Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Confession and a Lesson

Dear Friends,

I am a farm girl who does not like animals or chickens. Never have. Don’t suppose I ever will. I just don’t relate well to things that bark and bite, purr, moo and lick. I’m not sure when it all began.

Baby chicks were cute. I loved stroking their fuzzy coats, watching them scramble to eat feed sprinkled on newspapers, watching them drink as bubbles gurgled up through water jars. But then they turned into hens—that pecked my hands when I gathered eggs. No longer cute!

My father bought a dog, Gypsy, when I was maybe five. I was afraid of Gypsy, but we might have gotten better acquainted had she not met a premature end.

Steers were another matter. They broke out of fences, and I had to help my brother round them up and herd them home. Horns. Wild eyes. Hated it.

In more recent times, a son’s family got a dog—Molly, a miniature Schnausser. And we were designated babysitters whenever the family vacationed. That did break the pet ice for me. Molly was cute, although she did bark way too much. One day I found our candy dish lying on its side on an end table—Hershey kisses gone. A pile of crumbled wrappers told the story. I agonized. What if Molly got sick from the chocolate? What if a wrapper lodged in her tummy? Fortunately, Molly—and I—survived.

When Molly passed to doggie heaven, we held a funeral for her, and I wrote parts for the grandchildren to read—a poem, a prayer, a tribute. I kept her picture on my refrigerator for years. Maybe it's still there.

Her place has been taken by Sadie, a soft-haired Wheaton terrier. Sadie is sweet. I do like when she cuddles next to me. They haven’t asked us to babysit. Was it the Hershey kisses? It’s OK, because I’m not sure I’m up to handling dogs in my home anymore.

So that’s my confession. My point is, sometimes people have surprising attitudes. Why would a farm girl be scared of animals? I don’t know. But I appreciate people who respect me and don’t expect me to cuddle their pets—especially if they weigh more than I do. I can see the value of pets. They are companions that offer unconditional love to their owners. I have Bill.

We tend to want others to be as we are. If we’re sports fanatics, we may not understand how someone sits quietly through football games. If we’re cooking fanatics, we can’t understand how someone opens a can of soup and boils a hot dog for supper. If we love the outdoors, we can’t understand when someone begs off a hike.

But how dull the world would be if we were all alike. I enjoy people who are different from me. I like fun-loving friends, outgoing, adventuresome, pet-loving people. God made us all. We’re in this together. And what a fun ride life is—if we respect differences and reject judgments.

“And the most important clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:14 (NLT)

If you receive this by email, click down below and leave your confession in the comment box.

Enjoy the journey.


Upcoming Engagements:

March 2-3 - Friends of the Heart with Dixonville Wesleyan Church at Mahaffey Camp and Conference Center, "Just Say Yes--to God!"

March 20, 6:30 p.m. - Friends of the Heart for Women to Women at Grace Community Church, Herndon, "Just Say Yes--to God!"

March 24, 12 noon - Shirley at Guardian Angel Bookstore Tea, Richfield, PA.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Book Review: Giving It All Away

In this book, David Green, founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, shares his philosophy of generosity and the results it has had in his family and his business. He writes, “At the core of any meaningful life and legacy has to be a vision for generosity, an understanding of what it means to be a blessing to others.”

According to Green, it starts with a decision to steward your resources with a heavenly mindset. That was his reaction when Hobby Lobby was taken to court for refusing to pay for birth control medications that induced what he considered abortions. Green and his family, who runs the business with him, agreed that their business belonged to God, whatever the outcome. They won the legal battle.

While it’s not a biography, the book includes interesting tidbits about Green’s background. His father, a pastor, was disappointed when Green did not enter ministry of some type. But Green followed his passion to enter retail sales, and now Hobby Lobby gives away half its profits.

Green stresses the book is not about riches, but about leaving a legacy. His parents were poor, yet they left a legacy of generosity. He suggests setting goals and if you own a business, developing mission and vision statements.

A Reader’s Guide closes out the eleven chapters of this short book, making it a good prospect for small group study.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Six Pieces of Advice to my Younger Self

Dear Friends,

I wish I could go back and talk to my younger self, take her by the hand and tell her things I’ve learned along the way. This is what I would say:

1. Think positively about yourself. Maybe it was because I was born way on behind my siblings (as they say in Pennsylvania Dutch country) but I never felt like I did things “right.” I felt like I was in the way. I still feel that way to some extent. When a driver rides my bumper, I feel I need to get out of the way. I have to tell myself, I have as much right to the road as any other driver.

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

2. Accept your body as is. I towered over boys my age for most of my school days. I envied cute little gals who attracted admirers like flowers attract bees. I always wanted to be of “normal” height. But as I’ve aged, I’ve learned that being tall is not a handicap. In fact, I now feel good about standing tall. For one thing, everyone thinks I’m slender. Actually, it’s an optical illusion; I’m just tall.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)

3. Laugh more. My family did not joke around. Our Pennsylvania Dutch heritage patterned communication: We said what we meant and meant what we said. So I at times think someone is being sarcastic when they’re only joking. If I had it to do over, I would lighten up, learn how to give and take, poke fun at myself.

A cheerful heart is good medicine. (Proverbs 17:22)

4. Savor the moment. I always anticipated something or other. I wanted to grow up. To graduate. To get a job. To get married. To have children. I’m still a bit like that. I can’t wait for a family get-together, for a speaking engagement, for a cold to clear. But the joy of living is in walking through life hand-in-hand with God, enjoying the journey. When you’re not feeling well, you can at least savor the warmth of a cup of tea. Rushing on only makes the journey end sooner, or at least it will seem to because you miss small blessings.

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)

5. Don’t expect perfection. Your cake will not look like the one in the cookbook. Your talk will not solve all the problems in the world. Your spouse will not always say the right thing. Your kids or your in-laws will not always make you happy. You will make mistakes. But it will not be the end of the world. Do the best you can, and let it go. Learn what you can from every experience and move on.

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

6. Don’t think of yourself too highly. Realize that you are dispensable. The world can go on without you. Quite well. So don’t feel that you must do this or that, be here or there, because it all depends on you. Rather, concentrate on being a blessing to others—to your family, your friends, your colleagues. Be generous.  Be compassionate. You will better enjoy the journey and those around you will better enjoy being on the journey with you.

Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment. (Romans 12:3)

If, as a young person, I had known these things, I would have worshiped more and worried less. I would have been more fun loving and less frustrated. As the Pennsylvania Dutch say: “We get too soon old and too late schmart.” But God is faithful in spite of it all, and I praise Him for walking with me on the journey--even when I’ve stumbled.

Enjoy your journey. And leave a comment telling us what you would say to your younger self. If you receive this by email, just scroll down and click on the link to comment.


Upcoming Engagements:
February 1, 6 p.m. – Friends of the Heart at David’s Community Bible Church for “Tea with Friends.”
February 3, 11 a.m. – Friends of the Heart at Thompsontown U. M. for “Tea and Chocolate with Mary, Martha and their Psychologist.”

Friday, January 19, 2018

Book Review - My Heartfelt Passion: Saving Our Nation One Child at a Time

My Heartfelt Passion: Saving Our Nation One Child at a Time
Author Jim Davidson believes illiteracy impacts every person in a community, so he developed a way to pass on a love of reading. His philosophy in a nutshell: Give a child a bookcase and some books and that child will become a reader. His program, “A Bookcase for Every Child,” strives to reach preschool children who are at greatest risk, those whose parents may not be able to afford books, children of low-income families.

Davidson founded “The Conway Bookcase Project” in 2005, and his project has expanded. In 2017, supporters built 50 personalized bookcases to give to children who most needed help. And similar programs have developed in six states. 

According to Davidson, 61 percent of low-income families have no books in their homes, and illiteracy costs the United States billions of dollars a year in lost productivity, violence and crime. Inspired by his mother, who in spite of growing up in poverty became a voracious reader and reared a family of readers, Davidson set about improving literacy in society—one child at a time.

In his book Davidson offers concrete steps to develop such a program: Hold a bookcase fundraising banquet, find master builders to build the bookcases (from plans he offers), gather new and gently used books and hold an annual awards ceremony to present bookcases with nameplates to the children. He suggests how to maintain such a project. For instance, you need a treasurer to account for funding and disbursements.

The book includes illustrations of banquet tickets, announcements and letters to use in the project. He also includes photos of those working with him on this project.

Davidson is a public speaker, author and motivational consultant. The book includes details I might have skipped, such as naming people instrumental in building his program to honor their commitment. But his overall message—to make your community a better place by blessing its children with bookcases and books—is a unique and important message. He sounds a clear call to action for readers to commit to such a project in their own communities.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Celebrating 20 Years of Friendship

Twenty years ago, Kim Messinger, Janine Boyer and I began meeting as a small group. We would have never dreamed where our journey together as Friends of the Heart would take us. Here are answers to questions people ask:

1. Is Shirley the mother of Kim and Janine?  

Nope. Kim met Shirley when Shirley served as a director of Christian education. Later when Kim and Janine were organizing Pioneer Club for their church, they thought Shirley's insight might be helpful, so they asked her to be their mentor and meet weekly to discuss Christian books.

While we’re not related, we fill voids in each other’s lives: Shirley lost a daughter, Kim never had a sister and Janine lost her mother at a young age.

2. How often, where and when do you meet?

We have been meeting weekly for the last 20 years. We first met in Shirley's "Upper Room" office at 5:30 a.m. while Kim and Janine's husbands were still home with their kids. We now meet at a saner time, 4:15 p.m., around Shirley's kitchen table.

3. How are you similar?

We each are committed to the Lord and appreciate opportunities to share our faith. 

We’re married and have raised two children. We’re readers and active in our churches.

We enjoy coordinating our outfits for speaking (Kim is our fashionista), and we take periodic shopping excursions to update our speaking wardrobes.

4. How are you different?

We come from different generations, have different colored hair (one dyes; not saying who) and different personalities. Janine is a risk-taker who jumps from airplanes and other high places. Kim's feet raise as high as her stiletto heels; her idea of a wild time is taking her Newfoundland Mercy Grace for walks at the Ned Smith Center. Shirley has never even ridden a roller coaster. She’s scared to death of Mercy Grace (who once jumped on her, pinned her to the couch and licked her chin. Aargh!!!!). Her idea of a wild time is watching wild birds at her feeder. And on occasion, a bear (from safely inside her house).

Our tastes in décor differ as much as our heights: Kim is shabby chic; Shirley, traditional; Janine, contemporary.

5. How did Friends of the Heart come to be?

After we had been meeting for several years, we decided we wanted not only to study together but to serve together. So we visited shut-ins to pray with them and held teas for women who needed encouragement. Then Kim was invited to lead a retreat for the women of her church. She invited Shirley and Janine to help. We ministered to a group of ten women, ranging in age from high school to two octogenarians. We loved it. They said they loved it. So we held a tea and invited women in ministry to attend. We explained what we had to offer: inspirational talks, songs and scripture presentations. And Friends of the Heart was born in 2005. We held our first retreat for Colonial Park UM Church in 2006.

6. How many times a year and where do you speak?

About 20 times a year at women's retreats and events. We have spoken in seven states, from Massachusetts to Florida and have ministered to more than 10,000 women.

7. What is the hardest part of your ministry?

The travel. Kim and Janine work full time, so it's hard for them to give up weekends. Shirley doesn’t sleep well away from home and hubby. Also long-distance parenting was challenging for Kim and Janine through the years of child-rearing.

8. What is the best part of your ministry?

Comments from women who leave our presentations motivated to walk more closely with the Lord. We’ve made friends with women from all over the East. Shirley and Kim keep up with several through Facebook and Janine enjoys phone calls with a Florida friend she led to the Lord.

9. Where do you work?

Kim is a first grade teacher at Upper Dauphin Elementary School; Janine works in a family business; Shirley is a writer.

10. What is something people may not know about you?

Janine is a twin. She loves sports and has great family times with parents, three siblings and three step-siblings. 

Kim has one brother; she and her husband love to cook and season foods with her homegrown herbs. 

Shirley loves to read. She is the last living sibling of five. She understands the Pennsylvania Dutch language but cannot speak it. She also takes shorthand. (“What is that?” her grandkids ask.)

11. What are some memorable moments in your ministry?

The time we were nibbling on muffins in an airport and heard our names called because everyone else had boarded the plane. The time a man accidentally took Janine’s purse, thinking it was his wife’s. We had to have our rental car towed to turn it in. The memories of looking into the eyes of women eager to grow in faith. The memories of enjoying the décor committees come up with to relate to our themes. And the memories of trying to find our way to strange places (and back home again). We once tried to avoid a traffic jam and took more than an hour to recover our route.

Sometimes we cry as we share hurts. Sometimes we laugh so hard we cry, cracking up as we ad lib during skit rehearsals. But special moments come as we share praises and prayer requests every single week and then pray for each other. We have found God to be faithful in every experience of life, and it is our hope that others find faith in Him through the ministry of Friends of the Heart.

If you think of a question we didn't answer, just scroll down and post it in the comment section. We will try to answer.

Thanks for encouraging us on our journey!!!

We love you.

Friends of the Heart