Friday, December 30, 2011

Change by Degree

Graphic Credit
Two planes leave Los Angeles, one after the other. They follow the same route assigned by Air Traffic Control but their paths diverge by 3.3 degrees. Plane A arrives at its destination, Washington DC's Dulles Airport, and Plane B touches down at JFK in New York City.

Just a small change in their direction got them to destinations over 200 miles apart.

By nature, when I see a need for change in my life I'm inclined to dump my current approach and go for something entirely different. I make charts and lists and elaborate plans for creating profound change. And after a week or two I abandon my over planning and accept defeat. (You may be surprised by the number of "fresh start" notebooks I have around here!)

I've got several hopes for the new year, including some changes I'd like to put into place. But as I board Flight 2012, rather than taking the familiar route, I'm going to change my path by a degree or two and enjoy the flight.

(Thanks to Steve King, my pilot friend, for his help with this.)  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

All for Christ

Our friend Phyllis, a missionary in Africa, recent sent this letter. I'm reprinting it here with her permission.

Let me introduce you to David, Christiana, their children and two grandsons, Gold and Wisdom. This family has been faithfully attending the Free Methodist church here for about two years, coming to Bible study on Thursdays and to morning worship service every Sunday. David and Christiana are elderly, David suffering from arthritis but still farming and fishing, taking primary care of Gold and Wisdom who attend [our area Christian school], never missing a day.

I was unaware of the unique story behind their attendance until last Thursday. Apparently around here no one thought their situation unusual - rather - their particular way of coping was just a normal part of life in this part of the country. But to me - it is simply amazing!

On Thursday morning Pastor John told me all of us would go out to their compound for Bible study, as Christiana wasn't feeling will. I was happy to add my Jeep to the van as means of transport, and at 4:45 pm loaded up as many members as possible then followed Clement across the main road onto a dirt track leading off in the general direction of the Niger River.

I'd never been to their place before so was surprised as we drove farther and farther into a desolate, uninhabited area, soon leaving the road and crossing stretches of barren hard pan - the dried out flood plains of the river. Finally we parked the vehicles and after a few minutes' walk came across the small compound. It was pitifully poor - only a tattered tent with an old thatched roof held down by driftwood. The family lives in a tattered tent in the flood plains of the Niger.

As we walked across the hard pan of the dried flood plains I began to wonder how this family managed in the rainy season. Well, I found out.

They SWIM to church, to Bible study and to school. David and Christiana showed us two big plastic wash basins into which they put the children and their Sunday clothes. The adults float the basins on the water, pushing them in front of them as they themselves swim the kilometers necessary to get to dry land and church.

When they get to dry land they change into their Sunday clothes. After church they change back into their wet clothes and swim back home. Amazing.

I chatted for a few minutes with David and Christiana after Bible study.

"What is it," I asked David, "that would push you to go through this kind of suffering, day after day, week after week, to get to church? What is it that makes it possible for you to endure this kind of hardship?"

"It's all for Christ," David answered. "What else can we do? Our canoe was borrowed by a neighbor who had an accident with it. As someone died in the incident, that canoe was confiscated by the police. We have no means of acquiring another.

"We must attend worship, no matter how difficult. We do it all for Christ."

Phyllis concludes: Will I ever be able to give ANY excuse for missing church again?

And I add: What am I willing to do "all for Christ"?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mary's Musings

He's beautiful.  Perfectly knit, top to little round bottom to tiny pink toes -- all ten of them. I unwrap him too often just to look at him, to check once more and see if he's all boy.  But each time he's the same, as fleshy as I, as male as Joseph, as predictable as any baby born to any woman on any night.  Crying in wails.  Leaking water.  Sucking my breast.  Burping his gas.  He sleeps and sleeps and who knows what he dreams?

In my dream last night I heard the song the angels sang to the shepherds.  I woke feeling as if the dream had been a gift, a reward for my labors, as if this squirming bundle weren't enough.

This morning down on the lower level, on his way toward the door and the shop, Joseph stopped to peer over Jesus, set in the day's fresh manger straw.  Not very aware of my presence -- or anybody's -- Joseph talked to the baby as if he were an adult:  "Hello there, and welcome to this fine house, a little crowded right now but we'll find a place of our own soon enough, don't you worry.  My name is Joseph ben Jacob but you can call me Dad..."

From Mary's Journal, a Mother's Story by Evelyn Bence

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fifth Day of Advent, Christmas Eve

This is our God
for whom we have waited
that He might save us.
The is the Lord 
for whom we have waited;
let us rejoice and be glad
in His salvation..
We have waited for You eagerly;
Your name,
even Your memory,
is the desire of our souls.
At night my soul longs for You,
indeed, my spirit within me
seeks You diligently.

Isaiah 25:9 and 26:8-9

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Christmas Breakfast

Our family will be together for breakfast on Christmas morning.  It's the first breakfast we've shared since some time in May, and this mama is so looking forward to it.  I will love going to the Christmas Eve service with Tom and both our boys, enjoying a wonderful Christmas Eve salmon dinner together, everyone sleeping under one roof, opening gifts on Christmas morning then spending the afternoon with my side of the family.  But what I most look forward to is sitting together over a wonderful Christmas breakfast.

We recently discovered an amazing recipe for Salmon and Sweet-Potato Frittata which will incorporate leftover salmon from the night before.  My, oh my, it is delicious!  We'll also make up a batch of our favorite applesauce muffins and serve slices of pear.  (Years ago we started putting pears in the toe of the Christmas stockings but I have to buy them early in the week so they will be ripe enough for Christmas!)

The frittata recipe comes from Real Simple.  I'll give you the original recipe but will tell you how we adapted it to make it gluten and dairy free.  I found the muffin recipe at GF-Zing!

Photo: David Prince in Real Simple
Salmon and Sweet Potato Frittata

Serves 4 [We found it served 6-8]
Hands-on Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and grated (3 cups)
1 small onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 pound skinless salmon fillet, cut into ½ inch cubes
6 eggs
¼ cup milk [Use rice or soy milk]
2 cup Swiss cheese, diced (8 ounces)  [We used a combination of Better Than Cream Cheese and Imo, both soy products. Or use a grated non-dairy cheese such as Daiya.]
¼ cup fresh tarragon leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.  In a deep 8- to 10-inch ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over moderately high heat.
2. Add the sweet potatoes and onion and cook, stirring until tender, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the salmon. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes or until cooked through. Remove the skilled from heat.
4. Whisk together the eggs, milk, cheese, tarragon salt, and a few grinds of pepper.  Add to the skillet. Stir.
5. Bake the frittata in the upper third of the oven for 20 minutes or until set. Transfer to a plate. Cut into wedges.

Applesauce Muffins – Gluten Free

These yummy muffins were developed for the GF-Zing! Website.  The large amount of cinnamon balances the blandness of rice-based flours.  Makes 12 muffins.

In a large bowl, mix:
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar or sucanat
1 egg or ¼ cup egg substitute
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 ½  teaspoons xantham gum

Mix thoroughly, then stir in 2 cups Bette’s Featherlight Rice Flour Blend.  (See recipe below)

Next, stir in 1 cup dried cranberries and ½ cup broken or chopped pecans.  Stir to blend thoroughly.  Spoon the batter into the muffin liners, then bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Featherlight Rice Flour Mix by Bette Hagman:
3 cups rice flour 
3 cups tapioca flour
3 cups cornstarch
3 tablespoons potato flour (not potato starch)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Such Wonder!

I recently read a blog post by Dr Ray Pennoyer, in which he shares "the entire Christmas story in one verse."  That verse (actually two verses, but one sentence) is Galatians 4:4-5.

But when the time had fully come,
God sent his Son,
born of a woman,
born under the law,
to redeem those under the law,
that we might receive the full rights of sons.

I don't know what made that time in history the right time, but from God's perspective, it was the right time.  He himself, God, sent his own divine Son, to be born of a human woman (Jesus was both human and divine).  Jesus came to a world that was under the law, and we all are under the law.  Romans 2:15 tells us that even unbelievers who do not have the law have the requirements of the law written on their hearts.  But Jesus came to redeem us from the law so that we would no longer be slaves to the law but sons and daughters of God!

No wonder the angels sang at Christ's birth!  No wonder despised shepherds ran to the stable to see this Jesus, then told everyone what they had seen!  No wonder kings from afar traveled a great distance to pay homage to this King!  No wonder we still celebrate his birth!  No wonder we still fall at his feet in worship and offer him our lives!  Such wonder!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Forth Sunday of Advent

In that day the Lord of hosts 
will become a beautiful crown 
and a glorious diadem 
to the remnant of His people.

Isaiah 28:5

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ladies in Waiting

In Luke's rendering of the Christmas story we are introduced to three ladies in waiting -- Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Anna the prophetess.

Upright and blameless.  That describes Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah the priest. For many years she had longed for a child of her own, but they were now old, and she was barren.

Her husband had been chosen to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.  This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a priest put Zechariah in the very presence of God.  While serving, and angel appeared to him and said, Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you are to give him the name John (Luke 1:13).

Zechariah questioned the words of the angel.  How can I be sure of this?  I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.  Because of his doubt, he was struck dumb and would not speak until the birth of his son.  But after long years of waiting, Elizabeth accepted the news with joy.  The Lord has done this for me... In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people (1:25).

Elizabeth's cousin, Mary, was young, maybe only 13 or 14.  She was engaged to Joseph, a carpenter.  When an angel appeared to her, telling her that she would bear a son, the Son of the Most High, she humbly accepted his words.  She said, I am the Lord's servant.  May it be to me as you have said (1:38).

Mary's waiting had just begun.  As the story unfolded and the child was born and shepherds and wise men and an angry king all became a part of her life, Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart (2:19).   Until her final breath, she would wait to see what God would do through the life, death and resurrection of her son.

And then there's Anna.  She was not just old, she was very old.  Widowed after just seven years of marriage, she has lived in the temple ever since, and now she was 84.  She never left the temple, but spent her time worshipping God, fasting and praying.  When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus at the temple, Anna was there.  Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem (2:38).  Her waiting was over.

We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
Psalm 33:21

(I was unable to find attributions for the art work.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Tree of Light

Our Christmas tree began in a pot in our backyard, about eight years ago.  A sequoia sapling, which Tom had planned to bonsai, decided instead to settle in for the long haul and put its roots down into the ground, where it happily grew into a good-sized tree.  It was between the deck, a large pine tree, and the neighbor's fence, no place for a tree that could eventually grow to 300 feet!  (You might remember the tree from an earlier post.)

So Tom cut off the top and turned it into a Christmas tree!

I'd been thinking about having a theme tree, inspired by The Isaiah Tree and an article I recently wrote for an online publication called Ruby for Women (see pages 22-24).  When our youth pastor, Brian Hoyer, spoke a couple of weeks ago about the Christmas tree and the significance of light as a symbol of Christmas, I decided to make this year's tree a Tree of Light, representing Jesus, the light of the world, and His light reflected from the lives of His followers.

And now I wish you a bright and joyful Christmas season!

Here's the tree at 10 feet tall in July, 2010
The tree was now 15 feet tall!
Cutting the top off
Ready to catch the tree

Finding its good side
Placing the star
Mom, Peach and her daughters helped make
the mirror ornaments for the tree
Before the decorations
With lights, balls and mirrors

The Tree of Light

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Third Sunday of Advent

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
and our sorrows He carried...
He was pierced through for our transgressions
and crushed for our iniquities.

Isaiah 53:4-5 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Bold Spirit

I've just finished reading Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America, by Linda Lawrence Hunt.  It is, in fact, the third book I have recently read about this remarkable woman and her even more remarkable journey.

The first two books I read were both novels, published this year.  Carole Esty Dagg's book, The Year We Were Famous, told of the wager that set Helga Estby and her daughter Clara on a 3000 mile trek from Spokane to New York City.  The Daughter's Walk: A Novel, was written by Jane Kirkpatrick, and also tells the story of the walk, but includes several additional years when Clara left home in pursuit of her own life.  Both books deal with the harsh realities these women must have faced along the way and developed the relationship between mother and daughter. They are good reads, but they are fiction.  I wanted to meet Helga Estby as a historical character.

Because the records of their trip were stolen in New York, and Helga's memoirs were destroyed, we have no first person account of her life.  Ms Hunt became aware of Helga Estby through a middle school student, Doug Bahr, a great-great-grandson of Helga, who wrote about her for the Washington State History Contest.  From there, through "years of tenacious sleuthing," she was able to reconstruct this story. In her acknowledgements she lists dozens of people who helped her with research, from librarians of several universities and public libraries, to historical societies of 13 different states, to the National Archives of Norway.  It is a tremendously researched book -- the bibliography is 17 pages! -- which provids invaluable information about Helga and Clara as well as giving great insight into the life and times of the turn of the 20th century.

Through the pages of Bold Spirit I met a complex woman, willing to take a stand for what she believed, who cared deeply for her family, so deeply, in fact, that she walked across the United States in hopes of winning a $10,000 wager which would be more than enough to pay off the mortgage.  It was a life-threatening trek and many times she and Clara were in perilous situations.  But in just over seven months they made it to New York.

As they passed through towns, newspapers would cover their progress.  When they got to Salt Lake City they were given new outfits to wear for the rest of the trip -- bicycle skirts, a few inches above the ankle and much less restrictive than Victorian dresses which most women still wore.

At that turn of the 19th century, only four states had granted women the right to vote: Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Colorado.  With Clara's growing passion for women's suffrage, the fact that two women were traveling unaccompanied across the country, and the unconventional clothing they, they were heralded by some and scorned by many, including their own family.

While the women were gone, disaster struck at home.  Upon their return, the family refused to allow them to talk about their experiences.  Even the memoirs that Helga worked on in secret were discovered and destroyed.  Helga's great accomplishment was never celebrated in her family and the story, which is a significant part of American history, would have been lost forever if it weren't for Ms Hunt's extensive research and subsequent book.

I encourage you to read Bold Spirit, even though I have given a spoiler or two!  The style of the writing, the many historical and cultural details that are included, and the final chapter, "A Reflection on the Silencing of Family Stories," teach us a lot about the value of story for understanding who we are and how we got here.

My hat is off to Helga Estby, her daughter Clara, and to Linda Lawrence Hunt for saving them from vanishing from the face of American history.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What's Your Favorite Christmas Movie?

Do you have a favorite Christmas movie?  I'd love to hear what you love to watch!

I've heard a lot of talk this season about It's a Wonderful Life.  I haven't seen it for a few years; this will be the year we watch it again.  There is, in fact, a Seattle theater group doing an improv show based on the movie called It's Your Wonderful Life where each performance will be based on the life of one of the audience members!

Our favorite kids' Christmas video is Alabaster's Song, about the angel on the top of the tree that tells the story of the first Christmas to the littlest child in the family.

I saw an article the other day that talked about Christmas movies that incorporate creation, the fall and redemption.  The author's favorite is a 1941 movie starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunn called Penny Serenade.  It's not available at the library, but I did find the full movie on You Tube.  We plan to watch it tonight.

Why not take a few minutes right now to share your favorite Christmas movie with us?  We'll all appreciate your input!

{Photo Credit}

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hymn of the Month -- Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

"Let all the earth keep silence before Him" (Habakkuk 2:20)

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence was written in the 4th century, composed in Greek as a chant to use for Offertory.  Although it is an ancient chant, it has been set to a popular Medieval French tune, making it much more accessible to modern times.  I'm afraid my musical bias is showing; this is the second month in a row to choose a hymn sung by Fernando Ortega!

Like many more commonly known Christmas carols, this hymn tells the story of Christ's advent, His purpose, and His ultimate victory.  And it calls us to respond with worshipful reverence.

Cynthia Clawson performs a shortened rendition of the hymn that you can hear here.  It is haunting and beautiful, and hangs in the air long after it's over.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Second Sunday of Advent

And now says the Lord,
I will also make You a light to the nations
so that My salvation 
may reach to the end of the earth.

Isaiah 49:6

Friday, December 2, 2011


Mountaintop Experiment
Paul Bellis Jones, a 24-year-old university student from Wales, hiked up a mountain in Snodownia and shot a picture of his friend with his disposable camera.  Then he slipped the camera into a plastic bag, left it on the mountaintop, and headed home.

It was an experiment, a little peek into human nature.  Inside the bag was also a note, inviting others to take a photo of themselves and leave the camera for others to use.  Would people really take a photo?  And would he ever see the camera again?

Three months later he got his answer when Park Ranger Brian Jones delivered the camera to his door.  There were over 30 pictures of hikers who had enjoyed the use of the camera and had left it there.

Check out the Daily Mail to read the article and see some fun photos!

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Tongue Twisters
Here are three tongue twisters I chose from the 500 listed here, in case you'd like to try a few more.

East Fife Four, Forfar Five
an actual football result from the Scottish third dvision

11 was a racehorse,
22 was12.
1111 race,
Wunwun was a racehorse, Tutu was one too. Wunun won one race, Tutu won one too.

A tree toad loves a she-toad,
who lived up in a tree.
He was a three-toed tree toad,
but a two-toed toad was she.
The three-toed tree toad grid to win
the two-toed she-toad's heart,
for the three-toed tree toad loved the ground
that the two-toed tree toad trod.
But the three-ted tree toad tried in vain,
he couldn't please her whim.
From her tree toad bower,
with her two-toed power,
the she-toad vetoed him.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Grab a cup of coffee and take a 16-minute break.  This wonderful award winning video is lots of fun and is sure to make you smile!