We had a lovely afternoon at the Chicago Botanical Garden. The flowers were in bloom in the conservatories. Lovely wreaths adorned the walls. Poinsettias lined the displays and were hanging from the ceiling! A variety of trains were on display as a Christmas exhibit. The miniature trains travel on tracks through scenes of Chicago.
My mother grew up on a small Finnish farm in Upper Michigan. At Christmas she would remind us that oranges are a special treat. When she was a girl her family had oranges only on Christmas. As a tradition we always received an orange in our Christmas stocking.
When I saw a recipe that included orange zest in a molasses cookie—in the newspaper—I had to try it. Then I tweaked the recipe to my liking. Finnish spice cookies sometimes include rye flour, so I substituted rye flour for some of the flour.
5 Tblsp. unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup honey
½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 Tblsp. grated orange zest*
1/3-cup dark unsulfured molasses
1 egg yolk
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 + ½ tsp. cinnamon
1 + ½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. allspice
¼ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
½ tsp. salt
1 + ½ cup quick oats
¾ cup rye four
1 + ¾ cup unbleached white flour
1 egg white, beaten with a fork until frothy
1 Tblsp. grated orange zest*
½ cup turbinado sugar
Thoroughly combine the sugar and orange zest.
*For the orange zest I used one orange and grated the outer peel, mincing it fine.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Lightly grease cookie sheet.
In a large bowl beat the butter and honey until creamy. Add the brown sugar and 2 Tablespoons orange zest and beat for a couple more minutes.
Add the molasses, applesauce, egg yolk (reserve the egg white), vanilla, baking soda, spices and salt. Beat mixture until well combined. With a wooden spoon stir in the oats, white flour and rye flour. The dough will be a little sticky. If you want you can put the dough in the refrigerator for a half hour and it will be easier to handle.
Use a teaspoon to scoop a round of dough and form into a ball. Dip it into the egg white and then the turbinado sugar with orange zest. Place it on the cookie sheet. The cookies should be spaced about one inch apart.
Bake the cookies until the edges are set, beginning to brown and the tops are cracked. Depending on the size of the cookie, the baking time will be 10 to 15 minutes. The center of the cookie will be soft. Enjoy! These are great with a cup of coffee.
Who is your favorite character in Star Wars? When Han Solo and then R2– D2 made their appearance in the new movie the audience gave them a round of applause. The first Star Wars movie came out during the first year of my marriage. I saw it with my husband. The scenes were amazing and we were engrossed in the story. Later we watched episodes with our children.
When my husband suggested that we see episode VII on opening night I realized that the evening was open. The local theater had a continuum of times available. So we went. How would this movie compare with the others?
Leia and Han Solo have aged—as we have. Young people, a new generation, carried the action. They wondered at the old stories. Were they legend or true?
The narrative of Star Wars is based on the truth that good and evil exist. The quest for truth and rightness is tucked deep in our soul. Sometimes we have to fight for it.
The grief and pain of “the dark side” is also true.
While Star Wars refers to “the force”, the Bible teaches us about our God. The prophet Jeremiah lived through a tumultuous time on earth and clearly stated the source of truth and rightness.
This is what the Lord says:
Cursed is the one who trusts in man and who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He will be like a bush in the wastelands;
He will not see prosperity when it comes.
He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when the heat comes; its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17: 5-10
Jeremiah suffered physically. He did not have material gain but he understood spiritual life. God is the source of our strength and joy.
We went to Christmas concerts and programs this December—and Star Wars. Our joy and strength comes from God’s great gift. Jesus came to redeem us! We have much to celebrate this Christmas season.
Linking with Words with Winter, A Little R & R, Titus 2sday, Tuesdays with a Twist, Word of God Speak, Weekend Whispers, WholeHearted Home, Grace & Truth, Essential Fridays, Friendship Friday , Faith Filled Friday and Faith & Friends.
The violins, piano and voices of the choir gave a beautiful rendition of an old German carol. I was swept away from the news reports and troubles in our community. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
Here are the lyrics to this carol, Lo How A Rose:
Low, how a rose e’er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung
Of Jesse’s lineage coming
As saints of old hath sung.
It came a flower bright,
Amid the cold of winter.
When half spent was the night.
Isaiah foretold it.
The rose I have in mind.
With Mary we behold it
The virgins mother kind.
To show God’s love aright
She bore to us a Savior
When half spent was the night,
When half spent was the night.
O Rose, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispel in glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere.
True man, yet very God.
From sin and death now save us
And share our every load.
The apostle Peter knew much about the troubles in this world. He had walked with Jesus and had seen the crucifixion. He saw the empty tomb and the risen Lord. He had shared a meal with Jesus after the resurrection. He was there when Jesus instructed the disciples to make disciples of all nations. Peter had been in prison for his faith and from his experiences he wrote:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxious cares on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5: 6-7
We have so much to celebrate! Tomorrow night we will go to our grandchildren’s Christmas program. Each year adds new memories. I still remember the Christmas programs that I participated in as a child. It is a blessing to see the grandchildren singing carols and reciting scripture verses.
Linking with Grace & Truth, Essential Fridays, Titus 2sday, Hope in Every Season, WholeHearted Wednesday, A Little R & R, Tuesdays with a Twist, Inspire Me Monday, Soul Survival, Reflect, the Art of Homemaking and Word of God Speak
The school board in my town met, and the community was invited. The federal government—specifically the Office of Civil Rights— has demanded that a transgender student be given full access to female locker rooms and restrooms.
The meeting place, a high school cafeteria, was packed. Seats extended to the back wall and people were standing at both sides of the room. The meeting was intended for residents of the school district but a large contingent of the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) community from the surrounding towns and city of Chicago showed up. They were carrying placards and wearing stickers in support of the transgender student.
Attendees were allowed to sign up for a 3-minute speaking slot, to express their opinion to the school board. When the first three speakers were from the LGBT group a gentleman called for a point of order. He walked toward the front of the room and stated that speakers should be living in the school district. The school board president asked him to sit down or be escorted out of the room.
My heart ached as one transgender or adult homosexual partner after another testified to the pain in their life. And when a teenage girl said that she had just discovered that she was bisexual, she was given a round of applause.
A doctor said that it is impossible to distinguish the gender of an individual from their anatomy. Instead there are some internal markers. Really?
Teenage girls stood up to explain their discomfort and the awkwardness of having a transgender student in the locker room when they shower and change for swimming class.
Fathers spoke up in defense of their daughters. Teenage girls have a right to privacy.
One speaker for the LGBT community said that times have changed. The standards that we once had no longer exist. It is a new age.
The air was heavy and I tried to pray.
An article titled Educating for the Kingdom by Gerhard Cardinal Müller is in the current issue of Plough. Müller writes:
Rather, education is the entrusting of a gift from one generation to the next. The older generation’s accumulated culture, learning and skills are given as an unearned gift to the younger. But this gift also carries a responsibility: the younger generation must make the gift a reality in their own lives.
Overnight I have been wrestling with thoughts about the meeting. Families are breaking down. Divorce and single parent families are common. Children are susceptible to deception. We are experiencing spiritual warfare. Images from the Lord of the Rings come to mind. Remember the black riders? They were trying to get Frodo. In place of Frodo, I could visualize them seeking to destroy the family.
Pray for families.
Pray for the teens that are seeing so many distorted versions of sexuality.
Pray for wisdom, compassion and kindness in sharing the truth of God’s design of the family. God is good, and His ways are for our benefit.
It is December in Illinois, and throughout our neighborhood there are winter decorations.
We have a wreath on our door.
My display of angels celebrating the birth of Jesus is in our foyer.
We have had two snowstorms and to my surprise the calendula flower has two buds. It may still bloom! I love this flower.
Do the images of refugees fleeing Syria tug at your heart? Have you seen news reports of churches destroyed in Nigeria, Syria, Iraq and other countries?
We are blessed in the United States although the tragedies taking place around the world touch us too. The shootings at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado and the horrible massacre in San Bernadino are a grievous loss of life.
But we don’t have the level of persecution that is taking place in Africa and the Middle East. Is there anything we can do?
On Sunday morning we had a speaker from the Voice of the Martyrs. This organization provides support to the persecuted Church. We can pray for believers that have been imprisoned for their faith by name. Click here to go to the site provided by VOM.
Next Sunday members of our church will devote an hour to writing Christmas cards that will be sent to prisoners. The site mentioned above takes you through the process of writing a message in the prisoner’s language and provides addresses.
I am pleased that Voice of the Martyrs also has a website with items that can be purchased as gifts. Buying items from the store or giving a donation supports the work of this organization. Click here.
It was a blessing to hear stories about the people that are turning to the Lord in the face of persecution. An article in the current VOM newsletter is titled, Great Evil, Great Revival. The article describes the persecution AND the revival taking place in evangelical churches. Our speaker told us about an ISIS soldier that has become a Christian, about Moslems that are reading the Bible and seeking truth.
We can pray for many more to be saved, for God to be glorified and for the endurance of all believers!
Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-3
As I sat down to write our annual Christmas letter I was reflecting on gospel accounts by Matthew and Luke. It is apparent that the people of Judea lived in fearful times under Roman rule. Injustice, corruption and violence were common. A young woman lived in Nazareth, north of Judea, during this turbulent time.
My thoughts turned to Mary—and the grace shown to her by God. God sent an angel to speak directly with her. The angel gives her an amazing message.
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1: 30-33
Wow! Mary asks how this is possible, and then responds with obedience.
And Mary said, “Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1: 38
We know that Mary was encouraged and guided by her cousin Elizabeth. ( Luke 1: 39-56) God’s timing for the pregnancies of these two women was a provision and a gift. The two women spent three months together. Elizabeth gave birth just months before Mary.
The time spent with Elizabeth prepared Mary for her own labor and birth—not that it was easy. She was away from Nazareth and her family.
And Joseph went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:4-7
As a labor/delivery nurse I have worked in hospitals with all the technology and interventions that are common today. I am pleased that God chose to send Jesus to a young woman who would give birth simply. The design of her body was enough. Perhaps she had a midwife with her. The scripture doesn’t tell us.
My experience with home birth helps me get an idea of the birth of Jesus. Birth can be a natural physiologic process. I saw the way endorphins (natural pain relief hormones released by the body) assisted women during labor. With position changes they were able to cope with contractions that gradually became more intense. I also saw women and their husbands lean in to prayer, seeking strength from God. It was both refining and empowering.
Mary is an example for us. She was obedient and resilient. She knew the scriptures and the history of God’s faithfulness to Israel. She trusted God.
God is good. He is sovereign. The birth of Jesus is a magnificent chapter in God’s plan of salvation.