disabilities in poverty, during a time when knowledge and opportunities were scarce. I was nine years old, and her voice was distant and metallic, echoing over the answering machine, crackling into the air. Crooked letters stumbled on top of each other, creating long indecipherable slurs, but the elation was evident. “I got a silver.” The words were charged. They popped like fireworks made of glitter and trickled through the air until they faded leaving behind currents of sparks for me to breathe.

Friday was Savannah’s forth Track & Field with the TN Area 3 Special Olympics. When the day started with giggles, and the clock whimpered, “4:00,” the air was already electric. It pulsed and thrived with a charged excitement that made my flesh tingle, as i fumbled to make coffee. Whether bowling, bocce or track & field, Special Olympics days usually begin at 3:00am. There’s too much excitement to stay wrapped in dreams. Friday, i was fortunate enough to sleep until 4:00.

Savannah’s first special Olympics proved to be overwhelming, for both of us. There were athletes ranging from eight years old to well over sixty. There were athletes in wheelchairs, unable to move their heads; athletes that barely met the mental cusp; athletes, like Savannah, non-verbal and in need of a constant aide. Every athlete there, from Down Syndrome to Autism to Cerebral Palsy, brimmed and overflowed with the thrill of competition and impending glittering medals. Chatter filled the auditorium, accompanied by excited squeals and the squeaks of wheelchairs. Sweaty palms and pounding hearts echoed off the steel dome and wood-clipped floor. We were shuffled and shifted and caught up in the current of intensity which left us physically exhausted and emotionally drained with two bronze medals of courage in tote. Savannah had been confused and overwhelmed, standing at the 50 meter dash and then later running the dash at the softball throw, but at some point through the chaos, the current of excitement soaked through her flesh, poisoning her blood, causing her skin to glow. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I discovered how much of the event she had actually understood. Before bed one night, I slipped into her room for one last blanket-check. I found her well tucked, sleeping with her lips curled into a soft pink smile, her fingers tightly clinging to a bronze medal.

Four years later, we were veterans. The electricity and excitement serging through our veins. Savannah held her aide’s hand during the Parade of Athletes, stopping to smile for pictures. Flashes refracted of her pale skin, causing it to shimmer. Anxiously, she pulled and dragged us to her first event, the 50 meter dash, twenty minutes before the event. The year before we had practiced every evening. This year it had rained the month before. “Go!” Rang out, muffled and stifled by cheering. Amazing athletes ran on either side of Savannah. She stood in the middle lane, her head buried in her arms, her eyes squeezed closed. Her aide encouraged her a few steps, but her eyes and head remained hidden. After the other athletes were finished, after they were congratulated and given their times, Savannah’s aide was still walking with her down the lane. Savannah finally crossed the line, never once looking up. She stood stoic on the risers, receiving her bronze, refusing to smile.

As soon as we returned to the other athletes on her team, the giggling began. The weight of bronze resting against her heart had charged it. It was irrelevant she hadn’t run. She had finished. She had been overwhelmed, but more importantly she had overcome. The other athletes had run faster, but Savannah had worked harder for each step, and now there were fireworks vibrating within her.

The energy of the day was starting to wear on all of us by the time her second event arrived. It was time to throw the softball. For her birthday, we had given her a softball. A reflective green softball to lead her practice. To lead her to the silver, which it did after an eight-foot throw. Physically exhausted, emotionally tired, and anxious to leave the currents of electricity behind, she accepted her second silver medal.

We spent the evening physically drained and emotionally charged, with finger foods and movies and giggling. Visiting grandmothers, in town for the electric event, lounged with pride and satisfaction seeping through their flesh, secretly hoping for an early bedtime. For Savannah, the thrill carried through the weekend, as she insisted on wearing her Special Olympics athletic outfit to church on Sunday. The girlie fashionista, usually wearing pink and purple and fur and leopard print and boots and glitter, instead wore sneakers, an athletic skort and the dark blue Area 3 t-shirt. Her fashion statement screamed what she couldn’t: how incredibly proud she was of her accomplishment and, like all of us, how ready she was for next year’s fireworks.




















Spiritual Not Physical

Gospel of Luke

(21:16-19) You will be betrayed even by parents, brother, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  But not a hair of your head will perish.  By standing firm you will gain life.

Gospel of John

(3:1-12) Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?

(4:23,24) God is Spirit and his worshippers must worship in spirit and truth.

(6:63) The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.

 Gospel of Thomas

(13) Jesus said to his disciples, “Compare me to something and tell me what I am like.” Simon Peter said to him, “You are like a just messenger.” Matthew said to him, “You are like a wise philosopher.” Thomas said to him, “Teacher, my mouth is utterly unable to say what you are like.” Jesus said, “I am not your teacher. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring that I have tended.” And he took him, and withdrew, and spoke three sayings to him. When Thomas came back to his friends they asked him, “What did Jesus say to you?”

Thomas said to them, “If I tell you one of the sayings he spoke to me, you will pick up rocks and stone me, and fire will come from the rocks and devour you.”

(14) Jesus said to them, “If you fast, you will bring sin upon yourselves, and if you pray, you will be condemned, and if you give to charity, you will harm your spirits.

When you go into any region and walk about in the countryside, when people take you in, eat what they serve you and heal the sick among them. After all, what goes into your mouth will not defile you; rather, it’s what comes out of your mouth that will defile you.”

(51) His disciples said to him, “When will the rest for the dead take place, and when will the new world come?”

He said to them, “What you are looking forward to has come, but you don’t know it.”

(113) His disciples said to him, “When will the kingdom come?”

“It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, ‘Look, here!’ or ‘Look, there!’ Rather, the Father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don’t see it.”

I Corinthians

(15:35-55) But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
  If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.  So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.  The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.  The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall webear the likeness of the man from heaven.

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory? 
Where, O death, is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


(3) He was not referring to man’s natural birth from his mother, as they thought, but to the re-birth and recreation of the soul in the Image of God.

(7) You must know, moreover, that the corruption which had set in was not external to the body but established within it.

(8) Christ alone, using common speech and through the agency of men not clever with their tongues, has convinced whole assemblies of people all over the world over to despise death, and to take heed to the things that do not die, to look past the things of time and   gaze on things eternal, to think nothing of earthly glory and to aspire only to immortality.

Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus

(6) Also according to John (3:5, 6):  “Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  For that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

(12) Moreover, He says in the same place (in the Gospel of John 6:53):  Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye shall have no life in you.”

Gary DeMar

(1) Notice that the disciples did not ask about the dissolution of the physical heaven and earth or the judgment of the “world” (kosmos).


(12) And, therefore, our Lord and Saviour rightly says to those who suppose that God ought only to be worshipped in Jerusalem, or in certain mountains, or some definite places:

“The hour cometh and now is when the true worshippers shall neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem worship the Father.  For God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (Jn 4:21-23)

(14) As He (Jesus) said. . . “Worship not with incense and sacrifices, but in spirit and in truth.”

Ward Fenley

(1) There were no hopes in physical realities, only a certain hope that every aspect of God’s promises of a spiritual everlasting kingdom was about to  be fulfilled

T. Francis Glasson

(1) The conclusion reached is that while Jesus foresaw the fall of Jerusalem and the ultimate triumph of His cause, He did not Himself expect a literal descent from the sky in glory, either in the near future or later.

(1) The great spiritual realities which have been preserved through the centuries by these conceptions are still valid today and they include the final victory and the vindication of Christ, the certainty of judgment and the assurance of reunion.

(2) It was on the strength of this that Rabbi Moses had argued that the world was by no means made for man’s use and that therefore any renewal of the world spoken of in Scripture must be metaphorical, in the sense that the sun shines brighter to one in joy.

Ernest Hampton-Cook

(14) The earthly Canaan, the earthly Jerusalem, the earthly temple, gave place to the heavenly.  The throne of David was more than restored in the establishment of the heavenly Kingdom of David’s greater Son.

(24) The changed circumstances in which we live justify a departure from apostolic forms, but never from the apostolic spirit.

J. Marcellus Kik

(1) In the Psalms there is no thought of a personal, visible coming of the Lord, but rather references to his judgment and power.

Bishop Thomas Newton

(1) Their pretensions  were  accommodated to the carnal expectation of the Jews, and withal were backed by force and violence, and yet could not succeed and prosper:  on the contrary, the religion of Jesus was spiritual, disclaimed all force, and took the way (humanly speaking) not to prevail, and yet prevailed against all the power and opposition of the world.

N. Nisbett

– For as God’s reign over the Jews, entirely ended with the abolition of the temple, so the reign of Christ, in spirit and in truth, had then its first beginning.


(1) For all material and corporeal things. whatever they be, have no more value than a feeble and fleeting shadow.

(2) He that has understood what is meant by the beauty of the bride whom the Bridegroom, the Word of God, loves, that is to say, of the soul blooming with beauty supercelestial and spuramundane, will be ashamed to honour with the same term “beauty” the bodily beauty of woman or child or man.  The flesh is incapable of real beauty, since it is all ugliness.

(2) How can the spirit that has considered the immovable kingdom of Christ, do otherwise than contemn as utterly worthless every earthly kingdom?

(8) Flesh which profiteth nothing, and blood which is akin to flesh, cannot possess the kingdom of God.

Hannah M.G. Sharepa

– In the Gathas Spenta Mainyu, the “Holy Creative Spirit,” is opposed to Angra Mainyu, the Hostile Spirit. This conflict takes place in the human heart and mind, not in the material Universe. It is the constant struggle between good and evil in human beings. (Zoroastrianism)

 Milton S. Terry

(1) A strictly literal interpretation of such pictorial modes of thought leads only to absurdity.


(5) For it is not by earthly sacrifices but by spiritual that offering is to be made to God, we thus read as it is written “An heart contribulate and humbled is a victim for God” (Ps. 51:17).

(6) Therefore, since it is manifest that a Sabbath temporal was shown, and a Sabbath eternal foretold; a circumcision carnal foretold, and a circumcision spiritual pre-indicated; a law temporal and a law eternal formally declared; sacrifices carnal and sacrifices spiritual foreshown; it follows that, after all these precepts had been given carnally, in time preceding, to the people Israel,  there was to supervene a time whereat the precepts of the  ancient Law and of the  old ceremonies would cease, and the promise of the new law, and the recognition of spiritual sacrifices, and the promise of the New Testament, supervene while the light from on high would beam upon us  who were sitting in darkness and were being detained in the  shadow of death.

(Lady Ophelia)

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