It takes a village ... borrowed snowpeople of all shapes and sizes filled Ovid Community Church Saturday for the women's day retreat. Instead of spending money on decor, decorating chair Chrissy Quinn gathered snowpeople from committee members. The snowfolks took a field trip. When it was over, some of the snowpeople were seen peering out the backs of car windows heading home, still smiling. Willard looks a little uncertain, but cute all the same.
There are so many to thank for the day coming together so well, but Jill Brown is certainly one of them. She led worship songs, and gave her thoughts on "Perfect Harmony," as part of the morning session. She also led a make-it-take-it activity on making prayer journals, and make sure the techie stuff was covered. Special thanks to Ricky for his help with the technical end of everything, as well.
Grateful for all the speakers, which also included Delaine Wooden and Linda Mackey, as well as emcee Pauline Cox, and to everyone on the committee who took part to make it a great day. My favorite part of the retreat was sitting around a table in the atrium and hearing the happy buzz of women talking and sharing all around me, punctuated by laughter. The day, with the theme, "Where Friends Gather," served as an uplifting way to begin 2022 ... and to begin connecting and dreaming again ...
My paternal grandmother came to live with us when I was in second grade. I look back now and realize that the preparation for moving her out of her small-town home into our farmhouse had begun the previous year.
It was then that my folks added on a bedroom—the largest of three in the house—with a plan for me to share it with Grandma. That’s what happened for those last few years of her life.
About the time Grandma became my roomie, a package for her arrived from friends at church. It was called a sunshine box, and it was a thing so curious and beautiful to these then-young eyes that I never forgot it.
The sturdy standard-issue cardboard box had been hand-covered with a paper garden of flowers, pasted in a collage over the entire package. The pictures had no doubt been clipped from seed catalogs for creating this unique “container garden.”
Inside were practical and interesting items that a senior woman in her 70s might use. One was a shaker container of scented body powder called Cashmere Bouquet, if memory serves; another, a small devotional book of encouragement. I don’t remember what else was in there, probably some Peppermint chewing gum or the bright-pink mints she favored; maybe a box of all-occasion cards for sending. I was as or more excited than Grandma to watch her unpack such lovely small gifts.
A variation on the sunshine box concept resurfaced earlier this year during Brian’s illness when friends from his former workplace sent word that he would be getting a gift basket. The result was not one but three containers overflowing with crossword-puzzles, handpicked books, candles, candy, gift cards, and other thoughtful comforts of love and friendship.
I vowed to do better at sharing this kind of love with others.
With memories of the vintage sunshine box in mind, several weeks ago I made my first one. I wanted it to be as much as possible like the one Grandma had received in the 1960s.
A childhood church friend and I had decided that we would visit two ladies from our youth who still attend the same church we attended. One, in fact, just turned 101 in October, and the other one is decades' younger, recovering from a surgery.
The week before our outing, I thought my laundry-basket-sized box would be a breeze to cover. I didn’t have any seed catalogs, so I flipped through stacks of general-interest magazines a friend had given me and tore out flowers, pictures of people doing fun things, cute kittens, phrases such as “Highway to heaven,” and attached them to the box with Mod Podge. I found that cardboard soaks up a lot of glue, so I put it on heavy.
I still didn’t have enough pretty pictures to cover the box. So, I went through more magazines of my own, and supplemented the collage with some floral wrapping paper from the closet. Finally, it was finished; my first old-fashioned sunshine box! It looked pretty good, if I do say so myself.
The friend and I met for lunch on a Monday. She also provided a decorated sunshine box. We divided our contributions of gently used magazines, books, cards, notebooks, and snacks between the two boxes and signed cards to go with the goods. Then we visited our friends at their separate locations.
More meaningful than the boxes, we spent an hour or longer with each of our recipients talking and telling life stories, being in no hurry to run off. Time is, after all, the best gift. We all enjoyed the visit, of that I am certain.
When I explained to the then-nearly 101-year-old about the boxes, I realized something. She may well have been one of the friends who contributed to that sunshine box for my grandmother back in the 1960s!
“Yes, we used to send sunshine boxes in the WSCS,” she said matter-of-factly of the United Methodist Church women’s organization, called Women’s Society of Christian Service in that era.
This was a full-circle moment. Without memories of that box, I would never have thought to suggest it as a goodwill present a half-century later.
I find it interesting to reconnect with people from my youth and to know that while I’ve reached retirement status, there are still those alive who remember my grandparents and parents. It feels amazing, particularly, because I haven’t lived in my hometown area in 43 years. Even so, it feels as close as ever to my heart, and the sense of belonging runs deep.
Just months into this retirement gig, I’m finding that one of the general principles I like most is that there is now the time to do things like this; to hop in the car and go visit someone. It’s nice to take a little something along as a gift—or to take a sunshine box.
Fill it with recent-issue magazines, inexpensive packaged treats (or home-baked if you can), toiletries, maybe pass along the book you just read and enjoyed, some stamps, envelopes and paper or notecards. Then sign and write a note on a card of your own with a nice note to wrap up a lot of joy for the recipient to know, “I am thought of. I am cared about.”
Whether you call it a sunshine box, a care package, a gift basket, or something else, it doesn’t take much except effort to make someone else’s day. Giving it away will make your own in the process.
Retired New Castle Courier-Times Neighbors Editor Donna Cronk’s Next Chapter column appears the second and fourth Saturdays in The Courier-Times and The Shelbyville News. It runs the first and third Tuesdays in the Connersville News-Examiner. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seated in the heart of downtown New Castle in the newsroom of The Courier-Times, I hear pounding and machines, trucks and working men and women just beyond my windows.
It's the sound of progress.
It's a relatively new sound. I've sat in the newsroom most weekdays for the past 30 years and only in the recent ones has there been this sound.
I've always heard talk of a downtown renaissance. Those who remember the good old days of busy streets on a Saturday night, of bustling department stores and one-of-a kind housewares and clothing shops have often spoken of how great it all was and wondered why it couldn't be that way again.
I figured they were longing for something that could no longer be. After all, the past several decades the trends were toward fleeing downtown for the busiest street in town that took you north to Muncie or south to the interstate and Indy, and big malls were where it was at.
But something has happened. Things are swinging the other way. Some of the malls are dying. Dead is the Anderson Mounds Mall, for example.
And one by one, the unique shops run by entrepreneurs with a vision and love for this city are locating back downtown. Consider 1822 Vintage and Dance Studio, Unique Boutique, the classy Twin Lions, and more are coming. I see the 1400 Plaza with its entertainment venue and parking spaces. The healthy smoothie shop, an ice cream shop on the way.
It's exciting to see the young people claim downtown. It's pretty amazing and beautiful! They have become the community leaders who always pined for the way things could be. Only it's happening!
And part of the trend is found in Carmen and Scott Cash. This is their story. And I thank them for letting me tell it in a recent Courier-Times article, reprinted here.
The move of their business to downtown New Castle began three years ago this past October when Carmen Cash had something rare – a day all to herself with no plans.
The busy working wife and mother of four rarely gets such a thing.
On this one, while reflecting and praying, she heard this inside her spirit: “Go downtown and drive around.”
The impression was so clear that she did it. The New Castle resident hadn’t been downtown for a while, and hadn’t seen the transformation unfolding.
“It was almost like I was being introduced to a new city,” she recalls. Yet after driving around for a while, she still didn’t know why she was there.
Then she saw it.
A for-sale-by-owner sign. It was for the 1872 Keiser Building. Although the space at 1321-1323 Broad Street appeared run down and perhaps nearing demolition, Carmen had found her “why.”
She wanted to buy it and relocate her family’s hair salon, Colour’z, inside the vintage space.
“It was God,” Carmen says of the experience. “It was a Holy Spirit moment.”
Another surprise came at husband Scott’s reaction. Scott, a 20-year employee of Draper, Inc., tends to think things over carefully and avoid rash decisions. This time, his reaction was quick. He was on board.
In fact, he says he knew it was of God.
When they toured the property for the first time, Carmen didn’t see a tired, old building. “All I could see when I walked in was this completely restored building.”
She says, “I love seeing things built from the ground up and being restored.”
At the time, the property was owned by an individual, then taken over by the not-for-profit Preserve Henry County, and then restored by the non-profit down to its good bones and interesting features. Those features include rare artistic glass windows over the front entrance, a skylight, brick walls and a brick arch.
The Cash couple closed on the building one month ago. Now the emphasis is on refurbishing and decorating the interior to honor the past yet meet demands of a busy shop behind the 1321 Broad St. storefront. It will provide working space for nine stylists and other support staff.
Carmen’s dad Greg Davis founded Hairitage in 1976. He and his wife, Carmen’s stepmom, Martha, changed the name to Colour’z in 2008. The couple lives in Greenfield, formerly New Castle. Her mom and stepdad are Nancy and Jim McCullers of Lewisville.
Scott is the son of Jerry and Ladona Cash of Spiceland.
The couple plans to change the salon and spa’s name to Selah and open it this summer.
What they know for sure is they want Selah to live up to the word’s meaning, “to pause and to reflect.”
Their mantra is “Pause, reflect, renew.” The salon’s name comes from the Bible’s book of Psalms.
Carmen says, “We want to stop the craziness of life and give them a space to take a break, pause and to relax.”
The shop’s offerings include hair, massage, eyelash extensions and facials.
Says Scott, “We’re simply at peace in the whole process. I feel like He (God) has a heart for this city.”
And so do the Cashes.
Tri High School sweethearts, she is from Lewisville and he from Spiceland. Both went on to Ball State University where he studied sales and marketing and her major was dietetics.
While he went to work at Draper, Carmen became interested in her father’s second salon in Greenfield. After a successful career in Mary Kay leadership, Carmen attended cosmetology school and worked in the family business in Greenfield. Then she became a stay-at-home mom to Kiela, Grant, Caleb and Luke until they were in school.
Then it was back to work, this time at Colour’z in New Castle, where she has spent a number of years and bought the business. She had contemplated relocating the shop when she heard the instructions to visit downtown.
The couple are thankful for the support they have received from the community and downtown merchants. They say everyone has been encouraging.
In particular, they have special praise for Jeff Ray of Preserve Henry County and for Carrie Barrett of New Castle Downtown who supported their purchase of the downtown building.
The property was first owned by the building’s namesake, Swiss immigrant J.U. Keiser. A professional jeweler, he constructed the building in 1872 during a prosperous period in New Castle history. It was there he sold time pieces of various kinds along with musical instruments.
Later, the building housed Allen’s Young Fashions and Cliff Payne Clothing, Inc.
In a previous Courier-Times article, Jeff Ray described the importance of restoring and repurposing the building. He said, “It is part of the only complete block left in downtown New Castle.”
The Cashes are happy to be part of that repurpose.
“We’re very passionate about bringing our successful business downtown. We excited to bring our customers downtown,” Carmen says.
And, they want to be part of something bigger than their own endeavor.
Explains Scott, “We want to help the other businesses that are downtown. We want to help revitalize downtown.”
They see the importance of community doing business as a community. They recognize a trend toward shopping smaller and inside specialty shops rather than in massive malls.
“We just want to be a part of it,” Scott says of becoming downtown merchants.
Carmen adds that her customers and staff alike are excited about the move.
They have a lot of space, more than one might guess looking from the outside. They anticipate a possible community-venue area and have some additional ideas in mind they are still considering for the space behind the 1323 storefront.
The two say they’ve been on a journey. And it’s still unfolding. “We just want community to happen,” she says.
But there’s more. “We want to glorify Him more than anything,” Carmen says.
So what if no one ever accused the Ovid Midlife Moms of traveling light? We need a few, ahem, supplies, for a weekend at Terri's lake house on Cordry Lake. And this is not counting what the eighth member of our weekend crew brought on Saturday morning.
We went Friday after everyone got off work. We couldn't wait to get there, gather the evening's menu offerings, and enjoy a picnic on the lake. We had eight of our 12 present.
Dinner onboard included Sharon's homemade ham salad sandwiches, Terri's pea salad, party mix, an assortment of fruit and I see some celery sticks in there. There were yummy, ooey-gooey chocolate bar cookies as well.
The weather was perfect and some of us headed back out on the boat shortly before bedtime to see God's moon show.
What a beautiful scene from the water. A cellphone camera doesn't do it justice, but yes, the moon was THAT bright.
Still, I was the first to bed around 10:30 p.m., and I slept well as I dozed off thankful for this weekend that so many of us look so forward to all year long.
That's why I couldn't believe it when I didn't get up until 9 the next morning!
When it's not your turn to cook, the scent is all the sweeter coming from the stove.
Delaine make the best egg casserole, and we enjoyed it with biscuits, fresh fruit and zuchinni bread by Patty. Delicious.
All but Karen, who came Saturday morning, are the gals who made it this summer weekend.
Such fun, including tubing, swimming, boating, moon-gazing, movie night watching "The Greatest Showman," and a beautiful Bible study on the boat Sunday morning, courtesy of Karen, taken from the book of Joel. Oh, and some crafts, including some bookmarks made from this and that.
Thank you Terri, for the wonderful, relaxing, laughter-filled weekend. And thank You, Lord, for your creation, your abundance, and for providing such sweet friends.
In fall of 2014 I had the thrill of spending 10 days in Israel. I have never been the same since. I will never be the same in the future.
Today, Israel is on my mind and in my heart in a special way. It's the 70th anniversary today in terms of world governments and recognition. But it is the eternal city of God. And today, the U.S. Embassy is newly located in Israel's capital, Jerusalem.
So many moments, images, sights and sites, sounds and sound bites come to mind when I think of this most unique country of Israel and its Holy City and capital of Jerusalem. Here's one moment. Our group, about 35 of us with my Ovid Community Church, walked along together toward our next stop in Jerusalem. In the opposite direction some Jewish men walked by. One man's eyes met mine and with neither of us stopping or even slowing down, he called out, "Where you from?" I said "U.S.A." His response?
"God bless the U.S.A. and Israel, together."
And that is where we are in a special way today.
We don't get too far into the Bible before we read this in Genesis 12:3: "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." NIV
Indeed, Jesus came through the Jewish people ... the whole earth blessed by Him.
Is there any place on planet earth more important to so many as this spot? It is calledThe Wailing Wall, the Western Wall, the Temple Mount. This wall is part of the mount, or platform, that once held two Jewish Temples before they were destroyed. Jews pray here and leave notes in the wall. See the temporary fence at left with the women looking over it? This is where many Jewish boys have their Bar Mitzvah.
Psalms 132:13-14: For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying, "This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it." NIV.
Israel is the size of New Jersey. Everywhere (EVERY-WHERE) you step, you are walking on history. In fact, I best describe this experience as one where someone dropped me into a Bible and allowed me to walk around there. Events of both Old and New Testaments merge and mingle.
Whereas the Bible was once in black and white, it is now in living color.
Psalm 122:6: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
"May those who love you be secure. (NIV).
As the man said in the crowd in the heart of Jerusalem,
"God bless the U.S.A. and Israel, together."
Note: I wrote the following for today's New Castle Courier-Times. I've seen these adorable tiny libraries in Hagerstown, Knightstown, and Irvington but this is New Castle's first, we believe.
New Castle's Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Pastor Matt Masko says his challenge is not so much how to get people inside the church, but how to get the people inside the church to go outside it in service to their neighbors.
“The church exists for the sake of the neighbor,” he says. “We gather in worship to be sent into the world.”
A new project along those lines is the church’s new Little Free Library, located outside the front of the church at 535 S. 14th St., New Castle. It is open to one and all. The wee library is stocked by members with Bibles, study guides and other wholesome books, all available 24/7 for folks to borrow – or even keep if they wish.
The library opened Thursday, March 15.
“I was quite pleased with the donations we’ve gotten,” says Marti Allen, chair of the church’s evangelism committee that put the project together.
Committee member Callie Yanos said everyone is welcome to use it.
The committee members believe this to be New Castle’s first Little Free Library. Funds were acquired through a grant from Thrivent Financial. Church member Ron Kaufman designed and built the two library boxes. Once installed, the boxes were blessed after worship by Masko. All materials were donated by members.
Along with the Bibles and study guides are Christian materials, good literature for both adults and children, fiction and nonfiction books.
According to information from the Little Free Library organization, there have been more than 65,000 of the libraries installed around the world.
Donna Cronk / New Castle Courier-Times photo // Karen and Eric Haler are interviewed by CBN 700 Club Producer Shannon Woodland in their New Castle home Tuesday. The 700 Club is doing extensive interviews for an upcoming segment on the Halers' son, Joel, and what is credited as nothing less than a miracle that he is walking.
Note: I wrote the following article on deadline for the New Castle Courier-Times Tuesday. It appears in today's newspaper.
The C-T has previously written about Joel's sudden healing. This time, I was invited into the home of his parents, Eric and Karen Haler, to watch the taping by the Christian Broadcasting Network's 700 Club program which airs internationally.
It was a treat to sit a few feet away from the taping and take notes on what unfolded in the interview. It's a much simpler process than one might imagine.
From CBN were the producer / interviewer Shannon Woodland and two technical professionals who handled lighting and sound. A few large lights were placed in the room as what you might find in a professional photography studio. Sound equipment was put in place, including small microphones on the Halers. The technical twosome stood in the back of the room with cameras.
Shannon, wearing casual jeans, boots and sweater, and holding a coffee cup throughout the segment, sat in front of the Halers, who were seated on chairs from their home in the middle of the living room.
The producer had no problem with me covering the session, I just couldn't take photos during the interview. I took them during equipment checks moments before the taping.
CBN had been in Indy Monday as the producer vetted the story, and had been to interview Joel, who now lives in California. Today Shannon is interviewing the young boy mentioned in the story.
Meanwhile, I had an email out to Joel with a list of questions for the story, and got some photos from his folks to use right before deadline. You never know when you put together a story if there will be space for one, two or several photos so you have to be ready, complete with captions.
The CBN staff and the Halers were all great to work with and I am grateful for the experience with "big-platform" faith-based media. Shannon wanted to read my story when it was printed and I had an email from her first thing this morning that she thought it was well done.
As a small-town reporter / editor, you never know what stories might fall into your lap. It's one reason I have always loved what I do.
Halers recall 'day of great joy'
By DONNA CRONK
As a college athlete, 2012 New Castle High School graduate Joel Haler was in great physical shape. Yet he suddenly found his legs totally paralyzed one October day in 2013.
Doctors and rounds of testing yielded no apparent medical reason for the paralysis. True, he has degenerative disc disease, diagnosed at age 14, and heard a pop in his back before the paralysis. But those things did not explain to medical professionals why he suddenly could not move or feel his legs.
Yet three months later, on Jan. 23, he woke up, felt excruciating pain run through his legs, and then, he could walk again.
Joel’s story has been told in The Courier-Times as well as in big-media platforms such as Inside Edition and Guideposts magazine. On Tuesday, the internationally-viewed Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) arrived in New Castle to unpack the story with Joel’s parents, Karen and Eric Haler, and his brother, Abraham. A sister, Rebekah, was unable to be there.
CBN 700 Club Producer Shannon Woodland interviewed Joel separately as he is pursuing a master’s degree in divinity at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, California.
Joel offered an update on how he's doing. These days, he’s feeling “perfectly normal and thriving.” When asked how his sudden ability to walk again changed him, Joel said, “It has shaped my worldview into the reality that Jesus is the center of it all. He wants to heal people today and he’s looking for ordinary people to take a risk for him. It has catapulted me into full-time ministry to see his kingdom here.”
Tuesday morning, the CBN producer and two technical professionals set up a remote-location studio in the Halers’ New Castle living room and taped the family’s story. The Halers were asked to speak about Joel’s life before the ordeal. They detailed how their son was never “the best” basketball player, but he had a strong work ethic and drive to always get better. In fact, he holds the state’s third-place all-time record for best 3-point percentage.
At 14, he was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and often had back pain but worked through it. A scholarship took him to Hope College in Michigan and things were going well until the family got a call that October day of his sophomore year.
Joel told his father that he had heard a loud pop while exercising . Then came tingling toes and leg pain. An MRI found nothing wrong. But the next morning, his legs were completely paralyzed.
A physical therapist friend expressed real concern for Joel. Eric decided to go get his boy. When Joel’s friends placed his wheelchair in the truck for the ride back to New Castle, Eric recalled with tears, “His legs were dangling. That’s when it hit hard for me.”
Joel spent 11 days in the hospital where doctors had no explanation for why he couldn’t walk. But Eric recalls his son’s faith that he would walk again. He left college and moved back in with his folks, dependent on a wheelchair. His mother could see he was not himself.
“I could just tell it was eating at him,” she said.
The producer said Joel told her in an interview, '“He just gave it to God. Jesus came in and really did a major work.”'
“His faith was going to a whole new level,” Eric added.
Karen said she always believed her son would walk again, but didn’t want his expectations to be shattered. “We’ve seen prayers answered the way we would not want them to be answered,” she said.
Then some mysterious things happened. Joel had a dream that involved a calendar with J23 on it. A little boy at New Covenant Church where Eric is pastor, told Joel on a Sunday morning he would walk on a Thursday. Eric dreamed that he was on the phone getting Joel admitted to a rehab center when in the dream, Joel walked out of his bedroom.
Then, in the early morning of Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, Joel woke up to severe pain in his legs. Moments later, he was able to walk. Just like that. He got up, made coffee and went to stand in the doorway of his parents’ bedroom. His mother thought it was his brother Abraham, but got a surprise when she heard, “It’s me, Joel.”
The family members burst out of their beds and started hugging, celebrating and crying in awe.
“That was a day of great joy,” Eric said.
Joel has walked ever since.
“There are many people that have reached out to me explaining to me that my story has brought them hope, filled them with joy and allowed them to be touched by the love of Jesus,” Joel said.
He was able to return to college and graduated in 2017 with a major in communications and minor in leadership.
Eric said the healing has demonstrated God’s goodness, adding, "God is still alive and he does great things.”
The 700 Club piece, which will air at an undetermined time within weeks, is the latest in the media attention and speaking opportunities Joel’s experience has generated. He said it has been thrilling to see God move through his story and see people healed, find hope, “and experience a joy that only comes from him.”
It's a snowy Saturday in that no-man's land between Christmas and New Year's. I think of this week as an extended snow day.
Historically, it's a hard time to get hold of people for feature stories. Government entities take a break, and lots of people are off work due to end-of-year vacation time or their workplaces are closed.
It's kind of nice; a break in the action before Tuesday arrives and we're thrust, ready or not, into a new working year.
I like today. It's 1:30 p.m. and I'm still in my pajamas! It's cold and snowy outside and other than taking the dog out, there is no reason to leave the house. There's no reason, even, to put on real clothes, but I may. Or I may not.
What I will do when I finish this final 2017 post is to clock some time for my newspaper job. Several January projects involve getting a head start, and permission to work on the clock from home for a few hours will help me greet Tuesday better prepared to tackle January.
I don't do politics on social media. Sometimes I have to hog-tie my fingers, but I don't go there. I don't argue or preach or add to the divisiveness I see and feel around me. I have many friends and family, not to mention readers, acquaintances and colleagues whom I love, admire, respect and maybe even on occasion simply tolerate, who disagree mightily on such topics.
In the online political realm, I am Switzerland.
What I will share is my Christian faith in the Living Trinity, the three-in-one of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit -- the only hope for humanity.
When I review 2017, I think of moments. There is my career high of covering the presidential inauguration and women's march from the aspect of what it was like to be there. It was an intense few days full of experiences, then back to the hotel to write and transmit everything to quite a few Hoosier newspapers. I will treasure the experience for the rest of my life.
I am grateful for yet another year of this ride as a regional author. To every book club, social or literary club, church banquet and program organizer, library staffer and author fair organizer who sought me out in some way, I am in debt. Going into each year, I think perhaps the ride is about over. So far, the surprise is that it hasn't been. So if you need a program or presentation or speaker, let me know at email@example.com.
There are many friends and author friends to thank for your help. I think of how Janis Thornton showed up at the Fishers Library last March simply to support me in my program on self-publishing, and how she would like to work with me further in developing a workshop-styled program on the topic. That same night, son Sam and DIL Allison surprised me by arriving at the end of the program to help me carry everything to the car and deliver a refreshing hot tea!
I think of Sandy Moore and our mutual support society with marketing ideas and cluing each other in on opportunities. There is Annette Goggin who I only got to know through the author ride, but who I think of as a friend and admire greatly. Plus, I am grateful for her asking me to her old-fashioned hymn sing! I loved it! (Let's do it again?)
I thank those -- and I'm thinking of writer friend Cheryl Bennett -- who posted reviews of my second book on Goodreads and Amazon. And I am grateful for the number of people I don't know whose reviews pop up.
Oh, the list above goes on and on to include, but not limited to Mary Wilkinson, my bestie Gay Kirkton, her parents, my boss Katie Clontz, and I know I am in trouble because I'm leaving out some people but I'm trying to hurry this along!
Other precious moments include the trip Gay and I took to Galena, Illinois, and to Miss Effie's flower farm near Donahue, Iowa, and the new friend I have now in Cathy, the entrepreneur and Gay's college friend who founded the flower farm and crafts-filled Summer Kitchen there.
I think of walking with John and Debby Williams and loved ones in their fight against Cystic Fibrosis.
I am surrounded by inspiring, creative, resourceful, fierce, sweet, empowered, wonderful women!
Brian and I took a pretty-much perfect trip to D.C. in September and by writing ahead for tickets and clearance, got insider looks inside The White House, Congress, Capitol, Pentagon and FBI Building. The Newseum was outstanding, as was hearing a lecture in the Supreme Court courtroom.
I'm so grateful to Kids at Heart Publisher Shelley Davis for accepting my books into her bookshop at the Warm Glow Candle Co. complex.
I'm grateful to my husband for his love and support. Grateful to spend time with extended family -- wonderful trips visiting Tim and Jeannie in Liberty, Brian's annual trip to see his brother and SIL Steve and Linda in Florida, hosting a master's degree grad party for our DIL Allison, attending a great-niece's wedding and a great-great niece's birthday party. I think of seeing our friend Coach Rick's football team, Trine University, win a playoff game in its undefeated-season year.
I think of the Midlife Mom sisters of Ovid Community Church, and the Bible Study Fellowship folks who help guide as the Holy Scriptures come alive to me each time I'm in them. I. think of my sons Sam and Ben and wonderful daughter-in-law Allison. Oh, and I'm grateful that Brian's McClellan clan continues to get together every Fourth of July weekend and for cousin Beth for starting a periodic cousins get-together.
I think of everyone who said yes when I asked if I could write about some aspect of their lives. I think of Steve Dicken, the English teacher I wish I had had in school, and of whom I am proud to have as a writing colleague now. I think of our dear friend Barb Clark. I think of my encourager and confidante Debbie McCray.
I have probably left out so much about this year that brought joy and sweetness. Life is short. We have to embrace every opportunity, love one another, care about one another. And if you are a writer, you probably have to write about it all.
I plan to keep doing just that. So bring it on! 2018, what do you have for me? Thank you God, for another year on this planet!
Happy New Year to you, whomever and wherever you are reading this.
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Israel, located five miles from Jerusalem. The church was built centuries ago on top of the traditionally recognized site of where baby Jesus was born. Currently, between 25,000 and 35,000 (I've seen both figures) live in Bethlehem. One source said at the time of Christ's birth, 1,000 or fewer residents lived there.
As a little girl going to Christmas pageant practice at the Brownsville United Methodist Church, I saw the evening lights across the Whitewater River and imagined the town as what Bethlehem might be like. After all, this was the smallest "town" I knew. And in my childhood mind, I knew that Jesus was born in a little town.
O Little Town of Bethlehem and Away in a Manger were two of the most popular songs we’d learn for the pageant.
Never could I have imagined in a million years that I would one day visit Bethlehem, let alone see the very site where Jesus was born. Spoiler alert: Today it is not a manger scene.
You were expecting a manger? Well, the site that once held the best-known manger, baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph was honored by placement of a church over it in the 4th century. It’s a complicated story to explain centuries of conflict and destruction, not even to mention the three denominations that share the church: Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Armenian Orthodox.
Here’s one story though. Legend has it that invading Persians destroyed all Christian churches and monasteries in 614. But not this one. Why? A painting depicted the Nativity scene we would recognize today – complete with three wise men. The artist dressed the wise men in Persian clothing. The invaders honored the Persian-appearing wise men by preserving the church.
From childhood Sunday school on through midlife, both formally and informally, I attended studies having to do with the Bible.
At the Brownsville United Methodist Church, the children's teachers read Bible stories, illustrating them with paper biblical figures clinging to felt boards.
When I got older there were groups where attendees breathlessly shared their biblical views, sometimes without, it seemed, the actual input of scripture.
My bookshelves have a number of volumes by authors who offered spiritual thoughts and interpretations.
Although a Christian believer, I found that none of these books or studies offered the kind of direct biblical study I longed for. They centered more on contemporary people's views and ideas, not necessarily those formed from a direct, deep look into the Word of God. I wanted to hear from Him.
I realized, shamefully, that I was biblically illiterate.
Eight years ago, my friend Terri, a member of my church life group, sent an email asking if friends were interested in attending Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). I'm pretty sure she had asked the year before, and maybe even the year before that, but for some reason, the term "BSF" had never registered with me. Now I think it's because for whatever reason, I wasn't ready for it.
But that year, I was ready. I have remained so ever since. In fact, BSF resumes for a new year of study on Monday night and I feel as I did when I was a schoolgirl looking forward to meeting my class for the first time in elementary school. I bought a fresh notebook and binder and am ready to get started!
While BSF is an international study, with more than 2,000 classes and groups in more than 40 countries, where I live we are fortunate to have two classes nearby. There's a day class in New Castle, and an evening one in Middletown. Terri and friends attend the evening class in Middletown, and that is what works for me too. But if you prefer day, there's one Tuesday in New Castle.
In the first year I enrolled, we studied the book of Isaiah.
Since that first year, which runs September through the first week of May, with several weeks off around Christmas and a week's spring break, our studies have been: Acts of the Apostles (the book of Acts); Genesis; Matthew; The Life of Moses (Exodus); Revelation and John. On Monday, we'll be in Romans.
Just because we are officially studying a single book of the Bible for the curriculum year, don't think that's the end of it. Each study takes us to cross-references and the harmony of the Gospel all over the New and Old Testaments.
Here's how it works, in a nutshell. The total attendance (a few hundred women on Monday nights in Middletown) are divided into small groups and each group has a group leader.
The group leader reads the questions from the lesson that the group members completed on their own during the course of the previous week. Members are encouraged to share the answers they found in the Bible. The discussion is fast-paced. Thoughts are condensed and there is no time to get off-subject.
Group members are encouraged to share prayer requests. Each group leader handles this differently from going around the room and verbally sharing to requests submitted in advance and summarized and distributed for the week. We pray, then head off to the evening lecture, joining all the small groups.
Now armed with the lesson we worked on individually the previous week, and after listening to our group members' thoughts on the lesson, we hear our Teaching Leader Jodie Pyle, lecture on the same material. As we leave for the evening, each is given a new lesson. This lesson contains notes and summary on thoughts and varying scholarly views of BSF biblical consultants on what we just studied, and a new lesson to complete over the week's new material. And so it goes, on through our year's material.
While I had a hunger to study God's Word in a more direct, methodical way going into BSF eight years ago, I can tell you that the more I study, the more I hunger for His Word and His message for my life.
The Bible is everything! It is the history of the story of man, and of the continuous mess mankind gets himself into. It's the living Word of God, and of how He planned from before the creation of the world to solve this mess personally in each of our lives through His Son, the Savior Jesus Christ, and corporately, also through Christ, for all eternity. It's also wisdom, peace, challenge, grace, prophecy, and so much more.
It's all quite a story.
Yes indeed, it's a page-turner.
This year we'll be in the book of Romans. In my area, here's how you can get involved. There are also BSF classes regionally in Richmond and Marion, Indiana. Check the website, www.bsfinternational.org to learn about opportunities elsewhere.
If you have any questions I could answer as a now long-term BSFer (how quickly these years have progressed from novice!) please ask and I'd be happy to answer to the best of my ability. (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
What better use of your time, and mine, than to study the love letter, instruction book, life manual and the afterlife benefits sent to us from the God of the Universe? I can't think of one. Join us.
In Middletown, Indiana:
Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) women's Bible study begins at 6:55 p.m. Monday, Sept. 11 at the Middletown Church of the Nazarene, 698 N. 5th St. With the exception of the first night, weekly meetings end at 8:25 p.m. Anyone wishing to sign up can register that night in a welcome class. Register any school-age children as well. For information, contact Celeste Bramlett at 765-524-2326.
In New Castle, Indiana:
In New Castle, BSF starts at 9:10 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12 at First Baptist Church, 709 S. Memorial Drive. Women may register that morning, as well. For information, contact Iris Pederson, 765-533-3374 or email email@example.com.
BSF is an international, non-denominational Bible study. There is no charge to participate. #wearebsf.