A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

Goodbye, Grandpa

posted by Linda G. Howard

We went to the beach early so the children could play a bit before the final launch of the space shuttle Endeavour.  It was Monday morning.  The launch was scheduled for 9:23 AM. 

On Tuesday the week before, Frank, my husband of 49 years had died.  Because of his commitment to Christ, we knew he was running through heaven.  The week had been a blur of tears and laughter.  Family and friends came by the house to drop off food or cards. They all lingered for a moment making sure that I was all right.  Bitter-sweet times washed through our home like a reoccurring flood of healing balm.

Our children, three grandchildren and I had spent much of Saturday sorting and dividing things that the grandchildren wanted to have as a remembrance of their Grandpa.  He and I had often talked about what each child would want to have.


CLICK HERE to read more about the late Frank Howard 

My husband was a NASA scientist who worked for 45 years on the space program.  A good friend of Frank’s had called to accept our invitation to speak at his memorial service.  His colleague said, “Frank was a true engineer. He always came with concrete numbers and mathematical proof for his conclusions.  There was no guessing or using his instinct when designing systems that related to the space program.”   Therefore, this final launch of the Endeavour held more significance for our family than for some of the people dotting the beach.


It was a perfect day and the bird lifted from its perch, ascending into the blue sky without a hitch.  The rest of the children and grandchildren had to return to their work.  But my daughter, her husband, their two children and I walked the two block to the ocean to view the spectacle.  And we were not disappointed.  My daughter had wrapped her arms around both of her children as we walked and said, “This is an important moment in history.  But it is even more important for our family because Granddaddy devoted most of his career designing and working on piping that fuels the shuttle.”

As we watched the silent speck rise effortlessly into space, my eight-year-old granddaughter said in a loud voice, “Goodbye, Grandpa.”  Then she repeated it again and again as tears traced my cheeks.  I quietly wept for the loss of the man and engineer that I love. 


God is so good to his children and He knows what is best for us far better than we know ourselves.  For me, there was no greater tribute to my husband than that lovely voice speaking tender words as the vehicle disappeared, “Goodbye, Grandpa.”


Lasting Common Sense vs Passing Trends

posted by Linda G. Howard

Even though I don’t feel that old, I’ve not only lived through the last Ice Age but now I’ve also been able to navigate through the deadly specter of Global Warming.  However, all this has been replaced by another haunting danger, Climate Change.

If you are old enough, you remember that there was an environmental scare that began in the early 1970′s which proclaimed that our waste and living habits were causing the earth to usher in the next Ice Age.  Then a decade or two later, we were accosted by Global Warming.  Now it appears that in these few short years, I’ve passed through these threats only to be battling Climate Change.

Frankly, I was just getting used to the cold when Global Warming was ushered into the environment. The past few years of Florida’s freezing winters make me almost yearn for the good, old days of Global Warming.


Before all the environmental scares asking us to conserve energy and eliminate waste, I was reusing and repurposing everything that passed through our household.  In the 1960′s and 70′s,  my children and the teenagers in my youth group used to mock me because I was constantly “reusing” almost everything.  I was a cheapskate because paper grocery bags were carefully folded and securely tucked between my water heater and the wall waiting for their next life.  To some observers, I was a hoarder when jars and bottles were put under the sink for another day’s journey.  When old newspapers were used to wrap broken glass and other garbage so that the trash wouldn’t hurt anyone or smell, I was mocked with yucks and ughs.

Medicine bottles, egg cartons, plastic containers were valuable commodities resurrected into different objects because of their reuse.  We even repaired our TV’s and stereo sets rather than buying new ones.  I recovered old furniture.  A sharp butcher knife became our lawn edging tool; and my scissors were a magical piece of equipment with multiple purposes that saved us from buying objects that were “purdy” but we really didn’t need.


Now the schools and all forms of media shout to the world about waste and that is a great thing.  However, it kinda annoys me.  This is the same group of folks who mocked my efforts to make do, rather than replace.

In the same vein, it was people of my generation who forced institutions for people with intellectual disabilities to close because these parents said to the professional community, “My daughter (or son) is part of our family and we won’t put her away.  She will come home with us and she will be raised by us.”  The families were mocked and ridiculed for their naive thinking by many people who believed they knew what was best.

The actions of these loving families saved our nation billions and billions of dollars over the next 40 or 50 years.  Additionally, their children have become the employees who are THRILLED to do the jobs that no one else will do.  As a result, the mentally challenged community has become taxpaying citizens.


Yet, in the time of budget cuts, so many things are being defunded or replaced with less and less.  The mentally challenged community understands the situation that we have made for ourselves through waste and fraud.  They know that things are changing and their services will be reduced.  As a community, they are more than willing to do their part.  However, in some states, when many other line-items in the state budget are  increased in the newly passed legislature, the  budget for these courageous men and women with disabilites was greatly reduced.

Perhaps it’s time to remember the billions of dollars that have been saved by these careful, loving parents and reclaim the heritage that they fought to make possible for their children.



posted by Linda G. Howard

Because many of our Special Gathering members were not able to attend the memorial service for one of their Bible teachers, we had a short memorial time at our Melbourne Special Gathering on Sunday morning.  Special Gathering members are mentally challenged adults.  The mission of our ministry is evangelism and discipleship.  We don’t do group homes but we have chapel services and Bible classes.  This teacher, Frank, had taught a Bible class for about ten years.  His students loved him.  Therefore, as part of the memorial, our Melbourne members were asked to comment about Frank, sharing a favorite memory.


Our members spoke about the times they remembered the most.  I was a bit surprised.  Several of the members talked about the class he taught.  However, almost all of our members said, “I went to his house to eat.”  His last meal, in fact, was shared with five of our Special Gathering members.  Their van driver lives in Vero but she needed to do some catch-up paper work in Melbourne; and his wife invited the members to come and eat at their home.

After that meal, Frank took a large downturn; and he was no longer able to eat.

Over the years, I’ve studied the importance in the Scriptures regarding the meal.  The Bible indicates that there is a bonding that happens at meal time and with the breaking of bread.  This unique time does not seem to happen during any other activity.


The meal plays a significant part in each milestone of developing our Christian faith.  Only mentioning a few, Abraham shared a meal with the Angel of the Lord before receiving God’s promise to become a great nation.  The Passover was a Seder meal.  Moving to the New Testament, the last supper was an important time of communion for Jesus and his disciples.  Even after his resurrection, we know of two meals that Jesus shared with his followers.  The last meal was breakfast on the beach and Jesus prepared the food himself.


I am more and more convinced that to develop a working and compatible relationship with people or family members that we desire to influence for Christ, the meal will help.  Several years ago, our executive director at Special Gathering, Richard Stimson, decided that we should invite our members to come to our homes and have a meal with them and their families.  We invited each family whose child participated to our home.  We spent time with them.  Though it has been years, our parents still bring up how much they appreciated coming to our home.

Of course, inviting people to our homes is not the only way we can create that bond.  Sharing meals at restaurants, church fellowships and picnics will accomplish the same goal.  Weekend spiritual retreats are often life changing experiences and I’m convinced that a big part of that transformation is because of eating with other Christians.

God in his infinite wisdom has made the meal a time of pleasure and bonding that melts heart together in a unique way.  Connections are made that last a lifetime.


The World’s Weighty Problems

posted by Linda G. Howard

For Sam, Cara and George, the large problem looming in their lives on Sunday was if I received their camp forms for the Memorial Day Weekend retreat that The Special Gathering holds each year.  

Special Gathering is a  ministry within the mentally challenged (intellectually disabled) community.  

For our members, this is an important four-day spiritual getaway and a vacation.  They save their money all year to be able to attend the camp.

I stood in front of our members making announcements and their minds were pulled toward camp, not the weightier issues that had monopolized the conversations of most of my friends during the week:  persecution of Christians in China, Israel’s 50th anniversary and the invasion of Palastians across their boards.  


They weren’t concerned with Republican and Democatic party disputes, mounting federal debt, continuing budget short-falls in every state, 0r the implications of wars in the Middle Eastern countries. 

Honestly, it was a jarring and refreshing change.

My small world had been occupied with the declining health of my late husband and the increased financial outflow I was facing.  I smiled at the honest and forthright concerns that dominated their thoughts.  

“Are you ready for camp?” they asked. ” Will we be able to have camp this year?”  

I remembered a story that an evangelist from Nicaragua had told me about an event that happened one night when the Communists were taking over the government in the capitol city, Managua.


He was visiting his mother-in-law; and he asked her about the stereo set that she had borrowed from him a few months before. 

Trouble on the streets of Managua

“It was surreal,” he reported.  “About the time I asked her about the stereo, a gun battle broke out in the streets of the city.  Gun shots from the insurgents began to fill her house. 

“We dived under the table for safety.  As we lay there with our lives hanging in the balance, my mother-in-law started arguing with me about who owned the stereo. 


“She insisted that I had given the equipment to her.  I was in such shock. 

“Bullets were flying around the house.  We were hovering under the furniture. 

“All she could think about was disputing the ownership of a stereo.”

It is obvious that the mentally challenged community are not the only people who campartmentalize their lives.  I’ve not done any research on this subject but I wonder if our minds choose to process those things which affect our personal well-being before other issues are allowed to crowd our psyche. 

Perhaps that is why we are constantly told from Genesis to Revelation to seek God and His will for our lives.

The hardest disciplines in Christendom seem to be prayer and meditation. 


Without a set time and ordered regimen in my life, I will never do the hard work of prayer.  Even though I cannot imagine that God Almighty wants to have a relationship with me and engage me in conversation, without a disciplined resolve, I will waltz through my day without giving prayer a second thought.

The world’s weighty problems do demand our time and energy in prayer.  Additionally, we need to train our members to look beyond their daily needs, hurts and issues, seeking God for his perfect will to come into our world.

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