Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to all

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 (Is 9:6).

(me, my husband, and our oldest daughter who is now 23 years old)

Christmas 1989

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Raspberry Shortbread

This last recipe is my all-time favorite Christmas cookie recipe. These cookies will melt in your mouth.

1 c butter (no substitutes), softened
2/3 c sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 c flour
raspberry jam or preserves


1 c confectioner's sugar
2-3 tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in extract; gradually add flour until dough forms a ball. Roll into 1 inch balls and place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet. Use your thumb to make an indentation in the center. Fill with raspberry jam. Bake 350 degrees for 14-18 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool. Combine glaze ingredients; drizzle over cookies. Makes about 3 dozen.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bon bons

This next recipe is probably my youngest daughter's favorite. Last week she invited several girlfriends over for a Christmas cookie bake-off, and this recipe was considered the favorite by all the girls. Even one of her friend's father begs for them every year, promising to pay my daughter big bucks if she'll make up a batch for him. They taste similar to Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. So if you like those, I'm sure you'll love these!

1 1/2 c peanut butter, creamy or crunchy
1/2 c butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
16 oz confectionery sugar
12 oz bag chocolate chips, melted

Mix first 4 ingredients together well and refrigerate 1-2 hours. Melt the chocolate chips. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll into 1 inch balls. Using a toothpick as a handle, dip balls into melted chocolate. Put on wax-papered cookie sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Since this is the season to be baking all kinds of sweets, I thought I'd contribute to the vast Christmas cookie recipe exchanges going on right now by blogging about a few of my own favorites.

This first recipe only recently became a favorite. A good friend from church gave it to me just last week, and because it's so wonderful, it quickly jumped to the top of my list. It's incredibly easy, too.

1 c sugar
2 sticks butter (no substitutes)
3 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla
1 pkg Hershey bars (6 bars)
chopped pecans, almonds, or walnuts

Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan, cooking on medium high until candy thermometer reaches 300 degrees; about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour onto wax paper-lined cookie sheet and spread evenly with spatula. Lay chocolate bars on top, allow to melt, then spread to edges of candy mixture. Sprinkle with nuts. Put in freezer for 1-2 hours until hard. Break into pieces while still frozen and store in container. Can store at room temperature.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Hymn

Yesterday was a melancholy day. I always feel a little sad the day after our final church choir and orchestra Christmas concert. I suppose that's understandable. The concerts aren't ahead anymore; I'm no longer looking forward to them.

Every September we begin practicing the songs we will sing for these concerts. Week after week we pour over notes, words, timing, expression, etc... We even put in extra Saturday morning practices once a month. Yet somehow the concerts (there's four of them) still sneak up on me. And once we begin to sing/play the first song of the first concert, all four concerts are over in a flash. Rather reminds me of Thanksgiving dinner; we bake and prepare for days in advance, but once everyone sits down to eat, it's all gone in a moment.

So the Christmas concerts are over once more. They're done. I'm not quite as melancholy today. Today I'm reflecting on the music we sang. There was one song in particular, our closing song, that was my uncontested favorite. The words so well express what Christ has done for us and who we are in Him. Because of Christ, we ARE the sons of God on earth, His righteousness our worth. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift (2 Cor 9:15)!

Here it is:

Praise to God whose love was shown
Who sent his Son to earth
Jesus left his rightful throne
Became a man by birth

The virgin's baby son
All creation praised Him
God incarnate come
Come to Bethlehem

Still a higher call had He
Deliverance from our sins
Come to set all people free
From Satan's hold within

For by the sin of man we fell
By the Son of God
He crushed the power of Hell
Death we fear no more

Now we stand with strength, with power
The sons of God on earth
Faithful to the final hour
Christ's righteousness our worth

And now all praise is given
For the babe, the Son
The Savior King is risen
Christ is Lord indeed

For the babe, the Son
The Savior King is risen
Christ is Lord indeed

By Amy Grant/Michael W Smith

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Divine Communication - dreams

Clearly God used dreams to communicate with man all through the OT. He communicated information through dreams (Gen. 20:3; 31:10-13, 24; Num 12:5-6), sent Jacob the dream of the ascending and descending angels on the ladder (Gen. 28:10-15), and also gave King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon important dreams about the coming empires of human history. Daniel interpreted those dreams and the rest is—well, history (Dan 1:17; 2; 7).

But were all dreams communication from God? Ecclesiastes would indicate not - "For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words" (Eccl 5:3) and "For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness" (Eccl 5:7).

It is interesting to note that in the ancient near east, dreams were seen as very important to both Jew and Gentile alike. For example, in Egypt there was a class of professional dream interpreters whose job it was to explain people's dreams. A rather lengthy dream interpretation textbook from ancient Egypt has even been unearthed that lists various things dreamt and their appropriate meanings. The part of the Jewish Talmud written during the Babylonian captivity is also full of dream interpretations and ways of dealing with them. Is all this what Eccl 5:3, 7 is referring to?

We also see God communicating to man through dreams in the early part of the NT (Matt 1:20; 2:12-13, 19, 22). The last dream recorded in the Bible is found at the end of Matthew where Pilot’s wife warns him to leave Jesus alone:

While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, "Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him” (Matt 27:19).

Whether this was of God or her uneasy conscience is unclear.

Dreams are mentioned two more times in the NT (though not about specific dreams experienced); one is regarding a prophesy that included dreams (Acts 2:17), and the other speaks of false dreams (Jude 1:8). In all, dreams are spoken of about 121 times in the Bible.

I wasn't really sure what I'd find when I started researching this topic. But I must say I was quite surprised to find so many books and on-line sites devoted to the subject of dreams. I was equally surprised at how passionate people are about whether or not dreams can be communication from God today. I will discuss three of the main beliefs I came across, though there are many variations of these three beliefs as well.

First of all, some question whether dreams were ever communication from God. A couple of the authors I've read recently on the subject of dreams in ancient Babylon have concluded that since Babylonian tablets older than Biblical texts have been found, it is obvious that the Hebrews merely copied from the cultures around them, and that God didn’t really communicate through dreams at all — it was only in the Israelites’ heads. Interestingly, these authorities do see that the Israelites never needed interpreters to explain their dreams; the meaning was always obvious to them. And they (like Joseph and Daniel) even interpreted dreams for foreigners. But none of this is attributed to God either. Instead they credit the “undeniable religious genius of the Hebrews” that obviously included “a greater and more popular exercise of psychic qualities than characterized the other people of the Bible World." These same authorities also claim that since the Babylonians had creation and flood epic myths that preceded the writing of Genesis by about two to three thousand years, it is certain these were taken by the early Israelites while in Babylon as well. Why can’t these so-called intellectuals see that every society is descended from Noah and his three sons, and that all these “stories” came from them?! It goes without saying that those who hold this view do not believe God is communicating to any of us through dreams today.

A second opinion I came across is, that since God communicated through dreams in the past, there is no reason to think He is not still doing so today; especially since Peter’s quote of Joel 2:28 in Acts 2:17 indicates that the time when the Spirit is poured out has arrived. They are careful to say we need to be discerning in how we apply this truth today; that we must remember that the Bible is finished, having revealed everything we need to know from now until eternity. However, they still hold that any dream could be a communication from God, as long as the person having the dream is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and as long as the dream does not conflict with Scripture.

And finally, the third view is, that although God communicated through dreams in the Bible, He no longer does so today because the canon of Scripture is now complete, meaning God does not have further things to reveal to nations or individuals that are not in the Bible. They further believe that the Bible is all sufficient in directing us in finding and carrying out the will of God for our lives without the need of a dream, that it is our new nature which enables us to understand the things of God, and that the Holy Spirit is our guide.

So what do you think?

I would have to agree with the third view. I certainly cannot countenance the first one, for it puts no stock in the inerrancy or literal interpretation of Scripture. As for the second opinion and its reference to Acts 2:17 as proof text, it seems to me that if there is anything the Book of Acts makes perfectly clear, it is the fact that a revolutionary change has taken place since Pentecost. And rather than showing us an exact pattern to follow, I believe Acts explains the transitional years. Additionally, when reading Joel 2:28, it is clear that this prophecy belongs to the Hebrew people, and that it still awaits its full completion. With this in mind and the fact that the canon of Scripture is complete, I believe that all communication from God is only through the Bible. And while the Spirit may provide comfort during a frightening dream, I don't think He "creates" or "sends" dreams or communicates any information apart from Scripture the dreamer already knows.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Turning 50

Today I turned 50 years old. Quite a milestone, in a sense. I'm now eligible to become a member of AARP for one thing. Can't beat that with a stick. Ha! I think I'll pass. But I've been thinking, taking stock, of my life up to this point. I've now lived 50 years, but what have I done, what have I got to show for it?

I haven't risen to the top of my field. Oh wait, I don't have a field. So that may explain that one. I haven't accumulated millions, probably because I haven't risen to the top of my field. I've never been written up in the newspaper for any great acts of heroism or deeds of charity. I'm not even a prominent member of our church, a member yes (anybody can do that, though), but prominent, no.

Wait now, come the 29th of this month I'll be celebrating 30 years of marriage. But can I count that as any great accomplishment if I've been happily married all those years? What's the big deal if it hasn't been a struggle? I (we) have managed to raise one daughter to adulthood, and our second daughter is very close to adulthood now. That certainly wasn't (isn't) easy. So that's something.

Oh, I have done a few other things too, I guess. I've had the opportunity to do a lot of singing in church and on both the radio and TV. I've always been a trustworthy and hard worker, no matter what job I've held. And, I'm usually a good neighbor.

Probably the best that can be said about my life to date is that by the grace of God I've managed to live it fairly quietly, minding my own business, and working with my hands (1 Thes 4:11-12). That's not too bad, I guess. Actually, I think it's pretty okay.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

God's loving plan

Grace be to you and peace
Though days be dark about us.
God's working out His plan
All enemies regardless.
We know that Bethlehem's Babe
Once crucified, is risen
And seated now above,
At God's right hand in heaven.
And soon He'll come again
His loved ones to deliver.
We'll share His glory then
Forever and Forever.
So while we watch and wait
O, may His love constraining
Help us to live for Him
In all the hours remaining.

-- C.R.S.