Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Note Wedged into the Window on My Van (And a Fresh Advent Poem)

"Good afternoon! I saw your Jesus fish & felt led to leave you this note. I hope you don't feel too awkward that I left it. :-)  I'd like to ask that you please pray for my husband R--- and our 12 y.o. son L--- (most especially) and myself.  We've been battling the enemy through the past 9 months of an unusually high degree of tribulation: physical disabilities, illness, pain, and catastrophic financial hardship.  While we persevere in holding fast to our faith, we trust in the perfect will of our Master.  Please pray that the homelessness resulting from these trials ends before Christmas and that our son recovers swiftly.  Thank you so very much! Peace and blessings, M---" 

I found this little note penned on a scrap of paper wedged into the window of my van while I was out shopping for school supplies. 

Can you even read this and not cry?

If I had any way of contacting her, I would do something.  I will do what she asked, which is to pray.  Will you join me, not only for her family, but for others in need this holiday season and year round?

The Jesus Poem

Jesus, we have lost you, not even seeking, thus not finding
Maybe especially this season in the fancies and parties -- but
It is so easy to decry these, to point the fingers,
To insist that clerks greet us properly with "Merry CHRISTmas!" 
  instead of "Happy Holidays."

In our religious circles we find sacred systems, rigid rules, 
   excess expectations, 
Theological Thou-Shalt-Nots that THOU hast not said 
In our religious circles we put God in a box and wrap it fancy and tight
Yet drawn into your circle, do we not find 
   plain liberty and lavish love instead?

If we are looking for you, we must go to the end of the line, 
(Which is the beginning, since the last will be first)
We will find you walking among those who mourn, 
With the poor, the prisoner, the outcast, the trafficked child.

You are the Physician who came to seek the sick, not the healthy.
You make house calls, or for those who have no homes 
(As you did not), the alleyway will do.
You are the Savior to the lost sheep, to the prodigal son.

We are here and now your hands, feet, eyes, ears, mouth
Let us go and look and love and pray and give and serve and set free
May we see your face as we follow your way
May we find you and, empty as we are, be filled.

I write an Advent poem every year. This 2012 offering is reminiscent of 2007's: Corpus Christi (Body of Christ).  You may also like The Paradox.

My daughter Julia and her husband Alex are such a good examples to me.  As they did two years ago, they are organizing a homeless outreach for January.  They are taking a team of Jesus-lovers to downtown Orlando to pass around blankets, sleeping bags, warm jackets, scarves, socks, toiletries, snack bags, Gospel of John booklets and fresh baked goods.  I've been hoping to put together first aid kits; fortunately, our dear friend Mark, who sells first aid supplies, just sent us a big box of stuff to help.  I've also been cleaning out the winter bins in our storage room, gathering up blankets and coats and tote bags that we don't really need.   I also found some fancier clothes (passed on to us from a neighbor) that won't be suitable for the homeless, but could be sold at a consignment shop to fund this outreach, too.  It's worth the effort.

If you live in the area and want to participate, either by giving or going, please let me know and I will send you times and locations. (See also my posts Gathering Gifts for the Poor and Homeless.)

And if you want to get a clear picture of who Jesus really was and still is, read the Gospels.  You can start with the book of John.

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

P.S. You might also like to listen to Brandon Heath's song "Give Me Your Eyes".

P.P.S. I'm not much of one for putting religious symbols on vehicles, but our van, purchased from friends at our old church, already had the Jesus fish on the back.  I'm glad about that now. :-)

P52 with Kent Weakley
 P52 Photo Project 
A weekly photo post
Theme this week: Giving Thanks
See all of my entries here:
P52 Photo Posts
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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Butternut-Yellow Squash Casserole

Butternut and yellow squash with onions
Dear friends,

I signed up to bring squash to the fourth grade Thanksgiving feast at my son's school.  I had cooked yellow squash before, but wanted to do a casserole since I thought that would be more appealing to kids.  I found butternut squash at the produce market yesterday and decided to give that a try, too.  The two kinds of squash gave a nice blend and looked pretty.  It was quite delicious, if I may say so myself. My daughter Julia has a squash casserole recipe that calls for sour cream, but I wanted to do something a little different since I know she's bringing that for Thanksgiving.  So I found another recipe on the web and adapted it.  This recipe makes a huge 11"x15" pan but you could use a smaller pan or cut the recipe in half.

Butternut-Yellow Squash Casserole


  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 1 or 2 onions
  • Butter (I used one stick)
  • 60 round butter crackers
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 eggs


  1. Peel the butternut squash. You will need to cut open the bottom part of the squash and remove the pulp and seeds.  Slice the entire squash into bite-size pieces.  You should have 5-6 cups.  The butternut squash is a little firmer and may need more cooking, so go ahead and saute it in butter or water in a covered skillet on low heat while you cut up the other squash. 
  2. Peel the yellow squash and slice into bite-size pieces.  You should have about 4 cups.  Add it to the butternut squash in the skillet.  (If the butternut squash is already well cooked, then remove it from the skillet before you add the yellow squash.)  You may need to do a few batches of squash cooking to get it all done, depending on the size of your skillet and if you are doing the full recipe.
  3. Dice the onion(s) and add to the squash in the skillet. Continue to cook for a few more minutes.
  4. Crush the crackers into crumbs. Mix in the shredded cheese.  Add half of this to the squash mixture.
  5. Beat egg and add milk.  Mix into squash.
  6. Put squash mixture into large casserole pan (9"x13" or 11"x15"). Top with remaining cracker crumbs and cheese.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Butternut squash
with pulp and seeds removed
Sauteing in the skillet
(before I added more butternut squash)
Butternut-Yellow Squash Casserole
You might also like to see: 

Prepping Your Kitchen to Fix a Feast

Bon appetit!

Virginia Knowles

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Appalachian Melody

"Appalachian melody
Drifting softly down
Instruments of gold and red and brown..."

Dear friends,

A week ago, I posted several YouTube videos of songs I enjoyed as a teen and college student in 

Happy Dreams and Old New Songs.

Mark Heard
Mark Heard
But there is one other song that haunted and blessed me in those years.  Most people have never heard of Mark Heard, a poet-musician who passed away in 1992 at the age of 40. He was more concerned with beauty and truth than with commercial success. (You may like to read his quotes.) His early song "Appalachian Melody" is the only one I remember from the 1979 cassette tape of the same name.   

My Dulcimer (1979)
I listened to it over and over and over again.  Even though its mountain style was not in my regular genre of Christian pop, I did play the mountain dulcimer and still own the one I sketched back then.

Anyway, I don't know why the song came to mind today but I decided to Google it. It is particularly fitting for this autumn season.  You'll know why when you listen to it. (Lyrics here: Appalachian Melody)


(If you are reading this via e-mail and can't see the video, click on the blog post.)

"But these things are music to my eyes..."

Virginia Knowles

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thankfulness: Observe, Appreciate, Express, Imitate

Dear friends,

I'd like to share a little outline I created yesterday for my English students as our literature and writing assignments this week center around Thanksgiving!  I want them to be able to communicate with others in a way that lifts everyone up.  I have added to it today.

I am thankful for my seven spunky students!

The Process of Thankfulness

Observe: We must be able to notice things in order to be grateful for them.  This is such a great language arts skill anyway since all good writers need to be able to observe what is around them and how it affects them.  Why can we be thankful?
  • provision of basic needs: food, housing, clothing 
  • special gifts: money, original arts or crafts, other tangible items, etc. 
  • service: what people have done for us, big or small
  • opportunities: what people have enabled us to do
  • relationships: support, encouragement, forgiveness, mercy, prayers
  • hospitality: meals, lodging, companionship
  • information: teaching, speeches, blogs, connecting with resources 
Appreciate: Next, we must be able to contemplate what is behind the blessing we have received.  What did it take for the person to give it?
  • heart, kindness, generous attitude
  • effort (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual)
  • time
  • financial sacrifice
Express: We need to communicate our gratitude to the one who has blessed us.  There are so many ways to do this:
  • spoken: face to face private conversation, phone, Skype, in a public speech or group conversation
  • written: letter, note, e-mail, blog post, blog comment, Facebook status, public tribute essay 
  • gift: a token of appreciation, like a hostess gift, thank you gift, gift card
Imitate: This completes the circle of gratitude.  "Imitation is the highest form of flattery."  "Freely you have received, so freely give." 
  • Pass the same gift along when you are done with it (if it will not offend the giver) or give a similar gift to someone who needs it.
  • Join your benefactor in their continued service to others.
  • Use your own personal talents to uniquely bless someone in the same spirit as your benefactor.
  • Let your benefactor know that his or her example has inspired you to bless others.
Of course, I write this to remind myself more than anyone!  Sending thank you letters has always been a challenge for me, even if I am feeling very thankful.  Sometimes I just need to pick up the pen or pick up the phone.

One of their writing assignments this week is to make a list of 20 things for which they are thankful.  I told them that each item must be detailed.  I want to know specifically what it is and why.  So, instead of saying, "My family," I'd rather have them tell me that they are thankful for their sister helping them with their homework and taking them to Starbucks.

Speaking of Starbucks, I bought a $5 gift card the other night as a thank you for an adult daughter who took an hour out of her evening to bring my extra set of van keys to me when I got locked out across town...  I loved her smile when I gave it to her!

I think I'll write my own list of 20 Thankfuls. Maybe I'll share it here later.  

Until then, I leave you with an old hymn that my students will read this week:

by Folliott Pierpont (England)

For the beauty of the earth,

For the glory of the skies,

For the love which from our birth,

Over and around us lies:

Lord of of all, to Thee we raise,

This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour,

Of the day and of the night,

Hill and vale, and tree and flower,

Sun and moon, and stars of light. 

Lord of of all, to Thee we raise,

This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of ear and eye,

For the heart and mind’s delight,

For the mystic harmony

Linking sense to sound and sight. 

Lord of of all, to Thee we raise,

This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love,

Brother, sister, parent, child,

Friends on earth and friends above,

For all gentle thoughts and mild.

Lord of of all, to Thee we raise,

This our hymn of grateful praise.

For each perfect gift of Thine,

To our race so freely given,

Graces human and divine,

Flowers of earth and buds of Heaven.

Lord of of all, to Thee we raise,

This our hymn of grateful praise.

How about you?  What's on your list?

Thankful for you,

Virginia Knowles

Related posts:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Happy Dreams and Old New Songs

Dear friends,

Last night before I went to sleep, I asked God to give me a happy dream.

So last night, after I went to sleep, I floated through the air on a funky blast of wind.  Floated among clouds that looked like scrubby-nubby sheep fleece, wishing I had my camera in my pocket to take a picture for this week's "Happy" theme on the P52 photo project.  Floated around the neighborhood for several minutes, and then returned home to a fancy French kitchen with brick-covered walls.  A happy dream.

Wake up.  My real kitchen walls are painted dark green.  And I have this lovely lacy wall hanging with birds.  I'll let them do the sky and cloud thing.

"Sing to the Lord a new song, 
for He has done marvelous things."
(Happy indeed!)

Sometime before Thanksgiving, I'll have to do a post listing my Thankful Thoughts, as a lot of my friends are doing.

For now, in keeping with "Sing to the Lord a new song", I'll link several Christian songs from the 1970's and 1980's.  I culled my old LP record collection last night and decided to see if I could find some of the songs on YouTube in case I ever want to listen to them again.  Here are a few I found:

(If you don't see the videos via e-mail or Reader, click on the blog post!)

"Psalm 61" Matthew Ward  

"What a Day" Phil Keaggy "All That I Can Do" Courts of the King with Ted Sandquist, Phil Keaggy, Nedra Ross... "Morning Comes When You Call" Second Chapter of Acts  

 "Talk to One Another" Brown Bannister "Nobody Knows Me Like You" Benny Hester "A Song in the Night" Silverwind

"Faith Takes a Vision" by James Ward (his was the first Christian concert I ever attended)

Virginia Knowles

P52 with Kent Weakley
 P52 Photo Project 
A weekly photo post
See all of my entries here:
P52 Photo Posts

I also link my blog posts at...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An Adorable Little Cooking Show

My seven year old daughter borrowed my iPod one morning (while she was still in her jammies) and shot a sweet little cooking show video about making toast with cream cheese.  This is priceless, just for the facial expressions, sound effects and her hilarious ending.  My sister-in-law Dana (of my Gourmet with Dana series), says that my brother John has been humming the "Waiting for Toast" song.  Enjoy!

Virginia Knowles

This post will be linked at...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gourmet with Dana: Super Easy Pumpkin Apple Crisp

Pumpkin Apple Crisp
(served with fresh, unsweetened whipped cream)

Super Easy Pumpkin Apple Crisp

  • 8 apples (recommended: Granny Smith, Stayman, Fuji or Gala), peeled and cut into six segments each
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 package Trader Joe's pumpkin granola
  • 1 jar Trader Joe's Cookie Butter (If you can't find it locally, or it's too expensive for you, check out an easy homemade version here: Cookie Butter at
  • 1 12-ounce jar of pumpkin butter
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ground cloves to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  
  2. Toss peeled apple segments with sugar and spices to coat; set aside.  
  3. On low-medium heat, melt cookie butter until it has a sauce-like consistency.  
  4. Stir in pumpkin butter and mix until well incorporated.  
  5. Remove from heat and add to apple mixture; tossing to coat. 
  6. Pour into a greased baking pan and smooth out into one layer.  
  7. Combine pecans and granola; spread evenly over apples.  
  8. Bake 30 minutes or until apples are fork-tender.

Cookie butter and pumpkin butter

Welcome back to my series, Gourmet with DanaMy sister-in-law Dana prepared many of the delicious dishes in this series as a feast for my mother's birthday earlier this month, and I asked her to share her wealth of culinary expertise.  The other posts in this series so far are:

I know this recipe has some expensive ingredients, so I improvised a more economical version at posted it here: Pumpkin Apple Crisp {Budget Version with Aldi Ingredients}

Bon appetit!

Virginia Knowles

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