Monthly Archives: December 2015

Reading in 2016

My middle-school Sunday School class and I are having fun looking at what we believe.  Recently, we have focused on the Bible, the word of God. It’s been fun with the class to talk about various facts about the Bible.

  • The Bible starts with the beginning of the world and ends with God completing the actions on this world and establishing His new and perfect kingdom. It really is the best A-to-Z book
  • The Bible is the oldest book on earth.
  • It is still the world’s best seller.
  • It has been translated into more languages than any other book.
  • The Bible contains action stories, history, philosophy, poetry, war stories, love stories, wisdom literature, predictions and amazing truths.  It is God’s word to mankind.
  • And, oddly enough, it is reported that the Bible is the most often shoplifted book. Interesting!

A little over a year ago, John and I bought two special chronological study Bibles. Reading together we will complete our study for 2015 tomorrow. And, because there is so much information that we want to learn, we have decided that we are going to read the same book together in 2016. For several years, we have read the Bible together, a little each day, and have not gotten bored with it at all! I started reading the Bible every year many years ago and it amazes me how much I learn each time.

Recently, we heard a Pastor describe a program that their church is doing as a group; they will be reading the entire New Testament during 2016. It’s a great idea and I am excited to see how that corporate activity will change the people and the congregation.

If you haven’t ever taken on a Bible reading program, maybe 2016 would be a good year to start. You don’t have to read the whole Bible this year; maybe just part of it would be a great way to start. And, in this day of technology, you don’t even have to purchase a book.

The site, http://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-reading-plan/, has a variety of programs that might interest you. For instance, the “busy life plan” lets you tailor your reading time to your schedule. And, the “stay-on-track plan” has a built in system to catch up when you fall behind. For my Catholic friends, http://catholicbibleinayear.org/daily-scripture-reading-schedule/ is a great resource.

It’s a good idea, to read the oldest and most read book ever written. And, by reading it, I am growing to understand more and more why it is the “word of God.”

Try it.  You’ll love it.

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Unfinished work?

From January 2014 until September 2015 I taught a weekly class on Acts, a book of the New Testament. It was a wonderful study and I loved joining with friends each week to learn more about the early Christian church.

As a reminder, the first four books of the New Testament are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each of these four books (called the Gospels) tells the story of Jesus, His life, ministry, death and resurrection. The Gospels each share different parts of the story. If you haven’t read them in a while, start the New Year by reading at least one of them.

Following the four Gospels is the book of Acts. Written by Luke, this book tells the story of the early church. Much of the book involves the story of Paul who was once a zealot, persecuting Christians, and later became an enthusiastic follower and advocate of Christ. Like the four Gospels, the book of Acts is fascinating. Again, a great read to start the New Year.

But, the book of Acts ends abruptly. There is no summary of what happened to Paul or John or Barnabas or the various churches. To me, it is as if someone lost the next chapter or forgot to finish telling the story. It just ends.

We have just a few days left in this holiday season. Christmas is over and New Year’s is just a couple of days away. In 365 or so days from now, will we be wondering why we didn’t continue our story, why we didn’t finish the job? Do we have work that needs to be done now?

  • For instance, what thank you notes should be written? Instead of our thank you note/email/texting list only including those from whom we received gifts or spent evenings in their homes, how about sending a note to that one who told us that funny story or made us feel welcome at that party?
  • Are there those to whom we should send a gift? For that friend who is struggling, a gift of baked goods in January, when the excitement of Christmas has faded away, might mean more than we could imagine.
  • Could someone appreciate special time with us? Perhaps a long phone call or lunch or an invitation to watch a college bowl game would help to strengthen that friendship that was rekindled over the holidays.

As long as we are breathing, we have a chance to make a difference. We can’t waste precious time.

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)

Middle ground

Roll EagleThe weather across the central U.S.A. states has been pretty exciting the last couple of days. Our family in Kansas is dealing with ice and snow and high winds. And, the family members in Illinois are getting much of the same after days of unusually high temperatures. Our little town of Pensacola spent this morning with tornado warnings and flooding waters threatening. It isn’t all that unusual. The transition from fall to winter can be rough.

John and I have been battling rain and wind throughout the Christmas holiday and today was no exception. We watched the weather forecast, made plans to avoid the storms as much as we could, and tried to make the best decisions possible. We are safe and sound and drying out tonight, but it has been a rough day.

Rather than making dinner for ourselves, we headed over to one of the South’s traditional fine dining establishments – Waffle House. For you who never been to a Waffle House, they always greet you with the wonderful aroma of waffles and syrup and where’s the bad in that? Tonight we had a delightful waitress who is new to the job. But she did well and we got lots of attention from her. The fact that there were only three diners there gave her lots of time to hone her customer service skills.

While we were waiting for our salads to arrive, John and I happened to notice the handiwork on the windows. There were huge letters with two animals. It wasn’t until John pointed it out to me that I understood what it all meant. At the beginning was an elephant and at the end was a tiger and in-between were the words “Roll Eagle.” For those not familiar with college football in the state of Alabama, the symbol for the University of Alabama is an elephant and their moto is “Roll Tide.” The mascot for Auburn University is a Tiger and their call is “War Eagle.” (OK, I have never understood the Eagle and Tiger connection – I just accept it.)

Apparently, the manager of this Waffle House in Alabama had found a compromise. Rather than favor one team over the other, the clever businessman took the middle ground. Instead of “Roll Tide” or “War Eagle”, he wrote “Roll Eagle.” Cute, but I’m betting that he satisfies no true fan of either team.

The weather recently has been a challenge. It is as if we are being torn between fall and winter and unhappy with this period of transition, of the middle ground. As a friend said today, “I would prefer the cold temperatures and snow over this crazy stuff.”

Taking the middle ground is not always the right thing to do. Sometimes, we need to make the right decision and stick with it and accept the pain it might bring.

So, as you “enjoy” this crazy time of weather and as we all listen to college football fans scream and holler over the next week or more, it might be a good time to consider our position on some issues. Maybe one of our New Years’ resolutions should be to make a decision and take a stand on that issue for which the middle ground isn’t only uncomfortable, it is wrong. Just a thought.

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth…Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:15-16, 19-20)

 

Straining

This morning, we were blessed to be in a worship service where an amazing bass player “did his thing.” His dad and I were thrilled to hear him play his string bass at the Christmas Eve service and today he was playing his electric bass; it was grand!!

The kids’ church celebrates communion every Sunday and today was no exception. We love worshiping in different places. It inspires and refreshes us. Taking communion with them today was wonderful.

As the Pastor and servers prepared to distribute the elements, I noticed that John was the only musician remaining on the platform. Still holding his bass, he was attentive to the reading of scripture and prayer of the Pastor. As the bread and the cup were passed he started to play the haunting melody of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” An unusual bass solo, it was stark and low and compelling.

But, it was difficult for me to hear the melody. The sound system was set in such a way that I had to strain to hear his solo. As the servers made their way throughout the congregation, there were the hushed sounds of plates being passed and of cups being taken from and returned to their special trays. There were whispered “thank yous” and quiet tones of indistinguishable words. Nothing was out of order, but I had to strain to hear the music.

I had to focus my attention. And, because I was working so hard to the melody, the distractions faded away as my thoughts turned to the words of the song and the meaning of communion.

The communion elements are incredibly simple, cup and bread. And yet communion is so very complicated: blood and body; King of kings and newborn baby; one who was without sin bearing all of our sins; the Son of God becoming my personal Savior.   To understand and to appreciate communion, I must strain, I must push forward, I must focus.

It was a wonderful morning to remember that relationship does not come without effort, without struggle.

As we gather together with family and friends and God, may we remember that the love that grows is worth more than all of the strain, the struggle, and the effort. And, as the old song goes, “It will be worth it all…”

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Post-Christmas “fun”

Have you ever wondered what happened in the days immediately following the birth of Jesus?

Did Joseph ever connect with his relatives? (Remember the reason that Mary and Joseph went there was because that was the original hometown of his family) And, did the clan accept Mary and the baby or were there raised eyebrows and frowns?

Did the people who lived near the stable come over and visit during the days that followed? Did they ask questions like, “Were those shepherds friends of yours?”

Did the owner of the inn offer them a discounted rate for the below standard housing option? Or, did he charge them extra for adding a third guest when only two had checked in?

I think that like most couples and most families, that the pressures, tensions and excitement of the previous few days both drew Mary and Joseph together and also strained their relationship.

There is a wonderful story of the early years of my parents’ marriage. Mom was trying to make their home special and Poppa helped. They both have tremendous talents to make amazing out of the ordinary. On the mission field, Poppa turned a discarded piece of gear into a working and energy-saving cement mixer. Mom, can turn a skein of yard or pieces of remnant fabric into beautiful scarves and blankets.

One day, after being married a short time, Poppa asked Mom if she would braid a square rug for their home. Now, Mom makes beautiful rugs. She turned old wool garment into beautiful, handcrafted rugs. And, her cotton rugs were beautiful and easily laundered. So, making a new braided rug was not a new project; but, making a square braided rug ended up being an impossible task. After struggling to make 90 degree corners, she asked Poppa to show her a home with a square rug in it so that she could examine it and learn how to make the troublesome corners. His reply was precious, “Oh, I’ve never seen one. I just thought that it would be neat.”  Poppa just assumed that Mom could do anything!

They lived through that communication challenge and thousands of others in their 66 years of marriage.

But, Mary and Joseph were at the beginning of their married life at the time of Christ’s birth. I have absolutely no doubt that they had some issues.

For some families, the days after Christmas bring challenges. The holiday is over, the kids are still out of school and work hasn’t started back up again for those Monday-Friday jobs. For some, sugar craving is out of control…again. For others, no movie is enough of a distraction.

On these post-holiday days, remember this scripture: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Remember, God is still in control!

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

 

Merry Christmas!

“Jesus, be born in me.” That is the name of one of the songs that we sang in our choir’s Christmas music special. It has special meaning to me today.

You see, on Christmas, we celebrate the coming of Christ to earth. It’s a wonderful, amazing day. We sing carols; we give gifts; if we can, we spend time with friends and family. But, the celebration of Christ’s birth is just the beginning.

Today, I celebrate that Jesus was born in me. You see, after I asked Him to forgive my sins, I told Him that I wasn’t able to live in this world without continuing to make bad choices. He agreed! (The God who created me sure understands me.)

So, instead of living this life on my own, I gave up control of my thoughts, my future, my passions and my fears. This wasn’t a one-time commitment. Many times each day, I have to make a choice to seek His will and to follow Him. I have to think about His way instead of just operating on my experience and my desires. To get better at understanding His way, I spend time reading His word and in His presence. I listen to other followers of God and learn what I should from them. I try to use “lessons learned” to guide me in new situations. Oftentimes, I am not sure what to do. But, I trust that what He has taught me before will give me the right direction and that if I start heading down the wrong path, He will step in and help me find the better way.

I am thankful that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But, I am even more thankful that He lives in me today.

May you also celebrate His birth in your life.

Merry Christmas,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

You can hear one choir’s version of “Jesus, be born in me” at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbFgDd_493I

JESUS, BE BORN IN ME

Jesus, be born in me. Jesus, be born in me. And make my life what it should be. Jesus, be born in me.

So far away and long ago. You gave Yourself to earth below. Now in return, my love to show, Jesus, be born in me.

Jesus, be born in me. Jesus, be born in me. And make my life what it should be. Jesus, be born in me.

Some think of Christ at Bethlehem, and that’s where the story ends for them. I wish that all would say to Him, “Jesus be born in me.”

Jesus, be born in me. Jesus, be born in me. And make my life what it should be. Jesus, be born in me.

And make my life what it should be. Jesus, be born in me. Jesus, be born in me.

Come in today, come in to stay. Jesus, be born in me.

She danced

Tonight we attended a wonderful Christmas Eve service. There were candles and carols, beautiful lights and a delightful message. And, we celebrated, through the taking of communion, the love and new life that comes when we believe in and follow the Messiah.

The staff did something very sweet this year. As the Pastor told the Christmas story, children were called forward. The kids had been dressed in costumes to represent Mary and Joseph, their donkey, the wise men (with camels), shepherds (with sheep), the angels and the star. It was precious and delightful and wonderful.

But, before the candles were lighted and the communion was served, we sang Christmas carols and read the Christmas story together. As the director began the beautiful notes of “Joy to the World”, John and I noticed a little girl whose family was seated on the third row, center aisle. The little girl, probably about 3 or 4, was excited about all that was going on. She smiled and she jumped up and down.

And, then she did something that surprised us all. With a new doll in hand, she snuck away from her parents, headed to the center of the aisle and began to dance. She twirled, lifting her dolly into the air, and she swayed. Her little head bobbed up and down. She danced and she danced and she danced. It was not the dance taught to her by the world, it was the dance of pure joy. Just after the song had ended and the last notes were fading away, she got a little closer to her mom and a hand shot out and grabbed the back of her dress. The dance was over as the little body was gently pulled back to her seat. But, we loved her show!

As we sang, “The Lord has come,” she danced.

“The Savior reigns,” and she twirled.

“No more let sins and sorrows grow,” and she lifted her dolly high.

“He comes to make His blessings flow,” and she spun around on her toes.

“Joy to the World,” and she danced.

Today when I texted friends saying, “Let’s celebrate” the birth of Jesus a friend responded, “Let’s dance to the music.”

Tomorrow, when I celebrate my Savior’s gift to me, I will dance, the dance of a child who is loved beyond imagination. The dance of a child, excited about Christmas.

Merry Christmas,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke 2:16-20)

Sing!!

I love Christmas music. Not the music that is played in elevators or in the stores. My favorite Christmas music isn’t even the wonderful music that we hear in churches and concert halls this time of the year.

My favorite Christmas music is found when we sing in the car or living room or kitchen. My favorite Christmas music is sung by family members and friends and sometimes even strangers at the store. I love to hear people sing the songs of the season.

Note that I didn’t say that I like to hear everyone sing. I like hearing them sing Christmas music. It is so much fun when someone starts a carol and everyone joins in. It doesn’t matter if we don’t know all of the words or if we can even carry a tune. Just sing out.

Carol_singersSeveral years ago, Big Lots had a sale in July that included aluminum, Christmas tree shaped cake pans with plastic lids. I bought all that they had and put them in the pantry until December. One Saturday, I baked Christmas cakes. That night, we took the 18 cakes, met up with two friends and went Christmas caroling. What fun –  singing and delivering cakes!

At a friend’s house a few days ago, she shouted out, “Let’s sing.” And, we sang and sang and sang. We would begin a song in one key and end up a couple of keys lower by the time we were done. But, it was delightful!

I will never forget singing that special night in that tiny living room. A group of us sang every Christmas song we could think of and then sang every other song we knew. We were loud and off key and the rafters shook with the “joyful noise.”

While growing up, there was always a moment on Christmas Eve when we would pile into the car and drive around Olathe, Kansas, to “see the lights.” As we toured the neighborhoods, we would sing. “Angels We have Heard on High” would ring in two or three part harmony. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” always included the “we all want some figgy pudding” verse. And, “Silent Night” never sounded sweeter than when we sang it as a family.

“Well”, one might ask, “didn’t all of this singing at Christmas start with the angels? ”  Actually, the answer is no. Luke 2 says that they “said” rather than “sang.” Check it out: Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14)  (I once won a party game by knowing that piece of Christmas trivia!)

Are you ready to sing Christmas songs later this week? Why not make a “joyful noise”? It might be just the thing to get over the awkward moment with that new family member.  Try it – what do you have to lose?

And, while you are at it, why not think about the words and be blessed?

Merry Christmas Eve Eve!!

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

p.s. Need some help with the words? Try this site: http://www.bluebonkers.com/song_sheets/christmas_lyrics/

Just plant the seeds

Many of you know that in September of this year, with the help of my Sweetie and several others, I launched a new program called “uncommon (adj.) out of the ordinary.” (For my Facebook colleagues, you will find our group at “uncommon (adj.) out of the ordinary.”)  It is exciting and interesting and I am learning so much and getting to know wonderful people!

As background, uncommon is a networking group that has a once per week content-rich meeting, during which we explore a topic, engage with an amazing guest who has an uncommon story, and reflect on a psalm. uncommon is Christian and it is my prayer that it will unite Christians of various forms in common discussion. We may use slightly different styles of worship, but we are Christian.

I am also praying that uncommon will grow as a networking organization. Already, we have small businesses (and a couple of large ones) and organizations represented each week. Business cards are traded, fliers and menus set out, and announcements shared. Networkers get to chat with potential clients, get encouragement from other attendees, and learn about a topic – all without any fee. Unlike the great service clubs, uncommon encourages networking without requiring membership dues and service project participation.

Today, I visited more than 60 churches and businesses, delivering a letter from me, new flyers about uncommon and copies of our January topic and speaker line-up. (This is the sixth time I have performed this chore.)  It takes some time and cash to prepare the packages and deliver them. But, more than the expenditures, it also costs me a little pride. I walk into places, uninvited, and offer people something that they did not ask for and may or may not want.  Folks are always kind and pleasant. But, to date, no one has rushed toward me, arms outreached, yelling “oh my goodness – this is the program that I have wanted all of my life.” Hmmm…maybe I am aiming a little high.

But, it is strange that these tasks are filling my days. I have so many other options. Why on earth would I volunteer to make these cold calls when there is no economic or personal advantage?

I’ve considered that some might think that this is a “hair shirt” experience for me. You know what I mean – a test of perseverance. But, I don’t think that that is the case at all. God isn’t just asking me to do silly tasks as proof that He can get me to do them. That isn’t the God I know and love.

Instead, I think that these tasks are a little like what I experienced when I first went to physical therapy. My shoulder hurt and my therapist had tasks for me to do that seemed to have little to do with my shoulder. He had me use pulleys to move my arms up and down like a puppet on a string. I held a weight in my hand and moved it up and down with my wrist. I did isometrics with my shoulder blades. It all seemed a little pointless…until I saw the way that the various actions began to build up each other.

  • Before my shoulders could do work, they had to move freely. The pulleys got things loosened up.
  • The muscles in my wrists needed to be stronger to work with the muscles in other parts of my arms.
  • My shoulder blades are connected to my shoulder joints. Building one up helped the other.

Little things you do in physical therapy matter. One action gets you ready for the next, harder, task.

I think that advertising uncommon is planting seeds.

  • The work is teaching me new things – things I may need to be able to do future tasks.
  • And, the materials I deliver and the conversations I have plant seeds for future growth of uncommon or of the individuals.

My job right now is to create and deliver the materials. My job is not to figure out how it will all turn out in the end.

Christmas is this Friday. Some of you have been planting seeds for years. I don’t know if those seeds are going to produce a harvest this year or not. I don’t know if that relationship will finally unfreeze; if that old hurt will be healed; or, if your family will relax and enjoy and share and rejoice together.

Don’t worry about any of that. If your job is to plant seeds, keep planting.

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” (Hebrews 10:36)

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

A story for Christmas

A story for Christmas…

– If John hadn’t told me that his Rotary Club was collecting donations for Toys for Tots at their annual Christmas party, and

– If I hadn’t bought gifts that would work for boys or girls, and

– If we hadn’t put the gifts away so well that we forgot to take them the night of the party, and

– If John hadn’t reminded me that we bought the gifts for children to receive this Christmas and that we shouldn’t give them to Goodwill to sell, and

– If we were unable to find a single place in Pensacola today that was accepting Toys for Tots donations, and

– If I hadn’t noticed the toys sitting on the back seat of the Explorer, and

– If the gal at Office Depot hadn’t taken twice as long as usual to do a printing task, and

– If that train hadn’t made me wait in line, and

– If CVS wasn’t out of the very thing that we needed, and

– If I hadn’t got to Walgreens, and

– If there wasn’t a toy aisle that tempted kids even when their mom looked like she couldn’t afford anything, and

– If that mom hadn’t explained over and over (in a language that I do not speak) that her children should stop playing with the toys, and

– If the Lord hadn’t opened my eyes to the situation, and

– If the nice man at checkout hadn’t given me an extra, plastic bag, and

– If the nice lady at the other checkout counter hadn’t been without customers and had time for me to tell her that I was bringing in two items into the store,

– If the kids hadn’t stayed near the toys while the mom shopped in a different aisle,

Then, this conversation might not have taken place.

Me to harried mom in worn clothes and a tired face: “Are those your children?”

Her reply: “No English.”

Me: (making motions to pose a question about children)

Her: (nodding with a look of concern)

Me: (handing her the bag with toys in it) “This is for you. Merry Christmas.”

Her: (looking concerned) “How much?”

Me: “No, it’s for you.  Merry Christmas!!”

Her: (with tears in her eyes) “Free?”

Me: “Yes, Merry Christmas and God bless you.”

Her: “Thank you!!”

Me: (with tears in my eyes) “God bless you. Merry Christmas.”

And, we hugged in the middle of Walgreens.

As I passed by the nice lady at the checkout counter, I held up two fingers and said, “There were two things in the bag that I brought in.” She smiled and wiped a tear, “Got it.” I felt comfortable that there would be no problem when the mom checked out with her few items.

As I drove home, I praised God for His goodness. And, I said, “John should have been here.” It was then that I knew in my heart that had it been a Caucasian, American man and woman giving the bag, that it might have been rejected. Some things are too hard to explain to other family members. When I told the story to John, he hugged me. He understood.

I know that giving makes us feel good. But, giving when you are close to God is different. When we follow God’s leading we get to be part of so much more. We get insights and blessings like we never imagined.

But still, You long to enthrone truth throughout my being;                                          in unseen places deep within me, You show me wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6)

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s little helpers!!)