Why written words will never go away……

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I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”

I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.”

Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.”

Over and over again, Paul especially, stresses the importance of writing this “with his own hand.” At times others would take down the message, but when Paul wanted to emphasize something he said this. It was his way of saying, “Pay attention, I want to you to see how important this is to me.”

When we get something handwritten it’s almost like we get a piece of that person, almost as if they leave a bit of themselves behind with the ink on the page. When I want to keep someone close, I tuck something they’ve written in my wallet. Even now I have some folded notes and little drawings I have held onto for years. My wallet is fat, but not with folded money, with other kinds of treasures.

And today I was given a special journal, an unexpected gift to go along with us on our journey. Elaine said, “This had your name on it.” as she held it out, smiling. I will keep it and scribble notes in it and maybe someday years from now someone will find it and wonder whose it was.

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Tomorrow, we will go on a long-expected road trip. We will drive for miles and miles. We will sing out loud with the radio across several states and we’ll stop where we want. It will be a grand adventure and I thank God for the opportunity. And in my purse, there are four people I hold dear who will come with me because right now I am holding them all close in prayer. I need part of them near me, with me on this journey.

Because what’s written on those pages I carry is part of them, and part of me too.

That’s why what’s written will never go away.

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Lent Day #35: Relationship……why He came.

Love one another

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-37

Without a doubt, relationships can be the most challenging part or the most rewarding part of life. It’s those really close relationships that can really put our hearts through the wringer. We brush past people everyday barely skimming the surface of each others lives. We can smile while in line at the store, offer to let someone go in front of us, practice grace with those rude drivers, hold the door for a Mom laden down with strollers and packages, or an elderly person struggling with a walker. These are easy. It’s the ones we are closest to that are the hardest.

What do you do when a relationship you’ve always counted on is broken? It always seems like it’s one person who hurts worse than the other. How do you handle the indifference of someone you thought was so close? How can they not see your suffering in silence? How can they turn away and not care?

I believe God gave us family and friends to teach us the hardest lessons about practicing grace and love in the midst of pain. Sometimes pain so severe you think you might not live through it. But when we think about Jesus life, we see someone who loved perfectly so that we would never ever have to be alone in this life. He came to create a bond with us that would never be broken. Ever.

It’s true, we need each other. God created us to live in relationships. But the truth is, we need God more. There is only One relationship we can’t live without, either in this life or the life to come. When we put our trust in Him each day, He surrounds us with the strength and peace we need to keep going, even in the midst of turmoil in the people around us. I know that to be true from experience. Sometimes, all we can do is release our loved one to God’s care and know that as the King and Healer of hearts, He has the power to turn it around for ultimate good. But it’s so tough to do this. Jesus knows this, He was betrayed by one of his closest friends.

And I look at my own life, how I have failed Him so many times, sometimes barely skimming the surface of our relationship, even though it cost Him everything. His love continues to amaze me. He’s promised to never leave me or forsake me. That’s a guarantee that just doesn’t happen in this life.

Please know…………if you are going through heartache with a relationship today, be assured that there are people you don’t even know praying for you right now.

On earth and Heaven. Take heart, and take hope my friends.

 

Day 17 in the Desert

Monday blessings....

It’s always easy when you’re striding along that wide sunlit road and things are going well. It’s easy to sit sanctimoniously here in my safe place when everything’s going just fine and shout encouragement up to you as you’re desperately scrambling on the rocks. I shout, “Hey you there, I’ll bring you some water when you come down! You can do it, I know you can, keep up the good work, bro!  You barely glance my direction for you’re too busy concentrating on placing one foot in front of the other.

But I have been through enough to remember that hard path, and for that I am thankful. And so I scramble up to you and side by side, we make it together. I hand you a canteen and I can see you are grateful.

There have been too many times I have passed people by, too intent on my own story to find out about theirs.

I’m wondering, on this 17th day in the desert with Jesus, if I’ve ever really sacrificed anything for the sake of the cross.

My heart goes out to those today in the persecuted church. The list grows long…….China, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Africa, Ukraine. All over the globe people are losing their lives, and not just for the cross. In some cases, just for being different brand of religion or people group.

And right here in America…..it’s getting more unpopular isn’t it, to call yourself a Christian. I like what they went by in the early church, “Followers of the Way.” Yes I like that very much. Every day here in this land, people are waking up with flickering candles, trying desperately to keep them lit no matter what. They cup their hands pretectively around them, against all odds.

I see people, brave ones in difficult situations; making the right choices when it’s neither easy or popular. I see the worry on their faces, wondering how far the paycheck is going to stretch and still not hesitating to give when they see someone else in need. Taking care of sick kids, sick parents, sick friends. Everyday they light their candle of hope and set out again courageously on paths that are steep and getting steeper.

We may not always be exempt from real persecution or threat here in America and I can only hope and pray that we will be good stewards of our safe shores.

And help me, Lord, be one to blow a little breath of encouragement to keep my neighbor’s candle lit instead of being one who snuffs it out with negative attitudes and cynicism. Or grumbling and complaining. I want to be one who flickers the flame to life.

A hope bringer to a world that needs it desperately.

There can be no faith without doubt, no hope without anxiety, and no trust without worry. These shadow us from dawn to dusk, indeed, they appear even in our dreams. As long as we withhold internal consent to these varied faces of fear, they are no cause for alarm, because they are not voluntary. When they threaten to consume us, we can overpower them with a simple and deliberate act of trust: “Jesus, by your grace I grow still for a moment and I hear you say, ‘Courage, It’s me! Don’t be afraid.’ I Place my trust in your presence and your love. Thank you.

Brennan Manning

 

This next week will be interesting since I will be traveling and access will be hit and miss. Posts may be a bit “different” So I thank you in advance for your patience. Lori

photo: google images

Lent Day #14: The Struggle (when you start to doubt your sanity)

Bologna boy

Up until now it’s been a process of emptying myself out so words could come in. Somehow it has been easy for me to believe that God would supply the word manna for each day. But today, it all changed. The struggle has been a deeper one. My mind has refused to quiet down.

I have been in and out of the shop several times today off and on. I took the tea-pot out there and consumed 3 mugs of Tazo Zen tea, along with the doves and the wind chimes you would think my mind would calm right down but it was wound tighter than an eight-day clock.

All the conditions seemed to be right…..it was a nice drizzly day and I started with quiet time this morning and that was just fine. But a significant piece was missing that hasn’t been before. Doubt and fear kicked in simultaneously. I think it was mostly fear. That was what ultimately paralyzed me. That I was foolish for trying this.

I mentioned this to Elaine, my faithful sounding board this evening and she said, “Why can’t those be the words, what you just said.” She has faith like a child, beautiful in its simplicity. After all, that’s what Jesus valued isn’t it? I love that she believes in me, in this.

And my Dad too, when I mentioned my Lent writing journey to him yesterday, was so excited and on board. What a blessing it is to have support, even when you doubt your own sanity. After all, that’s what keeps us all on track isn’t it? When someone gives verbal assent to your own inner assurance, it bolsters you in a way that nothing else can. It gives you that little nudge that says, “It’s okay, it may not always be easy but it’s right and we are behind you all the way.”

So this is my lesson today, that some days it will be a struggle. We lift our eyes to Jesus out there on the water and we forget our fear, all we can see is His face, His voice saying, “Come on, you can do it.” We plunge in enthusiastically like Peter, then we look down and realize we are actually walking on water and panic, then we sink. But thankfully, He is always there to pull us up.

Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  Matthew 14:22

Photo: http://i.huffpost.com/…/322416/slide_322416_3042121_free.jpg

See Me

Enough will never be enough.....

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10

See me not as a stranger but as a potential gift to be opened.

Allow me to show you what beauty I hold inside, keeping in mind that maybe you might have to dig just blow the surface to find them.

Remember………..your best friend was once a stranger like me.

If you already know me and love me, don’t take me for granted.

Don’t skim over my words when I am talking like you can’t wait to interject your own. My words have value and when I share them it’s because I want to give you something of value, for it’s my love that’s behind them.

Listen to me…….Because someday you will only hear an echo where they once were.

There will be a time when you would sell all you have to see my face, hear my voice.

Imagine hearing from me again after I am in Heaven.

Pretend it’s that time the next time you call, or see my face and it’s like the most perfect summer day you ever spent.

Cherish me.

Here me now when I am right here beside you.

My words are some of the best advice you may ever get.

Don’t be too busy dismissing them because after all “it’s just me.”

See me as that new friend you are trying so hard to impress.

Remember all the years I have been here and all the rocky roads my feet have been on right beside you.

Remember me.

Don’t wait for the echo.

Image from Google

Finding our place in the Son

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New Year’s weekend was spent at the beach. It was 4 glorious days of chilly evenings and mornings and brilliant sunshine during the day. We didn’t want to leave so four days turned into five. It was walking for miles looking for sea glass and eating seafood fresh off the boat. It was breathing sea air facing the surf and letting go of 2014. It was putting off stress and anxiety for another day.

Before that,  we had all gathered around a table and celebrated my folks 63rd wedding Anniversary. It was a week of celebrations.

2015 hit me full force on the morning of January 4th. The night before we had pulled into Bakersfield RV park where we have always had a wonderful stay. It was dark. I chose the backside of the park thinking it would be quieter, but it was a bad spot and the hookups were situated in an awkward place. We were both irritable and hungry. We had dinner and missed the season premiere of Downton Abbey because of bad cable in the park.

I tossed and turned all night and awoke with a feeling of dread such as I hadn’t had in a long time. It surrounded me like a cloak. Happy New Year.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

That feeling stayed with me off and on for the entire week. I prayed, I did battle. I also kept thanking God for each new day, which is always a gift we don’t deserve, no matter how we may be feeling. I also spent some sleepless nights trying to map out the coming year. I solved unsolvable puzzles in my mind at 2:00 AM awaiting the alarm at 4:00 AM. Finally, the last part of my week ended. I felt like Jacob after he wrestled with the angel of God all night.

The truth is, all of us are walking around with our hips out of joint. All of us are in a battle of some kind or another.

Sunday January 10th, I decided to put dread and fear on hold. It was a wonderful day. E had rigged up an ingenious antenna so that we could get all four PBS stations and I watched them off and on all day just because I could. We had a wonderful dinner and I made scones for dessert which we ate with lemon curd and blackcurrant jam. We lifted our glasses as we watched two episodes of Downton, the one we missed and the new one.

This morning the dread threatened to come back, I was awake at 2 again and prayed for merciless sleep. I envisioned the still pond, the diamonds on the water, I recalled the sounds of the waves, and the foghorn in the night. I asked Jesus to send me some sleep and after about an hour He did.

This morning I beat back the darkness by opening the Word. For God has given us a promise, that if we open His word with expectation of receiving what it has the power to give; He will provide us with light on our path, if only just for the few steps we must walk today.

I remembered Lady Galadriel’s parting gift to Frodo in Lord of the Rings, the glass vial filled with the light from the star of Earendil. She tells him, ” I give you the light of Eärendil, our most beloved star. May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”

Jesus said: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” There will be days in this life when we wake filled with fear, dread, even despair, but we can always take hope and take heart, if we are believers.

Do you see it? It’s right there just off the trail. A sunny spot with a log perfect for sitting so that we can turn our faces to the Son and the sun, so we can warm enough to go on again.

This morning I have already laughed and cried reading Anne Lamott’s new book “Small Victories.” She is one of my little patches of sun today. In her book I read these lines by Wendell Berry:

“it may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.”

Take heart and take hope today with me friends. I have never done this before on my blog, though other bloggers do it each year. My word for this year which the Holy Spirit dropped into my heart this morning is “Stand.” Because before you walk or run, you need to stand. And stand strongly.

 

 

It’s a “God Thing”

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The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  (1 Corinthians 1:18)

This beautiful cross you see above comes with a story. It’s one I have great pleasure in sharing because it is a perfect illustration of how the Holy Spirit brings strangers together and makes them friends. The maker of this very special cross happened across my blog one day and something I said struck a chord because he wrote a beautiful comment of encouragement which blessed me tremendously. It was one of those “God Things.”

Time and time again I marvel at how the Holy Spirit uses people and circumstances to give us just the encouragement we need at just the right time. It’s happened over and over again and it surprises me, even though I should know better by now. Now I will tell you a little story about how this particular cross came to me. It’s another “God Thing.”

I had expressed an interest in these handmade crosses made by Mark McCullough via his Etsy website which you can find here. Then, right around Christmas time, I get a surprise email saying that one of these crosses was going to be shipped to me as a gift! In the accompanying message he asked if he could share the why and how of the story. I was like, “Hello…..of course you can!” He described how he wanted the crosses to go to three individuals for specific reasons. One of whom was me. Here are his words:

You told me in our first email exchange that you sometimes wondered if you shouldn’t just leave the blogging to others, which is something that I think would be a terrible loss for our world.  I wanted you to have a cross, something like a combination of potential inspiration and an expression of my gratitude.  I know that a cross that comes to live with you will find a way to reach out into the world—that’s what I want for all of my crosses, that wherever they go, they touch someone, somehow, and carry the message forward.

So I knew who I wanted the crosses to go to, but I told everyone that it would be a random drawing, and I felt that I had to honor that. I also decided that I was willing to make more crosses if I needed to, to ensure that these three people each got one.

I wrote all the names on little pieces of paper, folded each one up, and dropped them into a gift bag that was sitting next to my desk.  I wouldn’t say that I actually prayed–more like just a “Okay God, here we go” statement.  I shook it up and pulled out a name.  It was Friend #2, whose father is ill.  I drew a second name—you.  I drew the third name, and it was Friend #1.  It would seem that God approved of my choices!  I sat here at my desk for a long while just marveling at the way it had worked out.

After I read his note, it was my turn to marvel. Here is a man working in his workshop miles away, using his talent and creativity for God’s glory and to bless others, and here is me at my computer hammering out words, all because we can’t stop the flow of gratitude that the message of the Cross brings. It’s all about God’s grace and how it flows through each and every one of our lives, and through each other via the Holy Spirit.

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The pictures don’t do it justice, friends. But each time I look at it, I will think of the hands that fashioned it just the way He fashioned all of us. And how wood from all over the world was lovingly joined together to make one perfect whole. Just the way He longs to redeem not just part of the world, but the whole wide world. The cross is the bridge that unifies all people into one Holy family.

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This little cross giveaway became a much bigger thing for me that I ever imagined it would. I figured that a few friends would say, “Sure, I’ve got a place on the wall. Why not?” I thought the whole thing would be lighthearted—just good fun on Christmas. Mark McCullough (The Cross Maker)

It was a “God Thing” and I am humbly grateful.

The Best Gift You Can Give

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They watched from a small distance as kids and parents alike ran up with gifts…..little wrapped packages and decorative bags with fancy bows, plates of homeade cookies; all to show their appreciation for what she does for them everyday,  but mostly for who she is to them.

She’s not just the person who drives their school bus, she’s also  their friend. Oh, she makes them mind the rules of the bus, but she also makes it fun. She’s the one who will listen to what they say when it seems everyone else is too busy or doesn’t care.

She makes every ride to school an adventure, some days they’re an airplane, some days a cruise ship, some days she lets them choose. She will tell you all about the rewards and challenges of working with kids of all ages on a daily basis. Sometimes it just about wrenches her heart in two to see what hardships some of “the least of these” go through in their young lives.

He stepped forward first, the boy in the shadows. As one of several foster kids, his life has not been easy. He held up a colored string, on the end of which he had tied a tiny puff ball, the kind you might use to make a craft project. He said, “Miss Elaine, ths is all I have to give you.” It was all she could not to burst into tears right there.

Then the next two gifts, a multi-colored eraser with a slightly used corner and a little pink bouncy ball, the kind you get from the 25 cent machine in the grocery stores. She said, “My Mom says we don’t have any money.” Oh the burdens these kids carry. She hears them all on the way to and from school. Sometimes she wishes she didn’t.

Another child came and presenter her with a bag, in it were two candles. Well, turns out there were supposed to be three but he held onto the third one all day. At the end of the day, he presented her with it. It smelled like sugar cookies. He might have thought of keeping it himself and maybe his conscience made him give it up. Maybe it was his sister who caught him.

These kids teach us what we sometimes forget, that the best thing you can give is sometimes all you have. Jesus is impressed with that. Just like that day in the temple when He saw the widow drop those two lowly coins in the offering box. He looked at His disciples aghast and astounded by her faith and generousity.

Those three humble gifts that are now prominantly placed where they will never be forgotten. In the stable, by the infant King. I hope I will always remember it when I go to place my “excess” in the offering. And most importantly that I remember the most important lesson of all, that He doesn’t need or want my money, He wants my heart.

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What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Christina Rossetti

The Table

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Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:25

There’s a place I know, maybe you’ve been there too. And centered in that place, there’s something we all gather around regularly though not nearly as much as we used to. If I close my eyes I can hear chairs scraping back and the clink of spoons stirring sugar or cream. I can hear dishes rattling and greetings of welcome. Mind you, it’s not the actual table that makes the magic happen, it’s the incredible women around it. Maybe what you have is a rickety old card table with wobbly legs, or one well used with scars from years of dinners served and children’s crayons gone astray. Maybe it’s even one that’s polished and reserved for the best company. It’s not the table that matters anyway.

What sets this table apart from others is that Jesus is always the guest of honor. And at His table there’s always room for one more. At this table love and grace are served up in healthy portions; they flow as freely as the coffee and tea. At this table you never have to worry about saying the wrong thing. This is a table where Jesus is.  I know it, because I have seen Him there, reflected in the easy laughter and love on each face.

Another thing about this table is that you never have to worry you’ll be given that “look” you know the one I mean, the one I call the “up and down.” I bet you have been the recipient of this a time or too, and yes, sometimes in church. It’s like they’re trying to decide whether you’re suitable enough to join their congregation. No, at this table there is room for imperfection, in fact it is encouraged. More often than not, conversation will flow around what was done wrong during the past week than what was done right.

Sometimes things stay on track and all the questions in the study are answered, but sometimes people get to talking and laughing about something that happened during the week and they only get to question 3. And then, sometimes a deep need is sensed and someone has an opportunity to unload the burden they walked in  with. Here at this table, a hurting soul is never ignored and burdens carried in need never be carried out.

When we hold our heartaches and cares up to the Light in prayer together they become small in the shadow of the Cross.

These women I know, and maybe you know them too, are not just church ladies as they might be described somewhere else. These are warriors, Disciples, followers of the Way. They’ve looked death, destruction, illness, and heartache in the face and haven’t backed down. They take risks and are not afraid to go out into their world to take the love of God to others. They knock on the doors of strangers because that’s what Jesus would have them do.

They are the backbones of their families, often putting themselves last and thinking nothing of it. They are far from perfect and will be the first to tell you that, but they’ll also tell you about their Father who is.

This table is a place where for an hour or so a week, Heaven touches down to earth and no one leaves quite the same as when they came in. And no one ever goes away empty.

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This post is dedicated to my Mom’s Bible study, those faithful ladies, all of whom I am honored to call my friends, my sisters. I love you all and I love you Mom for introducing me to women’s Bible studies and the tables past and present. They will remain with me forever. This post is also dedicated to strong women everywhere who carry the love of Christ wherever they go, no matter what the cost. Jesus loves you and is honored by your lives the way He always honored women when He was down here on earth. I don’t think it was an accident that He chose Mary to be the first to see Him after the resurrection. He values you and me!

Sometimes it takes a Turkey

Tom Kettleman article

Tom Kettleman started showing up last Spring in my hometown of Lodi, California. No one seemed to know where he came from. People learned to watch out for him because he didn’t always use the cross walk, but sometimes he did. Wherever he was, he created a stir. Sometimes he would chase ambulances and patrol cars. I guess they didn’t know whose turf they were on. More often than not he could be found at one of his resting places, behind the parking lot of Lowe’s or hanging out at Panera’s strutting his stuff. Every now and then you could find him behind Wal-Mart. Kettleman Lane and Lower Sacramento road was where you could usually always see him.

People started looking for him and then posting their pictures of where he was that day. Kids and parents alike fell in love with Tom. He became a very popular guy. He never asked for the notoriety, he was just being himself. But something about Tom seemed to bring people of all different walks of life together. It was a curious phenomenon. People who might never have otherwise met started talking about Tom and where they saw him.

Then came the Facebook fan page which swelled to over 3000 members.

The usual trip to the store was somehow brightened by Tom’s antics, especially when he was show-boating, puffing all his feathers up in grand turkey style, it was really something to see.

People might wonder about how this could happen, but the reason is very simple. Tom gave people something to smile about. He gave me something to smile about all the way in Arizona. He gave a little bit of hope to a weary world. A world worn down by work, stress, horrific events in the news. Tom gave people something of a sense of community that is hard to find these days. I guess you could say that Tom was a little bit of an ambassador in that regard.

Sometimes I find that animals and babies have a way of being much more effective at building bridges between people of all faiths, colors, and economic statures.

Or course, there were the naysayers and the haters of Tom as well. There were cruel comments on Facebook, and those who felt that he was a nuisance, a danger to the community. Wherever good and innocence gather, the minions of negativity always seem to spring up as well. Human nature I suppose.

Now Tom is gone and people are saddened. Others don’t understand the sadness. He was just a turkey after all. But I can say that I will truly miss my brother’s pictures and texts about Tom and where he was that day. I will miss the idea of Tom and how he brought my hometown together. Growing up in Lodi was truly a blessing. We had community, we had closeness. It was a safe place where we could walk the streets at just about any time of day or night without fear.

And yet, this thing with Tom makes me realize that community still exists in Lodi. I can already see the good coming out of it on the Friends of Tom page on Facebook. (which is now open only to invitation from other members.)

You see, sometimes it takes something as silly as a turkey to make people believe in each other and their community again. To see something that was there all along. Sometimes God uses turkeys.

The spirit that brought people together while Tom was here has not left. Let it continue to inspire us all to do something good for each other today and everyday. We love and miss you Tom. Inspire on…….

Tom Kettleman, Ron