Wednesday, November 26, 2008

WFW: Letters from a Pilgrim Thanksgiving

"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe
The Mayflower Compact
In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.

Edward Winslow, Mourt's Relation
"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation
"They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports."

The letter of William Hilton, passenger on the Fortune
(The letter was written in November of 1621)

Loving Cousin,
At our arrival in New Plymouth , in New England, we found all our friends and planters in good health, though they were left sick and weak, with very small means; the Indians round about us peaceable and friendly; the country very pleasant and temperate, yielding naturally, of itself, great store of fruits, as vines of divers sorts in great abundance. There is likewise walnuts, chestnuts, small nuts and plums, with much variety of flowers, roots and herbs, no less pleasant than wholesome and profitable. No place hath more gooseberrries and strawberries, nor better. Timber of all sorts you have in England doth cover the land, that affords beasts of divers sorts, and great flocks of turkey, quails, pigeons and partridges; many great lakes abounding with fish, fowl, beavers, and otters. The sea affords us great plenty of all excellent sorts of sea-fish, as the rivers and isles doth variety of wild fowl of most useful sorts. Mines we find, to our thinking; but neither the goodness nor quality we know. Better grain cannot be than the Indian corn, if we will plant it upon as good ground as a man need desire. We are all freeholders; the rent-day doth not trouble us; and all those good blessings we have, of which and what we list in their seasons for taking.
Our company are, for most part, very religious, honest people; the word of God sincerely taught us every Sabbath; so that I know not any thing a contented mind can here want. I desire your friendly care to send my wife and children to me, where I wish all the friends I have in England; and so I rest

Your loving kinsman,
William Hilton

How it began.

Some carried it on.

Most dropped it along the way.

We must pick it back up is THE WAY.

The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. ~~Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Visit Amydeanne @ The 160 Acre Woods for more WFW posts and to link your own.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

IOW: Living Thankfully

In Other Words is being hosted by Deborah @ Chocolate & Coffee. Visit her to find more posts and to link your own post about today's quote below.
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. --Psalm 16:11
How blessed are believers even if the only gift we receive is to take Christ's hand, walk down the path of life, and stand in the presence of Holy God!

I lived for a time bitter at past hurts, angry at present irritations, and dreading future problems. What a sad excuse for a Christian I was. By that time I had been walking with the Lord for about 13 years. But when I got overwhelmed with day-to-day life, raising children-at times on my own because of my husband's demanding job, I started to grumble and complain and feel sorry for myself. My self-absorbed attitude left me blind to the pleasures God was offering every day in my husband, children, and home.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path. --Psalm 119:105
My only ladder out of the hole of self-pity I had dug for myself was built with God's word. Each deliberate step I took in reading the Bible, praying the Word, listening to Christian radio broadcasts, and attending a Bible-teaching church, lifted me closer to the path God had planned out for me. It was a very tall ladder--I had dug a very deep hole.
Every word of God is pure;
He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. --Isaiah 40:8
I realize that problems are a part of this post-Eden life we have, but there is always something to thank God for. His gifts are abundantly given.
  • If you woke up this morning
    ---you've been given the gift of life. Find the moments of joy, collect them like treasures: a child's smile, a lover's embrace, a hot cup of coffee, a second of silence...
  • If you are able to read this post
    --you've been given a measure of health. Even if you deal with illness or infirmity, today you are not flat on your back...
  • If you have a roof over your head, modest or extravagant or somewhere in between
    --you've been given the gift of home, even if it's someone else's roof. The Lord placed you there to do His good will...
  • If you have a Bible on your desk or access to one online
    --you've been given a most precious gift - His love letters to you. You have the opportunity right this very minute to hear His words spoken to your heart...
  • If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior
    --you've been given THE most precious gift - life with Him forever. No greater gift has ever been given...
Come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
For the Lord is a great God,
a great King above all gods.
He holds in his hands the depths of the earth
and the mightiest mountains.
The sea belongs to him, for he made it.
His hands formed the dry land, too.

Come, let us worship and bow down.
Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
for he is our God.
We are the people he watches over,
the flock under his care.

If only you would listen to his voice today! --Psalm 95:1-7

Father, help me never forget You are the Giver of all good things. Remind me to pray faithfully when things are difficult -- and to pray more faithfully when things are easier. Lead me to celebrate the joy of Your presence in the ordinary events of life so that thankfulness becomes like breathing. For You are worthy of all praise and thanksgiving. Amen.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday Selah: It's A Good Thing

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
And to sing praises in Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning,
And Your faithfulness every night,
On an instrument of ten strings,
On the lute,
And on the harp,
With harmonious sound.
For You LORD, have made me glad through Your work;
I will triumph in the works of Your hands. --Psalm 92:1-4
The coming week will be very full of preparations for the large dinner our family will share together on Thursday.

My sisters are coming in from Maryland and Virginia. There will be at least 15 of us (up to 20 if two other families show up) gathered around my parents' tables. They have two tables in their dining room and adjoining kitchen and another they can bring up from the family room if needed.

My oldest daughter, Pastry Princess (and the Dynamo) will be staying at our house through the week so we can prepare our contributions to the feast. We will be making hor 'dourves, salads, and desserts.

I really want to make sure we take time to focus on more than just the copious amounts of food we will consume. Just the fact that we are all able to gather is evidence, in the midst of this year's economic problems, that we've all been blessed by the Lord.
O LORD, how great are Your works!
Your thoughts are very deep.
A senseless man does not know,
Nor does a fool understand this. --Psalm 92:5-6
As our group includes believers and unbelievers, I am seeking ways to be subtle about guiding us to give proper thanks to the Lord. I'm working to compose a collection of Thanksgiving Psalms and thoughts on a little scroll to put at each place setting.
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into...ministry. --1 Timothy 1:12
I am resolved not to let this opportunity escape without presenting the greatest Gift deserving of our thankfulness in a way that draws the believers and unbelievers alike to express their thanks to their Creator.

Father, help me to be an expression of Your love to our family and friends. Guide my attitude and my actions so that all gathered will be drawn to You alone. Amen.
Praise the LORD!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful. --Psalm 147:1

Secret Meaning of Your Name

Ok, Linda @ 2nd Cup of Coffee has again led me to play a little long at the keyboard. You can play too by clicking the link at the bottom of the post.

What Patricia Means
You are influential and persuasive. You tend to have a lot of power over people. It's that control freak thing. You don't want me as a passenger in your car!

Generally, you use your powers for good. You excel at solving other people's problems. No, I do NOT meddle!

Occasionally, you do get a little selfish and persuade people to do things that are only in your interest. I thought that's why you have kids: "How 'bout bringin' me a glass of tea, since you're already up?"

You are usually the best at everything ... you strive for perfection. And as a perfectionist, if I can't get it done right it has to wait. Yes, I'm a card-carrying procrastinator, as is typical of most perfectionists.

You are confident, authoritative, and aggressive. That's why our daughter's dog kneels at my feet whenever I am around her (and that's why my feet get wet YUCK! when she does).

You have the classic “Type A” personality. Is this supposed to be a positive or negative thing? At least my dad is happy--he never accepted anything short of an "A." My dh thinks that's where the above characteristic came from *wink*.

You are a seeker. You often find yourself restless - and you have a lot of questions about life. Yes, I get bored. No, I'm not nosy--just curious. (Ok, I confess: I used to read the encyclopedia for fun.)

You tend to travel often, to fairly random locations. You're most comfortable when you're far away from home. I love my home. But I really like those little get-aways my dh takes me on. We just head out and wander in some direction or another until we see somewhere we want to stop. Lately it's been Amish country in Ohio.

You are quite passionate and easily tempted. Your impulses sometimes get you into trouble. Ooops! Yes...But I like to think of these times as learning experiences.

You are wild, crazy, and a huge rebel. You're always up to something. My family just calls me names like: bohemian, eccentric, hippy...

You have a ton of energy, and most people can't handle you. You're very intense. I do tend to overwhelm when I am excited about a project.

You definitely are a handful, and you're likely to get in trouble. But your kind of trouble is a lot of fun. That's why I picked a nice, rock-steady husband and surround myself with sensible friends. That way the fun is always more or less safe. Nevermind my tendency to walk to the edge to look at what's at the bottom of the cliff...

You tend to be pretty tightly wound. It's easy to get you excited... which can be a good or bad thing. Ouch! Yep...I either encourage or take over. It's that "Type A" thing again.

You have a lot of enthusiasm, but it fades rather quickly. You don't stick with any one thing for very long. Who let you into my craft closet?!!?

You have the drive to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Your biggest problem is making sure you finish the projects you start. Again...somebody's been snooping! It's called C-R-E-A-T-I-V-I-T-Y!

You are very open. You communicate well, and you connect with other people easily. Just put me in the middle of a group. We'll laugh and have fun. But don't put me behind a microphone...suddenly my legs don't wanna hold me up and my voice raises a couple octaves.

You are a naturally creative person. Ideas just flow from your mind. My husband calls me a dreamer...then pats me on the head when I overwhelm him with those ideas. But mostly he indulges me and tries to help me accomplish my dreams.

A true chameleon, you are many things at different points in your life. You are very adaptable. No choice there: raised in a military family, married a military man. It's adapt or be miserable. And miserable just doesn't work in my world. I like to enjoy everything and everyone around me--wherever I am.

So that's me in a few lines. It's amazing how close this little game came to the REAL me. I had fun doing this. Thanks, Linda!!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Fave 5

I've been inspired by other fun blogs, so I'm joining the Friday Fave 5 today. You can see more at Susanne's blog: Living to Tell the Story.

I've had a fun week, culminating in a snowy morning to wake up to. My son was up early checking the school closings...drat! not even a delay in Wayne County.

1) But it definitely caused my first Fave:This is my neighbor's side yard. I don't have quite as clear a view of the hills behind us as this shows. Our "holler" is sort of narrow at the spot where our house sits.

2) I love my warm fireplace. All our open living spaces are heated by this old "Black Bart" cast-iron stove. The wall was designed and built by my mother-in-law and her husband 30 years ago when they added the family room and new kitchen. The beautiful mantel was a custom project by him as well.

3) My sunroom, still a work in progress, looks out on the backyard. I'm attempting a to cultivate a green indoor thumb. As much success as I have growing a garden out'd think I could grow stuff in the house. We'll know how well I'm doing by the amount of Boston fern leaves littering the floor and my antique chairs. Hopefully the next time I display a picture of the room, the ferns will be lush, the walls will be stained a pickled oak, and the furniture will be painted a creamy white for a Nantucket beach cottage feel.

BTW, on the table is a pineapple plant (the immature pineapple has already turned yellow-pretending to be ripe so I'll harvest it and it won't have to suffer from the drought I put it through anymore). ;-/ Also the dish in the front contains the Dynamo's prickly garden (a Noggin idea), with succulents and cacti. (They don't mind my neglect so much.)

4) The new rug we bought ourselves for our "Stay-cation Beach Get-away" room. We've gone a bit wild and fun in here with our colors and this rug was exactly the right look. And the deal was hard to pass up at a store going out of business sale (sad about that ;-( ...but thrilled with the price!). What a great way to say Happy Anniversary with something that makes us both smile when we see it. No, we didn't hang it on the wall...I had to stand on the step from the main part of the house to get the whole thing in the picture. And yes, we still need furniture...... I'm eager to get the next item, a cozy sofa, next payday.

5) Ooooooo, just the height of luxury and spoiling!! My dear husband bought me not one, but two tubes of Bath and Body Works' Vanilla Bean Noel body cream. It smells like a buttery, vanilla cake (maybe that's why I've been craving Kentucky Butter Cake!). The Dynamo can't resist hugging and snuggling when I use this cream.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Celebrating the Holidays with the Internet Cafe

Holiday Traditions & Ideas

Advent Wreath & Devotions

Our favorite holiday tradition starts on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving. I start by preparing the dining room and making an Advent wreath. We began this tradition 15 years ago. I was dreading the holidays and had completely lost my desire to do much more than put a few gifts under the tree for the kids. Our families were far apart, both sides wanting us to join them. We tried to make everyone happy by alternating with whom we spent Thanksgiving and Christmas.

One year, trying to be the good daughter and daughter-in-law, we drove from West Virginia to North Carolina to spend a few days before Christmas with my parents and my grandmother who had come up from South Carolina. We had our complete Christmas Eve and Christmas day celebration with them on December 21 & 22. We were supposed to leave on the 23rd to get back to West Virginia by December 24 to join my husband's family for their yearly Christmas Eve party-the only time all the family is together in one place. It snowed in North Carolina on December 22 and all the highways were shut down. We finally ventured out on December 24th as my husband is very experienced in driving in snowy weather. We drove all day and missed the Christmas party, arriving at my mother-in-law's house at around midnight. The whole experience really spoiled holiday travel for me.

So, October 1993, as I looked for some way to recapture my joy in the holidays, I found a booklet about celebrating Advent. That year the kids and I made our first Advent wreath and had Advent devotions as part of our home celebration. The kids were young and in order to hold their attention during devotions each evening, I made an event of it. They each received a small gift (candy or such on weeknights and Saturdays, and socks or cocoa mugs on Sundays). We kept the devotions short, but it was such a sweet time.

Gradually, my excitement came back, because we put the focus back on the real reason we celebrate the holidays. I include Thanksgiving because our tradition already included decorating for Christmas instead of shopping the day after Thanksgiving. Our Advent times got more special each year and was I bowled over the year my kids decided they wanted to lead devotions AND they each wrote their own!

As the kids grew, got jobs, and the girls started college, scheduling became an issue. We started celebrating Advent just on Sunday nights. Last year was a scheduling nightmare and we ended up changing the day we did devotions to Monday.

This year there is no way to keep up with everyone's individual obligations, so my husband and I have decided to go back to the way it was at the beginning. We will have devotions every night from the first Sunday after Thanksgiving to Christmas morning. I will prepare treats and small gifts as always for whoever happens to be with us each night. I'm really looking forward to this new phase of our holiday celebration. It will be a different kind of special as we read the word and worship the Savior together.
A Light in the Darkness by Fred A. Hartley:

Christians know Advent, a word which means "coming," as a time of preparation and reflection. For the course of four Sundays preceding Christmas Eve, a period of twenty-two to twenty-eight days, we anticipate the birth of Christ.

Scripture readings for Advent center around the prophecy of a Messiah and His birth in Bethlehem. They tell, too, of our life together in His name, and of His promise to return as reigning King and judge of the world.

Advent is like a light in the darkness. For us it will always be a time of great hope. A Kind called Immanuel has come into our midst, and "He will save His people from their sins."

The Advent wreath represents God's never-ending love and eternity, and the surrounding evergreens, the four Sundays. Set among the evergreens are the four candles of Advent: the first, the Candle of Light; the second, the Candle of Hope; the third, the Candle of Joy; and on the fourth Sunday the Candle of Love is lit. A fifth candle in the center of the wreath, called the Christ Candle, is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to represent the bright light of the Messiah, Jesus, who declared, "I am the Light of the world."
Suggested websites for more information on celebrating Advent:

There are many more. You can also find books, wreaths, and candles at your local Christian bookstore.

Thankful Thursday: Celebrating Together with Him

Psalm 100
A Thanksgiving Psalm
1-2 On your feet now—applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter,
sing yourselves into his presence.

3 Know this: God is God, and God, God.
He made us; we didn't make him.
We're his people, his well-tended sheep.

4 Enter with the password: "Thank you!"
Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
Thank him. Worship him.

5 For God is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever.
Sometimes I just love to read contemporary translations. This week I've been reading Psalm 100 and while it is beautiful in any version of the Bible, in The Message it sounds like a contemporary praise and worship song. It's just where I was headed this Thankful Thursday.

My Thankful List is right out Psalm 100:
  1. I'm thankful that I can be active in my worship of God. I don't have to always be constrained by convention. I can laugh and clap in His presence.
  2. I'm thankful that GOD is the only God. All His words are trustworthy. He made me for His purpose and He takes care of me as I seek to know that purpose.
  3. I'm thankful that His presence is HOME. A place where I can be myself completely--no pretenses or putting on a church-y face. He loves me as I am, while He molds me into His vessel.
  4. I'm thankful that I can understand and appreciate true beauty because I can look to Him to see in Jesus the definition of beauty.
  5. I'm thankful that Jesus loves me and stands up for me when I pray as my true advocate with the Father.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

IOW: Comfort from Jesus

“And I don’t regret the rain,
And the nights I felt the pain,
And the tears I had to cry some
of those times along the way.
Every road I had to take,
Every time my heart would break -
It was just something that I had to get through
To get me to you…”

As sung by Lila McCann, “To Get Me To You”
[Hope Floats Soundtrack]

Who is this God?
"The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy." --Psalm 103:8
How can I know Him personally?
"If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him." --John 14:7
I don't know how people survive this life without knowing God intimately. It would never be enough for me to be like the children of Israel -- always waiting for a prophet or judge or other leader to give them a word from God.

I'm greedy... I want to lay claim to all the promises of the Bible. And Jesus promised an abundant life -- He came to earth to give it to me (and to "whosoever believeth" --John 3:16).

And He promised to hear my prayers -- from my own lips -- because I trust Him.
"He answered their prayer, because they trusted in Him." --1 Chronicles 5:20b
I know that struggles and sorrows come with living on this decaying earth and in this aging body, but I can't help grabbing onto Jesus' very words of comfort.
"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." --John 16:33
So that you won't think me a 'glass half-full' woman because of an easy life (although I've been very blessed), let me share:

I suffered the death of my innocence at age 10 when my own grandfather misused me -- all the while assuring me that I was his favorite and he would never do anything to hurt me.

But God pulled me away from the typical self-blame of that circumstance by preparing me ahead of time to endure --

For even when my father (a non-believer at the time) requested my mother not attend church, she sent me on a bus from ages 6-8, to a church where I learned:
"Jesus loves me...

The Bible tells me so!!!"
Then, two years after the devastation of my misuse, at age 12, Jesus met me at the altar of Bethlehem Baptist Church when I prayed to accept Him as my Savior.

Every time Satan tried to use the horror and shame against me, when I took my eyes off my circumstances, and put them back on God:
"...the God of hope fill[ed me] with all joy and peace in believing, that [I] may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." --Romans 15:13
Did I struggle with self-esteem, at times hating myself? Of course. But I found God to be faithful to me even then. He showed me a true Grandfather's love--one not tarnished by the stain of sin.
"The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him." --Nahum 1:7
And then He turned my pain into joy when a mother, after hearing my testimony, came to me with fears her daughter was being misused by her stepfather. I had already developed a relationship with the girl through my ministry with young teen girls [Acteens]. I helped that mother and daughter open a dialogue together. I didn't get to know the end of the story, but I rejoice that I will get to hear the whole thing one day.

Although the summer I was 10 years old has colored my entire life, 20 years after it happened God showed me His purpose in allowing it to happen.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." --2 Corinthians 1:3-4
If helping that one teen girl is the only reason I had to suffer, it is completely worth it, because I was able to show that our God is faithful and true.

*******Are you walking a difficult path? God is longing to comfort you. He has a plan for you that includes building you up so that you may help others in their times of need.*******
"For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation." --2 Corinthians 1:5-7

Michelle is hosting In Other Words at her blog Because I Love You.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fall Into Flavor Finale: Fruit Cocktail Cake

I spent my last two years of high school in Okinawa, Japan. Six months after graduation, I married my dear husband. One of the gifts my mother gave me for my new house (ok, my teeny--tiny--itty--bitty apartment - the stove/oven was just 24 inches wide and not much taller) was a cookbook put together by the ladies of our church.

The front page says:

In honor of the season and in celebration of the 27th anniversary (November 16, 1981) of my legal binding*[see note below]* marriage to my soul-mate, I give you the only fruit cake I really like, from Koza Cookery. (And Linda.... it's quick-easy-and yep, has butter!)

Fruit Cocktail Cake

Mix together:
1-1/2 cup sugar
2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Then add:
1 medium-sized can fruit cocktail, juice too

Mix until well-blended. Put in an oblong pan and,

Sprinkle over top:
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup brown sugar

Bake at 350F for 40-50 minutes.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3/4 cup canned milk

Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add 1 cup shredded coconut. Spread over warm cake and put under broiler until bubbly and brown.

This cake is delicious served warm or cold. You can even heat it up in the microwave (I sneak and eat it for a quick breakfast---if there is any leftover the next day!)

*[Note: In Okinawa, American pastors are not licensed to marry. We had to go through the US consulate and the mayor of Naha City to get legally married. Because of the time it took to get the paperwork done and my husband's status changed from single to married, for pay and other purposes, we did the legal part a month and a half before our church wedding on January 2, 1982. We celebrate both dates because they are both so special to us. During the waiting time from married in the eyes of the government to married in the eyes of God, we got my identification paperwork changed, my husband moved out of the dormitory and into an apartment-December 16, bought a set of dishes, and many other little tasks. It was great fun being secretly married---only my parents and our pastor knew about it.]*

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday Selah: Encouragement

"I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints." --Philemon 6-7 [NIV]
I started my day reading about endurance. I thought that would be today's Selah topic. I read a nifty devotion about enduring life with teenagers (it applies to life with young adults, too! I'll come back to that in a later post.). Then I stumbled across the above verses in Philemon when I read a brief devotion on encouragement, which I'll share later in this post.

Don't you think that those verses in Philemon are just the heart of the Christian walk?! Each time we share our faith, love our brothers and sisters, and encourage believers, we are stepping in Christ's footprints.

Have you ever tried to walk exactly where another has stepped before you? Practically speaking, everyone has a different stride. Placing your foot precisely where the other has placed his or her foot is a best difficult, at worst may cause you to stumble.

But if you are following Christ's step, placing your foot into the spot He first placed His, as He does when He is leading you to be an encouragement to another...instead of falling, your sense of balance is strengthened. And if you do fall (tripping over your tongue or your fear or such), His is the hand that reaches out to pick you up and set you firmly back into His predetermined path.
"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we has at first." --Hebrews 13:3-4
I think that is the draw to being a Christian blogger. I have the opportunity to be encouraged by the posts and comments of other bloggers. And I have the opportunity to encourage other bloggers by my posts and comments. I find that it is much easier to be an anonymous (more or less) encourager than to do it face to face. But encouragement is a ministry to which all Christians are called.

I have a few boxes of pretty notecards and a list of addresses of my Sunday school class and church members. I try to periodically send a note to those God lays on my heart. I started the practice after receiving several encouraging notes myself. When I saw how they brightened my day, I understood that I was called to do the same...either through a note sent unexpectedly or by shaking a believer's hand and telling how much I appreciate him or her.

Now to the devotion I read and it's leading to another level of encouraging:
From the Women's Devotional Bible [Zondervan Publishing House]:

"Sweetheart" by Kathryn Hillen
"Let Me Call You Sweetheart--I Can't Remember Your Name."
The pin, almost as big as a saucer, was worn by a middle-aged woman - without doubt, an extrovert. We were at a state PTA convention, encountering many unfamiliar faces. The pin seemed to be her humorous way of saying, "Let's be friends for today, but I'm not even going to attempt to remember your name."

We have many temporary relationships: those beside us on the plane or in the laundromat, the people who camp next to us at a resort, and the neighbors who move in and out with such rapidity. It's up to us to decide if these contacts will be meaningless or significant.

Ask God, "What would you like to say to this person through me?" You may be surprised. He may ask you to speak words of appreciation and encouragement, to witness about Christ, or only to be friendly. When we look a person in the eye and ask about their lives, we show that they are valuable. And even if we never learn the person's name, we have been a channel through which God can reach him or her. That is both exciting and humbling.
Father, help me to step into Christ's footprints as I meet both strangers and friends. Grow me into an encourager who asks You each time what You want me to say in these encounters. Make me a blessing, reaching out to others in Your name. Amen.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thankful Thursday: Life

From the very beginning life was a gift from God, coming from His very own breath.
"And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being." --Genesis 2:7
The divine spark is in every person. That amazing touch left all persons throughout history craving more of Him who gives life.
"Seek the LORD while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near. --Isaiah 55:6
Those who seek diligently are rewarded with finding God face to face.
"Seek, and you will find." Matthew 7:7b
Even when we get distracted, He seeks us and brings us to His side.
"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:10
And when we focus on Him:
"When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." --Colossians 3:3
The gift of life we have can be lived abundantly and the Lord gave us a handbook to guide us to that abundant living.

I am thankful we can live:
  1. In reasonable independence
    "She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing. She's like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises. She's up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day. She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she's put aside, plants a garden." --Proverbs 31:13-16 [The Message]
  2. In trust worthiness
    "Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long." --Proverbs 31:11-12 [The Message]
  3. With the ability to take responsibility for our own livelihood
    "And willingly works with her hands." Proverbs 31:13b
  4. With the ability to work under rules and authority
    "Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct." --Hebrews 13:7
  5. In tolerance of others
    "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." --Ephesians 4:32
  6. With the ability to show friendliness and love
    "A friend loves at all times." --Proverbs 17:17a
  7. With a sense of humor
    "A merry heart does good, like medicine." --Proverbs 17:22a
  8. With the capacity to give and take
    "A time to cast away...and a time to gather." --Ecclesiastes 3:5a
  9. And, with a devotion beyond self
    "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." --1 John 4:10-11

"I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." --John 10:10b
You can read a previous post I have on the importance each moment we are given in this life here: A Life of Moments.

Visit Iris at Grace Alone to read more Thankful Thursday posts and to post a link to your own.

(All scripture quoted is from the NKJV unless otherwise noted.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fall Into Flavor: Warm Desserts

ince the last thing I was thinking about last Monday was food, I missed Fall into Flavor. Today I'm going to share a couple of my favorite chocolate and/or buttery desserts to make up.

First is my favorite quickie and warm chocolate dessert. It's simplicity and flavor is just what I need on a cool night. My family loves it. It's great with a cup of coffee or a tall icy glass of milk. I like that I can mix it all up in one bowl (without even rinsing between the two parts).

Brownie Pudding

Brownie layer:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp. butter or butter-flavored shortening, melted
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Pudding layer:
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, white sugar, and 1 tbsp. cocoa. Stir in butter or shortening, vanilla, and milk until smooth. Fold in nuts. Spread mixture in a 1-quart baking dish.
  3. Stir together brown sugar, 1 tbsp. cocoa, and boiling water. Pour carefully over pudding mixture in the baking dish.
  4. Bake at 350F for 30-45 minutes, until set.

The brownie ends up on top of the creamy pudding. Scoop into dessert bowl and top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if you like. Makes 6 servings.

The next dessert is one of my favorite for taking to fall and winter gatherings. One year I even made it into cupcakes so everyone could take some home. Very buttery and gooey and sweet!

Kentucky Butter Cake

Make the cake:
1 cup butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
2 cups of sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla flavoring (real, not artificial--it's crucial to get a full flavor!)
3 cups unsifted flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk (low-fat is fine, but why bother? The whole point is flavor not weight control with this cake!)
  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Cream butter and sugar.
  3. Beat in eggs one at a time, until mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. Add vanilla.
  5. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  6. Add dry ingredients alternating with buttermilk, mixing until blended.
  7. Pour into a buttered bundt pan. Tap pan lightly on the counter to evenly distribute batter.
  8. Bake at 325F for 60-65 minutes.
Make butter topping:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 tsp. vanilla (again real, not artificial; you can substitute 2 tbsp. rum or brandy here for a more sophisticated flavor)
  1. Combine the ingredients, except vanilla (or rum) in a small saucepan over medium low heat.
  2. Cook, stirring constantly, until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat and add vanilla (or rum) until well blended.
Complete the cake:
  1. Remove the cake from the oven.
  2. Prick the cake with a long skewer.
  3. Gently pour a small amount of the sauce over the cake (still in the pan).
  4. Wait a minute for the sauce to be absorbed by the cake and repeat pouring the sauce over the cake until you've used half of the sauce.
  5. Let the cake cool and then turn it out onto a cake plate.
  6. Gently pour a small amount of the sauce over the top and sides of the cake.
  7. Wait a minute for the sauce to be absorbed by the cake and repeat pouring the sauce over the cake until you've used the rest of the sauce.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Saturday Selah: Being Witnesses

"This will result in you being witnesses to them." --Luke 21:13
I visited my high school's bulletin board yesterday, catching up on some of the conversation between the decade of the 80s Dragons. I followed a lot of response to a statement made by a Christian concerning the election this week and God's hand in it. Wow, evidently that idea hit someone very badly. She lambasted the person who posted that idea. The sister and a good friend of the sister of the person who posted jumped up to her defense.

Someone else made the comment that although there was a tie amongst the participants in the forum, having lived on Okinawa and attended Kubasaki High School (KHS), most of them had nothing else in common.

Interestingly enough, as I later read Sue's blog at Praise and Coffee, she was also talking about things in common among people and who we really have unity with. Her post was a kinder, gentler, and truer explanation of unity than the conversation that went back and forth on the KHS forum.

As I lingered over my coffee and highly concentrated fiber-filled cereal (fighting cholesterol medicine with my entire pantry!!! *grin*), I read the November 8 devotion in another of my favorite books: Streams in the Desert by Mrs. L.B. Cowman. I enjoyed the devotion, but as I listened to the breeze kick up outside and felt a bit of a chill, I suddenly had a desire to read the December 25 devotion. Exciting and lovely...but felt I must read on...kind of like taking that first bite of hazelnut little square was not enough. I read at least 4 more devotions before this one, December 19, just satisfied the hunger I was feeling:
Life is a steep climb, and it is always encouraging to have those ahead of us "call back" and cheerfully summon us to higher ground. We all climb together, so we should help one another. The mountain climbing of life is serious, but glorious, business; it takes strength and steadiness to reach the summit. And as our view becomes better as we gain altitude, and as we discover things of importance, we should "call back" our encouragement to others.
I've noticed a sense of despair about our country's future in my 3 adult children. They have been kept informed (thanks to the diligence of their dad) of the political stance that our president-elect has and most of it goes against the beliefs they hold tight to. I was so proud that each of them went to vote this year. Now it is my responsibility to keep them aware that political tides change and while they are to be attentive to what's going on around them, they needn't worry.

You know, over and over through the history of God's chosen people, He assured them that He was in control and if they would just hold fast to Him and obey His word, they would have no need to live in fear. But He required the older (or more mature) to tell the younger (or less mature) about Him.

When Joshua became leader of the Israelite people, God reassured him and explained to him the requirements of walking with Him.
"Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.

Do not let this Book of Law depart from your mouth;

meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.

Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you?

Be strong and courageous.

Do not be terrified;

do not be discouraged,

for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." --Joshua 1:7-9
Joshua declared his allegiance to God publicly and boldly. He challenged the Israelites to do the same.
"Now fear the LORD and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped eyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve...

But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." --Joshua 24:14-15
The people of God went through many trials and battles, political and moral over the next few decades. But they forgot what they had been told when they crossed the Jordan in to the land God had promised them:
"In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' Tell them...of the LORD. These stones are to be a memorial...forever." --Joshua 4:6b-7
As a result of not remembering to do this one thing, "Tell them of the LORD," one generation removed (just 40-some years):
"After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up,

who knew neither the LORD

nor what He had done for Israel.

Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD..." --Judges 2:10-11
So regardless (or in light of) what is going on politically in our country, we must tell others about God. We must be witnesses of the great gift of Jesus Christ. We must lead those behind us on the trail to Him. Every other task pales in comparison with that.
If you have gone a little way ahead of me, call back--
It will cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track;
And if, perhaps, Faith's light is dim, because the oil is low,
Your call will guide my lagging course as wearily I go.

Call back, and tell me that He went with you into the storm;
Call back, and say He kept you when the forest's roots were torn;
That, when the heavens thunder and the earthquake shook the hill,
He bore you up and held you where the lofty air was still.

O friend, call back, and tell me for I cannot see your face;
They say it glows with triumph, and your feet sprint in the race;
But there are mists between us and my spirit eyes are dim,
And I cannot see the glory, though I long for word of Him.

But if you'll say He heard you when your prayer was but a cry,
And if you'll say He saw you through night's sin-darkened sky--
If you have gone a little ahead, O friend, call back--
It will cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track.
--Streams in the Desert

O Lord, help us be your strong witnesses to all those around us. Without fear or hesitation. Let us be joyful in it, like John:
"We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete." --1 John 1:3-4

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Conservative Christian Response

Many conservatives suffered a strong disappointment Tuesday evening when the majority of votes for President of the United States went to a man considered one of the most liberal U.S. senators.

I've listened to a lot of opinions over the past few days, much of it justified concerns for the values of this country both politically and morally. Unfortunately there is also a bunch of whining and doomsday talk. Somehow, even though I know the extreme stance of our country's new leader on many important issues, I've been at peace in my soul.

At first I was surprised at my reaction because I remember when the last Democrat (and liberal) president won re-election. I actually had an anxiety attack. In my panic, I called my husband at work. His words, once I dwelt on them for a while, comforted and calmed me. I still cling to those words when a crisis arises:
"No matter who is in the Oval Office, God is in control."
Since that time, I've had the opportunity to write several Sunday school lessons that were based on that very truth. My research reinforced my peaceful attitude.

See it's like this--I know the end of the story: Good wins - evil spends eternity in the lake of fire.
"And He said to me, "It is done!" I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." --Revelation 21:6-8
It's like watching the rebroadcast of your favorite football team play a game they've already won. Even if they fall behind in the score and make mistakes, you know the final score so you don't have to get worked up. You don't get angry at the coaches, yell that the quarterback needs to sit on the bench a while, and you don't need to wish for problems for the opponent...because the end is already decided.

Now, if we are to be responsible in the present, we should be aware of God's expectations for us as conservatives and Christians.

  1. Submit to authority respectfully.
    "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves." --Romans 13:1-2

  2. Pray for our leaders.
    "Therefore I exhort first all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." --1 Timothy 2:1-2

  3. Don't stand around ignoring wrong-doing, waiting for the next election.
    If..."Your princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves; [and] loves bribes; and follows after rewards...[If] they do not defend the fatherless, nor does the cause of the widows come before them." --Isaiah 1:23

    Then..."Learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow." --Isaiah 1:17

There is work to be done to defend the orphans and widows and to see that justice is being done. It is not enough to tell ourselves that we are "in the world, but not of the world." We are also the light and salt. We need to make sure that we shine the light in the darkest places and provide flavor among the tastelessness of our culture.

From The Woman's Study Bible:

God Himself is the ultimate authority and the source of all human authority. Christians are commanded to recognize God's authority behind human governing institutions by being compliant and respectful citizens.

Even when human authority, corrupted by sin, is bent on evil purposes, God is working concurrently through that power to accomplish His perfect purposes. This paradox is never more strikingly revealed than when Jesus, standing before Pilate said, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above." --John 19:11.

The purposes of the human authorities that led to Jesus' crucifixion were stained with evil. At the same time, God's good, gracious, and loving purpose of redemption was being accomplished through those human powers, even though they did not acknowledge Him as the source of their authority.

All power and authority is God's alone and He uses it always for the ultimate good of His children. Even when we do not see the beginning or the ending of God's plan, we have to trust Him to be the Alpha and Omega, Beginning and Ending of all things, including the events of our individual lives.
Now is the time to be a good citizen and support the Christian ideals of the Founding Fathers. We must be aware of what's going on in the governing of our country. I will be writing more about how to do this on my political commentary blog over the weekend. I'll post a link later. In the meantime...we all have direct access to the throne of Grace. If you are afraid of what the future holds, come January 2009, pray. If you are seeking your responsibility as a citizen of the United States and a conservative Christian, pray.

"Then the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place." --2 Chronicles 7:12-15

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Saturday Selah: You Are Not Your Own

"Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?" -- 1 Corinthians 6:19
I've had a rough two weeks, dealing with my grandson's illness and my own. My cold turned into a sinusitis which I tried to fight on my own. The problem with relying on myself was that I was so engrossed in the pain in my head that I retreated from everything and everyone including my private times with God. It hurt too much to read. When I awoke on Thursday, the pain was at the point I could no longer resist going to the doctor. Of course, he prescribed an antibiotic. Although the pain was very severe that evening, Friday I woke up to myself again--after just two doses of antibiotics.

The fight in my body over the infection is not done. It will take two weeks to completely be rid of it. Today I am praising the miracle of modern medicine. Yes there are side effects. I am dealing with them the natural way with yogurt (a healthy food I eat any way) and acidophilus capsules. These will help keep my body chemistry in balance. My biggest praise is that since I am no longer completely focused on the pain in my head, I was able to grab my devotional and Bible this morning and joyfully plunge back into fellowship with the Lord.

My stubborn self-reliance came at such a price. My attitude that "it's my body and I'll take care of myself" caused me to miss out on a week of worship (unable to attend church at all) and praise (no morning coffee and conversation with the Lord). It is altogether appropriate that Oswald Chambers' November 1st devotion was entitled "You Are Not Your Own."

Let me share a bit of the words that blessed me this morning and caused me to grab my Bible and delve in a little deeper:
"There is no such thing as a private life, or a place to hide in this world, for a man or woman who is intimately aware of and shares in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. God divides the private life of His saints and makes it a highway for the world on one hand and for Himself on the other. No human being can stand that unless he is identified with Jesus Christ."
I love to write. It is easy to separate myself from the world as a writer. I observe, record, and stay out of the fray. This tendency is a battle I have to constantly engage in. If I don't watch myself, I will hide behind the paper and pencil, writing...writing...and ignoring the reality that is before me: the call to be light and salt to the world around me and to share in the suffering of Christ if it is necessary so that I can be both the light and salt.
"We are not sanctified for ourselves. We are called into intimacy with the gospel, and things happen that appear to have nothing to do with us. But God is getting us into fellowship with Himself. Let Him have His way. If you refuse, you will be of no value to God in His redemptive work in the world, but will be a hindrance and a stumbling block."
There is a reason for all the encounters in my life. It is my responsibility to open my ears to listen when the Holy Spirit indicates an opportunity to be used of Him.
"The first thing God does is get us grounded on strong reality and truth. He does this until our cares for ourselves individually have been brought into submission to His way for the purpose of His redemption. Why shouldn't we experience heartbreak? Through those doorways God is opening up ways of fellowship with His Son."
I know my first response to heartbreak is to panic and flap around uselessly like one of my hens running from my grandson. I will have to submit eventually, just as the hen does once the Dynamo catches her. Unlike the hen who becomes docile, though, I tend to continue to flap for a time while I am in God's arms.
"Most of us collapse at the first grip of pain. We sit down at the door of God's purpose and enter a slow death through self-pity. And all the so-called Christian sympathy of others helps us to our deathbed. But God will not. He comes with the grip of the pierced hand of His Son, as if to say, 'Enter into fellowship with Me; arise and shine.'"
I yearn to become less self-aware and more God-aware so that I can see the opportunity He places in front of me. I want to be a useful vessel, not a cracked and leaky one.
"If God can accomplish His purposes in this world through a broken heart, then why not thank Him for breaking yours?"
Here is the hardest part of walking a real and effective Christian walk. Being thankful for problems, pains, heartaches...I marvel when I see a fellow Christian praising and showing a joyful heart, even through the pain. Shame on me for not expecting that. Shame on me for being one of those full of "so-called Christian sympathy." Shame on me for expecting pity when I go through pain.

Father, guide me to Your purpose in every detail of my life. Make me more aware of You than of myself. Open my eyes to Your guidance and use me however is needful to accomplish redemption in the lives of the lost around me. Amen.