Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful Living & Thankful Giving

Giving thanks to our Heavenly Father for all that we 
have, enjoy, love and cherish....
and for everything else that comes our way, too....
from God's gracious hand.

The famous "Cottage Cheese Rolls"
Here is the menu we'll be following for this year.   Pretty much the same as in years past.    Reassigning the potato mashing job to my daughter.    We do a lot of the prep work the day before the Gathering:   making the mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce/relish, appetizer dip, pies & cheesecake and readying the serving dishes.  

On Thanksgiving morning, we hustle to the kitchen to get things going.  Prep the turkey, get the dough going for the rolls, rearrange the fridge, clean last-minute stuff.    Change clothes and strike "relaxing" poses.  Sniff the aromas expectantly.   Baste the bird (or not, depending on the recipe).    Set the table.   Hunt for the serving dishes we forgot to set out the day before (gasp in disgust at the dust that accumulated INSIDE a cabinet!!  How's that happen?).

We always like to invite others to join us on  this special day.  In previous years we've had family living close by, and we spent holidays with them, or they with us.   Last year, despite our best efforts, we were just four around the table.  This year, we've invited a young couple from our church, along with their three children.  

I'm looking forward to making the cottage cheese rolls with help from the little ones again.   It is always more fun to have little hands helping . . . dinner is more special-er for some strange reason when laughter is generously sprinkled (along with "love") over the ingredients!

You're not doing it right if  you don't get flour everywhere!
So give yourself permission to let the little ones help in whatever way they can.   Peeling or mashing potatoes, whipping the cream, being Mommy's helper, the important dishwasher loader or unloader!   Put an apron on those little ones, the big ones and the in-between ones!  

Assign the teens the jobs of lighting candles and pouring sparkling cider or wine.   Someone else can be "in charge" of keeping the gravy boat(s) fully loaded.    

The meal is about family, so smile and listen to the gabbing and giggling....and cherish the moments.   

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts
since as members of one body 
you were called to peace.  
And be thankful.  
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly 
as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, 
and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs 
with gratitude in your hearts to God.   
And whatever you do, 
whether in word or deed, 
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, 
giving thanks to God the Father 
through Him."  
Colossians 3:15-17 NIV

Friday, November 18, 2011

At Home With Christ

One Sunday morning, I mentioned to my Sunday School class that our family has “devotions” each evening.   A student asked “What are devotions?”    This article addresses that question.
I will give them a heart to know me, 
that I am the Lord.   
 They will be my people, and I will be their God,
    for they will return to me with all their heart.”  
  Jeremiah 24:7 NIV


A “devotion” is a daily family worship time when you gather together with those at home and read God’s word and perhaps a short lesson and pray together.    Usually devotion-worship (in keeping with God's command that the man is the leader) is led by the husband (or older son), but if he’s not around, Mom or daughter can take charge.


Simple Version ~ Family devotions can be as simple as reading from the Bible and saying prayers together.   You can follow a one year Bible or on-line Bible reading plan.    Read one chapter from the book of Proverbs each day (correspond to the day of the month, ie., on November 28, read the 28th chapter of Proverbs).   Or read one chapter from Psalms each day.   

Super Simple ~ Simply read from a devotional book, booklet or quarterly--most are based on a Bible passage and end with a short prayer.     Check your church library for Bible study devotional materials.  

Our church body publishes Meditations a quarterly booklet, as a subscription through Northwestern Publishing House.    OR for free you can subscribe to daily on-line devotions, too.  

Don't under-estimate your little ones' abilities to "get" God's Word.   Dump the cutesy, baby-ish, and "dumbed down" versions.   Graduate your little ones to God's Word as quickly as possible.   They're ready for "meat" sooner than you realize!
Getting Fancy ~ If you have a hymnal, familiarize yourself with its contents.  Hopefully you'll find a section with short devotions for morning or evening.   Our Christian Worship hymnal and supplement has morning and evening devotions; they’re short and the structure is easy-to-adjust to individual needs or abilities.  Just add psalms and readings in the right slots!   

If you have singers in  your midst (or even if you don't!), add some music to your devotion time.  Jesus doesn't care if you can sing opera or can't carry a tune.   He hears it all from your heart!


Establish family devotion-time while your children are babies; then you have a routine that brings joy to your home!  If they're older, start now.   The Lord says in Deuteronomy 6:6-9:    

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  
Impress them on your children.  
Talk about them when you sit at home 
and when you walk along the road
when you lie down and when you get up…. 
Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.   

Gather the family before breakfast or after supper, before bedtime or after baths, whatever.   Adjust your gathering time as the years roll by when the kids have games or teens get jobs or Dad or Mom has an evening meeting or class.  

Every family is different.   My dad read from Meditations before we cleared the supper table, and we HAD to have our hands folded, we finished with either the Lord's Prayer or Luther's Evening Prayer.   At my grandparents’ home, we gathered in the dining room, right before the children were sent to bed, and Grampa would read from the Bible and from Portals of Prayer.  Then we'd all say the Lord's Prayer.   Friends with young adult children read from a Bible commentary, that is very enriching!   

When we first got married, it was real simple:  we read our Bible together at bedtime and talked about what we read.  When children arrived, we adjusted our agenda to accommodate their tender ages.  Lately, we've morphed into saying bed-time prayers, then reading from Meditations or Daily Readings from the Life of Christ.   Sometimes we do "prayer requests" and one person will do an excorde prayer based on all the requests.     When we have friends over, they’re included too—and, so far, none of our kids (or their friends) have died from this!    We also have “special” devotion books that we read at Lent/Easter and at Advent/Christmas.   

Over the years, we’ve had evening devotions at the dining  table, on the couch in the living or family room or gathered in the children’s bedrooms snuggling on the beds.   We gather when we’re on vacation, too, in motels, in the car, in tents or cabins and around campfires.  

Since we homeschool we start every weekday off with a morning devotion using the Morning Devotion liturgy in our hymnal.  Then we read from a book for young ones or older children or topical studies or Luther's Small Catechism  for the reading.   We also use a morning prayer written by Martin Luther.


Show due reverence for God's Word, but allow for discussion and questions.   Encourage active listening by telling the children you're going to ask them a question at the end and wonder who will be able to answer.    Little ones will learn to sit quietly if you show them that you EXPECT them to sit on your lap the entire time (be consistent).   
Start today.    

You will benefit, so will your children and grand-children.  The habits you set today will bear much fruit in the future!   Our Lord promises us in Proverbs 22:6:   

 Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.     


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shining Your Light

The following was shared by a sister in Christ involved with Lutheran Women's Missionary Society in our circuit.   It struck me as worth broadcasting to all my Titus Two Friends---particularly at this time when we are giving thanks for our blessings.

Each day we interact with people from all different walks of life—and that means every day we have opportunities to share Jesus. Are you looking for more ways to let your light shine?    Here are some ideas:
  • •Spend time each day studying the Bible.
  • •Prepare a personal statement of faith.
  • •Pray regularly and ask God to help you spread His Word.
  • •Forward daily devotions to family and friends.
  • •Host a Bible study in your home.
  • •Invite neighbors to events at your church.
  • •Welcome families that move into the neighborhood.
  • •Develop relationships with your doctor, hairstylist, mailman, and others.
  • •Display Christian art or play Christian music at work, if permitted.
  • •Volunteer to teach English as a Second Language classes.
  • •Make regular visits to nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

Jesus said....
"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.   
And surely, I am with you always
to the very end of the age."

 O, LORD God, please give us many opportunities to share Your light today.  Especially watch over our missionaries, their families and congregations in southeast Asia.   
Lord, please give them strength as they 
share the light of Jesus.  
And Lord, please let my light shine in 
all I think, say and do. Make me BOLD to walk the path upon which You have set my feet.  
In Jesus' beautiful name, let this be done.   

Thanks to Lynette Hupman, Vice President of Heritage Circuit LWMS for the idea.   
I edited the prayer and added the Bible passage, otherwise this is her work. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Care Packages for a Soldier

Anytime is a good time to send a Care Package to a soldier, but holidays are ESPECIALLY tough for them--far from home!

If you've never sent one--there's no time like the "present" to get one packed and mailed.  Here are a few helpful hints to get you started.

Bake some cookies, bars or brownies.   Nothing fussy or frosted.   Solid cookies that will not crumble when jiggled and schmucked around on a forklift!

While those are cooling, buzz over to the Post Office and pick up one of their free boxes.  You want the LARGE Priority Mail "flat rate" box (more on this later).  Ask for the customs declaration form.  Get two of those in case you mess it up.   It's easier to fill out at home!

Check out the consignment store book shelves and look for something for your soldier to read.   My son mentioned that he wanted to read "light" stories, westerns, action-adventure, but nothing that reminded him of combat or war.   And he didn't want us to spend money on new books, because he wouldn't have room in his dufflebags when he left his COP.  

Run in to your favorite store and get the latest issue of your soldier's favorite magazine, a puzzle book (crossword, sudoku, word search) and a mechanical pencil.   Pick up some hard candy (individually wrapped), gum, fruit snacks (little packets), other treats.    

Meander into the hosiery department and grab one or two pair of WOOL SOCKS--especially if your solder has been deployed for more than a few months.   He'll be so glad to see those socks, believe me, you'll get tons of thanks!

Last but not least, look for a bag of his favorite chips.   My son was keen on Cool Ranch Doritos.   I always used a bag to top off the box--and he said even if they got crushed (usually they didn't) that even the crumbs were tasty and a GREAT change from the chow hall food!

Back home, package the cookies in sandwich sized zippered bags, neatly and tightly.   Or vacuum seal.

I freeze my cookies at this point, so they get solidly cold.   I figure they'll start out frozen/cold then during transport maintain a bit of the chill, and hopefully stay fresh longer.  Even with Priority Mail, packages going to a war-zone don't get to a loved one as quickly as going state-side. And depending where your soldier is stationed, the box could sit for a few days in a depot somewhere.  On top of which, your soldier could be out on a mission for several days once the mail is dropped off at his COP or FOB!

Nestle the cookies in the middle of the goodies, and keep filling the box.  The tighter you can keep things, the less breakage.   Lightly crush some newspaper to fill in the spaces.   Dear son told me, "Mom, don't use those stupid packing peanuts!  Do you know what happens when they get all over everything in my tent?" If you must use packing peanuts, kindly put them in a plastic shopping bag (tied shut), and keep them corralled!   

Avoid sending toiletries in food packages as the manly fragrance of Old Spice isn't a nice flavor for Chocolate Chip Cookies!    So, do send toiletries, but send them separately!

Once the box is packed, tape it shut.    Tape a plain white sheet of paper on the top and add your soldier's address with your return address.    Fill out that declaration form you grabbed from the Post Office.

Back at the Post Office, remind the clerk that this package is going to an active duty soldier in a war zone.   You get a reduced rate (like $3.00 which is more to spend on what's INSIDE the package!--yeah!).   

If you're able to communicate with your soldier, let him know via your network that a package is on its way.    This will increase the anticipation of something from home as well as alerting him to be around at Mail Call!

We can't do much for our soldier-sons or daughters when they're deployed, but we CAN let them know we miss them, we love them, and we think of them.  

St. Paul wrote to the Philippians:  
"I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last 
you have renewed your concern for me.  
Indeed, you have been concerned, 
but you had no opportunity to show it.  
I am not saying this because I am in need, 
for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.   
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, 
whether well fed or hungry, 
whether living in plenty or in want.  
I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Autumn Afternoon

Bonfire Days
by Grace Strickler Dawson

Ho! For the leaves that eddy down,
Crumpled yellow and withered brown…
Starting aloft to windy ways,
Telling the coming of bonfire days.


November Night
by Adelaide Crapsey

Listen . . .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghost,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break free from the trees
And fall.

 "What's For Dinner?"
Leslie Newman, cookbook author

As the days grow short, some faces grow long.
But not mine.
Every autumn, when the wind turns cold and the darkness comes early, 
I am suddenly happy.   
It’s time to start making soup again.

Praise the LORD!
Psalm 147: 1-6 NIV 

Praise the Lord from the heavens,
praise Him in the heights above.

Praise Him, all His angels,
praise Him, all His heavenly hosts.

Praise Him, sun and moon,
praise Him, all you shining stars.

Praise Him, you highest heavens
and you waters above the skies.

Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for He commanded and they were created.

He set them in place for ever and ever;
He gave a decree that will never pass away.