10 New Year's Resolutions From the Bible

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! 
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? 
I am making a way in the wilderness 
and streams in the wasteland."
Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

I’ve always loved those two verses from Isaiah. They remind me that no matter what happened yesterday, God gives me hope for today!

This is the week when we make resolutions. We resolve to put the events of this year in the past and move forward into the new year with a fresh start.

What do you hope to accomplish in 2011? Will you resolve to shed weight? Squash a bad habit? Work out at the gym? Spend more time with your family?

As you make your list of resolutions, consider these

10 New Year's Resolutions From the Bible:

I will try not to be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present my requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)

Instead of depending on my own wisdom, I will seek the wisdom of the Lord. I will respect Him and refuse to do wrong. (Proverbs 3:7)

If someone mistreats me, I will not mistreat that person in return. Instead, I will try to earn the respect of others, and I will do my best to live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:17-18)

I will remember not to judge people, because in the same way that I judge them, they might judge me. (Matthew 7:1-2)

I will never let love and faithfulness leave me. I will remember them every day and keep them in my heart. (Proverbs 3:3)

I will honor the Lord with whatever I earn and by doing the best that I can. (Proverbs 3:9)

I will study my Bible and be careful to follow only those teachers who are true messengers of God. (Matthew 7:15)

With all my heart, I will trust in the Lord and not in my own judgment. I will always let Him lead me and make clear to me the road I should follow. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

I will love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul and strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

Finally, I will fix my thoughts on what is true and honorable, and right and pure, and lovely and admirable. I will concentrate on things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8)

As we enter 2011, I wish all of you a year filled with faith, hope, love,
and resolutions fulfilled through blessings from God.

Approaching That Silent Night


Have you known a night so dark that you couldn't see your hand in front of your face? Have you experienced a night so silent that you heard your own heart beat? Nights like these were common in the fields near Bethlehem. It was an ancient time before electricity and technology brought a surplus of light and noise into the world.

Imagine shepherds in the fields on such a dark night. Suddenly, the sky tears open and a bright light shines down upon them. The shepherds are terrified. Where is the light coming from? Are they about to die? Then an angel emerges from the radiant glow and proclaims, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:10-14 KJV). The black, silent night had become the Holy Night -- the night that the Savior, the Messiah, the Holy One came into the world!

This was the night that Father Joseph Mohr imagined when, in 1816, he wrote the lyrics to "Silent Night" in the form of a poem. It is believed that Mohr was living in Mariapfarr in the Alpine Lungau region of Salzburg, Austria, when he wrote it. Two years later, he was called to serve the parish of St. Nicola in Oberndorf. There he became acquainted with the church organist Franz Xaver Gruber.

The legend goes that the church organ was broken on Christmas Eve 1818. Mohr presented Gruber with his "Silent Night" poem, and the two of them quickly composed a tune for two solo voices and the choir to be accompanied by a guitar. The song was performed for the first time that Christmas Eve in St. Nicola Church in Oberndorf. The rest, as they say, is history.

Several years ago, I came across an amazing web site, StilleNach.info. Its aim is to educate about the origin of the famous carol. Here, you will find links to information about Mohr and Gruber, the original sheet music, the Silent Night Museum, and much more.

The most interesting link on the site is the Silent Night Chapel, a small memorial chapel built on the place where St. Nicola church once stood. Each year, thousands of tourists visit the chapel, and each year on Christmas Eve there is a short service that ends with the singing of the beloved carol as it was originally composed. The web site features a live web cam. Best of all, the Christmas Eve service is broadcast live each year. Try not to miss it this December 24th. It will leave you wanting to travel to Austria for next year's celebration.

Christmas Eve is near – that night, that silent, holy night when the Light of the World swept the darkness away. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 KJV) Let us rejoice and be glad!

Dear Father: We thank you for the Holy Night when you sent your Son into the world to save us from our sins. As we rejoice and celebrate, fill our hearts with love for our Savior. In His name we pray. Amen

Sometimes, It’s More Blessed to Receive

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

I’ve lived with the Grinch. His name was Dad, and while my father didn't hate Christmas, he wasn't a fan of the gifting part. He didn't mind giving presents, but he loathed receiving them.

"Don't get me anything," he'd warn. “I don’t want to see anything under the tree with my name on it.”

On Christmas morning when it was time to open the presents, Dad made every excuse not to open his. Finally, after we insisted, he'd reluctantly unwrap his gifts complaining all the way. “I don’t deserve this,” he’d say, holding up a new fishing reel, or shirt, or pair of cuff links. “Thanks, but I don’t deserve it.”

Dad’s reaction took all the fun out of giving. We disliked shopping for him, because we always assumed that whatever we chose wouldn’t be good enough. Even more, we were hurt by his reaction to our presents.

Now that I’m much older, I understand. Dad didn’t feel worthy. At any occasion when he received a gift, he did so with guilt, and he accepted what he got not with a sense of joy, but with shame.

I’ve learned that I have a similar relationship with Jesus Christ. In my prayer life, I have no trouble asking for things for family members, friends and even strangers, but when it comes to gifts for myself, I don’t feel deserving or worthy. I never boldly approach God’s throne of grace, as the Bible instructs in Hebrews 4:16. Instead, I shamble there, embarrassed and reluctant to ask God for what I want.

Recently, I thought about how the Lord must feel when He gives me the desires of my heart, and instead of being open to receive them with joy, I accept His blessings with a shamed and guilt-ridden spirit.

Jesus, I’m sorry. I resolve to change. With each coming day, like a child at Christmas, I’ll await your gifts with eager anticipation. And when they arrive, I’ll tear off the wrapping paper and delight in what you’ve given me. No more guilt. No more shame. I’ll accept your gifts earnestly with a joyful and grateful heart.

That Forbidden Word — “Christ"

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:11 (KJV)

Today it’s rare to hear merchants wish customers a Merry Christmas. Some even forbid their employees to say it. We don’t want to utter that word. You know the one: “Christ.” It might offend someone.

I’m old enough to remember when Christmas was Christmas. When I was little, everyone went downtown to shop. No malls for us. Most people had never even heard of a shopping mall. In December, stores stayed open late on Friday nights, and only on Friday nights. Waiting until after supper meant you risked not finding a parking spot. Christmas lights stretched across Main Street from light post to light post. If you’re much younger than I am, you’ve probably only seen this kind street decoration in “A Christmas Story.” You know, the movie about the kid wanting a Red Rider BB gun? Our downtown was a lot like that. Hard to imagine when looking at Main Street today with its empty storefronts. No one goes downtown anymore. And elaborate Christmas lights? They’re too expensive to install and maintain. Some fake green garland wrapped around a light post with a wreath atop and a banner that says “Happy Holidays.” That's all.

When I was a kid, The Salvation Army Band played Christmas carols on downtown street corners, and school and church choirs performed in the town square. And yes, they sang about Christ. A tall Christmas tree stood in the center of the square strung with big, multicolored light bulbs, the kind where the whole string goes dark when one light burns out. Sometimes, the fire department willingly sent a crew in a ladder truck to help change a bulb on an upper branch. No problem. No charge. An empty stable with an empty manger stood in front of the tree, and the week before Christmas, folks from the local churches put on a living nativity complete with real animals, a real Baby Jesus and a chorus of angels. The angels sang “Away in a Manger,” and when they sang about Jesus, no one protested. Not so in the town square today. When a Christian church wanted to set up a small nativity display, it caused a public debate. They finally got permission. Then, the Unitarian church worried that not all world religions were represented, so they put up a “peace obelisk.” No problem until a question was raised about whether or not the nativity scene and the obelisk were erected in the right spots according to proper city procedures. (Read about it here.) Atheist groups chimed in that Christmas doesn’t need Christ or God anyhow. (Here’s some of what they had to say.) And Jesus, the One they call “Christ?” He’s staying out of it — for now.

Today, when someone wishes me “Happy Holidays,” I reply with a hearty “Merry Christmas!” I do it because I remember downtown, and the Salvation Army Band, and choirs and the merry spirit that dwelt within us then, the spirit of CHRIST. There, I’ve said it – that offensive word. And I’ll say it again and again: ”Merry, Merry Christmas!”

Christmas Lights

And God said: Let there be light: and there was light. Genesis 1:3

“Turn off the lights first! Daddy, tell them to shut off the lights.”

I heard the plea of a little boy, last Sunday, at our zoo’s annual Christmas lighting ceremony. The Kiwana’s Club decorates the zoo grounds with a generous light display, and Sunday, the boy in a crowd of two thousand waited with eager anticipation.

“Turn off the lights! Daddy, tell them to shut off the lights.” He pointed first to the security lights on the monkey house and then to those on the lions’ cage.

The father put his hands on his son’s shoulders, bent down and gently asked him to be quiet.

“But no, Daddy!” he protested. Then, remembering another tradition, he said, “It’s like the birthday cake. It has to be dark first.”

Maybe they heard him, I don’t know, but the lights went out and the crowd grew still. Then, in a split second, the grounds and the sky exploded into a symphony of light. A train made of multicolored lights chugged around the beaver pond while a cascade of white lights spilled into the water. The little boy watched as an amber ape family swung from a fence almost within reach of the real giraffes. Green lights lit even the tallest trees, and everywhere you looked, there were lights.

“It’s Christmas!” he shouted, jumping up and down. “The lights came on! The lights came on!”

It was like that on the night that Christ was born. A heavenly angel waited with anticipation until the coal-black darkness descended on the field where shepherds watched their sheep. Then, as if someone flipped a switch, she appeared in a burst of light so powerful that the shepherds shielded their eyes.

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord!”

She might as well have shouted, “The lights came on! The lights came on!” because it was the night when Light conquered Darkness, a light so pure and bright, a light everlasting.

When we decorate, inside and out, with Christmas lights, we celebrate the birth of Christ, the Light of the World. This holiday season, take time to look at the lights. Notice how they bring a sense of safety to the once dark street corners and watch how they add warmth to your home. Then thank God. Thank Him for sending the Baby Jesus who grew up to lead our souls out of darkness and into the Light – forever and evermore.

The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.
John 1:5 NLT

And the little boy sang:

Nine-Months Pregnant and 100 Miles to Go

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Matthew 28:20b

Can you imagine being almost nine months pregnant and receiving the news that you have to travel almost 100 miles – on foot! That's the quandary that Mary found herself in when Caesar Augustus sent out a decree that the entire Roman world should be taxed. Everyone was required to return to their hometowns to be counted, and that meant that Mary and Joseph had to pack quickly for a journey from their home in Nazareth to the town of Bethlehem, about 92 miles away. What went through Mary's head just then? She knew that she was chosen to give birth to the Son of God, but she had no clue where the birth might happen. (See Luke 1:26-35) Did she worry that she might have the baby on the road to Bethlehem? Did she wonder if she had the strength to make the journey at all?

As I set up my nativity scene this week, I thought about these things, and I wondered: What was the journey really like for Mary and Joseph? The only account of it is found in Luke 2:1-5.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. (KJV)

That's not a lot of information for a writer, like myself, who thrives on details. So, I searched the Internet to see if I could find the route that Mary and Joseph might have taken and if it held clues about their travels. I found this interesting account by D. Kelly Ogden on the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints web site.

"They would probably have made the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem by one of two routes. One would have taken them south across the Jezreel Valley, then through the hills of Samaria into Judaea. This is the more direct route in straight-line distance -- but there are two reasons it probably was not the way Joseph and Mary went: It is physically demanding, with constant ups and downs through the hills -- and it took the traveler directly through Samaritan country, and “the Jews [had] no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9).

The other possible route is the one Joseph and Mary more likely traveled. It would have taken them southeast across the Jezreel Valley, connecting with the Jordan Valley, then level or slightly down in elevation all the way to Jericho, then up through the Judaean Desert to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

To discover for myself what each of the routes would have been like, I have walked both of them. Both routes are about ninety-two miles long. Normal walking pace, even with a camel or donkey, is three miles per hour. So a traveler can usually walk between seventeen and twenty-four miles each day. Each route took me about thirty hours to walk—seventeen to twenty miles a day for five days.

At that rate, the journey would have taken Joseph and Mary at least four to five days. We wonder where they stayed each night, where and with whom they camped along the way. It would have been a wearying journey for anyone, but especially for a pregnant woman soon to give birth. It was early spring, which can still be very chilly at night in the hill country. However, in the Jordan Valley -- which is below sea level -- the temperatures would have been mild and pleasant.

The last leg of the eastern route would have been the hardest of all. Jericho is the lowest city on the globe, and Jerusalem and Bethlehem are situated right in the top of the hills. From Jericho’s desert to Bethlehem is an uphill hike of 3,500 feet. How exhausted Mary must have been! How anxious Joseph must have been to find a comfortable room at the inn! Desperate to find adequate shelter, they may have resorted at last to a limestone cave used for a stable." [D. Kelly Ogden, “The Road to Bethlehem,” Ensign, Dec 1995]

Imagine that. Mary walked, or perhaps rode on a donkey, for 92 miles, part of it through a desert, camped at night in God knows what kind of weather, and then ended her journey with a 3500-foot uphill hike; all of it when she was nine-months pregnant. This only adds to the miracle of Christ's birth.

This week, take time to think of Mary and Joseph as they traveled to Bethlehem. Contemplate the trip and the difficulties they might have encountered. Then remember that God was with them every step of the way, just as He's with us now, guiding us through this journey called "life."

Kind Heavenly Father: Guide us through this Christmas season, and lead us in prayerful remembrance to the hour when Christ was born. Amen

Seeds of Faith, Sheaves of Joy

"Going forth with weeping, sowing for the master
Tho' the loss sustains our spirit often grieves
When our weeping's over, He will bid us welcome
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves"

From the hymn “Bringing in the Sheaves,”words by Rev. Knowles Shaw (1834-1878)

My mother’s family has a strong heritage of hard work and faith. Her first ancestor in this country was a Calvanist Christian, a Pilgrim who arrived on the Mayflower. His sons and grandsons became Presbyterian ministers who preached to colonists and soldiers during the American Revolution. Eventually, a many-great-grandfather brought his family by covered wagon from the East Coast to settle a small farm in the Midwest.

Stories handed down through the generations made their way to me, and when winter sets in, I imagine my pioneer ancestors gathered around a fireplace in their one-room cabin seeking to survive the winter’s cold.

Before late November, the time when we celebrate Thanksgiving, my farmer ancestors brought in the sheaves. There was no money for a reaper, so they harvested wheat the old-fashioned way, stooping down, gathering, and cutting a handful at a time with a short handled sickle. They raked the cut grain into sheaves, which were bundles tied together using several twisted stalks of wheat. After they harvested the grain, there was no better way of separating it from the straw than with a flail. They cleaned off a space of level earth, packed it as hard as possible, and, laying the sheaves of grain there, they pounded it with the flail until most of the grain was beaten out. Then, my family gave thanks to God for this grain that would feed them through the long, sharp winter.

Their days of Thanksgiving gave way to hardship. The story continues that the family left the farm when winter departed, but without their young son who must have died between the days of Thanksgiving and the first signs of spring.

That I exist today a faithful Christian, having learned my faith from my mother who learned from her mother and grandmother—faith passed down through generations—is proof that my ancestors survived their heartache and stayed strong in the Lord.

Psalm 126:6 says: Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. My ancestors left their farm weeping, but they brought with them wheat seeds to sow. The heritage of my faith is proof that their dark days gave way to light, and less than a year after losing their son, they rejoiced and thanked God, once again, as they brought in the sheaves.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the grains of faith that sustain us in winter, and for seeds that turn into sheaves of joy.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers.
May you be blessed with an abundance of faith and joy.

Have You Settled In Yet?

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

The storm windows are on, the garden put to bed, and I’ve traded backyard campfires for fires in the fireplace. Hot apple cider fills my travel mug now instead of the iced coffee that sustained me all summer. Flannels, sweaters and fleece hang at the front of the closet, and there's an extra blanket on the bed. I’ve stashed a stack of novels in the bookcase to await snowy days, and finally my to-do list has only a few items left unchecked.

I’m settling in for winter.

Look around and you’ll see all God’s creatures settling in. Bears, their noses dirty from digging, scoop leaves into well-hidden dens. Squirrels carry mouthfuls of leaves and twigs high into treetops to stuff into their cozy nests. Geese, in V-shaped flocks, fly south in search of a milder winter and plentiful food. Even pet cats seek sunny windowsills and spend hours curled in their cat beds, snoozing. Everywhere you look, animals and people prepare to hibernate, migrate, or adapt to the season.

We have come to November, that month of settling in, the season when we slow down with the waning light of day and prepare for quiet winter nights. Somehow, God seems closer now. Maybe it’s because in long hours of darkness we sense the need for His protection and want to snuggle in His strong, loving arms.

In Mark 6:31, Jesus said to his apostles, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place. You need to get some rest." (NLrV)

So let’s go. Let’s go away to Winter, that quiet place. Let’s spend our nights reading God’s Word, singing His praises and thanking Him for His blessings. Let’s cozy up to warm fires with family and friends and rejoice in the gift of fellowship. Let’s put aside the seasons of coming and going, the days of no leisure . . .because winter is upon us—the quiet place, the place where Jesus calls us to rest.

Hachiko: Waiting for his Master

When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:4

I watched a wonderful movie this weekend called “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale.” It is a special story about love, loyalty and the relationship between a dog and its master. (Warning: the following contains a “spoiler,” so if you’d rather not know the plot, please watch the movie before you read on.)

Every weekday, college professor Parker Wilson commutes to his work by train. Late one afternoon when he returns to the train station, he finds an Akita puppy abandoned there. He takes it home, and his wife discourages him from keeping it, but a bond already exists between the man and the dog. Parker names the puppy Hachiko – Hachi for short – after the Japanese symbol for luck that he finds etched on a tag on the lost puppy’s collar.

Before long, Hachi begins trotting alongside Parker when he walks to the station. Nothing can stop the dog from his daily trek. He digs under fences and jumps over them to accompany his master. And every day Hachi sits outside the train station and waits for Parker to come home.

This goes on for several years until one day when Parker doesn’t return on his usual train. Hachi waits. Another train arrives then another and another, but Parker isn’t on any of them. Finally, long after dark, an SUV pulls up to the station. Parker’s son-in-law is there to take Hachi home, and we learn that Parker isn’t coming back; he went to be with the Lord.

Although Hachi has a new family that loves him, this dear, sweet dog remains loyal to his master. Every day, year after year, he goes to the station to wait. From dawn until the last train arrives, through all the seasons, rain, sleet and snow, Hachi sits waiting. The train yard becomes his home. He exists fed by good Samaritans and sleeping under boxcars.

Hachi waits. He waits until, old and feeble, he lies down in the snow one night and drifts off toward sleep. Then he hears it, one more train. He watches as travelers pour from the station's door, and then Hachi sees him – Parker! His master has finally come to take him home. It ends a joyful day for Hachi, and Parker, too, as they run off together through a sun-filled woods.

Like Hachi, we Christians wait, too.
We wait for our Master. He was with us once here on Earth, and we know he’s coming back; so we wait. Each and every day, one generation linking to another, we return to the source of our faith where we wait for the door to open and our Master to come and take us home.

Matthew 24:42 tells us: “Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” The story of Hachi, which by the way is based on a true story, reminds us to be loyal to our Master. He is coming someday. We won’t give up on Him. We won't give up because we know, and we’re sure . . . so we wait.

Watch the movie trailer for "Hachi: A Dog's Tale"

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Fear Strikes the Queen!

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.”
Isaiah 40:11 NIV

Like most pets, Pepper hates going to the veterinarian. Her annual checkup was last week, and this time I managed to keep the appointment a secret. Pepper sleeps soundly, so in the middle of the night, veiled in darkness, I slipped the cat carrier out of the bedroom closet and hid it in the utility room by the back door. Pepper snored through the whole thing. She’d been up late watching through the window as furry, nocturnal things wandered through the back yard. I don’t want to sound conceited, but I was so proud of myself. If Pepper had seen that carrier, she would have escaped to her hiding place, a secret location that I've never found.

Pepper knows when I’m planning to go out. Earrings give me away. When I put on earrings, she eagerly leads me to the door. “You’re in charge,” I tell her. “The house belongs to The Queen of Everything.” She eats that up. Pepper is well aware that she’s the queen, and I can only imagine what the queen does in her castle when her maidservant is gone for the day.

I was ready for her when she herded me to the castle’s portal. I picked her up and shoved her into the carrier. “Your carriage awaits,” I said, shutting the door, locking her inside. Oh, the wailing that came from the queen, the obscenities that spilled from her royal mouth! On the short drive to the vet’s office, she pawed and clawed at the carrier’s door, trapped in the dungeon, no way out. Arriving in the parking lot, she let out a shrill cry that terrified a two-pound Chihuahua in the car next to us. Its owner shot me a dirty look.

“You be good!” I told The Queen of Everything. She screamed even louder. Queens don’t take orders from maidservants.

The vet moved us right in to the examining room. “Is Pepper a little upset this morning?” she asked. Whatever gave her that idea. I struggled to hang on to the carrier as it wildly swung from side to side.Then, something amazing happened. The Queen of Everything fell silent. She curled into a tight ball like a hedgehog. Pepper stayed that way, frozen in fear, while I pulled her out of the carrier and plopped her onto the baby scale.

“She looks like a taxidermied cat,” the vet laughed.

She did look like that.

We put Pepper on the examining table. She unrolled and slithered toward me on her belly. Then she pressed her little body against me and tucked her head into the crook of my arm. I felt her relax as I held her close. The vet poked and prodded her, listened to her racing heart, and gave her a rabies shot. Through it all, The Queen of Everything rested in my arms.

Everyone is afraid sometimes, even kings and queens. Fear is only overcome through trust. Pepper trusts me to protect her much the same as I trust my Heavenly Father to take care of me.

Are you frightened of something today? Are you rolled up in a tight, little ball, worried about what might happen? Then trust God. Deuteronomy 33:27 says, "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Rest in God's arms today, and He will take care of you.


For more about Mark Lowry, visit his website.

God's Harvest: Butternut Squash Soup

At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. Mark 12:12

I love these crisp September days when farmers’ markets overflow with ripe, autumn produce: bell-shaped butternut squash, red cabbage, parsnips, pumpkins, pears, gourds, apples . . . .

This week, to celebrate the season, I've decided to post one of my favorite autumn soup recipes. I hope that you’ll try it, and when you savor the wonderful scent that fills your kitchen while this soup cooks on your stove, remember when daylight wanes and the fields go dormant, our Heavenly Father provides for our needs.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

  • 4 T. butter
  • 2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
  • 4-5 T. curry powder (but only if you like it spicy; otherwise use less)
  • 3 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parsley to use as a garnish
  • sour cream for garnish
In a large stock pot, melt butter; add onions and curry powder and cook, covered, over low heat until the onions are tender (about 25 minutes). Pour in the chicken stock, add squash and apples, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, about 25 minutes. Strain soup, reserving liquid, and process solids with one cup of stock in a food processor until smooth. Return pureed soup to the pot. Add apple juice and remaining reserved liquid. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until heated through. Serve garnished with a dollop of sour cream and a bit of parsley.

My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. Psalm 63:5

Struggling With Omniscience

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13

As a Christian, I struggle sometimes with the big God mysteries like omniscience and omnipresence. The other night while praying I caught myself thinking: If God is all knowing, then why am I telling Him what Hilma needs, or Jim, Joel, Charla, Diana, Susan . . . I pondered the idea of God’s universal knowledge. How can He know everything at once?

An image of a crowded classroom came into my head. (If you read my other blog, you know that I think in snapshots.) A teacher stands in front of the classroom. She points to a boy in the back of the room. “Ethan,” she says. “Do you know the answer?” As she stands there at the head of the class the teacher knows all of her students by name. At that very moment she knows all of their personalities and where they stand academically. She knows their educational needs and goals. It’s like that with God, I thought. Only bigger and better! We are students in His perpetual classroom.

At any given moment, God the Teacher stands before us at the head of the class. He knows each of us by name. He knows where we are in our training and what we need to reach our goals. God knows everything. There isn’t a question that He can’t answer. Yet sometimes instead of providing the answer He makes us work for it, knowing that in the process we learn to become more Christ-like.

So, if God is all-knowing, why do we have to pray for our needs and the needs of others? The answer is because through praying, we connect with the Teacher. It’s like staying after class to tell Mrs. Stapinski that you can't figure out a math problem. Mrs. Stapinski already knows that math isn't your best subject, and she knows how to help you. But to receive her help, you might have to ask for it.

1 John 3:20 says: "For God is greater than our hearts and he knows everything." Too often, I let logic lead my thinking, and I search for facts to fortify my faith. My Teacher knows that, too. When I questioned His omniscience, He knew that I couldn’t possibly understand the big picture. It’s far too complicated for a human. So, He used a simple object lesson that I could understand.

Is God really omniscient? Yes. By faith I believe that He is.

Meet Jackie Evancho

I'm adding a bonus post this week to share this amazing video with you. Listen to 10-year-old Jackie Evancho sing "Pie Jesu." From the Latin, "Pie Jesu" is often translated as "O Sweet Jesus."

This little girl is the definition of a God-given talent.

Lily and Hope

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Matthew 6:26

When I was little, my family and I traveled to a tiny resort tucked away in a northern Wisconsin forest. You might miss the place as you drive along Twin Lakes Road. Low-hanging branches veil its entrance. A sharp right turn down a winding gravel trail leads to five cabins set near the edge of an inland lake. Each cabin has a big picture window and a sign: DON’T FEED THE BEARS. I loved the bears. Almost every night a female bear came with her cubs, and I sat by the window watching them forage and wallow in the water.

I renewed my fascination for bears this year when I discovered the web site for the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota. The NABC is a non-profit organization that studies wild black bears, their role in ecosystems and their relationship with humans. The study bears wear radio collars that allow them to be tracked by a GPS system. An amazing researcher named Lynn Rogers, also called “The Bear Whisperer,” collars the bears. They trust him. “It’s me bear,” he calls to them, and they come.

On a cold January morning, a live web cam on the NABC website streamed video of a female bear, named Lily, as she gave birth to a single cub they called Hope.

Drama surrounded Hope from the beginning. In May, not long after the pair left their den, Lily deserted Hope twice. The second time they were separated for six weeks. Rogers worried. Could the cub survive on her own?

A feisty little bear, Hope always did the unexpected. Lynn Rogers and his associates tried to keep track of her as she scampered through the thick forest, and when she was big enough he fitted her with a radio collar. Rogers set out pans of formula similar to Lily’s breast milk hoping to keep her alive. Hope lapped it up. She also found food on her own, and at night she slept high in white pine trees, all alone.

Thousands of nature lovers follow the adventures of Lily and Hope on Facebook. They were relieved and thrilled when mother and daughter reunited on thier own and stayed together. As I write this, Lily and Hope glean the last of the forest’s foods and prepare to retreat to their den for winter.

Every day, Lily and Hope face drama in the forest: extreme weather changes, food shortages, dangerous predators and now hunters. It’s bear hunting season in Ely, and Rogers has tied colorful ribbons to the research bears’ collars to make them visible to hunters and flag that they are study bears. Will Lily and Hope survive to roam the forest for another summer? Only God knows the answer.

There is a verse in Leviticus 25:19, Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live there in safety. I think of that as I follow the adventures of Lily and Hope. God is like Lynn Rogers, caring for us, putting ribbons on our collars when hunters threaten and providing us with formula when there is no milk. God is our gracious provider, always watching us through His picture window. And best of all, He's never afraid to feed the bears.


On September 12, 2010, watch a replay of “Bearwalker of the Northwoods,” a Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom documentary about Lynn Rogers, on Animal Planet.

Read more about Lynn Rogers and his research bears at The North American Bear Center website.

Follow Lily the Black Bear on Facebook.

What Will You See?

“For through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see --”
Colossians 1:16 (NLT)

I got up early this morning, shoved my laptop into its carrying case, and headed to McDonald’s drive-thru for an iced coffee. Then I drove to the lakefront and parked the car in my favorite shady spot. It was almost eight o’clock. As usual, I put down the car's windows, and I moved to the front passenger seat where the steering wheel wouldn't be in the way of my laptop. Finally, I settled in to write.

The lakefront is a perfect place to write in the early morning. It's quiet there. An occasional jogger runs by or someone walks with a dog. Sometimes, a tractor rumbles across the beach with a sand rake smoothing the sand and removing driftwood and other debris. But mostly the only sounds are birds singing and seagulls squawking.

This morning, a young couple sat at a picnic table with their backs to the lake. Their conversation interrupted the quiet. I overheard them discussing their relationship, specifically whether they should stay together.

A little girl, four years old maybe, played nearby at the beach’s edge. “Look, Mommy!” I heard her squeal. She pointed toward the water. I looked, and I saw it, too, a tall ship drifting silently to the south bathed in the early morning sunlight. She ran to the picnic table and tugged on her mother’s arm. “Mommy! Come see!”

“Not now, Monique!” her mother scolded. “Daddy and I are talking!” The mother shifted her body on the bench and turned her back to Monique. The little girl plopped down in the grass and watched the ship sail away. I watched it, too. I ached to join her there in the grass and share her excitement of seeing a tall ship sailing on Lake Michigan.

As I sat listening, Monique’s parents decided to get a divorce. Her dad walked away. Her mother stayed at the table, buried her head in her hands and cried. Meanwhile, Little Monique skipped on the sandy beach playing with the gulls, oblivious that her life was about to change.

I remembered a quote by Henry David Thoreau. He said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Oh, what we miss when we turn our backs to the world around us. Tall ships sail unnoticed. Tears fall unobserved. Lives change forever.

Every morning, with each sunrise, God puts the whole world before us to see in a new way. How we see it is a choice. We can rejoice in the tall ships, dry tears with compassion, vow to make life better; or we can turn our backs and let life pass us by.

Psalm 118:4 says, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Whatever this day holds, we know that it is God’s day. He is working among us while our eyes are closed to what is right in front of us.

Open your eyes to the world this week. Maybe you'll see life differently.


Check out my newest book in Barbour's Camp Club Girls tween mystery series.
Available now at Amazon.com or from your favorite bookseller.

Molly the Owl

He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light.
Job 12:22

Lately, I’ve been addicted to the Owl Box Channel on UStream. I started watching a few weeks ago when almost every national news network carried the story of Molly the Owl and her brood.

Molly is a wild barn owl inhabiting an owl box in San Marcos, California. Homeowners Carlos and Donna Royal created the owl box to provide an atypical glimpse into the daily life of a common barn owl as she raises her young. A camera fixed inside allows viewers both day and night views of the owls.

Owls are nocturnal, so the infrared night cam provides the most interesting view. It reveals the mysteries of darkness, events that go unnoticed while the world is asleep.

In the darkness, Molly sits on four perfect eggs. A tiny pip hole appears in one of them. The hole grows larger. Then, with a little help from Molly, the egg breaks open revealing a tiny owlet, feeble and featherless. Molly consumes the eggshell. She warms the owlet with her brood patch, a sparsely feathered patch on her belly. In the period of a week, viewers watch until all four owlets hatch and are squawking for food.

Every night, thousands of viewers tune in to wait for McGee, Molly’s mate, to show up with a treat. (Yes, thousands of viewers! The Owl Channel has had more than 16 million unique hits since it went live in January.) A camera outside the owl box allows viewers to see when McGee arrives. He usually has a mouse, rat, rabbit or gopher dangling from his beak. Quickly, he drops it inside the owl box door. Molly grabs it, dissects it and feeds it to her young.

There’s plenty of drama in the owl box. Occasionally, an intruder, a rogue owl, tries to enter the box. Molly attacks, wings spread, talons ready. The intruder flies off into the darkness. Last week, two of the owlets died. No one knows why. But God knows. He knows everything that goes on in the owl box. The owl box viewers mourned the deaths of little Kelly and Jody (the Royals named all the owls). In the site’s chat room, viewers wondered what had happened to the owlets and speculated about the causes of their deaths. If they had been watching the outside camera at that moment, they might have noticed this.

In the daylight, two sunbeams rising up from the owl box door. Two little lives returning to God.

Psalm 121:3 says, He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber.

In the darkness, God is all seeing and all knowing. He does not sleep.

Read more about Molly the Owl here.


Check out my newest book in Barbour's Camp Club Girls tween mystery series.
Available now at Amazon.com or from your favorite bookseller.

Behold the Dragonfly

For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part;
but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:12 (ASV)

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I grew up across the street from Lake Michigan. Between our house and the lakeshore was a strip of prairie land, and in late summer swarms of dragonflies always showed up there. When I say swarms, I’m not kidding. Thousands of dragonflies formed black clouds along the shoreline. I noticed them when the rest of the world seemed silent. I stood quietly wondering if I could hear the dry rattling of their wings. But I couldn’t.

My grandmother said that in her day dragonflies were called “darning needles” and they sewed children's mouths shut if they were sassy to their parents. This terrified me. Dragonflies seemed to be curious about humans. They flew around and close to me -- and I was a sassy little kid. You don’t hear a dragonfly coming until it’s right in front of you, and if it wanted to sew your mouth shut it could. One day, a neighbor boy stood in the field and raised one arm, index finger extended. He said it had something to do with dragonflies seeking the highest point. When he allowed a dragonfly to land on his finger, I thought he was very brave. He must have been a good boy, too, because the dragonfly left him alone.

I feel sorry for people who are too busy to notice the dragonflies. The genius of God’s perfect design is so evident in these amazing creatures. For centuries scientists have studied them, especially their wings and their eyes. Two sets of delicate wings allow dragonflies to hover, fly loops, go backward and sideways. They can come to a complete stop at 30 miles per hour. And their large multifaceted eyes are made up of thousands of lenses making it possible for them to see nearly 360 degrees around them.

Last week, I was writing in my car at the lakeshore when I noticed hundreds of dragonflies darting around. Their teal bodies reflected the radiance of the sunlight bouncing off the sparkling water. Now, instead of being afraid of them, I’m curious. The world seemed silent to me again, like it had when I was a child. Focused only on the dragonflies, I got out of the car and raised one arm, index finger extended. Surprise! One did land on my finger. She clung tight to me as I lowered my hand to get a better look. I wondered how she saw me through those many lenses in her bulging eyes.

In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul says our understanding of God is like “looking in a mirror darkly.” In Paul’s time, mirrors cast an imperfect image. Sometimes, the glass reflected multiple images of an object creating an effect much like the way dragonflies must see. I suppose that’s the way the dragonfly saw me, a garbled image of something bigger and greater then she could begin to fathom.

Mother Teresa once said, “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature -- trees, flowers, grass -- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence....”

And so do the dragonflies move in silence, seeing us in a mirror darkly the same way we see God.

Have you noticed the dragonflies this summer? Stop, savor the silence, raise your hand and see if one rests on your finger.


Check out my newest book in Barbour's Camp Club Girls tween mystery series.
Available now at Amazon.com or from your favorite bookseller.

Need to Clean the Bathtub? Rejoice!

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us.
Psalm 67:1

“Sit back, relax, and enjoy the next eight weeks.” That’s what the doctor said when he discharged me from the hospital.

Six weeks ago, I looked forward to doing nothing but lounging on the sofa reading books, watching movies and catching up with my Facebook friends.

But now, there’s one thing I can tell you with certainty. Relaxation isn't all that it's cracked up to be. It can turn to boredom real fast. There were so many little things I took for granted until I couldn't do them anymore.

Here’s what I said to God about it:

Dear God.
Until I had surgery, I didn’t notice your daily blessings. Oh, how much I took for granted --

  • Driving,
  • Vacuuming,
  • Carrying the laundry basket,
  • Washing and sweeping floors,
  • Stretching to reach something high on a shelf,
  • Lifting more than 10 pounds of anything,
  • Weeding my flowerbeds,
  • Cutting the grass,
  • Hauling out the garden hose,
  • Bending effortlessly to pick something up,
  • Changing the bed sheets,
  • Moving heavy boxes of book samples (especially when Fed Ex leaves them on my front porch),
  • Climbing on a ladder to change a light bulb,
  • Putting away the red-white-and-blue holiday banner that’s been above the picture window since Memorial Day,
  • Taking myself to the grocery store, or anywhere else,
  • Pushing a shopping cart loaded with groceries and putting the bags in my car,
  • Getting down on my knees to scour the bathtub, and kneeling to pray,
  • Reaching past my swollen belly to cut my toenails,
  • Having enough energy to cook a big meal and then wash the dishes,
  • Enjoying long days of active summer fun with my friends . . . and, oh, so many more wonderful little things.

Thank you, God, for being gracious to me, for blessing me, for making your face shine upon me. I’m getting to the end of my recovery now, and I can’t wait for that special day when I can haul the trashcans to the curb all by myself!


How about you? What little things do you take for granted? The next time you lift your toddler to put him in the highchair, and get down on your hands and knees to clean up the cereal he spilled all over the floor, and then pick up the sea of toys he left strewn around, shout to the Lord with thanksgiving! Take my word for it. You are so blessed to bend, stretch, lift, push, pull and carry.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18


I'm proud to be a contributing author to the following series of humorous devotionals.
And check out my "Kid's Bible Dictionary" and pre-teen mysteries, also from Barbour.

See all the books in the Camp Club Girls series.

See all the books in the Camp Club Girls series.
Click on the picture.
I am the author of these books, but I have not been compensated for mentioning them on this blog or linking them to the seller's website. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

By Max Lucado, Published by Thomas Nelson
Max Lucado has a unique way with words, and his children's book Hermie A Common Caterpillar is no exception. With simple text and bright, watercolor illustrations, the story of Hermie unfolds.

Hermie wonders why he looks and feels so common. Whenever he asks God why, God simply answers, "I'm not finished with you yet." Then, one day, Hermie feels very tired. He gets into his cozy, leafy bed, and he sleeps. And while Hermie sleeps a transformation takes place. When he wakes up, Hermie discovers that God has done something grand. You can guess what it is. Every caterpillar that lives to adulthood knows the end of the story.

Parents, please share this book and its powerful message with your children. We are all special because God loves us, and He has a unique purpose for our lives. Whenever we slump into feeling ordinary, we know that we have hope because . . .God isn't finished with us yet!

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

©text on this blog copyrighted 2012 by Jean Fischer unless otherwise credited. You may link to the blog, but please don't reprint the text without my permission.

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