Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Online Learning Replaces Snow Days

A school district in Ohio is trying online learning this year to replace snow days. Then they won't have to make up snow days in June, when no one wants to be inside!

Here's a link to the NPR story:


Monday, November 22, 2010

The Chosen

I just finished an excellent book, The Chosen by Chaim Potok. The story is about two Jewish boys growing up in New York City at the end of World War II. One boy is a Hasidic Jew named Danny. He becomes unlikely friends with the narrator, an Orthodox Jew named Reuven. Each of their fathers are important influential men, but the boys have very different relationships with their fathers. Danny's father is "raising him with silence", which means he only speaks to him when they are studying the Talmud. Reuven and his father talk about everything, including his friendship with Danny and the way Danny is being raised by his father.

I learned a great deal about Jewish history and thought from this book. I have to say, I admire the seriousness with which the characters in this book take their faith and the great lengths the older generation goes to in order to pass this faith down to their children. We Christians could learn a lot from them.

I can't put into words all my thoughts about this book, since I just finished it this afternoon. But I know it is one I will be thinking about for a long time to come.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bremer Bank

I heard a story yesterday on NPR's Marketplace about a great community bank in (of all places! :)) North Dakota. You can listen to the story here:


Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Thomas Jefferson Education

I am reading an excellent book right now, A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver Van DeMille. It's about using classics to educate your children. But the emphasis is on educating yourself first. One of my favorite quotes is, "In reality, you are unlikely to pass on to your children a better education than you have earned yourself. ... The most effective way to ensure the quality of their education is to consistently improve your own."

Another point the author makes repeatedly is that the purpose of education should be to help people be good. In other words, it should give them the wisdom to discern what is right and what is wrong in any situation, and the courage to do what is right regardless of the personal cost. Classics help in this endeavor by providing examples of people choosing right or wrong, and what the results of those choices are. By studying these examples, we can develop our ability to see situations in our own lives more clearly. And the examples of those who chose to do what is right can help us make those same choices.

I've been inspired to read and study more classics now, and I'm hoping I can inspire my family to join me!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Economic Trends and Grocery Shopping

This morning, while my favorite writers racked up more word count, I went grocery shopping. My usual store is a large discount grocery store which doesn't take credit cards and doesn't run specials or mail out weekly fliers. It isn't much to look at. It doesn't have a deli or coffee shop or any of the other amenities a lot of the other stores in town have. But it always has the best prices in town, which is why I shop there, because I'm cheap!

I got there before 8 am, and the place was already packed. I had to play cart derby and avoid running into other people and their carts as I went around corners. One thing I've noticed recently at this store is that they keep their stock rather low. I think it's called "just in time" supplying. They have just what they think they're going to sell and not one item more. And if you happen to be the 10th person that day who wants something they normally only sell 9 of, you are out of luck. That happened to me this morning. Despite the early hour I arrived and the fact that it's less than two weeks before Thanksgiving, they were out of turkey loaf.

(Now I can hear all you Thanksgiving purists and foodies exclaiming "Turkey loaf?? You eat turkey loaf? For Thanksgiving???" I've discovered over the years that the only thing my family likes about turkey is that you can make sandwiches with the leftover white meat. So now, instead of going to the trouble and expense to roast a large bird, only to have at least half never touched, I get an all-white-meat turkey loaf...it slices beautifully for sandwiches...and save my energy for making all the side dishes everyone really does love.)

I had to get turkey loaf. I mean, you can't have Thanksgiving without at least a token amount of turkey, right? And I wasn't planning to go grocery shopping again until after Thanksgiving. So I decided to stop at one of the "fancy" grocery stores on my way home and see if they had any. I get there, and the parking lot is almost empty. The aisles are quiet. I don't have to dodge any carts. It was eerie. Then I realize this is a sign of the current economy. The people who used to shop here on Saturday mornings are over at my regular store, because they've decided low prices are more important than all the niceties this store has to offer. For some reason, I felt a little sad. I found my turkey loaf and went home.

Friday, November 12, 2010

NaNo Goal Reached!

My daughter finished her NaNo novel yesterday, ending with 52,500 words! Today she started on her second novel. I couldn't keep that girl from writing even if I wanted to!

My husband is still working hard on his. If he keeps up his current pace, he will finish before Thanksgiving!

I'm so proud of my two writers, esp. since I've tried creative writing and know how hard it is. I can barely come up with a blog post every day!

(And I know this is a short one. It's Friday, and I want to spend time with my family. I'll try to come up with a longer one tomorrow!)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What's for Dinner?

I love facebook! I know, it can be a huge time-waster. But it's a great way to keep in touch with people near and far. And it can be an excellent resource. Today I was planning meals for the next two weeks. (Grocery shopping requires me to get up at 5 am, so I can drive my husband to the bus stop...we have one car...so I try to limit going to once every two weeks.) I was uninspired and tired of making the same old meals. So I asked on facebook for some ideas. In less than thirty minutes, I had over a dozen great suggestions!

So in case you need some ideas, too, here they are:
Chicken spaghetti (put a couple frozen chicken breasts and a can of Italian style diced tomatoes in the crockpot. Put it on low all day, then serve it over pasta.)
Meatloaf, lasagna, chicken fajita, salmon patties, chicken marsala, chicken divan, chili
Grilled cheese sandwiches and soup
Potato-leek soup, corned beef and cabbage, shepherd's pie
Fritatta (It has diced potatoes in the bottom, with eggs, onion, bell pepper, and cheese (and a few other things) mixed and on top. Add bacon bits for fun on the top and bake.)


Monday, November 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, Margaret Mitchell!

Today is the birthday of Margaret Mitchell, the author of Gone with the Wind. She was one of the first women reporters for the Atlanta Journal back in the 1920's. But she was plagued with injuries which went back to a serious fall from a horse she'd had at the age of 20. She eventually had to give up her work and was confined to bed for a long period of time. Her husband brought her stacks of library books to give her something interesting to do. When she grew bored with reading books, he brought her a Remington typewriter and suggested that she write her own book. And we know where that led.

I'm sure the day she had to resign her newspaper job, she must have thought her life was over. Little did she know what was just around the corner. I wonder how many times we feel that way. Some tragedy or setback throws us for a loop, and we are sure life will never be the same. And we are right; it won't be. But perhaps God has something else, something bigger, waiting for us, if we'll just walk around that corner.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Working Vacations

We just got back from a conference my husband attended for his work. One of the advantages of schooling at home is that my daughter can work ahead and/or pack up her school and take it with her. So we take advantage of these working vacation opportunities whenever we can. My husband really enjoys having us along, too. I don't think he'd enjoy traveling for work otherwise. Homeschooling and virtual schooling are hard work, so it's nice to stop and realize some of the many benefits our family can enjoy because of it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Easy Hot Crab Dip

My NaNo Nerds were writing in full force today. No pesky school or work to keep them from racking up their word counts! So I decided to make them a special lunch. My local grocery store had "crab-flavored seafood" on special, and the package had a super-easy recipe on the back. The best part is this dish seems complicated, but it's not. My Nano-ers thought I spent all morning making it, when I really spent most of the morning on the couch, reading a good book!

8 oz. chunk-style crab (imitation crab works just fine!)
1 tsp. of lemon juice
4 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. sliced or chopped almonds
2 tbsp. milk
pepper to taste

Set aside half of the almonds. Mix together the rest of the ingredients. Put in an oven-proof container. Sprinkle the remaining almonds on top. Bake at 400 degrees F for 12 minutes. Serve with crackers or toasted bread.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Shhh...Don't Tell Chrisa!

Chrisa is busy in the bathroom. I think she's trying to make herself beautiful, so I may have the computer for a loooong time! So I have a chance to tell you all about how awful writers are.

Hey, no stealing my computer! Or insulting me on my new blog! Writers are not awful. It's these people who do nothing but sit on the computer and blog and never write anything interesting: they're the awful ones. I think that people who the only thing they do is blog should be banned!

Only thing I do?? I do a lot of useful, interesting things. I'm not the one who sits in my "home office" (really a bedroom!) all day staring at the computer! I actually go outside every day! I'm not the one with pasty white skin, and I'm not afraid of the sun. Unlike some people I know. Like I said before, writers are weird!

If you do so many useful, interesting things, then why don't you post about those things, instead of the lame posts you do, ranting about writers and professing your love to the dishes. And it is a home office! I actually get work done, unlike some people I know. What do you really do? Sit around and watch TV?

I've decided I'm done with this dump of a blog. You can have it back. You couldn't pay me to keep it. Bye, everyone!

If you want to check out a real blog, look at: chrisathomasstories.blogspot.com

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NaNo Nerds Update: Day Four

The NaNo Nerds are still writing like nuts. I don't understand writers...personally, I think they must all be crazy. I mean, think about it...they sit around all day, thinking about people they just made up, and acting like these people are real! My daughter will say that she just found out something about one of her characters, something this character never told her before! Hello?? You made up this character! How can she be *telling* you ANYTHING?? It's like Susan said in the first Narnia movie..."They're beavers! They shouldn't be saying anything!" Don't you agree with me? How can anyone think writers are normal...oh, help! I'm being attacked!! Save me plea....

Hello. This is Chrisa Thomas. I have taken this blog over from that ridiculous woman who ran it (extremely badly) before. Now you'll finally get quality writing on here! I have kidnapped Mrs. Thompson so she will no longer be able to post atrocious lies on this dump of a blog. Talk to you soon for some quality blogging.

Chrisa Thomas

Editor's Note: The Battle of the Blog will continue tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election Day, the Day After

Republicans across the country are celebrating their huge gains today, and those of us in Wisconsin are no exception. Here, the Republicans took the governor's office, as well as winning a comfortable majority in both the senate and the assembly. Those of us with children enrolled in public charter online ("virtual") schools have high hopes that the next legislative session will be good for our schools.

Let the celebrating begin!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Doing My Duty

Today I took my daughter to her school's state testing site. She attends a public charter online school, and one of the duties we parents agree to is that our kids will participate in state testing. I'm no fan of standardized testing, and there were a dozen other things she would have rather done today (like write more on her NaNo story!). But every privilege comes with responsibilities. We are very grateful for this public school option, and so we cheerfully (more or less) went to testing.

I also did my duty as a citizen of my country, my state, and my village this morning and voted. I am excited about several of the candidates I voted for; a couple are just the least worst. But it is a huge privilege to live in a country where we have a say in who our leaders are. And as my father-in-law says, if you don't vote, you don't get to complain. (Actually, he doesn't use the word "complain", but this is a family-friendly blog!)

And now what you all really want to know: how did the NaNo Nerds do on their first day? Excellent! They both exceeded their personal word count goals for the day, and they enjoyed the writing process. As for me and the dog, we took a walk together, then he napped while I read. It's been a long time since I just sat and read a book for pleasure. It was great fun, but I have a feeling it might get old by Day Thirty.

Tune in tomorrow for Day Three!

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo Widowhood: Day One

NaNoWrMo officially started at 12:01 this morning. My daughter actually set her alarm, got up, and wrote for over an hour. Then she went back to bed and wasn't seen until quite a while past her usual wake-up time. (One of the joys of schooling at home..no bus to catch!) And don't think she is unique in this craziness. Several of her writing buddies from around the country were writing at the same time. They even set up a chat room so they could give each other updates. They were jealous of the girl who lives on the east coast, because she got to start writing before the rest of them. (Evil time zones!) And the poor girl in California! Everyone else had gone to bed before she got to start writing!

My husband (who did have a bus to catch this morning) did not get to participate in this party. But he is ready to start the minute he gets home from work this afternoon. So it looks like I'm going to be spending a lot of quality time with the dog for the next 30 days. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Getting Ready for NaNoWrMo

My husband and daughter are both doing NaNoWrMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year. They are each going to attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in November. So I am preparing to be a NaNo widow. I checked out a stack of library books yesterday and am thinking about what I can do by myself on Saturdays. So far, I've decided to get the oil changed and the tires rotated the first Saturday. I'm hoping I can come up with better ideas for the rest of the month!

My daughter wanted me to do NaNoWrMo as well, but I know my limits. I've attempted fiction writing, and it's not something I really enjoy. So now she's trying to get me to do BlogOWrMo, and write an entry on my blog every day in November. I also have a friend who recently started posting an entry on her blog every day, and told me I should do the same. This friend has six kids, so she's not buying the "I'm too busy" line from me. And it is fun to read her blog every day.

So I am giving in to the pressure. Starting next Monday, Nov. 1, I will post something every day. So don't expect any deep thoughts...I can't come up with one of those every 24 hours! And I'm also going to have to figure out how to post photos here. My friend sometimes posts a photo of one of her kids doing something funny or interesting with a caption. That seems like an easy way to get in a daily post. Of course, my photos won't be so good, because the rest of my family will be sitting in front of computers all month...that doesn't make for an interesting picture! But I'll come up with something.

See you in November!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Counting the Cost

We moved into our home nine years ago. Nine years of family living can wear out the best of homes, and ours is starting to show "laugh lines". So I decided to paint the entire place. I foolishly thought it would be easy, something I could do in my spare time. My husband, who once had a job painting apartments, warned me that it was more work than it seemed. But I blithely went ahead. I figured I could paint the entryway and kitchen in one morning, then do the bathroom the next morning, and move on from there. Well, two long days later, and I'm still not completely done with the kitchen! What I have finished does look great, and that motivates me to carry on. But I'm a wiser, more humble painter now!

Jesus warned those who wished to follow Him to count the cost first, because He knew it was human nature to to get excited about something, jump in with both feet, and only then begin to realize what the costs are. He wants followers who will go with Him all the way and not fall away when the going gets tough. We need to be wise and humble followers, ones who know what the costs are and still choose to pay them, knowing He is worth everything.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why I Love to Wash Dishes

Please don't think I'm crazy, but I really enjoy washing dishes. It's one of my favorite chores. I find it relaxing, soaking my hands in warm soapy water. And it's one of those satisfying tasks, where you can see the results of your work right away. Piles of dirty dishes and pans are now clean and stacked back in the cupboards and drawers where they belong.

Dish washing is also a social activity in our house. After supper and a walk around the block, we all gather in the kitchen to clean up. For some reason, when hands are busy with a task that doesn't require deep thought, conversation flows. We have some of our best talks together then.

I think my love for dish washing began in my grandmother's kitchen. At home, we had an automatic dishwasher, so washing dishes by hand was exotic to me. Sort of like gathering eggs, something else I only got to do at grandma's house. I would always volunteer to wash, and my grandma would dry. It was one of the only times I had her attention all to myself.

I have an automatic dishwasher now, but I hardly ever use it. I like the feeling of getting all of the dishes done at once. Dishwashers delay that; you have to remember to unload it later. And somehow, loading and unloading a dishwasher doesn't lend itself to the relaxed conversations we have when we're washing, drying and putting away the dishes together.

Do any of you have a favorite chore, one most people seem to hate? If any of you could convince me of the joy of cleaning toilets, I'd be most grateful!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Joys of Camping

Since school started this week, we decided to make the most of the last few days of summer last week and went on a camping trip. I know not everyone enjoys camping, but I love it! We had such a good time that I've been trying to figure out ways to keep the "camping spirit" alive, even though we are back home, sleeping in beds at night and following long to-do lists by day. Here are some of the things I love about camping and my ideas for bringing them home. If you're a camper, please add your own!

Being outdoors.
There is no better way to wake up in the morning than to the sun peaking in the tent and the birds singing. It's impossible to sleep in when I'm camping, because I want to get up and see the beautiful day God has made! And going for hikes is the best way to get close to the wonders of nature. There's nothing like going around a bend and suddenly seeing something that takes your breath away, whether it's a distance mountain, the edge of a lake, or a deer standing in your path. Back here at home, my daughter and I take a walk after breakfast. We walk down a dead-end road which goes by a park and some woods. We listen to the birds sing and watch for deer. We once saw a doe and two fawns who stared at us before running off into the woods. As a family, we are planning to make hiking nearby trails a regular weekend activity this fall.

Minimal housework. When you're camping, there are no floors to mop, no lawns to mow, no unfinished projects sitting there making you feel guilty. Cleaning up is as easy as zipping up your sleeping bag. By necessity, meals are simple and use few dishes (since you have to haul with you any dishes you use). Plus they are well-received. Anything tastes good when it's cooked and eaten outside, especially after a day of hiking! Now that we are home, I am trying to plan simpler meals, ones that don't require an hour to make and even more time to clean up.

Campfires! There is something about a campfire. It makes people draw close, relax and tell stories. Here at home, we don't have a fireplace and we can't just start a fire in the middle of our living room. But we can decide to turn off the television and computer in the evenings and spend time sitting together talking. It's amazing what we learn about each other when we have some uninterrupted time to just talk about whatever comes up.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lessons from Discount Tire

First, a disclosure: I do not now nor have I ever worked for Discount Tire. I do not own stock in their company. I do not even know anyone who works there. But I am one of their customers, and I've had some excellent experiences there and learned a few lessons from them as well. So, in no particular order, here are a few of those lessons:

Notice people. When I pull into the parking lot at Discount Tire, a worker comes out, meets me at my car, and asks me what I need. Let me tell you, that makes me feel pretty important and reassures me that I will be taken care of. It takes very little time to notice and acknowledge someone, but when you do, you will make a friend for life.

Focus on what you do well.
Discount Tire focus on, obviously, tires. They don't do oil changes; they don't repair brakes. As a result, their people really know tires, and they have the equipment and experience do take care of practically any tire problem. My neighbor Jeanette makes absolutely incredible desserts. My friend Daniela is fluent in several languages. I can be envious of them and wish I had their talents. Or I can focus on my own talents and use those to bless the people around me.

Build relationships by helping people. When you buy tires from Discount Tire, the salesman doesn't shake your hand and tell you good-bye. Instead, they provide free tire rotations and repairs for as long as you own those tires. By focusing on what their customers need, they keep them coming back. And when those customers need new tires, or have a friend who needs new tires, where do you think they are going to go? Think about what the people you know need and what you can do to meet those needs. As the old saying goes, if you want to have a friend, then be a friend.

Like I said, I don't work for Discount Tire, and there are plenty of other companies who provide excellent customer service. As a Christian, I am called on to serve others. I can learn a lot from companies like this one.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Still Crazy After All These Years

After nearly 25 years of marriage (our anniversary is two weeks from today), my husband still surprises me.

My husband is the kind of man you'd want beside you if you are ever in trouble. He has no fear of confronting the "bad guys" and firmly believes it is his duty to protect the people he loves. But one thing he has always avoided is roller coasters. He says it's because he likes to be in control. He feels the same way about airplanes. The only way he would enjoy flying is if they let him fly the plane.

So imagine my surprise when he told our daughter that yes, he would go on one of the roller coasters during a recent visit to a local amusement park. Then, after achieving that, he went on every roller coaster in the park!

I love it that he is still willing to try new things. And I love him. I'm looking forward to seeing what new adventures will come our way in the next 25 years.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Neither a Leader Nor a Borrower Be...

In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis points out that ancient Greeks, Jews in the Old Testament, and Christians in the Middle Ages all forbid leading money at interest, and that in the modern world, our entire economic system is based on charging and paying interest. If charging interest were outlawed today in America, our economy would collapse.

But is it healthy for us to rely so heavily on something that three quite different past societies found wise to forbid? Would the current chaos our economy is in have been avoided if we also followed this rule? Or would we personally be better off if we tried to follow it in our daily lives? It would mean no credit cards, no mortgages, no investing in the stock market. Certainly some of us would be better off than we are now, but not all of us.

I don't have any answers here, just questions and thoughts. Let me know what you think of this, and what your life would look like if you decided to follow this rule.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Facing My Fears

I've often heard that the only way to overcome a fear is to do the thing that frightens you. Last week, I was forced to do this very thing.

One of my fears is needing to stand up and say something, but not being able to prepare ahead of time. I know this is a good skill to have, but I've always been content to let others jump in and say what needs to be said. But sometimes, someone needs to hear what I have to say. If I have time to prepare, to think about what to say and how to say it, then I'm fine. But you can't always know ahead of time when a need to have your voice heard will happen.

Last week, I was in DC for the National Coalition for Public School Options conference. On Tuesday morning, we all headed over to Capitol Hill to speak with our lawmakers. While we were waiting in our senator's office, my friend Rose, who is fearless and far more experienced at talking to people in power, told me that she wanted me to take the lead and present our case. I felt like Wesley in The Princess Bride: maybe, if I'd had a month to plan, but this was impossible! Sure, I've talked to lawmakers and their staff back in Wisconsin, but this was the big time! I just knew I couldn't do it. But I had no time to say no; I had no choice but to just do the thing that frightens me.

So with a shaky voice, I started talking. And you know what? By doing what I was afraid of, I stopped being afraid. It felt good to have my voice heard. Afterward, Rose told me she hadn't wanted me to worry; that's why she didn't tell me until the last minute that I would be the one up front. And now I know that, while I may be nervous the next time I'm called on to speak, I won't be afraid. I will know that I can handle it, because I've already done it.

I read a beautiful post once on a blog I follow, that God gives us the strength we need when we need it. That's why when we imagine problems, we feel the panic and don't know how we will be able to handle those problems if they happen. But when we are actually faced with them, God is there. He strengthens us and enables us to handle things that overwhelmed us in our imaginations. I know that's what He did here. And He will do it for anyone who faces her fears.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tips for Visiting our Nation's Capitol

Having just returned from a wonderful family vacation to DC, I thought I'd share some tips, in no particular order:

1. Avoid driving in DC at all costs. Probably the best thing to do would be to park somewhere in Maryland and arrange to be air-lifted in. I now understand why I've seen so many photos of presidents boarding a helicopter on the White House lawn, but have never seen a photo of one getting into a car.

2. Don't be afraid to ride the Metro. It's cheap, it's clean, and most of the passengers are fellow tourists anyway. So you won't stand out if you look like you don't know what you're doing.

3. Do not visit the monuments in the middle of the day during a summer heat wave. If so, you may end up like one poor couple we met on the Metro. They made this mistake and had to spend several hours at a nearby bar recovering. (We got off the Metro before they did, so I don't know if they managed to make it to their destination.)

4. When visiting the Smithsonian museums, dress like you were going camping in Wisconsin. You know, it's hot during the day, but cold at night, so you wear layers. In DC, it's hot outside, but freezing inside.

5. If your governor is friends with the president, and you once called this governor a liar on a news program, don't be surprised when you are unable to get tickets to the White House.

6. The International Spy Museum does have an exhibit called "Training to Be a Spy". Going through this exhibit, however, does not actually qualify you to be a spy. At least not a competent one.

7. If you are hungry, do not eat at the Spy Cafe. If, however, you don't mind spending $8 for a "snack", go right ahead.

8. The Old Post Office is a great place to visit. It's right next to the IRS building, but don't let that stop you. The tower has spectacular views of the city, even better than the Washington Monument. And the food court on the first floor is great...reasonably priced (at least for DC) and a wide variety of choices. This is esp. important if you have children who think a gourmet meal is a hot dog with ketchup, and you are threatening to stage a hunger strike if you have to eat at one more place where the server asks, "Would you like fries with that?"

9. Be sure to tour the Library of Congress. Seeing one of the few remaining Gutenberg Bibles and the incredible main reading room are well worth it.

10. After touring the Library of Congress, walk down Penn. Ave to Good Stuff and have one of their milkshakes. It will make you forget the DC heat.

11. Most of all, have fun! It's a great place to visit.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

How to Achieve Greatness

As a family, we recently read The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boon. She was without a doubt a great person who did great things. What struck me about her life was that she did not set out to do anything great. Her greatness was achieved one small step at a time, with no grand design on her part. She just did the next right thing, without giving thought to where these steps would lead. One of the first Jews she helped save was a man she and her father had met years earlier, when he was walking his dog. Being naturally friendly, they smiled and commented on his dog, and a friendship was begun. Later, when the Germans invaded and started arresting Jews, their friend came to them for help, which they of course provided. After that, the word spread that the ten Boons were a family who would help, and countless Jews came to them for help. But they did not wake up one morning and say, "Let's save the Jews." They just did what they could for one person, and then did the same for the next person, and the next. This naturally followed from the way they had always lived their lives, heeding Jesus' call to do whatever we can for the "least of these". If World War II had never happened, we would never have heard of Corrie ten Boon, but she would have still been a great person, doing each day what God asked of her.

Despite what Shakespeare said, none of us has greatness thrust upon us. It is achieved one small step at a time, doing whatever it is God has put in front of us to do. And as Jesus promised, when we are faithful with the small things, He will give us great things to do. Our job is to do the small things with love and faith, knowing that these are the great things in His sight.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Depression Cake

I found this great recipe in the August 2009 issue of Guideposts. The writer's mother was a widow with eight young children. She would make this cake for special occasions. It has no eggs, milk or butter, which makes it easy on the budget. It would also be great for someone with egg or dairy allergies. It's very dense, so only a small piece will fill you up.

Depression Cake

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine the following in a saucepan and boil 3 minutes, stirring frequently:
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cups water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups raisins
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes.

Dissolve 1 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp salt in 2 tsp water.

Add to raisin mix (it will foam).

Blend in, mixing well:
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking power

Pour into 8 inch round pan and bake for 50 minutes.

Serve with whipped topping.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

C.S. Lewis Upsets Me Again!

As a family, we are reading that great C.S. Lewis classic, The Screwtape Letters. I don't think any Christian could read that book without being convicted about some aspect of their life. And I had my "C.S. Lewis moment" just this Sunday.

For those of you unfamiliar with the book, it is a series of letters from a senior demon to a junior one, giving the junior demon advice on how to win the soul of his "patient". In one letter, the junior demon has been unable to keep his patient from going to church. The senior demon advises him that this is not a problem, as long as he can make his patient into a "church shopper". In other words, make him look down on his fellow parishioners, keep him looking for the "right" church, etc.

We read this chapter on Saturday. On Sunday, I was sitting in the sanctuary, waiting for the service to begin, when a family came in. This family had a teenage girl, and this girl was wearing extremely short shorts. I immediately thought, "My! I would never allow my daughter to dress like that! And esp. for church!" Then I said to myself, what am I thinking? Here I am, behaving just the way C.S. Lewis warned against, judging others who dare to attend "my" church! Here was a teenage girl, attending church with her family! Would I really rather she not be there at all? While I disagree with her clothing choices, she has as much right to God's grace as I have.