Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Martian

Last week John and I saw the movie “The Martian.” Now, I need to warn you that there is some foul language in this movie, so, I cannot recommend it to everyone. But, get rid of those words (not used all of the time) and the movie is fun. (It will be a great flick when it makes it to TV and the bad words are rubbed out.)

My husband is an engineer and I have a liberal arts background. No one should be surprised that we approach problems differently. Those approaches reflect our individual histories and training.

And, the main character in “The Martian” and I have very little in common. He, like John, can do things that I have absolutely no clue how to do. Technology and science involve skills and training that have never been part of my life.

So, why did I enjoy the movie so much? One reason: the movie celebrates smart people doing smart things – they solve problems.

  • They don’t talk about solving a problem.
  • They don’t complain that having the problem is unfair.
  • They don’t automatically assume that the problem is too tough for them.
  • They don’t even debate who caused the problem.

They solve the problem.

To me, every one of us is smart in certain areas. And, that “intelligence” often has little to do with our IQ. I have known too many “smart” people who were pretty “dumb” or “lazy” in making contributions that mattered. And, I have known many others who did amazing things but were never the “A” students in school.

My mom taught me a lesson about problem solving when I was preparing to move to Florida many years ago. I had been packing up my house for a couple of weeks when she stopped by. She knew that I was flustered and frustrated. I just couldn’t seem to finish one area; there were half-filled boxes in every room with junk everywhere. Mom looked over the house and looked at me and then she carefully asked if I needed her to help (knowing that sometimes I pulled out my “I can do this myself” routine). I was overwhelmed and tired and was very thankful for her generous offer.

She took a box and went into a corner of a room and started working. Unlike me, she was not distracted by my junk; where I had struggled she seemed to use little effort as she sorted and packed box after box. As I watched, her quick but careful actions had a vacuum cleaner effect. In front of her was a mess, but behind her the room was empty. I have always thought about her packing that day as like a cloud of locusts overwhelming a field. She just kept pushing forward, getting the job done.  She taught me how to solve the packing problem – pack.  (Seriously, that is the secret.)

Have some problems in front of you?  Just like eating an elephant, you have to attack them one bite at a time.

  • Have some challenging days ahead? Stop being overwhelmed with the number of tasks and simply do one thing at a time.
  • Worried about the couple of pounds you put on over the Thanksgiving holiday?  Well, weight loss, or weight gain, involves thousands and thousands of individual decisions over many days. (It really isn’t that single brownie or salad.) Weight loss is just solving one problem and then the next one and then the next one. Start with that next bite.
  • Got too many gifts to wrap? Do one and then another one.  Now you have two fewer than you did before you started – that’s great news.
  • Frustrated with no time for family this holiday season? Carve out one 15-minute popcorn snack and enjoy that time together. Rather than obsessing about the number of minutes you want, focus on the time that you do have.  Solve the problem one giggle, one hug, one football pass at a time.
  • Worried that the cash on hand isn’t going to cover the Christmas gift wants? Rather than creating a new problem (like a huge credit card bill), set a per-gift dollar limit and buy one gift at a time, sticking to your limit.

Got a problem this holiday season? Time to put a fork into that elephant and get started. I’ll pass the barbeque sauce to you after I put some more on my plate!

Romans 12:12 says “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Great advice!!



Tomorrow is Saturday, November 28. The next day is Sunday, November 29. Guess what Monday is? OK, that’s enough!!

Anyway, Sunday, November 29, is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent….what a wonderful time of the year.

Advent means “the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.” For the Christian, the Advent season reminds us of the first coming of the Messiah, in a manger in Bethlehem, and the second coming of the Messiah, when evil is forever defeated.

Maybe I can describe how Advent feels to me.

Tonight I saw a home all decorated in Christmas lights. It reminded me that soon our streets will be glowing with beautiful (and some “interesting”) lighting displays. I love those!  Christmas lights help me focus on Advent.

Friends have started posting pictures of their Christmas trees, already up and decorated. Each picture has made me smile and has sparked excitement in my heart about Advent.

Advent for me is a little like being a kid and seeing my siblings run into their bedrooms, working hard to get Christmas presents wrapped before I can see what they bought.

Advent is sort of like the smell of onions and sausage cooking early on Thanksgiving morning. That aroma means that turkey and dressing are not far behind and those the best!

Advent is kind of like seeing a bride peak out from the church foyer before the doors are open and she starts walking down the aisle to meet her groom.  We only get a peak at her, but our heart soars because we know that two lives are being joined together by God.

Advent is a little like hearing the drum roll before the Star Spangled Banner is played.  It makes my heart skip a beat because I know that what follows is amazing!

Advent is how we prepare while we wait for Jesus, for Christmas, to arrive.

During Advent, we read scripture and writings and we light candles. We don’t do those things because they are magical or because they are traditional. We do them because they help us to take our focus off of the things like Black Friday and holiday shopping. We do those things because we need to prepare our hearts and our minds so that we can honor and remember the gift of the Christ child.

I am so excited about Advent. I want to prepare my heart. I need to prepare myself to worship.

So, if you want to buy your Advent candles, tomorrow is the best day to get started.


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Want a free resource to help your family prepare for Christmas during Advent? I downloaded the Billy Graham guide; it is great.  The link is provide below:

The Lord of the Harvest

This morning our scripture reading was from the book of James. Read this passage that touched my heart:

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-8)

One of our vacations with the girls was spent in Kansas with the family. We took a day and, with my folks, drove to my sister’s family farm near Newton, Kansas. The three girls (probably in early grade school on this trip) were so quiet on the three-hour drive there. That day we introduced them to “Little House on the Prairie” and they were totally fascinated by Laura and her family. (On the drive back to Olathe, they slept the entire time.)

That particular June day was clear but a little windy. (By the way, people who live in Kansas rarely talk about the wind unless it is really windy!) upon our arrival my brother-in-law, Ken, and John and the girls headed out to check out the farm equipment and the fields. They soon drove by us, riding on the biggest truck I have ever seen.  Janice, my sister, Mom and I went into the house to get lunch ready.

Lunch was served on a picnic table, under a huge tree, near the edge of an enormous, open wheat field. I remember carrying out a beautiful, red table cloth, heavy, ceramic plates and large glasses filled to the brim with freshly brewed iced tea or sweet lemonade. Eventually, the girls and men were back with stories of frogs in the creek and a bumpy ride across dirt paths. We covered the table with massive platters, prepared in the “old house” kitchen. And we ate and we ate and we ate. I remember pasta with lots of garlic and peppers and big pieces of bread to get those last drops of tomato sauce. And, the wind blew and the iced tea and lemonade flowed.

That meal is one of my favorite eating memories. There was no rush and there was no lack of delicious food. The sauce was made from produce out of my sister’s garden. And, the wheat field in front of us would soon yield enough grain to feed thousands of people. It truly was a meal of the harvest.

But, Janice and Ken harvested their fields and their garden only after they had experienced planting and rain and wind and sun and time. The author of the book of James knew farmers. Farmers pray that the rain will come at the right time. But, farmers also know that sometimes the rain will come and it will be too much, making the fields impossible to work and causing the precious young plants to rot. Or the rains will come too late and the crop will dry up; there will be no harvest. Farmers wait patiently for the rain because there is no other choice. They have learned to wait. And, so must we.

Today’s Thanksgiving Day’s events may find you waiting for the harvest of seeds you planted years ago.

Brother and Sister: Keep waiting. Keep watching for the hand of God to work out His plan in your life. You can trust Him; He knows your heart; He has heard your prayers. Keep being faithful. Keep waiting.

On this Thanksgiving Day may “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Gathering ourselves

Orange BeachI just finished doing the laundry at the laundromat. To be honest, I love that job. You just can’t hurry the process. And, while I wait, I spend most of my time watching things in the dryers go round and round. Wet things become dry, fluffy things, all without my involvement. Watching laundry dry in a laundromat is a wonderful, serene event.

Going to the laundromat today was especially important because we have just returned home after five nights away. To celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary, we made reservations for four nights at a hotel in Orange Beach, Alabama. Our room had a beautiful view of a beach on the Gulf of Mexico. We didn’t have to travel long to get there; the drive from home takes less than an hour. It’s a drive long enough to “get away” but not so long that we couldn’t come into town to take care of various chores.

And, our time at the beach was delightful. It turned cold the day we arrived, so swimming or soaking up some sun in a bathing suit were not things we could do. Instead, we enjoyed spending time together, going to the movies and eating as much sea food as we could.

We arrived on Friday and on Saturday afternoon we came back to Pensacola to watch the Navy football game with friends. On Sunday, we got up at 5:30am so that we could get a friend to church. And, after a full day of activities, we finally got back to Orange Beach at 8:30 that evening. We were back on the road again on Monday morning so that we could get to a doctor’s appointment in downtown Pensacola. It was an amazing four days and we had a great time.

It was sometime on Sunday that we realized that these trips back to Pensacola were important, but a bit of a distraction. And, then, my amazing husband said words I had never considered: “Why don’t we stay another day?” We talked about it and realized that we could stay in Orange Beach all day on Tuesday and leave early enough on Wednesday morning for John to attend a meeting. My Sweetie made the arrangements and we stayed the extra day and night.

Yesterday (Tuesday), we had nothing planned. And, we did little very little. We rested. We shut down. We stopped doing.

For some of you, Thanksgiving Day is the busiest 24 hours of the year. Many will get up early to put a turkey into the oven. Later you will prepare the side dishes, getting the gravy just right. Then it will be on to entertaining the guests, cleaning up after the meal and working out a plan for Black Friday shopping.

Would you do one thing more tomorrow…one thing for you? Would you imagine watching the laundry go round and round in a dryer? Or, imagine sitting in a hotel room watching the waves in the Gulf of Mexico with nothing else to do? And, as you do that, would you gather yourself to yourself? I can’t come up with the right words, but I hope that you understand what I mean.

In other words, would you take a moment and consider:

  • How far you have come
  • How you have made it through the storms
  • How your character and wisdom have matured and deepened

And, after you have taken a moment to appreciate where you are compared to where you have been, would you thank God for the opportunities that are before you now because you have made it to this point in your life?  Would you realize that you are ready, are equipped to use those opportunities like no one else on this earth can?

  • Only you can love that person.
  • Only you can make that thing happen that looks impossible to everyone else.
  • Only you can be strong for that other one.
  • Only you can bring the joy of your heart into that sad place.
  • Only you can make the difference in that tough situation.
  • Only you can do what the Father has asked you to do.

As we gather with others tomorrow, let’s spend a moment or two gathering ourselves.


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

I gave thought to my steps, and my feet were turned into the way of your unchanging word.” (Psalm 119:59


Marriage is no excuse

Yesterday John and I celebrated 25 years of marriage. Thank you for the wonderful texts, cards, emails and Facebook comments of congratulations. We each posted a wedding photo and it amazed me how very young we looked back then. I have added some “laugh” lines over the past 25 years and my hair is gray; but, what a marvelous ride.

I realize that some may think that we have had an easy time of it. Our careers resulted in amazing opportunities and wonderful results. It is true that compared to so many that we have had a charmed existence. But, we have had our struggles.

  • The loss of people we love and adore and still miss every day.
  • Four surgeries for me and three for John.
  • Cancer.
  • Long separations from each other due to jobs.
  • Four heart-breaking floods.
  • A sad and tragic church split.
  • And, other personal and challenging issues.

What surprises me is how united and yet how independent we are. Before I was married, I thought married people lived every moment together and connected. After I was married, I realized that marriage is two people coming together and being united by God but still retaining their own personalities and carrying their own responsibilities.

No matter how amazing John is, it is up to me to be kind and compassionate. It doesn’t matter if our checking account has both of our names on it, I must be still responsible with the resources (like time and skills) God has given to me. And, regardless of how close John is to God, it is up to me to “work out my own salvation.”

Twenty-five years is a long time and I thank God and John for every moment. But, it is still up to me to live a life that makes a difference in the lives of others. Married or single, I have to answer for my acts, my word, my thoughts, and my attitudes. Marriage is no excuse to live any other way.


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others.  Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience. Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others – ignoring God! – harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.”  (Galatians 6:4-8)





parking space

This car has been parked for three days in one of two parking places marked clearly as for motorcycles. When the biker gang arrives, it isn’t going to be pretty!!

I have wondered several times, why on earth would someone think that this parking spot selection is appropriate? This is the closest space to the front door of the business but there are plenty empty spots near by.  Come one, what would it take to walk an extra couple of feet? It is silly. More importantly, it’s wrong.

I am tempted to put a homemade parking ticket on the windshield!!

OK, my point? How about before we argue about big issues like world peace (and war), Presidential candidates, and Coke or Pepsi, we agree that we ought to do the little things right.  It isn’t hard.

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

WKRP in Cincinnati

I have several favorite “cast based” shows. Most of them come from a time when the half hour comedy/social commentary show was popular. Do you remember: Barney Miller, Taxi, Mary Tyler Moore, M.A.S.H., Hogan’s Heroes, Coach, Wings, and the oldest one, the Andy Griffith Show? All of these shows had interesting story lines but even more interesting individual characters who seemed more real to us than the characters in other shows.

But, “WKRP in Cincinnati” cannot be left off that list. I loved every one of the characters.

  • Loni Anderson as the ultimate professional receptionist.
  • Gary Sander, the cool and ever ready station manager, Andy Travis.
  • “Big Guy Carlson”, Gordon Jump
  • Richard Sanders as news caster bizarre, Les Nessman.
  • The crazy salesman, Herb Tarlek, played by Frank Bonner.
  • My favorite DJ, Venus Flytrap, Tim Reid.
  • The lost new girl, Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers)
  • And, the lovable bad boy, Dr. Johnny Fever, played by Howard Hesseman.

My favorite episode was one where a tornado warning had been announced for the region and everyone needed to take cover immediately. The station did not have a disaster preparedness plan ready for broadcast. The “creative” newsman suggested that they use the plan that they did have ready – how to respond if the Communists attacked the city – by substituting the word “tornado” in place of the word “communist.” I laughed until I cried as I heard the radio voice advising people that “The hordes of tornadoes are at the outskirts of the city” and that they needed to “protect their families from the God-hating tornadoes.” It was funny to us, the audience, until the station received a call from a frightened child who was home alone. The tone changed, the station owner became a comforting adult. Regardless of the scary tornadoes (or Communists), someone who was weak and alone and scared needed the help of someone stronger.

But, at this time of the year, we all ought to re-watch the scene from “WKRP in Cincinnati” when the station owner decides to have a “turkey drop” downtown. The scene ends with his famous line, “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

Take a minute and enjoy a laugh or two. And, during this next week of gathering together, remember to stop laughing when someone needs your hand of comfort. Reach out. Don’t hesitate to help.


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

But if anyone has he world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  John 3:17

What day is Thanksgiving?

I don’t know exactly when it started. But, it was definitely true on my 16th birthday.

That particular birthday lasted over a week; there was just so much going on! I remember a slumber party at the Culver house with several of my friends. And, my sister, Janice, was home from college sometime before or after my birthday. She gave to me a pearl ring and that started my lifelong love affair with pearls. My family had a special dinner (probably stuffed pork chops) and birthday cake! And, I think that we took cake to the teen group at church one weekend. It was the first birthday that I remember that went on and on.

Poppa has told me more than once that I can make a birthday last longer than anyone he knows.

But, birthdays aren’t the only holiday that I stretch to cover more than day or celebrate at a time other than the “real” date. Yes, it started with birthdays for me, but I have learned to adopt two important truths for any holiday. One, everyone else in the world might celebrate on a specific day on the calendar, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick to their schedule.  And, two, just because you have had one “birthday” or “Christmas” this year doesn’t mean that you cannot have another.

For instance, we have celebrated New Year’s Eve with the Smiths for several years. But, New Year’s Eve has not always been on December 31st for us. I remember one year when we didn’t celebrate until February. We get together and celebrate the New Year whenever it works for us!

Next week, Thanksgiving might be on Thursday for some of you. For others, it might be on Thursday AND Friday. And, for some, that meal of gratitude with others won’t take place until well into 2016. Just relax; don’t worry that you won’t be able to enjoy that special meal. As long places like Cracker Barrel are open, we can find “comfort food” year round.

When will you set aside time to be thankful? Let’s stretch out this holiday as long as we can! And, let’s start now.

“For everything there is a season…” Ecclesiastes 3:1a


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

p.s. I was talking with someone this morning about my next birthday. “When is it?” you ask. To be honest, I haven’t decided yet. I can celebrate anytime!


Young girl playing in rain

The storm the other night was pretty loud. And, the 3:38am weather alarms on our phones didn’t make the night any easier. By the time I was ready to leave home, the puddles outside were big and deep. When I got out of my car to make a quick stop at a local convenience store, I was surprised that it came back to me. I remembered what it is like to stomp in a puddle.

Do you remember how a good stomp felt?  The way the water would spray all around you?  The sound of your shoe hitting the puddle?  How sometimes a rainbow would seem to appear out of the flying water?

I was hesitant to do it just then. People were watching. I was wearing “good” clothes. But, I couldn’t help myself! It wasn’t the puddle stomp of a 9 year old; it was the stomp of an old lady. But, I stomped and I laughed; I giggled and I stomped. You are right, my feet inside of my shoes and socks got wet and the legs of my trousers got soaked.   (Two things I noticed when I stepped into an air conditioned building.) But, I stomped in a puddle and it was fun!!

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the other day, I picked up a pine cone and threw it like it was a football. And, I have been known to kick quite a few fall leaves from time-to-time.

It is all part of the fall season. The weather changes from bright cold days to chilly damp days and the kid in me doesn’t really care. On any day, I can find a puddle to stomp, a pine cone to throw or a leaf to kick.

Try it – you will like it!! And, if you can, take another kid (age doesn’t matter!) with you. It is a delightful way to share God’s beautiful season of fall.


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” (Psalm 126:2)