This Christian Blogs Away!!

By Cynthia Saarie

Ask anyone if their attendance is up or down at Church, and this is what they’ll say… “UP!”

But is it really? Stick with me a minute, and we will determine the Truth.

If nothing else - the pandemic has taught us one crucial thing…

WE NEED EACH OTHER.

Humans, and especially the children and the elderly, need interaction. Human contact. It is as necessary as the air we breathe. 

When schools, churches, gyms, jobs, and social organizations closed at the beginning of March 2020, our world stood sideways. We strained to see what was going on, what would happen, and what we could do to bring things back to normal; NOW…

It never happened. 

As devastating news came around with the deaths of so many, hope was waning.

For the next year and a half - it was like the apocalypse happened, or a strange version of Y2K…

The world didn’t stand still, but we did. 

We stood in our homes and wondered if we would be allowed to go back to work, school, and church? And then the next question, When?

Thank God for technology!

In February 2020, our church was informed our Pastor was moving to another church to a full-time position. This is not uncommon with the United Methodist Church system of doing things. Pastors are moved from church to church throughout their careers. These days, it is very unusual for a pastor to remain in the same church for 10 – 20 years. 

Then our church doors closed on March 10th, the night of our Bible study at church. 

What about Easter coming up soon? We were in the middle of our Lenten Study. Our community hosts five different denominational churches for a weekly Ecumenical Lenten luncheon each week. We had the first luncheon in March, then we all closed.

And what about our Pastor that was leaving?

There weren’t going to be any farewell parties or a commissioning service to say goodbye. Nor were we able to plan a welcoming service for the incoming Pastor at the beginning of July. 

As a Lay Minister in our church, I took things I could do into consideration and found an amicable solution for both pastors.

I do videos!

I called every congregation member and asked if I could come to video them on my phone for a farewell video to give to Pastor? I told them I would piece together a video for our outgoing Pastor that we loved for four years and one for the incoming Pastor we had yet to meet. 

Of course, no one had been vaccinated yet; it hadn’t been developed. So, I met everyone outside on their stoop, porch, or sidewalk to video them. 

We hadn’t gotten masks yet; it was still so new to us. So, we safe-distanced and chatted.

I first asked each person I videoed their name and asked them to say something to the Pastor leaving us. They all knew him quite well. He and his new wife married the year before, who had been very active in our church. We were all very sad to see them go. 

I asked them if they had a special memory or instance when something happened they wanted to make sure he remembered. Some were very funny, and I knew I’d have a lot of editing to do! But not too much. It was very emotional listening to the different stories.

Then, after I videoed the current Pastor’s message from each person, I asked them to say some words of welcome. Tell him a little bit about themselves and what they hoped to see with our new Pastor. It was very insightful. Lots of ideas.

Each evening for almost the entire month of May and part of June, I videoed our congregation. 

Our Pastor, meanwhile, videoed a message onto YouTube each week for us to watch. But it wasn’t the same. No organ music, no hymns to sing. But it was something.

We gathered a car parade and went to his house and waved, tooted car horns, stopped, and tossed a bag of goodies, presents, and balloons to him on his lawn. He and his wife waved back. 

Inside the bag, I enclosed a card with the flash drive of the video I made. I also posted it on our YouTube church channel for others to see. 

There were tears and shouts of goodbye out car windows as we waved and drove away. 

Our church stood empty at the end of June, waiting for our new Pastor to come in. 

I had pre-sent the flash drive to him with the “Welcome” video. I also posted it on our church’s YouTube for everyone to see. 

Our new Pastor and his wife, and three children came without any fanfare. He was a military chaplain in the National Guard and let his two laity pastors, me, and one another woman know - we would also be helping by leading our church every month or two for a Sunday while he was away with the ARMY. 

We never got to meet his family. Instead, they were sequestered back home, keeping them safe from the pandemic. 

While he was in town, the Pastor videoed the church service from our office or church pulpit each week and then sent it to me to edit the hymns that the organist and I recorded. 

I came to church every week and met up with our church organist. I videoed the songs we would be incorporating into the service each week, with her playing and me singing. 

When I put them together in a PowerPoint deck and processed the whole thing, I’d send a copy to our new Pastor and post it on YouTube, our church website, and our Facebook page. 

A lot of work, but we did what we could to keep the church going.

Our church website now had an online giving platform that I oversaw, with the deposits and recording of each congregant’s monetary tithe or gift. Some still mailed it into the church office, so I would take care of the bank deposits and upload the information on our two flash drives. 

I mentioned to Pastor, our gifts have gone up. Word was getting out that they could watch church online and wanted to send in an offering.

We even received an offering from someone out west; none of us knew that person. However, they came across our church’s Facebook page, watched the video, and decided to place an offering online. Since we started videoing our church service and putting it on YouTube, our website, and our Church’s Facebook page, donations have increased. 

The hits on our website reported between 25 - 49 people watch our video each week. With as many as 140 in the week for Easter.

We were impressed and realized how much all people need “Church.”

So, has church attendance increased? Yes, and it’s different. 

We have about a quarter of the people that used to come to church sitting in the pews now. They’re wearing their masks with hands sanitized, safe distanced, and remaining seated until it’s time to go. And the rest?... they’re online. So, it’s hybrid Church time!

People still join us live and in-person, and others join us live online or watch the videos later on in the day or week.

They make regular tithes and offerings by going online to our website or mailing a check into the church office. Others place their envelope on the plate by the door before they leave.

We’ve been careful to sanitize surfaces and other areas. 

We broadcast our weekly PowerPoint on the wall behind the Pastor for everyone in the church and online live to see. The video service is posted afterward. 

It’s different, but it is the interaction we need. We need to feel the camaraderie of being a Church Family, of worshipping God in “Togetherness.” 

I think God is happy we’re doing what we can to be a part of His Church Family.

consequatur.

What About the Money?

By Cynthia Saarie, Lay Minister

 

Jesus was there, visiting the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Lazarus had been risen from the dead recently by Jesus. Martha was busy getting food ready for the group that invaded their house…

And where was Mary? There was a lot of work to be taken care of with all those guests…

Mary comes out and opens a jar of nard. What the heck is NARD? It sounds like LARD; you know the fatty stuff you get with meats. Yuck…

But Nard is a little different than that. According to Wikipedia…

Spikenard, also called nard, nardin, and muskroot, is a class of aromatic, amber-colored essential oil derived from Nardostachys jatamansi, a flowering plant in the honeysuckle family which grows in the Himalayas of Nepal, China, and India.

Which explains why it was so expensive and rare. Remember the three wise men? They came baring gifts at Jesus’ birth and one, the Asian wise man, came with scented oils. They were given to Mary, the Mother of God, and told to use them at Jesus’ death.

Maybe this was that oil. Maybe Mary, the Mother of Jesus gave it to this cherished family to hold onto for her. I don’t know… I am guessing. But it wouldn’t surprise me if it were true.

Anyway, Mary got out this oil that that Jesus said was supposed to anoint him upon his death, so it stands to reason that it was the oil that was given to his mother when he was born.

The scent filled the room. I don’t know if you’ve ever smelled myrrh. Many don’t like that smell, but I like it…but this sounds like it was more of a fresh flowery scent.

The scent you hold is from a flowering plant in Mexico. It’s called Naranja, a white flower that grows in the desert. Close as I could get for you all today, pardon me. 😊

Judas Iscariot was fuming mad. We could have sold it!

What about the money we could have gotten for it?

We could have fed the poor.

Yeah, right. The man was corrupt, so it stood to reason he had no intention of selling it and turning over the money to feed the poor. Jesus knew this, of course.

Now coming from a human point of view imagine how the smell of his burial oils made him feel.

Eeee. Even though Jesus is God, he also is man, with human frailties and feelings.

Think about how it would make you feel if you had a casket sitting in your living room waiting for you to die so you could be buried in it. It stared at you, day in and day out. Waiting. Yuck.

So, everyone smelled this oil wafting around the room and Jesus is reminded that it is there for His Burial, and I wonder how that made him feel?

No one likes to think about their death.

I know my husband would be in trouble if I kicked off sooner than expected. He has no clue what bills need paying or where or how I take care of everything.

Not to mention my business. I have different things I have to take care of…like my website domains, there are a dozen of them…the renewals of all the different programs and subscriptions I have each year.

Oh boy, he’ll go nuts. I’ve tried to organize them - somewhat in a binder. One is a binder of programs with the email you need to enter the program and the password.

Another binder is a listing of all my programs, like the one I use each week to edit the video for my church. All the different emails and YouTube channels, and when the payments are due and the amount. He’ll have to cancel them all or transfer them to someone else.

Plus, the bills for our household. The Nimo, Phone, Cable, Insurances, Car stuff… all of the banking is online.

I’ve even written down how to turn on my computer and the password he will need to access the main screen.

Yeah, it’s that bad…

When you run a business online, security and the safety of all my programs are paramount.

But I digress, so, back to our scripture.

Jesus knows what Judas is steaming about.

What about the Money?

He – Judas, HE wants the money.

Greedy soul that he is, he already made a deal for Jesus’ life to be turned over in the Garden of Gethsemane.

But remember also… Judas was a disciple of Christ Jesus. At some point Jesus either saw that he had to take on this man in order for the betrayal to take place, or he was hopeful that Judas would become the honorable man he wanted him to become and some other way would be created for his demise.

Because Jesus is also God, he must have known the outcome of taking Judas into the fold. I guess I should not try to second guess Jesus’ reasoning.  

Now let’s look at Mary.

Mary couldn’t have known consciously that she was anointing Jesus for his burial.

I think it was more compulsive and on an unconscious level that she just wanted to show love for him and wanted to find a way to comfort Jesus.

Jesus had raised her brother, Lazarus, from death. She was in the presence of a miracle worker, a saint? The true Messiah… she believed he was the Messiah.

What could she do to honor Jesus? To say Thank You for saving her brother? To say Thank you for visiting their house in Bethany?

She grabbed that oil and decided to massage his feet. They must be tired feet. They’ve walked for weeks on end around the country.

Now I don’t know about you… but I absolutely LOVE a massage. Every so often, well, maybe not that often… I will schedule one for myself.

How about all of you? Do any of you get a massage every now and then?

They’re not cheap. A skilled massage therapist will run you more than $75 an hour. But you come out of there feeling like jelly.

My husband loves to have me scratch his back. And I let him rub my feet. It’s a nice way of having a little close-to-him time that feels good.

But, back to Mary.

She could have gotten a towel or cloth to massage the oil into his feet, but just imagine how soft and wonderful having her long hair rub that oil onto his tired feet felt… Hmm. And I’m sure it softened her hair too. Talk about expensive conditioner!

I bet it felt terrific - And smelled wonderful.

Anyone watching her do that would be envious!

But not Judas… he was outraged.

Or was it jealousy? Hmm. I wonder. Was he mad that Jesus was getting all the attention and he felt left out?

Or was it just greed that made him spit words of anger out at Mary? Accusing her of wasting money that could have gone into His Pocket?

Either way, Jesus got a great massage, Mary felt she was making her Lord feel better, and then we have Martha.

Martha… Now in this scripture lesson it doesn’t say a lot about Martha and how she felt during this whole episode.

But in another scripture lesson from the book Luke, in chapter 10 Martha complains to Jesus about Mary’s behavior… and in Luke the story is a little different…

Jesus rebukes Martha and tells her to leave Mary alone.

Now remember, it’s close to Passover. There is a lot of preparations that are needed to be done, a lot of cooking and cleaning to be done.

And now, Mary and Martha have a full house full of people gathered around the table listening to Jesus speak. Martha is out in the kitchen pulling her hair out trying to play catch up with all the work that Mary should be doing… but isn’t.

Martha is steaming. And Jesus knows it. But he’s enjoying his foot massage with warmed oil and soft hair brushing his feet. Ahh. Nice.

Jesus says in Luke… “Martha, Martha.  You are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” 

Ouch, Jesus… I’m sure that hurt Martha a bit… or maybe even a lot. She didn’t want to upset her guest, but at the same rate, she was harried and at her wits end trying to get all this food prepared and served to the house full of guests.

I’m sure Jesus made it up to her at some point. Even though it doesn’t say so in our scripture lesson today.

But I can’t imagine Jesus not trying to make Martha feel better and knowing how much she had done to make his visit successful.

Lazarus, meanwhile, was being like the other guys, and “Reclining at Table.” La dee da!

Well, poor Lazarus. He had just been risen back to life, so he was feeling a little under the weather - maybe? I don’t know. I’m just guessing…

But, back to Judas…

He had already made a deal with the Sanhedrin, a tribunal of either twenty-three or seventy-one elders, or rabbis in every city in Israel depending on the size. They reviewed and revamped the Laws of Moses as they saw fit and led the people in the temples with the laws they laid down for others to follow.

Funny how that is… They lay down the laws that they never follow. Hmm. Sounds familiar…

Judas will soon meet up with Jesus at the Garden and will demonstrate who Jesus to the Sanhedrin - by pointing out Jesus with a greeting and a kiss. Then they will arrest Jesus… but that’s next week’s scripture lesson.

But was Judas really evil? Or was he an unwilling victim of the devil?

I think Jesus must have found something redeeming in Judas or he wouldn’t have let him into his inner circle. Unless he was just going along with the predetermined plan of God? I don’t know.

Presbyterians believe in predetermination… that everything is happening for a predetermined reason. Maybe they’re on to something here… maybe Judas was supposed to be the one the devil could manipulate into betraying the Son of God? I don’t know.

I’ll add that to the list of questions I want answered when I die.

Do you do that? Do you think of questions you’d like answered when you stand before God’s thrown and are allowed to ask God?

That’s what this is all about you know. The reason why Jesus came and died on the cross…

He came to die for sins and OUR own access to God.

Up until then… only once a year could someone enter into the most sacred part of the temple, the Holy of Holies behind a curtain.

In fact, that area was so off-limit to everyone that they tied a rope around the ankle of the priest that was going in there in case he died. They could haul him out with that rope. AND why that curtain was torn in half when Jesus died on the cross signifying that we all now had total access to God Almighty and the playing field was leveled.

But did Judas know any of this? Did Jesus? Another question to ask one day.

For today, we will think about the NARD, the hair of Mary massaging Jesus’ feet, Martha harried in the kitchen, Lazarus reclining with the other men at the table listening to Jesus speak… Judas stewing about lost money and the world so quietly waiting to see what happened next.

AMEN!

By Cynthia Saarie

As a Christian - are you responsible for changing other people’s hearts? Let’s think about that for a moment. 

What has Jesus done in your life? 

Has He done anything in your life?

Have you ever told anyone about what Jesus did for you? That’s witnessing. 

A witness for Christ Jesus is someone that has experienced the rebirth of their very soul - by the Holy Spirit. Something so profound, so excellent - words could never do it justice…

And then you tell someone about what happened!

Will this change other people’s faith? 

You are not responsible for bringing someone to faith. That is God’s job. 

You are a planter of seeds.

Seeds? Yes, you plant the seeds of faith into others by telling them about what Jesus has done for you. 

How He forgave you, changed you, healed you. 

Whatever ways Jesus worked in and through you! 

Why would you want to do that? 

Because when the Holy Spirit works within you, and you know in your very being that Jesus has forgiven you and loves you… you can’t hold that in. 

You just can’t. 

“Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD.” (Psalm 130)

When you feel that mighty power of God touching you - There are no words that will be able to explain the way you have just been changed in the blink of an eye. 

The miracle of love and healing pours out of your mouth and bubbles up from your very soul. 

When you see or hear someone telling you about their personal experiences with God. 

That’s witnessing.

It’s not a question of why you would want to do that… it’s more like - you want everyone to know! 

Say a prayer of thanks for them praising His Holy Name… Jesus. 

Power above all else and all Names. The Word in You. Jesus.

Seeds. 

When you ask Jesus to come into your life… and that you are sorry for all the things you’ve done wrong…and genuinely mean it in your heart that you want Him to forgive you…

That’s when those seeds sprout, grow, flourish, and become more significant each day that you are growing your faith. 

A New Faith and Trust in Jesus as LORD. Your own personal God and Savior. 

It’s profound. It’s amazing. It’s totally against everything you see and hear and feel today. 

That seed of faith blossoms out of every pore in your body, and you can’t help it…you witness.

That’s the kind of faith everyone wants. 

To know God personally. 

Feel His love and forgiveness and acceptance of you, and mold you into an even better human being. 

You become the fantastic story of Jesus and His unfailing Love.

consequatur.

Hi there, Friend,

You have had a rough eighteen months.

Jobs, schools, friends, and families… Everyone has had the kybosh splashed over them from the onset of this Pandemic.

But - You’ve come to a decision. You want something more to gather you back into your society and community.

Finding a church to attend is a fantastic way to get back into Life.

You feel a need to be in a community worshipping God. That’s Awesome!

No one wants to wear the wrong sized shoes.

A church can be like a pair of shoes. If the shoes hurt your feet, you can’t wait to take them off, and you’ll never put them on again!

Same with finding the Right Church. You want the correct fit. You want to feel safe, welcomed, and wanted.

Let’s Find You a Church

Three Ways to Help You Find Your Church.

  • Did You or Your Family Practice a Certain Denomination?

Do you have a starting place, an earlier religion, or denomination you followed?

Many children are brought to a church by a parent or guardian, like a grandparent or foster family. Thus, early religious experiences guide adult steps.

Some attended a Religious Education program through school or a school that is based on a denomination.

Did you enjoy your earlier years in a church setting?  

Some had a terrible experience in church, sending them away from the church - instead of finding inspiration there.

What precautions are in place? For example: do they practice ‘safe sanctuary’ with a minimum of two adults in attendance around children?

  • Does this church follow the Bible?

Joining a church begins with discovering what they are all about. Jesus is about Love.

Do they teach Bible principles? Are there education programs set up for children, teens,  and adults?

What doctrines and core Bible lessons does this church teach?

Pre-Pandemic: many churches had a thriving educational program.

Small groups Bible studies have the highest success rate. This is because Laity and Pastors/Priests leading these study groups take personal growth in Christ Jesus seriously.

  • Do they have a social presence?

Most churches today have a social media presence.

Online - Zoom has become a popular way to invite others to a Bible study and to a live broadcast of the church service.

Check out their website or Facebook page.

Churches that take time to update and post on their website regularly are interested in keeping the congregation informed of upcoming events.

What mission projects the congregation is doing, and how others can become involved.

What is their outlook on Missions? Do they have missions in the community that you feel drawn to work with them? Community projects bring people of faith together.

Do they have a particular time for children? Do they provide a nursery?

Is there music and singing? Do they sing while wearing masks?

All these enhance a church service and add meaning to any church gathering.

Here’s Your Final Checklist:

When looking for a church: Google it! And then:

  • Check to see if they have Facebook or Website pages. (Have you watched any of their recordings?)
  • What are their core beliefs? Are they a Bible teaching church? (Are there Sunday School and Bible Study courses for all ages?)
  • What mission(s) are they busy within their community? (Do they work with a Food Pantry, Homeless Mission, Laundry, or Housekeeping Help?)
  • What safety precautions are they using to keep everyone healthy? (Do they have a cleaning and disinfecting team?)
  • Are they meeting online, in a church sanctuary, or both? (Review past services and work they’ve been busy with throughout COVID.)
  • Do they have a synopsis of their church/pastor/priest on their website? (Most websites have an ‘About’ page or a ‘Pastor’s Corner’ page that tells you about their church and what God inspires them to do in our world.)
  • Can you see yourself there and identify with what they represent? (Are there any programs you see yourself drawn toward?)
  • Does it “Feel” like God is calling you to their church? (Trusting God to lead you to the right place is special; God won’t mind your due diligence!)
  • It’s time to go and see how you feel there…(Were you welcomed? Or did you feel like you were wearing the wrong size shoes?)

If you are looking for a church; Come look at mine.

I record and post our church services onto our Facebook page and website. (Besides hosting Bible Studies and Meetings online.) We teach the Bible.

We have opened our sanctuary to church services and record our service online.

We meet Sundays at 10:30 AM; https://phoenixnyumc.com and 49 Jefferson Street, Phoenix, NY, 13135, or on Facebook; https://facebook.com/fumcphoenixny/

Our Mission statement:

“Welcoming All to Unconditional Love that Leads us to Christ as a Church Family.”

Come and be a part of our family of God or use the suggestions to be a part of your new church family. Our world needs more people involved with God’s view of our world.

We want our visitors to feel welcomed, safe, and happy they chose to worship with us.

So, come see what we are all about at the 1st United Methodist Church of Phoenix, NY.

Cynthia Saarie is a certified Lay Minister in the United Methodist Church and a certified professional copywriter. You can reach Cynthia through her website:  https://cynthiasaarie.com

 by Cynthia Saarie  

YouTube Video  https://youtu.be/P3MADHnO5JM


It’s been asked…if you were arrested today,

would there be enough evidence to prove

you were saved by your belief in the

cleansing grace of Jesus?

Could you be convicted? 

Convicted                  by Cynthia Saarie  

Before the court, I stood alone       

Hands bound behind  
Lost and alone 
The papers said I am the one 
I’ve been arrested       

 
My Judge just threw the gavel down 
He saw my life 
But in His frown 
He struck my sin and pounded loud 
You Are Convicted     

 
You nailed my pride upon a tree 
You broke my stride    
So now I see   
That as alone as I may be   
I was convicted      

He yelled and Heaven opened wide 
Trumpets sounded 
Waters divide    
And there He stood me by His side 
I Am Convicted    

   
A wondrous smile a Heavenly bleed 
He waved His hand     
I felt strife leave 
His blood had washed my former life 
I’m a new person  

        
My wildest dreams could I believe  
Surrendered all 
So I can be      
Convicted for Eternity     
Jesus my Savior   

The world can see I ask you now 
If you stood here  
Would your knee bow  
Throughout the world  your evidence 
That He’s your Savior?   

Would the Judge

be convinced and say 
Your faith does show     
You know the way    
To bow a knee before Him pray 
Are You Convicted?      

 

If You are not sure You would

Be Convicted, Come to Church.                               

 

By Cynthia Saarie

Ask anyone if their attendance is up or down at Church, and this is what they’ll say… “UP!”

But is it really? Stick with me a minute, and we will determine the Truth.

If nothing else - the pandemic has taught us one crucial thing…

WE NEED EACH OTHER.

Humans, and especially the children and the elderly, need interaction. Human contact. It is as necessary as the air we breathe. 

When schools, churches, gyms, jobs, and social organizations closed at the beginning of March 2020, our world stood sideways. We strained to see what was going on, what would happen, and what we could do to bring things back to normal; NOW…

It never happened. 

As devastating news came around with the deaths of so many, hope was waning.

For the next year and a half - it was like the apocalypse happened, or a strange version of Y2K…

The world didn’t stand still, but we did. 

We stood in our homes and wondered if we would be allowed to go back to work, school, and church? And then the next question, When?

Thank God for technology!

In February 2020, our church was informed our Pastor was moving to another church to a full-time position. This is not uncommon with the United Methodist Church system of doing things. Pastors are moved from church to church throughout their careers. These days, it is very unusual for a pastor to remain in the same church for 10 – 20 years. 

Then our church doors closed on March 10th, the night of our Bible study at church. 

What about Easter coming up soon? We were in the middle of our Lenten Study. Our community hosts five different denominational churches for a weekly Ecumenical Lenten luncheon each week. We had the first luncheon in March, then we all closed.

And what about our Pastor that was leaving?

There weren’t going to be any farewell parties or a commissioning service to say goodbye. Nor were we able to plan a welcoming service for the incoming Pastor at the beginning of July. 

As a Lay Minister in our church, I took things I could do into consideration and found an amicable solution for both pastors.

I do videos!

I called every congregation member and asked if I could come to video them on my phone for a farewell video to give to Pastor? I told them I would piece together a video for our outgoing Pastor that we loved for four years and one for the incoming Pastor we had yet to meet. 

Of course, no one had been vaccinated yet; it hadn’t been developed. So, I met everyone outside on their stoop, porch, or sidewalk to video them. 

We hadn’t gotten masks yet; it was still so new to us. So, we safe-distanced and chatted.

I first asked each person I videoed their name and asked them to say something to the Pastor leaving us. They all knew him quite well. He and his new wife married the year before, who had been very active in our church. We were all very sad to see them go. 

I asked them if they had a special memory or instance when something happened they wanted to make sure he remembered. Some were very funny, and I knew I’d have a lot of editing to do! But not too much. It was very emotional listening to the different stories.

Then, after I videoed the current Pastor’s message from each person, I asked them to say some words of welcome. Tell him a little bit about themselves and what they hoped to see with our new Pastor. It was very insightful. Lots of ideas.

Each evening for almost the entire month of May and part of June, I videoed our congregation. 

Our Pastor, meanwhile, videoed a message onto YouTube each week for us to watch. But it wasn’t the same. No organ music, no hymns to sing. But it was something.

We gathered a car parade and went to his house and waved, tooted car horns, stopped, and tossed a bag of goodies, presents, and balloons to him on his lawn. He and his wife waved back. 

Inside the bag, I enclosed a card with the flash drive of the video I made. I also posted it on our YouTube church channel for others to see. 

There were tears and shouts of goodbye out car windows as we waved and drove away. 

Our church stood empty at the end of June, waiting for our new Pastor to come in. 

I had pre-sent the flash drive to him with the “Welcome” video. I also posted it on our church’s YouTube for everyone to see. 

Our new Pastor and his wife, and three children came without any fanfare. He was a military chaplain in the National Guard and let his two laity pastors, me, and one another woman know - we would also be helping by leading our church every month or two for a Sunday while he was away with the ARMY. 

We never got to meet his family. Instead, they were sequestered back home, keeping them safe from the pandemic. 

While he was in town, the Pastor videoed the church service from our office or church pulpit each week and then sent it to me to edit the hymns that the organist and I recorded. 

I came to church every week and met up with our church organist. I videoed the songs we would be incorporating into the service each week, with her playing and me singing. 

When I put them together in a PowerPoint deck and processed the whole thing, I’d send a copy to our new Pastor and post it on YouTube, our church website, and our Facebook page. 

A lot of work, but we did what we could to keep the church going.

Our church website now had an online giving platform that I oversaw, with the deposits and recording of each congregant’s monetary tithe or gift. Some still mailed it into the church office, so I would take care of the bank deposits and upload the information on our two flash drives. 

I mentioned to Pastor, our gifts have gone up. Word was getting out that they could watch church online and wanted to send in an offering.

We even received an offering from someone out west; none of us knew that person. However, they came across our church’s Facebook page, watched the video, and decided to place an offering online. Since we started videoing our church service and putting it on YouTube, our website, and our Church’s Facebook page, donations have increased. 

The hits on our website reported between 25 - 49 people watch our video each week. With as many as 140 in the week for Easter.

We were impressed and realized how much all people need “Church.”

So, has church attendance increased? Yes, and it’s different. 

We have about a quarter of the people that used to come to church sitting in the pews now. They’re wearing their masks with hands sanitized, safe distanced, and remaining seated until it’s time to go. And the rest?... they’re online. So, it’s hybrid Church time!

People still join us live and in-person, and others join us live online or watch the videos later on in the day or week.

They make regular tithes and offerings by going online to our website or mailing a check into the church office. Others place their envelope on the plate by the door before they leave.

We’ve been careful to sanitize surfaces and other areas. 

We broadcast our weekly PowerPoint on the wall behind the Pastor for everyone in the church and online live to see. The video service is posted afterward. 

It’s different, but it is the interaction we need. We need to feel the camaraderie of being a Church Family, of worshipping God in “Togetherness.” 

I think God is happy we’re doing what we can to be a part of His Church Family.

Before COVID...    

I was a part of a trivia team. Every Wednesday, we'd meet at a local Pizza shop to play a trivia game that makes our minds work and brings up an easy, competitive edge. We would eat an antipasti salad, wings, and pizza before the game begins. We were allowed up to eight players on a team and no cell phones, shouting out, or singing. We ignored that last directive; as we sang along with the music, the director plays in-between questions. It was a good night out, especially when we won. It’s still would be a good night out, if we ever get to start again and don’t win.

 That last night out at our friendly competition, the director asked us a question that we missed. 

Two times during our seven sections of five questions, we are asked separate questions. Each is a five-point bonus question. If you choose to answer the question, you risk gaining or losing five points. We thought we were able to answer and turned in our answer.

 The question: What is never the same in identical twins?

 Well, let’s think about this for a minute: Twins have different first names, then one of our team mentions George Forman and his boys all named George.

 Okay, that is not the answer. 

I mentioned that they are not born at the same time. 

Good, the group agrees that it’s the truth. Even fraternal twins are born at different times. We turned in our answer. 

We were wrong.

 The question should have been a little more specific on a physical trait because the answer was the twins have different fingerprints. 

 Duh, of course, it is fingerprints. We were right, but not right with the answer the director wanted. We Lost the five points. We didn’t win last night.

  What does this have to do with a Christian article? Not much, except to segue into my question at the beginning of this article. There are many right answers to some of life’s questions, but only one that the director of the game of life is looking for us to answer.

 What is it that differentiates the rest of the world from Christians? 

 It’s these questions that require us all to answer correctly:

  • Do You Believe that Jesus is the Son of God?
  • That Jesus was divinely conceived and born of the Virgin Mary?
  • That Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, who ruled Jesus was crucified on a Cross?
  • Where Jesus died and was buried in a borrowed grave?
  • On the Third Day, Jesus rose from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the Right Hand of God?
  • And that Jesus Will Come AGAIN?

 If You can think about these questions and answer in your heart and mind that you DO Believe, then you have answered correctly. And you win much more than the five points; you win the forgiveness of your sins, and Eternal Life when you die. That sure beats pizza and wings any day.

What do Methodists believe about baptism?

(THIS was taken from a Sermon I did for church.)

The official doctrine of The United Methodist Church in regards to baptism is this: Baptism represents believers' repentance and forgiveness of sins. It also signifies new birth and the beginning of a person's Christian discipleship.

God called believers to Him in baptism through water. They believe in receiving salvation through Jesus’ dying in their place with the symbolism of water as an exchange for Jesus’ blood. By dripping water over their head, and by making a public profession of that faith through the outward symbolism, the water washes away their sin.

United Methodist’s believe that you can be baptized at any age.

Many parents have their babies baptized and declare during the ceremony that they will raise their child in the Christian faith and teach their child the precepts, or laws, of what it means to be a Christian following Jesus.

Along with Communion, Baptism is a symbolic ritual that clergy perform usually during a church service. But, Baptism, unlike Communion, can be done in an emergency by laity and congregants of a church.

If, for example, a person is in an accident and was dying, a non-ordained person can baptize that person before their death. Something I learned in one of my Lay Speaker’s classes.

Does this mean that those that are not baptized will not go on to Heaven?

No.  While it is important to be baptized, being baptized does not mean it grants you automatic salvation or an automatic ticket into Heaven.

Getting Baptized is just the beginning of an ongoing process of responding to God's call to you.

Baptism begins your life-long journey of learning and growing in your faith. Salvation ultimately requires trust in Christ and the acceptance of God's grace.

What does it mean to grow in God’s Grace?

Oh, you get a faith lesson today!

There are three distinct kinds of Blessings God gives to His children.

The one that surrounds us all without anything we have done to earn it is Grace, God’s Grace.

When you accept Jesus as your savior, you fall into what’s called God’s Grace. Gaining God’s Grace is not something you’ve earned, you haven’t done anything to deserve God’s Grace. God bestows it upon all who proclaim Jesus as their savior and they place their faith and trust in Him.

Living within God’s Grace is a wonderful favor God blesses us with when we decide to follow and trust Jesus.

Some religions will not baptize you until you are old enough to purposefully accept Jesus as your savior. Not so in the United Methodist Church. Any age can be baptized.

The United Methodists’ denomination, decided that children and babies can be baptized in the church because their parents proclaim during the church service to the congregation, they will raise their child in the Christian faith and teach them about their saving faith in Jesus. There is also a response the congregation makes back to them.

Of course, we all know how that is abused by many. They stop into a church for their child to be baptized and are never to be seen again.

Does this mean that they are not saved? That they won’t go to Heaven?

Not necessarily. God’s Grace is open to everyone that declares Jesus is their Lord and Savior and that they trust in Him with all their Heart, Soul, and Mind. Not everyone that makes that declaration goes to church. God knows a person’s heart. He knows who trusts in Jesus.

But it is also true, that those that come in for a fast baptism, Wham/ Bam, thank you, God, and then they go off and live their lives without another thought of Christ Jesus… they can’t expect to end up in Heaven.

But I digress, God is still God and can do whatever He wishes, but…

Grace is a Free Gift, and it is extended to only those that Profess openly and without hesitation, that Jesus is their Lord and Savior. That their faith is only in Him for their forgiveness of sin and their salvation.

God slathers on Grace to His people. When you are covered in God’s Grace what can you expect?

In the Holy Scriptures, we can gather more information on what it means to live in God’s Grace… in Romans 5:1-2 in the Message Bible.

“1 By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us - set us right with Him, make us fit for Him - we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. 2 And that's not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that He has already thrown open His doors to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand - out in the wide-open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.”

I love the way the Message Bible says those words, standing tall and shouting our praise…

When you have accepted Christ Jesus into your life and asked Jesus to become your Lord and Savior… You entered into God’s Grace.

When you live in and under God’s Grace, you know you have all of God’s attention. You can come boldly before God and tell Him what you want or need. You have the right to stand there and shout, or cry, or plead your case, or jump for joy, or stamp your feet in anger… You have God’s personal and undivided attention.

You no longer need to fear that you are a lost soul. You no longer have to think that no one cares about what you think or do with this life you are living. God sees you. Hears you. And desires to be a part of you and your life.

I see the differences God makes in people’s lives. Their eyes tell the story of how God has become more important to them than their own life. How they have given every part of themselves over to God. Is it heretical to do so? Crazy even - to give all and everything of themselves over to God?

No. When you experience God personally, there is no going back. You won’t be able to deny His existence. You won’t be able to hide the love of God you feel toward God and toward everyone you encounter. It flows so easily out of you that you wash others in God’s love. You can’t help it. God is now a part, a LIVING part of you. You symbolize Baptism. You wash others with God’s Love, just like He washed you.

That’s when you become truly Baptized in Christ Jesus.

You become astutely aware of what Jesus did for YOU. Dying on a cross for You. Living now again – inside, and around You.

As we heard in our first Scripture lesson:

1 Peter 3: in verses 13-15 

 

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

Tell those that ask you about Jesus. What you have experienced living with Christ. Tell them how you experienced your TRUE Baptism. How Jesus made all the difference in your life. And that you’ll never be the same, ever again, because HE washed away and forgave all your sins, cleansed, and made you whole.

And if you are listening in or online, tuning into today’s service, if you don’t know Jesus and would like more information… I urge you to contact this church, or another United Methodist Church in your area, and ask them about becoming a baptized follower of Christ Jesus.

Jesus is the reason I am here today with you. It is through my love for Him and the Grace He has given me freely, that I come to lead you in God’s grace and love today. AMEN.  (Hymn: Freely, Freely pg 389)

BENEDICTION: LORD, when we come before you in our baptism, breathe into us, and place Your Grace around and in us. Let us Learn about You all our days and raise our Families in the Knowledge of Christ Jesus. We ask this in Your Holy Name, AMEN.

 

New Content Coming Soon.

Other Fine Blogs-Rants-Articles to Ponder!

Cabbies – You Got It Right!

By Cynthia Saarie

I love cab drivers. (aka - Uber drivers for the solopreneurs…)

And so, you know for sure - I love Cabbies!

Bus Drivers are right up there, too.

Every place I’ve lived, I make it a practice to ride somewhere in a cab.

Cabbies know things.

Cabbies know the best places to…

  • shop
  • to eat
  • go to the movies
  • where to find the best apartments

Cabbies are a link to the new community you have moved into.

A wealth of new info for the asking.

But so many never ask any questions.

They ride in silence in the back.

Be brave! Speak up! Ask!!

And me… being the nosey person with a million questions…I ask.

I love new places and communities.

When I was a younger woman I moved around a lot.

Because I could.

In one year, when I was nineteen, I lived in five different states and had thirteen different jobs.

Why?

More like, why not?

How did it happen?

I went to a trade school in Pittsburgh, PA.

I wanted to be a stewardess.

Mistake number one. Some trade schools are better than others.

Three days before I graduated, I found out that I was an inch too short to be a steward on a plane.

This was long before the Equal Rights amendments passed. They could discriminate on height – age – weight – race - well… you know…

Companies discriminated against everything back in the 70s.

BUT the trade school instructors told me I was qualified and trained to become a travel agent or a reservationist. Oh, yay.

Neither which I wanted.

I tried.

I worked in several cities as a travel agent making minimum wage and no benefits.

I wouldn’t qualify for ‘Fam’ trips for the next few years.

Fam trips were ‘Familiarization Trips’ where you got discounted hotels and travel.

I never earned enough money to take off time to go anywhere.

I decided to go visit my friend in New Jersey.

Lynn lived in the dorm room next to mine.

I figured I would visit her and have better luck with work in the “Tri-State” area… That area is in-between NYC, Upper NJ, and Connecticut.

Mistake number two.

When I pulled up in front of Lynn’s house, well - her parent’s house,

Lynn came out the door and told me to leave my car parked in the street.

I jumped into her car.

She had an interview nearby and said they’ll interview me as well.

The interview didn’t happen for me.

When we got back - my car was gone.

Now I’ll admit it wasn’t a great car. In fact, it was a 1967 Chevy.

It would be worth something now but not then. It was a piece of…

It was mine, and it got me where I needed to go.

And now it was gone.

Someone crashed into my car while parked out front.

I moved into Lynn’s parent’s basement with the spiders.

Lynn lived far enough away from “The City” (NYC) that I couldn’t get a job without traveling an hour away to the three major airports.

I did manage to get a job one town over at a Golf and Country Club.

I became their newest waitress.

I had to take a cab or bus there and pay with my earned tips.

It was a classy place. Million-dollar incomes were golfing and smoking cigars.

I had never been around such high-end customers.

HINT: Don’t work around those that earn a lot. They’re terrible tippers.

Since the customers all had accounts there, they only had to sign their names to the bills they racked up.

And add in a tip if they felt so inclined. But unfortunately, most were not very motivated to do so.

Our tips came in our paychecks at the end of the week. Taxes were also assessed onto our earned tips.

The hourly pay was bad at $1.45 an hour plus tips. No benefits.

Most days I walked the four miles to and from the country club.

Luckily it was summer.

Mistake number three.

Watch whom you choose to date.

I started dating an underling chef, not the head honcho, but one of the up and comers.

Tall - dark - and handsome.

Todd was bubbly with a terrific personality and a graduate degree from the Culinary Institute of America in New Haven, Connecticut.

He had lovely dimples and a killer smile.

But he liked to drink. A lot.

It seems to be a quirk of many chefs and kitchen personnel.

They swear a lot while making fine cuisine and drink a lot between orders.

There were a few perks.

One nice perk was the free lunch or dinner we were given when working that shift.

We chose a free hamburger or soup and salad for lunch.

Or a fillet of sole or chicken breast grilled for dinner - along with a salad.

We served our high-end customers with elite French table service.

Our Maître D would seat our honored guests and a Sommelier would produce different bottles of wine tableside.

We tag-teamed for serving. First, one in the back gets the food ready for the front to serve.

We had busboys and a man at the piano playing ballads during dinner.

All very fancy and the cuisine tasted superb.

Mistake number four.

There are a lot of underhanded and evil people out there.

Two of them were the head chef and the country club manager.

One evening after our shift ended, Todd was getting finished up in the kitchen before he was going to take me back to Lynn’s house.

Todd also lived at home, so there was none of that hanky-panky going on… in case you were wondering.

We were almost out the door when there was a loud yell.

We saw the manager and head chef loading a frozen side of beef and cases of fine wines and whiskey into the manager’s minivan.

Then they saw us. I saw the manager pull out his hand gun.

Organized crime is nothing to mess around with. I ran.

I left that night and went to Connecticut.

Bus drivers are cool guys, especially those who drive at night through the towns and cities to other states.

I asked the bus driver if he knew anyone in Connecticut who would rent me a room?

It so happened that he did…He was from New Haven and was headed home.

An older woman named Helen Chard, and I mean ancient. Like about 80.

Hey, I was 19. Everyone older than 50 was really old.

Helen lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment on Howard Avenue in New Haven.

Howard Avenue. The main drag through the city to the Yale-New Haven Hospital.

I have to laugh because we say AVE. in Central New York around the Syracuse area. Not Avenue.

But everyone in New Haven said Avenue in long drawn-out three syllables.

My bus driver called Helen at about 11 PM on his way back to his city.

“Sure, come on over and drop her off.”

The big Greyhound bus stopped in front of the old house on one of the busiest streets in the city.

 

Helen rented me a couch for $20 a week.

I supplied her with groceries for the two of us when I went to work at a restaurant called ‘The Ship’s Wheel’ one town over in Milford.

I wonder if that restaurant is still there…

Well, probably not, considering it was 45 years ago!

I looked it up on Google, and it showed an old matchbook cover for sale on eBay.

Huh. Go figure.

My cabbie found me that job.

I asked him where the best restaurant was, and that is where he went.

The tips were good there. I saved enough to take a Greyhound bus back home to Syracuse two days before Christmas.

Bus riders beware. You may have an adventure!

After saying goodbye to Helen and having my favorite cabbie bring me over to the Greyhound bus station - I curled up in the back of the bus and got ready for the long ride back to Upstate, NY.

I had no food or snacks with me. The bus driver kindly put my two large boxes under the bus and climbed aboard.

There were two young guys, two seats forward and across the aisle from me.

They were having a good laugh.

“College kids,” I thought.

One of them noticed me and asked if I wanted something to drink?

Red flags should have gone up all over the place but didn’t.

“Sure!”

They had large paper cups - filled one with something and passed it back to me.

Jack Daniels and Coke. Lots of both.

In fact, they had two bottles of Jack and three 64-ounce bottles of Coke with them for their shorter trip from Yale University in New Haven to Springfield, Massachusetts.

They planned on a very well-lubricated trip.

One I remember had the name of Ray Yutz, or something like that.

Ray convinced a very drunk me to get off the bus with them and spend the night with his family.

They were done with school for the holiday season, and he lived at home in-between semesters.

Yup, I did it. I got off the bus.

My bus driver shook his head and laughed, put my two large boxes into a storage bin at the Springfield station, and waved goodbye.

He might not think too much of my decision, but he didn’t think I was in trouble either. I gave him a wink, a hug, and told him my name.

Just in case…

The Goon Squad really exists.

Ray and his friend, I think his name was Ben, called over a cabbie that was parked out in front of the bus station.

I told the cabbie my name as we were piling into the cab.

I told him I was going with these two drunk guys to Ray’s house, and Ray gave him the address.

I love cabbies.

He asked I was going to go with - them?

Yup. I was.

He laughed and wrote down my name next to the address he would take us to.

Ray’s family met us outside the family home. Not a bad-looking place.

Mom and Dad and two younger brothers and FIVE giant sisters.

Each sister looked likely to weigh well over 350 pounds.

Ray said, “Don’t mind them. They are the Goon Squad.

They’re going to cook us one heck of a great dinner, then you can crash.”

My Dad will take you back to the bus station in the morning.

Okay…

The Goons can cook!

These girls may be heavy - but full of life and funny.

Ray’s parents were not surprised when he brought home friends and wanted them to feed and house them for the night.

Ray told me there are thirteen kids in in his family.

His parents were very busy in their younger years.

I explained over dinner what I was doing and why I was heading back to Syracuse.

Some people just love meeting others and hearing new stories.

That was Ray and his crazy family. I wished I wasn’t so drunk so I could have remembered more.

I chalk it up to the Jack Daniels and the Christmas season.

Ray’s Dad - the Cabbie.

I washed up in the bathroom in the morning.

When I came downstairs, the dining room table was full of breakfast foods.

Ray and Ben were there, along with the rest of Ray’s family.

Everyone ‘Hello-ed’ me as I entered the room. Ray offered me a chair next to him. He gave me a quick smooch on my cheek, and I blushed.

Right in front of his parents? OMG.

“Where was I sleeping?” I asked Ray quietly. Not sure of my night behavior.

“You were sleeping next to Beth.” That was his response.

Ray’s Mom smiled and passed me a batch of biscuits. Beth passed the butter.

I watched Ray’s Dad get up from the table and announce that it would be time to go in fifteen minutes.

Ray helped me with my coat. Then, he walked me out to his Dad’s cab!

Next Stop… Springfield’s Bus Station.

Ray’s Dad opened the back door for me, and Ray helped me into the cab.

While his Dad walked around to his door, Ray bent over and gave me a kiss goodbye and slipped me a note with his name and how to contact him.

His Dad, the cabbie, drove me to the bus station and turned around, waving away my trying to pay him for the ride.

“Nope. You made my boy really happy. Merry Christmas to you and a safe ride home.”

And away he drove.

I love cabbies.

Bus to Syracuse.

Back in the station, I gathered my two huge boxes and made my way over to the bus pulling into the station.

I only had to pay a $5 delayed trip, and the note Ray handed me had a $20 bill tucked inside.

I had paid for the correction and purchased a few snacks at the shop before getting on that next bus.

This time I sat up front and chatted with the bus driver all the way back to Syracuse.

Chuck was funny, polite, and way away from Brooklyn, where he called home.

We shared some Pringles and stories.

Chuck helped me get my boxes out from under his bus onto a cart that I could roll to the cabs out front.

It was a great Christmas Eve and a memorable Christmas season.

The snow was deep back home. So, my cabbie and I sang Christmas carols.

I love my cabbies and bus drivers.

Somehow the ones that work so hard keeping track of wayward children like me, are the best people in the world.

Creating Killer Content with Boondoggle

by Cynthia Saarie

1-11-2022

Does anyone remember boondoggle? It was colored flat plastic string I wove into cool designs and key chains. They had very little intrinsic value…but served a purpose.

I still had a baby rattle. It was a bracelet with larger plastic beads on a stretched-out elastic band and a two-tone plastic bell. Pink and blue - made for either sex. It was a remnant left over from my baby days.

Why did I need it? What possible use could I have for a baby rattle? Let me try to explain.

I was twelve and addicted to boys. Hormones hollered almost as loud as I could yell. And I had a boyfriend. Yeah, a boyfriend four years older than me. My parents thought he was only two years older and just a friend. I think his hormones raged twice mine, maybe not.

Is that normal? Do boys have a higher sex drive than girls?

Back to the boondoggle.

Yeah…I know. You wanted more sex talk. Boys or girls…living vicariously through other people's written stories about their sexcapades.

I lived at home. Of course - I did. I was twelve. My bedroom was in the back of the house on the second floor, with my windows overlooking the driveway.

I made a long – long – and even longer than that - boondoggle chain that stretched out my window to the ground - about fifteen feet below. Okay. I exaggerated about how long it was. Attached to the long boondoggle chain was the baby bracelet rattle.

Now - back to my boyfriend…

He was not the kind of good-looking guy every girl drooled over.

He was okay - not muscular or well built. But, on the other hand, he wasn't a snappy tie-dyed 60s dresser. He had long shoulder-length stringy black receding hair and would one day lead to early baldness. Not a head-turner. A perfect candidate for me. Someone no one would believe I would be interested in - the best under-the-covers boyfriend.

He wrote me romantic poems. He could damn near make me wet myself with his kisses. Yes, those raging hormones are hard at it.

Let's give this guy a name to make it a little easier. Jack. (Not his real name in case he ever reads this!)

Jack had another girlfriend beside me. She was the one he flaunted as his girl. I knew about her - and she didn't know about me. She was his age. She and Jack were kind of sexually active.

That was fine with me because I got his magic tongue. We weren't serious. We didn't plan on a long-term relationship.

Come on…I was twelve. I had a lot of years ahead of me!

Jack would come over in the middle of the night. He'd rattle my long boondoggle chain. I'd retract the chain back up to my windowsill and sneak downstairs - out the back door to my parent's tent. (They had it set up all summer long for their three daughters to use for sleepovers with our friends. They probably didn't think it would be with boys.)

Good times. Great nights!

Oh, and you thought I'd give away more?

This is about boondoggles and if they still exist... Not about my prepubescent sex life.

But you can imagine more if you want.

And young girls (and older girls) lie…sometimes a lot. You believe what you want. I just wanted to know if boondoggles still existed. And - if you were paying attention! Ha!

What is THAT?

I’m very careful with my Mom. At 87, she lives with her dog, Libby, in an apartment five blocks from my house.

I make sure she has fresh flowers for her table each week and fresh food choices in the fridge.

Usually, after my bone builders class, (I teach on Tuesday and Thursday mornings) I stop in to check on her - let the dog out and check the yard for dog piles.

My husband goes down and plays cards with her every evening for almost two years. They chat, pig out on Cheetos and ice cream. I can’t do that every day - but I go in about three to four times a week.

Each week, I do Mom’s laundry, check that she has plenty of toilet paper, paper towels, and coffee. I take her to her doctor appointments, and the dog to the groomers to have her nails trimmed every other month.

Mom has Meals on Wheels come to her door three times a week with lunch and dinner selections. Those are kept in the refrigerator and then popped into the microwave when Mom’s hungry. It’s a great program and the food is good and nutritious.

Mom can handle her coffee maker and the microwave without any problem. I try to keep the items that need to be cooked on the stove to a minimum. I don’t need her to be burned or to burn down the apartment building.

One evening after my husband Skip got home, he told me when he’d gotten there she was eating a strange concoction she called ‘Milk Toast.’ I laughed because I hadn’t heard of that food in many years. Not since my childhood.

Now, if you are from most middle to upper middle classed families, you probably aren’t aware of Milk Toast. But since I’m from a lower middle class - and bordering on a poor family, we had milk toast occasionally.

Milk toast is made from bread that is going stale. Too hard to make a good PB and J (Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich). But it’s not green and hairy with mold. Perfect for milk toast.

You lightly toast your stale bread in the toaster, butter it lavishly - put it into a cereal bowl and sprinkle a little sugar and cinnamon on top. Then you add about a cup of warmed milk.

Ta-Da! Milk toast.

We had it for dinner when the groceries were not available and never for breakfast - because we didn’t have time to prepare it before hurrying out to school.

It was always a ‘breakfast for dinner’ meal thing. Some families have pancakes or waffles for dinner. We had milk toast.

Mom certainly didn’t need to be making milk toast now for her dinner. There were two meals in the fridge to heat up and lots of canned goods in her pantry.

Why was she taking a trip down memory lane and making milk toast?

The answer came from the tv. The Walton’s were on the cable network. She watched the poor mountain family and thought of ‘home.’ She grew up in a poor family and after she and my Dad met, raised a borderline poor family.

All my childhood we had ‘poor’ people’s kinds of foods. Lots of items Mom canned, hand made clothes that were ridiculed in school, and milk toast every so often for dinner.

I’m not complaining. To us that was normal. To those around us in school…we were very different.

I grew up near Syracuse University with affluent children. Many of their parents taught at SU or LeMoyne College. Some had doctors in the family. The Syracuse medical center with three different hospitals surrounded SU.

This is similar to many families leaving their homes and all they know in the Ukraine and moving to another neighboring country.

We have had many people migrate to the USA. Our country is full of people that at one time were migrants from somewhere else in the world.

Unless you are a member of a Native Indigenous People, you are from a migrant family tree.

I’ve been lifting up the people of the Ukraine in prayer. My church, the United Methodist Church of America, has an organization within called UMCOR – United Methodist Committee on Relief. They are always one of the first on the scene of any disaster or need worldwide, and they are assisting the people in Poland with the influx of immigrants from the Ukraine.

If you wish to donate to help UMCOR you can help by going to https://umcmission.org/umcor/

One hundred percent goes to the missional work of UMCOR because all those involved are volunteers. They are boots on the ground working with the United Methodist Church in Poland right now, airlifting supplies and health packets. Thank you if you are able to financially support this organization. If you can’t help with a donation: Please pray for the people of the Ukraine. Pray for peace, health, and safety. Thank you.

How to Beat Yourself Up Without Even Trying!

by Cynthia Saarie

Do you smoke? Cigarettes, I mean?

I did. I came from a family of smokers.

My Dad was a Drill Instructor in the Marines. He smoked two packs of non-filtered Pall Mall’s a day.

My Mom is a nurse. She worked in the surgery center assisting with minor in-and-out surgeries.

I am the oldest of three daughters, all of us smoked.

Mom and Dad went to a hypnotist. It worked for Dad, surprisingly, but not for Mom.

She snuck around behind Dad’s back and continued to smoke.

 

Most smokers don’t know that a non-smoker can tell a smoker without seeing them light up.

Cigarette smoke permeates clothes and the person’s skin.

You can smell it on their breath and in their hair.

Kissing a person that smokes is like kissing an ashtray.

In other words, Mom fooled no one.

 

When my father quit, he looked at me and said, “If I can quit after forty years, you can after six.”

So, I quit. And a few days later - I had one cigarette and it started all over again.

The following month I quit. I had one cigarette and it began again.

The third time was the charm.

 

We were now into winter. SNOW.

I told the house full of people - I was quitting. Really.

PLEASE - Do Not Smoke around me, at least for a while. I was laughed out of the room.

Every time I wanted a cigarette I poured a large glass of orange juice and went outside onto the front porch. I stood there until I finished drinking the glassful.

I wore no winter coat and froze in the sub-zero weather determined to break the addiction cycle.

By the end of the third month my body no longer craved the nicotine, but the urge to put something into my mouth lived on.

 

I understand why so many complain of getting fat when quitting.

I had to find something else to put into my mouth instead of food.

It became pen tops.

You know the kind. Bic pens - with the plastic top. I gnaw on them.

I think it took almost three years before I finally stopped thinking about having a smoke.

And what do you do with a pen in your hand all the time? You gnaw and WRITE!

 

Yes, thus began my writing career.

Poetry, stories, non-fiction… you name it, I wrote about it.

I have heard about people switching out one bad habit for another…

I can’t say writing is a bad habit. In fact, if anything it has been a blessing!

 

Telling others to stop smoking doesn’t work. A person has to really want it.

And want it bad.

You can keep smoking if you want. Or not. You are not living my life.

But I’m glad I did quit, and that I found something so much better for me.

Pen tops and my blossoming copywriting career.