Sunday, December 30, 2012

Song for Sunday: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Today's song for Sunday originated as a poem written during the darkest days of the Civil War. They resonate today, as we are at war and final peace seems distant.  The hope of the last stanza remains a constant.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

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

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

             Henry W. Longfellow

What song is on your heart this fifth day of Christmas?

Friday, December 28, 2012

"Bimbos in Bikinis"

I remember at first being really offended that "Bimbos in Bikinis" was the title of seminar at a science fiction convention I attended about 30 years ago. I calmed down quickly when I learned that the seminar was actually meant to combat that view of women in science fiction stories. Those seminars, offered over several years, were actually fabulous discussions about the portrayal of women in writing, movies, and fandom.

Fast forward to the present.
My son received some money for Christmas and went off, accompanied by Dad, to spend it. He chose a very geeky, science fiction/fantasy card game. It was marked for "10 & Up", the box looked fine and the price was good, so Dad approved it.

When he got home, my son eagerly began looking through the cards. He handed one to me, concerned about the picture contained on it.  It was of a  woman in an obviously adult bar, clearly topless though her nipples were behind an object. I took the rest of the cards and found several others that were not quite appropriate.

This concerns me.

I do question whether pre - and early - adolescents really need to be exposed to the concepts of pole dancers, extreme cleavage and men drooling when they can see through a woman's clothing. People have various opinions on what is acceptable for children so I will only say that I have rather conservative views on that and move on.

What bothers me more is the treatment of women.

 There is a card called "The Flasher" showing a naked man from behind, baring himself to a woman. The card offers game advantages when it is played against a female character. It makes very light of this type of attack on women and even makes it seem a good thing, since it helps you win if you play the card.

The "Spray - On Costume" card features a woman, and the "Wardrobe Malfunction" is also clearly a female one.

Almost every woman pictured has extremely large breasts and "flatness" can not be played at the same time as "Cleavage Stun."

This sort of thing can be harmful, like the constant portrayal of woman as "Bimbos in Bikinis."  It promotes a rather one-sided view of women to boys and could potentially affect how girls see themselves.  We removed the cards from my son's game and I will write the company that produces the game.

I just wish we were past this. Or maybe we need to revive those seminars.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Guns at School

I can't stay silent on this one.

The Newtown tragedy has ignited a debate about whether teachers should be allowed to carry guns at school.

I am a former school teacher. I taught severe special needs in public schools, collaborative schools and private schools for which tuition was paid by school districts. My students had cognitive impairments and serious difficulties with communication. Those difficulties often lead to frustration. Many simply cried, screamed or curled up when they became frustrated but others acted  out. Some students had emotional disorders that contributed to agrressive behaviors. My aides and I (and all the staff in the private settings) were trained in methods to safely restrain and contain students, in de-escalating situations and not becoming aggressive ourselves. In public school situations, other teachers would often not know how to react and could be afraid of my students. They weren't trained to handle them.**

In a public shool classroom, I once had a girl who was taller and stronger than me get in my face and threaten me loudly, dropping the f-bomb a few times. As I firmly directed her to a safe space, the school resource officer came racing down the hall, grabbed her, cuffed her and arrested her for disrupting a school assembly.

It was an overreaction on his part, but he never pulled his gun or looked like he had even thought of it. As an officer, he had received training in threat assessment. He knew she couldn't do real harm.


What if the threat had been stronger and involved her trying to hit me with a chair?
What if it had been a teacher from down the hall with a new gun license rather than a trained officer?
What if instead of a student it had been an angry parent yelling at me and then reaching in his pocket for a cellphone?
What if I had a gun in the classroom and the student had grabbed it?

In my state, to obtain a license to carry a gun, you must attend a firearms safety course which covers safely storing, carrying, firing, handling and cleaning the weapon and an overview of current gun laws. People are not taught to assess threats. Police officers receive that training. Teachers are not police officers. I do not think they should carry guns at work.

I don't think it would help much anyway. In most situations, would one of the teachers with a gun be close enough to act? Who would hide that teacher's students while he or she went to look for the bad guy? If the gun were locked up separately from it's ammunition to keep if safe from inquitive students would there be time to retrieve and load it? Wouldn't that time be better spent getting kids under cover?

As for armed guards at schools, I think that is something that should be decided at the local level. Conditions and opinions vary too much to make a national policy. I would harbor the same concerns about volunteers as I do about teachers carrying guns, though.

Right, my views.

What do you think?

**Please note: These were not students with Asperger's or diagnosed mental health issues. The majority of children and adults with Asperger's syndrome and mental illnesses are not violent or aggressive. When those who have conditions that make them more likely to be violent are properly assessed and treated, and if necessary hospitalized, they are ususally not a threat.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Me, Fire and the Christmas Pudding.

My husband is English and one of their customs is for the mother of the family to bring a flaming Christmas pudding to the dinner table for the holiday dessert.

Basically, she pours brandy over the pudding ( a fruitcake-like thing), sets it on fire, and carries it from the kitchen to the dining room.

I have never done this, but I would like to add it to our celebration this year, to give an extra taste of the family's English heritage. Sounds ok, right?

The thing is, I am afraid of fire. I don't even light matches.

Well, over the past few years I have been working on this at CYC. A friend of mine has been helping me to overcome this fear. This past conference,  with his help and encouragement, I put a log on a big fire and helped light another one.

So, maybe I can do this.

My husband wouldn't have a problem with lighting and carrying the pudding, but I want it to be a surprise for him. My son loves fire, so he'd probably do it, but I think that might make me more  nervous than carrying it myself.

So .... deep breath. I am going to try it!

Are you trying anything new this year?

Have a Very Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Song for Sunday: It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.

"O Little Town of Bethlehem" has always been my favorite Christmas carol, but this one is pretty high on the list, too. As a child I always thought we never sang it enough. I was always intrigued by the lines about the prophets and the ever-circling years.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From Heaven’s all gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever over its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet-bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

     ~Edmund Hamilton Sears

What's your favorite Carol or Christmas song?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gratitude Jar

This picture showed up on my cousin's Facebook page. 

Photo: Love this....

I believe I will institute this at my house next year.

It will give us a chance to consistently reflect on our blessings and cultivate gratitude.. and we have plenty to be thankful for!

It will also, I think, keep us focused on the positive. That can only be a good thing. 

Have you ever tried anything like this in your home?

How'd it go?

Do you think you might try this next year?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whateveris lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Phillipians 4:8

Monday, December 17, 2012

Songs for Sunday: Don't Ever Sell Your Saddle and The Gambler

My musical tastes are pretty eclectic and I go through phases of liking different genres. I have enjoyed country music at times and, although it's not at the top of my list at the moment, two country songs have been on my mind this week. I haven't heard either in years ..... or at least hadn't until tonight.

This first song is Don't Ever Sell Your Saddle by Randy Travis. The line that stuck in my head was "only fight if you have to cause there's always a faster gun
and you'll know a hero from a coward when you see which way they run."

(Side note: We saw a few who ran the right way in Newtown .. teachers, a custodian, an office worker who kept calm and made decisions that kept some kids safe. Some gave their lives. God bless them all.)

The other song was Kenny Roger's The Gambler. Specifically, the first half of the chorus: "You gotta know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run."

I didn't know why I had these songs in my head until tonight. My son and his friend were arguing and his friend said that Jordan automatically had to be right whenever they had a fight. He wouldn't give in.

Immediately, The Gambler came to mind and I sang a bit of it. (Not too loud. I don't sing so good. ) I made a connection. Jordan needs to be taught "when to hold them and when to fold them." When he should stick to his guns and when he should give in. Maybe he also has to learn to fight only when it's worth it, hence Don't Ever Sell Your Saddle.

God does sometimes give us reminders. Now, I just have ot figure out how to teach these lessons.

How has God given you reminders? Is there something your children need to learn?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Shock, Horror......Christmas

Along with everyone else's, my heart breaks for the parents and families of those children and teachers in Newtown, Ct. I cannot fathom the depths of their grief. There is nothing to say to them that will make a difference. I am in prayer for them.

It's not the time, yet, for political talk of gun control and changes in policies. It's time to mourn.

The nation is shocked.

And it's Christmas time. That the tragedy happened in such close proximity to this favorite holiday of children seems to make the horror grow. Christmas is about a baby, The Baby, who came to save us. We see it as a gentle time of birth and joy.

In the middle of the Christmas story, though, is a scene we don't often reflect on. The census is over, the baby has been born in the stable, the shepherds have visited. Two years have passed, the family has moved into a house and the star has led the Wise Men to Jesus.

Those Wise Men stopped on the way and spoke to Herod, king of Judea, who on hearing of a newborn king, went into a jealous rage although at first he hid that well. He learned that the baby was in Bethlehem.

Then he sent soldiers to kill all of the baby boys under two years old in that town.

Just think what it would have been like to be the parents of one of those children. Scripture describes it as "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." Right from the beginning, because of the evil Herod, shock and horror were with us at Christmas.

Christmas is the incarnation. God came to a willing virgin and had a son. He took a human body, deigning to live among us, share our weakness, feel our temptation and avoid sin.

Look with me beyond Christmas to the Cross. Here Jesus feels the intense pain of bodily violence and the spiritual horror of separation from God. The Father feels what it is to lose a son. So God has been here, knowing the loss of His own flesh and blood, his own beloved Child. This is a grief He knows.

Ultimately, we go even further. Past the Cross, we find the Resurrection with it's triumphant victory over death and sin.

Right now, we are at Good Friday, in the midst of the horror, grief, pain. Easter may feel like a faint and distant hope, but it will come.

Lord, be with all affected by this horrible incident ... the victims, families, investigators. Bring hope, comfort and help. Guide our steps as a nation. In Jesus name, Amen.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Patience While Driving, Please

I used to teach cognitively impaired teenagers and young adults to cross the street. Well, I hope I taught them a lot of other things, too, but street-crossing was on the list.

We would venture out and learn this skill in the natural environment. Learn by doing. So, we crossed a lot of streets. At corners, at lights, in crosswalks.

Crosswalks could be an interesting experience, actually. At times a car would politely stop for us. My student, sometimes in leg braces or a wheelchair, would start confidently across.

And then a car would pull around and go past in front of them. Or maybe stop just short of the crosswalk. Apparently, they thought the car in front of them was stopped for no reason and they could just go. Or they were in a hurry and not thinking at all. Impatient, they just went.

This became my mantra: "Cars do not always do what they are supposed to do."

I used that mantra while teaching my son street safety as well. Recently, we had a demonstration.

We were coming out of the library. At the nearby crosswalk, an elderly couple was slowly crossing the street in front of a stopped car. The driver behind got impatient, failed to look, pulled out and hit the man sending him flying into the air.

At the sound of the woman's screams, my attention was called to the event, my old lifeguard training kicked in and I ran to the scene. I was beaten to the spot by an off-duty fire fighter who attended to the gentleman. I handled the onlookers, getting them to move away. The driver who had done the hitting remained on scene and the police spoke to him when they arrived. At that point, Jordan and I left.

But all the way home we talked about drivers that don't wait, cars that don't do what they are supposed to do.

Please, when you are driving out there, have patience. Remember that car in front of you is probably stopped for a reason. Be mindful of crosswalks and walk lights. Think how you'd feel if you hit someone.

Have you ever witnessed an accident or 
near accident caused by impatient driving?

Monday, December 10, 2012

New Year's 2012 Resolutions.

I made three New Year's Resolutions back on January 1, 2012 (New Year's Resolutions, etc.) I decided to look back and see how I have done.

Learn to use the breadmaker:

Accomplished!! I make bread with this machine all the time now and plan to learn more recipes. Got any good ones?

Learn to make candy:

Accomplished!! I make toffee and know how to tell the difference between the hard ball and the soft ball stage

Publish my game:

*sigh* I have gotten nowhere. I am really stuck on the dragons.

Scratch that. I just had the idea of googling public domain images of dragons and I found a few workable ones. maybe I'll get somewhere toward getting this done after all. I seem to get stuck at every step though. If these dragons work, I'll need to figure out how to make the paths really well, find miniture pictures of castle gates, finalize the design of the board and then figure out how to publish.

Well, at least the rules are ready and the game has been play tested, tweaked and retested and seems ready on that end. It really just is the artwork and publishing. Shpuld I self-publish? Try a small publisher? Go to a game convention?

I don't think I will accomplish this by December 31, but maybe I will get it done eventually....

How are your New Year Resolution's coming along?
What resolutions are you considering for next year?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Song for Sunday: Partners in the Mystery

Today's "Song for Sunday" is a fairly new Christmas song written by Ken Bible in 2000. We sang it in church this morning. The part that struck me was "Into darkness, into pain, unto death is given such a tiny precious life, such a gift from heaven!"

I love babies. I melt in their presence.

This song reminds of the difficulties for Mary that surrounded Jesus'  birth. A young woman, unmarried but engaged, finds herself pregnant and not by her fiancee. Indeed it would have been a scene of "Friends and family all upset, Joseph disillusioned." Joseph learned that Mary had done nothing wrong -- that she was still a virgin, having God's baby. He stood by her, but many would have shunned the young family. They would have looked askance at them, whispered behind their backs, perhaps worse. 

Today, we may find this difficult to comprehend because society has, in general, liberalized it's views about children being born outside of wedlock. While I firmly believe that the Bible teaches Christians to wait for marriage to have sex, I am glad that we no longer stigmatize the children of single parents and unmarried couples. Nor do I think that these children should be looked on as "consequences of sin." There may be consequences to such circumstances, some may even affect the child, but the baby itself is a blessing. Always. 

Be that as it may, back in first century Israel, Mary and Joseph would have had a tough time of it. Jesus, too. (This reminds me of story called The Long Silence.) This song reminds us of that.  

It also calls us into the grand story. Calls us to recognize this baby, as Simeon and Anna did, as the King of the Universe. 

Partners in the Mystery
What a blessing God has sent!
Now, before the wedding,
Virgin Mary, good and pure,
Suddenly expecting;
Friends and family all upset,
Joseph disillusioned.
Still they trust the guiding Word
Through their dark confusion.

See the tender Mary there-
Like so many others,
Young and scared and all alone,
Soon to be a mother.
Into darkness, into pain,
Unto death is given
Such a tiny precious life,
Such a gift from heaven.

In the temple, what a sight!
After years of waiting,
Now before his very eyes
There the Promised Baby!
There the Light of all the world!
There for all the nations,
Sleeping in his folded arms,
Heaven's sweet salvation!

What a privilege! What a call!
Partners in the myst'ry!
We who walk by faith become
Part of holy hist'ry.
Rich and poor, the young and old,
Fill the timeless story.
All who boldly follow God
See and share His glory.

Words by Ken Bible
Music: Traditional, arr. by Sir John Stainer
Copyright 2000 by Pilot Point Music

What new Christmas songs captures your imagination?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Frosting (A follow-up)

Following up from yesterday's post, Family Recipes.

So my aunt came over and we frosted cookies.

We had to tweak and stir and tweak some more, but we finally got it the right consistency. We had a great time.

I found out that my aunt uses a different recipe than my Mom did. My aunt didn't know where my mother got her recipe. My aunt got hers from her hairdresser. Neither of them used my grandmother's recipe.

Over the years though, my mother's and my aunt's techniques had begun to mirror each other. They each use a bowl rather than the board my grandmother used. They both began putting the cookies in collander, rather than on a rack, to cool. They both started dipping the coookies in the frosting rather than drizzling it over them.

I had forgotten about the collander trick. I think I'll use it next time.

I had a good time with my aunt this morning, sharing cooking tips and stories.

When has your family enjoyed cooking together?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Family Recipes

My grandmother always made the best Toll House Cookies. She used the recipe on the bag. The rest of us use that recipe, too, but our cookies don't come out like hers did. We have never been able to figure out what she did differently to what we do.

My mother was famous for her biscottis. They were small lemon cookies with lemon glazing. I think she got the recipe from my father's family.

I have been trying to make those biscottis since she died. I think I have mastered the cookie, but the frosting has yet to come out right. Tomorrow my aunt, my father's sister, is coming over to help. We are going to see if we conquer this frosting.

I hear many stories like this. Recipes have been passed down... but something is different. I don't know why that is. It would seem that if we use the same recipe and techniques, we should get the same results. I, suppose, that a person who makes a recipe standout must make minute, unconscious adjustments. They just have a flair for getting it right.

Are there any recipes like that in your family?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Jordan's Creche for This Year

We tend to decorate late for the holidays. We like to have a live tree and keep it set up for all 12 days of Christmas, so we generally don’t put the tree up until around the second week in December.

However, we do maintain a tradition of putting up a creche scene on the first day of Advent so that it can serve as a setting for family worship during the season.

Another aspect of the tradition, which we put in place when my son was four, is that he sets up the crËche on his own. There is no input from the adults.

Through the years there have been some oddities to the scene. The very first year he set it up he had all the people and animals gathered in close to the manger wherein Baby Jesus was to be placed on Christmas morning. All but Mary. She was off in a corner by herself. I remember thinking that year that a new mother in her situation might be happy to have a moment alone.

Two years ago, Jordan set up a crazy scene. It looked like all the pieces had been dropped from a great height or a bomb had hit or something. I wrote two blog posts about that particular manger scene. It wasn’t exactly reminiscent of "peace on earth."  (Jordan's Strange Creche and A Broken World...Seeking Peace.)

This year, Jordan decided to be intentionally ordinary, to make the creche as normal as possible.

Well… Mary and Joseph are kneeling by the manger. The cow is in the stable. The shepherds have a tent. The angel on top doesn’t have cymbals hanging around her shoulders.

The villagers are going about their business in an organized fashion. There is no camel on the roof and nothing hanging from the loft or sitting upside down on the ladder. At first glance, it is quite ordinary.

But Jordan did leave his mark. A mother and child figure are visiting the stable. The boy has dropped his toys and a few musical instruments which are at his feet.

Over by the manger is a toy that the boy has left for Jesus. (You can see it in front of the sheep.) According to Jordan he was going to leave one of his "ok" toys but ended up leaving one of his best ones. (He figured his mother would want him to give a good one.)

There in the midst of the ordinary view of things is something new ….. although steeped in one of the central themes of The Story. Christmas is about receiving Christ and about giving our best to Him.

How will you make the Christmas story
new in your family this year?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Visit with the Aunties

Jordan's aunties from England are here for a visit.

They stayed with us a few days and then headed off into the city for sightseeing and shopping. Since Jordan doesn't get to see them very often, we went in to see them today. We had a walk around and ate lunch with them.

That meant, of course, that we didn't get much schooling done. We had also missed some last week as we visited and celebrated an early Christmas. So, we'll be doubling up over the next few days.

This time with David's sisters was important. Jordan learned a few things, too, about family history, how to handle his excema, how to navigate the transit system. This wasn't wasted time. 

Deciding what to put first each day is about priorities. last week extended family time took precedence. Starting tomorrow, school work and housework are highest on the list for a few days. Next week it might be something else. I am glad that homeschooling gives us this flexibility.

How do you set your priorities?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Song for Sunday: Jingle Bell Rock

I know, not my usual "Song for Sunday."

And probably, for the first Sunday in Advent (Happy New Year, by they way!) it would be more appropriate to choose "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" or "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming," but I am putting this up instead. 

It's a fun song and it reminds me of an old student, Roger.  He must have been about 19 or 20 when I taught him. He had some pretty significant disabilities and perseverated a lot. He knew the lyrics to a million songs, I think, and this was one of them. At one point, I thought he had the words wrong but discovered that "Giddyap, jingle horse pick up your feet" was right. 

I hadn't thought of Roger in years or decades until I went on the Holiday Stroll in town yesterday, and heard this song in multiple venues. 

As I said, it's fun and brings back memories. Hope you enjoy it. 

      Jingle Bell Rock

Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock
Jingle bells swing and jingle bells ring
Snowin' and blowin' up bushels of fun
Now, the jingle hop has begun

Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell twist
Jingle bells chime in jingle bell time
Dancin' and prancin' in Jingle Bell Square
In the frosty air

What a bright time, it's the right time
To rock the night away
Jingle bell time is a swell time
To go glidin' in a one-horse sleigh

Giddy-up jingle horse, pick up your feet
Jingle around the clock
Mix and a-mingle in the jinglin' feet
That's the jingle bell rock, yeah

Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock
Jingle bells swing and jingle bells ring
Snowin' and blowin' up bushels of fun
Now, the jingle hop has begun

Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell twist
Jingle bells chime in jingle bell time
Dancin' and prancin' in Jingle Bell Square
In the frosty air

What a bright time, it's the right time
To rock the night away
Jingle bell time is a swell time
To go glidin' in a one-horse sleigh

Giddy-up pony time, kick up your feet
Jingle around the clock
Mix and a-mingle in the jinglin' feet
That's the jingle bell rock, jingle rock
Jingle bell rock, rock, rock

                         -- Bobby Helms

What's your favorite fun Christmas song?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

15 Minutes

We had a homeschool support group meeting the other night on the topic of "Keeping the Home in Homeschooling". We talked about building a family, maintaining a home and meeting your child's educational needs. It was an active discussion.

One thing that came up was The Fly Lady's idea that "You can do ANYTHING for 15 minutes." She encourages people to set a timer for 15 minutes and tackle a task.

With this in mind I am going to do two things every day for 15 minutes:

Clean my playroom

            This space is currently a disaster. I look at it and shut the door. No more. Everyday for 15
            minutes I will clean and organize it.


           This is not an onerous task. I quite enjoy it. But this baby is going to born and I want the blanket
          to be done without me pulling allnighters in April. So, I will find 15 minutes a day to knit.

Easy goals right?

Here's hoping I can be consistent!

What do you need to work on 15 minutes a day?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bread Pudding

This is a "recipe" I often use to make use of the bread crusts that are left when I make bread stuffing. It bears a resemblane to traditional bread pudding but it's not quite it.

 Heapingly fill a 13x9x2 pan with bread crusts

Mix about 1-1/2 cups vanilla soy milk, 2 lightly beaten eggs, 1/4 C brown sugar, a few shakes of cinnamon and a half cup of raisins in a bowl.

Pour the mixture over the bread crusts. Turn crusts until they are coated.

Bake at 250 degrees for 2 hours.

We like this recipe for supper after a large lunch of other leftovers or as a dessert.

Hope you enjoy it, too.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Song for Sunday: Are Ye Able?

Another hymn, this time a very challenging one. I am not sure how it came to be on my mind earlier this week, but it does correspond well to today's Sunday School lesson.

In the adult Sunday School class, led by the pastor, we studied Luke 14:25-35, the passage about counting the cost before deciding to become a disciple. Following Christ changes everything from our relationships to how we view our possessions. It may alter our social position, lose us friends. In some places, its dangerous. Are we able?

“Are ye able,” said the Master,
“To be crucified with Me?”
“Yea,” the sturdy dreamers answered,
“To the death we follow Thee.”

Lord, we are able. Our spirits are Thine.
Remold them, make us, like Thee, divine.
Thy guiding radiance above us shall be
A beacon to God, to love and loyalty.

Are you able to relinquish
Purple dreams of power and fame,
To go down into the Garden,
Or to die a death of shame?

Lord, we are able. Our spirits are Thine.
Remold them, make us, like Thee, divine.
Thy guiding radiance above us shall be
A beacon to God, to love and loyalty.

Are ye able, when the anguish
Racks your mind and heart with pain,
To forgive the souls who wrong you,
Who would make your striving vain?

Lord, we are able. Our spirits are Thine.
Remold them, make us, like Thee, divine.
Thy guiding radiance above us shall be
A beacon to God, to love and loyalty.

Are ye able to remember,
When a thief lifts up his eyes,
That his pardoned soul is worthy
Of a place in paradise?

Lord, we are able. Our spirits are Thine.
Remold them, make us, like Thee, divine.
Thy guiding radiance above us shall be
A beacon to God, to love and loyalty.

Are ye able when the shadows
Close around you with the sod,
To believe that spirit triumphs,
To commend your soul to God?

Lord, we are able. Our spirits are Thine.
Remold them, make us, like Thee, divine.
Thy guiding radiance above us shall be
A beacon to God, to love and loyalty.

Are ye able? Still the Master
Whispers down eternity,
And heroic spirits answer,
Now as then in Galilee.

Lord, we are able. Our spirits are Thine.
Remold them, make us, like Thee, divine.
Thy guiding radiance above us shall be
A beacon to God, to love and loyalty.

                     ~Earl Marlett.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

For Thanksgiving

A prayer of Thanksgiving from the Didache, an early Christian collection of writings.

We give you thanks Holy Father, for your holy name which you have caused to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which you have made known to us through Jesus your servant; to you be the glory forever.

You, almighty Master, created all things for your name's sake, and gave food and drink to men to enjoy, that they might give you thanks; but to us you have graciously given spiritual food and drink, and eternal life through your servant [Jesus]. Above all we give thanks because you are mighty; to you be the glory forever.

Remember your church, Lord, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in your love; and gather it, the one that has been sanctified, from the four winds into your kingdom, which you have prepared for it; for yours is the glory forever.

May grace come, and may this world pass away. Hosanna to the God of David. If anyone is holy, let him come; if anyone is not, let him repent. Maranatha! Amen.

Maranatha = come soon

May you and yours have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving Day. God bless you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Just about everybody is busy. Sometimes its hard to remember to prioritize our spiritual lives. I know I struggle with that. 

I haven't heard this poem in many years, but it came unbidden to my mind the other day and I thought I would share it. Hope it's helpful. 

No Time To Pray
I got up early one morning and rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish that I didn't have time to pray.
Problems just tumbled about me,
and heavier came each task,
"Why doesn't God help me?" I wondered.
He answered, "You didn't ask."
I wanted to see joy and beauty,
but the day toiled on gray and bleak;
I wondered why God didn't show me;
He said, "But you didn't seek."
I tried to come into God's presence;
I used all my keys at the lock;
God gently and lovingly chided,
"My child you didn't knock."
I woke up early this morning,
and paused before entering the day;
I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.

                                            ~Grace L. Naessens

Have you taken time to pray today?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Song for Sunday: A Canon of Thanksgiving

It's Thanksgiving Sunday and we sang several hymns and a chorus on that theme. I loved the chorus, but it was the choir anthem that resonated with me this time. 

I am in the midst of putting my first garden to bed. We finished eating the last of the fresh veggies from it last night. Some stuff we dried or froze. Perhaps my garden is the reason that the phrase "All is safely gathered in ere the winter storms begin, " caught my attention. Here in New England those winter storms -- or even just winter temperatures -- would ruin vegetables and flowers. It is comforting to know that all is safely in, even on the scale of a backyard garden.

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God’s own field, fruit unto His praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take His harvest home;
From His field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
Giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store in His garner evermore.

Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified, in Thy garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come, raise the glorious harvest home.

What is your favorite thanksgiving hymn?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Adoption, anyone?

Today is National Adoption Day.

Have you ever considered adoption?

I think it is a special calling. God has chosen some people to provide for the biological children of others.

Right now there are thousands of children in foster care in the US and millions of orphans worldwide who are waiting for permanent homes. For many, their fondest wish is to be settled in a family, perhaps a family just like yours.

This does have its difficulties. It’s not for everyone. But it could be for you.

Adoption is something to be celebrated. It is a wonderful way to grow a family.

There is a flip side to this. 

If you find yourself expecting a baby you do not have the resources or experience to  care for or if you have an unplanned pregnancy and don’t wish to raise a child, remember that placing the baby for adoption is an option.

There are many couples waiting and hoping to adopt newborns. Perhaps they already have young children at home and want to take in only children who are younger still. Maybe they don’t feel able to cope with the inevitable consequences of trauma generally present in the lives of older adoptees. Or God may be calling them to adopt a little one.

Whatever their situation, they will welcome your child.

Some verses to think on:

 “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.

God sets the lonely in families”
                                           Psalm 68: 5-7a

He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD.

                                                       Psalm 113:9

Then he [Jesus] said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”
                                                      Luke 9:48a   

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanks for Health, Prayer for Health

Written by a Rabbi, this prayer offers thanks and asks help for our physical selves.

A Prayer for the Body
Thank You, God, for the body You have given me. Most of the time I take my health for granted. I forget how fortunate I am to live without pain or disability, how blessed I am to be able to see and hear and walk and eat. I forget that this body of mine, with all its imperfections is a gift from You.

When I am critical of my appearance, remind me, God, that I am created in Your holy image. If I become jealous of someone else’s appearance, teach me to treasure my unique form.
Help me, God, to care for my body. Teach me to refrain from any action that will bring harm to me. If I fall prey to a self-destructive habit, fill me with the strength to conquer my cravings.

Lead me to use my body wisely, God. Guide my every limb, God, to perform acts of compassion and kindness.

I thank You, God, for creating me as I am. Amen.

                                       ~Rabbi Naomi Levy

Do you have a need for physical healing? A prayer request you'd like to share?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

World Diabetes Day

Today is World Diabetes Day and I wore blue. That's what people were asked to do to help spread awareness and show support for patients, caregivers, medical professionals and researchers. I have put together a few links offering more information.

What's it like to live with Diabetes?

Blog post about a 16 year old patient

Blog about daily life with Diabetes

Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes

New York Times Health Guide

Five Basics of Type 1 Diabetes Management for Kids

Resources for preventing Type 2 Diabetes

Mayo Clinic

American Diabetes Association

Diabetes can be a tough thing to cope with.

Let's all pray for a cure.

God bless your day!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Khan Academy

My son very recently "enrolled" in Khan Academy.

We were aware of this resource before and used it from time to time, but now he has decided to sign up officially.

Here's what he says:

"It's Fun! It's Amazing! It's Educational! And you get to earn Badges!

I was even able to learn about Negative Exponents!"

Khan is a series of video lessons designed to help any child in the world obtain a free education. It is strongest in math and science, but some humanities courses are available and more classes are being added all the time.

What you do is watch a video and then practice. Practice exercises are provided for many topics. Hints and solutions are available if you get stuck. Students earn badges for proficiency and also for consistent work, persistence and perserverance. Parents and teachers, as well as students, can track progress quite easily.

Khan will not provide a complete education, but for now it will be excellent supplement to what we do at home. I recommend that homeschoolers check it out.

But there is more to it.  Khan Academy was founded by Salman Khan and is run by a small international team with the goal of providing a high quality education to just about everyone -- anyone who has access to an internet connected computer. It is a donor-supported nonprofit and all of it is free to users, so even kids in dire poverty have a chance to use it.

I think that is a great mission.

What educational resources have you found helpful lately?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veteran's Day -- we really don't get it.

It is the last hour of Veteran's Day.

I wanted to post this earlier but I was looking for a picture (which I never found) that I had seen a while ago on a friend's facebook page. It had a picture of a soldier and talked about him coming home. One line stayed with me:

"He's probably not okay."

To those who, like me, have never been to war:

We have no idea. No idea what it is like to be in constant danger. No idea what it is to see friends injured or killed. No idea what it is like to have to kill. 

We can be willing to listen, to pray, to support, to put up with mood swings and fear. Some of us can offer jobs, others provide a meal for a stressed soldier's family. We can all pray. 

But ... we can't get it. We can only love them and hold them and stand by them. They deserve it. 

To Veteran's: 

Thank you!!

That's really all I can say, but I mean it. 

And if you need help, reach out. It's not weakness to ask for what you need. You already paid for that help a thousand fold. 

God bless you. Happy Veteran's Day.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Song for Sunday: The Church's One Foundation

This weeks "song for Sunday" is a grand old hymn. Like many of these weekly songs,it has been "stuck in my 

 1. The church's one foundation 
 is Jesus Christ her Lord; 
 she is his new creation 
 by water and the Word. 
 From heaven he came and sought her 
 to be his holy bride; 
 with his own blood he bought her, 
 and for her life he died. 

2. Elect from every nation, 
 yet one o'er all the earth; 
 her charter of salvation, 
 one Lord, one faith, one birth; 
 one holy name she blesses, 
 partakes one holy food, 
 and to one hope she presses, 
 with every grace endued. 

3. Though with a scornful wonder 
 we see her sore oppressed, 
 by schisms rent asunder, 
 by heresies distressed, 
 yet saints their watch are keeping; 
 their cry goes up, "How long?" 
 And soon the night of weeping 
 shall be the morn of song. 

4. Mid toil and tribulation, 
 and tumult of her war, 
 she waits the consummation 
 of peace forevermore; 
 till, with the vision glorious, 
 her longing eyes are blest, 
 and the great church victorious 
 shall be the church at rest. 

5. Yet she on earth hath union 
 with God the Three in One, 
 and mystic sweet communion 
 with those whose rest is won. 
 O happy ones and holy! 
 Lord, give us grace that we 
 like them, the meek and lowly, 
 on high may dwell with thee.

                     ~Samuel J. Stone

It is the first few lines of verse three that have been in my thoughts. They cameunbidden but perhaps because I have been studying church history and was struck by how quickly divisions entered into the life of the Body. 

I look forward to the day when unity is restored. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Vegan Baked Apples

Usually when I bake apples I fill the space where I have cut out the core with butter, brown sugar and raisins. Yesterday, though, we had vegan friends over and decided to have baked apples for dessert. Cooking oil didn't sound appetizing as butter alternative and neither did the vegan margarine I had on hand.

I looked around and realized that maple syrup might work. So I used that and raisins in the apples. I cooked them for 90 minutes at 275 degrees and then turned the oven down to warm for an hour until we were ready to eat them. They were actually quite good.

For Jordan's birthday party we had the same family over, so I did a second cake with a vegan cake mix, egg replacer and vegan margerine. I used a confectioner's sugar and water glaze as a frosting, and that cake served for several kids with allergies as well.

There are many forms of diversity and dietary philosophies and restrictions are one of them. It's fun to learn about how different people eat and use a variety of foods to accomodate their needs.

What types of diversity have you encountered lately?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


There is a lot of important stuff being voted on today. President, various other offices, ballot questions.

Two days ago, I wrote a piece trying to persuade people to vote against Physician Assisted Suicide. It is relatively easy to take a position on a ballot question. You are only dealing with one issue.

Candidates are another matter.

I took the "I Side With" presidential election quiz. It turns out that I am in 70% agreement with one particular candidate but I won't be voting for them because I do not believe they are the best person to lead our country.  We'll never agree with anyone on everything. I checked the things that are highest on my priority list, and none of the candidates is on the same side as I on all those issues -- or even a majority of them.

I have been an unenrolled voter all along because I do not feel there is a party that represents me.

But, along with the issues, there is leadership style, governmental philosophy and character to consider. And it's hard to see through the hype, spin and stagecraft to discover what a candidate is really like.

Voting is tough. I encourage you to do it anyway. Prayerfully, thoughtfully, carefully.

Have a blessed day...... and thank God that we have a say in government, as flawed as our system is.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Physician Assisted Suicide.

I live in Massachusetts and we are voting in two days on whether or not to allow physician assisted suicide. I oppose the law. I haven't been happy with the arguments against it, though. Here are the major ones I have seen:

The question is poorly written.  If it was well-written would you vote for it? I wouldn't. Still, if you are not morally opposed to physician-assisted suicide, this is something to consider. 

Predicting the end of life is difficult. Very true. My grandmother lived more than 10 years after the doctors told her she had two weeks. An important point. Still, even if we could accurately predict the end of life, I would oppose this law. 

The question doesn't require patients requesting a prescription to end life to receive counseling or meet with a psychiatrist or psychologist.  If this safeguard were in place, I would still vote no on this question.

The prescription could be provided by any doctor, regardless of specialty. I am guessing that most doctors whose specialties rarely involve the terminally ill -- eye doctors, podiatrists, etc., -- would not be writing these prescriptions. But, again, even if there were restrictions, I would not vote for this law. 

Proposed safeguards are not adequate and will allow for elder abuse. That's horrible in and of itself, but if adequate protective measures were included I would still oppose this measure. 

Clearly my oppostion to Question 2 is not related to safeguards and procedures. It's about respect for life. The law already allows people to refuse any medical treatment, even if it would save their life. Pain medication and other palliative measures are available to those who want them.

If we enact this law, we may well set up an environment in which people will begin to see the terminally ill as a burden. There will be subtle undercurrents and societal pressures that will cause those with heartbreaking diagnoses to see it as their duty to die and relieve their caregivers of difficult responsibilty. It will blur the line between medical care and mercy killing.

I see the intentional taking of life as playing God. Even if you don't believe in God, can see that putting one's self in the place of a deity is wrong: It is not for us to decide who lives and who dies.

Please, if you live in Massachusetts, vote no on question 2. 

Song for Sunday: Unrevealed Until It's Season

The "Hymn of Promise" is a beautiful, affirming song, full of expressions of faith and reminders that good can come from bad, or seemingly bad, circumstances. It was sung at my mother's memorial service in March 2011.

A snippet of it has been lodged in my brain for days.

          "Unrevealed until its season
           Something God alone can see"

It reminds me of the Bible verse "Now we see through a mirror dimly, but then face to face."

I am not sure, though, why it came to my mind and stayed and stayed. I'll need to do some more meditating on that.

Here's a version of "Hymn of Promise" by a church choir. May it bless and uplift you.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Teenager at Home....

I like teenagers.

Scratch that. I am in youth ministry partly because I
love teenagers. All of them, with all
their risk-taking, impulsiveness and arrogance. And all their generosity, energy and
thoughtfulness. It’s an amazing thing to watch them grow and become leaders, teachers
and productive adults.

But now I have one in my house. My son turns 13 today. I don’t know what to make of
that. It’s a bit …scary.

I mean, I know plenty about teenagers. Games they like, how to teach them, etc.
Parenting one, though? That’s a different proposition altogether.

Well, parenting has a way of being on the scary side. Did I make the right decision there?
Set the right balance here? Oh my….have I scarred him for life?

If you are a parent, you know what I mean.

Adolescence seems to take it to a new level, though. Or maybe it’s the anticipation.

I guess I’ll just have to get on with it. Prayerfully. Trying to stay in tune with who my son
is and who he is becoming. It’s got its exciting side.

My son is a wonderful kid. I am sure this next phase will be a positive one.

Do you have teenagers at your house?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Challenge Completed.

With this post, I complete the October 2012 Ultimate Blog Challenge.

I had set myself to complete all 31of the required posts, and I managed to do that. I
missed only two days and made them up quite easily. The other times that I have
participated in the challenge, I have either not finished or had to write several posts in the
last two days. I did better with that this time.

I also set myself to comment on a minimum of two of my fellow participants blog posts
every day. Most days, I followed through on that. Sometimes, I went well past the
minimum. However, over the last few days, with the storm and all, I have fallen behind. I
will be commenting on a minimum of six blogs tonight.

When I did comment, I met interesting people, learned useful stuff and gained new
insights. It’s a great part of the challenge, being part of a group. I have liked all the
people I have encountered and enjoyed a wide variety of blogs. There is such a diversity
of themes and topics!!

So what happens next?

I keep blogging. I keep commenting. I hope to keep close to this level and maybe set
myself a higher standard when the challenge rolls around again in January. Perhaps, I will
do more commenting and try some experiments with my content.

Anyway, It’s been a fun month.

Thanks, fellow bloggers, for making this challenge such a great experience.

And thanks, Michelle and Michele for putting it together!!

Have a blessed day!

This is my 31
st post for the October 2012 Ultimate Blog Challenge. All done!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


We dodged a bullet around here. A few branches down, etc. but the worst thing we had to face was cabin fever. The power never even went out.

We are thankful.

But from this vantage point it is easy to forget that Hurricane Sandy has caused real devestation elsewhere. Manhatten without electricity, Atlantic City underwater, Haiti devestated.

Nearly 100 people lost their lives because of the storm. The death toll is expected to rise.

People are going to need help.

So let's breathe a sigh of relief, hug our loved ones tight, and get to work. I am not sure what most of can do -- pray, raise funds, send supplies. Perhaps join a mission trip bringing hope to the damaged areas, once those are organized. I know we can all help somehow.

How did you fare in the storm?

This is my 30th post for the October Ultimate Blog Challenge. One to go!