Monday, December 31, 2007

Free Book Drawing

Post a comment at any of the December posts and your name will be entered into a drawing to receive a free, autographed copy of The Stained Glass Pickup. If you win, I'll contact you by email after December 31. Contest starts over and runs each month Jan-Dec 2008.

Thanks readers.....Cathy

Friday, December 28, 2007

On My Plate

For those who live in the continental USA, I’m offering a contest. Leave a post or a simple "Howdy" before the new year and your name will be entered to win an autographed copy of The Stained Glass Pickup. The contest will run each month in 2008, too. I look forward to hearing from you and giving away 13 copies in the next twelve months.
“My plate is full.” How many times did you hear that this year? It’s a modern cliché that means a person has a full load. For many in 2007, life delivered a divided lunch tray with every compartment full. I find it ironic that the USA faces a major obesity problem along with our obese schedules. Personal and family agendas are popping at the seams.

Some seasons in life require more energy than others. Illnesses, weddings, location moves, job changes, a new baby in a household, all can crunch routines until accommodations are made for the new demands. Lately, I’ve heard several people say of their normal lives, “I’m overwhelmed.”

They are admitting to being snowed under, beleaguered, and weighed down. That means they sigh more than produce results—that no matter how much gets done, they feel as though they’re only treading water with no landfall in sight.

To set some boundaries and rest from the pushy world, try some of these ideas. Only read and answer E-mails at a certain time of day. You can even create a permanent signature that lets mail-ees know that you answer mail 8-10 in the morning. Stick to your plan.

How many requests are received for volunteer help by mail and phone? Have you ever gotten a plea to help a cause for which you had absolutely no passion? The Lady Bug Counting Committee needed one extra tallier for their spring outing, and you just couldn’t say no even though it was your only day off in a month.

Learn to say, “No.” Practice. Say it out loud. For best results, say it over and over until it will roll off your tongue without guilt. Sure the lane-mate at the red-light may find you odd, seeing you practice the short word that can usher in some peace of mind. You’ll never see them again. Keep on practicing until you can say a kind, but confident, “Sorry, no.”

Don’t always allow the outside world to intrude on family time. Why not designate a quiet hour each day in your home, a time when no outside influence is allowed through any cable or wireless receivers. That can mean turning off the TV, radio, computer, electronic games, landlines and cell phones. Silence turns to gold only when experienced.

In Jesus’ day his disciples became weary, too. They had a foot-traffic problem: “So many people were coming and going that they didn’t even have a chance to eat.” Jesus knew that every person they encountered couldn’t be hosted, healed, or helped. The human body runs on fuel and rest and the disciples needed some.

Jesus’ solution and words are some of my favorite. He said, “Come away with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:30-31).

A friend with a broken foot said her injury was the best thing that happened to her. She rested and had an excuse to do so. For you, readers, I’m praying for backbones not broken feet. With His help, take the load off in 2008.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Foggy Cross

On a journey from New Mexico, my husband and I watched for Christmas décor at homes and businesses. Most of our travel took place during the day, and 400 miles of the trip we were surrounded by fog, a mix thick as clouds or at other times thin as tea kettle steam.

When night fell, one display glowed high above the interstate. As we neared a radio tower the hazy outline of a cross appeared. Even parallel with the lighted cross, it did not emerge “midnight-clear.” The cross remained shrouded by fog.

The fogged in cross made me think of the mystery that often accompanied The Christ on his earth-journey. Wonder surrounded Jesus’ birth. Born of a virgin, who conceived by the Holy Spirit, Jesus came into the world through God’s plan, not man’s desire.

Luke told how Mary treasured the events of Jesus’ birth and “pondered them in her heart” (2:19). Prophet Simon said to Mary that Jesus would cause the “thoughts of many hearts to be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul, too” (Luke 2:35)? Was she ever unsure, uncertain?

Choreographed by God, Jesus’ birth announcement filled a nighttime sky. The Bethlehem welcoming committee hurried to town from a pasture not a palace. God’s Son didn’t have a silver rattle. Instead, he rested in a hay-manger.

The forecast didn’t clear much when Jesus began his ministry. A corrupt government had caused Jewish citizens to long for a political deliverer. Office holders didn’t want a newbie-leader in government or synagogue. Jesus cleared the air a little when he said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

By the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, a small group began to comprehend, to see in Jesus, a soul-savior. He didn’t want a signet ring and purple robe. He stepped into everyday life to assist the neediest.

This king of hearts touched foul flesh, sat in fishing boats, rebuked the haughty and cradled children on his lap. He washed feet, forgave murderous sins, and healed bad reputations. For believers, the fog began to lift.

Jesus was not what we expected.

Jesus was what we needed.

Christmas-signs say “Believe.” I’m pretty sure the red glittery messages refer to Santa, a figment of imaginations, but the word can remind of an ultimate belief.

When Nicodemus sought to understand Jesus better, Jesus told about a key ingredient for clearer understanding, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

From heaven’s porch, God’s plan for salvation could be seen with clarity. From earth’s footstool, things looked a bit foggy as to the outcome. But, through the biblical account, this blessed generation has a more complete picture of prophecy and promises fulfilled. On the trail—from manger to cross—belief that Jesus is the Son of God has caused the fog to lift.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

copies of The Stained Glass Pickup available

Amazon is getting low on SGP, but Leafwood Publishers has the second printing in--click on devotionals. SGP is on second page. I have copies, too. Click here to order ASAP to receive by Christmas...CM

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Squash Mystery-December 14

On a forgiveness scale, with minor infractions at the bottom and world wars at the major end, this story about squash casseroles ranks . . . well, you decide.

Several times a year Carolyn, a friend, is in charge of the mid-week meals that her church hosts for their members. Women who participate prepare the menus and cook the food for one month of Wednesdays. I’ve replicated some of Carolyn’s recipes and she ranks up there with Emeril. She knows the exact spice to make a chicken pot pie tasty, the little flare to make it eye-appealing.

Have you cooked for a crowd? It’s not a small task. Much vegetable scrubbing, cutting, grinding, measuring, pan washing, frying and love combine to turn out culinary masterpieces.

Ordinary recipes for small families are increased to feed 150-200. The recipes are tested because good cooks know when multiplying servings, quality can be lost. Seasoning strengths vary between a 16 ounce can of legumes and a mountain of beans.

The coordinator also considers the diners: two-year-old toddlers to gramps on walkers. Middle un-spicy ground is preferred for all palettes. Carolyn is also a do-ahead person. She knows emergencies can come up Wednesdays.

Once when her turn was near, she bought pounds of yellow squash and zucchini. After cleaning, chopping, cooking, mashing, adding butter, eggs and all the other good stuff, she ladled them into seven large aluminum pans wrapped them in foil. This took a big chunk of time and work.

Satisfied and relieved to have part of the meal ready, Carolyn delivered them to the church kitchen freezer. Now, church kitchens belong to all members, and a few days later, another good hearted woman decided to scrub down the kitchen. Really freshen it good—Spic and Span the floors, toss leftovers out of refrigerators and freezers.

When Mrs. Clean saw the overcrowded freezer and lifted the foil on a few items dried as the Sinai desert, she began tossing food into the mammoth trash can.

Dum-de-dum, dum, dum. Later in the week, Carolyn arrived to prepare the rest of the Wednesday night meal and found the kitchen sparkling clean—the fridge remarkably empty. She went into panic mode. She phoned around.

The phone calls set off a search worthy of a mystery dinner theatre. In her heart she felt they were gone, but she hoped another committee cook was baking them at home.

The missing zucchini was the buzz for several weeks. Then at Sunday worship, a couple of weeks later, a teary eyed woman approached Carolyn. Weeping, she confessed to being the squash bandit.

Carolyn said, “I could tell she felt terrible.” And Carolyn knew it had been difficult for Mrs. Clean to come forward. But two women who follow Jesus did the right thing. One confessed. One forgave.

In this season of Advent, of waiting and remembering the One who came to save his people from their sins, search around in your heart for grievances. If you find one . . . or two, speak confessions. Speak forgiveness.

Renewed, you can earnestly pray “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others.”

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Star Giver

The stars are out. Light-bearing look-alikes are fastened to street lamps and balanced on tree tops. Foil covered cardboard stars stand in pageants while bedecked five-year-olds sing, “O Holy Night.”

My friend Brenda Nixon, author of Parenting in the Early Years, is a creative shopper and pays a company to name stars after friends and family. The company presents recipients with a certificate, the naming symbolic.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) alone has the right to name stars. Due to the vast array, most are given numbers, very few are named. The numbering system helps astronomers find star-addresses because the estimated number of galaxies seen by Hubble telescope is 100 billion, including the faint dwarf galaxies on the edge. Beyond telescope range, billions more (

Imagine the task of naming the galaxies and the indefinite number of stars within—but someone did it. The Star Giver did. "He determines the number of the stars and gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (Psalms 147:4-5).
Because he created the stars, God knows the exact makeup of each, giving them “pet names,” says one writer. We glimpse God’s magnitude when he compares himself to measurements we understand. Prophet Isaiah told how God measured earth waters in the hollow of his hand. Have you ever picked up a few tablespoons of the ocean in the well of your hand? Imagine God holding all oceanic, river and deep-spring waters in his palm.

Isaiah also told how God marked off the heavens by a span. In Bible language, a span is the breadth of a hand—thumb to pinkie. With his hand-measure, God marked off the heavens we see and heavens we don’t see. The nations of this earth are compared to a drop in a bucket, and the islands, God weighs them like they were fine dust. (40:11-15).

Feel small enough, yet? Jesus reiterated the vast knowledge of God when he said the hairs on all our heads are numbered. A daily accounting of gray, brunette, red, black and blond, and, yes, those dyed purple, too.

Over the course of many nights, a star guided the astronomers from the east to Jesus, their journey canopied by a starry host. When at last the wise men gazed upon the young Jesus, they worshiped him, a holy light, greater than all celestials.

The old priest Zechariah had seen many atrocities on earth, and prior to The Messiah’s birth he sang these truths about the Jesus-light: “Because of the tender mercy of our God . . . the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).

As frequent as toy commercials, reinvented stars show up in December, The Star Giver flung stars in the sky, but sent The Light of the World to us. It’s December. The stars are out. They can remind us.