A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

Living History with the #STS134

posted by Linda G. Howard

Living on the Space Coast for more than 40 years, we’ve seen the ups and downs of a community with one major industry–space.  My husband is a retired Aerospace Technologist who worked for NASA.  He was a design engineer whose design work spanned from the early days of the Saturn rockets to design and maintenance of the shuttle.

When the first shuttle, the Challenger, exploded, I was standing in the church yard with a large group of school children.  As we watched the terror of parts flying in all directions in the azure, clear sky, our cheers screeched to horrified silence.  The teachers quietly and quickly herded their students back into the classrooms.  I rushed into my office to call my husband.  It was too soon for the phones to be jammed, which would be the case within a few minutes.  Frank answered the phone, “What happened?”  I asked.

“I don’t know but I would say it was the o-rings that failed,” he told me.  ”That is the only thing that makes sense.”  After months, of investigations, NASA found that the explosion was caused by a failure of the o-rings.

For more than 40 years, our dinner conversations were filled with engineering problems and design kinks.  The last thing we talked about at night was the next launch.  The first thing in the morning was the problem of the day at Kennedy Space Center.  Discussion in and out of work with engineering colleagues still means talking about the future of space and what comes next.  As odd as that may seem to others, it was normal to us.  Space was our business.  Most engineers lived and breathed exploration.

From the most active and creative minds, to the skilled worker, we were a part of one of mankind’s greatest ventures, exploring the unknowns of space travel.  Even the mentally challenged community was actively involved with space exploration.  Brevard Achievement Center, a sheltered workshop in Rockledge, Florida, held several contracts with NASA to sort and package the information that went out to school children all over the world.

Today, everything will stop to see the shuttle Endeavour fly for the last time.  For the rest of the world, drama has been added because the commander is Mark Kelly.  His wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was nearly killed a few months ago will be here.  To add to the excitement,  President Obama and his family are in the audience.

But life won’t stop for us because of the important people who are visiting our wonderful space center.  These dignitaries are not the main attraction for the women and men who have lived, eaten and breathed this adventure.  The Endeavour will be the star of this show.

And time will stop for us because it is an end of an era. As always, traffic will pull over to the side of the road.  Drivers and passengers will spill out of their cars and vans.  Restaurants will empty.  Schools yards and parking lots will be filled with squirmy children and unimpressed teenagers.  The beaches will be filled.  Like children, in unison, we will count 10, 9, 8…and shout, “Lift off.”  Every eye will be looking toward the sky.  

Living in the center of history for more than 40 years has influenced all of Brevard County residents.  We understand the impact that our life’s work will have on the future.  Because of this reality and how our lives have been lived, I’ve often wondered if the Apostle Paul had any idea the great impact his life and letters would have on the entire world.  Did he understand that God was using him to initiate the establishment of a civilization?  Could he have known that one day he would be designated as The Architect of the Church?

Can any of us know the real impact our lives are having on others?  As Brevard County brings to a halt all other activity to view this mark in history, Christian and non-Christians will be praying for a safe journey for Commander Kelly and his crew.  We understand the significance of this journey.  But do we understand the equal impact of God’s hand resting on our lives?

David Wilkerson and you

posted by Linda G. Howard

The first magazine article I wrote that was accepted by a national magazine was entitled, “David Wilkerson and Me.”  

In the piece, I chronicled how much his book, The Cross and The Switchblade had been used by God to change my life.  My husband and I had just moved to Central Florida.  I was a brand new mother when a new friend came to the hospital.  She gave me Wilkerson’s book.  Because I respected her, I read it with fascination.

To read related story of Wilkerson’s death on Wednesday, CLICK HERE

This, Wilkerson person, was a young man–only 10 year older than I–but he had something in his Christian life that I didn’t have.  Yet, I desperately wanted whatever it was that he had.  He was able to share Jesus with people on the streets or in a small crowd.  New York City gang leaders became Christians.  Drug addicts were set free by God’s power.

During my  stay in the hospital, nursing aids and orderlies came to my room to “hang out.”  This was a new experience for me.  I’m not a magnetic personality but they came and they wanted to talk.  Several of them burst into tears and asked my help.  I was dumbfounded, scared and speechless.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not tell them about my wonderful Savior.  There was no power in my life, even when people were asking legitimate and heart wrenching questions.

At night, when the TV was off and only one light was shining, I would pull out my book.  I read and I cried. Why couldn’t I tell these hurting, hungry women about the wonderful Lord who gave me peace.  When a woman twice my age poured out her heart because her son was fighting an unpopular war, I sat numb and speechless.  When perky Maria talked about her boyfriend who was sick and could be dying, I could only smile and hold her hand.

I began a search through the Scriptures for what made Wilkerson different.  I wanted what he had.  I needed the power of the Holy Spirit to reach out and touch me because I’d seen a small glimpse of a hurting world who desperately needed the Lord.  In God’s time, I discovered what Wilkerson had found and so did millions of other people.

From the Jesus Movement of the 1960′s, the Church in the US was radically changed.  All of us still feel the affects of the outpouring of God’s Spirit on our nation.  Things changed from the music we sing to the length of our sermons to the way the Bible is taught.  Sure, not everything that happened was good but much of it was holy and powerful.

I don’t live in the past.  I don’t even miss the past.  There are many wonderful days ahead.  However, with the death of David Wilkerson, it seems good to stop hoeing God’s fields for a moment.  It’s a time to lean against my hoe and catch a vision of the past fears and God’s glorious release.  It’s time to reflect and rejoice in a young man who dared to follow God’s calling, risking all to “go into the highways and hedges and compel” us to come in.  His godly influence reached more than the gangs in New York City.  God’s spirit touched a young mama sitting in a hospital bed, crying out for more of the Lord.

Who is someone who has influenced your life for good?  What books have helped you to know God better?

Photos: Rev. David Wilkerson by John Baw and New Mother by Leannrlee

Wild Hogs and Wolf Wars

posted by Linda G. Howard

Wild hog and wolf wars are raging across the US.  In Central Florida, we understand the wild hog problem that is plaguing the South.  A good friend bought what seemed like an idyllic, secluded piece of acreage about five years ago.  They built a wonderful group home with an equestrian bend.  However, they didn’t understand that their land–like much of the Southern woodland–is overly populated with wild hogs.  Because of the vigilance of the owners of the home, the hogs have not terrorized the family of mentally challenged individuals living in the house.  Yet, the potential exists.

In the western part of our country, the US Fish and Wildlife Service repopulated the northwestern states in the late 1990’s with gray wolves hoping to improve the eco-system.  As a result the wolf population has thrived and there are currently approximately 1,645 gray wolves and 217 packs roaming the region.  They, too, have become a problem to the ecology. In the article published in the March 2010, entitled, “Wolf Wars,” National Geographic reported that the return of the wolves has changed everything in the northwestern states, including the microbiology of the soil.  Killing coyotes, the wolves are altering the existing eco-system in ways that may not be beneficial.  Wolves are again a threat to humans; they have killed several hikers in the past years.

At times, people don’t understand what harm we are doing by our actions.  Humans killed off all the wolves, which was a bad thing.  However, their protection has caused perhaps even greater damage.

Using abortion, many people assumed that we would soon eliminate the birth of people who are mentally challenged.  This appeared to be a good thing to many medical professionals and others who had fought for the right to have an abortion.  Twenty years ago, when Cheryl’s baby was found to have a clef lip, she was severely pressured by her doctors to have an abortion because developmental disabilities often accompany a clef lip.  The family resisted and even had to change doctors three times before finding an MD who would deliver their child.  As it happened, the young man is brilliant and the lip was surgically repaired at a young age.

Because of fetal alcohol syndrome, AID’s-related disabilities, and disabilities within the autism spectrum (ASD), developmental disabilities have not disappeared.  In fact, it is estimated and reported by National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke a part of  National Institute of Health ”three to six children out of every 1,000 will have ASD.  Males are four times more likely to have ASD than females.”  This is a much larger portion of the population that those children carrying the Down’s syndrome gene.

Parents and those who work within the mentally challenged community understand the amazing blessings our population brings to the world.  Whether you are a Christian or not, the blessings of our population have been chronicled again and again.  Of course, there are adjustments and great grief when a child is born with disabilities.  At times, life is harder than parents could ever imagine.  However, the blessings overwhelm the obvious harm.

As a minister within the mentally challenged community, I repeatedly emphasize to our members how much they can be used by the Lord.  The important fact that God can use all of us gives each of us permanent value in who we are.  Christianity is unique in our approach to the Lord.  Jesus taught us that all people have great value to God and He loves us unconditionally.  This Holy Week teaches us God great sacrifice for us.

Photos:  Wild Boar by Sivio DSouza and Wolf by Arrr!

Which Flag Am I Flying?

posted by Linda G. Howard

With the world watching London for information regarding the royal wedding, trivia about the Royal Family from the United Kingdom seems to pour forth hourly.  One piece of information that you may have missed is that when Queen Elizabeth is NOT residing in Buckingham Palace, the Union Jack flag  flies over her London home.

However, if the Queen is in residence, her own flag flies over the palace.

In trying to help others understand ministry within the mentally challenged community, we explain that the social aptitude of our members is sort of stuck in junior high/middle school.  They enjoy all the things that would entertain anyone who is between the ages of 12 and 14.  Additionally, one minute they are making mature, rational decisions.  The next minute, they have reverted back to childish behavior.

In their walk with Christ, it isn’t unusual to hear deeply profound statements coming from two members as they discuss the Lord.  Yet, within a few moments, we may see the same two people fighting over a double-stuff Oreo cookie.

As I learned this interesting fact about the flags flying over Buckingham Palace, I thought of Special Gathering members. Their social penchant for flip/flopping makes them an easy target to illustrate an important Christian principle.  However, the problem isn’t isolated within the intellectually disabled population.  Too often, there are two alternating flags which fly over my life–over all of our lives.   One represents a holy life in Christ; the other shows that we’ve stepped away and we are somewhere else, fighting over an Oreo.

When we are in the middle of our friends who are Christian, it is easy to stand for what is right and good and just.  We fly the flag that says we are comfortable living within the kingdom of God.  When we are at work or among friends who aren’t aligned with Christ, we may nonchalantly slip to the flag pole to haust our worldly flag.

Compromise comes easily and quickly.  Yet, it means that for a time, I am turning my back on the life-giving Holy Spirit for a vacant life of recrimination and regrets.  I pray that the flag of my life will continue to fly high proudly telling the world the Christ is living in my heart.

When are the times that you are tempted to back away from the Savior?  Are we fighting over an Oreo, when we should be proclaiming Christ’s love to the world?

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When we leak
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posted 10:09:00pm Feb. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Providing a Safe Harbor
One of the most important things a person can provide for any person and especially for a man or woman who is developmentally disabled is a safe harbor–a place where they can securely share their thoughts, feelings and emotions.  Because of their intellectual development, many people within the m

posted 5:54:32pm Feb. 19, 2014 | read full post »

The First Points of Light Award
When President George H. W. Bush gave the first Points of Lights Award, it went to a NASA employee named Frank S. Howard who was a volunteer for The Special Gathering of Indian River. The fact that Frank S.

posted 11:17:25am Jul. 15, 2013 | read full post »

Eating fish
We all know that when you eat fish you will usually come across a bone or two no matter how carefully the fish has been filleted.  We also know that the bones aren't digestible and should be spit out.  Fish bones, in fact, can be dangerous; but that fact never kept me from eating and appreciating

posted 6:28:56am Mar. 21, 2013 | read full post »

A history lesson
Over the past months, I've discovered the classics from Sir Walter Scott, James Fenimore Cooper, St. Augustine to Andrew Murray.  Of course, most of these volumes were written in the early 1800's.  Unlocking the labyrinth of historical fact wrapped around the old English prose of that earlier cent

posted 8:37:02pm Mar. 20, 2013 | read full post »


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