‘Thanks Be to God”

I still count my blessings grateful that my church search when relocating to Richmond in 2010 landed me at Forest Hill Presbyterian Church (FHPC).  Worshiping and learning in the warm fellowship of FHPC has felt like a series of mindful, nurturing experiences, touched by the Word, feeling the Holy Spirit, all summoning out what I should be as a growing disciple of Christ.

I’ve learned in this decade at FHPC that the mark of an effective church is not how old it is or how many people come, but how many people live differently as a result of having been to that church.  I know God is love, that He loves us, and He wants us to love others, not only in our thoughts and prayers, but also in our actions and deeds.  For all that we have flows from God’s overwhelming love and grace.  And all that we do with what we have flows from saying thank you to God in grateful response for His love and grace.  Feeling the compelling call of Micah 6:8 to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, I know that I’m living differently.  I praise and thank God more, I’ve grown more spiritually as a disciple, I serve more human needs, I pray more, and I give back more of my time, talent, and treasure that God first gave me.

Now in 2020, it is still clear to me that the people of FHPC continue to serve the Lord with gladness, creativity, faith, and perseverance since June 22, 1924.  While honoring our rich history, we are building a new future, taking many small steps toward big visions, for the God who called us and nurtured us in this place still has a role for FHPC to play in His kingdom.  And so we continue to cultivate enthusiasm as disciples for exercising our spiritual gifts both inside and outside the church doors.   What a blessing to have a strong-in-spite-of-small congregation at FHPC ever faithful to the ministry and mission of God in Christ!  Thanks be to God!

 

PM

“A Deep Breath”

It had been 12 years since I’d owned my own home. After living in work housing, followed by a rental, I ached first a plot of land to call my own. and this past summer, the opportunity we’d been working and praying for opened, and we moved into our own home.

The joy was instantly expressed in the creation of a sub stair closet, with shelves; a freshly painted front door; a new fence, pallet by pallet; laying stone pathways; and forming a brick border to line the garden. I finally had a garden! I could plant flowers and watch them return year after year!

I planted some black-eyed susan and wandering jew out front. I found ferns in the woods and transplanted them into shady garden patches. I trimmed shrubbery and cut back overgrowth. I planted a hibiscus because we finally had a yard with some sun! And now, we’ve all worked to put in a full edible garden: blueberry bushes, strawberries, basil, mint, thyme, green onion, spinach, kale, squash, zucchini, cucumber, eggplant, tomatoes, and beans. We’ve even found citronella bushes to repel the mosquitos, and again my joy overflows. I tell the family I’m going out to check out the crops, though our garden square footage can’t exceed a mere 90 square feet. And today we harvested our first strawberry!

I experience a surge of creative juices tending this home. And when I am outside, trimming and weeding, digging and planting, sitting and listening to the birds, my lungs and spirit breathe in deeply and exhale gratitude.

“Neighbors”

In this time of social distancing when everything is in upheaval, I have found comfort in my pets, Little Bit and Bandit. Last night around 7:00 my kitty, Bandit, got away from me with his harness and leash on him. I could not find him anywhere. I spent every other hour walking our condo complex looking out for him, calling him, and worrying that he would be hurt by having the leash on. I even had a neighbor crawl part way into a crawl space under the condo to see if he had gotten in there. No kitty. When I finally gave up and went to bed late that night I prayed to God that Bandit would be safe and that even if I never saw him, that he would be ok, or at least not suffer.

The next morning he was not at the door. I put on a coat and shoes and in my pajamas wandered around the complex in the daylight gently calling him so as not wake folks up. I looked through the gaps in fences to see if he had gotten stuck in some neighbor’s back yard. Nothing! I had to stop my search to get ready for the bank appointment about the Small Business Loan/Grant and to make bank deposits and sign CCC worker checks and left with a heavy heart.

When I returned, still no kitty. I spent time finding a picture of him and created a LOST KITTY poster. I put on my mask and went to Office Depot to run off colored copies for posting. A friend came over to get some of the posters and we discussed the best places to post them. He left. A few moments later I headed out my door and my neighbor came running to me to tell me that Bandit had spent the last few minutes following her around as she did some gardening! There he was, collapsed against the HVAC system. The harness and leash were gone, but he seemed to not have suffered any harm. He has not stirred for the last 2 1/2 hours. Safe at home! Thank you, God, for looking out for my kitty and giving me back a source of great comfort during this difficult time in our lives!

 

Grateful for a Chance to Serve

Three weeks ago there was a marathon in and around the town. Some runners ran only a 1/2 marathon, but even THAT is 13.1 miles. A lot more running than I can do! I “high-fived” several finishers as I threaded my way down to That French Place for a croissant.

Just as I crossed the drawbridge I saw a runner lying on the ground. She was not moving. People lost of stood around and looked. One man asked her questions. “Did you drink anything as you ran? Are you still having tunnel vision?, etc.” Actually, she could hardly answer or move. I laid my rain-cape over her. I placed my wadded-up my jacket under her head. I prayed that the volunteer medics would assist her. I was not in charge — they were.

When I walked back from the croissant mission, the young runner was gone. Hurrah! Ah, but she had just been carried to the medics’ station, and was still not moving. Her mother, a woman I had high-fived 20 minutes earlier, hugged me. Seeing no action yet, I ran home for a warm blanket. I was able to say the honest words of, “She needs to get to the emergency room right now. She needs intravenous rehydrating.” I KNOW that being able to hug the runner’s mom, and to speak gently to the volunteers was a gift to me as well as to them. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve.

Later in the day the runner, her mom and fiance came to return the borrowed items and to say thank you. Really, though, I was grateful to have been included in the flow of life and activities. God is with us all.

— Kris Jones

Grateful for Beauty & People

I just walked to the end of my street trying to see my neighbor, Beverly, before she went back inside. Ahh, but our timing is always off.

And then again, WOW.  At the end of my street the lake is bright aqua.  The wind is up. The waves have whitecaps.  I chatted with a lovely couple from Grand Rapids.  We three were almost speechless for the  beauty of the lake and the day.  “It is so much bluer here,” said Mrs. “We come from Grand Rapids, but THIS view is absolutely awesome and special.” I am grateful for the blue water, the whitecaps, the wind and the possibility of simple, happy chats with people walking down my street.

Give praise in ALL things!

— Kris Jones (who spends her time in Richmond and Michigan)