Little lesson #7

The other night John and I ran across a Christmas movie that neither one of us had ever seen: “The Polar Express.” For those of you who have seen it, I know that you are asking “how have you missed that fun Christmas movie?” For those who haven’t seen it, check it out, it is delightful!

The best thing about the movie was that it was an unexpected couple of hours for the two of us to discover something delightful. The time together was wonderful. My memory of that movie will always be of just the two of us in our trailer on a chilly December evening eating pumpkin pie and enjoying a sweet story. (Can you hear the bell?)

Holidays can be challenging because we expect too much. We want those we love to engage in meaningful conversations with us when they are trying to be good parents and wrangle their bored kids. We expect the meal to be perfect when we failed to schedule it around the time of the “big game.” We want the Christmas service at church to bring us heavenly peace when we haven’t even thought about our relationship with God.

We (I) have forgotten that growth takes time. Oh, there can be growth spurts – just ask that couple who recently discovered each other or the person who has just given their heart to the Lord and established a relationship with the King of kings. But, most growing things take time.

Little lesson – take the time for growth. We love a commercial for its great tag line: “Put down the doughnut and pick up the phone.” My advice today is: “Put down the phone and pick up the doughnut” IF that means you are going to spend time growing a relationship. You can hit the gym tomorrow.

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Little Lesson Day 6

I have a dear friend who is sick and her illness impacts her thinking. Yesterday she and I had to deal with horrible, bureaucratic challenges. Incident after incident completely frustrated me and I can only imagine what she must have been experiencing. On the outside she was frustrated and angry and scared and sad and weary; on the inside it must have been so much worse for her.

At one point, I turned my friend and said, “at least these people are kind and working hard.” She paused and then replied, “being kind and hard working doesn’t mean you are efficient.” I laughed hard enough to cause tears. She joined me in laughing and it was a cleansing moment for both of us.

Later (still caught in an administrative quagmire) I commented to my ill friend that it was frustrating to watch people fail to do their jobs. Again she paused and then replied that that was the worse kind of failure – to fail to do what you are supposed to do. (Her thinking was crystal clear!!)

We never realize how many people are impacted when we don’t do the job we have agreed to do. Poppa taught me that stealing is against the laws of God and that stealing can include:

⁃ Not doing the high quality of work that we described on our resume or during the job interview.

⁃ Not working at least the number of hours for which we are being paid.

⁃ Not giving our all.

The day with my friend would have been so much better for everyone if people had just done their job…

sigh…

The failure of a few people to do their job caused frustration to my friend that she did not deserve.

So sad.

So unnecessary.

Little lesson – do your job.

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Ps. I saw my friend tonight and she has left the incidents of yesterday where they belong – in the past. It was great to see her smile!! Me? I’m still miffed and keep drafting a letter of “process review” in my head. 😉 CJ

Little lessons Day 5

Serve others.

When Ronald Reagan selected George H. W. Bush as his Vice President, Poppa asked me what I thought of him. My reply was “Anyone who was selected to be the first Envoy to China and head of the CIA had to have something going on.” And, this week, as President Bush was eulogized, we heard speaker after speaker share about the ways that he had served our nation. He did have something going on indeed – service.

Some in our nation agree with the philosophy and actions of the man and others do not. But, we can come together and agree that President George H. W. Bush was a man who served. He didn’t talk about service, he did it.

I didn’t realize until yesterday that he never wrote an autobiography. He left the assessment of his service to others.

There is an amazing description of service in the Bible. God recognizes the service of faithful followers by saying “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.” The scripture reports that the faithful servants were surprised and said “What are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?” The King replied, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.”

Friend, we serve God when we follow Him in service to others.

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Little lesson Day 4

I was blessed to teach the pre-school/kindergarten class at our church for several years. I love that age group (well, for an hour, one day a week!!). The kids were amazing.

One day, one of my students pointed to my husband (John) as he played the piano at the front of the church and said to his mom “I know that guy.” His mother, surprised at this revelation, asked “What is his name?” The young lad, quickly piped up, “That’s Mr. Jill.”

Another time, two of my students entered a restaurant with their parents and saw John and me already seated. The family stopped by our table to chat. One of the little ones, a little bored, spied John’s iced tea glass, shouted “lemon” and immediately drove his hand deep into the glass, intent on grabbing the lemon slice. His parents, aghast, said “We don’t put our hands in other people’s drinks.” The kid withdrew his paw with a sheepish “sorry” and left with his family. After they left, John asked the server for a fresh glass!

(Although he doesn’t admit it, I think John suffers sometimes for being married to me. I was reminded of this challenge to my family and friends when I did one of those silly surveys on Facebook. For this game, the computer “analyzed” your Facebook information and told you what a kidnapper’s ransom note would say if they nabbed you. In my case, the computer said a kidnapper would write this note to my loved ones: “We didn’t realize who we were dealing with. Please help us!” Sounds a bit like O Henry’s short story, “The Ransom of Red Chief,” doesn’t it?)

Anyway, the adorable lemon stealer wanted to buy me a Christmas gift. He (age 4) picked it out all by himself. The gift was so precious and not at all something an adult would look at twice. In fact, some would have probably been offended at the cheap, plastic figure that was supposed to represent Jesus, the Son of God. But, I loved it. You see, it told me that the Kiddo had been paying attention. He got it!!

Little lesson 4 – let the kids select their own presents to give. (Then listen as they explain their choice – they are thinking about things more than we know!)

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Little Lesson Day 3

I’m not sure exactly what brought it on. Maybe it was the Christmas music playing in the car. Or, perhaps it was the sight of an older couple leaving the travel office and a memory of the past that came to mind.

I know that it was related to the recent passing of President George H. W. Bush. Agree with him or not, he was the only modern president I know of who did not write an autobiography. He left his history to others, not spending time explaining, glorifying or denying his actions. As I watched the ceremony to place his remains in the Capital, I heard a commentator say, “The Bush family has always said that they were a family of criers.”

Regardless of what caused my tears this morning, they came. And, they are tears of joy and loss and hope all in one.

I have cried for many reasons: sadness, laughter, anger, greed, pain, weariness, shame, love, aloneness, excitement… I hate it that my tears have flowed for the wrong reasons like wanting my own way or being angry. But, I also know the sweetness of tears that come from joy and love.

I cried when I lost loved ones. And, at the same time, I have been filled with joy when I knew, without a doubt, that I would see them again.

Today, my tears are joyful. It is Christmas. My expectations for the holiday may seem to be pretty small – a little time with family and friends, some yummy holiday treats, seeing pretty lights on cold and dark nights.

But, the biggest expectation that I have about Christmas may not be as easily recognized: hope!!

– I have hope in the love of God who sent His only Son in the form of a weak and helpless babe.

– I have hope in the grace and mercy of the Creator.

– I have hope in my future for the Savior died for my sins and I have accepted His gift and follow His way.

– I have hope, for I know that this world is not my home.

This Christmas, remember this little lesson – it is ok to cry.

Little lessons day 2

When I was young, I played the violin seriously and competitions required learning new music.

My teacher had an interesting strategy to help me memorize a complex piece.

For several weeks, he would have me carry the paper copy of the music with me but he would not allow me to play it. Instead, the Master Teacher wanted me to read it over often; taking time to look at each note as if it were a word in a story. Eventually he would ask me to play the piece. It was so much easier to play a piece that I had read and studied. And memorization was simple; I could close my eyes and see the music. I didn’t memorize it, I simply read it in my mind.

I am reminded that those pieces of paper that I carried with me were only that: pieces of paper with ink markings. It was not music. Music happened when the instrument and bow I held were used together to create sounds and those sounds melted together to create music.

We can study something our whole life, but until we live it, it will mean nothing to us or to those around us.

Don’t look at the Christmas card to find family, look at the scrawled signature, almost too hard to read – that’s where the love is. Don’t expect the bulbs on the tree to shine as brightly as the night sky; the best star-twinkle is found in the eyes of others. Don’t examine your own heart to find the spirit of Christmas; Christmas joy can only be found in one place – Christ.

Little lesson 2: Search for the true thing.

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Little Lessons

As I started thinking about the theme for this year’s “We Gather Together” holiday series, I kept returning to the concept of “little lessons.” Let me share such a lesson from last night.

I’ve been directing our church’s live nativity (and more – we present our version of the entire story of Jesus) for the last 3 years. Rain forced us to move the event inside and last night was our first presentation. I like to walk through our village and listen to the stories presented by our major characters. Last night was unlike any other. The stories were amazing; I was mesmerized! No doubt the costumes, Christmas music, scenery and lighting helped me get into the event. But the stories were so wonderful. Every presentation encouraged my heart and fed my soul. I am blessed to be surrounded by a Christian community of true worshippers.

After the event was over, the doors closed and our guests had left, two special stories emerged.

The first was from John, a friend who was playing Peter, the fisherman, apostle and faithful follower of Jesus. John (as Peter) shared about his former life as a fisherman and his new life as a devoted disciple and fisherman of men. Early in the story, John (as Peter) admits that before following Jesus that he “was a pretty bad guy.” As John paused and took a breath a young boy, totally involved in the moment, looked up at “Peter” and said “I’ve done bad things too.” John was blessed to share the rest of Peter’s story. We do not have to live as “bad guys” – Jesus changes everything!!

The last stop in our village includes an empty cross and an empty tomb. Last night, the two “actors” at that stop, Barbara and Tom, rejoiced and told visitors that the grave could not hold our Savior. Jesus is in heaven and we can live with Him for all eternity. It was inspiring to hear them praise God – there was no “acting” as their eyes gleamed with joy and their faces were filled with hope.

Three kids had finished the tour of our village and had had their fill of cookies and hot chocolate. As their parents talked with friends, the kids wandered about. It was then that they approached Tom and asked him some questions. Tom, aware of the opportunity God was giving to him, had the kids sit down in front of him and the four of them had a private chat with laughter and serious looks mixed together. The kids didn’t want to leave their newfound friend.

Little lesson – people are listening. As we celebrate Christmas, we need to use well our voices, our postings and those precious, unexpected moments. We should unabashedly share the joy of the Lord. It is true, we have all been “bad guys” at some point in our lives, but people have taken the time to tell us the story of Christmas, hear our questions, listen to our concerns, walk with us, and to point us to the Lord. Our words and actions may make an eternal difference .

Day 1 Little Lesson: People are listening.

Love,

Jill

(Just one of God’s kids)

Ps. If you live in the Pensacola area, join us at our live nativity (“Love’s Story), Saturday and Sunday, December 1&2, 6:30-8:30, 3475 Pine Forest Road.