A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

Partial payment

posted by Linda G. Howard

Today I finished the final payment for a set of storage cabinets that I asked All Around Handyman and Lawn Service to do for me.  They are beautiful enough to have in my home; but they are in the garage.  When Matt began the work, I wasn’t familiar with his work; and I wrote out the first partial-payment check with a bit of concern.

Sure he had given me a great price and I really needed some cabinets or “something” to hide all the things I work with in Special Gathering, which a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  My husband and I had put together scraps and parts from old lumber to make his garage serviceable.  But as the years, as his health failed, my Special Gathering ministry items slowly took over parts of the shelving.

Our gardening necessities were hanging here and yonder.  He had more saws and sanders and gizmos than I dare to list.  There was a need for some kind of order.

When my husband died almost two years ago, I quickly cleared out all his clothes, medical equipment.  The children and grandchildren sorted through his professional items and took the aerospace and NASA momentos that they wanted.  I cleaned out his office.  But the garage…

That was the place where his heart lay.  For more than thirty years, he worked on an invention that he believed would change the world.  He died before his dream was realized.  I never wanted to romanticize his work but I also found that I could not clear it away.  I could not throw out the scraps and books that contained his life’s dream.  Until January.

With the new year, I knew it was time to set out on a one-year project to get the garage organized and cleaned out.  After working about a month, I realized that I must have a better system. I called Matt of All Around Handyman and Lawn.  He came and gave me a reasonable estimate for servicable and workable garage cabinets.

He took three days to complete the first phase of the project.  I watched with amazement at the skill, care and joy with which he worked.  He is a craftsman.  On Wednesday, just as he had promised, he completed the job.  I had no concerns when I wrote him the final payment.

Matt is a Christian man who started a risky adventure this year with his new business.  I believe that his abilities and painstaking focus will make his successful. I feel that even though I’ve paid him for doing the work, I am the one who has received the greatest blessing.

Whether we realize it or not, each day we can make a partial payment for godly blessing in the lives of the people that we encounter.   That grumpy cashier may need prayer.  My friend, Maria, always leans over the counter of a rude cashier or salesperson and whispers, “I know you are having a bad day.  I’m going to pray for you.”  She has even been known to slip an extra $10 into his hand if she believes that God is telling her to do it.  This wouldn’t be extraordinary except Maria is as poor as a stray cat.  There are times that she must stretch her meager pay check to buy groceries for a day, wondering what she will eat the rest of the week.

The other day I received a card from Betty, a member of Special Gathering.  It was a lovely Hallmark thank you card.  She carefully printed in large irregular letters, “I want you to know I love you very much.”  From another woman, this would be a welcomed ditty.  From Betty, it was a heart-felt and unusual expression of love.  I’ve known her for 25 years, but I’ve never known Betty to speak of any sentimentality.  I felt God was saying to me, “This is partial payment for the hours you’ve spent with her teaching, guiding and loving.”  I wept because of the love that she had given to me in that note.

As I looked at the finished cabinets today, I felt mixed emotions.  The Lord and Matt had given me a partial payment of godly blessing.  I loved the cabinet and I enjoyed filling them with all my Special Gathering stuff.  But there was a tinge of regret that my husband was never able to have this when it was his garage.  Then, I quickly realized that in a strange way, Matt’s wonderful cabinets were as much for Frank as for me.

As I closed the door to the garage tonight, I asked the Lord to thank Frank for this gift–partial payment from him to me given with love.

Remember where you are going

posted by Linda G. Howard

climbing without ropesEach of us has been given a plan for our lives.  For most, that blueprint remains a mystery and a puzzle.  We wander back and forth unsure of our footing or grasp.  Much like a mountain climber who has no safety rope or pick, we inch our way through life fearing each move.  There is challenge and fear because we know that one wrong move will plunge us to a certain death.

Yet, there is little doubt that God has a plan for our lives.  It is an inexpugnable promise that glares from every page of the scriptures.  God’s direct intervention our lives is a glorious road map that leads to an abundant life.  It remains a mystery to me why we so often forget the guiding Hand that desires to nurture, lead and guide us, falling instead before the idols of selfishness, doubt and uncertainty.

roadmapGod’s plan for our lives must be the destination of our travels.  Twenty years before I was asked to be on staff at The Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, the Lord told me his plan.  I was reading Corrie ten Boon’s book about the ministry she had before the war.  Dante Corrie was the pastor to people in her community who were mentally challenged.  God spoke to me as I read, “This is what I’ve called you to do.”

Twenty years of training lay ahead of me before I was to do this work; yet, He never forgot his plan for me.  I must admit that I tried to bring about God’s plan and failed miserably several times.  Then after 15 years or so, I decided that I had missed the Lord and would never be able to fulfil God’s true plan for my life.  I put the plan on a top shelf and forgot.  While still following God’s direction, I forgot the plan.  But God didn’t.  He continued my training.

When His time came, I was introduced to Rev. Richard Stimson, founder and executive director of Special Gathering; and I came to the ministry to write a book for him.  From the moment I walked into my first chapel program, I knew that I’d come home.

The book was never published; but I never left.  After a few months, the Lord gently spoke to my heart, “Remember.  I told you this is what I’d called you to do.”  I feel the Lord allowed me to forget that calling because when I remembered, it was another firm confirmation that I was walking in God’s plan for my life.

direction signCounselors are told that the best thing you can do is to allow a troubled person to talk.  In so doing, the person discovers for herself the true reason from her distress and the answer to the problem that lies deep inside of each person.  Of course, as Christ followers, we desire to know God’s plan for us and not our capricious way.  But we each know.  It may be hidden and lost in the training.  Perhaps, in frustration or fear of failure, we put in on a shelf, waiting for God’s timing.

But God does not forget.  If we are desiring to follow him and we love his ways, God will continue to direct us into his plan..into his way.  Then at the right time, he will nudge us and whisper into our spirits, “Remember where you are going.  This is the way.  Walk in it.”

Remember–a Christian discipline

posted by Linda G. Howard

family celebrationRemembering is a vital Christian discipline that is either ignored or taught in an off-handed, casual manner.  Most of us know that routine thinking is defined by psychologists as remembering what happened in the past and rehearsing how we would change it if we could relive the event.  Perhaps that is the reason why Christians disregard the command of Jesus to “do this to remember me.”

Why should such a common event as remembering become a Christian disciple?  But isn’t God the redeemer of all things, especially those events and objects which we take for granted, find most common or deem less valuable.

family preparing for deploymentOur memories are an essential part of who we are.  Family events often mean sitting around the table rehearsing past joys and sorrows.  We laugh again and again at Uncle Billy’s comment about Vero Beach.  We delight in Tarah’s antics telling about the ordeal of preparing for her husband’s deployment to Afghanistan. We use our dinner napkins to wipe away the tears when our laugher turns to piercing loneliness as we joke about Mama’s long, convoluted prayers that each year kept us from eating our Thanksgiving dinner until it was cold.

We know that these are times of joyful sorrow that make our hearts grow with love and appreciation for each other.   Yet, that experience is not often shared among the church family.  One of the highlights of my Christian life was when The Tabernacle Church of Melbourne hosted their 25th anniversary dinner.  It was a time of remembering and sharing the joys and hidden sorrows of a congregation that had grown into a family.

I believe that communion was to be more than a ritualistic handing out of the cup and bread.  It was to be more than the sharing of the “host.”   It was to be a time of true remembrance and celebration.

community churchOf course, there are times that our hearts are filled with the cares and concerns of our world.   We approach communion with a need for more time, more energy and more resources.  We don’t have the time, energy or resources to “rehearse” that joyful night which ushered in the heart-bending sorrow of a crucified Savior.

Working in the mentally challenged community for 24 years has taught me many lessons.  One is the value of remembering.  Saturday night, as I stood beside Keith’s hospital bed with two of his caregiver, our conversation slowly ambled toward Chris, Grace, Tom and so many others.  Young people who were snatched from us too soon. Keith slept because his medical emergency was over.  Relieved that he would go home, we hugged each other with sweet memories and conversation of our loved ones who have gone to be the Lord.

Perhaps turning these moments into a traditional ceremony will only take away the value.  Yet, it is apparent that the Lord wants to become a vital part of the joys and sorrows of remembering.

Remember where we came from

posted by Linda G. Howard

looking at her watchShe is never early.  Always late.  He cannot speak without using offensive or vulgar expressions.  ”I’M marching to a different drummer” is her excuse for breaking all the rules and acting selfishly.  He only seems interested in hurting others, if he doesn’t get his way.

I’ve deliberately left out names.  Because we all can fit into any of those statements but for the mercy and work of God in our hearts.  In fact, even though we have come to Lord and asked for his saving grace, one of the greatest tricks of our enemy is to erase from our memory the place where we dwelt before God’s forgiveness entered our hearts and lives.

sitting in a boxWe’ve been told by the Lord, “Do this to remember me.”  Often to the Church, Jesus is saying, “Remember me so you can be reminded of the point where you started.  Remember where you were; and you still are a sinner.  You need a Savior.”

My heart desires to reach out and slap some folks I know.  They aren’t following the Lord up to my standards.  Or they are giving to the point of hurting the people they want to bless.  Their lives shout, “I need a Savior.”  Yet, their eyes are blind to their own needs.  They can see the fault of everyone around them.  Nevertheless, they cannot see their own needs and sins.

Others are like me.  We are born-again but we still walk through life succumbing to sinful desires.  Or there are those of us who have become self-righteous looking through our salvation binoculars at everyone who does not know the Lord as their Savior.  Carnal or baby Christians are an anathema to us.  We cannot understand why they can’t get their lives together.

We understand God’s amazing grace in our lives but we want to customize the way God’s deals with others according to our plan and our dictates.  We have forgotten our starting point.  We’ve become self-righteous to the core.

crossroadsPaul instructed the church to never forget from where we came.  The Lord wants us to lead by example; not proclamation. Each year, Special Gathering ministry takes about 175 people who are intellectually disabled on a four-day retreat experience.  In my first year at Camp Agape, one of the hardest things for me to learn as a new staff person was the principle of “leading by example.”  I wanted to tell everyone what to do and where to do it.

The problem is that telling is much easier than leading by example.  Nevertheless, God has given us an airtight way to overturn our self-righteous ways.  ”Remember where we came from.”

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