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The Day a Mentally Disabled Woman Taught Me How to Pray

The Day a Mentally Disabled Woman Taught Me How to Pray

The Bible says in Romans 8:26-27 that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Sometimes you preach sermons. Sometimes you watch them. I’m not here to split theological hairs over the interpretations and applications of Romans 8:26-27, I just want to share with you what I saw and heard last Sunday.  

After our late service two ladies approached me with some urgency and excitement about a conversation they didn’t know how to handle. One of the ladies, Julie, had brought with her two adults, a male and a female, who have mental handicaps and are under the care and supervision of one of her family members. Julie explained the situation.

The lady of the two was physically in her fifties, but mentally still a child. Sadly, Julie also shared with me that the lady's body is eaten up with cancer, but she cannot comprehend her diagnosis. 

At the end of the service this lady looked at Julie and said, “I want to be baptized.”

“Brian, I don’t know what to tell her.”  After Julie had explained to me the situation in full, I was thinking, “Julie, I don’t know what to tell her either” but I said, “Let me talk with her.”

How do you explain salvation to someone who doesn’t even comprehend that they have cancer?  How do you help a person understand the importance of baptism when they have are incapable of making any decision for themselves?

So I sat down.  Not sure of her and not sure of myself, but certain of God’s Word.  And so I began to read: John 3:16, then Romans 3:10, 5:8 and so on.  I wasn’t sure she could read, but the more I read, the more she looked on as if she were reading along with me.

She answered every question I asked her.  She responded to each turn of my presentation.  I explained to her the reason we are baptized is that we decide to repent of sin and receive Christ as our Savior.  I explained the incredible image of death being brought to life that we demonstrate in Baptism.  No problem there, I’ve done it countless times.

It was the next part that was a struggle for me.  Typically I encourage a person to pray on their own. I do not lead a person in prayer for fear that they would only repeat my words thinking them as a magic potion from a preacher necessary for salvation.  This is where Baptists can split hairs and I have split a head full of them.  It is ironic that we Baptists want to make sure everyone knows God saves but we trip all over ourselves trying to explain how the Almighty does it.  We claim God is sovereign, but we want to make sure that we don’t mess it up.  Go figure.

So there I am, once again, figuring out for God how “we” are going to do this.  In this special case, I decided that I would lead her in prayer.  So, I explained to her what that meant.  

“I will say a few words, and then you say them with your mouth, but mean them with your heart.”  

“I’ll try,” she said.

What I meant was, say what I say AFTER I say it.  What she thought I meant was, say what I say WHEN I say it.  What she said she would “try” was an intellectual impossibility of which she was especially grossly incapable. 

And then the Spirit interceded.

I said, “Dear God.”  She said, “Dear God” at the exact moment as I.  Coincidental, not impossible.  Not surprising that anyone would guess that you start out a prayer, “Dear God.”  

But there was no way she could have known the sentences that I would use next, but with each thing I said, she would pick up about midway through the second word and say verbatim what I was saying at the exact time I said it.  

“I know that I have done wrong. . .”

  “I know that I have done wrong. . .”

“and the Bible calls that sin.”

         “the Bible calls that sin.”

If I prayed 100 words, she might have missed five of them, but only in delay.  If there were 100 words, she prayed 95 of them AS they came out of my mouth, not AFTER.

This Sunday we are scheduled to baptize her.  I am tempted to let her baptize me! 

Jesus said that we turn and become like children that we would never enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3).  In sitting before a mentally challenged woman and trying to figure out what God “could and would” do for her, I received a three-fold lecture on what it means to be saved, what it means to pray, and what it means that the Spirit intercedes for us.  I was “knowledgeable, studied, prepared.”  She was yielded, willing, trusting, and child-like.

I set out to lead her.  Through her, the Spirit of God, lead me.  

How many of my prayers are spiritually handicapped but helped by the Spirit of God?  How many times have I prayed the words of a preacher, a pastor, a seminary graduate that lacked anything of substance that would move the kingdom of heaven?  I wonder how much of what I have prayed has covered up what I am and missed by miles what I need?  The good news is, despite the ignorance of my heart and what may have come out of my mouth, the Spirit said what needed to be said.  

Sometimes you preach sermons.  Sometimes you watch them.  He knows what I need according to the will of God.

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Last Days, Lasting Love

Last Days, Lasting Love

Today is my mom and dad’s 47th wedding anniversary.  Today is also one of my dad’s last days.

In 1967-68 he served a tour of duty as a drafted soldier in Vietnam.  While there he was exposed to Agent Orange.  Almost immediately upon returning home he began having migraine headaches.  These episodes lasted on and off for three decades.  In 1996 he had a seizure which led to the discovery of a brain tumor.  In 2003 he suffered a debilitating stroke.  In 2012 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.  For the last 21 years he has gone through a regimen of steadily intensifying neurological treatments.  

There is no way to know for sure, but the prevailing thought is that his issues are linked to his exposure to the world’s most notorious herbicide.  Some men die in war.  Others die from war.  Either way it rings ever true, war is Hell.

When a couple is married they make a vow, for better or worse.  As a family we have seen better days.  We have enjoyed blessed days.

My dad taught me how to ride a bike.  He taught me how to play tennis.  We played a hundred games of football in the hallway with a wad of socks substituting for the pigskin.  I will never forget what it felt like for him to be on his knees, no way to get around him, and to run smack into his chest.  He would pick me up and throw me down.  It was awesome.    

My dad taught me how to suffer as an Atlanta sports fan.  When I yell at the TV it is because he convinced me early on that the idiot refs can hear my protest.  Herschel Walker is my favorite player because of him.  I dance whenever there is a beat because of him.  I try to hit the key of Bee Gee because of him.  I shake my leg when I sit still because of him.

Dad’s leave an indention on the souls of little boys that only grows bigger with age.  The older I get that indention becomes imitation.  

My mom has one solution for every ailment.  If you will get up you will get better.  And if you will not get up, she will get you up.  

As aggravating as her nursing skills can be, it is probably her dogged determination that has helped my dad survive so much and live so long.  They should have sent her to Vietnam.

And now we are in the worse days; dad’s last days.  She can’t get him up.  Today she laid down beside him.  

Dad is to the point that his lips barely move and there are no audible sounds, just breaths where the words used to be.  But he opened his eyes.  She took his hand and she said, “Happy anniversary.”  He touched her face and said, “Happy anniversary.”

Life can be good.  Even still the curse of sin in death eventually comes and is ever cruel.  As a pastor I have walked with many in their final days.  And now, as I watch my father fade, the hope of the gospel does not fail.  It is enough.

I am thankful to have parents who exemplify that marriage can last.  The hell of war, the pain of cancer; not even a daily, progressing, debilitating disease can extinguish committed love.  These are the “worse days” and she is a faithful wife.

Whether you are 4, or now nearly 44, you watch that sort of thing.  It leaves an impression.  Today as I considered the crush of losing my dad, I knelt beside my bed and committed even this unto the Lord.  Tonight, it was as if God said through them, “Watch this.”  And so I am.

I am thankful to have had my dad for as long as I have.  I am thankful to have had a dad like him.  It is as if these last days with him have flipped an “on” switch in my mind that contains reel upon reel of marvelous childhood memories.  It is imperative that we as parents fill our children’s hearts with great memories.

I am thankful to have a doggedly determined mother who has raised a doggedly determined son.  If I don’t have much sympathy for your whining and griping, thank Brenda.  Get up.  You’ll feel better.

I am thankful to be a 43 year old boy still watching his parents love one another just a few more days.              

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Don't Give Up On Your Job

Don't Give Up On Your Job

Most people are dissatisfied with their jobs.  A lot of men get so discouraged that they go from job to job looking for the perfect place to work.  Some men may eventually give up on work all together.  In this 90 Second Sermon learn why work is so hard and how you can make a difference instead of looking for something different.



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Don't Give Up On Your Marriage

Don't Give Up On Your Marriage

Marriage is hard. Most people start out in romance and end up with wrestling.  There is a reason marriage contains so much tension and the Bible explains it.  In this 90 Second Sermon learn why marriage is hard and why you should not give up on it. 



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4 Things Men are Prone to Give Up On, #1 Himself

4 Things Men are Prone to Give Up On, #1 Himself

A man can easily get discouraged with life and give up on himself.  Feelings of inferiority and a loss of significance become defeating.  He eventually feels as if he is not good enough for anyone and not good at anything.  


God gave Adam significance when he was created and restored his significance after his biggest mistake.  When we seek significance outside of what God gives, it turns to dust.  Watch this 90 second sermon and don't give up on yourself.  



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