A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

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!

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”?

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