Go Make a Joyful Noise! – in Someone Else’s Yard

Last night, I braved the elements to go Christmas caroling – the cold (it’s about 43 degrees F in the South), cocktail wienies (we snacked first & that was the healthiest option we had), our youth group (sometimes teens can act like wienies), and the dog poo (that isn’t always left in people’s yards by those little wienie dogs). Yeah, I know. All you Northerners are still calling me a wienie over my definition of cold.  So anyway…

Each year, we select a different neighborhood near our church and set out on a mission to spread good cheer (and candy canes).  We had  a couple of ringers with us this year – our previous choir director and one of the youth who sings in his high school choir. Oh, and of course we brought along some really cute little kids for the “ahhh” effect. As for the rest of, we were just in it to be for the wienies…

Just before I left out to make my joyful noise, I dropped a little satire on my FB page:


All I can say is that it was a good thing I had mentally prepped myself for how tough this year’s caroling game was gonna’ be. We were obviously at the play-off stage, where even the best page in our play book – you know, the cute kid factor handing out candy canes at the front door -wasn’t gonna’ work. In all the years we’ve done this, I can’t ever recall getting a single rejection (even if they didn’t ask for an encore). Heck, one guy even chased us down last year and asked us to come up to his house and sing to his wife. (Not sure what he’d done to get himself into trouble with her, but that apparently made up for it. Always glad to help a guy out of a jam.)

This year, though – wow. This year we received more rejections to our offers for caroling than we even received acceptances. Tough crowd. People were busy, you see. Busy eating dinner, busy talking on the phone to family members, busy watching television, busy closing their curtains and turning out their lights, busy just saying no. Yes, these were actual responses we got. One particular person stood behind the storm door of his house with a coat on, watched us carol at a couple of houses around the cul-de-sac, watched us walk up his hilly driveway, allowed us to get to his front walk, and as “candy cane kid” and I got to him, slammed the door right in our faces. I mean slammed. Yep, he made his point well.

Others simply admitted that they were suspicious of us. They thought we wanted something from them in return. One guy, after rejecting us, called me back to his deck to drop a few bucks down to me for the offering plate. It didn’t matter how many times I tried to explain that’s not why we were there, he became insistent. He still refused to let us sing to him, but he did reluctantly take a trade in candy canes (probably because our “cute kid” just kept holding them out to him, something akin to Cindy Lou Who scrutinizing the Grinch).

All in all, I thought this was a really good lesson for us as Christ-followers. I thought of how Jesus came into the world to offer himself as a gift to us. And how often he was rejected by others. I realized how people are still suspect today because of the very thing that Jesus, himself, encountered – the political aspects and misguided practices of religion. Mostly, I walked away from the door that had been slammed in my face thinking of a young couple, traveling to an unfamiliar town called Bethlehem, a teen girl laboring to bring a precious gift to the world that even she didn’t fully comprehend – only to have the door slammed in their faces.

No room at the inn.

The lesson gets better than that, though. In a humble setting, the Christ-child was born. Shepherds listened to the angels as they caroled in the fields, and responded to go and see the one lying in a manger. So they went, then joined in the chorus to spread the good news. Later, wise men followed a star, so they, too, could experience this great joy. They came bearing their own set of gifts. Today, we see representations in manger scenes of the outcast couple, the working class shepherds, scholarly well-to-do travelers, along with an assortment of animals from near and far – all crowding in, not sure of what to make of this new being who had broken into this world, but looking to get just a tiny glimpse of the hope he was to bring.

And so it went for us too, in tiny glimpses of humility and gifts – and hope – along the way.

Two burly men (probably something like those shepherds) stood at the back of an apartment complex, one with his beard twisted and braided, the other holding his microwave dinner while leaning against the door frame. I waited to hear the dinner excuse. I expected to be told to get the *expletive* out of there. But as we started to sing, a grin came to one of those faces; tears rolled down the other. “I’ve never been sang to before,” came the humble words at the end. “Thank you,” the bearded man choked out. “God bless you.” He just did, I thought.

An elementary aged boy in glasses stood on a small stoop with his single mom. I asked if he had any requests, preparing myself for one of our secular, kid-friendly songs like Rudolph or Frosty. “Could you sing ‘We Three Kings’?” he quickly chimed back. Hmm, I glanced around with uncertainty. We didn’t have that one on our song sheets, but a few of us knew it – admittedly, some better than others. The boy’s grin widened as we began, and soon he was singing along with us, not seeming to mind the places where we stumbled.

An elderly lady in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank had heard us at her neighbor’s duplex door. I wondered how long it had taken her to make her way to her door and get it open, as she’d managed to do so even before we’d finished crossing to her side of the lawn. As we sang to her, she dropped her head, covered her eyes a couple of times, and wept. When we finished, she pointed to a single star hanging above us in the night sky, shaking her head in wonderment. She became so insistent on wanting to offer us some gift in return, I finally eagerly accepted. I told her we would be happy to take payments from her – in hugs. And let me tell you – she was a wonderful gift distributor!

When it was all said and done, I guess we weren’t such big wienies after all, out there singing making a joyful noise to utterly complete strangers our neighbors. But I will admit. All snuggled in that one woman’s sweet hugs, I might’ve felt like a warm little wienie-in-a-blanket.

Thankful not to have been eaten alive out there,


Breaking the Cycle – through Love

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:13

New International Version (©2011)

To be perfectly honest, I’ve probably only ever looked at this verse in the context of how Christ laid his life down for us – literally – which leaves me wondering how my own love could ever measure up. I mean, as a mother, I can see doing this under dire circumstances. I easily recall the time I went whitewater rafting with my son on his first exciting excursion with a Class IV rapid, and our inexperienced guide (who had given me every reason already to be distrustful of her) caused our raft to nearly tip going over the falls. Realizing which way the raft was going and seeing my son losing his balance midair, I chose to let my own footing go & bail out portside, while uprighting the raft along the way. The hydraulics pulled me under, as I knew they would; and despite all my best efforts, I still got slammed repeatedly into the rock wall in the current beneath with a raft on top of me just about longer than I was able to hold my breath. Absolutely better me than my son, though.

But is there anyone else I love so much as to lay my life down for them, besides my family? I’m not sure. And yet…that’s what we’re called to do – to lay down our lives – in order to be Christ-like.

Maybe it’s not always as drastic as hanging on a cross, or allowing oneself to have a near-drowning experience. Perhaps laying down our lives is a calling to extend ourselves beyond…ourselves.

I know a couple of fellas’ who have been doing just that for the past few weeks – extending their schedules well beyond work on both ends of the day, extending their bodies in training beyond what they were comfortably capable of doing, extending their mission beyond the comforts of their own lives – laying down their lives to try to help save the lives of others.


Tom & Brian will be embarking on an almost 200-mile journey this coming weekend on their bikes with the goal of raising awareness and funds towards ending malaria.

You see, they’ve gotten to know a few people in South Sudan, during their travels there, who have touched their hearts. More than that, their hearts are broken – in love – for the people there, especially so many children whose lives will be lessened or lost there to a disease that IS preventable, IS treatable, and IS BEATABLE – with the right resources.


The World Health Organization reports the following:

  • The African Region accounts for 85% of malaria cases
  • and 90% of malaria deaths worldwide.
  • 85% of malaria deaths occur in children under five years of age.
  • Every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria. (Some sources say every 60 seconds. In either case, I hope you agree this is unacceptable.)
  • As a result of the scale-up of use of insecticide-treated nets, indoor residual spraying, intermittent preventive treatment during pregnancy and Artemisinin-based combination therapy, 10 countries in the WHO African region have reduced malaria cases by at least 50% between 2000 and 2008.



Among those who care and who are willing to respond are these two men – with full-time jobs and life responsibilities. No one pays them for their time to train to do this. As a matter of fact, they have to take time away from other activities and people who are important to them to be able to accomplish the training this takes. They aren’t wealthy. They don’t live extravagantly. Yet their gear, the tuneups, the bike tubes can all become costly. They could’ve saved themselves this trouble and just pulled a few dollars from their pockets…and that’s a start…


These two won’t get any glory for their endeavor, as no one will be there to cheer them on as they cross any finish line. They don’t get a cut of the proceeds or even a support vehicle to lean on or to supply their needs. They won’t get special IVs to replenish their body fluids after making a mile of ascension in less than two days. Instead, their worn bodies will come off the road hopefully in time for them to arrive at their destination to meet and fulfill their next responsibilities.


And get this. After all that, and after delivering a check made out from our church organization who has received the funds that were pledged on their behalf, they won’t even get to choose who they think should receive the benefit of these funds. They are laying down their lives in this instance for complete strangers – strangers who are in need and to whom they want to show the love of Jesus Christ.


As a matter of fact, if these men had their choice, there would be enough funds to help everyone who needed the treatment, education and other community prevention measures to eradicate this disease. And the good news is – there can be! Malaria is a disease that CAN be eradicated and as little as $10 could save 1 person’s life from this affliction.



The smallest of these gets the principle of how one or two people can make a HUGE difference. Children began overhearing how the adults were trying to help other children & their hearts were moved to help. Without even being asked, they began making their own plans to watch God’s good works multiply…

Our friend’s daughter, Mary, heard about these children in Africa from her mom and how they could be saved, and she gave up all of the money that she had been saving to buy something special for herself. She understood that saving lives had such greater value for her to treasure. So, by her own desire, she brought her money to her mom and asked how she could give it to help those children. I see 2 lives just in the 1 bill on top – Mary gives BIG because Mary dreams BIG!


Two of our own ‘littles’ caught the vision simply by overhearing the mission. Without asking or explaining, they got together, found a used postal box and a magic marker and painstakingly wrote out “Donation to Sudan” on it. They made a slot to insert (cram) money into, taped the box shut, and began to deposit all spare change they had or could get donated over the next few months. Would you believe that 10 lives were saved in the deliberate spare change of children – because they excitedly chose to put it into the box that saved lives instead of into vending machines and the like?

And need we wonder why God loves child-like hearts, innocent eyes of faith & cheerful givers?



Ten bucks. In the grand scheme of sacrifices, for most of us, that isn’t much. A movie ticket. A couple of cups of coffee. That being said, if you feel so led to be a part of this worldwide effort, it’s not too late. You can make an online contribution in support of these efforts at:



Or you can take the time to investigate if what I’m telling you is true at ImagineNoMalaria.org – a partnership dedicated to eradicating malaria before it has the chance to eradicate any more lives.



Three Thieves Hung on a Cross that Day – An Easter Drama

Happy Easter!


I understand that phrase has different meanings for different people. For me, as a Christ-follower, I celebrate this day as the day of my Risen Savior. The Church has a traditional greeting on this day, in which one person pronounces, “He is risen!” to which the next responds, “He is risen, indeed!” I always look forward to this exchange because I can’t imagine a better proclamation of faith to share.

That being the case, I’m going to share something with you today that I created for making this proclamation – it’s a dramatized monologue I wrote for our Easter sunrise service, in which Mary Magdalene arrives in the graveyard to alert those who have come that Jesus will not be found there.

If you decide to view it, please take it easy on me in “the reviews.” I don’t claim to be an actress, by any stretch of the imagination, and it takes me some time to ‘get my bearings’ and just let the words flow. (No stage practice beforehand – it was a one-time run in front of a live audience.) But my intent was to deliver a meaningful message that could serve to explain some of the lesser understood meanings of the ‘goings on’ likely surrounding the crucifixion, according to my research.

So I present to you…Mary Magdalene’s version of why three thieves hung on a cross that day (in her Southern Judean accent). 😉

He is Risen!…

(that’s your cue!)

Easter Blessings,


Desiring to be Dopey

I was once interviewed for our college newspaper by a student staff member.  Now this young lady, Dena, is going to make a great reporter one day because she really knows how to ask the kind of questions that get to the heart of WHO a person really is.  In my interview, she surprised me with a very thought-provoking question about myself.  She wanted to know…

If I was one of Snow White’s seven dwarfs, which one would I be?

That question definitely made me stop and think!  My first response was, “You mean I can’t be Snow White?”  Nope.  As a mother of three boys (reminder: boys don’t care much for fairytales), I had to admit that it had been too many years since I’d seen Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for me to remember all of their names.  So to be fair, she let me do a quick Google search on them while we were sitting in my office. My informal study revealed some interesting facts about these characters along with their names – Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sneezy, Bashful, Sleepy and Dopey.  Their group picture revealed that Dopey was the only dwarf without a beard, so I figured he might be a reasonable choice on that basis alone; but the caption also reminded me that he was the only dwarf who didn’t speak. (I get that some might suggest I discount Dopey from my list of choices for that reason alone.) I understand that most people don’t want to own up to being Grumpy, but I also figure most people don’t purposely want to be represented as Dopey either – especially when worldly intelligence is so in vogue. Nevertheless…

My choice was made.

Something about this quiet, clumsy little dwarf’s disposition struck me as powerful. He made it easy to look deeply into his heart to define him, rather than thinking about his name or his looks or his eloquence (or lack thereof).

We do the same thing all the time with people that we try to do to Dopey.

We look at the outside appearance, making them out to be someone different than God created them to be. We don’t take time to know their hearts, to recognize their callings. We think it’s bad to be Dopey, when, in fact, Jesus wants his followers to be able to become just that.

 As I read about the duties of each of these short-statured gem-miners, I discovered that

Dopey may have been given the most important calling of all.

He was the dwarf who had been assigned the task of cleaning up all of the ‘unusable’ jewels! 

Now I ask you – as a Christian in the world, could there be any more admirable calling on my life than this? Is this not what the namesake, Christ, himself, came into the world to do for me – for others? Did He not enter humanity’s story as a tiny, helpless, clumsy baby, seemingly unlikely for such an enormously daunting task? Yet His story reveals to us how powerfully He can mine unusable jewels as He bursts forth from the bowels of the earth to take control over the wages of sin.

 I’ve already revealed some great things to you so far about Snow White’s dwarf friend, Dopey.  

Yet there’s one other thing that I left out that makes him stand out from the group.  Dopey could become quite scared at times, possibly even paralyzed with fear. But in the one moment that truly mattered the most (when Snow White desperately needed help), he was the one who became quite brave and who urged the others to move in the direction that would free Snow White from her captivity and defeat death. You think of the Prince doing all the work; but the truth is, without Dopey’s role in it, the story wouldn’t have had its happy ending. 

 Jesus never asked his disciples to become brave and rescue him from the cross. (Remember, Peter tried to do just that in the garden, and Jesus stopped him – then Peter became fearful again and ran and lied).  Obviously, we aren’t expected to be perfect; we aren’t even expected to be warriors doing battle. What Jesus wants is for us to be brave to tell our own testimonies – to encourage others through their trials. To urge others to His saving grace.

That’s the calling on our lives that matters most.


Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.                                                                               

– Philippians 4:8-9


Attitude of Gratitude – A Guilty Little Pleasure

One of the Daily Prompts this week is:  Tell us about a guilty pleasure that you hate to love.


One week before Christmas…

Gosh, I just HATE that I loved getting up at 5:30 a.m. this morning when I had taken the day off and could’ve slept in.

And I just HATE knowing that, even though I said I was doing it for someone else, in truth…
I get this extreme pleasure from testing God and seeing what He’s going do with it.

Yep, I said it. I know, what does that say about me?! The thing I was told my whole life not to do. Test God. Except I did find this one place in the bible where even God says to test Him. So, if I’m going to be perfectly honest, I get this guilty little pleasure, this one day a year when I’m actually able to get away from work, to take Him up on His challenge. (Okay, maybe I’ve tested Him a few other times, but let’s let mangy dogs lie…)

You see, our church has a Title I elementary school next door to us – a school that doesn’t always have necessary enrichment resources to meet the needs of its students, a school whose parents may have limited practical resources to be involved there or sometimes even with their childrens’ homework. (Single parents often work multiple jobs to support multiple kids, you know.) When our church first got involved in how to help our next door neighbors, we realized there were three particular areas of concern where we could help: (1) provide some appropriate reading level resources; (2) provide some instructional supply needs; and (3) provide something else that was important to these children – a back-to-school celebratory gathering that the school’s resources could not accommodate.

We named our little project the “Open Hands” ministry, at the time an extension of our Church’s tagline: “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.” We wanted these children to understand that we were trying to be the hands and feet of Christ, serving some practical needs with our prayerful hands, while also extending those hands in welcoming friendship in community with them.

Our community gathering, the Back-to-School Bash and Splash, has become epic (at least for me – and nearly 700 other people); but today – the day in which we visit just before the students leave for the holidays and provide a reading-level-appropriate book to each child at the school – is one of my favorite days of the year! I didn’t do it out of guilty pleasure the first year. I did it with my heart focused solely on those children. But that was the first year. We’ll call it the “pre-assessment” year, when I didn’t know any better…

All I knew was that, by my Christian beliefs, this was part of how I intended to celebrate Emmanuel coming into the world to be with us as humans. That’s one of the names given to the Christ child in prophesy – Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14); and it means “God with us.” It’s a great reminder to me, especially when life seems to be stinking out and all my joys seem to have been plundered, that God wants to draw near to me, to be in relationship with me. He wants me to know that He wants to be here. He understands.

“Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel…”
we Christians sing as His season draws nigh upon us.

playing_SantaSo as I entered the hallowed halls of that school building this morning, I took time to think of the many ways in which He’d shown Himself since I started to get to be a part of this several years ago. I calculated that many of the 5th graders who were completing their tenure at that school this year knew well of His arrival (since they were quick to tell us so today) – and of our arrival with the books. Those oldest students would have, in fact, received a visit and a book from us each and every year of their elementary life existence. They knew why we were there as we arrived! The teachers were ready for us too – many telling us that their students had been anxiously awaiting our arrival to their classes since they saw us come into the hallways, even peeping up from their work or out their doors occasionally. As we entered their classes, without exception, we were welcomed with warm, gracious and cheerful hearts. I reveled in this guilty pleasure!

But what, you ask, do I mean by me testing God? Well, I’ve come to realize, over the years, that I never know what to expect from these visits – not specifically anyway. What I do know is that I have to be present to receive His blessings. When I do show up and test Him with the big question, “What exciting blessing am I going to receive today?”, He simply tells me to be ready for it. I only know that I’m going to walk out that school door later that day with a heart overflowing in gratitude for the gifts I’ve been given. Yes, I know. I’m the one bearing the physical gifts of books. But the gifts I receive are so much greater (because it’s impossible for me to out-give God).


Evidence of the children’s gratitude

This year, as I sat on the wild-and-whimsical purple carpet of Ms. J’s reading center, spreading out books to be chosen and claimed, I didn’t realize the depth of gratitude I was going to receive in the unexpected hug of a tiny 7-year-old girl. I understood there was something special about this particular hug, something deeply heartfelt. It wasn’t until we had said our “Merry Christmases,” “You’re welcomes” and “Good-byes” that Ms. J caught us at the door to personally express her appreciation.

Ms. J told us how one of her children had gone home only a few days earlier to find her mom, no longer alive. She told us how that child had asked to come to school in the days before the funeral because that’s where she felt safe and loved. I asked if she would show me this child, though my heart already knew her before Ms. J pointed to a tiny, caramel-skinned girl in a flouncy blue skirt. Ms. J told me how, over the past few days, sometimes this little girl had stopped her work and come up to lay her head against her teacher’s shoulder. For anyone who believes a teacher’s calling is only to impart knowledge, I can’t think of anything further from the truth. Ms. J will be the teacher whom this little girl, “A,” remembers for making a positive impact for the rest of her life out of the quiet, responding care that would allow a little child to come gather love when needed.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.”
What greater calling is there than this?

I shared with Ms. J how I, too, lost my mother when I was a little girl and how “A” would be in my prayers because my heart ached for her to be without her mom during this holiday season and beyond. I also thanked Ms. J that “A” had her and caring classmates to feel safe around. But I still hurt for her loss. Isn’t that why the babe of Christmas Day truly came into this world? To bring us hope in the midst of our trials, our losses, our suffering. That’s the reason I get excited about Emmanuel – about God coming to be with me – and you – to suffer alongside us during our hurts, our doubts, our despairs, and our joys and victories. Even in the very worst times in my life, knowing that ‘Emmanuel’ has been with me brings me a great sense of peace – and gratitude.

Even Santa expresses gratitude.

Even Santa expresses gratitude.

Speaking of gratitude – I learned more about gratitude on my first visit to that elementary school than I ever could have imagined – not the children’s gratitude (though that was extraordinarily special); not even my own gratitude (though it could always use the boost) – but I learned about GOD’s gratitude towards us! Does that sound like a ridiculous claim?  Hard to believe, isn’t it? That the GOD of the Universe would actually take the time to express His gratitude to us – His creation.

That first year, delivering those books, we didn’t quite know how to be organized about what we were doing; a few of the teachers were wary of us as strangers roaming their hallways; and the children didn’t really know what to make of us (like they do now as the ‘seasoned book-receivers’ they have become!).  But one little boy answered an immediate prompting from his heart that will always remain in mine. Long after we had left his classroom, long after he and his classmates had said a verbal thank-you, he came racing out into the hallway with a torn, folded note in his hand and gave it to one of the gentlemen helping that day (along with a great big hug).

As we got ready to leave the school, standing at the school’s entrance, this gentleman handed me the note. (I just hate to tell you that I’m loving this moment of gloating over this once again.) I unfolded this tattered little piece of paper and stood there, speechless, tears forming in the corners of my eyes. You can make of it what you will, but I felt the grateful hug of my heavenly Father upon reading it that day.

The note simply said,

“Thank you. –Emmanuel”

Christmas Treasures

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When things seem hectic this Christmas season and you forget what it’s all about,
I implore you to think of each child of God who this year may go without
A loved one, a present or even a tree, or no house for some it would seem.
To have such a Christmas wish as these fulfilled would only come in a dream.


So no matter how tired or frazzled or worn with shopping you may be,
Don’t forget these blessed loved ones whose pain could keep you on bended knee.
And if you’re one of these precious dears of whom you’ve heard me speak,
Please place me in your sacred prayers, that I do not forget the meek.


For it is you who will inherit the kingdom of our mighty Father in heaven
Know you are not forgotten, only spread here amongst us as leaven.
It is you to whom we have been assigned to care for as God’s own,
To live life by His example, the loving Christ who sits on His throne.


He sits there not to judge us by what we may fail to complete,
Yet through his mercy, his grace and his love, he sits upon this seat.
This seat, meek ones, shall be yours too, to sit before and pray
As will be any one of ours who knows the babe of Christmas day.


There still exists a greater danger, that we could see His guiding star
But never choose to follow it, only view it from afar.
So what will you say, people of Christ, will you do your worship in the mall?
Or will you answer as the shepherds did, and humble yourselves to a stall?


Set down your duties, leave behind your cares, cast your worries aside
Answer your blessed Savior – clothe and feed the lesser ones…
Store Christmas treasures that will abide.

© 2009 Jody Love


Looking for a practical way this Christmas to store up your treasures in heaven while still here on earth? Then I pray you’ll look into this opportunity (at the link below):

Christmas gift idea: Change Children’s Lives in South Sudan

Here’s the address link to copy & paste (in case the above link disappears again):


Lest you wonder about the authenticity of what will become of your gift…not only do I personally know the people tirelessly and lovingly doing these wonderful works in South Sudan, but here’s the original picture of the sweet, precious face you see in the article linked above, straight off the SD card in my own camera. And lest you feel you do not know me well enough, please continue to follow my blog and I will periodically highlight the missions work in the Yei, South Sudan area, so you can see God’s awesome hand at work for yourself. (And, no, I get nothing from this but the satisfaction of sharing an opportunity with you to share that love.)

Yei Sudan

Author’s note regarding the poem: I penned this poem one day while reflecting upon what I wanted Christmas to be about in my heart, and some of the ways I didn’t want it to play out in my household (with ‘more, more, more’ of nothingness). This was the first poem that I ever publicly shared by slipping it into my Notes on Facebook during the Christmas season. I was honored to next find it posted on my niece-in-law’s (is that a real term?) blog site, Everseexpressions, and then, by greater surprise, in our church bulletin during the holiday season (church secretaries are apparently quite stealthy on Facebook – an important point to remember!). Grace & peace to you this holiday season, -jody