Friday, December 31, 2010

Songs for atheists

I didn't know Steve Martin could sing . . .


Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Manslator? LOL!

This is kind of cute . . . except that the men's voice sounds a little like Elmo. Yet another useful tool to bridge the gap between the sexes.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sequel to the Rat Story

Two days after Christmas, and nearly all of the time,

The house remained silent, until about nine.

So I in my pj’s crept back to the laundry,

To see why my husband was in such a quandary.

Then I heard noises from behind the wall—

Thumps, bumps, and fast scratching ‘cause the rat had been stalled.

I heard ratty muttering, steel wool being ripped

From the places I’d stuffed it—the rat was having a fit!

Silent, I watched—my heart beginning to flounder--

Would the insulation hold? Or would we have an encounter?

“What will you do?” Hubby asked, his face all a-grin,

I closed the door. “I’m shutting him in!”

This morning I crept up, flashlight in hand,

To peer at the rat hole and prepare to scram,

But the spray foam held—it was hard as rock.

It protected my laundry room just like a lock.

The thing that concerns me and arouses my dread—

Is if the rat will be trapped and soon find himself dead.

In that case, I wonder, I shudder to think

He’ll be trapped in my wall and then start to stink.

So go, nasty rat, run back to your home,

And leave me and my house forever alone.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A true story--by Angela Hunt

‘Twas the day after Christmas, and all through my house,
A creature was stirring, and it wasn’t a mouse.

I had carried some clothes to the laundry with care,
But noticed an odor stink-i-fying the air.
My puppy, as always, followed me in,
And tried to nudge past me, heading straight for the bin.

Now becoming suspicious, I pulled out the hamper,
And my jolly good spirits felt quite a bit damper.
For there on the floor, amid puddles of pee,
Proof of a rodent intruder was quite plain to see.

In Florida, you see, we have twelve growing seasons,
So our rats are cat-sized, for obvious reasons.

“Eeek,” I screamed, but I can’t tell you why.
No one else heard me, no one was near by.
So I yanked out the clothes, threw them left and right,
Till I emptied the hamper, and oh, what a sight.

Holes—one in the whites bin, and one in the darks,
And two in the lights bin—my rat foe was smart!
So I pulled out the washer-- the big dryer, too—
And fell on my knees to search for guess who.

No nasty rat—but lots of rat droppings.
I reached for the broom and made plans to go shopping.
I’d clean up the mess, then head straight to the store—
Where I’d buy rat traps and glue pads and quite a bit more.

Steel wool, insulation, some nails, a new hamper,
Mostly something to make that fat rat family scamper!
When I made it back home, I set straight to my task,
And filled the small rat hole, then rested at last.

The truth of it is, as this story shows,
I love all God’s creatures—but not in my clothes!

Monday, December 27, 2010

New Kindle Books!

One of my projects for my two-month hiatus between novels was to "Kindle-ize" some of my older books that have gone out of print. So I'm happy to announce that one of my juvenile series, The Colonial Captives, is now available on the Kindle. And so is the nine-book Nicki Holland Mystery series.

The Colonial Captives series is aimed at grades 4-6 or thereabouts, and is based on the true fact that during the seventeenth century, homeless children were rounded up in the streets of London and shipped to the Virginia colony, where they had to work in indentured service until they had served their masters seven years. Lots of sea-going adventures.

The series was originally supposed to be eight books, but the storytelling plug got pulled. In any case, these four books are available for your child with a Kindle. :-)

The Nicki Holland Mysteries are geared for 4-8th graders. Nicki and her friends help their schoolmates and neighbors solve various mysteries in town and abroad.

Enjoy! Other children's titles will be available as I get them in the pipeline.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

What does prayer do?

What does prayer do?

Prayer is talking to God. Sometimes, however, actual words are not needed, so prayer is thinking to God. When we pray, we focus on God and we open our hearts and minds so that we can clearly communicate with him.

Wait a minute—haven’t we said that God already knows our thoughts? Doesn’t he know our hearts even before we pray? Psalm 139 begins, “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away . . . You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.”

If God knows everything we think and feel, then why do we bother to pray? Because prayer is God’s way of helping us focus on him. We pray for our benefit, not God’s. He doesn’t need our prayers to know what we’re thinking . . . but sometimes we do. Prayer forces us to gather our thoughts and put our feelings into words, and then to take those thoughts and feelings and give them to God.

Why do we pray? We do not pray because God needs to know what we need. In Matthew 6:8, Jesus said, “Your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” We pray because God wants to fellowship with us, and he is happy when we bring our needs to him.

Let’s say you have a puppy that you love a lot. Your puppy needs food, water, toys, and companionship to be a happy dog. You know that he needs these things, and you’re happy to provide them because you love your puppy. If your puppy is like most dogs, he shows you his gratitude by greeting you at the door, wagging his tail, smiling at you, and sometimes simply by sitting and your feet and looking at you as if you’re the center of his world. A dog uses his eyes, his tail, and his body language to communicate his needs and his love.

What if your puppy stopped doing those things? What if he never met you at the door, never smiled at you, never even looked up when you came into the room. What if he never begged for a treat or wagged his tail when you fed him? What if he behaved as if you had suddenly ceased to exist? If he never “communicated” with you at all?

Unfortunately, this is how many people behave with God. God gives them air to breathe, food to eat, and more blessings than they can count, but they act as if he doesn’t exist. They never talk to him, never ask him for anything, and never thank him for the good things he’s done. They behave as though they’re responsible for the good things in their lives, or they’ll chalk their success up to “luck.”

Sorry, but luck has nothing to do with anything. God controls the world, and he wants his creations—men, women, children—to look up and communicate with him to the best of their ability. Maybe you’re not sure what words to use when you speak to God—that’s okay, because just like you understand the wag of your puppy’s tail, God understands your heart.

Pray because you want God to act. James 4:2 says, “You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure!”

Remember this—God has a plan for your life. Like an author, he has already laid out his plan. The psalmist says, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

Life would be simple if we knew the end of our story, wouldn’t it? If we could read God’s book and understand his plan, maybe we’d find life easier. If I had known, for instance, that God wanted me to be a writer, maybe I wouldn’t have taken all those music lessons.

But—God’s plan for me involved those music lessons. I’ve written books about musicians, and the work was easier because I did take piano and voice lessons. So even the things I now might consider a waste of time have a purpose in God’s plan!

When we pray for things that are in God’s plan for our life, he often brings them to pass immediately. Sometimes he makes us wait before he answers those prayers. If we have to wait, we can grow in maturity and wisdom before God acts.

When we pray for things that are not in God’s plan for our life, he says no. There’s a country song about a man who runs into an old girlfriend, and when he sees her, he thanks God for “unanswered prayers” . . . because he found another woman who became his wife.

Sometimes we pray for something and God lets us have it . . . along with the pain that something brings. Sometimes we pray for sick people who die . . . and we have to trust that God knows what he is doing even when what he’s doing makes no sense to us.

God uses prayer to change us. Since God is unchanging, the person most changed through prayer is US. When we pray, we recognize that God is the creator of the universe, and that he is the boss. If your prayer list looks more like a Christmas list for Santa Claus, you’re probably praying with the wrong attitude. Prayer isn’t about running down a list of things you want—prayer is telling God what you need and then asking him to work his will in your life.

How can you know if you’re using the right attitude when you pray? Jesus gave us the answer in Matthew 6. “When you pray,” he said, “don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this:

Our Father in heaven [acknowledge that God is your Father through Jesus]

may your name be kept holy. [acknowledge that God is the boss.]

May your Kingdom come soon. [focus your thoughts on heaven, not earth]

May your will be done on earth, [acknowledge that you want God’s plan most of all]

as it is in heaven.

Give us today the food we need, [ask for physical needs]

And forgive us our sins, [ask for spiritual needs]

As we have forgiven those who sin against us. [remember that you must forgive]

And don’t let us yield to temptation, [pray for spiritual strength]

but rescue us from the evil one.” [pray for spiritual protection]

When should you pray? Some religions pray five times a day, some three times a day, some once a day. How often should a Christian pray?

All the time! 1 Thess. 5:17 tells us, “Never stop praying.” This doesn’t mean that we walk around with our heads bowed and eyes closed, but it means that we shouldn’t give up! We should always be in a spirit of prayer; always aware that God is listening. And when you start praying for someone, don’t give up if God doesn’t answer right away. He has a purpose for delay, and you can trust him to always be working for your best.

What does it mean to “pray in Jesus’ name?” Some people think that to say, “In Jesus’ name, Amen” at the end of a prayer is like writing, “Sincerely yours, John” at the end of a letter. When we pray in Jesus’ name, we’re doing a lot more than being polite. We’re claiming a promise that’s found in John 14:13: “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.”

This does NOT mean that Jesus’ name is like a magic charm, and that by reciting “in Jesus’ name” you’ll magically get what you’ve prayed for. Instead, it means that you’re asking God for something because you belong to Jesus, so you’re asking on his authority.

If you were to go to my bank and ask for $100 from my account, they wouldn’t give it to you. They’d probably laugh at you. But if you were to give them a check with my name and signature on it, they’d give you the $100. Why? Because you would be demonstrating that you know me, and that I’ve given you permission to get the money.

In the same way, we can approach the Creator of the universe because we know Jesus and he’s given us permission to approach the almighty God. That’s why we pray in Jesus’ name.

Look at 1 John 5:13-15:

“I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life. And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.”

When we pray in Jesus’ name, we should be praying in the right attitude—in an attitude that pleases him. That means we aren’t praying selfishly, or for things to please only ourselves. We are asking for things that please him and are part of God’s plan for our lives. If we pray that way and ask for those things, Jesus promises that our prayers will be answered.

Memory Verse: “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

Discussion questions:

1. Have you had a particular prayer answered? Tell us about it.

2. Have you been praying and asking for something that you haven’t yet received? Do you think you’re praying for something that pleases God? Why do you think God hasn’t answered yet?

3. Does God hear the prayers of people who don’t believe in Jesus? Discuss your opinions, then read John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (Obviously, God “hear” everything, but he has promised to answer only those who come to him through Jesus.)

4. When we are upset and don’t even know how to pray, do we have someone who will help us? To discover the answer, read Romans 8:26-27: “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.”

Next week we’ll learn about some other helpers God has sent us!

Friday, December 24, 2010

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The Nativity Story . . . as told by Children.

A blessed Christmas Eve to you and yours!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Newsletter Just Went Out

And if you didn't get it, here it is.


The Final Christmas Fictions

Fiction 7: Christmas is all you dreamed of and more. No . . . truthfully, most Christmases never live up to our expectations. We watch too many feel-good movies, each one complete with a Christmas miracle, and then we wonder why our Christmases pale in comparison. The answer to this is simple: Expect nothing. Then everything that happens will be a blessing.

And remember this: you are not due a Christmas miracle, for the promised miracle happened 2,010 years ago. God kept the promise he made to Eve in the garden and sent a Redeemer, a man who would suffer as we suffer, feel what we feel, experience the joys and sorrows of the human condition. Yet this Redeemer would be fully God, and able not only to take the sins of the world on himself, but to offer the gift of eternal and abundant life to anyone who receives him. We enter into a covenant, or contract, with God, and we are promised salvation from hell and abundant life. In return, we surrender our lives and promise loving obedience.

“But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to those who believe in His name. . .”

That, my dear friends, is the reason we celebrate Christmas. It has nothing to do with presents under the tree, and everything to do with THE gift on a cross. Christmas is not glittery and lavish, it is simple and humble, and should be celebrated by believers who are so filled with God’s love that they can’t help splashing out onto the people around them.

No matter what sorrows you may bring into the Christmas season, lay them at Jesus’ feet. But don’t go away empty-handed—accept his gift of life abundant, or love, joy, peace, goodness, gentleness, kindness, and long-suffering. Make conscious decisions to simplify your traditions, and be brave enough to eradicate those that bring more hassle than joy.

And know this—no matter how secularists try to take Christ out of Christmas, they simply can’t do it. Might as well try to take George Washington out of Washington. Because this is often the loneliest time of the world for some, because it is a time when expectations aren’t met, you have a heaven-sent opportunity to proclaim the Good News to the brokenhearted. As Isaiah the prophet wrote: 1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,

because the LORD has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor;[

he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,

and the day of vengeance of our God;

to comfort all who mourn;

3to grant to those who mourn in Zion—

to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;

that they may be called oaks of righteousness,

the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

May God richly bless you this year, and may you have a most blessed Christmas.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Fictions (con't)

More Christmas fictions for you to consider:

Fiction 5: Rebellious children always come back to the fold on Christmas. Maybe in novels and Hallmark movies, but this doesn't always happen in real life. I don't know if I'll have one, both, or neither of my children home this Christmas. And while I pray for them, I’ve had to accept that as adults, they are responsible for their own decisions. I’m the parent, which means I can’t react in anger (or I’ll hurt them), and I can’t mope (which will only hurt my husband and myself). So if they do come home, I’ll rejoice, but if not . . . it’s their choice. We're having Christmas no matter what. :-)

Fiction 6: Children care more about giving than receiving. LOL! Recently I was with a group of college students, and one of them suggested we go around the circle and say what we would want for Christmas “if price were no object.” They mentioned cars, toys, gadgets . . . and when it came to me, I said I’d be happy with a good idea for my next book. When we live in a materialistic society, how do we prevent children from wanting everything they see? We may not be able to stop the wanting, but we can stop the expecting. I’ve sat through Christmases where my children opened their carefully-chosen presents, sniffed at them, and asked if there was anything else. So—I suggest that you limit the presents under the tree. Consider buying gifts in categories: for each child, one toy to play with, one outfit to wear, one animal to sleep with, one book to read, one CD to listen to . . . etc. If you never establish the custom of having a toy store under the tree, the switch won’t be hard to make. For adults, why do we give anything? One year I bought a farm animal through and told our usual gift recipients that we were giving a farm animal in their name. Instead of giving to us, I’d encourage them to do the same. I loved the practice and may do it again next year. Why do we give each other things we don’t need? (I know, we give to show our love, but we could show the same love by giving to someone who really needs something.)

Fiction 7: At Christmastime, the entire world falls under the spell of “peace on earth.” Neighbors who never speak to you will be kinder and more gentle, because everyone understands Christmas.

Tee hee. Fought over a parking space lately?

A few years ago I wrote a novel called THE DEBT, and the writing changed my life. I stopped being a cloistered Christian and began to be a Neighbor. I stopped working to listen to a neighbor in trouble. When I heard about rumblings in the neighborhood (gossip stirring up trouble), I baked cookies and took them to neighbors’ homes, explaining that as a Christian, I would never want anyone to be upset, so let’s talk.

Last week at church staff meeting, my hubby was told that all pastors were required to be at the church musical. But we had committed to participate in our neighborhood’s progressive dinner—we’re the soup house. So hubby went to the pastor, who understood and gave his blessing for my husband to join the dinner instead. And before those neighbors left my house, I offered them a copy of THE NATIVITY STORY, so they’ll know what Christmas is really all about. Your neighbors—do you even know them? Yet they are your “Jerusalem,” the people you’re to minister to FIRST.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Fictions (con't).

More Christmas fictions to get you through the season . . .

Fiction 3. No one is ever lonely at Christmas. Ha! In fact, the opposite is true. Because we carry Norman Rockwell-ian images of what a Christmas family dinner should look like, we look at the empty places around our dining table and feel sad. Well, as Cher says, snap out of it! Stop sitting in that empty house and get out. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, invite a friend over for dinner. Bake cookies and take them to a nursing home. Don’t give yourself time to be lonely, but do take time to rest.

Fiction 4. Families never squabble at Christmas. LOL! Again, feelings seem to be more sensitive during the holidays. So be a peacemaker. If Auntie Sarah and Cousin Sue can’t stand to be in the same room, put them together and ask why they can’t forgive each other since we have all been forgiven so much. And simplify gift-giving. If buying gifts for each and every niece and nephew is a financial strain, buy "family" gifts of edible goodies. Or fill a basket with home-baked goodies (just be sure they're not dieting!)

Fiction 5: Life slows down at Christmas. Maybe on Christmas day, but the days preceding Christmas are a whirlwind of activity. Everyone wants to have a party, and they want you to come. There’s the house to decorate, inside and out, there are gifts to buy and cookies to bake, there’s company coming and trips to take, and all of this happens in a rush! So take time to calm down. Go to a movie. Schedule nights off. Take cat naps. And take a cue from Scarlett O'Hara, who memorized a gracious refusal to many a proposal. ("Dear Sir, I am not unaware of the honor you have bestowed upon me by asking me to become your wife . . ." becomes "Dear friend, I am not unaware of the honor you are giving me by asking me to host your Christmas party, but I am simply unable to join you this year.")

More tomorrow!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Fictions

Photos this week will be from my neighborhood holiday stroll.

First of all, thank you for the birthday wishes that keep pouring onto my Facebook page. I don't "feel" a year older, but I guess I must be. :-) But God is good. I keep thinking of ages when 40 was considered old, and the typical lifespan was only forty or fifty years, so I am--we are--blessed indeed!

Yesterday my husband told me a story that caused me to get all teary. When I started to cry, he asked what he always does: "Did I do something?" (ha ha), and when I assured him that he hadn't, he said, "But something must be wrong."

I shook my head no because I was unable to speak at that moment. But I wanted to say, "Sometimes Christmas makes me cry."

Have you heard that song by Mandisa? It's actually titled "Christmas makes me cry," and I relate to it every time I hear it. Worth looking up on itunes, if you have a minute.

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to a wonderful group of ladies out in Rocklin, California. They asked me to speak on "Christmas fictions," so I put together a list and I'd like to share it with you over the next few days.

Christmas Fiction #1: If you're familiar with "The Christmas Waltz," there's a line that says, "It's the time of year . . . when the world falls in love . . ."

Not necessarily. Christmas fiction #1 assures us that romantic wounds are healed at Christmas. Just sing “Santa Baby” to your loved one, and everything will be made right between you.

Sorry, but this just isn’t true. While “Santa Baby” is a cute song, holidays tend to amplify the stresses between couples. And if you and your spouse have recently separated or divorced, the holidays may seem like a haunting reminder of better times. So what do you do to combat this? You focus on others, not on yourself. If you're single, find another “loner,” and take them out to a Christmas play. Invite them to your Christmas dinner. Make a new friend. If you're married, take some time to relax with your spouse. Look for the positive, not the negative, and laugh a lot. Force yourself if you have to. Laughter is contagious. As my hubby and I say: "If we didn't laugh, we'd be crying."

Fiction 2. No one ever thinks of unhappy events at Christmas. Recent deaths and sorrows will be forgotten.

Oh, no they won’t. You may be haunted by the absence of a child, a spouse, a parent. So when these thoughts come to mind, don’t dwell on the people you're missing, but on celebrating their lives. Tell stories about the funny things they used to say and do. Bring out old photos and reminisce. If a few tears are shed, it’s okay. And remember this—even as the angels celebrated the birth of Christ, God the Father, who lives outside time, saw the agony of the cross and knew he had set his beloved son on an irrevocable path. He understands sorrow.

A special note: You may be grieving infertility, the lack of a child playing beneath your tree. I've been in that place, and it's not fun. May I share a verse with you? "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life." When you look at your Christmas tree, think of the trees of life God has planned for your future . . . and pray that He will lead you to them, in his perfect time.

More tomorrow.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

What are miracles?

What are miracles?

“Miracle” is one of those words we toss around all the time, usually without realizing what we’re saying. “I found this game on sale,” we say. “It was a miracle!”

Was it?

If there’s a hurricane and your family’s house doesn’t get wiped out while your neighbor’s house does, is that a miracle? If a car is heading toward you and swerves out of the way at the last minute, is that a miracle . . . or the driver waking up?

What is a miracle, anyway?

The official definition: a miracle is God’s intervention into the natural world. A miracle is something that only a supernatural God can do. The Bible uses three words along with “miracle” to describe a miraculous event. Sometimes they are called signs, sometimes wonders, and sometimes a miracle-worker is described as someone with power.

When God told Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand that the people of Israel be freed from slavery, Moses said, “Hey—how do I prove to him that I’m speaking for you?” And God said, “I will give you two signs to prove that I’ve sent you.”

In other words, God said, “I’m going to let you do two things that only supernatural power could accomplish.” So when Moses went to the king of Egypt, his shepherd’s staff turned into a serpent, and his hand suddenly became disfigured with leprosy . . . and then miraculously healed.

Later God told Moses, “I will make Pharaoh’s heart stubborn so I can multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt . . . so the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.”

God had a purpose for those miracles—they would prove that he was the one true God. God told Moses that he would do many more miracles in the land before the Israelites would leave Egypt. By that time, both the Israelites and the Egyptians would be impressed with God’s power and authority over the land and sea, life and death.

Many times in the Old Testament, God performed miracles to prove himself to prophets and people. Then came a time of silence that lasted four hundred years—there were no prophets, no one performing miracles. And then—God spoke again. He sent his angel to a girl in a town called Nazareth, and told her that even though she had never been with a man, she would have a baby who would grow up to be the Savior of the world.

A pregnant virgin—that’s one of the biggest miracles of all time! But God performed the miracle to show his power . . . and to send Jesus, the savior who would be both fully human and fully God.

When Jesus began his earthly ministry at the age of thirty, he began with a miracle—at a friend’s wedding, he turned jars of water into jars of fine wine. He went throughout the country healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding thousands of people with only a handful of bread and fish. Why did he do miracles? To help the people, certainly, but also as a sign—he wanted the people to see that the Messiah had come, that God was demonstrating his power and authority.

Jesus gave his life when he was crucified on a cross. He died there—from the wounds of his crucifixion. Just to be sure he was really dead, soldiers also thrust a spear into his heart. And then—the most important miracle of all time. Jesus rose from the dead. The resurrection was a sign to everyone—Jesus was the Son of God, and he has the power to resurrect all of us from death. If we believe in him, we will live with him in heaven.

A genuine miracle can have three purposes:

1. to glorify God

2. to demonstrate that a person is really speaking for God

3. to provide evidence for belief in God.

A miracle is a supernatural event that would not—or could not—have happened unless God intervened.

So . . . is it a miracle that you got an A on your math test? Is it a miracle that your dog came home after being lost for two days? Probably not. But sometimes God works through natural ways to answer our prayers and work his will.

The Lord could have given you strength to study . . . so that’s why you got an A. God could have impressed that stranger to grab your dog and remember the “Lost Pet” sign he saw on the telephone pole, so that’s how your dog came home. Sometimes when we pray for the sick, God works through the doctors who perform surgery and give medicines that help the patient get better. God often works through his people to carry out his will. He also works through nature.

But sometimes he does something that ignores the laws of nature and logic—he does something only a supernatural God could do.

And that’s a miracle.

Memory Verse: “And God confirmed the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose” (Hebrews 2:4).

Discussion questions:

1. Read the following verses and see if you can discover the reason for the miracle:

· the turning of the water into wine: John 2:11

· the raising of Lazarus from the dead: John 11:40

· all of Jesus’ miracles: Acts 2:22

· Jesus’ miracles: Hebrews 2:4

· for whose sake did Jesus perform miracles? John 6:2

· why do we read about Jesus’ miracles? John 20:30-31.

2. Have you ever experienced a genuine miracle in your life? What was it? Look at the three purposes for miracles—to glorify God, to demonstrate that a person is really speaking for God, or to provide evidence for belief in God. Did your miracle fulfill any of these purposes?

3. If you haven’t experienced a genuine miracle, do you think you ever will? When might that be? (Think about things still to come in the future . . .)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Traditions 2010

Click here to view this photo book larger

An iPad band . . .

This is beyond cool. Love it, love it! Now, how to figure out how to play MY ipad . . .


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why Dog is Man's Best friend

Love these shots of dogs doing all kinds of amazing things. :-) Enjoy!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chilled Strawberry Cream Soup

Any basic fruit, vegetable, or meat item, say the chefs, can be turned into a refreshing chilled soup. While I don't think I could get excited about chilled filet mignon soup, I did find this strawberry soup to be a nice addition to our Christmas party. The color is . . . well, Christmassy!

You'll need:
4 cups fresh strawberries
1 cup white grape juice
1 cup plain yogurt
1 1/4 cups fresh cream
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup Frangelico (you'll have to get that at a liquor store)
nutmeg to taste

12 large strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup creme fraiche (try at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's)

In a blender, puree the strawberries with the grape juice. Set aside 1/2 cup of the puree for garnish. Add remainder of the soup ingredients and puree. Adjust seasoning and chill well.

Serve the soup in a chilled bowl. The soup is THICK, so you can drop dollops of the creme fraiche and sliced strawberries into it. Serve cold. :-) Serves 6 to 8.



Monday, December 13, 2010

Books for Babies

Ever needed a baby gift and been at a loss? My friend Loretta Oakes has written two adorable board books for the very youngest "readers"--PEEK-A-BOO JESUS and PEEK-A-BOO CHRISTMAS. They are "peek-a-books" that will delight even the youngest child, because all babies love to play peek-a-boo!

You can order or look at them here: Peek-a-boo Jesus or Peek-a-boo Christmas. So cute!

Last night was our neighborhood's annual progressive dinner, and I made that strawberry soup I had to scour the county to find ingredients for. I'll post the recipe, complete with photos, tomorrow--it's going to take a while. :-)

Hope you're having a lovely week!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Creation of the Universe

Week Thirteen: How, When, and Why did God Make the Universe?

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1.

How did God create the universe? His word gives us the answer: “Then God said . . . ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.

Then God said, “Let there be . . .” and there was.

The psalmist says, “Let every created thing give praise to the Lord, for he issued his command, and they came into being” (Ps. 148:5).

How did God created the world and the universe beyond? He spoke, and it became real. He created all things by the power of his Word. And who is called the Word of God? Jesus. John tells us, “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through Him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone” (John 1:1-4).

In other words, Jesus was with God, and together they created the universe. Nothing exists that did not come from God.

Can we create like God? We can make things with our hands—if you give me fabric and thread, I could make a shirt. Give me a computer and I could create a book. But is my “creation” like God’s?

Not really. Because when humans “create” something, we require the raw materials to begin with. You can’t build a rocket without engineers and materials. I can’t make a shirt without fabric and thread. I can’t even create a book without paper, something to write with, and my imagination—and my imagination is a gift from God.

Everything we use to make things comes ultimately from God. He gave us the planet from which we get our raw materials, and he gives us the knowledge, imagination, and tools with which we come up with ideas and concepts for new projects. Even our creativity is really a reflection of God’s creativity.

But when God creates, he makes something out of nothing. He says to empty space, “be earth and sea,” and suddenly a planet is formed. He says to darkness, “Be light,” and light it is.

Even life comes from God. Many people today love debating about when life begins—is it at birth? At conception, when an egg and sperm meet for the first time? No, neither answer is correct. Life is a gift from God—a gift from the Word. The Bible says, “The Word gave life to everything that was created,” and he gave life to Adam in the Garden of Eden.

The Bible says, “Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person” (Genesis 2:7). When God made Eve, he didn’t scoop mud together in the shape of a woman—and he didn’t breathe life into her nostrils. Instead, “while the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib” (Gen. 2:21-22). God took living material from the man and used it to make woman.

In the same way, when a human life is created now, a living egg and a living sperm unite to create another life. This isn’t the beginning of life, but a continuation of the gift of life God gave to humans in the Garden of Eden.

We often talk about people who “create” things, but the “creation” humans do is really a weak reflection of God’s something-from-nothing power.

When did God create the universe? In the beginning. No, not in God’s beginning, because he has no beginning. But at man’s beginning. At the beginning of recorded time. At the beginning of the universe.

Some people believe that the six “days” described in the first chapter of Genesis are six twenty-four hour days. Other people believe that the six days are six eras, or six ages. The Hebrew word “day” (yom) often means a long period of time. Second Peter 3:8 tells us that “a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” And whether or not the time of creation consists of six literal days or six longer periods of time, other Scriptures point to “yom” as longer than twenty-four hours.

Genesis 2:4 says, “These [are] births of the heavens and of the earth in their being prepared, in the day of Jehovah God's making earth and heavens—Young’s Literal Translation). In this verse, the word day, or yom, covers all of creation. Psalm 95:7–14 and Heb. 4:4–11 refer to the seventh day as continuing from creation to the present. In the second chapter of Genesis, Adam was alone for some time tending the garden before Eve was created. So it is logical to assume that the “day” in Genesis is not a twenty-four hour day, but a period of unspecified length. Perhaps these six days correspond to the six main geological ages that scientists have uncovered.7

To further support this theory, consider that the beginning of plant life on the third day required time for the plants to grow to maturity. God could create big plants if he wanted to, but the scripture says: “And the earth bringeth forth tender grass, herb sowing seed after its kind, and tree making fruit (whose seed [is] in itself) after its kind; and God seeth that [it is] good (Gen. 1:12, Young’s Literal Translation). In other words, God supernaturally created plant life, but these plants referred to on the third day were producing fruit and growing. That takes time.

Another reason to believe that the days are longer than twenty-four hours is the Bible’s account of everything that happened on the sixth day. On that day alone, God created the land animals, he created man (who was alone for a while), he brought all the animals to man for naming (a process that would have taken over six hundred hours if Adam spent only two minutes on each of 15,000 living species), Adam searched for a mate for himself and found none, God put Adam to sleep and took out a rib, and Eve was brought to Adam who accepted her as his wife. Whew! That was one busy day!

I don't want to argue this point, because we're not going to know for sure until we get to Heaven. But whether you believe creation happened on six days or in six ages, the important thing is this: God created the earth and everything in it. He created man from earth, not from a monkey. Man is a special creation from God, not a mistake or the result of some evolutionary process.

Why did God create the earth and everyone on it? Revelation 4:11 gives us the answer: “You are worthy, O Lord our god, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.”

God created the earth and all people because he wanted to. Because he wanted to love us and fellowship with us. And he has reasons we may never understand . . . until He explains them to us in heaven.

Memory Verse: “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased” (Rev. 4:11).

Discussion questions:

1. Can you create a tangible, touchable thing by speaking it into being? Maybe you could create a misunderstanding . . . but even then you’d be using other people’s feelings to achieve your result. You could create a lie . . . but you’d have to begin with the truth before you could twist it. Everything man “creates” springs from something else, but from nothing God can create anything he wishes to create.

2. Do you believe God created the world in six days or six ages? What are your reasons for this belief? (Remember—the Bible isn’t clear on this. And the topic isn’t worth arguing over. The important thing is to realize that God did create the world in six stages, just as the Bible describes.)

3. Why do you think God created the world? Why do you think God created you?

7 Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 196–203.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The World in Past 200 years

Okay, this is amazing. While I don't think the entire world will ever be "healthy and wealthy" (didn't Jesus say we would always have the poor with us?), it's still eye-opening to consider how the standard of living has changed over 200 years. And 2,000 years. Amazing graphic.

Enjoy your day!


Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Re'Gen Reunion

Some of you have asked about my Re'Gen weekend . . . well, here's a teaser Bob Johnston put together. All these fabulous people, and I love every one of 'em. I've been promised more video to come . . . I want you to hear the SINGING!

And I forgot to say my name in the video. LOL. Figures. :-)