Monthly Archives: November 2014

Guess who is coming to dinner?

Thanksgiving is only a week away. Have you looked around to see if someone needs to be invited to share the holiday with you? Let me explain why.

Pensacola is a military town. We have many who are miles away from home. So, inviting a young military person to join in for a holiday is common. But, this sailor visit to a family Thanksgiving was very unusual.

I knew a Navy Lieutenant. After the Thanksgiving holiday, I asked him if he, his wife and two young children had had a nice holiday. His answer surprised me.

This Navy family attended the base chapel church services. One Sunday, while he was out of town on Navy business, his wife and kids went to church without him. It was during the worship service that his wife noticed an older man who was also worshiping alone; she approached him during the point in the service when attendees were encouraged to greet one another and asked about his plans for Thanksgiving. He quietly explained that their family had been blessed with a new granddaughter and that his wife was with their daughter and son-in-law helping them adjust to living with a newborn. Unfortunately, Navy duties required that the man remain in Pensacola and he planned to have a quiet dinner, at home, alone.

The Navy wife did what Navy wives do: she invited this “geographic bachelor” to Thanksgiving dinner at their home. When she explained to her spouse that they would be having a guest at the table, her husband was shocked. You see, the older gentleman was an active duty Vice Admiral. He was far above her husband in the chain of command and the Lieutenant was worried that his wife had breached some standard of protocol and that their humble dinner would not be a grand enough dinner for the Boss. The wife replied that all would be fine; she was not worried. By the way, the Admiral would be bringing the pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving Day arrived and at the appropriate hour, there was a knock on their door. Their apartment was nice, but not very large. As the Lieutenant greeted the Admiral at the door, there were two minor emergencies: one in the kitchen involving meal preparation and the other had to do with their four-month old son. The Lieutenant explained and hurried away. Both emergencies took longer than expected and so it was about 15 minutes before the Lieutenant made it back to the living room. The scene surprised him. The Admiral and the family’s three-year-old daughter were sitting on the floor, playing with dolls. The Admiral looked up and asked if there was something that they needed for him to do. When the Lieutenant replied, “no, we’re fine,” the Admiral smiled and the two went back to playing.

Dinner was ready an hour after the Admiral had arrived; he and the daughter had spent the entire time playing with her dolls. The turkey was great and the two side dishes were wonderful. When it was time to serve the pie, the baby began to fuss. The Admiral asked if he might hold the child and the couple said “of course.” And, the gentleman enjoyed dessert, gentling rocking the boy as they shared stories of Thanksgiving passed.

Happy grandfather with granddaughterThe couple refused his offer to help with the dishes and the Admiral gathered up his things, preparing to go. Before leaving, he took the wife’s hands into his and spent a couple of moments explaining how precious the day was for him. Although he could not hold his new granddaughter on that day, he had held their son. And, his time with their daughter had taught him many things about dolls; knowledge that would come in handy as his granddaughter grew older. After a quick hug of the wife and daughter and a hearty handshake with the Lieutenant, the Admiral was gone.

It is not just the young who need a friend. Sometimes those who inspire us need an invitation too.

Dear friend, when you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make the faith visible.” (3 John 1:8)

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Playing dead

(First, I apologize for the duplications in yesterday’s post.  It was a hot mess that shouldn’t happen again!)

As I was thinking about the title of this series, “We Gather Together 14,” I couldn’t help but think about the topic John is addressing with his adult Sunday School class.

They are studying the Kings of Israel. It’s a great review of the Old Testament and includes lots of exciting people and their stories. But, one of the phrases that the Bible uses regarding these individuals is “he was gathered to his people.” Nope, it doesn’t mean that the individual went to a family potluck, it means that he died. We don’t use that phrase today. Have you seen a notice in the obituaries that begins, “John Doe was gathered to his people last Friday following a vehicle crash on Nine Mile Road.”

We use different words today. But, we still have to talk about death from time-to-time.

When my father-in-law passed away (he was a saint of the Lord and an amazing man!), I got to see death through my granddaughters’ eyes. The girls were very, very young and had had a wonderful visit with their great-grandparents and us just a few months before he died. The girls felt comfortable in their great-grandparents’ apartment, the place where the family was meeting. That first evening, I saw them playing what looked like a new game. One girl would lie down on the couch and the other two would pick her up by her hands and feet. The two “carriers” would then place the first girl on the floor between the couch and the coffee table and then move their arms around. I went to them and whispered, “What are you doing, Girls?” Their quick reply was made from smiling faces, “We’re playing dead.” Yep, one was pretending to be dead while the other two conducted a burial. It was hilarious, but not something that I wanted my dear mother-in-law to see and so we found another game to play!

The next day, at the grave yard, one of the girls was sobbing at her mother’s side. The relatives and friends all smiled and commented how sweet it was that this little child missed her great grandfather so much. I stepped close to my daughter-in-law and whispered, “What’s going on?” This amazing mom looked at me and whispered, “She’s upset that I won’t let her run around the headstones.” Again, I found that these young girls had their own unique view of the situation.

I was single for many years of my life and did not want my family to have questions as to what I would want them to do if it looked like I was going to die. So, every year during the holidays, I would explain to my parents (the ones who would have to make any arrangements should I “be gathered to my people”) that:

  • I am cheap. Do not do crazy things to let me live another 15 minutes. Be reasonable with doing anything special just to keep me around.
  • Some of my body parts, particularly my muscles and brain, have been used only a few times and a few still have the tissue paper on them. Give away everything that someone else can use.
  • But, don’t give away my whole body. (I’ve see way to many stupid movies and TV shows for that to be allowed.)
  • I have a place to go. My reservation is paid for. Do not keep me here when I could be there. (But, there is no need to hurry my passing either!)

Yep, I do have somewhere to go. My family has no doubt that Jesus paid for my reservation and I accepted His free gift years ago. My daily desire is to live doing the will of my Heavenly Father.

Too often families gather together only when death is approaching.  It’s not just sad, it’s wrong. With today’s technology, we can be with others without spending a fortune on an airplane ticket or taking four days off of work. Let’s use this holiday season to get with someone before we see them at the funeral. Today spend 45 minutes on the phone, or send an email, or write a letter letting that loved one know that you care.

And, if you need to “have the talk” (about your desires should you be close to death) with yourself or your loved ones, why not do it now? Share how you feel, what you want, what is important to you. And, if you need to have a “practice conversation” with someone, let me know (carlajillstein@yahoo.com).  I’ll be your pretend family for a little while. And, I promise that I won’t “play dead” in your living room!

Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.” Genesis 25:8

Held hostage

Twenty-three years ago today, Terry Waite, an envoy for the Church of England was released after being held hostage in Lebanon for almost five years by Shiite Muslims. For the first four years in captivity, he was kept alone, usually blindfolded and chained to a radiator, subjected to mock executions and beatings. When moved from place to place, he was wrapped in masking tape, blindfolded and put into the trunk of a car. His family did not know if he was dead or alive until a few months before he was released. This man of faith entered Lebanon on a Christian mission, serving his church as negotiator to release hostages. And, although he had been successful many times in the past, this time the captors decided that he was an agent of the CIA, violated the agreement that they had with his church and took him prisoner.

That same year, Terry Anderson, an American journalist held hostage by Islamic terrorists for 2,454 days, was released.

I will never forget an interview with Mr. Anderson that was conducted several years after his release. He still possessed the blindfold that he was forced to wear on the day he was released. During the interview, the reporter held the blindfold and talked about the torture Mr. Anderson suffered; it was horrific and sad. And, then the interviewer handed the blindfold to Mr. Anderson and asked him to hold it to his face as if he were again blindfolded. When the request was made, I winced. Surely, she had not just ask him to wear that horrible piece of cloth. He looked shocked and then he quietly said that he would not do what she had asked.

In 2009, Mr. Anderson returned to Beirut to teach. In 2012, Mr. Waite returned to Beirut on a mission of forgiveness. How can that be??

Let me share a story from the life of Paul. He and Silas were preaching. Someone didn’t like what they did and the local officials decided to quash the angry crowd. The two preachers were stripped and beaten. The feet were put into stocks and they were thrown into prison. But, rather than curse those who treated them badly the two men prayed and sang hymns to God. When their escape would have been easy, they stayed put, and encouraged the jailer and his family to seek God. You can read the whole story at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=acts+16%3A20-40&version=NIV

Twenty-three years ago today, Terry Waite, an envoy for the Church of England was released after being held hostage in Lebanon for almost five years by Shiite Muslims. For the first four years in captivity, he was kept alone, usually blindfolded and chained to a radiator, subjected to mock executions and beatings. When moved from place to place, he was wrapped in masking tape, blindfolded and put into the trunk of a car. His family did not know if he was dead or alive until a few months before he was released. This man of faith entered Lebanon on a Christian mission, serving his church as negotiator to release hostages. And, although he had been successful many times in the past, this time the captors decided that he was an agent of the CIA, violated the agreement that they had with his church and took him prisoner.

That same year, Terry Anderson, an American journalist held hostage by Islamic terrorists for 2,454 days, was released.

I will never forget an interview with Mr. Anderson that was conducted several years after his release. He still possessed the blindfold that he was forced to wear on the day he was released. During the interview, the reporter held the blindfold and talked about the torture Mr. Anderson suffered; it was horrific and sad. And, then the interviewer handed the blindfold to Mr. Anderson and asked him to hold it to his face as if he were again blindfolded. When the request was made, I winced. Surely, she had not just ask him to wear that horrible piece of cloth. He looked shocked and then he quietly said that he would not do what she had asked.

In 2009, Mr. Anderson returned to Beirut to teach. In 2012, Mr. Waite returned to Beirut on a mission of forgiveness. How can that be??

Let me share a story from the life of Paul. He and Silas were preaching. Someone didn’t like what they did and the local officials decided to quash the angry crowd. The two preachers were stripped and beaten. The feet were put into stocks and they were thrown into prison. But, rather than curse those who treated them badly the two men prayed and sang hymns to God. When their escape would have been easy, they stayed put, and encouraged the jailer and his family to seek God. You can read the whole story at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=acts+16%3A20-40&version=NIV

There is no guarantee that we will be given justice in this life. Mr. Waite was on a religious mission, Mr. Anderson was a reporter, Paul and Silas were preaching the gospel when they were taken prisoner. But, none spent the rest of their lives seeking revenge. After they were released, they lived as free men. They no longer wore the garb, the shame of the prisoner. And, they sought peace with those who had intentionally done them harm.

Has someone in your circle been held captive by a relationship, a habit, a past life? They may be struggling in ways that we will never understand or perhaps even know. But, we can hold them close; we can present to them the gift of unconditional love. Don’t ask them to wear old prison garb, to retell stories of their past; instead, encourage them with God’s hope. You may not have been able to save them from their yesterdays; but, you can be there for them today and for tomorrow.

But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish. (Psalm 9:18)

Twenty-three years ago today, Terry Waite, an envoy for the Church of England was released after being held hostage in Lebanon for almost five years by Shiite Muslims. For the first four years in captivity, he was kept alone, usually blindfolded and chained to a radiator, subjected to mock executions and beatings. When moved from place to place, he was wrapped in masking tape, blindfolded and put into the trunk of a car. His family did not know if he was dead or alive until a few months before he was released. This man of faith entered Lebanon on a Christian mission, serving his church as negotiator to release hostages. And, although he had been successful many times in the past, this time the captors decided that he was an agent of the CIA, violated the agreement that they had with his church and took him prisoner.

That same year, Terry Anderson, an American journalist held hostage by Islamic terrorists for 2,454 days, was released.

I will never forget an interview with Mr. Anderson that was conducted several years after his release. He still possessed the blindfold that he was forced to wear on the day he was released. During the interview, the reporter held the blindfold and talked about the torture Mr. Anderson suffered; it was horrific and sad. And, then the interviewer handed the blindfold to Mr. Anderson and asked him to hold it to his face as if he were again blindfolded. When the request was made, I winced. Surely, she had not just ask him to wear that horrible piece of cloth. He looked shocked and then he quietly said that he would not do what she had asked.

In 2009, Mr. Anderson returned to Beirut to teach. In 2012, Mr. Waite returned to Beirut on a mission of forgiveness. How can that be??

Let me share a story from the life of Paul. He and Silas were preaching. Someone didn’t like what they did and the local officials decided to quash the angry crowd. The two preachers were stripped and beaten. The feet were put into stocks and they were thrown into prison. But, rather than curse those who treated them badly the two men prayed and sang hymns to God. When their escape would have been easy, they stayed put, and encouraged the jailer and his family to seek God. You can read the whole story at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=acts+16%3A20-40&version=NIV

There is no guarantee that we will be given justice in this life. Mr. Waite was on a religious mission, Mr. Anderson was a reporter, Paul and Silas were preaching the gospel when they were taken prisoner. But, none spent the rest of their lives seeking revenge. After they were released, they lived as free men. They no longer wore the garb, the shame of the prisoner. And, they sought peace with those who had intentionally done them harm.

Has someone in your circle been held captive by a relationship, a habit, a past life? They may be struggling in ways that we will never understand or perhaps even know. But, we can hold them close; we can present to them the gift of unconditional love. Don’t ask them to wear old prison garb, to retell stories of their past; instead, encourage them with God’s hope. You may not have been able to save them from their yesterdays; but, you can be there for them today and for tomorrow.

But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish. (Psalm 9:18)

Twenty-three years ago today, Terry Waite, an envoy for the Church of England was released after being held hostage in Lebanon for almost five years by Shiite Muslims. For the first four years in captivity, he was kept alone, usually blindfolded and chained to a radiator, subjected to mock executions and beatings. When moved from place to place, he was wrapped in masking tape, blindfolded and put into the trunk of a car. His family did not know if he was dead or alive until a few months before he was released. This man of faith entered Lebanon on a Christian mission, serving his church as negotiator to release hostages. And, although he had been successful many times in the past, this time the captors decided that he was an agent of the CIA, violated the agreement that they had with his church and took him prisoner.

That same year, Terry Anderson, an American journalist held hostage by Islamic terrorists for 2,454 days, was released.

I will never forget an interview with Mr. Anderson that was conducted several years after his release. He still possessed the blindfold that he was forced to wear on the day he was released. During the interview, the reporter held the blindfold and talked about the torture Mr. Anderson suffered; it was horrific and sad. And, then the interviewer handed the blindfold to Mr. Anderson and asked him to hold it to his face as if he were again blindfolded. When the request was made, I winced. Surely, she had not just ask him to wear that horrible piece of cloth. He looked shocked and then he quietly said that he would not do what she had asked.

In 2009, Mr. Anderson returned to Beirut to teach. In 2012, Mr. Waite returned to Beirut on a mission of forgiveness. How can that be??

Let me share a story from the life of Paul. He and Silas were preaching. Someone didn’t like what they did and the local officials decided to quash the angry crowd. The two preachers were stripped and beaten. The feet were put into stocks and they were thrown into prison. But, rather than curse those who treated them badly the two men prayed and sang hymns to God. When their escape would have been easy, they stayed put, and encouraged the jailer and his family to seek God. You can read the whole story at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=acts+16%3A20-40&version=NIV

There is no guarantee that we will be given justice in this life. Mr. Waite was on a religious mission, Mr. Anderson was a reporter, Paul and Silas were preaching the gospel when they were taken prisoner. But, none spent the rest of their lives seeking revenge. After they were released, they lived as free men. They no longer wore the garb, the shame of the prisoner. And, they sought peace with those who had intentionally done them harm.

Has someone in your circle been held captive by a relationship, a habit, a past life? They may be struggling in ways that we will never understand or perhaps even know. But, we can hold them close; we can present to them the gift of unconditional love. Don’t ask them to wear old prison garb, to retell stories of their past; instead, encourage them with God’s hope. You may not have been able to save them from their yesterdays; but, you can be there for them today and for tomorrow.

But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish. (Psalm 9:18)

Twenty-three years ago today, Terry Waite, an envoy for the Church of England was released after being held hostage in Lebanon for almost five years by Shiite Muslims. For the first four years in captivity, he was kept alone, usually blindfolded and chained to a radiator, subjected to mock executions and beatings. When moved from place to place, he was wrapped in masking tape, blindfolded and put into the trunk of a car. His family did not know if he was dead or alive until a few months before he was released. This man of faith entered Lebanon on a Christian mission, serving his church as negotiator to release hostages. And, although he had been successful many times in the past, this time the captors decided that he was an agent of the CIA, violated the agreement that they had with his church and took him prisoner.

That same year, Terry Anderson, an American journalist held hostage by Islamic terrorists for 2,454 days, was released.

I will never forget an interview with Mr. Anderson that was conducted several years after his release. He still possessed the blindfold that he was forced to wear on the day he was released. During the interview, the reporter held the blindfold and talked about the torture Mr. Anderson suffered; it was horrific and sad. And, then the interviewer handed the blindfold to Mr. Anderson and asked him to hold it to his face as if he were again blindfolded. When the request was made, I winced. Surely, she had not just ask him to wear that horrible piece of cloth. He looked shocked and then he quietly said that he would not do what she had asked.

In 2009, Mr. Anderson returned to Beirut to teach. In 2012, Mr. Waite returned to Beirut on a mission of forgiveness. How can that be??

Let me share a story from the life of Paul. He and Silas were preaching. Someone didn’t like what they did and the local officials decided to quash the angry crowd. The two preachers were stripped and beaten. The feet were put into stocks and they were thrown into prison. But, rather than curse those who treated them badly the two men prayed and sang hymns to God. When their escape would have been easy, they stayed put, and encouraged the jailer and his family to seek God. You can read the whole story at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=acts+16%3A20-40&version=NIV

There is no guarantee that we will be given justice in this life. Mr. Waite was on a religious mission, Mr. Anderson was a reporter, Paul and Silas were preaching the gospel when they were taken prisoner. But, none spent the rest of their lives seeking revenge. After they were released, they lived as free men. They no longer wore the garb, the shame of the prisoner. And, they sought peace with those who had intentionally done them harm.

Has someone in your circle been held captive by a relationship, a habit, a past life? They may be struggling in ways that we will never understand or perhaps even know. But, we can hold them close; we can present to them the gift of unconditional love. Don’t ask them to wear old prison garb, to retell stories of their past; instead, encourage them with God’s hope. You may not have been able to save them from their yesterdays; but, you can be there for them today and for tomorrow.

But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish. (Psalm 9:18)

Twenty-three years ago today, Terry Waite, an envoy for the Church of England was released after being held hostage in Lebanon for almost five years by Shiite Muslims. For the first four years in captivity, he was kept alone, usually blindfolded and chained to a radiator, subjected to mock executions and beatings. When moved from place to place, he was wrapped in masking tape, blindfolded and put into the trunk of a car. His family did not know if he was dead or alive until a few months before he was released. This man of faith entered Lebanon on a Christian mission, serving his church as negotiator to release hostages. And, although he had been successful many times in the past, this time the captors decided that he was an agent of the CIA, violated the agreement that they had with his church and took him prisoner.

That same year, Terry Anderson, an American journalist held hostage by Islamic terrorists for 2,454 days, was released.

I will never forget an interview with Mr. Anderson that was conducted several years after his release. He still possessed the blindfold that he was forced to wear on the day he was released. During the interview, the reporter held the blindfold and talked about the torture Mr. Anderson suffered; it was horrific and sad. And, then the interviewer handed the blindfold to Mr. Anderson and asked him to hold it to his face as if he were again blindfolded. When the request was made, I winced. Surely, she had not just ask him to wear that horrible piece of cloth. He looked shocked and then he quietly said that he would not do what she had asked.

In 2009, Mr. Anderson returned to Beirut to teach. In 2012, Mr. Waite returned to Beirut on a mission of forgiveness. How can that be??

Let me share a story from the life of Paul. He and Silas were preaching. Someone didn’t like what they did and the local officials decided to quash the angry crowd. The two preachers were stripped and beaten. The feet were put into stocks and they were thrown into prison. But, rather than curse those who treated them badly the two men prayed and sang hymns to God. When their escape would have been easy, they stayed put, and encouraged the jailer and his family to seek God. You can read the whole story at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=acts+16%3A20-40&version=NIV

There is no guarantee that we will be given justice in this life. Mr. Waite was on a religious mission, Mr. Anderson was a reporter, Paul and Silas were preaching the gospel when they were taken prisoner. But, none spent the rest of their lives seeking revenge. After they were released, they lived as free men. They no longer wore the garb, the shame of the prisoner. And, they sought peace with those who had intentionally done them harm.

Has someone in your circle been held captive by a relationship, a habit, a past life? They may be struggling in ways that we will never understand or perhaps even know. But, we can hold them close; we can present to them the gift of unconditional love. Don’t ask them to wear old prison garb, to retell stories of their past; instead, encourage them with God’s hope. You may not have been able to save them from their yesterdays; but, you can be there for them today and for tomorrow.

But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish. (Psalm 9:18)

 

There is no guarantee that we will be given justice in this life. Mr. Waite was on a religious mission, Mr. Anderson was a reporter, Paul and Silas were preaching the gospel when they were taken prisoner. But, none spent the rest of their lives seeking revenge. After they were released, they lived as free men. They no longer wore the garb, the shame of the prisoner. And, they sought peace with those who had intentionally done them harm.

Has someone in your circle been held captive by a relationship, a habit, a past life? They may be struggling in ways that we will never understand or perhaps even know. But, we can hold them close; we can present to them the gift of unconditional love. Don’t ask them to wear old prison garb, to retell stories of their past; instead, encourage them with God’s hope. You may not have been able to save them from their yesterdays; but, you can be there for them today and for tomorrow.

But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish. (Psalm 9:18)

The great debate: The Thanksgiving menu!

I had the most delightful holiday surprise when I first had “stuffing” made by John’s mom. It was cooked inside the turkey and consisted of small pieces of bread with cooked sausage, celery, onion, and poultry seasoning. It tasted exactly like the stuffing that my folks have always made and it was delicious.

Cooking chicken in the oven at home.I found that there can be a great deal of disagreement about stuffing.

  1. Is it stuffing or dressing?
  2. Does it go inside the turkey or is it cooked in a casserole dish?
  3. Is the main ingredient bread crumbs, bread pieces, corn bread, vegetables, oysters or something else?
  4. What about chestnuts, apples, shrimp, ham, turnips, pears, mushrooms and rice?
  5. Should gravy be added or not?

Bring up the stuffing/dressing subject among cooks and you will find a multitude of differing opinions.

Side dishes at Thanksgiving can also cause fascinating discussions. For instance, are you: a savory sweet potato person; a moderately sweet, sweet potato person; or, a “put so much sugar on top that you impact the economy of Hawaii” sweet potato person?

And, what about cranberries? Yes or no?  Fresh or canned? If you like the canned version: whole cranberries or jelly only?

Shall I continue?

What about pies? Pumpkin? Can we add pecan? What about apple? Whoops. Dutch apple, lattice topped apple, or plain apple?

Oh no, I’m on a roll.

What about ice cream or whipped cream? Oh my, here we go again! Homemade whipped cream or store bought whipped cream? Frozen whipped cream out of a tub or foamy whipped cream out of a can?

Actually, it all sounds good!

Too often we see differences as problems. We defend and debate and divide. This year, let’s look at differences as variety. Instead of defending, let’s share; instead of debating, let’s listen; and, instead of dividing, let’s add new options to our inventory of choices. I realize that sometimes the selection given us is not what we would have chosen. But, on this day of Thanksgiving, on this day of gathering, can I, can we put aside what we like best and appreciate those we love? It really is up to us.

Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy. (Proverbs 12:2) Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:14)

p.s. Just one more (I can’t resist): Instead of turkey, what about serving steaks, or ham, or burgers? Celebrate new options!!

2nd try: Football or food? How about football AND food?

Sorry if you are seeing this a second time.  The wrong version went out earlier!!  Arrggggggghhhh, it can happen to any us.

——————

I found this hilarious article: “Thanksgiving Day Crafts.” Can you imagine: getting out a hammer, nails and hand saw on one of the greatest football days in the entire year? Or, clearing the dining room table for some fun with the glue gun, beads and feathers? Crafts on Thanksgiving are a crazy idea!

But, why not have some fun this Thanksgiving?

Here are some of the great things we have seen done over the years:

  • Plan the “big” meal around the football schedule. Rather than be irritated that you call “dinner” and everyone in front of the TV groans or if you have just seen the start of the second half and you hear “dinner,” why not do some planning? Regardless of whether you will be enjoying a sit down dinner at home or eating at a restaurant, plan the meal around the games (or parades) people want to watch. One year, during our biggest game of the year, we were pulled away to go out to dinner. And, even though we had recorded the game and asked everyone not to tell us what happened, someone shared the final score. Not cool!
  • bateau en papier plié de journauxI loved the year that we made “party hats” for a family dinner. (This is a no planning, no mess “craft.”) Using newspaper and markers, the youngest nieces and nephews made three corner hats for each of us. The kids had a great time and it kept them busy. But, what was really, really fun was that the family members actually wore the hats throughout the dinner. It was GREAT!! We all looked silly; the kids absolutely loved it; and it made a family dinner more fun than anyone expected it to be. What a great time!
  • Just before Poppa’s birthday, we found “pirate” birthday party items for 75% off. A dinner theme had been found! One of my nieces helped me make eye patches out of felt and yarn. A dinner party was held with the Mullins clan all wearing eye patches. It was a scream! For next to no cost, we had so much fun. (Well, at least I did!)
  • Friends of ours go camping every Thanksgiving weekend. The gals who don’t enjoy camping stay at home and bring a Thanksgiving feast out to the campsite; some items are homemade and others are not.

Why do just a little planning in this year and add lots of fun?

  • Get out the newspaper and make some hats. I mean, every dinner is just more fun when you are wearing a hat!!
  • Grab the football and toss it around between the meal and dessert; work off a couple of calories.
  • Go for a walk and see what the neighbors are up to. Walk over to the neighborhood grade school and take a minute to compare how the playground equipment is different from when you were a child.
  • Share with the kids a story about a Thanksgiving when you were young.
  • Pull out the board game that you haven’t played in years and play fair.
  • Grab the “old” photo albums and make up captions. (No fair getting offended!)
  • Put the Christmas tree up and enjoy memories of years past.
  • Start a bonfire, wrap up in blankets and use those lawn chairs one more time this year.
  • Deconflict football and food!

Thanksgiving can be so much more fun when we plan just a few easy activities. Make it more than a day of food and football. No matter what activity you plan, remember that it only takes a moment to create a memory that will last a life time.  Have fun!!

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” (Psalm 100:4)

If we have cake, we should eat it

It was my last semester of college and I was student teaching. Our school did not allow student teachers to “work” during that term; I am not sure that spending a week being a nanny was legal or not. A family owned an electronics store and the parents had won a sales promotion contest. Their prize was a trip to Italy and they needed someone to watch their two teenage daughters and grade school son. I didn’t mind helping out and so I accepted the task.

The house was beautiful with every up-to-date appliance and electronic gadget available. (I wondered if they had won the sales prize by furnishing their own home.)

The older daughter had a boyfriend and that presented my first challenge. The goodbyes with the parents had just been finished when the girl announced to me that she was scared about being “alone,” so her boyfriend would be spending each night on the living room couch. I was clear (and probably loud) in explaining that I was there to make them safe and that the boyfriend would be leaving each evening at the established time. She was surprised but the couple didn’t put up a fight.

The second daughter decided one day to make dinner; that was fine by me. She bought pork chops and then proceeded to cook all flavor and moisture out of them. Too late I discovered that she was fearful of trichinosis and wanted to ensure that the pork was cooked fully. You could break those chops on a rock, but you couldn’t cut them.

On Saturday I decided to bake a pie. I have no clue why I did that; I do not remember another time in my life when I have been in a pie making mood. Rather than buy pie dough at the store (ensuring a perfect result), I chose the old fashioned way and mixed and rolled out a homemade crust. The young son sat on a stool, watching my every move. I offered to let him help and he declined. Instead, he stared intently, appearing to study the process. When I started cutting up apples, he asked me what kind of pie I was making. I smiled and said, “Apple.” He nodded and then became silent again. When the pies went into the oven, he seemed sad. Halfway through the baking time, I turned on the oven light to check to see how the pies were doing. The boy was excited with what he saw and asked if I would leave the light on. That kid was fixated on those pies the entire afternoon.

Later, when we were enjoying hot apple pie with ice cream, I asked him why he was so interested in baking. He explained that he did not know how a pie was made. He seemed a little surprised that the crust on top was the same “stuff” as the crust on the bottom of the pie. After more discussion, I learned that he knew little about what went on in a kitchen.

Then it struck me – the kitchen was too clean. I should have realized it after the pork chop incident. The kitchen was never used for cooking; it was used for warming and reheating functions only. I did a quick inspection. There was no little bits of cookie dough on the mixer base. The oven was immaculate (or at least it was until I baked apple pies). The pots and pans were shiny and it was easy to see that the loaf pans had never held a meat loaf or banana bread. The kitchen that was perfect was also unused. Hmm. It reminded me of the woman we knew who had the living room full of furniture with plastic covers; I never saw anyone go into that room.

There is a cable company commercial with the stereotypical characters of “dumb dad” and “smart daughter.” In it, the dad says, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” The daughter replies, “Dad, if we have cake, we should eat it.”

Let me add my own recommendations to that advice:

  • If you have a kitchen, you should use it.
  • If you have family, you should hug them.
  • If you have golf clubs, you should take them for a test drive from time-to-time.
  • If you have toenails and a little extra cash, you should schedule a pedi.
  • If you have a voice, you should sing.
  • If you have a vote, you should use it wisely.
  • If you have faith, you should rely on it.

Well, you know what I mean. Life is meant to be lived.

Make a pie. Use the oven!!!!

Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’” Nehemiah 8:10

An update on my tomato plant

I apologize for hitting your email inbox again today; but I cannot contain my joy!

Some of you subscribe to my first blog “CarlaJillStein.com” on leadership and learning.  Not long ago, I wrote about a tomato plant that grew in spite of flood and neglect.  (You can find the original posting at:  http://carlajillstein.com/2014/10/16/lesson-from-a-tomato-plant/

Well, we are having a couple of days of near freezing weather and so this morning I harvested the tomatoes off of that sorry plant.  Some are only marble sized, but they, ALL 32 OF THEM, look good!!  32 tomatoes from a beat up, neglected plant – amazing.

That little plant reminded me that there is hope for me yet!!!  And, if there is hope for this old girl, there is hope for you!!!!  Happy Friday.

tomatoes

 

Being thankful, an act of humility

PILGRIMI don’t remember a Thanksgiving at the Mullins’ home without my Mom’s paper towel roll pilgrim family. (The picture above looks NOTHING like our Pilgrim family, but you get the idea.) Mom’s Pilgrim family had two very tall parents (made from cardboard tubes that once held paper towels) and two pretty tall Pilgrim children (made of the cardboard tubes that once held toilet paper). I loved those tall, skinny people. It’s true that they wore severe black and white construction paper clothes, but they had happy smiles.

CORNOur table decorations also included “Indian corn” and several of those gourds that had bumpy surfaces. (I always thought that the gourds were kind of creepy. I would run my hands over them and wonder just what was under those bumps?) I remember sneaking a couple of the kernels of Indian corn and trying to eat them. They were hard with dusty centers; nothing like our corn on the cob from the garden or the kernels of corn left in the bowl when the popcorn was all done. I don’t recommend trying to eat it.

Thanksgiving decorations were sweet, but not thrilling like a Christmas tree or scary like Halloween decorations or delicious like the bright red Valentine’s Day candy received on that cold and dull day in February. Thanksgiving decorations are somber. The “earth tones” of fall leaves and mums, the intact November pumpkin (who doesn’t have that silly grin of its October cousin), and even the fall fruits of apples and berries are pale when compared to the bursts of color and the freshness of fruit in the spring.

Thanksgiving just seems to be a more grown up holiday. And, that makes sense to me.

To be thankful is a humble action. When we are thankful, we are acknowledging that someone has provided to us things that we do not deserve, that we did not earn. Children may say thank you, but they are rarely truly thankful. In our culture, a child’s thank you often comes in the middle of giggles and laughter. Compare that to an adult, thankful that they are receiving a gift was paid for by another.

For instance, I am thankful for the education given to me. No doubt, I did the homework and spent the time in class. But, others built the schools. Someone else decided that American children would receive public education. My parents prepared me to learn. My teachers were patient with me when they could have ignored me. My siblings helped me through tough classes and instructors. My education was paid for by others and given to me without fanfare. My eyes tear up, knowing that I have not said “thank you” nearly enough.

So, as we gather with others during this season, we need to think “what have they given to us?” Let’s start be grateful before the 27th gets here.

Maybe the list of “gifts” below will prompt you to send a thank you note or text or posting. Is there someone you should thank for their gift of a:

  • Kick in the behind
  • Pat on the shoulder
  • Surprise extra couple of bucks
  • Night out with the boys (or girls) to forget her (or him)
  • Job
  • Meal or two between pay days
  • Ride to the car repair shop
  • Word of advice that you needed but didn’t like hearing
  • Lesson
  • Hug
  • Their military service

We have been given so very much. Let’s take a moment and be truly thankful.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Dear Mary H. Brown

Dear Mary H. Brown,

We should begin by apologizing if that isn’t your name.  We are having a tough time reading your signature. So, please forgive us if your last name is something other than Brown.

Thank you so much for the “brownie bite” that was served to John at Appleby’s on Veteran’s Day. John asked if you were still in the restaurant (he wanted to thank you in person), but our server told us that you paid for his dessert some time ago. John then asked if he could buy dessert for another veteran, saying that he wanted to “pay it forward.” “No,” was the answer from the gal as she handed him our check; apparently the program to buy dessert for a veteran was over a while back.

We had already had a wonderful meal with John making his choice from the menu of free meals for veterans and we didn’t need dessert at all. But, the morning outside, attending the parade and ceremony downtown, had been so nice and we were enjoying our time at the table, so we lingered a few extra minutes. The dessert menu was tempting us both; as our server passed our table heading to another set of diners, she pointed at John and said, “I have a brownie bite for you.”  We were a little surprised and wondered what else she might be planning for us.  As she passed our table a few minutes later, this time on her way back to the kitchen, she paused long enough to push a small piece of paper toward John.

thank you noteOn it, you had written a message in red ink, “Thanks for serving our country.” That meant a lot to us. You don’t even know John and yet you not only bought him dessert (and, he LOVED IT, by the way), but you took time to write a note to him.

We were taught to write thank you notes and we try to adhere to that teaching. On Christmas afternoon, Mom Mullins would pull out note cards and her address book and the kids would write thank you notes for anyone who had sent us a gift. We also wrote them to anyone who had helped us during the holidays; you know, the music director at church, that sort of thing. We didn’t have email or Facebook or texting then, so a handwritten note was how we said thank you.

We still like hand written thank you notes the best. When one comes in the mail, it makes us smile even before we open it. It is just like getting another present!  And, a thank you note really doesn’t have to say much. We love them all, but thank you notes that come from kids are special. One of our favorites was, “Thanks for the birthday money. I REALLY NEEDED IT!” (We kidded that child’s parents a lot!) We got one recently that thanked us for birthday money and then went on to thank us for the birthday money we had sent to their younger sibling. Love it!

Ms. Brown, We wish that we could put this thank you note into an envelope and mail it to you. But, we have no idea where you live and we are not sure that we even have your name right. And, so, we are going to have to trust God to share our appreciation with you.  Know that “I thank God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 1:3).

Please keep giving to others. Don’t let our failure to thank you properly diminish your appreciation of our nation’s veterans.  It was a GREAT GIFT!  It was unexpected, undeserved and totally delightful.

And, we promise to keep writing thank you notes.

May God bless you and keep you!!

John and Jill Stein

Harvest: To gather up the crop

A few weeks ago, I went with John to his weekly Rotary Club luncheon. (He is a member of the Suburban West Rotary Club of Pensacola – The best Rotary Club!) The speaker was talking about a program to teach families to prepare fresh food products. For instance, it costs a great deal less to prepare a potato than to buy a bag of frozen “tator tots.”  It was an interesting discussion by an American farmer.

The farmer also sells “big” farm equipment and he told a delightful story. A woman approached him at an event and told him that it was irritating that his slow moving “big yellow and green” farm equipment kept her from traveling at her desired rate of speed. He smiled and said that the equipment was what brought groceries to her table. She looked askance at him and replied, “No they don’t. I buy my groceries at The Apple Market.” I know: give her a dollar to buy a clue!

My sister and her family are farmers in Kansas. While visiting them one time, my brother-in-law, Ken, showed our granddaughters wheat still on the stalk. He pealed back tender leaves to reveal the growing grain. Each girl took some of the wheat and tasted it, right there in the field. When talking with one of their parents that evening, one excited granddaughter exclaimed, “And, I ate RAW MEAT that Uncle Ken gave to me.” Yep, Grandma Jill grabbed the phone to explain that it was raw WHEAT and not raw MEAT that we had eaten on the farm.

Throughout the year, I get to hear what’s going on at the farm: preparing, planting, growing, protecting, harvesting, selling, and back to preparing. This time of the year, us non-farmers think about the harvest.

And so, I had a question for Poppa the other day. (He grew up on the family farm that his preacher father kept.) I had spent part of the day, walking across our yard, picking up pine cones for a craft project. My question was: did I “harvest” the pine cones? I mean, I had nothing to do with the planting or growing of the crop; I just picked them up. Was it cheating to say that I had “harvested” them?   Poppa was clear: I had harvested pine cones. Like ancient American Indians who “harvested” wild rice and lumberjacks who “harvested” trees that they had not planted, I was harvesting a crop.

Later I looked up the definition of the word “harvest”; it means to gather up the crop. I felt that I have the freedom to talk about my “harvest” of pine cones and other things.

This year was a great year of “harvest” for us: we harvested from our home damaged by flood; we harvested good news when we were told that it was not cancer; we harvested joy when a loved one was taken home; we harvested peace of mind because others stepped up and took on a burden.

Some of you had harvests this year that included: a graduation when it looked like it wouldn’t happen; riches when the bank account was low; grace when it wasn’t earned; more moments together than they said there would be; a new start when it looked impossible; a loved one released from prison; mercy when you deserved something else.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

Keep harvesting! And, keep planting; you may be preparing a harvest for someone else.

But, I cannot hit “send” today without including another scripture. Is it for you? “The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved.” (Jeremiah 8:20) Email me at carlajillstein@yahoo.com if you need someone to talk or pray with you. I am here for you.

Love, Jill