Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Treasure of Advent

I first posted this two years ago, but have been thinking about it all weekend. It's so easy to rush Christmas. But that first Christmas waited until the fullness of time...

Advent is one time of year (and Lent is the other) when I really appreciate the sense of reflective anticipation that was instilled in me through my liturgical heritage. In the traditions of my present church, we tend to forget that a season of waiting is a season of preparation. We are so eager to jump to the happy ending that we tend not to have the patience for the tension of the chapters of climax.

Or in this case, the silence between the chapters. More than four hundred years between the old and new testaments of scripture. How's that for a pregnant pause?

The scripture photographed above is the beginning of Handel's Messiah (rendered in calligraphy by Timothy Botts--breathtaking book!!). The text of Messiah does the most amazing job I've ever seen of capturing scriptures that illustrate the need and waiting for a Savior, and the fulfillment of the promise. It is packed with paradox, and has made me love the prophets. It has caused me to realize that all of history--in fact, all of eternity--rests on a BUT. Listen...

"For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people, BUT the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee, and the Gentiles shall come to thy light and kings to the brightness of thy rising." (From Isaiah 60:2-3)

The writer of the book of Hebrews puts this spin on the BUT: "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,..." (and then He was quiet--though not absent--for centuries!) "...BUT in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word." (Hebrews 1:1-3a)

His WORD. After 400 years of silence. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. ...The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1-5, 14)

Whew! Gives me goosebumps. Ponder that while you're waiting for your cookies to bake. :-)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Irony. Cruel irony.

About 6 months ago, our TV broke. We've been meaning to replace it. Some friends gave us an old 20", which helped us have time to do our homework. Because you know, buying a TV is a big commitment. Especially if you're the kind of people who only buy one every 20 years or so. It better be good.

So this morning (Saturday) we were looking through the Sears Black Friday ad. We're big shoppers like that. It turns out they had a really amazing Saturday only deal on just the kind of TV we were thinking of buying. Miracle of miracles, about 45 minutes of online research later (Lee thinks it's important to note that this was not so much research as REVIEW of research), we were out the door to see if we actually liked what we saw. And maybe buy it.

We found the TV and started watching it play through the demo. Games, yup. Digitally animated cartoons, OK. How about some faces? Oh, yes, this Brett Favre commercial! Hilarious! And he looks pretty good on this TV...

They didn't have any left in stock, but they could have it in by December 17. Well good heavens, we waited this long. No big deal. We told the salesman we'd just have a "quick look" to compare what we were seeing with some other sets.

About 20 minutes later (or more?), we decided we'd take it. All proud that we made up our minds faster than Brett. (Well except for the six months we've been "researching".) The salesman comes back and says he's very sorry, but in the time we took to make up our minds, the computer was now showing that it was out of stock altogether, and they wouldn't be selling it at that price any longer. But it would probably be a good deal again before the Super Bowl.

You're not funny, Brett. Not. one. bit.


After a chilly ride home, Lee made a beeline for his computer and got the TV online at the sale price, available for pickup at our local store in about three weeks. Smart. move.

OK Brett. You're funny again. But now we expect to be watching YOU. In the Super Bowl. On our new TV. WINNING! Got it?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Today was "Special Friend Day" at our kids' school. It started out years ago as "Grandparents Day", but clearly, that was a little problematic. I know our kids would have been among those left out each year, since their grandparents live across the country.

This year it was cousins Kyle and Tyler who got up early on their first day of break from college so they could make our kids feel special. This is Tyler's third year. They rock.

I am thankful. Very frequently these days I am thankful for my five nephews. All young men now, and all amazing role models for our our kids. I loved them when they were little, and while I watched them grow. Seeing them in their young adulthood, living out their ideals and dreams, excites me as I think about the future ahead of my own two.

Even better, I am encouraged knowing that another generation has come of age. In some ways they are better equipped than I could ever be for solving the issues of our day. Of their day. We all have far to go, but they have arrived to take the baton. It will be a long handoff. I'm thankful for that, too. But already, I am cheering for them, and for the impact they are having in their leg of the race. I hope they enjoy running it even half as much as I am enjoying watching them.

So this Thanksgiving, thank you Lord for the next generation. Through them you give us great hope.

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations."
Psalm 100:4-5

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Table Talk

Tonight we sat down to a ham dinner.

Bethany: Mom, do they HAVE to kill the pig?
Ben: The pigs are eventually gonna die anyway.
Bethany (to me): Is that true??
Ben: Sure, and then they go to hog heaven.

I wonder how many harmonious omnivorous families have been divided over the story of Charlotte's Web.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Dream Come True

The moment we have long awaited finally came on Sunday. One year and a week ago, our church broke ground on our new building addition. This week was our dedication of the new ministry facility. It is beautiful.

One of the most beautiful things about it is that everywhere I look, I remember people working. Members of our church family, working together, to make our dreams come true.

None to soon, the work was finished enough so that the city inspector could sign off, and grant us "Occupancy". It seemed funny to me. We were all eager to occupy our new space, but I thought most of all that I wanted and hoped for God to occupy it. In ALL his glory!

But then it occurred to me that though he dwelt in a central location, namely the tabernacle or temple, under the old covenant, under the new covenant he dwells in the believer. Simply put, if we gather, he is there.

We built this building with our hands, our hearts, our time, our minds, our offerings, our faith, and our prayers. It was only natural to want to invite God in. But he gave his son, a gift infinitely greater than what all of us offered put together, and through HIS sacrifice, God invites US into HIS presence.

Even so, Lord, we invite you to enter into our worship and ministry in this new place, to show us more of yourself than we have ever seen before.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

You are gonna LOVE this!

My friend Marlene over at Stitchin' By the Lake posted a cake recipe the other day that I feel obligated to share, because it would just be wrong to keep it to myself. It is the easiest cake EVER. Two ingredients:

One dry cake mix
(Marlene used chocolate, but I used carrot cake.)

One can of pumpkin. (The smaller one, 15 oz. or whatever it is.)

That's it!

Mix together and spread into a 9x13 pan. Marlene warned us that
it doesn't settle into the pan, so spread it evenly. She was right.

Bake at 350ยบ for 25 minutes. Give or take.

Now, while it's baking, do you know how much fat there is in a serving of pumpkin? None. Sodium? None. Cholesterol? None. Sugar? 4 grams. Fiber? Lots! Vitamin A? About a week's worth.

Check after 25 minutes to see if it's done. It will be dense and moist and absolutely yummy! Frost if desired. I used cream cheese frosting. (From a can--obviously--why ruin something perfectly simple?) It's heavenly. I'm calling it

Miracle Cake.

You're welcome. But you should really go thank Marlene.

UPDATED: You can make any cake mix this way, BUT...I made chocolate this way and wouldn't do it again. Marlene would. Someone else made a yellow cake this way and promised me she couldn't taste the pumpkin. You may or may not be able to. But with carrot cake, YUMMMMM!!! I promise. Spice cake too.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

OK, so I lied.

...or, "Why it pays to have smart friends on Facebook."

Remember in my last post where I said that we've had a lot going on and that it was all good stuff? Well that was not entirely accurate. Obviously, I meant all good except the normal bad stuff that I choose to forget just as quickly as possible because it hardly deserves mentioning.

Like this.

What, you ask? I know, that's what I said. Bethany started Brownies this year, and earned her first two "Try-it" badges. She wanted me to get out the "ironing table" right away and iron them on. (This should give you a clue about how often we get out the "ironing table".) So like a good mom, I did. I ironed those suckers right on, impressed with how straight and secure they were. Until Bethany said the senses badge was upside down. Really? Oh...the nose. And, uh, yeah, the mouth. OK, so THAT was a pretty easy mistake to make. No one told me they came in different directions and I should be sure to wear my glasses to tell which side was up. We tried pulling, prying, scraping, all to no avail. I assured Bethany that no one would notice. Well sure, that took care of it...

She. Was. Inconsolable.

So I got on Facebook, and posted that I was moving to Australia. It took all of two minutes for someone to catch my allusion to Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day. And then, Facebook friends to the rescue. The suggestions and condolences started rolling in. How to release a completely stuck badge? The same way you stuck it! Duh. One more trip to the "ironing table", and voila! Unstuck and restuck.

Bethany was ecstatic! She did not even mind the residue, since she plans on earning all 80 brownie badges this year, which will cover it up in a jiffy. Sure, Girlie, you go for it. I'm told that GooGone will also take them off, and I suspect it would remove the residue completely. But then I would have to wash it. And then some other stuff might start falling off. Such a dilemma.

So I really didn't lie after all. All's well that ends well, right? Who knew Facebook would be such a lifesaver? It's a good thing. Bethany took great care this morning getting ready to fulfill her solemn role with her troop in the flag raising for the Veterans Day observance. She wanted every detail to be perfect.

To our veterans and their families, we thank and salute you for this beautiful life we enjoy thanks to your commitment and sacrifice on our behalf.

It's been a little crazy around here...

I wish it were "Silly Week" at I Heart Faces.
I'm pretty sure I could win.

We've had such a busy month or two around here,
and not much time to write about it. But it's all good stuff.

Just a few random things:
Remember when I put winter on notice?
Well it worked. We've had some GORGEOUS
weather these last several days.

Remember Bethany's shoes from back to school?
I don't know whether she will wear them out
or outgrow them first, but either way,
I'll be so sad when their time is over.

Here is my heart, all in one place:

There's more good stuff ahead. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A cool thing happened this week...

I've mentioned before that I'm part of a Moms in Touch group--moms who meet to pray for our kids and their school. It happens that for the second year now I lead this group.

I am a reluctant leader. I was not looking forward to making sure I was prepared for 9:00 on Monday morning. Yes, I have a resource notebook. Yes, I have my Bible. But no, on a Monday morning, I don't always have my act together. At all.

Here's what I love. I've discovered that I can bring pretty much any truth or Bible passage that I've encountered or studied since we last met, and it makes a beautiful springboard for prayer. I really can hardly go wrong, because when we open ourselves to him, God speaks.

I was thinking about that and about the blessing this role has been to me, and I decided to focus our session this week around that fact that God speaks. As we began our time of prayer requests, several people shared that after conferences last week, they needed some very specific wisdom about what direction to take with a particular child. One said, "We need to know whether to go this way or that way or what?"

Listen to this passage that I had planned to share:

"How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it.'" Isaiah 30:19b-21

How great is that! Sometimes all the planning and structure and preparation and general "having my act together" in the world cannot begin to compare to simply listening when God speaks. May I be quick to listen, and when He speaks, may I also be quick to respond with my full attention and cooperation.