Category Archives: Give

5 Friday Faves – Destiny Meets Classical Guitar, Parenting Hacks, Storms, Waffle House Index, and Country Stores

Friday! For our part of the world, these days bring teasers that Fall is on its way. Cooler temperatures and the brush of color in the trees are lovely signs of change in the seasons.

Hurricane season also peaks this time of year and we’ve seen it in Harvey and Irma – such nice old-fashioned names for such catastrophic events. We are moved to pray for, serve, and give toward the needs of those most affected by these storms.

Today, these are my favorite finds of this week:

1) Destiny Meets Classical Guitar – For video gamers, Destiny 2 just came out. Nostalgia is high for those who grew up with the original Destiny game of battles and heroes. Among those is classical guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar. Photo Credit: Screenshot, YouTube

No nostalgia for me, but Nathan’s arrangement of several of the themes from Destiny is lovely. Catch it here…featured also this week at Bungie.

2) Parenting Hacks – Don’t you love truly helpful parenting advice? The gentle sort that is genius without being judgmental. I found a YouTube channel with just this variety of help – Nurture. Check it out. The video on retrieving something a child put up her nose is “Of course! Why didn’t we think of that?”

Orange Pip | Children's Hospital

Would you know what to do in this situation?

Posted by Nurture on Tuesday, August 22, 2017

3) Storms – I have never endured the path or aftermath of a storm like Harvey or Irma, so I wouldn’t give counsel on how to deal spiritually with such a thing… However, other storms have blown against my heart and that of those much loved in my life. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Leslie Leyland Fields is a fisherwoman and an author. She deals with storms of a physical nature…as well as spiritual. Fields writes fascinating stories about her family’s Alaska fishing business. Especially riveting are the stories of the storms that come up. Read her blog on a recent storm they experienced (her son’s video could give you motion sickness, so be prepared).

We live too much in a too human world, most of us, surrounded by the work of our own hands, cossetted and comforted and cozy most hours of the day and night. We fashion our lives and our prayers around safety, success, We cannot escape ourselves or our own small desires. But enter a storm, climb a mountain, sail the sea, wander an old-growth forest—be afraid—and you will so suddenly and gloriously disappear. You will feel the wind blowing through your clothes and your soul. If you are lucky you’ll be terrified and you may cry like Peter, “Lord, I am a sinful woman, go away from me!” Your little household gods will die, and part of you will die with it.

And you’ll be glad.Leslie Leyland Fields

There is something in the experience of storms (or earthquakes, drought or flood) that forces us to deal with the frailty of both stuff and life itself. We reach out…to God, and to others. We reach out to what is most real.

Check out Fields’ latest book: Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt, and the Seas.

Baptist Global Response – Hurricane Irma Disaster Relief

4) Waffle House Index – I love the Waffle House. We have big family memories of breakfast with my parents and their grands and great-grands. Waffle House never closes…unless…Photo Credit: Flickr; FLickr

Unless a storm is so fierce, Waffle House employees are at risk. Because of this, there is actually a storm measure called the Waffle House Index. If this tiny all-service restaurant closes, then you need to get out of town!Photo Credit: Screenshot, CNBC

5) Country Stores – Another chain of restaurants that offers its own unique comforts is Cracker Barrel. Just last night, we ate there, and our friend accompanying us gave his reasons why he never tires of it. “Cracker Barrel always reminds me of home. As much as I travel, it guarantees a meal that tastes home-cooked.” For me, as great as the food is, it’s the country store of Cracker Barrel that enchants. Fall is fully displayed right now, and Thanksgiving and Christmas aren’t far behind. Love that. Always a reminder of the stuff of celebration. Like the porch light is still on, through the storm. I know…a bit sappy…but a sweet respite. 

Hope your weekend is out of harms’ way – far from the storms passing throuagh, but especially I hope you have a sure safe harbor. Until next time…

Bonus

How I Paid Off My $64,000 Mortgage in 15 Months

How I Paid off my $64,000 Mortgage in 15 Months

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar & Malinda Kathleen Reese, Podcasts, the Uncivil War on Racism, the Invisible Yemeni War, and Bonuses Make 5

Friday came faster than usual this week and is ticking fast away itself. When you can take a minute, here are my favorite finds for this week:

  1. Beyond the Guitar and Malinda Kathleen Reese Collaboration – What happens when a YouTube sensation like Malinda Kathleen Reese collaborates with an incredibly gifted guitarist on the rise? Magic. If you’ve been here before, you know what Nathan does with the guitar…and Malinda’s voice? An angel. Full stop.Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

Their collaboration on the song “May It Be” from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was other-worldly beautiful. Click on the link and refresh from any hard in your day.

They also collaborated on “Would You Be So Kind?”. See link below.

YouTube Video – dodie – “Would You Be So Kind?” – Malinda Kathleen Reese cover ft. Andrew Huang & Nathan Mills

I hope this is just the beginning of beautiful collaborations between these gifted artists.

Nathan posts guitar arrangements twice monthly. Just in this week, he posted three! The third was his arrangement of the 4 themes of the superhero Netflix shows; now all combined in the show The Defenders. Great characters blended together into a fun series.

Nathan’s crazy impersonations of The Defenders are part of what makes this video so endearing…but again…the music. Wow!

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

2) Podcasts – Who besides me listens to podcasts? They are a great source of inspiration, information, and entertainment (depending on the podcaster). Some of my favorite podcasts are here.

This week the Academy of Podcasters had its award ceremonies. I haven’t seen the results yet, but I’ve linked to some of the favorites below. One of my faves is Knox and Jamie’s The Pop Cast – a funny tongue-in-cheek look at our culture in America.Photo Credit: Knox and Jamie

Knox and Jamie’s The Pop Cast

44 Award-Nominated Podcasts & Their Top Rated Episodes – Sean Baeyens – the Patreon Blog

8 Great Pop Culture Podcasts to Keep You Up to Date on TV, Movies, Music and More – Ma’ayan Plaut

3) The Uncivil War on Racism – We in the US have been in great turmoil for quite some time over the issue of chronic racism. Is it worsening, or is that the deafening cry of mainstream media? I don’t know, but I’ve certainly taken a more serious look at my own heart.Photo Credit: CDN, CLD

We live in a city that was a capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Richmond, Virginia, has sharp racial divides still. Some of this has focused in recent days on the Confederate monuments displayed around our city. Should they come down?Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

[Sidebar: J. E. B. Stuart, V, is a hand surgeon in Richmond, Va. He was my surgeon the last time I broke my wrist. Wonder what he thinks. He is a great-great-grand (?) of the Confederate General above. ]

If the monuments come down, where does the “taking down” stop? A friend of mine today took the issue to its simplest form. “If they hurt people, take them down.”

What frustrates me is that the focus on monuments will change nothing about the problems of “poverty, illiteracy, drugs, crime, and violence.” (Herman Cain). Protests between the alt-right and alt-left groups inflame the situation and divide us even more…along racial lines…

I was asked recently why did I think whites and blacks were so silent on this topic in real conversation. There’s much said in social media, and the news media is loud with hate-filled voices.

For me, I don’t know what to say, but I want to listen…and to participate in action that changes quality of life and the futures of our children.

Will taking down statues help? If so, then so be it. While we’re at it, I wouldn’t mind this one coming down. It’s housed in the Smithsonian Museum. She is Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood.

Photo Credit: Life Site News

“A statue remains in Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian Institution commemorating the one person responsible for the deaths of more African Americans that any other in history: Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood.

‘More than 19 million black babies have been aborted since the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision legalized abortion in our country,’ according to Michigan Right to Life’s website. ‘On average, 900 black babies are aborted every day in the United States.’ Planned Parenthood is responsible for many of those abortions.

In August 2015, a group of Black pastors gathered in front of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery to make known their plea for the removal of Sanger’s bust from the museum.

Their request was rejected and the bust of Planned Parenthood’s founder remains on display today.” – Doug Mainwaring, Life News Site

Herman Cain Just Finally Said What Everyone Has Been Too Afraid To Say!!

The Science of Being ‘Nice’: How Politeness Is Different From Compassion – Kun Zhao & Luke Smillie

What I Saw in Charlottesville – Brian McLaren

4) Invisible Yemeni War – I have followed the Syrian conflict  fairly closely over the years since 2011 when it took the international stage. What has happened and continues in Syria in terms of lives lost or displaced is unfathomable. Then there’s Yemen – the poorest country in the Arab world; in its most recent civil war since 2015.Photo Credit: Raw StoryPhoto Credit: Flickr

American news doesn’t quite reach the plight of the Yemeni people. This year has been especially devastating for those still in country, caught in the throes of war. Famine and cholera both taking their toll as well.Photo Credit: World Health Organization

This week, the Yemeni people are now back on my radar. Hopefully, they are on yours as well. We can pray; we can give to reputable charities; we can refuse to forget them.

Yemen Conflict: Who Controls WhatFaisal Edroos, Yarno Ritzen

Yemen Crisis: Who Is Fighting Whom? – BBC News

Yemen Crisis – World Health Organization

Meeting the Houthis and Their Enemies – Safa Alahmad

Ending on a serious note today, but I hope to live life with eyes wide open…and my heart the same. Burying our heads in the sand…or in our phones, etc. diminishes the possibilities for us to truly love our neighbors. It’s a daily battle.

Have a refreshing weekend…be kind to yourselves and each other.

5) Bonuses

This week’s favorite quote: “I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart – for men and women of all generations everywhere who love the Savior until adoration becomes the music of their soul until they don’t have to be fooled with and entertained and amused. Jesus Christ is everything, all-in-all.”A. W. Tozer

Google on Abortion – 3 Fresh Ways to Make the Case for Life – Trevin Wax

YouTube Video – Sounds Every 90s Kid Will Remember

60 Pieces of Survival Wisdom From the Great Depression – The Survival Mom

Monday Morning Moment – Syrian Refugees – No One Puts Their Children On a Boat…Unless

What drives people to leave everything behind – everything they have known and owned – and board a sea-bound, over-loaded boat for an unknown future? My sense is it’s running for one’s life…rather than their path to terrorism.

These days in the US, we are adjusting to a new presidential administration and changing policies. Protests and social media wars abound. How to understand and what to really believe are challenging.

What is true?

A wise friend responded to my voiced struggle of what to think about our nation’s changing views on immigrants and refugees:

“The people trying to escape evil we want to welcome. The people who want to export evil we want to identify and shut down.”

Though not prepared myself to address the latter, I would like to highlight the plight of refugees…especially Syrian refugees. A poem I discovered just yesterday is real and riveting…and can put the reader on that sagging boat, holding our children tight, and hoping we will make it to that distant shore. With no idea what will come next.Photo Credit: CNN

Warsan Shire, a young Somali woman who grew up in London, writes deeply personal poetry about life and struggle. Her poem Home is a powerful description of the refugee experience…especially the Syrian, but it could speak to others as well [read the whole poem here].

No one leaves home unless
Home is the mouth of a shark
You only run for the border
When you see the whole city running as well

You only leave home
When home won’t let you stay.

No one leaves home unless home chases you
Fire under feet.

You have to understand,
That no one puts their children in a boat
Unless the water is safer than the land
No one burns their palms
Under trains
Beneath carriages
No one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck

No one crawls under fences
No one wants to be beaten
Pitied

No one chooses refugee camps.

Go home…

Refugees
Dirty immigrants
Asylum seekers
Sucking our country dry…
Messed up their country and now they want
To mess ours up

How do the words
The dirty looks
Roll off your backs
Maybe because the blow is softer
Than a limb torn off

I want to go home,
But home is the mouth of a shark
Home is the barrel of the gun
And no one would leave home
Unless home chased you to the shore

I don’t know what I’ve become
But I know that anywhere
Is safer than here.          – Warsan Shire

What can we do for refugees? Jesus’ teaching prevents his followers from blaming others, airing our impotent opinions, or sinking into compassion fatigue. Jesus poured his life out for us…all of us…and teaches us to do the same.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” – Jesus – Matthew 25:34-40

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/12993627_10156889362110061_8126408917090936937_n.jpg

To the refugee (probably not reading this, but I want to come out of silence somehow): There are those of us, in this country, who will do what we can to welcome you here and to be neighbor to you when you finally arrive. Forgive us that we haven’t done more. We have been shaken out of our slumber of unbelief at your suffering. Praying for you until you are home again…wherever that will be.

Home by Warsan Shire

YouTube Video – People of Nowhere – Lior Sperandeo

Baptist Global Response

Loving the Alien – PDF – Bible Study from Jubilee Centre, Cambridge, UK

Scripture and Immigration

5 (Biblical) Reasons Christians Must Care for Asylum Seekers – Matt Darvas

5 Friday Faves – Hurricane Matthew, Engaging Older Adults, Life After Downton, Leading Change, and a Fall Evening

Blog - Friday Faves 006 (2)

It’s Friday, and tomorrow Hurricane Matthew is supposed to move into Virginia. Wind and rain. Hopefully we won’t lose power, but over a million folks in Florida did, so we wait and see.

Here are my favorite finds of this week. Two are actually blogs by the same writer, Carey Nieuwhof. He is a wise leader and gives excellent counsel to those of us who also want to lead well.

  1. Hurricane Matthew – The Caribbean and Florida have been hit hard by this week’s hurricane. A Category 4 storm through the Caribbean and now Category 3, passing through Florida and into Georgia tonight. Hundreds of deaths and the storm devastation is massive. I am so thankful for disaster response agencies who take definitive action quickly in times like this. Baptist Global Response (BGR) is that kind of organization, working with local partners to help in the life-saving areas of clean water, food security, shelter and supplies and general health of the peoples most hard-hit. Because of the work of other NGO’s already in Haiti, BGR is targeting its disaster relief efforts on Cuba.blog-hurricane-matthew-commondreamsblog-hurricane-matthew-wtvrPhoto Credit: Common Dreams; WTVR

2) Engaging Older Adults – Carey Nieuwhof posted a helpful 5 points list on engaging older adults. Shut Down the Bus Tours: What Older Church Members Should Really Be Doing. This post could just as easily been written any group of older adults who could be a tremendous resource if engaged…otherwise they are going to just keep getting on those buses.blog-senior-citizens-bus-tours-angeltourPhoto Credit: AngelTour

Not that older adults don’t deserve vacations after so many years in the work force and serving in their churches and families. Still, Nieuwhof makes a serious case for mobilizing seniors back into service where they are needed to mentor, model, guide, and cast vision for the next generations. The Fall Leaf bus tours are upon us, but we also need these valuable men and women among us as well.

3) Life After Downton – What to Watch Now – I do miss Downton Abbey, but fortunately we do have other viewing options. Amazon Screening Room lists out lovely period pieces that can scratch our itch for Downton. Two I’ve already watched are Doctor Thorne and Grantchester. Would love to hear some of your recommendations!blog-dr-thorneblog-after-downtonPhoto Credit: Screening Room

4) Leading Change – Canadian pastor, Carey Nieuwhof, is also a writer and speaker on leadership. carey-nieuwhof-blogPhoto Credit: Carey Nieuwhof

He wrote Leading Change Without Losing It: 5 Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition. In a blog this week, he takes from his book, focusing on how to lead through change in the face of opposition. A few of his observations are:

  • People aren’t opposed to change nearly as much as they are opposed to change they didn’t think of.
  • Usually no more than 10% of the people you lead are opposed to change.
  • Fear of opposition derails more leaders than actual opposition.
  • Buy-in happens most fully when people understand why, rather than what or how.

5) Firepit on a Fall Evening with S’Mores – This week marks the true arrival of Fall here with temperatures dropping and leaves just beginning to turn colors. We had our first marshmallow roast on an outdoor fire. Making S’mores – that camping treat of graham crackers, Hershey’s chocolate bars, and melted marshmallows. Thus marking the start of my favorite season. Lots of pics to follow of brilliant Fall leaves and fun times outside without the heat of summer.blog-smores-and-a-firepit

Be safe out there. Hope you East Coasters in the States are not too troubled by Hurricane Matthew. Have a restful weekend. Leave us your favorite finds of the week in the Comments below. Thanks.

5 Friday Faves – Video Games, NFL Man of the Year, Hospitality, Writing, and Animal Courage

Blog - Friday Faves

It’s that glorious Friday again. Here are my favorite finds of the week:

1) Video Games – What is the appeal of video games for our boys and men? It is a mystery to me. I do understand the gaming camaraderie between players – some friends, some strangers who become friends, kinda sorta. The cutting-edge graphics designed mostly for the eyes of our guys are clearly appealing. And levels…oh, the levels keep our boys and men coming back for the challenge – the competition on an even playing field – without judging from outsiders. Well, except for the occasional run-ins with wife or mother. Lastly, it’s the welcome mindlessness, I’m thinking. The momentary escape from organic chemistry, or frustrating job, or Master’s thesis, or [fill in the blank].

We all have indulgent time-wasters, and I battled with my boys over video games more than I should have. My regret over that transformed into joy this week, as the guitarist son of mine actually turned a video game theme into a lovely work on classical guitar. Who would have thought it? To see Nathan smile (at minute 1:40 in video) makes me wonder at the sweet memory he has of that game’s music. Hello again, Legend of Zelda. Don’t remember you like this.

2) NFL Man of the Year – I’m not a big football fan, but when we came across the NFL Honors program the night before the Superbowl I was intrigued. Football seems all about leaving it on the field. This was a salute to a band of brothers and the stand-outs among them, both on the field and off. There were three nominees for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for 2015 – Anquan Boldin, Eli Manning, and Benjamin Watson. Each man’s character and philanthropic work were highlighted in video vignettes. With all the tabloid coverage of the antics of some of our professional athletes, it was inspiring to see how others spend their off-season time. Anquan Boldin, the San Francisco 49ers wide receiver, received this year’s award from the Payton family. Read more about Anquan’s work in the global community here.Blog - NFL Man of the Year 2016 - Anquan Boldin (2)Photo Credit: Mercury News

Another highlight of the Man of the Year NFL Honors focus was a welcome reminder of Benjamin Watson and his redemptive statement on Facebook (regarding the 2014 Ferguson Decision). In this profession of moneyed celebrity, it was refreshing to see upclose the caliber of such men as Boldin, Manning, and Watson.

3) Hospitality – Hospitality is defined at Google as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” We live in a culture today of “come as you are; just hanging out with friends; bring your own food/beverage”. I love the comfortable sound and easy experience of that. However, I hope we don’t lose the great global habit of extending generous hospitality – where nothing is expected but the welcome presence of the guest. We lived for many years in North Africa where they expect hospitality of themselves and they lavish it on their guests. Even in the poorest of homes, the cookies and fruit are beautifully presented, and the tea is poured with great ceremony. I learned so much from my Arab and Berber friends and neighbors…and don’t want to forget ever to extend hospitality. There is a difference between service and hospitality – described in TED Talks and distinctive in industry. [I wrote about this here.]

“Hospitality is about looking out instead of looking in…I can look outward and help someone else.”Bobby Stuckey.  The Bible is full of examples of hospitality and encouragements toward it. We are to extend blessing even as far as to our enemies. Benjamin Corey writes eloquently about this Biblical hospitality. Finally, Rosaria Butterfield, in her book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert says this: “Hospitality means bringing the stranger in…you have to meet and respect people where they are…I believe strongly that hospitality is just the ground zero of the Christian life, and of evangelism, and of everything else that we do, apart from the formal worship of God.” Blog - Hospitality - The Secret THoughts of an Unlikely Convert - Rosaria ButterfieldPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

It’s good to remember that we can extend hospitality in a less-than-perfect house, where toys are still scattered and books a bit piled. It’s more the attitude of the heart in celebrating the other. Also, by definition, hospitality doesn’t have to be based in the home. I will never forget spotting a friend, whose husband was also in graduate school, walking up my driveway, with a pot of coffee and favorite mugs. It turned my morning of home-schooling littles in something altogether other. Extending hospitality…mobile and on-the-fly.Blog - Hospitality

4) Writing – I am always grateful for help in this skill of writing. Finding Chris Bailey’s blog (A Life of Productivity) and book (The Productivity Project) was a great boon to organizing my life and writing (my notes here). Daniel Darling’s blog this past week was another huge encouragement. He writes on how to be a prolific writer.

Darling gives 6 helps in writing: 1) I don’t wait for inspiration, for a cabin next to a mountain stream, or a light bulb. I just write; 2) I write from my passions on topics that interest me; 3) Always be cultivating and chronicling ideas; 4) I try to be curious and always learning; 5) I write in short bursts, in the margins of life; and 6) I try not to be a jerk. Don’t miss how he fills out the story on these points on his blog.Blog - Writing & Journaling - Joy List

5) Animal Courage – When our kids were small and we were living overseas, we took with us this wildlife video entitled The Bear. Like other children’s videos (a lot from Disney), there were story bits that needed processing with a loving adult (like how often the mom dies in these stories…sigh). The Bear was filmed with an intentionality of demonstrating the real life struggle of life in the wild for these animals. Also depicted was the almost-human qualities of care and courage in these animals. I have used one scene of this movie in talks over the years on how gracious it is to have an advocate. One stronger or more influential than we are who stands with us, sometimes out of sight, against an adversary. The plot story involves a bear cub, orphaned when his mother dies (again?!) and an older adult male, beleaguered himself by hunters and the sheer strain of survival sometimes, who becomes the cub’s protector. Here’s the scene (fast-forward to minute 2:30 for time’s sake if needed).

I love this scene. It actually reminds me of us sometimes…and God. We stand as tall as we can and roar (like a wee cub) against the wrongs of this world – wrongs against us sometimes. We are not always aware, but the LORD (I believe from experience and His Word) issues a God-sized roar against those same wrongs. Our adversaries will be reckoned with.

YouTube Video – Scene from the film The Bear, 1988 (Cub & Cougar at 2:30 into scene)

Film The Bear

Top Ten Most Courageous Animals

Happy Friday! Have a weekend full of extending and receiving hospitality, quiet times of refreshment, and reflection on the God who watches over us. Also, hug those video-gaming men of yours…when they take a break (don’t want them to lose a level in the midst of wrestling them down to the floor), right? Right.

Any favorites you want to share? Or memories…or words of wisdom. Would love to hear them (Comment below).

5 Friday Faves – Housing the Homeless, Christmas Cookies, Sunrises in Winter, Healing from Trauma, and a Christmas Cactus

Blog - Friday FavesThis Friday came in so fast. I wish the time would slow down some…so much to savor and celebrate. Even those painful realities of life need time to process and make good decisions about…time… We grab hold of the minutes and squeeze the good out of them before they scatter. This is one of the reasons I write…I write to remember… all the good…and the hard… to take nothing for granted.

1. Housing the Homeless – The journey to housing for our homeless neighbors is complicated. Some we see at intersections in our cities, with their cardboard signs, have made a life, of sorts, on the streets. I have no idea how they survive winter. Others are freshly homeless, living in hotels, until they can’t anymore. Homelessness doesn’t come with its own guide of how to regain normalcy…the homeless need a compass. Thankfully, there are agencies who help these neighbors of ours, and help us learn how to help better. In our city, two agencies I want to highlight are Caritas and Hilliard House (or Housing Families First). Find out how you can get involved. “Homelessness isn’t a lifestyle, it’s an emergency.” – Caritas

L.A.'s Skid Row is home to more than 8,000 homeless people. With the help of domestic hunger funds given through the North American Mission Board, Set Free Church was able to provide a hot meal on Thanksgiving last year. Photo by Greg Schneider

Blog - Homeless - bpnews.netPhoto Credit: BPNews.net

2. Christmas Cookies – Once a year, plates of cookies come out that speak love like none other. Home-made, cut-out decorated Christmas cookies amaze me. I don’t bake them but am grateful for the hands that do. So much work in making the buttery cookie dough, cutting them out, baking and then decorating them. A frosted Christmas cookie and a cup of coffee in front of a fire…bliss.Blog - Christmas Cookies - from Josh Griffin's FB page - by Patricia Good EckardPhoto Credit: Facebook.com – Cookies by Patricia Good Eckard

3. Sunrises in Winter – I don’t know what it is about sunrises in winter, but they catch me by surprise every morning. Rolling out of bed in the still cool darkness, pulling on socks, sliding into slippers, and making my way to bathroom, and then kitchen. Somewhere in the middle of that first cup of coffee, my eyes are drawn to the window…and then glory! The light of the morning sky… Maybe it’s because the trees are bare and we are able to catch the hues of light earlier, but I love winter sunrises best. They take the chill off and fill me with anticipation of the day. Joy…Blog - Winter Sunrise

4. Healing from Trauma – Recently I have been learning more about Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and wrote about a valuable resource here.  Then, a friend told me about training she received last month in Amman, Jordan. It relates to caring for non-western peoples who have experienced severe trauma. The Trauma Healing Institute provides training in the US and internationally. “The Trauma Healing Institute at American Bible Society is equipping people, churches, and NGOs around the world to care for the more than one in seven people worldwide who suffer severe wounds of the heart and spirit in the aftermath of conflict, disaster or abuse.” I hope to sign up for this training in 2016. Watch the film Hope Rising to learn more.

5. Christmas Cactus – My mom-in-law is a master gardener. Her sunroom is its own botanical garden. She is always encouraging us to take some of her plants and we have two blooming Christmas cacti right now, because of her. My husband is our gardener (fortunately) or we would not have house plants. I love how these cacti, (or cactuses), “know” to bloom around the holidays (Thanksgiving or Christmas). From the plant family Schlumbergera, the Christmas cactus can be nurtured to bloom right on time. I am pretty sure Dave doesn’t follow a particular plan, but our plants are very forgiving…and are blooming just as they were meant to… Merry Christmas.Blog - Christmas Cactus (2)

The Peril & Blessing of Gift-Giving and that Greatest Gift

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Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!2 Corinthians 9:15

I am undone by Christmas gift-giving. Once upon a time, seemingly long, long ago, giving special gifts was something I did well. Not so much any more. The whole Christmas shopping experience has become quite overwhelming for me. If you give me a definite idea or suggestion, I am empowered. It will be done! To shoot in the dark for a gift that, just knowing you, I know you would love?…not so much.

What a blessing you are who just intuitively know what will please or what will be treasured…those gifts full of meaning, or thoughtfulness, or wonder – gifts that aren’t seeming burdens or requiring a return. You are a blessing to us all. I don’t even compare myself to great gift-givers any more…resigning myself to the writing of checks or the occasional joy of tripping over “just the right gift”.

This is my tribute to the great gift-givers in my life. Here are examples of late:

  • those old friends retiring and moving away who gave all of us, at their send-off, a rose and two marbles – a “shooter” and a “keeper”. So meaningful because he collects marbles and is always a great “shooter” in real life, and she is such a “keeper”. I will miss them. The marbles go in my work desk to remember them every time I open that drawer.2015 December - Blog - Gift-Giving 002 (2)
  • that neighbor who baked Christmas cookies with her kids and sent them with their dad around the neighborhood delivering their photo Christmas card and cookies. Such a sweet visit at the door as we talked about spelling bees, and sledding, and no Christmas travel because of work. Blog - Gift-Giving - Christmas cookies
  • those friends who show up with surprises (pictured at top of blog) – the wooden ball Nativity from Bizarre Bazaar (where she fought the crowds of shoppers for those special finds); the cross inscribed with “love”, from a friend (in major transition with what time to shop?!), a silver pillow with “Peace on Earth” in red letters (from a woman in full-time ministry). All working women with little time to shop but hearts so full of love, they do what’s necessary to lavish that love on those around them.

During December each year, before falling asleep, I try to read through my stash of Christmas books. One of those is Andy Andrews’ Socks for Christmas. It’s a shortish story about his growing up in the 60’s Christmas…and the hard reality that, for some children, socks would be a gladsome gift.Blog - Gift-Giving - Socks for Christmas - Book

Sometimes even the smallest of gifts like socks meets a great need.

What about the greatest of gifts – that of the Christ child? The greatest of gifts from the greatest of Gift-givers to meet the greatest of our needs – that need for a Savior.

Ann Voskamp, is a writer and blogger, homeschool mom and farmer’s wife. As she talks about daily trips to the barn, she paints a story about gift-giving. It’s so real, I can feel the cold of the Canadian winter and the musty smell of hay and animals.

“Too often we think that Christmas is something that we can buy or create or make by hand. Ultimately Christmas isn’t a product that we can wrap up but it’s a Person that we unwrap. Christ comes to the manger, that cradle, that trough. The mire and the stench [of that barn…of our lives]. It doesn’t end there. That manger is wood and it’s nailed together. That manger takes us right to the cross. We are saved only through another tree – the tree from the garden, the tree at the manger, the tree Jesus hung on to save us…From the beginning of time, we’ve been coming to this place – the Messiah coming to redeem us…In the cross is the white-hot burn of His love.” – Ann Voskamp

For you glorious gift-givers, thank you. You reflect the joyful, creative generosity of God. For those of us who struggle, we will press our way through that part of Christmas. We will be glad for you and glad for the One who knew exactly what we needed not just for Christmas but for always…and gave us more that we could “ask or imagine”.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21

[P.S. Gift ideas that stretch across the globe to touch families in need can be found on the pages of the BGR Christmas catalog. If you can’t figure what to give to folks who have pretty much everything, here you can find plenty to give to others, in their name. ]

Jesus is the Greatest Gift – Christmas Gifts for Neighbors – Ann Voskamp

The Cross-Centered Christmas: An Interview with Ann Voskamp – Tony Reinke, DesiringGod.org

The One Thing Your Christmas Can’t Afford to Be Without – Ann Voskamp

Baptist Global Response – Christmas Catalog

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

Socks for Christmas: A Child’s Discovery of the True Riches of Christmas by Andy Andrews

5 Friday Faves – Frost, Blessing Bags for Homeless, Charlie Brown Christmas, Seasonal Treats, a Christmas Poem

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! Here are my 5 Faves for this week – hope they stir up some of your sweet favorites of life.

  1. Frost – For those of you already faced with lots of snow, a frosty morning is no novelty. Remember those first frozen-dew-etched leaves? So beautiful. What a quickly passing sight it is, too, as the sun appears and burns off the frost. I’m glad I didn’t miss it this morning.2015 December - Christmas, Retirement, Sadie, Blog, Frost 0482015 December - Christmas, Retirement, Sadie, Blog, Frost 0562015 December - Christmas, Retirement, Sadie, Blog, Frost 062

2) Blessing Bags for Homeless – As the weather gets colder, I wonder at how those fare – those standing beside busy streets, cardboard signs lifted, asking passersby for help. A few coins or even a granola bar pulled from the grocery bag seem so inadequate. This how-to of making blessing bags for homeless comes at a great time.

Blog - Blessing Bag for HomelessPhoto Credit: pinterest.com

It’s an activity the whole family could work on together. More expensive, sure…but also more substantial for those weathering the cold on the streets of our cities.

3) Charlie Brown Christmas – This year marks the 50th anniversary of the broadcast of this Christmas special.  You can find some of the history of how it was written, produced, and actually debuted, in the midst of controversy, on our TVs years ago, here and here. The sweet and angsty story of Charlie Brown and buddies is set beautifully to the jazz music of Vince Guaraldi. My favorite scene is when Linus explains to Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about.Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown #2“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” – Linus

4) Seasonal Treats – Every holiday has its special edibles. I have long loved Little Debbie cakes with their seasonal offerings – don’t know how Little Debbie stayed little if she ate her own confections. Blog - Friday Faves - Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes BoxPhoto Credit: the-holidaze.blogspot.com

Various concoctions of chocolate and peppermint are favorites in these parts. What are some of yours?Blog - Friday Faves - Christmas Cookies2015 November Phone Pics - Sadie, Blog, Delaware Thanksgiving 271Blog - Christmas HoHos (2)Sidebar: the last HoHos I ever ate were in Cairo, Egypt, a long time ago.

5) a Christmas Poem – Every Christmas that I can remember, growing up, a poem by Francis Thompson (1859-1907) was displayed in our home. I loved it. Entitled Little Jesus, it was written as if a child were speaking to Jesus about His own childhood. It still fills me with wonder to think of God condescending to take human form for our sakes – identifying with us, even as a child.Friday Faves - Christmas Poem, First Frost, Charlie Brown, TreatsPhoto Credit: narrowridge.blogspot.com

Do you have a favorite Christmas poem, or seasonal treat, or some other favorite to share? Please do so in the Comments. Hope your weekend is peaceful, even in the midst of what can be crazy December.

2015 December - Christmas, Retirement, Sadie, Blog, Frost 055Autumn still with us in December.

5 Friday Faves – a Favorite Charity, Tablescaping, Brunswick Stew, Christmas Commercial, and Thanksgiving Songs

Blog - Friday Faves

What a week, huh?! The world is all a-chatter about how to wisely and compassionately respond to the needs of displaced peoples…especially Syrian refugees right now. I want to write about this soon, but for now, the blogosphere is full of solid commentary on how we might respond and what’s at stake. For today, I will focus on lighter fare…except for #1.

  1. Favorite Charity – Baptist Global Response is a relatively small charity with a wide reach. It is the disaster response/humanitarian relief arm of the Southern Baptist Convention and partners with many other local and global agencies. Their work alone with Syrian refugees (and other internally and externally displaced peoples) means so much to me. Consider BGR in your Christmas giving – it’s a start in touching the lives of Syrian and other refugees.

Blog - Baptist Global Response - refugeesPhoto Credit: GoBGR.org

2. Tablescaping – A beautifully set table is its own art form. So many meals these days are plated and eaten in front of the T.V. or computer. Sitting together, face-to-face, around a table makes for a very different communal experience. This week, I attended Mt. Vernon’s Women’s Christmas Event. The theme was The Sights, Sounds & Flavors of Bethlehem. Each banquet table was prepared by different tablescapers. Beautiful.2015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0692015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0702015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0652015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0482015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0382015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 042

3. Brunswick Stew – A favorite restaurant of my childhood in Georgia was Old Hickory House. Some of the restaurants have since closed, but at least one remains. I remember well the tangy sweet barbecue and Brunswick stew. This week I discovered a blogger who also knew Old Hickory House. He gifted us with the recipe for that hearty stew. Blog - Friday Faves - Brunswick Stew

4. Christmas Commercial – I love Hallmark Christmas commercials and you can find a bunch here.  This week a different annual favorite came to my attention. The John Lewis Department Store, in the U.K., puts out its own Christmas commercial each year.  I came across this video through a Country Living blog on how old people have so little contact with others. This is a sweet metaphor on that.

5. Thanksgiving Songs – There are some church hymns we only sing on their respective holidays. Thanksgiving songs aren’t usually sung in more contemporary evangelical churches, and I miss them. My favorites are We Gather Together and Come Ye Thankful People, Come. Maybe updated versions would bring them back in our worship services (up for arranging them, Nathan?).

Two other Thanksgiving Songs by Mary Chapin Carpenter and Brianna Haynes are also lovely…didn’t know them until this week.

What were your favorites this week? I’m closing with a quote from C.S. Lewis – seems appropriate as we struggle in the U.S. over our response to the current world crises. Great weekend, Friends.

Blog - Friday Faves - C. S. Lewis on Love - slideshare.netPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

Love Your Neighbor – Henrico Christmas Mother – How We Can Help

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As October winds down every year, stores are transformed into a shopping wonderland with Christmas just weeks away. Toys for children and presents under the tree are part of the wonder of the season. Henrico Christmas Mother is a local non-profit that helps “keep Christmas” in the lives of even the poorest of our neighbors.

Henrico Christmas Mother provides a unique and amazing shopping experience for qualified applicants, to brighten their family’s Christmas. Moms can choose gifts for their children from an enormous array of possibilities…without any cost. Thanks to the incredible generosity of their neighbors.  They also receive boxes of food to help during Christmas break when the children are home more, without the added breakfast and lunch programs available to them at school.

Harriet Long, a retired educator who I don’t think ever truly retired, is this year’s Council President of Henrico Christmas Mother. The Council is made up of past Christmas Mothers and representatives from the 5 Henrico county districts. Mrs. Long was Henrico Christmas Mother in 2013. These volunteers on the Council lead the huge effort made each year to fulfill their mission:

“To provide assistance in the form of food, new clothing, books and toys to qualifying families, adults with disabilities, and the elderly during the holiday season.”

2015 October - Christmas Mother - Ken & Harriet Long 003Harriet Long and her husband and #1 volunteer, Ken

I caught up with Mrs. Long this week to learn more about the year-round operation of Henrico Christmas Mother. As she talked about the community they serve, her eyes brightened. She has, for years, seen the difference made by Henrico Christmas Mother. Thinking that Henrico County had a fairly affluent citizenry, I was surprised at the number in our county in need of help. 40% of students in the Henrico County Public Schools live at or below the poverty line. 20% of Henrico County citizens receive some sort of public assistance.

Through the generous support of Henrico County Government and the Henrico County Public Schools, along with donations from private citizens and corporations, Henrico Christmas Mother serves hundreds of our neighbors.

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I saw that “neighbors helping neighbors” motto at work last December when I volunteered alongside many more at the Henrico Christmas Mother Warehouse. Harriet and her husband, Ken, were there as well…actually they are there every day during those two weeks of helping moms and dads shop for their families.  The joy of serving neighbors pulsated through that huge warehouse. All the work of packing food boxes, gathering, sorting, by size and age, and displaying items for ease of the moms being served is done completely by volunteers. It’s a sight to behold!2014 December Christmas Mother (29)

 How can we help our neighbors through Henrico Christmas Mother? There are so many ways, and one way might fit you.

Inviting the Henrico County Christmas Mother to speak at your organization or company, especially during Spring and Summer, would be a great help in getting the word out. Neighbors helping neighbors.

Making donations is the way this non-profit organization has continued to serve since 1942. You make financial contributions through their website or mail a check to Henrico Christmas Mother, PO Box 70338, Henrico, Va. 23255.

If you would like to donate items, you can begin to do that, as the Christmas Mother volunteers do – during the after-Christmas sales. Mrs. Long and the Council will begin to prepare for next year’s Christmas Mother starting right after Christmas. New toys, books, and clothing are bought for all ages of children. From 0 to whatever age the child is still a student in Henrico County Public Schools. Hats, gloves, socks, new children’s books, bikes with helmets, coloring books and crayons are always on the needs list.

Henrico Christmas Mother also serves senior citizens of the county as well as disabled adults – those who qualify financially. There are gift tables for them to shop for themselves – costume jewelry, books (including Bibles and cookbooks), pajamas, hats, scarves, gloves, caps, and socks. This service is unique to Henrico Christmas Mother, and donations of items for these adults are greatly appreciated.

The food boxes that are given on shopping day come from student donations through the Henrico Co. Public Schools. Last year, students donated over 110,000 non-perishable food items. Along with the food boxes, giftcards for meats, fruits, and vegetables are also provided on the shopping day. Just ahead of those two weeks of Christmas Mother, donations of soup, cereal, cookies and crackers, in particular are also solicited. Remember that these children are some of the most vulnerable in the county nutritionally during Christmas.

How does this all work?  The Henrico Christmas Mother Council works year round. In August and September, notices begin going out to families in Henrico about Christmas Mother. One flyer is sent in the water bill. Word also goes out through government-subsidized housing and through Social Services. Posters go up in the schools starting in September.

Applications are taken, at the warehouse, the first four Mondays of October. On that day, if the family qualifies, an appointment is made to return to shop during two weeks in December.

Then the fun really begins. The moms come in on their appointment day and are assisted by a volunteer to maneuver around the massive warehouse. They can choose books and clothes for each of their children. Hats, gloves and socks also are available for all the children. The toy tables are arranged by age. 2 toys/child. The parents choose them from a huge selection gathered by the Christmas Mother Council. Then each child receives stocking stuffers, coloring books and crayons.

Finally, the shoppers receive food boxes based on the number of people in the household – food enough for five meals. Henrico County Government staff then help these moms get all the gifts and food to their cars.

This is Henrico Christmas Mother – neighbors helping neighbors.

 2014 December Christmas Mother (12)2014 December Christmas Mother (1)628_Choosing_Stocking_Stuffers2014 December Christmas Mother (8)

I’m so grateful for the introduction President Harriet Long gave me to this great organization. This Christmas, share the joy of helping your neighbors through volunteering, donating, and inviting the Henrico Christmas Mother to speak at your organization or community event on next year’s calendar.

Henrico Christmas Mother provides a true and tested opportunity for us to show love to our neighbors this Christmas and all through the year. We can make a difference in the lives of these families.

Blog - Love Your Neighbor Christmas Mother - Beverly Cocke 2015

2015 Henrico Christmas Mother

2015 Henrico Christmas Mother, Beverly Cocke    (also the Brookland District’s representative on the Henrico County School Board)
“There is nothing like the joy in knowing that you played a small part in bringing a smile to a stranger’s face and sharing the message of love and hope across Henrico during the holiday season. I am honored and humbled.”

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