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She was such a gracious woman.

And I have good memories of Hazel Dillon.

In 2009, I interviewed Hazel for a story about her mom, who suffered with Alzheimer’s disease.

Hazel was soft-spoken—like my Aunt Ena, who once told me that former first lady Jackie Kennedy barely spoke above a whisper — but everybody listened to her.

Hazel smiled when I mentioned this.

Sometime earlier, I served with Hazel for about three years on the board of Care Corps, now called LifeHouse.

Back then, I was among some local folks trying to get an evening Bible study started at the homeless shelter.

I remember inviting Hazel to attend — and she did.

It was right before Christmas.

We met in a living room-type area in the old downtown motel, which had been turned into a shelter before the new building was constructed.

There were two quiet reminders of the holiday — a small Christmas tree in the living room and a donated box of chocolate-covered cherries on a table nearby.

That night, only one person showed up to the non-mandatory Bible study.

She was a single mom with very active little kids. The woman had come to Nebraska to get an education and ended up with the wrong guy.

Health issues and two kids later, she was in the homeless shelter.

The woman sat on a couch while her children bounced all over the room. I’d been in a Bible study with her before. She wasn’t one to correct her children on their boisterous behavior and I never felt like it was my place to say anything.

Instead, I proceeded with an Old Testament lesson about King Jehoshaphat, because it’s a classic story of how we can overcome incredible odds with God’s help.

I’d hoped it would be encouraging, so I began to read the story.

But while I read, the children just seemed to get more wild and noisy, drowning out my voice.

I tried talking louder until I was all but roaring: “And King Jehoshaphat said….”

It’s a wonder nobody from the office came to see who was yelling about some king.

I remember Hazel quietly trying to follow along in her Bible, while I hollered out the story and the kids bounced.

After a while, one of the children got into the box of candy, dropping bits of chocolate on the floor.

Most people wouldn’t have bothered to clean the room’s old, well-worn carpet.

But before I knew it, there was Hazel with a tissue from her pocket trying to pick up the chocolate.

Hazel did more than pick up the mess, however. She listened to the woman’s sad story.

“Isn’t that awful?” Hazel asked me later.

Knowing her children were going to have a good Christmas, I think Hazel helped the woman out a little bit. And I believe the woman and her kids ended up having a good holiday.

I don’t know what happened to the young mom, but I’ve laughed at myself several times for trying to holler that Bible story.

I’ve always remembered Hazel picking up the chocolate on that rug and for her compassion toward the woman.

And I’ve never lost my love of the King Jehoshaphat story.

You can find the story in 2 Chronicles, chapter 20, of the Bible.

In this account, King Jehoshaphat is facing a terrifying situation.

Three enemy groups have formed a big army and plan to attack the King of Judah and his people.

The people of Judah gather and Jehoshaphat prays, acknowledging God’s power.

In the end, Jehoshaphat prays: “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

Isn’t that a great example of how we must focus on God in the tough times?

And look how God responds.

After Jehoshaphat’s prayer, the spirit of the Lord comes upon one man, who in part, proclaims: “This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God’s.’”

The man then tells the people where they should go to meet this army, but again says they won’t have to fight.

“Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you,” he says.

King Jehoshaphat bows with his face to the ground after he hears the news.

How many leaders can you picture doing that?

Anyway, Jehoshaphat is up early the next morning.

He encourages his people by saying, “Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld.”

Then he appoints men to go out ahead of the army and sing.

Sing?

Yes, you read that correctly.

Can you imagine any world leader appointing a choir to go out in front of the military to sing as they march into battle?

Neither can I.

But as Jehoshaphat’s appointees begin to sing and praise, God set ambushes against the enemies — who end up destroying each other.

By the time the men of Judah reach a place that overlooks the desert, they see only the dead bodies of the vast army on the ground.

No one had escaped.

It then takes Jehoshaphat’s men three days to carry away the plunder.

Imagine that.

They got some good praise music and some lovely parting gifts.

Afterward, the Bible says the fear of God came upon the kingdoms of the other countries when they heard how the Lord fought against the enemies of Israel.

And as the Scriptures say: “The kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace for his God had given him rest on every side.”

God can give us strength for the battles we face and rest even amid rough times. He’s our defender, helper, guide, protector and friend.

And Hazel knew that.

Hazel went to be with our Lord on Dec. 28 and I was sad when I heard the news.

But I’m glad I got to know her a little bit. I have good memories of her making a point to stop by a book signing I had in 2009 and of seeing her at a local Christian women’s conference.

These days, I doubt she’s picking chocolate out of a worn, old rug or listening to some silly woman shout out the story of King Jehoshaphat.

Instead, I wonder if she — and the rest of us — will have the opportunity to meet these Bible heroes.

And I can only image the joy she must have at being in the very presence of our great king:

Our Savior, the Lord Jesus.

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Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly spiritual column.

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