November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thankfulness is not something God gives us.
It is not a spiritual gift and it is not a spiritual fruit. 

We can receive God's peace, joy and love,
but thankfulness is something that we give to God 
and to others.
It is a choice that we make.
Let us thank Him today with
songs of celebration, 

hearts of strong devotion
and acts of admiration."

[Roy Lessin]

November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving thoughts again

"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord."
[Psalm 92:1]

"Some people complain because God put thorns on roses, 

while others praise Him for putting roses among thorns." [Anonymous]

On Thanksgiving Day we acknowledge our dependence.
~William Jennings Bryan

Grace isn't a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal.
It's a way to live. ~Jackie Windspear

Thanksgiving is possible only for those who take time to remember;
no one can give thanks who has a short memory.
~Author Unknown

November 25, 2008

More Thanksgiving thoughts

None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude.
Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves,
and spend without fear of bankruptcy. ~Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don't unravel.
~Author Unknown

Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare.
They are consumed in twelve minutes.
Half-times take twelve minutes.
This is not coincidence. ~Erma Bombeck

May your stuffing be tasty

May your turkey plump,

May your potatoes and gravy

Have nary a lump.

May your yams be delicious

And your pies take the prize,

And may your Thanksgiving dinner

Stay off your thighs!

~Author Unknown

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home,
a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past,
brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.
~Melody Beattie

November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving thoughts

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you,"
that would suffice.
~Meister Eckhart

Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men;
but be careful that you do not take the day,
and leave out the gratitude.
~E.P. Powell

As we express our gratitude,
we must never forget that the highest appreciation
is not to utter words, but to live by them.
~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Let us remember that, as much has been given us,
much will be expected from us,
and that true homage comes from the heart
as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.
~Theodore Roosevelt

November 23, 2008

Those sneaky holidays

Did you notice it is the holiday season all of a sudden? I just realized it. I am feeling a little panicky about Christmas things to be done, but Thanksgiving is covered I think. (I hope) It shnuck up on me this year while life was quickly rambling by. All of a sudden I began seeing commercials for holiday things, a local radio station here is starting their '24-7 Christmas music' early....I think that is not supposed to start until the day after Thanksgiving! But there it was, starting a week before Thanksgiving. I tried to listen to the music the other day, but had to turn it to my regular station as I reached for the air conditioning button in my car. HIGH 80's, blazing sun on my skin, perspiration gathering under my hair. There was no way I was going to listen to carols.

Maybe we are all a little weary of regular life and need to see the holiday season in sight to give us a little hope, a little something to look forward to. I am just hoping that we can turn off the air conditioner some day in the near future. I'm wondering if I will EVER get used to how warm it is here during the fall. It's not helping my holiday mood at all and gee whiz, I do need help this year.

I am so thankful that there is always something, SomeONE to celebrate each year, no matter how good or tragic our year has been. Can you imagine Christmas without Christ or Thanksgiving without Someone to be thankful to? God is a constant in our life. Always there, always faithful, always blessing us.

There comes a point each holiday season when these truths start to brighten my heart and mind. (Then no matter how warm it is, I can listen to the carols and they bring joy.) The way it is ordered is so right. Thanksgiving gives us a season to ponder the things we are thankful for and then begins the biggest celebration of the year, celebrating the Incarnation, then comes New Year's Day, a chance to begin again, a restarting. So this year I'm taking time to really mull over the ways I am blessed and give thanks to God. There is always so much to celebrate and be thankful for when we really take a good look.

November 20, 2008

Old friends and pass the manna please....

Thank you to all who left a message for us on that last post. Things are calming down. Emmanuel is still doing about the same and life is moving on....

Yesterday I got home from work and at 2:30pm looked at the answering machine. I had a message from Karen, who I grew up with. We went to the same church. The father of a dear friend Jonathan, from those days had passed away and the funeral was yesterday at 3pm. She ended up picking me up, then we went to the funeral and to the family's home afterwards. It never stops amazing me how friendships can just pick up again, feeling as tight as ever, even after years of not seeing each other. Karen and I have a little tradition going of attending funerals together now...usually the parents of our old friends from youth group but a couple of times it is one of our peers. She calls me and I hop in and off we go. We made a promise to try to get together at times other than funerals but we'll see. ;)

We all talked a lot of old times and the present, all intermingled as if there was no such thing as a timeline. Old jokes were still remembered. News was shared and when we were just barely getting caught up with each other, it was time to go. It is cool to have people like that in your life....people you have a history with, know where you came from and appreciate who you are today.

As for Carl, Jonathan's father, the funeral was so honoring and it was great to see how many lives he and his wife have touched! They have always had a huge place in their hearts and in their home for international students and people displaced from family. They truly have had a consistent spiritual gift of hospitality and service during their life. People kept getting up and saying how wonderful he was to them, that they felt at home with and loved by him. And that is true, but I kept thinking of his other side. I knew Carl not only from being Jon's dad, but he was also my college dorm caretaker. He had a snarky side to his personality and that is what I remembered well. I was 13 I think when his family came to our church. Carl always called me Cindy....and I always said, no, it's Christie. After a few months of this, I decided I would just call him Chuck. He didn't like being called Chuck so it fit my purpose just right. The whole time I knew him, he would say, "hi Cindy" and I'd snark back, "Hi Chuck!" Then he would just scowl at me. heehee He also helped us kidnap and hold for ransom a certain college professor's recliner from his office during finals one year. I talked him into letting us into his office and the whole time he was doing it, he kept saying, "Well I don't think I should be doing this......I don't know....this is gonna get me in trouble, etc etc" Every time I mentioned it after that time, he would act all scared and nervous and shush me like we had broken into the FBI offices or something. He was a lot of fun and I will miss hearing about his news in his wife's yearly Christmas letter.

I can't help but be a little envious of people I know who have already gone on into the Presence of God nowadays....

November 18, 2008

.......and today is Tuesday.

I'm sorry for all the silence around here. I hope this will be a better week for sitting down and writing. I hope this week will be a better one just in general for the well-being of all we know! We had numerous church members, along with a member of our former church, in the hospitals the past two weeks. The young man from our former church was walking late last Monday night and was hit by a car going 40 miles an hour. Miraculously he was supposed to be released by the hospital yesterday....but wearing a full cast on each leg and an arm cast that has to be elevated.

Another friend from church is in the dying process in the same hospital our other friend just left. He is in his 30's, came here from Ghana years ago to attend a technical school and contracted a common ailment here called Valley Fever. Usually undetected when you have it, sometimes it goes crazy and takes over a person's body. Emmanuel had it badly for 9 years and it is finally affecting his brain. His body is shutting down and soon he will be released from that toxic body to enjoy an eternal life with Jesus. Pray for his family though, this is a hard time for all.

Along with those we had several others who were hurting or had emergencies to tend to. Charles was the crazed hospital visitor there for a while, but it seems to be settling down.

November 13, 2008

Sand Dollar Beach slideshow

I finally worked on some photos from last summer's vacation. These are of Sand Dollar Beach in the Big Sur, California area. It was a beautiful place!

November 10, 2008

You've Got Mangos

What is it about certain movies that just puts you in a good mood? You could and have watched them a hundred times. When Hannah was 17 or so we bought the movie You've Got Mail. It is set in New York City, has a fabulous, quirky soundtrack and it goes through three seasons of the year.....fall, winter, then spring. We used to put that movie on to play whenever we were home and felt You've Got Mailish....which was a lot. A friend borrowed it and kept it for months! MONTHS! I finally got tired of asking for it back and went to get it. ha

We quote parts of the movie and it never gets old. "My head is starting to get ....fuzzy." "I love daisies. They're so friendly. Don't you think daisies are the friendliest flower?" "I'm going to get eucalyptus candles cuz it makes my apartment smell Moss-ay." and of course, "Don't cry, Shopgirl. Don't cry."

But lately I've latched on to an odd sounding quote. "I hope your mango's ripe."

Meg Ryan says it at a place in the movie where her feelings for this strange man are turning from loathing to friendly affection. And it struck me lately that what it means really is "I think I like you." "Thank you for being in my life." or even "Love ya." She says it while saying goodbye to him after a 'chance' meeting and it gets her through an awkward moment of not knowing how to give this time a benediction...because it was a turning pont.

You never really know about mangos, whether they are ripe or not. When they are just on the verge, but not really ripe it is a bitter mango and just turned ripe it is very sweet and smooth. (maybe like life) It is hoping for the best for a person in a very quirky way. I was trying to explain it to Hannah the other day and I've decided it's about the best little quote in the movie. And now you know it too. I looked for that scene from the movie on youtube, but it wasn't there. So...

I guess you'll just have to watch it now.....

November 6, 2008

Sunny Day

I started out the back gate at school today to walk home. A lot of parents were already gathered to walk their children home, the younger siblings playing while they waited. Since the sun is so intense here I get burned really easily and use a small umbrella to shade my face and arms while I walk. Today a little girl who looked about three years old saw me put up my umbrella. I smiled at her as I walked by and then she made a loud comment to her dad. She had very precise enunciation too.

"That la-dy has an um-brel-la. SHE thinks it's go-ing to ra-aain!" Then began intense three year old giggling and a dad's laughter well as mine. I laughed at least half way home.

November 4, 2008

Pa rum pum pum pum

I know I vote vote...yee haw. I'll just be glad it's over, the snide ads and the talking heads are getting on my last nerve! I did vote AND I got my free Starbucks coffee.

My real news for now though is that we went to my 16 year old's band exhibition concert last night and she was so cute! Well, the band was really good too, although she said the drumline was somewhat 'dirty' (meaning not exactly together on every strike). They were much improved from the last time we saw them in early October. AND they are going to the state competition this Saturday, so they are happy too.

At the end of Bohemian Rhapsody (it's better without the video, I decided...ha....not what you'd guess as good marching band material, but it was really great), the band moved back and the drumline moved forward and went to town! So cute, so good. I was proud. =) Now for the pics.

Emma is second from the right, doing her groove thang on the snare, baby!

Freeze well done. Again, she is second from the right.

November 1, 2008

The Fall Harvest

In 24 years of being in ministry at five different churches from New Jersey to Arizona we have seen how different churches handle the holiday of Halloween. Most of them really had nothing in place, so we would instigate a 'harvest party'. I love those. We would invite people, announce it in the papers and then just have our own church kids show up for it. Those were fun times and our children loved it too. When we moved to Phoenix two years ago, our church here already had a tradition for October 31. They go all out and have a huge block party. And it is not just for the church kids! It involves hundreds of attendees from all walks of life.

The church rents several inflatable bouncer houses and a huge rock wall to climb with springy safety ropes and everything. They cook hot dogs and have ice cold cans of Cokes and water bottles for a thousand people. We collect candy for months to give out at the game booths and rides. They have a slide show of the church's events for children and youth playing where people are eating their hot dogs.

Every last thing is free. We advertise it as a block party for our neighborhood as a safe alternative to trick or treating. We go on a prayer walk the Saturday before the block party and pray for the neighborhood by house and leave a door hanger invitation. (we do not knock on the doors) Last year we handed out 700 invitations. This year, the church members rallied and put out 2,000 well as praying for 2,000 homes.

They are so organized. The woman who leads it is a former professional event planner. She has "God Rocks the Block" t-shirts for the workers, policemen to patrol around the campus, and people who swoop in when the party is over and take down and clean up in a FLASH! People leave feeing like they had a fun night in a family setting.

This year my husband got a great idea. He had a team of greeters who walked around the block party welcoming people, talking and encouraging and praying for people who had come. Several people got the chance to actually ask people for some need they could pray for their family about. And no one (that I've heard of) said no. My husband got the opportunity to pray with several people, all who appreciated it and were open and grateful to him, including two adult Jewish sisters. Several said they had been looking for a church or to get back into church and they had wondered about ours.

So now.....tomorrow is Sunday and in the following month after Rock the Block we see a lot of these people come to visit our church. Please pray with us that they will be drawn to Jesus and feel welcome in our church. We are looking forward to seeing the harvest of people that God is going to work in. Every year we get at least one family who starts coming to our church from the party, but this year we are hopeful that there will be more than just one or two.