Monday, December 31, 2012

Promises for the New Year - Monday Moments with God

My Dear Child,

As you stand on the verge of a new year, please remember that only I know the future.

 I MP900438811have plans for you this year that will help you to grow stronger in me. Though some things may hurt, remember I will never harm you because I love you and we have a future together, you and I.

Trust me with everything inside you and don't try to figure things out for yourself. Just take one day at a time and follow me - I'll keep you on the straight path. I am always at work, orchestrating the details of your life so that everything will fit together in my plan for you. I delight in making a way where there doesn't seem to be a way

Just hold my hand and walk with me in 2013.

Love, Jesus

Proverbs 3:5-6 (CEB) Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence. Know him in all your paths, and he will keep your ways straight
Jeremiah 29:11 (ERV) I say this because I know the plans that I have for you.” This message is from the Lord. “I have good plans for you. I don’t plan to hurt you. I plan to give you hope and a good future.
Romans 8:28 (NLV) We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are chosen to be a part of His plan.
Isaiah 43:16, 18-19 NLV “This is what the Lord says, Who makes a way through the sea and a path through the powerful waters, “Do not remember the things that have happened before. Do not think about the things of the past. See, I will do a new thing. It will begin happening now. Will you not know about it? I will even make a road in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”

Friday, December 28, 2012

Snow shovels vs. snow plows


““Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 CEB

For the last few years, DH (Dear Hubby) and I have both been struggling with back pain issues which means fairly regular visits to the chiropractor. I'm not sure what caused the issues, but usually a few treatments is usually all it takes to put things right again. Then the "tune-ups" start to keep things feeling pretty good.

But with snow-shoveling season here again in Central PA, I suppose there will soon be some problems again.

Isn't it good to know that whenever we struggle with heavy emotional and spiritual loads, we have One who will help us to carry them so we don't throw our backs' out trying to carry them ourselves?

We tend to carry these loads ourselves too often because
  • 1. We are ashamed to admit we have a problem. My line used to be: "Well I'm a pastor's wife - I'm supposed to help others with their burdens and problems, but I'm not supposed to have problems - or at least I'm not supposed to show weakness."
  • 2. We don't really believe that God will help us with it - maybe we've asked for God's help before and for some reason, he didn't answer us (at least not the way we thought he should). So why would he answer this time?
  • 3 We don't feel worthy to ask for help - we somehow feel like we deserve whatever is happening to us and therefore, we shouldn't even ask for help.
But Jesus offers us this wonderful open invitation to come to him for help when we're struggling emotionally, physically and spiritually - regardless of whether we are worthy. We don't have to be strong. He may not remove the burdens we carry but he will be there to shoulder the lion's share of it so we don't get overburdened or weighted down by life's cares.

All we have to do is COME to him for help. It's like using a snow plow instead of just a shovel. LOL!
Thank you Lord for offering to help us bear our loads! Help us to accept your offer today. Amen.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Knowing Christmas

"Let my whole being bless the LORD! Let everything inside me bless his holy name! Let my whole being bless the LORD and never forget all his good deeds:” Psalm 103:1-2 CEB

Did you ever watch a baby receive their first gift? They're not quite sure what to do with it, but they like the bright paper. They'll feel the present, maybe even try to chew it. After someone shows them how, they start tearing the paper off because they like the sound of the paper ripping. Then they play with the box for a few minutes until someone helps them open it to see what's inside. After a few minutes of excitement over the contents of the box, they put down the toy and go back to playing with the box with an equal amount of excitement. They enjoy it with their whole being!
Girl Opening Christmas Present
So what would it look like if we celebrated Jesus - God's gift to us - with our whole being, with all five senses like a child?

Hearing - The Shepherds heard the angels' message of a Savior that was born and they were afraid at first, then filled with awe as they listened. The words filled their hearts so full of hope and praise, they simply had to worship right where they were on the hillside.

Pretend you are hearing the angels' message for the first time. What emotions would you feel?

Seeing - They saw the angels and fell on their faces. But then I imagine they looked up in wonder as the message continued. Then they decided to act on the message of the angels and go see the baby who was born in a manger. Leaving their sheep on the hillside in God's care, they went to Bethlehem to see what had come to pass. When they saw Jesus, they wept and worshipped again.

I don't know about you, but all I have to do is look at the face of a new grand baby and my heart swells with love for that child. It's not so difficult to imagine how the shepherds felt.

Tasting - Each season has it's flavors. Christmas brings to mind peppermint, chocolate, cookies, ham dinners - with all the flavors enhanced by the love of family and friends as they gather together. When rejoicing with our loved ones, it's not hard to remember to bless the Lord - to taste him and know he is good.

Touching - Nothing thrills my heart as much as the words in Mark Lowry's song, "Mary Did You Know," where he reminds her that "when your kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God." As a mom and now a Grandmom, I've known the thrill of holding a wonderful, touchable, huggable, kissable infant. But to imagine what Mary must have experienced as she held God in human form? Incomprehensible! Yet the thought of him becoming touchable thrills my heart.

Smelling - The scent of pine boughs, hay in the manger, the crispness and cleanness in the air after a newly fallen snow, Christmas cookies... So many seasonal smells conjure up images of the Christmas season.

Lord, help us to celebrate you with the excitement of a little child, with every fiber of our being as we see, hear, taste, touch and smell Christmas - the time of your coming in human form to redeem us! Amen.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Homemade cottage cheese

"Whatever has happened—that’s what will happen again; whatever has occurred—that’s what will occur again. There’s nothing new under the sun. 10 People may say about something: “Look at this! It’s new!” But it was already around for ages before us." Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 CEB

What a treasure trove my mom and mother-in-law left me! I have their recipe files - boxes and boxes of news clippings, hand written recipes and whole recipe books. There are way too many recipes to keep them all, but as I look through them, I've found some really great oldies that are new to me which I plan to keep and pass on to my daughters.

This morning I found a wonderful recipe to make my own cottage cheese from ingredients
MP900177957I already have in my kitchen. We are trying to live more frugally so cottage cheese is one product we don't usually have on our grocery list, though I really enjoy it.

To start with, you make a recipe of buttermilk starter. It's made with powdered milk, store-bought buttermilk and a dash of salt. Once you get it going, you shouldn't need to buy the buttermilk again.

To make it, start by making the instant powdered milk - usually about 1 and 1/3 cup of the dried milk and 2 and 3/4 cups of water. (Use 1 cup less of water to mix the milk than the box recipe calls for. ) Mix thoroughly.

Add 1 cup of the regular buttermilk and stir until well blended. Let stand at room temperature in the kitchen.

After 24 hours, you have a jar of buttermilk "clabber" which you can stir and store in a sterile glass jar in the fridge. It should keep for several weeks that way, according to the author. Use as you would use buttermilk in any recipe. It also serves as a starter for future recipes of cottage cheese or more buttermilk (much like you would use a sourdough bread starter.)

- OR for the cottage cheese -

You can let the buttermilk-powdered milk mixture stand in a jar on the counter without stirring for a total of 48 hours, until the bottom third of the jar contains clear liquid (the whey) and the top 2/3 of the jar contains curds.

Without stirring it, pour the mixture into a large strainer filled with cheesecloth or a large wire-mesh strainer. When drained, voila! You have cottage cheese. Refrigerate the curds and use as you would any store-bought cottage cheese.

The recipe went on to say that the next day, the author would show us how to make a low calorie, low-fat substitute for sour cream using the homemade cottage cheese - but I haven't found that piece yet! Guess I better keep looking... since I'm all about low cal, low fat goodies! LOL!

Thank you Lord for helping us revive old recipes to help live more frugally today! Amen.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mary's Scrapbook

“They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.” Luke 2:16-20 CEB

My middle daughter is into scrapbooking - at least she was before she had 8 children. Sometime in the future, I'm sure she will begin again since she has carefully catalogued photos of her children from birth to the present time just waiting to be placed on pages.

Like my daughter, Mary had so many wonderful details to remember about the birth of Jesus, that she "committed these things to memory and considered them carefully." It made me giggle as I wondered what kind of scrapbook Mary might have kept back then about the birth of her son?

First double-page layout - Preparation for the journey: She might have used lined paper for the background since she had to make lists and preparation plans. Then she'd have placed a copy of the tax decree that caused her late-pregnancy journey, along with photos of the piles of things she planned to take to Bethlehem. Opposite page: a photo of Joseph posing with the donkey he got to carry her the distance since she was 9 months pregnant (she probably included a tummy shot too - just to prove later that she really needed Eeyore, especially when people commented that she must have been crazy to take such a journey in her condition.)

Second double-page layout - On the road to Bethlehem: Maybe Mary took a photo of their resting spots along the way and journaled about how wonderful Joseph was to make her as comfortable as possible. Perhaps she took a photo of the sunset before they settled down for the evening or Joseph preparing breakfast as she rested along the roadside. She probably would have used rustic outdoorsy type background papers for these pages.

Third spread - Arrival in Bethlehem: I'm sure she would have taken photos of the city as they got close. She probably took more photos of the crowds to show her relatives how busy it was. On the opposite page, she probably took a photo of the stable and journaled about how it was the only place Joseph could get; and how he made it as snug and private as possible for her.

Of course, after that, Mary and Joseph would have been pretty busy with the baby who refused to wait another minute to be born. But after he arrived, Mary probably would have had Joseph take photos of the baby and his manger bed and mounted them on background papers printed with straw. A large photo of mother and child would have been the focal point of this layout.

On the opposite page, Mary would have had one of the shepherds take a family photo of the three of them - Mother, Father and Son - to make copies for everyone back home. As the baby slept, she probably would have journaled everything she could remember about his birth and placed it on a tag in a hidden pocket on te page.

Of course, the shepherds would have had their own 2 page spread as they came and shared their story. She'd have posed them around the manger with her son and maybe a lamb or two. Maybe she would have included some texture on the page in the form of some wool and straw embellishments. Journaling the shepherd's story would have taken center stage on the opposite page. How awesome for them to have heard an angel choir!

Perhaps the last page would be a close-up photo of the infant's face, sleeping peacefully. The Son of God, yet born to a virgin! I'm sure it was a sight she never would forget in the quiet moments of reflection.

No, Mary didn't keep a scrapbook with photos, but we have a wonderful word-picture in the Scripture of Jesus birth. Let's keep these pictures in our hearts and minds through this holiday season and think about them carefully. Jesus is the reason for the season!

Friday, December 21, 2012


“While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.” Luke 2:6-7 CEB

Epiphany. According to Meriam-Webster's online dictionary it means:

(1): a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something
(2): an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking
(3) a: an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure b: a revealing scene or moment

I've always wanted to use that word. Well, the other day I had one - a sudden, illuminating realization. What fun!

Sitting in the car in the Wal-Mart parking lot, waiting for Dan to come out of the store, a van pulled into the space beside us. Of course, there was nothing unusual about that.

I paused in my knitting, curious to see who would get out of the van. The first one out was a tall, lanky teen boy. In the front seat was another teen girl.

Because it was dark, the dome light was on so I could easily see into the van. There in the back, unfolding themselves to stand up and crawl out were three more teens. I think there were 5 all together, plus an adult.

Suddenly I burst out laughing because I realized that's exactly what my daughter's van would look like in about 10 years as her 7+ kids grow into their teen years. The 12 passenger van they have now which holds all the children plus 2 adults with room to spare still has room for #8 who will be arriving in February. BUT it will definitely feel like a sardine can when they all start hitting puberty.

God took an ordinary, everyday moments of life, and illuminated it, causing me to suddenly sit up and take note about a life truth - my grand babies won't be little forever. I can just imagine him sitting on his throne chuckling to himself - "Ah. Now she gets it!"
Though my epiphany was nothing like the one God brought to the shepherds the night of his Son's birth, they too experienced a marvelous revelation through an ordinary event.

To them it was life as usual on the hillside. I can imagine they often looked up at the stars and marveled at God's creation. Suddenly, the stars came alive, taking on the form of angels, telling them of God's plan to bring hope to the world through the birth of a tiny baby.

Most people didn't even notice it, they were too busy with their everyday lives to even look upward. But out in a field, shepherds saw angels. Their minds were suddenly illuminated and they understood the meaning of those revelations. So they came to worship - not just an ordinary baby, but a newborn KING, Emmanuel, God with us.

Thank you Lord for the epiphanies of our lives. Help our eyes, ears and hearts to be open to them. Amen

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Out of the mouths of children...

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. (Luke 10:21)

For anyone who has a young elementary school aged child at home, we wonder how they will react to the news of the school shooting in Connecticut last week.

My seven-year-old grandson already understood about death and dying (as well as any young child can) since he lost his four-year-old cousin to cancer last year and his great-grandfather died just a few weeks ago.

In his mind, he imagined a happy picture - his little cousin was there with Jesus at heaven's gates to welcome these new children as playmates.

One of the most beautiful tributes I've seen, echoes his child-like vision. I don't know who the author was to give credit (if anyone knows, please let me know!). But I'd like to repost it here - it's well worth repeating!

Twas' 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38
when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven's gate.
Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.
They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
They were filled with such joy; they didn't know what to say.
They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
“wher...e are we?" asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
“This is heaven" declared a small boy. "We’re spending Christmas at God's house”.
When what to their wondering eyes did appear,
but Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.
And in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring
those children all flew into the arms of their King
and as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
one small girl turned and looked at Jesus' face.
And as if He could read all the questions she had
He gently whispered to her, "I'll take care of mom and dad. “
then He looked down on earth, the world far below
He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe,
then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
“Let My power and presence re-enter this land!
“May this country be delivered from the hands of fools”
“I’m taking back my nation. I'm taking back my schools!
“Then He and the children stood up without a sound.
“Come now my children let me show you around.
“Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.
All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
“in the midst of this darkness,” I AM STILL THE LIGHT."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Are you ready for Christmas?

“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven” Luke 1:76-78 NIV
It seems like the trappings of Christmas appear earlier each year, doesn’t it?

Why almost after the Back-to-School sales are over – when the pencils, notebooks, glue and crayons take up residence in their normal aisles again – the tinsel and Christmas ornaments start appearing in the superstore aisles. Lighted artificial Christmas trees appear in the garden section, taking over one aisle at a time until the holiday mood is in full swing.

You’d think that so much advance notice would help us all prepare for the coming holiday. Four months really ought to be plenty of time to to shop, bake, mail out cards, decorate, and plan our Christmas get-togethers, right?

With all the choices available and so much time to make our decisions, we shouldn’t need to be at the mall on December 24th, still hunting for that last sale; that elusive “perfect, gotta-have-it” gift. Should we?

Whatever the reason, I often find myself among those scrambling around at the last minute to be ready for Christmas on time. This year, I still have lots of sewing and baking to do yet in order to get my gifts finished.

Oh, I have good intentions each year to shop through the year, to start sewing and card-making in January. But life happens and I usually find myself trying to keep up with the busyness rather than getting ahead of it.

Being unprepared for Christmas is nothing new. For centuries before Christ came, God sent prophets to tell people he was coming. So why were there only a handful of shepherds on hand to see the angels the night of his birth?

Before Jesus started his ministry, John the Baptist was wearing camel-hair garments and eating locusts, preaching in the wilderness to let people know, but only a few really understood his message.
For three years, people followed Christ. But they still thought he was coming as a King to deliver them from Rome. They didn’t understand that he needed to die for them.

After his resurrection as he ascended into heaven, the angels told us that Christ would return. Even now, current events are shouting the message of his soon return from the mountain tops. They match up with the prophecies in God’s word.

Are we paying attention? Or will it sneak up on us like December 24th does each year and find us scrambling to be ready?


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),” Luke 1:68-70 NIV
Church Bells
I really enjoy learning about the history of our Christmas carols, but I was totally unprepared for the comfort this particular carol gave in light of the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School this past week.

A well-known American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1817-1882), is credited for writing the original poem called Christmas Blessings on December 25, 1864. It originally had 7 stanzas, but 2 were omitted when it was set to music by John Baptiste Calkin (1827-1905).

Henry and Fanny Appleton were married in July, 1843. They settled in Cambridge, MA, where they settled into a happy life with their five children - Charles, Ernest, Alice, Edith and Allegra. In spite of their happiness, tragedy soon marred their lives.

In July, 1861, Fanny wrote in her journal: "We are all sighing for the good sea breeze instead of this stifling land, one filled with dust. Poor Allegra is very droopy with heat, and Edith has to get her hair in a net to free her neck from the weight."

To help seven-year-old Edith bear the heat, Fanny decided to trim some of her thick curls and preserve them in sealing wax. As she melted the wax over a flame, she accidentally spilled some of the wax on her dress. At that moment the coveted sea breeze blew in and caused the flame to ignite her dress.

In terror, Fanny ran from the room, into her husband's study where Longfellow tried to unsuccessfully beat out the flames with a small throw rug. As a last resort, he threw his arms around his wife, badly burning his face, arms and hands. Fanny died the next day and Henry was unable to attend her funeral because of his own severe burns.

He grieved hard for his wife as is evident from his journalings. That year at Christmas, Longfellow wrote: "How inexpressibly sad are all holidays." And "I can make no record of these days. Better to have them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace." Later he wrote"A Merry Christmas say the children, But that is no more for me."

When he received that his son Charles had been severely wounded in the Civil War in 1863, Longfellow couldn't even write in his journal because of the grief in his heart.

But God did begin to minister to Longfellow's heart. His son returned home and began to recover, though he was crippled for the rest of his life.

On Christmas Day in 1864, he penned the words to the well-loved carol. They have brought comfort to countless grieving hearts through the years, including another well-loved author, Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain following the death of his daughter Jean:

"And in despair I bowed my head,
"There is no peace on earth, " I said,
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men."

"Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;
God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, goodwill to men,"

May the God of all peace bring comfort to your hearts this Christmas season. Amen.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Facing loneliness and rejection - Monday Moments with God

“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.” Luke 1:46-47, 49 KJV

My Dear Child,

No matter what yo are going through today, please consider this: Many of my children have experienced loneliness and rejection.

Though my human mother, Mary, is held in a place of esteem by you, things were not easy for her. She was frightened when the angel, Gabriel, came and gave her the news that she had been chosen to be my mother. Yet she responded by accepting it as the will of my Father - a great honor for a humble maiden such as she was.
MP900446404But saying yes to God plunged her into a dark time of loneliness and hurt. No one believed her when she told them about the angel's message. Her family, friends and even her fiance, Joseph, believed she had been promiscuous.

In his hurt over her supposed unfaithfulness, he made up his mind to break up with her. Still he was compassionate and decided to do it privately rather than putting her to shame with a public trial. At the very least she would be shunned for her shameful behavior, forced to live alone and be considered unmarriageable. Or she could face the worst possible punishment if the elders chose to make her a public example - death by stoning.

Feeling the sting of being ostracized by her family and the pain of rejection from Joseph, she went to stay with her cousin, Elizabeth, who was also with child. But Elizabeth's reaction to the young woman's pregnancy surprised Mary, because her cousin affirmed the truth of it!

Elizabeth gave her the support she needed during the crucial early months of her pregnancy. And by the time she returned home, Joseph's heart had been changed toward her because of a direct message from my Father in a dream.

I will never leave you totally alone to face life's difficulties on your own. I will bring others along side you to help, comfort, guide and encourage you. I will be there too, living inside you as our relationship grows each day.

Take time to magnify me because I am working in your life for your benefit and spiritual growth. I love you and I have a plan for you - far greater than anything you can imagine.


Matthew 1, Luke 1-2

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Special

 During Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to a virgin girl who lived in Nazareth, a town in Galilee. She was engaged to marry a man named Joseph from the family of David. Her name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, “Greetings! The Lord is with you; you are very special to him.”” Luke 1:26-28 ERV

Have you ever wanted to be "special" to someone?

For those of us who are people-pleasers, it probably meant we worked overtime to get someone's attention and then worked equally hard to make ourselves indispensable to them. The only thing we strove for was to hear that elusive complement or affirmation that we were valuable and loved.
Sometimes it worked - we received the affirmations we needed. Other times, people walked all over us, taking advantage of our neediness without providing the positive affirmation we so desperately wanted. Been there and done that....

But imagine for a moment having the God of the universe send an angel to you to tell you that you were "special" to him and he had a job for you.

Mary wasn't anyone important - she wasn't the daughter of a rich or important family, although she was a descendant of King David as Luke points out in his gospel. But her family was as poor and nondescript as most of the families in the land of Judah at that time. She had never done anything to stand out in a crowd to attract God's favor. She was a normal Jewish girl.
So why would God single her out?

MP9004464061. She met the qualifications:
a. Family-wise, she was a direct descendant of King David. She was engaged to a man who was also from David’s direct line so there could be no doubt of the child’s family tree in the fulfillment of prophecy.
b. Physically, she was a virgin of child-bearing age, which fulfilled the prophecy that Jesus would be conceived miraculously.
c. Personality-wise, she was a courageous young woman, willing to do what God asked her, even if it meant being ostracized by her family and friends, and willing to face death if needed (to be an unwed and pregnant Jewish girl could mean a death by stoning).
d. Spiritually, she had the same tender heart toward God that her ancestor David had. She was yielded to God, willing to allow him to do whatever he wanted with her life.

Sure she had some doubts and fears about everything. Who wouldn't? But her heart was right.
Like Mary, God is seeking us out to be part of his family - not because we are "special" or good enough or important enough. No. He's seeking us out because he made us and he wants us to be a part of his family. Because of that, he works with us, making us special and polishing the uniqueness that he placed in us - our talents, abilities and those other great things we didn't know we possessed.

He seeks us out because he loves us. His love makes us special to him; it's not about anything we can do for him.

It took me a long time to understand and accept that - and actually, I'm still working on it since the people-pleasing parts of my personality were cast in concrete during my formative years. But the journey has been invigorating and blessed!

I'm inviting you to join me on this journey. Let Jesus show you how special you are to him - not because of who or what you are; not because of anything you've done; but because you are His!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

PA Dutch bread and potato stuffing

“Herod called a meeting of all the leading Jewish priests and teachers of the law. He asked them where the Messiah would be born. They answered, “In the town of Bethlehem in Judea, just as the prophet wrote: ‘Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are important among the rulers of Judah. Yes, a ruler will come from you, and that ruler will lead Israel, my people.’”” Matthew 2:4-6 ERV

Traditional-Herb-Stuffing-REBethlehem - "bread town" was the place God chose for his son, the "Bread of life" to be born. So I thought it was fitting today to include a recipe for my mom's homemade bread and potato "filling" which always graced our table on Thanksgiving and Christmas when the family gathered for dinner.

Mom came from German Mennonite background so she grew up understanding the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect her parents spoke and enjoying many traditional foods. Many of the old family recipes were lost though when she married and followed my dad into the Schwenckfelder church (another German-based denomination in south eastern PA). Also, since they married in the post WWII era, she was a working mom, putting in long hours in a sewing factory and later a factory that made floor tiles, so that our family was well-provided for.

However, the one recipe she never lost was her bread and potato stuffing. On the eve of every Christmas or Thanksgiving holiday, Mom cubed several loaves of white bread into a large 6-quart bowl. She amply covered the bread with about a half cup of dried parsley, then placed a towel over the bread to dry out over night. In later years, she began to buy 4-5 bags of already dried bread cubes.
Early the next morning, she would be up by 6 AM, peeling and cutting potatoes into small cubes to fill her 6 quart Dutch oven. She cooked them until they were tender, draining them and reserving some of the liquid to moisten her bread.

While the potatoes cooled a bit, she finely chopped 4-6 stalks of celery and 2 cups of onions, adding them to the dried bread along with salt and pepper. When I got old enough to help, this was my job. Boo-hoo and LOL!

She added the cooled potatoes and about a quart of the reserved potato liquid to the bread and mixed it together. It was important that the bread be slightly moist. About an hour before the turkey was done, she would add turkey broth to the mixture as well for flavor. She always knew just how much to add so the stuffing was moist and stuck together well.

Putting it into two large casserole dishes, Mom topped the mixture with pats of real butter to help flavor it and brown the top. She baked it at 350° for at least an hour , covered with foil. Then she removed the covering and baked it for another half hour or longer until it came out nicely browned on the top, but fluffy and moist inside.

Christmas reminds me of Mom and I still make her recipe for my family dinners, though I omit the potatoes. I never could figure out why we needed them in the stuffing and mashed too.

No matter how you fix your stuffing / filling / dressing at this time of year, take time to remember and praise the Living Bread of Bethlehem who came that we should never hunger or thirst for God again! Amen.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's Christmas cookie time! - Frosted Pumpkin Bars

“But when the time was right, God sent his Son, and a woman gave birth to him. His Son obeyed the Law, so he could set us free from the Law, and we could become God’s children.” Galatians 4:4-5 CEV

Christmas is such a rich season. It's rich in it's message - that God would leave heaven to be born in the form of a human being to experience life as we know it and to redeem us from sin.
But it's also rich in traditions and memories. Today I've been remembering my mom's love for Christmas baking. She usually took a vacation day from work to bake Christmas cookies. All day long the house would smell amazing as the dining room table filled with dozens of varieties of sweet confections. In the evening, she boxed up all the cookies for delivery to the nursing homes where she and dad volunteered.

Since I was in school, I didn't get to help, but my grandmother or later, a family friend , would be on hand. Mom even put the extra leaves in the table so it could hold moreTo bake so many cookies was a two person job!

By the end of the day, the table was filled with chocolate chip cookies, peanut blossoms, Thumb-print cookies, Snowball cookies, butter/sugar cookies and others I can't even remember anymore.

I found some of her old recipe books the other day and decided to share a recipe today. One that's rich in cinnamony holiday aroma and flavor:

Frosted Pumpkin Bars

4 beaten eggs
1 cup salad oil
2 cups sugar
1 cup pumpkin
1 cup raisins
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt

Combine ingredients and pour onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes. When cool, frost with:

3 oz. cream cheese
6 Tbsp butter
1 tsp, vanilla
1 tsp milk
3/4 pound of powdered sugar

Cream the cheese, butter, milk and vanilla together. Add sugar. Spread onto the pumpkin bar and cut into squares. These can be frozen and pulled out for a quick and easy company snack throughout the holiday season.


What cookie recipes do you remember from Christmases past?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

That's some family tree!

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 NIV
In my youth church class, we've been doing a section of lessons based on the idea of a Jesse Tree***. I wanted to highlight some of the major ancestors in the family tree of Jesus to show the young people how God can and will incorporate us into his family tree, no matter what kind of crazy, mixed-up "characters" we are.

In our study this week, we did a lesson on the 12 sons of Jacob based on a blog post I read over at Teach Them about Jacob's 12 sons. Jacob is the grandson of Abraham, and a part of the direct family tree of Jesus.

MP900449090And boy was he a character - along with his family! Jacob had 12 sons to four different women (two of them were sisters). His story comes complete with jealousy, intrigue, murder attempts and mayhem.

Hmmmm. Sounds like some of those TV soaps, doesn't it?

Most of us know the story of Joseph, the favored son / owner of the coat of many colors, who was sold into slavery in Egypt and ended up as the second most important person there, next to Pharaoh.

But when I asked the youth which one of Jacob's 12 sons was mentioned in the lineage of Jesus, no one knew. They all thought it was Joseph because of the importance placed on his story in scripture.

Who do you think it is?

Some of you are shaking your heads in bewilderment. And, of course, some of you know the answer - it was Judah, the 4th born son. Usually the first-born holds the position of authority and leadership in a clan But not in this case. Reuben, Simeon and Levi were passed over for Judah, #4 in line because of misconduct, jealousy and selfishness with regard to Joseph.

No, Judah wasn't faultless - he was in on the jealous plan to get rid of Joseph with his other brothers. But Judah redeemed himself in the eyes of his father later on when he went out of his way to protect his youngest half-brother, Benjamin (Joseph's younger brother), from an unknown fate at the hands of Pharaoh's 2nd in command in Egypt.

To spare his father further grief, since Jacob had already lost one son (he thought Joseph was dead), Judah exchanged his life for Benjamin's, taking the now-favored,youngest son's place in the Egyptian prison for a time. He had no idea whether he would ever see his family again, but he knew he couldn't allow his father to lose another son borne by Jacob's beloved wife, Rachel.

Judah's name means "praise" and the sign of his clan became a roaring lion - a fitting sign for the coming Messiah.

No matter what kind of soap-opera life we've had, Jesus is in the business of redemption. He wants to change our hearts and include us in his family of crazy, mixed-up, REDEEMED sons and daughters.

Let him change your heart today!

***For those who are unfamiliar with the Jesse Tree, it is a sort of Advent calendar in the shape of a tree (a paper tree, bare tree branch or even a small Christmas tree) with a special ornament that is added each day through the Advent season. Each ornament is related to a Bible story or person who is part of the lineage or timeline leading up to Christ.

There are lots of online resources for anyone wanting more information. Just google "Jesse Tree" and you'll find stories and patterns for ornaments.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Help! I need wisdom - Monday Moments with God

My Dear Child,
I know you had a rough time of things last week, but I was there with you through it all. When you asked for wisdom to deal with people and circumstances, I helped you to see what needed to be done. I gave you the courage to face your situations and to continue the task I gave you to do.

You may not always feel my presence or hear my voice clearly, but I am with you, even during those difficult times. I am teaching you my ways, so you will be able to stay on track. I am instructing and counseling you, even through the dark hours, as you keep your heart open to me.

Don't always try to figure things out for yourself - trust me and I will lead you.


James 1:5, Isaiah 2:3, Psalm 32:8, Proverbs 3:5-6, 2 Cor. 4:6

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hungry and Thirsty

“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35 NIV

My dear child,

MP900444456You feel depressed and discouraged today because of all the struggles of life you are facing.

But I have bread for you that will encourage and strengthen you if you will accept it. After all - I would never give you a stone if you came to ask me for bread. I love you.

The bread I give you will multiply as you share it with others, bringing joy to your heart. Your heart will overflow with so much joy that you will have baskets full left over!

I am offering my life-giving water to quench your thirst. When you drink it, it will become a mighty spring welling up inside you and giving you eternal life. It will satisfy the deepest thirsting of your soul and flow out from you to others.

When you eat this bread and drink this water, you will never hunger or thirst again!


John 6:35; John 4:13; Matthew 7:9

Father help those in our community who are hungry today. Use us to reach out and provide for them - whether it is food for their tables or food for their souls. Amen!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Faithful love

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven. His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1,26 NLT

Central PA has several large caverns which are tourist attractions. In years past, we've visited most of the local ones: Penn's Cave, Indian Caverns, Lincoln Caverns and even the Seldom Seen Valley Mine - a man-made cavern which was once a working coal mine.

One thing that always impresses me is that moment when the guide shuts off the lights, leaving the guests to experience a moment of total darkness. To be in a place that's so dark you can't even see your hand in front of your face is a bit unnerving and I always felt better after the guide turned the lights back on.

But another thing that amazed me were the colors and shapes of the formations in the caverns. Formed by the constant drip of water through the limestone, great stalactites and stalagmites take on various shapes. Underground streams carve out rooms and other formations as in Penn's cave. The fact that God took such care to create so much beauty in a place few people would ever see inspires me!

God's love is faithful. He's constantly at work, sculpting his beauty in the darkest recesses of our hearts. When his light shines into those cavernous places, we can no longer see the darkness of sin, but we see the beauty of God's handiwork in our lives.

Thank you Lord for your faithfulness!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Prayer and praise

““O give thanks to the Lord. Call upon His name. Let the people know what He has done.” 1 Chronicles 16:8 NLV

God has given us some very unlikely weapons to fight the spiritual battles we face each day. On the surface, they don't look like they would accomplish much since they are only made up of words. But God has ordained them - they do work and are very powerful.

Prayer is one. It loosens the power of God so he can fight for and with us against the hard things that come against us.Because of prayer, God is able to do the impossible to save us out of difficult situations. Other times, prayer changes us somehow so that even if the circumstances in our lives don't change, we do. We can bear them and we can trust God to work the situations out for our good.

The other weapon is prayer's twin: praise. Praise is an extremely personal weapon in that it always affects us at the heart level. When we praise, our attitudes change - despair becomes hope; fear turns into trust.

This morning I read the testimony of a trafficking victim who was herded into shipping containers with several other women. She lived this way for three years but she still was able to retain her faith. How? She learned to sing praise songs to God in her darkest hours. And she taught the other women to sing with her.

Another prisoner was kept chained in a tiny, dark cell. He said the only part of his body not in chains was his mouth. Yet, he kept his faith strong by singing songs of praise to God. Somehow, another inmate heard him through a small hole in the stone wall and learned to sing the songs of praise. By the time he was released, 8 inmates had learned to sing praises to the Lord.

What ever kind of "prison" we live in today, we have the weapon of praise to heal, sustain and encourage us. The good news is that as we vocalize our praises, others are healed, sustained and encouraged too.

Thank you Lord for the twin weapons of prayer and praise. Teach us to wield them well! Amen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


“Let the teaching of Christ and His words keep on living in you. These make your lives rich and full of wisdom. Keep on teaching and helping each other. Sing the Songs of David and the church songs and the songs of heaven with hearts full of thanks to God.” Colossians 3:16 NLV

A tribute to my father-in-law, Floyd Winters who passed away on Wednesday, November 21, 2012.

We'll miss you Dad - see you soon in heaven.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Peace - Monday Moments with God

My Dear Child,

Some days, worries fill your mind. You worry about finances, family matters, relationships and all sorts of things. These worries steal away your peace, causing you to be afraid. They damage your ability to trust in me.

Don’t let your heart be troubled or afraid. I’m always with you and I want you to have a peaceful heart. I’m stronger than any enemy that might attack you. I’m bigger than your biggest difficulty. I know what lies ahead and will carry you in my hand through the storms.

The only thing preventing my peace from flooding your heart is your refusal to let me.



Philippians 4:7 CEV Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel.

2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NLT) Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.

John 14:27 (NLT) I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Comfort food

Back in October, the pumpkins were everywhere: the big ones for carving and cooking, the little sweet pie pumpkins, and even my favorites - the long-necked squash pumpkins. I was ecstatic when I found some of my favorite kind right across the street at the stand of a roadside vendor. I bought one at the time, but they were a little pricy for the quantity I wanted.

When I got home, I asked the Lord to provide a couple more pumpkins of any kind for canning since my food budget was a little limited. Nothing happened at that point. Pumpkin season passed and I pretty much forgot I'd even asked my Father for them. But God never forgot.

This past week, my father-in-law passed away. The family had already made plans to come home for the day - partly because we wanted to get together like we did each year and partly hoping they could see dad alive one more time to say their last good-byes. But that's not the way it worked out.

After we got the news of his passing on Wednesday morning, I had an especially difficult time getting things ready for our big family dinner. Thankfully, my children were bringing much of the food because I couldn't focus on cooking. I think God knew I needed a special reminder of his love and care to help me through the holiday family time.

Thursday morning, my daughter and her brood arrived. As they got out of their van, six-year-old Sam struggled over to the porch carrying a large, orange pumpkin. Ten-year-old Jack brought another. Sam proudly proclaimed that his mommy couldn't possibly cook all her pumpkins - she had one for each of her 7 children - so she sent me the two biggest ones to can.

I remembered asking my heavenly Father for some nice big pumpkins to can and suddenly felt hugged by God. At a time when I needed to know his presence and comfort the most, he sent me a tangible reminder that he cares about me and the details of my life.

Thank you Father! Amen.

“Enter his gates with thanks; enter his courtyards with praise! Thank him! Bless his name! Because the LORD is good, his loyal love lasts forever; his faithfulness lasts generation after generation.” Psalm 100:4-5 CEB

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Second chance tomato soup

The recipe for tomato soup was typed on a piece of onion-skin typing paper, in the days before we used personal computers. An older pastor's wife had taken the time to type it out for me when we tried out for the youth pastor position at their church, MANY years ago.

The soup she served us was excellent, but when I tried to make it a few years later, I took a shortcut, pureeing the tomatoes in my blender without slipping the skins first. I loved the flavor of the soup, but I kept getting pieces of tough skin in every jar with each bite of the soup. Ewwwww!

Considering it a failure, I tucked the recipe away in my stash. But I kept it because of the memories of the sweet woman who took time to mentor me - both in canning and as a pastor's wife.

I dug that old recipe out last week and tried it again with the frozen tomato juice from this year's garden. This time, I followed the directions - no skin on the tomatoes. Wow! It tastes phenomenal - better than tin-canned tomato soup. I will definitely not forget about this old recipe again.

It reminded me of an important life lesson: Listen to those who take the time to mentor you!

Thank you Lord for being patient with me, even when I try to do things my own way. Help me to eventually get it right and do it your way!

“Come, let’s sing out loud to the LORD! Let’s raise a joyful shout to the rock of our salvation! Let’s come before him with thanks! Let’s shout songs of joy to him!” Psalm 95:1-2 CEB

Home-canned Tomato Soup

by Sister Barriss from Jeanette, PA
Cook and puree:
  • 1 Peck of tomatoes (about 15 pounds)
  • Or use 6 quarts of home-canned tomatoes
  • Or 6 quarts of home-canned tomato juice (use half the recommended salt and sugar if you used them to can the tomato juice)
Cook well and blend, then add pureed veggies to the tomatoes:
  • 2 large ribs of celery
  • 2 green peppers
  • 6-8 onions (small to med)
  • 1 Tbsp parsley flakes
Add to mixture and heat until all are well blended:
  • 1/2 pound of butter or margarine
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of salt
Make a paste with 1 cup of flour and some of the tomato juice. Blend well then stir slowly into the tomato soup. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes.
Ladel the soup into your jars and process for 20 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure for a pressure canner

Monday, November 19, 2012

Find your strength in the Lord - Monday Moments with God

My Dearest Child,

Are you sad today?

Think about me and our relationship. Think about who I AM and my great power. Think about how much I love you - enough to leave all heaven's splendor to become like a human infant, helpless and dependent on my earthly parents for food and protection.

I know what it's like to feel limited and alone. As I hung on the cross, it felt like my heavenly Father looked the other way and for one awful, eternal moment, I hung there alone, forsaken. That's why I will never leave you or forsake you.

My Child, come to me. Look at me. Cry out to me. Tell me about your dreams, your hopes for the future. Confide your deepest hurts to me. I will listen to you and together we will work toward your future and your hope.

When you do this, I will help you grow strong and tall, like a mighty oak tree that's planted next to a cool refreshing stream of water. You won't lose your hope like the autumn leaves falling from the trees, but your hope will be firmly rooted in me and nothing will shake you.


*Philippians 2:6-9, Jeremiah 11:29, Psalm 1, Psalm 22

Friday, November 16, 2012

Open the eyes of my heart

“Open my eyes so that I can see all the wonderful things in your teachings.” Psalm 119:18 ERV

I am constantly losing my keys or important papers or something else that I need. When that happens, I know exactly what to do. I pray.

Well - ok. I will be truthful here - often I panic, turning the house upside down before I pray. LOL!
God who knows everything, knows exactly where I laid those pesky keys or where I put those important papers. Praying about it helps me calm down so I can hear his voice to find those things.

Sometimes I will remember where I put that thing I seek. Other times, I'll get an idea where to look. But God has never failed to help me find the item I need.

The same thing happens when I'm writing. If I get stuck at a certain point and need some insight on what a character should say or do to move the story forward, I pray about it and sooner or later an idea comes to resolve my dilemma.

You see, God is great at opening up our eyes when we ask him to. And not just about the little things either. When the big things happen, those things that confuse, hurt or alarm me, I ask him to show me the situation through his eyes.

What a difference His perspective makes! When I see situations through his eyes, I can see his protecting hand; I see his help or his grace. Even thought I still may have to go through the difficulty, I'm not so afraid or confused.

Thank you Lord for being an eye-opener to me whenever I need to see things through your eyes. Amen.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pray WITH Me - Part 2

But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. Luke 22:32 a (NLT)

For almost 80 years, Moses Xie served Jesus in his homeland of China. He became a Christian at age 14 and attended North China Seminary in the 1940s. Soon he became a leader in the Chinese Evangelistic Association and an editor for several Chinese Christian magazines.

However, in 1956, he was imprisoned for his faith. .At one point during his imprisonment, the persecution was so bad, he tried to end his life. But God stopped him, telling him it wasn't his time yet and that His strength was being made perfect in weakness.

For another 23 years, he remained interred at the prison camp, growing in his relationship with God and ministering to all who came to visit him. He often asked his visitors to pray for him because he understood the importance and power of praying with others.

1. Moses Xie knew that when others prayed for him, they were reaping the benefits of prayer in their own lives. As they entered God's presence to pray, they would receive a blessing from that time spent in his presence. In turn, those blessings would encourage deeper personal growth and more time spent in prayer.

2. As people pray for the persecuted church and its members, God is able to speak to them and open doors for them to help in other ways - including through their finances and mission's ministry.

3. As people become dedicated to praying, they become intercessors, willing to do battle together with God to bring about his will in those areas of heavy persecution. They begin to pray WITH those who are being persecuted that God will save their enemies and bring many souls to himself and not just for the safety or personal needs of those being persecuted.

After his release from prison, Pastor Moses Xie continued to preach about Christ, and was arrested several more times. He became a mentor to many young people through his continuing ministry.

He passed away at age 93 on June 30, 2011, leaving a great legacy of faith to the people he served.

Lord may our lives grow strong because of time spent with you - to the point where we are open to your prompting to help others and to pray with them for the salvation of friends and family around them. Amen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pray WITH Me

My prayer is that light will flood your hearts and that you will understand the hope that was given to you when God chose you. Then you will discover the glorious blessings that will be yours together with all of God’s people. Ephesians 1:18 (CEV)

What is the difference between praying for people and praying with them? I never really thought much about it until I read an article about a persecuted Christian the other day.

When we pray for them, usually we're praying a personal prayer for that person. We are praying for God to work in their lives - for their health, their safety, and for God to meet their needs. We often ask God to deliver them from the circumstances in which they find themselves. But what we don't realize is that those circumstances might be the very things God is using to complete the bigger picture - to save their family, to bring about a deeper relationship or healing in their lives or to save many others.

When we pray with a person, we are uniting our hearts with theirs and asking God for the same things they are. For example, this persecuted Christian had spent many years in prison for his faith. But he always asked people to pray with him - that God would move in his land and use his persecution to bring many souls to Christ! He never asked people to pray for his personal protection or release from prison!

It's not wrong to pray for a person when they're going through difficult times. We've all been there - struggling and seeking a way out of the painful circumstances. But maybe we're missing the mark a bit because we fail to see what God sees in the situation.

I love Laura Story's song, Blessings. "What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights Are Your mercies in disguise?"

Lord teach me to see things through your eyes and to pray with those who are in difficult circumstances for your will to be accomplished. Amen

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Giving from the heart

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. Luke 6:38 (NLT)

When going through difficult circumstances, it's easy for our focus to shift from the Lord to our own feelings, especially if we're experiencing fear. Fear has fangs that easily burst our bubble of faith.

When that happens, we withdraw emotionally from the Lord and others. We tend tighten the hold we have on what we've got - whether it's our finances or our possessions, or even the prayer and emotional support we normally give to others.

You know what I mean. Those days you feel so emotionally drained, you'd rather stay in bed with the covers over your head than doing something for someone else or thinking about the problems of those worse off than you.

Rather than giving to others freely we turn away from them because we're afraid we won't have anything left if we give it all.

It's a lot like the illustration of the monkey with his hand in the narrow-mouthed cookie jar. He could easily slide his hand into the jar, but when he grasped the cookie in his fist, he couldn't remove his hand from the jar. But he still refused to let the cookie go because it belonged to him. Even if he couldn't eat it himself, he still possessed a cookie. But if he let it go, he feared he wouldn't have anything at all.

Yet, the scriptures are filled with stories of those who faced dire circumstances and still shared freely with others. The widow who only had enough oil and flour to make one last meal for herself and her son is a good example. When Elijah came to her and asked her to share her last meal with him, she did it freely and God blessed her with an inexhaustible supply until the famine ended. (1 Kings 17:10-16)

Even in his darkest hours, the Lord only thought of us. In the predawn hours he spent praying in Gethsemane's garden, he loosed his hold on his physical life as he prayed, "Not my will but thine be done." As he hung on the cross dying, he prayed for forgiveness for his enemies because they didn't understand what they were doing. He gave up his life so that we might have eternal life.

To be able to loosen our fists on our possessions or on our mental and emotional resources in order to help others around us who are in need, is at the heart of the Gospel of Christ. Especially when we're going through rough patches in life ourselves, the act of giving to others with a heart of love allows the Lord to give back to us - joy during our discouragement and materially to meet our needs.

We don't give in order to get - we give because we're already been given so much! And when our hands are empty, God refills them again so we can give some more. Amen!