Sunday, November 30, 2014

Perfect Christmas Gift for the Man in Your Life

 

100 page book is designed with men in mind


The subject matter is of "God Called: He Needs Your Decision" is oriented to the Christian who no longer needs to be bottle fed. The book assumes an understanding of the Bible and that the reader is serious about their choice to make Jesus Lord in their life. The goal is to help individuals who may feel stuck at some point along their growth in Christ. It is particularly suited to the Christian who wants more from their walk.


In these regards, "God Called" is for any age, male or female. In two regards the book has special appeal to men. First, it is short. At around 100 pages, even men who don't read many books will hopefully see a manageable project. Besides there are pictures.

Second, it is written in a no-nonsense style. This is not a subtle work where you need to figure out what is being said. It should challenge the reader to take new actions, and provide some of the pathway to begin those actions.

"God Called"is based on Isaiah 6:8. If we trust Jesus, then he is calling us to do some work for the Kingdom. How do we get that call? How do we hear the call? How can we be sure that the call we hear is from God? Those questions and more are at the foundation of why the book was written, and hopefully of what the book teaches.

Please consider "God Called: He Needs Your Decision," as a possible gift for anyone in your life. On Amazon, you will see a long list of reviews that can help you make your decision. Should you choose to get the ebook, the cost will be just $.99 through the end of 2014. The paperback version is a perfect Christmas gift at under $12.00. Both are available on Amazon by going here.bit.ly/GodCalled

Saturday, November 29, 2014

How Christians should react to Obamacare.


I don’t know about you, but as a Bible-professing, born again Christian I always ask myself if the things I do is what God wants me to do and if it is in line with what the Bible wants of me as a Christian. Some things are in the gray zone—for instance should we be Republicans? Democrats? Libertarians? Honestly, I don’t think Jesus would fall under any of these three-man-made titles or affiliations. He would however, I am sure enough to bet my last dollar, still stick to the principles He adhered to while walking the earth. After all His Word is the same, now and forever. If the God of the Old Testament hated the practices of Moloch then—the sacrifice of children to the idol Moloch—He probably abhors it today.



So how does this tie in with Obamacare?

While on the surface Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act, professes to “help” everyone get medical insurance I personally think that its evil outweighs the supposed good it tries to impose.

I know that sin is sin to God. But let’s be reasonable (for I am sure God never meant for us to check our heads at the door just because we are Christians) and acknowledge that some sins are worse than others. For instance, if I purposefully “stole” your parking spot in a crowded parking lot, I am sure it’s not a Christian thing to do. But how does that compare to the sin of murder? Like the murder of innocent unborn babies for instance? Or the sacrifice of children to Moloch?


Frankly, I never think too much about politics but when the laws encroach on forcing me to partake in the killing of unborn babies should I relent? Or should I just go along “peaceably”? When the laws give me no choice but to shut my eye to evil and assent to sin should I fund these acts… even when they go against my conscience and against what God says?

To me whether it be a Democrat rule, or a Libertarian edict, or a Republican mandate, these are all man-made laws, self-serving whatever political affiliations, but I serve the Living God and HE said not to murder. If we use the Old Testament as a rod of measure in any way we see that HE looked upon those who participated in Moloch’s sacrifice of children most unfavorably, indeed. In so many ways this is similar to what abortion is—we put babies on the altar because we kowtow to sinful lifestyles, influenced by the god of this earth who promotes licentiousness and irresponsibility—hence the main need for abortions.

I am sure there are other laws that go against what we believe in the USA but it feels like Obamacare makes it very clear that we are forced into buying a product—medical insurance—that actually goes against what I believe as a Christian.


Is it any wonder that Congress sees this—that Obamacare is the forcing of Christians to buy medical insurance as it stands today even though it goes against our beliefs--and hence has quietly agreed to allow Christian to be off the hook?

Yes! As Bible believing Christians we can actually not participate in this Moloch-upholding medical insurance scam. But of course, did main stream media ever talked of this? Why didn't main stream media let Christians know that we have a choice? That if we belonged to a Christian medi-share we can actually not partake in Obamacare at all.

I have never heard of Christian medi-share before this year but with all that Obamacare signifies I have been researching and have discovered that as a Christian living a “safe”, responsible (no boozing parties licentious, drug-touting lifestyle,) married life it is better to go down this road. I recently spoke to an agent and he assured me that recently they gave out a million dollars in medical needs to a qualified family to cover their medical fees. Of course I had also heard of a case whereby a driver in a car accident was denied medical coverage, because it was found that the said driver was intoxicated—hence proof of a non-Christian lifestyle. This I think is fair.


So, if you are looking at an alternative to Obamacare and not join in the funding of abortions in a direct manner, perhaps you’d want to take a look at Christian Care Medi-share. I certainly will. I am not an agent or affiliated in it and don’t make anything from sharing this with you. But I think it is good news that as a Christian we can have an option that at least does not go against the Word of God. On its website it also said that you can get additional discounts based on your present health state. Take a look and let me know what you think about Christian Care Medi-share. It’s been around for over twenty years and I am going to give them a shot. How about you? 

Author Emma Right writes children and young adult books. Try her latest series for girls--Princesses of Chadwick Castle Adventure Mysteries now on Amazon and check out her other books, too!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Judas, Berea, and Ferguson

How All Three Go Together, and How We Are Missing the Lesson


I lived I St. Louis for six years. In the small private school in which I taught, white students from Florissant sat next to black students from Ferguson. I don't recall any difference in the way I felt about them. I loved all of them, possibly excepting the few who vandalized my car, plagiarized papers, and intentionally made life difficult. (They were, by the way, all white kids. Oh, you've got to love high schoolers. And I do.)

Everyone wants to talk about Ferguson. Unless they deliberately don't want to talk about it. 

I don't want to talk about it, precisely. Instead, I want to talk about the way we talk about it. Which is to say, badly. I want to talk about the way Christians should talk about it. Or the way Christians should just talk. Which is to say, perhaps less.

I've seen the views pour onto Facebook today. They are not exactly unanimous. My conservative friends listen to one set of news and form their opinions. My liberal friends do the same with their preferred sources. Both do what they know; neither changes their mind. Neither listens to anyone on the other side. Not really. Neither seems even aware that there is another option—that they may not have the only facts. Opinions are largely split on party lines, again.

Nothing has changed at all. Outrage will continue for a while, and then life will give way to the next crisis. 

Before any verdicts are read, any evidence presented, any knowledge pursued, our personal verdicts have been formed. We know the truth. We know what really happened. How do we know? Because we know what we already believe, and the news we listen to is whatever conforms to those preformed beliefs. So our mantra becomes “everyone knows” because, well, we know, and it seems obvious to us.

I don't know. I have no idea what really happened. And if I was not present in the community, and if I don't know the community dynamics intimately, all my information passes through the filter of what I do know and what I do prefer and what I think about the world from where I sit in it and where I've come from. The plain facts are, we who were not there don't know. No one is telling the entire truth. And no one, neither a police officer nor a young black man, can be convicted based on facts people hundreds of miles away don't know.

But Ferguson is not what I want to talk about.

I see in this situation a picture of how to do and how not to do our faith as well. On so many faith issues, we are sure we're right. Sure enough to kick others off the farm if they don't conform. But too often, our “facts” are really opinions formed by what we've heard and know and the refusal to listen to anything to the contrary. Or possibly the ignorance that there is a side to the contrary. We believe what we know. There is comfort in that, and often enough there is stability in the midst of a chaotic world. But that doesn't make it right.

I saw this play out just this week. A friend posted a blog piece, written by a woman who has researched, studied, and loved Scripture, about submission in marriage and how it doesn't mean what we think it means. Not surprisingly (to me), someone commented right away: “I think women who read the Bible this way just don't want to submit. It's a heart issue.” No mention of the writer's scholarship. No logical or biblical evidence that she was not correct. Just a personal attack of her heart and motivation, based on no more evidence than “I think.” Plus, she and several others mentioned that the woman with whom the blogger disagreed, a Hollywood star with no knowledge of the Greek language or theology, was closer to the truth. Why? Because she said what they were used to hearing.

While the Bereans were praised for searching the Scriptures to make sure what they were being told was true, some American Christians seem content to regurgitate their party line and act suspiciously, in fact, toward those who do study Scripture and come away with another interpretation. Something very un-Acts-like is going on there.

Like Ferguson, we're just not listening.

Jesus knew how to listen. When he sat down by the woman at the well (John 4), he could have told her that everyone knew the Samaritan culture, and her personal lifestyle, were all wrong. He could have. Instead, he waited and listened while she explained her beliefs, implied her social status, and wrestled with his reasons for talking to her. He sat down and listened to someone with whom he would not agree. The fact that Jesus, on account of being Jesus and all, was right (something we cannot assume for ourselves), does not negate his willingness to engage her on an honest, loving basis.


He could have done the same with Jairus (to some extent he did, but it was only to provoke talking and listening), Matthew, Nicodemus, and, let's not forget, Judas. If ever there was an example of someone trying to hear and be heard by someone of a completely different mindset, that surely is it. Jesus spent three years with Judas. They certainly talked and shared details of their hearts. Jesus knew how to listen. Even though he was always right. He still made the effort to listen, because he knew that was the way to help others understand him and think through their own ideas out loud. For us, that needs to go both ways. Both parties must seek to understand the other and clarify, maybe even change, their thoughts by putting them out there in clear, cold air to test their hardiness. 

Try it. Trying saying to someone with whom you disagree, “I honestly want to understand where you're coming from. Can we engage in kind conversation? Can you tell me why and what and how you reach your conclusions? Can we talk? Can I listen? If I come at you with a predetermined mindset, will you call me on it? Can I do the same for you?


I think I can see Jesus now, doing a little fist pump and saying, “Yes!” 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Thanksgiving Prayer

He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,


The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:1-3 (ESV)

The voice of Isaiah can be heard in this passage, but for all who know Christ the Redeemer, it’s His voice that carries the great hope of deliverance. In the fourth chapter of Luke, Jesus reads the passage from Isaiah and declares that He is its fulfillment. While the passage holds a clear message of hope for the Hebrew people in captivity, the prophetic implication reaches far beyond to future generations, to all imprisoned. The verb in the ancient text referring to the opening of the prison doesn’t imply a door is flung wide or bars are torn down. But rather it suggests that eyes are opened and darkness is dispelled.

In the fulfillment of the prophecy it was Jesus who came to bring good news, to heal broken hearts, to set sinners free, to conquer death, to proclaim victory, to destroy evil, and to bring comfort. He came to give beauty where there was once only destruction, joy where there was once only sorrow, and gratitude where there was once only hopelessness. We are the righteous oaks—not by our righteousness but His. We stand in faith and God is glorified as the One on whom our faith is built.


 Father, here is the root of my thanksgiving: You redeemed me by the blood of Your Son. This was the good news that came to my poor and broken spirit. You restored my ruined soul and set me free from the darkness, which once held me captive. By His resurrection Christ conquered death and proclaimed victory over it. Evil is destroyed—its end is near. Your comfort holds me. Your beauty covers me. Your joy sustains me. If I stand, I stand by your grace. You planted me in the righteousness of Christ for Your glory. And so may You always be glorified. And so may I always be grateful.                                                                                          Amen

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Our Most Powerful Human Emotion is Gratitude



The strength of simple gratitude is an incredible feeling.



 

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name”—Psalm100:4 (NIV).

One of the things I like about technology is being able to stay connected with others. While I sometimes groan about our fast-paced world, I love keeping up with like-minded individuals through Facebook. On November 1, I noticed a 40-Day “thanks”-giving challenge. Each day in November, people began to post those things and people for which they are grateful. I joined the challenge and began posting daily.

During November, we celebrate a national day of thanksgiving, always the last Thursday of the month. This American holiday is a time to remember and give thanks for all of our blessings. For many, however, it’s the only day of the year they feel led to express their gratitude.


Did you know that one of humanity’s most powerful positive emotions is gratitude? 



Several years ago, psychologists started studying the science of giving thanks. What they discovered might surprise you. When you count your blessings, it makes you happier, even during difficult times. 

Psychology professor Michael McCullough has studied people who were asked to be thankful on a regular basis. “When you stop to count your blessings, you are sort of hijacking your emotional system.”

Research by McCullough and others has revealed that giving thanks is a powerful emotion, feeding on itself. McCullough says, “Psychologists used to underestimate the strength of simple gratitude. It does make people happier. It’s an incredible feeling.”

Another psychologist, Maryann Troiana, has her clients keep a gratitude journal. By listing daily what they are thankful for, it changes their attitude and outlook on life. 

Agreeing, psychology professor Robert Emmons says, “It is important to focus more on the people for whom you are grateful. By concentrating on what life would be like without the good things, especially people like our spouses, you begin to realize just how grateful you are.”

Grateful people “feel more alert, alive, interested and enthusiastic,” Emmons says. “They also feel more connected to others.” Emmons, who has written two books on the science of gratitude, often studies the effects of using a gratitude journal.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul writes, “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”


Thank God no matter what happens?



 Thank God no matter what happens? Surely, Paul was joking. What if we lived each day in gratitude for what we do have? What if we recalled the ways He has taken care of us in the past? Instead of complaining about those things we lack, what if we began to take an inventory of our simple treasures and conveniences like 


  • family
  • friends
  • food
  • shelter
  • electricity
  • a vehicle
  • our health 
The list would be endless if you stopped to write it down.

While we can be blindsided by life’s unexpected burdens, we can choose to give thanks in all circumstances. Each day should be a day of thanksgiving to God and a lifestyle among God's people. 

What are you thankful for today?

Please feel free to share your gratitude list below. Also, check out my blog and books at www.carolaround.com for more inspiration.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

DROP YOUR STONE IF YOU ARE A SINNER



 
SURE YOU HAVE NO SIN, CAST THE FIRST STONE!

The Jewish leaders were always trying to find reasons to accuse Jesus.  They always came up with questions they thought were so controversial that His answers would trap Him or back Him into a corner.  On one such occasion, they brought a woman to Him who was supposedly caught in adultery.  Their question was, “In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.  Now what do you say” (Jn 8:5)?  Jesus’ response was, “Let him who have no sin cast the first stone” (Jn 8:7).  His response was straight to the point; they did not need any explanation or interpretation.  Although He didn’t, Jesus could have concluded His response by saying, “But let him who has any sin drop his stone.” That of course would have been every last one of them.  Although He didn’t, they each walked away without casting a single stone at the woman.  

How about you, and how about me?  Are we throwing stones at other sinners while we are not batting an eye about our own sins?  Sin is sin, no matter how we categorize it.  You and I have not been given the responsibility and or authority to decide which sin should be tolerated, and which one should be punished.  Let us stop judging and pointing fingers at others.  The wages of sin is death, the Bible says, no matter the category (Rom 3:23). 

Our charge concerning others is to love them as ourselves (Mt 19:19b), and to win them for the kingdom of God (Mt 28:19-20); our responsibility is not to pass judgment. 

In the book of Luke, Jesus told His disciples, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned (Lk 6:37); “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye” (Lk 6:41)?   If Jesus, the only righteous One, with the power and authority to judge and condemn shows mercy (Jn 8:10-11), who are we to be judging and condemning?  

Showing mercy does not mean condoning.  We can, and should come along side each other in love, to rebuke, encourage, and build up.  The apostle Paul puts it this way, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently” (Gal 6:1a). 

So fellow sinners, let’s all drop each one his or her stone! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Single Parenting When God Speaks, Sixteen Nuggets of Inspiration

My older daughter's referral picture 20 years ago



My younger daughter while in Vietnam adopting her
Recently a friend shared with me her daughter was in the processing of adopting two children. The little girls had been abused in their family of origin and the legal case was slowly making its way through the court system. As I reread her email, I prayed that God would answer every prayer my friend’s daughter sent up, just as He had answered mine.

Then the thought occurred to me: What would I say to a young mother-to-be whom God has called to “walk in my shoes”? 

I know each person’s situation is a little different, but similar in that a woman feels God is leading her to parent an orphan, an abused child, or a child who might never feel loved.

What wisdom would I impart after having been at this noble but difficult task for sixteen years? I pulled out my keyboard and a plethora of thoughts gushed forth. 

May my words encourage you if you are chosen by God to save an orphan—whether you are married or unmarried, but particularly if you are single. With God, all impossible things are possible. 
Without Him, we walk alone. 

1. Single parenting is the hardest thing you will ever do, but the most wonderful thing you will ever do. 




2. I would never recommend a single woman adopt. It's too hard. I would never recommend a single woman not adopt. The blessings are too great. Listen for God's voice. If God calls you to adopt, never back down, give up, despair, or listen to those who tell you differently. If God is in it, there is nothing that will prevent you from being a mother. God has a plan and a purpose. He does things His way, not ours. Trust in God. He will direct you. 

3. You will never know what tired is until you have single-parented two kids on your own (or even one).

4. God is your husband and the perfect husband.

5. You will come to understand how much God loves you by adopting a child who has no future and no hope, for that is how we are without Jesus. 

6. You will share the heart of God; His hands, His hope, and His "all" with your children. They will know God through your sacrificial love. 

7. You will love more than you ever thought you could; and you will fail miserably. But your children won't mind. In fact, they will love you anyway. Acknowledge your mistakes and move on. God can be glorified in your shortcomings. He loves your children more than you do.

8. God will not abandon you. He will meet every need you have more abundantly than you can imagine.

9. The day you sign the adoption papers will be the best day of your life. God has given you a great gift—a chance to share His love with an orphan. That is the essence of our faith.

10. “Mommy” is the most beautiful word in the English language.

11. Enjoy every moment of the journey. Your children will grow up too fast—in the blink of an eye. The years will wiz by, and you will wonder, where did the time go?  

12. Make the most of every opportunity to love, teach, laugh, cry, and even be silly. Be a mother to the fullest. Give it your all. Go to bed exhausted.  It's the best kind of tiredness you will ever feel.

13. Have a latte every once and a while, and read your Bible whenever you can. 





14.  Pray hard. God is always with you. Know this is your calling and your life's work. Your children are precious gifts from the Hands of the Creator. They are beautifully designed in His image with a future and a hope because of your love freely given in His name. 

15. Love your children unconditionally. Be flexible. Learn to say "I'm sorry." It does wonders to restore the hurting soul.

16  Enjoy the journey and have a blast. There is nothing else like it short of heaven. 



_~_~_~_


Lorilyn Roberts is busy working on the third book in her YA Christian Fantasy Series, "The Castle." 



If you would like to receive a signed copy of her Amazon best-selling adoption memoir, "Children of Dreams," please visit her website by clicking on this link.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

40-Day Love Dare - Will You Take It?


Pretty much guaranteed your marriage will be changed forever


What if you could do some simple things like learn a few new behaviors, be reminded to act in certain ways, or change an attitude or two, and you would radically enhance your spouses view of you. I am about to take the dare, and I am suggesting maybe you should, too.

Here's how it all started. My wife was staying over at her sister's last night, and I decided to see if I could find a movie on the tube. I rarely end up with the Hallmark channel or TBN, but last night I reluctantly chose "Fireproof" with Kirk Cameron. I'm expecting it to be sappy and not B- quality.

The movie is good, even really good for an overtly Christian movie. The situation is very real, and I've seen the actions and attitudes played out in my own marriage and in many, many other marriages of my friends and family. The message of hope is laid out very smartly, not heavy handed, and compels action. TBN gives this description of the story:

Fireproof is the story of a firefighter, Captain Caleb (Kirk Cameron), who lives by the old firefighter's adage “never leave your partner behind,” but when seven years of marriage to his wife Catherine (Erin Bethea) fails, neither one knows how to save the partnership, largely because neither understands the pressure the other faces.

Caleb claims that Catherine is too sensitive, and doesn't show him any respect. Catherine tells her hospital co-workers that he is insensitive and doesn't listen. As they prepare to file for divorce, Caleb's father (Harris Malcom) challenges his son to commit to a forty-day “Love Dare” test. Caleb begins the test primarily because his father asked him to rather than for the sake of his marriage.

You might expect that the entire thing just kind of naturally winds happily from success to success. But as noted above, this film is REAL. There are setbacks, serious points of hopelessness and despair. And, lets be honest, this 40-Day Love Dare isn't always going to get the right results. What it is absolutely certain to deliver is a different YOU! That is, if you do the dare with the right heart.

Personally, I would see the movie first, then look up this PDF which has a succinct listing of the daily plan for each of the 40 days.  You could also go to the main page of the resources website and check out workbooks and other materials you could use personally or as part of a study. 

You could also buy the movie on Amazon here. Or look for it on NetFlicks or buy on ITunes. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Tourists and Travelers in God's Kingdom

A road to . . . well, we don't always know.
He had a difficult time getting a word in between the roar of passing trains (about 3-400 a day he said) and the near-equal roar of the men talking at the table nearby. It was obvious which one annoyed him more.

We had sat down to a late dinner in our last town of the European tour—Bacharach, Germany. Next to us was a lone German man enjoying his beer and, seemingly, the atmosphere, though the train tracks not three feet away didn't feel terribly atmospheric. He started to talk to us, and as time went by, we struck up a conversation that lasted the rest of the evening, until I realized we absolutely had to start our trek up the hillside to our hostel in the gathering dark.

He had worked in several industries, including tourism, had taken and taught classes in other countries, and all in all truly enjoyed sitting around meeting people from other countries. In the middle of the conversation, he paid my daughters and me the best compliment we got all vacation. 

“You see,” he told us, nodding at the four people sitting nearby, “There is the difference between travelers and tourists. Tourists go places. They take pictures. They meet other tourists, talk to people from their own country, then go home and tell people about the places in their pictures and tick them off in a book to say they've been there.

Travelers learn about where they are. Travelers want to know about the people, the politics, the history—travelers talk to the people who live there, and eat with them, and shop with them. They”—he looked at the four Americans who had just met at the restaurant but were already laughing loudly and swapping stories--"are tourists. You are travelers.”

It causes me to wonder. Are there tourists and travelers in God's kingdom? I think there are. And I think I want to be the latter.

What is a tourist in the Christian life? Maybe someone who acts like our new friend said. Someone who only talks to people who believe like him. Who surrounds herself with those who think, act, and talk the same views. Like the four Americans at the table, they swap stories of being Christians, but they don't create stories with people who are different.

They don't create stories like my friend who learns the painful truths of the slave trade and writes about it. Or my other friend who goes into the red light district to talk to the girls. Stories like the one who talks about pornography and shame and brings darkness into light. How about fellow blogger Lorilyn who is bringing books, and hope, to orphans overseas? Or my other friend who visits a prison because justice went wrong and she can stand in for right?  (I'm sure you have stories, too. Please share them in the comments!)

Those stories are difficult to create, and difficult to tell. They are traveler stories, not tourist snapshots.

Is a tourist in the Christian life someone who checks off all the “right” boxes, like sights in a guidebook? Did this, didn't do that, signed this petition, went to that movie. But delving into the depth of what Jesus meant by “Love your neighbor as yourself”? Probing the questions of why I should or should not do this or support that? Not so easily quantifiable.

Reading the book enough to know where to get on and off the boat is good. But what's there about the big, wide country beyond? Scary stuff. It's not where the tourists go.

A traveler in God's kingdom? A traveler really looks at those neighbors and says, “I want to know you.” I need to hear your language. I should eat with you, talk with you, know who you are.

Travelers stop and immerse themselves
in the moment.
A traveler in God's kingdom wants to know the heartbeat of the King. She wants to understand how the kingdom is put in motion and why. She'd rather sit with the author of the guidebook than read bits of it and pick out what she likes. He wants to get beyond the simple guidebook of daily devotional or fill-in-the-blank Bible study and discover the depths of the real guide to this country.

It's not that we can't read devotionals and Bible studies. (Hey—I write those things.) But that they are not enough to be immersed in God's whole kingdom, where we are all, ultimately, travelers or tourists.


I know that, years from now, even as the pictures in our scrapbook may be of castles in Bacharach, the best memories will be of dinner and our new friend, learning about the German government system, health care, and education, punctuated by trains, three or four hundred a day, running down the Rhine River.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

You Can Thank a Colonial Governor



  

Why do we overeat and watch football on a Thursday?



Of course, it’s because that’s what the pilgrims did. Right? This time next week all good Americans will follow the traditions set forth by the early settlers. Well, not exactly. Only a scant record exists of that first Thanksgiving in 1691. Clearer documentation shows the second official day of giving thanks fell in July of 1693. For a time the various colonies set aside official days, some on Monday, some on Wednesday. History suggests it was Jonathan Belcher, governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, and later governor of New Jersey, who influenced congress and President Washington to set the date on a Thursday in November. But the tradition of the fourth Thursday came later.

Washington’s Thanksgiving fell out of style. Other presidents set aside special days, but the day and even the month varied. President Lincoln brought back the official day of the last Thursday in November. But in 1939, that Thursday was the last day of the month. President Roosevelt, fearing a shortened holiday shopping season at a time when economic stimulation was vital, moved Thanksgiving to the third Thursday. For the next two years, parts of the country held to the former tradition, while other parts celebrated with the president on the new day. After much congressional confusion (imagine that) the official day was set not as the last Thursday, but as the fourth Thursday. This kept Thanksgiving from falling on the last day of November. Congress must have been looking into the future. We wouldn’t want all those Black Friday bargainers waiting until the first of December to get the shopping season started.

Here in my house, we’re not much into football. We are very much into deep-fried turkey, sweet potato casserole, any other casserole with crunchy stuff on top, southern dressing, homemade cranberry sauce, any kind of pie other than pumpkin (which is about as popular as football), and Swiss-onion bread. If we visit another household of family or friends, we might watch the game on TV for a while, and one or two among us might eat a piece of pumpkin pie. I will bring along the Swiss-onion bread. Most are unfamiliar with the custom of baking this special treat. The pilgrims didn’t start it. Roosevelt never proclaimed it the official bread of the holiday. I’m the one who made it a tradition. In 1991, I declared it to be forever known as Thanksgiving Bread.

That year, the day before Mother’s Day, I was on my way to my aunt’s house for a special family dinner. My husband was coming later. My children were with me, along with a big pan of Swiss-onion bread, when a speeding drunk driver hit us head on. I don’t remember the accident. I don’t even remember baking the bread. A few days later, when my husband went to see the totaled car at the salvage yard, he found raccoons eating the doughy goodness in the backseat.

The months that followed were tumultuous, but filled with dependence on God a new depth of prayer. My little boy’s lacerated liver healed. My little girl’s concussion and broken leg mended. My recovery from badly damaged knees, a fractured skull, and plastic surgery to repair my face took a bit longer. Personality changes from the head injury left me confused at first, and then unsure of myself. By November, I was grateful for the changes inside me, for the scars that meant I had survived, and mostly for the spared lives of my children.

It was while preparing for the day of thanks that I thought to bake the bread again. I renamed it Thanksgiving Bread and I’ve served it at every Thanksgiving dinner since. It helps me remember to be truly grateful.
Tradition should always perpetuate a clear recollection of importance and meaning. We can only imagine what customs those first brave settlers and their new native friends shared with one another. For every variation of Thanksgiving Day in the history of our country, a series of traditions have been either established or forgotten. If no special day existed at all, if no turkey found its way to the table, if no game was played, if no Black Friday flyer came in the mail, if no bread was baked, would we remember to be thankful? My answer is yes. Not to sound un-American, but nevermind the colonial proclamations and the acts of Congress. I’d rather be grateful every day, not just when I bake my special bread and recollect what it signifies. Though I am most certainly thankful for that. My ultimate gratitude—daily and eternally— is for the One who sustains me. He is the Bread of Life.

Next Thursday, put down the potato peeler and the turkey baster for a moment. Turn off the game for a while. And just be grateful. On Thanksgiving Day I’ll post a short devotional, along with a prayer of thanksgiving.
     
     Thanksgiving Bread
Ingredients:
A bag of frozen Parker House rolls (the kind that rise)              
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup chopped scallions
½ cup of melted margarine or butter

Thaw the rolls and allow them to double in size. Drizzle a tablespoon of the margarine in the bottom of a large, deep baking pan and drop in just a bit of cheese and scallions. Arrange half the rolls in the pan in a single layer. Drizzle on some more margarine. Add about two-thirds of the cheese and scallions. Add a second layer of rolls, placing them of slightly askew on top of the first layer. Pour on the rest of the margarine, and then layer on the cheese and scallions. Bake at 350⁰ for about half an hour or until brown on top. Serve warm, give thanks, enjoy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What are You Teaching Your Children?

As Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”




“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’”—Acts 20:35 (NIV).

“Cash, which doughnut do you want?” 

The question came from my 8-year-old grandson, Brennan, while we were at a rodeo concession stand. It was after lunch and doughnuts were being given away free. All you had to do was ask.

After getting my permission, my grandsons were handed two doughnuts, each different. One was chocolate and the other plain vanilla. I could see a squabble brewing over the first—after all, what kid doesn’t like chocolate? Instead, I was blessed by the thoughtfulness of my oldest grandson who let his younger cousin choose first. Of course, Cash chose the chocolate one. I wasn’t surprised nor was I disappointed when Brennan contentedly ate the other one.

As a grandparent, I am seeing the fruits of the lessons I taught their parents. Do they always get it right? No, but when they do, I praise them for their thoughtful choices. As Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

With the current focus on being the first store to open and offer bargains on Black Friday—and now Thanksgiving Day—I am amazed by the number of people who camp out overnight to be first in line for limited merchandise at rock-bottom prices. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in buying Christmas gifts for loved ones, but the commercialism of this sacred holiday continues to grow as retail giants entice consumers earlier each year. 


What does it teach our children and grandchildren?



While we can’t do anything about the commercials enticing us with bargain mania, we can teach our loved ones the true meaning of this wonderful season. Last year, a grass-roots movement called “Giving Tuesday” was born. The brainchild of the 92nd Street Y, a nonprofit cultural and community center in New York and the United Nations Foundation, “Giving Tuesday” is a movement created as a national day of giving. 

To kick off the giving season, the organization wanted to create awareness of the non-profit needs across the world. Because of the economy, nonprofit giving has gone down. By adding the Tuesday following Thanksgiving to the calendar, organizers saw nonprofit donations increase. 

Last year, approximately 2,500 nonprofits participated. With millions of people in need, corporations are also partnering with non-profits to help “Giving Tuesday” become as widely recognized as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, a day when online retailers offer special prices.

To make your holiday more meaningful and to teach your children and grandchildren the real meaning of Christmas, I would like to suggest you give either money to your favorite charity or volunteer your time. 

Some simple suggestions include 

  • volunteering to be a Salvation Army bell ringer
  • taking some of your non-perishable food items to a local food pantry
  • donating unused clothing and household items to Goodwill or another charitable organization
  • volunteering to serve a meal at a local homeless mission
  • adopting a needy family and providing everything they need for a holiday dinner or helping the purchase Christmas gifts

It is more blessed to give than to receive. What are you teaching your children and grandchildren?

If you choose to participate in "Giving Tuesday," please share what you decided to do to give back.