Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Different Kind of Prayer

My family is blessed to be able to participate in a fine arts school for homeschoolers that is over 700 kids strong! Yes, you read that right. I'll share more about that fantastic program another time, but I did want to reprint a prayer that was published in the monthly newspaper that the journalism kids publish once a month. 

I thought it was a poignant reminder that things aren't always what they seem on the surface and that the world is bigger than population three: me, myself and I.


Heavenly Father,
Help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and was rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children. 

Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can't make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.

Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.

Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not just to those who are close to us, but to all humanity. 

Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive. Bless us with patience, empathy and love.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thoughts on Thankfulness

As Thanksgiving weekend comes to a close, I was just thinking how healthy a habit being thankful is 24/7. I once bought a friend a plaque that read, "There's always, always something to be thankful for." That is a great reminder; I like the way it stresses "always" since there are often times I lose sight of that truth in the midst of a trial. 

We are reminded of that truth over and over again in scripture. Regardless of the trial, regardless of the circumstance, regardless of our feelings: REJOICE and GIVE THANKS!

So, without further adieu, and by no means is this list all-encompassing, I would like to proclaim the many things I am thankful for (and I encourage you to write your own list and display it where you can see it in the midst of the muck of life!).

Salvation: The free gift of God, the love He had for me even when I was His enemy.
My husband: His unconditional love, his godly character, his patience, his provision, his sense of humor.
My children: Their soft hearts, obedient spirits, love of life, love of God, creative impulses, musical talent.
My mom: That she lives nearby and gets to be a part of our lives, that she is in good health, that she has passed her faith on to me.
My dad: Even though he is no longer with us, I know I will see him again! I'm glad I inherited his creative juices.
My In-Laws: From mom and dad to brothers and sisters and cousins, I now have the big, loving family I didn't grow up with!
My friends: Their love, their support, their prayers, their faithfulness. They urge me on in my walk with Christ. They are so often Christ with skin on in my life!
My church: The leadership, the scriptural grounding, the amount of men that are strong husbands and dads, the youth group, the reverence and awe they add to my spiritual life.
My job: Teaching ballet, and now blossoming as a writer, are total gifts from the Father. I have done nothing to earn these gifts, have no merit and training that I can look to as a basis for my pursuits.
My home: Cozy. Warm in the winter, cool in the summer, situated in the beauty of the country. It is so much more than a roof over our head. It is where memories are made every day!
My country: Freedom to worship, freedom to homeschool, freedom to vote, freedom of speech...just to name a few things that make America great!

Those things are just the tip of the ice berg. I must also choose to be thankful, today in particular, that even though my refrigerator keeps going out, I have a back up fridge that works! I am also thankful that although said refrigerator went out today, as well as about 10 days ago, IT WORKED THROUGH THANKSGIVING! That was a concern that wasn't realized! Yea God!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Book Review: A Rush of Wings by Kristen Heitzmann

Noelle St. Claire has abruptly left her life of wealth and sophistication, leaving behind a stunned fiance and father that adored her. They have no idea where to look for Noelle and she has no idea where she’s headed—she just feels a desperate need to run. 
Using cash for anonymity and taking a bus west, Noelle finds herself at a ranch in a tiny mountain town of Colorado. She isn’t sure what to make of the ranch owner, Rick Spencer, who is rugged, introspective and full of faith in a God that Noelle doesn’t believe exists. Then there’s Rick’s brother, Morgan, who is just the opposite of Rick: charming, flirtatious and greatly lacking in faith of any sort. 
The brothers are equally as perplexed about the mysterious Noelle. They can tell she is running from something but she is tight-lipped about her past and who she is. She seems like a puzzle with pieces that play hide and seek. The truth is, even Noelle isn’t sure what it is that she has run away from. Sure, her fiance was a brute when he was angry, but that didn’t explain the sudden fragmented thoughts that caused panic attacks and threatened her sanity. 
Rick sees her as a vulnerable young woman in need of God’s love and healing; Morgan sees her as a fragile beauty that needs a good dose of his charisma. Noelle just wants to be left alone to find her way: thank-you-very-much.  
I thoroughly enjoyed Kristen Heitzmann’s latest novel, A Rush of Wings. An excellent read if you are looking for romance laced with tension and mystery. I’m impressed with the way the author wove the element of faith into the story, giving believable struggles and not offering pat answers. Yet the faith was deep and vivid, not watered down. I also enjoyed the stark contrast of the brothers, Rick and Morgan, and their banter with Noelle. Exceptional characters and lovely descriptions fill the pages of this novel. Looking forward to discovering what else Kristen Heitzmann has to offer!
 **In exchange for my honest review, Bethany House publishers has provided me with a copy of this book.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Homemade Sloppy Joes . . . Let's Call 'em Sloppy Heathers!

So, I'm sitting here watching "Julie and Julia," and relating to the thrill of good food and all of those publishers calling Julie Powell and saying they want to publish a book based on her blog. . . not that I have any delusions about this blog being a hot item or anything. But the thought of someone wanting to publish one of my stories IS something I fantasize about.

Anyhoo (see, that word right there shows that I'm just messing around on this blog, having fun), tonight I made some homemade Sloppy Joes that had a surprising "yum" factor, due to the Rotel I tossed in as an afterthought. This was a big hit with my husband as well as the kids, and so much better for us than the pre-made stuff in a can. I feel inspired to share it with you, thanks to the movie . . .

Brown two pounds of ground meat. You probably will use beef. I used one pound of venison and one pound of Italian chicken sausage. Drain the fat (don't you wish you could do that to your thighs?).

In a medium bowl mix together:
1/2 C BBQ sauce
1/3 C Ketchup (not Catsup! Who spells it like that, anyway?)
1/3 C Brown Sugar (I used dark)
3 T Yellow Mustard
3 T Worcestershire 
Garlic or seasoning salt to taste
One can of drained Original Rotel

Add above mixture to browned meat and "slop" it into some wheat hamburger buns (because you gave up white bread a long time ago, right?). If this makes too much for your brood, freeze it and have it for "fast food" later!

And there it is. A man-pleasing, kid-slurpin' good meal!
I served ours with sweet potato fries and slices of fresh mango (on the side, not on the Joes!). A great sweet/spicy combo if I do say so myself!  

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Book Review: Warrior of the Son

When young Evan MacKeth watches his mother’s murder at the hands of his half-brother Osric, bitterness takes up residence like an insidious monster. Although he himself is a wanted, hunted man on the run, Evan is plotting a return to his homeland and vengeance for his mother’s death.

Never mind that his mentor and companion, Julian Antony Vorenius, is a follower of The One True God, and is urging Evan to find forgiveness in Iosa Christus so that he can forgive his brother. Never mind that he has been pursued by trolls and demons and finds himself calling out to this One True God for help! 
Evan MacKeth is driven by his anger; driven to be the best sword fighter, driven to return to the castle and marry his childhood sweetheart, driven to avenge his mother’s murder. He will not know peace and satisfaction with anything less than this ideal. It takes him into exile across strange lands and propels him through many trials. He rehearses his pain and his plan over and over until it resounds like a pulse in the very fiber of his being. 

Author Samuel Schiller has written a medieval tale with all of the gallantry and danger of other well loved fantasy books. Warrior of the Son, the first in his series of Gothic stories, will be a thrilling read for the young person in your home that loves a good adventure laced with the language, legends and chivalry of King Arthur’s day.

Mr. Schiller offers up a bevy of characters, castles, peril, and creepy opponents. What he also offers is truth. Laced with scripture, this tale is honest in its look at what bitterness will do to a person without being preachy about God’s antidote to the problem. The consequences of harboring hatred bear out in a natural way. 

The story is not for young readers, as it deals with some mature themes here and there. (For instance: Evan is the illegitimate son of the reigning king). The issues are handled tactfully and only touched on briefly. The flowery language would likely be a challenge for younger readers as well.

Take a look at all of Mr. Schiller’s exciting stories by clicking here. I think you will be pleased to find an author who can provide the exploits that fantasy readers crave without glorifying the dark side. Rather, Mr. Schiller makes it clear that the truth of scripture is for all men at all time, and in any situation!

At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.