Monday, January 2, 2017

C'mon Over for a Progressive Dinner Party!

Dear Friends,

Last Tuesday, my Friends of the Heart, Kim and Janine, along with hubbies, Matt and Dave, joined Bill and me for a Progressive Dinner. We wanted to see each other’s decorated homes and taste each other’s goodies. After reading this, you just may want to try it yourself (with some friends, of course).

Janine served the most delicious salad. Her home is always ready for a House Beautiful photographer. Not a spatula out of place. (Well, that night there was a refrigerator sitting in the middle of her kitchen; repairman scheduled.) But Janine organizes every toothpick and paper clip. Empty counters, except for a display of objects made by her father through the years—a woodcutting of the Nativity, a “love” plaque, a lantern. Her home is elegant, to say the least.

Kim served prime rib with mushroom/spinach stuffing--your choice of AuJus, gravy or horseradish dressing. We feasted on roasted potatoes with artichokes, roasted Brussel sprouts and green beans vinaigrette. Check out those aprons! Matt too enjoys cooking. Paraphrasing the last sentence of the story of the Samaritan woman, I told Kim, “We no longer believe because of what you said. Now we have tasted for ourselves, and you really are a gourmet cook.”

Now for her décor: Her enclosed porch hosts a huge metal Santa Claus and sleigh along with eight (not tiny) reindeer, all outlined with lights. Her father used to display the piece on the roof of his barn; that’s how big it is.

Each corner of her home would be a “picker’s” delight. She adds a string of lights to teddy bears and sleighs and even cabbage graters to create picture-perfect Christmas displays. On the kitchen counter, a hot chocolate bar. On the porch, a slate with “Santa, I’ve been a good boy. Chandler.” And photographs—old (Matt as a boy), new (grandson Chandler) and everyone in between. Just gorgeous, to say the least.

Finally, I served peach pie with ice cream; Dave claims it’s the best pie he’s ever eaten. Just sayin’. At first I thought I’d make a few desserts to offer choices. Nope. Too much work. Everyone would be full until they reached our house anyway.

As far as décor, my home is a scaled-down version of what used to be. I no longer get out the Santas, and (don’t tell anyone) I carry away the artificial tree fully decorated from one year to the next. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Conversation ranged from Matt’s new work assignment to my husband’s years as an Air Force radar repairman in the 50’s. We had fun posing before a tripod to remember our evening.

So I hope I’ve given you an idea of something to do to hold the winter doldrums at bay. I am convinced, we can’t call each other friends unless we share the hospitality of our homes. And friends are one of the greatest blessings God gives us. Let’s keep in touch with them often in 2017.

Have a Blessed and Happy New Year, Friend!


Upcoming events:

January 17, 6:30 – Shirley speaking at Women’s Ministry meeting, Grace Community Church, Herndon.

Woodcutting by Janine's father, Jack Feaster

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Book Review: Feminine Wiles: Creative Techniques for Writing Women's Feature Stories that Sell

If you write feature stories for newspapers or magazines, Feminine Wiles is a must read. Author Donna Elizabeth Boetig has been published in many if not all of “the seven sisters” magazines, magazines that pay big bucks—Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, McCall’s, Redbook and Better Homes and Gardens—and she has learned a great deal writing for such national publications.

In Feminine Wiles Boetig shares the ups and downs of her own journey, but more importantly, she shares specifics about approaching editors: how to construct a query letter, where to get ideas, how to write with a passionate point of view. The book includes Reader’s Digest’s “secret formula” for structure in writing true life dramas. And Boetig also shares practical advice on matters such as the 
feasibility of multiple submissions.

I want to remember advice such as: “In every woman’s story you write, strive to pinpoint an image or concept that will help the story live on in the reader’s mind.” And I was not aware that The American Directory of Writer’s Guidelines may be available at libraries. (Unfortunately, not at mine.) What a treasure trove of information that would offer.

Besides information about the construction of articles, Boetig offers advice on interviewing. She suggests repeating the last words of a subject’s response to draw them out further.

Published by Quill Drive Books/Word Dancer Press, Inc., I highly recommend this book to all writers. I may have to return my library copy and buy a copy for myself; it’s that valuable.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Book Review: We Died Before We Came Here

Inspirational reading at its best. Author Emily Foreman takes you along on her faith journey that began in the wake of 9/11. She and her husband Stephen took seriously Jesus’ command to love your enemies and relocated their family to serve as missionaries in a Muslim country in North Africa. They paid the ultimate price when Stephen was killed by al-Qaeda extremists.

While most of us might wonder how a couple could put themselves and their four children at risk, her story puts human faces on Muslim people as the Foremans grow to love those around them while ministering to physical and spiritual needs. There’s the humor in everyday interchanges and the challenge of watching new friends draw close to Jesus, knowing the cost of conversion.

And then there’s the inspiration readers will draw from this family’s commitment in light of Galatians 2:20, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Stephen, when questioned about the danger of living and witnessing in a Muslim country, always told people, “We died before we came here.”

Published by NavPress, this true story is endorsed by Jerry Rankin, president emeritus of International Mission Board, SBC; Jerry Trousdale, director of International Ministries at Cityteam Ministries and Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth With a Mission.

The reactions of the Muslim people to Stephen’s murder and Emily’s own journey through grief to forgiveness is sure to surprise you and inform you about the reality of faith in the lives of those who take seriously Jesus’ teaching to reach the world.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Keeping Christ in Christmas!

Dear Friends,

Do you display a Nativity as part of your Christmas decor? As I meditate on mine, I am struck by how baby Jesus commands attention. His mother meets his physical needs, wrapping him in cloths, cuddling him. His earthly father protects him from unexpected visitors. Shepherds come to him, even while at work. Wise men bow and offer their riches to him. Even animals focus on this child who will become Savior of the world.

This year I had trouble placing my Nativity because we had rearranged the living room. The table I usually used was not available. So I placed the figures on a dining room sideboard, but there they didn’t show up well. I then put them on top of a writing desk, but they looked crowded. On to the mantle. Yes! I love this arrangement. And it puts Jesus front and center in my living room.

So I ask myself: Is he front and central in my life? Like the shepherds, do I focus on him even when at work? Like the wise men, do I dedicate my riches to him? Like Mary and Joseph, do I keep him at the center of my family life?

I always send Christmas cards with a manger scene, because I want to remind people that Christ is central to Christmas. But does my life remind people that Jesus is central in my life—every single day of the year? Let’s COMMIT to doing that:

C – Come to Christ every single day through Bible reading and prayer.
O – Open our mouths to share God’s love with others, to pray with them, to put in a good word for the Lord as opportunities arise.
M – Make ourselves respond in a Christ-like way to our families, colleagues, friends and neighbors. (Yes, it starts with a decision.)
M – Move our eyes from earthly circumstances to a heavenly perspective, to see things as God sees them.
I – Incline our hearts to the Lord 24/7.
T – Trust God to work all things together for our good.

If our lives shows these tendencies, we will do more to build the kingdom than any Nativity on a mantle or on cards.

Lord, help me to keep you front and central on Christmas Day and every other day of the year!

Before we open gifts, I always share with my family a memorized scripture, a prayer or an inspirational reading or thought. Please comment to share how you keep Christ in Christmas. Let’s inspire each other. (To comment, click on the link at the bottom of this post.)

Blessed Christmas to you!


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Birds of a Feather Touch Lives Together

Dear Friends,

            As I shook crumbs off place mats on my birthday morning some years ago, a flock of robins in the backyard caught my eye. Then I noticed two chickadees and, a moment later, two blue jays perched on the pines. For some reason, it was a good morning for birds, so I decided to have my devotions by my breakfast nook window and enjoy the show God gave me.

            What a show it was! Two finches visited, then a pair of nuthatches and several juncos. A blackbird, iridescent head shimmering, swooped by the window. All the while, robins continued to fly in and out of the yard, dropping to the ground now and then, heads cocked, hoping to hear the faint stir of a worm.

            The sight of a bird or two from my window is not unusual and is always a welcome diversion. But I had never seen so many types within such a short time. A stray sea gull sailed over the tops of the trees. A large flicker with his showy patch of red climbed a tree trunk, and I caught a glimpse of a hairy woodpecker a little farther back in the woods that border our yard.

            I grabbed the “bird book” to identify a mottled back-and-white feathered friend with a red spot on his head, backing down a tree trunk. Could it be a yellow-bellied sapsucker? Then came the tufted titmice. And all the while the robins continued to come and go . . . so many of them! Then a cardinal flew in. Wow! A most blessed birthday treat this was!

            The impact of the sheer numbers and many types of birds speaks to me of the impression the corporate body of Christ makes in the world. There is something about the witness of several  people “in concert” that provides more weight than a single person might. And there is the added effect of the different “types” of Christians.

            All around us are the “everyday” robins—nothing flash, just minding their own business, honest and diligent in their work. You know Christians like that who don’t make a big show of their faith—dependable people of integrity. Then there’s the one like the single flicker. Someone who comes into your life for a brief moment yet captures your attention with an outspoken story about how God has worked in their life.

            The finches are rather ordinary, some of them sporting reddish collars. All have short strong beaks ready to tackle the task at hand. They remind me of the many faithful workers using their ordinary talents and gifts for the Lord—teaching Sunday school, serving meals, visiting the sick. One bird looks as though he caught the splashes of a white paint brush—an odd fellow, not very attractive, just like the individual lacking physical beauty who has a heart of gold so precious to God and others.

            The yellow-bellied sapsucker is a rare bird around here and reminds me of the Christian who is not afraid to venture into new territories. Maybe he’s on an evangelistic campaign. The juncos visit in groups and speak to me of families. How exciting to watch the relationships of parents and children whose lives have been transformed. Choir members who sing of God’s love and grace come to mind as I hear the call of the cardinals.

            The pair of nuthatches following each other down a tree trunk reminds me that sometimes we need to go against the grain so that others will take note of our convictions. And what about those blue jays? They are a noisy, raucous pair. But they, too, are part of the bird family and add color and volume to the body.

            What I’m trying to say is, whoever you are, whatever your style, as a Christian you play an important role in the body of Christ. God needs your unique contribution to add beauty and diversity to it. We’ll never know this side of heaven how many hearts are touched by our corporate witness. What kind of bird are you? Join the flock in church on Sunday!

With a heart thankful for birds and other everyday blessings,


Upcoming Engagements:

November 5, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. - Shirley at BookFest, Deane Center, Wellsboro.
November 12, 1 p.m. – Friends of the Heart at Ladies Tea, Hilltop Christian Church, Newport, “Tea with Mary, Martha and their Psychologist.”
November 19, 2 p.m. – Friends of the Heart with Secret Sisters, West Gate American Baptist Church, Lancaster, “Tea with Mary, Martha and their Psychologist.”
November 20, 8:45 a.m. – Friends of the Heart at Thank Offering Service, Salem U. C. C., Elizabethville, “Offering Our Talents, Treasures and Time.”