A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

My Story

posted by Linda G. Howard

My Story

by Michelle Demeree

My story begins with love.

My story begins with prayers.

My story begins with hope.

Through  hope, love and prayers,

I found faith in the Lord,

Finding faith in all I do.

God has put me here to make a difference.

He has given me His heart of gold for others.

Now I love to pray for all people.

Inside my heart, I feel God’s love.

Through hope, love and prayers,

I found faith in the Lord,

Finding faith in all I do.

Shelly Demeree is a poet whose poems appear in several publications.  She has her own web page, which includes some of her poety.  She is a member and deacon at The Special Gathering of Melbourne.

Soul Surfer and the Cross

posted by Linda G. Howard

My son lives on the North Shore of Hawaii.  He is a champion surfer.  The North Shore is where many of the massive waves originate that we see in the movies and on posters.  He calls his father and me several times a week to give wave updates, chat and exchange notes on friends and family.

“Mom,  you must see Soul Surfer,” he told me the other evening.  I didn’t comment.  I sat a bit shocked.  He is not into syrupy and my impression of the movie was that this Disney film fit into the to the Disney stereo-type frame.  “I cried all the way through it.”  This time I was speechless.  My son doesn’t cry at movies.

Then he explained.  “The filming is magnificent.  Only a surfer could really understand how good the wave scenes are.  But it’s the story.  Mom, it’s the story.  Bethany’s story.”

He continued, “On the North Shore, none of the surfers say, ‘I can’t.’  If the waves are massive and ‘I can’t’ is used, everyone will chime in together, ‘Bethany Hamilton surfs these waves with one arm.  Don’t you dare say, I can’t.’

“And,” he said knowing his next words would peak my interest, “Disney didn’t play down her relationship with the Lord.  The movie told it like it is.”

In case you’ve been a bubble for the past years, Miss Hamilton is a young woman who lost her arm to a shark while surfing as a teenager.  A surfing prodigy, she believed that her life-long dream of becoming a professional surfer was gone.  But her faith kept her going in that direction.  She now holds national titles in surfing.

As a child, in our church in Charleston, it was engraved on my mind, emotions and spirit, standing to sing, There’s room at the cross for you…Though millions have come, there is still room for one.  There is room at the cross for you.

Now, I live in the world of disabilities.  Perhaps, I understand more than most the vast difference the crucifixion of Christ can make in a life.   As area director for Special Gathering, a ministry within the mentally challenged community, I’ve seen the powerful effects of the cross in people’s lives.

Surrendering my life to the God “who would rather die that live without me” is a life-changing event.  It doesn’t mean that a surfing prodigy won’t ever be faced with the dangers of the ocean.  It doesn’t always mean that arms will grow back that have been knawled by a shark.  Within the mentally challenged community, it doesn’t mean that Julie will ever learn to read.  It doesn’t mean that MaryAnn will ever be able to say, “Mama.”

It does mean that God will use the sacrifice of Christ to forgive our selfishness and transform our lives.  Additionally, because of the resurrection, we can become a champion surfer who has one arm and who inspires people across the globe to never say, “I can’t.”  We can become new in him, loving the unlovely.  We will be given the strength to walk one more step when we are aching tired from caring for a child with a disability.  Because of Jesus’ great sacrificial giving, we can become new creations, children of God.

What mounting challenge are you facing today?  How has the sacrifice of Christ made a difference in your life?  What motivates you when everything in you screams, “I can’t”?

The Prayer

posted by Linda G. Howard

We gathered around her bed, watching her shallow breathing.  We waited.  Mother, 84 years old,  had awakened with blood pouring from her mouth.  My sister, her caregiver, was unsure.  Had she seizured and bitten her tongue; or was she hemorrhaging?  She called Hospice.  Then she made a series of phone calls to family members to let them know the latest in our 40 month saga as our mother slowly crawled toward death.

As strange as it may seem, in the annals of my life, I will record those five days spent at the foot of mother’s bed with my feet propped on the railing, one of the most joyful times in my life.  Two daughters, a daughter-in-law,  three granddaughters, two great granddaughters and several children kept the vigil.  We slept little as our saintly mother labored to breath.  The shallow whisps of air would wane and then strengthen.  We laughed and cried.

We ate junk food; then we laughed and cried.  We talked to distant relatives on the phone; and with them we laughed and cried.  We ate delicious meals catered from restaurants owned by grandchildren.  When the meals arrived, we received the embraces of the new arrivals; and we laughed and cried.  We threw together meals to keep us from eating one more chocolate Easter egg.   Sharing our meals on tables piled with insurance forms and medical equipment, we laughed and cried.

At 3AM, the children taking the early morning shift at her bedside, stiffled giggles of exhaustion.  Each one of us crawled in the bed with her for a moment, just to feel her breathe on our faces one last time.  Just to touch her again before she left us for her heavenly home.  While we cried often, it was a strange mixture of joyful remembering and pain of separation that brought the tears.  We knew her faith.  We rejoiced in her destination, not her departure.

As Jesus and his disciples gathered for their last meal together, Jesus expresses joy.  How can that be?  Tomorrow he would face death, a terribly painful death of torture and shame.  Could joy really fill the room of thirteen men who had walked, listened, ate, laughed and cried together?  Oh, yes.  They laughed and they cried.  The imminent anguish the Lord faced was put aside for this last joyful meal together.

Then Jesus prayed a long, stirring prayer.  Father, the time has come.  Give glory to your Son so that the Son can give glory to you.

Confidence beyond the circumstances poured from the Lord, as he embraced with joy the future of the Church. You gave the Son power over all people so that the Son could give eternal life to all those you gave him.

No misgivings filled this conversation with the Father. And this is eternal life; that people know you, the only true God, and that they know Jesus Christ, the One you sent.

Strength and boldness poured from his inner being, expressing a completion of the task for which he was sent.  Having finished the work you gave me to do.  I brought you glory on earth.

It was a prayer for the men who sat in the room; but it was also a prayer for you and for me.  I pray for these followers, but I am also praying for all those who will believe in me because of their teaching.

Jesus prayed for me.  That night, in the middle of this joyous meal, he remembered me.  He prayed that all believers would be one.  Jesus prayed that we would abide with him and join him in heaven.

The passover, seder, meal is a meal of remembered redemption and release.  At times I stumble.  I fail everyone from my Lord to the clerk in the grocery store I see only once a week.  But in humility and with confidence, I can return to the place of laughter and tears.  From there, I can emerge with new strength and endurance because Jesus prayed for me.

In what ways would you alter your life if you fully understood that Jesus’ prayer was for you?   Would this make a difference in the way you relate to other about the Lord?

In the garden

posted by Linda G. Howard

For several decades, I’ve had one spot in our home where I pray.  It’s not a place set apart situated away from everyone–not a separate sanctuary.  This room is in the middle of the house, where we gather for family celebrations.  Yet, it is a place that has become holy to me because that is where I go each day to meet the Lord.

When we have overnight guests and they come into this room before I arrive in the morning, I miss my Holy Place.  Naturally, it’s not a problem to go back to the bedroom and pray; even though it is somehow not the same.  Putting a bit of guilt on myself, I sometimes feel as though the place should not mean as much to me as it does.  Then a few months ago, I heard Dr. Charles Stanley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta, speaking about his holy place.  He believed that the places where we regularly meet the Lord become hallowed ground.

His logic makes sense to me.   Of course, God resides in all the earth and all places are his creation.  However, the place where I go to meet the Lord has great significant to me.  I’ve experienced the holiness of God there more times than I can remember.

In John 18 verses 1-3 (NCV), we read,

When Jesus finished praying, he went with his followers across the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and Jesus and his followers went into it.

Judas knew where this place was, because Jesus met there often with his followers. Judas was the one who turned against Jesus. So Judas came there with a group of soldiers and some guards from the leading priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns, and weapons.

On that first Maundy Thursday, Jesus and the Eleven went to the garden to pray.  Note that the passage says, “Judas knew where this place was, because Jesus met there often with his followers. ”  This was a place where Jesus loved to pray.  He and his Father met there often for conversation and intimacy.  This holy place was where Judas came because he understood that Jesus would take his friends there after the Seder meal.

This week as I read this scripture preparing myself for Holy Week, I was struck by the horror that Judas imposed on the Lord.  Only a close, personal friend can expose the deep reservoirs of our hearts.  The garden was a secret place that perhaps only the 13 men knew.  Down through the ages, the Church has dwelt on the kiss–the method of betrayal.  However, perhaps the place of the betrayal is equally horrible and ironic.

Soldiers, Temple guards,  and Pharisees armed with weapons and carrying lanterns and torches trampled into the garden.  These interlopers violated this most sacred ground where the Godhead met to commune in joyful love or deep sorrow.

As I prepare my heart for Resurrection Sunday, I understand the betrayal of a trusted friend.  I know how gossip and hearsay can cut like a knife. Most people do.  However, when God allows the holy places in our lives to be trampled by the enemy of our souls, those are the times that our hearts may cry in unbelief, even questioning His faithfulness.  Yet, in the presence of the empty tomb, God’s redemption erases our doubts, unbelief and questions.

When have you seen God turn great sorrow into eternal joy in your life?  If you are still walking under the shadow of betrayal, can you see God’s redemptive hand in your situation?

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