Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Auld Lang Syne Hodge Podge For 2014

Welcome to the last HP in 2014, but no worries...there will be plenty more random fun in the new year. Just not next week. Next week Joyce will be in full on post wedding mode, so no Hodgepodge January6/7. The HP will be back to it's regular posting schedule the following week-January 13/14.   I hope the wedding is fairy tale and cannot wait to share it through posts and pictures.  Now for this week's questions...Happy New Year everyone!  Click here to join in and play.

1. Share a favorite moment from your Christmas holiday celebration.
Any one of them that involved my children when they were munchkins.  Best one ever was when we gave them their "Big Present" in a small box....and they discovered we were leaving for Disney World early the next morning.

2. What would you say has been the biggest news event during your life so far?  Griefus....I am 60.  The end of Camelot(for those to young to remember - the end of the Kennedy era), 9/11, moon walking, the end of Vietnam, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, ....9//11 impacted the way life was and will never be again.

3. The Pantone Color of the Year for 2015 is Marsala. What say you-like or no like? Would I find this color anywhere in your home or wardrobe? Will you add something in this shade to either?  I love the color. I do not have it on any wall in my house....I live in a parsonage....plain white walls. I do use it in decorating pieces.  I have a bed spread that is marsala, green, and gold.  It is beautiful.  I have not added the color to my wardrobe yet.

4. Would you rather meet your ancestors or your great grandchildren? Explain why.

I have a great grandchild and she lights up my life.  I would love to meet my ancestors...prior to coming to America.  I have so many questions.

5. Share one life lesson learned in 2014?  It is ok to move your cheese.  I left a job of 25 years and began a new one....and am having a blast.

6. What was your best or favorite purchase made in 2014?  The gifts Frank and I purchased for Galina.  We bought her Christmas and met many new people getting it to Brigadoon so it could be mailed to Moldova.  It was just like being Santa when the kids were little.

7. What is one thing you're looking forward to in the new year?  Traveling more.

8. Insert your own random thought here.  Here is to everyone.....Happy 2015 to you all!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The 3 Promises

The 3 Promises
About The Book:  In his blockbuster book The Law of the Garbage Truck David J. Pollay showed how to deflect the negativity that derails our goals and leaves us stressed and miserable. Now, in this inspiring follow-up, Pollay explains how making three simple promises to yourself—“to find joy every day, do what you love, and make a difference”—can radically enhance every aspect of your life. Illustrating his points through memorable, personal stories, Pollay makes it simple to practice transformative strategies that help us achieve fulfillment.
About The Author:  David J. Pollay is committed to helping people live fulfilling lives every day at work and at home. He is the author and creator of the international blockbuster, The Law of the Garbage Truck®, now translated into twelve languages. People from more than 100 countries have taken his No Garbage Trucks! Pledge not to accept, create, and dump emotional garbage. His latest book, The 3 Promises: Find Joy Every Day. Do What You Love. Make a Difference, will be released by Sterling Publishing on October 21. David is a leader in the field of Positive Psychology. He has spoken to audiences around the world, and he was a featured speaker at TEDx Delray Beach. David served as the co-founding associate executive director of the International Positive Psychology Association. David has held leadership positions at Yahoo!, MasterCard, Global Payments, and AIESEC. His inner-city literacy initiative is helping hundreds of children increase their love of reading.  David has been featured on ABC, NPR, Univision, and in BusinessWeek SmallBiz Magazine, the Baltimore Sun, Business Digest, Florida's Sun Sentinel, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and media worldwide. David holds a master's degree of applied positive psychology (M.A.P.P.) from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor's degree in economics from Yale University. When he's not speaking and writing, you can find David enjoying life with his wife, Dawn, and their two daughters.  Visit David online at
My Thoughts On The Book: The 3 Promises is an wonderful guide to help us find Joy in all areas of our lives.  I could not wait to read it and once I did decided that 2015 would be my year of Joy.  The book is easy to read and understand and provided a three day activity planner to get started.  I added it to my daily journal for the year.  Pollay's writing style is like conversing with a friend over a cup of coffee.  It is not high-brow reading, just a simple and down to earth style.  It was a great book for seeing fulfillment in life and knowing how to do what you love to do....with Joy.  This book is a must for a home library so you can go back and review it time and time again. My New Year's Resolution this year is going to be put this book to practice and follow The Three Promises Pledge:  I will find joy everyday, I will do what I love, I will make a difference, I will live a fulfilling life today and every day. 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Sterling Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you! 

Love At Mistletoe Inn

About The Book:  They’ve helped orchestrate the perfect day for countless couples. Now twelve new couples will find themselves in the wedding spotlight in the second Year of Weddings novella collection.  Sometimes the road to happiness is paved with youthful mistakes.  Hope Prentiss didn’t go to the Harmony High School senior prom. Instead, she and John Burke drove to Boise and got married. At eighteen. But when Hope panicked after saying “I do,” the mail-order preacher assured her he just wouldn’t send in the paperwork. No forms, no marriage, no problem. Right? Well . . .
Now, ten years later, Hope discovers that her prom-night wedding counted—and, as fate would have it, the jilted John Burke has just ridden back into town. And he’s staying with her Aunt Verna at the inn where she and Hope host weddings. Though Hope thinks she wants an annulment, a little time with John makes her think twice . . . and emotions between the more-or-less Mr. and Mrs. Burke reach a boiling point a soon as they get a moment alone. With annulment out the window, Hope finds herself staring in the face of a divorce. But after spending some time with John and helping plan a Christmas wedding for a mystery couple, Hope begins to wonder if she really wants a divorce … or a real wedding of her own.
About The Author: Cindy Kirk is a lifelong Nebraska resident who started writing after taking a class at a local community college. But her interest in the written word started years before when she was in her teens. At sixteen she wrote in her diary, “I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t be a writer.”  Not until her daughter was heading off to college did Cindy return to her first love---writing. Unlike some writers, Cindy wasn’t interested in newspaper or magazine articles, short stories or poetry. When she decided to start writing, she jumped feet first into book length fiction. She loves reading and writing romance because she believes in the power of love and in happily ever after. An incurable romantic, Cindy loves seeing her characters grow and learn from their mistakes and, in the process, achieve a happy ending.  Someone once told Cindy that to know a writer you just have to read what she's written; she hopes that once you read her books you can tell she is an eternal optimist, one who truly believes in the power of love. She invites you to kick off your shoes, pick up one of her books and get to know her.   Cindy and her high school sweetheart husband live on an acreage with two dogs and two cats—Oreo--a friendly feline who loves to sit next to the computer and supervise her writing and Leo, a white devil with a raccoon-like tail.
My Thoughts About The Book:  My only complaint with this book is that it was only a novella and not full length.   I feel like that the shortness of the book caused the plot to be rushed.  A novel length book would have allowed the plot to develop at a slower pace.  All in all, the book was an easy read, it definitely showed the consequences of haste when Hope and John elope on prom night...and Hope realizes ten years later that she is STILL married to her heartmate.  I really enjoyed the story line and characters and am looking forward to reading more of the novellas from the Year in Wedding series.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from BookLook Bloggers and Zondervon Publishing Company as part of their Book Review Blogger Programs. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you! 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Masterpiece Marriage: Quilts of Love Series

About The Book:  After a flood damages the looms at Zenus Dane’s Philadelphia textile mill and the bank demands loan payment, Zenus turns to his aunt for help repurposing his textiles. Trouble is . . . his aunt has already been hired by the lovely yet secretive Englishwoman Mary Varrs. Eager to acquire his aunt’s quilt patterns, Zenus attends the summer Quilting Bee, a social event his aunt has uniquely designed with the secret purpose of finding Zenus a wife. However Zenus only has eyes for Mary, but Mary has no such desire for him. Though his aunt is determined to design a masterpiece marriage, both Zenus and Mary will have to overcome their stubborn ways. Can he realize that love requires stepping out of his routine? And will she recognize that following her heart doesn’t mean sacrificing her ambition?
About The Author:  Gina Welborn loves watching Community, playing Mario and Zelda with her middle child, and baking anything sweet and tasty in desperation not to hear her children say, "Chef Mom, you've been chopped!" Years ago, Gina worked at a news radio station scripting copy until she realized how depressing human tragedy was. Thus she fell in love with writing romances and now only thinks "It is time for a dead body?" when she's at a lull in her newest manuscript. (Warning: Dead bodies aren't found in Gina's writing.) Gina is a 2009 ACFW GENESIS historical romance finalist and a 2007 RWA GOLDEN HEART® inspirational finalist. She writes lighthearted historicals featuring spunky heroines and wild-at-heart heroes.  For eleven years, this Oklahoma-raised girl lived in Virginia with her youth-pastor husband and their five Okie-Hokie children before they headed back to Oklahoma. Her Barbour novellas can be found in HIGHLAND CROSSINGS, A CASCADES CHRISTMAS, and ECPA-bestselling MISTLETOE MEMORIES. This year ushers in the arrival of her full-length novels: THE HEIRESS'S COURTSHIP, THE MARSHAL'S PURSUIT, and MASTERPIECE MARRIAGE.
My Thoughts On The Book:  I have loved the Quilts of Love series.  This one is no exception.  Gina Welborn does an outstanding job of character and plot development.  I love Mary Varrs and I love Zenus.  This book has it all with intrigue, romance, quilting, and a friend who needs to mind her own business.  I loved it!  The aunt was priceless and was a perfect fit to turn of the century dowagers.  This was an easy read and once I started it I found I had to finish it before putting it down. 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publishing, NetGalley Publicity Group and Abingdon Press as part of their Book Review Blogger Programs. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you! 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Lingers On....

The season of Advent was a busy time here at church. The sanctuary was decorated, services were planned, music was chosen, the children rehearsed, and bulletins were typed, proofed, printed and folded. We gathered for weekly worship to anticipate the advent of hope, peace, joy and love. Our children presented their Christmas pageant called Unfrozen….a spoof on the Disney movie Froen….it was about the extraordinary things that happened on an ordinary night. We held our first lighting of the Advent Candle on the first week of Advent.  Different people lit the candles each week….and on Wednesday night we gathered for a special Christmas Eve Communion service. In addition to all of that, we had our December/Christmas supper, Frank and I attended several church family events, I gave semester exams and we broke for Christmas break on Friday, the 19th, and On Saturday the 20th we hosted my cousins for dinner because one of them is going to be out of the country.  On Monday night we met some old friends in Auburn to have Christmas with them since we are all so very busy…..You think?  On Christmas Eve we had dinner with friends and opened our gifts once we got home because we had to be at Magen and Keatons Christmas morning early  to see what Jett and Kruze got for Christmas and to share breakfast with the Towler/McCarley family.  We then had lunch with another family from Frank’s church….and then went and helped move Magen and Keaton into their new home. On Friday I began to detect the first signs of a cold, on Saturday I spent the day indoors trying to beat the cold.

I know that each of your families have also been busy with your own preparations, and I pray that all of you found meaningful ways to celebrate Christmas this year. So much energy is invested in our preparations for Christmas. But you know it doesn’t take long before our culture puts Christmas away and turn its sights on the next big thing. Stores have put their Christmas decorations and candy on clearance so they can make room for Valentine’s Day! And in many homes ornaments have already been packed away and Christmas trees kicked to the curb or dismantled and put away in their large boxes. Unwanted gifts have been returned and gift cards have been spent if you dared to brave the crowds.

And yet this morning, in worship, Christmas lingers. We continue to enjoy this beautifully decorated sanctuary, we continue to sing the beloved carols of the season, and we continue to hear the story of the events that surrounded Jesus’ birth.

In the church Christmas is not a day.

We call it is a season,

but I think it is more than that.

I think Christmas is a promise

and the fulfilment of that promise.

It is a hope

and it is a calling.

It is a gift

and it is a way of life.

For Christmas is the celebration

of the birth of Jesus,



the one who was born in the stable in Bethlehem

the one who was presented at the temple,

the one who “grew and became strong,

filled with wisdom;

and the favor of God was upon him,”

the one who taught, and preached, and healed,

the one who welcomed, and called, and forgave,

the one who, because of his faithfulness, died on the cross

and who, because of God’s grace, rose again,

the one who sent the Holy Spirit,

to be with us


Christmas lingers.

My scripture reading is Luke 2: 22-40 this morning…..

This morning we have heard the oft-forgotten conclusion of Luke’s story of the birth of Jesus. In this passage we learn that Jesus was born into a family that was faithful in its practice of the traditions of their Jewish faith. In accordance with the Law of Moses they came to the temple with their sacrifice of a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons, for the ritual of purification and for the presentation of their firstborn son to God. And while they were at the temple they encountered two elders of the community.  First there was Simeon. Now we tend to assume that Simeon was an old man, though we don’t know for sure. What Luke does tell us is that he was faithful and devout, and had been looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. (I love that phrase) In other words this was a man of deep and abiding faith. He wasn’t just going through the motions. He had a relationship with God. And through that relationship it had been revealed to him, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Simeon believed this promise, and he lived in expectation of its fulfillment. In many ways Simeon embodies the spirit of Advent.

Now Simeon would have known nothing about the birth of the baby Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem. But Luke tells us that Simeon was guided by the Holy Spirit to go to the temple. And because he was attentive to the Spirit in his life, and because he followed the Spirit’s leading, he was there on the day Mary and Joseph brought their child to the temple. And through that Spirit which rested upon him, Simeon was able to recognize that this was the one for whom he had been waiting. And he took the child in his arms and he blessed God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” And he also blessed Mary and Joseph, and named the painful truth that their son’s vocation would come at great cost, and he told Mary that a sword would pierce her own soul, too.

Luke tells us that there was also a prophet, named Anna, who was 84 years old. She had been widowed for many years and had devoted her life to God. She never left the temple, but was there day and night in prayer and fasting. And while Simeon was speaking to Mary and Joseph, Anna came up to them and began to “praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”  These two elders of the community, Simeon and Anna, were present in the temple that day and they saw in the infant Jesus not just a cute little baby but the long awaited Messiah, a light to the Gentiles, the glory of the people of Israel, the redemption of Jerusalem. One was there because she was always there. The other was there because he was attentive to the prompting of the Spirit. Both were there because they had cultivated a life of faith and faithfulness. And in so doing, they are models for us all.

This coming week we will begin a New Year, and I wonder how we will meet this New Year? Will we pack Christmas away until next December, or will the good news of Christmas linger in our hearts and in our lives? Will we live, each and every day, in the good news that Jesus is Immanuel, God-with-us? Like Simeon and Anna, will we nurture a daily practice of faith, so that we are able to be attentive to the signs of God’s presence in our lives and in the world around us? And will we be people who share that great good news in what we do, in what we say, and in how we live?

I am not saying that we all need to move in to the sanctuary with our sleeping bags and air mattresses. That isn’t necessary. But I do recommend that we do as John Wesley did, and as he encouraged others to do…that we “avail ourselves of the means of grace,” that we incorporate into our lives all those ways that we nurture faith and faithfulness…reading scripture, so that the whole story of Jesus is as rich and meaningful to us as the story of his birth, cultivating a rich prayer life that we might create pockets of space in our lives where we can hear God’s call, worshipping regularly with God’s people throughout the year, using our gifts in service to God and neighbor – in acts of love and compassion and justice. So that, through all these means of grace we may cultivate a living relationship with God who is always with us, a deeper commitment to Christ who is the way, the truth and the life, and a greater attentiveness and responsiveness to the power and presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

What might that mean for me? or for you? or for your family? or for us as a congregation? What would we have to leave behind? What would we need to take on? What would need to be given greater priority in our lives? What kinds of practices would support us in nurturing our faith and our faithfulness? How might we be inspired by Simeon and Anna, to nurture our own practice of faith, so that the good news that begins with the story of Christmas might linger, throughout the year, and throughout our lives.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014) Poster

Frank and I went to see A Night At The Museum on Friday afternoon.  We were in the mood to do something different and had not had a chance for a date afternoon/night during the hectic holidays.  I love these movies.  They are the funniest things I have ever seen and this one was no different.  In this one Larry spans the globe, uniting favorite and new characters while embarking on an epic quest to save the magic before it is gone forever.  Part of the time is spent in the London Museum of Natural History and watching the antics of all the exhibits as they come to life made me chuckle.  River Wilson, who plays Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect was the British equivalent to Larry and is so funny with her thick brogue.  If you don't have anything to do and want to have a good laugh this is a great movie to see.  It is definitely a closer and you know what they say about sequels....the first one is always the best and in this case it is true.  Even with that it is still a good laugh for a couple of hours.  There were some stale moments....and Frank caught a quick nap during those....but I enjoyed all the craziness.  The monkey, Owen Wilson's character, and of course Robin Williams are all favorites of mine when I want a good laugh.  I always love seeing the previews of what is coming and there are a few I want to see....and a few more I don't.  In The Woods and the Age of Adaline sound like they will be good too.  Here is hoping for a New Year full of entertainment.  BTW....Obviously I have hit the senior discount time.  It is sad when they don't even ask you if you ARE old enough for it....but see your white hair and assume.  Sigh! 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Eric's Green Satin Ornament

I was sitting in my living room gazing at my Christmas tree.  It looks so very sad with only a few presents left to be delivered.  While I was looking I found my mind taking me back to a time very long ago.  One Christmas when Eric was a child....7 or 8 his class at school made ornaments for the parents for Christmas.  They were all made with Satin balls, rick rack, and beads.  Eric made his from a Christmas green colored ornament, added gold and white rick rack and a ton of sequins and pearls.  He was so proud of it.  As a young tree was pretty much adorned with homemade ornaments and the ones I bought for each child every year.  I have a thing about ornaments.  That year when we took the tree down I lovingly wrapped the ornament so we could use it again next year.  The ornament survived a number of years.  When Eric was 17 his sister, Jenifer wanted to do our tree in a Victorian style.  Up until then my tree was a tree of memories.  I allowed her to do the decorating that year and my tree  was done in beige, pink, silver, and lavender.  It was a showplace tree and Jeni was so proud of herself.   Eric, on the other hand, was not.  He wanted his green ornament on that tree.....somewhere.  By now his ornament was 10 years old and the satin had begun to turn loose.  To placate him we put the ornament on the the back...buried deep within the branches.  No one could really see it....but he knew it was there.  It was that year that I began boxing up their "special" ornaments in boxes with their names on them.  My plan was for them to take them and decorate their own trees with their memories someday.  When Eric married I gave these keepsakes to his wife and she was appalled at the green ornament.  I took it back to my house and lovingly placed it on my tree.  Several years later and when he married again I gave it to his new wife.  She put it on their tree with pride.  I think I fell in love with her at that very minute.  She was all about memories.  Eric is now in his 40's and I am sure that ornament has long since been discarded....but for many years it was a heartfelt gift that a little boy made for his momma.....and looking at my tree this year....I remembered......and smiled. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from Karen's Korner

Throughout the Christmas season my XM radio has had several channels full of Christmas music.  You can find traditional, pop, instrumental, country, they all have a channel.  I have listened to most of them at some point in time since Thanksgiving weekend.   One song that really has touched my heart is one that is done by Garth Brooks.  Whoever wrote this song took quite a bit of creative license.  I googled the story of Belleau Wood and found out that this battle really did exist.  The problem is that I can't imagine Silent Night being sung in March when the actual battle occurred. It really doesn't matter....the song is about the Spirit of matter where it happened....or if it even happened.  I would like to believe that Christmas brings out the best in all mankind.  I am wishing you all a Very Merry Christmas and hope you enjoy time with those you love.  God Bless You All.

Oh, the snowflakes fell in silence
Over Belleau Wood that night
For a Christmas truce had been declared
By both sides of the fight
As we lay there in our trenches
The silence broke in two
By a German soldier singing
A song that we all knew

Though I did not know the language
The song was "Silent Night"

Then I heard my buddy whisper,
"All is calm and all is bright"
Then the fear and doubt surrounded me
'Cause I'd die if I was wrong
But I stood up in my trench
And I began to sing along

Then across the frozen battlefield
Another's voice joined in
Until one by one each man became
A singer of the hymn

Then I thought that I was dreaming
For right there in my sight
Stood the German soldier
'Neath the falling flakes of white
And he raised his hand and smiled at me
As if he seemed to say
Here's hoping we both live
To see us find a better way

Then the devil's clock struck midnight
And the skies lit up again
And the battlefield where heaven stood
Was blown to hell again

But for just one fleeting moment
The answer seemed so clear
Heaven's not beyond the clouds
It's just beyond the fear

No, heaven's not beyond the clouds
It's for us to find it here

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Birthday To My Very Own Christmas Carol

Dear Carol,
I thought to day I would write a letter to one of my oldest friends for her birthday and in doing so tell my blog readers(of which she is one) all a little bit about her....and how special she is to me.  She was born on December 24th, 1954.  Her dad said that she was so tiny he could hold her in the palm of his hand.  I met her when we were both 5.  They lived behind our house on the next street.  We had just moved from Georgia Avenue to 1127 El Prado and I never believed that a chance meeting of two small children could change our lives forever.  I had not grown up with children my age.  The only child I had to play with was my younger brother, Dougie and our landlord's grandchildren when they came to visit.  El Prado was a child's paradise.  There were children everywhere.  Carol was so tiny, but what a great friend she became.  They eventually moved two doors down on El Prado and we were inseparable.  We went to Vedado Park kindergarten together, Belvedere Elementary, Conniston Junior High, and finally finished up at Forest Hill High School.  As I sat here to write about "us" I realized that there was just to much for one small blog post.  We have been friends for 55 years and that is a lot of living without writing a book.   West Palm Beach back then was a child's paradise.  We went to the beach, we had rootbeer and small hamburgers at A&W on Southern Blvd.  We traveled together, we played Barbie's, we rode bikes, we had cherry wars with the neighborhood kids, we ate stolen fruit from Mr. Gunnell's yard, we skated at the Gayety, we rode was carefree.  Growing up with Carol was wonderful. I always felt she was short-changed a bit when we were younger.....since her birthday was on Christmas Eve....and we were out of school....and people would give her a gift and say, "This is for your birthday and Christmas."  I always made sure she had a birthday paper wrapped gift....and one in Christmas paper.  One of the  best parts about growing up in Vedado Park was that our parents were friends.  I cannot imagine a moment when the Geiger's were not involved in something the Sasser's were doing....and vise-versa.  So....many years and many miles between us later....I want to wish my dear friend a Happy 60th birthday!  I know we have not lived near each other in years....but I always knew where you were, how you were, and what you were doing.  Here is to the next 60.  Maybe we can work a New Dawn reunion in that time least before we need walkers.  Thank you for the time you have spent to give me the perfect gift over the years.  Thank you for the cards, letters of encouragement, and letting me be part of your life....even if it is long distance.  God Bless You today and may your birthday be an awesome moment.  Can you believe we are 60?  Where did the 18 year olds go?  Love, K

Reindeer Dust

About The Book:  In a fun and lyrical tale, readers are immersed in the story of hungry and harried reindeer who can’t find houses to land on through thick fog. Santa has a sled overflowing with presents, but he’ll never be able to deliver them if the reindeer don’t know where to land! One little boy, William, devises a plan: he mixes up a special batch of reindeer dust and he and his friends and family sprinkle it outside while reciting “I will always believe!” Through the fog, the reindeer are able to spot the glittering trail of reindeer dust, and Christmas is saved!
About The Author:  Kate Dwyer is a children's book author and working mom. She live in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, Bill, and their 8-year old twins, William and Madison. Kate loves watching movies, family vacations and reading a good book.
My Thoughts On The Book:  I don't always read children's books, but every now and then I will choose a couple just to see what is out there in the world of juvenile reading.  This book was precious.  The rhyming story was such fun to read and the illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff were awesome.  This was a sweet read.  I loved the whole concept of the reindeer dust to help Santa and his reindeer find the town.  I loved that the recipe was included and even made a few bags for some of the little ones in my life.  This is a fun book to share with your small ones or grandchildren.  The book was filled with Christmas magic.   
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley as part of their Book Review Blogger Programs. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

How SANTA met the ELFs

About The Book:  Hundreds of years ago, in a small harbor town on a fiord in Lapland , a kindly, learned, tinker named Kris Kringle sees a strange object streak through the night sky while gazing at The Northern Lights. A collector of meteorites, he sets out with his reindeer drawn sleigh to find the fallen rock amidst the ice and snow. Instead, he has a "Close Encounter" with a trio of Extraterrestrial Life Forms, E.L.F.s, and their small egg-shaped scout craft who have come down from their Mother-ship to see if they can settle in this Frozen landscape after their long star journey in search of a new home.  Kris comes to their aid when the ELFs discover through their telepathic powers that he has a strange crystal in his meteorite collection that will allow them to slowly recharge the batteries of the great Mothership using the Earth's Magnetic Field!  And so begins the Legendary Friendship of Kris and The ELFs that that makes them the Great Toymakers we celebrate to this day!
About The Author:  First-time Children's book author , Ben Dasaro combines his love of children, writing and Christmas in this tribute to Clement Moore , Dr. Seuss and all the wonderful Christmas TV specials of his youth! Ben works at Madison Square Garden in NYC and is best know for his acting work on Louie, 30 Rock, Sopranos, The Upright Citizens Brigade, Onion News Network and the Demetri Martin Show!
My Thoughts On The Book:  I don't usually choose a juvenile genre to review, but since this was Christmas I decided to read a couple.  This was a most unique take on Santa and the ELFs - Extraterrestrial Life Forms.  I am not sure it was one I liked.  The lyrical reading of the story was wonderfully fun, but the Sci-Fi twist did not ring my bell.  I guess I am a purist when it comes to Santa and his little helpers.  I decided to do a test on some small ones and found that they loved this story and they seemed to find it a fun and amusing story.
Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. I would like to thank Netgalley and Smith Publicity for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Monday, December 22, 2014

All I Really Want

About The Book:  Sometimes the happiest and holiest time of the year is also the hardest for people to enjoy. These daily readings offer the skeptic, the over-committed the opportunity to make room-perhaps just enough room for God to show up. The weeks leading up to Christmas can spark a strong spiritual longing for more. Although it may never be articulated, we sense beneath those longings is a yearning for an experience of God. These brief writings address the challenges and realities of the season and include a simple action, ritual or meditation designed to gently steer the reader toward the deeper meaning that underlies the season. Smart, witty, edgy—and always hopeful—readings by Quinn Caldwell include a brief prayer for each morning and evening during the entire Christmas season. This book takes seriously the modern person’s hunger for meaning and import in a season that feels increasingly frivolous. Includes a calendar with one easy task to do each day.
About The Author:  Quinn G. Caldwell is a native of  Groton and graduate of Cornell University, as  pastor and teacher.  Caldwell is well known in the wider United Church of Christ (UCC) as a member of the UCC Stillspeaking Writers’ Group and an author for the Stillspeaking Daily Devotionals, published on the UCC website. ( He is a former associate minister at Old South Church in Boston and since January has led the Under-40 Writers Group for the UCC website’s Feed Your Spirit section on the denomination’s global reach.  Caldwell is the co-author of The Unofficial Handbook of the United Church of Christ, published last year. The UCC describes it: “The co-authors – two young UCC ministers who are lifelong “UCCers” – have written this useful resource for all UCCers, but particularly for millennials: confirmation-aged youth and teens. Readers will learn about, appreciate, and be proud of their denomination—while not taking themselves too seriously.”  His other wider church activities include co-creating “Bless,” a small group DVD resource; co-hosting “Bless: A Conference for Worship Leaders” in 2011; and co-creating the nationally streamed commissioning service for Misson:1, also in 2011. 
My Thoughts On The Book:  I loved it.  This book is a wonderfully fresh approach to the Advent Season.  It is a perfect book for those CEO's (Christmas and Easter Only) folks who are not in to the formal ways of church and perfect for those who are regular Sunday attenders.  As a pastor I enjoyed the refreshing way he handled the holiday season with humor, joy, and faith.  It definitely draws you in and keeps you wanting more.  This is a great book for your library that can be used each Advent Season. 
Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. I would like to thank Netgalley and Abbingdon Press for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mary Did You Know?

I want to start off this morning with a little exercise.  Don’t worry, you don’t even have to get up…  But I do want you to take a minute to reflect back on your life.  I want you to remember being 15.  Can you remember back that far?  What were you doing at 15?  Some of you here today may have children about that age.  This morning, I want you to try and remember what it was like to be fifteen.  Fifteen.  Its an awkward time.  Your body is somewhere between childhood and adulthood.  Hormones are doing all sorts of weird things to your  Body and to your voice.  And there is this great race to grow up.  Still, at Fifteen you are not old enough to drive a car, vote, stay out late, or live on your own.  At fifteen,  There are a lot of things that you are not allowed to do.  Now, close your eyes for a moment.  Remember yourself at fifteen years old.  You are in Junior High,  Interested in things fifteen year olds are interested in.  You are still a child living in your parents home.  Then, one night, there is a disturbance in another room of your house.  You get up to investigate and there,  In the middle of your living room stands this beautiful, Supernatural, and absolutely terrifying angelic presence that Speaks these words to you…  “Greetings Favored One, The Lord is With You.”  What would you do?  What would be going through your mind?  Would you also be wondering how fast you could get  out the back door and down the street?  Keep this thought in mind as we hear the reading of our Gospel text…

Read Luke 1:26-38 - The Birth of Jesus Foretold

Scholars tell us that Mary was between 13 and 16… To be more exact, most think she was about 15 when the angel  Gabriel gave her this message.  Is there any question why the angel told Mary not to be afraid?  She had plenty of reason’s to be absolutely terrified.  For one thing, how many of you here have ever stood in the presence of an angel from the Lord.?  If you have, then you will understand why they always In Scripture begin with “Be not afraid.”  God’s angels are nothing like what is portrayed by Hollywood.  They are a presence that commands extraordinary power and authority.  When you have been in the presence of an angel, There is no question what you have just witnessed.  This alone is enough to be a terrifying experience for a fifteen year old girl. Equally terrifying is the promise that she is about to become Pregnant out of wedlock.  You see, Mary was betrothed to Joseph.   A betrothal in that day and age was much more than a engagement.   It indicated a contract between families for a future marriage.  The bride and groom often didn’t have much say in the matter.  The betrothal might be sealed by the exchange of lavish gifts or a feast.  All the family was involved. It was all nice and legal.  Mary breaking this contract by becoming pregnant with another man’s child Was grounds for her to be stoned on the spot.  I want you to hear that…Joseph could have killed her for what this angel  was proposing to her.She had every reason to be terrified by this news. Who on earth was going to believe such ridiculous story? A virgin birth!  Impossible!

You know, even in this day and age there continues to be volatile disagreement in the Church over the literal account of the virgin birth of Christ. There are all sorts of scholarly reasons not to believe it.  Many believe this is an error that was created between The Hebrew prophesy and the Greek interpretation.  There are even seminary’s that do not teach the virgin birth As a reality.  Just exactly whose child was he then?  “Uhhh, I don’t know. Joseph I suppose.”  You see, things like miracles are threatening to the academic mind.  We, as people from the Western Culture believe that everything  Is capable of being understood.  Everything works within a certain understandable and Reproducible framework that provides a balance to the universe.  Miracles do not exist within that framework.  In fact, they are the very antithesis of reason, And a mind that holds reason as ultimate and unbending will never Experience the miracle of Christ’s birth.

Now understand me, I am not saying that reason is bad, I am just saying that even reason is not the ultimate value in the universe.  Men, you in particular need to hear this… God has chosen love to be the ultimate value in the universe.   And love, in many, if not most cases has nothing to do with reality or reason.  Love is about the most unreasonable expression of our humanity.  And this is how God chose to reveal himself.  Folks, the Virgin Birth has nothing to do with reason.  That’s why it is called a miracle.  Quite frankly, it comes down to a question of faith,  A question of faith first answered by a scared fifteen year old girl. Try having this one put on your shoulders.  2000 years later, scholars are still debating this…Try it as an uneducated 15 year old girl betrothed to another man, Knowing full well that the consequences of agreeing to this is Almost certain death.  Now there is a dose of reality.  There is no Santa Clause here.  No reindeer or eggnog at this Christmas.  This is life and death stuff.  This is anything but a happy holiday for Mary.

Now, I have been asking you to imagine yourself at fifteen.  Who were you?  What were you doing?  What did your life look like?  Can you remember?  Now imagine this angel standing before you asking you to bring the  Hope of the entire earth into the world.  You know that the consequences will certainly mean being ostracized from your family,  Perhaps even bring about your death… How would you answer?  Would you find yourself questioning if this was possible?  Would you find yourself asking why God would choose you to be The instrument of salvation for the world?  If God were to tell you that the eternity of others hung in the balance Of your willingness to carry Jesus Christ, the Son of God, And share him with others, how would you answer?


Folks, this is the question that God is asking you.  It was just asked of a fifteen year old Hebrew girl first,  And her task was much more difficult than any of us are likely to Experience.  But the question he asks remains the same. Think about it.  God has been asking people to share his Son for 2000 years now.  It started with Mary.  And yes, the consequences for her were far more extreme Than anything you or I could ever suffer.  But the question is still the same…Are you willing to share Jesus with the world?  That hope rests today on us - will we be like her?  will we give birth to Christ in our actions and thoughts, and deeds?  Will we obey the Lord,  and walk in his ways?  Will we share Christ with the world?  A survey was taken that asked the question,  "What is your greatest hindrance to sharing your faith?"  The largest group were the 51 percent whose biggest problem was the fear of how others would react! Why?  The answer is simple…Because no one likes to be rejected, ridiculed, or regarded as an oddball.  Sure there is some risk…But, the stakes we gamble in sharing our faith, our hope,  our salvation is nothing compared to what God asked of Mary.  In sharing Christ,  Mary risked being shunned, beaten, and a public stoning.  In sharing Christ,  We risk upsetting someone or being embarrassed.  So what?  And thank God that there was someone willing to take this risk for my sake.  Thank God for my parents who set and example for me…And for a few young men named Larry Bergstrom, Gary Spencer, and David Rawls who were fearless in sharing The Gospel with me when I needed it the most.  Thank God there were people who thought it was worth the risk Of being rejected for the sake of my salvation.I would be dead or in jail by now on the course I was on.

Folks, I was no choir girl.  But somebody cared enough to share the Gospel with me anyway.  And, it changed my life.  How about you?  Who was willing to take that risk for you?  Someone did, because you are here today.  There are people here who have been Christians their whole lives…And there are people who are here still trying to figure this whole thing out.  And there are folks here because your spouse drug you here this morning.  There are all kinds of folks in different places spiritually.  I get that.  But still, someone cared enough to invite you.  That is not an accident.  For the last 2000 years, that is how the Gospel has been shared. One person, to another, starting with a fifteen year old girl on the other  Side of the world who spoke the words…I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said."  People of God, God is relying on you to continue the invitation to his table.  It is up to you now to share with others the Good News.  You know, there are a 1001 reasons each and every one of us can come  Up with on how someone else is better qualified, and maybe that is “reasonable, But look who God chose to be the example…And uneducated, 15 year old, terrified little girl 2000 years ago.  Those are some pretty slim qualifications if you ask me.  But look what God accomplished through her just Because she was willing.  I want you to hear that.  She was willing.  You know, I think that most folks are afraid that they will do or say something Wrong and therefore don’t even try.  Listen to me…It’s not about you!  It is about the Spirit working through you. You just have to be willing.  God needs you.  And each and every one of us are without excuse.  Our call to share Christ is the same.  So let me ask you this morning…..Do you care enough about the people around you to respond?

Christmas Brokenness

     Saturday I sang and Frank gave the eulogy at a funeral.  It was for someone's mother.  She had lived here once upon a time, but for the past 15 years had resided in an Alzheimer's Unit near her daughter.  A handful of people - around 25- were in attendance.  Having lost my own mom in 2012 my heart broke for this daughter as she dealt with the loss of her mother.  Frank and I talked later when I told him that losing a parent to Alzheimer's is like losing them twice.  First you lose their mind...and then you lose the body.  I sat in my car and watched the funeral procession pull out in front of me and then followed them to the cemetery.  That family will never be the same again.  That family finds themselves broken at Christmas.
     I thought of the two police officers who were gunned down this week and my heart shattered. A senseless killing of two men doing their job.  They both had families and now there are broken lives dealing with the Christmas holidays.
    This is the first year without Kash.  She was one of the McCarley twins born at 22 weeks gestation.  We had her funeral last year right after Christmas.  Christmas was difficult last year because we all knew it was just a matter of time.  The family was fractured and broken.  I have been amazed at the strength they have exhibited throughout the year, especially with all that has happened.  Keaton's stroke, the break in at their house....but still they keep on keeping on.  Christmas Eve we will all gather and celebrate Christmas.  Broken or not this family is loved by so many and that is what Christmas is all about....LOVE.
     Our nation is broken, there are many lives and families who are broken, When the gifts have been open and the toys have been played with there will even be broken toys and ornaments.  Christmas is tough for me.  There have been many years when I have lost special people in my life and in Frank's life.   In many cases just saying Merry Christmas to someone is hard .....but we have to remember that Christmas inspite of everything going on around us is all about a young baby....born in a a broken save us.  So with all the brokenness I will leave you with a line from Charles Dicken's story, A Christmas Carol.  My favorite line in the whole story is at the end when Tiny Tim says, "God Bless Us....Everyone!" 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

It's All In The Name

One of the most exciting times in any couple's life is when they find out that they are going to have a baby. There are many things that must be done to prepare for the birth of a new baby, but none is more important than choosing a name for the baby. A baby's name is chosen very carefully because the baby will live with that name for the rest of his or her life. When a couple is choosing a name for their baby, they will sometimes go to a bookstore or a library and get a book like, or go online and look up meanings and names. Many names have a special meaning I looked up a few popular names to see what, or go they mean.
Lilly – Purity
Karen and Kathryn – Pure One
Kendall – Valley of the Spring
Tucker – all heart, brave
Abigail – Father’s Joy
Jackson – Son of Jack
Breanna – noble/strong
Mason – stone maker
Heather- flowering plant
Brandy – burnt wine
Harley – farm by the rocks
Marie - Beloved
Charlotte - Free Woman
Margaret - Pearl
Debbie - Bee
When Mary and Joseph found out that they were going to have a baby, they didn't go to the bookstore and get a book to help them choose a name for Mary's baby. In fact, they didn't choose the baby's name at all! God chose it for them! God sent an angel to tell Mary what to name her baby. The angel said to Mary, "You will have a son, and you will call his name Jesus" You see, the name Jesus means "the Lord saves." Was it important for Mary's baby to be named Jesus? Yes it was, because the Bible tells us that there is no other name that can save us from our sin. (Acts 4:12)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Semester Evaluation-Changing My Seat and Coming To Life

Back in July I made a radical change.  I had planned to retire after this school year.  I knew that with that decision I would have to find another job to supplement my retirement income and I was ok with that.  I thought I was ready to be put out to pasture.  I had been to the retirement seminars and I had made all the list of 26 things to accomplish after retirement that they told me to make.....but to be honest I just was not ready to give up my passion.  I knew I needed to make some changes....and changes I made.  In May I applied for two openings here in the Randolph County area.  One was with the  City system and the other in the County system.  I had an interview in early summer with the City system...yet, heard nothing from the other system.  I was kind of shocked because I knew they would need a Spanish teacher.  By mid-July I had resigned myself to returning to BRHS and retiring at the end of the 2014-15 school year.  And then the phone call came....from the County system.....asking for an interview.  I had not been interviewed in over 15 years and the thought made me physically ill.  BUT WAIT!  When the principal called to set up an interview I apologized nicely and turned it down!!!!!  Can you believe that?  I had prayed to God for this opportunity and told Him I needed to be hired by July 1st.  July 1st was important because a school system does not have to let you out of your contract within 30 days of the first instructional day.  Frank and I were in my Frazier UMC, ready to attend my daughter and SIL's prayer service....and I said, " No, Thank You!"   Frank asked my why?  I told him about my prayer to God...and Frank's wonderful laugh out loud voice pierced the silence in the car.  He could not believe that I had put a condition like that on God.  He told me to call them back and schedule the interview.  If this was a God thing.....He would make it happen.  I called back, scheduled the interview, and was offered the job contingent on my other system letting me go.  If I were not a Christian I would have been floored by how it all came together....but I am a Christian.....and I am not shocked.  In just a few days we moved 25 years of teacher hoarding from one school to another.  I threw away a lot.....and we drove away with everything I owned in two vehicles.  It was a sad day.  I would miss all my friends.  I was leaving my comfort zone....but it was also a glad one.  I was embarking on a new adventure.  We moved in to the classroom at RCHS.....and it felt new, exciting, and strange.  I could not find my things!  We had teacher meetings for a week and then the day arrived when the students would file into my room....and meet me.  I was terrified that first day.  Now half a year later....I wonder why I worried.  This change was one of the best things I could have ever done.  I forgot how much fun teaching could be.  Teaching was fresh again.  I had to stay on my toes.  I no longer had that all powerful T (for tenure) behind my name.  I had to earn my place.  I think sometimes when there is not change we become complacent.  I cannot believe that we are 18 weeks into the school year and now there are only 18 more.  I changed my seat....I moved from my comfort zone....I took a chance....and I feel I have come to life.  I LOVE MY JOB!  It is my passion.  I love the kids I work with....I love the teachers I work with....I love the staff I work with.  Am I retiring at the end of the year?  I DON'T THINK SO!  I have new vitality....and a new life.