Friday, December 14, 2007
Give ye heed to what we say: News! News! Jesus Christ is born today;
Ox and ass before Him bow; and He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today! Christ is born today!
Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye hear of endless bliss: Joy! Joy! Jesus Christ was born for this!
He has opened the heavenly door, and man is blest forevermore.
Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!
Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye need not fear the grave: Peace! Peace! Jesus Christ was born to save!
Calls you one and calls you all, to gain His everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!
Latin-Heinrich Suso/English-John M. Neale
The Gift of Imagination
by Jack Cavanaugh
Christmas is a holiday for the imagination.
Angels and shepherds and wise men (oh my!),
Tyrants and taxes and stars in the sky!
No room for a bed
As tidings were spread
And the Father looked down from on high.
It’s no wonder the story of the nativity thrills our hearts year after year. It’s a wonderfully creative event orchestrated by a Deity who loves using His imagination. Take the temple priest’s robes for example. When the temple was first built God assembled all the skilled craftsmen and gave them instructions (Exodus 35:10). The craftsmen designing the priestly robes were told to adorn them with images of blue pomegranates (Exodus 39:24).
There’s no such thing as a blue pomegranate! What was God thinking? If this kind of creativity were to catch on we could end up with Christmas cards with images of green angels, pink Christmas trees, and a plaid star over the manger!
If blue pomegranates bothers you…get over it! We have a wonderfully imaginative God who frequently colors outside the lines. Go, and do thou likewise.
Wishing you an imaginative Christmas season.
Jack Cavanaugh is the author of Hideous Beauty: Kingdom Wars #1 and countless other books. For more information visit www.JackCavanaugh.com.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....
The Gift of God's Patience
by Griffin Smith
(written by Todd & Jedd Hafer)
Thanks for reading, everybody. My name is Griffin Smith. I’m in my second year at Lewis College (Go Eagles!) on the track team. Specifically, I run distance. Okay, I realize “distance” isn’t really specific at all. In high school I ran the 1600 and 3200 meters – that’s the mile and 2-mile for those of still holding strong in the anti-metric resistance.
As a runner and big-time sinner, the gift I am most thankful for this Christmas (and every day) is patience. Not my own, as my dad likes to say “looooong-suffering”. No, I could use a ton more. I routinely lose my patience in class, in races, in relationships – even with my little brother Colby who overcame the burden of being named after cheese to become the sweetest kid on the planet.
The amazing gift is God’s patience. His patience with me – the most unsweetened kid on the planet (and I know that is not the most grammatically sound phrase, but it’s tough for me to write about positive subjects, so, if we’re going to play ball, you’re going to have to indulge me).
Anyway, I constantly criticize myself, even punish myself (since we’re trying to be positive, I won’t get into that now), but God, He just keeps loving me. I try to squirm away, I even bend God’s fingers back, He just patiently holds on. I swear the guy must be double-jointed.
I’m definitely thankful for that grip though. I’d hate to think He’d ever let go.
The point is I know He never will. It’s just not in His nature. Good news for people like me!
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
My prayers are offered for those that the storms affected in a much more hurtful way. I know that many are without power and that the ice caused a lot of damage to homes and trees and all manner of things people care about. It is amazing how different things are a few hours away from us.
We will be venturing out today for some final classes. Our teachers’, piano players’, and friends’ little gifts are all wrapped and ready. They came together amazingly well. The boys were happy to help with the assembly. We simply filled holiday mugs with cocoa mix, cider mix, teas, caramels, peppermints and a mini-Toblerone or two. I really am lame when it comes to those kind of things. But tomorrow is a big library day and then we will begin some more baking next week for family. Only five more Nutcracker performances on our schedule!! Whew!! It has been fun for the boys, but very tiring for the chauffeur.
How are you all weathering the season?
On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....
The Gift of Restoration
God's Gift of Restoration
by Rachel Thoene
When I was but a wee child, I had many opportunities to travel with my dad’s folks, Nonnie and Papa, on trips to the coast with their house trailer.
My Nonnie was religious about packing sandwiches, fresh home made cookies and fruit for the trip. She wrapped the cookies and sandwiches in wax paper… this was before the days of juice boxes and Lunchables… and the whole picnic was packed neatly into one or two sturdy shoe boxes for the trip. A thermos of coffee for she and Papa and one of milk for me. The trip to the coast was only about two and a half hours long, but about half way there, Papa would slow the rig to a wide spot in the road and we would have a “picnic” together before continuing on our way to the ocean.
I was asked to contribute some thoughts on the gift of God’s restoration vs. life’s destination.
As I mulled a few thoughts over, it occurred to me that Nonnie’s “shoe box lunches” were a lot like God’s gift of restoration… Sure we had a destination in mind. It was exciting to get out of the valley and go spend time at the ocean with the sand and the waves and time all to myself with my Nonnie and Papa collecting shells… but the picnic lunch on the side of the road DURING the trip restored us and provided a brief respite in our journey.
Lately, my heart has been troubled and anxious as I have been caring for a friend with a very serious cancer. And I have found myself, head down, walking my campus during the day at work, talking to God about her condition and the outcome of all of this agony…And as I have conversed with Him on these strolls, I have picked up an amazing number of Pennies… every day… pennies… sometimes it’s only one or two, sometimes I’ve found 12 or more… but every day…pennies. And the curious thing is that every single one of those pennies says, “In God we Trust.” And I pick them up, put them in my pocket and say, “Thank you Lord. We are blessed today and we are whole, healthy, healed and restored…”
I believe that my friend is going to be well at the end of all of this, because God reminds me daily through those pennies to TRUST HIM”. And every penny draws me closer to Him so that I am focusing now on the moment and my conversation with Him, daily being restored in my faith and claiming her healing and I’m not any longer worrying about the destination or when we’re going to get there, because we have been given THIS MOMENT and in THIS Moment, I’m going to just pull my rig to the side of the road and have a picnic with Him in my heart.
Rachel Thoene is the author of The Vase Of Many Colors (Capstone Books, 2007), For more information visit http://www.thoenebooks.com/
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Oh the weather outside is frightful…
But yesterday was lovely.
The boys and I baked these little goodies.
I first found them at Renee’s Holiday Creations and then Boo saw them when I was checking in on Lauren at Baseballs and Bows. "OH MOM!!! Can WE make those????"
Well, yes...I decided we could. So the last time I was at the store I got the necessary items. And yesterday seemed the perfect day for some fun. I have to tell you that these were a hit even with Daddy who for the second night joined in the baking!!
Lauren recommends one wear tulle for the baking, but since no one here owns tulle we settled for jammies. In fact, we wore jammies all day long…even me. The boys decided they would watch the chocolate melt. Exciting lives here, people I am telling you.
The treats turned out fabulously. We used Hershey’s Hugs and Peanut Butter Kisses. Somehow I managed to NOT buy the plain Kisses. How could I have done that? But fear not…I have almost every other flavor of Kiss known to man…have you tried some of these? Cherry Cordial, Mint Truffle, Peppermint, Carmel and my favorite—Cheesecake Kisses.
Supper was wonderful. The Cave Geek had made it home early and changed into the requisite dinner attire—jammies, remember? And we had comfort food: steamed carrots, biscuits, mashed potatoes, baked chicken and gravy. And we listened to Christmas carols on the stereo.
Since I was being a “nice mom” today I let the boys go to be with their Christmas tree lit and they told stories and fell asleep to the glow of the lights.
I hope you are warm and cozy where you are today. Be safe & merry.
The Gift of Simplicity
God's Gift of Simplicity
by Wanda E. Brunstetter
The Amish people I write about celebrate Christmas in a much simpler way than most of us do. There are no Christmas trees or colored lights in their homes. The gifts they give one another are simple and functional, not elaborate or expensive. Their emphasis at Christmas is on the birth of Jesus and the love they feel for God, family, and friends. Anyone can give the gift of simplicity, and it can be given any time of the year. A smile, a hug, a listening ear. . .these are the gifts of simplicity.
Wanda E. Brunstetter is the author of many Amish themed books including the latest A Sister's Secret (Barbour Books, 2007) , the first installation in the Sisters of Holmes County series. Watch for the second installment, A Sister's Test, in January 2008. For more information visit www.wandabrunstetter.com
Monday, December 10, 2007
I have been grateful for the traveling mercies we have received, these last few weeks, especially. I have been seriously questioning my parenting skills. The weather has been dubious at best and we have had commitments to keep. We have had to drive in some awful weather and thankfully we have made our destinations safely.
My husband has started a new job. While it may not be a place to retire, it may be a place to grow and learn and provide for our family. It seems to be where God wants him to be right now.
Friends have been a blessing. One particular friend has proven herself “a friend indeed.” She’s seen me at my worst and close to my best and is a consistent friend. She’s walked many of the same roads as I have and offers some fantastic advice and insight. Thanks T!
We are extremely grateful my friend J has had her new little baby girl. Two pounds less than Roo when he was born, almost three pounds less than Boo when he was born the tiny little girl came about twenty days early. But she and her mommy are healthy and safe. Praise the LORD.
Homeschool has proved to be a good thing for us and we are pretty much on track. We will be doing some holiday things and some fun things, but we are grateful to be ready to take a bit of a break.
I am thankful my sister has found a new job. This will mean that she will be giving up homeschooling her daughter in January, and likely her son in the fall, but we believe God is answering prayer in this and that He will continue to be faithful in all their needs. We just need to look for the mercies that we may not be aware He wants to bestow.
The friends that have been made while this blog have been a source of joy and comfort this year. I am so grateful for you all.
What are you grateful for?
Grains of Gratitude is home with Christine of Brady’s Bunch.
I received this book recently from Glass Road Public Relations for review and felt drawn to it and so dropped some of my other reading and flew through it. I was not disappointed.
The promotional material I received with it was intriguing. How were the authors going to bring a Russian Duchess and a young Mennonite man into acquaintance? How were they ever going to interweave the contrasting beliefs of the simple Mennonite traditions with the lavish and resplendent rituals of Russian Orthodoxy? I am an immense fan of historical fiction. I’ve been interested in the Amish and Mennonite stories that are popular these days and Orthodoxy is dear to my heart so I jumped right in.
My Russian history is a little lacking but I’m pretty sure the authors did a good job with their research. The story is purely a fictional “what-if,” not at all set out to be a speculation. But in that place where history can meet fiction the results were believable and engaging, and in fact surprising in how deeply I was drawn to these characters.
The book introduces us to the royal Romanov family right after WWI and during the Bolshevik revolution. The captured Tsar Nikolai Alexandrovich providentially meets a young Mennonite man traveling for business. He charges him with the care of a young servant to the Romanovs. The young man, Anton’s life becomes entwined with an Orthodox monk, the monk’s sister and the servant girl the Tsar is so eager to protect. Anton’s life is already frustrating and complicated, but he is a man of honor and possesses a faithful heart.
I did a little research and discovered that The Sovereign’s Daughter is a re-release of the book
Oksana: Heirs of Anton Series. It will be available under The Sovereign's Daughter in January.
While this is not a long, involved--it was a relatively fast read, I was glad I read this and would recommend it to fans of Christian historical fiction. This is a book that I will be happy to share with my book-loving, pre-teen niece. Definitely a book to pick up.
I had this book on my Fall into Reading list. I started this book at the beginning of the Fall into Reading Challenge. I just painfully finished the book last night. Ugh.
A friend of mine loaned me this book a long time ago. I wasn’t too hip on reading it, she and I have very different reading choices, but being a "Nutcracker Mom," I thought I might relate to it. And so I slogged my way through it. Very rarely do I finish books that I don’t enjoy—my “to read” pile is to high and my time is to limited to do so often, but I had told my friend I would read it. What do do? Press on...
Jennifer Fisher, the author, is a teacher of dance history, theory, and ethnology at Pomona College and the University of California, Irvine. From her writing I gather she danced more than a few Nutcrackers herself. Sadly she seems to be unintentionally stuck in the boys vs. girls’ camp that clings to ballet, especially at the amateur level. She attempts to explore the differences between male and female dancers, but it is very stereotypical and flat.
There was very little discussion of Tchaikovsky, himself although definitely history of how the ballet grew from its Russian roots at the Mariinsky Theater.
The more interesting parts of the book are where the different faces of Nutcracker are explored across the continent. Nutcracker has been adapted socially and culturally many times to interesting outcomes. Ms. Fisher has researched her history admirably. She says:
Although the ballet world, even on the amateur level, is far from egalitarian, this seems to be one way The Nutcracker is imagined by its participants—as a welcoming utopian community. This vision is supported by the idea that anyone can pursue the ideal forms inherent in ballet technique and be affected by the potentially transformational music of Tchaikovsky, while at the same time celebrating the themes of home, hearth, and adventure. And when people feel shut out of the ballet world, with all its particular history and stringent requirements, they can take The Nutcracker into their own domains, tweak it, dress it up differently, and bring it closer to home.
Perhaps it is my own lackluster attitude this year, perhaps it is the boys vs. girls attitude that has, sadly infested our school this year, perhaps I’ve “matured” in my view of the Nutcracker, but this book didn’t make me want to run out and see another one. But as Ms. Fisher concludes:
Like birthdays and weddings, the annual ballet is both dreaded and celebrated because it marks the passage of time. Once you surrender to that inevitability, you can shift gears and enjoy the endless possibilities. The Nutcracker isn’t just another aesthetic performance, although it certainly can be that. It’s also a wonderfully flexible, ritual-like, resonant phenomenon.
She is right, and I see this in the professional dancers that my children are fortunate to get to dance with, after about your twentieth or so Nut you start to grumble a little (as a volunteer and parent it only took three). But when the overture starts, you sigh and give in and let Pyotr Ilyich take over for a bit and things seem a bit sweeter.
This book would not be a recommended one, unless you are a serious student of ballet history and culture. The author’s research is faultless. She has dug deeply, but it reads more like a textbook than a book for enjoyment. Now…what to tell my friend?
You are welcome to view my other reviews and posts for the Fall Into Reading Challenge.
Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....
The Gift of Honesty
God's Gift of Honesty
by Mark Littleton
As a new Christian, I wasn’t really prepared for the stark truth about my previous life. Rummaging in my closet, I came across several shirts I had shop-lifted a couple of years before. I immediately remembered several items from the same heist.
Standing there trembling, I was unsure about what to do. I prayed, “God, what should I do about this?” It seemed the inner voice spoke immediately: “You need to return them to the store.”
I didn’t need to reflect much on it. I knew that was the right thing to do.
I packed up the items, drove to the nearby Bamberger’s store at the Cherry Hill Mall and found security. I explained what I’d done and offered to pay for the items. The guard smiled. “Every now and then we get one of these,” he said. “I’ll find out the prices and you can pay.”
A few days later, I got the call. Over sixty-five dollars in charges. In 1972 dollars, that was a lot of money. I sucked it up, though, wrote out a check and dropped it by. The guard thanked me for my integrity, saying, “I wish there were more like you out there. But shop-lifting costs us big-time. Just the same, I respect what you did.”
I went away feeling like I’d pleased God. There were other things I would return in the coming days, and it was always difficult. And costly. But the peace of mind and heart I received were all worth it. To say nothing of the witness to unbelievers, one of whom invited me to come visit him his family in Switzerland after I sent him back the stamps I’d stolen while babysitting his children years before.
Mark Littleton is the author of The Ten-Second Prayer Principle: Powerful Prayer As You Go (Howard Books, 2007) and many other books. For more information visit life-ology.townhall.com or http://e2ma.net/go/847481292/734466/26307878/goto:http:/www.winsunliterary.com/.