A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

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?

 

That’s the Wrong Answer

posted by Linda G. Howard

One day while training a new Special Gathering staff member, I asked him if he would clean up a mess left by our members in one of the Bible study classroomes.  Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged (intellectually disabled) community.  Our mission is evangelism and discipleship.  This new staff  told me, “I don’t clean up messes like this.  I’ve paid my dues.  I did that in my other job.  I don’t have to clean up other people’s garbage now.”  That was the wrong answer.  Obviously, he didn’t last long in Special Gathering.  One of the hallmarks of  ministry for Christ is that we  always “get to clean up the messes.”

It is true that when we take 200 members on a spiritual retreat for four days at Vero Beach, the Camp Agape directors have found that it is not a good stewardship of our time to be tied up for an hour or two in “mess fixing” the nasty bathroom accidents.   That is because during those times, other circumstances rise from the abyss; and that is when real emergencies seem to happen.  We’ve learned that many times emergencies can be averted by a simple word from a director.  Therefore, we ask people who feel it is a privilege to do this type of work.  (Yes, Martha, there are other people out there like you.)

In the life of Christ, I believe it isn’t the task that is important.  It is the attitude that dictates godliness.  That is true in all of our lives.  When our attitude becomes one of  true servanthood rather than haughty eliteness, God will bless us and it becomes a joy to be the servant of others.

The Sounds of Resurrection Morning

posted by Linda G. Howard

Because we live two blocks from the ocean, Resurrection morning is a time of great joy for me.

Sunrise on the beach

Around 6:30AM, the singing begins because the Christian community gathers at the beachside park near our home, for the Easter sunrise service.  From the stillness of the morning, Christ the Lord is risen today.  Alleluia! wafts through the atmosphere.  

I allow time each Easter to step outside in our garden to hear the music of the saints.

Most Sunday mornings, I rise early and slip into my weekly role of chauffer. Almost no one who is mentally challenged drives, so providing transportation for the members of our group, A Special Gathering, is vital for success.

I must pick up people as well as check on drivers for the bus routes. Then I set up the chairs and tables for the chapel worship services.  I leave our house at 7AM.

Celebrating victory over death

As I left the house this Resurrection Morning, the music stopped and the sermon began.  Last year, when I passed the park, I saw a man on the second story balcony of the bar adjacent to the park.  He was leaning into the sound of the sermon.  From his body’s position, you could tell that he was receiving the good news of the resurrection of Jesus.

My imagination whirled around different scenarios that could be his story.

  • Was he a clean-up person who stopped wiping tables and emptying beer glasses to listen to the music which brought back joyful childhood memories?
  • Was he a widower experiencing his first Easter without his wife, who had annually dragged her husband to a sunrise service?   Now he regretted all the years he fought her and desperately wanted to tell her?
  • Was he remembering his godly parents or a saintly grandfather?
  • Was he a man who never missed church, but was pulled into the bar to clean the building after college revelers had spent a long night of spring-break partying?

Happy Resurrection Morning!

I had no answers to any of these questions, of course.  However, what I saw was the wonderful attraction of the good news of the resurrection.  For a few moments, we forget the Easter eggs and the chocolate candy and the new clothes. 

Jesus is risen from the dead. He has brought to the world new life.  Resurrection life has been birthed into the lives of all who will come and receive God’s priceless gift of love and redemption.

Happy Resurrection Day!

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