A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

No royal wedding

posted by Linda G. Howard

It is my understanding that the Rowan William, Archbishop of Canterbury, has written two prayers for Prince William and Kate Middleton.  One is for adults to pray; and the other is a precious and simple prayer for school children.  Additionally, the Catholic Bishop‘s Conference has released a prayer for the nation’s Catholics to pray for the royal couple.

There is no doubt that the world awaits the wedding day on Friday, April 29.

The women want to see the gown, the flowers, the hairstyles, the carriage and the shoes. The men, who aren’t making money from the Royal Wedding,  simply want to see the entire thing to be finished.  This is the fairy-tale event for which every little girl dreams.  Conversely, it is the event that every red-blooded man dreads.

Most men and women in the world will not have a royal wedding when they marry.

For one reason or the other, they may even choose the simplest, least expensive way to get married.  I seen the wedding pictures of a good friend several times.  Now faded, they were taken with an inexpensive Kodak camera.  The photographer was a friend.  There are about 10 or 12 pictures.

The bride wore a lovely, white street-length dress.  She purchased it at a department store.  The groom wore a black suit.  There was one charming bouquet of flowers made of white daisies and fern.  The bride carried it.  The best man and maid of honor wore street clothes.

Only a few months before, the couple had been full-time students and worked 40 hours a week to pay their college expenses.  Together the bride and groom  planned every detail of the service.  Together, they pooled their meager finances to be able to give a small honorarium to the pastor conducting the service.  Because the couple could not afford an elaborate reception, there were simple refreshments after the wedding.  No champagne toasts were given.

The nation did not pray for the couple.  School children didn’t have a prayer to recite at the beginning of the day.  Yet there was prayer.  A lot of prayer had ushered this couple into holy matrimony.  Godly parents had prayed.  Friends, Bible teachers and pastors had prayed.  The bride and groom had prayed together and apart.

Even more, there was a great sense of mission that encircled the wedding pair.  This man and woman set into motion a great adventure as they founded a ministry within the mentally challenged community called The Special Gathering.  They began their marriage pouring themselves into the lives of people for whom few people in their city would appreciate or welcome.  Their members would never marry or have babies.  For the struggling pair financial benefits were forgotten and sacrifices were made again and again.  The ministry grew as did their love for each other and the community they serve.

More than 25 years have passed.  Now, at least 500 mentally challenged individuals regularly pray for the man they call their pastor and his wife.  With eight chapel programs, this ministry reaches from Walterboro, South Carolina to Vero Beach, Florida.

After the Royal Wedding, the royal couple may live happily ever after. I pray, along with their nation, that they will.   However, there is little doubt that Prince William and Kate will not be as loved as the two commoners whose simple wedding day was coupled with the birth of a ministry that would touch thousands of lives within the mentally challenged community.

What are the similarities or differences between what you believe a marriage should be and the Royal Wedding?  Will you pray for Prince William and Kate?  What event initiated your adult journey?  When you began your journey did you have a relationship with the Lord?

The Kiss–a Resurrection Miracle

posted by Linda G. Howard

After Special Gathering chapel service on Sunday morning , James, whose disability is within the autism spectrum, came up to shake my hand.  Because it was Resurrection Day, we had abandoned our usual worship format.  The chairs were arranged in a circle.  We sang,

Celebrate, Jesus, celebrate.

He is risen. He is risen.

Come on and celebrate

The resurrection of our Lord.

I had shared a devotion retelling the amazing story of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  Then we dismissed to take part in the pancake breakfast given by the youth department of First United Methodist Church of Melbourne.

It was obvious that James was overwhelmed with emotion this morning.  He grabbed my hand, gently pulled me toward him.  Then in a clumsy, lovely and awkward way, he kissed me on the cheek.  Then he did it again and again and again.  Four times James kissed me.

Unless you know James and unless you are familiar with the symptoms of autism, you cannot understand what a gift and miracle those four kisses are for me and for James. In the ten years, I’ve known him, neither his staff nor I can recall anyone that James has kissed.

The autism spectrum is a wide range of symptoms that span a wide variety of anti-social, personality disorders.  For James as with many people whose disability is within the spectrum, personal contact is extremely difficult.  Yes, they have deep, stirring emotions; but their ability to express those emotions with personal contact can be vastly limited.

When and if they instigate contact with another person, it is fine.  However, they can be repulsed and may even be terrified by contact with someone, if they do not initiate the touch.

After James kissed me, he left to join the other members standing in line for pancakes.  Erik, a good friend of James’ who had been his staff person in the group home where James lives, came up to me.  ”What was that all about?” he asked in a protective and concerned tone.

“He kissed me.  Four times, he kissed me on the cheek.”

Immediately, his anxious look turned to a broad smile.  ”He did what?”

“He kissed me.  Four times,” I held up four fingers, adding emphasis to my claim.  ”He kissed me four times on the cheek.”

Erik grinned and turned to other duties.  ”I have my resurrection miracle,” I said as he began to turn away.

Again, Erik’ smile overcame his face, as he turned back to me.  ”I’ll say you did.”

I remember the day James reached out and touched my extended finger in a sacred, quick touch.  A miracle of tender care occurred that morning.  Some months later, James came up to me.  He took one finger out of his ear, stopped humming for a split second.  Then he extended his hand to shake mine.  Again, I knew a miracle of love had happened joining James’ heart to mine.

Within the disability Christian community, mighty miracles happen almost every day.  They come in the form of a touch, a handshake.  But the resurrection miracles often become a kiss on the cheek.  Indeed, Jesus has come that we might have life and that life comes in abundant love.

The motivation of work

posted by Linda G. Howard

For years, Andy has worked with Wal-Mart.  He was considered a profitable and cooperative employee.  Then the management changed.  As a result, the new manager and Andy didn’t click.  Eventually, when the store needed to trim their employees, Andy was laid off.

He was a hard worker who doesn’t like sitting and watching TV.  He doesn’t play video games.  He likes to work.  When his family came to me regarding their problem with Andy, I was amused as they explained their dilemma.  Without other work, yard care has become his speciality. We have one day a week when trash and rubbish are picked up.  This included leaves, yard trimmings, branches and limbs.  Garbage pick-up is different days.

When the trash man comes, Andy insists that something must be in the container.  He has trimmed their trees until there will soon be problems.  With equal enthusiasm, he has trimmed the neighbors’ trees and bushes.  Still there are days that his parents must allow him to trim bushes which don’t need to be trimmed so there will be something for the trash man to collect.

“Is there somewhere that he can work, a volunteer job?”  the family asked.  “Maybe the church can use him.”  Special Gathering meets at a large church with lots of needs.  Later that week, the building superintendent–at the church where we meet–was asked if they would be able to have Andy come once or twice a week to police the building, picking up trash and leaves.  He and his father wanted to do this as volunteers.

The superintendent almost jumped with joy.  A long time member, George, had come every morning for 25 years to pick up trash and leaves.  When George had a stroke, he could no longer come.  A big void was created.  The church was in dire need of a person to come and help with this job.

Andy is not the only person within the special needs community who reacts to a loss of job in this way.  In fact, he was not even the exception.  Usually, people who are developmentally disabled want to work.  Occasionally, people with disabilities are looked on as freeloaders.  Yes, they do receive Social Security benefits.  Nevertheless, they desire to work and pay taxes.  When they are not able to find a job, they are willing to volunteer for and pick up the slack in the organizations that have value to them.

Each of us need to feel value.  Jesus said, “Love your neighbor, as you love yourself.”  Isn’t the meaning clear?  We can measure the amount of love we have for others by the volume of love we have for ourselves.  This teaching seems to stand against the other teachings of Jesus.  Giving ourselves away is a central theme of Christianity; so how could Jesus mean what he said?  Perhaps, the translator made a mistake.  Maybe, the gospel writers weren’t standing it the correct spot on the mountain while Jesus spoke to clearly hear his words.  Could it be that a mouthy sea-gull flew over the mount as Jesus spoke, thus garbling his words?

The most logical explanation is that Jesus meant what he said.  As a person, I need to love the face in the mirror to be able to fully and truly love other people.  In the same way that people with disabilities feel better about themselves when they become valued members of their community, each of us need the same spurring to react to my neighbor in kind and loving ways.

Does this sound too simple to be effective?  Do you think this is the end of the formula to self-worth, or merely a small step forward?  Do you believe that I’ve completely missed the point?  If so, what did Jesus mean by this declaration?

 

The Call

posted by Linda G. Howard

Larry wasn’t at our He Is Alive! Party the Saturday before Resurrection Day.  I wondered because Larry never misses Special Gathering of Vero, a ministry within the developmentally disabled community.  Our mission is evangelism and discipleship.   However, our supervisor told me that she had been told that Larry wouldn’t be at the party.  Larry’s mom had been in the hospital for a small speck that had been found on her brain. Yet, I’d been told that things were good and that she left the hospital without surgery.

When I received a voice message yesterday from his mother, Jackie, I was sad because I knew that this wasn’t a good sign.  In honesty, I waited for an hour to respond; because I wanted to prepare myself for what I would hear from her.

Neither of us planned on developing a friendship.  But Saturday after Saturday, Jackie and I exchanged pleasant information about family and Larry.  The result, we have become friends.  She appreciates how much Larry loves the Lord because of his faithfulness to Special Gathering.  I love her willingness to bring him each week, on time.  She’s never late to pick him up after the chapel services.  As we have gotten to know each other, a genuine love has developed that goes beyond our mutual relationship with Larry.

In short, in the week between appointments with the local doctor and the Orlando specialist, the tumor’s size has doubled.  They believe that it is cancerous and the growth is alarming.  We talked for a few minutes; and she filled me in with all the details.

Then I asked her about her relationship with the Lord.  I felt that she was a Christian but I wanted to be sure.  ”Yes,” she assured me.  ”I know the Lord.  He is my Savior.”

For a few minutes, we cried together.  I’m sure that she could not tell that I was crying and I know that I’m supposed to maintain a more ministerial aura.  However, there are some people who worm their way into your heart and eat that veneer with their love.  Jackie is one of those people.  After our conversation, I was thankful that she had called on Resurrection Day because the joy and hope of new life was burning in my spirit.

The assurance of life eternal is the result of Christ’s resurrection.  The Bible tells us in Roman 8:11, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”  No matter what the outcome, Jackie is in the Lord’s hands.

What are some of the good things you have had happen on Resurrection Day?

 

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