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Do all the good you can, every day, in every way that you are able.

As you all know, I’ve been sewing pillowcases for charities for a while.  So far since Jan. 1 of 2016, my mother and I have made 400 pillowcases for charities such as the El Paso, Lubbock, Amarillo and Albuquerque Ronald McDonald Houses, St. Andrew’s Hospitality House and more recently I made them for Veterans in local nursing homes.  I still have some to deliver, but more than half of them have been distributed to their intended locations.   The more of these I make, the more ideas I have of who these pillowcases can serve.

I have learned several things about this simple, repetitive, project.  One thing is that repetitive action, if productive, is very relaxing, and gives you a feeling of accomplishment.  Spending my time producing something useful is very gratifying.  The other thing I learned is that, small things mean a lot especially to the two ends of the life experience.  Very small kids and older people in nursing homes respond the same way, with delight, when receiving even the smallest gift when it is given personally.  Most institutions will take your donations, have you sign a donor list and send you on your way.  When you get the opportunity to personally give your small gift to individuals, it makes you more connected to the recipient and more likely to want to continue to give more of yourself in the future.  If you are one of those people that like to give anonymously there are lots of opportunities to do that.  But if you want to share the light Jesus put in you and spark that light in someone else, find the thing that lets you make human, one on one contact with someone.   

I had two of the best experiences happen in the past month.  I had been praying for a personal experience of connection with someone who would receive one of my pillowcases.  The first was delivering red, white and blue pillowcases to Veteran’s in nursing homes on Veteran’s Day.  Responses of nursing home residents were as varied as their physical and medical situations.  Some didn’t know I was in the room, most didn’t know what to say and were surprised that a stranger came to give them something.  But the ones that sat up and started telling you stories of their military adventures were really enjoyable.  I knew I sparked a memory in them that was important, and it was important to them that someone heard it.  I was glad to be that person.    

Then on Thanksgiving week, I got to deliver to Ronald McDonald House in Amarillo, Texas.  The coordinator there, Mrs. Jan Plequette, has been my contact person there for 4 years.  She arranged for me to meet the Child Life Specialist at North West Texas Children’s Hospital.  When I got there, the staff picked out a pillowcase that they thought would perfectly fit a particular patient they wanted me to meet.  Her name was Mila.  She was 4 and receiving infusions that day.   I was not allowed to know her illness because of HIPAA regulations, but they put me in a disposable isolation gown and gloves and let me give her this specially chosen pillowcase myself.  This little girl was the brightest piece of sunshine I have ever met.   The nurses there at the hospital said that this little girl keeps them all cheered up.  And she was so sweet I had the best time talking to her.  I wish I could have taken her home with me and kept her for a sister.  I would love to have someone like this in my life on a daily basis.  Her mother was so sweet too.  She said she was happy and grateful that a complete stranger would give her daughter a little gift that made the time they spent there at the hospital more comfortable and a less bland and boring experience.  

That experience was my ideal, the dream I had in my mind all along, coming true.  On Veteran’s Day, after delivering pillowcases all day, we went to the VFW for their fundraiser dinner in Cloudcroft, NM.  There I saw the man I knew as Santa Claus my whole life.  He was the man that worked at our local mall and posed for Christmas pictures.  He has been Santa for every Toys for Tots event, every charitable Christmas project and event in Alamogordo for my entire life.  He was there, eating dinner and had a Vietnam Veteran jacket on.  I had never spoken to him outside of his role as Santa.  As he left, I went to our car, and picked out an extra red, white and blue pillowcase and gave it to him.  I thanked him for his service to our country, as I had with all the veterans in the nursing homes I met that day.  And he thanked me and said he knew I made a lot of old people happy that day, and that’s what is so great about being Santa – so we had a little something in common.  I guess if I had to choose a title, I’d choose “The Pillowcase Fairy”.   I really can’t pull off Santa Jr.   

The marketing director at North West Texas Children’s Hospital said she hoped that my doing this would spark interest in others to do something and hopefully encourage kids to do things that were small random acts of kindness.  That is what I hoped to do with this article.  To tell kids that they are an important part of the world and that their outlook on life, if carried with them through adulthood, can affect the world around them.  At the least, an attitude of giving can affect their own life, and at the most, it can affect all those that have received from them.  It may spark others to pay it forward in their own way.  And every different way you can think of to pay it forward is necessary in some way to someone.  

To all the kids who dream of affecting the world in a big way, do it in a way that you know makes Jesus proud, have him as your partner, and you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.


100_3566   Madeleine Fazenbaker is 14 years old and is a wonderfully gifted young lady that lives in New Mexico.  She is very active in her church and her community and truly is a young woman after God’s own heart.  Why pillowcases?  Because when you lay your head on a pillow to rest you can remember this:  “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28 One of her favorite scriptures for small acts of kindness:  Hebrews 6:10 –  God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

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Confessions of a Control Freak In a World of Chaos. by Christy-Anna

When we created the Bearded Theologians we wanted to be able to provide space for people to have a place to write blog post but not want to maintain a blog. We met Christy-Anna at the World Methodist Conference last August. She is our first international blogger and we welcome her and her perspective.

It’s not easy trying to control absolutely everything in your life, but try telling that to my brain. Because I sure do try. I’s kind of like I want to consider every single possibility for every situation so that nothing ever comes as a surprise and therefore I’m never in a situation that I haven’t pre-planned for.

Like playing a constant game of metaphorical chess in my head.

If you’re also a planner, you’ll totally understand what I mean. The feeling of having everything organized and perfectly in place gives you a sense of peace and preparedness that is calming. You like lists, diaries, calendars. Or even if you don’t like them you find they bring order into your life-when you use them that is. I mean take this blog post- It was 11 days late being finished because I tried to keep the plan in my head and didn’t properly record it in my diary… thereby reinforcing my internal need to be organized!

If you’re one of those people who doesn’t plan and doesn’t see the need to, I can pretty much guarantee there are people like me who consider you with a mixture of awe and confusion. How can you possibly wake up at the beginning of the week not knowing what you’re doing and when?!

But you probably look at people like me and wonder how on earth anyone can be so uptight.

And to be completely honest- I’m pretty sure this is a lesson God has been trying to teach me for a while. I’ve been reading Matthew 6: 25-34 almost daily for the past few months to constantly remind myself to stop worrying so much, so when I was asked to write a post on what the Sermon on the Mount means to me- I had to laugh.  It’s so easy to worry when there are so many things that could go wrong. I’m a student. I have 2 children who depend on me. Finances are tight and not always assured. But God is trying to drive the point home to me that it’s not me, with all my careful planning and thinking ahead, who is driving my life forward and making sure I have everything I need- but God.

Because even with the best planning in the world, unexpected things happen.

In the middle of October, I was told there’d been a mistake with my childcare grant. I was going to be worse off by a lot of money for the year- which meant not being able to afford childcare and not being able to attend classes. I panicked. Had visions of dropping out of uni and having to scrape by on state benefits and going without basics to feed my children. But God provided a solution that I never saw coming. A part-time, flexible job for 8 weeks which is exciting, brilliant experience for me and which will pay me enough to make sure I can afford the childcare I need.  A similar situation occurred 2 years ago, and back then God provided an equally unexpected solution.

And there are so many other situations I’ve faced over the past couple of years. Something seemingly impossible, insurmountable, that leaves me with no choice but to pray and to trust that it’s God, and not myself, in control.

Because the need to try to control everything comes from a place of fear.

My daughter and I have recently been working our way through The Chronicles of Narnia on audiobook. I’m very familiar with these stories but the other night, when listening to Prince Caspian, a quote from Aslan speaking to Susan struck me for the first time,

“”You have listened to fears, child,” said Aslan. “Come, let me breathe on you. Forget them. Are you brave again?”

When we listen to fears, it takes away our courage and stops us from listening to God. We end up thinking we are the ones in control. And ironically, that just seems to invite more fear, because what happens if you fail?

And the danger here is that we not only try to control our own lives, but the lives of others around us.

In this passage, Jesus specifically warms against us judging others, and also from seeking retaliation against them or even focusing on their sins when there is work to do in our own hearts. Accepting that God is in control also means trusting that he is working his purpose out in the lives of others- without us needing to worry about them.

There’s so much that can be unpacked from the Sermon on the Mount, but for me, the overwhelming message is to trust God.

Trust God by giving up on the need to control,

Trust God by not giving in to fear,

Trust God by following his way and believing that he will bring all things in line with his plan.

It’s easy to become so scared that other people might do something wrong that we seek to place restrictions on them or to police their behaviour.  But I don’t believe that this comes from a place of love, but from a place of fear.

And when we listen to fears, we start thinking we have to be the ones to control everything and we stop trusting that God is the one in ultimate control.

The challenge then, for me, is to learn to give control back to God so we can stop worrying. And be brave again.

 


christy ann.jpgChristy-Anna is a lone parent from Dorset, England. Formerly British Methodist Youth President 2010-2011 and Chair of Youth and Young Adult Committee for the World Methodist Council 2011-2016, she is now a full-time Sociology and Anthropology student and Trustee of international development charity, All We Can.

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Beardcast for 2.9.17 Happy Are Those Who…

This week for our Beardcast we reflect upon Matthew 5:2-12. Check us out.

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Beardcast for 2.2.17 Discipleship in the Corner?

This week for our Beardcast we talked about you don’t put discipleship in the corner.

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A Prayer for Today

As I was reading through several books of prayer and liturgies trying to find a prayer for a community event, I came across a prayer by Walter Brueggemann titled “Our Charter of Entitlement”.  Rather than simply post the words here or on Facebook, I decided to record it and share it with you.  I found the words timely, I found the confession pure, and I also found forgiveness at it hearts.  I pray God’s grace lay upon your hearts and souls as these words resonate through your mind and world.

 

Love, Pray, Give, and Rejoice!

Zach