Christmas tunes

I am waiting for some friends to arrive. We are going to decorate 250 cookies to fill an order for our church’s Meals with a Mission program. It is going to be one sticky morning!l

It is a rainy day and dark outside. So, to get into the mood of Christmas, I have the house cheery with lots of lights and Christmas music playing. Our TV cable service includes various music channels; we have “songs of the seasons” playing.

It is interesting what they feature on those TV channels. This morning we have heard some of our favorite Christmas carols and songs sung by our favorite artists, songs we have never heard before, detested versions of favorite songs and some songs that just make me nervous. It is an eclectic mix!

But, that is how life is. I enjoy the familiar, question the unfamiliar and rankle at things I don’t like.

A few years ago I realized that I was having a challenge enjoying some of the new music being used by our church to lead the congregation in worship. Some of it was ok but some of it just got under my skin. So, I created a “new church music appreciation” course of study for myself. At least half of my driving time was spent listening to the new music. The rest of the time I listened and sang along to music I had loved for a long time. Soon I found myself singing along with the modern stuff. And, then I started listening to the words and thinking about the theology behind the words. Some of it was good, some of it was not. Amazingly, the same is true of the music I have loved forever.

Why did I choose to listen to that which challenged me? Well, if I am going to worship and help others to worship, I better get with the program. I do not want to be a stumbling block to others!!

So, the next time you hear that unfamiliar song, take time to listen rather than change the channel. Funny, you might learn something new.


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Ps. After Christmas last year I found our new Christmas moose on sale at Sam’s for 75% off. He doesn’t fit with any of my “gather together” musings but I wanted to share him anyway – he is adorable!!


This afternoon John and I delivered goodies to our neighbors and we left a package of goodies for our mail man. What fun! We included a Christmas card and a small ornament. It was a joy to see them, share hugs, and to say Merry Christmas and God bless.

One of my favorite Christmas memories related to church has to do with bags of goodies we put together as a family. I didn’t learn until later that some church folks had complained about this “chore” and so my parents volunteered our family to do it. Who else had 5 kids to use as an assembly line? Hahaha!

Seriously, this was such a great family activity. We had a stack of brown paper bags, sack lunch size or a little larger. And, we had apples and nuts and candies. Mom and Poppa assigned a station to each of us and gave us instructions related to that station. The sack would come to our section of the table where we would add our item and then moved the item down the line. I remember it being really fun. But, the joy was even greater when we saw the sacks of Christmas goodies handed out one December Sunday morning. Those paper bags of Christmas goodies made people so happy!!

It’s Christmas! Take some fruit or cookies or candies (store bought is fine!), put it them on a paper or plastic plate and deliver the goodies to someone who doesn’t expect it. You can share so much joy with just a card and a cookie.

Try it – you might see a neighbor become a friend!


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

I almost lost my shoe

This year we moved into our new house. It is so wonderful to be home. And, on this afternoon after a very busy morning, I have enjoyed more than one nap on the couch!

But, I remember a Sunday afternoon a few years ago that was so different, so difficult. I have one word for it – muck.

You see, after the foundation had been laid for our new home, we had one rain storm after another. Our builder told us we needed to wait for the muck to dry out before work could continue. And so, I decided to see what I could do to hurry the process up. This particular afternoon was sunny and there was a nice breeze. It seemed to me that perhaps some old fashioned hard work might make a difference.

I grabbed a rake and a hoe and headed into the middle of the foundation, built of cement blocks. It looked like a little mud with some dry patches. I started raking around the edges. I thought that by breaking up the surface, the wet mud underneath would be exposed to the sun and breeze, causing it to dry.

The more I worked, the farther I got away from the cement walls. Using the hoe, I would lift some of the mud and plop it down again. The harder I worked, the bigger the job got. And, the farther out into the muck I went.

And then it happened, my foot was stuck in the muck. I couldn’t raise my leg – the muck was stronger than I was. I realized that the muck had captured my shoe; I could be free if I just gave up a shoe. I wasn’t trapped.

In the end,I was able to use the hoe to break the suction holding my shoe and extricate my foot and my shoe! Victory!!

Wait…the muck was still there. I did nothing to change the situation. No matter how how dedicated, how focused, I stubborn I was, I couldn’t change the muck. All I did was frustrate myself and get stuck and almost lose a shoe. There was no victory…no victory, but a lesson learned. Sometimes we just have to wait it out.

Sigh…I wish I lived like I had really learned that lesson. Just a thought.


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Learn the song

Tomorrow is our celebration of Christmas at Pensacola First Church of the Nazarene. I am blessed to be singing the song “His Name is Jesus.”

Getting this song ready has been a challenge for me. It seems that, until this week, I had let every possible distraction keep me from focusing on learning this song. Admittedly, the solo sounded ok when I sang it in the car (everything sounds good when you are singing alone in a car!). But, on Wednesday, at our dress rehearsal, I messed up the song so badly that we did it again, and IT WAS EVEN WORSE!! I knew it was all my fault, but I still whined about other things that weren’t really to blame.

I have been singing since I learned to talk. I have a decent choir voice and I love to read music. It is a joy to sing. And, when Poppa had a heart procedure a few years ago and lost the ability to swallow for awhile, I realized anew how beneficial singing is. It keeps my throat muscles working hard. It forces me to breath deeply and to exercise my core. (I hide the results under a very non-healthy indulgence in chocolate chip cookies!). And, the scripture says that singing can be praise. (“Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).)

Yesterday, I figured out the song I am to sing tomorrow morning. For me, there is the technical part of learning a song — the words, the notes, the rhythm. That part can be challenging, but is pretty simple with lots of focused practice. And, I practiced the song a lot. But, there is a second component to learning a song — the soul of the song. This takes time and attention and prayer.

For instance, I have been blessed to be able to sing our National Anthem many times. I don’t get creative with this song. My belief is that it should be sung as written, as the writer intended it and as people know it. But, getting the tune, words and rhythm right is only part of singing “The Star Spangled Banner.” I want to see the bombs bursting in air in my mind and try to imagine the joy and pride at seeing our flag still flying at dawn after the battle of the night.

I love the song “O Holy Night” and I love the voice of a particular singer. But, I cannot tolerate hearing that particular artist sing “O Holy Night.” Their life and words don’t reflect a heart that beats the joy of the gift from God on that holy night.

So, why couldn’t I sing my solo at practice on Wednesday?

It is simple. I hadn’t done all of the work that needed to be done and I was listening to everything else but the song.

It’s a frequent temptation to fall into this trap. We wonder why Christmas morning isn’t special, but we haven’t spent the time thinking about and loving the people around us; and then on that special morning we only listen to the words we hear with our ears and not the hugs and the smiles we hear with our hearts.

Or, we have the party at work. It seems to be the dullest event ever! But, have we pushed so hard to get work done so that we can “enjoy” the event and are we continually stopping co-workers for “just a minute” to talk about “one last” item of business? Have we failed to pay attention to their sweet stories about kids and grandkids or are we thinking about our drive home?

Take the time to learn the meaning of the song, to notice your loved ones, to hear the heartbeat of the Christmas story. It will cause your soul to sing.


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Ps. Want to “hear” how it goes? At 10:30 am tomorrow,stop by Pensacola First Church of the Nazarene (3475 Pine Forest Road, Cantonment,FL) or catch us anytime on Facebook live (“First Church of the Nazarene, Pensacola, FL”.)

A little bruise

Earlier today someone noticed the bruise on my upper arm. It is small but has some pretty intense coloring. There is a good reason for it.

A few years ago my doctor suggested I get the shingles vaccine. I did and all was great. Then, this year I learned that there was an updated version of the vaccine. Monday, I got the first of the two injections for this updated vaccine. Our pharmacist gave me the shot and did a great job. Our insurance paid for it and I was good to go.

But, this week’s shot left a bump and a bruise that will be around for a few days. And, the first night after the shot, I thought I was sleeping on something hard (maybe an ear bud?). My arm was sore and the doggone shot was the cause of my pain.

Poppa has had the shingles as have several of our friends. I had chicken pox as a kid, so there is a chance that I could get an outbreak some day. Two shots is a great price to avoid the shingles!

Sometimes pain and inconvenience are worth the outcome.

Let’s remember that lesson as we gear up for the week before Christmas.

⁃ Stuck in traffic? Remember the joy of seeing that little one in their school or church program, or your comfy living room/recliner/bed that is waiting for you at home, or the amazing food at your favorite restaurant.

⁃ Tired of listening to that person complain? Remember that you are helping a powerless person feel important, or their rant might teach you something new, or that the conversation might give you an idea for your next “we gather together” blog. 😊

⁃ Weary of shopping? Be thankful that people are looking forward to seeing you, or that the clerk at the cash register really needs your smile and pleasant word today, or that you are helping the economy grow – one dollar at a time!

Bruises usually are short lived but, in this case, the inconvenience, the bump, the pain are a good price for the benefits received.


Jill (just one of God’s kids)


This notice on my dashboard is really bugging me. Somebody must have forgotten to hit the reset button or flip the switch. My vehicle doesn’t need an oil change; the maintenance is up-to-date and the oil is fine. The problem is that every time I start the car, this message appears. It is irritating.

It is a little like the sign just before a school zone near us. I know that the speed limit inside the school zone is 20 miles per hour but the sign reports my speed before I get to the zone and it blinks if I am going faster than 20 mph even though I am not yet in the zone. Arrrgggh!

Ok, one more. This week I had routine appointments with both my doctor and dentist. Their offices are very helpful. I received emails and texts reminding me of the appointment date and time. Those “warning” emails and texts were actually helpful. They were not intrusive and they helped me to keep my schedule on track.

During the holidays we get lots of reminders and warnings:

    “Don’t forget to bring the ham to the dinner.”
    “The program starts at 5 so we need to be there by 4.”
    “The party theme is ugly Christmas sweater so let’s wear the ones your aunt gave to us (and, for goodness sake, don’t let your family know that is how we are using her gift).”

If we are the ones sending out those “helpful” reminders, let’s make sure that our warning signals are helpful, timely and appropriate. We don’t want to be the cause of pain and irritation – both bad ways to foster that so very important Christmas spirit!!


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Dr Wedell

December 1982 had a huge impact on my life. I had worked for the Navy for almost six months and big changes were in the works.

A Navy intern program had brought me into civil service, and the program leader had decided that I needed to rotate out of Pensacola after 6 months of work; she decided that I would be transferring from the NROTC Program office to a training office in Millington, Tennessee (north of Memphis).

In mid-December, the intern program coordinator and I traveled to Tennessee to meet the team involved with my next assignment.

It was a terrible visit. The staff took me aside and warned me privately not to come there; they hated their jobs and, apparently, each other. The command climate was nothing like the camaraderie that I had experienced in Pensacola. The commanding officer was feared and the organization was having an internal war.

When the visit was over, I called my professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and asked him what graduate school opportunities might be in the Memphis area. We agreed that I could “do” 6 months more with the Navy, leave the organization and go to work on my doctorate which could be funded by me teaching at a great university. The university agreed to the deal and I had my back-up plan in place.

The unknown in all of this was Dr Vern Wedell. He had been my supervisor for my initial Navy assignment and I had learned so much from him. He was one of those “crusty” old civilians who stayed in the background, was a trusted agent by Navy leaders and who got stuff done without looking like he was involved. I liked him and he liked me.

Dr Wedell has moved me into his office after he had watched me work for about 3 months. He quizzed me often. For instance, when someone would leave our office, he would drill me about how to handle that task or that person. At the time, I didn’t realize how valuable it was to learn the art of civilian service in a military organization.

Just before I had headed to Tennessee to check out my next assignment, I had finished a project for Dr Wedell. When I handed him my final product, he was surprised at how I had attacked the work and provided much more than he had expected. For a guy that didn’t tip his hand very often, I could tell that he was impressed with how I had done the job. I remember thinking that I had just tried to anticipate every question he would ask, every issue he would raise. My strategy worked.

And, so, just after I had finished the project for Dr Wedell, I headed to Tennessee to learn about my next assignment. And, in response to what I learned, to develop the back-up plan for when I would quit 6 months later.

After we had finished in Tennessee, I returned to Pensacola just long enough to repack my bags and head to my parents’ home for Christmas. I tried to contact Dr Wedell to let him know of my transfer date, but he was in meetings and not available. I called him several times over Christmas to tell him that I would be leaving in early January but he was never available to take my call and he never returned my call. I got worried – what had I done that he would not talk to me? I asked the administrative assistant what was wrong – had he gotten my messages? She assured me that he had gotten my messages and requests for a return call; she didn’t know why he was not talking to me.

It was one of the worst Christmas’ of my life. It looked like I would have to move in a few weeks to go to work in a place where no one else wanted to me. The man I most respected wouldn’t talk to me and I wasn’t sure I was interested in teaching and starting a doctorate. It seemed like my career had been derailed.

I got back to Pensacola and went into the office that I shared with Dr Wedell. I had returned to work before he had and so I started to pack up my desk. The next day, he returned to the office and did his normal daily “stuff”, ignoring me until mid-morning. He then got up and closed the office door. He sat down at his desk and looked me square in the face and asked “Do you want to leave here?” I replied that I didn’t have a choice. He looked and me and asked me the exact same question, “Do you want to leave here?” I told him what I had seen in Tennessee and that I had decided that I would have to quit in 6 months but that I had a plan to go back to graduate school. He asked me a third time, “Do you want to leave here?” I looked at him and said, “No.” There was interesting work to do, I was learning so much from him and others and I really did want to stay. He replied, “OK” and got up and opened the office door. He then told me to stop packing my desk and to get back to work.

Later that week, the intern coordinator called me to her office. She told me what I could not stay in Pensacola; Dr Wedell was making promises that he could not keep. Her supervisor called me in and said the same thing. A fellow intern called and told me that I was going to be without a job if I didn’t move to Memphis.

Well, that six-months turned into a 30-year career – all in Pensacola.

Why did that happen? It all started with a leader who only made promises he could keep and with a young woman who trusted him.

I will never know all that Dr Wedell did for me. I have my suspicions but I do not know.

Like me, you may have people in your life whose promises are rock solid. They are the hard working people with shoes that are worn and who often shy away from being the one in the limelight. But, you know who and what they are. They are the ones who have prayed for us into the early morning. They are the ones who were there with cash when we were broke. They are the ones who listened when we thought we had missed all of our opportunities.

Our challenge is to keep on trusting even when the phone call isn’t returned or the text answered. Rest easy, they may be busy, putting the pieces in place to make your dreams come true.


Jill (just one of God’s kids)