Well, the Christmas season is upon us and whether or not there is snow in your local forecast, it’s still the most wonderful time of the year! Now, this exciting truth is not because of shopping sales and bonanzas or even beautiful trees and decorations. This time of year is so special because it is when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Savior and King. This is what brings the joy of Christmas to life and why we give gifts, put up lights, sing songs and carols and tend to smile everywhere we go. :)
The great joy from Christmas is also very contagious and so this year we at Access-Life wanted to spread a little “merry, merry, merry Christmas” to our ministry friends and volunteers through a new local Outpost activity called a Jingle and Mingle. Actually, the folks in our East Tennessee Outpost started doing these Christmas celebrations several years ago but this year we thought it would be nice to extend the party to North Texas and West Palm Beach, too.
As a result, through some great area leaders, we hosted three Jingle and Mingles recently that featured a seasonal ice breaker game with prizes, a holiday snowflake craft, festive food and Christmas carols with the nativity story. God brought out 108 attendees in North Texas, 75 people in West Palm Beach and 70 folks in East Tennessee to celebrate Jesus birthday and be refreshed by His presence this holiday season.
We were so thankful for these great turn outs and seeing people Jingling and Mingling for Jesus from TX to TN and FL and hope you enjoy the picture collage from all three areas below. :)
Wow, what a busy month it has been with Thanksgiving and the pre-Christmas rush! However, even in the hurry of the season, I want to pause and reflect on the faithful behind the scenes service of two dear friends: Ed and Wendy Nordine.
These two folks have been involved with disability ministry since before we even arrived in Florida as Wendy volunteered for years as the Joni and Friends Wheels for the World Florida Collections Coordinator. This is actually how we met as Leanne and I both served on staff with Joni and Friends here in Florida from 2007 to 2010.
When Access-Life started in 2010, Ed and Wendy were some of the first to jump “on board”. The did so almost literally joining the ministry’s board of directors that same year. Since then they have been leaders on the West Palm Beach Expo team, traveled to help at the Jacksonville, Central Florida, North Texas and East Tennessee Expos and even rounding out their full participation by collecting mobility items for our annual Belize outreach.
From their support in praying, giving and serving, Ed and Wendy are such blessings in all they faithfully do for Access-Life which is why they are this month’s (November) Rays of Sunshine. :)
You know, Thanksgiving is such a wonderful time of the year as the season’s change [well, at least in some places] and we are given the opportunity to reflect on all the good things God has done and given us. It’s a time when we are reminded of God’s gracious blessings and steadfast faithfulness in our lives. A time to enjoy the fruits of His promises and His hope of even greater joy to come as we live moment by moment in the light of His love. And, ultimately, a time to give Him thanks for His graciousness towards each of us is so many ways.
Isn’t that a wonderful thought of how we should live our lives each day of the year, too? Keeping our focus on Jesus and the blessings He bestows on us daily will not only fill our heart with joy and add a smile to our face but enable us to better bless others as God intends while He faithfully works bringing Heaven to earth a little bit more and more each day.
The verses below so warmly illustrate this truth and the words used to describe God’s blessing bring to life His care, nature and love in such a tender way that we hope as you read them you will not only let them encourage you but let them sink into your heart, mind and soul inspiring you to share the blessing.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel with this special blessing: ‘May the LORD bless you and protect you. May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you. May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace.’ Whenever Aaron and his sons bless the people of Israel in my name, I myself will bless them.” Numbers 6: 22-27
Finally, Leanne and I hope and pray that you have a happy Thanksgiving and that the picture painted by the verse below will be a reality lived out by each of us during the season of giving thanks to God for all the good He has done and will do. :)
There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you. Deuteronomy 12:7
What a God blessed 40th Expo we had on Saturday! Yes, the Central Florida event on November 11th was our 40th outreach since 2011 and as with each Expo is was amazing to see God work bringing heaven to earth and putting smiles on faces thru the joy of His presence!
The temperatures were ideal and the few momentary showers were simply reminders of God’s care in watering things as needed here on earth. Although the volunteer turn out was lower than usual, God was faithful in providing all that was needed for all 568 attendees to be blessed including the addition of an accessible 6 seat shuttle, hoverball archery activity and a giant 14 foot canoe! The timely arrival of a team of 20 helpers from Centra Care Mission for tearing down and loading the 20 foot trailer was an encouragement as well. :)
All in all this was our smallest outreach of the year but as we have always said, we are there for whoever God brings in need of some respite, adaptive adventure and a special touch from Him. This was brought to my mind by several families who expressed such gracious thanks Saturday for hosting an event tailored just for them and their needs. The smiles I saw on so many faces including a youngster who had just gotten off of the giant canoe and was sopping wet as “Mr. Bill” had taken them under the fountain, reminded me that God was there working in so many ways that day.
Above is a photo collage and there are about 25 pictures on the CFL Expo page on our website (https://access-life.com/cfl) so feel free to checkout the fun photos and share as God leads!
This month’s Rays of Sonshine is someone who has been with the ministry from it’s start in 2010. In fact, she served as a volunteer for Joni and Friends when Leanne and I led the Florida office back in 2007. Her service with Access-Life has been diverse as well as longstanding, starting with the West Palm Beach team before she and her husband Steve relocated to the Villages where they now support the CFL outreach.
She is a Physical Therapist by trade but is known in the ministry world for her fabulous administrative skills. However, in actuality she is an awesome networker, too. In fact, she has successfully coordinated groups of folks from her church volunteering at the Expos in CFL as well putting together their own team for our annual Big Wheel Deal wheelchair basketball game in the area.
All in all, what makes her standout though is her faithful service and hard work. She is committed and consistent in her heart for people, love of Jesus and willingness to go the extra mile which is why Jodi Rowe is October’s Access-Life Rays of Sonshine. :)
You know, 1st Corinthians 13 “The Love Chapter” is one of my favorite things to read. Like many folks, I find it encouraging and comforting. Many think it is just for marriage and weddings but it contains so much more from the character of God to keys for everyday living.
From 1 John 4:16 we know “God is love” so when we read “It [love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” in 1 Corinthian 13:7, we are reading attributes of God. They are cornerstones of who God is. Like promises, we can count on God to always exhibit these qualities. This so important because this should be the filter we use in all we hear, read, say and think about God. This will go along way in helping us avoid false negative perceptions about God that we may encounter from time to time.
The other aspect of 1 Corinthians 13 that I love [boy than pun just popped right out LOL] is that while showing love as the ultimate anchor for our lives, it gives us the other two keys for hanging onto the big rock of Jesus. As many of you may know they are faith and hope which are natural responses we all should have in light of who God is as described early in the chapter.
Faith is the precious commodity that begins our journey. It is like the key that starts the engine to get us moving in the right direction as we turn back to God and the wonderful path He has so graciously cleared for us to walk with Him.
Hope on the other hand is the element of endurance. It is like the fuel that keeps the engine running when we have hills to climb and the road seems long. It is so important to keep our “hope tank” full so we can serve the Lord diligently as He leads us each day. We need to not only stay focus on Jesus each step of the way but daily fill our minds with good, wholesome and holy thoughts that will bring a smile to our face, give us joy in the journey and a song in our heart.
All in all, I call these the “big three”. Faith, Hope and Love. They are key elements of living a life of purpose, satisfaction and contentment which can only come from walking with Jesus as your savior, Lord and best friend.
This month’s Rays of Sonshine is someone who loves working with people living with disabilities and has made a career of providing programing to folks with special needs in the Jacksonville area. In fact, she manages the Bethesda Lake park where we hold our annual Jacksonville Expo and conducts year round activities for those living with disabilities locally. Despite having a slight hearing impairment, she has a winning “Philippians 4:13” attitude that matches her joyous smile and is our most enthusiastic Expo supporter in the area. :)
What we so love about Gaile is that she not only welcomes us at her facility but that she supports what we do 110%! There is obviously the business side of renting the pavilion and cabins, paying fees and getting permits but she goes beyond the basics to help us as an exhibitor, volunteer and networker. Currently, she is even contacting local churches and organizations close by the park trying to secure extra parking for the 2018 outreach. Wow, what a blessing!
All in all, like our other Rays of Sonshine what really makes her special is her love for Jesus and seeing Him transform lives and communities. So thank you, Gaile and may God expand His kingdom and bring heaven to earth more and more in Jacksonville and beyond. :)