Friday, March 7, 2014

Final Expenses: Saving Money on Funeral Costs

Few things in life are more traumatic than the death of a loved one, particularly if it is unexpected and the survivors are abruptly faced with the sad task of planning a memorial service and burial or cremation. There are dozens of details to handle, at a time when the bereaved are in deep shock, overcome with grief, and often not capable of making the most rational decisions. Add to this the understandable desire to see their loved one off in a suitable way that reflects well on everyone – and it’s easy to see how people can be manipulated into spending much more on final expenses than they need to spend or can truly afford. A payday loan could help in these situations to make it possible to give your loved one the service you would like, even when savings are low and this may not have seemed possible initially.

Even people who pre-plan funerals for themselves or a loved one can be vulnerable to the subtle and dignified  –but nevertheless very manipulative – marketing for which the funeral business is notorious. Granted, funeral directors have to make a living like everyone else, but some are truly exploitative and are masters of the unnecessary up-sell.

Whether you are pre-planning arrangements or have been hit with an unexpected need, there are some things you can do to ease the monetary strain if not your heartache. You do not have to simply accept the default or traditional way of doing things. Here are a few points to keep in mind.

1. There is nothing shameful or undignified about wanting to economize. This may be the most important point of all, and the most difficult for some people to accept. A simple, basic funeral or memorial service is just as dignified and respectful as the most lavish, expensive event. There is absolutely nothing shameful about needing or desiring to save money on final expenses, and economizing certainly does not indicate a lack of love and respect for the departed. If you really feel that you must splurge, do so with an after-party that is a true celebration of the person’s life. That’s a more fitting tribute than a solid gold, silk-lined casket or a limo parade.

2. The government may be able to help you with costs. If you or your partner are on a low income and receiving any of a number of specific government benefits, you may be eligible for a Funeral Payment and/or Bereavement Payment from the Social Fund. Check this page to find out more about these benefits:

3. There’s no law that says you have to use a funeral home. Certainly there are laws in place regarding the handling of remains, but there is absolutely no law that says you have to use a funeral home, with all of the expense that involves. More people these days are opting for “do it yourself” arrangements, handling most or all of the details without going through a traditional funeral home. And increasing numbers of funeral directors are adopting more flexible policies where they offer “a la carte” services. For a cost that is much less than an entire package, they will assist the bereaved with certain details, such as keeping the body cool whilst the family is tending to the other arrangements. The Natural Death Centre ( is a wonderful resource for exploring your options and planning a “do it yourself” (or a partially or mostly “do it yourself”) memorial service.

4. You can still save money even if you don’t “do it yourself.” You can economise on virtually every aspect of the funeral: the casket; the handling of the body (embalming is not required by law); vehicles; flowers; memorial marker; the service itself… and the list goes on. Do not let that earnest, soft-spoken sales director talk you into spending more than you can afford – remember, there is nothing shameful or undignified about wanting to economize. The aforementioned Natural Death Centre has a page of suggestions and links for economizing on funeral costs.

As is the case with many choices in life, it’s always better if you can plan ahead – even if you do nothing more than sit down and think about what you want, and write down your wishes so your family will know when the time comes. But sometimes planning ahead is simply not feasible. The important thing to remember is that there is plenty of help available to assist you in making the best decision, making this difficult time a little easier on everyone involved.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Forced to Kill at 5 Years Old – The Former Child Soldier Now Campaigning for Free the Children

Hardly a day goes by that we are not exposed to the horrors of war as news reports from around the world bring the carnage into our living rooms. But you can’t get the whole story from pictures – you can’t experience the smells of death, decay and cordite; you can’t feel the pain of the wounded; and, you can get no real sense of the horror and fear pervading the lives of those caught up in conflict. Only by being there can you truly understand the meaning of war.

Soldiers understand; they see war first hand, up close and personal.  Michel Chikwanine was a soldier, so he knows. Nothing unusual in that you might think, until you learn that he was just five years old when he was “conscripted” into an army.

Growing up in Beni, a town in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo not far from the Uganda border, Michel was playing football after school with friends when they were grabbed by rebels. Hauled away into the jungle to train as soldiers, they were drugged and blindfolded. Young Michel was handed an AK-47 and told to shoot it. When the blindfold was removed he found that he had killed his best friend.

In a way, Michel was one of the lucky ones. Two weeks later, he managed to escape, surviving in the jungle for three days before finding a storekeeper who took him home. Sadly, however, tragedy was to return to Michel’s family.

When civil war broke out in 1998, Michel’s father criticised the actions of the soldiers of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo and was subsequently kidnapped, remaining in captivity for seven months before making his escape to Uganda. While he was away, soldiers broke into the family home and forced Michel to watch at gunpoint as his mother and two older sisters (aged 16 and 18) were raped in front of him. He was just 10.

Michel managed to locate his father and arranged for his mother, younger sister and himself to move to Uganda too, the older sisters having run away due to the shame of being raped. In 2001, his father died in a Ugandan refugee camp after being poisoned.

Three years later, Michel found refuge in Canada with his mother and younger sister. It was to be another seven years before one of his older sisters, the other having been killed, could join them in Canada with their children.

Michel was inspired to talk of his experiences and become a motivational speaker by Free the Children and worked as an O Ambassador with Oprah Winfrey’s roots of Action tour. His hope, he says, is that his story will help other people overcome their own struggles.

And, in all he does, he tries to aspire to the last words spoken by his father before he died: “Always know that great men and great women are not described by their money or their success but rather what they do for other people.”

Free The Children is an international charity and educational partner that believes in a world where all children are free to achieve their fullest potential as agents of change.   Follow them on Twitter @freethechildren.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Warm or Cold for the Holidays?

Seems like we're never really satisfied. If we live where it's warm, we dream of going somewhere cold (preferably with snow) for the holidays. If we live where it's cold all winter, we dream of a trip to Florida or the Caribbean for the holidays.

Having grown up in Wisconsin and being from a relatively poor family, I never dreamed of going anywhere for the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas were synonymous with snow and cold. In fact, we always longed for a blizzard so we'd have an extra day off from school. So I grew up equating Christmas with snow, sledding, ice skating, etc. Imagine my despair when my husband and I moved to Brazil and lived quite close to the equator for almost 30 years.

My first Christmas in the heat was a shock. Subsequent Christmases weren't much better. How I longed for cold weather and snow for the holidays! Homesickness washed over me like waves on a sandy beach. I cried, moped and sweated my way through those first Christmases. After all, it was 85 degrees and 85% humidity year round where I was. I prohibited songs like, "White Christmas," "Jingle Bells," etc. If I happened to hear one, I would go into a tailspin.

But I raised my children in the tropics. Our Christmas tree was improvised bamboo or tree branches covered in tinsel. Now my children long for the warm tropical sunshine when the cold comes to us in North America. They long for the opportunity to go swimming and kayaking on Christmas Day (one of our tropical traditions). Homesickness attacks them, much like it did me in those first years of living in Brazil.

As for me, I'm content enjoying Christmas wherever I am because Christmas means hope. It's about the birth of a Savior who gave up what He was accustomed to (glory and honor with the Father) to be born in a manger and eventually to offer up His life in order to buy mine - and yours.

But just in case you're looking for a place to go this year during the holidays, check out this post. It is filled with ideas for a lovely holiday vacation, whether you prefer warm or cold.

Sharon Reece

P.S. There are many people who suffer or have a hard time during the holidays because they have recently lost a loved one. If you know someone like that, you can encourage them with a gift of our book that tells of God's healing and comfort after our son disappeared in Hawaii during the holidays of 1999. Get it here!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Being a Finisher

Do you know what it means to be a finisher? My husband and I were just part of the support team for a conference and it was a lot of hard work. Most things that are worth it, are. So what does it mean to be a finisher? Not giving up when the going gets tough? Being willing to give up personal time, energy and comfort in order to accomplish the task at hand? Having the wisdom to know when a task is worth finishing? Probably all of those are key components to being a finisher.
Maybe you remember this incident from the 1992 Olympic games but it’s a good reminder of what being a good finisher is all about. You will always win if you are a finisher. This man won the respect of the world. What is your goal? Maybe it’s not winning the respect of the world, but the respect of your friends and family and of yourself. No matter what…never quit!

If you liked this post please comment, like and share. You never know who you might bless!
Sharon 2009
Sharon Reece
214 701-8298

P.S. Are you interested in hydroponics? Learn all about it here.

Friday, July 5, 2013

ASL - 22 Basic Signs You Should Know

Vonda Hamilton is a passionate missionary with the Deaf and hard-of-hearing through Expressions of Emmanuel.  She just recently started her own blog, which has two purposes.  First, to publish articles educating the hearing about communicating with and sharing the Gospel with the Deaf; the Deaf are an unreached people group – there are over 250 million Deaf and only 1-2% are Christians.  Second, to publish videos and Bible devotionals for the Deaf to “see,” since they cannot hear.  She asked if she could share an article on my blog and I was delighted to have her as a guest blogger.  For more articles on learning sign language, visit her blog at  More information on her ministry is available through the YouTube channel “expressionsemmanuel” and by “liking” their ministry page "expressionsofemmanuel" on Facebook. 
Sharon Reece

#1) “Sign Language”

To make this sign, make the thumb and index finger on both your hands in an “L” shape and point them, like guns, at each other, almost touching.  Twist them around each other and pull apart.

If you want to love and become involved in deaf ministry, you need to learn the precious language of the people.  Make it your goal to excel with the language!  How can you improve your sign language skills?  

Be with deaf people!  When a hearing person learns sign language, they need to always sign to the best of their ability in the presence of a deaf person.  If you know sign language and don’t sign when a deaf person is nearby, you are being rude. Hearing people need to include deaf people. 

#2) “Love”

To sign “love,” make two fists and cross them over your chest.

God’s commands are all summed up in one word – love!  So your purpose in being involved should be to love deaf people.  “Love one another.” 1 Corinthians 13:2

#3) “Jesus”

This sign is made by putting your middle fingers into the palms of each hand.  

This sign reminds of the nail prints in His HANDS!  We need to learn that sign because we need to bring people to know the love of JESUS, or we have missed God’s point to help people see that Jesus want to be their Savior and their Lord!

#4) “Saves/Salvation”

This sign is made by two arms with clamped fists that are pulled outwards, crossing past each other.  

This sign of salvation is important because it originates from the idea of two fists tied down together in 
bondage.  You need to know that sign so you can show people what Jesus’ work on the cross came to do – to save all who call on the name of the Lord!

#5) “What is your name?"

Two hands, palms up, in a slightly clawed shape, moving back and forth mean “what.”  “Your” is a flat 
palm directed toward a person.  “Name” is two fingers (index and middle) on top of the same fingers on 
the other hand.  

Use sign language to get to really know deaf people!  Become friends with deaf people!  Know and 
love the deaf!  Let the deaf know and love you!  Remember, knowing someone’s name shows love and 

#6) “Welcome”

Take your dominant hand (the one you write with) and with it flat and palm extending upwards (out in 
front and to the side of you), bring your hand and arm nestled to your side.  

This is an important sign because you want to extend a warm welcome of love, kindness and belonging 
to deaf people!

#7) “With/Together”

“With” is your two thumbs up, clenched together.  The sign “together” is the same shapes moved 
around in a circular motion. 

If you are to minister to any specific people group, including the deaf, it is imperative that you work 
with – not above or over – but with the deaf!  Since the deaf know firsthand the needs of the deaf, they 
can really help you be effective. God wants us to work together as equals.  That is why the two thumbs 
are on an equal plane.  We need to humbly work together.

#8) “Belong/Unite/Unity”

This sign is done by clasping two “F” hand shapes together, connected by the pointer fingers and the 
thumbs.  That connection sign means “belong,” “of,” “connect,” and “unite.” When you move that 
shape together in a circle it means “unity.”  

If we are going to have effective Deaf Ministries we will need to have unity.  In John 17, Jesus cried out 
in prayer for the church to be unified.  That should be our heart’s cry, too!

#9) “Please”

Take your dominant hand and stretch it out flat with your fingers together.  Place it on your chest and 
move it in a circle.  This sign can mean different things with different expressions.  If you have a pleading look, it means “please.”  If you do that sign with a pleasant expression it means to be pleased or to enjoy. 

These signs are important because having manners always makes ministry more successful!  Always 
seeking to rejoice in the Lord and enjoy yourself as you serve Him should always be your goal!  You want to hear God say, “Well done, I am well pleased with you my good and faithful servant.”  Learn to sign and live out the word “please” and you will be blessed in your ministry!

#10) “Thank you”

You take either one or two stiff flat hands (fingers together) and extend them outward to people or God 
in a motion similar to blowing kisses.  

If a deaf ministry is going to be great we need to thank God for the blessings and challenges, as well 
as thanking others for their help and deeds of kindness.  Jesus was serious about the importance of 
thankfulness!  We should be, too!  (Remember the lepers in Matthew 11?)

#11) “Pouring out your heart to one another”

This is more of a mimed sign.  You take your two clasped hands over your heart and open them up and 
extend them outwards if sharing with another person, or upwards if talking to God and bring that sign 
back and forth in the same motions – showing the hearts truly sharing.  

God wants koinonia, the Greek word for “deep fellowship!”  Everyone longs to share on a deep level.  
Romans 12:0 says, “Be devoted to one another in love.”  Helen Keller, who was deaf and blind, said, 
“Blindness separates people from things, but deafness separates people from people.”  Does deafness 
separate people from God?  Of course not!  But in the heart of the deaf, just like anyone, there is a 
longing to share deeply.  Christians, whether deaf or hearing, need to reach out and share Christ’s love.  

We can only do this well if the church seeks to be unified and love one another. The church then must love the lost!  This takes pouring out our heart in prayer to God and sharing on a deep level together.  People are tired of surface relationships.  Let’s help people have a deep relationship with God!  Let us each strive to grow closer to God and offer the world the freedom of pouring out their hearts to God to know Him deeply.

#12) “Hold”

This sign is important to know because there are always distractions in life and you don’t want to look 
away from the deaf, ignoring them for every sound you hear or every hearing person that speaks to you!  Losing eye contact and looking away without asking to “hold” is very rude!

For the sign “hold,” take one fist arm upright and move it slightly up and down.  If you sign “please 
hold,” you show respect, and after addressing a pressing interruption you can finish your conversation. 
If it is not a pressing interruption, ask the other person who wants to talk to please “hold.”  This sign will 
help you show respect to all.

The sign “hold” can also be a variant of the sign trust!  If the same hand shape moves slightly up and 
down while you look to God with a trusting expression (as if holding onto an imaginary rope) it will 
signify holding on with faith in God!  If we want to endure and be faithful in Deaf Ministry, we must hold 
on to God’s unseen hand!  Only He can hold us and give advancement for His Kingdom!

#13) “See with your eyes” and “See with your heart”

When the deaf learn God’s Word, they receive it through their eyes!  The sign “see with your eyes = 
receptive skills” is done by taking your dominant hand and taking the index finger, middle finger, and 
thumb and making a clawing motion with the thumb resting on the corner of your eye.  The same hand 
shape is made over the heart (the area that everyone says is your heart!) with your thumb leaning 
against your chest to signify seeing/hearing with your heart.  

These signs are important because we need to receive God’s Word fully and “hear” with our heart.  
But, it is also important to be a good listener and learn to read sign language well so that you can truly 
communicate on a deep level with deaf people.  Many deaf people are frustrated when people only 
want to use expressions signs but don’t care to strive to understand what the deaf have to say. 

Learning to sign and read sign language requires time and patient effort.  Make it your goal to sign and read sign language!  God can empower you to communicate!  Ask Him and keep growing.  Make sure to “see” with your heart and your eyes!

#14) “Peace”

This sign is made by two flat palms touching each other which then twist downward to each side of 
one’s body to represent the calmness – like the calm after the storm. 

It is a lovely sign that represents what God wants in our lives.  Jesus calmed the storm.  Life is 
challenging.  We need to share the peace that the Prince of Peace, Jesus, gives.  We need to promote
love and kindness in deaf ministries.  Romans 12:16 says, “Live in peace with each other.”

#15) “Joy/Happy”

You sign “joy” by having two open thumb flat hands moving in an upward circle in front of the chest, 
with a joyful expression on your face. 

We need to rejoice in the Lord! We need to spread joy.  If we want blessings to fall on our Deaf 
Ministries, we need promote joy!  “The joy of the Lord is my strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10)

#16) “Hope”

Deaf mission work can be discouraging for both deaf and hearing Christians who are seeking to share 
the Gospel!  You might see Deaf Ministries grow and shrink.  You might invite lots of people to come and do outreach and have absolutely no one show up!  But don’t be saddened!  You are sharing Jesus, our Blessed Hope!  He will give you hope in the sharing of His love!  He promised that He will harvest souls.  We just have to share.  If your deaf ministry is just starting out or is very small, don’t despair – God is pleased when we share with even one lost sheep.  A deaf ministry is a worthy undertaking if it only reaches just one soul!  But also press on, for God can help you reach others, too!

To sign “hope,” you take two flat upright hands and bend them in half at the sides of your head and 
slightly above your head (one hand is higher than the other) and you look upwards with anticipation.  
We need hope and vision to march ahead sharing Christ!  “Be joyful in hope,” (Romans 12:12) and 
“Where there is no vision, the people perish, but he that keepeth the law, happy is he!” (Proverbs 29:18)

#17) Patience

To sign patience, you take the thumb of your dominant hand and rub it down under your nose straight 
downward over your lips and to the bottom of your chin.  

When working with people we need to be patient with each other. Romans 12:12b says, “Be patient when trouble comes.”  We need to be patient as we share the Gospel with deaf people and their families.  God is patient, so we should be, too!  “God is being patient with you!  He wants everyone to change their heart and life!” (2 Peter 3:9)  HAVE PATIENCE!

#18) “Support”

Take your dominant fist straight upwards, underneath your other fist, which you want to position 

Rally the whole church to support  the  local Deaf Ministry, as well as other deaf mission organizations. 
If the whole church does not “roll up their sleeves” and help reach out with the Gospel, then how will 
the deaf hear?

There are an estimated 250 million deaf people in this world, yet only 1-2 percent of that number are 
Christians!  The one to two percent of the deaf population who are Christians need the support of 
the whole church to reach out to massed of deaf people who need to know Christ.  We must all work 
together supporting one another to share the Gospel!

#19) “Anyways/Regardless/It doesn’t matter”

This is one of my favorite signs.  You take two flattened hands (palms facing towards the body), slapping and hitting past each other several times.  

This sign does not mean apathy.  It doesn’t mean you don’t care about people.  It means that you carry 
on in spite of the challenges.  Many “little” challenges will not mean much in the span of eternity.  

Forgive!  Move on in spite of the challenges.  Romans 12:17-19 says, “If someone does wrong to you, do not pay him back by doing wrong to him.  Try to do what everyone thinks is right.  Do your best to live in peace with everyone.  My friends, do not try to punish others when they wrong you, but wait for God to punish them with His anger.  It is written: ‘I will punish those who do wrong; I will repay them,’ says the Lord.” Do not repay anyone evil for evil!

#20) “Pray”

Put your hands together, palms touching! 

“Be faithful in prayer!” (Romans 12:12b)  The challenges, no matter how big, won’t be insurmountable 
when you trust God in prayer!  God allowed David to conquer the giant!  God will help you conquer, too, in your  deaf mission work when you pray.  Romans 12:16c says, “Pray at all times!”

#21) “Flexible”

Take your dominant hand and clasp the tips of the fingers of your other hand (which is positioned 
sideways) and bend those fingers! 

In God’s work – you must be flexible!  God is the Potter and you are the Clay!  Be ready for the 
unexpected challenges at times and also unexpected blessings!  Be ready and be flexible so that God can “tweek” you to do whatever He wants you to do to get His purposes accomplished.  

When working with deaf people, you will find various signs!  Even in sign choices, be flexible and use the signs that the deaf people in your life use!  Be flexible in the Potter’s Hands and He will do great things with you!

#22) “Continue”

To sign “continue,” you take your thumbs, facing away from your body, make the thumbnail and thumb 
touch the adjacent thumbnail and thumb and push the thumbs that are held together outwards.  

Deaf Ministries can be tough, but together we must continue for God will bless our efforts if we don’t 
give up.  “And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap a harvest if we faint 
not.” (Galatians 6:9)

So, continue on!  See what the Lord will do in you, with you, in spite of you, and for you to bring Him 
glory!  If you continue serving the Lord, you will see deaf people come to Christ!  Enjoy learning and 
using these twenty-two signs and also remember, John 4:35 says, “Open your eyes.  Look at the fields 
that are ready for harvesting now!”

If you found this article helpful, check out another guest post done by Vonda Hamilton, "Ten Tips on Working with the Deaf" posted at Deviation from the Norm.

Thank you, Vonda, for this informative article.