Thirty Years of Worship Ministry

I well remember that long hot drive from Athens, Georgia, back in June of 1988. Our young family was moving to middle Georgia so that my husband could begin his ministry as the new Music Minister at Second Baptist Church. I was driving our big old green 1978 Ford LTD, and the air conditioner had quit working. My youngest son Jonathan was so hot his curly hair was wringing wet. My husband was driving a truck loaded down with boxes I’d been packing for days. Our oldest son Jeremy, 6 years old, was riding in the rental truck with the kind men who had come up from our new church to help us move. Jeremy was quite a conversationalist (and still is a talker) and this momma was actually wondering what in the world he may be telling those guys in that U-Haul! (Jeremy is a Pastor so God was preparing Jeremy even then to use his gift of words to preach God’s Word!) We had no idea the great goodness of God that was ahead for the Morton family. He has blessed us beyond what our young hearts could have even imagined. Gary started leading worship on church staff at the age of 16, so he has led worship for 45 years, 30 of them in one amazing church!

Sunday, June 3, 2018 was a day of celebration for Gary as our church family celebrated his 30 years as worship pastor. God has blessed us by allowing us to serve this wonderful church all these years. What grace! Both our sons came to faith in Christ here, were baptized here, and both of their weddings were also at Second Baptist. There is a sweet peace about being in one church and community for 30 years. They are truly our Second Family!

Our sons had a special part in the service as Jeremy preached, and Jonathan shared about his dad’s ministry and then prayed. Gary and I sang with the choir.

Our pastor and his wife, Jim & Stephanie Perdue presented us with gifts and they were so sweet to include our five grandkids in the presentation! It was a very emotional day, but a day with hearts full of praise for God’s tender mercies and faithfulness in our lives. Gary and I hosted lunch following the service for our family who came to celebrate with us, and some special friends who have supported us all these years. It was a sweet time!

I love these two pictures of our amazing choir and orchestra, approximately 25 years apart! The first picture below is from the early days, what us old timers at Second Baptist fondly call “The Red Church.” Red pews, red carpet, red choir sashes, red curtain over the baptistry. RED, that’s it. You know how long someone has been at SBC when they say red church!

This picture is from Christmas 2017 and our choir/orchestra’s beautiful night of worship. (We moved into our “new church” October 3, 2004). There are some folks that were in the choir above and are still in the one below! Me included! I have loved singing in my husband’s choir for 41 years…

This picture is also from the early days at Second Baptist, and the event was a children’s choir awards program. Jonathan was about 5 in this picture. 

After serving 30 years as worship pastor, Gary is now transitioning over to Senior Adult Pastor. He will continue as Executive Pastor, a role he has had for over 25 years. We are grateful “beyond beyond” for the privilege to stay at our beloved church and in this new ministry. (Ephesians 3:20-21).

I’m thankful to have been by his side all these years, and plan to be by his side in his new ministry. I’ve been retired exactly one month and I am loving my new season. Lots of new, lots of change, but thankful for the blessed truth that Jesus Christ is the SAME, yesterday, today, and forever! (Hebrews 13:8).

And another joy…looking down the back row of the choir and seeing my sweet man singing in the choir he has led for 30 years! God is good and I am so thankful!

Gran Jan

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Retirement is Here!

I had no idea 30 years ago when I started working for our local school system that I’d stay for a whole “career.” I just wanted to have the same schedule as my boys and one year led to another and now…today…I retired. I am overwhelmed with all the kindness, gifts, flowers, love, hugs, and just sweet attention I’ve received the last month. My heart is full and overflowing. I love this quote – obedience is a long walk in the same direction. Thirty years is a long walk! God’s new mercies every morning and His sweet grace to just keep getting up every morning to go to work made it possible. And now, today, the last day of work came.

Psalm 37:23 A person’s steps are made secure by the Lord when they delight in his way.

Jesus surely did make my steps secure and I have thanked Him over and over! My first celebration was a surprise breakfast given by our Board Members on May 1st. They really surprised me. I had no idea. I walked in thinking it was for my boss, Superintendent Dr. Mark Scott, and it was for me. I was tickled to pieces and loved being surprised. Next was our amazing “System Celebration,” on May 8th where over 100 retirees from our school system were honored with a dinner and the company of their families, guests, and co-workers. My husband, parents, and sister Jo came. My sister retired last year. She was an elementary school principal.

My favorite celebration of all was on May 17th. I was able to see so many former coworkers and bosses. Some of my favorite people in the world spoke and there was much laughter at my expense. Mr. Anthony Lunceford was the emcee. He made it extra special. It was all well done and delighted me to no end!I was given a quilt made with tee-shirts from all 38 of the schools in our system. I love it so much, and thank my sweet former boss, Cindy Flesher, Deputy Superintendent, for making it happen. I love that all my family was there. My husband, our sons and daughters-in-love, and five precious grandchildren. My heart was full and overflowing for sure.

I had the joy of working for Mr. James Kinchen for 20 of my 30 years with our school system. I was able to help him open two brand new schools – Houston County High in 1991, and Bonaire Middle in 1996. Then he and I moved to our district office in 1999 and that is where I finished my career. He is on the right below. He is a fine man of integrity, a former high school math teacher. He is family to our family, and we love him. Mr. Dyson, a former high school principal and district employee was also a great co-worker.

These two ladies were very special bosses of mine. Linda Horne on the left and CIndy Flesher on the right. I learned so much from them and loved working for and with them!

Finally, this picture is of four of the School Superintendents I’ve worked for who served our top-notch school system! Left to right, Dr. Robin Hines; Mr. Danny Carpenter, Dr. Mark Scott (current Superintendent); and Mr. David Carpenter.It’s been a great 30 years and a great 31 days of May with fun celebrations and walks down Memory Lane. I’m worn out, emotional, but with a deep sense of peace that I was able to finish and finish well. All glory to God!

And now…I hope to take a stroll among the daylilies in my garden first thing in the morning with a good cup of coffee. It will be the beginning of what I pray to be another long walk in the same direction. More family time, ministry opportunities, and time to just be.

It’s All Grace,
Gran Jan

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Countdown to Retirement

For a woman who could probably find her own picture in the dictionary by “get-it-done,” or as we say in the South “git-er-dun,” I am so excited about my upcoming retirement from my 30-year day job (May 31, 2018)! I’ve worked in our local school system for that many years, beginning as a school secretary and retiring now from the Queen Bee 🙂 job as administrative assistant to the Superintendent of Schools. My heart is full of wonderful memories as I’ve been blessed to work with some of the finest teachers and administrators anywhere! I began working when I was 15 years old as the popcorn-maker ticket-taker in a local cinema. Those were the days! This old gal is ready for the next season.

R-Relax

This one is going to take some time for me because I’ve been bound to a set schedule for many years. You know the drill – get to work by 8:00, take a lunch hour, leave work at 5:00 PM. I know I will relax, of course I will, and honestly, having more time in the mornings is going to be glorious.

E-Entertain
I love to cook and actually just told my husband this past weekend that I’m looking forward to having guests for supper and we will enjoy sharing our farm with them. That’s hard to do when Saturdays are your only day to get chores done and catch up from a work week. I want to enjoy hospitality without stress!

T -Travel
Truthfully I’m really a content homebody at heart, and most of my traveling will be to spend time with grandchildren! However – two fun events are already on the schedule for me. My sisters and I are planning a cruise to celebrate our mom’s 80th birthday, a memory-maker for sure. Oh, and there’s a trip the week after I retire with my BFF Lanie! We are going to a quilting conference in Missouri. Quilting is our JOY and we can’t wait.

I – Indulge
The dictionary says to indulge is to “give in to wishes and whims.” I’m not sure what indulging will look like for me, but I hope it includes coffee with my parents next door, long bike rides, occasional naps, and time in my sewing room and garden. I still can’t believe I won’t be clock-bound every morning. Thankful.

R- Read
Now this is happening for sure! I have a tower of books waiting for me as well as several special reading places outside by our pond, on my front porch, and in a comfy chair in my home study. I have loved reading since I first learned at the age of five and long for more page-turning and less computer screen-staring!

E – Enjoy
Since I’m planning to relax, entertain, travel, indulge and read – enjoyment is sure to be mine. I also have plans to partner with my husband as he begins a new ministry as Pastor to Senior Adults at our church. He has been a worship leader for 45 years so this transition is big, and one we anticipate with joy. We are thankful to continue serving our church family in this new ministry. I have a desire to establish a mentoring program between our senior ladies and the young women in our church and community. That will be something I know I will enjoy.

My retirement app on my phone says “2 months and 29 days” to retirement. WOW! Let the countdown begin!

Psalm 130:5 Amplified Bible (AMP)
I wait [patiently] for the Lord,
my soul [expectantly] waits,

And in His word do I hope.

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2017 Scripture Memory Team – December

It’s the last day of 2017 and I’m plugging this last post in before the clock strikes 12 midnight. My goal for 2018 is to blog more – and I really look forward to that! The year 2018 is shaping up with two BIG events on the calendar. One for my sweet husband and one for me! That post will follow very soon. God is so good! 

In 2017 we celebrated five events that ended with a zero: Gary celebrated his 60th birthday in February, in June we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary, in October we celebrated living in the country for 10 years, my 60th birthday rolled around in November, and then 3 weeks ago I celebrated 20 years serving in women’s ministry at my church! 60+40+10+60+20=190 years of life and love!!!

So on this cold rainy Sunday afternoon here in middle Georgia, I am closing with my last two memory verses for 2017.  

December 1 – Ecclesiastes 7:8 (CSB Version)

The end of a matter is better
t
han its beginning;
a patient spirit is better
than a proud spirit.

December 15 – Luke 1:37 (Amplified Version)

For with God nothing is
or ever shall be impossible.

These two passages are full of hope and full of confidence in Almighty God. As I look forward to 2018 I know the end of a matter is surely better than its beginning. As we end 2017, I can say yes to looking back on the faithfulness of God in my life. I know that a patient spirit will guide me into 2018 and… nothing is OR EVER SHALL BE impossible with God! What can you even add to that. As 2018 rolls in tonight, I am trusting God and this powerful truth to hold me close.

I pray you will do the same! 

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2017 Scripture Memory Team – November

I love this time of year! Fall is my favorite season and Thanksgiving is the best! November is my birthday month and this year was a “big one.” They are all worthy of celebration, but this one…well, I celebrated the big 6-0 on Thursday the 16th. That post will be next, but for now…I want to share my November memory verses.

Psalm 34:4
 I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.

I’ve never been a fearful woman. I’m not the bravest by any means, but I’m not a scairdy cat. I like to try new things and have fun. Lately however, I have found myself being fearful for no apparent reason. The fear I experience is unfounded, unnamed. An unsettled feeling in my spirit will arise and that is why this verse has encouraged my soul. I know it’s not from the Lord, so I’m calling it what it is and trusting Him to calm my heart during these times. It could be my age…remember, I’m 60 now! Getting older can be hard, there are so many changes coming my way in the months ahead. Whatever the reason, I am trusting Christ, praying it through and walking by faith. I’m so thankful that at the mention of His great Name I sense His presence and His peace washes over me. The key is I have to seek Him and the joy is that He answers and delivers.

1 John 3:20
For if our heart condemns us,
God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.

This verse also goes along with unnamed fear or anxiety. There is a great difference between conviction in my heart and condemnation in my heart. At my age (I’m 60 now, remember?) I know the difference, and that comes about from living long enough to have experienced the difference. Sometimes we have feelings of false guilt (in whatever our heart condemns us). I really believe that women know this well. We can guilt ourselves over many things, we run a lot on feelings and emotion. God made us this way and it’s good to have feelings and emotion but we cannot be ruled or overruled by them. We have to remember that God is greater than our guilty heart and He knows all things.  By this I mean He knows our real motives.  Isn’t it good to know that He does not judge on the basis of how things appear? We often judge ourselves that way and end up with that self-condemnation. So rejoice today that He is greater!

He Answers
He Delivers
He Loves
He Knows

Peace to you today,


 

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2017 Scripture Memory Team – October

I hope the beautiful day I’m enjoying this day will be conveyed in my love for God’s Word in these two memory passages for October. And today marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation! Glory to Jesus!

On my way home from choir rehearsal a couple of weeks ago I was listening to Dr. Charles Stanley, long-time pastor of Atlanta’s First Baptist Church. He has meant so much to me for over 35 years. The morning I trusted Christ (July 7, 1985), I had been listening to Dr. Stanley on television. I share my story of faith in Christ in a post here on my blog dated July 7, 2009. I was blessed to meet Dr. Stanley back in 1987 and remember every detail of the time he so graciously gave me that day. Anyway, he referenced this verse and it has stayed with me. It follows the beautiful passage about the fruit of the Spirit in verses 22-23.  

Galatians 5:25 (ESV)
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

How do we keep in step with the Spirit? Just as we learned to walk as little children, we have to learn to walk with Christ by trusting Him as He leads. It’s a process of faith as we mature in our relationship with Jesus. We stay close to Him through praying, worshipping, and reading the Bible. We become attuned to hearing His voice as He helps us along our way. It is a JOY to know He is speaking to your heart. Let’s keep in step with Him. I pray to grow old gracefully and I know the only way I will is by keeping in step with my Savior.

James 4:10 (AMP)
Humble yourselves
[with an attitude of repentance and insignificance]
in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you
[He will lift you up, He will give you purpose].

This passage is from the Amplified version of the Bible and it’s beautiful. My big 6-0 birthday is next month. I can’t even believe I’ll be that old. I’m young at heart and that’s the truth – but sometimes I’m an old soul. And that’s the truth too. But this I know – the older I get the more I regret times in my life when I didn’t have a humble spirit. I’m a first-born take-charge girl and always have been. That’s okay. But attitude is everything and I’ve failed in this area many times. You know the saying, “large and in charge?” It’s so much better to be “small and in charge.” The in charge part is leadership, and that’s okay. But attitude in leading is crucial. See the parenthetical statements above? The first one – with an attitude of repentance and insignificance? Yep. It’s so much better for the Lord to be the One lifting us up – not ourselves.

My favorite phrase is the last. HE WILL GIVE YOU PURPOSE. As I celebrate 60 trips around the sun on November 16, I want to know my life has had purpose. I’m a daughter, sister, sister-in-law, mother, mother-in-law, wife, grandmother, aunt, cousin and friend. All these roles give me purpose. But I want to live on purpose for Christ. I’ve prayed for years “make my life count for You today, Jesus.”  I’m going to be praying that as long as I have breath. With a humble heart.

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Gran Jan Camp – 2017

The second GRAN JAN CAMP is a wrap! I went from one camper to three, so it was BIG BIG BIG! Here are my campers, my three oldest grandchildren, Madie, Jackson, and Zeke! Zeke attended the inaugural Gran Jan Camp last summer, so he was a great helper and co-director and “watch me, this is what we do” guide! He just finished 2nd grade and Madie and Jackson just completed first grade, the only prerequisite for attending, besides being my grandchild!
The theme for our camp this summer was “ENCOURAGEMENT!” Our focus verse was I Thessalonians 5:11:

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Our focus was that our WORDS MATTER! We talked about encouraging people we don’t know and people we do know, most especially our families. We started this year with a Scavenger Hunt! I had the best time putting this together. I had 15 clues that ended up at the firepit by our pond. I worked on the clues and enjoyed putting them out all over the place… Clue 1 started inside our home, and the next clue led to another spot, to another, to another! These are some smart grandkids, I tell you that. I had to run to keep up with them and I don’t run. 🙂

So our big project was “encouragement rocks.”  Each grandchild had 4 rocks to decorate with words of spiritual encouragement, and they did amazing! Just look at these rocks! We encouraged folks we don’t know with words of hope and healing. We then went on a field trip to place the rocks in three different stores. We prayed that just the right person who needed to be encouraged that day would find the rock meant for them. We had a blast and talked about the joy that was ours to be an encourager to someone else.

We made snack necklaces to enjoy from all our hard rock placement that morning! 🙂 Zoom in close to see the “snack necklaces.”  They used pretzels, cheerios, fruit loops cereal, and gummies and enjoyed munching on these. Zeke had almost eaten his before I could take the picture!

When you live in the county without a swimming pool and it is over 90 degrees you buy a “slip and slide!”  They had a blast on this thing during the early evening and Pop and I enjoyed watching them.  After they had slipped and slid they wanted to play in the pond, and off they went. Pop even got in on the fun in the pond with them and then our lab, Copper jumped in with them too.

One of my favorite things we do is bury a time capsule on the last day of Gran Jan Camp. Jackson and Emery wrote letters to “their 18-year-old selves.” Yes they did! We will unearth these in 10 years and I pray we can all be together to do so. “Lord willing,” as my Granny Maloy always said about everything.

Madie and Jackson each added a “fidget spinner” to their time capsules.  It’s a recent new toy that is all the rage now. You basically just hold it, twirl it, and watch it spin. Jackson wondered if in 10 years if fidget spinners would even still be around. Stay tuned!

The time capsules were placed in the ground right outside Pop’s shop in Gran Jan’s zinnia garden.  Zeke’s was already there from last year and so we know exactly where they will be. I printed some pictures from the week to place inside, and I also wrote a letter to Madie and one to Jackson to place inside the time capsules too. Pop wrapped them up tight with plastic and sealed them well.

The joy of Gran Jan Camp is all about memories and family legacy. I loved having uninterrupted time with my grandchildren these three days.  Time to just be with them, praying and playing together. What a joy to be able to share in the lives of these precious little people.  I love them so much it hurts. You grandmothers out there know exactly what I mean by that.

I’m already getting a folder of ideas for next year’s camp and will enjoy this season while it lasts.  To everything there is a season (Ecclesiastes 3:1), and I know my campers will eventually outgrow Gran Jan Camp, but prayerfully they will never outgrow the memories.

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