Inspirational thoughts and random writings from the alumni and friends of Quad-Cities Christian Writers Conference.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

True Confessions of a Pastor's Wife

By Gail P. Smith
I have a confession to make.  It's kind of embarrassing to admit because I've been a Christian since I was 9, have been in church all my life, SS teacher, choir, the whole nine yards.  But here it is:  It's tough for me to set aside time to read the Bible and pray.  It’s hard enough to make that commitment once a week or even once a month, never mind trying to do it every day. And man, can we come up with excuses.


I should know.  For years I figured since I was so busy doing things for God, teaching Sunday School, working in the nursery, singing in the choir being a pastor’s wife, for Pete’s sake, that I assumed didn’t really need to spend a lot of time with God actually asking His opinion about what I was up to.  After all, it was good stuff done for my church, family  & friends.  Just a quick "God bless....today," should do it, right?


It’s not that I never read the Bible or studied it.  I was in BSF for over 15 years and I wrote my own curriculum for my middle school SS students.  But to take time each day, just me and Him,  hearing God’s voice by reading His word and talking to Him in prayer.  Well, obviously I didn’t have time to do that. If I did, how would I ever get all my good works for Him done.


I’m not proud of that attitude.  I’d been taught better, but it took a crisis in our lives for me to realize that though I thought I was helping God out, my works for Him, were really nothing.  Just busy work. Only by God’s grace and mercy did He choose to overlook my self-centered failings and use it to His glory anyway. (That's how much He loves His children.)


I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not the only one who's had problems putting the busyness of doing ahead of the quietness of seeking. 

So now here we stand on the eve of the New Year, when life feels like it’s giving us a chance to begin again, I want to share things changed when I began to figure out how to daily/faithfully seek His presence.  I love to help you begin a conversation with God that will never end.


My home church preacher once said, “Never fall asleep without having read God’s word that day.”  I heard this back in the 1970s.  Then one day, I heard it with my heart heard it.  "Okay, let's give it a try," I thought.  I sat my Bible by my bed and at bed time, if I hadn’t read it before then, I grabbed it and at least read something right then.  A tiny baby step, but guess what—God allows baby steps and even holds your hand as you take them!


Another bigger, step occurred much later.  This time I was studying an Old Testament story of King David.  Seems he needed some land on which to make sacrifices to God and made a offer to the land’s owner, Ornan (story & scripture after post.)  Ornan wanted to give the land to David.  David’s answer is what God used to really pierce my heart:
“I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21:22-24)


Did you ever feel you could almost hear God saying "Ahem?"
I realized that for all those years of struggling to seek God in a personal quiet time, I thought it should cost me nothing.  I somehow thought the time I spent with God would be “spare time” leftover from when I had done everything I wanted/needed to do.  I was offering to God only “that which cost me nothing.”  No sleep loss, no newspaper not read, no TV show missed—I had to ask myself was I really unwilling to give up ANYTHING to better know and love the One who died for me?   Suddenly I “got it,” and I saw the need to make a change.


The next time I woke up early and didn’t want to leave my nice, warm bed (I live in Iowa and that can be a BIG deal,) I said to myself, “I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing,” got up, put on a robe and opened my Bible.  And guess what—God was there waiting for me and He wasn’t even mad about all the times I’d missed.  In fact, He was just dying to bless me, to know me, to love me and be my friend.  When I gave up trying to keep all my time, my life for me, and give Him nothing, I found in His presence more than enough to make up for any “loss.”


So I write you today, at this incredible time of year, with a new beginning just around the corner, to share the offer God makes to us all.  "If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me."(Jer. 29:13)  And believe me, there is no better way to start than by treating yourself to time with your best Friend, your Savior and Lord, Jesus. Let this be the year you stop doing so many things for God and start becoming who God designed you to be  It will be the beginning of the best years of your life. 
God promises to meet you where you are today.  He's waiting for you.


Because there are lots of other things that have helped me in my quest to spend time with God each day that I’d like to share and this post is too long already, I invite you to visit my personal blog.  In the coming days I will be sharing more things I do to make connecting with God each day exciting, fun and a true meeting with my dearest Friend.  The link is:
http://grammygail.blogspot.com/

 One Bible story that changed me:
1 Chronicles 21:22-24

 22 Then David said to Ornan, “Grant me the place of this threshing floor, that I may build an altar on it to the LORD. You shall grant it to me at the full price, that the plague may be withdrawn from the people.”

 23 But Ornan said to David, “Take it to yourself, and let my lord the king do what is good in his eyes. Look, I also give you the oxen for burnt offerings, the threshing implements for wood, and the wheat for the grain offering; I give it all.”

 24 Then King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

December 27

By Lisa Lickel

Did you know that, according to many traditions, this is the third day of Christmas? The real meaning behind the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” follows: From 1558 until 1829 Roman Catholics in England were not allowed to practice their faith openly. During that era, this carol was written as a catechism. Each element in the carol has a religious point which the children could remember. The third day of Christmas is a gift of Three French Hens. The Three French Hens represented Faith, Hope and Love, from First Corinthians 13.

Sing with me!

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a Partridge in a Pear Tree (JESUS).

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, Two Turtle Doves (OLD and NEW TESTAMENTS), and a Partridge in a pear tree.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, Three French Hens, Two Turtle Doves and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

…And so forth, through day Twelve.

Pretty nifty, eh? A secret code and repetition, the true mother of learning.



If you’d like to know more about the meaning of the rest of the song, check my blog (to be published 12/25/11): http://livingourfaithoutloud.blogspot.com/2011/12/twelve-days-of-christmas.html

From Lisa Lickel, author of A Summer in Oakville, with Shellie Neumeier

Monday, December 26, 2011

Journeys to Joy

By Helen Knueven
 
Psalms 16:11 Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
 
For the wise men, Christmas was a journey to the manger as they followed the star that led them to the baby Jesus.
 
For the shepherds who were greeted by angels that night – Christmas also became a journey for them as they followed the angels instructions and found Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus.
 
Christmas was a journey for the angels, too, as they trekked the heavens proclaiming God’s message of peace in Jesus Christ to the shepherds.
 
The journey resulted in great rejoicing for all of them. We can read in the Bible how each one of these groups praised God with great joy because of His wonderful gift.
 
May each one of us find ourselves on a holy journey this season; to bring our gift to Jesus, finding His presence in unlikely places and conversations as we seek to honor our King.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What Does Glory Look Like?

By Rolie Grady

A month ago I took a trip to Wesley, Iowa…my hometown.  It’s not a big spot in the road.  The population is close to 400, down from the 600 level when I lived there forty years ago.  But size isn’t important.  It’s the people that make a place special.

Last month I shared a few stories about my friend, Toots Youngwirth, a wonderful lady who departed for heaven on November 13th.  It was an honor to attend a celebration of her life.

 But why bring up the topic of death in December?  It’s because I discovered that beginnings and endings of life have a lot in common.   In fact, they often overlap each other.  In the case of Toots, a great granddaughter was born two days before she died, and her death came the same day as her youngest daughter’s wedding anniversary. 

The church parking lot was packed with cars sprawling in every direction during the visitation.  I found a place in the long line of people who wanted to affirm Toot’s life.  The sounds of laughter and talking were everywhere, especially around the family members.  I said to their son, Tom, “The Youngwirths have built an empire in Wesley, and it’s a given that the king and queen should reign forever.”  This empire came from sharing love and compassion with the whole town.

The actual service was filled with scripture about Christ’s burial, resurrection and the promise of new life with Him.  Near the end, the choir sang the song, “I Believe” during communion.  When they came to the phrase, “every time I hear a newborn baby cry”, an infant began (almost on cue) to wail and kept going until the end of the song.  No sounds of silence there.

Afterwards I went to the dinner at Wesley’s Community Center.  So many personal touches provided a warm welcome.  The paper placemats were a drawing of St. Joseph’s Church done by Dawn, Toot’s daughter.  A little menu attached to each placemat read “My Funeral Dinner” – Catered by Jumbo (her nephew).  Scalloped potatoes/lots of ham, Cole slaw (with Wesley Legion dressing), Corn, Homemade Bread (made by Jumbo), Bars, Coffee and Milk.  It was so like Toots, who cared for every detail.

There was even a drawing at the dinner!  When Johnny and the family arrived from the cemetery, they told us the wrapped boxes were crafts Toots had made, and they wanted to give them away.  The glory of Toots, the person, was still being shared with all her friends and family.

So what is glory?  It’s the amazing essence of a person’s life.  Sometimes it gets noticed while the person is alive.  Other times we stop and ponder after it’s gone.

In the middle of a dirt-caked stable, God sent fresh life.  Jesus was filled with the glory of the Father.  Like any good mother, Mary had to wonder about this birthing area.  Yes, it was greatly lacking in warmth and ambience, but it was the perfect backdrop for sinners….one that anyone trapped in darkness could relate to.

When sin’s ugliness is exposed, we long for light.  When the darkness finally disappears and loneliness is erased, we realize what’s been missing.  It began in a tiny package. 

Every Christmas I hear a newborn baby’s cry pierce the night.  The seeds of eternal life.  Light swallows up the darkness, and all is well.  That’s what glory looks like to me.

Photo courtesy of MotionWorship.com

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jump On

By Kristi Paxton

We Americans love our band wagons. Recently we’ve all sported “support our troops” bumper stickers, mall sales and signs in our yards. I have a suggestion for a new band wagon: Support Our Teachers.

A substitute teacher myself, I don’t even pretend to have the guts and passion to be a full time teacher. But I have a privileged spot, spying on behaviors of teachers and students of all ages. Here is what I witness in all grades, one through twelve:

1.       Kids don’t begin to know the meaning of respect.
       2.       Rudeness is the flavor of the day.
3.       Teachers bend over backwards to try new techniques, providing separate daily plans for several styles of learners.
4.       Kids ignore the teachers, talking out loud to their friends while the teacher tries to teach.
5.       Parents blame their child’s problems on the “teacher’s lack of effort.”
6.       Kids play with cell phones, using computer “research time” to mess around on Facebook.
7.       Kids wait for a few good students to do all the work, and then quickly dive in to copy all the answers at lunch or study hall. I worry about their shrinking out-of-use brains.
8.       Most teachers spend at least part of their meager earnings to buy “fun lesson supplies” or treats for their students.
 Parents beware. Our students are good at telling us what we want to hear. They make elaborate excuses for their poor performance. They blame the “lame” teachers or claim “boring” lessons. The fact is, someone has spent her precious evenings or weekends (and some of her own money) to come up with exciting lessons to spark a love of learning. Students are too tied up in their own egos to pay attention. They sit bored, sleep during class or spend their time entertaining classmates.

A young teacher friend of mine was hired four weeks into the school year when the fifth grade teacher quit to become a firefighter. She jokes that “he’d rather run in to burning buildings once in a while than face a roomful of fifth graders daily.” (Not to mention that it is currently popular in this country to appreciate firefighters.)

So I have a challenge for all of us. The next time we attend a parent-teacher conference, let’s thank our teachers for not giving up on our children. Let’s ask if our kids are disrespectful at school. If they are, let’s do our best to fix it. Our kids won’t die without a cell phone, Facebook or electronic games.

Let’s tell our teachers what we’ve been telling our soldiers and firefighters: “Thanks for what you do.” After all, they will help our children become nurses, doctors, lawyers, engineers or teachers. Teachers who go into battle every day, trying to make sure our children succeed.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Empty Spaces

By Jeannette Doran
There is a longing in the human heart that only God can fill. Yes, we often spend time and energy trying to fill this space with things other than God, which cannot satisfy. This can take us time traveling through dark places, clouded with sadness, to learn that our hearts were made for God alone and only in God will one find a lasting joy beyond understanding.

       I find a certain beauty in empty spaces, in simplicity of design, such as in the clean lines in architecture and furniture and in the beauty in a Japanese floral arrangement of three flowers, where less is often better than more. As my eyes look over the December fields, I find a resting place in this vast stretch of land in the loveliness of the empty field clothed in white snow.

        Advent speaks to me of empty hearts waiting for the coming of God. It’s a quiet time of longing and desire for God alone; a time to let go of all the clutter and the whatnot that does not fill us or bring joy. Days, when we learn to seek God in the empty spaces and moments of our daily life. This time prepares one to attentively watch and wait in silence for the quiet coming of God into our empty heart.

     God’s presence will be found by the seeking heart. The heart that understands God hides in the moments of our day. We find God in the grace of the moment as we continue to look and seek in faith.  All of our advent days can be focused on seeing God in these moments with new eyes of faith.

    When the soul enters into a deep stillness, God’s image is imprinted in the innermost center. Just as the sun is reflected on the pure white snow, deep within our souls we are called to reflect the image of God. As when the sun shines on still waters a mirror is created of the sun, so when our soul rests in stillness, God enters undisturbed. As Wisdom tells us “When peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run the half of her swift course, down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt Your all-powerful Word.” (18:15).  When any annoyance is allowed to penetrate one’s being, the soul’s experience of God is obscured. The psalmist invites us ‘to be still’ so that we will behold God. We see in the natural world that a pure crystal pool of water will mirror the beauty around it only in stillness. If even a tiny pebble drops into the water, the ripples will hinder this image from appearing.

        In the human soul, when any commotion is allowed to enter the center of our being, the face of God is covered and one will not know God’s presence. Our God dwells in peace. When we allow negative thoughts to linger in our minds we cloud the image of God in our hearts. God’s image is formed in the depths of our being in profound stillness. “Be still and know that I am God”, Psalm 46 invites us.

        In the empty spaces of our day, of our lives we can search for and cultivate intimacy with our God, Who is always with us present in our inner being. When our days become too crowded, it is time to take a moment to look at our inner desires, our longings. What am I really seeking? What will bring me inner quiet and peace?

        Advent is a time for seeking and waiting for God to be birthed in our inner being. Only God present in our lives can bring us the true joy of Christmas. May we each learn to deepen our search for intimacy with the God of our desires and be clothed with the joy God so longs to fill us with this Christmas and always.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Jesse Tree

By Lisa Lickel

I introduced the Jesse Tree to my new church this year. The congregation will be involved in Advent by making and presenting the week’s ornaments and verses each Sunday.

What is a Jesse Tree? For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, the Jesse Tree is the story of Jesus’s family from Genesis through his birth. It’s a great way to make looking at less familiar Bible passages less scary for those who are a little nervous about reading it. December 6 this year, 2011, represents the tenth day in Advent. At our church, we’re up to Joshua and the Hebrews ready to enter to the Promised Land. The passage is from Joshua 2: 1-21, which tells the story of Rahab who, although not a Hebrew, was faithful to a God she had only heard about, and was rewarded by being an ancestor of Christ. The ornament for the day is a rope.

Background: The Israelites were ready to enter the land that God had promised them. They sent two men into the land to find out more about the land. Rahab hid the two men in her house and then helped them to escape when the king wanted to kill them. She knew that God had promised the city of Jericho to Joshua and the Israelites, and she believed that God is a powerful God. In return, the Israelites protected Rahab and her family. Rahab hung a red rope from the window in her house so that the Israelites would remember to protect her.

The readings of the Jesse Tree are written for the whole family. When my children were growing up, they looked forward to the morning ritual before school of getting the day’s ornament for the tree and reading the passage. I made them each a Jesse Tree of their own when they married. You can find out more about the Jesse Tree, find patterns and readings, on this web site: https://www.rca.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=1602

From Lisa Lickel, author of A Summer in Oakville, with Shellie Neumeier

Thursday, December 1, 2011



By Charis Seeley


I’m only 23, but sometimes I worry about the younger generation. The average teenager sends over 100 text messages every day. Most of them use abbreviations so much that it creates a language filled with three letter words. The only single letter words in the English language are ‘A’ and ‘I’. When I receive a text filled with single letters and numbers that replace words…. I want to send them back to elementary school English class.

Never mind trying to get teens to read a book. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a teenager squeal about a movie series and how they “Can wait to find out how it ends!” Meanwhile, they seem unaware that the movie they loved was based off a novel series. I can’t help but wonder why they haven’t read the books.

The Hunger Games is a series like that. By the end of March, you can bet there will be scads of teens excited for the second movie, eager to find out what happens next, but not willing to pick up a book. And I’ll hopelessly hang my head. Authors no longer face the challenge of keeping their reader out of other books and in theirs. They have to keep them away from the TV, computer, movie theater, game console and cell phone. It’s a daunting task. Most of the time, at least.

I was grocery shopping a few days ago when I overheard a daughter talking with her father. She looked about 15 years old. They were talking about the upcoming Hunger Games movie. “Please, Dad? I want to read it.” “Why? I thought they were making it into a movie.” “I know, but I want to read it.”

I was so happy to hear a young person excited about a book that I almost stopped to thank her. I hope there are more kids out there who also value reading books and knowing the difference between to, two and too. 

Maybe these kids aren’t as bad as I thought.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Please Pass the Planner…

By Robin J. Steinweg
…because I can’t get enough. Yes, I’m referring to Thanksgiving. No, I’m not talking turkey. I’m talking family. I can’t get enough of family. The catching up with those who live far, the chatter of younger ones, the smiles of older ones, the bulging sides (of the house, not the feasting visitors), Grandma’s ready wit, cousin antics, sibling jibes, Grandpa’s horse-back rides--even Uncle’s groan-worthy puns. Can’t get enough.

Every time we gather as a family, someone says, “We should do this more often.” Everyone nods, everyone agrees. “Someone” is right. It’s important. It may not be urgent, but it is important.

For the next family feast, I’ll ask each person to bring something. Not food. I’ll ask them to bring their planners. We’ll get a date on the calendar and make it a priority. There may be those whose work schedule or vacation won’t cooperate—but maybe they’ll make it next time, or the time after. Forget all the objections; I want to see a date on the calendar! The days are too precious—the people are too precious—to wait a year.

Please pass the planner!

Friday, November 25, 2011

"Do Unto Others" Even on Black Friday

By Shelly Akins

The holidays have now officially started. Tomorrow people will crowd the malls and fight each other for big screen TVs and some random toy that their child has to have. When I heard that some stores were starting their sales at midnight, my first thoughts were not of the sales or of the deals that stores are offering. Rather, I’m thinking about those people who have to work all night trying to keep mothers from killing each other over a game. Those people need to be mentioned in our daily prayers from now until after the first of the year. They don’t get paid enough to put up with someone screaming at them at 2 a.m. on Black Friday about why there are no more 62 inch plasma TVs left on the shelf.

I must admit that I have never gone and camped out and waited for sales. As a result, I’ve probably spent more money than I could have for Christmas presents. I did accidently go to Wal-Mart once on the afternoon of Black Friday to pick up something like toilet paper. People had been waiting in the layaway line for four hours. FOUR HOURS to put something on hold that they don’t have the money to buy. Think about that.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to shop. My mom and I have been known to spend hours in the same store. I find shopping cathartic. There’s something simple in getting something new, especially if it’s something that you’ve saved for or have been looking for a long time.

Christmas shopping is different. There’s pressure with Christmas shopping. There’s a deadline. There’s things that have to be done and bought and wrapped and shipped and opened and put away. There’s the endless lists and hoping that you’re getting the right thing and wondering if $20 is enough to spend on your mother’s cousin’s best friend’s daughter who always seems to show up unannounced Christmas afternoon.

The meaning of the season is lost in all the pushing and shoving. I know that Advent is the time to wait and prepare for the coming Christ, but it’s more than that. It’s time to spend with family and friends, eating, laughing, catching up. It should be more about a few perfect moments than about how much money we spend and who wins the retail wars.

So, over the next few weeks when you’re out and about, tired, trying to cross everything off your list, remember those who are working in retail helping you find tie for Uncle Rick or standing at the register listening to Jingle Bells for the 4,563rd time today. It’s not their fault the line is long or that someone ran over your foot with a cart, or that there are no more copies of The Help on Blu Ray. Smile, thank them and let them know you empathize with them. And say a little prayer for them when that mother with the out of control kids starts screaming behind you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

ODDS AND ENDS

 
By Nerola (Rolie) Grady

As the holidays draw near, my brain is filled with many loose end thoughts. Does anyone want to volunteer as a human Personal Reminder?  I didn’t think so.  To relieve the pressure, I’m going to share some observations about life on Lombard Street.

-Tomorrow I’ll travel to my home town for the funeral of a dear family friend, Carol “Toots” Youngwirth.   Toots was a delightful lady.  Creativity was her daily bread and butter.  One neighbor recalled how she made a purse out of potato chip bags.

 Toots and Johnny, her husband, had six kids and several pets to round out their family.  I’ll share two of their pet stories.  There was Dorothy, the white duck, who injured her leg and couldn’t walk.  Rather than get rid of her, Toots and Johnny brought her to the town doctor (my father). “Doc, see what you can do.  Dorothy needs help!”  Dad didn’t usually treat  animals, but he agreed  Dorothy was in a bad way.  While they held her beak shut, Dad put a splint on Dorothy’s leg.  She  got well and lived to waddle for many more years.

The next story is about Happy, their white Scotty dog.  He held center stage until his death  a year ago in January.  Since the backyard was frozen, they decided to delay Happy’s funeral until the spring.  Happy was stored in a chest freezer in the garage.  Johnny built a casket out of fine walnut, and a vault was purchased from the local funeral home.

In May, Toots planned a special ceremony  on Mother’s Day.  About 35 people came, along with ten of Happy’s doggy friends.  Of course, there was a viewing.  Then Dawn, their daughter, played “How Much Is That Doggy In the Window” on her accordion.  Several readings were also given before Toots served a luncheon for the visitors.

There are no words for good memories.  They are just part of life’s fabric.  Those moments weave together a melody of love that is sweet to hear.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
-A couple funnies from my Facebook page:
“I’m half Greek and half German.  I’m so upset with myself and am tired of bailing myself out.”  Tina Fey

“Persistence, thy name is small children.  If Guantanamo Bay had used 2-yr-olds to question suspects, they could close the prison down in no time flat.”  (Susan Stanley, my niece)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A Thanksgiving Prayer
Father, thank You there is too much to remember.  Thank You for moments of seeing Your fingerprints on each day,  the beauty of human love, adventures in Your kingdom, and the awareness that You are MORE than enough for whatever I need.  Amen.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pray Like You Are Happy

By Lori Boruff

“Don't pray like you're sad, pray like you're happy.”

These are words of wisdom from my four year old grandson to his daddy as they pray before bedtime.

I'm imagining myself in his tiny tot shoes or should I say Buzz Lightyear jammies to understand what he heard daddy say.

Was it the words or tone of voice prompting that observation from a preschooler? Certainly quiet, reverent prayers before bed could sound cheerless but have great meaning. But I wonder if God ever wants to say Child, don't pray like you're sad, pray like you're happy!

I'm sending the challenge to all my praying friends to belt out prayers of gratitude with verve and vigor. Yes, God does know the depths of joy in your heart, but today if you are happy and you know it shout Amen!

Have a truly Happy Thanksgiving!

Hallelujah! Thank God! Pray to him by name! Tell everyone you meet what he has done!

Sing him songs, belt out hymns, translate his wonders into music!

Honor his holy name with Hallelujahs, you who seek God.

Psalm 105:1 The Message

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thoughts on Autumn Leaves...and Life

By Sharon Wilhite


How does a leaf
decide to fall?
Loosening its grasp
on the branch
That has been
its security
For almost three seasons,
Desperately plunging or gracefully descending.
To join other
fallen comrades
In a glorious profusion
of color
at the base of the tree,
Or to be blown by the wind
                                       far and wide                        
across yards and fields,
To places previously viewed
solely from the safety
of the branch.
 
Cling tightly
or
Let go?
 
Exhilarating freedom
or
Destructive folly?

Falling Leaves. . .

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:"
(Ecclesiastes 3:1)
 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

JUST ANOTHER HOLIDAY

By Michael Elmore

Walk through the doors of any Wal-Mart, Kmart, J. C. Penney’s or Sears today and you will see the sparkle of bright decorations adorning evergreen trees, hear the cacophony of Christmas music filling the air and have your eyes drawn to row upon row, shelf upon shelf of holiday gifts.  Close by, anxious managers will be scurrying about impatiently waiting for them to be purchased.


In the world of marketing and sales, a season devoid of profits extends between October 31st – Halloween, and December 25th - Christmas Day. It is called Thanksgiving. In the hubbub and rush of business plans and marketing ploys one of the greatest holidays of American culture has nearly vanished. In the world of cash registers dinging and carolers singing something of great significance has become lost. In some peculiar way we have lost not only the meaning of Thanksgiving but virtually the existence of the holiday itself.


In Psalm 136: 1 the Bible instructs us to “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.” In this single verse, God’s Word sets forth an imperative to be thankful. The etymology of the Old English word “thankful” means to be “thinkful”.  Being “thinkful” and remembering the first celebration of Thanksgiving is an important way to awaken our slumbering spirit of thankfulness. Perhaps if we remember the religious, cultural and historical roots of Thanksgiving Day, we can re-instill a spirit of thankfulness within our thankless hearts.

Thanksgiving at Plymouth

In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.

Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland.

In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. This day is remembered as American’s “First Thanksgiving”. 1  It is astonishing to think that after the deaths of 63 of the original Pilgrim party, these God-honoring people remembered to be thankful.


Familiar story isn’t it? Although that first Thanksgiving is an archetypical story of our American way of life it is in danger of being forgotten between two other more popular, profit-producing holidays.


It’s good to be reminded to be thankful at least once a year. So in the Spirit of the holiday, I ask that in the middle of family, feasting and football games, please take a moment and remind your children and your children’s children why this holiday is so important to us. I encourage you at the Thanksgiving table to turn yours eyes toward heaven, “from where our help comes” and give thanks to God “for his love endures forever”. Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be just another holiday; it can once again become sacred to all.



1 http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving (Accessed November 9, 2011)

2  Please watch Chris Tomlin’s video “His Love Endures forever” at this link to further inspire a spirit of thankfulness in your heart. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVYcDOXczus

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Happy Birthday to YOU, TGBA*

By Gail P. Smith
One year ago on today, November 9, we officially launched the QCCWC** blog.  We named it
*“The Great Blog Adventure.”

We began with 16 writers (14 women and 2 men), a few seasoned professionals, some novice bloggers/writers and lots of us somewhere inbetween.  Along the way we’ve lost and gained bloggers and we miss those currently "on hiatus."  As of today we are 14 writers strong, each contributing once or twice every two months. We publish twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  At least that’s the goal, and most of the time we make it.

Among our writers we have a resident baseball expert, several photographers, a writer’s group leader, homemakers, a reporter and a Sister with a capital “S.”  To read more about each of our talented bloggers click on “The Great Blog Adventures/Contributing Writers” tab above.

Over the past twelve months we’ve blogged about our families, jobs, pets and other less welcome critters who've invaded our homes.   We’ve written about wise men, Thanksgiving, Psalms and Proverbs, tombstones, writers block, tests, beauty, swimsuits and spam.  We’ve confessed mistakes and shared blessings, talked about growth, writing and even reality TV. 

At least one of us had a book published this year and I think it may be more.  (In fact, if any of our bloggers were published anywhere else besides TGBA this year, please comment so we can celebrate with you.) 

Best of all, we shared our relationships with the Lord, how we seek Him, how we struggle and what He’s taught us.  What a blessing it's been to read how God worked in each individual life.

As as far as "stats" go,  our page has had 38 views today (11-8-11), 25 yesterday, 592 last month, and 5,185 views for the past year.  We have 18 followers (are YOU following us yet?) and our readers represent ten countries and 4 continents.  (So if you know anyone in South America, Africa or Antarctica, please invite them to take a look!)

We’ve had 228 comments on 103 posts, and we are so grateful for each person who has taken the time to read and comment on our writing.  You have encouraged us by letting us know that someone took the time to read what we had to say. 

As we celebrate this milestone for TGAB, we are most grateful for YOU, the person sitting at your computer, reading this post, right now, today.  Without you readers bloggers would be nothing and so we want to say thank to each person who has visited this blog in the past year. 

We hope this year that you have been entertained, informed, uplifted, amused, touched, encouraged or inspired by something you have read here.  Please come back soon and invite a friend. 

At the top of our blog are these words “Read~Write~Learn~Share~Trust.” That is what we've attempted to do for the past 365 days.  Thanks for joining us.

So Happy Birthday to YOU,
Great Blog Adventurers,
and many happy returns.


** Quad-Cities' Christian Writers Conference

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Persistence Rules

By Kathryn Lang


"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence." I grew up with this saying on my wall. The only way I would ever reach the goals I set for my life would be if I continued to do what needed to be done until I got there.

Building a Foundation of Persistence

- Believe it. "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you are right." Henry Ford. I have to get to the point where the goal that I have for my life is settled deep in my knower.

- Support it. Find people that will believe with you, push you to continue when you want to stop and will carry you when all else fails. The right support can be all the difference.

- Say it. The things you say will be the things you believe. Create "I am" and "I will" statements that will drive you in the direction that you desire.

I set a goal of 6,000 words a few months back and made it - one day. The next day, tornadoes tore through my community and flipped my world upside down. That chaos has been a great excuse for not even attempting my goals, much less reaching them.

The other morning I woke up and realized that I was supposed to be writing. Excuses would always be available, but unless I take the action to make my dreams a reality they will continue to only be dreams.

November is National Novel Writing Month. The challenge to write 1667 words each day provided the motivation to take on my goals once again. Meeting with other writers and writing groups, in person and online, has provided the inspiration to let the words flow.  And making that one statement to my husband, "I am supposed to be writing," reminded me again that the gift and passion I have for words will only get me to my goals if I make the effort to write.

Believe that you are going to reach your goal. Find people that will support and encourage you on your journey. And say the words over and over until you are unable to say anything else.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thanksgiving!?

By Marvin Ferguson

As the seasons moved along I knew November was here once again when I saw the decorations in Lincoln Elementary School.
Pictures of turkeys in different postures, colors, and plumes, drew our attention as we walked through the halls. And then there were the endless stories the teachers read about the pilgrims. Boring! But what else was there to celebrate about at this time of the year?

Oh yes. I can still hear that favorite tune: Over the river to grandmother's house we go... I knew it so well that I could sing it in my sleep.

As our family, usually a dozen people or so, gathered around the table, our eyes bulged looking at the selection—mashed potatoes smothered in gravy, sweet potatoes, turkey and dressing, carrots, peas, cranberry sauce, and hot dinner rolls, not to mention a red jell-o with mixed fruit inside. There was enough to make our eyes water just thinking about it. And for dessert there were a variety of pies—apple, butterscotch, blueberry, and pumpkin. No body went hungry in our house.

During lots of chatter we shared a blessing or two bestowed upon us from the past year.

Thanksgiving! Yes! It was a time to be grateful for good health, a job, friends, and so much more.

Thanksgiving? Is there a doubt? The tragedy about thanksgiving is that we often forget and take our many blessings for granted.

God has given me so much to be thankful for. And as I reflect over this past year, most of all, I'm thankful for Jesus.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody, and I hope yours is filled with many rich blessings.
 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Preschoolers

By Brenda Lysak

Preschoolers exhibit high interest and curiosity for language development. They enjoy the sounds of language in terms of stories, rhyme, singing, and developing pre-reading skills. Landmark preschool uses all of the above to encourage growth and development in phonemic awareness. 

Curriculum has been developed with language as a focus. Children are introduced to the names of the ABC’s as well as the sounds they make. We encourage participation by drawing imaginary letter s in the air and reluctant learners are able to focus when the letter is written on their back.  Note: Introducing every letter is not important as we feel that it is more productive to ‘finish’ letters and the words they create. Small groups create an art project or craft exploring the above information in yet another way.  Fine motor and early reading skills build self confidence. 

Curiosity is encouraged and developed with high interest learning centers. We have a magnet, ABC, play dough, cutting, literacy, sorting various materials, train, counting, paint, magnifying glasses to explore natural material, building, and sewing stations. These are rotated according to interest, need, and or theme.  The various stations are designed to encourage imagination, creativity, and independence.
Colors, shapes, and counting skills are included in the moment. During morning rituals, kids count concrete objects in a holistic fashion.  This provides staff with an opportunity to assess counting development. Puzzling is often included in the day’s activities.   Staff helps children choose puzzles with appropriate challenge. Birthdays are celebrated by singing to BD child and counting candles together. Expected outcome is growth of self esteem, fine motor and social skills. 

Free play is respected at Landmark Preschool by utilizing sensitive transitions from one activity to another. We do not hold to a rigid schedule although we do have a schedule. For example when large motor activities is scheduled we observe play to see if children are ready for a change and initiate transition when they are ready. For example: if they have had 45 minutes of free play, and demonstrate an interest or need for large motor play.  

Social skills are developed in the moment as well as outside of the moment. During circle time children are encouraged to respect each other’s space, and share attention.  They share attention by listening to each other and by learning to raise their hands instead of all talking at one time. During play time they are coached through conflict in terms of looking out for each other. For example if someone has grabbed a toy or hit someone the offender is encouraged to say they are sorry and look after the offended child by asking if they are ok. If a child tattles we try not to fix, instead empathize thereby encouraging independent conflict resolution and healthy boundary development.

Outside of the moment, we sing a sharing song during circle time and talk about what to do if someone has upset you or if you have upset someone else. This is done through questions, “what should you do if you hurt someone?”  We practice saying together, “I’m sorry” and “are you ok?” Children’s sense of safety after this conflict coaching increases resulting in more friendship and bonding. Landmark Preschool endeavors to provide a learning environment that is appropriately challenging and pleasurable preventing misbehavior while encouraging healthy relationships. 

Questions/concerns: At the beginning of the year we have a “greet the teacher” Day where children and parents meet the teacher and board members. Also once a month we have a newsletter that communicates learning activities, outings, and birthdates of children. There is a picture from the previous month included. 

There are 2 bulletin boards in entrance with various postings. At the sign in table handouts such as scholastic or newsletters may be found. Children’s names are found on table by each child upon arrival and taken to the classroom.  At Christmas we have a short play the children do for their parents and we all celebrate after with treats at tables. We love volunteers and need you to have an optimal learning environment. Teachers are available at the beginning and end of each day and at events for questions and concerns as well as by phone or email.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Meditation on Psalm 97:11

By Helen Knueven
(Psalm 97:11 KJV)  Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.
How do you sow light? Sowing represents something going into the ground – being buried in darkness; a seed.  (You haven’t seen the last of it though!)  It will revisit the earth in beauty.  But for a time – darkness will be the companion of the seed, along with dirt.  Not such a great sounding situation.
I pondered the scripture and the meaning.  To me, it is a fascinating concept.  I know that light cannot be overpowered – and by one strike of a match a dark room is lightened.  It seems that light would be overpowered if it was sown.
And yet, God’s Word says the light is sown.
I remembered that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World –and I thought about the utter darkness of the Cross.  And yet – the brilliant light that Christ gives to all who believe.
Yesterday, I received an email from a missionary friend in Cambodia.  She said, ‘Please pray for us – things are not right.  Our children had their house broken in – My husband fell into a pit, and my own wrist is broken.  And on top of all of that,  sickness has attacked.
Then I remembered  the scripture. “Light is sown for the righteous.”  Cambodia is a dark place where sex trafficking is done without restraint – and God has sent our friends there to bring His love into this dark corner of the world.
Our friends are sowing the light of Christ into  Cambodia – perhaps you know missionaries that have gone into dangerously dark places to spread Christ’s love.
I believe that we can pray for them and sow light into the darkness too.  We can be partners with them drawing upon the light that only Christ gives; expecting to reap a harvest of light.  Our efforts can seem so weak – so lacking and yet all God expects us to do is give our best.  He will pick up the slack and cause seeds to grow. 
How will you sow light today?
Prayer:  Lord, help me to go into the darkness, declaring your goodness in the midst of a crooked generation, and shine as your light, in Jesus name.  Amen.

Photo courtesy of Motion Worship
 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

LET THE GOOD WORDS FLOW

By Narola (Rolie) Grady

A month ago, I went through a writing drought.  My soul felt like baked earth, and a deadline was looming in the distance.  Desperate for help, I emailed Robin, a fellow writer, and our dialogue changed the atmosphere in my spirit.  This blog entry is our conversation.  I hope it will touch some dry spots in you that need moisture.

Dear Robin,

Great blog this week. You are so honest in your struggle to wait on God, especially  when you see doors for ministry fly open for some of your friends.  I’ve had that experience too.  One of my reactions (inside) is to roll over and play dead, in a manner of speaking.  I get so taken by the gifting displayed in someone else, and then wrongly discredit what God has placed in me.  Not good.

So, Robin, here’s your chance.  Speak into this unhealthy spot.  Pour weed killer on it if the Spirit leads.  There needs to be a focus adjustment…one that promotes growth.  I’ll start the conversation with myself:

Rolie,
God has given you many gifts with words and music.  You have been stoking the proverbial fire with good, positive kindling from people like your new friend, Robin.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem to be enough.  But this isn’t the time to retreat and play Freecell on your computer.  Will there be challenges as you take the next step?  Yes, just like there have been for every one of your brothers and sisters in Christ. But God wants to show Himself strong on your behalf against enemy weapons that beat you down……….   Take it away, Robin.

(Robin’s response)
Rolie, you can step into this next place of faith – of speaking out what you agree with God concerning your beautiful design.  You have no competition in God’s Kingdom.  He is lifting layers that reveal more intricacy and gifting and worship.  No retreat is needed, but forward advancing is the order of the day.  You are stepping, your feet hitting the ground, and everywhere you place your foot is your life’s territory!  It feels new, but it’s the path designed for you from the foundation of the world.  You are doing it.

And it’s not works.  It’s that beautiful, unconditional love pouring into you, helping you become the you He already sees you to be.  Redeemed, valued, with eyes that wait to see into the depths of the things of God and bring them out with words – because it’s with words that things come into being – your spirit words flow and you are changed and people who read your words are changed.

And your willingness to be on the journey required of you shortens the path of someone else's journey.  And they find fulness of life because you were willing.  And He shows you the beauty and connects the dots, and you see the grace that holds it all up.

God is always doing something new.  Do you not see it?  He can make a way through a wilderness and cause streams to flow in a desert!  (Isaiah 43:18)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Google, God and Me

By Gail P Smith

“Oh Lord,
There are so many wonderful things to know in this world.  But Your knowledge is better than any other-- timeless, true, and never changing.

Help me to FOCUS-on You and Your Truth. 
Help me to prioritize the incredible flood of information that comes at me
as relentless as waves of the ocean,
as demanding as a screaming child,
and as uncontrollable as a run-away train.”

I prayed this prayer last week as I sat on my porch one morning trying to corral my own run-away thoughts for my time alone with God.
I opened my Bible to Proverbs 23, verse 1 and what I read is in italics. (What I heard, in my heart, is in parenthesis.)

When dining with a rich man (when online on your computer)
Be on guard and don’t stuff yourself, though it all tastes so good: (Watch out, you don’t have to read everything that looks interesting, funny or so good)
For he is trying to bribe you (Cyber space would steal your time and your attention from, the crucial, the eternal to the trivial and meaningless.)
And no good is going to come from his invitation. (It will not help you become the person you want to be.)

I joyfully wrote in my journal:
"Wow, Lord, even as I pray today in October of 2011, You had already answered my prayer thousands of years ago, speaking to my heart through the wisdom you gave to a king so long ago.  You are an awesome, amazing and incredible God.  There is none like You!"

Dear Father,
Let neither my head nor my heart be bribed away from You, for reverence for You, Lord is the beginning and the ending of all wisdom.
Amen

I will answer their prayers before they finish praying (in my case about 3,000+ years before
Isaiah 64:24

It's our choice, isn't it?



Friday, October 14, 2011

Identity Crisis:


By Shelly Akins
 
Identity: identifying ones self as something.

All summer people have been asking me, “What have you been doing now that you quit your job?”  I find myself struggling to answer this question.  I’m not a stay-at-home mom because my kids still go to day care; I’m not working on writing seriously, so I’m not a writer; I’m not a teacher because I just sub.  I started thinking, I’m not really anything. 

That’s not really a true statement.  Of course I’m a wife, mother, daughter, friend, but why isn’t that enough?  Why do I feel like I need a job to have an identity?  Maybe it’s because we spend most of our lives telling people what we want to do and be.  When we’re five people ask: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  When we’re in high school we’re asked, “What are your plans for after graduation?  What are you going to do?”  When we’re leaving college people ask “Do you have a job?  What are you doing next?”  Our jobs dictate where we live, what kind of car we buy, the house we live in, what vacations we take.  We are identified by what we do, for better or worse.

So how do I answer the question, “What do you do?”  I substitute teach.  I do laundry.  I’m a consultant.  I hang out with my kids.  I play Wii games.  I watch Project Runway.  I write on occasion.  I go to lunch with friends.  I quilt. 

I love having control over my time.  Time to discover my new identity and a new way to answer the question, “So, what do you do?”  I do what I need and want to do. Each day is a new adventure and I am enjoying not knowing what it is I do.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Look Again

By Kristi Paxton

At first glance, my daughter’s Brooklyn neighborhood is disgusting. I wove my way down broken sidewalks as discarded papers blew across my path. Inside a tiny cafĂ©, I feasted my eyes on authentic antique dirt, permanently affixed to the walls with ancient kitchen grease. Can’t you just smell it?

     But I made myself look again and I saw America’s melting pot still simmering on the stove. In one block I found three Chinese bakeries and a kosher deli next door to a grill cook creating made-to-order tacos for breakfast. He knows what his customers will order before they open their mouths.

     Across the street I found a combination of shops to put Mall of America to shame. First was a window full of “fine furs.” Next door a row of Peking ducks garnished the window like swags of Christmas garland. Adjacent to the ducks was a storefront full of wedding dresses. All in a row, just steps between them. A bride could receive a proposal, buy a gown and a fur for the evening, then fling a dozen ducks over her shoulder for the reception, all in a couple of hours.

     And in Midwood Brooklyn, I could assemble supper from fresh produce gathered from one of two gigantic markets, a number of international bakeries and a corner grocery all a half-block walk from my daughter’s apartment. And though the people in the store don’t speak much English, they recognized me and soon knew the products I preferred.

     In my Iowa town, I drive my gas guzzler 20 miles to a big box store where I’m pretty sure nobody will know who I am or what I like.

     After a few days, I came to embrace the colorful clutter that is lower middle class Brooklyn, nothing like the Disneylandish Times Square that pops up when I think of New York City.

     Sometimes it is refreshing to revisit our preconceived notions:

Big cities are unfriendly.

Teenagers are lazy.

Old people are slow.

     Really?

     Second impressions are becoming my favorite kind.