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A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

Reality TV and my life

posted by Linda G. Howard

Wonderful, dreadful and insignificant, our lives are being recorded to be shown to every creature someday.  Is there a hidden camera waiting for us to stumble in order for someone to place it on UTube?  Is this a government plot to enslave all of us?

No.  This morning as my husband was watching Christian TV, I was reminded that every aspect of my life is being recorded.  Not for reality TV or UTube but where it really count, within the heavenly annals.

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In the Bible, we are clearly told that on God’s Judgment Day, the books of our lives will be opened and we must stand before the Lord to answer regarding every aspect of our lives.  As a child, Saturday movie matinée at the Waylyn Theatre was a valued part of my childhood.  The $.14 entrance fee ushered me and a hundred other children into a wonder land visible on a screen so large that every aspect of my mind and brain was filled with the sights and sounds of an alternate universe.

Therefore, the recording of our lives never puzzled me because I knew God was more powerful than Hollywood.  I assumed that it was a supernatural thing that went on in those holy celestial halls.  However, now we see the lives of so many folks edited and shown in our living rooms.  It’s available every night of the week.  Reality TV has become common place.  “The Housewives” have taken over so much of what we see.  With 90,000 channels, there are only so many times that we can watch reruns of I Love Lucy. A cheap way to fill the hours had to be devised.  As a result, reality TV was born.

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As some reality stars have found, filming every moment of your life is a two-edged sword.  It can make you a millionaire and give you public recognition.  Yet,  just as quickly, destroy your life.

What about us?  Carlos, a member of Special Gathering, is a high-functioning man whose disability is within the autism spectrum.  He has held a full-time position at an electronics firm for decades.  He is well-respected because of his work ethic.  He is paid well by the firm who employs him.  Years ago, he began bringing a video camera to record my sermons.

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Then he would watch my sermons again and again.  It was a bit daunting because Carlos knew when I repeated a story; and he knew the exact date that I told the antidote.  He knew if I changed the facts a bit.  I could never slip in my devotion prep because Carlos was making a visual record of even my worst devotions.  Those days when he was recording probably made me a  better teacher.

This morning, I wondered if my life skills have been honed because of the reality that God is recording my actions and reactions.  Will I one day have to look at the shameful day that I pushed my husband aside in anger and he lost his balance and fell?  Will I have to see the way I’ve treated others on the days I whine the excuse, “I just don’t feel good”?

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My life story will either bring glory to the Lord or eternal shame for me.  I praise God that the Bible also says that those missteps and sins that are forgiven have been edited from The Linda Howard Reality Story.  As each of us stand before God’s judgment seat, we will receive rewards for our deeds. Nevertheless, because of the blood of Jesus our sins can be hidden from view.

What is a time that you delighted in God’s forgiveness?  Will the recording of your life bring glory to the Savior?  What about your actions and reactions to your family, spouse or friends?  What is God’s reality show recording?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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?

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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?

 

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