My Greatest Love

It’s Valentine’s Day.  A day we are supposed to celebrate our love.  I imagine it can be a painful day for those who do not have a “special” someone to celebrate with.  After my first husband died, I dreaded that day.

But although I have been single, then widowed and spent Valentine’s Day without a boyfriend or husband, I have always had a great love to celebrate.

I met Him when I was six years old.

 

My earliest memories were hearing my parents talk about Him.  Finally, at six I realized I wanted Him to be my special love.

So I asked Jesus to come into my heart/my life and I would love Him too.

I asked – He said yes.

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Being baptized after making a public commitment to follow Jesus

We have been sharing our love ever since then.

 

 

I could share so many stories of how my love has been there for me over these 65 years since I accepted His offer of friendship and love, but one of my blogs from 2014 tells it the best.

Hope you will take time to read it and see why I celebrate this love, not only on Valentine’s day but every day of the year.

Coincidence or An Act of God?

Made for Community

Reading the story of creation recently I was struck once again by the one thing that God said was not good.  Each day He created something and then said it was good.  Until the sixth day when he created man.  He stood back, looked at the highlight of all His creation and noted that there was something not good about it.

Man was all alone.  God said:

“It isn’t good for the man to live alone. I need to make a suitable partner for him.”

That verse has been used many times to teach that marriage is designed of God and that a person is somehow incomplete without a spouse.

While I agree God was clearly establishing the marriage relationship, I think it was about much more than that.

God was establishing our need for community – for others.  Not just a spouse but the many other relationships that would grow from this unit of man and woman.

  • children
  • aunts/uncles
  • cousins
  • neighbors

In other words, community.

We were designed to need others.

Sometimes living in community can hurt.  We have all had family, friends, co-workers who have hurt us.  After being hurt our natural tendency is to withdraw, to decide to not trust others again.  But when we do that we are living in opposition to the design God has for us.

One trait most Americans highly value is our independence.  Being self-sufficient often is preferred beyond other abilities.  We feel “I don’t need you” or even “I don’t need anybody.”

But is that really true?

God said it was not good that man should be alone.  Again, I think He was talking about more than a marriage.  If that is all it was, then what were His plans for those who do not marry.  Would it then be good that they were alone?

Jesus spoke about building the church.  Almost all of the New Testament is addressed either to a church group or a leader of a church.  It is not a book written for independent relationships.

The writer to Hebrews said:

“…let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another….

Today as I met with my small group after morning worship I realized how thankful I am that Jesus established the church.  Moving to a new state where we had no friends, after less than four months I have many new friends.  Where did I meet them?  At church.

Since church is made up of imperfect people I have been hurt by the church.  I have had some terrible experiences with people from church.  But those bad times are far outweighed by the blessings and wonderful relationships the church has given me.

When we live isolated from others, both we and others are poorer.  We lose the benefits of the gifts their friendship could bring us – and we rob them of the benefits our gifts could bring to them.

When I think of this need for community I am reminded of one of my daughters who was afraid to love again after she had experienced a painful hurt.  My first husband had been killed in an accident and my daughters had been the ones to find his body.  It was a horrific experience for them.  When I decided to marry again my daughter told me she would never love the man I was marrying.

Concerned about that statement I asked her why.  She said she liked him, was glad I would be happy again.  She was not against the marriage.  But she was never going to love him because she was never going to allow her heart to be hurt again.  If she loved him, he might die and then where would she be?

I assured her she did not have to love him or anyone else.  If she shut him or others out of her heart she would probably never experience the terrible loss that death brings.  But in the process, she would also shut out all the joy that loving others brings.

Thankfully, she grew to love him and open her heart to love.

Looking back at my life and seeing how much I have moved from place to place I thank God for all the “community” I have experienced and I realize just how much heaven is going to be great when I am reunited with those I have been blessed to call my friends.

Thank God for all those who have filled my life with joy.

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Hello St Johns

Moving from an area with a population of over 380,000     to a small town of less than 8,000 is quite a change.

Last month my husband and I said goodbye to the Quad Cities.

Goodbye Quad Cities

We have spent this last month learning all about our new home in the middle part of Michigan (lower peninsula) – St Johns.

As someone who loves trees, the tree-lined streets are so beautiful, especially this time of year as the leaves all turn glorious colors of yellow, orange and red.  In the Quad Cities I could find areas of trees here and there but not like in St. Johns.  Just driving to the grocery store, Wal-Mart, the post office – there is no where I can go in the town without beauty all around me.

The town has such charm as historic, turn-of-the-century homes line many of the streets.  In the neighborhood where I live the houses are not set right on top of each other as they were in my old neighborhood.

While enjoying small town charm, friendly neighborhoods we are only 30 minutes from the capital, Lansing, so if I get too bored, there is the big city close by.

St Johns is surrounded by agriculturally rich land known for raising mint.   The growing of spearmint and peppermint is unique to this area, using the rich black soil that prevails. Mint farming began with a two-acre crop of peppermint in 1913. The county ranks first in the production of mint in Michigan, with approximately 5,000 acres of mint farmed. Each year the mint farming heritage is celebrated at the “St. Johns Mint Festival”. The Festival is a weekend long celebration of activities for all age groups which attracts over 60,000 people to the City.

For its size, St. Johns offers many amenities that enhance the quality of life for residents. “Points of pride” for City residents include:

  • Concert in the Park series of weekly musical performances in the summer
  • The historic Wilson Center Auditorium which hosts rock concerts, open-mic nights and theatrical productions throughout the year
  • Farm Market located in Court House Parking Lot during growing season
  • Old US Route 27 Motor Tour with classic cars

I also wondered if there would any really good places to eat.  THERE IS!

Main Street Cafe – great food and even great homemade pies – especially our favorite coconut cream pie.

pie

And the greatest thing is the friendliness.  Back home walking down the sidewalk everyone seemed to avoid making eye contact.  Sometimes I would smile and say hi.  Often the response I would get was “Did you just speak to me?  Are you some kind of nut?”

So great to walk down the sidewalk and everyone you meet smiles and says hi and might even stop and talk for awhile.

So – the verdict is in – I’m a happy resident of a small town – St. Johns, Michigan.

Goodbye Quad Cities

The past few weeks I have not written much or read my favorite blogs.  The first of the month we loaded up all our possessions and headed north to a small town in Michigan.

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We were moving from a fairly large metropolitan area.  Known as the Quad Cities.  the area is actually a collection of five cities located in Illinois and Iowa:  Bettendorf and Davenport in Iowa and Moline, East Moline and Rock Island located in Illinois.  Those five larger towns are surrounded by many smaller cities or villages.  We lived in a town just south of Rock Island – Milan.  You could drive from Milan through Rock Island, Moline, East Moline and then though smaller towns like Silvis and Carbon Cliff or Coal Valley without ever leaving a populated area.

The region has a population of 383,681 residents, per the most recent estimates. The region is spread across 170 square miles. There is a population density of 1,600 residents per square mile.

There are a lot of interesting places and people in the history of Quad Cities.

  •  Between Davenport and Rock Island is Arsenal Island, which houses the Rock Island Arsenal, the largest government-owned weapons manufacturer in the entire United States.  It is also home to a National Cemetery for veterans.  During the Civil War there was a prison on the island for Confederate solders and many are buried in an area set aside for prisoners who died while in that prison.

Inscription on the D.A.C. Monument.

  • A real-life Prohibition era mobster lived in Rock Island.  His life was the basis for a feature-length comic book, The Road to Perdition, which was later made into a movie of the same name.  Looney started with illegal gambling, bootleg liquor, prostitution and other illegal activities along the Mississippi River from Missouri to Wisconsin in the early 1900’s through the mid 1920’s.  His huge mansion in Rock Island still stands today.

 

looney

 

  • Ronald Reagan began his radio career at WOC in Davenport.
  • Walt Disney applied for his first job in Davenport… and was turned down.
  • Chiropractic medicine started in the Quad Cities also.  Daniel David Palmer began what he called magnetic healing in Davenport, Iowa.  He developed the theory that the basic cause of disease was misalignment of the bones in the body.  In 1897 he opened the Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport.  Today Palmer College of Chiropractic advertises itself as the first and largest chiropractic college in the country.

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  • The large agricultural equipment manufacturer also got its start in the Quad Cities.  Blacksmith John Deere, listened to local farmers near Grand Detour, Illinois that their plows which were designed for the sandy soil of eastern United States were not working in the thick prairie soil of the Midwest.  He designed a highly polished steel mold board and began making plows for the local farmers.   After ten years in Grand Detour, John Deere moved to Moline, Illinois which is located on the Mississippi River.  That location gave him water power and with the river great transportation options.  His factory quickly doubled production in this new location.  Today you cannot drive anywhere in Illinois side of the Quad Cities without seeing a John Deere factory, transportation lot or offices.

 

I will miss:

  • The Mississippi River.  For years I lived on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities but worked on the Iowa side crossing back and forth each day.  My husband and I often cross the river to shop at stores and eat at favorite restaurants on the Iowa side.
  • Whitey’s ice cream, Happy Joe’s pizza, Hungry Hobo, Rudy’s Tacos and Lagomarcino’s chocolate.
  • My Wednesday bible study pals.
  • Most of all, I have many friends I will miss.  But with Facebook and cell phones thankfully we can stay in touch.

It has been quite a change this month as I have moved to a small town – population approximately 8,000.  I was not sure how I would like moving to such a smaller place after living so long in the Quad Cities.

But I am loving it.  I will blog soon on life in a small town, but for now, after a month here I say “Goodbye Quad Cities.”

 

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On Being Self-Righteous

Confession time:

I recently became angry at my husband for what I perceived as displaying insensitive and rude behavior to me.

But then I was reminded by the Holy Spirit of my own actions earlier that week.  They might have been perceived by him as being insensitive and rude behavior.

Thinking on my actions vs. his actions, I realized I often excuse my own behavior while not allowing any excuses for others.

Ways in which I sometimes justify my own behavior when compared to others.

  • You are prejudiced/I have strong convictions
  • You are being defensive/I am just setting the record straight
  • You are stubborn/I stand firm for my principles
  • You are refusing to listen/I am just stating my opinion
  • You are yelling at me/I am just raising my voice to emphasize a point
  • You are lazy/I am just exhausted

I must remember the words of Jesus when He said:

Don’t criticize people, and you will not be criticized. For you will be judged by the way you criticize others, and the measure you give will be the measure you receive.”

 

Everyone Needs a “Big” Sister

She has always been there.  My “big” sister, Velma.  I call her big, not because she is physically bigger than me.  In fact, I think she is a little smaller.  But she was my oldest sibling and calling her “big” sister is probably better than calling her my “old” sister.

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Me and my “big” sister, Velma.

Velma was the oldest of four children and I was the youngest.  My parents told me from the moment of my birth, Velma felt that I was “her” little doll to play with and take care of.  They told me when I was only a few weeks old the whole family decided to go berry picking.  They packed the car with a picnic basket and Mom went into the house to get me out of my crib.  But I was not there.

A little panicked, my mother looked out the front door to see Velma carrying me to the car.  Stepping over the ditch by the driveway, she slipped and dropped me.  I was not hurt but the family often joked “that explains a lot about Barbara.”  Dropped on my head.

In the days before automatic washers and dryers, microwave ovens and all the conveniences we enjoy now, my mother had her hands full keeping up with the house work and taking care of us.  Velma stepped right in to help.  So when it was time to go to church or any other event where I needed to look my best, it was often Velma who helped me get dressed, fixed my hair, made sure I had brushed my teeth.

Velma took home economics in high school and became a very proficient seamstress.  Her senior year she made us matching dresses.  The school had a fashion show for the students to show off their sewing talents.  Velma was asked to include her “little” sister in the show.  Although that was years ago, I still remember how excited I was to be in a fashion show with all the “big” kids.  Velma and I practiced over and over in our kitchen how I was to walk on stage, turn around slowly and walk off stage.  The night of the fashion show I think I was the hit – a little girl with red banana curls!  I will always remember the pride my sister had in me – gave me confidence I needed.

Velma not only took care of many of my physical needs, she was concerned about my spiritual need also.  I had a Bible storybook that I had read over and over.  I loved reading about Joshua, Gideon and David and I loved the stories of the Old Testament prophets.   That bible story book was my first introduction to the wonderful stories about Jesus.  The book is worn out, but I still have it sitting on a shelf in my study.  Over the years I have moved a lot and do not have anything from my childhood but that book.  I still treasure it.

However, for my seventh birthday Velma thought it was time I graduated to a “real” Bible so she bought me my first one.  She also got me some new pajamas.  I was so proud of both gifts that I insisted I wear the pajamas and she take a picture of me in them with that Bible.  Although that Bible was the King James version (in the days before all our new translations) and hard for a seven-year-old to understand, Velma encouraged me to

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Just keep reading.  The more you read it, the more you will understand.  Ask God to help you.

So I did.    Perhaps the fact that I read the King James Bible faithfully instead of the “See Spot Run” books is why I became not only an excellent reader, but a very fast reader.

She was my role model.  As a young girl I was in the Sunday School class she taught for young girls.  I still remember the navy blue dress she wore with a white-collar.  Her shoes were navy, red and white.  I thought she was so sophisticated in that outfit.  When I got my first job I bought myself a pair of navy, red and white shoes and purse.  I watched her style of teaching – and I have patterned my own Bible teaching after her.  People say I am able to present great truths of the Bible in a simple way that a child could understand.  If that is true, I owe that to Velma.

I recently visited my sister and her family.  Got to me thinking.  I will be 70 in April – and my sisters are the only ones who share all my history with me.  They are the only ones who remember my banana curls, my playing and singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”, and much much more of my history.  They are the only ones who share so much history with me.

My “big” sister has never had the joy of having a “big” sister, but I hope being her “little” sister has been a blessing to her as she has been to me.

Sis, if you read this, I LOVE YOU!

Fellowship – What is that?

Fellowship

In Christian circles we love to talk about fellowship.  When we announce church events, we often try to encourage everyone to attend by talking about the opportunity we will have to “have fellowship with one another.”  There is the weekly/monthly/annual fellowship meal.

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And, of course, when summer comes we often have the church picnic.

Church picnic

Most every church has a fellowship hall.

fellowship hall

Or, a coffee bar.

coffee bar

According to Webster’s dictionary fellowship is:

a community of interest, activity, feeling, or experience; meaningful communication for building trust and fellowship

While this definition could be used for activities not related to church, we usually do not hear the secular world using this term.  When was the last time your coworkers invited you to join them after work at the local bar or restaurant so you could have “fellowship?”  When was the last time your boss offered a fellowship meal for the employees?

In the church world, we love this word.  But what do we really mean when we use this word?  What does the Bible mean when it uses this word?

The Greek word used in the Bible  for fellowship is “koinonia.”  It is usually translated in English to “communion,” “fellowship,” “sharing in common” and “partake.”  The Apostle John wrote a lot of fellowship in his epistle 1 John.  After recently doing a study on that book, I have come to believe we use the word “fellowship” too often and too lightly.  As I read what John had to say about this word, I realize that Biblical fellowship is more than just an informal social gathering.  It is more than just sharing an interest or having meaningful communication with others.

In the New Testament this word for fellowship is translated many different ways.  Its first appearance is in Acts 2:42

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship (koinonia), to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

In his letter to the church at Corinth the Apostle Paul used the word in a slightly different way.

They will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution (koinonia) for them and for all others.

Then when Paul wrote to the church at Philippi he again used this word with a slightly different meaning.

That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share (koinonia) his sufferings, becoming like him in his death

Just as we lose some of the meaning of the word “love” when it is translated from Greek to English, I think we have lost some of the true sense the word “fellowship” carries.  Looking at just these three scriptures it appears what the Bible means by “fellowship” involves a relationship between God and other believers.  A relationship that is more than friendly words spoken over a common meal.  It involves identifying with the sufferings of Christ (and of others).  It is real participation in the lives of others rather than just an association with them.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ

John shared the good news that He had seen Jesus, been with Him, heard His teachings and he shared that good news so fellow believers  could have fellowship with John.  But he based that fellowship he wanted to share with others on his relationship with God.

 

Many Christians have concentrated on their fellowship with others.  They emphasize the need for fellowship dinners, the church gatherings, the social interaction with one another, but they leave out the importance of a close relationship with God.  This can lead to the church being nothing more than a social club.

On the other hand, many Christians concentrate on their fellowship with God.  They isolate themselves with their Bible, their prayers and their own personal relationship.  They have little interaction with other Christians, often saying “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.”

But John tells us in order to be the Christian God desires us to be we need both vertical and horizontal fellowship.

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Only as we begin to have more than just a social interaction with others, to really weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice, will we experience that fellowship God intended for the church.

Only as we spend time drawing closer to God and allowing His word, His spirit to direct our lives will we experience that fellowship God desires for us.

So, I ask you:

How’s your relationship with other Christians?  Do you have any fellowship, any bonds with other beleivers?

How’s your relationship with God?  Are you taking the time to grow in your relationship with Him?

We have often heard the expression, “You can’t have it both ways.”  But in this instance, I think it is true, “You must have it both ways.”