Final Rays of Sonshine: Helen McClaren

Well, it’s been a good year of highlighting some of the ministry’s bright and shining hearts with our monthly Rays of Sonshne BLOG posts and today is our final highlighting post that features yet another very special volunteer: Helen McClaren.

Helen began serving with Access-Life at our first Expo in East Tennessee back in 2010. Since that time she has become a key member of the area outreach planning team spearheading the food service and volunteer recruiting at her church each year. She has also become an Area Outpost leader not only attending local ministry activities but seeing that her church hosts the annual Access-Life Spring Fling. To top off all of these accomplishments, Helen join the ministry’s board of directors this year. A real blessing for our leadership team. :)

Despite all her hard work and accomplishing so much for the ministry, Helen is a behind the scenes, low key kind of leader. She leads with actions and can definitely speak up about her passions of serving others, especially those with disabilities in Jesus’ name. But, Helen, does all this with a gracious smile and serving with a “however needed” kind of attitude. What a great reminder for us all about what God can accomplish as we work diligently for Him with the heart of a servant. That is what impresses us most about Helen and why she is December’s Ray of Sonshine.

Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas

What a glorious celebration is Christmas. Such a blessed season of Emmanuel, when God came to be with us in human form. It is a time to enjoy God’s presence in a fresh way through His forgiveness, grace and mercy, through His protection, provision and power and through His shelter, upholding and tender care. The time is now and everyday of the year to walk in these comforting truths. God is with us always and like a shepherd leading us beside still waters and green pastures.

It is our hope and prayer at Access-Life that you not only know these truths but are experiencing them each day of this Christmas season. Despite the hustle and bustle of this time of year and the noise that may be louder than we all care to hear, God is whispering in an ever soft but unstoppable and penetrating way: “I am here”. So, please take a moment and enjoy that reality this Christmas and all year round for that matter as God is always closer than we think, hope and realize. :)

Merry Christmas and may God bless you richly in this great season of joy!

Jingling and Mingling From Texas to Tennessee and Florida

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. :)

Rays of Sonshine: Ed and Wendy Nordine

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. :)

Thanksgiving Blessings

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

Rays of Sonshine: Jodi Rowe

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. :)

The Big Three

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.