December 26, 2007

Bible Reading for 2008

I have been thinking about my Bible reading plan for next year a lot and think I am finally settled on the following program:

Mornings

-Read Starting Your Day Right by Joyce Meyer
-Read one chapter from Old Testament
-Read Matthew Henry Commentary

I reverted back to my 365-Day Bible (NIV), which I have read two times already. This format just works better for me -- I like that I just turn to the correct date and read the selection. It is an easy "no brainer" for me to do each am.

Evenings

-Read My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
-Read Psalms and Proverbs (one per night) from Amplified
-Read one chapter from New Testament

Ok, good idea, but not working. I am using my KJV Bible instead of Amplified and I keep on forgetting to read Chambers first!

Devotional Reading

Desiring God by John Piper
The Institutes by John Calvin from ccel.org
Sermons from spurgeon.org
More Pink, Packer and Tozer

This year, I read a similar program but used my NIV Daily Walk Bible in the morning and my King James Bible in the evening. The previous year, I read NIV DWB and Amplified. I have a real preference for reading the AMP so I am going to keep it for my evening program ad infinitum. I have a brand new ESV (Christmas 2007) that has barely been read so 2008 is going to be the year it gets broken in and really read (read well!) I would like to pick up a good AMP this year as well because the copy I have is a very old edition (hardback) and is now rainbow colored from my high liters. I think I may take a trip to Half Price books and see if I can find a new copy at half price!

One thing I plan to continue to do is read Psalms and Proverbs daily. I started doing this in 2006 and have found it to be foundational to my sense of well-being and peace. I like to read them in the evening because they settle my mind and send me off to sleep with a sense of being well-protected and sheilded. I am a VSL (visual-spatial) person and as such have always had a vivid imagination. As a child, I suffered from night terrors and have always found that Satan preferred to attack me during the night hours. Reading the Psalms and then spending time in worship is the best defense against any attack, but for me, it just covers me with God's mighty hand and I sleep in His tender mercy and peace.

So that is the plan for 2008. It will probably change once I get going on it, but one thing is for sure: I do plan to read am and pm, every single day of the year. I have found my daily reading to be instrumental to my faith in God and in my trust and reliance upon Him for my every need. There is something wonderful about spending time in God's Word -- it changes you and then gives you a new and better understanding of how to deal with and live in the world around you.

Be blessed!

December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas from our family to yours...


Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and wonderful and blessed New Year!

[I thought I would post our Christmas newsletter to my blog this year instead of actually sending it out via email or through the post. I don't know, maybe I am getting old or maybe I am just a bit lazy this year. Maybe I am "hip" with the new technology and think that this is a much better way to send out our greetings and news! Oh well....]

Dear family and friends,

This has been an incredibly interesting year for our family. It started out as normal as could be and we (David and me) expected it to be about the same as it has for every other year of our 23 years of marriage. The new year began without much fanfare, even though every New Year's is a celebration of David's birthday (Jan. 4th). The winter months passed without any major upsets or interruptions.

David continued to work as a marketing consultant with MMRT, his marketing consulting firm. He helped several of his clients achieve new sales and marketing goals as well as encourage 30-40 business professionals each week through his Mastermind Roundtable groups.

I was involved in AWANA at Scottsdale Bible Church and completed my 10th year as a Director/Leader. This past year I served as Sparks Director (along with a sweet gal) and helped organize and orchestrate our weekly club meetings for about 100 K-2nd grade students. I also had the opportunity to teach the 3-6th graders in our weekly Council time meetings (what a great blessing to me!) I also continued to work for AceWeb Promotions, my web design and hosting company. 2007 marked my 10th year as a web designer!

DJ completed 8th grade at Arete Classical Christian Academy (our home school.) He continued to excel in school and also as a pianist. He performed in several recitals and even arranged two musical selections for the "Strings and Things" chamber group. He has enjoyed Youth group at Paradise Valley Church (my parents church) and attended both the winter and summer retreats. The highlight of DJ's summer was his baptism in May 2007!

Our family plans for fall included beginning High School (at home), more music/lessons, as well as working in our home offices (David in sales and me in web design). However, the Lord had different plans for us and on June 1, we were all shocked to find out exactly what He intended for us. My dear husband suffered a mild heart attack, really a precursor attack or a warning sign on June 30. His left arterial descended artery was 85% blocked and he ended up in the hospital for 5 days in July. Thankfully, the doctors were able to clear the blockage with a stent and after a couple very scary days of uncontrolled blood pressure (and fear of stroke), David was able to go home. The months that followed were not as easy nor as "normal" as we had hoped. David had a difficult time adjusting to the medication and found the side effects to be intolerable. Most days he was unable to work or drive due to the light-headedness and marked weakness in his body.

The days seemed to fly on by and before we knew it, Christmas 2007 was around the corner. David has been able to become more acclimated to his medication and while still not feeling 100%, after 6 months, does feel more like himself now. He was finally able to resume a full-time schedule with his clients and is looking forward to a more prosperous 2008. I had cut back on my work schedule in an effort to prepare and teach 9th grade to DJ, but with our mounting uncertainty over work and finances, decided it was best for me to work more hours. DJ has done amazing well with 9th grade and is developing as quite an excellent pianist. He has performed in recital and also with the chamber group (twice in December). He also gave a private performance to the residents at the Life Care Center of Scottsdale (the rehab and nursing facility where Grandpa David is until January, 2008.) David Sr. (David's dad) fell on December 9th and was hospitalized with compression fractures in his back. He moved to the Life Care Center on December 13th and has been having physical therapy daily since then. It is our hope that he will be able to come home sometime after the New Year.

So as our year winds down to these remaining days, we look back and wonder how it was possible for us to start off with such high expectations and end with complete uncertainty for our future. David faces his 50th birthday next week and has wondered what the "next' years will bring for him. He has finally returned to an exercise routine and is determined to lose a few extra pounds. I am anxious to begin the new year and know that the Lord has a mighty and wonderful plan for each of our lives.

God has been so faithful to us through this entire year. He has graciously provided medical care, finances, provisions (food and shelter) as well as spiritual nurturing. We are truly blessed and are amazed at His mercy and grace. There has not been a day pass by that we haven't thanked Him for His presence in our lives and for giving us a future filled with hope and peace. We know, of course, that complications and the stresses of every day life abound, but God has promised us that He will never leave us nor forsake us and that His peace will surround us and bind us to Him. We are indebted to Him and are trusting and relying on Him for our daily bread.

As we spend the day worshipping our Lord and remembering that first Christmas morning, I am reminded of something our new Pastor shared with us Christmas eve. Pastor Jamie gave the most interesting message on Luke 2:1-20. I always think how difficult it must be to preach the same Christmas story over and over again. For most of us, we have heard the story so many times that we tend to not pay much attention when it is read each year. However, this year, Pastor Jamie said something that has changed my perspective on the entire Christmas message. He said (I am paraphrasing) that "your perspective on Christmas determines your expected outcome or experience." Ok, so not earthshaking new information, as most of us realize the that what we "think" can indeed alter or determine our experience or outcome (post-modern psychobabble with a kernal of truth tucked in there). Generally speaking...if we are positive people, always thinking of the "good", we do tend to experience a more upbeat and positive outcome, no matter the situation or circumstance (aka Norman Vincent Peale and his power of positive thinking approach). But, as good pastors do, he didn't just give us a mealy-milktoast type of "think good thoughts and experience good things" type of message. No, oh my, no! Instead he went on to explain five different views or perspectives on the birth of Jesus Christ and then brought them up-to-date with a modern twist. [An aside: we are grateful that God has brought us a true theologian to our pulpit and are blessed to learn as the Spirit gives wings to his words each week!] They were: passion, practical, prophetic, political and personal (embodied by the shepherds, the magi, Simeon, Herod, and Mary). While all of all these views, none of which are bad or necessarily wrong, do deal with a part or aspect of the Christmas message, it is only one that really gets to the core of the truth -- the reason Christ came and was born on that Christmas morn. The one view he encouraged us all to contemplate was that of Mary, Jesus' mother. His reference verse was Luke 2:19:

But Mary was keeping within herself all these things
(sayings), weighing and pondering them in her heart.

[If you are interested in hearing his entire message, click here to download it.]
My paraphase again -- Mary had been told my the angel what to expect and she believed him. When Jesus was born and the world was in chaos around her, she still believed that her child was "God my Savior". I am sure that Mary was quite surprised by the shepherds praising God, by the magi giving gifts, by Simeon's blessing, and by Herod's hatred of the baby Jesus. However, her faith never wavered and she believed what the angel had told to her so many months before. Mary treasured the truth and pondered them (or thought about them much) in her heart.

Yes, Pastor Jamie's message spoke to my heart last night and reminded me of the many ways I could approach Christmas day. Thanks to God's gracious Spirit who gives understanding and light, I now have a better way to ponder the wonderful gift of Jesus the Christ.

Therefore, as we look forward to the new year, it is my prayer that "we keep within ourselves all these things (sayings), weighing and pondering them in our hearts." Let us not forget why God sent His Son to us and how we may receive Him. Let us not lose heart nor lose our perspective when the chaos of the moment or that unfortunate circumstance comes into our lives next year. Let us treasure up the Lord Jesus Christ and remember Him always.

December 22, 2007

Grandma Nanny's Kifli and Sand Tart Cookies


My grandmother always made Kifli (Hungarian Walnut Cookies) every year at Christmas. These wonderful walnut-filled cookies were a favorite in our house. Each year, my grandmother would send us a package containing Kifli, Sand Dollar cookies, and homemade egg noodles. A few years ago, I decided to try my hand at both cookies and they turned out delicious (though my Kifli didn't turn out as pretty as Nanny made them -- they were still yummy.) I haven't made her noodles yet, but do have her recipe. I might just try them this year -- maybe for New Year's dinner. Hmmmm.....sounds good!

Here is her recipe for making Kifli.

Kifli (Hungarian Walnut Cookies)
Yield: 6 Dozen

Dough:
4 3/4 cups Unsifted all-purpose flour
2 cups Butter or margarine
4 large Egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 cup Sour cream

Filling:
1 1/4 lb Shelled walnuts (about 5 Cups), ground
1 cup Granulated sugar
1/2 cup Milk
1 tbl. Almond extract

Glaze:
1 large Egg, beaten
Confectioners' sugar


Make dough: in a large bowl, place flour and butter. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg yolks and sour cream; stir with a fork until combined.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board or pastry cloth. Knead dough with your hands until it is smooth and can be shaped into a ball. If dough is too sticky, knead in more flour. If desired, wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Make filling: in a medium-sized bowl, place ground walnuts, granulated sugar, milk and almond extract. Using a wooden spoon, stir in walnut mixture until ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease baking sheets with solid vegetable shortening.

To shape Kifli: divide dough into quarters; wrap three of quarters separately in plastic wrap and set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll out remaining quarter of dough to a 15" x 12" rectangle that is 1/8" thick.

Using a pastry wheel, cut rectangle of dough into 3-inch squares. Place a heaping teaspoon of walnut filling in center of each square; bring one corner of dough over filling to opposite corner; pinch edges together.

Place Kifli on baking sheets; brush with beaten egg. Bake for 10 minutes or until cookies are golden brown. Remove from baking sheet. Fill bottom of a pie plate with confectioners' sugar. Roll Kifli in sugar. Let cool on wire racks. Repeat steps with remaining three quarters of dough.

Here is the recipe for Sand Dollars (with Walnuts)

Walnut Sand Tart Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg, separated
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Walnut halves or Almonds if you have them

Preparation

Beat 1 cup softened butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add 2 cups sifted powdered sugar, beating until well blended. Add 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, beating until blended.

Combine flour and baking powder. Add to butter mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Shape dough into a ball, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 1 hour.

Roll dough to an 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface; cut with a 3-inch round cutter. Place on lightly greased, parchment paper-lined baking sheets; brush with lightly beaten egg white.

Stir together granulated sugar and ground cinnamon, and sprinkle evenly over cookies. Gently press walnut half into the center of each cookie.

Bake at 350° for 4 minutes; remove pan from oven, and gently press walnuts into cookies again. Bake 4 more minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove cookies to wire racks to cool.

December 16, 2007

Man in Black

My 14yo has decided that it is cool to look cool now. He was dressed in black for the Macklin Music Studio "Strings and Things" Christmas concert at our local mall. DJ played piano accompaniment for 13 violinists. He definitely looked cool in his Rat-Pack hat!

BTW - the concert was great and the kids did an awesome job! The kids will play for the Veteran's Hospital next Friday.

December 9, 2007

Grace Unleashed

Our new pastor, Jamie Rasmussen, preached on the topic of Grace this past month. These are the best messages I have ever heard on the doctrine of Grace and literally had me stuck to my seat during the entire sermon. I wanted to share them with you and encourage you to download them, listen to them and then share them with your family and friends. If you have never heard the truth of the Grace message preached, hold on because you are about to hear something that will change your life forever. Give them a try and let the Spirit of God move you to a new understanding of His Marvelous gift of Grace.

Listen in order as they build on one another.

1. The World of Ungrace
http://sermons.scottsdalebible.com/sermons/11182007JRasmussen.mp3

2. Living in Grace
http://sermons.scottsdalebible.com/sermons/11252007JRasmussen.mp3

3. When Grace Doesn't Seem Fair
http://sermons.scottsdalebible.com/sermons/12022007JRasmussen.mp3

4. Grace Changes Everything
http://sermons.scottsdalebible.com/sermons/12092007JRasmussen.mp3

I pray you will be blessed.

December 7, 2007

Some Christmas Thoughts...

There is just something sweet and wonderful
about this kind of holiday picture.

It makes me long for the days of Norman Rockwell
and Frank Capra's vision in "It's a Wonderful Life."



December 4, 2007

Grace abounds

Have you ever argued with someone only to find that you were speaking different languages? No matter how hard you tried to stay on point, your opponent seemed to be slightly off-topic. You would try and try again, but each time you tried to bring them back to the point, it was as if you were simply swatting in the air and not matching blows. It can be frustrating and at some point you just give up, realizing that you will never connect, you will never meet eye-to-eye, you will never be able to see their side of things (or vice versa).

This very thing has happened to me several times recently and it has made me stop and think a little more deeply about it. It has also made me stop and consider my words BEFORE I sit down to write a post or respond with a comment. The other day I was reading through the book of Proverbs (as I do every day) and came across this passage:
"THE PROVERBS (truths obscurely expressed, maxims, and parables) of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 2That people may know skillful and godly Wisdom and instruction, discern and comprehend the words of understanding and insight,Receive instruction in wise dealing and the discipline of wise thoughtfulness, righteousness, justice, and integrity, That prudence may be given to the simple, and knowledge, discretion, and discernment to the youth--The wise also will hear and increase in learning, and the person of understanding will acquire skill and attain to sound counsel [so that he may be able to steer his course rightly]--That people may understand a proverb and a figure of speech or an enigma with its interpretation, and the words of the wise and their dark sayings or riddles.The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning and the principal and choice part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; but fools despise skillful and godly Wisdom, instruction, and discipline." Proverbs 1:1-8

If you read the first chapter of this book, you will immediately get an idea of why Solomon believed so strongly in the virtue and power of Wisdom. This book is full of his encouragement to get wisdom, to get understanding, to get discernment. Solomon longed for all his subjects to be wise in every area of their lives and knew that the only true form of wisdom is of the Lord. Throughout all 31 chapters, Solomon never ceases to extol the virtue of Wisdom and he made it very clear that it was available to all who sought after it. It wasn't reserved for the King only, but it was available to the most common of men. It was and still is available to all who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ -- we can be wise, we can discern, and we can be empowered to give and receive skillful and godly Wisdom.

As I read this passage, I began to mediate on the last line where Solomon writes: but fools despise skillful and godly Wisdom, instruction, and discipline. I realized then that whenever we discuss or debate any issue or topic, we must first understand to whom we are engaging in conversation. Are we speaking with wise men and women or are we speaking with the fool who despises skillful and godly Wisdom? It is vitally important to understand to whom we are speaking because we end up wasting a great deal of time and energy trying to share wisdom with a person who has no desire or need of it. Now, I am not saying that I am all-wise or all-knowing, heaven forbid it, but the point is that if you are trusting the Lord and seeking Him for His guidance, then you are counted among those who diligently seek Wisdom. You do have the power to speak wisdom and discernment and you can be wise.

Furthermore, I realized that there are two very realms in this world, the physical and the spiritual, and that unless you are battling in the same realm, you and your opponent will never meet together on any point. It is as if you are standing on the side of a very large chasm and you shout out into the voided space and then hope that your opponent who is standing on the other side will "hear" you. Your opponent does the very same thing and shouts out to you, but the words never seem to make it across the deep cavern. They get lost somewhere in the middle and the pursuit of conversation ends up tiring and frustrating for both.

As I started to think about this very point, something became very clear to me. As a child of grace, I am uniquely positioned in BOTH the spiritual and physical realm. While I live in the physical presence, the here and now, I am able to experience the spiritual because I am a blood-bought born again believer in Jesus Christ. The closer I draw nigh to Him, the more and more I experience of the spiritual and the more I come to enjoy it and long for it. Some days I wake up and have the deepest longing to be with Him, to be removed from my physical body and to fully engulfed in His presence. Other days, I am thankful for the opportunity to experience this life and to enjoy the physical relationships God has given to me: my family, my friends, my church, my community. I am struck by the beauty of God's creation and I cry out to Him and thank Him for the grace to live today.