And “I love to tell the story.”
Merry day-before-the-day-before Christmas!
And “I love to tell the story.”
Merry day-before-the-day-before Christmas!
Making Christmas cookies and treats is just about my favorite thing of the season.
I’m baking things for my family and the office Christmas party on Tuesday. Saturday, I also had the chance to bake cookies for Jesus. Several years ago, some ladies in our church started a ministry to give plates of cookies to prisoners at the county jail. Many of the prisoners have written thank you notes. For these men and women who are at the lowest point in their life, to know someone thought of them and cared enough to make homemade cookies really meant a lot.
This year, I felt compelled to share with them. Nothing fancy, just brownies and dipped pretzels (a personal favorite). And as I cooked, I prayed for the prisoners, that they would not just have a treat, but know Christ, who came to set the captives free.
When I opened the almond bark (What a strange name! I checked the ingredients, there is no almond or no bark in it.) I was delighted to discover that great innovations had been made in packaging. Instead of one solid brick that requires a hammer to break, it was packaged in a tray in neat little chunks, making it easy to select just what you need.
My gardening philosophy is to always plant a chili pepper – because it will always grow. Even in the hottest, driest years, you can count on an abundant crop.
This year, I tried something I’ve wanted to for a long time. I planted a chili in a pot on the front porch. It worked great to add some color and “spice.”
When fall hit, the little pepper was still going to town. I didn’t have the heart to let it freeze, so along with the geranium, inside it moved.
It’s still blooming and putting on peppers.
Considering temperatures dipped below zero last week and Sunday we got a few inches of snow, this little pepper is doing great.
This weekend was a special treat. I got to visit writer friend Sara Meisinger. As part of our fun-filled stay, she took me to Abilene, Kan., a little town abounding in history and character.
I was especially interested in the town’s shoot-em-up days of the cattle drives, when former Pony Express wrangler Wild Bill Hickock served as town marshall. We walked around downtown and these saddles were displayed in one shop window.
We visited a great local museum and took a walk around the grounds of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, where his boyhood home stands. After we got home, we stayed up late talking about the novels we’re writing and dreaming up ways to add some of this setting to the stories.
The song is right; Abilene is a pretty little town.
But my two favorite things about Kansas are my friends who live there.
And the sunsets.
KANSAS CITY – Naghmeh Abedini does not know if she will see her husband alive again. She is well aware that he may die inside the brutal Iranian prison where he has been held for over a year because of his faith in Christ.
Yet she assured messengers at the Missouri Baptist Convention annual meeting, Oct. 28-30, that she is not scared.
“You can’t fake this peace,” she said in a clear, confident voice. “It’s only found in a relationship with Christ. The dying world does not have that.”
I had the privilege of covering Mrs. Abedini’s appearance as a reporter for the Missouri Baptist Pathway. Having followed the news of her husband’s capture, I was struck by how young she is to be thrust in the midst of an international debate. She said one of her greatest challenges has been suddenly becoming a single parent and trying to explain to her two young children where their daddy is.
But the most striking thing about this beautiful young woman is her unrelenting faithfulness to Jesus Christ. Her testimony has pierced my heart.
Mrs. Abedini addressed the convention briefly Tuesday morning and then shared in-depth with women at the Ministry Wives Luncheon. (Watch the video here.) Born in Iran and raised in the United States, Mrs. Abedini said that she has always experienced some form of persecution since she was saved at age 9.
After her husband Saeed Abedini—an American-Iranian pastor whom she met while on a mission trip—was arrested for being a Christian, she reluctantly gained an immense platform. The campaign “Save Saeed” has garnered worldwide attention. As a result, she has been able to lead atheists and Muslims to Christ. She marveled that, as a young housewife, she addressed the United Nations in Geneva where 196 nations were represented.
“I told them the solution they’re all looking for to the world’s problems is Jesus Christ,” she said.
Mrs. Abedini’s boldness follows an experience in 2009 when she and her husband were arrested in Iran. An interrogator promised to release her if she said she was a Muslim. But if she professed to be a Christian, she would be tortured in prison. Fear threatened to overwhelm her in that moment.
“Is Jesus Christ that real to me? That I would go through torture and rape?” she remembers thinking. “He gave me the strength to say ‘I am a Christian.’”
Then, when her husband was interrogated, he told the captor about Jesus. “Saeed was never turned off by radicals,” she said. “He believed they were blinded and always tried to reach them for Christ.”
The man released the couple and her perspective on life changed forever. “The Lord taught me that our time on earth is in God’s hands,” Mrs. Abedini said. “Even through this, I’m not scared. I know my life is not in the hands of the Iranian government or radicals. I should have been killed years ago.”
Even so, her husband’s imprisonment has been very trying, especially for their two young children. “My whole life changed when he was taken,” she said. “Everything was taken from me, all my security.”
Mrs. Abedini’s uncle was executed in Iran’s Evin Prison, where Saeed is held. Saeed has been beaten several times and some of those who were arrested with him have died. Last week, his family learned that Saeed has been moved to an even more dangerous prison in Iran. His life is in immediate danger.
Even so, Mrs. Abedini has learned, as the Apostle Paul wrote, how to take pleasure in these circumstances.
“Don’t run from suffering. Allow it to show how weak you are,” she said. And in doing so, find freedom by falling into the arms of Christ. She urged the women at the ministry luncheon to surrender to the Lord. “He’s waiting for you as a woman to learn to let go. When you submit to God, He uses your life to reach the nations.”
Mrs. Abedini asked for prayers—for strength as she is serving in the public eye and for her two young children, to pray for Saeed to be released from prison soon and to pray for doors to be opened to the gospel. During his time in prison, Saeed has led 30 men to Jesus, and Abedini has been able to witness to the wives, some of whom have been saved.
“I can’t take any credit for it,” she said. “I hope you can see that it’s all Jesus. It’s all the power of Jesus.”
Just when I thought all the summer clothes were packed away and the winter clothes arranged in the closet – What is this? A whole other box of sweaters? Say it ain’t so!
As I “turned” the closet this fall, I was forced to face the warm reality: I have a lot of clothes. Especially sweaters. Even with regular purgings to send outcasts to the donation box, the drawers overflow. The issue has become especially apparent as winter clothes are bulkier than summer T-shirts and shorts.
An idea had been forming in my mind that firmed up today when I found that extra box – which included some cute bargains Kathy Gronau and I picked up on an impulse shopping spree during the Called To Write Conference. (As far as anyone else knows, we were working on our manuscripts.)
The truth is I have plenty to wear. The plan: Make it through the entire winter season without buying any new clothes.
It sounds easy, but I am well aware of my weaknesses. When passing through Sam’s Club, I always drop by those tables with tops on them. Bargains prove almost irresistable - passing up a cute dress for $7 would not be wise stewardship, I rationalize. Getting ready for work each morning becomes more fun if there’s a new outfit to look forward to.
After consulting with a friend, she pointed out how it is good to have something new each year to keep up to date, so I’m going to allow myself two new purchases.
I can already tell this is going to be tough. On the other hand, I’m excited about some of the other things I might be able to buy if the clothing budget is slashed to zero. (Obviously, I still have a ways to go to overcome my consumption habits.)
(Get used to seeing me in this sweater, because I won’t be getting any new ones for awhile.)
My hometown has received national attention this week in tragic circumstances. As I follow the situation with a heavy heart, I realize this essay I wrote a year ago is very relevant.
Let’s just say it never happened.
Feel better now?
The NCAA ruled that more than some 100 football games Penn State played over the last 14 years essentially didn’t happen. How this is supposed to make up for sexual abuse against children, I do not understand.
The ruling is a convoluted stab at justice that reveals something about our culture. We’re intent on constructing barriers in an effort to insulate ourselves from the consequences of sexual sin. Yet we’re fooling ourselves as we ignore the behaviors and attitudes destroying us from the inside out.
The NCAA, like all of us, is trying to say that they wish the abuse had never occurred. But since they can’t change that, they’ll try to make it seem like the football games weren’t played.
We have a responsibility to protect children and administer justice to abusers, no doubt about it. In this effort, we paint sex abusers as the most vile of all creatures. We’re convinced that an abuser must be rotten to the core and incapable of ever doing anything good, like winning a football game. So evil, it would be obvious who they were. They could never be a neighbor or Sunday school teacher or family member, this thinking suggests.
It’s a dangerous step, because it blinds us to the reality that the capacity to commit sexual sin resides within each of us. Most of us will never, ever cross that line. The line, however, keeps getting blurrier under a haze of sexualized messages that barrage us daily.
Our courts, goaded by state legislators, take a hard line on child molesters. At a recent sentencing involving a religious leader, the judge said someone who covered up crimes allowed “monsters … to destroy the souls of children.”
This is a black-and-white stance in the courtroom, but here in the real world it’s more like “50 Shades of Grey” as the explicit book is a best seller, pornography is piped into every home and nudity is depicted on network television. Sleeping together on the first date is thought to be “no big deal” while waiting for marriage is so rare it’s considered freakish.
In this hyper-sexualized culture, it seems children hardly stand a chance. The church’s plea for purity is drowned out as hopelessly outdated. Many Christians, I expect, are reluctant to speak out because they feel they’ve failed in this area in the past. Yet, it is only in holding to the truth that we can truly protect the innocent from those who seek to destroy their soul.
We are right to be grieved for the boys who were abused at Penn State; they carry the scars all their lives. Yet I find myself thinking about the ordinary students at that college and many others. How many of them bear lifetime scars because of “casual sex.” The consequences of sexual sin don’t stop when a person turns 18, no matter what we’ve fooled ourselves into believing.
As someone who as has never been married, I know that it’s one thing to be disciplined in behavior, yet another altogether to be pure in heart. Our church teaching should emphasize the gifts that chastity and restraint offer for people in all stages of life. Purity isn’t old-fashioned, it’s the light for our future.
One thing the NCAA ruling does get right is that sexual sin doesn’t just affect one person. The effect ripples out to a whole community. The football penalty actually impacts students the most, taking away 10 scholarships among other things. Children and the innocent suffer when vows are deemed unnecessary, when the sacred is treated as disposable and when children are considered an unfortunate byproduct of recreational activity.
In my toddler Sunday school class, we recently studied the paralyzed man who was carried to Jesus by his friends. Jesus saw his physical problem, but also the greater need of his heart and said, “Sons, your sins are forgiven.”
Then Jesus reads the thoughts of the Pharisees and asks which is easier: to make a man walk or to forgive his sins? To prove his point, Jesus then heals him and the man stands up – his legs whole, his heart healed.
Those words have echoed in my mind many times this week. What is easier: To take away football wins, or to take away sins?
The NCAA doesn’t have the power to forgive. Our problems won’t be solved by taking away football wins or issuing longer sentences for convicted abusers. Until we look beyond obvious crimes to see that pornography and promiscuity cause deep wounds will we be able to rise up and walk.
Sexual sins have broken many lives. God has the power to forgive sins and to heal our hearts.
As we, the people of God, go forth in the beauty of purity, may our chastity and restraint transform the very core of our culture.
Fun week here on Pages From Stages! We each must imagine we had to live in a different time period.
My choice is an easy one – I’d be an American pioneer.
Since childhood – when I tried to make my bedroom look like a log cabin and I sewed long skirts for my Barbie dolls – I’ve been captivated by the frontier spirit. I would love to be part of settling a wild land and growing the nation.
Several years ago I read the book Pioneer Women which is a compilation of letters that settlers wrote to family back home.
These letters detail hardships that I never imagined, but also the great pride these women had in their endeavor. It drove home the critical role women played on the frontier of the United States. I think early pioneers survived only because of the sheer determination of these ladies not to let their families starve or freeze to death.
Another thing about settlers that I admire is their sense of community. They all pulled together for barn raisings and threshings at harvest. And I love the clothes, especialy the gloves, but not so much the bonnets and corsets.
Ain’t she a beaut?
My mom had a Crock Pot just like this, in all its green glory. My dad bought this particular one at a farm sale. I snagged it because this size is perfect for cooking for one person. New styles of slow cookers are larger. They’re also complicated. Look at the simple beauty of this thing – one button, two settings. This appliance is still working great and will probably outlast me.
I’m looking forward to reading my fellow bloggers recipes this week because using a slow cooker is so convenient for a working gal, though I find I don’t have many ideas. Here’s a recipe I “discovered” one Sunday morning when I needed to come up with dinner for company.
4 pork chops
1 cup rice, uncooked
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 cups water
Pour rice into crock pot. Sprinkle with 1/2 onion soup mix. Place pork chops over rice. Pour mushroom soup over all. Sprinkle remaining onion soup mix over all. Add water. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.
It’s a Crock Pot, not a rocket booster – you can just throw it all in there in any order. Of course, you can also use cream of chicken or cream of celery soup.
We’re talking about libraries and librarians this week and I’d like to show you around the St. Joseph Downtown Library. In a town full of neat old buildings, I think it’s one of the coolest.
This photo shows the front lobby and circulation desk.
And here’s the view from the top of the skylight: Too cool!
I used to work just a block from the library and sometimes on lunch break I’d slip over to the reference room to read or browse books. My favorite part is the book balcony. The balcony filled with “stacks” is visible as you enter the lobby. And the floor is made of glass!
With my Kindle electronic reader, I don’t go to the library as much as I used to, but this summer I went to the kids section to check out some Laura Ingalls Wilder books. It was like visiting an old friend and we picked up right where we’d left off.
And when I needed photos taken, the Downtown Library was the perfect place for this writer.