Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Stroll-November 30, 2008

First snow! It was so beautiful to see, when I got up a little before dawn this morning. I love the way it hushes everything.

The last red leaves clinging to the burning bush became tree ornaments.

It was the type of still, quiet snowfall that leaves a cake-frosting layer on each branch.

The seed heads of the black-eyed susans became cotton balls.

I drove to the church, and chose a parking spot overlooking the park.

The bald cypress was flocked with white.

The holly by the door provided a foretaste of the Advent decor inside.

Both worship spaces reflected the hard work of the Visual Inspiration Committee's labors the day before.

The first snow, and the first Sunday of Advent!

To see where others strolled today, visit The Quiet Country House.
This post has also been entered in Nancy Bond's First Snowfall meme. There are many other beautiful entries there from all over North America and Britain.

Thankful To Have Made It Through A Month Of Thankfulness

It's always interesting, when I set a goal for myself, to see how I do. I'm a bit of an all-or-nothing type (not necessarily a good thing), and once I latch on to a discipline challenge I can get very bull-headed about finishing what I vowed to do, so I need to choose carefully among the array of challenges that are available. With The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge, as I have admitted before, I plunged in on a whim. What kept me going?

1. I know myself well enough to realize that if I missed a day I would give it up completely (because, as I say, I am an all-or-nothing kind of gal), and then I would have publicly embarrassed myself, since I was doing this on my blog, in front of God and everyone else.

2. I truly benefited from being thankful. I began to really focus all the ways I was blessed, and I began to catch myself becoming a kind of Pollyanna-ish positive thinker, finding silver linings to every single cloud that floated across my little piece of the sky. It was weird! Example: we were driving back from spending Thanksgiving Day at my sister's, barrelling down the Tri-State, and we hit one of those sections of pavement that for some reason have a rhythmic wave in them. My daughter and I were feeling like the back seat of the Honda was not unlike a mechanical bull ride. We both made a comment of complaint to each other. And then, I actually found myself saying "But this certainly isn't as bad as it was for the pioneers when they had to ride in wagons over rough ground!" All because I saw that comedy clip about how we should appreciate the benefits of modern life!

When I challenged myself to the month of daily posts, I had no idea there was such a thing as NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). Shannon mentioned that she was participating in that over on her blog, so I decided to throw my hat in the ring for that.

Then, in various places, I saw that there were other bloggers trying to make their November more thankful. That's pretty exciting, don't you think? It's as though a strange but wonderful cultural phenomenon is underway, perhaps a reaction to the economic crisis, perhaps a reaction to the exhausting ugliness we had to witness in the media during the election run-up, or maybe just something else nudging us to return to a pleasanter, more civilized, more spiritual approach to life. Whatever it is, bring it on! Keep it going! If I can think of a way to encourage it in myself, my family, or beyond, I certainly will do it.

I'd like to thank the fellow bloggers who signed on to share in the challenge. I know that for some of you life intervened, and you weren't able to keep up with it quite like you may have wanted. Nevertheless, I enjoyed going to your blogs and seeing what you were thankful for, and your presence kept me accountable as well. Maybe I'll do this again next November.

Keep on being thankful, everybody!!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thankful For Battle Scars That Tell Of A Battle Won

Thursday, as we drove to my sister's house, we used the time in the car to make some holiday phone calls. My husband talked to his mother, who lives in Florida. One son was with his in-laws across the state. Another lives too far away to make it back very often. It was good to check in with everyone, catch up on each other, and wish them a happy Thanksgiving. So, one thing I'm thankful for is cell phones! Between that and e-mail, we have been able to stay connected so much more easily than families could years ago.

When I called Paul, who lives pretty far away, I joked, "I'm calling to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and see if you're thankful for anything." Without a moment's hesitation, he started listing things off: his wife, his baby, the baby on the way, his job, his church, that his car was running well currently. "I have a lot to be thankful for," he said. " I'm thankful that I can pray, and I know God hears me!" As we talked, I asked him if I could write a little about him on this blog. He assured me that would be fine.

Paul is such a kind, easy going person. His bosses have told him that they think he will eventually make a good foreman, because he handles people so well. He was like that as a little boy, too.

Then, for a few years, he wasn't like that at all. For what ever reason, whether it was to individuate from family members, or to self-medicate the school stress he felt as a person with ADD, or just the rebellion against authority that some children carry so much further than others, Paul made some pretty bad choices for a while as a teen. What others dabbled with, he made his full time job. When I say that we are glad he lived to be grown, it's not a joke. We really didn't know for a while if he would live to be grown. No amount of treatment, counseling, discipline, whatever, seemed to make a difference with him. Finally, on the New Year's Eve when others were celebrating the turn of the millennium, I found myself standing by a gurney in the emergency room, watching him being treated for an overdose. He was sixteen.

I know what it's like to battle a teen who can't listen to you. I know what it's like to go toe-to-toe with the Devil as you wrestle in prayer for your child's life. I know what it's like to look Evil in the eye and say "YOU CAN'T HAVE HIM!" I knew that, in the end, it was between Paul and God as to whether he would come out on the other side. I just wanted him to live long enough to get to that point.

When Paul told me the thing he is most thankful for is that he has the Holy Spirit living inside of him, changing him into a new man day by day, I knew I couldn't write a month of posts about thankfulness without saying that, looking back over my life, that is one of the things I am absolutely the most thankful for.

I'm also thankful that, when I get a hunch that there is a parent who is struggling with their child the way we did with our child, I can listen to them, and, not really advise them, so much as offer understanding. And, I can offer them hope. Paul's story is proof of the power of God to change a person from the inside out.

It's all in the past now, and gradually the ripples from that rock that was thrown into the waters of our lives are dissipating. It's nearly ten years since Paul decided to quit running from God, and turned to run just as hard toward Him. His teen aged behavior is not at all what defines him any more. Those who meet him now would never have an inkling of what he suffered through in his youth. He is a mature man, a great husband and dad, a hard working, responsible contributor to society. As far as Christian life witness goes, he's the real deal.

And me? I'm just thankful.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thankful That I'm Puritanical

Today, I am thankful for the much-maligned Puritans, from whom I am partly descended:

"There's little less fashionable today than thanking the Puritans, especially for our egalitarian political idealism, our love of genuinely humane and liberating learning, and our human enjoyment and happiness. Praising the Puritans is especially difficult, of course, because even our Protestants — even our Calvinists — have abandoned them. When some European calls us Puritanical, we don't say "Yes, thanks a lot, you're right." We either deny it, saying we've progressed far beyond those dark days. Or we admit it, saying, "Yes, we should be less capitalistic, less repressed, and more free thinking, just like you."

"Still, we can remember that the best book ever written on America and the best book ever written on democracy — Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America — almost begins by showing us how much our democracy owes our pilgrim Puritans. They, Tocqueville tells us, established colonies without lords — without, in fact, even economic classes. Those founders differed from those of Virginia by not being solitary, mercenary adventurers. They weren't out to get rich or even improve their economic condition. Their lives were structured by morality; they came to our continent as family men — bringing their wives and children. They were also extremely educated men — on the cutting edge, in many ways, of European enlightenment. They were, Tocqueville observes, animated by a "purely intellectual need." Their goal was "to make an idea triumph" in this world."

Great essay! Read the whole thing:
Thanking the Puritans by Peter Lawler

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful For Family Traditions

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today as my family gathers, we will share a story that I have related once before on this blog. As a reminder of how we can build values into the lives of our families, I will publish it here again:

One Swiss-German branch of my family settled near Springfield, IL in the 18oos, and there is a story about them that has been told in my dad's family for generations around the Thanksgiving table. In the story, the father (who was also a minister in their little church) and the boys were out working about the farm place, and the mother, daughters (among them my great-great grandmother), and smaller children were in and around the house. There had been rumors floating about for several days that there were Indians in the area, and every one was nervous about safety. It was early spring and the father was doing early field work, when his son ran to him and said that there was an Indian standing at the edge of the woods, watching them. The father told his son to run back to the house and have the family gather in the house and shut the door. The son asked the father if he should load the gun they had in the house. The father said no. He was going to talk to the Indian, if he could, and God would protect him.

The family shut themselves in the house and were very worried. The father was gone a long time. When he finally returned, his first words on entering the house were, "Children, go down in the cellar and bring up everything that's left of the food." Then he turned to his wife and said, "They don't want to hurt anyone. They're starving, and we are going to feed them." With his family's help, he loaded their wagon with everything they had left in the cellar, and drove it down to where the Indians were camped by the river, and gave it all to them.

As best I can tell, this is a Trail of Tears story. At least my ancestors were able to mitigate that evil to some degree.

My great-great grandmother was just a little girl when she witnessed this, but it was one of her strongest memories. She would recount it at Thanksgiving dinner, and always ended by saying something like, "You never know who might need your help, so keep watch. Never be selfish. You should always share with anyone who is in need. Even though we gave all the food away, we some how had enough to eat until the garden came in. That's how we learned to be thankful for what we had."

Isn't that a great story? I've never been asked to give everything I have for sustenance away to some one in need, and then rely on God to fill in the gaps. But at least I have that story as an example to me that it can, and should, be done.

The 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thankful For An (Almost!) Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

I'm looking forward to tomorrow! We are driving for a couple of hours to the home of one of my sisters, where she is hosting Thanksgiving. Her two young adult children will be there, as will another sister and her husband and daughter, my parents, and my husband and I with two of our children. There will be lots of great food, good catching-up conversation, probably some game-playing, and a joint kitchen clean-up after dinner. Though the location rotates around, the routine and traditions remain pretty much the same from year to year. I've been asked to bring my famous Philly Corn again. Yes, even the menu stays consistent.

Nan had a post up earlier this week that reminded me that not everyone looks forward to family gatherings and overeating. Some of her commenters agreed; they preferred finding congenial friends to visit with over family that was critical or dysfunctional. Others use this time to travel, or find a restaurant meal more inviting than marathon cooking sessions. Even those of us who choose a more Norman Rockwell-style Thanksgiving will often be spending time with folks we see only a couple of times a year, which can lead to potential relational stress.

How to approach that? I'm choosing engagement over avoidance. In our family, we do have a few topics we steer clear of (politics and religion!- though we've broken that rule a few times).
We try to adjust to the home that is hosting. We all offer to bring food. Nobody drinks too much.
We help with clean-up. We don't stay too long! It's been rare that we didn't leave feeling that we had a good time.

I saw a good piece of advice today, that was reminder that family is where we learn to deal with people:

"Envision your family situation as an inspiring growth challenge. If one of your spiritual goals in life is to learn patience, compassion, forgiveness, or serenity, your difficult family members can give you some wonderful “feel the burn” workouts! It’s no sweat to be patient, compassionate, forgiving, or serene with people who aren't in your family, but if you can learn to do it with your most irritating blood relatives, then in looking back at your life you will definitely be able to say you’ve done some crucial inner work on your spiritual journey."
Make Peace With Your Family

Fortunately, this is the approach my family has always taken (not that anyone is too terribly hard to deal with). So, today I'm thankful for the chance to engage with, and enjoy, our family at holiday time!

The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thankful For My Favorite Book

Today on The Blogging Bookworm, Shannon, who is a librarian by profession, expressed her thanks for books and all they have meant in her life, and invited us to list books we are thankful for. Oh, goodness. Where to begin?

I'm currently re-reading "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis. I thought about putting that on her list, because every time I read it it just blows my mind. But that blog is mostly for people who are encouraging each other to read books that are influenced by the green movement, so "The Great Divorce" didn't strike me as what they were looking for.

I could have listed anything by Jane Austen, too. I'll admit it; I'm a Jane Austen nut! So much so, my husband got me this for a gift:
That's right, folks, it's an official Jane Austen Action Figure, complete with book, quill pen, and writing desk. I want to take her out and play with her! Please???

But I have to be completely honest, because that's what I try to do here on this silly little blog of mine. My favorite book, without any ifs, ands, or buts, is the Bible. I'm not just saying that because I work in a church. It really, really is my favorite book.

I grew up in an environment in which the Bible was a book of wise sayings written by wise people, about a very wise teacher, but it was not considered to be anything more than that. You could put it on the shelf with Aristotle and Ghandi, and it just fit right in. But when I was in my early teens, I for some reason wanted to know what all the fuss was about, so I tried to read it. Got a little bogged down in Leviticus. Skipped over to the Psalms; they were pretty cool. Skipped over some more that seemed rather confusing, and started reading the Gospels in the New Testament. Now, finally, there were things about Jesus, who, of course, fascinated me. Some of the adults around me pooh-poohed the miracles- all explainable scientifically. His death, faked. The resurrection? He woke up from a coma, or the body was stolen.

For some reason, I just kept reading it. And, eventually, I decided everything in it was actually true, whether I understood it or not. Not because someone brainwashed me into thinking it was true, but because I tested it in my daily life, and it always passed the test.

I'm not going to tell you that I understand everything in there. Are you kidding? There are seminaries full of highly educated and brilliant theologians who spend their whole lives trying to nail down every nuance; they've been doing that for close to two thousand years, and they're not done. I will tell you that I get most of it now, at least enough to mine the wisdom, try to apply the guidance to my life, and be continually humbled by what the Bible reveals to me about God and humankind, and the rest of the Creation.

At one point in my life I had reason to fast and pray for forty days, and, I know, I know this sounds strange, but the Bible, the Word of God, became my food during that time. Enough so that I wasn't hungry for physical food. I have a lot of books on my bookshelf, but none of the others have ever had that effect.

I've been in many Bible studies with other people, but nothing can replace just plain reading it, over and over and over. For six straight years I followed a reading plan the took me through the whole thing each year. I've had two years off from that, now, and that's too long. So starting in January I'm back on that plan. I'm actually very excited about that.

So today, and every day, since I first picked it up and thumbed through it when I was twelve, I am thankful that God speaks to me through the Bible.

The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mike's Paintings

Some of you expressed interest in seeing more of Mike's work. He has only recently started oil painting. For many years he worked in colored pencil, and, of course, most of what he did was commercial. He's painted both of these in the last year or so.
If you'd like to see more of his work, or order note cards or prints, go to

Thankful For Wise Perspective

I'm a little bit of a news junkie, and right now there is more news about the economy than an average person like me can synthesize. In article after article I read that we are headed in to a possible depression comparable to the Great Depression, that the U.S. will never again be the leading world economy, etc. Not too hopeful.

In general, I've taken all this with a grain of salt. First of all, the economy when my husband I and I first got married was, in my opinion, worse. Inflation was ridiculous. Unemployment was much higher, even here, where we have some insulating factors. Mortgage interest rates were much higher- our first little house had a 9.5% mortgage, and that was with an FHA loan. My husband was unemployed for a while, and wound up free-lancing from our home for six years, which was less than ideal.

That's not to say there aren't people who are struggling. I just try not to let the media, who feed on exaggeration, pull me into their drama.

Sunday, my husband and I got a chance to get some very sensible perspective.

After church we decided to eat at Culver's, which is a bit of a First Baptist hang-out at lunch time. As we were looking for a table, we were invited by a church friend, H.E., to sit with him, as he was eating by himself. I had never had the pleasure of a long conversation with this man, though Mike has gotten to know him pretty well. Was I in for a treat! He was one of the most interesting people I've talked to in a long time. He is retired from a management position in the oil business, and he told us about that. He grew up on a farm, and he told us about that. He remembers the Great Depression well, and he told us about that (but not at all in that "young people don't know how good they have it" way). He has followed the current political scene with relish, and offered great perspectives on that. Yet all of this was very conversational, and we never felt like we were being "talked at", but that we could express ourselves and explore ideas freely.

Here are some of the things I came home with:

On oil- we need to drill, to give ourselves time to change over to natural gas or hydrogen. We will always need oil to some degree. Right now, we don't have fueling stations for those new technologies for cars. There is a recent discovery of a huge oil deposit in the Gulf of Mexico that we would be crazy not to pursue.

On the president elect- "I wish him the very best!", but inexperience is a problem, and that's why we are seeing so many Clinton era appointees. That would be fine if this were still the 90s, but time has marched on.

On the economy- this is nothing like the Great Depression when 40% of the community he grew up in were out of work, and the Dust Bowl was going on out west. No one had a cent then, every bank in town was dissolved, and everyone bartered for everything. His family farmed, and had a five acre vegetable plot that they used to barter for other things. They most likely grew all the produce that was being traded in that little town. However, we are in for at least a couple of pretty rough years.

On the bailout- probably needed to do something about the banks, but the automakers need to be allowed to declare bankruptcy, because it will allow the courts to renegotiate the labor contracts, along with other necessary changes that will make them viable after awhile. They won't quit making cars all together, they'll just be forced to make management changes that will be for the best in the long run.

Of course, these are just one person's opinions, but they are based on a long life of successful business management, practical experience, and the perspective of ninety years of life, which have made him moderate and humane, while understanding the need to take a "tough love" approach in some circumstances. It was so interesting, and comforting, to hear what he had to say.

So, today I'm thankful for the chance to hear the wisdom that age provides.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Stroll-November 23, 2008

It is a brisk, breezy November afternoon here. We haven't had any snow that has actually accumulated yet, but it's been plenty cold. There isn't much color left in the gardens. The chairs under Ye Olde Yew are not occupied any more. It's not the right season to sit out there to read.
The Lamb's Ears are still soft and pretty, because the warmth of the ground has kept them green.
The last few leaves remain on the burning bush.

Inside, it's very quiet. Robin has gone out to Washington, D.C. to take an audition. I keep expecting to hear the trumpet start playing upstairs, but all is still. Mike is immersed in his painting down in the studio. He has an art show in a couple of weeks that he's preparing for.

Cinnamon has found her favorite sunbeam to warm her old bones.

It's all very peaceful.
If you'd like to see what others are finding this Sunday, go to The Quiet Country House.

Thankful To Witness A New Beginning

Yesterday I had the privilege of singing in a wedding. I used to do this a lot, but in recent years less so, so it was fun to have this opportunity again.

I've known this couple for a year or so. They are delightful people, and I found it encouraging that they came to our congregation specifically to find a church they could share, since they are coming from two different ones. That showed a commitment to forging a new path as a couple, and being willing to give up old associations, if necessary, to do that.

The rehearsal was the usual confusion of who stands where, but everyone was good naturedly laughing. The wedding party was a largish one, with a wide span of ages, including two little flower girls who were adorably excited. The ceremony itself was simple and traditional, including the couple jumping over a broom before they headed back up the aisle, in a nod to the groom's African-American heritage. They arranged to leave the church in an open carriage, which I thought was brave of them, considering it is November. It was FUN!

So, today I'm thankful that I got to witness the official beginning for a new family, and the joining of two really nice family groups. Best wishes to them!

The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanks For Warmth

Today I'm thankful for the great new fabrics and technology that are available for outdoor clothing. I'm writing this after coming back from the crossing. It was the first day of the season when the windchill was below zero ( which means my husband issued his first "frozen booger alert" of the winter!). When I first started the job sixteen years ago, I really didn't have any special clothing other than the usual cloth winter coat, hat, scarf and gloves. It's amazing I didn't get frostbite!

Now I have a nice Columbia 3-in-1 coat, thermal fleece gloves, wind mittens, snowboard pants, insulated boots, thermal fleece helmet, and Smartwool socks. I didn't wear all of this today, by any means, but I certainly will for a few weeks this winter. I acquired all of this gradually over the years. The best places to get these things are stores that cater to runners or skiers. The new fabrics repel water and wind, wick moisture away from the body, and are light weight. I'm never really cold out there now, provided I chose to dress appropriately. Sometimes I guess wrong, and come home pretty cold or wet, but nothing that a hot shower and a cup of coffee won't cure.

So, thanks to all those fabric technologists for their genius.

The 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thankful For Humor

I'm thankful for humor. I saw this humorous clip the other day, and thought it actually fit with the subject of thankfulness because it is commentary on how not to be thankful.

Now, there are a couple of little (non-swearing) phrases this comedian uses that I wouldn't use myself, so I'll just warn you ahead of time, but my husband and I both found it very funny, and the underlying message is right on.

The 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thankful For, Well, Thankfulness!

Back on November 1, when I somewhat rashly concieved of the November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge, here's what I was thinking:

1. I was sick of the election news. I could tell my guy wasn't going to win, and my one little vote wasn't going to do any good.

2. I was sick of the economic news. There wasn't a thing I could do about it as we watched our retirement funds shrinking.

3. I was sick of everyone I knew talking about the above mentioned topics ad nauseum when there wasn't anything any of us could do about it.

4. I was sick of being sick about it!!

Then it dawned on me. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 say we are to give thanks in all circumstances, because that is God's will.

It's easy to give thanks when everything is hunky-dory. Why is it God's will that we do so in all circumstances, even the rotten ones we can't control, even the dangerous ones, even the scary ones?

The reason it's God's will is that He knows it will not only change our attitude, it will actually change our circumstances. It's for our own good, not because He's so needy that He needs His people to make Him feel good about Himself.

So, I plunged in. And believe me, it does work. I was given perspective on historical events. I was given reminders that God was in control and I didn't have to be. I began to see little details I had been glossing over. I began to stop and enjoy those pleasant moments that come to all of us in the course of the day- the beautiful weather; the funny thing a small child said; the good snacks someone brought the staff at church; the " 'at-a-girl" pats on the back from congregants; the memory of an issue that used to be a problem, but now is resolved; the phone call from one of my kids. Every single day there is a lot of this small, common, routine stuff, and it's easy to forget what a blessing it all is.

Last Sunday Shannon, who is also writing for a month on thankfulness, posted an article that reinforced the idea that just being thankful can actually change circumstances. I'd encourage you to pop over there and read it. Erin has also described how she is hanging on to thankfulness and her faith as she and her husband try to sell a house in a bad market. Ruth wrote about a health scare that made her appreciate a birthday, and vow to make the most of the time she has ahead of her. Abbie was able to give thanks for a fun surprise. Jena was thankful for a peaceful afternoon on her farm. Melissa expresses her thanks constantly in her posts for the little son she has, that she wouldn't not have if it were not for the experience of healing. Ruchi describes the way her father modelled the importance of thankfulness.

It's fun to go read these posts and realize everyone's story is different, but there are quite a few folks who realize the value of being thankful. Reading them opens my eyes even further to what I could be thankful for.

The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

News Update

I posted November 9 about the persecution being experienced in the Orissa Province of India, and then on Nov. 17 about the Salvation Army and it's work. Today I read a news article posted on the Salvation Army site that you might want to read. The Army has workers in Orissa who have been attacked.

For those of you who know my son Paul, this is the area of India where he served with Youth With A Mission a few years ago. YWAM's missions have so far been spared, but they are working with those who have been made homeless by the violence. It's both fascinating and disheartening to connect all these dots. I feel a special concern for this ongoing situation.

Thankful For My Daily Entertainment

This morning, as I sat down with my coffee to read a few blog posts, my attention was diverted once again by all the activity at my bird feeder. There were seven or eight little birds- sparrows, I think- fussing and cheeping at each other because there are only four perches for them to share, and they weren't being very patient about "waiting their turn"! My daughter calls this flock "the little fatties", and that's just what they are. The feeder hangs from one of those metal shepherd's crook things, and perched atop the crook was a male cardinal in his scarlet uniform. Now, he was waiting his turn, which meant he was getting exactly nothing for breakfast. Occasionally he would let out a frustrated little peep, "Hey, guys, isn't it my turn yet?" He was twice the size of a sparrow, but obviously of a more timid temperament.

Then I noticed that right under the feeder, which is supposed to be squirrel-proof, waited a gray squirrel, eagerly snatching up the seed that the sparrows were dropping. This little comedian has a big, messy nest in a notch of our tulip poplar, and he is completely at home with us and our cats. In fact, when he took a little break from stuffing himself, he perched on the window sill, put his little forepaws on the window glass just like a child would, and looked in at us. He was almost nose-to-nose with our observant cat, separated only by the the window. Neither seemed the least disturbed by the other.

After I got over laughing at all this natural nonsense, one of the first posts I read was Rose's, also on the topic of birds. She and I have a similar quandary, in that we would love to be able to capture the birds on camera, but haven't quite mastered that yet. Still, enjoying them, in, as I put it, their parallel universe, where they eat and fly, raise their families, and have disagreements with each other, is one of those simple pleasures I'm glad to have right there before me every day. Free entertainment! And, amazement at the variety and complexity of the Creation.

It made me think of a great quote I saw recently:

"Suddenly to be caught up in the wonder of God's love flooding the universe, made aware of the stupendous creativity which animates all life, of our participation in it, every color brighter, every meaning clearer, every shape more shapely, every note more musical, every word written and spoken more explicit. . . . The animals too, flying, prowling, burrowing, all their diverse cries and grunts and bellowings, and the majestic hilltops, the gaunt rocks giving their blessed shade, the rivers faithfully making their way to the sea, all irradiated with this same glory for the eyes of the reborn." (Malcolm Muggeridge, The End of Christendom, pages 54-55.)

I'm thankful I have the sight to take all of this incredible world in every day.

Then November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thankful For Employment-Any Employment

Sometimes, when I think of bad economic times, I catch myself thinking "Thank goodness we are all well educated and don't have to rely on factory jobs, which always fluctuate with the economy!". But, of course, that can become a kind of snobbery. Today I saw that Citigroup is laying off 53, 000 workers, who I assume are of the white collar variety. I don't remember a time in my lifetime when the financial industry was laying people off. We're not talking about a hiring freeze here. These are actual layoffs.

So, today, I'm not merely thankful for jobs I enjoy, I'm thankful that I and my family members are all currently employed, period. I pray that it stays that way, but, of course, it might not. Whatever the future, I know the Lord will provide. I know we will pull together and help each other through.

The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thankful To Be Just Another Bell-Ringer

Today in our local newspaper there was an appeal for volunteer bell-ringers for the seasonal Salvation Army fund drive. I've done this a couple of times before, when I worked with the youth group at church, but it's been quite awhile now, and I thought, with times like these, the Salvation Army can surely use all the helpers it can get, so I volunteered.

This reminded me of some reading I did last summer about the Salvation Army and it's founder, William Booth. One of the Army's Citadel bands had performed locally. As is typical, they were spectacular! Did you know that many of the finest contemporary band compositions and arrangements are coming from Salvation Army musicians? Thinking about that made me curious- why did this Christian ministry to the poor have such an emphasis on it's members being fine musicians? And why specifically the focus on brass band ensembles?

The research I did was fascinating, to say the least. When William Booth founded the Army in London in 1865, he felt passionately called to serve the poorest, most depraved residents of the city in a way that he felt the church was not able to do. A spell-binding speaker/preacher, he spoke in many dangerous slum environments, sometimes ending his sermons with blood running down his face from the rocks thrown at him by belligerent bystanders. Despite the mockers, he was successful in winning over many skid-row alcoholics, prostitutes, and thieves with his message of Christ's compassion. There remained, however, the necessity of getting them on a new path of life. He tried to help them enter into the life of existing churches in the city, but these unwashed, uncouth people were uncomfortable, and sometimes unwelcome, in ordinary congregations. Booth decided to create a church just for them. Since most were unused to discipline, he formed them into a quasi-military structure, giving leadership responsibility to people to whom it had never been entrusted before, and using a merit system that allowed new believers to rise through the ranks of the organization, a system still used today.

He struck upon a plan for those who were brand new to their redeemed lifestyle: he gave them each an instrument to play, and had them come with him when he went out to preach in the streets of London. Of course, they didn't play well, at least, not at first. But the sight of them, many notorious in their neighborhoods, soberly playing hymns, was moving to many who knew them, and attracted positive attention from the crowds. General Booth believed it was a kind of spiritual warfare to have these newly converted people with him, playing music and serving as a sort of peaceful bodyguard. Thus the tradition was born, and continues today. Now, the Army produces some of the best brass band musicians the world over.

In his later years, General Booth was asked to give a speech to an audience that included the British Royal Family, where he decided to give the assembled crowd a charge, based on his philosophy of ministry to the poor. What is well remembered was the rousing end, where he cried out, "Others! Others! Others!", a cry taken up by the crowd. What a summary of the life-work of this great man!

Vachel Lindsay wrote an incredible poem, with a heart-wrenching picture the heavenly celebration by those "others" in honor of General William Booth, and describes it's inspiration this way:

"The poem was built in part upon certain adventures while singing these songs. When I was dead broke, and begging, in Atlanta, Georgia (U.S.A.), and much confused as to my next move in this world, I slept for three nights in The Salvation Army Quarters there. And when I passed through Newark, New Jersey, I slept in The Salvation Army Quarters there. . . . I know The Salvation Army from the inside. The Army was struggling with what General Booth called the submerged tenth of the population. And I was with the submerged.

"'General Booth' went into the lowest depths of London, with malice aforethought, with deliberate intention to rescue the most notoriously degraded, those given up by policeman, physician, preacher, and charity worker. . . He wanted to find those so low there were none lower. He put them into uniform. He put them under military discipline. He put them in authority over one another. He chose them musical instruments and their astonishing tunes. The world has forgotten what a scandal to respectable religion the resulting Army was when it began. It was like the day St. Francis handed all his clothes to the priest, or the day he cut off the hair of St. Clara.

"I set (my poem) to a tune that is not a tune, but a speech, a refrain used most frequently in the Meetings of The Army on any public square to this day."

'General William Booth Enters Heaven'


Booth led boldly with his big bass drum-
(Are you washed in the Blood of the Lamb?)
The Saints smiled gravely, and they said, 'He's come.'
(Are you washed in the Blood of the Lamb?)
Walking lepers followed, rank on rank,
Lurching bravos from the ditches dank,
Drabs from the alleyways and drug fiends pale-
Minds still passion-ridden, soul-powers frail;
Vermin-eaten saints with mouldy breath,
Unwashed legions with the ways of Death-
(Are you washed in the Blood of the Lamb?)


Every slum had sent its half-a-score
The round world over. (Booth had groaned for more.)
Every banner that the wide world flies
Bloomed with glory and transcendent dyes.
Big-voiced lassies made their banjoes bang;
Tranced, fanatical, they shrieked and sang-
'Are you washed in the Blood of the Lamb?'
Hallelujah! It was queer to see
Bull-necked convicts with that land made free.
Loons with trumpets blowed a blare, blare, blare,
On, on, upward through the golden air!
(Are you washed in the Blood of the Lamb?)


Booth died blind, and still by faith he trod,
Eyes still dazzled by the ways of God.
Booth led boldly, and he looked the chief,
Eagle countenance in sharp relief,
Beard aflying, air of high command,
Unabated in that holy land.


Jesus came from out the court-house door,
Stretched His hands above the passing poor.
Booth saw not, but led his queer ones there,
Round and round the mighty courthouse square.
Then in an instant, all that blear review
Marched on spotless, clad in raiment new,
The lame were straightened, withered limbs uncurled,
And blind eyes opened on a new, sweet world.


Drabs and vixens in a feast made whole!
Gone was the weasel-head, the snout, the jowl!
Sages and sibyls now, and athletes clean,
Rulers of empire, and of forests green!


The hosts were sandalled, and their wings were fire!
(Are you washed in the Blood of the Lamb?)
But their noise played havoc with the angel-choir.
(Are you washed in the Blood of the Lamb?)
Oh, shout Salvation! It was good to see
Kings and Princes by the Lamb set free.
The banjoes rattled and the tambourines
Jing-jing-jingled in the hands of Queens.


And when Booth halted by the curb of prayer,
He saw his Master through the flag-filled air.
Christ came gently with a robe and crown
For Booth the Soldier, while the throng knelt down.
He saw King Jesus. They were face to face,
And he knelt a-weeping in that holy place.

Are you washed in the Blood of the Lamb?

The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Stroll- November 16, 2008

At the beginning of the week we still had beautiful fall color. Then, Tuesday night it dropped down to 19 degrees F, and the Big Leaf Drop began in earnest.
I've been nursing a little foot injury, so my husband got stuck with Round One of the raking job. It was lovely 36 degrees while he worked, with a stiff wind and a light precipitation of some sort- snow? sleet? drizzle?- coming down.

We could never find room to compost all our leaves at home, but fortunately our city has a collection program and they are all taken to a municipal yard waste recycling location. Next spring folks can go out there and get very good mulch, or even have it delivered to their homes for a reasonable price.
We've got thirteen bags for them this week and will have that much or more next week, including things that we need to clear out of the garden.
That's my "stroll", so to speak, this week. If you'd like to see if anyone else did something more interesting, head on over to The Quiet Country House.

Thankful For A Church That Feels Like Family

Early on Sunday morning, if you stop by the church kitchen, you'll find these ladies working to prepare a way for our church members to be just like the early Christians in the Bible- by eating together! It's not really breakfast, but it is that time-honored tradition of visiting over food that helps us bond like a family. As the Early Service is letting out, and others are arriving for Sunday School and the later services, we have a chance to get everyone together to hang out and chat over coffee, juice, bagels, or doughnut holes. And boy, do we take advantage of that!

This little man is always pleased to be part of the gang. He's headed off for a fun morning in Sunday School with his bagel.
I'm so thankful for my church family! And we don't just eat together. We worship together. We study the Bible together. Most of all, we pray for each other. Just this week, as the staff was praying for a young mom who was having a melanoma scare, she called the church to tell us her test was just finished and she was given the all-clear. She knew we would be praying for her and waiting to hear, and she was right! We are there for each other. We are family.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thankful For Music

I'm thankful that I can express myself through the gift of music.

The November 30 Thanksgiving Challenge

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thankful for a Homecoming

My husband and I are in a small group that meets every Thursday evening. There is a couple in our group who have a son in the Army. I remember this young man from when he was a gangly teenager playing in the high school band with one of my boys.

He's been in Afghanistan, and just returned to the States. His parents have aways seemed pretty calm about him, though, of course, our group always prayed for his safety. Tonight his mom admitted to us that the whole time he was gone she was afraid to answer the door whenever anyone knocked on it. Now she can relax.

So, today I'm thankful that Seth is back home safe and sound.

The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thankful For My Children

When I decided, on a whim, to do the November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge, my very first thought was to post about my family, because obviously they are the thing I'm most thankful for. Then I thought, that's too convenient. I need to think of some other things first. But I really don't want to put it off any longer!

Today, I'm just going to post about my children. I'll save my husband for another day.

I've got four grown children and I'm very proud of all of them! They are all very different from each other in temperament, and each has their own unique interests. At the same time, they do have some things in common. They are all good musicians. They are all tall and slim. There is one candidate they are all willing to vote for.

First, there's Matt, living in Ohio, where he is the pastor of a church.

Then, there's Grant, married to Traci, and living here. He's an elementary school art teacher.

Then there's Paul, married to Janel, father of Malorie, and with a son already named Brandon due to be born in February. He's an electrician.

Then there's Robin, living here, working at a running shoe store and playing trumpet gigs while preparing for various auditions.

I have a lot to be thankful for, don't I?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thankful For Wonder

Shortly after my second birthday,the Soviet Union launched Sputnik into space. I have some vague memories of there being some excitement, and the word Sputnik being bandied around. I remember when I was very small that I wondered if I could see Sputnik up in the sky, but, try as I might, I never did.

Then, when I was in first grade, my teacher brought a TV to school and we watched John Glenn orbit the Earth. Mostly I remember them getting him out of the capsule, and my teacher being very excited to see him climb out. I think I understood that what he did was amazing and that no one had done it before. It must have been amazing, or Miss Wells wouldn't have brought a TV to school!

I'm not a scientist, though I like science in a "Nova Special" sort of way, but I am a child of the Space Age, and as such have a fascination about space and the universe. It just boggles my mind, and I love having my mind boggled!

I'm thankful for the wonders of the universe. I'm thankful for the way learning about it seems to lead to more wonder, not less, and that there is no way to know all there is to know about it. I'm thankful for the amazing, complex creation we inhabit, so huge I will never see more than the tiniest speck of it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Assisting Each Other Out of the Swamp

Martin Luther said,"...we must never despise anyone who sins but must generously bear with him as a companion in a common misery. We must help one another just as two people caught in the same swamp assist each other. Thus we must 'bear one another's burdens and fulfill the law of Christ' (Galatians 6:2). But if we despise the other, we shall both perish in the same swamp."

I love this quote!

Thankful For Their Sacrifice

Every year, on the Sunday closest to Veteran's Day, the pastor will ask that those who have served in the military stand up and be acknowledged and thanked at the beginning of the worship service. Whenever this happens, my dad is one of the last ones to stand, and, if you know him well enough to read his face, it says "reluctance".

You see, he says he doesn't feel like he really served. Not like his brother, who, as an Army clerk had to interview and sort out the people being released from the Nazi prison camps, and try to help them find their missing family members, or inform them of their deaths. Not like his young uncle, who spent three years fighting his way across North Africa and up the Italian peninsula. Not like another uncle who was a WWI flying ace over France. Dad was a dentist in the Air Force, stationed safely on a training base in Wyoming, post-Korean Conflict. He doesn't think he deserves any special recognition for that.

I do. Imagine this scenario: You have worked and struggled to get through college and dental school with no money to speak of, you're married, and you are looking forward to getting out and starting your practice and having a family. A military recruiter comes to the dental school and says "We have dentists who served all the way through WWII, and then were called back up for Korea. We need to let them out. We're going to be drafting all of you to replace them. If you really want to choose your service branch, you might as well enlist, because you're going into the military either way."

So Dad enlisted in the Air Force. He served two years of active duty, and quite a few more in the Reserves. He never complained about it, he never resented being told he had to serve. He just did it. I can't imagine people doing this so willingly now, can you? We were all glad to see the draft go away, and an all-volunteer military is a great thing in so many ways, but we did lose something with that change. We lost the idea that citizenship isn't always convenient.

I think he should stand up and be recognized for accepting that inconvenience, don't you?

So, today, I'm thanking him, and all the other veterans, for their sacrifice to their country.

The November 30 Day Thankgiving Challenge.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thankful For The Voice

I'm thankful for my singing voice.

Now, before you think I'm just pridefully boasting, let explain why I'm saying this.

I think there are a lot of people who have natural musical ability and that's why we have so many children who enjoy band and choir in school and love listening to music. It's why we so enjoy singing together at church. It's why communities support orchestras, musical theater, music festivals. Far more people than not love music.

Then, there is the next category up, which I think gets into the nature/nurture debate. These are the many people who love music, have natural ability, and get good at actually producing it in some way. They receive encouragement from their families, take lessons, hear positive feedback from their friends, and have the discipline to really work hard at their practicing. A lot more people could be in this category than there actually are, in my opinion. As a former music educator, it was always my goal to convince children and their families that most people have at least some ability, and, if it is nurtured, they can have a lot of enjoyment from it their whole life long. I wish every child could have the chance to learn to read music, play an instrument, and sing as well as their voice will allow.

But, having been fortunate enough to have been born into a family that gave much encouragement like this, I got to have one more little thing. You see, in our family each generation seems to produce a person or two with The Voice. My great-grandmother was locally famous for her beautiful voice, the sort of voice that was wanted at weddings, funerals, and public events. My grandmother was the same way. I remember her singing solos in church and around town, and, though she was probably past her prime by the time I heard her, she was good! Then, when the DNA scrambled and created little ol' me, I got The Voice, too. And then it manifested itself in my oldest son.

It's a big, rich, rangy voice. And we didn't do a thing to deserve it. It was installed with our larynx in the womb. Having it doesn't make us better than anyone else. We could squander it by not using it, or ruin it by smoking, or look down on it because it's "more opera than pop". We could cave to performance anxiety and never wind up sharing it. We could get big-headed about it and forget that it is a gift.

I feel that it was given to me to worship with, like the crown I will get to throw down at the feet of Jesus when I get to heaven. It makes me happy to the core of my being every time I get to do that.

So, I'm thankful that I have something I didn't deserve at all, but can use in the most satisfying way.

I'm thankful for The Voice.

The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Thankful For Those Who Stand Firm

Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

Here in North America, Christians have the luxury of legally gathering for worship, speaking freely, sending their children to Christian schools if they like, and participating in the political process. Occasionally I hear a conversation where someone expresses the feeling that Christians are being persecuted in this country. I disagree. We experience some social discomfort once in a while as a result of choosing a counter cultural lifestyle, but that's happening to other non-Christians as well who live a little out of the mainstream. We are occasionally derided or ostracized for things like refusing to have sex outside of marriage, giving birth to children we knew would have special needs, or asking our employers to respect our need to set aside time to worship on Sundays, or a small handful of other things. But let's be honest; this is nothing more than peer pressure. It is not to be compared to having to meet in secret, fearing loss of employment or educational opportunities, and worse- much worse.

In the last two months Christians have been burned alive, beaten, raped, and had their homes burned in Orissa, India. They have been jailed and beaten in an attempt to silence them before the Olympics in China. They have been threatened, burned out of their homes, and beaten in Mexico for refusing to cooperate with drug lords. They have been forced to meet in secret and had their Bibles and other reading materials confiscated and burned in Vietnam. They have had to hide from the Mafia in Italy for refusing to pay protection bribes. A young woman in Saudi Arabia was burned to death by her father for converting to Christianity from Islam, and her death is not being treated as a murder. If you were to peruse the Voice of the Martyrs website, you would see that the list goes on and on.

Interestingly, the focus of this International Day of Prayer is not on praying for the persecuted:

"The theme this year is “Pray for the Persecutors.” Praying for people who bring so much harm to our brothers and sisters can be a difficult task, one that we can only hope to do if we ask Christ to work through us. But this Sunday, Christians across the world will pray that those who persecute will come to know Christ, just as Paul did. In 1 Timothy 1:13-16 Paul writes, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” Join us this Sunday as we pray for the persecutors, asking God to use our lives to draw them to Him."

So today I want to express my thanks for the example of bravery and faithfulness persecuted Christians set for me. My faith is too easy, not that I wish for difficulties. They prove that following Christ is important. Important enough to suffer and sometimes die for. I don't ever want to forget them.

The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Thankful For Enjoyable Jobs

Today I'd like to express my thanks to God for the provision of both of my jobs.

Prior to the birth of my first baby, I taught K-8 music in a rural school in northern Illinois. Once we started our family, we chose to have me stay home. I always did something to bring in a little extra income, usually something I could do from home, that did not require me to use child care, but I considered myself primarily a home maker.

When my youngest started first grade, I was starting to think I should find something steadier, but I could also see that it would be good to have someone at "mission control" after school, since we had four children, and they were getting pretty busy with friends and activities. Within a week of school starting that year, the principal approached me with a proposal. Would I like to work at the school as a crossing guard, and lunchroom and recess supervisor? She knew I enjoyed children. She also knew I didn't have a car available to me. Since the school was just a block away, transportation was not a problem, and the job obviously worked around the children's school schedule., allowing me to keep up with them after school and on days when school wasn't in session. Perfect! I eventually gave up the lunchroom and recess part of the job after five years, because my mom needed my help after a stroke, but I was able to keep the crossing guard job, and I still do it. Despite the occasional week of sub-zero weather, I truly like this job, because I get to enjoy the neighborhood children.

My other job, as the Music Coordinator at church, came my way in an equally Providential way.

As my last child started her senior year of high school, I began to pray that God would show me what the next phase of my life should be. I did not want to do the "empty nest syndrome" thing, and I knew He had a plan for me. I just need to know what the heck it was! Well, in February of that school year, the person who was music director at that time quit rather abruptly. It was six weeks before Easter, which is usually a big deal in music ministry. Pastor Randy, after consulting with the Music Board, called me and asked if I would step in temporarily to get us through the spring while the Board did a search. Of course I said yes; how could I not? You can't have Easter without wonderful music! I assumed the Board would find someone soon, and so I just focused on that last couple of months of the choir season. At that time the music director did not work in the summer, so I was still focusing on finding some sort of job for the fall. Then, in the middle of the summer, I got a call from the chairman of the Music Board. They were pretty happy with what I had done. Would I be interested in the job? Would I! I LOVED getting back into choral directing!

So, I have two jobs I truly like that just fell into my lap! That's definitely something to be thankful for.

The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Friday, November 7, 2008

Thankful For Four Seasons

How can I put this? I'm thankful for...prettiness? I think that's it. There is something pretty about every season, and just when you think you've seen enough irises, or enough pure white snow, or enough brilliant trees, you get a big change. When that happens, I run around thinking "Oooh, look at that! And that! And that!"

I would not do well in, say, southern Arizona, where it's basically the same all year round. So I'm thankful that I live here, with four beautiful seasons.

The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Kitty Thankfulness

If Cinnamon could type, she would have a blog. It would probably say a lot about going in and out, which lap she was sitting on last, and whether there was food in her bowl.
If she joined the November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge, she would undoubtedly be thankful for her dear, warm, purring friend, The Laptop.

Thankful For The Wednesday Night Chefs

On Wednesday nights during the school year we have a huge AWANA children's ministry program going at our church. About 250 children come on those nights, and believe me, the building is rocking! Choir rehearsal is also on that night, and it's fun to wade through all those children and their young parents to get to the choir room. Through our closed door we can frequently hear the shrieks of delight as the children play games in the Crossing. There's no doubt, AWANA is one of the most exciting things going on at our church.

It takes a lot of adult leadership to pull off a ministry like that. To make it easier for people to volunteer and get there right after work, our Children's Ministries Coordinator, Ellen Dyke, decided we needed a meal for the volunteers at the church, so folks don't have to worry about supper, or run through a fast-food place on their way. This has been a real blessing to all involved, not just for the convenience, but for the time to visit with each other. I take advantage of it, too, because I'm often over there getting some conducting prep done before rehearsal. It's been a great way for me to keep connected with the younger families, since, once your kids are grown, you can easily lose track of the nursery set. We eat, talk, dandle babies, and laugh at the cute things the preschoolers do and say. Good times!

This wouldn't be possible without two unsung heroes, the volunteer chefs, Traci and Ana Marie, who cook it all up for us. Traci, who has a degree in dietetics, has been doing this for a couple of years now, and has it down to a system. She has meals planned out through the end of the year and posted on the church website, so people know what's coming up. She purchases the food needed for about 50 people, and gets to the church around 3:30 on Wednesday afternoon to get things going. Joined by Ana Marie, it is all cooked and ready for folks as they start arriving at 5pm. The meal is well balanced, interesting, and kid-friendly, since the workers generally have to bring their little ones along. Recently a switch from disposable plates and cups was made, to restaurant-style crockery plates and glasses, with real metal cutlery to boot. Traci and Ana Marie, and Traci's husband, Grant, then clean up the kitchen and run things through a dishwasher. (By the way, Traci is my daughter-in-law.)

It's so often the case that the best ministry at church is being done by people who get little recognition, and, for that matter, don't even seem to want it. This Wednesday night dinner, meant simply as a convenience, has turned into a real relationship builder. So that's what I'm thankful for- these two ladies, who make that all possible every week.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Randy Alcorn On Voting

"Voting isn’t something you do every year or two. We cast multiple votes each day. We cast votes for heaven or hell, for grace or truth. For self-control or self-indulgence. For the Spirit or the Flesh. For abiding in Christ, or independence from Christ. For wisdom or foolishness, and for blessing or curse.

"Every decision we make, every action we take—and the heart attitude with which we conduct our lives—casts a vote for one kingdom or another. Every vote counts. God tallies them. Eternity will be affected by them.

"You can still talk to parents and kids in your neighborhood about the value of unborn children, and offer support and help as needed. You can go to city streets and homeless shelters and offer your service. Your ballot may not have made a difference, but your vote to love your neighbor will. God won’t overlook it, as He won’t overlook a single cup of water given to little ones in His name.

"Our next chance to vote is right here and right now, whether we spend time with God, pray for His help, read His Word, serve our family, help the poor, give to help the dying and needy in the Sudan, entertain this thought, speak these words, watch this television program, or click on this internet site.

"The key to change and influence in this world is not, and never has been, politics. It is faithfulness to Jesus. In the end, which will never end, acts of faithfulness—many of them quiet, some seen only by God—are the votes that will count, bringing the eternal results that will matter. “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). "

HT: Justin Taylor

Thankful For A New Day

I was just counting up. I've voted in nine presidential elections. I voted for the loser five of those times, so I have a lot of experience being the loyal opposition.

With that in mind, I'd like to say that I'm thankful that this country has proved that a person of color can be elected to our highest office. It did bring tears to my eyes to think about that amazing achievement. I wish Martin Luther King could have seen this day!

1Peter 2:13, “For the Lord's sake, respect all human authority - whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed."

I offer my respect to this president-elect, and I will pray for him to daily receive the wisdom and courage he will require to lead us for the next four years.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thankful For The Election

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'm thankful that I live in a place where we can speak freely and vote our conscience, and that once the vote is tallied, we accept the results and go forward. There are a lot of places in the world where that isn't the case.

So don't forget to vote today, and do it with JOY! Like these guys:

The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Monday, November 3, 2008


"Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost."

John Quincy Adams

Thankful For The Unseen Host

“When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha. “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire."
II Kings 6:15-17 (New Living Translation)

When I feel surrounded and embattled, I am thankful that the battle belongs to the Lord.

The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Thankful For The First Baptist Choir

Today, and every Sunday, I'm very thankful for the First Baptist choir. We have 32 choir members, ranging in age from 13 to 82, and, even though we take all comers, they are good! It's amazing that without auditions, without any real restrictions except that their voices be fully changed and that they have some rudimentary music reading skills, we are able to tackle just about any music I choose for them to do.

But there's more to be thankful for than that.

I tell people all the time that I get to work with the most wonderful group in the church!

These folks are unconditionally loving toward each other and toward me. They are faithful in their attendance and work hard in our rehearsals. They laugh together. They love to truly worship through music, as much at rehearsal as on Sundays. They see their musical gifts as an offering to the Lord and to the church, not a means of making much of themselves. They pray for each other. If someone misses rehearsal they call to see if that person is sick. They shepherd one another, and love one another. They welcome newcomers into the group with open arms. They pass their love of choral singing down through the generations of their families (we have several generations of three different families, and three married couples in the group). They cheerfully do whatever crazy thing I ask them to do. They laugh at their occasional mistakes and go on to try even harder. They laugh with those who laugh, and mourn with those who mourn. They are what I call "real church".

I could go on and on. I love all of them! It's an honor to know them and a privilege to lead them.

The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Sunday Stroll-November 2, 2008

My neighborhood seems to be at it's peak for fall color this weekend. When the trees are so spectacular, it would be easy to dwell on the larger vistas that allow me to see several trees at once, and the way their foliage contrasts so beautifully. These are just a few steps from my house, looking across a nearby church's lawn.

The wonderful thing about participating in Aisling's Sunday Stroll, though, is the way it forces me to look at smaller views, and take pleasure in the somewhat quieter things I can see on that scale. For instance, in my own yard I have a little serviceberry tree. I love this small, multi-stemmed understory tree. In the spring it has white flowers, blooming quite early. Then it has small, purple, edible fruits in June, which are quickly raided by the birds. In fall it turns a wonderful lemon yellow.

I've posted about the oak leaf hydrangeas before. They are another plant that gives you something interesting every season. They even have a birch-like peeling bark that is interesting in the winter. Right now they are turning a mahogany brown.

This rock-spray catoneaster was sown by the birds, I think, right along our fence, and I left it to become part of the "woodsy" section of our yard. Structurally, it's pretty interesting, "splashing" every which-way, it's branches lined with small, shiny, deep green leaves, and, in summer and fall, red berries. It's starting to turn Illini orange, so you know it was meant to be in our yard!

Near it, there is still some lamium (dead-nettle) blooming. This foliage will soon turn a deep purple, but for now it acts like it's April.

Finally, the smallest plant of all in my yard is this moss. Some people really don't like to have moss in their lawn, but I think it's beautiful, and naturally belongs in that wet and shady area. I love the bright chartreuse color and soft velvety texture against the the dark green spiky grass.

That's my stroll for the day. If you'd like to see what others are finding on their strolls, go to