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A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

simple truths Archives

Explaining Grace

posted by Linda G. Howard

In the past weeks, I’ve been going over some of the key words in our covenant relationship with God with the members of my community who are intellectually disabled.  Perhaps one of the most important words we use is grace. […]

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Can You Come?

posted by Linda G. Howard

Maddie is one of those people within the mentally challenged community whom everyone loves.  She is friendly and happy.  Maddie makes everyone feel as though they are her “extra-special friend.”  Several years ago Mattie and her husband moved from our city […]

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The Choice that Changed Everything–a sermon for the mentally challenged community

posted by Linda G. Howard

The choice that changed everything Nehemiah 9:17 Central Theme: Man choices to sin and God chooses to be gracious. A ream of paper has 500 sheets–not more and not less. A foot is 12 inches–not more and not less. There […]

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Overcoming Fatigue

posted by Linda G. Howard

After four days of Camp Agape, my children laugh that I’m in my Camp Coma for about a week.  While it’s humorous there is a lot of truth in their designation of my abilities.  There are some things that I’ve […]

Familiar customs and limited means

posted by Linda G. Howard

When the Biblical young woman, Ruth, married into a Jewish family she understood little about their ways, God or religion.  This is my supposition; but I base the conjecture on facts.  Moabites were shunned by the Israelis.  Decades before, Moab wronged the wandering […]

Pressure Time

posted by Linda G. Howard

Is there a time that you can remember that you were pressured beyond your ability to cope? There have been many for me. As a child, my mother told me again and again that I was constantly burning the candle […]

When we leak

posted by Linda G. Howard

Recently, I’ve heard a great deal about the things the Holy Spirit was doing in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  It is interesting to me because those were days through which we lived.  There were times that it seemed that the […]

Providing a Safe Harbor

posted by Linda G. Howard

One of the most important things a person can provide for any person and especially for a man or woman who is developmentally disabled is a safe harbor–a place where they can securely share their thoughts, feelings and emotions.  Because […]

The First Points of Light Award

posted by Linda G. Howard

When President George H. W. Bush gave the first Points of Lights Awards, one of them went to a NASA employee named Frank S. Howard who was a volunteer for The Special Gathering of Indian River. The fact that Frank […]

Eating fish

posted by Linda G. Howard

We all know that when you eat fish you will usually come across a bone or two no matter how carefully the fish has been filleted.  We also know that the bones aren’t digestible and should be spit out.  Fish […]

A history lesson

posted by Linda G. Howard

Over the past months, I’ve discovered the classics from Sir Walter Scott, James Fenimore Cooper, St. Augustine to Andrew Murray.  Of course, most of these volumes were written in the early 1800’s.  Unlocking the labyrinth of historical fact wrapped around […]

End of an era

posted by Linda G. Howard

Carla is not adjusting well to this time.  It is an end of an era for her.  Carla  is a high functioning person with intellectual disabilities.   Both parents have died.  She became too ill to live in her own apartment […]

Wilted

posted by Linda G. Howard

A couple of times a year I must dedicate several days to my garden.  I have a small yard.  Therefore, most of my back and side yards are devoted to my garden.  I’m not consistent enough with my yard work […]

The Don’t’s of Friendship

posted by Linda G. Howard

After the men had gathered for their last supper together, Jesus made a shocking statement to his followers.  In the light of who he was–mighty God, the Messiah, the Christ and Savior of the world–Jesus’s announcement is a total departure […]

Friendship

posted by Linda G. Howard

Robert Lewis Stevenson expressed an important sentiment regarding friendship.  He said, “So long as we love, we serve.  No man is useless while he is a friend.” Jesus, however, lifted friendship to a new and holy level when he spoke […]

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. […]

Remember where you are going

posted by Linda G. Howard

Each 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 […]

Remember–a Christian discipline

posted by Linda G. Howard

Remembering 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 […]

Remember where we came from

posted by Linda G. Howard

She 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 […]

Remember

posted by Linda G. Howard

Perhaps one of the greatest virtues and joys of a Christian is remembering.  We often overlook the command that Jesus gave to us during the Lord’s Supper.  He said, “Do this so you will remember me.” Time and time again […]

Meeting a friend

posted by Linda G. Howard

Tonight I had a pleasant surprise when I met a friend who is also a member of Special Gathering during my late afternoon walk.  My friend, M.J. was meeting with her reading tutor in the park. Her tutor explained that […]

Writers write

posted by Linda G. Howard

Each day begins with prayer and either household errands or blogging.  As much as I enjoy writing, the daily household demands of living often interfere with what I feel God has called me to do.  The author of thousands of […]

Saying what you mean

posted by Linda G. Howard

During the morning, I performed some mindless cleaning and straightening of a supply closet.  Also, I listened to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she testified before the Senate.  Later, in the afternoon, I met in a strategy meeting with […]

Meaning what you say

posted by Linda G. Howard

Even though saying what we mean is difficult, it may be harder to mean what we say.  When working with people with intellectually disabilities, I’ve found that our sub-culture is actually less prone to say things they do not mean […]

The Philosophy of the blog

posted by Linda G. Howard

I am often surprised at where blog entries go and even more surprised where they do not go.  It seems that each time I plug into another venue (Facebook, Pinterest, etc.), there are new readers.  At this point, other than […]

God’s shouts

posted by Linda G. Howard

Two of my good friends are also members of Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  They are going through extremely difficult times. Last night I spent a good deal of time with them.  It was […]

Permanent Markers

posted by Linda G. Howard

I found an interesting tip for making your own personalized dinnerware.  You buy the cheap white china from the Dollar Store and write on it with a porcelain pin.  Then you bake them in the oven for 30 minutes. It’s […]

Traveling Mercies

posted by Linda G. Howard

Today, I’m headed home from a vacation that seemed long when I planned it; but then it was over more quickly than I could have imagined.  Other family will arrive soon and I’ll need to work around their vacation schedule. […]

This morning and every morning

posted by Linda G. Howard

There are few times that I don’t feel light-hearted and joyful.  My brother says that it’s only because I’m stupid.  I think it’s because God has given me the ability to see beyond present pain and embrace the joy of […]

The new mother

posted by Linda G. Howard

I remember my husband, Frank, and I rushing to the hosptial.  It was Christmas eve.  I’d farmed out the other two children to willing neighbors in a pitch of fervor.   Frank had refused to pick the name for a […]

Glory to God in the Highest–a sermon

posted by Linda G. Howard

Glory to God in the Highest Luke 2:6-16 Central Theme:  Christmas is a time for big events and big changes. Introduction–I have to admit that at Christmas I go a little crazy.  I save all year and spend all December.  […]

Caught on tape

posted by Linda G. Howard

This is a comment I received from a reader.  I thought this was well worth our review. Autistic people can be some of the most vulnerable dependent adults in the universe. Mainly, because they are at the mercy of others […]

The end of my world?

posted by Linda G. Howard

Okay! I had to do this.  But I have more reason to write about December 21, 2012 than most folks.  It’s my birthday and it’s a big one.  That is, it’s a big number.  For many people, my age might […]

The promised peace

posted by Linda G. Howard

That night, some shepherds were in the fields nearby watching their sheep. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them. The glory of the Lord was shining around them, and they became very frightened. The angel said to them, “Do not […]

Telling the story of Christmas

posted by Linda G. Howard

How do you tell the Christmas story to a group of people who are intellectually disabled?  Of course, this is a dilemma no matter where your ministry lies.  If you are a parent, can you make the story fresh to […]

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

posted by Linda G. Howard

At Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, we have several activities to celebrate the birth of the Savior.  My favorite is our Happy Birthday, Jesus Party.  Our members bring food.  There is a birthday cake. […]

Purchasing time

posted by Linda G. Howard

There are few times of the year that present the Church with a greater degree of purchasing power than the time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.  I’m actually not thinking about purchasing gifts or other stuff but purchasing a […]

No link between autism and planned violence

posted by Linda G. Howard

The Autism Society continues to mourn the lives lost on Friday, December 14 in Newtown, Conn.  We join the nation as we keep our collective attention focosed on those directly impacted by this tragedy. In the nation’s rush to understand […]

Face to face with God

posted by Linda G. Howard

In ancient times, few people were given the privilege of seeing God.  While we aren’t told that Abraham actually saw God face to face, we know that God valued Abraham so much that he was called “the friend of God.” […]

The Star

posted by Linda G. Howard

As Pastor Iman passed Eric who paced back and forth at the back of the room, the pastor asked the young man, “What part do have in the play?” “I’m the star,” Eric said, scratching his head and facing the […]

Value of Repetition Part 2

posted by Linda G. Howard

Martin Luther has been quoted (or probably misquoted) as saying, “I’ve read the Bible once.  I don’t need to read it again.”  The life of Luther disavows this ascertion because it was his study of the scriptures that led him […]

The value of repetition

posted by Linda G. Howard

For years, one of our Bible teachers at Special Gathering reviewed the same Bible verse with his class every week.  ”I will pray morning, noon and night.”  As the first five years rolled around, I became a bit disturbed.  Doesn’t […]

Ethel–A teacher to remember

posted by Linda G. Howard

Ethel was a Bible teacher at Special Gathering.  Additionally, she wrote many books for the mentally challenged community and they were published in our monthly newsletter.  Ethel and I shared a passion for writing and Special Gathering.  Therefore, we became […]

The Choice that Changed Everything–a sermon

posted by Linda G. Howard

The choice that changed everything Nehemiah 9:17 Central Theme:  Man choices to sin and God chooses to be gracious. A ream of paper has 500 sheets–not more and not less.  A foot is 12 inches–not more and not less.  There […]

Falling off my horse

posted by Linda G. Howard

In all of our lives, we suffer the embarrassment and shame of falling from our horse.  You know what I mean.  Sitting high and straight on our noble steeds, we are riding along our path of life, attempting to serve […]

Communication: I don’t understand it

posted by Linda G. Howard

Recently, I visited a neighboring Special Gathering program to practice our Christmas music. We are a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  I am the director of four of our choirs.  It seemed like a good idea. However, it appears […]

Living bad

posted by Linda G. Howard

Often, those of us who minister to people who are intellectually disabled romanticize our population.  It is the most wonderful group of people with which I’ve worked.  However, like the rest of the population, there can be glaring bumps, blemishes […]

God chooses to make the world for man–a sermon

posted by Linda G. Howard

God chooses to Make the World for Man Genesis 1:1and 26A Central Theme:  God choose to make the earth for mankind. Introduction–Bring a basket that you have made.  This is a basket that I made.  I did not create it […]

God’s Prep Time

posted by Linda G. Howard

The Church has quoted Jeremiah for more than 2000 years.  We especially love the verse 11 of chapter 29.  “I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, […]

A shameless plug

posted by Linda G. Howard

I often plug products that I’ve found beneficial, especially in the ministry of The Special Gathering, a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  The Christmas musical, A Stranger in the Manger, is a well-written and joy-filled musical that becomes an excellent […]

To move or not to move

posted by Linda G. Howard

Leonard is a handsome young man who was separated from him siblings at birth.  The State of Florida convinced his widowed mother that she could not take care of another child, especially one who was intellectually disabled like Leonard.  Therefore, […]

Prayer is answered–a sermon

posted by Linda G. Howard

Prayer Is Answered Matthew 21:22 Central Theme:  A good reason to pray is because God answers prayer. Introduction–Bring a watch that does not work.  Throw it away.  Bring a straw with a hole in it.  Throw it away.  I don‘t […]

Real Life is Full of Laughter–a poem by S Demeree

posted by Linda G. Howard

S Demeree, a memeber of The Special Gathering and gifted poet continues to write. Real Life is Full of Laughter Real life is full of laughter and fun. When we laugh, we feel things inside ourselves. Put yourself into a funny […]

Why to NOT Evacuate–an angry reaction

posted by Linda G. Howard

Since sarcasm is a staple in the life of my family, here are 11 reasons to NOT evacuate when a life-threatening storm is approaching.  I’ve had plenty of experience to accumulate reasons over the 45 years we’ve lived in a […]

When God speaks

posted by Linda G. Howard

I shared a few days ago with a friend that everytime someone prays for me, they usually end with the statement, “I believe that God is telling me that you must not be weary in well-doing.”  It’s happened so many […]

The Best of Times/The Worst of Times Part 3

posted by Linda G. Howard

Worship is the apex of all the many things we do at Special Gathering.  Therefore, it is vitally important to us that things go smoothly but there are weeks that are beyond interesting and border on bazaar. A couple of […]

The Best of Times/The Worst of Times Part 2

posted by Linda G. Howard

What do you do when some of your members become agitated and cause confusion in your services?  That is what we faced at The Special Gathering of Melbourne on Sunday morning.  Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, […]

The Best of Times/The Worst of Times Part 1

posted by Linda G. Howard

Birth, birthdays and even death are important times of blessing Some weeks you wonder how everything comes in bunches.  “Amazing” is the only word I find appropriate to describe the events of many Saturdays and Sundays at Special Gathering.  We had […]

God gives us the power to go–a sermon

posted by Linda G. Howard

God can give us the power to go Acts 1:8–Teacher Appreciation Central Theme:  God wants us to tell people about Jesus not matter where we are. Introduction–I can tell where I have been last week by the receipts in my […]

Different strokes

posted by Linda G. Howard

For me, one of the best things that happened at the Disability Leadership Gathering that I attended this week at Sonrise Retreat Center in Anderson, Indiana, was that I was griped with the amount of passion shared by the leaders who have […]

Wearing a sweater and other distractions

posted by Linda G. Howard

It’s only the beginning of fall in Central Florida.  The temperatures remains in the upper 80’s I cannot even find a sweater, much less an insulated jacket.  Tomorrow, I’m headed for Indiana for a disability meeting.  The tempertures there are […]

Reflecting the glory

posted by Linda G. Howard

Often, as I’m preparing for bed, I listen to the Bible.  Last evening, as I put away some shirts and listened to II Corinthians 3, I was struck by the last verses.  When I say struck, I mean it.  It […]

Where have you been?

posted by Linda G. Howard

Several people have asked where I’ve been.  This is really encouraging because sending an entry into the Internet atmosphere, you cannot help but wonder if anyone will actually read what you write. This has been an extremely busy time for me and […]

Look at those toys

posted by Linda G. Howard

For the past few days, I spent time with a young man who was on vacation.  He and his companion stayed near my home.  Part of his disability is that he is unable to be satisfied with what he has. […]

Shut the door

posted by Linda G. Howard

At Special Gathering, we don’t often lose a member.  There are many reasons for that.  Yet when we lose a member, it is as difficult for us as any other pastor.  I meet with many pastors fellowship groups during the […]

Where am I?

posted by Linda G. Howard

This year has been a transition point for my life.  Last year, I had a drastic change when my husband died.  In some ways, there is a new freedom.  During other times, I realize that I’m much more constrained.  There […]

The Power of Courage–a sermon

posted by Linda G. Howard

The Power of Courage Acts 4:29 Central Theme:  God gives us courage to speak and do what is right. Introduction–Bring one of your gardening books. Explain how much I love gardening and I find it easy to talk to people […]

Shallowland

posted by Linda G. Howard

Perhaps the most miserable place on earth is Shallowland.  This is a place into which most of us slip in and out.  Sometimes several times a day.  Others live there permanently, docking their storm-worn boats just outside the majestic Courts […]

The power of our words

posted by Linda G. Howard

In her late 20’s, Mindy pretty face is accented by her vibrant, chatty personality.  She lives alone in her own apartment.  Mindy is a new member of our Special Gathering.  We are a Christian program within the intellectually disabled community. […]

A blank check

posted by Linda G. Howard

Glenn McGruffie, the team manager for Veteran Services for Brevard County, Florida, signs his emails with this quote. “A veteran is someone who at one point in his or her life wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States […]

Waiting in the wings

posted by Linda G. Howard

As God moves on the hearts of the more mature members of Special Gathering, they are expressing a desire to serve the Lord in “important ways.”  I’ve been surprised at how much they are yearning to have their lives count […]

Prayer asks for help–a sermon

posted by Linda G. Howard

Prayer Asks for Help Psalm 121:12 Central Theme:  Prayer is a cry for help. Introduction–I have a friend who has a poster.  It says,  “When things are so bad or scary that you don’t know what to prayer, memorize this […]

Making the simple hard

posted by Linda G. Howard

Each day, as a Christian, my struggle with life revolves around the question.  How do I please the Lord?  Paul met with this problem while ministering God’s grace  to the churches spread all across Asia Minor and Europe.  He spoke […]

Greetings to friends

posted by Linda G. Howard

I was blessed yesterday to sit with two friends who pour their lives into the lives of others.  One of these women has ministered to me in countless ways in the course of 20+ years.  We lingered at the table […]

Kind and stern

posted by Linda G. Howard

Walking tall and straight, she had a commanding effect when she entered a room.  Even after strokes, sickness and the loss of language, Frances sat erect in her wheelchair and her presence demanded attention.  Frances wasn’t a woman who entertained […]

Complex issues

posted by Linda G. Howard

I sat at the table. The paper placard in front of me had my name printed on it to remind people of who I am.  For about four terms, I’ve served either as an alternate or a member of a […]

Preparing for leadership

posted by Linda G. Howard

Author and teacher Oz Hillman teaches that God deals with leaders in specific ways.  “There are three patterns of preparation that have been common among most of God’s leaders,” Hillman asserts. He teaches that there are three steps God uses.   […]

What is real power?–A sermon

posted by Linda G. Howard

What is real Power? Acts 3:6 Central Theme:  The power to effect lives is real power. Introduction–I called up a young couple with a new baby and we had a baby dedication. I.     Have a member Read Act 3:6. A. […]

Kelli Kennedy reports: Florida children with disabilities dumped into nursing homes

posted by Linda G. Howard

Kelli Kennedy of Associated Press assigned to Miami, FL reports that the State of Florida has plans to “dump” as many as 3,300 children with disabilities into adult nursing homes.  Because of drastic cuts in the budget, there are plans […]

Making the most of your time–Part 2

posted by Linda G. Howard

Making the most of my time often means a few easy steps that I’ve found works; and many time-management professionals agree.  Here are ten top ways that may help you manage your time. Prepare yourself physically and mentally.  In the days […]

Making the most of my time–Part 1

posted by Linda G. Howard

I’m disappointed many days when I realize how much I did NOT accomplish.  Interruptions, phone calls and distractions seem to rule the days when I’m not able to finish the needed jobs. Many people enjoy a structured work environment in […]

Leaving is hard to do

posted by Linda G. Howard

One of my greatest fears is that I won’t know when to leave, stop and quit.  When my husband retired 11 years ago, I had told him that I didn’t intend to “retire.”  Yet, on the other hand, I also […]

Is that me?

posted by Linda G. Howard

While searching a photo of my mother on the Internet to use in a sermon blog entry, I found an interesting image of a young woman who had the same name as my mother.  I had been quickly overseeing the […]

We all understand…or do we?

posted by Linda G. Howard

We all understand that our federal government is divided into three co-equal branches.  There is the executive branch, the legislative and the judicial branches.  The purpose of these three branches of government is to insure that the people of the […]

When policial correctness becomes ridiculous

posted by Linda G. Howard

Hunter Spanjer is a three-year-old child who attends a deaf school in Nebraska.  Like many young deaf children, he is proficient in signing.  He uses the standard S.E.E. (Signing Exact English) method.  The problem is that his school district believes […]

The problem with problems

posted by Linda G. Howard

This week, I received several phone calls concerning problems which have surrounded friend’s lives.  The horrific circumstances don’t seem fair or just.  My friends are faced with problems that don’t appear to have any answers. We’ve all been there.  Most […]

Remembering the blonde Marilyn

posted by Linda G. Howard

In the early 1990’s when Nancy became a consumer at ARC in Vero Beach, Florida, she told her supported living coach, that her life goals were to bleach her hair blonde and go to California to become Marilyn Monroe. Bleaching […]

God is forgiving–a sermon

posted by Linda G. Howard

God is Forgiving Psalm 86:5 Central Theme:   God forgives everyone, even me. Introduction–If I have a cup of water and I pour it on to this rag, what will happen?  The rag will get wet.  (If appropriate pour the water […]

Teaching a Bible Study–Part 2

posted by Linda G. Howard

When teaching a Bible study, there are two methods that are prominent.  The first is a verse by verse study in which an entire passage or book is examined.  The second method is a topical study.  Bibles have been edited […]

Teaching a Bible study–Part 1

posted by Linda G. Howard

When studying the Bible, there are two ways to approach the Scriptures.  Of course, one method is almost always preferred over the other metod by most teachers.  Yet, there is perhaps no best way to teach God’s Word.   Each […]

Wow!

posted by Linda G. Howard

On Sunday evening at Camp Agape, we had a bread and cup service.  Each year, the members of several programs of Special Gathering gather for a spiritual retreat in Vero Beach at Life for Youth Camp during Memorial Day weekend.  […]

What’s in your tool box?

posted by Linda G. Howard

Of course, there are many differences between men and women; but one of the biggest differences is the attitude toward tools.  Men love tools and love inventing tools.  There is a tool for every job a man has to do.  […]

God is Patient–a sermon

posted by Linda G. Howard

God is Patient II Peter 3:9 Central Theme:  God is patient with everyone. Introduction–  Bring branch from the jassmine vine.  Tell about the other one getting killed in the storm.  I was sad because it was beautiful and large and […]

In polite company

posted by Linda G. Howard

The news reported that an owner of a restaurant asks that everyone check in their phones and electronic tablets when they enter the restaurant so the patrons will be free of such devices while eating their meals.  He said it […]

Work Completed

posted by Linda G. Howard

Yesterday was one of those days.  For months, I’ve tried to figure out how The Special Gathering of Indian River Christmas play should be written.  Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  Our population learns more slowly […]

How to write a funeral sermon or eulogy

posted by Linda G. Howard

It is probably true that you will be asked to be a part of a memorial service or funeral at some time in your life.  There are specific things which I have observed from pastors who are successfully able to capture […]

Discrimination? From Bev Linder with Special Heart

posted by Linda G. Howard

  Bev Linder speaks from the heart of a Christian parent.  Her voice is important within the disability community.  Whether you agree with her or not, her thoughts and perspective makes us think and often pray for God’s wisdon.  Thanks, […]

Take your time–God does

posted by Linda G. Howard

Yesterday was filled with back-to-back meetings.  I got on the road at 7AM for my first meeting which was 50 miles away.  I criss-crossed two counties zipping from one meeting to another.  I finished my day and meetings at 5PM. […]

Meeting a need

posted by Linda G. Howard

Angie is a committed Christian whose son, Marvin, is intellectually disabled.  She greatly desired Marvin to worship with the family.  Yet, she also felt a need for more respite time.  The answer for her was The Special Gathering Saturday program. […]

Learning the names of Jesus’ disciples made easy

posted by Linda G. Howard

As a child I could not memorize.  I could learn, of course, but anything that had to be memorized word-for-word was a loss for me.  For years I wanted to learn the names of the disciples but I felt it […]

Learning books of the New Testament made easy

posted by Linda G. Howard

Recently, I began teaching a Bible class of higher function adults.  I am currently teaching them the names of the books of the New Testament.  Most of us who have been in church for years know more about the Bible […]

You don’t control me

posted by Linda G. Howard

Inbred within us resides a desire to be in control of our own lives.  Often, when children are playing,  an argument will begin or end with one child yelling,  ”You don’t control me.” Prisons are designed to control people.  They […]

Two A.M. reflections

posted by Linda G. Howard

I often wake up at 2am now.  This is a new version of insomnia for me.  I’ve had trouble going to sleep for as long as I can remember.  But once asleep, I was able to stay asleep.  This morning I […]

The Sacristy

posted by Linda G. Howard

The other day I received the key to a local church where The Special Gathering main office is located.  Because the sanctuary has been recently remodeled, new keys had to be made.  The key was labeled “The sacristy.”  I thought […]

A search for honesty

posted by Linda G. Howard

Working with people with special needs, I’ve discovered that your IQ doesn’t determine your honesty quotient.  Yes, they are the most wonderful people I’ve ever had the privilege with which to work.  However, cheating is as systematic in a special […]

Waiting for her day

posted by Linda G. Howard

As a young woman, Mercy came to me asking if she could become a deacon.  She was about 22 years old.  At The Special Gathering, which was a ministry within the mentally challenged community, our deacon board comes from the […]

Broken Days

posted by Linda G. Howard

While in Hawaii, my daughter and I rode the bus a good bit.  Waiting at the bus stops or traveling to our destination, I had time to look around the beautiful island of Oahu.  These were pleasant breaks in our […]

Learning to learn–Part 2

posted by Linda G. Howard

My learning philosophy with pretty much every project is that I endeavor is to learn as much as I need so I can do the job and leave the other stuff to people who compose, fix and invent things.  That is especially true with […]

Learning to learn–Part 1

posted by Linda G. Howard

Last week we started learning new music at The Special Gathering Vero and Melbourne choirs.   I am the director of three of the six choirs at Special Gathering, a ministry within the intellectual disability community.  Our choirs sing in local churches and […]

When I was rich

posted by Linda G. Howard

When I was a child, I thought we were rich.  In reality, we were not.  Yet, I seem to have always had an exalted idea of my lifestyle.  There are a few things that I gage weath by: 1.  Do […]

When conflict comes

posted by Linda G. Howard

It is inevitable that conflict will come when two people live, work, play or worship together.  An extremely quoteable pastor from years past, Jack Green, once said, “If two people live together, there will be conflict, unless one of the two people […]

Stirring our thoughts

posted by Linda G. Howard

I like listening to a variety of political opinions.  Honestly, I don’t believe many of the opinions I hear from the “other side” of my political viewpoint.  Yet, at other times, I find myself not agreeing with the positions of […]

The Enabler

posted by Linda G. Howard

Because of unusual circumstances a good friend of mine was recently called “an enabler.”  Of course, I’ve known I am an enabler and I’ve recognized it for years.  I believe that the stem of enabling is a super-large ego that […]

Tension versus flexibility

posted by Linda G. Howard

We all live with tensions in our lives.  There is the importance of play versus work; work versus family and friends.  We wrestle with maintaining a spiritual connection with the Lord while still being authentic people.  Eating healthy diets balanced with comfort foods […]

Ready for valor

posted by Linda G. Howard

Most people who become true heroes don’t prepare their entire lives to be put into that position.  When they are born, the parents don’t look at their precious infant and say, “This little will one day be a true American […]

What are your strengths?

posted by Linda G. Howard

Danielle was the first.  Even though she was only 16 when she first came to help with Special Gathering, she recognized my weakness; and she began to keep guard over my personal things while I was ministering to our members […]

The flat tire

posted by Linda G. Howard

Yesterday, as I was getting in my van to go to our DeLand Special Gathering (SpG) program, I noticed the flat on the rear, driver-side tire.  I’d been working all morning in and around the vehicle; but somehow I had […]

Go!

posted by Linda G. Howard

After ten days in Hawaii and 2 days of travel, I got off the plane ready to GO!  I thought I had choir practice in four hours.  After I found there was no choir, I continued to work.  There was […]

The smile of a saint

posted by Linda G. Howard

I received the call at 7:30 tonight.  John died at 6pm.  I was at Universal Studios Theme Park with a group of people who are mentally challenged.  There was no way for me to run over to help comfort the family because I […]

The Arc at Wahiawa, Hawaii

posted by Linda G. Howard

Sitting in a clean and bright room, Jonathan meticulously moved the yellow magic marker. He sat hunched close to the table in order to more carefully observe the imprints that spread over the picture of 4th of July fireworks. Like […]

Muddling Through

posted by Linda G. Howard

I received an alarming phone call from a parent of a young woman who is in trouble. She is still at the age that she should not be distressed about life and death issues; nevertheless, her fate hangs in the […]

A stranger in a strange land

posted by Linda G. Howard

It’s been too long.  I’ve not had a preteen/teenager living in my home for many years.  Our first child was a boy and his transition from child to pre-adult was quick and violent.  My perfect child exploded in so many […]

The passion

posted by Linda G. Howard

Mark has been a close friend for as many years as I’ve worked with The Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  We were talking on the phone as we do at least once a week. […]

Editing is allowed

posted by Linda G. Howard

This morning I got up to write as I normally do; but I couldn’t find anything hot to drink. (A hot drink is necessary for early morning writing sessions.) I’m staying with my wonderful granddaughter a few days.  She and […]

The Tabasco Factory

posted by Linda G. Howard

Years ago, our children moved to South Louisiana.  All hot sauce and especially Tabasco sauce is a BIG, HUGE, GIGANTIC deal in South Louisiana.  Therefore, we had to visit the Tabasco Welcome Center because it is one of their greatest […]

The effective message–part 2

posted by Linda G. Howard

Visitors who come to Special Gathering which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community are often surprised that they also receive ministry through the messages and the devotions, teaching and sermons they hear.  No matter who is teaching, if […]

Sleep and other disorders

posted by Linda G. Howard

As a child, I assumed that I was a perfectly normal person.  When I became an adult, I realized that I was loaded with disorders. 1.  There is a sleep disorder.  For years, I thought it was normal to have […]

The influence of one

posted by Linda G. Howard

As they entered the bus, everyone was happy and excited to be going home.  Even though the four days at The Special Gathering spiritual retreat had been great fun, the members who attended were nearly as ready to go home […]

Making do

posted by Linda G. Howard

It was the annual gathering of Special Gathering members.  Each year nearly 200 mentally challenged people meet in Vero Beach at Life for Youth Camp for Retreat Agape.  For almost 30 years, we have met there from Friday morning until […]

Wiggle Room–Going Together

posted by Linda G. Howard

Within every ministry or business, there is wiggle room.  Before we examine “the how” for learning about and becoming comfortable within your ministry’s culture, there are several things where there can be no wiggle room. Jesus’ disciples knew that he […]

Learning that God is just

posted by Linda G. Howard

We all understand that our federal government is divided into three co-equal branches.  There is the executive branch, the legislative and the judicial branches.  The purpose of these three branches of government is to insure that the people of the […]

Working or stay-at-home, she’s still my mom

posted by Linda G. Howard

For more than 20 years, I was a stay-at-home mom.  During those years, I wrote five books.  Two of them were best sellers.  Together they sold over a million copies.  I was an award-winning, free-lance writer working with several different […]

Wiggle room

posted by Linda G. Howard

Several years ago, as a few staff from Special Gathering were driving to lunch, we saw a man with a broken leg.  His cast extended from his toe to his hip.  With great difficulty, he was loading a lawnmower into […]

Remembering Renee

posted by Linda G. Howard

There are two stories in the Bible that have fascinated me all my life.  The first is a parable that Jesus told.  It is the story of a merchant who found an extremely valuable pearl.  After finding this magnificent pearl, […]

Kindness gone bad

posted by Linda G. Howard

Aren’t we all walking a strict tight rope regarding kindness.  At some tipping point, kindness can be abused and we find our greatest tender mercies have gone bad.  Today, I took a member out to supper.  Bob was a member […]

Twelve Survival essentials

posted by Linda G. Howard

When facing emergencies or local disasters, it is good to have a plan in place before you must confront the lions of fire, tornado, riot or tumult.  Understand, I’m not suggesting that you put your family in the middle of such […]

Helping the Wounded

posted by Linda G. Howard

A few days ago a Special Gathering volunteer came to me and said, “I believe that the Lord has shown me that to help Valerie, I must simply love her.  She is hurting and that is why she is so […]

The collapse

posted by Linda G. Howard

This morning the Shuttle Discovery left Kennedy Space Center, riding piggy back on a 747 airplane.  I was totally unprepared for my own reaction.  This final flight means the space program is officially over for the US. As the shuttle […]

Faith or tempting the Lord

posted by Linda G. Howard

It seemed like three hours but it was no more than 10 minutes.  Ginny–an elderly Special Gathering member with diabetes–has seen her cognitive abilities eaten away from her health condition and age.  As Ginny got off the SCAT bus to […]

A forgettable day

posted by Linda G. Howard

Today is not a day I will remember.  I got up at my usual 4:30am.  After my prayer time, I went into the kitchen to start a pot of decaf but instead, I had a text message from my son. […]

Coming Home

posted by Linda G. Howard

One year ago today, my husband came home from the skilled nursing center to die.  While I often say that I don’t live in denial, I had no idea that three months later, he would be dead.  For about a […]

Salvation brings changes

posted by Linda G. Howard

I often think about the positive changes that have happened in the lives of the people I know–especially the members of Special Gathering, which is ministry within the mentally challenged community.  Shelley has become a young woman who is caring […]

God saves us from ourselves

posted by Linda G. Howard

One of the greatest benefits of God‘s provision is that He rescues us from ourselves. I look in the mirror and see how much I’ve changed over the years.  Gravity has taken a toll on my body.  Every body part […]

The chess games

posted by Linda G. Howard

My husband would not play chess with me because he said that I pulled down his game.  Naturally, I thought I was a terrible chess player until I played with some other folks who were supposed to be pretty good […]

In survival mode

posted by Linda G. Howard

Each year in Florida, there are threats of budget cuts to the services of people who are mentally challenged.  More and more, these cuts are a reality.  These are lean times.  In most states the same thing is happening.  Many […]

Created to need other people

posted by Linda G. Howard

It surprises no parent that the first two brothers were rivals.  Cain, the older sibling, became jealous of  Able when God favored Able’s sacrifice over his.  Cain came to believe that the root of all his problems was his brother. […]

Created to make choices

posted by Linda G. Howard

I went to a pastor’s meeting this week and I was forced into taking a job I did not want.  In reality, I made a choice to do the job I didn’t like.  I was put in a position of either, disappointing […]

Old friends, new visions

posted by Linda G. Howard

The choir sang and then I spoke.  As I shared our missions vision to the group at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Satellite Beach, I scanned the people’s faces and my eyes screamed to a halt when I saw her face.  “My […]

People you would like–Andrew

posted by Linda G. Howard

Andrew moved with his family from up North about six years ago.  He is an outgoing, friendly man who has worked much of his life at Wal-Mart.  When lay-offs were needed at the store where he worked, Andrew was the […]

The party’s over

posted by Linda G. Howard

The week before Christmas and the next two weeks have always been a bit of whirlwind for our family.  We celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Day heartily.  Additionally, there are three birthdays and three wedding anniversaries crammed into those short […]

Learning to pace ourselves

posted by Linda G. Howard

I admit, I’m not extremely good at pacing myself. Yet, there are some tricks I’ve learned from others along the way.  Here are eight of them.  1.  Force yourself to be patient with what you have.  Much of our frantic […]

Tired of doing good?

posted by Linda G. Howard

All right let’s admit it.  The  church must continue to do good. But goodness doesn’t usually win awards or get us that “15 minutes of fame”  we’ve been promised.  Additionally, tiredness becomes an impelling factor that overwhelms us at some […]

When do small things count?

posted by Linda G. Howard

Questions?  We all have them.  There are important questions. Should I have that operation?  Should I sell my house even though it’s underwater?  Should I change jobs?  Should I break up with my girlfriend? Little questions can be important, also.  Should […]

Waiting for the green light

posted by Linda G. Howard

I sometimes wonder how much time we spend waiting for a green traffic light. This is a phenomenon of the automobile age, though waiting has been the bane of human existence since our time spent in the Garden.  My first […]

Christmas travel time

posted by Linda G. Howard

One of my close friends said to us as we were discussing her travel plans over the holidays, “Don’t feel sorry for me.  I love my travel time.  I don’t have to drive; I’m going to fly.  I don’t have […]

Happy Birthday to me

posted by Linda G. Howard

I woke up at 6AM with the familiar beep-dong of my iPhone that tells me that I have a message on Facebook.  I was a bit startled because I don’t EVER get messages that early.  Then I remembered it was […]

Remembering to be thankful

posted by Linda G. Howard

This past week, activity reigned within our small cloistered community of believers.  I cannot imagine Special Gatheirng without the many people who work every day helping to make things right.  On Saturday and Sunday, as I plan to put the […]

Joseph chooses to obey God

posted by Linda G. Howard

Most of us understand that obeying God is what we should want to do.  There are some decisions that probably won’t change our lives.  When I go into a restaurant, I’m handed a menu.   I must make a choice about […]

And God speaks

posted by Linda G. Howard

Today, during a pastors’ prayer meeting, one of the pastors said to me, “Linda, I believe that you are feeling upset because of the IRS audit you are facing and God wants you to know that he isn’t upset with […]

Aftermath

posted by Linda G. Howard

December 5 means that both of the Special Gathering Christmas plays are over in Melbourne and Vero. This year unlike 2009, Mary’s face wasn’t bruised from having dental surgery.  The shocking effect was what appeared to be a bearded Mary. […]

The Three Rules

posted by Linda G. Howard

W. Somerset Maugham,  English dramatist & novelist, once said, “There are three rules for writing a successful novel.  Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” It appears there are also three rules for building a successful ministry or church.  But sadly, […]

Stare Time

posted by Linda G. Howard

When I don’t take time to rest, I find that I stare a lot.  Letting my mind float, I simply stare into space for long minutes.  Everyone needs time to rest, no matter how important you are to your family, […]

The Potato Sacrifice

posted by Linda G. Howard

The story is told of a mine worker in Ireland during the great potato famine of 1847.  He brought his lunch each day to work; but he ate alone.  Stealing away from his coworkers, he would then open his lunch pail. The […]

Holiday Traditions

posted by Linda G. Howard

All holidays are filled with traditions shared within each family.  This year, one of my granddaughters decided that we should start another Thanksgiving tradition, dressing (in costumes) for dinner. When it was mentioned, I immediately said, “I know what I […]

Winter

posted by Linda G. Howard

I’m a child of the deep South and snow isn’t part of my heritage.  Only two years ago, I walked in the snow for the first time.  I slid down a hill covered with soft flakes and I felt the […]

A Thanksgiving value: Respect for the things I have

posted by Linda G. Howard

As I passed through the family room I heard a TV Talking Head speaking about money problems.  “One of the things we must learn is to have respect for what you have.” I stopped wanting to take note of who […]

A Thanksgiving value: Enjoying the journey

posted by Linda G. Howard

There are some things I don’t like that are happening in my life right now.  I’m being audited by the IRS for the past three years.  And there is a possibility that I may be sued for an auto accident […]

A Thanksgiving value–Learning to wait

posted by Linda G. Howard

I try hard to not eat sugar all week until Friday.  Of course, I know that sugar and fructose is hidden in many pre-prepared foods but I TRY to eliminate it until Friday. I have to admit that it is […]

Winning friends and supporting others

posted by Linda G. Howard

Nancy’s voice was sorrowful, “Linda, can we have lunch?  I just want to be sure things are all right with you.”  She is a friend and a fellow pastor. Nancy, also a recent widow, has called me several times since […]

God’s Post-it Notes

posted by Linda G. Howard

Perhaps like you, I received an e-mail that contained some great little, humorous sayings, such as, “Don’t let your worries get the best of you.  Remember, Moses started out as a basket case.”  I printed them out. After picking them up this morning, […]

Reaching from the dark

posted by Linda G. Howard

Some say he could be one of the wealthiest men in the county.  His mother died about 10 years ago.  He has a beautiful home and a new car. This man has plenty of money.  There are two bankers and two lawyers […]

I wish I’d known

posted by Linda G. Howard

I walked away from my conversation with John’s only remaining family, a sister and brother-in-law, wishing I had known him better when he was alive.  But that always happens when I interview a family before attempting to conduct a memorial […]

Making lemonade

posted by Linda G. Howard

I am often surprised by the ability of the members of Special Gathering who are developmentally and intellectually disabled to “turn lemons into lemonade.” The other day I had a conversation with one of our SpG members. When he was […]

Living History

posted by Linda G. Howard

You know you are old when: A review of history for the past century is the story of your life. You look in the mirror and wonder when your mother got so old. Your grandchildren start having children. You would […]

Mocking vs glorification

posted by Linda G. Howard

About 1400 years ago, the Roman Catholic Church and the Byzantine (Greek Orthodox) Church unofficially adopted a fun celebration the day before All Saints’ Feast Day.  The day became known as All Hallow’s Eve or Halloween. The purpose  of this […]

Marbles and a child’s toy

posted by Linda G. Howard

Yesterday, I found a doll that I received at Christmas when I was in the fourth or fifth grade.  It was a “walking doll,” stuck back in a closet, I barely use.  These specialty dolls would walk if you held […]

Dave’s trip to heaven

posted by Linda G. Howard

This is a description of a good friend’s adventure in December 2010.  Dave is a quiet man who is not prone to exaggeration, extremes or drama.   Even though it’s been almost a year, each time he tells his experience, […]

The “she gets it” factor

posted by Linda G. Howard

This weekend I had the honor of teaching a group of wonderful volunteers who minister to the mentally challenged community.  They put in thousands of  hours each year. Our teachers and volunteers instruct, transport and love the members of  The […]

The problems with miracles

posted by Linda G. Howard

The mentally challenged community is hungry to hear the Gospel.  If we can get people to our chapel services, they will almost always accept the wonderful grace of Christ into their lives. Yet, discipleship is a struggle.  One day at […]

Share the Good News

posted by Linda G. Howard

Want to Share the Good News? by Michelle Demeree Ms. Demeree is a member of The Special Gathering.  She serves as a deacon and on our Board of Directors. Her passion is writing.  Ms. Demeree is a vital part of […]

Here and there

posted by Linda G. Howard

Every stress-relieving prescription in books or articles begin and end with “throw away, organize and simplify. ” Therefore, it isn’t hard to see the pattern that the experts recommend for eliminating stress. Following the advice of these men and women […]

Standing up for God

posted by Linda G. Howard

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, let it be […]

Looking back

posted by Linda G. Howard

by Michelle Demeree Shelley is a member of Special Gathering.  She, also, serves as a deacon in our program. Dedicated to the memory of Special Gathering members who have died. As we look back over the year, we remember the […]

Time away

posted by Linda G. Howard

One of the interesting things about directing a ministry where you are the lead staff person, a van driver, data entry person, chair arranger, praise and worship leader, choir director, and the one who gives the devotions is that you don’t have […]

Prayer of a saint: Stay with me

posted by Linda G. Howard

Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have You present so that I do not forget You. You know how easily I abandon You. Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak And I need your strength that […]

Wow!

posted by Linda G. Howard

Camp Agape is a four day retreat that allows all of us to get into the skin of our members and for our members to get to know us and each other.  On Sunday evening at Camp Agape, we have […]

You’ve changed

posted by Linda G. Howard

Several years ago, a friend told me that she had seen lots of changes in me over the years.  Though she didn’t really mean it to be a compliment, I took it that way.  “You aren’t nearly as serious as […]

Having the courage to stand

posted by Linda G. Howard

Anyone who knows me realizes I love chocolate. I will tell anyone who will listen.  I talk about and share my chocolate anytime I get a chance.  As much as I love chocolate, it won’t change anyone’s life.  My desire […]

Hello, my name is Linda

posted by Linda G. Howard

I’ve received comments asking for a list of questions that can be asked when we first meet people.  This is in reference to the What Is the First Impression I Give, entry for October 5, 2011. Here are the 10 […]

From exhilaration to dead tired

posted by Linda G. Howard

Thursday is a great day for me.  I leave the house around 7AM to start a 30 miles trip for a pastors’ prayer meeting with a group of men and women who have become good friends and irreplaceable counselors. Then […]

Susie’s Lemonade and the iPad

posted by Linda G. Howard

Have you watched Susie’s business grow?  Of course, Susie’s Lemonade is a fictitious TV-commercial corporation founded by a young girl who started with a lemonade stand.  She has now built her roadside stand into a large corporation, using advanced technology. […]

All that glitters

posted by Linda G. Howard

For several reasons, I hated when our children got their driver’s license.  Of course, there was the problem of safety. Now the crazy teenage idiots driving wildly through our neighborhood were my children.  But the other reason was that I learned so much about my offsprings […]

The face of encouragement

posted by Linda G. Howard

Looking through my memories over the past months, I’ve been shocked at the number of people who have been “The Face of Encouragement” for me.  Too many to name. My dad didn’t encourage with words but actions and attitude. My […]

Becoming an encourager

posted by Linda G. Howard

There is something that you and I  can do which will change people’s lives.  It is very simple.  It won’t cost you a penny.  It will make you feel better.  In fact, it will change your life as well as […]

Is there a deer on my lap?

posted by Linda G. Howard

She sat with blood and shattered glass dripping from her body and hair.  Staring blankly at the man who had come to her wrecked car, Natalie Carley asked,  “Is there a deer on my lap?” “Yes, but don’t look at […]

Riders on the storm

posted by Linda G. Howard

The song, “Riders on the Storm,” recorded in 1971 by the Doors invaded my mind this morning.  Perhaps I’m the only person in the US who can’t remember ever hearing this song. My curiosity peaked by the title, I had […]

To be or to do

posted by Linda G. Howard

I’m not telling you anything new.  God wants us to be and then we will do.  It isn’t that God is against doers. However, he knows that doers become rigid and Pharisees, pointing a finger at everyone who doesn’t live up to our standards.  Or […]

A nickel for ten

posted by Linda G. Howard

As a child, Mr. Milligan’s truck filled with produce and convenience store items came through our neighborhood each day.  I could buy ten pieces of molasses-nut candy for a nickel.  Okay, I’m showing my age.  The convenience-store concept and the […]

Prayer of the Saints

posted by Linda G. Howard

On December 13, 2006, I injured my eye ball.  It caused what the doctors called a Recurrent Corneal Erosion.  In simple terms, the skin on my eyeball would dissolve in the middle of the night and I would wake up […]

Cliff Jumpers

posted by Linda G. Howard

Steve Brown, a Christian radio commentator, explained that his mission in life is to watch out for cliff jumpers.  He said that he stands at the edge of a cliff every day and warns people not to jump off into […]

Previous Posts

Explaining Grace
In the past weeks, I’ve been going over some of the key words in our covenant relationship with God with the members of my community who are intellectually disabled.  Perhaps one of the most important words we use is grace. Most of us have learned and maybe we even remember God’s Riches

posted 5:55:58am Jan. 06, 2015 | read full post »

Holidays and grief
Today, I heard again the Christmas song about the little boy whose mother is dying on Christmas eve and he wants to buy her shoes to wear as she goes into heaven. He doesn’t have enough money to buy the shoes and a person in line gives him the money he needs. It’s never been my favorite Christma

posted 8:29:32am Jan. 01, 2015 | read full post »

Can You Come?
Maddie is one of those people within the mentally challenged community whom everyone loves.  She is friendly and happy.  Maddie makes everyone feel as though they are her "extra-special friend."  Several years ago Mattie and her husband moved from our city to a small town out of the state.  Bec

posted 12:20:34am Dec. 29, 2014 | read full post »

The Choice that Changed Everything--a sermon for the mentally challenged community
The choice that changed everything Nehemiah 9:17 Central Theme: Man choices to sin and God chooses to be gracious. A ream of paper has 500 sheets--not more and not less. A foot is 12 inches--not more and not less. There are many absolutes in our lives. There is a couple of absolutes that totally

posted 10:48:30pm Aug. 17, 2014 | read full post »

Friendship Evangelism
For many years, I taught a seminar called "Friendship Evangelism."  The basis of this teaching was that people are much more susceptible to hear the promises of the Gospel, if they know and respect you.  We all have a knowledge of the friendship of David and Jonathan from the Bible.  Even if we o

posted 9:12:04am Aug. 16, 2014 | read full post »

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