gardengardenA 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 to be considered a true gardener; but I enjoy the fruits of my sporadic labors all year round.

Often in my pruning and pulling, I find a wilted perennial.  Usually, there seems to be no reason for the decay of the dying plant.  In sunny Florida near the ocean, we need water almost everyday for our growing ornamentals; but I’m pretty diligent about providing that.  Yet, the mystery is that these wilted plants often grow along side the healthy ones.

wiltedIn some plants that seems to be a deficiency in their ability to grow.  They are receiving the same fertilizer and water.  The share equally with the soil and sunlight; but they remain stunted until they are gone.

I remember a young man who was raised in a large family.  He told of an abusive childhood.  Finally, he left home, rejecting the opportunity to go to college as his siblings had done because he didn’t want to be obligated to his unforgiving and vengeful parents.  Yet, when you realized that this young man had been raised by godly parents and his six other siblings told a completely different story about their childhood, you knew something had gone badly wrong with this young man; and his parents probably were not to blame. There were obvious distortions in his life.

distortionsAs the man has matured, his attitude has improved but not totally changed.  The distortions in his life remain.  Wherever he goes, people are making his life miserable.  Employers fire him for no reason.  Women break his heart without regrets or scruples.  Hospital mix up his test results and give him the wrong medications which make him sicker.  Even though, the man rejected church in his youth, he has returned to his faith; but there is no joy in his relationship with the Father.

Several weeks ago, I revisited the parable of the talents as told by Jesus in Matthew 25.  We all remember the three employees who were given various amounts of money from their employer, a business owner.  They were expected to invest the money.  The first two did exactly what was expected of them, doubling the amount they received.

moneyThe third, however, buried his money with this explanation to his employer, “I know that you were a hard man and that you expect growth from investments, even where you don’t invest any money.  You want more for your labors than you are willing to make an effort to produce.  Therefore, I was afraid.  I buried your money and here it is.  I’m returning the amount you gave to me.”

His employer was outraged with his employee.  “If you knew that I was that kind of employer, why didn’t you take my money and put it in the bank so it would at least draw interest.”  The employer took away the money and gave it to the employee who had earned the greatest money from his investment.

The employer explained through is torrent of anger, “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them”  (Matthew 25:29)  The employer fired the slothful employee and then had him arrested and sent to prison.

We know that the employer is God in this parable.  In reading the Biblical account, we find that the three men had the same employer but two expected goodness from him.  And that is precisely what they received.  The third employee, driven by indolence, sluggishness and laziness, expected exactly the opposite from the same man and that is what he received.

There are those who expect only the worst from God–and that is what they receive.  Like my wilted garden plant, they never learn to partake of the water, sunlight, warmth and food provided all around them.

Many of my friends within the mentally challenged community exhibit the exact opposite attitude.  Their IQ’s a deficient.  Their bodies may not function properly.  However, they grow and mature without distortions within their spirit.  The Lord in his mercy has graciously provided for all of us.  His blessings abound all during the day and night but often without reason we become overcome by doubts and fears.  Our spirits wilt in the presence of a gracious Lord.

My prayer is that I will command my doubting heart know the love of the Lord.  That I will demand for my whining spirit to look full into the sunlight of his love expecting and receiving the abundant blessings that surround me.

Linda G. Howard

This is my opinion and reaction alone.  It does not reflect the opinions of Special Gathering or any other staff member or volunteer.

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 beach community.

I live in Florida on an island about a half mile from the ocean and 1 and 1/2 miles from the inlet waterway.  My family and I have faced repeated evacuations.  When our children were younger, we told them that they could bring one thing with them that they could not live without.  We had a hurricane box with needed supplies and food for a week.  We learned to pack a week of clothing in about five minutes.  We had a big supply of candles and a gas lantern.  We left our home at the first call for evacuation, long before the traffic jams or mandatory evacuation orders were given and house to house searches were performed by the police.

Each year, many others stay on the island.  Therefore, I’ve heard all the excuses for not leaving.  However, I’ve accumulated 11 reasons that I believe motivate people to stay in dangerous places.

  1. I have a death wish for myself and my family.
  2. Because I enjoy watching my home burn down to the ground should there be a gas leak that would cause a fire near my home, I won’t leave.  I know that 40 mile-an-hour winds cause fires to spread.  Yet, I assume that my life is The Great Exception and my home won’t burn down like the house down the street.
  3. Because I am much larger than my 1,500 square-foot house, I must stay to protect it.
  4. The possibility of losing my roof is common; but it certainly will not happen to me or my house.
  5. I am a thrill seeker and risking my life is the biggest thrill of a lifetime.  Riding a roller coaster is a small thrill. Watching trees fall onto my roof and trying to dodge broken glass is much more exciting.
  6. I am an intelligent person; but I am stupid when it comes to common sense involving my life and limbs.
  7. I truly believe that I am the strongest person who ever lived. I am much stronger than any storm a hundred mile wide pounding 90 mile-per-hour winds for 12 to 14 hours.
  8. Should I have to be rescued, I enjoy putting other people’s lives at risk.
  9. While I’m the first person to give lip-service to the heroes in my community,  I do not truly value the lives of our firemen and police officers.  Therefore, I will happily put their lives at risk so that they can rescue me in the middle of the storm.
  10. I can use my beloved pets as an excuse for my fool-hearty actions for facing dangerous, devastating conditions.
  11. The fact that I can take my pets with me and deliver them from danger does not make sense to me.  Even though almost all hotels will waive their restrictions on pets and keeping a pet safely in a car makes more sense than putting their lives in danger, they are such a convenient excuse why not use it and put their lives in danger also?

Of course, there are exceptional circumstances.  During Sandy, the floods were higher than predicted.  Yet, people who lived on these islands did not leave until their homes, clothes, shoes and outerwear were underwater.  They have not coats, food or water.  It is sadder than anyone can imagine.

However, when devastation can be seen approaching, isn’t it common sense to simply pack a bag and leave?