Friday, December 18, 2009

Hopes And Fears

"O Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by. Yet, in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light...The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight." -Phillips Brooks.

This beloved carol was written in 1867, a few years after Mr. Brooks had assisted with the midnight service in the old church in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, 1865.  Brooks wrote about his horseback journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem: "I remember standing in the old church in Bethlehem, close to the spot where Jesus was born, when the whole church was ringing hour after hour with splendid hymns of praise to God, how again and again it seemed as if I could hear voices I knew well, telling each other of the Wonderful Night of the Savior’s birth."

"We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell- - O come to us! Abide with us! Our Lord! Emmanuel!" I love the faith and hope expressed in the great carols like this one. This is the great message of Christmas- Hope! God loves His creation and went to great pains to bring them Salvation. In fact, this is the whole story of the Bible, all the effort God has exerted to bring Light and Life to us. I am greatly offended and insulted to hear some of the songs today being changed to take this hope out of Christmas. Case in point: Have yourself a merry little Christmas. The original wording of the ending is "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough and have yourself a merry little Christmas now." Meaning of course, putting a star on top of your Christmas tree that symbolizes the star of Bethlehem, and hope... But now I am hearing, "Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow, but have yourself a merry little Christmas now." Who gave you the license to do this anyway?!!! It's certainly not artistic license.

I was following Sean Hannity on the radio last week, and I like Sean, no offense to him. But all the news about the Copenhagen Summit and Obamacare just drag me down. Hearing that our president wants to change the military's methods etc ...I'm not going to explain all that here. But what's the point of sending troops if they will be pulled out on a certain date without the job being completed? Anyway I was meeting Galen at Lowe's to trade cars with him and had just heard Sean's news...(By the way, also another song that gets me riled is Happy Christmas by John Lennon. It seems to be somehow casting aspersions on this holy day "So this is Christmas? I hope it's a good one..." I may be taking this wrong but the version I heard, not the one with John singing, was just depressing. Melody and everything.) Meeting Galen in Lowe's, I had just heard Mr. Hannity, and Happy Christmas on another station, and I saw two servicemen in uniform, Air Force, in Lowe's. I had to restrain myself right there in the store from crying. Galen saw me and said, "What's wrong?" I of course could not talk about it, but I was thinking, What use is it to send these fine young strong Americans overseas if they can not do their job properly? Are they going to die, and die for nothing? Will this president follow through on the promises made to these men when they swore to defend our nation and follow the orders given them? How can Santa Claus provide the hope we need? How can our president not give lip service at least to the Christianity that made our country great? Why must all mention of Christ and even the word Christmas cause offense to the liberals? I am determined to put on the armor of God and do battle with the forces of darkness and the wickedness in high places. May God bring revival to many in America. THE GREAT GLAD TIDINGS TELL!!!!!!!

"God rest ye, merry gentlemen. Let nothing you dismay! Remember Christ our savior was born on Christmas Day to save us all from satan's power when we were gone astray! O Tidings of Comfort and Joy! COMFORT AND JOY! O Tidings of comfort and joy! "

Don't be a Scrooge, or worse, A Liberal!

Proclaim the Joy of the Lord!
JOY to the world!
The Lord HAS come!
Let every heart prepare him room!
And heaven and nature sing!

May God Bless Us, Every One.

I Do hope you have beaten the rush at the mall...
Only 7 shopping days left!

Merry Christmas to All!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Little Christmas Joys

I love the "trappings" and wrappings of Christmas! The beautiful light displays, candles, poinsettias, glittery ornaments...

Through it all I know I must keep to the focus of what Christmas really means- the birth of the Savior. I decorate, but do not get too extravagant. I do not have any Santa Claus related decor, but I do enjoy gingerbread houses and snowmen. And Angels of course! I first started collecting angels a few years after my marriage- thinking of the scripture, "...there was a multitude of the heavenly host praising God..." 

Every year I try to buy one Angel for my collection. My first one was ordered through Spiegel catalog and was a paper-mache (SP?) type. After a couple of years of storage it got broken. For a while I had quite a few standing angels but now I focus on hanging ones as I don't have enough flat areas to stand them on.

This is David's favorite angel- it commemorates the new millenium year 2000.

This is my girls' favorite...

and this is my most "whimsical" one- not really realistic for an angel!

I found this at an antique mall-type store- it's a shiny gold metal tea-light holder. This is one I just bought this December.

 I have a wonderful Nativity set that is the cloth type.

This is my star garland above the manger scene, with a large Bethlehem star made of a mirror.

 Both my husband and I come from families that never did a Christmas tree and we have followed this through our married life, striving to keep the focus on The Advent of The Christ. It can be a wonderful spiritually refreshing time as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

My two little ones are looking forward to making gingerbread houses this year. The last day of school is tomorrow and we plan to "bake and make" during the Christmas Break! Following are pictures of my snowman and "gingerbread house" collections.

This little cottage was sent to my daughter Alison from my brother Jonathan and his wife Cindy in a get-well flower arrangement- Alison had mono two years in a row at Christmas time.

This "Fire Station" is the gift I got to bring home from my husband's Prudential Real Estate office party a couple of years ago- we played Dirty Santa. I was so happy to get to keep this because at the time Benjamin was going through his firefighter training. Another year I found this snowman- North Pole Fire Department!

Here is our one-armed musical snowman that plays "Frosty the Snowman." I found him at The Marketplace vendor mall in Edmond for a great price. The music has one note that is quite off, and so hearing the song is fun...we love this little snowman even though he is not perfect

...Alison's My First Christmas Socks- wow! These are 18years old now!

Another of Alison's socks beside a school picture of Julia from 1st grade

A fun sequence of pictures from 2000. Ben and Al were going to Path of Life School in Guthrie, and they were Mary and Joseph in the Christmas Play. Julia was "Baby Jesus"... and some crying she did make!

The beaded runner that covers the surface of my sideboard where I have placed all my little cottages.

Galen's grandparents that have passed on into the gloryland, taken at the last Christmas they were all still with us.

Thanks for taking a Christmas tour of my home! May your days be Merry and Bright!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Peace On Earth?

"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 2:13-14, KJV

In World War I, on and around Christmas Day 1914, the sounds of rifles firing and shells exploding faded in a number of places along the Western Front in favor of holiday celebrations in the trenches and gestures of goodwill between enemies.Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing. Soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man's-land, calling out "Merry Christmas" in their enemies' native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer. Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task: the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man's land between the lines.

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers' threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers' essential humanity endured.  -from

Picture above  of a cross, left near Ypres in Belgium in 1999, to commemorate the site of the Christmas Truce in 1914. The text reads "1914, The Khaki Chum's Christmas Truce, 1999, 85 Years, Lest We Forget".

Chain Gang 1940 "The light of a clear, cold December day was fading. A soldier in my detachment walked between the two men at the head of my column, forcing them apart, and then walked through the middle cleaving usinto two single lines. On shouted instructions, we picked up the chain with the hand nearest to it. The chain was brand new, still coated with some dark, sticky anti-rust compound, and its coldness struck the hand almost like a burn. Then, fifty men a side, we were handcuffed to the chain by one wrist. Like some great slowly walking reptile, the long procession began to move. There was just enough room between the man ahead and the man behind for me to step out without hindrance. We were hit by three tearing blizzards in the course of our march. Somehow someone learned during the second week of the march that it was December 24. The news went up and down the long, struggling line like the leaping flames of a forest fire. It's Christmas Eve, went the whisper from man to man. Away back behind us there was suddenly a thin, wavering sound. It was odd and startling. It grew in volume and swept toward us. It was the sound of men singing, men singing with increasing power in the wastes of the Siberian wilderness. I thought the soldiers would have been ordered to shout us down, but the mounting song reached us unchecked and engulfed us. Everybody who had a voice left was joining in. A marching choir of nearly five thousand male voices drowning their despair in a song of praise for the Child who was born on Christmas Day. The song was "Holy Night", and those who did not sing it in Polish sang it in the language in which they had learnt it as children. Then a few voices started the Polish Christmas carol, "Jesu's Lullaby", and I choked on it and fell silent. And half-way through it, others broke down and wept quietly. The Lullaby died abruptly and there was no more singing. Our hearts were full to bursting with the bitter-sweet memories of other Christmases... Christmas Day came and went like any other of the dreary succession of marching days. We walked into our second blizzard and walked out of it. Grechinen and I between us supported the man directly ahead of him for hours during this second storm. He died barely half-an-hour before we reached the night's stopping place." -from The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz

"Today, we utter no prayer more fervently than the ancient prayer for peace on earth." -Ronald Reagan, Second Inaugural Address, 1985

The following prayer and meditation is from the book "No Atheists In Foxholes" by Chaplain Patrick McLaughlin, CDR, USN  
"God of all history, we have studied history, and there has never been lasting peace. The history of the Bible is littered with battles and death, with the conquerors and the vanquished. Those believing in the myth of redemptive violence killed even your own Son, Jesus Christ! Will we ever know peace? Is the ancient prayer for peace among people possible? We know all things are possible for you, O God, but is it possible for humanity? Can we be saved from ourselves? We do not know the answer to these questions, so we have no other choice; we must pray... Amen"

"By the regulations of the Geneva Convention and the long tradition of clerics on the battlefield, military chaplains are non-combatants. I operate within the institutions of the US Navy and the US Marine corps, whose members are trained to kill the enemy. But something pulls rank over the military. I am subject first to the teachings and practices of the holy gospel. In many instances these two sets of guidelines run headlong into each other. As an ordained Christian pastor, I am called on by Christ to "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless them who curse you..." During predeployment training, everyone is given a small card with the rules of engagement guide printed on it. Across the top of the card in bold print appears, "Nothing on this card prevents you from using deadly force to defend yourself."

"It's not just in battle that I am confronted with this dilemma. While stationed as chaplain at Camp David under President Bush, I am asked to pray for a solution to what appears to be an impending war. There is a sinking feeling that the solution will not come peacefully. Before long we are at war, and I stand at the front of a congregation that includes the president, my commander in chief, who has made the decision to send our troops and nation to war in Iraq. Never before have I faced this great a challenge in ministry. Two and a half years later, I am stationed with marines and sailors in Iraq. Now I will minister to combatants in a war zone.

"During times of peace and especially during times of war, I am called to be a messenger of peace and forgiveness. I am called to pray for those who would try to kill me and those around me. Chaplains are the only ones in military uniform who do not carry weapons. Even doctors are issued sidearms to protect themselves or their patients. Many people outside the military do not realize that the marines and sailors with whom I serve expect and demand that I fill the role of a non-combatant. My greatest challenge is to remain faithful to God when those with whom I serve are on a battlefield, and there are enemies around me who will try to kill me.

"I am a Christian chaplain. I am a non-combatant. If I do not stand for peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation in Iraq, who will?"

My son Benjamin and my daughter Alison

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winter Pleasures

Steaming mugs of cocoa, hot cups of tea...these little indulgences are practically a necessity in December!

This is the first year I have really been able to enjoy hot tea. Always before, I HAD to have hot chocolate.
Winter seemed to be an impossible time to reduce sugar content in my drinks because the sugar-free packets of hot chocolate just did not hit the spot.
I would try to get "into" tea-drinking but just could not find what satisfied my taste! But now, I have made it!
I have finally found what satisfies me in the tea line!

My favorite hot tea is loose leaf Scottish Breakfast Tea. I turn my nose up at the tea bag trade! I first found a website that I ordered tea from, Come For Tea...I tried several small packages of loose leaf teas and for a while my favorite, and Alison's, was Lady Londenderry. By the way, this site has lovely packaging. She includes little candies and crinkled shredded paper in different colors for packing in your shipment. I have read a lot about loose leaf vs teabags and decided I would go highbrow and not get my tea in dust in a bag! My Mennonite friend Carrie Johnson showed me (unknowingly) how to brew without bitterness...I met her one afternoon and she fixed hot tea for us in clear glass footed mugs, so cute! I finally found a set of four like them for myself. She was using teabags, and just dunked them up and down for a short time, not leaving the tea to steep for 3 minutes. This has worked for me almost without fail. That is why I could never get into tea, I always found it bitter, even with the sweeteners. By the way, I use a stevia sweetener. Now I can buy my looseleaf teas here locally! I found a shop that imports British foods and that is how I stumbled upon the Scottish Breakfast type. I really enjoy it- with milk like they do, or with real cream.

This particular tea can be brewed at least twice before you must discard the leaves. I use a cup-sized strainer made by Finum. It works so much better than the old ball-type strainer. I always had a few stray leaves in the bottom of my cup if I used that type.

I have several great tea books- recipes and party ideas and interesting reading. I try to not argue with my relatives that mostly use teabags...the women in my husband's family have started a tradition of having a Christmas tea when we are all together. We have done this about 4 years maybe? Sometimes we will wear hats...

My sister-in-law Angela, my daughter Alison, my niece Tenaye...

My daughter Julia...

We have a lot of fun! (this is me)

My sister-in-law Kim...

Here are some cookies I made in teacup shape...

Mom usually makes homemade biscotti in several flavors.

One year I made little apricot tarts that the menfolk wanted to snitch.

My husband was not above trying on a hat...we had issued the decree that if they wanted to taste our tea things, they must wear a hat also!

That is a has black feathers and none of the ladies wanted to wear it!

Here is my husband's mother-"Grandmother" to our kids. She is drinking from a cup that I gave her...Her mother, our Grandma Classen, gave me a tea saucer before she died with this design. I did an internet search and found the cup to match it, in either England or Australia. So I let her have the saucer, too. I also bought myself this same set on e-bay, to remember Grandma Classen by. I have started a collection of teacups and saucers...I love beautiful china. I have some wonderful chintz dessert plates.

My niece, Sabrina...

My niece, Tamara...

My sister-in-law Gwen...

My sister-in-law Kathy and her two girls, Karissa and Andrea, were not at this particular tea party. Back then they were living in Oregon and could not always make it for Christmas. Right now they are living in Louisiana, so we see them more often now.

I still do love a great cup of hot chocolate, but I must watch my sugar intake now. Sometimes I will get the little tins of suger-free International Cafe mixes and add a little cocoa to them. I am glad to say that most of the chocolate drinks are now too sweet for me. I thought I would never get to the place of saying so, but it's a good thing for me to have made it here!

The one chocolate drink I really do miss is the Chantico from Starbucks. They discontinued it because "Starbucks customers like to customize their drinks and this was only offered in one size, one way." It was really rich and you had to just sip at it, but it was great.
I just ordered a little tin of Bellagio Sipping Chocolate to try and find it WAY too sweet! This is one I have to add to the International Cafe drinks in a very small quantity, or I can not take it!

Another thing I have come to really enjoy that I never would have believed...Ginger Cookies! Kathy made us some last year for part of our Christmas, and I really enjoy them...with a Nice, Hot Cup Of My Favorite Tea. She packaged them in a cute little tin...I'm using it this year to store our cookies for snacking.

The ones from the store cannot compare to the ones made at home! Yes these can have lots of sugar on them, if you make them that way. So I must be careful with these, also! I think the ginger automatically limits the out-of-control indulgence.

This is my favorite evening snack on these cold December tea and ginger crinkle cookies!

Hey! Only 11 more shopping days!