A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

Exploring a Brave New World

posted by Linda G. Howard

The date is March 11, 2011.  As I sit around the dining room table with my family who is visiting their ailing father, I’m hurriedly writing my daily blog.  My granddaughter is playing an on-line video game.  My daughter, Carol Howard Merritt,  is quickly editing the forward she wrote for a friend’s book to email it to his publisher.  My son-in-law is reading a theology book on-line.  While my husband sleeps, we are all commenting with each other about the Tsunami that may be invading Hawaii.  All of us are fiercely following the real-time action on Twitter because my son lives on Oahu’s north shore about two blocks from the ocean.


My daughter asked me to proofread the forward she was writing for Landon Whitsitt’s new book, Open Source Church.

Landon Whitsitt


After reading the forward, I was reminded how much our lives have changed because of recent changes in technology.  Aren’t we all a bit skeptical of this brave new world when it comes to our places of worship?


Sure we power point our illustrations on screens attached to the walls of our ministry.  Computers have become irreplaceable for most tasks for which we once used our IBM typewriters. Email has replaced the more expensive, slower and less convenient  US Postal Service.  We only recently became comfortable with our computers when the Internet burst into our work area.  But like the phone of older generations, we don’t trust or want to depend on this in most aspect of our Christian life.  (The word “phony” came from an innate mistrust of the telephone.)

Whitsitt’s soon-to-be-released book will help all of us to overcome our concerns about this new techno world.  Yep, you may have to wade through some complicated verbiage because Whitsitt actually understands what is happening in cyber-space.  He might think that he’s making all this simplistic for us while he is only confusing our minds.  However, I’ve learned that if we wade through the technical detritus,  we will learn new and exciting things about how to effectively use this new way of  ministry.  Whitsitt’s book promises to be able to help each of us learn new things to be able to make our ministries even more effective.

Is there a book you have read that has made you more comfortable using technology in your life as a Christian?



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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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?


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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