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.

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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.

 

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  • 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.”

 

 

 

 

 

Abundance of Friends

Friend – a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.

Friend – a person who you like and enjoy being with.

I sometimes envy other women when they share how they have been friends for 10, 20 or 30 years.  I listen to them talk about their high school days or they share those years when they were both raising their families and the good times when the two families would get together for holidays or camping trips.

Looking at my own life, I have moved around a lot.  In the 12 years of grade and high school, I attended 10 different schools.  In sixth grade, I was in three different schools.  Growing up, I was always the new kid.  The longest I have ever lived in a house is 16 years and that is the house I live in now.  When people ask me where I am from, I am not certain how to answer.  My “home town” – the place where my parents and their families are from is in southern Illinois.  However, we moved from that town when I was ten and the only connection I have to that place is the graves of my parents.

So sometimes when I listen to these women speak of their long-time friendships, I feel like “I have no friends.”

But when I take a second look at my life I realize I have been blessed with an abundance of friends.  Looking at the definition of friends as “a person you like and enjoy being with” I recognize that moving around as I have – different communities, different schools, different churches, different jobs – I have been blessed with many people who I liked and enjoyed being with.  There are, I have come to believe, seasons of friendship.  People have come and gone in my life – not because our friendship ended but time and distance have made it hard to remain close.

That does not negate the value of their friendship.  Even the many friends in the past with whom I have lost contact remain in my mind with precious memories of our times together.  Although  there are even some whose last name I cannot recall, I remember their support and friendship at that season of my life and how valuable it was.  And Facebook has been a blessing in that area as it has helped me connect again with many friends from the past.  I was surprised and so happy when I got a message a few years ago from a woman in the Philippines asking if I was the same Barbara Lane who had taught a leadership class at their church years ago.  We reconnected and I was able to encourage her as she went through a battle with cancer.

  • There are my friends from fifth grade who took this shy new kid on the block and made my fifth grade year probably the best school year of my life.
  • There are friends from Perryville, Missouri who supported me with such love after my husband was killed in a tragic accident.  They offered food, they offered babysitting services.  That first Thanksgiving I had so many invitations for Thanksgiving dinner from friends who knew I had no family in the area.  They all  offered their home if I would not be able to go home for the holiday.
  • Friends from Iloilo City in the Philippines who helped me adjust to a different culture, different climate.
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Celebrating New Year’s Eve with friends in Iloilo City, Philippines

  • Friends from work at the law firm of Bernard & Davidson who prayed with me and took on some of my work load when I lost a beloved step-father and brother in death just weeks apart and had a daughter in Texas with toxic shock syndrome.
  • Friends from Mid-American Energy who took such care of me for over a year while I went through treatment for cancer.  The day I came to work after finishing my last radiation treatment, they stood up from their desks and applauded me as I walked to my desk.  I felt like an athlete making a victory lap.
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Friends from MEC who took this picture the day of my mastectomy and brought it to me with a gift basket

  • Friends from churches I have attended as a pastor’s kid, a lay person, a pastor’s wife and now a lay person again.  With them I have laughed, cried, prayed and they have helped me grow in the Lord.

 

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Women from Free Will Baptist Church on a field trip to Galena

 

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Ladies Weekend Retreat with friends from Milan Christian Church

Have all my friends proven true?  No.  There have been times when those I thought were friends have hurt me, disappointed me, even betrayed me.  But I still reach out to make friends.  To shut myself off from others because of a few hurts might spare future pain – but would certainly stop future joy!

But the best friend I have ever had is my Lord Jesus Christ!  All of my friends have been able to help me many times, but there are times when only the Lord could meet my need.  I shared in a past blog about being all alone when I had radiation treatment.  No friend could be with me then.  But the Lord was.  Coincidence or An Act of God?

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Best friend!

One of the old gospel songs says it best.

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
And what a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer

Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer

If you need a friend, let me introduce you to the best friend who will ever have – Jesus Christ.

 

 

All those “One anothers”

One another

 

 

 

 

I have been planning with some of the women in my church for a game night.  Just a time for us to get together and have fun with one another getting to know each other better.

  • Not a time of Bible study
  • Not a time to do a service project
  • Not a time to fix a meal for the church
  • Not a time to “do” anything

Just a time to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

So many times when we go to church (or to any other type of meeting) we sit in our same spot, talk to those who sit near us or who are in our small circle of friends and only give a nod and “hi” or “how are you” to the rest.  We know each other’s names, but do we really know each other?  I must confess that after attending my church for almost three years (and it is a small church) there are a couple of women whose name I still do not know.  At this point, I’m embarrassed to ask them their name, to admit that I have been attending church with them week after week and I don’t even know their name.

We can get so busy with our own concerns and often our prayers consist of “bless me, my four and no more.”  It’s not that we are selfish people.  It’s not that we don’t love others.  It’s just when we know people only by their face and their name and little more, it becomes harder to remember to pray for them, to be concerned for them.  We have no idea what their needs might be.

This month I have asked God to help me be more aware of those around me and not so consumed with my own issues.  I have asked God to help me see people not just as the lady who sits behind me in church or the woman who checks me out at the grocery store, but a person who, just like me, may be tired, sick, worried and could use a smile and a friend.

Looking at the Word of God, I see how important the Lord felt those “others” should be to me.

There are 59 “One Anothers” in the New Testament.

1. “…Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)

2. “…Wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)

3. “…Love one another…” (John 13:34)

4. “…Love one another…” (John 13:34)

5. “…Love one another…” (John 13:35)

6. “…Love one another…” (John 15:12)

7. “…Love one another” (John 15:17)

8. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” (Romans 12:10)

9. “…Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)

10. “Live in harmony with one another…” (Romans 12:16)

11. “…Love one another…” (Romans 13:8)

12. “…Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)

13. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” (Romans 15:7)

14. “…Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)

15. “Greet one another with a holy kiss…” (Romans 16:16)

16. “…When you come together to eat, wait for each other.” (I Cor. 11:33)

17. “…Have equal concern for each other.” (I Corinthians 12:25)

18. “…Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (I Corinthians 16:20)

19. “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (II Corinthians 13:12)

20. “…Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

21. “If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)

22. “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)

23. “Carry each other’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2)

24. “…Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

25. “Be kind and compassionate to one another…” (Ephesians 4:32)

26. “…Forgiving each other…” (Ephesians 4:32)

27. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)

28. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

29. “…In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

30. “Do not lie to each other…” (Colossians 3:9)

31. “Bear with each other…” (Colossians 3:13)

32. “…Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)

33. “Teach…[one another]” (Colossians 3:16)

34. “…Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)

35. “…Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)

36. “…Love each other.” (I Thessalonians 4:9)

37. “…Encourage each other…”(I Thessalonians 4:18)

38. “…Encourage each other…” I Thessalonians 5:11)

39. “…Build each other up…” (I Thessalonians 5:11)

40. “Encourage one another daily…” Hebrews 3:13)

41. “…Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)

42. “…Encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)

43. “…Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11)

44. “Don’t grumble against each other…” (James 5:9)

45. “Confess your sins to each other…” (James 5:16)

46. “…Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)

47. “…Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8)

48. “…Live in harmony with one another…” (I Peter 3:8)

49. “…Love each other deeply…” (I Peter 4:8)

50. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)

51. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others…” (I Peter 4:10)

52. “…Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…”(I Peter 5:5)

53. “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (I Peter 5:14)

54. “…Love one another.” (I John 3:11)

55. “…Love one another.” (I John 3:23)

56. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:7)

57. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:11)

58. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:12)

59. “…Love one another.” (II John 5)

John apparently really thought the most important “one another” was love as he kept saying it in two of his letters.    In his gospel he also told us that Jesus said

They will know you are my disciples if you have love one to another

Interesting that the mark of a disciple was not now much scripture you could quote or how much money you gave or any of the many things we often judge others by – but by love.

My goal is to put these “one anothers”  where I can see them each day and then ask God to help me truly keep these “one anothers.”

How about you?  Want to join me in this?