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A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

Rereading

posted by Linda G. Howard

Each new generation learns valuable lessons that may be missed by a preceding group of people.  I love rereading my favorite books.  Yet, I came from a tradition in which you watched a movie or television show only once.  You certainly didn’t read a book more than one time.  Nevertheless, I would pull out the books that were read to us in elementary school,  especially Penrod and Penrod and Sam, and reread them during my high school years for book reports.  When I became an adult, I would reread books when I read to my children.

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Rereading has now become a more accepted practice.  In fact with the advent of videos and DVD’s, children memorize many of the children’s movies because they view them so often.  By the time a child has reached his teen years, he may have read one of the modern classics many, many times.  There are great benefits to this practice.

  • First, it teaches children that one pass over a subject matter will produce a most limited knowledge of the subject.
  • Second, children will understand at an early age the value of review.

Reading is one of the great pleasures of my life.  I can hardly imagine not being able to have that privilege.  Bible reading was introduced to me by my Sunday school teachers and mother.  We were able to get a check mark if we read our Bible each day.  I loved getting check marks.  The denomination in which I was raised values the study of the Bible so much, that it’s now being accused of believing the Bible is the fourth part of the Godhead.  However, reading the Scriptures has not always fared well through the ages.

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Martin Luther (1483-1546)In the 16th century, when Martin Luther entered the monastery, it was not typical for a person to read or study the Bible.  Men who had their doctorate in theology seldom read the Bible directly.  Few of them owned their own copy of the Scriptures.  It appears that Luther was one of the few men of his day who had a love for God’s word.  On his death-bed, Luther wrote a note that extolled the value of the Bible and how important it was to read it with a humble heart.

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At Special Gathering, we put an emphasis on learning the Bible.  While most of our members cannot read, they still are able to understand what is read to them and the precepts contained there.  Last year, we inserted into the order of service a “Call to Worship.”  After the announcements and several upbeat praise songs, we calm the service and begin with a Scripture verse that is our Call to Worship.  We use one verse for three months.  A member reads the verse and we listen.  After two months of listening to the verse, I ask the members to recite it with me.  The Member Reader will read–or say from memory–the verse and then we will repeat it from memory.

I am amazed at how quickly our members are able to pick up the verse and say it.  There are only a few things that have changed during the years we’ve been conducting Special Gathering worship but I believe that this is one of the most beneficial.

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I understand that reading or even memorizing a Bible verse does little to ensure that this word will become affective in our lives.  However, I also know that NOT knowing the Bible almost guarantees that we will not be able to apply a truth to our lives.

Occasionally, I will talk about an Old Testament precept that is repeated again and again.  People who don’t read the Bible are shocked that these Sacred Writings even addresse things such as thrift, banking, ecology or conservation.  Some Christians have no idea that preservation of the land is a strictly-held concept taught in the Law of Moses.

As a teacher and leader of a flock of men and women who are developmentally disabled, it is my responsibility to be sure that the Bible is learned.  Additionally,  the principles must be relearned and then reviewed time and again until they becomes a part of my life and the lives of our members.  However, I also find that I’m not any different from the people I teach.  I need review.  Each time I read a passage of scripture, I should be open to hear and see a new message from the heart of the Holy Spirit.

Is reading the scriptures a chore?  Do you make it a habit to review familiar verses to see if you can “see” a new issue in your life that the Holy Spirit may want to help you overcome?

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Failing health and other knicknacks

posted by Linda G. Howard

Sometimes I found myself wanting to treat my husband’s failing health as though it were a knicknack.  In that way, I could put it on a shelf and forget all about it.  I fought almost daily with this notion of detachment.  Psychologist call this “compartmentalization.”

In The Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, there are three families in crisis at this moment.  Each story is unique.  Yet the bottom line is that parents are treating their failing health as though it were a knicknack that they can simply put on a shelf and ignore.

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Often there is a pattern that is followed that goes something like this narrative.  Diane’s family earnestly prepared for their deaths until the last ten years of their lives.  At that time, their younger daughter’s life fell apart and the parents needed to provide for her family.  They poured money and resources into her life and their grandchildren.  Diane’s sister became complacent, knowing that her parents would provide.  Then the savings and assets were gone; and the parents naively put  their failing health on a shelf as though it were a statuette that they could dust and ignore.  Diane was pushed into crisis mode when both parents died.

There is a constant debate within churches regarding this problem.  Pastors and their staff understand that there is little that can be done until we are asked.  When asked, however, we often jump with the speed of a gazelle. At Special Gathering, families may want their son or daughter to go and live in a group home.  Among pastors who minister in the  “normal”  communities, there is a running debate about nursing home care.  The cost of personal care giving has been considered the more expensive option.  However, it may be that personal care is now the more reasonable option.

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Nursing home care has become increasingly difficult as Medicare and Medicaid funds are continually being cut.  What may not be known by most people is that hospital workers and physicians are not able to give direction or advice because of legal consideration; but they can answer questions.  Therefore, whether you are reaching “that” age or your parents are becoming more feeble, you need to be prepared to ask the right questions and know what is available for good health care.  Here are six things which help.

  1. Establish a working relationship with the office personnel in your family’s physicians’ office.  These nursing and clerical staff can often give you more information that your doctor, who may be bound by more stringent legal restraints regarding the information they can freely give to you.
  2. Become familiar with the systems of support in your community and the community of your family members.  Each state is different.  In Florida, each district is unique and may handle a problems in a diverse manners.
  3. Make sure that your family members understand that you are there to help in the times of crisis.  Keep in touch with them often.  Then when they need you, they will know that you want to hear from them.
  4. Understand that most older individuals will cling to their independence too long.  Look for times and ways to lovingly intervene.
  5. Before the crisis, speak opening and honestly with your family about what they may face in the future.  This is a touchy subject and it requires tact on your part.  You may be able to get your point across in conversations that family members initiate regarding other families who have faced an emergency situation in the past.
  6. Reestablish broken family relationships.  This is usually easier than we think.  Come with humility and honesty.  Regret usually follows a death and regret is a bitter tasting pill that can never be fully swallowed when the person has died.

We have found that when there is a crisis, our phone number is frequently put on speed dial because families within the developmentally disabled community trust us.  They know that we care.

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Remember, there are no easy answers.  In a crisis you may find that there are no right answers, only unfortunate options.   “Too often,” Richard Stimson, our executive director,  has said, “there are also no good answers to bring the situation into resolution.”  We must choose between two or more bad solutions.

Failing health should never be treated as a nick-nack that goes on the shelf no matter how inconvenient it may be at the time.  Crisis seems to fall at the most inconvenient times and crises cannot be ignored.

What are some ways of the beneficial things you have learned in the middle of health crisis?  What other crisis events have crashed into your life?

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From a child to a mother

posted by Linda G. Howard

Shelly Demeree is a poet whose work appears in various venues

From a Child to a Mother

by Michelle Demeree

With mothers, there is a love so real

and so expected.

So expected that we forget how much

They love us.

They give great parts of their heart

To us.

We want to say, “Thank you, for your love.”

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Picking the strawberry fields

posted by Linda G. Howard

Spring in Central Florida means many delights; but one of the best is fresh strawberries.  When our children were young and early spring arrived, we would pack up a small lunch and some water.  Then we’d pile into a car with some friends; and we’d all head for the strawberry fields.  In the morning, while the dew was still on the berries, the children and I would pick enough strawberries to eat and freeze.

For anyone who has worked in the fields, you know that the exquisitely satisfying part of harvesting berries is sampling the luscious sweetness while bending over the fruit laden plants.  You don’t ever take home the largest, reddest and plumpest strawberries. Those are eaten in the fields.

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Last month, my daughter, Carol,  was speaking at a conference in Tampa.  She arranged to visit with us for a few days because she wanted to be with her ailing father.  As she and I traveled from Tampa to the East Coast, we passed a strawberry farm.  The harvesters’ large straw hats were the only part of their heads that was visible as they bend over the plants hurriedly picking the ripened fruit.

We spied the farm’s roadside stand. Quickly wheeling the van into the parking lot, we stopped to purchase a crate of berries.  When berries have slept in the fields the night before, you don’t get one or two quarts.  Twelve quarts are the minimum.

Giggling like two children who’d uncover a chest of gold nuggets, we climbed back into the vehicle, munching our treasure all the way home.  The juice ran down our fingers and onto our wrist.  We laughed, trying to lap up every escaping drop.

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That road trip was the beginning of what has become a sorrowful but surprisingly joyful adventure for our family.  The day before, I learned that my husband’s diagnosis was “adult failure to thrive.”  In short, his body had moved from terminally ill into the dying process.  All of the family has come now to say good-bye to their father and grandfather.

He has suffered from dementia for about 15 years.  We became accustomed to his forgetful ways.  Yet, during these precious, holy days, he has slowly slipped closer to eternity.  This morning when I went into his room, I knew that he didn’t recognize me.  Because his aide was there, I didn’t ask him questions.  I left the house at 7am for my work and I didn’t return until 7pm.

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After his caregiver had left, I tiptoed into his room and kissed him hello.  Again, the vacant, yet, confused and slightly frightened look stared at me.  I smiled and asked in a chipper voice, “You don’t know who I am, do you?”

The fear melted and he shook his head, “No.”

“I’m your wife of almost 50 years and you really should remember me,”  I said, laughing.

With his eyes closed, he returned my laughter with his own.

I continued to tease him, “I have pictures to prove that we are married.  We have three wonderful children and four amazing grandchildren.  Guess you don’t remember them either.”

He opened his eyes grinning with pleasure but he shook his head, ‘No.”

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“You are an engineer, who worked for NASA.  You had five inventions and you designed a lot of the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen piping on the shuttle.  You helped put the men on the moon and no one can take that away from you.  In short, you are a pretty amazing man.”  He smiled.

“Do you remember Jesus?”  I probed deeper.

Again, he smiled, but with a broader grin. “Oh, yes, I do,” he whispered to me.

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“That’s the only person you need to remember,”  I said, taking his hand in mine.  He tried to smile as he traveled back into his semi-conscious state.  When I returned to his room about an hour later, he was smiling.

On the afternoon we bought the strawberries, before the fruit could go bad, I prepared several quarts of the berries to freeze.  They sit in my freezer at the top of the fruit section.  Each time I open the freezer they sit waiting for me, still red and inviting.

I’ll eat those berries while they are still frozen in a few days or a week or month from now.  I’ll taste the ripe goodness locked in by the cold.  I won’t eat them in one session but one berry each night.  I’ll make them last as long as I can and I’ll remember this lovely time.  But I’m waiting now–waiting until this adventure is over and my husband has gone home to be with the Jesus he still remembers.

 

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