It’s Back to School Time – by Carolyn Taylor

This is the day that the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

School has started! This summer has gone by so fast, but with the much earlier starting dates than what I remember (usually after Labor Day), there really isn’t much summer, as we used to have it.

I have been very impressed with the love and support that Epworth Villa and the residents have directed to our neighbor to the south, Scissortail Elementary School. This school has nineteen classrooms full of young minds eager to learn the subjects offered, and they are further enhanced by the inter-generational contact with our residents.

We have had residents and staff there to greet the students and parents as they arrive for the new school year. Residents go to the individual classrooms and read to the students and answer endless questions. Epworth Villa furnished snacks for the teachers during work week, provided backpack tags and water bottles with the school logo for all students and staff, and made back-to-school blessing cards for all staff.

As much as we love them, the Scissortail students and staff love us right back. They are already planning to participate in activities at Epworth Villa this year in many ways, from sharing student presentations with residents in Assisted Living and Long-Term Care, to having a costume parade at Halloween, to joining us in the Alzheimer’s Walk.

With the Mission Celebration and Fun Walk last May, the students participated in walking around our lake and enjoying ice cream treats. The money that was raised allowed us to give approximately $111 to each classroom, to purchase permanent books for that class’s library, and to allow students to participate in Book Fair who otherwise would not be able.

The fun Block Party that we had on August 11, raised money for school supplies. Our Religious Life Committee also gave additional money for the beginning of school initiatives.

God, and hard work, have blessed our residents to be financially able to help in this manner at the school. God loves all the children, as do we. Bless you all for being so generous with your time and resources. God Bless all the children and the teachers, as these precious children are our future.

A Father and Son story

Jamie Bannon, Epworth Villa’s Director of Dining Services, was so impressed with our community when he joined us that he convinced his father, Jim Bannon, to come check it out. And the rest, as they say, is history. Even when they are many states apart, the closeness and community of Epworth Villa has the power to bring family together.

Recipe for Joy by Resident, Dianne Weber

Shout for JOY to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs. — Psalm 100:1-2

I had the privilege the last 38 years of my teaching career to teach at a Christian school in Edmond in the Kindergarten and Pre-K Departments. During my tenure, teachers took turns teaching a lesson in our weekly Elementary Chapel for our Pre-K through 5th-grade students.

I titled mine “Recipe for Joy.” I dressed up as a chef and brought my mixing bowl and spatula. I wrote scriptures about joy on 3×5 cards, folded them, and put them in my mixing bowl. Several selected students came up and stirred my mixing bowl full of JOY. As each student stirred and then pulled a card out, it was read and then discussed. These are some of the scriptures I used:

  • The joy of the Lord is my strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)
  • Let the fields be jubilant and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for JOY. (Psalm 97:11)
  • You clothed me with JOY that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. (Psalm 30:11)
  • A cheerful look brings JOY to the heart. (Proverbs 15:30)
  • You will go out in JOY and be led forth in peace. (Isaiah 55:12)
  • I have told you this so that my JOY may be in you and that your JOY may be complete. (John 15:11)

Just a week later, our principal asked us to write a Class Creed that we could use for our opening each day. I decided to use JOY! “JESUS first, OTHERS second, YOURSELF last” became our Class Creed, and it soon became the department’s creed. It was such a JOY for me to share this with my teacher friends. My class also said this poem each morning which was simple but meaningful:

Jesus, and others, and you. What a wonderful way to spell JOY!
Jesus and others and you, the heart of each girl and boy.
J is for Jesus for He has first place.
O is for others we meet face to face.
Y is for you and in all that you do; put yourself last and spell JOY!
How can you cultivate JOY today? Maybe you could give a word or note of encouragement, a hug, a smile, be a good listener, or simply be prayerful for the needs of others.
Jesus, spark JOY in us today as we look to you for our hope and peace.

Hopeful Joy! by Rev. Laura Glover

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

This month we are going to celebrate “Joyful June!” My prayer this Pentecost was for the Holy
Spirit to reinvigorate my joy in life. I invite you to join me in cultivating joy because the world needs more
joy! All I have to do is listen to the first five minutes of the news, and I am reminded of that song from
Hee Haw: “gloom, despair, and agony of me!” As easy as it is to be discouraged by the world, it is even
easier to look away from the chaos and choose instead to chase after comfort and security. But as Christians, we are called to look clearly at the world in all its brokenness, not with despair, but with hopeful joy.

If we want to know and share real joy, then we begin by grounding ourselves in the hope we have
through Jesus Christ. Whether on a global level or a personal level, God’s
promise and plan for the world is for redemption and renewal, and God
keeps God’s promises. The vehicle for God’s promised redemption and renewal is Jesus the Christ. He is the source of our hope. He has redeemed
our sin and brokenness – no matter how great the sin or devastating the brokenness. He has defeated suffering and death, and He will come again to
usher in the Kingdom of God in all fullness. To know Christ is to know hope,
and there is a strong relationship between hope and joy. An unknown author
wrote, “Hope is the soil in which joy is rooted – the ground where joy grows.”

Hopeful joy is much more than just thinking happy thoughts or trying to be more positive. To live in
hopeful joy means that whenever we see or hear or feel brokenness, we choose to look at it clearly and
think about how we hope that situation can be transformed. What do we hope for our nation and for the
world? What do we hope for the planet and creation? What do we hope for the Church? What do we
hope for ourselves and our loved ones? To live in hopeful joy is to get specific and to actively pray for
those hopes to be fulfilled.

And then be ready to get to work. No action is either too small or too big because little things can
become big things when undertaken with hopeful joy. Prof. Sigmon Thornburgh shares the story of
“creative activist” Pedro Reyes in Culiacan, Mexico. Culiacan is the city with the highest rate of gun
deaths in a country ravaged by gun violence. Reyes collected 1,527 guns for the project Palas por Pistolas and melted those guns down into 1,527 shovel heads. Those 1,527 shovels were then used to plant
1,527 trees in the city. That is the power of hopeful joy. It is the power to transform not only our perspectives but also to transform the world. That brings me great joy!