Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Intentional Interaction: What Are You Waiting For?

RUBY: I'm currently reading Wonderstruck, Beth Miramonti's suggestion, by Margaret Feinberg for Eat, Read, Pray Book Club at Troy UMC. An early passage made me think of you, Sue Busler:

Will you be someone who breathes life into others?

Breathing life begins with the simplest of actions. See someone. Really see. As you reach out and interact, offer your full attention to whoever is in front of you. Listen to someone. Really listen. Give someone the gift of your presence- your fully present, undivided attention. Pray for someone. Really pray. Though it may feel awkward in the moment, as if you can offer a prayer, and bless the person with kindness. Give to someone. Really give of yourself. Find an unexpected way to help someone whose needs remain unmet. Radiate the generosity of Christ.  (Kindle, Loc 1345)

When you approached me, a stranger to you, months and months ago in the sanctuary, you did this so intentionally without any sign of awkwardness. To me, you were cool, confident, and, most of all, caring . . . exactly what I needed. I think of this happening often and use it as inspiration for my own actions. Never in a million years would I have had the courage to approach a stranger praying in a sanctuary, but I now push myself to introduce myself by name during the sharing of peace in worship because of you. Thank you.

Tell us more about your ability to intentionally interact with others. Have you always done this? Did you learn this behavior? What advice might you give others to start the process of intentionally interacting with others?


 Currently, there are commercials, facebook jests and jibes, Oprah campaigns, billboards, and countless real-life dinner table discussions about a nationwide epidemic that involves people whom I have dubbed as saps! Who are saps? They are people who Stare At Phones (SAP) ‘round the clock, wherever they are. A lot of us are saps sometimes, but some of us take it to a new level of sapdom! This urgent need to be constantly connected to the world via our handheld devices can be dangerous to our health, particularly when we are driving or eating out with our significant others. It is also indicative of a much deeper underlying problem in our society today. We are so hooked on our technological gadgets that, half the time, we don’t even see the people around us. Eyeball to eyeball communication and interaction is almost a thing of the past. Our techno gadgets, coupled with our microwave, hurry, hurry, rush, rush life style, all contribute to our general failure to see those around us.” 

That is an excerpt from the beginning of a sermon I once did on the topic of noticing – intentionally noticing those around us. When we closely read the accounts of Jesus’ life in the New Testament, we see that He noticed everybody, particularly the “least, the last, and the lost.” Not only did He notice these physical, emotional, and spiritual paupers, but He offered them words and touches of healing, forgiveness, encouragement, affirmation and prayer.

As followers of Christ, I believe we are called to do no less. In every walk of our life -- whether it be at the deli counter at the grocery store, on the other side of the cubicle wall in the office, in the chemo room at the hospital, under a bridge in St. Louis, wherever and whenever – we encounter people who are begging to be noticed. Sometimes they verbally share their issues with us, but most often we must discern their needs from their body language or their general demeanor. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrases, “I could see it in his eyes.” “It was written across her face.” People send us all kinds of different messages if we will just take the time to notice.

When we deliberately abandon our SAPpiness and intentionally notice others, the Holy Spirit comes alongside and gives us a nudge when we need to engage. When we are tempted to ignore that nudge we must cling to the knowledge that “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7) No doubt about it, when He calls us to serve as His emissaries on earth, He equips us for the task at hand. He gives us the words, the resources, the Christ-like compassion we need to minister to those who are broken.

I know this not only from Scripture but also from personal experience. As the director of a military hospital chapel, I found myself surrounded by people who were hurting and hopeless, each of them seeking the presence, the power, and the peace that only God can provide. Needless to say, when I first took the job, I felt ill-prepared and overwhelmed. Who was I to help them? Exactly! When I finally figured out that it wasn’t me helping them, but rather, the Lord working through me, it all fell into place. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t easy. Each encounter was different – the people, the pain, the purpose, the process, the prayer. But as with most things, it became easier with practice. It also became easier to “notice” those with needs and to recognize the nudges of the Holy Spirit as to when to engage.

Over the years, three of those “nudgees” in my life chose to accept Christ as their Lord and be in relationship with Him. Talk about a return on investment!! Sometimes there are immediate results when we obey the prompts of the Holy Spirit and, in some cases, eternal results. We never know the fruit-bearing capacity of the seeds we are planting. “All of us can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the apples in a seed!”

My Mother was and is a great noticer and seed planter so, yes, I guess it is a learned behavior in some respects. As a high school physical education teacher and coach, she poured herself into the lives of countless guys and girls alike who lived on the margin. Now, twenty, forty, even sixty years later (yes, some of them now use walkers), those former students continue to show up at the door or in her mailbox or on the phone, to share their joys and sorrows and gratitude. As Steve Jobs would say, she has made “a dent in our universe” and, I would add, in the Kingdom of God.

You, too, can make a dent for God! Begin today to notice the verbal language and body language of each and every person you meet. When you feel that gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit to engage, obey! Trust me, He will equip you for the encounter. Do not throw “the Jesus card” right out of the chute! Be yourself. Be vulnerable. Be authentic. Just show that you care. When it’s a Spirit-led engagement, you will be flooded with love and compassion you never knew you had. That’s because, maybe for the first time, you will be tapped into the boundless reservoir of the Holy Spirit’s living water. Dive in . . . the water’s great!

Notice, obey the nudge, and submit to the Holy Spirit . . . it’s as simple and as difficult as that! Gazillions of hurting people are in your path every day. What are you waiting for?!

Friday, February 22, 2013


“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed."  (Mark 1:35)

“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16)

Having just read Anna Quindlen's memoir, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, I was thrilled to turn the page (or tap my Kindle rather) and see Quindlen devoted an entire chapter to the topic of solitude.  Intrigued, I was anxious to read on . . .  In this portion of her writing, Quindlen describes her living arrangements with her husband during the summer months:  he spends the week in the city while she flies solo out in the country;  they reunite on the weekends.  She writes: 

There are two different responses to this kind of arrangement.  The first is pity, the notion that being alone is synonymous with loneliness and must be remedied with company at all costs.  The second is the minority reaction:   that solitude sounds wonderful.  (Loc 1034)

At this point of my life, I would be considered according to Quindlen in the minority although there was a season in my life where I would have been in the former camp.  While a grad student living in Chicago, I can remember attending the movie theater with a friend or love interest and see many young sailors (i.e. the nearby Great Lakes Training Center) sitting in what I thought of as isolated islands, people in theater seats minus an adjacent breathing being.  Literally, my heart wrenched for these young people (yes, I was young and dramatic and in love with the classics), and if I didn't have that shy streak, I would have asked if he or she would like to have joined us in our row and inevitably passed the popcorn.  In my heart, I knew they had to have been lonely and wanting of companionship of any kind.  Now, I realize he or she was probably relishing the solitude after being packed in with others dressed identically morning, noon, and night.
As my thoughts about solitude matured along with the years in my life, I enjoyed living alone in my early 30s.  I could read when I wanted, watch television when I wanted, sleep when I wanted, and interact with others when I wanted.  As fate would have it, the man of my dreams followed this same theory.  In fact, he tells me he knew he was in love with me on our drive from Springfield, IL, to New Salem, IL.  It was my 31st birthday, and we were on our way to see the outdoor production of Quilters at this historic locale.  During the roughly forty-minute drive, we drove in silence: no radio, no cd, no conversation, no uncomfortable silence.  We simply enjoyed being together without having to fill the space between us with words.  The reality of the situation never dawned on me until he brought it to my attention years later, and I dug that he dug the contented hush.  You dig?
As a first-time mother, I found my solitude in sleep.  If a willing anyone volunteered to watch over my squirt, I headed for a pallet of any sort to lose myself in slumber, the ultimate solo activity.  As a second-time mother, I was more adventurous in terms of seeking solitude.  Reading through the MOBOT newsletter, I knew a day and night with strangers in a log cabin was calling my name, so I registered.  Now, I did ask friends to join me, but they either laughed or tried desperately to find care for their children to no avail.  During my 24-hour span, I learned to felt wool, realized fleece sweats were not a good choice when walking through woods riddled with burrs (yes, I'm a dork and never seem to dress appropriately), and read to my heart's content on my lower bunk in the cabin all while listening to unfamiliar stories and unfamiliar snores.
As I am now middle-aged woman, it's a relief to be surrounded by people who understand my quirks when it comes to solitude.  While hospitalized last year for the second time for an infection, I decided to embrace the solitude a solo room on the oncology floor can bring.  My best friend and hub assured me they wouldn't announce this hospitalization to others because I truly wanted to reflect on the here and now and read without interruption. This nearly week-long stay was loooooooooooong, but I attempted to glean the good from this opportunity which I knew I may not have again.
My friends who know me well, I believe, respect my love of solitude and join in right along with me.  This past weekend, a dear friend I hadn't seen in over a year stayed at my house for the night.  We talked and laughed, but when the witching hour of 10:00 p.m rolled around, we knew our reading awaited us, and we lovingly said our good nights.   

Courtney Winkler 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Daily Wisdom

Our age dislikes intensely the idea of mystery because it directly
Exposes our limitations. The thought that there could be something, or
Someone, beyond human comprehension or imagining is, of course,
Exciting, but it is also belittling. It puts us in our place and that
Place is not at the center.

~Basil Hume~
Submitted by Carol Pigg

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Letter of Thanks . . .

I came home to this thank you from our MASH hospitals in Afghanistan.  Talk about amazing—them thanking us.  This is why we sew pillowcases for the troops; learn how to bake pumpkin bread in canning jars; and search the best deals for oatmeal and hand games to keep those recuperating in a better frame of mind.

We got a thank you from Special Hugs!  The pumpkin bread he refers to was baked in small wide mouth mason jars.

Mrs. Pigg,

Ma’am, thank you so much for the thoughtful package that you sent.  I received your care package today and shared the thoughtful contents with our enlisted Sailors!  They were very pleased with the assortment of teas and oatmeal as they are trying to watch their weight.  The jeopardy game is a huge hit!  The Marines and Sailors are having a grand time trying to out think each other!   I think there was a slight scuffle after personnel found out about the pumpkin bread! 

It is AWESOME that your son is serving with the finest fighting force the world has ever known!  I bet you are very proud of him and his contributions in keeping our families and loved ones back at home safe and sound!  I can honestly tell you that I am very grateful for the young men and women who decide to serve our country in times like these.  It shows us how much conviction he has regarding doing the right thing as a nation under God!  

A little bit about us; We are a crew of Navy personnel attached to a Marine Corps unit.  We are comprised of Doctors, Nurses, Physician Assistants, Healthcare Administrators, Marines and the backbone of navy medicine, the Hospital Corpsman.  I am very pleased and proud to say that they are performing magnificently here in the combat theater.  Our role and responsibilities are to provide emergency medical and resuscitative surgery to our wounded brothers and sisters here in Afghanistan. 

Ma’am, the assortment of contents that you have provided through the goodness of your heart is very much appreciated!  I can truly tell you how much it means to the men and women when care packages arrive for them coming from thoughtful and caring moms like you back in the states.  It lets us know how much you appreciate our sacrifices away from our family and loved ones back at home.  I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to think about us while we are serving our country away from home.   I wish your son the very best during his deployment.  I just want to say thank you again to you truly patriotic moms out there that continue to love and support all of us military members during our deployments.  Take care and God bless!!



Platoon Commander
Surgical Platoon

To learn more about Molly's Adopt-a-Sailor Program please contact Carol Pigg

Monday, February 11, 2013

Anna Quindlen's Blessings Book Club

After a few starts and stops, I finally gave my full attention to Anna Quindlen's Blessings and was determined to finish.  Although the beginning failed to hook me, once I reached the meat of the story, there was no turning back.  A story of an elderly woman, a convicted felon, and an aspiring young doctor whose lives all come together as a result of the unexpected appearance of a child.
The setting of the novel, Blessings, a rural family retreat, is not only idyllic in location, but also a domicile of familial dysfunction, both past and present.  Through careful unveiling, Quindlen highlights the tragedy associated with truths withheld over generations.  
What was refreshing was the life, revitalization, and perspective of the female protagonist, Lydia.  While philosophizing about life itself, she explains the tragedy of young death, the shock of middle-age death, and the inevitability of elderly death, how herstory, in essence, revolves around the loss of others.  In addition, kudos to Quindlen for allowing the younger male and female in the novel to have meaningful interaction without the presence of romance.
For the purposes of book club, a picnic lunch near a creek much like Lydia shared with Benny and Sunny as adolescents complete with bacon sandwiches, peanut butter cookies, and a big Ball jar of lemonade may be the perfect conversation starter.

Courtney Winkler

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Daily Wisdom

"You need to be in fellowship of a church...
If you separate a live coal from the others, it will soon die out. However, if you put a live coal in with other live coals, it will be a glow that will last for hours."

~Billy Graham~

Submitted by Carol Pigg

Friday, February 8, 2013

Daily Wisdom

Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God's plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins.
God's love is still working.
He comes in and takes the calamity and uses it victoriously, working out His wonderful plan of love.

~Eric Liddell~

Submitted by Carol Pigg

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Chocolate Cherry Cake

Had requests for my chocolate cherry cake dessert at church dinner tonight. Love the Cake Mix Doctor books. Here you go:

Chocolate Cherry Cake from “Cake Mix Doctor” Carol Pigg

Vegetable oil spray for misting the pan
1 package (18.25 oz) plain /or with pudding devil’s food cake mix
1 can (21 oz) cherry pie filling
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure almond extract (do not use imitation)

Chocolate Glaze:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1 package (6 oz) semisweet chocolate chips

1) Place rack in center of oven & preheat to 350. Lightly mist 13x9 inch cake pan

2) Place cake mix, cherry pie filling, eggs & almond extract in large mixing bowl. Blend with electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop, scrape down bowl. Increase mixer speed to medium & beat for 2 more minutes. Batter should look thick & well blended. Pour batter in prepared pans, smoothing the top with rubber spatula.

3) Bake cake until in springs back when lightly pressed with your finger & sides just starts to pull away from pan. 30-35 minutes. Remove cake from oven & place on wire rack while you prepare the glaze.

4) For the glaze, place sugar, butter & milk in small saucepan over medium –low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and stir in chocolate chips. When chips have melted & glaze is smooth, pour it over the warm cake so that it covers entire surface. The glaze will be thin but will firm up. Cook cake for 20 minutes before cutting.

Store covered in aluminum foil at room temp for up to 5 days, or in refrigerator for up to a week. Or freeze cake wrapped in foil for up to 6 months. Thaw cake overnight on counter before serving.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Love Him like I Love You

It was January 24, 2008. It was a cold Sunday afternoon. I remember where we were. I remember what I was wearing. I remember the look on his face. I remember walking out of the house and seeing the looks on my girls' faces. Would this be the last time they would see their Mommy and Daddy together?? It was the day I thought our marriage was over. It was the most gutwrenchingly worst day of my life. And yet, however, it was also the most lifechanging.

I remember driving around on the snow covered country roads, crying out to God and asking "What do I do? I don't know what to do now!" And as clearly as if He was sitting right there in the empty passenger's seat next to me, I heard God say, "Love him like I love you." But how can I do that?? There's been so much hurt. So much said and so much done. How do I do that?? What does that look like? Love, forgive, show mercy, give grace....that's how God loves us. He sees us at our worst and loves us still. That's what I had to do.

It wasn't easy in the beginning. In fact, it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It's hard to break old negative habits. It's hard to forgive deep emotional hurts. It's hard to work on your marriage when even some of your closest family and friends are telling you that it's over. And yet, day by day, we loved each other more and more like how God loves us. And day by day, it got easier and easier. We've done more talking in the past year than we've done in the almost 18 years we've been together. We are open and honest about everything we're feeling, what we're thinking, what our plans are, what are hopes are, what we love about each other and what we don't like so much. I'm not going to lie and say that everything is perfect now. It's not. We've learned that to have a great marriage, which is what we want, it takes a lot of work. It takes love, mercy, forgiveness, grace, respect, humility, compassion, humor and passion for each other.

We have gone through a lot these past few years. God has transformed our marriage from the worst to the best it has ever been. I love my husband more today than I ever have. I see him now for who he really is. He is a loving father. He is a giving son. He is a caring grandson. He is a talented musician. He is a genius mechanic. He is a terrific friend. He is smart. He is funny. He is giving. He is compassionate to those in need. He is goofy. He is humble. He is the man that I have been with now for nearly 18 years, and the man I want to be with until I am old and gray.

Today we can say without a shadow of a doubt that God has saved us from divorce. He has transformed us and transformed our marriage and our family. We love being together now. We love to spend time together as a family now. We miss each other when we are apart. I can truly say that our marriage would not be as strong as it is today if we had not gone through this really hard time in our marriage.  What Satan intended for evil, God has used for our good.  We knew that as we were walking through this dark time in our lives that God would use us to save other marriages and to change people's lives. Our hope is that we can share our story so that other people's marriages can be saved. Since that time, we have had several opportunities to talk with other couples who are going through the same thing we did.  Our message is one of hope.  It is NEVER too late.  God can and will REDEEM your marriage, if you ask Him to.  Nothing is impossible to God!! He is mighty to save!!!

by Lisa Powell

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Suit Yourself

1 Samuel 16:7 - "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."  (NIV)

I once purchased a greeting card that said the only thing worse than nuclear war is trying on bathing suits. My sentiments exactly. Recently, I spent a whole week shopping for the perfect suit since all the ones I own feature Rice Krispie elastic . . . . so old it snaps, crackles, and pops. The new swimsuit tags made it sound so easy. “Look sleeker. Look slimmer. Feel more confident in your swimwear with power net control. Finding your perfect fit as easy as 1-2-3.” One, two, three my eye. There were dozens of choices to be made. First, I had to decide if I wanted a suit equipped with a bust minimizer or a bust maximizer. That was a no-brainer for anybody who knows me. If I were any more “minimized,” my chest would be concave. For women who are well endowed, there was a feature called “full cup support,” which presumably keeps “the girls” from pulling a “Janet Jackson” when you do a one-and-a-half off the low board. Next up was the tummy toner suit which sounded like a must-have until I cork-screwed myself into one. It felt like I was choking on a chicken bone and the person administering the Heimlich maneuver wouldn’t let go. The thigh reducer suit also sounded appealing but without smoke, mirrors and a matching full-length cover-up, I didn’t see how it could possibly pick the pockets of cellulite on my thundering thighs. On the same rack, I found one-piece suits available in a “long torso model” for cheeky women who prefer not to have their suits in the thong mode all the time. Further back in the store, I was drawn to the bikinis which were pretty tempting with their mix and match pieces for mix and match bodies. That is, if you had a double A chest and a double D butt, you could find a two-piece suit that would fit. It wouldn’t disguise the fact that you look like a walking Bartlett pear and haven’t done a single sit-up since eighth grade gym class, but it would fit. Then again, what fits and what doesn’t fit is apparently open to discussion. If you have any doubt about that, visit your local swimming pool and check out the deckside mammals. In case you were wondering, I never did find the perfect swimsuit when I was out shopping, despite all the slick promises, the newest fabrics, and the sleek designs. So, if you see my at the pool or beach anytime soon and I sound like your breakfast cereal, it is likely my knees or my ancient swimsuit. Here’s to better luck suiting yourself!  

by Sue Busler

Monday, February 4, 2013

Have you thanked one today?

1.  a person who voluntarily offers herself for a service or undertaking

2.  a person who performs a service willingly and without pay

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dannette's Devotional

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while
you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—
of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—
may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:6-7
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

"He doesn't waste anything in our lives. He uses everything that has happened to us as a means to display his glory. All of that junk, the stuff you would have eliminated from your life story if you had written it – all of it is his mercy in disguise to you." Mary Whelchel, founder of The Christian Working Woman
Ten years ago, Murphy’s Law had settled into the project I was leading at work.  Everything that could possibly go wrong did, and the project that was expected to take 3 months lasted 3 years.  I was a fairly new project manager and “learning the hard way” sounded easy in comparison.  That painful time in my career drew me closer to God as I depended on Him for daily guidance.  

Today, I thank God for that difficult project as I handle my workplace responsibilities of mentoring and training.  I have so many experiences and lessons learned to share in helping others be successful.  I often have the opportunity to encourage coworkers who are going through difficult times.  And I am more confident in facing challenges.

What difficulties are you facing?  Whether professional or personal, know that God is using them to refine you.  Draw closer to Him and lean on Him.  Trust him through your trials and see how He uses you in the future.

Dannette McKellar

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Daily Wisdom

Few things are more infectious than a godly lifestyle. The people you rub shoulders with every day need that kind of challenge. Not prudish. Not preachy. Just cracker jack clean living. Just honest to goodness, bone - deep, non-hypocritical integrity.

~ Charles (Chuck) Swindoll ~

Submitted by Carol Pigg

Sharon Jaynes' Romance Challenge

Submitted by Julie Ford