Monday, December 28, 2009

Attention All Jane Austen Lovers!!!

While Sis and I were crusing Books A Million this afternoon, we stumbled upon a new edition of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility." I swear, just a few weeks ago I was complaining to Sis that Bethany House should release more Jane Austen books. Of course I bought it, any obsessed Jane Austen fan would (even though she already own the book LOL!).

For those familiar with Bethany House Publishing Company, back 2007 they released the esquisite Insight Edition of "Pride and Prejudice." The "Pride and Prejudice" edition included an introduction by the highly ecclaimed author Nancy Moser, who wrote a bio-fiction of Jane Austen's life called, "Just Jane" (She is also the author of How Do I Love Thee?" the bio-fiction of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's life).

Well, the introduction of this new "Sense and Sensibility" edition was written by none other than Julie Klassen, author of Regency masterpieces "Lady of Milkweed Manor," "The Apothecary's Daughter" and the newly released "The Silent Governess."

Unlike most editions, the Insight Edition includes comments throughout the whole book, on Austen's life, little-known-facts about the book, information on the Regency Era, and tid-bits about the movies inspired by these classic books.

I'm sure within a few years time, all of Jane Austen's beloved classics shall be re-released as Insight Editions. I can't wait for Emma. Dear God, let them put Mr. Knightley on the cover!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Night God Came to Dinner

Adapted from a story by Rod Ohira

Fritz Vincken owns a bakery just outside of downtown Honolulu. He dispenses warmth and a smile along with hot buns and fresh bread to his loyal customers. Fritz has lived in the Hawaiian islands for many years now, and when he first arrived he was enchanted by the kindness and goodwill of the Islands' people. When asked, however, he admits that for him, the ideal of aloha was first learned long ago - when he was a lad of twelve.

The setting was on the other side of the world from Hawai'i, on a harsh winter night in the Ardennes Forest near the German-Belgian border. It was December, and two months had passed since Hubert Vincken brought his wife and his son Fritz to a small cottage in the Ardennes Forest for their safety. The family's home and its eighty-eight-year-old bakery in Aachen (Aix-La-Chapelle) had been destroyed in a bombing raid.

"We were isolated," Fritz recalled. "Every three or four days, my father would ride out from town on his bicycle to bring us food. When the snow came, he had to stop." His mother was concerned that their food was in very short supply, as the war seemed to be moving closer to their cottage of refuge.

By late December the cottage was no longer out of harm's way. German troops surprised and overwhelmed the Allies on December 16, turning the Ardennes Forest into a killing field.

On Christmas Eve, Elisabeth and Fritz tried to block out the distant sound of gunfire as they sat down to their supper of oatmeal and potatoes.

"At that moment, I heard human voices outside, speaking quietly," Fritz remembered. "Mother blew out the little candle on the table and we waited in fearful silence.

"There was a knock at the door. Then another. When my mother opened the door, two men were standing outside. They spoke a strange language and pointed to a third man sitting in the snow with a bullet wound in his upper leg. We knew they were American soldiers. They were cold and weary.

"I was frightened and wondered what in the world my mother would do. She hesitated for a moment. Then she motioned the soldiers into the cottage, turned to me and said, 'Get six more potatoes from the shed.'"

Elisabeth and one of the American soldiers were able to converse in French, and from him they learned news about the German offensive. The soldier and his comrades had become separated from their battalion and had wandered for three days in the snowy Ardennes Forest, hiding from the Germans. Hungry and exhausted, they were so grateful for this stranger's kindness.

A short time later that evening, four more tired soldiers came to the cottage. However, these men were German.

"Now I was almost paralyzed with fear," Fritz recalled. "While I stood and stared in disbelief, my mother took the situation into her hands. I had always looked up to my mother and was proud to be her son. But in the moments that followed, she became my hero."

"Frohliche Weihnachten," Elisabeth said to the German soldiers, wishing them Merry Christmas. She then invited them to dinner.

But before allowing them in, Elisabeth informed them she had other guests inside that they might not consider as friends.

"She reminded them that it was Christmas Eve," Fritz said, "and told them sternly there would be no shooting around here." These soldiers, still mere boys, listened respectfully to this kind and mature woman.

The German soldiers agreed to store their weapons in the shed. Elisabeth then quickly went inside to collect the weapons from the American soldiers and locked them up securely.

"At first, it was very tense," Fritz said.

Two of the German soldiers were about sixteen years old and another was a medical student who spoke some English. Although there was little food to offer, Elisabeth knew that everyone must be very hungry. She sent Fritz outside to fetch the rooster he had captured several weeks earlier.

"When I returned," Fritz recalled, "the German medical student was looking after the wounded American, assuring him that the cold had prevented infection.

"The tension among them gradually disappeared. One of the Germans offered a loaf of rye bread, and one of the Americans presented instant coffee to share. By then the men were eager to eat, and Mother beckoned them to the table. We all were seated as she said grace.

"'Komm, Herr Jesus,'" she prayed, 'and be our guest.'

"There were tears in her eyes," Fritz said, "and as I looked around the table, I saw that the battle-weary soldiers were filled with emotion. Their thoughts seemed to be many, many miles away.

"Now they were boys again, some from America, some from Germany, all far from home."

Soon after dinner, the soldiers fell asleep in their heavy coats. The next morning, they exchanged Christmas greetings and everyone helped make a stretcher for the wounded American.

"The German soldiers then advised the Americans how to find their unit," Fritz said. "My mother gave the men back their weapons and said she would pray for their safety. At that moment, she had become a mother to them all. She asked them to be very careful and told them, 'I hope someday you will return home safely to where you belong. May God bless and watch over you.'"

The soldiers shook hands and marched off in opposite directions. It was the last time Fritz or his mother would ever see any of them.

Throughout her life, Elisabeth Vincken would often say, "God was at our table" when she talked of that night in the forest.

Fritz eventually came to live in Hawaii and continued to carry this childhood lesson of brotherhood in his heart. He realized that being kind to one another and seeing beyond differences is a un iversal value, but he was surprised to discover that Hawai'i actually had a word for this ideal - aloha. When he thinks of aloha, he remembers that night long ago when everyone was welcome at the table.

For a theatrical version of this story, watch the Hallmark movie "Silent Night" with Linda Hamilton, who portrays Elisabeth Vincken.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Prayer Request for a sick Little Girl: Update!

December 20, 2009
Okay, here's the newest on Ainsley. She originally went to the hospital thinking Pneumonia and was told it was most likely appendicitis. Well, within 45 minutes of her getting there and with all the prayers going up, the hospital realized it was not pneumonia or appendicitis. I believe they went ahead and sent her home and she went to the doctor's office the next day and learned that it was a really nasty bug.

That's a big praise, but I'd still like it if you'd pray for a full recovery. I mean she's only like 6 or 7 and Christmas is Friday. I hope and pray she is better by then so that she can enjoy the holiday. I'll let you know when or if I find out anymore.

December 17, 2009
Okay, I have an update. Doctors think that Ainsley is suffering with appendicitis rather than pneumonia. Still, that is an awful thing for a little girl to go through, especially around Christmas time. Please continue to pray for her and the comfort of her family. Thank you.

December 16, 2009
A few hours ago I learned that a six or seven year old girl who attends our church and AWANA could be ill with pneumonia. Her name is Ainsley and she was sick all last night and probably will end up going to the hospital. Its uncertain if its H1N1. The family is having a rough go of it; her grandfather Bob lost his mother last week and now this has happened. Please keep Ainsley and her family in your prayers. I'll update if I learn anything more. Thanks and God Bless.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Gold and Ivory Tablecloth (aka "The Holocaust Tablecloth")

by Howard C. Schade

At Christmas time men and women everywhere gather in their churches to wonder anew at the greatest miracle the world has ever known. But the story I like best to recall was not a miracle -- not exactly. It happened to a pastor who was very young. His church was very old.
Once, long ago, it had flourished. Famous men had preached from its pulpit, prayed before its altar. Rich and poor alike had worshipped there and built it beautifully. Now the good days had passed from the section of town where it stood. But the pastor and his young wife believed in their run-down church. They felt that with paint, hammer, and faith they could get it in shape. Together they went to work.

But late in December a severe storm whipped through the river valley, and the worst blow fell on the little church -- a huge chunk of rain-soaked plaster fell out of the inside wall just behind the altar.
Sorrowfully the pastor and his wife swept away the mess, but they couldn't hide the ragged hole.

The pastor looked at it and had to remind himself quickly, "Thy will be done!" But his wife wept, "Christmas is only two days away!"

That afternoon the dispirited couple attended the auction held for the benefit of a youth group. The auctioneer opened a box and shook out of its folds a handsome gold and ivory lace tablecloth. It was a magnificent item, nearly 15 feet long. but it, too, dated from a long vanished era. Who, today, had any use for such a thing? There were a few halfhearted bids. Then the pastor was seized with what he thought was a great idea.

He bid it in for $6.50.

He carried the cloth back to the church and tacked it up on the wall behind the altar. It completely hid the hole! And the extraordinary beauty of its shimmering handwork cast a fine, holiday glow over the chancel. It was a great triumph. Happily he went back to preparing his Christmas sermon.

Just before noon on the day of Christmas Eve, as the pastor was opening the church, he noticed a woman standing in the cold at the bus stop. "The bus won't be here for 40 minutes!" he called, and invited her into the church to get warm.

She told him that she had come from the city that morning to be interviewed for a job as governess to the children of one of the wealthy families in town but she had been turned down. A war refugee, her English was imperfect.

The woman sat down in a pew and chafed her hands and rested. After a while she dropped her head and prayed. She looked up as the pastor began to adjust the great gold and ivory cloth across the hole. She rose suddenly and walked up the steps of the chancel. She looked at the tablecloth. The pastor smiled and started to tell her about the storm damage, but she didn't seem to listen. She took up a fold of the cloth and rubbed it between her fingers.

"It is mine!" she said. "It is my banquet cloth!" She lifted up a corner and showed the surprised pastor that there were initials monogrammed on it. "My husband had the cloth made especially for me in Brussels! There could not be another like it."

For the next few minutes the woman and the pastor talked excitedly together. She explained that she was Viennese; that she and her husband had opposed the Nazis and decided to leave the country. They were advised to go separately. Her husband put her on a train for Switzerland. They planned that he would join her as soon as he could arrange to ship their household goods across the border. She never saw him again. Later she heard that he had died in a concentration camp.

"I have always felt that it was my fault -- to leave without him," she said. "Perhaps these years of wandering have been my punishment!" The pastor tried to comfort her and urged her to take the cloth with her.
She refused. Then she went away.

As the church began to fill on Christmas Eve, it was clear that the cloth was going to be a great success. It had been skillfully designed to look its best by candlelight.

After the service, the pastor stood at the doorway. Many people told him that the church looked beautiful. One gentle-faced middle-aged man -- he was the local clock-and-watch repairman -- looked rather puzzled.

"It is strange," he said in his soft accent. "Many years ago my wife - God rest her -- and I owned such a cloth. In our home in Vienna, my wife put it on the table" -- and here he smiled -- "only when the bishop came to dinner."

The pastor suddenly became very excited. He told the jeweler about the woman who had been in church earlier that day. The startled jeweler clutched the pastor's arm. "Can it be? Does she live?"

Together the two got in touch with the family who had interviewed her. Then, in the pastor's car they started for the city. And as Christmas Day was born, this man and his wife, who had been separated through so many saddened Yule tides, were reunited.

To all who hear this story, the joyful purpose of the storm that had knocked a hole in the wall of the church was now quite clear. Of course, people said it was a miracle, but I think you will agree it was the season for it!

True love seems to find a way.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Letter From Jesus

Found this in my mail box.

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1 - 8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing the President complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up... It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

5 Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families

8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.

9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.

Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember :



Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas Quiz

Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends. Okay, here's what you're supposed to do, and try not to be a SCROOGE!!! Just copy (not forward) this entire email and paste into a new e-mail that you can send. Change all the answers so that they apply to you. Then send this to a whole bunch of people you know, INCLUDING the person that sent it to you...'Tis the Season to be NICE

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper.

2. Real tree or Artificial?
Artificial, that way there are no squirrels in it (think Chevy Chase in "Christmas Vacation").

3. When do you put up the tree?
The Monday after Thanksgiving.

4. When do you take the tree down?
After the New Year.

5. Do you like eggnog?
Not sure.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
My Sonic the Hedgehog stuffed toy. I got Tails for Easter. :~)

7. Hardest person to buy for?
The parents.

8. Easiest person to buy for?
My sister.

9. Do you have a nativity scene?

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Mail, of course. That way you can take them out and look at them later.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
I can't recall. But one year on my birthday I opened ovenmits which was intended for my Grandma's group's Christmas party.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
I have three: "The Nativity Story," "Elf," and "A Christmas Story."

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
I shop throughout the year, starting as early as May.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
No, but I've sold one.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Grandma's chocolate fudge, no-bake cookies or chocolate covered pretzels.

16. Lights on the tree?
Of course! What's a tree without lights?!

17. Favorite Christmas song?
"Mary, Did You Know?" or "2,000 Decembers Age"

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Stay at home and have everyone travel to our house.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Donner, Blitzen, Comet, Cupid and do you recall the most famous reindeer of all? Rudolf!

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
Neither; we have a Santa on top.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Probably on Christmas morning since no one is coming over.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?
When people take Christ out of Christmas. While Jesus wasn't born on December 25, this is the day we're celebrating His birthday. If you don't like it, you can work on Christmas. How do you like that?

23. Favorite ornament, theme, or color?
My baby ornament of a baby in a swing.

24. Favorite for Christmas Dinner?
Something unique and italian.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
To share Christmas with someone who has never celebrated it before.