Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Holiday Meme

Dianne left an open tag for this meme last week, and I knew that it would be one I would do when I didn't have the time or inspiration for blogging. It has definitely been one of those weeks so far! So, since December is almost here, let the holidays begin.


1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot chocolate. I don't mind a sip or two of eggnog (or an eggnog latte or milkshake), but it's really not my thing.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa puts out one big gift, unwrapped, for the big oooh factor. That's the way it was done when I was growing up, and that's how it's done now.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? I lobbied for white lights on the tree when we were married, but my husband wanted colored, so that's what we got. Then a few years ago, he decided he wanted white, so we switched, but I want to go back to colored! We are more a "festive, homemade, souvenir ornament" kind of house as opposed to a decorator's dream, so I think that the colored adds to that feel.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No.

5. When do you put your decorations up? I used to do it the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Now that we travel at Thanksgiving, we don't, and I feel like I'm starting out the year behind. Hopefully we'll get it done this weekend.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? My grandmother makes a mixed vegetable casserole that is SO good.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: Whenever we were at my grandmother's house, I remember us begging and begging to open gifts, because we weren't there on Christmas morning, so we basically picked the time during our stay. She always ordered things for our stockings throughout the year, and stashed them away. We loved those stockings. When my sister, the youngest, turned ten or twelve, I think that my grandmother stopped, and just put a $20 bill in our stockings. One year we all begged for stockings again, including the junky stuff that had been in there when we were children. Our favorite were these guns that had flashlights that lit as you squeezed the trigger. We played Charlie's Angels with them.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I don't really remember either. I remember finding gifts in a friend's closet, labeled to Susan, from Santa, when I was around six. I think that we "knew" then, but might have wanted to hold on a bit longer. I think that's where my eight year old is right now. She knows, but she enjoys the fun, so she doesn't think about it too much.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Growing up, we always opened PJs Christmas Eve (so that we'd be picture-ready on Christmas morn), but we don't open one now.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? Oh--I answered this above with the lights question. We have really enjoyed buying souvenirs or mementos of special events and using those unique things to decorate our tree.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? I like it. This will only be the third winter I've ever dealt with it, so ask me again in a few years.

12. Can you ice skate? I'm not a pro, and don't do it too often, but I'm not a total spaz. My husband and I skated in Central Park when we went to NYC for our 10th anniversary (before we lived up here), and that was really fun.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? One year I had really been dropping some hints to my husband for some diamond stud earrings. I'm not a big jewelry gal (and he's not a big jewelry buyer), but I was really hoping for these. Come Christmas morning, I had not only the diamond earrings as requested, but a pearl necklace as well! We were about to start trying to start a family, and Terry saw that as the beginning of the end of our financial freedom, and he thought that pearls were something that every woman should have. It was very thoughtful and I have loved both items over the years.

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? I love the traditions--the ones that we experience with my husband's family, where we usually spend it, like going to Washington DC every year and seeing the tree at the White House, and I also enjoy creating and establishing traditions for our family here.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? I do enjoy fudge.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? We've started one here at home where we open our gifts the night before we leave for my in-laws'. Santa has even come early for us the last two years. It's a lot of fun, and a special time for our immediate family.

17. What tops your tree? For a while it was a big bow with flowing ribbon, and then I bought a star, which I wanted, lit up with colored lights just like when I was growing up.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving? I really do love giving. I love getting the kids what they want (or picking out something that they didn't even know that they want that they love!), and finding something special for each person. I do wish that I could have an unlimited budget and bless someone's socks off, but that probably won't happen anytime soon.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? I love O Holy Night, but I now have a special place in my heart for Joy to the World, because it was Amanda's favorite when she was just a young preschooler, and she would sing along, and called it the "Heaven 'n song."

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?? I like them, but I could take them or leave them.

Did you notice how many answers were, "That's the way I do it, because that's how we did it growing up?" It seems like that's the way of holidays, isn't it? Feel free to do this meme on your own, or comment on any of the questions here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Kindness of Compassion

I will be focusing on Patience and Kindness for a while here. I have focused on the compassion with which I am encouraged to clothe myself.
Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
I should clothe myself with compassion and kindness, along with gentleness and patience, as well as humility as a result of the holiness and love I receive as one of God's chosen people. It's not really a choice. It's a response. As I respond with compassion towards my fellow man (my daughter, my husband, my extended family, friends, acquaintances, rivals), I see them as no better than myself (humbly), as well as deserving of God's grace, love, and mercy, which I have received for myself.

I don't know why I never saw the compassion as a precursor to kindness and patience, but it certainly has been for me as I've meditated on it this last week.1

Dictionary.com defines compassion as a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. At first, I tried to separate out the suffering, to define compassion for myself as a general kindhearted attitude towards others, but I am beginning to see that the suffering is key. Aren't we all suffering? We suffer because we all struggle with sin, in one way or another. One's sin could be pride, another's could be bitterness, another's could be jealousy, or malice or unforgiveness. If I have deep sympathy towards the person who is battling pride, leading to a self-righteous attitude or a critical spirit, I will not see them in the same way than if I am simply reacting to their critical spirit. If I see that my daughter struggles to obey because of a sin nature that she is trying to overcome, then I have compassion on her and react with kindness, instead of impatience at her continual failings.
I Peter 3:8
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
Love is the other foundation. Perhaps it is the other side of simply trying to alleviate suffering with love just for the sake of love--not because it is deserved or returned, but because it is commanded to me. Again the humility is essential. I cannot see myself as better or more deserving or wronged in the equation. I need to see myself as a vessel used to love and support others.

Is this too much? Is it over the top and hard to believe? If so, let me know. If not, let me know how seeing others compassionately has helped you to treat them with patience and kindness.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bumps in the Road


In this week's Faithbuilder's Meme, Heather asks, "In what area(s) of your life have you been brought to your knees in humility? When was the last time you thanked your savior for the rough spots- for the bumps in the road- and for the fact that He always holds you through them?"

My experience is that it is exactly those rough spots that bring me into humility. Many of the bumps that we face seem to have nothing to do with pride: a rough patch in marriage due to the extra stress of a big change, such as a new job, a new home, physical illness of a family members, a death in the family, stress in relationships of the extended family, a new ministry or the loss of one. However, it is during these kinds of trials that God reminds me, "I am God. I am the Sovereign One. I not only know your path, but I am paving the road, be it rough or smooth." When things don't go as I have planned them, I feel God's presence, and I know that He knows the end of this particular journey. That humbles me in itself. Who am I to think that I know best? Who am I to avoid self-sacrifice or pain? Who am I to complain? Who am I to judge others when I have not walked down their path?
I Peter 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
It brings to mind the story about the trees. When they are thick in a grove and protected from the small storms, they don't have the strength to stand when the strong winds come. The ones that have had to hold fast during the small storms can also weather the big ones. I want to have deep roots and strong arms to take what comes at me. I want to not only survive, but to thrive in their midst.

After Thanksgiving Thanks

It occurred to me on our drive home last night, that without some modern conveniences, seven hour driving trips to see family would be a lot less pleasant.

  1. Absorbent diapers We usually only make one stop. Without super absorbent disposable diapers, we would not be able to do this with a toddler. As it is, he generally holds up with one mid-trip diaper change. We just went up a size in diapers, but here's a tip if your infant or toddler is at the top of the size, and you are going to be driving or flying (where you certainly don't want to have to disturb them for a diaper change if they are content)--buy either the next size up or the Huggies Overnites in their size. They hold more, so no leaks!
  2. DVD players We do not have a built in DVD player in the car, and I'm pretty sure that I don't want one. However, on a long trip, most of which is taken after dark where other options for entertaining themselves are slim, the DVD player works wonders for making hours pass by effortlessly. I usually do not even bring it out until the midway point (or once it's been dark a little while). If Kyle saw it, he would whine and beg for it to be turned on immediately (which is why I don't want one built in since I don't want the TV on every time we are in the car, and I am weak to resist the begging and whining all the time). I still like a bit of old-fashioned entertainment. I am also thankful for the friends who always loan us theirs, so that we don't have to purchase one of our own.
  3. Cell phones It's so nice to be able to call and alert our hosts when we will be arriving and having that extra measure of safety in the event that something goes wrong.
  4. EZ-Pass This saves precious minutes (or hours, depending) getting through toll plazas and over bridges.
We had a nice visit with my husband's family. The drive going on Wednesday took a little longer, because there was some rain, but we didn't encounter any real backups. Our trip home was about as quick as we've ever made it, so that was a definite blessing. We'll be doing it again in a few weeks at Christmas, although we travel on Saturday morning, and that has always been a breeze these last couple of years, and returning mid-week isn't really a problem either.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Book Habit Meme

Dianne over at Unfinished Work created this book poll, asking us about our reading/book habits. I love it! Answer any of these questions yourself in the comments, or let me know if you do it on your site, and I'll come check it out.

Where do you most often buy your books? Online? Secondhand stores? Big name bookstores?
I almost never pay full price for a book in a big store (or even the 10% off). I bring home a good deal of books free on the library free table, I buy at a lot of booksales or half price stores. Lately, I have bought a LOT of books at a new Overstocks store. I can look and browse, and each new book is just $4 or less. This is horrible for me (and my bookshelves). I also take advantage of Costco's great book prices, and spend a lot of time and money on amazon.com.

If you buy online, which do you prefer - B&N or Amazon.com? Ebay? Christianbook.com? or elsewhere?
I like amazon.com for their prices, free shipping (which "makes" me up my order to $25 to take advantage of that), and their reviews and recommendations are the best.

Do you put your name in your books? If so, are you a bookplate or stamp person?
I usually only write my name in a book if I loan it out.

How do you feel about loaning books to others?
I love to loan a good book that I've enjoyed to a friend. I would love to be able to buy books for people that I know that they would enjoy, but the next best thing is loaning a good book to someone that I hope that they would enjoy.

Do you highlight or mark your books as you read?
It depends on the book. Nonfiction books I usually do mark up (especially Christian discipleship type books), and occasionally a well-written scene in a novel.

How often do you visit your local library?
Two to four times a month. I spend most of my book dollars on nonfiction that I want to keep, and get fiction from the library and from friends. Amanda has quite a voracious book appetite, so we have to keep her supplied at the library.

Do you collect any certain kind of book?
No.

What do you do when you're done with a book and no longer want it?
I give them away if anyone is interested, but most often end up giving them to my library, goodwill, or selling them to a used bookstore.

Do you keep a list of or catalog the books you own?
No, and I don't really want to. I'm trying to be more ruthless about getting rid of some books so that I can keep the books I do have handy where I can get to them. I've been frustrated a few times looking for a book I know I owned, later finding it in a box in the attic.

Any other weird book habits you'd like to share?
Not really. I do really love books. There's something about being in a bookstore or even browsing online that makes me happy. It is my one shopping vice and I do spend more money on books than clothes or jewelry or shoes or any of that stuff. I have recently started feeling like there are way too many books and too little time. . . .

I feel like I just had a little book chat with Dianne, and I'd love to have a little book chat with you. If you answer these, let me know!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Two New Posts

You can read why I am Thankful for my Country over at Faithlifts today.

Check out my Mid-Week Motivational Menu--Be Spontaneous! over at Writer. . . . Interrupted.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, you Americans. All you Canadians (and others) enjoy the next few days. I'm sure that American bloggyland might be a little quiet. I may pop in once over the weekend.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Straight Up

Lisa Samson writes character driven novels. I enjoyed following these characters' journeys--each with their own personal crisis which brought about a time of reflection of self-improvement. Her characters are enlivened by quirks, weaknesses and internal strength.

In Straight Up, we follow cousins Fairly and Georgia along with their Uncle Geoffrey and other supporting characters. This book takes a close look at our gifts. How do we know what we are supposed to be doing with our gifts and talents? How can we best use them? What happens if we neglect them? And what would this world look like if we all supported one another in using our own unique gifts?

I enjoyed this book. The story was well-told and fast-paced. Not a brain-taxingly slow read, but not a mindless beach read either.

I'm Still Scared

I'm Still Scared is a biographical look at Tomie dePaola's growing up years in Meriden, Connecticut. This book opens right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Tomie, a 2nd grader, is scared. He hears the grownups talking, he hears the President's address on the radio, and he practices air raid drills at school. Everyone tells him that everything is alright, but he's still scared.

This book reads like fiction, but is based on Tomie's real-life experiences, and includes such real details of the war that children wouldn't otherwise know, like nylon hosery being unavailable because nylon was used for parachutes and blackout curtains being used to protect the house. It eerily parallels what today's children have had to deal with, both with the bombing of the World Trade Center five years ago, as well as children dealing today with fathers, brothers and uncles going off to serve in the war in Iraq.

This book is an easy chapter book. Even though it was an easy read for eight-year-old Amanda, the subject captivated her and she immediately looked for more chapter books by typically picture book star Tomie dePaola. She's in luck, because this book is the 6th in the series about 26 Fairmont Avenue, so I know that she will be reading others as she finds them.

I would recommend this book as a read-aloud for ages six and up and as a read-alone for any child who can read easy chapter books up to age ten or so.

Monday, November 20, 2006

How Do You Witness?



I'm getting in under the wire for Sting My Heart's essay contest (deadline today). I sort of forgot about it, but I do want to share. She asks:

How do you witness? How do you go about it? Do you witness at all? Do you invite them to your home/blog?

Matthew 28:19-20 commands, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." What exactly does this mean? Are we all called to knock on doors handing out tracts? To preach the Bible on street corners? To ask each person who enters our home if they know the Lord Jesus Christ? I don't think that we are. Actually, I know people who have been able to honestly share Christ with people using all of these scenarios. But those people were gifted with evangelism. It is the Holy Spirit who draws people into relationship with God, so it is just our role to do that which God is prompting us.

I have always liked focusing on "disciples" and "teaching them to obey" as opposed to "make." What do I mean by that? It's hard for me to ask the pointed questions about people's thoughts on Jesus or death or heaven and hell. However, encouraging people to make small changes in their life, or teaching them to obey--that fits with my personality and gifts and so it's something that is easier for me.

That said, I am trying to learn to be bolder in asking the big questions. It's so hard for me to ask, "Do you go to church?" or "Do you believe in heaven and hell?" but in reality those questions are not generally offensive to anyone. Recently, I have reached out to my daughter's friend's mother. I know that she is not a church goer, and she knows that I am. At one dinner that we had with our daughters, talk quickly turned to prayer and bad things happening to good people. She said that she knew that I was a person of faith, and asked me questions about how I dealt with those things. Instead of just giving a pat answer, I shared with her about experiences in my past that had given me confidence in God, even in bad circumstances. By doing this, I showed her that my faith was more than a Pollyanna ideal--it was real, and it mattered. I invited her to my home for lunch after this meeting. I prayed about that day, but it was not my goal to present her with the gospel and demand an answer from her. It was my goal to continue to get to know who she is, so that I will be able to share with her what she needs--Jesus.

Another recent way that I was able to share God's word was when we had some of my coworkers over for dinner. One of the wives was asking me about our church, because I do generally mention church and/or Bible study, both in a pointed effort to open that door, but also because it's a big part of our life, so in talking about our week's activities, it comes up naturally. We had a very open discussion about her religious views and how her mother-in-law was a Christian and she herself was open to it, but just didn't know that much about it. I was floored! This was a very honest and personal conversation with someone I had just met. I followed up with her by sending her an extra copy of an introductory type Bible study that I had from when I had led a group one summer. I also "just happened" to find a paperback NIV Bible at our library book sale, so I sent both of these to her with a note, including my phone number and email address. She wrote me back that she was touched by my gift and planned to learn more about Jesus.

What do both of these situations have in common? Openness. I try to open my home and my life in order to get to know those who Jesus died to save. I also try to be open to who they are and the issues that they struggle with. I do not have a singular goal of simply witnessing. My particular comfort level comes in sharing relationally. I let my faith be real, and if possible, I encourage others to embrace this Man who has meant so much to me.

Patience and Kindness

When we last we encountered Snapshots of Change, Jennifer was addressing the tongue, in an effort to try to tame it. Did it work? "No, no, no! I told you no!"

Okay, um, it didn't work. By "work," I mean that I didn't transform into a beautiful butterfly. It's something that I am always going to have to be mindful of, I think. But choosing to focus on it did help. One thing that I realized was that in order to change what was coming out of my mouth, I really needed to change my heart.

So, I thought of the fruit of the Spirit:
Galatians 5:22-25 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
According to these verses, I have crucified my sinful passions (yelling in anger) and desires (selfish motives instead of selfless ones), and that it is my choice to keep in step with the Spirit. I know that it's not as easy as snapping my fingers, but I also know that the battle has already been won. I am all of these things. I have to be led by the Spirit instead of my own sinful desires. Easier said than done.

I skipped to numbers four and five on the list of fruit. That's because for me, love, joy and peace are not struggles right now. I love my children and my husband dearly. In spite of the fact that I love them, I do not always act out with patience and kindness, so I am not showing true love.
I Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
Dictionary.com defines patience as, "the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like." I'm thinking right now that if I looked up impatient, I might find my picture. Children are slow, they are irritating, and sometimes annoying. I do not bear up well under this (but remember, I do love them).

The definition of kindness is the quality of being warm-hearted and considerate and humane and sympathetic. The second definition even references being forgiving.

I am taking these together, because I think that my lack of patience is definitely unkind. I'm hoping that seeking after kindness will just crowd impatience out of the way, as I put the needs of others before my own and have compassion for their struggles or distractions.

I will pray daily for patience and for the fruit of kindness to be exemplified through my actions. I am going to also choose to take this command and sweet promise of Colossians 3:12, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Why I Love Thanksgiving

I've always loved Thanksgiving, and possibly even prefer it to Christmas. Why?

They have some things in common, including gatherings of friends and family, and good food, but there are some crucial differences that Thanksgiving is that Christmas just can't be (or most often isn't in our culture). In order to escape this, it has to be a conscious effort.

Read the rest of this post at Lindsey's Advent for Evangelicals blog , where I am guest blogging today.

Do you think that Thanksgiving is a secular holiday? Click on over and read the first Thanksgiving proclamation.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Lisey's Story

Reading this latest novel by Stephen King reminded me both why I used to love Stephen King novels, and why I haven't read one in a long time.

Lisey's Story opens with Lisey (pronounced Leesey) cleaning out her famous horror novelist's study after he has been dead for two years. The book takes her on a trip down memory lane--her memories, his memories, and their memories.

I had given up Stephen King novels, even after enjoying several of his tomes, especially It and The Stand. I had became increasingly disturbed by the images and the profanity and general coarseness of the voice, in spite of excellent storytelling and suspense.

Lisey's Story is billed as a love story. Stephen King, master of horror and suspense, writing a love story! I had recently been thinking about picking up The Stand again, when I heard the press about this newest release, and thought that I should check this one out. Yes, it's a love story. The heart is there. The suspense is also there. Unfortunately, so was the coarse voice and profanity and not a little blood. The story is mostly Lisey's and her husband's Scott's. Lisey has to explore the past so that she can move forward into her future. I was drawn into this story by the second page, and read all 528 pages fairly quickly.

If you have enjoyed Stephen King's other works, especially his epic stories such as It and The Stand, then this one is definitely on par with those. However, if you have avoided the Master of Horror for the reasons that I was recently, this one isn't really that different.

This book review is linked up to Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Christmas is Coming

Really.

Have you been shopping?

If I took my cue from the retailers, I would indeed realize that not only is Christmas coming, but I should begin the backward count: Only ___ shopping days until Christmas. And it seems that I am being suckered in. At Toys R Us in Times Square, they are already in full Christmas mode, with demos going on all over the store convincing us, "Buy this! This is cool! Only available at this store!"

Here are some of the specials going on right now, but that expire soon (and I am pleading the fifth as to which of these I've taken advantage of):
  1. Amazon.com is kicking off their weekly special deal. Go to their home page and vote each week on which special you want most (I picked the toys and Amazon Prime for $40. If you don't care for any of them, please vote for that one for me!). Then, each Thursday, the great deal is made available until they sell out. They also have a great offer on toys and games that expires today, November 16. It's a great deal, but read the fine print as to what does and does not qualify.
  2. K-B Toys has some great early-bird prices, but only until November 18
  3. Toys R Us also has some excellent prices on some popular holiday items, as well as free shipping on $50 orders online, but only through November 22. I just got an email that also says automatic savings of $30 off any order of $150, also by November 22.
See, I'm on to them. They want me to take advantage of all these "great deals" right now. And indeed I am now very well on my way to being completely finished shopping. Amanda has already received her "big gift" from us a bit early, and yet I still spend over $100 at Target today purchasing
  • stocking stuffers (I really cannot resist their dollar spot area, even though some things are creeping up to the $2.50 price point)
  • two kinds of wrapping paper, because I want to begin using Katrina's idea this week
  • some cute ornaments and garlands for Amanda's tree, which will be bigger this year, because instead of the 18 inch table top tree she has had in years past, she will have the 4 foot Scrooge tree that I bought last year when I decided that we didn't need to have a "real" tree. (I am not feeling Scroogey this year, but I'm not sure what made me feel that way last year. However, it is way cool, with fiberoptic lights and everything, so Amanda is benefiting from that bit of Yule craziness).
  • two of their holiday tees for Amanda (which she will get now, because she needs some clothes, and at "only" $5.00, it was a bargain.
So, now that I've stocked up on "good deals," I think I am going to have to excuse myself from shopping, browsing the web, and taking any more great ideas that they might put on their lists, so that these good deals don't put me in bankruptcy, or at least over my Christmas budget.

Prac-tic-ally Perfect

We gave my daughter an early Christmas present last night. We took her to Broadway to see Mary Poppins. Oh, my was it good! On the way out, Amanda said, "Oh it was great. Sometimes I just don't know what to say." She was speechless. If you know my Amanda, this is surprising.

You do know me, and it would probably surprise you that at this point, I feel sort of the same way.

More details are coming, very soon, but my little girl is still sleeping (at 8:45, since we got home after 1:00am). Her school doesn't start until 9:10, so she will be a little late, but not more than half an hour or so.

So, as a preview for you, please go to the official site, and watch the Broadway sneak peek video. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is a marvel and will leave you with a smile.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Fifty-Seven

I feel like a horrible fringe member of the kidlit blogging community. I didn't even know that November 13 - 19 was Children's Book Week.

So, when I saw this challenge on Cybils' middle grade fiction lead coodinator Betsy's Fuse #8 blog, I thought I would participate. Here are the rules:

Mark the selections you have read in bold. If you liked it, add a star (*) in front of the title, if you didn't, give it a minus (-). Then, put the total number of books you've read in the subject line.

My comments are in italics. If I couldn't really remember loving it, I didn't star it, but I starred books that are memorable in one way or another.--Jennifer

*Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
*Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
*The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
*Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch
*The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
*The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
*The Mitten by Jan Brett
*Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (I don't get the toddler appeal, but it has worked for me, so I'm starring it).
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
*The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
*Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawing of Shel Silverstein by Shel Silverstein (loved this one, and now Amanda is loving it. I'm delighted!)
*Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss
Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola
*Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
*Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin, Jr.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
*The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
*A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (This is on my to read soon list with Amanda. I want to experience it with her, but I think I'll give it a few months)
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
*How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archambault
*Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
*The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne (I'm giving myself credit for this. Amanda and I read through most of this GIANT book with all the stories)
*The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (I need to read this one for sure. Maybe another read aloud with Amanda)
Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks (This one too--maybe another good one to share)
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell (I really thought I had read this as a child, but now after reading the description on amazon, I am thinking I missed this, and it's going to the top of the list for Amanda and me to share)
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
The BFG by Roald Dahl (This is on Amanda's bookshelf, unread)
The Giver by Lois Lowry
*If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
*Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (I tried to read this numerous times. I wanted to read it. I just could never get into it. Maybe now since I've seen the movies I could?)
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
*Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien
*Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
*Corduroy by Don Freeman
Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Math Curse by Jon Scieszka
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
*Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
*Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
*Are You My Mother? by Philip D. Eastman (This book makes me tear up every time.)
*The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
*The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (Great book for Math lovers!)
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Napping House by Audrey Wood
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
*The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (Amanda and I tackled the completed works here, too).
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss
Basil of Baker Street, by Eve Titus
*The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
Curious George by Hans Augusto Rey
Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
Arthur series by Marc Tolon Brown (I haven't read all of them, but my fair share)
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (This one sounded familiar. When I looked at amazon and saw the old cover, I remembered reading it.)
Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
*Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
*Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
*Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
*A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
*Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Stuart Little by E. B. White
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The Art Lesson by Tomie De Paola
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
*Clifford, the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
*Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
*Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch


I don't have to issue any challenges, but I would love to know how some of my well-read friends fare, so if you want to take it up, please do, and let me know in the comments.

Christmas Journal


It's the Christmas edition of Works for Me Wednesday! Click the banner above for more tips to keep you sane this holiday season.

My tip is to keep either a Christmas journal or photo album. It's amazing to see how the family changes year to year, and it's neat to have the memories all in one space, instead of interspersed year by year in the family albums. You can easily do five pages in your acid and lignon free album of choice, being sure to include your Christmas letter (if you send one), a copy of your family Christmas pic, and candid shots of the present frenzy.

However, that's not really a "make your life easier tip" is it? It's more a "pile on more guilt and pressure to perfectly preserve your family history" sort of trip.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the link to the journal that I featured in my Welcoming Guests tip months ago.

They also have a Christmas Journal. I have seriously wanted to do something like this for ten years--record where we went, special celebrations, memorable gifts we received, and a photo or two. But, I'm organizationally and motivationally challenged, so year by year, I haven't really done any sort of thing. So, I'm buying this for myself and I'm starting this year. This has the traditional Journals Unlimited format that I love, but instead of just two pages per entry, it has five, including space for some photos, cards, etc. They can also be personalized for an additional fee. What a great gift idea for those hard-to-buy for types!

If you don't really care for the journal format, I actually have this album, and it's lovely. You could always use this in addition to your five page spread in your regular album, and even in addition to the journal (which I guess will be the case for me). It's a nice festive decoration. You might use this for your kid's picture with Santa each year. I try to get a whole family picture (meaning I'm not the one taking it) each year and put it in. One thing odd about these pages is that they fold out. You can just turn them like a normal book, which is what I do, but you can also pull them out (accordion pleat style) for a dramatic show of the years. (by the way, if there are any Once Upon a Family reps out there, who want to shamelessly plug for the business if anyone wants to order, leave your email below. I am a former rep).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini

What do you think of when you think of Houdini? If you're like me, you think of handcuff and straitjacket escapes. Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini explores these traditional escapes, but also features the Chinese Water Torture box (featured on the cover of the book), and other new tricks such as making an elephant disappear and walking through a brick wall. Newberry Award winning author Sid Fleishman also introduces a Houdini that you might not know: magazine publisher, movie star, promotional wizard, debunker, flyer, and book collector.

One thing that adds interest to this book is that the author is a magician himself, so he writes with a respect for the craft, and yet also with realism. He often repeats that there is no real magic, only tricks or sleights of hand, and yet, as a true magician, he never reveals the secrets. The back of the book does include a great bibliography for those interested in magic or Houdini specifically, and the author does alert the reader to which books do reveal the secrets behind the magic if that's what interests you. It also features photos and playbills, many from the author's own collection that have never before been published.

I think that this would make a great gift for a boy (or girl) interested in magic or showmanship. It was a great read for me (confirming my thoughts to look for my biographies in the juvenile section of the library), and I think that older kids interested in magic and stunts, or the early 20th century would find this fascinating. The reading level is probably most appropriate for 5th grade and up, but it could be a read-aloud for younger elementary age kids. The only thing that might be objectionable to some are the frequent references to the spiritualism/seance movement that was very popular at the time, which is presented within the framework of Houdini's disbelief and lack of respect.

This book was nominated for the Cybils in the Middle Grade/Young Adult Non-fiction category. Click HERE to check out other nominations and other categories, or nominate your own. Nominations close November 20.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Memories or Bling?

"A getaway cruise comes and goes in a few days, but a diamond is forever." --a local jeweler's commercial on the radio
I had to disagree. I was almost shouting at my radio, "That's not true! Memories from that cruise will last forever!" My husband and I have reaped so much from the splurge of a great getaway:
  • Restoration of togetherness in marriage changed by children
  • Rejuvenation of spirit and personal resolve (in each of our jobs--his stress in going to work and my relentless responsibility of caring for the children)
  • Memories that do last forever
    • of a new culture
    • the beauty of a new place
    • a new experience or skill
    • new foods
    • a new language
  • Rest, a priceless commodity
Family vacations offer similar benefits, at least in the memory department and restoration of togetherness in a family stretched by jobs, clubs, meetings, and the everyday busyness of life. I would not advocate taking a family vacation, certainly with very young children, for the purpose of rest. However, while rest is elusive for parents taking charge of a crew, there is still rest from certain responsibilities--phones don't ring (although with cell phones are we ever blessedly unplugged?), laundry doesn't have to be done (at that moment, although it piles up as a future workload), meals don't have to be prepared, although meat might still have to be cut up.

I have been surprised with some nice jewels, and I do treasure them, but if I had to take one over the other, I'd take the getaway experience every time. It's been three years since I was given jewelry, but last year we went to Paris, and this year we hope to return to our favorite Caribbean getaway.

What about you? If you were going to splurge, would you prefer the bling of a diamond, or a fantastic vacation? What are some of your indelible memories or lasting results of a getaway trip or a family vacation?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Hands On or Hands Off?

Are you a physical learner? One who likes to be able to touch and feel? Perhaps you join right in with your kids at the aquarium when given the opportunity to feel a shark, or you cast aside your cookbooks about bread, and simply test the dough with your hands until it feels right. Sometimes we have to dig in, and participate, and learn by doing. However, justification is not a hands on experience.

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Romans 4:1-5

Abraham was made righteous simply as a result of believing God. If he had done something to earn it, he would have been able to boast of it. If we, like the worker, think that we have done something that makes us righteous, then our wage (the righteousness) is due us, not given as a gift. When we realize that there is nothing that we have done, or can do, to become just, then it is our faith that is credited as righteousness. We must trust God to do the whole work in us, instead of trying to help our salvation by our own good works--by being the perfect wife, the sacrificing mother, the faithful church attender, the first thing in the morning Bible reader. . . .

Faith, plus anything (even those good things listed above), cancels out the faith part. Can something be free and also cost a dollar? No. Free is free. If something has a cost, then it is something that we can acquire on our own.

Our gift of salvation and the righteousness that accompanies it cannot be bought. It cannot be earned. It is given to us freely, and must be accepted as free, not as something that comes with a cost.

Can you truly be hands off in regards to the good work of your righteousness? Can you be credited with righteousness because you trust and do not work for salvation?



Index of Romans' posts

Friday, November 10, 2006

My Favorite Veterans

Terry and I have a rich family history of those who served in the military. Both of our dads were in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University. His dad served in the Army for a number of years, and my dad served in the Air Force, even going overseas to Vietnam (in a non-combat role), but today I would like to spotlight our grandfathers. Three of our four grandfathers proudly served our country during World War II.

Pepa, Terry's maternal grandfather was in the Navy. If you think he looks a bit mischievous here, you'd be about right. Pepa served in Hawaii, at Pearl Harbor, and was there when it was bombed. He and Granny didn't get married until after the war, but here's a picture of them shortly after they married. They traveled to Hawaii for the 50th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor invasion. Because Terry's parents live in the DC area, they were able to take him to the opening ceremonies of the World War II memorial. It is a beautiful monument, and I think he is proud to be honored by it.

Terry's paternal grandfather served in the Army. Texas A&M was all military then, and his entire class had to enlist shortly before graduation for some reason. Daddy Dick trained some of the African American troops in Virgina, and then served at Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah. Terry's grandmother joined him there and his father was born there. This picture is from their wedding day.



He managed to get transferred back to their hometown in Texas, which was great for Grandmommie and Terry's dad, because Daddy Dick was then was shipped to India. He was there about a year with a truck company which was carrying supplies to upper Burma building the Ledo Road, since the Japanese had cut the Burma road which had been the main supply route for China.


My maternal grandfather served in the Navy on a PT Boat during World War II. My grandparents were able to live in the same area in New York while he was training and waiting for more boats to be made. Mac served in Europe, and was in the area of Normandy when it was invaded. He used to tell a story about taking responsibility for getting an officer to England through a dense fog, and relying on God as his navigator. My mother was born after he was gone and he didn't even get to see her until she was over a year old (I think my grandmother was pregnant in this picture).

My grandparents went to France for the 50th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, and were able to see many of the European battlegrounds. In the last fifteen years or so, he and Mimi had become active with the PT Boaters' Association and were able to go to reunions each year in different places across the US.

This is real life history. History that my family was a part of. I am so proud of all of them, and proud that my kids got to know and love all of them as well. They didn't talk about their military service too much, but they have all shared other stories that I need to take care to record while they are still fresh.

What's that Smell?



Did you know that the Christian Women Online blogroll has over 600 members? Wow! They are having their first awards to honor blogs that are a sweet scent in the blogosphere. You can send an email with your entries (in any or all of the categories) to editor@christianwomenonline.net between now and November 20.

Click the button above for all the details. Basically anyone can vote, but the nominees have to be a member of the CWO blogroll. You can see an alphabetized list of those who are by clicking here. Nominations are open for the following categories:


Best Friend Award
Someone that you deem as friendly--reaching out to those around her.

Most Joyful Among Us Award
Illuminates joy through her posts. Has a "glass-half-full" attitude.

Best Home Maker Award
Exhibits above average homemaking skills, with a love for the work she does in her home.

The Better Half Award
Shows a reverent respect for her husband, and delights in her marriage.

Most Humorous Award
Has a knack for wit, and the ability to find humor in her everyday life.

Best Group Blog
Has the best team of bloggers who inspire us with their words

Best Mommy Award
A mommy who joys in the job of raising little ones for the Lord.

Best Home School Award
Makes homeschooling something to be desired.

Best Scrapbooker Award
Designs and exhibits beautiful scrapbooking lo's.

Artistic Blog Skin Award
Has a blog design that stands out as unique from the rest.

And, our most favored award will be:

The Unified Heart Award
One who strives to unify the body of Christ through love, encouragement, and an always open heart. She is unto God a sweet savor of Christ.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Isaac Newton Book Review

What do you know about Isaac Newton? If you read this book by Kathleen Krull, you will quickly discover a lot more. This is a juvenile biography, which I'm beginning to think is where I should look for biographies, which I enjoy, but don't generally have time to read. In three sittings, I read this 115 page book, and learned a great deal about Isaac Newton, his culture, his personality and his life's work. The whole time I was reading, I found it hard to believe that he lived and worked in the seventeenth century. The author helps us understand this time period with historical references, to the Bubonic Plague, for example, as well as mentions of his contemporaries, which included Milton and Hooke, and predecessors such as Descartes and Galileo.

Krull kept the book interesting by inserting references to popular culture (referring to something as a type of Newton for Dummies, comparisons to the popular Harry Potter series, and the disclosure that coffee houses have been around a lot longer than Starbucks). The clever pen and ink drawings by Boris Kulikov helped keep my interest and kept the tone light.

Because of mention of some more mature topics, I would recommend it for it ages twelve and up.

This book was nominated for the Cybils in the Middle Grade/Young Adult Non-fiction category. Click HERE to check out other nominations and other categories, or nominate your own. Nominations close November 20.

Confidence

As my children neared the age of two, those letters and colors that they had been absorbing through board books and Sesame Street, would begin to take hold. Kyle would hold up a block for me and proclaim, "Blue!" Or he'd see a letter out in the world, and joyfully identify it as, "B!" He may be right, he may be wrong, but he's confident: "That's a color (or a letter), and I'm going to name it!" There's no hesitation.

We recently dug out one of Amanda's cool gifts from her cool Uncle Kevin from her preschool days. It's a They Might be Giants children's CD called No! For whatever reason, a few years ago when she first received it, it wasn't her favorite or my favorite. But now, it's a favorite three times over. This CD makes me happy. It's funny and wry. It's very wordy, but Kyle even sings along with it, as does Amanda. I think that this CD would be appropriate for ages 3 up to 10 or older (like, uh, maybe 36?).

There's a clever song on the disc called "Two of Four." (editorial aside: I wish I could figure out how to insert a music file here on blogger--anyone know?. However, you can listen to a clip here, which I advise you to do, so that you can sing the zippy lyrics instead of just reading them, before I continue with my illustration).
Underneath a big clock at the corner of 5th Avenue and 22nd Street
I stood and waited for a girl I knew
At the spot where we agreed to meet
It was four minutes of two

At four of two, I stood waiting for the girl
I was four minutes early for the date we had planned
I was planning to say I was in love with her
Just as soon as she showed for a two o'clock date
And the clock said four of two

At four of two, I was staring into space
She was not yet late, according to the clock
I was feeling nervous so I kept looking up
At the clock sticking out of the side of the building
And it still said four of two

At four of two, I began to feel tired
And I rubbed my eyes, and again I checked the time
It seemed as if the sky was growing dark...
But I felt reassured when I looked at the clock
And it still said four of two

I lay my head down on the sidewalk so in case she were coming
I would have a better view
But no one was there so I stretched out and closed my eyes
for a second or two
It was four minutes of two

At once I awoke to a futuristic world
There were flying cars and gigantic metal bugs
I'd grown a beard; it was long and white
But I knew that the girl would be coming very soon
For though everything had changed, there was still that clock
And it still said four of two!!

This young man waits without question, having confidence in the time indicated on the clock. All signs indicate otherwise, but he's holding fast to the clock. I think that holding fast can be to our benefit. Kyle won't be afraid to take a stab at identifying a color or letter that he sees, because he's confident. And by telling me what he sees, and consequently being corrected if necessary, his accuracy will improve. He will learn.

But that poor young man, looking at the clock--he's just deluding himself. In fact, since his perception skills obviously aren't too great, perhaps the young woman for whom he was waiting was just being nice by agreeing to meet him in the first place, and he's one of those guys who will never get the picture. Or, saddest of all, perhaps he was in fact 30 minutes late, and she left, thinking she had been stood up. Since he was holding fast to the delusion of the accuracy of that stopped clock, he wasn't able to track her down and apologize.

To what are you holding fast? Is the truth that you cling to, really truth, or is it a delusion that you allow yourself to keep believing? Does the delusion, like Kyle's false confidence about his accuracy, help you somehow keep pushing forward or does it stall you like the young man who lost years, even decades of his life, standing up and looking at that stopped clock?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It's Worse than I Thought


Yes, I'm taking part in Laura's 30 Day Organizational Challenge. With fifteen minutes a day, this area could look like new by the end of the month.



As I was commenting on her original post detailing the idea, I was wondering which area I would tackle, since I have recently conquered a couple of problem spots in my home. But then a sense of forboding came over me: Yes, it would have the be the basement. This is not a wonderfully functional large space in which to store all of the things you don't know what to do with. No, it only runs half the length of our house (the garage is the other half), and it is finished living space. It's a great place for the kids and their friends to play or watch TV, and is even divided into two areas. It's the area behind the TV part that is such a disaster. It seems to be getting progressively worse, in spite of the fact that I frequently go through and clean out and try to establish some sort of semblance of order. One problem is that this becomes a catchall for other things. If you look in the pictures, you will see many bags and boxes, full of either things that need to be donated, old clothes that need to be passed down, or clothes that have been passed on to Kyle that are still too big.



So, a trip to Goodwill, taking the hand-me-down clothes to my sister-in-law at Thanksgiving, and putting the other box in the attic where it really belongs will take care of many of those piles.



But there are areas that just don't get better, regardless of how many times I tidy up: the computer table collects stuff, the craft shelves are a mess. Look at that pile on the floor! It's not usually that bad, but I took it as it was today. I think that even though I've gone through these before, I just need to get rid of a lot of it. And then there's the closet. It's a horrible closet--no storage here either. It's just a small shallow closet with a couple of shelves. At the moment it stores some games (which I could maybe, and probably will move upstairs), boxes with some books in them, I think, old magazines (which I might purge), etc etc. The other doors that you see in the pictures are not a closet. It's the furnace. The other closet (behind the table) is the oil tank, so again, no storage there.


So, I have some vague ideas, but I still need help! Yes, I would love to install some great system along that wall where the table is, but I don't have the money to do that right now, so I have to just make do. I would love some ideas for using the shallow closet.

Where's Jennifer?

You know, if you can't get enough of me here, Wednesdays are my blogosphere saturation day.

Every other Wednesday, I'm posting at FaithLifts. Click over today and see why I am Thankful for my Friends.

And every Wednesday this month, I will be posting the Mid-Week Motivational Menu over at Writer. . . Interrupted. This week, my theme is love.

There's always Works for Me Wednesday, where I used my telemarketer tip of hanging up that I posted Monday, at Susanne's suggestion. I have plenty of new ideas, but I thought that with these two new posts, and the fact that blogger will hopefully let me get my pictures added to my Organizational Challenge post so I can get that up, that would be quite enough from Snapshot today.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mind- Numbing Goodness

Wake me up before you go go. . . .

Sister Christian (motoring? what's your price for flight?)

Love is a Battlefield

Take on Me

Burning Down the House

Too Shy (Kajagoogoo anyone?)

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

I had a bad afternoon, but now, due to some mind-numbing VH1, things are looking up. Yes, I'm watching the 100 Greatest Songs of the 80's. I have to say that for someone who recently recommended Watching Less TV, yes I do have my weaknesses. Silly VH1 shows (in the vein of I Love the 80's) are good for lots of grins. Combine the snarky comments from has beens (I will say that Terry and I agree that Deborah aka "Debbie" Gibson, is looking very good these days) with awesome 80's videos, and what's not worth smiling about?

I spent this morning in the doctor's office, then home to prepare a meal for a family in our church, then I tried to combine some errands with delivering the meal, and getting lost on Connecticut country roads in the dark at 5:00pm. . . . Tried to post my organization challenge pictures all day, and dumb blogger wouldn't cooperate. Still isn't, so still no post. . . . See, I was almost all done in, until my husband surfed by VH1, and now all is well.

I dare you not to smile or sing along when you hear "Our lips are sealed." And by the way, I don't care what they call it--80's music can be vintage, retro, but let's not call it oldies, okay? Gotta go. . . we're holding out for some Duran Duran.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Around the Blogosphere



I forgot to post about this last week, but Lindsey has started a special holiday blog called Advent for Evangelicals. This month is gearing up for Advent, but also focusing on Thanksgiving. Check it daily. There are great ideas, websites, crafts, etc etc!




Iris at Sting my Heart is having a writing contest about how you witness called Shout His Fame. The deadline is November 20, and there will be a Mr. Linky soon to link up. Not only is it great to think about how we witness, but there are prizes! That gets the competitive juices flowing in me, I must admit.




Laura, the Organizing Junkie, is having a 30 Day Organizational Challenge. And, yes, more prizes!! I will have to get pictures taken and a plan, but I'm definitely participating in this one. I'm a little excited about this one as well. At first I wondered which area I might tackle, since my two or three really annoying areas, I have already taken care of. . . But stay tuned. And if you never thought that you would like to read an organizing blog, you really should check Laura out. She's warm and funny and inspiring.


I've also participated in a couple of carnivals this week.

The Carnival of Family Life is up at The Pink Diary.

The Carnival of the Blogging Chicks is up at Sting my Heart.

Name-Dropping

At the request of Susanne (and because I am lacking in other ideas or the time to prepare them), I am submitting this as my Works for me Wednesday. So--mind you Wednesday readers that it was written on Monday, before election day, but the tip is still a goodie. See Shannon for some more timely tips, and go back next week for the Christmas edition!

In the last week, I've received phone calls from Laura Bush (two in fact), Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Tom Ridge. I did like hearing from the First Lady of the United States, but I hung up on the rest.

Of course they were all recordings, just reminding me to get out and vote tomorrow.

Here's a neat tip that I learned from my mother-in-law that has spared me much sparring from telemarketers (yes, we have caller ID, and I don't always answer an unidentified call, but either our phone or our service doesn't always pick it up, and often calls from friends come in as "no data" as well, so I often risk it). If you pick up the phone and there is silence, hang up right away! It's usually an auto dialer for telemarketers and someone will pick it up as soon as they hear that someone has answered it.

So, if you call my house, and don't speak up right away, and you happen to come up as "no data" on my caller ID, I just might hang up on you. Please call back, and speak up quickly.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Spiritual Advantage?

What advantage, then is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God. Romans 3:1-2
I said in this last post from chapter 2 that in order to better put his words into our context, when he addresses the Jews (the spiritual people of the day), we can think "church-going Christians." He's still contrasting ritual with experience. So, I ask you, What value is there in having a Christian heritage, or a long personal history with God? Well, I agree with Paul when he says, "Much in every way!" We have God's word, which may have been planted in our hearts from early teaching such as learning to sing "Jesus Loves Me," knowing the story of the little boy with the loaves and the fishes which fed many, and having parents who prayed for you, or being a praying parent yourself.

But again, he will caution us not to personally rest on history, or privileged status:
As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. . . . Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather through the law, we become conscious of sin. Romans 3:10-11, 20
You know how those sign up sheets go around, asking for volunteers to prepare a meal for someone in need, or for donations for an event? My teacher at BSF reminded us that sin is not a volunteer activity. We don't opt in. There's no sign up sheet, because we are all guilty. I think it's really hard for most of us (for me, anyway), to believe that we are not capable of understanding or even seeking God on our own. I know that I have a few little "things I struggle with," but to call myself a Sinner with a capital S, well isn't that a bit harsh? It's sin. I need to face up to the fact that I am not keeping the whole law (or even one part of it completely at all times), and that apart from Jesus' death on my behalf, I have no righteousness at all.

There's no credit due to me, and there's none given. In fact, this is like a pass/fail class. It's all or none. All that God is going to examine is whether or not my heart was turned towards Him in belief and repentance. God is not only going to judge my heart, but my secrets as well (Romans 2:16). Even if I manage to adhere to most of the law on the outside, can any of us claim not to harbor any evil secrets in our hearts? It seems like a no-win situation, but if you get out from under the twinges of guilt you might be feeling, or even hopelessness in living up to the standards of perfection, you will see that God has provided a way for all to to be declared righteous. Righteous is right standing before God. God is holy and cannot have a relationship with those who are not, because He is also just, but because of His justice, He made a way for us all to be justified, which is the act of being declared righteous, or right with God (Romans 3:26).

But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood. Romans 3:21-25
God is righteous, we are not because we have all sinned. But if we have faith in Jesus Christ's sacrifice of atonement for us (the fact that he, a sinless man, died for all of our sins, in order to satisfy God's need for holiness), we are justified freely and redeemed. I love the word "freely" here. I think of it as free, with no cost to us, but the word also evokes a lavishness of giving us so much--love, mercy, forgiveness, direction. Jesus redeemed us, or bought us back, and redemption does have a price. The price was Jesus himself, but he paid it willingly.

The third verse of the hymn, "Jesus Paid it All," is perfect to describe this section. You can listen to the melody and read all the verses by clicking here.

For nothing good have I
whereby your grace to claim;
I'll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calvary's Lamb.

Jesus paid it all,
all to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

I'm lagging on these posts, simply because they take effort to think them through, but I'm going to try to post a couple in the next week. If I am losing you with any of this terminology, please let me know, because it's foundational to the rest of the study and our understanding of our salvation in general. Also, if it feels repetitive, it's only because it is foundational, so I want to be sure we are getting it. . . .


Index of Romans' posts

This is About Right

You Are Mexican Food

Spicy yet dependable.
You pull punches, but people still love you.


I saw this one a couple of places--at Barb's, which got her today wrong, and at Laurel Wreath's (who was the same as me, which I think has happened more than once on these tests). Yep, I have to agree with their take on me. This was fun. Of course, since I can't get my good Tex-Mex here in Connecticut, it's a little cruel.

And then I came across this one as Susanne's. . . And loving to analyze myself I had to take it. Again, pretty accurate for just checking off a few boxes!

Your Five Factor Personality Profile

Extroversion:

You have medium extroversion.
You're not the life of the party, but you do show up for the party.
Sometimes you are full of energy and open to new social experiences.
But you also need to hibernate and enjoy your "down time."

Conscientiousness:

You have high conscientiousness.
Intelligent and reliable, you tend to succeed in life.
Most things in your life are organized and planned well.
But you borderline on being a total perfectionist.

Agreeableness:

You have medium agreeableness.
You're generally a friendly and trusting person.
But you also have a healthy dose of cynicism.
You get along well with others, as long as they play fair.

Neuroticism:

You have low neuroticism.
You are very emotionally stable and mentally together.
Only the greatest setbacks upset you, and you bounce back quickly.
Overall, you are typically calm and relaxed - making others feel secure.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is medium.
You are generally broad minded when it come to new things.
But if something crosses a moral line, there's no way you'll approve of it.
You are suspicious of anything too wacky, though you do still consider creativity a virtue.


Also, I'm feeling a little guilty that I'm home with sick kids from church, and doing quizzes on the computer. Actually, I was working on some more spiritually minded Romans' posts, so perhaps I'll get back to those.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Arms of Deliverance Book Review

First off, let me start by saying I really liked this book.

Arms of Deliverance by Tricia Goyer is set in Europe in World War II. What I liked about it is that the history was simply a rich background which provided depth to some of the characters, and not an obtrusive additional element that the reader keeps having to navigate around. The book started pretty quickly, which was refreshing, because it seems like it has taken me a while to get into the last few novels I've picked up. I liked these characters. There were several story lines, loosely woven together, which weren't at all hard to separate. One thing that was a little difficult for me is that within the first 26 pages six or eight main characters were introduced. After I started feeling lost, I actually wrote down the characters as they were introduced and then it was fine (and to be fair, I did read the first couple of chapters before bed and I probably wasn't as mentally sharp as I could have been).

There's been a lot of talk about "Christian fiction"--if you read it and why or why not, what the problems are with it, what should be done about it etc etc. I have to say that as a semi-literary type (I was an English major and I do like a good literary novel on occasion), I don't read a lot of Christian fiction. There are a few reasons for that. One is that I don't generally enjoy historical fiction or historical romance specifically, and it seems like much of the Christian fiction published until recently fell into this category. There's a great market for it, and I'm not looking down my nose at it, but it's just not my preference. Another reason that I don't read a lot of Christian fiction is that it's not readily available in my library, and I generally spend my book dollars on nonfiction and get my fiction from the library.

That said, I look forward to reading some of Tricia Goyer's other fiction. There are three other books in this "series" (which from what I can gather is tied together by the fact that they are all set in World War II, but with different characters and different settings). In 2007 a new series set in the Spanish American War will be released.

I was sent this novel to read and review by Tricia Goyer, so I am going to pass it along to a reader here, both to promote Tricia Goyer specifically and new Christian fiction in general. If you're interested, leave me a comment telling me you'd like to be entered. Be sure that I have a way to reach you--either my email or I can leave a comment on your blog if you have one. I will draw sometime next week.

Incidentally, I've noticed lately that while amazon.com tends to have great prices in general, that christianbook does seem to have better prices on Christian fiction (and CDs for that matter).

This review is linked to Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.

What do you think of book reviews? Please leave me a comment on this post and let me know.