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Church

Two years ago yesterday, my dear friend, Tena, left this world and met our Lord face-to-face. I miss her.

Tena was unique. I have never met anyone like her and doubt that I will ever will. She was an intelligence officer, a security clearance investigator, an alto, a fashion icon and a kick. She could embarrass and delight and frighten you in a single moment. You never knew what she might say.

I have never been so proud of my church as I was those last eight months of Tena’s life. It started when we learned that she was in the hospital after having a seizure. Within a month, we had all heard of the diagnosis – a brain tumor that was most likely cancerous. It explained a lot.

She was scared as were all of us who loved her. She wouldn’t show it most of the time – keeping her tough exterior and witty tongue at the ready. But, she knew that the prognosis wasn’t good. The docs debated and tests were run and we watched as our dear friend got sicker.

Eventually she needed someone with her round-the-clock and she seemed to think that moving into a care facility or hiring a professional was too huge a step. And she was unreasonable with loving family members. Her church friends stepped up.

We stayed with her for every moment for almost two weeks. She had always been very independent and brain cancer didn’t change that. I told her that we were going to stay and she wanted to approve the list of names.

One woman drove over an hour to spend shifts with her. Another became an expert in helping with medical procedures. Another talked with her during one shift and remained silent during the next one after Tena, sick and confused, had said in frustration “too much talking!!” I worked to keep the schedule working for everyone. It was amazing, woman after woman called me to see how they could help. I have never seen such love and care and sacrifice from people, many of whom who barely knew Tena.

Yesterday John and I visited another friend who likely has only a few days left on this earth. As we prayed with him in that front porch, the sun shining and our friend struggling to pay attention, my heart thanked God again for God for His church.

My church was there for me at every step of my walk with God.

Don’t define the “church” as only those who gather with you for worship.

– “Church” includes that friend who prayed with me at work.

– “Church” includes distant friends and relatives who are only connected to me via Facebook but care about me when I struggle and celebrate with me when there is victory.

– “Church” includes that special lady at the self-check-out section of our Walmart; she and I have shared so many words of faith together.

– But, mainly “church” is, for me, that group that gathers together and praises, prays, learns, serves and grows together at Pensacola First Church of the Nazarene. They have been there for me, in good times and in bad. In times of struggle and in times of growth. They are my church and I am theirs. And, we welcome anyone and everyone who seeks Jesus.

The church was created by God to give us a place to worship, to learn, to share, to care and to serve. Church isn’t about the hospital visits or casseroles or even the fellowship. Church is about seeking and serving God together. Church is the Christian community of faith.

Are you struggling? Go to church and get involved. Don’t go to church and sit, waiting for something to happen. Talk to someone. Share your heart. And, if it doesn’t help you get closer to God, go to another church.

Go to church, Friend. I will meet you there.

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” I Thessalonians 5:11

Barb told me I should tell you about making cards – so I will. 😁

Creativity can be explored in so many different ways. Give me some yarn and a crochet hook or a pair of knitting needles and I will make something you did not expect. Or, let me play with embroidery thread and fabric and I will be entertained for a very long time. Or, give music and let me sing next to my favorite altos and we will harmonize all day long.

But a glue gun baffles me.

Glitter and I are not friends.

Stamps and ink pads make me nervous.

Show me a beautiful design on a piece of paper and I will try to copy it. But please don’t say, “let’s see what you can create,” and then expect to be dazzled – no question, I will disappoint.

So when it was announced that our women’s ministry would be making Christmas cards for shut-ins and nursing home residents my thought was, “I pity the poor person who gets a card I make.”

It would have been easy to stay away. I mean: it is the week before Christmas. And: John and I are hosting an event tomorrow. And: They will never even notice that I’m not there.

But I went.

And, I had a GREAT TIME!

Were the cards I made gorgeous? No, most of them looked like the product of a preschooler who eats paste. My lines weren’t even. My stars were crooked. And one of the cards I made had puff paint that may never dry. But I HAD A GREAT TIME!

Why?

– The woman who organized the event was sweet and helpful and encouraging.

– The people around me knew that our efforts would encourage someone who might not get many personal contacts this Christmas so they worked to provide joy not to make the perfect card.

– Everyone was accepting and generous and fun. There was laughter and joy and fellowship.

Someone is going to ask you to do something this next week that you are either not good at or you don’t enjoy or both. In most cases, they are not asking you because they are desperate for a fifth player for their basketball team; they are asking you because they want you to be with them.

Try it!

Be bad at it – who cares.

Laugh and learn and enjoy.

Encourage those who are good at the task or who are winning the game.

In other words: Don’t be a humbug this Christmas!!!

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:18

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

I know the meaning of Christmas

This morning I am playing “Uber driver” (we used to call it “taxi”). A friend had knee surgery and needed a ride to a visit with the doc. As I waited for her to get to the car, I listened to a song on the radio. The singer sang “do you know the meaning of Christmas?”

As I listened to that beautiful melody, I tilted my head back and looked at the sky through the moonroof. A flock of birds was overhead, their wings glimmering in the morning sun. The car was filled with the presence of God as my heart cried out – I do know the meaning of Christmas!

I love the traditions of Christmas but they are not Christmas. Don’t get me wrong – I want and enjoy those traditions. Our tree is bright with lights and ornaments. I will be wrapping presents later today. And tonight we will decorate sugar cookies with a friend.

I love the music of Christmas. Last night John and I watched a DVD of a friend’s Christmas concert of a few years ago. I don’t play those Manheim Steamroller CDs except at Christmas. I will sing Silent Night, Joy to the World, and O Come All Ye Faithful. I will also sing the non-sacred favorites like I’ll Be Home for Christmas and Jingle Bells.

I love connecting with those we love. We may not be together physically, but we will call and write and zoom together and tell people “Merry Christmas” and “I love you.”

I love celebrating Christmas but it doesn’t have to be on December 25th. I have celebrated Christmas on a variety of dates in December and even as early as November and as late as January. The date doesn’t matter.

Christmas is not a social construct to me, and although we call it Jesus’ birthday, that is not the real reason that I celebrate Christmas.

I celebrate Christmas because it lets me celebrate in my soul snd shout out to the world that:

⁃ “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

⁃ “Son of the Father now in flesh appearing,”

⁃ “God is not dead nor does He sleep,”

⁃ “Joy to the world the Lord is come!!”

Like a flock of birds shining in the light of the sun on a bright morning, my soul soars – I celebrate Jesus, the Messiah, my Redeemer, my Savior, my Lord.

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

His Eye is on the Sparrow

Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come? Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home?

When Jesus is my portion. My constant friend is He. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender words I hear and resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears.

Tho’ by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy . I sing because I’m free, for His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise. When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies. I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I’m free for His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

——

“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” Matthew 6:26 NASB

A different look at gift giving

This morning I was reminded of 2 very different Christmases with our youngest granddaughter and her parents.

When our granddaughter was very young, our daughter-in-law looked at the pile of presents we had bought and told me about the similar stacks at their home and at other grandparents’ homes. She turned to me and commented that we all needed to “pull back.” It was too much. I agreed and we did.

A few years later, we had shifted to mainly gift cards as Christmas gifts (with some fun and silly things to open). The kids were all older and buying for them was tough. This year, that same granddaughter opened our gift, turned to her parents and said, “Now I can get it!!” She had been saving her money to get a particular item and we were with her when she purchased it the next day.

Money is a tough subject. And, as Christmas approaches, we too often lose perspective and try to melt that chip in our credit card by inserting it in the machine too often.

But, even at Christmas we need to teach and model responsible behavior. I read a few years ago that a study recommended they we add the principles taught in Junior Achievement to our school curriculum as those teaching points are more important than many other life skills that are taught currently.

Junior Achievement teaches that to gain wealth you need to work and invest. You develop and produce products and you make a profit – all while maintaining high ethical standards and adhering to legal requirements.

The study went on to say that we have multiple generations of American families who do not teach their children the importance of working to earn money and then saving part of that money to improve their quality of life today and in the future.

It’s a simple concept – capitalism. Now, in some circles this word is used with scorn and derision. In my mind, capitalism includes maintaining ethical standards. When that isn’t true, then perhaps we need to call it capitalism with ethics.

Two stories come to mind.

When I was in grade school, my folks started a bank account for me and gave me a “passbook.” When I got money (usually at my birthday), 10% went to God, 10% went to savings and the rest I could spend. I soon discovered that if I put more than 10% into my savings account that it grew bigger faster. I remember being in grade school and junior high and stopping by Patron’s Bank to deposit money from a baby sitting gig or just to compare my passbook balance with what that nice lady teller told me her bank records indicated I had. It was empowering to walk by myself to that teller’s counter and learn the value of earning and saving. It was an important life lesson.

When John and I had a chance to visit mainland China for a day, we found ourselves the only Americans in our tour group. We had a great time. Part of the day’s agenda was a visit to a small farm. Being a kid from Kansas, I looked at the farm and saw things perhaps others didn’t see. They had drainage problems next to the tiny house and in front of the barn. When we returned to our bus, I commented that they could have sold us something small and used the funds to improve their farm. One of our tour mates looked at me with scorn and said, “You capitalist!” That stopped all discussion. Later, I turned to John and said with pride: “He is right – I am a capitalist!”

My point? Think about this next week. Are you teaching only greed or are you teaching giving and receiving, pride of good work, and concern for others?

Just a thought.

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

“The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.” Proverbs 21:20

“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5

“For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12

Survivor

I have to admit that I do like a couple of reality TV shows. My favorite is on the History channel – “Alone.” It features true wilderness survival experts living in the Artic. Second would be “The Amazing Race.” I despise the crazy drama and game playing, but I like the variety of challenges the producers present to them.

But since I have already watched the latest season of “The Crown” on Netflix, I watched a season of “Survivor.”

For those unfamiliar with the show, it features folks as they live together for 39 days in a rustic beach environment. The series began with a lot of attention to actual survival with few benefits of comfort provided the competitors. Now it is less on physical survival and more on social survival. People literally vote others “off the island” with lots of scheming and trickery.

Last Christmas the kids introduced us to a new version of Monopoly. In this version, you were encouraged to lie and cheat to win. How silly – we knew how to do that when we were kids. Seriously, could you ever trust the sibling who was the banker?

“Survivor” is a lot like cheating Monopoly but with a lot of whining and fighting.

Anyway, this particular season of “Survivor” pitted a tribe of “Heroes” against a tribe of “Villains.” And, in spite of their initial misgivings about the labels, the individuals often played true to the characterization. At several points in the season a player would respond to a question about their actions, “Hey, I’m a villain!” I haven’t watched the whole series yet, but it looks like the villains will win.

So, what about real, not TV life?

Awhile back, a friend cautioned me about someone reminding me of their involvement in wicked activities. It was a helpful admonishment. I was only looking at the good and ignoring the bad. I was being naive and their warning was helpful.

So, are we bad or good? Villain or hero? Only God knows our true heart. I believe that left to our own, mankind grows in their wickedness. We become more centered on ourselves. And living in that self-centered state, that even when we are kind, we are doing it for ourselves.

But, I am so very thankful that all of us can be changed. Instead of fighting to be the center of our own universe, we can establish an “alliance” with God Himself. It is not an equal partnership – He becomes the Lord of our lives and we are finally able to rest, knowing that we are at peace with God, with others, with ourselves.

We cannot change on our own, we need the Creator, God Himself, to change us. And, that process will take every moment for the rest of our lives. One huge decision to give our life to Him and then a million daily decisions to stay the course. We do not have to be villains. We cannot, on our own, be heroes. But, we can be His.

Not sure why I am writing this today, but it comes from my heart. Ready to help you.

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. (John 3:16-18, The Message)

Donate blood – save lives!

The American Red Cross folks smile as they collect your blood. 😄

This morning I am at the American Red Cross center donating blood. I have O negative blood type like about 7% of all Americans. We are a pretty rare group. But you B negative folks are even rarer – only about 1.5% of Americans.

Poppa donated blood. In fact, he donated gallons of the stuff. His donations were before we had computers to track everything. He would get calls from the blood bank telling him that there was an emergency need, ignoring the fact that it was too soon to donate again. I donate to honor him and to help others.

It isn’t hard to donate but it is a little inconvenient. You have to be healthy, to make an appointment, to be patient with the process. And, yes, they have to stick you. But, blood bank folks are the best in the world at sticking folks.

Never donated? Here’s my view of the process:

1. Make an appointment. It is easier on the process compared to when folks just show up.

2. On the day of the appointment drink lots of fluids, be healthy and do’t take aspirin for a couple of days before you donate.

3. If you have the American Red Cross app (after you are in their system as a donor) do the rapid pass check-in the day of your appointment.

4. When you get called to give you will go through a qualifying process first. There will be some questions about your health, they will take your blood pressure and you will get a finger stick so that they can run a quick analysis of your blood.

5. Then you go to a comfy couch, get asked more questions, have a blood pressure cuff applied and another stick – this is the one to draw blood, so it is bigger.

6. You sit while they drain you of about 470 ml or about 8% of your blood. Your body replaces this in 24-48 hours.

7. After you are done (the actual drawing of blood took me about 15 minutes), you get a bandaid and a bandage.

8. The last step is a visit to the snack table. Usually I skip this step and just have a dietCoke waiting for me in the car. Today, I got a juice box (grape) and a granola bar. The rest of my day was busy and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t run on “empty.”

9. Then you rest up for a little bit before leaving the facility. I sat in the car, enjoyed my juice box and snack, and drove off about 15 minutes later feeling fine.

10. The instructions I received told me what to do if I struggled later in the day. It also told me to drink extra fluids and to have a good meal. I did both – I don’t have to be told twice!

Giving blood is easy and important. It really does save lives.

Poppa was often told that his blood donations saved babies. And that is true. He was O negative and must have also been CMV negative. I learned today that those with “O negative blood and are CMV negative are known as ‘Heroes for Babies’ at the Red Cross because it is the safest blood for transfusions for immune deficient newborns.” I do not know if my blood is CMV negative but I will try to find that out the next time I donate.

So, do it. Give some of that stuff that is keeping you alive to help someone else live. It is easy and you get free snacks!!

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Marlon

Last Friday, I began the battle. We had 20 boxes of Christmas presents to mail. I put a sticky note on each, the address carefully copied onto each one from my address file. Then, I gathered the mail scale, my laptop, my credit card and the tape dispenser. I was ready to take on the USPS click-and-ship app and make it dance.

I entered the information for the first four packages (size, weight, etc) and appropriate addresses. Because I hadn’t used the click-and-ship app before (John had done the work in past years), I stopped and made the purchase for those four packages. It was so easy. The labels were paid for, printed and pasted; those boxes were good to go. Sweet!!

Time to get serious. But nothing worked. I tried over the next two days to get the rest of the packages paid for through the USPS app – no joy! The system wouldn’t take credit cards A or B. It took credit card C but refused to print the label – $20 lost in the ether. John tried the app from his computer – nada. Nothing would work.

So today I packed up the remaining 16 boxes and a luggage cart. I parked the car in the parking lot in front of the post office and loaded up my luggage cart. My cart overfilled and I had to use the handicap ramp to get it into the building. People stared at me. I walked slowly to let them run ahead – that seemed the fair thing to do!

My phone was fully charged and I had my earbuds ready in case I had to wait an hour or more.

But, the lobby only had 5 people ahead of me in line. I waited a mere 20 minutes before “Marlon” was calling me to his counter. He was super friendly and super efficient. He got my 16 boxes ready to go in less that 15 minutes. I was so surprised and happy. It was quick, efficient, and, I must admit, pleasant!

It’s true, the project involved more trouble that I expected. But if click-and-ship had worked, I wouldn’t have met Marlon; and he was a delightful professional doing his job efficiently, never losing his sense of humor nor his smile. I am glad I got to see him do his job with such grace.

When a stumbling block appears in your path, look around. You might get to meet some great people or see something amazing.

Just a thought,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.” Psalm 37:7-9

Take it easy!

For a little over 30 years, I worked with the NROTC Program. It was a blessing to be part of that program and the amazing people who made it all happen.

Every year, about 4,000 of our nation’s best college students trained and learned together in preparation for commissioning into the officer corps of either the Navy or Marine Corps. Part of the course included training with the active duty forces over the summer months. Between the freshmen and sophomore years, NROTC midshipmen went to the west or east coast to participate in four weeks of training: one week each with submarines, aviation, surface Navy and Marine Corps.

On the west coast, the week with the Marines included a simulation of securing a small village. Small groups of midshipmen would move from play wood building to building, securing the area.

One year, I got word that a midshipman had suffered a severe arm fracture. His training was ended and he was sent home for additional treatment. I asked how he had broken multiple bones and the answer came with laughter.

Apparently, when working with his team to secure a building, this not-so-bright lad had launched his body through a window opening in the building and landed hard on the sand floor inside. It seems that he had watched too many movies where the hero had executed a similar action, ending in a forward roll and a jump to his feet. The young man’s action did not go as planned; his daring dive resulted in a face and arm plant and the snapping of bones. I am happy to report that in the end, he mended and was fine.

What is my point? Well, have you an unreasonable goal for the holidays? That goal being the equivalent of launching your body through a window opening of a ply wood building? I know it looks easy – Norm Abrams, Rachel Ray, and Martha Stewart, Chip and Joanna all get it done!! Guess what? That’s tv life, not real life!

Don’t break a bone (literally or figuratively) this Christmas. Eat good, sleep well, enjoy the holidays!!

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

It is senseless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, fearing you will starve to death; for God wants his loved ones to get their proper rest. (Psalm 127:2, TLB)

I have so much

Our neighborhood Facebook page started a fascinating discussion thread the other day. It suggested that people list things they needed or things that they no longer needed. As I watched the discussion over the next few days, matches were being made.

Someone would note, “I need x.” Things like tools or gadgets were mentioned. Sometimes it was kids’ clothes of a certain size, usually to help a neighbor or family members or a foster family with a new placement. In a few cases it was a request for some help with a home project like helping to hang a light fixture or get a trailer tire installed.

And, the responses would trickle in. Someone had that tool to lend or would loan out their teenager to help with a chore. Kids clothes flew from house to house.

It also worked in reverse. Someone would note that they had something they no longer needed. Oh, it might be used and a little worn but it still had some usefulness in it. As items were offered up, folks would reply that they could use that very thing.

It didn’t appear that there were instances of taking advantage or giving away trash. It was just neighbors helping neighbors. What a wonderful feeling.

I have a closet full of clothes and shelves with so many books. I wonder who might need some of those? Are there people who would appreciate the things that I no longer need?

Years ago I was friends with a naval officer who had been on active duty for about 15 years. One day, she asked if I could help her clean out some boxes of clothes from her step-dad. I asked her how long her step-dad had been gone and she replied “9 years.” As we opened the boxes, I found a stack of button down shirts that were still in their cellophane wrappers. For 9 years, she had moved boxes of brand new shirts. Shirts that I knew were needed by men trying to get jobs and establish normal lives after living on the streets. My heart broke as the old plastic coverings crumpled in my hands. What a waste.

What do we have that someone else needs? I read that Toys for Tots’ and Salvation Army donations are down this year. It is going to be a tough Christmas for too many.

What do we have that someone else needs?

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Luke 3:11)

Who?

This is going to be short. I have one question for you: Who needs to hear from you?

Need some time to organize your thoughts? Fine, then put the call, the text, the visit on your calendar. And make it happen within the next 10 days. Don’t wait until Christmas or 2021. Just make the call.

You can, you need to do this.

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Ps. I made my call this morning. I have another one to make tomorrow.

Galatians 6:2. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”