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: http://virginiaknowles.blogspot.com/search/label/Christmas

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 ChristianBook.com 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!

Blessings,
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.

Blessings,
Virginia

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 
Corn
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


Dessert

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

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

Serving Cranberry Sauce

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

PUMPKIN STREUSEL MUFFINS


(Grunberg Haus, Waterbury-Stowe, Vermont)

 
Muffins: 
  • 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

Instructions:
 
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 350ยบ 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.

Blessings,
Virginia Knowles

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wallyball!

Dear friends,

Back a couple of weeks ago, Thad and I joined our friends Tim and Sue Schutz along with some of their other friends to celebrate Tim's birthday. We have known Tim for 25 years, and Thad was a groomsman in their wedding seven years ago.  They have three incredibly cute little boys! 

First we ate out at Brick Oven. Then, as a special surprise for Tim, Sue arranged for us to play wallyball, which Tim loves but doesn't get to do very often.  I sat out for most of the time because of a knee injury, but I did fill in for about 15 minutes when one of the other players left. (I did NOT lunge for the ball!) We had only enough people for 3 players on each team, but it would probably be better with more.  (In this video, my husband Thad is in the tan T-shirt, Tim is in the white shirt, the two Daves are wearing blue, Sue is in pink, and Dawn is in blue, too.)

Wallyball is basically volleyball played in a racquetball court.  That means you can bounce the ball off the the sidewalls, which adds a new element to the game.  The ball is also softer than a regular volleyball so it can bounce better.  Here's a video so you can see how it's played. 
 


Go have a little fun!

Blessings,
Virginia

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Roasted Herbed Vegetables

Dear friends,

I joined the Get Fit wellness program at my local YMCA to try to lose a little weight and get in shape.  Unfortunately,  a case of tendonitis has slowed me down for a few weeks, but the program it still helpful and I am seeing some success.  Our group leader, Matt Korba, asked us each to submit a healthy recipe.  One of the other ladies, Barb Weller, sent this one along. 

I made it and took it to a potluck party last night, and everyone liked it.  Since I didn't have any plain rosemary, I used Bell's Seasoning, which also has oregano, sage, ginger, marjoram, thyme and pepper in it.  (I don't know where to buy the stuff; my cousin Margaret sent to me to use in my scrapple.)  I didn't use asparagus either.

Anyway, here is the recipe:



Roasted Herbed Vegetables 
  • 2 Large skinned Sweet potatoes
  • 1 large onion (yellow)
  • Red, Yellow and Green Peppers (I like the red and yellow the best)
  • Baby carrots
  • Fresh Green Beans
  • Fresh Asparagus
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Rosemary
Cut up all veggies and place in large baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, stir around to make sure evenly tossed. Add Rosemary spice (about one teaspoon or so)

Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, toss around and bake another 15 minutes.


Barb serves this with grilled salmon and the combination is really yummy together. Very healthy meal.


Hope you all enjoy!

~~~

I just realized that three posts in a row are recipes!  This is a first for me.  I only rarely post any recipes on the blog.  Let me know if you like these, and maybe I will occasionally post more in the future.

Blessings,
Virginia


Banana Cake

Dear friends,

I've been making this quick bread recipe for over 20 years, ever since my sister Barb gave me a copy of the Serve the Best cookbook published by the Maryland branch of Bethany Christian Services, an adoption agency.  It's a great way to use up bruised or brown bananas!  This particular recipe was submitted to the cookbook by Katie Werner, an adoptive grandmother.  My adaptations are noted in the brackets.

MOM'S BANANA CAKE

1/2 cup shortening  [vegetable oil]
1 1/2 cups (or less) sugar [combination of white and brown]
2 eggs
2 or 3 bananas, mashed
2 cups flour [combination of white and whole wheat]
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sour milk [fresh milk]
1 teaspoon vanilla extract [optional]

[You can also add spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and allspice.]

P.S. This is a great recipe to take to someone as a gift, especially if you wrap it in pretty colored plastic wrap.  Some folks are so overwhelmed with too much sugar during the holidays, so this is a healthier alternative.  Ask God to show you whom to bless with this kind of yummy compassion. 

P.P.S.  My daughter Mary was quite mischievous and precocious as a two year old.  One day I snapped at her, "You drive me bananas!"  She instantly retorted, "Well, you drive me strawberries!"  You've heard it said, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade," so when life gives you bananas, MAKE BANANA CAKE!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Holiday Wassail

HOLIDAY WASSAIL




My friend Kelly served this wassail at a Rubies & Roses (mother/daughter) tea party several years ago. We made it for Thanksgiving, my husband said it was his favorite, and one of my young daughters asked for some more “weasel.” It is now a Thanksgiving and Christmas standard in our house. I must confess that I tampered with the recipe [as noted with brackets], but it still turns out great.



•64 oz. apple cider [or plain apple juice]
•64 oz. cranberry juice [cran-raspberry, cran-pomegranate, etc.]
•4-6 tbs. white sugar
•3 cinnamon sticks [or several liberal shakes of ground cinnamon]
•1 tsp. allspice
•1/2 orange covered with whole cloves [1 tsp. ground cloves and 1/2 cup orange juice]

Heat for about 30-45 minutes on medium in a large stock pot, or mull for a few hours in a crock pot. Serve in mugs.

You can find more recipes in my Recipe Box or visit my Christmas page.



This recipe is just a small part of my Thanksgiving Treasury on my web site.  You will also find these other articles there:
  • Thanksgiving Indians
  • Thankfulness?
  • Thanksgiving for the Heart
  • Holiday Recipes
  • Handling Family Issues During the Holidays
Blessings,
Virginia

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Come and Listen

Dear friends,




Please listen to Chris Rice sing. Simple song, amazing voice, timeless message.

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

Be blessed!

Virginia Knowles

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Flanders Fields (A Poem for Veteran's Day)


"In Flanders Fields"

by Colonel John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


For more on Veteran's Day, click here:
www.sherylweb.com/holidays/veterans_day.html

I found the needlework picture here:
http://www.nationalneedleworkarchive.org.uk/html/poetry_in_stitches.html

Monday, November 9, 2009

Celebrate Life!


I love life! It gets a little zany, a little zesty sometimes.










You know you're getting old when your KIDS have gray hair...


Even if it is from flour when big sister is making a cake.



Actually, you know you're getting old
when you find out you're going to be a Grandma!
Mary and Ryan are expecting their first baby in June!



YAY!
I'm celebrating life!

If a bird in hand is worth two in the bush,
what are two boys in the hand worth?




Simply priceless!

P.S. Yes, those are angels in the tree with those birds. 
Lydia shaved the bark off of a branch and hung paper ornament reproductions of fine art.
I call it our Angel Tree.
But there is a much more important Angel Tree than that!

Angel Tree is a ministry that reaches out to the children of inmates
and their families with the love of Christ.
It seeks to transform the lives of these families
and to reconcile them to their Heavenly Father and each other.

You can get involved!

Celebrate life!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What is Worth While?

What is Worth While?
by Anna Robertson Brown, 1893

The question of life is not, How much time have we?
-- for in each day each of us has exactly the same amount:
we have "all there is."
The question is, What shall we do with it?
Shall we let this priceless gift
slip away from us in haphazard deeds,
or shall we adopt some plan of saving
and of systematic doing in our lives?
What shall this plan be?
How shall we determine what things
are worth giving time to?
Let us think about this question.
In our thoughts, let us not forget one point,
-- time spent in being interrupted is not time lost.
A strong thinker once said,
"No one knocks at my door who is not sent by God."
We are spending time well when we are paying it out to God,
to buy the things he means our lives to own,
whether he is putting before us a duty to be done,
a friend to be won, a small service to be rendered,
a child to be consoled, or a house to be set in order.
There is time enough given us to do
all that God means us to do each day and to do it gloriously!
How do we know but that the interruption we snarl at
is the most blessed thing that has come to us in long days?
But in all our lives, though time is given us
to eat, drink, sleep, work and play,
there is no moment given us to throw away.


~*~*~

Let us not try to escape our work, nor to shirk it.
Above all, let us not fail to see it.
As long as we live we have a work to do.
We shall never be too old for it, nor too feeble.
Illness, weakness, fatigue, sorrow,
-- none of these things can excuse us from this work of ours.
That we are alive to-day is proof positive
that God has something for us to do to-day.
Let us ask ourselves as we arise each morning,
What is my work today?
We do not know where the influence of to-day will end.
Our lives may outgrow all our present thoughts,
and outdazzle all our dreams.
Every day is a test-day; every hour is an examination-hour.
God puts each fresh morning, each new chance of life,
into our hands as a gift, to see what we will do with it.



These are just a few excerpts from one of my favorite vintage books, What is Worth While?  by Anna Robertson Brown, PhD.  (You can click on that title to read the whole book online.  There is so much more in it than these excerpts even begin to touch.) This small jewel started as a speech for college alumni in 1893; reprinted dozens of times over several decades, it spread far and wide the message of making your life count for eternity. My grandmother Dorothy Ransom Hess, who turns 95 today, received it as a gift from her mother-in-law, Mary Graves Hess (pictured right), for whom my mother and my oldest daughter are both named. I love the fact that this has been passed down from generations of mothers!   I am printing out these quotes to put on my wall as a reminder to use my time well.  I have much to learn in this area!



Henry and Dorothy Hess in the 1940's with their five children:
Dick, Henry, Mary (my mother), Nancy, and Barbara 

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Appreciating the Pastors of Metro Life Church

Dear friends,


Since October was Pastors Appreciation Month, I would like this opportunity to share what I most appreciate about our pastors and about the church in general.

I appreciate our senior pastor, Danny Jones, for encouraging my daughter Julia to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit as she was making decisions about her trip to Bolivia earlier this year. His affection for our church is evident and genuine, and he always has a smile and a warm greeting.

I am thankful for Benny Phillips, not only for making such an impact on me as a teenager in Virginia in 1979-1980, but for being such a wonderful influence on me as an adult and for continuing the legacy with my teenagers. He really gets it and he really cares. 

I am grateful to Mike Nash for his compassionate realism, his humor, and his encouragement to make the best of what we've got. He listens well, and gives advice from the Word and from his heart.  

I love the passion for worship, prayer, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit that Todd Twining exudes. I'm also excited about the Worship & Arts Academy that he is developing for us and for the community.

I am thankful for how much Chip Chew does to keep everything running so smoothly behind the scenes. He may not be up there preaching, but his administrative work is vital for the ministry of the church. 

Then there is Jesse Phillips who, though he is young enough to be my son, amazes me regularly with his insight and his enthusiasm for pointing the youth of the church towards a strong and vibrant faith. He's also doing a fantastic job keeping folks involved in political issues.

Aaron Law, our newest intern, displays a humble wisdom. His preaching is thorough and well-studied, yet very warm. I've known Aaron for almost 10 years, and I respect him highly.

I am thankful to all of the folks at Metro Life for keeping it real and for loving each other well with such a diversity of gifts.



Blessings,
Virginia Knowles
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