Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hot Chocolate for a Crowd

Dear friends,

I made a huge pot of hot chocolate this morning for the family.  It's been really chilly here in Orlando: so cold that I wore double layers (still no coat, though) when I went walking for an hour with my friend Tonya.  We're not much of coffee or tea drinkers here, so hot chocolate really hit the spot. I'm not sure if this is any cheaper than buying the pre-mixed packets that we usually use; I guess it depends on how much you pay for the cocoa powder.  (The Aldi discount grocery chain has it for less than name brands.)  I adapted a recipe that I found on the web for less sugar and less fat.   If you're making cocoa for a whole crowd, this might be a good one to try.  If you want to make a dry master mix to keep in the cupboard or for a gift-in-a-jar, you might try the one from Family Fun magazine instead.

Without further ado, here's mine:

Hot Chocolate for a Crowd
(serves 10-12 depending on mug size)
  • 5 cups boiling water
  • 5 cups milk (I used skim and some made from powdered milk)
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 TBS vanilla (I used artificially flavored)
  • mini-marshmallows (optional topping when served)
Mix the ingredients in a large pot and continue heating until it is the right temperature for drinking.  Make sure it doesn't scorch. 


Monday, December 28, 2009

Parenting & Peacemaking Articles on Come Weary Moms blog

Dear friends,

I have posted three parenting/peacemaking articles (all written quite a while back) on one of my other blogs, Come Weary Moms.  Check them out as you plan for the New Year with your family!

The Thessalonians Prescription (to evaluate if you are being an effective parent)

Stop, Drop and Roll! (How to Deal with a Conflict)

Setting Sensible Standards


Monday, December 21, 2009

An Early Christmas Celebration

Our new family photo!

Front row: Julia, Naomi, Ben, Micah, Rachel

Back row: Andrew, Lydia, Thad, Melody, Virginia, Joanna, Mary & Ryan Tindall

Last night, we enjoyed an early Christmas celebration with my daughter Mary and her husband Ryan.  They'll be out of town on Friday, so we're catching it when we can!

My husband Thad worked hard to create a safe firepit in the backyard so we could roast marshmallows and make s'mores.

The kids like to torture our guests...

The mighty muscle men

A sister moment with Melody and Julia

Jolly Ben!

The kids draw names for giving each other Christmas presents.  Joanna picked Mary's name!  What's in the package?

One of Joanna's photos, plus some pottery from Valencia Community College's art sale.

Mary bought the game Catch Phrase for all of us,
so we played three rounds last night.

I hope you 've enjoyed our pictures!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Third Sunday of Advent: "What Sweeter Music" with Paintings by Giotto

Dear friends,

My fellow blogger Karen Campbell posted this music on her blog this morning.

"What Sweeter Music"

King’s College Choir, Cambridge

John Reutter, music and arrangement

What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol, for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!

Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honor to this day,
That sees December turned to May.

Why does the chilling winter’s morn
Smile, like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like a meadow newly-shorn,
Thus, on the sudden? Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
‘Tis He is born, whose quickening birth

Gives life and luster, public mirth,
To heaven, and the under-earth.

We see him come, and know him ours,
Who, with his sunshine and his showers,
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.
The darling of the world is come,
And fit it is, we find a room
To welcome him. The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the heart.

Which we will give him; and bequeath
This holly, and this ivy wreath,
To do him honour, who’s our King,
And Lord of all this revelling.

What sweeter music can we bring,
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

"The Birth of Jesus" and "Adoration of the Magi" by Giotto (1267-1337) are just part of the series of frescoes found in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy. We first saw them in the book The Glorious Impossible by Madeline L'Engle, but I then found them on-line at

Friday, December 11, 2009

Grace Will Lead Me Home (Advent Poem 2009)

"Grace Will Lead Me Home"

by Virginia Knowles
Advent 2009

Grace will lead me home
Like a pillar of fire for a pilgrim in the wilderness
Like a shimmering star hovering over new Glory and Peace on earth
That wise ones still seek and follow.

Grace leads me home
When the way is dark and wayward voices call
I listen for the Shepherd's steady voice
When my soul cries for thirst
He leads me to the oasis
To the crystal fountain whence the healing stream flows

Grace leads me home
Because God is with me:
Jesus full of grace and truth
Grace upon grace dwelling in the tabernacle of my heart
My Messiah abides in me and I in him, my hope of glory

Grace leads me home
Because the Holy Spirit is my Comforter,
My Counselor to guide me in truth
Because I cry "Abba, Father! I am your child!"
I am more than a conqueror
Nothing can separate me from your love
And You will lead me home.

Each year I write an Advent poem.  Each year I wait for just the right inspiration.  Until it comes, there is no sense in even picking up my pen.  In recent months, God's grace has come to me in fresh ways as I am learned to live from a sense of who I am in Christ and to to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit rather than my own efforts.  I knew my poem this year would reflect his work in my heart.
On Sunday, Mike Nash preached on the wonder of God's grace.   Toward the end of his sermon, he mentioned John Newton's classic hymn "Amazing Grace".   (Another story here: The Amazingly Graced Life of John Newton: His was a tale of two lives, with God at the pivot point.)  Newton had owned a slave ship in the late 1700's before God reached down and plucked him out of darkness into the kingdom of light.  As we sang his hymn moments later, the line "and grace will lead me home" leapt out of the third verse.  I knew that was the start of my poem.  The other 18th century hymn that found its way into my own verses (pillar of fire, pilgrim, crystal fountain, healing stream) is "Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah" which I sometimes sing with my children.   You can listen to it in the original Welsh with the video below.

The poem is also inspired by John 15:1-8 and Romans 8.

I pray that "Grace Will Lead Me Home" it will bring hope to your heart this Christmas season.  I encourage you to think of people you know who might need fresh faith in the middle of trying times.  So many are hurting and lonely, which is extra hard when the pressure is on to be merry and jolly for the holidays.   Let's take the time to notice, to listen, and to serve.

As I walked with my friend Tonya this morning, we were talking about how sometimes what our own children need most is time to talk and just be with us.  So many unpleasant discipline situations could be avoided if we learned to communicate in a wholesome, affectionate and interested way.  We need to be proactive in training them in the good life rather than just waiting until they mess up and then taking even longer to correct them for poor choices.  A warm and nurturing relationship is the best way to raise children.   It takes time!  Likewise, I am seeing that God wants time with me, too.  He is Abba.  That means Daddy!  He is never too busy for me!   As I listen to him, he lovingly leads me on a positive path.   The stronger and closer my relationship with God is, and the more I am walking in grace, the less he needs to correct me.  I will want to please him with my whole heart, not grieve him!   And as my children see my intimacy with God and a growing desire to live for him and in him, this will help their hearts to turn in the same direction.   Love, joy, and peace are powerful magnets!  And grace will lead us home!


We're done with our Providence home school co-op classes for the semester. On Monday afternoon, we put on a Christmas program with each class singing one or two carols for the rest of us. The 5th-6th graders got brave and did theres in Spanish and sign language. My middle school English class sang the first known Christmas carol, "Of the Father's Love Begotten", which was written in Latin by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius in the 4th century and translated into English by John Mason Neale in the 1800's. The week before our performance, my students worked on memorizing it, learning about the meaning of the words, reading related Scriptures, and studying the Nicene Creed, which was written in the same time period. Their next assignment, to be completed before classes start again in January, is to read Luke 1 and 2, answer some questions, watch parts of Handel's Messiah, and then write either a short Christmas memories story, a Christmas poem, or a description of their favorite Christmas story or carol. I have posted the Handel's Messiah video clips on-line, along with some nativity-themed fine art from the National Gallery, here: Handel's Messiah & National Gallery of Art.

Since we only have a week's worth of Providence assignments this month, sometimes it's a bit of an extra challenge keeping the kids doing happy things and not aggravating each other. The five younger kids and I try to start each day with singing Christmas carols, reading a little few verses from Luke 2, and then enjoying one of our favorite Christmas books. I also want to read them some poetry, such as "A Christmas Carol" by Josiah Gilbert Holland. "O Little Town of Bethlehem", one of the carols we have been singing in the mornings, is such a familiar one to most of you, but I recently discovered a delightful little verse I had never seen:

Where children pure and happy pray to the blessèd Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.
My prayer for the Christmas break is that in our family, charity will stand watching so that faith can open wide the door when we see a need or an opportunity to bless someone. We had a day earlier this week where it seemed we were all irritable with one another, just wandering aimlessly and selfishly. "Misery cries out to Thee" describes my plea to God about this. I didn't want to continue with that pattern all month. I'd much rather have "pure and happy" children. That's when I got serious about starting the morning with singing and decided to print out a dozen carols for our song notebooks. The next morning, after singing our carols, we talked about how we are celebrating Jesus' birthday this month and that we can give him a special present of worshiping him in faith, and then loving one another in response to that. (Naomi reminded me that JOY is thinking of Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself after that.) I really want to break the bickering habit and replace it with sweet speech. I asked the kids to make a special effort to stop calling names, mimicking, or telling each other to shut up. And if they offend or hurt someone, they need to apologize, even if it was an accident. But that's not enough! We need to replace the negatives with something positive. I suggested that each day, each of us will look for a small opportunity to bless each of the others. This could be reading a story to four year old Melody, offering someone a mug of hot chocolate, cleaning up a pile of construction paper scraps after craft time, running to bring someone a roll of toilet paper when it's out, or letting someone else go first on the computer. Honestly, it hasn't been perfect since then, but there has been a huge improvement and they seem to be responding to the gentle reminders to be pleasant and do the right thing. The dark night wakes, the glory breaks... We can do this after all, with God's help.

If you or someone you know are struggling through this Christmas season, whether from busyness, weariness, or life crises, please check out these articles that I wrote in years past: A Simplified Christmas and A Bittersweet Advent.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Handel's Messiah & National Gallery of Art

Dear friends,

My English students will be watching these video clips this week, and I thought you might enjoy them as well. I've added some fine art at the end. Our family went to see Handel's Messiah live at the Bob Carr auditorium a couple of weeks ago.

"For Unto Us a Child is Born" is a chorus in Handel's Messiah. It comes from Isaiah 9:6.

"The Hallelujah Chorus" is the best known section of Handel's Messiah. The audience always stands when this is sung, because the King of England did this when he attended a performance, and he set the precedent. This words to this song are from Revelation 19:6, Revelation 11:15, and Revelation 19:16.

Christmas pictures from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

"The Adoration of the Shepherds" by Giorgione, 1505-1510

"The Adoration of the Magi" by Benvenuto di Giovanni in 1470-1475

"Madonna and Child" by Circle of Giovanni di Turino 1430, painted and gilded terracotta

"The Flight into Egypt" by Vittore Carpaccio, 1515

You can find more art here: Biblical Art from the National Gallery of Art.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

"A Christmas Carol" by Josiah Gilbert Holland

Dear friends,

It's the first Sunday in Advent! Thad and I took the kids to see Handel's Messiah downtown. I think I enjoyed it more than anyone else...

Someday I will try to post links about Handel's Messiah, but for now I thought this poem might be a good way to start the season.

Christmas joy and peace to you,
Virginia Knowles

"A Christmas Carol"

by Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819-1881)

There's a song in the air!
There's a star in the sky!
There's a mother's deep prayer
And a baby's low cry!
And the star rains its fire while the Beautiful sing,
For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a king.

There's a tumult of joy
O'er the wonderful birth,
For the virgin's sweet boy
Is the Lord of the earth.
Ay! the star rains its fire and the Beautiful sing,
For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a king.

In the light of that star
Lie the ages impearled;
And that song from afar
Has swept over the world.
Every hearth is aflame, and the Beautiful sing
In the homes of the nations that Jesus is King.

We rejoice in the light,
And we echo the song
That comes down through the night
From the heavenly throng.
Ay! we shout to the lovely evangel they bring,
And we greet in his cradle our Saviour and King.


If you would like to see other posts related to Christmas, including my Advent poems, click here:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pure Pleasure: Why Do Christians Feel So Bad About Feeling Good?

Pure Pleasure: Why Do Christians Feel So Bad About Feeling Good?
Book by Gary Thomas
Review and Extra Commentary by Virginia Knowles

 I am so delighted to able to review Gary Thomas's newest book Pure Pleasure: Why Do Christians Feel So Bad About Feeling Good? If "a merry heart doeth good like a medicine," then this is just what the doctor ordered! Though it is not a comedy book, I still laughed all the way through. There is something about truth that brings both liberty and joy to the heart. I'm thankful that Gary Thomas wrote this much-needed book, which seems to me to be a gift from God's own heart. It resonates with all that the Lord has so graciously been showing me in recent years.

The theme of this book is that pleasure is a good gift from God, designed to renew and satisfy our souls. It draws us to our loving Lord in gratitude, and helps guard us from illicit temptations that might otherwise pull us away. Rather than always looking on life as a dreary duty, we should embrace and cultivate God-glorifying pleasure. In this 250 page book, Gary explores how pure pleasures can bring abundant blessings to our lives, how to celebrate life, the danger of excess or damaging influences, counting the cost, choosing the things that make us happy, enjoying life with our families, finding pleasure in difficult circumstances, and the healing power of laughter. He alerts us to three signals that we are not allowing for enough pleasure in our lives: extended tiredness, loneliness/alienation, and lack of joy in life and in God. He also takes into account that different kinds of things make each of us happy, such as sensory pleasures (touching, hearing, tasting, smelling, and looking) or pursuit pleasures (creating things, excitement, mental stimulation, relationships, and laughter). For the past few years, I have been thinking about God as Creator as well as Redeemer and of the value of the common grace of sensory beauty and human friendships, so I'm thrilled that Gary has written a book that emphasizes this aspect of our Christian experience.

At the end of each chapter, you will find questions for reflection. At the conclusion of the book, there are additional questions that can be used with the small group video curriculum. Many Scriptures and quotes from classic Christian literature (Francis Fenelon, G.K. Chesterton, etc.) are woven throughout each chapter as well.  I appreciate that he takes time in the footnotes to tell us who these other authors are, too!

I particularly appreciate, in the first chapter, Gary's extended discussion of how people who try to "mortify sin" through sheer will power are so often unsuccessful because they are not displacing unholy temptations with godly delights. If we want to get the victory over sin, pleasure is one of our most faithful allies.

As Gary writes:

"Spiritual triumph begins and ends with finding our satisfaction in God above all things. We serve a generous God, however, who eagerly wants to bless us with many other pleasures, gifts from his hand, that delight us—and in delighting us, bring pleasure back to him. Rather than seeing these gifts as competitors that steal our hearts from God, perhaps we can gratefully receive them and allow God to use them to ruin us to the ways of the world. Prayer and fellowship are among life’s richest pleasures, but let’s not stop there. Let us learn to fill our souls with beauty, art, noble achievement, fine meals, rich relationships, and soul-cleansing laughter. When we acknowledge these pleasures, we acknowledge God as a genius creator of brilliant inventions. Let us be wary of a faith that denies these blessings as “worldly” and unfit, as though Satan rather than God had designed them. Let us refuse to fall into the enemy’s trap of denying ourselves God’s good pleasures so that we end up deeply vulnerable to illicit pleasure. In truth, God created us first for his own pleasure, not our own; but when we live a life of holy pleasure, we do bring pleasure to God. In this context and with this understanding, pleasure can become a powerful force for piety and goodness." pg 17

"The rate at which we are losing our young people should alarm every church in this country. Some estimates put the loss at 75 percent. Many experts are trying to find out why kids raised in church abandon it in their twenties. Here’s a clue: If teens think they have to leave the church to celebrate, why would they ever want to stay? If every time they enter the walls dedicated to God’s service they hear only about their shortcomings, their obligations, and their irresponsibility, what would make them want to come back? I’m not saying we shouldn’t confront the sin of the young. Of course we should. Their sins—including their selfishness and apathy—need to be challenged. But let’s preach the good life every bit as much as we warn them away from the path of destruction. Let’s invite them to drink from the well that truly satisfies, and then let’s live it so that they see with their own eyes the glory and happiness of an obedient Christian." pg 29


Are you excited about this book already? Here's some extra good news! Until January 11, you can download Pure Pleasure for free from Gary Thomas's web site. Sure, I strongly encourage you to buy your own print copy, too, since it's much easier to read sitting in a cozy arm chair than in front of a computer screen, and since an author deserves payment for his work! But at least you can get a sneak preview right now, and another benefit of having the digital book too is that you can search for words or phrases. You can download Adobe Digital Reader, which is much more sophisticated and user-friendly than regular PDF, at the same time.

You can order your print copy from here: Pure Pleasure by Gary Thomas at CBD or directly from the author's web site (and watch Gary's intro video clip) here: Pure Pleasure by Gary Thomas at Center for Evangelical Spirituality.

And now, after this more general review, I have a few observation about how the concepts in Gary's books (not just Pure Pleasure) relate to families, especially those who are home schooling. 


Many moms and dads struggle to truly enjoy their children because they are so intent on building their character and correcting their errant behavior. This is especially apparent in the home school movement when we are (hopefully) making extra sacrifices to invest in their success. They simply have to turn out right, or how could we justify the time and money we spent? PLEASE remember that our children are treasures from God, whether they are complying with us or not. The atmosphere in our homes must become one of affection and acceptance, rather than grumpy disapproval. Otherwise, our kids will quickly discover that Mom's and Dad's religion is not the only game in town, and they will drift or even run to wherever they feel they're getting a fair shake and good vibes. Josh McDowell has said, "Rules without relationships reap rebellion." When you are thinking about enjoying the pleasures from God, I hope that your children are right at the top! Take some time to have some fun with them as a whole family and one-on-on. How long has it been since you had an awesome vacation or even a daytrip that wasn't strictly educational? Yes, it costs some money, but you only have so long with your children before they grow up and move away. (Ask me how I know this!)

Here are a several terrific ways to have some guilt-free fun with your kids. 

  • Cuddle up on the couch with your kids to read a good book: How to Read Aloud and Enjoy It and When Mother Reads Aloud.
  • Do something that is both fun and educational: Got a Hand, Make a Puppet.
  • Make Christmas presents: Great Gifts Kids Can Make for Others.
  • Take the entire month of December off from traditional school: Advent Adventure Unit Study for December.
  • Play games like Pente and Mancala that use strategy, but are simple and fun enough for parents and kids to enjoy together.
  • Join your local YMCA so the kids can get fun PE time, and you can relieve stress by working out and getting in shape -- our family gets a 50% scholarship so ask about one if you can't afford it otherwise!
  • Take advantage of outdoor fun & freedom, such as taking a picnic lunch outside to the yard or a local park or letting your kids take a book up into your tree to read while you take pictures!
We also need to remember that it is God who saves and sanctifies our children (and the rest of us, too), not our own effort. We can do our part and point the way, but he must bring about the fruit through the dynamic indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is one thing to give up outward forms of legalism (picky rules) yet cling to an inward, and sometimes more devastating, bondage of trying to hack out the sin in our lives by sheer will power. As Galatians 3:1-3 says, "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" And in Galatians 5:22-25 it says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit." Any admonition to "mortify sin" MUST be accompanied by this means: the power of the Holy Spirit to walk in our precious identity in Christ. A believer in Christ is no longer a dirty rotten sinner or a morally depraved worm who is controlled by sinful pride, but a new creation, a dearly loved saint who can be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. As we yield to God's guidance (say "YES, LORD!" and then DO IT!) , and worship him for who he is and what he has done, our minds are renewed by truth, which sets us free (John 8:32). I have been coming to this realization bit by bit over the past few years and especially recent months. I finally see the fruit of it. I still have a long way to go in God's grace! Now if I want to see this worked out in my children's lives too, then I need to give them a solid foundation of who they are (or can be) in Christ, and how they need the filling of the Holy Spirit for themselves. It's not enough to tag along on a parent's faith. They must own it in their own hearts. This is the heart of discipling our children! Do you feel stuck by ongoing failure to live victoriously as a Christian mom? Take comfort in this quote by Francis Fenelon, which applies not only to individuals, but to parents hoping for lasting change in their children:
"Bear with yourself in your involuntary frailties as God bears, wait patiently for His appointed time of complete deliverance, and meanwhile go on quietly and according to your strength in the path before you, without losing time in looking back; always "reaching forth unto those things which are before," not dwelling unprofitably upon depressing falls and hindrances; sorrowing over them, indeed, with humility, but putting them aside to press onwards; not looking upon God as a spy watching to surprise you, or an enemy laying snares for you, but as a Father who loves, and would fain save you; full of trust in His goodness, continually invoking His mercy, and perfectly free from all vain dependence upon yourself or any other creature. Such you will find to be the path towards true liberty."
And another from Francis De Sales: "As to these smaller temptations… as it is impossible to be altogether freed from them, the best defense that we can make is not to give ourselves much trouble about them; for although they may tease us, yet they can never hurt us, so long as we continue firmly resolved to dedicate ourselves in earnest to the service of God…. Content yourself with quietly removing them, not by contending or disputing with them, but by performing some actions of a contrary nature to the temptation, especially acts of the love of God… This grand remedy is so terrible to the enemy of our souls, that as soon as he perceives that his temptation incites us to form acts of divine love he ceases to tempt us… He who would wish to contend with them in particular would give himself much trouble to little or no purpose.” (Quoted by Gary Thomas on page 76-77 of Seeking the Face of God.)
Are you exhausted or stressed out as a mom? Is there ever anything leftover for you after all the demands of mothering, disciplining, housecleaning, organizing, chauffeuring, not to mention the challenges of being either a wife or a single mom?  And, if you are home schooling, add in teaching, lesson planning and grading!  Do you feel guilty trying to get away for a little bit for some happy time, even to your bedroom for a little peace and quiet? STOP IT! Dear ladies, you must fill your pitcher to the brim with life or you won't have anything to pour out for your family! I used to have a T-shirt that read, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!" And that's the truth! You set the tone in your family. Is it going to be grumpy? Lifeless? Joyless? If you can't work this out for yourself, or there are family crises that complicate your story, don't hesitate to go for professional Christian counseling. If you feel that your pastor is not equipped for giving the kind of help you need, many counseling centers offer services for a sliding scale fee. I know that some of you are in dark places in life. I'm not suggesting that you shrug it off and pretend that life is jolly, but that you deal with it head on so you can move on with confidence. Your identity is not determined by how other people (husband, children, relatives, friends) assess your worth. You are a precious treasure to God in Christ Jesus. Whatever you do, remember that the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and that he rejoices over you with gladness and singing (Zephaniah 3:17). Don't accept second best. Yes, you will sometimes be tired and discouraged. Jesus came to give you abundant life (John 10:10)! You might find some extra encouragement and refreshment on my blog, Come Weary Moms, especially the post called Help for Hurting Marriages which contains excerpts from Gary Thomas's books Sacred Influence: How God Uses Wives to Shape the Souls of Their Husbands and Sacred Marriage. I also invite you do download a free PDF copy of my 176 page book The Real Life Home School Mom, which primarily focuses on the emotional, logistical and spiritual challenges of home schooling rather than just academics.

I hope that this extra commentary has been helpful to you!  I would love your feedback!

Virginia Knowles

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Alabaster Jar

Dear friends,

Happy Thanksgiving!

I read this passage in Luke 7 this morning, and it seemed to fit Thanksgiving. Who is most thankful? The ones who realizes how much mercy God has had on them! Let your love for him be extravagant today (and always) as you serve Jesus by serving others.


P.S. I wrote the "Alabaster Jar" poem while I was in college.

Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner."

Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."

"Tell me, teacher," he said.

"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"

Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled."

"You have judged correctly," Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."

Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"

Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."


"Alabaster Jar"
by Virginia Knowles

Alabaster jar, costly sweet perfume
Devotion broke it open
Fragrance filled the room.
Poured over Jesus’ head
Anointing for the grave
Some saw only money lost
Jesus blessed the love she gave.

Broken and poured out, broken and poured out
But there’s no waste of life, just fragrant sacrifice
And it’s all because of love.

Can you see his love? Messiah on the cross
Body broken, blood poured out
For our sin’s redemption cost
Can you see his power? Victory over death
Hell could not contain him
Nor quench his living breath

Broken and poured out, broken and poured out
But there’s no waste of life, just fragrant sacrifice
And it’s all because of love.

Lord, break me for your glory,
Pour me for your name.
Let me share his sufferings
And power just the same.
Crucified with Christ is what I want to be,
For when I’ve died to my old life,
I’ll rise up to be free.

Broken and poured out, broken and poured out
But there’s no waste of life, just fragrant sacrifice
And it’s all because of love.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fresh Cranberries!

Dear friends,

I stopped at the new Aldi grocery store today to pick up milk and decided to grab a few extras for Thanksgiving.  They had fresh cranberries for only 99 cents per 12 ounce bag.  The instructions for making sauce seemed simple enough, so I decided to give it a try.  Basically, rinse the berries and then dump them into a boiling mixture of 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar.  Soon the skins will split open.  I mashed mine a little but that isn't necessary.  Now you can take them off the burner and let them cool.  You can keep them on the heat a little longer if you think they need to thicken up more, but they will also set into a decent gel the referigerator.

About this time, Naomi was making a cherry pie with canned filling and frozen pie crusts.  I realized that I had purchased deep dish crusts and that there weren't enough cherries to fill it.  So Lydia had the great idea of adding some of my cranberry concoction.  I mixed in some honey before spooning it over the cherry layer.  Then Lydia and Naomi cut the extra crust into strips and made a lattice top.  I'll try to take a picture of our fully baked CranCherry pie tomorrow.

I blended the remaining cranberry sauce with more honey, a lot of ginger, and a can of jellied cranberry sauce.  It looks lovely and tastes quite zesty!

I've always been intimidated by fresh cranberries, but they're pretty "user friendly" after all.  I guess this will be a standard on our holiday table from now on!

Thanksgiving Dinner

Dear friends,

We're starting to cook for Thanksgiving today!  The turkeys will go in the oven within the next half hour.  We always like to do them a day ahead and get them cut up and ready to reheat.  It works well!   I'm using Bell's Seasoning in the stuffing and on the skin this year. Thanks, Margaret! I'm also chopping up some fresh garlic.  I had several cloves in the refrigerator and noticed the other day that a few had sprouted, so I asked Andrew to plant them in a pot on the back porch.  They are getting taller! 

We'll do some of the baking today, too.  It's a misty and moist day, and at the moment, our little ones are outside making mud pies... 

The girls have divvied up almost all of the other cooking as well as the decorating, so there's not so much for me to do except oversee, organize, and help clean up!  

You can click on the * items to see the recipes or other instructions on my blog.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Turkey with gravy & stuffing (one of our turkeys is seasoned with Jamaican jerk)
Homemade mashed potatoes, homemade
Sweet potato casserole 
Fresh green bean casserole
* Roasted Herbed Vegetables, with squash instead of sweet potatoes 
Biscuits (not homemade)
Braided egg bread with sausage & cream cheese dip

* Fresh cranberry sauce (click here for serving idea for plain canned sauce)
Gingerale & Lemonade Punch


* Wassail to drink!
Lemon tart with chocolate adornment
* Pumpkin streusel muffins 
* CranCherry pie

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

Serving Cranberry Sauce


To serve canned cranberry sauce without mangling the contents, open one end of the can fully. Then turn it over and open a slit of just about an inch from the other end. The release in suction will enable the sauce to slide right out of the can in one piece. If you are short on flat space for your buffet area, but need a few cans of cranberry sauce out, here’s a way to save space while still making it easy to dish it out onto plates. Slice the sauce a can at a time. Then layer the slices in a spiral into a round or squarish casserole dish. Keep going round and round until it’s all in there!

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins


(Grunberg Haus, Waterbury-Stowe, Vermont)

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbs. pumpkin pie spice (or allspice)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup oil (scant)
  • 2 cups peeled chopped Macintosh apples

Streusel topping: 
  • 4 tsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Combine dry ingredients, stir well. Combine wet ingredients. Mix both together until just moist. Take care not to overmix. Scoop batter into 18 greased or paper-lined muffin cups, leaving a little room for the topping.  Cut together streusel topping ingredients.  Top muffins with streusel. Bake at 350º for 30-35 minutes.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Blast from the Past: Remembering Keith Green and His Music

Dear friends,

Thirty years ago this month, when I was in high school in Fairfax, Virginia, I drove with some friends to Evangel Temple in Washington, D.C. to hear Keith Green in concert.  Keith was a passionate twentysomething Christian singer and songwriter who had such a heart for ministry that he had a policy of giving his records away for whatever you could afford.  I subscribed to his Last Days newsletter (which promoted the pro-life movement and foreign outreach) and bought most of his albums along the way.  I still have them in a box in my closet. And I remember the tragic day in April 1982 when the story hit the national news that Keith and some of his young children had been killed in a small plane crash in Texas.  His body died then, but he lives on in Heaven, and his music and ministry lived on as well through his writings, recordings, and the ministry center he had established with his wife Melody.  I bought a compilation CD a few years ago and loaded it onto my MP3 player, so I'm still listening to him sing! 

I thought you might enjoy this video clip of Keith singing "When I Hear the Praises Start."  It's good for me to listen to it since I'm home sick this morning.

You will need to turn off the Playlist at the bottom of the page.

After you listen to it, you can go back down to the Playlist at the bottom of this page and look for a few more of his songs there.

Virginia Knowles
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